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March 2015
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Sunday, 1 March 2015 Dereel Images for 1 March 2015
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Suddenly Autumn
Topic: general, Stones Road house Link here

First day of autumn! And it shows. Yesterday we had a top temperature of 32.7°. But then it started raining (12.0 mm), and today we had a maximum of only 22.5°, still better than the forecast 19°.

12 mm rain has its own special meaning: more water (round 4 m³) in the water tanks. And the output of the pump isn't connected. Over to the Stones Road property, and sure enough, water was trickling out the output:


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Still, that means that we have a considerable quantity of water in the tank, about ⅓ of the 50 m³ that they hold:


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Chasing the photo data corruption
Topic: technology, photography Link here

A couple of days ago I discovered that there was a discrepancy between a photo file on my photo disk and on a backup disk. Which was wrong? Today was time to make backups to the other disk, so clearly it was time to investigate before overwriting the good version. A good thing I did, too: most of the contents of the file on my primary disk was replaced by binary zeroes, exactly the scenario that I suggested a couple of days ago.

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/10) ~/Photos/20100717/orig 193 -> md5 P7178579*F
MD5 (P7178579-archived.ORF) = 56fef8f95e9fdc9caad4c4fc8049feed
MD5 (P7178579.ORF) = eae72bccd667956bedcfb5273de6dd69
=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/10) ~/Photos/20100717/orig 194 -> cmp P7178579*F
P7178579-archived.ORF P7178579.ORF differ: char 6617089, line 31915

6617089 is not a number that immediately jumps out and grabs you. But it's 2048 × 3231 + 1. The 1 is a fencepost obfuscation on the part of cmp(1), so this is really the start of a 2048 byte block, the default fragment size of FreeBSD's UFS. Investigation showed that the zeroes continued for many sectors.

So now I have a valid version. But how many other failures have slipped through the cracks? And why are files full of binary zeroes so common? Is it a FreeBSD issue, or (more likely) something to do with the way disks work? In any case, time to write a program to search for large consecutive binary zeroes.


Understanding programming language syntax
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Somebody posted this today:

Image

Amusing, yes. But it does beg the question about the use of the punctuation at the right. It's not until you run into weird bugs that you realize that they're on your side. One of the issues that (not only) I still have with Python


More car problems
Topic: general Link here

Yvonne off with Chris Bahlo to Camperdown this afternoon for a seminar. And once again they had issues with the car not running smoothly, though this time Yvonne tells me that no “Powertrain” indication appeared. Who can repair this without spending most of his time scratching his head?


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

Yvonne bought a new bread pan last week. Today was the first time I used it. I started with the same all-rye starter that I made last week, the one that over-reacted.

Today was different. First, I needed a number of calculations just to get the quantities right, but the dough behaved completely differently from last time. Last time it rose so quickly that the top of the loaf separated from the rest. This time it took over 6 hours to rise. That doesn't seem to have anything to do with the pan, more with the temperature. I need to do all this under controlled temperature, something I'll postpone until we move house.


Monday, 2 March 2015 Dereel
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Understanding NBN
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Call today from Kevin, the support manager of Aussie Broadband, addressing last weekend's outage. He wasn't able to help; despite the claims on the web site, they really don't have any real support at weekends, at least not for “residential” customers. Apparently they do for business customers. Does that makes sense? A two day outage will annoy any VoIP user, whether business or residential. But Kevin promised to get somebody from the business team to contact me to talk about pricing. That's good, because they don't have anything about National Broadband Network for business customers on their web site. He also promised to bring it up at the next management meeting. Hopefully they'll reconsider: apart from that, they're very good.

During quite a long discussion, Kevin's frustration with the NBN became evident. They don't have any support at weekends either! And he's seen the same bureaucracy that I have: “Remember Telstra 25 years ago? These people are worse”. And it seems that this silly 30 minute power down is really required by the NBN, and that they're inclined just to ignore a request if any ı has not been dotted or any l not crossed. That's a pity: it greatly detracts from the idea of the network, and is fuel for the advocates of the free-for-all that we had before.

Also discussed the O'Dea's problems with connection to the NBN. They need an antenna mast to conenct, and that seems to be something that the NBN bureaucrats don't understand. Aussie has done things like that before, but only with their own (WiMAX) towers. Still, he's noted the fact, and maybe Steve will get satisfaction from them.


New studio backdrop
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

I've bought a backdrop stand for studio work. Nothing fancy, just a couple of tripods, a cross-bar and a muslin cloth to hang from the cross bar:

The quality is barely acceptable. One of the clips doesn't close properly, the whole thing is very flimsy, and the cloth (folded) is very wrinkled.

And how does it work? I don't know yet. The thing is much larger than I expected, and I can't find anywhere to erect it. If at least the cross bar were easily shortened, things would be a lot better.


Tuesday, 3 March 2015 Dereel Images for 3 March 2015
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Photographing the 555
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

I'm selling my Tektronix 555 oscilloscope, but first, of course, I want to get better photos of it. Spent some time playing around with my new lighting stand, and finally managed to make it narrow enough to fit in the space I've chosen for the moment:


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Started off with photos of one of the CA plug-ins. It wasn't easy. First, I just put it on the muslin:


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As I feared, it was impossible to remove the creases. Went looking and found some DIN A3 paper to put underneath:


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But the paper is still too small, and I had joins in it, as well as the muslin protruding at the top:


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Finally I had something that looked reasonable:


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But only at first sight. The plug-in looked completely clean when I started, but there's dust, cobwebs and some stain on it. These photos bring out all the minor details that you just don't normally see. And, worse, there are shadows! That's not completely surprising given the nature of the illumination, but it's certainly undesirable. Cleaned the plug-in and put my mecablitz 58-AF-2 on top for bounce flash off the ceiling. This is the configuration shown in the photo above.

And the results? Unexposed! DxO Optics “Pro” can extract some detail out of the shadows, but it's unexposed by at least 8 EV. And that with the same exposure and the same studio flashes as before. What went wrong? They definitely fired, so at first I thought it might be a problem with the (wireless) synchronization. But even after dropping the shutter speed to 1/60s, I couldn't get any image. Wikipedia is your friend:

Before the actual exposure one or more small flashes, called "preflashes", are emitted. The light returning through the lens is measured and this value is used to calculate the amount of light necessary for the actual exposure.

So the pre-flash set off the studio flashes, and the mecablitz was too weak to expose at all. So what do I do? Clearly under these circumstances it would be possible to run the flash in manual mode at full output, but what difference would it make? I still need to find a better approach.


BigPond email: We don't need no steenking security
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Sent a mail message to Gary Murray today. It didn't go through:

<murraydrill@bigpond.com>: host extmail.bigpond.com[61.9.168.122] said: 552
5.2.0 yrRW1p01Q1sUVRc01rRYpC Suspected spam message rejected. IB704 (in
reply to end of DATA command)
	

I've seen this before. BigPond is too stupid to distinguish digital signatures from spam. So they reject messages on the mere suspicion of spam. Is this in their users' interests? A good reason for any BigPond user to choose a competent mail service provider. I'm still amazed how incompetent everything to do with Telstra is.


Not worth a bean?
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

We've been planning to eat more beans for some time now. Too long, in fact. Yesterday I cooked 300 g of white beans for use in soup (and for the record they weighed 840 g after cooking). But their “best before” date was a year ago, and it shows: they're rough and crumbly. So now I'm looking for something else to do with them, possibly patties like masala vada.

In the meantime, though: is it worth cooking dried beans? They're not even overly cheap, about $5 per kg, though of course that goes a long way. But if you buy pre-cooked beans in cans, they're going to be cooked correctly, and though they're more expensive (how much?), the overall increase in food prices is barely noticeable.


Wednesday, 4 March 2015 Dereel Images for 4 March 2015
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More 555 photos
Topic: photography Link here

Spent a considerably amount of time today trying to get better photos of the Tektronix 555 oscilloscope. I failed. Clearly bounce flash with the mecablitz 58-AF-2 was too weak to make any difference. But how about a mirror below the unit to reflect flash up? That required lifting the plug-ins a little, so got a thick paperback and put them on that. After all, I can crop later, right?

Wrong. I suppose I could white out the area with some other software, but the plug-ins overhang, and the title of the book reflected in the bars:


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Yes, I can wrap the book in paper, but there's another issue: No obvious difference in the shadows. Here yesterday and today:


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If anything, today's results looked worse. What next? Ring flash? Normal daylight? The light tent that I bought years ago and hardly used? Why is this so difficult?


Thursday, 5 March 2015 Dereel Images for 5 March 2015
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Emptying the shipping container
Topic: general, Stones Road house Link here

We've sold our shipping container to Chris Bahlo, and we've been planning to empty it for coming on 9 months now. The main issue was where to put the contents, and for that we needed a shed.

Well, we have a shed now. My excuses are running out. So today we set to to move the contents. Much of the content is old magazines, some of which have made their third move without being read again:


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I still can't bear to throw them out, but clearly it's time to get rid of them. In the meantime, into the new shed they go.

Managed to clean out more than half of our part of the container:


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What's left is at the back. On the right is nearly all Chris' stuff, and the cartons in the front are empty. It's surprising how little space the cartons take up in the new shed:


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House: progress?
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

While moving the cartons, spoke to Mark O'Donnell, the painter, who will do our downpipes for us. They're making progress:


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They should be ready in the middle of next week, and then they'll be back at the end—he estimates six weeks.

Six weeks! That would put us in the new house at the end of April at the very earliest. We were hoping early April at the latest. Duncan has been very cagey about telling us any dates, and of course Mark doesn't have to be right. But he has no reason to distort things, either. So maybe we should be looking at early May. This thing is taking forever!


555 photos, next try
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

The real issue taking photos of the Tektronix CA plug-in is the length of the knobs, up to 25 mm for the ones with the red centre. It's clear that any lighting from the side will cast a shadow.

So: completely equal lighting from all sides would do it. But how do you do that? I still have the options of the light tent, which previously has not been overly successful, or the ring flash. In principle the ring flash would be the solution, but the pane reflects. Tried it anyway today and got (with a previous attempt on the left):


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As expected, the shadows are gone, and there's a reflection, though not as bad as I had feared. It's interesting how much better the adjusting screws for gain adjustment and DC balance are. But in comparison, I think it still looks worse than previously.

Where to now? Combine ring flash with something else? I suppose it's time to go and grab the light tent.


