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April 2017
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Saturday, 1 April 2017 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 1 April 2017
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Goodbye TV
Topic: multimedia, technology, opinion Link here

No German news on TV today! Whose fault is that? It comes from SBS, with a charter for multiculturalism, broadcasts news programmes in many languages, as long as there's nothing more important, like football at the other end of the (English-speaking) world. So I've come to accept that I don't get any news on Sundays.

But today was Saturday, and they should have broadcast at least the first half of the „Der Tag“ programme (they don't seem to have noticed that the programme was recently extended from 30 to 60 minutes). So I checked; they did. But my MythTV box with the stupid name greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H didn't record it.

That's not the first time. I can't predict when it will happen, and I can't find a clean way to restart MythTV without rebooting the machine. And that doesn't work cleanly because I have two bootable partitions, and it seems almost impossible to configure GRUB, one of the most appalling pieces of software I have ever seen: I have to reboot manually. And that again is not easy because I removed the monitor a couple of days ago.

All this for half the German news over terrestrial TV? Nothing else on TV seems to be worth watching, not helped by the difficulties configuring Mythweb. Even when I find something worthwhile, I still have the issue with interference from the electric fence actuator.

Is it worth it? No! Powered down the box. DW does broadcast the programme online (in full length, of course), but I can't find a way to download it, so I'm limited to certain times of day to watch it. But that may be worthwhile. So I powered down the box. Next step is to rebuild it as tiwi to watch videos: the current tiwi is another, less powerful box, and sometimes the difference shows.

An end of an era! I wonder when terrestrial TV will cease altogether.


Patented Hibiscus
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

Went out looking for the cultivar for my new Hibiscus rosa-sinensis bush, which according to the label is “Flamenco™ HibiQs Hibiscus sinensis Arion Arionicus”. As guessed, that means that the cultivar is Arionicus. And it's patented!

A new and distinct cultivar of Hibiscus plant named ‘Arionicus’, characterized by its upright to somewhat outwardly spreading plant form; dense and bushy plant habit; glossy dark green-colored leaves; freely, uniform and continuous flowering habit; large red-colored flowers with dark red purple-colored centers; good flower longevity; and good garden performance.

Reading the document gave a surprising amount of detail about the plant, including the information that it tolerates temperatures down to 1°, presumably a careful way of saying that it won't tolerate freezing, and something that the plant label didn't think worth mentioning. And then:

That's tiny! In fact, the plant I have is already 40 cm high. Was that on the plant label? No, it says 1.5 m. Why the discrepancy?

I've already established that the URL on the QR code has nothing to do with the plant, but a search brought me up this page with more details.

 
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Why are these things always so inaccurate? It also says that the height is 1 m. Can I believe it? It offers the download of a label, which proves identical to the one that came with my plant—the one that makes no mention of cold tolerance and claims a height of 1.5 m:

 
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There are also discrepancies in the plant spacing, this time the other way round: 80 cm on the web page, 35-45 cm on the label. Why are these things all so inaccurate?


Time wasting
Topic: general Link here

ALDI had a generator on special today. Why should I be interested? It has inverter technology and a pure sine wave output, something that maybe my fussy Eaton UPS will accept. But I forgot about it until 11:00, after which into town to look for one. All sold out almost immediately. Back home, nothing achieved apart from a waste of petrol and time.


Sunday, 2 April 2017 Dereel Images for 2 April 2017
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Selling on eBay: the pain
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

After a lot of consideration, I've ordered a second-hand ThinkPad T430, which cost me $295. Time to sell my iPhone. Took a few photos and off to eBay to sell it. In the past I've had much pain fighting their postage specifications, which invariably put in the incorrect sums, requiring me to go to the equally emetic Australia Post website, so this time decided that it was just plain simpler to offer free postage within Australia.

On the positive side, they now have estimates of what the item should bring, at least in the case of the iPhone: $285. That's nearly what the laptop cost. Decided on an initial asking price of $210, “Buy it Now” at $285. Finalized the listing, and then went back to check. It had forgotten the “Buy it Now”. OK, I'm used to this pain. Back to update it. Clicked on “Update Listing”. Wait... ECONNRESET!

OK, that's frequently a retryable issue. Tried again. “Please sign in”, “Oops, wrong password”. Dammit, I have the password stored! It's the same one I've been using for months. Several attempts, which resulted in them dragging out CAPTCHAs to annoy me. In the end I gave up and tried to reset the password:

 
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No spaces? Yes, my old password had spaces. But why did they choose right now to annoy me with it? Thought out an appropriately insulting password without spaces, and finally I was able to log in again. Updated the listing. Still no “Buy it Now” price. Did I maybe forget to put the price in, and the programmer forgot to add code to complain? Third time lucky. Total time, just for the corrections, about 20 minutes.

It wasn't until later that I saw that I had received mail from eBay:

We have reason to believe that your eBay account has been used fraudulently without your permission. We’ve reset your eBay password.

What reason? ECONNRESET? I can't imagine there was a real cause. I also can't make up my mind whether it was correct not to tell me online. But the general impression is that eBay is still at least as much a pain as ever.


Monday, 3 April 2017 Dereel Images for 3 April 2017
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Android: New POLA
Topic: technology, language, opinion Link here

Now that the iPhone is on its way out, I'm left with the old Samsung GT-I9100T (Galaxy S2?). And as I rantcommented last week, the interface is really strange. Why does the camera go away when I “swipe” the screen?

Ah, I don't know what “swipe” means. Well, somebody doesn't. I've already commented on the OEDs descriptions. But of course all this stuff comes from US English. What's their dictionary? Webster. According to Google, “No other dictionary matches M-W's accuracy and scholarship in defining word meanings. Our pronunciation help, synonyms, usage and grammar tips set the ...”, though their site doesn't make this claim, possibly hidden by broken rendering.

The entry for the verb swipe is certainly much more succinct than the OED definition:

1 : to strike or wipe with a sweeping motion
2 : steal, pilfer
3 : to slide (a card with a magnetic strip or bar code) through a slot in a reading device so that information stored on the strip can be processed (as in making a purchase)

The difference from OED is important: it requires a sweeping motion. And while the corresponding noun is defined as “a strong sweeping blow”, the verb seems to have weakened.

So in general I suppress my aversion and swipe surfaces on touch screens without dealing a violent blow. But trying again doesn't help. And then Jamie Fraser asked me in which direction I was “swiping”. Huh? Does that make a difference? Yes, indeed. Swipe to the left and it really switches to the camera. Swipe to the right and it takes you back to where you were before you turned the power off.

Once you know it, it more or less makes sense. But how am I expected to know that? These things are too intuitive to have a manual. Yet another violation of POLA.


Repotting and planting
Topic: gardening Link here

Our Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is looking quite happy, but also quite lop-sided:

 
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It's coming on 8 years since I propagated it from a cutting from the bush in front of my uncle Max's house in Camberwell. Time to repot it, for which we have a larger pot. Here it is after that, along with a vertical reorientation of nearly 45°, along with the new Hibiscus “Arionicus”, also in a larger pot, to the right.

 
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And here it is still later:

 
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After watering in, I should have left it outside to drain. I must have wiped up 3 l of water before it stopped dribbling.

While we were at it, also planted one of the Box Elder suckers that Yvonne picked up on Sunday:

 
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Box Elder? What's that? It's not a Box. It's not an Elder. It's a Maple species from the east of North America. Why the name?


E-M1 Mark II flash sync: really slower
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

One of the things that I had noted early on about the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II is that it isn't faster than the Mark I in every respect. The flash sync is only 1/250 s instead of 1/320 s on the old model. Is this a real difference, or just adjusted specs? By chance I had the wrong settings when taking my photos of the Hibiscus indoors: I had the camera set on P instead of M. By chance the exposure was correct (really to within ⅓ EV), but the first image I took was at 1/320 s. And yes, there's cut-off at the top:

 
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The new shutter is clearly one of the big improvements on the new model. 15 shots per second for a focal-plane shutter might be the fastest currently on the market. So why is the flash sync slower?


Tuesday, 4 April 2017 Dereel Images for 4 April 2017
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eureso will find
Topic: technology, language, opinion Link here

A number of system installations are looming: now that I have given up on MythTV, the machine is going begging, and the obvious thing to do is to use it to replace tiwi, since it has more much-needed CPU power. But the system on tiwi is over a year old, and there are some ports conflicts. So I should first install a newer version on the new machine.

Then eureka (25 November 2015) and lagoon (8 July 2016) are also in need of updating.

And then there's my new laptop, which claims to have been sent last Friday but in fact was sent yesterday evening, and about which Fastway knows no more. It has a 160 GB SSD with Microsoft “Windows” 7 “Professional”. How do I install FreeBSD on it? After some consideration, it seems that a virtual machine is best. That way I maintain the original disk structure for Microsoft, and in addition I have the advantage that I can run both “machines” at once, something that suits my photo processing setup very well.

I've been fighting system upgrades for nearly 20 years now, and it's not getting any easier. After some thought, I decided on maintaining a virtual machine with a software installation matching, as closely as practical, the environment of eureka, so clearly it should be called eureso (εὕρησω), which is also in keeping with other machines with names starting in e and ending with a vowel: the laptop will be called euroa (Microsoft) and euboea (FreeBSD).

So installed a VM and, once again, fought to install ports. By chance I'm reviewing an upcoming book on FreeBSD by Michael W. Lucas, and the specific chapter is about packages. How about that, it contains a whole lot of helpful information that I didn't know about. In particular, the Ports Collection does distinguish between explicitly (“non-automatic”) installed ports and dependencies (“automatic ports”). It doesn't, however, maintain the sequence, which can be important when installing ports with common dependencies. For example, it makes sense to install X (Xorg) before Emacs (emacs25), but the list of ports comes out the other way round, in alphabetical order. So I've also written a wrapper function that installs a package and keeps a record of the package name and the date installed. That kept things going most of the day, of course.


Tiny Epacris
Topic: gardening Link here

While walking the dogs, Yvonne saw some tiny red flowers:

 
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They're less than 1 cm long, and they look like a kind of Epacris. The leaves are prickly. Next time I'll take a more appropriate lens.


Sunset panorama
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Nice sunset today:

 
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That's a panorama made from a number of shots, but not what I wanted. I still have difficulty mapping spheres to flat surfaces, and the bottom wasn't wide enough to show all the sky I wanted.


Wednesday, 5 April 2017 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 5 April 2017
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How far to Bethlehem?
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Lately I've been reading “How far to Bethlehem”, by Norah Lofts, a book that I have had for nearly 50 years and never read: it seems to have belonged to Sue Fortescue. It describes the Nativity from the viewpoint of the people described in the biblical representations, even though the personifications of the Magi are somewhat unlikely. It's nicely written, but sticks too closely to the original story as perceived by an English public of 50 years ago. Does anybody still really believe that Mary and Joseph had to travel by foot from Nazareth to Bethlehem in the middle of winter for a census to be held in Mary's home town? It's almost as improbable as Virgin Birth. Still, an interesting read.


Finger repairs
Topic: health, general Link here

Into Ballarat today to see István “Steve” Csongvay about my bent finger. While waiting, I read “How far to Bethlehem”, by Norah Lofts. The section I read described Gaspar, who had lost the use of a finger...

Mr. Csongvay went through a lot of detail, explaining that it seems that a bit of bone was broken off the joint during the accident. What can we do about it? Not much. A bit of therapy, maybe. The only reason to operate would be if it got worse, either from the point of view of flexion or of pain. And then the operation would just fuse the joint to keep it in the position it is now.


New radio alarm clock
Topic: general, opinion Link here

The radio alarm that I bought last August works, but it's irritating: the display is really bright, so I have to cover it to get any sleep. The interface is terrible, the clock inaccurate, and the sound quality terrible. I can do better, so today looked in at The Good Guys to see what they had. The most expensive was a Panasonic RC-700 that looked like it had escaped from the 1990s:

300

Look at that tuning scale! Analogue! And the horizontal line on the right is the tuning wheel. I don't know when I last saw something like that. But the salesgirl told me that it had the best sound, and looking at the loudspeakers, that seemed reasonable. So I bought it.

Back home I discovered the truth: the thing can't count the hours. It only does a 12 hour clock, something that I dislike at the best of times, and not what I want near me while I'm sleeping. And there's nothing in the specs to say so—in fact, the specs barely mention the clock at all (“Quartz Clock: Yes”), also terminology that suggests that the item has been around for ever. It goes back.


Dog bath, again
Topic: animals, general Link here

On the way into town, dropped in at Joan Parrington's and picked up the dog bath that I had looked at last September. It still doesn't work, and I still don't want to repair it myself. But what's the Ballarat Pump Shop for? After my stuff in town, took it in and left it there for a quote; in fact, they gave me one as soon as I saw it, and they stuck to it: $50, certainly worth the price. They called back home shortly after I arrived to tell me I could pick it up again. I have the feeling that it might have been easier just to wait for it.


Selling iPhones
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

Question about the iPhone I have on sale today:

I'm interested in your item, so I will offer you AU $320.00, including shipping cost, make payment via paypal and then send it to Malaysia within 4 to 6 days. Thanks and best regards.

