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April 2018
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Sunday, 1 April 2018 Dereel Images for 1 April 2018
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Clocks back
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Daylight saving time ended this morning. I had planned ahead and reset my watch and alarm clock, leaving the cameras, cars and kitchen equipment to be done today.

And then I started cooking breakfast—before putting the clocks back! So we had breakfast an hour too early. The idea of resetting the clocks in the morning is good, but I really should do it first thing.

And then there were the cameras to sync. How do you do it accurately? The E-PM1 and E-PM2 require manual setting, including seconds, but when does the time take effect? I'm guessing when you press OK, but that's not 100% clear, and there's no way to get the camera to display seconds when running.

The E-M1s Mark I and II are simpler, at least in theory: you can synchronize with a mobile phone (“WLan”) and set to its time. It only took me 10 minutes, hindered mainly by this appalling OI.Share app, and also by the fact that I had done an unnecessary firmware update on the E-M1 Mark I and lost the credentials. But for some reason it acted as if it didn't recognize the Mark II either, though it was too polite to say so. And the photo (“scan”) of the QR code took four attempts because it couldn't get the exposure right.

When will they make cameras first-class net citizens? Internet of things indeed!


Huevos a la tigre
Topic: food and drink Link here

I've been trying various approaches to huevos a la Flamenca on a couple of occasions, but somehow it never quite worked out. In particular, it seems that the eggs should be grilled. I tried that again today, and was rewarded by watching an egg yolk burst just as I took it out of the grill, here at the top:


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The eggs also taste leathery when grilled this way, and the process is tedious. So I've started my own recipe, titled hueovos a la tigre (an inside joke), where the eggs are fried instead of grilled. I'm sure there's more work to be done on it. Here the current ingredients:

quantity       ingredient       step
200 g       potatoes       1
100 g       onions       1
5 g       garlic       1
50 g       chorizo, cooked and sliced       1
      oil or fat to fry       1
80 g       tomatoes       2
8 g       salt       2
60 g       peas       3
2       eggs       4

More spraying
Topic: gardening Link here

For once the wind was very light today, so I carried on with spraying weeds, something that I hate. And of course the wind came up, though not enough to be a problem.


Still more photo processing
Topic: photography Link here

More playing around with yesterday's house photos today. I now have managed to handle TIFF images and use Photomatix PRO, though there are still a number of loose ends. I've improved my cropstack script to only trim images where it's necessary—which seems to be just about every time with Photomatix—so I can leave the call as part of the script.

What I haven't managed is to work out how to group the images correctly. I made a big mistake a while back by introducing two image groups with the names house-from-ssw and house-from-ssw-2. The individual components (4 in the first case) have names like house-from-ssw-2-1EV and house-from-ssw-2+1EV, which lands the alphabetical sort sequence right in the middle of the second images. It would be straightforward to rename the second series of images to something else, but I already have hundreds of images with the old name, and potentially they're known on the web.

That might seem unlikely, but when I experimented with using PNG instead of JPEG for some of my old photos from 1970, and then changed my mind, I got hundreds of error messages where some web search engine was trying to access the old images. In the end I put in symlinks to shut them up.

Apart from that, Photomatix is showing more of its irritating Microsoft background, including reverting to its own idea of where I should be putting my images, and requiring me to climb trees to get to where I had been. Why can't these things have a concept of a working directory?


Monday, 2 April 2018 Dereel
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Shepherd's pie revisited
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

So we have leftover leg of lamb, which fits in nicely with Yvonne's request for shepherd's pie.

When did we last make that? It must have been some time ago. The only mention in my diary seems to be from 1 December 1963, and clearly I didn't cook it myself. The recipe dates from 26 March 2008, and the last relevant update dates from 21 October 2011. The format required updating as a result.

One of the components for shepherd's pie is mashed potato, something that we don't use for any other purpose. I found no less than three bags of “instant” mash in the pantry, with use-by dates of “23-06-09”, “19/10/10” and “04-02-12”, the first of them opened. Rejected the first because it had been opened, and the second because it requires a secret ingredient: “Flora Salt Reduced spread” (2 teaspoons). Decided on the last, from ALDI, which has one of the clearest instructions: ½ cup (55 g) of the powder (conveniently 24.4% of the 225 g package) with 1 cup (250 mL) of water. OK, we can't get away from the cups, but at least they give real quantities.

Problem: they're wrong. There's far too little water. I had to add probably another 60 ml of water to make a usable result. But that wasn't the only issue: I had written 150 g of mashed potato to 300 g of meat. And in the end I found that I needed 600 g. How could I have got that so wrong?

The other issue was the amount of gravy for the meat. In the course of time I had increased it from 300 ml to 350 ml, and that was marginally too much. Until proof of the contrary, I think I need to keep it the same as the weight of the meat.


Tuesday, 3 April 2018 Dereel Images for 3 April 2018
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Brunch with Lorraine
Topic: general, food and drink Link here

Lorraine Carranza along again for brunch this morning, this time with modified bacon and eggs: in addition to typical Anglo-Saxon fare, we had frijoles refritos and chorizo, which Lorraine found good, though I noted that she got through my baked beans first.


