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December 2013
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Sunday, 1 December 2013 Dereel Images for 1 December 2013
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NBN installation, bad language and survey
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

Where do I put the network termination box for my NBN service? It's designed to be mounted on a wall inside the house, preferably close to a power point. We're going to be moving house in the foreseeable future, so it makes sense to consider where the new owner of the house would like to have it.

Clearly it should be somewhere near the existing network infrastructure. That's mainly the south half of the house; my powerline network adapters that connect to the north are so flaky that they may not be as fast as the NBN downlink. And most of the rooms in the south of the house were intended as bedrooms, though we're using two of them as offices. We could put it in my office, but if that ends up being a child's bedroom, it might not be the most appropriate. Maybe the storage cupboard in the middle of the house? I already have cvr2, my computer video recorder, in there, so it would be out of the way and easy to connect into the network. But how to get the cable from the roof into that cupboard?

Went to the NBN web site, which gave me little concrete information. I suppose I'll have to talk to the installer. The quality of the information is reflected in their HOWTO page, which states:

Please note that your existing DSL and cable modems may not be compatible with the NBN, so check your equipment with your internet service provider.

What kind of nonsense is that? Of course an ADSL or cable modem won't work with the NBN. That's why they supply their own “modem”. Either they're terminally confused, or they're participating in the bad language that I ranted about last week. But this time there's a difference: it specifically refers to components that require a modem. Probably the best guess is that the person who wrote the text was also confused by the bad language.

Once again I was asked if I wanted to do a survey. Now that I know I'm a resident, and not a user, I was able to do it. Glacially slow, and no particularly interesting questions, just “do you have any comments?” at the end. Do I!


Keeping EXIF data in a database
Topic: photography, technology Link here

I have something like 100,000 distinct photos on my system, and with all copies in different sizes, data formats and qualities, it's over 500,000. How do I keep track of the EXIF data? Specifically at the moment I'm wondering which lenses I use the most, and at what focal lengths. Clearly l need to store the information in a database.

That's so clear, in fact, that there must be software out there that does it. But a Google search didn't come up with anything very promising. What was there was mainly part of large programs, rather than a standalone application. I'm reminded of:

Hoare's Law of Large Problems:

Inside every large problem is a small problem struggling to get out.

This thread—coincidentally in an Olympus forum—shows that others also feel a need for this kind of representation, but I couldn't find an implementation. So it looks like I'll have to do it myself. What do I need? Modern photos have lots of EXIF data—exiftool produces about 200 lines of information from my photos. That's 100,000,000 records for 500,000 photos. There are a number of considerations:

Probably I'll have to do something like that, but it was worth a quick hack to get a feel for it. As I suspected:


mysql> SELECT count(*), value FROM exifdata WHERE tag = "Focal Length" GROUP BY value;
...
210 rows in set (27.19 sec)

That's with only about 70,000 photos. The data file was already over 1 GB in size. Clearly I need something better. But at least it has told me what I wanted to know: I take a very large proportion of my photos at either minimum or maximum focal length. So the new M.Zuiko 12-40 mm will indeed be restrictive compared to the Zuiko Digital ED 12-60mm F2.8-4.0 SWD, with which I have taken 2,203 photos at 60 mm.


Monday, 2 December 2013 Dereel Images for 2 December 2013
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Suddenly summer
Topic: general, technology Link here

It's summer! And the weather shows it:

Click to see larger image

That's a big difference from the last two months, which were far cooler than the seasonal average:

mysql> SELECT year(date), avg(outside_temp)
FROM observations
WHERE month(date) > 9
  AND month(date) < 12
GROUP BY year(date);

+------------+-------------------+
| year(date) | avg(outside_temp) |
+------------+-------------------+
|       2009 |  17.5731496596709 |
|       2010 |    14.36821202979 |
|       2011 |  15.1622464410373 |
|       2012 |  14.9027108163907 |
|       2013 |  13.4479453197917 |
+------------+-------------------+

And for some reason, weather station readings were very erratic—at times over 30 minutes passed without a reading coming through. That's almost certainly due to transmission problems from the external unit, but which? It's not easy to trace, and I don't really want to write hundreds of log messages for intermittent errors.


New camera: slower than from overseas
Topic: general, photography, opinion Link here

So my new camera got sent from Sydney on Friday. Today I got a message from a company called Startrack—maybe. They pointed to a web site http://www.startrack.com.au/. The news was good:

 
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I waited all day, but it didn't arrive. Then I took another look at the tracking site:

 
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So they had driven it around all day and taken it back to Ballarat! Wendouree is just an inner suburb of Ballarat. Called up Startrack, who do a good job of hiding their number (13 2345), and waited fully 17 minutes listening to recorded announcements like “We deliver to every address in Australia, door to door”. Finally got connected with Chantal, who told me that they don't deliver to Dereel, and that the package will be delivered to Australia Post tomorrow, and I will get it in two day's time. That's 6 days after postage! I've had deliveries from overseas that are faster than that. And if that happens again, it's quite possible that I won't get my new lens until Monday, a week after shipping.

In the meantime, I had received another copy of my invoice from Digital Camera Warehouse. It looked identical to the previous one, and it said that all had been paid, so it wasn't really clear why they had sent me another one. Then it dawned on me: the words “Backorder” against the lens were missing. This seems to be their way of saying “your lens has arrived”. So I called up to ask them to send via civilized means. No, sorry, lens already gone out. I complained about their courier, and asked why they didn't send with Australia Post. Because it's too expensive, and they want a signature for delivery. Too expensive? They charge $19 for shipping. Checked later, and discovered that, although Australia Post charge only about $15, that's without insurance. And with insurance for $2,400, the price rises from $17 to $54.50. Why do they do that? That's a premium of 1.5% of the item value. To warrant that, they'd have to lose one package out of 67. But I suppose it explains DCW's choice, though presumably they could get a better courier.


Summer Holiday, 50 years on
Topic: music, multimedia, opinion Link here

When I was a boy, before the Beatles came on the scene, Cliff Richard was probably the leading British pop singer. I've never been a fan of pop music, but I found some of his songs quite acceptable. He also made a couple of musical films, The Young Ones and Summer Holiday, both of which I watched and enjoyed.

Summer Holiday was on TV recently, and so for the fun of it we watched it. Yvonne had never seen it before. It's interesting to see how things have changed since 1963. The most interesting thing is similarities in the choreography with the film version of West Side Story, which came out a couple of years earlier. The quality of the film is nowhere near that of West Side Story, of course, but it seems to be in a similar tradition. And the music is primarily melodic rather than the extreme percussion and stress that seems to pervade most modern “music”. I was surprised how much things have changed.


Tuesday, 3 December 2013 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 3 December 2013
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To the vets again
Topic: animals, general Link here

Off to Ballarat this morning to have Zhivago examined again. All seemed OK except for bilirubin in his urine, which Aaron thought could be indicative of liver problems. Had a complete blood test done—another $250 in total—and heard back in the evening that the results were all fine. What a lot of money we're spending on vets lately!


ABS survey
Topic: general Link here

We've been selected to complete a survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. We don't get the choice: we're required to. It involved an interviewer coming along and asking lots of questions that she then typed into a laptop. The whole thing was scheduled to take 1½ hours, but in fact we got it done in an hour. Why can't we just do it online?


E-M1: first impressions
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Despite the problems we had yesterday, my new Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera did arrive today. As I suspected, it was really sent by Australian Air Express, about whom I have complained in the past. In passing, it's interesting to note that that name is showing up less and less. The AAE link now links to Qantas freight. I wonder why the name changes.

And my lens was already in Ballarat waiting for its drive around town. Before leaving for town, called Startrack and asked if I could contact the driver and pick it up. No, they “can't stop on the side of the road”. Clearly they have to stop somewhere—why not arrange something? But no, nothing to be done. Hopefully it'll be here tomorrow.

Picked it the camera up on the way back from Ballarat. Without a lens I can't take photos with it, of course, but there's still plenty to learn about it.

The first impression is how small it is. I won't take photos until I have a lens to put on it, but it's about half way between my E-30 and Yvonne's compact camera.

So: what can I do without a lens? Examine the camera. The tripod mount is offset to one side, by about 12 mm! And that on a professional camera! How do I calculate entrance pupils? I'll have to mount it at an angle on the focusing rail and recalculate all the distances. Why did they do that? There's no obvious restriction.

Also took a look at the instructions. Clearly this is a modern camera: there are none! Well, almost none. I had already downloaded the manual from the web, only 165 pages of it—not very much for a camera of this complexity. But do I get it with the camera? Yes, but only on CD-ROM. The printed manual was in 3 languages, only 24 pages each when you exclude the boilerplate safety instructions. It doesn't even tell you how to get your photos off the camera! Olympus should be ashamed of themselves to not even include a printed version of the manual in a camera of this class. And the PDF version doesn't have any indexing, so I have to search the entire document for anything I want.

Still, it came with a CD with various software, including Olympus “Viewer” and the real manual, both of which I already had. But it also offers online registration. Tried that in my Microsoft box, but even that didn't work:

 
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That's possibly my mistake in believing that if I click on a file system icon, I will get some useful result. Finally found out how to start it. It required connecting the camera to the machine, so that it could read out the serial number. Then it started a web browser which wanted to know my date of birth—yet again! It also wanted my address, of course, but it would only let me live in the USA or dependencies!

 
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The manual was also older than the one I had downloaded, dating to April, 5 months before the camera was released. In sum, the CD-ROM is useless.

OK, how about the “wireless LAN function”? I had already discovered that the implementation is deficient, but today's experiments confirmed it. I can't connect to a network!

The wireless LAN function on the camera cannot be used to connect to a home or public access point.

According to the instructions it's got to be a smartphone, not even a tablet, and I need to install OI.Share, the smartphone app, whatever that is. The instructions give no help, and neither does the software download page. On the CD-ROM? Of course not. Once again I had to go to the toyshop, though there's some information on this olympus site, which I could only find with the help of Google.

I had in fact found and installed this app some time ago but not commented on it. Although the video I saw a few months ago shows it using a tablet in landscape orientation, it's clearly designed for smart phones, and my version displays only in portrait orientation. And yes, it's the latest version. Maybe things will be better when I have a lens, but the functionality is really minimal. There are so many things it could do, but not only does it not support networks, it disconnects the tablet from the network when it connects to the camera. Here a comparison of what I think it does (not helped by Android-typical lack of documentation) and what it should be able to do:

Feature       Desired       Implemented
Connect to network       Yes       Only point-to-point connection
Control camera       From any machine       Only Android or iOS devices
Simultaneous remote and local control       Yes       No
Set time via ntp       Yes       Indirectly via tablet time
Transfer photos to computer       Yes       No

This last point is particularly painful. I still have to transfer photos via USB. There should be no need for that with a fast network connection. Hopefully they'll improve things, but looking at the quality of Olympus Viewer, I'm not holding my breath.


TV reception problems revisited
Topic: multimedia, opinion Link here

I've been keeping records of TV reception problems for over 2 years now, during which time I've been able to narrow down the causes somewhat. There's a strong correlation between reception quality and channel. In particular, ABC TV is very bad, something that the ABC people refute. Lately it's been so bad that I have basically had to throw out all recordings.

Then yesterday, with outside temperatures of 36°, my daily recording of Al Jazeera news on SBS was also unusable; normally it's perfect. Something to do with the temperature?

Hard to say. The nightly recordings of Al Jazeera on ABC are usually useless—sometimes I get no data at all—but last night the second one was perfect, along with another recording. I can't make any sense of this.


Handkäs mit Musik
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

In Melbourne last week we bought a Harzer Roller, a kind of processed cheese. Yvonne wanted to make Handkäs mit Musik, which translates literally as “hand cheese with music”. It's marinated Harzer Roller, but a specialty of Frankfurt am Main, but I had never eaten it. Did some research and came up with a recipe.

And what's it like? Boring. But at least now we know.


Wednesday, 4 December 2013 Dereel Images for 4 December 2013
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Power failure
Topic: general Link here

Another power failure this morning at 7:51. Contacted Powercor—finally, after 5 minutes of waiting—and was told that it was a widespread outage, and that it would take the standard 2 hours to fix. Had just shut down my computers when the power came back, after only 19 minutes.


OM-D E-M1 in earnest
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Today the lens for my Olympus OM-D E-M1 arrived, so I was able to start playing with it. It's also now time to compare it with other cameras. Yes, it's much smaller than the E-30, but nowhere near as small as a compact. In fact, with the lens it's considerably bigger than the Pentax SV. Here left to right the E-30, the E-M1 and the SV, each with standard lens:


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How do you approach a new, complicated camera? Taking photos is only part of the experience. I've always started by taking test photos, of course:

 
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But there are others. Normally you'd throw away photos with this much camera shake:


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It's not until you realize that the photos were taken hand-held at 4 seconds and 0.6 seconds that the results look relatively good.

The things that are really supposed to be better about the camera are the autofocus and the viewfinder. The autofocus is really amazingly fast compared to my E-30, itself quite a fast camera in its day. Under normal lighting it's almost as if there's no delay at all, and even under poor lighting conditions it's not too bad, though it does use an AF assist light (amusing, considering that it doesn't have a built-in flash). And with this lens it's just as fast with “Live view” as it is through the viewfinder.

What about the viewfinder? It's amazing! It takes a bit of getting used to not being able to see anything until the camera is turned on, but it's really as good as an optical viewfinder, and there are apparently lots of clever things it can do, once I get past the documentation.

Then there's the sensitivity. My E-30 has a maximum ISO rating of 3,200/36°. The E-M1 goes all the way to “25,600”/45°. That's confusing, because it seems that 25,600 (if there were such a thing) would be 45.1°, so I need to correct it in my exposure reporting functions. It's all the sillier because the sequence is 10,000, 12,800, 16,000, 20,000 and 25,600, not the same relationship as the values 1,000, 1,250, 1,600, 2,000 and 2,500 at lower ratings. But it allows me to take photos like this forgettable one:


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It's too dark, of course—I don't know why—but the exposure is 1/15 s at f/2.8. At normal sensitivity that would be about 8 seconds. And of course it's noisy, but not unbearably so. Later I might compare it with the E-30 at 3,200/36°.

