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Wednesday, 13 December 2017 Dereel Images for 13 December 2017
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Bloody power outage!
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Another power outage today, this time planned by Powercor. At least it meant that I was able to prepare for it, but at 4 hours, 17 minutes I'm left wondering if they really had to make it that long. If they had to reimburse customers anyway, based on the length of the outage, I'm sure they'd find a way to restore power sooner.


Bloody connectors!, part 1
Topic: technology Link here

Took advantage of the power outage to finally install the new 4 TB disk drive in eureka. The good news is that the reboot worked with no trouble. Services that still require manual start are:

Yes, there are probably ways to get them started automatically, but that would require thinking, and there are some non-obvious issues involved, like loading ssh keys.

But when I took a look at the disk, there was something strange:

=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/3) ~ 7 -> gpart show ada3
=>        34  7814037101  ada3  GPT  (3.6T)
          34           6        - free -  (3.0K)
          40  7814037088     1  freebsd-ufs  (3.6T)
  7814037128           7        - free -  (3.5K)

Huh? Why did it show a freebsd-ufs partition? It took a while to realize that I had found an unused disk in the machine. And comparing the number of disks connected, one was missing. A mount confirmed that yes, indeed, /dev/ada3p1 was a valid FreeBSD file system. So where was the new disk?

Powered down again. Cable problems? The machine already had 5 disk power connectors, and I had to use an existing Y cable for the new disk's power. Could it be that there was something wrong with it? Pulled the power connector from the old ada3, squeezed the disk into position and... destroyed the connector. I didn't realize how flimsy they are. Damn!

So now I have only 4 power connectors, just enough to run the 4 existing disks. I can get a new cable, or find a way to install the disk from another machine. I think I'll take the latter course.


Bloody connectors!, part 2
Topic: multimedia Link here

Back to looking at the new TV. Started teevee up, and it ran fine on HDMI input 2. Plugged in to HDMI 1. Yes, fine. OK, let's use the correct cable. No go.

That cable worked fine on the old TV. Why not here? Are there some compatibility issues? The new TV uses the latest HDMI spec (which? why should that be in the specs?), and potentially the cable is down-rev. But I wouldn't have expected that to be an issue. Or did I somehow damage it in the installation process? In any case, it looks like a replacement is due the next time that ALDI has them on special.


Bloody connectors!, part 3
Topic: multimedia Link here

Next, connect up an antenna cable and scan for channels. First problem was: where do I find the channel scan function? The method in the instruction manual didn't work: the menu item (Channel/Channel scan) was missing. The way I found was to try to select a “channel” with the channel down/up switch (which, irritatingly, moves in the opposite direction from other multimedia equipment I have seen). Then I got the install screen that I had seen yesterday:


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Scan everything. Nothing found! Another cable problem? Connected up the radio tuner, and that worked fine. Swap cables? In the process discovered that there was some connection problem with the radio, and I had to wobble the cable to get a good connection.

Much cursing and swearing later, I finally connected the TV almost directly to the antenna socked (via the absolutely necessary amplifier adapter), and I was able to scan. So somewhere, probably with the powered 4-way splitter or one of the stupid adapters needed to connect normal cables, there's a problem. Mañana o pasado mañana.


Configuring new TV
Topic: multimedia, technology Link here

OK, let's configure the new TV. Where's the configuration menu? There seem to be four different ways to access parts of the configuration. The (grey) “equivalence” key on the right and the star in the middle here give different menus, the program selector on the right will bring up a (different) menu if it can't find any channels, and the “home” key at bottom left adds things like network configuration if you scroll down far enough:

 
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The network configuration is almost useful, if you ignore things like this:

 
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And I can add a static address if I want, and if I can bear the interface (admire the overlapping text):

 
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I also discovered a “clean up” function which discovered lots of garbage on an almost new system, and required three cycles to finally clear it all away:

 
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More Android TV language
Topic: language Link here

More Andrenglish (or is that Andrish?) from today's menus:

Connection to internet successed

Network normal!

Your TV has been a long time no check up


What use smart TVs?
Topic: multimedia, opinion Link here

In principle, it makes a lot of sense to have a TV with computer functions. And maybe Android is the right choice. Or is it?

One of the biggest issues with Android and similar systems is that it is designed for mobile telephones and other very small devices. There's no place for a keyboard, and the alternatives are poor at best. In general, I find that Android and iOS vie for the worst ever user interface. On the other hand, I really can't see a general alternative for mobile phones, except for “well don't do that, then”. So I barely use them.

