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January 2016
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Friday, 1 January 2016 Dereel Images for 1 January 2016
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Projection conversion with Hugin
Topic: photography, technology Link here

I take a lot of photos with my fisheye lens, mainly for stitching with Hugin. As discussed yesterday, the results aren't fisheye projections. But how do I convert a projection? Hugin does this easily enough if it's handling a panorama. But the “Assistant” refuses to stitch if there's only one image.

But you don't have to use the “Assistant” to stitch; the Stitcher doesn't care how many images there are, so you can use the assistant to display the image, manipulate it, and then go to the Stitcher to produce the result. Just pay attention to the size. In this example, the original image has a resolution of 4608×3456, and the converted trans mercator image has only 768×462:


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Jumping spider
Topic: animals Link here

While I was sitting at the computer, a spider suddenly appeared on the desk:


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How did it get there? It jumped! After I had taken these photos, it jumped about 40 cm off to my left. It can't be more than a centimetre long.


FreeBSD core team problems
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

Message from facebook today. Josh Paetzel referred to something that I apparently said to him decades ago:

Greg Lehey told me two decades ago I was a part of the "second generation of BSD
users" who wanted to get things done with BSD, not hack on BSD. Documentation was
written for the latter group.

I can't recall saying that, and I'm not sure I would have. I still have issues with FreeBSD documentation. But it seemed an interesting enough topic to jump in with, and before long we were discussing the function of the Core Team. I was a member of the Core Team from Friday, 13 October 2000 until 15 February 2004, and on 4 September 2002 I presented a paper “Two Years in the Trenches” at the 2002 AUUG conference dealing with the subject. Surprisingly, apart from the diary reference, I don't seem to have posted links. Reading back through the slides, not that much seems to have changed. The FreeBSD core team has been elected since 2000, a change ultimately triggered by a core team member throwing his weight around and seriously upsetting another project member (me), who then expressed his intention to resign from the project as a result.

Jordan Hubbard got involved in the discussion, and while we were discussing it, another crisis cropped up: Randi Harper, also called freebsdgirl, announced her departure from the project due to perceived harassment by another committer. It seems that she had complained to the Core Team, and they had done nothing about it. Until we hear from them it's difficult to confirm what really happened, but at the very least it should have been in the monthly core team report. Randi also claims that the FreeBSD Foundation asked her to stop using the nick freebsdgirl because it was a trademark. Sheesh.

The first calls are out for the Core Team to resign and have re-elections, which seems a little premature. We went through something like this in my first term on the core team, starting on 25 February 2002 (though my first mention of it was on 27 February 2002), and it took nearly a year before we removed Matt Dillon's commit privileges. It was really painful, and I can imagine that the core team is going through similar pain now.

Sixteen years on, we're still facing the same issues. As Jordan Hubbard says, we need project management. But he forgets that we had that 16 years ago with the SMPng project. The real question, for which I don't think there's an answer yet, is how to maintain the enthusiasm of a free software “scratch an itch” project with the discipline necessary to maintain a top-notch operating system.


Suspend and resume with FreeBSD
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Somehow it grates that I can suspend the state of my Microsoft boxes to RAM and then wake them up with a magic packet over the net, but I can't do that with my FreeBSD boxen. It used to work, in the Good Old Days before ACPI—on many occasions I was able suspend my laptop, fly intercontinentally and resume. On a couple of occasions the joy was lessened by the discovery that I had a file system at the other end of the world mounted via NFS. But with the advent of ACPI, I couldn't get it to work any more.

Time (decades) has passed, and though I no longer need a laptop, it would be nice to suspend desktops too. Off to look for documentation and found this page, which needs some updating. I got stable to suspend and resume nicely, but there's nothing on that page to indicate that yes, indeed, wake can wake the machine over the LAN. Tried it on teevee, which is still running FreeBSD 9-STABLE, and it didn't work there.

What still doesn't work is “hibernate” (state 4), where the contents of memory are written to disk and recovered on resume. This page describes some of the issues. Should I do it?


Preparing for teeveeNG
Topic: multimedia, technology Link here

I've been planning to replace both teevee (TV display machine) and cvr2 (recording machine, running MythTV on Linux) with a single machine running FreeBSD. I have the machine, a new disk is on the way. Now I need a tuner.

What's wrong with the old ones? Not supported, and they're full-height PCI. But nowadays USB tuners are a dime a dozen. Well, maybe not quite, but they're cheap. The question is, will they work with FreeBSD? One of them suggests that it will:

13. Support all systems(up to WIN8.1) except MAC, LINUX

The most important thing is the tuner chipset, and many people don't bother to specify that. The cheapest currently available seem to be the RTL2832U, usually paired with a Rafael Micro R820T DAB chip. According to this list, they're supported. So I spent the princely sum of $10.06 (including postage) on one of them. If I get it to work, it'll be trivial to add some more.

And should I stick with MythTV? Jürgen Lock preferred VDR. With a second machine to play with, I don't need to be in any hurry to get things up and running.


Finally? The perfect pizza?
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

I've been fighting pizza bases for years. Things have been getting better, but last time I wasn't 100% satisfied. The dough had risen on the bottom half, but the top half was not completely cooked.

That's what I keep records for, right? Well, last time I didn't write down the steps in enough detail. I pre-cook the bases by themselves in the electric ovens. But how? I forgot to write it down. From memory it must have been 6 minutes from below. Today I tried 8 minutes from below, heating from above as well for the last 2 minutes. I also let the bases rise more before starting. And as last time, I baked the pizze at 250°, which took about 8 minutes.

And this time, finally, I'm happy. How much did it have to do with the additional rising and how much with the pre-bake? We'll see next time, maybe.


Saturday, 2 January 2016 Dereel Images for 2 January 2016
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Echidnas and bones
Topic: animals Link here

Walking the dogs this afternoon, Nikolai found something he had never seen before:


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That's an echidna, and for some reason it didn't burrow away. Either the ground was too hard, or it was sick, or something. Of course we didn't let Niko at it.

Later he found parts of some other animal:


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Until proof of the contrary, I assume it was a kangaroo. And of course he wanted to return home immediately with his new-found treasure. Until he came past the echidna, which was still there. Dropped his bone and tried to get to the echidna again. Leonid grabbed the bone, Sasha already had one, so Niko was left with nothing.


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Chilis: hot or mild?
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

We've been planning to cook chicken with cashew nuts for 4 weeks now, but every time we seemed to be missing some ingredient. Finally we had them all—we thought. But we had no rice!

Well, there was Basmati rice, but that's not normal for Chinese food. Still, it worked. More of a surprise were the chilis. Yvonne doesn't like hot chilis, so she buys some completely innocuous ones that are at least a decorative bright red. We used one of them in a dish a couple of days ago, and there was no sign of any hotness at all. But today she said that it was horribly hot!

Yes, she does this a lot. But this time she was right. A really hot chili in the same package as a completely tasteless one. How difficult it is to get the right balance!


Sunday, 3 January 2016 Dereel Images for 3 January 2016
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Lifelines
Topic: history Link here

I have a shell script that sends “lifelines” every day, indications of when Yvonne and I had reached a certain proportion of our current ages. Today I had:

1/4 life:               Friday, 23 July 1965
July 24 Greg buys first SLR (Pentax SV), 1965
1/2 life:               Monday, 17 May 1982
May 17  Greg starts working at Tandem, 1982
3/4 life:               Thursday, 11 March 1999
Mar 11  Work commences on Wantadilla house extension, 1999

Now doesn't that somehow frame the course of my life?


Codes of conduct
Topic: opinion, technology Link here

It's no secret that I don't like the concept of a code of conduct. With the current noise about Randi Harper leaving the project, there are renewed calls to do something about the state of the FreeBSD Code of Conduct, which is perceived as being out of date. This clearly implies that good behaviour evolves. Maybe it does to a certain point, but that just makes it all the more silly to enshrine it in a document.

Summarizing (originally on IRC), I see two reasons that speak against a code of conduct:

  1. They're mechanical. Inevitably they will contain rules that don't make sense, and any attempt to fine-tune the statements will make them as complicated as life itself.

  2. The other side of that coin is that they have loopholes through which offenders can slip.

  3. When considering whether people have behaved well or not, it boils down to “did they abide by the Code of Conduct?”, not “did they behave sensibly?”. This is an issue that exists in laws too, and the result is that laws are continually being updated, inevitably late.

  4. Which code of conduct? Over the last couple of years I have had contact with two different codes, the FreeBSD Code of Conduct and the Linux.conf.au Code of Conduct. They have significant differences and are probably incompatible.

  5. The FreeBSD code doesn't seem to have helped resolve the current issue.

Did I say two? For large values of 2.

As an example: one of the central issues of any code of conduct is avoiding harassment, of course. But neither code defines what harassment is! If you're going to put things in writing, you need to state explicitly what you're talking about.

But then, everybody knows what harassment is, right? It's in the dictionary:

The action of harassing, or the fact of being harassed; vexation, worry.

That doesn't help much. So what does “harass” mean?

  1. To wear out, tire out, or exhaust with fatigue, care, trouble, etc.
  2. To harry, lay waste, devastate, plunder.
  3. To trouble or vex by repeated attacks.
  4. To trouble, worry, distress with annoying labour, care, perplexity, importunity, misfortune, etc.
  5. To scrape or rub.

Yes, I've deliberately removed some comments about the currency of the meanings, but 3 and 4 are still in current use. But there's a long way from those definitions to what we understand. Like the term “execution” as used in the press, it's difficult to understand what's really meant.

So when my old friend Poul-Henning Kamp came up with a suggestion that we should get rid of the code of conduct and refer to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it made a lot of sense to me. Unfortunately, nobody else agreed. That must be a first for Poul-Henning and me to be on one side against all the rest.

Another aspect of the matter is that it has long since hit “news” web sites. Michael Lucas pointed to Breitbart, a site that seems to be for people who in previous generations would have been drowned at birth or locked away for life. In particular, a certain Milo Yiannopoulos wrote a fiction disguised as an article on the topic:

A wave of relief is rippling across the FreeBSD community today, as the open source project’s most notorious “contributor,” Randi Harper, announced she was leaving for good.

But it seems that Breitbart has had it in for Randi for some time. This matter has shown me just how much filth and hate there is on the web. It's not good for my stomach.


Working around Ashampoo breakage
Topic: photography, technology Link here

It's been nearly 2 weeks since I reported problems with Ashampoo® Photo Optimizer 6, and so far I've had no response. To be fair, it is over the Christmas break, but I need to run it for Yvonne. I've established that it somehow depends on the user, so one option would be to delete user yvonne and start all over again. Another would be to get her to run it as a different user. That's easy enough to kludge:

--- photoopt 2015/11/20 02:17:12 1.29
+++ photoopt 2016/01/03 21:48:41
@@ -19,6 +19,9 @@
 if [ "$OPTDIR" = "" ]; then
   OPTDIR=/Photos/Ashampoo-`whoami`
 fi
+if [ `whoami` = "yvonne" ]; then
+  rdesktop -u root -p Braindeath -a 16 -T "rdesktop dischord" -g 1870x1030+0 dischord &
+fi
 OLDDIR=`pwd`           # current (source) directory

Why not just delete user yvonne and rename the root user? I don't know if you can rename Microsoft users, but in any case I would lose the configuration information for DxO Optics “Pro”. Microsoft doesn't make it easy to save configs.


Topping up coffee
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

One issue I have with the new coffee machine is that it's continually running out of water, at least in part because it continually flushes itself. Today it happened in the middle of a cup. How do I top up half a cup of coffee? If I press the “cup” button again, it will start from scratch with more coffee, not what I want. But I can get it to output plain water as well. Tried that. Also not what I wanted:


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Fortunately I didn't scald myself. Maybe I should try to interpret the “instructions”.


Branch manager again
Topic: animals, photography, opinion Link here

Sasha:


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There's only one issue there, of course: I took the photo with my Zuiko Digital ED 14-35mm f/2.0 SWD lens at 35 setting, and it was far too short. But as luck would have it, I have just won the companion Zuiko Digital ED 35-100mm f/2.0 on eBay. Do I need it? Of course not, but the price was really low. Now to see if I can handle a lens weighing 1.8 kg. It's certainly worth wondering how to carry the camera with it mounted.


Monday, 4 January 2016 Dereel Images for 4 January 2016
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Horse shelter progress
Topic: animals, Stones Road house Link here

CJ along again today and did a little more work on the horse shelter:


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More research
Topic: general, photography Link here

Somehow didn't get very much done today. I'm still looking for photo studio equipment, but it's hard going. It seems that I need a couple of softboxes, but how big? And why are there such big differences in prices, even for boxes from the same manufacturer and supplier? The typical sizes are 50×70 cm and 60×90 cm, but the cheapest 50×70 is more expensive than most 60×90s. But can I fit two 60×90s into the “studio” part of my office? For the time being I've put it on the “too hard” queue.

The other thing is simple: a camera strap. Or is it? Since losing a strap lug the year before last, I'm a little cautious about using the camera strap when heavy lenses are on it, and in any case, the mount position is out of balance. And the new Zuiko Digital ED 35-100mm f/2.0 weighs in at 1.8 kg. Even the tripod mount, at 150 g, weighs more than both lenses put together that I sold last week.

So how about a strap that attaches to the tripod mount? Yes, I can get one of those, and I did. But when I'm using that, I don't really need the normal camera strap. To put it more forcefully, I really don't need the normal camera strap. How about quick release clips? Yes, I found one of those too—one only. And it comes with a “bungee” section:


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Why are there so few?


Tuesday, 5 January 2016 Dereel Images for 5 January 2016
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Car problems
Topic: general Link here

Doctor's appointment today, so off to Ballarat. Well, no. Got into the car, turned the ignition key and—nothing. The battery was completely flat, reading 0V.