What about the 802.11 wireless link? It's not networking, as I've established yesterday, and it's really difficult to understand. Given the appalling state of the documentation, I found a couple of videos on YouTube that were helpful. This one shows how to use the wireless link; it's non-intuitive, at least for me. But yes, it is possible to read the QR code with the tablet—if you haven't already input the password.

It's really difficult to understand how to use the app without instructions. There are silly icons which mean nothing to me, and which aren't described anywhere, like this icon at top right:


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How do I tell it to focus? I don't know yet. My attempts only got it to take photos. Maybe the incomprehensible icons hold the secret. But, as those screen shots show, the viewfinder function does rotate with the orientation of the tablet. The other displays don't. And then there's the bizarre discovery that, although I had told it to only take photos in raw format, the ones taken remotely stored both raw and JPEG images. Still much to learn.

And the lens? I haven't done any optical tests, but it's clearly better than the Zuiko Digital ED 12-60mm F2.8-4.0 SWD in the close-up range, where the 12-60 shows pronounced barrel distortion. But I ran out of focal length a couple of times. As I had already noted, I have taken a large number of photos at 60 mm focal length, and 40 mm doesn't cut it. It's quite possible, if the 12-60 focuses fast enough, that I'll sell the lens. There's certainly quite a demand for them at the moment.

Converting images was more of a problem than I expected. I've already established that the new version of DxO Optics “Pro” will require the “Elite” version to convert the images. But based on experiences with images from the E-5, also an “Elite” body, I can at least look at them. But no, it refuses to even select them, although it doesn't officially have support for the body yet.

So I had to use Olympus Viewer 3. Was I up to date? Hard to say, but finally I established that I wasn't. I had version 1.01 (so where's the 3?), and the current version is 1.1, released round the time of the announcement of the E-M1. But Viewer itself would perform the update for me. Let it go at that, and it came back with the startling information that I was already up to date. How I love broken software!

In the evening did some attempts to determine the entrance pupil of the lens. They were inconclusive. I've tried to use the remote control via tablet, but it's not clear that that will work well enough. More to do tomorrow.


Watch reset
Topic: general Link here

Reset my watch again today, from +4 seconds to -5 seconds. I forgot to mention last time I did it, but it seems to be consistent with about 1.5 to 2 seconds per week.


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Another power failure
Topic: general Link here

I had barely set my alarm clock last night when the power failed again, fortunately very short.


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

On with my trying to understand the Olympus OM-D E-M1 today. How I wish it had a manual.

The first thing I continued with was to try to work out the entrance pupil of the lens. My intention had been to use the remote control Android app. But I quickly ran into a serious problem: while the resolution of the electronic viewfinder on the camera is excellent, I couldn't say the same thing about the remote viewfinder:


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Diary entry for Thursday, 5 December 2013

   
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That's appalling! A little searching showed that one of the few interesting knobs I can tweak is the choice between “fast” and “high quality” viewfinder. When I switched to the latter, things got marginally better:


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But that's still terrible quality, and the speed leaves a lot to be desired. I'm left with the impression that there are significant speed problems with the network connection, which might also explain the lack of functionality for transferring files to computers.

Also investigated the other functionality of the remote control. There seems to be really no documentation, and I'm still left wondering what the button at top right means; maybe I'll find the icon in some other context. There seems to be no explanation for why it stores the image in both raw and JPEG formats when run remotely, even though the camera is set to raw only. In general I'm quite disappointed by the quality of the remote app control. I can only hope that they improve it later.

Also today, the news that DxO Optics “Pro” now supports the E-M1—and not a single Four-Thirds lens, as promised. What software can I use instead? No idea. Olympus Viewer 3 is really pretty bare-bones, and the results I get from the default settings don't compare well.

Also tried out the flash for the first time. Also not very inspiring. It seems to underexpose greatly, and it seems that the flash exposure compensation doesn't work. In any case, these two photos were taken first with no compensation, then with +3 EV compensation, but there was almost no difference:


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Strangely, the EXIF data showed the flash exposure information in a different format from the E-30, requiring tweaks to my exposure compensation functions: instead of “Flash Comp” it's now “Flash Exposure Comp”. And some of the values are Just Plain Strange:

Flash Exposure Comp             : 1.6640625
Flash Exposure Comp             : 3

Clearly the first one is supposed to be 1⅔ EV, but it's not even accurate.


Snow in summer
Topic: general Link here

What weather we've been having lately! Three days ago we had a top of 36.6° and a low temperature of 14.3°. Today the temperatures were 12.7° and 5.0°—no overlap:

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And looking out the windows, you'd almost think you were in Europe:


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That was some particularly heavy hail.


Pizza: next try
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Another try with the pizza oven today. This time I preheated the stones in the kitchen oven—I'm concerned about the heavy gas consumption of the pizza oven. That certainly helped: without the stones, the oven heated up to 320° in less than 10 minutes. I had hoped to get the stones a little hotter, but I only partially succeeded, with the stone temperatures round 280°. The pizza on the upper shelf was done after about 12 minutes, but it had stuck to the stone, so it took me a couple of minutes to get it out. After that, the one below was still quite pale, so I remove the upper pizza and put the lower one on that shelf, after which it browned pretty quickly.


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Unfortunately, the result was not as good this time. Not the oven's fault: for some reason the dough had not risen as much, and with the longer baking time it was rather hard. I need more experience, as well as a way of keeping things consistent from one time to the next. I don't have any good idea how to do that with allowing the dough to rise.


Friday, 6 December 2013 Dereel Images for 6 December 2013
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Still more E-M1 experience
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

More playing around with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 today. I was particularly concerned with the quality of the photos that I took yesterday, which seemed far too dark as processed by Olympus Viewer 3. Spent some time looking for documentation, but I've come to the conclusion that here, too, there is none:

 
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This was immediately after a fresh install. Searching the web found nothing. Searching the file system found only a README written one line per paragraph, something that even the Microsoft tools don't seem to be able to handle:

 
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It's hardly believable that people can provide software with no documentation at all. Maybe it's a bug: that file does contain the line: “For more information, refer to the online Help after installation.” So maybe they just forgot to include it.

To its credit, DxO Optics “Pro” does have quite an extensive manual. But it refuses to process the photos because it's not leet enough. It's a little silly: if I didn't have it already, I could install a trial version and run it for 30 days. But since I do have it, I can't run a trial version in parallel, since it's the same program. So I had to install on a different machine, and the only other Microsoft “box” I have is a virtual machine that I stopped using last year. For some reason I can't set the date, so it's still stuck in October 2012, with amusing results:

 
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Running the program brought another surprise: although the “standard” version refuses to run because the body is only supported by the leet version, the leet version claims that it's not supported—now you see it, now you don't. So I had to run without correction for distortion and chromatic aberration. The results were significantly better. But running in the VM is a real pain, and it occurred to me that the E-M5 is a very similar camera, and it's supported by the standard version. What happens if I fake an E-M5? According to DxO, the results will be very different, because they calibrate each camera with each supported lens. Still, it was worth a try, and in fact there's very little (but still some) difference. Here the results from “Viewer 3”, DxO leet (E-M1) and DxO standard (E-M5). Running the cursor over either image shows the next in sequence:


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The difference in the pizza oven, in particular, is so great that at first I thought I had the wrong photo. On the other hand, the second photo shows the effect of geometry correction by Viewer: there's significant barrel distortion in the DxO output. So once again I need to check how to process with both packages in sequence.

Also spent a lot of time reading the pitiful excuse for a manual. Even the 165 page PDF version is terrible, and there are still many things I don't understand. One thing that did become clear is the meaning of the icons on the tablet app: they do, indeed, relate to focus. From page 27 of the manual, focus and shoot icon sets “focus and shoot” mode: press on the image in a place corresponding to a focus sensor, and it will focus and then take a photo. On the other hand, focus only icon selects only focusing; you can still take the photo with the camera icon icon in the mid-right. And that works well.

Understanding the buttons is another issue that is handled badly in the manual. In addition to the two wheels, there are two buttons with programmable meaning, sometimes referred to as “Multi-function button” and sometimes as Fn1 and Fn2. Still, I'm gradually getting to understand it. One thing that I was looking for yesterday, exposure compensation, has been solved well: it's directly on the front wheel in most modes. On the E-30 I first needed to find a well-hidden button before I could adjust it, again with the front wheel. Clearly some thought has gone into the camera. I wish I could say the same for the documentation.


Building a new house
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Finally got the documents about the Stones Road property from Jarrod Hodgson today. The most interesting thing was that it's one of 3 parcels on a single property of 6 ha in a zone where land must be at least 8 ha (like ours). Can I build on the property? There's nothing obvious in the documents that says I can, and Jarrod, who sounds incredibly bored by the whole thing, couldn't tell me either. Called up the SAI Global, the people who did the planning certificate, and they didn't understand it either. At least that was reassuring.

Finally called up the council and spoke to Steph Durant, who told me that basically there should be no problem, gave me the information that the planning permit would take up to three months and that the building permit should then come more quickly. There's a vegetation reserve in front of the property that could cause issues with the placing of the driveway, but that's about that. So things are looking good. In the evening got a call from Garry Marriott, the seller, and we've arranged to meet up tomorrow and come to an agreement to buy the land.


Sunset...
Topic: general, photography, opinion Link here

Nice sunset this evening:


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And once again I find I ran out of focal length with the M.Zuiko 12-40 mm. I'm gradually coming to the conclusion that it's not for me. If I can focus well enough with the Zuiko Digital ED 12-60mm F2.8-4.0 SWD, I'll get rid of it again. Not long to wait: the MMF-3 is on its way.


Saturday, 7 December 2013 Dereel Images for 7 December 2013
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E-M1, day 4
Topic: photography Link here

Spent most of the day with the E-30 taking house photos, but also managed a little playing around with the E-M1. The recent windy weather has made a real mess of my car:


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But the first photo I took made some funny noises and looked very different:


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Yes, there is an image there (displayed half normal size), but it's completely burnt out. It proved that I had forgotten to reset the camera after playing around with the HDR functionality, and this was the fifth of a 5 exposure bracket. The funny noise was the shutter going off 5 times at a speed I've never heard before. But it shows up a basic problem understanding HDR: you don't just take images bracketed about the “normal” exposure. As taken, the individual images looked like this:


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And yes, there are five images there, as you can see by running the cursor over the last “image”. A couple of months ago I had a discussion of this with Reinhard Wagner, who seems to think that this is the correct way to expose images for HDR. I disagreed then, and I think this proves my point. The obvious workaround is to set the exposure compensation to -5 EV (maximum) underexposure, but it's a nuisance that you have to do that.

Putting the images together worked surprisingly well, considering that they were taken hand-held, and the last one had 10 seconds exposure. But since there's nothing on it, it can't add any camera shake. It just serves to water down the resultant image (first image). Just using the other four looks better, though in this case a single image (third image) works best. But that's probably because of the way it was taken.


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Also more playing around with the flash substitute in the evening. It's not good. I had accidentally set the camera to settings I normally wouldn't, aperture priority f/10 at 20,000/44° ISO. At that sensitivity it worked well enough:


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But when I returned to 200/24° ISO, it just wasn't bright enough:


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High time to get something else, maybe a smaller external flash unit.

Another sign of the times, while processing images:

Warning: MakerNotes too large to write in JPEG segment - /Photos/00-Oly/PC070031_DxO.jpg

That's from exiftool, and I'm not sure what to do about it.

Also more insights into why the camera stores both a raw image and a JPEG when I use a tablet for remote control. It seems that in some modes the camera overrides the settings and does just this. From page 29:

If [RAW] is currently selected for image quality, image quality will automatically be set to [LN+RAW].

The remote control wasn't set for iAuto, so it seems to be a bug. An alternative hypothesis is that it's necessary because the tablet app will only transfer JPEG images. But this doesn't seem to be the case.


Decided: Stones Road
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Over to see Garry and Diane Marriott today and agree on the purchase of the land. It's done! Well, of course we need to complete the paperwork and pay money and things, but we have an agreement.


Sunday, 8 December 2013 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel
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House construction again
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

So now we're actively looking for a new house. At the end of March we were in principle going to accept an offer from McMasters, and I've been negotiating with them for a re-quote of the costs, with frustrating lack of detail, accuracy and consistency. Initially I was told, without details, that it would cost $9,000 more, about 5% in total, so I asked for a detailed breakdown. And that breakdown came in at $187,280, compared to $198,280 for the quote in March. Somehow maths doesn't seem to be their strong point. But it occurred to us: in March we had signed a contract to buy the land for $145,000. Now we're talking $85,000. While we don't necessarily want to spend another $60,000 on the house, we could do so without losing any money.

Looking through the catalogues, we found a couple of houses that looked interesting, and surprisingly one was even on display in Ballarat. So off to take a look, first to JG King to take a look at their Adelphi display home. It's surprisingly spacious, and the base price is only $17,000 more than the McMasters house we were looking at. In that house I would have had to use the garage for my office, which would incur additional $5,000 to $10,000 for a car port, so it's looking quite good.

Then to Simonds, whom we once quite liked, to speak to a surprisingly dense salesperson who, after I had told him that the permits would take at least 3 months, told me that they could start building in February. He took down a list of the extras that I want, but it's not clear he understood. That, along with Yvonne's surprising and sudden dislike of Simonds, probably means that we won't take them.

Then along to McMasters. They were shut! Spoke to somebody leaving the display home, but clearly there was nothing she wanted to do. McMasters, too, are getting on my nerves.


Time to tidy up
Topic: general Link here

My office has been in a filthy mess almost since we moved here, and gradually the floor space is diminishing. The prospect of a move in the coming year, and the more imminent installation of the NBN, finally got me to clean it out a bit, and I got rid of two wheelbarrows of junk before I found an excuse to do something else.


Microsoft photo software doesn't like me
Topic: photography, technology Link here

I've already commented on the fact that DxO Optics “Pro” “Elite” doesn't recognize the Olympus E-M1. But it seems it just doesn't want to do it for me. It works fine for others. Why? There are lots of bugs in DxO, but the likeliest one I can think of is that it recognizes my email address as licensee for the “standard” edition, and even the trial version won't work properly in “Elite” mode.

