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July 2014
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Tuesday, 1 July 2014 Dereel Images for 1 July 2014
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Castrating Leonid
Topic: animals Link here

Off to Pene Kirk's near Cape Clear this morning to have Leonid castrated:


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In the process, he also made his first acquaintance with lambs, which concerned him:


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While he was out, also took a better look at his teeth:


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We knew when we bought him that he had an overbite, clearly visible in the second image, but I had been concerned about his lack of “canine” teeth. But they're there, and it seems that it's normal for a dog in his age to have such small canines: they're still milk teeth, and his adult teeth will look very different.


Moussaka?
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Last week we ate a leg of lamb, something that Yvonne now tells me she doesn't like. So she bought the biggest (deboned) leg I have ever seen.

In the past we've made shepherd's pie out of the remainder, but that's a little boring. How about something Mediterranean like Moussaka? So Yvonne bought some aubergines, and today I set to making it.

What a disaster! Preparations took 2 hours, mainly salting, washing, drying and grilling the slices of aubergine. And of course the quantities in the recipe (from Australian Woman's Weekly) were all wrong, and we didn't have nearly enough aubergines. Interestingly, the web site has 10 different moussaka recipes, none of which match the recipe in the cookbook. This one comes close, and like so many asks for a 425 g can of tomatoes—in a country where tinned tomatoes come in tins of 400 g or 800 g. Were they once different in pre-“metric” times?

The “Béchamel” sauce in particular looked very dubious. For 1 litre of milk they wanted not only 100 g flour, but also 2 eggs. My recipe uses half the proportion of flour, and of course no eggs. What to do? Yvonne opined that we should just leave it out and coat with potato slices instead. Did that, and it didn't taste bad, but what a lot of work! Here's the recipe as we would do it next time, if we ever do it again.


Mild winter?
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Two weeks ago I noted how mild the first half of June had been. It seems that the trend has continued:

mysql> SELECT year(date), max(outside_temp), avg(outside_temp), min(outside_temp)
FROM observations
WHERE month(date) = 6
GROUP BY year(date);

+------------+-------------------+-------------------+-------------------+
| year(date) | max(outside_temp) | avg(outside_temp) | min(outside_temp) |
+------------+-------------------+-------------------+-------------------+
|       2010 |              18.4 |  8.05680000537773 |               0.5 |
|       2011 |              23.5 |  9.29382221309931 |               0.1 |
|       2012 |              18.4 |  8.43269742819603 |              -1.1 |
|       2013 |              24.4 |  8.23597992829152 |              -1.2 |
|       2014 |              18.7 |  9.70234243864472 |               2.8 |
+------------+-------------------+-------------------+-------------------+

Of course, I'm no longer comparing apples with apples. The sensor is now not exactly in the open:


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Is that maybe why both maximum and minimum temperatures are closer to the average?


Wednesday, 2 July 2014 Dereel Images for 2 July 2014
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Biodiversity: new excesses
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

My best quote for 0.017 Biodiversity Equivalence Units was $3,390, along with a fixed payment of $500 to the Trust For Nature. That's a price of just under $200,000 per BEU, a far cry from the $35,000 to $50,000 that Nick Jaschenko told me last month. But now I only need 0.003 BEUs, so the price should drop to roughly $600, right (still with presumably the same payment to the Trust For Nature)? I can live with that.

But today I got the quote: $1,750! That's over $580,000 per BEU. How can people hold the public to ransom like this?


eBay pricing
Topic: general, photography, opinion Link here

One of the nice things about eBay is that the prices are generally lower, right? But somehow it doesn't always seem to be like that. A couple of days I bought a second-hand Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 8 mm f/3.5 fisheye lens on eBay. After comparing the new price (US $799 from B&H Photo), the $455 I paid (including postage) seemed reasonable. I use B&H as a reference because they're relatively cheap without being unreliable. Of course, the price isn't directly comparable: there's at least $42 shipping, and so the whole thing translates to AUD 890, almost double the price I paid.

I'm still waiting for it to arrive, but in the meantime eBay keeps popping up “This might interest you” suggestions. One did: the same lens, brand new, for $1,860.08! That's well over double the price that B&H charge. And then there's somebody selling a M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 EZ, $349 at B&H, for AUD $6,500! The seller even has an “explanation”:

Why are you offering this item for over $6000.00 when it doesn't worth that much?

qd_au: We have increased the price dramatically for items that are out of stock and are currently under replenishment. Providing fast shipping is one of our top priorities. We want to reduce the chances for buyers to wait for back orders as part of our commitment. If you are really interested in this item, feel free to send us a message :)

That's nonsense, of course. B&H have it in stock. And nobody's going to pay anything like that price just to get it right now. In fact, it's one of the lenses that I was considering for Yvonne a couple of months ago, and as I noted at the time, there are plenty of alternatives.

So why are they doing it? The most likely reason seems to be to make it easier to increase the prices people are prepared to pay for other auctions. The whole thing has an unpleasant odour.


Ukraïne and propaganda
Topic: general, opinion Link here

I've been watching the developments in Ukraïne with concern. According to the news I can see (from Aljazeera and Deutsche Welle), the Russians are broadcasting propaganda inside Russia and Eastern Ukraïne comparing the government in Kiïv to fascists. That's not good.

And we hear from all sides that the affair is weakening the Russian economy. Growth will slow, the exchange rate of the Rubel is dropping.

Is it? Not that I can see. Here a couple of comparisons from OANDA's currency converter:

 
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That's the number of roubles that a USD or EUR will buy. It's dropping. And at least the US dollar is dropping against the Australian dollar as well:

 
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What am I missing here? You'd expect big international organizations to be correct in their statements. Yes, maybe growth will drop, but the exchange rates tell a different story.


Thursday, 3 July 2014 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 3 July 2014
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Eagles and prey
Topic: animals Link here

Yesterday while walking the dogs, we found a dead rabbit:


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That doesn't look like the way a dog (or presumably a fox) would eat a rabbit. In particular, it didn't eat very much of it. Today we returned and found less of it left, and more fluff instead:


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Australia doesn't have many carnivores. We guessed at a Wedge-tailed eagle, made easier by our recent discovery of an eagle's nest not far away.

In the afternoon, visited our neighbour-to-be Graeme Swift, who suddenly became very agitated because one of his (very small) dogs disappeared. The property is well fenced-in, so there was no danger of him getting away. But it seems that Linda is terrified that an eagle will get him.

Clearly no wedgie is going to carry off one of our dogs. But what about cats? Theoretically it could, I suppose, but there are eagles round where we live now, and we still have our cats. Probably Linda is just a little overly concerned.


Choosing flooring
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Into town today to choose the flooring for the new house. We ended up with a Knight Tile simulated wood pattern—elm, supposedly. Took some samples with us for a coming appointment with JG King on Tuesday.


Sous-vide: still not there
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

My last attempt with sous-vide cooking was only marginally successful: as I later discovered, ALDI's recommended 75° is far too hot to cook chicken breast. Jeff Potter's Cooking for Geeks recommends a range between 60° and 65°:

 
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OK, that made more sense. I've always had difficulties getting chicken thighs cooked to the point where they come off the bone easily, and this looked like the solution. Given the presence of a bone, it made more sense to cook longer, so I gave it 4 hours at 63°. Here's before and after:


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The result still looks a little pinkish! And after grilling, it was:


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What went wrong there? Inaccurate temperatures? Indeed there was a discrepancy: although I had set the cooker to 63°, spot checks showed that it thought that the temperature was 60° or 61°. But the infrared thermometer showed pretty consistent temperatures within about 0.3° of 63°. Based on the method of measurement, if there were any error, I'd expect the reading to be lower than the real temperature.

I think the real culprit is elsewhere: despite the extreme importance of exact temperatures in sous-vide cooking, the documentation is full of errors. I've seen the first example in the ALDI documentation. But that's only part of the story. SousVide SUPREME™ publish a table recommending 60-63° for white meat and 80° (!) for dark meat. Jeff doesn't make a distinction, but it seems that he is thinking of breast.

The table has some surprising temperatures:

 
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The numbers are temperatures in Fahrenheit and Celsius. So soft-cooked eggs are cooked either hotter or colder than hard-cooked eggs? What kind of sense does that make? But the real problem was the rendering of the web page, which left out the times (minimum and maximum):

 
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But the “quick” solution isn't sous-vide cooking at all! The egg isn't supposed to reach the ambient temperature. You can do the same thing even faster by raising the temperature to 100° and cooking for 6 minutes.

In summary, then, it looks as if I'm going to have to spend a lot of time experimenting with the temperatures. For the moment it looks as if I just chose the wrong kind of chicken for the temperature in my first two experiments.


