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January 2015
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Thursday, 1 January 2015 Dereel Images for 1 January 2015
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Yet another New Year!
Topic: opinion Link here

It's New Year's Day yet again. These things keep happening. I don't know why, but I find the day depressing, and I have the feeling that I have a hangover even if I haven't been drinking. Somehow didn't get very much done today.


How to lay cables?
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

The insulation in the ceiling has been there for 3 weeks, and it shows: bits of it are falling out of place. Not a serious issue, I suppose: when then put in the plaster, they can reposition it.

But what about this?


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Shouldn't the cables be on top of the insulation, not underneath? To be discussed with Jim.


Evolution and other sacrilege
Topic: opinion Link here

I've been taking a number of free courses on biology and related concepts lately. One, Introduction to Genetics and Evolution, starts today (really tomorrow, since it's in the USA). But they've released the first lectures already—nearly 1½ hours of lectures proving that evolution really exists!

What sane person can doubt that? I know that a surprising number of people in the USA really believe the Torah's explanation of the origins of the world, or this nonsensical Intelligent Design concept. But in the Real World?

It seems that in all countries there's a sizeable minority of people who reject the theory of evolution, in particular the idea that humans evolved from animals:

In Turkey, it seems that it's not a minority who reject this assertion: it's a majority. And even in Australia, only 42% (or maybe 71%) of people believe in evolution.

But OK, anybody participating in this course won't believe this nonsense, right? Wrong. A surprising number of participants disagree, or find no proof of the theory. I'm amazed. Hopefully they'll change their minds by the end of the course.


Friday, 2 January 2015 Dereel Images for 2 January 2015
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Fire danger in Stones Road
Topic: Stones Road house, general, opinion Link here

We've been talking with Garry Marriott about putting some horses on his south paddock to eat up the grass, but somehow hadn't got round to doing anything about it. Today I got a very garbled (mobile) phone call from him, in which he told me that his granddaughter Emily was planning to have the paddock slashed on Monday, because she had received a notification from the council. She even wanted to do the area round the dam, where we have horses.

Can we (or, preferably, our horses) eat it down by then? Over with Chris Bahlo to take a look, and to put the horses on the dam area. The latter was easy: they were already there, so we just needed to close them in. Over to talk with Emily and (mainly) her partner Sean, and took a look at the letter. It had arrived nearly a month ago, but since it was addressed to Garry, they didn't open it. But the content was very interesting:


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Lot 2? That's our property! Sean and Emily didn't know that, of course, but the council certainly does, judging by the rates notices we have for it. And as a result of the misdirection, we only have until Sunday to do the work.

That's not possible. Today and tomorrow are days of total fire ban, which includes slashing. So what can we do? Called up the council (that's the number at the bottom) at 14:49 and was told to call back during business hours. Forget exactly what they are, but they included the time I called. Clearly they have shut down the council for Christmas and not bothered to change their message.

OK, it'll have to be Monday. How can the council be so disorganized? Will I get an extension? On the face of it, it looks as if we should get Sean's mate to do at least the front of our property too.


Tracing the ssh issues
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

So it's fairly clear where the blame lies with my DHCP problems, though I still need to trace the other connection. I'll do that when the temperature has cooled down a bit. But there's another issue, and potentially it's related: from time to time ssh setup fails. More tracing, with very little to show for it. This is on the server side:

No.     Time            Source                Source     Destination           Destination Protocol Length Info
     45 10:52:04.502503 aussie-gw.lemis.com   00:19:07:77:9e:00 www.lemis.com         00:16:3e:06:34:53 SSHv2    113    Client Protocol: SSH-2.0-OpenSSH_6.2_hpn13v11 FreeBSD-20130515

Frame 45: 113 bytes on wire (904 bits), 113 bytes captured (904 bits)
Ethernet II, Src: Cisco_77:9e:00 (00:19:07:77:9e:00), Dst: Xensourc_06:34:53 (00:16:3e:06:34:53)
Internet Protocol Version 4, Src: aussie-gw.lemis.com (180.150.4.128), Dst: www.lemis.com (208.86.226.86)
Transmission Control Protocol, Src Port: 14167 (14167), Dst Port: ssh (22), Seq: 1, Ack: 1, Len: 47
    Source port: 14167 (14167)
    Destination port: ssh (22)
    [Stream index: 6]
    Sequence number: 1    (relative sequence number)
    [Next sequence number: 48    (relative sequence number)]
    Acknowledgement number: 1    (relative ack number)
    Header length: 32 bytes
    Flags: 0x010 (ACK)
    Window size value: 12573
    [Calculated window size: 3218688]
    [Window size scaling factor: 256]
    Checksum: 0x4df7 [validation disabled]
    Options: (12 bytes)
    [SEQ/ACK analysis]
SSH Protocol
    Protocol: SSH-2.0-OpenSSH_6.2_hpn13v11 FreeBSD-20130515


     46 10:52:04.502783 www.lemis.com         00:16:3e:06:34:53 aussie-gw.lemis.com   00:19:07:77:9e:00 TCP      66     ssh > 14167 [FIN, ACK] Seq=1 Ack=48 Win=65664 Len=0 TSval=1536073935 TSecr=4290233966

Frame 46: 66 bytes on wire (528 bits), 66 bytes captured (528 bits)
Ethernet II, Src: Xensourc_06:34:53 (00:16:3e:06:34:53), Dst: Cisco_77:9e:00 (00:19:07:77:9e:00)
Internet Protocol Version 4, Src: www.lemis.com (208.86.226.86), Dst: aussie-gw.lemis.com (180.150.4.128)
Transmission Control Protocol, Src Port: ssh (22), Dst Port: 14167 (14167), Seq: 1, Ack: 48, Len: 0
    Source port: ssh (22)
    Destination port: 14167 (14167)
    [Stream index: 6]
    Sequence number: 1    (relative sequence number)
    Acknowledgement number: 48    (relative ack number)
    Header length: 32 bytes
    Flags: 0x011 (FIN, ACK)
    Window size value: 1026
    [Calculated window size: 65664]
    [Window size scaling factor: 64]
    Checksum: 0x6bea [validation disabled]
    Options: (12 bytes)
    [SEQ/ACK analysis]

For no apparent reason, the remote sshd has just closed the connection. Why? It doesn't say. There's nothing in auth.log, which is arguably not the correct log file anyway, since it doesn't get as far as trying to authenticate, but there's nothing elsewhere either. And a retry usually succeeds, though sometimes it takes up to 6 attempts. More head-scratching.


Saturday, 3 January 2015 Dereel Images for 3 January 2015
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Mixed corellas and cockatoos
Topic: animals Link here

On the way to take the dogs for a walk this morning, saw a group of cockatoos across the road from the driveway. Or at least, that's what I thought:


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Looking more closely, they were a roughly mixed group of Sulphur-crested cockatoos and Corellas. Yes, they're also cockatoos, but it's surprising that they flock together.


ALDI scales
Topic: general, opinion Link here

I've been looking for good kitchen scales for some time. It's certainly not an issue of price: the last one I bought cost $10.86 including shipping, and it works well. So why do I need a new one? It's tiny! The bowl that comes with it is tiny too, and even so it obscures the display as often as not.

This week ALDI has a set of scales on special. What size? What range? Who cares? They're nutritional! And they come in three colours, just what we want:


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But then, the best thing about ALDI is the 60 day no questions asked return guarantee, so when Yvonne went into town to pick up some horsey stuff, she stopped in and bought one. So did Chris Bahlo, because she liked the bright red one. So much for my irony.

And how are they? The size is OK, and they go to 5 kg in 1 g increments. And it comes with codes for 958 different foodstuffs, so that you can work out exactly how many calories their specimens of the same foodstuffs would have delivered. I thought that stuff went out of fashion decades ago.

More to the point, it didn't work. I powered the thing on and watched the no-load display start at 0 and climb to about 10 g before I turned it off. Heat problems? It was very hot today, and maybe it doesn't handle changes of temperature well. On the other hand, Chris had no trouble with hers. So an hour later I tried again and watched a different behaviour: it jumped at random several hundred grams in each direction.

Played around with the batteries, and the problem went away. So somehow the battery connections are not good, and it's too stupid to notice. Now we'll have to see how useful it is. Yvonne likes it because it's easy to clean (she says). The dozens of irrelevant numerical displays irritate me somewhat.


Monitor pain
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

It's high time I got round to upgrading eureka, my main machine. It's still running FreeBSD 9.2, and I've been meaning to upgrade it for nearly a year. Today I got as far as connecting my spare BenQ monitor to two test machines. It wasn't easy. BenQ monitors say “No cable connected” when in fact they mean no signal. But there was a signal, as other monitors confirmed. Was the thing set up to only accept input from one source? The menu would tell me that. But the menu didn't display.

After much cursing and monitor swapping, discovered that it was set for HDMI input, and that for some reason the menu wouldn't display under these circumstances. But I could still switch between the inputs with the Enter button, and in the other modes the menu works. Is this some misfeature of HDMI, or just firmware breakage?


Storm!
Topic: general Link here

One of the most consistent weather predictions we've had recently was that yesterday and today would be very hot, and that it would end with a storm. And so it was. As the rain approached, I predicted on IRC:

<grOOgle> <15:57:41> Prepare for the next flower pail.

At that time, the outside temperature was 36.4°. An hour later it was 22°, a drop of 14.4°, or nearly ¼° per minute:

Click to see larger image

And then the power failure came, killing 200 days of uptime. Grrrr, especially since I went and got the emergency generator, and we were able to continue with cooking more or less normally. I'm surprised how resilient this generator is: it was able to run the water pump with no trouble, and we even ran a microwave oven, which, however, wasn't very happy about the quality of the power. The Kenwood Chef refused, however: the control circuitry appears to be very primitive. The first time round, it was unable to maintain constant speed. On the second attempt it ran full speed, independently of the setting. Damaged? No, fortunately. After the power came back, it ran normally.


