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Tuesday, 1 May 2007 Echunga Images for 1 May 2007
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In December last year Telstra finally lifted the 1500 kb/s downstream speed limit on its ADSL lines, but it took until last week before I was given the opportunity to upgrade. It's not as simple as it seems, since I'll have to change the way my class C network block is routed (and finally get rid of the IP/IP tunnel!). Last Tuesday I sent in a request to Internode asking for details—they weren't able to give them over the phone—but by this morning there was still no feedback. Sent in a complaint, unfortunately not the first I've had to do recently, and got a reply, referring to framed routes, which looks much more like their side of things than mine. Looks like there will be a fair amount of reconfiguration to do, especially since I also need to convert to PPPoA.

It's also been a while since I tried to get MythTV working with XvMC. Did some looking at the code, which doesn't explain too much what it's doing, and decided that it would be easier to run the whole thing in the debugger and see what's going on. That again meant having a suitable machine nearby, and the new machine with the onboard nVidia display seemed the obvious choice. But that currently had an incomplete Ubuntu installation, and completing it seemed to be too much pain, so put in a FreeBSD disk and started installing software on that. It's a pity that installing ports is getting slower rather than faster; wasn't done by the evening.


Wednesday, 2 May 2007 Echunga
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Continued working on MythTV and XvMC today, not helped by the fact that I had installed the “distribution” (i.e. out-of-date) version of MythTV. It still doesn't work, of course, but so far the nvidia driver seems to work in conjunction with INVARIANTS, something that recently caused panics that I suspect are related to bugs in the driver.

In the process found that the sound hardware on the motherboard wasn't being recognized. Spent some time trying it with Knoppix, which did recognize it:

00:10.1 Audio device: nVidia Corporation MCP51 High Definition Audio (rev a2)
        Subsystem: Micro-Star International Co., Ltd.  Unknown device 7252
        Flags: bus master, 66MHz, fast devsel, latency 0, IRQ 16
        Memory at fead8000 (32-bit, non-prefetchable) [size=16K]
        Capabilities: [44] Power Management version 2
        Capabilities: [50] Message Signalled Interrupts: Mask+ 64bit+ Queue=0/0 Enable-
        Capabilities: [6c] HyperTransport: MSI Mapping
      

It's difficult to say, of course, without actually running it, but that caused problems of its own: for reasons I don't understand, NFS mounts, always a problem, don't work any more from FreeBSD to Knoppix 5.2, and of course I can't put a CD in the drive while I'm running Knoppix.

FreeBSD was a completely different matter: not only did none of the myriad sound drivers recognize it, but the system itself didn't seem to recognize it as an audio card:

none9@pci0:10:1:        class=0x0c0500 card=0x72521462 chip=0x026410de rev=0xa3 hdr=0x00
    vendor     = 'NVIDIA Corporation'
    class      = serial bus
    subclass   = SMBus

I wish I understood enough of this to know whether this makes sense or not.

Called Internode about the “framed route” question. Last time I complained about the slow response even for business customers, so followed up the rather confusing suggestions that I was given then. After a delay was given the chance of a callback, which took 45 minutes to come back. That's still unacceptable, and the help desk people didn't understand the issues. After 15 minutes on hold, discovered almost en passant that they're really providing an L2TP tunnel. Why do people have to make things so complicated in ADSL? There doesn't seem to be any reason to do anything special: even PPP handles routing with no problems. Asked for details of what I needed to do to set up a termination point for the tunnel. She didn't know the answer, of course, and escalated to second level support, who didn't reply by the evening. 8 days and counting.

Into Echunga for a haircut. The recent rain is the talk of the town.

In the evening, more problems with ceeveear: the Ethernet card kept hanging. Linux seems to have a particular problem with this sort of thing, and I already have a script for exactly this purpose:

while :; do
  ping -c 1 -W 1 echunga
  if [ $? -ne 0 ]; then
    ifconfig eth1 down up
    route add default gw echunga
    logger Bloody eth1
  fi
  sleep 1
done

After 6 hangs in an hour, each of which disrupted MythTV, decided to reboot, with the result that my problems with DMA and the tuner cards are back. I wonder if the motherboard has a problem.


Thursday, 3 May 2007 Echunga
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More thinking about L2TP tunnels today, and somebody pointed me at a project done in Erlangen which reimplemented an Netgraph module. All this looks more complicated than I would like; I don't see any need at all.

Into town to the dentist's, this time bringing Yvonne with me. After the dentist's to the Eros restaurant in Rundle street. A couple of years ago I went to the Eros Ouzeri with ADUUG, but today we discovered that there are in fact two Eros next door to each other, the other one being the Eros Cafe. The menu at the Cafe looked better, and the prices were less than half that of the Ouzeri, so had lunch there instead. No particular revelation, but OK.

Then to the art gallery to see an exhibition of Egyptian art from the Musée du Louvre. Interesting stuff, but obviously not their most priceless treasures, and the information and sequence of exhibits was less than satisfactory. Still, an interesting exhibition. During it, finally got a call back from Internode, which of course I couldn't take right then.

After that to talk to Ramana Rao about our financial plans, which went into some detail. At least things are looking clearer now.

