Greg
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December 2006
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Friday, 1 December 2006 Echunga
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Had to restart firefox this morning. This program irritates me more and more. On restart, a window popped up with the message:

Firefox is currently not your default browser.  Do you want it to be your default browser?
      

What does that mean? What's a “default browser” under UNIX? Why does everything have to be dumbed down to a Microsoft level? I've had this message before and answered “no”, which it obviously doesn't take for an answer. Decided to answer “yes” and see what happens. What I saw was multiple identical warnings:

(Gecko:98273): libgnomevfs-WARNING **: Deprecated function.
  User modifications to the MIME database are no longer supported.
      

Whatever it's doing, it's not doing it cleanly. But what's Gecko?

=== grog@wantadilla (/dev/ttyp3) ~ 188 -> man Gecko
No manual entry for Gecko
=== grog@wantadilla (/dev/ttyp3) ~ 189 -> man gecko
No manual entry for gecko
=== grog@wantadilla (/dev/ttyp3) ~ 190 -> gecko
bash: gecko: command not found
=== grog@wantadilla (/dev/ttyp3) ~ 191 -> Gecko
bash: Gecko: command not found
=== grog@wantadilla (/dev/ttyp3) ~ 192 -> locate -i /gecko
=== grog@wantadilla (/dev/ttyp3) ~ 193 ->
      

Obviously it doesn't exist. It appears to be part of GNOME, but I don't use that.

Spent most of the day looking at the cxm driver for the Hauppauge PVR250. It could do with a lot of improvement; I've already updated the man page for the companion pvr-setchannel program, but there's much more to look at. How do resolution and data rate compare? Checked some DVDs and discovered that a commercial DVD (or at least the one I tested) runs with a resolution of 720x576 (PAL) with 25 fps and 9.0 Mb/s. By contrast, data recorded from TV with my impossible Digitrex GKX-9000 DVD recorder at “standard” resolution (2 hours, 7 minutes on a single-layer 4.5 GB DVD+RW) had a resolution of 352x576,) 25 frames per second and 9.396 Mb/s.

Part of our requirements are also to put 2 hours onto a standard DVD. We're (currently) doing it at full 720x576 resolution, but are dropping the bit rate to 4.52 Mb/s. That works, but is it better than half resolution and full data rate? The way we're doing it also requires patching the driver, and what I'm looking at at the moment is to specify the data rate separately from the “profile” (which is hidden behind screen resolutions and implicit standards).


Saturday, 2 December 2006 Echunga
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I had hardly put in my diary entry for yesterday before a number of people started pointing out that Gecko is the Mozilla layout engine. One of the replies was from Wojtek (surname unspecified) from the Opera project, who also suggested that Opera could work around the web site breakage at FreeBSD.org. I suppose I should try that again.

Spent the afternoon configuring multimedia on browsers, in the process reinstalling firefox 2.0 on teevee.lemis.com. Configuring plugins is a pain! I'm sure that the fact that I'm using a Linux version of firefox on FreeBSD doesn't help, but this brain death in firefox that starts a search for executables from your home directory (sorry, Desktop) and requires you to navigate one directory (sorry, folder) at a time infuriates me. Finally gave up and installed a port. There should be a port to install all normally used plugins.

More kimchi

After making my last batch of kimchi, I had a radish (Radi or daikon) left over. I have a cook book by Copeland Marks called “The Korean Kitchen” with a recipe for kaktugi kimchi, basically made only from Radi. Some of the details seemed unlikely, so went out Googling for other recipes. I found the same one multiple times (easily identified by the requirement for a “head of garlic”), and no other. Partially this would be explained by the transliteration; I've also seen the spellings kkakdugi and kakdugi, but no useful recipes to go with them. So decided to do my own; who knows how it will turn out.

What I need from a web browser

I've frequently complained about the shortcomings of web browsers, but I haven't really clearly stated what I want. Here's a first step. It's not complete: I'm leaving out things that most or all web browsers already supply.

  1. Must understand UNIX, in particular the file system. This means that it knows about directory structures, paths to executables (PATH environment variable) and home directories.

  2. Must be able to handle multiple instances. firefox can't, for example; if you try to start a second one, it attaches to the first if it can.

  3. Must be able to display on multiple screens. If I'm connected to a machine via the network, I may still want to use a browser on that machine (for example, to look at local files).

    Again, firefox can't. If you try to start an instance on a new screen, it doesn't attach to the one on the other screen. Instead, it reports that there is another instance running, that it can't communicate with it, and that you should reboot your machine. This is unlike the behaviour of OpenOffice, which will attach to the other display, which could be anywhere in the world. Neither behaviour is useful.

  4. Must offer reasonable keyboard handling; it's getting better. But it needs to be a whole lot better before I'll be happy. firefox 2.0 has annoyed me by hijacking a number of keys (notably Alt-P and Alt-S, which are used by the Wikipedia editor for preview and save respectively).

  5. Access to an external editor. No browser has a high-quality editor—why should it? It's a completely separate function, and people who use editors seriously want to use the one they're used to. Programs like mutt allow users to configure access to an external editor. Why don't web browsers? There was one plugin for firefox, but it had serious issues, and firefox 2.0 no longer supports it.

  6. Should allow scaling of all text in one operation. Setting up browsers to display legibly on a 2048x1536 screen is really difficult; I haven't managed at all with firefox. You can scale the displayed text, but the menus stay in the same font, which at that resolution becomes illegible.

  7. Should not require constant resizing of the text. I don't know how best to get this, but some browsers seem to present different pages at markedly different sizes, and it's a real pain.

There are a couple of other things that I haven't mentioned here, because I consider them bugs in firefox (i.e. unintentional behaviour, as opposed to its myriad misfeatures):

  1. Should respect the default character set and not display question marks when a web page without a charset specification contains non-ASCII characters (e.g. http://atilf.atilf.fr/tlf.htm).

  2. Should not change the default size of a new window to full screen just because the window was once maximized.


Sunday, 3 December 2006 Echunga Images for 3 December 2006
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Spent some time this morning looking at web browsers, in particular Opera. The initial results are mixed: on the positive side, it handles invalid or missing character encodings correctly, and it understands UNIX path names. There are still a number of other issues that I need to clarify before deciding to change over; in particular, I still can't start an external editor. Also, for some reason, different web pages display in markedly different font sizes, something that firefox doesn't do.

In the process, went back to see how Opera handles the breakage on the FreeBSD web site, and discovered that the breakage had been changed. On the positive side, the big discrepancy in size between normal and fixed-width text is gone; so is the fixed-width text. Instead, it has been put in sub-windows with scroll bars:

Image Image

The headings still overlap here, though not on all browsers. On all browsers, the text at top right (yellow on light grey) is almost illegible. The yellow box in the middle has a text that isn't as wide as the screen, but instead of showing it full-width, it is artificially limited, both horizontally and (especially) vertically. Widening the display doesn't do anything useful; the text remains the same width, and the margins get wider.

What mentality is it that makes people want to see only part of something? Do we really want to be dumbed down to Microsoft levels? Is this the way to promote the FreeBSD project?