And then there's Olympus Viewer 3, which comes without documentation. But only for me, it seems. Others have a file OLYMPUSViewer3.chm with some kind of help text. Incorrect installation? Incorrect installation options? Deinstalled it, reinstalled it. No options to set, and no change. The person reporting was German, so I tried installing the German version. No change. I can only assume that these applications are picking on me because I don't like Microsoft.


Monday, 9 December 2013 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 9 December 2013
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Bang!
Topic: general Link here

Woken up this morning by a thunderclap the likes of which I had never heard. The whole house shook, and I later went to check for damage. Fortunately there was none. It was part of a thunderstorm which went on for a while, with lots more thunder. The weather was pretty terrible all day long.


MMF-3, first impressions
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

My MMF-3 arrived today. What an enormous package!


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They don't seem to have had any reasonable size box:


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But even the manufacturer's box is ridiculously large:


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Apart from the adapter, there's only bubble foil in the box. Here's the relationship to the original package:


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I can understand the use of a larger package for the postage, but why is the smaller box so big?

And how well does it work? Clearly I can now mount my old lenses on the E-M1, but what the autofocus like? Tried first with the Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm F4.0-5.6. The first problem was just connecting it: line up the red dots, and you can't insert it. The problem is that the adapter needs to connect both to the camera and the lens, so it has a different red dot for each. The one for the lens is on the front face of the adapter.

Once I had it in, tried to focus, with the strange result that the viewfinder image just wobbled. It proved that the lens wasn't quite correctly positioned in the adapter, and it wasn't making electrical contact. After that, focus was good enough. But when I put the Zuiko Digital ED 12-60mm F2.8-4.0 SWD in, I managed to do it again. Clearly something that needs to be borne in mind.

And the focus speed? In normal light, excellent. In poor light, not nearly as good—in fact, almost useless. It's interesting to note that the focus illumination turns off long before the lens is able to focus, so it's pretty much useless under these circumstances. There's more experimentation to be done, including the firmware update that has already been released, and which claims “Improved AF operation”, but so far it's a bit of a disappointment.


Building a new house
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Things are well and truly under way now with the preparations for a new house, so while picking up the MMF-3, went into town and visited Angus Eeles, who do hydronic heating. I'm glad I did. My previous visits to Pivot Stoves in October and Wood N Energy last week (leaving such an impression that I didn't mention it here) left me concerned that people didn't really understand the material. At Angus Eeles I found that concern well-founded: they have the equipment I had been expecting all along, including thermostatic controls for the radiators, normal radiator sizes, and they understand that the radiators should be positioned in front of the windows.

Another issue: I had been told that I could use the hot water both for the radiators and for hot water, something they never do in Germany. Greg told me the reason: the water gets very dirty from the radiators. That means, of course, that we need a separate coil for heating water, and that we can't use solar panels for central heating.

Other interesting information was that we didn't need to lay the piping in the floor: they lay it in the ceiling and bring it down through the walls. And the boilers I had been looking at are toys: despite what the sellers say, they need to be stoked every 4 hours, which is not conducive to a good night's sleep. The boiler they offered me costs about $8,000, compared to the $3,300 I had been quoted at Pivot, but it looks like what I had previously expected, and it can run up to 15 hours or so on some very big logs of wood. The disadvantage is that it needs to go in the garage.

Also to Midland Irrigation to hear about water tanks and septic tanks. They couldn't help much beyond giving me a price list for water tanks—amusingly the 23,500 litre tanks were less than half the price of the 45,000 litre tanks (looking for standard sizes? NIH).


Understanding star ratings, revisited
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Our new house will have a “6 star” rating. I've already commented on the meaninglessness of this term, and the difficulty of establishing what it really means. Now I've found a document that gives a table of energy loss per square metre for various locations and star ratings. From it, I can establish that a 6 star house in Ballarat will lose 197 MJ per year per m². For the house we're looking at, with a heated area of 224 m², that's 44.1 GJ, or 12.25 MWh. That's 33 kW/h per day, or 1.4 kW average over the entire year. Can that be correct? It sounds appalling. I wonder if the builders can give more plausible values.


Networking in the new house
Topic: Stones Road house, technology Link here

It's only 3 days until the NBN installer arrives and hopefully connects me up. And in only a few months we will move home. What happens to my NBN connection?

Called up the NBN and spoke to Chloë, who didn't quite seem to understand the issue. But yes, there is enough bandwidth available to service everybody in the rollout area (marked in purple), currently very much including Stones Road:

 
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Tuesday, 10 December 2013 Dereel Images for 10 December 2013
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Zhivago does a runner
Topic: animals Link here

Yvonne back from the morning walk today without Zhivago: he had disappeared somewhere on the way, possibly following some scent. While it's a nuisance, it's also an indication that he's feeling a lot better than he has been. Drove around the area between Swamp Road, Ballarat-Colac-Road, Swansons Road and the extension of Kleins Road, but didn't find him. Finally Yvonne found him just as she was about to give up. Considering that we're going to get at least one puppy in the near future, we need to consider how to avoid that happening more frequently.


Preparing for NBN
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

The first NBN installations took place in Dereel today. There were reports—as expected—of superb throughput, but not all were successful: two installations, in Browns Road and Golden Reef Road, had to be aborted because of lack of signal. Browns Road I can understand, but Golden Reef Road is almost in the middle of Dereel. If they have problems there, some designer hasn't done his homework properly.

My installation is on Thursday. What do I need to do to make things work? One is to find a place to put the network termination device (officially NTD, but which they call a “connection box” in their end-user documentation). I've identified three positions of varying convenience, so now I need to see where the installers are prepared to put the box.

And the software setup? It's aimed at Microsoft users, of course, but basically it's PPPoE. How does that work? Even the Wikipedia page is vague about discovery, but of course RFC 2516 isn't. It's a point-to-point connection over a network, so I don't need the typical separation of “WAN” and “LAN” that home routers have. But when setting it up, that might confuse the installers. With that in mind, and also in the hope of getting it up and running immediately, I prepared three different connection methods:

So now all we can do is wait.


E-M1 HDR rendering
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

One of the interesting new things about the E-M1 is the support for HDR. Today I tried it for the fun of it. There are many possibilities: two automatic HDR methods, which the excuse for documentation describes (page 59):

Four shots are taken, each with a different exposure, and the shots are combined into one HDR image inside the camera. HDR2 provides a more impressive image than HDR1. ISO sensitivity is fixed to 200. Also, the slowest available shutter speed is 1 second and the longest available exposure is 4 seconds.

And that is really all it says. I don't even understand what they're trying to say about shutter speeds—possibly that 1 second is the base exposure and 4 seconds for the longest exposure in the set.

Apart from that, there are five bracketing modes that also set other parameters like fast frame repeat. It looks like the two modes with 3 EV difference are the obvious choice, so I took a series of 3 and a series of 5. The 5 series wasn't as completely burnt out as a few days ago, but the series still looked sub-optimal:


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It's clear now that the range is wider than necessary: the second image is so underexposed that it adds nothing to the rendering, and the last is so overexposed that it, too, make no difference. But that wasn't so obvious when I was taking the images, so I tried another series with +2 EV compensation. Surprise, surprise! It gave me -2EV compensation! I've checked the EXIF data, but it just shows the shutter speeds, no compensation values. It's conceivable that I've made a mistake, but at the moment it looks like a firmware bug.

In case of doubt, blame the user. This time too. I misread the EXIF data.

And the results? I had taken an image that, in the past, has been a particular problem: the verandah from outside. In sunlight the outside is about 5 EV brighter than inside. Here are the results of no HDR, “HDR1”, “HDR2”, the 3 shot range and the 5 shot range:


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It's difficult to see any improvement with “HDR1” and “HDR2”. In particular, the skies are even more washed out, the wall on the right is still burnt out, and there is little improvement in the shadows. Certainly they're very different from the ones processed with enfuse. On the other hand, the ones processed with enfuse look a bit washed out. Is that because of the extreme range of exposures? To be investigated. It's also interesting that there is very little difference between the 3 exposure range and the 5 exposure range.


Rediscovering flying foxes
Topic: language Link here

Next month Callum Gibson will spend a holiday on the Great Ocean Road, so we're expecting he'll come up and say hello. I made some suggestions about where to go, including Otway Fly and Callum came back explaining that the name came from “flying fox”. Huh? They're tropical bats. We don't see them here. But it seems that it's a well-known (except to me) term for a cable hoist. OED doesn't know it either, but Macquarie does, without any further explanation.

Callum did some further research and came up with this link, suggesting that the name has been in use since 1885. Later he somehow got in contact with Julia Robinson of the Australian National Dictionary Centre, who showed a JPEG image (!) of an entry much more detailed than the Macquarie to which I had access, but which had an earliest reference of 1901. Since publication she had found another attestation dating to the 1890s. So it seems that Callum is on to something here.

Is the Macquarie to which I had access (via the State Library of Victoria) the full Macquarie? A couple of months ago I gained access to the National Library of Australia, so tried that for the first time. “Login failed”, repeatedly. Called them up and discovered that they have recorded my name the wrong way round, so instead of “Lehey” I have to state my surname as “Greg”.

The NLA has the same Macquarie as the SLV, but they also have the Australian National Dictionary, which modulo rendering breakage shows the same entry as Julia sent to Callum. Still, it's good to find a better dictionary of Australiana than the Macquarie.


Energy-efficient house design
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Chris Bahlo has been investigating house building too, and came up with this document which, for the most part, contains good commonsense suggestions about how to minimize energy loss. I've known about most of them for years, and I've taken them into my plans for the house layout, but it's still good to read the details again. Only one thing surprised me:

External wall locations can result in additional heat loss, as increasing the temperature differential between inside and out increases the rate of heat flow through the wall. Heaters should not be located under windows.

That's absolutely contrary to conventional wisdom, as I commented only yesterday. In particular, it's the only way to get uniform heat distribution in the room. And even they carry on to note that placing the heaters elsewhere can lead to draughts:

Heaters create draughts when operating, see above.

I wonder what (mis)assumptions they are making.


Wednesday, 11 December 2013 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 11 December 2013
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Buying the land
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Into Ballarat today to sign the contract for the land. John Curwen-Walker is the conveyancer, the same one who did the contracts for our current house, but this is the first time I have met him; last time we did it by mail. Interesting, talkative person, and he finally got us to get round to writing wills.

So now it's done! What are we going to build on it? Off to JG King to talk to a somewhat under-the-weather Tom, who gave me brochures for their other range of houses. Back home and took a look at them: they're enormous, more expensive, but no more useful. So we're gradually settling on our house model.


Bank of Melbourne: we speak your language
Topic: general, opinion Link here

First thing, of course, was to pay the deposit on the land. Tried that, with our account from the Bank of Melbourne, and got a message telling me that the sum exceeded my daily transfer limit. How much was that? Ah, that for them to know and me to guess. So I called them up on 13 22 66 and was told the sum. I asked them to raise it, and was told to go to the home page.


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So I told the consultant, who said “It works for me”. But it seems that she was using Microsoft “Internet Explorer”. What can I say? When I told her I was using Chrome, she said yes, that's a known problem with Chrome.

There are times when I'm just lost for words. And though she was prepared to report the problem to the web team, she said that they would not contact me and confirm that it was fixed. And one of the reasons I'm leaving ANZ is because of their cavalier attitude to security.

Visited the site with firefox and followed her instructions: “Click on Forms Ay to Zee”.

Zee? What does that mean. It's American for Zed. And this from a bank that advertises with “We speak your language”. After the annoyance I had, that was the last straw. But she really didn't seem to understand that it's an American usage. Time to look for Yet Another Bank?


NBN installation failures
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

Tomorrow's the Big Day when I get connected to the National Broadband Network—maybe. It seems that the coverage maps are a best-case scenario. Spent a while setting up a Google Map showing installation locations. Now I just need to get people to add their locations and state whether it was a success or a failure.


Thursday, 12 December 2013 Dereel Images for 12 December 2013
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NBN—Finally!
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

Today was the day scheduled for the installation of my connection to the National Broadband Network. They had given a time window between 8:00 and 12:00 to perform the installation, so I was up and about by 7:30, walking around like a tiger in a cage. No sign of them at 8:00, of course. That's to be expected. No sign at 9:00. Well, they could be late. No sign at 10:00. How long are they going to be? Were they given the wrong phone number? As Andy Snow put it:

PID USERNAME  PRI NICE   SIZE    RES STATE   C    TIME   WCPU COMMAND
612 nbnco      44    0 98268K 44424K zombie  0 1367:16 99.95% install --location dereel

Round 10:30 I finally said “Where's the bloody NBN?”. And immediately the phone rang. Harry from the NBN, about to leave Ballarat. And sure enough, they showed up in a surprisingly short time for the distance. 25 minutes later Harry was showing me the antenna:


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They installed the antenna somewhere on the roof that can't be seen from the ground, so I only have a vague idea where it is. The cable went down the air conditioner duct and into the office:


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As I had been told two years ago, They use special CAT-5 cable. I hadn't expected it to have the company name on the casing, though:


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And in a little over an hour we were connected. Harry tells me that the signal is excellent, though I'm not sure he means more than “all three LEDs are lit”.

I later discovered that yes, indeed, they have a numerical signal strength readout. But they didn't tell me what it was.

Plugged in my access point, and got an immediate connection. Thank God for that! The relief was almost unbearable, and it kept up all day long.

