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May 2014
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Thursday, 1 May 2014 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel
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FT and mFT compatibility limitations
Topic: animals, photography, opinion Link here

For walking the dogs today I mounted the Olympus Zuiko Digital 18-180mm F3.5-6.3 on Yvonne's Olympus E-PM2 for her to get some experience with telephoto shots. It wasn't a complete success: yes, I know that the lens isn't the fastest, and since it's Four Thirds as opposed to Micro Four Thirds, it would focus even more slowly. But it also shows that the E-PM2 isn't a Olympus OM-D E-M1, and focusing took up to 5 seconds, not exactly what you want for fast-moving dogs:


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So it looks as if it's high time to get the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-150mm F4.0-5.6 that I've had my eyes on for some time, and which fetch surprisingly high used prices on eBay.

One issue that that lens won't change is focus:


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The focus point was set to be in the middle of the image, and sure enough the tree is in focus. Zhivago isn't. I suppose we can address that partially by using aperture-priority metering and setting the aperture to f/8 or f/11, but that wouldn't be enough for that image.

Zali O'Dell along with Bindy for an unexpected visit on our return. Bindy is losing weight, but she's still overweight. On the other hand, she's considerably larger than Tanya, so there's hope for Tanya yet.


Heating quote: too much, too late
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Finally got the quote from Angus Eeles for the hydronic heating that I had asked for over 4 months ago. Why was it in Microsoft “Word” format? No idea; it was just text, and not very much of that. I had asked for specifics, including hot water and solar panels, but there was no mention of that. Just sums: 14 panels (how big? no idea; where? no idea) for 9 rooms. In December I had been given the ball-park figure of $1,100 per panel (roughly $10,000), so this quote was quite a shock with its far-too-round figure of $36,000.

I had hoped that Eeles would be the solution for our problems, so much so that I hadn't checked alternatives. Clearly it's high time to do that now.


Flooring choice
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Into town to take a look at more flooring options today. JG King have some arrangement with Delta, a company with the unwieldy URL http://www.deltacarpetsandvinyls.com.au/. And indeed it seems that nowadays vinyl planks are the way to go. Tom Tyler had said that it might be possible to get vinyl for the same price as carpet, but Peter, the “JG King man”, didn't think so. To be cleared with Tom. In any case, they definitely have patterns that we could live with.


Surveyor's tripod levels
Topic: photography Link here

Decades ago I did some level surveys for my father for the initial stages of the Kenyalang Park development in Kuching. Looking at the map at the reference above, the tag appears to be exactly the area that I surveyed.

And? Well, the level was mounted on a tripod, and of course it had to be level. I don't recall the problems setting the level than I've had in recent years leveling my camera for panoramas. So I've been idly thinking of getting the kind of leveling device I used then, if I could only recall what it was like.

Today, passing through Cambrian Hill on the way to Ballarat, I found a (lone) surveyor performing a level survey. I wonder if that means they're going to improve the run of the road there. It can certainly do with it. But I stopped to take a look at his equipment. Conveniently, he had a second leveler in his car, and showed it to me. I didn't take a photo: I didn't need to. It is clearly what inspired the Manfrotto leveling base:


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At least I know why it looks like that; apart from the finish, the function is identical. Presumably the surveyors do what I used to do with this base and adjust the length of their tripod legs.


Another harness for Nikolai
Topic: animals Link here

The harness that we bought for Nikolai only last week proved to be a complete waste of time: the adjustments didn't remain set. They slipped almost as soon as we put it on him, even if we didn't pull on the harness. In addition, it was already showing signs of tearing. So it went back.

Today we took Nikolai in with us again, this time to PETstock, where we spent half an hour trying on all sorts of harnesses, and finally found one that seems to do the trick. I would never have expected it to be so difficult.


Dishwashers and web sites
Topic: Stones Road house, general, opinion Link here

One of the extras for the new house that we didn't choose was a dishwasher. They had the choice of one from Westinghouse that didn't look too bad, and a significantly more expensive one from SMEG that didn't have any wash programme taking less than 100 minutes. By comparison, the Bosch dishwasher that we bought three years ago is complete in less than 20 minutes. That's because we feed it with hot water, something that's “not recommended”, but clearly it works.

So: a new Bosch unit? Went looking on the Bosch web site, which I had already found to be completely useless three years ago. It still is. It seems that the most important thing about the dishwasher is the way it is incorporated into the kitchen, and not irrelevancies like technical specifications. The search function was equally useless: the first page showed only rangehoods. Finally I found a product list, only four models, though they have 6 different kinds of installation method! Comparing them was almost impossible. But that's OK: they all have in common that they bear no relationship to the models on the market. What are web sites such a mess?


Dishwashers and toaster ovens
Topic: Stones Road house, general Link here

My expectations about our toaster oven last month proved correct: whatever the cause of the problem was, it wasn't overheating. Now it shows the same problem on power-on, so possibly it's an issue with the control module itself.

