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Friday, 1 December 2017 Dereel Images for 1 December 2017
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Summer time!
Topic: general Link here

It has been a really warm November—I'm waiting to see if it was the warmest on record (again)—but now it's summer, so everything has changed. The Bureau of Meteorology has issued dire warnings about rain (up to 300 mm in the next three days!) and flooding. But it didn't quite happen like that. In total we got about 20 mm, still a lot for the beginning of winter, and for the first time in weeks we had to turn the heating on.


Investigating focus distances
Topic: photography Link here

Spent a lot of time thinking about how to process the information that I have from the Focus stacking measurements that I did on Wednesday. The first thing would be to test my hypothesis that the focus step count is linear proportional to v, the distance from lens to sensor in the thin lens formula. Then I could calculate v (trivially) and u from the formula, and compare it with the results recorded (imprecisely) in Exif tag 0x301.

But what is the value in tag 0x301? I've established that at minimum focus the M.Zuiko Digital ED 60 mm f/2.8 Macro reports a distance of 0.185 m (to the nearest 5 mm). That's less than then 4f minimum distance (0.24 m) from the lens formula. The M.Zuiko Digital ED 30 mm f/3.5 Macro lens reports 0.095 m at minimum focus (at which, however, u < v, since the magnification is 1.25:1). But that, too, is less than the 0.12 m minimum that the formula gives.

So: where is it? From the front of the lens? From the optical centre, wherever that might be? There's only one thing for it: measure it. Here's what I got:


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The first is the minimum distance for the 60 mm, the second for the 30 mm. The camera is mounted on the rail at 11 cm from the middle:

 
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But the tripod mount is 1.0 cm ahead of the focal plane, so it's 12.0 cm from the middle of the rail. The 60 mm focuses 6 cm on the other side, or 18.0 cm from the focal plane. The 30 mm focuses almost on its own front element at 2.3 cm from the middle, or 9.7 cm from the focal plane. That fits very well with the Exif data:

Lens       Position       From front       Total       Exif
      (mm)       of lens (mm)       (mm)       report
60       +60       75       180       185
30       -23       5       97       95

So, we have:

  1. The distances in Exif tag 0x301 approximate to the distance from the focal plane.
  2. Some magic in the lens design (true telephoto?) makes it possible for the total distance to be less than the 4f required by the thin lens formula.

That doesn't make things easier. If the lenses deviate so much from the lens formula, it's difficult to make tenable assumptions about them. More thought needed.


Birds and flowers
Topic: animals, gardening Link here

While walking the dogs today, Yvonne appears to have attracted the ire (if that's the word) of a magpie:

 
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The Melaleucas are flowering, as are some waterlilies in the “schoolyard”:

 
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And an acacia along the way has an amazing number of seed pods:

 
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We have radiation!
Topic: technology, general Link here

The Dereel Facebook community lit up today: the second radiation tower (Telstra mobile phones) is active. We now have coverage, though some people have reported that things aren't significantly better. I don't see us using our mobile phones significantly more—it's much more expensive than VoIP—but it would certainly be useful if the National Broadband Network fails Yet Again


The vultrs are coming
Topic: technology Link here

While writing yesterday's diary entries, checked the Vultr web site, not made easier by the fact that they give me a different view of the world if I log in: my current machines (none, of course). But somewhere down the bottom of the page I found a Deploy link. OK, give me a machine in Frankfurt am Main. Can do! And indeed I set up a machine running FreeBSD 11 with surprisingly little difficulty or documentation. How do you set up a completely new remote machine? I was given ssh access Something like:

Setting up squid was something that I had dreaded, but in fact it was relatively easy. The configuration files have got a lot simpler in the course of time. About the only issue was that I ended up with Emacs with its half-coloured syntax highlighting (set the foreground colour, but not the background colour):

 
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Somehow I managed to remember that I can turn that off with font-lock-mode.

And that was about all. At the end I had:

=== grog@ffm (/dev/pts/2) ~ 3 -> uptime
 1:58AM  up 40 mins, 3 users, load averages: 0.42, 0.51, 0.39

All in all, a remarkably painless experience. How about a second one? That's more difficult: now that I have a machine, the Deploy link is gone, and I can't find a way to get to the “deploy server” page.


Saturday, 2 December 2017 Dereel Images for 2 December 2017
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More work in Frankfurt/Main
Topic: technology Link here

Yesterday's installation of ffm.lemis.com, my virtual machine in Frankfurt am Main went very smoothly. It does what I want it to, but I'm sure it could do more. The obvious first thing to do is to bring the system up to date. Checking out the source tree was nice and fast, but the build itself took forever. There's only one “CPU”, which claims of itself:

CPU: Virtual CPU 714389bda930 (2400.11-MHz K8-class CPU)
  Origin="GenuineIntel"  Id=0x306c1  Family=0x6  Model=0x3c  Stepping=1
  Features=0x783fbff<FPU,VME,DE,PSE,TSC,MSR,PAE,MCE,CX8,APIC,SEP,MTRR,PGE,MCA,CMOV,PAT,PSE36,MMX,FXSR,SSE,SSE2>
  Features2=0xfffa3203<SSE3,PCLMULQDQ,SSSE3,FMA,CX16,PCID,SSE4.1,SSE4.2,x2APIC,MOVBE,POPCNT,TSCDLT,AESNI,XSAVE,OSXSAVE,AVX,F16C,RDRAND,HV>
  AMD Features=0x28100800<SYSCALL,NX,RDTSCP,LM>
  AMD Features2=0x21<LAHF,ABM>
  Structured Extended Features=0x728<BMI1,AVX2,BMI2,ERMS,INVPCID>
  XSAVE Features=0x1<XSAVEOPT>
Hypervisor: Origin = "KVMKVMKVM"
real memory  = 1073741824 (1024 MB)

That's significantly different from www, which claims:

XEN: Hypervisor version 4.4 detected.
CPU: Intel(R) Xeon(R) CPU E5-2609 0 @ 2.40GHz (2400.05-MHz K8-class CPU)
  Origin = "GenuineIntel"  Id = 0x206d7  Family = 0x6  Model = 0x2d  Stepping = 7
  Features=0x1783fbff<FPU,VME,DE,PSE,TSC,MSR,PAE,MCE,CX8,APIC,SEP,MTRR,PGE,MCA,CMOV,PAT,PSE36,MMX,FXSR,SSE,SSE2,HTT>
  Features2=0x9fba2203<SSE3,PCLMULQDQ,SSSE3,CX16,PCID,SSE4.1,SSE4.2,x2APIC,POPCNT,TSCDLT,AESNI,XSAVE,OSXSAVE,AVX,HV>
  AMD Features=0x28100800<SYSCALL,NX,RDTSCP,LM>
  AMD Features2=0x1<LAHF>
real memory  = 536870912 (512 MB)
avail memory = 492142592 (469 MB)
Event timer "LAPIC" quality 400
ACPI APIC Table: <Xen HVM>
FreeBSD/SMP: Multiprocessor System Detected: 2 CPUs

The buildworld and kernel targets took over 6 hours to run:

          23077.53 real     21309.56 user      1489.00 sys

I don't know when I last saw anything that slow. But of course, having to build clang every time increases the build time significantly.

One strangeness about the installation is that the system has no swap at all. It only has one partition on the “disk”, which makes it difficult to change anything.

=== root@ffm (/dev/pts/1) /usr/src 8 -> gpart show
=>      40  52428720  vtbd0  GPT  (25G)
        40      1024      1  freebsd-boot  (512K)
      1064  52427696      2  freebsd-ufs  (25G)

Something that the vultures should think about.


