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September 2010
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Wednesday, 1 September 2010 Dereel Images for 1 September 2010
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First day of spring?
Topic: general, gardening, opinion Link here

So today was the first day of spring, at least officially. In fact, it was cooler than yesterday, and much wetter; nevertheless, the Ballarat weather statistics for August show that it wasn't quite the wettest on record. There were “only” 161.0 mm, compared to an average of 75.3 mm, and a record of 167.1 mm.

The rainy first day of spring reminds me of other first days: ten years ago I started this diary, and I've been keeping it ever since. And on that occasion too we had rain, and a burst water pump. And 52 years ago I recall the first time I paid any attention to gardening topics: we drove (I think) from Melbourne to Broadford, where my mother grew up, and stopped by a stream with lots of blooming wattles. Then, too, it was raining, and my mother said “It always rains on the first of September”. I asked why, expecting some profound wisdom, but it was just a generalization.


Joining the Geelong library: the breakage
Topic: general, opinion, technology Link here

It seems that the Geelong Regional Libraries have a mobile library that comes by here every fortnight. Took a look at the web site, and discovered that I could sign up online—if I work around the massive breakage. First there's a link to the signup page:


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But when I get there, it's a login page, carefully restricted in size to fit in the middle of the screen:

 
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Just for the fun of it, hit Login without entering anything. Success! Well, after a kind:

 
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The registration page itself was typical of narrow-minded web programmers: they ask for BLOCK LETTERS, whatever that's supposed to mean in a web context; I assume they mean capitals. Clearly the web programmers haven't heard of functions that change cases. And they want a street name, but no number, and a “Suburb”, whatever that means. Clearly it doesn't mean town, because one of the choices is “Australian Capital Territory”:

 
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It doesn't ask for a street number, but it did want a post code, something that should be clear from the location. So I selected Dereel and left the Postcode field empty. Bad idea. It complained, and erased the entire form:

 
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I was able to go back and fill out the rest of the form. I stuck to proper use of upper and lower case, and for the fun of it gave a slightly incorrect post code and a PIN pair that didn't match:

 
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And it accepted everything! Things that are obviously wrong are the lack of a street number, mismatching PIN and wrong post code. In addition, it accepted lower case characters, though it appears to want upper case only. It gave me a code (not shown here) with instructions of how to modify it for use:

 
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While I was saving images, it got bored and moved on, before I could write down the code. My attempts to go back failed:

 
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Never mind, I had to give it an email address, so I waited for the notification email. It didn't come. I've seen some broken web sites in my time, but this one really takes the cake. The surprise is that the company who did it hasn't tried to hide their name.

So I signed up again, same name, same address, same email, but otherwise with correct information. Tried to sign in as described, and got an authentication failure. That's enough: it's just not worth the pain.


Thursday, 2 September 2010 Dereel Images for 2 September 2010
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More laziness
Topic: general Link here

Another cool, moist day, and once again I didn't do very much. Cleaned out the filters for the water pumps, something that I do every three months. In the winter it doesn't seem to be necessary:


 
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In the process checked the pressure of the pressure cell on the house water pump, which was too low, but it gave me the opportunity to try out two new ALDI toys, a digital tyre pressure gauge and an air pump. I'm not sure about the air pump; it runs off a 12V cigarette lighter connector, and it worked well enough for the pressure cell, but I'm not sure it's any better than the other toy I have, and it could have significant problems pumping up a tyre, for example.


Wikipedia: simpler, but is it easy?
Topic: opinion, technology, photography Link here

One of the key features of Wikipedia is the simple markup, which means that just about anybody can contribute. It's certainly in stark contrast to things like DocBook, and for a long time I've seen it as a reaction to the excessive complexity of such markup languages. But simplicity doesn't mean ease of use. I update a lot of Wikipedia pages, but I have written almost none, and even updating proves to take excessive amounts of time.

Today I looked at the page for the Nikon F camera, which was both minimal and inaccurate; it claimed that the Nikon F was the first system camera, whatever that may mean. Elsewhere there was much more information in the history of the single-lens reflex camera page and on the German version of the page, so I spent some time incorporating that. It took me several hours.

I'm no stranger to writing, of course. I wrote my books in groff, and I write this diary in HTML. But I use real HTML markup, not a wiki markup, and it seems easier. One thing's clear, of course: the transition between source written, by default, with a web browser form and the displayed page is slow and clunky, and even though I use Emacs to edit it, it's still painful—one line per paragraph certainly doesn't help. Even when I was finished I discovered that I had omitted a space between two words. Why do I go to the trouble?


Friday, 3 September 2010 Dereel Images for 3 September 2010
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Finishing the verandah
Topic: gardening, general Link here

It's been nearly 2 years since we declared the verandah complete. But it wasn't quite, though for some reason I didn't note it in my diary: we had tried to connect the new gutter to the house water system, but gradually come to the conclusion that it wasn't within our ability, and I should get a plumber to do it. Things weren't made any easier by a blockage somewhere in the system. But where do I find a plumber? In Ballarat, and he'd charge the best part of $100 just to come here. So I did what I always do in these circumstances: procrastinate.

So, for nearly two years, I've had water just running off from the one side of the verandah, and all the water from that side of the house running out of the blocked gutters. Finally I've found somebody, Bryan Jackson, who lives just round the corner. He came over this morning with his mate Roger and did the job.


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As I had expected, the blockage was very close to where he tapped into the system, and we had quite a spectacular unblocking:


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Finally things were in place, and all that needs to be done now is to re-route the vent pipe at the right so that we can push the water pipe against the wall. But I can do that myself.


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While he was here, Bryan also finally connected a hot water tap for the dish washer. I had bought it months (years?) ago and left waiting for the plumber. Now the dish washer cycle time has dropped from 60 minutes to about 32.


More garden work
Topic: gardening Link here

With the drain pipe in place and the blockage removed, I can now attend to the beds round the verandah, which had been continually flushed by water from the roof. Put in a significant quantity of compost and finished putting in a Jasmine vine at the base of the mesh in front of the garden shed, and planted some Nasturtiums, which have shown significant aptitude in climbing up mesh.


The first swallow of spring
Topic: general Link here

Spring is here, sort of, and the swallows are back:


 
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I wonder how long it will be before they give up. There are plenty of places in the horse sheds for them to build nests, and some have already done so.


Saturday, 4 September 2010 Dereel Images for 4 September 2010
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Broken drought
Topic: general, gardening, photography Link here

The ten-year-odd drought seems well and truly broken. Last month we narrowly missed the heaviest August rainfall on record, and by this evening Ballarat had had 80% of average September rainfall. Here in Dereel we had over 30 mm so far, most of which fell last night. The results can be seen in the dam, which is frequently completely dry. The previous fullest state was on 10 November 2007 after some particularly heavy rains (first photo). We exceeded that level last week (second photo), but this week there seems to be at least 30 cm more water in the dam (last photo):


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I had to change the viewpoint for the last photo, because the place I normally take it from was under water. Also took a photo across what used to be a dry gap between the two halves of the dam, from the mound on the left of the previous pictures:


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Tuning the panoramas
Topic: photography Link here

The rain continued most of the morning, accompanied by high winds, both of which made it difficult to take HDR photos, so instead played around with various other ideas, in particular the consideration how many images I need for a panorama. Currently, with a 9 mm lens mounted horizontally, I have a horizontal field of view of 88°, but I have been spacing the images every 30° (12 images for a full 360° panorama). Then last week I tried the panorama from the north-east of the verandah with vertical orientation (field of view 72°), and also got by with 12 images.

Another issue with the panoramas is that this makeshift panorama bracket is getting on my nerves. Today the whole thing tipped over: the ball head isn't strong enough to hold the stuff on top unless it's mounted relatively vertically. I've been considering a bracket from LinkDelight, which looks pretty solid, and the pano-MAXX, which seems to do the job for vertically mounted panoramas, but which doesn't really look stable enough for my work. But the documentation for the pano-MAXX suggests increments of 45° for the vertical panoramas and 60° for the horizontal ones. Tried the latter with some of the panoramas, and it seems to work fine:


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So it looks as if once again I'll be doing some major changes to the way I do my photos.


Heavy rain: the pain
Topic: general Link here

After taking the photo of the join between the two halves of the dam, went back down to the paddock and slipped on the wet muddy surface, landing on my back. The good news was that the camera didn't get damaged, and that I didn't hurt any joints. The bad news was that I pulled a muscle in my calf, and spent the rest of the day hobbling around. Chris came along for dinner in the evening. She's an expert in injuries, and gave me some horse liniment to rub into it, along with the joyful news that it'll hurt more tomorrow. Looks like I'll spend even more time in the office for a while.


Sunday, 5 September 2010 Dereel
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Diary layout
Topic: general, technology Link here

Chris was right. Woke up today with a particularly painful leg and spent most of the day immobile. I had planned to do some programming or something else for which I normally can't find the time, but in the end just played around with the layout of my diary.

What's a good web page layout? Lots of people with more insight than me discuss this at length, of course. But they all have a disadvantage that I don't: they're not me, and I want the pages to be visually pleasing to me. This means, at the very least, no distracting side bars, no clever layouts that can easily render badly on displays that the writer didn't intend. In short: not a “major web site” like Telstra or Livejournal.

But there are a couple of things that could be improved. Easy-to-read text is no more than 80 characters wide, not because that was the width of punch cards, but because of the focus limitations of the human eye: it becomes uncomfortable to read when the text is wider. And on a normal screen my diary renders about 180 characters wide. That's presumably the reason for the side bars in Livejournal.