How did that happen? Put it on charge, and immediately a rattling noise came from the area of the engine. That proved to be because I had not turned the ignition off after it didn't start. Disconnected the battery connections and watched the voltage limp back up to about 4V. Not enough to start the car, of course, so I had to reschedule my appointment.


Display cards for new teevee
Topic: multimedia, technology, opinion Link here

Gradually I'm getting the pieces together for the new teevee. I have the box, and disk and tuners are on the way. But the on-board graphics chip is from Intel, and for some reason X can't drive it with the required 1920×1080 resolution. And even if it could, there's no suitable acceleration.

I had expected this, and I've been planning to install a cheap nVidia card. But choosing graphics cards is a pain, and I've been dragging my feet. Finally today I got round to looking for one.

What criteria? The only one I really had was that there should be no fan. And to my surprise, that eliminates nearly everything. The only cards I could find were based on the GeForce 210 and the GeForce GT 610. The 210 is the card I already have in the current teevee, and I've had that for years. The 610 is more modern, but by how much? It's difficult to find out. Under the circumstances I might just as well hold on to the 210.

It was easier to find the dimensions: both of them have an enormous heat sink, making the assembly 34 mm wide. The specs say “single slot”, but that's just the connector. Looking at where I want to put it, it just won't fit:


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The PCIe connector is the black one, and clearly there's not nearly enough space. My current 210 card is also too long: it fouls the frame at the front.

What should I do? More research, of course. Maybe I'll find a card with a fan that would fit. But it's almost beginning to look as if I have chosen the wrong box for the machine.


Centrelink pain
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Being a pensioner involves a surprising amount of paperwork, especially from Centrelink The Department of Human Services, who pay my (not old, apparently) age pension. We're continually getting letters from them about this or that. The last one was last month, where they wanted money back for overpayments. But to my surprise, on that occasion they were prepared to deduct it from our pensions, $10 every two weeks.

Then we got two more letters (they always come in pairs) dated 21/12/15 (whatever happened to Y2K?), asking for more money back. Due by 19 January, no offer of slow repayment. The total was only a little over $140, but why pay before we have to? Called up what proved to be Centrelink Debt Recovery on 1800 076072, as they prefer to format it, and was promptly asked for my “Customer Access Number without the letter”.

Where's that? The form had a reference number and an account number. Let the thing time out, and was told that if I couldn't find it, I should press the # key. Did that and got another recording telling me that the number is on every letter they send.

Finally got past that and waited about 40 minutes until Francis responded. It seems that what they wanted was the reference number (“Your Centrelink Reference Number”). So why don't they say so?

More discussion, and it eventuated that I hadn't needed to do anything. It had already been added to the sum that I need to pay off, and it would be deducted at the same rate when the rest had been paid off (and not before). It's not clear how you can differentiate one from the other, but more to the point, why didn't the letter say what they're going to do? In addition, it seems that there will be a “review” every 3 months, though it's not yet clear to me what this entails.


Spider
Topic: animals Link here

Found a spider in my office today:


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It's clearly a Huntsman, the first I've seen here. It wasn't until I processed the images that I noticed the extraneous hairs and fluff on its hind legs. I thought it was dead, but later it was gone.


Wednesday, 6 January 2016 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 6 January 2016
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Things that go zap! in the night
Topic: general Link here

Looked out the window (still without curtains) at round 3:00 this morning, and saw a flash coming from the direction of the neighbours. And shortly later another one. Gradually it dawned on me that it was coming from the electric fence. It had been drizzling, and the insulators were moist. And looking at them, it's not surprising that a bit of moisture could lead to arcing:


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But that wasn't the insulator that was arcing. We have different ones for wooden poles (the one above) and for steel star pickets:


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They're much cleaner, but they were arcing. Not one, but many. How do we stop it? Wait until the arc has burnt away the cobwebs? And why did only the white insulators arc? They look better than the black ones.


More graphics investigation
Topic: multimedia, technology, opinion Link here

Why is X support for Intel graphics chips so bad? Why, is X support for Intel graphics chips so bad? I recall it being so in the past, and my current experience (nothing over 1024×768) is in accordance, but the same chips work well under Microsoft. Went looking in /var/log/Xorg.0.log and found no mention of the monitor.

That rang a bell: this monitor is on the el-cheapo USB KVM that I bought a couple of months ago. I had already established that it doesn't communicate EDID information. But for exactly that reason I have a copy of the EDID on file, and that's what I use for eureka, which also accesses the monitor by the KVM.

Tried that, but got a message saying that the EDID information was ignored. Why? Possibly incorrect specification. Still, I have another monitor lying around, so I connected that directly. It worked! No configuration changes necessary, and mplayer ran well, using only about 4% CPU.

During my searches, also came across the X.org page on the drivers, replete with broken links to the Intel web site, but it turned out I didn't need it.

And YouTube? “Your firefox cannot currently play this content”. No flash, no HTML5. I've been through this pain before, so off to try what I did then. But that was last year; things have changed. Yes, I still had to install flash from the Ports Collection. But things didn't go the same as last time. They were worse.

Last time round the first attempt failed because linux-c6-openssl-1.0.1e_6 doesn't build by default; you need to do a “make DISABLE_VULNERABILITIES=yes. But today I didn't even get that far:

===>  Staging for linux-c6-curl-7.19.7_4
===>   linux-c6-curl-7.19.7_4 depends on file: /compat/linux/bin/sh - found
===>   linux-c6-curl-7.19.7_4 depends on file: /compat/linux/usr/lib/libssl.so.10 - not found
*** Error code 1

Last time it at least tried to build the port; now it almost looks as if the dependency has been removed.

After installing it, I wasn't done:

===>   linux-c6-flashplugin-11.2r202.559 depends on file: /compat/linux/usr/lib/libnss3.so - not found
===>  linux-c6-nss-3.19.1 has known vulnerabilities:
linux-c6-nss-3.19.1 is vulnerable:
NSS -- MD5 downgrade in TLS 1.2 signatures
CVE: CVE-2015-7575
WWW: https://vuxml.FreeBSD.org/freebsd/10f7bc76-0335-4a88-b391-0b05b3a8ce1c.html

Sigh. Two Linux security programs, both with security issues. But I ignored them too, and finally got it installed.

O tempora! O mores!

In passing, it's interesting to note once again how much CPU flash uses. Displaying an AVI file with mplayer used 4% CPU time. Flash uses up to 50%:

CPU: 43.4% user,  0.0% nice,  4.7% system,  0.4% interrupt, 51.6% idle
Mem: 333M Active, 1487M Inact, 725M Wired, 225M Cache, 513M Buf, 1893M Free

  PID USERNAME      THR PRI NICE   SIZE    RES STATE   C   TIME    WCPU COMMAND
44404 grog            1  52    0   347M 92216K select  0   0:57  66.70% npviewer.bin
40781 grog            1  27    0   146M 64908K select  1   0:26  13.38% Xorg
44427 grog            1  27    0   347M 92216K futex   0   0:05  11.77% npviewer.bin
44418 grog            1  20    0   347M 92216K futex   0   0:02   1.07% npviewer.bin

Garden recovering
Topic: gardening Link here

The irrigation of the garden is gradually making a difference. All four roses are flowering again:


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And one of the lilies that should have flowered months ago has finally come to life:


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Camera wireless remote control
Topic: photography Link here

The camera wireless remote control that I ordered last month has arrived. It works! I can set it off from 20 m away, and of course I can hide it, unlike an infrared control. The fact that I don't have to point it at the camera also means that it can replace the cable control, which for some reason wasn't working too well. But there are still issues. The first photo was taken with my camera, the second with Yvonne's:


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The second is clearly out of focus. How do you handle that when you're not at the camera? Manual focus?


Another mystery plant
Topic: gardening, general Link here

In 1889 there was a school at the corner of Stones Road (to the right on the map below) and Bliss Road (to the south). Then there was a post office at the north-eastern end of Harrisons Road:

 
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Our house is north of the school, probably just below the text “Diggings”. The school is now mainly somebody's garden, and on the east side of Harrisons Road there's just a sheep paddock, but of course we still refer to the locations as “School” and “Post Office”.

Half way down Harrisons Road to the Post Office, we found a bush in flower. They're quite fragrant, and I think we might find ourselves one in the autumn:


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Makeshift curtains
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Six months ago we deferred buying curtains for the new house until we had sold Kleins Road and could afford them. That's the case now, but we still don't have any. Mainly laziness, though it should gradually be becoming important. In the meantime, I have a use for my photo backdrop stand, which I haven't used much:


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But it's certainly time to do something about those curtains.


Thursday, 7 January 2016 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 7 January 2016
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Car battery problems
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Tuesday's flat battery recharged relatively normally, and today it was back to full capacity as indicated on the charger. And the car ran normally. So what caused it? Jamie Fraser had commented on an el-cheapo car radio that he had had which drained the battery to maintain the memory. Mine is also el-cheapo, and I hadn't driven the car for nearly 3 weeks, so it's possible that that's what bit me too. And quite possibly the voltage wasn't 0 V when I tried to start it: that happened after I left the ignition on, only for a few minutes. I suppose I should monitor the voltage from time to time.


Cancer?
Topic: health Link here

Into town today for my blood test results. Everything OK. But at the same time I had done a faecal occult blood test, and one of the results was positive. That's a marker for bowel cancer, though of course it could also have other causes: it seems that only 2 to 10% of positive results are caused by any kind of cancer. So the next step is a colonoscopy. I'm really looking forward to that, though I'm expecting a negative result.


Revisiting Mitre 10
Topic: general, opinion Link here

I had some shopping to do in town, specifically irrigation stuff. Over the course of time there have been five major building materials suppliers in our area: Bunnings, Dahlsens, Mitre 10, Masters and Home Timber and Hardware. Masters is quite new, and they're still finding their feet. In Echunga we had Mitre 10, Home Hardware and Bunnings, in decreasing order of desirability. When we came to Dereel we initially continued with Mitre 10, but they weren't as good here, and we quickly changed to Gays, a local company affiliated with Home Hardware. And gradually we used Bunnings more and more, and that's where I typically go now if it isn't to Masters.

It seems that I wasn't the only person not to like Mitre 10. A few years back, they closed down and were bought out by Dahlsens. We tried them a couple of times, particularly since they were very well located, within walking distance of supermarkets and clinic. But we liked them even less, again apparently like most customers. They've closed down too (and apparently moved to smaller premises in Delacombe). And who's there now? Gays, now allied with Mitre 10.

I would have bought my stuff at Masters, but as it happened I was near the clinic, so decided to go in and see what the new Gays/Mitre 10 was like. First to the garden products division, where I was pounced upon by a helpful young man with a North American accent asking if he could help. Asked him where the fertilizer was. “Oh, I'm not sure if we have that. Maybe outside. Oh, no, wait, this bag says “fertilizer””.

The 5 kg bags of fertilizer weren't bad at $10 each. But they had 10 kg bags too, so considered them until I discovered they cost $26. Then on looking for dripper tube. 25 m for about $11, 35 m for about $38. What are these people thinking? I found what I was looking for, sort of, but I don't see myself coming back in the near future.


Yet Another Big Lens
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Last month I bought the largest-aperture standard zoom lens available, the Zuiko Digital ED 14-35mm f/2.0 SWD. It's also enormous. How can I better that? Well, there are two other f/2 zooms out there, a wide angle by Sigma (full frame 24 mm to 35 mm) which for some reason they call “standard”) and the Zuiko Digital ED 35-100mm f/2.0 telephoto (comparable to 70-200 mm on a full frame). The Sigma doesn't fit my camera, and in any case it underlaps the 14-35, but when I saw the 35-100 going cheap on eBay, I made a bid—and won, after the high bidder backed out.

Do I need it? No. That's what I said about the 14-35, but at least I can use that. I'm not really sure what I can even use this one for. Most certainly it's the biggest lens I've ever had, dwarfing even the 14-35. Here from left to right: 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6, 12-40 f/2.8, 14-150 mm f/3.5-5.6, 12-60 mm f/2.8-4, 14-35 mm f/2, 70-300 mm f/4-5.6, 35-100 mm f/2:


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In particular, the 14-150 mm lens (3rd from left) covers the focal length range of both the f/2 lenses and more.

It's even more impressive with the lens hood at one end and Yvonne's E-PM2 at the other:


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Yvonne's reaction:


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But what do I do with it? It weighs nearly 2 kg, and I don't want to put that weight on the camera strap. So until I get the tripod mount strap, I can't do much. And to add to the issues, DxO Optics “Pro” doesn't support it.


No change?
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

A while back I was asked to sign a petition about the National Broadband Network on change.org. To do so I had to sign up, but since then I've been bombarded with requests to sign up for all sorts of hair-brained schemes. Time to unsubscribe.

But how? There are no links. After much searching I found an explanation. With a link? Of course not, just an explanation of where to go. Went there, and it didn't look anything like the description. I got the distinct impression that they didn't want me to unsubscribe.

OK, if that's the way they want it, I have a simpler option. I create a new email ID for each site I subscribe to, so I can just remove it again. Goodbye, nbn-lover@lemis.com.


Friday, 8 January 2016 Dereel Images for 8 January 2016
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Flat battery damage?
Topic: general, opinion Link here

A couple of days ago I had a completely flat battery in my car, and discussion on IRC suggested that it had probably sustained irreparable damage as a result. Today, while looking for something completely different, I came across this diary entry from May 2014. Another case of a completely flat battery, about which I had forgotten. At least that time I knew what caused it. But more to the point, it's the same battery. It seems that on that occasion the discharge was actually worse than this week. So in all likelihood I don't have much to worry about.


Visit from Sue and Melinda
Topic: general, animals Link here

Sue Broady and her daughter Melinda Radus along from the Adelaide Hills to pick up Compay, whom they had bought some months ago and whom Chris and Yvonne had been training. I know them better from their cat breeding activities, and in fact Chris and Kelly Yeoh had bought cats from them. Amusingly, earlier this week they had had dinner with Kelly (now Daly, who visited us a couple of weeks ago). It's amusing how small the community is.