What sounds fishy about that? I don't know, but something does. Maybe: why does he want this particular iPhone when he can get it cheaper in Malaysia? But the price offered was $35 more than my “Buy it Now” price, and it would cost me about $28 to send it, so the answer is a clear:

Yes, I can do this. Select "Buy it Now", pay by PayPal and enter $35 for postage, and I'll send it off in an Australia Post Standard post satchel. Postage time is claimed to be 8 business days. See https://auspost.com.au/parcels-mail/calculate-postage-delivery-times/#/option/international/AU/MY for more details.

Should I include it in the listing? Why not? Others might have the same idea. So I did.

That was at 17:19. Went back to check an hour later. Sold! At 18:14. But not to this buyer, somebody in Australia, in fact not that far from Ballarat. Coincidence? I think probably not. The ultimate buyer was watching the item and saw it going away before she got a chance to bid.

The sting was in the tail, though. From PayPal:

Date: Wed, 05 Apr 2017 01:14:53 -0700
From: "service@paypal.com.au" <service@paypal.com.au>
To: Greg Lehey <groggyhimself@lemis.com>
Subject: You've received a payment - Ship now

You've received a payment of $285.00 AUD from buyer (buyer@example.com).

----------------------------------------------------------------------
Estimated funds availability

The funds you receive from eBay sales may not be available for up to 21 days at https://www.paypal.com/au/cgi-bin/?cmd=xpt/Marketing/securitycenter/sell/ShipToFund-outside. This could be because you are still yet to meet eBay's selling and PayPal's risk standards. If the buyer reports an issue, the funds may be held for longer.

Help get your funds faster

- Ship using eBay's integrated shipping carriers (USPS, UPS or FedEx) and manually enter your tracking information at http://my.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?MyEbayBeta&View=SoldNext&SubmitAction.ChangeFilter=x&NewFilter=WaitShipment&CurrentPage=MyeBayNextSold on eBay.

- Mark your items at http://my.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?MyEbayBeta&View=SoldNext&SubmitAction.ChangeFilter=x&NewFilter=WaitShipment&CurrentPage=MyeBayNextSold as shipped on eBay.

21 days? I “are [sic] still yet to meet eBay's selling and PayPal's risk standards”? I should send via USPS? What is this crap? I've been with PayPal since 13 December 2001, and I've never had any problems. These people continue to annoy me.


Thursday, 6 April 2017 Dereel Images for 6 April 2017
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PayPal pain again?
Topic: technology, general Link here

It really annoyed me that PayPal wants to keep my money for 21 days. The reasons didn't make sense: “This could be that you are [sic] still yet to meet eBay's selling and PayPal's risk standards”. What does could mean? If they don't know for sure, they shouldn't withhold funds. And “yet”? I've been an eBay customer since 3 July 1999 and a PayPal customer since 13 December 2001. And I've sold things before without this nonsense.

Fought my way through the PayPal web site to https://www.paypal.com/au/selfhelp/contact/call to get a contact code, and spoke to Eson (if I got the spelling right), another non-native English speaker who appears to have learnt American English from an audio course with 1940s quality audio, and thus grated to a point that I could barely understand her. But what she told me is interesting: it could be (blah, blah, blah...) seller rating below average (no, it isn't, it's above average, so why didn't she check?), that I had had several disputes (no, no, never), or that I'm a casual seller.

And that's it. I have sold less than 25 items in the last 90 days, or the sum was less than $2,500. And under those circumstances eBay (and not PayPal) categorizes me as a casual seller and imposes these restrictions.

OK, that makes sense, but it asks more questions than it answers. Why doesn't PayPal say so? Because, she says, this is a decision made by eBay. That's nonsense, of course. If she can tell me that, they can put it on their web site. And they can put it in the mail that they sent.

She recommended to me to send the item as quickly as possible, and the funds may become available more quickly.


PayPal communication
Topic: technology, general, opinion, opinion Link here

While messing around on the PayPal web site, found a reply to the message I sent six weeks ago, pointing out that they hadn't deducted any money from my account. Did they call me? Of course not. Did they send email? No. Instead what I got was a message accessible only from their web site:

From: stkana4-ANZ
Questions regarding bank reversals
26/02/2017 at 4:05 pm

Thanks for contacting us. Based on your selection, the following FAQs may assist you faster than we can:

A. Why did my bank return the random deposits?
B. How do I view my transaction history?
C. How do I withdraw money from my PayPal account?
D. How does PayPal determine which funds will be used for a purchase?
E. How do I ask for a refund?
F. How do I resolve a negative balance?
G. How do I report an unautorised transaction?

(Don't worry. These links won't redirect you to another webpage.)

If these do not answer your question, please reply to this email with as much information as
possible.

To come up with that, they must have completely ignored the content of my message. None is in the slightest relevant. I thought that level of stupidity was over and done with.


Events, eBay style
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

How do I send the iPhone? eBay have a number of shipping options, as usual not very well documented. It seems that the obvious one is the pre-paid satchel. Does that really cover all costs? There's nothing that gives me that warm, fuzzy feeling. But it does say that the costs are covered, so I selected “500 g satchel”. OK, $7.35, about the same price as an Australia Post satchel, and it did say that the postage cost was covered. So I printed one out, and got a message confirming the fact.

Looked at the item status. Shipped! Nonsense! How can they think that printing the label equates to shipping? It's as good as impossible. But it explains the discrepancy that I noted on Tuesday: my laptop was sent on Monday evening, but according to eBay it was sent on Friday evening. I was going to blame the seller, but it seems that eBay itself is to blame.

The other thing of interest was that the funds availability date had changed, from “21 days” to 19 April. Why? No explanation.


Where's my laptop?
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

So my laptop was sent by Fastway on Monday. It should be here by now. What does the tracking show?

 
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Three days and no update? Time to call them up. Submit online enquiry? I suppose I could try that, but it wanted me to fill out no less than 25 fields, including stuff like mobile phone numbers and address of sender. Far too much trouble. So let's call them up. There's a “Courier locator” on their web site:


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No list, of course, and if there had been, it would have had only one entry. Another broken web site! But they have some depot phone numbers, so found the Ballarat one, phone “+61 (0) 3 5222 5050”, called them and spoke to Steve, who told me that he couldn't help me, and mentioned something about Geelong that didn't quite make sense. He suggested that I call up in Wollongong.

Geelong? Geelong? There was something there. Yes, there it was: three years ago I had an absolutely impossible time getting components sent to me. It finally took 8 days after raising a lot of hell.

But that wasn't the only time: only a few weeks later I received a parcel that they managed to take 10 days delivering. No good omen.

Called up Wollongong and spoke to Tishina, who proves to spell her name Tesheena. She told me that it had been sent to an “onforwarder”, Australia Post, and the due to the length of the tracking number she would send it by email.

I waited and waited. No email. Check the mail logs. Yes, there it is:

Apr  6 00:12:58 www postfix/smtpd[22207]: warning: hostname mail.myfastway.me does not resolve to address 103.61.69.250
Apr  6 00:12:58 www postfix/smtpd[22207]: connect from unknown[103.61.69.250]
Apr  6 00:12:58 www postfix/smtpd[22207]: NOQUEUE: reject: RCPT from unknown[103.61.69.250]: 450 4.7.1 Client host rejected: cannot find your hostname, [103.61.69.250]; from=<cs.wollongong@fastway.com.au> to=<grog@lemis.com> proto=ESMTP helo=<mail.myfastway.me>

Broken tracking, broken web site, broken delivery system. Of course they should have broken DNS too. What do I do? I'm not going to break my mail configuration just for them. But on reading /usr/local/etc/postfix/mail.cf more carefully, it occurred to me that I can make an exception to the “client host name must resolve” rule in client-access, so did that, and on the next retry received the tracking number, 99700160WJY132932001022103352. OK, what does Australia Post have to say?

 
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When was this package sent? Called up Wollongong and spoke to Tesheena again, who told me that it had been forwarded to Australia Post on Monday, but couldn't give me a time. She blames Australia Post, but until proof of the contrary (at least some tracking information), that sounds improbable.

Tried contacting the seller, but eBay won't let me until the delivery window expires. When's that? Take your choice of 9 or 10 April:


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Somehow Fastway must be the absolute dregs of the Australian courier business. I sincerely hope so, anyway: if there's anything worse, we're in real trouble.


eBay fraud attempt
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

I suspect that one thing that helped me sell my iPhone was the buyer in Ipoh, who didn't seem quite kosher. Today he confirmed my opinion. At 11:40 I got the message:

I will need your paypal email to make the payment.

Wrong! Firstly, it's not correct procedure. And secondly the item was sold 17 hours previously. Time to report to eBay.

But how? Their web people haven't thought of that. In the end I had yet another phone call, where they were certainly interested, and did something about it. But that sort of thing happens all the time. Why no online reporting method?


Living in the Internet age
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

Interesting article in the Washington Post today: another US retailer bites the dust. But it's not unknown, and it's not the first. Companies like Macy's and J. C. Penney are also affected.

The reason is clear: online shopping. Three years ago I wrote an essay on the subject, in which I wrote:

Most purchases will occur on-line, and the few remaining shops will mainly exist to order and supply goods available on the Internet. The exceptions will be fresh goods such as food and some services where a view of the items in advance is desired, such as some clothes. This will also have a profound effect on the economy: many companies, notably shops and mall owners, will go bankrupt. The future will favour those who can adapt.

Three years on, this seems to be exactly the case.

Why isn't it happening faster? eBay has been around for nearly 20 years now, and today's articles show how much they still have to do. Sometimes I wonder if they can get anything right.


More Epacris images
Topic: gardening, photography Link here

Walked down past the postbox area at the end of Spearys Road again today, where the tiny Epacris are:

 
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Friday, 7 April 2017 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 7 April 2017
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Another power failure
Topic: general Link here

Another power failure this morning at 8:18. Out to start the generator—tank empty, of course—and spent several minutes doing that. Fortunately it started immediately, once I remembered to turn the ignition switch on, and nothing was lost in the office. But of course I had to turn off lagoon. But then, that was only 30 days uptime. And somehow I had to wash the petrol off my fingers without any water. We should keep a few litres on the side for such eventualities.

Power came back at 9:15.


Eureka Village again
Topic: general, animals Link here

With Nikolai, Sasha and Yvonne to the Eureka Village Hostel and the Geoffrey Cutter Centre. People are fading: Bill, who normally comes with me, hasn't been out of his room in days, and was asleep when I looked in. Bob Carr, who two weeks ago was on oxygen, is looking pretty terrible, and I called in the nurse to check on him. And a couple of others have moved to “House 1”, the one for dementia. John, one of the people who was always pleased to see Niko, now appears afraid of him. Sigh. I suppose one day we'll end up like that.


You have funds!
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

Another mail message from PayPal today:

From service@paypal.com.au Fri Apr 7 00:40:05 2017
Date: Thu, 06 Apr 2017 07:38:14 -0700
To: Greg Lehey <groggyhimself@lemis.com>
From: "service@paypal.com.au" <service@paypal.com.au>

The funds from this eBay payment are now available. Check your Transaction Details ( https://www.paypal.com/myaccount/transaction/details/mumble ) for more information.

And yes, the spaces round the parentheses are original, presumably to indicate that this message really came from PayPal.

So: we have three different statements from PayPal. Initially it should have taken 21 days. Then, because I printed a shipping label, this dropped to 14 days. And after another 10 hours, with no other activity whatsoever, the funds suddenly became available. Why? Withholding payments causes concern. They should only do it when there are real concerns, and they should document the situation much better than they do.


eBay labels: the truth
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

To the post office to post the iPhone. No, Australia post does not provide a satchel. The label states “500g satchel”, but I have to provide it myself: further proof that the eBay documentation is inadequate. Fortunately I had put the items in a small box to take them to the post office, so I was able to stick the label on that and send it with no further problems. But yet another POLA violation.


Your Apple disabled!
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

After resetting my iPhone prior to shipment, received a typically stupid email:

Date: Thu, 6 Apr 2017 03:16:39 +0000 (GMT)
From: Find My iPhone <noreply@email.apple.com>
To: groggyhimself@lemis.com
Subject: Find My iPhone has been disabled on Greg 's iPhone

Find My iPhone has been disabled on Greg 's iPhone

With Find My iPhone disabled, this device can no longer be located, placed in lost mode, or remotely erased using icloud.com/find or the Find My iPhone iOS app.

In addition, your Apple ID and password will no longer be required for someone to erase, reactivate, and use your iPhone.

“Greg 's iPhone” (note the space)? What's that? In my case, of course, it's clear. But I'm sure many people have more than one iPhone. Once again they leave out information necessary to identify the device in the general case. Why can't they include the IMEI number, for example?


Your Microsoft box threatened!
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

While doing some photo processing on dischord, my Microsoft box, found this unsolicited popup:

 
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I didn't ask for that. Where did it come from? It seems to have correctly identified itself as a threat. But should I allow it to try to remove itself?


Bomb the crap out of Syria
Topic: politics, language, opinion Link here

The big news of the day, of course, is that Donald Trump has bombed an airfield in Syria. No United Nations approval. Not even approval of Congress. Even Trump can't make up his mind whether it's good or bad. To quote Trump himself:

 
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What puzzles me is that the carnage in Syria has been going on for years, and hundreds of thousands of people have been killed. Why now? His current action was directed against an airfield from which they believe that the recent chemical weapon attack was launched.

