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January 2019
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Tuesday, 1 January 2019 Dereel Images for 1 January 2019
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Aussie responds
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Call at 9:00 this morning from A at Aussie Broadband, to tell me yes, indeed, 180.150.2.214 was a Google cache server on their network.

And that was all. Never mind that I had asked whether it was the correct server for my IP address; he still couldn't answer that. And once again he went off about DNS issues. I pointed him to the traces I had sent. Ah, they hadn't looked at that. And he wanted to run a traceroute to find out what was going on; the Aussie support people seem to confuse traceroute and packet traces.

Sorry, Aussie, this isn't good enough. As I had reported yesterday, 180.150.2.214 appears no longer to be a cache server; I have two different addresses instead. And yes, I know that at the moment it looks as if the fault is here at my end (which I ultimately told him), but I've gone through a lot of trouble to document the issue, and not only can't they answer my quite simple questions, they don't even look at the evidence that I've provided. This is really worth a complaint to Aussie management.


Researching the Android problem
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I still don't understand all the details of my Android download issues. I have at least:

  1. Where did the alias 180.150.55.199 come from?
  2. Why did the presence of the alias on xl0 prevent access to the subnet 180.150.0.0/16?
  3. Why does it work some of the time, apparently at random?

First look at the routing issue. Added the alias again, and traced the external interface:

17:10:16.726059 ARP, Request who-has 180.150.1.28 tell 180.150.55.199, length 28
17:10:17.731029 ARP, Request who-has 180.150.1.28 tell 180.150.55.199, length 28
17:10:18.736971 ARP, Request who-has 180.150.1.28 tell 180.150.55.199, length 28
...

Of course! xl0 is an Ethernet interface, so it expects to be able to talk to it directly uses ARP to establish the Ethernet address. Clearly it fails. If I change the net mask to /24, it works, since then the destination address is no longer in the network range.

OK, next: where does this address come from? I had already established that it cropped up in the firewall rules, but where else? A clue presented itself quite quickly: after deleting the alias, I could no longer access the local web server (wwww.lemis.com; count those “w”s). What's up?

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/7) ~ 108 -> host wwww
wwww.lemis.com is an alias for aussie-gw.lemis.com.
aussie-gw.lemis.com has address 180.150.55.199

Huh? Once upon a time that must have been the address, but when? I couldn't find any reference to it in the DNS configuration. But the next clue presented itself when I “fixed” the address. This diary contains details that are only accessible locally, like the real names of the Aussie Broadband consultants. But I could no longer see that.

OK, UTSL. This is in ~/public_html/php/includes/header.php. And there I saw:

$islocal = preg_match (":192\.109\.197\.[0-9]:", $_SERVER ["REMOTE_ADDR"])
  || ($_SERVER ["REMOTE_ADDR"] == "180.150.55.199");

Where did that come from? Surprise, surprise, it's ancient. It was introduced in revision 1.376 on 30 August 2017, for reasons that I didn't bother to record:

- * $Id: diary-jan2019.php,v 1.40 2019/04/19 04:30:13 grog Exp $
+ * $Id: diary-jan2019.php,v 1.40 2019/04/19 04:30:13 grog Exp $

So where did the address come from? Have I been kludging that ever since? Time to drag out some old log files and take a look.

That leaves me with the third issue: why was it intermittent? That also offered itself in conjunction with a different issue. I had wondered what DNS lookups taskumatti made, and came across this exchange:

14:12:09.764725 IP 192.109.197.239.1574 > 192.109.197.137.53: Flags [P.], seq 1:32, ack 1, win 343, options [nop,nop,TS val 8986854 ecr 2241263770], length 3110199+ A? i.ytimg.com. (29)
14:12:09.764877 IP 192.109.197.137.53 > 192.109.197.239.1574: Flags [P.], seq 1:1125, ack 32, win 12573, options [nop,nop,TS val 2241263774 ecr 8986854], length 112410199 17/13/26 CNAME ytimg-edge-static.l.google.com., A 180.150.1.47, A 180.150.2.187, A 180.150.1.58, A 180.150.1.43, A 180.150.2.152, A 180.150.2.156, A 180.150.2.148, A 180.150.1.28, A 180.150.1.51, A 180.150.1.55, A 180.150.2.160, A 180.150.1.32, A 180.150.1.40, A 180.150.2.176, A 180.150.2.180, A 180.150.1.17 (1122)

That's not overly clear in tcpdump output, but it's a DNS lookup for i.ytimg.com. Tried manually, it returns:

=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/6) ~ 940 -> nslookup i.ytimg.com
Non-authoritative answer:
i.ytimg.com     canonical name = ytimg-edge-static.l.google.com.
Address: 180.150.2.168
Name:   ytimg-edge-static.l.google.com
Address: 180.150.2.176
Address: 180.150.2.144
Address: 180.150.2.163
Address: 180.150.1.40
Address: 180.150.2.152
Address: 180.150.2.172
Address: 180.150.2.180
Address: 180.150.2.184
Address: 180.150.2.187
Address: 180.150.1.58
Address: 180.150.1.32
Address: 180.150.1.17
Address: 180.150.2.156
Address: 180.150.2.148
Address: 180.150.2.160

Look at the number of servers! It claims (repeatedly, and removed from this list) that the reverse lookup for each address is ytimg-edge-static.l.google.com, but it lies. All the ones I have tried resolve to what I've already seen, cache.google.com.

All of these addresses are in the block 180.150.0.0/16, but they don't need to be. My guess is that this particular lookup related to a YouTube update, and that potentially other lookups could also return cache servers outside that range, thus explaining the seemingly random successes.

So: almost finished. I just don't understand why this old IP address was still hanging around long after it had outlived its usefulness.


Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Bushfire!
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

While chasing down my routing problems, my phone went “Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!” a couple of times. What's that? Ah, that's VicEmergency's way of saying “we have a report of a bushfire”. Where? Ah, you're going to have to find the emergency app and work it out for yourself. If you can guess what the 4 beeps mean, you should be able to make it. And yes, there's a certain logic in that. But given the effort Android puts into speech recognition, why do no apps use voice output? It would be so much more helpful.


Wednesday, 2 January 2019 Dereel Images for 2 January 2019
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Focus stacking revisited
Topic: photography, technology, opinion, gardening Link here

There are a number of tiny wildflowers in the garden:


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I've been meaning to take photos of them for some time. But my experience two months ago suggested that I should do more preparation.

Two months ago I was taking photos of Thelymitra pauciflora, flowers about 10 to 15 mm across. The ones I'm looking at now are closer to 5 mm across:

 
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Clearly I can take photos like the ones above, and they expand quite satisfactorily:

 
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In fact, the second flower compares quite well to the experiments I made four years ago:

 
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But I'm trying to fill the frame. That's difficult: firstly, the flowers are too small. The biggest magnification I can get is about 1.43 with the M.Zuiko Digital ED 60 mm f/2.8 Macro and extension tubes (about 12 mm across). Theoretically I should be able to get 2.1 magnification (8.2 mm across) with the M.Zuiko Digital ED 30 mm f/3.5 Macro, but that requires the images to be almost touching the lens, as I discovered a year ago:

 
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And of course at those distances focus stacking is absolutely essential. So I have more issues: how do I position the camera and viewfinder, and how many shots do I take?

Unlike the photos taken two months ago, these flowers are in the full sun (in fact, the orange ones require full sun to open), and that makes the viewfinder an issue. One possibility that occurred to me was goggles that connect to the HDMI output of the camera. There are some on the market, but who knows whether they work? The other possibility is the one that I have had since the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark I five years ago: use a mobile phone. But the experiments I made at the time suggested that it was pretty useless:

 
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Admittedly, that's a detail, and there were ways to marginally improve it, but it was still not usable. But I now have the successor model. Is it any better? Yes! Or at least, that's the first impression, though it still insists on giving me a JPEG image that I don't want and which messes up my workflow. But at the very least I need to investigate further.

And the number of shots? That still requires investigation. A year ago I took a large number of photos to try to understand how the focus system worked, but analysis was complicated, and I never got it finished. I probably need to do something about that.


Investigating the network configuration confusion
Topic: technology, history, opinion Link here

Spent most of the day trying to read in old log files from the beginning of December, the date of my last level 0 dump. I failed. Part of the issue was that the dump (in fact, a compressed tarball) was so big that it took hours of CPU time just to untar it, and I think during that time the daily dump ran and then umounted the backup disk from underneath it. Another day to wait...


Thursday, 3 January 2019 Dereel Images for 3 January 2019
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Big bang influence
Topic: general, multimedia, opinion Link here

For reasons that I can only marginally understand, Yvonne likes the The Big Bang Theory TV series. I fear that she identifies Sheldon Cooper with me.

An example: when setting the table for breakfast, she used to put the coffee cup on the table. That makes sense until you realize that it has to be filled from the coffee machine behind me, and that I don't usually drink coffee until after breakfast. So now she puts it in the coffee machine.

Problem: which way round?

 
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I decided on handle to the right, though arguably that's wrong, since I need to be able to grab it easily. To be pondered upon.


Getting my Mojo working
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Penang Laksa for breakfast today. I have a number of different pastes, and in principle I'm happy with this Richmond paste:

 
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But over the last 6 months I have bought a number of alternatives, including this one from “Chilliz”, a company apparently without a web site:

 
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What's a Mojo? Nothing obvious. It does occur in the Malay Wikipedia, but not in a culinary context. And it seems that there's a district in Java with that name. That would match the “Karé”, which is clearly Indonesian. But I did find a reference in the OED:

A sauce or marinade of Cuban origin, containing garlic, olive oil, sour oranges and (frequently) other citrus fruits.

Not quite the composition of laksa, but potentially similar. And Cuba is about as far from Mojo as you can get on this Earth, as the Great Circle Mapper says:

Image

Still, the makeup of the paste seems good enough, and it was worth trying. But before preparing it, I discovered this:

 
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Tomato Sardine? I suppose that means sardines in tomato sauce. What sacrilege! And yes, of course I don't have to use that. But then it wants 400 g of tamarind juice! Not quite what the front of the package said:

 
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More to the point, 400 g is double the weight of the paste. All the pastes I've had so far have tamarind concentrate in them, so presumably this is not intended as concentrate. But how much concentrate? This is too hard, so I used the Richmond concentrate. It'll take a while to get this to work.


Nikolai's wound
Topic: animals Link here

Took Nikolai's shirt off again today:

 
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It's looking much better, but he's still licking at it, and we're afraid that he will tear it apart again. So another couple of weeks of shirts, I fear.


