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April 2011
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Friday, 1 April 2011 Dereel Images for 1 April 2011
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More greenhouse frustration
Topic: gardening Link here

So, only one arch gusset to go on the greenhouse. But I knew why I didn't want to do it. It proved even more of a problem than I had expected. The arch at the far end of the greenhouse had a damaged plastic gusset, and the top was a couple of millimetres closer together than it should be, so I couldn't get the screws into the metal gusset. I needed to push the sides further apart. But how? Firstly, the end is completely glazed, and some of the glazing strips and panes have come loose, possibly because of the instability:


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In addition, the shade cloth roll is screwed onto the remains of the plastic gusset. So I need to find a way to move the ends apart, then remove the panes and possibly the roll (it might be sufficient to loosen the screws), put the metal gusset in, then replace everything. What should be a 2 minute job looks like being 2 or 3 hours, and I didn't have time today. WHAT a pain.

Did some other work in the garden, though, notably with fertilizer. I suspect that some of the lack of flowers in the garden plants is due to insufficient fertilizer; plenty of autumn plants were in full flower this time last year, and this year there's nothing. The roses, too, are somewhat subdued. So went round the garden giving a dose of fertilizer to everything that looked like it could use it, getting through a couple of kilograms in the process.

Also planted a couple of the Hebes that have been popping up in the Japanese Garden. I don't really need any more, but as we discovered a couple of weeks ago, the leaves don't resemble any of the varieties I have. They're serrated:


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It'll be interesting to see what they look like when they're in flower.


Firefox on Microsoft: no easier
Topic: technology Link here

Started up my Microsoft VM to check some markup and found a whole lot of windows had popped up, including yet another unsolicited firefox version 3.6 download waiting for installation. Started that and was asked to accept a strange license agreement:

 
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Was that part of the firefox installation? Who knows? It doesn't say what it is, and it took me a while to realize that it was a GPL license agreement. I still don't know. I can accept the GPL, so accepted, but I don't know if it was related. The firefox installation continued, and once again I got the message “Thanks for downloading Firefox, but this version is out of date”. Surely it should realize that itself and download the next one. Followed the instructions, downloaded the executable firefox 4 executable, and... nothing. It proved that it had save the thing on my desktop, and I had to install it manually. Why is this stuff all so clunky?


Saturday, 2 April 2011 Dereel Images for 2 April 2011
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Photos into the sun and software experiments
Topic: photography, technology Link here

House photos again today. After noting significant flare in my Zuiko Digital ED 12-60mm F2.8-4.0 SWD lens and the comparative lack of it on the “before” photo was taken with the Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm F4.0-5.6, decided to try some shots directly into the sun. Yes, there's flare on the 9-18mm too; it doesn't show up as much because it covers most of the field of view. But I took these photos to stitch them together, so what's wrong with taking a photo where I obscure the sun with my hand, and then eliminating it from the final photo?


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The exposure is identical for both images, and the flare in the first image is clear in the shaded walls of the house and shed, and on the grass. Left that for experiments later, and just did the normal stitching. To my surprise, hugin incorporated both of these photos in the final panorama and completely omitted my hand:


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More experimentation needed there. In particular, the new version of hugin now has a tab “mask”, which enables you to choose the areas of an image to include or exclude. In that respect, it's like what I was looking for last year: a non-rectangular crop function. But the crop function is still there as a separate feature. Who knows how they interact, but it looks as if the mask function still needs a lot of work. Tried it out on the panorama I was working on last year, and found a number of problems. The biggest problem was where people in two different images overlapped:


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The problem here is that the overlap between Peter Jeremy (left) and Juha Kupiainen (centre) wasn't vertical. There's no way to include all three people in the image, so I chose to remove Juha. I finally managed it back then by cropping vertically, but it chopped off Peter's left foot and the end of Sue Blake's stick, and also left Juha's right foot behind:

 
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What I needed was a way to slice cleanly between Peter's and Juha's legs, and then back around the stick to remove the foot. The mask function offers that:


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Unfortunately, it's very difficult to use:

Still, it's an improvement. I almost feel like looking at the code myself.


X: race condition?
Topic: technology Link here

While doing the photographic work, used up amazing amounts of memory, and for the first time found numerous processes stuck in pfault status. While trying to look at it, got the mouse cursor wedged between two displays, and X hung itself altogether:


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By the time I took that photo, the processes had long since successfully completed, but the X server remained wedged and had to be shot down. I've seen something similar before; is this a race condition of some nature, possibly related to the mouse moving between displays?


Sunday, 3 April 2011 Dereel Images for 3 April 2011
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More free computers
Topic: technology Link here

Down to Smythesdale today to visit Matt Tatum, who had offered me a couple of old computers a week or so ago. The couple gradually grew, and in the end there were 13 of them:


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Back home and unloaded them in the shipping container. A lot of them are effectively junk, but in another I found a 250 GB disk, and there is a Dell PowerEdge 2400, whatever that may be, and 5 IBM NetVista machines:


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The NetVistas look interesting, and possibly something I could use for my 3G Internet connection, but what's in the boxes? I don't know: I can't open the damn things. They don't seem to have any kind of screws on the cover, and there are no slides or anything. Went Googling and found that I'm not alone, but it looks as if I'll first have to identify the exact model, so put that into the “too hard” basket until I go back out to the container.


Masked panoramas, continued
Topic: photography, technology Link here

More work on the panoramas today, in particular the one where I had put my hand in front of the sun. It confirms yesterday's impression: there are bugs in hugin's mask function. I can easily define an exclusion mask (an area of the image that should be excluded from the panorama), but when I try to define an inclusion mask, it does random things. Sometimes it does nothing, and then sometimes it does, but there are discrepancies between the windows, and it seems to forget masks. Here the first image (mask window) shows image 1 of the panorama, of which I want only the area round the sun. But it shows no mask, and that the entire image will participate. In the second image (fast preview), the mask has been applied correctly (pink region):


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Didn't finish that one either; I need to understand things better first, including how to work round the bugs.


Nikon "CoolPix" L1: enough is enough
Topic: photography Link here

I take most of my photos with my Olympus E-30, but it's not the smallest of cameras: in fact, I think it's the biggest I've ever had, and it's too big to carry around with me all the time. For that I have the Nikon “CoolPix” L1 that I bought in a hurry in Amalfi 5 years ago. And it's getting on my nerves more and more. Like all compact cameras, it has issues with focusing—and no manual focus. In addition, since the beginning it has been very fussy about rechargeable batteries. About the only ones that work with it are the ones that I got with it, and they're getting old. Today I got three photos with freshly charged batteries. So: compacts are getting cheaper. Time for a new one.

But what? Something as obviously useful as manual focus is really difficult to find, and the camera web sites such as dpreview have their problems. According to Google there should be a comparison page at http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/compare.asp, but it's inaccessible. Other pages on that site don't give much help either. I established that they knew of only 14 “ultra compact” cameras with manual focus, and only from Casio and Sony, both manufacturers I don't like.

The “compacts” offer many more, but the definition of compact is quite generous; for example, the Canon PowerShot G12 is “112.1 x 76.2 x 48.3 mm (ex. protruding parts)” or 413 cm³, only marginally smaller than the Olympus E-620 (“The world's smallest and lightest camera body with Art Filter function”) (130 mm (W) x 94 mm (H) x 60 mm or 733 cm³) or the Olympus E-450 (“World’s Smallest Digital SLR with Art Filter”) (129.5 mm (W) x 91 mm (H) x 53 mm or 625 cm³). And it's 40% larger than the Olympus E-P2 (“120.5 mm (W) x 70.0mm (H) x 35.0 mm (D)”) or 295 cm³.

So: what should I do? It occurs to me that the Canon Hacker's Development Kit might include support for manual focus even on smaller cameras. And they're available new quite cheaply, even under $100. To be investigated.


Enhancing the shade
Topic: gardening Link here

Our Hosta is looking less and less happy:


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If it survives the winter, I think I'll plant it elsewhere. The other plants in the shade area are looking quite happy, though. In particular, the Begonia that I planted there only 5 days ago is looking very happy. Here then and now:


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So decided to move some other things there: three ferns and a Fuchsia from the entrance area, where they have been almost invisible. One of the ferns looked quite moth-eaten, but in general they're not bad:


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Monday, 4 April 2011 Dereel Images for 4 April 2011
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Panorama masking, finally
Topic: photography, technology Link here

More work today on the panorama into the sun, and finally got a presentable panorama. Here the first attempt, then the one I did today:


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The increase in shadow detail is particularly obvious round the south verandah:

 
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And how did I do it? Pretty much the way I described yesterday, just with a lot of fiddling.

And how can I improve things? Clearly the hugin mask tab needs improvement, and I think it should be merged with the crop tab. But then there needs to be some way to fine-tune things from the preview or fast preview window, and also a way to increase the display size without changing the panorama. Currently any change in the displayed image changes the resultant panorama, which isn't my intention.

Also had another stab at the time-lapse output of the verandah photos. I had thought that maybe I needed to crop all the images so that none of the frame remained. Nada. The problem was the same as before: the first image was larger than the other two. I need to investigate (and probably document) how these things work.


Greenhouse: the last gusset
Topic: gardening Link here

Finally got round to attaching the last gusset to the greenhouse today. The problem was that the sides of the greenhouse were too close, and the holes were offset by about 1.2 cm:


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As I feared, it took about two hours. First removed the glass at the top of the end, then inserted a car jack to prise the two sides apart:


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That wasn't enough, of course. The first thing that happened were that the roof bars bent outwards, so I had to screw them down without the gusset. After that I was able to attach them with two nuts, then remove the screws one at a time to remove the middle nut:


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Finally! Now all I need to do is attach the doors, buy some glass and finish glazing. What a pain this thing is.


Tidying up the verandah
Topic: gardening Link here

Anybody who looks at my photos knows that I'm filthy untidy. Today, for the first time in months, tidied up a bit round the verandah, including removing the dead Tropaeolum on the south side—it had died back completely. It seems that Tropaeolum are particularly susceptible to insect attack; I had neglected the plants round Nemo's run, and they were overrun with aphids and other insects. Roses have no problems by comparison.

Also cut back some of the Lonicera japonica and Jasminum polyanthum off the north side, and for the fun of it decided to plant them in potting mix. And I planted some of them upside-down! The Lonicera, in particular, grows back down when it can't climb any more, but the leaves still point upwards. So you get things like this:


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This looks as if the bottom is on the left. In fact, it's on the right, as closer inspection shows:


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Tuesday, 5 April 2011 Dereel Images for 5 April 2011
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Mobile tower idiots continue
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Another anonymous flyer in the letterbox today, printed on American standard size paper, and clearly related to the so-called “Dereel Anti-Tower Alliance”.

WHO CAN BE SUED for the placement of a radiation communications tower?

Nobody, of course. There's no such thing. And if a mobile phone tower has been approved, I can't see that any of the infantile claims can work. Some of the claims are just plain lies, such as the mention of the French legal case requiring the demolition of a mobile phone tower. They write:

The court of Nanterre... ordered the demolition ... on the basis that it represents a health risk to residents.