Was this correct? Maybe, even. Was it justified? Maybe, even. My first reaction (in German) was „Ach du dicke Scheiße“ (“oh shit”, literally “oh you thick shit”). It took a while to realize that “you thick shit” would be a good British expression to Trump himself (“stupid idiot”). Still, this attack seems to be too finely planned to be Trump's doing:

But why now? Because less than 100 people were killed by chemical weapons? Is death by Sarin more agonizing than death by having your innards blown out? Is the death of a child so much worse than the death of an adult? They're all hideous. I think the real reason is because the US news media have made such a fuss about it. For once, it seems, Trump has acknowledged that it isn't “fake news”.


Saturday, 8 April 2017 Dereel Images for 8 April 2017
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Gemma reit'n
Topic: animals, general Link here

Melanie Bahlo, Chris' sister, is spending the weekend with Chris. They came over today to go riding („Gemma reit'n“ („Gehen wir reiten“), as Carola Schlanhoff would say):

 
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Where's my laptop?, part 4
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

Checking the tracking for my laptop, I find the interesting information from Australia Post:

Current Status: In transit
Processed through Australia Post facility
8:30pm Fri 7 Apr
Sunshine West, VIC

And that's the only tracking entry! Somehow on Monday it disappeared from Fastway's tracking system and materialized four days later in Australia Post's system and 800 km away without any indication how, where or when. At least Tesheena from Fastway (whom Chris Bahlo has christened “Lastway”) was right when she told me that a couple of days ago. Of course, Chris isn't not the first. And my negative opinion seems to be typical.


Tagine again
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Last August I cooked a tagine with prunes and almonds, which tasted OK, but I thought I could do better. Today I modified it, replacing the prunes with apricots, and adding some chick peas:

 
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Somehow I'm still not completely happy. It needs more flavour. Still, we had a couple of smiling faces:

 
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More animal photos
Topic: animals Link here

Rani has been quite photogenic lately:

 
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Flash recycle times
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

My new Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II can take up to 60 photos a second, and frequently enough I take more than one a second—today I must have taken about half the images with less than a second between them. But that doesn't work for flash. This evening's flash photos worked about 2 times out of 3. The others were underexposed because the flash hadn't recharged.

It's not as if the flash is slow on recharge. They're mains powered flashes with a recycle time of a little under 2 seconds, but that's clearly too slow, as this comparison of one of the images above shows. Run the cursor over either image to compare with the partner, and click to see a larger version:

 
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What can I do? More expensive flashes? More powerful ones run at a lower power to reduce the recycle time? Or just learn to live with it?


Sunday, 9 April 2017 Dereel Images for 9 April 2017
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Extended power failure
Topic: general, opinion Link here

The weather today was abominable—high winds and rain (46 mm of it). The ground water pump somehow seized up, so once again we had water over the entrance to the house. But while I was wondering about that, the power failed, at 16:43.

The power outages page didn't want to know. Just a couple of people in Rokewood Junction, which is on the same feeder that goes through Dereel. Called up Powercor and was transferred pretty quickly—to a South Australian menu system, which knew my location, somewhere I had never heard of. OK, press 2 for “no, not the correct address”, and the thing wanted my meter number! Only then did I realize that I had been misconnected to the wrong state—how could that happen?—and hung up.

Almost immediately I got a call back from the first person I spoke to, apologizing that she couldn't connect me. That's the first time that has happened to me. She told me that in the meantime something like 4,000 customers were affected, so there wasn't much to do. Estimated restoration time 19:00.

We had invited Chris Bahlo over for dinner, not a thing that we could do under the circumstances, so packed up our stuff and over to her place: she has solar electricity, and was thus unaffected. While we were there, watched the red areas on the Powercor map grow and grow, and the restoration time get later and later. By the time we went home, it was 1:00.

Back home, the generator was still running, so filled it up from the petrol I had drained last month. And it started normally for a hot generator (which means at least 5 pulls on the start cord; when it's cold it's only one or maybe two) and carried on with no further problems. So the suggestion that the problem is water in the carburettor begins to make more sense.

Surprisingly, the power came back at almost exactly the predicted time, at 1:03. The generator was still running, and eureka weathered the entire 8+ hour outage.


Power failures: enough!
Topic: general, Stones Road house, opinion Link here

When we built the house, I decided not to install solar panels right away: to do so would require lots of expensive batteries, and it made sense to wait. But what price peace of mind? Time to finally get something installed


Unmounting disks, Microsoft style
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Chris Bahlo gave me a Microsoft-formatted disk to copy some data for her, so plugged it into dischord and copied the data. OK, how do I umount it? Must be some right-button menu. But I couldn't find it. As expected, “umount” is spelt “eject” in Microsoft, but of course there's no program called EJECT. Off to Google, which showed that this is a problem, but that there should, indeed, be an eject item in the right mouse menu. Why wasn't it there? I didn't have time to look. We had lost power, and it seemed like a good idea to shut down the machine anyway, so that's what I did. And then I forgot to take the disk with me when we went to Chris' place.


System names revisited
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I have more or less decided on the system names euroa (Microsoft) and euboea (FreeBSD) for my new laptop, but it would be nice to find an Australian place name matching eu.*a instead of euboea. Discussing the matter after dinner, we didn't come to much in the way of results (I've already had eucla), but I did mention the existence of /usr/share/dict/web2 on FreeBSD. Checked on Chris' Apple. Yes, it's there too, and a partial output showed:

$ grep ^eu.*a$ /usr/share/dict/web2
euphoria
euthanasia

Now wouldn't that be a good choice for FreeBSD and Microsoft respectively?


Monday, 10 April 2017 Dereel → Napoleons → Dereel Images for 10 April 2017
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Welcome euroa
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Australia Post updated its tracking again today. Now it's in Wendouree (they got the sequence the wrong way round):

 
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Or is it? That's only part of the picture:

 
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It did ultimately update the tracking, showing that I picked it up at “Napoleon” after another miraculous transportation:

 
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Into town to pick up the laptop and the dog bath that I left at the Ballarat Pump Shop last week. It made sense to pick up the bath first, but of course I wanted the laptop. A good thing too: I had forgotten my handbag again, and while the people at the post office know me and gave me the item without identification, but if I had gone on to Ballarat, another 43 km round trip, it would have been a waste of time.

The laptop looks nicer than I expected. The item description included “The screen has a few VERY minor blemishes”, but I couldn't find any. They did, however, lay the invoice on the keyboard, so that sounds like something to repeat when transporting it. The keyboard is also one of the nicest I have seen on a laptop. But I had happily forgotten the pain of using trackpads, and this one is no better than the others. Fortunately I have a mouse.

First thing: make backup media. The program gave me a list of backup devices: none. Something wrong with the DVD writer? No, it found it after I pressed the eject button. It seems it was powered down, something that the backup software obviously didn't expect. It also didn't expect to recover from accidentally having a non-erasable data disk in the drive, which caused it to stop again. And when it did find the drive and valid media, it complained because I pressed “Next” before the drive was up to speed!

How should I know when it's up to speed? Easy: another program (“Autoplay”) creates a popup asking what to do with it. What a mess!

Finally worked around the bugs and made my backup. That took forever. A total of 5 DVDs (boot medium and data backup), at 20 minutes odd per disk, including over 5 minutes hanging on “Verification complete: 100%”. The first time round I had finger trouble after the boot disk, and the program stopped. When I restarted it, it had tick boxes for “boot media” and “data media”, but when I unticked “boot media” I also lost “data media”. So I now have two boot disks, in case one fails. And there was nothing to tell me how many DVDs I would need.

After that, though, things went surprisingly smoothly, maybe because I'm gradually getting my act together with my setup page. About the only issues I had were:


Tuesday, 11 April 2017 Dereel Images for 11 April 2017
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More laptop fun
Topic: technology Link here

Yesterday's installation of euroa went surprisingly smoothly, but of course it's not done yet. In particular I have two items that I have never done before: a FreeBSD guest on a VirtualBox host on Microsoft “Windows”, and a way of keeping the same IP address for the Microsoft machine when moving between wired Ethernet and wireless 802.11.


FreeBSD on VBox on Microsoft
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

First VBox. Why does it only offer 32 bit clients? Off to Google and found this page, which looked very relevant: a ThinkPad with recently installed SSD, just like euroa. Went through that and discovered that he was running Microsoft “Windows” 8.1, and that the corresponding settings don't exist on my “Windows” 7 Professional. But after finally managing to enter the BIOS (in the end, I think it's F2), I discovered that virtualization had been disabled. Enabled that, and all was well.

But why? Don't you need virtualization for 32 bit clients? And why didn't VBox tell me?

Next, copy the virtual disk for eureso and enable it. Where does VBox store its files on Microsoft? It proves to be C:\Users\grog\VirtualBox VMs, which contains the files for the VMs, but not the configuration. Tried to fake it anyway by replacing the virtual disk, but after a few attempts that failed with UUID mismatches. But I was able to create a new machine with the disk from eureso, and that worked. Even the networking ran once I set the bridged adapter and guessed the correct interface. About the only thing that didn't work was to ping the device, though routing appeared to work.

Next was X. No go. I got the following rather conflicting messages from xinit:

[  2440.097] (II) LoadModule: "vboxvideo"
[  2440.098] (WW) Warning, couldn't open module vboxvideo
[  2440.098] (II) UnloadModule: "vboxvideo"
[  2440.098] (II) Unloading vboxvideo
[  2440.098] (EE) Failed to load module "vboxvideo" (module does not exist, 0)

What's that? There's no package with that name, so I'll have to search. Mañana.


Network fallback
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

euroa has three network interfaces: Ethernet, good for normal desktop use, 802.11 wireless, good for most of the rest of the time, and Bluetooth, which so far appears to be of no use at all. Is it maybe useful for tethering to a mobile phone? That would be useful, since the machine doesn't have any mobile phone connectivity.

Normally the machine is on my desk in the office, but I want to be able to wander round the house and use it elsewhere. And that should be transparent: except for the network link (to the same network), everything should remain the same.

How do I do that? I never got round to doing it on my FreeBSD. Is it even possible? Both interfaces must have the same IP address, something that's usually a no-no. And sure enough, Microsoft protects me from myself by issuing “warnings” that prove to be fatal errors.

But then while searching on the web, I found a Lenovo program that looked interesting: Control Panel\Hardware and Sound\Devices and Printers\EUROA\Lenovo ThinkVantage Tools\Internet Connections. And of course it's installed on my machine, and it seems to do everything I want, once I work my way through the somewhat back-to-front documentation. What I want is the “Best Available Network” Profile, which will connect me by Ethernet when present and by 802.11 otherwise.

All done! Well, no. It wouldn't allow me to set a static address. Why not? Because! So I'll have to reconfigure dhcpd to serve the same address—assuming that that will work. Another task for tomorrow.


Spätlese?
Topic: gardening, food and drink, opinion Link here

In Australia the wine harvest is in January and February, so it was rather surprising to see this today:


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My first thought was „Spätlese“, but that's not common here, and in my experience it's always with white grapes. I wonder what it all means.


Wednesday, 12 April 2017 Dereel Images for 12 April 2017
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euroa, day 3
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

By yesterday evening I had most things working on euroa, my new laptop. The only things remaining were automatic switching of network interfaces and running X on the VM.

The X issues appear to be an additional port, emulators/virtualbox-ose-additions, which should be easy enough to handle, but it wasn't as important as the network connectivity, so I looked at that first. The real issue was that the “ThinkVantage Tools”, in this case “Access Connections”, wouldn't let me set static IP addresses with interface fallback, so I needed to update dhcpd to serve the same address. Does that even work? Looked at the man page, not the clearest document I've seen, and it took me a while to work out how to set it. In the meantime I got error messages like:

=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/4) /var/db/dhcpd 209 -> /usr/local/sbin/dhcpd -cf /usr/local/etc/dhcpd.conf -lf /var/db/dhcpd/dhcpd.leases -pf /var/run/dhcpd/dhcpd.pid -user dhcpd -group dhcpd
/usr/local/etc/dhcpd.conf line 37: expecting a parameter or declaration
  hardware ethernet 00:21:cc:d0:9e:0e;
                                      ^

What's wrong with that entry? Lots of searching showed: nothing. The real issue is the next line:

host euroalan {
  hardware ethernet 00:21:cc:d0:9e:0e;
  hostname "euroa.lemis.com";
  fixed-address 192.109.197.175;
}

hostname is not a valid keyword, but the man page led me to believe that it was. It should be option host-name. But that alone didn't help:

No subnet declaration for em0 (192.109.197.137).
** Ignoring requests on em0.  If this is not what
   you want, please write a subnet declaration
   in your dhcpd.conf file for the network segment
   to which interface em0 is attached. **

Not configured to listen on any interfaces!

