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April 2014
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Tuesday, 1 April 2014 Dereel
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New machine
Topic: technology Link here

Chris Bahlo and I have had a virtual server with RootBSD for nearly 6 years. Although my professional life was very much related to high availability, this one beat everything I have experienced. It's sad that hardware failure took it down just 2 weeks before the 5 year anniversary, but that's still 1,733 days uptime, nothing to sneeze at.

The down side, of course, is that the operating system is 6 years down-rev. In addition, the disk space is minuscule—only 10 GB—so I've been hosting my many photos with my friends at Ozlabs. But their conditions are changing, and one of the problems is that I am generating half their traffic. That's not really fair to them.

Chris has her own interests: she wants to set up various web platforms which will require more up-to-date software.

So: time for a new server. We now have a FreeBSD 10-RELEASE machine with 300 GB of space. Spent some time setting it up today; it'll be yet another exercise in getting ports installed. So far things are looking good.


ls: our grandfathers' cruft
Topic: technology, history, opinion Link here

Mail from Kirk McKusick today enclosing a patch to ls from Igor Sobrado of the OpenBSD project. It seems that FreeBSD ls (and maybe ls from some other BSDs) doesn't conform to the standard. The -f (don't sort) flag must imply the -a (show entries starting with a dot) flag:

-f List the entries in directory operands in the order they appear in the directory. The behavior for non-directory operands is unspecified. This option shall turn on -a. When -f is specified, any occurrences of the -r, -S, and -t options shall be ignored and any occurrences of the -A, [XSI] -g, -l, -n, [XSI] -o, and -s options may be ignored. The use of -f with -R or -d produces unspecified results.

Igor included a patch to the OpenBSD repo, along with a commit message in which jmc@ went to some trouble to point to the commits (made by Keith Bostic) that removed -f altogether on 16 August 1989, and then replaced it without the implication of -a on 2 September 1989.

OK, clearly it needs to be committed, once I've checked the remaining constraints of the standards man page. GNU ls complies, and so does Apple, interestingly enough: in general Apple follows FreeBSD even to the point of occasionally forgetting to change the name.

But why should -f imply -a? Hysterical raisins, I'd guess. I've already commented on the nonsensical sorting in the standard (descending by date, and ascending by alphabet in case of a duplicate timestamp). This one really looks more like an accident to me.


Paying for the planning permit
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

My application for a planning permit is now in, but I couldn't pay by email. For that I needed feedback from Mathew, which by this morning hadn't arrived. Called him and he told me he'd get an admin to call me back. She did that three hours later, but we had a certain amount of difficulty communicating. She told me that she had my email, but that their IT experts couldn't decipher the digital signature, and I would have to send in a physical copy. And that while she had this text in front of her eyes:

I shall also include a copy of the application with a physical signature.

Even when I told her that it was in the email, she didn't seem to understand. She also asked me what I had submitted, clearly ignoring other parts of the email:

You already have a title copy, the house plans and the Bushfire Management Statement.

By the end of this week I will send amended plans of the site with locations of the house, the shed, the arena and the trees to be removed.

Why do people have so much difficulty reading?

Paying was more fun; it took something like 10 minutes on the phone with somebody else again. But finally it's done.


More dog fun
Topic: animals, general Link here

It's clear that Nikolai and Tanya aren't getting enough exercise, and it's difficult to let them off the leash in the forest. Decided to let them run around a bit in the paddock, but Nikolai is still too rough for Tanya. Since we're thinking about where to place our sheds, decided to go to Stones Road and take the dogs for a walk there.

Bad idea, at least for off the leash. Nikolai discovered that there's a house hidden on the corner of Stones Road and Progress Road, and they have dogs in cages and no fences. Off he went, with his ears on bypass, and I had to corner and catch him. When I did, he immediately pulled off on the line again, cutting a nasty groove into my left ring finger, removing a couple of layers of skin.

So much for that. Back off home again, not in the best of moods, stopping briefly to say hello to Graeme, our neighbour to the north whom I hadn't met. There are fun times ahead with the dogs.


Wednesday, 2 April 2014 Dereel
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Final touches to planning permit
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Over to the Stones Road property this morning to take another look. Yes, it can be done, and we're one step closer to the final results. While we were there, found a tractor component that Garry Marriott had lost there months ago; now that the horses have eaten down the grass, it was easy to find.

By chance, Garry came out of the house. That was a surprise, because he should have been in the outback by now, not to be seen again for 18 months. But it seems that his mother-in-law is sick, so they need to look after her first.

Back home, another call to Widespan sheds and got quotes for two sheds. The first will be next to the house, and the other—maybe—will be a covered riding arena further west:

Put that all together, and Yvonne took it to the post office. Now we can only wait.


Thursday, 3 April 2014 Dereel
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... and stoop to build 'em up with worn-out tools
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

It's been over a day since I got a patch to ls(1) from Kirk McKusick. Why didn't I commit it? First I needed to bring my FreeBSD -CURRENT system up to date. Then I discovered that the disk was PATA and thus no longer fitted into my test box. Still, I had an older box lying around, the remains of my teevee computer after Yet Another Power Surge killed the USB bus and the Ethernet interface, so put the disk into it and started bringing -CURRENT up to date. And that took 24 hours!

On rebooting, I didn't have any Ethernet devices! Yes, the PCI interface was probed:

Apr  3 10:35:54 swamp kernel: xl0: <3Com 3c905C-TX Fast Etherlink XL> port 0xe880-0xe8ff mem 0xfebff800-0xfebff87f irq 17 at device 7.0 on pci4
Apr  3 10:35:54 swamp kernel: miibus0: <MII bus> on xl0
Apr  3 10:35:54 swamp kernel: ukphy0: <Generic IEEE 802.3u media interface> PHY 24 on miibus0
Apr  3 10:35:54 swamp kernel: ukphy0:  none, 10baseT, 10baseT-FDX, 100baseTX, 100baseTX-FDX, auto, auto-flow
Apr  3 10:35:54 swamp kernel: xl0: Ethernet address: 00:04:75:f5:fd:4b

OK, xl0 (3Com 3C905) isn't exactly state-of-the-art, but it used to work. So I tried a new RealTek based card that I had bought explicitly for this purpose. But it didn't work then, and it didn't work now. It was detected, but no traffic flowed.

The whole thing looks like code rot. OK, I had plenty of other old, mouldy NICs, so I grabbed a handful and tried them out. How about that, a dc0, in this case a Macronix 98715AEC-C, was recognized. But it didn't work. But when it was also inserted, the xl0 worked! Take out the dc0, and the xl0 was no longer recognized. What a pain! Still, after an hour or so, I was finally able to commit my patch.


Joining plans with hugin
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

The site plan that I submitted with the application for a planning permit was A3 size, larger than I can scan. Still, I have software that can stitch images together: hugin. So I scanned in both halves and tried to join them. Focal length? Since they're both from the same perspective, I set a very large number (round 10000, I think).

All went well until I tried to crop the image. It took forever. More accurately, after 20 hours of CPU time, I stopped it. Tried again with a moderate telephoto setting, about 200 mm, and that worked, modulo distortion:

That was a straight line on the original, of course. Why can't I ask for 0° angle of view?


Friday, 4 April 2014 Dereel
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Nothing much
Topic: technology, general Link here

Somehow didn't get much done today. I suppose there have to be days like that. Started moving my web pages across to the new server, but due to the limited bandwidth of the old server, that didn't complete by evening.


House for sale
Topic: general, Stones Road house Link here

Yvonne and Chris have rented a stand at some rural lifestyle exhibition in Ballarat tomorrow, and Yvonne thought that it might be an interesting place to sell our house. It's not really due yet, but she might have a point, so created a web page, also accessible via http://tinyurl.com/dereel-thing, and printed out a number of copies. I can think later about how to improve it.


Saturday, 5 April 2014 Dereel Images for 5 April 2014
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Panorama exposure
Topic: photography Link here

I'm still not happy with my panoramas, for multiple reasons. I really need to find a better way to get automatic dynamics; currently I'm making HDR from 3 images bracketed 3 EV apart. For the most part the bracketed image is overkill, but the Olympus OM-D E-M1 doesn't give you the option of 2 (or 4, for that matter—it wants an uneven number of images). And the results, as produced by this script, tend to look washed out. Today I compared them with the old method (single image, automatic exposure). No question, the new method (first image) wins hands down, as the door at the right shows:


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The other issue is still ghosting, particularly visible here:


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I must finally get round to looking at alternative HDR software.


Microsoft space programs: why so slow?
Topic: technology, photography, opinion Link here

I've been grumbling—with good reason—about the speed of my Microsoft-based programs for some time. I used to think that DxO Optics “Pro” was particularly slow, but the other ones I'm using aren't noticeably faster, and Olympus Viewer is significantly slower. In particular, display refreshing is a matter of chance, and some things are orders of magnitude slower than on FreeBSD.

Part of this is the insistence on showing unrecognizable images of each file. Today I measured the time it took DxO to start up and get as far as being able to do anything useful:

Time       Elapsed       Status
14:48:17       0       start
14:48:50       0:33       complete startup
14:52:23       4:6       start displaying thumbnails, first reaction to input
14:48:40       4:23       start processing

Why so slow? This is a relatively fast machine (about 25% of a modern top-of-the-line machine). I can only attribute the startup time to poor choice of packages or just plain sloppy programming. But why the extreme time (over 3½ minutes) to even start displaying the images? By comparison, here's the time for an ls -l of the same directory on my local machine:

real    0m0.016s
user    0m0.000s
sys     0m0.008s

OK, this is across a (1000 Mb/s) network. Does that make a difference? Tried from teevee, across a powerline network that sometimes achieves 80 Mb/s:

real    0m2.307s
user    0m0.000s
sys     0m0.076s

The rest of the time is apparently spend on the insistence on displaying thumbnails. In this case there were something like 340 images. If it tries to extract thumbnails from all of them, this could happen. But why not come up first with the names and start filling in the details later?

The other really irritating issue is the lack of responsiveness. All the programs I use will go off into limbo for minutes at a time, with the system reporting “program is not responding”. This seems to be normal processing. Nobody can tell me that this is “user-friendly”.