Miserable weather
Topic: Stones Road house, general Link here

Since the beginning of summer, the outside temperatures have ranged from 10.9° to 21.6°. In the last two weeks of spring, they were 11.0° to 35.2°, with daily highs over 30° for all but 4 of those days. We had the air conditioner on cooling throughout that time. Now we're heating, and things look really dreary:

 
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That's at least in part thanks to JG King for not installing the promised double glazing in those windows.


Hugin: classic aliasing
Topic: technology, photography Link here

While doing my house photos today, I ran into a particularly bad mismatch in a control point. On closer examination, I discovered that it's a bug, not a feature:

 
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I wonder how to fix that.


Sunday, 3 December 2017 Dereel Images for 3 December 2017
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No hot water!
Topic: Stones Road house, general Link here

Up this morning and discovered that we had no hot water. That's not the first time. And once again it was the internal circuit breaker that I had discovered on 30 March 2016. Now that I know it, it was easy enough to fix. But this is completely unacceptable. In the 2½ years since we've been here, this hot water installation has caused us more problems than all the others I have ever had put together:

High time to get something done about it.


More video download alternatives
Topic: multimedia, technology Link here

I've been using MediathekView for some months now, and parts of it are excellent. But there are a number of issues:

Is MediathekView really the only choice? Off looking round the web again. I have already established that rtmpdump can download this stuff, but first I need a URL, and there's little information about how to find that on the web.

What I did find was bug reports. And from them I was led to youtube-dl. How about that, it can dissect a web page, find the media and download it. I had discovered part of this a couple of months ago, but I didn't realize how easy it was. Basically you just feed the URL of any page that offers to display a video, at least on the sites that I've seen, and it downloads and stores it. The only issue I have so far is that it doesn't appear to download subtitles. That proves to be a separate option.


Acacia heterophylla?
Topic: gardening Link here

While walking the dogs, saw a number of these saplings:

 
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Yes, both of those leaves are growing on the same plant. In fact, there is only one kind of leaf, the fronded (“pinnate”) ones; the others are phyllodes, and clearly the plant is an acacia (wattle). Most adult acacias have no leaves at all, only phyllodes, but this one has both. I came up with the idea of calling them Acacia heterophylla, but of course that name has been taken, for a plant that only grows on Réunion.

Still, it seems that Acacia heterophylla is related to Acacia melanoxylon (blackwood), which grows round here. And then I discover that Acacia melanoxylon has phyllodes, and not leaves, as I had thought. In fact, it looks as if these saplings are Acacia melanoxylon. So is the one with the thousands of pods that I took a couple of days ago. And on looking more closely, this plant also has a combination of pinnate leaves and phyllodes:

 
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All well and good, but we have lots of trees round here with only pinnate leaves which I had taken to be Acacia melanoxylon. What are they?


Trump: Britain First
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

Donald Trump has not been in office a year yet, but he seems to have nearly the whole world against him. And he appears to be trying to increase the number, after retweeting videos from a British hate group. I was quite impressed by the way that Theresa May condemned the action in terms that were only barely diplomatic.

But that's only one view. After following a link that Yvonne sent me, I found this video of an admittedly depleted House of Commons:

What makes Trump do things like this? I almost have the impression that he has had a bet with Vladimir Putin about how far he can go. He shouldn't go far; he should just go.


Monday, 4 December 2017 Dereel Images for 4 December 2017
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Conciliation: teleconference
Topic: Stones Road house, general Link here

Call from Maggie Keenan of Domestic Buildings Dispute Resolution Victoria today. We had been planning a face-to-face meeting in Ballarat on the 11th, but she suggested that we do it as a teleconference on Wednesday.

I'm not very happy about that. For reasons that—she says—appear to be related to her phone headset, I can barely understand her on the phone, and my recent experiences with teleconferences have done nothing to improve my opinion of this method of communication. It will also make it impossible for me to display videos like this one, from August 2015:

I told her this, and she asked for any documentation that I might produce. That's difficult, since it's on the web, and I might not recall myself until the day. But OK, I sent her a list of the URLs of my diary entries between May 2015 and now. A quick examination suggests that it would print to about 200 pages, maybe more.

And later I received a draft agreement form, somewhat premature I thought. One of the clauses is complete confidentiality, so much so that actually mentioning this here might be a breach of the confidentiality. OK, black hole in the middle? Or should I just give up and go to VCAT? Some of the other conditions, like explicit discharge from further claims, including negligence, make me wonder whether I should continue with the conciliation at all.


Tuesday, 5 December 2017 Dereel Images for 5 December 2017
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DBDRV agreement: OK after all?
Topic: Stones Road house, general Link here

Yesterday's draft agreement from Domestic Buildings Dispute Resolution Victoria gave me much concern, so today I called up John Curwen-Walker and discussed the matter with him.

That was useful. At the end I had:

So it looks as if the teleconference will go ahead.


“Field” monitor, take 2
Topic: photography, technology Link here

Why doesn't my new “Field” monitor display the viewfinder image? Last week I was only able to display images that I had already taken, though I noticed discrepancies in the “instructions”. So I've been planning to research further, and today I finally got around to it. And how about that, I found this video showing almost exactly what I was looking for, using an Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II.

It's a marginally different monitor, and the first quarter of the 13 minute clip is spent raving over the packaging. But finally he shows the camera doing exactly what I want it to do. OK, I can try that, so I connected up my camera, and how about that, it worked! For the first time I can take a photo of my own viewfinder:

 
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What went wrong last time? After much searching, I discovered that I must have used the wrong camera. The only camera I have that works correctly is the E-M1 Mark II. I must have used the Mark I last time, and that really only displays the recorded images. So does the E-PM1. I didn't bother trying the E-PM2, but the results will almost certainly be the same.

OK, I can live with that, though it doesn't say very much for Olympus.

A couple of things to note:

The monitor tested in the clip above, the Bestview S7, doesn't have the problems with audio and power, so potentially it's a better choice, though it's somewhat more expensive. Apart from that there's not much to choose. The presenter in the clip states that it has a higher resolution than the Feelworld, but he's referring to a different Feelworld monitor: both of these are 1920×1080, with input up to 3840×2160.

Now to get back to my analysis of the Exif data. I've looked at this nearly two years ago, and some of that information is still useful, though I forgot to note how I accessed the information. More digging needed. At least I have an incantation for printing out most of the information I need for focus step analysis:

 exiftool -T -FocusStepNear -FocusStepCount -FocusStepInfinity -FocusDistance 4B293858.JPG

What I need to find now is what focus differential is set, and I'm not sure how to do that.


Fastest camera wireless connection
Topic: photography, technology, opinion, Stones Road house Link here

I've noted my disappointment with the wireless performance of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 four years ago today, as it happens. Is this just Olympus' fault? It seems not. This article presents the fastest ever (“blazing fast”) wireless controller for a camera: 10 Mb/s! At that speed, it would take nearly 20 seconds per image to transfer photos across the network. Clearly more development is needed.


Powerline Ethernet revisited
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

Jamie Fraser has bought some second-hand powerline Ethernet adapters. I've been there before and had very poor results. But was that maybe due to the power wiring in Kleins Road? I still have a couple (why did I keep them?), so I tried it out today, moving a file from eureka to teevee.

The result?

935,505,198 bytes transfered in 9 minutes, 11 seconds.

That's 1.7 MB/s, or 13.6 Mb/s, marginally more than half the capacity of my external Internet link, and about 2.7% of the claimed speed of 500 Mb/s. At least I have confirmed my opinion that they're useless unless connectivity is the most important factor.


