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Saturday, 1 February 2014 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 1 February 2014
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Dog training again
Topic: animals Link here

Into town this morning to take Nikolai and Tanya to puppy training. We've been there before with Nemo, but this time we had a considerably older dog with us. Theoretically we should have put Tanya in the puppy class and Nikolai in the next class, with a funny name that I keep forgetting. In the end we decided to put them both in the class for the older dogs.


Revisiting le petit patissier
Topic: food and drink Link here

That gave us an hour to spend, so headed off to look for bread at “Le-petit patissier [sic, and not like it's spelt in the link]. Chris Bahlo had recommended them, and I had looked in briefly a couple of days ago trying to buy a baguette, but they didn't have any.

This time Yvonne walked in and greeted all and sundry in French—something that the patron encourages—and so we didn't speak English at all while we were there, much to the confusion of a salesgirl who didn't understand that we wanted the baguette on the extreme right. Amusing encounter, and Yvonne is happy with the baguette.


Electric toothbrushes: his and hers?
Topic: general Link here

We still had time, so looked in at ALDI, where they had king-size electric toothbrushes on offer:


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In fact, they're intended for household cleaning, though we considered whether they could be used for cleaning horses' teeth.


Dog training, for real
Topic: animals Link here

Back to the dog training. When we started with Nemo, it was bitterly cold. This time the temperatures were round 40°. The course is slightly different, but many of the things are the same. Getting a German Shepherd Dog to play these games is considerably easier than getting a Borzoi to do them. We didn't get Nikolai to go through the tunnels at all; admittedly, they are only half his height, and Borzois don't like to crawl. Finally got both of them to go over the bridge:


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Connecting Garry to the NBN
Topic: general, technology Link here

Garry Marriott, our neighbour-to-be in Stones Road, came over today to take a look at the National Broadband Network installation. While I was showing him the equipment, the NTD lights started flashing red, something I have never seen before. Closer examination showed that it was the signal strength lights: they alternated between all three green and the two left red, in about half-second intervals. No idea what that means; I didn't lose connection, though there was some packet loss:

986 packets transmitted, 977 packets received, 0.9% packet loss
round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 40.514/85.363/381.775/45.183 ms

I'll have to follow up during the week.

Garry is currently connected to the Internet via satellite; I later went over to take a look at his system. 800 ms latency—quite good in my experience—but only 150 kb/s download! He'll be astonished at the difference.


Bad language explained
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Talking to Chris Bahlo after dinner. Like many, she doesn't understand my strong aversion to the use of the word “folder” to mean directory. The real issue is the all-too-common use of misleading words in computer terminology, and “folder” is misleading for a number of reasons. The results are a lessened understanding of the concepts. In addition, in this particular case, there are linguistic subtleties that make the terms hard to translate—even between American and other English.

Looking at the linguistic issues first: apart from the term “folder”, there's also the term “file”. In American usage it seems that there's also the even more confusing term “file folder”. What did they mean before computers came along? We spent some time looking through the OED and discovered that the word “file” originally meant “wire” (French fil), and originally files were papers tied together with wire. It's easy to see how the modern file derives from this, first presumably soft back with metal straps, like this one:

Probably the hard back (French “dossier”) with a lever arch came later.

And “folder”? Clearly the name derives from the verb “to fold”, and OED describes it as “A folding case or cover for loose papers”, first attested in 1911: “West went to a filing cabinet..pulled out a large folder marked, Reformatory.” In none of the quotations is there any reference for a means of fixing the contents in the folder. This completely matches my experience: a folder is something smaller and less formal than a file.

And “file folder”? OED doesn't know the term. Wikipedia does, but shows a picture of a file as one example, the one I have shown above. That's yet another example of the confusion.

So clearly there's significant confusion of the terms “file” and “folder” even before we get to computers. Using them in any kind of hierarchy is just plain confusing.

But then come computers. Very early on the term “file” was used for a collection of data, usually on tape. The first attested use was sixty years ago in the Journal of the ACM:

1954 Jrnl. Assoc. Computing Machinery 1 8/2 A ‘master’ tape..contains the file of unit records as at the last date of processing.

It took a few years more for files to be organized into file systems, and when they did, they included directories for finding the files. This usage predates Unix, and OED has this first quote:

1968 IEEE Internat. Convention Digest 94/2 A code word or name for the file should be returned to the individual's local computer system and an entry made in his own individual file directory.

OED doesn't use the word “folder” in this context, though as a descriptive dictionary it should. But the usage is clearly much later.

OK, most people say: languages evolve. What's wrong with calling it a folder? Apart from the confusion of meaning between a file and a folder, the term “folder” refers to something that physically contains the data. Directories don't, and—as even that 46 year old quote illustrates—that reflects the facts. Try to explain to somebody how a file can be in two folders at the same time and they'll probably reply with a reference to Schrödinger's Cat or opinions about your state of mind. Tell them that your phone number's in both the local phone directory and also the state phone directory, and you'll barely get a nod.

Getting back to Chris: she's fairly new in the computer industry, but she's by no means stupid. Nine months ago she graduated from the University of Ballarat with distinction and received the Ballarat University Medal for her achievements. But the simple things I showed her blew her mind, because she'd never understood the concepts.

Here a repeat. du shows the sizes of the directory hierarchies, in this case in MB. ln creates a name for a file (yes, really, that's exactly what it does).


=== grog@teevee (/dev/pts/4) /spool 10 -> du -sc Cooking Docco
274572  Cooking
536555  Docco
811127  total
Create a second entry for the file in the same directory
=== grog@teevee (/dev/pts/4) /spool 11 -> ln Cooking/Exploring_China-A_Culinary_Adventure Cooking/duplicate
=== grog@teevee (/dev/pts/4) /spool 12 -> du -sc Cooking Docco     No change
274572  Cooking
536555  Docco
811127  total
Create a third entry for the file, in a different directory
=== grog@teevee (/dev/pts/4) /spool 13 -> ln Cooking/Exploring_China-A_Culinary_Adventure Docco
=== grog@teevee (/dev/pts/4) /spool 14 -> du -sc Cooking Docco   No change
274572  Cooking
536555  Docco
811127  total
Look at the usage the other way round: change!
=== grog@teevee (/dev/pts/4) /spool 15 -> du -sc Docco Cooking
542834  Docco
268294  Cooking
811127  total
Look at what we have
=== grog@teevee (/dev/pts/4) /spool 16 -> ls -il Cooking/Exploring_China-A_Culinary_Adventure Cooking/duplicate Docco/Exploring_China-A_Culinary_Adventure
455829 -rw-r--r--  3 grog  home  6580013060 31 Jan  2013 Cooking/Exploring_China-A_Culinary_Adventure
455829 -rw-r--r--  3 grog  home  6580013060 31 Jan  2013 Cooking/duplicate
455829 -rw-r--r--  3 grog  home  6580013060 31 Jan  2013 Docco/Exploring_China-A_Culinary_Adventure

The most obvious thing here is that we now have three different names for the same file, and they're in two different directories. But there's only one file, as the first column of the ls output shows: it's the inode number, named after an implementation detail. “File number” is better, and that's what some other operating systems have used. Omega on the UNIVAC 494, for example, had only file numbers and no names at all. That's very primitive by modern standards, but it worked just as well.

And why did the sizes of the file systems change with the last invocation of du? du needs to keep track of files, not directory entries. Once it encounters a file, it doesn't count it again if it finds it by another name. In the first invocation, it first found our file 455829 in /spool/Cooking, so it counted its size in that hierarchy. In the second invocation, it first found it in /spool/Docco, so it counted it towards that directory. In all cases the totals are the same.

Now how do you explain these concepts in terms of all-encompassing “folders”?


Sunday, 2 February 2014 Dereel Images for 2 February 2014
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New computer, next attempt
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I've got lots of things to do at the moment. As I said on IRC yesterday,

gr0Ogle: I think I'll proceed in the following manner:
gr0Ogle: 1.  Take house photos tomorrow morning.
gr0Ogle: 2.  Complete Bushfire Management Statement.
gr0Ogle: 3.  Complete application for Planning Permit.
gr0Ogle: 4.  Go to Bannockburn and hand it in.
gr0Ogle: 5.  Move current eureka disk to stable-amd64 and get X running.
gr0Ogle: 6.  Try to fix enblend breakage and other riddles.
jashank: For some reason, I expect 1, 2, 3, 4 to take as much time as 5.
gr0Ogle: 7.  Finally migrate to 10-RELEASE and SSD.
gr0Ogle: Yes.
gr0Ogle: But they're on the critical path.

That makes perfect sense. So once I finished my morning chores, I got started on 5. After all, how long can it take?

Moving the disks and the display cards didn't take long, of course. But once I booted up, I ran into some strange issues:

Feb  2 13:37:41 eureka kernel: usb_alloc_device: device init 2 failed (USB_ERR_IOERROR, ignored)
Feb  2 13:37:41 eureka kernel: ugen0.2: <Unknown> at usbus0 (disconnected)
Feb  2 13:37:41 eureka kernel: uhub_reattach_port: could not allocate new device

That occurred for every USB device! I didn't even have a keyboard. Did a bit of playing around in the BIOSUEFI configuration and discovered about the only thing I could tweak was to disable Intel USB 3.0, whatever that may be. After that, I had USB, at least the core devices that I reconnected. But no Ethernet! It seems that my 12-month-old kernel is too old for the Ethernet chip:

Feb  2 13:37:41 eureka kernel: pci0: <network, ethernet> at device 25.0 (no driver attached)

I nearly called it quits there, but unfortunately I continued. Why not build a new 9-STABLE kernel? After all, if it doesn't work, I can always go back to the old one. So I did a make buildworld and make kernel, in the process getting times for local disk builds:

buildworld       1396.52 real       6535.69 user       675.52 sys
kernel       343.82 real       960.39 user       99.15 sys

That's still significantly slower than Jürgen Lock's kernel build time of 4½ minutes, but quite acceptable. A little over an hour later I had the machine up and running. Next challenge: X. As promised, X doesn't recognize the on-chip graphics, but it found both of my graphics cards, and all I had to do was change the bus ID of one of them:

--- xorg-0.conf 2013/02/02 06:20:08     1.2
+++ xorg-0.conf 2014/02/02 04:03:26
@@ -85,7 +85,7 @@
     Driver         "nvidia"
     VendorName     "NVIDIA Corporation"
     BoardName      "GeForce GT 640"
-    BusID          "PCI:2:0:0"
+    BusID          "PCI:5:0:0"
     Screen          2
 EndSection

Next to start VirtualBox. Panic!

Feb  2 15:23:11 eureka kernel: panic: general protection fault
Feb  2 15:23:11 eureka kernel: cpuid = 5
Feb  2 15:23:11 eureka kernel: KDB: stack backtrace:
...
Feb  2 15:23:11 eureka kernel: #5 0xffffffff80915de9 at turnstile_wait+0x419
Feb  2 15:23:11 eureka kernel: #6 0xffffffff808b7c8e at _mtx_lock_sleep+0xfe
Feb  2 15:23:11 eureka kernel: #7 0xffffffff80ca754c at pmap_extract+0x11c
Feb  2 15:23:11 eureka kernel: #8 0xffffffff82794d53 at SUPR0PageAllocEx+0x1d3
Feb  2 15:23:11 eureka kernel: #9 0xffffffff827989d0 at supdrvIOCtl+0x1570
Feb  2 15:23:11 eureka kernel: #10 0xffffffff8279ab9d at VBoxDrvFreeBSDIOCtl+0x1fd

Clearly a VirtualBox problem, probably because the installation really needs to be matched to the kernel. At the very least it could have refused to run under another kernel.