A fair amount of mail about my recent problems with multimedia hardware: Oliver Herold tells me that it's HD audio, and FreeBSD 6.x doesn't support it, but points to some work that Ariff Abdullah has been doing. I had already tried to contact Ariff on IRC, but had missed him.

In addition, he points to the on-board (gigabit) Ethernet hardware, which I hadn't in fact mentioned in my diary:

Furthermore you shouldn't use nve driver in FreeBSD for the nic onboard. Nve is a former Linux driver (blob) and somewhat instable in FreeBSD. nfe from OpenBSD is far superior and open-source.

http://www.se.hiroshima-u.ac.jp/~shigeaki/software/freebsd-nfe.html

Download this package,

nfe-20070322.tar.gz (maybe you have to patch your system)

extract it, compile and install it.

Load it with kldload if_nfe.

But you have to disable device nve in your kernel config.

In addition, Daniel Farrugia wrote:

To identify your sound hardware I think you need to look for a PCI device with PCI class 0x04 (multimedia device) rather than 0x0c (serial bus controller).

That's all well and good, but FreeBSD returns a class 0xc. Why?

Daniel goes on to recommend some web links on the subject:

http://www.acm.uiuc.edu/sigops/roll_your_own/7.c.1.html
http://www.pcidatabase.com/
http://pci-ids.ucw.cz/iii/

It's a sign of the times that two of these URLs are dead.

He also mentions the -n parameter to Linux lspci, which brings some information I had missed:

You can use the '-n' parameter to reveal the PCI id:
% lscpi -n | grep '^00:11.5'
00:11.5 0401: 1106:3059 (rev 50)

In the second column you can notice that I get 04 (Multimedia device PCI class) and 01 (Audio Device).


Friday, 4 May 2007 Echunga
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Tuned my attention today to the presumed hardware problems with ceeveear: I'm still not sure why I can't run the disks in DMA mode. Somehow it took me all day. After a few minor reconfigurations, decided to change the motherboard to the one that I had put aside last September. Put it in a case and turned on. The fan ran a little, then stopped. Further attempts to get it back to life failed. Finally I decided to check the individual components—CPU and memory—in the new tv2 box that I'm working on. The memory module alone caused the machine to fail to power up; looks like it's fried. That's the first time I've seen a fried memory module in a long time, and I suspect the motherboard. The CPU worked, fortunately, possibly because it has separate power. Under the circumstances decided not to even try putting other memory in the motherboard. Looks like a return for both of them.

Despite Oliver Herold's warnings yesterday, decided to take a look at the nve Ethernet driver for the on-board hardware on tv2. It wasn't unstable, but it had a strange delay: I could ping local machines at normal speed, but the ping times to freefall.freebsd.org were 20 ms slower than from any other machine on the network. The ping times are currently very stable at about 199 ms:

=== grog@wantadilla (/dev/ttyp8) ~ 60 -> ping -c 20 freefall
PING freefall.FreeBSD.org (69.147.83.40): 56 data bytes
64 bytes from 69.147.83.40: icmp_seq=0 ttl=55 time=199.978 ms
...

--- freefall.FreeBSD.org ping statistics ---
20 packets transmitted, 20 packets received, 0% packet loss
round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 198.081/199.437/200.409/0.656 ms

The standard deviation of 0.656 ms is very small. The ping times are stable from tv2 as well, but they're 22 ms slower:

=== grog@tv2 (/dev/ttyp0) ~ 6 -> ping -c 20 freefall
PING freefall.FreeBSD.org (69.147.83.40): 56 data bytes
64 bytes from 69.147.83.40: icmp_seq=0 ttl=55 time=221.329 ms
...
round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 220.441/221.407/222.712/0.603 ms

Where does that delay come from? Routing is via echunga in each case, and it pings in a normal sub-millisecond time. Trying with a different Ethernet interface confirmed that it's not the interface. It also seems unlikely that it's the

Finally got in touch with somebody from Internode who knew what he was talking about. It seems that there is no L2TP tunnel; all that stuff is on their side, and I just get the net block routed the way the Internet intended. A pity I had to hear so much irrelevant stuff. Now the only question remaining is how to configure the network connection. If I use PPPoA, I have to use the modem, since my only connection from echunga.lemis.com, the gateway machine, is the Ethernet. If I use PPPoE it's still not clear what role the modem plays. I should have asked Joseph more questions while I had him on the line.


Saturday, 5 May 2007 Echunga Images for 5 May 2007
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Somehow spent the whole day today moving data around. It occurs to me that the transfer speed of disks has not kept up with their storage capacity. 20 years ago my first disk was a Seagate ST-225, with 20 (“25”) MB of storage capacity. It had 615 cylinders and 4 heads, for a total of 2460 tracks. At a rotational speed of 3600 rpm, it could theoretically transfer the entire contents of the disk in 41 seconds, though probably the controllers of the time could have doubled that time. By contrast, a modern 250 GB disk transfers data sequentially at an average of about 40 MB/s, so it takes about 105 minutes to transfer the contents of the disk. Running in PIO mode unfortunately divides that speed by about 10.