Extreme macros?
Topic: photography, food and drink, opinion Link here

I'm still having infection issues with my sourdough starters, and it occurred to me that they might make good subjects for macro photos, in particular with the new bellows that I got last June, and which I have never really used. So I set off and got a number of more conventional photos. The dish in the first photo is 11.5 cm in diameter (why exactly that diameter?), so it doesn't count as a macro. The next ones were done at 1:1 with the M.Zuiko Digital ED 60 mm f/2.8 Macro, and then again with 26 mm extension tubes:


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I think the difference in coloration of the last image is due to shadows thrown by the lens.

And finally with the bellows (full extension, of course). Which lens? This is a Pentax bellows (M42), so a good contender would be the SMC Macro-Takumar 50 mm f/4:


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But this stupid built-in lens hood got in the way, and I had to give that up. OK, how about the Raynox 35 mm f/2.8 that came with the bellows? That would have the added advantage of almost 50% more magnification.

So I mounted it, and tried to focus. In the end I gave up and tried to focus on a piece of printed paper:


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The distance from the front of the lens to the object can't have been more than a few millimetres. I can't take photos like that. I wonder what the previous owner did. I need a reversing ring. I have one, somewhere, but I haven't seen for 3 years, since we moved to Stones Road. It must be in some unexpected place in a moving carton. Do I go searching for it or buy a new one? For some reason new ones are surprisingly expensive, up to $40.

In passing, it's interesting to see how well the viewfinder display works with a mirrorless camera (first image above). This setup would have corresponded to an magnification of about 5:1, as the lettering shows, but the viewfinder illumination is completely normal.


Wednesday, 4 April 2018 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 4 April 2018
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Shopping again
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Off to Ballarat for our weekly shopping expedition. For once, Yvonne didn't have any doctor's appointments, but she made up for it by having her hair done. I took the opportunity to go to Dan Murphy's for supplies.

Timing wasn't what I expected. It must take between 10 and 15 minutes to get to Dan Murphy's, and Yvonne's hair dressing took 30 minutes. She called me just as I was loading my purchases into the car, and I suggested that she walk to Woolworths in Sebastopol, and that I would pick her up.

A quarter of an hour later I was there and found her having gone about two-thirds of the distance—not what I had expected. One forgets how far distances are when you go by car. In fact, it's 1.3 km, and Google Maps estimated 16 minutes. But then, it claims that I only needed 10 minutes for my journey.


Giant trout?
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Seen at ALDI today:


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According to the bag, the fillets are 125 g each. A normal trout weighs about 800 g, but these must be the size of a salmon. I wonder if they're really some giant, mutant trout.


More NBN pain?
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

The DEREEL OUTPOST Facebook group came to life again today: NBN outages again. And somebody pointed to something I had said that today was the third day of outages. But all I saw was some pretty flaky connectivity round 10:10.

When we got home from town, though, it was another matter: we had had an outage of between 20 and 30 minutes (my current reporting is not very accurate). Was this an NBN-related outage? If so, hopefully we're finally done with them.


Back to gmail?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Since moving away from Gmail two weeks ago I have had lots of spam, not surprisingly. Is it worth it? My issues with Gmail were related to SPF, and that is only set for some sites, like FreeBSD. For FreeBSD I set my email address to send directly to Gmail, so that problem no longer exists. What about the rest? Can I do it with them too? It's worth a try.


Thursday, 5 April 2018 Dereel Images for 5 April 2018
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In a hole, dig faster
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

Quote from Donald Trump today:

When you’re already $500 Billion DOWN, you can’t lose!

Never mind that saner people have noticed that the sum he mentioned (ostensibly the trade deficit between China and the USA) is incorrect. Wikipedia gives a sum of $ 347,038 million. Maybe he has knowledge that he hasn't shared before.

Now where have I heard this attitude before?


Free online storage!
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Somebody on IRC pointed at this page today. Use other people's DNS cache to store your data.

Amusing.


Selfies revisited
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

My photos on the web are ancient. This one, currently on my home page, was taken on 2 February 2002:


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And then the “passport photo” at the top of my other pages, including my diary, is also of the same age, though I haven't preserved any of the Exif data, nor even the original. I think it was taken by Anthony Rumble on a Nikon DSLR round 4 September 2003:


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I haven't changed beyond recognition since then, but arguably the surroundings have. Time for a new photo.

First, the photo for the home page. Spent some time playing around, with remarkably poor results. This was one of the best:


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At least part of that is the lighting, of course, which I can improve. But why can't I look as if I'm enjoying myself? That's one of the reasons I have held on to Anthony's photo for so long.


Horse photos again
Topic: photography, animals Link here

Yvonne is gradually becoming more mobile, and though she's still not allowed to ride, she's doing plenty of groundwork. Today she asked me to take some photos, so I did, 668 shots in 10 minutes, an average of a little over one a second. And some were worth keeping. Yvonne likes this one because the horse (Carlotta) is sticking her tongue out:


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Friday, 6 April 2018 Dereel Images for 6 April 2018
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More online video sources
Topic: multimedia, technology, opinion Link here

One of the online sources that I'm subscribed to is SBS On Demand, from the Australian broadcaster SBS. Before I stopped using broadcast TV, SBS was my channel of choice, and they have a reasonable number of foreign-language programmes. But SBS On Demand is so painful to use that I don't bother.