So I went experimenting to see how I could do that too. Problem: I don't want to restrict the width of everything, just the text. I can do that by specifying alternate <div> tags for photos and text, which gave me something like this (shown in sans-serif for something approaching clarity):

I've since moved to this layout, so this example no longer looks any different.

Another issue with the panoramas is that this makeshift panorama bracket is getting on my nerves. Today the whole thing tipped over: the ball head isn't strong enough to hold the stuff on top unless it's mounted relatively vertically. I've been considering a bracket from LinkDelight, which looks pretty solid, and the pano-MAXX, which seems to do the job for vertically mounted panoramas, but which doesn't really look stable enough for my work. But the documentation for the pano-MAXX suggests increments of 45° for the vertical panoramas and 60° for the horizontal ones. Tried the latter with some of the panoramas, and it seems to work fine:


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So it looks as if once again I'll be doing some major changes to the way I do my photos.

That allowed me to use the full width of the screen for photos, but doesn't it look ugly? Tried various alternatives, but so far I haven't found anything I like, so I've reverted it all.


No TV or radio reception
Topic: multimedia Link here

I've had problems with TV reception in the past, but they were typically related to specific channels. Today I discovered that the already bad radio reception for ABC Classic FM had deteriorated into noise, and that none of the TV channels presented an adequate signal for the tuners to get a lock. Hobbled around and got a real (analogue) TV to see if there was any signal at all. There was, but it was unacceptably poor. So: not the tuner cards. Antenna? Antenna amplifier? Confirmed that, despite the winds we've had lately, the antenna is still there and is still pointing in roughly the correct direction. And removing power from the amplifier resulted in complete loss of signal. The toy antenna that came with the last tuner was also not able to provide any signal at all.

So: what is it? After the last time I'm hesitant to call the broadcasters. But something's clearly very wrong. I'll experiment more when I can walk again.


Wiener Schnitzel revisited
Topic: cooking Link here

Ate Wiener Schnitzel this evening. That's not exactly an unknown dish, but the devil's in the detail. Wiener Schnitzel comes from Wien (Vienna). That's not a foregone conclusion: Wiener Würstchen (Viennese sausages), which the Americans call simply Wieners, come from Frankfurt am Main; the corresponding sausages in Vienna are called Frankfurter.

It's almost impossible to get a real Wiener Schnitzel in Germany, for example, just “Schnitzel wiener Art” (“Viennese style Schnitzel”). In Germany, it's almost invariably pork, but the original is made from veal. But that's not the only difference. Almost every recipe that I have seen describes the same way to make it: take the Schnitzel, put through flour, egg and then breadcrumbs, cool for a while and fry in a pan until golden. There's some difference of opinion about what it should be fried in; candidates are butter and lard. But one way or another, it's not a difficult dish.

But they don't do it that way in Vienna. Instead of frying in a pan, they deep fry it. We've been trying it that way for a while, and I've come to the conclusion that it's better. In a pan, the breadcrumbs absorb too much fat, and the dish tastes soggy. With deep frying, it comes out crisp, and it also seems to be tenderer.

Why don't I find this in the cookbooks? I haven't found many in my collection of cookbooks, but they all use a pan. (Bonniers Kokbok, which, if you believe Bonnier's web site, is no longer available, mentions deep frying, but it still prefers frying in butter in a pan). The German Wikipedia page does state that the schnitzel should be fried in plenty of fat, but it's still in a pan.


Monday, 6 September 2010 Dereel Images for 6 September 2010
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Still more rain
Topic: general, gardening Link here

We've had much more than our fair share of rain in the last month and a bit, but it's showing no signs of abating. Today I hobbled to the dam to see what things looked like there. It's even a little higher than a couple of days ago (left):


 
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It won't get any higher: it's already running off into the lagoon, and for the first time I've been able to get photos of the lagoon with water in it:


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The jetty is just visible on the right-hand side.


Upgrading dereel
Topic: technology Link here

The problems I had with Hugin a couple of weeks ago made it clear that I need to upgrade my system. And that requires recompiling literally hundreds of ports (currently I count 861 of them registered in /var/db/pkg/), and again that takes days. So for a long time I've been building new systems in the background and installing to an alternate partition. The file systems on dereel look like this:

=== root@dereel (/dev/ttypu) ~ 89 -> df
Filesystem  1048576-blocks   Used  Avail Capacity  Mounted on
/dev/ad4s1a           9916   8640    482    95%    /
devfs                    0      0      0   100%    /dev
/dev/ad4s1d           9916   5883   3239    64%    /destdir
/dev/ad4s1e         439117 130409 273578    32%    /home
linprocfs                0      0      0   100%    /usr/compat/linux/proc
/dev/ad8s1d         917905 593043 251430    70%    /src
devfs                    0      0      0   100%    /var/named/dev
/dev/ad0s1d         236579 215215  18998    92%    /dump

/destdir is a second root file system (including /usr), and that's where I install the new system. When it's ready, and not before, I simply swap the entries for / and /destdir in /etc/fstab and boot from the alternate partition. The problem has been that DESTDIR doesn't always work as desired. I've seen this with pwd_mkdb, for example: it claims cross-device links.

So this time I'm doing it differently, on a different disk on my test system. When it's (finally) done and tested, I'll copy the entire partition to dereel. Today I got as far as upgrading to the latest base system, but then I ran into the afternoon, where the data volumes are restricted, so I'll continue tomorrow.


TV reception problems: where?
Topic: multimedia Link here

It's bad enough having some Heisenbug in my TV recording setup, but the problems I mentioned normally apparently weren't part of them. Checked on the ABC reception page, but there was no mention of any problem there. Then, in the evening, reception came back. It seems that it wasn't only ABC that was affected, but clearly it's another indication that disseminating information via the web is not high on their list of priorities.


Fried Camembert: how not to do it
Topic: cooking Link here

Yvonne decided on fried Camembert cheese for dinner tonight. We've had it before, fried in a pan. Served with cranberry jelly, it's not at all bad. But how do you make it? Like deep-fried milk, it seems to defy the laws of physics.

Yvonne did some googling and came up with a couple of alternatives: deep-fried or heated on a sandwich toaster. She decided on the latter as being more controllable. She served it when molten cheese started to come out of the casing. And it was cold.

So: what to do? Cold Camembert is still edible, but we wanted it warm. So the microwave oven came to the rescue (20 seconds at 550 W):


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Next time I think we'll try it deep-fried.


Tuesday, 7 September 2010 Dereel Images for 7 September 2010
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Building the new dereel
Topic: technology Link here

As planned, started building the ports on my new machine today. It's supposed to become dereel.lemis.com, but I can't call it that. Called it dewrong before Jashank Jeremy offered the more appropriate defake. Spent a lot of time loading files from the Internet, and from the other end of the world, before I realised two things:

  1. Contrary to my own instructions, I hadn't done my symlink from /src/FreeBSD/ports/distfiles to /usr/ports/distfiles, so I was loading files I already had.

  2. defake's IP address is 192.109.197.167, which is part of a block once belonging to the University of Dortmund. Much software seems to think that I must therefore be in Germany, and whatever decides where to get my software from also seems to think so. But I can override that, as Edwin Groothuis told me some time ago. Just add this line to the (possibly new) file /etc/make.conf:

    MASTER_SITE_OVERRIDE=ftp://ftp.au.freebsd.org/pub/FreeBSD/distfiles/${DIST_SUBDIR}/

Continued like that, and by disconnect time at 13:00 I had installed about 150 ports in 2 hours, 19 minutes—all dependencies for X. I'll hopefully finish building X tomorrow.


More plants
Topic: gardening Link here

Things still seem to be particularly cool for the time of year, but at least it didn't rain today. A couple of new plants are coming out: Dracunculus vulgaris (left) and some shoot that I can't categorize, from a place where I didn't know I had planted anything. Potentially it's related to the Mexican something that Sue gave me last year, but I think that's further to the right:


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My leg is gradually getting less painful, and did some more work in the garden. There's plenty more to do.


Wednesday, 8 September 2010 Dereel Images for 8 September 2010
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FreeBSD ports, day 3
Topic: technology Link here

Continued in the morning with building ports for the new dereel. Finally, at 10:10, finished building X, a total of 263 ports, including both PERL and Python. Total time 4 hours, 6 minutes. Not for the first time, I'm reminded of what I wrote in 1993:

Even the complete X11R6 windowing system takes only about 4 hours on a 66 MHz Intel 486 PC.

Isn't progress marvellous? Also ran into new problems:


Back to hacking my diary layout
Topic: technology Link here

Feedback from Chris Yeardley and a couple of others, all saying that they liked the sans-serif limited width display of my diary better. So I'll leave it like that, at least for the moment. Feedback welcome. At the very least I need to do something about the day and topic headings.


Google maps increasingly broken?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Lately I've been having a lot of trouble with Google maps. The maps don't render properly:


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In this example, the area to the east of Beaufort is overlaid with part of the Dereel map. There's no good way to recover from this, since a screen refresh returns to the original URL, which is generally in no way related to where I have navigated. Callum Gibson suspects that this is due to breakage in Google's asynchronous loading, probably exacerbated by the slow satellite connection. The trouble is that lately it seems to happen almost every time.


More preparations for spring
Topic: gardening Link here

My leg is gradually less painful, and so out to try to prepare the potato bed, which was sorely in need of attention. Didn't finish: it seems that my leg was too painful, so back with only half the work done.


Thursday, 9 September 2010 Dereel
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Geelong library revisited
Topic: opinion, technology Link here

Mail message this morning from Camilo Jorquera, the Web & Intranet Coordinator of the Geelong Regional Libraries web site, in reference to my article on the problems I have had. He told me that the problems had been solved, but that doesn't seem to be the case. About the only improvement is that the login page is no longer placed in a too-small window with scroll bars in both directions. The rest remains, in particular the fact that I can't log in using the code I have been given.