In the process of checking why tv2 consistently takes 22 ms longer to ping freefall.freebsd.org, managed to panic the machine. The backtrace pointed clearly to the nve driver, so Oliver was right in that point. With the help of mtr was able to clarify the reason: for some reason traffic from 192.109.197.177 gets routed completely differently from (and more slowly than) traffic from 192.109.197.135. I will never cease to be amazed by the complexity of this thing.

firefox continues to be the most unreliable program I use: it crashes at least once a day. That's hardly a good advertisement for a showpiece of “Open Source”. It's really convenient that it can recover context on its many restarts. Today, though, after a crash it decided to present my private home page in a different font (sans-serif instead of serif), and in a smaller font. It didn't do the same for the identical copy on the external site. It took something like 20 minutes of changing the preferences (ultimately to what they had been) to get back to normal. I wish I could find a usable browser, but all of them have some really annoying feature that I can't turn off, or they lack functionality.

Got a phone call in the afternoon from Owen at ETSA, asking me to participate in a customer satisfaction survey. To his credit, when he learnt how extremely annoyed I am, he promised to forward it to the appropriate people. I suppose a bit of internal checking is a good idea at ETSA.

Deb Bennett is giving a course near here over the weekend, and today she came along with a number of people, ostensibly to look at some video, but the obligatory barbecue dragged on, Deb providing all sorts of interesting information (clowns mimicing horse behaviour and drawing attention to their discomfort, for example) and we never got round to the videos:


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Sunday, 6 May 2007 Echunga
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Quiet day. Yvonne was off to her riding clinic with Deb, so I brewed some beer and set to reducing the amount of data I have recorded from TV.


Monday, 7 May 2007 Echunga Images for 7 May 2007
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Over to Razorback Road today to take some photos of the Deb Bennett Clinic, but the light wasn't the best, and in any case decided that there's not too much you can do with still photos; video might be better, but takes a long time:


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Ans Papini over after that with some paperwork. There's a chance that we've sold the house, but it's not final, and for the time being it remains on the market. Also had a chat with an estate agent in Ballarat about a new listing they had. There's a good chance we'll be off to Ballarat soon.

More playing around with XvMC today, and established definitively that on tv2.lemis.com, the new AMD64 box I'm putting together. It works with mplayer and not with MythTV—exactly the same results as on teevee. What was different, though, was the amount of CPU time that the “standard” MythTV used: on teevee, an Athlon XP 3000+ (2.171 GHz) it maxed out the processor, while on tv2, an Athlon 64 3500+ (2.210 GHz) it used less than 50% of the CPU time. I'm more than a little puzzled by that and wonder if there's a kernel difference that accounts for it. I use INVARIANTS in many kernels, though not, it seems, in this case: teevee is using the GENERIC kernel, while tv2 is using a custom kernel (confusingly called TEEVEE; I'll rename the machine when it's running properly). Still, it looks good, so maybe I should go and look after the currently unsupported sound hardware after all.


Tuesday, 8 May 2007 Echunga Images for 8 May 2007
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Yesterday's success with MythTV on tv2.lemis.com had one minor downside: the sound hardware was still non-functional. Followed up on Oliver Herold's recommendations and installed the development versions of the new sound drivers and the nfe driver. Both suffer from inadequate documentation: the sound drivers come in binary form and work pretty well as described, but they're a complete replacement for all 32 sound drivers, and I had to find out by trial and error that the driver I needed was snd_hda:

pcm0: <NVidia MCP51 High Definition Audio Controller> mem 0xfead8000-0xfeadbfff irq
22 at device 16.1 on pci0
pcm0: <HDA Codec: Realtek ALC883>
pcm0: <HDA Driver Revision: 20070505_0044>

The if_nfe driver was more of a problem: it came as a series of patches with unknown base directory, and it didn't include the configuration file information. For both of these I had the 7-CURRENT source tree handy, so I was able to put it into the kernel tree, but it could have been done much more easily. It also didn't build. I think it was intended to be added independently of the kernel, but that didn't make too much sense. The kld module did build, so used that instead.

The module worked well enough to find the hardware and bring it up:

miibus1: <MII bus> on nfe0
ciphy0: <VSC8601 10/100/1000TX PHY> on miibus1
ciphy0:  10baseT, 10baseT-FDX, 100baseTX, 100baseTX-FDX, 1000baseT, 1000baseT-FDX, auto
nfe0: Ethernet address: 00:19:db:33:c0:07

Unfortunately, I couldn't communicate with other systems. arp showed that the interface was sending (other machines saw its Ethernet address), but it didn't receive anything (arp didn't see their Ethernet address). The interface isn't currently important to me, since I have plenty of plug-in cards, so decided to leave this one.

Ans Papini along in the afternoon with the promised papers. We could be out of here in two months.

In the evening, more surprises: teevee.lemis.com can now also display ABC 720p images via MythTV with less than 50% processor; previously it was maxed out and jerky. I wonder what has changed.

One thing that did change was the default encoder. Yesterday I had added SBS World News to the list of channels, in the hope of getting some more information about the French election, but for some it didn't work: MythTV was unable to extract the information from the stream. It's not a tuning issue, since it's in the same stream as the normal SBS programme. More investigation needed some other time. Today, though, I discovered that it had caused MythTV to decide to record from encoder 8, the el-cheapo analogue TV@nywhere card. That had never worked properly, so decided to delete the entry from the database.


Wednesday, 9 May 2007 Echunga
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What a pain MythTV is! Yesterday's deletion of the database entry for the analogue TV card wasn't really necessary, and to my surprise I discovered that it had already recorded a programme with the card, so it wasn't as dead as I thought. Put it back in again and started up mythbackend and—it went catatonic. It wasn't until many hours later that I made the connection with trying to make a recording with the card and the lack of reaction from the back end.