Feeding Zhivago again
Topic: animals Link here

For the last 9 months, since his operation, Zhivago has been eating special pellets to avoid a recurrence of his uroliths. It's very expensive and doesn't taste good. We talked about it with Pene on Tuesday, and she recommended giving him normal food again: it took 8 years for the problems to occur, and it's unlikely he'll live to 16. In the meantime we can keep an eye on what he eats.

Zhivago couldn't believe his eyes:


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He looked at Yvonne as if to say “May I really?”. And he even didn't mind when Piccola joined in:


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BigPond support from the outside
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Sent a message to Ron Frolley today. It didn't get delivered:


<ronfrolley@bigpond.com>: host extmail.bigpond.com[61.9.189.122] said: 552 5.2.0
    Mexs1o00h1sUVRc01extSj Suspected spam message rejected. IB703 (in reply to
    end of DATA command)

Suspected spam? What's that? Against my better judgement, called up “BigPond” support on 13 39 33, fought their stupid voice non-recognition system, and was connected relatively quickly with a Matteo who sounded distinctly Indian. He was out of his depth from the outset. He asked for my account number, and when I told him I didn't have an account with Telstra, he asked for my birth date. No point arguing: I gave him 15 August 1963, so he tried to look it up in their records. Later he wanted to know who my ISP is (lemis.com, of course). Finally I got to reading the error message, but he just said that the outgoing server was to blame. Which outgoing server? Why did extmail report the error? Don't worry, just let me go through my script.

Next question: who are you sending the mail to? Gave him the email ID. Who is that? A friend of mine. Are you near Ron's computer now?

Round about this time I asked to be transferred to his supervisor. Sorry, not until we check your computer and ports. You should be connecting to mail.bigpond.com on ports 587 or 465, which proved to be the numerical equivalent of submission and smtps. That doesn't work, of course:

=== grog@www (/dev/pts/0) /usr/local/etc/postfix 14 -> telnet mail.bigpond.com submission
Trying 61.9.189.249...
Connected to mail.BIGPOND.com.
Escape character is '^]'.
ehlo lemis.com
Connection closed by foreign host.

I tried to explain to him how SMTP works, and where the problem was detected. I don't think he was listening. Once again I asked for a supervisor, in retrospect a silly thing, since I've already established that, if there are supervisors, they never get involved. Matteo told me that his supervisor was nowhere near him, and he'd have to go halfway through the building to find him. Some supervision, eh? But finally he offered to escalate the matter. That at least is an improvement over my last interactions with them, where I specifically noted the lack of escalation procedures.

Once again he asked for my Big Pond account number. After an explosion on my part he finally gave me the reference number 140703-3820287 and told me they would monitor the connection 24×7, whatever that is supposed to mean. Based on my experience, that'll probably be the last I hear of the matter:

They have never, ever, solved a reported problem.

Maybe it's better for my blood pressure if they don't call back.

And the problem? It seems that in the last two days, since I last sent a message to Ron, they've decided that digitally signed messages are spam. Removed the signature, and it went through. Despite all my distaste for Telstra, I think that the real techies might be interested in that.


Friday, 4 July 2014 Dereel Images for 4 July 2014
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First fisheye experiments
Topic: photography Link here

Now I have my new Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 8 mm f/3.5 fisheye lens. What do I do with it? The obvious things are panoramas and extreme distortion. The latter works up to a point:


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Yes, the first photo is out of focus, but these are just experiments.

The panoramas were interesting. I tried the verandah centre panorama, for which I need 20 images with the Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm F4.0-5.6 lens: two rows exposed at 45° increments, and a single row at the top at 90° increments. It's clear that both of the lower rows can be replaced by a single row at 90° increments. And the third row should be replaced by a single image pointing straight up.

Running Hugin was interesting: it doesn't seem to know how to recognize a fisheye lens—not this one, anyway—and I had to tell it manually. That meant I couldn't use the “assistant”, because it doesn't give you the chance before trying to align the images. And for some reason it seemed to think that the image taken straight up was taken with a different lens with a different focal length. Finally corrected that and got a result that was less than optimal:


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Yes, the coverage of the lens was enough to cover the roof of the verandah—almost. But the field of view is rectangular, not circular, and I really needed a second one at right angles. More to the point, though, the roof doesn't fit the rest of the image. Further investigation showed that the control point detector had only found two control points between the roof and the other images, both on the same image and very close together, at bottom centre in the first image:


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Made a second attempt with a total of 6 images, and this time the control point detector didn't find any control points between the roof images and the others. Clearly there's more work to be done here.

Other images aren't so obviously fisheye:


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At times I wonder whether it's really worth having. But, being used, I can probably sell it again for a price similar to what I paid for it.


Septic permit issued
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

The next step in the house construction: we now have our septic tank permit. All we need now is a new planning permit and two building permits. Still, it seems like progress.


Walking dogs in Enfield State Park
Topic: animals, general Link here

In the afternoon, decided to take the dogs for a walk down the other end of Westons Road. We had done this once before, but that time we turned right at the end of Westons Road, away from Enfield State ForestPark.

Image

This time we turned left into the forest and found a landscape that reminded us more of Kuitpo Forest:


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There's a good reason for that: both are forest plantations. Still, it's a change from the virgin forest that we're used to, and there's that too. Walked almost up to the Ballarat-Colac road, and then back to the car, about 3 km:


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Turning the car around was a problem. It almost worked:


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After a lot of trying to straighten it, I ended up wedged between the tree on the right and a ridge on the left. No way to get out without outside help. Went to the houses along Westons Road. At the first nobody was home, at the second they weren't able to help, and at the third people were home, but there was no way to attract their attention. Why do so few Australian houses have doorbells?

Gradually it was getting dark, so bit the bullet and walked home, a total distance of 6.8 km:


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What a day!


Compact and real cameras revisited
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

While in Enfield State Park, found some more Epacris impressa and took photos of them:


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This time I had my Olympus OM-D E-M1 with me. What a contrast to the photos I took with the Canon IXY 200F a couple of weeks ago:


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I should always have a real camera with me.


Saturday, 5 July 2014 Dereel Images for 5 July 2014
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Retrieving the car
Topic: general Link here

Chris Bahlo along first thing in the morning with David Yeardley's Landcruiser and a rope, and off to pick up the Commodore. The problem was how to move it: it was right across the road, but with the rear pointing away from the only side we could access it on:


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The tow bar was the obvious place to attach the rope, but pulling sideways might not be the best thing for it: they're designed for longitudinal stresses. In the end decided that the best would be to go into the paddock behind the car and pull it out from there. For that we needed the permission of the owner, who today was fortunately there, and more than prepared to let us in. Chris' tow rope proved too short, and Steve (the owner) produced a chain to connect to it.

That was all we needed. A quick pull back by a metre or so, and the thing was done. Thank God for that!


Sous-vide, try 3
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

My last two attempts with sous-vide cooking weren't unqualified successes. And today we had planned a Girello beef roast for dinner. Again, what temperature? What time? I was pretty sure that 53° would be right, since that's how I cook the meat in the oven. With some difficulty found some more links and consolidated them on a sous-vide page. In particular this page, though a little busy, suggested 50° for rare (“not recommended”) and 55° for medium rare, which rather confirmed my expectations. But for that I needed to cook either 2.5 to 3 hours for thinner cuts or 4.5 to 6.5 hours for thicker cuts. It seems that there's a no-man's-land between 3 and 4.5 hours.

In the end I decided on the 6.5 hours; after all, what difference does it make? The result showed that a considerable amount of reddish fluid had escaped from the meat in that time, and the result didn't look overly rare:


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Seared it in the pan as instructed, and served it:


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Yes, it's not as rare as I wanted. Next time I'll do it less. But how much less? Are 2° or 3° enough? We'll see.

In passing, it's interesting to note a few quirks of the cooker. It has a timer, but it's not clear what good it is. Clearly it needs to come up to temperature before you can even start the timer, and it keeps that temperature regardless. So you don't need the timer to cook. What good is it? After it's finished, it beeps and turns off the cooker, but the water temperature stays relatively constant, so it doesn't stop cooking. I suppose you could consider it a marginal energy saving device.

The other oddness is the temperature display. When you turn it on you set the temperature, to the nearest degree, but when you turn on the heating it switches to a time display (static until you turn on the timer). To see the temperature, you need to press the “Function” button, and then it shows the temperature for a couple of seconds before switching back to the time display again.

But the temperature display is wrong! Or at least, that's the way I see it. Every time I tried, it showed a temperature of 50° or 51°, though the infrared thermometer showed 53°, and a meat thermometer in the meat after completion showed 52.6°:


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So my best guess is that the temperature probe that measures the displayed temperature is not the temperature probe that controls the temperature.