Friday, 6 March 2015 Dereel Images for 6 March 2015
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555 photos, yet again
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

More playing around with the photos of the Tektronix 555 oscilloscope today. First, a combination of ring flash and studio flash. The studio flashes were set at full power, and I modified the ring flash power from ¼ to 1/16:


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The first is a little burnt out in places; the second shows shadows again. It's similar with the front panel. I can't get rid of the shadows without burning out.

There's another issue as well: perspective. I'm looking at the middle of the plug-in, so I'm seeing the lower knobs from above and the upper knobs from below. It's enough to be irritating. This was with a 50 mm lens (24.4° diagonal), which isn't that short. But for the fun of it I tried it with a long telephoto (effectively 281 mm, or 4.4° diagonal). That required ambient lighting and an exposure of 5 seconds. Here the attempts from 2 days ago, yesterday and today:


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Is that better? I think so. It's not as brightly coloured as the first flash attempt, but that may not be wrong. Ended up taking a whole lot more images like that. Now to clean the dust out of the mainframe and take that too, and I'll call it a week.


Ending the ISO stupidity?
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

I somehow seem to have missed the announcement of the Leica T. Once again Leica have astounded me. A horrendously expensive camera with nothing to recommend it, neither image stabilization, speed, ease of use nor choice of lenses. Here a comparison with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and Yvonne's Olympus OM-D E-PM2. Some of these are from Digital Photography Review, others from the March edition of c't Digitale Fotografie:

      Leica       E-PM2       E-M1
Body Price (B&H)       $1,850       $270       $1,399
Lens       18-56 f/3.5-5.6       14-42 f/3.5-5.6       12-40 f/2.8
Price       $1,750       bundled       $999
Lenses available       4       139       139
Sensitivity (ISO linear)       125-12,500       200-25,600       200-25,600
Max shutter       1/4000       1/4000       1/8000
Flash sync speed       1/180       1/250       1/320
AF speed (1000 Lux)       0.7s       ?       0.26s
Images/s       5       8       10

Yvonne's camera meets or exceeds all the Leica specs, but cost $270 instead of Leica's $3,600. I don't have a comparable AF speed for the E-PM2, but I'm sure it's considerably less than 0.7 s. And the lens? Hard to find useful test results, but c't Digitale Fotografie states that the Vario-Elmar is considerably worse than the 12-40 Zuiko Pro.

There are many other specs, of course, but these are the ones that stand out, and I can't be bothered to follow the others up. Can the Leica do HDR bracketing? Who knows? But the E-PM2 can. The tests suggest that the Leica is not the easiest camera to use.

And the number of lenses available? The 4 for the Leica is pretty clear. Why can't it use their existing lenses? The 139 for Olympus is conservative; it's the number of Four Thirds system lenses available from B&H.

All in all, typical Leica. How do they manage to sell cameras like this at any price, let alone at the inflated price of this camera?

So: why do I even bother to mention it? They have done one thing right: they haven't broken the sensitivity scale. According to ISO 12232:2006, the light sensitivity of a sensor can be measured either logarithmically (effectively decibels, according to the previous DIN 4512) or linearly (according to the older ASA standard). In each case, the steps are decibel steps, representing the tenth root of 10 (10↑0.1) or a linear factor of approximately 1.258. Here's a comparison, showing how the ASA values were approximated:

log (°)       Linear       approximation
0       1.000       1.00
1       1.258       1.25
2       1.584       1.60
3       1.995       2.00
4       2.511       2.50
5       3.162       3.20
6       3.981       4.00
7       5.011       5.00
8       6.309       6.40
9       7.943       8.00
10       10.000       10.00

For each 10° increase, multiply the linear version by 10. 20° ISO is 100 linear. 38° is 6,400. 41° is 12,500. And so on.

But that's not what the industry has been doing so far. Most manufacturers have been misled by the close relationship between 3° and linear 2. Starting (I think) with 40°/10,000, they're deviating from this scale. Instead they're going by powers of 2 and doubling, so now they're writing 12,800 instead of 12,500 for 41°. We've even got as far as 58° (400,000 linear), which they're selling as “409,600”.

This is silly. In particular, it tears the linear scale apart. Add 50 to the sensitivities and you get:

log (°)       Linear       Clever modern
      approximation       version
50       100,000       102,400
51       125,000       128,000
52       160,000       160,000
53       200,000       204,800
54       250,000       256,000
55       320,000       320,000
56       400,000       409,600
57       500,000       512,000
58       640,000       640,000
59       800,000       819,200
60       1,000,000       1,000,000

The problem here is that the relationships no longer hold true. Some of the values have diverged, others haven't. I'm guessing at some of these values, of course, since nobody has actually shown any except 50°/53°/56°. But clearly it's time to recognize that the scale has nothing to do with powers of 2, and return to the powers of 10. And that's what Leica appear to have done. I wonder whether they'll be successful.

In passing, of course, it would make sense to finally depart from the linear scale altogether: it's becoming more and more unwieldy, while the logarithmic scale still looks sane. But I don't see that happening any time soon.


Painting the house
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Yvonne wanted to see how the house is progressing, so over to take a look. The painters are progressing, and the doors are now hung:


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That photo also shows how much brighter things are in the other room (the “studio”). They've removed the protective coating from the windows:


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And of course the walls have been painted. It makes a big difference.

The other thing that caught our eyes was the number of touch-up spots on the wall:


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It seems that they're normal, but in this case they're excessive. Mark confirms that it's a pain. This is what some of the not-yet-retouched areas look like:


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Saturday, 7 March 2015 Dereel Images for 7 March 2015
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More house moving
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

A couple of days ago we moved out half our content of the shipping container, and today was the day for the rest. We managed half. There are still a few cartons in the back, which I'll need to sift through before taking to Stones Road: I suspect that at least half will stay here pending a garage sale, and most of that will subsequently be discarded.

It's interesting to note the effort required. Theoretically, picking up heavy boxes and putting them on a trailer should be about as difficult as taking them off the trailer and putting them in the shed. In practice, the latter is much easier. It must be the pain of accepting that I have to throw the stuff out.


Telstra and bandwidth cost
Topic: technology Link here

On IRC today, Jürgen Lock pointed us at this comparison of network costs around the world. He's in Germany, but the take-home message, at least for me, was:

Telstra .... charges some of the highest transit pricing in the world — 20x the benchmark ($200/Mbps).

So why hasn't the National Broadband Network changed that? I had thought that the geography was part of the problem, but the same article also says:

Given that Australia is one large land mass with relatively concentrated population centers, it's difficult to justify the pricing based on anything other than Telstra's market power.

My main reason for disliking Telstra was their extremely poor support. Maybe the pricing reflects the cost of their inefficiency.


Sunday, 8 March 2015 Dereel Images for 8 March 2015
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Riding again
Topic: animals, general Link here

Yvonne and Chris have finally got me to agree to go riding again. This morning, without fail. So we had breakfast, I did my morning admin stuff, and they went off looking for pallets to put under the hay in the hayshed.

A little later, a call from Yvonne. Come along and take a look. A box that she could convert into a tack room:


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It seems that they were shipping crates used for shipping equipment for the Mount Mercer Wind Farm:


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This one is smaller than what Yvonne needs, but Doug (Braddy) tells her that there are many more, and he is looking for one 2.2×3.9 metres in size, which would work well. Price? $100, and $25 for delivery. We'd still need to put a front wall in, but you can't beat that price.

Doug also runs the Dereel Men's shed, something I've never understood. Currently it's all in one of his sheds:


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Doug did a good sales pitch, and so got new members—Yvonne and Chris! I'll hold off until I've taken a look.

Also bought a number of planks that had been reworked as raised garden beds. Again, at $10 the prices are really good. Now to work out what to do with them.


Tektronix 555: Final photos?
Topic: photography, opinion, technology Link here

Taking the photos of the Tektronix 555 oscilloscope has been surprisingly painful. But enough is enough. Tried again today with flash and the long telephoto lens, this time concentrating on the mainframe. Moving the lens further away also allowed me to put the flash units closer together, with good results. Here my five tries of the CA plug-in:


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The first was just with studio flash. The second was only with ring flash, the third with a combination of ring flash and studio flash, the fourth with ambient light, and the fifth, like the first, with studio flash only. Yes, the shadows are still there, but they're much less obtrusive.

Took photos of the entire scope, plug-in by plug-in, and the mainframe with and without plug-ins.


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They're all on the Tektronix 555 album page.


Monday, 9 March 2015 Dereel Images for 9 March 2015
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Kangaroo thorn
Topic: animals Link here

From time to time while walking the dogs, they go off into the bush. The densest kind here is Acacia paradoxa, also known as Kangaroo Thorn. And it breaks off, so we continually have to remove prickly stuff like this:


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Riding again
Topic: animals Link here

It's been nearly 18 months since we had to put down my mare Darah, and since then I haven't been on a horse. In fact, since Darah was sick, it seems that it has been nearly 3 years since the last time I noted in this diary that I had been riding.

I bought a new riding helmet months ago, but I got the feeling that Yvonne and Chris didn't want me to come with them—it wasn't for the lack of a horse. Then they wanted to go riding yesterday, but spent the time looking at shipping crates instead. Still, finally we got round to it today. Chris gave me Smokey, an American Saddlebred stallion that we're looking after (and who is for sale!).

Saddling him was fun:


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Off into the forest.


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Riding a stallion is always interesting because he had to be kept away from mares. So of course Yvonne and Chris both rode mares (Carlotta and La Tigre respectively). Things went well enough apart from an encounter with some small boys on bicycles at close quarters, which worried both Smokey and Carlotta. But somehow it's a completely different feeling from Darah, perhaps in part because of the saddle. Chris was encouraging: “You'll never find another horse like Darah”.


Touch screens and other obscenities
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Yvonne's photos of the ride didn't come out quite as she had intended. Here's one of them:


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What went wrong there? 12 different copies of one image, all mutilated. It's a combination of these silly “Art Filters” and the ease with which you can change the settings on Yvonne's Olympus E-PM2 (or, for that matter, my Olympus OM-D E-M1) while riding on a horse. All you need to do it pick it up wrongly, and you've set all sorts of nonsense. All the fault of touch screens.

The only good thing about the touch screen is that you can deactivate it. On both cameras, setup menu J, “Touch Screen Settings” allows you to turn the bloody thing off. Maybe Yvonne will like the camera better now.


Dog problems
Topic: animals Link here

Over to the Stones Road property in the afternoon to let the dogs run. Now that the fence wire and the horses have been removed, there's no reason not to let them run around. Well, not much. Zhivago and Leonid immediately headed for the dam and got themselves soaking wet. But not my Nikolai—he stayed out.