Spent a lot of time during the day looking for houses in the Ballarat area. How I hate all estate agent sites. Apart from broken rendering, it's almost impossible to get any useful information from the sites.

Finally found a TV programme which maxes out teevee.lemis.com and runs with less than 50% CPU on tv2.lemis.com. The big difference is in the system time (almost none on tv2, over 50% on teevee), so you'd think it was related to a kernel build parameter, but that doesn't explain why it only hits some programmes, and in particular not when displaying with XvMC.


Thursday, 10 May 2007 Echunga –> Dereel
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At breakfast, considered our options. Today was the day that the purchaser was to sign the contract for the sale of Wantadilla—subject to the sale of his house—and part of the contract is that we should settle by 16 July. Decided to head off to Ballarat, somewhat hampered by lack of preparation, which included trying to get eucla.lemis.com, my laptop, up to date, and also to print out no less than 23 property descriptions. Finally left round 13:30 and arrived in Dereel at 20:30, too late to do anything useful.


Friday, 11 May 2007 round Ballarat Images for 11 May 2007
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The real estate cycle really starts on Saturday with the newspaper advertisements, so decided today to take a look at some of the properties I had identified on the web. First into Dereel to look at a property not far from Chris, but with the uncertainty of ADSL. It's empty, and so the phone has been disconnected. Under those circumstances there's no way to establish whether ADSL is available or not.

Then into Ballarat to buy some maps, and in the process visited one of the estate agents who happened to be round the corner. Then down through Smythe's Creek, Haddon and Scarsdale all the way to Linton, where a number of properties had been reported. Found all except one relatively easily, and gradually discovered one of the biggest problems in the area: lots of properties have several hectares of land, all mainly eucalypt forest. In the process, our current favourite (which had also been confirmed to have ADSL already connected) was degraded to uninteresting.

While looking for the one hard-to-find property, came across another one, in Linton, that doesn't seem to be in the papers at all. It could be quite interesting, and we'll probably take a look tomorrow.

By the evening our 23 listed properties (plus the one we found by chance) had dwindled to 6, and a couple of those were looking extremely dubious. From that point of view, at any rate, the day was a success.

On the way home saw a house in the south of Dereel with lots of antennas and a sign announcing “Amateur radio VK3CB”. Dropped in to have a chat, and got lots of information, but Cliff (the ham) is not particularly interested in ADSL himself, so he couldn't give me much information on that aspect.

Power failure in the evening, of a kind that is really unusual in South Australia: it lasted about 10 or 15 minutes, and though Chris has an emergency generator, it's currently not connected up, so we sat out the time in candlelight. It's been a long time since I've done that.


Saturday, 12 May 2007 around Ballarat Images for 12 May 2007
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First thing this morning down to the Dereel General Store to buy the Courier, the local Ballarat newspaper (not to be confused with the Mount Barker Courier, our local newspaper in South Australia). Also talked with Katie, the owner of the store, about ADSL, and was given the interesting information that ADSL is available in the area, even further from the exchange than the Swansons Road property that we were looking at, but that coverage is “variable”: there's some other factor apart from straight distance that governs availability, and many closer properties have been reduced to using satellite. Another customer came in and reported that Julie, on the main road just beyond Swanson Road, has ADSL, and that her property adjoins the Swanson Road property. Possibly something could be done there if we were to buy the property.

Back at Chris', went through the real estate advertisements and established a few new candidates. In the middle of that all, discovered that an open inspection had just started in Durham Lead, and off to take a look, but the agent wasn't prepared to wait for us.

Spent most of the afternoon looking at more properties. The biggest issue here is definitely trees on the land; probably 70% of the rejects are because adequately large properties don't have any pastures. Finally found one in Cape Clear that might just do the job, but then there's the question of ADSL again.

Back home and spent some time with Chris trying to debug her satellite installation, by no means helped by the fact that she had mislaid the instructions. After a lot of messing around decided that there was nothing to configure on the receiver box, and that it wasn't working correctly. Chris will have to do something about that on Monday, which again is complicated by the fact that the provider insists on connecting the receiver only to a single Microsoft “Windows” box with their proprietary software. Certainly nothing to make the alternative more attractive.

Started thinking about the fact that none of the houses really suited us, and that they weren't that cheap, and once again started thinking about having a house built. That would take the best part of a year, but somehow Chris has survived living in a shed since last October, and maybe we could do that too.


Sunday, 13 May 2007 around Ballarat Images for 13 May 2007
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Followed up on yesterday's thoughts about building a house. Chris had come up with another issue, though: just having electricity connected to the site would cost in the order of $20,000. We went through something similar when we had 3 phase electricity connected to Wantadilla, but that was only $7,000. There are a number of considerations:

I had more or less given up on the idea of solar energy because of the costs; but if the $30,000 effectively become $10,000 (or less; this was the first place I had looked), it might be a whole different story. We'd need a generator as well, of course, but that's only about $2,000.