Their property was hit by a bushfire about a year ago, and fortunately they escaped with little damage. The fire came right up to the house and melted the fire-resistant curtains; it seems that normal curtains would have caught fire and set fire to the rest of the house. And they had 200,000 litres of water for firefighting, all of which was used. We only have 10,000, and another 50,000 litres of fresh water. But the CFA has already told us that 10,000 litres are enough.


Debugging, Microsoft style
Topic: technology, photography Link here

Finally I have a response from Ashampoo support about the crashes in Ashampoo® Photo Optimizer 6. Edit the registry:

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Ashampoo\Ashampoo Photo Optimizer]

Why should that help? I had already established that the registry had been cleaned a couple of weeks ago, and I had reported that to Ashampoo. Took another look. Yes, after reinstallation the entries had been added, and there were a number, including the one that this patch was supposed to install:

 
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Applied the patch anyway, and of course it made no difference. Mail off to support, and to my surprise got another reply, suggesting that maybe the issue was that the file system wasn't mounted partition wasn't accessible:

the problem seems to be the path of "History Database". On your
picture 4 it's set to your P: drive. Right after it seems you run the
reg file i send you, then there is a default on your C drive (picture
2).

The next time you run PhotoOptimizer please make sure the path /
partition is available, where PhotoOptimizer try to save the database.

He has confused my configuration (correct, P:\Ashampoo-grog\) with Yvonne's, which seems to still be on partition C:\. That's an unusual recommendation when the partition in question is C:\. And Optimizer creates the paths where necessary. More email, but by then it was evening.

On the positive side, at least I'm getting a response now.


Saturday, 9 January 2016 Dereel Images for 9 January 2016
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GPS navigator evolution
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

Over the years I've done a lot of ranting about the quality of GPS navigators. But today I saw one that put things in perspective. It's built in to Melinda's Toyota Land Cruiser, and it is appallingly bad. The car isn't that old, but it makes it clear how quickly navigators age. Probably the biggest pain is that it has an ABC keyboard. Given that everybody uses computers nowadays, this was a poor choice. And though I complain about the user interface of modern navigation software, I've got to admit that, up to a point, it has improved.

It took us 15 minutes to input the route back home. That should be trivial: select “Home” (pre-stored) as destination, and it should calculate everything. But that would have taken them via Ballarat, which is suboptimal. So we needed to add some waypoints: Skipton and Beaufort. But no, it insisted on a street in every location, so we had to look for one that they would travel along.

Finally it was done, but of course it wanted to take them via Rokewood. It should have taken her via Rokewood Junction, but the navigator didn't know about that at all. Finally found Pitfield, and it entered that, still routing her via Rokewood—and deleted the rest of the route!

In passing, the technology is interesting. The maps are stored on CD, not flash, taking up a considerable amount of space under the dash. The display still looks good (and is larger than most portable navigators), but what happens when it starts to fade?


More sprinkler work
Topic: gardening Link here

Spent some time today modifying my sprinkler system. The sprays I installed live up to their name: they turn the water almost into a mist:


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That's not bad in itself, but the mist lands on the windows and makes them cloudy, so I had to change them for a different kind that doesn't divide the water as finely (or, unfortunately, as evenly). Also a few drippers on 4 mm line, in the process discovering that the line I had bought on Thursday was this horrible tough stuff that barely accepts barbed fittings. I think it might have the advantage, however, that the drippers won't get blown out again by the pump pressure.


Technical photography stuff
Topic: photography Link here

There's lots of information about photography on the web, of course, but most of it is very basic. In particular there are many aspects of digital camera technology that I don't understand nearly well enough.

One site that I had hoped would help is Cambridge in Colour, which has a number of interesting tutorials, and also a forum. But the tutorials are just that, a “how-to” and not a “this is how it works”. Today, though, I found a more interesting link on this post, referring to an article about sensor-lens interactions, on lensrentals.com, an unlikely sounding name for technical detail. There's also petapixel.com, where I thought I had found a number of articles, but what I see now isn't that interesting. Time to start link page.


Ashampoo: “Fixed”!
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Another message from Ashampoo support today:

maybe a problem with access right's - If you do a right mouse click on
the programs icon > Run as Administrator, does it work that way?

Interesting idea. Both the users for which it worked had administrator privileges. OK, let's first give Yvonne administrator privileges and see what happens.

Crash. But only once, and after that it worked. I've seen that before, too. So what was the issue? Buggy software, of course. You don't crash on a permissions issue, you report the problem. And why should she need admin privileges anyway? Something to do with an administrator installing the software? But how else can you do it?

Things weren't over yet, though. I still needed to set the path for the file backups. The files are on /Photos, which is on eureka, so I want the backups there both to avoid copying large amounts of data across the network, and to be able to access them later for the comparison page. Tried setting that. Success! Well, that's what it said. The settings page still had it on local partition C:\. Try again. “This path is already set”. Check the registry. Still in C:\. Stopped the program. Started it again. Still in C:\.

But now I know where the information is stored in the registry, so I can set it directly. And that, of course, worked. What an indictment for Ashampoo! And now Yvonne can use it directly, even after I revoked her administrator privileges. I suppose Ashampoo now think the problem is fixed.


Sunday, 10 January 2016 Dereel Images for 10 January 2016
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Old computers for sale
Topic: technology Link here

Andy Farkas is having trouble with an old MSCP disk in his VAXstation. Well, I can't help there, and if the disk is really toast, it could be difficult to replace. But I do have a MicroVAX II, and it has two disks:


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Not that I want to use it, but it seems a shame to scrap it. So Andy will take it, he says. He lives near Bundaberg, only 2000 odd km away.


Swapping horses
Topic: animals Link here

Yvonne and Chris Bahlo have been swapping horses for nearly 20 years now, and today was the latest iteration: bring mares Sheeraz and Candileja with their respective foals Ramón and Lorenzo, and take Keldan and Carlotta to Chris' place. Background: we have much more feed than Chris does, and Keldan and Carlotta are getting overweight. Here the mares and foals arrive:


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Sheeraz is clearly in need of more feed:


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Barbecue
Topic: food and drink, animals Link here

While here, Chris Bahlo picked up the barbecue that we sold her a week or two ago:


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But you wouldn't want to have a barbecue without meat, would you? Chris made sure:


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It wasn't until some time later that I read the last line of a recent xkcd cartoon.


Steamed snapper with cucumber sauce
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Chris Bahlo has bought some cheap cookbooks at ALDI recently, and lent them to us to try out some recipes. I wasn't very impressed by either, but Yvonne has filled one of them with Post-it stickers. It's entitled “Matt Preston Cookbook”, subtitle “187 RECIPES that will make you INCREDIBLY POPULAR”, and the cover is already falling off.

Yvonne tried “STEAMED SNAPPER with MARCO'S RATHER ELEGANT CUCUMBER SAUCE”:


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Apart from cucumber, there's clearly also cabbage, and less clearly a considerable amount of ginger. Yvonne liked it (“interesting”), but I found it less well balanced. Steaming seems to do nothing for snapper, and somehow you could have replaced it with just about any kind of fish or meat.


Monday, 11 January 2016 Dereel Images for 11 January 2016
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Zoner Photo Stud...
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Spent most of the day playing around with photographic software and techniques. It's tiring.

First up was a free copy of what may be called Zoner Photo Studio 17, but the windows can't be bothered to say so, and it's too much of a mouthful for Microsoft, which calls it “Zoner Photo Stud...”. It's the previous release, thus presumably the fact that I didn't have to pay for it.

What can it do? It's hard to say, since it doesn't say. Firing it up brings up a series of windows that remind me considerably of DxO Optics “Pro”, and they're relatively “intuitive“ to navigate. But I couldn't find a manual, and I also couldn't find a way to increase the text size so that it's legible on my 2560×1440 monitor.

Playing around with it, though, was interesting. A few days ago I took a photo of a spider on the ceiling, using studio flash. The broader image looks like this:


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But with a little playing around with the shadows using Zoner, I got a much better image, which, however, I didn't save. Instead I did more playing around, and found a function “Lasso”. Played with that, found it uninteresting—but I couldn't get rid of the bloody thing! Even after stopping and restarting the program, selecting a different image, it was still there, and hiding all the normal functionality! I suppose a user manual would help, but so far it's goodbye, intuition.

Looking on the Zoner web site offered a free download of the latest version (18), of course (with a $99 sting in the tail after a month), along with some tutorials and the information in the system requirements page that it has support for high DPI on small monitors. Maybe not on big monitors?

Looking for the manual drew a blank in the expected places (“Learn”, “Support”). In fact I only found it on the free download page, and of course only for the current version. But the URL was transparent enough: http://download1.zoner.com/binary/zps18help_en.pdf, so I guessed—correctly—that the manual for version 17 was http://download1.zoner.com/binary/zps17help_en.pdf. But it's 116 pages and not structured in a way that makes it easy for me to use. So watched a few tutorials, which still didn't help me understand the overall structure, but irritated me by removing the frame on my browser window. How do you recover from that? The only way I found was to restart the browser, which is advisable anyway to recover from memory leaks.

Installed version 18 and tried lightening up my photo again. And then it occurred to me that DxO Optics “Pro” also has similar functionality, so tried that as well. Here's the comparison. First the original, then modified with DxO, then modified with Zoner. Run the cursor over either image to compare with the partner:


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Which looks better? Hard to say. With both, I left the highlights the way they were and emphasized only the shadows. And Zoner's highlights are a little too bright for my liking. But with Zoner I had to select 100% shadow, while with DxO it was only (as it happened) 62%, so there were more reserves. Probably I could have created identical results with either program, but clearly this alone isn't enough to justify the purchase (or just plain use) of Zoner.

That's not a reason to discard it, though. There's plenty more in the package, but I'll need to try it out. And it's certainly an order of magnitude faster than DxO.


Olympus “Viewer” 3 revisited
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

I've tried Olympus “Viewer” several times over the years, and I've never found it to be much use. About the only use I can find is to correct for distortion for lenses that DxO Optics “Pro” doesn't support. Over two years ago I used it to correct the distortion of the Olympus Zuiko Digital 18-180mm f/3.5-6.3 that I had at the time. It took me another 6 weeks to find out how to save 16 bit TIFF. It offered the choice of “EXIF TIFF” (8 bit only) or “TIFF” (8 or 16 bit, with choice of EXIF data if you want it).

Today I couldn't find it, and fired up Olympus Capture, which I had tried briefly in September 2014 and then not used again. Not surprisingly, an update was available, and it offered to update “Viewer” for me as well.

After that, tried to run it. Not quite what I expected: continual errors “Batch module stopped working”. One of these days I'll add “stopped working” to my bad language page.

So: what to do? The usual Microsoft solution, of course: remove and reinstall. That didn't quite give me the expected results either:

 
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After lots of investigation, it seems that the install failed, but the symlink “shortcuts” remained. Finally I got it installed, and ran it as planned: convert the raw image to 16 bit TIFF, applying distortion and “shading” (presumably vignetting) correction, but not explicitly chromatic aberration. Then process the TIFFs with DxO. The results weren't spectacular, and that strange selection of 8 bit “EXIF TIFF” or 16 bit TIFF with optional EXIF is still there. Here just one example. First the image as processed by DxO alone (converting raw to JPEG, without optical corrections), and then processed first by “Viewer” (raw to TIFF, with optical corrections) followed by conversion with DxO (TIFF to JPEG). Run the cursor over either image to compare with the partner:


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About the best thing I can say is that the lens has minimal distortion, so I don't need to correct for it.


Olympus focus stacking
Topic: photography, technology Link here

I've had the firmware release 4 for my Olympus OM-D E-M1 for over a month now, and with one exception I haven't tried out the focus stacking feature. Since I'm considering buying the only macro lens that supports it properly, it's high time to investigate.

The stacking is somewhat primitive, and of course the documentation is almost non-existent. There are two options. In each case you take multiple images, starting at the closest position, and changing focus by a specific increment for each subsequent image. The images are taken with the new electronic shutter feature, which (undocumented) has a total exposure time of 1/13 s, like a very slow focal plane shutter. Olympus uses two different terms:

  1. “Focus stacking” describes in-camera processing and production of a complete (JPEG) image. Presumably due to memory and configuration limitations, the camera takes exactly 8 images in this mode. Fortunately the individual raw images are also available if you asked for them.
  2. “Focus bracketing” differs from ”focus stacking” by the fact that the images are not processed in camera. This allows you to take many more images. The default, strangely, is 99, but it can be set via very deep menus to a value between 2 and 999.

And the increment? I still don't know for sure. It's specified as a dimensionless number between 1 (small increment) and 10 (large increment). Today I set off to try to measure what that means:

I set the camera to take 10 photos with increments set to 10, 5 and 1. They're all here. In summary:

I still need to merge the images, but ran into a problem running align_image_stack: the images weren't all exactly the same size, presumably because of corrections that DxO applies. So first I need to write a script that adjusts the sizes.


Spider: found
Topic: animals, technology Link here

I suspected that the Huntsman I found a few days ago was on his last legs (though they were all still there). Today I found what might be his remains:


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I hope his demise is not a comment on the reading material.


Tuesday, 12 January 2016 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 12 January 2016
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Finally curtains?
Topic: Stones Road house, general Link here

We've been planning to buy curtains for the new house since before moving in. We made an initial attempt in June last year, but put it on hold because of the costs involved. Today we made another attempt.

One of the problems is that we have never bought curtains, as long as we have been together. In Germany almost all houses have external roller blinds, and that was enough for us. When we came to Australia, the houses we bought at Wantadilla and Kleins Road already had curtains that were good enough for us, so after nearly 40 years this is the first time we find ourselves in the situation.

First to Spotlight, where Yvonne found some venetian blinds that took her fancy. Not mine.