Sent a message to Camilo telling him so, and got a reply back which I suppose illustrates the frustration of his position: as I had noted, the system was badly broken, but it appears that there's little he can do to fix it. He blames it on “closed source”, but really it just a product that isn't suitable for the use to which it's being put (and probably for which it has been sold). The sad thing is that people get money for this kind of product.


FreeBSD ports build, day 4
Topic: technology Link here

Continued with my ports build today. At least it's going relatively smoothly, but it takes forever! About the only problem was installing acroread, which seems to have some sensitivity to Linux versions. But I'll look at that later when the rest is done.


Gardening: the pain
Topic: general, gardening Link here

My leg is a lot better now, but it's certainly not completely healed. Did a little bit more work in the garden, but maybe I should wait; it's straining things somewhat. One thing needed attention: the 1000 litre water tank we have near the bore pump was overflowing, a problem it has had before: it seems that the ball valve gets out of level. We don't use the tank anyway, so disconnected it.


Friday, 10 September 2010 Dereel Images for 10 September 2010
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Building FreeBSD ports, day 5
Topic: technology Link here

Yet another morning spent building FreeBSD ports. Spent almost the entire morning on web browsers—firefox took 2 hours, 22 minutes, and SeaMonkey, recommended by Edwin Groothuis, took about 2 hours, including installing yet another interpreted language, this time tcl. The rest of the time was spent installing things like Flash and other plugins.


The flowers that bloom in the spring
Topic: gardening Link here

Spring is slow in coming, but some things are gradually coming: the white Camellia is blooming (and, surprisingly, not going brown), and the Salix melanostachys is getting its distinguishing black catkins:


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The revenge of the kangaroos
Topic: general Link here

While I was taking photos, saw still more kangaroos in the paddock. Since my leg still hasn't healed completely, called Yvonne to chase them away. They disappeared surprisingly quickly, but in the process Yvonne didn't look where she was going, tripped over a kangaroo guard on the new birches, fell and bruised her ribs. Now we're both invalids.


Recovering Google Maps views
Topic: technology Link here

Message from Michael (the one without a surname) today referring to my problems with Google Maps a couple of days ago. If a page renders incompletely, you can't refresh with Ctrl-R or some mouse click; that will just take you back to some previous page. Instead you have to click on the Link link at top right and copy the resultant link into the URL field. Now wouldn't it be easier for all concerned if the software were just to do that for you, or at least give you a chance to link without the copy/paste operation? And wouldn't it be good to have a clear way of supplying information back to Google? In fact, it's there—now:

 
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Now isn't that a good idea?


We don't need no steenking customers
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

After considerable examination of the pano-MAXX, I think I should buy one. Some time ago I looked at the web site and discovered that they don't give prices for postage outside Europe. So on Tuesday I sent them a message asking for the postage to Australia. By today I had received no reply—why do so many companies ignore email?—so I sent a reminder. The reply, from a certain Torben Ohme, was astonishing:

Currently we only deliver within the European Union. Thank you for your understanding.

Their advertising says (in English):

All prices incl. 19% german VAT. Non EU-citizens pay net. prices.

Clearly they mean residents, not citizens. But that's a clear contradiction. It looks as if Mr. Ohme was taking the path of least resistance.


Saturday, 11 September 2010 Dereel Images for 11 September 2010
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Garden work on hold
Topic: general, gardening Link here

It's been a week now since I slipped and pulled a muscle in my leg, and recovery has been slow. There are still lots of things to do in the garden, but I don't think I'm in a position to do any of them. At least Yvonne's rib bruises are not as serious, and she spent some time mowing the lawn.


UNIVAC FH-432 drum
Topic: technology, history Link here

This is the first posting of a new category, history, in this case computer history.

When I started in the computer industry in April 1973, one of the things that fascinated me were UNIVAC's drum storage. They had only just started using disks at all (IBM clones, if I recall correctly), and the storage hierarchy ranged from tape, slow drums (FASTRAND), fast fixed-head drums, to core memory. The fast drums evolved in the days when the drum was main memory. By the early 1970s they had evolved to be used as swap space. The pride and joy was the FH-432 fixed-head drum. Its statistics would almost look good today: it ran at 7120 rpm and thus had an average latency of 4.24 ms. It also had an impressive transfer rate, but that's another can of worms.

Transfer speed

When I thought of writing this article, I was sure about the transfer speed. Now I'm not so sure, and I can't find any definite information. A couple of recollections:

What does this say about the data organization? Each track had 1024 words (36 bits on the 1108, 30 bits on the 494; despite the lack of space, the 494 literally threw away space). At 7120 rpm, this means a single-track transfer rate of 121 kW/s (545 kB/s on the 1108, 456 kB/s on the 494). The 494 had 5 characters per word, so 1.2 megacharacters correspond to 240 kW, and to get the transfer rates in the 494 brochure would require two tracks in parallel. At least that ties up closely with my calculations (it wouldn't be convincing if it were 1.73 tracks or 2.5 tracks, for example). The 1108 example also matches this speed quite well, though it's not clear what happens to the operating system overhead.

So why did people tell me that two FH-432s could saturate memory? Why did I need to fix the drum handler? I/O had priority over the CPUs, so during such transfers they ground to a halt (no cache). But you'd need 25 tracks in parallel to achieve 6 MW/s, so the number of tracks would be somewhere between 25 and 50, clearly in the right range for my recollection of word-wise transfers. Did things change in the course of time? The 494 brochure appears to have written at the time the machine was introduced, in 1965. The 1108 paper was presented in late 1971. My first experience with the drums was in May 1973, and the work on the drum handler was done in June 1976. Could they have changed the configuration of the drums in that time? That would at least explain why the drum handler didn't handle overruns elegantly. One thing's for sure: we only had two FH-432s at Karstadt, and the brochure says that a minimum of three were required.

So: what speed? 1.08 MB/s or 19 MB/s on the 1108? I like to think the latter. And even today that's not that slow. But that's only part of the FH-432. It stood in a 2 metre high cabinet and was fed by a special 440 Hz power supply. The engineers told me that this was necessary because of the extreme high rotational speed, but I suspect it had more to do with the military background of much of UNIVACs hardware. And it only had 256 tracks: the total storage capacity was 256 kW (1.15 MB or 960 kB). Even at the slower speed, it was possible to transfer the entire contents in just over a second. At my 19 MB/s, it would take 7 or 8 rotations, about 60 ms, to transfer the entire contents.


FreeBSD port build, day 6
Topic: technology Link here

On with building ports today, with yet another behemoth package. X, firefox and SeaMonkey are by no means the only multi-hour builds. Today installed Project X, which requires Java. I was spared this emetic manual download of the sources: for some reason there hasn't been a new release since last time I had to do it. But it still took 3 hours, most of the time until I ran out of off-peak traffic. I now have 439 ports built; on dereel I have 861, so this is a little over half way in 6 days.


Sunday, 12 September 2010 Dereel Images for 12 September 2010
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FreeBSD ports install, day 7
Topic: technology Link here

On with the FreeBSD ports installation. Today it was mainly graphics and IRC stuff. The big one was pidgin, something that I can't even recall using. It spent over an hour installing all kinds of GNOME extensions, apparently streamers and things. Why do you need that for an IRC client?

In any case, it's ridiculous to spend over a week installing software. I'll have to think of a better way. One that has been suggested is using portmaster to keep a base system running, and updating from that from time to time. Another suggestion is to use a jail to build the system, which at least means that I don't have to run another system.


Unhappy hibiscus
Topic: general, gardening Link here

It's been over a week since I slipped and pulled a muscle in my leg, and I gradually have to face up to the fact that it's not really getting any better. As a result, even my normal slow rate of work in the garden has ground to a halt. Tomorrow I'll go to a physiotherapist and get the leg looked at.

Yvonne did some work in the garden, including transplanting the volunteer Lobelias that have sprung up in various pots on the verandah. It's strange: we bought them last year, and they died pretty quickly, but apparently not before self-seeding all over the place. But in the process, discovered that my prize Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is looking very unhappy:


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Pruned first, took photos next and then went looking for the likely cause. After some consideration, I think it's wind burn. It wasn't the cool weather, because only a few weeks ago it was looking quite happy and even had buds on it. But since then we've had some heavy winds. Next year I think we should put these plants in the greenhouse for the winter. Took one of the prunings and put it in some potting mix; it's the right time of year, and maybe it will strike.

It didn't.

Monday, 13 September 2010 Dereel Images for 13 September 2010
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Healing the pulled muscle
Topic: general Link here

My leg is not getting much better, so in to town today to see Heather Dalman, a physiotherapist, something that I haven't done for nearly 9 years. She gave me the pleasant news that I can expect it to take between 4 and 6 weeks to heal. And that with rms coming on Thursday. She did massage it and make it feel better, though.


New succulents
Topic: gardening Link here

The physiotherapists are just across the road from the Botanical Gardens, so in to see what was going on. Not much, it seems: even the big round succulent bed is being replanted, and there wasn't much to see. They had some succulents on sale, though, and bought an unspecified Aeonium with only the note “big yellow flowers”. But that's what I want. There's a nice example in the gardens, a far cry from the flowers of our Aeoniums:


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With the help of a helpful and well-informed staff member, also positively identified our Gasteria as a Gasteria carinata var. verrucosa “variegata”. Here's a photo of a couple of Gasterias they had on sale. The one in the front of the pot is the verrucosa, and if I recall correctly, the one behind (brighter green) is the normal carinata.