And then “Viewer” has another irritating habit: even when it's idle, its batch module can use up to 60% CPU time. Again, I can only attribute this to sloppy programming. Why are Microsoft space programs so badly written?


More panorama hardware thougts
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

I'm coming to the conclusion that the purchase of my new ball head was a mistake. The two tightening screws are not just a pain, they need to be turned really tightly to stop the ball from turning, and in the process they modify the position of the ball a little. The problem with turning is due to the height of the equipment on top of the ball head, shown here at an angle to emphasize the position of the ball:


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Clearly that's an advantage of the Really Right Stuff leveling base:

Really Right Stuff TA-2-LB

The construction puts the rotator closer to the centre of the (larger) ball by about 3 cm. But that's just about the only advantage, and it only reduces the moment around the ball by about 20%. Maybe it doesn't alter the position of the ball when tightening, but surely there must be something better.

I've already looked at the Manfrotto 3416 and its almost identical successor:


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There's the germ of a solution in this thing, if only the implementation weren't so flawed: to adjust with an electronic level (or a dual spirit level) you need to be able to adjust the pitch in two perpendicular directions relative to a pivot point at one corner. This one adjusts in three directions of 120° relative to each other. In addition, there's no way to position roughly and then adjust, like on other Manfrotto products. This makes it particularly cumbersome to use, especially since it only offers an adjustment range of 5°.

So: where do I find something with a corner ball (doesn't need to be large) and two adjusting screws at 90°. Surely it can't be that difficult? Took another look on the web and came up with something that looked pretty much like what I wanted, ostensibly from Velbon:

Image

But on closer examination things don't look as good:

Image

Unless I'm completely mistaken, this thing is adjustable in one direction only! What possible use is that? Of course, I could be mistaken: this is from an eBay auction, so I went looking on the Velbon web sites. Like Andy Tanenbaum's standards, there are so many to choose from. This one seems to be the main site, and it shows 7 ball heads, none of which match. But then there's the British site, which shows 10. Also not this one. And then there's the Singapore site, which shows none at all, apparently because of web site breakage.

And that's really all I could find. If only I could find somebody capable of building these things, and we could come up with something useful.


How to fill 32 GB memory
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

While processing my photos this morning, I discovered that I was using 70% (7 GB) of swap. How could that happen? I have 32 GB of memory in this box. Further investigation showed that I had left a wireshark process running, and it had collected in the order of 32 million packets—and stored them all in memory!

  PID USERNAME      THR PRI NICE   SIZE    RES STATE   C   TIME   WCPU COMMAND
14334 root            1  21    0 24819M 20095M select  7  22:26  5.27% wireshark

A good reason to keep an eye on these things.


Sunday, 6 April 2014 Dereel Images for 6 April 2014
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Updating firmware, Olympus style
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Olympus has released new firmware for the E-M1, so today I tried to install it. What a catastrophe! Other vendors do it correctly and supply a downloadable file that can then be copied to the camera via USB. But Olympus has a special program to do this, and of course it only runs on certain software—and hardware, it seems. From their “system requirements”:

This software requires a computer with a pre-installed operating system. Operation is not guaranteed when using a home-built PC or upgraded operating system.

It's a good thing Olympus doesn't make computers, or they might restrict its use to their own computers.

That's not all, of course. There's also a warning that doing it wrong can turn the camera into a brick. In any case, I now have a Microsoft box, so I tried running it on that. Not quite the result I expected:

 
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Why do programs in the Microsoft space do this? What's the real error? Given my prior experience with Microsoft, I wasn't even sure that the issue was communication with the camera. And indeed, I keep my Microsoft boxen off the Internet: their only communication is via the local squid proxy. So I put the box on the Internet. No difference. Asked Google, which came up with a surprising number of false positives. And the answers showed two things: first, all camera-related hits related only to Olympus cameras, and secondly no statement from Olympus themselves. Instead people came up with unlikely answers like “doesn't work on 64 bit machines”, “the server might be overloaded” and “must be run as administrator”. The last was already the case, and I can't really believe the others. So: try it under “Windows” Vista?a First, how about seeing what my Olympus E-30 does? Sure enough, there was also a firmware upgrade available for my Zuiko Digital ED 70-300mm telephoto, so tried to access that. No go again:

 
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But wait! That's a different code. First time it was 0x80070005, and this time it was 0x80044002. What does that mean?

What about dxo, the Vista machine? Mindful of the danger of turning the camera into a brick, tried it with the E-30 first. Success! It worked. So what's the issue? By this time it was evening, and people in Germany were stirring. Got a couple of answers to a message I had sent to the German Olympus Group. One reply confirmed that it works for him on 64 bit “Windows” 7 installation, and thought it might be permissions. He also referred to a support note that referred to a different scenario, but apparently means “access denied”. So why don't they say so?. The other also confirmed the platform, and thought it might be an overloaded server. But that doesn't explain why the update worked on Vista. What a mess this stuff is! If they really have to write their own program, they should at least make it work.


Monday, 7 April 2014 Dereel Images for 7 April 2014
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Another power failure
Topic: general Link here

Another short power failure this morning at 1:18.


A day wasted with Olympus firmware updates
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Yesterday I managed to upgrade the firmware for my Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 70-300mm telephoto using the Olympus E-30 and Microsoft Vista, but by then the day was over, so I didn't get round to upgrading the firmware for the E-M1. That should be pretty straightforward with Vista, but I wanted to understand why it didn't work with “Windows” 7.

Called up Olympus support on 1300 659 678 and spoke to Vivian, who told me that it was a “Windows” error, and that they couldn't help. On request, she checked further and said “it's a firewall problem” and rejected my suggestion that the program should explain the error and not claim that it had something to do with the camera. She wouldn't tell me which permissions I needed, and when I asked for further information, she hung up on me.

Called back again and asked to be connected to a supervisor, John, who confirmed that this treatment was not Olympus policy, but otherwise didn't sound very interested in the problem. He asked me to send in a written problem description to repairs@olympusimaging.com.au, since the Japanese wouldn't believe them otherwise. He left me with the feeling that, in general, Olympus “Support” is pretty useless.

So: firewall problem? Maybe. Disabled firewall and virus checking, in the process discovering that the firewall had been configured to report any attempted breaches. And of course the problem didn't go away. So: not a firewall problem. Olympus clearly don't have any idea what they're talking about. They're just finger-pointing despite evidence to the contrary.

I didn't get past this problem. In the end, on Jürgen Lock's suggestion, I fired up boskoop, my ancient Apple G3 box and used that. That worked, though at a snail's pace.

While downloading the firmware, traced the traffic with wireshark. Straight HTTP! There can't be any firewall issue with that. And that got me thinking. The upgrade sequence, as far as I got, was:

  1. Fire up the “Digital Camera Updater”. Connect camera. Cancel the offer to start “Viewer”.

  2. “Updater” connects to the camera and confirms that the camera firmware is down-rev:

     
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  3. After navigating a series of warnings, “Updater” starts installation, displaying a rotating circle. There seems to be no access to the camera during this period, which lasts about 20 seconds.

  4. Then the camera access light flashes, and the error message is displayed.

Based on my observations of a successful update, it seems that step 3 is the (repeated) download of the firmware. When it is complete, “Updater” tries to install the firmware, and for some reason it fails.

So what is this error 0x80070005? On the face of it, “access denied” makes sense, and so does the reference to the camera. A Google search for “Failed to communicate with the camera 0x80070005” brought many false positives, but the valid results were only for many and varied Olympus cameras.

Guessing at the real problem

So what's the real problem? There are many issues:

And that's all. It's broke, and they won't fix it. I hope I won't have as many problems on the next update.


Firmware update, Nikon style
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

One of my main objections to Olympus' Digital Camera Updater is that it exists. I know from the existence of the Canon Hack Development Kit that Canon/business/imaging.html does it via the memory card. What about Nikon? Checked, and yes, they do it that way too. But in the process I discovered a firmware update for my old “CoolPix” L1. OK, that's worth trying for comparison's sake, even though the update doesn't reallly mean anything to me:

With a PictBridge connection to certain printers, images with a file size greater than 1 MB - those captured at higher quality settings such as 6M* High (2816*) - began printing irregularly part way through the printing process. This issue has been fixed.

The good news: it worked, using FreeBSD and without any of the Olympus stupidity.

The firmware comes as a ZIP archive with two files:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/6) ~/Downloads 8 -> l -R L1Update
total 1
drwxr-xr-x  2 root  wheel  512  7 Apr 14:50 firmware
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root  wheel  758 17 Mar  2006 release_En.txt

L1Update/firmware:
total 4
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root  wheel  3,600,428 17 Mar  2006 firmware.bin

Simple installation instructions: create a directory firmware in the root directory of the flash card and copy firmware.bin to it. Turn the camera on, go to Menu/Setup/Firmware Version, and it will prompt you:


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After completion, it tells you to turn off the camera, turn it on again, and to format the memory card. I tried it without formatting, and got:


This should be Nikon-L1-firmware-Nikon-L1-firmware-5.jpeg.  Is it missing?
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That's not very clever, but it can only happen if firmware/firmware.bin is on the card. So I removed that, and all is well. Settings are as before, and I can still access the old images.

The not-so-good news: installation isn't perfect either. The link on the firmware page just tells you how to install it. And what do I read?

*Only 32-bit Pre-installed versions supported.

That's Just Plain Wrong, of course, but it seems to be a standard CYA of the Japanese camera industry.

Apart from that, the instructions distinguish between Microsoft and Apple, though the download file and the procedure is the same in each case. And I found this step confusing:

Using an SD memory card reader, copy the firmware folder (containing the firmware.bin file) to the Removable Disk: (Windows), or the No Name disk (Macintosh) representing your memory card for your L1 camera. Do not copy into the DCIM folder, copy to the root of the drive.

This means that the file ends up in the folder firmware on the SD card, not in the root directory. On more careful reading that's clear, but it took a couple of mistakes on my part to get it right.