Well, for a while. I think he must have headed for the water tanks instead, soaked himself and then rolled himself in the sand:


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What a mess! Of course we left them in the dog run until they had dried out. It wasn't until some time after 20:00 that Yvonne let them in again. And it was a good half hour later before we noticed that they hadn't come into the lounge room. Out to the kitchen: door open again, dogs run away.

But they weren't far, and came in almost immediately, panting heavily. Leonid soon recovered, but Nikolai yelped a bit and carried on panting. Felt him: another yelp or two, but not related to where I touched him. In the end called up Pene Kirk, and she told me how to take his pulse (on the inside of the thigh, from the front). My best guess was 150, and that after 10 minutes!

Over to Pene's, and she checked him out. After 30 minutes he was still panting, though not as much. I had been worried about heart issues or snake bite. His heart was OK, and as Pene put it, if it had been a snake, he wouldn't be standing any more. Her concern was that it could be bloat, apparently Gastric dilatation volvulus. And that's serious, and it's known to affect dogs like Borzois and greyhounds. But she couldn't hear any typical symptoms, so she gave him an injection just in case, and we took him home again. He carried on breathing irregularly for a couple of hours, but seemed to be on the mend. I'm going to have to read up on bloat.

On the way home picked up an unexpected treat for the dogs: a rabbit had run out in front of the car and killed itself.


Tuesday, 10 March 2015 Dereel Images for 10 March 2015
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Nikolai OK again
Topic: animals Link here

Spent the night worrying about Nikolai, but it seems we didn't need to. He was fine the next morning, and ready to consume last night's rabbit:


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In the evening to Stones Road again, and found how he managed to cover himself in sand:


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Bean patties
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

First attempt at bean patties this evening, roughly based on masala vada. Not an unmitigated success: I had cooked the beans soft, and they were easy to crush, but they needed something to hold the patties together. Also too much salt. On the other hand, it shows promise, something to do with beans that are too old to eat whole.


Wednesday, 11 March 2015 Dereel Images for 11 March 2015
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Dogs don't eat salad
Topic: animals, food and drink Link here

Caught Nikolai coming out of the dining room licking his lips this evening. What had he been eating? We had put all the meat away. But not the salad:


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This was a Khoriatiki salata, with Feta. Until Niko got at it.


Thursday, 12 March 2015 Dereel Images for 12 March 2015
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NBN reliability: worse than satellite?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Yvonne dragged me out of bed this morning to tell me that we were off the net. It took me a while to understand, but in to the office, and sure enough, we had been off the net for hours. The usual thing: DHCPDISCOVER going out, no reply. Called up Aussie Broadband support, spoke to Kylie, who relatively quickly connected me to Jerom, who is (ahem!) 3rd level support.

He confirmed that they were receiving the DHCPDISCOVER and replying correctly with a DHCPOFFER. But that reply never made it back here. Shades of last month? In any case, it's not acceptable. Got him to transfer me to Kevin, the manager, who told me that it was part of a more general outage, that the problem was within the National Broadband Network, with whom a ticket had been raised, and that hopefully things would soon come back to normal.

They weren't. The outage lasted all day. And it seemed to be limited to customers of Aussie Broadband (more specifically, the address block 180.150.4.0/24).

That gave me an opportunity to revive my network status page. I had been through three iterations: firstly ADSL, then satellite, and finally HSPA. And when the NBN arrived, I thought I could stop. It seems that I was wrong.

So I frobbed the old scripts, and to my surprise discovered the relative reliability:

Medium       Number of       Time between       Outage time       Average outage       Maximum outage       Availability
      outages       outages             (seconds)       (seconds)
Satellite       1684       15:40:49       9 days, 04:00:01       470       118282       99.17%
NBN       79       4 days, 23:19:02       5 days, 16:33:03       6222       192150       98.55%

Less reliable than satellite! And look at those average outage times! Satellite outages were mainly short, whereas the average NBN outage is 103 minutes, and the longest (admittedly not the fault of the NBN) was well over 2 days.

How can this happen in a modern network? Bureaucracy, it seems. Everybody I have spoken to confirms that they're really hard to deal with, and being a monopoly, they don't need to justify themselves. Not quite what we were hoping for, and possibly an argument for the current government's deemphasis of the network.

How many people were affected? Hard to say. CJ called me in the evening to tell me that his phone (VoIP via Aussie Broadband) wasn't working. How many other people didn't notice until then, or at all?


More bad luck
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

While I was grumbling about the network outage, Yvonne, who had been riding with Helen Miller, came in with the news that Helen had fallen off her horse and had probably broken her wrist. That required somebody to drive her and her horse back to Enfield (in fact, just round the corner from the property in Inglewood Drive that we nearly bought two years ago). So off back with her, and gave her instructions to go to the Ballarat Base Hospital and have it looked at.

She called back in the evening: it looks like she'll need surgery, but first a cat scan tomorrow. And I thought Friday the 13th was supposed to be the unlucky day.


More house progress
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

On the way back from taking Helen home, dropped in in Stones Road to find Jesse doing the tiling. Back later with camera and dogs and got some photos:


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It's interesting to note where the tiles come from:


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I spent some time in Kuching nearly 50 years ago. Looking at the map nowadays shows me how much it has changed. Jalan Kong Ping didn't exist at the time; probably the whole area was virgin jungle. How times change (not to mention the length of the road, which on the map looks to be only about 1 km long).


Fun with dogs
Topic: animals Link here

Jesse, the tiler, has just bought himself a beagle puppy, and he was really impressed by our dogs. Yvonne gave him lots of tips, and he played around getting them to sit on command:


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Internode: Why PPPoE?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Time to change my ISP, I'm afraid. Whom should I choose? Internode has the best reputation. They offer a similar product as Aussie Broadband: 300 GB per month for $75 compared to 250 GB per month for $60. The price difference is real: I never use 250 GB, so the additional 50 GB from Internode are of no interest.

Called them up and got the usual message, that I had a wait of between 5 and 9 minutes before I could speak to anybody. Accepted the offer of a call back when somebody was available. And the call back came almost immediately, followed by a 6 minute wait before I was connected to Alex. He wasn't prepared for my questions about reliability, of course, but gave me the impression that they did have real techies available over the weekend. Went through the usual stuff, and was in the process of signing up when he told me that I would have to reconfigure my “router” with a new user name and password.

At first sight that's obvious. But what user name and password? You don't need that for a DHCP connection to the National Broadband Network. Are they using PPPoE on the NBN? He went and checked. Yes.

He couldn't tell me why, of course. But he also didn't understand my objection. How much overhead does PPPoE create? It depends on the packet size, but for small packets it can be as much as 10%. Why should I choose that? Why did Internode choose that? So, at least for the time being, I backed out of the contract.

It wasn't until some time later that it occurred to me that PPPoE might also have an advantage: no DHCP problems. Apart from Aussie Broadband, I have also had short-lived NBN contracts with Exetel and SkyMesh. Exetel uses PPPoE, and SkyMesh uses DHCP. Exetel had no problems with connection setup or maintenance, while it took SkyMesh 2 days to configure their DHCP server correctly. And the current problems with Aussie also appear to be related to DHCP, as was the longest ever outage last month. But by then it was evening.


Friday, 13 March 2015 Dereel Images for 13 March 2015
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House progress
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Over to the house site at 11:00 this morning to meet Duncan Jackson. Things are progressing:


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But not everything is going exactly according to plan. I had already noticed the rough join between tiles and the skirting board. Duncan tells us that this is normal. I can't recall ever seeing it before, and next time we're in town, we'll have a look at their display home to see what that looks like.

There are also a few less-than-perfectly laid tiles:


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And in the kitchen there's a problem with the ornamental tiles:


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Shouldn't that row have been between the top two rows? What does it say in the contract? Nothing. But the plans from the contract have been updated to show the location:


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But why didn't we have to sign off on that?

In any case, there seems to be a further issue: the row looks like it's upside-down:


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Duncan is going to have to clarify that.

As if that wasn't enough, there's a 3 cm gap below each door. That seems excessive. When the flooring goes down, it'll drop to 2 cm or maybe a little over, but that doesn't seem right. Duncan, of course, says “that's the way we always do it”. Another case for the display home. Back at our home, took a look: yes, there's a 2 cm gap where floors are carpeted, because of the rail underneath. But where there are wood floors, the gap is about 5 mm, as I would have expected. Until proof of the contrary I'm assuming that they forgot to adapt the door size to the flooring.

On the positive side, Duncan has finally come out with a likely date for us to move in: four to five weeks. Mark had suggested more, but as Duncan said, he doesn't know the details. Time for us to pull our socks up.

In the afternoon, saw this from the west:


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Don't the roof colours of house and shed match well? In fact, the shed has a plain galvanized iron roof, the same colour as the walls. The colour is just a reflection of the sky.


Analysing yesterday's disaster
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Network connectivity came back this morning at almost exactly midnight. I had traced the network since about 8:30 yesterday, but of course by the time I stopped it, we had about 200,000 packets and a 235 MB trace file. All that interested me was the time up to the restoration of service. How do I do that? With Edwin Groothuis' help discovered the wireshark “export” function. You can specify a packet range, in my case 1-8212. And sure enough, it saved a file with just those packets.

Tried to read it back in again.

The file "/home/grog/public_html/Day/20150313/offnet.trace" isn't a capture file in a format Wireshark understands.

Huh? It's a plain text file!

No.     Time            Source                Source Port Source     Destination           Destination Protocol Length Info
      1 08:40:46.745833 0.0.0.0                           00:50:da:cf:07:35 255.255.255.255       ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff DHCP     342    DHCP Discover - Transaction ID 0x76a73872

Frame 1: 342 bytes on wire (2736 bits), 342 bytes captured (2736 bits)
Ethernet II, Src: 180.150.4.128 (00:50:da:cf:07:35), Dst: Broadcast (ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff)
Internet Protocol Version 4, Src: 0.0.0.0 (0.0.0.0), Dst: 255.255.255.255 (255.255.255.255)
User Datagram Protocol, Src Port: bootpc (68), Dst Port: bootps (67)
Bootstrap Protocol

How do you save it as a capture file? At least with the old version I'm using (1.6.8), you don't, though it appears that newer versions might.

