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April 2012
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Sunday, 1 April 2012 Dereel Images for 1 April 2012
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More garden stuff
Topic: gardening Link here

More pottering in the garden, removing weeds. It's easy when there are so many; the fun will be later on, when I need to do a regular trawl through the garden to stop them popping up again.


The possum, finally
Topic: animals, photography Link here

After cutting away the protective vegetation on the verandah the night before last, I wasn't surprised when our possum didn't return yesterday. But it did today, and this time it was easily visible. It started stirring round sundown, when I got these photos:


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It's amazing how stubborn they are. It didn't run away; Yvonne had to push it with a broom handle to get it to move its face to where I could see it, but that's all it did. It was still there when I left.


Monday, 2 April 2012 Dereel
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Updating ports: back to portupgrade
Topic: technology Link here

I'm still dragging my heels on cutting across to the 64 bit version of FreeBSD. One of the reasons is the concern about getting everything to work properly. At least I should be able to update my ports with less pain than I've been experiencing.

Yesterday I upgraded the system itself—that went without any problems. Today I tried, once again, to upgrade the ports (765 of them, including dependent ports). I've been using portmaster recently, and I've always had trouble. The trouble may not be portmasters fault, but the habit it has of stopping on any error, and on insisting on input in the middle of the build, makes it very irritating. Today I tried and got as far as:

===>  Installing for linux-f10-fontconfig-2.6.0
===>   Generating temporary packing list
cd /home/ports/x11-fonts/linux-f10-fontconfig/work && /usr/bin/find * ! -type d | /usr/bin/cpio -pm -R root:wheel /compat/linux
617 blocks
ln: /compat/linux/etc//fonts: File exists
*** Error code 1

Stop in /home/ports/x11-fonts/linux-f10-fontconfig.

It's not exactly surprising that /compat/linux/etc/fonts exists, and it looks like a bug in the port that stops it updating if it's there. But having portmaster stop there is really irritating. Asked on IRC (again) what others use. Callum Gibson uses portupgrade, and Peter Jeremy suggested pkgng.

Further investigation showed that pkgng is not in the Ports Collection (yet), and that it doesn't handle ports, just binary packages. So back to portupgrade, which has been round for years, and which I described in “The Complete FreeBSD” nearly 10 years ago. Why did I stop using it? On 17 November 2002 I noted that I had trouble with it, but didn't go into details. On 16 December 2002 I noted that it failed miserably, as it did again on 18 April 2003. From recollection it was some database issue in each case: portupgrade stores its ports information in some kind of database, and it was corrupt. This is probably why I went off with my own alternative, but it's at least as fragile. That's at least 10 years of pain upgrading ports.

Tried portupgrade again today and—it worked! Well, sort of. It too stopped in the middle to configure packages that I thought were already configured. But that can be done separately with the invocation portupgrade -ac, which runs the configure target for all ports. Then I can run portupgrade -a with no interruption. 13 hours later I got:

[Updating the pkgdb <format:bdb_btree> in /var/db/pkg ... - 764 packages found (-0 +1) . done]
--->  Skipping 'graphics/gtkam' (gtkam-gnome-0.1.17_1) because a requisite package 'gimp-app-2.6.11_5,1' (graphics/gimp-app) failed (specify -k to force)
** Listing the failed packages (-:ignored / *:skipped / !:failed)
        ! multimedia/dvdauthor (dvdauthor-0.7.0_1)      (patch error)
        ! net/glib-networking (glib-networking-2.28.7_3)        (dependent libraries)
        ! multimedia/mencoder (mencoder-1.0.r20110329_4)        (unknown build error)
        ! multimedia/vlc (vlc-1.1.13,3) (dependent libraries)
        * devel/gvfs (gvfs-1.6.6_1)
        * audio/grip (grip-3.3.1_3)
        ! multimedia/mplayer (mplayer-1.0.r20110329_3)  (unknown build error)
        ! editors/emacs (emacs-23.3_6,2)        (unknown build error)
        * graphics/gimp-app (gimp-app-2.6.11_5,1)
        ! emulators/virtualbox-ose (virtualbox-ose-4.0.14)      (unknown build error)
        * graphics/gimp (gimp-2.6.11,2)
        ! net/wireshark (wireshark-1.6.4_1)     (dependent libraries)
        * graphics/gtkam (gtkam-gnome-0.1.17_1)
    39556.30 real     32781.55 user      4347.49 sys

That's a surprising number of important ports (mencoder, grip, mplayer, Emacs, VirtualBox, gimp, wireshark) that failed. So this is most definitely no magic bullet. But at least I didn't have to sit in front of the monitor all that time.


The pain of weeding
Topic: gardening Link here

Still at work getting the weeds (mainly grass) out of the north garden today. It's easy enough when there's nothing in the way, and in many cases I can get it out quite easily by reaching under the bushes and finding the stems. This works well under the thyme bushes, for example. But it doesn't work at all where it comes up between the violets. The stems are very similar, and they seem to be completely intermingled:


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Spent a lot of time trying; maybe I should just pull everything out and put the violets back.

Also found a number of small bulbs growing under the violets and thyme. They don't have a hope there in the shade, and I don't know what they are, so planted them in some pots. I'll leave them on the verandah until they flower, and then decide what to do.


Another mystery solved
Topic: animals, gardening Link here

On Australia Day last year I bought a plant which, they say, would repel dogs:


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Nemo loved it. On 22 April 2011 I decided that it could be a Marrubium, but that was before it started flowering. Now, finally, I have a positive identification. It's Plectranthus caninus. Here a photo from the Gardening Australia programme and from our garden:


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The common name is dogbane, and yes, they also claim it repels dogs, as both the species name and the common name suggest. I tried again today with a flower, which Nemo hadn't seen before. He wanted to eat it, too.


Tuesday, 3 April 2012 Dereel Images for 3 April 2012
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More ports build pain
Topic: technology Link here

Spent some time looking at yesterday's update disaster today. There were a number of issues:

giflib refused to build:

===>   mencoder-1.0.r20111218_1 depends on shared library: gif.5 - not found
===>    Verifying install for gif.5 in /usr/ports/graphics/giflib
===>  giflib-4.1.6 conflicts with installed package(s):
      libungif-4.1.4_5
      They install files into the same place.

A number of packages depended on this one and failed as a result:

=== root@defake (/dev/pts/1) /var/db/pkg 3 -> pkg_delete libungif-4.1.4_5/
pkg_delete: package 'libungif-4.1.4_5' is required by these other packages
and may not be deinstalled:
emacs-23.3_6,2
mencoder-1.0.r20110329_4
mplayer-1.0.r20110329_3

Arguably portupgrade should be able to deal with this one, particularly since one of the dependencies was mencoder.

gnutls didn't fail directly, but many dependencies did:

===>   Returning to build of wireshark-1.6.5_1
Error: shared library "gnutls.47" does not exist
*** Error code 1

So I removed it, which didn't go smoothly:

=== root@defake (/dev/pts/2) /usr/ports/security/gnutls 5 -> Make deinstall
===== Wed Apr 4 10:43:31 EST 2012 on defake.lemis.com: Make deinstall
===>  Deinstalling for security/gnutls
===>   Deinstalling gnutls-2.12.18
pkg_delete: file '/usr/local/lib/libgnutls-extra.so.47' doesn't exist
pkg_delete: file '/usr/local/lib/libgnutls.so.47' doesn't exist
pkg_delete: couldn't entirely delete package (perhaps the packing list is
incorrectly specified?)

So I tried again. No improvement. Looking at the files that were installed showed a couple of interesting details:

=== root@defake (/dev/pts/0) /usr/ports/security/gnutls 21 -> ls -l /usr/local/lib/libgnutls*
lrwxr-xr-x  1 root  wheel       21 Apr  3 16:44 /usr/local/lib/libgnutls-extra.so -> libgnutls-extra.so.48
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root  wheel    47695 Apr  3 16:44 /usr/local/lib/libgnutls-extra.so.48
lrwxr-xr-x  1 root  wheel       23 Apr  3 16:44 /usr/local/lib/libgnutls-openssl.so -> libgnutls-openssl.so.27
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root  wheel    57834 Apr  3 16:44 /usr/local/lib/libgnutls-openssl.so.27
lrwxr-xr-x  1 root  wheel       15 Apr  3 16:44 /usr/local/lib/libgnutls.so -> libgnutls.so.48
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root  wheel   878692 Apr  3 16:44 /usr/local/lib/libgnutls.so.48
lrwxr-xr-x  1 root  wheel       17 Apr  3 16:44 /usr/local/lib/libgnutlsxx.so -> libgnutlsxx.so.27
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root  wheel    98759 Apr  3 16:44 /usr/local/lib/libgnutlsxx.so.27

So the version number of the libraries has been incremented. More importantly, though, there are symlinks (why not real links?) without a version number. Clearly it makes more sense for ports to refer to the base library name rather than the one with the version. But why this discrepancy? Didn't get round to looking at that one today.


Apple software installation: so easy
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

These problems with FreeBSD ports are in stark contrast with the relative ease with which I reinstalled my Apple a couple of weeks ago. But as I said at the time,

That's not an indication of the relative ease of installing MacOS X and FreeBSD, though: I do almost nothing on the Apple, so there's not much work.

Today I wanted to scan some documents. I hadn't reinstalled the scanner software, just copied the directories in /Applications from the backups. Started up the scanner “Application”. It showed briefly in the title bar, and then disappeared again. No error message, no indication in any log file.

Well, I didn't exactly install they way they wanted, so the obvious thing was to deinstall and reinstall from CD. How do you deinstall a package on Apple? None of my Apple friends could tell me—just “Drag the /Applications directory to Trash”. Tried that, which didn't work because one of the programs get started at boot time was running. Fortunately I could kill that (thank God for a shell!), and then removed everything.

Reinstallation took forever, again. And there was no change. How do you address a problem like that? I really don't know. The documentation is certainly worse than useless.


System naming, Apple style
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

In passing, discovered that after reinstallation boskoop has decided to call itself greg-leheys-power-mac-g4-agp-graphics, which appeared at the top of the windows and also in log messages. How do you change that? Went looking and found nowhere obvious. Clearly I was looking in the wrong place: it should have been Network/Sharing. It's not clear why, since I don't share anything, and my concerns are in log messages and local windows, but clearly that's the Apple Way.

So I went in there and found:

 
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OK, that's clear enough. Pressed the Edit button and got a window, conveniently too short for the name that Apple had chosen. Started entering the new name and got as far as boskoo:

 
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Then the cursor went back to the start of the line and refused to move. Pressing p gave me:

 
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Clearly it can't be a length limit, but I don't know what kind of bug it was. I worked around it by entering oskoop and then b:

 
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After pressing OK, I got:

 
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All that for nothing, and although this system knows that it has a real domain name (lemis.com), it has added this stupid pseudodomain local. OK, I can type in the name there, including domain name, but Apple doesn't want to know:

 
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What kind of brain damage can lead to it calling the system boskoop-lemis-com.local? And of course it's wrong:

=== grog@dereel (/dev/pts/23) ~ 2 -> ping boskoop-lemis-com.local
ping: cannot resolve boskoop-lemis-com.local: Unknown host
=== grog@dereel (/dev/pts/23) ~ 3 -> ping boskoop
PING boskoop.lemis.com (192.109.197.163): 56 data bytes
64 bytes from 192.109.197.163: icmp_seq=0 ttl=64 time=0.293 ms

I give up.


Propagation and more weeding
Topic: gardening Link here

Pruned the “Lilli Marleen” rose bush, of which Yvonne wants more, so planted the prunings. It's the wrong time of year, but who knows? At the least it will give me experience, even if they all die.

Also planted one of the Salvias that Chris Yeardley gave me in December into a larger pot. The weather is getting cooler now, so put the roses and the salvia into the greenhouse. To be observed.

On with the weeding. Boring stuff, but things are beginning to look better.


Wednesday, 4 April 2012 Dereel
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Another power failure
Topic: general Link here

Another power failure today, this time in the middle of the day, and not just for a couple of seconds. After shutting down what could still be shut down, gave up and worked in the garden. To my surprise, the power came back after only 34 minutes. Normally it's either very quick (automatic recovery) or it takes at least an hour.


Port upgrade pain, continued
Topic: technology Link here

Spent some time investigating the causes of the ports problems I've been happening. Surprise, surprise: my fault. It's been years since I set up my CVS update scripts, and they work. But they include a cvsup run, so I didn't use them on defake because I was checking out of the repository on dereel. And when running cvs I forgot the options. As a result I didn't get the new /usr/ports/security/gnutls/files/ directory, which contained the kludges used to rename the shared library. After a checkout with the correct options, all was well.

Well. Almost. Comparing with Peter Jeremy's source tree showed something interesting:

groggy: -rw-r--r--  1 root  lemis    1910 Apr  2 10:43 Makefile
peter:  -rw-r--r--  1 root  wheel    1981 27 Mar 00:32 Makefile

Clearly his is bigger than mine. But why? This was the same revision. After some discussion, it proved that diff would have said:

--- Makefile.grog        2012-04-04 10:06:47.000000000 +1000
+++ Makefile.peter       2012-04-05 10:25:41.000000000 +1000
@@ -2,7 +2,7 @@
 # Date created:                                13 Nov 2002
 # Whom:                                        Sergei Kolobov <sergei@kolobov.com>
 #
-# $FreeBSD$
+# $FreeBSD: ports/security/gnutls/Makefile,v 1.100 2012/03/25 15:24:23 novel Exp $
 #

 PORTNAME=      gnutls

In other words, the $FreeBSD$ keyword wasn't being expanded. That's a FreeBSD extension, of course, and I've always assumed that it required a patched version of CVS. On further examination, however, I discovered Version Management with CVS - the CVS manual by Per Cederqvist et al., which tells me to add entries to CVSROOT/config. Looking at my CVSROOT.config, I found:

# Add the "FreeBSD" keyword and restrict keyword expansion for cvs-1.12
#LocalKeyword=FreeBSD=CVSHeader
#KeywordExpand=iFreeBSD

They're exactly the same entries (well, the book says “MyBSD”), but they're commented out. Is that the problem?

Further investigation showed that no, for some reason we have a new file CVSROOT/options, and the same entries are there. On my system, and on everybody else's. After a lot more investigation, it seems that I haven't been giving CVSROOT its due. It should be in /src/CVS/FreeBSD/ncvs/, but in fact it's in /src/CVS/FreeBSD/. And CVS apparently created a new, virgin one for me, without the options file. Replacing that finally got the expansion to work.

After that, portupgrade failed with something completely different:

===== Wed Apr 4 14:08:18 EST 2012 on defake.lemis.com: portupgrade -a
Stale dependency: dia-gnome-0.97.1_2,1 --> gnutls-2.12.18 -- manually run 'pkgdb -F' to fix, or specify -O to force.

This was after the power failure. A consequence? Ran pkgdb -F as instructed, and it found a whole lot of inconsistencies, which it claimed to have fixed. Then I started portupgrade again, and it went off and ran for another 7 hours, after which it was almost done:

[Updating the pkgdb <format:bdb_btree> in /var/db/pkg ... - 766 packages found (-0 +1) . done]
** Listing the failed packages (-:ignored / *:skipped / !:failed)
        ! multimedia/dvdauthor (dvdauthor-0.7.0_1)      (patch error)
    25995.18 real     20853.68 user      2458.18 sys

But that looks like a bug with this one port, and one that doesn't worry me too much.