Surviving the Yeardleys
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Life with the Yeardleys is becoming increasingly difficult for Chris. You'd think they were going out of their way to annoy her. I still can't make up my mind about Tuyết: is she just after David's money, or is she genuinely jealous of Chris? My take is that she's trying to get rid of Chris first so that she can then complain about how impossible life is, and why don't they sell the house and move to Viet Nam? But a lot of their behaviour seems completely irrational. Sheep? Alpacas? They don't even feed their dog—Chris does that. And they want to keep horses, though Tuyết and Minh Chau don't ever go near them, and David is away for weeks at a time. And Tuyết doesn't even have a driver's license, after 1½ years! I'm convinced that Tuyết is planning to leave him as soon as the house is in their joint names.

As if that wasn't strange enough, they've been dismantling Chris' horse infrastructure to half fence in their new animals, without so much as a by-your-leave. And today it seems that borrowing the Landcruiser today wasn't allowed, and there was more bad blood. Enough is enough. David is leaving for Singapore in a week or two, and Tuyết goes into Ballarat all day Tuesday. So we're planning to move out Chris, her dogs, her horses and her furniture on that day. It'll be interesting to see how Tuyết copes with what's left.


Sunday, 6 July 2014 Dereel Images for 6 July 2014
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House photos with fisheye
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

House photo day today, the first of the month and thus the most comprehensive. And now I have my new Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 8 mm f/3.5 fisheye lens, clearly it was time for experiments.

The first question is: what does “focal length” mean with fisheye lenses? It's a rectilinear concept. Maybe it works if you consider the immediate area round the optical access, but the comparison with the 9 mm lens shows how little that means:

Focal length:       8.00 mm       9.00 mm
Horizontal FOV:       94.47°       87.73°
Diagonal FOV:       107.04°       100.49°
Vertical FOV:       78.19°       71.68°

The real diagonal field of view of the fisheye is 180°, but you can't even calculate that based on the conventional formulas. And the reality looks very different:

 
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The obvious thing to do there is to mount the camera horizontally, as shown here. That's something I haven't done for a long time. And that showed another problem. When mounted horizontally, the optical axis of the lens must intersect the horizontal rotation axis, like here:


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But since I last did that, I've changed my rails, on the one hand to give sufficient clearance between lens and rail, and on the other hand to compensate for the offset tripod mount of the Olympus OM-D E-M1. And now I can't position the L bracket low enough. It fouls the bottom of the panorama bracket:


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Still, for the time being it'll work, though I see a more sophisticated panorama bracket on the horizon.

Next question: how many images? I've already established that it's considerably fewer. In practice, there's only a certain number I can choose: angles of 45° or 60° or multiples thereof. 180° is clearly too few; but what about 120°. It almost works, but the panorama preview showed missing areas:


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They're not missing in the final image, but I didn't notice that until later, so dropped to 90° increments (4 images per row instead of 3). That certainly improves the height:


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Other points of interest: the Olympus Viewer doesn't seem to apply any distortion corrections. Either distortion isn't the issue in fisheyes that it is in rectilinear lenses, or they don't know how to correct it. And Hugin doesn't calculate the focal length correctly. It reads 8 mm from the EXIF data, but when I change then lens type to “fisheye” it changes it to 10.487 mm. And if I leave it like that, the control point detectors have problems. It seems that a better “focal length” is 7,78 mm.

Finally, the minor differences make surprising differences in the output. I took a total of 7 shots of the “verandah east” view: 3 at 120° and 4 at 90°. They were all taken without moving the tripod, so I was able to choose which images to use. Here's a view with all 7 and then only the four at 90°. Run the cursor over the images to compare with the partner:


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Somehow the area immediately to the right of centre hasn't been correctly joined in the first image.

Apart from that, though, things worked “normally”. I was able to stitch the “verandah centre” panorama by not pointing the lens directly upwards. Given the mapping of a fisheye lens, it's difficult to see which of these two images was taken with the fisheye. Again, run the cursor over the images to compare with the partner:


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Answer: the first. But the differences in the appearance have very more to do with the way I cropped the image than the projection of the lens.


Tech-savvy dogs
Topic: animals Link here

Came into the lounge room this afternoon to find evidence of dogs having been misbehaving. My back-scratcher and the mouse for teevee were both on the ground, superficially undamaged. But the mouse didn't work. And then I found out why:


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Look at the switch centre right. They had turned the mouse off! How did they manage that without leaving any traces on the mouse?


Yeardleys stealing firewood
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Chris and Yvonne were going to bring a couple of horses over here this afternoon. It didn't quite work out the way they expected: David Yeardley had decided that he needed the Landcruiser. What for? To steal firewood from Chris' property! I can't believe he's stoop so low. I was going to go over and take photos, but Chris didn't want me to.


Monday, 7 July 2014 Dereel Images for 7 July 2014
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New fences
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Over to the Stones Road property with CJ Ellis this morning to look at the fences more seriously. In the process confirmed that the “rear fence” was in fact an incomplete low fence about 20 m from the real end of the property, and that the real boundary fence had many fallen trees on it, and that about a third of it was missing, presumably never built. It's all in dense forest, and just getting machinery there will be a problem

Spent some time trying to decide on what to do, including the possibility of Yet Another boundary fence at the end of the clear area, but in the end decided that we'd have to bite yet another bullet and get Stewart Summersby to come and clear the area so that we could put the fence where it belongs.

By contrast, the rest of the fencing was fairly straightforward, and we should be able to start putting up respectable fences some time next week. Called up Stewart and Craig Mayor, who will also be able to cut down the trees to the immediate west of the house.


Power for Stones Road
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Called up John Willowhite at Powercor. He had previously offered us single phase at 40 A or dual phase at 25 A. 25 A isn't enough to drive an air conditioner. Could he give us dual phase 40+10A? No, he couldn't do that, but he noted the problem, and agreed to supply single phase 50 A. That's still almost nothing.

And can he get the meter connected? No, for that we need a retailer. Went out looking: should I stay with my current retailer (Red Energy)? Why not do some comparisons?

Off to Google to see what was there. Not surprisingly, there were many hits. Surprisingly, none of them detailed what the tariffs were, not even the Government web site. All wanted to start with my current electricity bill. What happens if I have just arrived in Australia (but not by boat)? No bill, no idea.

Apart from that, each came up with its own strangenesses. The Government web site came up with offers that represented kWh prices as low as 18.2¢, including all additional costs. No explanation. Almost as soon as I filled in the form at Energy Watch I got a phone call from a girl with a penetrating fake American accent, who promised to have a connection tomorrow—until she heard that we didn't have a meter. Sorry, can't help you there. Come back when you have a meter (and an electricity supplier). Why should I?

As if that weren't bad enough, ten minutes later I got a call from somebody else from Energy Watch. No, thanks.

Then there was http://youcompare.com.au/, who came up with the least number of suppliers, but at least mentioned the prices per kWh. But no sum! Only “$796 1st year saving*”. That reminds me of this stupid “60% fat free” on foodstuffs.

iSelect at least warn:

I understand that iSelect recommends plans from a range of providers on its Approved Product List. []”

But at least they came up with most of the known suppliers, on a narrow display with space on both side and a clever scrolling method to ensure that you can't compare easily, spread over 14 subpages.

OK, so how about the retailers themselves? You'd think it would be a lot more work, but given the reluctance of the “comparison” web sites to provide details, there's not much difference.

In fact, as I found from Red Energy, there's very little difference. I couldn't find their rates there either. I have come to the conclusion that the entire electricity market is run by cowboys.


Tuesday, 8 July 2014 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel
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Choosing colours for house
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Into Ballarat this morning to meet Jo Forbes and discuss colours for the new house. Based on prior experience, I had expected it to take a long time, but in fact we got through relatively quickly. About the only thing that we were still uncertain about was the flooring. We had chosen wood-finish vinyl, but comparing it to the flooring in our current house, we were no longer so sure. Back to Delta to reconsider, and ended up with fake stone instead.

While at JG King, also spoke with Tom Tyler. I had sent him a list of errors in the plans last week, but—despite our insistence on quick processing—he hadn't done anything about it yet. Next time I'll come in and see him personally. Spent longer going through that than we had with Jo, but hopefully there's nothing else to worry about now.


Wednesday, 9 July 2014 Dereel Images for 9 July 2014
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Rectilinear fisheye images
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

I still don't understand how the makers of fisheye lenses come to their focal lengths, and Wikipedia doesn't help. Hugin considers my Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 8 mm f/3.5 fisheye lens to have a focal length of 7.72 mm. But it's much wider than the Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm F4.0-5.6. And with Hugin's help it's possible to convert the images to rectilinear. Here a comparison:


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The first two were taken with the fisheye and converted by Hugin to an equirectangular and cylindrical projection respectively. Looking at the two, cylindrical looks closer to what the 9 mm lens sees (last photo). But what's the field of view? Hugin doesn't know either. It claims a horizontal field of view of 179° for the first and 360° for the second, clearly both wrong. It's even difficult to get an approximate crop of the image, but it would look something like this:


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That crop is 2356×2033 out of an original 3403×2678, or 69%×76%, That's a diagonal crop factor of √(2356² + 2033²) ÷ √(3403² + 2678²), or about 72%. Since we're talking linear concepts with focal lengths, that corresponds to about 72% of 9 mm, or about 6.5 mm.


