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Friday, 1 July 2016 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 1 July 2016
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Old folks and CFA
Topic: animals, politics, opinion Link here

Into Ballarat today with Nikolai for our fortnightly visit to the Eureka Village Hostel. The place was almost empty when I arrived, but Bill was waiting and once again took me round the hostel. Partially because there were so few people, we got finished very early, and I had 15 minutes to wait before Yvonne and Leonid were done. Maybe I should go into the Geoffrey Cutter Centre when I'm done.

On the way home, a sign of the times: volunteers from the the CFA are protesting that the United Firefighters Union has been given too much power, and that as a result they have been marginalized.


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I've been pointed at an article explaining what's going on, and I haven't digested it yet, but at the moment it seems that the bureaucrats are winning out over the volunteers. Somehow that seems wrong. Volunteers are one of the most valuable resources any organization can have.


Digital Zoom in the post-SLR era
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Yvonne took most of the the photos of the CFA cars, using my Olympus OM-D E-M1 and the M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-150mm f4.0-5.6. And the first photo?


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That's the fleck in the distance, taken at 15 mm focal length. No worries, we can zoom in to an effective focal length of 122 mm:

 
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Of course, the 16 MP image has been reduced by 98.5% to a total of not quite 250 kP. So I told her to zoom:


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Progress! Now the image takes up 43% of the frame.

To be fair, she got the message and took more properly framed images. But why do people have so much difficulty with framing? Most of Yvonne's work is done with horses, where you don't have much time for that sort of thing, and this silly M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 EZ doesn't help with its electric zoom, but unfortunately that's the only lens with an automatic lens cap.


Saturday, 2 July 2016 Dereel Images for 2 July 2016
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Election time
Topic: general, politics, opinion Link here

Off to the Dereel Hall before breakfast today for Yet Another Federal Election, in the hope of missing the rush. On the way in was met by the usual vote helpers, from the Coalition (or is that the Liberal Party of Australia?), Labor and the Greens. They also had signs with slogans:


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Now doesn't that tell you why you should vote for them? “We're the party that opposes the other party”. Then there's:


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That would be almost funny if the name of the Labor leader wasn't Bill (Shorten). I went back and told them so. Oh, no, they said, that's not our sign; it's from the Liberals. Huh? What did I miss? Back to take another look:


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Look Really Carefully:

 
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That's probably the worst, but in general their advertising misses the point:


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OK, Sarah, why do we need a fixed black hole? We've had one for long enough. You've had three years to something about mobile coverage, starting long after Denis Napthine's promise nearly 3½ years ago. And now that she wants to get reelected, she comes up with something like that. Does she really expect people to have such short memories?

And finally there's the irrelevant stuff to stir up the masses:


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OK, I'll bite: what can the Federal Liberal party do about the CFA, a state institution? Nothing.

I award the prize for the most stupid slogans to the Liberal Party, Honourable Mention to Labor. I forget what the Greens had, and it was too boring to take a photo: it was relevant to the election.

The “How To Vote” cards were similar. For the House of Representatives there were 10 candidates, and voting required giving each of them a ranking from 1 to 10. All cards gave a list of numbers, interestingly with some agreement: Rise Up Australia should get place 10. The Greens got place 9 from the Liberals and place 3 from Labor. Place 2 was reserved for the Animal Justice Party on the Greens and Labor cards, though the Liberals gave them place 6. And the Liberals also gave place 3 to the Family First Party.

For the Senate the cards were also uniform: choose our lists. We have the choice of voting (“above the line”) for up to 6 lists, with fixed hierarchies, or “below the line”, with hundreds of candidates. Last time I had to number all 97 candidates, but they've (mercifully) changed things, and now I only have to number at least 12 candidates. I wonder if that's why some parties fielded exactly 12 candidates.


Brexit: good for many surprises
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

Australian politics may be good for a surprise or two, but the Old Country can still do better. It was a big surprise when the English voted to leave the European Union last week. But that wasn't the end of it. It's difficult to discern on the other side of the news media, but I get the impression that nobody is really that keen to implement it. The first thing to do is to find a replacement Prime Minister of the United Kingdom after David Cameron announced his impending resignation.

Clearly the new Prime Minister should come from the faction that chose to leave, and the most obvious choice is Boris Johnson. But for reasons that haven't been adequately explained, he has withdrawn his candidacy. To judge by his reaction to the press, he's currently not in the best of moods. Instead his would-be campaign manager, Michael Gove (rhymes with “Dove”), has applied for the post, declaring that Johnson was not up to the job.

Who is Michael Gove? We'll find out in the near future, I suppose, but so far it looks as if he doesn't have much of a chance, especially since his stab-in-the-back treatment of Johnson. Instead it seems that Theresa May is the most likely to succeed Cameron—and she voted to remain in the EU.

But even if Gove becomes Prime Minister, he has announced that they will not invoke paragraph 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon until next year. Why not? It'll take them up to 2 years to agree to terms of separation, and maybe a total of 10 years before the bonds are severed.

I'm left with the feeling that the “Leave” campaigners are now a little shocked by their own success—“It's just what I asked for, but not what I want”. Despite all warnings, they seem to have been surprised by the negative market reactions, which says little for their understanding of the situation. And there are many reasons why the Government should consider not leaving:

So can the British Government go against the vote? Yes, of course they can, though nobody's saying it yet. I'll be very interested to see how the issue develops.


Cleaning coffee machine
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Our new coffee machine has started dribbling onto the surface below it. I suppose I can't really blame it for that. I'm supposed to clean it every week or so, but we've had it for over 6 months, and I still haven't done it.

Why not? The appalling documentation. Here are the entire instructions:

 
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And that's all. In particular, what does this mean?

 
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You have to guess what it's referring to. Presumably the 7 day maintenance means flushing under water, which makes sense. And every 30 days? Put in a drop of oil, followed by a marble? I really have no idea, but it's unlikely: the location would mean that the oil would be carried over into the coffee.

In any case, the whole thing was covered in coffee grinds. Once you get past the documentation, there's nothing too complicated about the matter, modulo the source of the marbles.


Sunday, 3 July 2016 Dereel Images for 3 July 2016
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Induction and small stoves
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

I'm still playing around with my new induction cooktop. Yesterday I managed to fry bacon quite acceptably, and it's clear that it's good for delivering a lot of heat quickly. Today I tried tortillas. That wasn't quite as successful, possibly because I used the wrong heat setting. They stuck to the comal, and after I gave up the attempt, the tortilla looked like this:


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Quite possibly the issue is that the comal isn't completely flat, so the edges didn't get heated as well. I'll try it again some time with a completely flat pan. For today I continued cooking them on the stove, next to the frijoles refritos. Even after pushing the comal up to the wall (protecting it with aluminium foil), there's not enough space:


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I really must get round to a formal complaint.


Understanding the election results
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

After the election yesterday, we watched the election results online. The choice! Everybody and his dog seemed to have a web site showing the current status. But the obvious one was the Australian Electoral Commission Virtual Tally Room.

The polls closed at “6 pm”, 8:00 UTC in the Eastern states (where most of the population live, including us), but 8:30 in South Australia and the Northern Territory, and 10:00 in Western Australia. But unlike in Austria, counting started as soon as polls had finished in the Eastern States, and while they were still running in the vast majority of the country's land mass.

They came to a particularly quick result. Within a couple of hours, it was clear that Labor was ahead of the Coalition (69 to 67 seats out of 150, if I recall correctly), and that neither would gain an absolute majority. Interesting times.

So I recorded a programme on the subject, Insiders, and looked at it today. Surprise, surprise! The Coalition is in the lead!


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That was broadcast at 9:00 this morning. What does the AEC have to say about that?

 
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As confirmed elsewhere on that page, that shows Labor leading the Coalition 71 to 67, with what looks like an additional two seats each in doubt. Where does the Insider information come from? But there are more details: which seats are in doubt? The Insiders know that too:


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So does the AEC:


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OK, they have fewer, and that could be explained by the fact that I took this screenshot considerably later (timestamp 16:35). But it's difficult to compare those two displays. Take Hindmarsh: the Insiders know that Labor and 50.2%. But what does that mean? The AEC notes that it's held by the Liberals and has a TCP of 49.73%, whatever that means. They're keeping very quiet about the meaning, but it seems it's a non-intuitive spelling of Two-party-preferred vote (really two-candidate preferred vote, a term I've never heard before). And which direction is the swing? Must be away from the incumbent.

At first I thought that this might be two badly documented ways of saying the same thing. But according to the AEC, Gilmore, Dunkley and Hindmarsh are all held by the Liberals, and on the other hand the Insiders mark Hindmarsh with Labor. What does that mean?

But that's OK: Al Jazeera has different numbers again, and Google Election is only showing confirmed (declared) seats, 5 of them as of 2:22 this morning:

 
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That's still 5 more than the AEC knows. And based on this scoop, they haven't updated the page since. And the following day, ABC knew that the provisional results at 9:52 were:

 
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I don't know why any of these people bother.


Documenting coffee machines
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Peter Jeremy was interested enough in my coffee machine article that he went looking for more documentation. I already had found other information in a FAQ, but that was too complicated and the link has since atrophied. Peter found this document, which in fact isn't bad. But the description, though much more detailed, is in conflict with the one that I have. No marbles. No oil in the coffee. But clean the filter:

 
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So why did they write this appalling “quick start guide” in the first place? Why not just deliver the unit with the complete documentation in the first place? It's not to save on paper: the complete documentation is 64 pages long, and the quick start guide is 56 pages long because it's in 6 languages.

And why stop with two conflicting manuals? We have three! This particularly busy document seems to be new, and it shows photos instead of fuzzy drawings! And it points to an unspecified FAQ where there should be videos of the cleaning process. And of course again it contradicts the other two.

The best I can say is that they seem to have taken steps to fix the original problem, apparently done by two different teams who don't speak to each other, and possibly who have never seen the device.


Monday, 4 July 2016 Dereel Images for 4 July 2016
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More election stuff
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

In years gone by, a Federal Election wasn't overly interesting. But this one, somehow, is holding people's attention to a great extent, and even Yvonne, a refugee and not interested in politics, is paying attention. And elsewhere somebody found this page, clearly with an incorrect date. I wonder why it only showed up after the election.

And for some reason the AEC took the day off from counting, leaving the tallies unchanged. But others did. Deutsche Welle news quotes ABC with, once again, the Coalition ahead of Labor:


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Where do they get their data from?


Tuesday, 5 July 2016 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel
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Power failure
Topic: general Link here

Power failure this morning, finishing at 2:07. Now that the UPS is working properly, I didn't find out about it until I went out into the kitchen. About the only indication I had about the duration was that the UPS didn't fail, so it can't have been too long.


Double puncture
Topic: health, general Link here

Into town this morning for a routine blood test and the CT scans that Mohammad had asked for last week. Blood test was as ever, though the nurse seems not to have hit the centre of the vein, and it took a while to drain it all.

Then to (finally!) have a haircut, once again after 4 months, and finally to Lakeside Imaging, this time on the other side of the lake.

It's been something like 25 years since I last had a CT scan, and things have changed in the meantime. First I had to fill out a questionnaire about whether I had ever had X-rays with contrast agents (yes; barium sulphate on 16 September 1968), whether I had had adverse reactions to it (no), and whether my kidneys were in good health (yes). But when I came in, it seems they had done further checks and noticed that the results of this morning's blood tests weren't yet available. But how did they know about that? Wendy, the operator (what's the correct term?) told me that they had called around, but that seems unlikely. More likely Medicare makes this information available as part of the patient background.

It eventuated that the questions about contrast agents related to iodine-based intravenous agents, which can cause reactions. That's certainly not barium sulphate. And yes, I needed it for chest and throat (still not for sinus), and for that I needed a cannula in the other arm.

It's a strange sensation when the contrast agent goes into the blood, metallic taste in the back of the mouth and warming in the prostate. No idea why, but at least she warned me in advance. The scans themselves went quickly, 15 seconds for the chest (slice size 1.2 mm) and 20 seconds for the throat (slice 0.6 mm). It seems that only the inspecting radiologist sees them at this resolution; the images sent to the doctor are composites with a slice size of 3 mm. Discussed the equipment that the radiologists used, but of course Wendy didn't know details beyond the fact that the monitors had extremely high resolution. It would be interesting to see how they compare with the modern crop of 4K displays.