Wednesday, 6 December 2017 Dereel
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DBDRV conciliation teleconference
Topic: Stones Road house, general, opinion Link here

As planned, we had the Domestic Buildings Dispute Resolution Victoria conciliation talk this afternoon. It took most of the afternoon, and it was like pulling teeth.

My concerns about the nature of the conference were confirmed: I could understand Maggie (the mediator) alright, but I had difficulty understanding Evan Dower from JG King, presumably because of technical limitations. Probably the biggest recognition is that the DBDRV is not the correct authority for my dispute. In every case, it seems that neither Evan nor Maggie (the mediator) understood the issues:

  1. My issues with the cooktop is that it is of inferior quality, that it's mounted incorrectly, and that it can't be adjusted to work correctly with LPG. We found little agreement. But the real issue seems to be that the court can only decide whether they were installed correctly according to the manufacturer's specifications, not whether they are reasonable or appropriate. I've been told in the past that I should be able to rely on their expertise, and when they promise me something better than the standard issue, that it should be something better. But it seems that this issue doesn't fall into the scope of the DBDRV.
  2. It was similar with the range hood. Despite all I have said, they both did not seem to have understood that the range hood did not meet specifications. After all, two people had been there, and both confirmed that it could hold sheets of A4 paper to the filter. Volumetric throughput? What's that? I'm left with the feeling that I'm dealing with people who have no background in the material whatsoever.
  3. It was a similar matter with the floor. I was left with the impression that they just don't understand anything that falls outside their personal experience.
  4. And my trump card, the double glazing? Nothing that I can report openly, but the arguments presented didn't explain the wording of the contract. But it seems that DBDRV is not very interested in contracts, only in the execution.

So what do I do now? I'll gather more evidence, DBDRV will send an assessor, and we'll have another meeting in a month's time. I no longer have much hope that we will reach an agreement.


Investigating new cooktops
Topic: general, food and drink Link here

One of the questions arising from the DBDRV teleconference was what I would replace the cooktop with. Good question. Currently I'm thinking of a 60 cm gas cooktop and a 30 cm induction cooktop, mounted 30 cm apart so that I can put things like friteuses in between. What requirements do I have?

As I've seen in the past, it's almost impossible to find out this information. So far I've been able to establish the induction power steps for only one cooker. And that was because Appliances Online used to offer the manuals online. They no longer do that—no need to confuse the customer—so I'm even worse off than before. The Baumatic BSIH32 30 Induction Cooktop looks good, but as the lack of a URL shows, the manufacturer doesn't seem to want to know about it. I've seen this so often before, from various manufacturers, that I wonder if it's deliberate.


MediathekView bugs
Topic: technology, multimedia Link here

As I said a few days ago, I've been using MediathekView for some months now, and parts of it are excellent. But in the last day or two it stopped listing „Abo“ (short for „Abonnement“, subscription) programmes. I've been wondering why, and today I spent quite a bit of time reinstalling and comparing configuration files. It's interesting to look at what the ~/.mediathekview3 directory looks like after it has been running for a while:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/47) ~/.mediathek3 5 -> l
-rw-r--r--  1 grog  lemis       80,929  4 Dec 11:07 downloadAbos.txt
-rw-r--r--  1 grog  lemis  133,820,824  5 Dec 18:19 filme.json
-rw-r--r--  1 grog  lemis      112,747  4 Dec 13:01 history.txt
-rw-r--r--  1 grog  lemis            3  5 Dec 18:12 mediadb.txt
-rw-r--r--  1 grog  lemis       24,037  5 Dec 18:19 mediathek.xml
-rw-r--r--  1 grog  lemis       24,049  5 Dec 18:07 mediathek.xml_copy_1
-rw-r--r--  1 grog  lemis       23,823  4 Dec 16:43 mediathek.xml_copy_2
-rw-r--r--  1 grog  lemis       31,071  1 Dec 13:56 mediathek.xml_copy_3
-rw-r--r--  1 grog  lemis       31,071 30 Nov 17:54 mediathek.xml_copy_4
-rw-r--r--  1 grog  lemis       29,697 23 Nov 19:39 mediathek.xml_copy_5

mediadb.txt is effectively empty (3 \n characters). downloadAbos.txt and history.txt appear to be a list of downloads I have performed. It's not obvious what the difference is between the two. downloadAbos.txt looks like this:

23.09.2017 |#| Filme, Dokus, Kabarett    |#| Die Deutschen (1/9) - Otto und das Reich  |###|  https://rodlzdf-a.akamaihd.net/dach/zdf/15/07/150707_deutschen1_online/8/150707_deutschen1_online_2328k_p35v11.mp4
23.09.2017 |#| Filme, Dokus, Kabarett    |#| Die Deutschen (2/9) - Heinrich und der    |###|  https://rodlzdf-a.akamaihd.net/dach/zdf/15/07/150707_deutschen2_online/8/150707_deutschen2_online_2328k_p35v11.mp4

I'm not sure what good they are: I can't find a way to display them, unless it's for downloaded files on the Download tab. But when I try that, most of the programmes don't appear.

The two important files are filme.json, a list of film descriptions and URLs, and mediathek.xml, which contains configuration information, including “subscriptions”. Why are there so many old versions? One hypothesis would be that the format is fragile, and in case of damage it's a good idea to be able to fall back to a known good value. I tried this today, and how about that, I worked around the damage! mediathek.xml-copy_3 was OK, mediathek.xml-copy_2 wasn't. OK, what's the difference?

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/38) ~ 62 -> diff -wu .mediathek3-no-abos/mediathek.xml_copy_[23]
--- .mediathek3-no-abos/mediathek.xml_copy_3 2017-12-01 13:56:19.000000000 +1100
+++ .mediathek3-no-abos/mediathek.xml_copy_2 2017-12-04 16:43:54.000000000 +1100
@@ -3,31 +3,33 @@
 <!--Abos-->
...
-<Abonnement><aktiv>true</aktiv><Name>Um Himmels Willen</Name><Thema-Titel>Um Himmels Willen</Thema-Titel><Mindestdauer>18</Mindestdauer><min_max>true</min_max><letztes_Abo>01.12.2017</letztes_Abo><Programmset>Download</Programmset></Abonnement>
+<Abonnement><aktiv>false</aktiv><Name>Um Himmels Willen</Name><Thema-Titel>Um Himmels Willen</Thema-Titel><Mindestdauer>18</Mindestdauer><min_max>true</min_max><letztes_Abo>04.12.2017</letztes_Abo><Programmset>Download</Programmset></Abonnement>
+<Abonnement><aktiv>true</aktiv><Name>Wilsberg</Name><Thema-Titel>Wilsberg</Thema-Titel><Mindestdauer>18</Mindestdauer><min_max>true</min_max><Zielpfad>Wilsberg</Zielpfad><letztes_Abo>04.12.2017</letztes_Abo><Programmset>Download</Programmset></Abonnement>

How I love XML! Admittedly, it would be easier if I reformatted it, but in this case it looks like valid data reflecting changes to my recording list. And this?

@@ -172,7 +174,7 @@
  <Meldungsfenster-Systemmeldungen></Meldungsfenster-Systemmeldungen>
  <Notification-anzeigen>true</Notification-anzeigen>
  <nur-ascii>false</nur-ascii>
- <Pfade-zum-Speichern>/src/Series/Film im rbb</Pfade-zum-Speichern>
+ <Pfade-zum-Speichern>/src/Series</Pfade-zum-Speichern>
  <pfad-ffmpeg>/usr/local/bin/ffmpeg</pfad-ffmpeg>
  <pfad-flvstreamer></pfad-flvstreamer>
  <pfad-vlc>/usr/local/bin/vlc</pfad-vlc>

That's a valid storage path, but it's only one of many. It's not clear what it's doing here in what appears to be the main part of the config file.

