Greg
animals language
brewing multimedia
cooking music
fiction opinion
gardening photography
general technology
history house construction
Greg's diary
October 2011
Translate this page
Select day:
Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa Su
1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
31
Select month in 2011:
Jan Feb Mar Apr
May Jun Jul Aug
Sep Oct Nov Dec
Today's diary entry
Diary index
About this diary
Previous month
Next month
Greg's home page
Greg's photos
Network link stats
Greg's other links
Copyright information
    
Groogle

Saturday, 1 October 2011 Dereel → ClunesAscot → Dereel Images for 1 October 2011
Top of page
next day
last day

Topic: gardening Link here

The weather forecast was right. We had 27 mm of rain overnight, and another 7 mm in the course of the day. My seed trays, none of which were looking happy in the first place, had another issue to contend with:


 
This should be Seed-tray.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Seed tray          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 2096 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 1 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 1 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 1 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

Somehow I managed to collect over 10 cm of water in the bottom right-hand corner.


A new organ
Topic: general, music Link here

Yvonne discovered an electronic organ on Freecycle the other day, and yesterday the owner called up to say we could pick it up—in Clunes, 75 km away. Borrowed Chris' Yeardley's Landcruiser and off, not helped by my GPS navigator (or, more accurately, the maps), which are extremely inaccurate in Clunes—the house we were looking for was decades old, but the maps don't know the house number. Found the place anyway, and had no particular difficulty transporting it.

Put it in “4”, the room opposite the lounge room (“3”). It's has two manuals of 3 octaves each, the upper with 6 stops, the lower with 3, and a one-octave pedal with two stops:


  This should be Yvonne-at-organ-3.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Yvonne at organ 3          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1312 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 1 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 1 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 1 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

In addition, of course, there are lots of electronic special effects which don't seem to add much to the system. But it works well. What do we do with it? Yvonne has a number of ideas, but if none of them come to fruition, she'll just have to learn to play it and accompany me.


We're too lame for reverse lookup
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Chris Yeardley is flying to Queensland with Tiger Airways, an el-cheapo subsidiary of Singapore's el-cheapo airline of the same name. It's so el-cheapo that the Civil Aviation Safety Authority suspended their license for 5 weeks earlier this year due to safety concerns. Presumably they're now satisfied of their safety, but there seem to be other issues. It seems that you need to get your ticket by email and print it out yourself (or, presumably, find another method that costs more). Chris tried that, but the ticket didn't come through:

Oct  1 07:23:13 w3 postfix/smtpd[35444]: NOQUEUE: reject: RCPT from unknown[202.172.235.32]: 450 4.7.1 Client host rejected: cannot find your hostname, [202.172.235.32]; from=<itinerary@tigerairwaysnews.com> to=<cyeardley@narrawin.com> proto=ESMTP helo=<crsmail1.tigerairways.com>
Oct  1 07:23:37 w3 postfix/smtpd[35453]: NOQUEUE: reject: RCPT from unknown[202.172.235.32]: 450 4.7.1 Client host rejected: cannot find your hostname, [202.172.235.32]; from=<itinerary@tigerairwaysnews.com> to=<cyeardley@narrawin.com> proto=ESMTP helo=<crsmail1.tigerairways.com>

It used to be common that companies were too lame to have reverse DNS, but it's been a long time since I've seen that problem. Given that the company encourages email contact, they could at least play by the rules.


Horse in disguise
Topic: animals, photography Link here

While picking up the Landcruiser, saw Chris' stallion Ramirez in the paddock next to a fallen gum tree branch:


  This should be Ramirez-3.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Ramirez 3          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 3424 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 1 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 1 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 1 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

I had taken my camera just in case; surprisingly, Yvonne later asked me why I had brought it.


To Lambley again
Topic: gardening Link here

Clunes is not far from Lambley Nursery, so dropped in there on the way back. It's certainly looking full of spring:


  This should be Lambley-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Lambley 1          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 2288 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 1 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 1 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 1 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Lambley-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Lambley 2          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 2976 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 1 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 1 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 1 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Lambley-3.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Lambley 3          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 2560 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 1 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 1 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 1 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

Also saw a tree that looks worth having: it's apparently a Ceanothus:


  This should be Ceanothus.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Ceanothus          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 2512 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 1 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 1 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 1 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

This particualr one was a cultivar “Yankee <mumble>”, and they didn't have them in stock, but they had others. Decided that we should first plan a place for the thing and then buy one, probably in the autumn. Instead, bought only some artichokes and an Asphodeline liburnica, or “Jacob's rod”.

After that, back home via Bunnings to buy some pots and potting mix, and also ended up buying an Aphelandra squarrosa, apparently also called “Zebra plant”, which Yvonne wants to hang in the bathroom. I'm not sure that's the right place for it, but we'll see.


Beef roasting times revisited
Topic: cooking, opinion Link here

How long does it take to roast beef? I have dozens of answers, all apparently wrong. One problem, of course, is to know what you're trying to achieve. roastingtimes.com has suggestions, including for “rare”, “medium” and ”cardboardwell done”, but doesn't say what those terms mean. Wikipedia gives USDA recommendations, currently without reference, and with some reason for doubt: apparently they claim that “medium rare” is a range between 130—140 °F, but that the recommended value for “medium rare” is 145 °F, in the “medium” range.

In the past I've decided on a temperature of 54° in the middle, probably a little on the high side (“medium rare” in my book, I suppose). And for that I wrote “about 35 minutes per kg at 180° with recirculation”. Today we had a roast of 1.27 kg, so it should have taken about 45 minutes. In fact, it took 66 minutes. It's difficult to compare with roastingtimes.com, because they use different roasting temperatures, no recirculation, and they don't accurately define what they're aiming for. But like most recipes, they have a fixed time component independent of weight (30 minutes at 220° without recirculation), then 20 minutes per kg at 160°. Ignoring the temperatures, that would have made about 55 minutes.

So what do I do next time? Just about everybody has a fixed time at the beginning independent of the weight of the cut (clearly an approximation; you can't road a 100 g piece of meat for 30 minutes at 220° and expect it to be edible), then a time dependent on the weight. Probably what's needed is a second-order equation. For the time I'll just note the cooking time, and I can fit curves later.


Sunday, 2 October 2011 Dereel Images for 2 October 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Microsoft making life difficult
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

As I've noted on many occasions, I don't have a completely functional laptop. I must have about 7 of them, but the most recent is 6 years old, and only two seem marginally functional: the Dell Inspiron 5100 which seems to be shutting down more and more frequently, and the Inspiron 1150 with the dead USB bus. Currently only the 5100 has a functional disk. But for things like visiting the Friends of the Ballarat Botanical Gardens I don't need USB: I can just move the disk from the 5100 to the 1150.

Tried that, and FreeBSD came up with almost no problems. Just not a mouse. I've seen that before: there's some flag to be set, and I knew that I had mentioned it here somewhere. But Google seemed a better choice, and led me to this article, which had the advantage of referring to identically the same laptop. Just add

--- device.hints        2011/10/02 02:36:18     1.1
+++ device.hints        2011/10/02 02:36:49
@@ -27,6 +27,7 @@
 hint.atkbd.0.irq="1"
 hint.psm.0.at="atkbdc"
 hint.psm.0.irq="12"
+hint.psm.0.flags="0x1000"
 hint.vga.0.at="isa"
 hint.sc.0.at="isa"
 hint.sc.0.flags="0x100"

After that, things worked as if nothing had changed. Conveniently, the article also had a date on it, and that gave me a pointer to the diary article on the subject.

But I normally run Microsoft on this box (thus the system name pain). Tried that too. The system spontaneously reset, even in “safe mode”. This machine has only 384 MB of memory, compared to 512 MB on the other machine. I wonder if the system is expecting to find all the memory, or whether it just doesn't want to work on even marginally different hardware. What a pain this Microsoft stuff is! And how aptly named the system!


Repotting the lemon
Topic: gardening Link here

Plenty of things to do in the garden today, and did some of them. The Meyer lemon was clearly in need of attention, and repotted it in one of the pots I bought yesterday, in the process pruning a little and planting some of the cuttings.


 
This should be Lemon-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Lemon 1          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 1088 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 2 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 2 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 2 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Lemon-3.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Lemon 3          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 1152 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 2 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 2 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 2 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

I was expecting the roots to look unhappy, but there was no obvious problem. About the only issue is that they looked quite dry. It's interesting to note that the leaves fell off a couple of branches only, but then completely. Am I maybe not watering enough? I'm beginning to think that I'm missing some important understanding about keeping plants in a greenhouse. It has been finished since April, and it's only now that things are getting warmer. To be on the safe side, left the lemon out of the greenhouse in the north-facing area in front of the shade area, where it'll get a moderate amount of sun and still be protected from the wind.

Also planted the Asphodeline liburnica in the Japanese garden, and the Aphelandra squarrosa into a hanging pot. We still don't have a hook in the bathroom, so hung it outside on the verandah:


  This should be Asphodeline-liburnica-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Asphodeline liburnica 1          Dimensions:          4096 x 3084, 3040 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Monday, 3 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Monday, 3 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Monday, 3 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Asphodeline-liburnica-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Asphodeline liburnica 2          Dimensions:          3084 x 4096, 2368 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Monday, 3 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Monday, 3 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Monday, 3 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Aphelandra-squarrosa.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Aphelandra squarrosa          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1424 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 2 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 2 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 2 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

But that's probably a little cool to leave it there. We need a hook.

The ornamental vine on the verandah is also coming along, and did a bit of pruning to ensure that it grows in the right direction.


Rat traps: the next alternative
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

Found Piccola on the verandah today, meowing at the jasmine. It looks as if there was some animal in there. Put a stepladder there for her, but she didn't like the position. But maybe she's found a way that animals get on to the roof, so put the other ladder on the other side of the jasmine and took her up onto the roof. She spent a lot of time there, so left her until she wanted to get down again—she doesn't seem to be able to get down by herself. But later found her up there again. It seems she can climb up the ladder, but not down it. I wonder if she caught anything.


Monday, 3 October 2011 Dereel Images for 3 October 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Cats on the rooftop
Topic: animals Link here

Piccola clearly finds the roof interesting. Early this morning, found her up on the shade cloth over the shade area to the north of the verandah:


  This should be Piccola-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Piccola 1          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1936 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Monday, 3 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Monday, 3 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Monday, 3 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Piccola-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Piccola 2          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1840 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Monday, 3 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Monday, 3 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Monday, 3 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

Up to the roof to help her down, but in the end she worked it out:


  This should be Piccola-3.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Piccola 3          Dimensions:          3084 x 4096, 1360 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Monday, 3 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Monday, 3 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Monday, 3 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Piccola-4.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Piccola 4          Dimensions:          1636 x 2952, 656 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Monday, 3 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Monday, 3 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Monday, 3 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

I suppose we'll see her up there a lot more now. Hopefully it will help with the rat problem.


More Hugin building
Topic: photography, technology Link here

I've heard from Carlos Eduardo G. Carvalho, better known as Cartola, who's very active on the panorama scene. He's also yet another FreeBSD user in the Hugin community—all the more surprising that the latest version doesn't build under FreeBSD. Spent some time looking at the instructions that I had put up on the Panotools wiki. They're completely wrong. And despite the volume of this diary, I didn't describe the method in sufficient detail when I did it. Spent some time working on the description, but I'm still not done, especially since they've released a new stable version since then, one that is missing code necessary for the FreeBSD version.


The veggie garden again
Topic: gardening Link here

I've been waiting for the weeds to die in the veggie garden, which they have now done, and I had the artichokes to plant, so finally in and tidied up a little bit. The artichokes are planted, but the potatoes (due two months ago) are not. Much more attention needed.

Also moved more plants out of the greenhouse to in front of the shade area, next to the Meyer lemon, where I hope they'll feel happier.


 
This should be Shade-area.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Shade area          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 2048 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Tuesday, 4 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Tuesday, 4 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Tuesday, 4 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

I'm gradually coming to the conclusion that I haven't been watering the plants in the greenhouse enough, and that that, combined with too-high temperatures, might explain the problems with the lemon, the seedlings and some other plants. We'll see if they do better here.


Tuesday, 4 October 2011 Dereel Images for 4 October 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

To the Friends again
Topic: gardening, technology Link here

The Friends of the Ballarat Botanical Gardens have a problem: their printer isn't working. And I have taken it upon myself to look after their computer stuff, though it's all old Microsoft-space stuff. Spent the morning preparing: collecting seedlings for Hebes and Betula pendula. Into town, got rid of my seedlings, and to look at the printer:


  This should be Printer.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Printer          Dimensions:          2112 x 2816, 448 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Tuesday, 4 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Tuesday, 4 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Tuesday, 4 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

Presumably you don't need to be a computer expert to see that the thing is out of ink. And for that I came into town. Went looking for Mike Sorrell, but was told that he had left round midday. Spent some time looking for plants, and while discussing his disappearance with Yvonne, he came back. Spent some time looking at the equipment and discussing web pages with him: he wants to create his own content, which makes sense. I'm trying to make it as easy as possible to write web content, but I can't see my way past using an editor, and that seems to be a no-no in the Microsoft space. In any case, we weren't able to complete the discussion: the doors shut at 16:00, and we hadn't got much done by then.

It wasn't a complete waste of time, though: the Gardens have apparently just completed an exhibition of Cyclamens, and they had dozens of plants to give away, still mainly in bloom. Took 7 pots with me, all but one still blooming better than I have ever managed myself:


  This should be Cyclamen-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Cyclamen 1          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1632 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Tuesday, 4 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Tuesday, 4 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Tuesday, 4 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Cyclamen-4.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Cyclamen 4          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1216 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Tuesday, 4 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Tuesday, 4 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Tuesday, 4 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Cyclamen-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Cyclamen 2          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1232 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Tuesday, 4 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Tuesday, 4 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Tuesday, 4 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

The one that wasn't blooming so well is interesting because it has a pure white flower.


Camera: repaired
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

We sent Yvonne's defective Canon IXY 200F back to Hong Kong on Thursday. Today I got a message from the seller: they have received and repaired it already. I'm surprised that the thing has even made it there by now.

As I had half suspected, it seems that the problem was dust in the lens mechanism. Given the way Yvonne treats her cameras, that's not surprising: she usually takes them riding with her. They enclosed some photos, taken with a Panasonic DMC-FT1 purporting to show a scratch and various places with dust on them. They're probably right, but the photos were so bad that I couldn't recognize it. The first image is supposed to show a scratch, the other two dust:

 
This should be IXY-200-4.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: IXY 200 4
Complete exposure details
Dimensions: 640 x 480, 56 kB
Dimensions of original: 640 x 480, 56 kB
Display this image:
thumbnail    hidden   alone on page
Display all images on this page as:
thumbnails    this size
Show for Tuesday, 4 October 2011:
thumbnails    small images    diary entry
 
This should be IXY-200-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: IXY 200 2
Complete exposure details
Dimensions: 640 x 480, 46 kB
Dimensions of original: 640 x 480, 46 kB
Display this image:
thumbnail    hidden   alone on page
Display all images on this page as:
thumbnails    this size
Show for Tuesday, 4 October 2011:
thumbnails    small images    diary entry
 
This should be IXY-200-3.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: IXY 200 3
Complete exposure details
Dimensions: 640 x 480, 40 kB
Dimensions of original: 640 x 480, 40 kB
Display this image:
thumbnail    hidden   alone on page
Display all images on this page as:
thumbnails    this size
Show for Tuesday, 4 October 2011:
thumbnails    small images    diary entry

One way or another, that suggests that the Canon is far too sensitive to dust. I was thinking of a hermetically sealed replacement, but looking at the image quality of the DMC-FT1, which is “toughened”, I'm having second thoughts.


Panasonic: we don't do digital cameras
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Finding a definitive link to the DMC-FT1 proved almost impossible. Even Google couldn't help on the Panasonic web site. Finally ended up at a page that tells me:

 
This should be no-Panasonic-cameras.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: no Panasonic cameras
Dimensions: 712 x 135, 8 kB
Dimensions of original: 712 x 135, 8 kB
Display this image:
thumbnail    hidden   alone on page
Display all images on this page as:
thumbnails    this size
Show for Tuesday, 4 October 2011:
thumbnails    small images    diary entry

That's with no restriction on the search. What a broken site! And of course their lists of digital cameras show only current models. Finally tried their support pages, but even there I couldn't find it. Maybe this is a perspective-dependent model number, like Canon's: it differs depending on where you look at it from. Certainly it's no advertisement for Panasonic.

Of course, part of the issue is the non-deterministic nature of Google's search engine. After writing this, Jashank Jeremy did almost the same Google search that I had tried, only on the Australian site and came up with a link on the Australian web site.


Wednesday, 5 October 2011 Dereel Images for 5 October 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Another net outage
Topic: technology Link here

I've had pretty good network connectivity over the last few months, but today I ran into more trouble: the modem went into UMTS mode and stayed there even when I was trying to download large quantities of data. We've seen that before. It seems to need physical removal and replacement of the modem in the USB connector. Did that, didn't get connected until the third attempt, and it dropped the connection immediately. Further investigation showed that the antenna connector had become dislodged. What horrible flimsy things these USB modems are!