While fscking the files as the result of the last panic, read in today's photos. Bad idea:

Feb  2 15:54:31 eureka kernel: panic: softdep_setup_inomapdep: dependency 0xfffffe04a059c200 for newinode already exists
...
Feb  2 15:54:31 eureka kernel: #1 0xffffffff808cba5e at panic+0x1ce
Feb  2 15:54:31 eureka kernel: #2 0xffffffff80b0938f at softdep_setup_inomapdep+0x24f

That shouldn't happen, but at least it seems to be software, and this installation is just a stopgap measure. To be on the safe side, ran fsck in single-user mode. That worked, and by evening I was up and running, as far as I can tell. But it came home to me how much I depend on having eureka up and running; there was little I could do without it.


Monday, 3 February 2014 Dereel
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First photo processing with new machine
Topic: technology, photography, opinion Link here

So now I have a fast machine with lots of memory, just what I needed for my panorama photography processing. And yesterday was the day of the month where I took the most photos, a total of 366 of them. I had started initial processing on Microsoft yesterday, but it still took another 3½ hours this morning.

Moving to FreeBSD and eureka was completely different. The first thing to do was the HDR processing, which I do in parallel. Previously it was 5 images in parallel, really too much for the memory of the system, and it took forever. Now I'm doing 12 at a time, and it really races through.

Control point detection with Hugin was also very fast—but then it got stuck in an apparently endless loop trying to display the fast panorama preview of the verandah centre panorama. Moved on; the others worked fine and very quickly. Somehow there's some race condition in the first one. At the end I tried again and then moved to a different X server until the control point detection was done. Once it was finished, I moved to the server I use for photo processing, and all was well. I don't suppose it's worth worrying about now; this is an old version of Hugin running on an old version of FreeBSD. If it still happens with the latest and greatest, I'll have to think about it.


Upgrading Microsoft
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Now that I have the new eureka, the old machine is available for other purposes. I had planned to use it to replace the relatively weak machine on which I run Microsoft. Is it as simple as FreeBSD, just move the disk to the new machine?

I got off to a bad start. I thought I had shut down the old machine, but the gyroscopic effect when moving the disk showed me that I had removed it while spinning. Fortunately it didn't do any harm, as replacing it in the machine showed.

Putting it in the new machine was a completely different matter. It booted, but then I saw my first BSOD in a long time. Many attempts to repair the disk failed. Tried booting from the installation DVD, but it hung. Put the FreeBSD disk from stable-amd64 back in the machine—it couldn't find the root file system. A little investigation showed that, for some reason, I had a floppy disk drive activated in the BIOS, so the root device was disk1p1 instead of disk0p1. After deactivating it, FreeBSD booted normally.

Microsoft was a different matter. I still couldn't get the disk to boot, but at least now the DVD worked. So: completely new installation. Not a big deal: I had only installed this system last month, and I had half expected this kind of trouble. But of course it takes a long time.


Bushfire Management Statement: too hard
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Finally found the templates for the Bushfire Management Statement and tried to fill them out. They're in Microsoft “Word” format, just to make life more difficult, and clearly the people who created them had their difficulties: some fields are indented inappropriately, and two of them have yellow backgrounds.

Even more difficult than “Word” is the content, though. It's all so vague! And when I look at bureaucrats like Brendan Brown of the Ballarat CFA, I can imagine that any small error on my part can lead to it being rejected. So in the end I called up Colin McClelland and Associates in Ballarat and asked them to prepare it for me. Another 5 weeks delay! By comparison, the $1,500 for the report could be well spent. But it seems we'll never get this damned planning permit.


Tuesday, 4 February 2014 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 4 February 2014
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Reinstalling Microsoft, yet again
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

So now I have installed Microsoft “Windows” 7 Once Again, and I had to apply all the fixes all over again. Time to write things down to make it easier next time.


Bushfire Management Statement, delegated
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Had a couple of things to do in town today. Settlement for the purchase of the Stones Road property is on Friday, and I need to transfer about $20,000 towards the final sum. The Bank is too secure to allow me to transfer more than $5,000 per day, so it seems that the only option I have is to go to a branch and pay $1 for the transfer (via the web it's free). Established that they were open until 17:00.

Also went through the mail message I got from Colin McClelland and Associates yesterday, then into town to hand in the documents that I couldn't send by email.

The Bank of Melbourne wasn't quite what I expected. Got there and discovered it was closed for renovation, and there was an indication that it was temporarily operating out of premises in 42 Lydiard St. How do you get there? They don't say, but fortunately I knew. When I got there, they told me that they would require $35 for a transfer! Why? Because it's a same-day transfer, the only kind they do. Complained to the manager, who bears a striking resemblance to Bates (Brendan Coyle) in Downton Abbey except for the rings through his ears, and he said he would waive it this time, since I had been misinformed. And then they discovered that it was past 16:00, so they couldn't do it at all. In the end we agreed on a bank cheque, which I then took to the conveyancers. But what a pain this bank is! Yes, I can sign a form and be allowed to transfer more than $5,000 a day—but only to specified accounts. Somehow these banks are more pain than they're worth.

But why such ridiculous fees? Are they even correct? I get the feeling that they must have made a mistake, and on checking the fee booklet they sent me, I couldn't find anything like that. But then, the booklet doesn't even mention transfers. Applying a bit of guesswork, I suppose that's what they mean by “withdrawal”. After all, how can you withdraw funds via the web? But there's a fee for that: nothing.


Wednesday, 5 February 2014 Dereel Images for 5 February 2014
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Microsoft: problems
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

My recent experience with Microsoft software hasn't been as bad as it used to be. In particular, reliability seems to have improved over the years, and in general things have worked. But since my installation on the old eureka, many problems have occurred. In particular, wakeup from sleep/hibernate seems to be very unreliable. On occasion the disk light goes on and stays on for several minutes, during which not even the NumLock light on the keyboard responds to the key. On one occasion it came back without the network interface.

Why? This is the same version that I ran on the old dxo with few issues. That was an Intel processor with on-board graphics. Ex-eureka is AMD with an nVidia graphics card. But that shouldn't be an issue; after all, it's mainstream hardware and mainstream software.


Which photos processing software?
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Talking with Jamie Fraser on IRC about photo processing software today. He's thinking of buying Lightroom, which I had rejected because of its limited correction for lens distortion and chromatic aberration. I got him to send me a sample image and processed it myself. Here the comparisons. From left to right, the original JPEG from the camera, image as processed by Lightroom, image as processed by DxO with default settings, and image as processed by DxO with “Artistic HDR” profile. These images are best compared in enlargements (click on the image). Running the cursor over each image shows the next in sequence.


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It's clear that the Lightroom processing made no changes to the shape of the image. DxO did, but also produced a significantly darker image. Is that good or bad? The DxO image has better detail in the wall at the back, but the boy's face, arguably more important, might be too dark. That can be changed, of course; my intentions here were to compare the distortion correction. Looking at the metal bar at the bottom, it's clear that it has succeeded.

But it seems that Lightroom does include lens profiles. Why didn't it work here? To be investigated.


Thursday, 6 February 2014 Dereel
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Lightroom after all?
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Jamie Fraser's wife Sabriena uses Lightroom for photo processing. Why don't I?

It's not as if I haven't looked at these products before. I rejected them for various reasons, including difficulty of use, price and lack of features. But since then I've been forced to lower my standards to match what's on the market. After all, Ashampoo Photo Commander 11 doesn't really have very much to recommend it, but at least it was cheap. So, back to looking at Lightroom.

Lens profiles? Yes or no? Yes, or no. It does have lens profiles, and this page explains how they work. They look quite similar to what DxO Optics “Pro” does. But then going looking, it seems that Adobe doesn't like Olympus: the only four thirds lenses they support are from Sigma. Unlike DxO, though, they support generating your own profile. It must be very difficult: despite a lengthy search I only found this page, which only supports some micro four thirds lenses. There are claims in various places that the lens profile for micro four thirds (but not four thirds) is stored in the lens itself, and finds its way into the raw image. There's more discussion here, but I haven't been able to establish how accurate it is.

And then there's Adobe's free trial, all 870 MB of it. How long does it last? What are the conditions? No indication. There a link to terms of use, but they have nothing to do with the free trial. So I'll play it safe, and if I download it, I'll do it when I have time to play with it.


ALDI video camera
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Yesterday Yvonne brought back a special buy from ALDI: a set of “HD action camera glasses”, basically sunglasses with a video camera between the eyes. That sounded like fun, so I tried it out, after fighting my way through the excuse for instructions: this one really did consist of more than 50% safety and warranty information. It recorded normally, but when I tried to read the data into a computer, it refused:

Feb  6 09:08:02 eureka kernel: da2 at umass-sim2 bus 2 scbus6 target 0 lun 0
Feb  6 09:08:02 eureka kernel: da2: <Anyka SD card 1.00> Removable Direct Access SCSI-2 device
Feb  6 09:08:02 eureka kernel: da2: Serial Number USBDEVICE
Feb  6 09:08:02 eureka kernel: da2: 40.000MB/s transfers
Feb  6 09:08:02 eureka kernel: da2: Attempt to query device size failed: NOT READY, Medium not present

Tried it in dischord, my Microsoft box. Same thing. Finally decided to call the “support” line. I've had bad experiences with them in the past, in particular with returning calls, which can take nearly a week. So I held on for an hour or so, and then started looking. The product description contains the information, in small print:

micro SD card not included

That's not on the package, and the reference to it in the instructions is hidden under “charging”. In addition, of course, there seems to be no corresponding SD card on offer. I had a 4 GB card somewhere, but I can't find it—these things are just Too Damned Small. So I'll have to pick one up next time I'm in Ballarat.


NBN problems, or Powercor?
Topic: general, technology Link here

Message on the DEREEL OUTPOST Facebook page today: Carol Moyse had difficulties with her National Broadband Network connection. As a neighbourly gesture, over to take a look. It seems they had a power outage last night, and it killed the ADSL2 modem that they had specially bought to run as a wireless AP and router. That's Powercor's responsibility, of course, but it brought home to me how little help normal users get in setting up their networks.


NBN network speeds
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

My network speed tests are now looking quite good. ftp access isn't: I'm still getting a maximum of round 800 kB/s to 1 MB/s. Sent a message to Scott Weston, who confirmed the speeds he gets from activ8me and Internode. In summary, with Exetel and SkyMesh for comparison. The files in question are http://mirror.internode.on.net/pub/test/100meg.test and http://speedtest.dodo.com.au/Download/100Mb.txt.

ISP       Internode file       dodo file
      (kB/s)       (kB/s)
activ8me       1744       1335
Exetel       1000       952
Internode       2683       2588
SkyMesh       1000       949

Clearly that's due to more than the NBN link. Can Exetel fix the problem? Or should I move back to Internode after all?


Friday, 7 February 2014 Dereel
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Garage sale
Topic: general Link here

Jenny Bartlett, our neighbour from across the road, has sold her house and is leaving some time next week. This weekend she is holding a garage sale, and Yvonne and Chris Bahlo had first refusal.

Over somewhat unwillingly—another hot day, and the likelihood of physical exertion—to take a look. Ended up with a metal clothes airing cupboard that Yvonne wanted for the horses, but which looks to me as if it has potential as a smoking oven. Also a futon for the guest bedroom and Yet Another Cupboard that we're putting in the room opposite the living room. I suppose Yvonne wants me to tidy up.


Trying Lightroom
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

So in the end I did download the Lightroom free trial. Typically enough, it's for 30 days. The first impression is that it looks just like DxO Optics “Pro”, which obviously says more about DxO than about Lightroom.

The second look was less positive: “We want to take over your life”, or, as they put it, “please create a catalog”, and then “import” the images. To quote the manual:

You must import photos into the Lightroom catalog to begin working with them. Importing tells Lightroom what photos are in the catalog, and whether they are imported directly from a camera, hard drive, memory card reader, or other storage device. During import, you can choose either to move or copy the photo files into a specific folder, or reference the photo files in their current location.