Mentioned this on the IRC channel, where the following discussion ensued (after an unrelated discussion about morons):q

* groOgle looks at http://www.freebsd.org/cgi/query-pr.cgi?pr=101010&cat= and
  finds the morons uncomfortably close to home.
* groOgle finds it highly disturbing that
  http://www.freebsd.org/cgi/query-pr.cgi?pr=101010&cat= renders acceptably
  (but not correctly) only under Microsoft.
<Studded> works fine for me with firefox 2.0 in -current, what's IE doing
      differently?
* Darius wonders if he dare ask how it should look
<groOgle> Darius: Well, it shouldn't be limited to the middle of the screen,
      and it shouldn't have scroll bars to make it more difficult to read
      things.
<groOgle> Studded: What do you mean by "fine"?
<groOgle> Studded: Do you not have the wide margins and the stupid subwindows
      with scroll bars?
<groOgle> Studded: And no overlapping text with firefox?
<Studded> I have wide margins right now because the firefox window is wide
      open so I can look at the pkg-build logs
<Studded> and the subwindow is a "feature"
<groOgle> Studded: Sure, so the text should adapt.
<groOgle> Studded: That a *serious* bug.
<groOgle> Studded: It makes the whole project look stupid.
<groOgle> Scroll bars are an admission of defeat.
<groOgle> "Sorry, the window isn't wide enough to display this text, or it
      can't scroll vertically".
<groOgle> But in this case, the window is double as wide as the scroll region,
      and it can scroll vertically.
<Studded> a lot of sites have started using that same style of markup for
      attachments ....  whether it's a good thing or not is open to debate,
      but it actually puts us more in the mainstream
<groOgle> Studded: Sure.
<groOgle> Studded: That shouldn't be open to debate.
* groOgle glares at Studded.
<Studded> it also lets you easily download just the attachment, which I
      consider a feature
<groOgle> "Puts us more into the mainstream" == "Makes us look as stupid as
      the other 6E9 morons.
* groOgle growls loudly, explodes, and leaves.
ERC> /quit VOMIT!
      

I'm really getting frustrated with the current stupidity. Some people will call it a resistance to change, but they're missing the point. Yes, I've been around for a long time. But I'd really like to see things change—they just have to get better, not worse. Broken rendering has reached a level of stupidity I would never have believed possible.

I've heard people claim that Australian free-to-air TV is the worst in the world. I can believe it; in most areas, including here, there are five main programmes. Three (7, Nine and Ten) are blatantly commercial. It's interesting to note that none of their web sites render correctly, and none have a usable programme guide. On the programme side of things, they all have programmes designed for morons, usually the bottom of the barrel of US programmes, and they're full of advertising, including pop-ups during the programme itself. As a result, I hardly watch them.

The other two are ABC TV, the Government Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and SBS, the “Special Broadcasting Service”. The former seems to specialize in re-runs of pre-World War II films and boring, melodramatic and stupid BBC documentaries (“The concept of time travel has changed science (pause) for ever”); the latter has a more usable programme, more balanced content (when they haven't gone overboard dropping everything else for sports transmissions). and previously I have watched it almost exclusively.

Now it seems that they have thrown away one of their main advantages and assumed the stupidity of the commercial channels by putting commercial breaks into the programmes, and that at a time where TV via Internet is almost viable. What idiocy made them do that?

Yesterday morning I had woken up with a pain in my foot, presumably a pulled muscle. This morning it was worse, but still bearable. By the evening that had changed, and it was pretty unbearable. Off to the Mount Barker Hospital emergency service, where I was seen to immediately: some kind of inflammation. Was prescribed Indomethacin and returned home again. Total time: 60 minutes. There have been complaints about the emergency service in the past, and while they were no doubt justified, it's nice to see that things aren't always like that.


Monday, 4 December 2006 Echunga Images for 4 December 2006
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Called SBS this morning on 1-800-500-727 and spoke to Sophia, who confirmed that yes, SBS management have decided to descend to the same level of imbecility as the commercial stations. Conveyed to her my profound disgust about this move, and asked her to write down the URL of this diary, which she tried not to do (no keystrokes to be heard). After I reminded her, I heard keystrokes. Who knows what she really wrote? It would be nice for others to also call up and express their opinions.

Another month, another monthly rainfall bulletin. It's no more encouraging:

  MOUNT LOFTY RANGES (23C)
                              Rain (mm)      Rain Days   Decile
                             Obs  |  Avg     Obs | Avg
               Echunga       5.2    42.9       5     8      1
              Hahndorf      25.4    44.0       8     8      4
               Meadows       7.0    48.1       2     8      1
          Mount Barker      28.4    40.3       6     9      5
      

It seems that where we are (between Echunga and Meadows) is even harder hit than the average.

Mail from Oliver Herold about configuring firefox. It seems that release 2.0 does support an external editor:

You can change the behaviour of Firefox with about:config, enter this as url.

Look for the following variables, to use an external editor,

view_source.editor.external
view_source.editor.path
	

The first change to true, the latter to the right path, for example /usr/local/bin/vim -g will start vim in graphical mode after looking at the source code of a website.

This proved to be correct, but I couldn't find a way to enter the editor from an input field. Reading what Oliver wrote, it's not clear that you can: it seems that it's there for editing the source code of an external web page only. What use is that?

Did some more investigation and discovered also that there is another external editor, mozex, which seems to be more like what I'm looking for. But the released version is for Mozilla only, and you need the development version for firefox. Installed that and got a menu that allowed me to view page source or configure mozex; everything else, including “Edit textarea”, was greyed out. It stayed that way after I configured mozex. No idea where to go from here.

The dam water pipe is blocked again. Spent another 3 hours back flushing it. Hopefully that will not have to be done every week.

My next carbon dioxide cylinder is empty! That's one every 6 weeks. I need to find a better way to handle it.


Tuesday, 5 December 2006 Echunga Images for 5 December 2006
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Somehow didn't get much work done today. Spent more time investigating web browsers, with the result that I managed to get my fonts into an unrecoverable mess. Both in firefox and Opera now don't give me the font size I had set previously. It's either too big or too small, with no intermediate step:


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I wonder what caused that; whatever it is, if I can't fix it, most people probably can't. Most people, I suspect, are “reasonable” and don't get annoyed about it. In this connection, it's interesting to note that firefox claims that the text is “20 pt” and “22 pt”, clearly not the correct relationship: the real ratio (based on measuring a specific line of text) is 16.7:21.5, or 1.29:1. I wondered whether this was due to loss of fonts, but I haven't changed anything, notably not the type face. Also, on a recommendation, I set the heading size explicitly with the following entry in my ~/.gtkrc-2.0:

gtk_font_name="Sans 10"
      

In other words, firefox thinks that the text size of the headers is 10 pt and the text is either 20 or 22 pt. What nonsense is that?

Also more investigation of external editors; Oliver Herold sent some suggestions, but again they appear to imply that the main purpose of the external editor is to edit the text of other web pages. Nobody seems to have cottoned on to the idea that this should be basic functionality.

Also pottered around looking at mplayer and the cxm driver for the Hauppauge PVR-250 card; looks as if we have consensus to put the latter in the FreeBSD source tree.

Bushfires in the evening, unpleasantly close to home. For the evening, at any rate, we're not in danger. While looking at that, found an enormous spider to the right of the front door:


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The second photo was taken with my Nikon “Coolpix” L1, which doesn't offer manual focus. Under these (not particularly dark) light conditions, the autofocus fails completely, making the camera completely useless. The first photo on the left was taken later with my 6 year old Nikon Coolpix 880, which has manual focus, but didn't need it: the autofocus worked fine. Why do people do these things? It seems that in the last 5 years Nikon has gone backwards in terms of usability of their cameras.


Wednesday, 6 December 2006 Echunga
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Back to work on the black box again, and made some progress on the web pages. Gradually PHP is becoming easier to understand.

In the evening into town to the Christmas party of the SA branch of the ACS. It's amazing how few of the people I knew there.


Thursday, 7 December 2006 Echunga Images for 7 December 2006
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To Stirling today to have my eyes tested—no change. I thought that I could get some new lenses for my glasses, but the insurance pays less than 50% of the price, so decided I could live with the current ones a bit longer.

Coming back to the car, the radiator fans were still running after half an hour. The car started (reluctantly), and I had just driven off when my mobile phone rang: Barry Wilkins to talk about next week's performance of “Messiah”. With any luck, I'll be playing the bassoon. After finishing the call, tried to drive off and, of course, the car no longer started. Had to wait 45 minutes while Yvonne came to pick me up, via Mount Barker. During that time, tried to find a way to stop the fans by disconnecting them. With only a screwdriver, it's almost impossible: the connectors are all plastic, but they don't seem to be designed to be taken apart. Left them as they were rather than damage them.