Why I hate Android, revisited
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

It's been over four years since I bought my first Android tablet. It was a great disappointment, and I returned it to ALDI. A year later I tried again, particularly since it was becoming apparent that I could use one to control the camera that I was going to buy. But I still couldn't make friends with it. I've ranted about this repeatedly in the past, and after six months I came up with a summary of my problems, and six months later I compared it with the Microsoft offering—to Microsoft's advantage!

In the meantime I hardly use it at all. The really big problem, which I think will never be solved, is the appalling user interface. Without a keyboard with tactile feedback, it's almost useless to me. There are still applications where I can put up with that disadvantage, such as GPS navigators and phones, but the apps are so bad that I can't be bothered. It would be so nice to use the tablet in place of my dedicated GPS navigator, but I can't find an app that works even half as well. That's not the platform; it appears to be the mentality.

But today I came up with another issue: about the only thing I use it for any more is to read PDF documents while in waiting rooms. Today I decided that the book that I was reading was not really worth the trouble. OK, I have other books on the tablet. Let's find them and choose another one.

I couldn't find them! And that's half the problem. Conventional wisdom says that it's the data that's important, but on tablet's it's the app. And each app can hide its documents somewhere without telling you where. They've broken one of the most important paradigms of modern computing, the directory hierarchy. I've been watching this come with consumer operating systems like Microsoft “Windows” and Apple's Mac OS X: although there's a clear structure, it's often difficult to find it. But on Android I can't get any overview at all. Maybe there's a “Finder” or “Explorer” app out there, like corresponding Apple and Microsoft programs, but I haven't found it.


Understanding election predictions
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

Considerable discussion on IRC today about the ongoing attempts to count the votes in Saturday's election. Callum Gibson pointed at this explanation from the ABC. It doesn't help much. It states, for example,

Labor has clearly won Grayndler, and the Coalition has clearly won Cowper, Higgins, Barker, Durack and O'Connor.

Not what I see. I think the result of the Division of Barker might decide whether the Coalition ends up ahead of Labor or with the same number of seats (72). Currently the counts are:

Candidate       Party       Votes       %       Swing (%)       Status
PASIN, Tony       Liberal       38,736       46.40       -6.21       Previous Member
STACEY, James       Nick Xenophon Team       24,396       29.22       +29.22
O'BRIEN, Mat       Australian Labor Party       12,842       15.38       -2.99
ZEPPEL, Yvonne       Family First       4,833       5.79       -2.17
KEOUGH, Mark       The Greens       2,680       3.21       -2.44

Clearly Tony Pasin is in the lead, but he doesn't have an absolute majority. Under those circumstances preferences from the candidate with the least number of votes are reallocated, iteratively until a candidate has an absolute majority. More details here.

So what could happen here? It's unlikely that Greens voters will allocate higher preferences to the Coalition. Neither will Labor. So the Family First Party voters will have to contribute at least 3.6% to the Liberals. That's quite possible, but if they don't, then the Nick Xenophon team will win the seat.

The real question about the differences is the definition of certain terms. As of this afternoon, the Google Election Map showed 68 seats declared. The AEC showed no seats declared. What does that mean? Clearly it's a declaration of the meaning of “declare”. Ultimately the utility of the different approaches will be to see who proved to be closest to the ultimate results. I'm personally putting my money on the AEC, despite the confusing details.

Now why can't this be as much fun as the current Brexit soap opera?


Wednesday, 6 July 2016 Dereel Images for 6 July 2016
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Hoarding: there can only be one
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Yvonne back from shopping today with, amongst other things, a roll of 15 dustbin liners. That seemed to make sense: the last roll had run out.

But things aren't as simple as they seem. For years I've been chasing her to use up old supplies, so I asked her if she had finished all the old ones. What old ones? So I dug out what proved to be 170 of the same kind of black ones (on the right in the first photo below). They'll keep us going for years.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Clearly keeping the stocks elsewhere doesn't work. This isn't the first time we've had this issue, so I decided to unpack them all and put them all in the same place. The piles are impressive:


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In those piles are:

Packs       Quantity       Descirption       Size
2       17 m       Sous vide bags
3       130 m       Baking paper       30 cm
3       50 m       Baking paper       38 cm
2       120 m       Cling wrap       33 cm
6       400       Freezer bags       25×35 cm       1 bag open
2       40       Storage bags       26×35 cm       resealable
2       30       Storage bags       27×33 cm
3       75       Sandwich bags       22×22 cm       resealable
7       700       Sandwich bags       17×15 cm       3 bags open
2       250       Sandwich bags       18×17 cm       resealable, 1 bag open
1       50       Sandwich bags („Frühstücksbeutel“)       17×25 cm       open, from Germany
3       170       Dustbin liners (“Garbage bags”)       80×70 cm       1 bag open
1       15       Dustbin liners (“Garbage bags”)       81×76 cm
1       20       Dustbin liners („Müllbeutel“)       62×75 cm       from Germany
1       20       Dustbin liners („Müllbeutel“)       50×72 cm       from Germany
1       20       Dustbin liners („Müllbeutel“)       36×44 cm       from Germany
1       50       “Tidy bags”       51×65 cm       27 l
1       15       “Tidy bags”       51×55 cm       27 l, open
4       8       Kitchen paper       60 m
2             Bread bags             2 open
15             Scourer, pink       13×7 cm
15             Scourer, green       10.5×7.5 cm
2             Scourer, green       15×10 cm
4             Scourer, blue
8       30       Sponge cloths       17.5×20 cm       4 open
1       8       Sponge clots, thick       12×16 cm
      3       wipe cloths       30×40 cm       open
      9       Steel wool roll
      1       Copper scourer
3       111       Rubber gloves
      16       Fly swats

That's a total of 1,075 sandwich bags and 315 dustbin liners and tidy bags (including today's 15), not to mention copious quantities of other things. At least three of them have multiple bags open, suggesting that the others have been forgotten. In the case of the sponge cloths, of which Yvonne recently bought more, we have 4 open packages. And they haven't all accumulated recently: four of them (3 unopened) are German:


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We must have had them since April 1997 at the very latest. Since three of them are the same thing, I'd guess that the oldest is well over 20 years old.


Where's my mouse?
Topic: animals Link here

Last week Piccola caught a mouse, brought it into the house, and then lost it. Since then we haven't seen much evidence of it, and we were hoping that it had been caught. But whether it's the same mouse or not, the cats have been showing a lot of interest in the pantry today:


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I hope she catches it soon.


Thursday, 7 July 2016 Dereel
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Caught the mouse?
Topic: animals Link here

I had left Piccola in the house overnight in the hope that she might catch the presumed mouse in the pantry. Did she? She didn't come and tell me, but when I got up in the middle of the night, she wanted to go out, and in the morning she still showed no interest in the pantry. Hopefully that means something.


Traffic Police: Yes! No!
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Two replies to the letter I wrote two months ago applying for review of my “speeding” tickets. Yes, we'll change it to a warning. No, the fine is justified.

One applied to each offence, but there's no explanation as to the different decision. One possibility would be that they had only issued a warning for the first offence, and the second no longer qualified. But in fact I received a warning for the second offence, and had to pay the first one. If I disagree, I'd have to go to court.

Still, that has saved $190. And as I've already noted, Victoria Police are a law unto themselves.


Package upgrade
Topic: technology Link here

The new FreeBSD pkgng system is getting much better, but it's still not perfect. As a result, my packages are getting more and more behind. Upgrading isn't difficult:

=== root@stable (/dev/pts/4) /home/grog 1 -> mailme pkg upgrade
The following 1 package(s) will be affected (of 0 checked):

Installed packages to be UPGRADED:
        pkg: 1.7.2 -> 1.8.7

2 MiB to be downloaded.

Proceed with this action? [y/N]: y

It seems that every time I do an upgrade, I first have to upgrade pkg. This time I have clearly missed no fewer than 7 intermediate updates. The next message is almost to be expected:

The following 377 package(s) will be affected (of 0 checked):

Installed packages to be REMOVED:
        cups-image-2.0.3_2
        cups-client-2.0.3_2

Number of packages to be removed: 2
Number of packages to be installed: 28
Number of packages to be upgraded: 336
Number of packages to be reinstalled: 11

The process will require 438 MiB more space.
1 GiB to be downloaded.

Why is it removing those two CUPS components? It doesn't say, but this sort of thing happens relatively frequently. I've come to the conclusion that I shouldn't worry if it's a dependent port (in other words, not one that I have installed myself). But after downloading its gigabyte of data and trying to install, I get:

Checking integrity... done (6 conflicting)
  - cups-2.1.4 conflicts with cups-client-2.0.3_2 on /usr/local/bin/cups-config
  - cups-2.1.4 conflicts with cups-image-2.0.3_2 on /usr/local/lib/libcupsimage.so
  - trousers-0.3.13 conflicts with trousers-tddl-0.3.10_7 on /usr/local/include/trousers/trousers.h
  - ghostscript9-agpl-base-9.16_5 conflicts with ghostscript9-base-9.06_13 on /usr/local/bin/dvipdf
  - ghostscript9-agpl-base-9.16_5 conflicts with ghostscript9-base-9.06_11 on /usr/local/bin/dvipdf
  - xmlrpc-c-1.39.08 conflicts with xmlrpc-c-devel-1.36.0_1 on /usr/local/bin/xmlrpc-c-config
Cannot solve problem using SAT solver, trying another plan
Cannot solve problem using SAT solver, trying another plan
Checking integrity... done (0 conflicting)
Conflicts with the existing packages have been found.
One more solver iteration is needed to resolve them.
The following 379 package(s) will be affected (of 0 checked):

Installed packages to be REMOVED:
        trousers-tddl-0.3.10_7
        cups-client-2.0.3_2
        cups-image-2.0.3_2
        ghostscript9-base-9.06_11
        ghostscript9-x11-9.06_11
        xmlrpc-c-devel-1.36.0_1

New packages to be INSTALLED:

Again, that's pretty normal. And how about that, the second time through it worked. But somehow I'm always nervous. And it's surprising how many important messages scroll by during the process. I send them to myself as mail, and should read them more carefully than I do.


More induction cooking insights
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Making frijoles refritos today. The first step is to boil the beans, and then simmer them for some hours. An application for my new induction hotplate?

Certainly the 2.1 kW setting brought things to the boil quickly; it heated so much that I was concerned that even beans might burn. But simmering is a non-starter: the lowest setting is 300 W, which is far too low. This is an indication of the lack of understanding of the designers, not the method itself. But induction cooking would lend itself well to closed-loop control with a temperature sensor. I wonder if anybody does that.


Friday, 8 July 2016 Dereel Images for 8 July 2016
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Spamassassin: past use-by date?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Six years ago I noted that SpamAssassin was not really up to date any more. But I fixed that problem, and left it as the third step in my spam filtration system. First I reject certain domains, then I filter it through Gmail, and then I filter it again locally with SpamAssassin.

I'm expecting a message from Karl Schaefer, but it hasn't arrived. It wasn't in the the spamassassin folder either. And neither was there any spam that I could see. Some spam still does get through, but SpamAssassin didn't catch it. Instead it filters about 3 or 4 false positives per day, including this one:

From: librarycard@slv.vic.gov.au
Subject: State Library card renewal notice (Final Notice)
Date: Tue, 14 Jun 2016 01:00:13 +1000
X-Spam-Flag: YES

Content preview:  Dear Greg, Thank you for being a registered card holder with
   the State Library of Victoria. We're writing to let you know that your library
   card is due to expire on 26 June 2016...

Content analysis details:   (4.7 points, 3.0 required)

 pts rule name              description
---- ---------------------- --------------------------------------------------
 1.4 HTML_IMAGE_ONLY_28     BODY: HTML: images with 2400-2800 bytes of words
 3.0 MIME_HTML_ONLY         BODY: Message only has text/html MIME parts
 0.3 FILL_THIS_FORM_SHORT   Fill in a short form with personal information

That's the message I complained about not getting last month. Clearly it's not worth the trouble any more. In particular, despite my distaste, messages in HTML only no longer qualify as spam. In this case, though , the message did contain plain text, only specified as text/rfc822 rather than text/plain.


Antenna problems after all?
Topic: multimedia, opinion Link here

Since upgrading the antennas, I have radio reception everywhere I want it. In the bedroom it worked relatively well without an antenna—until today. So off to find an antenna connector.

While I was fitting it, the reception suddenly returned to normal. Transmitter issues? I've had this radio, built into the bed, for not quite 30 years, and this is the first time I've had it connected to an antenna system. Not surprisingly, the reception is excellent.

Later, though, a problem with TV reception: the first recoding errors with the electric fence turned off since we had the antenna upgraded. Only 2, and not visible; could it be related to the transmitter issues?