More head-scratching. Then Peter Jeremy suggested using tcpdump:

tcpdump -r net.trace -w offnet.trace -c 8212

And sure enough, that worked. What did I see? I had started dhclient, which zeroes out the IP address of the interface, but then reinstated it, so I had both DHCPDISCOVER and ARP requests going down the line. What was coming back? Nothing, you'd expect. But that's not quite what I saw. My local interface is aussie-gw.lemis.com, and I've reverse mapped the zone for other end so that I can call it radiation-tower.aussiebb.net:

09:04:43.739032 IP 167.114.89.109.25565 > aussie-gw.lemis.com.netbios-ns: NBT UDP PACKET(137): QUERY; REQUEST; UNICAST
09:04:44.068922 IP 14.148.25.51.25992 > aussie-gw.lemis.com.telnet: Flags [S], seq 2753645165, win 5840, options [mss 1380,sackOK,TS val 325002205 ecr 0,nop,wscale 2], length 0
09:04:45.248990 IP 167.114.89.109.25565 > aussie-gw.lemis.com.netbios-ns: NBT UDP PACKET(137): QUERY; REQUEST; UNICAST
09:04:47.064998 IP 14.148.25.51.25992 > aussie-gw.lemis.com.telnet: Flags [S], seq 2753645165, win 5840, options [mss 1380,sackOK,TS val 325005205 ecr 0,nop,wscale 2], length 0
09:04:50.524039 IP 167.114.89.109.25565 > aussie-gw.lemis.com.netbios-ns: NBT UDP PACKET(137): QUERY; REQUEST; UNICAST
09:10:44.008822 IP ns301608.ip-94-23-27.eu.27015 > aussie-gw.lemis.com.netbios-ns: NBT UDP PACKET(137): QUERY; REQUEST; UNICAST

What's all that? Microsoft stuff, of course, but how did it find its way to me? It continued at irregular intervals all day long. Most of the IP addresses don't resolve (it's Microsoft space, after all), but the one that does suggested that it's in Europe, and the others seem to be scattered round the world. The last recognizable PTRs returned by traceroute are:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/8) ~/public_html/Day/20150313 19 -> traceroute 167.114.89.109
21  vac3-3-n7.qc.ca (198.27.73.237)  283.340 ms  284.869 ms  277.921 ms
=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/8) ~/public_html/Day/20150313 20 -> traceroute 14.148.25.51
11  chinatelecom-hk-gz-peer.hkth01.pr.telstraglobal.net (134.159.158.246)  263.846 ms  264.781 ms  259.981 ms

I assume that means Québec and somewhere in China respectively.

Finally connectivity came back. First ARP:

23:59:05.582253 ARP, Request who-has radiation-tower.aussiebb.net tell aussie-gw.lemis.com, length 46
23:59:28.573162 ARP, Request who-has radiation-tower.aussiebb.net tell aussie-gw.lemis.com, length 28
23:59:28.602105 ARP, Reply radiation-tower.aussiebb.net is-at 00:18:74:56:14:1a (oui Unknown), length 46
23:59:28.602111 IP aussie-gw.lemis.com > radiation-tower.aussiebb.net: ICMP echo request, id 49362, seq 0, length 64

That's interesting, because I thought that I needed DHCP to create a routing a path to the other end of the National Broadband Network cloud. But it took my dhclient a little longer before it reacted:

00:01:22.433342 IP 0.0.0.0.bootpc > 255.255.255.255.bootps: BOOTP/DHCP, Request from 00:50:da:cf:07:35 (oui Unknown), length 300
00:01:22.540081 IP radiation-tower.aussiebb.net.bootps > aussie-gw.lemis.com.bootpc: BOOTP/DHCP, Reply, length 300

In the meantime, things weren't silent. The NBNS requests exploded, now coming from port http:

00:00:54.880109 IP hera.thewebhostserver.com.http > aussie-gw.lemis.com.netbios-ns: NBT UDP PACKET(137): QUERY; REQUEST; UNICAST
00:00:55.510049 IP 123.57.17.176.http > aussie-gw.lemis.com.netbios-ns: NBT UDP PACKET(137): QUERY; REQUEST; UNICAST
00:00:56.195070 IP 123.57.17.176.http > aussie-gw.lemis.com.netbios-ns: NBT UDP PACKET(137): QUERY; REQUEST; UNICAST
00:00:58.107148 IP 108.163.135.69.28004 > aussie-gw.lemis.com.netbios-ns: NBT UDP PACKET(137): QUERY; REQUEST; UNICAST
00:00:59.190050 IP 108.163.135.69.28004 > aussie-gw.lemis.com.netbios-ns: NBT UDP PACKET(137): QUERY; REQUEST; UNICAST
00:00:59.917104 IP 123.57.17.176.http > aussie-gw.lemis.com.netbios-ns: NBT UDP PACKET(137): QUERY; REQUEST; UNICAST
00:01:01.000074 IP 123.57.17.176.http > aussie-gw.lemis.com.netbios-ns: NBT UDP PACKET(137): QUERY; REQUEST; UNICAST
00:01:03.402129 IP 108.163.135.69.28004 > aussie-gw.lemis.com.netbios-ns: NBT UDP PACKET(137): QUERY; REQUEST; UNICAST

The first of these also appears to be in China, and the second in the USA. But why am I getting these requests from source port http? And why only since connectivity came back? They're not really targeting me (and I'm not replying), so presumably they have been coming all the time, and until the net recovered they weren't getting through.

In principle I was replying, but since I didn't have a MAC address, I couldn't. But that's what firewalls are for.

Whatever it was, the raises more questions than it solves. I'll do some more thinking.

One thing that hasn't changed is the poor response to DHCP requests:

20:34:15.264515 IP radiation-tower.aussiebb.net.bootps > aussie-gw.lemis.com.bootpc: BOOTP/DHCP, Reply, length 300
21:04:15.040496 IP aussie-gw.lemis.com.bootpc > radiation-tower.aussiebb.net.bootps: BOOTP/DHCP, Request from 00:50:da:cf:07:35 (oui Unknown), length 300
<i>(46 retries omitted)</i>
21:21:56.966434 IP aussie-gw.lemis.com.bootpc > radiation-tower.aussiebb.net.bootps: BOOTP/DHCP, Request from 00:50:da:cf:07:35 (oui Unknown), length 300
21:21:57.030945 IP radiation-tower.aussiebb.net.bootps > aussie-gw.lemis.com.bootpc: BOOTP/DHCP, Reply, length 300

Given that this seems related to the problem, it's high time to find out what's going wrong.


Saturday, 14 March 2015 Dereel Images for 14 March 2015
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More network investigations
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

More work on my network status page today, without making it really pretty. One thing of interest is the “TCP speed” plot, in blue:

click on image for larger version.

This shows the reciprocal of the time it takes to load a small document from the other end of the world. It's surprisingly constant. But for some reason the value increased round 10 March. Looking at the raw log data shows:

1425966865 0.70 # Tue 10 Mar 2015 16:54:26 EST
1425966926 0.71 # Tue 10 Mar 2015 16:55:27 EST
1425966987 0.72 # Tue 10 Mar 2015 16:56:28 EST
1425967049 0.71 # Tue 10 Mar 2015 16:57:29 EST
1425967110 0.55 # Tue 10 Mar 2015 16:58:30 EST
1425967171 0.57 # Tue 10 Mar 2015 16:59:32 EST
1425967232 0.55 # Tue 10 Mar 2015 17:00:33 EST
1425967293 0.56 # Tue 10 Mar 2015 17:01:34 EST

The second column is the time in seconds for the transaction; there really was a step change there.

Also kept an eye on the DHCP traffic. Yes, we're still running into timeouts:

16:51:39.101013 IP radiation-tower.aussiebb.net.bootps > aussie-gw.lemis.com.bootpc: BOOTP/DHCP, Reply, length 300
17:20:52.104443 IP aussie-gw.lemis.com.bootpc > radiation-tower.aussiebb.net.bootps: BOOTP/DHCP, Request from 00:50:da:cf:07:35 (oui Unknown), length 300
(45 requests omitted)
17:42:03.150427 IP aussie-gw.lemis.com.bootpc > radiation-tower.aussiebb.net.bootps: BOOTP/DHCP, Request from 00:50:da:cf:07:35 (oui Unknown), length 300
17:42:59.151418 IP aussie-gw.lemis.com.bootpc > 255.255.255.255.bootps: BOOTP/DHCP, Request from 00:50:da:cf:07:35 (oui Unknown), length 300
(9 requests omitted)
17:49:43.624422 IP aussie-gw.lemis.com.bootpc > 255.255.255.255.bootps: BOOTP/DHCP, Request from 00:50:da:cf:07:35 (oui Unknown), length 300
17:50:07.634879 IP 0.0.0.0.bootpc > 255.255.255.255.bootps: BOOTP/DHCP, Request from 00:50:da:cf:07:35 (oui Unknown), length 300
17:50:07.696161 IP radiation-tower.aussiebb.net.bootps > aussie-gw.lemis.com.bootpc: BOOTP/DHCP, Reply, length 300
17:50:07.704029 IP radiation-tower.aussiebb.net.bootps > aussie-gw.lemis.com.bootpc: BOOTP/DHCP, Reply, length 300
17:50:09.532473 IP 0.0.0.0.bootpc > 255.255.255.255.bootps: BOOTP/DHCP, Request from 00:50:da:cf:07:35 (oui Unknown), length 300
17:50:09.576122 IP radiation-tower.aussiebb.net.bootps > aussie-gw.lemis.com.bootpc: BOOTP/DHCP, Reply, length 300

At 17:42:59.151418, after 47 requests over 22 minutes, dhclient gave up on the DHCP server with which it had been registered and sent a total of 11 requests out on the broadcast address. Like the before, none was answered. Seven minutes later, at 17:50:07.634879, it gave up with requests, dropped its IP address, and sent out a DHCPDISCOVER request. As in every case I've seen, the response was immediate: two responses, in fact, after 61 ms and 69 ms. This looks like exactly the same scenario I discussed last month. Given the experience of the last week, though, it's clearly imperative to fix the problem.


Preparing for attack
Topic: animals Link here


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Soufflé as it should be
Topic: food and drink Link here

It's been a while since Yvonne last baked a Soufflé, but she hasn't lost her touch:


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The photo was taken a couple of minutes after it came out of the oven.

Also a new data point for roasting Kassler. Today we had a very small one, about 280 g. And it took 28 minutes at 180° to reach 74°.


Sunday, 15 March 2015 Dereel Images for 15 March 2015
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Garden flowers in early autumn
Topic: gardening Link here

Autumn is upon us, but I'm consistently surprised how many flowers are only now coming out.