Hainan chicken rice sous-vide
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

More experimentation with sous-vide cooking today, and still more to come during the week. What would be more suited to sous-vide than Hainan Chicken Rice? It's one of the few dishes that is traditionally cooked below 100°. So I found a recipe in the Codlo cookbook and followed it. Once again chicken thighs, but this time deboned and cooked at 65°—not the conclusion I came to last week. But that's the part of the issue: I don't have a good feeling for how much difference 2° makes. So I followed the recipe.

The results weren't bad. Juicy meat, though the liquid that came out of it was a little reddish. The real issue was that the recipe didn't include the herbs and spices that my traditional recipe uses. Time to write down my version.

I've already commented that the timer on a sous-vide cooker is pretty useless. Today I confirmed: 15 minutes after removing the food from the cooker, the water temperature had dropped from 65° to 59°, and after an hour it was still 35°.

But there was also a surprise at the beginning: I put the chicken in before the bath had come up to temperature. Don't do that! When it finally came up to temperatures, I measured temperatures of up to 70° in places. I took the chicken out immediately, and I don't think it had any affect on the food, but it's clearly something that shouldn't be done.


Thursday, 10 July 2014 Dereel Images for 10 July 2014
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Teaching Leonid manners
Topic: animals Link here

Lately Leonid has been somewhat destructive. He has been chewing on various things in the lounge room, such as the bouquet of dried flowers in the fireplace on the right:


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It looks like we'll have to keep a closer eye on him.


Saumon sous vide: finally a difference
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

I'm continuing my experiments with sous-vide cooking, and today we tried a piece of salmon according to this recipe, somewhat derived from one in the Codlo cookbook. Codlo wants the fish to be brined first to avoid albumen secretion, but we didn't have time for that. On the other hand, the piece had skin on it, and this proved to be sufficient: there was no leaching.

The taste was amazing. You can eat salmon raw or cooked normally, and it tastes good either way. But here it was so soft it almost melted in your mouth. For the first time, I've seen results from sous-vide cooking that I've never seen done any other way.


Ossi buchi sous-vide
Topic: food and drink Link here

But wait! There's more! Yvonne bought some ossi buchi while shopping yesterday, and we're planning to eat them on Saturday. Several people have claimed that they're ideal candidates for sous-vide cooking. But how?

Went looking on the web and came up with a number of opinions. This recipe wants to cook them at 137° F (corresponds to an unsettable 58⅓°) for 24 to 36 hours. This one, a suspect URL that may change, wants 61° and 48 to 72 hours. This one wants 62° for 72 hours, and notes that the result is flaky, dry, and apparently to his taste. And this one describes his experiment of cooking at 60°: he removed one bone after 12 hours and found it excellent, while the second, cooked for 22 hours, was too long.

What can I make of all that? Sounds like more experiments. And none of them go into the issue of how the flavour of the meat suffuses the soffritto. One leaves it out altogether, but most of the recipes put it in with the bones, which means that they, too, would cook for up to 72 hours, well beyond what makes sense for vegetables. So for this attempt I've decided to cook them without the soffritto and prepare that at the end along with the juices from the bags.

Also had another issue with the vacuum pump: there was liquid in the bags, and it sucked it out, too:


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It's difficult to see, but the channel above the end of the bag is full of wine. It makes sense when you think about it, but clearly it means that you should hold the bags vertically when sealing.


Friday, 11 July 2014 Dereel Images for 11 July 2014
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Lying Electronic Program Guide
Topic: multimedia, opinion Link here

Since temporarily giving up on shepherd last month, I've been using the electronic programme guides that are broadcast with the TV multiplex to plan my TV recording. They've made me appreciate shepherd. What a pain! In some programmes the description gets mixed in with the title, the categories are mainly empty, both of which make it really difficult to present the programme in an easy-to-understand way. And to add insult to injury, they keep changing the start and end times, so unless I keep an eye on them all the time, I miss recordings:


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High time I started my next TV computer project.


More sous-vide insights
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

My ossobuco cooked all day. But not quite as planned. When I came into the kitchen this morning, the cooker had turned itself off. That's possibly because I didn't start the silly timer in a reasonable period of time. So I turned it on again and came up with further issues:


Still no electricity
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

So how do I compare electricity prices? I still don't know, but my comparisons suggested that my current supplier wasn't that bad, so called up, spoke to Ben, and asked to have a meter connected. Sorry, can't do that, the electrician must submit a Certificate of Electrical Safety and an Electrical Works Request to newconnections@redenergy.com.au. Where are the forms? Look on http://www.redenergy.com.au/. And until the paperwork is done, he won't even give me pricing information! He promised to send me some preliminary information in an email, but by evening nothing had arrived.

Called up Momentum on 1300 662 778 and selected “New Connections” from the phone menu. Was connected to Daniel, who told me he would have to connect me to New Connections, where Sal told me effectively the same information as Red Energy. Called up Stewart Summersby. Yes, that's the way they do things. He'll start work on the connection on Monday. But until I get a supplier to connect the meter for me, I can't even compare prices! What kind of consumer-friendly situation is that?


Saturday, 12 July 2014 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 12 July 2014
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Dog training again
Topic: animals Link here

Into Ballarat this morning with Nikolai and Leonid for dog training. Ian and Sandra both recognized Tanya, until we told them that it was really Leonid.

This was my (and Niko's) first training session since late February, and Niko was very agitated at the start. He calmed down after a while, and maybe that's a reason to continue training for a while, so that he can socialize better. I can't think of any other reason.


Power consumption measurements
Topic: multimedia, general, opinion Link here

Clearly it's high time to make more accurate measurements of my domestic electricity consumption. I've already established that eureka, my main computer, along with other components that are powered on all the time, use about 130 W, and this can increase to 150 W or more when eureka is busy. dischord, the Microsoft box, uses another 130 W by itself, while the monitors use about 120 W—a total of 400 W or so when everything's running.

And other components? To be investigated. Part of the problem is that I have to lie in silly positions to actually read the results. Today I bought another couple of power meters at ALDI and put one in the fridge circuit and another on the TV, along with teevee and the amplifier. The results were interesting: the TV consumes 10 W when powered off, the amplifier uses 40 W when powered on, and teevee uses only 50 W. When turned on, the TV uses about 200 W.

But what does that mean in terms of power consumption? I'll know in a week or so when I've had them running that long. So far, though, the consumption is far less than I feared.


Ossobuco sous vide: the verdict
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Finally the Ossobuco is cooked! How did it taste? OK, but possibly not as good as cooked normally. The meat was firmer than normal, but quite juicy, unlike the experience of this person or this person. But Yvonne thought it too firm, not disintegrating enough. That can be changed, of course, with higher temperatures, but do we want to? It takes a lot longer than conventional methods.


Sunday, 13 July 2014 Dereel Images for 13 July 2014
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First frost of winter
Topic: general Link here

It's been a very mild winter so far, but today Yvonne told me that there had been a mild frost early in the morning; it was gone by the time I got up. And the minimum temperature that my weather stations measured so far this winter is still +1°.


Fisheye panoramas: still no silver bullet
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

House photos again today, all done with the Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 8 mm f/3.5 fisheye lens. Despite significant frobbing, the verandah centre photo still didn't come out very well:


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I wonder what's causing that. Lack of distortion correction maybe?


Monday, 14 July 2014 Dereel Images for 14 July 2014
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Preparing for new fences
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

It's finally time to fix the fences on the new property. The west end has a fence for about ⅔ of the length, but lots of tree branches have fallen on it. Today CJ Ellis headed down to remove them so that Stewart can come in with his bobcat and tidy things up. It's quite heavily wooded:


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CJ made pretty short work of the timber, and hopefully Stewart can now get in there.


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Orchids in Stones Road?
Topic: gardening Link here

While messing around at the west end of the property, found a number of buds:


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What are they? Somehow they suggest orchids, and that's not beyond the bounds of possibility. We'll know more when they flower.


Tuesday, 15 July 2014 Dereel → Buninyong → Dereel Images for 15 July 2014
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Shed building permits
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Finally got my act together about the building permit for the shed. Dave Tudor will do the building, he has a bloke who can do the slab, and it seems that Dave Kors of Daville Buiding Surveying in Buninyong is the cheapest for the building permit. Filled out all the docco and over to hand it in. Lexie, the admin, thought that that wouldn't be necessary, but it proved to be just as well. Dave K took a look and noted that Dave T doesn't have a builder's license. That's not a complete KO situation: I just need to register as an Owner Builder, which can take up to 8 weeks. That's too long, so it looks as if I'll have to find a new builder.


