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Sunday, 14 October 2018 Dereel Images for 14 October 2018
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More Android fun
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Received the unlock code for my Nokia 3 phone today, much earlier than expected. 16 characters! And I have to type it in via this appalling touch screen interface. What happens if I get it wrong? Clearly something to check very carefully before submitting.

OK, typed it, and there it was: ****************. It's too polite to display it! Checked again, watching every digit as it popped up briefly before being obliterated. Must be right. Yes, it was. But what kind of nonsense is that to hide the input? I can't think of any situation in which people aren't reading the code from some other surface to type it in.

And is it really unlocked? I was able to make a call with it, and shortly later, by chance, I received my first ever spam call on a mobile phone: a survey about my (non-existent) gambling habits.

OK, that wasn't that bad, considering. A brand new, relatively modern Android phone for only $103.49, including unlocking. That's considerably better than the $129 that ALDI wanted this weekend for the same model.

Next put in the microSD card. Detected! Do you want to format it as device storage? Yes, maybe that will make it more useful than it was in the old phone. OK, off it goes. 20% formatted...

10 minutes later it was still 20% formatted. What went wrong there? Checked the storage configuration, and there it was, apparently mounted and using 1 GB for the system (how does it manage to use that much space?). It had been too polite to tell me that it was finished.

Next, sync phone numbers. In the Good Old Days this was a null operation: the numbers were stored in the SIM card. But now there's all this sync stuff. How do I do it? People tell me that it's automatic, but I had nothing.

OK, go search, and come up with this video, showing me Android phones with interfaces completely different from my old one. That's understandable, given its age. But they're also different from the new one. Clearly Android has been through at least 3 different appearances and menu layouts.

Found the “sync" settings, which of course were turned off—GMail insists on copying all my mail to my phone—and turned it on, ran sync. It hung. Aborted, checked and found that there were many kinds of data to sync. And it told me that my Contacts list had been synced.

OK, back to the video. Next, go to my GMail at top left and select Contacts. Not there. Much searching and second-guessing, and finally found it behind a miniature noughts-and-crosses box at top right. Contacts were empty.

Much more messing around, and discovered that I could enter contact details on my computer, and that they would be synced to my phones—maybe. After entering four, the first three (Yvonne, Home and a misspelt Petra Gietz) disappeared, leaving me with this:

 
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Where did the first two go? Still more messing around, including checking on a different browser. Now you see me, now you don't. Here's what I had, alternately on two different browsers on eureka, in order of increasing time:

 
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What the hell is going on? Still more searching and discovered that this is a sync issue. Add a contact and that's all that gets changed. Reload the page and all contacts are displayed. And this in 2018!

In passing, why “Petraz Gietz”? This horrible glass keyboard! That, too, I was able to fix easily after getting a sane interface.

And where are the phone numbers that I had in my old phone? Ah, they're not Contacts, they're Favorites [sic]. How do you sync them? This is a Samsung phone, and they're not telling. What a pain this Android stuff is!

The good news is that I can now enter my Contacts on a web browser and have them show up on my phone. About the only positive thing I've seen.


HDR photos revisited
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

The new Nokia 3 phone has a feature called HDR. How good is it? Time to do a comparison of the various methods available to me for better dynamic range. In fact, there are a surprising number. In rough order of increasing usability, I have:

  1. The old Samsung GT-I9100T, which I suspect to be the worst.
  2. The Nokia 3 in normal mode.
  3. The Nokia 3 in “HDR” mode.
  4. My Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II in normal mode, with raw images and DxO PhotoLab.
  5. My Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II in normal mode, with raw images and DxO PhotoLab.
  6. My Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II in “HDR1” mode, the raw image and DxO PhotoLab. I'm pretty sure that this is only one of the images that go to make up the composite JPEG HDR image.
  7. My Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II in “HDR1” mode, JPEG image.
  8. My Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II in “HDR2” mode, the raw image and DxO PhotoLab.
  9. My Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II in “HDR2” mode, JPEG image.
  10. My Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II in normal mode, with raw images and DxO PhotoLab.
  11. My Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II with a 3 exposure bracket at 3 EV intervals, with raw images and DxO PhotoLab and Photomatix.

