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April 2010
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Thursday, 1 April 2010 Dereel Images for 1 April 2010
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DVD pain, continued
Topic: technology Link here

This DVD stuff still annoys me. I suspected that there was something wrong with the DVD burner, but how could I be sure? Sure, the canonical way to do these things is to swap hardware, but that can be dangerous with intermittent faults, and theoretically the software should give me clues about what was going on. The problem is “now you see me, now you don't”: the DVDs work in some drives and not in others, or I can mount them but not play them with mplayer. Tried lots of things, including installing mplayer on kimchi (failed: one of the dependencies didn't build because apparently one of its dependencies, part of X.org, was too old), and finally changed over the drives between kimchi and lagoon (Yvonne's machine). The drive that I put in kimchi, which wouldn't recognize the disk when in lagoon, was quite happy with it in kimchi; so there's at least a partial system software issue here.

Finally gave up and burnt a DVD. Got the same console messages as the other day, but It looks as if everything went fine, confirming my suspicion that the messages were benign (or maybe just plain misleading). It's beginning to look as if the old DVD drive is dying. But why should it be so difficult to find out for sure?

VoIP over satellite

Yvonne went into town today, and I needed to call her. It took three attempts, not because of the flaky VoIP connection, but because of the satellite delay. Yvonne answered, saw the message “Unknown caller” and heard nothing, so she hung up again—before the satellite delay could deliver my voice. We'll need more practice on that.

Emacs function reference

One of the Emacs functions I use to write these web pages takes input from the keyboard and inserts a Wikipedia reference, for example yesterday's reference to Aloe vera. I enter “Aloe vera”, and it generates the text <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aloe_vera">Aloe vera</a>:. Straightforward enough stuff, but there's the underscore in the URL. I need a function to replace the space with a _. Nothing difficult for a programming language like Emacs LISP, but what function do I use? All the documentation points at functions like replace-regexp, which does the replacement in the buffer, not in a string. I've been putting off looking up the documentation for years, simply because the pain involved is more than manual correction, but today I finally got round to it.

My suspicions were confirmed: I didn't find it in the documentation. Finally found the documentation via a Google search in a page titled Lisp Lesson: Regex Replace with a Function. It's replace-regexp-in-string. Once I know that, I can get the documentation, and the usage is trivial: the pain was all in finding the documentation.


Topic: gardening, brewing Link here

More hop harvesting today. One problem is that some cones are browning while others close by are still growing:


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Why does that happen?


Topic: gardening Link here

Generally did a reasonable amount of work in the garden today. Somehow the summer was just too warm to be pleasant, and we have lots of things to catch up on.


Topic: food and drink Link here

Creating sourdough starters

Sue Blake has written a document about creating sourdough starters, as opposed to maintaining them. She suggests starting with ¼ cup (whatever that may be) of flour and to inoculate it with a scant teaspoon (whatever that may be) of the previous stage. At best, that would be a ratio of about 10:1 flour to starter, much greater than the 1:1 generally recommended for starter maintenance. Her reasoning for this is that that way there will be fewer undesirable organisms:

By taking a very small sample to use for the next inoculation, we hope to leave behind most or all of the less desirable organisms and waste products, eventually transferring only the components that we do want to propagate. As a guide, one teaspoon is enough to inoculate up to a cup of mixed substrate.

True, but there will also be fewer desirable organisms. That doesn't seem to give the yeast and lactobacillus any advantage. And possibly, by reducing the acidity of the dough (“waste products”), it gives other organisms an advantage. I suppose I should try it both ways, but there must be some background for the relatively universal recommendation to double the quantity at each step.


Friday, 2 April 2010 Dereel Images for 2 April 2010
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Emacs: the hidden documentation
Topic: technology Link here

More discussion of Emacs documentation today, in connection with LISP functions. Emacs has quite a nice collection of help bound to c-h, in particular the apropos-command function bound to c-h a, which allows you to enter regular expressions to match the function names. But all I could find with the text regexp related to buffer functions. I've often wanted to look up non-command functions, but the closest I came was describe-function, which requires an exact function name. Today Peter Jeremy stumbled over the function apropos, which isn't directly bound (access via m-x apropos), which does exactly what I'm looking for for all functions, not just commands. And yes, of course it found replace-regexp-in-string.

That's not exactly what I was looking for, of course. I've been using GNU info for decades, but somehow I still can't find things in it conveniently. Still, apropos is useful, especially since you can get at it with c-u c-h a.


Topic: gardening Link here

The weather has taken a turn for the worse—cold and rainy—so didn't do too much in the garden. Did get round to putting together the mulcher that Yvonne bought in town yesterday; a typical ALDI package which required a crowbar to unpack: the cardboard packing had got jammed in the unit, and I couldn't pull it out. When I did get it out, there was a maze of confusing equipment there, and some screws that have clearly been shortened to fit:


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Topic: music Link here

Finally got round to playing some bassoons again today. First the Sautermeister, then the Heckel. Finally I'm getting the feel of the Heckel, and it no longer seems quite so out of tune. It's sobering to think that this is the kind of bassoon for which Richard Wagner wrote his music. Yes, he had been dead 10 years when the instrument was built, but it looks similar to the ones built towards the end of his life, and in any case, it was thus probably a better instrument than the ones he knew.


Saturday, 3 April 2010 Dereel Images for 3 April 2010
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Photo software: more surprises
Topic: photography, technology Link here

Photo day again today, and again I tried the 2 photo HDR sequences I started last week. They worked well enough, except that messing around with the dials makes it easier to accidentally move the camera on the tripod between the two shots. Didn't discover until later that I had done this with one of the photos of the north panorama:


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The slight difference between these two photos produced a number of surprises:

But what could I do? It would have meant going out, waiting for appropriate light, and taking another 18 photos. Instead I faked it and used the left-hand photo above instead of the HDR version that I had wanted to produce. Surprisingly, it didn't look bad:


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I suppose it helped that that part of the panorama was relatively neutral.

Also tried the difference between a 2 EV and a 3 EV difference between the two photos:


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I think I prefer the one on the right, and that's the pair with the 2 EV difference.


Topic: food and drink Link here

To my surprise, Yvonne had suggested cassoulet for dinner tonight, so spent most of the day preparing one. Things are worse than usual: we couldn't even find smoked sausage, so she bought a bacon hock instead. And, to our great surprise, she found some confit de canard in town, so we put that in too.

The confit did have one advantage, though: duck fat, along with a surprising amount of gelatinous liquid. Melted it, put it in a glass in the freezer, and within 30 minutes I had them nicely separated and solid. Here after separating the fat (left) from the top of the gelatine:


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Topic: photography Link here

That photo was taken with the on-camera flash, but on the table between my two studio flashes, so tried the alternative with the studio flashes. No difference. I've been puzzling about this for some time, wondering if they were triggering too late, so took several shots with progressively slower shutter speeds, finally ending up at 1/20 s:


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These were all at the same aperture (f/3.9), but about the only difference was the colour of the light, which had clearly been influenced by the ambient light. But the flashes flashed, and at that aperture they should have completely overexposed the images. Are they maybe flashing before the shutter opens?


Topic: general, food and drink Link here

Chris and David Yeardley over in the evening, and we pretty much finished off the cassoulet. The results? The confit tasted really boring. I don't know if that's because it was in the cassoulet, but it didn't taste at all salty. It's beginning to look as if it's not very well made. We have some more left over, so we'll try it on its own. And somehow the bacon hock couldn't make up for the lack of sausage. Still, it wasn't too bad, and next time we'll know to stock up if we ever find good sausage again.

Also talking about the possibility of moving house—David is half owner of the plot of land we looked at six weeks ago, and this is the first time we've had a chance to talk to him. The result of the discussion: yes, we think that it'll work, due in no small measure to a lot of good will on David's part. Looks like we'll be busy in the next few months.


Sunday, 4 April 2010 Dereel Images for 4 April 2010
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Daylight savings time problems
Topic: technology Link here

Daylight savings time ended today, causing more surprises than I expected. The first was that my weather software seemed to have stopped working. Further investigation showed that the data collection was working, but the graphs were either empty or non-existent. Another bloody gnuplot issue! Grumbling, went into my script from hell and found the debugging output:

SELECT unix_timestamp(timestamp(date, time))-946728000, inside_temp, outside_temp, inside_humidity, outside_humidity, inside_dewpoint, outside_dewpoint, pressure_msl, wind_speed, wind_gust, wind_direction, rain FROM observations WHERE date >='2010-04-04' AND date < '2010-04-04' ORDER BY date, time;

Not surprisingly, that didn't return much data: the end date was less than the start date. Looked at the script in more detail—how I hate date calculations!—and found:

  ENDTIME=`expr $STARTTIME + 86400`
  ENDDATE=`date -r $ENDTIME  +%F`

STARTTIME is the time at midnight on the day in question. It took a while to realize what was wrong: today was a 25 hour day! So STARTTIME + 86400 was 23:00 on the same day, and date -r returned the same day. Another kludge: just add 3600 and it will always return the date of the following day, whether the actual time is 00:00 or 01:00.

I wasn't the only one who got hit. I also have a cron job which downloads the local weather forecast twice a day. What I had waiting contained:

Western District Forecast
Issued at 5:40 am EST on Sunday 4 April 2010
for the period until midnight EST Wednesday 7 April 2010.
...

Forecast for the rest of Sunday
##

Ballarat            ##                              Max ##
Warrnambool         ##                              Max ##
Hamilton            ##                              Max ##
Colac               ##                              Max ##

By the time I found out, they had fixed it, but you'd think they had would have seen this issue before.


Topic: technology, general Link here

I've been thinking about becoming more active with my investments, and the difference in brokerage between traditional brokers (up to 2%) and online brokers (0.1%) is certainly interesting. Read an article today which recommended Bell direct, so signed up for that, once I could. What a pain nearly all commercial web sites are! The rendering is, as usual, impossibly broken, they insist on passwords taken from a limited character set (9999STUPID works, but it refuses my typical passwords, which contain non-alphanumeric characters), and even parsing the input for my registration brought up lots of spurious errors (required an “employer”, whose name could also not contain certain characters, even for people who are not employed):


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There were many others, like a text display window with 14 lines of 5 characters each, but potentially they might consider it to be confidential information. And it didn't even render well with Microsoft “Internet Explorer”, though it was a little better. They use unnecessary flash animation that maxes out one CPU and makes the browser react really slowly. I think I'd rather pay a little more brokerage and get a web site that works. But does one exist?