Unlike last summer, this summer was relatively cool. The first signs of autumn are becoming evident:


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I've forgotten what these bulbs are, but they're certainly looking a lot better than last year (first photo):


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One of the Acacias in the row of bushes in the south is in flower:


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I can't recall it flowering at this time of year before.

And the climbing rose (“News”, I think) is really spreading now:


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So is the Clematis maximowicziana:


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On the down side, compared to last year the Bromeliads and Gasteria aren't flowering. Nor is the Xanthorrhoea quadrangulata, which looks as if it may be a once-a-lifetime bloomer. Here it was last year:


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This year it's pretty much the same, but without flowers. In particular, the same flower spike is still there.

And this grass, planted years ago, is also flowering nicely:


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And the winter-flowering Hellebore seems to have made it through the summer:


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Monday, 16 March 2015 Dereel Images for 16 March 2015
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Catching up with house stuff
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Somehow I'm not keeping up with the work I need to do for moving in to the new house. The news that it could be little more than a month should spur me on, and today I spent a fair amount of time planning for things. Jim Lannen can do the final fit for the electrics on Friday, but will I have things ready for him? Where are the lights? Where is the UPS? I can't even decide which UPS to buy, nor how long it should run at full load. At least I now have a list of what lamps we need:

Room       Location       Type
Garage       ceiling       dual fluoro (2?)
Laundry       ceiling       oyster
Laundry outside       wall
Bed 4       ceiling       oyster
Bathroom       ceiling       oyster
Bathroom       mirror       strip
Bed 3       ceiling       oyster
Toilet       ceiling       oyster
WIR       ceiling       oyster
Ensuite       ceiling       oyster
Ensuite       mirror       strip
Bed 2       ceiling       oyster
Bed 2       cupboard       oyster       ?
Bed 1       ceiling       oyster
Bed 1       outside
Studio       ceiling       oyster
Pantry       ceiling       oyster
Kitchen       ceiling       oyster
Hallway       ceiling       2 oyster
Office       ceiling       oyster
Lounge       ceiling       oyster       dimmer
Dining room       ceiling       2 oyster       dimmer
Front door       ceiling       ?
Verandah       wall       ?
Bedroom       wall       ?
Laundry       wall       ?

Some of the exterior wiring could be a problem:


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We had been planning to put coach lantern style lamps outside the doors. I can't see how we can do that with the way the cables have been laid.


Microsoft error reporting
Topic: technology, Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Earthworks invoice from Warrick Pitcher today. Needs to be scanned and sent to CVI. All went well—but where was the image? Tried again, and again it didn't appear.

This is Epson software under Microsoft. Had it decided to store the image somewhere else? Spent some time looking for the configuration menu which specifies where the document should go. Where is it?

 
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It proved to be this meaningless icon:

 
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Selected that and got another confusing menu:

 
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Only three choices of location: My Documents, My Pictures, or anything else. And it was set for My Pictures. Where's that? After some searching it seems that the correct pathname in Microsoft is c:\Users\grog\Pictures. No My to be seen (and, surprisingly, no spaces in the path name). But they should be going to eureka:/Photos/scans, mounted via Samba, and I had some recollection that I had created something like a symlink to store it. But where was it? Tried tree-climbing (entering pathnames would be too simple), but discovered that all my Samba file systems were inaccessible. Why?

My fault, of course. The other day I discovered that half the world was accessing my Samba server, so I added a firewall rule, which blocked a surprising number of requests:

=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/13) /home/w3/usr/local/etc/namedb 106 -> ipfw show 30
00030     41931      3281850 deny ip from not 192.19.197.0/24 to any dst-port 137

Looking more carefully, though, I had mistyped: 192.19.197.0/24 instead of 192.109.197.0/24. I thus effectively blocked just about everything. OK, that can be fixed. But what's wrong with this picture?


Bahlo house progress
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Chris Bahlo's house looks different;


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That's going to be a corner window.

The shed is making slow progress:


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And I hope that this is the state of the brickwork before cleaning:


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It certainly looks untidier than ours did before being cleaned.


Tuesday, 17 March 2015 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 17 March 2015
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Lamps and measurements
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Into town today for a number of house-related things. First to Beaumont tiles to get copies of the documents we had signed, not helped by the density of the personnel. But as suspected, yes, we had signed off on the arrangement of the tiles, but not on the orientation of the decorative frieze. And they confirmed that there was no obvious way. So JG King should have asked us. Looks like a case for negotiation.

Then to Bunnings to finally get some lamps for the house. It's still like pulling teeth. Moved on to Masters, where we found all except for the lamps over the bathroom mirrors and two of the outside lamps, which are complicated by the way Jim has done the wiring through the bricks. I'll have to talk to him about what we can put there.

Then along to look for the JG King display home in Lucas. Sign of the times: it had been sold. Signs pointed further west, so followed them, and sure enough found a couple of new display homes. We wanted to compare door heights and the transition between skirting boards and tiling. The transitions in both display houses looked normal, but the gaps under the doors were still too big:


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Still, that's 14 mm, not 30. How big will the gap be when the floor is laid?

The receptionist in the garage recognized us, and thought we had been there before. Yvonne recognized him too: Bernie Massey, who had only been with JG King for 3 weeks. But two years ago (almost to the day) he was working for Harcourts, and had sold us the wrong plot of land in Enfield. Hopefully he'll make a better fist of it as a house salesman. While discussing the incompetence of JG King's admin staff, I mentioned that they sent me the wrong plans. It was on the tip of my tongue to say “so you should fit in well here”.

Back home past Stones Road. Still no sign of any activity this week. And it was necessary: today was excessively windy, and the outside door that had been wedged in place had pushed its wedge out, and had been banging in the wind:


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Looks like we need a new door.

In passing, I hope they're going to improve on this skirting board:


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Toner prices
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

The black toner for our Brother HL-3170CDW laser printer is running low. I've had it for 8 months, so it was to be expected. Took a look on eBay and found the toner cartridge (TN-251) for $25.30, including free postage. While in town, dropped in at Officeworks. Yes, they had it in stock—for $129!

That's ridiculous. OK, the cartridges on eBay are almost certainly replacements, but they have the chips, and there can't be that much difference in quality. The printer cost $249, so this single cartridge costs more than half the purchase price. A complete set of 4 would cost more than double the purchase price. Nobody can tell me that these prices aren't inflated. And what good does it do for Brother?


Wednesday, 18 March 2015 Dereel Images for 18 March 2015
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Appointments: no show
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Up early this morning to go over to Chris Bahlo's property with her to meet David Grigg of BREAZE about solar electricity. He didn't show. While waiting, noted that Simonds don't put tubes on their downpipes:


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I suppose that the brickwork can take it, at least in the short term.

In the afternoon Doug Braddy was supposed to bring her one of the shipping crates we were talking about last week. He didn't show: his truck had broken down. And for those two appointments she had taken the day off work.


Yeardley sheep again
Topic: animals, general, opinion Link here

While at Chris' property, saw a once-familiar sight:


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To be fair to David, the fence looks OK. How did that sheep get in there? Clearly it was having difficulty finding its way back.


Thursday, 19 March 2015 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 19 March 2015
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To Melbourne?
Topic: general, opinion Link here

So finally today was the day to go shopping in Melbourne. Up early for a start at 8:00, loaded the oscilloscope into the car, while Yvonne went off to walk the dogs. She didn't get far: somebody's Clydesdale had got out and was annoying Smokey. Woke up Chris to deal with the issue, but the Clydesdale had moved on.

Discussing the matter at breakfast, it seems that the horse belongs to the Yeardleys' neighbours. They seem to suit each other.

Somehow as a result of this, Yvonne decided not to go to Melbourne. I'm not happy.


SpamAssassin: past use-by date?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I've been finding that SpamAssassin has flagged more and more legitimate mail as spam lately. The reason is always the same:

 2.7 DNS_FROM_AHBL_RHSBL    RBL: Envelope sender listed in dnsbl.ahbl.org

Lately, though, I've noticed that even well-known senders are getting flagged like this. That's serious because I have set my maximum score to 3, so just about anything else will cause it to be classified as spam. It really hit home when my system classified local mail as spam. Clearly time to weaken the score. Went looking and found, in /usr/local/share/spamassassin/50_scores.cf:

score DNS_FROM_AHBL_RHSBL 0 0.306 0 0.231

Huh? That's also where I set the required score. What's going on? Read the man page, which confirmed the location. Looked for alternate 50_scores.cf files, but didn't find anything appropriate. Time for ktrace. spamd is a Perl script, and what I found was:

 13255 perl5.14.2 NAMI  "/usr/local/bin/spamd"
 13255 perl5.14.2 RET   open 3
 13255 perl5.14.2 CALL  read(0x3,0x8018a7000,0x2000) 13255 perl5.14.2 GIO   fd 3 read 4096 bytes
       #!/usr/local/bin/perl -T -w
...
        my $PREFIX          = '/usr/local';             # substituted at 'make' time
        my $DEF_RULES_DIR   = '/usr/local/share/spamassassin';      # substituted at 'make' time
        my $LOCAL_RULES_DIR = '/usr/local/etc/mail/spamassassin';    # substituted at 'make' time
        my $LOCAL_STATE_DIR = '/var/db/spamassassin';    # substituted at 'make' time
        use lib '/usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.14.2';                   # substituted at 'make' time

What's the difference between DEF_RULES_DIR and LOCAL_RULES_DIR? Have they changed things so that the other .cf files are only read from the latter? And why doesn't the man page even mention the second directory? And there I found no mention of DNS_FROM_AHBL_RHSBL at all. It seems to have been built in at install time, though nothing in the trace gave any hint. So I put the appropriate line in /usr/local/etc/mail/spamassassin/local.cf, and sure enough, it worked. But why do I need to run ktrace to find this? And why is the man page wrong? This is an old version of SpamAssassin, so it's not worth following up, but it's clear that there's yet another reason to accelerate the system upgrade that has been waiting for over a year now.

But why is everything being classified as spam anyway? Went looking at dnsbl.ahbl.org. Nothing there! http://ahbl.org/ says little, and leads to http://ahbl.org/node, which also says nothing obvious until you read down a couple of (undated) items:

I'm winding down the public DNSbl services of the AHBL.

This means the dnsbl.ahbl.org, ircbl.ahbl.org, rhsbl.ahbl.org lists are all going away, as is the public lookup/removal tool.

So it's just not there any more, so SpamAssassin fails hard by flagging all mail as failing the test. What a pain!