More head-scratching, and finally I came up with my configuration with the hosts inside the subnet declaration, though logically outside it:

subnet 192.109.197.0 netmask 255.255.255.0 {
  range 192.109.197.224 192.109.197.250;
  option routers eureka.lemis.com;
  option domain-name-servers eureka.lemis.com;
  option domain-name "lemis.com";

  host euroalan {
    hardware ethernet 00:21:cc:d0:9e:0e;
    option host-name "euroa.lemis.com";
    fixed-address 192.109.197.175;
  }

  # euroa via 802.11
  host euroa80211 {
    hardware ethernet 24:77:03:d0:83:5c;
    option host-name "euroa.lemis.com";
    fixed-address 192.109.197.175;
  }

Is that kosher? The obvious thing is to try it out. The Lenovo tools have one great advantage: they tell you something about the cause of the error. In this case it was ”DHCP server not responding”. OK, take a look, from eureka:

15:57:08.082595 24:77:03:d0:83:5c (oui Unknown) > Broadcast, ethertype IPv4 (0x0800), length 342: 0.0.0.0.bootpc > 255.255.255.255.bootps: BOOTP/DHCP, Request from 24:77:03:d0:83:5c (oui Unknown), length 300
15:57:08.082681 bc:5f:f4:c9:9b:bf (oui Unknown) > Broadcast, ethertype IPv4 (0x0800), length 342: eureka.lemis.com.bootps > 255.255.255.255.bootpc: BOOTP/DHCP, Reply, length 300
15:57:09.404515 24:77:03:d0:83:5c (oui Unknown) > Broadcast, ethertype IPv4 (0x0800), length 342: 0.0.0.0.bootpc > 255.255.255.255.bootps: BOOTP/DHCP, Request from 24:77:03:d0:83:5c (oui Unknown), length 300
15:57:09.404596 bc:5f:f4:c9:9b:bf (oui Unknown) > Broadcast, ethertype IPv4 (0x0800), length 342: eureka.lemis.com.bootps > 255.255.255.255.bootpc: BOOTP/DHCP, Reply, length 300
15:57:09.404721 00:25:22:d3:0d:97 (oui Unknown) > Broadcast, ethertype IPv4 (0x0800), length 342: tiwi.lemis.com.bootps > 255.255.255.255.bootpc: BOOTP/DHCP, Reply, length 300
15:57:09.617351 24:77:03:d0:83:5c (oui Unknown) > Broadcast, ethertype IPv4 (0x0800), length 342: 0.0.0.0.bootpc > 255.255.255.255.bootps: BOOTP/DHCP, Request from 24:77:03:d0:83:5c (oui Unknown), length 300
15:57:09.617436 bc:5f:f4:c9:9b:bf (oui Unknown) > Broadcast, ethertype IPv4 (0x0800), length 342: eureka.lemis.com.bootps > 255.255.255.255.bootpc: BOOTP/DHCP, Reply, length 300

So nice, so nice, we do it twice! tiwi shouldn't be running a dhcpd, but that wasn't the problem: it wasn't running when the problem started. Was the reply not getting back to the system? That seems strange: the MAC addresses are consistent. Still, it's straightforward enough to install Wireshark, so did that. Tried again, but what I saw wasn't what I expected: the reply got home, and I was connected. And there were no entries in /var/db/dhcpd/dhcpd.leases.

Somehow that was the order of the day. Various strange problems showed up and disappeared again as soon as I tried to trace them. Things weren't helped by messages of this quality:


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Yes, the error existed. I had copied the virtual machine from eureso (192.109.197.195) to euboea (192.109.197.143) without changing the configuration, so they were both using the same IP. But why didn't the message say what the IP address and the MAC addresses were? Isn't this so much more informative?

Apr 12 13:05:48 eureso kernel: arp: 08:00:27:7a:6c:e4 is using my IP address 192.109.197.195 on em0!
Apr 12 13:05:50 eureka kernel: arp: 192.109.197.195 moved from 08:00:27:7a:6c:e4 to 08:00:27:d5:74:37 on em0

OK, they say to look in the “Windows” System Event Log. Where's that? Why don't they tell me?

So I changed the IP address of euboea. No connectivity any more. Routes? ARP? Virtualbox? Spent quite a bit of time searching, and ultimately, to test, swapped the IP addresses, and things worked again.

What didn't work was automatic switching. When I disconnected the Ethernet connector, nothing happened. I could select the 802.11 interface and activate it with the Lenovo tool, but nothing happened automatically.

Why is this so difficult? I can't be bothered any more. Tomorrow I'll update the DNS entries to show the IPs the other way round, and that will be that.


Finding system names
Topic: technology, language, opinion Link here

Mail from Marco Pérez today:

There may be an easy way to find Australian place names matching eu.*a. Try http://overpass-turbo.eu/, which is a front-end to the OpenStreetmap database. Pasting the following code in the editor and clicking "Run" (top left) should do the trick.

[out:csv(place,name,::lat,::lon,"is_in:state")];
area["name:en"="Australia"];
node(area)[place~".*"][name~"^Eu.*a$"];
out;

If you omit the first line you can even show the places on a map. Two buttons (top right) allow you to switch between the "Map" and the "Data" view. Replacing the [place~".*"] part with [place~"city|town"] will filter the results.

Interesting idea. The interface to the site is Really Horrible: it wants me to run Microsoft, and ignores all X conventions. It starts out with a sample query, and to replace it I need to use menus to select and delete it, then use a menu to paste the new query. But finally it comes up with:

place       name       @lat       @lon       is_in:state
hamlet       Eucla       -31.6768407       128.8865164       Western Australia
town       Euroa       -36.7527608       145.5687630       Victoria
town       Eugowra       -33.4290506       148.3708456       New South Wales
hamlet       Eurobodalla       -36.1483333       149.9677778
hamlet       Eunanoreenya       -35.0627756       147.4713537
suburb       Euberta       -35.0650000       147.2011111
hamlet       Eurimbla       -32.8461111       148.8433333
hamlet       Euchareena       -32.9385499       149.0955745
locality       Euratha       -33.8816667       146.5511111
hamlet       Eureka       -28.6830613       153.4383202
hamlet       Eurimbula       -32.8768100       148.8305005
hamlet       Eungella       -28.3483333       153.3011111
village       Euroka       -31.0816667       152.8011111
hamlet       Euroka       -33.7483333       150.2344444
suburb       Eureka       -37.5647184       143.8825965
suburb       Eungella       -21.1320725       148.4903719
town       Eudunda       -34.1741326       139.0848966       South Australia
farm       Euroka       -32.8518837       149.0864452
hamlet       Eurelia       -32.5538672       138.5611533       South Australia
farm       Eureka       -32.3536678       148.7674439
locality       Euthella       -26.4894982       148.6641605
farm       Eumalga       -31.6463253       147.5913785
farm       Eurella       -32.1313591       148.2400132
farm       Eumina       -32.2595560       149.1737552
farm       Euroka       -30.1962973       148.1494780
hamlet       Eureka       -25.2521373       152.1625893
hamlet       Eurebia       -40.9494200       145.1020700
neighbourhood       Eugenana       -41.2325800       146.3122000

That's a surprising number. Clearly I have stuff for a number of future machines.

I had in fact found Eugowra, but the name didn't cause any euphonia (on consideration a potential name for an audio processing machine), so I didn't choose it. I also decided against euphoria and euthanasia, not only because they're not place names, but also because at least euthanasia is just plain too long. Even so, I wonder if I have made the right choice of names, as this partial output shows:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/38) ~ 4 -> ruptime
euboea                     up       0:22,     1 user,   load 0.47, 0.30, 0.21
eureka                     up   13+05:05,    22 users,  load 1.88, 1.84, 1.50
eureso                     up       3:37,     3 users,  load 0.72, 0.80, 0.68
euroa                      up       3:22,     0 users,  load 0.00, 0.00, 0.00

Friendly skies
Topic: politics, general, opinion Link here

It's been nearly 11 years since I flew in a plane, and I don't regret it. In the preceding nearly 50 years I watched air travel degenerate from a privilege where people were treated specially to something akin to bus travel, particularly in the USA. My opinion of air travel degenerated accordingly. The absolute bottom of the list were United Airlines and American Airlines, in ascending order. Only on Saturday we discussed it at dinner: you'd almost think that the airline personnel were paid to be unfriendly.

But people frequently complain about this or that airline. Nowadays things are different: firstly, by all accounts, they're even worse, and secondly just about everybody has a portable recording device. So when a passenger was forcibly removed from a United Airlines flight, the videos made it round the world. And United stock fell sharply. Bravo! Hopefully they will realize that it's their customers who keep the company afloat.


Thursday, 13 April 2017 Dereel Images for 13 April 2017
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Breakdown!
Topic: general Link here

Just before breakfast got a call from Chris Bahlo: her ancient Landcruiser had broken down near the Mount Mercer road turnoff. Off to pick her up and take her home. She tells me that the engine suddenly lost power, that she heard “valve noise”, and that it then produced a lot of smoke and steam, and lost copious quantities of water.

What's that? My best bet is a head gasket, but Chris is worried that the engine might have had it. We'll find out, but not quickly: once again the breakdown happened when people were on holiday, and Matt won't be able to look at it for a week.


Kippers for breakfast
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

When I was young I used to enjoy kippers for breakfast. But they're not easy to find in Australia, and when I do, they're expensive and stupidly packed:

 
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Those are (only) two kippers laid against each other and deep frozen: each side shows a single fish. No earthly way to remove just one of them. Why? So I had to thaw out both of them, and I'll eat the other one on Saturday.

Next to grill them. How long? From what side? The instructions on the box are clear: “To grill: Thaw kippers and grill”. That's a lot of help.

In the end gave them about 9 minutes from the outside, and they seemed to be OK. Here before and after:

 
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eu*a: enough
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

As planned, changed the DNS entries for euboea and eureso today. That worked, though there are indications that the problem isn't as simple. But it's just too much pain. One day I may try again and see if I can get any further.

On the other hand, revisiting X on euboea Just Worked, though I was limited to a resolution of 1024x768. The LCD screen on euroa is 1600x900, and it would be nice to be able to fill that. But I've had enough for the while.


Cat and mouse
Topic: animals Link here

Piccola came in this evening with something in her mouth, a tiny mouse, and apparently already dead:

 
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In the good old days, Lilac would pounce on the mouse and eat it, tail and all, within a few seconds:

 
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Not so Piccola and Rani. They dragged it under the dining room table, where humans and dogs had difficulty accessing:

 
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And there they just played with it:

 
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I wonder if they finally ate it. Or maybe a dog found his way under the table and did it for them.


Friday, 14 April 2017 Dereel Images for 14 April 2017
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X on euboea
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I really hadn't intended to do much more with my laptop euroa and euboea, but somehow it didn't turn out that way. In principle things are working, though I don't dare try to switch from wired to wireless networking, but I couldn't get X to display larger than 1024×768.

Went looking and discovered, as expected, that it uses the vesa driver, which has always appeared to be limited to this resolution. But looking at the Xorg.log, it seems that the limitation was the (implicit) horizontal sync setting. In a VM that's meaningless anyway, so I set horizontal sync max to 200 kHz and added a 1600×900 mode to the xorg.conf.

But it didn't find it. It also didn't reject it: it wasn't mentioned in the log file at all. Instead it started a display with the preconfigured 1152×900 resolution. That at least showed that the change in horizontal sync was correct, but for some reason the mode line was not being recognized.

So I commented it out again. Surprise, surprise! I got a resolution 1600×1200, too big for the screen. Either way, it's a problem. The display window doesn't take up the entire screen: it runs inside a Virtualbox window which also leaves the task bar free, probably correctly. That's not what I want, so before I go looking for the reason that X doesn't recognize the ModeLines (probably bit rot, I fear), I should look for alternatives.

One particularly irritating discovery is that I don't seem to be able to remap the keyboard. Like most modern keyboards, the ThinkPad has a CapsLock key where the Ctrl key should be. But unlike most keyboards, it seems to be hard-wired. In addition, this particular keyboard doesn't even have a Ctrl key at bottom left, where they usually relocate it: instead they've put a Fn key there, and the Ctrl key to the right of it, making things very uncomfortable.

On the other hand, I've never tried using xmodmap on Virtualbox before, so it's possible that I can save the day if I can find a utility to remap keys on Microsoft.


Revisiting OzForex
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

I've been thinking of reducing my international currency fees for over two years now, but today I got mail about the matter:

Date: Fri, 14 Apr 2017 02:59:31 +0000
From: Brandon Garcia <Brandon.Garcia@ofx.com>
To: "groggyhimself@lemis.com" <groggyhimself@lemis.com>
Subject: Greg's diary & OFX AU

I'm getting in touch because we recently re-branded from OzForex to OFX and we want to ensure the information on your website is updated so that it does not negatively affect user experience.

We have found that some pages on your website Greg's diary is linking to our outdated website, so we kindly ask that the links are updated on this page:

http://lemis.com/grog/diary-aug2014.php

"He recommends Oz Forex,"
http://www.ozforex.com.au/
Change to:
https://www.ofx.com/en-au/

"This page claims in a rather obfuscatory way that they give the best rates:"
http://www.ozforex.com.au/personal/transfer-money
Change to:
https://www.ofx.com/en-au/send-money/

"But yes, this page describes exactly my scenario."
http://www.ozforex.com.au/personal/transfer-money/overseas-investments
Change to:
https://www.ofx.com/en-au/personal/reasons-for-transfer/property/

Please change all instances of OzForex to OFX. If you require more detailed information please let me know, we will be happy to provide this.

Your time and help in updating these links is greatly appreciated.