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Coincidentally, our Gasteria has finally finished blooming after nearly 6 weeks. In that time, the flower spike grew to 155 cm long, and the head (shown at the beginning on the left) grew to 77 cm:


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The staff member at the Botanical Gardens was surprised that it had already bloomed at all.


FreeBSD ports, day 8: not a single port
Topic: technology Link here

Continued building ports today, and after half an hour of more gstreamer plugins, decided I wasn't really interested in pidgin, so removed it from the build and continued with the next, GIMP. Then I went into town, and when I got back it was waiting in one of its innumerable configuration screens. So I didn't get even one port installed today, just 22 dependencies.


International mail
Topic: opinion, photography Link here

While in town, sent some books off to Jana Oesselmann in Zeven/Badenstedt, Germany. The books themselves had cost about $60, and they weighed about 1.7 kg. She wanted them sent airmail, which cost $67—far more than I would have expected.

In the other direction, I'm still trying to find a source for a pano-MAXX. Karl Grabherr in Wien is prepared to send me one, but first it has to be sent to Austria, for which the company wants 20 €. Within Germany it's only 4 €. Did a bit of investigation and found that a 1 kg parcel from Austria to Australia costs only 19 €. Somehow the relationships make no sense at all.


Leg healing process: not fast
Topic: general Link here

My leg felt a whole lot better after Heather had treated it, but it didn't stay that way. In the course of the afternoon and evening it got steadily worse, and by the time I went to bed I could barely walk. That's not what I was expecting.


Tuesday, 14 September 2010 Dereel
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More leg pain
Topic: general Link here

Somehow my leg isn't getting much better. Woke up this morning with it feeling marginally better than yesterday evening, but no better than yesterday morning. Kept pretty immobile all day, and in the evening Yvonne suggested I try some pills she has for “pulled muscles”; she had removed most of the label to write that on the package, but I was just able to find something saying “diclofenac 50 mg”. That's the stuff that's in the gel I've been rubbing on the leg, and so I thought it would be worth a try. It's not 100% clear that it made the difference, but from then on my leg was much less painful.


FreeBSD ports build, day 9
Topic: technology Link here

On with my ports build. It's becoming increasingly clear that this isn't the way to do it, but I'm still considering the options. They include:

Started moving data across in preparation for setting up a jail. The /home directory on defake, which contains the Ports Collection hierarchy, was nearly full. Removing the build directories freed up 7 GB of space in a very varied time:

The real issue is: why doesn't the clean target in the main Ports Makefile do this?

One difference that occurs to me this time: SkyMesh doesn't have a free mirror server, so I have to pay to download the tarballs. With Wideband and Aussie Broadband that was different, so I didn't have to limit the builds to the morning. Yet another reason to want to change from this abysmal ISP.


Wednesday, 15 September 2010 Dereel Images for 15 September 2010
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On the way to recovery
Topic: general Link here

My leg is—thank God—continuing to improve. I don't like taking medication, and in case of doubt I won't, but it's fairly clear that the diclofenac has reduced inflammation and made it much easier for the muscle to heal. But there's a way to go yet, and once again I kept pretty still all day.


Infected sourdough starter: not that infected
Topic: cooking Link here

Three weeks ago I found a sourdough starter with strange worm-like surface:


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My enquiries on various forums brought no useful information at all. In fact, I don't think they even understood the question. So I decided that, since I was going to throw it away anyway, I'd take it out of the fridge and see what the “worms” did. Nothing. After about a week, some mould took over and caused a horrible smell, which was missing before. The third photo shows that the “worms” have not changed at all.


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So possibly the form just indicated lack of moisture. I'll keep my eyes open for the next time.


FreeBSD ports build, day 10
Topic: technology Link here

This ports building is taking an eternity. There are two obvious reasons: the processor is slow, and I only have about 3 hours a day to actually build. I really should pre-fetch the tarballs and build in a jail, but for the former I need to do a significant amount of coding, and for the latter I need to understand jails better, so today I just continued as before. My free low-peak traffic is running out, so I continued into the afternoon, and by 15:49 I installed the first port of the day, digikam. Then a couple of smaller other ones before starting on hugin, the cause of the upgrade. That's slow enough to build on dereel; on defake it was glacial, and it stopped when it wanted to install gcc version 4. I wonder why it needs that.


Happy Aeoniums
Topic: gardening Link here

The Aeonium I bought on Monday was well-developed and showed a couple of buds coming out of the stem. The staff member suggested that I should cut off the stem above these buds and plant the rest as a separate plant, so that's what Yvonne did yesterday. I didn't take any photos of it when I bought it—something that I should really do as a matter of course—but today the buds had already grown considerably:


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I'm pretty sure that they didn't have a second level of petals when I bought it.


Thursday, 16 September 2010 Dereel Images for 16 September 2010
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Growing spaghetti
Topic: gardening Link here

The October issue of Burke's backyard [sic] gardening magazine arrived today, along with another sachet of seeds—for spaghetti!

 
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You'd think that somewhere they'd say what it really is (OK, Cucurbita pepo, but that includes a lot of things; in fact, it seems that people really do call this variety Vegetable spaghetti.


rms in Ballarat
Topic: technology Link here

It has taken quite some time, but today finally Richard Stallman made it to Ballarat. Things weren't all plain sailing. To start with, I wanted to add a link to the official announcement, which was severely broken:


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Investigation showed that it only displayed correctly with Microsoft. Even Apple (as shown) couldn't handle it. The W3 validator showed that it had a total of 375 errors, and the breakage was due to the use of (undeclared) Microsoft-specific characters. Just what rms would want. To the credit of the university, they took down the page as soon as I told them.

At about 15:35 a call from Jack Burton in Adelaide, telling me that rms was on the train to Ballarat. That would have had to be the 14:53, due to arrive in Ballarat at 16:18. Nobody had contacted me, so off in a hurry to pick rms and Dora up. Arrived only a little late, and of course they weren't there; the people in Melbourne had been rather vague in their terminology, and in fact they were still waiting in Spencer St. station. Down to the SMB campus of the university and met Glenn Stevens and some of the other people organizing the event. The lecture theatre holds 120 people, but 160 had registered, so they were planning to video the talk and broadcast it live to an overflow theatre.

To do that, it seems, they had to have the projector running—there was no provision to turn it off while the lecture was being transmitted. As one of the staff said, “We want it to be as easy to use as possible. The lecturers don't want to be involved with setup issues”. But of course there's no innate conflict between flexibility and ease of use. In this case the simplicity was an obstacle to ease of use. The real problem (and the explanation) is what the projector was displaying: a Microsoft “desktop”. And they had no way of turning it off short of shutting down the system! In the end, that's what they did. They scrapped the idea of the second theatre and put chairs in the aisles for the overflow. So much for “ease of use”; once again, it's commercial software holding people to ransom. I'm continually amazed by the constraints people take upon themselves so that they can run commercial software.

Back down to the station, and rms and Dora arrived as planned shortly after the scheduled arrival time of 17:19. Glenn took some of the merchandise, and rms, Dora and I headed off to Ballarat Bird World. In view of the time, rms wanted to skip the visit, but we had asked them to stay open specially for his visit, so he agreed.

On the way he gave another example of bad language from Vline (itself an obfuscatory term for the state railway transport system). It seems that the train he came in on wasn't a train at all, also not a coach, but an “intercity” (the previous one had been a train). And it continued on to Maryborough, in the process changing its length and its identity. It seems that only the first two coaches were continuing, so they made an announcement that continuing passengers should move there. Well, that's the intention. I had always thought that a coach was a part of a train, but for Vline it seems it's a bus. They have a new term for coach now: “velocity unit”. rms wanted to know whether it was Imperial or metric.

At the bird world, up to see Cheeky and Jesse, the red-tailed black cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus banksii subspecies Macrorhynchus), and rms decided that it had been worth the trouble after all; he had never been that close to black cockatoos before:


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In the process, discovered that my careful preparations for the evening had been compromised by the sudden dash to the railway station. I had packed a camera bag with a spare (telephoto) lens, flash unit, and also brought a tripod. I didn't forget them: I forgot the camera instead, so I had to take all the photos with my Nikon “Coolpix” L1, which is irritating me more and more.

Back to the university, arriving at 18:30 for the barbecue, which started at 18:00. That proved not to be such a problem: I had thought that the idea was for people to meet rms before the talk, but in fact we all went upstairs to a staff room and ate there. I was not unhappy about that: my leg, which had been feeling relatively acceptable in the morning, was getting more and more painful. Clearly it's not up to much walking yet, and I'll have to scrap the ideas of going to the Great Ocean Road with them tomorrow.

In the process, rms made acquaintance with Australian Open Sauce:


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True to form, he declined.

He said he was tired—not surprising, since this was the third talk in a little over 24 hours—but he was clearly not as tired as last time I saw him, where he went to sleep while holding his talk. It seems that it's the only time he has ever done that, and until tonight he didn't know how long he had been asleep (it was only a few seconds).

The talk turned out to be a hybrid of “Free Software and Your Freedom” and “Copyright vs Community in the Age of the Computer Networks”, and as a result ran far longer than planned. Back home and spent some time talking, while rms ran into trouble with our lack of DHCP connectivity. In the end, he had to patch into a switch with cable, something that people don't seem to do much any more:


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But I really should set up a DHCP server on dereel.


FreeBSD ports build, day 11
Topic: technology Link here

It's bad enough that things take so long with only 3 hours a day to build software, but today I seem to have managed to make things worse. hugin takes forever to build, and somehow I managed to accidentally repeat the process. As a result, another day with just a single “base” port (a port that I want, as opposed to a port installed as a dependency).