Finally, we have:

@@ -252,12 +254,6 @@

 <!--Downloads-->
-<Downlad><Sender>ZDF</Sender><Thema>Maximilian</Thema><Titel>Maximilian (Teil 1) - Historischer Dreiteiler</Titel><Datum>01.10.2017</Datum><Zeit>22:00:00</Zeit><Dauer>01:29:55</Dauer><HD>0</HD><UT>0</UT><Pause>false</Pause><Geo>DE</Geo><Film-URL>https://rodlzdf-a.akamaihd.net/de/zdf/17/10/171001_171001_2200_sendung_max/3/171001_171001_2200_sendung_max_2328k_p35v13.mp4</Film-URL><History-URL>https://rodlzdf-a.akamaihd.net/de/zdf/17/10/171001_171001_2200_sendung_max/3/171001_171001_2200_sendung_max_2328k_p35v13.mp4</History-URL><URL>https://rodlzdf-a.akamaihd.net/de/zdf/17/10/171001_171001_2200_sendung_max/3/171001_171001_2200_sendung_max_3296k_p15v13.mp4</URL><URL-rtmp>https://rodlzdf-a.akamaihd.net/de/zdf/17/10/171001_171001_2200_sendung_max/3/171001_171001_2200_sendung_max_2328k_p35v13.mp4</URL-rtmp><URL-Untertitel>https://utstreaming.zdf.de/mtt/zdf/17/10/171001_171001_2200_sendung_max/3/F1013752_hoh_deu_Maximilian_Das_Spiel_von_Macht_und_Liebe_Teil_1_011017.xml</URL-Untertitel><Programmset>Download</Programmset><Programm>direkter Download</Programm><Restart>false</Restart><Dateiname>Maximilian (Teil 1) - Historischer Dreiteiler-20171001-220000.mp4</Dateiname><Pfad>/src/Series</Pfad><Pfad-Dateiname>/src/Series/Maximilian (Teil 1) - Historischer Dreiteiler-20171001-220000.mp4</Pfad-Dateiname><Art>1</Art><Quelle>2</Quelle><Zurueckgestellt>false</Zurueckgestellt><Infodatei>true</Infodatei><Spotlight>false</Spotlight><Untertitel>true</Untertitel><Remote-Download>false</Remote-Download></Downlad>
...

This part is a list of some of the channels that I'm looking at. In the newer version, it's completely empty. My guess is that this is the real problem, but it's not clear what exactly the purpose is, since only some of the channels are present. And yes, the tag is really <Downlad> and not <Download>. That's half German: Down in English, lad (load) in German.


Thursday, 7 December 2017 Dereel Images for 7 December 2017
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Peace in the Middle East, Trump style
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

I've been ranting about the stupidity of Donald Trump for over a year now, and from time to time I have seen glimmers of hope that he might finally understand his position. But today he announced that he would recognize Al Quds as the capital of Israël. Somehow all his previous actions pale by comparison.

Yes, there are extenuating circumstances: the US Congress passed a resolution to this effect, the Jerusalem Embassy Act (to which the current White House information refers as the “Jerusalem Recognition Act”, possibly the bill introduced in 2011 and never passed) over 20 years ago, the and it was up to the US President to review this decision every 6 months and decide whether to approve or postpone it. And so far every president has postponed it. And yes, he didn't use the term “undivided capital”, and he does note that the current inner borders should remain until a peace settlement:

President Trump reaffirms United States support for the status quo at ... Haram al Sharif.

So what's the fuss? Few people, not even the news reporters, look that carefully. I can't think of any more sensitive territorial dispute anywhere in the world. The symbolism of the action is enormous, as both sides agree: the Israeli government is ecstatic, the Palestinians and other Muslims are enraged. The Palestinians called for “three days of rage””, and it'll be interesting to see what happens tomorrow.

For the USA, things are different: they have been unpopular in the Muslim world for decades, and Donald Trump's recent travel ban has helped fuel that unpopularity. Now they appear to be mortal enemies of Islam. They will no longer be considered an honest broker were it to come to peace talks. The Secretary-General of the United Nations has condemned the act as being in violation of UN resolutions, and almost all other heads of state have also responded negatively.

The satirists have had their view of things, of course, like The Beaverton::

JERUSALEM – In response to US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, the Palestinian National Authority has announced that it will recognize Texas as a state of Mexico since it was violently annexed by the United States in the 1840s.

The Palestinian consulate in Mexico City will soon be moved to Houston to formally recognize the seized territory as part of Mexico.

What will the results be? If we're unlucky, there will be a third intifada. That doesn't help the USA, and it doesn't help Israel. It also doesn't help the Arabs, of course. Lose-lose situation. But even if it doesn't happen, at the very least, the USA will lose even more respect and influence, not only in the Middle East.

Trump: making America unimportant again.


More Exif investigations
Topic: photography, technology Link here

I've been pondering on how to analyse the Exif data from my camera for nearly two weeks now. It's not easy. Today I went back to my investigations of March 2016, which were incompletely noted. It seems that the hacks I described there were against /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/Image/ExifTool/Olympus.pm. I still don't understand the format, and clearly some of it is wrong, but even so, they had one advantage: they show which tags exist, along with some representation of them.

OK, how about a shotgun? For all potential tags between 0x300 and 0x3ff, just add a line like:

    0x333 => { Name => 'Focus333',   Writeable => 'int16u' },

That completely ignores data types, but it will at least find the tags and give some representation. Tried that with my photos and got something like:

Focus Step Count                : 15549
Focus 302                       : 4
Focus Step Infinity             : 5392
Focus Step Near                 : 18597
Focus Distance                  : 0.22 m
Focus 307                       : 0
AF Point                        : Left (or n/a)
Focus 309                       : 0
...
Focus 312                       : 0 0
Focus 313                       : 4179
Focus 314                       : 0
...
Focus 319                       : 14
Focus 31b                       : 264
Focus 31c                       : 0
...
Focus 328                       : ..d?.. .{.<8D>... .!.&NßY.ÿ<81><94>hY.
...

0x328 looks strange, and it's different for each photo. It is also clearly nothing like int16u data format. So I probably need to understand the exiftool source better.

What about the others? Is 0x302 the focus differential? Which of these change at all? One way to find that:

=== grog@teevee (/dev/pts/6) ~/Photos/20171129/orig/JPEG 8 -> exiftool *.JPG > /eureka/home/var/tmp/exiftool-op
=== grog@teevee (/dev/pts/6) ~/Photos/20171129/orig/JPEG 9 -> sort -u /eureka/home/var/tmp/exiftool-op | less

That's all the 3,000 photos. A surprising number were invariant. Here's a complete list of the ones that varied at all:

Focus 313                       : 0
Focus 313                       : 13343
Focus 313                       : 16238
Focus 313                       : 4179

Focus 318                       : 0
Focus 318                       : 2

Focus 319                       : 0
Focus 319                       : 1
Focus 319                       : 10
Focus 319                       : 11
Focus 319                       : 12
Focus 319                       : 13
Focus 319                       : 14
Focus 319                       : 15
Focus 319                       : 2
Focus 319                       : 3
Focus 319                       : 4
Focus 319                       : 5
Focus 319                       : 6
Focus 319                       : 7
Focus 319                       : 8
Focus 319                       : 9

Focus 31b                       : 2
Focus 31b                       : 264

Focus 328                       :
Focus 328                       : ..d?.. .{.<8D>... .!.&NßY.ÿ<81> °<83>.
Focus 328                       : ..d?.. .{.<8D>... .!.&NßY.ÿ<81><94>¸ .
...