Topic: general, photography Link here

Everyready Lithium batteries: worth the trouble?

End of daylight savings time also means resetting clocks, and nowadays there are a number of cameras to consider. Turned on my Nikon “Coolpix” L1, but it went out immediately. Further investigation showed that one of the two Lithium AA cells was dead. I had bought them as part of a promotion a couple of months ago, and taken about 4 photos without flash. I wonder how typical this is; certainly you'd think that they'd go to particular quality control for promotions.


Topic: general, animals, gardening Link here

Out riding today with the Yeardleys, the first time David has been on a horse in years. Darah tripped and may have hurt herself, but her main problem was that she wanted to go much faster than the rest of us, so we decided to keep it short.


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On the way found a striking flower, apparently a Nerine, to compare it with the ones in our garden (left):


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I wonder how it got there.


Topic: gardening, photography Link here

More photos of flowers today, Hibiscus and Crassula falcata:


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The hibiscus flowers are about 20 cm across, and the Crassula flowers about 4 mm. And once again the photos bring home to me that you see more in a macro photo than you do in real life—in this case, lots of White flies on the hibiscus:


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Had another rampage with the pyrethrum, but I don't know how successful it will be.


Topic: general Link here

Chris' brother Jonas and his wife Trish (Patricia) were both born in Germany, and they're now thinking of going back to Germany for a few years. Trish comes from who comes from Göbelnrod, near Grünberg Schellnhausen, where we used to live. They'll be living in Pohlheim, where I used to buy my computer hardware from Everyware. So tonight they came along to say goodbye. It's been nearly 3 years since we last saw them, and in the meantime they have a couple of daughters. Yvonne found herself in a situation that she hasn't been in for a couple of decades now:


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Monday, 5 April 2010 Dereel Images for 5 April 2010
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Topic: general Link here

Spent most of the day considering the new house. First over to the building site to consider in more detail how we would lay things out. The site is pretty much rectangular, and there's a clump of trees and a dam in the middle, where we're thinking of putting the house. Here's a static extract from the Google map of the area. The house would run roughly north-south through the blue pin, and the second photo was taken from the position of the camera symbol, looking at about 240°:

 
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The house would fit at an angle to the right of the house. Somehow it's going to be fun positioning it. Some of the trees may have to go, but they're pretty old already.

Also looking at how to connect power. We had estimated that we would need 200 m of underground cable, but it seems that the connection point is at Browns Road, directly on the other side of the Yeardley house, and we would have to make a wide bypass round that house, so we might end up with 400 m of cable instead. And that still has the potential to kill the project.

In the afternoon off with David to look at some more display houses. A couple of months ago we had been looking at the Taverner from homesnow, but they're quite inflexible with their layouts, and they came up with lots of extras that we hadn't expected, so the real price of the house we were looking at had increased from $167,900 to just over $200,000. In any case, it made more sense to look at other houses again, so off first to Macarthur Park, where Yvonne had been taken by the display home from National Builders Group, but they were closed. Looked once again at the offering from Simonds, and were a little happier with them than last time.

Then once again to Alfredton, but this time looked at builders we already knew and hadn't visited in February: JGKing homes (which I can't help reading as “Joking Homes”), Dennis Family Homes and Metricon. They all had houses in the same price range, they looked better from the point of view of finish, and they were more flexible with extensions. Layout was another thing: Metricon had a “Fortitude 37” (36.6 “squares”—for some reason builders can't get used to m², maybe because a square (really 100 ft²) is rather more than 10 m²), which translates to a real area of about 268m². It's out of our price range, but looking doesn't cost anything. The usage of that space is really wasteful; the plans don't show any details, but I'd guess that the master bathroom and walk-in-wardrobe would take up about 30 m² of that. And despite all that, the main living area is completely open:


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The layout of the other houses also left something to be desired, but we were pleasantly surprised with them and decided not to visit homesnow again. It wasn't until we got back home that we realised the difference: the houses we had been looking at all had floor areas of about 180 to 190 m², and the homesnow house had 240 m² (or 304 m², as the brochures say; strangely, they don't mention squares). Given the better layout of the homesnow house, I fear we're going to have to think yet again. But first we need to know what connecting power will cost.


Tuesday, 6 April 2010 Dereel Images for 6 April 2010
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Satellite outage again
Topic: technology Link here

It's been a while since I had a satellite outage—in fact, over two weeks—but we had another one today. I suppose I can put up with that level of outage, but hopefully it's not an indication that things are getting worse again.


Topic: general Link here

Up bright and early this morning to call up Powercor about power connections to the site of the new home. It took 15 minutes to get an answer, which was basically: “Go to the web site http://www.powercor.com.au/, click, click, click, click...”. Like so many “serious” web sites, they don't have easy to remember URLs (this one proved to be http://www.powercor.com.au/Electricity_Networks/Powercor_Network/Connections/Extension_Works/). Went there and found a number of PDF documents, including a Rural Residential Extension Works form that, despite what Sandra said, I couldn't submit online, and it crashed my printer when I tried to print it.

Spent some time working out where the cable would go, all 470 metres of it. Whichever way you look at it, that's going to be expensive. Decided to go and talk to Ray Nottle about it in the evening. As I suspected, he would in fact probably be involved in the matter. What he said wasn't encouraging: at that distance, they'd need 240 mm² cross section, which would correspond to about 0.113 m³ of copper, or almost exactly a ton of it. The market price for copper is currently $US 7960 per ton, so by the time it's in cable, it'll probably cost us over $20,000 for the cable alone.

Things don't stop there, though: since the cable goes over somebody else's property, we don't have the option to do any of the work ourselves, or even choose the company who does it. It must be Powercor, and they would put in a high voltage cable and transformer. We have an indicative price for that in their indicative power line construction costs PDF: $64,000 for 250 m, including the transformer. The transformer by itself costs $21,100, so it's easy to calculate a price of $172 per metre, or a total of nearly $102,000 for the total length.

But that's not even the total! In addition, we'd need legal costs for putting in rights for Powercor to the easement on the Yeardley's property. Ray thinks in the order of $5,000, but by now, who's counting?

And what do we get for that? A 40 A supply! That's less than 10 kW! We can barely run the air conditioner off that, and things like continuous flow water heaters, still popular in Germany, are completely out of the question: in Germany, they typically use 24 kW by themselves. Why such a low limitation? But in any case, it no longer makes any sense. Our original idea of subdividing the property would have effectively given us the land for $30,000 and the electricity for $5,000. Now we're looking at a combined price approaching $200,000.

While on the Powercor site, found an interesting page: a list of current outages. I'll have to keep an eye on that.


Wednesday, 7 April 2010 Dereel
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Design your house, the hard way
Topic: technology, general Link here

Trying out the Simonds web site today. They have an interactive house design application which uses Adobe flash. The problems running flash under FreeBSD are just too painful, so decided to try it on cvr2, my Ubuntu-based CVR instead. That didn't have flash installed, and of course the plugin finder (the one that doesn't even tell you what it's looking for) couldn't find it either. Finally found a package and tried to install it. It failed:

=== root@cvr2 (/dev/pts/5) /recordings 19 -> apt-get install flashplugin-nonfree
...
Setting up flashplugin-nonfree (10.0.45.2ubuntu0.8.10.1) ...
Downloading...
--2010-04-07 12:01:16--  http://fpdownload.macromedia.com/get/flashplayer/current/install_flash_player_10_linux.tar.gz
Resolving fpdownload.macromedia.com... failed: Name or service not known.
wget: unable to resolve host address `fpdownload.macromedia.com'
download failed
The Flash plugin is NOT installed.

OK, not an issue (well, not a big one): for some reason I often get DNS timeouts. Try again:

=== root@cvr2 (/dev/pts/5) /recordings 20 -> apt-get install flashplugin-nonfree
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information... Done
flashplugin-nonfree is already the newest version.
0 upgraded, 0 newly installed, 0 to remove and 320 not upgraded.

Huh? Tested it, and no, it wasn't installed. “Removed” the package and reinstalled it, and this time it worked. But what's wrong with the Debian package system that it claims something has been installed when the installation failed? It looks as if the first part succeeded, and there was no way to register that the configuration had failed.

The Simonds application is horrendously slow, and it only shows you part of the information; the rest is on other pages. Tried to open a second window, which it wouldn't do by itself, so opened one manually and navigated to the web site. And everything I did in the one window automatically carried over to the other! That's really an extreme case of “There can only be one”. In the end, gave up; it's just too painful.

After finishing, I found hundreds of messages on the screen from which I had started the browser:

ALSA lib confmisc.c:768:(parse_card) cannot find card '0'
ALSA lib conf.c:3513:(_snd_config_evaluate) function snd_func_card_driver returned error: No such file or directory
ALSA lib confmisc.c:392:(snd_func_concat) error evaluating strings
ALSA lib conf.c:3513:(_snd_config_evaluate) function snd_func_concat returned error: No such file or directory
ALSA lib confmisc.c:1251:(snd_func_refer) error evaluating name
ALSA lib conf.c:3513:(_snd_config_evaluate) function snd_func_refer returned error: No such file or directory
ALSA lib conf.c:3985:(snd_config_expand) Evaluate error: No such file or directory
ALSA lib pcm.c:2196:(snd_pcm_open_noupdate) Unknown PCM default
ALSA lib pcm_hw.c:1429:(_snd_pcm_hw_open) Invalid value for card

This appears to be a combination of two things:

  1. The application makes noise of some kind, something that was mercifully spared me.
  2. cvr2 doesn't have any functional sound hardware—it doesn't need it. But the browser isn't taking “no” for an answer.

Some day I must start a series of pages about sites that I have visited.