After that, it ran for a few hours, then disconnected for 10 minutes (while I was outside, so I couldn't check what was going on). And later again things went to hell:

1317793494 0.29719 5                                            # Wed Oct 5 16:44:54 EST 2011 1682.424 ms
1317793592 0 3 hub www.mysql.com                                # Wed Oct 5 16:46:32 EST 2011
1317793648 0 1 hub www.mysql.com ozlabs.org ftp.netbsd.org      # Wed Oct 5 16:47:28 EST 2011
1317793662 0 5                                                  # Wed Oct 5 16:47:42 EST 2011
1317793758 0 3 www.auug.org.au ftp.netbsd.org                   # Wed Oct 5 16:49:18 EST 2011
1317793783 0 4 ftp.netbsd.org                                   # Wed Oct 5 16:49:43 EST 2011
1317793829 3.73015 1 hub www.mysql.com www.auug.org.au ftp.netbsd.org   # Wed Oct 5 16:50:29 EST 2011 134.043 ms
1317793865 0 4 hub                                              # Wed Oct 5 16:51:05 EST 2011
1317793932 0 0 hub www.mysql.com www.auug.org.au ozlabs.org ftp.netbsd.org      # Wed Oct 5 16:52:12 EST 2011
1317793957 3.83839 3 www.mysql.com www.auug.org.au              # Wed Oct 5 16:52:37 EST 2011 130.263 ms
1317793992 0 3 hub www.mysql.com                                # Wed Oct 5 16:53:12 EST 2011
1317794006 4.07787 4 www.auug.org.au                            # Wed Oct 5 16:53:26 EST 2011 122.613 ms
1317794041 0 3 www.mysql.com ozlabs.org                         # Wed Oct 5 16:54:01 EST 2011
1317794076 0 4 ftp.netbsd.org                                   # Wed Oct 5 16:54:36 EST 2011
1317794133 0 1 hub www.auug.org.au ozlabs.org ftp.netbsd.org    # Wed Oct 5 16:55:33 EST 2011
1317794179 0 2 hub www.mysql.com ozlabs.org                     # Wed Oct 5 16:56:19 EST 2011
1317794225 0 3 hub ozlabs.org                                   # Wed Oct 5 16:57:05 EST 2011
1317794227 5.04286 5                                            # Wed Oct 5 16:57:07 EST 2011 99.150 ms

That shows me barely able to contact the next hop, and packet loss was round 50%. Called up Internode Support and was connected to Tristan (with whom I have spoken before) almost immediately—a far cry from my recent experience with TransACT. He wasn't able to do much: things cleared up almost immediately. He did note the incident and explained how they allocate dynamic IP addresses: they try to give the same address again, assuming I get connected to the same server. But there seem to be two servers they could connect to in Melbourne, and today I got connected to the other one, so clearly I didn't get the same IP address.


Firefox: starting profiles again from scratch
Topic: technology Link here

My firefox configuration is the result of years of bumbling, made easier by the lack of documentation and clear migration paths. Lately I've noted that the size of headings has changed, for no apparent reason. And then Jashank Jeremy told me about the “awesome” bar on the new firefox, something that I don't have.

Do I want it? The name sounds so stupid that it's reason enough not to use it. But it occurred to me that maybe I'm missing out on something useful too. So how about starting reconfiguring it from scratch?

Did that, with a new profile called Cold-turkey, and in deviation from firefox's obfuscatory directory names (can you remember 7v0n6ir5.Default User, with a space in it?), called the directory Cold-turkey too. Stopped the instance of firefox, restarted, and... no Cold-turkey profile. Yes, the directory was there, but not the profile. Further investigation showed that the file ~/.mozilla/firefox/profiles.ini was set to be writable only by root. No idea why, but I suppose it's to be expected that firefox would ignore such a problem when trying to write the profile information.

So I set permissions correctly, updated profiles.ini and stopped the instance of firefox. Started again:

 
This should be no-turkey.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: no turkey
Dimensions: 666 x 141, 12 kB
Dimensions of original: 666 x 141, 12 kB
Display this image:
thumbnail    hidden   alone on page
Display all images on this page as:
thumbnails    this size
Show for Wednesday, 5 October 2011:
thumbnails    small images    diary entry

The message is Just Plain Wrong, at least in this case: for some reason, it had removed the directory. This might have been a race condition with stopping the instance of firefox, which rewrites profiles.ini. Did it also check the old version and remove directories that were “no longer needed”? Hard to say, but it fits in with the “there can only be one” mentality.

Tried again, and got the same message:

 
This should be turkey.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: turkey
Dimensions: 667 x 493, 42 kB
Dimensions of original: 667 x 493, 42 kB
Display this image:
thumbnail    hidden   alone on page
Display all images on this page as:
thumbnails    this size
Show for Wednesday, 5 October 2011:
thumbnails    small images    diary entry

This time it was right. It seems that the prior attempt actually created the directory. OK, that's what I wanted, so tried to select it:

 
This should be no-turkey.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: no turkey
Dimensions: 666 x 141, 12 kB
Dimensions of original: 666 x 141, 12 kB
Display this image:
thumbnail    hidden   alone on page
Display all images on this page as:
thumbnails    this size
Show for Wednesday, 5 October 2011:
thumbnails    small images    diary entry

I've seen this before. But this time it has a different meaning. How do I get past it? Somebody gave me this URL, but by that time I was so fed up with this mess that I went out into the garden to do something useful.


More garden work
Topic: gardening Link here

Spring is catching up with me, and I really need to do a lot of work very quickly. So did a little work: transplanted the last tenacious rose from the east bed to the north bed. I had tried to remove it once before, but left behind part of the root, and that recovered well. It has already formed a bud, so it was high time to move it. It's strange to think how many roses we have, when I consider that we have no particular interest in them: I count 14 different bushes with at least 11 different varieties.

The Adenanthos cunninghamii that we bought at Easter, is no longer looking very happy. Here then and now:


  This should be Adenanthos-cunninghamii-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Adenanthos cunninghamii 1          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 800 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 24 April 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 24 April 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 24 April 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Adenanthos-cunninghamii.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Adenanthos cunninghamii          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 1456 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Thursday, 6 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Thursday, 6 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Thursday, 6 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

I'm assuming that it's lack of water, perhaps helped by the cold, so put drippers on it and some of the new plants in the far east bed: the new Leucospermum cordifolium and the Banksia ericifolia.

That required a lot of weeding, so did a lot of weeding. Also cleaned out some of the pots of old, overgrown plants from the greenhouse: these delicate-flowered variegated Japanese Iris grow like wildfire:


  This should be Iris-3.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Iris 3          Dimensions:          4096 x 3084, 1120 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 28 August 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 28 August 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 28 August 2011 Complete exposure details

 

We bought one plant in April 2009, and now I must have 100 of them. They spread via underground runners, and the one pot alone yielded 13 individual plants.


Thursday, 6 October 2011 Dereel Images for 6 October 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Another power failure
Topic: general Link here

Power failure at 5:37 this morning, conveniently timed to make it difficult for me to wake for the news at 7:00.


Goodbye Steve
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

It seems that everybody in the world is commenting on the death of Steve Jobs. Yes, it's sad, to me especially since he was considerably younger than I am. But some of the accolades I've seen tend to confirm the opinions I voiced a couple of months ago: the computer industry is no longer technology-driven but market-driven. Steve Jobs managed to market things that others had failed to do. He made a cult out of mobile phones, something that was beginning to stagnate. He brought out business models with things like iTunes, really a front end for the iTunes Store, something that upsets both free software advocates and people like me who just want a program that doesn't tell you how to live your life. But he didn't manage to bring out an operating system that looks the same from the (overly gaudy) GUI and under the covers: Mac OS X really lives a double life. But who cares? It sells.

In short, the Steve who turned Apple around and will go down in history as one of the great innovators of the computer age was the businessman Steve Jobs, not the tech wizard Steve Wozniak. The days of real technological innovation are gone.


Planting trees
Topic: gardening Link here

We bought a large number of plants at the Dereel market six weeks ago. Since then a number of things have happened:

So we're left with the Melaleuca incana, the Photinia, the Juniperus squamata, the Correa reflexa and the Pyrethrum, of which the first two are also significant bushes. I'll be glad when we have everything in the ground.

In passing, it's sad to note that two of the plants we bought in Pomonal a year ago have died: the Grevillea lavendulacea x lanigera and the Eucalyptus macrocarpa. The former seems almost certainly to have fallen foul of a clogged-up dripper. It brings home to me how careful I should be to check them all, but that in itself is significant work. Spent some time looking for the dripper for the Romneya coulteri (also called Californian Tree Poppy) that we bought in Lambley Nursery last December. That's the recognizable bush just left of the centre of the photo above. It's clearly happy, the soil is moist, but I can't find the dripper. I really need to ensure that I can find them all for checking.


Friday, 7 October 2011 Dereel Images for 7 October 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Covering the ground
Topic: gardening Link here

I had intended to finally hang wire mesh over the frames in front of the sheds to the north-east of the garden, but somehow after lunch I ran out of steam.

I have both large areas of ground with nothing (except weeds) on it, and a lot of small succulents and similar intended to be ground cover. Today I finally got round to solving the obvious problem. The first issue was the condition of the plants themselves. I had left them in the greenhouse for months, just pouring water over them and ignoring the weeds. The result didn't look too bad from about, but from below it was clear that they had used up all available space, and it was barely possible to tear them apart:


 
This should be Ground-cover-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Ground cover 1          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1200 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 7 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 7 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 7 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Ground-cover-4.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Ground cover 4          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1424 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 7 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 7 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 7 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

The area that I wanted to cover is to the east of the Japanese garden, between the garden and a path. It looks much worse than these photos would suggest:


  This should be Ground-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Ground 1          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 3408 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 7 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 7 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 7 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Ground-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Ground 2          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 2784 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 7 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 7 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 7 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

Planting them proved to be more of a problem than I thought: I had many more ground cover plants than will fit, and the ground is very poor. It used to be the driveway, and what we have now is mainly poorly drained clay. No wonder the Lobelias that I planted last year didn't survive. These ground cover plants are mainly pretty hardy, but decided to leave out the syntactically improbable Juniperus squamata. We'll find somewhere else for that.


Compressed air cleaning
Topic: technology, photography Link here

We've established that Yvonne's camera problems were due to dust, and I suspected that the old camera had the same problem. I'm also wondering if the spontaneous shutdowns on pain, my Dell Inspiron 5100 laptop, were not due to overheating because of dust buildup. To the garage with both camera and laptop and tried blowing compressed air through them. Nothing very exciting happened. The camera works most of the time, but it did give up on focusing on one occasion and had to be power cycled—which presumably could dislodge dust—and the amount of dust that came out of the laptop doesn't suggest that it was a problem. We can only be sure it has made a difference if it doesn't shut down after being powered on for days.


More panorama software
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

I've been in contact with Cartola (Carlos Carvalho), who is very active in panorama photography, especially 360° panoramas. He was (probably rightly) surprised that I didn't have any web-based software for interactive display of my panoramas, and pointed me to a couple of programs that help: Salado Player and Panini. While searching, came across another, krpano. Decided to take a look today. None are in the FreeBSD Ports Collection, so the first step was to build them.

krpano proved to be a dead loss: it's commercial software. That in itself wouldn't be reason for rejection, but it's not available for FreeBSD. There's a Linux version, but that seems to be limited to “command line tools”, whatever that may imply, and if I don't have the source, I don't want to even try.

Next was Panini. It seems to be part of the pqvt project, and like so many projects on SourceForge, it doesn't seem to have any documentation. About all I could find was a file panini-build.txt in the top-level directory, written one line per paragraph and terminated with \r\n. I had to reformat it just to read it. When I did, it wasn't very helpful. It uses Qt, in particular qmake to build the project. According to panini-build.txt:

In the panini directory, type "qmake panini.pro"

I suppose “panini directory” means the top-level directory. At least there's a panini.pro there. OK, did that:

=== grog@dereel (/dev/pts/21) /usr/ports/graphics/panini/work/panini-0.71.104 24 -> qmake panini.pro
QMAKESPEC has not been set, so configuration cannot be deduced.
Error processing project file: /src/FreeBSD/ports/graphics/panini/work/panini-0.71.104/panini.pro

What's that? I really don't want to have to learn [a-z]make to build projects. It's bad enough that we have BSD make and GNU make, but things like qmake and cmake just don't seem to be worth the trouble. Did a bit of looking around:

=== root@dereel (/dev/pts/13) /usr/ports/graphics/panini/work/panini-0.71.104 66 -> man qmake
No manual entry for qmake

I suppose that's to be expected. There is web-based documentation, installed on my machine as http://wwww.lemis.com/portsdoc/qt/html/qmake-manual.html. But it's all too much work.

Moved on to Salado player. I can't complain about the volume of the documentation here, though it's clearly written by a non-native English speaker. Judging by the lack of articles, I suspect an Eastern European origin. But the “Quick Start” needs a lot of digestion, and somehow I don't have the patience for that any more. Put it off until some other time. I suppose my real concern is that I'll invest a lot of time setting the thing up, only to discover that there's some showstopper which makes it all a waste of time.


Tacos or burritos? Still no recipe
Topic: cooking, opinion Link here

We wanted to eat tacos tonight. Or was that burritos? It depends on the country, it seems. On investigation, it seems that in Mexico tacos are made from maize tortillas, and burritos are made from wheat flour tortillas and really come from round the US border. But in the USA, “tacos” tend to be hard and possibly deep-fried. In any case, we wanted food wrapped in soft maize tortillas, so they're tacos in Spanish at any rate.

I thought we had some filling in the deep freeze, but it turned out we needed to make it, and we still haven't finished the recipe. One thing's clear, though: we needed Mexican tortillas. And I still don't have exact proportions for mixing the dough. Here's my current take: for four tortillas:

Brand       Masa       Water
Maseca       100 g       145 g
Minsa yellow       100 g       160 g
Minsa blue       120 g       155 g

The blue tortillas use much less water, which makes them difficult to press; the result is thicker, so we need more masa to get the same size. Until proof of the contrary, I'll use these values.


Saturday, 8 October 2011 Dereel Images for 8 October 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Rain and power failures
Topic: general Link here

It rained heavily last night, and we were braced for a power failure. When it finally came, at 1:54, it was just a short one. Today, though, we had another issue: almost no water. Although I had had the water tanks cleaned only 9 months ago, and cleaned the water filter at the beginning of last month, it was clogged again. Here last month and today:


  This should be Water-filter.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Water filter          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1600 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 4 September 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 4 September 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 4 September 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Filter.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Filter          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1488 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 8 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 8 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 8 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

To make matters worse, when I turned on the pump again, it kept on running and didn't cut out. Was it leaking? Pressure switch defective? Who knows? I cared, but I didn't have time, so just turned it off. When I came back some time later to investigate it, it worked normally. So maybe it was just a legitimate trickle somewhere (hot water tank, maybe?) that kept it running so long.


More panorama experiments
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

More investigation of Qt's qmake today. The manual states:

The following is a list of environment variables available to choose from when setting QMAKESPEC:

aix-64 hpux-cc irix-032 netbsd-g++ solaris-cc unixware7-g++ aix-g++ hpux-g++ linux-cxx openbsd-g++ solaris-g++ win32-borland aix-xlc hpux-n64 linux-g++ openunix-cc sunos-g++ win32-g++ bsdi-g++ hpux-o64 linux-icc qnx-g++ tru64-cxx win32-msvc dgux-g++ hurd-g++ linux-kcc reliant-64 tru64-g++ win32-watc freebsd-g++ irix-64 macx-pbuilder reliant-cds ultrix-g++ win32-visa hpux-acc irix-g++ macx-g++ sco-g++ unixware-g hpux-acc irix-n32 solaris-64 unixware7-cc

The environment variable should be set to qws/envvar where envvar is one of the following:

linux-arm-g++ linux-generic-g++ linux-mips-g++ linux-x86-g++ linux-freebsd-g++ linux-ipaq-g++ linux-solaris-g++ qnx-rtp-g++

It doesn't say so, but it looks as if for FreeBSD I need to set QMAKESPEC to freebsd-g++. Or do I? Maybe it's linux-freebsd-g++? Yes, looking at the names, freebsd-g++ makes more sense. But what's the other one for? Why is there no explanation of the two sets of values? And, in particular, why is there no default? This way every user who wants to use qmake needs to set QMAKESPEC—to the same value almost every time. What a mess!