The cutover was clearly at 12:33, as the TCP transaction time log shows. The second column is time in seconds:

1386810703 0.24         # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:11:43 EST
1386810772 0.70         # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:12:53 EST
1386810835 0.19         # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:13:55 EST
1386810896 21.58        # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:15:18 EST
1386810966 1.73         # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:16:08 EST
1386810980 1.63         # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:16:22 EST
1386810994 0.18         # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:16:35 EST
1386811056 1.24         # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:17:37 EST
1386811136 0.29         # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:18:57 EST
1386811198 6.50         # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:20:05 EST
1386811261 2.94         # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:21:04 EST
1386811333 1.22         # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:22:14 EST
1386811349 0.20         # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:22:30 EST
1386811411 0.32         # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:23:31 EST
1386811472 1.62         # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:24:34 EST
1386811535 0.18         # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:25:35 EST
1386811597 1.20         # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:26:38 EST
1386811612 0.28         # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:26:52 EST
1386811673 0.19         # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:27:53 EST
1386811736 2.30         # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:28:58 EST
1386811800 3.57         # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:30:03 EST
1386811865 8.32         # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:31:14 EST
1386811936 2.41         # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:32:18 EST
1386812009 0.21         # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:33:29 EST
1386812070 0.77         # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:34:31 EST
1386812132 0.17         # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:35:32 EST
1386812194 0.19         # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:36:34 EST
1386812255 0.10         # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:37:35 EST
1386812316 0.10         # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:38:36 EST
1386812377 0.09         # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:39:37 EST
1386812438 0.08         # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:40:38 EST
1386812498 0.09         # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:41:39 EST
1386812559 0.08         # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:42:39 EST
1386812620 0.09         # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:43:40 EST
1386812681 0.09         # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:44:41 EST
1386812742 0.09         # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:45:42 EST
1386812803 0.11         # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:46:43 EST
1386812864 0.10         # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:47:44 EST
1386812925 0.10         # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:48:45 EST
1386812986 0.25         # Thu 12 Dec 2013 12:49:47 EST

Only a couple of weeks later did I find what Yvonne had written on the calendar:


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Configuring for NBN
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

That wasn't the end of the story, of course. I really wanted to run PPPoE from eureka, my main FreeBSD machine. And that didn't go as smoothly. Reading the logs didn't make much sense to me, so I put if off until later.

And now we can use VoIP normally! Turned the adapter (a NetComm V210p) back on, but it didn't register. Why? While messing around, realized that I was still connected via the Internode link, so whatever the problem was, it had nothing to do with the NBN. Played around with various settings, at one point setting “NAT” to “on”. BAD choice. After that, I couldn't communicate with it at all, and not even a hard reset worked. It has a telephone interface: enter #120# and a woman's voice, obviously chosen to grate, reads back the IP address. Correct. But I still couldn't ping it. Tried to reset it: the manual tells me that I can set an IP address, say 192.168.11.22, with the entry #112192*168*11*22#. But it lies. It didn't change, and I couldn't find any way to communicate with the thing. Well, I paid $10 for it, less than the money it would save in a few days of intensive phone calls, so I started looking for alternatives. Not easy, not cheap.

Then Callum Gibson said “I hope you're using the LAN port”. Nope, WAN, as I discovered empirically. But it seems that after resetting, only the LAN port worked. Once I connected to that, I was back in business. Set it up with the help of the sample configuration for the SPA 3000, since they don't have one for the V210P, and I know the SPA 3000: SIP proxy domain mynetfone.com.au, proxy server and outbound proxy server both sip.mynetfone.com.au, display name, user name and auth. ID all what MyNetFone call a SIP alias, but which looks like some kind of phone number, and the auth. password to the password.

Still nothing. Time for a support call? When do they ever work? But there wasn't much choice, so called up and was connected to Alex, who wanted remote access to the machine to take a look for himself. That required me to download special software, only for “Windows” or Apple of course. So I did that. It's interesting: it hijacked an open “terminal” window that I had on the machine, and displayed what he was doing as he went. Basically he replaced the host and domain names with IP addresses. Reset the box and it worked! Here's the final config:

 
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I'm really impressed. I think this is the first time that a service call has brought such a quick solution. But what was wrong with the DNS lookup? The name server was set correctly.

On closer examination, there are two possibilities. The addresses are all the same, but I had set the domain name mynetfone.com for the SIP proxy domain. And that's a different address. And then at the bottom there's an amazing “Use DNS SRV”, which is set to off. I can't recall seeing it before, so it's not clear whether it was on or off when I configured it.


NBN performance
Topic: technology Link here

So now I have a network link with 25 Mb/s down and 5 Mb/s up. How much of this am I really getting? Not very much, it seems. Repeated test with speedtest suggest about 8Mb/s down and 4 Mb/s up. Is that NBN or Exetel? To be observed.


Certified old fogey
Topic: general Link here

Apart from the NBN, also received a card in the mail today: pensioner concession card, in the name “Greg F. Lehey”, which doesn't quite match the initials GPL. Also the information that they are finally paying my pension, backdated to September. In the meantime nearly enough money has accrued to pay for my new camera. Life is gradually getting more comfortable.


Friday, 13 December 2013 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 13 December 2013
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House progress
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

The new house is the topic of the moment, of course. Over to take a look at the property again, and did some measurements. There's a small pond about 50 m from the road:


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Somewhere near there we need to put the house, but where? For fire danger reasons it shouldn't be too close to the neighbour to the north, who has planted a row of conifers just his side of the boundary line. Measured it out and discovered that the centre line of the pond is 23 m from the southern boundary (Garry Marriott) and (from the dying Acacia melanoxylon on the left of the photo above) 53 m from the road. We considered “not much space”, but that rectangle is 1,219 m², larger than most suburban blocks. So our current thinking is to remove they dying Acacias, align the house east-west, and place the west end of the house somewhere to the east of the pond.

In the afternoon, called up Tom Tyler of JG King and discovered that he had the day off, along with the weekend, and that he wouldn't be back until Monday. Left a message for him that we were about to make a decision, and got a call back from him within 5 minutes: yes, yes, come on in and we'll discuss it.

Finally arrived round 15:00 and discovered that he still didn't have a quote for us. Still, there was enough to talk about, and we spent over an hour discussing all the options. Things are still looking pretty good. In the past I've seen so many insurmountable problems up ahead, but this time it seems to be plain sailing.


Repairing the lawn mower
Topic: gardening, general Link here

Our lawn mower has been jammed in gear for some months now, and CJ hasn't got round to looking at it, so I got him to drop it off at David Chestnuts for repair, and we went in on the way home to confirm the details. Why are lawn mowers such a pain?


First panoramas with E-M1
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

The photo of the pond was the first panorama that I made with the Olympus OM-D E-M1. And it had another surprise for me. It seems that they have reshuffled all the EXIF data, or maybe just made so much of it that the “crop factor” no longer gets reported in the same way as in older Olympus cameras. So for the time being I have to enter it manually.


Understanding the NBN
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I'm not the only person who has connected to the National Broadband Network, of course, and there was a lot of discussion on the Dereel Facebook page today. It's amazing how many people have chosen Telstra as an ISP. And already Telstra's bureaucracy has claimed at least one victim: swapped their current Internet line for NBN and had their phone disconnected. How could that happen? Presumably the phone was on the same contract as the Internet service, and nobody bothered to tell them.

Spent some time on Facebook answering questions, but Facebook is such a pain, so I put together a web page with general information. Looks like I'll be busy updating it over the next few days.


Streaming Internet video
Topic: multimedia, technology, opinion Link here

So now we have a real Internet connection, we can get films and other TV programmes off the web, right? Well, yes, but how? Looking at YouTube, the films on offer are old and boring. And today to start things off, I wanted to find something as a surprise for Yvonne: Et la Tendresse... Bordel !, a reminder of her days in France. No difficulty finding it: as usual, Google is your friend. But then? The links promised free downloads. Are they legal? I still don't know, but since some of them do it quickly for money or slowly for free, I'm guessing yes. This site and this one seem to be identical except for some markup. But the download link redirects me to some site that wants to install some download tool. Why? I have all the tools I want, and there's no prize for guessing how well it would run under FreeBSD. But maybe it's just an advertisement. There are two links on one page, and the other one has one of them: an obfuscated link to an online gambling site, which it displays as http://www.ul.to/56btltrs. As far as I can see, there's no way to download the film there.

Then there's this page, which redirects here. And yes, finally I was able to download for free. At 50 kB/s, a total of 4 hours. That wouldn't be bad, since I have an 8 hour window in the middle of the night to do these things. But they want a Captcha! So I actually need to be there to start it! What a pain.

Still, it came down, and it's unlikely that it will have a significant effect on my traffic bottom line. And after all that, I discover that my French has atrophied to the point where I can hardly understand the dialogues, which in this film are particularly important. Sigh.


Saturday, 14 December 2013 Dereel Images for 14 December 2013
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E-M1 in earnest
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

I've had my Olympus OM-D E-M1 for 11 days now, but I've spent most of that time trying to understand it, not in the slightest helped by the abysmal documentation. Today was my weekly house photo day, and I have all the equipment I need, so I did it wall with the new camera and the same old Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm F4.0-5.6 lens.

The first issue was how to mount the camera on the tripod. The tripod mount is offset from the optical axis. My first thought was to mount the camera at an angle so that the entrance pupil is over the rail:


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That's a little ugly, but I found a better reason why it didn't work. The 9 mm lens is larger in diameter, and even without the lens hood it would press against the rail. So in the end I chose my old macro rail, which lifts the camera from the rail and also enables me to position the camera correctly:


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With that, it worked. Almost. How do you focus the lens in manual mode? The E-30 has a focus mode where you can autofocus in manual mode if you press the AEL/AFL button. I didn't have that set on the E-M1, but fortunately it also has the same feature; in fact, the focus mode modes are identical. But it brought home to me that I needed to configure the camera before continuing.

According to the “manual” there are 12 buttons that can be configured:


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But what are they? It took me quite a while to discover that button symbol and button symbol are the buttons on the front of the camera, to the right of the lens. Fn-1 button symbol is marked accordingly, and Fn-2 button symbol is the button marked ~. But what are B-Fn1 button symbol , B-Fn1 button symbol and L-Fn button symbol ? I have no idea, and as far as I can find they're only mentioned twice in the manual, here and in a similar position in a menu summary. What a pain this “documentation” is.

In the end, after lots of experimentation and discovering many undocumented function restrictions, managed to set some mappings, though I'm sure they'll change. At least I can now set exposure compensation in all modes, and there's some provision for magnification in manual focus mode.

Other things don't seem to be easily settable. The E-30 can save two custom settings and get at them relatively simply via the buttons. The E-M1 now has four, but they're normally hidden deep in menus. They can be assigned to buttons, but rather than cycling through them until you get the one you want, it seems that you have to assign each setting to a specific button, which is a real pain. And on E-30, you can assign a grid display to one of the choices under the INFO button. The E-M1 also has the grid, but again it needs deep menu access.

Then there's the interaction between viewfinder and exposure. It tries to show the image as it would appear on the finished image, so if you're in manual mode and it's not set correctly, the display will be too bright or too dark.

On the positive side, the camera now displays the focal length setting, but only when I half-press the shutter. I wonder why that is.

Things still weren't over. The monitor of the E-M1 only tilts up and down, while the monitor of the E-30 swivels to the side as well. I use(d) it extensively, and so I had expected problems with this panorama:


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The camera is up against the wall, and I can't look through the viewfinder when it's pointing away from the wall. Instead I had to use the 802.11 link, which is not only fiddly, but also gives me unwanted JPEG images. What I didn't expect, though, was that I would have similar problems with the verandah panorama:


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In the evening took some photos with the “flash”. The first one came out significantly underexposed:

So I added 1 EV compensation. As far as I can see, it made no difference whatsoever. Here before and after:


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With Olympus Viewer I was able to compensate for it, but why am I getting so badly exposed images in the first place?


Debugging the PPPoE connection
Topic: technology Link here

Finally got round to looking at the PPPoE connection problems from a couple of days ago. Not a good advertisement for FreeBSD: it is in violation of RFC 2516. Here the view from wireshark:


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The “session” starts with eureka sending out a PADI broadcast. Interestingly, it gets two PADOs in reply. That's explicitly allowed by the RFC, but I hadn't expected it. It then sends a PADR to the first one, and gets a confirmatory PADS. That's all that PPPoE needs, and the rest goes on with the PPP LCP. But it gets no reply, and 17 seconds later it terminates. What went wrong?

Looking at the PADS is instructive:

 
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“PADR has no service name tag”. What does that mean? From RFC 2516:

The PADR packet MUST contain exactly one TAG of TAG_TYPE Service- Name, indicating the service the Host is requesting, and any number of other TAG types.

And the man page basically confirms:

If a PPPoE:iface[:provider] specification is given,... The given provider is passed as the service name in the PPPoE Discovery Initiation (PADI) packet. If no provider is given, an empty value will be used.

But wait! That's talking about the PADI packet, not the PADR packet. And looking at the PADR, I see only:

 
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In fact, the PADI also does not contain a service name tag, so possibly this is just an error in the man page. But it looks like the FreeBSD PPPoE not only doesn't supply the service name, it also ignores the error message in the PADR. Can I fix it by specifying a dummy service name? More investigation needed.


E-M1 HDR functions
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

I've already commented on the camera-internal HDR rendition of the Olympus OM-D E-M1, but today's photos gave me another opportunity to compare. It really doesn't work very well, in fact much worse than I expected. Here one comparison:


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The first was taken with the “HDR2” setting. The colours are unnatural, and the shadow detail is worse than the normal photo (which was taken without any tricks, just automatic exposure). There doesn't seem to be any advantage in this facility, like the panorama facility of the E-510. The E-M1 has a similar facility too. So does the E-30, but for no obvious reason they only supported it with the old xD cards. One day I'll try it on the E-M1, but I'm not expecting anything useful.

On the other hand, the basic HDR support is definitely an advantage. With the E-30 I could get a total range of 4 EV by taking 5 images at 1 EV intervals and throwing away two of them. Each set took 800 ms, during which things could change. Now I can take 3 shots at 3 EV intervals in 300 ms, for a total range of 6 EV. The difference in noticeable. Here last week with the E-30, and then today with the E-M1:


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In today's panorama, the shadows are much better defined.


Photo processing software changes
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

The new Olympus OM-D E-M1 also requires changes to my photo processing. Since DxO Optics “Pro” no longer supports my lens combinations, I have to use Olympus Viewer to convert the raw images to TIFF. I then (currently) use DxO to apply other corrections, but it's clear that once I don't have lens corrections, DxO doesn't have much to offer.

Viewer is a pain! It seems to continually reset the options I have set, including the paths to where I want to save the image. I think I'll have to give up and make its choice of path a symlink to where I really want the images.

After converting the images, I normally pass them through Ashampoo Photo Optimizer. That may have to change; the panoramas with the new camera are getting so big that it hits some internal limit in Ashampoo, which then claims that the format is not supported. Time to look for new processing software.


Chris turns 32
Topic: general, food and drink Link here

Chris Bahlo's birthday today—she's 32 years old, only F years younger than me. Yvonne made a nice dinner for her. The entrée was particularly pretty:


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It's a pity that the lumpfish roe (“caviar”) on bottom right, from ALDI, was inedibly salty.