Topic: general Link here

Over to the Yeardleys this morning to fax our application form to Powercor. During the discussion, David made the point that the property doesn't belong to us. If the Yeardleys were to apply for permission, Powercor would no longer insist on doing the work themselves. So in the end they did the application (it's free). That should make it cheaper, but I still don't see it being cheap enough to be viable. Just the cable would be at least $20,000, and the alternative of a high-voltage cable, which would be cheaper in itself, requires a transformer costing $21,000. I'm beginning to think that this is just too expensive.


Topic: brewing Link here

My carbon dioxide cylinder is empty already! I only refilled it 8 months ago. I must still have a leak; time to take a more careful look at the lines. Getting a refill proves to be a problem too: the people are all out in the field until Friday.


Thursday, 8 April 2010 Dereel Images for 8 April 2010
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Entering non-standard characters
Topic: technology Link here

I'm still trying to find out how to enter non-standard characters. I've configured a “Compose Key” which works fine for Roman-derived European (“Latin”) characters, though I'm still not completely clear about which characters I can generate with it—all the documentation (mainly web pages) that I've found gives me examples. For example, Compose " a gives me ä, and Compose - d gives me ð. But I have to guess that, since the files I've found don't seem to be reliable: some key combinations don't work, though it looks as if they should. And it's limited to Roman: how do I generate a Greek Σ, for example? Simple: I enter the HTML entity &Sigma;. That works on this web page, but not elsewhere. And my real issue today was IPA characters, far beyond anything I've seen documented.

Went out looking specifically for this sort of thing. I still can't find any good documentation of X's compose function—there's no man page, and the closest I can come to it is Xutf8LookupString(3), which in the web version is very sloppily marked up:

The possible values returned are:
...
XLookupNone
No consistent input has been composed so far.
The contents of buffer_return and keysym_return are not modified,
and the function returns zero.
T}

That T} is the end of some tab markup, and the other lines are broken the way the are because they're table elements. More importantly, though, the man page told me nothing. The lack of documentation appears to be complete.

Still, found other leads, one of which recommended something built on SCIM, the Smart Common Input Method platform, which is in the FreeBSD ports collection. The web page has no documentation. Installed that, and—NO documentation beyond a relatively long message with a list of other ports which base on it. Looked in the source tree: yes, there is documentation there, but Once Again the FreeBSD porter chose not to install it. Has everybody gone mad? It would seem so:

<grO0gle>        GRRR!
<grO0gle>        ANOTHER bloody port that doesn't install the docco.
<grO0gle>        Is this becoming standard practice?
<MavvieRVBD>     yes.
<MavvieRVBD>     next!
<grO0gle>        Have you gone crazy?
<MavvieRVBD>     yes
<MavvieRVBD>     next!

Finally found a useful general introduction to the concepts on the SIL International web site. That makes good reading, but it doesn't bring me much closer to being able to do my own input. I'm beginning to understand people who use Emacs macros to do it.


Romanizing Devanagari
Topic: opinion, general Link here

The background for this is the horrible mess that people—almost certainly the British—have made of romanizing Aryan languages, notably Hindi and friends. How do you pronounce Punjab? According to the Wikipedia page Punjab_(India), it's pronounced /pənˈdʒɑːb/. The Wikipedia page Punjab_(Pakistan) doesn't specify an IPA pronunciation, but it links to a sound file that pronounces it /pɑnˈdʒɑːb/. And that's closer to the Afghan transliteration Panjab. I've known about this inappropriate choice of vowel for some time, and generally I've understood the errors, but in this particular case I've always pronounced it /punˈdʒɑːb/. Other words are more obvious: the Hindi word for cumminseed is usually spelt jeera, though it's relatively clear from the Devanagari spelling जीरा that it's pronounced closer to /dʒɪrɑ/, and that thus a transliteration of jira would make more sense.


Topic: gardening Link here

The tomatoes continue to ripen. The cherry tomatoes are doing really well: they're plentiful and in good condition. The others aren't doing as well: the Rouge de Marmande have borne almost no fruit, and like the Roma tomatoes, they're attracting lots of pests, including white fly (which I can attack) and millipedes, which I can't:


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So far nothing I have tried has helped much against millipedes.


Topic: food and drink Link here

The tomatoes aren't the only things that have been attacked by worms. I'm baking tomorrow, and while preparing the starter, found a thread of stuff in the rye flour, about 10 cm long:


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I can't identify anything in it, but I assume that these are freshly hatched eggs of Indianmeal moths. In general, though, I think I'm winning the fight against them; every day I open the infested containers and remove any larvae before they have time to pupate, and the numbers are getting fewer.


Friday, 9 April 2010 Dereel Images for 9 April 2010
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Gnuplot: book with seven seals
Topic: technology Link here

I clearly didn't pay enough attention to the graphs I “fixed” when daylight savings time finished: my graphs were off by 2 hours. Why? Took a look at the scripts and found:

# 2000-1-1 0:0:0 UTC, the gnuplot epoch.  Or so it should be, but for
# some reason my plots come out offset by 2 hours.  Use GNUFUDGE until
# I find out why.
GNUFUDGE=7200
Y2K=946684800

These values are in seconds; Y2K was the time_t timestamp at the beginning of gnuplot time, and all values are in seconds. There they are, the two hours. So it had something to do with DST. But why 2 hours. Set GNUFUDGE to 0 and—I was off by 4 hours!

Set GNUFUDGE to 14400 and things work again, sort of. But where is this stuff coming from? It clearly is related to DST, but why is it off in increments of 2 hours? It's high time to rewrite this stuff in a form that's more easily debugged.


Topic: photography Link here

I still don't understand (electronic) flash exposure! Today I saw an insect crawling through a pelargonium flower, and took a photo of it with my ring flash attachment. The first image was too dark, so I tried again with manual exposure. Result: much darker:


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Yes, the aperture was marginally less, and the shutter speed was at the flash speed. I assume that most of the exposure was with ambient light. But the flash is supposed to compensate for that, but I needed to adjust by +2EV to get a reasonable exposure:


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And, of course, the insect was long gone.

That's not the only issue I have. Yesterday I took the photos of the mess left behind by Indianmeal moth larvae. They were marginally underexposed, but nothing serious. Then I pointed the Ashampoo optimizer at the photos, and it changed them completely (“optimized” on the right):


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Which is better? The “optimized” version shows much more contrast, but it's a pretty inaccurate rendition of the original. I really don't know which to use.


Damage in garden shed
Topic: gardening Link here

Did a little gardening work in the afternoon, not nearly as much as I should have done. Went out past the verandah just in time to find an Echidna disappearing underneath it. Out to get my camera, but they're pretty fast, and by the time I got back it had disappeared under a mess of tomatoes. I don't suppose they're some of the things eating the tomatoes.

We clearly have something that's been attacking supplies in the garden shed:


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The box on the left is snail pellets (non-poisonous to animals), and that had happened some time ago. The one on the right is seaweed emulsion, in a quite stable plastic bottle. What could it be? Discussed on IRC, and currently the impression is that it could have been some kind of Possum, though I'm surprised that it could have made such a mess without knocking anything over.


Topic: food and drink Link here

Also did some baking. We now have a little butane torch for flambéeing food, so tried an approximation to Hannoversches Gersterbrot, where you torch the surface of the bread. For comparison purposes, but also because it didn't look quite right, I only did half:


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Unfortunately I left the oven on grill. I normally start like that, but then I change to fan only. If I leave grill on, the surface gets too dark, as it did this time, completely obliterating the difference of the flaming.

This was also another experiment with trying to get the dough to rise more. I did the starter in 3 steps instead of two, and used 600 g in the third starter instead of 500 g. Result: as far as I can tell, no difference. This seems to be as much as the starter can handle.


Saturday, 10 April 2010 Dereel Images for 10 April 2010
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Topic: photography Link here

Still more modifications to my procedure for HDR weekly house photos. Two weeks ago I dropped from 5 automatic photos to two manual ones, with the disadvantages that it took longer between the shots and there was thus serious blur, and also the heightened possibility that I might move the camera on the tripod between the two shots. But those experiments also showed that I didn't need more than 2 EV between the two shots, so today I tried again with 3 shots bracketed 1 EV apart, which the camera can do by itself. I set the exposure to about 2/3 EV overexposure, so the -1 EV was in fact -1/3 EV, and the +1 EV was +1 2/3 EV. Then I discarded the first shot (“0 EV”). The result was a drop between the time of the shots from several seconds to about 0.2 s, with a very visible reduction in blur.

Still, took 2.5 GB of photos even so, and for the first time ever I've taken to discarding properly exposed photos. After all, I never wanted to take them in the first place, but it was the only way to get what I want. I think I need to stop putting the partial results on the web as well; there's just too much stuff.


Topic: gardening, photography Link here

Our Gruß an Aachen rose has now recovered from the wallaby attack and is blooming again. Took a photo of a single bloom. Well, that was the intention; in fact I took 8, in the process gradually coming to a better understanding of the issues. I've already established that any serious flash photo of this kind needs to be taken with manual exposure, so started with f/11, which overexposed. Next, f/22 underexposed; but it also gave too much depth of field, so turned the flashes down to their minimum value and took another photo at f/5.6:


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That was even brighter than full power at f/11! It's as if the flashes were still firing at full power. And indeed, it seems that they were. Normal “automatic” flash units always charge the capacitor fully and use relatively sophisticated electronics to stop the unit firing when enough light has been emitted. This has the side effect of having more power available when it's needed. By contrast it seems that the adjustment on my studio flash control how much power goes into the capacitor, and the tubes always discharge the capacitor completely. So when you turn it down, the first flash is still at the levels of the old setting. Tried again at f/11, f/8 and f/5.6 again, and the last one gave me the exposure I wanted:


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The last image has exactly the same exposure as the first image in the previous row.

Somewhat heartened by this, went to check the validity of my hypothesis that the flashes go off too early in slave mode. Here the exposure at f/22 again, first with a flash cord, and secondly triggered by the in-camera flash:


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Clearly the studio flashes played no part in illuminating the second photo; the shadows show that, and it looks like the distance was a little too far for the on-camera flash to illuminate it completely at that aperture.

