|Thursday, 6 March 2014||Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel|
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|Topic: general, opinion||Link here|
To Specsavers in Ballarat this morning to have my eyes tested. They've moved since I was last there, and so has Google Maps' perception. It was wrong then, and it's wrong now. Specsavers even have the incorrect location on their web site. The test was a routine matter, and sure enough, no problems with my eyes, no changes in the prescription. But to do the test they put in some dilation drops that kept my pupils wide-open for nearly 2 hours.
Although my eyes haven't changed, something else has: since I got the new monitor, now 1½ years ago, the monitors on my desk have moved further away. Now they're 80 cm away from my face instead of 60. In terms of optical correction, that's a correction of 0.24 dioptres. And sure enough, I got a new prescription 0.25 dioptres weaker.
But what frames? It seems that my medical fund will pay for two sets of glasses with frames marked at up to $249. But all these frames look terrible! The only thing wrong with the ones I got last time was that they are so narrow that the sides dig into my skin. But they're all like that. In the end, I gave up and took one pair with $149 frames. And I had to pay $14.90 anyway, because BUPA doesn't cover anti-reflective coating. Never mind that my choice of glasses saved them round 70% of what they were prepared to pay for glasses and frames. I wish I understood these people.
Back home through painful glaring brightness. Next time I'll take sunglasses.
Internet in 20 years?
|Topic: technology, opinion||Link here|
One of the assignments is: “Write an essay that imagines how the Internet will be different 20 years from now”. That's an interesting thought, and so I wrote more than the 1000 word limit.
There's nothing surprising there. I don't really see any killer app coming: it's more a social issue now. I think network speeds will stagnate somewhere between 100 Mb/s and 1 Gb/s, unless the unexpected killer app shows up. No more paper newspapers, few books, no more radio-frequency radio or TV broadcasts, few physical shops. And maybe mass demonstrations and riots. O brave new world, that has such people in't!
Android and smart phones: change of opinion?
|Topic: technology, photography, opinion||Link here|
For years I've been saying that smart phones are not worth the trouble. And now I have had an Android tablet for over 6 months. Have I changed my opinions?
The first mention was a suggestion from Tom Maynard to take a smart phone to my greenhouse for identification purposes. My objections at the time were price, network coverage and display resolution. I suspect I was wrong in assuming that it would have to be a mobile network; I specifically mentioned the availability of an 802.11 network, but implicitly discounted it. And since then my assumption of a price of $800 has dropped to below $200, and the resolution of my current tablet is towards the low end at 1280×800.
The next issue was the matter of ease of use. I want a keyboard! And these things don't have them. The problem remains, and I don't see a solution.
It was clear fairly early on that a tablet would address my resolution issues better than a smart phone, and on 6 June 2012 I bought one. I returned it after some experimentation, for at least the reason that it was too clumsy to use.
Then in August last year I heard about the new Olympus OM-D E-M1, which includes “network” connectivity only to a single smart phone or tablet. And coincidentally ALDI had one on special again, so on 21 August 2013 I bought another one. And since then I've been experimenting with it, with mixed results. Here a summary:
My initial objections remain. The things are too clumsy to use. Without a real keyboard, interfacing takes up much more time than I'm prepared to spend. Even with a keyboard they're not much better, because the interface is designed to work without a keyboard.
People tell me that I'm misunderstanding the purpose. I disagree: the real issue is that reasonable people will adapt to the device. I'm unreasonable: I want the device to be useful to me.
Android is based on Linux. iOS, a distant BSD derivative. Both should be easy to use under the skin. I haven't tried iOS, though what I've heard suggests that it's tied down with so much licensing ballast that I wouldn't be able to use it like a real computer. Android is the same: yes, I can get a “terminal” window, but most of the standard programs are missing, and are only available for rooted devices. I don't want to root my device, so I can't use them. Clearly this is a device for end-users who don't want to know about computers, but it makes it so much more difficult to use.
The lack of access to the system itself is a particular problem when things go wrong. There's too much going on under the surface that the user doesn't know about. Why did the background of the power-on display change a couple of days ago, from an abstract blue to a green floral design? Should I expect this?
And the original reason I bought it, to interface with my camera? I don't use it. As a remote control, it's far too clunky. It wants to do everything except remote viewfinder in portrait mode. The camera advertises a state-of-the-art “2.36M-dot” (i.e. roughly 800 k pixel) electronic viewfinder with effectively real-time update as one of its strengths, but the display on the tablet has a resolution of 19,200 pixels and refreshes about once a second. How can you focus with that? And even the idea of downloading images to a computer fails, because the camera insists on being an access point and disconnecting the tablet from any other 802.11 network, and the software refuses to download the original images: no raw images at all, and reformatted (and renamed!) JPEGs. A good idea with a broken implementation.