Restarting eureka
Topic: technology, general Link here

The power came back after about 2¼ hours, and that's about the time I needed to get eureka back up and running again. I really must save my config files and check that the machine can start up without so much manual intervention. But then, that's part of the plan for the new machine.


Sunday, 4 January 2015 Dereel Images for 4 January 2015
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After the storm
Topic: general, Stones Road house Link here

The storm last night sounded violent, but there wasn't really that much to show for it—lots of scattered eucalyptus bark and a couple of small twigs broken off:


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But of course our water tanks have moved. Here last week and this week:


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High time for Warwick to come and put them in their final place.

Also another puzzling one. Where did this fence section come from?


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The fence itself is undamaged, but it can't have been there very long, because the brickies go through there all the time.


More insulation issues
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

One day this will be my new office:


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Hopefully they'll start plastering before they have to replace all the insulation.


Monday, 5 January 2015 Dereel Images for 5 January 2015
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Simonds progress, day 31 of 98
Topic: Stones Road house, general Link here

Over to look at Chris Bahlo's building site today. Construction was to have commenced on 5 December 2014 and be complete by 13 March 2015. Now over a third of that time has passed. What does the site look like?


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Maybe David Yeardley's feral sheep have chased the builders off.


Getting rid of the Yeardleys' sheep
Topic: general, animals, opinion Link here

It's been months since Chris Bahlo complained to David Yeardley about his sheep running wild over her property, and a couple of weeks ago I saw that David had noticed it, and thought that they would finally stop things. As the photo above shows, they haven't. Called up the Council and was put through (ultimately) to Neville, the ranger, who told me that they would pick up the sheep after getting a copy of a letter to the Yeardley's demanding the removal of the sheep (in 24 hours!) along with proof of delivery. Does Chris want to do that? It's just pain. Wouldn't it be nice if the Yeardleys would behave like responsible members of society?


Council Fire Prevention
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Called up the Golden Plains Shire Council to speak to Simon Howland, who issued the incorrect fire prevention notice. Not back until “Monday”, by which she meant a week's time. So how had he intended to verify that the work was done by yesterday?


Wireless flash trigger
Topic: photography Link here

The wireless flash trigger I ordered a few weeks back has now arrived. There were more pieces than I had expected:


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That's all that was in the box. No packaging, no instructions. I can live without the latter, but clearly the components didn't all live without the former. The broken part is a simple 6.3 mm to 3.5 mm adapter, but what if the other components are also defective? Without the adapter I can't know.


Coursera confusion
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

I've signed up for a Coursera course, Dinosaur Paleobiology. When did it start? 3 January, it claims. But there's no way to access the course. Where other courses have a button “Go to class”, this one has a button “Started 2 days ago”, and it doesn't link anywhere:

 
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Fought my way through the Coursera help pages and found a way to submit a problem report. To my surprise, I got a response in only two minutes. Less to my surprise, it was “clear all cookies, install latest browser, log out, try again”. And of course that didn't work. Another message, another almost immediate reply:

Although the course is due to start 2 days ago, it's still inaccessible now. This is a known issue and we're working on it.

The first sentence is a repeat of my error message. And the second begs the question why he required me to mess around with browser settings.


When is a file full?
Topic: technology Link here

Synchronizing files across the net is not necessarily a sequential matter. If I'm synchronizing a whole directory over a slow net, how do I know whether a specific file is full or not? It's not that easy: you can find out how many data blocks are allocated, and you can compare that with the EOF. But even if the blocks are allocated, it doesn't mean that they contain data all the way until the EOF. And because they're blocks and not individual data, they normally extend beyond the EOF. Spent some time playing around, and came up with this program, which is still very flaky and utterly dependent on UFS. But it helps.


Preparing to move house
Topic: Stones Road house, general Link here

It'll be months before the new house is complete, but it'll also take me months to throw out all the old stuff that I really don't want to throw out. Today made another attempt, and filled a washing basket with about a dozen old (but mainly functional) disk drives and a whole lot of ancient documentation. It's like pulling teeth.

To add insult to injury, I dropped the washing basket in the skip and couldn't get it out again: it was too far down, and the skip is so high that I can't conveniently climb in and back out again. Finally managed it with the aid of a bamboo pole.


Hunger on 5 January
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Fifty years ago I had the crazy idea of fasting for Ramadan, which started on 4 January 1965. I'm not a Muslim, so why should I bother? I suppose it was for the experience. I only kept it up for a couple of days.

Now I have very different reasons for not eating: I'm getting old, and I don't need as much food as I used to. Today we tried getting by with a substantial late breakfast and a substantial evening meal, missing out on lunch. Still no go, and I don't think we'll repeat it in the near future.


Tuesday, 6 January 2015 Dereel Images for 6 January 2015
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Another power failure
Topic: general Link here

Another short power failure at 9:27 this morning, while we were walking the dogs.


More animal company
Topic: animals Link here

Came into my office this afternoon and found an unexpected sight on the bed where Nikolai normally sleeps:


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That's Shadow, one of Chris Bahlo's cats. Unlike Crystal, he seems to get on with all our animals, and he's been coming in here more and more often.


Finally updating my machines?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

When I first started using computers at home, it was normal that it was difficult. In the course of time, though, things have generally got better. 16 years ago I gave a whole day tutorial on installing FreeBSD at the AUUG 1998 conference. I didn't finish.

In the meantime, things have got easier. I can do the same installation in about 30 minutes. But what do I have? A base system. How do I configure it? How do I install useful programs (ports)? How do I keep it up to date?

Commercial systems like Microsoft and Apple have solved that problem long ago. So, to a greater or lesser extent, have most Linux distros. But somehow FreeBSD is lagging behind, and there's a good reason why I still haven't updated eureka nearly a year after buying new hardware. But finally it's time, and I started by taking an image of the root file system of lagoon, Yvonne's computer, which in my configuration includes /usr, and putting it onto the SSD that will become the new root for eureka. The build, in a test machine, worked as well as ever. What will the ports bring?


Sheds and slashing
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Craig appeared on site today to dig the holes for the footings for the shed. That's all he can do this week; we need the building inspector to inspect the footings, and he won't be back until next week. In the meantime did my own inspection and discovered that the holes were in the wrong position, so Craig will have to pick one up and move it 7 m south.

Also talking to Sean and Craig about the slashing that needs to be done. Craig tells me that they can't issue a request to slash grass if it's being used as fodder, so we may get by without having to do anything.


Wednesday, 7 January 2015 Dereel Images for 7 January 2015
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Catching rabbits: teamwork
Topic: animals Link here

Borzois are sight hounds, right? Right. But sometimes I doubt it. When walking the dogs, we frequently see rabbits. So does Leonid, but when he runs after them, they frequently go off in a completely different direction, he doesn't notice, and they escape.

Today was slightly different: he found a second one to follow, and it went into the bracken, where I suspect the dogs have an advantage, but he still didn't manage to catch it. I let Nikolai off the leash, and he shot in, and in no time they had it. After all, Borzois are also supposed to hunt in packs, even if their intended prey is considerably bigger than a rabbit.

But who gets the rabbit? The one with the stronger teeth?


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On the face of it, Nikolai (left) is winning. But equally clearly, the rabbit is losing. So I disengaged Leonid, leaving him with only some fluff in his mouth:


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Nikolai ran off. We found him back home, and left him with his rabbit in the dog run:


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And then, of course, it was gone. But not the way we expected: he seems to have hidden it. Ten hours later, in the evening, we found him still playing with it:


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OK, he had his chance. Took him out of the dog run and put Leonid there instead. Came back 30 minutes later to find him still playing with it. Took him out and put Zhivago in instead. Gone, this time for good. And when we put the others out later, they spent lots of time looking for it. When will they learn?


Camera default settings
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

The photos of the dogs this morning were taken with my “standard” settings: aperture-priority f/8, ISO 24°/200. So the exposures were round 1/60s, and there's a fair amount of motion blur as a result.

I've already taken to using the 14-150mm lens for walks. It's not the best lens I have, but it offers great flexibility, and it's far more than adequate for this kind of work. So why don't I allow auto-ISO sensitivity? Probably I should. Then the next question is: how high can I go? The recommended maximum is round 33°/1600 ISO, but if I only use auto to be flexible, maybe it makes more sense to put the upper limit at 36°/3200 ISO, like I've done for Yvonne's camera.


Further house progress
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Jim Lannen and apprentice along this morning to look at some odd jobs to be done on the Kleins Road house. I nearly didn't hear them: the battery in the doorbell was flat. They did their jobs without event, but it's clear that we need a better doorbell solution in Stones Road (and not just the inevitable problem that most Australians ignore doorbells and just knock). So they put in a cable for a real cabled doorbell (or chime, as they seem to be called). The button will be on the right, where hopefully it will be very visible:


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Duncan was there, and curious about the power points for the studio flash units that I'm putting under the ceiling of the lounge room. He was particularly interested in the one in the kitchen area, because it didn't have any cable going to it. Oops. Hopefully that will be the last one,but it's done now, along with the cables to the shed:


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I wonder if there's something else that we've forgotten.

The house is now approaching lock-up stage, and there are still discussions about the front door. As Duncan showed me, the contract contradicts itself. Item 11-3 states “Provide BFR13 Front Entry Door in lieu of XV10”, a sum of $182, and the colour selection states XS3. Should I have noticed that? Just finding out what these codes mean is serious work. In any case, the current situation is unacceptable: the door they delivered is designed to be painted, not what we wanted, the side panel (not mentioned elsewhere in the contract) has been supplied with non BAL 19-conformant glass. More negotiations needed, but Duncan confirmed that Tom Tyler is on holiday until next week, so I have a little time.

One issue with the lock-up stage is that yes, it's really lock-up, and I don't get a key. From now until we move in, we only get in for inspections with Duncan. That will be fun.

Later in the afternoon, Warwick Pitcher came along to spread the sand base for the water tanks. A good thing, too. It seems that the top of the tanks needs to be at least 50 cm lower than the gutters to avoid flooding with heavy rain, so they had to dig them 50 cm into the ground:


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A good thing Warwick came along. If it hadn't been for him, we could have had tanks that we couldn't fill.