This is incorrect, and I believe the author knows it to be incorrect. The reason was that the operator could not prove that it didn't represent a health risk, and as the compensation showed, the main reason was not because of the radiation, but because of the high levels of anxiety it caused in the plaintiffs. Clearly the lunatic fringe is not limited to Dereel.

And then there's just plain ignorance and stupidity:

When the Telco is finished with the tower, or at any other time, the Telco may leave radioactive equipment on the property for the owner to dispose of (which is a violation of the EPA).

What complete stupidity! First of all, it contradicts itself: as they say, according to the EPA, the Telco may not leave radioactive material around. But what radioactivity? There is no radioactivity associated with mobile phones. Our expertly informed, anonymous idiots clearly don't know what they're talking about. Doubtless the other claims are similarly baseless, but I haven't bothered to look.

Finally, more lies about me, on their web site:

The Google map was updated again on 21st March 2011 by 'Groogle'. Greg's tower reference has suddenly dissappeared off the map after we circulated the notification of the proposed tower site. Greg can obviously have the tower site changed back when he pleases. We wonder why it was taken off so quickly!

The link in the quote is mine. It seems that the “Dereel Anti-Tower Alliance” doesn't know how to write HTML. This is nonsense: I haven't ever removed any location on that map, but it does make clear that my suspicions were right that that was the map they were using to make their baseless accusations.

Called up the police about it. It seems that there is no law against anonymous publications, and all I could go for was a civil case for defamation. Under those circumstances I could resurrect my former claim that Wendy and Stewart McClelland are behind this campaign. But I prefer to stress the point that these cowards are so convinced of their position that they send their messages anonymously. I wonder how many others are involved.


Inspecting the electoral roll
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Where do the McClellands live? They hide their address (just a PO Box in Sebastopol), and they're not in the phone book, so I can't be sure that the number 03 5346 1114 is really theirs. But there's always the electoral rolls. Are the addresses in there? I'd have to find out.

Unfortunately, the Australian Electoral Commission doesn't put the electoral roll online, possibly to avoid abuse by data collectors. I'll have to go to an office and look there.

One thing I can do, though, is check my own entry. Did that, and came up with the response “Sorry, your electoral enrolment could not be confirmed”. I live in Kleins Road, but I'm not allowed to say that. I have to enter “Kleins” and then select a box indicating the “Street type”. I suppose that's modern.


ALDI chopper: our stringent quality standards
Topic: food and drink Link here

We bought a small chopper system from ALDI a while back, and it proves to function well. Quality is another matter: there were two chopper bases, and one failed a while back with a broken bearing. That one was replaced, but today, while grinding some caraway seed, the seal between base and bell disintegrated:


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I suppose we'll get this one replaced too.


Another power failure
Topic: general Link here

The power failures seem to happening in the daytime lately. Today there was one at 14:24.


Time lapse photography, still more dead ends
Topic: photography, technology Link here

Continued my investigation of how to resize images for time-lapse photography today. The program I have been using is nona, part of hugin. Went looking for documentation, which, as I feared, was very scant. What I've discovered is effectively the usage() message:

nona: stitch a panorama image

 It uses the transform function from PanoTools, the stitching itself
 is quite simple, no seam feathering is done.
 only the non-antialiasing interpolators of panotools are supported

 The following output formats (n option of panotools p script line)
 are supported:

  JPG, TIFF, PNG  : Single image formats without feathered blending:
  TIFF_m          : multiple tiff files
  TIFF_multilayer : Multilayer tiff files, readable by The Gimp 2.0

Usage: nona [options] -o output project_file (image files)
...

The important thing here is the project file, which contains all the input information. It's supposed to be compatible with the PTStitcher project file. An old version of the format is described on that page. It seems that hugin creates one internally when invoking nona directly, but it save it as a file panorama.pto, where panorama is the base name of the output file.

Trying to read nona source code is painful. There's even a file src/hugin_base/nona/TODO.txt which is not overly complimentary. And with that minor exception there's as good as no description how it works.

So decided to try PTmender, which is also supposed to be compatible with PTstitcher. But somewhere the compatibility has faded:

=== grog@dereel (/dev/pts/5) ~/Photos/bloody-stupid-hugin 129 -> PTmender -o foo.tif 00-02.pto *.jpg
PTmender Version 2.9.17 , originally written by Helmut Dersch, rewritten by Daniel German
Illegal token in 'p'-line [69] [E] [E10.3056 R0 n"TIFF_m c:LZW r:CROP"]
Illegal token in 'p'-line [49] [1] [10.3056 R0 n"TIFF_m c:LZW r:CROP"]
...

It appears to be complaining about the first character of every line. I don't even want to start thinking about looking at why. But where do PTmender-compatible project files come from?


Wednesday, 6 April 2011 Dereel Images for 6 April 2011
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Found: The McClellands
Topic: general, opinion Link here

It turns out I didn't need to go to the Australian Electoral Commission to find out the address of Wendy and Stewart McClelland; I found another hint on the web, and to be sure, went off to take a look. The address is 43 Progress Road, Dereel—what an inappropriate address. But it seems as if the main reason for the PO Box address is that they don't have a postal delivery; they're too far in the bush.

My intention had been to stop outside the property, take some photos and leave, but my arrival didn't go unnoticed. Stewart called to me and asked me to drive in. I don't know if he knew who I was at the time, but I refused. Then Wendy came out and recognized me. She came up to me and asked me what I was doing, and I told her I had come to take some photos. She seemed surprised, and I told her that it wasn't really surprising that I should want to gather information, given the lies she had told about me. She said that she hadn't told any lies—how can she claim that? I replied that either she was lying, or she was very, very, very stupid. She then asked me to leave, but I pointed out that I was on public property, and I could stay there if I wanted. I didn't want to stay, but I didn't tell her that. She then returned to the house. In retrospect, I should have taken a witness with me, but as it was it was just the two of us. Stewart didn't come out, and I still haven't seen his face.

And what did I learn from the effort? The thing that surprises me most is the number of big microwave Yagi antennas on the roofs:


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What are they all for? The small one at the top on the right could be pointing north-east at the local TV station, and the other two could be pointing west, possibly at Linton. I don't know of any other signal source at that frequency and in that direction. That would mean that they're using some form of mobile communications, and that, despite their claims, they know they can't get a signal from Smythesdale. By comparison, my 3G antenna (the “microwave radiation tower” they talk about on their web site) is puny:


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But that has given me a new idea for where the Dereel tower should be. I've put it on my map: as Wendy says, if it's there, it must be true.

On a more serious note, somebody on IRC posted a link to a more serious summary of mobile phone issues, published by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency. It's not perfect; it contains statements like

...mobile phone radiation has a wavelength of 30 cm at 900 MHz (GSM phone)

That's inaccurate; 30 cm corresponds to 1000 MHz, and 900 MHz is about 33 cm. Not serious, but sloppy. Still, the overall summary is good. Doubtless the McClellands will dismiss them, the very people who are supposed to be protecting them, as being part of a conspiracy theory.


The last part of the greenhouse
Topic: gardening Link here

Back home, continued with the greenhouse. The one remaining structural component before the glazing was the second door, itself mainly glazed. For once things went without much difficulty. Now I can go and buy some glass.


Looping software and warm cupboards
Topic: multimedia, technology, general Link here

I've noticed in the last couple of days that the cupboard with cvr2.lemis.com, my computer video recorder, has been particularly warm. This afternoon I discovered why:

USER       PID %CPU %MEM    VSZ   RSS TTY      STAT START   TIME COMMAND
grog     27628 99.9  5.1 192880 99592 tty2     Sl+  Mar20 24472:38 /usr/bin/mythfrontend.real

That represents 17 days of CPU time; in other words, almost since starting the front end, it has been using 100% CPU time. No idea why. I don't use mythfrontend (part of MythTV) on that box, so I hadn't noticed. Looking at the start time, it appears to have been started when I was looking at the reception problems.

And later Yvonne came to me and told me that her Emacs was running excruciatingly slowly, up to a minute for a response. Went and took a look: yes, indeed, it was, using up to a minute of CPU time per keystroke. I've never seen anything like that before. She was editing her horse training diary, which is a simple markup interpreted by a PHP script:

without every freaking out the slightest. We were very impressed! That
stallion sure has a lot of brio!

*>http://wwww.lemis.com/yvonne/photos/Bigphoto.php?dirdate=20081104&image=yes-I-can.jpeg&width=100%
*>http://wwww.lemis.com/yvonne/photos/Bigphoto.php?dirdate=20081104&image=harmony.jpeg&width=100%

*d20081109

Chris did more work with Nikita. She is starting to soften and listen,
but has some grumpy moments at times. They worked on going forward

The * in the first column are magic: *d generates a date header, and *> interprets the following URL, extracts a valid photo URL from it and generates HTML to display the image. Empty lines generate a paragraph break. That's all there is to it, but it's easy enough for her to use, and it's sufficient for her needs.

But why was it looping? Tried to debug the scripts by setting debug-on-quit to T, and was able to get a stack trace, but it wasn't very informative:

debug()
call-interactively(debug t nil)
execute-extended-command(nil)
call-interactively(execute-extended-command nil nil)

It took a while to come to the hypothesis that it was due to using Emacs HTML mode, which was presumably trying to match up tags in the markup, and not finding any. The file is currently nearly 7000 lines long, and needs to be broken up for legibility, but normally that wouldn't be a problem. But the HTML functions are not optimized for looking through the whole file for every tag, and that proved to be the problem. Score: guesswork 1, Emacs debugger 0.


Piccola waiting for mouse
Topic: animals, photography Link here

It seems we must have a mouse under the fridge. For a day or two now Piccola has been sitting in front of it, waiting:


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In passing, it's amazing what image stabilization can buy you. For one of the photos I forgot to pop up the flash, and it took a 13 second hand-held exposure:


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I'm surprised anything at all is recognizable.


Thursday, 7 April 2011 Dereel Images for 7 April 2011
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More weather station woes
Topic: technology, general Link here

Came into the office this morning to find my weather station software crashing at regular intervals with SIGSEGV. Further investigation showed that I hadn't had any readings since yesterday morning. Tried putting the thing in the debugger, but it didn't seem to read anything at all from the device.

This device has a pretty flaky USB interface, so tried various things, including disconnecting and reconnecting the cable (no difference) and then power cycling the device (remove and replace batteries). That didn't work either, but it pointed out the problem: it didn't reset. The batteries were flat. Replacing them solved the problem. Now wouldn't it be nice if the device were to give some indication in advance? Of course, maybe it does. How can I find that out?


Opera font strangenesses
Topic: technology Link here

I'm gradually coming to terms with Opera. It's much faster, not only with photos, but also with normal web page display. As I suspected, though, I'm not yet ready to switch over completely. One of the biggest issues are fonts. There are two separate issues:

  1. For some reason, Opera doesn't find the non-European fonts installed on the system. firefox does, so it's not a question of missing fonts. It seems that Opera must be looking elsewhere for them, but the documentation doesn't give details.