But I had planned for some roller blinds for my office, preferably with electric control because of the location:


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But they weren't available At All. On the other hand, we seem to have come at the ideal time: tomorrow they're starting a 40% off sale, but the signs were already up, so they had to honour them. This way we got first choice.

After some consideration, we decided on roller blinds for nearly every window. Only the lounge and dining rooms will get curtains, and that's mainly because there are no blinds wide enough.

But that didn't solve the issues. Blinds don't seem to be designed for windows. The window sizes we have here are relatively standard, but the blinds come in “metric” sizes: widths in increments of 30 cm, starting at 90 cm (where do they install windows that narrow?), and heights either 1.50 m or 2.10 m, mainly the latter. As a result, for Yvonne's office (window dimensions 1.60 wide by 1.35 high) has a blind that is 1.80 wide and 2.10 high.

Still, we have them. Off home before I had a panic attack. How can people like shopping?


New photo toys
Topic: photography Link here

On the way back from town picked up a number of packages from the post office: a disk for the new teevee (which I think we'll call tiwi), sausage casings, a strap for my new Zuiko Digital ED 14-35mm f/2.0 SWD telephoto lens, and a couple of new studio flash units.

The strap was a potential solution to the weight of the lens, 1.8 kg. I didn't want to put that weight on the strap lugs of my Olympus OM-D E-M1, which have already failed under normal load. So this strap seems to be the right choice. It attaches to the tripod mount:


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I wasn't sure whether the balance would work, but in fact it's quite good, and the strap is surprisingly comfortable. If you have to carry a lens of that weight, this is the way to do it.

The flash units are Godox DE 400s, which their web site doesn't want to know about. They're rated at 400 J and they, too, are big. Here the comparison with my old 110 J units:


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Why did these units take such a long time to come? They told me that it was sent from Melbourne on 31 December. It should have taken 2 days, pretty exactly. When it didn't arrive by 7 January, I sent them eBay “email” asking what had happened to it. Don't worry, Australia Post inefficiency, it's definitely on its way.

But now the tracking works, modulo upside down format and spelling errors:

Date/Time       Activity       Location
Tue 12 Jan 2016 16:23       Delivered       NAPOLEON VIC
Tue 12 Jan 2016 10:25       Awaiting Collection at NAPOLEON CPA       NAPOLEON VIC
Tue 12 Jan 2016 10:23       Processed through Australia Post facility       NAPOLEON VIC
Tue 12 Jan 2016 05:59       In transit       WENDOUREE VIC
Tue 12 Jan 2016 02:32       Processed through Australia Post facility       WENDOUREE VIC
Sat 09 Jan 2016 08:38       Processed through Australia Post facility       SUNSHINE WEST VIC

Not very impressive. In addition, one came without an instruction manual and warranty card, and the other came without a sync cord. Both not serious, but not a recommendation.

And what about the light output? Last month I went through a lot of pain to try to map the numbers displayed on a flash unit with the light output. I came to the conclusion that an increment of 1.0 on the display meant 2 stops, at least for these units. So just about the first thing I did was to test it. Close, but so far no cigar. At 7.0 the flash exposure meter showed 32.2, so at 5.0 it should have shown 8.2 (the .2 being .2 of a stop, not .2 of the aperture). In fact I got 8.6. But they're not controlled conditions, so that may change. More measurements needed.


Fixing Ashampoo
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

I've had a lot of issues with Ashampoo® Photo Optimizer 6, and I've complained rather vehemently about the lack of support. But in the last week that has changed. It's still not clear what the problem was, but messing around with administrator privilege drove it into hiding.

But there's still more, and now I have a total of four different tickets. I'm also getting mail from the same person about the same issue (I think) both in English and German. How do I sort that mess out?


Wednesday, 13 January 2016 Dereel Images for 13 January 2016
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Hello tiwi
Topic: multimedia, technology Link here

The new disk has arrived, so started on what I fear will be a slow, painful path to replacing teevee (FreeBSD display machine) and cvr2 (Linux recording machine) with a single machine that I've decided to call tiwi (pronounced as German).

Every time I've tried something like this in the past, it has been really painful:

So I'm not hurrying things now, and it seems to be a good thing. Based on my previous experience, I'm writing a HOWTO document that is currently more a log of what I've done. Maybe I'll finish this one.

Today tried installing MythTV again. The good news is that the FreeBSD package (the port that I started 9 years ago) now installs without many issues. Just replace MySQL 5.5 with 5.6, and install 86 other packages, and it's there.

The package now actually tells me what to do next!

MythTV has now been installed, but it still needs to be configured.

1.  To create the database, use the following command:

        mysql -uroot -p < /usr/local/share/mythtv/database/mc.sql

2.  Next, run mythtv-setup.

Well, it's assuming that I have a password (I don't), but the database setup seems to have worked. But though mythtv-setup has changed, it doesn't seem to have got any more reliable. Each attempt to start it caused different problems. I'm back to the status of 19 April 2006.

Also installed lirc, the infrared remote control software. I forget how to configure it correctly, but there was a program irw that should report keystrokes. Tried it; it didn't. Probably I need to do some other magic first.


Borzois: too much for little old ladies?
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

Little accident today while walking the dogs: somehow Leonid managed to tie Yvonne up with the leash and trip her up. She fell backwards, hitting her skull on the ground. I was seriously concerned that she might have concussion, but fortunately it wasn't that bad.

Normally Yvonne takes Leonid and Sasha, while I take Nikolai. Looks like I'll have Leonid as well until he learns to behave better.


Mystery mail
Topic: general, opinion Link here

In the mail today:


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What's that? About the only obvious thing is the weight. There's nothing on the back either. Clearly it can only come from a company that doesn't document. In fact it's almost certainly the lubricant that they promised me weeks ago.

Doesn't that confirm my prejudices?


Thursday, 14 January 2016 Dereel Images for 14 January 2016
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Weathering a power failure
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Powercor have announced Yet Another scheduled outage for 9:00-11:00 this morning. That's the third outage since we've been here, while we had only 2 in our whole time in Kleins Road, including one just before we moved out. Still, we have had fewer unplanned outages here, so maybe it's acceptable.

I had moved the generator in front of my office window last night, and before the failure (at 9:11) I checked that it was running, so when the outage came, I had it up and running in seconds.

But it didn't run properly. The office UPS showed an input voltage of only about 160 V, and while I was watching, the generator stalled and couldn't be restarted. OK, I didn't live with Tandem for decades without having some backup strategy, so dragged out the other generator—and it occurred to me that we didn't need to put it in front of the office, so instead put it just outside the shed (extreme left) and connected an extension cable to the office (extreme right, with the other generator in front):


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It ran, but the UPS still wasn't happy. Where's the problem? I really need some kind of device for testing the output, but didn't have one available. A multimeter isn't really enough, since it presents no load. A small mains-driven incandescent lamp is what I need, but I didn't find one quickly enough. And while I was messing around (and discovering that, in principle, all was OK), the UPS ran out of power. Grrr!

More investigation. It's not clear what the problem was, but the UPS charged happily on the input, so turned things on again and rebooted.

Power came back again at 10:40, by which time the house UPS was still supplying the bed radio and cvr2, which had successfully recorded the German News. Unfortunately I later managed to delete it before watching.

So what went wrong? My guess is that the first generator had been sprayed by the sprinklers overnight, and there was some moisture in the system. I'll have to clean it up and see if that's enough. And the second one? No idea. High time to find out why the main UPS won't take generator input.


Power failure recovery
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Rebooting eureka had some strange side effects. Yvonne came in in the afternoon telling me that she could no longer access the network. She meant firefox, of course, and sure enough, it hung trying to access the home page, and then claimed that it couldn't access 180.150.4.128. I recognize that address: it used to be the address of my external interface to the world while at Kleins Road. What's looking for that?

Tried other browsers. Worked. Works from my machine. External sites were accessible from Yvonne's firefox. Wrong proxy settings? cache.lemis.com, port 8080. cache is a CNAME for eureka, so that's not an issue, and anyway, it only affected the home page.

After walking the dogs, it occurred to me: after rebooting, dhcpd overwrote my /etc/resolv.conf, giving Aussie Broadband's servers. And they access the external view of the zone, which is slightly out of date. I fixed that soon after booting, but in the meantime squid and syslogd got the wrong view of the world. I had restarted syslogd, but didn't think about squid.

Later I couldn't access our deep freeze list:

Warning: mysql_connect(): Host '192.109.197.137' is not allowed to connect to this MySQL server in /home/grog/public_html/php/MySQL_table_edit_0.3/mte/mte.php on line 174
Could not connect: Host '192.109.197.137' is not allowed to connect to this MySQL server

That was clearly another case of the same thing: mysqld_safe also needed restarting.


Microsoft “shares”: idée fixe
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Also rebooted dischord, currently my only Microsoft box. Every time after rebooting I've had to manually recover CIFS file system authentication. Every time I tell it the credentials and ask it to remember them, and every time it seems to have forgotten them.

But in the meantime I recalled the old password, so for the fun of it I reset the password on eureka to the one that dischord used to use. And how about that, it worked! So for some reason, despite many attempts, I wasn't able to convince it to remember the new password.

I'll never understand Microsoft.


Cleaning the windows
Topic: general, gardening Link here

One of the reasons I changed the irrigation sprays round the house was that the fine spray ended up on the windows, making quite a mess. Today the cleaning lady tried to clean them, but she couldn't get the coating off. It must be something related to calcium carbonate, since it seems to come off with vinegar. This photo shows not a generator but an area that I cleaned with vinegar, thus allowing a proper reflection:


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More tiwi pain
Topic: multimedia, technology, opinion Link here

On with my software installation for tiwi, the new multimedia machine. Yesterday I stopped with not being able to run mythtv-setup. Tried it today. It didn't fail: it told me that it couldn't access the database that I created yesterday.

Further investigation showed that the port had removed MySQL client and server version 5.5, but I didn't notice that it only installed the client for 5.6. On the other hand, it didn't stop mysqld_safe, so I was able to create the database. After this morning's outage, of course, it was no longer present. That's particularly strange when you look into /usr/ports/multimedia/mythtv/Makefile and read:

MYSQL_RUN_DEPENDS= mysqld_safe:${PORTSDIR}/databases/mysql${MYSQL_VER}-server

But that's another day's head-scratching. I still couldn't run mythtv-setup. The last message was:

2016-01-14 17:57:02.863181 E  MySQL time zone support is missing.  Please install it and try again.  See 'mysql_tzinfo_to_sql' for assistance.

What's mysql_tzinfo_to_sql? Went googling, and not surprisingly found this page. It seems that mysql_tzinfo_to_sql is a program, and it wants you to do:

=== grog@tiwi (/dev/pts/1) ~ 14 -> mysql_tzinfo_to_sql /usr/share/zoneinfo | mysql -uroot mysql
Warning: Unable to load '/usr/share/zoneinfo/zone.tab' as time zone. Skipping it.

The warning seemed to be just that. Afterwards mythtv-setup ran. Its appearance has changed completely in the last 10 years, but it still asks for irrelevant stuff like the TV system (NTSC or PAL). Who uses that any more? In any case, I'm at a point now where I can't do much until my new tuner arrives. In the meantime, there are many other fires to fight.


Mounting the blinds
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Brian Mattei and his wife Denise along this afternoon to take a look at the blinds we bought on Tuesday. Looks like they'll be able to install them on Saturday.

Brian seems to understand something about computers. It seems that he's trying—with difficulty—to install a frame grabber, if that's what he really means. But it seems that he's trying with Microsoft, which doesn't seem to be any easier.


Steak and kidney pie
Topic: food and drink Link here

Decades ago I occasionally made steak and kidney pie, but lately we've neglected it. Three years ago I had a try, and even created a recipe page (“This page is a placeholder. Come back in a few days”).

Today I started again from scratch. All the recipes I found agree on a ratio of two parts beef to one part kidney. And as last time, I decided to cook the meat first. The results were really worthwhile, but browning the crust in the mini-oven was a bit sudden. Here three years ago and today:


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Friday, 15 January 2016 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 15 January 2016
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Garden flowers in mid-summer
Topic: gardening Link here

Today's the middle of the month and middle of summer. The garden is still struggling. On the positive side we have the Cannas, which are finally flowering, even if the 'Yellow King Humbert' is between flowers:


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Near the roses found a strange sight:


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It must be a particularly hardy bulb. We didn't plant it there, and we didn't water it, but somehow it managed to grow anyway. How did it get there? Last winter something—I suspect a fox—dug up a number of bulbs in the garden. Maybe this is one that got away.

One of the Mirabilis jalapa has been flowering for a while, and is quite happy in the entrance:


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For some reason they call this flower “four o'clock flower” because of claims that it only flowers round 16:00. Not my experience at all, or maybe it has staggered time zones.

I've been irrigating as well across the fence to the Mariotts: it's really our land, only the fence is too far north. There's a Hebe trying to make it, and some more bulbs are flowering:


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And the first Buddleja, still in a pot, is flowering, as is a waterlily:


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The roses are growing, even if they're not very pretty:


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But they're clearly struggling, presumably because of the heat and the wind. Certainly a couple of trees are suffering, and it's not because of lack of water:


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The first is an Elm, and I hope it will survive. The second is our second attempt at an Acacia cognata “Lime Magik”, and it's clearly dead. The first died of cold, and this one must have died of heat or wind. We'll have to think more carefully about placement before planting another.


Curtains!
Topic: general Link here

Into Ballarat this afternoon for another attempt to buy curtains for the house (or “drapes”, as they call them). First to Taylor & Stirling in Sturt St, which looks nothing like their web site. We were given prices first, even before choosing materials: $30/metre. What does that mean? From prior experience I knew that it bore little relationship to the real prices. But no, she said, it's $30 per running metre, usually 1.4 m wide. That sounded far too cheap, but OK, we had one window 2.8 m wide and 1.6 m deep. That would require 3.2 m, right? $96.