Change in Stones Road
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

On the way home, passed by the Stones Road property, where Craig and Stewart were hard at it removing the trees to the immediate west of the house:


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Later heard that Craig is moving back to Bannockburn. That's a double problem: firstly, it'll make him less available, and secondly it means that his wife Leah will no longer be able to clean the house for us. Damn.


Programming VoIP adapters
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

One of the minor irritations I have with VoIP via my NetComm V210P ATA is that I still have to use the phone keypad to make calls. Wouldn't it be so much easier to click on a number on the screen and have the ATA dial it? Of course it would. And as far as I know, nobody has ever implemented such an obviously good idea.

But then, the ATA can store frequently called numbers and call them up via an abbreviation. Can't I store the number in one of those registers via a web application? It turns out that the answer is “yes, sort of”. The instructions tell you how to do it. You fill out a web form:

 
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But what do the fields mean? The instructions are vague. After some experimentation, it seems that the “Number” field is the same as the “Position” field, filled with leading zeroes to make up 3 digits. And URL? The instructions say:

Enter the URL, VoIP Phone Number, Remote WAN IP Address of VoIP Gateway

It seems that this is normally a phone number, but it can be an email address or an IP address with an optional port number. The instructions show a variety of formats, none of them URLs. One example is:

Example 1: Position: 0, Name: "test@iptel", Number: 000, URL: test@iptel.org

When the user dials the Number 000, it will dial to the VoIP User test who registers to the SIP Server iptel.org.

000 is the Australian emergency number! Thus there's no way to call it with this device. Isn't that a clever thing to do in a device intended for the Australian market?

Still, this can make life easier. Reserve a specific number for a “quick dial”, put it in via the web interface, and dial it via a dedicated “saved number” button on the phone.

In passing, it's interesting how the web form limits the utility of the feature. The ATA can store 140 phone numbers, but the form will only display 10 at a time:

 
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How do you get a list? Print out 14 pages, I suppose.


Wednesday, 16 July 2014 Dereel Images for 16 July 2014
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New branch manager
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

We christened Tanya “Branch Manager” because she had a habit of picking up fallen branches and running with them:


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But it seems that Leonid is continuing in her footsteps:


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As Jashank Jeremy observed, his bark is more than his bite.


Progress with fences
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Over to Stones Road this morning to see how Stewart was getting on. Not badly, it seems. He had cleared the whole front of the property, so CJ can get started there:


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It's pretty wet there. After the recent rains, the water level is only just below the surface:


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Probably we should fill in the unevennesses in the nature strip outside, which also has standing water.

Down the back he has cleared the north half of the west fence line. Here's the view from the north-west fence post:


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The southern half is less work. All he needs to do is to clear a few tree trunks, and he's done. But then, just after midday, he left. No idea when he'll continue.


Magic mushrooms
Topic: gardening Link here

We seem to have a number of mushrooms, probably Amanita muscaria, on the north side of the Stones Road property:


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Garden flowers in mid-winter
Topic: gardening Link here

It's the middle of winter, and once again things are fully in bloom. I had thought that the Acacias were early this year, but in fact the garden landscape correspond well to last year. About the only things of note are a Hedychium coronarium that is still hanging on, and our potted lemon tree in the greenhouse, which is flowering:


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Thursday, 17 July 2014 Dereel
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Shed pain
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

And I thought I had the shed business tied up! And now I need a registered building practitioner to erect it, or become an Owner Builder, something I really don't want to do. Contacted Dave Kors again, and he pointed me at Anthony Steinman, whom I couldn't contact. Left a message but got no reply. Also went through a list of people that Chris Bahlo had given me.

One wasn't registered, the second didn't do sheds, and the third gave me voicemail with the encouraging information that he was a plumber.

Also called up a bloke who had called me a while back, sent by Widespan. At the time he said that he would come here, though he's from the other side of Melbourne. Today he said he wouldn't. So I still don't have a builder.


Friday, 18 July 2014 Dereel
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Still no shed builder
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Finally got on to Anthony Steinman about the shed. Yes, he can do it, will cost about $4,000, and he won't be able to do it for at least 7 weeks. In that time I can get my owner-builder permit. Started filling out the application, which requires all sorts of things, even a statutory declaration. That won't be done before Monday. How these things drag!


A new electrician?
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Some weeks ago Stewart Summersby got bent out of shape when I suggested that he only do part of the electrical work in the house, so despite his higher prices I agreed to let him do all the work. And then a couple of days ago he suggested that I should get a second quote for laying the power cable to the house, for example from Jim Lannen of JKL Electrical Services in Enfield—in fact, a neighbour of the O'Deas. So I did that a couple of days ago, and got a ballpark figure of $2,000 to $3,000, compared to Stewart's $4,500. That's significant, and I told Stewart so. Now today Stewart suggested I ask him about wiring the house too. Why? I thought Stewart was really keen on doing it.

In any case, along came Jim and did his measurements, and was agreeable to wiring the house, so now at the last minute it looks as if we'll have a change of electrician.


Bridging finance
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Finally got on to Peter O'Connell about bridging finance for the house. A little late, it seems. I had understood that I should wait until I needed the money and then contact him. Now I find it will take up to 3 weeks, by which time some big bills will be coming in. Hopefully we won't run into cash flow problems.


Saturday, 19 July 2014 Dereel Images for 19 July 2014
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Better fisheye results
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Last week my panoramas with my new Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 8 mm f/3.5 fisheye lens were less than stellar. With a little checking, found out why. My entrance pupil page includes tables for the equipment I was using at the time. Since then I've changed to another temporary setup and not updated the page; I knew that the 7 mm position on the old rail (for the Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm F4.0-5.6 at 9 mm focal length) corresponds to 70 mm on the new rail. So the 12 mm for the fisheye correspond to 75 mm, right?

Wrong! The scale goes in the other direction, so I needed 65 mm. Set that today, and the results were much better. But there's still purple fringing; can that be fixed?


Colour printers: 10 years of progress
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Ten years ago I bought my first colour laser printer, a Brother HL-2700CN. It didn't last very long: on 6 December 2005, while I was flying back from Europe, a power surge killed it, though I didn't discover that for nearly a week. I replaced it with the same model because I had the consumables and also the duplex unit.

That printer is now 8½ years old and showing its age. It prints unevenly and makes particularly worrying grinding noises while doing so. Time for a replacement.

After some research decided on another Brother, the HL-3170CDW. It has faster print, built-in duplex, and I got it for $249, less than the price of replacement toner for the old printer. Today Yvonne picked it up.

How have things changed? The installation instructions were excellent, until they petered out. Install a driver? What's that? The old one didn't need a driver. This is a network printer (even does 802.11, for what use that is to me), but they don't tell me how to set up the network. Probably that's on the real manual on CD-ROM. But you'd expect at least a description of the front panel menus.

After some experimentation found that it had obtained a DHCP address, and I was able to change it to a static address. Accessed the web server, and all looked OK. Printed a document. No duplex!

I've seen this before with the first printer. There the duplex unit was optional, so it made sense that the default was off. But here it's integral, and it was still off. Finding the knob and setting it to on was the only thing I needed to do, apart from setting the new IP address.

And how does it compare? Much quieter, much smaller, much lighter. Maybe a little faster. But the print quality for photos is no better, potentially even worse. Nobody expects good photo print quality from a laser printer, but I had expected some improvement in that time.


Sunday, 20 July 2014 Dereel Images for 20 July 2014
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Configuring Android storage
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I've had my Android tablet now for nearly a year. In that time I haven't exactly made friends with it, but there are some things that aren't too painful.

It has a “16 GB” SD card, but it kept telling me that storage was full. When I look at the output of df(1), I saw:

Filesysterm           Size    Used    Free    Blksize
/storage/sdcard0     1952M    1952M     0M    4096
/storage/sdcard1    14983M      710M  14272M  4096

Why are there two partitions on the SD card? And how do I fix it? I've been pondering this for weeks. Somehow Android has taken Linux and castrated it. Where are the normal utilities? Where are the myriad file systems (12 of them, compared to 4 on eureka) defined? There's no /etc/fstab. Even /etc is just a symlink to /system/etc, but I can't find much recognizable there. I've found various suggestions on the web, all requiring external programs, and I've been meaning to follow up on them.

The most obvious recognition from these pages was that the SD card is formatted as a FAT 32 file system. So maybe a Microsoft box can shed some light on it. Shut down the tablet, put the SD card in dischord, my Microsoft box. And there's only one file system on it! And of course it has about 710 MB of used data.