Things are different with a 60" TV. My new TV is the largest display device I have ever owned, and it comes close to having the resolution of all four of my desktop monitors put together. It's clearly not mobile. And compared to a mobile phone, you're normally not in direct contact with it, so even the appalling touch screen keyboard functionality isn't available. Instead there's this monstrosity, which makes even touch screen keyboards look good:

 
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But why? This TV includes a real computer. The specifications say that it's a Quad Core. Quad Core what? Who knows? Who cares? It's Quad Core. And it has all sorts of interfaces: USB, HDMI, Bluetooth, 802.11, Ethernet. So why use this stupid keyboard interface? It can't be the size. A long time ago Chris Bahlo lent me a Bluetooth keyboard that we never got to work. It's not even as long as the remote control:

 
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Will it work with the TV? One of the configuration menus (the one at the bottom of the Home icon) allows pairing Bluetooth devices. Problem: I've never been able to get this device to pair. When I turn the thing on, the LED lights up for a second or two. But then? Nothing.

What's the model number? What's the name? It's on the space key:

 
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I read ΓΛΡΟΟ, or GLROO in Roman characters. But no, we're in the 21st century now, nobody knows Greek any more. It's really a mutilated RAPOO. And they have engraved the model number in the metal on the back in about 4 point text that you can only read in the right light:


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BT confused me for a while, but it seems that means Bluetooth. The model number is E-6500. OK, let's look for a manual. Nope, no manual, but there's a FAQ, which doesn't mention the E-6500, clearly last year's model. After only a few mouse clicks, I'm at Keyboards/Bluetooth Keyboard, which tells me (or asks me) “How to pair to the bluetooth keyboard?”:

  1. Turn on the keyboard, the red LED will go on for 3 seconds then off.;
  2. Press the connect button, the red LED begins to blink waiting for the connection.
  3. Follow the steps on your iPad or other device to complete the connection.

OK, I'm stuck at step 2. Where's the Connect button? Does it have some other name? Why isn't there a picture? I spent 5 minutes trying to second-guess what symbol might represent the Connect button, without success.

If Glroo can't help, how about YouTube?

And how about that, at 2:52 into the clip I find:

 
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The Connect button has been obscured by a conformity label! Now isn't that clever!


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After that, of course, I was able to pair the keyboard.


Smart TV: why?
Topic: multimedia, opinion Link here

So now I have a smart TV with a Quad Core and and Android operating system and multiple network connections. What can I do with it? Even with a keyboard, the interface is painful to navigate. Where's a web browser? I frequently use one to check on things while watching TV. Maybe I can install one from the toyshop, but the fact that there isn't one by default should serve as a warning. Probably it's a consequence of the appalling user interface. Who wants to browse with a toy toy (no typo) keyboard? I've been using X for nearly 30 years, and even when I started, using computers with only a fraction of the processing power or resolution of this one, the user interface was an order of magnitude better than what I can see.

Still, give it a chance. The Home icon gives me all sorts of icons: Netflix and Stan., both of whom want money from me. One that claims not to is Spotify, which claims to give me millions of songs to match my tastes.

OK, sign up. Even with the Bluetooth keyboard, it's a pain, so I did most of it via the X interface. $0.99 for 3 months? Oh, just joking, there's a free service. So I did that, logged in, got a transient message saying I wasn't registered, and then a list of icons reminiscent of Microsoft “Windows” 10. Finally I found classical music. Classifications? No, just more icons. Finally, for the fun of it, I tried Dvořák 9:

 
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And how about that, I got some of the symphony—the finale only.

Somehow it seems that all these services offer the absolute minimum. What am I missing? This stuff is making fortunes for people, and I still can't find any use for it. Maybe things will change if I can find something useful in Netflix or Stan., but I'm not holding my breath. So far I can't see anything that comes even close to my current environment based on FreeBSD and X.


Vultures available!
Topic: technology Link here

Two weeks ago I tried to set up a server with Vultr, only to be told that there were none available at my chosen location (Frankfurt/Main). So I put myself on a ”please notify” list. But the following day I discovered that they were available after all, and set up a machine quite rapidly.

But vultrs don't forget, it seems. Today I received an email:

Date: Tue, 12 Dec 2017 17:35:23 -0500 (EST)
From: support@vultr.com
To: groggyhimself@lemis.com
Subject: Vultr.com - Deploy in Frankfurt!

Vultr.com has added additional capacity in our Frankfurt location!

Launch your high performance instance today by going to:

https://my.vultr.com/deploy/

Maybe they now have the el-cheapo $2.50 VMs? No, they're still “sold out”, which sounds to me like they're never really available.


Bloody connectors!, part 4
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Connecting the TV to the network involved adding a switch in the lounge room:

 
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That went easily enough, but later I discovered that copying image files from eureka went at a snail's pace. A quick examination with netstat -biIem0 1 confirmed. Here first with the switch connected, then disconnected and teevee connected directly to the wall socket:

 
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The fourth column is the number of bytes input per second. At first it doesn't look much different, but in fact it's an order of magnitude. With the switch it's round 11.5 MB/s, without it it's round 108 MB/s.