She went off out the back and came back quite some time later with a price: $721, not to mention another $163 for the rail. How did she get that? Well, it wasn't just 2.8 m, it was a total of 5 runs of cloth, 9.5 m, implying a height of 1.9 m rather than 1.6 m. Thus the $721. I pointed out that 9.5 × 30 is 285, so she grabbed a calculator to check. Ah, then there's the stitching. I asked what the $30 was, and she said it was for everything, including the stitching. The calculations were done by a spreadsheet, so they must be right. And she was just doing what she had been trained to do.

Somehow we weren't getting anywhere, but her complete lack of understanding (dare I say “intelligence”?) got on my nerves, so we left, saying that it was not clear what we were talking about. Just as I was shutting the door, she called after me “If that's your opinion”. Grr! I can put up with stupid people, but stupid people who also tell me that facts are my opinion really annoy me. Back inside and told her so. Probably a bad idea, but it's bad enough having to go shopping without having to deal with people like that.

Then on to Eureka Blinds & Curtains, where Gen attended to us. She did better, though I'm still left somewhat uncertain about what our choice will look like. They clearly don't use a spreadsheet: she won't get a price to us until early next week.


More Microsoft pain
Topic: technology Link here

So finally I have my CIFS file systems so that they don't require re-entry of passwords every time I boot dischord. And then Yvonne came to me and said she couldn't process her photos. Further investigation showed that she didn't have write access to the file system.

Why not? I still have no idea. Lots of messing around showed that from the FreeBSD/Samba side all was OK, but somehow Microsoft (which reports the remote file system as “NTFS”) didn't want to know. How I hate Microsoft!


Saturday, 16 January 2016 Dereel Images for 16 January 2016
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Finally, blinds
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Brian Mattei and wife Denise along this morning to install the blinds:


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Things don't look the same, of course. Here my office before, during and after the change:


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It'll take a while to get used to the difference. At the moment I'm keeping my eye on the folds in the blinds, most obviously visible in the third photo.


dischord pain
Topic: technology Link here

So why can't Yvonne write to her CIFS file system from dischord any more? Spent a lot of time investigating today. Clearly the first step is to check what the real permissions are, as this post suggests. But all is well there:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/9) ~ 89 -> getfacl /Photos
# file: /Photos
# owner: grog
# group: wheel
user::rwx
group::rwx
other::rwx
=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/9) ~ 90 -> ls -ld /Photos/
drwxrwxrwx  29 grog  wheel  1,024 16 Jan 09:03 /Photos/

Clearly it has something to do with Yvonne—again—so tried connecting with my credentials. This time I couldn't even connect! Enter the password, and it comes back with no message, just the login window with a longer row of dots for the password. Is this another case of remembering passwords and not wanting to forget them?

More messing around, and got to the stage where the security window told me that nobody had any access permissions, which was different from earlier on. But setting the permissions came back with an Access denied all the time.

Somewhere round here I found this page, which suggests that you can delete stored passwords with

net use \\server delete

Is that correct? I was so far from that point that I didn't try, but I'll note it for the next time.

Finally I found something unexpected in /usr/local/etc/smb.conf:

 [Photos]
  comment = eureka Photos file system
  path = /Photos
  read only = yes
  public = yes
  write list = grog

That's certainly related, but why? It worked until yesterday. In any case, removed the read only, restarted smbd, and... it worked!

Case solved? Not quite. I still don't know why it happened now, though my guess is that it was related to my password change a couple of days ago. But my test for write access was:

P:\> dir > foo

And when I checked on a real machine, I found:

  -rwxr--r--     1 grog    wheel       1717 16 Jan 17:08 foo

This was connected with Yvonne's credentials. What am I missing?


Keyboard evolution
Topic: technology, history, opinion Link here

Somehow I'm still not happy with keyboards. For nearly 25 years I used the same Northgate Omnikey keyboard:


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I've since replaced it with a Sun 7 keyboard, but I'm still having difficulties. How do you position your right hand? Conventional (in other words typewriter age) wisdom is that you place your fingers above the J, K, L and ; keys, and cover the H key with your forefinger. But that leaves a large number of keys to the right. OK, move one space to the key next to ;, whatever that may be, but on the Sun that still leaves two keys unaccounted for, including Return. And all keyboards I know have two keys to the right of P, which should really be hit with the right little finger.

How did we get there? I'm still trying to understand. There have been at least four developments since the typewriter days (which, effectively, include teletypes): function keys at the top, function keys at the left (this was an IBM idea, it seems, as witnessed by the 3270 terminal series), cursor arrow keys and numeric keypad. And of course there were additional bucky bits: Control was there on the teletype, Alt seems to have come with the IBM PC. In the course of time the function keys on the left became function keys above, where a touch typist can't find them, and the arrow keys flattened into an inverted T. This started with the PC AT, but it happened slowly, and by 1989 neither of them had happened to the Omnikey, one of the reasons I used it for so long.

Today I found a particularly filthy VT-320 keyboard:


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Based on the terminal that came with it, it was manufactured in about 1989. Tidying it up a little and looking at it, it seems that it already had a number of “modern” features:


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In particular, the inverted T and the large number of keys to the right of ; seem to have been relatively recent. It's also interesting to not a particularly wide key with no obvious use separating the Ctrl key from the A key. And there are 20 function keys above the top, if I understood correctly: they're numbered F1 to F14, Help, Do and F17 to F20.

Once again I wonder how many keyboard designers actually touch-type.


Investigating vlc
Topic: multimedia, technology, opinion Link here

I had too many other things to do today to worry about MythTV, but some time ago I had promised Jürgen Lock that I would try vlc. Did that today.

And? It's hard to say. No multimedia software is well documented, and vlc appears to be no exception. But it worked out of the box, something that other stuff doesn't do. The question that I have is whether it can do everything I want. I haven't found a way to save the position in a stream, something that's very important to me. But maybe the “save playlist” function does just that. Clearly I need to decide just what functionality I need. Can I interface with online TV programme services like shepherd, for example? Google suggests not.


Sunday, 17 January 2016 Dereel Images for 17 January 2016
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Borzoi family reunion
Topic: animals, general Link here

It's been nearly 11 months since we last got together with the O'Deas for a barbecue and to let our dogs play together. We also invited Chris Bahlo (who, of course, also has a Borzoi), Graeme and Linda Swift from next door, and Lorraine Carranza. Graeme wasn't able to make it, but to make up for that, Margaret Swan was here.


Masala vada revisited
Topic: food and drink Link here

What to serve? The canonical Australian summer fare is a barbecue, but we've rather gone off that, and in fact we sold the barbecue to Chris a few weeks back. Yvonne came up with the idea of a lot of cold food, coincidentally vegetarian for Margaret's sake. That sounded a little light to me, and I had the idea of making masala vada. I've made them before, and I wrote the recipe down in June 2006, but I didn't comment on the method much.

Nowadays I'm different. I started yesterday with the lentils and peas. How do you crush them? The original recipe states “coarsely grind ... in a food processor”. And that's what I copied into my recipe. But it doesn't work like that: with just the beans, the food processor couldn't work at all. In the end I added about 200 ml of water, and even then it started to overheat.

How to remove the water? Drain overnight in a sieve:


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Next issue, after forming the final mass: deep fry. This seems so dangerous that I've never tried it, and today was no exception. But it occurred to me that we could form the mass into something like patties with the aid of some fried egg forms that we once tried and then decided against using:


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After the bottom had hardened, turned over and flattened the still-soft other side. Contrary to my fears, the paste didn't stick to the silicone forms. It did, slightly, to the metal forms (third photo), but was easy enough to get out.


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And how did they taste? No salt! There was none in the original recipe, and I didn't notice it while I was putting the stuff together. But apart from that, they were well received, and next time there will be salt.


The reception
Topic: photography, animals, general, food and drink Link here

Yvonne had much more to do:


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We had invited people for 13:00, and we were relatively well in time. As planned some time ago, I had moved my 110 J studio flashes to the lounge room, to be triggered by the two wireless triggers I had. Took them out to test. One worked, the other (the new one, only a couple of weeks old) didn't. But I had tested it when I got it. Why now?

Took it apart and discovered that the (non-standard 12 V 22A (description, not current)) battery was showing only 10.7 V. The old one was showing 11.7, so clearly something was wrong with the battery. But was that the cause? Swapped batteries. New one still didn't work. Old one didn't work either: I had broken a connecting wire off the PCB. Dragged out a soldering iron and was getting round to fix it when the O'Deas arrived, 25 minutes early. Dogs going crazy, of course, and while we were trying to get things sorted out, Chris, Margaret and Fyodor arrived. Soldering iron off, and out to let the dogs run around:


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But somehow they weren't overly interested in playing—the temperature of about 32° could have been part of the reason—and before long they were waiting at the laundry door:


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The early arrival didn't help in the kitchen, and somehow Yvonne managed to dislodge a beer bottle from the fridge door, which didn't break, but on its way down managed to break off the handle of the water jug. Why do these things happen when you really don't need them?

Linda from next door (I still don't know their surname) came along, the first time we've really got to speak to her—and that after having owned this property for 2 years. She and Lorraine didn't know each other (just been living round the corner from each other for 11 years), but they seemed to get along:


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And the rest seemed to have fun:


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And judging by the little food that was left over (just enough to convince us that it wasn't out of politeness), it was well received.


Flash triggering and zoom
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

We—especially Yvonne—took a large number of photos, most using the studio flash units. It's relatively simple: put the flash trigger on the camera, set it to manual, shutter speed 1/250 s, aperture f/8. The only fly in the ointment was that I didn't have any flash trigger, so I used the toy flash units that came with the cameras. It's actually smaller than the flash trigger (in the first photo):


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How do you set the flash intensity? Nothing obvious in the menus. I had to go to the “documentation” to find that you set the flash intensity to “Full”, then press “Info”, after which you can select between full intensity (guide number 11) and 1/64, guide number 1.4. The latter was so weak that it didn't reliably trigger the studio flash, so I ended up with it set to 1/2 (guide number 8), which was a little much for close-ups.

Yvonne took a large number of photos, without even touching the zoom ring. I can't blame her: I really dislike this electric zoom, and in the middle changed the lens for her to the manual zoom (shown in the second image). At least then some of the photos weren't taken at 14 mm focal length.

After people were gone, took another look at the flash trigger. The good news is that I was wrong about the triggers. It's the old one that is no longer functioning, which saves me complaining and also tells me where I can get a replacement. And without interruptions it was trivial to reconnect the wire I had torn off.


Daily Microsoft pain
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Yvonne took 187 photos today, and the processing showed the typical Microsoft slowdown (memory leaks?). Time for a reboot. And, of course, when the system came back up, she had the dreaded read-only photo file system.

More cursing, but the biggest discovery seems to be that the symptoms are non-deterministic. When I tried to select “Properties” for the file system, it took me to the Control Panel / System page. Only after I disconnected and reconnected the file system did it take me to the correct page, where it still couldn't do anything useful.

As if that wasn't enough, the keyboard went haywire. In particular the special characters were nothing like what they should have been. Yvonne uses a German keyboard layout, painful enough at the best of times (for example there's a special shift key Alt Grrr or some such which you need to generate | or ~), but here it almost looked as if it had been translated twice. Setting an Australian keyboard gave me a good approximation of a German keyboard. Is that Microsoft, or rdesktop? I haven't seen it before, and based on the other issues (and my prejudices), I'm inclined to blame Microsoft.

Tried the password reset that I had discovered yesterday, but it didn't do anything obvious. Various changes to smb.conf, none of which seemed to make much difference. Silent syntax or semantic errors? Checked in CFBSD. There's a command testparm that checks the configuration. It showed:

[Photos]
        comment = eureka Photos file system
        path = /Photos
        write list = grog
        guest ok = Yes

Huh? I had just set it to read/write. Further investigation was surprising. The first line read:

Load smb config files from /usr/local/etc/smb4.conf

So all these changes I had made in the last few days were to the wrong file, and they had been ignored! And somehow it looked as if they had worked! How I hate config files which change their name with the version! Modified smb4.conf and tried again. Not much change: I still couldn't get it read-write connected as yvonne, but with grog it worked—this time.

Why is this so complicated? Now that just about all else has failed, I really need to read up about permissions mapping. Tridge would be ashamed of me.


Monday, 18 January 2016 Dereel Images for 18 January 2016
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Which flash trigger?
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

So one of my wireless flash triggers has died. Not a big issue: it's years old, it cost almost nothing, and for the while I have a spare. So order another?

The system is pretty much bare-bones. It simply relays the flash contact (or test button) to the receiver, which sets off the flash:

Flash trigger

Photos are from the eBay seller from whom I bought them.

There are more sophisticated things out there. In particular, Godox, the manufacturer of my new studio flash units, offers a relatively complicated set for surprisingly little money:

Flash trigger Flash trigger

They are specific to Godox flashes, and the trigger allows setting the flash level and a few other minor things. It seems that you can buy a transmitter/receiver set for about $25, but the receiver is for an on-camera flash. The studio flashes have the receiver shown, with a USB connector. The receivers are no more expensive, but the transmitter without the on-camera flash receiver is no cheaper.

But do they work with my flashes? Went looking and found this YouTube clip by Glenn Balsam:

It's interesting for a number of reasons:

So: if you use them, then you need to check that the flash really accepts the settings. But then you might just as well set the flash directly.

Apart from that, there are other issues. In particular, it only works with Godox flashes, so I'd still need a second transmitter for the flashes in the lounge room. And as it happened I have another trigger receiver on its way for the Godox flashes. So I ordered another el-cheapo transmitter. At these prices, I can always change my mind.


