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January 2012
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Sunday, 1 January 2012 Dereel Images for 1 January 2012
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New year, old heat
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Another hot day today:

5 days temperatures

It didn't quite make it as hot as yesterday, but it started off a lot earlier, and it looked as if it would get worse. As a result, spent just about all the day inside with the air conditioners running. In the process discovered that the extreme temperatures last month weren't as bad as in the previous two years, though the average was higher:

mysql> select date, min(outside_temp), avg(outside_temp), max(outside_temp) from observations where month(date) = 12 group by year(date);
+------------+-------------------+-------------------+-------------------+
| date       | min(outside_temp) | avg(outside_temp) | max(outside_temp) |
+------------+-------------------+-------------------+-------------------+
| 2009-12-31 |               4.1 |   17.981774406303 |              40.4 |
| 2010-12-31 |               3.4 |  17.0968409525356 |              42.2 |
| 2011-12-01 |               5.4 |  18.3313917169711 |                40 |
+------------+-------------------+-------------------+-------------------+

New Buddleja
Topic: gardening Link here

The Buddleja davidii that Mike Sorrell gave me last week looks ready to bloom Real Soon Now. The flowers should be blue, but as Mike said, the buds are almost black:


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Monday, 2 January 2012 Dereel Images for 2 January 2012
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Hottest day on record
Topic: general Link here

The hot weather continues. Today it went reached a maximum of 45.4°.

mysql> select date, time, outside_temp from observations where outside_temp > 45.3;
+------------+----------+--------------+
| date       | time     | outside_temp |
+------------+----------+--------------+
| 2012-01-02 | 18:01:08 |         45.4 |
| 2012-01-02 | 18:02:08 |         45.4 |
| 2012-01-02 | 18:03:08 |         45.4 |
| 2012-01-02 | 18:04:08 |         45.4 |
| 2012-01-02 | 18:05:09 |         45.4 |
| 2012-01-02 | 18:06:09 |         45.4 |
+------------+----------+--------------+

The following graph is smoothed, so it doesn't quite show the maximum:

5 days temperatures

As a result, of course, spent the day indoors again. But how reliable are these measurements? This is the highest I have recorded with my weather station (over about 26 months). The previous high was 44.9° on 11 January 2010. But is it correct? Other measurements suggest that the temperature was far from the all-time high we've measured here: that was on 29 January 2009, where we measured 46° on the spirit thermometer on the verandah.

So what's a difference of 0.6°? Within the range of the accuracy of the old thermometer. But the location is important. I still have another thermometer on the verandah (now electronic), and it recorded a maximum of 39.6°, quite a significant difference. In addition, the other temperatures on the WunderMap round Dereel were noticeably lower, by 2 or 3 degrees.

So: the question is how representative the weather station values are. It's interesting to note that, unlike on other days, the highest temperatures were in late afternoon, round 18:00. Is the temperature sensor affected by the sunlight? To be investigated.

It did give us a chance to measure the water temperature in the pond, though. Yvonne had been concerned that it would be too hot for the fish, but in fact the temperature at the surface was as I had expected, about 27°. And at the bottom it was only 22°, still a little higher than the 20° I had expected.


Unexpected flowers
Topic: gardening Link here

Not everything in the garden has grown the way I wanted. Last year I planted a Hosta, just to watch it wither and die. And the Pandorea that we planted over two years ago has never really flowered much. But lately both have come into their own:


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So maybe the hosta was just fading away for winter. The Delphinium “Völkerfrieden” that we bought at Lambley Nursery last year also faded on us, and I thought it was dead and nearly threw out the remains. But in the end I replanted it, and it's now coming up with buds. I really need to understand the plants better.


Reprocessing old photos
Topic: photography, opinion, technology Link here

After getting the Olympus E-510 in August 2007, It took me quite some time to get good results from the postprocessing. Some of it was a learning experience, some was lack of suitable software. I've learnt a lot since then, and I've found ways to improve the quality of the images, but can DxO Optics "Pro" do better? Trawled through my old diary entries and got as far as three years ago, when I had serious issues with exposure and gradation. It proves that, for some reason, some of the images really were underexposed, but DxO brought much better results. Here the comparison of processing the same image with ufraw 0.13, ufraw 0.14.1, dcraw and DxO. Mouseover shows the next image for comparison.


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Also reprocessed the panoramas. I couldn't completely fix the verandah panorama, because I took it without parallax correction, but the results look a lot better.


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Another couple of comparisons are the backlit flower baskets:


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That one's not as clear-cut.

How well could I have done without DxO, just with better tuned ufraw? I don't know, and I don't intend to look yet. First there are other images to compare.


Tuesday, 3 January 2012 Dereel Images for 3 January 2012
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Weather: not as expected
Topic: general Link here

The Bureau of Meteorology had originally expected today to be even hotter than yesterday, but at the last minute decided that the temperatures would be 3° less. In fact, they were closer to 15° less: although the temperature shot off early in the morning, it hit 30° and hung around there all day:

5 days temperatures

A good thing too: the heat was really getting on our nerves.


More photo processing comparisons
Topic: photography, technology Link here

Spent much of the day with further reprocessing old photos. The results were quite useful. On 4 April 2009 I had another case where a panorama changed from “useless” to “acceptable”:


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If it hadn't been for the reflections of the sun in the lens, it wouldn't have been at all bad, though it's clear that it challenges the limits of the dynamics.

Then I looked at some comparisons I had done on 12 April 2009, where I had had extreme problems with contrast. At the time I hadn't realized that some of the camera functions, such as “vivid” and “soft” images, only applied to the JPEG output. In addition, I didn't find a camera JPEG image for all the comparison photos, so today's comparisons aren't all they could be.

A few days later I received a comparison photo for the first sequence from Michael <no surname> in South Australia, processed with Photomatix. In the following comparison I have the original from the camera, the best I could do to improve it with ufraw, the results from Photomatix and the output from DxO Optics "Pro". As usual, moving the mouse over the image gives the next in sequence.


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I think it's fair to say that DxO produces by far the best image, and probably about as good an image as I could hope for from this particularly difficult scene. The shadows are more dynamic than Photomatix, and the highlights are much more natural. Conceivably Photomatix could do better—Michael said that he didn't try too hard, which is understandable—but then DxO might do better too, and there's only so much work I want to put into these images.

The other image wasn't really a good comparison 3 years ago, but here it is with DxO, which once again does a good job:


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A couple of months later I tried some different scenes, this time comparing images from the Olympus E-510 and the E-30. No hard contrast, just overall image gradation. Today I was more interested in the postprocessing, and tried the following: JPEG original from the E-30, DxO with no correction, DxO with default correction, DxO with “realistic” HDR-style tone mapping, and DxO with “artistic” HDR-style tone mapping.


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The tone mapping doesn't seem to make much difference, presumably because the dynamic range was limited, but the “artistic” version makes it gaudy enough. Better than default? Here's the comparison:


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A matter of taste, I suppose.


Winter flowers in the middle of summer
Topic: gardening Link here

The Cyclamen that I got from the Friends of the Ballarat Botanical Gardens three months ago should have stopped flowering long ago, and most of them have done so. But on, in the bathroom, still has a flower, and it appears to be trying to produce many more:


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Given the current temperatures, that's quite amazing.


Wednesday, 4 January 2012 Dereel
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First power failure of the year
Topic: general Link here

Another power failure at 2:18 this morning, the first of the year.


Migrating to amd64, next try
Topic: technology Link here

So far my experience has shown that DxO Optics "Pro" is quite a useful program. The only problem, apart from the fact that it needs Microsoft to run, is that it uses so much memory that I can't run it on VirtualBox on my 32 bit machine. I started trying to upgrade to amd64 (64 bits, without the memory limitations) nearly 8 months ago, and gave it up two weeks later because of X issues. I then tried again in August, but the pain of upgrading was just too much.

By today I had forgotten some of the pain, and so started trying to upgrade again. I've had the machine running as a test machine all this time, so all I really needed to do is to upgrade the kernel and the ports. The kernel upgrade was trivial. The ports, once again, were not.

First,

===>>> Warning: java/jdk16 is interactive, and will likely
       require attention during the build

So? Why does it stop there and wait (maybe all night) for me to take notice of it for the hundredth time? The same happens for postfix.

Then there was one I hadn't seen before:

===>>> Launching child to update php52-5.2.17_1 to php52-5.2.17_5
===>>> Port directory: /usr/ports/lang/php52

===>>> This port is marked DEPRECATED
===>>> PHP 5.2 series is not supported anymore, migrate now

===>>> If you are sure you can build it, remove the
      DEPRECATED line in the Makefile and try again.

OK, so what's the replacement? php53? No, they've done almost the right thing and removed part of the version number from the preferred version. It's called php5, though it should be called php of course. But I had to go looking for that. People tell me I should be reading (/usr/ports/)UPDATING, but why? Why can't that information be output when the build fails? In any case, I couldn't find any mention of php52 there (in a file nearly 100 pages long). And after that, of course, I could wait for the messages about java16 and postfix.

The next one was a superb shoot-in-foot incident:

===>>> Upgrade of portmaster-3.9.1 to portmaster-3.11 succeeded
===>>> Delete portmaster-3.9.1.tar.gz? y/n [n] y
===>>> Delete portmaster-3.9.1.tar.gz.asc? y/n [n] y
===>>> Returning to update check of installed ports
===>>> Launching child to install devel/qmake4
/usr/local/sbin/portmaster: /usr/local/sbin/portmaster: not found

Why that? It says it has upgraded it, so there was no reason to keep the old version. But there was no new porrtmaster installed. Why not? I couldn't even find the backup I had asked for, so I had to reinstall it first.

And that's as far as I got in a whole day. This process should run in the background without my intervention and give me a summary of anything that fails. And failure should be a rare event, not like every time I've tried to upgrade ports in the last few years. No wonder Kirk McKusick has given up on straight FreeBSD.


More weeding
Topic: gardening Link here

The weather is finally mild enough to work in the garden, so out to inspect the north bed. It's looking very good now, but the weeds are also feeling at home, so spent a lot of time removing surprisingly few weeds.


Thursday, 5 January 2012 Dereel Images for 5 January 2012
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Ports build, continued
Topic: technology Link here

Continued with my ports build today. Came into the office and found an old acquaintance:

cd x2p; LD_LIBRARY_PATH=/src/FreeBSD/ports/lang/perl5.12/work/perl-5.12.4 /usr/bin/make s2p
make: don't know how to make s2p. Stop
*** Error code 2

Stop in /home/ports/lang/perl5.12/work/perl-5.12.4.

In summary: I still don't know how to build perl from the Ports Collection. Maybe if I blew everything away and started again, it would be better. But that's not sure, and it could be even more pain. As I did last time, I just downloaded the package, once I found it:

=== root@defake (/dev/pts/0) /usr/ports 90 -> pkg_add -r perl5
Error: Unable to get ftp://ftp.freebsd.org/pub/FreeBSD/ports/amd64/packages-8-stable/Latest/perl5.tbz: File unavailable (e.g., file not found, no access)
pkg_add: unable to fetch 'ftp://ftp.freebsd.org/pub/FreeBSD/ports/amd64/packages-8-stable/Latest/perl5.tbz' by URL
=== root@defake (/dev/pts/0) /usr/ports 91 -> pkg_add -r perl
Fetching ftp://ftp.freebsd.org/pub/FreeBSD/ports/amd64/packages-8-stable/Latest/perl.tbz... Done.
Removing stale symlinks from /usr/bin...
    Skipping /usr/bin/perl
    Skipping /usr/bin/perl5
Done.
Creating various symlinks in /usr/bin...
    Symlinking /usr/local/bin/perl5.12.4 to /usr/bin/perl
    Symlinking /usr/local/bin/perl5.12.4 to /usr/bin/perl5
Done.
Cleaning up /etc/make.conf... Done.
Spamming /etc/make.conf... Done.
Cleaning up /etc/manpath.config... Done.
Spamming /etc/manpath.config... Done.
=== root@defake (/dev/pts/0) /usr/ports 92 ->

But that's perl-5.12. There's a 5.14 out there. That must be newer. Why have I been given an old version of perl? See if I care.

