I was supposed to be brewing today, but yesterday I had received a phone call saying that
the new feed scroll for my Kenwood A941 grain mill had arrived, so decided to use that
instead, delaying the brewing by Yet Another Day.
Into town with a list of things to do, including the doctor for the results of my last blood
test. But for the doctor you need 3 hours (and $20 now), and I didn't have that much time,
so gave up on that. Picked up the scroll without much difficulty, did some shopping and had
a haircut. At least it gave me a chance to test the music on the SDHC card, which played
relatively well—it understands the concepts of directories (or maybe folders—it depends where you look in the
instructions), and there are buttons to skip to the next (or previous) directory.
The real issue is knowing what is being played. Like iTunes, it displays the
concepts Artist, Album and Track (interestingly not song), and with the help of Gracenote I get displays with values Artist
“Trevor Pinnock”, Album “SC 1” and Track
“Allegro”. It's not easy to deduce that this is the third movement in
Concerto—the first movement has identical information, as does the first movement
of the second concerto. The “track numbers” don't help either—they're
allocated sequentially from the beginning of the card, so this was “track” 113.
The real problem I'm seeing now is that the concepts that the industry uses are just not
appropriate for the kind of music I'm looking at:
They consider the “Artist” to be the most important piece of information
about a work. This might apply to modern music, where the “Artist” is also
the composer, but for classical music it's not very useful, as witnessed by entries like
“Stephen Gunzenhauser_ Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra”, which refers
It doesn't understand the concept of a “work”, a collection of tracks that
form a complete work, as indicated by an iTunes search for
This is one of the few times where “Artist” would be of use, but both people
who entered this data entered the composer's name instead.
The lack of the concept “work” means that finding specific information is very
much a multiple grep, not helped by the inaccuracy of the database. Thus the
search term “bach” brought hits from Johann Christian Bach, unnamed Bach and
Johann Nepomuk Hummel:
Things aren't made any easier by the truncation which seems to be a way of life in modern
GUI software. I thought that “Franz Joseph Ha...” might be easy enough to
recognize, but you need to know your classical composers. Haydn? Händel? Hatzenbacher?
So what's needed?
I can complain about this all I want; it won't change anything. But I still need to work
out how to organize my own collection. I see a number of alternatives:
I can try one of the other software packages available on the web. I have so little
confidence in this approach that I'm not even going to try. Alternatively,
I can do everything manually. At the moment I'm creating a separate directory hierarchy
organized by composer and work:
I suspect that this is a better approach, but still not sufficient. At the very least I
need a further level with performance (so I'd have BVW147/Harnoncourt
Even this isn't enough, though: the MP3 players only seem to understand a single level of
subdirectories. So I need to map them again to a local copy where these directories are in
the top level. Maybe I should just give the files numbers and store information in an SQL
The blue marks appear to have been made by a ballpoint pen, and long enough ago that I can't
get rid of them. Called up John Thomas and spoke to Helen, who made it clear that she
didn't think it worth worrying about. Yes, it won't do any harm, but
somehow everything I have to do with John Thomas leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I
should get them to replace it.
On the other hand, the thing worked—better, it seems, than with the Bosch unit, though
I can't see why that should be. At least the scale on the grinder makes it easy to set up:
ground this grain at 6, the coarsest setting on the scale (though it's easy to go far beyond
that). We'll see how well that works.
Finally got around to brewing beer again today. It's been over 3 months since the last
brew, an indication of how much I hate it. It takes up the whole day, and my current scheme
is so far from convenient that I'm always worrying that something catastrophic will happen.
Today it almost seemed so: on powering up brewer.lemis.com, my fermentation temperature control machine, it
didn't come online. I used this computer almost as a joke: it's about 18 years old, it's
running a development version of FreeBSD 5.0
dating back to December 2000, and it's in pretty poor shape:
In particular, the display card no longer works, so all I have to go on is the noises, disk
accesses and LED status that happen during boot. On this occasion it seemed to be
performing lots of disk accesses. Pressed the Big Red Button, and it came back normally
enough. I need to plan to replace this machine.
Apart from that everything went smoothly enough, but it still took all day.
More work on porting wview to
NetBSD, and finally finished. I never realised
what a pain it is that NetBSD stores packages in /usr/pkg and not the more
usual /usr/local. Many packages, including parts of radlib, hard code the path name in various
configuration files, and I had to go out and fix them. Now I have a complete standard
installation of wview; the next part is to incorporate Steve Woodford's patches for
my Fine Offset WH1081 weather station.
More copying CDs with iTunes. I'm more
or less getting used to this. Got a mail message from Jim Dillon suggesting that I use
abcde (“A Better CD
Encoder”—doesn't that look like an abbreviation looking for an expansion?),
which I installed and which looks like it would do the job. At some point I need to read
the man page (yes, it has one!) and decide whether it will help me organize my music. At
least the man page looks good. About the only down side is that the “real” URL for the product
is (currently) inaccessible.
The challenge is that most music management software and hardware devices display three
lines of text for the album title, song name, and recording artist, while recorded music
information in the classical and opera categories rarely fits into three text
fields. Classical tracks require more space for work titles, composers, conductors,
soloists, and ensembles.
That all sounds very good. But something's missing: a link to what they're doing about it.
Indeed, the whole gracenote site seems to deliberately hide direct lookups of CD data. In
this particular case, I'm left with the impression that they think that the status
quo is the solution. That it most definitely is not.
Into town with Yvonne this morning to take my car in for
service, and did the shopping too, getting back surprisingly early. Bought some plants,
including a cherry tomato intended for pots, which is already flowering. I have at least 30
tomato seedlings coming, but it'll be months before they bear any fruit, so this might be
The weather is gradually getting to be like spring. The
temperature—just—exceeded 20°, and suddenly we're feeling like working in the
garden again. Planted the petunias that I bought on Monday, and spread gravel around the
Ginkgo, and then ran out of steam. It would be nice if the wind would finally die down a
One swallow doesn't make a summer, they say, but two swallows make nests, and they've
decided now is the time. They started again in the same place as last month, and I had to pull it down three times before
they stopped. Hopefully they'll find somewhere further from the house to build their nest.
I see there's one in the garage, but I think they've been there for a while.
Issue 19 of c't, which arrived yesterday,
contains a test of various panorama software. One package stands out: Autopano Pro 2.0 (and though there's no
“normal” Autopano, there is an “Autopano
Giga”). It gets much higher marks than any of the others, including hugin and Panorama Maker 5 Pro. Decided to try it out. It doesn't run on PPC
Apples, but it is advertised to run on Linux, so downloaded the image and installed
it on cvr2.
And then? How do I run it? There are no instructions (it's clearly a “modern”
program), but there is a Wiki.
And it doesn't tell you how to run the program.
Went looking in /usr/local, but there was nothing there.
Finally—find(1) is your friend—found an
executable /usr/bin/AutopanoPro and ran it:
=== grog@cvr2 (/dev/pts/3) ~ 1 -> AutopanoPro QGLContext::makeCurrent(): Cannot make invalid context current.
/usr/bin/AutopanoPro: line 3: 9233 Segmentation fault /usr/lib/AutopanoPro/AutopanoPro
Checked for help, but all I got was a contact form with these horribleCAPTCHA, so sent off a message, and then
downloaded it and installed it on Microsoft.
That was strange, too. They're a French company, and I've seen a couple of cases on the web
site where I'm transferred from English into French. This time the installation was in
German, most of the time, at least partially due to my difficulties to get Microsoft to stay
in one language.
This version was easy enough to start, but of course I had to spent minutes changing
directory. The photos are on dereel, and it insisted on reading the
entire Photos directory, over 1600 entries, before coming back to life again. Then
it went off and did the “autorecognition” thing which c't had found so
This directory already contains three panoramas of this collection, which it happily
included in the collection.
Off to try to convert things, not helped by the strange icons. Clearly this is not software
that you can just use: you need to read the manual first. After a long time waiting for the
conversion to finish—not helped by the fact that both the button “Render”
(well, “Rendern”) and “Cancel” (“Abbrechen”) were
selectable, and no progress bar was present, checked the specified “output”
directory, C:/Documents and Settings/groggy/Desktop (that's right, with slashes
instead of backslashes), but nothing was there. Gave up for the day and decided to wait
until I had time to read the documentation.
I have just downloaded the trial version of Autopano 2.0 for Linux and installed it. Then
I went looking for how to run it. You seem to have missed this point in the
documentation. Please tell me how to run the program.
Under linux, it depends on the installer you use. If you use .deb, the software will be
available in the main menu under graphical tool.
The error you have is caused by the fact that you don't have openGL on your linux. The v2
of autopano needs an opengl 2.0 graphic card with proprietary drivers installed.
Clearly you need more than OpenGL; you
need their idea of what kind of window manager to use too. None of this is mentioned on the
web site. Went off and played around and confirmed that yes, the executable is
called /usr/bin/AutopanoPro (something that wasn't addressed in the reply), and it
works on :0 on cvr2 (using UNIX domain sockets), so I suspected that it might
be related to TCP. And of course this system (default Ubuntu installation) has gdm
installed, with the option -nolisten-tcp, so had to go off looking for how to fix
that. The answer is in /etc/gdm/gdm.conf:
--- /etc/gdm/gdm.conf~ 2008-10-15 20:56:25.000000000 +1100
+++ /etc/gdm/gdm.conf 2009-09-04 12:09:54.321148593 +1000
@@ -263,7 +263,7 @@
# Note: Anytime we find a -query or -indirect on the command line we do not add
# a "-nolisten tcp", as then the query just wouldn't work, so this setting only
# affects truly attached sessions.
# By default never place cookies if we "detect" NFS. We detect NFS by
# detecting "root-squashing". It seems bad practice to place cookies on things
# that go over the network by default and thus we do not do it by default.
And yes, it worked fine. So is it really a driver issue, as they claim? I don't want to
have to reconfigure my whole fragile X setup for a program that wants something special.