Amazing! This is a historical document. Should I even change it? Probably. More interesting is the fact that they have quoted my comment about the obfuscatory information, but apparently done nothing about it. Specifically, look at this information, from their home page:


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OK, that's pretty clear. Or is it? Looking more carefully, it's:


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In other words, this conversion has nothing whatsoever to do with OFX! To find out their rates, you must first sign up. It's interesting to compare it with my favourite currency converter, from OANDA, which is much more flexible:


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That shows a number of things of interest here:

In summary, the mail message had two good things: it made me look at the issue again (has it really been 2½ years?), and it proves once again that people can look so much at the details that they forget the overview.


Free bank account in Germany
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Revisiting my finances, I probably need two things to save money on our European pension payments. One is clearly a cheaper transfer of round 1,700 € a month. The sum is important: if you transfer more than 10,000 €, you can get it fee-free from many companies. Not so for only 1,700 €.

But then there's the question of paying for things bought in Europe, which happens about once a month. We currently do that with credit card or PayPal. Either way it's expensive: of every € paid in Germany, we end up with about 97%. Then the credit card transfer takes a further 3%, so we've lost round 6% of the total value. Wouldn't it be easier to have an account in Germany, have our pensions paid into that, also use it to pay for purchases in Europe, and transfer to Australia at our leisure?

I know of banks that offer fee-free transactions, so off to look for them. https://www.deutscheskonto.org/en/foreign-account/germany/ seems to be an obvious choice, and sure enough, it points to https://www.dkb.de/ausland/ („Ausland“ means “foreign”). Well, it appears to. In fact, it links to https://www.deutscheskonto.org/go.php?id=dkb_en, which in turn links to https://www.dkb.de/privatkunden/dkb_cash/index.html?referer=21371.P20811&affiliate=financeads&lig=125621668&produkt_id=02. And there I found a web form that was almost usable. I was able to enter my details, though it insisted on German things like street number after street name and post code in front of town, so my address ended up as “29 Stones Road 29, 3352 Dereel”. And the obligatory documents to read and to acknowledge. And then I was done:

 
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Unfortunately we cannot fulfil your wish... we only open accounts for clients in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Thanks! They could have told me that as soon as I chose (from their extensive list of countries) a country that didn't match. But the original link that brought me here stated:

  1. Fill out the online application on this page::

    www.dkb.de/ausland/.

  2. When submitting a residence outside Germany, DKB will contact you within three days and discuss with you how you can verify your identity.

    For all EU countries, we recommend the authentication of your identity through a local bank. For your convenience, you are welcome to print our service letter and take it with you.

  3. You will receive several letters with the bank account data and access information as well as bank cards.

So maybe this message is just telling me that I can't complete the application online. I'll wait until after Easter and call them up.


Saturday, 15 April 2017 Dereel Images for 15 April 2017
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Flowers in mid-autumn
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

Mid-month, time for the monthly garden flower photos. This month there's not much to report. The roses are still struggling on, though the area is getting a bit overgrown:

 
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Some plants that should have flowered much earlier are finally getting there, like the Hedychium coronarium, which has only produced the second set of flowers this year, and this Gladiolus:

 
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For some reason the Gazanias are not doing very well:

 
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I've never seen that before.

The Carpobrotus that we planted in the island in the entrance have grown as expected. Here the situation four months ago and now:

 
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X on Microsoft
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

One of the really nice things about X is that it's a networked system. One solution for my X display on euboea might be to not run an X server on it at all, but on euroa, the host system, running Microsoft. Went looking and found xming and (maybe) VcXsrv, for which I found looping links and very little documentation.

Downloaded xming and installed it. The setup menu offered me an empty server or an xterm, so I chose the latter. Fired up X, error message: xterm doesn't exist. OK, I can download it, but somehow I'm losing interest.

One thing that did work was swapping the Fn and Ctrl keys on the laptop. That's a BIOS setting, and unfortunately they're the only two keys you can swap. I did find sharpkeys, which promised to do the trick, but comes with (inter alia) the warning:

Things that SharpKeys +will not+ do:

Protect you from yourself - if you disable your DEL key and can’t login because Ctrl+Alt+Del doesn’t work now, you’ll have to reformat

Somehow I need to think more carefully about this.


Cheap money transfer services
Topic: general, opinion Link here

After my surprising discoveries yesterday, went to take a look at the options for currency transfer. First OANDA. Sign up, and then transfer 1000 €:


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That's not quite the rate I saw yesterday. Had things changed that much? No: OANDA don't charge any fees for a transfer, but they use an exchange rate that even the banks would be ashamed of, fully 4% off the Interbank rate!


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And these are the people who tell me they're cheaper. That was quite a shock, especially since I had had a good opinion of them.

OK, back to OzForex OFX. Signed up and confirmed that their new, rebranded web site is still a pain to use. Finally got there and found:

 
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But then there was a NEXT button, which took me to a different display:

 
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The first display was just a lie. “Recipient Getting” $1,368.70? Forget it. Only $1,355.01! And I can't aggregate transfers. One of Yvonne's pensions pays only round 130 € a month. That looks like this:


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In this case, OANDA is better, but we're still looking at rates that must be worse than the banks. Looking at a recent transfer from my bank, it seems that they deduct 3%. It should be possible to do better than that, but clearly neither OANDA nor OFX are the solution.


Easter dinner
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

The traditional food for Easter is lamb, but lately Yvonne hasn't been very keen on that. Instead we had an Easter Bunny:

 
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Sunday, 16 April 2017 Dereel
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ssh for Microsoft
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

In principle I want to be able to remap the keys on euroa, my physical laptop. But there's a warning that it may brick the machine if I accidentally remap keys that I need to use the machine. That can't happen on FreeBSD, because the key map isn't loaded until multiuser mode. But presumably there's an alternative: remote access to the machine. Can rdesktop do it? Hard to say: it does seem to apply some keyboard mapping. Can ssh do it? Probably, since it doesn't simulate the keyboard.

PuTTY is the canonical implementation of ssh for Microsoft, and I've worked around its strangenesses in the past. But it's only a client, and I need a server.

So I downloaded a Bitvise (“free for personal use”), an ssh server with even more bizarre configuration. I wasn't able to get it to work at all: the machine didn't seem to be listening on port ssh. Why is this Microsoft stuff so strange?


Spraying weeds
Topic: gardening Link here

Finally a dry day without much wind—just what I need to spray the weeds. Managed to drag myself to it, in the process noting how much spray the new electric unit uses. It also doesn't hold its promise of being a 16 l unit; I was barely able to put 15 litres on top of the few drops left in the bottom. I should probably add not more than 14 l at a time.


Monday, 17 April 2017 Dereel Images for 17 April 2017
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Brunch with Lorraine
Topic: general, food and drink Link here

Lorraine Carranza over again for breakfast brunch today.


More Microsoft space pain
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

More attempts today to integrate euroa, my Microsoft-based ThinkPad, into my network. After my failure to get anything useful out of Bitvise (a name which, I have decided, implies a vice rather than a Germanified wisdom), tried another one, freesshd. Like so many of these things, it doesn't come with adequate documentation. But together they just didn't work. There seems to be only the program FreeSSHd.exe, which on first start creates new keys (without asking), and allows a selection of the kind of authentication that it will accept. And then it started, spawning dozens of processes that wouldn't go away even when, in frustration, I removed it from the system. In the meantime I found third party documentation which pointed to some of the stepping stones I had found. But no way of stopping the bloody thing, and no connectivity.


OFX revisited
Topic: general, opinion Link here

The other day I noted the misleading exchange rates that OFX produced on their web site—they're not their own exchange rates, just 1% off the Interbank rate—but I forgot one detail: how do they compare with their real rates? Here's a comparison, transferring 1000 € to Australia. The first is their non-binding leader, the others two iterations of real offers:


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The first is their home page, the second a first attempt at an exchange rate, and the third a further deduction. Clearly the first two are very misleading, though the second of the two is probably just sloppy web programming. But, as ever, these things are better as a table:

Method       Sum received       Total deductions       Percent difference
Interbank rate       1399.55       0.00       0.00%
OFX leader       1398.11       1.44       0.01%
OANDA       1383.32       16.23       1.16%
OFX try 1       1373.40       26.15       1.87%
OFX try 2       1359.67       39.88       2.85%
ANZ bank       1357.56       41.99       3.00%

The difference between what OFX initially advertise and what they actually offer is over 3%. That looks like a deliberate attempt at deception to me.


What I need from a cooker
Topic: food and drink Link here

It's getting to be time to finally replace the normal gas range in the kitchen. But what do we replace it with? Clearly something with better spacing. On the other hand, do we want gas or induction? I've had our table-top induction cooker for the best part of a year now, and I've had time to think about its advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are certainly better and more powerful heating. On the down side, there's the known problem that it needs special cookware. That's not always possible, for example if I want to warm up something in a ceramic serving dish, but I could always get a ferromagnetic disk to put on top of the plate. On the other hand, temperature and heat control is something that my current cooker doesn't do at all well.

So: what do I need of a cooker (independent of heating method)?

So it seems as if a combination of gas and induction coking might be right. How about a four burner 60 cm gas cooktop and a 2 “burner” 30 cm induction cooktop? Both are available. But how do I find out whether they will fulfil my requirements? One induction cooker that would fit the physical dimensions is the Midea MC-ID351 Induction Cooktop, onsale from Appliances Online for $406. The “specs” limit themselves to the physical appearance and dimensions, and omit such information as power usage or power levels. But a great thing about Appliances Online is that they include links to the product manuals, In this case, unfortunately, it's just a spec sheet, which, to its credit, states that there are 9 power levels, but not even how many heating areas it has, let alone how much power it uses. Appliances Online also have a comparison page worthy of mention only because of its uselessness.

So what about reviews? The ones I found for free were worth what I paid for them. I found two by customer review organizations, Choice (Australia) and Stiftung Warentest (Germany). The German test includes the start for free, and the whole report costs 0.75 €. Choice has 31 individual reviews and require a subscription (at least $23.95 for only 3 months).

In principle Choice might be worth it. But I've tried them in the past and found the reports pretty useless. And the problem with the Stiftung Warentest is that they test items available in Germany, not here, and also that it tests gas and conventional electric devices as well. Still, it might come in handy if nothing else helps.


Tethering?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

One problem with my new laptop is that it doesn't have phone functionality, including networking over mobile telephone services. But then there's this new buzzword, “tethering”, which seems to imply connecting mobile phones to laptops, a sort of special-case network.

Off to Google for “android tether bluetooth” and came up with many hits, all for much more recent versions. Finally I found this one related (relatively closely) to my phone. Followed through, and sure enough, it worked exactly as described, ending with the following, carefully programmed to go away before you can read it:


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No comment, but as far as I can tell the phone automatically turns off Bluetooth access after a short timeout. Turned it on and was at least able to pair my Bluetooth headset with the phone.

And the laptop? I was sure that a while back I saw a Bluetooth network interface, but it was no longer. This page at first seemed to suggest that I needed an external Bluetooth dongle, but it seems that the combination Fn-F5 will bring up a menu enabling you to enable and disable various networking functions, including Bluetooth and 802.11.

And that's about as far as I got. This page may help me do the rest, but first I need to get the phone in an area with mobile network coverage.


Tuesday, 18 April 2017 Dereel Images for 18 April 2017
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Rearranging finances
Topic: general, opinion Link here

It makes no sense at all for me to pay now $299 a year for a pair of ANZ Platinum credit cards when I can get credit cards for free elsewhere—but not from ANZ. The most obvious choice appears to be the Bank of Melbourne. They appear to offer 5½ cards:

 
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The obvious choice is the last one, “No A Fee”, which proves to be modern truncation for “No Annual Fee”. So I called up Bank of Melbourne and was finally connected with a consultant who seemed to have great difficulty understanding my application. The idea that Yvonne and I could have five different incomes completely baffled her, and she kept forgetting what I was saying, including the nature and frequency of individual payments. At one point she invented a disability pension. And she expected me to know the meaning of their own stupid abbreviations. My pension from Germany is registered in their statement as:

25 FEB   RTGS INWARD PAYMENT 24FEB 13:30
         SGB1654252542542545234DEUTSCHE POST AG RE

What does RTGS mean? It appears to be important, but she wouldn't tell me: that's my business. Nonsense. The pension comes from DRV, and the real information (capitalized and truncated, of course) is „Deutsche Post AG Rentenservice“. Yvonne also gets a pension from them, but it's paid into ANZ, where the advice is written almost in English.

In the end, after about 25 minutes, she told me that I would have to submit written evidence of my income anyway. Much of it was on the screen in front of her. But if they want documentary evidence, why all this rigmarole on the phone? Dammit, forget the whole thing, connect me to somebody to whom I can complain. Was put onto Scott, who gave me a better overview of the application process. And yes, it really seems that applying in person is the best approach, though I can do it “online” (in other words, via the web).

What a waste of 40 minutes!

Later, in the late afternoon morning (German time), called up DKB in Berlin and got... a bloody voice menu, in German of course. The funny thing is that it understood me, where Australian ones never do. And that after being back here for 20 years.

When I got through to a consultant and told her that I lived in Australia, she told me could still open an account as a German citizen. I had to explain to her that I was an Australian citizen, which disqualifies me. Even Yvonne, as a French citizen, can't open an account.