Simonds, day 34—or 20?
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

34 days in to the 98 day “construction” of Chris Bahlo's new house, and they've finally done something!


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It seems that they have now decided that building began on 19 December—no idea why—so presumably they're committed to getting it finished by 27 March. That's roughly when we're hoping to be able to move in to Stones Road. It'll be interesting to watch.


What use lens caps?
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

For some reason, Olympus lenses come with a plethora of different lens caps. Including the 15 mm Body Cap Lens, I have 6 different kinds. The one on the 14-150mm lens, though identical in construction to the one that fits both the 14-42mm and the 17mm lenses, is a real problem. I have had it fall off and get lost at least 5 times, usually in a forest somewhere. There must be a better solution. I've thought of tying it on to the lens, but that's a nuisance most of the time. Why don't they make cheap, throwaway plastic push-on caps any more?

Yvonne has different problems. She's still having trouble accepting her new camera. One of the issues is definitely lens caps, and you can understand that when she's on horseback and doesn't have time to fiddle around with them. That's why she likes the body cap lens. Just about all compact cameras have integrated lens protection. Why isn't anything like that available for higher quality cameras, maybe fitting into the filter thread?


FreeBSD package upgrade: still not there
Topic: technology Link here

As I feared, updating my packages wasn't all plain sailing. In fact, it was almost impossible. Started on my stable machine (that's the name) with the disk cloned from lagoon. Away it ran, then:

The process will require 210 MB more space.
2 GB to be downloaded.

Proceed with this action? [y/N]: y
Fetching zziplib-0.13.62_2.txz... done
Fetching zsh-5.0.7_1.txz... done
pkg: cached package zsh-5.0.7_1: size mismatch, fetching from remote
Fetching zsh-5.0.7_1.txz... done
pkg: cached package zsh-5.0.7_1: size mismatch, cannot continue

What went wrong there? The “cached package” information is not very relevant, since the package had just been downloaded from the net, twice. And because of this single error, the whole update of 474 packages was aborted.

That proved not to be as big a problem as it might seem: after deleting the zsh package, the next one failed in exactly the same manner. So did pkg install of zsh. Peter Jeremy suggested pkg clean, but of course that didn't make any difference.

After some head-scratching, wondered if it had something to do with cloning the disk. lagoon clearly needed the same updates, so it was worth trying it there. Sure enough, it started off quite well, until I got:

Checking integrity... done (20 conflicting)
pkg: Cannot solve problem using SAT solver:
conflict rule: The following packages conflict with each other: py27-imaging-1.1.7_5(r), py27-pillow-2.6.0_1(r)
conflict rule: The following packages conflict with each other: py27-imaging-1.1.7_5(r), py27-imaging-1.1.7_5(r)
upgrade rule: upgrade local py27-imaging-1.1.7_3 to remote py27-imaging-1.1.7_5
dependency rule: package py27-imaging(r) depends on: py27-imaging(l)xbmc(l)
cannot install package py27-imaging, remove it from request? [Y/n]: pkg: cannot find py27-imaging in the request
pkg: cannot solve job using SAT solver
Checking integrity... done (0 conflicting)
Conflicts with the existing packages have been found.
One more solver iteration is needed to resolve them.

How did that happen? These are clearly dependent packages of some Python port. I didn't install them: pkg did. So how did these conflicts arise? Still, I don't need them now, and I can always reinstall if I do, so I could remove them. Or could I?

=== root@lagoon (/dev/pts/2) /eureka/home/grog 19 -> pkg delete py27-imaging-1.1.7_5, py27-pillow-2.6.0_1
Checking integrity... done (0 conflicting)
Package(s) not found!
=== root@lagoon (/dev/pts/2) /eureka/home/grog 20 -> pkg delete py27-imaging-1.1.7_5
Checking integrity... done (0 conflicting)
Package(s) not found!
=== root@lagoon (/dev/pts/2) /eureka/home/grog 21 -> pkg delete py27-imaging
Checking integrity... done (0 conflicting)
Deinstallation has been requested for the following 2 packages (of 0 packages in the universe):

Installed packages to be REMOVED:
        py27-imaging-1.1.7_3
        xbmc-13.2_4

The operation will free 73 MB.

Proceed with deinstalling packages? [y/N]: y
[1/2] Deinstalling xbmc-13.2_4...
[1/2] Deleting files for xbmc-13.2_4: 100%
[2/2] Deinstalling py27-imaging-1.1.7_3...
[2/2] Deleting files for py27-imaging-1.1.7_3: 100%

In other words, pkg doesn't understand the package names that it outputs. This isn't new, but it's frustrating, and in cases of duplicates it's inaccurate.

Duplicates? What duplicates? These duplicates:

=== root@lagoon (/dev/pts/2) ~ 23 -> mailme pkg upgrade
...
Processing candidates (769 candidates)... done
Checking integrity... done (19 conflicting)
pkg: Cannot solve problem using SAT solver:
dependency rule: package linux_base-f10(r) depends on: linux_base-f10(l)linux-f10-sqlite3(l)
(many more)
conflict rule: The following packages conflict with each other: linux_base-f10-10_9(r), linux_base-c6-6.6_1(r)
conflict rule: The following packages conflict with each other: linux_base-f10-10_9(r), linux_base-f10-10_9(r)
upgrade rule: upgrade local linux_base-f10-10_7 to remote linux_base-f10-10_9
dependency rule: package linux_base-f10(r) depends on: linux_base-f10(l)nspluginwrapper(l)
dependency rule: package linux_base-f10(r) depends on: linux_base-f10(l)nvidia-driver-304(l)
cannot install package linux_base-f10, remove it from request? [Y/n]:

What do I do now? lagoon is Yvonne's machine, and I don't want to break Linux compatibility on it. So for the moment I stopped, after only 2 hours and nothing achieved but a little experience.

What a pain! So far we appear to have:

Some of these points may be incorrect, but that's the way things look at the moment. So once again the update is on hold.


Thursday, 8 January 2015 Dereel Images for 8 January 2015
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Another power failure
Topic: general Link here

Yet another short power failure this morning at 0:06. Things have been quiet last year, but this is the third this year. Hopefully it's not a sign.


Damage on site?
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Over to the Stones Road site this morning to take a photo that I forgot yesterday. There was less going on, only the bricklayers. And Craig's ute, the one with the water, was gone. Brendan, the brickie, confirmed that he hadn't used the water. Why was it gone?

Craig is in Ballarat in the daytime, so back home to fill up another tank. While there discovered that Craig was complaining because Michael, one of Warwick's men, had moved the ute (it was in the way of an entrance to the paddock, and locked) with his Bobcat, and that Craig was quite upset about the fact. Later we heard that the gearbox was damaged—I can't see how that could have happened—and that the chassis was twisted. Looks like there will be some fixing to do.


User interface pain
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

Yvonne uses a smart phone. That in itself isn't an issue, but she has real problems using it. I have a tablet with phone function, along with Bluetooth headphones, but I use it so seldom that I still have issues. In particular, the user interface is really bad. I've been using touch screens for years now, and I still find them one of the most obnoxious developments I've had the displeasure to experience. Answer a phone? Not so long ago you used to pull it out of your pocket, feel for the “Talk” button, and press it. Now you pull it out of your pocket, look at it to locate the green flashing area on the screen, and swipe it in a specific direction, which you have learnt by trial and error (why?). Everything seems to be designed to be “cool”, rather than functional. Not for the first time, I wonder how these interfaces will develop over time. Desktop computer interfaces such as Microsoft and Apple have improved marginally, so there is hope for portable devices.

In the meantime, ALDI has a “back to school” special for the kids who thought that the school holidays would last another 3 weeks: a dumb phone (well, not that dumb; it does have some network functionality):

Image

My guess is that no schoolchild would be seen dead with something so old-fashioned. But it has keys, though admittedly it acknowledges modernity by not having a labelled on-off or talk button. And possibly the user interface isn't as bad as the smart phones I have seen. In particular, it costs $18 and can be returned if I don't like it, so I got Yvonne to buy me one, and we'll try it out.

First problem: it was dead. Put SIM card and battery into the device, connect charger. Nothing. Something wrong with the battery? Looks OK to me:


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Looking more carefully, though, you can barely see a strip of insulation over the contacts:


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Is that mentioned in the 4pt “manual”? Of course not. We're not that old-fashioned.

So how does it work? First I need to find some mobile phone coverage.


Limits of noise reduction
Topic: photography, animals, opinion Link here

Shadow, one of Chris Bahlo's cats, is making himself more and more at home:


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That's in a particularly dark part of the house; even with the lights on, it was difficult to recognize the distinction between the cat and the background. Clearly a case for flash, but I was concerned that he would walk away. So I cranked up the sensitivity to 45°/25000 ISO and took it hand-held, still 1/10s. At the standard 24°/200 ISO it would have needed 12 seconds.

And the quality? Acceptable or unacceptable, depending on your standards. This was done with DxO Optics “Pro”'s “PRIME” noise reduction. Without it looks like the first image. Run the cursor over either image to compare with the partner:


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On the whole, I don't see a big improvement, though of course the highlighting makes for part of the problem. And the colours are really not good. Although white balance has been set to the minimum of 2000°K, it's all too yellow. Shadow doesn't really look like that.

In passing, it's interesting to note that the lack of a built-in flash is a real problem for photos such as this.


Cannelloni again
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

It's been over 3 years since we last ate canneloni, and we thought it would be time to do it again. Things went relatively smoothly until we discovered we had forgotten to add the chicken livers to the stuffing. And I forgot to read to the end of the recipe, where I wrote:

In particular I had a bad experience with San Remo. It's too early to say where the problem lies: their other products are of good quality, but the tubes didn't cook properly, and the results tasted like glue.

They didn't taste like glue this time. It's hard to describe, but they were coarse and grainy. Next time, if we make it again, we'll have to make fresh pasta.