More work on the database updates this afternoon. It would be easy just to follow the spec, but I'm not sure that's the best way to go.


Friday, 8 December 2006 Echunga Images for 8 December 2006
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More work on the database access stuff today, and came up with some nice dynamic tables that changed depending on the content of the database. This isn't exactly the kind of thing I was looking for a few months back, but it's of the same nature: setting the attribute showdata in a row causes another attribute in that row to be included as a column in the display table. Trivial stuff, but for me it's a revelation.

APC magazine arrived today, along with the information that Telstra has finally enabled ADSL-2 on some of their DSLAMs. It's strange that I have to find out about that via a magazine.

Of course, with Telstra there's a sting in the tail: it's only available on those exchanges already serviced with ADSL-2 by a competitor. It's fairly clear that most exchanges have ADSL-2 DSLAMs, but they're not enabling all of them. I wonder how long it's going to be before there's some legal challenge to that; it sounds completely out of keeping with the spirit of a universal service obligation.

Tried to find out whether Echunga has ADSL 2; from Telstra's web site, it was almost impossible. Followed the link saying “check ADSL-2 availability” (or some such; returning to the mess of web pages, I can't find the link again) and got the same page that you can get to by dozens of other paths:


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“BigPond Broadband ADSL may be available”. That's the same thing I was complaining about last month: no definitive information. I know that my phone number would work for ADSL because I have it. In this case, though, there's not the slightest mention of ADSL-2. Called up Telstra, who handed me round for 20 minutes and kept bringing me back to this page. Once I got the (third) person to listen to me and told her that there was no mention of ADSL, she said “ah, in that case you can't get it yet”. She didn't seem to think that the lack of positive information was a problem. I suppose that's par for the course nowadays, though.

The other part of the announcement was that Telstra was removing their artificial 1.5 Mb/s speed limit for ADSL(-1), offering potential speeds of up to 8 Mb/s (though, sadly, not at my distance from the exchange). Called up Internode, who told me that they were working on plans, probably this month. They'll be more expensive, of course; my question is how much faster it would be for me. If I believe the graph that Internode is still showing, it would be double, which is certainly worth the trouble.


Saturday, 9 December 2006 Echunga Images for 9 December 2006
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Barry Wilkins along with the bassoon part for “Messiah” this morning, so sat down and practised. It's easy music, but I had great difficulty with it; I'm really out of practice. I wonder if I'll be able to make the performance.

Started importing the cxm driver for the Hauppauge PVR-250 into the FreeBSD kernel tree; it's currently in the Ports Collection. No great surprises, but enough work.

Also did some cooking; I preparing a Chicken Tanduri, and Yvonne a meat loaf of dubious origin.


Sunday, 10 December 2006 Echunga Images for 10 December 2006
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Extreme fire danger today, not as much here as it was in East Gippsland. From our point of view, Briagalong, in East Gippsland, was the biggest concern: that's where my aunt Freda and cousin Gillian live, and where we had a barbecue for my father's 80th birthday on 13 April 2003. There's an enormous bushfire complex just to the north of them, about 2,000 square kilometres, and the wind were from the north.

Spent too much time trying to build a kernel with the cxm driver. Building the module works fine, but the sources require a header file iicbb_if.h that is (apparently) only built when the modules are built. I wish I understood the build process better.

In the afternoon, decided to install Mediawiki, not helped by lack of documentation. At the end of the installation I get only the message:

    **** NOTE ****
Remember to check

/usr/local/www/mediawiki/INSTALL

for details
      

This file contains only the generic installation instructions; it doesn't even tell you where the port has been installed (/usr/local/www/mediawiki, in fact, not in the normal data path /usr/local/www/data). The instructions contain information like:

To run the install script, you'll need to temporarily make
the 'config' subdirectory writable by the web server.  The
simplest way to do this on a Unix/Linux system is to make
it world-writable:

  chmod a+w config

Hop into your browser and surf into the wiki directory.  ...
      

Why should we do this? It is currently necessary, but that's what the port is for. In any case, the way it gets installed means that you can't “surf” to it, because the directory isn't in the web server directory tree. When I moved it to /usr/local/www/data/wiki, it worked, but told me that I needed the PHP XML addition, conveniently suggesting how to install under Mandrake. Why doesn't the port depend on this? These details make the difference between an easy installation and something where most people would probably give up or go asking for help. We need some kind of quality control on the ports collection.


Monday, 11 December 2006 Echunga Images for 11 December 2006
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Fire danger is subsiding, but it's still important to keep track of the current situation. The web is ideal for that sort of thing, but sometimes I think that the people who run the sites are missing the point and think of the web sites more as a geek sport than a way to disseminate information. The Victorian Country Fire Authority makes a game out of finding out about fire bans:


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At the bottom right the box says “Is it a total fire ban today?” and expects you to find out by following a link. This is some of the most important information they could supply. Why isn't it on their (half high) home page?

The Bureau of Meteorology has a page for fire bans too—but only when there's at least one fire ban. The rest of the time, it doesn't exist, except for the header:


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In South Australia, the CFS has an incidents page. When I took this screen shot at about 10 am on Monday, 11 December, it hadn't been updated for over 36 hours. It also wants you to install flash, for no good reason.


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It's been months since I last went riding—somehow work, Yvonne's journey and the hot weather; today we finally found time to go out for a couple of hours riding. I should do this more often.

More PHP/database stuff in the afternoon, and got things almost working. As usual, the details are in the semantics.

HDTV woes

In the evening, tried to look at an MPEG-2 stream recorded on ABC “High Definition” TV at 1280x720 non-interlaced (“progressive”).

VIDEO MPEG2(pid=2314)AUDIO A52(pid=2315) NO SUBS (yet)!  PROGRAM N.  0
Opened TS demuxer, audio: 2000(pid 2315), video: 10000002(pid 2314)...POS=195896, PROBE=2000000
VIDEO:  MPEG2  1280x720  (aspect 3)  50.000 fps  9600.0 kbps (1200.0 kbyte/s)

For some reason, it flat-lined the CPU and couldn't display properly. By contrast, the other night I had watched “9 HD”, with the rather adventurous resolution of 1440x1088 and more than 50% higher data rate:

VIDEO MPEG2(pid=513)AUDIO A52(pid=651) NO SUBS (yet)!  PROGRAM N.  0
Opened TS demuxer, audio: 2000(pid 651), video: 10000002(pid 513)...POS=194392, PROBE=2000000
VIDEO:  MPEG2  1440x1088  (aspect 3)  25.000 fps  15200.0 kbps (1900.0 kbyte/s)

On that occasion, it had used up about 75% of the CPU. Trying again today, it flat-lined the CPU, though it displayed better than ABC.

What's going on here? There are a number of things that need clarification:

In summary, I'm left wondering whether there's something else involved, possibly the scheduler or elsewhere in the kernel. More investigation needed.


Tuesday, 12 December 2006 Echunga
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Mainly work today: I'm learning lots about PHP, and since the page I'm working on is the sort of thing I can reuse a lot, I'm trying a lot of different things. But the result is that I've been working on a simple database update program for nearly a week. Hopefully the experience will be worth it.


Wednesday, 13 December 2006 Echunga Images for 13 December 2006
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Finally got my web pages written! It took a while, and there are still things to do, but at least I'm back in control.

Had one of our estate agents in to discuss selling the house. I'm left wondering whether estate agents know how to sell this property. One of the things we're proudest of are the dual-ported cupboards between kitchen and dining room:


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This setup has some wonderful advantages:

But it's not the Australian Way. The Australian Way is to have a kitchen open to the rest of the house. Why? I can think of two reasons, one acceptable, one bad:

The problem is, the estate agents seem to think of it as a disadvantage too; it certainly is if you're trying to sell to the average purchaser.