Tried that and found:


=== grog@dereel (/dev/pts/21) /usr/ports/graphics/panini/work/Panini-0.71.104-src 42 -> export QMAKESPEC=freebsd-g++
=== grog@dereel (/dev/pts/21) /usr/ports/graphics/panini/work/Panini-0.71.104-src 43 -> qmake panini.pro
WARNING: Failure to find: version0.h
WARNING: Failure to find: version1.h
WARNING: Found potential symbol conflict of picTypeDialog.cpp (src/picTypeDialog.cpp) in SOURCES
WARNING: Found potential symbol conflict of picTypeDialog.h (src/picTypeDialog.h) in HEADERS
WARNING: Found potential symbol conflict of About.cpp (src/About.cpp) in SOURCES
WARNING: Found potential symbol conflict of About.h (src/About.h) in HEADERS
WARNING: Found potential symbol conflict of TurnDialog.cpp (src/TurnDialog.cpp) in SOURCES
WARNING: Found potential symbol conflict of TurnDialog.h (src/TurnDialog.h) in HEADERS
WARNING: Found potential symbol conflict of CubeLimit_dialog.h (src/CubeLimit_dialog.h) in HEADERS

Is that an error or “normal”? I didn't have time to continue. Today was photo day, and Cartola's discussion of 360° panoramas had me thinking. There's very little missing on my verandah panorama to make a 360° panorama, so set to taking a zenith shot. That didn't work as well as I thought: in the process I made the second row too high, so there was no join, and I had to make a third row in the middle, a total of 111 images of 37 different viewpoints. On stitching them together, it became apparent that I didn't need all those images: I could have done them as before with just the additional zenith image. The result also showed how imperative it is to put the camera directly below the beam in the middle, which here looks as if it is bent in two to the right:


  This should be verandah-centre.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: verandah centre          Dimensions:          9173 x 5640, 7296 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 8 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 8 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 8 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

And the nadir? No idea. What I have at the moment can be summed up by the three panosphere images. The first is horizontal, roughly corresponding to the image above. The second is looking down from above, and the third is looking up from below, with a hole in the base through which the other side is visible:

 
This should be panosphere-1.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: panosphere 1
Dimensions: 596 x 591, 256 kB
Dimensions of original: 596 x 591, 256 kB
Display this image:
thumbnail    hidden   alone on page
Display all images on this page as:
thumbnails    this size
Show for Sunday, 9 October 2011:
thumbnails    small images    diary entry
 
This should be panosphere-2.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: panosphere 2
Dimensions: 597 x 593, 174 kB
Dimensions of original: 597 x 593, 174 kB
Display this image:
thumbnail    hidden   alone on page
Display all images on this page as:
thumbnails    this size
Show for Sunday, 9 October 2011:
thumbnails    small images    diary entry
 
This should be panosphere-3.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: panosphere 3
Dimensions: 596 x 593, 224 kB
Dimensions of original: 596 x 593, 224 kB
Display this image:
thumbnail    hidden   alone on page
Display all images on this page as:
thumbnails    this size
Show for Sunday, 9 October 2011:
thumbnails    small images    diary entry

The problem, of course, is that the tripod is there. How do I get around that? I suppose I could try removing the camera from the tripod and shooting freehand. In some cases, that might work, but with the decking it seems unlikely to work here. But I won't know until I try it—next week.


Another net outage
Topic: technology Link here

Once again I've been disconnected from the net. It's standard procedure now to pull the modem out of the USB slot (more carefully than last time) and replace it. And today that worked. How I hate flaky USB devices!


Backup causes system crash
Topic: technology, photography Link here

After processing my photos, backed up to the USB disk. More problems. After some time of backing up, got a lot of these:

Oct  8 16:02:24 lagoon kernel: (da0:umass-sim0:0:0:0): AutoSense failed
Oct  8 16:02:24 lagoon kernel: g_vfs_done():da0p1[WRITE(offset=1802329030656, length=131072)]error = 5
Oct  8 16:02:24 lagoon kernel: g_vfs_done():da0p1[WRITE(offset=1802329161728, length=131072)]error = 5

Yes, those enormous offsets are valid: they're just shy of the 2 TB size of the disk. But that proved fatal. lagoon crashed completely. fsck worked—it thinks. I really need to get my eSATA interface working. How I hate flaky USB devices!


Flash recycle times revisited
Topic: photography Link here

I've been complaining lately that a set of NiMH batteries hardly lasts for the 24 shots I need for my verandah panorama. And today there were 36 (no flash for the zenith). But I didn't take them all at once. After the first 24 images, the recycle time had risen from 7 to 27 seconds. Then I took the zenith shot, looked at the images, and decided I had to take the third row of 12 in the middle of the panorama. And suddenly the recycle time was back under 10 seconds. That was after a rest of only 100 seconds. So it looks as if it really is the frequency of the shots (and possibly associated heating) which causes the long recycle time. It'll be interesting to see what happens when I get my NiZn batteries.


Protect underage drug abusers
Topic: opinion Link here

I currently know two families who have trouble with Australian residence. To the best of my knowledge and belief, they're all respectable citizens. One is a British professional couple who made the mistake of entering Australia on a tourist visa. The other is an Australian man and his American wife, along with a child who, though an Australian citizen, hasn't had his paperwork processed properly. And for pressing financial reasons the family wants to return to Australia. They've been told that the wife and child will have to wait up to 9 months to have their visa applications processed.

Maybe the Australian citizen should go to Bali and get caught buying illicit drugs, or get his son to do it. That's what a fourteen-year old tourist did. And Australia is up in arms about this poor boy who did nothing more than break the law. Kevin Rudd, currently Minister for Foreign Affairs, was personally involved, and the Australian ambassador personally flew from Jakarta to Bali to attend to the situation.

On the face of it, it looks as if the Indonesian authorities are handling things cooperatively. But the fact remains that he has broken a very carefully stated law. According to the laws of the country, he's a criminal. Why should he get such preferential treatment? It's not (just) because of his age; we've seen a number of cases where this has happened, usually to people over the age of majority, and in each case diplomats and the media have been up in arms. And after all, it's not as if drug possession is legal in Australia either. Isn't the fact that 14 year olds are taking drugs enough of a concern, without appearing to condone it? I'm disgusted.


Little garden work
Topic: gardening Link here

As usual on Saturdays, didn't have much time for the garden. I really need to put up the mesh for the climbers in the north-east, but that'll have to wait yet again. The Solanum laxum needed planting, though, and since one of the Jasminum polyanthum round the arch in the the north bed seems to have died, decided to plant it there, next to the Mandevilla laxa:


  This should be Mandevilla-and-Solanum.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Mandevilla and Solanum          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 1904 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 9 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 9 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 9 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

Also a lot of weeding in that area. Hopefully we'll keep the weeds under control this year.


Sunday, 9 October 2011 Dereel Images for 9 October 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

More seed planting
Topic: gardening Link here

The seeds I planted last month were spectacular in their failure; out of something like 100 seeds I only have a handful of seedlings, and they're still tiny. Why? There are several obvious reasons, the most probable of which I considered to be the temperature and light in the greenhouse. Now I have the shade area, so decided to try again.

I have used up all my old bag of seed raising mix (from Yates if I recall correctly), so opened a new bag, made by Debco. The difference in consistency is remarkable: the Debco is much finer that the Yates, something that I consider positive. There were too many lumps in the Yates mix, and that can't help germination:


  This should be Seed-raising-mix-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Seed raising mix 1          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 2224 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Monday, 10 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Monday, 10 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Monday, 10 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Seed-raising-mix-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Seed raising mix 2          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 2448 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Monday, 10 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Monday, 10 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Monday, 10 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

I've already planted most of today's seeds before: Chile poblano, Brachyscome iberidifolia (blue Swan River daisy), Gypsophila paniculata “Baby's breath” (not a name I would have chosen) and Cosmos sulphureus “Sunny yellow”. The only new one was a Lobelia erinus compacta “Cambridge Blue”. We'll see how it works this time.


Hugin on FreeBSD amd64
Topic: technology, photography Link here

Compiling hugin on FreeBSD is currently a minefield. The latest version has removed the code for one of the dependencies, tclap. While that's almost certainly the correct thing to do, FreeBSD currently doesn't have a tclap port, and I don't particularly feel like making one. So I had to replace the bits in the build tree. The problem there is that a make clean removes it all again, so it's very fragile.

In addition, Cartola had asked for a binary for amd64, which I'm still not running on dereel, so brought out the old teevee, the one with the Ethernet interface damaged by a power surge three months ago. Put in the disk for defake (the amd64 upgrade machine) and an Ethernet card, but out of habit plugged the cable into the on-board interface, and—it worked! It's amazing how often “damaged” equipment can recover after a few months. It's also irritating that I now won't be able to prove to Powercor that the thing was damaged at all.

It turned out that one of the dependencies, libpano13, needed to be updated, which mercifully didn't take too long. And after a lot of waiting—why does C++ compile so slowly?—finally got it built. This should be easier.


Monday, 10 October 2011 Dereel Images for 10 October 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Testing hugin
Topic: technology, photography Link here

I finished my amd64 build of the latest version of hugin yesterday, and was going to send it to Cartola when I remembered the old joke “It builds! Ship it!”. Guilty as charged. So I tried it out:

=== grog@defake (/dev/pts/1) ~ 1 -> hugin
The program 'hugin' received an X Window System error.
This probably reflects a bug in the program.
The error was 'BadValue (integer parameter out of range for operation)'.
  (Details: serial 233 error_code 2 request_code 142 minor_code 3)
  (Note to programmers: normally, X errors are reported asynchronously;
   that is, you will receive the error a while after causing it.
   To debug your program, run it with the --sync command line
   option to change this behavior. You can then get a meaningful
   backtrace from your debugger if you break on the gdk_x_error() function.)

Not exactly the success story I was hoping for. But this was a remote display, and hugin uses lots of libraries in which I have dubious confidence. So I tried it on defake:0, and it started up normally. But I couldn't do anything with it: the Ethernet interface on this motherboard may be functional again, but the USB system isn't, and I would have to reboot to get a PS/2 mouse recognized. Not a problem in itself, since this is a test machine, but I also wanted to bring the system up to date. So I spent the rest of the day (asynchronously) doing that. Another day's delay in the delivery of hugin. It's a good thing I'm not being paid for it.


Creeper fences: finally
Topic: gardening Link here

Part of the concept of our garden is to hide unsightly sheds behind wire mesh fences onto which we've trained creepers. We did one in front of the ex-garage a year ago, but various things have kept me from doing the one in the north-east of the garden, in front of the dilapidated sheds there. The fun that CJ and Yvonne had last year was certainly one of the reasons for the delay, but in the meantime I had thought of easier ways to do it.

That proved remarkably successful. Last year they had wrapped the (quite stiff) wire mesh over the top of the beams, bent them through 90° and taken them down to the ground, where they bent it again. Both were quite difficult things to do. But why? There's no need. Today I nailed the top of the mesh on the side of the beam and down the side posts. The distance between the posts is a careful metric 2.4 metres, and the mesh is 1.2 metres (also metric) wide, so this leaves the other side in the middle, where I just tie the two halves together. That didn't work on one of them, where the wire was already too twisted, so I had to insert a bamboo rod:


  This should be Fence-4.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Fence 4          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 960 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Tuesday, 11 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Tuesday, 11 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Tuesday, 11 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Fence-5.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Fence 5          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 1856 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Tuesday, 11 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Tuesday, 11 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Tuesday, 11 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

The whole thing took about half an hour, a great improvement on last time. The result looks pretty bare at the moment:


  This should be Fence-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Fence 1          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 2208 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Tuesday, 11 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Tuesday, 11 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Tuesday, 11 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Fence-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Fence 2          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 1360 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Tuesday, 11 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Tuesday, 11 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Tuesday, 11 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Fence-3.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Fence 3          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1520 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Tuesday, 11 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Tuesday, 11 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Tuesday, 11 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

But when it's done it should look like this, where I have Lonicera and Jasmine climbing up a very similar mesh on the north side of the verandah:


  This should be Jasmine-and-Lonicera.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Jasmine and Lonicera          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 2272 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Tuesday, 11 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Tuesday, 11 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Tuesday, 11 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

So what do we plant there? Currently we have Hydrangea petiolaris (2nd image) and Hibbertia scandens (third image). This area was originally in the shade of the Cathedral trees, and they're intended for shady conditions, but that's no longer the case. In fact, there's every reason to believe that we should move the Hydrangea elsewhere. Currently we have more Jasmine and Lonicera, and maybe that would work, but we have many of them already. There are also climbing roses, Hardenbergia and Clematis, but it's not clear whether they will thrive in that position. Maybe we should just put in some annuals such as Tropaeolum, Sweet pea and Morning glory for this year.

While checking the history of this fence, found this, written three years ago:

We had originally intended to put jasmine and clematis on the fences, but we hadn't reckoned with the time it takes to establish them; it could take up to 3 years before they covered the fence. In the end decided on Hydrangea petiolaris and Hibbertia_scandens in the shade, Hardenbergias and a combination of Jasmine polyanthus, Wisteria sinensis and Wisteria floribunda for the fences in the sun.

Somehow things didn't work out like that. The Wisteria sinensis died, the fences look anything but fully covered, and the Wisteria floribunda is only now flowering for the very first time:


  This should be Wisteria-japonica.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Wisteria japonica          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1120 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Tuesday, 4 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Tuesday, 4 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Tuesday, 4 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

Another thing that hasn't done well are the Morning Glories. Of the four I planted in egg boxes, two are looking OK, one is looking unhappy, and one appears to have died. On the other hand, of the 6 that I planted round the arch in the north bed, none seem to have germinated. Tried another 8 seeds today, 6 round the arch and two in the Azelea bed in the north-west. Hopefully we'll have more success there.


New GPS navigator
Topic: general, technology Link here

Yvonne returned from walking the dog with a small electronic box that she had found in the forest. It proved to be a Navman GPS N196, a model so old that Navman no longer want to know anything about it, not even for map updates (in its turn a good reason to avoid Navman). But it works, and I was able to find a “Home” POI in the maps. That's in Ballarat, so we'll drive past next time we're in town and see whether it's really theirs. Otherwise Yvonne needs a GPS receiver, so this could do the trick.


Tuesday, 11 October 2011 Dereel Images for 11 October 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

More work on fences
Topic: gardening Link here

I must find a better word than “fence” for the wire mesh frames I've built for creepers, but I can't think of one. Today spent some time preparing the ground in front of the north-east fence, mainly removing the grass that had taken over again, in the process discovering a lonely Lonicera that I had planted some time ago but forgot to document, along with a since-defunct Jasminum polyanthum planted at the same time. It's tiring work, and I didn't get around to putting in the weed mat.


St. Ignucius vs. St. Steven
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I'm truly amazed by the number people who take the death of Steve Jobs as a personal loss. On Facebook many people have replaced their photo images with a sad Apple face, and acccolades continue to pour in. But many of these are the same people who complained about Apple's predatory behaviour, both against its customers and against its competitors. So many people complained about the locked-down nature of Apples smaller devices. Now rms pitches in, in his typically tactful way, writes (quoting Harold Washington) “I'm not glad he's dead, but I'm glad he's gone”. Predictably, many Apple fans are up in arms, and a number have quoted this article with the truncated URL by Joe Brockmeier, titled “Why FSF Founder Richard Stallman is Wrong on Steve Jobs”.

Why? He doesn't say. Instead, you can read:

Though I've often disagreed with the tone and language of Stallman's commentary on closed devices, he makes good points about software freedom.

...

While I'd love it if Stallman would retire, or at the very least improve his social skills, I hope he lives to be 120. As long as he's alive, there's hope he might change. I'd never be glad that he's gone.

Those are my excerpts, of course, but I can't see anything else in the article that accuses him of more than bad taste. Strangely, none of the people agreeing with this article seem to have noticed this. The title has little to do with the article.

Elsewhere, of course, The Register has commented, also effectively agreeing with rms' criticism of Apple's attitude to software freedom. And even the Los Angeles Times publishes:

Yet Stallman's critique of Jobs' business model has merit. For all Jobs' focus on user-friendly devices, Apple's buttoned-down approach to its software and apps, along with the way its mobile devices facilitate violations of their users' privacy, should be the subject of much broader concern. Stallman's eulogy may get wide distribution because of its tone, but his underlying point about the digital world deserves to be heeded.

So why are people so up in arms about the statement? I really don't know. Clearly nobody will ever convince rms to shut up or to be tactful. And I'm not sure I want him to. As long as there are people like him and Theo de Raadt way out there on the fringes, people like me can feel normal.


Resource problems
Topic: technology Link here

While watching TV, tried to look up something on Google, as you do. But this time I got an error message telling me that it wasn't available. Tried my (local) home page, and was told that it didn't exist. Panic time?

Into the office, where I found lots of messages like this:

Oct 11 19:33:31 dereel kernel: pid 7409 (pbzip2), uid 0 inumber 519112 on /: filesystem full
Oct 11 19:33:33 dereel kernel: pid 7454 (pbzip2), uid 0 inumber 519114 on /: filesystem full

The processes gave the lie to what had happened: I only use pkbzip2 for backups. And today I had tried to repeat a backup (level 1 dump) that I should have done on Sunday, but which I had forgotten. I do a daily backup to an external USB disk: a level 0 dump on the first day of each month, level 1 on Sundays and level 2 on other days. I have a script for this which does other cleanup functions, mounts the dump disk, calls the dump script and umounts the disk. This time I called the dump script directly without first mounting the disk, so it dumped to the root file system.

Problem identified. Remove the /backups/* hierarchy, mount /backups and repeat. Simple. And ineffective.

Further investigation showed other messages:

Oct 11 19:03:00 dereel kernel: kern.maxfiles limit exceeded by uid 125, please see tuning(7).
Oct 11 19:03:12 dereel kernel: kern.maxfiles limit exceeded by uid 1004, please see tuning(7).
Oct 11 19:03:16 dereel kernel: kern.maxfiles limit exceeded by uid 80, please see tuning(7).