On the one hand, it was nice to notice that she thought I was German, but on the other hand it contradicts what their web site told me the other day:

Unfortunately we cannot fulfil your wish... we only open accounts for clients in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Still, no point in griping. Spent some time looking for alternatives, including similar French banks, but without any success.


Bathing Nikolai
Topic: animals Link here

So now we have a nice new dog bath. Time to wash a dog:

That was the easy part. First we needed to get water into the bath, which seemed easy enough, except that the hose connections to the taps for the washing machine leaked, and at one point blew away altogether, spraying water all over the laundry. And to save heating, we used hot water, which proved to be too hot. Time for a T piece for both hot and cold water. Under the circumstances, we didn't get round to testing the heating, though there's no reason to believe that there's any issue there.


Long telephoto and focus
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

For some reason a helicopter was flying over Dereel today. Time for a photo:

 
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Those photos are uncropped, using my Zuiko Digital ED 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 lens and EC-20 teleconverter for a total focal length of 600 mm (1200 mm full frame equivalent). At that size, they don't look too bad, but in fact they're very out of focus, as even a “small” version (click on image) shows: basically autofocus didn't work at all.

That's a big difference from last month, where I took some similar photos using the M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-150 mm f4.0-5.6 , at 150 mm:

 
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This image is considerably cropped, so the effective focal length is 850 mm (1700 mm full frame). But it's so much sharper, mainly because it was in focus.

What's the issue with focus? Partially it's because the 70-300 is a Four thirds system lens, and possibly the teleconverter doesn't help. Time for a new Micro Four Thirds telephoto lens?


A possible induction cooker?
Topic: general, food and drink, opinion Link here

Spent some time looking at specifications for induction cookers. Specs and online comparisons were pretty useless, but while looking, Appliances Online offered me a “chat” with Chloe, for which I received a transcript with time and date in American format, and a completely emetic page layout, telling me nothing:

        Chloe Tue, 04/18/17 11:58:00 am Australia/Victoria

                Welcome to Appliances Online! Is there anything I can help you with?

        Customer 11:58:00 am

                Sure.  Can you give me information on the power levels (in W) and the heating areas of the items I'm looking at?

        Chloe 11:59:02 am

                Hello! Wherever possible, we provide the manufacturer's information, but this is not yet available for all of our products. Only the details on the product page is available and also the attached manual.

        Customer 11:59:19 am

                So that's a "no"?

        Chloe 12:00:18 pm

                I'm afraid not.  We do not have the power level per heating zone/burner.

        Customer 12:01:05 pm

                Thanks.  That's only the most important selling feature.  Comparisons like https://www.appliancesonline.com.au/compare/whi324ba-vs-ci302ctb1-vs-ci302dtb3/ are just  a waste of everybody's time.

        Chloe 12:04:13 pm

                I understand, I apologise for the trouble. Will take note of this for the product specifications on the website.

                Feel free to contact us again or call at 1300 000 500 if you need any assistance.       Thank you and have a nice day.

On the other hand, the search through the product manuals did offer some hope. It would clearly be too much to expect real specifications of power levels (only ALDI does that), but the manual for the Fischer & Paykel CI302DTB3 include a graph:

 
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It has linear axes, of course—you wouldn't want to confuse your cook—but it does show that the majority of the heating levels are at the low end. Now if I could only get the rest of my information.


Tying up pain phones
Topic: technology, language, opinion Link here

Modern computer technology continues to amuse me. I suppose I shouldn't be so critical; in the Good Old Days, the idea of referring to the tangible parts of computers as “hardware” was mildly amusing (we also referred to musical instruments like that), and “software” even more so. But what's funny about smart (painful) phones? And why tie them up? From the OED:

tether v. 3. To fasten or bind by conditions or circumstances; to bind so as to detain.

In any case, Daniel Nebdal read yesterday's article on the subject, and offered:

Just to save you some of the pain I've had with this: Bluetooth tethering is, like all things bluetooth, a neverending source of frustrations. I've had much more luck with wifi tethering; basically setting the phone up as an access point/router. It will supposedly drain the battery faster, but I'll happily take a theoretically shorter battery life over having to ever deal with bluetooth networking again.

On my Android 7 phone , this is in Settings, then More in the "Wireless & networking" section, then "Tethering & portable hotspot". In there I have a "Set up Wi-Fi hotspot" where I can set an SSID and password, and a toggle to turn it on. (It may be faster to click the magnifying glass up top in Settings and search for "tether" - at least on my phone that takes me directly to the right menu.)

On the laptop side you should - after a few seconds - be able to find and connect to the wifi network the normal way, getting an IP address over DHCP. It's not absolutely perfect, I sometimes don't get an IP address if the phone isn't happy with its internet connection. Trying again typically works, though it's not supremely confidence-inspiring.

I can certainly feel for Daniel's Bluetooth “experience”, and it's good to remember that you can also use 802.11. I'll try Bluetooth first next time I'm in range, and if that causes too much pain, and if I still have time, I'll try 802.11.


Wednesday, 19 April 2017 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 19 April 2017
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Editing videos
Topic: photography, animals, opinion Link here

Yesterday's video clip of us bathing Nikolai was 7½ minutes long and clocked in at a whopping 2.8 GB:

orig/44182144.MOV       VIDEO:  [H264]  1920x1080  24bpp  50.000 fps  50270.2 kbps (6136.5 kbyte/s)

Eat that, Malcolm Turnbull, the man who claims you can watch 4 concurrent high definition TV programmes on a 25 Mb/s link. But it does beg the question why it's so big. Something else to research, I suppose.

Uploading to YouTube took forever—projected 2 hours—but I accidentally didn't heed the warning to keep the window open, and the result was a zombie image. When it was finally done, it had been downscaled to 720p with noticeably poorer quality. Even then the clip was 206 MB.


Bang!
Topic: general Link here

Today was Yvonne's shopping day. As she left, I heard a large bang!. Out to find the car in worse shape than the last time I saw it. A bit of baling twine was needed:

 
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Yvonne told me that she had run into the portable fridge that she had removed from the car and put on the side, though it looked remarkably unscathed. She dropped in to the panelbeaters in town, and they said they could do it right away, so I followed her into town and we did the shopping together. But when we got back, they hadn't even started, so we left it there until tomorrow.


Taming Sam
Topic: animals Link here

Joan Harrington's new dog Sam is still learning to behave. Two weeks ago he required quite some time to calm down after seeing me, so last week Yvonne went round to desensitize him. She had planned another visit today, coupled with paying for the dog bath. He's getting much better. In fact, in the photos I took of him, he looks perfectly behaved:

 

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Car damage, part 2
Topic: general Link here

When leaving to pick up Yvonne in Ballarat, I discovered that the garage door was open, and it wouldn't shut. She hadn't hit the fridge: it was one of the rails for the rollers:

 
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Fortunately, it wasn't too difficult to hammer it back into shape, though it no longer looks as new.


Dogs recognizing dogs
Topic: animals, general Link here

Do dogs recognize what's going on on TV? I think the answer is yes, up to a point. While “editing” yesterday's dog bath clip, Nikolai came to take a look:

 
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It's clear that he recognized something. And later, while I was searching YouTube for some old clips of Nemo, Leonid came and took a look, went right up to the screen, but instead of nudging it, he sniffed around. Not what I expected, but it makes perfect sense from a dog's point of view.


Internet's next victim
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

Two identical paper mail letters today, from ANZ bank: they're closing their Sebastopol branch due to lack of interest (“Internet banking” being the stated culprit). Another sign of the times. Time to write a signs of the times page. I suppose we'll get by relatively well as long as there's an ATM nearby.


Bank of Melbourne credit card, try 2
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Yesterday's complaint to the Bank of Melbourne brought the recognition that I could also apply via the web. I had my doubts, but it was at least worth a try.

This link is where you get to if you start at the home page. But I came from this page with the 5½ columns:

 
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It offers different links for customers and non-customers. I'm a customer, so I selected the customer link. It took forever, several minutes. When I finally persuaded something to appaer, the first question was: “Are you a customer?”. It promised me to be done in 5 minutes, implicitly excluding the time I had waited already, and asked me more questions even than the consultant yesterday, some of them sensible, like whether I had any debts, and what other credit cards I had. One was “shall we allocate a credit limit?”. I had asked for that yesterday, and the consultant told me that that wasn't allowed. On the other hand, there was no option to include Yvonne in the application.

Finally I was done, after only 8 minutes:

Thank you. Your Credit Card application with $17900 credit limit has been approved subject to verification.

Before we can finalise the assessment of your application you will need to send us copies of the following documents:

Your latest Notice of Assessment with Tax File Number blacked out (Income Tax Returns are unacceptable). Last two month’s business bank statements – if business bank accounts are not held with Westpac

For self funded retirees, please submit a copy of your most recent Super Fund/Trust statement OR a letter from your Financial Advisor that confirms your regular earnings OR a current Notice of Assessment issued less than 18 months ago.

A statement from Centrelink that is less than 3 months old and shows the two most recent payments for Centrelink payments.

You can send your documents:

using the pre-filled e-mail BOMCC@bankofmelbourne.com.au
(note: you can take a photo and email it from your mobile phone)

or fax on 1300 660 298

Please be sure to write the application number on each document and in your email subject line if you don't use the pre-filled e-mail.

Once we have received your documents and verified you we will contact you via phone, SMS or email.

What's wrong with this picture?

I think I'll wait until they contact me. In the meantime, I need to look at customer satisfaction ratings for Australian banks. Maybe this experience is telling me that my days with the Bank of Melbourne are drawing to a close.


Cheaper international exchange
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Call from Paul Haege of OFX today. No, not a reply to my request for more correct exchange rates on their home page; he wanted to find out more about me and what I expected of OFX. I pointed out the disadvantage of a 10 € fee on every transaction, and he told me that he would waive it. That does make a difference, nearly $16 per month compared to ANZ. Is it worth it? I still need to find a bank in Europe.

In other news, Andy Snow pointed me at this page from OANDA that mentions additional charges that I hadn't noticed. I should look at it some time.


Thursday, 20 April 2017 Dereel Images for 20 April 2017
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Pad Thai for breakfast
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

I grew up in Malaysia, even very close to the Thai border for a while (Kota Bharu), but I don't really understand Thai food. Some years ago I bought a jar of pad thai paste, and had been meaning to use it for something. It expired in October 2010, so it's not too early. Basically I adapted the curry laksa recipe. Interestingly, though the quantities were not quite what I wanted.

How did it taste? Not bad, but surprisingly (considering it was a copy of another recipe) not enough. Here's the recipe.


Euro bank account: no go?
Topic: general, opinion Link here

More investigation of European bank accounts today. At the end I came to the conclusion that I couldn't do it without a European address. I found some information about DKB here: it seems that it has something to do with the recent Euro crisis. And that suggests that I'm unlikely to find anybody else. That page also suggested N26, but after trying to sign up I got:

Great you’ve heard of us

N26 isn’t available yet in Australia

Enter your email address and be the first to know if we’re available

So I did that, but it doesn't sound as if they're just about to open up here. So I'm still without a bank.

Then there's ABN AMRO, the most reputable of the banks I've seen. They will open accounts under some circumstances, but it seems to be oriented towards the big spenders (more than 10,000 € in the account). And I don't speak Dutch.

What are the alternatives? Banks active here as well. And I'm still investigating that. What I see is that, once again, fees are involved, and it's not clear to what extent I can use such an account for paying for things in Europe, which was one of my main considerations.


Android tablet recovered
Topic: technology Link here

Several months ago my Android tablet died. The battery wasn't charging, and it seems that that caused some failure requiring a complete tablet reset. And after that it was a brick.

But then some months later, with the next Android pain, I found a way to restart the tablet without entering Android. It required use of the Start button, something that the tablet doesn't have, and also the volume controls. Messed around with the power and volume buttons, not helped by the glacial response times, and finally got into something that, without further ado, reformatted the flash memory and brought back a virgin Android system. And, of course, it wanted me to charge the battery, which is still touch-and-go with the poor connectors that ALDI (or Bauhn?) use. I'll continue when the battery is something like charged.


Friday, 21 April 2017 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 21 April 2017
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Uneven cooking
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

One of the things I considered in my list of requirements from cookers was even heating. And today I had the perfect example of how things could go wrong:

 
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The tomato at bottom left is almost charred, while the one at top left is barely cooked. This was done on my induction cooker with a cheap, thin frying pan, which thus conducts heat to the food faster than across the base. It's almost impossible to know how the tomatoes are cooking until you turn them over.

Does this mean that the thin pans are no good? No, not necessarily. The thinness also means that they heat up much more quickly. From cold, they're too hot too touch literally in a matter of seconds. And the unevenness doesn't make any difference for boiling (think cooking pasta), and it's acceptable for frying when there's a fair amount of food in the pan. But in this case I'm going to have to stick to thicker pans, and hopefully find a more evenly heating cooker.


Eureka Village again
Topic: general, animals, opinion Link here

Off with Nikolai, Sasha and Yvonne to the Eureka Village Hostel and the Geoffrey Cutter Centre again. Once again Bill was asleep, so I did the rounds by myself. Bob Carr is looking better, and seems to be more aware of his surroundings; he even asked Niko to sit, which he did after some encouragement.

Once again I was done far faster than Yvonne, and over to complete her visit with her.