They say that the web is gaining more and more importance in selling houses. But their web sites are such a mess that I personally wouldn't bother. Consider the agents we have called in and their web sites:

Of course, if I'm looking for a property, I probably won't start with an individual estate agent: I'll start with a site that covers all (or at least most) properties in the area. There are a number of them, too:

Without exception, all the sites failed the W3C HTML validation suite, and without exception they rendered incorrectly on firefox and safari, which together account for 14% of the web browsers on the market. You'd think that the estate agents would be prepared to sell to anybody, not just people who run Microsoft “Internet Explorer”. In my case, I suspect that the potential buyers for the house are more concentrated in that 14%. So why should I give my business to an estate agent who can't be bothered to address them?

All sites seem to be making the same mistakes:

So what do I do? I can write my own description, I suppose, and maybe that will help. But just think of the killing to be made by the first estate agent who gets his web site right!


Thursday, 14 December 2006 Echunga
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Finally it's raining! Not much, but slowly and steadily all day long. Now a few more days like that and it'll seem almost normal.

Spent most of the day working on the front panel code for our box.


Friday, 15 December 2006 Echunga
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I've been trying all week to contact my father, who lives in Bairnsdale, an area under particular bushfire threat. I couldn't get on to my aunt Freda in Briagolong either. Finally got through to my father; the place had been evacuated a week ago because of the fires, and he had only just got back. Freda is still evacuated, and since I don't have her phone number, I can't contact her. Hopefully all is well.

Finished work on the front panel code today (well, it compiles), and did some thinking about commit logs. I think I've probably done about 95% of the commits; this doesn't reflect my proportion of the work, just the accessibility of tools.

One of the things that CVS doesn't deliver out of the box is to mail the commit messages. Did a bit of investigation, and on a recommendation, tried cvsspam, which sends detailed colour-coded diffs for each commit. Installed in no time, and was then left in the usual quandary:

===>   Registering installation for cvsspam-0.2.12
      

Setting up cvsspam

And now? The usual problem of how to use it. After a while, noticed in the output of the make install command:

install  -o root -g wheel -m 444 /src/FreeBSD/ports/devel/cvsspam/work/cvsspam-0.2.12/
cvsspam-doc.html /usr/local/share/doc/cvsspam
install  -o root -g wheel -m 444 /src/FreeBSD/ports/devel/cvsspam/work/cvsspam-0.2.12/
cvsspam-doc.pdf /usr/local/share/doc/cvsspam
      

The documentation was in fact quite good, but that doesn't change the fact that something should have pointed to it. The big step is to change the following config files in CVSROOT:

--- commitinfo  2006/08/09 03:01:23     1.1
+++ commitinfo  2006/12/15 02:33:41
@@ -13,3 +13,4 @@
 #
 # If the name "ALL" appears as a regular expression it is always used
 # in addition to the first matching regex or "DEFAULT".
+^src /usr/local/libexec/cvsspam/record_lastdir.rb
--- loginfo     2006/08/09 03:01:23     1.1
+++ loginfo     2006/12/15 03:42:22
@@ -24,3 +24,4 @@
 #DEFAULT (echo ""; id; echo %s; date; cat) >> $CVSROOT/CVSROOT/commitlog
 # or
 #DEFAULT (echo ""; id; echo %{sVv}; date; cat) >> $CVSROOT/CVSROOT/commitlog
+^src /usr/local/libexec/cvsspam/collect_diffs.rb --from $USER --to blackbox@lemis.com %{sVv}
      

After that I was able to send messages, but they weren't as optimal as I wanted. In particular, the subject line didn't say very much. Did some messing around with the configuration file

--- /usr/local/etc/cvsspam.conf~        Fri Dec 15 10:50:45 2006
+++ /usr/local/etc/cvsspam.conf Fri Dec 15 13:46:04 2006
@@ -176,4 +176,4 @@
 #     Some people like file names to appear in the email subject.  To make
 #   them happy, you can say $files_in_subject = true here.

-#$files_in_subject = false
+$files_in_subject = true

This at least gave me the names of the files in the commit message subject (which otherwise contains only the first line of the commit message, something I don't really want to see). There seemed to be no way to get rid of tat line, though, so took a look at the sources, written in Ruby, a language I don't know. After some experimentation, came up with these changes, which make things almost OK:

--- /usr/local/libexec/cvsspam/cvsspam.rb~      Fri Dec 15 10:50:45 2006
+++ /usr/local/libexec/cvsspam/cvsspam.rb       Fri Dec 15 15:38:15 2006
@@ -573,7 +558,7 @@
         @comment += "\n"
         @haveBlank = false
       end
-      $mailSubject = line unless $mailSubject.length > 0
+#      $mailSubject = line unless $mailSubject.length > 0
       @comment += line += "\n"
     end
   end
@@ -1404,7 +1389,7 @@
 end

 if $subjectPrefix == nil
-  $subjectPrefix = "[CVS #{Repository.array.join(',')}]"
+  $subjectPrefix = "cvs commit: #{Repository.array.join(',')}:"
 end

 if $files_in_subject
@@ -1412,12 +1397,12 @@
   $fileEntries.each do |file|
     name = htmlEncode(file.name_after_common_prefix)
     if all_files != ""
-      all_files = all_files + ";" + name
+      all_files = all_files + " " + name
     else
       all_files = name
     end
   end
-  $mailSubject = all_files + ":" + $mailSubject
+  $mailSubject = all_files + $mailSubject
 end

 mailSubject = "#{$subjectPrefix} #{$mailSubject}"
      

So, the result? After getting SpamAssassin to stop eating the messages, I found that they might be a valid use for HTML mail. But that still makes it difficult to quote things in the message. I'll try it for a few days and see what the others think.


Saturday, 16 December 2006 Echunga
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One obvious reason for the ridiculous web browser fonts that I've been complaining about in the last few months is that, since the last upgrade of wantadilla, I was no longer using TrueType fonts, which I had installed two years ago. Revisited that today, and discovered:

Basically, the installation involves:

After that, indeed, I had lots of fonts to choose from—so many that I haven't had a chance to decide. But it certainly offers more choice both of typefaces and font sizes. If there's one thing that's out of date with X, it must be the fonts; I can't recall any being added at all since I first started using X in May 1990.

In the afternoon, more work on getting MythTV working on FreeBSD. Made some progress, but I'm not there yet.


Sunday, 17 December 2006 Echunga –> Tanunda –> Clare –> Echunga Images for 17 December 2006
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So if we sell the house, where do we move? We've already looked at the area around Victor Harbour, without being very excited, so today decided to drive north and look at the Barossa and Clare valleys. First via Birdwood and Williamstown to Lyndoch and Tanunda, the latter as pleasant a little town as I recalled. This time looked a bit at the shops; Yvonne has become rather keen on the idea of Moroccan cuisine, so when we passed a rather well-stocked looking shop that includes kitchen utensils, she asked whether they had a tagine. No, of course, but the other shop down the road might have one. She went down there and discovered, yes, indeed, they did—a French one by Émile Henry at a price we didn't feel like paying, but at least it gave us the feeling that we weren't in the sticks.

Also in Tanunda, saw a very dubious symbol on a post in the main street:


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The explanation was written below the image. But it shows that symbolized images are not always a good idea.

Then on to Truro, where there seem to be a lot of horse owners. Too dry and barren for my liking. The dryness might be confined to this year—the number of hay bales in the paddocks suggested that the harvest wasn't much worse than in Echunga—but the barrenness would stay.