Gave up on that and tried with the Microsoft version—what a letdown! Yesterday's
attempts showed that you need instructions to understand Autopano Pro 2.0, so off to
look for them. As far as I can tell, there are none! The available documentation is still for release 1.4! Instead, followed the Autopano example
workflow document, which had the horrifying recommendation:
In Explorer (or Finder, on MacOSX), locate the images you want to stitch into a
panorama. Select them, making sure you're including only images belonging to a single
Drag and drop the selected images onto the
Window of APP. A new
Image Group will be created. You can repeat steps 2 and 3 as many
times you want, creating multiple Image Groups. Each group should contain a single
Doesn't anybody know how to manipulate file names any more? In a directory with
multiple files, all looking similar, this is a Real Pain. What's wrong with specifying the
wild card verandah-*? I could scream. And yet all this broken software does this
sort of thing, so I can't blame Autopano beyond saying that good software should (and
easily can) offer something better.
One alternative is what I found yesterday: let Autopano go and look for all photos.
It can handle Olympus raw format, so if I let it loose in my orig subdirectory, it
happily includes each photo twice, once as raw and once as JPEG. And with only a few
hundred mouse clicks and lots of careful comparison (look at those file names; why
have verandah-* when you can
have P8081353.JPGP8081353.ORFP8081354.JPGP8081354.ORFP8081355.JPGP8081355.ORFP8081356.JPGP8081356.ORFP8081357.JPGP8081357.ORF?) you can remove the files you don't want.
For a first attempt, that was too much, so I went and removed the superfluous files from
yesterday's selections, notably the existing panoramas, which had caused the spectacular
mess of the verandah panorama yesterday. Also discovered why the “rendering”
window had both buttons selected: there were multiple windows, one per panorama, and they
all wanted to be selected. When they were, they went off and did their thing, storing the
results in files with particularly emetic names, like [Group 16]-verandah-1_verandah-5-5
images.jpg, which even Microsoft's file name couldn't handle: it put a spurious [
at the beginning.
These are all “automatic” renderings, and apart from the dramatic failure on the
part of Panorama Maker 5 Pro they show that Autopano 2.0 Pro is a little bit
ahead of hugin. The edges of the swing are rendered better, but not perfectly
(first hugin, then Autopano):
For some reason my browser renders the Autopano panorama very badly at full size, but
that seems to be a browser incompatibility; as the image details show, the image itself is
smooth enough. But clearly this panorama requires manual intervention, no matter what
software I use to create it. The rendering speed was nothing breathtaking, though the disk
activity light on pain, the Microsoft box, suggests that this is because it only has
512 MB of memory, while Autopano suggest 2 GB. It's interesting that it displays the
progress as it renders, gradually bending things into shape.
Into town to pick up my car—it seems that Vic England has sold out to Paul, his former
chief mechanic, and moved to Tasmania. On to Masala Valley and bought some
more Atta, described as “Kuttu
Atta”, which proved to
be buckwheat, not quite what I was
looking for. It seems it's used
for puris. Should I keep it or
Photo day again today, not helped by the rapidly changing weather. Finally got it to stay
moderately overcast long enough to get my photos.
Autopano Pro: more investigation
Spent some more time with Autopano Pro
2.0, this time making duplicates of all my weekly panoramas with it. This still
isn't a real report on the software—I'm planning that—but more observations:
It does strange things with the EXIF data. Most of it disappears, and I need to
copy it back from one of the component photos. Even that isn't without its surprises:
=== grog@dereel (/dev/ttyp3) ~/Photos/20090822 90 -> exifcopy garden-ne-g.jpeg garden-ne-panorama-kolor-raw.jpeg Warning: [minor] Entries in IFD0 were out of sequence. Fixed. - garden-ne-panorama-kolor-raw.jpeg
1 image files updated
exifcopy is a little script that invokes
exiftool to copy the data across.
It recognizes OlympusORF raw format images—sort of. The results look like the results I get
with ufraw and friends. Here the verandah panorama done with hugin, with Autopano Pro 2.0 on the ORF files, and the same
image after being put through the Ashampoo Photo Optimizer:
Clearly this software isn't a contender for replacing other raw format converters for ORF.
It is also surprisingly slow, though to be sure I should first try it on a real
computer—if I can get it to work there.
Once again it does a better job of rendering the panorama out of the box than hugin
does, and once again it's not perfect. I still need to find time to play around with the
File selection is horrible. Yes, I keep complaining about this, but that's because
it keeps annoying the hell out of me. A simple “change directory” can take
minutes because it insists on interpreting the files. I've used the same workaround that I did for hugin: create a separate directory
into which I link only those images that interest me.
It's not very configurable. My photos today were shown with this irritating date
representation 9/5/09, and there's no way to change it
short of changing the language. German gives 05/09/09 (note those leading zeroes and the still-truncated year).
It's not overly reliable. It has crashed several times on me, usually while I'm trying to
In my last batch of Powells malt I found some moths. Spent some time taking some macro
photos of them, expending more effort than I should have done. These insects are about 8 mm
long, representing a magnification onto the focal plane of only about 2.5:1, but with the
old 135 mm Exaktar lens it was quite a challenge to get them into focus and to expose them
sufficiently. Put the Mecablitz 58 AF-1 O digital flash gun about 30 cm away, which gave me enough power to
take it at f/22 and ISO 100. To get it to do that I had to drag out the camera manual to
work out how to do it: the settings aren't with the other flash settings, but in a different
place with a not-very-obvious title (RC MODE). And even then the lighting is uneven:
So maybe a ring flash is something worth getting hold of. To be observed. Also, I have
this nice new ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 50mm F2.0 Macro lens—why not use that with extension tubes?
Did some checking and found extension tubes for as little as $7 (BuyItNow). Of course, not
“automatic” like the ones I have for my Pentax Spotmatic; you'd have to use the
lens in manual mode, which is reasonable enough—until you realise that there's no way
to set the aperture manually on the lens. The alternative is a single 25 mm Olympus
extension tube, which has electronic connections to the lens, for the princely sum of $150
if you're lucky. And it still won't allow me a 2.5:1 magnification. I think I'll use the
existing 50 mm Super Takumar and extension tubes instead.
Chris along to dinner in the evening. I had to promise not to mention our culinary
discussion in this diary. It eventuated, however, that she has an iPod , which I'll borrow to try to understand
how they organize music.
That's a thing I've been thinking about for some time—in fact, for about 37 years.
When I got my first tape recorder, a Sony TC-366 “Solid State”, in April 1972, I
decided to catalogue my tapes on a computer, not a common thing to do at the time. So I
invented a language to describe the various aspects of a performance. I deliberately never
defined it very clearly, but I did write down all my recordings in that form, with the
intention to enter them into a computer at a later date, preferably by scanning:
Clearly this is not the way to go. I deliberately imitated the job control language of the
ICL 5J operating system, and I'm still trying to find out whether the ¬ symbol
was derived from EBCDIC, or whether it was an alternative form of the ASCII
character %5f (now _). I'm pretty sure that the ↑ in the second
image is the character %5e (what is now ^). Still, I need to read it
through again and decide what parts of it are useful.
Spent some time today looking at the software for the Fine Offset WH-1081 weather
station that Steve Woodford sent me a while back. It was a patch for Wview release 4.0.1, and the current release is
5.5.3. Spent a fair amount of time adapting that, not helped by the fact that I don't know
(and really don't want to know) about autoconf. Something went wrong
generating the Makefiles, but by that time I was too frustrated and decided to put it
off. Maybe I should first install release 4.0.1 to ensure that things work at all.
I installed the NetBSD installation
on kimchi from a downloaded ISO, and it didn't give me the option to install X. Went
looking for a package, but found none. Went over the web site looking for documentation.
Plenty on how to use X, but nothing on how to get it onto the system. Finally found a
followed that, but ended up with only a base installation—not even xterm was
there. And then it occurred to me that this isn't even the standard NetBSD version of X
(should be XFree86). This really could do
with much better documentation.
More work on Wview release 4.0.1 today,
and got it to work, not without kludges: it depends on sqlite3, but there's nothing in the configuration to include the
libraries. How can that work? Tried handing it in via LIBS, but that caused the
configuration to fail (“configure:2904: error: C compiler cannot create
executables”) because it couldn't find the library at link time.
Probably there's another variable to tweak, but why should I have to? In the end, just put
it in manually. Why is this so difficult?
Still, wview looks quite good, and I now have a Dereel
weather web site. Spent some time playing around to make things more readable, and
got some understanding of what it can do, but it looks as if I should probably postpone most
such stuff until I've installed the latest version. I should also port it to FreeBSD: at the moment it's running on kimchi, my
test machine, which means that I can't use it for anything else, and I also can't turn it
Also finished copying my CDs to MP3. I now have about 9 GB, enough to require some
trimming. Spent some time looking for something off the shelf to organize them, without
much success. c't has some articles on it,
conveniently stored on DVD in page image format, but indexed, it seems, with an application
that only runs on Microsoft “Internet Explorer”. More checking required;
hopefully I'm wrong on that one.
A bit more work in the garden, mainly spreading gravel in the existing succulent bed.
Yvonne is currently working on the larger bed to the north of
the house, which she's termed the “Japanese garden”, and spent some time moving
some rocks there. Much more to do.
The one on the right is what I'm used to, and the browser fills in the names automatically.
The other one had a different layout, and it hadn't been filled in. Spent some time
pondering the cause, and unfortunately closed the first window before looking at the
source. On the face of it, it's legitimate, but it brings back to me how difficult it is to
detect bogus signin screens. Somehow there should be some way of getting the warm fuzzies
that you're really talking to the correct site; public key cryptography maybe?
Last year I had problems with Telstra: for some strange reason, they had reinstated
David Agnew, a previous resident of this house, on my phone bill. It took me over a month
to get them to fix it. And now he's back again!
How can they make such a mess? Called up Telstra service and spoke to Ronald, who made it
clear not just by his accent that he doesn't live in Australia: he repeated my phone number
with groupings which are completely out of keeping with Australian usage. He also required
security questions: my “full” name (i.e. the name on the invoice) and my date of
birth. Ah well. There's not much potential for breach of security here.
On checking, he found that I wasn't the contact person. That was Colin Lehey, born 9
October 1982—could be Mick's son Colin, who is about that age. How the hell
did they get him as my contact person? This is beginning to look like really serious abuse
of personal data. Put in a complaint; I doubt it will help much. Ronald says they'll
address it within 5 working days.