And the results? Difficult to compare. Taking the first four, I have:

 
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There are two main things to look at here: the outside view and the bottom right-hand corner. In the Samsung image, both are unrecognnizable. They're barely any better in the Nokia normal image, but the “HDR” does improve things a little. But even then it's nothing like a standard image out of the Olympus. The bottom left-hand corner is also of interest, though the narrower angle of view of the Samsung makes it difficult to compare.

For completeness' sake, here are the other Olympus attempts. First, “HDR1” (first) compared to DxO:

 
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Then the same with “HDR2”:

 
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And finally the 3 image bracket:

 
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Once again my opinions are confirmed: the in-camera “HDR” functionality is no better than enhancing a single shot. And only the last shot shows both the flowers on the Carpobrotus outside the window and also the striped cushion at bottom right. But the “HDR” mode on the Nokia does show an improvement, though from a pretty poor base.


Snow peas and tomatoes
Topic: gardening Link here

Petra Gietz brought me some snow pea seedlings yesterday, 8 of them in a punnet. It's too early to plant them outside, so once again I put them in pots:

 
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The tomatoes that I planted three weeks ago are growing furiously. Here three weeks ago, then today:

 
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The word is that we should plant them after Melbourne Cup Day, which seems to be the measure of many things, even outside Victoria: in South Australia, that's the day to mow hay, and in the USA, six years out of 14, they have national elections.


Monday, 15 October 2018 Dereel Images for 15 October 2018
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Garden flowers in mid-autumn
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

Middle of the month, and also middle of spring, time for some flower photos. We've been in Stones Road for nearly 3½ years now, and it's time to recognize that something is seriously wrong with the garden. Things are dying, and other things are just not growing the way they should. The Betula pendula that I looked at with concern last month is no longer worthy of concern: it's dead, Jim. Here the two remaining trees:

 
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But why? It can't be the cold. These trees are some of the most frost-resistant trees I know of, somehow typical of Siberian landscapes. And it can't be watering, and trees don't die like that from inadequate fertilizer: I doubt anybody in Siberia runs around spreading dung on them.

And then there's the Paulownia kawakamii:

 
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That's been in the ground for 3 years now, and it's about 40 cm high. When the parent tree was that old, it was fully grown at about 5 m:

 
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And the Camellia japonica is also not looking happy, despite considerable addition of fertilizer:

 
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The ornamental Japanese cherry doesn't look that unhappy, but it, too, has barely grown:

 
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Even the lilacs that we planted a couple of months ago are not looking happy. They started off growing, but now the biggest one looks decidedly unhappy:

 
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By contrast, across the fence at the Marriott's, the parent or siblings:

 
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And then there are the Hebes that we planted nearby. They, too, are several years old:

 
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And a little to the west, the Ginkgo biloba and the Acacia baileyana are also not exactly growing:

 
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The more I look at it, the more I think that there's something wrong with the soil. Potentially it could be the layer of clay at 80 cm depth, but my experience with the Hellebores over the last few months suggests that the issue might be closer to the surface. In April one of them kept trying to shoot, and then died off again:

 
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I asked Mick to replant it in lots of good soil, and that seems to have made the difference:

 
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Clearly that had nothing to do with clay 80 cm under the surface.

Even the Aloes that we planted in the same area years ago have hardly grown at all:

 
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But what is it? The geology is not local to this plot of land, but I've already seen that the lilacs are doing better on the Marriott's property, and on the other side the Swifts have some conifers that are doing well:

 
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They're not the only things to die, though I suspect there are different reasons for the others. Three of the five rose bushes that we bought three months ago have done well, but one looks on its last legs, and another is dead:

 
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Why? That's a question that I should ask the nursery that sold them.

And the white Mandevilla that flowered so happily in front of the house all last summer has clearly had it:

 
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That may be the temperature, however: I had hoped that there wouldn't be any frost where I put it, but it looks as if I was wrong.

On the other hand, it's not all gloom and despondency. Our tiny Alyogyne huegelii is already flowering:

 
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And the Gazanias are also doing well:

 
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The Narcissus have been flowering for nearly 5 months, but they're not done yet. Here we were five months ago:

 
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And these are today's:

 
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The sweet peas that we incautiously bought at a garage sale in April are growing and flowering, though the damned things don't seem to want to climb up the arch against which they're planted:

 
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And the Azaleas, which were looking quite unhappy, have suddenly burst into flower:

 
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Lies, damn lies and specifications
Topic: food and drink, general, opinion Link here

How big is the new microwave oven? 25L! It tells you that, but not the power output (until you look relatively closely). Then it's either 1600 W input or 900 W output. This is the first time that I have seen both figures, and it suggests an efficiency of only 56%. Is that typical? I would have expected much more.