Port upgrade: the sting in the tail
Topic: technology, multimedia, opinion Link here

Yesterday's package upgrade on stable went well, so today while Yvonne was away, I upgraded her machine lagoon and our TV computer tiwi. Yvonne had no problems, but it was a different matter with tiwi. I have a special version of mplayer which got overwritten.

OK, no worries, copy the version from eureka. But that has old, worn-out libraries. So I had to build it on tiwi.

But how? Last time I had lots of fun, and I wrote down quite a bit of detail. But not enough. As a result, I ran into many of the same traps. Here's how I ended up, though the method could do with improvement:

  1. In /home/grog/src/ports/mplayer-export-2015-12-19/, run genpatch.
  2. Copy the patches to /usr/ports/multimedia/mplayer/files, first renaming any existing files of the same name. I suppose I should get genpatch to perform this step too.
  3. Build the port. If there are any problems, fix them and update /home/grog/src/ports/mplayer-export-2015-12-19/ accordingly.

So I did that, and there were no problems. Well, not until I had installed the port, and I get this message:

=== grog@tiwi (/dev/pts/8) /spool/Docco 15 -> mplayer
/usr/local/lib/libGL.so.1: Undefined symbol "_nv016glcore"

How could that happen? It's a reference from the library, not from my executable. What is this libGL.so.1, anyway?

=== root@tiwi (/dev/pts/0) /home/grog 5 -> pkg which /usr/local/lib/libGL.so.1
/usr/local/lib/libGL.so.1 was not found in the database

sigh Went looking and found:

=== root@tiwi (/dev/pts/0) /home/grog 6 -> pkg info | grep GL
...
libGL-11.2.2                   OpenGL library that renders using GLX or DRI

So what's wrong there? Can I use the old version? Ended up copying the library from eureka, and that ran. But clearly it's not the correct solution. The real question is why my patches, none of which refer to library routines, could cause this mess.


Web browser woes
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

The problem with mplayer wasn't the only issue I had with tiwi. Trying to watch Al Jazeera News and discovered I couldn't set full screen. Why not? YouTube had some helpful hints. For firefox I need to go to about:permissions. But that doesn't work.

What about Chrom*? It has instructions for that too. And again they fail early. I finally found a page that told me that the permissions could be set, but they no longer have any effect.

What's Google for? Off to search, and found many suggestions and videos, all either wrong or not applicable. I couldn't find out how to fix it. In the course of searching, I decided that the whole question of going full screen depends very much on the version of the browser. This worked before, and after an upgrade not only does it not work, but I can't find the knobs to fix it. And why is this such a big deal in the first place? Why should I have to permit sites to go full screen? Some kind of primitive ad blocking, possibly?

In the end I discovered that I could view the same content in full screen via a different URL. And Chrom* gave up completely after my change of libraries. What a mess this is!


More induction damage
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Hamburgers for dinner tonight. Just what I need to grill in the fancy cast-iron ribbed frying pan that I got for a wedding present decades ago.

But things weren't quite what I expected. While warming up, I heard a crack:


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And yes, the parts really separated by that much.

Why? I had just scraped some dirt off the bottom of the pan so that it would sit flat on the cooker, but that shouldn't have done the damage. That's the second time that we have had damage from this thing. Hopefully it will be the last.


Saturday, 9 July 2016 Dereel Images for 9 July 2016
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Dereel Camera Crew again
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Off to the Dereel Hall today for the monthly meeting of the Dereel Camera Crew. The renovations of the Hall are now finished, and it took me a while to find the meeting room:


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Paul Shire was showing some uses of Photoshop, and since I've never really used it, I was interested to see what could be done. Unfortunately he just showed basics, things that could be done with at least four different packages that I have. But the most interesting thing was that nobody, not even Paul, uses raw images. Spent a while discussing that and I agreed to hold a talk about raw processing next month, here in Stones Road. The photos above are a basis for discussion. The first was processed as a JPEG out of the camera might look, the second with some DxO Optics “Pro” trickery. Run the cursor over either image to switch to the other image.


Formatting SD cards with Microsoft
Topic: technology, photography, opinion Link here

Paul Shire had asked us to bring the photos we took last time with us for our meeting today. OK, put them on an SD card. I had one lying around, but it was formatted with NTFS, and photo cards should be FAT. Reformat. mformat wouldn't do it because it wanted to know cylinders, tracks and things. And Microsoft “Windows” wouldn't do it; the only options were NTFS and exFAT, whatever that may be. I tried it but ended up with a non-FAT format. Did I do something wrong, or can Microsoft no longer format vanilla FAT file systems?


tiwi upgrade: still not done
Topic: multimedia, technology, opinion Link here

In the evening, sat down to watch the (recorded) news on tiwi.

/usr/local/lib/libGL.so.1: Undefined symbol "_nv016glcore"

Damn! I had just fixed that yesterday. Why was it back? Nothing had changed. More messing around, not in the best of moods, and in the end reinstated the current version of libGL. And how about that, everything worked! I still have no idea what happened, but it seems that the problem was not directly related to my hacked version of mplayer, nor to the version of libGL. But what was it? And is it now gone?


Induction cooking, the fourth
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

What else can you do with induction cookers apart from destroy your pots and pans? Since the power is adjustable, it should be ideal for things like fondue and steamboat, as I noted when I got it. So today we decided to try a steamboat.

Once again the details got in the way. The cooker has five different cooking settings: “Warm milk”, “Soup”, “Stir fry”, “Fry” and “Hot pot”. What's the difference? The first two don't allow temperature adjustments, while the last three do. “Hot pot” is the American name for steamboat, so it would seem appropriate, but by default it's set to 1400 W (or 180°, which shows how ridiculous these claimed temperatures are). What about the first two? Why aren't they adjustable? Do they have some way of sensing the pot temperature?

“Warm milk” proved not to be hot enough, which seems reasonable. But “soup” boiled vigorously, and since it's not adjustable, it was also useless. Experimenting with the other three showed that 300 W (the lowest setting) was too little, and 600 W (the next setting) was marginally too high. But the thing makes such a noise that I decided against using it on the table, so we used our (very) old hotplate, which I think must be 60 years old. It has a non-standard plug and a cable with cotton braid, but it does have a (very inaccurate) thermostat:


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One more failure for the induction cooktop. I think it'll have to go back, and I'll set off looking for a usable replacement.


Sunday, 10 July 2016 Dereel Images for 10 July 2016
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Politicians and private mail servers
Topic: politics, technology, opinion Link here

Nobody can have missed the fuss that people in the USA are making about Hillary Clinton's private mail server. But what does it really mean? Why should a private mail server be a security threat in itself? What is the approved network topography for sending classified emails? Are they encrypted? Who has the keys? Are they allowed to use mobile devices to send the mail, for example? Are they allowed to keep private copies on their servers PC's? Who has access to the official mail servers? Edward Snowden's successors perhaps? There are so many questions that need to be answered before we can have any idea how much of a security breach it might have been. Potentially the private server might have been more secure.


Browser update: sting in the tail
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

One of the things I did while trying to recover the browser configuration on tiwi was to rename the ~/.mozilla directory and restart firefox. It didn't help. But by accident I first renamed the corresponding directory on eureka, where I had four browser instances running. No worries, quickly rename it back before I do anything with those browsers.

It didn't help. They all crashed, and when I restarted, the new instance overwrote everything that they had ever known. Complete restore of the directory from backups needed.

Yes, it was my fault. But somehow the “error recovery” was not very appropriate.


Clear error messages
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

As if I didn't have enough fun with browsers, Chrom* also died on me. When I tried to restart it, I got:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/18) /Photos/Tools 27 -> chrome
[27830:440427520:0710/181026:ERROR:process_singleton_posix.cc(964)] Failed to create socket directory.
[27830:440427520:0710/181026:ERROR:chrome_browser_main.cc(1344)] Failed to create a ProcessSingleton for your profile directory. This means that running multiple instances would start multiple browser processes rather than opening a new window in the existing process. Aborting now to avoid profile corruption.

It was repeatable. What does that mean? Didn't have time to look for it then, so fired up a firefox instead. File system full! That was a result of moving a number of cache entries from tiwi, and they ended up in /var/cache/pkg, all 14 GB of them, in the root file system. That wasn't intentional; it should be in /home, and I moved them there. Space in the root file system—and chrom* ran again.

What a clear error message!


RawTherapee revisited
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

In preparation for next month's talk on raw image processing, revisited RawTherapee, which I looked at last spring. I was quite impressed then, but since then it appears to have improved further. The big issue, and one of the main reasons that I still use DxO Optics “Pro”, is lens correction. Looking in the documentation, there's a link at the bottom (conveniently with raw IP server address) entitled “How to get LCP and DCP profiles”. It seems that you steal them from Adobe.

There are two different ways: from the Adobe DNG Converter or from the Adobe Lens Profile Downloader, which also requires Adobe AIR. But is it legal? Reading the licence for the DNG converter, it only describes running the software (only in conjunction with another licensed product), not using the data. Potentially this is a result of “modern” emphasis on the program rather than the data, but does suggest that using the data is not restricted.

Tried both; the Lens Profile Downloader was easier to start, so tried that. What I found was a hodge-podge of lens descriptions, all a little different, and in many cases there were multiple profiles. And several timed out when I tried to download them. The list also includes a rating for each module, and the overall impression that I get is that these are third-party modules. But I found one each for my Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 8 mm f/3.5 fisheye lens and my Zuiko Digital ED 35-100mm f/2.0, both of which are not supported by DxO. I suppose it's time to play around with RawTherapee a little more.


Induction: finally a use
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

As usual, we had plenty of food left over from yesterday's steamboat, so made a stir-fry dish out of it. And of course the kuali is made out of steel, so I could put it on the induction cooker.

How about that, it works well. Finally something where I can be reasonably satisfied. Is that enough?


Monday, 11 July 2016 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel
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More finances
Topic: general Link here

Into town today to see Peter O'Connell for the first time in a while. There's not really much to discuss: the Brexit has confused the markets, so there's no obvious thing that we can do to improve the matter. Quite a short visit; hopefully we'll have a clearer view in 3 months' time.


ALDI mobile pain
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

While in town, tried to ring Yvonne. But I had a message on my phone: my credit has run out.

Why wasn't I told? Maybe they were too polite. Back home, I went to the web site and tried to log in. According to my notes, the login was really my 6 digit account number, and the password was BrokenSite.

But the login screen wanted a “Mobile Number”, presumably meaning the calling number of the mobile phone. Didn't work. Put in the account number instead. Still didn't work. How do I fix it? Tried to call them up, once I found the well-hidden phone number. Voice menu. Does it relate to a phone you bought from ALDI? Yes. So I got a recorded message telling me to contact the manufacturer (phone number supplied) if I had difficulties with the phone, and then it hung up.

Try again, “other”. Spoke to a woman whose name (like most of what she said) I didn't understand. But she didn't understand me either. In the course of 20 minutes we established that they have changed the rules for passwords, and BrokenSite is an old, worn-out magic word. Now they require a special character as well, one of ! or @. I wasn't able to establish if both were allowed. So (nameless) said she would send me a mail message with the password. But nothing came.

After a bit of checking, discovered:

Jul 11 03:09:47 www postfix/smtpd[95600]: connect from unknown[59.86.161.112]
Jul 11 03:09:48 www postfix/smtpd[95600]: NOQUEUE: reject: RCPT from unknown[59.86.161.112]: 450 4.7.1 Client host rejected: cannot find your hostname, [59.86.161.112]; from=<noreply@aldimobile.com.au> to=<adli@lemis.com> proto=ESMTP helo=<iboss01-bastionhost01-gsy1.srv.symbionetworks.com>
Jul 11 03:09:48 www postfix/smtpd[95600]: disconnect from unknown[59.86.161.112]

No wonder I chose BrokenSite as my password. And that's probably one reason I didn't receive a notification that the credit was running out, though it doesn't explain why I didn't receive an SMS message.

In the end she gave me a temporary password, something like aldi1111#. #? Yes, special. And finally I was able to log in. First, change the password. OK, BrokenSite! should do it. No, it wanted a password with at least one upper-case letter, one lower-case letter, one special symbol, and at least 8 characters.

Tried again with other combinations. Still no luck, and no desire to spend another 20 minutes on the phone. Finally I discovered that it also wants a digit, but was too polite to say so: 1VeryBrokenSite! works fine.