Regarding the DJ Agnew on the invoice: Ronald tells me that it is no longer there. Looking
back, that's what they said last time too. He's sending a new copy; we'll see if it's any
Finally the weather was suitable to doing some work in the garden, and started planting
plants in the new (“Japanese”) succulent bed. Yvonne wanted many more plants than I, and indeed it's looking a little empty at the
That's a highest pressure of about 6.5 atmospheres and (only shown in the graph) a lowest of
about -1 atmosphere. Then it occurred to me that Steve Woodford had warned of the unit
returning ridiculous values, and he had send me a patch for working around it, which I had
clearly forgotten to include. Put that in, rebuilt the executables, and the HTML generator
crashed. Further investigation showed that it had had some kind of overflow generating the
graph for the barometric pressure (the one on the right). No idea how it worked before, but
everything seemed to fail from then on, so took the thing offline until I can get it up and
running on FreeBSD, which hopefully won't be too difficult.
This is straightforward enough stuff—or is it? The “modern” attitude
seems to be that you don't need to understand the directory hierarchies, and yet here
they're presented with no less than five levels of hierarchy, far beyond what you want. And
to do so, the file names are truncated to a point where you can barely recognize them. Yes,
you can go and change the view and see just the contents of the directory:
With the help of the prompt, this shows exactly where you are in the directory
hierarchy. But then there are so many other things you can do: ls on FreeBSD has no less than 38 options controlling the way
things are displayed. “Finder” has only three viewing options (the third is
icons, to waste even more space). Why do the GUIs restrict you to so few views? And why
can't they use the available space? I'm left with the feeling that the product managers
want to supply as little functionality as they possibly can.
Is this an Apple issue? Partially. Microsoft can at least work out how wide to make the
columns, but apart from that it's pretty much the same:
After yesterday's problems with wview, spent some time porting it to FreeBSD.
That proved simpler than I had feared: the USB code compiled cleanly, but when I tried to
run it, I got a flood of error messages:
That's EAGAIN, of course, and it was returned from a call to usb_interrupt_read
(). Why is it returning that? Did some tracing and discovered that it was
getting valid input, so the EAGAIN was benign beyond the error messages. Ignoring
them worked, but the wviewd process used something like 35% processor time. Put in a
little code to delay a bit (10 ms) and retry if it hit that error. That works, but it
sounds like a bug in the USB implementation to return EAGAIN on a blocking read.
Still, I now have wview working the way I want it, sort of, and I can turn to getting
Panasonic: we reserve the right to kill your batteries
On the German Olympus camera discussion forum (how
I hate forums!) I discovered that the breakthrough new Panasonic G1 has a serious down side. The batteries that they use are not very
different from the ones on my Olympus. Mine (BLM1) are 7.2V 1500 mAh LiIon batteries, and the BLB13 for
the Panasonic is a 7.2V 1250 mAh LiIon battery. A little bit weaker, but not significantly.
And in each case, there are after-market batteries available on eBay and elsewhere for about half the price. B&H Photo Video offers them for $27.95
for Olympus, and they had them for a similar price for Panasonic. But they don't
offer them any more, for a very good reason: Panasonic has released a firmware upgrade which
makes the camera refuse to work with aftermarket batteries. The party line (copied here
because I think it's likely they'll change their tune) is:
Note the term “imitation battery”. Yes, I can believe that it's possible that
third-party batteries can have problems, but ultimately that's a matter for the owner. I've
had my third-party battery for the Olympus for over two years now, about typical life for an
LiIon battery, and I've had no problems with it. And I know of at least one person who had
a battery, upgraded his firmware (apparently before the disclaimer was put on the web site)
and now has a useless battery. It's interesting in this connection to note that, though the
Panasonic batteries have less capacity than the Olympus ones, they're noticeably more
expensive. I'm left with the feeling that this step is at least partially to bolster sales
of their own batteries. If it had really been for the reasons stated, they could have
issued a warning, even put in a disabled menu item “Accept third party
batteries”. But not just stop them working.
A couple of days ago I tried to send email to Panasonic Australia, but the only option was
one of these horrible web forms. I wrote:
I was considering buying a Panasonic G1 camera, and then somebody told me that you have
introduced new firmware that reduces the functionality of the camera for no good reason:
it makes the camera refuse to work with third-party batteries.
I consider this extremely bad taste and in violation of the Trade Practices Act. I plan
to complain to the ACCC about this matter unless I receive a very good explanation by CoB
9 September 2009.
Fortunately, I have not yet bought a camera. You will understand that you have lost at
least one potential customer.
Today I got a phone call from Gavin from Panasonic, who claimed I had sent an email and
didn't understand when I told him I hadn't been able to. He repeated the party line and
added nothing to the discussion. Called up the ACCC and spoke to Kim, who gave me the disappointing news that I was wrong, that this
doesn't violate the Trade Practices Act. Yes, it's anti-competitive behaviour, but that is
only targetted in the case of monopolies (does the name “Microsoft”
automatically spring to mind?). Still, one thing's for sure: I can stop lusting after one
of these Panasonic cameras.
Into the office this morning to find dereel's /home file system full. I know
it's getting full—I've added about 60 GB of photos and 10 GB of MP3s in the last few
months—but it shouldn't have been quite full yet. Further investigation showed that
it was a ktrace.out file, which I promptly removed—and it made no difference.
Clearly it was still running—and running kdump against the file would have told
me what the file was, but I had just deleted it! Fortunately Peter Jeremy explained to me
what the -C option did. I thought it stopped tracing for a specific process, but
in fact it's for all processes for which the user can stop it.
My suspicion was that it was the weather software, of course, and
checking /var/log/messages confirmed it: it had stopped functioning in the middle of
the night, and attempts to restart it were unsuccessful:
That continued despite restarts until I disconnected and reconnected the USB cable. Is this
a problem in the FreeBSD USB stack? To be
Spent some time trying to sign up for various weather reporting systems, notably Wunderground and CWOP, both of
which have very difficult to understand instructions. In particular, Wunderground mentions
a password, but doesn't give the opportunity to set one. Signed up anyway, got no
confirmation, and read instructions telling me that it would take at least a day, that
various things could go wrong, and in each case the result would be that nothing happened.
Wonderful. And I can't even check until tomorrow.
Wunderground is very specific about the location of the weather stations, though. When
setting the location of the station, it specifies the latitude to 13 places of decimals,
and the longitude to 14 places:
I've been looking for a good tripod for over two years now. The first was very cheap, but
it had a really horrible head, and it wasn't removable. The second had a much better head,
if you like ball heads, but wasn't much sturdier. I bought a very expensive Manfrotto
804RC2 three-way pan head (why does that sound like it's not a production version?), but I
still had the issue with the steadiness of the tripod. It's a bit silly, because the stands
for my lighting equipment are steadier (and bigger and heavier), though the price must have
been lower. So finally I bought a big, heavy tripod, which Yvonne brought back from town today. I think I'm finally happy. It's certainly big:
Yvonne is 1.78 tall, so this is a seriously high tripod. I need a stepladder to get to the
camera when it's fully extended. More to the point, though, it's solid, and the (three-way
pan) head is pretty solid too, so I might get some of the cost back by selling the Manfrotto
This equipment also shows one advantage of the room I'm using as a “studio”: it
has a very high ceiling, about 3.2 m, making it very suitable for the high stuff I have:
Finally the weather is neither windy nor wet. Spent quite a bit of time spraying weeds in
the gardens. Hopefully I've got most, and not too many of the plants I want to keep.
There'll still be lots of manual weeding to do.
Into the office this morning to discover that the weather station software had
hung again in the middle of the night, and that the /home file system was
The full file system was for the same reason as before: a ktrace.out file had filled
it up. And again I removed it without checking what was generating it. But it
seemed to be related to the weather software, and sure enough, found that I had included
a ktrace of the wviewd process in the startup file. So hopefully that's over
and done with now.
The hang was different, and from the log messages it was clear that it had happened long
after the file system filled up—at about the same time as yesterday, but the flood of
log messages had already flushed the previous day's messages. This time I had:
Sep 11 02:13:51 dereel wviewd: <1252599231078> : readPage(0): page read failed
Sep 11 02:13:51 dereel wviewd: <1252599231122> : readStationData: bad magic in page0
Sep 11 02:13:51 dereel wviewd: <1252599231166> : readStationData: bad magic in page0
That's really helpful, of course. But yesterday it seemed to have happened a little after
02:00 as well. Is there something in the nightly cron jobs that trips over the USB stack at
this time of the morning?
Getting things started again wasn't easy. Various components wouldn't stop, and starting
things manually is greatly hampered by the presence of PID files that don't get ignored if
the process has died.
I've been using Braun electric toothbrushes for
over 20 years. They clean well, but they've been remarkably unreliable, and we must have
been through a dozen of them in the time. I bought the previous one on 12 March 2004, and it failed already on 15 October 2004, when I
bought the current one.
That's been working for nearly 5 years now, an absolute exception. Hopefully it's an
indication that their quality has improved. But last night it died. Charge indicator lamp
out, no activity from the switch. Clearly the (NiCd) battery had died. Still, compared to
the previous ones, that wasn't too bad, and I no longer had much to complain about.
Into town to look for a new toothbrush. First to Target, where there was nobody to advise me. They had brushes at prices ranging from
$40 to $200, and nothing beyond the package description to help decide. Read that and
discovered that there are different rotational speeds, and that some also have an
oscillatory action which seemed to make sense. And the most expensive one had a
wireless-connected display telling you what you're doing. That sounds like a solution in
search of a problem to me.
On to Myers, once the Australian
department store. How are the mighty fallen! This place looks like it hasn't been
renovated in 20 years. They had a similar range of toothbrushes, and once again nobody to
advise me. Spent more time comparing the brushes and came to the conclusion that the model
7400 (“40,000 pulsations, 8,800 oscillations”) was the one of choice.
Target had it for $149 with one of these horrible mail-in refunds of $20; Myers had
it for $129 without the refund. For my way of thinking, the second option is far
preferable. On to Big W, where of course
they had no advisers, the models were different, and they had conveniently covered the
description with an anti-theft sticker which I couldn't completely remove. It proved that
they weren't as good, and the prices for comparable models were only a few cents lower, so
out again, deciding to buy at Myers.