Wildflower macros in earnest
Topic: photography, gardening, opinion Link here

I've put working out the number of steps for my wildflower macros into the “too hard” basket. Dammit, at this rate they'll finish flowering before I try anything.

So out into the garden with my rig. Turned on the remote viewfinder and... got a playback image of the last photo that I had taken, confusingly close to what I was looking at:

 
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It should have been much closer:

 
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Nothing I could do would change the display to a viewfinder. Dammit, is this some pessimization caused by the last firmware update?

OK, let's see how it works with taskumatti, my mobile phone. About as bad as I had feared. Despite maximum display brightness (how do you set that on the fly?), I could barely see anything, and of course holding the thing didn't make adjusting it any easier. It was a sheer coincidence that I got this photo, almost acceptable, though clearly not focus stacked:

 
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The whole thing was such a mess that I gave up. Back to check on firmware updates. No, I haven't updated the firmware since two months ago. I have updated some settings on the camera, and one of them must have broken the display. Now the long, painful search for the correct settings.


Trump: who needs friends?
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

Donald Trump is currently somewhat embattled at home, something that will hopefully lead to his demise. And he's not exactly popular abroad. About his biggest fans are the Israelis.

What can you do about that? Annoy your friends! It has worked before. So this article in the Times of Israel should have come as no surprise:

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday gave Iran free rein to further entrench itself in Syria

Is that quotation correct? I haven't seen it elsewhere, though world traveller Trump did refer to Syria as “sand and death”. What is he trying to achieve?


Friday, 4 January 2019 Dereel Images for 4 January 2019
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Bushfire!
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

It was very hot today—the temperature reached 41.5°—and it was quite windy, so of course we were on alert for bushfires. And sure enough, round 9:16 my phone went beep-beep-beep-beep. OK, VicEmergency, where's the fire?

None! So I dragged out my camera (why aren't I taking screen shots? Every Android release seems to have a different way, and I haven't found this one yet, though I really should look), and took a photo. Nothing in my area:

 
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While I was puzzling with this (and finding a good lens to use), finally I got the message:

 
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I managed to cut the time off the display, but the Exif data for the photo show that it was taken at 9:19:43. Ah, the Other Fire. What the hell is that? After dismissing the message, I saw:

 
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Nothing again. Of course, half the tiny screen was taken up with irrelevant information. When I finally got it I got a map location (which I didn't need) and no further information beyond the fact that the incident was reported 3 minutes after VicEmergency beeped at me:

 
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What about that ZOOM at bottom left? No idea. It didn't respond. And while I was trying to find out what it was, it went away again, as if it had never occurred.

Should I growl at VicEmergency again? It's repetitive, and maybe they think it's funny, maybe a preparation for the tenth anniversary of the Black Saturday bushfires, to show how little they have learnt.


More newfs insights
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I've had a few strange responses from one of my external backup disks. It's not the newest, and possibly it's an indication that it's dying. But since getting my new video backup disk last month, I have a 4 TB disk sitting around doing nothing. OK, use that.

And the newfs parameters? I always agonize about them. But in this case I can take the parameters from the old backup disk with the help of dumpfs. Or should I take the parameters from /videobackup, the new disk?

=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/6) ~ 975 -> df -i /videobackup /backups
Filesystem 1048576-blocks      Used     Avail Capacity iused   ifree %iused  Mounted on
/dev/da4p1      5,722,572 3,491,581 2,173,765    62%   8,376     801,990    1%   /videobackup
/dev/da1p1      1,847,816 1,298,023   401,968    76%  13,897 244,606,389    0%   /backups

OK, /backups doesn't look like I have done a very good job of allocating inodes. How about seeing what I need for /videobackup?

=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/6) ~ 976 -> dumpfs -m /videobackup
# newfs command for /videobackup (/dev/da0p1)
newfs -O 2 -a 4 -b 32768 -d 32768 -e 4096 -f 4096 -g 16384 -h 64 -i 7405568 -k 9256 -m 8 -o time -s 7813969832 /dev/da0p1
=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/3) ~ 157 -> dumpfs -m /backups
# newfs command for /backups (/dev/da1p1)
newfs -O 2 -a 4 -b 32768 -d 32768 -e 4096 -f 4096 -g 16384 -h 64 -i 8192 -k 6408 -m 8 -o time -s 3907029096 /dev/da1p1

OK, but what's that device name? /dev/da0p1? It's /dev/da4p1! What went wrong there? It got it right for /backups. Yet another thing to chase down.

In the end I took essentially the parameters for /videobackups; trying to reduce the inode count further seems to hit some internal limit (which, of course, might be yet another strangeness in newfs). And yes, in this case /dev/da0s1 is correct. That's the disk I wanted to build the file system on:

newfs -L backups -O 2 -a 4 -b 32768 -d 32768 -e 4096 -f 4096 -g 419430400 -h 64 -i 7405568 -k 1152 -m 1 -o space /dev/da0p1

In passing, it occurs to me that that disk had last been mounted on /videobackups: it was the old backup disk. Did that maybe confuse dumpfs?

Then to copy the data across. Only a little over 2 TB, so less than a day at data rates round 30 MB/s (apparently limited by the USB interface). It's interesting to compare that with the IBM 3330 class disks that we used in the 1970s and early 1980s. Ours (Tandem Computers) were made by Ampex and stored 300 MB, with a maximum transfer rate of 840 kB/s. That means that we could (theoretically) copy the entire disk contents in 6 minutes. Now we can copy the same amount of data in 6 seconds, but it still would take over 11 hours at 100 MB/s to copy the 4 TB disk.

Also in passing, after copying the data I checked how much storage I have directly connected to eureka. It's amazing—32 TB:

=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/3) ~ 160 -> df -ic
Filesystem  1048576-blocks      Used     Avail Capacity   iused       ifree %iused  Mounted on
/dev/ada0p2         39,662    28,957     7,532    79%   563,862   4,733,032   11%   /
devfs                    0         0         0   100%         0           0  100%   /dev
/dev/ada0p4         39,662    12,965    23,524    36%   260,823   5,036,071    5%   /destdir
/dev/ada0p5         29,000     3,670    23,009    14%       210   3,852,076    0%   /photowork
/dev/ada1p2      2,820,026 2,580,421    14,002    99% 9,688,958  12,923,520   43%   /home
fdescfs                  0         0         0   100%         4     941,001    0%   /dev/fd
procfs                   0         0         0   100%         1           0  100%   /proc
/dev/da2p1       1,907,067 1,703,134    51,367    97%    53,955   2,113,851    2%   /dump
/dev/ada2p1      7,629,565 5,210,729 2,342,540    69% 1,674,676   1,568,970   52%   /Photos
/dev/da4p1       5,722,572 3,491,581 2,173,765    62%     8,376     801,990    1%   /videobackup
/dev/da1p1       1,847,816 1,298,023   401,968    76%    13,897 244,606,389    0%   /backups
/dev/da0p1       3,815,019 1,298,021 2,478,847    34%    13,881     526,405    3%   /mnt
/dev/da3p1       7,629,565 5,241,712 2,311,557    69% 1,722,374   1,521,272   53%   /photobackup
total           31,479,959 20,869,217 9,828,115    68% 14,001,017 278,624,577    5%

I even have nearly 10 TB of free space. I could never have dreamed of that 25 years ago.


Plummeting temperatures
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Today was another of those days where we had a sudden plummet of temperature in mid-afternoon:

Click to see larger image
mysql> SELECT time, outside_temp FROM observations WHERE date = "2019-1-4" AND time > "14:52" AND time > "14:59";
+----------+--------------+
| time     | outside_temp |
+----------+--------------+
| 14:52:42 |         41.2 |
| 14:53:44 |         40.7 |
| 14:54:45 |         38.8 |
| 14:55:47 |         37.9 |
| 14:56:48 |         37.1 |
| 14:57:50 |           36 |
| 14:58:51 |         35.8 |
+----------+--------------+

In the 61 seconds between 14:53:44 and 14:54:45 the temperature dropped by 1.9°. A record? No, this time last year I measured 2.2° in the same time frame.


Another wildflower?
Topic: gardening Link here

Seen while walking the dogs today:

 
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Is that something new? We have lots of flowers like that on the property, but I haven't seen them grow so dense or so high. To be compared.


Saturday, 5 January 2019 Dereel Images for 5 January 2019
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Android: taking screen shots
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I've been dragging my feet on taking screen shots of my Android display, preferring to take photos instead. That's not an improvement: it means a lot of work, including straightening:

 
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And the results aren't as good.

Or aren't they? On this occasion, showing typical behaviour of the VicEmergency app, I managed to get an image with very little of the almost omnipresent Moiré, and the gradation looks considerably better (second image):

 
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Still, it's not worth the work. But what's the magic gesture (a term that reminds me of the old “V sign”, not the one for victory) for taking a screen shot? Google to my aid. How to take a screenshot on your android phone sounded the right one.

It starts off with:

Every Android phone is different, and so is taking screenshots with them... We're here to help: Just find your Android phone on the list below to learn the various ways to snap, share, and save a screenshot.

OK, where's my phone? Not there. No Nokia at all. OK, look specifically for Nokia, which takes me to Take a Screenshot on a Nokia Android Phone.

Press the "Volume Down" button and the "Lock" button at the same time. You can find those buttons on the right side of your phone. You will hear camera shutter sounds that indicate your screenshot has been successfully taken.

What's the “Lock” button? What I have always called the “Power” button. Why Lock? Who knows? Still, that's exactly what the old way was. And it's fussy. The instructions tell me that I can then view the screenshot by “swiping” downwards. No, I can't. No reaction.

Still, I don't want to view it: I want to copy it to a Real Computer, something that Android doesn't really think important. But I can do it with WiFi File Transferif I know where the files are. I already have a location for photos taken with the phone: http://taskumatti.lemis.com:1234/storage/emulated/0/DCIM/Camera/. So it must be somewhere round there, right?

Wrong, fool. This is Android. After some playing around I found them at http://taskumatti.lemis.com:1234/storage/emulated/0/Pictures/Screenshots/. Why the difference? This is Android.

In passing, what time was this taken?

 
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It was 12:20, but I have no idea why it's trying to show two different times.


Re-enabling HDMI viewfinder
Topic: photography Link here

So why does my Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II no longer transfer viewfinder information to the HDMI monitor? A bit of trial and error (fortunately not too much) gave me the answer: menu D4/HDMI/HDMI control needs to be set to “off”. Possibly that even makes sense. Out to take a look at the flowers, but the weather is cooler, it was late in the day, and the ones I wanted weren't open. Mañana?