Why do I have difficulties with network connections in some cases only? Lately I've been listening to Radio Swiss Classic with a fourfold wireless connection: from Ballarat to the Radiation Tower with the National Broadband Network uplink, from the Radiation Tower to here with the NBN downlink, then with 802.11 to the tablet, then with Bluetooth to my kitchen amplifier. I'm using Tunein Radio to play the streams, since Radio Swiss Classic's own app kept crashing.
So far so good. But from time to time the playback stops, sometimes for minutes at a time. How do I debug this? The microwave oven helps, but it's not necessary. I can play the stream on eureka, my desktop computer, so it's not the NBN link. Which of the others? The Bluetooth link is unbuffered, so when it has problems they're short, more like stuttering. The IP link is buffered, and that seems to be the main issue. When it drops out, it comes back at a snail's pace, buffering about 3% per second. If I stop and restart, it buffers at about 20% per second. It happens even when the tablet is right next to the access point, so it's not a signal strength issue. On the face of it, this all points to Tunein. But how can I tell? I have a workaround: don't use Android. With an amplifier connected to teevee, the (desktop model) TV computer, all is well. Another fail for Android.
In case all this seems particularly negative: no, there are definitely advantages. We're living in early times
Kimchi: less salt?
|Topic: cooking, opinion||Link here|
I've been making kimchi for over 15 years now, and I've more or less refined the recipe to a point where I don't need to change it. Initially I salted it with dry salt and then rinsed it. It proved difficult to control the amount of salt left in the cabbage, so I changed to salting in a 6% salt solution and rinsing once.
But even that is not completely consistent. Last batch was too salty. So this time round I'm trying with 4% salt and no rinsing.
One of the issues with all this is that the salt solution is only 6% (or 4%) at the beginning of the salting. Much water comes out of the cabbage, significantly diluting it. That's why I keep a strict relationship (3:2) between the amount of salt solution and the amount of cabbage.
|Friday, 7 March 2014||Dereel||Images for 7 March 2014|
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Marriotts on NBN
|Topic: general, technology, opinion||Link here|
The other day I agreed to go over and take a look at Garry Marriott's new National Broadband Network connection. I forgot why, so took my VoIP ATA over with me. But it seemed that the main reason was to check the signal strength, which was “3 LEDs”, i.e. the highest the thing is capable of displaying. That's good news for us, of course, since we should get exactly the same reception in the new house next door.
They still haven't chosen a VoIP ATA, but it seems that they have managed to change their landline to Aussie Broadband, more by accident than intention. It seems that most people confuse the issue of VoIP with their existing landline. I've met many people who seem to think that they're either mutually exclusive or the same thing. In the Marriott's case, they seem to have done well out of it: for their broadband users Aussie offers a tariff for $30 a month with basically unlimited free calls to other landlines, though you do have to pay for the “cheap” 13 prefix numbers. That's better than Telstra's base price alone.
Or is it? For the past couple of months Telstra haven't been charging me a monthly base price. Is that accident or design? Basically we really only need it to call up Powercor when we have another power failure.
Misery Creek Bridge
|Topic: history||Link here|
Julie Donaghy has been having a hard time of adapting to Mediawiki, and has preferred to upload her historical texts to her blog. That's clearly an issue, since we want a Dereel-based site. And of course, I hate blogs when they're good. This one isn't.
So I cut and pasted the text to the history site, currently without any editing, which is needed. And of course, a photo is needed, so after visiting Garry I went down there and took a couple of photos:
Another power failure
|Topic: general||Link here|
As if to make my point about holding on to landlines for the time being, we had another power failure this evening at 21:36. Powercor told me that 700 properties were affected, and that it would take until 3:30 to restore power. They lied: power came back at 5:51, a whole 8¼ hours!
|This page contains (roughly) yesterday's and today's entries. I have a horror of reverse chronological documents, so all my diary entries are chronological. I try to leave the pages here for two days; you'll find them all in the archive, so if I fall behind a day or two, you may find more here. Note that I often update a diary entry a day or two after I write it.||Do you have a comment about something I have written? This is a diary, not a “blog”, and there is deliberately no provision for directly adding comments. But I welcome feedback and try to reply to all messages I receive. See the diary overview for more details. If you do send me a message relating to something I have written, please indicate whether you'd prefer me not to mention your name. Otherwise I'll assume that it's OK to do so.|
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