First, though, to pick up the Sony CD player (“Mini HiFi System”) that I had
taken in for repair two weeks ago. Yes, it was the laser—on a unit that I had
purchased only 5 months ago. The repairmen tells me they
get many such cases. It was still under warranty, of course, so I didn't have anything to
pay, but I did get an invoice that itemized what was done and how much Sony had been
charged: $35.20 for the CD mechanism and $50 for labour, adding up to $93.72 including GST.
That's $0.28 less than I paid for the unit, including the still-functioning tuner (and
presumably tape deck, which I've never used) and the loudspeakers. Clearly there's no point
repairing them out of warranty.
On the way back to Myers, drove past The Good Guys. My experience there in the past has
been that they're very expensive, so I hadn't even considered them (though Yvonne had suggested them this morning). If I had looked at their web
site, I probably wouldn't have either. Is it http://www.goodguys.com.au/? Nope: “The request did not specify a valid
virtual host.” http://www.thegoodguys.com.au/? Nope: “No Response from
Application Web Server”. In fact, both names belong to them, and the second is
supposed to be the canonical name, and the IP addresses are the same, so this is just sloppy
web programming. Some parts of the second web site do work: a random URL from Google tells me:
We apologize. We are unable to display the flash content here.
You browser may not have flash plugin installed/enabled or have an absolete version of it.
Still, it was easy enough to check. In and was almost immediately pounced on by
Gayle—the first serviceperson I saw this morning—but by this time I had found
what I was looking for, the model 7400 for $99.95. So I owe the good guys an apology.
Showed the photos to Gayle, who maybe for that reason gave me a further $2 discount, so I
ended up paying only $98. It's amazing how much difference there is in prices for this sort
Back home and plugged the thing into the charger—and discovered the old one had come
back to life! Charge indicator on again, and it worked. Almost certainly not a battery
problem, more likely part of the old problem they all seem to have with internal switching.
Still, it's likely that the recovery will be short-lived, and as the experience with the CD
player shows, it's good to keep the old one in reserve for when the new one dies.
Back home, the wind was terrible. Now I can measure it: a high of 77 km/h. Most of
the wind was round the 20 to 25 km/h, which according to the Beaufort scale is a
“moderate breeze” or some such, but reality was different. The wind pressure
brought down yet another branch of the neighbours' gum tree and bent the column of the
It seems that we've had far too much of this lately. Is this the promised Climate Change,
or just a random event? Planted some seedlings that I bought today, nearly getting blown
away in the process. Hopefully things will improve.
More investigation why I didn't show up in Wunderground. It
turned out that my guess was right, that it wanted my own password. But that contained a
character that wview didn't
accept, so it just truncated the password to that point. Tried another one, all letters
with a verylongcommentaboutthiskindofstupidity, only to discover that Wunderground won't
accept more than 10 characters in a password. sigh.
After adapting to these quirks, things worked, and I appeared in the map. Spent some more time looking at other reporting systems, and
set up reporting for CWOP. That seemed even easier, but when I tried to restart wview, things went to hell:
Sep 11 18:12:33 dereel radmrouted: <1252656753594> : started on radlib system 1, workdir /usr/local/var/wview
Sep 11 18:12:34 dereel wviewd: <1252656754650> : radCfOpen: could not allocate memory
Sep 11 18:12:35 dereel htmlgend: <1252656755724> : radCfOpen: could not allocate memory
Sep 11 18:12:35 dereel wvcwopd: <1252656755738> : radCfOpen: could not allocate memory
Sep 11 18:12:35 dereel wvhttpd: <1252656755758> : radCfOpen: could not allocate memory
What's that? There's plenty of memory available. Built a debug version of wviewd
and tried it out, and established that radCfOpen (did I get the studly caps right?)
is part of radlib, and it's designed
to read in the configuration file. It got the config file name right (something that it
didn't bother to report), and somewhere inside it ran into trouble with the “memory
allocation”. It then stopped without any further message and with a 0 completion
code. ktrace showed that it read in the configuration file, then:
71911 wviewd RET read 2844/0xb1c
71911 wviewd CALL semop(0x40001,0xbfbfdf7e,0x1)
71911 wviewd RET semop 0
... (many times)
71911 wviewd RET semop 0
71911 wviewd CALL gettimeofday(0xbfbfdd70,0)
71911 wviewd RET gettimeofday 0
71911 wviewd CALL gettimeofday(0xbfbfd088,0)
71911 wviewd RET gettimeofday 0
71911 wviewd CALL getpid
71911 wviewd RET getpid 71911/0x118e7
71911 wviewd CALL sendto(0,0xbfbfd0ce,0x58,0,0,0)
71911 wviewd GIO fd 0 wrote 88 bytes
"<9>Sep 11 18:04:08 wviewd: <1252721048520> : radCfOpen: could not allocate memory"
There were lots of these semops, but all with return value 0 (successful). What's
all this about? Is it really a semaphore issue, or is it really trying to allocate
ridiculous quantities of memory? And if so, why not report how much? About the only thing
that I can conclude is that a library that can report this kind of message is that they're
not worth having. Reading a configuration file shouldn't require lots of semaphore
The obvious conclusion was that the problem was due to a configuration change. But after
reverting the changes (RCS is your friend), it didn't change anything. Spent about an hour
trying to work out what went wrong, and in the end reverted to the NetBSD installation,
which happily accepted the same configuration files once I fixed the path names.
So, what's the problem? One is clearly a badly documented and rickety framework (the only
documentation I can find for radlib is a API reference). The
other is the
Tower of Babel attitude to
software design. It's probably not worth trying to debug it; I need to migrate
to wview release 5.5.3, which doubtless is waiting with other pain, such as
configuration files stored in a database. But maybe some of the problems I've seen so far
will go away.
In the afternoon, yet another power failure. This really, really annoys me.
It also doesn't help the up time of my weather station, of
course. When it came back (this time “only” 39 minutes), spent some time
looking for statistics on the reliability of the electricity supply in different countries,
unfortunately in vain. It's about time to stir up some interest in improving the situation.
One of the things about power failures here is that they almost invariably cover a large
area. The recorded message (second time round; I appear to have been the first to report
the outage, and they apparently rely on customers to report for them) stated a usual area:
Scotsburn (which Google Maps calls “Scotchman's Lead”—I
wonder where they get these names), Durham Lead, Mount
Mercer, Dereel, Corindhap,
a distance of linear 37.5 km, and of unknown width. It would be reasonable to expect
that the outage, like most before it, covered several hundred km². When power was restored,
I checked the weather
station at Buninyong, and it had
had an outage too.
One thing that the power failure “fixed” was the “memory allocation
failure” that I was having with wviewd. I strongly suspected that it was
something to do with left-over System V semaphores—how I hate the three ugly sisters!
This tends to confirm the suspicion. On IRC, Peter Jeremy pointed me to ipcrm, where, apart from a way to remove dead semaphores, I read:
AUTHORS The original author was Adam Glass. The wiping of all System V IPC
objects was thought up by Callum Gibson and extended and implemented by
Callum and Edwin are both on the IRC channel as well. And that was at a time when I was
mentor for Edwin, so I should have known all about it. Checked the commit logs and found:
date: 2007/12/25 00:52:24; author: edwin; state: Exp; lines: +133 -18
Add the ability to clean up all shared memory segments which are
unused in one go.
I still haven't found an off-the-shelf solution for keeping track of my MP3 collection, and
spent some time looking for possibilities today. Most, of course, are the kind that make
iTunes look good, and so I returned to
look at the article in c't magazine that I had
already found by chance last week. This time I wasn't so lucky, and spent a lot of time
looking for it. The index is now only available as an application that only runs on
Microsoft “Internet Explorer”. Went looking with Acrobat Reader which was doomed to failure: I found
hundreds of hits for “MP3”, and just sifting through them was more pain than I
could stand. It would have been easier to look through the paper copies. But in the
process, saw yet another example of this “modern” gratuitous truncation
Look at that path name! It's only half as wide as what looks like a progress bar below (it
isn't—the bar just swings back and forward), and it truncates the path name with
something that is barely shorter (in fact, the ... are one character more
than the om they replace). Sometimes I despair. And yes, I still haven't found
More work on porting wview to
FreeBSD, and now have a clean build of release 5.5.3. Now I need to test it without
disrupting the reporting too much. It looks as if it was a good choice to migrate to the
latest version rather than search for the bugs in the old one: the area where the bug
occurred (reading the configuration) has now changed completely, though not obviously for
the better: instead of storing it in (multiple) text files, which I can maintain
with RCS, it's now in a
database. We'll see.
The weather was cooler again, but I still found time to do some work in the garden. Despite
all talk of rain, it's been quite dry, and than and yesterday's warmth have left things
quite dry. Spent some time upgrading the irrigation, and turned it on for 5 minutes per day
for the moment. Also planted the last of the seedlings that I had started a while back, and
which were looking decidedly unhappy. Also removed some of the kangaroo protection: they're
quite a nuisance, not to mention eyesore, and we haven't seen any kangaroos in the garden in
a couple of weeks. Hopefully they're finding more food elsewhere.
Chris along for dinner. No photos, and we have our reasons for not saying when she left.
While she was there, she mentioned that David is currently
in Batam, not a place I know, though I see
it's just off Singapore. I asked if it was really called Batang, the
Malay/Indonesian word for “rod”. And then Chris asked if it was related to
French baton, which means the same thing.
How do you find that out? I have a book by M. B. Lewis on “Malay Script”, also
called Jawi, a modified Farsi script
that is no longer in general use; what little I know about Arabic and related scripts comes
from that book, which I must have bought 45 years ago. It's interesting in this context
because it contains a glossary with some etymological information. Dragged it out, but it
had no information on the etymology of batang.
Chris took a look, however, and found some pencilled-in notes in a section on Arabic
loan-words. Not my writing, and clearly written by somebody who understood Farsi: the
comments are about the corresponding meaning in Farsi. For example, janazah means
“royal hearse” in Malay and “dead body” in Farsi. Most underlined
words have the same meaning, however.
But who wrote it? And when? I'm sure I was present, but I've had the book for ever. Could
it have been Shahram Akhavan? Or Ali Madanipour? I can't find a way to find out. I'm sure
they wouldn't remember either.