Friday, 9 January 2015 Dereel Images for 9 January 2015
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Dead kangaroo
Topic: animals, general Link here

On the way to Stones Road this morning, on Harrisons Road:


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No, I didn't hit it. It was cold and stiff. But it's not the kind of obstacle you see just anywhere.


Water everywhere except where we need it
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Brendan has now finished with the brickwork, but he'll come back next week, or maybe the week after, to wash down the brickwork. And for that he'll need another 1 m³ of water.

Not a problem, we have water tanks now, and the weather forecast suggests we'll get round 50 mm of rain over the weekend. That's enough to fill the tanks to about 40% (about 20 m³). And Mari Hendriks was supposed to connect them up today.

Problem: it's raining. He can't glue his pipes while it's raining. So all that water goes to waste, and the water is on the wrong side of the tanks:


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FreeBSD Package update, try 2
Topic: technology Link here

So I've been getting this message from attempts to update FreeBSD packages on stable, my test machine:

Fetching zsh-5.0.7_1.txz... done
pkg: cached package zsh-5.0.7_1: size mismatch, cannot continue

What does that imply? Does Google know? Of course. This page discusses the matter, and “SirDice” comes up with a suggestion:

pkg clean                       # cleans /var/cache/pkg/
rm -rf /var/cache/pkg/*         # just remove it all
pkg update -f                   # forces update  of repository catalog
rm /var/db/pkg/repo-*.sqlite    # removes all remote repository catalogs
pkg bootstrap -f                # forces reinstall of pkg

He also adds the important warning:

You can delete quite a lot but whatever you do, do NOT delete /var/db/pkg/local.sqlite. It contains the database with your installed packages. If you remove it the system will think you have nothing installed.

I've already run pkg clean, and it was fairly clear that the issue wasn't with the contents of /var/cache/pkg, since new contents get loaded. And pkg update -f? Yes! After that, I only had the pain that I had already experienced on lagoon. But of course I still got the issues that I had already seen with py-imaging. In the meantime, though, Callum Gibson and Peter Jeremy had pointed out that my problems deleting with the exact package name were of my making. The name wasn't exact:

conflict rule: The following packages conflict with each other: py27-imaging-1.1.7_5(r), py27-pillow-2.6.0_1(r)
conflict rule: The following packages conflict with each other: py27-imaging-1.1.7_5(r), py27-imaging-1.1.7_5(r)
upgrade rule: upgrade local py27-imaging-1.1.7_3 to remote py27-imaging-1.1.7_5
...
=== root@lagoon (/dev/pts/2) /eureka/home/grog 20 -> pkg delete py27-imaging-1.1.7_5
Checking integrity... done (0 conflicting)
Package(s) not found!

Of course the package wasn't found. That was the one pkg was trying to install, not the one I already had installed (py27-imaging-1.1.7_3). Using that name, it worked. So that's one objection less.

After that, it ran until the same place where I stopped on lagoon, with Linux compatibility. I didn't want to break lagoon, because it's Yvonne's machine, but I can risk it on stable:

=== root@lagoon (/dev/pts/2) /eureka/home/grog 21 -> mailme pkg delete linux_base-f10
Installed packages to be REMOVED:
        Lots of Linux stuff, of course, and ...
        acroread9-9.5.5
        nspluginwrapper-1.4.4_4
        nvidia-driver-304-304.88_2
        acroreadwrapper-0.0.20130208

Why nvidia-driver? That's FreeBSD-specific. Still, noted the packages so that I could reinstall them later.

After that, yet another error:

pkg: Cannot solve problem using SAT solver:
conflict rule: The following packages conflict with each other: gcc48-4.8.4.s20141218(r), gcc-4.8.3_2(r)
conflict rule: The following packages conflict with each other: gcc48-4.8.4.s20141218(r), gcc48-4.8.4.s20141218(r)
upgrade rule: upgrade local gcc48-4.8.3.s20140424 to remote gcc48-4.8.4.s20141218
cannot install package gcc48, remove it from request? [Y/n]: Enter
pkg: cannot find gcc48 in the request
pkg: cannot solve job using SAT solver

Another package to delete. Looking back, I wonder if the “SAT solver” ever solves a problem or a job.

And after that pkg upgrade ran! How many packages have I lost? gcc isn't an issue, because it's always a dependency. But what about the collateral damage removing the Linux emulation? nvidia-driver was fine, but I couldn't find acroread, nsplugin-wrapper or flashplugin:

=== root@stable (/dev/pts/0) /var/cache/pkg 70 -> pkg search flashplugin
=== root@stable (/dev/pts/0) /var/cache/pkg 71 -> pkg search linux-f10-flashplugin
=== root@stable (/dev/pts/0) /var/cache/pkg 72 -> pkg search flash
dummyflash-1.0_5
ems-flasher-0.03_3
flash-0.9.5
flasher-1.3
flashrom-0.9.7_2
get_flash_videos-1.24.20120610
kipi-plugin-flashexport-3.5.0_3
py27-WebFlash-0.1a9_1
vrflash-0.20
xpi-flashblock-1.5.18
xpi-flashgot-1.3.7

Why? Am I asking incorrectly, or is there no package? And if there's no package, why not? But that was enough pain for one day.


Saturday, 10 January 2015 Dereel Images for 10 January 2015
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Water everwhere
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

The good news today: it didn't rain nearly as much as forecast. But yesterday's rain was enough. Not only was it on the wrong side of the water tanks, they were floating in it:


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No wonder Nikolai looks puzzled. Run the cursor over either image to compare with the next.


Stray horses
Topic: animals Link here

High time to install the electric fence actuator:


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The CAPTCHA to end all CAPTCHAS
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

At some time in the past I must have joined the FreeBSD forum site, though it's not really my thing. But what's the password? No worries, I can get it reset. But first I had to go through a CAPTCHA like I've never seen before:

 
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Yes, of course I knew the answer. But does every forum participant?


Buggy paella
Topic: food and drink Link here

Paella for dinner tonight, an ideal use for Moreton Bay Bugs:


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Sunday, 11 January 2015 Dereel Images for 11 January 2015
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More throwaways
Topic: Stones Road house, technology Link here

It looks as if Craig is so upset about what Michael did to his ute that he won't even communicate with us, and Leah didn't come to clean the house today either. That's sad. And it means that I have to do more work myself, which is even sadder.

Out today to the shed to throw away some stuff. I'm getting better: threw away a whole lot of old floppy disks, mainly with old Microsoft-based software. But then there are other things I can't throw away, like my home-made Z-80-based CP/M machine, old listings, and a number of ancient copies of AUUGN. And, of course, various old vague and strange hardware. Must I really throw it all out? Doesn't anybody want this stuff? 25 years' worth of c't, 20 years' worth of Byte, lots of other stuff? Ah, the pain!


Monday, 12 January 2015 Dereel Images for 12 January 2015
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Phone instruction manual
Topic: general, opinion Link here

The dumb phone I bought last week was so interesting that Yvonne wanted one too. And it's complicated enough to require an instruction manual. But paper is expensive, so they printed the A4 original in a format of 10×7 cm, roughly 3 pt, and almost illegible without a magnifying glass. Called up Tempo, who claim to supply service, on 1300 886 649. 20 minute wait, during which I was continually asked to send email to them. I've been there before: they never answer.

Finally connected, spoke with Ben, who promised to send me the document. And so he did, but despite clear enunciation of the email address, he got it wrong, and it bounced. All that work for nothing. Still, maybe this is a case where the info@tempo.org (why .org, incidentally?) might work. Sent them mail. So far no response.


Where are my lights?
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Despite my expectations, they worked on the house today, putting in the ceilings:


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But where are the cables for the ceiling lights? Gone!

Called up Jim Lannen and discovered that yes, this is OK. Apparently they bring them through from above, presumably to be able to place them more accurately.


Electric fence failure
Topic: animals, general Link here

Finally got round to connecting up the electric fence actuator that I repaired last month. As I feared, it's still not working effectively: only 2.1 kV unconnected, or 1.3 kV connected. It seems that it's just not discharging the capacitor properly. That's enough effort wasted on this ancient device. Time for a new one.


Tuesday, 13 January 2015 Dereel Images for 13 January 2015
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Telstra or scammers?
Topic: general, opinion Link here

A call on the phone today, ostensibly from a Fiona of “Collection House”, maybe this company, regarding a debt to Telstra. I asked her to authenticate herself. “How can I do that?”. Indeed. That's her problem. She asked me to call back, but why should I do that? As I've said before, if Telstra wants money from me, they should send me an invoice. End of discussion.

Only later did it occur to me that once again I didn't get enough information. Last time I didn't note the name of the company, nor the amount they are asking for. This time I got the name, but not the amount. If they're scammers, there's a good chance that one or the other, maybe both, would be different. In any case, why can't they just send an invoice? This somewhat dated report suggests that Telstra sells its debt to the agencies. Can they do that without ever having issued an invoice?


Walls
Topic: Stones Road house, animals Link here

Once again to Stones Road, mainly to walk the dogs and put Chewey back in the horse paddock. But the plasterers have left signs of having been there, including not shutting the doors. And just under half of the internal walls are installed:


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The first image shows something of interest: no cables for the power points or network connections. My guess is that this is the way they do it. In each case the other side of the wall hadn't been installed yet, and that looks like this:


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So presumably they next drill a hole in the right place and put the wires through. They did fit at least one of the ducted vacuum cleaner connections:


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Still, something to keep under observation. There were also a few other strangenesses, such as this half-high entrance to the built-in wardrobe:


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Presumably that will be cut out tomorrow.


Wednesday, 14 January 2015 Dereel
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More bad language?
Topic: language, opinion Link here

Heard on the radio this morning: something along the lines of “I have received a text about the background of Beethoven's piano sonatas”. Only in the later discussion did it eventuate, by implication, that it wasn't a text at all: it was a short message. More bad language? It was all the more ambiguous because a few minutes later he referred to the text that Robert Schumann had written at the top of some work or another—clearly this case a real text.