Nikolai's wound: better than expected
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

Chris Bahlo over this evening, and she and Yvonne took a look at Nikolai's wound. Chris decided that it the lump on top was just matted hair, and without even telling me the ladies removed it, showing a much smaller wound than we had thought.

Photos? Sorry, I wasn't given that option.


Abusive abuse@
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

The scam of the month are messages like this one:

From abuse@lemis.com  Thu Jan  6 16:25:09 2019
Return-Path: <abuse@lemis.com>
X-Original-To: abuse@lemis.com
Delivered-To: groggyhimself@lemis.com
Received: from cpc1-newt39-2-0-cust128.19-3.cable.virginm.net (cpc1-newt39-2-0-cust128.19-3.cable.virginm.net
        [77.101.118.129])
        by www.lemis.com (Postfix) with ESMTP id 21BB71B72837
        for <abuse@lemis.com>; Thu,  6 Jan 2019 05:23:16 +0000 (UTC)
Date: 6 Jan 2019 03:53:10 -0100
From: abuse@lemis.com
To: abuse@lemis.com
Subject: abuse@lemis.com was under attack! Change your access data!
X-Mailer: Microsoft Windows Live Mail 15.4.3508.1109
Message-ID: <70FBA92AD1227852D98B08F3005A70FB@07XR3N843>

Hello!

As you may have noticed, I sent you an email from your account.
This means that I have full access to your account.

The fact is that you were infected with malware through an adult site that you visited.

Trojan Virus gives me full access and control over a computer or other device.
This means that I can see everything on your screen, turn on the camera and microphone, but you do not know about it.

I also have access to all your contacts and all your correspondence.

Why your antivirus did not detect malware?
Answer: My malware uses the driver, I update its signatures every 4 hours so that your antivirus is silent.

I made a video showing how you satisfy yourself in the left half of the screen, and in the right half you see the video that you watched.
With one click of the mouse, I can send this video to all your emails and contacts on social networks. I can also post access to all your e-mail correspondence and messengers that you use.

If you want to prevent this, transfer the amount of $550 to my bitcoin address (if you do not know how to do this, write to Google: "Buy Bitcoin").

My bitcoin address (BTC Wallet) is: 1DrCbXWfTqJbaiak2wjGUQiEo1WBzCBnof

Yes, we've seen all this before, and the sender MUA address and Bitcoin Wallet are correct. The part that I find so funny is that this scammer has chosen to send his nonsense to abuse@lemis.com.


Sunday, 6 January 2019 Dereel Images for 6 January 2019
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More garden work
Topic: gardening Link here

Mick the gardener along today with his unmistakable lawn mower:

 
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It seems that his son reshaped the front on the day he bought it, but it still works fine. He brought it because our own mower is still in need of repair, and finally mowed the lawn, probably a month too late.

And while he was having lunch he took a look at our mower, which looks very similar, though it's from a different maker (his is Husqvarna, mine is a McCulloch MC17542ST). Or so I thought. Following that mainly broken link brought only one useful piece of information: “Copyright © Husqvarna Group 2017.All rights reserved”. That would at least explain why some parts are clearly identical, notably the cover for the grass deflector shield on the side of the mower housing.

And it occurred to him that my diagnosis of the problem had to be wrong: there was no cable to come unstuck. He took a look underneath and found a disconnected belt. I had suspected that too, but also taken a look and found that the belt was still connected. Only there are two belts. So even before finishing his lunch, he had fixed it.

That's not the end of the story, of course. The belt was disconnected because it was worn and needs replacement. But Mick has a solution for that, too, at a fraction of the cost. Win, win.


Google translate: abandon hope
Topic: language, opinion Link here

Question on IRC today:

<petz> is there some kind of channel greet doodad we can do? do we want to?
<groggyhimself> "Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate"?

That quote from Inferno should be familiar to players of Adventure, but of course I wanted it in the original (something that I'm not sure I have achieved).

Clearly others will want it in English. How about Google Translate?

Let each hope hope you get yours

Not even close. But then it had detected the language as Corsican. Remove quotes?

Leave any hope, what you get

Well, that's a change, though I don't know why. OK, tell it that's it's Italian:

Leave all hope, you who enter

Closer, but no cigar. But it did suggest that the last word is entrante, not intrante. OK, try that

Leave every hope, you who enter

I've lost hope. The “correct” (canonical) translation is “Abandon all hope, ye who enter”.

So was the original intrate or entrate? The latter is modern Italian. But try as I might I can't find the original text of Inferno.

Oh hell!


First tomato of summer
Topic: gardening, food and drink, opinion Link here

Rather to my surprise I found a ripe tomato under one of the tomato plants in the garden. It had fallen off, normally a sign of some insect attack, but it was in perfect condition. Only it looks nothing like the sweet bite early maturing tomatoes that I had been promised on the label: wrong shape (I'll get a photo next time) and far too big.

And boring. Neither sweet nor aromatic. I don't need to plant tomatoes like that. I can buy them for next to nothing in the supermarkets. Hopefully the others will have more flavour.


Monday, 7 January 2019 Dereel Images for 7 January 2019
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Breakfast with Pene
Topic: food and drink, animals, general Link here

Pene Kirk is planning to ride again, and today she went out for an early morning ride with Chris Bahlo and Yvonne. Back in time for breakfast, after which she took a look at Nikolai—again nobody called me—and pronounced him well on the way to recovery, but of course I got no photos again.


Some garden work
Topic: gardening Link here

Why is my Leucospermum cordifolium not flowering profusely? There's one flower, but there should be many:

 
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I suspected lack of watering, and planned to put in a dripper. First, though, remove lots of Carpobrotus that had infringed on the plant. And there was a dripper! It was in the wrong place, but it's not clear whether that was due to my removing the Carpobrotus. To be observed.


Föhnfahne?
Topic: general, opinion Link here

While walking the dogs today, Yvonne looked at the clouds:

 
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To me, that's Cirrus. But she called it „Föhnfahne“ (Föhn flag). Clearly it's not a Föhn; that only occurs in alpine areas. But what is a Föhnfahne? Off looking online, with no useful explanations. It seems that it could be related to one of these photos (from Wikipedia):

They don't look very similar, but it's still not clear what the characteristic appearance of a Föhnfahne is.

After writing the article, Yvonne told me that she had made up the name as a description of the cloud formation. We've agreed that it was probably incorrect.

Looking at clouds
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

I took two photos of the clouds this afternoon:

 
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Why? They both look the same.

Well, you need to look closer:

 
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This particular motive poses a couple of questions. First, how do you focus on clouds? They're all a bit nebulous. Autofocus gave up altogether, and for the first one I focused by hand. Clearly that wasn't good enough. For the second one I focused on the trees; at f/10 the depth of field would go far beyond ∞ (in fact to -8 m).

And then: how much sharpness do you need? That affects depth of field as well. The sharper the image needs to be, the smaller the circle of confusion, and thus the smaller the depth of field. In this example, I'd guess that the trees were 50 m away. For a normal circle of confusion of 8 μm that would give me a depth of field from 6.29 m to ∞, but reducing the circle of confusion to 4 μm would bring the near distances up to 11.18 m. In this case, that's still plenty, but what about at f/2? Then the depth of field would be 21 m to ∞ with a circle of confusion of 8 μm, but only 30 m to 164 m for a circle of confusion of 4 μm.

On the other hand, none of this makes any difference if you're just looking at the image from a normal angle of view. So we seem to have two different definitions of “depth of field”.

I'm confused.


Tuesday, 8 January 2019 Dereel Images for 8 January 2019
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Another slow day
Topic: general Link here

Why is it that some days I do so much, and on others hardly anything? Today was another of the latter. I sometimes feel that if I lump days two at a time, I'll come out with a good balance.


World: hell in a handbasket
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

What's going on in the world? The President of the USA is holding his country to ransom, promising to keep his government shut down until he gets his toy. At what point can his actions be cause for impeachment? It's interesting, though, to look at the magnitude of the illegal immigration problem. I wonder what a good, humanitarian solution would be.

And in Europe, it seems that Great Britain is cutting off its nose to spite its face regarding Brexit. What would the result of a renewed referendum be? The most interesting thing about the whole affair is how difficult it is to unravel agreements. I don't really see a good alternative solution to scrapping the whole effort and remaining in the European Union. Yes, that would cost political careers. Watch people care.


Wednesday, 9 January 2019 Dereel Images for 9 January 2019
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How much toothpaste?
Topic: health, opinion Link here

There's an interesting dichotomy between dentists and toothbrush manufacturers when it comes to cleaning teeth: my dentists say “twice a day, clean all teeth, duration doesn't matter”. The latter (Oral-B for example. This is the only page I could find; their web site is too polite to show a corresponding page for their main source of income, electric toothbrushes) say “two minutes, twice a day”, interestingly backed up by the Australian Dental Association.

And how much toothpaste? There's very little information there. Colgate, the protector of dental cavities, shows this image on instructions carefully designed not to be legible at one glance:

 
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But that's far too much. You can't fit that much on an electric toothbrush head, and even on a manual toothbrush, most of it would just fall off and be lost. So I've been weighing what I can get on the toothbrush head and use. The result: round ⅓ g (350 mg). Even 450 mg results in wastage.


Relying on digital devices
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

Like most people, I have a number of digital devices in the household that have replaced older analogue devices, notably scales and thermometers. The digital display makes them much easier to use, and they're more accurate.

Or are they? Decades ago I built a temperature controller using Dallas 1820 temperature probes. From memory, they have a granularity of 0.07°. But how accurate are they? Recently I had mechanical issues with an infrared thermometer, so I replaced it. But the old one still works, sort of: at room temperature it displays about 20° too high.

That's clearly incorrect. But what would happen if it displayed 1° too high or low? It would still be better than the Bureau of Meteorology, which claims to know temperatures in Dereel that are out by up to 3°. But what kind of defect can result in a digital thermometer being so inaccurate? Or just slightly inaccurate? We just don't know how they're built.

Then there are scales. A few months ago I bought some digital scales with a 1 mg resolution. Just what I need to weigh my toothpaste.

But the scales wouldn't stand still. They drifted upwards continually. They didn't do that when I got them. Why?

At first I thought it was a temperature issue; in the past there seemed to be some relationship. So I checked the temperature: 20.0°. You can't get closer to normal conditions than that. And sometimes it happened, sometimes it didn't.