Today, though, I took another look. Paris Etc (their capitalization) looked like a possibility. Please log in. OK. And I ended up with an empty screen that stayed empty for longer than made sense.

But I have the URL. Can youtube-dl make any sense of it? It seems unlikely, but yes, it could! It wasn't even interested in access credentials.

And the result? A 720p file with the lowest quality I have yet seen. In comparison with a German programme it's only 38% of the data rate:

=== grog@teevee (/dev/pts/4) /spool/Series 3 -> mpid Paris-Etc-Ep1-1190068803700.mp4 31-Vater-und-Sohn--31--20180217-105500.mp4
31-Vater-und-Sohn--31--20180217-105500.mp4  VIDEO:  [H264]  1280x720  24bpp  25.000 fps  3584.1 kbps (437.5 kbyte/s)
Paris-Etc-Ep1-1190068803700.mp4             VIDEO:  [H264]  1280x720  24bpp  25.000 fps  1357.1 kbps (165.7 kbyte/s)

That's more than academic. The images are, at least in part, really rough:


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Can that be deliberate? Not beyond the bounds of possibility, but it stabilized after a while when the image stopped moving, suggesting bandwidth issues. And the rest of the film seemed less sharp, especially in moving scenes.

But that wasn't all. This series is Just Plain Strange, and it reminds me of what I discovered 21 years ago when we moved back to Australia: SBS' choice of material seems to be decidedly uncomfortable.


Saturday, 7 April 2018 Dereel Images for 7 April 2018
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Time for a new programming language?
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

House photo day again today, and I'm still having my fun with my processing software. Things like generating the “contact prints” still don't work correctly, and I'm having difficulty debugging the (very crufty) script that almost does the work.

Somehow I really don't like the Bourne shell programming language. 12 years ago I learnt PHP for a web project, and that proves to be easier for many things, even if many of my right-wing BSD friends laugh at me because of it. But it's not really designed for this kind of work, and some of the language details show it. Perl? That's an old, worn-out magic word, it seems. I don't know anybody who uses it any more, and my previous experience with it suggests that it's Bourne shell on steroids. Python? Not really designed for this kind of work either.

Is there really nothing better out there? The name doesn't even need to start with P.


Progress is coming. Get used to it.
Topic: multimedia, technology, food and drink, general, opinion Link here

I still read the daily email from How-to Geek, though much of it seems poorly prepared. Today I was told why smart fridges are the future. It seems that the clever thing about them is that they contain a camera, enabling you to see what's in there without opening the door, and also while you're shopping.

Somehow I can't relate to that. I often enough have difficulty finding things in the fridge with the door open. How many cameras do I need to be able to show all the shelves? Two per shelf (the second to show what's in the door)? Is that what they have? And when I want to buy groceries, it's based on recipe planning. The fridge can't help you there, but the, I suppose that's no longer modern.

But the article goes on. Some of the headings are:

They Have Touch Screens, Which You Probably Use in the Kitchen Anyway

Well, no. I'm grudgingly having to accept the presence of touch screens, but for me they're the second worst form of data entry. Not only do I not use them in the kitchen, I avoid using them anywhere. But how do you use a touch screen with greasy fingers?

They Have Alexa Built-In, Which Is Handy in the Kitchen

And this is the worst: voice input. I have to admit, though, that it might come in handy in the kitchen when you have both hands dirty, though I can't think what use it could be yet. Neither can the article, as I investigate below.

This Is Where Appliances Are Heading, So Get Used to It

I suppose I'm going to have to accept that things are going in this direction, but it doesn't mean that I like it, and hopefully the market will mature, change direction and come up with something useful.

So what are the advantages of voice input? Conveniently, there's another article on that topic:

So what useful functionality are we left with? Arguably a way to write things on a grocery list, assuming (a big assumption) that Alexa can handle it. No thanks. I suppose I might find a way to do that via my mobile phone one day when I'm bored, but I'd have to be very bored.

But wait! There's more! They have an article on Why you don't really want a smart TV.

Well, I know why I don't want one, but I was guessing that my reasons have nothing to do with the reasons in the article. But in fact, there is a resemblance. They mention how difficult they are to use and suggest a set-top box instead. They don't mention the alternative of connecting a computer to a dumb TV, like I do. Dammit, even Microsoft would run rings round Android TV . The thing that they mention that I didn't complain about was the privacy aspect of the TV listening to what I'm doing, and apparently the software embeds commercials in whatever it's doing. Not in my lounge room.


Sunday, 8 April 2018 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 8 April 2018
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Buying flower bulbs
Topic: gardening, general Link here

The new beds that Warrick Pitcher laid out in January still haven't been planted: summer's the wrong time, and we couldn't make up our mind what to plant. But time is moving on, and it's time for spring bulbs. Last year we bought some cheap bulbs at the Ballarat Market, so off there today to get some more.

Out of luck. They weren't there, and in fact the market was pretty empty. That didn't stop us buying some things, including a bright red flowering Carpobrotus and three tubes of blue Chaenostoma cordatum, sold as Sutera cordata:


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We did find some bulbs, but almost only lilies, at horrendous prices:


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We bought a total of 9 of them, which should have cost $19.50, along with a couple of Dutch iris for $1.50 each. But we only paid $15, a ⅓ reduction in price. Still not exactly cheap.