Still more weeding
Topic: gardening Link here

Spent some more time weeding the north bed. What do I put on top? Mulch, in principle, but I've removed so much soil that the bulbs planted there are only barely covered. I should probably replace it. So I've decided to put a layer of horse manure on first. Fortunately we have plenty of that.


Thursday, 5 April 2012 Dereel Images for 5 April 2012
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Apple network nonsense: the explanation
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Mail from Jashank Jeremy today explaining Apple's stupid .local pseudodomain. It seems that it's related to mDNS, a kind of pseudo-DNS used for the local network when no real DNS is available. And yes, from boskoop it works:

=== grog@boskoop (/dev/ttyp3) ~ 1 -> ping -c 1 boskoop.local
PING boskoop.local (192.109.197.163): 56 data bytes
64 bytes from 192.109.197.163: icmp_seq=0 ttl=64 time=0.135 ms

--- boskoop.local ping statistics ---
1 packets transmitted, 1 packets received, 0% packet loss
round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 0.135/0.135/0.135/nan ms

And netstat shows (inter alia) a listen on mdns:

=== grog@boskoop (/dev/ttyp3) ~ 2 -> netstat -afinet
udp4       0      0  *.mdns                 *.*

I had expected something like that. But that's no excuse. The message I got told me that I could access the system from other systems on the local network by the name boskoop.local, and that's still not correct. I'm relatively confident that it would work from another Apple, and it even works from Microsoft, but there's no such restriction in the statement. And why do I need this when the system knows that I have a DNS server? You'd really think that they're trying to make things as difficult as possible.


Scanner software: Microsoft 1, Apple -3
Topic: technology Link here

After yet another abortive attempt to reinstall my Epson scanner software on boskoop, I gave up. No error messages, everything that could conceivably be replaced had been replaced, but the “application” just started and stopped without any message. This is just too much pain.

But I have this Microsoft box on loan from Chris Yeardley, so tried installing on that. Surprise, surprise: it went very smoothly, and much faster. That could be due in part to the faster machine, but there were also fewer repetitive stops (“do you accept the license conditions for the documentation?” “do you really want to install the documentation?” “Please enter your password” several times over). And on installation it worked.

Most of the time. It crashed a couple of times. Clearly Epson's software isn't very good, and that's almost certainly why I had trouble on the Apple. But at least I have something more or less working. I should reconsider using SANE.


Another day's weeding
Topic: gardening Link here

I'm still weeding in the north bed at the moment. The north-east area needs doing too, but I also intend to replant some citrus trees there, so for the moment it makes more sense to do the north bed. Got some distance further down the north side. It was so overgrown that I could barely see what I was doing. Got most of the grass out; I'll have to go back and attend to the roots after that.

In the process, managed to break off a couple of stems of Salvia leucantha, some with roots on them. Planted them in pots. I wonder what I'm going to do with all these seedlings. Also cut back the Salvia diesaustraliae, which are vigorous but singularly boring looking plants. I think I should remove them altogether.

Apart from that, a bit of spraying. The weather has been very conducive lately, warm and low winds. And we most certainly need it.


You have too many computers!
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Received an online survey today, asking me about what technical equipment I had. They clearly weren't prepared for the answer:

 
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I wonder how people come to these restrictive ideas.


Enchiladas rojas
Topic: food and drink Link here

What are Enchiladas rojas? We don't eat much Tex-Mex food, but I'm not even sure that they count as Tex-Mex. It depends on who you ask. This one at least has the seal of authenticity that it's in Mexican (and not (Castilian) Spanish; witness Jitomate rather than Tomate), but it, too, wants grated cheese and cream. Others, such as these Enchiladas Rojas Mexicana [sic], want the enchiladas baked to melt the cheese.

We cheated, so I haven't put in a recipe yet. I had intended to use the remaining sauce from the Pollo en adobo that we ate recently. That proved to be too little, so I stretched it with some salsa pizzaiola with some chile guajillo and some ground coriander and cumin seed that I happened to have lying around. I've had the chiles for years, probably bought at Aztec Imports nearly 3 years ago, and which I hadn't yet opened. The time hadn't done them much good, and I had to discard the innards. The rest needs using up.

The results? Not bad, but clearly something to improve on.


Friday, 6 April 2012 Dereel Images for 6 April 2012
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The joys of multimedia
Topic: technology, multimedia, opinion Link here

Good Friday today, so I decided to listen to Bach's St. John Passion. I didn't already have it on disk, so I had to read it in from CD.

That's a job for grip. Put the CD in the drive, started up grip, and read:

 
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Did a bit of checking there, but found nothing obvious. In particular I had the correct CD-ROM device, and it seems to work. Never mind, I had done this before with iTunes, and I had more or less worked round its myriad irritations. But since then I had reinstalled the software on boskoop, and I had deliberately not upgraded iTunes. So went and checked. No, no newer version available. Started it and got the message

The folder "iTunes" is on a locked disk or you do not have write permissions for this folder.

How I love these useless error messages. Which “folder”? How can I fix the permissions if I don't know where it is? Went through with find and found:

=== root@boskoop (/dev/ttyp4) /Users/grog 2 -> find / -xdev -name iTunes | xargs ls -ld | less
drwxrwxr-x    3 root  admin       102 Mar 23  2005 /Library/Documentation/Applications/iTunes
drwx------   16 grog  grog        544 Nov 19 16:43 /Users/grog/Library/Caches/iTunes
drwxr-xr-x    4 grog  grog        136 Nov 19 16:42 /Users/grog/Library/iTunes
drwxrwxrwx   12 grog  1000        408 Aug 31  2009 /Users/grog/Moosick/iTunes
drwxrwxr-x    3 root  admin       102 Apr 12  2010 /private/var/old-boskoop/Library/Documentation/Applications/iTunes
drwxrwxr-x    3 root  admin       102 Mar 28  2005 /private/var/old-boskoop/Library/Documentation/iTunes
drwxr-xr-x    3 grog  grog        102 Nov  2  2005 /private/var/old-boskoop/Users/trent/Library/iTunes
drwxr-xr-x    3 grog  admin       102 Jan 23  2011 /private/var/old-boskoop/iTunes

Nothing obviously wrong there, though the group for /Users/grog/Moosick/iTunes was dubious. But given the permissions, that shouldn't have been an issue.

Did a considerable amount of head-scratching and decided that the problem was almost certainly due to my saved directories Music (which iTunes seems to use, though it didn't show up here) and maybe Moosick. So hid them somewhere and started iTunes again. Success! Well, I got further. It created a new ~/Music directory and then told me:

 
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That was strange, since I had just checked, but yes, I would, so it went off, did something over the net, came back and told me:

 
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I wonder what's wrong there.

So put the CD in the drive and selected “Import”. I got a message, which I forgot to save, telling me that the encoding parameters were wrong. That was strange, since it could play the CD just fine. Spent a lot of time trying to work out what parameters I could set, without any success. In the end decided to try automatic import (import immediately on disk insertion), as if that would make any difference.

But it did! Why, I don't know. Where did it put them? I had already seen this subdirectory Music, so that looked like an obvious place. And there I found it had created the easily readable directory hierarchy Music/iTunes/iTunes Music/Helmuth Rilling_ Stuttgart Bach Collegium, GaÌchinger Kantorei/Bach_ St. John Passion, BWV 245 [Disc 1], with no fewer than 13 spaces in the path name. One of the directories was called iTunes, more exactly ~/Music/iTunes. Checked the permissions, and discovered that the old Music had permissions

drwxr-xr-x   18 1004  wheel  1024 Nov 27 22:36 Music

That makes sense. 1004 is my real user ID, and has been for nearly a quarter of a century, where I came number 4 after Jox Emacs, Rhod Davies and Paul Vogel. That's also the background for the group number 1000 in the list above. Apple assigns different numbers, but that breaks NFS, so I had changed things. I didn't do it this time, though it's becoming clear I'm going to have to, once I work out again how Apple has obfuscated the user and group number configuration. But that was the reason for the error message. Here's the difference between the message and what it should have been:

Was:

The folder "iTunes" is on a locked disk or you do not have write permissions for this folder.

Should be:

Cannot create /Users/grog/Music/iTunes: permission denied.

But that's the kind of message we've been printing for how long now? 30 years?


More north bed stuff
Topic: gardening Link here

Continued with the weeds in the north bed. Yvonne had obligingly put a barrow full of horse manure there, so I ended up removing most of the grass roots intermingled with the violets, and then covered over with the manure. We'll see how well that works.


Saturday, 7 April 2012 Dereel Images for 7 April 2012
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Penguin bacon
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Last week we had horse roast beef. This week it's different. It's clear where this bacon comes from:


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House photos: stitching problems
Topic: photography Link here

“House” (i.e. garden) photo day again today, and once again I did some experiments. Recently I've been taking the verandah centre image with flash offset by -1EV, and today, where the weather was overcast, it seemed that the vine leaves under the ceiling were too dark. So I tried a second series of photos of the upper layer with normal flash exposure.

Straightforward enough, right? The -1EV images (25 of them) stitched without problems. But when I replaced the 10 upper layer images with the 0EV flash versions, Hugin crashed:

enblend: an exception occured
Mask is entirely black, but white image was not identified as redundant.
gmake: *** [00-34.tif] Error 1

I've seen this occasionally—you can provoke it by including the same image twice—but there was no such issue here. After hours of experimentation, I found that I could get the panorama to stitch as long as I didn't change the default values. It remains to be seen which change caused the problem to show up, and with each attempt taking about 15 minutes, it's not easy.

And the results? I didn't have time to look at them in detail. Here's what I ended up with; the second image (0EV) is offset because I couldn't move it.


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On the face of it, there's not much difference, but I really need to get them in the same shape first.


Out riding
Topic: animals, general Link here

Despite the problems with the photos, out riding again this afternoon with Yvonne and Chris, in my case for the first time in months. We have new neighbours again, and they were in the process of moving in their horses. They have four children aged between 1 and 12 or so—a noticeable difference from previous occupants—and the ones who are old enough seem all to be crazy about horses, including the son (the presumed 12-year-old). I suspect we'll see a fair amount of them.


Rack of lamb and pommes soufflées
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Rack of lamb for dinner tonight, and decided to have another stab at pommes soufflées, for which there seems to be no English translation. They're fried potatoes which blow up like a balloon. We have a recipe from Bocuse's “La Cuisine du Marché”, in which he writes (my translation and abridgement):

Use Dutch potatoes if possible. Cut them lengthwise in slices 3 mm thick.

For frying, it is indispensable to have two friteuses, one used for the first part of the cooking, and the other for the second part, to make them blow up.

Heat the first friteuse to 180°. Fry the slices a few at a time for 6 to 7 minutes, by which time they will still be pale, but cooked and starting to float to the surface. Take them, let them drip and put them int the second bath, which is smoking hot at 190°.

So we did that. Things are easier nowadays: thermostatically controlled friteuses, rotary slicer. But things didn't quite work out that way. At 180°, the thin slices were cooked in no time. Clearly the temperature was too high (“pluck a number out of the air”?). So I lowered the temperature to 160° and continued.

But even then things didn't work the way I wanted. I think the slices were already too dry when they came into the second friteuse, and only a couple blew up, and that not very well:


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While I was doing that, Chris noticed that some of the potatoes I had forgot in the first friteuse were also blowing up. Somehow the whole thing didn't work as expected.

What went wrong? My guess is that it's typical cook's guesswork. Cook something, get it to work, then guess what you did. I suspect that the 3 mm is too thin, the 180° are clearly too high, and possibly the choice of potato is more important than just “Dutch if possible”. We'll try again some time. It's not difficult to do.

And the rack? I cooked it to 52° inside, which works well for roast beef, but is a little raw for lamb. Next time I'll try 55°. And to my surprise, in a 200° fan-forced oven, it took 30 minutes.


Sunday, 8 April 2012 Dereel Images for 8 April 2012
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How much dirt should a camera take?
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

We've had serious problems with Yvonne's cameras. The Kodak M1093 IS no longer focuses reliably, and the replacement Canon IXY 200F produced “Lens error” messages within months and had to be repaired. In each case it seems that dust got into the lens mechanism, and people say that you shouldn't allow that to happen.

Is that reasonable? There's dust everywhere. Why shouldn't cameras be built to withstand it (or at least be easily cleanable if they do get dust inside)? After the Asia trip in 1967 I had had to have the focusing helix in my 50 mm f/1.4 Super Takumar because abrasion from the dust had worn it out. But that didn't stop it working.

Yesterday I went riding, with the old Nikon “Coolpix” L1 in my jacket pocket. Today I took it out and turned it on. This fell out of the lens mount:


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Does it still work? Hard to say. It never worked well, but it doesn't seem to be any worse. To be observed.


PTGui revisited
Topic: photography, technology Link here

Despite all my attempts yesterday, I didn't manage to stitch one variant of my verandah panorama with Hugin. Is this the panorama or Hugin? By chance, on the German Olympus forum there was a discussion thread about stitching software. Karl Grabherr uses PTGui, which is closely related to Hugin. But it costs money, and he justifies that with the claim that it's much faster than Hugin.

That's a valid reason. But then Dieter Bethke, who also uses it, states that he particularly likes the spherical panorama preview. That's presumably the “panosphere” in the Hugin fast panorama preview window. Presumably it hadn't been added when Dieter last looked at Hugin. I've noticed significant speed improvements in Hugin as well. So: why not try it out and see how it works?

Of course, it doesn't work on my “real” machine dereel, only on Microsoft and Apple platforms. So I downloaded and installed it on braindeath, the Microsoft loaner from Chris Yeardley. Installation went without a hitch, and the main window is very reminiscent of Hugin. Then I had the usual tree-climbing problems. How I hate these selection windows! Here's what I had to go through just to find the images. First, a tiny little window with the names of 45 directories:

 
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The trouble is, this directory contains a total of 2416 directories, and the one I was looking for (Hugin-build) was somewhere in the middle. Finally I found it, clicked on it, and was shown an empty window. Like so much Microsoft-based software, it expected the file names to conform to specific naming, notably extensions like .JPG. And my files are just numbered from 00 to (in this case) 34. Still I was able to tell it to look at all of them. But it didn't want to know:

 
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The file is very definitely in a supported format (JPEG). What's not supported is the name. So I had to create names it liked:

=== grog@dereel (/dev/pts/21) ~/Photos/Hugin-build 7 -> for i in [0-9][0-9]; do ln $i $i.jpeg; done

I had my mouse set to automatically double click, so selecting an image automatically terminated the window. But then I got a message:

 
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That's certainly a nice touch, but I later discovered it's a little generous with its interpretation of “same time”.

It managed the 35 images of the verandah in 4½ minutes and came up with the following preview:


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The images were all taken with vertical orientation, but somehow it got a number of them wrong:


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At this point, Hugin gives you the average and maximum error and an estimate of how well the recognition worked:

 
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The corresponding PTGui page doesn't:

 
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Maybe the “may contain some misplaced control points” is the gentle way of saying what Hugin calls “very bad fit”. The control point table, ordered from the worst to best, shows:

 
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9953 pixels error! Even the best control point was 13 pixels offset. That's no match at all.

Still, I didn't want to stitch the panorama this way. The images are arranged in three layers: the bottom has 10 images at 36° intervals. The middle layer has two sets of 10 images, also at 36° intervals. One set is exposed with the flash set at -1EV (like the other layers), and the second set has flash at 0EV. The top layer touches the zenith. It should be at 90° intervals, but I forgot in one case, so there's a spare.