In summary, a number of discoveries:

Flash photos: enlightenment


Topic: brewing Link here

I've been keeping an eye on the hops growing between the east garden and the garage, but today discovered that the hops growing on the west wall of the garage were going brown quite quickly. Time to harvest the rest. Got as far as the Pride of Ringwood, and harvested them all. One of the bines had been so heavy that it snapped the wire it was tied up on, and carried on bearing hops close to the ground:


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It had some of the biggest hops I have ever seen, up to 7 cm long:


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Normally they're only 2 or 3 cm long; this was three times as much.

There was quite a bit to harvest. I wonder where we'll put them.


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Sunday, 11 April 2010 Dereel Images for 11 April 2010
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Topic: general, multimedia Link here

Another brief power failure last night. I was recording three films on cvr2 at the time, and all three failed. Why? cvr2 didn't go down. It looks as if the real problem was very bad weather degrading the signals to the point that they couldn't be received, and maybe the cause of the power failure that was related to the weather.


Topic: opinion, general Link here

The other day I received a renewal “special offer” from Money Magazine: renew my subscription for only $45.00, a “41% saving!”—over the individual copy price. What's the normal subscription price? They don't say, so I went looking in the current issue. They didn't say there either, but there's a special for $44.95. They don't say “new subscriptions only”, so I went off looking at the web site, which is run by a separate company, Magshop. It took me about 2 hours.

First problem: I already have a login on the site (http://money.ninemsn.com.au/—what have I let myself in for?)—but my subscription isn't linked to it. I set up this account years ago with regard to a different magazine, and I had insurmountable problems with it then, too. They seem to have improved their site since then—the rendering wasn't as broken—but it's still a pain. There still seems to be no way to link a subscription with an online account, but now I had the option of typing in my subscription number and creating a new account number. Tried that, using the same email address, and was told to log in with the existing details. Catch 22.

While searching the site, came across their terms and conditions. Some of them are horrifying:

... you ...

11. Consent to (a) the receipt of emails from Magshop containing information and offers about products and services available on Magshop in which you may have an interest, and (b) the receipt of emails from publishers of magazines available on Magshop, containing information and offers about their products and services

12. Acknowledge that these Standard Subscription T&Cs may be modified from time to time, and agree that you are responsible for regularly reviewing these Standard Subscription T&Cs, and you agree to any such modification.

That's plain stupid, of course. Nobody can make me agree in advance to any changes they may make. And the agreement to receiving spam is Just Plain Wrong: they have a check box to accept it. It's just another indication of the stupidity of so many web sites.

Finally ended up creating a new account with a new email address and linking like that, and finally things worked. I was offered the opportunity to renew my subscription with the same special offer that had been in the letter:

 
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OK, so I can reset the promotion and see the original price, right? Yes. And I can enter the other promotion code in the magazine, right? Yes:

 
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So the special offer they gave me cost $0.05 more than the standard subscription, and the other “special offer” was the same price as the normal subscription. And this is a subscription to a magazine to show you how to save money! I had already noted that a two year subscription cost exactly twice as much as a single year subscription, but that changed with the other specials:

 
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You really need to wonder what they're using for brains. They also allowed me to put two different subscriptions at different prices into my “shopping cart”:

 
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Talking to Yvonne about it, and she noticed something that I hadn't in the original letter:


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They mention two different prices: $44.95 in the text, and $45.00 at the bottom of the page. They also addressed me in second and third person in the text. I'm amazed.


Topic: gardening, brewing Link here

More hop picking (well, plucking) today. Processed about half the hops I cut down yesterday, and ended up with another 550 g. What am I going to do with them all? Also came across some of the strangest looking hops I've ever seen. They're the same giant size as the ones I looked at yesterday, but they have leaves growing out of them:


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Topic: food and drink, general Link here

Yeardleys along for dinner tonight, and I was delegated to make the Sauerkraut:


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Monday, 12 April 2010 Dereel Images for 12 April 2010
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Topic: gardening Link here

Collapse of the Eiffel Tower

It's been windy again lately, and this morning I woke up to find a couple of structures blown over: the protection round the Japanese cherry tree, which bent the trunk, and the “Eiffel Tower”, the structure on which we have planted pandoreas and morning glories:


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One of the morning glories was partially uprooted, as the last photo shows. Put it back in again; hopefully it'll survive, though it probably only has about 2 months to go. Fortunately the pandoreas weren't affected.


Hops and shredders
Topic: brewing, gardening Link here

More hop plucking. I now have finished the Pride of Ringwood, well over 1.5 kg before drying. Now for the Hallertauers and the rest of the Tettnangs. Decided to shred the bines in our new ALDI mulcher, which proved unequal to the task. This is what came out the bottom:


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That can go back.


Topic: opinion Link here

Message from David DeTinn suggesting that I can get a subscription to “Money” magazine cheaper elsewhere, for example for $10 per year from Amazon. Indeed I can, but it's not the same magazine: there's also a US magazine with that not exactly original name. Strangely, Wikipedia didn't have any reference to it.


Tuesday, 13 April 2010 Dereel Images for 13 April 2010
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Encouraging credit card fraud
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Last month I got a phone call from RACV, our local automobile club, with whom we have insured our cars. I was told that the insurance renewal for my car was overdue, something that is very unusual—I make a point of paying on time, but this time I couldn't recall having received an invoice. Further investigation showed that Yvonne's insurance was overdue too (they're both on the same day). So far, so good, apart from the missing invoices.

But then the consultant said I could pay by credit card if I would give her the details. I'm reminded of the kind of scam mail that we all get every day “Your PayPal account has been suspended. Please fill out this form and tell us the password”. What's the difference? This was on the phone—that makes no difference. And this time the consultant was genuine—that also makes no difference. It's this kind of approach which encourages people to give their personal details to anybody who makes unsubstantiated claims of identity, as long as they sound plausible. I expressed my protest, including that I would change my insurer if this happened again, and asked for a written explanation.

Last week I actually got a written reply. It's not clear whether the writer had received the complaint correctly and had not understood it, or whether it had been transmitted incorrectly, but the answer was completely off topic: he seemed to think that I was unhappy with being contacted at all, and didn't mention the security impact beyond enclosing a privacy charter which didn't address this issue. I've been putting off replying, but today I started. And didn't finish.

The problem is: how do you make people understand? On the one hand you hear almost daily cases of scams on the Internet, of bugs in Microsoft operating systems, of crackers breaking in to even big operations like Google. But where's the “safe transacting”? My bank has publicly accessible security alerts—but it's inaccurate, or possibly they have seen the light and changed their practices. The bank safely online page states:

Neither ANZ nor the police would ask you to disclose PIN’s [sic] or password information.

But a little over a year ago this is exactly what happened to me. Maybe they think that it's safer over the phone, but that would really be not thinking at all. Again: how do you make people understand? I get the distinct impression that the people I talk to about it think I'm some kind of crank. Arguably they're right, but that doesn't alter the fact that something needs to be done about this. And surely somebody else has already written a document that is more compelling than what I can do on an individual basis.


Topic: technology Link here

Satellite connection: honeymoon over

From 18 March 2010 to 6 April 2010 I had an uninterrupted network connection, and I was gradually coming to the conclusion that the problem had been solved. But then things changed, and since then I have had another 6 dropouts, three of them today. I've contacted the support people, but haven't had a reply.


Topic: brewing, gardening Link here

More harvesting today: finished plucking the hops, and put another 1.15 kg of Pride of Ringwood in the freezer. There must be a total of 1.9 kg in there already, and I have about another 500 g still drying. What am I going to do with it all?

Also harvested more tomatoes—the Romas are coming in more numbers now—and potatoes, which the millipedes have also infested:


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Did some reading, and came up with two things: first (this is from a German book), hedgehogs eat millipedes (but, it seems, echidnas don't), and secondly, this kind of damage to the potato is due to slugs, not millipedes; the millipedes can't get in to the potato by themselves. And yes, there are slugs there, so next year I'll have to be a little more aggressive in my treatment.


Wednesday, 14 April 2010 Dereel Images for 14 April 2010
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Topic: general, music Link here

The coming hacker barbecue looks like being the barbecue to end all barbecues; at present it looks like we'll have 21 people, compared to the previous maximum of 10. In addition, we have more dietary restrictions, and most of the people are coming from New South Wales, an average of about 1000 km, so many will stay overnight. Spent a lot of time on IRC discussing things. Sue Blake has an Akai EWI4000s EWI, which appears to be an electronic saxophone. Spent some time trying to work out how to connect it to an amplifier; it seems that the normal connector is a ¼" phone plug, which I thought had become obsolete (along with the unit of length) decades ago, and which I've never seen as an input connector before. Discovered that it will also take more modern connectors, so this cable should do the trick:


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In the process discussed the exact dimensions of this kind of plugs. There are three different sizes, sold in Australia as 2.5 mm, 3.5 mm and 6.5 mm. But the last are sold in Germany as 6.3 mm, and in fact I measured them as 2.45 mm, 3.44 mm and 6.27 mm. But why do they still use the big ones?

Somehow didn't get much else done.


Thursday, 15 April 2010 Dereel
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Topic: general Link here

The impending barbecue at the weekend is gradually getting the better of my lethargy, and spent some time tidying up the place and otherwise preparing for the arrival of people, which starts tomorrow. The place certainly won't be spick and span, but people are less likely to trip over things, and we should have enough beer.


Friday, 16 April 2010 Dereel Images for 16 April 2010
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Barbecue: lull before the storm
Topic: general, technology Link here

The weekend of the Hackers Barbecue started early with the arrival of Sue Blake in Ballarat at about 9:30. Had the sudden realization that we would have 10 people for breakfast, so in to pick her up and get some “ordinary” breakfast food. What do people eat for breakfast? It's one of those national secrets, and it's been so long since I've had Australian-style breakfast that I didn't know what to buy. Sue was no help: she's a vegetarian and currently not very well, so she can't even eat the things she likes. Ended up buying some plain bread for fussy kids and a few more eggs for Peter Jeremy's cakes, then off to look for ghee, which has become very expensive. Some discussion about whether there's a difference in taste between traditional ghee and the clarified butter that you can buy in the supermarkets, and which they now label ghee.