From there to Clare, which seemed a little too confined and cramped for my liking. But maybe that would grow on us. Had lunch there, then back home—Clare is still less than an hour from the outskirts of Adelaide, which unfortunately are some distance from the centre coming from that direction, and the traffic from there to Adelaide is not good. But it certainly left us with something to think about; maybe Williamstown, near Mount Crawford, would be a good choice.


Monday, 18 December 2006 Echunga
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More routine programming today. It's interesting how productive work is so uninteresting to report about.


Tuesday, 19 December 2006 Echunga Images for 19 December 2006
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Being the opinionated person I am, it seems reasonable that I should participate in market surveys. For some time now, I've been involved with Lightspeed, also known as Newspoll, and have responded to those surveys which aren't broken. Unfortunately, lately they have all been broken in some form or another. The latest one required flash, and the browser which I used didn't have flash. So I tried again with another browser and got:


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I've sent numerous error reports to the address mentioned on that page, and had no reply. If anything, things are getting worse, not better. I wonder if Lightspeed's customers know of this; I'd expect it to significantly skew the results of the surveys.

Spent most of the day working on the front panel code. It uses a PS/2 interface, so it should be straightforward enough, but it gets taken by the keyboard multiplexer, and all attempts I've made to detach it have failed. I wonder if there's a bug involved there.

In the process, ran into numerous problems with our database interface. We have a hybrid approach: much configuration data is stored in a MySQL database, but, mainly for convenience, the C programs access it via a structure in a shared memory segment. The interface proves to be more irritating than I though.

In the afternoon into town to the first meeting of the board of management of the ICT Council for South Australia since the elections. Dean Littlefield is now our chairman, and it's clear that he's taking a very different approach from his predecessor.

Back home with Yana, who is staying with us for Christmas.


Wednesday, 20 December 2006 Echunga Images for 20 December 2006
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Lightspeed breakage of the day:


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That's what I got after selecting a new survey, and before entering anything at all.

Spent the morning in Hahndorf with a status discussion, after which to Grumpys to pick up some malt—I've been severely neglecting my brewing lately, and plan to catch up over the Christmas break.

In the afternoon, Ans Papini and Bianca of Pope Nitschke came along. I've decided to get them to sell the house, not the least because they've gone to the trouble to understand the problems that they have with the web sites. Part of the deal is that they'll link to my description of the house. So, if you have $1,200,000, this is the house for you! Took a number of photos; things will presumably move quickly.


Thursday, 21 December 2006 Echunga
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Today there were supposed to be heavy rains, but somehow they all fell elsewhere; in Adelaide I'm told there were flash floods, but here there was only moderate rain.

More work on the code base today; finally got a script to generate the header files from the database.


Friday, 22 December 2006 Echunga Images for 22 December 2006
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Somehow didn't get anything of interest done today. Spent some more time frobbing the MythTV build, which on teevee takes over an hour, and updated the port a little. I still haven't tried to configure. Also did some cooking: tagine qamama, lamb with saffron, honey and onions. Certainly an interesting taste, but I don't know if the balance was good enough to write up.

Yana got in on the cookery action too and started making a gingerbread house. The recipe was all full of tablespoons and teaspoons, of course, and it eventuated that she didn't know how complicated the issue was. Took at look at the Wikipedia article, which didn't help much. While looking, discovered a set of measures that we must have bought in Australia; they appear to be old US measures (i.e. not legal in the USA any more, and of course never legal in Australia):


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What an incredible mess these stupid measurements are. And then I read in the US law (dated 1 April 2004, but presumably meant seriously):

    (i) Cups, tablespoons, or teaspoons shall be used wherever possible
and appropriate except for beverages.  For beverages, a manufacturer may
use fluid ounces.
      

Sheesh!

As if that wasn't bad enough, I checked the volume of the “teaspoon” (nominally 4.93 ml). Four “teaspoons” made almost exactly 30 ml:


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That's 50% more than indicated.


Saturday, 23 December 2006 Echunga Images for 23 December 2006
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Woke up this morning to find a big sign outside the house:


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That's fast work!

Today was the seventh hackers barbecue, and likely to be the last at Wantadilla. It was also probably the most active of all. The weather was cooler than expected, and we spent the entire time inside.

Daniel O'Connor brought along yet another USB infrared receiver, for which we had intended to commit support to lirc, but as Daniel (maintainer of the lirc port) says, the code turned his stomach. From my experience last month, I can only concur.

Bernd Wulf brought a number of things: more home-made wine, which tastes as good as many commercial wines, a digital radio receiver, and also a MicroVAX II as a present for me:


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Took it in and managed to find a functional VT320, but no real cable to fit it: the one I had was a flat 25-25 pin connector, but the VAX console port was 9 pins. Discovered that the short end of a Laplink cable would do the job, but it was too short, so we ended up having to prop up the front of the monitor so that it would work:


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Unfortunately, Bernd has never had the thing working, and it didn't boot; my guess is that there's no system on the disk. I'll have to do some investigation about that.

I didn't really get all the details of the radio receiver, but it seems to be quite an interesting piece of equipment.


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When I have time I'll get Bernd to tell me about it in more detail.

David Newall and I have been sparring about the utility of HTML for years, and we continued today. It at least had the advantage of giving me a lesson in style sheets; maybe I can now get tables to look less bad.

In the meantime, Yana was working on her gingerbread house, which is now almost finished; just needs the roof:


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Sunday, 24 December 2006 Echunga Images for 24 December 2006
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Quiet day, spent mainly cooking and refining my Christmas Cooking pages. More by accident than otherwise discovered a way of cooking turkey so that the thighs are cooked and the breast isn't overdone: my method involves taking the turkey out of the oven when the breast temperature has reached 70°, removing the foil and fat cover and replacing to brown the breast. It did indeed look pale at this point, so I took a photo:


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To take the photo, I had to find my camera, leaving the turkey out of the oven for several minutes. When it went back in, the breast temperature had dropped to 56°, and in the next hour it only made it to 75°; I had planned to go for 80°. By that time, though, the thighs had been done through. Presumably the breast cooled off more during the photography.

This also begs the question: what's the right temperature for a roast bird? All my thermometers seem to say 90°, but that's presumably to avoid the uncooked joint syndrome. Certainly the breast at 75° was more than cooked enough.

Had the usual eating orgy in the evening, and early to bed.


Monday, 25 December 2006 Echunga Images for 25 December 2006
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The weather this year has been full of surprises, and today was no exception: after months of hot weather and no rain, we had a cool day with rain. The day's temperature ranged from 7° to 13°, the kind of range that could occur in Europe at this time of year. Still, nobody was unhappy about the rain—a real Christmas present for many.

Didn't do much today. Helped Yana set up her Apple for dialup service while she gets around to ordering an ADSL connection. Set up mutt for POP3 connection for the first time; it seems straightforward enough. One surprise was downloading photos from Yana's camera using iPhoto: it sets the modification timestamp of the photos to the time of copying. Why do people do things like that? Had quite a bit of pain resetting them. I could write a script to get the date out of the EXIF data, but why do I have to?

Also did more cooking. The gingerbread house is finished:


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A few months back Yvonne bought a venison roast in the Central Market, but we didn't know what to do with it: it was a little tough as a roast, and making a terrine out of it wasn't ideal either. We had decided to try again and make a goulash out of it this time, something that I've only found in German and Swedish cookbooks. Taking it apart showed some very nice meat:


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Started off with a two-day marinade in a red wine and vinegar marinade, made slightly less typical by the addition of star anis and ginger, a suggestion from Bonniers Kokbok.


Tuesday, 26 December 2006 Echunga Images for 26 December 2006
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For some time I've been meaning to investigate software for creating DVDs from broadcast MPEG streams, and I've been putting it off because I feared the amount of work it would take to put it right. That's all the funnier because that's almost exactly what we do with our Black Box project, but maybe the pain we've had there explains some of the fear.