Then there was docbook. I seem to have 7 different versions installed. It reinstalled 6 of them:

drwxr-xr-x  2 root  wheel  512 Jan  5 11:44 docbook-1.4
drwxr-xr-x  2 root  wheel  512 Aug  8 15:26 docbook-4.1_4
drwxr-xr-x  2 root  wheel  512 Jan  5 11:44 docbook-4.2
drwxr-xr-x  2 root  wheel  512 Jan  5 11:44 docbook-4.3
drwxr-xr-x  2 root  wheel  512 Jan  5 11:44 docbook-4.4_2
drwxr-xr-x  2 root  wheel  512 Jan  5 11:44 docbook-4.5_2
drwxr-xr-x  2 root  wheel  512 Jan  5 11:44 docbook-5.0_1

Why? And why?


Feeling the heat
Topic: gardening Link here

I had intended to do some more weeding in the north bed today, but looking around, it became clear that a number of plants have suffered from the recent hot weather, in particular in the “old” succulent garden and south of the house:


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Spent some time putting in additional drippers. Also planted some ground cover that had suffered and looks almost dead; we'll see how it comes up.

Not everything's looking unhappy, though. The Buddleja davidii that Mike Sorrell gave me a couple of weeks ago is already flowering:


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Friday, 6 January 2012 Dereel Images for 6 January 2012
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More ports pain
Topic: technology Link here

Continued with my attempts to update the ports tree today. More pain. First it died in libass, whatever that may be:

===>  Configuring for libass-0.10.0
cd: can't cd to /home/ports/multimedia/libass/work/libass-0.10.0
env: ./configure: No such file or directory
===>  Script "configure" failed unexpectedly.

What's that? Took a look in the build directory, and sure, ./configure is there. But the directory name is libass-0.9.13, not libass-0.10.0. Why that? Did a make clean, built, and it installed.

It went on, though, although I removed the C option. Later I got a crash after this message:

===>>> pkg-message for compat7x-amd64-7.3.703000.201008_1
*******************************************************************************
*                                                                             *
* Do not forget to add COMPAT_FREEBSD7 into                                   *
* your kernel configuration (enabled by default).                             *
*                                                                             *
* To configure and recompile your kernel see:                                 *
* http://www.freebsd.org/doc/en_US.ISO8859-1/books/handbook/kernelconfig.html *
*                                                                             *
*******************************************************************************

And of course COMPAT_FREEBSD7 was set in the kernel config. Ran things again, and the message didn't occur again. Instead, firefox died with:

configure: error: Perl 5.006 or higher is required.
===>  Script "configure" failed unexpectedly.
Please report the problem to gecko@FreeBSD.org [maintainer] and attach the
"/home/ports/www/firefox/work/mozilla-release/config.log" including the output
of the failure of your make command. Also, it might be a good idea to provide
an overview of all packages installed on your system (e.g. an `ls
/var/db/pkg`).
*** Error code 1

That's ridiculous. I had just (with much pain) installed version 5.12.4. Did some old version get left behind? I should have checked config.log, but instead I checked with ktrace and found the same thing:

 46354 sh       CALL  execve(0x800c06e08,0x800c06eb0,0x800c2c608)
 46354 sh       NAMI  "/usr/local/bin/perl5.10.1"
 46354 sh       RET   execve -1 errno 2 No such file or directory
 46354 sh       CALL  write(0x2,0x800c16080,0x32)
 46354 sh       GIO   fd 2 wrote 50 bytes
       "./configure: /usr/local/bin/perl5.10.1: not found
       "
 46354 sh       RET   write 50/0x32
 46354 sh       CALL  exit(0x7f)

Well, it's right there. There is no perl5.10.1. But the error message is misleading: it suggests that there is an old version of perl there. And where did it get that from, anyway? It didn't try anything else. This one is apparently (marginally) my fault: I ran portmaster with the C option, which tells it not to run a make clean before building. Of course, the build process should have noticed that the config.status was out of date, but that one is understandable. Moral: don't use the C option.

So finally firefox version 9 was installed, so portmaster went off and started building firefox version 5. Why? And how? We don't have a version 5 in the Ports Collection any more, but there's a /var/db/pkg/firefox-5.0,1 alongside /var/db/pkg/firefox-9.0.1,1. Did a pkg_delete on firefox-5.0,1, and of course tore firefox-9.0.1,1 apart too:

=== root@defake (/dev/pts/0) /usr/ports 118 -> pkg_delete /var/db/pkg/firefox-5.0,1
pkg_delete: '/usr/local/bin/firefox' fails original MD5 checksum - not deleted.
pkg_delete: '/usr/local/include/firefox/Allocator.h' fails original MD5 checksum - not deleted.
...
=== root@defake (/dev/pts/0) /usr/ports 120 -> pkg_delete -f /var/db/pkg/firefox-5.0,1
pkg_delete: no such package 'firefox-5.0,1' installed
=== root@defake (/dev/pts/0) /usr/ports 121 -> wh firefox
No files found

So I had to reinstall it. That was fast, but ineffective:

=== root@defake (/dev/pts/1) /usr/ports/www/firefox 40 -> make install
=== root@defake (/dev/pts/1) /usr/ports/www/firefox 41 -> firefox
su: firefox: command not found

The problem here is that the Ports Collection notes in the build directory whether the package has been installed or not. To get it to reinstall, you first need to remove a secret file:

=== root@defake (/dev/pts/1) /usr/ports/www/firefox 42 -> rm work/.install_done.firefox._usr_local
=== root@defake (/dev/pts/1) /usr/ports/www/firefox 43 -> make install

Edwin Groothuis tells me there's another target, reinstall, that does this for you.

Looking at what was going on, this seems to be a bug in portmaster. It finds a directory /var/db/pkg/firefox-5.0,1 and establishes that it's out of date, and that the directory in the Ports Collection is /usr/ports/www/firefox, which currently builds irefox-9.0.1,1. But it doesn't check whether that is installed or not. Maybe it would have rebuilt it and reinstalled it. If it does a make clean it won't see that it's already installed any earlier.

Still, finally I had firefox upgraded. Easy, isn't it? Enough pain for a day.


Return of the dark clematis
Topic: gardening Link here

We have two different kinds of Clematis on the south side of the verandah, planted mainly because we preferred the second one, which is darker. This year, at any rate, it also flowered much earlier, so we had double the time. Today I found a single flower on the old vine, while the other one is in full flower:


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Restructuring the north bed and shade area
Topic: gardening Link here

It's been over a week since I pulled the Gazanias out of the north-central bed, and gradually the remaining weeds are dying off. I suppose I should mow the area, but did some thinking and decided that it's probably better to remove the remaining Aeonium first, so did that. The real issue is that we need to recreate the brick border of the bed, which has been knocked around in the course of time, and that seems like too much work.

Instead, grabbed some of the Gazanias and planted them round the south side of the old succulent bed to the south of the verandah, where it had been so dry that even some of the Gazanias died off.

Also attended to the shade area to the west: the creepers have now made it to the top, and are somewhat hindered by the shade cloth there, so it's time for that to go—almost. There's still not enough shade from the creepers, so I'll just leave it loose for the time being.


The decline of manners
Topic: history, opinion Link here

We watched an old film this evening, Brothers in Law, made in 1957. The film itself is mixed—I liked it, Yvonne didn't. But one scene got us: two men and a woman were sitting at a table. Woman gets up and goes. Men almost stand up as she goes. Used to be normal, but where do you see that happen nowadays?

The real issue, though, was the almost. I was taught to stand up completely, not just to pretend to get up. And we even had a term for this incorrect behaviour: “Raise Bottom Slightly”. That seems to have disappeared into history; I couldn't find any reference to it on the web. Should I add it to Wikipedia? I don't have any references. I suppose this will be here soon, but that doesn't really help.


Artichokes fresh from the garden
Topic: food and drink, gardening, opinion Link here

A good three years ago we bought an artichoke plant from Diggers. It hasn't borne much fruit, but we did manage to get two artichokes last March. And so when we visited Lambley Nursery last October, I wasn't overly keen on buying more. But we did, and it was a good thing too: they're bearing nicely. Why did we have so little success with the stuff we bought from Diggers? I've been wondering that since we went there, and an obvious reason is that I was then an even less experienced gardener than I am now. But that doesn't explain why plants in the same bed perform so differently.

How long do you cook artichokes? We keep discussing this. This time it was 20 minutes, not enough. Somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes is probably right. But the artichokes tasted very good—finally something worth growing at home.


Saturday, 7 January 2012 Dereel Images for 7 January 2012
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More photo experiments
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Another windy day for the house photos, but managed to get most of them anyway. I've been taking these panoramas for over three years now, but I continually run into new experiences:

It looks as if it will be a long while before I get all this sorted out to my satisfaction.


Summer well and truly arrived
Topic: gardening, general Link here

The hot weather of the last week or two has made its mark. The grass is brown, and the dam is at its lowest level since September 2010. Here four weeks ago and today:


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Port build pain continued
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Didn't have much time for my ports build today, but that didn't mean things went smoothly. While building nmap, got this message:

c++ -c -I../libdnet-stripped/include  -I/usr/include -I../nbase -I../nsock/include -O2 -pipe -I/usr/include -fno-strict-aliasing -Wall  -fno-strict-aliasing   -DHAVE_CONFIG_H -DNPING_NAME=\"Nping\" -DNPING_URL=\"http://nmap.org/nping\" -DNPING_PLATFORM=\"amd64-portbld-freebsd8.2\" -D_FORTIFY_SOURCE=2 NpingOps.cc -o NpingOps.o
gmake[3]: *** No rule to make target `nmap.h', needed by `utils.o'.  Stop.

That wasn't a portmaster issue: it happened when I tried to build it in the normal manner. On three different machines. With two different versions of nmap. And on checking, discovered that there is no mention of nmap.h anywhere in that directory. The file itself was in the parent directory.

Discussed it on IRC, and Jürgen Lock suggested that I try it without any preset environment variables (su - root -c /bin/sh). And yes, that worked. So it's an environment variable, but which? Or is it? Went back to build the port again, this time with my standard bash shell and environment, and it worked too. Just more pain.

While watching the build information fly by—I have collected 336212 lines, or about 5,500 pages of it so far—discovered a number of these:

===>   Registering installation for poppler-glib-0.18.0

So far there have been 9 of them. Why? And what is this port?