Curtain shock
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Got our quote for curtains from Eureka Blinds & Curtains today. $3,131 for two windows, admittedly with double curtains. Probably that's a typical price for this kind of custom-made curtain, but it's painful. Surely normal people don't pay that kind of money? Off looking on the web and found many companies selling ready-made curtains for round a tenth of that price. IKEA didn't have any curtains costing more than $99. Others were more expensive, up to $150, but more suited to our situation. So we're back looking at places like Spotlight and Target again.


Tuesday, 19 January 2016 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 19 January 2016
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More tiwi installation?
Topic: multimedia, technology Link here

My work on installing MythTV on tiwi has stalled waiting for a tuner. What can I do in the meantime? At least MythWeb, which is one of the best arguments in favour of MythTV. It's been nearly 9 years since I first installed it, and of course things have changed.

Do I have copies on eureka?

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/9) ~ 213 -> locate -i /mythweb|less

/home/OLD-STUFF/ports/www/mythweb
/home/OLD-STUFF/ports/www/mythweb/CVS
...
/home/src/CVS/FreeBSD/ncvs/ports/www/mythweb
/home/src/CVS/FreeBSD/ncvs/ports/www/mythweb/Attic
/home/src/CVS/FreeBSD/ncvs/ports/www/mythweb/Attic/Makefile,v

That's the old CVS based ports tree, one really old, and the other old, but between the two the port was deleted (“put in the attic”). Why? It took reading the Makefile, conveniently a control file, to find:

1.6
log
@- Update to 0.23
- Port has been renamed to mythplugin-mythweb to have a common prefix for
all MythTV plugins.

OK, it seems that mythplugin-mythweb is still there, so installed that, once again upgrading dependent ports (PHP 5.5 to 5.6). But in the meantime I had other fish to fry, so mañana.


Curtains!
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

After yesterday's shock curtain quote, did some investigation of the off-the-shelf curtains that are available at a fraction of the price. And for once the web site descriptions weren't too bad. So off to Ballarat and Spotlight again, where they still have their sale going, and spent a good hour and a half choosing not two, but three sets of curtains.

It's not simple, and I had to call Brian Mattei and discuss mounting issues with him. It seems that most people want to mount the ends of the rails on the window frames, meaning that the curtains will cover the edges of the windows even when completely open, and to pull them beyond would require either the presence of a stud in the right place (not present), various dubious means of attaching to the plasterboard, or further brackets in the middle. We chose the last. My guess is that the same issues would have increased the prices of the custom-made curtains too.

The resultant cost was round $1,180. Extrapolating from the quote, we would have had to pay $4,851 for a similar installation from Eureka Blinds & Curtains. We still need to pay Brian for his work, but clearly we're far better off like this.


Electric fence insulators
Topic: general Link here

We've already had issues with the white insulators on top of our star pickets: for reasons I don't quite understand, they don't seem to insulate well. But now Yvonne has discovered problems with a number of them on the fence facing the road. The wire guides just broke off:


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Clearly time for a different kind.


Piccola
Topic: animals Link here

For some reason Piccola likes sitting in flower pots:


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No idea why. Maybe it feels cool.


Wednesday, 20 January 2016 Dereel Images for 20 January 2016
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Australia Post changes speed
Topic: general, opinion Link here

A brochure in the mail today from Australia Post describing changes in the postal service. When do they take place? They don't say, but I think it was the beginning of the year. Why have I only now received the brochure? Ah, it explains that: they have made things both significantly more expensive (between 50% and 130%) and significantly slower. Now letters at this new higher price can take up to 6 business days to arrive. That means that if I send a letter tomorrow (21 January) it might not reach its destination until 1 February.

But isn't that reasonable? Think back 50 years. A letter from Kuala Lumpur to Taunton, Somerset took 2 days. Then, of course, they didn't have the logistics we have today. So why is it so slow nowadays?

Letters used to cost $0.65. Now they cost $1.00, and if you want the same speed as we used to have, you'll have to attach a priority sticker for another $0.50, making for a comparable price rise of 130%.

How does this work in practice? To maintain this two-tiered system requires additional sorting. And what do they do with the letters that aren't “priority”? Put them aside to mature? But this isn't just theoretical. Last week I bought a lens, which was posted in Innaloo WA at 12:06 on Friday. According to the tracking system, nothing seems to have happened between then and today 07:57, nearly 5 days later, when it showed up in Sunshine, Victoria. Given Australia's habit of referring to suburbs rather than cities, it's not immediately obvious that that's state capital (Perth) to state capital (Melbourne). And for that Australia Post allows itself 4 business days, just as I've seen. Will it be here tomorrow? Who knows?

What are things like in other countries? Germany used to be much more expensive. They, too, have increased the prices at the beginning of the year, from 0.62 € to 0.70 €, corresponding to (Australian) $0.98 to $1.10. They're cagey about delivery times, but given the size of the country they'd have to be faster.

And the USA? USPS are also cagey. Go to their postage price calculator and the cheapest price they have (to the same post office!) is $22.95. Clearly that's not the normal price, but after 5 minutes of searching, I couldn't find one. Yet another modern web site.

But how about China? I get lots of mail from China. Today I ordered a cable (Mylex to SATA power connector for eureka). Postage from China was $1.00. And to make up for that excessive price, the cable itself was free. Total price $1.00. I wonder if China is subsidising the postage costs.

While discussing the matter on IRC, came up with another strangeness. Andy Snow showed a pickup notice that he had received (in New South Wales). It's still Australia Post, but it's nothing like what we get here in Victoria. Here his, then mine:


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OK, his was a parcel, not a mail. But my slip is clearly intended for parcels too. Why the difference? And for additional amusement, the detail on the first card (bottom left):

 
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tiwi setup: MythWeb
Topic: multimedia, technology Link here

Spent some time trying to configure MythWeb today. First that required getting Apache24 up and running. These version numbers in file names are getting more and more on my nerves. The only real change I needed to make to the configuration file was:

-DocumentRoot "/usr/local/www/apache24/data"
-<Directory "/usr/local/www/apache24/data">
+DocumentRoot "/usr/local/www/data"
+<Directory "/usr/local/www/data">

Then looking at /usr/local/www/mythweb/INSTALL:

===========
3.0 Experts
===========
If you are not an expert, please skip to section 4.0.  Experts, the
following commands should be enough for you to figure out what's going on:

    cp -r mythweb/* /var/www/html/

Clearly the port has forgotten to change the path name, which appears to be a Linuxism. But OK, I'll bite. What directory am I supposed to be in? It took quite a while (not helped by an out-of-date locate database) to discover that it was the same directory in which INSTALL was located. And it really should have been a directory level lower (/usr/local/www/data/mythweb/ instead of /usr/local/www/mythweb/). Then no copying would be needed.

But where do I go from there? I need to decide how to set up database access permissions, something that bit me last time. And since MythTV isn't running yet, there are other fish to fry.


tiwi setup: lircd
Topic: multimedia, technology Link here

Instead, took a look at lircd. That had started last time round and shown no reaction to the remote control. Back to look at what I did last time round, which was inconclusive. But clearly I needed the files /etc/lircd.conf and /etc/lircrc, so copied them from teevee. Start again. No error indication, no function. It didn't even notice when I disconnected the (USB) receiver. And when I restarted lircd, it didn't access /etc/lircd.conf.

OK, RTFM time:

FILES
       The config file for lircd is located in /etc/lirc/lircd.conf.

Isn't that nice, moving the files elsewhere? But that file doesn't exist. Why didn't it complain? Off again with ktrace and found:

 24050 lircd    CALL  open(0x422832,0<O_RDONLY>,<unused>0x1b6)
 24050 lircd    NAMI  "/usr/local/etc/lirc/lircd.conf"
 24050 lircd    RET   open -1 errno 2 No such file or directory
 24050 lircd    CALL  open(0x422884,0<O_RDONLY>,<unused>0x1b6)
 24050 lircd    NAMI  "/usr/local/etc/lircd.conf"
 24050 lircd    RET   open 7
 24050 lircd    CALL  read(0x7,0x801c1f000,0x8000)
 24050 lircd    GIO   fd 7 read 4096 bytes
       "
        # Please make this file available to others
        # by sending it to <lirc@bartelmus.de>
...
 24050 lircd    RET   read 32768/0x8000
 24050 lircd    CALL  open(0x7fffffffdd98,0<O_RDONLY>,<unused>0x1b6)
 24050 lircd    NAMI  "/usr/local/share/examples/lirc/remotes/mceusb/lircd.conf.mceusb"
 24050 lircd    RET   open 8
 24050 lircd    CALL  read(0x8,0x801c36000,0x8000)
 24050 lircd    GIO   fd 8 read 4096 bytes
       "#
        # brand:                        HP/Philips/Microsoft/Other
        # model no. of remote control:  Media Center Edition remote
...

So here are not one, but three errors:

  1. The configuration files are not in /etc/lircd, they're in /usr/local/etc/lircd. This looks like a FreeBSD modification.
  2. If it doesn't find a configuration file there, it tries /usr/local/etc/lircd.conf.
  3. And for some reason the port installs an /usr/local/etc/lircd.conf that's specific to a particular remote control.

sigh


Retiring old PRs
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

The FreeBSD problem reporting system has been around forever. Some years back we moved from GNATS to bugzilla, but we've ensured that all old reports are kept for posterity (or just for resolution).

One of the latter was one I entered 10 years ago. The FreeBSD web site had become “modern” and rendered terribly. Things have improved since then, so it was time to put this PR to bed.


Thursday, 21 January 2016 Dereel → Napoleons → Dereel Images for 21 January 2016
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Another new lens
Topic: photography Link here

Finally the package that was sent from Perth last week has arrived in Napoleons. It's an m.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm F2.8 Macro lens, and probably the last in my current buying spree. So off to Napoleons to pick it up.

First impression: it's tiny! The images show a relatively long lens, but the diameter is as narrow as any I have. Here a comparison with the Zuiko Digital ED 14-35mm f/2.0 SWD and the Zuiko Digital 35mm f/3.5 Macro:


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Why do I need it? I only bought my last macro lens three months ago, and it was the third. Along with the 1:1 magnification, my main reason was the shorter focal length, allowing me to take photos in more cramped spaces.

OK, this lens can also do 1:1, but it has a longer focal length. I didn't like that, and I still don't. But it's one of only three lenses that supports the new focus stacking feature of the E-M1 firmware release 4, and the only macro. So I really don't have the choice. Took a couple of test photos with it, which show that it works, and that the focal length is too long. So I'll now have to find some suitable motives (and fix the issue with align_image_stack).


eBay creative spelling
Topic: general, opinion Link here

I've ranted in the past about the misspelling “lense” for “lens”, which is so prevalent that both eBay humans and spelling checkers accept it. But now they're doing one better:

 
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I suppose that this is a silly programming error, but that's the way these things establish themselves.


Still more tough lilies
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

The tough bulb that I noticed last week has flowered. Here last week and today:


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I know this flower; we had plenty of them in Kleins Road, though they seem to have arrived only three years ago. But to my surprise, there wasn't just one of them: there are now three coming up, planted in regular intervals:

I can't remember planting them, so my best bet is that this was one of a handful of unidentified bulbs that I brought with me. Unfortunately, they're pink, not Yvonne's favourite colour.


HDR Projects 4 Pro
Topic: technology, photography, opinion Link here

Special offer in the mail today: HDR Projects 4 “Pro for a price that I can't refuse. Or can I? I do a lot of HDR processing with align_image_stack and enfuse. It has the advantage that it's fast, and that everything is done automatically. It has the disadvantage that everything is done automatically.

HDR Projects is a Microsoft space program, of course, but it offers some interesting features, as this video shows:

There's also a German version here, made with a less grating voice.

Either way, there are some useful looking tools, so I downloaded the demo version and tried it out. Where's the manual? If I didn't remember the clicks from the demo video, I wouldn't have known where to start.

But where do I go from there? Processing HDR manually would take forever. Even now, after moving house, I take over 20 HDR images every Saturday. Is there a batch mode? How can you tell without a manual? They really don't seem to supply one, but I finally found it under Support/User Manuals, titled (aren't we modern?) HDR PROJECTS 4 PROFESSIO. Now to read it.


Wattles
Topic: gardening Link here

We've had a Camellia japonica in a pot forever, but it wasn't alone. At Kleins Road it was underneath an Acacia pycnantha, and it collected a number of seeds, many of which have since germinated. The resultant seedlings are up to 50 cm high, and I extracted no less than 16 of them from the pot, though they're not all that big:


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There are two seedlings in the second image. It's not clear that the one on the left will make it.


Friday, 22 January 2016 Dereel → Napoleons → Dereel Images for 22 January 2016
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Food for geriatrics
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

When I was younger we ate two cooked meals a day. When I got older and started working from home, it made its mark. I started putting on weight, and at the height weighed about 94 kg. Here I am in July 1998:


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So we adjusted, and since then we only eat a light breakfast and lunch. But sometimes we want something heavier, like huevos rancheros or nasi lemak. And that's too much for our old bodies. So we're gradually thinking of doing without lunch altogether. Today I had nasi lemak, and Yvonne had a concoction of various components:


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It seems to be working, but I'm not sure yet how it will continue.


JBWere: Surrender your security
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Phone call this monring from somebody claiming to be Terry from JBWere, with whom I have had a couple of investment accounts. On Peter O'Connell's recommendation, I've transferred them to Macquarie. She seemed a bit dense (I replied “Greg Lehey”, and she asked to speak to Greg Lehey. I told her that it was I, and she asked again). Finally she understood and told me that they couldn't do that until they had my personal confirmation, and proceeded to ask me my secret “security“ questions. When I asked her to authenticate herself, she didn't understand.

Why do people do this? On the one hand, I have little doubt that she really was who she said she was. But there's a lot of money at stake, and what are written documents for? After all, she has my signed documents. Called up PPT and spoke to Vicky, who confirmed that her partner at JBWere was a Terry, though that's no confirmation that the person who called me was Terry.