Topic: gardening Link here

Also to Bunnings, who were supposed to have some pellets to combat millipedes, but didn't find them. Instead found a spray which claims to handle millipedes—Carbaryl, which I thought had been prohibited years ago. Still, desperate problems require desperate measures, so I bought some.

On the way home, found some interesting roadside plants, most of which posed an insurmountable challenge to the AF system of my Nikon “Coolpix” L1. This one appears to be Epacris impressa, Victoria's state floral emblem:


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Topic: general, food and drink Link here

Back home, started cooking some food for tonight. Not only is Sue a vegetarian, but the other two guests for the night, Jashank and Peter Jeremy, are Friday vegetarians, so we decided on Indian food, despite reservations: Peter's wife Usha is Indian, and they eat a lot of Indian food, probably better than what I could serve. Ended up making Alu Masala, Kali dal and spiced green beans, and also started making some Masala Vada and Alu Tikka for tomorrow.

That was enough work in itself, more than I remember (this always happens to me). In the middle, Peter and Jashank showed up, having been through the Great Ocean Road in record time, so decided to postpone tomorrow's stuff to tomorrow morning. Fortunately the weather has picked up—the highest temperature we have had all week was 17.6°, but today we had 26.3°, and it was quite pleasant on the verandah:


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The food seems to have done the trick too: on our way back from Ballarat Sue had said something to the effect that she may not eat anything all weekend, but in fact she really got stuck into the Kali Dal. The others also seemed to like it, though I wasn't completely satisfied myself, but I suspect that we could have done with more rice.


Saturday, 17 April 2010 Dereel Images for 17 April 2010
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The hackers' barbecue to end all barbecues
Topic: technology, general Link here

And so to the day of the barbecue, the biggest we have ever held:

Things started off with fun. Jashank had pointed out to me that the display on the internal unit of my WH-1081—something I never look at—was indicating “battery low” on the external unit. Out before breakfast to change the batteries, which are conveniently jammed in so that you need a screwdriver to get them out. Things worked fine, but the “low battery” indication continued. Then it occurred to me: I had put in some brand new rechargeables, which are nominally uncharged. Back out again, put in some others—and I got no response from the unit. 20 minutes of debugging: was it the battery? The outside unit? The cabling? Things were helped by the fact that I had a second inside unit that I could take outside with me. Put in a second outside unit with the same result, and finally discovered that you (normally) have to reset the inside unit when you change the batteries in the outside unit. I wonder if the thing generates a random code, and the inside unit latches on to the first one it finds. That would be a more honourable explanation of the lack of a channel setting.

That proved the validity of my approach to data storage, though: I had a whole lot of outside temperatures of -0.1°, and I was able to set them to NULL with a couple of SQL statements. Now if I could find a way to convince Wunderground to change the stored data.

As expected, of course, the numbers gradually dwindled: Sam Lawrance chickened out at the last minute, and Edwin Groothuis came alone, and did not intend to spend the night—our 10 people for breakfast tomorrow have dwindled to 6, for whom we bought 2 loaves of bread. We had planned three tables for the main barbecue, including a quarter of the old conference table from the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau,

I had left some of the cooking until this morning, and Peter also had a couple of cakes to bake. Ended up doing my stuff on the “dining room” table:


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Callum Gibson and family (the “Mongolian hordes”, his wife Jenny and kids Emma, Owen, Alice and Rebecca) showed up in time to help with the final preparations:


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Callum had also obligingly stepped forward as Grillmeister, though we weren't able to satisfy his request for tasteless aprons with fake breasts on them. I thought bushfire protection overalls more appropriate, anyway:


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Our worries about feeding and seating everybody were unfounded: Callum's children preferred to stay indoors (little Owen was afraid of the bees outside, but I saw him carrying a very patient Piccola around inside), so we ended up with “only” 15 people outside, and even had a couple of seats empty. Others who showed up were Juha Kupiainen, Lawrance Stewart (a bloke from Melbourne who is currently working on TCP congestion control) with Warren, a friend of his whose surname I forget, and Peter Ross, a German whom I knew from some mailing lists, but I didn't know that he has been in Australia for 8 years, and is currently in Melbourne. He came by bike from Ballarat.

People have been talking about my flaky satellite connection for years, and IPStar didn't disappoint them:

Start time End time     Duration (seconds)        from                    to
1271467723 1271468277    554            # 17 April 2010 11:28:43 17 April 2010 11:37:57
1271468470 1271468661    191            # 17 April 2010 11:41:10 17 April 2010 11:44:21

Date        Outages   Duration  Availability    Date
                      (seconds)
1271426400        2        745   99.14% # 17 April 2010

Any improvement I had in the middle of last month seems to be over: the average availability since I've had the service is 99.12%. And my ISP has sold its satellite operations, so I fear I'm in for more bad service.

The beer went down well, of course, and Callum finished a keg. We went and looked at the old hardware—originally the reason for the barbecue was so that Alastair Boyanich could pick up the PDP-11 (under the antenna in the first photo), but Callum thought that he should take the Control Data Cyber 910 as well (second photo):


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But Alastair didn't show—we'll have to repeat the effort.

Also riding for Callum's kids:


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Sue and Jenny are both into music, and Sue spent a bit of time explaining recorder technique to Jenny:


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And hacking? Juha took Edwin's laptop apart, apparently to excise a defective RAM module, and helped by a generous glass of beer:


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Edwin had promised to bring food, but when we unpacked the expected rainbow trout, it proved to be a Steelhead appliance:


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Interesting box—it's a network accelerator, as near as I can put it. Edwin demonstrated the operation, and sure enough, it worked as expected, accelerating the download of an MP3 from 30 kB/s to about 3 MB/s—by caching. That in itself is nothing world-shattering—Squid can do that. The difference here is that the appliance (can't they find a better term?) recognizes common data wherever it turns up, and then saves it to disk. That sounds very much like what Alan Kennington and I were talking about years ago:


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At the time I had told him that it was crazy to put a disk in a network stream.

The real issue is how difficult it is to demonstrate something like that. You need to show speedups in situations where current software can't cope. And from my point of view, I'm interested to hear the implementation details, whether it works like rsync or like blocklets.

People were interested in the beer as well, of course. I'm not brewing anything at the moment, but I showed the ingredients I had. And Jenny looked up to the ceiling and found it infested with Indianmeal moth pupae. Off with a can of fly spray to hopefully kill them. They're pretty well wrapped, and I should remove and crush them:


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All in all, a successful barbecue, leaving everybody thoroughly contented:

 
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Barbecue: the evening
Topic: technology, general, photography Link here

Most people left round dusk, and in the end we were the same group as last night with the addition of Juha, who had been offered a bed at Chris' place, but he decided he'd rather sleep on the floor here than find his way over there late at night. But then he remembered his cat allergy and ended up sleeping in his car.

Before that, however, we spent some time playing around with cameras on the verandah:


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Tried to connect up my Mecablitz 40 CT to Juha's camera. Problem: he doesn't know the maximum flash trigger voltage for his camera, so I decided to do it with my radio-controlled remote trigger. That doesn't work properly either: it has enough effect on the flash that the charge light goes out, but apparently not enough to fire it. I wonder what's wrong there.


Sunday, 18 April 2010 Dereel Images for 18 April 2010
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The barbecue continues
Topic: photography, technology, general Link here

With all the fun yesterday, didn't take most of my garden photos, so did that today, with a couple of people in tow with the intention of taking photos of me doing it:


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Getting my panoramas sorted out with so many people around was a bit of an issue, but it occurred to me that we should try a specific panorama with lots of people in it:


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Another popular subject was Piccola:


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Strangely, nobody took any photos of Lilac.


Topic: gardening Link here

While walking around the paddocks, found a new weed:


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It looks like Catmint, but it doesn't have the scent, and the flowers have long since faded. Peter tells me that the orange spots are Harlequin beetles, though that term seems to be applied to many and varied beetles. None of the ones I've found look like these.


Topic: photography, general Link here

Spent the rest of the afternoon processing photos—with the help of Jashank, Juha and Peter I have the largest collection I've ever had for a weekend, a total of 335 images (not including the components of HDR images), and nearly 6 GB of data:

=== grog@dereel (/dev/ttypa) ~/Photos 753 -> for i in 2010041[678]; do ls -1 $i/*.jpeg | wc -l; done
      13
     159
     163
=== grog@dereel (/dev/ttypa) ~/Photos 754 -> du -smc 2010041[678]
525     20100416
2039    20100417
3377    20100418
5941    total

Processing the “Mongolian Hordes” panorama was fun, and not completely successful:


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The cannas growing out of Juha's head reminded Yvonne of a Botticelli painting, though she's not sure which. But I wonder how to manually frob the individual images to get rid of that kind of artefact.

Uploading photos wasn't made any easier by extreme network congestion and more satellite outages:

Start time End time     Duration (seconds)        from                    to
1271547788 1271547876     88            # 18 April 2010 09:43:08 18 April 2010 09:44:36
1271550444 1271550481     37            # 18 April 2010 10:27:24 18 April 2010 10:28:01
1271590286 1271590390    104            # 18 April 2010 21:31:26 18 April 2010 21:33:10

Date        Outages   Duration  Availability    Date
                      (seconds)
1271512800        3        229   99.73% # 18 April 2010

I didn't get everything uploaded until nearly 18:00.


Topic: general Link here

We still have lots of leftovers, of course. Called the Yeardleys over for dinner and finished the marinated meat and some leftover cold sausages. We still have a number of beef and vegetable skewers and far too many sausages (about 25). But things could be worse.


Monday, 19 April 2010 Dereel Images for 19 April 2010
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Satellite network: back to the old unreliability
Topic: technology Link here

Still more satellite problems today. I think we can safely say that only part of the problem has been solved. Clearly we have a serious issue here, and I'm seriously concerned about what's going to happen when SkyMesh take over. I don't have any reason to believe that they're worse than average, but I don't know if they'll go to as much trouble. Called up support and spoke to Ashley, who promised to look in to it. I still think it's time to explore the alternatives again.