That's surprisingly little. About the only one of interest appears to be 0x319, though better interpretation of 0x328 is probably also warranted. But so far the main thing I was looking for—focus differential, in this case one of 2, 4 or 8, doesn't appear to be in that list.


Cooking with inadequate implements
Topic: Stones Road house, food and drink Link here

Nothing of any great interest for dinner tonight: pork medaillons with steamed beans and hash browns. But while cooking it, I noted that it maxed out not only our abysmal cooktop, but the induction cooker as well:

 
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Image title: Cooking dinner 5
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From left to right: lardons for the beans, hash browns, beans and medaillons. Yes, there are another two burners on the cooktop, behind the middle and right pots, but they're not usable because they're too close to the ones in use. And the lardons, which really require a small flame, were on the wok burner, because the small flame was in use running the steamer: it's the only one that doesn't heat too much at minimum.


Friday, 8 December 2017 Dereel Images for 8 December 2017
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Walking the dogs
Topic: gardening, animals Link here

Somehow about the only time I get out of the house lately is when walking the dogs. Today we took the long way round (Progress Road, Rozenstein Road, Bliss Road), about 3.3 km. The weather has been cool and moist since the beginning of summer—so far, this summer has been markedly cooler than the last 3 weeks of spring—and there are still a lot of flowering plants. These (planted) Callistemon seem to be particularly late in the year:

 
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Image title: Callistemon 1
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I particularly like this kind with the yellow tips on the brushes, though Yvonne would prefer redder brushes. We should consider some for next year.

Here's what could be an Acacia melanoxylon or an Acacia myrtifolia with a surprising number of galls:

 
This should be Acacia-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Acacia 1
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This should be Acacia-1-detail.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Acacia 1 detail
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Then there are these plants, neither of which I can identify:

 
This should be Wildflower-3.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Wildflower 3
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This should be Wildflower-4.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Wildflower 4
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This should be Wildflower-5.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Wildflower 5
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And finally, a relatively accessible Amyema pendula:

 
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This should be Amyema-pendula-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Amyema pendula 2
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This should be Amyema-pendula-3.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Amyema pendula 3
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I really need to find more documentation about plants in the area. I don't suppose I'll find anything new, but what I find on the web only documents some of the plants.


One-state solution?
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

You don't have to be a genius to see that the prospect of a Palestinian state is a future goal. For 50 years Israel has occupied the remaining territory of Mandatory Palestine, and there's every sign they intend to stay, to judge by the way they're carving the territory up and placing illegal fortified settlements. And then Donald Trump and enacts what many consider to be a death blow to the idea.

And now Saeb Erekat is suggesting a single state incorporating both Israel and the occupied territories. Ha'aretz reports him as saying:

President Trump has delivered a message to the Palestinian people: the two-state solution is over. Now is the time to transform the struggle for one-state with equal rights for everyone living in historic Palestine, from the river to the sea.

Is that possible? Most world leaders think “no”. But if it were, what would the state look like? Israel is theoretically not a Jewish state, but practice is different. And if there were a one-state solution, it couldn't be called Israel. The Muslims would never accept that. Palestine? That's a good name from a historical point of view, but there's no way the Jews would accept that.

In contrast, my uninformed guess is that the laws of Israel are well-founded enough that they wouldn't need much modification. What needs modification—independent of the number of states in the future—is that the Israelis need to treat the Muslims with dignity. Of all countries in the world, they should know what it is like to treat others as Untermenschen.

In the process, it's interesting to note that even Israeli newspapers are not completely happy with Trump's move. Ha'aretz writes:

Neither Clinton or Rabin, then fully invested in the Oslo Accords, were interested in allowing the nuclear issue of Jerusalem to intrude on the negotiations with the Palestinians at that stage.

It was an attempt by the leader of the opposition, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his allies in Washington to derail Oslo.


Saturday, 9 December 2017 Dereel Images for 9 December 2017
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Field monitor investigations, continued
Topic: photography Link here

Chris Bahlo over this afternoon with her Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II. I have been interested in whether it would support the Feelworld FW760 “field monitor”. So far only one of my four cameras does; the others switch automatically to playback.

Yes, the E-M10 Mark II also supports the monitor. Like the E-M1 Mark II (and unlike the E-M1 Mark I, it doesn't have an auxiliary viewfinder jack. Maybe a good starting point would be to hypothesize that the two are mutually exclusive.

A surprise with Chris' camera (which she doesn't seem to use much): it had forgotten the date. Why? Did she leave the battery out of the camera too long, or is there something wrong with it, like there is with my Olympus E-PM1? There's nothing in the manual to suggest that leaving the battery out for any length of time should be an issue. But then, it also doesn't describe the error display that indicates that the date is not set.


Vintage wine
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

I've had a bottle of 2003 California (aren't they all?) White Zinfandel in the fridge forever. Why? It's not a wine that I drink, and there's every reason to believe that it has spent the last 10 years in the fridge.

OK, today was the day to do something about it. After all, 12 years ago Kirk McKusick produced one that tasted very good indeed. So we had hope.

And that was all. The wine was definitely not bad in the sense that it had gone off. But it had no bouquet, and it was far too sweet—something that Kirk's wasn't. We came to the conclusion that we could fake one with a weak fruit cordial and a liberal quantity of vodka. We drank something else (a New Zealand Sauvignon blanc).

And Kirk's wine? I recall it as being rosé, but also called it Zinfandel and not White Zinfandel. Maybe it was the real thing and not this sugary mess.


Sunday, 10 December 2017 Dereel Images for 10 December 2017
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Music while you ride
Topic: multimedia Link here

Over to Chris Bahlo's place for the first time in a while: she has put an old amplifier in her riding hall for music while she's riding (or maybe just as a background for videos), but it makes almost no sound at all. Took over my Sony Mini-HiFi system that I bought nearly 9 years ago to compare, and discovered that her amplifier and my system have one thing in common: the volume control doesn't know which way it is turning. But we got reasonable sound out of the loudspeakers, though not deafening. Is there something wrong with the loudspeakers? I got them free some years back, and never used them much before giving them to Chris

But the difference in volume suggests that there's something wrong with the amplifier too. Apart from the lack of volume, there's considerable hum to be heard in the speakers. So possibly it's on its last legs. Chris brought out a computer loudspeaker system which proved the point by being louder than either setup.


Strange plants
Topic: gardening, photography Link here

Chris has a heap of soil with a very strange looking creeping plant:

 
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This should be Mystery-plant-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Mystery plant 2
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This should be Mystery-plant-3.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Mystery plant 3
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What's that? Chris isn't sure either, but she tells me that they're edible. Time for some focus-stacked photos.


Focus stacking with field monitor
Topic: photography Link here

For the first time, I took my focus stacked photos with the field monitor attached to the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II:

 
This should be Macros-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Macros 1
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This should be Macros-4.jpeg.  Is it missing?
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Things weren't quite what I expected. I had the camera set to take 20 images, but when I pressed the shutter, it took exactly one. Did I have something set wrong in the menus? Took a look and found:

 
This should be E-M1-Mark-II-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: E M1 Mark II 2
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Why are those top items greyed out? I discovered that if I pull the HDMI jack from the monitor, it will work, so the simple answer is “because the monitor is connected”. But why? Why should the monitor stop focus stacking? What a kludge!