So this morning I used it to thaw out some baked beans. I know how long it takes in my 1100 W Panasonic oven: 1 minute to thaw, 80 seconds to warm. So I tried 90 seconds on the new oven. And the results were still partially frozen! Not a very scientific test, of course; I should check how long it takes to boil water. But my guess is that that “900 W” is a lie.

But wait! There's more! “25L” clearly is intended to mean 25 l, and that's easy to measure. For other reasons, I measured the volume of the heating chamber. 32 cm deep, 31.5 wide, and 20 cm high. 20.16 l. How did they get 25 l? Probably by measuring from underneath the bottom heating element to above the top one.

In the evening, we had a good use for a combined microwave oven and grill: reheat pizza. After looking at the instructions, put the whole thing into the “too hard” basket. How do you balance the heat? I don't know, and it seems that the makers of the oven don't either. The best I can think of is first to heat with microwaves, then grill. That save the second device, but not much else.


Setting Android ring tones
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

Some time ago I tried creating a custom ring tone for my old Android phone, the first few bars of Carl Maria von Weber's Andante e rondo ongarese. Time to install it on the new phone: I never found out how on the old one.

After the usual pain moving data around to mobile phones, it worked almost without any problems at all. Problem: it's not loud enough. That's in the original, not the phone. Now I need to find a way to recode the original. I had expected that mencoder could do that, but all attempts failed because it wanted a video stream as well.


Tuesday, 16 October 2018 Dereel → Melbourne → Dereel Images for 16 October 2018
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To Melbourne again
Topic: health, food and drink, general Link here

Yvonne had another appointment for a follow-up EUS and (potentially) FNA, the same thing as six months ago.

This time I had the opportunity to measure time and distance. The total distance is 140 km, and interestingly the first stretch, via Mount Mercer to Shelford, was 32 km, over 20% of the total distance, during which we saw 4 cars. Then traffic got denser, and we reached the freeway after almost exactly half the distance after 55 minutes. Made good time until the Melbourne Ring Road, after 126 km and about 85 minutes. And then, once again, we ran into trouble:

From there to the Victoria Market we took another 35 minutes for the final 14 km. How I hate Melbourne traffic!

At the market, met up again with Kevin Teather, who I think is the owner of the cheese stall in the middle of the delicatessen section (and thus called “The Corner Larder”) after one of his assistants suggested Jarlsberg when I asked for Swiss cheese. In Australia you can get almost only Gruyère (which you have to pronounce “Swiss Gruyere”) and Appenzell, at least for fondue, though they did have a Tête de moine, which also comes from Switzerland. He asked me what other cheeses I would like, and of course I couldn't think of anything except for Vacherin. But he says he can get anything I like (I'll believe that when I see it!) if I give him a couple of weeks' notice. Got his card: phone number is 9329 8607. And I'll take him up on the offer.

Somehow the Victoria Market is changing. I didn't hear a single cryer, and more and more stalls are operated by (and apparently for) East Asian people:

 
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On the way out of the market, saw what I had feared:

 
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The cookbook shop has closed down. I wish I had had time to look through more carefully last time I was there.

Then off to Richmond and dropped Yvonne at the Epworth Hospital, then on to Alphington to a new location of the Casa iberica in the hope that I could get a parking space more easily. Yes, that worked, though not as easily as I had hoped. And the place is really in a pretty run-down part of town:

 
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It's a lot smaller than the shop in Fitzroy:

 
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But I got what I wanted, including numerous chorizos of their own manufacture, and then on to Box Hill, as last time, this time finding a parking space inside, not without difficulty. First, where's the entrance?

 
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Once I got inside, my problems weren't over:

 
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How do I get out of the place? There are no signs at all. In the end I followed people who went round to the right of this photo, and where I no longer needed it, found this sign:


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Why do people have such difficulty documenting things?