It was never my intention to put all these images in one panorama. I wanted to try one or the other of the sets of 10 images in the middle, and compare them. So I removed one set (the -1EV) and tried again. Removed the first middle layer and tried again. Success!

 
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I've seen cases with Hugin where removing images doesn't remove all information about them. You have to start again. So I did that here, and This time it was able to place the images correctly. And how well? Hugin got a mean error of 1.4 pixels and a maximum of 7.3 for this collection. PTGui had a maximum of 10.5. I could live with that; both require tuning.

Centering the panorama was also interesting. With Hugin I drag the image to where I want it; it seems that PTGui only has the option of selecting the centre point, which is not quite what I want. But possibly there's an option that I haven't seen yet.

So, to stitching. I stitch this panorama in Miller cylindrical projection but not with PTGui: it doesn't have it. Stitched something anyway, creating a file with the name 00 Panorama.tif—how these people love file names with spaces in them!

And the results? Not bad. I haven't found a way of getting PTGui to crop images before stitching, but here's the comparison of the output of PTGui and Hugin for the same images, projection and orientation:


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At first sight, the PTGui image seems to hold together better: the Hugin one shows small discontinuities in the floorboards left and right, and they're missing in the PTGui version. But I know to look there, because Hugin often had problems in that area. It's possible that there are others in the PTGui version that I haven't seen yet.

And apart from that? I tried checking the speed of Hugin on braindeath, and had a lot of difficulty with the installation; it kept crashing on me. One point for PTGui. And PTGui took about 3 minutes for the control point detection for the 25 image panorama. Hugin took 19 minutes. So Karl is right: PTGui is much faster.

One other interesting discovery: I had already noticed that Hugin recalculates the focal length of the lens when stitching 360° panoramas. So does PTGui. But it comes to different conclusions:

 
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Clearly the trick here is the “Focal length multiplier”. 8.87 × 2 ÷ 1.923 is indeed 9.225. This confirms my suspicion that it is being calculated from the dimensions of the overall panorama. And it would be easy to assume that the value 1.923 is one of the other relationships between the 4:3 ratio Olympus sensor and the 3:2 ratio full-frame aspect ratio. But it isn't. I've already written a program that calculates the ratios, and it outputs:

Sensor details:
Width:                           17.3 mm
Height:                          13.0 mm
Diagonal:                        21.6 mm
Area:                           224.9 mm²
Width ratio to full frame:        2.081
Height ratio to full frame:       1.846
Diagonal ratio to full frame:     1.999
Area ratio to full frame:         3.842

No idea where the 1.923 comes from.


Hugin crash: solved?
Topic: photography, technology Link here

When you get an obscure error message, Google is your friend. In this case the message I got yesterday was Mask is entirely black, but white image was not identified as redundant.. And the search pointed me to the Hugin FAQ, which tells me:

Try to use the additional enblend parameter "--fine-mask" to get rid of the error.

Note (Jan 2010): This should be fixed in the latest enblend 4.0 release.

So I checked: yes, though I'm using a very recent Hugin, my enblend (which proves to be a separate port) is still version 3.1. And yes, --fine-mask solves the problem, at least this time. But why is FreeBSD still using version 3.1? To be investigated.

At least I now have the ability to compare the images. Here first the “normal” one with -1EV flash fill-in, and then the “bright” one with 0EV flash fill-in:


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I can't make up my mind. Clearly if I use 0EV, I need to use it for the lower row as well. In particular, the area behind the table comes out too dark otherwise.


Alibi gardening
Topic: gardening Link here

Somehow I spent most of the day hacking at my photo stuff, but did find time to go out and spread some manure and also take a look at the south-east part of the garden, in front of the larger birch tree in this image:


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I've been neglecting it for some time, and it's completely overgrown. Hopefully I can fix it up pretty quickly.


Monday, 9 April 2012 Dereel
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The new enblend
Topic: photography, technology Link here

The most obvious real problem with my panorama stitching on Saturday was that the version of enblend was version 3.1, years out of date. The ChangeLog gives a date of 13 March 2008, over 4 years ago. Since then there has been a revision 3.2, and on 13 December 2009 version 4.0 was released—with documentation!—if you can work out how to get it. It includes a 70 page detailed description and a number of articles I haven't looked at yet.

It's been a while since I last created a FreeBSD port, and somehow the ground rules seem to have changed. Finally fetched the tarball and started trying a new port. And it had the same “bug” (if that's the word) that version 3.1 had:

--- src/vigra_impex/png.cxx.orig 2009-12-21 02:32:28.000000000 +1100
+++ src/vigra_impex/png.cxx 2012-04-09 15:34:31.000000000 +1000
@@ -275,7 +275,7 @@
         if ( color_type == PNG_COLOR_TYPE_GRAY && bit_depth < 8 ) {
             if (setjmp(png->jmpbuf))
                 vigra_postcondition( false,png_error_message.insert(0, "error in png_set_gray_1_2_4_to_8(): ").c_str());
-            png_set_gray_1_2_4_to_8(png);
+            png_set_expand_gray_1_2_4_to_8(png);
             bit_depth = 8;
         }

But then I ran into a new issue:

g++44 -DHAVE_CONFIG_H -I. -I..   -I/usr/local/include  -I/usr/local/include -D_THREAD_SAFE  -D_GNU_SOURCE -D_FILE_OFFSET_BITS=64  -I../include -DVIGRA_STATIC_LIB -D_THREAD_SAFE -I/usr/local/include/OpenEXR   -O2 -pipe -Wl,-rpath=/usr/local/lib/gcc44 -fno-strict-aliasing --param inline-unit-growth=60 -O2 -DNDEBUG -Wall -MT enblend-enblend.o -MD -MP -MF .deps/enblend-enblend.Tpo -c -o enblend-enblend.o `test -f 'enblend.cc' || echo './'`enblend.cc
enblend.cc:145: error: 'Signature' does not name a type
enblend.cc: In function 'void printVersionAndExit(int, char**)':
enblend.cc:366: error: 'sig' was not declared in this scope
enblend.cc: In function 'int main(int, char**)':
enblend.cc:1279: error: 'sig' was not declared in this scope
*** Error code 1

Looking at the code, it's not clear what it's trying to do:

Signature sig;

That's the first mention, so the compiler is correct. And the only definition-like occurrence of the identifier Signature is in the file gen.sig, a perl script. It looks as if it's intended to generate a header file. But why didn't it? And why didn't the compiler complain about the missing header file? Somehow so many of these ports have such a complicated infrastructure that they make life unnecessarily complicated for all concerned. Put it on the Too Hard queue for the moment; I'll return later.


More weeding
Topic: gardening Link here

I'm trying hard not to lose momentum on my weeding, and despite the weather managed to remove more weeds from the south-east part of the east garden. It'll keep me busy.


Sweet potato fritters and more pommes souflées
Topic: food and drink Link here

Yvonne bought a sweet potato last week, intending to use it for Saturday's dinner. But she forgot.

What do you do with sweet potatoes? I didn't know, and went looking, finding surprisingly few recipes. Even the Indian books had nothing useful. After a search on the web, discovered that there are three main ways of preparing them: as a cake, as purée, or as fritters. Fritters sounded the best, and this recipe looked interesting, though we didn't use the sauce (Yvonne has her own mint raita recipe which we used instead). And indeed it worked out well.

While we had the deep-fryer going, peeled a potato and revisited the issue of pommes soufflées. This time I made them thicker (5 mm instead of 3) and paid more attention to the first cooking, the one where Bocuse had asked for oil at 180°. That was clearly too hot, and others had asked for 150°. Tried to set the friteuse to that temperature (off the low end of the scale), and ended up with temperatures closer to 170°. So the friteuse is inaccurate in its temperatures—it wouldn't be the first one. Finally got 150° (it looked more like 140° off the scale), and indeed I was able to fry for 5 minutes, by which time they were cooked but not substantially browned. So far so good. But in the second bath (closer to 195° than 190°) they still didn't blow up. Maybe I should have stuck to 3 mm thickness; that's the parameter I'll vary next time, anyway.


Tuesday, 10 April 2012 Dereel Images for 10 April 2012
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Police incompetence: so nice, so nice, we do it twice
Topic: general, opinion Link here

It's been nearly two months since I was amazed by police incompetence handling a “speeding” fine. Not only had they sent the payment demand to the wrong address, ignoring what was on the driver license, but they required Yvonne to submit a written request for rectification.

She did that, and then we heard nothing. Today we finally got a reply:


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Not a reply at all, an enforcement order, threatening dire consequences, including breach of grammar, if we ignore it:

What happens if you ignore the Enforcement Order?

If you live in Victoria, an infringement warrant will be issued to the Sheriff to seize and sell your goods or to imprison you, additional costs will be incurred.

Clearly this is a disadvantage of living in Victoria. And equally clearly for such an important step, they would have checked all details. But no, the address is still wrong. Again, it's pure chance that we received the notice. I wonder what would have happened if this document hadn't arrived. Presumably the sheriff (I thought that was something American) would have headed off to Enfield vainly looking for a Kleins Road. What would he have done then? Come here on the off chance, seize all our goods and throw Yvonne into jail? Somewhere there had to be some sense.

The authority in question has the encouraging name “Civic Compliance Victoria”, a name which thesaurus.com considers synonymous with “acquiescence”, “conformity”, “docility”, “obedience”, “resignation”, “submission” or “surrender”. Somehow this state gives me that impression, too. Yvonne didn't want to deal with the authorities, so I called up the number they gave me, 1800 150 410, and went through the voice menu. “Challenge an Enforcement Order” was number 4, so I pressed that. “To challenge an Enforcement Order, fill out the form or go to the Internet and do it there. Click”.

Tried the other number they had given me, (03) 9200 8222, and got the same menu. But this time I listened longer and got 5, “all other queries”. Did that and was connected with somebody who finally spelt out her name as “Jaz”, who first wanted Yvonne's authority to talk to me. That's OK, but it was only necessary because I was clearly of a different gender. That only excludes 50% of the people in the country. Many others could have claimed to be Yvonne. She came to the phone, was asked her name, date of birth, address and phone number. She gave all that, along with authority for them to talk to me, and was accepted.

I've rantedcomplained about the stupidity of this form of authentication in the past. But this time it was worse. Jaz asked me what the problem was, and I said that things had been sent to the wrong address. “How could I know that?”. How, indeed? She accepted the correct address for authentication, but didn't see a conflict in the incorrect address on the enforcement order. I suggested that she should check the information in the driver license (thus Victorian terminology). She told me that she had no access to the information in the driving license (her usage)! It seems that they accept the information that the police fill out without question.

That raises the question, of course, as to whether Yvonne really was doing 122 km/h when caught. If the policeman had accidentally written 212 km/h it would have been noticed, of course. But what if she had been doing 106 and he had written 160? It's probably not worth contesting: the policeman will appear in court, swear (after checking his records) that it was 122 km/h, and that the driver license showed “Enfield” at the time he checked it, the fine will be upheld, and we will have even more costs.

But what happened to the letter Yvonne wrote? Annoyingly, I couldn't find a copy, though I was sure I made one at the time. But that's OK: they confirmed that they received the letter on 29 February 2012 and replied on 1 March 2012 (amusingly enough Yvonne's birthday) repealing the surcharge and giving until  29 March 2012 to pay the fine—and then sent it to the wrong address! Or at least, that's what it looked like. Jaz told me that we had to submit a written request to fix things. We've done that, and look at how much help that was. Asked to speak to a supervisor—it's amazing how often that helps—and was put on hold for a while.

Then she came back and told me that Natasha, her supervisor, was checking with some other department, and that she would call me back. She did, too, after about 1½ hours, and confirmed that the reply to the previous letter had been sent to the wrong address. She was helpful and explained that there was really no way past filling out the Application for Revocation. She promised to send me a new form to the correct address, so that there was some record of it there. She then spent a good 15 minutes telling me how to fill it out. That was necessary, too: I would have filled it out quite differently otherwise.

In particular, it seems that the courts take up to three weeks to even look at these applications, during which time the due date remains! The due date here is “03” May: the order was issued on “04” April, and the time it took to get here is probably due to the postal people trying to guess where it belongs. In 3 weeks it will be 1 (or is that “01”?) May, so there's every chance that the due date could be reached before the application is processed. But that's OK: just ring up and apply for an extension, and it will automatically be granted.

OK, it looks as like we might be on the road to recovery. But there are so many things wrong with this scenario:

  1. Fines are processed without even superficial checks such as the relationship between driver license number, name and address.

  2. The phone hotline should have access not only to the fine information (which they do have) but to supporting documents such as driver license information (which they don't).

  3. In a case where things still go obviously wrong due to police errors, people shouldn't be required to put in written applications to have them corrected. That should be possible over the phone based on the information that should be available (in this case the driver license info).

  4. There's something seriously wrong if the reply to an application for reversal based on incorrect address gets sent back to that same incorrect address. I don't know how this one should be handled, but it clearly shows serious limitations in requiring people to communicate in writing.

  5. Why does the due date remain while the application is being processed? That's ridiculous. And why couldn't Natasha put it on hold now, rather than requiring me to call back in a month?

  6. And of course, not just here, authentication over the phone is a joke. In Yvonne's case, Jaz didn't even notice that the address was different from the one on the enforcement order.


NBN is coming, whatever that is
Topic: general, opinion Link here

A rather badly timed letter from Darren Cheeseman, our state member of parliament, today:


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What's the NBN? I know, of course. Yvonne didn't, and there's nothing on this flyer to say what it is. Presumably many others wouldn't know either. In addition, the timing seems bad. As far as I can tell, there's another week during which the idiotsDereel Anti-Tower Alliance (“DATA”) can apply to the VCAT to oppose the construction. Hopefully they won't, but I'm not holding my breath.

Of course, we could see Cheeseman's flyer more positively: maybe he's making it clear what kind of opposition DATA will be up against. Let's hope that things work out soon.


Watsonia: caught in the act
Topic: gardening Link here

Most of the Watsonias finished flowering some time ago, but for some reason a number are late. Pulled this one out of the ground today. It shows clearly how additional corms grow off side roots at some distance from the main corm:


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Apart from that, didn't do much in the garden. The weather was cool, and I had had too much fun with the police to want to go out into the garden.