Looking at the sizes, that's obvious. Adding the two together goes well over 16 GB, and storage manufacturers have always ignored computer usage and defined their units as powers of 10, so there are really only 14.9 GB on the card—exactly what /storage/sdcard1 reports. So what's this /storage/sdcard0? It must be somewhere in device memory.

Went searching for sdcard0 sdcard1, and sure enough I came up with a lot of hits. This one started off with all sorts of ideas about swapped storage areas, but it's not until quite a way down the thread that somebody mentioned that this is a storage setting. And sure enough,


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So, as simple as selecting “SD card”? Tried that and got:

 
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After taking time to admire the grammar, did that, and now it works! But it took me nearly a year. How many non-technical users out there have ever worked out what's going on? I continue to be amazed how bad Android is.


More animal infrastructure
Topic: animals, general, opinion Link here

We have a new horse, and a training yard:


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How did that happen? Chris Bahlo has finally had enough living with the Yeardleys, and though her new house won't be finished for some months yet, she's moving out and will live in our guest cupboard for the intervening time. And now she and Yvonne can train horses in peace, without worrying whether David will dismantle the infrastructure overnight.


New FreeBSD books?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Mail from Mohsen Mostafa Jokar today. He wants to translate a FreeBSD book into Farsi. Problem: which book? The Complete FreeBSD is now over 10 years out of date. Michael Lucas has written Absolute FreeBSD, but that, too, is nearly 7 years out of date. Is there nothing newer? I'm half inclined to bring “The Complete FreeBSD” up to date, but I don't know if I have the energy any more. Maybe we should get a group of people to pitch in.


Monday, 21 July 2014 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 21 July 2014
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Financing the house
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

So far we've paid cash for all expenses on the new house, but it's running out. This was planned: we'll need a bridging credit from now until we sell our current house. And it looks as if we may have left it a little late, since they will apparently take up to 3 weeks, and we have some big bills coming in on 8 August. Into town to take in all the documentation they need; hopefully it will be fast enough.


Fence progress
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

On the way home went by the building site, where CJ was half-way through the front fence:


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The last photo is roughly from the entrance to the house.


ATA internals
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I'm storing more quick dial numbers in my NetComm V210P ATA, not something that is normally of very much interest. I'm putting different categories on different “pages” (really just web pages), and I've chosen page 3 for numbers related to house construction. So: entry 20, code 020# was JG King. 21 was Tom Tyler. But I entered the number as 021 just to see what would happen. Nothing appeared. OK, bug.

Then I went back to page 2. There was an entry for Tom, entry 17.

How did that get there? It took me about 15 seconds to realize how. And as Peter Jeremy suggested, 0xe also created an entry 14. I couldn't use 2-digit hex numbers, though, because the input field was restricted to 3 characters.


Maigret de canard sous-vide
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Maigret de canard is a recipe that I'm still experimenting with. The issue is that it's half fat, half meat:


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The big issue with the cooking is to keep the meat rare while cooking (melting) most of the fat. Is this a case for sous-vide cooking? Clearly that doesn't address the fat, but there are other ways to deal with that.

Found a recipe in the Codlo cookbook and bent it a little. After cooking the breast in the cooker, removed the entire fat layer, which was surprisingly easy:


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I had cooked the meat at 57°, as the cookbook wanted. It's too warm: the meat should be pinker than that.


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54° next time?

And the fat? I chopped it into slices and rendered it:


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The result wasn't bad. But next time it'll be rarer.


Tuesday, 22 July 2014 Dereel Images for 22 July 2014
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Swap space needs
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Yvonne came to me this morning to tell me that the photo processing software had hung itself up again. That's normal enough for the Microsoft-based products, but this was FreeBSD, and she was just running make. ps(1) showed that the X server was no longer running. And /var/log/messages?

...
Jul 22 11:29:03 lagoon kernel: swap_pager_getswapspace(8): failed
Jul 22 11:29:03 lagoon kernel: swap_pager_getswapspace(9): failed
Jul 22 11:29:03 lagoon kernel: swap_pager_getswapspace(16): failed
Jul 22 11:29:04 lagoon kernel: pid 67064 (Xorg), uid 0, was killed: out of swap space

Decades ago I ran computers with 8 and 16 MB of memory. lagoon has 2 GB. In addition it has 1 GB of swap space. That should be enough for anybody. But not for firefox, which leaks memory like a sieve. It looks like she's going to have to shoot down her firefox process at regular intervals.

Discussing the matter with David Newall on IRC, he opined that it's inappropriate to shoot down arbitrary processes. Yes, of course. But I recall some explanation why it's done this way; time to UTSL, I suppose.


Linux error reporting
Topic: technology, multimedia, opinion Link here

For some reason my MPEG recodings on cvr2, my Ubuntu Linux computer video recorder, ground to a halt today. No obvious reason, but mythtranscode ran at a snail's pace. No error messages, just very slow. Anything in /var/log/messages? No, there never is, just:

Jul 22 13:16:10 cvr2 -- MARK --
Jul 22 13:36:10 cvr2 -- MARK --
Jul 22 13:56:10 cvr2 -- MARK --

I don't know why it bothers.

cvr2 is Linux, not Microsoft, but since there was nothing obvious, I tried rebooting. And mythbackend didn't come back for a long time. When it finally did, I got an error message telling me that MySQL wasn't running. How do you start MySQL? Let me count the ways... No, just ask on IRC. It seems that for Ubuntu, or at least my version, the invocation is

service mysql start

Tried that and got an error message: can't start, disk full.

Why didn't anything else complain? In FreeBSD you'd have error messages all over the place. Does Ubuntu not want to scare the user, maybe?


First house dispute
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Stewart Summersby along this afternoon at 13:45 with a bill for $1,800. Where did that come from? It all seems to have been for last week. We had agreed $600 (somewhat against my better judgement) for removing the trees, and that was part of the bill. But he's not done yet, and for some obscure reason he has thrown all the small branches into the pond:


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And the other $1,200? It seems to be for the bobcat work, for which we had agreed $600 (clearly a favourite value of his) per day. But as near as I can see, he has only worked 4 hours. Yes, they were spread over 2 days, but he can't use a calendar day as a measurement. When I asked him about it, he had a temper overload event, grabbed the slips of paper that he uses instead of invoices, and left.

Later Craig Mayor came by and we discussed the matter. In principle it seems that my estimate of the time was right. Stewart seems to think that he won't get paid at all, but clearly that's not the way to do things. About the only thing is that we now need somebody to complete what little remaining work there is. Finding a new electrician will be easier.


Computer problems: hat trick
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I've found a course on animal welfare on Coursera. That's something close to Yvonne's heart, so I suggested she go to the Coursera web site and take a look.

The connection hung. Why? I still don't know. What I've established so far is that it only happens from lagoon, her machine, and only when accessing Coursera. It all goes via an instance of squid running on eureka, so you'd expect there to be no difference between individual machines. It's also not the browser: I tried both firefox and Chrome, and the results were the same. The squid logs aren't very helpful:

1405999219.104  68641 192.109.197.134 TCP_MISS/200 11922 CONNECT www.coursera.org:443 - DIRECT/107.21.206.124 -

192.109.197.134 is lagoon. And there's no further log entry. By contrast, with teevee (192.109.197.158), I get:

1405999453.105 114849 192.109.197.158 TCP_MISS/200 31998 CONNECT www.coursera.org:443 - DIRECT/107.21.206.124 -
1405999453.105  75814 192.109.197.158 TCP_MISS/200 3844 CONNECT www.coursera.org:443 - DIRECT/107.21.206.124 -
1405999456.104  78692 192.109.197.158 TCP_MISS/200 3604 CONNECT www.coursera.org:443 - DIRECT/107.21.206.124 -
1405999456.105  78693 192.109.197.158 TCP_MISS/200 3492 CONNECT www.coursera.org:443 - DIRECT/107.21.206.124 -
1405999462.104  84813 192.109.197.158 TCP_MISS/200 57296 CONNECT www.coursera.org:443 - DIRECT/107.21.206.124 -
...

It's interesting that the second column (presumably transfer size) is different between lagoon and teevee for the initial connection. But that doesn't help me much. I should put a wireshark on it, but I don't have the time.


More company in Kleins Road
Topic: animals, general Link here

We're supposed to be moving out of here soon, when the Stones Road house is finished. But first we're doing the opposite: Chris Bahlo is gradually moving in, and this evening she got a gift horse, “Ruffian”, whom she had trained and sold some time ago. The new owners weren't able to keep her under control (maybe that's how she got the name), and when they moved house, she was in no condition to sell. So now Chris will have to train her again.


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And of course the transport was 3½ hours late.