  2. Font sizes appear to be Just Plain Broken. At some point it started rendering my own pages very large, then very small, and nothing I could do in the settings would change it; even a font size of 25 pixels rendered the text in minuscule size. I don't specify font sizes in my web pages (I believe that no web page should), so it can't be the page itself. Restarting Opera did change, back to normal. But when I opened another window, that page (also without any special font specifications) came out extremely large:


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    This seems to happen at random. I wonder how to chase it.

There also seems to be an issue with positioning on anchors. In the HTML version of this diary I have self-referential links to each article. Clicking on one should position it at the top of the window, and that's what happens with firefox. But for some reason, Opera positions further down, at least some of the time.

A related problem is refresh. If I have selected a URL like http://lemis.com/grog/diary-apr2011.php, the refresh occurs without repositioning the window to the top. This is what firefox does too, and I think it's the correct action. But if I have chosen a URL with an anchor specification, like http://lemis.com/grog/diary-apr2011.php#D7-1, it does reposition to the anchor position (modulo the error described above), which is quite irritating.


Glazing the greenhouse
Topic: gardening Link here

So now I have no excuse not to glaze the greenhouse. Well, almost. I still don't have any glass. Spent some time calling around looking for prices, which were higher than I expected. The first place I called, W.J. Robson & Sons, quoted me $279. Others quoted much the same, and one walked me through it. The larger panes (41×56 cm and 51×56 cm) cost $10, and the smaller (25.5×56 cm and 20.5×56 cm) cost $5. I needed 23 of the larger, or $230, and 11 of the smaller, or $55, so this one quoted me $285.

One other quoted $407, and the last one, Menzel Glass, didn't call back until the evening—$195! But the funny thing was, he gave his name as Nick Robson. It turns out he's the brother of the Robson who quoted me $279, and the company name isn't Menzel any more: the Yellow Pages seem to be 3 years out of date. Now it's W.J. Robson & Sons, just a different location—and 30% cheaper. Interestingly, this isn't a fly-by-night operation. I've been there before and found the facility to be so shiny that I was expecting to have to pay above-average prices.


The first narcissus of autumn
Topic: gardening Link here

In the first year we lived here, the spring bulbs came out quite late, from recollection September or so; by comparison, in Wantadilla they came in late June or early July. Since then, things have improved, but today I found a narcissus flowering:


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That's completely ridiculous. There must be parts of Europe where they haven't bloomed yet.


More plant damage
Topic: gardening Link here

Are the possums at it again? One of the ferns on the verandah looks as if it has been chewed on, and the Begonia that I planted in the shade area is missing a leaf (here 4 days ago and today):


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It seems that the leaf at bottom left is the one that was removed, so maybe it was the wind. On the positive side, the newest leaf has grown significantly over the last few days. Some pots on the verandah have also been knocked over, but that could be the cats:


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Repositioning epiphytes
Topic: gardening Link here

It's been 2½ years since I was given a Platycerium (Staghorn fern). It hasn't been happy. Yes, it's still alive, but barely bigger than when I got it.

Part of the problem was the position. At the time, I had nowhere much I could get it out of the sun and wind, and I ended up putting it in the small part of the verandah, where it has figured in many of the weekly photos:


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It looks as if it has not been getting enough light. But we can fix that: now there's less light and wind on the verandah itself, so today we mounted it on the back wall, along with a Dendrobium that we bought in Stawell last September. It's clear from the second photo that it was looking for more light:


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Bushfires: call the bushfire information line
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Lots of smoke outside in the evening, round 18:00. It's not bushfire weather, but you shouldn't make assumptions in cases like this. As the CFA wanted, called the Bushfire Information Line on 1800 240 667, a number that is well hidden in the web site. But they had gone home for the day. I had to call the emergency number 000 and speak to somebody there, who confirmed that yes, there were burnoffs taking place in Enfield State Forest, and that 000 is the correct number to call.

What's wrong with this picture? We live in an area endangered by bushfires, we almost never get informed when there's a burnoff, and the information we get is conflicting. And this is the situation after the bushfires of two years ago.


Friday, 8 April 2011 Dereel Images for 8 April 2011
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Burning off in Enfield State Forest
Topic: general Link here

Into town to pick up the glass today, and also got rid of the old broken glass. Things went well, and I also picked up a few things at Bunnings, including a replacement garden fork. How much should you pay for one? I found some between $12 and $65, a more than five-fold price difference. Yes, the more expensive ones looked marginally better, but the socket for the handle didn't look convincing, and I don't know if they'd do any better with the lever test:


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So I bought one of the cheapest, so if I break it, at least I won't be too upset.

On the way home through Enfield, they still hadn't finished their burning off. Some of the work was close to the road, causing a major traffic incident with their silly 40 km/h speed limits:


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Sudden weather change
Topic: general Link here

The weather had been very pleasant for the past few days, but it's clear that it's time to finish the greenhouse. The weather forecast for the next couple of days expects a dramatic drop in temperature:

Saturday 9 April       Min 14       Max 22       Rain developing. Windy.
Sunday 10 April       Min 7       Max 13       Few showers.

That's just not plausible. It implies that there will be a sudden 1° drop in temperature at midnight on Saturday. What kind of software generates these discontinuities?


Mail on teevee
Topic: technology Link here

In the evening, waiting in front of the TV screen for Yvonne, decided to check on my mail. That's simple enough: ssh to my main machine and start mutt. But teevee runs FreeBSD too. It's a simple matter of:

=== root@teevee (/dev/ttyp3) /var 5 -> ln -s /dereel/home/var/mail
You have new mail in /var/mail/grog

Somehow the immediate “you have mail” amused me.


Saturday, 9 April 2011 Dereel
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Utilities in C: the pain
Topic: technology, photography Link here

I should have been taking house photos today, but it was far too windy. Instead I played around with an issue that had occupied me for nearly a year: last year at the last hacker's barbecue, Juha Kupiainen, Peter Jeremy and I took a lot of photos of each other, and I put them all up on my photos page. Problem: the clocks on the cameras weren't in sync, so the connection between the photos (ordered by time) got lost. Mine was the fastest, Peter was 15 seconds behind me, and Juha was 1 minute 54 seconds behind.

How do I know that so exactly? With Juha it was simple: by sheer fluke we not only took photos of each other at the same time, but the timing was so exact that Juha got a photo of the flash from my camera, a synchronization of better than 4 ms:


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The original EXIF data shows a discrepancy of 1 minute, 54 seconds.

With Peter it's not quite so certain, but he took this photo, which must have been just before I took the photo of Juha:


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It's unlikely that I would be sitting like that after taking the photo, so I have rather arbitrarily decided that it was one second before. So at least we have a fairly good idea of the times by which to reset the timestamps.

But how? The basic incantation with exiftool is:

exiftool -overwrite_original_in_place -DateTimeOriginal="2010:04:17 18:55:33" -CreateDate="2010:04:17 18:55:33" IMG_0445.JPG

In passing, it's interesting to note the various dates reported by exiftool:

    - File Modification Date/Time     : 2010:04:17 18:55:33+10:00
  306 Modify Date                     : 2010:04:17 18:55:18
36867 Date/Time Original              : 2010:04:17 18:55:33
36868 Create Date                     : 2010:04:17 18:55:33

The first column is the EXIF tag, which is useful because people tend to describe things differently in different programs. The exif program reports the following values for the same image:

Date and Time       |2010:04:17 18:55:18
Date and Time (Origi|2010:04:17 18:55:33
Date and Time (Digit|2010:04:17 18:55:33

According to the EXIF 2.2 specification, pages 30 and 60, the meanings of the individual output from exiftool are:

  1.     - File Modification Date/Time     : 2010:04:17 18:55:33+10:00

    This isn't EXIF data at all. It's the UNIX modification timestamp of the file.

  2.   306 Modify Date                     : 2010:04:17 18:55:18

    This is the timestamp of the last software modification. I don't use it, and by default it's set to the same time as the other two, so it's convenient to abuse it to show what was originally in the image. The standard calls this one “File change date and time”, and the tag name is DateTime.

  3. 36867 Date/Time Original              : 2010:04:17 18:55:33

    This is the time the photo was taken. The standard calls it “Date and time of original data generation” and gives it the tag name DateTimeOriginal.

  4. 36868 Create Date                     : 2010:04:17 18:55:33

    This is the time the image was digitized. I suppose it could differ from the previous one for film images, or on a camera with very slow JPEG conversion. The standard calls it “Date and time of digital data generation” and gives it the tag name DateTimeDigitized.

Getting back to the issue, it's easy enough to write a script to do much of that for you, but here I have to handle timestamp offsets, a messy business at the best. The obvious way is to do it in Perl, especially since exiftool is written in Perl, but I don't do Perl. Considered the options:

Seriously considered the last two options, to the point of starting hacking some code in each language. In the end, I settled on C. It took me a good part of the day to get the program finished, most of it wondering about the correct way to do it. Why is date processing so messy?


Greenhouse: slow progress
Topic: gardening Link here

It was clear that I wouldn't get the greenhouse glazed today, but I made a start. The main issue was the roof: unlike the rest of the greenhouse, the glass has to overlap here, and I needed to make some S clips to hold it in place. In addition, there was the issue of just putting in the panes at all: I can't lean over the greenhouse to put the top panes in.

The length of the S clips proved more critical than I thought; it seems that about 3.2 cm is correct. In the space of 2 hours I managed to put in 3 panes, and in this case the lower clips are longer than the upper ones:


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When I continue, hopefully things will be more even and it'll go faster.

Also reseated the last slipped panes at the end. The seals had come undone, and everything was loose. I didn't have seals for all the sides, so tried this new self-adhesive sealing strip that I bought a while back. I had thought that 5 metres would be enough, but this one window frame alone took nearly 2 metres, and there's plenty more to go:


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Clogged drippers
Topic: gardening Link here

I've been gradually migrating the irrigation system from spray to drippers. They use less water and also don't wet the leaves. But it seems that they have their down sides, one of which may explain the death of the plants on the south side of the verandah: despite the filter on the water supply, they clog up, apparently with some iron-based precipitate that forms in the lines. The results are noticeable in the Polemonium and maybe the Alstroemeria, both of which had drippers which proved to have clogged up:


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Some of the drippers are made in two parts, and they can be taken apart and cleaned. Others, including the two here, are in one part. It looks as if I can throw them away. I'll have time to buy a lot of cleanable drippers before next summer comes.


Sunday, 10 April 2011 Dereel Images for 10 April 2011
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Flash on Opera?
Topic: technology Link here

Looking through eBay auctions with Opera today, and again tripped over the missing flash support. Today I had enough time, so followed up on what to do. The otherwise quite good documentation didn't help much: it seemed to think I was running Linux, and gave me instructions how to install the support for various Linux distros, which isn't much help for FreeBSD.

Google to the rescue, pointing me at an article in the Opera Knowledge Base. It seems I need a separate port, www/opera-linuxplugins, which I installed. Then to the Preferences > Advanced > Content menu and clicked "Plug-in Options" and then "Change Path" to change the directories that Opera searches in.