Baked beans
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

I've been eating baked beans with breakfast, and of course I had to make my own. Here's the recipe I made today; it will be refined in the definitive recipe.

quantity       ingredient       step
250 g       dried white beans       1
100 g       smoked bacon or Schinkenspeck       1
100 g       rind of the bacon       1
140 g       tinned tomatoes       1
25 g       tomato purée       1
10 g       garlic       1
80 g       onion       1
      pork fat to fry onion       1
10 g       salt       1

More lens profile investigations
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Yesterday I found lens profiles for some of my lenses via the Lens Profile Downloader. But there's a second source, via the Adobe DNG converter. Are they the same? Fought my way through the mess that is the Microsoft directory hierarchy and found nearly 300 MB of profiles, over 1520 individual ones. And none of them were for Olympus lenses! There were a total of 49 profiles for third-party lenses to fit Olympus, but none at all for Olympus' own lenses. That reminded me of something: I've been there before while considering Lightroom, and it was one of several reasons I decided against Lightroom.

But there's a third way: roll your own. The Rawpedia documentation (the one at the bottom, with the raw IP web server address) claims:

Make your own using Adobe Lens Profile Creator

It is very easy to make your own LCPs, all you really need is to print a page.

The reality is somewhat different, but Adobe has two documents about how to do it: the Quick Start Calibration Chart Shooting Guide For the Adobe Lens Profile Creator and the Adobe Lens Profile Creator User Guide. They're quite detailed, and they require quite a bit of work, especially if you want to test at normal focus distances (something that's very important for lenses like the Zuiko Digital ED 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 SWD, which change their characteristics considerably with focus distance). But in an exceptional case it might be worth while.


Tuesday, 12 July 2016 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 12 July 2016
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Another garden bed
Topic: gardening Link here

Mick the gardener along again today and put a stone border round the garden bed on the north side of the house:


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The next project is going to have to be a lawn.


Gabriella and the dentist
Topic: animals Link here

Nick Bompas, the equine dentist, along today to look at the horses. It's the first time he's seen Gabriella, and it seems it's the first time in her estimated 10 years of life (dentists know best) that she has seen a dentist. She really needed filing down:


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Doctor again
Topic: health, opinion Link here

Into town this afternoon to hear the results of my blood test and CT Scan. Blood tests appear to be unchanged, and the CT scan didn't reveal anything of interest. And so there's nothing to be done. I went to the doctor with mild but frequent phlegm, he decided on the CT scan, which showed nothing. Case closed.

Except, of course, nothing has changed. Well, the doctor has changed. He decided that my (slightly elevated) cholesterol values warranted medication, something the Majid had not thought necessary. Side effects? Oh, yes, side effects. Could cause muscular pain, stop immediately if it happens.

Maybe I'm being unfair, but I had expected more. I'll certainly keep an eye on developments.


Wednesday, 13 July 2016 Dereel Images for 13 July 2016
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Cholesterol medication: yes or no?
Topic: health, opinion Link here

I wasn't overly happy yesterday when the doctor prescribed medication for high cholesterol. I had a recollection that there were numerous side-effects, and he didn't mention any until I asked him. Today on IRC Peter Jeremy and Andy Snow both made all sorts of dire warnings:

<Andys> the side effects can include death or chronic illness ..

I have my doubts about that one, but it seemed worth checking up. The product is called Crestor, which proves to be Rosuvastatin. The Wikipedia page lists 30 different side effects, many more serious than muscle pain. I'm not happy that I wasn't given complete information. In addition, looking back, it seems that my cholesterol levels are stable; in fact, these results are somewhat better than last time, though probably in the range of random variation. Majid never saw a reason to prescribe them. Time for a second opinion, I think.


Computer music and CSIRAC
Topic: technology, history Link here

Chris Bahlo sent me a URL from which I was able to extract this video:

I'm not sure I believe that this equipment is really creating the music, but it gave me the opportunity to look for something better. Clearly we really want classical music, something like this:

At least the sound quality suggests that this is really generated by the printer. And in the process I discovered an interesting video about CSIRAC:

This may have the distinction of being the first machine to ever have generated music. I wonder if the relatively low frequencies reflect the processing speed of the machine.


Stop weeping?
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Mail from Eddie Purcell today:

how come you have covered your brick work weeping holes with a garden bed as being a waffle pod slab it should have a concrete path all around the house ,just saying ,you block the weeping holes up the rising damp will come in as will ants

Good question. Did we cover the weep holes? Out to take a look. No:


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That little slit in the gap in the middle is the weep hole. And this is the first I've heard about needing a concrete path around the house.


Thursday, 14 July 2016 Dereel Images for 14 July 2016
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Raw image processing
Topic: photography, technology, multimedia, opinion Link here

Spent much of the day working on my presentation of “raw image processing”, which is looking more and more like an “image optimization” presentation. Raw images are only part of the equation, and they're not even really necessary.

The biggest question is: which software? I use DxO Optics “Pro”, but it's not without its faults, and it costs money. RawTherapee is free, and the results look good, but so far I have had trouble getting it to do exactly what I want it to do. Yes, there's a manual, and I've been working my way through it, but it's a lot of work. Maybe the software from the manufacturers would be useful; something more to investigate.

Took some photos for illustration, including close-ups of the TV and a monitor. Surprise: the TV doesn't show completely black, at least not in the second illustration. There's a second row of pixels between the black ones, darker but not black:


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I wonder what the purpose of that is.


New motherboard for tiwi
Topic: technology, multimedia, opinion Link here

tiwi.lemis.com, my TV display computer, has the slowest processor of all my computers, an AMD Sempron 145 with a CPUmark of 802. It's struggling with the newer, more bloated web browsers. And I have a motherboard lying around with an Athlon X2 II 4450e, rated at 1865. All I needed was to change the motherboard.

And somehow that took me a long while to do. What if something goes wrong? I'll be without a TV. But how hard can it be?

About the only real issue was that I didn't have the manual for the motherboard (which proved to be virtually identical to the old one). And the case has these old-fashioned individual connectors to the front panel. In the end, took a photo of the old motherboard before removing it:


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And how about that, everything Just Worked. Since the motherboard was the same kind, I didn't even need to change the PCI information in xorg.conf. Why am I so timid of late?


Tree guards and fertilizer
Topic: gardening Link here

The recent winds have removed 6 of the plastic guards we put round our bushes. We found some of them along the road while walking the dogs, a total of 9. Now how do we keep them from blowing away again?

Also spread some fertilizer in the north garden.


Your dog?
Topic: animals Link here

A visitor in the evening:


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Who does he belong to? Yvonne thought that he might have been abandoned, but I suspect he was just going for a walk. He left a little later.


Friday, 15 July 2016 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 15 July 2016
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Old folks again
Topic: general, animals Link here

Into to Ballarat today with Nikolai to visit the people at the Eureka Village Hostel. Things are gradually getting into a routine, but for some reason Niko didn't enjoy it much today. Neither, it seems, did Leonid with Yvonne. And this time we were both finished at the same time, after 40 minutes. I don't think we' have made a complete hour yet.


Raw processing software
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Somehow I'm finding RawTherapee to be a steep learning curve. And surely the camera manufacturers all provide their own software. Everybody else in the Camera Crew uses either Nikon or Canon, so went for them.

Yes, it seems that the software comes with the camera in each case. Nikon has a program called ViewNI-i, which looks quite straightforward. Canon has a product called Digital Photo Professional, and they make you jump through hoops to get it. First you need to choose a camera model. That would imply that if you had multiple Canon cameras, you would need a separate installation for each camera, though of course that's incorrect. And like Olympus, it only lets you install it if you have a camera serial number.

I wonder what goes on in the mind of people who make that kind of restriction. If you want to process a Canon raw image, you don't need a camera. I have several that I have loaded for test purposes. But of course, if you have an image, you have a serial number in it. So the whole exercise is just a way to annoy you. Canon goes one step further: you can't download and install just Digital Photo Professional: you need to download the whole CD with about 6 different programs and go through their confusing installation process to install the products you want. The process was confusing that I ended up installing all of them by accident.

And how do they work? Difficult to say. Like any photo software, there's a considerable learning curve. Canon does have lens profiles, but downloading them was not straightforward: you get a menu with all lens profiles, and you have to select the one you have. This requires finding how to display the EXIF data and careful comparison of a maze of twisty little lens names, all different. It wasn't until I had scrolled down the long list that I discovered that the lens in use had been highlighted.

And how does the distortion correction work? I couldn't find out how to do it. How much time should I invest in looking at these programs? I know that the results from Viewer are markedly inferior to those from DxO Optics “Pro”. Should I bother? For the sake of the others, maybe I should, but I'm not looking forward to it.


Understanding font rendering
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Yesterday I took some photos of a display on the TV screen where black text was interspersed with lighter pixels:


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This gave rise to some discussion on IRC. Why wasn't it black? X server? Graphics card? TV monitor? Tried again again on the same hardware and server today, and came up with these images:


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The first is from an xterm, the second a link on firefox, and the third a recovery text from firefox. It displays effectively grey, though it's not clear why it can't just set grey pixels instead of alternate light and dark pixels. But then I never did understand the design decisions that the firefox team made.


Saturday, 16 July 2016 Dereel Images for 16 July 2016
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Panorama strangenesses
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

House photo day today, and I'm still refining my HDR processing. But somehow things didn't work out as I expected. Some of the colours were just plain bizarre. Here a comparison between HDR Projects 4 (first images) and my old HDR processing (right):


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The original images are somewhat gaudier than what I've used in the past, something that I noticed last month:


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But last month the examples rendered correctly. What's the difference today?


Hugin 2016.2.0-rc1
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

While doing my photo processing, decided to install the latest version of Hugin, 2016.2.0-rc1. It built nicely, but there were strangenesses, and at first I thought the strange colour rendering was one of them. But it certainly complains a lot when starting up:

(hugin:99873): Gtk-WARNING **: gtk_widget_size_allocate(): attempt to allocate widget with width 0 and height -28
(hugin:99873): Gtk-WARNING **: gtk_widget_size_allocate(): attempt to allocate widget with width -5 and height 18
(hugin:99873): Gtk-CRITICAL **: IA__gtk_widget_set_size_request: assertion 'height >= -1' failed
(hugin:99873): Gtk-CRITICAL **: IA__gtk_widget_set_size_request: assertion 'height >= -1' failed
(hugin:99873): Gtk-CRITICAL **: IA__gtk_widget_set_size_request: assertion 'height >= -1' failed
(hugin:99873): Gtk-WARNING **: gtk_widget_size_allocate(): attempt to allocate widget with width 146 and height -28
(hugin:99873): Gtk-WARNING **: gtk_widget_size_allocate(): attempt to allocate widget with width 370 and height -28
(hugin:99873): Gtk-CRITICAL **: IA__gtk_widget_set_size_request: assertion 'height >= -1' failed
(hugin:99873): Gtk-WARNING **: gtk_widget_size_allocate(): attempt to allocate widget with width 370 and height -28
(hugin:99873): Gtk-CRITICAL **: IA__gtk_widget_set_size_request: assertion 'height >= -1' failed

It's not clear that it makes any difference, but the last version didn't have them. Could it be that this is the background to the surprising number of problems I had? Early on I got a distorted display:


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Is that the display or the image? Tried the “normal” (slow) panorama preview, and had another surprise:


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That's the total preview in the middle. OK, enlarge it. But the sliders and buttons didn't react. It proved that the problem was with the display, not the image, and that it's somehow related to resetting the image size with the Stitcher tab.

Moving on, while modifying (I think) a mask, I got this:


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It didn't seem to be serious; I was able to continue. Next, however, was more serious:

 
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It's hard to say who's to blame here, but it seems that cpfind wrote a file /tmp/haTY9kRR, and celeste couldn't open it (why? why should it divulge reasons?). This was fatal; everything stopped reacting and I had to destroy the application. And it wasn't repeatable.

I normally do my panoramas with a cylindrical projection, not the Hugin default, so after alignment I change things, and then press the Fit button. But now the window no longer fits:


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The bottom of the view is missing. A second press on “Fit” fixes it. There seem to be other issues relating to the fast panorama preview. I've seen a couple of cases where after pressing Stitch, the display changes (zooms in by maybe 10%).

While trying to fix the poor colour rendering, went into the Preview tab and tried to alter the EV setting. That worked, but the image didn't change.

The other strange thing is that images blend much worse than previously. Is that related to the images themselves?