While in town, dropped in at The Good Guys and took a look what they had. It seems that Breville are the only people making toaster ovens in that price range. They had two on offer: what appears to be a successor to the one we have, now including forced convection, for about $240. Yes, I like digital controls, but I expect them to work, and the price is really very high. The other one was analogue, which might mean that it will last longer. It was also considerably higher, which makes it a bad fit for our current kitchen, but not a problem for the new kitchen. The height means that you can put more than one layer in at a time, something that the accessories show to be an intention, so we took it. We finally got it for $124.

Also took a look at their dishwashers. Yes, they have various Bosch units at prices similar to what we paid three years ago, again with the remarkable price structure: a SMS40M02AU for list price $868, and a SMS63M18AU for $1215. What's the difference? The more expensive model is in stainless steel instead of enamel and has two more washing programmes. They both use the same amount of water and power. Given that we almost never use any except the “fast” programme, that makes it easy to decide.


Friday, 2 May 2014 Dereel
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Solar electricity: legally sanctioned fraud
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Call from Matt Dignan of Sungevity today to explain solar electricity to me. He seemed to have difficulty with the difference between kW and kWh, and he couldn't give me specifics of how pricing is worked out (“An inverter costs about as much as a handful of panels”). But he did give me some basis for estimation: as I've seen elsewhere, “their engineers” estimate that a solar generator in this area will generate an average of 3.5 kWh per day over the year, ranging from 3.4 to 4.4, and that in the winter I could expect 2.5 kW.

But he also had another startling revelation: the 8¢ per kWh feedin tariff is all I would get. I had thought that it was a premium on the cost of the power (buy for 25¢ per kWh, sell for 33¢). But no, we only get a third of the value if we sell it back to the power company. Now isn't that fair? Certainly it's a game-changer. He wanted to go on with all sorts of things, but I first need to get my head around the idea.


More heating options
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Also mail from Sean Hughes of Skyline Energy, quoting heat pumps. I had more or less discounted them, but some of his claims made interesting reading:

On a typical 200sqm house, our SM-200 running at -2C to +15C ambient air temp should cost about $6/day on average to run x 100days/year = $600/year (2000kwh/year)

The pump itself (“A Cold Climate Air Sourced Hydronic Heat Pump uniquely extracts solar heat energy found abundant in the in air and transfers it to water”) draws 7 kW if I understand the brochure, which is clearly misleading. It's an all-or-nothing compressor, which is fine if you're heating water, but that would mean that it would only run for 300 hours a year. And it seems that, although it's a heat pump, they're not harnessing it to cool.

There are other things where I need to ponder the accuracy:

Wood boiler: cheaper to put in, needs lots of wood and refilled often (= time, observation & action, cutting/carting/stacking/refilling/removing ash), high maintenance, difficult to control temperature and keep running. Running costs based on availability and quality of wood. If buying wood then similar running costs to heat-pump. (if not higher) Creates massive CO2 emmissions.

A lot of that is correct, but he's completely wrong with the CO₂ balance. It's offset to 100% by growing the wood. On the other hand, heat pumps are driven by electricity that, in Australia, is generated by dirty brown coal burning plants.

The real issue, though, seems to be the price. From this page I learn:

Supplied and installed using an SM-xxx heat-pump at 60oC, would be from about $2100 per radiator

That's not a particularly good price when you consider that the thing doesn't even cool.


New lens for Yvonne
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

The 15 mm body cap lens that I bought last week has arrived already. It lives up to its name:


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From left to right, top to bottom that's the lens, a Micro Four Thirds body cap, a lens cap for the M.Zuiko 12-40 mm, and a Four Thirds body cap.

And compared to the Canon IXY 200F, it's now barely any bigger:


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There's a big downside, of course; this is a fixed-focus lens with only f/8, while the Canon has a fourfold zoom with an aperture of f/2.8 at this focal length. I'll have to do some more careful comparisons, including finding a way to correct for this lens in DxO Optics “Pro”.


Saturday, 3 May 2014 Dereel Images for 3 May 2014
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Power and net failures
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

Another short power failure this morning at 3:42. Nothing unusual, but when I got into the office, I discovered that we had been off the net from then until 6:30.

Why did that happen? Yes, I still don't have my NTD on a UPS, so the initial failure is understandable. But why so long?

As (bad) luck would have it, I had the opportunity to compare in the evening, when the next failure occurred. This time we were off the net from 23:02 to 23:40, “only” 38 minutes. But even a slow reestablishment of the link should be complete in 5 minutes. Time to put the NTD on UPS and see what happens the next time.