Friday, 17 September 2010 Dereel Images for 17 September 2010
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rms eats breakfast after all
Topic: general, technology, cooking, history Link here

Up after far too little sleep, but the good news (for rms) was that a couple of crimson rosellas had shown up in front of the verandah. rms off to try to get photos of them, but without luck. But those are the first rosellas we've seen here in weeks. Maybe they sensed a kindred spirit.

One of the things that rms states in his “visiting hacker” package (my name, not his) is that he doesn't eat breakfast. We do, and we weren't sure about Dora. In the end, we did all eat breakfast, and I got at least one sign of approval for my sourdough rye bread:


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Unfortunately, my leg was still hurting, so I decided not to go on the tour of the Great Ocean Road. Sasha Ivkovic showed up to take them, and almost before they had arrived, they were gone again.

As a result, didn't get much chance to talk. We did discuss old computer software, including the origins of the words CAR and CDR. There's no reasonable doubt that they stand for “Contents of the A part of register number” (specifically, the last 15 bits), but what does “register number” mean? Unfortunately, rms was unable to help. I'm pretty sure it means “memory location”, as the assembly macro CDR appears to confirm:

LXD JLOC,4               # Load index from decrement
CLA 0,4                  # Clear and add
PDX 0,4                  # Place decrement in index
PXD 0,4                  # Place index in decrement

The instruction mnemonics are from John Savard's IBM 704 page, but that page doesn't say what the parameters are, nor what “index” means. I need to look at this in more detail, but it seems that the first instruction loads the decrement part of JLOC, and the others somehow massage it. It's not clear what the 4 means. It looks like a (processor) register number, but there weren't that many of any kind of register on the IBM 704.

Also discussed the issues in MACLISP, which ran on the PDP-10. Although the PDP-10 was a good machine for LISP, the lack of tag bits in the machine word made it difficult to identify the kind of object that a pointer was pointing to. The 704 had a 3 bit tag field that was used for that purpose, but the PDP-10 (also a 36 bit machine) had 18 bit addresses, so there was no space for any further information in the word itself. Instead they allocated like kinds of object on specific pages, and it was the page address that indicated the type.

This was also one of the reasons why rms chose UNIX and C as a base for GNU rather than ITS/LISP: he couldn't see a good way to implement a fast, reliable LISP system on commodity hardware. I wonder what the world would have been like if he had.

One of the issues we had in getting rms to come here in the first place was because I had suggested to Josh Stewart of the Ballarat Linux Users' Group that he invite rms. But rms is much more resolute about not supporting just “Linux” than he used to be, and said it wouldn't be appropriate to speak to a group that concentrate just on Linux. He suggested changing the name of the group to indicate a dedication to all free software. I was for it, of course, and so was Josh, but so far nothing has happened. Today rms suggested the use of the word Eureka somewhere. That sounds like a very good idea.


FreeBSD ports build, day 12
Topic: technology Link here

On with my ports building, including a few big ports such as Apache, PHP and Wine. To my surprise, they all compiled, and all the rest of the ports too: I'm finished. It was rather a surprise.

So where do I go from here? I should still install a jail, but not in /home/jail: that's what /destdir is for. And then I should finally finish configuring the thing and boot from it. Mañana, at the very earliest.


More maps for my GPS navigator
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

Bought some new maps for my GPS navigator on eBay. Well, they're different maps. They seem to be marginally older than the ones I have. But how do I install them? First I clearly should back up the memory of the navigator with this emetic Microsoft “ActiveSync” software. The instructions tell me:

After all that, copying files to the navigator was easy enough. Copied the files for Germany and France, but the system didn't see them. Why not? I'll have to investigate some other time.


Feedback: New diary layout
Topic: technology Link here

Mail from Harald Arnesen about the new diary layout. He likes it; that seems to be the general opinion in what feedback I have received, so I think I'll keep it. He's particularly happy that the text is narrower, but computer output isn't. I agree. But he doesn't seem to have noticed (or cared) that the line length of bullet lists is the same, so they jut out beyond the nominal text margin. I still need to think how to do that right.


Saturday, 18 September 2010 Dereel Images for 18 September 2010
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Life back to normal?
Topic: general, cooking Link here

Finally my leg is—again—getting better, and I could hobble without much pain. Spent the day baking bread and taking photos.


House photos: still more panoramas
Topic: photography Link here

It's gradually becoming clear that just about every photo I take of the garden could be some kind of panorama. I've changed the dam panorama so that it covers the lagoon as well:


 
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It also covers both of the other dam photos, so I suppose it's about time to retire them. In addition, considered the long-standing shot south-east from the verandah at the north of the house. It has shown some of the biggest changes of all. Here the first, taken on 21 October 2007, and potentially the last, taken last weekend:


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I can't make up my mind what to do with this one. It, too, is a candidate for a panorama, but that changes things completely, especially if I look round to the west as well (second image):


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I accidentally deleted the second image at some point, then recreated it from memory. Potentially it looks slightly different from the original.

I suspect there's a place for both or all views. To be considered.

The other one that presented itself was a combination of two previous views:


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I suspect there will be still more.


Sunday, 19 September 2010 Dereel Images for 19 September 2010
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The rosellas return
Topic: general, photography Link here

The rosellas that rms tried in vain to get photos of are back. Putting some bird seed in a flower pot seems to have helped:


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One thing's clear, though: at 300 mm focal length (equivalent to 600 mm full-frame), I can't get close enough to the bird. This is the whole background to my search for longer telephoto lenses, of course. Put on my Hanimex 300 mm f/5.5 with a three-fold teleconverter, making 900 mm (1800 mm effective) and tried again, but it's not very convincing. I had to stop down to f/11 to get any depth of field, and the teleconverter made f/33 out of that, so I had to expose for 0.4 seconds, during which time the bird moved:


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Oh for a good long telephoto lens!


More spring preparations
Topic: gardening Link here

My leg is getting a little better, and despite the hesitant coming of spring, there's plenty to do in the garden. Pruned the Buddleja near the south-eastern corner of the house, but didn't have the energy for much more.


Opor ayam
Topic: cooking Link here

One of the results of the heavy winds at the beginning of the month was that we had a lot of detached Kaffir Lime leaves. Did a bit of investigation of possible dishes to cook with them, and finally came across a recipe for opor ayam. The recipe itself seems to be of dubious authenticity, and I made it worse by substituting various herbs and spices, but the result wasn't too bad. About the worst thing is probably that there was too much coconut milk—one of the disadvantages, I fear, of using canned coconut milk instead of the old-style thick and thin coconut milk. I wonder what people in Indonesia do nowadays.


Monday, 20 September 2010 Dereel Images for 20 September 2010
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More leg massage
Topic: general Link here

My leg was feeling really good yesterday, but today it was worse again. I suspect that for some time to come it will need more rest than I have been giving it. Into town today to see Heather, and once again felt a lot better after leaving—for a little while. I'll be glad when this is all over.


Paulownia preparing to bloom
Topic: gardening Link here

Our Paulownia kawakami (Sapphire Dragon) is about 2½ years old, and about 4 metres tall. This year, for the first time, it looks set to bloom. The buds are about 1.5 cm wide, and gradually they're lifting a corner to take a look out:


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dereel disk problems
Topic: technology Link here

While taking the photos of the Paulownia, considered that it's time to switch over to the new operating system for dereel. What's holding me up? I hate rebooting. dereel was only up 50 days, but still. On top of that, I can see lots of issues with X. But something almost forced my hand. Came back and found messages like:

Sep 20 15:03:37 dereel kernel: ad8: FAILURE - SETFEATURES SET TRANSFER MODE status=51<READY,DSC,ERROR> error=84<ICRC,ABORTED>
Sep 20 15:03:37 dereel kernel: ad8: TIMEOUT - READ_DMA48 retrying (1 retry left) LBA=1197883311
Sep 20 15:03:38 dereel kernel: ad8: WARNING - READ_DMA48 UDMA ICRC error (retrying request) LBA=1197881251
Sep 20 15:03:47 dereel kernel: ad8: WARNING - SETFEATURES SET TRANSFER MODE taskqueue timeout - completing request directly
Sep 20 15:03:51 dereel kernel: ad8: WARNING - SETFEATURES SET TRANSFER MODE taskqueue timeout - completing request directly
Sep 20 15:03:55 dereel kernel: ad8: WARNING - SETFEATURES ENABLE RCACHE taskqueue timeout - completing request directly
Sep 20 15:03:59 dereel kernel: ad8: WARNING - SETFEATURES ENABLE WCACHE taskqueue timeout - completing request directly

That was only part of it. The entire disk subsystem (including other disks) appeared to be in some kind of hang. Even the log messages didn't all make it there: there were several FAILUREs as well. I had no option but to reboot (and no option what system to boot: the new one isn't finished yet), pondering how to restore the disk: it's a 1 TB file system, and I don't back all of it up. But it came back with no problems at all. Was this really a disk error or something else masquerading as a disk error?


Tuesday, 21 September 2010 Dereel Images for 21 September 2010
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Finishing the vegetable garden
Topic: gardening Link here

Spring is coming more slowly than usual, but it's coming. There's plenty of work to do, and with my leg I can't do much of it, as my attempts a couple of days ago showed. So today CJ came along to put up the fence around the vegetable patch to protect it against wind and rabbits. To my surprise, that took up all day, and he still wasn't finished:


 
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The time expectations were probably just a misassumption on my part. He'll be back in a couple of days to finish things off.