Things continued as far as:

===>  Installing for linux-f10-fontconfig-2.6.0
===>   Generating temporary packing list
===>  Checking if x11-fonts/linux-f10-fontconfig already installed
cd /home/ports/x11-fonts/linux-f10-fontconfig/work && /usr/bin/find * -type d -exec /bin/mkdir -p "/compat/linux/{}" \;
cd /home/ports/x11-fonts/linux-f10-fontconfig/work && /usr/bin/find * ! -type d | /usr/bin/cpio -pm -R root:wheel /compat/linux
617 blocks
ln: /compat/linux/etc//fonts: File exists
*** Error code 1

Then I gave up for the day. But the Ports Collection wasn't done with me. Tried to back up the photos I had been processing and got:

=== root@defake (/dev/pts/1) /usr/ports 98 -> syncphotos
Sat Jan  8 18:43:43 EST 2012
rsync: not found
rsync: not found

Where did rsync go? Was it in the process of building it? No, it seems that it thought it had built it, but it was gone. Looking through the log files, I find:

===>>> Upgrade of rsync-3.0.8 to rsync-3.0.9 succeeded

Some success! It seems that I shouldn't have even tried to use portmaster. But in general, the amount of trouble I've had here is an order of magnitude worse than any other system I have used, and it's not the first time. If I could find something better that didn't want to tell me how to think, I'd move to it immediately.


Sunday, 8 January 2012 Dereel
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eSATA docking station
Topic: technology Link here

It's been two weeks since I received my hard disk docking station. The first experience wasn't good, and I didn't have a SATA disk handy to put in it; the only one was my 2 TB backup disk, and after seeing what happened with an SD card, I didn't want to risk that. Today finally got round to taking a spare SATA disk out of the external housing and putting it in the docking station, in the process discovering confirmation of what I had suspected, that the eSATA interface was only for the SATA drive:

 
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The SATA disk fitted better than the attempts with the PATA disk, and it powered up. And that was all. The system didn't recognize the disk, so I rebooted—I've had trouble before with another low-quality eSATA external housing—but it still wasn't recognized. What's wrong with it? Do I care?


Upgrading ports, less pain
Topic: technology Link here

On with the ports upgrade today, without running into many problems. It wasn't until I rebooted defake that I discovered that I could no longer communicate with it: xterm had gone away. Why? That's the second program that just disappeared, after rsync.

rsync wasn't to be outdone, though. It went away again! I don't understand that, since it happened when I thought I hadn't done anything. But I can't be bothered crawling through the equivalent of 5000 pages of log information to try to piece together what went wrong.


Vistors and Cous Cous
Topic: general, animals, food and drink Link here

Michelle Miles along today to visit and look at some horses, staying overnight. Cooked cous cous, in the process running into some dubious quantities: 20 g of pepper? I don't know where that came from, but it wasn't from the original recipe, and it was too much. Also tried some salted lemons, which completely threw the delicate salt balance. Nonetheless, not too bad a meal.


Monday, 9 January 2012 Dereel Images for 9 January 2012
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Portmaster: give up
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Portmaster is finished!

===>   Registering installation for poppler-glib-0.18.0
...
===>>> Re-installation of poppler-glib-0.18.0 succeeded

===>>> Update check of installed ports complete

That must be about the twelfth reinstallation of poppler, but it's finished. Well, it reinstalled poppler many times, but it removed xterm, and it's still gone. Why? What else is gone?

It's been 5 days since I started this update. The intention had been to do it faster than a complete rebuild of the ports. But it doesn't seem to have been. What went wrong? Jürgen Lock suggests that the presence of the FORCE_PKG_REGISTER environment variable or the -C option (don't run make clean) that I had at the beginning might be to blame. But I don't care. It has just taken too long. Went back to reinstall the ports from scratch, once again going through the pain of hundreds of default configurations. And then Jürgen told me about the -P option for portmaster, which downloads the precompiled packages. Maybe I should have tried that. I probably will next time.


Sunwayfoto DDP-64M rotator: first impressions
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Finally today the rotator arrived that I had bought in the USA four weeks ago. Into town to pick it up, in the process taking the panorama bracket I bought 6 weeks ago to ask Paul Sperber of Ballarat Automotive if he knew anybody who could remove the bottom rotator. He did find a screw to remove, but it didn't help. Later I found I could then take the rotator apart by removing the locking screw, and inside found two more screws attaching it to the rail. But even after that, I couldn't get it off. It appears to be glued to the rail with epoxy, and it's hard as nails.

The rotator is a Sunwayfoto DDP-64M, which looks very much like the Manfrotto 26018 that I already have, and which their terminally broken web site calls a Manfrotto 300N. The similarity is intentional: the Manfrotto is part of the panorama bracket I bought 8 months ago, in fact the only part that I'm happy with. But I'm planning to sell the bracket, and it's firmly attached, so the Sunway is the replacement.

How do they compare? Manfrotto has a reputation as one of the leaders in this area, while Sunway is a Chinese newcomer. They look pretty much the same. Here the Sunway, then the Manfrotto, both mounted on the Manfrotto 3416 levelling base:


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They both have the same number of increments, from 5° to 90°, and they're set up the same way, by screwing a screw into a specific hole. There are two other screws, one for locking the mechanism so that it can be removed from the base, and the other for positioning the top plate relative to the detents. And they both work well. Comparing them, there are minor differences:

In summary, then, the Sunway is a good replacement for the Manfrotto. It would have been a lot cheaper, too, if I hadn't had to order it from the USA. Postage cost $31.92 (the exact cost of postage), and it took 4 weeks to get here. In that time, coincidentally, I ordered a screw from Hong Kong on the same day as the rotator. It arrived (free postage), I liked the look of it, and ordered another one. The second one also arrived today.


Panorama brackets: are we there yet?
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

So now I have all the components to build a functional panorama bracket that does almost everything I want. It took me a while to think out how to put the hardware together to do it, particularly since I wasn't able to remove the toy rotator at the base of the bracket, but now I can mount the camera horizontally or vertically and rotate about the other two axes:


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Starting at the bottom, we have:

  1. The Manfrotto levelling base. It's not very clever, since it has three adjusting screws with limited travel. Something like a pan and tilt head would be better, and I'm still thinking of replacing it. But for the time being it will do.

  2. The Sunwayfoto DDP-64M rotator (see previous article).

  3. A focusing rail to move parallel to the horizontal axis of the sensor.

  4. The bottom part of the BF3 panorama bracket. If I could get the rotator off this thing, and if it were just a little wider, I wouldn't need the rail in the point 3; I could just mount the bracket directly onto the rotator with an appropriate clamp. But as the photos show, it's too short when the camera is mounted horizontally.

The camera is mounted on another rail moving along the lens axis, to move the entrance pupil to the correct position relative to the horizontal rotator on the panorama bracket. For vertical (“portrait”) orientation it fits directly into the clamp on the rotator (first two photos above). For horizontal (“landscape”) orientation it is mounted on the L bracket, also part of the panorama bracket, and the L bracket fits into the rotator (third photo).

How does it match up? Total cost was:

That's $288.37, more than I had hoped for, and 60% of that price was the rotator. I suspect that price would come down by about 30% if somebody in China or Hong Kong would offer them.

I haven't mentioned the levelling base, for which I don't have a price, since I bought it with the Manfrotto panorama bracket (which together came to $387.00 including postage). At B&H it costs $94.50 new. I'm planning to get rid of it anyway, not because of the price, but because it doesn't do its job very well. I'd hope to find a suitable leveller for about $50.

I've been looking at panorama brackets for years now, and so far I haven't found anything, at any price, that fulfils all my requirements. And those prices can be high, well over $1000. Here the latest incarnation of my requirements list, and how the present setup stacks up:

  1. Rotate the camera in three directions about the entrance pupil of the lens.

    No bracket allows rotation in three directions. They all allow rotation about the vertical axis (otherwise they wouldn't work at all), and the better ones allow rotation about the horizontal axis perpendicular to the lens axis. The third axis, roughly the lens axis, is really the question of horizontal or vertical orientation, and I can do that too.

  2. Level the camera independently of the tripod, to make it possible to rotate the camera about a vertical axis.

    The levelling base does that, not very well. I'll replace it with something offering a better range of adjustment some time. In principle a pan and tilt head would do the job.

  3. Rotate the camera in specific increments for equally-spaced images. At the very least, provide angular markings so that you can set them yourself.

    This is what the rotator does.

  4. Provide a level indicator (usually a spirit level).

    Currently I have this in the leveling base. It really should be on the panorama bracket, and I'll see what I can find for that.

  5. Provide scales for accurately positioning the camera, in particular a scale parallel to the lens axis to help set the entrance pupil position.

    The FOTOMATE rails have scales. The upper one is too short for some of my lenses; I'll have to investigate further, but I have other rails in the meantime.

  6. For rotators: allow setting the start position.

    Yes. That's the other lock screw, which allows moving the top plate independently of the detents.


Recharging NiZn batteries again
Topic: technology, photography Link here

It's been two months since I've paid much attention to the Nickel-Zinc batteries I bought in October. I haven't been demanding so much from the flash unit, but today it finally told me they were discharged. And indeed they were: the voltages were down to 1.549 V, 1.486V, 1.437 V and 1.381 V, the last one that I had already marked as not being quite up to the same level as the others. It's difficult to be exact, because it was clear that they were still recovering from the flash, and the voltages were gradually rising. Still, a long way below the 1.6 V in the specifications. After charging, the voltages were 1.832 V, 1.832 V, 1.829 V and 1.826 V (this last the marked battery).


Tuesday, 10 January 2012 Dereel Images for 10 January 2012
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Building ports from scratch again
Topic: technology Link here

As planned, continued building the ports on defake with my old, incomplete build method. In principle it should work, but for some reason today the build died at the start because I had two rules to build X. How did that happen? Checked out the last version of the rules file again, and discovered it was already in there. My best bet is that previously the duplicate rules didn't do any harm, while now they caused the build to fail.

What did do harm was checking out the rules file. It seems that in so doing I overwrote some changes I had made since the last checkin, and I was missing rules for a number of ports. In the course of the day, had to update the rules file a number of times, but nothing else went wrong.

In the process, found the reason for my FORCE_PKG_REGISTER environment variable:

===>   opera-linuxplugins-11.60 is already installed
      You may wish to ``make deinstall'' and install this port again
      by ``make reinstall'' to upgrade it properly.
      If you really wish to overwrite the old port of www/opera-linuxplugins
      without deleting it first, set the variable "FORCE_PKG_REGISTER"

No mention there of any side effects.


Mail times from USA
Topic: general, opinion Link here

I noted yesterday that it took twice as long for my rotator to arrive from the USA as it did for the screws from China. It also cost a lot more, $31.92. This was sent by “Priority Mail International”, USPS' allegedly slightly-better service (at least it's more expensive). Today I received another item from the USA, sent “First Class Mail” (the cheapest) on 29 December 2011. So, bearing in mind the 1 day difference between the USA and here, the more expensive service took 27 days, and the cheap one took 11 days. This isn't the first time I've seen this: last September I noticed exactly the same issue, and not for the first time. I wonder if this is a general problem.


New oven thermometer
Topic: general, food and drink, opinion Link here

The package that I got today was an oven thermometer, very similar in function to the one that failed. As far as I could tell externally, the probes were identical:


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That wasn't the case, though. I put the old probe in the new thermometer, and it indicated a temperature of 54°. The correct probe indicated 21°, as did the other probe in the thermometer for which it was intended.

I suspect that the problem with the old thermometer was damage to the temperature probe cable. It works fine at normal temperatures, but stops working when it gets warm. Under those circumstances, it's interesting to note the lengths to which the manufacturer went to tie the probe cable in knots:


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Wednesday, 11 January 2012 Dereel Images for 11 January 2012
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Ports build log
Topic: technology Link here

The ports build continued relatively smoothly today. multimedia/dvdauthor failed:

===>  Applying FreeBSD patches for dvdauthor-0.7.0_1
Ignoring previously applied (or reversed) patch.
1 out of 1 hunks ignored--saving rejects to src/subgen-image.c.rej
...
=> Patch patch-src__subgen-image.c failed to apply cleanly.