Sunday, 15 December 2013 Dereel Images for 15 December 2013
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E-M1 documentation explained
Topic: photography Link here

Sent out a query about my problems with the Olympus Viewer function keys, and got a quick reply, which also explains some of the names: B-Fn1 button symbol and B-Fn1 button symbol are located on the HLD-7 battery holder, and L-Fn
	button symbol is located on some lenses. Neither of much use to me.


More house thoughts
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Into Ballarat again today to take a look at the JG King display home. It's very close to the one we want to build, and we spent well over an hour thinking of how we would structure things.


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Came away with a big list that I still need to process.


VoIP over Android
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Finally VoIP is working at home. Why shouldn't it work on an Android tablet as well? Did some looking round and came up with Zoiper, which installed. And the service provider? In principle MyNetFone SuperSaver is free but for the calls, so it would make sense to sign up for a second account. But they wanted $20 for “bring your own hardware”. Not something I want to do for a test. Tried registering with the same account number, and to my surprise it worked, and the VoIP adapter still showed that it was registered too. That's strange.

Anyway, it worked, so when we were in Ballarat, I tried it with the Internode SIM card. Yes, it registered, but I couldn't transfer any data. Where's the configuration page on this thing? All these Android screens are terminally confusing. I'll have to get some help.


New plants
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

On the way home, drove past our new plot of land, which has now changed its sign:


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One of the interesting things is a “nature strip” in front of the house, which we have to maintain. It has a couple of interesting plants in it:


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Monday, 16 December 2013 Dereel Images for 16 December 2013
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MyNetFone: only one connection after all
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

I had been rather surprised yesterday to discover that I could register my Android tablet with MyNetFone while my ATA was still registered. Today I discovered the truth: yes, the SIP LED was still lit on the ATA, but nobody was home. I had to stop the VoIP application on the tablet, and also power cycle the ATA, before I could use it again.

This isn't a bug, of course: it's only one line. But it is a feature. Now when I go anywhere I can turn off the ATA and take my home phone number with me. No need for two phone numbers, no need for redirection. I wonder why I haven't heard of that idea before.


NBN connect via FreeBSD
Topic: technology Link here

I've had difficulties connecting to the NBN with FreeBSD: the FreeBSD PPPoE implementation violates RFC 2516. Took at look at the code (/usr/src/sys/netgraph/ng_pppoe.c), which didn't show any obvious bug. Here round line 1462, where we're building the PADR:

         insert_tag(sp, utag);           /* Host Unique */
         if ((tag = get_tag(ph, PTT_AC_COOKIE)))
                 insert_tag(sp, tag);    /* return cookie */
         if ((tag = get_tag(ph, PTT_AC_NAME))) {
                 insert_tag(sp, tag);    /* return it */
                 send_acname(sp, tag);
         }
         insert_tag(sp, &neg->service.hdr); /* Service */
         scan_tags(sp, ph);
         make_packet(sp);

So the service name gets put in there unconditionally. Or at least I thought so. Time to look at what scan_tags() does. In the meantime, tried various alternatives. Exetel does not respond to a service name Exetel, and presumably to no others either. Finally discovered that this invocation will put in a “service name” containing one blank, and that Exetel will accept it:

 set device PPPoE:re0:" "

And how did it work? I had hoped to discover that it was my router that was keeping the speed down to only 10 Mb/s. It wasn't. FreeBSD was just as slow. And since I don't have NAT set up yet, and I don't really want to, I reverted to using it.


Back with SkyMesh again?
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

It's been three years since SkyMesh terminated my satellite connection, thereby doing me a favour. And today, somewhat later than others, I got an offer from them to connect me to the NBN. More waste paper basket fodder? It's interesting enough to read what people offer, and this one was particularly interesting: no prices. In fact, I couldn't find their prices for NBN fixed wireless anywhere on their site. It seems they only got put up after my search: now they're here. And they're not very competitive.

But there was a reason they didn't mention prices: it's a two month, no obligation free trial by invitation only. Why did they invite me? We didn't exactly part on friendly terms. Still, it comes at a good time: I can use it to compare the speed of SkyMesh and Exetel, and also to test the FreeBSD software without going off the net. So I signed up.


Investigating evaporative cooling
Topic: Stones Road house, general, opinion Link here

We're pretty sure how we're going to heat the new house: wood-fired hydronic heating. But how do we cool it in the summer? As we note even now, in the middle of December, we need heating much more than cooling, but we really need some form of cooling for when the outside temperatures go over 40°.

The JG King brochures offer evaporative cooling, based on the evaporation of water. It has a number of advantages: it uses less energy, and it raises the humidity in the rooms, which otherwise might be as low as 15%.

But Tom Tyler told me that they use a lot of water. Really? Went looking and came up with this document, which is highly confusing and possibly confused. In one table it shows water consumption in litres/hour, but the heading also claims m³/h. And the consumptions! At the bottom of page 15 they state 1.8749 m³/day! Our water tanks will be 45 m³ in total (and not 50, because this is a metric country). That consumption would empty our tanks in 25 days.

But then there's another estimate on page 17: 7 m³ per year. So which is right? And if the first is, where does all the water go? At 30°, a kilogram of air (about 860 l) is saturated with about 28 g of water. So 1,800 kg of water would saturate about 65,000 kg of air, or 55 million cubic metres. That's just plain ridiculous: an area of 1 km² by a height of 1 m.


More Android networking
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

So why did my Android tablet not connect yesterday? How do I even configure it? Asked on IRC and got the startling instructions to go to settings/WIRELESS & NETWORKS/More.../Mobile network settings/Access Point Names. Access point names? What do access points have to do with mobile phones? Anyway, selected “new APN”, clearly an undocumented abbreviation meaning Access Point Name, and was asked for a whole lot of information. How to fill it out? Ask Internode support, I suppose. There I found a general setting page which hardly overlapped at all with the display on the Android:

 
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Jashank Jeremy somehow found another page that made more sense:

 
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So I set those. Where's the “finish” button? Tapped outside the window, and it went away. So did my entries. It took me quite some while to realize that it was the symbol. But at least I had things sorted out, and in town tomorrow I can try it out.

Then by chance I got a call from Evan from Internode Support, wanting to know how I was getting on with my 3G service. I told him the good news about the NBN, and that the loaner modem was on the dining room table waiting to be sent back (and yes, it really was). Discussed the settings with him. No, the settings there are for NodeMobile. What I have is NodeMobile 3G, and the settings for that are different: APN must be internode, not yesinternet. What a pain it is to understand all this stuff!


Garden flowers in early summer
Topic: gardening Link here

Garden flower day today. It's easy to see that my heart is no longer in it, but there are lots of nice flowers all the same. Next garden will start off with no grass; I wonder how long we'll be able to keep it that way.


Mowing the lawn—not
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

Our ride-on mower may be away to repair, but Yvonne wanted to mow the lawn with the little push mower. But we couldn't get it started! How I hate these things.


E-M1 grunting
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

I took my garden flower photos with the Olympus OM-D E-M1, of course, this time with the Olympus Zuiko Digital 18-180mm F3.5-6.3. It's not the best of lenses: the long focal length range make the image quality lower than any of the other Olympus lenses I have (though still very good), and focus is not particularly fast even on the cameras for which it was designed.

On the E-M1, it doesn't work badly. There are some times when focusing is really an issue, but not often. But the noises it makes! The E-M1 makes funny sounds, from the image stabilizer I think, but with this lens it seems to also do so when I change the focal length. I've also seen some tendency for the zoom ring to be heavier in one direction than the other, almost as if the camera was trying to operate a power zoom on the lens. It can do that on appropriate lenses, but I'm pretty sure that the lens doesn't have any such facility.


Tuesday, 17 December 2013 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel
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Network speed: what should I expect?
Topic: technology Link here

More playing around with Speedtest today. Clearly it's an approximate test at best, and for some reason it has decided that I'm in Cairns, nearly 3,000 km away, and so it appears to choose servers in Papua New Guinea, though I suppose they're really in northern Queensland. But even when I correct that and select local servers, the best downlink speed I have ever had was 14.73 Mb/s, and normally it's round 10 Mb/s. I've started to keep a statistics page to monitor the speeds. When SkyMesh provisions the connection, it'll be very interesting to see the difference.


New batteries for the E-M1
Topic: photography Link here

The last of the accessories for my new Olympus OM-D E-M1 arrived today: three spare batteries. Put the first in to charge, but after a couple of minutes charging stopped. Dead already? No, it seems that they were charged before they were sent off. It'll be a while before I find out if they're dud or not, but in the meantime I had to completely restructure my battery info and charge pages.


Committing to the new house
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Tom Tyler of JG King has apparently had a hard time of it preparing an estimate of the costs for the new house, but finally he has come up with what we're looking for and at about the price we were expecting. Yvonne couldn't wait, and so off into town and spent what proved to be quite a while talking about the details, mainly timing. It looks as if it'll be April before we get the planning permit, and Tom claims that we'll get the building permit immediately after that. Then they start building within 2 weeks and build for... 5 to 7 months! That's what they say, anyway, though he then says that most of their houses are completed in 4 months. So that will be September next year, pretty much what I expected. And that means that we don't even start to try to sell our current house until April or May.

Then along to Angus Eeles with the plans to get a quote for the heating. They do air conditioning too, so I asked them for a quote for that as well. I can see them getting a lot of money out of us.

Then to David Chestnut's with the small lawn mower. We couldn't get it started, so we left it there. Why do we have so much trouble with lawn mowers?


Debugging Android networking
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

While in town, tried again to use my Android tablet on the phone network. Yes, I got a message saying that the phone was on the (which?) network, and my “Access Point Name” was correct. But, it seems, no Internet connection. What really annoys me is that there seems to be no way to debug these things.


Telstra: we can do worse!
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

Over the years I've developed a healthy hatred of Telstra in all things networking, as I've documented here and here. But what I've seen in connection with the National Broadband Network installation in Dereel blows my mind. I commented on the first one, assuming that it was a contract issue. But no, the phone they cut off was supplied by a competitor! That sounds like it should be a criminal act. And as far as I can see, after 4 days, the phone is still cut off.

And then Yvonne received a message from a friend:

Updated to the NBN today and it will be installed on the 13/01/14. All well and good until the internet/email ceased to work tonight. I rang Telstra and they said my ADSL has been turned off and I won't have internet or email access until the 13/01/14. I am being told it's a process to do the change over which takes time. Pity Telstra didn't advise me this would happen!

I had something similar three years ago. How can they get away with this? And why do people still sign up with them?


Wednesday, 18 December 2013 Dereel
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Network problems, part 1
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I'm still wondering where the problems are with my network throughput. My Speedtest results are not quite consistent—of course—but they're always far short of the 25 Mb/s downlink speed that I'm paying for.

On IRC, Andy Snow suggested using axel to test download speeds. Why? Because TCP has throughput limitations, depending on the window size. OK, possibly that's an issue, so I tried it, downloading a 100 MB file. Here the results (octopus.com.au is Andy's domain):

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/11) /var/tmp 27 -> axel -n 10 -a http://octopus.com.au/speedtest100mb.bin
Downloaded 99.3 megabytes in 1:56 seconds. (874.45 KB/s)
=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/11) /var/tmp 28 -> ftp http://octopus.com.au/speedtest100mb.bin
104108024 bytes retrieved in 09:12 (184.01 KiB/s)

Clearly axel is an order of magnitude faster than ftp in this case. But even axel's speed translates to only 7 Mb/s, worse than any of my speedtest results. And the ftp result is the sort of thing I could have achieved with my old 3G connection. So I tried www.lemis.com:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/11) /var/tmp 31 -> ftp http://www.lemis.com/blob
107347968 bytes retrieved in 02:53 (604.58 KiB/s)
=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/11) /var/tmp 32 -> axel -n 10 -a http://www.lemis.com/blob10
Downloaded 10.0 megabytes in 18 seconds. (555.50 KB/s)
=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/11) /var/tmp 33 -> axel -n 10 -a http://www.lemis.com/blob
Downloaded 102.4 megabytes in 3:14 seconds. (538.01 KB/s)

That's very different. In particular, for some reason the results with axel were worse than with ftp. Nothing here looks like TCP issues to me. So I traced a connection. The -ttt option in tcpdump helps here, but it's not very easy to recognize:

00:00:00.000019 IP eureka.lemis.com.31609 > ozlabs.org.http: Flags [.], ack 59533, win 65340, length 0
00:00:00.000197 IP ozlabs.org.http > eureka.lemis.com.31609: Flags [.], seq 59533:60985, ack 106, win 14600, length 1452
00:00:00.094969 IP ozlabs.org.http > eureka.lemis.com.31609: Flags [.], seq 60985:62437, ack 106, win 14600, length 1452

This is the kind of situation that calls for my -h flag hack. And of course I didn't submit it, and in the meantime enough changes have been made to tcpdump that the patches didn't fit—they've even added their own -h flag to print version number and usage (help, I suppose). Threw that out and reapplied the patch:

             20 IP eureka.lemis.com.31609 > ozlabs.org.http: Flags [.], ack 53725, win 65340, length 0
            102 IP ozlabs.org.http > eureka.lemis.com.31609: Flags [.], seq 53725:55177, ack 106, win 14600, length 1452
            410 IP ozlabs.org.http > eureka.lemis.com.31609: Flags [.], seq 55177:56629, ack 106, win 14600, length 1452
             14 IP eureka.lemis.com.31609 > ozlabs.org.http: Flags [.], ack 56629, win 65340, length 0
            108 IP ozlabs.org.http > eureka.lemis.com.31609: Flags [.], seq 56629:58081, ack 106, win 14600, length 1452
           1293 IP ozlabs.org.http > eureka.lemis.com.31609: Flags [.], seq 58081:59533, ack 106, win 14600, length 1452
             19 IP eureka.lemis.com.31609 > ozlabs.org.http: Flags [.], ack 59533, win 65340, length 0
            197 IP ozlabs.org.http > eureka.lemis.com.31609: Flags [.], seq 59533:60985, ack 106, win 14600, length 1452
          94969 IP ozlabs.org.http > eureka.lemis.com.31609: Flags [.], seq 60985:62437, ack 106, win 14600, length 1452
             74 IP eureka.lemis.com.31609 > ozlabs.org.http: Flags [.], ack 62437, win 65340, length 0
            154 IP ozlabs.org.http > eureka.lemis.com.31609: Flags [.], seq 62437:63889, ack 106, win 14600, length 1452
            235 IP ozlabs.org.http > eureka.lemis.com.31609: Flags [.], seq 63889:65341, ack 106, win 14600, length 1452

Isn't that easier to read? It appears that ozlabs (reverse lookup for www.lemis.com) is waiting for the ack from eureka before sending the packet starting with sequence number 60985. At 25 Mb/s and a latency of, say, 80 ms, the 1492 byte packet should have come in 82 ms. So this was slow. But the real issue seems to be that there is no obvious reason for ozlabs to wait for that ack.