But how do you enter the directory names? “Change Path” gives me a window with non-editable fields and truncated path names, and when I select “Add”, it gives me a window for selecting a file out of my own home directory:

 
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Fiddled around with that for a while, making little progress, and suddenly I found that it had found my flash plugin. I don't know what I did to get it, but finally it was there:

 
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And how does it work? Barely at all:

 
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That should be a graphic display of a panorama head, but there's nothing there. On lowering and then raising the window, the area contains what was there before, in this case an entry from the most important work of the Brothers Grimm, the Deutsches Wörterbuch.


Rain again
Topic: gardening Link here

It's been relatively dry lately. We've had less rain in the ten weeks since the beginning of February than we did in January alone, and the dam is beginning to show signs of drying out again. Here 22 January 2011 and today:


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So it's not unwelcome that we got a fair amount of rain today, over 10 mm, with more promised. But it kept me from doing any work on the greenhouse.


Experimental 3D photos
Topic: photography Link here

It seems that three-dimensional imaging, both photos and videos, is the coming thing. And of course you need special equipment to view them. In the computer area, that means at least special monitors or projectors, and usually goggles as well. But there are simpler ways. For the fun of it, took some photos today, two shots offset laterally by 7 cm, about the width between two eyes. Inverted the left-hand one, and displayed them like this:

Image   Image

This works best in full screen mode (1920 pixels). Then all I needed was a mirror to place between the two images, facing left. Placed my nose on the end of the mirror, looking to the right: right eye directly at the right-hand image, left eye at the reflection of the left image in the mirror. Adjust mirror so they overlap, and presto! a 3D image.

Unfortunately, it's not very easy. In addition, the wind meant that a number of things had moved between the two shots. But it's certainly a start.


How I hate UNIX time functions!
Topic: technology Link here

Playing around with a few more details on my EXIF time reset program today, and discovered an amazing thing: if I tried to increment the time by 1 hour, 15 seconds, it only incremented by 15 seconds. If I tried to decrement the time by the same amount, it decremented by 2 hours:

=== grog@dereel (/dev/pts/22) ~/Photos/20110410 179 -> exiftool foo | grep "Create Date"
Create Date                     : 2011:04:10 08:36:01
=== grog@dereel (/dev/pts/22) ~/Photos/20110410 180 -> resetdate 1:0:15 foo
exiftool -overwrite_original_in_place -DateTimeOriginal="2011:04:10 08:36:16" -CreateDate="2011:04:10 08:36:16" foo
=== grog@dereel (/dev/pts/22) ~/Photos/20110410 181 -> exiftool foo | grep "Create Date"
Create Date                     : 2011:04:10 08:36:16
=== grog@dereel (/dev/pts/22) ~/Photos/20110410 182 -> resetdate 1:0:15 foo
exiftool -overwrite_original_in_place -DateTimeOriginal="2011:04:10 08:36:31" -CreateDate="2011:04:10 08:36:31" foo
=== grog@dereel (/dev/pts/22) ~/Photos/20110410 183 -> exiftool foo | grep "Create Date"
Create Date                     : 2011:04:10 08:36:31
=== grog@dereel (/dev/pts/22) ~/Photos/20110410 184 -> resetdate -1:0:15 foo
exiftool -overwrite_original_in_place -DateTimeOriginal="2011:04:10 06:36:16" -CreateDate="2011:04:10 06:36:16" foo
=== grog@dereel (/dev/pts/22) ~/Photos/20110410 185 -> exiftool foo | grep "Create Date"
Create Date                     : 2011:04:10 06:36:16

A clear case for the debugger. But in the debugger, everything worked correctly! Ended up with lots of printfs all over the place before I finally found it. And then I realised I had seen this before: strptime, which converts a specific text representation of a date to a struct tm, has the following definition:

     char *
     strptime(const char * restrict buf, const char * restrict format,
         struct tm * restrict timeptr);

The result gets stored in timeptr. But it also interprets the prior contents of timeptr, in particular the member timeptr->tm_isdst to check whether the current time is DST. It should be dependent on the time itself (though clearly there's one hour a year where that's ambiguous). I had allocated timeptr on the stack, so the prior contents are undefined. That's presumably why things worked in the debugger.

Even more annoying is that I've tripped over this before, but I didn't mention it in my Diary. I'm continually reminded of what I wrote in “Porting UNIX Software” nearly 20 years ago:

UNIX timekeeping is an untidy area, made more confusing by national and international laws and customs. Broadly, there are two kinds of functions: one group is concerned with getting and setting system times, and the other group is concerned with converting time representations between a bewildering number of formats.

In that time, nothing seems to have improved.


Monday, 11 April 2011 Dereel Images for 11 April 2011
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Using "scripting" languages
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I don't do perl. I don't do python. I don't do ruby. I use the bash shell, and sometimes I do some AWK, but it's painful. Why nothing more modern?

For once, it's not a question of objections to particular languages or approaches. It's a question of thresholds. I can use bash for simple things like running programs. I can (and usually do) interface to it interactively. If I want to do more complicated things, I can build on existing command line input, coming up with monstrosities like:

for d in [12]*; do (cd $d && if [ -d orig ]; then FOO=`ls -1rt orig/*G | sed 's:orig/::; s:.JPG::' | tail -1`; if [ $FOO != "" -a -e makejpeg ]; then grep $FOO makejpeg > /dev/null; if [ $?  -ne 0 ]; then echo -n "`pwd`/$FOO.JPG "; fi; fi; fi); done 2>/dev/null > /tmp/foo

Yes, it's ugly, but in most cases I never use it again, so it doesn't matter. If it proves useful (this one might: it's designed to check if I have forgotten to process photos), I can store it in a file, tidy up the format a bit, and call it a script. Incrementally, no sharp edges.

If I had to do that with a “scripting” language, I'd have to rewrite the script at this point. That's a transition I don't need, and only do it when it becomes really painful in a shell script. Paradoxically, I do it in PHP, because that's one interpreted language I do understand. It's clear, though, that that's not optimal.

The alternative is to use a scripting language as my main shell. Does that work? I don't know. Probably it does to a certain extent. But I don't see many people using perl or python as their login shell. I gather that there are interactive versions of many of these languages, but how smooth are they? What's command line editing and file name completion like?

To be found out about, I suppose. Currently I'm happy that I've identified a reason.


More greenhouse progress
Topic: gardening Link here

Despite the continued rain, managed to make a little progress with the greenhouse. Attaching the rubber seals is a pain, and I get glue all over my fingers. Managed to glaze the doors, so now only the roof is over. Attached the remaining glass clips, so now all I need are the seals, the clips between the panes (another 44 to be cut to size) and the glass itself. And then I'll be done. Somehow it's all so slow. I've built a greenhouse before, 20 years ago. With my father's help we got it done in an afternoon.


Autumn coming
Topic: gardening, brewing Link here

Getting the greenhouse finished will be none too early. Last night the minimum temperature was only 5°, and autumn is showing its face:


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Those are unpicked hops; since I took a break from brewing, I have more than I can handle. And nobody else seems to want them. Somehow that's a pity.


Tuesday, 12 April 2011 Dereel Images for 12 April 2011
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Workplace efficiency
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

It's been nearly 5 years since I decided that I'd rather retire on far too little money than continue working in an environment that drove me crazy. Yes, it's still far too little money, but I'm sure I made the right choice. The work conditions in the modern IT market (there, I said it; I can't think of a better word) didn't make up for the income.

Recently I've heard of another trend that points in the same direction: Hot desking, a kind of dynamic workplace allocation. Like most dynamic allocations, what you get on allocation is empty, and you lose whatever is left when you free the resource. Yes, in many cases it makes sense for people to share a desk, or probably a cubicle. And certainly it can save money by saving space.

But how do you do it in our business? It implies that you require very little in the way of supporting objects (computer, other hardware, books) to do your job. That doesn't work for me. Shortly before retiring, my (home) office looked like this:


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That would have made a wonderful panorama, but unfortunately I took it before I got involved with panoramas, and it doesn't line up. And clearly it's a little extreme. But it's not just the monitors, it's all the other stuff in the room. Even now I have retired, I have four monitors on my desk, and my room is packed with books and hardware. How could I ever have worked in a hot desk environment? Clearly I'd have to do away with just about everything, and just use a laptop. I know people who can do that, with the great advantage that they can work while traveling. It's an acquired skill, I suppose, but somehow it requires significant tradeoffs. Can people work efficiently under these conditions?

The whole thing reminds me of a rationalization attempt made by our bean counters at Tandem in Frankfurt about 25 years ago. Much of our work at the time was second-level defect support (“Tandem Product Reports” or “TPR”s). They had a justifiable desire to know how much each problem was costing, and they came out with a logical solution: we would fill out forms describing the amount of time we spent on each TPR.

They went away and designed the forms, had them printed, and then presented them to us. I thought some of our (not very ruly) people were going to lynch them. The forms were in quadruplicate, required specifications that were almost impossible to find, and to crown it all, the field for the TPR number was about 1 cm wide. Our bean counters didn't know the format, which was date, time and employee number, something like 20110412 1734 4395.

Somehow, and somewhat atypically, I managed to calm people down, and after most of the people had gone, I explained to the bean counters why people had been so upset. The whole project folded, and I found some of the forms hung in the toilets next to the toilet paper.

It's interesting to consider what went wrong here. Yes, it does make sense to know where your money is going. But as a result of one-sided analyses, they made a very poor choice, and it even stopped the implementation of a sensible solution. Similarly, it seems that hot desking saves money on real estate, but loses it in employee efficiency, and—is this word still politically correct?—motivation. You can measure the real estate cost. You can't accurately measure employee efficiency.


More plants for the friends
Topic: gardening, photography Link here

I had promised a number of Hebes and Betula pendula to Yvonne at the Friends of the Ballarat Botanical Gardens, so today finally collected them—about 100 Hebes and 30 Betula. Some of them had some white fungus on the roots, something I have seen before:


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Now I have better macro equipment, so took some photos of them:


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The fungus looked funny, so took closer views of it:


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That's clearly not a fungus but some kind of insect. On closer examination of the photo taken years ago, that could have been the same thing. Took them along with me to the Botanical Gardens, where they were identified as Mealy bug. Apparently not too difficult to control.

What a pain it is to take these photos! The last one was taken with bellows, and the insects on the right are about 1 mm long. And with that kind of enlargement, it's almost impossible to focus or even compose correctly. Maybe I should get a microscope.


Another web site
Topic: technology, gardening, general Link here

While at the Botanical Gardens, also spoke to Mike Sorrell, who wants me to take charge of the computer side of the Friends operation, notably the web site. I wonder if they'll still want me to when they find out about my opinions. Back home, took a look at the site. It doesn't look too bad, but there's very little content there, a total of 12 MB. By comparison I downloaded 66 MB to my site on Sunday alone. I suspect that the tools are an issue. I wonder how to prepare something to enable as many lay people as possible to contribute. A wiki might be a possibility.

Stopped off for a haircut on the way home. They've broken into the barber's shop again. It seems that there are a lot of hooligans around in Sebastopol.