And the other file, release_En.txt? Not mentioned anywhere. Looking at it with less is less than inspiring:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/6) ~/Downloads 9 -> less L1Update/release_En.txt
"L1Update/release_En.txt" may be a binary file.  See it anyway?
ÿþI^@s^@s^@u^@e^@s^@ ^@a^@d^@d^@r^@e^@s^@s^@e^@d^@ ^@w^@i^@t^@h^@ ^@f^@i^@r^@m^@w^@a^@r^@e^@ ^@v^@e^@r^@s^@i^@o^@n^@ ^@1^@.^@3^@^M^@
^@^M^@
...

Strangely, cat got it almost right:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/6) ~/Downloads/L1Update 13 -> cat release_En.txt
ÿþIssues addressed with firmware version 1.3

The following issue has been addressed with firmware version 1.3.
...

It seems that the text is in some obscure Unicode encoding (UCS-2?), just to confuse people.


Tuesday, 8 April 2014 Dereel
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Migrating external servers
Topic: technology Link here

I had intended to take my time migrating my web server to the new platform. RootBSD have given me a month, and so far it has only been a week. But then I heard from Stephen Rothwell that he's migrating ozlabs.org to a new platform tomorrow. That will involve—oh horror!—one hour's downtime, and it will also require a change in IP address, which is a bit of work in itself.

So: what do I need to do to get the new platform up and running? Web server, mail server (for web-generated error messages) and DNS. The web server's already running, but without PHP. How hard can it be?

Installing mod_php55 was the first issue:

=== root@www (/dev/pts/3) /home/grog 2 -> pkg install mod_php55
Updating repository catalogue
The following 3 packages will be installed:

        Upgrading perl5: 5.16.3_8 -> 5.16.3_9
        Installing apache22: 2.2.27
        Installing mod_php55: 5.5.10

perl5-5.16.3_9.txz       100%   13MB   6.4MB/s   4.1MB/s   00:02
php55-5.5.10.txz         100% 1892KB   1.9MB/s   1.9MB/s   00:01
apache22-2.2.27.txz      100% 2538KB   2.5MB/s   2.5MB/s   00:01
mod_php55-5.5.10.txz     100% 1019KB   1.0MB/s   1.0MB/s   00:00
Checking integrity...pkg: WARNING: locally installed apache24-2.4.9 conflicts on /usr/local/etc/rc.d/htcacheclean with:
        - apache22-2.2.27
pkg: WARNING: locally installed apache24-2.4.9 conflicts on /usr/local/man/man1/dbmmanage.1.gz with:
        - apache22-2.2.27
...

It wanted to install a down-rev version of Apache! And, of course, the obligatory different version of perl, which at least was newer this time. So: no go. I had to install it from the Ports Collection. How do you do that? Check it out with Subversion. How do you do that? There seems to be no packages, so... install it from the Ports Collection.

OK, there's an alternative way to install the Ports Collection: get the tarball and extract it. So that's what I did. mod_php55 installed, but in the process it also installed a lot of other packages. I would have preferred to install them as packages, but of course it built them as ports. Hopefully there will be a way to change that.

Configuring Apache is always a pain, and it took me a couple of hours, not helped by 4 different ways to do things: the old way I did it on my old server (which was never intended for general access), the way it was done on ozlabs (in the directory /etc/apache, strangely all 6 years old), the way I needed to do it on the new server (in the directory /usr/local/etc/apache24), and the way ozlabs really did it (in the directory /etc/apache2).

Apart from this silly numbering, ozlabs runs Debian Linux, and Debian likes to change names and things, so the configuration file was called /etc/apache2/apache2.conf, while my file is /usr/local/etc/apache24/httpd.conf. And the new way to add virtual hosts is by including individual configurations in a subdirectory, called /etc/apache2/sites-enabled on Debian and /usr/local/etc/apache24/Includes on the new machine.

Obviously there were bugs in the configuration,and it took me some time to fix them. One was particularly tenacious: I had forgotten to load the PHP modules in the Apache configuration, and the result was colourful. But even after fixing the configuration, the problem persisted—on Chromium only. That proved to be some particularly aggressive caching on the part of Chromium—even an hour later, it still stuck to the old version.

And then there were incorrect links in my photos page. The diary links all pointed back to the page itself. That proved to be due to changes in directory structure: locally I have the base pages in /usr/local/www/data, and user's web page in $user/public_html. On the server I have everything under ~grog/www.lemis.com. And then I found code like this:

  if (file_exists ("/home/$who/public_html/$diary"))
    return "/$who/$diary#$day";
  else
    return "";

A symlink solved that problem.

Finally I was done. Thank God I don't have to do this often. And so far I have seen no error reports.


Wednesday, 9 April 2014 Dereel Images for 9 April 2014
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Another OpenSSL issue
Topic: technology Link here

Today was the day that the Heartbleed bug was announced. Did I care? I had my own OpenSSL issues. Mainly for Chris Bahlo's sake we run qpopper on our external server, and today I had to migrate it. I failed.

I suppose part of the issue is my aversion to the entire thing. It requires certificates, and you have the choice of paying money to somebody to sign the certificates, or be our own certificate authority. Since this is only for our personal use, we're more than happy to take the second choice, and that's what we've been doing for nearly 5 years.

The setup last time was so complicated that I wrote a HOWTO page about how to do it. Did all that, but all I got was:

fetchmail: SSL connection failed.
fetchmail: socket error while fetching from grog@www.lemis.com
fetchmail: Query status=2 (SOCKET)

Now doesn't that give you a lot of information? At the other end, found this in the log files:

Apr  9 05:45:04 www qpopper[80743]: TLS handshake Error
Apr  9 05:45:04 www qpopper[80743]: TLS/SSL Handshake failed: -1

That doesn't really say much either. About the only thing that it doesn't say is “invalid credentials”. How do you look at a problem like that? Fortunately I have a correctly functioning server as well, so I could compare. First a packet trace. Here's the setup for the correctly functioning system:

No.     Time            Source                Destination           Protocol Length Info
      3 13:39:36.925473 aussie-gw.lemis.com   w3.lemis.com          TCP      74     16978 > pop3s [SYN] Seq=0 Win=65535 Len=0 MSS=1460 WS=256 SACK_PERM=1 TSval=867058747 TSecr=0
      4 13:39:37.182989 w3.lemis.com          aussie-gw.lemis.com   TCP      74     pop3s > 16978 [SYN, ACK] Seq=0 Ack=1 Win=65535 Len=0 MSS=1452 WS=8 SACK_PERM=1 TSval=2573599868 TSecr=867058747
      5 13:39:37.183058 aussie-gw.lemis.com   w3.lemis.com          TCP      66     16978 > pop3s [ACK] Seq=1 Ack=1 Win=3218176 Len=0 TSval=867059004 TSecr=2573599868
      6 13:39:37.183886 aussie-gw.lemis.com   w3.lemis.com          SSLv2    189    Client Hello
      7 13:39:37.455071 w3.lemis.com          aussie-gw.lemis.com   TLSv1    988    Server Hello, Certificate, Server Hello Done
      8 13:39:37.455605 aussie-gw.lemis.com   w3.lemis.com          TLSv1    264    Client Key Exchange, Change Cipher Spec, Encrypted Handshake Message
      9 13:39:37.719004 w3.lemis.com          aussie-gw.lemis.com   TLSv1    125    Change Cipher Spec, Encrypted Handshake Message
     10 13:39:37.818111 aussie-gw.lemis.com   w3.lemis.com          TCP      66     16978 > pop3s [ACK] Seq=322 Ack=982 Win=3218176 Len=0 TSval=867059640 TSecr=2573600166
     11 13:39:38.085015 w3.lemis.com          aussie-gw.lemis.com   TLSv1    220    Application Data, Application Data
...

And here's what the new system said:

No.     Time            Source                Destination           Protocol Length Info
     16 13:40:32.054196 aussie-gw.lemis.com   www.lemis.com         TCP      74     31242 > pop3s [SYN] Seq=0 Win=65535 Len=0 MSS=1460 WS=256 SACK_PERM=1 TSval=867113876 TSecr=0
     17 13:40:32.313055 www.lemis.com         aussie-gw.lemis.com   TCP      74     pop3s > 31242 [SYN, ACK] Seq=0 Ack=1 Win=65535 Len=0 MSS=1452 WS=64 SACK_PERM=1 TSval=3418951449 TSecr=867113876
     18 13:40:32.313108 aussie-gw.lemis.com   www.lemis.com         TCP      66     31242 > pop3s [ACK] Seq=1 Ack=1 Win=3218176 Len=0 TSval=867114135 TSecr=3418951449
     19 13:40:32.313293 aussie-gw.lemis.com   www.lemis.com         SSLv2    189    Client Hello
     20 13:40:32.615233 www.lemis.com         aussie-gw.lemis.com   TLSv1    995    Server Hello, Certificate, Server Hello Done
     21 13:40:32.615602 aussie-gw.lemis.com   www.lemis.com         TLSv1    264    Client Key Exchange, Change Cipher Spec, Encrypted Handshake Message
     22 13:40:32.888013 www.lemis.com         aussie-gw.lemis.com   TCP      66     pop3s > 31242 [FIN, ACK] Seq=930 Ack=322 Win=66240 Len=0 TSval=3418952026 TSecr=867114437
...

In other words, the remote server terminates the session after receiving the key exchange packet. Why? The fact that everything's encrypted doesn't exactly help.