So what's going on? Have I misunderstood TCP? I'll try again when the SkyMesh service is active.


Network problems, part 2
Topic: general, technology, multimedia, opinion Link here

The National Broadband Network connection wasn't the only network problem I've been having recently. A couple of times recently I have lost connections to cvr2, my TV recording computer. That almost certainly relates to a dubious switch in Yvonne's office, so I changed that. Then I tried to move a recording from cvr2 to teevee, the TV computer in the lounge room. The transfer rates were terrible! In fact, they were slower than the NBN connection, only round 480 kB/s.

Now my network topology has “just growed”, and it's somewhat baroque. From cvr2 the data goes to the switch I had just replaced, and then to the 100 Mb/s switch in my office, thence into a power line adapter to the lounge room, and then through an 802.11 access point to teevee. I've had a lot of trouble with the throughput of the power line adapters in the past, so they were the first thing to suspect. Instead I strung a 20 m CAT-6 cable from the office switch to the lounge room access point. No improvement.

What next? Could it be the NIC in teevee? It's on the motherboard, and I have had on-board NICs die before. Dragged out an old 3C509 card and put it in teevee, in the process disconnecting the display and running into issues with ARP. No improvement. AP? I removed that and connected directly from eureka to teevee via a single switch.

What else could it be? Clearly the equipment in my office is working, and I had moved the file from cvr2 to eureka to rule out any problems there. Still no improvement.

Then I saw something surprising: the scp process was running at 100% CPU! OK, decryption uses a fair amount of CPU, but modern CPUs are fast enough. Did my machine somehow get a hardware misconfiguration? Shut down, went through the BIOS settings without finding anything amiss. Rebooted, tried with rcp instead, no difference. But then I discovered that nearly all of the CPU time usage was in the system, so it had nothing to do with decryption.

Somehow I was reminded of the old and rather silly quote attributed to Sherlock Holmes: “When you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”. The recollection wasn't perfect: s/impossible/obvious/. So what else was there? Doesn't UFS use a lot of CPU time when the file system is almost full?

How full was the file system? A little over 3 GB free. But this is a 2 TB file system, so that corresponded to 99.7% full. Removed a few files and bingo! Transfer rates back to normal.

I'm really quite surprised. Yes, I knew that UFS gets slower when the file system is nearly full. But I hadn't expected it to be so sudden and so extreme.


Thursday, 19 December 2013 Dereel Images for 19 December 2013
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Exetel: support? What's that?
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

Now that the National Broadband Network connection is up and running, it's time to terminate my contract with Internode and update my private web pages with ISP contact information. I had most of the information for Exetel, but not the email address for technical support. Finally stumbled across this page, which offered to answer my questions. Clearly not one that it expected:

 
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Later I found out that they do, in fact, have a help desk page where you can log faults. But that wasn't visible from my search.


SkyMesh: All your networks are belong to us
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

I signed up with SkyMesh a couple of days ago, and they had promised to send me details of how to connect to their National Broadband Network service. But nothing came. Then today the hardware arrived: a CiscoLinksys EA2700 router and SPA112 ATA. Also a welcome sheet giving me user names and passwords for the router, and network name and password for the 802.11 wireless network, and a second sheet with a picture of a fibre NTD, which looks quite different from a fixed wireless NTD, and instructions how to interconnect things:

 
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And that's all! No IP addresses, no information At All for the ATA. How can I connect to it? Presumably it wants DHCP, but there's no information about that anywhere in the documentation.

So I connected it up and reconfigured dxo, my Microsoft box, to use DHCP. Sure enough, the router came up with an address 192.168.1.1. But I couldn't communicate with the Internet. Where's the config screen? It's not made any easier by the lack of documentation. So I called up SkyMesh support and accepted the offer of callback when somebody was available.

That was almost immediate. Spoke to Daniel, who didn't really understand. The fact that I was just looking for status didn't bother him. I am not allowed to touch the router: if I did, I wouldn't be able to talk to their network. I told him that if I didn't change the parameters, it wouldn't be able to talk to my network, but again I don't think he understood. I asked what the correct configuration settings were, but he wouldn't or couldn't tell me beyond saying that it should be DHCP.

That seems to be the case. After I found the manual, I discovered that Linksys use the term Internet to mean the uplink to the ISP. And the configuration looks like this:

 
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On the face of it, that's not a bad solution. Basically it looks like just another Ethernet link, something that I was wondering about earlier: why use PPPoE when you can just use Ethernet? But that presupposes some other kind of authentication, either by MAC address or some feature of the network topology. But in either case, they don't need DHCP: they could equally well configure the router with a static IP address. More to the immediate point, though, I was able to establish what I originally wanted to find out, and what Daniel still didn't understand: was I connected or not? No, I wasn't:

 
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It seems, though, that they don't use the MAC address to identify the device. When we had no joy with the router, he asked me to connect it to a computer and try there. Once again, of course, it was dxo, and of course it didn't work.

Then he wanted me to reboot the router and the NTD! Decide to humour him—clearly this is in his script book—but it took me off the net for longer than I had expected. The NTD was functional after about a minute, but it took about three minutes more for me to be able to establish a connection. And, of course, it made no difference.

That was all that Daniel could do. He had already established that the link was up, not by testing but by reading the written report from the NBN. And indeed I have a carrier on port 2, where ports 3 and 4 have none, so something is obviously active. So he asked me to perform a “Level 1 fault report”, which appears to involve checking the LEDs on the NTD, at least 4 of which are conveniently located on the bottom of the device, where you can only see them with a mirror.

The next step was escalation, reference number 987519. Somebody would contact me some time. And that after 50 minutes on the phone and another 30 minutes messing around before. That's a very different experience from Exetel, where I just plugged in the cables and they worked. But what's the problem? Every indication is that there's something wrong with the link between router and SkyMesh. Where? It wasn't the cable to the NTD, which I changed to be on the safe side. Could it be that it's on port 2 of the NTD? I mentioned that to Daniel, but I'm not sure he understood.

In the meantime, tried the ATA. It doesn't have a POTS port, so it's not much use, though it does have two channels. But it, too, doesn't work. It appears to be this device:

? (192.168.1.138) at e0:2f:6d:77:0e:16 on re0 expires in 250 seconds [ethernet]

nmap shows all ports closed, though it does respond to ping. I have no idea how it's configured, though it may show up when I get the main link working. In the meantime set up a tcpdump on eucla, connected directly to the NTD and with a dhclient running. After several hours there was no response whatsoever.

Then in the evening got a call from Martin, a supervisor. Discussed the matter with him, and asked if the DHCP server checked MAC addresses. Yes. Or better, no. So it's not that. Could it be port 2? No, we have lots of people on port 2, also 3 and 4. But then I mentioned the other net. What, a second network connection? That can't work.

Finally agreed that an engineer (hopefully worthy of that name) would contact me and do the real Level 1 troubleshooting. And that won't be until Martin comes on shift again, at 13:30 tomorrow, nearly 24 hours after I have received the device. Not a good comparison with Exetel.

SkyMesh score card

In summary, there are good and bad things about SkyMesh's approach. On the positive side, we have:

On the down side, unfortunately:


Friday, 20 December 2013 Dereel Images for 20 December 2013
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Looking for SkyMesh support
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

As promised, got a call from Dean at SkyMesh support today to do “Level 1” fault analysis. Basically this required showing the IP addresses of the interfaces and the contents of the ARP cache. I explained to him that there was no traffic whatsoever, and that the only MAC addresses were of my own interface, but he didn't seem to understand. But that was all the information he wanted, and he hadn't even bothered to report that I was receiving no traffic at all, which clearly made his other questions meaningless. Another waste of time. And so far a 24 out of 24 hour outage.


Olympus networking in practice
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

I'm in the process of finalizing our web Christmas card for this year, and once again I've taken a photo of Yvonne, myself and as many animals as we can fit in the picture. Last year I took the photos using the infrared remote control, which has the disadvantage that it's hard to hide:

 
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Now I have this 802.11 link between the camera and a tablet (but not a network: it refuses to connect with any other networking equipment except a phone), and OI.Share, the app that connects with the camera. The tablet is a lot bigger than the remote control (10" tablet), but it has the advantage in this case that I can hide it behind a large object, like a Borzoi. So we took a number of photos. There were multiple issues:

But then comes OI.Share, which had its own issues:

To add insult to injury, not only can I not turn off the slow display of the image just taken, I can't find a way to review the others. This seems to be typical of tablet apps: the really don't seem to want to document things or supply complete functionality.


Still more network pain!
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

Somehow networks just don't like me at the moment. Today cvr2 fell off the LAN again. More searching and finally found the problem: the cable between cvr2 and the switch in Yvonne's office. It goes under the house, and years ago I put it in and terminated it myself, apparently badly. The correct solution would be to try again, but I don't know if I ever want to put a CAT-5 cable together again. The new house will have Ethernet and fibre connections in every room. In the meantime, I put Yet Another cable over the floor.


Saturday, 21 December 2013 Dereel Images for 21 December 2013
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SkyMesh outage, day 3
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

For the past couple of days I've been running a couple of tcpdump processes on my laptop eucla, connected directly to the SkyMesh port of the National Broadband Network NTD. One traced all traffic, while another traced traffic that didn't relate to the local interface. I checked from time to time: the former showed dhclient try repeatedly to get an address, and no reply arriving.

And then, round 11:09, I got a call from Kear of SkyMesh technical support. He suddenly found life in the link:

11:11:49.837739 IP 0.0.0.0.bootpc > 255.255.255.255.bootps: BOOTP/DHCP, Request from 48:f8:b3:b5:04:7b (oui Unknown), length 300
11:11:50.571587 IP ntp.skymesh.net.au.bootps > 181-209-181-180.cpe.skymesh.net.au.bootpc: BOOTP/DHCP, Reply, length 300
11:11:52.580733 IP 0.0.0.0.bootpc > 255.255.255.255.bootps: BOOTP/DHCP, Request from 48:f8:b3:b5:04:7b (oui Unknown), length 300
11:11:52.726601 IP 1-208-181-180.cpe.skymesh.net.au.bootps > 181-209-181-180.cpe.skymesh.net.au.bootpc: BOOTP/DHCP, Reply, length 300
11:11:52.731440 ARP, Request who-has 181-209-181-180.cpe.skymesh.net.au tell 1-208-181-180.cpe.skymesh.net.au, length 46
11:11:52.790918 ARP, Request who-has 181-209-181-180.cpe.skymesh.net.au tell 181-209-181-180.cpe.skymesh.net.au, length 28

But the time was in the future! That's understandable: the laptop had been powered down for months, and there was no NTP server available.

What was the problem? Kear wasn't sure. Something to do with a DHCP option 82. What's that? Don't know. And I can't find a reference to it in RFC 2131. But a web search found many hits, and this one explains a bit: it's an indication of where in the network the request came from. This is also the answer to my rhetorical question about how they identify the origin of the request. So a simple misconfiguration. Why did it take them 45 hours to fix? You'd expect that a simple trace in the right part of the network would show exactly what the problem is.

So finally I had a connection! Now to connect the router, the way SkyMesh intended. It couldn't connect. Tried with the laptop running Microsoft. It couldn't connect. Rebooted into FreeBSD. Immediate connection.

What's wrong here? Called SkyMesh and spoke to Ben, who got me to do some adventurous configurations, including connecting the Microsoft box directly to the NTD and setting a static RFC 1918 address, which of course couldn't work. But finally, after about half an hour, we connected it back again, and this time the link came up immediately. Ben: “Yes, it takes 20 minutes”. And suddenly it was clear: ARP keeps addresses for 20 minutes. Normally that shouldn't worry DHCP servers, since the request doesn't come attached to an IP address, but it seems that in this case something held on to the MAC address.

The other issue is that I still don't have access to the SkyMesh web site. Asked Ben about that and he told me that the account hadn't been set up yet. He called me back later and gave me the password, which isn't much help without a user name.


SkyMesh network speed
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

So now I finally have two functional connections via the National Broadband Network. How do they compare in speed? I haven't been overly happy with Exetel's performance, so this was of particular interest. And indeed the download speeds from SkyMesh were significantly higher:

Date       Time       RSP       Server       Ping       Downlink       Uplink
21 December 2013       12:50       Exetel       Internode Melbourne       38       12.65       4.33
21 December 2013       13:00       Exetel       Internode Melbourne       34       12.82       4.16
21 December 2013       12:52       SkyMesh       Internode Melbourne       61       18.59       3.32
21 December 2013       12:54       SkyMesh       Internode Melbourne       60       20.97       3.75
21 December 2013       12:57       SkyMesh       Internode Melbourne       59       22.16       3.91

I've sorted this table by RSP instead of time, but it shows a couple of interesting things: firstly, SkyMesh's download speed is at least 50% higher than Exetel's, but both ping and upload speed are worse. And this carried on like that, as my speedtest page shows in more detail.

The other thing was file transfer with ftp and axel. Here there is as good as no difference between Exetel and SkyMesh, and also—surprisingly—between axel and ftp. I need to understand what's going on better. The initial recognition is how latency affects TCP throughput: basically, you can only transfer one window per RTT, so if the maximum window size is 64 kB and the RTT is, say, 60 ms, as it seems to be, then the maximum transfer rate over one TCP connection must be 64/0.6, or about 1.07 MB/s. That's a long way from the 25 Mb/s that the link should be able to handle. Window scaling should solve the problem, but I don't see it happening.