Revisiting the enblend port
Topic: technology, photography Link here

Spent some time in the afternoon looking at the port of enblend. First I needed to get the information for downloading correct. The link on the web site included multiple redirections:

=== grog@dereel (/dev/pts/21) ~ 32 -> ftp http://sourceforge.net/projects/enblend/files/latest
Requesting http://sourceforge.net/projects/enblend/files/latest
Redirected to http://sourceforge.net/projects/enblend/files/latest/download
Requesting http://sourceforge.net/projects/enblend/files/latest/download
Redirected to http://downloads.sourceforge.net/project/enblend/enblend-enfuse/enblend-enfuse-4.0/enblend-enfuse-4.0.tar.gz?r=&ts=1334113120&use_mirror=internode
Requesting http://downloads.sourceforge.net/project/enblend/enblend-enfuse/enblend-enfuse-4.0/enblend-enfuse-4.0.tar.gz?r=&ts=1334113120&use_mirror=internode
Redirected to http://internode.dl.sourceforge.net/project/enblend/enblend-enfuse/enblend-enfuse-4.0/enblend-enfuse-4.0.tar.gz
Requesting http://internode.dl.sourceforge.net/project/enblend/enblend-enfuse/enblend-enfuse-4.0/enblend-enfuse-4.0.tar.gz

How do you extract a URL from that? The original URL has the disadvantage that it doesn't point at a specific tarball; next update will point elsewhere, and the checksum will no longer match. So the first one that makes any sense is http://downloads.sourceforge.net/project/enblend/enblend-enfuse/enblend-enfuse-4.0/enblend-enfuse-4.0.tar.gz. Clearly the mirror parameter doesn't make any sense, and probably the others don't either. And yes, there's no difficulty downloading this tarball with ftp:

=== root@w3 (/dev/ttyp0) /usr/ports/graphics/enblend-4 14 -> ftp http://downloads.sourceforge.net/project/enblend/enblend-enfuse/enblend-enfuse-4.0/enblend-enfuse-4.0.tar.gz
Requesting http://downloads.sourceforge.net/project/enblend/enblend-enfuse/enblend-enfuse-4.0/enblend-enfuse-4.0.tar.gz
Redirected to http://softlayer.dl.sourceforge.net/project/enblend/enblend-enfuse/enblend-enfuse-4.0/enblend-enfuse-4.0.tar.gz
Requesting http://softlayer.dl.sourceforge.net/project/enblend/enblend-enfuse/enblend-enfuse-4.0/enblend-enfuse-4.0.tar.gz
100% |*****************************************************************************|  1022 KB    1.16 MB/s    00:00 ETA
1046677 bytes retrieved in 00:00 (1.16 MB/s)

In the Makefile, at Jürgen Lock's suggestion, I put:

MASTER_SITES=   SF/enblend/enblend-enfuse/enblend-enfuse-${PORTVERSION}/

But that didn't work. make fetch redirected a couple of times, hung and then died:

=== root@w3 (/dev/ttyp1) /usr/ports/graphics/enblend-4 19 -> make fetch
===>  Vulnerability check disabled, database not found
=> enblend-enfuse-4.0.tar.gz doesn't seem to exist in /usr/ports/distfiles/.
=> Attempting to fetch from http://nchc.dl.sourceforge.net/sourceforge/enblend/enblend-enfuse/enblend-enfuse-4.0/.
fetch: http://nchc.dl.sourceforge.net/sourceforge/enblend/enblend-enfuse/enblend-enfuse-4.0/enblend-enfuse-4.0.tar.gz: Moved Temporarily
=> Attempting to fetch from http://kent.dl.sourceforge.net/sourceforge/enblend/enblend-enfuse/enblend-enfuse-4.0/.
fetch: http://kent.dl.sourceforge.net/sourceforge/enblend/enblend-enfuse/enblend-enfuse-4.0/enblend-enfuse-4.0.tar.gz: Moved Temporarily
=> Attempting to fetch from http://easynews.dl.sourceforge.net/sourceforge/enblend/enblend-enfuse/enblend-enfuse-4.0/.
fetch: http://easynews.dl.sourceforge.net/sourceforge/enblend/enblend-enfuse/enblend-enfuse-4.0/enblend-enfuse-4.0.tar.gz: Operation timed out
=> Attempting to fetch from http://ufpr.dl.sourceforge.net/sourceforge/enblend/enblend-enfuse/enblend-enfuse-4.0/.
fetch: http://ufpr.dl.sourceforge.net/sourceforge/enblend/enblend-enfuse/enblend-enfuse-4.0/enblend-enfuse-4.0.tar.gz: Moved Temporarily
=> Attempting to fetch from http://umn.dl.sourceforge.net/sourceforge/enblend/enblend-enfuse/enblend-enfuse-4.0/.
fetch: http://umn.dl.sourceforge.net/sourceforge/enblend/enblend-enfuse/enblend-enfuse-4.0/enblend-enfuse-4.0.tar.gz: Not Found
=> Attempting to fetch from http://heanet.dl.sourceforge.net/sourceforge/enblend/enblend-enfuse/enblend-enfuse-4.0/.
fetch: http://heanet.dl.sourceforge.net/sourceforge/enblend/enblend-enfuse/enblend-enfuse-4.0/enblend-enfuse-4.0.tar.gz: Moved Temporarily
=> Attempting to fetch from ftp://ftp.FreeBSD.org/pub/FreeBSD/ports/distfiles/.
fetch: ftp://ftp.FreeBSD.org/pub/FreeBSD/ports/distfiles/enblend-enfuse-4.0.tar.gz: File unavailable (e.g., file not found, no access)
=> Couldn't fetch it - please try to retrieve this
=> port manually into /usr/ports/distfiles/ and try again.
*** Error code 1

OK, that's a different host name from what I used for ftp, so I changed the URL to match. No improvement. More help from Jürgen: it seems that the Ports Collection uses fetch to load the package, and hidden somewhere in the configuration files (/usr/ports/Mk/bsd.port.mk) is

FETCH_ARGS?=    -AFpr

The important one there is -A:

     -A          Do not automatically follow ``temporary'' (302) redirects.
                 Some broken Web sites will return a redirect instead of a
                 not-found error when the requested object does not exist.

So I needed to put an override into the Makefile:

FETCH_ARGS=     -Fpr

Wouldn't it be nice if this were documented somewhere obvious?

Getting back to the port itself, the puzzling thing from yesterday was the lack of definition of the class Signature. Further investigation of src/Makefile showed:

signature.h: $(srcdir)/gen_sig $(srcdir)/DefaultSig.pm $(srcdir)/Sig.pm
        @ $(PERL) -I$(srcdir) $&amp;< --extra=$(VERSION) > $@

So there's a signature.h? Yes, and it was empty. Trying to rebuild it gave me:

Unrecognized switch: --extra=4.0-753b534c819d  (-h will show valid options).

I don't do perl, but could this be a version problem? The easiest way to test that is to get make to output the command by modifying the rule in the Makefile, and then feed it into perl manually:

signature.h: $(srcdir)/gen_sig $(srcdir)/DefaultSig.pm $(srcdir)/Sig.pm
        echo $(PERL) -I$(srcdir) $&lt; --extra=$(VERSION) > $@

Now I get:

echo /usr/bin/perl -I.  --extra=4.0-753b534c819d > signature.h

That's not even worth feeding into perl. Where did the $< go? It disappeared. $< has a different meaning in BSD make from its usage in GNU make. To quote “Porting UNIX Software” (1995):

$<    

The name of the current dependency that has been modified more recently than the target. Traditionally, it can only be used in suffix rules and in the .DEFAULT entry, but most modern versions of make (except BSD make) allow it to be used in normal rules as well.

Since then, things seem to have changed in GNU make. The latest version of the GNU make documentation states:

$<    

The name of the first prerequisite. If the target got its recipe from an implicit rule, this will be the first prerequisite added by the implicit rule.

So, not surprisingly, GNU make outputs:

echo /usr/bin/perl -I. gen_sig --extra=4.0-753b534c819d > signature.h

That's simple enough once you know: just use GNU make. In the ports collection Makefile, I just needed to add

USE_GMAKE=      yes

That solved that problem, but we weren't home yet. The next error was:

restore=: && backupdir=".am$$" &&  am__cwd=`pwd` && cd . &&  rm -rf $backupdir && mkdir $backupdir &&  if (/bin/sh /src/FreeBSD/ports/graphics/enblend-4/work/enblend-enfuse-4.0-753b534c819d/missing --run makeinfo --version) >/dev/null 2>&1; then  for f in ./enblend.info ./enblend.info-[0-9] ./enblend.info-[0-9][0-9] ./enblend.i[0-9] ./enblend.i[0-9][0-9]; do  if test -f $f; then mv $f $backupdir; restore=mv; else :; fi;  done;  else :; fi &&  cd "$am__cwd";  if /bin/sh /src/FreeBSD/ports/graphics/enblend-4/work/enblend-enfuse-4.0-753b534c819d/missing --run makeinfo -I .. -I .  --css-include=./default.css  -I .  -o ./enblend.info ./enblend.texi;  then  rc=0;  cd .;  else  rc=$?;  cd . &&  $restore $backupdir/* `echo "././enblend.info" | sed 's|[^/]*$||'`;  fi;  rm -rf $backupdir; exit $rc
./enblend.texi:549: Unknown command `textdegree'.
./enblend.texi:549: Misplaced {.
./enblend.texi:549: Misplaced }.

What's that? The dreaded texinfo. The lines in question (several of them, reported out of sequence) contained things like:

This is useful for 360@textdegree{} horizontal panoramas as it

It's fairly clear from the context that textdegree should expand to ° where possible and o where not. But where's it defined? Google is your friend. It seems it's standard in texinfo. So why the error? Further investigation showed that there's an ancient version of texinfo in the FreeBSD source tree, and it doesn't know about textdegree. There's also a port (/usr/port/print/texinfo) which installs the latest version, and with that it works.

Sort of. What sequence of directories should you put in your PATH environment variable? I have:

=== root@dereel (/dev/pts/8) /usr/ports/print/texinfo 15 -> echo $PATH
/usr/bin:/usr/sbin:/bin:/sbin:/home/local/bin:/usr/local/bin:/usr/local/sbin

So I have the makeinfo program in these places, and the shell chooses the first:

=== root@dereel (/dev/pts/8) /usr/ports/print/texinfo 16 -> wh makeinfo
432492 -r-xr-xr-x  1 root  wheel  184484 Mar 14  2011 /usr/bin/makeinfo
860570 -r-xr-xr-x  1 root  wheel  213892 Apr 10 17:11 /usr/local/bin/makeinfo

/usr/bin/makeinfo is the old version, and not the one I need. How do I tell the build process to use /usr/local/bin/makeinfo? There should be a good way in the Ports Collection, but I haven't found it yet. For the time being I just did:

=== root@dereel (/dev/pts/11) /usr/ports/graphics/enblend-4 242 -> PATH=/usr/local/bin:$PATH make

I still need to find out how to do it correctly.


Wednesday, 11 April 2012 Dereel Images for 11 April 2012
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Dealing with stray dogs
Topic: animals, general, opinion Link here

While Yvonne was out with the horses this morning, a dog came up to her and clearly wanted to stay:


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No collar. No identification. Where did it come from? Lost? Abandoned? And more to the point, what should we do with it?

Yvonne put it in Nemo's dog run, much to Nemo's annoyance, and then we thought. Whom do we call? Police? RSPCA? The RSPCA is in Ballarat, and if we took it there and then discovered it belonged to a neighbour, the neighbour would have to go there to pick it up. So the police sounded like a good first option, especially considering that somebody might have reported it lost (though without a collar this seems less likely).

Where's the police number? I should have that handy, but I didn't. And somehow the normal phone book is missing. We have a copy of the Yellow Pages with an “important numbers” section, and one of them is clearly the emergency number 000—but this wasn't an emergency. And the normal police number also wasn't important enough for the people in the Yellow Pages.

Next option: the web. Go to http://www.whitepages.com.au/ with the search subscriberName=police&amp;location=dereel+vic. The results were amazing: numbers for Police NSW, along with a selection of apparently random phone numbers, some in Victoria, some in New South Wales. The “Police Assistance Line” had the number 13 1444, and I thought that was what I was looking for. But when I tried it, I got a “not available” message and the suggestion that I had called from outside the area for which the number was defined. So maybe the numbers are different in Victoria, if indeed the police has a 13 number.

OK, next choice: Victoria Police. Followed the “contact us” and found a “General Enquiries” link, which told me that it had last been updated on 6 September 2007, and asked for a location or postcode. Entered “Dereel” and got the response Search returned no results. So: despite Yvonne's recent experiences, it seems we are not in a police state after all. On entering the post code (3352), I got a number of police stations stretching from Avoca (post code 3467) to Clunes (post code 3370) to Ballan (post code 3342) to (please turn over, we're too lame to display more than 10 names on a single page) Rokewood (post code 3352, the only correct post code I found in the list). Rokewood's the one I'm looking for, and it give me the number (03) 5346 1342, almost my own phone number, along with the incorrect post code 3330. Called that, no reply, just an answering service not saying who they were, and asking me to leave a message of no more than 10 seconds. Did that (“Greg Lehey, 5346 1370, I have a stray dog here”), and never heard any more.

Is this the level of service the police offers? I could have called 000, of course, but it's really not an emergency. But lately every contact I have had with the police or similar authorities smacks of boundless incompetence. What's wrong with them? Did I even get the correct number? Everything else on the web site seems to be wrong.

And the dog? It wanted to get out of the run, so we let it and watched what it did. It wandered around the garden a bit, wanted to come into the house (we didn't let it), and then wandered off south to a neighbour's property a few hundred metres away. So clearly it was just visiting.


A barrow of manure a day keeps the weeds at bay
Topic: gardening Link here

Yvonne has been helping me with the weeds in the garden: every day she puts a barrow of horse manure somewhere in the garden and leaves it to me to spread it. That requires preparation, of course, but at least it's getting the weeds out.


Dog breed standards: where?
Topic: animals, language, opinion Link here

Nemo is a black long-haired German Shepherd Dog. Is that a recognized variety? Yvonne tells me that the Victorian club apparently doesn't recognize them. But who cares about the Victorian club? Clearly the German club (Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde) or the Fédération Cynologique Internationale should be authoritative.

The Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde doesn't help much. In fact, their home page doesn't have more than a couple of photos, and you have to guess to click on it before you get any information at all. I haven't been able to find any standard there, though they refer to it.

And the FCI? At least they don't make the mistake that so many do and pretend that there's a difference between “sheep dog” and “shepherd dog”—the latter is just a literal translation of the German word for sheep dog. And yes, they have the standard online. It's standard 166, and the document is http://www.fci.be/uploaded_files/166g01-en-sv.doc. As the name suggests, this is a Microsoft Word document! How can I read that on the web? It's not as if they don't have other documents in PDF, and there's really no reason why they shouldn't have these standards in HTML. They only offer it in English, though there's a German version there at http://www.fci.be/uploaded_files/166g01-de-sv.doc.

With some difficulty I retrieved the standard, which bears the date 11.08.2010, and formatted it in PDF, along with the German version. What I find is:

The German Shepherd Dog is bred in the hair varieties double coat and long and harsh outer coat – both with undercoat.

I consider this to be a very poor translation. The “undercoat” is a translation of German „Unterwolle“ (“under wool”). What does “harsh” mean? It appears to be a transliteration of German „harsch“, which doesn't really fit here, and which doesn't appear here in the German version from which it claims to be translated. The German is:

Der Deutsche Schäferhund wird in den Haarvarietäten Stockhaar und Langstockhaar-beide mit Unterwolle-gezüchtet.

The difficulty here is the term „Stockhaar“, which appears only to be used in connection with these dogs. I haven't found it in any dictionary. „Stock“ means something like “stick”, but that's clearly not what's implied here. Duden defines „Stockhaar“ as:

aus mittellangen Grannenhaaren und dichter Unterwolle gebildetes Haarkleid bestimmter Hunde (z. B. des Schäferhundes)

That introduces another term, „Grannenhaar“, which is almost as difficult to translate. Leo.org translates it as “kemp”, whatever that may be. It derives from the word „Granne“, which translates into English as Awn. A good translation of „Grannenhaar“ might be “coarse hair”. In general, the suggestion is that the hair is firm rather than soft (which is presumably what they were trying to imply with “harsh”). So in English, this definition might read:

Hair of certain dogs (e.g. shepherd dog) consisting of medium length coarse hair and dense undercoat.

Getting back to the original definition, an English version might be:

The German Shepherd dog is bred in coarse hair and long coarse hair varieties with woolly undercoat.