OK, batteries? No, they're freshly recharged rechargeables. Change the batteries; no improvement. Use fresh, non-rechargeable batteries? Yes, that seems to work. And interestingly the weight of the toothpaste tube had suddenly doubled; previously, on one of the few occasions where it stood relatively still, it was exactly 28.000 g (doesn't that look suspicious?), afterwards round 55 g.

So: what kludges do scale builders make? You'd expect them to have some kind of voltage regulation, but potentially 1.27 V is too low. There are clearly others: if you take just about any scale, out a container on it, tare it, weigh something, pour out the weighed substance and replace the empty container, it will almost invariably not return to zero—immediately. After a couple of seconds, if the offset is less than a certain threshold (0.3 g, for example), it will reset to 0. What else do they do? How important is the temperature? How linear are they? These are all things that we didn't have to worry about in the Analogue Age.


How to watch TV?
Topic: multimedia, opinion Link here

Since discovering the German mediatheques, we've found a large number of TV films and series, some of them well worth watching. But which? And how?

There are a number of issues: the web sites are very little help. ARD, in particular, had a very bad layout. But they've changed that: they've made it even worse, to the point where it's barely usable. They've taken the mobile phone workaround for lack of proper screen navigation and used it to break display on normal devices:

 
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Why is the display truncated? Because it's modern. When it feels like it, it'll overlay the last half-image (it always seems to be a half image) with a > to indicate that you have to click on it to see only the next of a very large number of images, each (poorly) representing a programme.

As a result, it's really difficult to find out what is worth watching. No useful overview. Is this the kind of brain damage that mobile phones and “smart” TVs have brought us?

So we have taken the easy way out, and we watch mainly TV series. That way we have a reasonable idea in advance of what awaits us. But we still have the issue of finding the series.

Recently we discovered a new series, Großstadtrevier (roughly translatable as “Big city precinct”, using the US meaning of “precinct” as “a division of a police department in a large city (either to the neighborhood patrolled or to the police station itself)”. The police area in question is in St. Pauli in Hamburg. And the series is new to us, but otherwise anything but new: it's in its 32nd year.

Wait a while, we already have Notruf Hafenkante (“Emergency call on the edge of the harbour”), about the police in St. Pauli, only 12 years old. Same series? Predecessor? No, it seems that they're parallel series covering the same topic in the same geographical area. I wonder if the people ever bump into each other.

So: how do we watch Großstadtrevier? It's on the web, of course, but for how long? I decided to download what's available (which proved to be a little over 70 GB), and discovered that we had 58 episodes spread over 12 different years. And some of the ones on the list weren't really there. So it makes sense to download them, number them and wait until the (many) holes are filled in.

Why is it so difficult to find this content? It's not a legal issue as far as I can see; everything I'm doing is legal. But why should it be necessary?


Organic wine? Or vinegar?
Topic: general, food and drink, opinion Link here

Walking the dogs today, they really wanted to go down Grassy Gully Road, which we normally avoid because of the traffic. Today only one car came by, a Claire from Linton who was so taken by the dogs that she wanted me to take some photos of her with them. Did that, and only at the end realized that I hadn't taken any with my own camera.

On to the first driveway, where we had seen some signs about wine tasting some while back. Yes, indeed, found a somewhat hidden sign:

 
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Somehow the concept of selling wine and vinegar sounds counterproductive. But this is “organic”, so maybe it's OK.


Thursday, 10 January 2019 Dereel Images for 10 January 2019
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Nikolai's wound
Topic: animals Link here

Took another look at Nikolai's wound today. It's healing nicely:

 
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He's still licking at it a lot, so we'll leave the shirt on for another few days.


Come to Australia!
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Interesting statistic from Statista today. Australia is now the world's seventh-largest tourist destination:

Only seventh? Look at the others: four of them are right next to each other, and all very interesting places. And Australia is literally at the end of the world.

The other thing to note is what we already noticed at the Twelve Apostles in November: there are many more tourists, and most of them are Chinese. Clearly the world is changing, even without Donald Trump's help.


Lion's book: theft?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

In a discussion on the TUHS mailing lists today, somebody pointed to a repository for the Lions' Commentary on UNIX 6th Edition. Closer investigation shows that it was lifted from my web site.

Is that legal? Good question. It's not clear that my copy is legal. As noted five years agp, I found it on alt.folklore.computers about 25 years ago, in uuencode format, with the title “Leo's Notes”. It was sent anonymously (in those days old Unix sources were tabu) by Warren Toomey. Since then the licensing conditions have changed. I subsequently published it on my web site, though I didn't note when, and that's what the Wikipedia article points at.

So what is there to stop Andrew Kanner (is that his real name) from taking the sources? It certainly doesn't offend my (non-existent) copyright. But wouldn't it have been nice for him to at least tell me? As it is, I can't even find contact information.


Old timers
Topic: general Link here

Talking to CJ Ellis on the phone today. He has a problem: a historic car on some special license plates, and he needs photos of it today to renew the license.

OK, I can do that, so CJ came over:

 
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That's a historical car? A Mazda 929 from 1988. That's the sort of car I drive normally. Maybe I should investigate cheaper registration. His is clearly very cheap:

 
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They wanted photos from all sides, and also of the dashboard and engine and chassis number. Where are the numbers? The engine compartment is much fuller than I recall from really old cars:

 
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CJ thought on the side of the engine block, under the distributor (remember them)? We couldn't see anything, but I managed to squeeze a camera down there with a wide-angle lens. It couldn't see anything useful either:

 
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Lost: three objects
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Mail from DigitalOcean today:

Date: Wed, 9 Jan 2019 19:41:08 -0600 (CST)

On November 30, 2018, we emailed you regarding a small percentage of Spaces Objects that became inaccessible as a result of a hardware problem that occurred during an emergency in our NYC3 datacenter. Since then, our Engineering Team has focused its efforts on restoring availability to the impacted Objects.

 Unfortunately despite those efforts, there are 3 Object/s that cannot be restored to your account.

It goes on to talk about how the problem happened (hardware failure) and how they plan to ensure that it never happens again. What didn't they mention? What the objects are! I can restore them relatively trivially, but without knowing which they are, it's a shotgun approach. Do they really not know which they are?


Friday, 11 January 2019 Dereel Images for 11 January 2019
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Date your photos!
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

I sent CJ's photos off yesterday evening, but when I came in this morning I had a reply waiting for me:

The photos have to have to have the date in the picture frame, normally
printed on the bottom,each photo, so the photos are no good to me.
Include the date and would be perfect, if you have an iphone you can
download an app to do this, got no idea what Exif data is.

Sigh. I suppose he's going to print out the photos too. The original instructions specifically required a digital camera (implicitly excluding analogue cameras, many of which could have automatically added the date he wanted). So why does he talk about iPhones? And if he wants photo data, he should be aware of the Exif data. And of course if you mark up a photo, you can write anything you like.

Sniffing around in the various photo software on dischord, discovered that Zoner Photo Studio 18 could do it relatively easily, if not very flexibly, so I sent him photos which met with his approval, with a clear date at the bottom:

 
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And so far no mention of the missing engine and chassis numbers.


ALDI trolley: stringent quality control
Topic: general, opinion Link here

The ALDI kitchen trolley that I built six months ago has not weathered well:

 
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How do I fix that? The first attempt would be to screw the two halves together, but will that work?

By chance, Yvonne was in town today and bought a masonry drill bit and wall plugs for some work that CJ and I are going to do on Monday. Instead of going to Bunnings, which she hates (not without reason), she went to Mitre 10, which I hate, also not without reason. I could have got her to buy some screws, but she had been through two different assistants and two phone calls to me just to be sure what kind of bit and what size plugs; they seem to be completely incapable. I didn't want to put her through the pain of buying screws as well.


Trump presidency: elaborate joke?
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

A couple of times over the last 2½ years I have wondered whether Donald Trump is maybe not as stupid as he appears to be, and that his candidacy for the US presidency was not some kind of practical joke or a dare, just to see how far he could go. Certainly I got the impression that he was surprised that he had won, and recently I've been made aware that his behaviour so exactly matches the Mayo Clinic's description of narcissistic personality disorder that you'd think you would have to be trying to get this close:

At the same time, people with narcissistic personality disorder have trouble handling anything they perceive as criticism, and they can:

I've left out a couple of items that can't easily be verified.

And then somebody came up with a video clip from the 1950s, from this episode (series 1, number 30) of Trackdown:

A fraud by the name of Walter Trump comes to a town and tells them that they are doomed unless they pay money to him to build a protective wall around the town. That sounds so eerily relevant at the moment that it would be easy to think that Donald Trump is reinterpreting the episode. The comments on the Wikipedia page come to similar conclusions.

More details here.


Where did my disk space go?
Topic: technology, multimedia Link here

Recently I've been running low on disk space on eureka:/home. OK, that can happen, and I'm planning to move to a bigger disk. But in the short term I should remove some non-essential stuff, including hundreds of gigabytes of old stuff in ~/Downloads. But while searching I found this:

=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/3) ~ 208 -> du -sc /src/Videos/teevee-overflow/*
227645  /src/Videos/teevee-overflow/Air-crash-investigation
302366  /src/Videos/teevee-overflow/Cooking
530010  total

Those numbers are in megabytes: over half a terabyte of old videos. OK, now I have space on teevee, and I was able to move them back there:

=== grog@teevee (/dev/pts/10) /src/Videos 124 -> mv teevee-overflow/* /spool

In the process noted that nothing is removed from the source directory until everything is copied. At the end, the entire directory is deleted at once.

How times have changed! Idly thought back to the first big computer centre I worked in, where Karstadt had two IBM 3330 cabinets, each storing a whopping 1.6 billion bytes:

Those things were big. I can't find exact dimensions, but they used 14 inch disk packs, and based on the storage positions for the disk packs on top, I'd guess that the individual bays were about 45" wide, for a total width of 180" or about 4.5 m. I know that they were so high that I couldn't see on top (at least 1.8 m), so possibly 5 m would be a better estimate of the length. And to store the images that I copied today, I would have needed 332 of these things!

How times change!


Saturday, 12 January 2019 Dereel Images for 12 January 2019
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New panorama equipment
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

House photo day today, with a change of equipment. After my accident two months ago I discovered that one of the focusing rails was marginally damaged: the adjusting screw that came off one rail seemed to have damaged a retaining ring, and though it still worked, it kept falling off, usually in places where it was hard to find again. They're quite cheap, so I ordered another one, and it arrived yesterday, after only two months.