Is this becoming mainstream? My aunt Frieda is turning 90 next weekend, and today we received an invitation to a party. RSVP was “Text to mobile Gillian Kline ...”.

More language evolution. OED has it as a draft addition dating as far back as March 2004, with quotations going back to 1998. I must have missed something.


House: progress?
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Mari Hendriks over to do the downpipes this morning. It wasn't a good day for it: we had 5 mm of rain, and Mari was correspondingly happy.

While there, took a look at the plastering. Oh horror! They had plastered over all the power points. Spoke to Luke, the foreman, who said “That's the way we always do it. The electricians will know where the cables are”.

By that time it was too late. Called Jim, who produced some colourful expressions, and Duncan, who told me “some do, some don't”. I had met up with a plasterer some time last month, and he was clearly one who did, so I didn't think any more about it. Jim thinks he can recover, but it would really have been trivial to drill a hole through the plasterboard in the appropriate position.

Over to the site yet again later on: Dave Tudor, the shed man, finally showed up, and it looks as if he will be able to start next week. That would be a load off my mind.


New GPS navigator, old problems
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

I've bought a new GPS navigator, not because the old one is more defective than it was when I bought it, but because the battery is as good as dead, and the maps are out of date.

I had looked at some expensive models three months ago, and come to the conclusion that they weren't worth the additional price. So in the end I bought an el-cheapo one, 7" for only $69.96 (isn't that an inaccurate way of saying $70?). I couldn't replace the battery and the maps for that.

It arrived today. Yes, it uses iGO software, with which I'm familiar. But they have a solution for that: complete overhaul not only of the GUI, but of the terminology as well. Still, the manual should help.

Yes, it should. But the 56 page manual I received with it contains almost no information about the navigation software, though in passing it's interesting to note a screen shot of the main screen of the old navigator, which looks nothing like what this one presents. Most of the manual describes the tablet-like functions which the thing also has, and which are completely irrelevant to a GPS navigator. The navigation software gets a little under a page of useless commentary, the most important of which is:

Please refer to the Navigation Software Instruction.

And where's that? Went searching, and of course iGO's web site was down, but somewhere I found a manual online.

Have things got even worse? I have a recollection that this is fairly typical for navigator instruction manuals. Why do they do it?


Thursday, 15 January 2015 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 15 January 2015
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Kangaroo-related injury
Topic: animals, general Link here

During walks, Leonid has been surprisingly good at returning from whatever he was doing whenever Yvonne calls him. But now, as he's coming up to his first birthday, that obedience seems to be waning. Today he wandered off into the Dereel Lagoon and paid no attention at all when Yvonne called him. Clearly time to keep him on the leash more.

But before we could do much about it, we saw him chasing a group of kangaroos. Bad idea. Catch a kangaroo and it will slit open your stomach. And then a yelp. Clearly time to help. But how? I held Nikolai and Zhivago on the line, while Yvonne went off to recover him.

I couldn't follow because the other two dogs would have gone crazy. But there's a signpost right where I was:


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Just the thing to tie the dogs to while I went to help Yvonne. But while I was doing it, Nikolai saw something and dashed off, pulling my hand across the bottom of the sign and cutting a deep gash:


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No hope of helping Yvonne. Enough to help myself. Back home, where Chris Bahlo was, and she helped me put a provisional bandage on it. Then off to the Ballarat Base Hospital Emergency Department, labeled “Triage”, a word I didn't know in English, but which seems to have a certain currency in medical circles. I had to ask to confirm that this was, indeed, the Emergency Department. But then, that's relatively typical of things in Victoria. Even the Base Hospital web site is titled “Ballarat Health Services”, and though it clearly refers to the Base Hospital, the only current explicit reference is to the car park, and even that reference is truncated.

Long wait, nearly an hour—I hope that in cases of life or death they're faster—and then a Dr. Nigel (apparently no surname), who took a look and went into amazing detail about what was happening, what to do, and what would happen later. He first injected 6 ml of anaesthetic (a sodium channel blocker, he says), which made my finger swell up alarmingly, and then tidied the whole thing up and stitched one of the wounds up (3 stitches):


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It seems that they throw the instruments away after a single use, so he offered them to me, with the exception of the needle with which he made the stitches. They could come in handy:


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Back home, having spent the entire morning on the matter. Investigating shows how lucky I was. The dog leash and the sign itself show signs of damage:


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The second image of the leash clearly shows where the plastic has been scraped off.

And Leonid? Yes, he caught his kangaroo, a juvenile only slightly larger than he. He didn't quite know what to do with it, and just jumped at it every time he moved. When Yvonne arrived, the kangaroo escaped. And Leonid wasn't injured; no idea what the yelp was about.


House progress?
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

They've finally locked the last entrance to the house:


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I'm locked out.

And we still have issues with the electrics:


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Those power cables in the first image should be 2 m long. And to the right of the door (the one that goes back) in the second image is where the main switchboard should be. I hope Jim can find that.


Images of Tektronix 555
Topic: photography, general, technology Link here

Mail from David Casler today, wanting to use a photo of my Tektronix 555 oscilloscope that I took 13 years ago:


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That was taken with a Nikon “Coolpix” 880, with 3 only megapixels, not really enough for him. But I still have the scope (and it's up for grabs!). Now I have a decent camera, so why not take new photos?

Along with the wound to my hand, this is why:


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They'll have to come out soon, but David needs the images by tomorrow, and there's no way that's going to happen.


Garden flowers in mid-summer
Topic: gardening Link here

Today should have been the day where I take my monthly flower photos, but I didn't feel up to it. Still, there area couple of flowers of interest. The Strelitzia reginae has only a single flower this year, and even that doesn't look very happy:


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On the other hand, the Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is flowering nicely:


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Friday, 16 January 2015 Dereel Images for 16 January 2015
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Tablet photos
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

I didn't think to bring my camera to the Emergency Room yesterday, but of course I had my Android tablet, which I use as a glorified eBook reader. And it has a camera, so I used it to take some photos of my hand. Today I moved them to eureka for processing. This is a pure Linux base, right, no Microsoft in sight. So why do I get this?

-r----x--x  1 grog  lemis   1,279,950 15 Jan 11:33 IMG_20150115_113355.jpg
-r----x--x  1 grog  lemis   1,194,553 15 Jan 11:34 IMG_20150115_113405.jpg

Apart from that, of course, the photos confirm my prejudices against smart phone and tablet cameras. But at least I got some images, so for an emergency they're adequate.


More folded envelopes
Topic: general Link here

For some time now I've had a sign on my letter box “Please do not fold envelopes”. It's mainly intended for postmen who like to fold A4 sized envelopes or magazines. But yesterday I received perfectly normal envelopes which had been scrunched up:


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Why do they do that?


Measuring flash exposure again
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

I took the photos of the envelopes with my mecablitz 58-AF-2. Like with all on-camera flashes, I've had trouble with the exposure. This time I put my Sekonic L-308S next to it and measured:


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f/4.0.5 is a silly way of saying f/4.75, in other words intermediate between f/4 and f/5.6. But the camera was set at f/8, and I had +2 EV flash compensation. Why are these values so out of line?


Bahlo house progress
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

They're gradually doing something on Chris Bahlo's house:


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I still don't see her moving in before us.

On the way back, noticed that David Yeardley is finally putting up a fence to keep his sheep in. Not too early.


Kangaroo related injury, part 2
Topic: animals Link here

Why did Leonid yelp yesterday while chasing the kangaroos? It seems that he didn't escape completely:


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That looks like a scratch next to his eye. It's slightly inflamed, but it doesn't look as if any serious harm has been done. But he's very lucky; just a couple of millimetres difference and he could have lost an eye.


Saturday, 17 January 2015 Dereel Images for 17 January 2015
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Another power failure
Topic: general Link here

Another power failure at 0:28 this morning. That's the fourth this year. Last year we had a total of 25; at this rate we're heading for 81.


Garden flowers in midsummer
Topic: gardening Link here

It's the middle of summer again, time for the monthly flower photos. Things are gradually winding down here—I don't see more than 2 or 3 more series before we move house. And we're not paying as much attention to the garden as we did in previous years. Still, there are some surprises:


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That's the Mandevilla laxa that I planted 3½ years ago, and which is flowering for the first time. Why so long? I also planted some Jasminum polyanthum in the same place, and though that has flowered profusely in other parts of the garden, it's still not flowering here. Either the soil is bad, or it's not getting enough water. In any case, the Mandevilla is pretty and looks and smells like a small Frangipani, so we'll find a place for it in the new house.

And then there's this plant, which seems to be a volunteer:


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My best guess is that it's a species of Leptospermum

The Fuchsia triphylla that suffered so badly from frost has made a partial recovery, though large parts have died off:


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And our Gladioli are flowering, but not standing upright. It looks as if the bulbs grow towards the ground, and then offer insufficient grip to hold the stems up.


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Finally there's a somewhat bewildered Hellebore, still flowering, more or less:


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It should have flowered in winter.


Hand progress
Topic: general Link here

Took the bandages off my hand today. Things don't look too bad, though the hand is clearly swollen:


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Cockatoo storm revisited
Topic: photography, animals, opinion Link here

Seven years ago I took some photos of a large group of Sulphur-crested cockatoos. In those days I was just getting back into photography, and the lens I used was an old, manual focus Tamron 80-210 mm lens. Partially for this kind of photos I later bought my Zuiko Digital ED 70-300mm F4.0-5.6 long telephoto lens, and of course since then I've changed camera twice.

Today we had another similar swarm, conveniently while I was taking the flower photos. Changed to the 70-300 mm and tried again. Are the photos better? One of the issues was flare from the sun, and by the time I had gone back and got a lens hood, most of the activity had ceased. And focusing on individual birds is really difficult, even at relatively short focal lengths. In the end I didn't get any good shots of the birds swarming, though these ones differ significantly from 7 years ago:


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Network transfer rates
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

My Internet link has an uplink speed of 5 Mb/s, so theoretically I should be able to upload data at about 600 kB/s. In practice, window size and latency limit it to about 125 kB/s. Yes, of course I could increase the window size, but that requires rebooting, and I'm an uptime fanatic. So I put up with “only” 125 kB/s.