There are others, too:

 
This should be E-M1-Mark-II-3.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: E M1 Mark II 3
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In this one, “Connection to Smartphone” is greyed out under normal circumstances as well. Presumably it wants you to climb somewhere else in the menu to establish a connection. But why disable “Print Order” and “Copy All”?

 
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I had no idea what this strange greyed-out symbol is, but it appears to be monitor brightness adjustment. I suppose that one makes sense.

 
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“Frame rate” is something that, it seems, the manual writers don't understand either. They write:

If set to [High], a moving subject can be tracked more smoothly. However, the number of frames to be shot will decrease slightly.

This setting is automatically set to [Standard] if the camera becomes hot.

What does that mean? But potentially it's related to the monitor. The second statement suggests that it's a power consumption issue. Why should it be disabled for an external monitor? Maybe because of the video frame rate?

 
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OK, this refers to viewfinder settings, so there's some justification for greying them out. But in principle some of them would make sense on the external monitor as well.

 
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Since I don't have Eye-Fi (who does?), that menu item is always greyed out. But why are the others disabled with an external monitor is connected?

All in all, I suspect that at least a part of this is a bug. But before reporting to Olympus, I need to investigate further.


Buying Zerene
Topic: technology, photography, opinion Link here

My experiments with focus stacking software last month made it clear that I should buy Zerene and not Helicon Focus. And today I needed to do so: my 30 days free trial were up. So off to the Zerene web site, where they asked me for $89, as advertised—and $8.90 GST!

Why that? Imported stuff under $1,000 is (still) free of tax. Sent an email asking why, and half an hour later got an answer from the author, Rik Littlefield, explaining the situation, after having checked the ATO web site. He didn't find the $1,000 limit (that's here), but did note that it didn't apply to companies with a turnover less than $75,000 per annum, so he issued an invoice without tax, and with a 10% Christmas rebate that hadn't made it to the web site. So instead of $97.90, I only had to pay $81,10. You can't complain about that, especially when you consider that this all happened somewhere before Saturday midnight his time.


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Another milestone
Topic: history Link here

Seen in my calendar job today:

70% life:               Saturday,  8 March 1997
Mar 8                   Greg returns to Australia, 1997

It's more impressive if I look at it from the perspective of that date: since then, I have spent nearly another 43% of my life back in Australia. It doesn't seem anything like that.


More field monitor investigations
Topic: photography Link here

Chris Bahlo over again today, bringing her camera (Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II) with her. Connected it to my Feelworld FW760 “field monitor”, and, sure enough, it displayed the same behaviour as my Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II did yesterday. I'm still puzzled why, but it makes it more difficult to dismiss as a bug. And a post to the Facebook Olympus macro group went without answer, suggesting that I'm doing something unusual in using the monitor with focus stacking.

In passing, it's interesting to note that the E-M10 Mark II does have focus stacking, just not the in-camera variety. That makes it an even more interesting camera.


Tuesday, 12 December 2017 Dereel Images for 12 December 2017
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Zerene stacker on FreeBSD
Topic: photography, technology Link here

I have already established that Zerene will install on FreeBSD. But will it run? In principle if a program that runs on Linux installs on FreeBSD, it will run too. So I tried it out, in the process tripping over a few nits. Yes, it runs, loads files, displays them. But then I got an unexpected surprise while trying to stack them:

 
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That's more than just an adaptation issue. Something to do with locking? It could be complicated. A good thing I don't have to rely on the functionality.


New Hugin
Topic: photography, technology Link here

A new beta version of Hugin is out. Built it today, and it just worked, once I rebuilt the pkg-plist file (a good thing we have make makelist).


A new TV
Topic: multimedia, technology Link here

My TV has been giving me problems: from time to time, when I turn it on, it runs for a minute or so and then hangs hard, requiring a physical power off to continue. But today, even that didn't help, and to watch the news in the afternoon I put a normal computer monitor in its place.

What do I do now? I bought this TV 4½ years ago, my first ever digital TV. And like the three projectors before it, I really only need it as a monitor: the interface to real TVs was just too fiddly. It has a 58" 1920x1080 (“Full HD”) display, and I was estimating that it would last 4 years, by which time 3840x2160 (“UHD”) would be the norm. So it more or less fulfilled my expectations.

So what do I do now? ALDI had a 65" 3840x2160 model on offer 3 months ago, and there's a very good chance that a new one will be along soon. But what do we do in the meantime? Yvonne made it clear that she didn't want to use a 22" monitor for any length of time. And maybe more mainstream TVs would be more reliable.

Off to Staticice to see what was on offer. After the normal cheap accessories, found this one:

$438.73 45-304-026 Ergotron Interactive Arm Vhd For TV 30 - 60" 15KG - 31KG Polishe...

But that's just an arm! The real TVs started with:

That's $200 more than the ALDI 65" model. But it's a smart TV, which might be worth something, and it's available in stock at The Good Guys in Ballarat. Further investigation showed that there are really only two relatively cheap models available: this one, and a Hisense 65N7 for $1,295 (“recommended retail price $3499”). That was in stock at the Good Guys too, but it has a proprietary operating system, while the TCL uses Android. And yes, just about all TVs now are 3840x2160.

Off to Ballarat to take a look, and in the end decided for the TCL exactly for that reason. While there, picked up a plank to put it on. The old TV had a traditional middle stand, which fitted on top of the cabinet:

 
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But the newer TVs have two stands, one at each end, and in this case wider than the cabinet, something that I hadn't anticipated when I ordered it. So for the time being the TV is mounted on the plank:

 
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I suppose the ultimate solution will be to mount it on the wall.

Arrived back home at 17:50 or so. How long does it take to install a TV? First we had to move the old TV out of the way. Then unpack the TV. How do you lift it out of the package? The instructions were as unhelpful as ever, but then I discovered that after removing the tapes, the bottom just fell out. And this TV is so much lighter that I was able to lift it into place by myself.

Plug in. Initially just power and HDMI cable. One of these days I'll set up TV reception, but for the time being it's just a glorified monitor.

The power cable was the first issue. The power points are to the left of the TV, and the power cable is connected on the right. And it's approximately the width of the TV. Clever thinking there. Still, within 30 minutes of getting home, I had it ready for setup:

 
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OK, why not? How did it connect? Via Bluetooth? The phone display suggested that it was using a WLAN connection:

 
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But that normally requires authentication, and it didn't ask for any. Possibly it tried first and found it didn't need to ask for it.

OK, what now?

 
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Copy all my phone data to the TV? My GPS apps? OI.Share? Of course not! And my accounts? What kind of security is that? OK, say no.

But I can't. It doesn't give me a choice. So I stopped the app, getting a typically precise error message:

 
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Continuing wasn't much more help. I was still given a Mafia-style choice:

 
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Dammit, I want a TV, not a contract signing away my rights! In the end I had to accept the second one just to continue, but I'm not happy. I'd see that as a valid reason to return the item.

Next, I had to give the machine a name. It suggested TV. OK, that makes sense. Let's keep it. Ah, no, that was just a suggestion. You have to enter a name with a toy simulated keyboard, and tell the device where it is located.

 
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Finally negotiated that, and then it wanted to “install” channels. I don't have an antenna cable connected, and for tonight I just wanted to watch pre-recorded programmes. Skip? First I need to get there; somehow the screen navigation was just plain bizarre, and first I had to go through the “Type” field. Then “Skip” and... back to naming the bloody machine with the toy keyboard!