Interestingly, after writing the above, I checked the Victorian club and found breed standard that has fixed a number of the issues I've been ranting about. It's in HTML, and it has been translated independently of the FCI, and apparently better. This passage is translated as:

The German Shepherd Dog is bred in the coat varieties: stock coat (normal) and long stock coat, both with undercoat.

I had thought of retaining the word „Stockhaar“ and explaining it, but it seemed better to describe it. “Stock coat” is maybe not such a bad translation, but it needs explanation, and it's missing here.

There are also two photos at the beginning of the standard, claiming to illustrate the two kinds. They're so similar that I originally thought it was the same dog. It goes on to say:

The guard hair should be long, soft and not close fitting, with tufts on the ears and legs, bushy trousers and bushy tail with downward formation of tuft. Short on the head, including the inside of the ears, on the front side of the legs, on the paws and toes, somewhat longer and more strongly covered in hair on the neck, almost forming a mane. On the back side of the legs the hair extends to the carpal joint or the hock and forms clear trousers on the back side of the haunches.

That seems to match Nemo. But there's more. At the end it says:

Eliminating faults

Long Straight Topcoat without undercoat

Long-haired (long, soft guard hair without undercoat, mostly parted in the middle of the back, tufts on the ears and legs and on the tail)

OK, so long hair with undercoat is allowed. No undercoat is bad. But what's the difference between “long straight topcoat” and “long-haired”? The German version is no help. The terms here are „Langstockhaar“ and „Langhaar“. And how do you determine whether there's an undercoat or not? Yvonne says that Nemo has none, but the amount of wool she pulls out of his coat tells a different story. And the hair on his back is not parted.

And the colour? That's simpler. Black is allowed:

Colours are black with reddish-brown, brown and yellow to light grey markings; single-coloured black, grey with darker shading, black saddle and mask. Unobtrusive, small white marks on chest as well as very light colour on insides are permissible, but not desirable. The tip of the nose must be black in all colours. Dogs with lack of mask, light to piercing eye colour, as well as with light to whitish markings on the chest and the insides, pale nails and red tip of tail are considered to be lacking in pigmentation. The undercoat shows a light greyish tone.  The colour white is not allowed.

That's all a bit vague. Elsewhere I have read that blue is considered a fault, but the standard doesn't mention it at all.

In summary: it seems that Nemo conforms to the standard. The only question is which of the three long hair descriptions he matches. I'm going for undercoat. And that means that the Victorian club should recognize him too, unless (as is quite possible) he's too big.


Thursday, 12 April 2012 Dereel Images for 12 April 2012
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Measuring blood pressure
Topic: general, opinion Link here

For some time I've had doubts about the accuracy of the blood pressure monitor (or Sphygmomanometer, as the are apparently called) that I bought nearly 10 years ago. Lately it has been showing completely ridiculous values, such as the series 51/36, 50/38, 46/34 and 51/37 a couple of weeks ago. There's no way that that could be correct. So I ordered another device via eBay, and it arrived today. It's designed to fit on the wrist, and it's tiny:


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And the readings? Yes, definitely much higher. 206/125, 199/123, 178/113. If that's correct, then I'm close to dead. But today the old one showed much higher readings too, up to 160/77. The question is: can I rely on any of these devices? As I noted a couple of years ago, there's no real way of checking. That was different with the old devices.

By chance I got a call from Pam at Tristar today. She's a nurse, a colleague of Debbie, whom I visited on 24 January 2012, and who started a programme of medical monitoring at that time. She had told me that she would contact me after my next blood test was done. That was on 27 February 2012, and I've been waiting ever since.

But Pam thought I was due for another, and claimed that the test on 27 February 2012 did not include diabetes. I had to point to the HbA1c values before it gradually dawned on her. And she wanted to make an appointment to talk about that, about diet plans and diabetic education. Somehow that doesn't seem right for me. She's not in a position to see how serious my condition is, and I don't really need education from people who can't read a blood test result unaided.

Still, that was the trigger for me to make my next doctor's appointment, so did that, conveniently tomorrow (Friday 13 April). For some reason I pretty much had my choice of time, especially as they now have two more doctors.


Your computer has a Trojan
Topic: technology Link here

While playing around (painfully) with yesterday's breed standard documents, came across an interesting message:

 
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What's FBviewer.exe? Just some random file in my ~/Downloads directory, it seems. Potentially it is dangerous, and I just had it there (safely in FreeBSD) for examination. So I clicked Move to Vault, whatever that means, and it's now off dereel and (presumably) somewhere on braindeath, which is no safer for it.


More garden stuff
Topic: gardening Link here

My continued weeding in the garden has an interesting side effect:


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The middle bay of the compost heap is more than full, though it'll collapse considerably in the next few months. But it's time to move on to the next bay (to the right). Problem: apart from the tomatoes, which are looking happier than the ones in the veggie patch, there's also some compost still in there which I first need to remove. And that means finding somewhere to put it. And that means weeding. So I'm in a vicious circle. Spent some time continuing on the south-west part of the eastern bed, but it's becoming clear that I will have to do part of it, enough to take the compost, and then continue with the rest when I have somewhere to put it.

For today, put that in the “too hard” basket and spent some time spreading fertilizer instead.


Friday, 13 April 2012 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 13 April 2012
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Morning glory seeding
Topic: gardening Link here

The deep violet Morning Glory near the north shed hasn't stopped flowering yet, but some of the spent flowers have (after quite some time) finally formed some seeds. Here an unripe seed pod, a ripe one, and some of the seeds we've harvested:


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That's only a small part of the total. I'd guess that a thriving Morning Glory would generate 1000 seeds. Under those circumstances, who cares if the yield is relatively low?


New doctor
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Into town today to see the doctor, this time a new one: Dr Shadman Ahmad (that's what they put on the forms; is it maybe Ahmad Shadman, or is Ahmad a patronymic?). It seems that people were rather confused that I didn't stay with Dr Peddi. Maybe that wasn't such a good idea after all.

In any case, my blood samples were good, in particular HbA1c still in the normal range, and they're happy enough now that I only need a test every 6 months. Also pointed out a couple of skin lesions that I considered warts. One was, but he claimed the other was solar keratosis. Under my arm is a funny place for that, and I'm left wondering whether it wasn't just something he read in my records, since I had one of them burnt out last September. He sprayed liquid nitrogen over both of them in what seemed a haphazard manner.

Blood pressure was good news, bad news. Yes, the new device shows far too high readings. The old one showed 157/72, the doctor's device showed 155/99, and the new one showed 167/108. So it looks like my suspicions are confirmed that the old one shows too low diastolic pressures, and the new one tends to show generally (about 10 mm) too high.

The bad news, of course, is that any of these readings are too high to be good. Why? It's only been in the last two days. And the doctor didn't seem to think it was anything to worry about and didn't give me any ideas about when to start worrying. That's worrying. If it doesn't go back to normal in the next few days, I'll go back to Dr Peddi and see what she thinks.


Plants in Ballarat
Topic: gardening Link here

While in town, took a look at various plants that I had noticed. I'm seeing examples of the plants I got from the Friends of the Ballarat Botanical gardens last November. Here some of the Salvia “blue bedder”


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I wish mine looked like that. Planted too few, too late.

It seems that Cyclamens are also coming into season. Here some I saw at Bunnings:


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At least there mine look as good, and they've been flowering all summer.

Also looked in at Formosa Gardens, and found a Gentiana scabra “Shin Krishna”, a somewhat straggling plant with nice blue flowers:


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Since the death of the Dodonea viscosa that I planted in the north part of the east garden, I've decided not to replant the citrus trees there: for some reason too many plants have done badly there. So the gentiana can go there instead—once the bed is finished.

Back home, worked on that area in an attempt to finish it. Didn't quite make it, but it won't be long now. These grass roots are really a pain!


House photos in the evening
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

The weather was nice and pleasant this afternoon, and for once there was no wind at all—perfect for taking my weekly house photos. So just before sunset, decided to do them today. The wind tomorrow was supposed to be only slightly more, but who knows? Got them all done with the exception of the dam and the north view. No time to process them of course, so I won't know until tomorrow how they work out.


Orchid problems
Topic: gardening Link here

We've been watching with pleasure as our Cymbidium orchid developed new shoots over the last few weeks. But today I found:


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How did that happen? Was it knocked, chewed by a kangaroo, or is it feeling sick? I wish I knew.


More NiZn woes
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

In the evening, had problems with teevee: the mouse stopped working. I'm continually having problems with USB—so much so that I seldom mention them—but this one seemed not to want to go away. And then the LED in the mouse went out. Further investigation showed that the batteries (NiZn) had voltages of 1.275 and 0.936 V. The discharge value should be just under 1.6 V, and this isn't a heavy current user. What's wrong here? Defective batteries?


Saturday, 14 April 2012 Dereel Images for 14 April 2012
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NiZn revisited
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Yesterday's NiZn batteries charged overnight, sort of. After completion, they had voltages of 1.828 V (OK) and 1.295 V (definitely not OK). The batteries are in parallel in the mouse, so the defective one had presumably pulled the good one down. But that's the second defective battery in a batch of 4, and so far I've had difficulty getting the seller to replace them. Hopefully this isn't a sign of the reliability I should expect. For the fun of it, put the two defective batteries in and charged again, getting 1.310 V (yesterday's new defective one) and 1.730 V (the other one).


House photos continued
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Spent most of the day converting yesterday's photos and also taking the remaining ones. Certainly the lighting changes a lot of things, and the lack of wind made itself pleasantly noticeable. The verandah centre photo looks clearly more “flashed”, making me wonder about the algorithms that determine the amount of light that the flash contributes to the photo. I take the photos at f/8 and the shutter speed needed for correct exposure, but I get the impression here that the camera chooses that shutter speed differently depending on whether the flash is turned on or not. To be investigated. Here last week and this week:


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Somehow I'm still fighting to get the correct lighting for the verandah east photo. Last night's shot (second) was definitely not the correct one, so I took another one today (third), which looks better than last week's one (first). But I'm not really sure why. Time of day? Sunshine?


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On the other hand, I can't make up my mind about the shot from the north-west corner of the house. Looking carefully you can see the light of the setting sun in the distance, and the lighting seems more even. But it looks as if I need to work on the colour balance:


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When I saw the results of the garden path SE panorama, I was very happy with the evenness of the results. But looking at it in comparison with last week's shots, I'm no longer so sure. Again, it's a question of colour balance.


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The shot pointing west is, not surprisingly, not as good:


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But maybe I should just go back and tweak the colour balance and see what happens.

It's also interesting to compare the “single shot HDR” images with the merged images that I used for the last two views above. Although there was no wind at all, I get the feeling that the images aren't as crisp, though that's really only visible at full resolution.

While I was at it this morning, also considered another view, for once only a 270° panorama, from the north-east corner of the verandah:


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I don't know if I want to add it to my collection. I've had two others a few months back that didn't work out the way I wanted, so I'll wait for a while before adding this one.


The new enblend
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Finished my port of enblend version 4.0 today in time to use it for today's panorama processing. Surprise, surprise: no particular problems. In one case I got a crash:

enblend: excessive overlap detected; remove one of the images
enblend: info: remove invalid output image "00-05.tif"
gmake: *** [00-05.tif] Error 1

This was the house-e image, where I had accidentally taken two identical photos. That's always been a problem, and the error message tells you what to do. But it's still surprising. I suppose I should look at the algorithm to find out why.


Hainan chicken rice
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

One of my favourite dishes is Hainan chicken rice, which, as the name suggests, comes from Singapore. It's interesting from the cooking technique: cook the chicken in water below 100°. But how? The method in my Singapore cookbook suggested bringing back almost to the boil from time to time. Looking on the web didn't help—many recipes talk of boiling or simmering, and none addresses the real issue, which is getting the chicken cooked evenly.

Looking at the pain I've been through with roasting chickens (breast meat overcooked, thigh joints half raw), it's clear that the question isn't trivial. But nowadays we have thermometers and thermostats, so we can control the water temperature better:


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Based on my previous experience, 80° seems a good temperature to aim for. I was going to put it in the oven and set the oven thermostat for 80°, but I don't think it's accurate enough, so I put it in a casserole and checked the temperature both inside and outside the chicken:


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I was surprised how quickly the temperature dropped—I had to reheat about every 20 minutes to keep the temperature of the surrounding water in the range 70°—90°. During that time the water in the breast cavity was at about 76°, which sounded about right.

I cooked for 2 hours, following a note we had made in the (paper) recipe before, and it was cooked. Maybe the breast was just a little overdone, but the legs were fine, and clearly the trick here is not the cooking time but the cooking temperature. I think next time I'll aim for 75° and do it in the oven. Time to install a better thermostat there.


Limes from the garden
Topic: gardening, food and drink, opinion Link here

We have two different lime trees: a “Tahitian” lime for the fruit and a “Kaffir” lime for the leaves. Which one bears the fruit? The Kaffir lime, of course. The Tahitian does have some fruit on it, but not many. Today I picked a couple of fruit from each to make a Sambal for the chicken. The fruit of the Tahitian lime (middle and top left) were almost completely dry. The Kaffir fruit (right and bottom left) had some juice, though not very much, and it was somewhat bitter. I suspect they are both not ripe.


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The disadvantages of deep frying with solid fat
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

A while back we considered the relative merits of oil and animal fat (or “solidified oil”, as Woolworths prefer to call it) in our deep fryers. We came to the conclusion that the fat was better. But it has its down side:


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How do I get the element back in there again? I can't turn it on until it's submerged. And I can't submerge it until the fat is melted. It looks like I'm going to have to heat it on the stove.


Sunday, 15 April 2012 Dereel Images for 15 April 2012
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Garden flowers in mid-autumn
Topic: gardening Link here

Garden flower day again today. I've been doing this for nearly 2 years now, and parallel to the diary entry I also have a dedicated page for each month, so I've decided to put most of the information there, especially as in the past it has been only in the diary. About the only things of interest is the orange-flowering Grevillea that I propagated so long ago that I can't find the record:


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Still more junk
Topic: general Link here

Yvonne came back from dog training today and found a sign pointing to a garage sale in Tantaus Road. By the time she got home she had bought a wicker basket with all sorts of junk in it, including toys destined for Nemo, for $2. And she had seen some other stuff she wanted, including a TV cabinet and a stand for flowers. So dropped everything and over to take a look. It proved that the person running the garage sale was Dianne Leahy, whom I met at the Geelong Mobile Library a couple of months ago, and whom I shocked by making some comment about the dangers of the “radiation tower“. Clearly she's a supporter, not an opponent.

Spent a lot of time discussing, during which we also found a copper relief image that didn't look too bad:


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But we couldn't work out what we would do with all the stuff. About the only thing I did see were some interesting plants in the gardens, and we got some cuttings for free. Back home and measured the space we had and came to the conclusion that we could use all three items (total of $35), so called up, and Dianne offered to bring the stuff over here. Now to rearrange things to utilize the furniture.


New plants
Topic: gardening Link here

The plants that Dianne gave me included two or three different kinds of Fuchsias:


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I couldn't make up my mind whether the second or third photos (of different cuttings) are of the same cultivar or not. The one on the right seems to have more violet-coloured petals (the inner part; the four components on the outer part are sepals). And the other has berries on it. I wonder if they're fertile. To be on the safe side, I didn't cut off any flowers in the process of forming berries.

There was also a white-flowering plant that looked rather like the Romneya coulteri. Dianne only knew it as “Wind flower”, but Wikipedia considers that to be Anemone nemorosa, a clearly different species.