More flowers
Topic: gardening Link here

The Erysimum “Bowles mauve” that we transplanted last year looked quite unhappy at the start, but they have completely changed their mind. The following photos were taken before the transplant, afterwards and (from the other direction) last weekend:


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By contrast, the Erysimum cheiri that I transplanted into the north bed over 2 years ago have barely managed to stay alive—until now. This year they're finally starting to flower:


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The Crassula “Springtime” that we bought last April is also finally flowering:


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Setting up bip
Topic: technology Link here

I've been using dircproxy to work around the continual dropouts that SkyMesh, my ISP, blames on my modem. It works relatively well—I've been connected for 3 months now—but it only allows one connection per nick. If I use a proxy, I might as well be able to connect concurrently from different places (in particular from the lounge room and the TV). Some months ago I installed bip, but couldn't get it to work. On connection I got the message:

Error in protocol, closing...

What does that mean? It still happened today, so first upgraded to the latest version (from version 0.7.2 to 0.8.6; how I mistrust software with a version number < 1), but with no change. Did a bit of googling and discovered that this is bips inimitable way of saying “I just got a SIGSEGV”.

Went looking for other alternatives—somebody mentioned quassel, but when I went to build it, it required qt, with which I have had bloat issues, so gave up on that pretty quickly.

Back to bip and experimented. Success! Well, workaround: it seems that bip doesn't expect spaces in passwords, and its way of telling you is to SIGSEGV. Clearly a bug; but why hasn't anybody fixed it? People claim that one advantage of open source free software is that you can fix bugs yourself. And so you can, if you can program. But I can't be bothered, and it seems that nobody else can be either: the disadvantage of free software is that it exists to scratch an itch. No itch, no improvement.


Wednesday, 22 September 2010 Dereel Images for 22 September 2010
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Google hates me!
Topic: technology Link here

Everybody uses Google, of course, at least the search engine. I use it all the time, and because of the long satellite delays, it's much faster to set my default settings to return 100 replies. But lately that hasn't been happening; I've been getting only 10. Changing it in the settings doesn't help: it tells me it has saved the settings, but it lies.

That would be strange enough, but during my experimentation I discovered that it only happens when the display language is English. If I set it to German or Dutch, I can get 100 replies—but of course, the selection changes and I get more German or Dutch replies at the top, so that's not a solution. But what's causing it? Debugging this sort of thing seems to be almost impossible. It's not even clear whether it's Google or the browser.


bip problems: required by RFC?
Topic: technology Link here

Discussed yesterday's problems with bip on IRC today, and somebody came up with the possibility that the IRC protocol might not be transmitting passwords with spaces correctly. Did some tracerouting and found that yes, indeed, it was all arriving:

02:29:41.871880 IP sat-gw-ext.lemis.com.55016 > 1032.x.rootbsd.net.7778: P 154:233(79) ack 43 win 32768
E..w..@.).\F..p..V.....b..#g..*gP...>Z..PRIVMSG #bugs :E..>.4@.).....p..V.../.b..<J.<..P.......pass grog:FOO BLAH:oz

The payload here is grog:FOO BLAH:oz (user, password and internal channel ID separated by :). Somebody else came up with RFC 1549, claiming that it didn't allow spaces there (section 2.3.1):

<message>  ::= [':' <prefix> <SPACE> ] <command> <params> <crlf>
<prefix>   ::= <servername> | <nick> [ '!' <user> ] [ '@' <host> ]
<command>  ::= <letter> { <letter> } | <number> <number> <number>
<SPACE>    ::= ' ' { ' ' }
<params>   ::= <SPACE> [ ':' <trailing> | <middle> <params> ]

<middle>   ::= <Any *non-empty* sequence of octets not including SPACE
               or NUL or CR or LF, the first of which may not be ':'>
<trailing> ::= <Any, possibly *empty*, sequence of octets not including
                 NUL or CR or LF>

In particular, <middle> doesn't allow spaces. But the way I interpret this is that this is just the way IRC parses the message. Clearly you can use as many spaces as you want in a message text. And in this case, it's bip that is doing the parsing according to its rules. I still see it as two bugs: first, not allowing spaces in passwords, and secondly (which nobody disputes) SIGSEGV is not the way to report it.


More garden flowers
Topic: gardening Link here

Things are gradually coming to life as spring progresses. Last year I planted a Cyclamen under one of the birches, and it sat there doing nothing all through the spring; but finally it's coming to life:


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There's also one plant that I can't identify. We've seen it several times; Yvonne thought it might be a Forget-me-not, but it's clearly not that. Is it a plant or a weed?


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The mystery plant is in the first photo. The plant in the middle of the second photo is different: it's self-sown Oregano, which is popping up all over the garden, along with self-sown strawberries (top left). It's not clear whether the other one is a weed or not. I wonder if it's Antirrhinum, which we planted in the area last year. I could well imagine it self-seeding extensively.


Bathing Nemo
Topic: animals Link here

One of the problems with long-haired dogs is that they get dirty. Today Nemo crowned himself in glory by rolling in mud at Chris' place, and we had no option but to bathe him:


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That was his first time ever, but fortunately it wasn't too much of a mess


Long telephoto shots: still no joy
Topic: photography Link here

The rosellas came back to the feeding bowl today, so attempted a few more long telephoto shots:


 
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These are taken with my 300 mm Hanimex and a 3x teleconverter. They're really barely acceptable. Yes, better than some I took with the toys I bought last year, but still not nearly good enough. To get any kind of depth of field I needed to stop down to nominal f/11 (really f/33), and even then I couldn't get the whole field sharp enough. On top of that, chromatic aberration made a real mess of things, and because of the aperture I had to choose a really slow shutter speed, between 1/8s and 0.8s. The tripod kept the lens steady, but the birds didn't keep still enough. I really don't know how to improve the situation.


More TV reception problems
Topic: multimedia, technology Link here

For some reason my TV reception is deteriorating again. I can't work out why, but it seems to relate to the new USB tuner, which for some reason is being detected as tuner 0, though it's at the end of the antenna cable daisy chain (it has to, since it has no antenna out connector). Rebooted the machine and things seemed better. I wish I knew why this stuff is so flaky.


Thursday, 23 September 2010 Dereel
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Another power failure
Topic: general Link here

Another power failure in the middle of the night, this one apparently very short: only the clock radio in the bedroom was affected. Things do seem to have got better since the Nottles moved in across the road. A pity they're moving out again already.


Teaching with aid of free software projects
Topic: technology Link here

Sasha Ivkovic along today to bring back the map he borrowed from me last Friday. Did a bit of talking: he runs a class for second year students every year, notionally to learn project management skills, but he prefers real-life projects, so he encourages people to participate in free software projects. But which? It seems that he spoke to rms about it last week, but rms thought that it would just be a waste of the maintainer's time. I don't think the FreeBSD project would see it that way: we have a project ideas page for exactly that purpose. Maybe we can get some contributions from them.

Of course, what's the benefit? The average second year student probably can't contribute that much (maybe that's what rms was thinking), and how much can you learn of project management by participating in any free software project? We'll see, hopefully.


FreeBSD jails
Topic: technology Link here

It's been some time since I finished the software upgrade intended to become the new dereel, and I've been treading water. First I need to get my head around jails


Working around tuner problems
Topic: multimedia, technology Link here

The more I look at it, the more it seems that the tuner problems I'm having are mechanical in nature. While playing around with cables, managed to wedge the computer a couple of times, and after powering down and reseating everything, it seemed to work well again. The only question is: how long?


Friday, 24 September 2010 Dereel → Stawell → Halls Gap → Dereel Images for 24 September 2010
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Visiting the Grampians
Topic: gardening, technology Link here

Off to Stawell today to visit the Spring Orchid Show, which appears to be particularly famous. Cut across country, and the worst thing that could happen did happen: my GPS navigator hung itself up again, so we didn't know very well how to continue. I think I'm going to give up on the navigator: it's hardly worth trying to put more maps on it when I can't even rely on it to run when I need it. I'll get ALDI to repair, replace or refund it. If they do the former, I'll sell it or keep it as a backup.

In Stawell, had a lot of fun finding the place. “Entertainment Centre, Main St.” was all the information we had, and it wasn't on the VicRoads country street directory. After my GPS navigator came back to life, confirmed that it didn't know about the entertainment centre either. There were also no signs. Finally ended up asking somebody, and it seemed that we had been past it twice. They had put up signs—no less than four next to each other directly outside the Entertainment Centre, but nothing further away. Even directly in front of the venue there was almost nothing to be seen (first photo). The one sign potentially visible from this viewpoint is hidden by the billboard on the left. The only sign visible at all was at the rear of the building, carefully placed to that you can't see it when driving a car (second photo), and where you can't easily access the hall.


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Getting out of the car, tried turning off the hung GPS navigator. It worked! I had previously disconnected the USB cable (which charges it) to let the battery discharge, but before trying to turn it off, I reconnected it in the hope of getting it to shut down on disconnect (which is the default behaviour). Was that the reason I was able to turn it off? On the whole, I think not: it just hung in a different way.


Stawell Orchid Show
Topic: gardening Link here

The show itself was smaller than I expected:


 
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That's about 60% of the total exhibition, but then, we were in a small country town. I was also not overly interested in the “artistic” arrangements; after some consideration we came to the conclusion that the best one was the one on the left:


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They had a vote for the best exhibition. I was going to withhold my vote, but they were giving away small Dendrobium plants to people who voted, so I did after all:


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They certainly had some spectacular orchids:


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As planned, and with the help of some of the people at the show, bought a couple of orchids: A Cymbidium “Careless heart” and a small Dendrobium with a big name on its tag: Dendrobium (snowflake x merlin) x Hinazura “Winifred Fortesque” [sic]”. The Cymbidium had a couple of flower spikes on it which had come off, so now we have orchids in the vases for a month or two. The Dendrobium looks pretty dried out, but it seems it's healthy enough.