Garden in mid-winter
Topic: gardening Link here

Middle of the month again, time for the garden photos. It's been a mixed bag this year. The garden is still nowhere as good as in Kleins Road, but we're already seeing things that are better. While the recent strong winds have put paid to any hope of roses surviving through the winter, the Camellia japonica is flowering, by far the earliest we have had:


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The Cannas aren't currently flowering, but there are buds, and I haven't given up hope:


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The Gazanias are also still flowering happily, and even some of the Petunias aren't completely dead:


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Other signs of the coming spring are the first Narcissus (plant), the last of our Cyclamens and a very sad Azalea:


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And the first of the Westringia fruticosa that we bought in April is flowering, albeit not exactly profusely:


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Let's fake an ossobuco
Topic: food and drink Link here

Ossobuco for dinner this evening. Problem: the ingredients weren't quite what we had hoped, particularly the celery. So we salvaged what we could (not all of the pieces below) and augmented it with pok choy:


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And it tasted as good as it ever did. I even discovered that 100 g of rice is not enough for a risotto alla Milanese for 3 people.


Sunday, 17 July 2016 Dereel Images for 17 July 2016
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Rani finds a friend
Topic: animals Link here

Rani is quite a bundle. You can tell that she's not completely Felis catus domesticus, and she irritates Piccola with her constant wanting to play. But there are others who would like to play with her, even if he hasn't quite understood the protocol. Still, she'll go along with anything:


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Better running photos
Topic: photography, animals, opinion Link here

I'm still trying to get good photos of the dogs running. It's really not easy, but it's getting better. Here a couple that show one of the issues:


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In the first, Sasha (right) is in focus, in the second Leonid is in focus.

The problem is that I need a high shutter speed (here 1/2000 s) to stop the action. And that requires f/2 and 33°/1600 ISO, which gives me a depth of field of about 30 cm. And given the amount of movement, I'm going to have to accept that I will need to crop any image I take.


Monday, 18 July 2016 Dereel Images for 18 July 2016
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Hugin regression and Linux
Topic: technology, photography, opinion Link here

I sent a message about my errors with Hugin rc1 to the Hugin forum yesterday, but didn't get any reply. OK, how do I check whether the errors only occur on FreeBSD? I can't build on Microsoft, I don't have a real Linux box, and running Hugin on a VM is more pain than I can imagine.

OK, let's install Linux on a real machine. Bruno Postle posted that he had built packages for Fedora, so it seemed a good start. Installing Fedora was interesting. It's not exactly the first time, but it seems that Linux distributors try to emulate Microsoft by making the user interface different for every release. Release 24 seems to prefer a minimalist desktop; in fact, I couldn't find anything, not even the all-important xterm. Yes, I could install it from the net—except that I didn't have any network, though it had already set it up for me. It seems that it had left me in limbo running from the USB stick, but hadn't told me I needed to reboot.

After rebooting, I still can't find my way around. Yes, the network worked, and I managed to install an xterm. Fedora supplies their own terminal emulator, but they don't tell me what the name is, and I can't find anything likely in ps. And can it even talk to a remote X server? That sort of thing seems to be going out of style nowadays, as Hugin confirms when you try to run it that way:

(hugin:17545): Gdk-ERROR **: The program 'hugin' received an X Window System error.
This probably reflects a bug in the program.
The error was 'GLXBadContext'.
  (Details: serial 2809 error_code 167 request_code 152 minor_code 5)
  (Note to programmers: normally, X errors are reported asynchronously;
   that is, you will receive the error a while after causing it.
   To debug your program, run it with the --sync command line
   option to change this behavior. You can then get a meaningful
   backtrace from your debugger if you break on the gdk_x_error() function.)
Trace/breakpoint trap (core dumped)

It seems that Bruno's packages are intended as updates, so first I had to install Hugin from the canonical repositories. That worked, but somewhere round there I got so fed up with the bizarre environment that I put it on hold.


Don't make me uncomfortable!
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I've been using Unix and X on the desktop for over 25 years now. It took me several years to get my system set up the way I wanted it, but since about 1995—over 20 years—I've had essentially the same environment, despite well-meaning marketeers who know that I would like it better their way. Why? Yes, of course, if you change the user interface, you may be able to sell more hardware and software. But it seems that things are getting more and more restrictive. In particular, running X applications over the network is becoming painful, and changing programs around make life unnecessarily difficult. Sure, some programs really need replacing, but I think that there should be a quite high barrier to gratuitous changes.

Will things get better? Looking at the pain that is mobile devices, I don't have much hope. When I bought flachmann, my Android tablet, I was hoping to run GPS navigator software on it. But despite many searches, I can't find anything as good as the el-cheapo navigators you can get on eBay. And God knows they're nothing special.


A new era in foreign relations
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has made his presence felt many times in the last few months, and it doesn't surprise me that there has been an attempted coup d'état. It seems to have played into his hands: now he can blame all the people he doesn't like, notably Fethullah Gülen, for having planned it, though that sounds implausible and he hasn't provided any evidence.

But there's more to the matter than meets the eye. Yes, the coup failed, but were really so many people in high places involved? It's understandable that many people in the military have been arrested as a result. But dismissing or suspending 2,745 judges? That's 36% of all judges in Turkey. 47 district governors? 30 regional governers? Who's going to be left when he's done? Somehow I don't see things becoming more stable as a result.

While pondering these reports, considered the current status of Jan Böhmermann. Not much. But somehow I found my way to this article. The Spectator had staged a “President Erdogan Offensive Poetry competition” with a prize of £1000 for the best entry. The winning poem was:

There was a young fellow from Ankara
Who was a terrific wankerer
    Till he sowed his wild oats
    With the help of a goat
But he didn’t even stop to thankera.

If that was the best poem, I'm glad I didn't see the others. But the most interesting thing about it is the name of the winner: Boris Johnson, now British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and great-grandson of Ali Kemal, a former Turkish (Ottoman) Minister of the Interior. Truly the Brexit becomes more interesting by the day, and maybe for once Erdoğan might be happy that Turkey is currently not part of the European Union.


Tuesday, 19 July 2016 Dereel Images for 19 July 2016
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Adjusting power levels
Topic: general Link here

A call from Edward Radomski of Powercor got me out of bed this morning. As I requested, they've monitored the voltages I'm receiving and confirmed my claim that the voltage is normally between 245 and 255 V (they've measured up to 256 V, apparently a function of the “smart meter”). So they'll drop the voltage by 6 V.

Why 6 V? Long discussion, during which I learnt something about power distribution. The SWER lines run at (from memory) about 12 kV and are converted to nominal 230 V by local transformers on the power poles. Here's ours:


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The power line comes in from the right and continues from the insulator at the top. The device below on the right is a switch, complete with fuse (the wire at the top), and the transformer is the teapot at bottom left. The bird (a Magpie) is there to test the insulator to its left.

Some transformers have various taps to adjust the voltage, but this one doesn't. So to adjust the voltage, they have to adjust the voltage of the entire SWER line, and some people have considerably lower voltages than I do. To make matters worse, they can only adjust the line in steps of 6 V (after conversion), and 12 V would bring other consumers below the lower limit of 216 V. So it looks like we're set for 6 V lower. Still, that should be enough.


Whose computer is it?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Yesterday I gave up on trying Hugin on Linux (Fedora 24) because it was too irritating. Came back today and found the machine telling me that I had lots of software updates, and would I like to reboot?

Huh? First I need to download the updates. Ah, no, the system thought of that and did it for me, without asking. That's really irritating. OK, now I have more free traffic than I know what to do with, but it hasn't always been like that, and even today many people have separate allowances for on and off peak, and this is an obvious choice for off-peak traffic. I presume I can find a way to opt out of automatic updates, but this sort of thing should be opt-in, not opt-out.


Hugin under Linux
Topic: technology, photography, opinion Link here

Finally got round to running Hugin under Linux (Fedora 24). That, too, is irritating. First I needed to mount the NFS file systems, of course; at least Fedora, unlike Ubuntu, supplies NFS support out of the box. But of course the user IDs were different, and grog on twister (the name that the machine assigned itself before discarding my IP specifications and reverting to DHCP) proved to be benno on eureka. And of course my clever scripts didn't work because various programs were missing. But finally I got it:


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It doesn't take a trained eye to see that something is seriously wrong here. Further examination of the Photos tab shows that each photo had been assigned a different lens number, and that each one had been given a different focal length, between 5.4 and 6.4 mm:


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But why? This is a vanilla, out-of-the-box installation of Hugin 2016.0.0, which works just fine with the same images on eureka. I hadn't expected to run into any problems at this point. How frustrating this is! And how difficult it is to navigate the Fedora GUI!


Induction cookers revisited
Topic: general, food and drink, opinion Link here

This induction cooker from ALDI is not everything that I had hoped for. Unlike conventional cookers, the power output isn't continuously adjustable, and it makes too much noise for table top use. But it does produce a lot of heat quickly, which makes it useful for some things, notably frying meat (though I suspect I somewhat overdid it with some pork chops today). So what's the alternative?

Went looking and found offers from Appliances Online and The Good Guys. I like Appliances Online because they make the original documentation available; that makes up for their appalling “specifications”, which in this case don't even specify how much power the device uses.

Of course the product manuals aren't much better. Took a look at the manuals for two single-burner cookers: the Baumatic BHI100 (at $121 the cheapest) and the Philips HD4937-72 ($149). The Baumatic also has this stupid equation of power to temperature. As they say:

IMPORTANT: The temperatures in the table above are approximate. The temperatures do not indicate the temperature of the hob surface or the temperature of the contents of the pan but just the temperature that the induction zone will emit.

No, people, that is dangerously wrong. They're not even approximate. Put a pot of water on the device and set to “220°” and it will hit 100° and stay there until the water has boiled away. Put an empty pot on “60°” and it will almost certainly heat to well over 100°. The induction zone emits energy, not temperature.

How can people get away with this kind of nonsense? The documentation otherwise shows even less information than the ALDI cooker. In particular, the “power settings” just show a number and a temperature between 60° and 220°, though the illustration shows a display “1800”, presumably Watts. And ALDI's strange “soup” and “warm milk” settings are missing, though it's not clear that this is a disadvantage.

Philips' documentation reminds me of my coffee machine. The equivalent of a single sheet of paper, printed both sides. It's difficult to decide whether it perpetuates the same stupidity as ALDI and Baumatic, because it doesn't go into enough detail. But it does mention temperatures, and I can't see how it can even detect them, so I assume that this is general brain damage in the induction cooking market place.

Both of these units have error displays (starting with E1 and counting up). But neither describes them properly. Baumatic states that E3 and E6 both mean “temperature sensor error”, which suggests that it does measure the temperature. But the suggested solution suggests that it's measuring the temperature inside the device:

Wait a moment and then press the ON/STANDBY button (1). When the temperature of the hob normalises, the appliance will operate as usual.

And neither say what happens if you put an inappropriate vessel on the cooker (ALDI documents, in this case correctly, that the device will show E1). Philips' entire description of error codes is:

Error code E1, E2, E3, E4, or E7 is displayed on the screen.

The induction cooker has malfunction [sic]. Take the appliance to your Philips dealer or a service center authorised by Philips.

Error code E5 or E6 is displayed on the screen.

The voltage is either too high or too low. Check if the voltage in your home is suitable for the induction cooker.

I'm pretty sure that one of the codes E1, E2, E3, E4, or E7 means “inappropriate cookware”. So you take your (brand new) cooker in for repair because of that? And how do you check if the voltage in your home is suitable for the induction cooker? They don't tell you what is suitable, nor any electrical parameter, including how much power the device uses.

What about real (multiplate) cooktops? About all I can say is that they are ridiculously expensive. The cheapest 90 cm unit appears to be the Samsung NZ84J9770EKSA for $1,528, and the prices go up to $4,269 for the Electrolux EHI965BAEHI965BA, not a brand that I greatly respect. Why? I browsed through the instructions and found nothing that suggested that they do anything better. In particular, it seems that they all have 9 heating levels and no temperature feedback.

Induction cooking sounds like a great idea, and I thought I was coming in on the tail end. But it looks as if the industry hasn't understood the advantages yet. For the time being I'll keep the ALDI cooker (which cost only $50) and experiment further.


Wednesday, 20 July 2016 Dereel Images for 20 July 2016
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Debugging the Hugin/Linux problem
Topic: photography, technology Link here

Gathered up my courage today and made another attempt at getting Hugin to work with Linux. Yesterday I had established that the images I took on Saturday didn't align at all. Hugin had decided that each was taken with a different lens.

Those specific images had been assembled to HDR tone-mapped images by HDR Projects 4, with which I have still not come to terms. How about the alternatives merged with enblend? It worked!