Wednesday, 13 April 2011 Dereel Images for 13 April 2011
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In praise of the kludge
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

My thoughts about scripting languages yesterday aroused a certain interest on IRC:

Mavvie: grO0gle - that monstrosity will fail if $FOO is empty.
Mavvie: Put ""'s around it or use ! -z "$FOO"
callum: Mavvie: wrong answer. Ban spaces and metachars from all filenames.
Mavvie: Plus you shouldn't ignore errors, you should handle them.
Mavvie: 2>/dev/null is just plain dumb.
callum: I haven't looked at it yet, but it depends if there is any point in doing anything with the error output.
Mavvie: Of course it does, otherwise you will have to write another Diary Entry about that a crontab has gone wrong for weeks now and nobody alerted you about it.

But that's not the point, at least not yet. Consider a parallel with texts: if you want to write a document for presentation, you cross all your 'i's and dot all your 't's. But if you're just writing a shopping list, you may write it on the back of an envelope in a scrawl so bad that nobody else can read it. Similarly, when you write a meaningful program, you do everything correctly. But if you're just messing around for a one-off program or script that will never be used again, why bother? In this specific case, I know things about the input data that Mavvie doesn't (though it should be clear that this has little to do with a crontab), so I didn't need to check for errors. Yes, there's a bug in the line

    if [ $FOO != "" -a -e makejpeg ]; then

If FOO couldn't be empty, I wouldn't need to test for it. And if it were empty, the comparison wouldn't work. That's one of the down sides of this kind of kludge, of course, but the way it grew up, I found that this condition never applied. Still, I've fixed that comparison.

Some of this is contrary to what I wrote yesterday: meaningful shell scripts should be clean too, and this one is not particularly clean because it's based on incremental interactive development. But will anybody except myself ever use it? If so, I should tidy it up. And that is still easier than translating into a different language.

And no, I hadn't intended to write any more about this topic, but clearly it's something that interests people.


More TV reception problems
Topic: multimedia, technology Link here

My TV reception problems still aren't over. All four recordings I made yesterday were useless. There's no doubt that the antenna connection was responsible for at least some of the problems, but not all of them.

So what's the issue? I still don't know. Clearly I need to document things more carefully. I've been suspecting the individual tuners, but I don't have much evidence yet. Did some test recordings and discovered the sequence of tuner cards, something that I haven't written down before. There are two PCI tuners, on the right of this photo, and one USB tuner, the white stick in the USB slot. The white cable is the antenna input, which goes to the rightmost tuner. The output from that tuner goes into the other PCI tuner next to it, and its output goes to the USB tuner:


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In the sequence of antenna inputs, also right to left, the assigned card numbers are 2 → 3 → 1. MythTV always starts with the lowest numbered tuner that is free, so this means that most of my recordings are done with the USB tuner, something I'd prefer to change. Did a bit of snooping round the database and found a table cardinput with the following definition:

CREATE TABLE `cardinput` (
  `cardinputid` int(10) unsigned NOT NULL auto_increment,
  `cardid` int(10) unsigned NOT NULL default '0',
  `sourceid` int(10) unsigned NOT NULL default '0',
  `inputname` varchar(32) NOT NULL default '',
  `externalcommand` varchar(128) default NULL,
  `preference` int(11) NOT NULL default '0',
...
) ENGINE=MyISAM AUTO_INCREMENT=4 DEFAULT CHARSET=latin1

The column preference was set to 0 for all my tuners. Tried playing around with it, but it didn't make any difference. Then off looking at the MythWeb code for displaying recorded programmes;


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The structure passed to this page includes a member cardid, but unfortunately it's always set to 0. Spent some time crawling through the code, but without success.


Bad weather for greenhouses
Topic: gardening Link here

I really, really want to get this greenhouse finished, and there's really not much left to do, just glaze the roof. But it's been raining for days now, and since I need to glue the sealing strips, I can't do it now. Instead messed around in the drizzle and finally planted a fern that Yvonne bought last week. It's in the part of the shade area with the concrete slab underneath it, and I took the time to destroy it with a pickaxe (fortunately it wasn't reinforced). Underneath were gravel and then clay, and I had to go down nearly 60 cm to find real soil. Hopefully it'll be happy now, something I can't say for the Fuchsia and Hosta:


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Chicken with Vietnamese mint
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Chicken with Vietnamese mint again this evening. Two years ago I made this and was very happy with it. Today it tasted boring as hell. What has changed? I think I need less coconut milk in it, anyway.


Thursday, 14 April 2011 Dereel Images for 14 April 2011
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Browser strangenesses
Topic: technology Link here

I'm gradually coming to the conclusion that opera has a number of irritating bugs, at least in the FreeBSD implementation. At some time today the opera process stopped, probably because I accidentally stopped it. Started it again and it came up with a single window pointed at cvr2.lemis.com, not my home page. Clicking on the “Home” icon had no effect. After starting a new window, I was able to go to the home page, but I couldn't do anything with the original window.

During that time, it came up with the information that a new version of opera was available. Interestingly, it wanted me to use the Ports Collection to install it. It's clearly a good idea to upgrade. Maybe some of the bugs will be gone, but didn't get around to it.

Instead, while doing something else, opera hung. Even a kill -9 wouldn't get rid of it:

=== root@dereel (/dev/pts/13) /var/db/mysql/weather 148 -> ps ltpts/30
  UID   PID  PPID CPU PRI NI   VSZ   RSS   MWCHAN STAT  TT    TIME     COMMAND
 1004  5949  5947   0  44  0  4564  1636   wait   Is    30    0:00.05 /usr/local/bin/bash
 1004 96898  5949   0  44  0 167108 118508 ucond  I+    30    0:47.24 /usr/local/lib/opera/opera
=== root@dereel (/dev/pts/13) /var/db/mysql/weather 149 -> kill -9 96898
=== root@dereel (/dev/pts/13) /var/db/mysql/weather 150 -> kill -9 96898
=== root@dereel (/dev/pts/13) /var/db/mysql/weather 151 ->

Another bug in opera? Moved to firefox, and shortly after, firefox hung to and also couldn't be stopped. Again, it was hanging in ucond:

  UID   PID  PPID CPU PRI NI   VSZ   RSS MWCHAN STAT  TT       TIME COMMAND
 1004 62995 55405   0  44  0 477384 203984 ucond  Is+   p0   40:48.23 /usr/local/lib/firefox/firefox-bin http://x.net.au/

Further investigation showed that I had somehow left an NFS mount of teevee:/spool open when I powered down teevee last night. I didn't realise that that was still a problem. Rebooting teevee solved the problem.


More greenhouse progress
Topic: gardening Link here

The weather is gradually improving, and today I returned to working on the greenhouse. Finally got one side of the roof done; if that continues tomorrow, I'll be finished. What a pain this work is!


Network problems: a conspiracy?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Back inside, discovered that my Internet link had been down for nearly an hour. That hasn't been typical lately: the PPP session was still up, and had been for two weeks. The signal strength indicator was normal (RSSI 7, which is relatively good here). And there were no error messages in the ppp.log.

Called up Internode support and then investigated while waiting for the callback. Stopped the PPP process:

Apr 14 16:10:07 cojones ppp[1663]: tun0: Phase: deflink: Disconnected!
Apr 14 16:10:07 cojones ppp[1663]: tun0: Phase: deflink: Connect time: 51846 secs: 130078957 octets in, 50793080 octets out
Apr 14 16:10:07 cojones ppp[1663]: tun0: Phase: deflink: 157216 packets in, 142146 packets out
Apr 14 16:10:07 cojones ppp[1663]: tun0: Phase:  total 3488 bytes/sec, peak 317865 bytes/sec on Thu Apr 14 15:04:55 2011

The statistics information on the last line is interesting. Peak 317 kB/s, or 2.5 Mb/s. Unfortunately, it's wrong. At the time specified, the link had been down for 7 minutes. Restarted the PPP process:

Apr 14 16:10:20 cojones ppp[95482]: Phase: Using interface: tun0
Apr 14 16:10:20 cojones ppp[95482]: tun0: Command: default: ident user-ppp VERSION (built COMPILATIONDATE)
...
Apr 14 16:10:20 cojones ppp[95483]: tun0: Chat: Send: ATZ^M
Apr 14 16:10:20 cojones ppp[95483]: tun0: Chat: Expect(5): OK
Apr 14 16:10:20 cojones ppp[95483]: tun0: Chat: Received: ^M
Apr 14 16:10:20 cojones ppp[95483]: tun0: Chat: Received: NO CARRIER^M
Apr 14 16:10:20 cojones ppp[95483]: tun0: Warning: Chat script failed

That continued for a while. Then I removed the (USB) modem and replaced it. The same PPP process retried the operation, and it was successful.

I've heard that this modem (Huawei E1762) can wedge from time to time, and when Daniel from Internode called back, he confirmed it. Somehow I think everybody's ganging up on me: the NBN for not providing any proper network coverage in this area, Wendy McClelland to ensure I don't get a good enough signal, Optus for providing flaky coverage, and Huawei for supplying devices with flaky firmware. And that after more than 20 years of Internet connectivity.


Friday, 15 April 2011 Dereel Images for 15 April 2011
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Opera update: can't render the Opera web site
Topic: technology Link here

Got round to updating the Opera port today, which was painless enough. When I restarted it, I got a new page:


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Note the modern truncation of the page in four directions. In fact, it's very modern:

 
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That looks like truncated text. I can't access this page with other browsers, so it's difficult to say whether the problem is the page or the browser, but looking at the source (and adapting the markup to this page), I find it says:

What is new in Opera 11.10

This new release of Opera brings many enhancements and new features to make browsing better than ever. Here are the highlights:

Speed Dial 2.0

Opera's popular Speed Dial has been greatly enhanced; your favorite pages now have clearer previews, and dials can even dynamically show live content for websites.

There is now no limit to how many dials you can use, and it is simple to adjust the Speed Dial view to best fit your setup.

Opera Turbo enhanced

With improved compression, Opera Turbo is faster than ever. Boost your browsing speed on crowded Wi-Fi hotspots, tethered mobile phones or dial-up connections.

Simple Plug-in installation

We have made it easier to install and use plug-ins. With this release, the most popular plug-in, Adobe Flash Player, installs seamlessly and automatically.

Great new CSS3 Support

This version of the Opera browser now supports CSS3 linear gradients and multiple columns. The Opera browser shows webpages using the latest and greatest standards in their full glory.

For more details, read the Opera changelog.

That is so impossibly bad that I can't believe it happens to everybody. But there are still serious issues here, and I can't see that any of them have been addressed in the new version. That's a pity, really, because it has a lot going for it. I'll continue to play around and use both opera and firefox to get round bugs in each.


Greenhouse: done!
Topic: gardening Link here

Back to work on the greenhouse today, and finally finished it, just short of 18 months since I started:


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Spent some time tidying it up and rearranging things, and also planted the tomato seedlings that I had been holding back until the glazing was one. It's surprising how different things are now that the glass is all in place; while tidying up, I caught myself about to throw out something out of the roof, like I used to. And the glass really makes a big temperature difference in the sun. The highest temperature outside today was 21.1°, but in the greenhouse the maximum was 33.1°. It dropped rapidly in the evening, though. It'll take me a while to get used to this, and to decide when to roll down the shade cloth.