That's the maximum number of files that can be open in the system. On dereel it normally looks like this, with the current number of open files for comparison:

=== root@dereel (/dev/pts/12) /usr/local/etc/rc.d 25 -> sysctl kern.maxfiles kern.openfiles
kern.maxfiles: 12328
kern.openfiles: 1713

And yes, indeed, kern.openfiles was at the maximum. But what was doing it? The kernel's not so good at reporting that. The obvious idea is that it had something to do with the full file system. Spent a bit of time looking with lsof, and finally found the culprit: yreport, part of my weather reporting software. Killing that process and restarting it solved the problem. Is this the cause of the problems I reported a couple of months ago? In any case, it's clear that it had a file descriptor leak (in particular, if a write fails), and it's fixed.


Wednesday, 12 October 2011 Dereel
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Outsmarting web crawlers
Topic: technology Link here

Stephen Rothwell and more recently Martin Schwenke have been complaining about the number of hits I get on our communal web server. One of the big issues are the web crawlers that index this diary in particular. The images are the issue: each image contains a link to a different sized version of the same image, which might look like http://www.lemis.com/grog/diary-oct2011.php?imagesizes=11111111111112#Photo-13. That indicates that it's the 14th photo on this month's diary, that it should be size “2” (“small”), and that all before it should be size “1” (“tiny”). If I follow it, I get a new link to http://www.lemis.com/grog/diary-oct2011.php?imagesizes=11111111111113#Photo-13, and so on.

That's fine for humans, but web crawlers follow these links, as Martin finally managed to make clear to me. And if they do their job exhaustively (they don't), things can really go crazy. Last month's diary has 164 photos in it. Each has 4 sizes, so theoretically there are 4¹⁶⁴, or 5.5E98 combinations of image size.

The result has been hit rates of several per second from the crawlers, all looking for the same page with different image sizes:

crawl-66-249-67-33.googlebot.com - - [09/Oct/2011:06:37:12 +1100] "GET /grog/photos/Photos.php?dirdate=20100820&imagesizes=111111111211131112 HTTP/1.1" 200 44902 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)"
crawl-66-249-68-66.googlebot.com - - [09/Oct/2011:06:37:12 +1100] "GET /grog/photos/Photos.php?dirdate=20100820&imagesizes=111111111131111212 HTTP/1.1" 200 45704 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)"
crawl-66-249-67-67.googlebot.com - - [09/Oct/2011:06:37:13 +1100] "GET /grog/photos/Photos.php?dirdate=20100820&imagesizes=1111111111221211112 HTTP/1.1" 200 46852 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)"

What should I do about it? I want the crawlers to index my pages, of course, and I also want the higher-resolution images to be indexed. The first step is obviously to recognize the crawlers, which currently I'm doing on an ad-hoc basis:

function iscrawler ()
{
  $crawlers = "/crawl.yahoo.net$|googlebot.com$|search.msn.com$/";
  if (array_key_exists ("REMOTE_HOST", $_SERVER))
  {
    $result =  preg_match ($crawlers, $_SERVER ["REMOTE_HOST"]);
...

And then? I need to stop the crawlers thinking each of these pages is a separate, indexable page. So that requires a redirect. That could be as simple as http://www.lemis.com/grog/diary-oct2011.php?size=4, which returns all images at maximum size, but then the search results would point there too, and that would not be what people want to see. The search result must be http://www.lemis.com/grog/diary-oct2011.php, but the crawlers still should get the large images.

So: I need to lie to the crawlers. If a crawler asks for a page and specifies sizes, it gets redirected to the same URL without a size specification. And in that case, it always gets size “4”. The cached page will reflect that, but the link will return thumbnails.

And the results? Lots of 301 (moved permanently) returns, here in the 7th field of the log file:

crawl-66-249-67-112.googlebot.com - - [12/Oct/2011:13:20:45 +1100] "GET /grog/photos/Photos.php?dirdate=20110130&imagesizes=111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111112111111111111111111111112 HTTP/1.1" 301 1805 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)"
crawl-66-249-67-65.googlebot.com - - [12/Oct/2011:13:20:45 +1100] "GET /grog/photos/Photos.php?dirdate=20110130&imagesizes=111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111112111111111111111111111111111112 HTTP/1.1" 301 1815 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)"
crawl-66-249-67-27.googlebot.com - - [12/Oct/2011:13:20:45 +1100] "GET /grog/photos/Photos.php?dirdate=20110130&imagesizes=11111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111211111111111111111111111112 HTTP/1.1" 301 1807 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)"

Martin pointed me at apachetop, which monitors real-time performance of the web server. It's interesting to note the third line, which breaks up the return codes. 17.4% are 2xx, 82.5% are 3xx (mainly 301, moved permanently).

last hit: 06:21:44         atop runtime:  0 days, 02:41:33             06:21:45
All:        26478 reqs (   2.7/sec)        340.0M (   35.9K/sec)      13.2K/req
2xx:    4615 (17.4%) 3xx:   21838 (82.5%) 4xx:    23 ( 0.1%) 5xx:     2 ( 0.0%)
R ( 30s):      60 reqs (   2.0/sec)       2246.8K (   74.9K/sec)      37.4K/req
2xx:       4 ( 6.7%) 3xx:      55 (91.7%) 4xx:     1 ( 1.7%) 5xx:     0 ( 0.0%)

 REQS REQ/S    KB KB/S URL
   49  1.63 105.4  3.5*/grog/photos/Photos.php
    4  0.13   6.5  0.2 /~grog/photos/Photos.php
    2  0.13 833.7 55.6 /grog/diary-dec2009.php
    1  0.07   1.6  0.1 /yvonne/photos/Photos.php
    1  0.17   2.6  0.4 /grog/photos/20040515/tiny/pot-2.jpeg
    1  0.04 980.2 35.0 /papers/Why-I-hate-OpenOffice.pdf
    1  0.04 316.5 12.2 /grog/diary-may2008.php
    1  0.04   0.2  0.0 /grog/Photos/20110715/tiny/garden-n.jpeg

It'll be interesting to see how long it takes for the redirect ratio to drop. I note that the current version of http://www.lemis.com/grog/diary.php on Google is about a week out of date, so it might take at least that long.


More network problems
Topic: technology Link here

While working on the HTTP redirect stuff, noticed a significant drop in network performance: the modem was stuck in UMTS mode again. Again popping the modem “fixed” it, but it's getting irritating.


North fence
Topic: gardening Link here

Finally got round to putting down the weed mat in the north garden. This takes forever. A little investigation shows that the Lonicera I found yesterday is a different type from the Lonicera japonica on the verandah (second image):


  This should be Lonicera.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Lonicera          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1296 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Thursday, 13 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Thursday, 13 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Thursday, 13 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Lonicera-japnica.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Lonicera japnica          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1440 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Thursday, 13 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Thursday, 13 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Thursday, 13 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

I was somewhat lax in writing down details at the time, but it looks as if this was the sole remaining Lonicera of the 7 we got from Nancy Brewer two years ago. It's amazing how many plants have died before they were even planted. This one looks happy enough, and I expect it to survive, but it's a good indication that we shouldn't buy plants before we're ready to plant them.

The Salvia leucantha that we planted in March bloomed happily through the winter, and then all but disappeared: another Salvia of indeterminate species, which we bought at the Dereel market on Australia Day, had grown so much larger than expected that it had completely enveloped it. It hasn't flowered yet, and until I can identify it I'm calling it Salvia diesaustraliae. Spent some time removing much grass from the area, and also moved the Salvia leucantha about 80 cm to the right:


  This should be Salvias.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Salvias          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 2624 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Thursday, 13 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Thursday, 13 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Thursday, 13 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Salvia-leucantha.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Salvia leucantha          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 2448 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Thursday, 13 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Thursday, 13 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Thursday, 13 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

If the Salvia diesaustraliae makes it that far, we'll have to cut it back.

Ended up with a number of pieces of the Salvia diesaustraliae anyway, and also of the nearby Tradescantia, and planted them in pots. What are we going to do with all this stuff?

One thing we did get rid of was the white Bougainvillea, which belongs to Chris Yeardley. Yvonne took it over, complete with a couple of volunteer snapdragons, but she came back with a cutting each of the white and purple Bougainvilleas. So in total we now have 12 new cuttings. What are we going to do with all this stuff?


Thursday, 13 October 2011 Dereel Images for 13 October 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Goodbye dmr—a real giant of the computer world
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I've made a number of comments about the recent death of Steve Jobs, and expressed my surprise about the personal sadness that many felt. Also the reactions to rms' comments, which my wife Yvonne found so good that she sent him a personal congratulation. But what got me the most was how people claimed that Steve was a technical innovator, a “giant”.

And then today I heard the sad news that Dennis Ritchie died on Sunday. And it has taken the world this long to find out. Rob Pike seems to be the first to have reported it, less than two hours ago if I interpret Google's time-zone-less time specifications correctly.

What a comparison! If ever there was a “giant”, it was Dennis. I can't think of any part of modern computing environment which he hasn't influenced. Most modern compiled programming languages are either his own C programming language, or they're derived from it. His file system design is alive and well today and forms the basis of almost all modern file systems with the exception of Microsoft. Everybody who uses a web browser (in other words, everybody) sees the file name conventions that he developed 40 years ago. And as one of the two main developers of Unix, he has influenced all operating systems, even to some extent Microsoft. There's not a single product that Steve Jobs marketed in the last 20 years that doesn't depend on Dennis' work.

Now there's a giant. Isn't it sad that his passing has gone almost unnoticed? If ever I needed proof of my claim that the computer world is now market-driven and no longer technology-driven, the reactions to the deaths of Steve Jobs and Dennis Ritchie demonstrate it. Atypically, I feel a deep sense of loss.


A month without roses is like September
Topic: gardening Link here

It's only been a little over a month ago that I picked the last rose of last season. Now, on the same plant on the south side of the verandah, we have the first rose of the new season:


  This should be Rosa-3.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Rosa 3          Dimensions:          2940 x 2553, 576 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Thursday, 13 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Thursday, 13 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Thursday, 13 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

In general, it's amazing how well things have survived the winter. The Grevillea longistyla × johnsonii “Elegance” is also flowering happily:


  This should be Grevillea-longistyla.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Grevillea longistyla          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1200 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Thursday, 13 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Thursday, 13 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Thursday, 13 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

The vine on the verandah is also growing happily and sending out shoots in all kinds of directions that I don't want. Time for more pruning, also removing some errant shoots from Lonicera, Hardenbergia and rose—accidentally including my new rosebud! Still, it's pretty inside the house too.

Spring is progressing, and the greenhouse is emptying. Moved the Mandevilla to its summer position in front of the kitchen and laid some drippers for the Salvias in the north bed, and also cleaned a dripper on one of the plants between car parking area and house (I think a Melaleuca). Even the cleanable drippers are getting clogged up now, and some are easier to clean than others. I must do a comparison page.

How do I handle my seedlings? I still don't know. But I think that once they've reached the four-leaf state, they need more sun. Spent some time rearranging; I'll need to keep a careful eye on things.


dmr interview
Topic: technology Link here

Call from Susan Atkinson of ABC 702 Sydney radio, asking if I would do an interview about the death of dmr on this evening's “Evenings” program with Robbie Buck. It seems that she found me by quite a roundabout way: for some reason they rang UniSA and were connected with Ben Close, who put them on to me. Nothing to do with the messages I sent to various newspapers.

“Evenings” runs from 19:00 to 22:00, and my part was at 21:30, but at the last minute—apparently after announcing the interview—they postponed. As far as I can tell, some important sports news had cropped up, and now they're planning it for tomorrow between 20:00 and 21:00.


Death of teevee
Topic: multimedia, technology Link here

I wasn't kept idle during that time. Started watching TV, and then found something extraordinary:


 
This should be teevee-SIGSEGV.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: teevee SIGSEGV          Dimensions:          3972 x 2916, 2752 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Thursday, 13 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Thursday, 13 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Thursday, 13 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

A SIGSEGV out of ls looks highly suspicious. At the same time, I got repeated reports on the (remote) system log:

Oct 13 19:36:33 teevee kernel: ad4: FAILURE - READ_DMA48 status=71<READY,DMA_READY,DSC,ERROR> error=4<ABORTED> LBA=816716546
Oct 13 19:36:33 teevee syslogd: /var/log/messages: Input/output error
Oct 13 19:36:33 teevee kernel: g_vfs_done():ad4p5[READ(offset=364471697408, length=131072)]error = 5

Shortly after that, the system froze and I wasn't able to reboot. Took it in to the office and ran fsck on a different machine, where it ran. But I tried to shut down before the background fscks were finished, with the longest buffer sync output I have ever seen:


  This should be fsck-shutdown.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: fsck shutdown          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 2000 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Thursday, 13 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Thursday, 13 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Thursday, 13 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

It looks as if shutdown doesn't stop background fsck.

Got it running again, and we watched TV for about 15 minutes before the system died again. Despite the log messages, everything is pointing to something on the motherboard—and all the components are only two months old. Looks like another trip to Geelong tomorrow.


Friday, 14 October 2011 Dereel → Geelong → Dereel Images for 14 October 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

To Geelong for hardware
Topic: technology, general Link here

Did some further tests on teevee this morning, and got it to a point where it wouldn't get through the POST with nothing connected to the motherboard. There was an extraordinary amount of dust in the heat sink, so blew that out with compressed air—finally an impressive cloud of dust—but how did it get in there in only two months? Checked the memory and the display card in Yvonne's computer, and they were both OK. So: processor, motherboard or power supply. Dragged out the receipt for the hardware, was about to put the machine with assembled motherboard into the car when it dawned on me. This wasn't the machine I bought in August: a week later I gave it to Yvonne and used her old motherboard for teevee. So not much hope of getting a replacement, though I should check when I bought the other one.


MSY: strangling their outlets?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

At MSY in Geelong, discovered a very poor selection of hardware. In the end bought a AsRock N68VS3 motherboard, a Sempron LE-145, exactly the same components that I bought two months ago. Also Yet Another UPS, and a power supply for $48, more than either the processor or the motherboard. Why so expensive? That's all that the branch can get. According to the pricelist, they have at least 12 cheaper suitable power supplies, starting at $17. But the Geelong branch can't get them. And even if customers order in advance, they don't get delivered.

I sensed a bit of frustration from the salesman. MSY makes their money by being cheaper. But if they're not, why should I go there? I had really wanted a dual core CPU, and they had a couple on the lists, but only the most expensive was available—exactly as I recall it being the last time. I had already noticed that their disks were more expensive than at OfficeWorks. Why do MSY do this? Poor organization? Are they planning to shut the Geelong branch? Certainly counterproductive, in any case.


Other shopping
Topic: gardening, general Link here

Also to Bunnings, this time in a more direct manner than last year. But the new, updated maps from naviextrax.com (“our maps are renowned for their accuracy”) still shows it in the wrong place. Bought various garden accessories, including some red petunias—I've given up on getting any significant number from seed this year.


New teevee
Topic: technology Link here

Back home, put together the new machine. This time the processor is really a Sempron LE-145 and not the Athlon II that I got last time. You couldn't tell from the packaging. Here the chip of two months ago, then today's:


 
This should be Sempron-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Sempron 1          Dimensions:          2212 x 2044, 560 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 7 August 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 7 August 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 7 August 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Sempron-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Sempron 2          Dimensions:          2748 x 2600, 1056 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 14 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 14 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 14 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

Brought the machine up, ran fsck and—it hung in exactly the same way as it did last night. Further investigation showed that it was the old soft updates bug with background fsck. Running fsck in the foreground fixed it. All that work for nothing!

Well, no, probably not. That didn't explain the SIGSEGV last night, nor the fact that the machine didn't get through the POST this morning. It looks very much as if there were two problems: the failing motherboard and the failing fsck. In any case, the machine ran, though for some reason the NIC is only running at 100 Mb/s. To be investigated Some Other Time.


Dennis Ritchie's legacy
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

The accolades for dmr are pouring in, as well they should. Today I had my moment of glory with the postponed interview on ABC 702 Sydney radio, and of course they asked me about Dennis' importance. How do you answer that, especially to an audience of people with no particular computer background? Yes, I mentioned Unix, I mentioned C, like everybody does.

But for me, the outstanding legacy of Unix is the file system, or at least the underlying concepts. It's such a masterpiece of simplicity, clarity and power. And nobody really seems to appreciate it. Certainly those who came after didn't understand the concept of a directory, or they would never have come up with this silly word folder. Who wrote it? I had always thought it was Dennis, but not necessarily at the top. But looking at the sources of the Fourth Edition, it seems more likely to have been Ken. And at the end of the interview, to bring things home to the audience, I said “Every time you see a slash in a URL, think of Dennis”. Not as appropriate as I thought, but I still think it's a nice sentiment.

Apart from such errors on my part, though: who were the really great pioneers of computing? I had always thought of Ken and Dennis being up on the list, but who's more important? John von Neumann? He pretty much defined computer structure, and it hasn't changed that much until today. Alan Turing? He was a great thinker, but it's not clear to me what legacy he has left behind.

Who else? There are plenty of people who have been pivotal in computing, but Ken and Dennis had not only ability but also the luck to be present at a pivotal time in the evolution of computing, and to be allowed to do things right rather than do things by the end of the quarter. I can't think of anybody else who has had so much influence. It's nice to see that gradually modern systems are gradually discovering facets of their work that had eluded them before. To quote Henry Spencer:

Those who don't understand UNIX are condemned to reinvent it, poorly.