 
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Somehow I managed it. It seemed to take forever, but in fact it was only 12 minutes. That's still a lot compared to 30 for the physical actions of removing old TV, and unpacking, positioning and cabling the new one.

Next, connect teevee to it. Total failure! Looking at /var/log/Xorg.0.log, I saw:

[    17.242] (--) NVIDIA(GPU-0): CRT-0: disconnected
[    17.242] (--) NVIDIA(GPU-0): CRT-0: 400.0 MHz maximum pixel clock
[    17.242] (--) NVIDIA(GPU-0):
[    17.243] (--) NVIDIA(GPU-0): DFP-0: disconnected
[    17.243] (--) NVIDIA(GPU-0): DFP-0: Internal TMDS
[    17.243] (--) NVIDIA(GPU-0): DFP-0: 330.0 MHz maximum pixel clock
[    17.243] (--) NVIDIA(GPU-0):
[    17.244] (--) NVIDIA(GPU-0): DFP-1: disconnected
[    17.244] (--) NVIDIA(GPU-0): DFP-1: Internal TMDS
[    17.244] (--) NVIDIA(GPU-0): DFP-1: 165.0 MHz maximum pixel clock
[    17.244] (--) NVIDIA(GPU-0):
[    17.244] (EE) NVIDIA(0): Failed to assign any connected display devices to X screen 0.
[    17.244] (EE) NVIDIA(0):     Set AllowEmptyInitialConfiguration if you want the server
[    17.244] (EE) NVIDIA(0):     to start anyway
[    17.244] (EE) NVIDIA(0): Failing initialization of X screen 0

Nothing connected? How can that be? Dragged out a second HDMI cable and connected it to the old 22" monitor. No problem. Disconnected the cable from the monitor and plugged it in to the TV (HDMI 2 input). Works, at 1920x1080. OK, that's enough for today.

Watched TV, in the process noting a considerable difference in colour. The greens look much better, and the yellows look really bad. But there are all sorts of things that I can tweak.

Just before going to bed, started X again to see if I could get some response from the TV. This time it was found:

[    17.890] (--) NVIDIA(GPU-0): Tech Concepts TCL SMART TV (DFP-1): connected
[    17.890] (--) NVIDIA(GPU-0): Tech Concepts TCL SMART TV (DFP-1): Internal TMDS
[    17.890] (--) NVIDIA(GPU-0): Tech Concepts TCL SMART TV (DFP-1): 340.0 MHz maximum pixel clock
[    17.890] (--) NVIDIA(GPU-0):
[    17.890] (**) NVIDIA(GPU-0): Mode Validation Overrides for Tech Concepts TCL SMART TV
[    17.890] (**) NVIDIA(GPU-0):     (DFP-1):
[    17.890] (**) NVIDIA(GPU-0):     NoMaxPClkCheck
[    17.895] (WW) NVIDIA(0): No valid modes for "DFP-1:960x540"; removing.
[    17.895] (WW) NVIDIA(0): No valid modes for "DFP-1:640x360"; removing.
[    17.895] (II) NVIDIA(0): Validated MetaModes:
[    17.895] (II) NVIDIA(0):     "DFP-1:1920x1080"
[    17.895] (II) NVIDIA(0):     "DFP-1:1280x720"
[    17.895] (II) NVIDIA(0): Virtual screen size determined to be 1920 x 1080

That raises a number of questions: why didn't it work before? Cable problem? Input jack dependency? And why is it only running at 1920×1080? Because of my X config? All stuff for another day.

In the interim, it's worth noting some things:


Why Android TV?
Topic: multimedia, opinion Link here

In the end, I'm left wondering whether I made the right choice with an Android TV. Do I really need it? It makes Android phones look good. Of course, there are many things that could really be useful. First, let's consider what they offer:

Now, what would I like? The TV contains a computer. Theoretically it could replace teevee, the computer that I use to drive the TV display. Can it in practice? I fear not. Firstly it would need a keyboard and mouse, and the ability to run real programs and not apps. Can I set up NFS on it? Then I could access files directly on another computer—if I can get software to display from a file, either the supplied software or some app. And running a web browser is becoming more and more complicated nowadays without having to submit to deliberately castrated platforms. In particular the requirement to accept license conditions annoys me greatly.


My own devices
Topic: language Link here

In passing, I think I am developing an aversion to overuse of the term “device”, though I use it above. Current technology seems to be stretching an already well-worn word. The OED has no less than 12 main meanings, not including this current meaning, but including

3. a. Will, pleasure, inclination, fancy, desire. In earlier use chiefly in phr. at one's (own) device; later only in pl.; now only in phr. left to one's own devices, etc., where it is associated with sense 6.

6. Something devised or contrived for bringing about some end or result; an arrangement, plan, scheme, project, contrivance; an ingenious or clever expedient; often one of an underhand or evil character; a plot, stratagem, trick.

7. a. concr. The result of contriving; something devised or framed by art or inventive power; an invention, contrivance; esp. a mechanical contrivance (usually of a simple character) for some particular purpose.

c. Orig., a detonating mechanism for an explosive; in extended use, any explosive or incendiary apparatus; spec. a nuclear bomb (in full, and more usually, nuclear device).

In a fictional work: a character, event, narrative technique, etc., used in order to bring about a desired effect or to advance the plot. Frequently with distinguishing word, as literary device, narrative device, plot device, etc.

Apart from the over-use, the term is imprecise. It includes computers, phones, cameras, TVs, watches and presumably other things as well. Is it really necessary to use it when a more specific term would do better?


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Bloody power outage!
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Another power outage today, this time planned by Powercor. At least it meant that I was able to prepare for it, but at 4 hours, 17 minutes I'm left wondering if they really had to make it that long. If they had to reimburse customers anyway, based on the length of the outage, I'm sure they'd find a way to restore power sooner.


Bloody connectors!, part 1
Topic: technology Link here

Took advantage of the power outage to finally install the new 4 TB disk drive in eureka. The good news is that the reboot worked with no trouble. Services that still require manual start are:

Yes, there are probably ways to get them started automatically, but that would require thinking, and there are some non-obvious issues involved, like loading ssh keys.

But when I took a look at the disk, there was something strange:

=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/3) ~ 7 -> gpart show ada3
=>        34  7814037101  ada3  GPT  (3.6T)
          34           6        - free -  (3.0K)
          40  7814037088     1  freebsd-ufs  (3.6T)
  7814037128           7        - free -  (3.5K)

Huh? Why did it show a freebsd-ufs partition? It took a while to realize that I had found an unused disk in the machine. And comparing the number of disks connected, one was missing. A mount confirmed that yes, indeed, /dev/ada3p1 was a valid FreeBSD file system. So where was the new disk?

Powered down again. Cable problems? The machine already had 5 disk power connectors, and I had to use an existing Y cable for the new disk's power. Could it be that there was something wrong with it? Pulled the power connector from the old ada3, squeezed the disk into position and... destroyed the connector. I didn't realize how flimsy they are. Damn!

So now I have only 4 power connectors, just enough to run the 4 existing disks. I can get a new cable, or find a way to install the disk from another machine. I think I'll take the latter course.


Bloody connectors!, part 2
Topic: multimedia Link here

Back to looking at the new TV. Started teevee up, and it ran fine on HDMI input 2. Plugged in to HDMI 1. Yes, fine. OK, let's use the correct cable. No go.

That cable worked fine on the old TV. Why not here? Are there some compatibility issues? The new TV uses the latest HDMI spec (which? why should that be in the specs?), and potentially the cable is down-rev. But I wouldn't have expected that to be an issue. Or did I somehow damage it in the installation process? In any case, it looks like a replacement is due the next time that ALDI has them on special.