Topic: general, brewing Link here

Apart from that, Peace! The weekend was fun, but it was tiring, and it's good to be alone again. Spent some time tidying up and assessing the leftovers from the week, including things that other people have left behind. What do you do with self-raising flour? The deep freeze was already full to the gunwhales, so took up Chris' offer to store my hops. That made a worthwhile amount of space in the deep freeze:


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Topic: general, food and drink Link here

In the evening, more Indian vegetarian food. Peter Jeremy had left behind a dosai mix, so tried that, with only limited success. They wanted the mix to be put into the pan cold, which made it not cover the oil. I ended up putting the whole mixture for two dosai in at once, which didn't taste too bad, but it took forever to make. I wonder if you can make them without oil in a non-stick frying pan.


Tuesday, 20 April 2010 Dereel Images for 20 April 2010
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Topic: general, gardening Link here

The weather over the past few days has been ideal—sunny, not too much wind, and temperatures in the low to mid 20s. We were able to eat both breakfast and lunch on the verandah, and afterwards I finally got round to mowing the lawn.

Didn't quite get finished: it started to rain, not much, but I was looking for an excuse, and that was it. In to watch TV, in the middle of which it started raining so loudly that I had to give up. And stopping the mplayer failed: I couldn't access dereel.

In to the office. dereel was still running, but the UPS was screaming. Out to the switchboard to discover that the RCD had tripped and couldn't be reset. Quickly grabbed an extension cable from the garage and connected the UPS to the circuit in the lounge, then out through pouring rain to look for the problem.

I didn't find it. Ended up disconnecting everything from the circuit, but the RCD still tripped. At the same time we had water coming in through the ceiling—I wonder if there's a connection there. Yvonne went to the Yeardleys and came back with some more extension cables, so now the house is full of them:


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The rain itself was pretty spectacular: between 16:20 and 17:50 we had 32 mm of rain, 5% of the annual total, though my weather software only registered 25.1 mm—I need to look at that. We had hail and flooding in the garage:


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Strangely, the only real problems we had were with the RCD. The power stayed up, and I don't think there's any serious damage done.


Wednesday, 21 April 2010 Dereel Images for 21 April 2010
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Topic: gardening Link here

Yesterday's storm didn't do any serious damage, but it took a number of leaves off the Ginkgo, and the nasturtiums took quite a battering:


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On the other hand, it looks almost like spring:


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Why should a Narcissus flower in autumn? They're probably just coming out in Scandinavia now.


Topic: general Link here

Still no power in the western side of the house. I wonder how long it will be before the moisture dries out—if, indeed, it's moisture. I can imagine a very high electrician's bill if I call one out, so if it can solve itself in a couple of days, I'm prepared to put up with that. But how long should I wait?

Into town today to meet with Peter O'Connell, and did a couple of other things at the same time. My office chair has served me well for years, but the cushioning is wearing thin, and the gas lift cylinder is leaking, so time to buy another one. To OfficeWorks, where a surprisingly active salesperson sold me pretty much exactly what I was looking for. A little shorter in the back than my present one, but I confirmed that my back never touched above that height anyway.

To Dahlsens to buy a couple more extension cables. I don't like the place, but it didn't seem worth going half way across town to the competition just for that. My fears were justified, though: the price markings were vague, and when I finally got to the checkout I discovered that my $25 cable suddenly cost $46. The cashier called for somebody to check the price, not what I wanted: I wanted to know which was the cheapest. But nobody came, so I gave up. I wonder how that company stays in business.


Topic: gardening Link here

On the way home, stopped again outside Enfield to look at the wildflowers. This time I had brought my Olympus with me, and got some better photos:


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Thursday, 22 April 2010 Dereel Images for 22 April 2010
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Topic: general Link here

The power fault doesn't seem to be going away. Investigated the socket outside on the verandah, which had been subject to a lot of splashing, but it was completely dry, and I measured infinite resistance (well, more than 2 MΩ). It wasn't until later that it occurred to me that I might have been measuring the wrong side of the switch, so out to take a look at the switchboard. Apart from a dead spider, there wasn't much to be seen:


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Measured the resistance there, and got wildly varying values in the range 80 Ω to 400 Ω—corresponding to a load of between 130 and 650 W, far more than I'd be happy to handle. Over in the evening to talk to Ray Nottle, who gave me the name of an electrician and also the quote for power for the “New House”: about $40,000 to $45,000. I think we can put that one to rest.

Back home, found more evidence of what must be going on:


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There's a clear trail where water has drained out of the right-hand switch. That's in the area where the power failed and where the water came in through the roof. I suppose it would be worth going up there and taking a look, but the ceiling is 3.6 m high, and after my last episode looking for cables in the ceiling, I have had to promise Yvonne not to go there myself any more.


Topic: gardening Link here

Most of the Abutilon shoots that we picked up from Nancy Brewer four months ago have taken, and we already have a fully-formed flower on one of them:


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Friday, 23 April 2010 Dereel Images for 23 April 2010
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Beware forged Microsoft Security Bulletins
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Some time ago I noted that the Microsoft Security Response Center signs its messages with PGP. But recently there have been bulletins, purportedly from Microsoft, which are not signed. They must be forgeries. One message has all the normal boilerplate (word wrap is original):

The Microsoft Security Response Center (MSRC) uses PGP to digitally
sign all security notifications. However, PGP is not required for
reading security notifications, reading security bulletins, or
installing security updates. You can obtain the MSRC public PGP key
at
https://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/pgp.mspx.
        

But there's no signature. The other message omits even this text.

This is serious stuff. What's Microsoft doing about it? Nothing, it seems. If this is a forgery, it's a very well done one. The headers look identical to those coming from Microsoft, and the content matches what's on the Microsoft web site. What's going on? I can think of two scenarios:

The fact that there are no signed Microsoft security bulletins any more suggests that the second scenario is the case. But what stupidity! That's exactly the kind of lack of understanding that encourages security breaches. Thank God I don't use Microsoft.


Topic: general Link here

More work on finding out the problem with the RCD today, and in the course of the day had some success. The first point was that there are two separate circuits on the RCD, so I disconnected one:


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Those loose wires are no danger, since they're not connected to anything. And yes, the other circuit worked, and included nearly all the power points affected. The only ones non-functional were in the kitchen and laundry, and on the north side of the “dining room” which leads to the verandah. Even the other side of the north room, where we eat, has power.

The location is not overly surprising: that's where the rain came in. So it seems reasonable to assume that there's a connection. What next? Called up CJ, and he came over to climb around in the ceiling. I defied the prohibition and poked my head up there too. Discovered a number of things, some of them surprises:


Topic: food and drink Link here

We've planted a lot of less common herbs in the garden over the last couple of years, but we haven't eaten many of them. Today we had some left-over cold chicken, and decided to use various herbs for a Vietnamese-style meat salad. I can't claim that it's authentic: I started with a recipe for something different and simplified it to a point where it's easy to make and use for using up leftovers. The results weren't bad; next time I'll take photos.


Saturday, 24 April 2010 Dereel Images for 24 April 2010
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Microsoft people want higher display resolution
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I've been ranting about low display resolution for some time now, but it seems that other people are getting fed up with it too. Somebody pointed me at an article by Pete Brown, a Microsoft Developer Division Community Program Manager specializing in Silverlight (yes, I had to look up what that was). He blamed HDTV for the situation, but of course the problem has been there for years, and it's because of the current implicit assumption that point size is the same thing as pixel count. Increase the resolution of a display and you reduce the text size for a given “point size”. Increase the “point size” and you overflow boxes in HTML pages specified in pixels. The only thing HDTV did was to give manufacturers an excuse to shrink display size from an already too low 1920x1200 to even lower 1920x1080.

The site allows comments—all I read were in agreement that the display sizes were far too low—and so I left a comment there. Pete responded noting that he should probably check his own CSS for that kind of mistake. It's interesting that he hadn't thought of it before, but of course he's still powerless against the assumptions made by current versions of HTML. Wouldn't it be nice if people could gradually remove the equation of point sizes and pixels? The discussion has also spilled over into Slashdot.


Topic: gardening Link here

I've already noted the problems I have had with Petunias and Lobelias over the past season. Last weekend I forgot to water the last surviving Lobelias a single time, and they've taken it to heart:


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All the more surprising that they seem to have self-seeded. In the nearby pot with the red Hibiscus, I've found some that are flowering:


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Maybe they need more shade.

Also found more of these horrible grubs on one of the Eucalypts in the garden:


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They reacted well to Pyrethrum. This is the first group only a couple of minutes after spraying:


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Within a couple of hours, they were completely gone.

But what's that Eucalypt doing there in the first place? This was supposed to be a garden with small shrubs, and this thing is already 3 m high. Checked back and found that we planted it on 23 December 2007, so it's only a little over 2 years old. And I described it as a Pultenaea daphnoides, which it most definitely is not. We're still discussing whether to pull it out again; it's not as clear-cut as with the others on 30 November 2009.


Topic: animals Link here

Earlier this month we went out riding, and Darah tripped. We weren't sure if anything had happened, but today Gordon, the farrier, came and trimmed her hooves, and found evidence of an injury. Left the left forehoof, right the right hindhoof, first from above, then from below:


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The good news is that she seems to have already recovered.


Topic: general Link here

Photo day today. The rain in the last week has certainly made a difference to the dam. Here the levels 2 weeks ago and today:


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Topic: general, food and drink Link here

Chris and David Yeardley over for dinner in the evening. Yvonne cooked a bogrács gulyás, which met with great approval.


Sunday, 25 April 2010 Anzac Day
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Network woes, worse than ever
Topic: technology Link here

I've already noted that my flaky satellite network connection is bad again. The link dropouts are possibly fractionally fewer, but now network congestion seems to be getting worse. Last week it took hours to upload all the photos we took, and this week it took 20 minutes to synchronize my diary; normally it takes about 1 minute:

Sun Apr 25 11:40:19 EST 2010
...
sent 1467254 bytes  received 144527 bytes  1454.02 bytes/sec
total size is 698600583  speedup is 433.43
Sun Apr 25 11:59:06 EST 2010

Let's hope that things work better with SkyMesh. As Juha Kupiainen pointed out, the name can easily be corrupted to “SkyMess”, and indeed it has already been used, though I wouldn't condemn SkyMesh based on that report. Other threads on whirlpool look a lot more positive.