Wednesday, 23 July 2014 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 23 July 2014
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First frost of winter
Topic: general, gardening Link here

It's been quite a mild winter, but last night the temperature dropped to -0.6°, and the birdbaths froze:


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On the other hand, we still have rose buds, even if they're not overly pretty:


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It'll be interesting to see if they bloom.


More house paperwork
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Into town today to talk with Tom Tyler about the contract. It looks as if we have finally clarified or ignored all problems (why do they have to use the word “owner” and “client” not quite interchangeably in the contract? Why does the owner have any obligation to JG King?), so now they can issue the contract. Thank God for that!

Then down to the police station to have my voluminous application for owner-builder status for the shed to be witnessed by a Justice of the peace—and I discovered I had left my driver license behind in the scanner. I had the copy, but that didn't help much. Damn!


Intuition and documentation
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

It's been nearly 25 years since I got my first mobile phone, a Motorola Brick. I was one of the first people I knew to use mobiles. But times have changed: the cost differential between mobile and fixed lines has increased, VoIP has lowered the costs of “fixed” telephony, and now that I'm not as mobile any more myself, there seems to be no need.

Well, almost. We do move around a little, and it's good to have a phone with you. But now it has to be a smart phone. Yvonne has one from Chris Bahlo, and last week I got a call on it. Buzz, green and red phone symbols light up on the screen. And it also volunteered the information that the call was from Tom Tyler, with whom I wanted to speak. Intuitively I guessed that green meant “answer” and red meant “reject”. So I pressed on “green”. It wouldn't be fair to say that nothing happened: the image lit up a little, so clearly the touch screen was working. But it didn't answer. I had to give up and call him back on a VoIP phone.

Today while—coincidentally—I was with Tom, he went out to make some copies, so I tried calling the Android tablet I had with me from his phone. Sure enough, same thing, no response. Then the penny dropped: I shouldn't just press on the phone symbol, I had to slide it (hold my finger on the display and move it) to the right. Now isn't that obvious? Isn't it intuitive? Of course not. On old-fashioned GSM phones it was a physical button that you had to press. Why do I now have to slide? Where's that documented? Nowhere, of course: it's intuitive.

I'm reminded of the original meaning of the word “smart”. From the Oxford English Dictionary:

smart, adj.

Painful, uncomfortable; sharp, severe, intense.

In February I drove round Great Ocean Road with Jörg Micheel, and on the way I received a phone call from Yvonne. I wasn't able to answer it, and Jörg (mobile phone expert, but with an Apple phone) didn't know how to do it either. Was this the problem?


Chicken coops for cats
Topic: general, animals Link here

What can Chris do with her cats and dogs while she's here? She can make a dog run for the dogs (three Maremmas), but the cats need something more. It's unlikely that our cats and hers will make friends, and anyway hers are barnyard cats (though Crystal is the fattest Siamese cat I have ever seen), so she has come on the idea of building a chicken coop and keeping them in it until she moves, after which she'll leave the coop to her chickens. She and Yvonne built it today:


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It's made of remarkably aromatic wood. You'd think that it would be too good for chickens.


Truites sous vide
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Yvonne bought some trouts for dinner tonight. Once again sous vide. They were really too big for the cooker:


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I cooked them at 47° for about 45 minutes, and they came out pretty much the same as the salmon we made two weeks ago, very, very tender and not completely opaque:


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As threatened for the salmon, there was some albumen discharge from the flesh:


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On the whole I'm wondering whether it was worth it. One distinct issue is that 47° is tepid at best, and the consistency takes a little getting used to. Yvonne thinks it might be good for fish in aspic, though. But then there are issues of health: at that temperature many bacteria are not killed.


Thursday, 24 July 2014 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel
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Another power failure
Topic: general Link here

Another short power failure this morning at 1:02. It was long overdue; normally we have about one power failure a week, but the previous was nearly 7 weeks ago.


Owner Builder application
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Into Ballarat again this morning to have the statutory declaration for the Owner Builder application witnessed, and also a certificate for the German Pension Insurance to prove that I exist. Things went relatively smoothly, but somehow I ended up frustrated beyond belief, and decided not to do anything else for the rest of the day.


Friday, 25 July 2014 Dereel Images for 25 July 2014
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Delivering the shed
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Phone call this morning from Sean of Metroll, who was delivering the shed. That was fairly straightforward:


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Later Yvonne came in and said “we have a problem”. It seems that things went fine until he tried to back out of the driveway, and then he suddenly subsided by about 25 cm, and might have gone deeper if the fuel tank hadn't hit the ground:


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Part of the problem was clearly that Sean hadn't stayed on the driveway:


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CJ tried to tow him out, but his tractor wasn't strong enough, and just made a mess of the driveway, as the second photo above shows. Sean called up his people, and after a bit of phoning around they sent up a prime mover from Geelong. But as I discovered in the afternoon, he hadn't been able to drag him out either. He had got him out of the original rut only to have him sink in elsewhere, this time on the driveway proper:


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Finally an excavator from Warrick Pitchers turned up and towed the truck out:


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We weren't done yet, though. On the way out, the truck bogged down again:


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The excavator had to tow him all the way to the street, bogging down yet again on the way:


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The entire right side of the “driveway” was ploughed up:


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So what caused the problem? There's some very wet mud some distance down:


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But the real issue is that the driveway was completely incorrectly constructed. As several of the people observed, notably Mike, the excavator driver, a driveway needs 30 cm of aggregate under the surface. Stewart had put so little of anything that in places the ground showed through. So it looks like we can start all over again. I hope Stewart has good insurance; it looks like the matter will cost us at least the $1,500 we paid him and the quarries for work and materials. Hopefully Metroll won't ask for compensation.

Still, every cloud has a silver lining. This was just a light truck. In a few weeks' time we'll be having concrete trucks coming in to lay the slab. By then we need a real driveway. In addition, it's good that it happened after Stewart gave me good reason not to employ him any more.


Where's my planning permit?
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

It's been a month since I applied for an amendment to the planning permit, and Peter had said it would only take a couple of weeks. But nothing has arrived. Called him up and discovered that the delay was due to his attempts to have the biodiversity requirement removed altogether. He was unsuccessful, but it's nice of him to try. He basically reflected my own opinion, that it's ridiculous to require an offset for such a small amount of vegetation. But rules are rules, and we have far too many of them, many badly thought out.


Saturday, 26 July 2014 Dereel Images for 26 July 2014
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Fisheye panoramas: not there yet
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

House photo day today, all with fisheye. It's not quite there yet. In particular, though neither DxO Optics “Pro” nor Olympus Viewer seem to know anything about the Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 8 mm f/3.5 fisheye lens. I had considered that maybe it was difficult to interpret the concept of geometrical distortion with a fisheye lens, but chromatic aberration is certainly still an issue:


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It looks like I'm going to have to work out a way to correct things manually.

The other thing I have to do is to start a new page for the new house. In the process I should learn from my experience of the last 7 years, in particular regarding image names.


O'Deas to dinner
Topic: general, food and drink, opinion Link here

Steve and Zali O'Dea along for dinner this evening. Zali asked for kosher food, which matches the Star of David necklace that she wears. OK, kosher isn't that difficult. The main issue is the question of milk products and meat, so we cooked the scaloppine al limone with olive oil instead of the traditional mixture of butter and oil. But what to do with the entrée? Smoked salmon with bread—and no butter. We didn't have margarine, so Yvonne suggested some strange “olive spread” that she had. Finally found the stuff and discovered that it, too, had milk products in it.

And then Steve said “No problem, we're not Jewish. We just adhere to the code in the Bible”. That just says (three times) “Thou shalt not cook a kid in its mother's milk”, but Steve agrees with me that it's difficult to construe that this means “don't eat meat and milk together in one meal”. Later I found this explanation, but I'm still not convinced. And the explanations in Wikipedia are different again.

Still, pleasant meal and pleasant company. The O'Deas have their own Borzoi, Bindy, Zhivago's daughter, but they didn't bring her with them. They did bring their 4-month-old daughter Roni, who elicited much interest from Nikolai in particular:


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Sunday, 27 July 2014 Dereel Images for 27 July 2014
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Chris Bahlo moves in
Topic: general Link here

We've been planning for some time that Chris Bahlo move in until her own house is completed—potentially later than our new house, but at least 6 months. Today was the day: she arrived with 3 stallions, 3 cats and 2 dogs (third dog to come tomorrow):


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Tanduri sous vide, take 2
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Last month I tried my first sous-vide recipe, chicken tanduri. It wasn't an unqualified success, and I guessed—correctly—that the temperatures were too high. So today we tried again with suggestions from the Codlo cookbook, which suggested 62° for an hour or so.