Then on to ALDI, where we bought a stand for hanging pots, along with the pots themselves, in the process marvelling at their pricing:


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Clearly a variant on “buy one, get one free”: the baskets were effectively free.


Strange cloud formation
Topic: general Link here

On the way into town, saw these clouds:


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What are they? The ones at the top are clearly Cirrus, but what are the ones below? Time to start investigating cloud forms again.

In passing, the slightly higher bulge in the horizon is Mount Buninyong:


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End of the DSLRs?
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

I've been waiting for the demise of DSLRs almost since I bought Yana her first Canon EOS 20D, 12 years ago. And clearly things are slowly moving in that direction.

But it is slowly? This article suggests that there might be a sudden change in the very near future. Certainly it seems that Canon is thinking seriously in that direction. And for some reason everybody is talking about “full frame” cameras. I don't see any point in that form factor any more, but since when has marketing paid attention to my opinions—or the facts?


Monday, 9 April 2018 Dereel Images for 9 April 2018
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More flash pain
Topic: photography, opinion, gardening Link here

Taking photos of the Chaenostoma cordatum should have been straightforward. It's just a plant, after all. But I had wanted to use focus stacking to get the whole plant in focus.

I didn't get that far. The first step was to mount the camera on the tripod with remote viewfinder and the Olympus STF-8 macro flash unit:


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The first photo, unbracketed, was less than inspiring:


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OK, we need fill-in flash from behind. The STF-8 only works on the camera, so I needed some kind of repeater. That's more difficult than it sounds: the pre-flash of the TTL measurements would trigger any dumb slave receiver, so I needed to use something that understands the Olympus flash protocol. And for me that means the mecablitz 58 AF-2. I put it beside the plant, pointing at the backdrop:


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Next, work out how to use the remote flash stuff. That's simple on the STF-8: leave it as it is. Set the slave flash to slave, channel 1, group A. And that's all I could set. The rest was on the camera. As usual, just finding the method in the “instructions” was a problem. Summary: Camera menu 2, set RC mode on. Then, it tells me, “The LV super control panel switches to RC mode”. What does that mean? I've searched the entire manual and found no definition for “LV”, though it appears that it stands for “Live View”, a carry-over from the DSLR days. Elsewhere it states:

Press the blob button to switch between live view and viewfinder shooting (live view and super control panel display). If the super control panel (P. 50) is displayed in the monitor, the viewfinder will turn on when you put your eye to the viewfinder.

“Live view” and “viewfinder” “shooting” are now the same thing. It looks as if this one hasn't been updated since the DSLR days either. But it does indirectly confirm my impression that “LV” stands for “live view”.

And in the LV Super Control Panel I was able to set the behaviour. I thought. The next image came out:


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OK, I wanted the background burnt out. But this seems to have burnt out the foreground too. Admittedly, the flash was on manual, so it could really have overexposed the foreground via bounce flash. Set it to TTL as well:


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That's arguably correctly exposed for the background, but the foreground is completely underexposed.

What's going on here? After quite some time I have decided that the system has optimized the total flash intensity without regard for the areas that I wanted illuminated. Since the mecablitz is about 50 times as strong as the STF-8, it wins, and my subject is underexposed. I suppose there's a way to adjust things, but like every time I use one of Olympus' flash modes, I find that I could have done it better manually.


NBN: Still more outages
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

The National Broadband Network promised three outages over the last month. Or were they 9? Or maybe only one? Who can tell based on the information I have received? All I can say is that we had three outages, and the last scheduled date was two days ago.

But then we had an outage today! And an outage! And an outage! In total, there were six of them. From my NBN stats page:

Start time       End time       Duration       Badness             from       to
            (seconds)
1523241136       1523241239       103       0.009       #       9 April 2018 12:32:16       9 April 2018 12:33:59
1523241664       1523242689       1025       8.471       #       9 April 2018 12:41:04       9 April 2018 12:58:09
1523248702       1523248836       134       0.599       #       9 April 2018 14:38:22       9 April 2018 14:40:36
1523250998       1523252201       1203       1.665       #       9 April 2018 15:16:38       9 April 2018 15:36:41
1523252625       1523253946       1321       8.491       #       9 April 2018 15:43:45       9 April 2018 16:05:46
1523254277       1523254426       149       10.876       #       9 April 2018 16:11:17       9 April 2018 16:13:46
Date       Outages       Duration       Availability             Date
      (seconds)
1523196000       6       3935       95.45%       #       9 April 2018

Yes, they were scheduled outages, just two days late, during their ambiguously formulated “back up” time, which doesn't mean when the link is back up, but an alternative if things go wrong the first time.

This time the total outage time was round 72 minutes, considerably better than the 7½ hours that I had on 15 March and another 7½ hours that I had on 27 March. But the continual bouncing made me wonder whether it was worth it.


ZDF: now you see me, now you don't
Topic: multimedia, opinion Link here

One of the TV series that Yvonne wants to see is „Der Landarzt“ (“The country doctor”), a series that we watched in Germany. Last week I got a message telling me that series 18 was coming on ZDF, starting on last Saturday.