Typical reasons for that are out of date ports, so synchronized my repository, ran cvs up -Pd, and tried again. No improvement. Further investigation revealed:

=== grog@defake (/dev/pts/1) /usr/ports/multimedia/dvdauthor/files 2 -> l
total 1
drwxr-xr-x  2 grog  lemis   512 Oct  2 11:29 CVS
-rw-r--r--  1 grog  lemis  1549 Oct 23  2003 README.FreeBSD
-rw-r--r--  1 root  lemis  2867 Jan 11 14:10 patch-src__subgen-image.c
-rw-r--r--  1 grog  lemis  2522 Jan 11 14:05 patch-src__subgen-image.c.orig
=== grog@defake (/dev/pts/1) /usr/ports/multimedia/dvdauthor/files 3 -> cvs update -Pd
cvs update: Updating .
cvs update: conflict: patch-src__subgen-image.c is modified but no longer in the repository
C patch-src__subgen-image.c

What's that doing there? The whole idea of the d option is to remove things. This is clearly because it was modified. But how? Did I do that?

=== grog@defake (/dev/pts/1) /usr/ports/multimedia/dvdauthor/files 4 -> diff -wu patch-src__subgen-image.c.orig patch-src__subgen-image.c
--- patch-src__subgen-image.c.orig      2012-01-11 14:05:44.000000000 +1100
+++ patch-src__subgen-image.c   2012-01-11 14:10:56.000000000 +1100
@@ -31,6 +31,17 @@
      int bit_depth,color_type,channels,x,y;

      fp=fopen(s-&gt;fname,"rb");
+--- src/subgen-image.c.orig    2007-01-12 19:40:42.000000000 -0600
++++ src/subgen-image.c 2010-07-15 19:56:30.000000000 -0600
+@@ -203,7 +203,7 @@
+     png_struct *ps;
+     png_info *pi;
+     png_byte **rowp;
+-    unsigned long width,height;
++    png_uint_32 width,height;
+     int bit_depth,color_type,channels,x,y;
+
+     fp=fopen(s-&gt;fname,"rb");
 <<<<<<< patch-src__subgen-image.c
 --- src/subgen-image.c.orig    2007-01-12 19:40:42.000000000 -0600
 +++ src/subgen-image.c 2010-07-15 19:56:30.000000000 -0600
=== grog@defake (/dev/pts/1) /usr/ports/multimedia/dvdauthor/files 5 -> cat CVS/Entries
/README.FreeBSD/1.3/Wed Oct 22 21:20:02 2003//
/patch-src__subgen-image.c/1.2/Result of merge+Wed Aug 17 07:35:26 2011//
D

Nope, wasn't me. And it was a long time ago. What went wrong there? Anyway, removing the files solved the problem. And, apart from further entries missing in my portrules file, that was the only problem. Certainly easier than portmaster so far.


More hamburger experiments
Topic: food and drink Link here

A few months ago we bought a hamburger press on eBay and made a few home-made hamburgers. The problem with the press was that the diameter was too small, and the hamburgers shank further on grilling, so we were left with a thick piece of meat which didn't fill the bun. Recently Yvonne found a hamburger press at the local supermarket—at $2.50, only 10% of the price I paid on eBay, so she bought one, and today we tried it out.

And? It works, and the size is better. Of course, we also took the opportunity to try a different composition for the hamburgers.


Ignoring the garden
Topic: gardening Link here

There's plenty of work waiting in the garden—I don't think that will ever change. But today I just couldn't face it, though some things are getting urgent, such as the vegetable patch, where the potatoes are waiting for harvest before the rats eat them all.


Thursday, 12 January 2012 Dereel Images for 12 January 2012
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Port build: take a break
Topic: technology Link here

In this morning to discover that my portrules file had been overwritten again with the last checked-in version. Do I have some hidden automatic checkout somewhere? I don't know where it would be. Fortunately I had a backup of the last version, so I was able to continue, but somehow this is all just too much pain, so the next time it stopped, I left it until tomorrow.


Network errors again
Topic: technology Link here

My Internet connection has been surprisingly reliable in the last few months. If I had known about it 4 years ago, I would have set it up then, but the threshold of installing new hardware for an uncertain outcome, combined with the terrible service I got from Telstra ensured that I didn't try it until I had confirmation from others that it was a viable alternative.

I've been keeping a statistics page for the link, in line with older ones for satellite and ADSL. But it doesn't really give much useful information any more. Many short dropouts, including restarting the PPP process, go unnoticed, and others are due to issues beyond the ISP's control, such as this horrible Huawei 1762 modem hanging (solution: pop the modem from the USB slot, replace, wait for one failed connect).

Apart from that, things have been good for months. In the previous 3 months I had only 8 dropouts, some doubtless for other reasons. Today, though, things were worse:

3G link statistics

Popped the modem, replaced it, but the system didn't reconnect: the authentication failed. Several times. Finally it worked, but the throughput was terrible, with the old 2 minute ping times. Called up Internode support and spoke to Jesse, who went through the usual stuff, and promised to call back when he had something. He didn't, but the network came good after a couple of hours. Hopefully this is only an isolated incident.


How do you harvest potatoes?
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

Finally got round to looking at the potatoes in the vegie patch, and harvested about a hundredweight (50 kg). How do you do it correctly? Gardening books don't give you that kind of information. If you just dig them up with a spade, you run the risk of damaging the potatoes. If you dig by hand, which is what I do in this surprisingly sandy soil, you run the risk of missing some. And I clearly missed a lot: I appear to have harvested a number of potatoes from the previous year, like the one on the right here:


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One way or another I managed to harvest a large number of potatoes, some very big, some over 400 g. But the ones I planted late in spring weren't among them: they had hardly grown at all. Is this because of the time I planted them, or because they were commercial food potatoes? No idea.


Mixed bulbs and world peace
Topic: gardening Link here

More of our gladioli are blooming. Some are quite pretty, but there are clear issues with buying bags of mixed bulbs, as the clash between this one and the surrounding Watsonias shows:


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And finally our Delphinium “Völkerfrieden” is flowering nicely, and the Clematis “pearl d'azure” are flowering even more profusely:


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Refining the verandah panorama
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

So Saturday will be my first day with the new panorama hardware. But I still don't have a really clear way of getting the lighting right for the verandah panorama. Spent some time today stitching together individual components of the panorama I took on 24 December 2011, since that seemed the best candidate of recent weeks.

The following image represents the two that I considered the best: without mouseover it's comprised of the individual 3 image HDR shots that I have been doing for months now. With mouseover, it's the single image created by DxO Optics "Pro" with the “HDR” function:


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The following is stitched from the DxO “HDR” images, and the original images from which they were derived, which were exposed effectively “normally”:


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The DxO version still looks too dark, though it's infinitely better than the original images. I could increase exposure, of course, but there's only so much I can do before the highlights get burnt out. Here a comparison with the “+0EV” version (really overexposed by one stop, and with flash) and then again with the “+1EV” (overexposed by two stops), each with the DxO version on mouseover:


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More thinking needed.


Friday, 13 January 2012 Dereel Images for 13 January 2012
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More thoughts on panorama processing
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

The image comparisons I made yesterday gave me something to think about. In many ways the version processed with DxO Optics "Pro" showed promise, but of course it was too bright. That's not surprising: it was overexposed by one stop and illuminated with flash, also overexposed by one stop. As part of a sequence to create an HDR image, that's just what the doctor ordered, but it's not what I need here. The correction is clear, particularly when comparing the result with the “normally” exposed image without flash (mouseover swaps each of these images for the other):


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The solution (well, next step, anyway) is clear: expose normally and use flash, also at normal intensity. So that's what I'll do tomorrow.


Ports progress
Topic: technology Link here

On with the ports very much in the background. With the help of locate found an old copy of the portsrules file that greatly helped fill in the puzzles. Nevertheless found one port that didn't build:

...
Fl_Print_Dialog2.cxx:1839: error: expected primary-expression before ')' token
Fl_Print_Dialog2.cxx:1839: error: expected `;' before 'w'
*** Error code 1

Stop in /home/ports/graphics/flphoto/work/flphoto-1.3.1.

This time it wasn't a CVS consistency issue. Clearly there's something wrong with the port. But it builds in the build cluster, so what's the issue? I can't be bothered. I wasn't even sure what flphoto is (it's a basic image display program, which I seem never even to have tried out), so I installed it from the package. But why is this all so painful?


FreeBSD dmr edition
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

FreeBSD 9.0 was released today (or yesterday in the USA; it wasn't intended to be on Friday the 13th). And for the first time I recall, it had a dedication:

The FreeBSD Project dedicates the FreeBSD 9.0-RELEASE to the memory of Dennis M. Ritchie, one of the founding fathers of the UNIX™ operating system. It is on the foundation laid by the work of visionaries like Dennis that software like the FreeBSD operating system came to be. The fact that his work of so many years ago continues to influence new design decisions to this very day speaks for the brilliant engineer that he was.

May he rest in peace.

Amen.


Blasts from the past
Topic: food and drink, general, history, opinion Link here

When we had ham for Christmas, I went off trying to find some indication of how my mother made it decades ago. I found a bare mention in my diary of 45 years ago. But I got reading: that was an interesting time of my life. I had just left school, not unhappily. I had been treated so badly that I developed an aversion to anything English, some of which continues until today. In the 12 months from late October 1966 I returned to Malaysia, learnt (reluctantly) to run printing presses, drove overland from Tamil Nadu in southern India to England, hitch-hiked from Paris to Hamburg, learnt more German in Lüneburg, and matriculated in the University of Hamburg.

My writing has never been good, and it was difficult to read the diary. So I started typing it in, and so far have managed about two months. It's interesting stuff: I remember the big issues, of course, but I had forgotten many details. There are other documents too, such as my photo processing records, which help piece things together. And yes, much of my activity 45 years ago was pretty much what I'm doing now—it was just a few decades of having to earn my living that got in the way of my life.

And the people! Many at school are referenced only by nicknames, others names that I had long forgotten, such as Nylander (surname—we almost never used first names at school).

And then today I get a mail message from Ladikpo Nylander, from whom I have really not heard for over 45 years. He was looking for the Baudouy family who used to run Netherton House, the holiday home which was the closest thing to home for me when I was in England in the 1960s. From recollection, Marcel Baudouy was a pied-noir who married a Scot, Sonia, and settled in England after retirement in the early 1960s. They had four children, Gui, twins Sylvain and Simone (usually called Miranda), and Alain, all with the distinction of being the first people I met who had dual nationality (French and British). I lost track of them sometime round 1970, but it seems that Ladi had kept in contact with them until only a few years ago, but he has now lost contact and thought that I might be able to help. Clearly I can't. I also can't find the reference to his name again. If it's in my diary, I don't seem to have typed it in yet, and I can't find it in the photographic records.

As if that weren't enough of a coincidence, I received a “connect request” on LinkedIn from an Andrew Ferguson in Melbourne, saying that he was a friend. The only Andrew Ferguson I recall is an estate agent in Ballarat, but this one runs a computer company. I couldn't recall meeting him, so I sent him a message. He, too, is from my old school, though we only just overlapped: he started at school in my final full year at school. Still, what a coincidence. By comparison, I have only met one other schoolfriend, Rupert Stanley, since 1968.


System crash
Topic: technology Link here

While watching TV, teevee hung. NFS problems. It turned out that dereel had crashed, apparently because of still more USB disk problems. If only I could get this eSATA stuff working well!