But today I got much worse transfer rates, over an extended period of time:

20150117/big/Canna-3.jpeg
     2469245 100%   28.23kB/s    0:01:25 (xfer#103, to-check=281/394)
20150117/big/Cistus.jpeg
     3522116 100%   24.99kB/s    0:02:17 (xfer#104, to-check=280/394)
20150117/big/Cockatoos-1.jpeg
     3101098 100%   26.08kB/s    0:01:56 (xfer#105, to-check=279/394)

That's only 20% of the normal rate. Network congestion? I tried again with a separate, concurrent transfer of similar files to the same destination:

Cockatoos-13.jpeg
       68493 100%   33.94kB/s    0:00:01 (xfer#18, to-check=79/98)
Cockatoos-14.jpeg
       85715 100%   40.61kB/s    0:00:02 (xfer#19, to-check=78/98)
Cockatoos-15.jpeg
       38377 100%   61.95kB/s    0:00:00 (xfer#20, to-check=77/98)

A lot faster, if still not good. But the speeds of the previous transfer continued to be so slow. Stopped and tried again, and got:

20150117/big/Cockatoos-14.jpeg
     6507887 100%  126.58kB/s    0:00:50 (xfer#1, to-check=274/394)
20150117/big/Cockatoos-15.jpeg
     1540441 100%  127.07kB/s    0:00:11 (xfer#2, to-check=273/394)
20150117/big/Cockatoos-2.jpeg
     2949120  60%  129.14kB/s    0:00:15

What's going on here? Shouldn't TCP adapt to network conditions?


Sunday, 18 January 2015 Dereel Images for 18 January 2015
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House photos revisited
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

House photo day today. It was really yesterday, but it has been quite windy both days, and that's murder for my HDR images. On the other hand, it was also overcast, so I didn't have the extreme contrast range typical of bright sunshine. And I always used to make these photos without HDR. So how about doing it again, partially making up for the brightness differences with automatic exposure for each image?

The results were acceptable. Here last week's and this week's view of the verandah:


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It's not until you look at the extreme left corner that you see the difference. But that's after a couple of rounds of tidying up the image. Without that, things look considerably worse:


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In other cases, the sky was artificially burnt out:


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So it looks like it's back to HDR until they start making cameras with a wider dynamic range.


Placing water tanks
Topic: Stones Road house, animals Link here

Our water tanks have had the water on the wrong side almost since they were put in place. Tomorrow Mari Hendriks is coming to connect them up, so over with Chris and her fire pump to pump the water out:


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It's a good thing we took Chris' pump. We have an electric one as well, but it doesn't pump more than a fraction of that amount of water. We also have a petrol-driven one, in fact quite similar to Chris' model, but we got it with the house nearly 8 years ago, and we've never used it. Time to have it looked at.

Leonid was also interested:


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The bad news: the water had washed all the carefully placed sand to the corners. It looks as if we'll have to get Warwick in again to reset the tanks.


Monday, 19 January 2015 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 19 January 2015
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Shed erection: no show
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Today was the day that Dave Tudor was due to finally start building the shed. He didn't: no show.


Leveling the water tanks
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Talk with Mari Hendriks about the water tanks today. Yes, we need the trench completely drained, so back over there with Yvonne to pump it out. After some confusion (Chris had put the hoses on the wrong way round), got the thing going and got a surprising amount of water out:


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And of course the tanks are at all sorts of angles:


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It looks as if we're going to need Warwick to re-seat them.


Next blood tests
Topic: health Link here

Into town to see the doctor for a number of reasons: a Cobalamin injection, inspect my wounded hand (all coming up well) and get the results of last month's blood test.

That was interesting: Negative Intrinsic Factor antibody, associated with autoimmune gastritis and pernicious anaemia.

So: still more blood tests. Pernicious anaemia can be a nasty thing, but fortunately it's treatable.


More fuchsias
Topic: gardening Link here

On the way home, stopped off at a roadside plant sale just south of Napoleons. It's a little early for plants for the new house, but I took a fancy to this Fuchsia:


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I'll be back in town in a day or two and will see what else they have of interest.


Another power failure!
Topic: general Link here

Another power failure this evening at 23:33. That's the fifth this year already! At this rate, there will be 96 failures this year.


Tuesday, 20 January 2015 Dereel Images for 20 January 2015
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Septic and other tanks
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Mari Hendriks really wanted to do some work on our site today, but it's not clear that it's a good idea to move the tanks manually. At least the remaining water in the trench has drained away:


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He came along anyway to peg out the septic tank, which he will hopefully install next Friday. It's a very different layout from what we wanted, but it seems that it's the only way, given the lack of gradient on the property. On the other hand, he didn't want to use what gradient there was. I'm confused.


New electric fence actuator
Topic: animals, general Link here

I've given up on repairing the old electric fence actuator, and we bought a new one, claiming 8 kV no load. Installed it today. Results:

      No load       Load
Old actuator       2.1 kV       1.8 kV
New actuator       8.3 kV       2.1 kV

Clearly there's a short somewhere, and it's not helped by the use of braid instead of wire. Something to keep Yvonne busy.


Branch manager again
Topic: animals Link here

Tanya loved carrying twigs and small branches around, so we dubbed her “branch manager”. When Leonid came we thought that he was going to follow in her footsteps. But for some time he hasn't shown much interest—until today:


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Wednesday, 21 January 2015 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 21 January 2015
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Another bloody power failure!
Topic: general Link here

Last year I got the impression that Powercor's reliability was improving. You certainly wouldn't get that impression this year. This morning we had yet another power failure, at 2:01. That's the 6th power failure in 21 days, an average of 3½ days per outage, or roughly 104 per year. Of course, it could be related to the same still-unfixed fault.


Blood tests?
Topic: health Link here

Into town early this morning for another fasting blood test. The regular pathologist (Pam, I think her name was) wasn't there, and it seems that her replacement is completely confused. After waiting 1½ hours and getting increasingly hungry and annoyed, I finally asked what was going on. She said “number 6? You're on now”. But by that time I was so hungry and angry that I asked her to get confirmation from the doctor that it would still make sense to take a blood test. No, not under those circumstances. While there, noted that she had already processed numbers 7 and 9—no idea if 8 also suffered my fate.

All were apologetic, of course, and have promised to allow me immediate access next time. But what a waste of a trip to Ballarat!


Erecting the shed
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Jason Brudy and crew along this morning to finally put up the shed:


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Still no sign of Dave Tudor. I wonder if I'll hear from him again. And it seems that Norm Baker forgot part of the slab, a rebate for the sliding door. Not the only thing that he didn't do.


GPS navigator woes
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

I've been bitching and moaning about GPS navigators since I first got one, and somehow the problem isn't going away. When I went into Ballarat today, I took my old one and my new one with me. I still can't work out how to do some simple things with the new one, like muting the sound.

But then the display on the new navigator went crazy, like an old analogue TV with bad horizontal sync. And I couldn't turn it off. In the end, I had to reset it. OK, I still have the old navigator. But it wouldn't charge. Are the batteries that bad?

In any case, the new navigator went from bad to worse. By the time I got home, it wouldn't power on at all. Time for a return? Return postage costs about a quarter of the price I paid for it. Still, I can recover the other ¾. What a pain!

Looking once again for navigator apps for my Android tablet. And once again there was little to be had. Why is this all so difficult?


E-M1 too small?
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 is a lot smaller than the old DSLRs that it replaces, such as the E-30. For Yvonne it's still far too big, but a number of more serious photographers think it's too small.

Why? I've already compared it with the Asahi Pentax SV. It's bigger:


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And that's a full frame SLR design, nearly 60 years old. Older cameras were even smaller, such as the Leica IIIf. Here dimensions in mm:

      Height       Width       Depth
Leica IIIf       70       135       30
E-M1       93.5       130.4       63.1 (34)
E-30       107.5       141.5       75

The E-M1 has a typical modern bulge on the right; that's the 63.1 mm. The rest of the body is “only” 34 mm thick, 4 mm more than the Leica. The real question is why modern DSLRs have become so big.


Thursday, 22 January 2015 Dereel Images for 22 January 2015
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Shed progress
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Things are progressing with the shed as planned. The footings have been poured, and the rebate for the sliding door is in place:


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And the first trusses have been erected:


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In passing, it's interesting to note the size of the footings compared to what Craig had dug; they're about double the size in each dimension.


Acacias in summer?
Topic: gardening Link here

Across the road from the southern part of our property is a dam overgrown with Acacias. And they're flowering!


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I thought they only flowered in winter and spring.


Bahlo house appears
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Chris Bahlo's house is also making progress:


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That's about the stage we were at a little over 2 months ago. I wonder if they will catch up. Certainly nothing much has happened on our site this week.


Friday, 23 January 2015 Dereel Images for 23 January 2015
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Shed: pieces missing
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Somewhat garbled call (Thanks, Wendy) from Jason Bruty this morning, so over to discover that we were short 10 sheets of wall sheeting.

How do we explain that to Widespan six months after delivery? Jason had that answer too: they're missing from the Bill of Materials, so the delivery was correct. He even arranged with Widespan to have the sheets delivered. Clearly made the right choice to get him to do the work; I wonder what Dave Tudor (who still hasn't shown any further sign of life) would have done. The only problem is that this weekend is the long Australia Day weekend, so there's a good chance that it'll take a little longer to complete the shed.


Saturday, 24 January 2015 Dereel Images for 24 January 2015
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USB cable woe
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

So why did both of my GPS navigators die at the same time on Wednesday? Conventional wisdom has it that the problem is probably elsewhere. Did some investigation and discovered that both still worked—in my office. It seems that the USB cable (with the standard mini B connector) was not making a good connection. That's not the first time I've had this problem: four years ago I destroyed a GPS navigator with a flaky connector, and I've had continual problems charging my Android tablet. So I found a connector that made better contact and was able to resuscitate both of them.