At least it gives me the option of linking rather than copying. But I don't want Lightroom to keep track of my photos! Why can't people understand that it's just a tool, and that I only want to use it for specific functions?

Played around for a while, looking for the things that interest me. Despite the similarity with DxO, there are some strangenesses. How do you navigate the image preview (which they call a “filmstrip”)? There are two arrows above, just like with DxO. But pressing them takes you to the images you were doing yesterday, or some other thing completely unrelated to what you want to do. To move to the next or previous image in a set, you use the keyboard arrow keys. And so far I haven't been able to find the correction tools I'm looking for, like perspective correction and straightening.

Still, it has one great advantage over DxO: it's an order of magnitude faster. Quite possibly it's worth using. If only these interfaces weren't all so emetic.


Pot, kettle, black
Topic: general, opinion Link here

The US administration has been very reticent to condemn indiscriminate spying on the part of the NSA, in the process alienating many US citizens and probably a majority of thinking non-US citizens. Even foreign diplomats have been targeted, notably Angela Merkel. So it's rather refreshing to find a phone call between Victoria Nuland and Geoffrey Pyatt, the US ambassador to Ukraine on YouTube. The content is interesting: they're trying to arrange the succession in Ukraine, currently in serious financial and political trouble. What they say seems to amount to interference, and Nuland's statement “fuck the EU” is clearly offensive at various levels. The contents of this report are not surprising: the EU, in particular Angela Merkel, have taken exception to the matter.

Clearly diplomats discuss this sort of thing. But we know that the US has probably the biggest espionage operation the world has ever seen. How did the Russians manage to intercept this call?


Exetel: good enough for us
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Sent a message to Exetel this morning, essentially repeating the contents of yesterday's article, and suggesting running packet traces on their mirror, on the leaf node interfacing to the National Broadband Network, and on my system. I got a somewhat unexpected reply:

Date: Fri, 07 Feb 2014 17:22:41 +1100
From: Exetel Residential Support  <helpdesk@exetel.com.au>
Subject: Re: [Exetel Residential Support  #7460458] Poor throughput on NBN
 fixed wireless 0301244975      NBN

As the speed tests are providing results within specification we will no longer be able to carry out further investigations on the matter.

Angelo Senaratne
Level 1 - Network Support Engineer
Exetel Pty Ltd

Who's that? Why do I get a statement like this from an entry-level support engineer? Probably he's been told to forward the message. In any case, 37% of Internode's performance isn't enough. Wrote a stiff message to him terminating the contract. So whom do I take now? Internode? Or should I try some of the others?


Saturday, 8 February 2014 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 8 February 2014
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Photo processing strangenesses
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Got my house photos done today before heading in to Ballarat for dog training. Managed to get the first level of processing started so that it could run while I was away.

To my surprise, when I got back it was still running. But that didn't matter: when it was finished I discovered I had converted the raw images into JPEG instead of TIFF, so I had to start all over again. This time I put the intermediate TIFF images on local (Microsoft) disk instead of the net, in the hope that things might run faster. I was disappointed.

The whole processing was marred by irritating problems: I have set up dischord to connect to my leftmost monitor, and for some reason during the changeover to the new machine I changed the connection to DVI; for reasons related to the hardware configuration on eureka, that monitor is normally connected by D-sub. That means that I can't use the KVM to switch between systems: instead I need to fiddle around with the invisible switches under the monitor. And that only works if the monitor has a signal. But today, for some reasons, things got worse: it wouldn't switch at all and had to be power cycled.

To add insult to injury, the X looping that I had experienced on eureka server 1 last week became more frequent, including during control point detection. I wish I understand what is wrong there. Found that I could work around it by quickly changing to the other server before the program started using too few resources, but nevertheless I had to restart the server a couple of times, not helped by the problems with monitor 1.

As if that wasn't enough, Microsoft gave me continued pain. In recent years I've been pleasantly surprised by how little trouble I've had with Microsoft, but that's clearly because I haven't used the software much. Today I was plagued with various photo software hanging, and it seems that there's no clear way to kill -9 a Microsoft process. Even when the task manager condescends to try (“Why not wait a while? Maybe it will come good”), it tries to “recover”, usually with a window hidden below the non-responding process, which can't be removed. Maybe that's why Microsoft generates such tiny windows, smaller than the text displayed, so that you can see and maybe access what else is on the screen.

But then there's the issue with hibernation. That always worked well with “Vista”, but since “Windows 7” I've had nothing but trouble with it, including BSODs when trying to resume and having the system stuck in a non-responsive state with heavy disk access for minutes on end. Since it actually writes the memory contents to disk, it's possible to recover after a power failure, and it seems that it comes back better if I power it down before trying to restart. But that kills wake on LAN, of course.


Fine-tuning the entrance pupil location
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Since I've had my Olympus OM-D E-M1, my panoramas haven't been getting the same good fit as before. Clearly that's not the camera's fault, and my best bet is that it's related to the location of the camera on the panorama head: it's difficult to measure the exact distance to set the camera back from the axis of rotation, which should intersect the entrance pupil.

One thing I've noticed is that Hugin recalculates the focal length of the lens when it discovers a circular panorama. In particular, most panoramas report a focal length of 8.9 mm when the lens is set to 9 mm. How does that interact with the accuracy of the control point detection? Could it be that the calculation differs depending on to position of the entrance pupil? Last week I moved the camera 2 mm further back from the measured position, and got, if anything, a slightly longer focal length reported. Today I moved the camera further forward and got better closure and a shorter focal length.

It's too early for an “aha” moment, though. Since getting the new camera I've taken mainly HDR photos, which can suffer from ghosting, so it's understandable that the detection might not be as good. Today the weather was very calm, so it was to be expected that the results were better. But at least I have an understanding of how to relate “focal length” to entrance pupil position.


More dog training
Topic: animals Link here

Dog training in Ballarat was earlier today because of the temperature, and there were fewer participants—only two apart from us. The dogs are getting better at climbing:


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Looking for an ISP again
Topic: technology Link here

So after Exetel's refusal to address their throughput problems, I'm in the market for a new ISP. Whom should I take? Internode sound like an obvious choice, especially since I've been a customer for years, but their accounting department greatly get on my nerves with things like undocumented deduction of two months' fees in advance, non-responsiveness to my email, and a completely unjustified further deduction of 2 months' fees on the day I terminated my last service. As of the moment they owe me about 3 months' fees, assuming that they didn't do something similar years ago with my ADSL service.

The National Broadband Network's Find a service provider page contains no fewer than 34 RSPs. Excluding Exetel and SkyMesh, Telstra “unlockamazing” is out of the discussion, and for some reason Optus doesn't even feature in the list. Of the remaining 31 RSPs I've only ever heard of seven. How do they compare? I'm looking for round 50 GB per month at 25 Mb/s down, 5 Mb/s up (“25/5”). Whirlpool wasn't much help: they only mentioned a few of the players, excluding in particular Internode and 3 others in the list below. So I looked at the individual web sites, including some that I wouldn't consider. Here's a summary of what I found:

ISP       Traffic       Price       Setup
activ8me       50 GB       54.95
      100 GB       64.95
Aussie Broadband       50 GB       50.00
      200 GB       60.00
Exetel       ∞+50 GB       54.50
iiNet       20+20 GB       54.95       2 year contract, free
Internode       30 GB       54.96       $99
      300 GB       84.95
iPrimus       20+20       59.95
      100+100       69.95
MyNetFone       50 GB       59.95       $199
Optus       30 GB       70.00       ?
SkyMesh       20+20       44.95
      50+50       64.95
Southern phone       50       69.95
Telstra       50 GB       70.00       24 month contract
Westnet       20+20 GB       54.95
      100+100       64.95

Unless marked otherwise, this is for a single month connection. Optus also include a phone line in their offerings, something I can do without. I have been unable to find the prices on the SkyMesh web site, so I took it from Whirlpool. In addition,a it's difficult to put the Exetel offering into the table: they offer unlimited data between 1:00 and 9:00, and in addition uplink traffic isn't counted, which skews the matter somewhat. If it weren't for that, they'd be no cheaper than the competition.

And the performance? All have caveats, of course, like this one from iPrimus. The content is sensible, and in particular does not include any issue with iPrimus' own network. Exetel have a similar page, but include “Domestic backhaul capacity” as a reason for poor performance.

Looking at the pricing and conditions, there's not much in it. But what if there's an issue with my NBN link? Scott Weston's test of Internode throughput was done via the same tower, so that seems unlikely. But I don't want to pay $100 setup fee if I don't have to. Aussie Broadband is the cheapest, has no setup fee, and I've had relatively good experience with them in the past, so I think I'll give them a chance for a month or so.


Sunday, 9 February 2014 Dereel Images for 9 February 2014
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Another new lens
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

One of my saved searches on eBay today was interesting: an Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-150mm F4.0-5.6 lens, almost brand new, for only $200. Just what I wanted, and much less than the normal going price. I could have bid on it, but at that price there was just “buy it now”. So I did.

Later I went back to check the appearance, which didn't look quite right. Horror! It's an M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 40-150mm F4.0-5.6, a completely different lens, and useless to me. It's still a good price, but not nearly as good. What do I do? Sent the vendor a message asking him to cancel. He wasn't amused, but hasn't said no so far. Asked Jashank Jeremy on IRC, and surprisingly, he could be interested: he has a 14-150 lens, and he's not happy with it.

I'm not sure how I came to this conclusion. I later offered to buy it from him, and the told me that it was his favourite lens.

OK, we know that the 14-150, like the ZUIKO DIGITAL 18-180mm F3.5-6.3, doesn't have the best image quality. But as I've discovered with that lens, it's convenient. And the µFT lens has the advantage of being wider, and potentially focusing faster on the Olympus OM-D E-M1. So I did some comparisons with images from Jashank's lens, in the process also comparing the corrections applied by DxO Optics “Pro” and Olympus “Viewer” 3. The following images are the same photo, first without correction, then corrected with DxO, then corrected with “Viewer” Run the cursor over the images to compare with the next:


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The second image, taken at 14 mm focal length, shows an amazing amount of barrel distortion, and both that one and the last one show considerable vignetting. The first image, taken over two years ago, doesn't show the vignetting. In each case, DxO removes both vignetting and nearly all the distortion. “Viewer” doesn't do nearly as well in either function. It's a pity that DxO support for µFT is so poor.


Stitching a huge panorama
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Nine months ago I took a set of photos of the verandah in autumn, this time at 24 mm focal length. Processing the image proved to be impossible with the hardware I had at the time. But now I have a machine that is 4 times as fast, and more importantly with 4 times the memory, so set to to reprocess the images.

It worked—eventually. Last May I spent over a day waiting for the machine to swap its way through the files before finally giving up. Today it was much faster. cpfind ran for 150 CPU minutes (a little under 20 minutes elapsed time) and used 3.2 GB memory. cpclean took another 17:30, and since it's single-threaded, that's the elapsed time too. Finally autooptimiser took another 14 minutes CPU and elapsed—a total of about 50 minutes.

Stitching took about 37 minutes for 100 odd runs of nona, then 76 minutes for enblend, which used 8.5 GB of a 20 GB process image. But it finished in acceptable time, all 613,830,722 pixels of it.

Was it worth it? No. I had also attempted HDR, and there was lots of ghosting. It might, though, be a good thing to use to try out various HDR merging software.


Fixing Microsoft hibernation problem
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

One great thing about Microsoft is that almost everybody uses it, so if I run into a problem, the web will have an answer—won't it? This search led me to a number of things, including this thread with an answer from a Microsoft engineer that almost worked, though clearly it's a workaround, not a fix. Now I need to see how well it recovers, but given the time it takes, I'll postpone until I need it.