I've been puzzling about the Romneyas already, and this just adds to the uncertainty. Here the Romneya I bought at Lambley Nursery in December 2010, the suspected new Romneya, and the plant I got today:


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Looking at these images, there seems less similarity between the Romneya coulteri and the other two, which could be the same. The condition of today's plant doesn't help, but like the other plant, the flower is much smaller than the known Romneya. On the other hand, the shape of the flower and the leaves is very similar. Maybe a different kind of Romneya? Wikipedia only knows two kinds, and is not even sure they're not the same. We'll see how things grow.

While messing around in the garden, managed to break off a Xerochrysum, so that ended up in a pot as well. Next year I'll have to keep them tidier.


Monday, 16 April 2012 Dereel Images for 16 April 2012
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Investigating the damaged orchid
Topic: gardening, photography Link here

Peter Jeremy asked some questions about my damaged Cymbidium orchid the other day. I should have taken more detailed photos. Why didn't I? I was in the middle of processing my weekly photos, so I took it with my old compact Nikon “Coolpix” L1. And getting the photos right is a non-trivial amount of work.

But Peter's right, of course. So today, a couple of days after the event, I took the close-up photos. The stem is about 5 mm in diameter:


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What caused that? It's broken off too close to a bud to be a kangaroo or possum, especially since there's no evidence of a bite. And there's also no evidence that it's dying off. So my guess is really mechanical damage. Bummer.


Today's garden work
Topic: gardening Link here

So finally the north part of the east bed is finished. Well, the weeds are out and the manure is in. The next step is to put the brick border back, and Yvonne has taken on that task.

So back to the south-west part of the same bed, the oldest part, which we started four years ago. Things have changed so much in that time that I can't repeat the angle of the photo I took at the time: there's a Melaleuca on the right, an Acacia “Lime Magick” on the left, and the verandah on the right in the distance. Here then and now:


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I had problems with weeds then, and I have even more problems with weeds now—I never realized how invasive clover is. And of course the Watsonias are everywhere. I can't just dig everything up (well, I don't want to) because there are lots of plants there, including Hellebores, tulips and narcissus. But they probably need to be relocated anyway. They're now at least partially under a Libertia grandiflora, and they're going to be too deep once I add mulch:


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Tuesday, 17 April 2012 Dereel Images for 17 April 2012
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Weeding, seeding and surprises
Topic: gardening Link here

Getting the south-east corner of the eastern bed weed-free is a real pain. Spent more time pulling out some surprisingly tough roots today, mainly couch grass and clover. But in the middle of it, discovered something that was clearly neither. It looked like the remains of some shrub, and it had buds, so I planted it in a pot. Possibly it's the dwarf willow that Laurel Gordon brought us over 3 years ago. We'll see how it does:


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Yvonne bought a “Garden greenhouse box” at ALDI the other day. I'm not sure what the original purpose was, but it's relatively cheap and big, so I could raise plants from seed in it—if I can get the bloody things to germinate. I've come to the conclusion that part of last year's problems was the choice of seed raising mix, in particular the lack of nutrients. This time round I'll try normal high-grade potting mix, of a kind which (I think) once claimed to be good for seeds as well. We'll see. For the moment I've tried seeds of Kniphofia and Mirabilis jalapa, both of which I have in abundance. Sooner or later things will have to work.


Flash limitations
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Taking the photo of the mystery shrub was surprisingly difficult. I couldn't get a good exposure. I was using the Mecablitz 58 AF-1 O digital with the ring flash adapter, which swallows a fair amount of light, but I was only about a metre away from the plant. But things came out uniformly underexposed, even when I selected +3 EV correction (second image):


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When I removed the ring flash attachment, things worked. But surely there's enough light there, and TTL should be able to handle issues like the ring flash with no problems. I really don't understand what went wrong there.


New dog collar: new low
Topic: animals, technology, opinion Link here

Despite our previous bad experience, Yvonne continued to ask me to buy another remote-controlled dog collar for Nemo, so I finally ordered one on eBay with a claimed range of 800 m. Today it arrived:


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No instructions. Range stated on the box as 200 m, not 800. And a detached component that looks like a neon tube. Peter Jeremy confirmed, specifically that it's an NE-2. What's that for? And the battery connections look positively dangerous:


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You have to know which way round to insert the (9 V) battery. Clearly it won't work if you put it in the wrong way round, but if you do so, will it ever work again after you put it back the right way round?

Experimentation shows that the three red buttons at the bottom create sequences of one, two and three beep tones. Presumably the others produce varying levels of shock. But look at the length of those metal pillars! And they're the only ones. Also there seems to be no way to turn the collar receiver off, and it annoyed me by beeping every 5 minutes or so. Clearly it wanted the battery to be removed to prevent discharge.

I've seen a lot of junk on eBay, but this one takes the cake.


Wednesday, 18 April 2012 Dereel Images for 18 April 2012
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Importing Microsoft “Excel”
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

We need to set up mailing lists for the Friends of the Ballarat Botanical Gardens, notably one for the membership. Currently membership data are kept in a Microsoft “Excel” spreadsheet, arguably one of the worst tools for the job. So my plan is to import the spreadsheet into a MySQL database and maintain it there. Extracting the email addresses is then of course trivial.

Spent most of the morning trying to work out how to import “Excel” into MySQL, not helped by the fact that I really, really don't get on with Microsoft at all well. As one of the documents I found told me, the first step is to save the spreadsheet in CSV format. But that didn't work. “Excel” didn't offer that in its drop-down selection box:

 
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Tried a number of alternatives, many of which promised to be almost functional, but in the end gave up. It wasn't until much later that discovered that this drop-down menu was only a tiny part of the complete menu, as the scroll line on the right shows, and this version of “Excel” can, indeed, export CSV. There was plenty of space to make the menu longer, but aren't tiny windows pretty?


GUIs: Computer interfaces for illiterates
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I've often compared modern computer usage with illiteracy. Icons and mice and things don't require you to read, and current development is going in that direction. But I was still amused to see an article on Al Jazeera news. In Bangladesh being illiterate isn't necessarily a disadvantage when using computers: it can be an advantage. This company is hiring illiterate people to scan sensitive documents. Since they can't read, the data is safe(r).


eBook readers: a solution or a problem?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

On the radio this morning the announcer mentioned a Kindle, something of which Yvonne had never heard. I've never thought much of them myself, but by chance, today ALDI had an eBook reader in their specials, for $70. The great thing about ALDI is that you have 2 months to try the things out, after which you can return for your money back with no questions asked. So I asked her to buy one.

The reader bears a striking resemblance to my GPS navigator:


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No data on it, of course, but that was OK: it handles PDF, and I could download data from the web. So I tried both. First, the instruction manuals for my camera and flash gun:


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The camera manual looks good at first sight, but it's barely legible. The flash is a different matter: it's completely illegible. Here selections from the images above:

Of course, I can change the size of the print. The flash instructions then become barely legible, at least the left half; the right half just disappears, and I can't find any way to display it at all. Or I can tell the device to reformat the paragraphs, which it does with a lack of finesse which confirms its modernity:


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Still, this is sold as an eBook reader, not a PDF reader. How does it handle eBooks? Went looking for a passage that I found in an old diary, in Kafka's “Die Verwandlung”:


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Yes, it's readable, but it's downright ugly. In particular, letters like ü are terrible. Why would anybody want to read a book like that?

This is the el-cheapo ALDI reader, of course. It's possible that other readers are better. The real Kindle seems to have something approaching a QWERTY keyboard, and it can rotate displays, which would marginally help with the flash (gun) manual, which has landscape orientation. But it's only monochrome, and it seems it has this same ultra-low-resolution 600×800 display. At the very least it should have double that.

But why an eBook reader in the first place? A plethora of hand-held computing devices is coming onto the market, for functions like mobile telephony, navigation, photography, communication, web browsing and more. Reading is nothing so special that it requires a separate device. The real issue, at least for me, is finding a way to communicate with devices that small. On the one hand, mobile phones are getting bigger because they have other functions. And keyboards are getting smaller. My fingers are not. The whole area needs somebody (a marketeer, not a techie) to step back and analyse what people need and how to make it as comfortable and convenient as possible. Hopefully the marketeer will know how to type.


Finally: compost heap empty
Topic: gardening Link here

Continued work on the south-west corner of the east bed today. It's going to keep me busy for some days to come. I really should never let things like couch grass and clover take over to this extent. But there's still the question of the compost heap, so decided to put the compost on a pile in a cleaner part of the bed. Then I can clean out the bed at my leisure (hopefully not too leisurely) and I have somewhere to put the weeds I dig out. I managed to get three barrowloads of very well composted material—looked pretty much like soil—and there's already a layer of weeds and cuttings in the new bay.


Dog collar instructions
Topic: technology, opinion, animals Link here

Sent off a message to the seller of the dog collar I received yesterday, and got a couple of very quick responses. Sorry, the box is still the old one, and it says 200 m range, but never mind, it's really 800. And yes, here are the instructions:


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Yes, what they sent were exactly these JPEGs. That certainly does nothing to improve my impressions. It also doesn't explain the neon tube, but Michael Hughes and Peter Jeremy independently worked it out: connect it across the connectors on the collar and it will show whether it's working or not.


Thursday, 19 April 2012 Dereel Images for 19 April 2012
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The advantages of eBooks
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Mail from Oliver Herold referring to yesterday's article about eBooks. It seems that good eBooks—clearly not including the ALDI one I have—have E-ink displays, which are not reflective or backlit. And the Amazon Kindles are really not that much more expensive—US $79 for the Kindle compared to AU $69 for the ALDI reader. The biggest price differential is the postage for the Kindle.

But what do I really get? Yes, it has E-ink, which looks better and uses less power (something Oliver didn't mention). But it's only monochrome. And the resolution is still this ridiculously low 167 ppi, less than that of a fax. That's a far cry from the resolutions they've been talking about at a recent Intel Developer Forum.

I'm sure that E-ink will become much more widespread as it matures, but at the moment I don't see the advantages of the screen technology to be enough to put up with the obvious disadvantages of the device itself. And if the fictive marketeer whom I mentioned yesterday gets his act together, there's a good chance that tomorrow's killer portable will have an E-ink screen.

On the positive side, I've found out a few more details of the ALDI reader. In particular, yes, it can display in landscape format, though that's still not enough resolution to read the Mecablitz manual. I'll play around with it for a while, but I don't see myself going out and getting a Kindle anytime soon. I suppose a lot of the current fascination with smart phones, Kindles and things is that many people commute, and it gives them a constructive way to use their time. Maybe the real solution would be to find a way for people to spend less time travelling, and to improve quality of life and overall fuel consumption in the process.


Return of the rosellas
Topic: animals, general Link here

We once had a number of rosellas, mainly crimson, in the garden, but we haven't seen many for some time. The last time I recall was when some showed up to greet rms, a bird lover, 1½ years ago.

Today that changed: two pairs of crimson rosellas (two red/blue adults and two greenish juveniles) showed up and played around in the pond and bird bath:


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I hope they won't fall into the pond and not be able to get out again.


Chasing the speeding fine
Topic: general, opinion Link here

So we've established that the police sent documents to the wrong address not once, but four times, twice after having been made aware of the correct address. And we need to fill out all sorts of paperwork to get them to take off the draconian extra charges on their draconian fine. By contrast, in Germany the fine would have lapsed because notice had not been delivered in time. Somebody suggested that I might have a case to have the fine dismissed here too, which seems to me to be an option if the only evidence of the “crime” was from the police “member” (thus, apparently, the term they use to talk about themselves), who had already discredited himself by writing down an incorrect address. On the other hand, if they had a photo, that wouldn't hold.

So how do I find out? First I called the RACV motoring advice line, something that's not easy to find: the number is (03) 9790 2190. Spoke to Carl, who told me that I would have to contact the Traffic Camera Office.

How do you find the Traffic Camera Office? Simple: Google for traffic camera office victoria and take the first link. The address is:

Officer in Charge
Traffic Camera Office
GPO Box 1916
Melbourne 3001

And that's all. No telephone number. So I rang up the other number on that page, Civic Compliance Victoria at (03) 9200 8111, and was told that they did not have any information on the evidence in the case, and that I should contact (wait for it) the Traffic Camera Office. But at least he had a phone number for it: (03) 9224 4380. So I called up there and was connected to Lynn Marin, who told me I should call Civic Compliance, and that they didn't have any records of such nature.

I explained that what I really wanted to know was whether the had a photo or not, and after a while she connected me to Senior Constable Fiona McLeay, who confirmed that Senior Constable Dowse had replied to Yvonne's letter on 1 March. I asked why it had been sent to the wrong address. She told me that this happens quite frequently (I thought I could hear the “and we're not doing anything about it” in the background), and that it was all the fault of Civic Compliance, because their computers didn't talk to each other.

She was equally unhelpful about the issue in hand: she couldn't tell me if they had any evidence. If I wanted it, I should go to a Magistrate's court. And no, she would not tell me what kind of equipment there was in the police cars, though gradually I managed to weasel it out of her that there was no camera (“it's not digital”, which may or may not be correct), and that the member was responsible for writing down the readings himself in the log book and other documents (“It's an on-the-spot fine”, which she should have known it most definitely was not).

So: I think we have a case. It seems that the only evidence is what the policeman wrote down. We have clear evidence that he was wrong with the address; is that enough to discredit his reading?

If I were in Germany, I would challenge it. Here I hear from all sides that what I'm doing is outside what anybody—even RACV—expects. So I'd have to go to court, and to have even a small chance of winning, I'd need a lawyer. And probably still lose. So we'll probably give in to the Powers That Be. Sometimes I have the feeling that we're still living in the convict era.


A new shelf for flowers
Topic: general Link here

One of the things we bought at the garage sale on Sunday was a corner shelf on which Yvonne wanted to put some flower pots. She has now got things together, and we've put it in place next to the outside door in the kitchen:


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It fits remarkably well next to the bookcase, and for $10 it was a bargain—but was that $10? The top three pots (the white ones) and contents cost another $40. Still not much of a price, but I'm a little concerned that, like most places in this house, it's too dark for the plants to survive. We'll see.


Friday, 20 April 2012 Dereel Images for 20 April 2012
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House photo experiments again
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

There was amazingly little wind today:

5 days temperatures

And the day started off overcast. In other words, ideal weather for the house photos, so I decided to take them a day early again. Just as I was setting things up, the sun came out and caused some problems, but once again I was able to make some good HDR images. And once again I was left wondering if I couldn't do better. In the end, I took three views again in the evening, in each case, I think, with better results (second image or mouseover the first):


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Somehow the sunlight burns things out too much, even if I use techniques like HDR to compensate for them.

The other issue is in my hands, sort of. When I take a single image, I put it through DxO Optics "Pro" with their “Artistic single-short HDR” profile, which gives pretty bright colours. When I do HDR, I don't apply these corrections. The result seems to look relatively washed-out. I should do some more comparisons.


eBooks in colour
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

By multiple coincidence, received this quarter's copy of c't Digitale Fotografie 2/2012 today, the focus is on HDR, and there are eBooks on the accompanying DVD, one of them written by Reinhard Wagner, the moderator of the Oly-E.de forums. So clearly I wanted to download it to the eBook reader.