Into Ballarat to look at some builders' exhibitions (“20 squares (i.e. 180m²) from $128,000”). There's a surprising number there, and the houses are all surprisingly big—and not so surprisingly expensive. Still, it looks like we could get a house for well under $200,000. Fighting our way through the brochures and some of the positively stupid standard layouts (master bedroom next to the garage, facing the street, or kitchen spread out in the middle of the lounge/dining rooms), we still found some interesting ideas, including the new Australian words al fresco, which is roughly what the French would call a cuisine d'été: a barbecue and eating area half attached to the house.


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Came away with lots of brochures and some interesting ideas about what we could do. Looks like that'll keep us busy for some time.


Monday, 14 May 2007 Dereel –> Echunga Images for 14 May 2007
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Off this morning to Linton for the final house to visit, stopping on the way in Dereel to visit Cliff's neighbour Neil Davidson, who also has an impressive array of antennas on his house. Cliff had said something about Neil having laid fibre optics, but that appears to be incorrect: Neil is connected by satellite, and by no means happy with the situation.

Off then to Linton, where the house was nice, but too small, so continued on back home. South Australian road works are positively impossible: in Tintinara we were confronted with a sign restricting speed to 40 km/h, ostensibly for road works. There was no further sign, but the speed limit signs were covered over. Clearly the road work crew had left their signs behind. Or so I though, until 7 km later (!) we found a test vehicle apparently measuring the road surface:


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It seems completely stupid to restrict speeds like that. Drivers will ignore the signs, and without any evidence of road works, it looks for all the world like forgotten signs. And there's really no need for an advance speed limit where the works are visible for kilometres.


Tuesday, 15 May 2007 Echunga
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Up this morning to attend to all the mail that had come in during my absence, and took a look at the ADSL line statistics:

ADSL line statistics

Some time round 16:00 on 11 May, they changed the line parameters:

Parameter Old New
Upstream speed 256 kb/s 384 kb/s
Downstream speed 1500 kb/s 3488 kb/s
Upstream margin 22 dB 19 dB
Downstream margin 12 dB 6 dB

That's a pleasant surprise, though hopefully things will become more stable. But I had been told that I'd have to do a complete reconfiguration first.

On the down side, and maybe unrelated, my VoIP no longer worked. Spent quite some time on the phone with Dominic, who helped restore my faith in the level of experience of Internode support, but he wasn't able to solve the problem. My best bet is that once again it's a problem with routing, though it's a strange one: some packets from port 5060 (sip) to port 5060 get through, and others between the same two machines don't.

Apart from that, spent most of the day catching up with mail and other things. We still haven't found time to summarize our findings, but we most certainly still don't have anywhere to go if we had to move out right now.


Wednesday, 16 May 2007 Echunga
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Call from Chris Williams this morning, from whom I haven't heard for years. Gave me a chance to call him on my flaky NodePhone connection, and it worked, but so badly that I ended up trying other alternatives. My MyNetFone connection didn't work either. I wish I knew what was going on, but I still suspect Telstra.

Into town to the dentists, mercifully the last of this series of appointments, apart from a checkup in a couple of months, then at home, in preparation for the ADSL protocol change, reconfigured echunga to use two interfaces. That worked nicely (“out of the box”), except for the fact that X crashed the system when I started it, fortunately only once.

Then a call from Jordan at Internode, about the upcoming changes; people seem to have forgotten the NodePhone issue. He checked and found that people think it's at my end. How could they come to that conclusion?

It didn't stop there; at 19:40 got a call on my home phone from Nick, who repeated this claim and didn't let facts get in the way. Sigh I had just thought that Internode was back to its old level of support.


Thursday, 17 May 2007 Echunga
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25 years ago today I started working with Tandem Computers. How the world has changed since then!

Today I spent the whole day with networking. After yesterday's lack of progress on my VoIP issues, wrote a mail message to Internode explaining the situation and asking for immediate response. After a few hours with no response—not even confirmation of arrival—rang up the support desk and asked for a solution. Despite what I had written, they seemed to think that the problem could be at my end and wanted me to connect the ATA directly to the modem, bypassing the entire network—and changing the IP address, which most certainly would have resulted in “success”.

Talked them out of that and decided to address the Telstra configuration instead, where I suspected that the problem lay; despite the fact that my ADSL modem is running at about 3.5 Mb/s, I was only getting download speeds of 1500 kb/s, the old speed. We agreed to address that issue first, which was handled surprisingly quickly, only about an hour. Next was to address the routing. How do you configure an AG241 for routing a /24 network block? The help desk people aren't trained in such exotic things as standard Internet routing: they expect you to use NAT. With a bit of playing around, got that to work, and then VoIP worked again, confirming my suspicion that it had been a routing issue.

That didn't help the class C network, of course. After a bit of further fiddling around, came to the conclusion that Internode hadn't set the route to the new address. Another call, and by the early evening I finally had network connectivity—almost. What I have now is:

The addresses on the WAN are clear; the addresses on the LAN are clear. But what do I use for the connection between echunga and the AG241? This must be a very common situation, but I've never seen a good suggestion of how to do it. I can't give the AG241 an address in the Class C, because it's on a different network. I also can't give echunga's external interface an address in the RFC 1918 range, because the address on that link network is the address that it uses for talking to the rest of the world. Ended up giving echunga's external interface the IP freebie.lemis.com and giving it an alias in the address range 192.168.4.0/24 to talk to the AG241. Surprisingly enough, that worked.