Monday, 10 February 2014 Dereel Images for 10 February 2014
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Goodbye ISP
Topic: technology Link here

Call early this morning from Angelo Senaratne of Exetel, the Level 1 Support Engineer who sent me the “we won't fix” message last week. No, they hadn't reconsidered, though he rejected my claim that they were not prepared to offer the same level of service as Internode. But he made it abundantly clear that he didn't know what TCP is—instead he talked of client/server relationships, which of course are normally TCP. So maybe they just don't understand that their performance is sub-par. Still, the call was worthwhile: he confirmed that they would refund the fees for January and February, and there would (of course!) be no early termination fee.

That, of course, didn't help much with Exetel's bureaucracy. Shortly later I get a message containing:

From exetelweb@candlenut.exetel.com.au  Mon Feb 10 09:40:27 2014
Date: Mon, 10 Feb 2014 09:23:38 +1100
To: exetel@lemis.com
Subject: Exetel Has Received Your Cancel ADSL Service Request
From: residentialsupport@exetel.com.au

We have received your cancel service request.

Please note:
You agree to pay $100.00 if the ADSL service is terminated within the contract period.
You agree to this fee being debited to your credit card/bank account.
Your current service will be cancelled on the next working day after your requested cancellation date
Your current service will continue to be available before your requested cancellation date.
Please bear in mind when canceling/transferring an ADSL or Wireless service that the service is billed one month in advance and no refunds/rebates for unused days are given by Exetel.

Replied to that pro forma, and of course now I have another outstanding ticket.


Hello ISP
Topic: technology Link here

As planned, called up Aussie Broadband and signed up for a 50 GB service. First spoke to Will in technical support, who apparently thought I was signing up for fibre and told me that I could expect effectively the full 100 Mb/s download speed. Once again, I'm not sure if he understood the term TCP, but we'll see. The service is direct Ethernet with DHCP, and he was surprised to hear that Exetel still use PPPoE. But he wasn't much help with more technical details, like link configuration; clearly they have other people for that.


Power line Ethernet throughput
Topic: multimedia, technology, opinion Link here

I've been complaining about the poor throughput of my power line Ethernet adapters since I got them. But recent thoughts about network throughput led me to the thought that maybe once again we're running into TCP window issues. And sure enough, teevee had the sysctl net.inet.tcp.rfc1323 set to 0, which in particular turns off window scaling. Why? I didn't change anything, and the default should be 1. But after setting it to 1 and setting big buffer sizes, things sped up considerably. I'm still not getting the 11.2 MB/s that I got over wired Ethernet, but it seems to hover round 9.2 MB/s, which is about double what I had before.


ABC allows iview
Topic: multimedia, opinion Link here

It's been over a year since I first tried ABC's iview streaming video service. They denied me access under the mistaken assumption that I'm not in Australia. My attempts to contact ABC about this went nowhere.

Today on IRC we talked about the re-run of The Doctor Blake Mysteries, coincidentally the same programme that I was trying to record this time last year. Edwin Groothuis asked what the error message was, so I went to look, and... it worked! So finally they've done something useful.

There's more to be done, though. They have disabled display resizing! The default text size is relatively small, but it works well enough when at a computer. But in front of a TV it's illegible, and there's no way to change it. How can people design things like this?


Getting rid of the 40-150mm lens
Topic: photography Link here

Discussion with Jashank Jeremy about the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 40-150mm F4.0-5.6 lens that I accidentally bought yesterday. He likes it, and he's happy with the price I paid, so I'll send it on to him. Under the circumstances not such a bad solution.


MySQL table editors
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

One of the software packages that has atrophied over the course of time is phpMyEdit, which we (mainly Yvonne) use for maintaining tables like household expenditure and the contents of the deep freeze. But two years ago the maintainers of PHP, in their infinite wisdom, brokedeprecated the interfaces it relies on, and the only solution I could find was to run a separate web server in a virtual machine with the old version.

That's seriously suboptimal, of course, and now that VirtualBox no longer runs (until I rebuild the port), did some consideration about what I could replace it with. Went out looking and found MySQL Ajax Table Editor, which they sometimes abbreviate to mate. It comes in a free version and two paid versions. Downloaded the free version and found the shortest installation instructions I've ever seen:

1. Set the mysql variables in Common.php with the correct information to connect to your mysql database.

2. Create the example tables in your database by running the sql in the mate.sql file.

3. After you create the tables and have successfully connected to your database, the examples should be working. Point your browser to www.yoursite.com/path/to/mate/ and click on one of the example links. If you have any troubles installing please post a question on the forums.

Clearly this isn't aimed at beginners; indeed, since it requires Ajax, I had my difficulties too. There's nothing to compare to the web page creator that phpMyEdit has: you really have to read the source of the example pages and bend them to shape, not helped by missing documentation of the parameters:

    $tableColumns['id'] = array('display_text' => 'ID', 'perms' => 'TVQSXO');
    $tableColumns['first_name'] = array('display_text' => 'First Name', 'perms' => 'EVCTAXQSHO');
    $tableColumns['last_name'] = array('display_text' => 'Last Name', 'perms' => 'EVCTAXQSHO');
    $tableColumns['email'] = array('display_text' => 'Email', 'perms' => 'EVCTAXQSHO');
    $tableColumns['department'] = array('display_text' => 'Department', 'perms' => 'EVCTAXQSHO', 'select_array' => array('Accounting' => 'Accounting', 'Marketing' => 'Marketing', 'Sales' => 'Sales', 'Production' => 'Production'));
    $tableColumns['hire_date'] = array('display_text' => 'Hire Date', 'perms' => 'EVCTAXQSHO', 'display_mask' => 'date_format(hire_date,"%d %M %Y")', 'order_mask' => 'employees.hire_date', 'calendar' => '%d %B %Y','col_header_info' => 'style="width: 250px;"');

Still, bent it to shape to display the freezer table. It seemed to work, but displayed nothing:


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No error messages, just no display. After a lot of head-scratching, discovered that it was due to the presence of a single non-ASCII character in the table (which was correctly designated latin-1). Why should that stop the display? And how do I fix it? I don't think I will. Other things didn't look that good either, so went out looking for alternatives. This page describes some possibilities, including phpmyDataGrid and MySQL Edit Table. But why is this so difficult? In particular, why doesn't MySQL have it as part of the standard offering?


Honeyeaters on the verandah
Topic: animals, photography Link here

A couple of days ago I found a tiny bird's nest in the creepers on the south side of the verandah, only about 30 cm from the house wall. Now there are a couple of chicks in there, and I was able to get a few photos of them:


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They appear to be yellow-faced honeyeaters (Lichenostomus chrysops). Unfortunately I didn't get many photos, and it took me a while to get the correct lighting. In the afternoon the nest was empty. Was that because I scared them off or (more likely) that they were ready to leave the nest?


Tuesday, 11 February 2014 Dereel
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More new system problems
Topic: technology Link here

Somehow my issues with the system upgrade aren't over. As I feared, yesterday's fixworkaround for Microsoft's hibernation issues didn't work. In fact, it didn't make any difference at all, and once again I had a dirty reboot. Why can't Microsoft get it right, or at least report the errors in a sensible way?

FreeBSD is a completely different matter, of course. It's been years since I had any suspend working. But I have other issues there too: I discovered that the nightly backup jobs had been failing, and I hadn't noticed for over a week:

mount: /dev/da0s1d: Device not configured

That looks like one of these issues I've been contending with for years. The device in question is a USB 3.0 disk masquerading as a SCSI disk. Depending on what's connected when the system comes up, it gets recognized as a different unit ID. So set to to update /etc/fstab, but discovered... the disk is /dev/da0, and the backup partition is /dev/da0s1d. So why didn't it work?

Further investigation shows, once again, Schrödinger's cat. Now you see it, now you don't:

=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/26) /backups 81 -> ls -l /backups/
ls: eureka-FreeBSD: Device not configured
total 1
drwxr-xr-x  10 grog  wheel  1,024 19 May  2011 Sysconfig

As the cwd shows, I had mounted /backups, but the system claims that it's not configured. Well, one of the two file systems. Looking at the system log, all I see is:

Feb 10 21:00:00 eureka kernel: (da0:umass-sim0:0:0:0): READ(10). CDB: 28 00 00 00 00 bf 00 00 10 00
Feb 10 21:00:00 eureka kernel: (da0:umass-sim0:0:0:0): CAM status: SCSI Status Error
Feb 10 21:00:00 eureka kernel: (da0:umass-sim0:0:0:0): SCSI status: Check Condition
Feb 10 21:00:00 eureka kernel: (da0:umass-sim0:0:0:0): SCSI sense: UNIT ATTENTION asc:28,0 (Not ready to ready change, m
edium may have changed)
Feb 10 21:00:00 eureka kernel: (da0:umass-sim0:0:0:0): Retrying command (per sense data)
Feb 10 21:00:06 eureka kernel: g_vfs_done():da0s1d[READ(offset=6144000, length=16384)]error = 6

Error 6 is ENXIO, “Device not configured”. So what's wrong here? It's serious enough that the system marks the file system as crashed, but clearly it's related to the “not ready” to “ready” transition. Hopefully it'll be gone when I move to 10-STABLE, but in the meantime I should maybe try accessing the drive at a device level before trying to mount it. What a pain!


Next table editor: MySQL table edit
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Continued looking at table editors today. The next on the list was MySQL Edit Table (or MySQL table edit, depending on where you look: the author doesn't seem to have decided).

Yesterday I noted that MySQL Ajax Table Editor had very brief installation instructions. You can't say that about MySQL table edit. It has none whatsoever, just UTSL. Once again you have to edit an example and bend it to your table. So I did that—no easier or more difficult than with MySQL Ajax Table Editor—and found a screen full of error messages about undefined variables.

What did I do wrong? After comparing with the example, it seems that the mistake was to choose MySQL table edit. The example, too, produced lots of error messages.

One difference from MySQL Ajax Table Editor is that MySQL table edit doesn't use toolkits, so despite the baroque indentation I was able to understand it. Simple: it's broke. I assume that the author had somehow disabled error messages about undefined variables, and happily written things like:

                if ($this->query_joomla_component) $query_string = '&option=' . $this->query_joomla_component ;
                $query_string .= '&start=' . $start;

Those are the very first mentions of $query_string. And it references passed parameters without first checking if they exist or not:

                if ($_GET['mte_a'] == 'edit') {
                        $this->edit_rec();
                }
                elseif ($_POST['mte_a'] == 'save') {
                        $this->save_rec();
                }

It's still not clear to me how he could check for POST parameters and GET parameters in the same code.

So: discard it? In fact, it contained the germ of a solution, though I'm amazed that anybody could release anything this buggy. Spent a couple of hours tidying up the code, in the process coming across stuff like this:

                if ($_GET['s'] && $_GET['f']) {
                        if ($this->query_joomla_component) $add_joomla = '?option=' . $this->query_joomla_component;
                        $seach_form .= "<button onclick='window.location=\"$this->url_script$add_joomla\"' style='margin: 0 0 15px 15px; border: 1px solid #000;'>{$this->text['Clear_search']}</button>";
                }

My best bet is that the author confused himself with the incorrect indentation. But how can this work? By evening I had something that more or less worked. Presumably I've done the first 90%, and the second 90% will come later.


Dividing nations
Topic: opinion Link here

Lately it seems that far too many countries are divided into two roughly equal political groups. Looking at what's going on in Syria or Egypt, it's easy to get the feeling that the regime is oppressing the people. But that could just be reporting bias. Certainly in Egypt it looks like the supporters and opponents of the current dictatorship are roughly equal in size.