But MediathekView didn't list it. Dammit, another false negative. Off to ZDF to look for it. Not there, either:


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Yes, that's just the beginning. Look at that stylized right arrow in the middle of the last entry. Like so many other misguided web sites, ZDF thinks that everybody should share in the pain of “swiping” that the designers of mobile phone software have inflicted upon us. But after “swiping” to the end, it still wasn't there.

OK, try again. There's a search function:


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20 results, sorted by “Relevanz”. And nothing even remotely relevant. Papa Doc? What kind of country doctor was he? And again, no match for the search criterion.

OK, what about the programme? That's hidden behind the “Live TV” link, and sure enough, I can find the (not exactly live) programme details for nearly a month in advance, and many months ago. Maybe they postponed the series by a week? And sure enough, they claim to be broadcasting it this coming Saturday—but the third and fourth episodes! OK, back to look at the programme for last Saturday:


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It's there! So why didn't I find it? OK, there's a „Sendung verpasst“ (“missed the broadcast”) page, where you can download what was broadcast:


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Same time, same channel, different content.

Why do these things still happen?


Planting the new plants
Topic: gardening Link here

One of the things that we bought on Sunday was a flower basket stand, for which we bought the baskets I mentioned yesterday. Put it together and planted the Chaenostoma cordatum in three of the baskets:


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It's a strange time of year to plant things like this. I wonder what to do when the weather gets cold, in about a month.


Tuesday, 10 April 2018 Dereel Images for 10 April 2018
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FreeBSD: why no desktop market share?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

A week or two ago there was a question on Quora: “Why does FreeBSD have virtually no (0%) desktop market share?”.

Good question, one worthy of clarification. What's a desktop? What's a market? I wrote an answer making assumptions in both case, and (somewhat to my surprise) it was relatively well received.

Later, Terry Lambert also wrote a response. I can't call it an answer, because it went off on a tangent about the uselessness of X. Terry's not stupid, and some of the things that he wrote made sense. Only they didn't have anything to do with FreeBSD. The only mention of FreeBSD was to note that Linux and FreeBSD both have the same issues with X.

Still, worthy of reading, and I spent a lot of today thinking of how to address it, probably more effort than necessary. But it's worth summarizing: He blames a lot of X's perceived problems on early design decisions to run on “cheap hardware”, and to separate core display functionality from services like window management and widgets.

What's wrong with that? Look at Microsoft, which barely has window management, and you'd have to applaud the designers for their foresight. But, although he doesn't say so, I don't think Terry is looking at Microsoft: he's looking at Apple. And possibly it has more consistent window management. Only it's so primitive that it's one of the reasons I don't use Apple.

And the widgets? He didn't elaborate, and I didn't understand. I suspect that it would make more sense if you had a good knowledge of both X and Apple widget approaches. Maybe he's making an implicit “there can only be one” claim.

But it's worth thinking about the efficiency viewpoint. A different architecture could greatly improve performance. But X has survived and thrived for decades with its archaic design decisions, and I don't have any significant performance issues. Isn't that an indication of success?


German nationality?
Topic: politics, history, general Link here

Yvonne was born in Weimar a few months before the foundation of the DDR. At the time, the area was occupied by Soviet troops.

What was her nationality at birth? Clearly she wasn't a citizen of the DDR—that happened automatically later. Was she stateless? That seems unlikely. Was she a citizen of the German Reich? That collapsed years before she was born.

Where do you ask a question like this? I recently discovered a German version of Quora and asked the question.

The answers were interesting, in particular this one: Thuringian. It seems that there was no German nationality until Hitler's Gleichschaltungsgesetz. Until then, nationality was a matter of the „Land“, not the Reich. If you accept the validity of the Gleichschaltungsgesetz after the collapse of Hitler's regime, then she was also German. Otherwise she was just Thuringian.


Fallout from Trump's indecision
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

Last week there was another atrocity in Syria, people poisoned with chlorine. And fearless leader got up on his hind feet and promised retribution.

He's done that before, with no noticeable effect. Should he do so again? The balance of power in Syria is complicated, and it's not clear if the current relationship with Russia would survive it.

But he didn't have to worry. His faithful ally did it for him, even if they—currently—don't want to admit it.

Or did they? What they struck was an Iranian base in Palmyra. Nothing to do with the chemical attack, everything to do with Israel's preoccupation with Iran. To quote:

It followed a vow by President Trump to respond to an apparent chemical weapons attack by the Syrian government near Damascus. It did not appear to have been in response to that event, raising the possibility that Israel had merely seized the opportunity to take out what it saw as a threat to its own security.

That's a good way to spread the conflict even further afield.

Bravo, Trump, for encouraging a regime that even before was far more aggressive than would have been possible without US protection!


Wednesday, 11 April 2018 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 11 April 2018
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Yvonne: recovered
Topic: health, general, animals Link here

Into Ballarat this morning to take Yvonne to the Base Hospital for a final X-ray and examination. I went shopping during that time, but she was finished far more quickly than I had expected. Verdict: she's recovered, after only three months. She can drive a car again. More importantly, she can ride again:

That was the most important part for her


Where are the noodles?
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Shopping at Woolworths is a never-ending source of mirth. I needed to buy Capelli d'angeli. OK, look for noodles:


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The sign at top left is clear: here be noodles. But they're all instant noodles, nothing raw at all. Ah, you want pasta? That's down at the other end of the row, barely visible in the bokeh.