Today was the day; went through the Ports Collection multimedia section once again and came out with a bewildering number of programs, all described in enormous fixed-width fonts. How I hate this broken web site! In the end, asked on IRC, where Jürgen Lock was very helpful in describing how he does it. First, though, I tried replex.

replex

We're using replex at work, and we're doing our best to replace it there. As usual, there is almost no documentation, just a README that says:

Usage: ./replex [options] <input files>

options:
  --type,             -t:  set output type (MPEG2, DVD, HDTV)
  --of,               -o:  set output file
...

A typical call would be
replex -t DVD -o mynewps.mpg myoldts.ts
      

Trying that gave the following output on the screen:

=== grog@teevee (/dev/ttyp4) /spool/Images/Already 8 -> replex -t DVD -o 3suns.mpg tre-solar
Reading from tre-solar
Input file length: 6655.00 MB
Output File is: 3suns.mpg
Checking for TS: confirmed
Trying to find PIDs
vpid 0x0066
apid 0x0067
STARTING REPLEX
Audiostream: layer: 2  BRate: 224 kb/s  Freq: 48.0 kHz frame size: 672 ( 0:00:00.024 ) starting
audio PTS: 13:22:14.750
Wrong audio frame size: 976
Wrong audio frame size: 1040
Video: aspect ratio: 16:9  size = 720x576  frame rate: 50.000 fps  bit rate: 7.65 Mbit/s
  vbvbuffer 3817472
Sequence Extension: chroma 4:2:0   size = 720x576  bit rate: 7.65 Mbit/s  vbvbuffer 3817472
frame rate: 50.000
starting with video PTS: 13:22:15.172
video PTS inconsistent: 13:22:15.212  0:00:00.040 13:22:15.172  0:00:00.000  diff:  0:01:03.945
video DTS inconsistent: 13:22:15.152 26:30:43.697 13:22:15.152 26:30:43.697 diff:  0:01:03.905
video PTS inconsistent: 13:22:15.212  0:00:00.000 13:22:15.192  0:00:00.020  diff:  0:01:03.885
(many more)
      

They were matched by the following output on the console, which indicates that it's trying to write to a DVD. There's nothing in the “documentation” that explains why it's trying to do this.

Dec 26 13:07:56 teevee kernel: (cd0:ata1:0:0:0): READ(10).  CDB: 28 0 0 0 1 3 0 0 1 0
Dec 26 13:07:56 teevee kernel: (cd0:ata1:0:0:0): CAM Status: SCSI Status Error
Dec 26 13:07:56 teevee kernel: (cd0:ata1:0:0:0): SCSI Status: Check Condition
Dec 26 13:07:56 teevee kernel: (cd0:ata1:0:0:0): NOT READY asc:3a,0
Dec 26 13:07:56 teevee kernel: (cd0:ata1:0:0:0): Medium not present
Dec 26 13:07:56 teevee kernel: (cd0:ata1:0:0:0): Unretryable error
Dec 26 13:07:56 teevee kernel: (cd0:ata1:0:0:0): cddone: got error 0x6 back
      

Finally, replex died with the message:

ringbuffer overflow 124<184 629145
ring buffer overflow 629145
      

Possibly I'm doing something wrong, but without any documentation, like so much multimedia stuff, it's pretty much useless.

Jürgen's recommendation is Project X to disassemble the file into its component streams, then dvdstyler to put them back together again. That doesn't seem to make sense: the VOB files are MPEG-2 program streams, and the input files are MPEG-2 transport streams, which are related, so it seems unnecessary to take them apart and put them back together again; replex doesn't need that. On the other hand, replex also doesn't seem to work. Also, dvdstyler is really a program for creating menus for a DVD, something that I don't want. But can you create a DVD without a menu? I don't know. So I'm guessing that Jürgen's method is one “that works” rather than an optimal procedure.

Project X

Project X is based on Java, which doesn't make things any easier. Installing the port failed with:

===>  diablo-jdk-1.5.0.07.01_1 :
 Because of licensing restrictions, you must fetch the distribution
 manually.  Please access

 http://www.FreeBSDFoundation.org/cgi-bin/download?download=diablo-caffe-freebsd6-i386-1.5
.0_07-b01.tar.bz2

 with a web browser and "Accept" the End User License Agreement for
 "Caffe Diablo 1.5.0".  Please place the downloaded
 diablo-caffe-freebsd6-i386-1.5.0_07-b01.tar.bz2 in /usr/ports/distfiles.
.*** Error code 1
      

After doing that, it installed, but there was no documentation. The initial screen looks pretty, but is completely confusing:


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I was about to give up on it until Jürgen came along and helped me through it, step by step. In the past I've always refused such offers of help: they shouldn't be necessary. But, sad as it seems, they are necessary, because people write programs without any documentation. Basically, the procedure is:

dvdstyler

After tearing the stream apart with Project X, use dvdstyler to create the DVD itself. dvdstyler is unusual for a couple of reasons: it has nicely formatted documentation, and the error messages it produces are intelligible:

 
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To be fair to the program, I didn't read the documentation, since Jürgen was navigating. The first thing you'd expect to do with the initial screen would be to select something from the Files tab:


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In fact, that's just for loading project files (and has this same stupid, brain-dead ignorance of the working directory that all “modern” programs seem to have nowadays). To get at your files, use the Directories tab on the side. Then drag the files shown on the right in specific sequence:

  1. First, drag the video (.m2v) file to the bottom. This appears here as “Title 1”.

  2. Next, drag the audio (.mp2) file on top of the title. The text at the bottom is the only indication that anything has happened, and it disappears when you move the cursor off the icon.

  3. Don't do anything with the _log.txt file. It's really just the log of the conversion, and it's a little strange that it's there in the first place.

At the end, it should look something like this:


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Next, create a menu:


Wednesday, 27 December 2006 Echunga Images for 27 December 2006
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Spent a lot of time today writing up yesterday's experiences with DVD mastering, and continued investigating the reasons why some of the resultant DVDs wouldn't work in my brain-dead Digitrex DVD recorder, though mplayer had no problems with it. With the help of mplayer, established that there were format differences:

VIDEO:  MPEG2  720x576  (aspect 3)  50.000 fps  9000.0 kbps (1125.0 kbyte/s)
VIDEO:  MPEG2  704x576  (aspect 2)  25.000 fps  9000.0 kbps (1125.0 kbyte/s)
      

The first was Astérix DVD that I burnt was “progressive scan” (i.e. non-interlaced) and “aspect 3” (i.e. 16x9 aspect ratio), and the second, the one that did work, was interlaced with “aspect 2” (i.e. 4x3). It also had a different resolution: on closer examination, none of the resolutions are 4x3. 720x576 is 5x4, while 704x576 is 11x9. To make matters worse, Project X offered different ratios again: 0.6735 (2000x1437), which it calls “4:3”, and 0.7031 (really 10000x7031), which it calls “16:9”. Clearly there's something to be learnt here. It also uses the term DAR, which apparently means Display Aspect Ratio. What other kind of aspect ratio is there? I suppose I might find out if I can make sense of the ratios I've seen. Tried a small test after setting the horizontal resolution and aspect ratio to match the image that did work. This is the top right of the Project X screen after the changes:

  Image
      

Indeed, the result worked. Which change was it? My guess is the aspect ratio. Now to learn how to chop off leaders and trailers. The image contained nearly 400 MB of junk at the beginning because the TV stations never start broadcasting on time. I thought I had cut it off, but it ended up on the DVD anyway.

Cooked our Wildgulasch in the evening. Not bad, but I can already see ways to improve on it.