It's pretty much identical:

 
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But the devil is in the detail. First, I had drilled a hole in the old one to position the upper rail where I wanted it, a little to the left of the slide area:

 
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Did I take that into account when calculating the positions along the rail? I almost doubt it. In any case, I know that for the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 8mm f/1.8 Fisheye PRO the rail should be set at 87 mm. So what's that with the new one? Where's 0, anyway?

Surprise, surprise. I couldn't set the new rail on 0; 2 mm was about the least I could get. And in principle it should be on 0 when the upper mount (for the camera) is directly above the lower mount (for the tripod). That makes perfect sense, but it doesn't match reality. The rails in the image above were positioned at “0”. Here first the old one, then the new one:

 
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The offset is due to parallax. But the scale read about 1.5 mm on the old rail and fully 6 mm on the new one! On top of that I had to add in the difference in the position of the camera on the new rail (at the left end of the slide), and came up with a difference of fully 13 mm, only barely still on the scale. On the positive side, it meant that less of the rail projects into the image.


Still more videos
Topic: multimedia, technology, opinion Link here

While looking through my system, found another 157 GB of videos that I had moved to eureka. That's a total of 687 GB, or 430 IBM 3330s. When will I ever have time to look at them?


Dinner with Margaret
Topic: food and drink, general, opinion Link here

Margaret Swan is back in town for the first time since her accident in October. She's looking as good as ever, but it seems that she won't be able to ride a horse for at least another month, making the accident significantly worse than Yvonne's this time last year, at least on that metric.

Husfrusill for dinner, to which Margaret insisted on drinking the (very good) red wine which she had brought with her.


Sunday, 13 January 2019 Dereel Images for 13 January 2019
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More gardening
Topic: gardening Link here

A somewhat hung-over Mick the gardener along today with a new drive belt for the lawn mower. As he said, it looks considerably different:

 
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He also found a dent on one of the pulleys that probably helped the wear on the belt. Hopefully that's now a thing of the past.

Apart from that, he did a lot of weeding and then decided that he had had enough. At least most of the weeds are gone.


Monday, 14 January 2019 Dereel
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Supports for garden pots
Topic: general, gardening, opinion Link here

We want to hang some flower baskets on the left side of the house entrance:

 
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Problem: the ceiling isn't strong enough. So we decided to put a rod between the house wall and the column in the corner. CJ along today with some brackets to be screwed against the column and wall:

 
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I'd had difficulties with this column a few years ago, one of the reasons I bought a new drill bit last week. But this time the drill went in like butter:

 
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Did I manage to get a gap between the brickwork, or had they applied a very large amount of plaster on that side?

The wall on the other side was completely different. After a minute of drilling, all I had was:

 
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That was with CJ's hammer drill. Would it be better with the drill I bought specially for this job last time? Not until I find it. But maybe it's the bit. Yet another problem deferred by a poor workman.


More video playback pain
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

While he was here, CJ brought his computer. He couldn't play videos from his Gmail index:


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What kind of error message is that? No details, no way to find any details. This stupidity really gets on my nerves. I'm beginning to regret that I installed Ubuntu on his machine.

Went looking on the web, with surprisingly little information, much of it out of date. Where do I go from here? CJ will want to take his computer back.

Does it maybe also not work on my machine? Yes! So at least he can have his machine back and I can investigate on my own.

What does it do under Microsoft? Tried on dischord: exactly the same problem. So we have a relatively general problem that nobody seems to find interesting, and which Google is too polite to report. What kind of world are we living in? At least this problem has nothing to do with Ubuntu.


Tuesday, 15 January 2019 Dereel Images for 15 January 2019
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Yvonne and Chris ride Carlotta and Vicente
Topic: animals Link here

Chris Bahlo and Margaret Swan along this morning with Vicente, Chris' new Andalusian gelding, whom Chris is planning to use for jousting:

 
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Chasing the Gmail video bug
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

So why does Gmail not want to play the videos that it displays? Back to take a look:


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Marvellous. What's that? I couldn't get rid of it; close the tab and start it again, and I still get the error. I had to clear cookies (why can't I do that on a per-site basis?) to get rid of the problem.

Further messing around. About all I could establish was that if I press the Download button, it downloads correctly.


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Browser issue? That wouldn't explain it happening on four different browsers. Peter Jeremy took an interest, but I didn't hear back.


Irrigation issues
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

My hellebores are looking even unhappier:

 
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Once this heat is over (yesterday and today we had a maximum of 40°), I should transplant them to the front of the house, where the soil is better and they have less sun—if there's anything left of the first one to transplant.

Later we saw a particularly unhappy looking Hebe in the driveway. Time to run the sprinkler again? Did so and discovered that the dripper for that plant, and a number of others, including the first hellebore, was clogged. Changed them and left it run for a while. Even apart from the clogged drippers, it seems that the plants need more water in this summer heat. Increased the automatic sprinkler time per circuit from 40 to 60 minutes.

Was that the only problem with the hellebores? No, the other one was getting water, but still looks unhappy.


Wednesday, 16 January 2019 Dereel Images for 16 January 2019
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Mayday!
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

Last night I went to bed wondering, as so many others, by what margin Theresa May's Brexit bill would be rejected by the House of Commons. 40 votes? Even 200 votes? That was the range that the commentators were expecting.

This morning I woke to find that their worst fears (if that's the word) had been exceeded: the bill was rejected by 230 votes (432 to 202, apparently the largest defeat for a sitting UK government in history).

And now? They're running out of time. Maybe it's time for the British to realize that they're no longer living in the times of Queen Victoria, that they no longer rule the waves, that they're just another country in Europe that happens to have the slight advantage of lingua franca. They'd be a whole lot better off accepting the fact, toeing the line and staying in the union. What would a second referendum bring? The first was only borderline in favour, and that was before anybody understood how difficult and expensive the whole thing would be.


Garden flowers in mid-summer
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

The middle of the month, time for my monthly flower photos.

One of the things that I discovered only slightly before these photos was that I wasn't watering the garden enough. I had a similar problem last year, but I didn't recognize the magnitude. I had had the sprinkler to run for 20 minutes per circuit, increasing to 30 in hot weather. But now I'm up to an hour per circuit, and though it isn't obvious from the photos, I think it's improving things.

Some things are just dead, though: the Acer negundo that we coddled this time last year, and one of the birches. The birch is trying to come back, but given that it died in early spring when it was neither too cold, too hot nor too dry, I don't have much hope. Even this time last year it was playing autumn:

 
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And now the surviving one is doing that same thing this year:

 
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That could be due to the watering, of course.

The Paulownia kawakamii, on the other hand, seems to be benefiting from the additional fertilizer, and it now growing a little (though still far from the 3-5 m that it should be by this time). Here last year and this year:

 
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Our second Buddleja x weyeriana is now growing well (though at a distance it looks as if it's drooping):

 
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But the ones to the left of the big one have all died. This time lack of water can't be the issue. They're in the overflow area from the tanks, so they may have been drowned. I don't see any point in replacing them.

Last month's Kniphofia flower has finished flowering and is in the process of maturing hundreds of seeds, but in its place no less than 5 new flowers have popped up. Here four of them:

 
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The Hibiscus rosa-sinensis that I got from my uncle Max, and of which I have cloned many times, is currently not flowering. It does that from time to time, and I'm not overly worried. The one that I planted outside two months ago has recovered from the shock and now looks about as good again as it did when I planted it. Then and now:

 
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The other one, the one with the erectile dysfunction, is flowering, but with very small flowers, though the style is at least erect:

 
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Maybe this is the size that it's intended to be, or maybe it, too, will benefit from more water.

The roses are also flowering, but I suspect that they're not getting enough water, like this « Monsieur Tillier »:

 
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I'll see how the added water helps.

Some of the flowers in the shade area are doing well. While we lost one of the fuchsias that we bought two months ago (proved not to be getting any water), the other one is looking quite happy, and compared to this time last year the tree fern is also doing well:

 
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Cooling down
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

While taking my garden flower photos, found Nikolai relaxing:

 
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One of the few cool places, I suppose.


Happy Birthday, Margaret Swan
Topic: general, food and drink, gardening Link here

An out of sequence dinner tonight: it was Margaret Swan's birthday, a significant one. So we had a birthday dinner for her, with gratin dauphinois, apparently one of her favourites. Also a cheese soufflée, this time with Parmesan cheese, not quite how we expected it to turn out, but after greasing the form it at least didn't stick. And for a birthday present, of course yet another Hibiscus rosa-sinensis clone.


Thursday, 17 January 2019 Dereel
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Breakfast with Pene
Topic: general, food and drink, animals Link here

Pene Kirk along this morning to go riding with Yvonne; it looks as if this might be a more regular thing. After the (relatively short) ride, Yvonne made her version of Eggs Benedict, with a special sauce mayonnaise instead of the more normal sauce hollandaise. On the other hand, for the first time ever, we ate them on “English” muffins (I suspect that “English” implies an US American background). Pene said that she liked it.


Nikolai: free!
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

While she was here, Pene took a look at Nikolai and decided that the wound had healed enough to be able to take his shirt off. I suspected that he would then remove the (1 cm wide) scab, but that doesn't seem to be serious. Certainly he looked happier enough.


A history of Israeli settlements
Topic: politics, history, opinion Link here

A question on Quora today: “How can anyone educated actually believe this Al Jazeera propaganda history about Israel?”.

OK, that's worth looking at. The “propaganda” was in fact an apparently well-documented overview with the somewhat inflammatory title Israel's settlements: 50 years of land theft explained. And clearly it has to be wrong, because it comes from “anti-semites”, a term that more and more Jewish people, particularly those with extreme views, are applying to anybody who disagrees with them.

So it was here. There were answers were like “The key word is educated. Al Jazeera’s audience is not educated at all”, and “I believe that it starts with a deep seated bias against Jews. There after it helps to be generally ignorant of history, religion, and gullible enough to believe anything that helps reinforce a person's worldview.”. Nothing to back up these claims, no argument refuting the points made in the article, both suggesting belief rather than proof. I wonder how prevalent these views are in Israel.


Transplanting the Hellebores
Topic: gardening Link here

Finally got round to transplanting one of the Hellebores that look so unhappy, into the garden in front of the “library” at the house entrance:

 
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I wonder if it will survive.