Saturday, 15 October 2011 Dereel Images for 15 October 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

House photos gone wrong
Topic: photography Link here

House photos again today, the once in a month variety with additional views. And somehow I managed to mess things up right royally: set the focusing rails to the wrong position, took the wrong number of images for some shots. Fortunately I recognized the problems in time, but it cost me a lot of time, kept me going all day, and by the evening I hadn't finished.


Little work in the garden
Topic: gardening Link here

The weather wasn't as good as yesterday, but the main issue why I didn't do much in the garden was the house photos. I was going to plant some of the new Petunias in the north-west bed, but it looks as if it might be too shady there, so in the end only planted the one mystery seedling from the seeds I planted three months ago, the one that should have been a Viola (plant):


  This should be Mystery-plant.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Mystery plant          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1472 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 4 September 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 4 September 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 4 September 2011 Complete exposure details

 

It has grown quite a bit since that photo was taken at the beginning of last month, but the last couple of the days in the sun didn't suit it, as witnessed by slight browning of the leaves, so it's a good candidate for the north-west bed. It also needed planting: despite being planted into quite a large pot, it was already root bound. It appears to have small, forget-me-not-like flowers, but they're not visible at the moment:


  This should be Mystery-plant.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Mystery plant          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 2560 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 16 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 16 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 16 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

Is this Anchusa capensis? I planted some at the same time, but I can't find a good description anywhere. The nickname “Cape forget-me-not” suggests at least the same kind of thing. We'll see.

Apart from that, planted yet more sweet peas to climb up the new fence, and also cut down a whole lot of Tropaeolums that are trying to take over to the north and immediate south of the verandah. The cuttings are a problem: if I put them on the compost, I'll end up with Tropaeolums everywhere. On the other hand, they're quite a good mulch, and Yvonne wanted some more Tropaeolums round Nemo's run, so put them there. They probably won't have enough seeds to produce new plants, but it wouldn't harm if they did, and it'll help reduce evaporation.


Ironing out the wrinkles in teevee
Topic: multimedia, technology Link here

So teevee is working well enough with the new hardware, it seems. But I still don't have the gigabit Ethernet running. Did a little investigation, and it seems that FreeBSD doesn't believe that the chip set can do gigabit Ethernet:

nfe0: <NVIDIA nForce MCP61 Networking Adapter> port 0xd480-0xd487 mem 0xfaefd000-0xfaefdfff irq 20 at device 7.0 on pci0
miibus0: <MII bus> on nfe0
rlphy0: <RTL8201L 10/100 media interface> PHY 0 on miibus0
rlphy0:  10baseT, 10baseT-FDX, 10baseT-FDX-flow, 100baseTX, 100baseTX-FDX, 100baseTX-FDX-flow, auto, auto-flow

According to the motherboard instructions, though, it should do gigabit:


  This should be Ethernet-ports.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: Ethernet ports          Dimensions:          1125 x 363, 154 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 16 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 16 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 16 October 2011

 

It wasn't until I checked the specs, though, that the truth came out: Asrock make two very similar motherboards, the N68-VGS3 and the N68-VS3. The instruction manual applies to both, but I have the N68-VS3, and the main difference between the two boards is that only the N68-VGS3 does gigabit Ethernet. OK, the motherboard only cost $45, but I'm still surprised that the gigabit technology makes any significant price differential.


Sunday, 16 October 2011 Dereel Images for 16 October 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Another power failure
Topic: general Link here

Another short power failure this morning at 2:58, conveniently leaving the alarm clocks out of action on a day when Yvonne had to get up early to go to Melbourne. Fortunately she woke up anyway.


Spring has sprung
Topic: gardening Link here

We had a relatively mild spell a couple of days ago:

5 days temperatures

The results were almost immediate: many more flowers. The north bed in particular is looking very spring-like. Roses are blooming, the “Mexican something” that Sue Morse gave me last year has also produced the first flowers, and the Solanum laxum that Yvonne brought back as cuttings only a few months ago is also flowering:


  This should be North-bed.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: North bed          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 2784 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 16 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 16 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 16 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Mexican-something.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Mexican something          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 1152 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 16 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 16 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 16 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Solanum-laxum.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Solanum laxum          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1216 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 16 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 16 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 16 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

All over the garden, the first roses are coming out:


  This should be Rosa-Monsiuer-Tillier.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Rosa Monsiuer Tillier          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1152 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 16 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 16 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 16 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Climbing-rose.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Climbing rose          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1184 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 16 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 16 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 16 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Rosa-Phyllis-Bide.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Rosa Phyllis Bide          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1328 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 16 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 16 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 16 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

Other flowers have been coming for a while, and have more or less arrived. The dwarf white Alstroemerias have been flowering for a few days, but the normal-sized orange ones are preparing for an explosion soon. Our Cymbidium orchid and our Camellia japonica are also flowering for the first time:


 
This should be Alstroemeria.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Alstroemeria          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 1424 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 16 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 16 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 16 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Orchid.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Orchid          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1344 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 16 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 16 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 16 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Camellia-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Camellia 1          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 976 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 16 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 16 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 16 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

The flowers of both the Camellia and the Cymbidium are less than I had expected. I'm wondering if I haven't used enough fertilizer. But how much is correct? Too much and you damage the plants; too little and they don't grow properly. Some form of feedback would be good.

The newer Clematis “Vagabond”, already two years old, is now beating the older one to flowering, and we also have a number of bulbs that I must have planted in the autumn, but which I don't recall:


  This should be Clematis.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Clematis          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1296 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 16 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 16 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 16 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Bulbs.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Bulbs          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1616 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 16 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 16 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 16 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 


“Open source” class assignment
Topic: technology Link here

Chris Yeardley over this afternoon to talk about installing FreeBSD on her new laptop. She has a class assignment to contribute to some “open source” project, and of course I encouraged her to do it with FreeBSD.

Chris isn't ready yet to take the plunge and install the ultimate anti-virus, FreeBSD alone on the disk. So how do you install FreeBSD as one boot option on a laptop? Well, I wrote the book, but that was years ago, and in general I don't do dual boot. It seems that Microsoft now allows partitions to be resized, but I don't know the details.

It proved that she had four MBR partitions on the disk already. Microsoft reports:

Vol       Layout     Type    FS      Status                          Capacity   Free Space
-         simple    basic            recovery partition              20.57      20.57 MB
C:        simple    basic    NTFS    boot,page, crash dump, primary  151        93.10 GB
D:        simple    basic    NTFS    logical drive                   424.5      392.38 GB
SYSTEM    simple    basic    NTFS    sytem, active, primary          100        70 GB

What does that all mean? Two partitions are “primary”, which is clear enough. D: is a “logical drive”. But then, C: is too: it isn't a real drive. Is this Microsoft's obfuscation for “logical partition”? Probably; at any rate, it was a logical partition (in an extended partition). That's a problem, because it's half the disk. Sure, I could remove it and replace it with a primary partition, but that's all that's left on the disk, and Chris doesn't really need 400 GB for FreeBSD.

Did some thinking and decided, at least for the moment, that Chris could connect an external USB drive and use that as the FreeBSD partition. Played around with that, enough to discover that the laptop has two different kinds of USB connectors: the ones on the right didn't seem to work, but the ones on the left did. Later noted that the ones on the right have blue markings on the socket, which indicates USB 3.0. But I thought they were compatible. I wonder if this is an issue with this particular laptop or its design. Or maybe it's just the bug that I swear crawled out of the laptop (on the right in the first photo):


  This should be Bug-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Bug 1          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 1424 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 16 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 16 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 16 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Bug-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Bug 2          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 720 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 16 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 16 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 16 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 


More teevee pain?
Topic: multimedia, technology Link here

While watching TV in the evening, teevee froze again. I've replaced everything except the memory, which I had tested separately. Is it really the memory? Or something on the disk? The latter seems unlikely, since I wasn't using it. To be observed.


Panorama parameters revisited
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Yesterday I did a complete series of photos for the critical verandah panorama, with the exception only of the zenith shot, and then discovered that I had my focusing rail set to 8.0 cm instead of 7.2. Based on previous experience, that should have been a complete failure. But it was worth investigation, so tried stitching it together.

Surprise! “Very good fit”. In fact, better than the one taken with the correct settings—not because of the settings, but because the software had chosen some control points in leaves and things that moved between shots. The results look almost identical except for the height:


 
This should be verandah-centre-try2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: verandah centre try2          Dimensions:          9167 x 4990, 7184 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 15 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 15 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 15 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

  This should be verandah-centre.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: verandah centre          Dimensions:          9135 x 5605, 7504 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 15 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 15 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 15 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

And yes, that wood covering the entire top of the second image is the beam directly above the camera. It's just a single straight piece of wood.

In the past I had had much more difficulty lining up the images, and I had assumed that the rail needed to be set with sub-millimetre accuracy. But what has changed since then is that I have processed the raw images with Olympus “Viewer”, including distortion correction. So maybe that's the answer.

Also tried making panoramas of the images I took in Bergen six years ago. Clearly I had no intention then of stitching them together, and I wasn't even sure how close together they were taken. But they, too, were surprisingly good, “good fit”. Just the exposure was a little difficult:


  This should be Bergen-panorama-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Bergen panorama 2          Dimensions:          2033 x 801, 384 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Tuesday, 17 May 2005, thumbnails          All images taken on Tuesday, 17 May 2005, small
Diary entry for Tuesday, 17 May 2005 Complete exposure details

 

  This should be Bergen-panorama-3.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Bergen panorama 3          Dimensions:          3634 x 1043, 784 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Tuesday, 17 May 2005, thumbnails          All images taken on Tuesday, 17 May 2005, small
Diary entry for Tuesday, 17 May 2005 Complete exposure details

 


Monday, 17 October 2011 Dereel Images for 17 October 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Nickel-Zinc batteries: first impressions
Topic: general, photography, technology Link here

Finally my Nickel-Zinc batteries have arrived. I bought them nearly 3 weeks ago, and received the confirmation:

Date: Tue, 27 Sep 2011 18:32:59 -0700 (GMT-07:00)
From: eBay <ebay@ebay.com>

Your item(s) has been shipped out from Hong Kong today:

1807051126501
8 AA NiZn Rechargeable Battery + Charger
PowerGenix New

Why so long? The envelope explains:


  This should be envelope-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: envelope 2          Dimensions:          1353 x 1362, 448 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Tuesday, 18 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Tuesday, 18 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Tuesday, 18 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

That's a delay of nearly 2 weeks.

And the voltage? As delivered, they had a voltage of 1.73 V, significantly higher than the nominal 1.6 V or 1.65 V, but interestingly identical with the value in Wikipedia. But first I had to charge them. The charger came with instructions of above-average length and typical accuracy:


  This should be instructions.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: instructions          Dimensions:          2703 x 1196, 2400 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Tuesday, 18 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Tuesday, 18 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Tuesday, 18 October 2011

 

On the left “Safety features: Will not charge Non[sic]-Nickel Zinc rechargeable batteries”. In the middle: “ATTEMPTING TO CHARGE OTHER TYPES OF BATTERIES MAY CAUSE PERSONAL INJURY AND DAMAGE TO THE CHARGER” (no mention of the presumed destruction of the batteries).

Charging was made more difficult by the fact that the charger came with an American-style plug which didn't quite seem to adhere to the standards. I have lots of chargers like that, along with lots of adapters, but this one didn't fit most of them. Found one that sort of fitted, but the charge light didn't go on. Searched further and finally found one that had a snug fit. Still no charge light. I was about to give it up as a defective charger when I found a strip of plastic between the batteries (which were supplied in the charger) and the positive side of the charger. Now why didn't they document that? After removing it, they charged properly. And the voltages? It seems that all batteries have a nominal voltage that is really only nominal. Here NiMH (nominally 1.2 V), normal alkaline batteries (nominally 1.5 V) and NiZn (nominally 1.6 V or 1.65 V, depending on whom you ask):


  This should be NiMH.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: NiMH          Dimensions:          2415 x 4096, 1104 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Monday, 17 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Monday, 17 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Monday, 17 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Alkaline-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Alkaline 2          Dimensions:          2475 x 3462, 944 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Monday, 17 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Monday, 17 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Monday, 17 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be NiZn-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: NiZn 1          Dimensions:          2565 x 4096, 1104 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Monday, 17 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Monday, 17 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Monday, 17 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

Can that be right? This is a cheap multimeter, and it would be reasonable to question its accuracy, though my suspicion is that the chips in modern multimeters are accurate enough. On a suggestion of Peter Jeremy, located a Mercury battery (in my Pentax Spotmatic). They have very stable voltages, but what? Most sources say 1.35 V, which seems too round a figure to be acceptable. In one place I read 1.355 V, which at least has more decimal places. My multimeter showed 1.360 V, less than 0.4% higher than the latter value, so I assume that the other voltages are also correct.

Is that too much? I put some in my power-hungry Nikon “CoolPix” L1, and it seems happy with them. The voltage of the NiZn battery in the example is shortly after charging. I put it in my old Garmin GPS receiver (bought in 1997) and let it search the sky for satellites. It took half an hour: the internal clock was off by 40 minutes, and there's no way to reset it. This device has a particularly heavy battery consumption—it uses a set of alkaline batteries in about 3 hours—so the 30 minutes should have shown a significant consumption. But at the end of that time, the voltage was still 1.809 V, a far cry from the nominal voltages. Of course, looking at the voltages of a normal new alkaline cell, it's clear that all devices should be able to accept a voltage of 1.6 V, but this is higher still. I'm still not game to put them in my Mecablitz 58 AF-1. I should find a couple of other things to try first.


Still more teevee pain
Topic: multimedia, technology Link here

In the course of the morning, discovered I couldn't access teeveeagain! Brought it into the office and recovered things and watched it for a while. No particular problems. But I've changed everything except the memory, so swapped that too with Yvonne's computer. We'll keep an eye on it, but so far there have been no further crashes.

There's another irritating thing with teevee: since the new motherboard, I no longer get remote syslog messages. They're very useful if something crashes, and the only way I saw the disk errors last week. Why did they stop? Did a lot of playing around and discovered that it would work if I restarted syslogd (newsyslog wasn't enough). Somehow it must be related to the Ethernet interface, but I don't see how.

Then I discovered that cvr2 was down too! To the cupboard where I keep it, and discovered it happily running—only the network switch was powered off. It seems that that happened while I was playing around trying to charge the Nickel-Zinc batteries. teevee is on that switch too, so probably this time it didn't crash; but it did yesterday, so that's not overly relevant.


Backup pain
Topic: technology Link here

As if that wasn't enough, my weekly backup yesterday failed:

=== root@dereel (/dev/pts/14) /var/tmp 39 -> mount /backups
mount: /backups: Device not configured

The device node was there, of course, which in FreeBSD (with devfs) means that it has been detected. And I was able to look at it, but it still claimed “not configured”:

=== root@dereel (/dev/pts/14) /var/tmp 41 -> bsdlabel da0s1
# /dev/da0s1:
8 partitions:
#        size   offset    fstype   [fsize bsize bps/cpg]
  c: 1953520002        0    unused        0     0         # "raw" part, don't edit
  d: 1953520002        0    4.2BSD     2048 16384 28552
=== root@dereel (/dev/pts/14) /var/tmp 42 -> mount /backups
mount: /backups: Device not configured

Tried running fsck:

=== root@dereel (/dev/pts/14) /var/tmp 49 -> fsck -y /backups
** /dev/da0s1d
** Last Mounted on /backups
** Phase 1 - Check Blocks and Sizes
** Phase 2 - Check Pathnames
** Phase 3 - Check Connectivity
** Phase 4 - Check Reference Counts
** Phase 5 - Check Cyl groups
26152 files, 308033949 used, 164980610 free (15338 frags, 20620659 blocks, 0.0% fragmentation)

***** FILE SYSTEM STILL DIRTY *****

***** PLEASE RERUN FSCK *****

Why is it still dirty? It didn't find any errors. But I re-ran fsck, with the same results. Finally I discovered that the file system was already mounted:

=== root@dereel (/dev/pts/21) /usr/src/sys 11 -> df
Filesystem   1048576-blocks   Used  Avail Capacity  Mounted on
...
/dev/da0s1d          923856 601628 248319    71%    /backups

But why an ENXIO? If the file system is already mounted, I should get EBUSY (“device busy”). And fsck should have at least said NO WRITE at the beginning. And none of that explains why the file system was mounted in the first place. The fact that fsck didn't find any errors at all suggests that it had been umounted cleanly.


Little in the garden
Topic: gardening Link here

There's still lots to do in the garden, but somehow I didn't find time. Our Corydalis is growing happily:


  This should be Corydalis-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Corydalis 1          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1744 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 25 September 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 25 September 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 25 September 2011 Complete exposure details

 

It proves to really be a Pseudofumaria alba, and it has produced a number of self-seeded seedlings (how come all these plants can do it and I can't?), so planted some of them. The shade area is gradually filling up.


We're a charity. Ignore us!
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Another fund-raising call from a charity today, Sids and Kids. I asked why they called me when I'm on the “do not call list”. They're allowed to, of course, according to the rules for the do not call list, but as I've observed, why annoy people you want money from? They're now on my “do not donate” list.

There's a question, of course: how do you find out whether somebody is on the “do not call” list? If I were to want to do this kind of advertising, how do I find out who not to call? I suppose that's worth investigating. Hypothetically charities don't have access to the list, but that sounds stupid.