Next I turned to ktrace, which showed for the old system:

 72364 qpopper  GIO   fd 0 read 5 bytes
       0x0000 1403 0100 01                                                           |.....|

 72364 qpopper  RET   read 5
 72364 qpopper  CALL  read(0,0x2844a005,0x1)
 72364 qpopper  GIO   fd 0 read 1 byte
       0x0000 01                                                                     |.|

 72364 qpopper  RET   read 1
 72364 qpopper  CALL  read(0,0x2844a000,0x5)
 72364 qpopper  GIO   fd 0 read 5 bytes
       0x0000 1603 0100 30                                                           |....0|

 72364 qpopper  RET   read 5
 72364 qpopper  CALL  read(0,0x2844a005,0x30)
 72364 qpopper  GIO   fd 0 read 48 bytes
       0x0000 bac1 4861 d8dc 2eaa 3330 ef5d cf5e 2ce9 83c2 15d5 00cf 2f86 b5de cd10  |..Ha....30.].^,......./.....|
       0x001c 4d9a 719e 353b cb5f 1566 7eb0 d73e 1d31 2062 90d2                      |M.q.5;._.f~..>.1 b..|

 72364 qpopper  RET   read 48/0x30

For the new system, though, I got:

 81566 qpopper  GIO   fd 0 read 5 bytes
       0x0000 1403 0100 01                                                           |.....|

 81566 qpopper  RET   read 5
 81566 qpopper  CALL  read(0,0x802084008,0x1)
 81566 qpopper  GIO   fd 0 read 1 byte
       0x0000 01                                                                     |.|

 81566 qpopper  RET   read 1
Should be another read() here
 81566 qpopper  CALL  setitimer(0,0x7fffffffbad0,0x7fffffffbab0)
 81566 qpopper  RET   setitimer 0
 81566 qpopper  CALL  sigaction(SIGALRM,0x7fffffffbac8,0x7fffffffbaa8)

Why did that happen? So far everything was the same, including the values returned by read(). But this time it didn't like it. OK, there's a third option using openssl directly, described in my HOWTO page. What I should see is:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/23) ~ 2 -> openssl s_client -connect w3.lemis.com:995
CONNECTED(00000003)
depth=0 /C=AU/ST=VIC/L=Dereel/O=LEMIS (SA) Pty Ltd/OU=Messaging/CN=mail.lemis.com/emailAddress=grog@lemis.com
verify error:num=20:unable to get local issuer certificate
verify return:1
depth=0 /C=AU/ST=VIC/L=Dereel/O=LEMIS (SA) Pty Ltd/OU=Messaging/CN=mail.lemis.com/emailAddress=grog@lemis.com
verify error:num=27:certificate not trusted
verify return:1
depth=0 /C=AU/ST=VIC/L=Dereel/O=LEMIS (SA) Pty Ltd/OU=Messaging/CN=mail.lemis.com/emailAddress=grog@lemis.com
verify error:num=21:unable to verify the first certificate
verify return:1
---
Certificate chain
 0 s:/C=AU/ST=VIC/L=Dereel/O=LEMIS (SA) Pty Ltd/OU=Messaging/CN=mail.lemis.com/emailAddress=grog@lemis.com
   i:/C=AU/ST=VIC/L=Dereel/O=LEMIS (SA) Pty Ltd/OU=Certificate Authority/CN=www.lemis.com/emailAddress=grog@lemis.com
---
...

But what I get is:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/23) ~ 1 -> openssl s_client -connect www.lemis.com:995
CONNECTED(00000003)
depth=0 /C=AU/ST=VIC/L=Dereel/O=LEMIS (SA) Pty Ltd/OU=Messaging/CN=www.lemis.com/emailAddress=grog@lemis.com
verify error:num=20:unable to get local issuer certificate
verify return:1
depth=0 /C=AU/ST=VIC/L=Dereel/O=LEMIS (SA) Pty Ltd/OU=Messaging/CN=www.lemis.com/emailAddress=grog@lemis.com
verify error:num=27:certificate not trusted
verify return:1
depth=0 /C=AU/ST=VIC/L=Dereel/O=LEMIS (SA) Pty Ltd/OU=Messaging/CN=www.lemis.com/emailAddress=grog@lemis.com
verify error:num=21:unable to verify the first certificate
verify return:1
27855:error:140790E5:SSL routines:SSL23_WRITE:ssl handshake failure:/src/FreeBSD/svn/stable/9/secure/lib/libssl/../../../crypto/openssl/ssl/s23_lib.c:182:

And that's all. They all say the same thing, but it doesn't mean anything to me. For the fun, I tried the connection from freefall.freebsd.org. And it worked! It also worked from ozlabs.org. But it didn't work for any system on my local network.

Firewall problem? Unlikely, since it worked for w3. I disabled the firewall, and sure enough, it made no difference. ISP blocking? Also unlikely, for the same reasons. I'm baffled.


Bad appliance design
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Three years ago we bought a Breville BOV650 toaster oven. At $170 it was way out of the normal price range, but it had a number of nice features. It uses less power than a normal oven, and we've found that we've used it more and more instead of the real oven. But a year ago it started reporting error E 05 and refusing to work until cooled down. Even a repair estimate cost 10% of the new price of the device.

Why can't they tell me what the error code means? Because they don't know, of course. But looking at when it occurs, it seems to be some overheating issue. For that, it must have a temperature sensor somewhere. The lid is a fairly conventional thing like that of older tower PCs, a piece of metal folded to cover the top and the sides which slips into a groove in the front panel. That should be trivial to remove and take a look.

But it was anything but trivial. The thing was held in place by no less than 20 screws of 4 different sizes, along with screw-down covers for some of the screws:


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And when I was done, there was still something that I couldn't recognize holding the cover in place. But on the left-hand side I saw something that might be a temperature sensor:


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So put the thing back together with much cursing and swearing, and decided to blow a fan into the grille if it overheated again. I didn't have long to wait, but the fan didn't help. So it looks as if we're going to have to find a new oven. Considering that I can buy cheap toaster ovens for $30, that's annoying.


Thursday, 10 April 2014 Dereel Images for 10 April 2014
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OpenSSL: Upgrade!
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

OpenSSL is certainly the the topic of the month, but that topic doesn't address my problem: why can I not access qpopper on my new server, while anybody else can (but not login, of course), and I can access qpopper on the old server with the same software? It wasn't a FreeBSD issue: I also tried with Linux both from my network (failed) and externally (worked). Asked on IRC, and most people confirmed that they could access it. Only Jamie Fraser had the same problems as I did. At least that took the emphasis off the network connection.

In the meantime, I bitched and moaned about the fact that I had to have a certificate in the first place and have the choice of a paid signature or an untrusted certificate. And Andy Snow pointed me at StartSSL™ Free certificates. Certainly something to look at.

Then Jamie came up with some interesting information:

fwaggle: openssl silently fixed an issue where they were not compliant with the specs
fwaggle: which broke self-signed certificates
...
fwaggle: grO0gle: here's something interesting
fwaggle: % /usr/bin/openssl s_client -connect www.lemis.com:995 <-- failure
fwaggle: % /usr/local/bin/openssl s_client -connect www.lemis.com:995 <-- success
fwaggle: :/ not sure why that would be, but installing a fresh openssl from ports fixes the problem from my end
grO0gle: Oh.

So I installed the latest version of OpenSSL from the Ports Collection, and how about that? It worked. How I love silent bug fixes.


Friday, 11 April 2014 Dereel Images for 11 April 2014
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Training the dogs
Topic: animals Link here

Training the dogs is becoming increasingly difficult. Nikolai is particularly rough with the other two. Today, while all three were in Yvonne's office, Tanya and Nikolai annoyed Zhivago to the point where he bit Nikolai, occasioning much yelping but not much else.

That didn't stop Nikolai misbehaving while on the walk in the evening. The wound I sustained to my finger last week is healing better than I expected, but it's still difficult to get him to behave. He had already run off to the neighbour's house yesterday, so I've been keeping him on the leash more and more. But that didn't help: he ran off again several hundred metres from the neighbours, and once again I had to go and extricate him. Something needs to be done, but I don't know what. I can keep him on the leash all the time, of course, but somehow that's giving up.


FreeBSD fixes OpenSSL bug—twice
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Yesterday's forced upgrade of my OpenSSL installation also solved the Heartbleed issues. But that was the port security/openssl. There's also a version of OpenSSL in the base system. How do you know which you're using? The base program is /usr/bin/openssl, and the port is /usr/lcal/bin/openssl. Which do you execute? Depends only on the sequence of directories in your PATH environment variable. In my case, it's /usr/local/bin/openssl. You can check the version like this:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/29) ~ 1 -> /usr/bin/openssl version
OpenSSL 0.9.8y 5 Feb 2013
=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/29) ~ 2 -> /usr/local/bin/openssl version
OpenSSL 1.0.1g 7 Apr 2014

But this is on my old, down-rev system, as the first output shows. Neither of those versions is susceptible to the bug. But what about the new machine that I've been in the process of configuring for months?

=== grog@stable-amd64 (/dev/pts/2) ~ 1 -> openssl version
OpenSSL 1.0.1e-freebsd 11 Feb 2013

That's one of the affected versions. The 10-STABLE source has been patched, so all I need to do is to build a new world and kernel. Did that and got:

=== grog@stable-amd64 (/dev/pts/3) ~ 1 -> uname -a
FreeBSD stable-amd64.lemis.com 10.0-STABLE FreeBSD 10.0-STABLE #1 r264302: Thu Apr 10 17:05:03 EST 2014     grog@stable-amd64.lemis.com:/usr/obj/home/src/FreeBSD/svn/stable/10/sys/GENERIC  amd64
=== grog@stable-amd64 (/dev/pts/3) ~ 2 -> openssl version
OpenSSL 1.0.1e-freebsd 11 Feb 2013

Huh? That's the same version. Has the bug been fixed or not?

Yes, it has been fixed. But the version string hasn't been changed. It's a patched version of 1.0.1e, so that part is correct. Why hasn't the date been changed? Because that's the way we always do it. The bikeshed continues.


Tracing USB buses
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

I forgot to write this up at the time; this is done from memory nearly 2 months later.

How do you debug the problems I've had updating the Olympus firmware? The first part, downloading the firmware from the server, is easy enough: that's what wireshark is for. But despite Olympus' claims, I suspect that the real problem is in the USB communication. How do you trace that?

For once, it seems, using Microsoft is an advantage. There's a program called USBPcap that captures USB traffic in the way that pcap does, though it's not part of wireshark. But wireshark supports USBPcap traces. Installed it on dischord, my “Windows” 7 machine, and got as far as displaying the USB tree:

 
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Ran a trace, and then ran into the next problem: I don't understand the USB protocol well enough. In any case, I currently don't have any firmware to install, so I'll have to put it off until next time.