Out of date, part 2
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Mail from Google (really!) today:

Date: Wed, 18 Mar 2015 18:29:15 -0700 (PDT)
From: Google Webmaster Tools Team <wmx-noreply@google.com>
Subject: Fix mobile usability issues found on http://www.lemis.com/

Google systems have tested 3,000 pages from your site and found that 100%
of them have critical mobile usability errors. The errors on these 3,000
pages severely affect how mobile users are able to experience your website.
These pages will not be seen as mobile-friendly by Google Search, and will
therefore be displayed and ranked appropriately for smartphone users.

What's that? There are lots of links, of course. It looks as if I have to change all my pages in order to be able to display correctly on mobile devices.

Do I want to? I format my pages to fit well on a normal monitor, and one of the reasons I dislike mobile devices is exactly because they're such a pain to display text on. But it's worth reading what they had to say.

The main issues (status 3/14/15, whatever that's supposed to mean) are:

I copied the list above from the Google web site. It proved to be invalid HTML.

So I should probably consider widening the gap between links, but only for toy displays. I certainly don't want to mess up the links on a real display. And before I do anything, I'll see what difference the viewport makes.


Friday, 20 March 2015 Dereel Images for 20 March 2015
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Fence gone
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Work on the house seems to have slowed to a trickle again. The plumbers were there yesterday, but I wasn't. I still can't get in to the house, but I can see the kitchen, and the tap for the sink hasn't been installed. What else is missing? Why weren't they here today?

On the (vaguely) positive side, the fence round the house has been removed:


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Now we just need them to clean up the mess around the house and we can start thinking about a garden.


Saturday, 21 March 2015 → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 21 March 2015
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Golden Plains Arts Trail
Topic: general Link here

This weekend the Golden Plains Arts Trail is taking place. Yvonne tells me that there are 99 artists in 30 locations around the Shire, but you wouldn't find it (or very much else) on the web site. Still, she's participating, so she was up and off to the Dereel Hall early this morning. I went over later to take a look:


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Admittedly, it was only 10:00, but I was the only visitor. Yvonne told me in the evening that they had had several hundred visitors, but no sales. I'll be interested to see how tomorrow turns out.


Shopping
Topic: general, Stones Road house Link here

Our failed trip to Melbourne had a consequence: we didn't have enough to eat. While Yvonne was doing her arts thing, I went into town and bought some food. Also stuff for the house: coincidentally ALDI had a “3000 W” generator:

 
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It's not until you read the fine print that some discrepancies appear:

 
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And on the box it's another story again:


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Still, I've seen that before, and was even expecting it: my last ALDI generator (“2200 W”) was rated at 2 kW. And 2.7 kW is exactly the rating of the UPS I intend to buy, so it sounds like an ideal choice. Bought the last two—exceptionally, not in case one fails, but because Chris wanted one too. Also bought some outside lamps and infrared sensors at Bunnings. Now we just need lights for over the bathroom mirrors, but we're not decided on what they should be. All the lights had power plugs, not quite what I'm looking for.


Still more network problems
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I was out of the office most of the morning, but when I got back I found:

Start time End time  Duration   Badness        from                    to
                     (seconds)
1426893625 1426895771   2146	  0.005	# 21 March 2015 10:20:25 21 March 2015 10:56:11

1493256509 1493256533     24	  0.008	# 27 April 2017 11:28:29 27 April 2017 11:28:53
1493643566 1493645316   1750	  0.009	#  1 May 2017 22:59:26  1 May 2017 23:28:36
1493872618 1493872868    250	  0.016	#  4 May 2017 14:36:58  4 May 2017 14:41:08
1496130088 1496130501    413	  0.002	# 30 May 2017 17:41:28 30 May 2017 17:48:21
1496156996 1496157056     60	  0.136	# 31 May 2017 01:09:56 31 May 2017 01:10:56
1496159659 1496159805    146	  1.383	# 31 May 2017 01:54:19 31 May 2017 01:56:45
1496845289 1496845853    564	  0.005	#  8 June 2017 00:21:29  8 June 2017 00:30:53
1500556617 1500556620      3	  0.001	# 20 July 2017 23:16:57 20 July 2017 23:17:00
1504018035 1504018106     71	  0.001	# 30 August 2017 00:47:15 30 August 2017 00:48:26
1504359138 1504359338    200	  0.011	#  2 September 2017 23:32:18  2 September 2017 23:35:38

Total 268 outages, total time -113430533 seconds (-31508:-28:-53)
Average time between outages:	0 seconds (00:00:00)
Average duration:		-423248 seconds (-117:-34:-8)
Availability:			-270072576.00%
      

Another 35 minute outage! What caused it? The trace is confusing:

10:06:31.519432 IP aussie-gw.lemis.com.bootpc > radiation-tower.aussiebb.net.bootps: BOOTP/DHCP, Request from 00:50:da:cf:07:35 (oui Unknown), length 300
10:06:39.520416 IP aussie-gw.lemis.com.bootpc > radiation-tower.aussiebb.net.bootps: BOOTP/DHCP, Request from 00:50:da:cf:07:35 (oui Unknown), length 300
10:06:48.521437 IP aussie-gw.lemis.com.bootpc > radiation-tower.aussiebb.net.bootps: BOOTP/DHCP, Request from 00:50:da:cf:07:35 (oui Unknown), length 300
10:06:48.566402 IP radiation-tower.aussiebb.net.bootps > aussie-gw.lemis.com.bootpc: BOOTP/DHCP, Reply, length 300
10:56:10.524430 IP aussie-gw.lemis.com.bootpc > radiation-tower.aussiebb.net.bootps: BOOTP/DHCP, Request from 00:50:da:cf:07:35 (oui Unknown), length 300
10:56:30.525427 IP aussie-gw.lemis.com.bootpc > radiation-tower.aussiebb.net.bootps: BOOTP/DHCP, Request from 00:50:da:cf:07:35 (oui Unknown), length 300
10:56:54.526425 IP aussie-gw.lemis.com.bootpc > radiation-tower.aussiebb.net.bootps: BOOTP/DHCP, Request from 00:50:da:cf:07:35 (oui Unknown), length 300
10:56:54.570776 IP radiation-tower.aussiebb.net.bootps > aussie-gw.lemis.com.bootpc: BOOTP/DHCP, Reply, length 300

The first three requests are for a lease renewal, which is finally granted in the fourth packet at 10:06:48.566402. And then there's nothing until 10:56:10.524430. Why not? The lease duration is 60 minutes, so the client should have sent out a new request at 10:36. Why didn't it? It seems it did:

Mar 21 10:36:43 eureka dhclient[24789]: send_packet: Host is down
Mar 21 10:37:20 eureka last message repeated 4 times
Mar 21 10:38:56 eureka last message repeated 5 times
Mar 21 10:47:42 eureka last message repeated 12 times

Presumably the ARP information had expired by the time it tried. So the lack of communication wasn't obviously related to DHCP this time. And when the connection was reestablished, a renewal request was enough. Yet another problem? When will they iron out these issues?


Understanding Google Plus
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Some months ago, when I was complaining about Facebook, Peter Jeremy (a Google employee) suggested that I use Google Plus instead. I signed up, took a look, and found it confusing. It also didn't address the issue that I don't like the concept anyway. So I forgot about it again.

Then today Peter was analysing the display of my web pages on mobile devices. I asked him for screen shots, and got the reply:

<groggyhimself> Can you send me a screen shot?
<peter> groggyhimself: I've shared them with you.
<groggyhimself> ?
<peter> groggyhimself: Look in Google+.
* groggyhimself wonders what he has done to annoy peter.

So I went looking. I didn't find anything useful, just lots of input from people I've never heard of about topics that don't interest me. After 10 minutes following all the links, I couldn't find anything “shared”. Peter couldn't tell me either. Why hadn't he just sent me the images by email, like God intended? In the end he did, but why didn't he do that in the first place? Android makes it difficult, while “sharing” is apparently easier—when it works.

While looking round Google Plus, found this page:

 
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Those are recent places near Dereel? I don't know any of them. I didn't even know there was a tavern in Sebastopol. Followed each of them up:

 
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The upshot: I've never heard of any of them, and none are anywhere near Dereel. One is in St Austell, which I last visited about 45 years ago, one in Sebastopol, California, which I last visited on 12 December 1996, one in San Francisco, which I last visited on 10 February 2002, and one in Berlin, which I last visited in 27 December 1969. What's recent or local about any of that? Somehow Google's personalization leaves a lot to be desired.


Olive trees!
Topic: Stones Road house, gardening Link here

Over to the Stones Road property in the evening to take the dogs for a walk, and bumped into Garry and Diane Marriott, who are back again on their way to Darwin. Discussed a number of things, including a hedge between the properties. Diane has long ago planted some flowers there, including Hebe and Salvia microphylla, all looking very unhappy without enough water, so we'll water them with the bore water. Another tree, also very unhappy, was making the best of it:


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Garry tells me it's a Kalamata olive. All of this should pick up well with a bit of watering.


Sunday, 22 March 2015 Dereel Images for 22 March 2015
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Preparing for the move
Topic: Stones Road house, general Link here

Chris Bahlo is buying my shipping container, and for months we've been trying to clear things out. Today we finally removed the final cartons—and then replaced one, a box full of old lever-arch files that I gave to her. Tomorrow the container will be picked up, and hopefully also the one on David Yeardley's property. He recently sent her an email message asking her to remove it:

From: David Yeardley <davidgyeardley@gmail.com>
Date: 18 December 2014 at 14:57
Subject: Removal of Items from 276, Rokewood Junction Rd, Dereel
To: Chris Bahlo <cbahlo@narrawin.com>

Since it is soon to be the season of goodwill to all me can you arrange the
have ALL your items removed from my property before Christmas.

And yes, the wording is original.

But since then he's been getting up on his hind legs and claiming that Chris owes him all sorts of money for unspecified reasons. It's possible that he might try to cause trouble. Tomorrow could be interesting. I can see her having to call in the police to get her belongings.


Pepper steak again
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

We've been married for 30 years! And for that, of course, we ate beef filet. Yvonne had wanted to do Tournedos Henri IV, but because of the Golden Plains Arts Trail she didn't have time, so we chose pepper steak instead, at least for Chris and me.

Last time I tried this, the sauce was far too watery. So I reduced the liquid by 50 ml. The result? Still too watery. The only other liquid in there is cognac, currently 30 ml. It's not clear that it makes much difference to the taste, so next time I'll reduce it to 5 ml.