Friday, 18 January 2019 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 18 January 2019
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Answering mobile phones
Topic: health, technology, opinion Link here

Into town today for a six-monthly blood test, forgetting to take my breakfast with me. Yvonne called me on my phone, twice, but I didn't hear it either time,

Why not? It was in my shirt pocket the whole time, and it was set to vibrate. But I had my sunglasses in the pocket too, between phone and chest, and the ring tone is not as loud as it should be. Clearly next time I should put the phone against my chest, and also fix the loudness of my ring tone; in the meantime I've chosen one of the horrible standard tones, which at least gets my attention.


New fridges?
Topic: general, opinion Link here

One of our fridges is getting on my nerves. It's a combined fridge/freezer, and the freezer compartment has open shelves and doesn't have any pull-out baskets, so frequently we have to dig out the entire contents of the shelf to get at anything. And the lack of any kind of barrier at the front means that we can't fill the shelves as much as we wanted to:

 
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The mesh baskets at the top didn't come with the freezer; we found them in the garage. Previously it looked like this:

 
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We knew all that when we bought it, of course, so we can only partially blame the manufacturer. But lately it has been running most of the time, and I recently discovered that it was completely ignoring the “digital” settings for the thermostat, and the main reason I bought the thing:


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In fact the measured temperatures in the freezer were round -23°, and round 1° in the fridge compartment. This appears to be a combination of failed thermostat—after only five years!—and a digital display that lies about being a temperature setting mechanism.

In passing, what earthly use is a clock in the fridge? I only noticed it again when I took the photo, and of course the time is wrong.

OK, a new fridge? We could at least sell this one. But what should it look like? In principle the fridge/freezer combination that we bought 20 years ago are still probably the best, and in fact we have bought two new freezers since then. But we don't really need a third freezer or a second fridge: we need a combination.

While in town today, dropped in at The Good Guys and took a look at what they had to offer. It must say something about their web site—which I visit frequently—that in the metal things made a completely different impression. They had a Samsung SRF625BLS unit, a little shop-soiled, that made a reasonable impression:

 
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The scratch is clearly visible in the photo, but I didn't notice it when I looked at it. The interesting thing about it is the freezer area:

 
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That's a set of drawers that pull out over each other. I still can't remove them, but at least they're relatively accessible without things falling out of them.

In passing, what's the volume of the combination? Both the Good Guys and Samsung tell me 635 l. But the model number SRF625BLS appears to be trying to tell me 10 l less.

The other thing that the salesperson told me was that it was unusually deep at 95 cm. That proved to be a drop-dead criterion: it would have stuck out of the alcove by 25 cm.

Then there was the LG GF-B590PL, another device whose model number disagrees with the claimed volume of 594 l. It has more visible drawers which are individually accessible:

 
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But the upper ones, for some reason, aren't closed all the way to the top? Why not? We could fix that, of course, but I'm left wondering why these designs exist at all.

Both of these units—and they're the cheapest—are significantly more expensive than the $1169 we paid for the Westinghouse unit 5 years ago. The Westinghouse has a lower claimed capacity (606 l), and even accounting for that and an average 2% annual rise in consumer prices, we're looking at $2.15 per litre for the Westinghouse, compared to $2.75/l for the Samsung and $3.27/l for the LG. Can't we do better?

Somehow I've decided that Kelvinator/Westinghouse/Electrolux/ (the American brands that Donald Trump wants to export more of) are just not up to international standards. In the meantime I've reset the fridge to 8°/-14° (the highest settings possible), and it's still cooling below 5°/-18°. Digital indeed!


Brexit commemoration coin
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

The British have apparently planned a commemoration coin for Brexit. And of course the current situation has inspired satirists, who have come up with this obverse side:


Failed video
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Yvonne wanted me to take some video of her today. Just the situation to use my (not so) new microphones. In to look for the myriad bits and pieces.

And I couldn't find one of them, in principle the least difficult to replace: a 3.5 mm male-to-male stereo plug to connect the receiver to my camera. After half an hour of searching, I ran out of easy options and ordered a new one. Possibly it will show up, like a lost lens cap did this morning: I had lost it a month ago after taking photos at the Ballarat Pump Shop. And it was in my handbag all the time.

About the only conclusion from the matter—apart from the fact that it's high time they repaired the pump—is that I should tidy up my office. Who knows what else I might find?


Nikolai licking again
Topic: animals Link here

As feared, Nikolai is licking his wounds again:

 
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I suppose it'll go by soon now, but I wonder if it was really such a good idea to take his shirt off.


Saturday, 19 January 2019 Dereel Images for 19 January 2019
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Power fail? Computer fail!
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

Woken up this morning by the sound a fan running continuously. Damn, can't Yvonne turn the extractor off when she's finished showering? But no, it proved to be coming from lagoon, Yvonne's computer. It had rebooted round 7:56, and she tells me that there had been a power failure round that time. teevee had also rebooted, but was not making any noise. Both machines seemed to be running normally.

First question: what power failure? Nothing else had reported a failure. The ones that did were on the external UPS. And in the course of the morning it experienced many hiccoughs, causing my office UPS (one of the clients) to beep annoyingly, sometimes more than once a minute. Somehow this UPS was a bad purchase. My guess is that the hiccoughs are caused by mains power fluctuations that don't interest any other consumers, but cause it to interrupt briefly. Maybe there was a particular sequence at 7:53 or so that caused it to interrupt the supply long enough for teevee, lagoon and Yvonne's clock to lose power.

That doesn't explain the fan, of course. How do I stop it? Shut down and reboot? Did that, and the fan started all over again. OK, power down, pull the power plug and wait a while, then try again? That made a difference. It didn't power up again, though it made some kind of a noise through the sound output: click-click every 5 seconds or so.

OK, time for a replacement for lagoon. Took the disk and put it in my only remaining test box, and had almost no issues getting it up and running: I had expected at least some problems with the display card parameters. The only issue was one that I have seen before, that the network card didn't come up in time for the NFS mounts, so I had to retry them in multi-user mode.

So what's the issue with the old lagoon? It's a ThinkCentre M 6073. Any help on the web? Yes, indeed. A Google search thinkcentre loud fan brought a number of hits, some, like this one with specific instructions on how to fix it, even down to the motherboard layout. Only that's a different motherboard, and on mine I couldn't find the CMOS jumper mentioned. OK, tuit queue: for the moment Yvonne has a computer.

As if that wasn't bad enough, got a call from CJ Ellis: he had run into the dreaded corrupted content error bug. Put him off to the afternoon, by which time he had solved it: one of the connectors to his ATA was not seated correctly, and after he put it back in, the problem had gone away.

I wonder what really happened.


Piccola catching birds?
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

Yvonne into the office while I was researching solutions to the ThinkCentre problem, to report that Piccola had caught a sparrow and left it in the laundry.

Had she? In to find this:

 
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Yes, beyond reasonable doubt a dead sparrow. But it was intact bar a few feathers. Did Piccola kill it? If so, why didn't she eat it?


Girding up Sir Christiane
Topic: animals, photography Link here

Chris Bahlo along this afternoon to go riding in full armour. Yvonne asked me to take some photos of her once she had girded her up. OK, I can do that.

Half an hour later she still hadn't called me. Out to find them still hard at it:

What a time it takes! Finally she was done:

 
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Olympus autofocus fail
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

I still can't get my Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II to autofocus reliably for video. Most of today's clips were OK, but one was spectacularly bad:

Yes, it's trying to tell me to clean the dust off the lens. But why does it get so completely confused, and what can I do about it? It started off in focus and just wandered off into nirvana. If the upcoming E-M1X model is better, I might even forgive it for its ridiculous size.


More curry tree mites
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

I've been paying particular attention to mites on my curry tree, and it seems to be paying off: it's looking a lot happier. But today, while drawing the curtains, I saw a tell-tale web on one of the healthy shoots. Out with the fly spray, and discovered that there were many such webs. Here they are after spraying:

 
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How do I get rid of the bloody things?


Counting FAT bytes
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Took a lot of photos today. The videos accounted for 7.4 GB, an amazing amount for the 15 minutes or so that I took. And while reading in from my 32 GB SD card, I ran an mdir -s to show all files. The summary was interesting:

      474 files       7 204 379 128 bytes
                     14 164 066 304 bytes free

That doesn't add up to 32 GB! But it also doesn't match what I read in:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/11) ~/Photos/20190119 716 -> du -sc orig/4*[FV]
...
8870    total

That's 8870 MB for today alone. All those files were on the card, and others besides. What has mdir been smoking?


Sunday, 20 January 2019 Dereel
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A new ThinkCentre?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

So what's wrong with lagoon? The obvious thing to do is to try to repair it. But these second-hand ThinkCentres hardly cost anything, and maybe it will make more sense to buy a “new” one.

Off looking on eBay, running into the same problems as on previous occasions: how do I know how fast the thing is? Some of the advertised systems don't even specify what the processor is. The ones that do don't give any idea of the relative performance, and not even the price is an indication.

What I found today was:

Model       CPU       Price+shipping       CPUMark       Comment
M71e       i5-2400       150+30       5962
M92p       i5-3470       165+24       3717
M81 FAST       CORE DUAL G620       189       2028
M81 FAST       CORE DUAL G6320             2377
      Core 2 duo (e7500)             1875
      i5-4590             7310       only tiny
M73       i5-4570       225       7131
      4570t? (2.9 GHz)             6794?

Yes, it's incomplete, but it might help. One issue is that the more powerful processors are in smaller cases, and they will probably not take a display card. I might just go for the i5-2400 again, the same one as in dischord.


More fridge insights
Topic: general, opinion Link here

My fridge investigations on Friday were limited to The Good Guys; clearly I need to find prices from others. Tried Appliances Online and came up with a better (if not good) overview, showing a significantly lower price for “side by side” fridges than the “French door” fridges that I had been looking at. For example, I can currently get a Haier HSBS628AW 629 l Side By Side Fridge for $1,069, but the cheapest “French door” fridge is the Hisense HR6FDFF630S with 630 l for $1,376.

Still, even that is significantly cheaper than what I have been looking at. What does the freezer compartment look like? Surprise, surprise! They're not telling! There are four images, none of which show what's in the freezer compartment:

Where are the other photos? One is the left half of this photo, another the right half, and the third (only on some pages) is the right half without content. No idea what the freezer compartment is like. You'd really think that they don't want to sell the things.

Still, it's becoming clear that our search isn't over yet.