Saturday, 12 April 2014 Dereel
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More dog trouble
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

I've had to keep Nikolai on the leash more and more during our walks, and today I didn't let him loose until we were well away from the house. It didn't help: off he went into the lagoon, and it took me 5 minutes to catch him. That was the end of the walk, and I think he understood that something was wrong. It looks as if he's reaching the age where he's testing his rank: he stole Zhivago's sleeping mat in the afternoon. He'll need to be put in his place. No running free for a couple of weeks.


Sunday, 13 April 2014 Dereel Images for 13 April 2014
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More panorama experiments
Topic: photography Link here

I didn't take my house photos yesterday because it was relatively windy. But it was again today. What to do? More experiments with flash? Why not?

Some worked, others didn't. The “garden se” view was relatively successful:


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The extreme left of the image is too bright, but apart from that it's not too bad. On the other hand, the verandah was surprisingly bad, so bad that I didn't bother to stitch it in that form (instead I took normal images without flash). Here a couple of component images:


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It's interesting that though this image was taken with the flash set to “12 mm” (i.e. 6 mm), and the focal length was 9 mm, there's still noticeable vignetting in the corners. So: still no magic bullet.

Stitching the images taken without flash had the usual issues, of course, so this time I had taken a couple of images of the dark areas at a longer focal length. But cpfind couldn't find control points for them. Did a bit of experimentation, but didn't come to any useful results.


More battery issues
Topic: technology, general, opinion, photography Link here

While taking my photos, the flash unit reported low battery. That can happen, of course, so inside to the house to change them. And I had barely left the office when I got a low battery indication from the new batteries. OK, they were NiZn batteries, so I tried NiMH instead. And from time to time the unit showed low battery indication there too.

There are various issues here. I've already established that the Mecablitz 58-AF-1 reports low battery when it really means high temperature, and that's probably what happened with the third set of batteries. But the others? Measuring them, I found that three of the first set were fine, delivering about 1.72 V, but the fourth measured only 0.6 V. And three of the the second set, ostensibly freshly charged, had voltages ranging from 1.1 to 1.4 V, far too low for a NiZn battery. They all showed normal voltages after charging, but clearly I'm going to have to mark them as flaky.

And the camera battery also needed changing during the photos. That's normal enough: Olympus doesn't specify the number of photos you can take, but I've heard values in the range of 300 images, and today I took 154. But looking at the charge history, it seems that this battery (number 2) has never delivered more than 318 photos, and today it was discharged after a total of only 200. By contrast, the original Olympus battery delivered 994 images last time I used it. It'll be interesting to see how things develop..


More dog fun
Topic: animals Link here

Nikolai is getting used to going on the leash, and if he didn't try to play so roughly with Tanya, the daily walks wouldn't be that exciting.

But later on today we discovered that Nikolai had opened the front door from the inside—again—and escaped. Fortunately he hadn't gone very far. But it seems that he has now learnt to open the door at will, so we're going to have to keep all sliding doors locked.


Monday, 14 April 2014 Dereel
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Second camera?
Topic: photography Link here

Yvonne takes a lot of photos and videos with her Canon IXY 200F, nearly all of horses. And frequently she runs into limits of the camera, in particular the typical compact camera zoom arrangement. When you power the camera off, it retracts to full wide-angle (28 mm equivalent), and while taking videos it's as good as impossible to follow the movement with the zoom, as this video shows:

So: how about a camera with a real lens? Olympus makes small Micro Four-Thirds cameras with real lenses, and they can use all the lenses I already have for my camera. What do they cost? Found an E-PL2 body on eBay and bid $152.50 for it—and it went for $155. OK, next try: an E-PM1 with a smudge on the sensor, asking $85 and no bids. That sounds like an easy thing to fix, and the price was right. Confirmed with the seller that yes, the smudge was visible on the sensor, so set up to buy—and he cancelled the auction. My fault, clearly. Grrr.


Preparing for the house construction
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

I left a voicemail message with Tom Tyler of JG King homes last Tuesday. It wasn't urgent, and I was interested to see how long it would take him to call back. He called late this afternoon. But now it seems things will have to get sorted out pretty quickly, so we'll meet up this time next week (Easter Monday, a public holiday). It'll be nice to see some action.


SBS on demand: only in emergencies
Topic: multimedia, opinion, technology, history Link here

SBS TV is currently running an interesting series, Putin, Russia and the West, which their terminally broken web site can't find. I started watching the second episode a couple of days ago, but couldn't recall finishing it. Still, never mind, that's what SBS on demand is for: watch recent episodes via the web.

So I tried that. What a catastrophe! First I had to log in, and the web page blocked automatic filling in of the user name and password. Finally I had found the information, but after it played some particularly emetic, non-skippable commercials, I get the message “this program is currently not available”. I've seen this before, and I've blamed it on broken estimates of my location. teevee.lemis.com, my TV, has the address 192.109.197.158 in my assigned network block. And many people think that that's in Germany. Never mind that the request comes from web a proxy server 180-150-4-134.NBN.ballarat.aussiebb.net., which is clearly in Australia.

So: moved from the lounge room to the office and tried from that machine. More login fun and stupid commercials, and then it started playing. But I couldn't position: although there's provision for setting the position, I could drag to a position, but it didn't “stick”: it carried on playing the entire programme. What a pain! Especially as it proved that I had seen it all. But why do the TV channels make it so hard to use? I've decided it's really only useful in absolute emergencies.

The interesting message from the programme: Russia's current interference in Ukraïne is nothing new. No wonder there's so much mistrust.


Tuesday, 15 April 2014 Dereel Images for 15 April 2014
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Garden in mid-autumn
Topic: gardening Link here

Mid-autumn already! Took my monthly flower photos, though there's not much to show. About the only thing new is the Choisya ternata, which has only flowered a couple of times before:


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But now that we're moving out of the house, it doesn't seem so important any more.


More administration stuff
Topic: general, opinion Link here

We've been workingprocrastinating on Yvonne's application for German pension for a couple of months now. It's like pulling teeth. But it had to be done, so today we finally worked through it. The forms included two conflicting statements of proof of nationality (why do all these pension schemes want to know that?), and stated that she needed to submit forms R240 and R990. But although the necessary forms had been sent to her from Germany, already with some information filled out, they didn't include these forms. Why not? In the end Yvonne called the Deutsche Rentenversicherung in Berlin and confirmed that they weren't needed. Thank God for that! We're as good as done!

In passing, it's interesting to note how easy it is to contact the people handling the case. The forms included the name of the person handling the file and her direct number. The whole call took less than 4 minutes and cost us exactly 8¢, compared to a minimum of 12.5¢ for a local call. By contrast Yvonne wasn't able to contact the Caisse nationale d'assurance vieillesse in Toulouse at all, and when I needed to contact Centrelink a couple of days ago, it took 45 minutes.

While I was at it, also started organizing and filing away the documents we have for the house. It's like pulling teeth, and I didn't get very far before I was thoroughly discouraged.


Nikolai: Houdini?
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

Yvonne found Nikolai running around the house this afternoon. He had broken out of his enclosure—it's not high enough. Roll on the new house, where we'll allow them much more space, and where we can ensure that the fences are high enough.


Wednesday, 16 April 2014 Dereel
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Letting Nikolai run
Topic: animals Link here

I've been walking Nikolai on the leash for the best part of a week now. It keeps him from running away., but it's not ideal: he needs exercise, and he's not getting it. This morning I decided to let him run around a bit on the paddock to the south, which from old maps appears to be called Klein's paddock or some such. We kept Tanya and Zhivago on the leash, and sure enough, he ran around like fury for a while and then quietened down. Hopefully we can do this more often.


New camera, solved
Topic: photography Link here

I've been continuing my investigation of a new camera for Yvonne over the last couple of days. Peter (no surname) on the German Olympus Forum pointed me at a special in Holland: a brand new E-PM1 body for only €129, currently about $190. That's a very good price, considering that I had been prepared to pay $155 for a used one. But the company doesn't post outside Europe.

Considered whether it would be worth sending it to somebody I knew in Germany and then getting them to send it on. But that would involve us in probably another $40 in postage, making it considerably less attractive. And then I saw an advertisement (not an auction) on eBay: a new E-PM2 body with standard lens for $299, from digiDIRECT (phone 9670 6901) in Melbourne. Read some reviews and confirmed that the E-PM2 is indeed a significantly better choice than the E-PM1, and ordered one. Hopefully Yvonne will like it.


Thursday, 17 April 2014 Dereel
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Understanding µFT kit lenses
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

The Micro Four-Thirds system has been around since October 2008, well over 5 years. In that time a surprising number of “kit” lenses (standard lenses intended for relatively cheap body/lens kits) have been released: Wikipedia lists no fewer than 9 lenses with a focal length range 14-42 mm and an aperture of f/3.5-5.6. Five of these lenses are called “Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6”. Only various suffixes distinguish them: one without a suffix (presumably the first in the series), and the suffixes L, II, II R and EZ. What does it all mean? Spent some considerable time investigating, with the help of this and this page and Olympus' own not-very-helpful documentation. Here's a summary of the differences:

Lens suffix       Difference from predecessor       Elements/groups       Meaning of abbreviation
      (none)       9/8       Original version
II       Redesign for quieter operation       8/7       Second series
II R       Cosmetic changes       8/7       “Ring” (to cover bayonet)
EZ       “Pancake” retraction when not in use       8/7       Electronic Zoom
L       May be identical to original version       9/8       Referenced only in Wikipedia

Yvonne's new camera comes with an Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II R. It's considerably larger than the EZ variant when retracted, but the main reason for the camera in the first place was the manual zoom ring, so it looks like it's the best choice.


More dog-walking problems
Topic: animals Link here

Yesterday things went relatively well allowing Nikolai to run free on Klein's Paddock. But today things weren't so good: there were rabbits everywhere, and it was all we could do to keep him on the leash. We need a better solution.