More FreeBSD build strangenesses
Topic: technology Link here

Spent some time in the afternoon upgrading my FreeBSD test “boxes” (really VirtualBox VMs). Problems installing world on swamp.lemis.com:

creating osreldate.h from newvers.sh
/src/FreeBSD/svn/head/include/../sys/conf/newvers.sh: dirname: not found

How did that happen? And yes, it's repeatable, and dirname is there. More debugging needed, I suppose. I'd be surprised if it had anything to do with VirtualBox, though.


Still more TV reception problems
Topic: multimedia, technology Link here

I recorded 4 TV programmes yesterday. All failed: my reception problems are still dogging me. Spent some time looking at the cable connections, but didn't come to much of a conclusion. At least one of the daisy chain cables looks a bit worn, so possibly I should look at that first. As it was, removed the USB tuner and the second PCI tuner, so I can only receive one programme at a time. That should be OK until next Thursday; maybe I can fix things better before then, or maybe I should be prepared to rebuild the machine on the few occasions when I need more than one tuner.


Saturday, 16 April 2011 Dereel Images for 16 April 2011
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Updating web page format
Topic: technology Link here

Tim Bray is another of the authors on ACM Queue, and we seem to have a few interests in common. Earlier this month he published an article on reformatting his web pages, based on reading yet another blog entry by Blaine Cook. In both cases, they come up with some ideas similar to mine, in particular (from Tim's page):

OK, I've done the first and second a long time ago, though I disagree with the sentiment that ragged right is an abomination. It's just ugly.

And hyphenation? That sounds like a good idea. As Tim said, “Hyphenator.js is trivial to install and seems to Just Work”. Followed the link and installed. Nothing. Further investigation and comparison with the working example showed that the instructions are inaccurate.

        <script type="text/javascript">
               Hyphenator.config({
                        displaytogglebox : true,
                        minwordlength : 4
                });

                Hyphenator.run();

They don't mention the text in bold in the installation instructions, though it's there in the example. Without it, I got a completely empty display.

After doing all that and applying it to my diary, I saw—no difference. I suppose it must be conflicting with some other component of my CSS. I'll shelve the idea for the time being.


New house panoramas
Topic: photography Link here

My weekly photos of the garden have increased in number over time. Last week I took a total of 12 different views, some of them only marginally different. Decided to try some different viewpoints today, in the process reducing the number to 10. For example, these two from the north-east of the house:


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They have evolved over time and come closer together. Now they're taken from only a few metres apart. Somewhere in the middle seems a better idea:


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The photos round the verandah date from the time we were building it, 2½ years ago, so the verandah was taken from the only part that existed at the time and has grown since then:


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That no longer seems to be the best place to look from, so took today's view from the middle of the verandah:


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Once the verandah was complete, I started taking a view to the house, which gradually evolved into a 360° panorama:


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That's no longer of the verandah, and it's not an optimal viewpoint of the garden. Too many of these photos show the path in the foreground. We haven't given up hope of completing the pond we started about 9 months ago, so now is a good time to start taking a photo from the middle of the garden, where things will change soon. That in itself wasn't easy: there's shade from the Buddleja globosas, the sun shone from directly behind, and the whole shot looked pretty unbalanced. In the evening things looked better; if I stick with this view, I'm going to have to time it carefully.


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The Buddlejas later proved to be Buddleja × weyeriana, not globosa.

In the south garden, I started with a simple view to the house, which evolved into a 180° panorama:


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Things have grown so much since I started that it no longer looks interesting. It's also quite a challenge to stitch when there's the slightest wind. So I moved closer to the house:


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Then the two in the north of the house seem redundant:


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Replaced those two with a single panorama from half-way in between:


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I'm not so sure about that one; I may revert it.


Greenhouse: sting in the tail
Topic: gardening Link here

Now that the greenhouse is finished, spent some time updating the album page. And there I found:


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They're supports for the door rails (“tracks”), and I haven't installed them. Went looking and discovered that they won't fit while the supports for the shade cloth are in place. More head-scratching. This damned greenhouse is really a pain.


Another X hang
Topic: technology Link here

I really need more memory in dereel.lemis.com now that I'm running extremely memory intensive programs like Hugin and VirtualBox. Currently it has “only” 3 GB (and thus 12 million times as much as my first computer), and once again, under conditions of heavy paging, ran into problems with X: it hung with the mouse cursor trying to move from one screen to another. I wonder how to address that kind of problem, but I suppose throwing memory at it might make the problem go away.


Opera on Apple and Microsoft
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I still don't understand where my problems with opera are coming from, so decided to install it on boskoop.lemis.com, my Apple G4. Downloading was straightforward enough, but the name of the download file looked suspicious: it contained the text Intel. Back to look at the web page. No mention of requirements, so decided to try it anyway. Downloaded and installed without any problem. It wasn't until I tried to run it that I got the message:

 
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Now surely they could have thought of a better message and presented it earlier.

Then installed on smart, my Microsoft VM. Worked, and showed many of the problems I have seen under FreeBSD, including incorrect positioning in my diary. I wonder if there's something wrong with my markup.


Unseasonal flowers, small potatoes and fertilizer
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

The plants in the garden never cease to surprise me. This is a Camellia sinensis, which normally flowers in spring:


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It's not the first thing that is flowering completely out of season; I've already commented about a Narcissus. Also, the roses are coming back since I spread fertilizer in the area, which also applied to the Camellia and the Narcissus. Could it be that I've been far too stingy with the fertilizer, and that the plants are only now in a position to flower? Similar considerations apply to the potatoes. The leaves are dying back, so dug out some more today. Some are normal sized, and some are tiny—not enough fertilizer? I'll be more generous next year.

One thing that is probably not attributable to the fertilizer is the Bougainvillea that I got from Chris Yeardley for safe keeping two months ago. It has reacted well to a bit of care, and now the first flowers are on their way:


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The white spots are (dead) white fly, I think. They certainly reacted well to the pyrethrum I sprayed on them.


Sunday, 17 April 2011 Dereel Images for 17 April 2011
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Another power failure
Topic: general Link here

Another power failure this morning, just before getting up. That's a particular pain because I had to set the alarm immediately or risk oversleeping, and after that, of course, I couldn't get back to sleep.

39 power failures in the last year. When are we going to join the modern world?


Getting used to the greenhouse
Topic: gardening Link here

The weather's nice and mild again—a top of 26.2° today. But in the greenhouse, it was 38.9°, too warm. The shade cloth came in handy there, but I'm going to have to monitor the temperatures more carefully. And in the night the temperature drops below what the weather station (mounted only a few metres away) reports. I suppose that's the difference in height, but clearly the glass isn't much good as insulation.

Also more work trying to connect the track supports. Spent about 30 minutes trying to connect one, and gradually came to the conclusion that I need different screws. The good news is that I will probably be able to use them in connection with the supports for the shade cloth.


Parasites and propagation
Topic: gardening Link here

More looking at the Bougainvilleas today. Yes, the white spots on yesterday's photos are dead parasites, but there were plenty more live ones—aphids, I think—on the undersides of the leaves:


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Gave them a generous spray with pyrethrum, and hopefully they'll go away. Strangely, none of the other plants appear to be affected.

Also tried transplanting the unhappy Pelargonium “Rhodo” cuttings that we planted a couple of months back. One was showing a bud, so it seemed about time. But somehow this plant is just not doing well. We originally propagated it from a single cutting, and it did well until about last November, and since then both the parent plant and the new cuttings have been very sickly. I had planted five of the cuttings in empty toilet rolls, which are supposed to disintegrate when they're planted in soil. But I must have left too much soil around the outside, and they had already disintegrated. But only one of the plants had any recognizable root system at all. I wish I knew what's wrong with them.


Herbicide != Insecticide
Topic: gardening Link here

The warm weather with little wind was ideal for spraying weeds. Dragged out the sprayer and found, to my surprise, earwigs in the filler:


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How did they get in there? I haven't used the sprayer for over a month, and the sprayer was under pressure all that time, so they couldn't have crawled in. But it certainly shows the difference between herbicides and insecticides.


Trying DxO Optics "Pro"
Topic: technology, photography Link here

Returned a couple of laptops to Chris Yeardley, and in return got yet another computer that she doesn't seem to use much to try out DxO Optics "Pro", a Dell with the requisite 2 GB of memory and running Microsoft “Windows” XP Professional. OK, that's what pain.lemis.com runs, so it shouldn't be difficult, right? Wrong.

It was easy enough to add a user, and then I had to set up the network for my environment. Maybe I should really run DHCP for this sort of thing; it would solve a lot of problems when guests come. In any case, set it up for one of my other IP addresses reserved for Microsoft, ugliness.lemis.com. But it didn't stick. Tried a couple of reboots, and on one occasion saw a fleeting message about IP address conflicts. Tried another address (braindeath.lemis.com) and it worked. arp told me:

braindeath.lemis.com (192.109.197.168) at 00:13:72:c9:0b:ab on re0 expires in 992 seconds [ethernet]
ugliness.lemis.com (192.109.197.172) at 08:00:27:5a:42:48 on re0 expires in 1198 seconds [ethernet]
officephone.lemis.com (192.109.197.161) at 00:0e:08:ca:40:23 on re0 expires in 944 seconds [ethernet]
...

So there was another machine on 192.109.197.172. The MAC address didn't match any other machine, so it wasn't an alias. But where? Somebody abusing my 802.11 connection? Started a ping and wandered around looking at switches, but saw nothing. Finally it dawned on me: smart.lemis.com, my Microsoft VM. I had forgotten to update my DNS, and it was still called ugliness. And since it's a VM, you can't see any traffic in the switches. That's what I get for being lazy.

But my network woes weren't over yet: I still had to set up Samba. And I couldn't connect. Wrong password? Fired up pain and discovered I couldn't connect there either. It seems that funny things must have happened to my password file with the recent update. Ran through the man pages trying to find things, but there was too much to read. Finally found just what I was looking for in “The Complete FreeBSD”, specifically pages 464—470. There's not much there, but it's just what I want, probably because I've been through this pain before.

Then I could look at my main photo directory. Well, not immediately. It took Microsoft 30 minutes to display pretty little pictures of each “folder”, in itself not a bad idea, but that's a ridiculously long time to take. Of course, the Microsoft view makes this approach impractical in the first place. There were 91 screens, all looking like this:


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When I later started a backup, I discovered that Microsoft had also created 2009 files called Thumbs.db, one per directory, without so much as a by-your-leave—a total of 33 MB of useless files. Andy Farkas recognized them—I had blamed them on DxO—and told me how to stop it doing that: in “Control Panel”, select “Folder Options”, then select “Do not cache thumbnails”. And while you're there, it's a good idea to unselect “Truncate file names”, which they spell “Hide extensions for known file types”.