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

Chris Bahlo to dinner this evening, and after dinner we spoke about my new Olympus OM-D E-M1. Managed to take some completely forgettable video which, however, looked as if it had been taken on a tripod. And once again both Chris and I managed some photos that would have been completely forgettable if they hadn't been taken with a shutter speed of 3.2 seconds:


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Sure, there's a little camera shake there, and like in old photos from the 19th century, the subjects have moved. But it's still remarkably good for a hand-held photo taken at that shutter speed.


The future of the Yeardleys
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Tuyết Yeardley has been living in Dereel for a year now. It hasn't been a peaceful time. It seems that Tuyết is insanely jealous of Chris Bahlo, and though the house half belongs to Chris, she wants Chris out, sell the horses, and in general remove all the reasons for being in Dereel in the first place. It's particularly stupid since, although David bought her a new car earlier this year, she still hasn't learnt to drive. So by alienating Chris, she has broken off one of her main connections with the outside world, especially since David away from home for weeks at a time. It sounds completely unreasonable.

David, not an easy person to get on with at the best of times, finds himself in a really difficult position, but in general he's sticking to what his wife wants. But that doesn't seem to be enough. Today Tuyết seems to have gone completely crazy. While driving in the car at about 80 km/h, she pushed the gear lever from “Drive” to “Park”. Surprisingly it didn't destroy the gearbox. And she tore David's glasses off and threw them away, and when she got back she grabbed a rock and threw it at her car, doing relatively little damage.

What's wrong with her? How can this continue? It's clear that she's not made for life in Dereel, but what is going to happen? I see bad times ahead. Personally, I vouched for Tuyết so that she could get her immigration visa. Should I contact the Department of Immigration and tell them of my concerns?


Sunday, 22 December 2013 Dereel → Warrandyte → Dereel Images for 22 December 2013
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Scaling Windows
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

My TCP traces across the National Broadband Network show that window scaling doesn't occur. Why not? A check of my system showed that the sysctl net.inet.tcp.rfc1323 was set to 0 (disable). But even after I enabled it, it didn't scale. More investigation needed, but I didn't have time today.


Three of a kind
Topic: animals, general Link here

Off to Warrandyte today with Chris Bahlo and Zhivago, mainly because we couldn't leave him behind, to visit Ron Frolley again and pick up the two dogs we had reserved. Once again we had a crowd of dogs, more Borzois than Chris had ever seen before in one place, and possibly more than we have seen outside a dog show:


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But the bad news: Ron had decided to keep one of the dogs we had chosen, the black male. What to do? Ron offered us Nigel instead:


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He's undoubtedly one of the best dogs they have, and a son of Zhivago. It surprised me not only for that reason, but because he was Steve's favourite. Ron went to talk to Steve, who, not surprisingly, offered a bit of “resistance”. Not a worry: I would have felt guilty taking him anyway.

There were only two other males to be had: a litter mate of the one we wanted, whom we had rejected because we didn't like his markings, and a black and white one out of the previous litter, now 7 months old. We had rejected his markings too—Yvonne had really wanted brindles but in the meantime she had reconsidered and even wondered whether she still wanted to take the brindle bitch. In the end we took him, so we now have three Borzois: Zhivago, the new male whose name appears to be Zagar, and the little bitch, whom Yvonne eventually agreed to call Tanja. We're not sure whether Zagar will keep that name, especially since it sounds very much like “Vago”, as we call Zhivago. He's Zhivago's nephew, and Tanja is Zhivago's granddaughter (via Nigel).

We ended up calling Zagar Nikolai and spelling Tanja as Tanya.

Tanja was filthy when we got her. She looked as if some other dog had urinated on her, and Ron washed her in his special dog wash before we left. She paniced and even (marginally) bit me:


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We still need to get some good photos.


Monday, 23 December 2013 Dereel Images for 23 December 2013
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Acclimatizing the new dogs
Topic: animals, general Link here

It was a short night. The new dogs were outside in a compound that Yvonne had partitioned off for them, but they made it clear that they wanted to be inside. And in the morning we had to keep an eye on them, particularly Tanya, who is in the age of chewing everything in sight, and whom we can't expect to be house-trained. But in fact she's doing very well: not once but twice she signalled that she wanted to go outside, and they've already found a “toilet” space at the far end of the compound.

But then Yvonne had to go shopping, taking Zhivago and Zagar with her to have them washed, and I didn't have time to look after Tanya. So we put her in the guest bathroom. Not happy. After listening to her whining for over an hour, I let her out for a while, but I couldn't get anything done for keeping an eye on her. She's learning fast. Both of them now more or less understand that they're not allowed in the kitchen, and I can get her to stop chewing inappropriate objects.

Still, she had to get locked in again. Put her out in the compound, where she carried on whining for quite some time. Then she stopped. Went out to have a look. No Tanya. Somehow she had slipped through an opening where I wouldn't even expect a cat to get through, and was waiting quietly outside the kitchen door:


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Later in the afternoon we finally got a photo of Yvonne and the little dogs:


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Yvonne also borrowed a dog crate from Zali, the owner of Bindy, which made keeping an eye on them a lot easier. They're settling in remarkably well. Neither knew Zhivago before yesterday, and there's a good chance they didn't even know each other. But they're incredibly gentle, and in the evening we found them lying together in a line.


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Tracking flights
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Now that I have a reasonable network connection, I can use services like flightradar24 without timeouts. Today was the perfect opportunity: Jari Kirma, whom I met in Helsinki 8 years ago, decided on Saturday to come to Australia for 5 days over Christmas (in addition to 2½ days in the air). Tracking was interesting: we could see him taking off on the last leg from Hong Kong, but then he disappeared over the South China Sea. He popped up a couple of times, over the Phillipines and the North of Australia, but disappeared somewhere in the Back of Bourke. Clearly this is indicative of radar coverage, but the site itself gave no explanation. Still, lots of fun.


Tuesday, 24 December 2013 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 24 December 2013
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Another power failure
Topic: general Link here

Another power failure this morning at 0:11.


Kirma comes to Dereel
Topic: general Link here

Into town this morning to pick Jari Kirma up from the airport shuttle. It's been 8 years since I last saw him, but he's still wearing the same T-shirt:


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DHCP configuration isses
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

The first thing Jari needed was a connection to the Internet, of course. Since the National Broadband Network that's not a general problem, and I had already configured and SIGHUPped my DHCP server. But he had problems connecting, from my view not helped by the fact that his laptop runs MacOS X rather than FreeBSD. After a lot of messing around, discovered the cause:

Dec 24 12:27:14 eureka dhcpd: DHCPDISCOVER from b8:f6:b1:18:2c:c9 via re0: network 192.109.197.0/24: no free leases

But there was only one lease, and I had configured dozens of addresses. Only ISC dhcpd doesn't pay any attention to SIGHUP. Restarted and all was well.


Christmas cooking again
Topic: food and drink, animals, opinion Link here

Spent most of the afternoon preparing Christmas dinner, not helped by the dogs, DHCP problems and inaccurate recipes (my own). But things went relatively smoothly; writing up the changes from last time will be more of a problem.


New flash unit
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

It's clear that the flash that came with my Olympus OM-D E-M1 is as good as useless. On the other hand, my Mecablitz 58 AF-1 has been waiting for reassembly for nearly a year now. I'm quite dissatisfied with the unit, and apart from other considerations, it's enormous. What I really want is something a little brighter than the standard pop-up flash.

The flash in my Olympus E-30 has a normalized guide number of 13 at ISO 21°/100. But the clip-on flash with the E-M1 has a guide number of only 8, which gives a range of 1.38 m at f/8 and ISO rating 24°/200, this camera's standard setting. What I need is something that's smaller than the Mecablitz, but which can do some kind of automatic exposure. The old thyristor-based units don't seem to be around any more, and most of the cheaper units, at least for Olympus, are just plain manual.

But recently I found a new one, the Meike MK-300. It has a claimed guide number of 32, and it handles Olympus' TTL protocol. On Friday I bought one from Hong Kong, and to my surprise it arrived today. It certainly looks like what I'm looking for:


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Some reviews of the flash were quite negative, but there were positive ones as well. The first tests looked quite good:


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The first of these unreprocessed images was taken with +1 EV flash compensation, which seems to be required for all flashes, so I'm not really concerned. But it seems that it's not good very close up. While walking the dogs I found a wildflower I didn't know. Flash seems to be too bright:


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But then, I've always had problems with flash exposure. This seems no worse than others, and the small size makes it almost possible to leave it on all the time.


BUGS Christmas dinner
Topic: general, food and drink, technology, opinion Link here

It's been nearly 4 years since the last BUGS barbecue. On that occasion, along with many others, we had five other active members of the #bugs IRC channel: Sue Blake (unixhag), Callum Gibson (callum), Edwin Groothuis (Mavvie) and Jashank (jashank) and Peter (AlephNull) Jeremy. Today we had 2: Chris Bahlo (fenix, present at the last, but as observer) and Jari Kirma (kirma). And then Jamie Fraser (fwaggle) announced an interest in meeting Jari, so off he set at 18:00 for an 80 km drive to arrive at 19:00—and made it only a couple of minutes late. So in the end we had four BUGS people for dinner:


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It was also interesting because it's the first time any of us had met fwaggle, though you could be excused for getting the impression that fenix didn't like him much:


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Zhivago doesn't like our food
Topic: animals Link here

One of the problems with the new dogs is that they get different feed from Zhivago, and currently different from each other. With Zhivago that difference will remain, though: as a result of his Cystinuria he can't eat normal food. And he hates the special diet. It was bad enough when he was by himself, but now he can smell the other dogs getting real food, and he's not happy. Yvonne took for his walk this evening, but shortly after leaving he lagged behind, and when she came back she found him in the garden finishing off a rabbit. Clearly we have a problem here.


Wednesday, 25 December 2013 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 25 December 2013
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Goodbye Jari
Topic: general Link here

Into town again to take Jari to the railway station on his way to a deserted Melbourne. How quiet everything is on Christmas Day!


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

Processing last night's photos brought another surprise: Once again it had recorded both a raw image (desired) and a JPEG image (most definitely not desired). And of course when I looked at the settings, that's what it showed. But when I tried to set it back to raw only, I couldn't.

What caused that? Spent a lot of time searching and found that there's a field “Picture Mode”, another processing option which appears to include “Art Filters”. It seems that I had accidentally changed that—and run into the undocumented “feature” that some of these modes (e-Portrait, Color Creator and 12 Art Filters) automatically change the storage mode to include JPEGs. How difficult it is to find out these things!

Looking at the EXIF data is instructive too. Here an extract from a diff of the raw and JPEG data for one of the photos:

--- ORF 2013-12-26 10:13:19.000000000 +1100
+++ JPEG        2013-12-26 10:13:07.000000000 +1100
@@ -100,8 +91,9 @@
 Shading Compensation            : Off
+Compression Factor              : 8
 Gradation                       : Normal; User-Selected
-Picture Mode                    : Natural; 2
+Picture Mode                    : Unknown (7); 2

It's difficult to correlate the numbers with the list; the second mode in the list is “Vivid”, and “Natural” is the third; possibly they're counting from 0. In that case, 7 would be e-Portrait, whatever that means (“Produces smooth skin textures. Cannot be used with bracket photography or when shooting movies.”).

The other surprise was a couple of photos of Jari. Here uncorrected images, JPEG for once:


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Is this a problem with the flash? Or with the metering mode? Clearly it's an extreme exposure situation, and the fact that the centre of the image is light could explain a lot. More investigation needed.


Thursday, 26 December 2013 Dereel Images for 26 December 2013
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Monitoring network traffic
Topic: technology Link here

Now that I'm connected to the National Broadband Network, life should be so simple. But that assumes that I'm so simple. Firstly I still haven't got my head around the finer details of TCP flow control, in particular configuring it for FreeBSD, and secondly I no longer have a program that shows me how much traffic is going across the link. With HSPA I used a heavily hacked version of Edwin Groothuis' e169-stats, to be found on FreeBSD boxen at /usr/ports/net/. It keeps track of the traffic over an HSPA link.

And what is there for real networks? Lots of different programs, of course, so many that it makes your head smoke. But what should I use? After some consideration installed iftop, not a perfect solution. It shows interesting detail, but too fast, and looking into the code it's not obvious at first sight how the screen refresh rate is determined. As any rate there's no -s flag like I'm used to from top. Other programs that I looked at briefly were mrtg, which I know already, cacti and ipaudit. I installed ipaudit, but was too lazy to read the documentation, such as there is—it seems that the only real introduction is from a third party.


House design software, try 1
Topic: Stones Road house, technology Link here

It would be nice to have some way of simulating the appearance of our new house in software. Nearly 15 years ago I bought some software for this sort of thing: “3D Home Architect” by Brøderbund, for Microsoft of course and with dimensions firmly anchored in the non-metric past. Still, it wasn't bad and ran acceptably on the hardware of the day. But clearly time has moved on, and there should be better stuff available now.

But what? Found an online design program that came—don't they all—with no documentation, and with a menu system that I can't interpret. About the only documentation appears to be a selection of video clips, something that I can't make friends with.

Still, there are others. This Google Search may help me further, as may this overview and this one.


We don't want to pay your pension
Topic: general, opinion Link here

One of the worst “investments” I ever made was with the Deutsche Rentenversicherung, the German Pension Fund. Over the course of the decades my employers and I paid in over 2,000,000 DM, about 1,000,000 Euros. The last payment was in 1992, nearly 22 years ago. If that sum had been invested at a relatively conservative rate of 5%, starting only in 1992, it would now be worth roughly 3,000,000 €, currently $4,600,000. If that were in an Australian superannuation fund, Centrelink would require me to take a minimum pension of 5%, or something over $19,000 a month. Instead, the DRV has determined that I am entitled to a pension of 935 € ($1,440) a month—if I get it.

Yes, I got it, but I only discovered much later that the sums mentioned were the base income for the payments, which amounted to only about 10% of those sums. In fact, the return is relatively good.

I had assumed that this “if” was purely bureaucratic caution, but recent events suggest otherwise: are they really trying to withhold even this pittance? Early last month I made my application, which had to be submitted to Centrelink. They confirmed having sent it on to DRV on 21 November. And now, just before Christmas, I received a letter dated 4 December and with postmark 11 December, sent by the cheapest mail. It confirmed reception of the pension application and asked me to send forms AUS/D1 and A3490. They're German forms, of course. Did she enclose them? No, that would make things too simple for me.