Tuesday, 18 October 2011 Dereel Images for 18 October 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

More experience with NiMH batteries
Topic: photography Link here

So far my experiences with the Nickel-Zinc batteries have been quite positive. But can I use them in my flash unit? Metz didn't say “don't use them”, just that they can't (yet) recommend them. What do other people say? Searched the web (something I should have done before buying the batteries) and came up with:

The last comment is interesting. The 58 AF-1 has an optional power pack that can give recycle times of 2.5 seconds instead of the 5 seconds that they claim for NiMH batteries (which in my experience is closer to 6 seconds). What does the instruction manual say?

On page 85 (beginning of English section), under “Safety instructions” we have:

When taking a series of flash shots at full light output and with the rapid recycling times possible with NiCad/NiMH battery operation, make sure to wait for at least 10 minutes after 15 flashes. Otherwise, the flash unit will be overloaded.

When taking a series of flash shots at full light output and with rapid recycling times, and with zoom positions of 35 mm and less, the diffuser heats up, due to the high level of thermal energy. To protect itself from overheating, the flash unit will automatically increase the recycling time.

These two statements appear to contradict each other. If the flash unit protects itself from overheating diffusers, surely it'll do the same for other components. And there's no mention of the power pack, which suggests that, like so many “Safety instructions”, it's mainly boilerplate.

On page 87 there's more information:

To protect the flash unit from thermal overload when connected to the Power Pack, a monitoring control increases the recycling times during heavy usage.

Now it's possible that this monitoring circuitry only works when the power pack is connected. But why would they do that? It has to be in the unit itself, and if it's there, it makes sense to have it enabled all the time. And maybe that is the reason why my recycle times increase during the verandah panorama shots: it's not the batteries, it's the flash unit protecting itself. That would also explain why the recycle time recovered after a minute or so of inactivity the weekend before last.

So: let's try it. I did so, and got recycle times which almost scared me: instead of 6 seconds, they were more like 2.4 seconds. Let's hope that I'm right in my assumption that the power pack circuitry will protect the unit.


Burning off and planting
Topic: gardening Link here

Yvonne really wanted to burn off the wood left over from the winter today:


  This should be Fire-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Fire 1          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 3424 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Tuesday, 18 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Tuesday, 18 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Tuesday, 18 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Fire-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Fire 2          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 2528 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Tuesday, 18 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Tuesday, 18 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Tuesday, 18 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

I had intended to plant lots of plants, but in the end only managed to put in irrigation and plant more creepers round the north-east fence: Lonicera, a not-very-happy Trachelospermum jasminoides, a single sweet pea and some Tropaeolum. The Trachelospermum looked happy enough above ground, but below it doesn't have much in the way of roots. I had planned to plant a second one, but I'll wait until it's more established.


A new belt
Topic: general, opinion Link here

I'm not at all clothes-conscious: I wear the same kind of clothes year in, year out. I've used the same cheap leather belt for over 10 years, something that surprised me. It wasn't expensive, but it was extremely durable, and in the end it was the buckle that gave up. Yvonne found a new one for me that started to disintegrate within a few days, but then ALDI had a pair of belts on special offer, so she bought them.

They didn't seem bad, but today I discovered:


  This should be Belt-buckle.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Belt buckle          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1152 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Wednesday, 19 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Wednesday, 19 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Wednesday, 19 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

“Our stringent quality specifications” indeed! But of course we can bring it back. Why are belts so difficult?


Wednesday, 19 October 2011 Dereel Images for 19 October 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Suddenly summer
Topic: gardening Link here

The weather in the last few days hasn't been particularly warm. Only 3 days ago the highest temperature was 16°, but since then things have changed:

5 days temperatures

Today we hit 30.7°, the highest temperature in nearly 7 months and thus the highest since I completed the greenhouse. Obviously I kept the shade cloth on all day, and the temperature rose to “only” 31°—previously I've had it hit 40°.

But the weather brings home to me that I still don't understand how to keep plants happy, particularly seedlings. In the shade area I have put some plants outside in front of the shade cloth, and that's clearly too hot for many of them. Did some more rearrangement. I had intended to plant out some of our plants, but it's too warm. Instead spread some fertilizer—I suspect I have been too stingy in the past—and got rid of about 4 kg.

Yvonne was braver: despite the heat, she mowed the lawn, at least what she could do with the ride-on mower. Now I need to finish the job with the hand mower, which will be a lot of fun.


Thursday, 20 October 2011 Dereel Images for 20 October 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

More garden disasters
Topic: gardening Link here

The warm weather continued today, along with lots of wind. It managed to tear the shade cloth away from the greenhouse, unraveling the wire that held it and crushed whole clumps of Arum lilies:


  This should be Arum-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Arum 1          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 2480 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Thursday, 20 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Thursday, 20 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Thursday, 20 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Arum-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Arum 2          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 2560 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Thursday, 20 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Thursday, 20 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Thursday, 20 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

Later in the day, the shade cloth forming the entrance to the shade area also got caught up in the wind and swept two trays of seedlings to the ground:


  This should be Garden-crash-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Garden crash 1          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 2496 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Thursday, 20 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Thursday, 20 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Thursday, 20 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Garden-crash-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Garden crash 2          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1824 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Thursday, 20 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Thursday, 20 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Thursday, 20 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

That puts paid to a number of the seeds that I have been trying to raise for the last couple of months. Almost nothing has grown. What frustration!

As if that wasn't enough, the tree chompers are back. I no longer think it's the kangaroos, but I'm not sure what it is. All that's left of our recently planted Acacia merinthophora is the little stick in the middle of the image:


  This should be Acacia-merinthophora.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Acacia merinthophora          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 2512 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Thursday, 20 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Thursday, 20 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Thursday, 20 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

It's not all catastrophe, though: the Alyogyne huegelii has been blooming almost since we got it, and the Convolvulus sabatius has started flowering:


  This should be Alyogyne.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Alyogyne          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 2752 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Thursday, 20 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Thursday, 20 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Thursday, 20 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Convolvulus-sabatius.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Convolvulus sabatius          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1584 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Thursday, 20 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Thursday, 20 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Thursday, 20 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

Others haven't developed as well, though, including the Leucospermum cordifolium. It's not looking unhappy, just unchanged, and it's been there for nearly a month. Decided that the problem could be the wind, so Yvonne bought some wind protection to put around a number of them, which should also foil the tree-chompers:


  This should be Leucospermum.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Leucospermum          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 1664 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 21 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 21 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 21 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

Also more weeding, and pruned the Alyogyne in an effort to make it bushier.


Playing DVDs
Topic: multimedia, technology, opinion Link here

Once upon a time TV was easy. You turned on a TV, found a channel and watched it. Then video tapes came, and you could record things, so you were independent of the broadcast time. Then pre-recorded tapes came, and with them licensing restrictions, notably the “don't copy” restriction which I personally find stupid. I can understand that the license holder wants to sell as many copies as he can (though nowadays they don't necessarily try), but that's only indirectly related to copying.

Nowadays it's DVDs and Blu-ray with all their stupid copy protection, which really only upsets the innocent, while the pirates know enough to circumvent the issues. I generally stick to the license agreements, but it's not always easy. Last week I borrowed some DVDs from the Geelong regional library and tried to play them (on my computer). No go. It didn't play in a normal DVD player either. Looking at the DVDs, it's understandable why:


  This should be DVD-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: DVD 2          Dimensions:          2922 x 2082, 592 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Thursday, 20 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Thursday, 20 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Thursday, 20 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

That's the worst of them, of course, but it looks like some previous borrower has given them to their very young children to play with. And yes, there's no hope for this DVD. But others are recoverable. I've found that the FreeBSD program recoverdisk does a reasonable job of recovering a disk image, if you first try to play it with mplayer to unlock the CSS keys. After that, mplayer can play the DVD image.

What are the ethics of this? The tiny print on the back of the DVD package (black on dark green) states:

WARNING: The copyright proprietor has licensed the film (including he soundtrack) comprised in this digital video disc for home use only. All other rights are reserved. Any unauthorised copying, editing, exhibition, renting, exchanging, hiring, lending, public performance, diffusion, and/or broadcasts[sic] of this digital video disk or any part thereof is strictly prohibited. This DVD disk is compliant with applicable DVD specifications. Some of its features may not be compatible with all DVD players.

Now what does that mean? On careful examination, I conclude:

  1. There's no definition of “unauthorised”. In particular, I got this DVD from the library, which definitely comprises “lending”. Since this is done all the time by the libraries I know, I assume it's “authorised”. What else is authorized?

  2. What is “copying”? They don't actually mention “playing” in this license, though arguably “playing” is a form of copying. The only issue is whether it's copied directly to the output or via the intermediate step of storing the data on disk. My application is “home use”, so I assume that this is acceptable.

  3. There's no mention there of any restriction on what kind of device the DVD may be played on, just what kind it can be played on. So computers should be acceptable.

  4. What features may not be compatible with all DVD players? Don't purchasers have a right to know if some obscure feature may stop it from playing in a standards-compliant DVD player? Reading elsewhere (this time in marginally more legible white on dark green) I see:

    This NTSC Region 4 DVD will play in ALL DVD video players in Australia but the viewing television monitor must have NTSC & PAL (multi-standard) viewing capabilities.

    NTSC? Why NTSC? This is a region 4 DVD sold in Australia by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. And in Australia the standard is PAL. What earthly reason do they have to master the DVD in NTSC, which has a lower resolution and is only available to some people? It's not the origin, which is British (also PAL). I'm both baffled and marginally offended.

  5. One way or another, the definitions are too difficult to interpret. They're not designed to annoy honest people like myself, but they do a very good job. Too many laws address secondary actions: “prohibit what we can control” rather than “prohibit what causes us harm”. That's particularly stupid here, because they can't control it either. And efforts to do so cost more than the potential damage.

  6. This is probably not the only restriction on DVD usage. But it's the only one on this DVD package, so it has to be complete.


Friday, 21 October 2011 Dereel Images for 21 October 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Vegetable garden and crop rotation
Topic: gardening Link here

I should have planted my potatoes two months ago. I hadn't planned to put any tomatoes in the veggie patch, but looking at the ones in the greenhouse, I think it might be a good idea.

Problem with potatoes: it's so late in the season that we can't get any seed potatoes. I kept some over from last year, but somehow they disappeared. So what should we do? One option is “nothing”. There are already lots of potatoes sprouting there:


 
This should be Potatoes.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Potatoes          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 2160 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 22 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 22 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 22 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

That makes a mockery of the idea of crop rotation: how do you get rid of the old crops? I could have dug these out more carefully, but we've found the problem elsewhere too. In the medium succulent garden there's a potato that keeps coming back every year from under the succulents. We didn't plant it, so it's been there at least five years.

But we did want more, so we took some normal potatoes from the supermarket—Kipfler, Desirée and Nicola—and I planted half of them in the bald patches in the front. The other half I'll leave to dry out for a week as recommended by the Clever Books. Normally that would make sense, but this late in the season every day counts. We'll see which do better.

The tomatoes in the greenhouse are a sorry sight:


  This should be Giant-tree-tomato.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Giant tree tomato          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 1760 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 22 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 22 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 22 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

Why is that? Too hot? Too dry? Clearly I haven't got the knack of greenhouse gardening yet. About the only thing that has done well is the Black Cherry Tomato that I accidentally decapitated as a seedling. I must have done that some time in April, but didn't mention it in my diary. By the beginning of June it had recovered enough to develop new leaves (first photo), and now it's like in the second photo:


  This should be Tomato-plant-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Tomato plant 1          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 1536 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 3 June 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 3 June 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 3 June 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Black-cherry.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Black cherry          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 2096 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 22 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 22 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 22 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

Planted a total of 7 plants in the garden: three “Riesentraube”, the black cherry, a “giant tree tomato” and two that didn't have any label, but which appear to be normal cherries, already bearing unripe fruit. In the process found dozens of snails; I'll need to keep an eye on them.

And I still haven't planted the petunias I bought in Geelong last week. Made a start today: three in a hanging basket and five in the north bed, on the side facing the Japanese Garden. Once I have the rest of the bed weeded, I'll plant a whole lot more. Also another hanging basket with pelargoniums. The ones from last year looked pretty sad, so I've trimmed them right back and added some new cuttings.


More cooking
Topic: cooking Link here

Preparing various Indian food for dinner tomorrow, in the process revising my recipes for mixed dal. Also went through and reorganized the recipe folder, which has lots of old stuff going back decades. The oldest I have found so far is Khubab Hans, an Indian goose recipe that I originally published on the Tandem mail system 27 years ago. How things have changed since then!


Saturday, 22 October 2011 Dereel Images for 22 October 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Nickel-Zinc batteries: first real experience
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Today was garden photo day, and the first time that I did the verandah panorama using Nickel-Zinc batteries in the flash unit. Everything went well for the first 20 flashes or so. The recycle time was under 3 seconds the whole time (with NiMH batteries it's between 5 and 6 seconds). Then the unit didn't recharge. Looking at the display, it showed a flashing symbol symbol. Low battery already? I waited a few seconds, but there was no change, and since I didn't really need the flash for the last few images, I just took them anyway.

After I had finished, took the batteries out. After that many photos, NiMH batteries get very warm, but these were not noticeably warmer than the surroundings. After charging last week they were at about 1.9 V. Before starting this morning, they showed voltages of 1.791, 1.802, 1.813 and 1.817 V. After the photos, they showed voltages starting at 1.730 V and going to 1.742 V—not, it seems, a difference in the batteries, but that they were recovering. An hour later they showed voltages round 1.765 V. I put them back in the flash unit, and it worked normally, again with recycle times a little over two seconds.

What does that mean? Certainly the batteries aren't discharged. The nominal voltage is 1.6 V or 1.65 V, depending on whom you ask. And the 1.73 V correspond exactly to the “Electrochemical open circuit voltage potential” mentioned on the Wikipedia page, whatever that might mean.

So why did the symbol symbol light up? It's reasonable to assume that it means “low battery”, but it could also mean “waiting for unit to cool down”. What does the manual say? Yes, according to the manual it really does mean “low battery”, only. That's not a foregone conclusion: it would be reasonable to assume that the symbol symbol means “batteries exhausted”, but in fact it means “You have connected the external battery pack, and there are still batteries in the unit itself. Please remove them”. On the other hand, there's no indication for the cool-down phase described in the manual, so it's quite possible that this really did mean “cooling down”, and nobody has bothered to document it.

So: what happened? Based on my experience with NiMH batteries, I had half expected the cycle time to increase round this point to let the unit cool down, and this could be exactly what happened. The only thing that confused me was the battery display, which could have occurred on other occasions. Next week I'll wait and see what happens.


Grapefruit, Aphids and Zephyranthes overflow
Topic: gardening Link here

Our second grapefruit has fallen off the tree. That's an average of 0.8 fruit per tree per year since we planted our first grapefruit a little over three years ago. And as a pink grapefruit, it's a total failure:


  This should be grapefruit-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: grapefruit 2          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 2128 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 22 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 22 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 22 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

In the end, we didn't even try to eat it.

With the spring come the aphids—very selectively. We have lots of roses, but only the Iceberg roses on the south side of the verandah have been affected by aphids. And in the greenhouse, now that the bougainvilleas have gone home to Chris, the only thing to be affected was the one Chile poblano plant that I have managed to grow from seed:


  This should be Chile-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Chile 2          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1648 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 22 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 22 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 22 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Chile-2-detail.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Chile 2 detail          Dimensions:          876 x 1004, 156 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 22 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 22 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 22 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

I'm left with the impression that they don't like the wind much: both places they have settled are relatively wind-free. At least one advantage we have from the windy situation here. But that can't be the only reason: our Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is now in bud, not far from the chile, and it hasn't been affected—yet.

The Zephyranthes candida (“Peruvian swamp-lily”) that we bought last February bloomed happily last summer, but this year it's looking a little dejected. Further investigation shows that it has generated so many bulbs that there's no space for the soil:


  This should be Zephyranthes-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Zephyranthes 1          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1872 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 22 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 22 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 22 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Zephyranthes-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Zephyranthes 2          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1760 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 22 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 22 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 22 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

That's really a candidate for the pond anyway, but we still need to get that sorted out...


Installing FreeBSD, revisited
Topic: technology Link here

When it comes to installing FreeBSD, I wrote the book. I've been doing it on a regular basis for over 15 years. So today when Chris Yeardley wanted to install FreeBSD, it should have been a breeze, right?

Well, no. She downloaded a DVD from the web and burnt it herself, and her laptop told her it wasn't bootable. So she sent it over along with a USB disk drive to install to. That requires a dedicated machine (or a VM, which I didn't even want to try). And only three machines have DVD drives: dereel, teevee and Yvonne's computer, lagoon. Did a bit of investigation and found an old Hyundai machine that CJ had left here after another case of Powercor damage which left the motherboard dead. It has 2 DVD drives in it. But how do you get them out? Hyundai seem to have gone to some trouble to make it difficult to work on:


  This should be Computer-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Computer 2          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 2048 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 23 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 23 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 23 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

There's a plate riveted to the frame in the front of the side plate. Why? I later discovered that you can remove the front panel relatively easy and access the drives from there, but by then I had given up and tried a different tack.