Friday, 18 May 2007 Echunga
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Finally the ADSL link is doing what it should, even if the last 24 hours look a little flaky:

ADSL line statistics

Continued thinking about how to configure the interface between echunga and the AG241, in the process messing things up completely. Finally understood what I had done yesterday:

Somehow this doesn't seem “right”. I need to think of a better way.

While thinking about this, discovered further problems:

Called Internode, who first asked me for a traceroute. After pointing to the information on the screen, they said they'll “look in to it”. I suppose it's a sign of the times that, after I had presented some network analyses, the support person said “It's a pity you can't connect a windows machine and run a command line ping”. At least he accepted it when I said “that way madness lies”. Hopefully this will soon be over.

By the evening, nothing had happened. I've spent nearly all week on this issue, and it's still not fixed. Is routing that difficult?


Saturday, 19 May 2007 Echunga
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Quiet day, spent mainly reading; I've collected a large number of magazines and newspapers which need to be processed. Also started another couple of brews of beer.

Another lot of people, from Naracoorte, came to look at the house.


Sunday, 20 May 2007 Echunga
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Another quiet day. I could do with more of these. The people who came to look at the house yesterday seem to have liked what they saw, and came by again today to take another look. Maybe we can improve on the current offer.

Years later I discovered that I had committed a couple of changes to /etc/protocols round 14:00:

r169786 | grog | 2007-05-20 13:55:22 +1000 (Sun, 20 May 2007) | 8 lines

Update /etc/protocols with IANA list updated 2007-02-12

Gotcha:  Number 48 (mhrp) is replaced with dsr.

Submitted by:   edwin
PR:             config/112732

This is a Subversion log, of course. At the time, the commit was to CVS. I have absolutely no recollection of this. And it seems that the reference to the bug report was incorrect. The real bug report number was 112723


Monday, 21 May 2007 Echunga
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Another call from Internode corporate technical support today about my routing problems. The person on the other end hadn't had time to read the documentation in the ticket, but he knew that it was at my end, and to prove it he tried pinging me to prove that ICMP was getting through. One of the things that I had mentioned in the ticket documentation was that the routing was selective, and that ping got through, while traceroute got no reply. I'm getting more and more frustrated with the level of service. It seems now that VoIP is working some of the time, so it's not quite as bad, but I'm really disappointed in the level of service.

Spent most of the day catching up on mail and other issues that have been severely neglected.

The ICT Council for South Australia decided at its last meeting, after I left early, to have meetings at 5 pm on Mondays, exactly the thing that we agreed not to do a year ago. I wish they had asked all board members. Given that I'll be moving in the near future, decided that today was as good as any to retire from the board, and did so.


Tuesday, 22 May 2007 Echunga
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We don't use our fax machine much in this age of the Internet, but occasionally people want to send us a message. Today was such a day, but it didn't make it: after the first page, the fax machine failed. To judge by the smell, it was another case of electronic damage caused by a power surge, a problem that ETSA continues to refuse to address.

Another day spent mainly chasing network problems. In addition to the problems I already have, my ADSL modem kept disconnecting, and I ended up unable to reach certain parts of the net. The latter problem proved to be due to a routing loop within Internode that started round 11:35 Adelaide time and went on—they say—for about 5 to 10 minutes. In my case, though, it carried on for nearly 3 hours before I could finally access irc.oz.org.

On the other topics, discussed at length with Aaron and at least made some headway. He asked me to upgrade the firmware in the AG241 ADSL modem, something I do very reluctantly. Took the precaution of saving the configuration, then upgraded (from 1.00.07 to 1.01.07). The good news is that my outgoing traceroute problems went away. The modem must have been swallowing the ICMP replies for no good reason.

The bad news was I could no longer access the modem's web server: it refused my login. That was all the more confusing because I was using the default user name and password before the upgrade. Spent a lot of time trying to get into it before deciding to brave the “factory reset” which would reset everything, including the line configuration; if the password still didn't work, I'd be dead in the water. Fortunately, the password did work, but the reload of the saved configuration didn't (maybe because it was from a different version?). And of course, there was no error message of any kind. While playing around resetting the configuration, lost the password again. Finally discovered what it was: the AG241 has two passwords, one for the “gateway user” and one for the “remote management” user. The previous firmware had accepted my systems as a local user, but now (because there's a hop in between) it was considering me to be a remote user.

The process involved a lot of reconfiguring network interfaces. I had assigned the addresses 192.168.4.1 and 192.168.4.4 to the directly connected interface (on echunga) and the modem respectively, which proved to be quite a pain when it kept resetting to 192.168.1.1. Sure, I could open up the entire 192.168.0.0/16 space, but I didn't want to do that, so instead I decided it would be a good idea to keep all the network-connected devices in the same /24 space.

Then tried the VoIP problems; again contrary to my expectations, they proved not to be related. What I did see, however, was that the “Internet” LED on the AG241, which is usually on (presumably no traffic) or flickering (traffic), went off, and the AG241 (and not anything behind it) returned a “Destination unreachable/Network unreachable” (3/0) ICMP packet. So it looks as if the AG241 went off the network briefly, though too quickly to require a re-authentication. Is this a bug in the AG241 firmware, or part of a problem introduced when Telstra changed the line parameters? Aaron is inclined to think the former, but I suspect the latter, since the problems started when the line parameters were changed.