Saturday, 14 January 2012 Dereel Images for 14 January 2012
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The new panorama style
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Today I tried out the new panorama head for the first time. It does what I expected, though it took me a while to work out how to set things up so that the arrow pointing to the degree scale was on my side of the camera (simple: adjust the rotating table with the top lock screw). The arrow is also hidden by the angle select screw when it's set to 45° increments.

There were a couple of other surprises: the rails I bought have proved to be too short to position the entrance pupil correctly. It's just about enough for the Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm F4.0-5.6 set at 9 mm if I set the rail at its maximum length and clamp it offset by about 3 mm:


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But for other lenses I need to move it further back. I need to find a longer rail.

The rail's not the only thing that's too short. The panorama bracket itself is too, which means that there are certain positions which I can't set:


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I'm not sure what to do about that one.

In addition, the L bracket for the horizontal orientation isn't exactly 90°. Hugin tells me that it's off by about 1.5°, which, surprisingly, is noticeable in the viewfinder. I can live with that; it doesn't cause Hugin any problems, but it's one indication of where my original requirement for rotation around 3 axes would have solved the problem.


Panorama processing: own can of worms
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

The panorama hardware wasn't the only issue. I'm still trying to expose the verandah images correctly, and, as planned, took single photos today with flash. A couple of things still managed to go wrong: even normal TTL flash is relatively bright (I set the lens to f/8, and the darkest corner is about 4 metres away), and it takes a while to recharge fully, though it's still prepared to fire.

Stitching the verandah panorama was less than good. There's more at work than the changes I've been making: the ornamental vine growing round the roof makes it very difficult to find control points, and despite all my efforts I ended up with parts of the roof that didn't line up:


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In addition, one of the garden centre images didn't work. It had what looks like camera shake:


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How did that happen? The exposure was 1/100 s on a tripod, and the lens was set to 9 mm (18 mm full frame equivalent), at which focal length you should be able to get better hand-held shots at 1/8 s. Is this misbehaviour on the part of the image sensor? Hugin wasn't able to find any control points, but with a bit of manual work I found them, and with masking I was able to eliminate most of that image and still get a complete panorama.


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Tuning garden photo images
Topic: photography Link here

The other thing I changed today was to use brighter colours for the garden photos. I've been concerned for some time that they looked a little washed out, so I've tried a couple of settings in DxO Optics "Pro": “Landscape postcard” and “HDR (artistic)”. They seem to interact, but both produce poppy colours, and I think this is one place where they fit. Here the view from the south-eastern verandah a year ago, last week and today:


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The difference becomes particularly obvious looking at the Clematis blooming on the verandah, to the extreme left of the images. Here last year and today:

 
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That was heartening enough that I went back looking at old photos. The oldest images I found with taken in Olympus' raw image format were on 21 May 2008, and the first house photos were on 19 July 2008. And yes, I wasn't happy at the time. Today I went back and converted all the images for that day with DxO, with good results. Here some with the new processing; mouseover gives what I got 3½ years ago:


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The difference in size is due to the fact that ufraw doesn't crop the edges of the raw images the way the others do. But the difference is amazing.


Unexpected results
Topic: technology Link here

I often see messages like this one:

A database error has occurred. Did you forget to run maintenance/update.php after upgrading? See: http://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Manual:Upgrading#Run_the_update_script
Query: UPDATE `user` SET user_touched = '20120114015610' WHERE user_id = '288471'
Function: User::invalidateCache
Error: 1205 Lock wait timeout exceeded; try restarting transaction (10.0.6.42)

But this one was different. It was from Wikipedia. It wasn't repeatable.


Problems syncing
Topic: technology, photography Link here

That wasn't the only problem I ran into. While syncing my photos to the external web site, I got this:

20080719/tiny/swamp-3.jpeg
       47916 100%   11.42MB/s    0:00:00 (xfer#203, to-check=0/262)
rsync: stat "/home/grog/www.lemis.com/grog/Photos/20080719/small/.house-ne-old.jpeg.iMgm8J" failed: No such file or directory (2)
rsync: rename "/home/grog/www.lemis.com/grog/Photos/20080719/small/.house-ne-old.jpeg.iMgm8J" -> "20080719/small/house-ne-old.jpeg": No such file or directory (2)
WARNING: 20080719/small/house-nw.jpeg failed verification -- update discarded (will try again).
20080719/small/house-nw.jpeg
      134732 100%   16.06MB/s    0:00:00 (xfer#204, to-check=99/262)
WARNING: 20080719/tiny/browse-screen.png failed verification -- update discarded (will try again).
20080719/tiny/browse-screen.png
       42526 100%   39.89MB/s    0:00:00 (xfer#205, to-check=64/262)
WARNING: 20080719/tiny/folder-selection.png failed verification -- update discarded (will try again).
20080719/tiny/folder-selection.png
       26504 100%   24.61MB/s    0:00:00 (xfer#206, to-check=59/262)
WARNING: 20080719/tiny/olympus-help.png failed verification -- update discarded (will try again).
20080719/tiny/olympus-help.png
       47753 100%   44.20MB/s    0:00:00 (xfer#207, to-check=31/262)
WARNING: 20080719/tiny/shortcut.png failed verification -- update discarded (will try again).
20080719/tiny/shortcut.png
       39891 100%   37.38MB/s    0:00:00 (xfer#208, to-check=7/262)

sent 28676608 bytes  received 86878 bytes  68079.26 bytes/sec
total size is 108183083  speedup is 3.76
rsync error: some files/attrs were not transferred (see previous errors) (code 23) at main.c(1042) [sender=3.0.7]
*** Error code 23

A repeat was successful. What's that? A network problem?


Sunday, 15 January 2012 Dereel Images for 15 January 2012
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More panorama woes
Topic: photography Link here

Despite a lot of effort, I couldn't get yesterday's verandah panorama to stitch properly. It's the last real issue I have, so today tried a couple of alternatives. One was the assumption that there wasn't enough overlap between the top row and the zenith, so I raised the top row. Too much—the two halves didn't overlap enough:


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Tried again, this time in sunshine, with more careful overlaps, but after a lot of manual lining up, still couldn't get the zenith to close. Here two attempts with and without the zenith:


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There are at least two issues here: firstly, the vine over the roof is gradually closing the gaps, making it difficult for Hugin (and me) to find control points. And secondly, the lighting is still wrong. It's too bright at the top, and it varies from one image to the left. Here the zenith and one of the upper row:


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The leaf slightly to the right of the middle of the zenith is at the top right of the other image. But the lighting is completely different:

 
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No wonder the control point detectors had difficulty. Maybe I should try the HDR version again, but that has the distinct problem of ghosting. I need to consider the issue of lighting yet again. The real problem is getting it wide enough.


Pruning
Topic: gardening Link here

One thing that the photos brought to light is that the climate on the verandah is changing. There are other indications: the roses on the south side are no longer blooming, though they don't look sick. And the petunias in the hanging baskets are not looking as happy as they once did. Presumably all are not getting enough light. And the vines are getting unruly. Spent some time adding additional wires for them to grow along, but it's tiring work, and I didn't get finished.

Also cut down the giant Echium, which was looking decidedly past its prime. Collected the flower stems, each of which has an estimated 30 seeds; the total must be well over 1000:


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The stems are prickly, so I'll leave them to wilt before extracting the seeds.

Those weren't the only seeds. The Mirabilis jalapa plants aren't looking very happy—I suspect the weather is too warm for them—but they, too, have generated lots of seeds which look as if they'll germinate, so collected them too. Time for another attempt to propagate plants from seed.


Ports build: done!
Topic: technology Link here

I have finally finished my ports upgrade. Building from scratch worked well, with ultimately only one port (flphoto) requiring to be fetched as a binary package. And now FreeBSD 9.0 is out. Time to start over again?

In the meantime tried upgrading the build machine. Found a couple of 1 GB SIMMs lying around, so put them in the machine, and also an nVidia display card that I had been given recently. I had been told it was PCI, and I didn't really check, but on examination it's a 16 lane PCIe board. And it only has a DVI connector. And I don't have anything I can connect that to. I'll have to mess around yet more to get it up and running. About the only thing I could confirm is that Hugin crashes when I try to start it with a display set to dereel. But I think that's a known bug: it doesn't understand X properly, and only works on local servers.


Monday, 16 January 2012 Dereel Images for 16 January 2012
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To the doctor's again
Topic: general Link here

It's now been a month since I went off the blood pressure medication, and I've been measuring my blood pressure twice a day. The results look good: so good that I've been doubting the accuracy of my blood pressure monitor (which the Americans apparently call a sphygmomanometer). Sometimes the indicated diastolic pressures go as low as 40 mmHg. So today I took it in to the doctor, and we did a simultaneous measurement with my monitor and hers, one on each arm. Mine showed 146/81 (incidentally the highest systolic value in the month), hers showed 141/82. So there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with the monitor, and the doctor's not worried about the low diastolic values, so I'll remain off medication.

And that's all I did. I had intended to go shopping as well, but I had forgotten my handbag (with my wallet), so just back home again.


linux.conf.au in Ballarat
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Today was the first day of linux.conf.au, in Ballarat. I was involved in the organization at the beginning, but I dropped out, and I didn't go to the conference. Why not? Somehow it's difficult to accept, but my conference days are over. And times are changing. I think what really broke it for me was the discussion of the Code of Conduct. As I said last year, the necessity for something like that turns me off. And now I hear it's printed in the conference handbook. The programme isn't. What does that say?

It seems I'm not the only one. A number of the regular visitors from the past are not going, including Rasmus Lerdorf, who once spent half his life going from one conference to another. We're all getting older—my first LCA was 11 years ago—but I don't think that's all. Times are changing, and this is maybe one indication.


More verandah work
Topic: gardening Link here

The temperatures this year are either too high or too low. Today was in the “too high” category, a maximum of 36.4°, and I didn't do much in the garden. But the verandah is becoming urgent, so I strung another couple of wires and tied up some of the vines. More to be done.


Tuesday, 17 January 2012 Dereel Images for 17 January 2012
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Building FreeBSD 9.0
Topic: technology Link here

So now I have finally built all my ports. But FreeBSD 9.0 has just come out, so it seems a good idea to install it before cutting over to 64 bits.

How do you check out a new branch from the FreeBSD Subversion repository? I had it written down somewhere, a “brain dump” by Peter Wemm. But where did I put it? I couldn't find it in my HOWTOs (though it's there now). Went looking on the FreeBSD web site. Couldn't find anything there either. Should it be in the handbook? That's for end users, who don't have access to the Subversion repository. Should it be in the Developers' handbook? Arguably, but that's mainly technical stuff, and it's not there either.

Finally Edwin Groothuis told me: http://wiki.freebsd.org/SubversionPrimer. How did he find that? Google. Somehow that's an indication that something's wrong with the navigation on site.

So I checked out and started building. Then I ran into an old friend:

===> gnu/usr.bin/groff/font/devX100 (obj)
"Makefile", line 6: Could not find /Makefile.sub
make: fatal errors encountered -- cannot continue
*** Error code 1

Despite a lot of searching, I hadn't been able to find the cause of that problem. I had had a number of repeats, but then it went away, and I haven't had it at all in the year or so that I've been trying to upgrade to 64 bits. Why has it shown up again now? We had already discussed the problem of environment pollution in regard to ports, so once again I tried to build the system with a clean environment. Success.

So it's pretty clear that it's an environment variable (or just barely possibly a function). But which? Started removing things at random (well, alphabetically), but it's a slow business, and I didn't get finished. But somewhere in the middle of the alphabet I got past the problem, so it must be one of the 20 or so environment variables that I removed on that occasion.