But we don't need to look as far as those conflicts. Australia and the USA are in the same relationship, though it hasn't caused the violence of the Middle East. But how can the two major parties always end up neck and neck? Possibly pre-poll surveys have something to do with it, but it's not clear to what extent.

In Australia, Tony Abbott continues to disgust, presumably only half the population. Recently I saw this article, which lessens its impact by mixing both serious blunders and matters of opinion. But the serious ones are serious, including actions that could be construed as crimes against humanity. On a more local scale, he'll go down in history as the prime minister under whom the Australian car manufacturing industry ceased to exist.


Wednesday, 12 February 2014 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel
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Into town again
Topic: general Link here

I suppose it's a sign of getting old that my neck and shoulder muscles are getting stiffer. Into town today to have some physiotherapy done on them, and then on to John Curwen-Walker to finally sign our wills, something that we've been planning for years.

Then to Masters, mainly so that Yvonne could take a look at it. Also bought some irrigation stuff and a wheelbarrow for Yvonne, who has been asking for a new one for years. It's amazing how big these things are—took a while to get it into the back of the car.

On the way home, had a haircut. I had thought that it was long overdue, but it was pretty much exactly the 3 standard months since the last time.


My first network contact
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I'm participating in the Coursera course “Internet History, Technology, and Security”, mainly, it seems, because I read only “History”. So far there have been two weeks of seven, in which we have covered practically all of Internet history up to the opening up to the general public. And now I have an assignment: “Write an essay about how your first encountered the Internet or an earlier networking technology.” [sic]

I suspect that my history is a little atypical, so I'll keep it online as well. Like Unix, my first encounter with the Internet was relatively late. By that time I had been using other networks for 10 years, and I'm sure that I wasn't the only one.


Thursday, 13 February 2014 Dereel Images for 13 February 2014
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Where's my network?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

It's been two days since I signed up for a National Broadband Network service with Aussie Broadband. I've received documentation including user name and password that looked surprisingly like I had created them—and discovered that I had. I was with Aussie until nearly 4 years ago, and they still have my details on file.

But that's all I've heard of them, and after 2 days the link still hasn't been provisioned. The documentation suggested that I should have received contact details, but I haven't had any email from them whatsoever. Called up (why do they, as a VoIP supplier, only have a more-expensive number 1 300 880 905? They couldn't tell me either) and spoke to Kylie, who wasn't able to help: NBN hadn't informed them about provisioning. She hoped that things would be sorted out by the afternoon.

For the fun of it, connected up eucla, my 10 year old laptop, to port 3 of the NTD and watched the fun:

15:51:38.862534 IP 0.0.0.0.bootpc > 255.255.255.255.bootps: BOOTP/DHCP, Request from 00:0b:db:98:eb:28 (oui Unknown), length 300
15:51:41.863746 IP 0.0.0.0.bootpc > 255.255.255.255.bootps: BOOTP/DHCP, Request from 00:0b:db:98:eb:28 (oui Unknown), length 300
...
15:57:39.947256 IP 0.0.0.0.bootpc > 255.255.255.255.bootps: BOOTP/DHCP, Request from 00:0b:db:98:eb:28 (oui Unknown), length 300
15:57:44.949085 IP 0.0.0.0.bootpc > 255.255.255.255.bootps: BOOTP/DHCP, Request from 00:0b:db:98:eb:28 (oui Unknown), length 300

The sound of one hand clapping. Went away and did something else. When I came back, I had collected:

16:09:42.119113 IP 0.0.0.0.bootpc > 255.255.255.255.bootps: BOOTP/DHCP, Request from 00:0b:db:98:eb:28 (oui Unknown), length 300
16:09:42.750813 IP ballarat-gw.nbn.portmel.aussiebb.net.bootps > 180-150-4-134.NBN.ballarat.aussiebb.net.bootpc: BOOTP/DHCP, Reply, length 300
16:09:42.753641 IP ballarat-gw.nbn.portmel.aussiebb.net.bootps > 180-150-4-134.NBN.ballarat.aussiebb.net.bootpc: BOOTP/DHCP, Reply, length 300
16:09:44.761496 IP 0.0.0.0.bootpc > 255.255.255.255.bootps: BOOTP/DHCP, Request from 00:0b:db:98:eb:28 (oui Unknown), length 300
16:09:44.804763 IP ballarat-gw.nbn.portmel.aussiebb.net.bootps > 180-150-4-134.NBN.ballarat.aussiebb.net.bootpc: BOOTP/DHCP, Reply, length 300

There are a couple of things to puzzle about here. Why does eucla issue another DHCP request at 16:09:44.761496, 2 seconds after it has received a reply?a And the system log shows that the DHCP server has issued the option 82 that I had heard about a couple of months ago:

Feb 13 16:09:42 eucla dhclient[806]: unknown dhcp option value 0x52
Feb 13 16:09:44 eucla dhclient[806]: unknown dhcp option value 0x52
Feb 13 16:09:44 eucla dhclient: New IP Address (bfe0): 180.150.4.134
Feb 13 16:09:44 eucla dhclient: New Subnet Mask (bfe0): 255.255.255.0
Feb 13 16:09:44 eucla dhclient: New Broadcast Address (bfe0): 180.150.4.255
Feb 13 16:09:44 eucla dhclient: New Routers (bfe0): 180.150.4.1

Is that correct? Do normal routers handle it?

Still, things are working, though the customer web site (yes, I can access it) doesn't think so. The network topography is interesting, and the latency to Ballarat is the best I've seen:

=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/26) ~ 116 -> traceroute freefall
traceroute to freefall.FreeBSD.org (8.8.178.135), 64 hops max, 52 byte packets
1  air-gw-2 (192.109.197.153)  0.751 ms  0.571 ms  0.565 ms
2  ballarat-gw.nbn.portmel.aussiebb.net (180.150.4.1)  28.796 ms  29.752 ms 30.006 ms
3  gi6-4-19.core1.portmel.aussiebb.net (202.142.143.65)  30.079 ms  29.872 ms 29.967 ms
4  gi0-0-2.bdr1.portmel.aussiebb.net (180.150.0.145)  29.985 ms  32.255 ms 29.960 ms
5  TenGigabitEthernet8-4.lon55.melbourne.telstra.net (165.228.138.149)  31.044 ms  32.257 ms  29.997 ms
...

In passing, it's interesting to note how short a time I spent with SkyMesh, only a little over 6 months. They really took over from Aussie not on 1 May but some time later. And they terminated the contract in mid-December of the same year. It felt like forever.


Another power failure
Topic: general Link here

Another power failure today, a short one at 11:42.


Electric fence equipment
Topic: animals, Stones Road house, opinion, technology Link here

We've provisionally fenced our property in Stones Road so that we can put horses on it. Problem: no power yet. So we bought a solar-powered electric fence “actuator”, which should deliver 8 kV and a charge of 0.3 J. Not according to our voltmeter:


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Who's right? Is it possible that the voltmeter is wrong? We've seen relatively low voltages from our main electric fence too. More checking needed.


Still more USB pain
Topic: technology Link here

Somehow the USB connection for my new system is more than a slight problem:

Feb 13 02:05:19 eureka kernel: (da0:umass-sim0:0:0:0): READ(10). CDB: 28 00 00 01 61 1f 00 00 04 00
Feb 13 02:05:19 eureka kernel: (da0:umass-sim0:0:0:0): CAM status: SCSI Status Error
Feb 13 02:05:19 eureka kernel: (da0:umass-sim0:0:0:0): SCSI status: Check Condition
Feb 13 02:05:19 eureka kernel: (da0:umass-sim0:0:0:0): SCSI sense: UNIT ATTENTION asc:28,0 (Not ready to ready change, medium may have changed)
Feb 13 02:05:19 eureka kernel: (da0:umass-sim0:0:0:0): Retrying command (per sense data)
Feb 13 02:05:25 eureka kernel: g_vfs_done():da0s1d[READ(offset=806802456576, length=16384)]error = 6
...
Feb 13 02:05:25 eureka kernel: g_vfs_done():da0s1d[READ(offset=431245213696, length=2048)]error = 6
Feb 13 02:05:43 eureka kernel: Device da0s1d went missing before all of the data could be written to it; expect data loss.

It's not clear what was going on there. I start my backups at 21:00, and today I had left the file system mounted, so all I got was:

mount: /dev/da0s1d: Device busy

I thought that it might be related to some cron job, but I don't see anything obvious. And once again the file system was dirty.

What a pain this is! Clearly it's related to the spinup cycle, so I added this line in my script:

# XXX wake up the disk
dd if=/dev/da0 count=1 > /dev/null

We'll see how that works.


Friday, 14 February 2014 Dereel
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Networking: faster?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Still no technical message from Aussie Broadband today, but I did receive an invoice, which also indicated that I would get double the data allowance (in other words, 100 GB) for the first 6 months. That's not on their web site, but it was on the advertising I got a few months ago.

So: I'm on the net. How is it? Ran some speed tests and got some quite good results: latency (“ping”) of 36 ms, downlink 26.2 Mb/s, uplink 4.2 Mb/s. That's about as good as I've had. The real test is the TCP with something like ftp, of course, but I didn't try that so as not to be disappointed.

But Friday is a day when SBS doesn't broadcast Al Jazeera news, so I had to watch it online. Surprise, surprise! Not only was there no jerkiness, the picture quality itself was much better. I'm left wondering if there's some adaptive code in the flash player that favours poor quality over jerkiness. In any case, the first indication is that the performance is much better than either Exetel or SkyMesh. That was borne out by the fastest ping time I have seen in a long time, to ozlabs.org in Canberra: 26.275 ms, which includes not only the NBN wireless links but also another 8 hops.

And I have a static IP address, and it's an Ethernet bridge, so I can connect the NTD directly to eureka. But how do you do that? With a second network card it's not an issue, but this is a network, right? So I can set the static address as an alias on eureka's NIC.

But that's not the way Aussie BB wants it. I should be using DHCP. Round here the idea of aliases becomes an issue. Again, with a second NIC, I wouldn't have a problem, but I can't see a way to get DHCP to coexist with other addresses on the same NIC. That's not such an issue, but a static IP address doesn't presuppose a static routing address. Still, here's hope. So I set the route (not yet default) to the default router that DHCP had returned. And, of course, it worked.

Up to a point. I could get out, but I couldn't get back in. After some investigation, discovered that I could only access my system from outside if a TCP session already existed. Here traceroutes from freefall.FreeBSD.org, where I was connected via Aussie, and w3.lemis.com, where I was connected via SkyMesh:

=== grog@freefall (/dev/pts/53) ~ 7 -> traceroute 180-150-4-134.nbn.ballarat.aussiebb.net
traceroute to 180-150-4-134.nbn.ballarat.aussiebb.net (180.150.4.134), 64 hops max, 52 byte packets
...
15  gi0-0-19.core1.nbn.portmel.aussiebb.net (202.142.143.66)  173.948 ms  178.659 ms  174.539 ms
16  180-150-4-134.NBN.ballarat.aussiebb.net (180.150.4.134)  205.128 ms  189.287 ms  189.790 ms
=== grog@w3 (/dev/ttyp0) ~ 22 -> traceroute 180-150-4-134.nbn.ballarat.aussiebb.net
traceroute to 180-150-4-134.nbn.ballarat.aussiebb.net (180.150.4.134), 64 hops max, 40 byte packets
...
23  gi0-0-19.core1.nbn.portmel.aussiebb.net (202.142.143.66)  234.213 ms  235.392 ms  233.425 ms
24  * * *

It looks like there's some strange firewalling going on there. Went looking on the Aussie Broadband site, but couldn't find anything, not even a promise of a static IP. That's only on the Whirlpool page. I'll investigate the truth some other time.