And they have “upgraded” their checkout software. Now you can't just pay with (credit) card:


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I don't want no steenking Card (Split Payment). I just want to pay. Maybe I should have selected “Other”, but I tried the Split Payment for the fun of it and got:


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Yes, I suppose I should have selected Full Payment, but I was too busy taking photos. I managed to pay, but it makes you wonder what these PoS terminal programmers are thinking (or smoking).


Eliminating haze
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

The current Wikipedia photo of Mount Buninyong could do with improvement:

So when passing through Cambrian Hill this morning, I thought of taking a photo. Problem: it was hazy. Solution: DxO PhotoLab has functionality to see through the haze. To be on the safe side, I took HDR images (my normal -3EV/0EV/+3EV triplet), this time with no offset, and processed them both with and without haze removal. After passing them through Photomatix PRO, I had (first without haze removal, then with):


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Yes, I could enhance things, but clearly neither of those are candidates for replacing the current image. And I don't see that the haze reduction has improved things at all. What I now see are blobs in the sky that weren't there in the original, along with noise in the sky that stops close to the bottom. Time to wait for better weather.


House forest revisited
Topic: animals, general Link here

For various reasons we haven't been to the “forest” area at the other end of the property for some months now, but today we finally got around to it. The dogs were ecstatic:


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I think Nikolai sensed a kangaroo.


Monopod
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

On the way home today, picked up my latest toy, a cheap monopod. There's not much to it, just a stick. The image on the seller's page gives a couple of details:

The obvious one is that it's too short. I considered that when I bought it, and I thought it might be OK for Yvonne. Maybe it is—she thinks so—but it's too short for me (1.55 m). I planned to use it for the videos above, but it proved not to help at all.

Apart from that, it's fine. Time to look for a longer monopod. It's interesting to note that the monopod that in the image is not the one I have: it has a long top joint, and the others are also folded together. Something in between would be just right.


Thursday, 12 April 2018 Dereel Images for 12 April 2018
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Still more outages!
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

Aussie Broadband have announced still more NBN outages!

We have received the following advice from nbn:

This notification is to let you know that we will be performing network maintenance work. Due to this activity the services listed below will experience a loss of connectivity for up to 1 hrs 0 mins during the change window.

nbn estimates the above interruption will occur between:

Start: 12/04/2018  11:00:00 PM
End:   13/04/2018  01:00:00 AM

START DATE:         Thu 12th April 2018 23:00 AEST
END DATE:           Fri 13th April 2018 06:00 AEST
CHANGE WINDOW:      7 hours

START DATE:         Tue 1st May 2018 08:00 AEST
END DATE:           Thu 3rd May 2018 20:00 AEST
CHANGE WINDOW:      2 days 12 hours

Dammit, we've had 59,454 seconds (16½ hours) of outages already in the past four weeks, all of it during the day. When will it ever stop?

Time to give the NBN a call. Where's the phone number? They've hidden it! All I could find was a “contact form”, which required me to give name, address, email address and telephone number. But it didn't accept my phone number (fully qualified according to the E.164 standard, to be on the safe side):

 
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OK, I could spend some time deciding what format they want, but why can't they stick to the standards? That's particularly bad for a company like NBN.

Of course, Google knows the number: 1800 687 626, which they once preferred to obfuscate as 1800 OUR NBN. But by then I was so annoyed that I decided to document things first.


Computing: extreme masochism
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Going through my email list, I saw this partial subject line:

 
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“If You Want to Use A Phone as Your Main PC, You Shou...”

How do you complete that? My best guess was “If You Want to Use A Phone as Your Main PC, You Should Get Your Head Read”, but no, it recommended Android. Based on my experience, that's a real condemnation of Apple. But reading the article was marginally interesting: it seems that you can connect various peripherals (“Sometimes a touchscreen just isn’t enough”, “you could also cast your device’s screen to a Chromecast-connected TV for a wireless experience”). Yes, as the Germans say, you could put rivets in your ears, hang pancakes off them and pretend to be a Dachshund. But I suppose it's something to keep in mind if I ever find myself in that emergency.


Selfies revisited
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

I'm still thinking of updating my title photos, and spent some time today playing around with what essentially are selfies, though with much more equipment. It's amazing how much effect just a small difference in lighting and angles have. I made the mistake of mounting the forward-pointing monitor above the camera, not a good place to look at: the mounting of the camera (15 cm below the lens) looks better.

And in the end, my appearance hasn't changed that much in the last 15 years:

Greg's old photo Greg's new photo

 


Friday, 13 April 2018 Dereel
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NBN insights
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

As promised, discovered that we had had a further 5 National Broadband Network outages overnight, still only a total of a little less than 15 minutes in total. But that's now 15 planned outages in just over 4 weeks, now a total of 60,304 seconds (16¾ hours). And they're promising even more.