Topic: opinion Link here

Anzac Day today, not for the first time of course. It's basically a military celebration, and there are things like dawn services at the Australian War Memorial, and even at Gallipoli. But they're making more and more of a fuss of the matter. Why? Is this a grass roots thing, or are people in high places trying to rouse patriotic spirit to make it easier to recruit soldiers? It's not just patriotism; nobody makes nearly as much fuss about Australia Day.


Working around the electrical fault
Topic: general Link here

More playing around with the electricity problem today. I started with the hypothesis that there's a fault in one segment of cable, and that they're linked in a daisy chain, almost certainly with branches. So the isolation method would be to break these daisy chains and see which side the fault remains. That lends itself to a kind of binary search, if I know where the branches are.

The topography is also more complicated than I thought. When I isolated the fault back to one of the two cables connected to the circuit breaker, I was happy because I thought we had only about 4 power points connected to it. In the course of time I discovered that they're a total of 11. And disconnecting a power point is non-trivial: they're in uncomfortable places, and most of them have been painted in, so disconnecting them can tear the paint. In the end decided to add another assertion: the problem is probably in the area that CJ identified as being wet the other day. And that is almost certainly the segment between the stove and the laundry.

Removed the power point at the stove—conveniently mounted on kitchen surface wood, and thus no paint to contend with—and confirmed that yes, indeed, it was a daisy chain. Disconnected one of the strands, and noted that the fault went on the one side of it:


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But which side? Again, I was lucky: the only one of the 11 power points that still showed a finite resistance was the one in the laundry:


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So that's the good news. I'll do some more thinking about the matter, but it looks as if I can leave things the way they are and reconnect almost everything. But why do I have such a low resistance? The power point in the laundry was also dry, and it's pretty clear that the cable goes exactly from the two power points I disconnected. A bit of rain won't do it much harm. I think the bird's nest is the issue here: maybe the birds pecked through the insulation. Irritatingly, we can't get into the ceiling of the laundry to take a look. We'll have to take the roof off, not a good idea at the moment. But I don't think we should ever use that cable again, at least not until we've looked at it very carefully.


Monday, 26 April 2010 Dereel Images for 26 April 2010
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Network: good or bad?
Topic: technology Link here

I've been suffering from sub-optimal network performance lately, but it really seems to be related mainly to network congestion. Today I uploaded a compressed ISO image to the web site and was amazed by the speed of my 256 kb/s uplink:

386BSD-1.0.bz2
   136105159 100%   56.43kB/s    0:39:14 (xfer#1, to-check=47/49)
sent 136123147 bytes  received 34 bytes  56494.37 bytes/sec

Still, things could be completely different next week.


We have power again
Topic: general Link here

Finished my work on the power distribution, which I had delayed because I had to reconnect my computers (with UPS) to another circuit while I worked on the defective one. Finally we have the power almost back to normal. We'll have to wait a while to replace the connection to the laundry; in the meantime we have a power point on the other wall.


Greenhouse woes
Topic: gardening Link here

Winter's around the door, and we've had to postpone any idea of moving house, so it's time to finish erecting the greenhouse. Out to try to puzzle out how the thing fits together, and took 30 minutes to screw down two rails which hold the roof trusses (on an angle at the very left of the left-hand photo below). Why do all these holes not quite fit? I'm fairly sure that I am putting the thing in the right place, but some screws have to go through 3 holes that are up to 1 mm offset, and I needed a fair amount of force (not to mention cursing and swearing) to get the screws in place. Then we tried to put in the roof trusses:


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We're missing about 20 cm length in the beams. How is that supposed to work? We also have some kind of flap that I think is intended to open at the top to ventilate it, but I have no idea how it is supposed to fit, and these gussets in the middle (the piece with the round holes in it) came attached to one of the trusses, and there are holes on the other which match. The only way that could work would be if the trusses started further up. But then there would be a gap at the bottom, and the flaps wouldn't work. I wish I could find erection instructions for this thing.

Also planning plants for next spring. We've decided to go with lobelias and petunias again, and we need to buy some seed. Found some seeds for bright red dwarf petunias on eBay, but of course they didn't say what size they are. Sent a message to the vendor:

How big are the flowers on this variety?

Got a very quick reply (22 minutes):

Thank you for your interest on our store.
This Petunia large head
are 30 CM  high.

Admittedly, eBay has carried the concept of email mutilation to its logical conclusion. It bloated my one line message to 338 lines of mainly irrelevant junk, making the message itself difficult to find, and this reply was 510 lines long. But even that doesn't explain the discrepancy. People just don't read mail any more.

One of the things I did find on an eBay product description was that petunias require frequent dead-heading, and so out to look at the rather sorry remains of this seasons hanging baskets. Cut a lot of dead stems off and confirmed that the still-living ones were long and straggly. It's probably too late for these plants, but to be observed next year.

In the process, though, confirmed what I had been suspecting for a while. The little black spots that came out of the last pruning effort aren't parasites—they're seeds. They're about half the diameter of poppy seeds, and I must have collected hundreds of two different kinds—assuming that cross-pollination hasn't made them all the same. We'll find out; maybe I should buy some seeds anyway.


Tuesday, 27 April 2010 Dereel Images for 27 April 2010
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More objections to low resolution displays
Topic: technology Link here

It wasn't that long ago that I had the impression that nobody cared about higher resolution displays any more. But more and more evidence is surfacing that people are gradually getting fed up with the situation. This is from http://xkcd.com/732/:

High density?
Cheap filters: not worth their price?
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

There's been a discussion about filters on the Oly-e.de forum. It's amazing how many people say “Buy the most expensive—it's the best, and barely good enough”. I deliberately bought the cheapest polarizing and graded neutral density filters I could find, purely to see if they were any worse. If they were, I wouldn't have lost much money. But I can't see anything wrong with them. Reinhard Wagner suggested that cheap polarizing filters show marked colour changes when rotated, but I can't see that with mine either. About the only difference I can see is that they don't have an anti-reflective coating. That's critical for lenses, but it doesn't seem to make any difference to plane glasses.


Weather station flakiness
Topic: general, technology Link here

More trouble with the weather station today; for reasons I don't understand, it started reporting wildly inaccurate values. The outside temperature was frequently reported at -0.1°, and a couple of rainfall values were over 10,000 mm. Wunderground reports a couple of readings of 2,539.7 mm, and I also found one of -78.8 mm. Some of these numbers seem to reoccur: -0.1° and -78.8 in various places. I wonder where this comes from. I had suspected the USB interface, but today the interior unit showed 4-digit rainfall (that's as high as it goes). It wasn't the same, but quite possibly there was truncation at some point. The real issue is how to catch these things, and how to get some semblance of accurate information.


Weighed and found wanting
Topic: food and drink Link here

Bought some saffron on eBay last week—10 g for $25, which is quite a good price. Being the pedantic person I am, decided to weigh it:


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Sent the vendor a message, and he apologized, offering to refund 10% of the price, which I suppose is reasonable enough. But as he said, the packet was unopened, so it's unlikely that he was pulling a fast one. He thinks it could be due to drying out, but it seems unlikely that it could dry out that much. Maybe the original vendor was the one who pulled a fast one—how many people weigh their spices?


Greenhouse and kangaroos
Topic: gardening, general Link here

Back to look at the greenhouse again. It looks as if the rails are really intended to be attached about 25 cm above the bottom of the roof. I can try that tomorrow, but how's that supposed to work?

The kangaroos are coming out in force again:


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Yvonne should train the horses to chase them away.


Wednesday, 28 April 2010 Dereel Images for 28 April 2010
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Forged Microsoft security bulletins: more info
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

John Marshall pointed me at more information about the apparently forged Microsoft security bulletins. As I had suspected, it's genuine—or at the very least, there are more indications that it is. An entry in a blog claiming to come from the Microsoft Security Response Center states:

The bad news is that PGP signing is not working correctly in the new system so the mailers going out today announcing our security bulletin release will not be signed.

That is mind-boggling! This is the security department of the world's largest software maker, and they can't even work out how to sign their own email! Somebody should offer to set up a FreeBSD system for them free of charge. And they further discredit themselves as security experts by publishing the information not on their web site, but in a blog hosted on a domain not obviously related with Microsoft! Apart from the obvious fact that customers don't have much chance of finding the information here, who is to say that it's genuine? The blog is hosted on technet.com, unlike the security center, which is logically enough hosted on microsoft.com. A little investigation with whois shows that the registrant for technet.com is in fact Microsoft, but who is to say that Microsoft is responsible for the content? Nobody. Indeed, the postings all contain disclaimers saying:

*This posting is provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confers no rights*

In the past I have expressed the opinion:

My best guess is that the people in Microsoft's Security Response Center understand the issues and do the right thing, but they haven't convinced the rest of the company yet.

It's difficult to believe in their competence now.


Attack by TinyURL
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Quite a different matter is the recent compromise of the Apache web infrastructure. It was clearly well-prepared, and appears to have taken advantage of commercial software that the Apache Foundation use. The report is interesting for a number of things:

  1. Apache didn't try to cover up what happened. On the contrary, they explain in some detail how the attack happened, and what they're doing to ensure it doesn't happen again.

  2. It shows how complicated such an attack can be.

  3. It shows a down side of using TinyURL: the offending URL was hidden by an innocuous-looking short URL that doesn't arouse any suspicions. While TinyURL themselves are clearly not to blame, it's just one more non-obvious thing about Internet security.

  4. The exploit took advantage of bugs in a commercial product, not free software.

Probably the most interesting thing, though, is the enormous difference between this incident and the Microsoft security team's inability to sign their own email.


Inaccurate recipes
Topic: food and drink Link here

Made some curry puffs this evening, requiring short crust pastry, not the sort of thing I'm good at. Dragged out the cookbook for my Kenwood Chef mixer, which had a section on pastries. But there were no pastry recipes there, just pastry-based recipes. I did find a recipe elsewhere, though, which has both advantages and disadvantages:

The basic recipe is for 250 g of pastry and requires 175 g flour, 85 g of butter or margarine, and 30 to 45 ml of water. Alternatively, for 8 oz pastry you take 6 oz flour, 3 oz butter/margarine (not quite the same proportions) and 2 to 3 tbsp of water. That makes between 290 and 305 g or roughly 10 to 10½ oz of pastry. Can't these people count?