Part of my weather software is a script that copies the web pages to the external server
every 15 minutes. It uses an ssh tunnel to do so, and I found it littering the
system with old ssh-agent processes. With a bit of advice, found a couple of
environment variables that allowed me to do trap the process on exit:
# The > /dev/null and the display causes ssh-agent to bypass
# interactive prompting and get the passphrase from $SSH_ASKPASS.
eval `ssh-agent` >/dev/null
# Stop the ssh-agent when we stop
trap "kill $SSH_AGENT_PID" 0 1 3 15 ssh-add < /dev/null
The trick is knowing about the environment variables; there's also
a SSH_AUTH_SOCK which can be of use under some circumstances. I should probably
use it to not start any additional ssh-agent processes, but this works for now.
I've been using boskoop, my old Apple machine, for copying my photos for no better
reason than it's more reliable. On current releases of FreeBSD, up to 7.1, if you turn off the camera before
unmounting the file system, it will crash the system. That all should change with release
8.0, and my tests show that it works correctly, but I haven't got there yet. The Apple has
a significant disadvantage, though: it has a USB 1.1 bus, and it takes up to 20 seconds to
download a single photo pair (raw/JPEG). Today followed up a suggestion to change my
script to use mtools to do the
job. To my surprise, it wasn't too much work, and it works. The performance improvement is
clear. Copying four photo pairs with the Apple took 90 seconds, and with dereel it
was 13 seconds:
=== grog@boskoop (/dev/ttyp1) ~/Photos/20090912/orig 5 -> ls -clTtr
=== grog@dereel (/dev/ttyp9) ~/Photos/20090914/orig 15 -> ls -clTtr -rw-rw-r-- 1 grog home 13501016 Sep 14 11:07:39 2009 P9141898.ORF
-rw-rw-r-- 1 grog home 13547673 Sep 14 11:07:52 2009 P9141902.ORF
More eBay pain
I've sold my telephoto lens. And the winning bidder discovered that it wouldn't fit his
camera, and for some reason he didn't want to buy a T adapter. OK, there's no point
labouring the issue: I could send it to him and have him send it back and get a refund,
clearly nothing that is of any help. So set about selling it to the runner up, something
that eBay explicitly allows.
That worked, and by the time I found out, it had also been paid for. But the original
transaction was still there, so now I have sold two lenses. Went looking through the eBay
site, but the only way I found was to “open a dispute”, not what I wanted. Went
to the Live
Help, where Alvin told me, amongst other things, that the place I had looked for was
wrong (I think):
This is for unpaid item case wherein you will get a strike your buyer when you file this
Whatever that means. He told me how to do it:
Here's how you can initiate a "Transaction Cancellation" for this item:
Sign in to eBay and go to your "MyeBay" section of the site
Under the "Account" tab, click on the "Resolution Centre" link.
Under the "I Sold An Item" section, click on the "I want to cancel a transaction" option
and then click the "Continue" button.
Enter the item number of the auction you wish to cancel and click the "Continue" button.
Then just fill out the form and click the "Send Request" button to complete the request.
More work in the garden. Now that the weather is getting better, it's easier to get up and
do something. Planted the remaining seedlings in the veggie
patch: kohlrabi, Chinese cabbage, pok
choi and spring onions. Gradually the verandah is becoming less cluttered.
More work on the weather station software today, and found out why the build was so clean: I had included all the code, but I had
omitted most of it from the configuration information, so it hadn't been compiled. Normal
enough problems once I reattached it, with the exception of the dependencies. Any normal
build system has a depend target in the Makefile, but this thing uses GNU
autoconf, something about which I have never heard much good. Even 15 years ago, in
Porting UNIX software, I pointed out
weaknesses; nowadays I'm reminded of
a Dijkstra quotation:
If Fortran has been called an infantile disorder, PL/I must be classified as a fatal
Finally found the problem—it seems that the dependencies are built by
the configure script, and they base on the variable AC_CONFIG_FILES
in configure.in, at least in this case.
Of course nothing had happened with annulling my eBay transaction yesterday. Tried again
and got the same results. Connected with live help and
was told to clear my browser cache, which greatly annoyed me. But of course I suppose they
have to go by the book, since they really don't understand what they're doing. And of
course it didn't make any difference, and they told me it had been reported and that I
should try again tomorrow. They wouldn't give me a case reference number and just promised
to send me email, which they didn't, so all I have is the session ID (2232708).
Exactly the same as last time. How can they make such a mess? Called up again and was told
that it had now been fixed—again, the same as last time. Also asked about my
complaint, which should have been addressed by now. Gerard, the customer service
representative who seemed only marginally in command of the English language, said he would
look in to it. I asked for a reference number, and he offered his ID number. Finally got
him to enter one, and got the number 1-20723381946. Based on my experience with Telstra, if
I call up complaints with that number, they'll tell me that the number is formally
incorrect. What a disorganized crowd!
More garden work. In prior years I've been concerned
about how to prune salvias, especially
since the advice I have been given has been conflicting. In this month's edition of
Gardening Australia I read an
alternative technique: cut to the ground and let them grow up again. I suspect that, like
the other suggestions, each of these methods depends greatly on the kind of salvia. But the
ones in the north bed (Salvia
microphylla) were currently looking quite unhappy, and one was completely overrun with
grass to the point where I was thinking of pulling them out anyway, so instead I pruned one
of them to the ground, which proved to be much more work than I had expected: it mean that I
couldn't just pull out the grass roots, which were intimately entwined with the roots of the
salvias. Pulled out several basketfuls of grass, but I'll need to give it more attention
Yvonne also planted a lot of stuff towards the eastern
paddock, including a number of daisies along the fence line,
and gazanias in amongst
the osteospermums that we had
already planted in that area. I weeded the veggie patch—again!— and pulled out
the remaining osteospermums in the north-west bed; we'll put annual flowers in there
instead, currently a couple of
left-over petunias. Finally spread some
fertilizer over much of the area of sprinkler circuits 1 and 2 and gave them a good soaking;
I'm worried that we're going to have another dry spring.
More work on wview today. Made
some progress, but it's painful. I've had the idea of storing configuration information in
a database before, with the Black Box project a couple of years ago. But that was in
conjunction with web pages to update it, and of course it used MySQL. This software uses sqlite3, which I don't know, and which is
different enough from MySQL that I can't just jump in; instead I need to learn Yet Another
Dialect of SQL. And the configuration scripts are still just that, scripts, and not very
clever at that. Maybe the intention is to create a web-based configuration system, but the
current status seems to have the worst of both methods, and it can also easily lead to the
system using two different database systems: there's a provision for storing weather data in
a database (MySQL or PostgreSQL, but not
sqlite3), but the configuration must be stored in an sqlite3 database. I'm
left wondering how much work I want to do on this software.
We've had some mice living under the fridge in the laundry for some time, and the cats have
paid a lot of attention, though it's not clear how successful they have been. We'd put in
mousetraps, except that there's a danger that the cats might get injured.
Today, however, I found Piccola at the entrance to my office playing with a dead mouse. It
was still marginally warm, and it's fairly clear that Lilac wasn't involved; apart from the
fact that she wasn't there, she would just have eaten it. Piccola didn't seem to think of
that; she just played with it:
As I expected, and contrary to promises, I didn't receive any feedback from eBay about cancelling my transaction, and a further
attempt met with the same fate. Tried live help again
and finally the consultant did the work for me, successfully. Still no explanation why it
didn't work for me: “We did not receive any report from the Technical Department that
we have current issue on the site.”
Our toaster has died, or at least jammed up so badly that it seems not worth the trouble to
fix it. I've had this problem before, and two years ago I tried to replace it with
something that seemed even worse.
One of the problems with toasters is that they're not as simple as you'd think. What do you
want to toast? When we bought the last one, we ate standard German-style bread, which is
much wider than the form-baked bread eaten in English-speaking countries. As a result, we
needed an extra-wide (“four slice”) toaster, which were much more expensive at
the time. I think I paid about $70 for the last toaster.
I'm form-baking my bread now, so a normal width toaster would do the job, but from
recollection there are silly details to consider, so went into town to see what was
available. As expected, at Big W had
very cheap toasters—under $10. But then I did some thinking: Yvonne is now also toasting Pide
(or Pita?) bread, and that's both wider and
thicker. So maybe a bigger one would be better after all. Found one which seemed to fit
the bill for $40, and then based on last week's experience, off to the Good Guys, who had the
same toaster—it seemed—for $45. But this one was called Turbo or Quattro or
Pulsar some such meaningless thing.
Then it occurred to me: what's the most important thing about any cooker? One of them has
to be the amount of heat it can generate. Who mentions that? Nobody. It seems to be
tradition to put four items of information on the labels, so when they have nothing else,
they write something like “removable crumb tray”, which they all have. But
they're required by law to write the power rating (along with voltage) somewhere on the
body, almost invariably underneath, so took a look at the three they had at the Good Guys.
The cheapest had the lowest power—I can't believe that's a cost factor, though maybe
insulation is—and was rated at (from memory) 230/240VAC 1194/1300 W. What kind of
person could have worked that out? Yes, if a purely resistive load uses 1300 W at 240 V,
it'll use 1194 at 230 V. But firstly 230 V is the voltage of reference, not 240 V, and
secondly that kind of resolution is just silly. At the minimum allowed voltage (218 V) it
would be 1073W, and at the highest allowed voltage (253 V) it would be 1445 W.
Still, the relative values were of interest, and they varied considerably. The
“Pulsar” or whatever it was called was rated at 1600 W, and a third one was in
between. In the end, I decided for the one in the middle because it had by far the largest
width and depth. It was advertised at $49.95, but they only charged me $45 for that. That
seems to be a standard thing at the Good Guys, and it's difficult to complain, but it makes
it difficult to make comparisons, and I've probably decided against them in the past because
of the “high” price.
While I in town, also looked at barbecues, which are another can of worms. You can buy a
four-burner barbecue for between $199 and about $2100. What's the difference? Quality and
fittings, of course, but what about the all-important issue of cooking area and heat output?