Called up Aussie Broadband today, mainly for a billing inquiry, but also took the opportunity to talk to support about the NBN fiasco. Spoke to Rob, who did, indeed, have a few interesting comments. It seems that they're upgrading the towers to dual frequencies. So far they operate in the 2,300 MHz range, but they're adding support for 3,500 MHz. It wasn't immediately clear what the purpose was, though possibly bandwidth would be one option. Rob thinks it's not to be able to add further customers, and there's a possibility I'll hear from Skybridge to replace the ODU (antenna) and IDU (NTD). Another potential outage that might actually have some benefit.

And why so many outages? I already knew that the uplink (a term that he didn't seem to understand in this context) doesn't necessarily go to a POI: it can be daisy-chained off other towers, so any work on that tower will also take ours offline. Rob was disparaging about the way the have no backup link; it would cost very little to have an alternative route to the POI, but they don't do that.

He mentioned other maintenance work that might be needed, in particular cabling on the tower. Aussie still run a WiMax service, and it seems that one of the biggest problems they have is cockatoos chewing through the cabling. You'd hope, though, that the NBN had learnt from others' prior experience and placed all cables in metal conduit.

And the possibility of a complaint? As I suspected, the Telecom Industry Ombudsman is no use. They will just take action (if at all) against the ISP, not NBN. His suggestion matched my thoughts: local Federal MP. Now when are the next elections?

Other points of interest: he stated that they seem to have a better than average relationship with the NBN, and that they get informed about upcoming outages as a result. That might be one reason why other ISPs don't inform their customers: they don't know in advance. I'm not too sure how accurate that information is, though.

He also pointed me at Oztowers, which gives information about mobile telephone and NBN towers. The search function is flaky: it accepts (and ignores) “suburb” names like “Dereel”, and to get results you need to input the post code and then select the town from a drop-down list. It's also not overly accurate: it lumps Dereel's NBN tower and the Telstra tower together, and it shows the Telstra service as “Proposed Service”, although it's been up and running for over 4 months. It also shows interesting information about frequencies, that the NBN 3,500 MHz service is “proposed”, while in Sebastopol, Buninyong and Enfield it's apparently active.


More gardening
Topic: gardening Link here

Mick the gardener along this morning to do more work. Gradually it's looking better. Maybe next spring we'll finally have something that looks worthwhile.


Saturday, 14 April 2018 Dereel Images for 14 April 2018
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Power fail!
Topic: general, technology Link here

Up this morning to be told by Yvonne that “the server is offline”, apparently something that her software had told her. Sure enough, eureka was down after a prolonged power failure.

And why not the others? Some time ago I put eureka on its own UPS because of issues I had had with the house wiring. Originally it was in series with the house UPS, but issues with power distribution caused it to complain all the time, so I connected it to a non-UPS power point. And clearly the dedicated UPS didn't maintain the power as long as the house UPS.

How long? Hard to day, of course. lagoon reported communication at 2:43, but the next scheduled log message at 2:49 didn't happen. So I could guess at 2:46. How long had the power been out? Under daytime conditions the UPS reports a capacity of 20 minutes, but without the monitors it's more like 40, meaning a guessed outage start of 2:06. The power came back at 3:58, so it seems that the house UPS (running effectively lagoon and teevee, as well as a couple of alarm clocks) happily weathered an outage of 2 hours or so. Clearly I'll need to put the UPS in series again, until we can finally get battery-backed solar electricity.

Reboot was no fun:


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What caused that? The obvious thing is that the message came from a FreeBSD component, so it's not as if the disk was completely trashed. It came after loading /boot/defaults/loader.conf, which also loads /boot/loader.conf if it's there. Incorrect configuration? Dammit, why do these things have to happen just after getting up? But things looked correct, only the loader variables rootdev and currdev pointed to different disks. OK, try resetting currdev:


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But even after getting it up, I had difficulty loading kernel modules. I had to specify the complete path to load the nvidia driver.

It worked, but have I booted the correct kernel? The kernel is dated:

FreeBSD eureka.lemis.com 10.2-STABLE FreeBSD 10.2-STABLE #2 r290972: Wed Nov 25 11:38:38 AEDT 2015     grog@stable.lemis.com:/usr/obj/eureka/home/src/FreeBSD/svn/10/sys/GENERIC  amd64

The alternative boot partition is dated 14 June 2017, but looking back at my diary there's no evidence that I ever tried to boot it. I was playing around with updates via virtual machines (eureso) at the time, and it looks as if I copied the files but never ran them.

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/6) ~/Downloads 12 -> strings /destdir/boot/kernel/kernel| grep FreeBSD | less
FreeBSD 11.1-BETA1 #4: Wed Jun 14 10:52:17 AEST 2017
    grog@eureso.lemis.com:/home/obj/eureka/home/src/FreeBSD/svn/stable/11/sys/GENERIC

Also a reminder that it's high time that I finally upgrade the system.


Wild weather
Topic: gardening Link here

Really nasty weather today, with lots of rain and wind gusts of up to 54.7 km/h, one of the highest ever recorded. And as feared, the protection that Mick put round the Hibiscus yesterday didn't hold:


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Not only did it fall over, it took the plant with it. Fortunately it doesn't seem seriously damaged. Replaced to toy stakes with a steel dropper; hopefully that will hold.


Garage sale!
Topic: general Link here

Five years ago there was a coordinated mass garage sale in Enfield, 14 of them. Not to be outdone, Julie Dongahy has organized the mother of all garage sales, about 30 of them, stretching from Napoleons to Rokewood, a distance of over 30 km.