Why? This isn't the only switch in the circuit. There's one in my office and one in the pantry, both more professional units than this one. Is it the number of switches, or the quality of this particular one? I'd guess the latter. In any case, I don't really need the switch. The TV has a WLAN interface as well, and it doesn't seem that there's much use for the connectivity in any case.


Thursday, 14 December 2017 Dereel Images for 14 December 2017
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Scaredy cat
Topic: animals Link here

One of the first things I do in the morning when I get up is go to the laundry and let Piccola out: she hears the blinds going up and starts meowing. When I let her out, she heads straight for the front door and goes out for about 15 minutes, after which she returns expecting food.

But not today. She wasn't there. Had Yvonne got there first? Normally I hear her meowing, but not today. Checked. No Yvonne. Back to the laundry and looked behind the washing machine:

 
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What was she doing there? Had she fallen down? I moved the drier (beyond the bottom of that photo) to one side, and she got out, and went out into the house.

To the front door. No Piccola. Gone again. After some searching I found her in a cabinet in the corner of the lounge room. She got out and went behind another cabinet.

What's all that about? We had noticed that she had stayed in the garage all yesterday evening. The garage is one of her favourite places, but normally she comes to us in the lounge room in the evening, and this time she didn't call. She had eaten her food, so it didn't seem likely that she was sick, and she wasn't obviously injured. During the course of the day it became clear that she was afraid of something—very afraid. But what? It wasn't the dogs: she went up to them and rubbed against them as usual. She calmed down by evening, but it still wasn't over.

The Marriotts are looking after a couple of Jack Russell terriers for the while. Did one of them chase her? She'd not injured, but it could have been a close call.


DBDRV assessment
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Llewellyn Pritchard (“LP”) of the DBDRV along today to assess my issues with the house, joined by no less than three people from JG King: Evan Dower, (General Manager), Ashley Barker (Maintenance Manager) and Michael Gibess (Area Manager, spelling as reported by DBDRV). It seems that this was their first experience with DBDRV, which is apparently quite a new institution, thus the large number of attendees. Things didn't go overly well.

I had prepared a printout of the installation manual for the cooktop, and showed LP the diagram showing how to set up the low flame, as two years ago:

 
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No, he didn't say “but that's just a drawing”. He said that it was an artist's impression. So I showed him once again how it was possible to adjust the flame lower by setting the knob between “off” and “full”, something that surprised him. Here the difference, first “minimum” and then the way it should be:

 
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I was left with the impression that he had never seen any of this before. He did, however, take detailed notes.

It was similar with the range hood. To test it, he put a sheet of A4 paper against the filter! And only in the middle, where it (barely) works. No measuring instruments. In fact, he had to ask me how I measured my 110 m³/hr, and I had to spell anemometer for him.

He then asked for a ladder to take a look in the roof to confirm or deny the statem

The floors were a different matter. I had said that there was a difference of up to 5 mm in the level across the diagonal of a side table we use in the lounge room (64 cm; I had previously said 50 cm, but who cares?). Evan said that the standard (“code”) specified an unevenness of up to 4 mm across 2 m, so my claims weren't important. I asked LP to explain to him that the former was sufficient to show the latter, but he didn't know either, and Evan pointed out that he had once been a surveyor, so he knew what he was talking about... God help us.

LP pulled out a laser level and measured the level at exactly 4 points one and two metres away. And how about that, he found a discrepancy of 5 mm. That has absolutely nothing to do with the issue at hand, but he seems to be satisfied with it.

In passing, Evan blamed the unevenness of the slab on the “accident” we had had, where Brett Chiltern had damaged the storm water pipes:

 
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That's nonsense, of course. The amount of water that leaked was less than the rainfall in an average winter, the location was about 10 metres away from where we were measuring, roughly at the corner of the eave overlap at top right of the plan extract below, and it had nothing to do with the house slab.

 
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But I'm quite impressed that he has gone to the trouble to read my diary.

With the windows, LP referred to the plans:

 
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The window in the lounge room (“family” in the plan) is marked PAW1527.DG, and the door to the verandah is marked SSD2127-3.LOWE. Clearly the DG means “double glazed” and the “LOWE” means “Low E”.

Is that clear? I asked them what the other code meant. Ash knew that the numbers were a code for the dimensions (height, then width in dm?). They decided that W is Window, and by extension D must mean Door. And PA? After a little discussion they decided that A stood for Awning, and about 10 minutes later, after further input, they concluded that P was an abbreviation for the supplier name. Sorry, people, that's not clear even to you. It's certainly not clear to people who only speak English.

So. What's going to happen? We'll see. Certainly LP seemed neutral enough, and he tried hard, but I have the feeling that he hasn't the necessary technical skills to assess the issues. Maybe Evan is correct when he says that this is the first time clients have raised issues like this: they seem to transcend their understanding.


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. This page normally contains the last two days, but if I fall behind it may contain more. You can find older entries in the archive. 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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