Friday, 18 April 2014 Dereel Images for 18 April 2014
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Nele and Magda visit
Topic: general Link here

Visit from Nele Kömle and her mother Magda Delva today. For a change, they arrived earlier, and Magda went out riding with Yvonne and Chris. Nele is now 3 months pregnant, so she stayed behind. She's doing a course on dog massage, so she had a go at our dogs:


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Off walking with the dogs down Stones Road later on, where Magda tripped over a piece of metal lodged in the ground, and which by coincidence I got in two successive photos (bottom right in the first, centre left in the second):


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After dinner, the usual nonsense with animals, this time with more participants:


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More E-M1 secrets
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

It was already quite dark when I took the “walking the dogs” photos, so I bumped the camera sensitivity to 33°/1600 ISO. How? I thought I had a short cut, but that's something that I seldom do, so I couldn't recall how I did it. And then by chance I pressed the OK button and came up with something I hadn't consciously seen before: “live control”, where I can go through the most common settings with the rear wheel and adjust them with the front wheel. Sure, it's there somewhere in the documentation, but it's so badly laid out that I managed to miss it anyway. And it seems to be the easiest way to navigate the menus, rather than using the arrow keys to select items from the old “super control panel” that was already there with my first Olympus E-510 7 years ago.

So why didn't I find out about that? After searching, I find that it's described on page 30 of the online manual. Reading the description makes it clearer:

When shooting using live view, live control can be used to set functions in P, A, S, M, n, and J modes. Using live control allows you to preview the effects of different settings in the monitor.

Not exactly the way to say that “this is the easiest way to set the most-used camera parameters”. This manual is really abysmally bad.


Saturday, 19 April 2014 Dereel Images for 19 April 2014
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Better house photos
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

House photo day again today, and for once the weather was good and I got some good photos. I've given up, at least for the time being, and I'm using conventional HDR techniques.


Trying Photomatix “Pro”
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

While looking for something completely different, came across a video about HDR photography:

There's not much in there that I don't know already, but it was interesting to watch him work with Photomatix “Pro, so a couple of days ago I decided to download a test version. It seems that I tried that almost exactly 5 years ago, but didn't go any further because of the hardware I was using.

Photomatix' test versions are not time limited; instead they put a “watermark” in each image. That makes perfect sense to me: it's difficult to abuse, and it doesn't put pressure on people like me who are genuinely interested in purchasing it if it meets the standards.

And does it? Hard to say. It looked lightening fast in the video, less so when I tried it. And for some reason I can't enlarge the image windows beyond a certain size. But at least the resultant images didn't look too bad. On the other hand, selecting the images is the worst pain I can think of:

The easiest way to load your differently exposed photos is to select the files with Windows Explorer and drag them to Photomatix Pro.

Kicking and screaming, no doubt. If that's the easiest way, what's the most difficult way? Time to RTFM, I suppose.


Flash exposure, yet again
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Yesterday evening's photos weren't all exactly professional quality. In particular, some photos of Magda sitting in an armchair were particularly underexposed. Here the original, what the default DxO Optics “Pro” settings make, and what I managed with considerable manual intervention:


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I already had set exposure compensation of +0.3 EV, but clearly it wasn't enough: the images required +2 EV compensation. My best guess is that the light wall in the background skewed the exposure. Maybe I should try spot measurements in the future.


When is a battery flat?
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

I've been keeping an eye on my new batteries for the Olympus OM-D E-M1, and things don't look overly good: while the battery I got with the camera has managed up to over 900 exposures (not a bad feat for something rated for round 300 exposures), the ones I bought on eBay have given me as few as 191.

Last week I put battery 3 in, starting with exposure 6220. And yesterday while walking I got a low battery indication, at an exposure count round 6406. That's even less. But there are two levels: one in green with a missing bar, and one in blinking red missing two bars. I've always changed the batteries shortly after getting the first indication, but reading the manual (after finally finding it), this means “Battery is running low”, and the red blinking one means “charging required”. So I kept on with a spare battery in my pocket. And I took quite a few photos yesterday, and even more today. The last image has number 6785, a total of 565. And still the battery was showing “fully charged” when turned on, and only lost a bar after being powered on for some time. So it looks as if I'll have to reconsider my criteria.

In passing, another bullshit alert, referring to the battery charger:

The AC cable supplied with this device is for use only with this device and should not be used with other devices. Do not use cables for other devices with this device.

The cable is a standard AC cable with IEC 60320 C7/C8 coupler, like all sorts of other devices use:

Not only will others work: I can't tell them apart, so I don't know whether the one I'm using is the original or not. And, apart from the opportunity to rant, I don't really care.


Sunday, 20 April 2014 Dereel Images for 20 April 2014
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Letting Nikolai run
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

Should we do the right thing by the dog trainers and keep Nikolai on a leash until he will reliably return every time, or do the right thing by the dog and let him run and get some exercise? I'm tending more and more to the latter, especially as he has recently shown some improvement in returning.

So this morning we let him free in Klein's Paddock. He stood, watched, and disappeared into the scrub looking for rabbits. After a minute or so he was still gone, so I went in after him. But he came back on call. It looks as if things are improving.


Network issues?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Uploading my photos today took forever:

20140418/big/Fun-with-dogs-1.jpeg
     3897425 100%   14.48kB/s    0:04:22 (xfer#48, to-check=234/330)
20140418/big/Fun-with-dogs-10.jpeg
     3538399 100%   13.67kB/s    0:04:12 (xfer#49, to-check=233/330)
20140418/big/Fun-with-dogs-11.jpeg

That's about the speed I got in the old, bad days of 3G networking. Where's the blockage? It didn't seem to be local, so maybe it was somewhere in the Pacific. This was going to our new server in Raleigh, NC. What about traffic to the machine somewhere in Maryland?

20140418/big/Chris-1.jpeg
     4801303 100%  151.36kB/s    0:00:30 (xfer#86, to-check=250/338)
20140418/big/Chris-Magda-1.jpeg
     3760616 100%  145.39kB/s    0:00:25 (xfer#87, to-check=249/338)

That looks more normal. What was the problem? It continued while I did the second transfer, so I stopped and restarted the first transfer. And suddenly things were back to normal. What caused that?


Flash exposure revisited
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Yesterday's flash shots were anything but good, so today I tried again with a total of four cameras and five flashes. I didn't get a good photo out of the Olympus OM-D E-M1. Here a series of photos taken with the E-M1 with different metering modes and different flashes:

Flash unit Centre-weighted Spot Spot, highlight control Spot, shadow control
FL-LM2
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Meike MK-300
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Mecablitz 58 AF-2
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The results look almost random. I would have expected the spot exposures, set on dark objects, to be overexposed, but there's little evidence of that. I managed to get better results by increasing the flash exposure by 2 EV:


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These images don't correspond directly: I set the metering mode incorrectly.

But there are a number of issues here: Why does the metering mode make so little difference? And why is the exposure so incorrect across the board? And why are there any differences between the flash units? It looks like the Meike did worse than the others, but my understanding is that TTL exposure is up to the camera, not the flash unit.

How do other cameras do? For the most part better, including the Olympus E-30. Here results from the E-30 (which I had also set to +1 EV), the Nikon “Coolpix” L1 and the Canon IXY 200F, and the E-M1 without flash:


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I'm left wondering if I have set something incorrectly in my camera configuration, but I can't find it. For the time being I'll leave flash compensation at +2EV, but that could end up overexposing some things.


Networking cameras
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

I've ranted in the past about the appalling quality of “network” support for my Olympus OM-D E-M1. But to be fair to the designers, it appears that they didn't originate this nonsense: they appear to have copied others. I've seen reviews of other cameras with the same fettered (or is that tethered?) view of “networks”.

Yvonne's new camera has remarkably similar specifications to mine, but it doesn't have any networking capability. For that Olympus suggests the PENPAL PP1. This is a really professional unit:

When OLYMPUS PENPAL is connected to the Accessory Port 2*1 on back of the OLYMPUS PEN E-PL2 camera, resized JPEG images (sizes: 640 x 480 (default), 1280 x 960 or 1920 x 1440 pixels) can be transferred easily to a Bluetooth device such as a smart phone, or to another camera with OLYMPUS PENPAL installed. No downloading, uploading, or computer required.

OK, so indirectly they've said that it's Bluetooth, and not a more conventional network. But what use are downsized JPEG images? Why can't it transfer full-size raw images? Speed, I suppose, but this “solution” makes it a toy.

Elsewhere in the manual, the refer to FlashAir, something that Wikipedia hasn't found out about yet. I've heard of Eye-Fi, and this looks similar. Took a look on eBay and discovered that they're made by Toshiba, and yes, they're a card like Eye-Fi, but significantly cheaper. I found 16 GB cards for as little as $32, only slightly more than double what I paid for a normal card a couple of months ago. And they're documented. The FAQ explain the operation:

As soon as the FlashAir™ SD Card is powered up, it starts offering a Wireless LAN Access Point. This can be easily identified by the receiving host by searching for new wireless networks. The SSID named "flashair_xxxxxx" will appear as a connectable network and the receiving host can establish a direct connection to the FlashAir™ SD Card.

Again, the nonsense of wanting to be the network instead of connecting to one. Why do they do this? Is there a manual? Yes, indeed, there are 8 of them in 8 different languages, and you have to download all of them. And there they show that they're not Olympus. Olympus' manual for the PENPAL is 4 pages long and written in 32 languages. Apart from legalese, the total instructions are:

Before using OLYMPUS PENPAL, please read the manual carefully and retain it.

OLYMPUS PENPAL PP-1 is a communication unit. Designed specifically for digital cameras compatible with OYMPUS PENPAL PP-1.

To review operation details, refer to the instruction manual of your camera.

Savour particularly the “designed for the cameras for which it was designed”.

By contrast, the English version of the Toshiba manual is 21 pages long and seems to contain enough information to use it—if you don't understand networks. If you do, you may end up as confused as I:

Open the browser of the device. It automatically goes to http://flashair/. If it does not go there automatically, click the refresh button of the browser. The screen may not refresh even if you click the refresh button. If this happens, type the above address into the address bar to go there. When the START screen (Fig. 4) appears, move to step 7.

The “device” is the client. So does this thing not only want to be the access point, but also supply DNS? On the other hand, they say that the thing can be used in a real network. Somehow this doesn't make sense.