On the positive side, the information is tailor-made for the mixer, and things went exactly as described. I wouldn't have got that information out of a normal cookbook. I had been meaning to sell the cookbook on eBay, but I think that's enough reason to keep it.


Fine-tuning panoramas
Topic: photography, technology Link here

The multi-person panorama I took last week was less than 100% successful because of the choice cut points, as I noticed the following day. Today spent some time playing around with Hugin and discovered a Crop function which allows me to select a rectangular part of each image. That managed to get rid of some of the weirder artefacts, but also some of the people I wanted to have in the image. Here the first attempt followed by today's attempt:


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I can't see any more mangled faces, but there are many fewer people in there. I need to try again, but the whole thing takes a lot of time. It's also a nuisance that you can only specify rectangular sections; that's clearly not the case with the default. I wonder if it's worth hacking the code.


Thursday, 29 April 2010 Dereel Images for 29 April 2010
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Piccola's fan club
Topic: animals Link here

It seems that Piccola has a fan club. I've had a message from Marco Steinbach with a photo taken in Sardinia:

 
This should be Via-Piccola.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Via Piccola
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Nothing overly interesting in itself, but it's amusing that his first thought was of Piccola.


Restructuring RSS feeds
Topic: technology Link here

The PHP scripts I've used to write these pages have “just growed”. In particular, adding RSS support—something that I don't personally use—has made things more difficult, as has the feed for ACM Queue. The biggest issue is that a diary is, by definition, a daily thing, while comments in blogs are individual. The result was that, while most ACM Queue entries have a title describing the content, mine had a date. I kludged around that by putting in a title if, and only if, only “computers” was selected. And that fell flat if I had two comments on a day. So today I thought out a way to restructure things so that, for RSS at least, the date of the entry is almost irrelevant (though it is used to set the pubDate tag), and the heading is included in the individual entry.

That wasn't without its surprises, of course. What happens if the entry doesn't have a heading, like most of the ones I have at the moment? I kludged that by putting in the date, but it's not pretty. In future it looks as if I'll need a title for every entry.

How many people read my RSS feed? It's difficult to say, of course, because on the one hand RSS aggregators access the feeds at regular intervals, increasing the apparent hit count, and on the other hand each aggregator can have multiple readers. Callum Gibson seems to be the one person who always reads this way, and he wasn't happy with the change. After some discussion it seems that the headings were what annoyed him. He uses Newsfox to read RSS feeds, so installed that. It's one of these silly paned applications (should that be “pained”?), but in fact it doesn't work that badly.

In the process, also learnt about “categories”, which effectively are the same as what I have been calling “topics”—maybe I should change the term, but internally I use function with names like ontopic () to decide whether to display a specific entry or not, and somehow oncategory doesn't sound the same. Still, modified the functions to set category headers, and also changed the default headings to display the categories rather than the date.

After that, Callum was (relatively) satisfied, but ACM Queue wasn't. I had two entries for yesterday, and only one of them (the first) was taken. Was that because the pubDate was the same? Maybe. pubDate is synthetic anyway—I had set the time to 23:59:59—and it was the same for all items. Another hack, starting at 23:59:1 and incrementing for each item. I'll never have 60, so that would give discrete pubDates for each item. Tried that, and the RSS validator complained: it seems that pubDate requires two-digit values for seconds (and presumably minutes and hours). A sprintf just for that? It occurred to me later that I could have started at 10.

And then? ACM Queue still didn't want to know. Other aggregators ended up with two copies of everything, but ACM Queue only had the original entry. Maybe it's because the time was earlier; we'll see tomorrow.


Hugin: choosing the images
Topic: photography, technology Link here

Yesterday's experiments with the Mongolian Hordes were less than satisfactory, and today I spent much of the day trying to improve. One problem is that Hugin makes what appears to be an arbitrary decision about which image to select when it has a choice for filling a particular area of the panorama. It seems that the best thing to do is to start with as little of each image as possible. I started by cropping exactly the parts I wanted, as in the first image (under the Crop tab). That left lots of black bars in the preview image:


This should be crop-12.gif.  Is it missing?
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This should be preview-1.gif.  Is it missing?
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I could then widen the individual cropping to remove the black bars, in the process knowing what I was doing and where the image component was coming from.

Hugin has not one, but two image preview modes. One is called “Fast Preview”, and the other is called “Preview”. Each offers functionality that the other doesn't: fast preview can display frames showing which image contributes to which part of the image (and changes the image accordingly as you move the cursor across):

 
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It also allows you to move the image around (“Drag”). That somewhat makes up for the lack of “centre image here”, which is only available in the normal preview. More experimentation needed.

Finally came out with an image with which I was satisfied—all I needed to do was recenter it. And after finishing, I discovered another artefact:


This should be Mongolian-hordes-try3.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Mongolian hordes try3          Dimensions:          9877 x 1957, 3392 kB
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This should be Mongolian-hordes-try3-detail.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Mongolian hordes try3 detail
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Still more playing around needed.


Internet censorship shelved
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

On a number of occasions I've voiced my opinion about the Australian Government's stupid plan to censor the Internet. The good news: they've shelved it, at least until after the election. Can we now replace Stephen Conroy with Kate Lundy? Of course, some people see this as a ploy to allow Conroy to claim that he has a mandate for the policy if Labor gets reelected. Hopefully not.


Friday, 30 April 2010 Dereel Images for 30 April 2010
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Panoramas: getting there
Topic: photography Link here

After yesterday's almost-success with the Mongolian Hordes panorama, tried again and was finally successful—not once, but twice. Piccola had been in on the act, but always at some distance from the people, so she didn't figure in the version I had been working on. I had also had to remove at least three images of Sue Blake, so decided to make an alternative panorama with her and Piccola and as few other people as possible. The results aren't bad, though I had to trim top and bottom of the second one because I had removed too much detail there:


This should be Mongolian-hordes-final.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Mongolian hordes final          Dimensions:          9877 x 1957, 3360 kB
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This should be Mongolian-hordes-alternate.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Mongolian hordes alternate          Dimensions:          9877 x 1694, 3072 kB
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FreeBSD build problems
Topic: technology Link here

From time to time, I've had occasional difficulty building FreeBSD userland from source. I'd get a message:

===> gnu/usr.bin/groff/font (cleandir)
===> gnu/usr.bin/groff/font/devX100 (cleandir)
"Makefile", line 6: Could not find /Makefile.sub
make: fatal errors encountered -- cannot continue
*** Error code 1

Stop in /src/FreeBSD/svn/stable/7/gnu/usr.bin/groff/font.

It always happened in this particular directory, and from time to time I worked around the problem by removing the directory. But today it happened with a fresh checkout of FreeBSD 7-STABLE. What's the cause? At first I thought it was an environment variable clash, so off to take a look. The Makefile in /usr/src/gnu/usr.bin/groff/font/devX100/ is pretty minimal: it consists of only three lines, one of which includes ../Makefile.inc. And that in turn includes the Makefile.inc from one level further up, and that defines DIST_SUBDIR. So what went wrong? Tried running it make in /usr/src/gnu/usr.bin/groff/font/devX100/ under ktrace and found:

  6006 make     GIO   fd 3 read 191 bytes
       "# $FreeBSD: src/gnu/usr.bin/groff/font/devX100/Makefile,v 1.2 2004/12/21 08:46:51 ru Exp $

        NO_OBJ=

        .include "../Makefile.inc"
        .include "${DIST_DIR}/Makefile.sub"
        .include "../Makefile.dev"
       "
  6006 make     RET   read 191/0xbf
  6006 make     CALL  open(0x82234e10,O_RDONLY,<unused>0x1b6)
  6006 make     NAMI  "../Makefile.inc"
  6006 make     RET   open 5
  6006 make     CALL  fstat(0x5,0xbfbfd0d4)
  6006 make     STRU  struct stat {dev=103, ino=6313215, mode=-rw-r--r-- , nlink=1, uid=1004, gid=1000, rdev=25219922, atime=1272596794, stime=987511002, ctime=1269403621, birthtime=987511002, size=162, blksize=4096, blocks=4, flags=0x0 }
  6006 make     RET   fstat 0
  6006 make     CALL  read(0x5,0x8223f000,0x1000)
  6006 make     GIO   fd 5 read 162 bytes
       "# $FreeBSD: src/gnu/usr.bin/groff/font/Makefile.inc,v 2.1 2001/04/17 12:36:42 ru Exp $

        DIST_SUBDIR=    font/${.CURDIR:T}
        TOPREL=         ../..

        .include "../Makefile.inc"
       "
  6006 make     RET   read 162/0xa2
  6006 make     CALL  stat(0x82206a80,0xbfbfd11c)
  6006 make     NAMI  "../../../Makefile.inc"
  6006 make     STRU  struct stat {dev=103, ino=6294273, mode=-rw-r--r-- , nlink=1, uid=1004, gid=1000, rdev=25136370, at

There's no chdir there, so the current directory is still /usr/src/gnu/usr.bin/groff/font/devX100/, and so the second include of ../Makefile.inc from /usr/src/gnu/usr.bin/groff/font/devX100/../Makefile.inc should refer to ../../Makefile.inc. But instead it looks for ../../../Makefile.inc! How can that happen? With the help of Peter Jeremy and Callum Gibson, I've established a number of things:

  1. It doesn't happen to Peter or Callum.
  2. It has happened to me numerous times over a considerable period of time.
  3. It happens on different machines and releases that I have.
  4. It happens all the time with the stable/7 tree.
  5. It happens all the time if /usr/src/gnu/usr.bin/groff/font/devX100/ is the current directory, but not always when I'm in /usr/src/ and do a make buildworld.

So what is it? Next step is to debug make, I suppose. I'm really puzzled.


RSS problems, continued
Topic: technology Link here

The RSS stuff seemed OK yesterday, except for one thing: ACM Queue still only takes one topic per day. Is it maybe set to take only one per minute? I need to decide whether to change the pubDate parameter yet again. The coming change of month might be an appropriate time.


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