That wasn't as simple as it seems. The file on the DVD was a ZIP archive with a (presumed) Microsoft executable and a file in a format that neither file(1) nor my reader understood:

=== grog@dereel (/dev/pts/31) ~/Documentation/Photography 14 -> unzip -l phf.zip
Archive:  phf.zip
  Length      Date    Time    Name
---------  ---------- -----   ----
 98846170  02-27-2012 15:30   Profibuch-HDR-Fotografie-ct.dat
  1843200  02-27-2012 15:30   Profibuch-HDR-Fotografie-ct.exe
---------                     -------
100689370                     2 files
=== grog@dereel (/dev/pts/31) ~/Documentation/Photography 15 -> file Profibuch-HDR-Fotografie-ct.dat
Profibuch-HDR-Fotografie-ct.dat: data

But there's help. I was able to download a PDF version (only 100 MB!), which I could read with no difficulty on dereel. So why didn't they put that version on the DVD? Downloading it to the eBook reader showed both advantages over the Amazon Kindle (the size of the file is because of the many colour photos) and a disadvantage over dereel. Once again, the text is barely legible. Here a comparison with a screen display, itself only marginally acceptable:


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It's clearer looking at the text in roughly normal size:


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Yes, potentially a Kindle can do the text better, but not much: clearly the limiting factor here is the resolution, which is the same on the Kindle. The quality of the images is also terrible, and the page changes are glacially slow, up to one minute per page where images are involved. Clearly this device isn't really intended for this kind of document. But then, what good is it?

While on the topic of coincidences: it's no coincidence that the last example is in German, but the ones on previous days were too. That's a coincidence.


Visit from Diane Saunders
Topic: general, animals Link here

Diane Saunders arrived in the evening to stay a few days. We haven't seen her for nearly 3 years. She brought a new dog with her, Rosie, with whom Nemo didn't get on immediately. No aggression, but lots of barking, and Rosie was a little afraid:


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We should get them together tomorrow.


Saturday, 21 April 2012 Dereel Images for 21 April 2012
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Still more photo processing
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Yesterday I noted that my “real” HDR images looked washed out by comparison with the pseudo-HDR images generated by DxO Optics "Pro", so today I did a little more experimentation. To make the HDR images, I take sequences of three images exposed 1 EV apart (the maximum that the camera offers in exposure bracketing). I set manual exposure so that the least exposed image (nominally -1 EV) is roughly correctly exposed or 1/3 EV underexposed. The result images look like this:


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I don't use the middle image at all; it's just there because the camera can't handle steps of 2 EV. I then merge the first and third to a blended HDR image. So it was relatively trivial to re-process the -1EV images with DxO's “HDR” profile and compare them. The results were surprising. Here the results of blending the first and third images (first image below) and then with DxO's “Artistic HDR” preset (second image or mouseover the first)


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The shadow detail in the pseudo-HDR image is better than in the two shot HDR composite, and it shows in the following comparison of the complete panorama:


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That's a bit of a surprise. Even more experimentation necessary. One obvious experiment is to do pseudo-HDR processing on the source images before merging them. But I probably should read Reinhard Wagner's book first.


Back to the garden
Topic: gardening Link here

My photographic experiments have kept me out of the garden for a couple of days, but I really want to stay on top, so spent quite a bit of time in the garden today. Now that I have space on the compost heap, cut down most of the cannas, which are now past their prime, and also tidied up the tropaeolums to the south of the verandah.

Then back to the south-west corner of the east bed, where I found even more bulbs than I had expected to replant. Did that, removed as many weeds as I could from the north-west part, and covered with compost. Another few days and I may have the rest done.


Sunday, 22 April 2012 Dereel Images for 22 April 2012
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Seed raising revisited
Topic: gardening Link here

Despite last spring's disastrous attempts to grow plants from seeds, I'm at it again. In the process revisited some of the seeds I planted in early October last year. Of the six different kinds of seeds I planted, only two germinated: the Gypsophila paniculata and Lobelia erinus compacta “Cambridge Blue”. And they never got beyond very small seedlings. Looking at the trays, you'd be forgiven for thinking they had died altogether:


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But the haven't. Over six months later, there are still about 5 tiny seedlings:

 
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How can they survive that long? And why haven't they grown? I don't have a good answer to the first question, but clearly there's some issue with fertilizer to explain the second. So today I (finally) gave them some fertilizer. We'll see how that helps.

Also a bit more work in the garden. Weeding the beds is really painful; I suspect that in the south-west part of the eastern bed I'll have to keep at it at least for the next 12 months.


Portable image formats
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Subhash (apparently no surname) in Wien has been looking at the optical qualities of the Zuiko Digital ED 7-14mm f/4 wide angle lens, and he published some images processed from the raw image with Photoshop. There's clear chromatic aberration and probably other stuff that I didn't look at. So I asked him for the raw image with an intention to process it with DxO Optics "Pro" to see if it would do any better.

But he didn't have the raw image any more. He had converted it to DNG format and discarded the original. And DxO wants to always be the first to touch a raw image, so I ended up with a “now you see me, now you don't” situation:


This should be DxO.gif.  Is it missing?
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It clearly displays the image at bottom left, but then claims it can't process it. Probably it's right. I've always had concerns about DNG, and both this and the size of the image (29 MB as compared to about 12) confirm my concerns.

It occurred to me later that you can extract the original raw image from DNG. All you need is... Photoshop. That's probably one reason why the images are so big. But there's an alternative: use some tool like Emacs to pull it out. Went looking for information about the format, without success, but noted the content of my own raw images:

00000000: 4949 524f 0800 0000 1600 0001 0400 0100  IIRO............
00000010: 0000 0410 0000 0101 0400 0100 0000 0c0c  ................
...
00000100: 0000 9a0e 0000 a5c4 0700 1002 0000 8a0c  ................
00000110: 0000 0000 0000 4f4c 594d 5055 5320 4449  ......OLYMPUS DI
00000120: 4749 5441 4c20 4341 4d45 5241 2020 2020  GITAL CAMERA
00000130: 2020 2020 2000 4f4c 594d 5055 5320 494d       .OLYMPUS IM
00000140: 4147 494e 4720 434f 5250 2e20 2000 452d  AGING CORP.  .E-
00000150: 3330 2020 2020 2020 2020 2020 2020 0000  30            ..
...
00000190: 3230 3132 3a30 343a 3232 2031 353a 3034  2012:04:22 15:04
000001a0: 3a33 3700 3c3f 7870 6163 6b65 7420 6265  :37.<?xpacket be
000001b0: 6769 6e3d 27ef bbbf 2720 6964 3d27 5735  gin='...' id='W5
...

There's lots of easily recognizable stuff there. In particular, the IIRO looks like a magic number. So went looking in the DNG. Nothing. Despite the enormous size, it seems to have (re)compressed the original.


Nemo and Rosie
Topic: general, animals Link here

It's something new for both Nemo and Rosie to play with other dogs indoors. This evening after dinner I ended up taking 87 photos in 50 minutes. Here some of the best:


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After a while, Yvonne brought out some of the toys she bought last week. Rosie picked on one and had destroyed it within about 10 minutes. It's amazing how gentle Nemo is in comparison; his toys last for months:


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Monday, 23 April 2012 Dereel
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Better rat traps, better rats
Topic: general, animals Link here

Last July Peter Dilley showed me the results of a clever mouse trap:


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You put food in it, the mouse finally finds its way down the funnel into the trap—and then it can't get out. They were difficult to find, but a few weeks ago I finally found and bought a mouse trap and a rat trap of this design. Here the rat trap:


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So we put some bait in the trap, put it in the propagation shade area to the north of the sheds, and waited. And waited. Clearly the choice of bait made a difference. Finally last night a bit of chicken fat did the job, and the rat went into the trap, ate the bait, knocked the trap over, and got out again:


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Now to find a way to stop them knocking it over.


Tuesday, 24 April 2012 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 24 April 2012
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Meeting with the friends again
Topic: general, gardening, technology, photography Link here

It's been some time since I've had much to do with the computer setup of the Friends of the Ballarat Botanical Gardens, but it seems that they've been doing things, and they've run into trouble: “Communication” is the big word (and the reason why I didn't hear anything of the other issues). Like elsewhere in the Microsoft space, email communication is a big issue, so into town today to discuss face-to-face, also taking the opportunity to drop in at the barber's for a very overdue haircut. They now have a new paid assistant, Genevieve Lowe, who will end up doing a lot of the work.

The meeting itself didn't really bring any new information. The issues are clear, and the solutions are too. I proposed most of them 8 months ago, but maybe it takes a while for people to understand the reasons why. We solved the communication issues that they recognized, such as getting newsletters out, but keeping members informed is still an issue. When are the meeting dates? Simple, go to the web site, click Wellingtonia, download the 1 MB PDF of the current edition, and it's on the front page. But that's the only way, and it should (will) change.

That's just the tip of the iceberg, though. The Growing Friends have a wide range of plants on sale at lower prices than elsewhere:


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But people don't know about them. Yvonne Curbach (on the left above, talking to Beth and Raoul Dixon) tells me that people who come to the gardens buy things from the trolley in front of the Robert Clark Centre 50 metres away, but don't come to the main area. And from my point of view, I don't really know what they have there. There are lots of obscure plants—even Yvonne confirmed that she hadn't known some of them before seeing them there—and it's difficult to know what they'll look like. How about a plant list with photos of what they look like when they're established or flowering? It's a fair amount of work, but I think it would be worthwhile.

While we were at it, discussed the possibility of a photographic group for the friends. Mike Sorrell is interested, and he suspects that many others would be too. The real issue is, once again, informing people.


Rats everywhere
Topic: general, animals Link here

Before going to town, checked the oil in my car, and found this on the battery:


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How did that get there? The tell-tale rat droppings have the answer. The bone is clearly from Nemo's kennel, which is nearby, but that's quite a size for a rat to carry around.


Water almost everywhere
Topic: general, technology Link here

Last week was really mild, but that changed, and the temperatures have dropped a lot. 4 days ago we had a top temperature of 25.5° and a low of 12.2°. Today's top temperature was 12.6°:

5 days temperatures

And in the last 3 days we had over 20 mm of rain—if you measure it by the old-fashioned rain gauge. According to my weather station there was no rain. I had already looked at the rain gauge, which for once was not blocked by cobwebs, and there's nothing obviously wrong—maybe a slightly stiff action. But it seems to be enough to stop the thing working completely. It was never very accurate, but I suppose I should dig out the spare I have and put that up—once it stops raining.

Rain also means blocked rainwater filters. This morning I had to clean it out before I could take a shower. It was so blocked up that the friction of the water going through it had warmed the housing by about 10°, and when I opened it, the warm water caused condensation in the cold air.

As if that wasn't enough, the filter clogged up again in the evening. Clearly the money I spent having the tanks cleaned last year was wasted.


gmail via my own server
Topic: technology Link here

One of the things that we decided at the Friends' meeting was that we should use gmail to run the general mailing list. That's not my style at all, of course, but it solves a number of problems in this particular case. Currently they're accessing a particularly complicated webmail system from TransACT, on whom we don't want to be dependent, and they tell me they can only access it from one computer in the Friends' George Longley Building. One of the things I want them to be able to do is for each authorized user to access it from wherever they want, so gmail sounds like a good option.

On the other hand, I don't want mail going out from fbbg@gmail.com, but we can fix that with gmail. While setting that up, I discovered that I could also have gmail send outgoing mail via our SMTP server. Well, that's what they said. Followed the instructions and got:

 
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smtp.fbbg.org.au? Where did they get that from? Certainly not from DNS:

=== grog@dereel (/dev/pts/14) ~ 2 -> host -t mx fbbg.org.au
fbbg.org.au mail is handled by 10 w3.lemis.com.

And it wants encrypted connections. Well, not really. There's a port number at the right, and you can choose 25 (smtp). But that still didn't help:

 
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Authenticating? We don't need no steenking authentication! Went looking with tcpdump and found:

06:32:44.185389 IP mail-iy0-f180.google.com.48551 > 1032.x.rootbsd.net.smtp: P 1:32(31) ack 33 win 224 <nop,nop,timestamp 883415681 3995484767> E..S+*..*....U...V........[i.>.f...........
4....&B_EHLO mail-iy0-f180.google.com

06:32:44.185484 IP 1032.x.rootbsd.net.smtp > mail-iy0-f180.google.com.48551: P 33:154(121) ack 32 win 8330 <nop,nop,timestamp 3995484789 883415681> E....h@.@....V...U.......>.f..[... .U......
.&Bu4...250-w3.lemis.com
250-PIPELINING
250-SIZE 51200000
250-VRFY
250-ETRN
250-ENHANCEDSTATUSCODES
250-8BITMIME
250 DSN

06:32:44.259878 IP mail-iy0-f180.google.com.48551 > 1032.x.rootbsd.net.smtp: P 32:38(6) ack 154 win 224 <nop,nop,timestamp 883415756 3995484789> E..:++..*....U...V........[..>......I...... 4....&BuQUIT

So gmail gave up as soon as it saw the EHLO response. My guess is that it didn't like the lack of authentication capability. But that's not what it said. “We're having trouble”. What a stupid error message! Why not “w3.lemis.com does not support SMTP authentication [What's this?]”? And the help doesn't help either.

I suppose I should set up some kind of authentication, especially since it's difficult to recognize genuine gmail servers otherwise. SMTP authentication is relatively simple, but as they say, not very desirable. And encryption seems to be a can of worms. So for the moment I have put it on the “too hard” queue, and I'm delivering via the gmail servers. Mail still goes out as From: info@fbbg.org.au, and that's the main thing.


Wednesday, 25 April 2012 Dereel Images for 25 April 2012
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DxO Optics “Pro” against Photoshop
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

About the only software I have purchased in the last 5 years or more is DxO Optics “Pro”. It wasn't an easy decision: it only runs on Microsoft, and it's glacially slow. It would probably run in a VM, but it requires so much memory that I can't do it in my current environment, so to run it at all I have borrowed a computer from Chris Yeardley. It also has irritating bugs features like not being able to handle EXIF data correctly, at least on my Olympus E-30, if the data has been modified in any way: it wants to be the first program to access the raw image.

Still, the results appear to be good, so it's part of my regular photo processing (“workflow” in modern parlance). But is it worth it? A couple of days ago Subhash posted an image on the German Ole-E forum, describing his issues with the Zuiko Digital ED 7-14mm f/4 ultra-wide angle lens, in particular distortion and chromatic aberration. That sounded like a candidate to put through DxO, so I asked him for a copy of the raw image. As I mentioned a couple of days ago, what he gave me was a DNG image, which DxO didn't even want to look at (“DxO must be the first program to process the image”). So I asked him to extract the original raw image from the DNG, and today he sent it to me.

It still didn't work:

This image cannot be displayed since it was taken with a body that is only supported by the Elite edition of DxO Optics Pro.

The image was taken with an Olympus E-5, a “professional” camera, so clearly DxO “Pro” can't handle it. Instead I need the “Elite” edition, which offers no other advantages. I tried downloading the demo of the “Elite” version, but I couldn't install it: it goes in the same place as the non-“Elite” version, and fortunately my version was newer, so it didn't overwrite it.

OK, the decision is made on the basis of the camera model, which it in the EXIF data. So I changed the text "E-5 " to "E-30" (the cameras are really quite similar) and tried again. Yes, it worked. The results were somewhat lighter and less contrasty than Subhash's, which may be due to the settings I used, or due to differences between the E-30 and the E-5. But that's not the point. The interesting results were the chromatic aberration and the distortion, and there DxO, for all its irritations, is far better. Here one pair of images from the analysis page I wrote, cropped from the extreme top left corner of the image. The first image was processed with DxO, the second with Photoshop. Click on either image to display in full resolution, and again to display at screen width, which is probably a good idea in this case. Run the mouse over the images to swap to the other one, and or mouseover the first:

 
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I think it's clear that chromatic aberration and sharpness are much better with the DxO than with Photoshop. I'm not so sure about distortion. It's probably better too, but it's not clear how much. Now if it weren't so horribly slow!