Tried that, and it was better, but not much. The issue is maybe that the meat needs to be grilled after cooking, and this could heat it up to pretty much the 75° we had last time. As I see it, we have three alternatives next time:

  1. Cook at 62° and allow to cool completely before grilling.

  2. Don't grill at all.

  3. Use chicken thighs, like everybody else I know.

Certainly the promise of sous-vide can only be attained with some careful experimentation.


Monday, 28 July 2014 Dereel
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New VoIP connections
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

Gradually we're making more phone calls, and from time to time we both need to call at once, or we get an incoming call on the landline while we're making an outgoing call on VoIP. In addition, the cost of the calls is increasing. It's still almost nothing by comparison with landline calls, but particularly the $0.24 per minute for calls to mobile phones adds up.

I'm with MyNetFone, and they have other tariffs: in fact, the tariff I'm on (no rental, pay only per call) is no longer being offered. But the calls are more expensive, and they have a tariff for $9.95 a month (or $99 a year) that includes 200 landline calls, more than I'd ever use. And calls to mobile phones are down to $0.20 per minute. In addition, for that I get two lines. And the price corresponds to break-even.

How does the second line work? Called them up and asked if I could just add a second ATA. I knew I was going to have a hard time when Gavin, the first consultant, asked me what ATA meant. Finally I got connected to technical support, where Marsha told me yes, I could use a dual port ATA. I repeated my question and she sounded particularly unsure of herself, but in the end said yes, I could use two ATAs.

Can I believe her? Hard to say. But as luck would have it, the cheapest new ATA I could find on eBay was a Linksys PAP2T-NA, a now-obsolete model for $24.38. And it has 2 ports, so there's no issue. Signed up for a new connection and got two separate sets of authentication parameters. So Marsha was right: I could use two separate ATAs.

So I now have three separate VoIP accounts. I had intended to use the old one for my mobile phonetablet, where it could masquerade as a landline phone. It took a while longer for me to realize that that doesn't really make much sense: not only are the calls more expensive, I have to pay for all of them. So is there any use for the old account? It's a separate connection, so I suppose it could be useful at times, but not very often.


New electrical quote
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Jim Lannen called back in the evening: he can do the cable to the house for $3,300, and the house wiring itself for $5,000. That's too round a number for me, but still a lot better than the $4,200 and $8,500 that Stewart Summersby quoted. In fact, the difference is more than it will cost to repair the driveway. But where is John Taylor, the JG King sparky? Every time I have tried to call him I got a voice mail system promising to send him my voice as an SMS, which worked about as well as I expected. Tom Tyler was able to contact him, but that doesn't help me, especially since he didn't call back as promised. What good is a sparky who can't be contacted?


Tuesday, 29 July 2014 Dereel → Bannockburn → Dereel
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Where's my new VoIP account?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

One of the advantages of my new MyNetFone VoIP account is that I can call in on the numbers as well. I can either transfer an existing number or be allocated a suitable one. Just go to the web site and start searching...

And searching. And searching. All I found was my existing account. Finally called up MyNetFone technical support and spoke to somebody who mumbled her name as “Nutella”. She didn't seem to understand the issue, and I had to explain things to her several times. Then she decided to reset my login password, occasioning further delay, and in the end decided that she couldn't fix it, so she opened a ticket and told me I'd hear back from them.

The call came at 22:10, when I'm normally in bed. And they wanted me to go to the computer and check! No way.


ANOTHER NBN failure
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

This morning at 9:38 we went off the net again! I was having breakfast and didn't find out until about 10:15. Called up Aussie Broadband support and was just describing the problem when the connection came back again. “Only” 40 minutes outage.

But that was premature. It failed again after 8 minutes, and stayed down. Called Aussie again and got confirmation that others had had the same problem. But they still needed to treat it as an isolated fault, because the National Broadband Network hadn't reported any failure. Why not? The NTD was showing normal status, so it makes sense to guess that the problem was in the link between Dereel and Ballarat.

Called up the NBN on 1800 687 626 and found a voice menu option “Press 1 if your phone service was disconnected in error”. Well, I suppose this is an error, so pressed that and got connected to Sean after 2:15 minutes. He listened carefully and took down a complaint, less carefully: I had to correct him several times. The way I see it, there are multiple issues:

I asked Sean what the availability goals for the NBN were. He didn't understand the question, and I had to explain it to him. Finally he went searching and came up with a figure: 99.9% availability averaged over a year.

That's terrible! It's nearly 9 hours a year. It means that what I've experienced so far (1 hour in June, 5 hours in July, and at least an hour today), is roughly all I can expect. And that's for a new, modern replacement for Telstra's aging copper infrastructure, which here in Dereel hasn't gone down at all in the 7 years I have been here. How can they claim to offer improved infrastructure with that level of service?

In any case, it looks as if they'll look into it. They'll assign a “case manager” and a “specialist” to it, and they gave me the reference number 511066-91183999 (hopefully the size of the number isn't an indication of the number of complaints they're receiving).

And at the end: “Please hold on and answer a short three question survey”. Did that. Beep, beep, beep. It's not the first time I've had that, either.

And how long was the outage? No idea. After 2 hours, 20 minutes I still had no connection, and then I discovered that after shooting down the DHCP client, I had forgotten to restart it Started it again and got an immediate connection. Not all problems are NBN's fault.


Itchy dogs
Topic: animals Link here

For about a month now Nikolai has been scratching and biting himself more than should be normal for a dog. We've checked for insects and found nothing, we've washed him, all to no avail. It doesn't look like insects anyway, because the other animals aren't scratching, though just recently Leonid started. So off to Bannockburn today to have the two of them looked at.

Fleas! How did we miss that? I can see two possibilities: either the fleas are new and there's some other issue as well, or he had been so good at killing them that they've only just become visible and transmittable. In any case, we'll treat them for fleas and see if that makes all the problems go away. $179 for that!


Painful way home
Topic: general Link here

The drive home was horrible. The road points roughly west-north-west, and today, like so often, I was driving directly into the setting sun. To add to the pain, it had rained heavily, and the trucks in front of me threw up a spray that glistened in the sunlight and limited visibility to nothing from that point on. I was exhausted by the time I got home.


Wednesday, 30 July 2014 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel
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Contracts and financing
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Our contracts for the house are finished! I was just leaving to go to town and sign them when Brendan Gillett of Central Victorian Investments called up and told me that the bridging loan had been approved, so I arranged to visit him immediately afterwards.

Signing the contracts was a surprise: there must have been 200 pages of mainly boilerplate, and we had to initial Every Single Page, even some that we had already signed. But there was little in the way of surprises, just the usual sloppy details—for example, I've told them numerous times that the power supply to the house is only 50 A, but the contract states that the main switch must be 80 A. It's silly to have that in the first place, but you'd think that they'd get things right. Still, the fine tooth-comb treatment seems to have paid off.

As a result of all the red tape, I was about half an hour late for Brendan. But that, too, seems to be going well. Hopefully we'll have our money by next Friday, when the credit card bill is due.


More driveway stuff
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Over to Stones Road in the evening to meet Warrick Pitcher to discuss the works that Stewart Summersby left unfinished. He has much larger equipment than Will Tattnell, and in particular he thinks he can get the tree stumps out in less than an hour—Will was talking about some time to remove them. Things look good, and he can do the work next week. Now we just need to hear what it will cost.


Thursday, 31 July 2014 Dereel Images for 31 July 2014
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Understanding image stabilizers
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Once again there's a discussion on the German Olympus Forum about image stabilization. Specifically: why is it recommended not to use image stabilization when the camera is mounted on a tripod? I tried this four years ago and came to the conclusion that yes, indeed, it doesn't work well.

But on that occasion I was using a 50 mm lens on my Olympus E-30, and the stabilizer was set to a focal length of 800 mm. Clearly that shouldn't work. And as Markus Burak noted, there have been significant improvements in image stabilization since the E-30, notably with the OM-D E-M1. So today I repeated the experiment. Here a detail comparison with the E-M1 (left) and the E-30 (right):

 
This should be Stabi-E-M1-2-detail.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Stabi E M1 2 detail
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This should be Stabi-E-30-1-detail.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Stabi E 30 1 detail
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Clearly the E-M1 is much better. But then there's this image:

 
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Image title: Stabi E M1 1 detail
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That was taken with the E-M1 as well. Why the differences? I still need to think this through.


Winter not over yet
Topic: general Link here

Looks like we're in for more bad weather. Today a cold front passed over our area, and the temperature dropped accordingly:

 
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Image title: cold front
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They're threatening worse for tomorrow.


Internet for CJ
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

CJ Ellis along this afternoon to get help connecting to the Internet. His real concern is not so much Internet connectivity as telephony: with MyNetFone he saves so much money compared to Telstra that it covers the price of the Internet connection as well. It'll all get connected next Friday. Now where can we find somebody to teach CJ about computers?


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