So finally I was ready to install DxO. I had done this once before, but there's been another update since then, so I had to download 211 MB all over again. Installation went fine, but when I tried to start it I got the message:

 
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So why does DxO want to execute in data? That sounds very fishy to me, but then, it is in the Microsoft space. Added the execption:

 
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Then rebooted and tried again. Same message. Of course, who knows if the name in that list is the name of the executable? I followed the instructions, so you'd think so, but there's only part of a file name there, and potentially it added the directory. Clicked the other radio button (“DEP for essential Windows programs and services only”), rebooted, and I was able to start it. Pointed at yesterday's original files and found:


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Why do so many of these programs have an anthracite background? In any case, it's a typical Microsoft-space display. It shows the first 72 of yesterday's 678 image files. The instructions tell me to select by clicking and then dragging to the bottom section (I think) or just selecting a group of images. With 678 files? Especially since I have both raw and JPEG images, so I would need to select only every second one:

 
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If there's one thing in the Microsoft space that drives me to distraction, it's its inability to handle files and directories sanely. I've been there before, of course, with hugin and Ashampoo Photo Optimizer, and I've found a workaround: with a script, create a static directory and move only the files you want to it. So far I had ~/Photos/Bloody_stupid_ashampoo/ and ~/Photos/bloody_stupid_hugin/, so the new one is ~/Photos/bloody_stupid_DxO/, though it's becoming clearer that the real stupidity is the interface. Then I was able to move all images for a single photo (here the 72 image verandah photos) and convert them.

It took over an hour! OK, it does a lot more work than, say, UFraw, so I could forgive that; at least there was no more mouse pushing. And the results? It's difficult to say at the moment. Here's the same image as in-camera JPEG, converted by UFraw, and converted by DxO:


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Run the cursor over any image to see a comparison with the one to the right. At least from the point of view of shadow detail, the in-camera JPEG wins, and the DxO image is not obviously better in gradation than the ufraw version. Distortion correction is a different matter, of course; I'll have to play around with it a bit.


Moon photos: closer, but no cigar
Topic: photography Link here

Last month I tried taking photos of the moon with my Hanimex 300 mm lens and 3x teleconverter. The results were underwhelming: for some reason, the combination can't focus to ∞. Today was (almost) full moon again, and the air was clear, so tried with my Zuiko Digital ED 70-300mm F4.0-5.6. That's far too short, of course, and I had to crop a lot. The results are acceptable, but no more. Here last month and then this month:


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There seems to be no particular point to take such photos when it's easy enough to find much better quality on line.


Monday, 18 April 2011 Dereel Images for 18 April 2011
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More pest control
Topic: gardening Link here

Back to check the Bougainvilleas today. The aphids are alive, well and plentiful. It's really difficult to spray so many and small leaves. In the end, I sprayed my hand and rubbed over the backs of the leaves. Hopefully that will help.

While wondering where they came from, trod into an anthill and had ants running all over my feet, not a thing I relish. Spread lots of ant powder, including on the floor of the greenhouse.

Apart from that, wanted to plant the Agapanthus which we bought three months ago and still haven't planted. They need it: they're growing out of the pots. But the place I had planned for them looks pretty rocky, and I'm reconsidering.


Yet another X hang
Topic: technology, photography Link here

While trying to get hugin to resize images correctly, managed to provoke yet another X hang. This time I had no VMs running, though VirtualBox itself was still running. The symptoms are always the same: the mouse pointer oscillates between the adjacent edges of two screens, X uses 100% CPU, and it's completely unresponsive. I have to shoot it down to get out of the problem.


Another Dereel brewer
Topic: brewing Link here

Last week I offered my hops on Freecycle, but got no responses. Until today, when I got a call from Peter Dilley, who has just moved to Dereel. He was out of luck for the hops, which have had it, but he's been doing a lot of brewing himself, and has equipment that I could only dream of. He's still busy unpacking, but “in six months or so” he may get back to brewing. Sounds like somebody with my time frames.


Still more TV reception problems
Topic: multimedia, technology Link here

We've been getting by relatively well with only one tuner in cvr2.lemis.com, but today Yvonne wanted to record another programme, and that caused a conflict. I needed another tuner, so put in the second PCI tuner, checked the cable connections, and tried things out. No reception at all on one, and bad reception on the other.

Lots of experimentation, cursing and reboots later came to the conclusion that the second PCI tuner is part of the problem. Took it out and put in the USB tuner, and things seem to be OK at the moment. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.


Tuesday, 19 April 2011 Dereel Images for 19 April 2011
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More playing with DxO Optics "Pro"
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Took some forgettable photos today to process with DxO Optics "Pro". Yes, it claims to be able to improve dynamic range, but the main purpose is to convert raw images and apply corrections for the camera and the lens. And I hadn't tried that yet.

Once again, tried with an image of the verandah. The Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm F4.0-5.6 is quite a good lens, but it does show some chromatic aberration at full aperture, so tried a photo under those conditions. Interestingly, DxO also corrected some distortion, so the images don't look quite the same. Here the image as the in-camera JPEG, processed by UFraw, and processed by DxO. Pass the mouse over the images to show a comparison with the next (with wraparound):


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And chromatic aberration? Yes, indeed, it's there, and DxO improves the situation. Here two examples from the in-camera JPEG and DxO. UFraw doesn't correct this sort of thing, so it's no different from the in-camera JPEG. I chose following crops with much GIMP pain so that the “big” images (click on the thumbnails) is exactly the size of the original crop (600×450 pixels):

 
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Here the fringes on the leaves at top left have been almost completely removed. The image also looks sharper.

 
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Here the fringes to the left of the hanging baskets are almost completely gone.

So: this looks like it greatly improves the image quality. Is it worth it? I'll reserve judgement about that one, but it certainly has its irritating sides. In particular, how do I get rid of the photos I did the other day? When I started it up, selected new images and moved to “Process”, only the old ones showed up. To get rid of them, I had to explicitly delete them. Never mind that the underlying images in the directory were gone, and that I couldn't access them:

 
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After that, loaded the new images and proceeded to the “Process” tab. Presto! My new images were gone, and the old ones were back again.

 
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I had to restart the program, after which I was able to process these images. But it didn't keep the EXIF data, as one of my scripts irritatingly complained in red script:

Lounge-2EV.jpeg Date and Time |2011:04:19 12:13:09
Lounge.jpeg Date and Time |2011:04:19 12:13:09
Corrupt data
The data provided does not follow the specification.
ExifLoader: The data supplied does not seem to contain EXIF data.

P4193845_DxO.jpeg

I know my way round that problem; that's why I have my exifcopy script. But why did they leave the data out? Is there some knob set to the wrong default?

Also took some other photos that I haven't had time to compare yet, notably the HDR images that I wanted to make. But once again, it seems that I have to work around “features” that people seem to think that I need, and which they won't let me get rid of. Why can't they have a more modular approach? Particularly a raw image converter isn't an important enough component of the workflow that it should impose its own constraints on how you do your work.


Greenhouse pain continues
Topic: gardening Link here

Back to look at the greenhouse door supports today. I had had this idea that I could turn the supports for the shade cloth around and thus mount both them and the door supports at the same time. But no. There's a rim on the largest hole which would foul the plastic gusset if I tried to turn the thing around:


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I'll have to get an angle grinder and sand it down. Why is this all such a pain?


More aphids
Topic: gardening Link here

The aphids on the Bougainvillea have decreased in number, but there are still far too many. More treatment as before, and hopefully I'll get on top of them. I wonder why they've gone for the Bougainvilleas; went round the garden later and found the odd aphid on the roses, where you'd expect them, but nothing like the way they hit the Bougainvilleas.


Laziness
Topic: gardening Link here

Also wanted to finally plant the Agapanthus. I've decided to plant them in the original place after all, along the garden path. Dug a couple of holes: there's something like 35 cm of compressed gravel and clay at the top, and I have to get through that to the soil below. It's tiring work, and I've only managed 2 of 12 holes. At least it's a start.


Wednesday, 20 April 2011 Dereel Images for 20 April 2011
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Tracking the reception problems
Topic: multimedia, technology, opinion Link here

After rebuilding cvr2.lemis.com's tuner configuration a couple of days ago, it would have been nice to hope that there would be no more problems. Alas, that wasn't the case. I recorded four programmes yesterday. Three of them came out fine, but the fourth was nothing but junk for the first few minutes. Then it came good. Spent some time looking at the log files, and found:

2011-04-19 19:27:02.647 Started recording: Lost Worlds "The Bible Unearthed: The Patriarchs": channel 2032 on cardid 2, sourceid 2
2011-04-19 20:27:02.823 Started recording: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: channel 2008 on cardid 1, sourceid 2
2011-04-19 20:47:02.659 Started recording: To the Manor Born: channel 2062 on cardid 2, sourceid 2
2011-04-19 23:32:02.847 Started recording: Crude: channel 2002 on cardid 2, sourceid 2

It would be easy to guess that it was the second programme (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”), because it was on a different tuner (spelt cardid here). And it was. But things aren't that simple: the difference in signal quality was extreme. Initially the image was unrecognizable, and after a while it improved to a point where on first inspection it seemed to be normal. Possibly what I missed was only the commercials anyway.

But how can such a complete change be due to signal strength issues? During that time there was another recording that had no problems, so it can't be the antenna connection as I had previously suspected. And secondly, it came good after a while, which you wouldn't expect from a poor daisy-chain connection. More inspection of the log file showed:

2011-04-19 20:27:02.823 Started recording: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: channel 2008 on cardid 1, sourceid 2
2011-04-19 20:28:43.440 Error: offset>181, pes length & current can not be queried
2011-04-19 20:29:02.859 Error: offset>181, pes length & current can not be queried
...  (lots more of these)
2011-04-19 20:44:59.047 Error: offset>181, pes length & current can not be queried
2011-04-19 20:45:00.978 TVRec(2): Changing from RecordingOnly to None
2011-04-19 20:45:01.004 Finished recording Lost Worlds "The Bible Unearthed: The Patriarchs": channel 2032
2011-04-19 20:45:01.081 Reschedule requested for id 0.
...
2011-04-19 20:45:23.383 Error: offset>181, pes length & current can not be queried
2011-04-19 20:45:32.478 Error: offset>181, pes length & current can not be queried
2011-04-19 20:45:41.997 Error: offset>181, pes length & current can not be queried

And that was (almost) all. Just the occasional error until 21:55, and then nothing at all. But the Benjamin Button video went on until 00:30, a good 2½ hours with no error at all. Coincidentally, the other tuner finished recording at 22:10. Is there maybe some issue with both of them running together? Could it be that the other tuner (the PCI one) doesn't transmit a good signal when it's recording? Time to get out a splitter and see if that helps.


JavaScript and other opinions about DxO
Topic: photography, technology Link here

I really need to learn a way to do comparisons of photos by moving the mouse cursor over the image. That's trivial with JavaScript (I contend), but I don't really do JavaScript. Off on the web looking for examples, and found a nice one on the RawTherapee site. I still need to digest it, but it looks clean, and the results are effective.

Not completely by coincidence, this page is related to the kinds of comparisons I'm doing now: which raw converter to use? And they compare their own converter with most of the others I've heard of, including DxO Optics "Pro". Clearly their demosaicer does best on the sample image (which they chose, of course), but DxO doesn't do badly either with demosaicing. But, as I've noticed, the default results are much darker than the competition. Is this a general problem, or a choice of bad defaults? In any case, it's worth investigating RawTherapee as well, especially since it doesn't need Microsoft to run.