Bloody connectors!, part 3
Topic: multimedia Link here

Next, connect up an antenna cable and scan for channels. First problem was: where do I find the channel scan function? The method in the instruction manual didn't work: the menu item (Channel/Channel scan) was missing. The way I found was to try to select a “channel” with the channel down/up switch (which, irritatingly, moves in the opposite direction from other multimedia equipment I have seen). Then I got the install screen that I had seen yesterday:

 
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Scan everything. Nothing found! Another cable problem? Connected up the radio tuner, and that worked fine. Swap cables? In the process discovered that there was some connection problem with the radio, and I had to wobble the cable to get a good connection.

Much cursing and swearing later, I finally connected the TV almost directly to the antenna socked (via the absolutely necessary amplifier adapter), and I was able to scan. So somewhere, probably with the powered 4-way splitter or one of the stupid adapters needed to connect normal cables, there's a problem. Mañana o pasado mañana.


Configuring new TV
Topic: multimedia, technology Link here

OK, let's configure the new TV. Where's the configuration menu? There seem to be four different ways to access parts of the configuration. The (grey) “equivalence” key on the right and the star in the middle here give different menus, the program selector on the right will bring up a (different) menu if it can't find any channels, and the “home” key at bottom left adds things like network configuration if you scroll down far enough:

 
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The network configuration is almost useful, if you ignore things like this:

 
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And I can add a static address if I want, and if I can bear the interface (admire the overlapping text):

 
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I also discovered a “clean up” function which discovered lots of garbage on an almost new system, and required three cycles to finally clear it all away:

 
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More Android TV language
Topic: language Link here

More Andrenglish (or is that Andrish?) from today's menus:

Connection to internet successed

Network normal!

Your TV has been a long time no check up


What use smart TVs?
Topic: multimedia, opinion Link here

In principle, it makes a lot of sense to have a TV with computer functions. And maybe Android is the right choice. Or is it?

One of the biggest issues with Android and similar systems is that it is designed for mobile telephones and other very small devices. There's no place for a keyboard, and the alternatives are poor at best. In general, I find that Android and iOS vie for the worst ever user interface. On the other hand, I really can't see a general alternative for mobile phones, except for “well don't do that, then”. So I barely use them.

Things are different with a 60" TV. My new TV is the largest display device I have ever owned, and it comes close to having the resolution of all four of my desktop monitors put together. It's clearly not mobile. And compared to a mobile phone, you're normally not in direct contact with it, so even the appalling touch screen keyboard functionality isn't available. Instead there's this monstrosity, which makes even touch screen keyboards look good:

 
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But why? This TV includes a real computer. The specifications say that it's a Quad Core. Quad Core what? Who knows? Who cares? It's Quad Core. And it has all sorts of interfaces: USB, HDMI, Bluetooth, 802.11, Ethernet. So why use this stupid keyboard interface? It can't be the size. A long time ago Chris Bahlo lent me a Bluetooth keyboard that we never got to work. It's not even as long as the remote control:

 
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Will it work with the TV? One of the configuration menus (the one at the bottom of the Home icon) allows pairing Bluetooth devices. Problem: I've never been able to get this device to pair. When I turn the thing on, the LED lights up for a second or two. But then? Nothing.

What's the model number? What's the name? It's on the space key:

 
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I read ΓΛΡΟΟ, or GLROO in Roman characters. But no, we're in the 21st century now, nobody knows Greek any more. It's really a mutilated RAPOO. And they have engraved the model number in the metal on the back in about 4 point text that you can only read in the right light:


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BT confused me for a while, but it seems that means Bluetooth. The model number is E-6500. OK, let's look for a manual. Nope, no manual, but there's a FAQ, which doesn't mention the E-6500, clearly last year's model. After only a few mouse clicks, I'm at Keyboards/Bluetooth Keyboard, which tells me (or asks me) “How to pair to the bluetooth keyboard?”:

  1. Turn on the keyboard, the red LED will go on for 3 seconds then off.;
  2. Press the connect button, the red LED begins to blink waiting for the connection.
  3. Follow the steps on your iPad or other device to complete the connection.

OK, I'm stuck at step 2. Where's the Connect button? Does it have some other name? Why isn't there a picture? I spent 5 minutes trying to second-guess what symbol might represent the Connect button, without success.

If Glroo can't help, how about YouTube?

And how about that, at 2:52 into the clip I find:

 
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The Connect button has been obscured by a conformity label! Now isn't that clever!


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After that, of course, I was able to pair the keyboard.


Smart TV: why?
Topic: multimedia, opinion Link here

So now I have a smart TV with a Quad Core and and Android operating system and multiple network connections. What can I do with it? Even with a keyboard, the interface is painful to navigate. Where's a web browser? I frequently use one to check on things while watching TV. Maybe I can install one from the toyshop, but the fact that there isn't one by default should serve as a warning. Probably it's a consequence of the appalling user interface. Who wants to browse with a toy toy (no typo) keyboard? I've been using X for nearly 30 years, and even when I started, using computers with only a fraction of the processing power or resolution of this one, the user interface was an order of magnitude better than what I can see.

Still, give it a chance. The Home icon gives me all sorts of icons: Netflix and Stan., both of whom want money from me. One that claims not to is Spotify, which claims to give me millions of songs to match my tastes.

OK, sign up. Even with the Bluetooth keyboard, it's a pain, so I did most of it via the X interface. $0.99 for 3 months? Oh, just joking, there's a free service. So I did that, logged in, got a transient message saying I wasn't registered, and then a list of icons reminiscent of Microsoft “Windows” 10. Finally I found classical music. Classifications? No, just more icons. Finally, for the fun of it, I tried Dvořák 9:

 
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And how about that, I got some of the symphony—the finale only.

Somehow it seems that all these services offer the absolute minimum. What am I missing? This stuff is making fortunes for people, and I still can't find any use for it. Maybe things will change if I can find something useful in Netflix or Stan., but I'm not holding my breath. So far I can't see anything that comes even close to my current environment based on FreeBSD and X.


Vultures available!
Topic: technology Link here

Two weeks ago I tried to set up a server with Vultr, only to be told that there were none available at my chosen location (Frankfurt/Main). So I put myself on a ”please notify” list. But the following day I discovered that they were available after all, and set up a machine quite rapidly.

But vultrs don't forget, it seems. Today I received an email:

Date: Tue, 12 Dec 2017 17:35:23 -0500 (EST)
From: support@vultr.com
To: groggyhimself@lemis.com
Subject: Vultr.com - Deploy in Frankfurt!

Vultr.com has added additional capacity in our Frankfurt location!

Launch your high performance instance today by going to:

https://my.vultr.com/deploy/


Bloody connectors!, part 4
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Connecting the TV to the network involved adding a switch in the lounge room:

 
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That went easily enough, but later I discovered that copying image files from eureka went at a snail's pace. A quick examination with netstat -biIem0 1 confirmed. Here first with the switch connected, then disconnected and teevee connected directly to the wall socket:

 
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The fourth column is the number of bytes input per second. At first it doesn't look much different, but in fact it's an order of magnitude. With the switch it's round 11.5 MB/s, without it it's round 108 MB/s.

Why? This isn't the only switch in the circuit. There's one in my office and one in the pantry, both more professional units than this one. Is it the number of switches, or the quality of this particular one? I'd guess the latter. In any case, I don't really need the switch. The TV has a WLAN interface as well, and it doesn't seem that there's much use for the connectivity in any case.


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