So what's different about the HDR Projects images? They're gaudier, of course, but that shouldn't interest the control point detector. EXIF issues? Ran exiftool against them and compared the output. The shutter speeds were different (1/200 vs 1/1600, clearly taken from a different component image). But that wouldn't make any difference, since all images were like that. Different offsets for the embedded thumbnail. But then the image size was different:

-Image Size                      : 4608x3453
+Image Size                      : 4608x3456

Looking at the sets of component images, discovered:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/34) ~/Photos/20160716/C 67 -> exiftool house-from-n-*_*g | grep "Image Size"
Image Size                      : 4608x3453
Image Size                      : 4604x3452
Image Size                      : 4606x3455
Image Size                      : 4608x3455
=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/34) ~/Photos/20160716/C 68 -> exiftool house-from-n-?.jpeg | grep "Image Size"
Image Size                      : 4608x3456
Image Size                      : 4608x3456
Image Size                      : 4608x3456
Image Size                      : 4608x3456

Each of the “Projects” images has a slightly different size. I've seen this before, and it confuses the hell out of align_image_stack. But here it seems that Hugin sometimes decides that they're taken with different lenses, though the lens information is the same. At least I now know what the problem is. What to do with it is another matter.


More dog photos
Topic: photography, animals, opinion Link here

I've been taking an inordinate number of mediocre photos of our dogs running, but things do seem to be improving. Here some of today's crop (total of 36):


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More induction cooking thoughts
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

My article on induction cooking aroused a surprising amount of interest on IRC. Some speculated that the cookers could sense temperature, and that the “Soup” setting, for example, would bring the liquid to the boil quickly and then simmer it. I suppose that might explain why it, along with the “Milk” setting, can't be adjusted. So I tried it out.

Summary: with a pot weighing 1104 g, with 500 g of water, at 2.1 kW it took 1 minute, 55 seconds to bring the water from 15.4° to a boil. The “soup” setting chose 1.6 kW, and took 2 minutes, 14 seconds to bring the water to the boil, actually faster than the setting would suggest. But then it changed nothing, just left the water boiling merrily. And I couldn't change the setting. I would have been better off with the first attempt, after which I could try to set it to the 400 odd W that I need to simmer (in fact, I have the choice of 300 W, which isn't enough, and 600 W, which is far too much). Score 0 for “Soup”.

While I was at it, I checked my assertion that the “Milk” (300 W) setting was equally useless. According to the instructions, it should correspond to 60°. An empty pot reached over 200° in about 10 seconds. Another waste of time.

Of course, there's a valid question: how do you control the power output of an induction cooker? A thermometer might be OK for frying, but for simmering it doesn't help much. The “soup” reached 100° after a couple of minutes, and it would have stayed there for all power ranges between 600 W and 2.1 kW until the water had boiled away. Somehow some other method is needed.


Thursday, 21 July 2016 Dereel Images for 21 July 2016
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Breakfast with Lorraine
Topic: general, food and drink Link here

Lorraine Carranza along for breakfast this morning. Normally people don't visit for breakfast, but since we've been breakfasting later and later, it makes more sense, especially for early-to-bed-early-to-rise people like Lorraine.


Camouflage cat
Topic: animals Link here

Rani is quite a bundle, much more active than our other cats, and we're continually checking up on where she is. Often, of course, her cat half means that she sleeps most of the time, but she makes up for the rest of the time.

Today I went through the lounge room and saw Piccola asleep on a couch. It took a little longer to see Rani:


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That's not the first time they've chosen those specific blankets. I wonder if something instinctive is involved.


Friday, 22 July 2016 Dereel
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Science of gastronomy
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

One of the more unusual courses on Coursera is The Science of Gastronomy. What does that mean? “Gastronomy” seems to mean different things to different people. OED has a surprisingly short entry which describes it as “The art and science of delicate eating”, and Wikipedia defines it more verbosely as:

Gastronomy is the study of the relationship between food and culture, art of preparing and serving rich or delicate and appetizing food, a style of cooking of particular region, and the science of good eating.

But I've often seen it applied to the restaurant business, and in German that seems to be the only meaning. One way or another, the topic sounds interesting, so I signed up. And how about that, the initial topics are dear to my heart: really the science of cooking, not necessarily gastronomy. In the process, caught up with things that others have discovered in the last 20 or 30 years. I had always thought that taste could distinguish four flavours: sweet, salt, bitter and sour. But it seems there's now a fifth, umami or うま味, so Japanese that you can't even write it in Kanji as 旨味: that's the same word, but the meaning is simply “delicious”.

And then there's the endocrinal function of hunger. He mentioned three hormones: insulin, which we've known about for ever, but then also leptin and ghrelin, of which I had never heard. Not surprising: I stopped buying cookbooks before they were discovered. In particular, it seems that ghrelin is responsible for excessive insatiable hunger after not eating for too long. It was only identified a little over 15 years ago. All three hormones interact. I wonder what research is going on about their influence on diabetes mellitus. there are certainly enough papers on the subject.


Saturday, 23 July 2016 Dereel Images for 23 July 2016
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Hugin on Fedora, revisited
Topic: technology, photography, opinion Link here

Finally got round to loading the latest beta of Hugin from the Fedora site. Their firefox is set up to automatically start their graphical software installer, whatever it's called, and it seemed to start nicely. But when I tried to install the package I had downloaded, I got a modern, small, unresizeable window that told me that I was missing a dependency, hugin-base. This seems to be Bruno Postle's choice: for some reason he had split the distribution into two packages, hugin-base-2016.2.0-0.0.20160719hg.fc24.x86_64.rpm and hugin-2016.2.0-0.0.20160719hg.fc24.x86_64.rpm. Both are almost identical in size, and both appear to be needed to use the package.

OK, installed -base. Another modern, small, unresizeable window which told me lots of things like:

file /usr/share/man/man1/pto_move.1.gz from install of hugin-base-2016.2.0-0.0.20160719hg.fc24.x86_64 conflicts
file /usr/share/man/man1/pto_template.1.gz from install of hugin-base-2016.2.0-0.0.20160719hg.fc24.x86_64 conflicts

The sound of one hand clapping! At a guess it was running into problems with the existing installation of 2016.0.0. OK, remove that. Failed. Tried again. Not installed. Tried reinstall. Same error message. Somehow the nice, pretty graphic software installer had gone out of its mind.

OK, how does rpm work again? Where are the rpm packages? Firefox isn't going to tell me! And of course nothing else would either; I had to go through half the disk with find to discover that they were stored in /tmp/mozilla_grog. But installation failed:

file /usr/share/man/man1/pto_move.1.gz from install of hugin-base-2016.2.0-0.0.20160719hg.fc24.x86_64 conflicts with file from package hugin-base-2016.0.0-1.fc24.x86_64
file /usr/share/man/man1/pto_template.1.gz from install of hugin-base-2016.2.0-0.0.20160719hg.fc24.x86_64 conflicts with file from package hugin-base-2016.0.0-1.fc24.x86_64

I've seen some of that before. OK, removeerase the packages and start again. And finally I could install them.

People, why do you make life so hard?

Finally ran Hugin and discovered that it worked correctly. Whatever problems on Saturday appear to be due to bugs in my build.


House photos with TIFF
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

I still haven't completely come to terms with my new house photo methodology using HDR Projects 4. Today it occurred to me that I should really be doing all this processing with TIFF intermediates, and not JPEG. That was more difficult than I thought, mainly due to assumptions made in my scripts. But one thing didn't work as expected: the images had no EXIF data. After a lot of looking around, I couldn't find a way to get HDR Projects to put the EXIF data into the output files—neither with TIFF nor with JPEG. And my diary entries show that I had noted this problem in the past, but not a solution.

So how did I do it? I don't know. Rewrote the fromHDR script to copy the EXIF data from the first component image, and things worked—sort of. This time the house-from-n image wasn't as bad as last week, but there's still something not right with the gradation on the brickwork. Here last week's attempt with HDR Projects, then this week's:


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I seem to be missing something important, but what?


Dinner with Pene
Topic: general, food and drink Link here

Pene Kirk along for dinner this evening:


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Somehow Yvonne managed to cook almost everything in the oven: Flàmmeküeche, pork filet in puff pastry, and Sachertorte:


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Despite my fears, we didn't come anywhere close to finishing off the food.

Interesting point in the discussion: it seems that Pene can have as many dogs on her property as she wants, because they're Border Collies and thus sheep dogs. But she can't have German Shepherd Dogs, because they're not sheep dogs. Sometimes I wonder what the people in the Golden Plains Shire council have inside their cranium. It reminds me of their rules for keeping greyhounds:

Maybe I should make a point of calling them German Sheep Dogs.


Sunday, 24 July 2016 Dereel
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BSD is dead
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

For the first time in at least a month, Pedro Guffini broke out of the underlying spam noise on the FreeBSD-chat mailing list with a post about Larry McVoy and BitKeeper.

Digging up ancient (and not very pleasant) history? No, he had a more philosophical question, which I missed. What I saw was a quote from Github that seemed wrong:

The BitKeeper history needs to be written up but the short version is that it happened because Larry wanted to help Linux not turn into a bunch of splintered factions like 386BSD, FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, DragonFlyBSD, etc. He saw that the problem was one of tooling. ...

Really? I thought it was a commercial product long before Linux got involved. Sent Larry a message and asked him. He got caught up in the philosophical question (with which he vehemently disagreed), but finally confirmed yes, indeed, BitKeeper was written explicitly for Linus. Somehow that puts a completely different twist on my recollection of 11 years ago.

And of course, BSD is dead:

Linux won, it's on your phone, it's on your wifi router, it's on everything. How many devices run BSD?

There are two possible answers to that, of course. Pick one.

A more level-headed viewpoint is, of course, that this isn't a competition. In my case, it's very much a matter of comfort, and I feel more comfortable with BSD. Strangely, Larry seems to think so too. He also wrote:

I was a BSD guy because of 4.2BSD and then SunOS. Linux has become far far more pleasant than BSD and I *loved* SunOS.

But as I pointed out years ago, FreeBSD had (and still has) more of a SunOS feel about it than Linux ever did. Maybe I need to rethink what paradigms people use in approaching operating systems (and why, of course).


Oh taste and see
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Interesting assignment in The Science of Gastronomy: prepare sweet, sour, salty and bitter solutions, apply them to different parts of your tongue, and note the effect.

Unfortunately, the details made it almost impossible to complete. It started with the preparation instructions: prepare 100 ml of each solution (to be applied a total of four times with a cotton swab), using quantities measured in teaspoons! What does he mean? “Standard” teaspoons or real teaspoons? I guessed the latter, so I measured the items out with my biggest teaspoon, weighed them and converted to real measures. The result:

Ingredient       Original       Weight
      quantity
Cocoa       3 tsp       1.7 g
Salt       2 tsp       2.6 g
Sugar       2 tsp       2.5 g
Vinegar       3 tsp       2.8 g

The relationship between weight and volume takes into account that I've reduced the quantities by 75%. But 3 tsp of vinegar should weigh 15 g, not the 11.2 g that I measured. And what's with the cocoa? Does that taste bitter? My experiments say a resounding “no”. I didn't have any taste sensation from the tests, though the flavour (aroma) came through once I rinsed my mouth.

But the others were also difficult to determine. They all seem to have been too weak, even taking into account the possible discrepancy in strength. I was supposed to rate the sensation from 1 (weak) to 4 (strong). I had no 4s, one 3, and 5 0s (which I couldn't enter).

They're using the results of this test to try to determine national differences. Based on the reliability, I think there's not much hope, unless it's to find somebody to whom cocoa powder tastes bitter. Pity.


Monday, 25 July 2016 Dereel
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Getting lazier
Topic: general Link here

Somehow I seem to be doing less and less, and today there I really didn't do anything worth recording. That's not the first time, but I'm beginning to wonder if it's not the way things are going to be from now on.


Limits of refugee intake
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

The refugee crisis in Europe has brought out the worst in many people, notably politicians and would-be politicians such as Viktor Orbán and Donald Trump. After all, millions of people are suffering, and it's due in a large part to the misguided attempts of the US Government in particular to change the status quo in the Levant in 2001 to 2003. They certainly managed to change the situation, but it's hard to see where things have improved. In particular, if you disband an army, what are the people going to do? Form their own army, one particularly bitter towards the West?

So when Angela Merkel, referring to the refugee flood, came out with her „Wir schaffen das“ (surprisingly difficult to translate for such a simple statement; I chose “We'll do it”) last year, I was very positively impressed. Damn the short-sighted people who can't see beyond their own advantage! Damn her approval ratings! Do what is right!