Planting and propagating
Topic: gardening Link here

A little more work on digging the holes for the Agapanthus today, hampered not only by the difficulty of getting through the soil, but also by rain. I need to consider if I have dug them deep enough. These photos were taken an hour after about 6 mm of rain fell:


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Part of this is because a lot of water ran down a slope into the first three holes, but the fourth was also the deepest. It's beginning to look like I'll need to make them all that deep.

A number of plants have reacted differently to their new situations. The Acacia that I planted four weeks ago did not live up to my expectations. It's dead:


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There are plenty of alternatives for that position, so I'll do some thinking about it.

My experiment with tying up the Hardenbergia violacea didn't work. It's clear that my assumption was correct that they need some support to even grow, but my support seems not to be what they want. The Hardenbergia is now happily scaling the wire mesh with three separate stems—all except the one I tied up (first image)


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Somehow I managed to damage the shoot, I think.

I didn't tie up the Lonicera, but the way it has grown is similar. One stem reached the mesh and is now nearly 2 m high, while the other ones are sitting around doing nothing:


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The real winner, though, is the Meyer lemon, now in the greenhouse, which is finally looking like a real bush. Here in November last year and now:


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Because of the rain, worked mainly in the greenhouse. Now that things are protected, I can see a lot more of this happening, and I'm already running out of shelf space. Planted some seeds, somewhat hampered by the lack of seed trays. I had intended to use the expensive one that we bought from Diggers three years ago, but the plastic has discoloured so much that I don't think it's worth it. By contrast, the cheap ones we bought from ALDI look as good as new:


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It's amazing how many things we bought from Diggers haven't worked out.

Planted some Petunias (which shouldn't really be planted until spring, but that's talking about outside) and some Chrysanthemums.

The Aloysia citrodora (lemon Verbena) in the north garden is a nice plant, but in spite of all cutting back it's getting bigger and bigger, and it's crowding out the other plants in the bed, notably the Camellia. Clearly it can't stay:


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Took some cuttings and tried propagating them. We'll see when the correct time is.


Reverse chronological: useless
Topic: multimedia, opinion Link here

Watched Cinq fois deux on TV this evening. It's only moderately interesting, but they chose an interesting approach to representing the story: 5 scenes in reverse chronological order. I've frequently ranted about this nonsense in the computer space, but films are different, right? There are plenty of films that benefit by flashbacks and things like that.

This wasn't one of them. The order was just plain painful. It would have been better if had been told in correct sequence, instead of backwards. Like most things.


Thursday, 21 April 2011 Dereel Images for 21 April 2011
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Greenhouse: finally! (try 3)
Topic: gardening Link here

More work in the greenhouse today. Started off with the daily min/max temperature measurements, which showed a problem: yesterday was cloudy, and the maximum temperature inside was only marginally higher than outside, maybe 19°. This morning it was sunny, and when I got there at 9:00, the temperature had already risen to over 25°, well beyond yesterday's maximum. Maybe Peter Jeremy is right that I should install another wireless station, but there doesn't seem to be any way for two of them to coexist.

Tried to make some wire mesh shelves for more plants, with only limited success. I had two kinds of mesh. The thicker was so thick that I had to cut it with heavy-duty wire cutters, which proved very difficult to do accurately. The thinner was so thin that it couldn't hold the pots without reinforcement:


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Still, I suppose it'll do the job. Potted some Iceberg rose cuttings that we'll find a place for next year.

Also finally got some screws for the supports for the door rails (well, Yvonne did, which took her over an hour and three shops). Mounting the supports involved grinding off part of a rim for the shade cloth supports and reversing them, something that I prove not to be overly talented at. The whole thing looks Just Plain Wrong. The door rail supports appear to be intended to fit over the end profile of the greenhouse—there's even a mounting hole on the other side. But if they were done like that, they'd be too far back, and the screw would go through the plastic gusset, for which there is no provision:


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As if that wasn't enough, there are supposed to be screws to stop the doors running off the other end of the rails past the middle of the greenhouse. I don't know what they originally intended, but it seemed to be something like this:


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And they've designed the profile in such a way that I couldn't get any kind of spanner to hold the nuts on the inside. In the end, gave up. Hopefully they'll seize up some time. Two hours' work for such a minor thing! Hopefully it's really the last thing I need to do now.


DxO and RawTherapee
Topic: photography, technology Link here

Took a couple of photos to investigate the “HDR” capabilities of DxO Optics "Pro", but they proved to be less useful subjects than I had hoped. I'll have to wait for some really extreme contrasts. In the meantime, read the RawTherapee documentation. I looked at it very briefly two years ago, but didn't get round to trying it, probably because I had decided to try to port it to FreeBSD first. Now I may have time for that. Did some investigation and discovered that the latest stable version was released in September 2009, and since then they've been building a new version. So that means checking it out of a Mercurial repository.

Did that, read some rather confusing mutually referential documentation about how to build the package. It uses cmake, unfortunately, and just the “standard” invocation suggests that something hasn't been completed yet:

cmake -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=debug -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX=./build -DBINDIR=. -DDATADIR=. -DLIBDIR=.
make install

Of course, in the Linux world build dependencies are a bit of an afterthought, and the second document (really a mail archive) contains multiple mail messages with different lists of what's needed. Started adding the dependencies until I found:

-- checking for module 'giomm-2.4>=2.12'
--   package 'giomm-2.4>=2.12' not found
CMake Error at /usr/local/share/cmake/Modules/FindPkgConfig.cmake:266 (message):
  A required package was not found
Call Stack (most recent call first):
  /usr/local/share/cmake/Modules/FindPkgConfig.cmake:320 (_pkg_check_modules_internal)
  CMakeLists.txt:124 (pkg_check_modules)

That's cmake's inimitable way of saying “missing dependency”. But I can't find anything similar in the Ports Collection. So another thing to put on hold until I have more energy. I really should be looking at DxO anyway, since the trial license only lasts a month.


Friday, 22 April 2011 Dereel Images for 22 April 2011
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Off to Lambley
Topic: gardening, general Link here

We visited Lambley Nursery before Christmas last year, and we were very impressed. We've been meaning to return for some months now, but somehow we never made it. Then a couple of days ago we got a letter in the mail: half price sale from Friday to Tuesday. They even specified the plants, so we compared them with the catalogue and decided that it was worth going. Chris Yeardley also came along.

Lambley is in Ascot, about 2.4 km north of where Google Maps says it is, and about 55 km from here. Through Ballarat—today was Good Friday, and it was like a ghost town except for people soliciting donations at traffic lights, a surprisingly dangerous pastime. What's so important about Good Friday that everything shuts down? It can't be the holiness: in many Catholic countries, such as France, it isn't even a public holiday. And it's not as if Australians are overly religious anyway. It must just be the tradition.

At Lambley, had a chance to compare the dry garden to the situation it was in in December. It's clear that the year is finishing, and there are a number of dead plants there now. On the other hand, the production garden is looking much more complete, though autumn is clearly in the air:


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As usual, they had a lot of interesting stuff, and before we knew it we had blown $70 on a number of plants. Three came from the dry garden: Yucca recurvifolia, Salvia “Phyllis Fancy” and Eryngium bourgatii:


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Also bought a white-flowering Mandavilla laxa, which is supposed to be frost-tolerant (our current red-flowering one isn't), a Hesperaloe parviflora and what was sold to us as a Zauschneria_californica, but which Wikipedia tells me is now called Epilobium canum:


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Finally we bought a white-flowering Chionodoxa forbesii and two different kinds of Crocus, a white “Joan of Arc” and a blue “Artibir”, the latter already shooting (it's autumn-flowering), Clearly that's why they're half price. Also a Clematis maximowicziana, which they had at the garden, but I forgot to take a photo. It is really dense and is currently covered in very attractive dead flowers, which look almost as interesting as the flowers themselves:

Clematis maximowicziana

Yvonne also picked up some scraps of Salvia and some unspecified ground cover. Back home and spent some time planting them, along with some Rosemary for Chris and some cuttings of the ornamental Vitis on the verandah. The place is filling up. Didn't find time to plant anything; hopefully tomorrow, particularly the Crocus “Artibir”.

Finally, I was able to identify a few mystery plants. The Euphorbia I bought in January (first photo) is clearly a Euphorbia_myrsinites:


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And the mystery plant that we bought at the Australia Day Fair (first image, the one that supposedly repels animals) could be a Marrubium:


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But it isn't. I later established that it's a Plectranthus caninus


Saturday, 23 April 2011 Dereel Images for 23 April 2011
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More photo processing
Topic: photography, general Link here

Photo day again today, and still more changes. I've decided that the image from the Japanese Garden (first image) isn't as good as the one it was intended to replace, so I've gone back to the old one again:


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Once again, spent most of the day processing photos and writing up my diary for yesterday. At some point I'll reach equilibrium between documentation and doing things.


Planting the new plants
Topic: gardening Link here

So we have a total of 10 new “plants” to plant: three sets of bulbs and seven real plants. Got as far as planting the Crocus “Artibir” and half the “Joan of Arc” in a space in front of the entrance, to the left of this path:


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Three of the plants (Yucca recurvifolia, Eryngium bourgatii and the Hesperaloe parviflora) will come into the Japanese garden, while we had planned the the Mandavilla_laxa for the creeper hedge in front of the garden and the greenhouse, where currently the hops are dying. On closer examination, it looks as if there isn't enough space there, only 12 m. We already have Lonicera, Wisteria japonica and Hardenbergia violacea there, as well as a couple of unhappy looking climbing roses, so probably only the Clematis maximowicziana will fit there. Dug out one of the hop rhizomes to make room, which took me much longer than I had expected. It's the biggest hop rhizome I've ever seen, and some of the roots are 3 cm in diameter:


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We'll plant the Epilobium canum in front of the verandah when the cannas have finished flowering, which only leaves the Salvia “Phyllis Fancy” and the Mandavilla_laxa. At least at this time of year there's no hurry.


Sunday, 24 April 2011 Dereel Images for 24 April 2011
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Still more plants
Topic: gardening Link here

Today was Easter Day, and there was a market at the Dereel Hall. Yvonne wanted to go there, I think mainly to buy toys for Nemo, but I went along as well and found some interesting looking plants: an Adenanthos cunninghamii and a Gaura lindheimeri:


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The former is a bush that grows to be about 1 to 1.5 metres tall, the latter a perennial with invasive tendencies, as I later discovered on the label. Atypically, planted both of the plants the same day, the Adenanthos in the dry eastern garden, and the Gaura in a pot. We'll see how it grows next spring and then maybe plant it elsewhere.

And somehow that's about all I did. We were still looking for a place to plant the Salvia “Phyllis Fancy”, but it was already growing out of its pot, so put it into a bigger pot. And then we identified a location. Ah well.


Garden flowers
Topic: gardening Link here

Today was also the last Sunday in the month, so another round of garden photos. The weather was better today than the last two times, and in particular the roses are looking a lot happier:


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A number of native plants are also on their way, including our first Banksia, one of the Grevilleas that we planted last October, and a couple of Callistemons:


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A couple of the native plants in the garden in front of the verandah are also blooming shyly. The first is a Westringia which we've been planning to remove, but which I may postpone, and the second is some plant which we planted in the initial planting, but whose name I have now forgotten:


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