Monday, 23 March 2015 Dereel Images for 23 March 2015
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Y2K catches up
Topic: food and drink, technology, opinion Link here

Last night's pepper steak required a little stock powder. We really don't use much, and the jars I have are long past their use-by date:


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It's interesting that they changed date format between the two jars. I had half expected them to have changed back, but it seems they haven't.

The older jar has got so hard that I couldn't get anything out of it. I don't suppose it's too soon to throw it out.


Cheap toner: the truth
Topic: technology Link here

As planned earlier this week, I bought some cheap toner for my laser printer. How do you install it? Easy, in principle. But there's a little problem. Here are the new cartridge on the top (still with protective cover) and the old one below:


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Half the cartridge is missing! Am I supposed to re-use the old one? If so, the least they could have done was to tell me how to do it.

The other difference showed up when I read the printer instructions. The new cartridge (“high yield”) is good for 2,500 sheets of paper. According to the printer instructions, the genuine ones are good for 12,000. That's very close to the price differential I mentioned. And the genuine cartridges are available for $90 from other suppliers.

On the face of it, I should return the cartridge and buy a genuine one. But will I even get 2,500 more pages out of this printer? It's not very old, but in the 8 months I have had it, I have printed 460 pages. At that rate, the cheap cartridge will last another 43 months, and a 12,000 page cartridge would take 17 years to finish. And I don't expect the printer to last that long.

I later discovered that I had been reading the wrong instructions. The replacement cartridges are completely equivalent to the originals, both in capacity and in size: the other half is the drum unit, which needs to be replaced separately, but not as often.


Solar electricity
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

David Grigg of BREAZE came today to take a look at Chris' house and give her a quote. I came along for the fun, though I didn't learn very much that was new.


Moving containers
Topic: Stones Road house, general, opinion Link here

Today was the day that the containers got moved. Well, sort of. Ours went:


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But David Yeardley, true to form, had ensured that Chris couldn't get at the one on his property by parking his tractor and other equipment in front of it:


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I sent him an email asking him to move it, which of course got no response. After the green container had been unloaded, Chris and I discussed the likelihood of getting the other one, and though the driver was prepared to do so, we saw little chance of getting the container, so we decided to leave it be.

Going past the Yeardley house, however, I decided to go in anyway, though I had agreed with Chris not to do so. He was there, and opened the door. I asked him to move the tractor. The fireworks were spectacular. He cursed me continually with a surprisingly limited and colourless vocabulary, and claimed that I had been told that I was to keep off his property. Fine and good, but I came with a power of attorney from Chris.

I asked him why he wouldn't move the tractor. He denied not wanting to let her have her belongings, but required—for the first time—that she take everything else first, and only then would be allow her to have the container. And that while the transporter was waiting! I told him that he didn't have the right to impose that kind of requirement, but he knew better: he's the owner of the property. A couple of going round in circles with “yes, but you're not the owner of the container”, and he slammed the door in my face so hard that I thought he would damage it—maybe he has. And his dog tried to dig his way out of sight. Presumably he has seen this behaviour before.

I was about to go when he came back out again, shouted a few more obscenities, and continued the “discussion”. This happened 3 or 4 times. Other issues he had was that I had called him a thief. I had genuinely forgotten, and he had to remind me of the details, claiming that I had made it up. Of course, as I said, my opinion of him was so low that the theft didn't rank overly highly, but that I stood to it.

At some point he did give me something: a folder with hundreds of pages of spreadsheet printouts, purporting to show everything that she owed him. I only looked at the first page: 50% of power, phone, etc, from about 2010. Why should she have to pay that back? Why didn't he ask for it earlier? They had a company together. He's going to have difficulty claiming that she did all the work for nothing and had to pay half of all costs. Somehow he seems to have a poor grasp of reality. I recommended that he go to a solicitor before making this kind of claim, but he said he knew he would never see a cent from her. Fine, then we can forget the whole thing.

And then he claimed that Chris had sent me. I told him that it wasn't so, but of course he knew better. As I told him, he has a surprisingly poor understanding of other people. I left him with the exhortation to behave like a responsible adult, but of course that's beyond him.


Goodby Lee Kuan Yew
Topic: history, opinion Link here

Lee Kuan Yew died this morning. He was 91, so it wasn't completely unexpected. I'm saddened beyond belief, though I never met him. But he was one of the great statesmen of the age, one who was always in the news during my childhood, and one of the few politicians I really admired. The world will be poorer without him.


Tuesday, 24 March 2015 Dereel → Melbourne → Dereel Images for 24 March 2015
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Journey to Melbourne, try 1
Topic: general Link here

Today was the day we finally went shopping in Melbourne. We've been planning it for weeks, and like last Thursday, things didn't go smoothly. We got away on time, but somewhere in Enfield State Forest we came across a car crawling at about 20 km/h under the limit. Came to one of the few places where we could overtake, floored the accelerator... and the car didn't accelerate. Instead the dreaded “Check Powertrain” occurred, and the car ran as roughly as ever.

Fortunately we weren't far from home, so hobbled back, put the fridge and the Tektronix 555 oscilloscope in the Hyundai—the latter barely fitted—and off with a delay of about 25 minutes. But what is causing this problem? Once again it happened after heavy acceleration, and without any warning. I should get my ELM327 out again and see if it can find any codes this time.


Journey to Melbourne, try 2
Topic: general Link here

After changing cars, the journey to Melbourne was uneventful. I had managed to persuade Yvonne to come to the Footscray market, which has mainly East Asian foodstuffs, but also a good choice of fish. So what did we buy? Meat.

Then on to deliver the oscilloscope, hampered by lack of telephonic communication, but finally made it to the Physics Department of the Melbourne University and dropped it with no further issues.

From there to the Victoria Market, where Yvonne bought her fish, and we also got more meat and sausage. We must have spent $400.

Then Yvonne wanted to view a pet door with a difference: it's a whole panel that fits in beside a sliding door, and despite my concerns, she had found a place with one on display. Not easy to get to: 280 Canterbury Road, Surrey Hills, along some of the most congested roads in Melbourne. After spending 10 minutes getting the 600 m to Victoria Street, gave up and decided to head to Springvale first. There we had a reasonable lunch in a little Vietnamese restaurant—the biggest problem was understanding what the dishes were. East Asian cuisines can be remarkably varied.

Then to the new IKEA complex nearby. I'm beginning to wonder if our IKEA days aren't over. We didn't find anything we both liked, and the displays exhibited a particular lack of care and interest. In particular,they were badly assembled (exactly the impression they don't want to make). Even apart from that, we found surprisingly little of interest. Left with a number of catalogues, but without buying anything.

Next door was a Harvey Norman complex, where Yvonne wanted to see a lounge suite. Lots of walking around: they appear to have placed the escalators in a position to maximize the distance you have to go. When we finally found something, it was not suitable.

Then finally back to look at the pet door. Took us the best part of an hour to get there and back to the freeway, and all they had was a single small model. The adjustments at the top look a little dubious:


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The real issue, though, is the overall width of the unit, something that the manufacturers carefully omit from their list of dimensions. The one we saw (“small” size) was 31 cm wide, and the flap was 16 cm wide. Assuming the same 15 cm overhead, an “XLarge” with a 31 cm flap would be 46 cm wide, which doesn't leave much space in a 70 cm wide opening. So it looks as if the whole thing is a non-starter.

Back home, arriving at 18:30. 10½ hours!


A new low in user interfaces
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

Parking at the Victoria market was made no easier by the parking meters. They're modern and electronic, of course, with a low-contrast, reflective LCD display:


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Today was overcast, so the display was marginally legible. On a sunny day I would have been facing into the sun, so things would have been much worse. Even so, to read the display you need either to be about 1.50 m tall or kneel down in front of it. Standing at a normal height (well, mine, anyway), all you see is this:


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Apart from that, how do you choose your time? You don't. You choose the amount of money you want to pay, in increments of $0.50, by pushing the + and - buttons.

But they don't work! Oh yes, they do, sort of. I've long complained about power buttons that you have to hold down for ever to get any result, but these + and - buttons have no auto-repeat and respond—apparently—to about one press per second. Whoever designed this appalling piece of equipment?

In passing, it's interesting to compare the time displayed on the panel with the time my camera reports: 2 minutes difference, to the benefit of the City of Melbourne. And yes, my camera had the correct time.


More GPS navigator fun
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Today was the first time I used the new GPS navigator in the city. Of course it tried to take me through places that didn't exist, but the most surprising thing was what happened when I tried to find alternative ways from the city to Surrey Hills: it kept changing its mind, wanting to take me north of Victoria Street (probably correctly) and south of Victoria Street (very definitely wrong). And when we changed our minds to go to Springvale, Victoria instead, it tried to take me straight through the middle of town instead of the designated way to the freeway. I wonder if big name navigators are this bad.


Fridge problems
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Our new car fridge did its job well—most of the time. On a couple of occasions I checked the temperature, only to see a display “Err 1”. What does that mean? I was able to clear it by power cycling the fridge. On returning, I found in the manual:


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Diary entry for Tuesday, 24 March 2015

 

Low voltage? Sounds unlikely. But clearly it's something to keep an eye on. The interesting one, though, is Error 5: “Temperature of the mould anormal”. I wonder what that means. Still, at least there's some description.


Your car?
Topic: general, opinion Link here

On the way home I stopped in a service area to check the function of the fridge. It was working. But then I saw:


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Registration SAO 263. No invalid sign in the car. Parking in an invalid space, although there were plenty of others available. What do such people think?


Wednesday, 25 March 2015 Dereel Images for 25 March 2015
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The morning after the night before
Topic: general Link here

Spent much of the day packing up yesterday's purchases. In particular, we had bought 2 kg blocks of whitebait, frozen in salt water. How to repack them? I left them to half-thaw and then divided into 200 g packets. Unpleasant, to say the least; rubber gloves help.

Yvonne had more fun. Today was her normal shopping day, and didn't get finished with everything until evening.


Bread insights
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Baking bread again today, nothing unusual except that it was the second time I used the new bread pan. This time my quantity calculations were alright, but for some reason the bread is much softer; I have a feeling it was last time too, though I didn't note it. The bread has a larger cross-section; could it be that it needs longer baking?


House insights
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

It's been a week since I heard from Duncan Jackson about the house, and in that time not much has happened. Gave him another call today and discovered that they've been discussing the matter, and they'll replace the tiles and the doors as requested. I suppose it's worth a wait for that.

Over to the property later to drop a generator, and checked the laundry door, where we had considered putting yesterday's dog door. It's only 70 cm wide! A 46 cm dog door wouldn't leave much space for humans—even the “small” door would take up nearly half the width. So that's one less possibility.