Had more time shopping at the same place I went to 6 months ago, this time finding most of what I was looking for:


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On the way out, paying for the parking, I had a strange experience: the small print was in German, something about a „Stellplatz“ (parking place). Why that? Checked when the next person paid, and it came up in English (though round here Chinese would have been more appropriate). I was so surprised that I didn't read what the text said.

By this time Yvonne had called and told me that she would be ready round 15:00, so back to the hospital via Kew and what I knew as Studley Park, though now it seems to be called Yarra Bend Park. I saw the parking space too late, so just carried on through Fitzroy and Abbotsford. Did I remember the way past the old Abbotsford Brewery? Yes, I did, but I had forgotten what I had been looking for last time I was there, so on to the hospital, where I found one of the most emetic parking meters I have seen for a long time:

 
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I had to give my rego (license plate number!). What if I don't know it? While I was thinking about this, another bloke came along with exactly the same problem. He had to go back and check his license plate. I ended up paying—$8 for two hours!—and discovered that I had absolutely nothing to confirm that I had paid. No printout, no transaction number. I paid by credit card, so in case of doubt I could use that, but the other bloke, when he came back, paid by coins. He had nothing to prove that he ever paid! If he had made a typo in his rego, he would have no recourse. I gave him a card in case he ran into trouble.

Could he run into trouble? Definitely! The three cars to the left of the machine all had tickets:

 
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Looking at the first, though, it seems that it was justified: it had been issued over three hours previously.

Walked around a bit, and by chance found a Fromagerie across the road in Bridge Street at what proved to be the Richmond Hill Cafe larder. Took a look inside, and how about that, they have a number of interesting cheeses, all at prices that are easy to resist. It was interesting to note how many were related to places with which we have a connection: Sankt Gallen, Pyrénées, Somerset, Adelaide Hills. It might be interesting for next time we're here.

Then back into the hospital, where I waited until 16:35 for a call before finally asking at the reception whether they had my correct phone number. 6 months ago they had had the old number, and though I had asked them to correct it, it's quite possible that they had not done so. But no, Yvonne had only just been finished; it seems that there was some issue that delayed the start of her examination.

The results, though, were good: no change. So whatever it is, it's not malignant, and we won't have to come back here in the foreseeable future.

Off at 17:25 into this horrible Melbourne rush-hour traffic. After the pain we had last time, I decided to follow the advice of the GPS navigator after all. And how about that, it took me down some relatively empty roads and dumped me at the east end of Flinders Street, where signs told us that it would take us forever to get to St. Kilda Road, all of 600 m away.

Damn that! Clearly I need to take routes that aren't on the standard maps. North via Carlton? Turned up Exhibition St and got as far as Victoria St, where the navigator wanted to take me through the next set of immobile cars. Made it as far as Cardigan St and finally made it up to Grattan St, all relatively quickly. But they have blocked Grattan St west of Bouverie St, so I had to go down to Bouverie St, meaning that I ended up at Elizabeth St with the only option to go in the wrong way.

From there on things went to hell. Note to self: avoid Flemington Road like the plague in rush hours. Finally we made it through, and we were taken back to the bloody West Gate Bridge. By the time we got over the bridge, it was 18:35—70 minutes for 11 km, and 25 minutes longer than last time. A brisk walk would have been faster.

Things weren't over then either. Yvonne wanted to stop for a toilet break somewhere round Laverton, and I discovered that the “service area” was on an exit ramp without corresponding entrance. I had to leave the freeway area altogether and observe a roundabout at its absolute worst: cars from three different directions all wanted only one exit, onto the freeway. The ones coming from the rightmost road had no difficulties. The ones from the middle, which entered the third road, filled any gaps. And we, in the third road, had no chance.

 
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Set off in other directions, but everything seemed blocked. I later looked at the map and discovered that this appears to be deliberate: lots of streets that are blocked in the middle. Somehow this happens too often round Melbourne.

Finally went several kilometres and ended up at the same roundabout, but on the first road, where we got through with no difficulty. Why do people build roundabouts? Once upon a time earthworks were cheaper than traffic lights, but I can't believe that that's still the case.

Finally back home at 20:30 after a little over 3 hours. 11½ hours away from home, 5½ on the road, and 5 hours at the hospital for Yvonne. How I hate Melbourne traffic!

Another minor bit of good news: the car fridge worked without incident. I wonder why.


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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