Monday, 21 January 2019 Dereel Images for 21 January 2019
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Smart TV? No thanks!
Topic: multimedia, technology, opinion Link here

Recently on IRC somebody had come up with a really cheap 75" smart TV, something like $1,200. That compares to the $1,699 that I paid for a “dumb” 75" ALDI TV a year ago. Not that I want a “smart” TV: I returned one because I couldn't find any use for it, but the price was interesting.

Is that all due to continual price drop? Today I found this article, which is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, the claim:

Geeks often ask for dumb TVs.

They don't say why, but others on IRC confirmed. And the rest of the article goes into the way smart TVs try to get money out of your pocket, and also potentially spy on you.

So the question: what happens if you buy a smart TV because of the price, and don't connect it to the Internet? Ah, it can do that itself. Can it? It could potentially do so here, because I'm out in the sticks where things like WPA are more a nuisance than a protection. But to keep the TV from spying on me, it might be worthwhile.


ThinkCentre motherboard issues
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Since Saturday's failure I've had the old lagoon, a ThinkCentre M 6073, waiting for reconfiguration. The documentation I found showed another board, so I first needed to find a layout for my motherboard, which looks like this:

 
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Where do you find that? It has to be somewhere, but it's not easy to find. Tried one place and was greeted with:


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Not only a bloody CAPTCHA, but one that wants specific web browsers! Damn Lenovo!

Well, no, this proved to be a different third-party operation that somehow got its Google rank lifted.

OK, try the Lenovo page for this machine, which was overflowing with documentation. No less than 5 Hardware Replacement Guides, with no further explanation of the differences.

After downloading the first two, it was clear what the difference was: despite the title to the page, they're for completely different systems. I struck lucky with the third page, which gave me this diagram of the motherboard:

 
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That doesn't look much like my motherboard, but that's because it's on its side. It seems that they have chosen orientations at random in their documentation; others show the motherboard rotated by 180° relative to this one. Still, it shows where the CMOS jumper is, and that's all that I really needed. Now back to the instructions:

  • Clear CMOS jumper in item #17
  • Remove battery in item #25
  • Hold power button for 5 seconds
  • Replace power cord (power cable from PSU to AC)
  • Power On then hold Power again to Power off
  • Connect CMOS jumper back on Pin 1 & 2
  • Replace the battery in item #25
  • Power up (system beep twice)

OK, how do I get the battery out of its holder? Simple, right? But I've never done it before, and it's not immediately clear in which direction. Still, there must be good stuff on the web. The first was Replace the Battery in your PC. Lots of nice photos showing every step. And then the critical one: how do you get the battery out?

Remove old battery with fingernail or use non-conductive screwdriver

Now isn't that helpful? It doesn't even show the battery housing. Fingernail? I had just cut them, as it happened. But the idea of a non-conductive lever sounds good. Only where do you find one? In the end I found a plastic toothpick which proved not up to the job.

Once again a photo makes the situation clear:

 
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The two black pieces at the bottom in this orientation hold the battery in place. Pull it out there and you'll damage the housing. And the piece at the top is a spring clip, so you just need to push it away from the battery and lever the thing out. All done in barely 10 minutes.

Then follow the instructions, and how about that, the thing came up. Two beeps? Two series of agonized beeps, followed by the fan going on full as before.

OK, let's power it down, connect a monitor and see if it's trying to tell me something. Did that, turned back on and... nothing. Back to square 2. I'm getting the feeling that this thing is really defective, but I'd like to be sure. One thing that is not mentioned anywhere is the function of the CMOS jumper:

It's a simple bridge jumper, but the header has three pins. How should I replace it? It wasn't until some time later that I read, from the instructions above,

Connect CMOS jumper back on Pin 1 & 2

OK, which are pins 1 and 2? They're not documented anywhere, not even on the motherboard!

 
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And somehow an errant mouse has already left its opinion:

 
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Queen of the night
Topic: general, language, photography Link here

The Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Day today was “queen of the night”, which for me immediately brings associations of Die Zauberflöte. But no, it seems that it's

Chiefly poet. and lit. (A name given to) the moon.

That wouldn't work in German, where the moon is masculine. But it was clearly chosen to match today's lunar eclipse (not visible here) and the super moon that followed. By chance it was very clear at moonrise, and I got a few photos that are probably best seen as practice for better ones:

 
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I like the reflection in the second image.


Tuesday, 22 January 2019 Dereel → Geelong → Dereel Images for 22 January 2019
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Hibiscus opening
Topic: gardening, photography, opinion Link here

Up this morning to find a Hibiscus rosa-sinensis flower opening up:

 
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Time for a time-lapse photo of the thing. How long does it take? I decided on 5 minute intervals, and got:

 
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That took about 80 minutes, from 8:32 to 9:48. In passing, it's interesting to note that I should have expected that the flower would increase in size and started with a wider angle.

It wasn't done with that. Though it was open, it continued to change shape for another 45 minutes:

 
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I've done what I can with my limited means to animate it: run the cursor over an image to compare it with its neighbour But clearly I need to find some kind of animation software.


Off to Geelong again
Topic: health, food and drink Link here

Off to Geelong in the afternoon for my six-monthly periodontal checkup, which showed nothing of interest. Then off to look for East Asian food. In the recent past I've gone to the Gourmet Asian Grocery in Belmont, but there are some things that he (Jason Yap) doesn't have, so first to Chung Vinh Phat in town, where I found almost everything I was looking for, so left it at that. In particular got some more spice pastes and laksa ingredients, and also finally some soup bowl for laksa and such.


More water leaks in car?
Topic: general Link here

Back home, discovered water dripping from the car water close to the wheel just behind the left-hand drive shaft. What causes that? There's nothing there that looks like a water pipe. Took a look again later when it had cooled down: the coolant contains fluorescein or some such, and it was full. The water on the ground was colourless. I had thought of tasting it, but decided against.

It had been hot again today—maximum temperature of 37.6°—so my best bet is that this was condensation from the air conditioner.


More moon shots
Topic: photography, general, opinion Link here

Peter Jeremy correctly observed that I should have taken some HDR shots of the moon yesterday. Yes, guilty as charged. But today the moon will still be relatively full, so I prepared for tonight again, this time a full 5 shot bracket to be on the safe side.

But I hadn't reckoned with the difference in moonrise time. It shouldn't have been a surprise: the moon takes 29.53 days to “rotate” around the Earth, so each day the moonrise is 1440÷29.53 minutes, or nearly 49 minutes later.

And then I hadn't reckoned with the exposure times. I decided on an aperture of f/8 to be sure that I was in focus; it proves impossible to focus on the moon, even with focus peaking, so I focused on a tree at the end of the driveway, only about 40 m away. And that aperture meant a base exposure time of 15 s. That's OK, but in 3 EV steps it implies the other speeds of 1/4 s, 2 s, 120 s and 960 s. In itself, not that big an issue, but the maximum shutter time is 60 s. so I missed out on my +3 EV and +6 EV shots.

The second time around I tried at f/4. That should have given 1/30 s, 1/4 s, 2 s, 15 s and 120 (60) s, but it wasn't enough: the 60 s exposure still looked like this:

 
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And the resulting HDR version wasn't worth talking about, except for criticism:

 
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I wonder how much I can salvage in post-processing.


Wednesday, 23 January 2019 Dereel Images for 23 January 2019
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Singapore noodles
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

After my shopping spree yesterday, had assam laksa for breakfast today, this time with fresh Thai basil, fish cakes and some noodles that I had found:

 
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Surprisingly, they tasted much better than the spaghetti that I normally use. A pity that the stuff is so bulky.


A Playboy for Chris
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

Over to Chris Bahlo's house this afternoon to see her newest American stallion, “Playboy”—a name that seems certain to change—in some of the most challenging light situations I know:

 
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My guess is that the unsharpness at the bottom is due to him moving, not camera shake; it's fine at the top.

No, he's not a quarter horse, he's a Morgan. He's only 3 years old, and looks a little skinny as a result, but Chris and Yvonne both expect great things from him. Here's a more reasonable photo:

 
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Planting the Leucadendron
Topic: gardening Link here

Lorraine Carranza gave us a Leucadendron salignum x discolor, cultivar “Lime Magic” for Christmas.

And not “Lime Magik”, an Acacia cultivar that we had in Kleins Road, and which we planted in Stones Road and (apparently) didn't watch while it died.

We've been wondering where to plant it ever since. The instructions say that it will survive “mild frost”, whatever that means. But it also appears to be suited to pots, so today I planted it in a pot in front of the house:

 
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It's interesting to note what appears to be something like a flower:

 
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It seems that it's a seed cone. I wonder when that happened


Thursday, 24 January 2019 Dereel Images for 24 January 2019
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Leucadendron protection
Topic: gardening Link here

It's hot again—today the temperature hit 43°—and I've just planted my Leucadendron outside in the (morning) sun. Given the problems I had earlier in the year, it's going to get burnt. Time for some protection:

 
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Olympus OM-D E-M1X
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Olympus released a new camera today, the Olympus OM-D E-M1X. I don't know why:

 
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That's next to an OM-D E-M5 Mark II. It's enormous! Part of Olympus's attraction is (was) the size. Yes, they've included a “grip” at the bottom; these grips are available as accessories for the other bodies as well, but I've never found a use for them.

Ah, but it has a second set of controls for when you're using it in portrait orientation. Maybe. There are two ways to hold a camera in portrait orientation, and this one only accounts for one of them.

Looking at the specs, it has some improvements on the E-M1 Mark II, notably in the autofocus area, which is certainly necessary. But reading between the lines, a couple of things stand out:

I'm torn between the added functionality, particularly the AF, and the size. It's reasonable to assume that Olympus might come out with a better processor generation, and they've stressed the fact that this is not a replacement for a Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III. I may have the choice between buying the E-M1X now and being lumbered with it for its useful life, or waiting a year or two and buying a more sanely dimensioned E-M1 Mark III. For the moment the latter sounds a better option. I'd certainly be really pissed off if I bought an E-M1X and found that, like the E-M1 Mark II before it, it didn't live up to the advertising hype.

Somehow I'm left with the feeling that the E-M1X is an experiment: put in all the new features that they've been developing, and to hell with the size. See if it sells anyway; the success of the E-M1X will give them some ideas for what to do for the E-M1 Mark III.


Wildflower macros: finally?
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

I've been dragging my heels on taking photos of the tiny wildflowers that we have round the house. It's high time: the high temperatures mean that they won't be around much longer. Today I bit the bullet and took some of the tiny yellow ground cover flowers and put on a plate in my office and took a couple of focus stacks.