Vicky called me back later and confirmed that all had been settled. About the best thing I can say is that Peter was probably right in suggesting that I change my banker. Probably I've left the impression that I'm a cranky old codger, and nobody will think (can they think?) of the security implications of their behaviour.


More photo goodies
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

More things waiting for me in Napoleons today. What were they? Hard to say from the identification strips: they're placed by Australian Customs.

On the way to the post office, found evidence of a small grass fire in Enfield:


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Back home and discovered that one of the packages was a flash trigger receiver, and the other was a pair of quick release hooks for my camera strap, sent not as indicated from Hong Kong, but from Vientiane. They're barely small enough for the job:


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They fit, but I've only put one on because I'm not sure they'll stay that way. Why can't I find something smaller?


Eucalyptus in flower
Topic: gardening Link here

Walking the dogs, found that a number of Eucalyptus trees in Progress Road are in flower:


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What species? Ficifolia? Took a couple of unopened nuts from the one in the third image. Now to see if they will germinate, and whether they'll be true to colour.


Marinated chicken drumsticks
Topic: food and drink Link here

Decades ago we used to make a pseudo-Chinese dish of marinated chicken drumsticks. I can't put my hand on the recipe any more, but it sounded like a good idea, so I tried again today, using the marinade from marinated chicken wings.

How to marinate them? The trouble is that there isn't much marinade. The drumsticks had been frozen in a ziplok bag, so used that:


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After a couple of hours marinating, decided to cook it sous vide, still in the same bag, for about 2 hours at 78°. Then at the end I deep-fried them:


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They were nice and juicy, but the meat still wasn't falling from the bone. What do I need to do? Higher temperature? Longer cooking time?


Google Translate improvements
Topic: language, technology, opinion Link here

I have a link “Translate this page” at the head of all my diaries. By default it translates into French for people I know who find even Google Translate's results useful. But today I tried it in German.. The results are amazing!

 
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This is a calendar, but “Mar” has been translated as “Beschädigen” (damage), and “May” has been translated as “Kann” (can). It's barely possible to understand the lack of context that could lead to this kind of translation. But this one boggles belief:


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“Donnerstag, 21. Januar zum Jahr 2016” is a translation of “Thursday, 21 January 2016”. A correct translation, which shouldn't be difficult, is “Donnerstag, 21. Jahr 2016”. Where does this “zum Jahr” (“to the year”) come from?

But none of that is as strange as “Portable Drahtabrollvorrichtung” (”portable wire unraveler”). It's a constructive translation of “Dereel”.

But then there's the text itself:

Schließlich wird das Paket, das aus gesendet wurde, Perth in der vergangenen Woche wurde in ankam Napoleons.

That's a mistranslation of “Finally the package that was sent from Perth last week has arrived in Napoleons.”. A better translation would be: “Endlich ist das Paket, das letzte Woche in Perth abgesandt wurde, in Napoleons angekommen”. What has gone wrong here? The grammatical structure is so bad that it's impossible to translate it back to English. Google Translate fears no such issue, of course, and delivers a surprisingly accurate back translation, especially if you ignore the punctuation:

Finally, the package that was sent from, Perth has been in the past week in Napoleon arrived.

Somehow the whole thing is very context dependent. If I put the text into a Google Translate window by itself, I get:

Schließlich wird das Paket, das von Perth letzte Woche gesendet wurde, hat sich in Napoleons kam

That's still wrong, but at least now it's almost intelligible. But while playing around with it, I got this variant:

Schließlich wird das Paket, das aus Perth letzte Woche geschickt wurde, hat sich in Napoleons kam

This is almost identical, but instead of „senden“, it uses „schicken“. Both correspond well enough to English “send”, but why the change of verb?

I think it's fair to say that any first-year German student could do better, without necessarily being correct. About the only explanation I can find is that these translation systems try to ignore syntax. Clearly it doesn't work. Google Translate didn't use to be this bad.


Saturday, 23 January 2016 Dereel Images for 23 January 2016
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Pepper steak sauce revisited
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

How do you serve a filet of beef? Grilled, almost always. And what with it? The traditional versions are Tournedos Rossini and Tournedos Henri IV, both complicated dishes. So instead I usually opt for a pepper sauce. And that has been difficult to keep consistent. It's either too thick or too thin. Today, after the last reduction (only 5 ml cognac!) it was finally thick enough:


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Sasha the contortionist
Topic: animals Link here


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Sunday, 24 January 2016 Dereel Images for 24 January 2016
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Updating the Hugin port
Topic: technology, photography, opinion Link here

Hugin 2016.0.0 beta has been released (what does the second .0 mean? I've never seen any other value). Time to start adapting the FreeBSD port.

First run make clean on the old port. But it failed while cleaning the enblend dependency. It seems I had a conflict in the Makefile. How did that happen? I maintain enblend too, and I can't recall breaking it.

Further investigation showed that the MAINTAINER line in the Makefile, once sacred, is now meaningless. Since I last made any changes, there have been no fewer than 21 commits by other people, many of them sweeping through multiple ports, and none of whom informed me. In the end, the only significant difference was:

-# $FreeBSD: head/graphics/enblend/Makefile 390310 2015-06-22 18:33:20Z antoine $
+# $FreeBSD: head/graphics/enblend/Makefile 404098 2015-12-21 13:28:02Z rakuco $

 PORTNAME=      enblend
-PORTVERSION=   4.1.3
-PORTREVISION=  1
+PORTVERSION=   4.1.1
+PORTREVISION=  12

That's a reversion! I had version 4.1.3, and currently they're building 4.1.1. So after all that, I first need to check that 4.1.3 still works with the current version of Hugin (2015.0.0). And only then can I move to the beta version.

Why is this so complicated? At the very least the maintainer should get informed if somebody treads in his port. I've taken the pragmatic approach and got mutt to highlight messages with the port names in the Subject: line.


Google Translate: better than dissociated-press
Topic: technology, language, opinion Link here

There's a game for Emacs called dissociated-press. It takes a text region and rearranges the words. It's marginally amusing, but it wears off quickly. But the idea of putting the text through the same mill over and over is interesting, so I tried the same technique with Google Translate, using the diary entry I ranted about on Friday, translating back and forth until I got equilibrium:

But then there is the text itself:

Finally, the package that was sent from Perth in the past week in dignity came Napoleon.

This is a mistranslation of "Finally, the package of Perth is in the past week has been skillfully Napoleon came in.". A better translation would be: "Finally, the package will be booked in the last week in Perth came Napoleon".

What went wrong this time? Dignity? Skilfully? Somewhere along the line Google Translate confused „wurde“ (auxiliary verb with a meaning something like “become”) with „Würde“ (dignity). The whole Google Translate approach is showing its limits, but in this particular case it's just a bug, probably due to the anglophone refusal to understand the letters that don't appear in English.

By contrast, dissociated-press is really boring. Somebody must have introduced a bug there too, since it removes about 90% of the buffer, including 100% of this text, and with larger texts it frequently gets stuck in a loop. The best I can find (from the source of the whole month's diary) is:

   “Focus stackipedia.org/wiko insulate well.  Surely
aut 1989.  This was conne/", "Yvonne"); ?>.  It
       see-photo-editor-do you want the same spray the cobwell, so
       that in
flower that → Der a monthat
exchange.com/", Faceboo.
       <p>
Sue BSD
users" worry, "Yvolvesn't go all the weeks"); ?> to
filltext (<<< EOS
<a href="http://suppored!  And som.au/", "Auss="fullwidth">

Getting lircd running
Topic: multimedia, technology Link here

Back to setting up lirc today. I've already established that the location of the configuration files has changed. Put the correct file in there, started lircd, and... nothing. The daemon didn't even complain when I disconnected the (USB) receiver. It did read the configuration file, though, so it must have been something else. Looking on teevee, discovered that I started the daemon manually with undocumented parameters:

/usr/local/sbin/lircd -n --driver=dvico --device=/dev/uhid0

That (finally) worked. OK, the --driver and --device parameters are there, but not dvico, nor any other driver name. And how do you set it up so that the standard service interface starts it correctly? And why doesn't it complain if it can't open its device?


Parasites on house plants
Topic: gardening, animals Link here

Found something strange today:


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It seems that Nikolai put his head up between the leaves of the curry tree, and they stuck. Some kind of insect, requiring spray. And the Hibiscus also has aphids. Hopefully we'll be able to keep them under control better when the winter garden is finished; clearly we'll need to wash down the floor after spraying.


Sunset
Topic: photography, animals, opinion Link here

Another nice sunset today:


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Between the trees on the right there's a dead branch, where cockatoos like to sit:


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But how do you focus on these things? This was with the Zuiko Digital ED 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 and EC-20 2× teleconverter, for a total focal length of 600 mm (1200 mm full-frame equivalent). And it's not really sharp, not surprising for a hand-held shot at that focal length. In addition, autofocus has reached its limits. Next time I'll need a tripod, remote control and manual focus.


Monday, 25 January 2016 Dereel Images for 25 January 2016
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More dog damage
Topic: animals, gardening, opinion Link here

The dogs are growing up. Leonid is nearly 2 years old (which will make him an adult in Australia), and Sasha has stopped chewing things and stealing shoes. So we can let them run out the front of the house, which they greatly prefer for some reason.

Well, that's what I thought. After walking the dogs this afternoon, found that a bulb that they had already dug out once was dug out again, and somebody had had a go at the Strelitzia nicolai:


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Sasha? Seems most likely, since he's still in a destructive phase. But Nikolai has been putting his head in plants where he shouldn't be messing around. Nomen est omen?


Tuesday, 26 January 2016 Dereel Images for 26 January 2016
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Hugin 2016 beta
Topic: technology, photography, opinion Link here

More work on the new Hugin beta today. First I had to fix the current port, for which a bug report is outstanding. And before I did that, I had to unbreak the enblend port.

Surprisingly, all went very smoothly. After fixing the conflicts, both enblend and Hugin Just Ran. On to look at the beta version.

First, where's the tarball? According to the announcement:

It can be downloaded
at sourceforge:
http://sourceforge.net/projects/hugin/files/hugin/hugin-2016.0/hugin-2016.0.0_beta1.tar.bz2/download

OK, how does that compare with the old one? Not much similarity. After a number of failed attempts, discovered that this URL was only for downloading via a web browser, and that the real URL was http://sourceforge.net/projects/hugin/files/hugin/hugin-2016.0/hugin-2016.0.0_beta1.tar.bz2—without the /download component. And, of course, the name contains an underscore, something that isn't kosher in the FreeBSD scheme of things. It also necessitate a custom WORKDIR. In the end I had (before cleaning up):

--- ../hugin/Makefile   2016-01-26 10:23:16.311310000 +1100
+++ Makefile    2016-01-26 13:01:26.001934000 +1100
@@ -2,10 +2,15 @@
 # $FreeBSD: head/graphics/hugin/Makefile 402471 2015-11-27 05:53:39Z grog $

 PORTNAME=      hugin
-PORTVERSION=   2015.0.0
-PORTREVISION=  6
+DISTVERSION=   2016.0.0_beta1
+PORTREVISION=  1
 CATEGORIES=    graphics
-MASTER_SITES=  SF/${PORTNAME}/${PORTNAME}/${PORTNAME}-${PORTVERSION:R}
+# For distributed versions, this should be
+# MASTER_SITES=        SF/${PORTNAME}/${PORTNAME}/${PORTNAME}-${PORTVERSION:R}
+# But that's too simple for Betas, so we have:
+#MASTER_SITES= SF/${PORTNAME}/files/${PORTNAME}-2016.0/${PORTVERSION:R}/download
+MASTER_SITES=  http://sourceforge.net/projects/hugin/files/hugin/hugin-2016.0/
+WRKSRC=                ${WRKDIR}/hugin-2016.0.0

After that, got a surprising message:

===>  Performing in-source build
/bin/mkdir -p /eureka/home/src/FreeBSD/svn/ports/graphics/hugin-2016.0.0/work/hugin-2016.0.0
CMake Error at CMakeLists.txt:7 (message):
  In-source builds are not allowed.

What's that about? And how else do they want to build? Went looking and found very few hits, most of them pointing to the code in CMakeLists.txt (why .txt, incidentally?). The only link that discussed the matter suggested that it had been “fixed”. The commit message doesn't help: “Prevent in tree building”. Why?

Looking at the code, though, it was easy enough to remove, and then Hugin built without any other patches. That's certainly a first.

Running it was a little more sobering. The control point detectors went crazy, with errors of up to 338 pixels, this on a simple panorama that gets “very good fit” on the current version. A discussion on the mailing list ensued, in which Terry Duell managed to get better results by avoiding using the “Assistant”. But his results and my results still diverged. Is this an issue with the FreeBSD port or something else? I suppose I should install Linux somewhere and try again.


Enormous kangaroo
Topic: animals, photography, opinion Link here

In the evening, Nikolai was interested in something outside. It proved to be one of the biggest kangaroos I have ever seen, inside the inner garden fence. By the time I got a camera, it had jumped the fence, but was still there:


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This is an Eastern grey. The fence posts behind him are about 1.2 m high, so I'd put him at at least 1.8 m. And in passing, this was taken at 20:57, quarter of an hour after sunset. It would have been an ideal situation to use my new Zuiko Digital ED 35-100mm f/2.0, but I didn't think of it.


Wednesday, 27 January 2016 Dereel
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VirtualBox revisited
Topic: technology, photography, opinion Link here

I'm having difficulties with Hugin 2016.0.0 Beta 1 on FreeBSD. Who's to blame? My port, or Hugin? To find out I need to fire up a Linux version, but I don't have a spare machine. Time to reinstate my VirtualBox installation, which I haven't used for two years, since installing a new kernel on the new eureka.

How do you do that again? Found lots of old diary entries, of course, but they're more a blow-by-blow description. Time for a HOWTO.

Started up as root, probably a bad idea. And it didn't find my old VMs. How did that go again? Climbed through the menus and found the VM path: /root/Virtualbox VMs. What a path! Spaces in it, and on the root file system.