Travel preparations
Topic: general Link here

Tomorrow my aunt Frieda is celebrating her 90th birthday—in Briagolong, only about 400 km away. How do we get there? How long will it take? That's what Google Maps and GPS navigators are for, of course. But which do I choose? I have two potential ways to get there, via Geelong, via Ballarat. Then the navigators offer four different profiles: “fast”, “short”, “easy” and “economical” (or in modern English, “green”). Google prefers the route via Geelong, and the navigators prefer the route via Ballarat. And here's what they come up with:

Software       via       Distance (fast)       Time (fast)       Distance (short)       Time (short)
Google maps       Ballarat       395       4:36
      Geelong       391       4:36
New navi       Ballarat       395       5:04       362       8:31
      Geelong       392       5:09       367       7:13
Old navi       Ballarat       395       5:10       378       5:46
      Geelong       390       5:09       382       5:20

Which is right? In particular, the “short” times are ridiculous, and why are they so different between the old and the new navigator? But I've learnt never to trust the values anyway. From a more practical viewpoint, it's clear that we can't average more than 100 km/h, so the question is really whether it's 4 hours or 4½ hours.


Filet sous vide, revisited
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Some months ago I made a filet de bœuf sous vide, and it tasted very good. “Rump” (for some definition of rump) didn't. So today we tried a filet again. And, sadly, it wasn't as good. Definitely not bad, but not in the same class as the last one. I cooked them both exactly the same way, so it looks as if the success last time was at least partially due to the quality of the meat.


Sunday, 25 January 2015 Dereel → Briagolong → Melbourne → Dereel Images for 25 January 2015
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Journey with hindrances
Topic: general Link here

So what time should we have left for Briagolong this morning? We had to be there at noon, so based on yesterday's calculations, some time between 7:30 and 8:00. In the end, we left at 7:30, which turned out to be a good choice.

Coming across the West Gate Bridge, I noticed that the new navigator had stopped updating. Another hang? But that was about the worst time to do anything about it. A few kilometres later, though, the other GPS unit stopped too. That was serious: I was relying on at least one of them to get me there. Stopped in the emergency strip and discovered that once again I had charge problems, this time not with the cable, but with the socket adapter. Possibly a blown fuse, but of course not the time or place to investigate. By this time the new navigator had come out of its hang to crash with a Microsoft-level error message:


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Like the following photo, this was taken later.

The error message was more serious than it looked: the navigator had hung itself up, and there was no way to reset it. I must remember to carry a paper clip in every car. Finally Yvonne managed to power it off with sustained pressure on the on/off button, and when it came back, it displayed the message again. It wasn't until the third attempt that it ran normally. Fortunately at one of the many ensuing stops we found another cigarette lighter USB adapter, so we were able to continue using it.

But only a few hundred metres further on from the initial stop, I got a warning on the dashboard:


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What does that mean? It didn't stop the car from moving, though it seemed a little jerky. That could be due to the road surface, of course. Yvonne checked in the instruction manual—no mention of that particular message. What's a powertrain? I'd expect it to ran on rails. It's clearly an American word, and I'm a little hazy about its exact meaning. Wikipedia says it's just about everything from the engine to the wheels. Is that what Holden means too? OED spells it the way I would expect, and confirms that it can have different meanings:

power train n. Mech. the mechanism that transmits the drive from the engine of a vehicle to its axle; the transmission; (also) this together with the engine and driven axle(s).

I turned off the ignition, waited a while, and restarted the engine. Passed the power-on check. But a bit further on, it happened again. And after the third time it failed the initial check when turning on the ignition. Clearly it was getting worse.

Yvonne checked again and found a number to call, but it seems that that was a paid service that had lapsed 5 years ago. Wouldn't this have to happen on a long weekend far from home?

In passing, it's interesting to note the price of fuel. In recent years it has hovered between $1.20 and $1.50 per litre, but despite the long weekend, the prices were remarkably low. We filled up a bit later and paid $0.999 per litre; later on the way back we saw a price of $0.987. It's been years since I've seen anything that cheap.

Continued to Briagolong, and got there without mishap, coincidentally arriving in exactly the 4 hours, 36 minutes that Google Maps had predicted. On the way home, though, things weren't so good. After crossing a dirt road and accelerating out, the car gave up, and I couldn't move it. And that in the middle of nowhere.

My best bet is that we were here:


View Larger Map

Time for emergency roadside assistance? It seemed unlikely that that would help; the best we could do would be to have the car towed to Maffra and have it serviced there, which would mean returning home by train. What a pain! Yvonne tried stopping some cars, and one kind soul did some searching for us in the area, but to no avail. Yana, who was returning with us, went a nearby house and did some enquiry. I tried calling back at the Klines, but all I had was mobile phone numbers, and I didn't get an answer on either. Decided to bite the bullet and call RACV. They wanted me to sign up for 2 years, at a price of about $240. OK, we can live with that. Next, “where are you?”. All I had was the coordinates from the GPS navigator. And they can't handle that! Why not? What use was it to pay my $240?

In the meantime, Pauline, the resident at the house where Yana had gone, had arranged for Tom, a mechanic, to come along and take a look. He immediately diagnosed transmission issues, which seemed reasonable, though some of the details didn't. In any case, he claimed that the car would start and run, and there he was correct. So he led us to Maffra, and the car ran normally. Should we really leave it there? Discussed with Tom, and he thought we would probably get back home with it, and if we didn't, we'd be closer than Maffra. So we set off, by the slightly longer way of Sale, where there's a railway station, but it gave us no further trouble, and we actually made it back to Yana's house, and then on home via Ballarat. Interestingly, we saw a surprising number of breakdowns on the freeway. Is that related to Australia Day? Arrived without further incident, this time after 5¾ hours and a total journey of nearly 800 km. What a day!

But we weren't done yet. What does Google say a about Check Power Train? Quite a bit, as it turns out, notably this article, which suggests that it's relatively specific to the Commodore VZ. And it can mean just about anything. Time to read the diagnostic codes out of the car.


Comparing GPS navigators
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

At least for the first 1½ hours I had both GPS navigators running to compare them. One thing's clear: the new one is so much easier to read. We were in bright sunshine, and the display of the old one was almost unrecognizable. So if I can get used to the interface of the new one, it might be worth keeping.


90th birthday party
Topic: general Link here

Twelve years ago we celebrated my father's 80th birthday in Briagolong. Today it was his sister Frieda's 90th birthday. And what a difference! There must have been twice as many people there, many of whom I didn't know, and others whom I didn't recognize.

Frieda herself looks remarkably fit, in fact better than her younger brother and sister:


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About the only thing wrong was that there were so many people there that we hardly had a chance to talk to anybody for any length of time. It's nice that Frieda has so many friends, and we're not the only ones who came a long way, but there's something to be said for small gatherings.


Monday, 26 January 2015 Dereel Images for 26 January 2015
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Slow day
Topic: general Link here

After yesterday's excitement, spent most of the day picking up the loose ends, processing photos, investigating potential causes of the car problems (though not to the extent of reading out the error codes from the car). Yvonne made up for not taking any photos yesterday by taking 191 of horses today, about half as much again as I took yesterday.


Knighting a prince?
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Tony Abbott has lived up to my expectations, unfortunately. In fact, he's remarkably creative, and having long ago annoyed me and most people I know, he now seems to be turning on his friends. Today was Australia Day, a day on which many Australians are recognized for their services to society. And this year our glorious Abbott has revived the highest honour, the Knight of [the Order of] Australia. Two people were so honoured: Angus Houston and Philip of Greece, the consort of Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.

I've never understood these things, and it seemed somehow typical of Abbott that he would recognize a soldier. But Philip? Firstly he's already a prince; why make him a knight? Looking at the list of knights, though, it seems that his son is also a knight, so there's some precedent. I still would have thought an Australian to be more appropriate; Philip and Charles are the only non-Australians to receive the honour.

But other people haven't seen it as calmly as I. It seems that Abbott was so concerned not to be refused that he didn't tell anybody in his party about it. Many were upset, some even openly, and many have ridiculed him:

Image

It couldn't happen to a more deserving person.


Tuesday, 27 January 2015 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 27 January 2015
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Holden Commodore diagnostics
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

I have already established that our Holden VZ Commodore can display error codes on the dashboard. Here's what I found at the time:


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But now we have a real live error condition. What do they display now? The same! I have no idea what they're there for, but they don't help with out “Check Powertrain” condition. So there's nothing for it but to call up Ballarat Central Auto Electrics and get them to read the information out, for which they charge the princely (or is that knightly?) sum of $66.

Talking about the matter on IRC, Jamie Fraser said that his father had bought a Bluetooth coupled diagnostic interface for “about 6 bucks”, and that it was also capable of reading out the data. That's less than 10% of the price that VACC ask for a single readout.

Did a bit of investigation and discovered that the one Jamie had found cost nearly $9 US, but that's still cheap. And of course on eBay they're even cheaper. In the end decided on one costing $5.99 Australian, including postage—currently the equivalent of $5.24 US. It looks as if it will work for both cars, and at least it will serve us next time.

In the afternoon into town to have the data read out, and on the way the error indication disappeared. No complaints any more. What causes that? In any case, since the problem doesn't seem to be getting any worse, it makes sense to wait for the diagnostic dongle to arrive and read out the information then. Now that we're near home, if we really run into trouble, we can tow the car to where it needs to go.


Dumb phones: not dumb enough?
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

Three weeks ago I bought a very cheap “dumb phone”, one that runs neither Android nor iOS, but which has a real keyboard. It was attractive enough that Yvonne bought one too to get away from the pain of scraping glass to do anything useful.

But it's still a relatively modern device, with an illuminated colour display. And there's the problem: in bright sunshine it's illegible, while old-fashioned unilluminated displays have no difficulty. So we're thinking of returning them. While in town today, went to Dick “We can't be bothered to serve you” Smiths and JB HiFi to see what they had. Nothing as cheap as the $18 that we paid, of course, but also nothing that could be demonstrated. How do we know if the display is any better? In the end we gave up; we'll have to find a way to make phone calls outdoors.