There are other issues, of course: after installation, you have a basic system. I already have a build disk with all the ports I need, which would be a much better starting point for Chris. Fired up my test machine, and was quickly reminded that Powercor had put paid to the USB bus three months ago. In addition, the Ethernet NIC is now not working any more. OK, not a worry; just put the USB drive on teevee and copy across the net. Started updating to the latest version, which took the rest of the day.


Sunday, 23 October 2011 Dereel Images for 23 October 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Apple “Pages”: pain itself
Topic: technology, opinion, gardening Link here

Today Yvonne picked up a USB stick from Helen Vincent with a draft of the Spring edition of Wellingtonia. Helen uses Apple “Pages”, and in the past we've had significant problems understanding it. In this case, she was unable to send me a copy of the document by email, because it proved to be 26 MB in size, and her ISP has a hard limit of 20 MB. How do normal computer users move files around? She could upload them to the server, of course, but she doesn't know how to use scp.

Thus the USB stick. And stupidly, I asked for the file only in “Pages” format, and not in anything that would show me the layout (such as PDF). I was completely blown away by what I found, after breaking up the single line of the document before every < character:

<sf:ghost-text>Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consec tetur adi piscing elit, set eiusmod tempor incidunt et labore et dolore magna aliquam. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exerc. Irure dolor in reprehend incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation
<sf:span sf:style="character-style-null">aborum Et harumd dereud facilis est er expedit distinct. Nam liber te conscient to factor tum poen
</sf:span>ulla

Clearly that's not what Helen wrote, but it goes on like this for half the document. And it's not as if I haven't seen lorem ipsum before and commented on the meaningless and incorrect syntax. But I didn't know what it meant. Now I know: “pain itself”, in accusative, and missing the first syllable (should be “dolorem ipsum”). Somehow that's appropriate. It reminds me of the story of the Microsoft TV commercial with music from Mozart's Requiem, which in the original had the words “Confutatis maledictis flammis acribus addictis” from the Dies irae.

Looking further, I found the real text, along with a couple of punctuation issues (primarily excessive spaces, something that WYSIWYG software almost encourages). But I couldn't make any sense of the document. And though there were some normal-sized images, there were still had lots of tiny images:

  -rw-r--r--   1 grog  lemis     12632 Oct 22 17:33 Buninyong Lunch 4-1.jpg
  -rw-r--r--   1 grog  lemis     34084 Oct 22 17:33 IMG_3383grapevine-1.jpg
  -rw-r--r--   1 grog  lemis     11065 Oct 22 17:33 IMG_4203_Buni_lunch-1.jpg
  -rw-r--r--   1 grog  lemis     10274 Oct 22 17:33 IMG_4227HeritageAward-1.jpg
  -rw-r--r--   1 grog  lemis     47666 Oct 22 17:33 IMG_6755-1.jpg
  -rw-r--r--   1 grog  lemis     18039 Oct 22 17:33 IMG_6811-1.jpg
  -rw-r--r--   1 grog  lemis     23734 Oct 22 17:33 IMG_6815-1.jpg
  -rw-r--r--   1 grog  lemis      7588 Oct 22 17:33 IMG_7091-1.jpg
  -rw-r--r--   1 grog  lemis      7725 Oct 22 17:33 IMG_7100-1.jpg
  -rw-r--r--   1 grog  lemis      7874 Oct 22 17:33 IMG_7103-1.jpg
  -rw-r--r--   1 grog  lemis      8217 Oct 22 17:33 IMG_7122-1.jpg

But I recognized at least one of these photos. It's the one I investigated a couple of months ago. This is the original size, so there's no point trying to enlarge it:

symbol

But what about these?

symbol symbol

It seems that “Pages” carries around so much excess baggage with it that it's impossible to work out what belongs and what doesn't. “Pages” doesn't solve problems, at least not for me. It would be easier to write the thing from scratch in groff than help Helen with this software.

But why was the document so big? By the time I got it, it had grown to 66 MB. Not all the images were tiny. Looking at the index, I found:

  -rw-r--r--   1 grog  lemis   2601262 Oct 22 17:33 droppedImage-2.tiff
  -rw-r--r--   1 grog  lemis   9448310 Oct 22 17:33 droppedImage-4.tiff
  -rw-r--r--   1 grog  lemis  16741422 Oct 22 17:33 droppedImage-5.tiff
  -rw-r--r--   1 grog  lemis  16333982 Oct 22 17:33 droppedImage-7.tiff

That's nearly 50 MB of TIFF images, and the name suggests that they're not even being used—75% of an already bloated document!


Looking for a new keyboard
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

While writing my diary for yesterday, discovered I could no longer reformat paragraphs. Stopped Emacs, restarted it, no change. Then I discovered that the q key wasn't working, and the command is bound to M-Q.

You can get keyboards almost anywhere, and they're not expensive. They're also not what I want. For me at least, the keyboard is the most important interface to the machine, and it must be exactly the way I want. In particular, that means not having to look at the keyboard when typing (thus the complete unsuitability of touch pad keyboards). But you need to look at a keyboard to find the function keys in their current position, somewhere off the top of the main keyboard.

The only ones I've found that I can find without looking for them are to the left of the main keyboard, the way IBM made them until the late 1980s. And that's what I have been using for the last 20 years. The best keyboard I ever had was a Northgate OmniKey, and I still have four or five of them, but they're all 20 years old and in rough condition. The one I was using now was a flaky copy, the Avant Stellar. I have two of those, so I put the other one in. It worked for a while, but then the Ctrl key stopped working, which is even worse.

Found an OmniKey which looked as if it was OK, along with a cable, and that seems to work better, but a number of keys bounce. It's interesting to note the failure mode: the OmniKeys develop bounce, and the Avant Stellar, ostensibly a direct copy, suffers from key failures.

But this is stupid! Why should I be using any 20 year old component? Why can't I buy a modern keyboard? Did a bit of searching, but I couldn't find any. I can see some soldering coming my way.


Photo backup pain
Topic: technology, photography Link here

Ran my photo backup today. I write to an external disk, and until I get eSATA working properly, I've been using a USB connection. And from time to time the system (Yvonne's lagoon) freezes up. On one occasion it has reported I/O errors before doing so, but on others there has been no indication of why. Today I finally finished fsck and found 4 files in lost+found, so deleted them (the backup will put them back in the correct place), and—the system froze again!

Why do I have so much trouble with USB? Why do I even try? Put the eSATA card in defake and ran the backup from there. It works fine if you boot with the disk connected, but hot plug still doesn't seem to work. High time that I completed some of the upgrade projects I've been planning.


Continued hot weather
Topic: gardening, general Link here

It was really hot again today. Last year the highest temperature in October was 28.8°, but a few days ago we had 30.7°. For today the Bureau of Meteorology predicted 24°, but in fact we had a maximum of 31.7°. Hopefully that's not a sign of a coming Long Hot Summer.

Finally got round to replanting the Zephyranthes candida. There must have been 150 bulbs, and I ended up planting them in three different pots, the original and two with double the diameter. It's interesting to note the roots on the bulbs: some seem to be rotting away, while others look quite healthy. Here the same bulb before and after removal of the rotten ones:


  This should be Zephyranthes-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Zephyranthes 2          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1072 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 23 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 23 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 23 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Zephyranthes-3.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Zephyranthes 3          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 784 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 23 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 23 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 23 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

My guess is that the rotten ones are last year's roots, and the good ones are only now coming out. We'll see in a few months.


Monday, 24 October 2011 Dereel Images for 24 October 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

USB installation, final part
Topic: technology Link here

I've been taking my time with the installation of FreeBSD on Chris Yeardley's USB disk. The last status was that I had copied all the data across—I think. I had turned off the machine before checking. Today I fired it up again and discovered some serious issues with the disk partitioning: c partition went beyond the bounds of the slice, probably a result of trying to copy the partition exactly from the other system, where the slice was larger.

So, blow it away and start again. Not a problem. Or was it? The partition table included 3 partitions: a and d, both 20 GB, and e, the rest of 1 TB. But the slice was only 256 GB, so I first removed partitions d and e. Then I tried to create a new partition d with the rest of the slice. “Operation not permitted”. ktrace shows that it happens on an open call:

  2924 bsdlabel CALL  open(0x800c04040,O_RDWR,<unused>0x955c)
  2924 bsdlabel NAMI  "/dev/da0s1"
  2924 bsdlabel RET   open -1 errno 1 Operation not permitted

I tried both with bsdlabel and sysinstall, with interesting results. bsdlabel showed these partitions:

8 partitions:
#          size     offset    fstype   [fsize bsize bps/cpg]
  a:   41943040          0    4.2BSD        0     0     0
  c:  524281212          0    unused        0     0     # "raw" part, don't edit

But sysinstall showed:

Part      Mount          Size Newfs   Part      Mount          Size Newfs
----      -----          ---- -----   ----      -----          ---- -----
da0s1a    <none>      20480MB *
da0s1d    <none>      20480MB *
da0s1b    swap        10240MB SWAP

Tried removing partition d and rewriting the label, but the rewrite failed. So I disconnected the drive, and the system (teevee, no monitor) froze.

Put the drive in lagoon while teevee was running fsck, and all went well. The rest was plain sailing, apart from the time it took to copy the ports tree, with multiple work directories, a total of about 25 GB. Finally I can give the drive to Chris. But there's something seriously wrong with USB disk support—maybe it's with disk support in general. This one suggests that some kernel copies of disk data don't get flushed at the right time.


More TV recording problems
Topic: multimedia, technology, opinion Link here

I've been running ceeveear with three tuners for over a week now. Time for the USB tuner to give up on me, and indeed it did. One recording hung up completely. I caught it in the middle, shut down cvr2 (which runs Linux, where I haven't been able to work out how to hot-plug USB devices), unplugged the tuner and continued (recording on the first of the PCI tuners). The remainder of the recording wasn't particularly good, but it was readable. Why do I have so much trouble with USB? It's not the operating system, and it's not a specific device. I don't like blaming the technology, but there's a good reason to do so here.


Friends' newsletter, impasse
Topic: technology, opinion, gardening Link here

Helen Vincent sent me a copy of the newsletter draft in PDF format today. What a disaster! I really, really don't understand what's going on here, and I'm not sure that I want to. So far we have been blaming the low resolutions on the low resolution images stored in the document, but that's clearly not the only issue. Here's an image as extracted from the document with unzip, and the way it looks in the PDF:

symbol symbol

That's original size in each case. But the quality! Looking at the bird on centre left, the already low resolution image has been made much worse:

symbol symbol

Why does this happen? I don't know, but somehow it's the last straw.


Weather extremes
Topic: gardening, general Link here

Yesterday we had the highest temperature I have recorded in October, 31.7°. Today was completely different. The temperature at midnight was 18.8°, and it dropped almost continuously from there, reaching 6.3° round the next midnight:

5 days temperatures

At 16:00 yesterday, the temperature was 31.7°. At the same time today, it was over 22° lower:

mysql> SELECT date, AVG(outside_temp)
         FROM observations
         WHERE (date = "20111023" OR date = "20111024")
           AND time >"16:0:0"
           AND time < "16:2:0"
         GROUP BY date;

+------------+-------------------+
| date       | avg(outside_temp) |
+------------+-------------------+
| 2011-10-23 |  31.7000007629395 |
| 2011-10-24 |  9.60000038146973 |
+------------+-------------------+

Even for Australian conditions, that's extreme.


Popular Photography special offer
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

I've been becoming increasingly dissatisfied with Popular Photography magazine, and had planned not to renew. But then they made me an offer I couldn't refuse, 18 issues for only $12, postage paid. As it says, $0.67 per issue:


  This should be Pop-Photo-1.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: Pop Photo 1          Dimensions:          2538 x 3111, 5168 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Monday, 24 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Monday, 24 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Monday, 24 October 2011

 
  This should be Pop-Photo-1-detail.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: Pop Photo 1 detail          Dimensions:          1435 x 561, 480 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Monday, 24 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Monday, 24 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Monday, 24 October 2011

 

But I couldn't accept it either. What's the reply-by date? 10 September 2011? 11 September 2010? 9 October 2011? Whichever it is, it is long past. That's not the fault of long postage times, though: looking at the envelope, the letter was sent from Belgium only 4 days ago:

 
This should be Pop-Photo-2-detail.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: Pop Photo 2 detail
Dimensions: 723 x 298, 152 kB
Dimensions of original: 723 x 298, 152 kB
Display this image:
thumbnail    hidden   alone on page
Display all images on this page as:
thumbnails    this size
Show for Monday, 24 October 2011:
thumbnails    small images    diary entry

So what's the point? Looking more carefully, there's no way to accept online—the voucher has to be sent in. The offer expired at least 11 days before it was sent. And it's not $12, it's $29.93, only barely cheaper than the standard subscription. And if I accept it, I suspect I'll also be locked in to the $30 a year subscription, where currently I'm only paying $22. I'm left with the impression that this is a deliberately deceptive move to try to get me to renew when I don't want to.


Another power failure
Topic: general Link here

Another power failure this evening at 23:25. That's the fourth this month. I wonder if anybody follows up on them.


Tuesday, 25 October 2011 Dereel Images for 25 October 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Blooming mulch
Topic: gardening Link here

Another cool day, and didn't do much in the garden. A couple of things were of interest, though: ten days ago I pulled out a lot of Tropaeolums and put them round Nemo's run as mulch. Admittedly I had half expected some of the seeds to sprout and produce new flowers, but what happened really surprised me. The “mulch” is flowering as if it hadn't been uprooted. It's all the more surprising because on the other side (first photo) there are some Tropaeolum that have been planted normally, and they're not doing as well:


  This should be Tropaeolum-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Tropaeolum 2          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 2288 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Tuesday, 25 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Tuesday, 25 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Tuesday, 25 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Tropaeolum-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Tropaeolum 1          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 2384 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Tuesday, 25 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Tuesday, 25 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Tuesday, 25 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

I wonder if they're setting root somehow, or whether they will just shrivel up and die, but I don't want to disturb them by investigating.

Despite the weather, a number of plants are coming into flower, including a water Iris, the Clematis “vagabond” and the Anigozanthos:


  This should be Iris.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Iris          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 912 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Tuesday, 25 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Tuesday, 25 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Tuesday, 25 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Clematis-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Clematis 2          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1696 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Tuesday, 25 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Tuesday, 25 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Tuesday, 25 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Anigozanthos.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Anigozanthos          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 848 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Tuesday, 25 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Tuesday, 25 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Tuesday, 25 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

The shade area is also gradually filling out:


  This should be Shade-area.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Shade area          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 2512 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Tuesday, 25 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Tuesday, 25 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Tuesday, 25 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 


Installing FreeBSD on Samsung laptops
Topic: technology Link here

Over to Chris Yeardley's today with the USB disk for her Samsung RF511 laptop. In principle it should have been “plug in, frob a couple of config files, and we're done”. But it didn't work like that. First, the laptop has big problems with—wait for it—USB. I'm not sure why, but in many cases it didn't recognize the drive. We thought it might be a problem with the cable or one of the slots, and moving things around seemed to help, but even then it doesn't honour the boot sequence (first USB, then DVD, then internal disk) unless I first go into the BIOS and then out again.

All went relatively well until I tried to start X. Then I saw a message I've never seen before:

Number of created screens does not match number of detected devices.
  Configuration failed.

Investigation of the configuration file showed that it apparently has two screens, strangely with an nVidia "GF106 [GeForce GT 555M SDDR3]" and an Intel "2nd Generation Core Processor Family Integrated Graphics Controller"; presumably the latter is just a consequence of the choice of processor. But the real issue seems to be that this chip is too new:

(WW) NV: Ignoring unsupported device 0x10de0df4 (GF106 [GeForce GT 555M SDDR3]) at 01@00:00:0

Tried it with the proprietary nVidia driver, but that froze the system. Isn't proprietary software nice? Started loading the latest version of the driver, but it was via satellite at 8 kB/s, and it would have taken over an hour, so we put it off until tomorrow.


“Windows”—no longer broken, just scratched
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

As a result of the problems with rebooting Chris' laptop, I was presented with the “Windows” 7 boot screen for the first time. They've done away with the broken window emblem and the “my display panel is broken” bloom that earlier versions used, and instead introduced a number of scratches on the surface. I wonder if I'm the only person who sees it that way, or whether even somebody in Microsoft is doing it as some kind of joke.


More panorama brackets
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

It's gradually becoming clear that my purchase of the Manfrotto 303PLUS panorama head was a mistake. It's full of strange baroque “features”, but it doesn't do what I want: it's designed to take photos only in vertical orientation and with the lens axis pointing horizontally. In addition, the leveling base is a real pain, and I still need to adjust the tripod legs in many cases. About the best thing about it is its resale value, so I should realize that.

But what do I replace it with? Did some searching on eBay and came up with a number of new brackets, all from Linkdelight. They're not an unknown company: six months ago I was looking at a bracket from them, and decided that it was designed and presented by people who didn't understand the purpose of the brackets. It seems that they have discovered this too, and though they have it on sale, it's only available in the USA. Before it disappears altogether, here are some views of it:

Panorama bracket Panorama bracket Panorama bracket Panorama bracket Panorama bracket Panorama bracket

The first two images clearly show the camera mounted too low and too far forward. It also appears to be only possible to mount the camera horizontally, somewhat out of keeping with current usage. I suspect that you can compensate for that with a macro rail, but it's not clear that you can lift the camera high enough to be on the axis of the horizontal pivot.