But she didn't make it, at the very least because she didn't have enough support, and now it's the approval ratings that are the real issue: they're playing into the hands of idiots like the AfD.

And now, in the space of a little over a week, Germany has experienced at least 4 murder attacks, two with knives and axes, one with a gun, and only one with “traditional” suicide bomber (who didn't kill anybody apart from himself). All four had a number of things in common: known histories of violence and mental disturbance. Three of them were refugees, and the third was the son of immigrants from Iran.

In general, immigrants and refugees from the area are overrepresented in this kind of crime. That's not surprising; many of them have been through horrendous experiences, as the number of them who have been in psychiatric care indicates. And possibly there's a difference in social values. 50 years ago I shared a flat with a Syrian, with whom I got on very well. But some of his views horrified me. He didn't seem to be atypical.

What can be done? The humanitarian aspect is clear: look after them better. But who's going to pay for that? And as long as there are tens of thousands of normal people applying for refugee status, would it be unreasonable for the host countries to apply considerably harder penalties for even minor offences committed by refugees? It's a slippery slope, but that would be preferable to all-out riots by an incensed population.


Bang! You're dead!
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Last week in a discussion on the TUHS mailing list, Norman Wilson bewailed the demise of bang paths. What? I was so happy to be rid of UUCP and all that went with it. Norman said that he had last used them in 1990.

I was sure that I had used them more recently than that, and indeed the last message was sent to sing.tandem.com!grog on 4 July 1995. A discussion with Jerry Dunham, who wrote:

Yes, it appears to be for real, but perhaps (if you'd believe Micro-
soft) a bit overstated.  It reinforces my interest in staying away
from Microsoft OSes.

In those days we exchanged a lot of mail, but it tailed off, and I hadn't heard from him for a while, until a couple of days ago. But his message contained:

X-mailer: Pegasus Mail for Windows (4.70)

sigh. Wrote him a reply, and got what I could have expected:

<Tandem.COM!DUNHAM_JERRY@freeside.lemis.com> (expanded from
    <freeside!Tandem.COM!DUNHAM_JERRY@lemis.com>): Host or domain name not
    found. Name service error for name=freeside.lemis.com type=A: Host not
    found

Bang paths are so dead that mutt can't even parse them any more. And good riddance.


Tuesday, 26 July 2016 Dereel
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RIP Lalita Rajasingam
Topic: general, history, photography Link here

Mail from Prajiv Proctor today, who proved to be a nephew of Lalita Rajasingham, whom I knew as Lalita Rajasooria, her maiden name, 50 years ago. He had seen some of the photos I took then, and told me the sad news that she died last week.

Poor Lal. She wasn't that old—late 70s, I suppose. I went round looking for what little record I have of her. On 14 September 1964 she was a presenter at Radio Malaysia and interviewed me on a youth programme. And she was a frequent visitor to our house during that time.

I took only a few photos of her, all very bad. This is about the best I can find:


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Went looking for references to her in mail. I thought I had exchanged mail with her, but the only useful reference was from Peter King of the University of Sydney, who had known her and Ananda Krishnan at the University of Melbourne in the late 1950s. We were living in Grattan Street at the time, in the flat that later became known as the last known address of Julian Assange. He wrote:

I don't think I ever visited you in Grattan Street but I used to call on Germaine Greer in her garret of that address, and I was living in Drummond Street myself at the time.

Yet another coincidence related to that address.


The limits of Hugin
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Message from Paul Christopher Greene on the Hugin mailing list today:

Hugin looks amazing but we've had a lot of trouble getting it to run / use it properly.

We have a simple 2 image warp we need done (one image to match the other) so we can composite them together manually in Photoshop.

OK, sounds just like what I wrote up here. Contacted him and got two images that really weren't ideal for aligning: taken from two different places, with different focal lengths.

Still, I was able to align it, sort of, for at least part of the image.

But he wanted to have the resultant images uncropped, which in this case means that the smaller image would need quite a bit of space around it. And so far I haven't found a way to do that.

Examples? Sorry, not my copyright, so I can't show anything.


Wednesday, 27 July 2016 Dereel
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Understanding cholesterol
Topic: health, opinion Link here

Earlier this month Dr. Mohammed prescribed me Rosuvastatin for high cholesterol. As I noted at the time, I was not happy with the decision. Why now? What about side effects? So I've arranged an appointment (tomorrow) for a second opinion with Yvonne's doctor. And he'll need some documentation, of course. So I went to my records, and to my surprise found I have the records for the last 9 years:

Date       Doctor       Total       Triglyceride       HDL       LDL       Non-HDL       Chol/       LDL/HDL
            Cholesterol                               HDL ratio       ratio
Limit             5.5       2.0       2.0       3.0             4.0       3.0
19 June 2007       Phillips       5.2       1.7       1.7       2.7       3.5       3.1       1.6
26 September 2007       Anderson       5.4       2.5       1.6       2.5       3.8       3.4       1.7
10 September 2008       Hanton       5.1       1.6       1.7       2.7       3.4       3.0       1.6
8 April 2009       Karim       5.4       1.4       1.6       3.2       3.8       3.4       2.0
25 August 2011       Gurgius       5.8       1.4       1.5       3.7       4.3       3.9       2.5
8 February 2013       Najafi Zeini       4.9       2.1       1.5       2.4       3.4       3.3       1.6
21 August 2013       Najafi Zeini       6.4       1.5       1.7       4.0             3.8       2.3
16 June 2015       Najafi Zeini       5.4       1.6
5 July 2016       Jabbarpour       5.6       1.2       2.0       3.0       3.6       2.8       1.5
Range             47%       0%             38%       29%       0%       0%

The values in red are the maximumof the column, and the values in green are the minimum. Bold values are over the limit, and italic values are ones that I calculated myself. The Range row shows where my last results fitted in the range between best and worst.

Bottom line: last month's results were better than average. According to Wikipedia, Total cholesterol was borderline (5.2-6.2 mmol/l), and both HDL and LDL were good, the latter in a range of 2.6-3.3 mmol/l. Over the years, six other doctors have interpreted the results of each blood test. None wanted to give me anti-cholesterol medication. Why now?

The Wikipedia page also includes addition indications. For a high coronary risk, indicated by “<20% risk of MI in 10 years, or risk factor such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, peripheral-artery disease, carotid-artery disease, or aortic aneurysm”, I should reduce LDL below 5.55 mmol/l. That's significantly higher than I've ever had. Yes, I have diabetes, but that's more a theoretical risk, since I have it well under control.

More searching. This graph is only marginally of interest:

The sample is too small, the scale is dubious, and it only measures total cholesterol. But even then, it suggests that, as a male over 60 years old, I'm less at risk than a younger man with the same values.

Then there are on-line testers, such as this one, which estimates risk of developing cardiovascular disease. With control information systolic blood pressure of 120 mm Hg, total cholesterol 4.5 mmol/l, HDL 2 mmol/l, I stand a 5% risk. With my last results, it goes up to 6%. So the difference really seems to be borderline.

Of course, limiting risk is important. But what about the side effects, in particular these?

In observational studies 10-15% of people who take statins experience muscle problems; in most cases these consist of muscle pain.

Statins are associated with a slightly increased risk of diabetes (2-17% in one review).

I don't know the answers, of course. That's why I'm getting the opinion of an eighth doctor. But at least I'm better prepared now.


Site audit
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Letter from the Golden Plains Shire council today. On 10 August at 10:00 Matthew Sims, the Council's Investigations Officer, will conduct an onsite planning compliance audit to ensure compliance with Planning Permit P14-085 (now revoked). My presence is preferred but not required.

And apparently I don't have any say in the matter. Are these people allowed to just enter my property without my acceptance? I found the tone of the letter irritating.

Reading the details, I noted a number of things that could potentially be sticking points. In particular,

All water/plumbing fittings including CFA couplings, down pipes to water tanks, taps, etc above ground level must be made of metal (no poly pipe or plastic materials are to be used).

Clearly anything that is to functional during a bushfire should be of metal. That includes CFA couplings (which I'm sure are not available in any other form). But the feed pipe to the tank? I'm not going to be using that during a bushfire, and mine is made of poly pipe. Are they really going to complain about that? I'll wait for them to say so, in which case I'll just remove it and top it up with a garden hose as necessary.

Somehow this all leaves a bad taste in my mouth.


factor performance
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Half a century ago I get a new 28 mm wide-angle lens, with the serial number 1364964, which I factorized to 16².7².8².

Unfortunately, I was wrong. In those days, I would have done the calculation by hand. Now we have computers, and it's easy to see:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/28) ~ 22 -> /usr/games/factor 1364964
1364964: 2 2 3 17 6691

My original calculation would have taken at least a minute or two, but this was instantaneous (in fact, time(1) reported about 1 ms, the limit of its resolution). But then I got playing:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/38) ~ 81 -> /usr/games/factor 123544353453454353443
123544353453454353443: 67 27431 631223 106493633
=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/38) ~ 82 -> /usr/games/factor 123544353453454353443fd
123544353453454353443: 67 27431 631223 106493633
=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/38) ~ 83 -> /usr/games/factor 12354435345345435344354254542542543
12354435345345435344354254542542543: 12354435345345435344354254542542543
=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/38) ~ 84 -> /usr/games/factor 1235443534534543534435425454254254
1235443534534543534435425454254254: 2 11 29 1936431872311196762437970931433
=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/38) ~ 85 -> /usr/games/factor 1235443534534543534435425454254254554254325542543254325524524543254325425243543
1235443534534543534435425454254254554254325542543254325524524543254325425243543: 3 19 83 4259

And that's as far as it got. I started at 13:05, and for the rest of the day it sat there calculating at 100% CPU. Sure, it's a big number (1.23×10⁷⁸), but now I'm curious how much CPU time it will use.


Out damned Muslim!
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Email from a neighbour today:

As you may or may not realise, the next Australian Census will be taken on
Tuesday, 9 August 2016.
For the first time this year there will be a “No Religion” option.  Please
be careful how you answer this question. Bear in mind that although many
Australians have no religion these days, the Muslim population in Australia
will all declare that they are Muslim and this fact will be counted to
ascertain what type of country we are in regard to religion.
Even though you may now have no religion, please consider entering the
religion you were christened or born into, when answering this question.
Otherwise in time Australia will officially be declared to be a Muslim
country — because the Australian Bureau of Statistics Census will reflect
this.  Just imagine the repercussions if that were to happen.
For Australia’s future I would ask you to please pass this message on to
your family members and friends.

Sigh. I suppose I must feel like most Germans must have felt in the 1930s as they saw systematic persecution of the Jews. Is this really the Australia we want to live in? For Australia's future I hope that this nonsense will subside soon.

But to answer the request: no, I most definitely will not lie in the Census. And to all those Pauline Hanson followers out there: if you're agnostic or atheist, what do you care what “religion” Australia is?

The real issue, of course, is the bad press that Islam is getting at the moment. Of course atrocities are committed in the name of Islam, and that's something that the Muslim mainstream needs to address. A good way would be more integration, not less.

One good example was last week's episode of ABC's Q&A programme, in which Pauline Hanson was one of the panel. She faced a number of reasonable questions from people who, for the most part, were recognizably Muslim. She didn't answer them well, or even correctly. But for me the best part was when she was discussing something with Sam Dastyari, the panelist to her right, and discovered that he was Muslim.


Thursday, 28 July 2016 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel
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Cholesterol: second opinion
Topic: health, opinion Link here

Into town today to meet Dr Paul Smith (a likely name) to hear his take on my medical issues this month. Discussed the phlegm issue first. I was primarily puzzled by the fact that Dr Mohammad didn't look down my throat, but it seems that is not likely to help much under the conditions. Paul would have been more upset if he hadn't listened to my chest (he had). Paul enumerated a number of potential causes, including heart problems (thus listening to the chest), acid reflux (unlikely), nervousness (also unlikely based on the symptoms) or slime draining from my nasal cavity. This last seems to be the most likely reason.

Showed him the cholesterol summary that I prepared yesterday. He looked at it and came out in support of the first six doctors, and pointed to side effects as a good reason not to take statins lightly. It also seems that there are strict criteria to get them on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, and that he didn't see how I could comply. But the PBS box had been checked on the prescription.

Peter Jeremy and Andy Snow had had some dire warnings about statins earlier in the month:

peter: gurgle: BTW, we were told that once you start taking statins, you can't stop, ...
Andys: the side effects can include death or chronic illness ..

So I asked Paul about that. No, nothing specific, maybe just loss of existing side effects.