That's all we had time for today. What a can of worms!


Wednesday, 23 May 2007 Echunga
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It's been over a month since the last power failure! High time for another, and this morning was the lucky winner.

More talk with Aaron on the phone today, and finally clarified what's going on. The real clue was something that I had already seen but not understood:

10:41:37.995435 IP homephone.lemis.com.5060 > 125.213.160.81.5060: SIP, length: 986
10:41:37.996440 IP 192.168.4.4 > homephone.lemis.com: ICMP net 125.213.160.81 unreachable, length 556

The IP generating the ICMP was that of the ADSL modem. After establishing yesterday that the traceroute problems were due to a modem firmware bug, examined this aspect a little more carefully. We discovered that yes, indeed, the connection dropped when I tried to make a call, and stayed down for about 20 seconds. While trying to measure it (pings from each end), we discovered that it happened when I lifted the receiver. Smoking gun! It proved that the real issue was crosstalk between the telephone lines inside the house. That's going to be more of a problem than it looks: the obvious thing to do would be to move the modem to where the line enters the house, but that would require another network cable to the office. Given our plans to move out soon, that's not going to happen. Instead relocated the office ATA to my office, without a telephone line to go with it, and the home ATA into the HiFi cupboard, where it now feeds only the wireless phone. At least I can now make calls, but I'm still getting modem dropouts. More to think about.


Thursday, 24 May 2007 Echunga
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Finally the ADSL problems seem to be “over”. I still have the issue with crosstalk, but I can live with that until we move house, and it's nothing that's likely to affect the buyer of the house. So back to looking at how to move house. It's still not easy. Despite all the houses that we've seen, there's nothing that really stands out. Hopefully something will come up.

House inspector in to look at the house today. He didn't stay long; I take that as a good sign.


Friday, 25 May 2007 Echunga
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Yvonne into town today to pick up Natalie from the airport and do some other stuff while she was there. Round 15:00, got a call from her to tell me that the car had broken down near the middle of Adelaide. Based on previous experience, I asked her if she was out of fuel: she has this annoying habit of waiting for the petrol indicator to be on 0 before she will fill it up. No, it was still showing 25 km to empty. She called the RAA (why does their domain name masquerade as an ISP?) emergency service, who told her that only I was covered, and that they wouldn't send anybody out. Called them up myself, and they told me the same thing. That's not what I was told when we signed up—otherwise we would have signed up Yvonne, and not me, since she drives 90% of the mileage we do. But how to prove it? That was 10 years ago, and today, after paying well over $1000 for membership, we need the service for the first time, and they refuse it. It's also not on the web site anywhere that I can find it: the membership benefits page just tells the benefits, not the restrictions, and I couldn't even find any reference to the fact in the Conditions of Road Service page or the 56 page Membership Entitlements document. At the very least, RAA is guilty of misinformation, and coupled with their recent stupid attitude to speed limit enforcement, I think it's time I left them.

Hopped into the car and into Adelaide with a 20 litre can of petrol, where I confirmed what Yvonne hadn't said: turning the ignition switch to “start” caused no reaction whatsoever. Clearly that's not caused by lack of fuel. Found a garage a couple of hundred metres away and went back with a mechanic to tow it. He first tried to start it, and succeeded: Yvonne had left the (automatic) car in gear, and I hadn't noticed. And yes, the car was out of petrol.

By this time, Natalie had been waiting at the airport for some time, and Yvonne still hadn't done the shopping, so I went to the airport to pick her up. Three hours of my time and 2 of Yvonne's just because she couldn't be bothered to fill up on time. Hopefully this will be the only time.


Saturday, 26 May 2007 Echunga
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Call from Ans Papini in the early afternoon: the people who looked at the house last week have made an offer. It's still not as high as we'd like, but it's higher than the one on the table, and it's not conditional on sale of another house, so it looks like we'll take it. We have until 10 July to move out. That'll be fun.

Diane Saunders over for dinner in the evening. We had the champagne out, but she didn't seem in the mood for celebrations.


Sunday, 27 May 2007 Echunga
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I've been meaning to buy some new multimedia electronics for a while, and spent a lot of today looking for a new camera and a new data projector. It looks like the wrong time for both: the upcoming Olympus E-510 looks a lot better than its predecessor, the E-500, but currently the prices are still 50% higher. In six months that could be completely different.

Blu-ray kills web browsers?

The other interesting thing is that finally HDTV (1920x1080, or “1080p”) data projectors are appearing, presumably because Blu-Ray technology requires them. They're also still too expensive, but maybe that will change faster than the prices of current crop of 1280x720 (“720p”) projectors, whose prices have been relatively unchanged since I bought mine 2 years ago.

I suspect that both they and Blu-Ray will have an interesting effect: finally the Microsoft world will migrate away from 1024x768 resolution which has been the de-facto standard for nearly 20 years. That will exacerbate the problem with web browsers which I have ranted about from time to time: Microsoft will be forced to allow their browsers to scale text over a wider range of resolutions, and many more people will see the broken rendering that I complain about all the time.