Also tried playing with the new nVidia display card, but didn't get very far: the system doesn't recognize it. Is that the kernel, the card or the BIOS? The BIOS settings are a little funny—by default only one display is enabled, and there's one on the motherboard—so possibly it's that, but since it was a freebie, it's possible that the card itself is defective. More experiments necessary.


Mixed bulbs: lose a few, win a few
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

Last week I found a singularly inappropriately coloured gladiolus amongst the Watsonias:


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We cut that off and put it in a vase, where it's still flowering happily. Now there's another one in its place, this time much better matched to the Watsonias:


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I'm really going to have to mark all these corms when they're done.


More network problems
Topic: technology Link here

My network problems still don't seem to be over. Today had a number of dropouts, and even when I was reconnected, I only got a GPRS connection, which is so slow that you couldn't tell the difference from being disconnected. But the RSSI was showing 16, which is 16 to 18 dB better than I normally have. Popped the modem and it reconnected with normal signal strength and HSPA. It looks like I had been connected to a tower with only GPRS (there's one to the east somewhere). Is this the sticky result of a failure on the correct tower, or is it the modem itself? How can I tell?


Wednesday, 18 January 2012 Dereel Images for 18 January 2012
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The build failures: caught
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Continued this morning looking for the cause of yesterday's build failure. It's obvious once it's been found:

MAKEFLAGS='-I ..'

That's something I put in my environment about 3 years ago to enable me to have only one Makefile in the parent directory of my daily photos. And it seems that this one Makefile didn't reset it, so it went looking for files in the wrong directory. Remove it and all is well.

Well, almost all:

=== grog@dereel (/dev/pts/4) ~/Photos/20080906 8 -> unset MAKEFLAGS
=== grog@dereel (/dev/pts/4) ~/Photos/20080906 9 -> make web
make: don't know how to make web. Stop

So this kludge was a little too general. How do I Do It Right? There are many ways to fix things for the photos:

None of them seem particularly elegant, though I'm tending to the last. I'm left with a feeling that I've forgotten some make magic that would do it better, but I can't find anything obvious in the documentation.


New fridge
Topic: general Link here

It's been some time since we have suspected that our fridges have been using too much electricity, so when somebody offered a relatively new, big one on Freecycle today, we jumped at it. Off to Mount Clear to pick it up and discovered that it was almost identical to our big Westinghouse.

We were there with the trailer, so we took it anyway; we can compare later which is better. It's interesting that the model numbers vary: 381 and 423 look very much like the volume in litres, but in fact the inside of each is exactly the same. Which is older? Possibly the external trim (about the only difference) gives the clue. Here the one we picked up today and our old one:

 
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That still doesn't tell me which is older, but maybe I'll find out. In any case, it depends on the condition and the power consumption.


More improving old photos
Topic: photography Link here

On 6 September 2008 I took a large number of photos in raw format only. It was intended to be a recurrent thing, like the flowers in garden pages that I started keeping in 27 June 2010. But the quality of the photos was less than satisfactory, so today I reprocessed them with DxO Optics "Pro", to great advantage. I've done a page comparing all the photos, but here are a couple of examples (again, mouseover shows the original conversion, and without the mouse is today's version):


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I later revisited this processing and came to completely different results.


Shut down Wikipedia... to the idiots
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

The protests against SOPA are coming to a head: a number of prominent sites, in particular English language Wikipedia, went offline at 16:00 local time today (05:00 UTC):

 
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Or did they? The whole thing is implemented in JavaScript. Disable JavaScript and at least normal lookups are as good as they ever were, though I could imagine that editing pages would pose a problem. But why did they do it this way? Surely they knew this. My best bet is that they're leaving a back door for people “in the know” to get in anyway, in the assumption that people stupid enough to think that SOPA and PIPA will work will also not be able to work out how to access the site. Or maybe they're trying to show that you can circumvent just about anything.

And the effect of the protest? I fear it won't work. The people who don't understand the web won't miss it as much as those who do. And it's the kind of protest you can't do too often. I fear that, one way or another, we're in for a rough time until law-makers learn what the Internet is.


Visitors from Germany
Topic: general Link here

This evening visitors came from Germany: Christiane Keppler and Andreas Hähnle. Yvonne knows Christiane vaguely from one of her horse mailing lists, but we had never met. All the more surprising to discover how closely our paths have crossed. Andreas lived 450 m away from us in Rosbach vor der Höhe roughly until we moved in; he even visited the previous owners of our house there. Both he and Christiane went to university in Frankfurt am Main, only a few hundred metres from where Yvonne worked at the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau. And then they moved to Nieder-Gemünden, 10 km from where we lived in Schellnhausen. What amazing coincidences!

They're now beekeepers in Knüllwald, and they're in Australia on holiday, but also to see how people make honey here. Interesting people—pity they can't stay longer.


Thursday, 19 January 2012 Dereel Images for 19 January 2012
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Learning about honey
Topic: general Link here

Andreas and Christiane are collecting honey samples as they travel round Australia, and after breakfast they gave us a couple of samples to try.


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In some cases, there's little doubt that it's made by bees:


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They were off pretty soon, though, with a couple more appointments with beekeepers throughout the day. They intended to visit somebody south of Geelong and then continue to the Mornington peninsula, so the obvious way to go was to take the ferry across the mouth of Port Philip Bay. But it turns out that for a car and two people, that would cost $69! The alternative around the bay is nearly double the distance, but according to Google Maps it only takes about 17 minutes longer, so they probably ended up taking that.


Lazy day
Topic: general Link here

Somehow I was completely apathetic today, and despite original intentions to do some garden work, did almost nothing.


Friday, 20 January 2012 Dereel Images for 20 January 2012
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More laziness
Topic: general, gardening Link here

Another day when I didn't do very much. Why? In principle I want to do things, but I just can't get off my backside. Hopefully it'll pass.

A little work in the garden, removing the odd weeds, pruning some creepers (and planting the prunings; I wonder if anything will come of them), and that was about all.


Piccola going walkabout
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

Last night Piccola didn't come home again, despite all our attempts to find her. When we got up this morning, she still wasn't there, but eaten the food we left out for her in the laundry had been eaten. And a little later I found her again, though after a while in the house she quickly disappeared in the direction of the garage. Presumably she smelt a rat.

But what do we do about it? We got her in in the evening, but she wasn't happy and wanted to go out again. I fear we're in for some conflicts.


Environment pollution
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I'm still playing around with my amd64 system, though soon I should start to cut over. One of the issues I've had for some time is that newer versions of Emacs don't respect the settings that I have been using for years, and use fonts that produce a window far larger than the screen. Of course I should look for the reason, and it's certainly part of what I need to do before I can consider my installation complete, but for the time being I've just been manually resizing the window.

And today that didn't work! It wouldn't let me make it any smaller, though I could have enlarged it. But why did that happen? People on IRC suspect my environment, and possibly that's the case; again, when I ran it with a shell with no environment, it worked. But it still uses this GTK thing, which I don't really like, and Peter Jeremy provided me with his defaults, which don't use GTK and seem to work better, and which didn't display the problem, so I'll go with that.

The whole thing makes you wonder about the value of environment variables. I still haven't worked out a good way to handle the MAKEFLAGS issue. I should probably investigate the Makefiles and fix it; in the meantime, the idea of an alias has proved to be workable, but very inconvenient. I keep typing make instead of mp. If I can't fix the build, it would be easier to remove the MAKEFLAGS before building.


Saturday, 21 January 2012 Dereel Images for 21 January 2012
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House photos: more refinement
Topic: photography Link here

Last week's house photos weren't the best I've ever taken, for a number of reasons. The big concern, as ever, was the verandah. I had uneven illumination and great difficulty finding control points among the leaves on the roof. Today I made a number of changes: I used flash as before, but lowered the intensity by one EV. I also physically lowered the camera by about 35 cm, which both gave a larger area of view of the roof and also meant that I could get more of the floor in the image, since the tripod legs weren't in the way. And I cheated and hammered some additional nails into the beams of the roof. I already have a number for hanging pots off, so it wasn't as bad as it sounded.

The results? The exposure was more even—in fact, good enough to not worry about any more, at least when the sun isn't shining. But again I had too little overlap between the lower and upper row, though I was able to find some manual control points. And the roof wasn't much better than before, though again I was able to find enough control points to get a reasonable panorama. But it took me the best part of an hour. Here the images for the last three weeks:


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Before I continue, I should decide on a representation format. The roof looks different now, of course, because it's taken from a different perspective. But probably I need one of these rotating panorama things where you can turn the panorama to look in a particular direction.

About the only other thing of interest was a minor problem with one of the panoramas: somehow the pitch changed from one image to the next, by 6.7° over the course of the shots:


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This was the only image like that this week, though I saw others last week. Once I get my new rail I should pay more attention to ensuring that nothing slips.


Token garden work
Topic: gardening Link here

Most of the day was taken up with photos, of course, but I finally found time to do a little work in the garden. Managed to set out some weed mat for one of the trees that desperately needs planting, and even put some mulch on top, but I couldn't manage a second one. I used the wind as my excuse.

The roses aren't looking happy, with the possible exception of the one I transplanted this spring. It lost all its leaves, but it has come back and even has a couple of buds on the way. But others are not flowering, and I'm wondering if there's too much competition or not enough fertilizer in the area. Spread fertilizer over the north bed area, including the shade area, and also around the Ginkgo. I should do much more.


Still more disk problems
Topic: technology Link here

After my photo processing today, started a backup. Or I tried:

=== root@defake (/dev/pts/0) /home/grog 2 -> mount /dev/ada0p1 /photobackups
mount: /dev/ada0p1 : Operation not permitted

That's mount's inimitable way of saying “look at /var/log/messages to see what's up”. As I feared, it said:

Jan 21 18:40:19 defake kernel: WARNING: R/W mount of /photobackup denied.  Filesystem is not clean - run fsck

This is an eSATA drive. Did I forget to umount it before disconnecting it? Started fsck, which failed with unreadable sectors starting at 128. It also vomited all over the kernel message buffer and the log file:

Jan 21 18:41:17 defake kernel: siisch1: Timeout on slot 30
Jan 21 18:41:17 defake kernel: siisch1: siis_timeout is 03240000 ss 60000000 rs 60000000 es 00000000 sts 801e0000 serr 002c0000
Jan 21 18:41:17 defake kernel: siisch1:  ... waiting for slots 20000000
Jan 21 18:41:25 defake kernel: siisch1: Timeout on slot 29
Jan 21 18:41:25 defake kernel: siisch1: siis_timeout is 03240000 ss 60000000 rs 60000000 es 00000000 sts 801e0000 serr 002c0000
Jan 21 18:41:25 defake kernel: siisch1: port is not ready (timeout 1000ms) status = 001f0000
Jan 21 18:41:25 defake kernel: siisch1: port ready timeout
Jan 21 18:41:25 defake kernel: siisch1: trying full port reset ...
Jan 21 18:42:32 defake kernel: siisch1: Timeout on slot 30
Jan 21 18:42:32 defake kernel: siisch1: siis_timeout is 01040000 ss 40000000 rs 40000000 es 00000000 sts 801e0000 serr 00080000
Jan 21 18:43:02 defake kernel: siisch1: Timeout on slot 30
Jan 21 18:43:02 defake kernel: siisch1: siis_timeout is 01000000 ss 40000000 rs 40000000 es 00000000 sts 801f0000 serr 00080000
Jan 21 18:43:02 defake kernel: (ada0:siisch1:0:0:0): lost device
Jan 21 18:43:32 defake kernel: siisch1: Timeout on slot 30
Jan 21 18:43:32 defake kernel: siisch1: siis_timeout is 00000000 ss 60000000 rs 60000000 es 00000000 sts 801f0000 serr 00000000
Jan 21 18:43:32 defake kernel: siisch1:  ... waiting for slots 20000000
Jan 21 18:43:32 defake kernel: siisch1: Timeout on slot 29
Jan 21 18:43:32 defake kernel: siisch1: siis_timeout is 00000000 ss 60000000 rs 60000000 es 00000000 sts 801f0000 serr 00000000
Jan 21 18:43:32 defake kernel: (ada0:siisch1:0:0:0): removing device entry
Jan 21 18:43:47 defake kernel: REDZONE: Buffer overflow detected. 8 bytes corrupted after 0xfffffe0015f24310 (16 bytes allocated).
Jan 21 18:43:47 defake kernel: Allocation backtrace:
Jan 21 18:43:47 defake kernel: #0 0xffffffff809ab0dd at redzone_setup+0x4d
Jan 21 18:43:47 defake kernel: #1 0xffffffff802c138e at camq_init+0x4e
Jan 21 18:43:47 defake kernel: #2 0xffffffff802c13ec at cam_ccbq_init+0x2c
Jan 21 18:43:47 defake kernel: #3 0xffffffff802c404d at xpt_alloc_device+0xdd
Jan 21 18:43:47 defake kernel: #4 0xffffffff802cc2fd at ata_alloc_device+0x1d
Jan 21 18:43:47 defake kernel: #5 0xffffffff802c3b88 at xpt_compile_path+0xa8
Jan 21 18:43:47 defake kernel: #6 0xffffffff802c3da6 at xpt_create_path+0x66
Jan 21 18:43:47 defake kernel: #7 0xffffffff802cbeaa at ata_scan_bus+0x14a
Jan 21 18:43:47 defake kernel: #8 0xffffffff802c7443 at camisr_runqueue+0x63
Jan 21 18:43:47 defake kernel: #9 0xffffffff802c7861 at camisr+0x101
Jan 21 18:43:47 defake kernel: #10 0xffffffff807043f4 at intr_event_execute_handlers+0x104
Jan 21 18:43:47 defake kernel: #11 0xffffffff80705bb4 at ithread_loop+0xa4
Jan 21 18:43:47 defake kernel: #12 0xffffffff80700a8f at fork_exit+0x11f
Jan 21 18:43:47 defake kernel: #13 0xffffffff80a3d78e at fork_trampoline+0xe
Jan 21 18:43:47 defake kernel: Free backtrace:
Jan 21 18:43:47 defake kernel: #0 0xffffffff809ab056 at redzone_check+0x176
Jan 21 18:43:47 defake kernel: #1 0xffffffff8071b2e8 at free+0x38
Jan 21 18:43:47 defake kernel: #2 0xffffffff802c39ae at xpt_release_device+0xbe
Jan 21 18:43:47 defake kernel: #3 0xffffffff802c3a1a at xpt_release_path+0x1a
Jan 21 18:43:47 defake kernel: #4 0xffffffff802ca295 at xptscandone+0x15
Jan 21 18:43:47 defake kernel: #5 0xffffffff802c7443 at camisr_runqueue+0x63
Jan 21 18:43:47 defake kernel: #6 0xffffffff802c7861 at camisr+0x101
Jan 21 18:43:47 defake kernel: #7 0xffffffff807043f4 at intr_event_execute_handlers+0x104
Jan 21 18:43:47 defake kernel: #8 0xffffffff80705bb4 at ithread_loop+0xa4
Jan 21 18:43:47 defake kernel: #9 0xffffffff80700a8f at fork_exit+0x11f
Jan 21 18:43:47 defake kernel: #10 0xffffffff80a3d78e at fork_trampoline+0xe

As the messages said, there was no repeating: the device entry had been removed. So I powered down the disk, rebooted defake and tried again. Same thing. Were the sectors really not readable?

=== root@defake (/dev/pts/0) /home/grog 5 -> dd if=/dev/ada0p1 of=/dev/null bs=128k count=100 conv=noerror
dd: /dev/ada0p1: Input/output error
1+0 records in
1+0 records out
131072 bytes transferred in 0.011207 secs (11695439 bytes/sec)
dd: /dev/ada0p1: Input/output error
dd: /dev/ada0p1: Input/output error
5+0 records in
5+0 records out
655360 bytes transferred in 0.025838 secs (25364058 bytes/sec)
dd: /dev/ada0p1: Input/output error
^C^C5+0 records in
5+0 records out
655360 bytes transferred in 147.566084 secs (4441 bytes/sec)
=== root@defake (/dev/pts/0) /home/grog 6 ->

So there appear to be two hardware faults on the disk, and after the second it wasn't able to continue. So much for the increased reliability of eSATA. And this disk had 1.2 TB of data on it. It's all recoverable, but the time! Copying the data over 100 Mb/s Ethernet will take about 36 hours. That's for tomorrow, though: it was time for dinner.


Sunday, 22 January 2012 Dereel Images for 22 January 2012
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Flowers in midsummer
Topic: gardening Link here

I'm moving my monthly flower photo day to the middle of the month, by taking them every 4 weeks until the time has changed. Today was part of the transition, and by April I should make it.

This month there aren't too many new flowers. The only really new ones are the Celosias that I got from the Botanical Gardens a few months ago and the Epilobium canum that we bought at Lambley Nursery in April last year:


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The Delphinium “Völkerfrieden” is now flowering happily, as is the Campanula cochlearifolia that I got only a month ago:


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I've been concerned aboout the roses, for good reason: almost none of them are flowering. The Rose “Phyllis Bide” is looking happy enough, but the Iceberg roses on the south side of the verandah are only barely ticking over.


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And those are the only roses that are flowering at all—a far cry from last month. Still, my concern for the south side of the verandah is not completely justified. The Clematis are flowering like never before:


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A number of plants are looking happier than before, notably the Pelargonium “Rhodo” and the Lobelias, which never seemed to survive where we planted them, though the Lobelias self-seeded vigorously. But now they're looking relatively happy:


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I wonder why I bother with some plants. The Anchusa capensis are flowering, but they don't seem to be worth the trouble. They're less interesting than some of the weeds, like this orange one that I haven't been able to identify:


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Some of the flowers are now past their prime, notably the Kniphofia, the Eryngium bourgatii and the Leucospermum cordifolium:


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Still, I'm quite happy with the Leucospermum, which has flowered for some time, and has already grown considerably.

On the other hand, some flowers that flowered in profusion last year are looking decidedly less happy this year. Here the Stachys byzantina last year and this.


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I suspect that part of the problem is that it was very moist last year, while the weather this year was more normal (today a top of 37.2°).

The Osteospermums are not living up to my expectations of easy-to-maintain floral ground cover. Only the purple variety are flowering at all, and that not very much:


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I think they need replanting every year, and that means that I should limit the area of the planting.

The Salvias are puzzling. We bought one of unspecified species a year ago on Australia Day, so I have called it Salvia diesaustraliae. It has grown like fury, but it hasn't flowered. I'm going to have to trim it back at the very least, but if we don't get any flowers, it can go. The Salvia leucantha and the Salvia officinalis are both flowering happily, and the Salvia “Phyllis Fancy” is also flowering. But it's a little disappointing compared to the leucantha:


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Some of the ground covers are finally coming int their own, like this one that was planted only a couple of months ago. And we have some interesting kinds of grass to which I should pay more attention:


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In the vegetable patch the tomatoes are coming along, accompanied by a close relative that is in all probability a poisonous weed:


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On a completely different tack, our Cyclamen are flowering again:


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That's a strange time, and it looks as if we can expect many more flowers.


Disk recovery
Topic: technology Link here

Connected yesterday's defective disk to lagoon, Yvonne's computer today, with a USB connection. Yes, it required fsck. No, no other problems. So there's clearly something wrong with the eSATA connection to defake. Is it the newest version of FreeBSD? Or just the fact that fsck was required? The backtraces indicate memory allocation failures, though it looks more like this was a consequence of hardware problems, not the cause of the reported problems. Probably I should look at the driver in more detail. But not today.


Monday, 23 January 2012 Dereel Images for 23 January 2012
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Bringing Darah and Carlotta home
Topic: animals Link here

Darah and Carlotta have been at Chris Yeardley's place for some time now. Now that the weather is getting hot, Yvonne decided that we should bring them back on foot. It's been nearly a year since I last rode her, as the result of the greasy heel, which still has not completely disappeared. I would have preferred to wait for cooler weather—it was over 30° by the time we got them here—but Yvonne was insistent.

In fact, it wasn't too bad, and despite not having been ridden at all for such a long time, Darah behaved perfectly. That's amazing for any horse, let alone a pure-bred Arab. Here some photos as proof:


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Tuesday, 24 January 2012 Dereel
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Into town again
Topic: general Link here

Somehow today was a day of little irritating problems. To the clinic Yet Again: it seems that there's some programme on for free (or heavily subsidized) preventive medical checkups for people like me, and in to find out more. The background was a slight pain in my hand that might be arthritis. I could go to a physiotherapist and have it looked at, but it would cost (a little) money, and here I could get it for free.

Things didn't start well: on the way I discovered that the petrol tank was nearly empty, so called up Yvonne and asked her to wait until I had filled up before leaving the house. I made it to the petrol station, filled up, and tried to call Yvonne—and that previous call had been the last on my prepaid card. Bought a new voucher, but I was already late, so first went to the clinic and then attended to the recharge, by which time an impatient Yvonne had called me.

The discussion was somewhat pedestrian, a nurse reading a checklist. No talk of physiotherapist (probably my fault), but ended up with a referral to a podiatrist. And an hour for all that.

Shopping at Bunnings, then to pick up the glasses I had ordered last month. They had been waiting for me since the end of last month, but it seems they messed up informing me. By way of apology they gave me an enormous “Eyewear care kit” with a retail price of $20, which is good of them.


Hot weather, Yet Another Bloody Power Failure
Topic: general Link here

The hot weather continues—a high of 38.7° today, compared to 38.8° yesterday, definitely air-conditioner weather. So the power failed, not just briefly, but for 1½ hours, from 17:43 to 19:16—exactly the time we wanted to eat. We had planned lamb chops and chips, but clearly we couldn't run the friteuse, so we ended up with “Rösti” instead

We had planned to grill the chops on the barbecue—and the gas cylinder ran out. That's the third occurrence of that kind of issue today. Not a big problem, since we could still do them in the kitchen, but why do things like this happen all at once?


Finding fire ban districts
Topic: general, opinion Link here

One of the potential causes for a longer power outage is a bushfire. Bushfires happen on hot days with strong winds. So after a failure like this, it made sense to call up the bushfire information hotline. No, no bushfires round here—the closest was in Flowerdale, on the Broadford Road—where our family lived 70 years ago. And that was just a grass fire.

But while I was on the phone, I asked for a solution to a question I have had for some time: which “total” fire ban district am I in? There's no information about other kinds of fire bans, and very little of any kind on the web site. This page purports to offer information on fire bans, but instead, it just gives a link to another page, and for that you need to know your district. The toy map doesn't help much; we could be in the Central district, or we could be in the South-West district. No information there about how to find out; for that you need to go back to the previous page, which leads you to the list of fire districts. And that page lists municipalities by columns, at least as far as the North East district, after which it truncates it and requires a slider to move the table across the middle of the screen. No Dereel, of course, just bigger places.

So Ryan went looking, commenting as he went. He had trouble too, and in the end gave up. Then he had a bright idea: what Shire am I in? That's Golden Plains Shire, and it seems it all belongs to the Central district. On closer examination of the poorly formatted columns, yes, it's there. But that's not a municipality, so unless you read all the columns sequentially, you're not likely to find it.