More database editor pain
Topic: technology Link here

I'm making progress on fixing MySQL Edit Table, but it's slow. The lack of comments and the emetic HTML output make it very difficult to understand, and today I spent much of my time reformatting the HTML output so that I could understand it. I hate ugly indentation at the best of times, but now is not the best of times: it was absolutely necessary to get anything done.

Finally I had the “Add record” functionality almost working. But it seems the code makes assumptions about the primary key:

        if (!$edit && $key == $this->primary_key)
          $field = "<input type='hidden' name='$key' value=''>[auto increment]";

And no, there's no check to see if that's the case or not. For the time being, I'll leave it as it is (along with a comment): as it happens, the tables I really want to edit do have auto-increment primary keys. But I'm coming from one astonishment to another.


Saturday, 15 February 2014 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 15 February 2014
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Dog training again
Topic: animals Link here

Into Ballarat again today for the third of four weeks of dog training with Happy Dog. Yvonne has made significant progress with Tanya, to the point where I'm beginning to wonder whether a German Shepherd Dog jumped the fence, and she's thinking of continuing with other courses when this is over. I don't think I'll join her: firstly, animal training isn't quite my thing, and secondly Nikolai isn't as talented. But I'm happy the way it is.


House photo experiments
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

The house photos are becoming somewhat routine lately, so for a change I did some experiments. The weather was overcast, and for some of the views I reverted to single exposures. I've done this before: in fact, looking at the “Garden North” panorama, the only time I've done HDR was on 4 January 2014. Here a comparison with today (second image):


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It's difficult to compare. Today's image seems brighter, while last's months looks a little washed out. On the other hand, as expected, there was more shadow detail. This is something I've noticed before. Maybe it's related to the software I use.

The washed-out appearance is particularly obvious in some of the other panoramas I took today, notably the “Garden Centre”:


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In the case of the verandah, things were even more complicated. I've already established that the dynamic range there is extreme, so I really do need almost the 12 EV range that I can get with the most extreme bracketing of the Olympus OM-D E-M1. It's just a pity I can't do it with less than 5 exposures. Here the extremes, with the intermediate exposures left out:


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In the first set, it's clear that the last image contributes useful information to the final image, and the results bear this out. Here this image made from four images (the lightest left out) and then with five images:


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Unfortunately, that doesn't work for the other component. Here again the results with 4 and 5 components:


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Somehow the really light image has confused the software, and the result is misaligned junk.

So I made most of the images with only 4 components. The results weren't good: I couldn't get the roof to join. I'm not going to try again with this panorama, at least not until I have my HDR merging worked out.


Network speed comparisons
Topic: technology Link here

I was very impressed by my 26 ms ping time to ozlabs.org yesterday. But today things weren't nearly as good. Ran mtr for a while and discovered that the bottleneck was at the other end, in the TransACT network, and that in fact my link is capable of very fast speeds, down as low as 17 ms.

 
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I'm impressed.


X pain
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Since moving to my new computer, I've had more strange problems with X: server 1, which had previously never given me any trouble, started hanging. Today I managed to provoke it again, but after restarting I couldn't get my mouse to respond.

I've had that issue before. In fact, every time I start server 0, the first time round the mouse is dead. I have to immediately stop it and restart it. But that no longer worked. Time to look in the log files. In /var/log/Xorg.1.log I found:

(WW) product 0x05d8: No Device specified, looking for one...
(II) product 0x05d8: Setting Device option to "/dev/ums0"
(--) product 0x05d8: Device: "/dev/ums0"
(==) product 0x05d8: Protocol: "Auto"
(**) product 0x05d8: always reports core events
(**) Option "Device" "/dev/ums0"
(EE) xf86OpenSerial: Cannot open device /dev/ums0
Device busy.
(EE) product 0x05d8: cannot open input device
(II) UnloadModule: "mouse"

Huh? /dev/ums0? Where did that come from? In my config file (/etc/X11/xorg-1.conf I have:

Section "InputDevice"
...
    Option         "Device" "/dev/sysmouse"
EndSection

What happened to that? It got discarded. Earlier on I found:

(WW) AllowEmptyInput is on, devices using drivers 'kbd', 'mouse' or 'vmmouse' will be disabled.
(WW) Disabling Keyboard0
(WW) Disabling Mouse0

Why should that disable input devices? And why do I still have a keyboard? First I looked at /var/log/Xorg.0.log and found exactly the same disabling of the input devices. On the face of it, that's not surprising, since there are minimal differences between the config files: the only difference is in the layout of the displays.

But in /var/log/Xorg.0.log I read:

(II) config/hal: Adding input device Sun USB Keyboard
(II) LoadModule: "kbd"
(II) Loading /usr/local/lib/xorg/modules/input/kbd_drv.so
(II) Module kbd: vendor="X.Org Foundation"
compiled for 1.7.7, module version = 1.6.1
Module class: X.Org XInput Driver
ABI class: X.Org XInput driver, version 7.0
(**) Sun USB Keyboard: always reports core events
(**) Option "Protocol" "standard"
(**) Option "XkbRules" "base"
(**) Option "XkbModel" "pc105"
(**) Option "XkbLayout" "us"
(II) XINPUT: Adding extended input device "Sun USB Keyboard" (type: KEYBOARD)
(II) XKB: Reusing cached keymap
(II) config/hal: Adding input device product 0x05d8
(II) LoadModule: "mouse"
(II) Loading /usr/local/lib/xorg/modules/input/mouse_drv.so
(II) Module mouse: vendor="X.Org Foundation"
compiled for 1.7.7, module version = 1.7.1
Module class: X.Org XInput Driver
ABI class: X.Org XInput driver, version 7.0
(WW) product 0x05d8: No Device specified, looking for one...
(II) product 0x05d8: Setting Device option to "/dev/sysmouse"
(--) product 0x05d8: Device: "/dev/sysmouse"
(==) product 0x05d8: Protocol: "Auto"
(**) product 0x05d8: always reports core events
(**) Option "Device" "/dev/sysmouse"
(==) product 0x05d8: Emulate3Buttons, Emulate3Timeout: 50
(**) product 0x05d8: ZAxisMapping: buttons 4 and 5
(**) product 0x05d8: Buttons: 9
(II) XINPUT: Adding extended input device "product 0x05d8" (type: MOUSE)
(**) product 0x05d8: (accel) keeping acceleration scheme 1
(**) product 0x05d8: (accel) acceleration profile 0
(**) Option "Device" "/dev/sysmouse"
(II) product 0x05d8: SetupAuto: hw.iftype is 4, hw.model is 0
(II) product 0x05d8: SetupAuto: protocol is SysMouse
(II) config/hal: Adding input device product 0x05d8

Bloody hal again! What does it mean, “No Device specified”? It's all in the config file. And instead of setting what I want, it adds all sorts of things that I don't want, like Emulate3Buttons”. Where is it getting this information from? Clearly not from the configuration file. That's not the only thing that ignores the information in the configuration file. The nVidia driver does similar things with the display layout. Why do they do these things? X has become such a mess that it's no wonder people want to replace it. But wouldn't it be easier to fix it?

But there's still the question: why disable input peripherals in a default configuration? How do I change AllowEmptyInput anyway? There, of course, the web is your friend. Just add:

Section "ServerFlags"
    Option "AllowEmptyInput" "no"
EndSection

Did that, and sure enough, X started, a little wobbly at the knees. On one occasion I ended up with another loop, involving the window manager as well:

  PID USERNAME      THR PRI NICE   SIZE    RES STATE   C   TIME   WCPU COMMAND
94571 grog            1  96    0 11228K  2548K CPU5    5   1:10 78.96% fvwm-32
94554 grog            1  93    0  3979M   789M CPU3    3   1:20 68.65% Xorg

And input events didn't work properly; after pressing a button, I needed to move the mouse. Clearly AllowEmptyInput is useful. I'm not out of the woods yet.


Still more backup disk isssues
Topic: technology Link here

My issues with the backup disk are still not over. Even after reading data from the disk, mount claims that the device is not configured:

=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/26) /var/log 202 -> dd if=/dev/da0s1d of=/dev/null count=1
1+0 records in
1+0 records out
512 bytes transferred in 0.000490 secs (1045004 bytes/sec)
=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/26) /var/log 203 -> mount /dev/da0s1d /backups
mount: /backups: Device not configured

What now? It almost looks like a kernel debugging session, but first I'll complete my migration to FreeBSD release 10.


MySQL table editor: finished!
Topic: technology Link here

More work on MySQL Edit Table today. Now it works, I think. I can add, modify and delete records, and search for them. For the time being it's enough. There are still many rough edges and other things I'd like to do, but since I have (re)written much of the code, I'm in a better position to do that kind of thing.


Sunday, 16 February 2014 Dereel Images for 16 February 2014
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Garden flowers in late summer
Topic: gardening Link here

Summer's drawing to a close, and we're not unhappy. It hasn't been a nice summer: too hot, too cold, too dry, just no happy medium. And it shows in the garden, where the combination of drought and clogged sprinklers shows much less vegetation than last year. Much of what is flowering is looking decidedly less than happy:


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About the only interesting thing is a succulent that I bought some years ago, which flowered in the first autumn and then not again. Now it's flowering again:


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Tanya's growth
Topic: animals Link here

Tanya continues to grow. Today she weighed 15.4 kg, and that's basically the last time we can weigh her, since we've done it by lifting her up and standing on the scales.

On the other hand, she's still not nearly as big as Nikolai, and it shows. He's really too rough with her, with the result that we're not taking them out for walks together yet. But Nikolai hasn't changed much in size in the last 2 months. He was 6 months old when we got him; Tanya is now 4 months old, so in a couple of months she should be roughly his size. We can wait that long.


Monday, 17 February 2014 Dereel
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Aussie Broadband support
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Another round of Coursera videos today, 184 MB of them. Not a worry any more since my connection to the National Broadband Network: that corresponds to a download time of a little over a minute. But today that didn't happen; instead of the expected 2.5 MB/s download speeds, I ended up with about 20 kB/s. What went wrong?

Tried again from my external server in Maryland. 8 MB/s. Even copying from there came over with 450 kB/s. So what was wrong? Looks like routing. Called up Aussie Broadband support. 5 minutes' wait on the phone is probably normal for a support call. Was connected to Abraham, who went through his script and asked me to reset the NTD. Apart from the fact that it was clearly not necessary, it would have killed the (VoIP) call.

Discussed for a while, and finally he decided I knew more about the matter than he did, and contacted his third level support people (I don't know what happened to second). That's the first time anybody has done that, and I'm impressed. He has also made a note in my account that I'm technical, and presumably I'll get better support in the future.

While waiting, did some tcpdumps and discovered that there are multiple servers for this URL. The one I was downloading from was in Sydney, the one I connected to in the USA was in the USA. So until proof of the contrary, it's some kind of rate limiting in the Sydney server.


Goodbye SkyMesh
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

My two month trial with SkyMesh started either on 19 December, when I got the equipment, or on 21 December, when they finally sorted out their configuration. Time to give notice of termination. Sent a message to Paul Rees, summarizing the reasons:

Parts of it were excellent.

Good things:

Less good things:

I then called up SkyMesh sales to cancel the contract. They took 48 minutes to answer! I've had that before with technical support, but generally sales lines are fast. Spoke to Chloe, who told me that my two month trial ended yesterday, since it started on 16 December. She didn't seem to understand when I said that I hadn't applied until the following day, nor that the connection wasn't provisioned until 19 December at the earliest. She was quite happy to continue the trial for a few days, but that wasn't the point: somehow their calculations are wrong. Still, it's disconnected now. I'm left with pretty much the same impression of SkyMesh that I had before.