They weren't a success, except maybe as (yet another) learning experience. What I have is:

The results are still less than perfect, but maybe after processing and with a bit of analysis I can get some better answers to my questions. Hopefully the wildflowers won't finish flowering first.


Friday, 25 January 2019 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 25 January 2019
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Emergency! Too late!
Topic: general, opinion Link here

This stupid VicEmergency app beeped at me four times today, and displayed something dim on the phone. OK, turn phone on and look at it. Where is it? No idea. Not in Messages. Not in the app itself. Gone! And the app, tuned for a radius of 15 km around Dereel, only had 3 incidents: two total fire bans (one in an area unrelated to my area) and a car accident in Mount Mercer at 4:00 this morning.

People, lives are at risk here! Can't you finally get your act together and provide a useful information system? Start with only the emergencies that affect me. And provide a sensible way to inform me.

Ten years and no progress.


Bank of Melbourne does it again
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

I needed to transfer some money this morning, so brought up the Bank of Melbourne “Internet” page and tried to log in. Normally the details are saved, but here they were gone again. Entered them manually and got an authentication violation: “Please match the requested format” against the “Security number” (a 6 digit PIN).

I've seen this before, and more than once. When will they get their act together?

Called up the bank and had the usual run-around: it must be my problem, because everybody else can log in with no trouble. She asked me to try logging in at http://www.bankofsa.com/ and http://www.stgeorge.com/. The latter failed in the same way, but the first didn't even bring up a screen. After some investigation it proved that it belonged to a domain squatter, and the real URL was http://www.banksa.com/, where it failed as before. But no, she was sure that the domain was bankofsa, not banksa. You'd think she was trying to annoy me.

I asked her to try it from where she was, but she couldn't do that for “security reasons”. Ended up speaking to a supervisor, who explained don't have access to my “Internet Password” and “Security Number”, which does sound reasonable. She suggested a visit in a branch to try it there.

Ended up filing a formal complaint. I don't expect any useful outcome. This isn't the only issue: I've had problems with things as simple as transferring money, and the way we were treated when we dared to apply for a credit card was completely unacceptable. Time to look for a new bank.

I was in town later, so I went to the Bank of Melbourne branch and spoke to Andrew, who seemed helpful and interested. They have a set of iPads there, but I wanted a real computer with a real browser. While he was setting that up, I tried anyway. How I hate glass keyboards! But it worked. And as with the browser, there was a big difference: the authentication screen inserted a dash in the access number: 1234-5678 instead of the 12345678 that I get at home. Is there some issue there with updating parts of the authentication system?


Blood test results
Topic: health, opinion Link here

To town today for the results of last week's blood tests. Parts of them were excellent. Vitamin B12 and related values were normal

One thing of concern to me, at any rate, was a high alanine transaminase (ALT) value, 47 U/L compared with a maximum acceptable 35. But that didn't seem to worry Paul, who was more concerned about the 7.1 mmol/l fasting glucose. Maybe I'm getting diabetes? For some reason he didn't want to believe it two years ago, and for some reason he didn't even do an HbA1c test. OK, we'll try again in 3 months and see what happens there.

He also measured blood pressure: 138/84. That's higher than I usually have, and I blame it on the Bank of Melbourne, but he was happy enough with that.


More fridges
Topic: general, opinion Link here

While in town, also looked in again at The Good Guys, who have a Hisense fridge on special. Given that Hisense is too polite to show the contents of their freezer compartments, it sounds like a good idea to take a look.

I didn't find the fridge (“in stock” according to their advertisements), but I did find another fridge that could be of interest: a Sharp SJ-XE624F-SL (or SJXE624FSL, as the punctuation-impaired web team call it). No details beyond “624 litres” (not even a distribution between fridge and freezer), though for once the model number matches the claimed capacity. It has a slight dent on the side, which has lowered the price by over $400. But apart from that, it has what I've been looking for: properly closed drawers in the freezer compartment.

 
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Power fail! Power fail!
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Chris Bahlo was due for dinner tonight, so on the way home I stopped at ALDI and bought some asparagus. Called up Yvonne to see if she wanted anything else. Yes, mains power. We had just had another power failure.

Damn! This lack of control—not that I could have done anything had I been at home, apart from power down the computers sanely. And when I got home the power was still out.

OK, time to load the VICTORIA POWER NETWORKS Outages app (I suppose the continual failures makes people shout). And it seemed to work, and told me that it was—once again!—a power failure at the Midland Highway in Buninyong, and that power was estimated to be back at 17:30, one message per locality, and quoting an improbably small number of subscribers affected (under 100 in Dereel).

OK, that's the standard 2 hours, But at 17:40 I clicked on a random locality and was told the same old message. It seemed that I had to repeat the search to get an update! And then it told me 20:30. Another app fail. And time to call Chris and put off dinner until Sunday.

OK, time to see if I can fire up the generator. Not much hope: these ALDI generators have an issue with petrol left in the tank becoming stale, and they don't start well after a month or two. I don't even know when I last ran the generator, but the last time I mentioned it in this diary was almost exactly a year ago. What chance did I have?

About the only good thing today was that it started on first pull. More laying cables around the house. That Eaton UPS I bought proves to be a real waste of money: it won't accept the power from the generator. And eating cold food, of course.

During dinner, at 19:16, the power came back. Left it for half an hour in case of hiccoughs, and finally went out and turned the generator off. Came back. Power fail! Generator again, back inside, and the power was there again, having come back at 19:57. And, mercifully, it stayed that way.

It's really time for solar panels, rebate or no. I called Simon Reid of BREAZE on 0434 769 722, and once again got voice mail. Once again left a message, but I've been trying half-heartedly for months now. Are these people still in business?


Another fill of petrol
Topic: general, opinion Link here

On the way home, filled up the car. That's a pretty rare occurrence nowadays: in the 15 months since 18 October 2017 I have filled up 4 times and driven 2,511 km (164 km per month). Went to a new petrol station that I don't know on the east side of Albert St. just north of Vickers St., so new that Google Maps don't have any record of it. Pulled out the pistol, and nothing happened. Then I read:

 
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I found an Attendant, but he didn't give me any assistant. He did, however, activate the pump without holding on to my card. It's slooow. But also cheap, and when I mentioned the speed while paying, they explained that it appears to be an issue with the heat.


Saturday, 26 January 2019 Dereel Images for 26 January 2019
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Bank of Melbourne, a day later
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

Tried to access the Bank of Melbourne “Internet banking” again today. It worked perfectly. And there are still no hyphens in my account number. So whatever happened yesterday was transient and had nothing to do with me—as on previous occasions.


Garage door opener problems
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Yvonne in to the office while I was grumbling at fsck, and told me that she couldn't open the garage door. That's a result of yesterday's power failure: I had to close it manually. But it should have reengaged automatically.

Out to take a closer look. It's a Securalift GDO-11V1, a name that gets many hits on Google, but none by the manufacturer. There's an instruction sheet helpfully attached to the manual operation cord:

 
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But I couldn't understand it. It didn't seem to relate to the hardware in front of me:

 
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The angled rod in this photo is not the same as the lever in the first photo. It's connected to the mechanism of the door. The lever (identified as “handle”) is clearly intended to engage the mechanism. And it's not there. Instead there's a cord not shown in the instructions (although they're attached to it!).

After some investigation, noted that the orange bead at the end of the cord had two different positions:

 
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But it didn't engage in either position. Finally I just let it run, and at some point there was a click, and it engaged. What's the difference? Here's before and after:

 
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No, I can't see any difference either.

But back to that instruction sheet on the cord: it contains dire warnings not to remove it, and it's clearly perforated to fit on the pull cord. But the diagram shows a completely different mechanism, apparently without cord. What have these people been smoking?


More freezer thoughts
Topic: general, opinion Link here

More consideration of the freezers that I saw yesterday. Yes, I'm looking for the best prices, because I'm a skinflint. But we don't have to have a “cheap” freezer. How about something like the SRF671BFH2 Family Hub™?

It has amazing features!

What it doesn't say is that the right-hand door contains a display

It also appears to have a web browser, but not a keyboard.

OK, how much are these things worth? Being restricted to using a mobile phone to shop at Woolworths only makes it effectively useless. What about seeing inside the fridge?

Built-in-cameras allow you to see what's inside your refrigerator, anytime, anywhere, using just your smartphone. With three cameras clearly showing the shelves inside, it's easy to see what you have and what you're missing when you are out and about.

Bloody phone again! What's wrong with the display on the door? Ah, remote access. In other words, if you go off half-cocked and need to check what you have, this claims to be able to help:

Is that really what it looks like inside? It seems that the food is on a carousel. But other images show:

That's in fact very close to the layout of the Sharp unit that I'm looking at.

Elsewhere it praises:

I'm reminded or Henry Spencer:

Those who do not understand Unix are condemned to reinvent it, poorly.

Here, it seems, Samsung is reinventing computers, poorly. Where's the keyboard? Where can you sit? Where's the interoperability? What's the point?

One point, clearly, is to be able to see what's in your fridge when it's closed. The thing has three cameras. Where are they positioned? Clearly inside the fridge, which means that you can't cover the whole area in one view. The advertising suggests that they show a view close to what you'd see if you opened the door. But the advertising is not of this world. What I see when I open my fridge is:

 
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What's in there? I don't even know myself, and just looking from the front is little help. As it happened, after taking these photos, I sent looking for some bamboo shoots that I thought I had in the second fridge. After 5 minutes I gave up. If they're there, they're well hidden. But how would a “smart fridge” help me there?

And what about conventional things? How big is the thing? What are the volumes of the fridge and freezer compartments? What does the freezer compartment even look like? Ah, they're too polite to irritate me with such inconsequentialities.

Once technical people designed products. Now it's marketeers. How else could an abortion like a modern mobile phone come to be?

But maybe it's a good fridge too? Yes, maybe it is, but one more conventional detail makes it a no-go: it's 1.825 m high, 2.7 cm higher than the space where I might put it.


Ikan kukus pedas
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

I've bought a couple of spice paste mixes, “Ikan kukus Thai” and “Nyonya ikan kukus”, for steaming fish:

 
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Which should I try? Despite the name of the former, both are clearly Malaysian in origin. But I don't know Thai style steamed fish, so I settled on the Nyonya style for this evening, along with sweet and sour fish for Yvonne in case it was too pedas.

And pedas it was. Far too much, unfortunately; otherwise it tasted quite good. But I don't see myself buying that stuff again.


Sunday, 27 January 2019 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 27 January 2019
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Heavy tomatoes
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

Watering the plants this morning, discovered this:

 
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