It seems that the one for $199 had a cooking area at least as large as the more expensive
ones, and in some cases considerably larger. And the heat output? Not mentioned for the
most part. Where it was, it was in silly units like MJ/h (often written MJHR or mjh or some
such). At Rays Outdoors they had labels with the output mentioned
in BTU, which stands for “British
Thermal Units”. For example, I can currently see a product on the website
Stainless steel hood, fascia and twin doors 49,289 BTU Side burner 9,952
BTU Side wok burner with stainless steel lid Heavy duty steel trolley with 2
castors Enamel pressed steel
Those line breaks are in the original. I can convert 14.5 MJHR to the correct metric unit
(kW) by dividing by 3,600, so that's about 4 kW, and that seems fairly typical for those few
units I found where they divulged that information, but how much is 49,289 BTU? I had no
idea, but checking the Wikipedia page, I see that it's about 1.06 kJ, depending on
temperature (specified in Fahrenheit, of course). So 49,289 BTU are about 46.5 MJ, and the
silly 5-digit resolution suggests that somebody at Rays has used a calculator to take the MJ
rating and convert it in to obsolete units. And the implication is that when you've used
your 49,289 BTUs, the thing stops functioning? I suppose it's per hour, but nobody bothers
with that kind of nicety.
At the Good Guys I wanted to compare electric and gas stoves; the former are rated in kW,
the latter in MJ/h. I didn't need to worry, though; again, this kind of detail isn't worth
We finally have rain, plenty of it—22 mm today, the highest we've had this year. It
came exactly when we wanted it, too, but it drizzled on all day long in a manner I'm more
accustomed to in England, and we didn't do much. I didn't even look at my weather
software. Somehow it's depressing, even though we really need it.
Back to copying data to the SDHC card for my car radio. How painful this is! I've already
deferred the long-term goal of a database of the works I have: there really must be
something like that already. Surely I'm not the only person who can see a need for it. But
there are still other issues: how do I get the data on the card in a form that the MP3
player will play in sequence? And how do I create a list of stuff so that I don't need to
search all 1300 tracks (sorry, songs) to
None of that should be difficult. A couple of shell scripts should do it: one to copy, the
other to list the contents of the card in the sequence which the player will play them.
But there's one problem: these HORRIBLE file names full of spaces. They
completely break normal conventions of shell scripts and other UNIX tools. The only way I
can find to get a list of the files in directory order is with ls -f. Normally you'd
write something like:
for file in `ls -f`; do
But for uses spaces as a delimiter, so that doesn't work if there are spaces in the
file name: it attempts to use every part of the file name as a separate name. The shell
does provide some support for this kind of breakage with the construct "$@"
instead of the more normal $*, but I can't see any way of applying this to
the `ls -f` construct.
In this case, I found a workaround: use sed:
ls -f $DIR | sed "s:^:cp -p \"$DIR/:; s:$:\" $CARD/$DIR:" | sh
But what a pain! And then I came to the next case, where I wanted to put a track number
next to each file name. How do you do that? Normally, you'd write something like:
for file in `ls -f`; do
echo "$SEQ $file"
SEQ=`expr SEQ + 1`
But how do you do this with file names with spaces in them? I've already mentioned that
this approach doesn't work; but neither does the workaround I found for copying, because I
have a sequence number to process. Spent all afternoon trying, getting more and more
frustrated in the process. Daniel O'Connor tells me that I'm using the wrong tools; but
he's missing the point. The whole idea of UNIX is that the tools fit together. There are
some conventions required for that, and one is that some characters are special, and you
don't use them in file names. Daniel also didn't find a way (appropriate tools?) to solve
this problem. People suggested that my workaround was insufficient if people put other
special characters in file names, like " or a carriage return character
You'd think that I would gradually come to terms with the fact that people want to put
spaces into file names. On the contrary: the more I have to do with them, the more they
As if that wasn't enough frustration, my keyboard once again generated a c-a-bs key
combination, the one that X servers traditionally use to shut down. I have already disabled this combination. Did the X
server care? No: it shut down anyway. I've checked the key maps, and they definitely show
no server shutdown; but I also checked the combination, and yes, it shuts down the server
anyway. I'm not sure what to do about that. I suppose I should go in and fix the server,
but why should that all be necessary?
It's only a small part of the plants we planted a year ago, and which didn't flower at all last year. The plants are only barely visible on the
mesh at the north end of the verandah, but they must have thousands of buds:
More work on the scripts for copying MP3s today. I'm using ls -f and ls -t to
list the file names in the sequence I want them, something that I can't do with find
(which has options to handle file names with spaces in them). But ls has an option
or two (-b and -B in the BSD versions) to handle unprintable characters.
GNU ls only has -b, which seems to be the same as -B in BSD. Both
of these options have nothing to do with spaces; but the idea sounded good, and I started
off thinking of printing something that would escape delimiter characters as well. But how?
It would be nice to be able to convert back again too, so things the octal escapes used in
the -[bB] options or like HTML escapes weren't appropriate. In the end decided on
printing the names in hexadecimal. That worked straightforwardly enough, but strangely
there's no standard program that converts back again, so wrote one of those too. The
resultant code for listing the files looks like:
for DIR in `ls -f`; do # This, at any rate, doesn't have spaces in it
echo === Track $SEQ: $DIR
for FILE in `ls -fX $DIR`; do
printf "%4d: " $SEQ
SEQ=`expr $SEQ + 1`
That works, but it's still not very satisfying. Is the -X option interesting
enough to put in the already overloaded list of options to ls? I still need to think
about that one.
Chris around for dinner, Indian food again. Finally, with help from Usha Jeremy, I've been
able to create chapatis that taste reasonably
genuine. The trick seems to be to make them thinner. Usha also suggested using hot water
to mix the flour, which I did; I suspect that's of lesser importance than the thickness of
the bread, but I'll experiment with that next time.
A few messages today, from Mads Martin Jørgensen, Patrick Hess and Michael Hughes, all
pointing out that I can modify the treatment of output of programs
in backquotes (``) with the
aid of the shell IFS variable, which describes which characters delimit arguments.
By default the characters are space, tab (\t) and newline (\n). By
setting the value just to \n, you can work around spaces in file
names—if the program in question returns \n between arguments.
Fortunately, that's the case with ls. Here an example of when it works and when it
$ ls -l -rw-r--r-- 1 grog wheel 0 Sep 21 10:00 Another lossy name
-rw-r--r-- 1 grog wheel 0 Sep 21 10:00 Lossy name
# This is my problem $ for FILE in `ls -rt`; do ++ echo $FILE ++ done Lossy
# And here it works $ IFS=" ++ " ++ for FILE in *; do ++ echo $FILE ++ done Another lossy name
# But this doesn't work $ for FILE in `echo *`; do ++ echo $FILE ++ done Another lossy name Lossy name
So it only works if the program returns values separated by \n. echo
doesn't, with the result that all the text gets lumped together as one parameter—the
opposite of the previous problem. Still, it solved my particular problem (that one,
anyway), for which I'm grateful.
Unfortunately, the problem didn't stop there. As I've mentioned, the naming of the tracks
is so variable that it's very difficult to get them back into the original sequence—if
that's even what I want. A couple of examples:
I have two CDs of Bach's 6 sonatas for solo cello. For reasons probably related to the
length of the works, the odd-numbered sonatas are on one CD, and the even-numbered ones
are on the other CD. Clearly this makes no sense when they're all copied to the same
medium. How do I get them in the correct sequence? I can't go by the name, because it
starts with the CD number (important, eh?). Here the first movements of four of the
sonatas, in the sequence shown by ls -l:
-rw-r--r-- 4 grog wheel 4123409 Sep 1 13:47 23-01 Bach_ Cello Suite #2 In D Minor, BWV 1008 - Praeludium.mp3
-rw-r--r-- 4 grog wheel 4510543 Sep 1 13:54 23-07 Bach_ Cello Suite #4 In E Flat, BWV 1010 - Praeludium.mp3
-rw-r--r-- 4 grog wheel 5482291 Sep 1 14:04 23-13 Bach_ Cello Suite #6 In D, BWV 1012 - Prelude.mp3
-rw-r--r-- 4 grog wheel 3216432 Sep 1 14:16 12-01 Bach_ Cello Suite #1 In G, BWV 1007 - Praeludium.mp3
In the end, used the fact that they all have a hash sign (#) before the number,
so I was able to use this to get the correct sequence:
for i in `jot 6`; do ls *#$i*; done > list
But that brought me back to the issue with the broken names. xargs has
the -0 option, but it only really works in conjunction with find. Did
some playing around with the output and got most of them to work, with the exception of
two containing the name “Bourrée” (the ' is a separate character; clearly
it should have been Bourrée, but this is what it had):
I still haven't worked out why, but none of my attempts to match those names worked.
Instead touch created a new file of zero length with a name containing a subtly
different name. After much messing around, got it to work, and was no longer able to
reproduce the old behaviour. This must be something to do with multibyte character
sets, but it's not clear what.
I have a number of Dvořák symphonies, all completely mixed up:
-rw-r--r-- 4 grog wheel 13895232 Sep 3 12:21 01 1_ Allegro con molto.mp3
-rw-r--r-- 4 grog wheel 14515636 Sep 1 16:57 01 Dvořák_ Symphony #9 In E Minor, Op. 95, B 178, _From The New World_ - 1. Adagio, Allegro Molto.mp3
-rw-r--r-- 4 grog wheel 13216032 Sep 3 12:48 01 Symphony 3 - Allegro Moderato.mp3
-rw-r--r-- 4 grog wheel 18688173 Sep 3 12:27 02 2_ Poco adagio.mp3
-rw-r--r-- 4 grog wheel 15794521 Sep 3 14:52 2-01 Dvořák_ Symphony #9 In E Minor, Op. 95, _From The New World_ - 1. Adagio - Allegro Molto.mp3
Apart from the impossible sequence (ls -tr is your friend), I have two copies of
the 9th symphony. Which is which? They have ID3 tags, right? Spent some time installing
various ID3 utilities, id3tool and id3.el (an Emacs macro set). Neither of them could recognize the ID3 in the MP3s.
They're there, since the player finds them. What's the issue here?
From recollection the components must date to about 1991, and it's only a 16 MB Intel 80486
(50 MHz, I think). The real issue is that I can't find any disks to repair it with, and I'd
need an ISA display card as well. So time to start building a new one; and that will be
somewhat hampered by the fact that I'm currently using an ISA adapter with
a 802.11 card to connect to the network,
something that you don't easily find on more recent machines.