On checking, these two forms are exactly the ones I submitted. The first is the application that she confirmed having received. So what is this nonsense? It would be easy to assume that they're trying to postpone the start date for the pension. Wrote a stiff letter, to be posted tomorrow.


Friday, 27 December 2013 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 27 December 2013
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Into town again
Topic: general Link here

Yvonne wanted to go into town for various odds and ends, and I came along for the fun of it. Took a look at fridges and ovens at The Good Guys, without coming to much in the way of conclusions. They had both fridges and ovens in a price range between $600 and $2,500, without there being much difference between the cheapest and the most expensive.

Finally to the Bakery Hill post office. Closed!


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To the best of my knowledge, that's the main post office in Ballarat. Closed for a week. And the nearest open office? Clearly they don't know either.

Going through Napoleons, checked the General Store. Yes, they were open, but there was only a girl on duty, and she gave me the impression that she didn't even know what registered mail is. Tried a little bit, but after all my main intention is to get the letter to DRV, not have a registration slip, so we postponed it.


Gas prices
Topic: general Link here

We've been using the spare for the pizza oven, and today the main cylinder for the kitchen ran out. Put in the cylinder from the pizza oven, which proved to be half empty already. So while in town, also bought a new gas cylinder. Off to a petrol station to replace it and the other cylinder (you get a new cylinder along with the gas). They wanted $38 per cylinder! So off to BOC in La Trobe St, where they only wanted $22. Once again, I'm amazed by the differences in price in only a couple of kilometres. The difference just about paid for the cylinder.


Considering fencing
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

CJ Ellis along today to look at the fences on our new property. Strangely, Yvonne found a reason not to be there. Came to the conclusion that to do it properly we should wait until the winter, and in the meantime put in some provisional fences with droppers which we can move around until we have proper fencing.


Car stuff
Topic: general Link here

It proves that CJ's car is almost identical to my new one. That's good, because I don't have an instruction manual, and was able to borrow his.

Today was also the third day I filled up the tank in my car. Last time I did, I had a record low consumption, only 7.2 l/100 km, and I was looking with interest at what I would get this time. 10.7! How could that be? One possibility is that I didn't fill up the car properly last time, but even the combined consumption would be 8.8 litres, more than I've seen before. To be monitored.


Telstra: we never forget
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

I rant about Telstra so often that it's getting boring. But finally they've got round to informing me that the National Broadband Network is available in my area. Or have they? Not quite:


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Diary entry for Friday, 27 December 2013

 
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Clifford Taylor? In “Kliens” Road? Yes, we bought the house from Cliff Taylor. But that was over 6½ years ago. How can they make such a mess of their data? It's not the first case: five years ago they revived not the previous owner, but the one before that, who had left the house in 1996. And they did it again a year later. How can a company like that survive? After watching what happened on the Dereel Facebook page, it seems that it's mainly inertia from long-time Telstra users who don't understand how terribly bad they are.


Turkey salad
Topic: food and drink Link here

We still have plenty of turkey left over from Christmas Eve, and Yvonne decided to make a salad with the breast meat. She finally settled on a recipe variously called „Truthahnsalat mit Sardellen“ or «Salade lyonnaise», apparently originally from a book called «La cuisine lyonnaise»:


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Not bad, but it's clearly something that can do with further development.


Zhivago gone again
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

Just before going to bed, Yvonne takes the dogs out for the calls of nature. Today she forgot Zhivago, so I let him out. She didn't see him: he disappeared. Spent an hour looking for him, and finally gave up; he came back another 40 minutes later.

Why? Was he looking for another rabbit? Did he even find one? But clearly this issue of diet needs more consideration.


Saturday, 28 December 2013 Dereel Images for 28 December 2013
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More runaway dogs
Topic: animals Link here

Woke up this morning round 7 am because something was running around on the verandah outside. It sounded like Tanya, and I was pretty sure I heard her bark as well (why does a Borzoi bark?). Out to look for her, but couldn't find her. Later Yvonne told me that she was still in the compound on the other side of the property.

Still later, she was gone again. Somehow she managed to break out. Yvonne suspected the gate, but I wasn't so sure. When she broke out again, it was clear that the gate hadn't been forced, and finally I found that she had dug a hole under the house and got out that way. Yvonne called CJ, and relatively late in the evening he put in additional material to stop her getting out.

In the meantime, Zagar has also been doing his own thing. It's not so much that he runs away—he's very easy on a leash, for example, and doesn't strain—as that he doesn't come back when he's called. Today he did a mad dash down the road and then came back by himself. Probably he needs more exercise.


More gout
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Since I started taking allopurinol for my gout some 7 years ago, the frequency of attacks has dropped—so much so that I can't recall when the last one was, and my 100 tablet container of colchicine tablets had expired in June 2009. But today the next one came, and I had already had some more made up for exactly such a situation.

But the dosage has changed! Back in 2007 my doctor told me to take one every two hours for as long as I could stand the side effects. Now it's two to start with and then one every 6 hours, maximum of 5 tablets in 24 hours or 12 over 5 days. Is this a recognition of problems with the product? Certainly the Wikipedia page suggests so. Maybe that's why they've reduced the number of tablets in the container from 100 to 30.


Sunday, 29 December 2013 Dereel Images for 29 December 2013
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HDR revisited
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

For years now I've taken my house photos with pretty much the same workaround for taking HDR images with the Olympus E-30: take series of 5 images at 1 EV intervals, overexposing the base image by 1 EV, and using the shortest, middle and longest exposures to get exposures relative to the metered value of -1 EV, +1 EV and +3 EV respectively. I discarded the other images. This is different from the traditional approach because it allows the exposure to differ from one image to another. The results have been not bad.

Now I have the Olympus OM-D E-M1, a camera with better support for HDR. Today I tried something similar: 3 images offset by 3 EV and overexposed by 1 EV, giving -2 EV, +1 EV and +4 EV. Clearly that's a much larger dynamic range, and particularly the +4 EV images show it: they're almost completely washed out:


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That's a feature, of course, not a bug. The image of the windows in the verandah at top right is appropriately exposed. But gradually it's becoming clear that with this amount of additional dynamic range, there are advantages to returning to manual exposure. Here two adjacent images from the garden-path-centre panorama, after rendering:


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On the face of it, both of them look reasonably good, but the sky looks very different between the two images: the exposure differs by 2.6 EV. On the other hand, the +4 EV component of the first image is so washed out that it hardly contributes anything to the image, while the +1 EV image is quite close to the rendered result:


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So it seems that I should revert to manual exposure for the HDR series.


Monday, 30 December 2013 Dereel Images for 30 December 2013
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Zhivago: too many runners
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

Yvonne back without Zhivago from his walk this morning. Once again he had run away. He arrived back an hour later, dripping wet, having presumably been in the lagoon. That's enough: now he goes on the line. At least it suggests that he's recovering well from his operation.

As if to reinforce the matter, heard on Facebook that the pet goat of one of our more distant neighbours had been killed two nights ago, presumably by a dog. Zhivago? Not beyond the bounds of possibility, but fortunately he was here with us at the time. In addition, he never went in that direction. But it's a concern nevertheless, and if he gets out again and does go in that direction, people are liable to shoot first and ask questions later. So, sadly, it looks like he'll be on the leash from now on.


Still more pension pain
Topic: general, opinion Link here

My stiff letter to the German Pension Insurance still hasn't been posted. In the meantime I found the forms that they had asked for, one of which had been supplied with my insurance number filled out. Had something gone wrong after all?

Reading the second form made a couple of things clear: firstly, I'm pretty sure I never filled it out. The part I needed to fill out was a proof of nationality. How do I do that? The form made several suggestions: passport, identity card, certificate of citizenship, or “other documents”. My passport expired 5 years ago, so it's no evidence of current citizenship. Australia doesn't have identity cards. What's a certificate of citizenship? Checked the web and found these intructions, which sound positively frightening.

What's wrong with this picture? Most obviously there's the question of why they should be interested in my nationality. But more importantly, it's a lack of understanding of the way things are done in other countries. In Germany it's clear: you have an identity card, and it states your nationality. Filling out this form would be trivial. But in Australia we don't have identity cards.

That makes it hard to identify yourself, and in general you identify yourself with your drivers' license (if you don't drive, you don't exist). That works up to a point, but it doesn't state your nationality. Looking at the alternatives, it seems that the easiest would be to have a new passport issued. But that's stupid, not to mention expensive.

Today was the first day I could contact anybody, so called up Centrelink International Services on 13 1673 and spoke to Diane, who confirmed that the documents had been sent to DRV on 22 November. She also noted that they had not sent the second form, and assumed I had sent it directly. Not exactly reassuring. And she couldn't help, because her department was only responsible for forwarding the information overseas. About the only thing that she could tell me (after checking) was that there was no point going to Centrelink in Ballarat this year: they're closed for the rest of the year.

In the evening called up DRV and spoke to Ms Jahnke, who checked and discovered that Centrelink had sent the documents to the wrong address, and they had only arrived after the other letter had been submitted to post (but nearly a week before it had actually been posted). She checked the information: seems that they have everything that they need. Presumably the last section on the first form (“The particulars about the applicant are confirmed by...”) was sufficient for DRV. Thank God for that!

In passing, thank God for VoIP! The call to Centrelink cost $0.25, and the 5 minute call to Berlin cost $0.10.


How not to install FreeBSD
Topic: technology Link here

Once again, I've been dragging my heels updating my machine. And now FreeBSD release 10 is well on its way. So I installed it on a VM a few days ago, and today I finally got round to installing it on a real machine.

How do you do that? I did it by copying the disk image from the VM to a file on eureka, starting a test box with the destination system disk as a second disk, repartitioning the disk and copying the image across. In the process, I changed the partitioning scheme from MBR to GPT. Finished copy, started the new system, and I got the old release 9.1 image! How could that be? The partition was a different size, a different layout, and located at a different start address.

After a bit more checking, the error was clear: I tried to connect to the VM, failed (no ssh keys installed), not noticed the error, and copied the root partition of eureka, which happened to be exactly the same size (20 GB). So I had to repeat it, in the process discovering that I had made the root partitions 40 GB in size. And copying from a VM with dd takes forever.

The 40 GB also meant that I had to repartition the destination disk, and then copy things across. By mid-afternoon I was done. The file system was dirty, of course, but fsck is your friend. But then I got repeatable panics out of the file system, suggesting corruption.

Round about here I asked: why am I doing this? Just install directly to disk from a DVD. But that's the problem: I didn't have a spare DVD drive. Finally dragged out an old CD-ROM drive, downloaded a CD image and burnt it. Or I tried to:

Performing OPC...
cdrecord: No error: 0. send opc: scsi sendcmd: no error
CDB:  54 01 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00
status: 0x0 (GOOD STATUS)
cmd finished after 10.540s timeout 200s
cdrecord: OPC failed.

Huh? Tried again with a new blank, and it worked. The old one looked unused, but maybe there was something funny about it. Booted and went through the new installation process, which looks worse than the old one I described in “The Complete FreeBSD”, and which gave me several problems with existing file systems that I could only fix by stopping the installation process, recreating the file systems, and starting again. While doing that managed to drop the keyboard onto the (loose) CD-ROM drive. Scrunch! Horrible noises from inside the drive, and it stopped turning. Powered down the system and found that the CD had moved out of the tray towards the electronics, in the process scratching itself beyond recovery. So burnt Yet Another CD and had to start the installation all over again, including the exit to the shell to recreate the file systems.

But finally it was done. What a mess!


pkgNG in practice
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

One of the new things in FreeBSD 10 is the new package system. You should be able to just install all packages from a central repository. That was a long time coming after a security scare some time ago, but it's supposed to be there now, so I tried it out.

The first thing is that the base system comes with a dummy program pkg(8), which was just clever enough to locate the current version of pkg on the web and install it. After that, tried installing bash, which first installed a repository based on the information in /etc/pkg/FreeBSD.conf, and then the shell. All nice and smooth. But pkg install emacs was not as clever: it downloaded four different versions of Emacs (versions 21, 22, 23 and 24) and then had difficulty because of conflicts. To get around it, I had to specifically ask it to install emacs-24.3,3, something that still needs improvement.

Installing X was also relatively straightforward. Things are obviously much better than they used to be. Now to sit back and think how to restructure my system upgrade techniques, which have been a work in progress (if that's an appropriate term) for over 10 years.


Tuesday, 31 December 2013 Dereel Images for 31 December 2013
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Olympus “Viewer” upgrade
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Olympus have brought out an update to “Viewer” 3, their aptly named image processing software. Version 1.3, they say. Or maybe 1.2, depending on where you look.

I've had trouble with “Viewer” in the past, so I took my time installing it, first saving the complete directory hierarchy of the previous installation, including the all-important help file (in German). Then I tried the automatic update from “Viewer” itself:

 
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Not the first time I've seen that incorrect claim. So I went to the web site and downloaded it again. Why do they want the camera serial number? It's available for all Olympus cameras, and who else would want it. And if they did, they could get a serial number almost anywhere, for example in the EXIF data of any of my photos.

Installation proceeded as normal. Once again I didn't get any choice of what to install. And at the end it asked if it should launch the program. Yes, please. Nothing.

Tried again from the root window, or whatever Microsoft calls the maze of twisty little icons, all different. A message I hadn't seen before, followed some time later by yet another:

 
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What's that? Went looking and found that yes, indeed, the file OLYMPUS Viewer 3.exe was not present in the directory. On the other hand, my old German help file was. Clearly a really poor installation, a problem I could help work around by removing the old directory hierarchy. But no, “Access is denied”. I was logged in as administrator, so it couldn't be that. But Microsoft has a workaroundsolution for that: reboot. Did that, and sure enough, I was able to install the software.

What's wrong here? Clearly something had the hierarchy open. This can happen with Unix in some situations too. But the installation program should presumably have tried to remove the hierarchy, and it didn't report any problems, neither with the removal nor with the failure to install the most important file of all.

More importantly, though, the help file still wasn't there! What's wrong with this software? Wouldn't it be so much easier to work around their bugs if they just delivered it as a tarball?


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