Choosing light fittings
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

While in town, also went looking for light fittings. Somehow people don't seem as interested in them as they used to be. The first place we went to had closed down some time ago, though it's still very much in evidence on the web. The second one wasn't quite where Google Maps had placed it, but it had quite a number of light fittings, all but a few of which were out of the question for each of us. Unfortunately, the ones that did come into question for me had little overlap with the ones that came into question for Yvonne. It looks as if we'll have some discussion to do.


Shed progress
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Progress on the house is waiting for the plasterers to finally get back from holiday; Duncan is hoping for the second half of this week. But it seems that Jason has done some work with the shed:


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Hopefully that'll be done by the weekend.


Wednesday, 28 January 2015 Dereel Images for 28 January 2015
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Leonid's coat changing?
Topic: animals Link here

Leonid has a particularly curly coat. Or he did. I'll have to go back and look again, but at the moment the middle of his back has relatively short, straight fur. Not very easy to recognize in these photos:


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We're not sure if it's coat change or the indication of something more sinister. We'll compare as time goes on.


Problem solved wrongly
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Received two 37 mm UV filters in the mail today, for Yvonne's Olympus E-PM2 (well, more specifically for the 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 and 17mm F2.8 lenses, both of which have the same filter diameter).

Why UV filters? Digital cameras have UV filters in the camera. They're really workarounds for the lack of an easy to operate lens cap. The real solution would be something like just about every compact camera has, some form of robust diaphragm in front of the front element. That could be quite difficult for wide-aperture lenses, but the very fact that the filter diameter is only 37mm shows that it could work here. In fact, something similar, the LC-37C auto open lens cap, is available, but only for the 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 EZ. And even Olympus sells “protection filters”, which aren't filters at all. And they cost between $37 and $59. Why?


Thursday, 29 January 2015 Dereel Images for 29 January 2015
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Shed progress
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

No much has happened on site this week, but Jason has done some work on the shed:


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The missing walls are the still-to-be-delivered parts. But what's with the door? To be discussed with Jason.


The Real World and the Internet Age
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

CJ along today with Sue with more problems relating to living in the age of the Internet. Seems he was a little too trusting of some company or another, and now we need to get some money back from them. Hopefully it'll work. It's sometimes good to be reminded of the transition that people have to make when living in the Internet.


Hand healing
Topic: general Link here

It's been two weeks since I injured my hand on the signpost in the Dereel lagoon. It's healing nicely, but still looks a little ugly:


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Friday, 30 January 2015 Dereel Images for 30 January 2015
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Another power failure!
Topic: general Link here

Yet Another Bloody Power Failure at 00:41 this morning! That's the 7th this month! When is it going to stop?


Another mystery flower
Topic: gardening Link here

Walking the dogs today, found yet another flower that I can't identify:


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Is it something mint-like?


Dog training
Topic: animals Link here

Yvonne has been training the dogs to sit on command, mainly, I think, because Sandra the dog trainer told her that you can't train sight hounds to sit or drop on command. Not so here:


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Widespan: beware
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Call from Jason Bruty today about the missing components of the shed, and also about the (“Personal Access”) door. The former are still not there, though he has been trying to get some sense out of them for a week now. And the latter is a clear case of damage at delivery: it seems that they put the PA door at the very bottom of the package they delivered, which looked like this:


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It seems that the PA door was at the very bottom, and the driver had laid in on some stones. As a result, it now looks like this:


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There was also a phone call on the answering machine from David Fitzgerald of Widespan, wanting to know when somebody would be on site. Jason had already told me that he had tried to get him to pick up the components (probably in Geelong), and that he had pointed out that they had the obligation to deliver the components. David was very vague and repetitive about the delivery, asking whether somebody was on site all the time. I got the impression he wasn't listening, but on the third time I think he understood when I said that they should contact me before delivery and that I would be on site.

And the PA door? No mention. When I mentioned it, he pointed at some conditions that I had allegedly received, saying that the doors must be inspected on the day of delivery. Apart from the fact that that's downright impossible, I didn't have any such document in my files. But no, that's the way it is, and I definitely received the document. Asked to speak to his superior. “My superior is the General Manager”. “OK, connect me to the general manager, then”. “He'll only tell you the same thing I did”. After a bit more nonsense, I hung up on him, arguably not the best choice, but these people irritate me.

He called back and started the whole rigmarole from the beginning—even the question about whether I wanted the missing components delivered. I don't know if it's just him or company policy, but I got the impression that he was doing everything possible to avoid having to do anything at all. It's clear that I won't get anything useful out of him. He even refused to send me a copy of the document that I allegedly received—“It's on the web site”. In the end, I hung up on him again, not once, but twice more.

Looking in my mail, I finally found the text he was referring to, in a purchase agreement sent to me as application/octet-stream, which I was able to identify as a barely legible PDF document. The first page says:


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But further on there's more fine print:

 
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Rather to my surprise, it's possible to read the second enlargement of the conditions:

9.1 At the point of taking possession of the building, it is the Purchaser's responsibility to ensure that all materials nominated on the delivery dockets are supplied and that they are in a satisfactory condition. Any damage or short supply must be marked on the delivery dockets and signed by the driver.

9.2 ... Any concerns in respect of defects or damage to any P.A. Doors or roller doors must be dealt with and advised on the day of delivery. Failure to so advise may negate the Purchaser's ability to claim for any damage.

OK, that looks like a CYA clause to me. What's wrong with it in practice?

  1. The whole page of conditions contradicts the first page of the agreement.

  2. They were supplied nearly two months before delivery.

  3. They're encoded incorrectly and written in script that is barely legible on a computer screen, and they weren't supplied to me in writing along with the other documentation that they supplied.

  4. At no point were these alleged conditions drawn to my notice.

  5. It's completely impractical to inspect the package on delivery. These sheds are sold to end users, not companies who will erect them immediately. To inspect it would have required complete unpacking, something that the delivery driver would have had to do.

  6. The clause states that “failure” to do so may negate the ability to claim for any damage. That's reasonable, I suppose. If a door is damaged, it's important to be able to establish when the damage happened. But we know that: Jason has photos showing that the door was damaged due to being unloaded on a stone. So the intention of this clause is not relevant.

Apart from these issues, neither Jason nor I are very happy with the finish of the shed. Sheds aren't supposed to hermetically sealed, but the gaps under the roof here are much larger than either would have expected:


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Even if I manage to solve my issues, it looks like I made a mistake with Widespan.


Septic and other tanks
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Conventional wisdom has it that it takes the best part of two days to install a septic tank system. But Warrick Pitcher and Mari Hendriks are not conventional. They installed it today, starting admittedly at 7:30. By the time I came on site in mid-morning they were well on their way:


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They had already done half the soakage:


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And they had time to put in a trench for Jim Lannen, who had by chance come by at exactly the right time:


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By 15:00 they were done:


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So they had time to put our water tanks in place:


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After a quick scrape, they came back again:


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The whole operation took 23 minutes, so Mari and Jamie could connect them up:


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And that left Warrick with nothing to do, so I got him to fill in the pond:


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Another job done in a half hour!


Saturday, 31 January 2015 Dereel Images for 31 January 2015
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House photos in TIFF again
Topic: photography, technology, general, opinion Link here

My weekly house photos require a lot of processing. To make a panorama I take multiple views of a scene and stitch them together. To get the requisite dynamic range I take multiple images of each view, with exposure bracketed in intervals of 3 EV. First I use align_image_stack and enfuse. to create blended photos, and then I use Hugin to create a panorama from the views.

That's a lot of processing, and I'm still producing JPEG intermediate results. Why? I have the space, and I have the processing power. So today I tried using TIFF intermediate files. That's not for the first time, but last time I didn't have very good results, at least because of the performance of the machines I had at the time. This time was different: my machines are faster, and the network link between dischord (Microsoft) and eureka (FreeBSD) is now 1 Gb/s. But things still didn't work as I expected:

last pid: 62531;  load averages:  0.82,  1.92,  1.71          up 27+15:03:16  11:25:26
362 processes: 1 running, 361 sleeping
CPU:  2.7% user,  0.0% nice,  0.8% system,  0.6% interrupt, 95.9% idle
Mem: 25G Active, 2091M Inact, 3231M Wired, 595M Cache, 1718M Buf, 403M Free
Swap: 10G Total, 110M Used, 10G Free, 1% Inuse

I've never used that much memory before, but why am I not using any CPU? Did some investigation and discovered that the disk was the bottleneck: I was running 12 align_image_stack and enfuse processes in parallel, each of them working on 70 MB files, and the disk just didn't manage it. High time to finally finish my new machine with its SSD system disk.

So I reduced the concurrency to 2 processes, which sped things up a lot. And this time I didn't have any trouble with stitching; I even got finished relatively quickly. The only question that remains is what to do with the intermediate images:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/7) ~/Photos/20150131 142 -> du -sc *
27769   C
19      Pano
4764    orig
...
33444   total

C/ contains the intermediate images, and orig/ contains the original images and their TIFF conversions. The values are in megabytes; 33 GB per weekend is rather a lot, so I think I'll remove them again. They can always be recreated relatively quickly.


Goodbye Chewey
Topic: animals Link here

Chris Bahlo's gelding Chewey has been on the Stones Road property for months. Problem: despite a new actuator, the electric fence is not very effective, and Chewey goes through the fence at will. Yesterday Warrick and Mari saw him walking over the freshly laid sewer soakage and warned me what could happen. So today Yvonne picked him up and walked him home:

 
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Why not ride him? It seems that he's hot, and he hasn't been ridden for a while.


Septic tank component locations
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

A few months back we had difficulty finding the septic tank in Kleins Road. No problem finding it in Stones Road—at the moment:


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Those three views are as close to perpendicular to the house wall, for future reference.


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