Enblend port, next try
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Finally got round to looking at the enblend port, which has been broken for months since changing compilers. Applied all the patches that people have sent to me, but it still fails with undefined references like this one:

enfuse.cc:(.text._ZN5vigra6detail11exportImageIN9vigra_ext28ConstCachedFileImageIteratorINS_8RGBValueIhLj0ELj1ELj2EEEEENS_11RGBAccessorIS5_EEEEvT_S9_T0_RKNS_15ImageExportInfoENS_14VigraFalseTypeE[_ZN5vigra6detail11exportImageIN9vigra_ext28ConstCachedFileImageIteratorINS_8RGBValueIhLj0ELj1ELj2EEEEENS_11RGBAccessorIS5_EEEEvT_S9_T0_RKNS_15ImageExportInfoENS_14VigraFalseTypeE]+0x116): undefined reference to `vigra::isBandNumberSupported(std::__1::basic_string<char, std::__1::char_traits<char>, std::__1::allocator<char> > const&, int)'

What's causing that? Both enblend and vigra are unduly sensitive to the compiler in use, and the change to clang has completely broken them. But more to the point, how do I fix it? It seems to be related to the use of C++, with which I lost contact years ago. This is just too much pain. I wonder how many FreeBSD users will give up because of the change in compiler.


Tuesday, 18 February 2014 Dereel
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Continued enblend pain
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Another attempt at compiling enblend with clang. It's like pulling teeth. At Jürgen Lock's suggestion, tried telling it to use different C++ standards. That made a difference: things died in different places. I'm reminded of Andy Tanenbaum's quote: “The nice thing about standards is that you have so many to choose from”.

More seriously, this whole thing is a catastrophe. I have two large, not-very-well written packages that are so compiler-sensitive that I can't find a way through the jungle. Is this what C++ was meant to be? In the end, I put it back on the “too hard” queue, at least for the time being.


Wednesday, 19 February 2014 Dereel Images for 19 February 2014
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Net download speeds revisited
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

A couple of days ago I had significant problems downloading videos from Coursera, getting under 100 kB/s aggregate. That appeared to be at least in part because I was using a different download server. Today I had more videos to download from the same server. This time, though, things were fine:

 
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That's an aggregate speed of 3.221 MB/s, or 25.678 Mb/s payload. You certainly can't complain about that.


Microsoft hibernation, next pain
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I still haven't found a way to get dischord, my Microsoft 7 box, to hibernate correctly. What I'm trying now is to power cycle it after hibernation. It then will still react to a magic packet across the network, so the only real issue is the physical access to power cycle it.

But today, though it came up, I couldn't access it via rdesktop. Why not? Took at look with tcpdump and discovered dischord trying to access the Internet via sky-gw, the now-removed gateway to the SkyMesh network. That needed fixing, of course. And for some reason, Microsoft decided that I was now on a new network, “Network 3”. It's not clear what Network 1 was, and certainly not why I need to declare a new network just because the default gateway has changed. But then, who understands Microsoft networking? In any case, after that rdesktop worked fine.


Olympus E-M1 “networking”
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

One of the big disappointments about my new Olympus OM-D E-M1 is the abysmal “networking” support. According to the instructions, it can only interface to a tablet or smart phone, and to do so the device must completely disconnect from any other network. Network indeed! It's a point-to-point connection.

There was a discussion of the matter on the German Olympus Forum today, in the course of which Oliver Musch pointed me at this thread in another forum, where somebody had actually managed to talk to the camera from a PC. He describes it here: the problem is that the camera generates its own SSID, of the form E-M1-P<serial-number>; it's as if it wants to be its own access point. So now I have to find a way to make a machine adapt to that environment.


More power failures
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Two power failures in quick succession this evening at 22:00.


Thursday, 20 February 2014 Dereel Images for 20 February 2014
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Bushfire Management Statement: site survey
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Over to our building site in Stones Road this morning to meet Patrick from Colin McClelland and Associates, who had come to inspect the site. He volunteered the information that the whole idea of a Bushfire Management Statement, along with its contents, was bullshit, something that I can really identify with. On a more positive note, he thought that our choice of site and location was about the best that we could do here, so there was no reason to expect a BAL over 12.5.

Also dropped in to see Garry and Diane Marriott. It seems that the sale of the land has given them the money to spend 12 to 18 months driving around Australia, so we won't be seeing much of them. Granddaughter is moving in to look after the place, and they've already signed up with Aussie Broadband for two years. I'll be very interested to see what signal strength they'll get.


Networking an E-M1
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Yesterday's revelations about the nature of the “network” support of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 got me thinking. Can't I do that too? The problem is that the camera has its own SSID and generates its own password. Those are basically access point functions. The thing doesn't know its place in the “network”. So I need a device that can associate with it. I have one, of course: my Android tablet. But that means disconnecting from any other network. Apart from that, I don't use wireless networking.

But I do have an old PCMCIA wireless card, one of the many that Rasmus bought for us over 12 years ago. I know that the FreeBSD driver has atrophied to the point where it now panics if I insert the card, but what about Microsoft? No, Microsoft has no difficulty recognizing the card, and can associate with my normal access point. What about the camera? Yes, it finds the camera too, but things weren't quite as smooth:

 
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On reflection, the camera uses WPS, something that postdates both the card and the operating system (“Windows” XP). But Daniel O'Connor thinks that XP service pack 3 can handle it, so investigated that. No, I only had service pack 2 installed.


Installing “Windows” XP Service Pack 3
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Installing “Windows” XP service pack 3 sounded like a good idea. My old Dell Inspiron 5100 has only 512 MB of memory (or, as I said at the time “Microsoft must be getting really memory hungry if a laptop can use that much memory”), so there's no point in trying to upgrade to a newer version of Microsoft. And since support for XP is about to cease, it looked like time to install the latest version.

How do you do that? The control panel, which hasn't really changed since those days, doesn't have a “Windows Update” function. It seems that you must use “Internet Explorer” to do that. And it went off and didn't find Service Pack 3. Spent quite a lot of time on the web trying to find it, being told that the correct way to install was via the “Windows Update” web site, and finally took the option for “IT Professionals”. The results were startling:


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Yes, there are security issues with Microsoft, but I didn't expect “Internet Explorer” refuse to download Microsoft's own software. Even after loading, I got a similar message:

 
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But by then it was evening, so I left it installing overnight.


Fajitas again
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

How do you prepare Fajitas? I have a recipe that I have made a couple of times and that I appear to have found here. Tried that today, and grilled them on the gas-fired table grill. The results were good, but not spectacular. In principle, it seems that all Tex-Mex food tastes the same. Enchiladas with chicken would taste just as good and be a lot less work.

In the process, made an error in the quantities making the tortillas. I weighed out flour for 4 tortillas and used water for 5. Not surprisingly, they were moister than they should have been, but somehow I managed to grill them anyway. Maybe the quantity of water isn't as important as I thought it was.


Friday, 21 February 2014 Dereel
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Completing XP SP3 install
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Into the office this morning to find pain, my Microsoft XP box, telling me that it couldn't install Service Pack 3 because there wasn't enough space. OK, that can be fixed. But then I couldn't find the download! “Internet Explorer” had put it somewhere that I couldn't find, and it doesn't seem to have a downloads page. Fortunately I had the name of the file from yesterday's security issues, and was able to search for it with a recursive DIR invocation. It was in C:\WINDOWS\SoftwareDistribution\Download\2bc0b3c55e0c166e04844934d1c7c342\WindowsXP-KB936929-SP3-x86-ENU.exe. Clearly they didn't want me to find it.

Installation ran for hours! But it succeeded. And when it did, of course, I was waiting for many more software updates, but it still wanted to install updates for SP2. I wonder what went wrong there.

And the WPA connection? No go. Same problem as before: it just couldn't associate. So probably the card is too old. Never mind: Daniel O'Connor found a USB-connected 802.11 card on eBay for all of $5.75, including shipping. So I'll wait for that to come before I continue.


Saturday, 22 February 2014 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 22 February 2014
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Last day of dog training
Topic: animals Link here

Into Ballarat today for the last day of our dog training course. The previous three weeks have been almost unbearably hot, but today made up for it: cool and so windy that it blew over the chairs we were to sit on:


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Took some videos:

I still need to learn more about taking and processing videos. Dropped in at the O'Dea's in Enfield on the way home, where I tried unsuccessfully to get some videos with Bindy and the other dogs. Bindy is seriously overweight.


More E-M1 networking
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

More investigation of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 wireless networking today. Reinhard Wagner had told me that there are two different users defined in the camera: one could control the camera, the other just access the images. By chance I had got hold of a second Android tablet, a Bauhn (i.e. ALDI) AT-HK97. Under the circumstances it proved to be a poor choice: OI.Share doesn't support it. But I was able to connect to the camera using the standard settings page: the camera shows up as an access point, and it allows setup with WPS, just like a normal access point. Unfortunately, I was not able to connect a second tablet. What am I doing wrong?

And as this discussion reveals, it's possible to access it via a web browser. So I tried that, helped by the information that the IP address of the camera is 192.168.0.10. And sure enough, I got a web page redirected to http://oishare/DCIM, showing the contents of the DCIM directory on the SD card in graphic form. Selected 100OLYMP and got this page:


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Those are the photos on the card, alright, though ordered back-to-front to confuse you. And they're the raw images, something that OI.Share is too leet to display. I can click on the images and get a display:


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But it's no bigger than the original. In fact, it's potentially smaller: you can enlarge the display of the directory view, but not of the single image view. So for display purposes it's singularly useless. But the real problem is that what I see is a web page. How do I access the file itself? About time to ask a few questions.

One other thing that surprised me was the speed of the connection. The tablet tells me that it had a connection at 72 Mb/s (why is it never higher?), but I had ping times of up to 100 ms, and an average of 60 ms:

 
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That clarified itself when Chris Bahlo came in the evening. She brought her laptop with her, and after significant problems was able to connect to the camera. And then she was able to ping the camera at normal speeds (“1 ms”, as Microsoft so accurately states).

And her problems? Seem to be due to this silly fantasy domain name oishare. My best guess is that Chris' laptop was trying to perform a DNS lookup via a different network, and of course it failed. So it's good to know that if you enter http://192.168.0.10/DCIM, the camera won't change the IP address to a fake domain.


Maigret de canard revisited
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Maigret de canard for dinner this evening, the first time Chris Bahlo had eaten it. I'm gradually getting the hang of it, though this time the breasts were thicker. Updated the recipe to what I now think it should be.


Sunday, 23 February 2014 Dereel Images for 23 February 2014
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More computer pain
Topic: technology, photography, opinion Link here

Spent much of the day processing photos, not helped by various X bugs that came to bite me. Got server 1 stuck in a loop again, and this time on restarting I was back to this strange behaviour where I had to move the cursor after input.

And then I got the dreaded mouse jump hang not once, but twice. No doubt about it: it's related to USB. Now if I could only get enblend to work on release 10, I'd finally be able to upgrade.


How to scan QR codes
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

My discussion about the Olympus OM-D E-M1 wireless link support continues. It seems that there are two users, “User” and “Admin”. But the documentation speaks, probably more correctly, of a “private” and a “one-time” connection. The documented difference is that in the latter case the password changes every time you set up a connection. In fact, not even that is correct: you get the chance to change it every time you set up a connection. The undocumented difference is that you can only control the camera in “private” mode. And that's what Reinhard was talking about.

In fact, the “one-time” connection mode makes sense in many scenarios. The one Olympus seems to be thinking about is for people to get copies of photos on their smart phones. But there are others, like when you don't have your own smart phone and you want to use somebody else's to control your camera. And they clearly didn't think of that, because it's only possible in “private” mode.

It's difficult to consider how to improve the interface. Currently there appear to be such extreme hardware limitations that any software improvements don't really make much sense.