Sent off a message to the CFA with that suggestion. Based on past performance, even after the catastrophes of 3 years ago, I don't have much hope. And to add insult to injury, they ask for “additional information”, in which I am expected to set an emoticon!

 
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But they didn't have one of somebody vomiting.


Wednesday, 25 January 2012 Dereel Images for 25 January 2012
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Strange mount problems
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Yvonne had trouble booting her machine this morning. On asking, she told me “Could not mount /Photos”. That's the photo disk on my machine, mounted on hers via NFS. And yes, I couldn't get it to mount. In log file I found:

Jan 24 19:18:33 dereel kernel: WARNING: /Photos was not properly dismounted
Jan 24 21:00:07 dereel mountd[1325]: can't delete exports for /Photos: Device busy
Jan 24 21:00:07 dereel mountd[1325]: could not remount /Photos: Device busy
Jan 24 21:00:07 dereel mountd[1325]: bad exports list line /Photos -alldirs -maproot
Jan 25 07:23:56 dereel mountd[1325]: mount request denied from 192.109.197.134 for /Photos
Jan 25 07:24:56 dereel mountd[1325]: mount request denied from 192.109.197.134 for /Photos

The last two messages repeated every two minutes. But what's that? I haven't seen that before, and the problem persisted even when I restarted mountd. I had to first umount /Photos, and then remount it, and then things worked. It's clearly something to do with the power failure—the first message is from the reboot following restoration of power—but that's about all I'm sure about. What happened at 21:00? That's when my nightly cleanup scripts run, but that doesn't help, since they don't back up that file system. Maybe it was background fsck. Wouldn't it be nice for it to say when it is finished?


CFA: We encourage unsafe networking
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

Finally got round to sending in the comments about the CFA web site that I described yesterday, and tried to send it off. What did I get?

 
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I need Facebook to submit comments to a government agency? Are they out of their minds?

Well, not completely. I was given a choice: ““Get Satisfaction”, Google Mail or Twitter. What happened to real email? And why does a government agency do this sort of thing? Considered sending it from my gmail account (yes, I do have one, because some broken sites insist; it just forwards to my real email). And, not surprisingly, I got a message:

 
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I most certainly do not approve; in fact, I disapprove strongly. What business does a government agency have to ask me to share my personal details with a non-government agency I have never heard of? And why is there no warning?

Further investigation shows that the previous page had given me the option to send the email via other means, including normal email. But that's very much the exception, and I would guess that fewer than 0.1% of all correspondents use it. I'm horrified. I suppose I should put in a formal complaint, but that would only be sensible if it was handled by somebody who understood the issues, and it seems amply clear that there are very few such people around in the government (or even banks, for that matter—they of all institutions should know better).


More photo processing with DxO
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Over the last few days, I've been reprocessing old photos with DxO Optics "Pro", sometimes with spectacular results. But there's a problem: most of the photos I took in the first year with my Olympus E-510 were taken only with JPEG format, and some of the DxO “presets” are intended for raw images only.

Or are they? I tried the “one-shot HDR” preset, supposedly only available for raw images, and found that it works with JPEG as well. Probably not as well as with raw images, but the photos of the barbecue four years ago are amazingly much better:


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And that was the series of photos that eventually got me going the way of HDR images. For the time being, I think I can accept that I don't need that any more.


Finally some garden work
Topic: gardening Link here

The weather's cooler—a little. Today the temperatures were mainly in the high 20s, and I finally got up enough energy to put down some more weed cloth and plant a couple of trees that we bought at the end of winter: the Melaleuca incana “Sea mist” and the Hymenosporum flavum, the so-called “Australian frangipani”:


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Coincidentally this is in the same place as the barbecue photos above, taken 4 years ago—how times have changed!


ALDI: don't read the expiry dates
Topic: general, opinion Link here

In the evening, decided to eat a few mixed nuts. ALDI has quite a good selection at a good price, so we keep a few bags in reserve. Tonight I wanted to open one. But which? The oldest, of course.

It took me 5 minutes to find the use-by dates. When I did, I needed a torch to read it by reflection. The date is written in black on dark blue. It's difficult to read by daylight, but by artificial light it's almost illegible:


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That's the best I could do, first with a camera, then with a scanner. The text is there, on the right above the bar code.

Why do people do this? I get the impression that they really don't want people to know. Others write them on plastic foil that has to be removed to open the package, in places outside the label, or in formats that need prior knowledge of the format to decipher, like 110212. It's high time for some kind of international regulation on the way use-by dates are written on products.


Thursday, 26 January 2012 Dereel Images for 26 January 2012
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Australia Day

Australia Day fair
Topic: general, gardening Link here

Australia Day again today, and once again there was a fair car boot sale at the site of the old General Store. Last year we found a number of things to buy there, so off today to see what we could find.

And we did find some things, though possibly not as much as at other times of year. And once again we were left wondering what some of the plants were. One looks like the Japanese Iris that we bought three years ago (first image):


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The difference is that the Japanese Iris flowers in early spring, and the other plant—whatever it is—flowers now, in the middle of summer, and is about 3 times the size. Bought two of them, and also a similar plant, not in bloom, that allegedly has yellow flowers.

I later found that these are probably Dietes iridioides, or Dietes grandiflora.

Also an orange-flowering plant, also with no name:


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Apart from that, a Bromeliad that caught Yvonne's eye, another mystery ground cover that should be a good choice for under the Cypress trees, and a Gasteria that looks pretty much the same as the Gasteria carinata var. verrucosa that flowered 18 months ago and then died on us. The seller told me that I had probably watered it too much. But none of these plants seem to have any roots, including the new one.


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But wait! There's more! Also bought a Plumbago auriculata and a Limonium perezii, both with pretty blue or violet flowers. The Limonium is supposed to be frost-tender, so we'll have to think of where to put it. There are plenty of areas on the garden that never get frost, but is that enough?

Back home, discovered that our ground cover is an only slightly different version of a succulent that we have in profusion.


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Still, the flowers are a different colour, so I suppose there's space for it.

Finally got round to some progress in the area where I removed the Gazanias and sprayed over a month ago:


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We established a number of shrubs to plant there, and it occurs to me that this might also be a good place for the Grapefruit and Lime trees that we planted to the north of the house 3½ years ago, which have never done well, and which are now being engulfed by the Hebes. Here the photos after planting and now (taken from the other direction due to the growth):


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Started digging some holes for the other shrubs, and discovered a layer of gravel underneath. It was too hot for that, so gave up Yet Again and planted the deep red Pelargonium on the west side of the house:


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Web sources of garden information
Topic: gardening, opinion, technology Link here

So we've decided to transplant the citrus trees. How do you do that? My guess is to wait until winter, and then dig out as wide a section of the roots as possible. But what's the web for? https://www.google.com/search?q=transplant%2bgrapefruit%2btree%2b&oq=transplant%2bgrapefruit%2btree should tell me. And indeed, it comes up with http://www.ehow.com/how_5547756_transplant-grapefruit-trees.html:

How to Transplant Grapefruit Trees

...

3 Obtain a young grapefruit tree in a container. Grapefruit trees are readily available from many nurseries.

What does that have to do with transplantation? Nothing. But somehow it seems typical of ehow.com. Still, there are other hits, nearly all from forums. The very first one gives no advice at all, just degenerates into a fight between inhabitants of Arizona and California. The others aren't much better.

The issue here seems to be that answers on forums are treated as being as reliable as other answer. In all probability there's a good document there written by somebody who knows what he's doing, but I couldn't find one.


Friday, 27 January 2012 Dereel Images for 27 January 2012
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Planting the new plants
Topic: gardening Link here

Another frustrating day in the garden. I had planned to plant the Irises (or whatever they are) in front of the steps of the south-west verandah, where I had planted some of the variegated Japanese Iris with the similar flowers. But the soil was hard as rock. It's only gradually becoming apparent to me how little attention I paid to soil condition when I started gardening. No wonder so many plants look less than happy. So another job that will have to wait for cooler weather so that I can exert myself a bit.

Instead pottered around a bit, sprayed some weed spray—for once it was hot and not too windy—and pruned some plants, tidied up the shade area a bit, and potted a couple of pieces of Crassula falcata that had broken off. Not much to show for a day's work.


Saturday, 28 January 2012 Dereel Images for 28 January 2012
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More photo refinement
Topic: photography Link here

Another round of house photos today, this time in bright sunshine. After last week's problems stitching the verandah panorama, took more careful aim setting the heights of the middle layer. The bottom one is clear: it goes down as far as the tripod will let it. I've improved that angle by lowering the tripod, and now I have a circle with a diameter of about 40 cm at the bottom. The zenith image is also clear: straight up, now a larger area since I've lowered the camera. But the one in between? I had hoped to be able to have the top edge of the layer pointing straight up, almost eliminating the need for the zenith. But that leaves too little overlap with the lower layer, and in some directions that overlap isn't much use for finding control points. So today I set the lower edge to be horizontal—I thought. Yes, it was, but only a few degrees lower. Here an image from last week and this week:

 
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Still, it made the difference, and there were few problems between the layers. But the automatic control point detectors still couldn't fit the zenith image. Spent half an hour doing it manually, then somehow lost the image and the PTO file. Somehow I need to find a better way.

The other issue was the saturation. Last week was cloudy, and I used the “Artistic” “HDR” “preset” (what a number of dubious terms!) with DxO Optics "Pro". That came out well. This week it was sunny, and I still need to decide whether the results aren't too gaudy. Here results for 17 December 2012, before I started using DxO, then last week, when it was shady, and then today:


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In particular the clouds look a little unnatural. But last month's image looked washed out by contrast—except in the shade. Here I'm clearly reaching the limit of the DxO “HDR” rendering: the difference in brightness between the light and shade is much larger in sunshine, and there's just not enough detail in today's image. I'm going to have to think of something more conventional, such as additional lighting.


Sunday, 29 January 2012 Dereel Images for 29 January 2012
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The incredible increasing Morning Glory
Topic: gardening Link here

Another hot day spent mainly inside, but that meant first doing a lot of watering. My seed raising attempts last winter were spectacularly unsuccessful, but at least I was able to raise a couple of morning glories, which only now are getting round to flowering. They're also climbing at a rate comparable to Hops. Here the status yesterday and today:


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It's not immediately apparent—I didn't think it had grown so quickly—but it seems that it's growing at 12 cm per day, or 5 mm per hour, measured in a straight line. Clearly the real value is slightly faster. In these photos, taken almost exactly 24 hours apart, it's not quite, that much, only about 9 cm (the wires are 5 cm apart).


Panorama processing settings
Topic: photography Link here

Spent some time today thinking about the correct parameters for processing my house photos. DxO Optics "Pro" (new version out today) has three levels of intensity when processing “HDR”: “Slight”, “Realistic“, and “Artistic”. I'm beginning to understand the meaning of the term “Preset”: they're all just basic settings which can be tweaked continuously. But today I decided to start by comparing the results of the three presets. Here the shadow area with Artistic, Realistic and Slight respectively. Running the mouse over the images gives a comparison with the next version, wrapping around. This appears to work best with “small” images (i.e. one size larger than the default “thumbnails”).


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Looking at the last one, it's clear why the area to the right of the shade area is rendered so badly: it's too dark to get enough detail. But apart from that, and the possibly over-the-top sky, I really think I like the “Artistic” version best.

Here the verandah image. Again, running the mouse over the images gives a comparison with the next version.


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