Thursday, 28 December 2006 Echunga
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Yana returned to Adelaide today, along with her Apple machine, pippin. While she was here we had installed mutt (her choice) and confirmed that she could get mail from wantadilla, but we hadn't tried it in the dialup environment. That had a number of surprises in store:

Spent some time looking through the maze of twisty little configuration options, all different, before somebody on IRC told me that I had to select sharing from the system preferences. But it only let me change the name of the system, not the invalid domain name. I didn't find a way of doing that from the GUI interface; it's straightforward enough from the shell:

=== root@blackbox (/dev/ttyp2) ~ 13 -> hostname pippin.lemis.com
=== root@blackbox (/dev/ttyp2) ~ 14 -> exec bash
=== root@pippin (/dev/ttyp2) ~ 1 ->
      

But how do you set this at startup time? Another thing I still haven't got round to finding out, and the Apple documentation seems to be of no help for anything I want to do.

In all probability, there's a real logic to the way Apple handles system configuration, but it's not the UNIX logic, and I really don't want to have to learn something new. And once again, it shows the dichotomy between the underlying UNIX and the whizzbang GUI on top.

In the end solved the thing by ignoring the system as much as possible. Somehow I ended up with a Postfix installation, so I was able to set the configuration to fake the name—once I had found the configuration file, which is in /private/etc/postfix/main.cf. The rest was the corresponding header in ~/.muttrc, and then the headers looked right:

Received: from pippin.lemis.com (unknown [203.20.68.17])
        by wantadilla.lemis.com (Postfix) with ESMTP id 350D19C914;
        Thu, 28 Dec 2006 13:54:03 +1030 (CST)
Received: by pippin.lemis.com (Postfix, from userid 1006)
        id 079895BE19; Thu, 28 Dec 2006 13:54:04 +1030 (CST)
Date: Thu, 28 Dec 2006 13:54:04 +1030
From: Yana Lehey <yana@lemis.com>
      

As shown, I solved the reverse DNS problem by using wantadilla as a smart host.

What a pain! I don't think I've ever spent so much time setting up a mail system.

Did some more work on DVD mastering, and confirmed yesterday's suspicion that it was the aspect ratio that caused the Digitrex DVD recorder to refuse previous DVDs. But this is still so slow! Read up on the quite considerable documentation in the Transcode wiki, discovering in the process a script called any2DVD, which may have the distinction of being the largest shell script I have ever seen:

  -rwxr-xr-x  1 root  wheel  441726 Sep 13 20:44 any2dvd
      

Set to porting that—it doesn't have any installation environment, so I had to do it manually. Wasn't finished by the evening.

Called up Yvonne's brother Michael in the evening, in the mistaken assumption that it was his birthday (that's tomorrow). Life in Kleinenbroich continues to be tragic: Heike's best friend died a couple of weeks ago, and Michael is in a wheelchair with hairline cracks in his feet. With luck he'll be walking again by the end of February. What a year!

Mail from James Andrewartha telling me that DVD pixels are not square, thus explaining the strange aspect ratios I had noticed yesterday. What a can of worms!


Friday, 29 December 2006 Echunga Images for 29 December 2006
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More swollen joints today, so I'm back on Indometacin for a while, longer than I like. I'm not happy with the advice from my GP; I think it's time to go and see a specialist.

Spent some time writing up my description for the sale of Wantadilla, and also still more DVD authoring stuff. Fixed the Makefile for any2DVD, maybe a little early: despite being a shell script, it had a number of surprises: it claims to run with /bin/sh (it doesn't, but in Linux /bin/sh is a link to /bin/bash, with which it does run); it uses a flavour of sed incompatible with BSD sed; and it makes this horrible assumption that the terminal background is black, then produces illegible messages:

 
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In the evening, our Digitrex DVD recorder gave up the ghost in a slightly different way: the front panel on/off switch got stuck in the housing and wouldn't come out:


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It's not clear what caused it to work in the first place; possibly a coil spring that has since got lost. In any case, I can't complain. It's by far the worst piece of electronics I've bought in the last few years, but since the manufacturer refunded the purchase price and didn't want it back, I suppose I've got my money's worth. Took it apart and investigated, taking some photos in the process. There might be something salvageable in there (at least the DVD+RW drive). Put it back together without the button; now we'll have to use a cotton stick to locate the real switch on the PCB board behind the front panel on those occasions where we still use it.


Saturday, 30 December 2006 Echunga Images for 30 December 2006
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Spent a lot of the day looking at any2DVD, gradually coming to the conclusion that I had committed it too hastily. Shell scripts are a pain to debug at the best of times, and when they're this size, it's hell. I seem to have left behind a trail of half-completed ports, so this might be one that I should just forget.

In the evening to a house-warming in Rodert Road, near Diane Saunders' place; James Tickner, his wife Sarah and their family have just moved in from Sydney, and they invited all the neighbours in. You'd think that normal enough, and everybody seems to intend it, but this is the first time in nearly 10 years that I've been to such a party. James is a physicist with CSIRO, and he's into distributed solution of complicated mathematical systems, but we didn't get much time to talk about it.

Weather guesswork

For some time I've been having a discussion with a Greenie friend, who would prefer to remain anonymous. Like many others, he claims that the current extreme drought is due to global warming. I'm not so convinced. Global warming happens, well, globally. Our current drought is compensated for by extremely heavy rains in Eastern Africa, for example, and in every case I've seen, droughts in one area are compensated for by heavier rains in other parts of the world. That looks more like a redistribution of rainfall than a global phenomenon.

Revisiting this 10 years later, this argument is an indication of why we call it climate change now.

My personal question is: why is nobody talking about the direct effects of deforestation? Excessive carbon dioxide emission is an indirect effect at best. My friend claims that I am “in denial”, which sounds surprisingly like the German crime of “denying the Holocaust”, another silly term. Yes, of course, the Hitler regime committed horrendous crimes against humanity, which is what the “Holocaust” is supposed to mean. But it doesn't: according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the current usage is derived from:

“1 c. Complete consumption by fire, or that which is so consumed; complete destruction, esp. of a large number of persons; a great slaughter or massacre.”

That clearly didn't happen. So yes, on this technicality I “deny the holocaust”. Why can't people use correct descriptions? Genocide is a better one.

It seems that there are, indeed, a number of people who deny the existence of global warming, but that doesn't justify others making exaggerated claims about its effects. A couple of days ago, a report from Barrie Hunt of the CSIRO and published in The Australian, gave support to my concerns: we just don't know enough about weather dynamics to know what effect they have on rainfall.

As if to confirm that uncertainty, we've been getting rain over the last few days, since Wednesday or Thursday. Nobody seems to be more surprised than the Bureau of Meteorology. Here some forecasts over the last few days. The figures are the projected minimum and maximum temperatures for Adelaide; “fine” means “dry”.