What I do see, however, is that the thing doesn't place restrictions like downsizing or renaming images, the way OI.Share does. So maybe it's worth getting one to play around with.


Monday, 21 April 2014 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel
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Finalizing the house plans
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Into town today to talk with Tom Tyler about the house. Spent over 2 hours talking about details, but we're finally getting closer. If things go right, we could be in the house by the end of November. In the meantime, we need to decide which of the extras we should take and which not. About the biggest question we have is where to put the fridges. It begs the question why we really need 3 fridges, of course, but I really can't find a way to get by with fewer.


More dogs running free
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

Another attempt with allowing Nikolai to run free today, this time to the west side of the continuation of Kleins road. Again it went well, so well that Yvonne let Tanya free too. That went differently: they both disappeared, and by the time I found them they had almost made it to Rokewood Junction Road. Clearly we can only let one of them off the leash at a time.


Tuesday, 22 April 2014 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel
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House: deciding on extras
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

We left Tom Tyler yesterday with a promise to send him in a list of the extras that we wanted. The offer includes up to “$15,000” worth of extra stuff for a payment of $2.500. Some of it is nonsense, such as a 1.5 kW solar panel system or a 5000 litre water tank, but other stuff looks interesting, and probably we'll get well over our investment out of it. But the choices!

So we decided to go into Ballarat and look at the options for kitchens and floors. To the Carpet & Tile Gallery in Armstrong St, where we bought our carpets last year, but they were having lunch, and we just got an apprentice who couldn't answer our questions.

Then on Choices Flooring, where we at least got some information: most wooden flooring won't last long with office chairs on it, but he had some surprisingly good looking vinyl stuff which he says would do the trick. A ballpark figure is $100/m² for laid floors. That'll do for the while.

Across the road from the Choices Flooring we found a bloke specializing in leadlights, and Yvonne recalled that she wanted a front door with leadlights, so in to take a look. This bloke was—it seems—the owner and possibly only person working there, but he didn't seem very interested in selling us anything. Looks like the door would cost about $5,000 without installation. It must be possible to find something cheaper.

Then on to Advanced Cabinetry, who do mainly kitchens, and spoke to what appears to be another apprentice, who seemed singularly bored and who gave us ballpark figures of $6,000 to $8,000 for a kitchen without equipment. No brochures, no details—and, I suspect, no deal.


More bad weather
Topic: general, gardening Link here

It's been very windy lately, and it shows:


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That was a self-seeded Acacia, probably Acacia pycnantha, and it's probably not an issue that half of it is now gone.


Controlling Nikolai
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

We took Nikolai into town with us and dropped in at Possum Pet Supplies to buy him a new harness. He's been using Tanya's (really Nemo's), and it doesn't fit him well. Hopefully this one will be better.

While walking the dogs in the evening, let Nikolai go just before Klein's Paddock. Bad idea: it was full of kangaroos, at least for the first few seconds. Nikolai set off at high speed and they dispersed in all directions, Nikolai following the ones that went into the lagoon. There was no point in calling him, so down to the lagoon, where I saw only a solitary young kangaroo hop by. It's amazing how they can almost completely disappear.

Once again, off with the car to look for him, and once again found nothing. But when I got back to the house, there he was. That's better than any of the other dogs have managed, but it looks like it'll be another dose of leash-only walking for a while.


Wednesday, 23 April 2014 Dereel → Napoleons → Dereel Images for 23 April 2014
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Tracking kangaroos
Topic: animals, general Link here

Where did Nikolai disappear to yesterday? Did he go into the lagoon, as we had assumed? Where did the kangaroos go? This morning we went along Swamp Road, which is between Kleins Paddock and the lagoon:


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They would have come from the left, crossed the road and entered the lagoon. We checked in particular to see what Nikolai was looking. And sure enough, we found some tracks:


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And Nikolai? That wasn't as clear, but it could have been these:


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It's also interesting to note the tracks in the embankment on the left:


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It's not clear what caused that, but it's on the track.


A new camera for Yvonne
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Finally Yvonne's new camera has arrived, an Olympus E-PM2, serial number BGT501312. Thanks to Startrack, from Melbourne, 123 km away, it took 132 hours, less than 1 km/h.

Picked it up while Yvonne was out shopping, and put it in the bag where she kept her Canon IXY 200F, but by evening she still hadn't noticed the difference, so I finally got her to unpack it. I was expecting her to say “how big it is!”, but in fact she was quite happy. Spent a bit of time playing with it, producing—as usual—some completely forgettable photos.


More flash exposure
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

After my experiments with flash exposure a couple of days ago, I posted an article on the topic to the German Olympus forum. How about that, I'm not alone. Reinhard Wagner said something that I hadn't expected: the difference between spot and “ESP” exposure wasn't enough to make any difference.

That didn't seem right to me, especially after I found I had left the camera on spot measurement and got some very strange results this morning, so today I tested again with all meter modes both with and without flash. Today, of course, we also had the Olympus E-PM2, so tested with that as well. The results confirmed my suspicions:

Combination ESP Centre-weighted Spot Spot, highlight control Spot, shadow control
E-PM2, no flash
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E-M1, no flash
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E-PM2, flash
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E-M1, flash +0EV
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E-M1, flash, +2EV
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The fourth row is a repeat of my previous tests.

This makes a number of things fairly clear: The problem isn't specific to the E-M1. The E-PM2 behaves in exactly the same manner. And TTL flash appears to ignore the meter mode settings.

Why hasn't this been addressed earlier? Is there something about this particular scene that confuses the cameras?


Thursday, 24 April 2014 Dereel Images for 24 April 2014
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Healthy lifestyle
Topic: animals, general, opinion Link here

One of the reasons I go walking with the dogs twice a day is because my doctor thinks it's good for me. Sometimes, like today, I wonder. We started off as usual, but Zhivago saw Sam, the retriever across the road, whom he doesn't like, and they started running up and down on opposites sides of the fence. That was enough for Nikolai, whom I had on the leash. Off he set, and by the time he had used his 5 m of leash he was going fast enough to pull me off my feet, landing on hands and ribs. No serious harm done, but it could easily have been a broken rib. As it is, I'll probably have rib pain for a week or so.


Processing photos
Topic: photography Link here

Yvonne clearly likes her new camera. Today she took 122 photos, and she spent the afternoon processing them with the new tools, notably DxO Optics “Pro”. Surprisingly, there were few issues. And although she now has a functional zoom lens, she cropped every photo. Maybe that will change.

And the photo quality? Much better:


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I didn't have any specific issues with the Canon IXY 200F, but it's clear that the Olympus E-PM2 is in a different league. In fact, considering that it cost $300, and I paid $2300 for my Olympus OM-D E-M1, there's surprisingly little difference. They use the same sensor, can take the same lenses, so it's not surprising that the raw images are of the same quality.


Another lens for Yvonne
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

When I got my E-M1 I compared its size with the Olympus E-30 and my old Pentax SV. To my surprise, despite being full-frame, the SV is smaller than the E-M1:


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But the E-PM2 is smaller again. Yes, indeed, it's smaller than the Pentax (this time a Spotmatic):


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But that's not the criterion. Looking at the Canon IXY 200F, the Olympus is still very much larger:


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Clearly it's the lens that's the biggest problem. The lens of the Canon is extended, while the lens of the Olympus is in the “stored” position. And basically, it's just too big for many applications.

Gave some serious consideration to selling the lens and buying a M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 EZ, which is much more compact. But it still expands to what appears to be the same size when it's operational. And the real time when she needs this compactness is when riding a horse. What good is zoom then? And the EZ only has an electric zoom with two speeds, not exactly what we're looking for.

All the photography she's done from horseback is at the effective 28 mm full-frame equivalent that the Canon sets when powered on. And if you accept that limitation, there's another solution: the 15 mm body cap lens, with which the Olympus would be even shorter than the Canon. It's not exactly the most sophisticated lens in the world—in fact, Olympus don't even designate it as a lens, and it has neither autofocus nor diaphragm. But the fixed aperture of f/8 means that it has a depth of field from 1.75 m to ∞ (according to my calculations) or, as DPReview puts it, 1.5 m to ∞.

That should be sufficient, and the price ($40, including shipping) is right, so I ordered one. We'll see what the image quality is like later on.


More dog fun
Topic: animals Link here

While helping Yvonne with her photography stuff in the afternoon, looked out the window and saw Zhivago running around outside. Yes, we had forgotten to lock the kitchen door, and Nikolai had opened it. Fortunately they come back when called in such a situation.

The other issue is the harness that we bought on Monday. It's adjustable, but the adjustments slip, and even without Nikolai pulling, it's completely loose by the time we finish a walk. Looks like it'll go back.


Power failure with a difference
Topic: general Link here

Powercor are relatively consistent with their power failures, roughly one every week or two. But today we had a power failure with a difference: just an extreme brownout, down to a measured 67 V. The weird thing is that most low power electronic devices, such as NTD and switches, carried on running, and even the air conditioner electronics worked and showed upset status. But that didn't stop the power being out for over 3 hours, so we got an early night. I must finally get round to sorting out solar power options.


Friday, 25 April 2014 Dereel Images for 25 April 2014
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Recovering from the power failure
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

The morning after a longer power failure is always a problem, and today was no exception. It seems that I had forgotten to write down my firewall settings, and in addition things weren't configured correctly—somehow I didn't even have the settings for my main Ethernet interface. It took me over an hour to get things working again.

What I need is a checklist:


Photo processing for Yvonne, 10 years on
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Yvonne's new camera also opens opportunities for better processing, including distortion correction with DxO Optics “Pro”. But how do I explain it to her? Document it, of course. I've had a document on line for what proves to be well over 10 years, and times have changed.

Surprisingly, it didn't take very long to write it, and Yvonne managed to use it without too many problems. The biggest issue I found was Microsoft: since it doesn't really understand the concept of users, files created on CIFS file systems belong to the user who mounted them (me) even when Yvonne is logged in, and so back in the Real World she can't modify the files. Just for that, I have to copy (big files) instead of linking them.