If I were to believe my weather station today, we're having pretty extreme weather: it
reported a low temperature of -1840.3 °C, enough to cause the HTML generator to crash.
Clearly more work needed. Took a look at the code, but without better documentation it's
really not clear what the best solution is. There are clearly two issues: one is ridiculous
temperatures like this one, and the other is sudden changes. How quickly can temperature
change? On 7 February 2009 the temperature dropped 15° in 30 minutes; that's presumably about as fast as you'd ever see it.
I joined up the wviewmailing list a couple of days ago,
and, after finding a way which Google groups didn't reject, replied to a thread about access to the repository (there is no access). As
I've already observed, lack of access to the revision history has made things complicated,
and I said so. The response (to a message sent with texts completely out of order)?
Date: Sun, 20 Sep 2009 01:17:26 -0500
From: "Mark S. Teel" <email@example.com>
Subject: [wview-group] Re: Git/svn repository
Please do not resequence - top-down blows.
Greg 'groggy' Lehey wrote:
And that was all. No mention of my concern about access to the revision history. This
confirms my opinion about people who can't read beyond the first couple of lines, and one of
the reasons I hate reverse chronological
Mark Teel is the principal author of wview, and also the first person I've ever seen
to ask me to write messages upside-down. Clearly this is not a list in which I will
participate. Still, maybe this is not such a bad thing; there are so many details I don't
like about wview that the lack of requirement to feed back my data might turn out to
be a relief.
More thinking about brewing computers today. Put together a much newer machine, only about
4 years old, and found a FreeBSD disk to go
with it. And now? I had included the special hardware in the case of the computer, but it
seems to make more sense to have a separate box. I now have a few dead UPSs that have power
connectors on the back, which makes them a good choice. Now to find enough energy to gut
the cases and put in the hardware.
Also started working out the network cabling to the garage. I put some in quite a long time ago, and there is a switch in Yvonne's office cupboard—6 cables and 5 ports. Found an 8 port switch and put
that in there; all I need to do now is put a connector on the cable in the garage.
A little more work in the garden. Weeding and fertilizer are the order of the day, or even
week. I'm now out of general-purpose fertilizer after spreading the rest in
the Ginkgo bed. Also put some blood and
bone in the adjacent succulent bed.
The Boronia (I think it's a Boronia megastigma) is blooming.
Strangely, I can't smell it, though I did last year, and Yvonne tells me that it smells
strongly this year. I wonder why.
A little more work on converting the UPS housing to a housing for the temperature control
hardware. It has three power sockets on the back which I can use for connecting hardware. I
only need two, but the third could come in handy, especially as I have a total of 8 relays.
It's interesting to note the “surge protection” on the back:
If there's any “surge protection” at all for the left hand socket, it must be
the fuse. But now I'm left wondering how to connect things to the box. There's much more
space there than I need, but where do I put the connectors? There's not much external
surface except for the cover. More thought required.
In the afternoon Yvonne called me in to tell me that her
machine had hung. It hadn't: it had paniced, with a double fault. While I was looking at
the dump, it happened again, and a further investigation showed that it had happened in the
morning and—somehow—Yvonne hadn't noticed.
The kernel was ancient, and I had neither sources nor a debug kernel, so started building a
new kernel. That failed with the message “I/O error writing
to Make.log”. Make.log is where I write the output of the build, and
like the source tree, it was NFS mounted. So is Yvonne's mail inbox folder, and the last
two panics occurred while she was writing back to it. And yesterday I changed the switch
connecting the two machines. Are we getting some kind of data corruption? First I need a
kernel, and building that took the rest of the day.
How not to communicate, part 11.3
Peter Jeremy reminded me of the typical example of the stupidity of “top
> Q: Are you sure?
>> A: Because it reverses the logical flow of conversation.
>>> Q: Why is top posting frowned upon?
Called up Telstra again, and was connected to somebody who, for once, wasn't Indian:
“Hello, this is Mockery in Melbourne. How can I help you?”.
My first question, of course, was whether I had understood the name correctly. Finally
ended up spelling it. Yes, “Mockery”, once I got him to stop interrupting me
with “how can I help you?”.
He had a new explanation, of course: there's no way they can issue a correctly addressed
invoice; they can only send out a copy of the old, incorrectly addressed one. That makes no
sense at all, and I asked: “Mr Mockery, please connect me to your supervisor“.
“No”: “Mockery” was not his surname, “Mr” is only used
in conjunction with surnames, he didn't want to, and the supervisor wouldn't be able to
help. He also didn't want to record the conversation. In fact, he didn't want to do
anything, though he decided that his name was now spelt “Mocka”.
Hung up, called in again, and established that this bloke had the internal ID D360707.
After some time was connected to a supervisor, Rose, who took my complaint about
“Mockery”'s behaviour (and confirmed that it was the surname he uses).
She also confirmed, however, that they are unable to print out corrected invoices. What
kind of nonsense is that? And why had two consultants sent me copies that can't be correct?
In any case, she'll print out one manually, which is the obvious solution to the problem.
But I'm continually left wondering how a company like that can survive, let alone pay good
dividends—I've just bought some more stock on the expectation of future performance.
On the face of it I must be mad.
Last night I had rebooted Yvonne's computer with the new
kernel, but hadn't done the installworld yet. Came in this morning to find it not
running properly; the root file system was full, and the network was down.
OK, I had just built a new kernel, and I had collected a few dumps during the day, so moved
the objects to the /home file system, after which I had barely enough space. The
network issue was more interesting: the name of the interface has changed, from nve0
to nfe0! I don't know why BSD needs to have different names for each interface; I
think this is one area where Linux does better. What I saw in the dmesg output was
(before, then after):
Sep 18 14:39:07 lagoon kernel: nve0: <NVIDIA nForce MCP2 Networking Adapter> port 0xd400-0xd407 mem 0xe7001000-0xe7001fff irq 20 at device 4.0 on pci0
Sep 18 14:39:07 lagoon kernel: nve0: Ethernet address 00:0c:76:93:7a:fb
Sep 23 09:29:41 lagoon kernel: nfe0: <NVIDIA nForce2 MCP2 Networking Adapter> port 0xd400-0xd407 mem 0xe7001000-0xe7001fff irq 20 at device 4.0 on pci0
Sep 23 09:29:41 lagoon kernel: miibus0: <MII bus> on nfe0
Sep 23 09:29:41 lagoon kernel: icsphy0: <ICS1893 10/100 media interface> PHY 1 on miibus0
Sep 23 09:29:41 lagoon kernel: icsphy0: 10baseT, 10baseT-FDX, 100baseTX, 100baseTX-FDX, auto
Sep 23 09:29:41 lagoon kernel: nfe0: Ethernet address: 00:0c:76:93:7a:fb
That's easy enough to fix, but it needs fixing. And that explained the real reason why the
root file system was full: the nightly dump, which goes via NFS, had written itself to the
root file system. What a pain.
While tidying up, came across another strangeness:
So I had removed 6 GB of dumps from a file system that wasn't quite full, and at the end I
had only 4223 MB free? How did that happen? It occurs to me that I should have looked to
see whether there were any symbolic links there, but locate didn't find anything
else. Strange. Are we writing dumps with holes in them nowadays?
AUUG dies: end of an era
Another recent occurrence may be the result of the recent bad weather: on Monday the Internode data centre in Adelaide had a power outage, and the old AUUG web server didn't come back up. Today David
Newall got in contact with them to find out what had happened: the (only) disk had failed.
Stephen Rothwell intends to put up a replacement machine soon, but currently it's off the
net. So not only is AUUG dead, the web server is too. It's something like the end of an
More mail non-sequiturs
Peter Jeremy is finding some nice silly mail exchanges. Here's another:
Because it fouls the order in which people normally read text.
> Why is top-posting such a bad thing?
>>> What is the most annoying thing on usenet and in e-mail?
The reference to USENET shows how things
have changed since we were all able to communicate with each other.
Somehow I didn't get much done today. Got up late, ignored the work I had to do, and did
little else apart from watching a bit of TV. I suppose the weather was part of the problem,
though it wasn't as bad as in New
South Wales, where they had the worst dust storm in 70 years.
Towards the end of the day, did go out into the garden and do some token work in the
Japanese Garden, including pruning the
transplanted Euphorbias, which seem to
have decided not to die all at once, and planted
some Ledebouria bulbs that had split
off the main plant. I can see these things taking over the garden if we give them the
chance, but at the moment they look like shiny radishes.
A discussion about polarizing filters on the German Olympus discussion forum today, along
with details of how to distinguish between conventional linear polarizing filters, which
confuse many autofocus systems, and the more modern circular polarizing filters, which
don't: circular polarizers are built asymmetrically, so looking in the other direction
doesn't show any polarizing effect. Checked my el-cheapo polarizing filter, and sure
enough, as advertised it's a circular filter, as the photos show. I paid $9 for it; you can pay up
to $200 for a similar item (if you ignore Hasselblad filters at $518). What's the advantage of the expensive ones? Mine is
supposed to be glass too, though I have no intention of checking on that.
Somehow we only do work in the garden when the weather is suitable. Today Yvonne brought back some hanging flower baskets from ALDI, and I spent some time planting flowers in there,
the petunias we had already planted
elsewhere, and even more geraniums
out of the cheap and nasty wire baskets. We should have enough for every conceivable place
now, but I suppose we can think of some more. Yvonne spent the time transplanting some
daisy bushes; hopefully they'll survive.
The weather was unpleasant again today, cool and rainy. We can certainly do with rain, and
we've had enough of it this month, 75 .7 mm so far, but it would be nice if it would happen
more suddenly rather than giving us whole days of dreary, European style weather. As a
result, we were completely unmotivated and did little.
More experimentation with chapatis today. Yvonne bought some
plastic chopping surfaces (substitute for chopping boards) at ALDI recently. She thought it was one board, but it
proved to be 4 of them, each 0.75 mm in thickness. This seems the ideal thing to use to put
in the tortilladora:
it's smooth on one side, so the tortillas or chapatis don't stick, and it also reduces the
thickness of the pressed dough by 1.5 mm, approximately what I thought was needed for
That required flash in the bedroom, out of sight. And once again I had trouble with my
flash units. Clearly the flash unit had to be out of sight, and so I dragged out my
wireless remote connection. Tried it out with no load, and it worked fine. Connected
everything up, tried again—no flash. After removing all the stuff, it still didn't
work, though when I came back later, it worked again. The transmitter LED no longer worked
when I pressed the test button, so it must have been the transmitter. I wonder if there's
some compatibility issue between the transmitter and the camera.