Removing the Salvia
Topic: gardening Link here

A while back I decided to remove the “Salvia diesaustraliae” that I had bought last Australia Day, and which didn't really look very interesting:


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So today I tried to get it out, which was more work than I had expected. It may not have flowered much, but it most certainly set up an extensive root system:


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The main roots are to the left of the spade, and those white stringy things on the left are underground roots, and it had spread over several square metres. I still haven't got it all out.


Thursday, 26 April 2012 Dereel Images for 26 April 2012
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Pottering around
Topic: gardening Link here

Spent about an hour in the garden today, without doing much work. Gradually the spring bulbs are preparing to come out, some of them in force. Spread some more fertilizer in appropriate places, cut down some cannas, and that was about all.


More scanner woes
Topic: technology Link here

It's been a few weeks since I connected my Epson scanner to braindeath, the loaner Microsoft box I use mainly for photo processing. It has been flaky: much of the time it works, sometimes (far too often) it crashes. Today I was scanning some documents and stopped to look at something else. When I returned to continue scanning, the program crashed. And crashed. And crashed. Removing and reinstalling the software (if that's what really happened when I asked for it) didn't help. I'm dead in the water.

How do you debug this kind of problem? I wish I knew. I suspect that some remnant software or configuration information is in the way. Of course, maybe the scanner has failed, which would explain why I couldn't reinstall the software on the Apple. But it worked fine until then. Maybe it's trying to tell me to install SANE, but the meaning of that N still concerns me. The Supported Scanners page gives the lie: three different backends, one with complete support but unmaintained, and two others maintained but with only “good” support, with exactly the same status, except that the third doesn't have a man page. The man page for the backend with “complete” support, apparently not updated since 11 July 2008, does not mention this scanner.


Friday, 27 April 2012 Dereel Images for 27 April 2012
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Still more NiZn batteries
Topic: technology, photography, opinion Link here

My latest delivery of NiZn batteries arrived today, including not one, but two replacements for the failed AAA battery. That was nice, but also necessary, since another had failed since then. Charged the first lot (AA) with no incident.

Taking photos later, the flash gun gave me a “low battery” indication. I had only just put batteries in it a couple of weeks ago, but fortunately I now had freshly charged replacements. On taking the old ones out, I noted the voltages:

Battery number       Before       After
5       1.785       1.743
10       1.570       0.552
11       1.784       1.743
12       1.776       1.742

Clearly there's something very wrong with 10, one of the newest delivery of batteries. That's 3 out of 12 batteries from that delivery that have failed. Do I need a new supplier?


Blasted from the past
Topic: history, opinion Link here

Over the last 4 months I've been reading and typing in my diaries from late 1966 until the end of 1967. It was a very varied time of my life: I started at school in England, returned to Malaysia for a few months, drove back to Europe by car, went to Germany for an intensive German course and then started studying Chemistry at the University of Hamburg. It's been interesting revisiting it all, and also a little depressing.

I've discovered a number of things: firstly, my memories are only of the highlights. The context has almost completely disappeared. I was in Kuala Lumpur, with one memorable interruption, from 18 November 1966 until 24 April 1967, and I had thought that I had spent most of it (apart from fighting an offbeat monolith) driving round town with my friends Guy Belsham and Robert Bliss. In fact, the episode with Guy and Robert lasted less than a month. Similarly, I ended up taking photos at a discotheque in Hamburg, the Crazy Horse, which I thought went on for months (maybe it just felt like it; it has never been my scene). In fact, it also lasted only a month, and it would have been shorter had my sister not arrived and wanted to go there every night.

And how have I changed? One of the big differences is that I was looking for a girl in about the most incompetent manner conceivable. It took me another 15 years before I finally found what I was looking for, but that's still 30 years ago. Apart from that, I spent most of my time with cars and, particularly, photography. I didn't play with computers, because I didn't have access to them, but in many ways it seems that I spent my time in much the same way as I do today. My working life was just an interruption in Getting A Life.


Tidying up
Topic: general Link here

One of the things I continually noted in my diaries of 45 years ago was how I was continually tidying up after myself. You'd think that I would have learnt to stay tidy in the first place, but then, I never did. I don't tidy up as much any more. As somebody said, you don't really need to keep tidy. After a few months, it doesn't get any untidier.

But after five years, things have gradually got to the point where I can't move. The last straw was when I decided to connect my problem scanner to pain, my Microsoft laptop, and I couldn't find any space on the table. Not that anything important was on it, but it had been accumulating junk for about 4 years, if the dates of the documents at the bottom are anything to go by. Spent a couple of hours, in the process filling up the dining table with junk. I'll have to finish by tomorrow, since that's our Good Food day, and we need the table.


British Sunday press muckraking?
Topic: opinion Link here

Everybody has heard of the News of the World, of course, although many not until its implosion nearly a year ago. But over the years I've watched the British press, in particular the Sunday editions. When I first looked, they were bad, and they have gone downhill since then. Last year, while looking for information about Salvia, I found an article in the Sunday Guardian: “Paltrow grows illegal salvia in her garden”.

Salvia is a hallucinogenic herb that came into limelight last year when teen sensation Miley Cyrus was seen smoking it in a video leaked online. Even though an online magazine noted that there is another variety of salvia, which is used for cooking, it is not known which Paltrow is growing.

What kind of reporting is that? To come to such an article in the first place, you need a particular blend of stupidity (not knowing what Salvia is), incompetence (inability to check up what it is) and a preparedness to assume the worst. I find that particularly disgusting, especially from a newspaper whose weekday version I once considered one of the best British newspapers.

In all likelihood, this is the online magazine article. It shows a photo of the herb bed, unfortunately too low resolution to recognize the variety of salvia, but also including sage (Salvia officinalis). And what do they write there?

You see (now's the time to get those pretention horns ready), unlike how she did with the other greens in her garden, the cookbook author decided to label that particular herb by its Latin moniker.

In fact, perhaps you know salvia officinalis by its more common name: sage.

Once again, the text shows unbelievable ignorance. But clearly this site isn't a leading British newspaper, because it exonerates the victim. The comments are more informative than the article: one reader claims to recognize it as Salvia greggii, which I find difficult to distinguish from the Salvia microphylla that we have in many places in the garden.

That was all nearly a year ago. But then yesterday I got a message from Ben Leach of the British Sunday Telegraph asking about a doctor friend of mine, I first contacted that friend and asked what I should do. Ben didn't wait long: he called a few hours later, at 16:15—his time. That's 01:15 here, something that he didn't know or bother to check up on (does this look familiar?).

He called up again this evening and gave me a bit of background, which I didn't know: both husband and wife had allegedly bought quantities of scorpion and Black widow venom, apparently for experiments with an arthritis cure, and the National Health Service had thus withdrawn accreditation because of the danger both to patients and their own children.

Is that plausible? As far as I understand it, the NHS doesn't have anything to do with accreditation, and there's no obvious relationship between the experiments and the danger to children. Why should anybody experiment on their own children in looking for a treatment for arthritis? Why should anybody experiment on their own children? I haven't heard back from my friend, so I can't say any more, but the whole thing seems less than plausible.


Saturday, 28 April 2012 Dereel Images for 28 April 2012
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More house photo refinement
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Looking at the raw images I got from yesterday evening's panoramas, it looked as if they were taken far too late. White balance was way off, and the lighting was suboptimal. After processing things didn't look that bad, but today I decided to take at least two of the panoramas again, the verandah and the view from the extreme east. Here yesterday and today after processing:


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The “West to house” probably looks better with the sunshine, but I'm not so sure about the verandah. And to add to the problems, I decided to try to put it together from fewer images, rotating 45° instead of 36° between shots. That would have worked well, except that I accidentally missed one out altogether, leaving a surprisingly small wedge above the side table. But probably 45° is OK for the vertically mounted panoramas.


Mecablitz 58 AF undocumented features
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

I take my verandah photos with the Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm F4.0-5.6 ultra wide angle lens set at 9 mm and the Mecablitz 58 AF-1 O digital flash unit with the diffuser pulled out, which sets it for “18 mm” (Mecablitz-speak for 9 mm). Today I pushed the diffuser back in and discovered that there are two “in” positions. The normal one has the diffuser sticking out about 2 mm further than the completely “in” position.

Even stranger, when it's completely in, the automatic communication with the camera is overridden in the same way that it is when the diffuser is in front of the flash. In the latter case, the display shows “Manual 18”. And with the diffuser fully in (and thus not functional), it shows “Manual 16” (i.e. 8 mm). How can that work? Is it intended for a separate diffuser? There's no mention of anything like that in the manual.


Reinstalling scanner software
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Finally got my office tidied up and moved the scanner to the desk to my right, where pain (my Microsoft laptop) is. Connected up, installed, and ran it. It works. But it doesn't work on braindeath. Why? I've deinstalled and reinstalled and rebooted and done all those Microsoft things, but it continues to have fatal errors. Is this some case of incomplete deinstallation? One difference suggests that it is: when I installed on pain, I had to accept the usual EULA stuff. When I reinstalled on braindeath, I didn't. That suggests that at least some information remains after deinstallation. But wouldn't a bit of accurate error reporting help?


Seedling woe
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

The Mirabilis jalapa seeds that I planted 11 days ago are now germinating—at least the yellow ones-though so far I have seen no action from the Kniphofia:


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Only one of the 6 is not (quite) visible, but they all germinated. The one that germinated first doesn't look as if it's going to make it:


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That's clearly some kind of fungus. Is this the downside of germinating in potting mix?


Sunday, 29 April 2012 Dereel
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Goodbye Jorge, goodbye Samba
Topic: animals, general, technology Link here

Sad news today: Jorge de Moya died a couple of days ago. For years he was the only breeder of pure Paso Fino horses in Australia—until about 8½ years ago, when Yvonne somehow talked him in to giving her a pure-bred foal in exchange for a Paso Peruano foal out of her mare “La Tigre”.

The foal itself was a story: Yvonne wanted to call her “Samba”, which I thought my friends at the Samba project would find inappropriate. So I said that if she wanted to call her that, she should first get approval from both Tridge and Jeremy. Fat chance, I thought. Tridge in particular is renowned for not answering his mail.

Far from it: Tridge replied within NTP-confirmed 9 minutes, 26 seconds, and Jeremy an hour later at 8:38:27, first thing in his morning. Both were more than happy, and so the horse was called Samba.

Today we went out riding: Yvonne on her new horse Carlotta, I on Darah (of course), and Chris Yeardley on Samba. As we were leaving, I discovered that Samba has changed owners: Yvonne has just sold Samba to Chris, which in practice doesn't make much difference. But somehow there was a feeling of change, of melancholy. Jorge was an amazing person, and we'll miss him. He was old and unwell, and we knew he didn't have long to go. He died peacefully in his sleep, about the best way to go.

In the course of the ride I made a joke about Jorge's Arab horses (he always bred Pasos), and discovered that yes, indeed, he once did breed Arabs. But he had to leave them behind when Castro took over in Cuba, and apparently the revolutionaries killed all the horses and ate them. No wonder Jorge carried Castro in his heart.


More press interest
Topic: opinion Link here

A couple of days ago I mentioned a phone call with Ben Leach of the Sunday Telegraph about the Adekolas. Today there was another, from Paul Millar of The Age, who had apparently seen something from the Telegraph. The story he told me was similar, as was what I told him. I was mainly interested in the fact that he had found many leads on the web that I had not. Clearly there's more to this than Google.

Some of the things that he found including suspension of Rapinder's accreditation on 30 August 2011, only shortly before I met them. At the time they said they had been in Australia for some time, and when I looked at the printer that James had given me when they left (and which had been lying on the floor pending tidying up of my office), I found a receipt dated 13 August 2011. He also confirmed conditional reinstatement of her accreditation on 24 February 2012, something that I had already discovered, and a reference to an advertisement that Rapinder had apparently put on the Aussie house sitters web site, something that I still can't find. He also claimed (something I can't substantiate) that scorpion venom has an effect like morphine. Wikipedia suggests anti-inflammatory properties which could be useful in the treatment of arthritis, something closer to what Ben said.

In general, though, Paul made a better impression. I still can't tell him anything.


Tidying up in the greenhouse
Topic: gardening Link here

The tomatoes in the greenhouse are finally bearing fruit. I think I left the shade cloth on too long in the summer. What I really need is an opening at the other end of the greenhouse to allow much more air circulation. That might also keep the white flies at bay. As it is, they're everywhere. Spent some time today thinning out the growth, in the process accidentally removing three almost ripe big tomatoes—damn! Hopefully the thinning also means that I have been able to spray more of the flies.

Apart from that, did some pruning in the north bed and a little weeding in various places. The latter is really waiting for suitable weather for spraying again.


Monday, 30 April 2012 Dereel Images for 30 April 2012
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Back to the enblend port
Topic: technology, photography Link here

I compiled and installed enblend 3 weeks ago. But I didn't update the port. On the positive side, the documentation has been greatly improved. But it changed in a manner which makes it very difficult to install, and the formalities of the FreeBSD ports collection don't make it any easier.


Panorama parameters revisited
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Autumn is coming, and the leaves of the ornamental vine on the verandah are turning red:


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For a change, I took the panorama with the Zuiko Digital ED 12-60mm F2.8-4.0 SWD, since the field of view was more limited. I didn't do it well. Firstly, I didn't notice that the camera strap was hanging in front of the lens in the bottom of three rows:

 
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That proved to be less of a problem than I had expected, as the photo above shows. With Hugin's mask function, I was able to remove them, and fortunately the images of the strap didn't overlap.

But I still had problems with parallax, as the detail in the roof shows:


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I haven't had problems like that for quite a while. There seem to be two reasons: firstly, the places in question are much closer, so parallax is more serious. The other reason is probably the lens: I know how to set the Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm F4.0-5.6 by eye, but the 12-60 is a different matter, and for that I need the scale. And the scale has a significant offset:


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According to the list of entrance pupil distances, the entrance pupil position for the 9-18 mm lens at 9 mm is 97 mm from the focal plane. The E-30 is 4 mm behind the focal plane, so the distance should be 101 mm. Measuring on my scale is complicated by the lack of a mark to line up the scale, so I use one or the other side of the clamp. Using that method, the setting is 52 or 99 mm, and, insidiously, it's negative. So the correct setting is 149 mm - entrance pupil setting (left side of clamp) or 196 mm - entrance pupil setting (right side).

With this information, it's clear that I should have set the 12-60 lens (entrance pupil at 12 mm is 112 mm) to 37 mm on the left. I didn't measure where I really set it.

Interestingly, this position for the 9-18 mm lens,, measured for the first time, is several mm away from where I have been setting it, and I've still been getting acceptable results. I'll have to see what happens with the correct settings.


Finally spraying weather
Topic: gardening Link here

It's still cool, but today the sun shone and there was little wind, so I was able to go around spraying the weeds again. Plenty more grass is coming up where I have tried to eradicate it. I can see this being an uphill battle. Also managed to spread some more manure on the compost heap; the new bay is already almost half full.


Extending the speeding fine deadline
Topic: general Link here

Called up Civic Compliance again today at 11:10 and spoke to Stacey, who extended the due date by 30 days. Hopefully this will be over by then.


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