Since then, though, they have come out with no less than three other items at significantly lower prices:

  1. The cheapest currently costs only US 67.63. Once again it's clear that whoever mounted it doesn't have any idea of how it should be used:

    Image

    Here the camera is pointing 90° from the correct direction, it's mounted too low, and the non-adjustable mounting point is not above the vertical axis point of the rotator. Alone, this bracket is useless.

    But it can be fixed. It's clear that the L bracket where the camera is mounted can be raised, almost certainly enough to bring it in line with the horizontal pivot axis. And mount a two-way macro rail on the thing and you can bring the nodal point above the vertical axis, as long as it doesn't foul the rather-too-close side bar. About the only thing that's not certain is whether the camera can be mounted vertically. And of course it's not clear what kind of rotator this has, if any.

  2. The next one costs $74.66 and looks significantly solider. It also has some kind of rotator (probably without detents), and possibly the mounting point is above the vertical axis of the rotator. It also has a compass mounted vertically in the side rotator. But it looks unlikely that it will support mounting the camera in a vertical position.

    Image
  3. The third one is an enigma. According to that page, it costs $89.99. Not enough? Go to eBay and pay $1,144.69 for exactly the same item. What kind of nonsense is that?

    The photos show an almost correct mounting for the camera, along with a lot of potential ways of mounting it. The first image would almost work if you only wanted the lens axis to be horizontal. You can also mount the camera vertically, but then there's no way to position the camera along the lens axis, so it, too, will need a macro rail.

    Panorama bracket

    The best thing about this particular bracket is the rotator, but it only does steps of 15° and 24°, not what I need. I could use the 15° detent to get 30° steps by skipping every second one, but there's no way to get anything close to the 36° that I use for horizontal panoramas.

    On 10 January 2013 I heard from Ed Horka, who pointed me at a review of this bracket. It does, indeed, come with the third rail, so it has everything that you might need except for flexible angles on the rotator:

    Image

Each of these rails has the advantage of being relatively cheap. They all require some work to work around the design issues, but I should be able to buy any of them, sell my Manfrotto and make money. What none of them have is a leveling base. I'll consider that issue separately after I've addressed the brackets.


Wednesday, 26 October 2011 Dereel Images for 26 October 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Laptop installation, postponed
Topic: technology Link here

Over to Chris Yeardley's place this morning to complete the installation of the nVidia driver. It had failed: no kernel sources. Brought the thing back home, installed sources and driver, and it still froze. What a good advertisement for FreeBSD!

I suppose the next step to getting it running on this laptop is to reinstall X. That will take time, and Chris doesn't have time—she has an assignment which depends on it due in this week. So put a disk together in my test machine (the one with the broken USB bus) and took that over there for her. I can see more effort necessary to get her up to speed as quickly as she needs.


American Express: true to form
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Another invoice from American Express regarding my cancelled card today:


  This should be Amexco.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: Amexco          Dimensions:          2550 x 3509, 1056 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Wednesday, 26 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Wednesday, 26 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Wednesday, 26 October 2011

 

The sum is now up to $144.60 for a card which, according to American Express, was cancelled in March. Let the fun continue.


Another firefox crash
Topic: technology Link here

Since I gave up using windows with firefox, it crashes much less frequently. The last one I recorded was on 21 July 2011. Today was another case:

-rw-------  1 grog  lemis  1031749632 Oct 26 09:16 firefox-bin.core
Program terminated with signal 11, Segmentation fault.
(gdb) bt
#0  0x83ea5147 in kill () from /lib/libc.so.7
#1  0x83ea50a6 in raise () from /lib/libc.so.7
#2  0x824d3dfa in XRE_InitChildProcess () from /usr/local/lib/firefox/libxul.so
#3  <signal handler called>
#4  0x8354fa42 in js::MarkContext () from /usr/local/lib/firefox/libxul.so
#5  0xb1bd06c4 in ?? ()
#6  0xbfbf8bec in ?? ()
#7  0x00000000 in ?? ()
#8  0x82a8d894 in nsHTMLDNSPrefetch::PrefetchLow () from /usr/local/lib/firefox/libxul.so

Another JavaScript problem.


Fat for deep frying
Topic: cooking, opinion Link here

Traditionally people use oil in deep fryers, but for years we've been using saturated animal fat (or “solidified oil”, as Woolworths prefer to call it). Why? I had forgotten. It has the significant disadvantages that if you let it solidify when the basket is in the fat, you can't get it out again, and also that you need to liquefy both the old and the new fat before changing it (the latter so that the heating element can be covered before being turned on). So: we tried oil again. Bad mistake. It decomposes much faster and froths badly:


  This should be Friteuse.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Friteuse          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1824 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Wednesday, 26 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Wednesday, 26 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Wednesday, 26 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

This was after only a few uses; I didn't count it, but judging by the colour of the oil, it's at about a third of the usage we'd expect from fat. So: back to fat.


Thursday, 27 October 2011 Dereel Images for 27 October 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Back to work
Topic: gardening Link here

Why am I not doing more work in the garden? Clearly it has something to do with the weather, but today wasn't too bad. In the end planted some more petunias—despite the recommendation “full sun”, others have done well in relative shade, so I planted some where I had originally intended on the north-west corner of the house. I wonder how many of these recommendations come from colder climates, such as the UK.

Also replanted some “Galah” Sedum, a name we have given to a grey and red variety. We had had them in a pot on the verandah, but the ones planted in the ground (and not watered) seem to have been doing a lot better, so put the other ones in the same area.


American Express, no end
Topic: general, opinion Link here

The next stage of the American Express computer system has kicked in:

 
This should be Amexco.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: Amexco
Dimensions: 638 x 877, 130 kB
Dimensions of original: 638 x 877, 130 kB
Display this image:
thumbnail    hidden   alone on page
Display all images on this page as:
thumbnails    this size
Show for Thursday, 27 October 2011:
thumbnails    small images    diary entry

I suppose it's typical that the sum mentioned ($112.60) doesn't match the one on yesterday's letter ($142.60), although it's dated the following day. Is it time to contact them? Maybe. But contacting them means doing it in writing, since their telephone people don't seem to do anything, and I really should do it person-to-person with proof of delivery. And that costs money.


Friday, 28 October 2011 Dereel Images for 28 October 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Leaning Echium
Topic: gardening Link here

It's been almost exactly a year since we bought an Echium plant at last year's Ballarat Gardens in Spring. It has grown like fury and is now 4 metres high. But that presents a wind load, and we've had a lot of wind. By this morning the plant looked dangerously close to blowing over. Tied it to a nearby vent pipe, in the process discovering that it's surprisingly thorny. Here before and after:


  This should be Echium-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Echium 1          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 1936 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Echium-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Echium 2          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 2272 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 


Garden flowers at end of October
Topic: gardening Link here

I normally take photos of the flowers in the garden on the last Sunday of the month, but a combination of the weather forecast (rain and wind) and the impending Ballarat Gardens in Spring made it a good idea to do it today.

This is the first time I've done a series of photos in October. I've been making the photos since 27 June 2010, but for some reason (possibly Ballarat Gardens in Spring) I missed it last October, so this month I don't have any direct comparisons.

More new plants are coming out. In addition to the yellow Alstroemerias that we planted two years ago, and which have multiplied greatly, we also have a white version. And many of the annuals we have planted in previous years are still with us in their second or third years, such as these Alyssum and Petunias. One of the “Galah Sedum” that I mentioned recently is also flowering, predictably with yellow flowers:


  This should be Alstroemeria-4.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Alstroemeria 4          Dimensions:          4096 x 3084, 1840 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Alyssum-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Alyssum 1          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 2192 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Petunia-3.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Petunia 3          Dimensions:          4096 x 3084, 1904 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Galah-sedum-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Galah sedum 2          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1072 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

A number of the plants that we planted last year are now coming into flower. Here the Cymbidium that we bought in Stawell, the Echium I mentioned above, with particularly pretty flowers, and the Pseudofumaria alba, which was sold to us as a Corydalis:


  This should be Cymbidium.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Cymbidium          Dimensions:          3084 x 4096, 1680 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Echium-4.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Echium 4          Dimensions:          4096 x 3084, 1392 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Pseudofumaria-alba.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Pseudofumaria alba          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1056 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

The connection with then Friends of the Ballarat Botanical Gardens is also clear. Here the Polemonium that we bought, and the Primula and some of the Cyclamens that we were given at the start of the month and are still flowering; the first flower only opened today:


  This should be Polemonium.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Polemonium          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1280 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Primula.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Primula          Dimensions:          4096 x 3084, 1280 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Cyclamen-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Cyclamen 1          Dimensions:          4096 x 3084, 1712 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Cyclamen-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Cyclamen 2          Dimensions:          4096 x 3084, 1584 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Cyclamen-4.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Cyclamen 4          Dimensions:          4096 x 3084, 1872 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

The Camellias are in bloom, not overly satisfactorily. The white ones have always irritated me by the way they go brown, and though the new Camellia japonica is pretty, the blooms are much smaller than I expected


  This should be Camellia-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Camellia 1          Dimensions:          4096 x 3084, 1632 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Camellia-3.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Camellia 3          Dimensions:          4096 x 3084, 1936 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

The Carpobrotus are flowering earlier this year, and the newer Clematis “Vagabond” is flowering profusely, though the older “Pearl d'azur” isn't yet:


  This should be Carpobrotus-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Carpobrotus 1          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 2560 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Carpobrotus-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Carpobrotus 2          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 2480 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Clematis-4.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Clematis 4          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1712 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Clematis-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Clematis 1          Dimensions:          4096 x 3084, 2512 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

Most of the roses are looking happy, including the climbing rose that we inherited here and transplanted so many times that it never got round to flowering, and also the transplanted “Gruß an Aachen” and “Monsieur Tillier”, but not the rose I transplanted far too late earlier this month:


  This should be Climbing-rose.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Climbing rose          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 880 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Rosa-Gruss-an-Aachen.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Rosa Gruss an Aachen          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1312 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Rosa-Monsiuer-Tillier.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Rosa Monsiuer Tillier          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1488 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Rosa-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Rosa 1          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 1200 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

Still, since it's a rose, I suppose it'll survive. Other climbers that are coming include the “Phyllis Bide” and the “Icebergs” that are on the south side of the verandah:


  This should be Rosa-Phyllis-Bide-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Rosa Phyllis Bide 1          Dimensions:          4096 x 3084, 1488 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Rosa-Phyllis-Bide-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Rosa Phyllis Bide 2          Dimensions:          4096 x 3084, 752 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Rosa-iceberg-4.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Rosa iceberg 4          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1088 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

I had always thought of Hellebores as winter-flowering plants, and indeed they did bloom in winter, but they don't seem to want to let spring get in the way of their fun:


  This should be Hellebore-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Hellebore 1          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1024 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Hellebore-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Hellebore 2          Dimensions:          4096 x 3084, 1552 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

The yellow water Iris is still blooming happily, and in the north garden I've found a white one that I don't recall planting:


  This should be Iris-4.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Iris 4          Dimensions:          4096 x 3084, 1360 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Iris-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Iris 2          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1088 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

A couple of the plants that Sue Morse gave me two years ago are finally blooming well, the “Mexican something” and the Lonicera “firecracker”. So are the Lonicera japonica:


  This should be Lonicera-firecracker.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Lonicera firecracker          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1344 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Mexican-something.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Mexican something          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1392 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Lonicera-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Lonicera 1          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1168 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Lonicera-Lonicera.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Lonicera Lonicera          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1456 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

One of the mystery bulbs that we found last year is now also flowering:


  This should be Mystery-bulb-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Mystery bulb 1          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 1088 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Mystery-bulb-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Mystery bulb 2          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 832 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

There's also a pink variety, presumably the other one I planted. I had thought there were many more.

Another plant that is flowering profusely is the Cerastium tomentosum that we have tried in many different places. It has finally found a place it seems to like:


  This should be Cerastium-tomentosum-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Cerastium tomentosum 1          Dimensions:          4096 x 3084, 1584 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Cerastium-tomentosum-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Cerastium tomentosum 2          Dimensions:          4096 x 3084, 800 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

Completely new plants, many grown from seed, are the Anchusa capensis, the Convolvulus sabatius, and the Viola wittrockniana. The Viola is supposed to be black, but the flowers I've seen so far look pretty much like a dark Viola tricolor (last image):


  This should be Anchusa-capensis.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Anchusa capensis          Dimensions:          4096 x 3084, 1680 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Convolvulus.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Convolvulus          Dimensions:          4096 x 3084, 1856 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Viola-wittrockniana.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Viola wittrockniana          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 992 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Viola-tricolor-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Viola tricolor 1          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1296 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 

Seed raising hasn't been very successful. None of the dozens of sweet peas have flowered yet, just the self-sown ones from last year:


  This should be Sweet-pea.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Sweet pea          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1136 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011 Complete exposure details

 


Weather station problems
Topic: general, technology Link here

The weather station reported an outside temperature of -3276.7° again today, for a considerable period of time. This time I looked at the internal unit: it was displaying --, suggesting that it couldn't communicate with the external unit. So maybe -3276.7° is its way of saying “no signal received”.

That's got to be batteries, right? Changed the batteries, and it worked again—for a while, about 3 minutes. Then I lost communication again. Tried to reset the internal unit by removing and replacing the batteries, but it didn't respond. Further investigation showed that it, too, had flat batteries. After replacing them, things worked normally again.

There are a number of things to note here. I had already thought that I had to reset the internal unit after replacing the batteries in the external unit. But I didn't realise that communication only dropped some time after replacing the batteries, and I still don't understand why. And it seems that the batteries aren't important for the internal unit once it's connected to the USB bus.


Battery charge and voltage issues
Topic: photography, general Link here

One way or another I had a number of issues with batteries today. During the flower photos, I used the flash unit a lot, so I paid particular attention to the performance of the Nickel-Zinc batteries. Before starting, they had voltages of 1.766 V, 1.769 V and 1.771 V (twice). During the shots, the flash unit once again showed “Low battery”, and I took them out and measured them. This time they were noticeably warm, though not as much as I have experienced with NiMH batteries. The voltages had dropped to 1.714 V, 1.716 V (twice) and 1.718 V. I left them to cool and took some other photos without flash (from 11:16:44 to 11:26:47, almost exactly 10 minutes). Things then were normal again, though at the end the voltages were even lower: 1.706 V, 1.713 V (twice) and 1.716 V. But that's still a long way from the “must recharge” value of 1.6 V, so I'll leave them for the moment.

The other batteries of interest were in the weather station components. The external unit uses 2 AA batteries, and I've found alkaline batteries best. One of them was almost as new, 1.631 V, but the other was 1.457 V. Why the discrepancy? Things looked similar in the internal unit, which has 3 NiMH cells. Two had “normal” voltages, round 1.3 V, but the third had only 0.6 V.

Both these experiences suggest batteries with uneven quality—and they're both from ALDI. In the case of the NiMHs it's possible that I accidentally put in a battery that wasn't fully charged, but 0.6 V is a very low voltage indeed. To be observed.

Almost coincidentally, the batteries in the wireless mouse on teevee and the battery in my camera also needed recharging. Since April or so, camera battery performance no longer seems to be a problem: it took 1429 photos.


American Express: step three
Topic: general Link here

So two days ago American Express sent me a statement of account. Yesterday I got a warning letter referring to an older sum, and also that I can no longer use the credit cards. So clearly today I had to receive new credit cards:


  This should be Amexco.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: Amexco          Dimensions:          872 x 1200, 184 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 28 October 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 28 October 2011

 

I suppose the “do nothing except document” phase is over with that. Called up American Express and spoke to Kelly, who was barely audible. I asked her why they are sending me all this stuff when I don't have an account with them, so she asked the account number and “security” questions: my date of birth, billing address and phone number. I told her the first two, and that the phone number was the one I was calling from. But she wanted to hear it from me. I refused, pointing out that I'm not a customer.

She finally accepted that I was who I said I was, even if I didn't tell her the number both of us already knew. She had a record of me calling them in March (I didn't). I did not cancel my card (her way of saying that the system still thinks I'm a customer). But we knew that.

I pointed out that I had written confirmation that the card had been cancelled, but she wasn't very interested. I asked to be connected to her supervisor, but instead she connected me to the card issue department, where I was connected with Alicia, who finally gave in to my insistence and told me her name was spelt “Illisha”. She too told me that the account was still active, but that she would close it and waive the fees, giving me the reference number 11300202111. I asked her what use the reference number was. She said it was for my personal use. I asked if I could use it to refer to the matter if I called again. Yes, I could do that too. So I asked her to check reference number 090142, the one that Fausto d'Ambra gave me on the letter in March. She couldn't find any such reference.

I told her that every time I had called them, I got information that had been gone by the next time I called, and asked her to ensure that I got a written explanation why this had all happened. Finally she asked who had written the letter, so I said “Fausto d'Ambra”, really not the most common name. She said she would contact him. And that would have been all if I hadn't asked her how she would find him if she didn't know how to spell the name. She would look back in the account.

So I spelt it out for her and asked her to go back and look, and I would wait. Finally she said, yes, she had found the information in the account records, but he wasn't available