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It's interesting to compare the differences between here and Melbourne. There the orchids cost in the order of $45; here we paid $25 for the Cymbidium and $12 for the Dendrobium. The advice was also very different. It looks like we've opened a can of worms here.


Halls Gap and the Grampians
Topic: gardening, general Link here

It was still early when we let the show, so decided to head for Halls Gap and take a look around there. On the way noticed some strange weeds along with the inevitable Capeweed (clearly visible in the first photo):


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They're Gazanias, of course, but growing wild. They're also some of the prettiest I've seen, so did my part to help remove weeds and took those four plants with us.

Had lunch in Halls Gap: “Souvlaki”, really a kind of Gyros. I suppose I should have known what I was in for when I had the choice of beef, chicken or vegetarian, but not lamb. The weather was really mild: it must have been over 20°, something we haven't experienced at home for months.

Once again to the visitor centre, where I once again got very little information about what to see. In view of the condition of my leg, which is healing but not yet good, decided to try a couple of places potentially reachable by car. That appeared to be Mount William, so set off, on the way passing a turnoff to Silverband Falls, which aren't marked on the official tourist map. But they required a 1 km walk, normally nothing, but not appropriate for today. When we got to the turnoff for Mt. William we discovered that the car park is 2 km from the summit, so decided against going any further. Potentially we could have seen something from the car park, but it was 20 km there and back, and without any useful documentation we decided against it.

Headed off back home, and in Pomonal saw a sign pointing to a wildflower nursery. Headed off to take a look, and were very pleasantly surprised: they had not just the nursery, but a garden full of particularly unusual plants and shrubs:


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Yvonne was particularly taken by a Grevillea lavendulacea x lanigera:


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So we bought one of those, and also a Eucalyptus macrocarpa (which they claim will only grow to 2 metres), and a Leionema dentatum (“shrub 1 to 2m. Masses of cream flowers in spring”), and a Orthrosanthus polystachus (“Tufting grass-like foliage. Blue flowers in spring”). There's nothing in the description to say so, but it seems that this last is a bog plant.


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We also particularly liked the flowers of the Eucalyptus caesia and the Hakea macreana:


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Unfortunately, they didn't have any seedlings, so they gave us some of the seed capsules. Now to see if we can get any viable seeds out of them.

Back home: the temperature had only hit 17.2° here. I wonder if the Grampians are really warmer, or whether it was just today. Planted the Gazanias, which had split up from 4 to 17 plantlets. I wonder how many will survive. While we were away, CJ had finished the vegetable garden, as planned. Now we don't have much excuse for not planting things.


Saturday, 25 September 2010 Dereel Images for 25 September 2010
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A whole day of photo processing
Topic: photography, technology Link here

Saturday's house photo day, of course, and so had my usual work with that. But today there was the backlog of yesterday's photos to do as well, with the result that it was nearly 15:00 before I was finished. Now I have only panorama photos of the garden, though in some cases I wonder if it makes much difference. Here a single photo of two weeks ago, and today's “panorama”:


 
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This variation is also showing a weakness in my photo processing. At the moment I have a list of which photos I should take, and I feed that into some scripts which ultimately create the photos. But I've had up to 60 individual photos to make one panorama (one to 5 photos at different exposures to create an HDR base photo, and up to 12 base photos), and manipulating them is difficult. I should think of a way to codify them in a more compact manner.


More diary hits than expected
Topic: technology, general Link here

I started counting hits on my diary about 10 years ago. At the time I was getting about 35 hits a day; lately the number has been hovering around 130, with more from the RSS feed. And then today I made a mistake in my markup. It usually doesn't show on the web page, but I have checks in my PHP code for that sort of thing, and they send me mail messages. But how many! In 2½ hours I got 741 error mail messages. Off to investigate and discovered:


Sunday, 26 September 2010 Dereel Images for 26 September 2010
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Spring finally coming?
Topic: general, gardening Link here

Finally it's warming up! Today was the first in over 4 months where the outside temperature exceeded 20°:

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Anorexia verna
Topic: general Link here

Yvonne left early to take Nemo to a tracking class, and I had to make breakfast myself. But I wasn't hungry, something that seldom happens to me. Was it the weather? I only ate half a breakfast, and skipped lunch, but apart from that didn't feel in any way unwell. Was it due to the sudden change in weather maybe?


Spring flowers
Topic: gardening Link here

For some months I've been taking photos of the flowers in the garden on the last Sunday of each month. This month, strangely, there's not that much difference to be seen. The Calendulas and tulips are now blooming happily, and the very first jasmine flower has opened:


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About the most interesting things are the Gazanias that we brought back from Stawell on Friday. I pulled them out of the ground, left them to dry out in the car for several hours, then just planted them in the ground and watered them in. And the flowers on them are still flowering! Here “before” and “after”


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Clearly they've suffered, but they should be dead.


Race conditions in photo processing
Topic: photography, technology Link here

Had a strange problem processing my photos today. One photo, and one photo only, was corrupt. I use the Ashampoo photo optimizer to enhance the images, and since the problem occurred after using that, I suspected that. But the image looked strange to begin with. The sky is blotchy:


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convert (one of these ambiguously named ImageMagick programs) got quite upset with the original, but not with the result. It produced copious quantities of messages like:

convert: Corrupt JPEG data: bad Huffman code `_Ashampoo_Photo_Optimizer_Backup/Cathedral-3.jpeg'.
convert: Inconsistent progression sequence for component 0 coefficient 1 `_Ashampoo_Photo_Optimizer_Backup/Cathedral-3.jpeg'.
convert: Corrupt JPEG data: 58605 extraneous bytes before marker 0xd9 `_Ashampoo_Photo_Optimizer_Backup/Cathedral-3.jpeg'.

Did some investigation and discovered that the corruption occurred when convert converted the original to a more highly compressed version. The Ashampoo optimizer seems to have silently fixed some of the breakage. But how could that happen? The clue came when I looked at the list of photos to convert. The file name Cathedral-3.jpeg showed up twice:

P9261379 Cathedral-2.jpeg 0 3
P9261380 Cathedral-3.jpeg 0 3
P9261381 Cathedral-3.jpeg 0 3

But that shouldn't be a problem. To convert the files, I use the target convert in my photo Makefile:

convert:
        grep -v '^#' makejpeg | by 5 ${TOOLS}/imgconvert

The relevant part of imgconvert is:

if [ ! -s $NAME -a ! -s Components/$NAME ]; then
   $ECHO convert -interlace line -quality $QUALITY -rotate $ROTATION $SRC $NAME
fi

Clearly there's a check for the existence of the file there, so it should only process the first occurrence of the name. And that's what it used to do. But now I have a multi-processor machine, and I do it in parallel (by 5, i.e. 5 processes at a time), so these two conversions occur concurrently. And it seems that somehow two different instances of convert write to the same file. I need to work out how that could happen, but at least I've tracked down where the problem is occurring (and have since fixed it).


Monday, 27 September 2010 Dereel Images for 27 September 2010
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The last physiotherapy visit
Topic: general, gardening Link here

Into town again to see Heather, who decided that my leg is improving enough that I don't need to come back unless something goes wrong. As she predicted two weeks ago, it will take between 4 and 6 to heal, but things aren't too bad now. It's just a nuisance that I still can't do much work in the garden.

While in town, to Bunnings to buy some irrigation stuff. We're pretty much ready to plant the vegetables now, but we need water. Now if I only had the agility to lay the stuff.


Feline neighbours
Topic: animals Link here

Looked out the window of lounge room today and saw:


 
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That's one of Lee Nottle's cats, I think. It didn't show any inclination to go away, and when I went back a couple of minutes later, I found:


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That's Piccola, of course. They just sat there for some time looking at each other. Lee and Ray are moving out soon (they only bought the house in March), and heading to the Dominican Republic. I wonder what will happen to the cats.


Tuesday, 28 September 2010 Dereel Images for 28 September 2010
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Birthdays and Facebook
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

Today was my birthday, and for the first time I got lots of birthday greetings: 4 on IRC, 8 email messages, and 15 on Facebook. Half of the email messages were from web forums which I have joined and to which I mistakenly gave my correct date of birth.

Now I don't really use Facebook. I signed up years ago and haven't seen any reason to leave, but about the only thing I do is go there every few months and attend to any “friend” requests. And in previous years I haven't received this much attention. But how do I reply? The correct way is on Facebook, of course, but that's such a pain. And the messages say something like this:

Date: Tue, 28 Sep 2010 00:08:13 -0700
From: Facebook <notification+ysrrnwrr@facebookmail.com>
Subject: Lim Kim Yong posted on your Wall.

Lim wrote:
"Happy Birthday Greg"

Reply to this email to comment on this post.

So I replied, and got a message back saying:

Date: Tue, 28 Sep 2010 00:19:18 -0700
From: Facebook <notification+ysrrnwrr@facebookmail.com>
Subject: Your Facebook comment could not be submitted...

The comment you tried to submit via email could not be submitted because of the following error:
You must enter text before adding a comment.

Please try submitting this comment through the Facebook website instead.

What kind of message is that? No reference to which message, not even an In-Reply-To: header, and how can you add a comment without entering text? Somehow all this stuff seems completely broken. But it's amazing how many people I respect use it. I wonder why.


Fujitsu air conditioners: broken by design
Topic: general, opinion Link here

The brief warm spell a couple of days ago was far too brief, and today the temperature barely hit 13.5°; the average was 7.8°, and we had the air conditioners turned on all day. That doesn't mean they were running: they have a mind of their own. For some time I've been trying to find incontrovertible evidence of breakage in their temperature regulation firmware, and there are at least two issues:

I have many other complaints about this system, but I think these two are such a clear indication of broken firmware or design that nobody can deny them.