This marks a year since we started the visits. The dogs are really not enjoying it overly. From the beginning we wondered whether Borzois had the right temperament to do this kind of work, and gradually we're coming to the conclusion that they don't. We should plan some kind of exit.


Fake URLs
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Today I became aware of a new way to fake URLs: use Unicode. For example, https://www.xn--80ak6aa92e.com leads to a site whose URL displays as https://www.аррӏе.com/. It takes a lot of looking to realize that the а is Cyrillic а (0x430), not Latin a (0x61). The worrying thing is that it's really difficult to protect yourself against this stuff. The description at the link describes some of the issues.


Saturday, 22 April 2017 Dereel → Enfield → Dereel Images for 22 April 2017
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Enfield wetlands
Topic: photography Link here

The Dereel Camera Crew had planned a trip to the Enfield Wetlands today to take photos. I've been through Enfield hundreds of times, but I wasn't aware of any wetlands, and neither is Google. All I knew was that I should bring both telephoto and macro lenses, suggesting birds and insects or flowers.

Down to the Dereel Hall at 14:00 to find it closed, and nobody at all outside. Talked to some blokes at the Men's Shed, and then a car arrived: Lorraine Carranza, trying to get rid of some of her copious harvest of chestnuts.

Off to Enfield on the off chance that I might find somebody or something to photograph. Neither worked. The State Park is full of Epacris impressa at this time of year:

 
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But that's all. Drove down numerous unmade roads and found nothing that we don't have just round the corner from our house. Back to find that they had implicitly cancelled the meeting. Somehow people seem to be losing interest.


E-M1 Mark II incompatibility
Topic: photography Link here

The failure of my helicopter photos on Tuesday had me wondering, and I set off doing some comparisons. How about that: the combination of Zuiko Digital ED 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 and EC-20 2× teleconverter does not focus at all with the OM-D E-M1 Mark II! I tried it with other cameras (E-M1 and E-PM1), where it focussed with its usual glacial speed, but with the E-M1 Mark II it didn't even try. It's only this combination: the Zuiko Digital ED 35-100mm f/2.0 works fine, though it's not clear what use a 70-200 mm f/4 weighing nearly 2 kg might be.

Yet another reason to replace it. And the clear replacement is a lens that they call the LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm / F4.0-6.3 ASPH. / POWER O.I.S., in other words a Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3. Strangely, the cheapest price I could find anywhere in the world was in Sydney with eGlobaL. They're asking $1,628, compared to a list price of $2,200. And in the USA the list price is $1,800, or a little over $2,380 at current exchange rates. Once Australia was expensive, but now it seems to be one of the cheapest places to buy equipment.

About the only issue is that I had to find an address where they would send it without ridiculous surcharges, effectively meaning Ballarat. So once again Chris Bahlo (who conveniently came for dinner) gets involved, now that she's working at the prestigious Centre for eResearch and Digital Innovation.


Insect invasion
Topic: animals Link here

In the last few months we've seen a surprising number of millipedes, more than for years. They're an exotic species, and they have no natural enemies in Australia. Even the cats may play with them, but they're clearly not edible.

We were talking about them in the evening—Chris Bahlo hates the crunchy noise they make when you tread on them—but when she left, they were waiting for her:

 
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They weren't alone. There was also a solitary ant about 15 mm long and a moth with amazing antennae:

 
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Sunday, 23 April 2017 Dereel Images for 23 April 2017
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Buying a lens: the pain
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

So I've decided to buy a Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3, called LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm / F4.0-6.3 ASPH. / POWER O.I.S. in Australia and “LUMIX G LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR Lens, 100-400mm, F4.0-6.3 ASPH. (which also claims “Power I.O.S”) in the USA. Probably the singularly unevocative name H-RS100400E begins to make sense.

While researching, I was asked to fill out a survey about my web site experience on the US web site. In fact, it wasn't too bad, modulo the uncertainty about the image stabilization. But the survey had its own surprise:

 
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Australia is so unknown that it's not even an option on the list! Neither is the USA, but that's because it's so special that it's a separate question.

Next, pay for the lens. I had started entering details yesterday evening, and that was too long for the site, so it timed out, taking my discount code with it, and requiring me to enter all the details again. I have another code that I wanted to use for another purchase, so I used that instead. And then this horrible “Verified by Visa” came in and told me that my mobile phone details were incorrect.

It appears that ANZ might not have your current Mobile number. Please contact ANZ for further assistance on 03 8699 6908.

What mobile phone details? VbV don't need no steenking mobile phone number, and I was pretty sure that I didn't provide one. Called up the number, which gave me a choice of two options: 1 for online banking, 2 for everything else. OK, 2. “A valid response has not been received” (and not “sorry, I don't recognize the entry “2””). Repeat. Same thing.

After about 20 times, I gave up and called again (redialled). This time I got something completely different, a voice non-recognition menu. After a couple of minutes I fought my way through to a human, who confirmed that the requirement was from VbV, and that they wanted to send me an SMS to confirm something. Security, they say, but of course I can work around it if I know my secret password. A lot of security that is! It's just a waste of time. I won't be in a position to receive an SMS for at least a week. She disabled the requirement, and I left her to forward my opinion of the whole process to anybody who might care.

Back to pay for my lens. The web page had hung itself up, and I had to restart, and, for the third time, enter all details, which they hadn't bothered to store. And finally I could pay for the thing, after only 30 minutes trying.

ANZ, I'm fed up already. The whole finance sector needs to revise their interfaces.


Becks damage
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Beck's make reasonably good beer, and I drink a lot of it. But their packaging! The slabs contain 4 six-packs tied together by robust polypropylene straps, and I have to cut through them to get them apart.

Today I was unlucky. I got one of the cans instead:

 
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Autumn mushrooms
Topic: gardening Link here

In the middle of last week the Bureau of Meteorology forecast a week of wet weather. It didn't quite happen like that: most of the weather has been warm and sunny. Only on Thursday night did it rain a lot, about 15 mm. And the combination has caused many mushrooms to pop up almost overnight, like a number of Agaricus campestris and these Amanita muscaria:

 
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Do's and dont's of photography
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

One big no-no in taking photos is getting yourself or your shadow in the photo. But sometimes it can be creative, like this extraterrestrial alien about to eat Samba:

 
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Monday, 24 April 2017 Dereel Images for 24 April 2017
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Asia trip
Topic: history Link here

Another round anniversary in the calendar today:

	Apr 24  Greg and Norm leave KL starting on Asia trip, 1967
      

The “Asia trip” was the name we gave to our trip from Singapore overland to London. This was well over a year before the London to Sydney marathon. It was both one of the great experiences of my life and a turning point: before “home” was where my parents lived. Afterwards, I was on my own. 50 years! How time flies when you're having fun!


Ayam laksa: no thanks
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

While in town last week, I picked up some likely looking mixtures for breakfast. Woolworths have a number of mixtures for south-east Asian food, including Laksa paste from Ayam, a company I know and respect. Unlike MARION'S KITCHEN (which is also in stock at Woolworths; maybe I was wrong in my assumption a couple of months ago that it came from ALDI), it comes in a jar, which makes it much easier to remove the correct amount and replace the rest.

So I tried it today. Terrible! Far too much chili, although it was marked “medium”, and not much other flavour. I need to reconsider my opinion of well-known brands. I've already established on multiple occasions that Pataks are to be avoided, and now Ayam. By comparison MARION'S KITCHEN is much better.


Cleaning lenses
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

I'm preparing to sell some lenses, so I need good photos. Spent some time today, but the results were anything but encouraging. Try as I might, they seem to be covered in dust—at least in the photos. I can't see anything with my naked eye. And then there are marks which the Lens Pen should have removed, but didn't:

 
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It's not made any easier by my standard processing parameters, which have a strong microcontrast. This is the same image:

 
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None of this is damage to the lens, but it does make it clear how difficult it is to get a lens really clean. In particular, the spot on the rim at bottom right in the last photo is dirt that should have been removed by the lens pen.


Rain!
Topic: general Link here

Only yesterday I commented on the incorrect rain forecast. Clearly that tempted the gods. Today it started raining and wouldn't stop, and once again our rainwater tanks are full:

 
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The day's rainfall was somewhere round 40 mm.


Tuesday, 25 April 2017 Dereel Images for 25 April 2017
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What software update?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

On the whole I'm positively impressed by euroa, my “new” Lenovo ThinkPad T430. But it's still a Microsoft space machine, and it shows:


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What are they? They're not telling. It seems that they're Lenovo updates, not Microsoft updates. Lenovo, you could tell people what you're doing to their computers!


Selling lenses
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Taking photos of my lenses and listing them took up a significant proportion of the day. It's a good thing I'm not charging for my time, or it might not have been worth selling some of them. And in the process I examined the lenses more closely than I have for some time, making a disturbing discovery in the process:

 
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That appears to be a separation of the elements inside the lens (the Zuiko Digital ED 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6). Damn. I'm sure that it doesn't make a serious difference to the quality of the images, but it does make a serious difference to the price I can get. What the hell, it's not worth much anyway, and I can always use it if it doesn't sell.

On a more positive note, it looks as if I have already sold the M.Zuiko 12-40 mm f/2.8 “Pro”. That was faster than I expected; now I'm going to have to buy a replacement.


Happy birthday Sasha
Topic: animals Link here

Sasha is two years old today, making him an adult. Yvonne couldn't resist buying him a birthday present, but he couldn't find a way to open it:

 
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Husfrusill med ägg
Topic: food and drink Link here

From time to time we fake Swedish Husfrusill using Matjes fillets. Recently on IRC Henrik Johansson mentioned eating it with boiled eggs. To my surprise, he wanted soft-boiled eggs. Yvonne and I discussed it and decided that, for non-Swedish palates at any rate, hard-boiled eggs would be better:

 
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And yes, it's an improvement.


Wednesday, 26 April 2017 Dereel Images for 26 April 2017
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Another anniversary
Topic: history Link here

Only 2 days ago was the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Asia trip, one of the turning points of my life. And today's another anniversary: 20 years ago today I left Germany for good, on the way to Australia. It's not appropriate to say that I never looked back—I was back in Germany briefly later in the year—but it's certainly another turning point.


Lens: sold!
Topic: photography Link here

I've now put up a total of five lenses (or is that 4½?) for sale: the M.Zuiko 12-40 mm f/2.8 “Pro”, the Zuiko Digital ED 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 SWD, the Olympus Zuiko Digital 35 mm f/3.5 Macro, the Zuiko Digital ED 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 and the (half lens) EC-20 2× teleconverter. I've also offered them on Facebook for between $10 and $20 less, reflecting the fact that I don't have to pay fees. I hadn't expected any to go away quickly, especially since I had put a relatively high “buy it now” price, but I had already had interest in the 12-40 before I put it up for sale (and before I had mentioned a price). But sure enough, she was still interested, and not only did she buy it, the money arrived in my bank account within hours. That's a far cry from Chris Bahlo's attempts to buy a Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-150 mm f4.0-5.6 from the same Facebook group, which has been going on for over a month now.


Lens: bought!
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

My new Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 is on its way—from Hong Kong. They don't mention anything about having to pay GST (only that it's not in the prices), but hopefully there will be none. In the meantime, though, I need a lens to replace the M.Zuiko 12-40 mm f/2.8 “Pro”. Not a difficult choice: I had already pretty much settled on the Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60 mm f/2.8-4. But DxO Optics “Pro” still doesn't support it, and I had expected to have some time before buying it. No such “luck”.

So off to eGlobaL again, the purchase made a little easier by the fact that they now have most of my details on file. All went relatively smoothly until it came to payment. And then... Bloody “Verified by Visa”! Once again it wanted a mobile phone number. Will they buy me a mobile phone? Of course not.

Damn VbV! The banks should be ashamed of themselves. It's not as if it adds significant security. I can bypass it with a simple password (“my secret”). If the Bank of Melbourne ever processes my online application (which I can't influence), I'll have to make sure that doesn't happen.

But there's always PayPal. Should I risk it? The lens costs $990, and this morning we only had $800 in the bank, from which Yvonne had already deducted some sum. Yes, I know how to change the payment source when buying on eBay, but this isn't eBay, and they have a different interface which may not offer me the option.

But checking the accounts showed that the money for the new lens had already arrived, so I went ahead. I needn't have worried. I still had the option, which included using the credit I had. But it changed the shipping address! I had to go back to the original order Yet Again and reinstate the address. Another half hour payment. Hopefully that'll be the last.


Mail transit times: new record
Topic: general, opinion Link here

A couple of weeks ago the battery in one of our cordless phones died. Not a worry, it proved: they're available on eBay. So I ordered one, sent from Melbourne. It arrived today, fully 12 days after I ordered it and it was marked sent! I had previously opined that a persistent snail would be faster, but this represents a speed of 0.45 km/h. The persistent snail would laugh its head off. Australia Post, how do you explain that?

One explanation might be that the claimed sending date was wrong. That's what dated post stamps are for. But that seems to be a relict of the 20th century, and few packages display it. So it was today. But the slowness of Australia Post is really unforgivable, and if they want to prove their innocence, they can always require some kind of dating for untracked items.