One question remained: how do you set up networking using the QR code that the camera supplies? Asked Reinhard, and he told me: go to Settings, then “Guide”:

 
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Guide? And under “About”? What have these people been smoking? But it doesn't work for me anyway. Instead it tells me to type it in:

 
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This stuff is really badly broken.


Monday, 24 February 2014 Dereel
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Understanding Android, next attempt
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

When I came into the lounge room this morning, my Android tablet had the display illuminated, and it didn't respond correctly to swiping. Some software hang? Found the reset hole and reset the thing, which didn't seem to improve matters greatly. Not until another reboot did it respond normally.

Why? It was trying, with apparent lack of success, to update the Zoiper app. Running out of space? For some obscure reason, the tablet has divided its 16 GB SD card into a 1.9 GB partition and a 14 GB partition, and it only uses the former, now nearly full. Will it overflow into the second? How do I know? How do I repartition the card? What will happen if I just replace it with a 32 GB card which appears to be correctly partitioned? How do I back up the old card?

Googling for “android partition SD” didn't bring anything useful. But it's straightforward enough to partition SD cards with basic tools like gpart. All I need is to back the thing up first. And googling for “android backup” looked straightforward enough. Chose this article, which contains the instructions:

On your Android, pull down the main menu (swipe down from the top of the screen) and select "USB connection."

Huh? Swipe down from the top? That's a gesture I don't know. And neither, it seems, does my tablet. Tried it on the other ALDI tablet. It didn't know either. Tried it on Chris Bahlo's Samsung phone. Yes, it knew the swipe, but didn't offer a USB menu. And, of course, none of them appeared on dischord as an external disk. This reminds me of the Tower of Babel.

What I did find was a menu item to back up some data to Google. Which data? It tells me the categories, but not what the real data is. Somehow I don't feel comfortable with that.


More E-M1 network experiences
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

So how do I download photos from my camera to a computer without the help of OI.Share? Yes, I have a web page, but I need the individual images. Maybe it's as simple as appending the image name, like http://192.168.0.10/DCIM/100OLYMP/P2244123.ORF. Tried that with a browser on my Android, and it seems that it might be right; only of course the browser doesn't know what to do with the image.

Tried a JPEG image with OI.Share, and sure enough, it downloaded it. Almost. It changed the name to hide the origin, and seems to have done some kind of reformatting:

-r----x--x  1 grog  lemis   2,903,504 24 Feb 11:22 OI000001.jpg
-rw-rw-r--  2 grog  lemis   2,887,042 23 Feb 12:12 P2234068.JPG

That's the same image, firstly downloaded via OI.Share and then directly from the card. Everything looks wrong. No idea what set the ridiculous permissions, but why did it change the name? And why is the size different? And why is the date not set to the time of exposure? This is positively nauseating.


Tuesday, 25 February 2014 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 25 February 2014
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More pension pain
Topic: general Link here

Into town today to meet Peter O'Connell for our quarterly investments discussion. But in the meantime we had run into almost insurmountable problems applying for Yvonne's pension, so she came along as well and we went through that. These Centrelink forms are almost unintelligible. Peter helped us with that, and hopefully things will be OK. Once again only a brief discussion of investments, but it looks as if the market is looking up.


Centrelink online
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

After the visit to Peter I had to call Centrelink, and while on the line I asked them about online services (https://www.centrelink.gov.auforward/LoginServices). Yes, they could set me up, I just needed to answer a couple of questions so that they know it's me. Yvonne's date of birth, validity of my pension card, nothing that couldn't be found out relatively easily. And with that I was validated with level 3 security, which seems to be the highest, the same as level 4. And on login I had to change my password.

Changing passwords was a pain! Apart from this stupid insistence on limiting password strength (these ones don't even distinguish between upper and lower case), I had to supply answers to no less than five “secret questions”, three of which they had provided:

What is the name of the first street I lived in?
What was the model of a car I learnt to drive in?
What was my nickname at school?

Stupidity! I should have used that as an answer to one of them (nickname, maybe?). Of course I answered with incorrect answers that nobody could possibly guess. And if that wasn't enough, I have to answer one of them (so far the same one each time) every time I log in:

 
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The silly thing about this is that it's shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted: my initial identification wasn't nearly as secure.


Wednesday, 26 February 2014 Dereel Images for 26 February 2014
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Streaming video on the net
Topic: multimedia, technology, opinion Link here

We've been watching Downton Abbey on TV since it first came out. Earlier this month Seven Network repeated the entire 3rd series, and we were waiting for the new fourth series to start. And we missed it: I had set up cvr2, my video recording computer, to record all showings, but only on 7TWO. And now it's on PRIME7 Ballarat. Fixed that, but we lost the first recording.

Never mind, maybe they have a “view later” facility on the web site? Off to look at a web site that can't decide whether it's Seven Network or Yahoo!. The first search took me to Yahoo!'s search engine, which obligingly took me to an external site. But further down there's a link to Seven's own offering. And yes, episode 1 is available online. All I need to do is sign up.

OK, not an issue. Well, that's what I thought. I couldn't enter any of my normal nicks as a login. Finally it accepted grxgreff, and then wanted Yet Another of these stupid limited choice password things. So I complied:

 
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And it told me “Invalid password format”. That has a really strange ring to it. But it ultimately accepted another that was much more negative towards Yahoo! and Seven Network.

OK, watch episode. Chrome just spun. firefox was clearer: “This video is not available to users in your location”.

This is stupid. I'm running behind NAT, so the address it should see is the address of the router, 180.150.4.134. OK, call Seven, not made any easier by the fact that they don't give any phone numbers on the web site. Finally found one for Seven Melbourne in the White Pages, (03) 9697 7777, and called that.

To my surprise the bloke who answered the phone was quite helpful and took me through the usual things, including checking the IP address with whatismyipaddress. Yes, ifconfig would do it much more easily, but this is what the outside world sees on an HTTP request. And it was the correct address, and it also confirmed the physical address as being Sebastopol, Victoria. But that was as far as he could help me: I had to send feedback via their service people, limiting input to 80 characters. Got the usual reply saying that they appreciated my feedback, and don't expect them to do anything.

OK, that's more pain than it's worth. What alternatives are there? Daniel O'Connor found a copy on a torrent site, so set off to load that. First I had to find the download link, which was hidden in a minefield of buttons marked “Download” and leading to online gambling and porn sites. Finally found it with Daniel's help.

It proves that I had installed rtorrent on my machine a couple of years ago, so tried that. As the last time, it seemed to do nothing for a surprisingly long period of time, and then it took off at 200 kB/s, which proved to be the setting in my .rtorrent.rc file. I'll fix that later.

Finally it was there, 2.5 GB of 1080p H.264. And teevee couldn't play it! It's too slow. It looks as if H.264 requires more processing power than MPEG-2. Now I'll have to find alternative hardware.


Thursday, 27 February 2014 Dereel Images for 27 February 2014
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Improving signal to noise ratio
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

This diary has always been my personal diary, though I share. But much of I write must be deathly boring to most people. In particular, for the past 5 years it has been aggregated into the ACM queue web site. Early on I introduced categories so that ACM could select only computer-related topics. But as time goes on, I'm writing more and more, and little of it can be interesting to the average ACMQ reader. This month, out of a total of 132 entries in ACMQ, I wrote 53. Yes, they're all somehow related to computers, but that doesn't make them interesting to anybody except myself. So I've put in another limitation: I can recognize the ACMQ crawler, and I now have code in my source that skips some entries if it sees the crawler.

Which entries? The ones I think uninteresting for the general computing public. I decide on a case-by-case basis. I'm not hiding things; they're all present in my diary. But hopefully that'll restore balance in the blog roll.


Watching H.264
Topic: multimedia, technology Link here

Yesterday's download of Downton Abbey had one problem: it's 1080p in MPEG-4/H.264 coding, and my TV computer couldn't handle it. Discussing the matter, though, Jürgen Lock mentioned VDPAU. Yes, of course I'm using it. Look... Oh.

Modified the baroque script I use to launch mplayer and all was well: CPU usage down from 70% to 3%.

=== grog@teevee (/dev/pts/4) /spool/Images 6 -> mmp Downton-Abbey-4-1
/usr/local/bin/mplayer-old -alang en -cache 16384 -osdlevel 3 -subfont-osd-scale 1 -vo vdpau -vc ffh264vdpau -calctime -savetime Downton-Abbey-4-1 -framedrop -fs -really-quiet 2> /var/tmp/mmp-errors

And in passing it's interesting to note that the definition of this recording is really much better than what we see on TV. I wonder if there are any native 1080p broadcasts in TV.


Understanding torrents
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

After the success of my one downloaded video using rtorrent, decided to try some more. The whole environment is repulsive. Porn and online gambling are round every corner, and most links lead you nowhere you would ever want to go. But finally I can find a URL, if that's the word, and feed it into an rtorrent. And what it does then seems shrouded in mystery. The URL includes a list of trackers to which rtorrent tries to connect on port http with UDP. And for some reason it doesn't like what replies it gets. Result: no transfer. It looks like I'm going to have to dig deeper than I really want to.


Yet Another Broken Photography Package
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

C't digitale Fotographie arrived today, along with a DVD with various things on it. One was Studioline Photo Classic SE 3, which promises lots of useful base functions:

Professional photographic processing and photo database with hierarchical categories and evaluation system. Allows importing raw photos and can read and process IPTC and EXIF data.

Maybe that reference to databases and import should have warned me. But I installed it, and found at least voluminous documentation: 305 pages of it. That's almost too much. Tried to “import” some photos. It took 15 minutes. It seems that the main function of the package is to maintain the database, and that's most definitely not what I want. All I really want, in fact, is perspective correction. Why can't packages do a job instead of wanting to take over your life?

The problems I had were that Studioline wants to import exactly once. If you delete the files, you can't (easily) import them again: Studioline knows that they're gone. I had to link them into a different source directory to reload them. When I finally got things in there, I had groups of three photos with identical names:

 
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This stupid mutilation of file names isn't specific to Studioline, I suppose: it's typical of the Microsoft space. But it makes life very difficult.


Honest CPU cycles
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Decades ago at Tandem, our CEO Jimmy Treybig told us that we should find ways to use CPU cycles honestly. What he meant, of course, was to find applications that justifiably used lots of CPU time and thus sold processors. He would have been proud of modern web browsers:

  PID USERNAME      THR PRI NICE   SIZE    RES STATE   C   TIME   WCPU COMMAND
  400 grog            1 103    0   197M 60304K CPU7    7  19.9H 100.00% chrome
  387 grog            1 103    0   197M 60304K CPU6    6  19.9H 100.00% chrome
16418 grog           35  20    0  1188M   815M uwait   3 138:43 100.00% firefox-bin

It's difficult to compare the speed of my Core i7-4771 with Tandem's Cyclone of the time; I'd guess that a fully populated 224 CPU node Cyclone machine would match about one CPU on the Intel. Now wouldn't that have made Jimmy's day!


Friday, 28 February 2014 Dereel
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History already
Topic: history, photography Link here

Fifty years ago I was at school in England, but my parents lived in Malaysia, and I spent the (northern) summer holidays in Kuala Lumpur. It was an interesting time, and I met a number of interesting people. I was also just getting interested in photography, and I took a number of photos of Kuala Lumpur. On 28 August 1964 I walked around town and took photos of the major buildings, some of which, such as the Masjid Negara, were still under construction:


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I've had a number of requests for publishing the photos, all of which I have granted, but recently I had a request for some other photos, this time in black and white:


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I took that one on 14 September 1964 after an interview with Radio Malaysia, but the real interest is the fact that it's a panorama, which I made on 28 October 2009. They're planning to publish it in a book. So I went to improve on it, and discovered that Hugin no longer wants to work with it.


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