How to reset an ALDI GPS navigator
Topic: general, technology Link here

Over the last few months I've commented on my ALDI GPS navigation system, in particular how it continually hangs, and how I haven't found a way to reset it when it does. There's a hole in the front of the unit just above the charge light on bottom left, but inserting a pin doesn't do anything interesting:


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Today, almost by coincidence and while looking for a replacement, I found the correct hole. It's on the side (where the paper clip is inserted), and it's even marked, in an almost completely illegible impression on the case:


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I'm quite proud of being able to get a photo of it: it's even more difficult to see with the naked eye. It effectively powers off the unit, and you need to power it on again; presumably it just interrupts the battery supply, which makes sense. So now I need to reconsider whether I should buy a new one.


Fixing web pages
Topic: technology Link here

A couple of days ago I discovered that I was getting lots of diary hits for long-expired entries. Finally got round to looking at my photo code, and it's ugly. Managed to remove some of the parameters, with the side-effect that the URLs have got a lot smaller. Now if I get a URL like http://www.lemis.com/grog/diary.php?dirdate=20071110&image=dam-nw.jpeg&imagesizes=302213, I redirect to the diary entry for 10 November 2007. What I can't do is show the photo: firstly, the image name is very often just plain wrong (there is no reference to that image in that month's diary; possibly something I should investigate), and secondly it wasn't used properly anyway. But at least it doesn't give null references on the current diary page.

The other issue is that I shouldn't be letting the bots index my diary. That's simple:

    <meta name="robots" content="noindex" />

But instead they should index my monthly diary (currently http://www.lemis.com/grog/diary-sep2010.php). How do I get them to do that? They don't seem to do it by default, possibly because they don't find anything they haven't already found in the current diary page. According to the documentation, the meta tag content shouldn't stop the crawlers following links. But that's something I'll have to observe.


Wednesday, 29 September 2010 Dereel Images for 29 September 2010
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Paulownia buds
Topic: gardening, photography Link here

Spring is progressing slowly, but the Paulownia kawakami buds are gradually preparing to open. Here a little over a week ago and today:


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Getting the photos was a nightmare. The light was from the back, so I needed flash, and once again the exposure was terrible. Took the first shots with the camera's flash, and wasn't happy with them. Got my Mecablitz 58 AF-1 O digital flash and tried again—and things were much worse! The first of the following photos was taken with TTL automatic exposure, and it's underexposed by at least 3 EV. Even with +3 EV compensation (the maximum that Olympus allows), it was barely enough. Sometimes I wonder why I bother with automatic exposure.


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More garden construction
Topic: general, gardening Link here

CJ along today to finish off the work in the garden, but Yvonne hijacked him for a couple of hours to start burning off the fallen branches we've acquired over the winter and to do some trimming work that the Shire Council should have done:


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I wasn't mobile enough to help, but Yvonne did some work with him. After finishing off the garden fence (but not the gate, which required rivets I don't have here), they put the baseboards on the verandah, the final and somewhat belated touch:


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We've decided to transplant our citrus trees, all of which look quite unhappy. If we put them in the south of the eastern part of the garden, in front of the garage, and put a wind break behind, we hope that they'll do better. That requires putting rails over the posts and hanging mesh down, like we've done in the north-east. Found some old timber from the verandah construction, which we had rejected because it was too twisted. I hope that it might straighten out, but at the moment it doesn't look too convincing:


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I think we might have to redo the section further away, including shortening the post with the weather station on it.


How to prove network problems to non-techies
Topic: technology Link here

This horrible SkyMesh satellite networking service is really bad again. It comes and goes in spells, and there seems to be little I can do about it. Sometimes I can go a couple of weeks without a dropout, but today I had 7. Paul Rees, my contact person at SkyMesh, who may or may not be the general manager, has been successful in deflecting my complaints by claiming that the modem is defective. I don't believe this, but I can't prove my viewpoint any more than he can. But he has one ace in his hand:

Based on IPSTAR\222s expertise as the satellite operator and our support staff\222s experience in troubleshooting problems like this, we believe it\222s the modem. What do you believe it to be?

The \222s are the result of his use of invalid (probably Microsoft) characters in an ISO 8859-1 text. If I leave the originals, they will render incorrectly and invalidate this page. His justification for this claim is not from any diagnostics (they don't do no steenking diagnostics), but his interpretation of IPStar's report on the matter some time in early June:

Signals all look to be very good so ODU would be doubtful of an issue but when the mass dropouts were occurring we can see failed login attempts (indicating Tx (transmit) issue) and quite a lot of 'PowerUp' as the logoff cause. As the Tx side of the UT is powered along with these logoff causes I made my recommendation in TT:24061 this morning at 9:21am AEST to check power onsite with the CPE (Customer Premises Equipment). If site is found to be fine then the next point of call would be to look at the modem as it would most likely be faulty in this case. Just to finish off, there was no service issue for this customer relating to equipment with the IPSTAR gateway or SkyMesh service.

Nearly all the “PowerUp” events were manual: I power cycled the modem in the hope of unwedging the link, usually in vain. Since then, most of the issues we've seen haven't been of this nature, as I tried at length to explain to Paul, but either he doesn't understand, or he chooses not to. Most of the issues we have are a generic event “No response from modem”, clearly something that could have multiple causes, and he made these claims appending a log showing multiple “No responses” and one “Modem powered down”, which I did manually. I can't see any connection with what the IPStar people described.

OK, there's an obvious way to check his claims: install a new modem. But he wants me to pay for it up front, a sum of $665.80 for a refurbished modem. Why up front?

We're not prepared to pay Skybridge to send you a modem because we have no way to get it back from you if you decide to keep it

That's just plain insulting. In addition, he has a direct debit authority for my account, so it's also incorrect. He suggested that I should buy a second-hand modem on eBay; what good is that? If I buy one and things don't improve, then he can say that this modem, too, is defective. Some of the responses have been decidedly childish:

>> .         You don't want to pay for an exchange modem unless you are sure
>> that it will solve the dropouts
>
> Would you?

 Yes, I would.

I'm convinced that this is an attempt to shut me up, and so far it has worked. But I'm quite sure that this problem isn't with the modem; all the indications are that it is in their network, including:

The real problem, though, is: what do I do? If I go anywhere to complain, such as the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, the people I will interface with will have even less understanding of the issues than Paul, and without some really conclusive proofs, they'll agree with him. And these toy modems seem to provide no way to debug the issue. I'm sure, though, that if SkyMesh had the goodwill to examine the problems more easily, they'd find a number of issues not related to satellite links.

So, as Paul asked:

What other problems would you have us fix, that don\222t affect all
our other customers, just you?

There are two obvious answers there: first, I can't confirm that no other customers have complained. But even if they haven't, that doesn't mean that they're not affected. Years ago I had to point out to Chris Yeardley that her satellite connection wasn't working correctly. What was the problem? Continual dropouts, of course. And she's technically savvy. Most users wouldn't understand enough to localize the problem.


Orkut: on the web, nobody knows that you're dead
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

While talking about Facebook, thought about how long it's been since I used Orkut, the first of these social networking sites, which some people I know have never heard of. Looked in again and found:

 
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Not many new features. In fact, of course, it's probably flash breakage of another kind. More bizarrely, though, Rob Levin is still there, though he died four years ago. I wonder how many other corpses are still on the web.


CSS: Not for my view of the world?
Topic: technology Link here

More playing around with CSS and my diary layout today. The big issue I have is to put normal text in a limited width box (about 70 characters) while using the full width of the window for photos and computer output. The CSS model doesn't really think that way: it's a strictly hierarchical arrangement, so each block must fit inside the containing element. To get what I want, I'd have to completely rearrange the way I see a document, placing arbitrary chunks of text into a <div> of appropriate width. That's ugly. It also means going back and modifying 158 diary files by hand. What I need is a way to do it with as little overhead as possible. So far, that still hasn't worked, but my approach has been to limit the size of paragraphs and <li> tags. And there's the problem: limit the width of the <li> and you limit the width of everything inside it. If I don't limit it, many of my old pages will render list elements in full width. So I need a limitation with exceptions, certainly not the way I would have done it if I had started out with this knowledge. But gradually I'm getting there.


Thursday, 30 September 2010 Dereel Images for 30 September 2010
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Spraying weeds
Topic: general Link here

In previous years we've had Ashley Musgrove come to spray the paddocks for weeds, but this year we've been unable to contact him. Despite the weather, the year's getting on, and we had to get it done, so today Don Fortescue came along and did things pretty quickly:


 
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More plants in the north bed
Topic: gardening Link here

To the immediate north of the house we have a verandah, then an area of gravel, and then a bed. It's been a pain to keep the gravel free of weeds, and we've been gradually planting bulbs that don't need watering beyond what the rain brings (in the winter). We have also had self-sowing of cat mint (which leaves the cats cold), thyme and violets. I suspect the last will die off in the summer, but we'll see. Today Yvonne planted some more plants: Sedum “gold mound”, some Carpobrotus and some Watsonias:


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Here's what they look like when they're flowering:


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Two years and counting
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

My external mail server has been up for two years:

Thu Sep 30 00:55:32 UTC 2010
12:55AM  up 731 days,  2:32, 3 users, load averages: 0.06, 0.01, 0.00

That's the longest up time I've ever had. People point out that this leaves it open to vulnerabilities. They mean “more open”, of course, and yes, that's true. But how much so? Since my Tandem days up time has been (almost) everything, and I don't see why I should worry about vulnerabilities on a site that is not very interesting to an attacker in the first place. If I can keep it up another year, I will.


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