All in all, a very different appointment from last time. He went into a lot of detail, perhaps helped by the fact that he had a student listening in, and what he said made sense.

So: do I change doctor? In principle he's already fully booked, and he only saw me for a second opinion and because he already handles Chris Bahlo and Yvonne. But he's prepared to take me on. Should I change? I've been happy with Majid, but Paul makes a very good impression. Not a decision to hurry.


New furniture
Topic: general Link here

We're really not badly off from a financial point of view, and we need (some) new furniture and other household items. But somehow we're both too stingy to go out and buy new things (arguably one of the reasons that we're relatively well off). Yesterday Yvonne saw a dining room cabinet that she liked the look of, going second-hand for $100. While I was in town I took a look at it and ended up taking it—or most of it:


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We'll have to pick up the drawers tomorrow.


Friday, 29 July 2016 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 29 July 2016
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Web server down!
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Into the office this morning and tried to sync something to our external web server. Timeout.

Strange: my periodic pings got through with no difficulty. But when I pressed Return on one of the ssh windows connected to the server, nothing happened—for a minute or so, after which it reacted. Time to finally connect the VNC console.

That showed the machine swapping heavily. Wouldn't it be nice to know what was causing that? But named was at the top of the top list, and it seemed somewhat bloated:

=== root@www (/dev/pts/0) ~ 11 -> ps up2395
USER  PID %CPU %MEM    VSZ   RSS TT  STAT STARTED      TIME COMMAND
root 2395  0.0  2.9 103124 14544  -  SLs  28May15 347:48.17 named

It had been running for 14 months, probably time to relieve it. And it did seem that that was the cause. But there were other servers of similar vintage, including sshd, which seems to have some kind of memory leak, not to mention zombie generation:

sshd    74246   0.0  0.0      0     0  -  Z     4Jul15       0:00.01 <defunct>
sshd    35930   0.0  0.0      0     0  -  Z     5Jun15       0:00.01 <defunct>
sshd    33411   0.0  0.0      0     0  -  Z    20Aug15       0:00.00 <defunct>
sshd    66668   0.0  0.0      0     0  -  Z     7Nov15       0:00.00 <defunct>
(etc)

So restarted them as well, killing all ssh related processes, and things are now continuing well. But somehow it seems sad that I need to do this.


Eureka Hostel again
Topic: animals, general, opinion Link here

To Eureka Village Hostel again with Nikolai today. Somehow it's getting frustrating, and I think Niko thinks so too. It's not the old or decrepit people so much as knowing how to handle them. Many are demented and can't express themselves well; maybe 10% don't want anything to do with a dog, especially one “the size of a horse”. But how do you talk to them, even the ones who have no cognitive impairment? Run in, say, “Here's Nicko” (a majority of the people have difficulty with the name “Niko”), let them pat him (if he's prepared to be patted), say “see you in two weeks” and walk out again? It doesn't seem a very nice way to treat people, but I'm not sure how else to do it.

For some reason, Leonid also felt this way today, as Yvonne told me. Both were happy with their favourites, but didn't want much to do with others.


Finally: the drawers
Topic: general Link here

While in town, picked up the drawers that we forgot yesterday. Now the cabinet looks more complete:


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New frying pan
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

While in town, also picked up a couple of parcels. One was a non-stick frying pan for induction cookers. At $32, not cheap, and not a success:

The base must be domed by about 5 mm. I've never had a frying pan that was so bent. As the video shows, it works, and it doesn't stick, but the temperature distribution is all over the place. Back it goes.

In passing, it's interesting to note that the packaging made no reference to its suitability for induction cookers. It's made of aluminium, clearly with some iron in it. Maybe there are others which would also work. ALDI had similar pans on offer last week for $20; maybe they would work too.


Scat mat
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

The other toy that arrived was a “scat mat”, a sort of table-top electric fence for animals:


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The little box at front left is an energizer powered by a 9 V battery, and the mat has a network of wires that deliver a mild electric shock. The instructions say to test it by holding the side of the hand across it. Even on “low”, the results are impressive.

Went walking with the dogs, leaving the cats inside. When we came back, I found:


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Since then, Rani didn't come close to the kitchen area. If it stays that way, it would be very successful.


I hate flash!
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Taking the photos of the scat mat wasn't easy. It's outside the range of the studio flash in the dining room, so I used my mecablitz 58-AF II. And of course the lighting was really uneven. Even after lightening the shadows, the best I could get was this:


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And turning on the studio flashes to light up the background didn't work. Yes, they flashed, but made no difference. It took several hours to realize that they probably triggered on the pre-flash. But somehow I've never had good results with on-camera flash.


Fixing the horse trough
Topic: Stones Road house, animals Link here

The water trough in the north paddock has been giving us trouble for some time. Although it has a float level, it keeps overflowing. And it's built in such a manner that you can't get good access to the float valve. It's behind this non-removable plastic flap:


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A couple of weeks ago Yvonne complained to the supplier, who gave her a replacement float valve. But that's work, especially considering the poor access to the thing. We turned the water off and waited for the horses to drink it dry, and then took another look today. The trough was dry, but there was a lot of ferric sludge in the bottom, which must have come from the water. The valve itself looks pretty hefty:


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But what if it had clogged up with some of the sludge? That's easy enough to check: now that the trough was empty, there should be enough flow through the valve to flush out any crud. Turned it on, and there was only a trickle of water. Is that the way it is? Or is it a symptom of blockage? Left it for a while and it leveled off at a normal level:


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So maybe it's fixed.


A man and a woman, 50 years on
Topic: multimedia, general, opinion Link here

Fifty years ago the film “Un homme et une femme” (“A man and a woman”) was released. I was ambivalent about it until I discovered that the femme lived in the rue Lamarck, round number 100. Years before I had a “girlfriend”, Régine Ruiz, who lived at number 104 rue Lamarck, and somehow that made it more real for me.

The lead in the film was Jean-Louis Trintignant. Today we saw him in another film, “Amour“, again about a couple—only this time the wife, played by Emmanuelle Riva, suffers a stroke and gradually declines. A very sad film, and a little too close to comfort. But what really got me was that Yvonne, who knows her film stars well, especially of 40 to 50 years ago, didn't recognize Trintignant. Somehow the comparison is almost as painful as the content of the film itself.


Saturday, 30 July 2016 Dereel Images for 30 July 2016
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Still more HDR issues
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

House photo day today, and I still haven't got my routine settled since I started using HDR Projects 4. Today I decided to use TIFF intermediate images, but things didn't turn out as well as I had hoped. Here a comparison between the HDR Projects version and my normal processing, first HDR Projects. Run the cursor over either image to switch to the other image:


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Apart from the brighter colours, the shadow detail is all but gone in the Projects version. Is this due to the lighting today, or the choice of image format? TIFF shouldn't be an issue, of course, but in practice it often is. Lots of software, including DxO Optics “Pro” and xv, have difficulties with various kinds of TIFF images.


Factorizing, continued
Topic: technology Link here

The factorizing that I started on Wednesday continues:

grog        2282 100.0  0.0   16484    4084 38  R+   Wed01pm   4152:10.37 /usr/games/factor 123544353453454353443542545

I should be able to estimate how long it will take, but I can't be bothered. I'll just observe.


More problems with Erdoğan
Topic: language, opinion Link here

The drama continues to unfold in Turkey, and I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. In the meantime, Erdoğan seems to have caused another, more unexpected problem: how do you pronounce his name? Apart from anglocentric newsreaders who can't distinguish between e and ə, there's the question of how to pronounce the ğ. In the past I've heard it pronounced like w or , but lately people aren't doing that. Some pronounce it like a normal (hard) ɡ, others swallow it, which may be more correct.

According to Wikipedia, his full name is pronounced /ɾeˈd͡ʒep tɑjˈjip ˈæɾdoɑn/, and maybe that's correct, but I've found many dubious, US-centric pronunciations in Wikipedia. At the other end of the scale, the best I've heard so far, on ABC “we know better” radio, is Ərgodæn.

In passing, it's amazing how prevalent English vowel shifts are in attempts to pronounce non-English words. Recently, also on ABC's Keys to Music programme, Graham Abbott spoke about Alban Berg, whose surname he pronounced correctly. But he also mentioned Arnold Schönberg, and he couldn't get it over his chest to pronounce it the same way, instead choosing “Schönbög”.


More photos
Topic: animals Link here

I'm really getting to the point where I have enough photos taken on Saturday evening after dinner, but today Chris forced my hand by dragging out her mobile phone and taking photos of Rani in particular. Still, there were only a total of 66 photos. Here a couple:


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Underexposed? No, just the effect of flash, as the shadow on the fridge shows. The following may or may not be the best of the Rani photos:


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Scat mat revisited
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

We also talked about the scat mat, and Chris wanted to try it. But it didn't have any effect on her. Further investigation showed that the energizer wasn't connected to the mat. It's held in place by a pair of press studs:


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Putting it back together wasn't easy. There are a couple of small metal cylinders, 5mm in diameter, in the middle of the connection, and they're strongly magnetized:


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Because of the magnetism, it's almost impossible to centre them. What are they for? They don't seem to be necessary for the contacts.


Sunday, 31 July 2016 Dereel Images for 31 July 2016
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Factorizing, continued
Topic: technology Link here

My factor program is still running, since Wednesday.

USER  PID  %CPU %MEM   VSZ  RSS TT  STAT STARTED       TIME COMMAND
grog  2282  99.0 0.0 16484 3680 38  R+   Wed01pm 5576:56.10 /usr/games/factor 123544353453454353443542545

I suppose this is the kind of thing that the supercomputers of the 1970's just couldn't run: they wouldn't stay up long enough.


Photos: camera or smart phone?
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Photos from smart phones can be very good, and Chris Bahlo has pretty much stopped using her real camera in favour of photos from her phone. Yesterday she brought me a USB stick with the photos she took two weeks ago, while I was trying to get distorted photos of sleeping dogs:


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The first problem with the USB stick was that I couldn't read it. fdisk showed:

Warning: BIOS sector numbering starts with sector 1
Information from DOS bootblock is:
The data for partition 1 is:
sysid 114 (0x72),(unknown)
    start 778135908, size 1141509631 (557377 Meg), flag 6f
The data for partition 2 is:
sysid 101 (0x65),(Novell Netware/386 3.xx)
    start 168689522, size 1936028240 (945326 Meg), flag 69
The data for partition 3 is:
sysid 121 (0x79),(QNX4.x 3rd part)
    start 1869881465, size 1936028192 (945326 Meg), flag 73
The data for partition 4 is:
sysid 13 (0x0d),(unknown)
    start 2885681152, size 55499 (27 Meg), flag 74

What on earth is that? It looks as if partitions 2, 3 and 4 overlap, though I suspect this might be a bug in mtools. And what are those partition types? FreeBSD only assigned a drive device node, none for the partitions (why not?). And of course mtools couldn't make any sense of it.

In dischord, my Microsoft box, it was recognized—for a while. Then it went away and had to be replugged. Is this a dying USB stick?

Finally got the photos off the stick and took a look at them. Not quite comparable in quality. This might be the photo that Chris was taking in the background above:


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It looked better after passing it through Ashampoo photo optimizer, but it certainly doesn't look up to the results from a camera. OK, this is an old camera, and the lighting conditions weren't ideal, but there's still a lot of room for improvement.


Cleaning water filter
Topic: general Link here

The horse water trough is still holding out, but it occurred to me that one reason that the water flow was so little was that the filter next to the pump was clogged. Turned on a water tap and got the typical result: short burst, then trickle. Filter clogged up. I still wasn't prepared for what I saw:


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That's a coating of iron oxide about 2 mm thick! I had hoped that our water here didn't contain as much iron as in Kleins Road, but I never saw anything nearly that bad in Kleins Road. It was also fairly solid and required a brush to remove it. Even then there was clearly a lot between the filter disks, and I ended up cleaning it in hydrochloric acid:


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I can see a lot of flushing of our dripper lines come spring.


Scat mat, continued
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

Put the scat mat back on the kitchen bench today, but it didn't seem to do much. How do you test it? I've followed the instructions and put the side of my hand across it, but I don't want to do that again. A knife across two of the wires should work. Put one there, but nothing happened. Took the energizer connectors apart and inserted the little magnets, and it worked again! Why should they make any difference?

The thing still has the issue that it only emits a pulse about once every 6.5 seconds. In the evening I had put some dog food on it, and Sasha stole some—without getting zapped! Was that good luck, or did he synchronize it with the flash of the activation LED?


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