DSE web site: worse all the time
Topic: general, opinion Link here

The bushfire season is over, sort of, but somebody posted a fire warning on Facebook today. Went to the DSE map and found:


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Diary entry for Wednesday, 25 March 2015

 

That's supposed to be a map! I've complained about these sites in the past, repeatedly, but things seem to be getting worse all the time. And yes, it's like that under Microsoft as well, though in each case resizing produces a recognizable map.

To be fair, there's a new web site which looks a lot better. But why don't they shut this old cruft down and redirect? Going to the CFA web site doesn't help; it's another empty map (maybe):


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But it does have links to social media updates, if you can find it outside the box. I'm both amazed and horrified.

Oh: and no, I couldn't find the fire referred to on Facebook.


45°/25,000 ISO in practice
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

When I got my Olympus OM-D E-M1, I briefly tried a photo or two at the highest sensitivity, 25,600 ISO (linear). It wasn't very good, but I didn't expect it to be. But today I took some serious photos at that sensitivity. How do you process them? Ran them through DxO Optics “Pro”, and got something almost usable. Here the original and what DxO made out of it:


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As the details show, the result is still not up to the normal standard, but it's bearable. The second set of images are at full resolution:


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Getting that far wasn't easy. In particular, as the original shows, the white balance was way out, and it took me a lot of experimenting to get it right, not helped by the fact that the preview wasn't correct either.


Thursday, 26 March 2015 Dereel
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Quiet day
Topic: general Link here

After the events of the last few days, today was a bit of an anticlimax. A few mail messages about the house, started a new Coursera course on Maps and the Geospatial Revolution—which still has to prove itself—and that was about all.


Blood test preparations
Topic: health Link here

My last attempt at a fasting blood test was a disaster, and I've been putting off the retry until I can get confirmation that I will get priority the next time round. But gradually it's time. I was given a number to call, so did that—and got a fax machine! These people seem to be completely disorganized.


Friday, 27 March 2015 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel
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Blood test: another disaster
Topic: health, opinion Link here

Despite yesterday's failure to contact Healthscope, off to Sebastopol this morning for a blood test. Got number 7 and found two people waiting in front of me, numbers 1 and 5. This all looked very much like what happened last time. I was told to press a bell and wait for the pathologist to come out. Nothing happened for 15 minutes, after which the pathologist opened the door, presumably not as a result of my button press. There was no patient inside. And it was this same woman who had given me so much pain two months ago, and had apparently processed numbers 2 and 6. It seems that she's not a temp, she's the replacement. I asked for priority, as discussed. No, nothing doing. Please wait your turn. “Would you please confirm with Dr. Majid?”. “No, wait your turn”.

That's enough. We had an agreement, and that this rate I would have been in for another 80 minutes' wait. I got quite angry. Was just storming out of the clinic when I bumped into Dr. Majid, who had just arrived. He went in to have a discussion, and then we had a discussion in his surgery. Yes, she's new, and inexperienced. What he didn't say, but what seems clear, is that she's also excruciatingly slow. So he gave me a pathology request for Dorevitch, with whom I have had good turnaround in the past, so I'll do that next week. It's not really a problem with Healthscope, though, just with this specific pathologist.

While discussing the matter with Dr. Majid, he said something that sounded more in keeping with his national origins that typical Australian behaviour. And his origins have been a puzzle, one that we discussed on IRC. He looks and behaves like an Iranian, but as Mohamed Ifadir tells me, his name (Majid Najafi Zeini) is Arabic, specifically referring to the town of Najaf in Iraq. So I asked him. Mohamed and I are both right: he's Iranian with an Arabic name, which annoys him no end, though Najaf is an important Shia centre.

While in town, got my hair cut. So it wasn't a complete waste of time.


House progress?
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Over with the dogs to the Stones Road property this afternoon, and noted that one of our water tanks (obviously the one fed from the house) is nearly full. Time for content balancing.

While we were there, at about 17:30 on a Friday, a bloke turned up with shower screens. That gave us a chance to take a look around. Indeed, very little of the plumbing has been done, and the wash basin is still not there. Hopefully they will soon perform a digital extraction.


Diagnosing Yvonne's car problems
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

Another attempt with the ELM327 clone today to find out what's wrong with Yvonne's car. Once again it claimed that there was no error code stored. Tried to speak to Paul Sperber of Ballarat Automotive, but was blocked by his wife, who went in, discussed something with him, and said that they weren't interested in doing the work, and that I should go to Ballarat Central Auto Electrics. Called them, and eventually spoke to Wayne, who confirmed that it would be difficult to diagnose if the problem wasn't presenting itself, but that they'd try. Otherwise he suspects coils, which isn't out of the question, but I'd like some certainty before spending $600 on the off chance.


DPI's ugly head
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Talking with Chris Bahlo this evening about the fun day she had had at work today. They have a new coworker, and she managed to pessimize a web site by putting in overly large images. How large? 300 dpi. What does that mean on a web page? Should it scale to the monitor resolution? No, it seems that people still can't get used to the fact that image resolutions are measured in pixels (these images were apparently 1200×900 or so, clearly too large). Admittedly pixel dimensions aren't ideal either, but what earthly use are dpi specifications?


Saturday, 28 March 2015 Dereel Images for 28 March 2015
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Moving Chris' belongings
Topic: general Link here

Today was the appointed day for Chris to pick up her belongings from the Yeardleys.

Margaret Swan and a number of people from the Men's shed came along to help. Things went surprisingly smoothly, and by evening they had moved all except for the container itself:


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Bahlo house progress
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

While watching the unloading, discovered that a lone brickie was working on the modifications to Chris' house:


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He was a particularly surly bloke, possibly because somebody had talked him in to working on a Saturday afternoon; told me to get out of the fenced area. That's his prerogative, but the first time I've experienced it on either site. Still, the house is coming along again. We still can't guess which will be finished first.


Christmas in March
Topic: food and drink, general, opinion Link here

Decades ago we objected to the German proverb “Man muss die Feste feiern, wie sie fallen” (“Celebrate feast days as they occur”), something that the Germans take very seriously. So we decided to celebrate Easter at Christmastide, causing serious concern when we went looking for paint for colouring Easter eggs.

We can do that again. After Christmas, Chris Bahlo had bought a turkey and froze it. Today we ate it, 3.8 kg, no stuffing, took 125 minutes in the oven at 180°. The breast was at 78°, a little too dry. I'll try 76° next time.


Sunday, 29 March 2015 Dereel Images for 29 March 2015
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Keeping the ears stiff
Topic: animals Link here

Nikolai has an interesting habit of raising his ears when he's interested in something. You don't often see that in a Borzoi, but Ron Frolley tells me that it's highly desirable. Sometimes, though, I think he cheats:


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More moving house
Topic: general, animals, Stones Road house Link here

Chris and Margaret were gone almost all day completing yesterday's move, but they had time for a little riding first:


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Edwin Groothuis complains that this photo is too close to the horizontal rule below. But what alternative is there?


Monday, 30 March 2015 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel
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Another eye test
Topic: health Link here

Into Ballarat this morning for an eye test. Took Yvonne with me, since last time they put stuff in my eyes that made it almost impossible to drive. But this time they didn't. And no change to my prescription. Decided to have some sunglasses made, which will be ready in two weeks.


Commodore diagnostics
Topic: general, opinion, technology Link here

To Ballarat Central Auto Electrics with the Commodore to see if they could find any diagnostic information from the ECU. Yes, indeed: two coils failed. And that will cost us round $700! Tony, the bloke who did the test, also has a VZ Commodore, and has just changed his coils: it seems to be a common problem with them. And it was with our old the VT Commodore. So why do they make it so difficult to change them, and why are they so expensive? And why does a coil failure cause these symptoms?

And, of course, it means that my ELM327 clone is useless. What a waste of $5.99!


Tuesday, 31 March 2015 Dereel Images for 31 March 2015
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Site inspection
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Over to Stones Road at 7:30 to meet with Duncan Jackson, who had planned to stay only about 10 minutes. In the end, it was over half an hour. Things are looking good on the whole, though he tells me that they're not prepared to fix this problem, claiming it's normal:


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And that despite the fact that their display homes do it right. I'll leave it for now and complain later.

Apart from that, though, things seem to be going well. The shelving is in the cupboards, and most of the bathroom stuff has been installed:


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There are still a couple of issues, as shown in the last two images: no tap for the basin in the master bathroom (centre photo), not even a basin in the other. And Yvonne's Moroccan washbasin in the master bathroom has a non-standard drain opening, and we need to find out how to connect the drains to it.

They'll put the floors in next week, which will take at least a week, and in that time they'll also replace the internal doors (8 mm gap from floor), the damaged rear door to the garage, and install the main garage door. Except for the electrics, that's everything. We still have hope to move in by the end of April, and now we need to collect documents to apply for the Certificate of Occupancy.


Electrical final fit
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Jim Lannen around an hour later to do the final fit of the electrics. A couple of misunderstandings there, hopefully to be resolved. Fortunately the UPS arrived in the course of the day—actually delivered to Kleins Road!—so just about everything seems to be in place.


Toner cartridges revisited
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Last week I bought an after-market toner cartridge for my Brother HL-3170CDW laser printer, and established that it was only part of what I had expected: only half the unit, and 20% of the capacity. Complained about the former to the supplier, who sent a description of what to do: press the green button on the left, and the cartridge detaches from the drum. Press drum onto new cartridge, and you're away. And sure enough, it works fine.

But what about the differences original and aftermarket cartridges? Checking again, I found that the instructions I had read were for my old HL-2700CN printer—and they disagreed with themselves, claiming 10,000 pages in one place and 12,000 elsewhere. The correct manual describes the procedure on page 111: exactly as described. The original toner cartridges also do not include the drum unit, and it also states (at least in one place) that the black toner is good for 2,500 pages. That also explains why the aftermarket supplier didn't include any documentation. So the $25 replacement cartridge is completely equivalent to the $85 original cartridge.


Commodore: the other shoe
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Call from Wayne at Ballarat Central Auto Electrics this afternoon. While replacing the coils on the Commodore, they discovered a vacuum hose with a tear in it. Clearly it needs replacement. More importantly, though, it completely explains the problems that we have had, and it's consistent with my guesswork two months ago. Yes, the ECU confirms that we needed new coils, but that wasn't the cause of the symptoms. And the ECU didn't notice the problem with the hose. Why not? At the very least it should have registered the “Check Powertrain” display.


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