Forecast date Wed, 27 Dec Thu, 28 Dec Fri, 29 Dec Sat, 30 Dec Sun, 31 Dec Mon, 1 Jan
20 Dec, 16:20 Fine, mostly sunny, 13/24
21 Dec, 5:15 Fine, mostly sunny, 13/24
21 Dec, 11:30 Fine, mostly sunny, 13/24
21 Dec, 16:20 Fine, mostly sunny, 13/24 Fine, mostly sunny, 13/28
22 Dec, 5:15 Fine, mostly sunny, 13/24 Fine, mostly sunny, 13/28
22 Dec, 11:30 Fine, mostly sunny, 13/24 Fine, mostly sunny, 13/28
22 Dec, 16:20 Fine, mostly sunny, 13/24 Fine, mostly sunny, 13/28 Fine, mostly sunny, 14/28
23 Dec, 5:15 Fine, mostly sunny, 13/24 Fine, mostly sunny, 13/28 Fine, mostly sunny, 14/28
23 Dec, 11:35 Fine, mostly sunny, 13/24 Fine, mostly sunny, 13/28 Fine, mostly sunny, 14/28
23 Dec, 16:00 Fine, sunny, 13/25 Fine, mostly sunny, 13/25 Fine, sunny, 14/28 Fine, sunny, 15/33
24 Dec, 5:15 Fine, sunny, 13/24 Fine, mostly sunny, 13/25 Fine, sunny, 14/28 Fine, sunny, 15/33
24 Dec, 11:30 Fine, sunny, 13/24 Fine, mostly sunny, 13/25 Fine, sunny, 14/28 Fine, sunny, 15/33
24 Dec, 16:00 Fine, sunny, 13/24 Fine, mostly sunny, 13/25 Fine, sunny, 14/28 Fine, sunny, 15/33 Fine, mostly sunny, 17/36
25 Dec, 5:15 Fine, sunny, 13/24 Fine, mostly sunny, 13/25 Fine, sunny, 14/28 Fine, sunny, 15/33 Fine, mostly sunny, 17/36
25 Dec, 11:30 Fine, sunny, 13/24 Fine, mostly sunny, 13/25 Fine, sunny, 14/28 Fine, sunny, 15/33 Fine, mostly sunny, 17/36
25 Dec, 16:00 Fine, mostly sunny, 13/24 Fine, mostly sunny, 13/25 Fine, sunny, 14/28 Fine, sunny, 15/33 Fine, cloud increasing, 17/36 Shower or two, 16/25
26 Dec, 5:15 Fine, mostly sunny, 13/24 Fine, mostly sunny, 13/25 Fine, sunny, 14/28 Fine, sunny, 15/33 Fine, cloud increasing, 17/36 Shower or two, 16/25
26 Dec, 11:50 Fine, partly cloudy, 13/24 Fine, mostly sunny, 13/25 Fine, sunny, 14/28 Fine, sunny, 15/33 Fine, mostly sunny, 17/36 Fine, partly cloudy, 16/25
26 Dec, 16:00 Fine, partly cloudy, 12/23 Fine, mostly sunny, 13/25 Fine, sunny, 14/28 Dry, sunny, 15/33 Dry, sunny, 17/33 Fine, partly cloudy, 16/30
27 Dec, 5:15 Fine, mostly sunny, /23 Fine, mostly sunny, 13/25 Fine, sunny, 14/28 Dry, sunny, 15/33 Dry, sunny, 17/33 Fine, partly cloudy, 16/30
27 Dec, 11:30 Fine, mostly sunny, /23 Fine, mostly sunny, 13/25 Fine, sunny, 14/28 Dry, sunny, 15/33 Dry, sunny, 17/33 Fine, partly cloudy, 16/30
27 Dec, 16:30 Clear evening Fine, mostly sunny, 12/24 Fine, sunny, 14/28 Dry, sunny, 15/33 Dry, sunny, 17/33 Fine, partly cloudy, 16/30
28 Dec, 5:25 Fine, mostly sunny, /24 Fine, sunny, 14/28 Dry, sunny, 15/33 Dry, sunny, 17/33 Fine, partly cloudy, 16/30
28 Dec, 11:35 Fine, sunny, /24 Fine, partly cloudy, 14/28 Dry, sunny, 15/33 Dry, sunny, 17/33 Fine, partly cloudy, 16/30
28 Dec, 16:20 Fine, cool, clear Fine, partly cloudy, 14/27 Dry, sunny, 15/33 Dry, mostly sunny, 17/33 Dry, partly cloudy, 18/34
29 Dec, 5:15 Partly cloudy, light shower, /27 Dry, mostly sunny, 15/33 Dry, mostly sunny, 17/33 Dry, partly cloudy, 18/34
29 Dec, 11:35 Shower or two, thunder, /29 Shower or two, thunder, 15/33 Dry, mostly sunny, 17/33 Dry, partly cloudy, 18/34
29 Dec, 16:10 Shower or two, thunder, clearing after sunset Shower or two, thunder, 18/33 Dry, mostly sunny, 17/33 Dry, partly cloudy, 18/34
30 Dec, 5:15 Shower or two, thunder, /33 Dry, mostly sunny, 17/33 Dry, partly cloudy, 18/34

Look at that report issued at 5:25 on 28 December. It still doesn't mention the rain. By the time that report was issued, it was raining! But the BoM doesn't even forecast rain for another 24 hours. The report issued on Friday at 16:20 forecast that the showers would mostly clear after sunset (4 hours after the forecast); instead they continued, relatively heavily, all night. By contrast, today the sky was cloudless. No thought of rain.

Not only are the forecasts wrong, the report of current conditions are wrong too. Another example is the rainfall reporting, in which the BoM is still ridiculously inaccurate. It rained heavily the whole of last night, but the daily rain bulletins for the last few days report:

Day         Echunga         Hahndorf         Meadows         Mount Barker
27 Dec 3/4 2 2.4
28 Dec
29 Dec 5/6 2 2
30 Dec 2 2

These reports are in millimetres for the 24 hours ending at 9:00 on the specified day, except for the first, which was for 72 hours. In this case I calculated the 24 hour rainfall by subtracting the values for Tuesday's report.

I can't decide whether 5/6 means 0.8333 mm or between 5 and 6 mm. Elsewhere I see reports like 0.2/7, so I suspect the latter, and that it's a discrepancy between two measurements in the same locality. This bulletin conflicts with the weather forecasts, and over the entire period reports no rainfall in Meadows. From my own experience, we had lots of rainfall in the night of 29 December, but the bulletin for that time period issued on 30 December reports no rainfall in Echunga or Meadows. What point is a bulletin that doesn't report the truth?

In a more global context, though: the weather is more important to us than it has ever been. Clearly man has an influence on climate. But the Greenies are doing us no favour by blaming the situation on over-simplified models, when even experts clearly don't know what they're talking about.


Sunday, 31 December 2006 Echunga
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For some time I've been worrying about displaying HDTV on teevee.lemis.com, an AMD Athlon XP 2500+ (1833 MHz) running FreeBSD 6.1. Basically, earlier this month I had established that, try as I might, I couldn't get the CPU grunt to render 720p effectively with any driver available to me. Earlier, in August I had noted:

The nVidia driver does not improve performance; in fact, it decreases it.

But what about hardware MPEG rendition? Did some investigation and came up with a reference on mythtv.org. Installing the nVidia drivers isn't enough: you also need to use XvMC, X video motion compensation, which you invoke with:

mplayer -vo xvmc -vc ffmpeg12mc image-file-name
      

The -vo specifies the video driver, and -vc specifies the video codec.

Installed the latest nVidia driver (/usr/ports/x11/nvidia-driver) and the configuration utility (/usr/ports/x11/nvidia-xconfig) and ran the latter, which did nothing useful apart from introduce gratuitous changes to the xorg.conf file. The real diffs are:

RCS file: RCS/xorg.conf,v
retrieving revision 1.11
diff -wu -r1.11 xorg.conf
--- xorg.conf   2006/12/30 07:07:01     1.11
+++ xorg.conf   2006/12/30 07:12:24
@@ -19,7 +20,6 @@

 Section "Module"
        Load  "dbe"
-       Load  "dri"
        Load  "extmod"
        Load  "glx"
        Load  "record"
@@ -119,7 +119,7 @@
         #Option     "FPScale"                  # [<bool>]
         #Option     "FPTweak"                  # <i>
        Identifier  "Control"
-       Driver      "nv"
+       Driver      "nvidia"
        VendorName  "nVidia Corporation"
        BoardName   "GeForce 6200"
        BusID       "PCI:1:0:0"
      

I don't know why the config program removed dri; possibly it doesn't support it. I suppose I should try replacing it and seeing what happens.

With those changes, mplayer worked much better. Instead of dropping frames like crazy at 100% CPU usage, it worked fine with 75% idle. top shows that the 25% was all used by mplayer; X didn't even register. So it looks as if I can stick with X.

The Bureau of Meteorology remains true to form. After predicting a dry day for today for at least the last week, today they decided that it would rain. It didn't.


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