The Enfield event was quite a success, so put most of the addresses into my GPS navigator, and in late morning off to take a look. About half of them weren't there! Here an example:


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We had to look a little further to see what was left:

 
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In the end we only went to Dereel and Enfield, though Yvonne had looked in in Rokewood Junction earlier. We bought things at only two places. Yvonne had cautiously withdrawn $200 from the bank, but we spent $11 total, including $2 for a portable CD player/cassette player/radio, whose CD part proved to be completely non-functional.

Do I take it back? I'd get the money back, but it's almost not worth the petrol. 10 km there and back would use about 1.1 l petrol, currently round $1.60.


Sunday, 15 April 2018 Dereel Images for 15 April 2018
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Targeted spam
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

It seems forever since I signed up with LinkedIn, and I continually get link requests from people I've never heard of, this despite my request on my profile page to establish contact before just blindly asking for a link. That's not surprising, though: it seems that they have modified their web site and either removed the “about me” section or made it so difficult to find that I can't find it even when I know it was there.

My policy with such requests is: if they're linked to somebody I know personally, I usually accept it. Otherwise I ignore it (I can no longer say that I don't know the person).

And so it was today, almost:

From: Brian Poxon <messages-noreply@linkedin.com>
To: groggybrew@lemis.com
Subject: Brian sent you an invitation on LinkedIn

Brian would like to stay in touch on LinkedIn.

Brian Poxon
Housemaster, Tower House at Dean Close School, Cheltenham
Gloucester, United Kingdom

That doesn't look like normal spam. Could he be somebody that I knew at school? Looking at the web site, it looks very much in the style of my school, but is there a Brian Poxon there? I couldn't even find what houses there were.

Went to take a look and discovered that it was sent to an email address not linked with my LinkedIn membership. But the headers look correct: the message did come from LinkedIn. Why did they send it to an address that I never mentioned to them? And how did they associate it with my account?

By contrast, the other less obvious spam to a specified address was clear:

  65     14-04-2018 Facebook             To grog4711@l ( 243)     Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook hearing was an utter sham

You just need to look at the headers:

Date: Sat, 14 Apr 2018 07:58:41 +0200 (CEST)
From: Facebook <facebook@incognitomails.gadgetbingo.com>
To: grog4711@lemis.com
Subject: Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook hearing was an utter sham

That only has a hope of working because toy MUAs are too polite to show email addresses.


House photos under difficult circumstances
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

The weather this weekend has been particularly bad. Yesterday it was far too windy for my house photos, and it really was today as well. But there's no sign of it letting up, so I took them anyway.

Surprise, surprise! Photomatix PRO managed to merge the HDR sequences really well. Here an example where La Tigre was moving as I took the sequence (run the cursor over an image to compare it with its neighbour):


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The poor image quality is because two of the images were exposed 3 EV from the correct exposure, and I corrected it to make the comparison more uniform. And somehow Photomatix managed to make this out of it:


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I'm quite impressed, especially since this was out of the box. The branch above the horse's back is a good example of what the wind was doing at the time.


Moving data in the modern age
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I'm coming ever closer to an all-out rant about the lack of interoperability of modern computing devices. If there's one function that is absolutely basic, it's moving data from one place to another (“copy”, to use an old, worn-out magic word). Today I read an article “the best ways to automatically back up the photos on your smartphone”.

Isn't that simple? Copy them to your computer? That's what I do, even with a phone. Why should I need a different method because it's a phone? Ah, but I don't understand: this is modern: use Google Drive, Amazon Prime Photos, Dropbox or iCloud (if you want to lock yourself into Apple for the rest of your life). Some of these even cost money, and they ensure that you can't get at them if you're off the net for whatever reason. When you're on the net, it still takes time to transfer an image. Sigh.


Another garage sale
Topic: general, food and drink Link here

So we managed to spend $11 on our garage sale yesterday. Clearly that wasn't enough for Yvonne, so today she decided to go to Julie Donaghy's sale, which was still ongoing. And sure enough, she managed to spend another $11.

While we were there, discussed the pomegranates that we had picked up last month. We had left them a couple of weeks to let them ripen, but clearly it wasn't enough, and they were still unripe inside.


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Paul took me to the tree again, where there were a couple of fruit already splitting open. Clearly they're as ripe as they can get:


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But are they ripe enough? They look nothing like the photo in Wikipedia:

Image

 


Monday, 16 April 2018 Dereel Images for 16 April 2018
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Plumbing woes
Topic: general Link here

Got up this morning and discovered that we had no hot water. Dammit, it's only been three weeks since I reset the circuit breaker on the hot water system. Out to do it again, but it hadn't tripped. The power switch? It certainly didn't look “on”, but it had worked in the past. Played with it a bit, confirming that it still wouldn't remain in the “on” position, then to the meter box to turn on power boost. And the difference in the meter blink showed immediately that it was now heating, as did the voltage on the top side of the circuit breaker. So: time to replace the switch?

As if that wasn't enough, the plumbing work done in January is annoying me: for some reason, the drainpipe in the bathroom is leaking, and I can't just tighten it up. It appears to not be inserted correctly—there's a distinct kink in the joint just below the shelf in the middle:


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