OK, I shouldn't be doing it as root, it seems. Fired up as grog, not without a lot of noise, hundreds of:

Qt WARNING: libpng warning: iCCP: known incorrect sRGB profile
Qt WARNING: libpng warning: iCCP: known incorrect sRGB profile

What's causing that? It doesn't seem to be my doing. Ignored it and pointed at my existing VMs. To my surprise it found them, but it couldn't get the network to work. I had noticed that: after kldload vboxnet nothing was reported (apart from exit status 0). Last time it created a network interface vboxnet0. But it did load a number of modules:

 8    2 0xffffffff82a72000 29b2     vboxnetflt.ko
 9    2 0xffffffff82a75000 b9f8     netgraph.ko
10    1 0xffffffff82a81000 412b     ng_ether.ko
11    1 0xffffffff82a86000 3f64     vboxnetadp.ko

OK, maybe they're incompatible. Started again with a new directory and a new VM, but had the same difficulty. Networking has been a problem in the past, but it seems that they've rethought some of the stuff. More RTFM confused me as much as last time. About the only thing I discovered was that I needed to create the host network interface manually with

=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/20) ~ 71 -> VBoxManage hostonlyif create

After that, the network worked. The OS was Ubuntu 14.04, and for some reason it came up with a graphical display only (of course!) at 640×480, which I couldn't change. Off to find out from Google, but I couldn't access the Internet: the link wasn't working. Nothing obvious: the interface looked right, routing looked right, but there was no traffic. Coincidence?

Stopped the VM and VirtualBox and restarted dhclient, and the network came back. Started VirtualBox again, and I was off the net again.

What's causing that? It's certainly not obvious from outside. But first things first: get VirtualBox working correctly. Moved to stable, where there's no second interface to mess up, and tried again. Got my VM up and running, and found this page which explains a bug feature: to change the display resolution you need the VirtualBox guest additions:

=== root@echuca ~ 72 -> apt-get install virtualbox-guest-dkms

In passing it also noted that you can start a terminal window (something that Ubuntu normally hides) with Ctrl-Alt-T. But I couldn't download the package: my network didn't work. Probably this is because the interface wasn't there during installation. But how do I change things? Some whizz-bang graphical configuration utility, probably. And how do I start that? First I need a decent sized display. Catch-22.

So probably the best thing to do is to install a FreeBSD image, where I can at least access the system and find out how to get the network to work correctly. Then I can revisit Ubuntu.

How painful small screens are!


Thursday, 28 January 2016 Dereel Images for 28 January 2016
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RCD woes
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Woke up round 5:30 this morning and heard a double beep. What was that? Power failure? No, the far-too-bright blue LED on the air conditioner control panel was still on. And of course the bed radio, connected to the UPS, was on too, but that doesn't mean anything.

The RCD? Could be. Out to take a look, and sure enough, it had tripped. Why? At least on other occasions I knew a reason (beyond the fact that Jim Lannen's wiring had once again cased problems).

Couldn't get back to sleep after that, but when I finally got up, it had tripped again. And it had taken the water pump with it. Why is the (external) water pump on the same RCD as everything else? Because it's the only one. It had been raining, and potentially a bit of moisture had got into the circuitry. High time for separate connections for UPS, pump and the rest of the world. So far (admittedly helped by the more reliable power supply here) the wiring has caused more problems than it has avoided.


Vacuum cleaner maintenance
Topic: general, opinion Link here

One of the extras that we had put in the new house was a ducted vacuum cleaner. The main component is in the garage:


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It's much larger than a normal vacuum cleaner (blue thing on the left), because it can be. It's connected via ducts in the walls to three locations in the house (dining room, hallway and hall in the sleeping area), and it also has a connector on the body (not visible here). Yvonne and the cleaning lady both think it's excellent. But of course vacuum cleaners need maintenance, in particular blockages and full dust bags. Today the bag filled up (only the first time in nearly 9 months), and we had to change it. It's not easy: the full bag must weigh about 15 kg, and it comes out the top of the unit, about 1.5 m above the floor. It's not clear why the unit couldn't have been placed on the floor, making it only 70 cm to lift out the bag.

And how do you put in the new one? There's a plastic pipe that needs to be put through a slotted hole in a piece of cardboard:


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Not easy when you have nothing to push against, and I managed to tear the bag trying. But are the bags we bought (blue, on the left) even the correct bags? They're considerably bigger than the originals on the right, and the slot is further down.

You wouldn't think that this sort of thing would be complicated.


VirtualBox progress
Topic: technology Link here

More playing around with VirtualBox today. Downloaded and “installed” a FreeBSD image, which worked out of the box. With that I was able to confirm that host-only networking works, but of course it requires its own network. And bridged mode networking does work after all; presumably my previous issues were due to the lack of the vboxnet0 interface on the host.

So I was able to fire up echuca (the Ubuntu box) and install the virtualbox-guest-dkms package. Rebooted as instructed, tried to change the resolution and... nothing. No change.

Where do I go from here? I have other irons in the fire, so I tended to them.


Local modifications to ports
Topic: technology, multimedia, opinion Link here

I've been hacking on mplayer for over 10 years now, and I'm currently having fun merging the patches to the current version. Last month I made a start, but soon ran into trouble. Made more progress today: it compiled and ran, but my changes didn't work.

More searching, and I discovered I had a multitude of versions there, including at least one complete set of patches. For the one file cfg-mplayer.h I had 14 copies and 9 RCS control files. Which is the correct one? They're dated from 3 July 2005 to 22 August 2011. The best guess would be the last, but I'm still not convinced. One thing's clear, though: I need to come up with a single way of structuring these changes. I've decided that it's not a good idea to keep them as a separate directory in the ports tree (one of the pathnames is /usr/ports/multimedia/mplayer-local/), because that way I can't just blow away the ports tree if I want to. Other pathnames included /home/ports/multimedia/mplayer-local/, /home/grog/ports/mplayer/ and /home/grog/src/ports/mplayer. I think I should stick with the last.


Flash trigger issues
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

The replacement for the flash trigger that died last week has arrived already. Given the issues I have had, tested it immediately. It worked fine with the flashes in the dining room, but not reliably with my new 400 J flash units. Neither did the functional trigger I already had. It worked reliably when very close, but it was touch and go even at 50 cm.

That's not the fault of the flashes, which don't have their own receivers. The real issue is the receiver, supplied by the same eBay seller. Flat batteries? Tried changing them for freshly charged batteries, and sure enough, it worked better, but still not well enough.

Is it maybe not designed for NiMH batteries? Put in some NiZn batteries, and all was well. But that's very much a recommendation for receivers that have other power sources, especially since the receivers draw current as long as they're turned on, and it's easy to forget to turn them off. The one in the dining room is mains powered, and the Godox triggers I was looking at last week are powered by the flash.


Friday, 29 January 2016 Dereel Images for 29 January 2016
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Panoramas over the years
Topic: technology, photography, opinion Link here

Yesterday I committed enblend version 4.1.3. And almost immediately got an automated response telling me that 4.1.4 was available. Coincidence? No. I had made the changes to the port months ago, and was overtaken by other things. In the meantime 4.1.4 was released, some months ago.

Reading the release notes shows that this change was significant in a number of ways. The notes go back all the way to 2004 in reverse chronological sequence, and they got me thinking. How much better is enblend now than when I started using it?

That proved to be 7½ years ago, and the results I got at the time really didn't look good:


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A bit of playing around with my current system looks a lot better:


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What's the difference? Certainly the raw image processing (using ufraw at the time, now using DxO Optics “Pro”) helps. But it doesn't explain the uneven gradation of the old image, which must have been due to a quirk in the version of enblend of the day. It's also intersting to note that this was the only panorama that looked that bad. This 360° panorama differs mainly by gradation, though I also didn't know how to crop panoramas in those days:


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Others showed other issues, like this pair:


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The gradation here is probably the difference between ufraw and DxO. But the projection! My guess is that I was using rectilinear at the time, while now it's cylindrical. But even with rectilinear projection I wasn't able to get as much of the car in the image as I did then.


Saturday, 30 January 2016 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 30 January 2016
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More VirtualBox issues
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Why does Virtualbox kill my network? My previous assumption was that it was interfering with DHCP, but today I ran traceroute and confirmed that the external network link was still running—only the traffic wasn't getting through. Firewall? Somehow, yes. If I allowed all traffic across the link, the problem didn't occur, though others did, since the firewall rules also handle NAT. Spent quite some time trying to get my head around it, without success. In particular, the exact sequence was not repeatable. Sometimes I just needed to stop the virtual machine to get normal connectivity back. In other cases it didn't happen until I stopped the VirtualBox process, and in others it didn't happen until some time later. Somehow VirtualBox plays tricks behind the scenes that aren't immediately clear.


Firefox: new record?
Topic: technology Link here

I've already commented on the extreme power hunger of firefox. At the time I considered my machine to be about 60 times the speed of a CDC 7600 supercomputer from the 1970s. Since then I have replaced my machine with one 4 times as fast, so when I look at this I'm looking at the equivalent of 250,000 odd minutes of CDC 7600 CPU time.

  PID USERNAME      THR PRI NICE   SIZE    RES STATE   C   TIME    WCPU COMMAND
12236 grog           76  22    0 20950M  1949M uwait   1  18.2H  19.24% firefox

That's about 6 months, probably longer than any 7600 ever stayed up—the average uptime was less than a day. And look at the process size. Over 20 GB, probably more than the total disk storage of any 7600. What is it doing with all these resources? Wasting them?


Well-sealed houses
Topic: Stones Road house, animals Link here

Our new house has 6½ stars. What does that mean? Who knows? I have already established that it's related to the energy efficiency of the house, but in units that are not directly comparable even between different houses with the same rating. The only specific information I can find is clearly wrong.

But one way of keeping energy efficiency is by avoiding gaps to the outside. Here's our front door:


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The detail image is the extreme bottom right, showing a gap to the outside.

And today I found yet another Huntsman spider—between the window and flyscreen in the TV room.


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How did it get there? We haven't opened the window in a long time, nor have we removed the screen. Can they really get through such small spaces?


Disadvantages of new macro lens
Topic: photography Link here

The photos of the spider were ideal for my new m.Zuiko Digital ED 60 mm f/2.8 macro lens—I thought. But for the second image I wanted a ring flash. And it doesn't fit! It comes with adapter rings for a number of different filter sizes, but not the 46 mm of the 60 mm lens. So I had to fall back to the Zuiko Digital 35mm f/3.5 Macro. Not that it makes much difference: the flyscreen made it impossible to get a good photo.


Paella revisited
Topic: food and drink, general, opinion Link here

We had planned paella valenciana for dinner tonight, which involved starting some time in advance. Did we have everything? No, no prawns, no chicken thighs. We had to go into town to buy some, picking up fresh locally made chorizo at the same time. And when we got home we discovered that we hadn't checked on the rice; fortunately we were only 12 g short.

Somehow paella has always been a problem, and I'm still not 100% happy. Today we once again used Moreton Bay bugs, which look good, but are really not the easiest thing to handle. I had cut them open before serving, but obviously not enough:


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And at the end, there's really not very much inside:


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Drinking glasses: enormous
Topic: general, opinion Link here

We've been using the same drinking glasses for years, in some cases decades, and they're looking the worse for wear. Time to buy some new ones. While in town we went looking. There seem to be two kinds: either cheap and nasty, or expensive and enormous, so big that they won't fit into a dish washer. Even the ones we have now take about ¼ bottle. What happened to normal sized glasses?


Bassoon music in Ballarat
Topic: music Link here

While in town, discovered that the Kammerphilarmonie Köln will be performing in Ballarat next week with a programme including a Vivaldi bassoon concerto and the Mozart bassoon concerto. That sounds like just the kind of concert for me, so when I got home I checked up on it on the web. Yes, it's at the Central Uniting Church in Lydiard St S, just across the road from PPT and next door to Her Majesty's Theatre, with which they seem to be cooperating. And we could buy tickets for different prices depending on where you buy them.

And the programme? Ah, why bother putting that up on the web? They have posters round Ballarat. The KPK home page doesn't help much either; it looks as if it hasn't been updated in over 3 years, and it stops in mid-page. Their list of soloists doesn't include Friday's bassoonist, whom I don't know, and their list of concerts is empty. Still, we'll probably end up going there.


Sunday, 31 January 2016 Dereel Images for 31 January 2016
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Rain!
Topic: general Link here

At the beginning of the week, the Bureau of Meteorology forecast lots of rain for our area between Monday and Saturday, up to 60 mm. What did we get? Measly 5 mm. But today, which wasn't supposed to be very wet, was a completely different situation:


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We had nearly 25 mm of rain overnight, and the water tanks were overflowing. OK, BoM, you can stop raining now.

But why was the water tank overflowing at the inlet? It has an overflow pipe on the other side:


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The inlet goes into a strainer, and I thought that maybe it was clogged with leaves. But no, it's clean enough:


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So it seems that the volume of water was just too much.


Upgrading ports: the pitfalls
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

The new pkg system for FreeBSD is finally usable, and I've been upgrading my ports like that for some time. But there are still issues: it installs pre-built packages, so it can't respect individual options. After upgrading eureka recently I've had a number of issues.

First, my xterms have grown icons again. It's been less than two months since I found out how to hack the source to get rid of them, but the update put them back.

Next, mutt developed black spots. That's a bug feature of mutt when compiled the default way using ncurses: it's obviously intended to display in reverse video (white on black), and some of the arrows have a black background no matter what the correct background colour is. The version I use, with S-Lang, does that right, though it messes up other things.

Finally, Emacs aspell mode is broken: somehow it has lost its dictionaries. This isn't anything to do with my options, but as a result I haven't found out how to fix it. Somehow the documentation for aspell is defective.

Time for another HOWTO.


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