My reference to bell peppers
Topic: food and drink, technology, opinion Link here

Mail today with a familiar looking text:

I was searching the web for information on bell peppers and saw your great post here: http://narrawin.lemis.com/grog/diary-may2016.php

I noticed you mentioned https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bell_pepper in your post, and just wanted to give you a heads up that I recently wrote a blog post you might like. It's a detailed, up-to-date 7,000 word guide on 15 health benefits of bell peppers according to science, and includes 5 delicious bell pepper recipes.

Bell peppers? What's that? Oh, he (she?) meant Capsicum, which Wikipedia calls Bell pepper. But that's never a word I use in my diary (with today's obvious exception).

But the real thing is that it looks so familiar. It's almost identical to the message I received at the end of last month. And how about that, last time the sender was Jen Miller <jen@jenreviews.com>, and this time it's Jesse Miller <jesse@jenreviews.com>. At the time I had thought (but not mentioned) that the references were discovered by looking through the HTML markup, but this mail proves it.

And it also shows something else: look at the quoted URL, http://narrawin.lemis.com/grog/diary-may2016.php. That domain shouldn't have a web server at all. More Apache config to look at.


Astrophotography
Topic: photography, technology Link here

Saw some impressive images on Facebook today, made with Deepskystacker and by Baillie Farley (reproduced with permission):

 
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Looks like fun, but also another can of worms to open.


Black cockatoos
Topic: animals, photography, opinion Link here

Cockatoos are widespread in Victoria, and they frequently come in large swarms. But they're almost invariably the Sulphur-crested variety, and the various black ones are much rarer.

But lately we've been seeing big swarms of them. Well, Yvonne has seen them, and I've just heard them. Today I had time to put on my (old) telephoto lens and take a single uninteresting shot, barely showing that they're Yellow-tailed black cockatoos, before they disappeared:

 
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Roll on the Vario-Elmar!


Thursday, 27 April 2017 Dereel Images for 27 April 2017
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More breakfast thoughts
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Yvonne has bought a new egg slicer that also cuts eggs into 6 different-sized segments:

 
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Is there any advantage in the different sizes? The only one I can think of is that it greatly simplifies the design of the egg slicer.

Here's what we had for breakfast today. The laksa is still far too pedas.

 
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Free security book
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Now that I'm using Microsoft far more than I really want to, it's probably time to subscribe to some of the more technical forums. I've found a couple of useful tips at HowtoGeek, so I subscribed. Today I received a special offer: “Download Computer Security Handbook, 6th Edition ($130 Value) FREE For a Limited Time”.

OK, what's behind that? Probably not much. So I signed up, which required one of the most complicated forms I've seen in a long while:

 
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Even if I were still working, how could I fill that out? In the end I entered nonsense, including “Sub Industry” to do with agriculture and Job Level as “Intern” (I had to choose from their categories). And sure enough, it was accepted. What nonsense!

I got the book, which proved to be over 2000 pages long and originally written in 1973, along with advertising for my specific “Sub Industry” of Computers and Technology:


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I didn't have much expectations from the book, especially considering the age, but in fact it seems to offer quite a detailed overview. It has been significantly updated in revised in the 40 odd years between the first and sixth editions, but it leaves me wondering how to read a document of that size on a monitor, especially as the page numbers are per chapter.


Rani again
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

Yvonne is gradually getting thoroughly fed up with Rani, who has really proven to be more complicated than any cat we have ever had before. We've caught her defecating in all sorts of corners, and we've been making sure that she always has access to a toilet, but today, once again, she decided elsewhere: behind the music instrument cabinet in the corner, where only she can get to. To clean the (multiple) mess away, we had to completely remove everything from the cabinet.

Yvonne is completely fed up and wants to get rid of her. I'm not quite that far, but I can understand her annoyance. The cat's 18 months old now; she should be out of that sort of thing.


Friday, 28 April 2017 Dereel Images for 28 April 2017
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Slow, quick, quick, slow
Topic: general, photography, opinion Link here

So it took 12 days to receive an item from Melbourne. Slow. What can I expect from Hong Kong? On Sunday I bought a new lens, and I've been following its progress. Here, upside down as usual, and barely little enough to avoid truncation in the obligatory subwindow:

 
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Rather less than 3 days from start to arrival (at Chris Bahlo's work address). That's absolutely acceptable. Quick.

Yes, this cost more: $19. But today Yvonne sent off the M.Zuiko 12-40 mm f/2.8 “Pro” to an address in New South Wales. Cost: $13.80. We'll see how long that takes, but I'm prepared to bet it won't be there on Monday.

The experience was so positive that on Wednesday I ordered another lens, Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60 mm f/2.8-4, again braving the pain that financial institutions cause. But it wasn't sent off immediately: instead, it's still in a state “Stock Issue”. So I sent them a message via the web site, and got a response within 15 minutes. Quick.

Unfortunately, we still have an unconfirmed date on Panasonic H-ES12060 Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4 ASPH. POWER O.I.S. Lens It may take up to another 4 week or even longer, which we cannot guarantee you now. Please help confirm if you would like to have a refund.

Not at all what I expected. Slow. Looking at my credit card bill, they don't seem to have deducted the sum, but that could just be lag on the part of the bank.

What do I do? The next-cheapest offer costs $39 more, but they have it in stock. On the other hand, DxO Optics “Pro” still don't have support for the lens, and looking at the difference between the recommended retail price ($1,199) and what I paid ($979), it seems that there's a possibility of a further price drop. For the while I'll think about it; it's quite possible that the situation will change.


AusPost: invalid tracking number!
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

So Yvonne had posted the M.Zuiko 12-40 mm f/2.8 “Pro” lens, so I had to inform the buyer of the tracking number, 601 13322922 096.

Had it been processed correctly? Australia Post told me:

 
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What's that nonsense? The normal nonsense: Australia Post issues tracking numbers with spaces in them, but their web site is modern, and it treats spaces as delimiters.

In a world where people put spaces in file names to confuse parsers, it's really puzzling that web designers go to the opposite extremes in accepting identifiers and sums of money (try entering $1,234,500 in just about any site asking for sums of money).


Chestnuts: too much trouble
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Lorraine Carranza has given us a number of chestnuts from her tree. Problem: Yvonne doesn't like chestnuts. Or she says so; it's been such a long time since she last tried them that she can no longer be sure. So I decided to use them as a stuffing for a chicken, so that she can leave them if she still doesn't like them.

How do you process chestnuts? Only one cookbook gives me a suggestion: put a slit down the side, boil for 5 minutes, then peel while they're still hot.

That doesn't work, of course. They need to cool down first, and when I tried it, I didn't have the time. OK, warm them up again. But then they were so cooked that I couldn't just pop the kernels out, I had to scrape them. Total time, for only about 350 g unshelled: over an hour. I hope they'll be worth it.


More bread pain
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Lately I've had problems with my bread rising, and I've been experimenting. More water? More starter? Nothing seems to help. Today I tried both, along with an addition of some dried yeast. That didn't help either: after 7 hours “rising”, I gave up and baked the half-risen loaf, which barely made it to normal size.

Why? When reviving the starter, it rises happily enough in less time. The complete lack of effect of yeast was unexpected, but I suspect that the acid environment might have deactivate it. And then it occurred to me: I don't need more starter, I need less. The first round shows that it's active enough, and to rise it needs food. And by using more starter and less flour, I'm giving it less food. My “standard” method takes a starter made from 64 g (rye) flour and adds 720 g, and then the next step adds another 410 g. It would make sense to try a geometric progression next time: add 240 g flour the first time round, and 880 g the second time round.


Vario-Elmar: first impressions
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Chris Bahlo came along with my new Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 this evening. I had to take a couple of photos, if only to confirm the serial number (27CIF16G019P), and also to try out the image stabilization. The images themselves were just what I could find in the kitchen, at 0.8 s and ½ s at f/4:

 
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This is the first stabilized lens I have, and I still need to understand the interaction between lens and body stabilization, and also the difference between the Olympus and Panasonic implementations of lens stabilization. In any case, whatever stabilization I used, it isn't sufficient to keep the image really sharp at that speed. Of course, the old rule of thumb I learnt as a boy was “minimum shutter speed is 1/f”. That referred to 35 mm cameras, and this lens (as used) has an equivalent focal length of 200 mm. So even 6 EVs of image stabilization would only bring it down to ⅓ s. I'll see more plausible images in the course of time.

Once I thought I could buy long telephotos cheaply. And indeed you can: I'm offering my old Zuiko Digital ED 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 for only $220. The new lens cost nearly 8 times that. What do I get for it? Slightly longer focal length is the most obvious difference. There's little difference in aperture at the focal lengths that they share:

Apertures Zuiko Digital 70-300 and Vario-Elmar 100-400.  Click for larger version

More to the point, I hope for faster autofocus. We'll see how that works when the black cockatoos come back again.

In the meantime, there's the optical comparison. It's really quite small. Here it is with the Zuiko Digital ED 14-35mm f/2.0 SWD standard lens:

 
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With the Zuiko Digital ED 35-100mm f/2.0 the difference is even more impressive:

 
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Only the 70-300 shows a better comparison:

 
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Saturday, 29 April 2017 Dereel Images for 29 April 2017
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Leica: Left hand, right hand
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Took a number of photos with my new Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 today. And how about that, it really makes a difference. To start with, the black cockatoos flew by, and I managed to get a number of photos that, while not good, were an order of magnitude better than what I had got previously:


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None of them are really good, but at least they're in focus (about 70% of the total I took). Now I need to get the birds to come closer and to improve the exposure (probably +1 EV to start with).

Then I had another attempt at the Amanita muscaria, this time at 400 mm and 1/50 s:

 
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I don't see any camera shake there. My rule of thumb would have said “not under 1/800 s”, so this is 4 stops better. The shallow depth of field is clearly recognizable.

And in the afternoon I got some quite acceptable photos of the dogs playing:

 
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The only problem I've discovered is a left/right thing:


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The zoom ring on the Vario-Elmar turns in the opposite direction to all my Olympus zooms. This is the first Panasonic/Leica zoom lens I have, but I assume it's a general issue. I wonder how long it will take me to get used to it.


Rani: full of shit
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

So we blocked the entrance behind the musical instrument cabinet, so that Rani couldn't use the space behind as a toilet. We also made sure she had continual access to the designated toilet in the laundry. What did she do? She crapped in front of the cabinet!

Gradually she's convincing us that it's time for her to go. I don't like giving up on a cat, but it's been over a year now, and she's still not tame.


Responsibility for rotten foodstuffs
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Yvonne cooked salmon lasagne for dinner tonight. To that purpose she bought fresh lasagne (or, as they put it, lasagna) from Woolworths. It may have been fresh, but it wasn't good:

 
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Those look like two different organisms. How could that happen? The stuff has a “best before” date of “10-06-17”, which I interpret to mean 10 June 2017, still long in the future. And it wasn't treated badly since we had it: brought home in a cooler bag and put straight into the fridge.

Yes, of course we can get our money back. But it very nearly spoilt the whole dinner preparations. If we had gone back to get another pack, it would have cost us about $40 for the car, not to mention the waste of an hour. As it was, we found enough substandard dried lasagne to make do.

More to the point, though, Yvonne wanted to use it anyway. I wonder how many other people would do that. No wonder substandard food processing is responsible for many cases of food poisoning. I have a mind to report it to the authorities.


Dinner with the Marriotts
Topic: general, photography Link here

Garry and Diane Mariott along for dinner tonight, an opportunity for some more photo experiments:


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Sunday, 30 April 2017 Dereel Images for 30 April 2017
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Power failure
Topic: general Link here

Another brief power failure this morning at 0:47, coincidentally just as I had got up to go to the toilet.


Crash! Crash! Crash!
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

I had barely got up when Yvonne asked me to see what was wrong with dischord, the Microsoft box we use for photo processing. Dead! I discover I had connected it to an unprotected power outlet, and the power indicator showed that it wasn't powered on: for reasons I didn't investigate in time, it didn't come back up after the power outage. Connected it to the UPS and it came up happily, and it shouldn't happen again.

Next thing: check what's going on on IRC. Disconnected from the proxy. Can't reconnect. Off the net? No, a ping to www worked. Did my bip process die? It seemed so. But then I saw:

=== grog@www (/dev/pts/2) ~ 3 -> date; uptime
Sat Apr 29 23:26:29 UTC 2017
11:26PM  up 11:41, 4 users, load averages: 0.14, 0.21, 0.21

A crash! After only 2 years uptime! How did that happen? I wonder if I'll ever beat the nearly 5 years I had by September 2013.

I also wanted to process photos, so I used euroa, the Microsoft laptop. It told me it wanted to reboot to complete something. OK, humour it. It came back up again, and I started using it. Then it froze. I couldn't even ping it. But it worked locally. After a lot of checking, discovered that Norton Security had been enabled, and it had set all kinds of default filtration without telling me, including blocking ICMP and (apparently) remote desktop. No setup screen, no asking: it just did it.

It also told me that I had 21 days for my free trial, after which I would have to pay Real Money for the privilege of being blocked. OK, that's clarified the matter. Totally remove the product.

It still didn't work! As a parting shot, it had enabled the “Windows” firewall!

Yes, of course we need security. But it needs to be appropriate. In my case, the machines are behind a real firewall running on eureka, and that's something I can control. I don't need no steenking toy firewall behind the real one.


OI.Share, yet again
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

I'm still thinking about the continued failure of getting good photos of this flower:

 
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