Saturday, 26 April 2014 Dereel Images for 26 April 2014
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Flash exposure still not working
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

My flash exposure issues continue to confuse me. One of the possibilities mentioned on the German Olympus forum was that it might be related to face recognition, so I tried that. No difference. So I resigned myself to the workaround of setting the flash exposure to +2.0 EV. That doesn't work either, as these unadjusted photos show. First with +2 EV correction, then with none:


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My best guess at the moment is that “TTL” exposure applies equal weighting to the entire image, so the light wall in the test scene affects the overall exposure. I can't see a good way around that.

In passing, it's interesting that I've been here before. On 13 May 2009 I noted the same problem with the Olympus E-30. And once again the motive was similar, but the exposure wasn't as bad.


Sunday, 27 April 2014 Dereel Images for 27 April 2014
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Server migration, next step
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I'm really busy with a course on digital photography, but it's high time I completed the server migration. Played around with DNS a bit and migrated the mail system. That's all I need to do—I think. Chris Bahlo still wants me to install MySQL, but that requires more configuration than I want to do at the moment.


Salt and pepper squid
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Yvonne wanted to make salt and pepper squid today. I thought we had had it before, but I can't find any evidence. So she went looking and found this recipe. Somehow it didn't quite work out the way Yvonne expected. Somehow the squid was tough, though I didn't deep fry longer than absolutely necessary. Maybe the photo in the recipe is the clue: it looks like a different kind of squid. What we get here is probably better in recipes like my prawns and squid recipe.


Monday, 28 April 2014 Dereel Images for 28 April 2014
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System migration, one small step
Topic: technology Link here

I've been gradually upgrading systems for several months now. Yvonne's machine is particularly down-rev:

FreeBSD lagoon.lemis.com 8.1-PRERELEASE FreeBSD 8.1-PRERELEASE #0: Mon May 31 16:22:12 CST 2010     root@lagoon.lemis.com:/usr/obj/src/FreeBSD/svn/stable/8/sys/GENERIC  i386

One of the reasons I'm dragging my feet is because I don't want to find myself in a position on eureka where there's some show-stopper and I can't go back. So it makes sense to try upgrading Yvonne's machine first.

OK, that's easy enough. Put a spare disk into my development machine, partition it, copy the root file system (which in my way of doing things includes /usr), then sync her /home directory across the net.

Once again specifics of my machines were a problem:

Head-scratching time. Without the PATA disk, it came up fine. But the panic message was also preceded by the normal “mounting root” message—from /dev/ada1p4! That was the PATA disk. More playing around showed that I had two /boot/loader.conf files in the system, one where it belongs on /dev/ada0p2 and one on /dev/ada1p2. And the latter pointed to /dev/ada1p4 as the root file system. Never mind that I had booted from /dev/ada0p2, which includes the correct information: somehow it had let /dev/ada1p2 override it. Removed the file, and I was able to boot. And that was all for the day with that machine, while I copied /home across the net.

Also did the few remaining steps in migrating the external server. It's all done now, as far as I can tell.


Flash exposure, more experiments
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Finally got round to testing my hypothesis that the flash exposure problems are due to the way the camera measures exposure. Put a black background on my test scene and tried it out with different flash compensation.

There's a way to do flash bracketing with the E-M1, right? Yes, I'm sure there is, but I couldn't find it, and while trying I managed to get it so that it turned flash off and refused to turn it on again. So I concluded the shots with Yvonne's camera. Here some comparisons:

0EV compensation +1EV compensation +2EV compensation

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Arguably the first image (black background, no compensation) is marginally underexposed, perhaps because of Nikolai's white coat. But black background and +2EV is clearly overexposed, and pale background and no compensation is clearly underexposed.

And what was wrong with the E-M1? I had set it for multiple exposures, and under those circumstances, it seems, it disables flash, with no explanation. And of course the pitiful excuse for a user manual doesn't mention it either. Took some more photos with that camera, this time at different focal lengths:


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The second one is significantly less exposed than the first one, which can be explained by the larger proportion of wall in the image.

So now at least I understand the problem. Or do I? Martin W. reports that he gets correct exposure of a window frame from inside while the sun is shining outside. I'll have to think about that one.


Animals and healthy lifestyle, next example
Topic: animals, general, opinion Link here

It seems that it's better for dogs to sleep on a raised pedestal rather than directly on the ground, and Ron Frolley has a whole collection of hammock-like beds:


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Yvonne has now found one. It's a lot more solid, a sheet of chipboard on a metal frame:


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That's where she put it in her office, where previously just the bedding lay. So when I went into her office to get her camera, I didn't notice it until I was leaving, when I tripped over it, smashing the camera and flash into the wall, and doing my foot a lot of no good:


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Fortunately the camera and flash were undamaged, but that was just luck.


Finishing the house
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

It's been nearly 3 weeks since I contacted Tom Tyler about the details of the house, and somehow we're still not much further. I sent him email last week, but somehow we're not communicating. Probably something to do with the Microsoft space.

That was definitely the case for the quote for heating and cooling: I got a quotation today—as a Microsoft “Word” document. Why do people do these things?

Also looking at solar power systems. It looks as if it'll pay itself off relatively quickly.


Tuesday, 29 April 2014 Dereel Images for 29 April 2014
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Understanding solar energy costs
Topic: Stones Road house, general, opinion Link here

For the new house I've solicited quotes from a number of solar energy companies. The prices look similar. But what do I need?

Currently a kWh of electricity costs $0.259 on-peak and $0.148 off-peak. This page gives general information: the output of a system is, of course, the output when it gets full sun. And averaged across the year, we get 3.7 hours of sun. So a 5 kW system will generate 18.5 kWh per day, or about $4.80 worth. In a year, that's $1750. A typical 5 kW system costs $7,500, so the system would pay itself off in about 4 years—if I can find something to do with the excess energy.

It seems I can hand off the excess energy to Powercor for a $0.08 per kWh premium. But how much is excess? It's really difficult to estimate: it depends on my usage patterns, the sunshine patterns. I'm guessing at about a third, which would add 2⅔¢ to the savings, or a total of about $1,930 a year.

And a 10 kW system? Clearly double that. But with a 4 year ROI, it makes perfect sense—until I heard from one of the suppliers that there are limits on what I can feed back into the system: 5 kW for a single phase connection, 10 kW for a dual phase. I can get dual phase—can't I? I spoke to John Willowhite of Powercor (phone 5327 2221) some time in January, but I forgot to write it down. Called him up and got voice mail. Mañana.


Another network outage
Topic: technology Link here

Had another network outage overnight:

1398695249 11.7925 5 # Tue 29 Apr 2014 00:27:29 EST 42.400 ms
1398695342 12.077 2 hub w3 ftp.netbsd.org # Tue 29 Apr 2014 00:29:02 EST 41.401 ms
1398695398 13.3758 0 hub w3 www.auug.org.au ozlabs.org ftp.netbsd.org # Tue 29 Apr 2014 00:29:58 EST 37.381 ms
1398695455 13.3437 0 hub w3 www.auug.org.au ozlabs.org ftp.netbsd.org # Tue 29 Apr 2014 00:30:55 EST 37.471 ms
1398695511 11.4995 0 hub w3 www.auug.org.au ozlabs.org ftp.netbsd.org # Tue 29 Apr 2014 00:31:51 EST 43.480 ms
1398695567 12.3493 0 hub w3 www.auug.org.au ozlabs.org ftp.netbsd.org # Tue 29 Apr 2014 00:32:47 EST 40.488 ms
1398695612 13.6975 1 hub w3 www.auug.org.au ftp.netbsd.org # Tue 29 Apr 2014 00:33:32 EST 36.503 ms
1398695635 13.3941 3 hub w3 # Tue 29 Apr 2014 00:33:55 EST 37.330 ms
1398695637 14.5628 5 # Tue 29 Apr 2014 00:33:57 EST 34.334 ms

What caused that? It was of only minor importance, since most TCP sessions remained up, but is this something I should expect from time to time? The time looks suspicious—I've seen outages like this before, the last time at midnight.


Wednesday, 30 April 2014 Dereel Images for 30 April 2014
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More electrics
Topic: Stones Road house, general, opinion Link here

Got through to John Willowhite of Powercor today regarding our power connection, via pole 1392. Yes, I have the choice of single phase power—at only 40 A, for a total supply of 9.2 kVA—or double phase with 25 A per phase, for a total of 11.5 kVA. That's nothing!

But that's also nothing in comparison with what I'm allowed to feed in: 3 kW if I'm lucky. I won't know for sure until I make an application for feedin. I suppose I should do that quickly.


Finalizing the house extras
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Finally got round to deciding on which of the extras to choose for the house:

SMEG rangehood       $590
Westinghouse oven       $370
Westinghouse cooktop       $402
Obscure glass (2x)       $80
2550 mm ceilings       $3,450
Melamine drawer towers (x2)       $700
Ducted vacuum system       $1,370
Garage remote control       $799
Colorbond roof       $2,750
450mm eaves       $3,000
Flywire doors (x3)       $675
Flyscreens       $750
Total       $14,936

We were quite happy to get that close to the $15,000 limit.

Tom wanted me to scan in the original brochure, so I did that and sent it to him, in GIF format. It seems that his Microsoft can't handle that, so it was of no use to him. But then, what's wrong with a list?


More system migration
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Continued with the system migration today, and ran into surprising problems booting. I had cloned the new system on /dev/ada0 to Yvonne's hard disk on /dev/ada1, but when booting it hung on mounting the root file system. A verbose boot produced error messages about mounting /dev. Despite all my intentions, it seems that I somehow managed to get kernel and userland out of sync. Installing the latest version got me to boot, but how did that happen?

After looking through all the old cruft I have lying around, this recent xkcd cartoon seemed singularly appropriate:

The only difference is that my data goes back much further, to the early 1970s.


Animal photos
Topic: animals, photography, opinion Link here

Sometimes Zhivago sleeps with his mouth marginally open:


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While taking that photo, also took some photos of the entire head:


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I took a total of three. In each case, his eyes were open when I pressed the shutter release, and in each case he managed to close them by the time—less than 100 ms later—that the photo was taken. How do I work around that?


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