That didn't help me with my flash photos, of course. Tried setting up the remote flash
facility, which still seems far too complicated to make any sense, and it didn't
flash either. It requires the front of the flash unit to be pointing in the direction of
the camera, which rather defeats the purpose. Both of these photos were taken with flash,
but the unit only fired the second time:
And this flash unit doesn't even have a connection for a sync cable! Why not? But I had a
hot shoe adaptor, and was going to try that until I realized that my long sync cables don't
have the right connector. That'll be another issue to look at. Instead, brought out one of
my studio flash units, which has different connectors, and with which the cables were
supplied. I made the photo above with it, but it's not clear that it's bright enough (I
think I established that it has a guide number of 11, while the small unit has 58). Clearly
I need a flash cable.
In the afternoon, more experimentation: comparing the ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 50mm F2.0
Macro with my 40 year old 50 mm f/1.4 Super Takumar, a lens with a superb reputation.
The results were a little frustrating: some of them had what looks like camera shake:
Image title: P9262089 E 30 Super Takumar 1 30 sec f 16 50mm 100 ISO corner
But they were taken with relatively high shutter speeds (in this case 1/30s), mounted on my
new firm tripod, and set off with the infrared remote control. How could that happen? I'll
have to take the photos all over again. What I have seen, though, clearly shows the Olympus
lens to be way ahead of the Pentax lens in terms of sharpness. Here the corners at f/2,
first the Olympus (fully open), then the Pentax (stopped down one stop):
Image title: P9262074 E 30 Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50mm F2.0 Macro 1 320 sec f 2.0 50.0 mm 100 ISO corner
Another bloody power failure today, in
mid-morning. How these things annoy me! Took the opportunity to set up my new generator.
It comes with a 24 page manual, which includes 6 pages of safety instructions and surprising
detail for an ALDI product.
Before you do anything, you need to put oil into the motor. All these generators seem to be
designed to make putting the oil in as difficult as possible. On this one, the filler
opening is hidden underneath the front panel where you can't get at it, it's at an angle,
and it's about 12 mm in diameter. From experience with the previous generator, you can't
even turn the thing on its side to pour in the oil: when I tried that, ten years ago, I
ended up with the combustion chamber full of oil, so I couldn't even pull the starter cord.
ALDI is not much better in the arrangement: from above you can't even see the filler:
Given all that difficulty, the first question has to be: how much oil do I need to put in
there? The instruction manual is silent on that point. It tells me what kind of oil, what
kind of petrol, how much petrol will fit in the tank, but not the much more important issue
of how much oil. It also doesn't mention the funnel or the 0.9 litres of oil supplied with
the generator—just “contact us if something is missing”. How can you do
that when the manual doesn't tell you what should be there? Finally found it printed on a
label at the bottom of the frame: 0.6 litres.
Filling in the oil wasn't easy either: it's still pretty cool here, and the oil must have
been at about 6°. A single funnel-full of oil took about 2 minutes to soak into the sump,
and the whole operation took about 15 minutes.
Putting the petrol in was straightforward enough; next was starting the machine. Turn on
the ignition and petrol, add choke, and pull the rip cord. They've conveniently put a metal
panel in front of it:
There was still no power by the time I had finished, and to avoid too much frustration,
decided to go for a drive somewhere. Headed in the general direction of
ranges, but on the way to Mount
Mercer did some thinking. Our useless guide books don't even mention the Brisbane
Ranges, and it's a fair distance to go for something without a guide, so decided to head to
the Ballarat Botanical Gardens instead, in the process taking a dirt track through the hills to the east of Garibaldi.
By the time we got to the Botanical gardens and found the entrance, it was raining. Did a
quick walk around some wetlands on the shore
of Lake Wendouree:
Then got caught in another shower, and were just about to leave when we found the real
entrance, and it stopped raining again. Went in, and found it well worth while. They have
a bed of poppies, something that I had never thought would look good, but this was very
I'm told that the redwoods in the gardens
(both Sequoiadendron giganteum
and Sequoia sempervirens) are the oldest
and biggest in the southern hemisphere. They don't all look very happy, unfortunately; I
suspect last summer has taken its toll. They also have a number of succulent beds,
including most of the ones we have at home, but some of them are flowering. In particular,
we took a liking to the Echeveria
elegans in one bed:
Nearby they had some plants for sale, so apart from the Echeveria, we also took a
Crassula muscosa and a Crassula
perforata, both interesting plants that we hadn't seen before. Here the Crassula perforata:
As a result, of course, we needed potting soil—something that I had had on my list
anyway—so on to Formosa
Gardens to buy that, and also
the Petunias that I had planned, and
a Phormium “Jester” for the
big pot she bought many months ago. And then it occurred to us that the hanging baskets we
had bought at ALDI were quite a bargain, so on
there and bought some more, and found some cheap potting mix as well.
By that time it was 14:30, and we hadn't had lunch, so to Subway in Sebastopol for lunch.
That's the last time I do that; the standard, in particular of the bread, seems to be going
Finally back home, about $150 poorer. Powercor has a lot to answer for.
Chris and David Yeardley over for dinner in the evening—David has just got back
from Batam, and it looks like he'll be
doing different work from now on, off the NW coast of Australia. We'll be seeing more of
him as a result.
A few months ago I signed up for Twitter, for reasons that didn't even make sense at the time,
and only a couple of weeks later they changed the
password rules, so that when I tried to log in, I was told that my password—previously
accepted—was invalid, and I had to change it.
I didn't use Twitter again, though I note with amusement that the announcers on ABC Classic FM now refer to the users as
“Twits”. Today I got a message with the subject line “Deporte6am wants to
keep up with you on Twitter”. That shouldn't be difficult, given the speed with which
I use it. Still, tried to log in again, and this time I didn't get the message that my
password was wrong or invalid. I just got a new login screen, repeatedly.
Doubtless this is an adaptation to the preferred clientele, but clearly it means “your
password was not accepted”. Sent off a message to reset my password, and didn't get
the promised mail message: it had been eaten by SpamAssassin:
pts rule name description
---- ---------------------- --------------------------------------------------
1.0 HTML_MESSAGE BODY: HTML included in message
1.8 HTML_IMAGE_ONLY_32 BODY: HTML: images with 2800-3200 bytes of words
1.0 BAYES_50 BODY: Bayesian spam probability is 40 to 60%
Clearly the message is wrong: the password did contain spaces, but they don't accept
it. So they're continually weakening their passwords. Never mind; I haven't found anything
of interest on Twitter, so I'll leave it the way it is. No idea who Deporte6am is,
but it wouldn't help anyway.
The weather was better today, and we had lots of plants to plant, so spent a lot of time in
the garden planting them. The Petunias
were a particular problem: we had bought a tray of 48 of them, and I only found space for
25. I've identified more places, but didn't get round to planting them.
Planted the Crassulas in the bed which
we started in 9 April 2009. As I feared, these things fill up
amazingly quickly—this was just a winter in between, and in another 6 months it'll be
The Bureau of Meteorlogy predicted a “severe frost” (-1°) for tonight, so didn't hang up the hanging
pots. The Chlorophytum that I left
out in the frost last month didn't look any the happier
for it, so I pruned it right back. Tomorrow it can go up again.
Good dinner in the evening, Foie gras d'oie and Tournedos Henri IV. Grilled the meat for
the latter on the barbecue. We've bought a new one, but I haven't assembled it yet, so used
the old one, which is really looking sick now:
Another nice day—the forecast of “severe” frost, or any frost at all, was
way off target: the overnight low was only 5.2°. Hung up the potted plants, and planted
some more Petunias, which prove to be
more of a problem than I expected. Found space for another 11, but it looks like there were
more than 48 in the punnet. My best bet is to put them into individual pots now and plant
them as time goes on.
Also assembled the new barbecue. I think I made a mistake buying it. It's from ALDI. ALDI aren't known for first-rate produce, but this
was relatively expensive, so I thought it could be OK. The truth was a little different:
the fat pan was bent, and the thermometer was mounted crookedly:
Never mind the particularly brain-dead temperatures on the “Heat indicator”. The
scale is marked 94°, 150°, 206°, 262°, 318°, 374°; you'd think that in a country which has
been (ab)using the metric system for decades they could get round to changing the gradations
on the thermometer, but it seems that barbecue manufacturers deliberately ignore the fact.
In addition, the burners looked different from what I expected. When I went looking at
barbecues a couple of weeks ago, I found this kind only
on the cheapest barbecues (costing half what I paid for this particular one):
ALDI have a policy that means I can always take it back, but it's a pain to
transport. Decided to assemble it anyway, not an easy operation at the best of times. This
time it took two hours with help from Yvonne. The
instructions were of the usual quality, not helped by the fact that there didn't seem to be
more than one of any particular piece. Each leg was different, the cross bars were
different, and each had to be assembled in a position that wasn't described in the text and
could only be guessed at by looking at the illustrations. Despite the greatest of care, got
caught out by one, where the illustration was ambiguous:
There are two ways to install the bar underneath (“Front bottom”), but it has
the holes offset, and they have to be closer to the front. But neither the illustration nor
the text mentioned this fact. Fortunately, it wasn't too difficult to correct. A different
issue was the side burner: the cable for the ignition was disconnected, and I can't find a
way to connect it.
And the result? Well, it works. The burners are covered by a plate, which at least means
that dripping fat is unlikely to ignite. But the real proof will be when we use it, in a
couple of days at the earliest. I'm certainly not left with the pleasant feeling that I
have a nice new toy.
Another week has gone by, and the promised invoice from Telstra
arrived—STILL with “D J AGNEW” in the heading. There's no
point scanning it in, since it's identical with the previous three. What a load of idiots!
The weather's still mild, though windier, and about all I really did during the day was to
plant the remaining Petunias and do some
weeding. Much more weeding is needed, and I also need to attend to my hops.