Talking with Edwin Groothuis about that on IRC. He recommended SeaMonkey, so installed it for the fun of it. Of course it didn't do any better than any other browser—quite the contary. It immediately came up with a screen saying “updates are available” (and displayed in a way that I couldn't copy the text to the cut buffer). For the fun of it I selected “download now” and got the largest window I have ever seen:

  Absolute upper-left X:  -484
  Absolute upper-left Y:  265
  Relative upper-left X:  0
  Relative upper-left Y:  0
  Width: 4787
  Height: 2504
  ...
  Corners:  +-484+265  --2255+265  --2255--1233  +-484--1233
  -geometry 4787x2504+-489+244

That's larger than the resolution of most digital cameras. It consisted mainly of margin, and it took a while to realize that what content was present was off to the right of the screen. And yes, of course there was no way to download the updates.


Monday, 28 May 2007 Echunga
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Into Mount Barker to hear the results of some blood tests. Things could look better; they'll do more investigations on Tuesday next week.

Back home, where Ans Papini shortly showed up and we went over more sales contracts. It looks like we currently have two different contracts with different prices, but neither is unconditional.


Tuesday, 29 May 2007 Echunga –> Deereel Images for 29 May 2007
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Had intended to get off early this morning to leave for Dereel, but somehow it took us 45 minutes longer than planned, not helped by the fact that battunga failed with some disk errors. Got it up and running again, but I don't know how long that will last.

We had the worst drought on record last summer, but it's difficult to note that now: we've had lots of rain, and last night a eucalyptus branch fell on a fence in the driveway:


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There wasn't much we could do about that by ourselves, so called Greg Edmonds and continued towards Ballarat in some of the worst weather I've seen on Australian roads, passing another dummy road works on the way:


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I'm gradually getting the impression that they do this deliberately.

Got to Dereel within minutes of the planned time and met up with Geoff Sewell in Swansons Road, which we had seen from the outside two weeks ago. As feared, it's quite small. Also passed another property in Kleins Road, which might be a possibility. We have an appointment to look at it tomorrow.


Wednesday, 30 May 2007 Dereel Images for 30 May 2007
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Off into town today to look at the alternative of having a house built on one of Chris Yeardley's titles. First to Greg Smith in Sebastopol, who doesn't seem to have a web site, and was given some somewhat condescending and definitely vague suggestions about the pricing for a new house, roughly $200,000, and probably another $30,000 for connecting electricity and sewage. That's not overly attractive, especially if it also involves living in a shed for 6 months.

After that into Ballarat and finally found Simonds, who had not made the search any easier by having moved elsewhere. Found Danny, the same bloke I talked to a couple of weeks ago, and discussed what we were looking for. Despite what we had heard at Greg Smith's, the prices looked pretty much the same for one of their pre-designed houses as for one of Greg Smith's custom designs. To add to the issue, though, Simonds don't build in Dereel, so that was a non-starter. Given the pricing, though, we decided that building a new house wasn't a viable option for the moment.

Had lunch in a Thai restaurant on Sturt St, which took far too long, and then out to Buninyong to look at another property nearby. I was greatly impressed by how they managed to get a good-looking brochure for the place. About the best thing about it was the ADSL modem I found in the lounge room. The house is small, the grounds very hilly, and the beautiful view of Mount Buninyong was marred by a totally dilapidated property on the other side of the hill:


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It brought home to us that you can improve things that are wrong with your own property, but you can't do much about the neighbours.

During that period, Ans Papini called up to say that our second contract had been accepted, and that we needed to serve notice to the first people. Fortunately he was able to send us a fax to the office of the estate agents in Buninyong, so back to Chris' via Mount Mercer to drive past another uninteresting property to send back the fax, noticeably hampered by our inability to contact Ans to confirm the address to fax to.

After that round the corner to look at the property on Kleins Road, which we hadn't looked at earlier because the web listing had shown it to be in a completely different location on the Mount Mercer Road. Outside it's not much to look at, but in fact it's quite a nice house, and both house and land are big enough (the latter 10 ha):

In fact it's only 8 ha, for all the difference that makes.

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It's difficult to find a couple of photos that capture the atmosphere of the house, but there are many more. Off back home to consider whether we should buy it or not. The biggest issue we have are the fences and sheds, which are pretty dilapidated.


Thursday, 31 May 2007 Dereel –> Echunga
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Up a little later and into Chris' shed to find Yvonne and her talking about what needed to be done to the Kleins Road property to make it liveable. It turned out not to be very much, and after some discussion we decided to buy the house.

Finally established contact with Ans Papini, who told me that he hadn't served the notice until today, though the “48 hour” (really two full business day) notice period started with serving, so now it runs until Monday evening instead of tomorrow. He had wanted to serve it in person. That proved to be academic, however: on serving, he was given a confirmation of the contract, so we have now sold Wantadilla. We'll need to settle (i.e. give over the house as a vacant possession) on 16 July.

Into Ballarat, looking in at GarageWorld in Sebastopol on the way, and got a quote for a shed which was quite a bit higher than I was hoping for. I suspect we'll have to look around a bit more. Then to visit Bram Gunn, the estate agent, made our offer and had it accepted—no signature, just a handshake. So we now have a house to move to, on 12 July, giving us a few days between the two settlements.

Then back home completely along the Western Highway for the first time in years; for some reason I've always found a different way back in the last couple of years. Got stopped by a police random breath testing unit in Nhill. I can't make up my mind whether I agree or disagree with the practice.


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