Comparing standard lenses
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

So now we have no fewer than four different standard lenses for our Olympus Micro Four Thirds cameras:

Clearly you can expect a big difference between the lenses. Today I took some comparative photos with the three µFT lenses and also the Canon IXY 200F. The results are interesting. Here the uncorrected images:


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These are made from the raw images without even the correction that the camera would apply, so I haven't included the Canon here, since it can't produce raw images. But look at that barrel distortion! Which is which? Surprise, surprise: the body cap lens is the first, with the least barrel distortion, followed by the 14-42 and the 12-40.

Putting the three lenses through DxO Optics “Pro” improved things considerably. It knows how to correct for the real lenses, so I let it do that, and did it manually for the el-cheapo lens. Now things look like:


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Running the mouse cursor over the first three images will alternate with the uncorrected version, which in particular shows that the 14-42 has the most barrel distortion and the 15 mm the least. The fourth image is the Canon. I corrected 15mm lens with a setting of 10 for barrel distortion and 40 for vignetting. I still can't make up my mind how to set chromatic aberration, but somewhere round 140 seems right, though I wasn't able to completely remove it.

And how does the 15 mm compare to the Canon? Not as good, not surprisingly. But things don't look at all bad. Here selections from the following view:


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First, from the middle of the lattice work above the centre:

 
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The “tiny” (default) version of images is at natural sensor resolution, so the Olympus version (left) shows a smaller area because the sensor resolution is higher. And yes, the Canon appears sharper, but there's not much in it.

Things look different at the top right corner:

 
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That's only barely acceptable. But it's a 300×225 extract of an image originally 4608×3456 pixels in size. Assuming a standard display resolution of 90 dpi, this would correspond to a complete image of 1.33 × 1 m in size. And for those rare occasions, there's still the 12-40 mm lens (third image), which not surprisingly delivers near-perfect detail.

So: was it worth it? Yes, I think so. In fact, it's better than I expected.


Cable release?
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

I've been taking most of my house photos on a tripod, pressing the shutter release. But some of these exposures are relatively long, and a tripod's not absolutely stable. So why not use a cable release? I have one, after all. So I tried that today and had some difficulty. It's not clear whether it's due to the contacts or something else, but something to keep my eye on.


Understanding energy needs
Topic: Stones Road house, general, opinion Link here

I'm still not much closer to deciding how to supply energy to the new house. It seems that nobody takes a step back and considers what energy you need in a house. Basically there are five main uses:

  1. Heating the house.

  2. Providing hot water.

  3. Cooling the house.

  4. Cooking.

  5. Lighting

  6. Running electronic equipment.

The first three require energy in the form of heat. The most interesting sources are:

And already things are getting complicated. What do you burn? The choice of wood, gas or coal is not as straightforward as it looks. Critics say that they all generate carbon dioxide, which is correct. But wood is renewable: if you're using it, it makes sense to grow it, and that uses up the carbon dioxide. Gas or coal, on the other hand, are fossil fuels which one day will run out, and which emit carbon dioxide that remains.

Solar energy is probably the most environmentally friendly option—wind energy is not really practical for a household—but sunshine is only available at certain times of the day, and even then you can't rely on it. To cover all your energy needs reliably from solar energy would require significant investments, in particular for storage. There's also the question whether to generate heat or electricity.

It's almost redundant to mention electricity here, since it's generated from one of the other energy sources. Yes, it occurs in nature, but it hasn't been harnessed like that. But that's a good enough point to make.

So what's the best way to supply energy to the house? Only the electronics really require energy, but lighting and many household appliances, such as dishwashers and washing machines, really need it too. But that still leaves heating and cooling the house and provision of hot water. All that can be done with a heat pump, and the heating aspects can be done with solar energy as well—most of the time.

So how do you get an optimal solution for all these things? One option that seems attractive to me is to generate the bulk of the electricity from solar panels, and store the excess energy in batteries that will store at least the requirements for 24 hours. In addition, have a backup connection to the electricity grid both to supply heavy users like dishwashers and washing machines: it's not practical to dimension the battery/inverter system to supply that power as well.

So far things look relatively clear. But what about the rest? Heating the house with hot water reduces the number of energy sources by one: the system can clearly supply hot water both for direct consumption and to heat the house. But how do I create the hot water? There's the option of wood, heat pump or solar. And one doesn't exclude the other. If I have a heat pump, I can use it to cool the house too; in fact, I'll need a heat pump (“air conditioner”) one way or another. But they invariably run on electricity, so the hot water alternative could be more economical.

Clearly I should complete these thoughts, but there's a basic problem: nobody else thinks like this. A good example is Sean Hughes of Skyline Energy. He offers heat pumps for heating only. Not for hot water. Not for cooling the house. And there's no option to connect solar water heating into the system. All nicely compartmentalized and coincidentally ridiculously expensive. I don't have a quote from him yet, but a couple of comparisons:

Angus Eeles, who have shown themselves not to be the cheapest, have offered a ducted air conditioning system for the house for $16,000. I'm sure I can get a better offer. Their offer of $36,000 for the heating is in addition to this. By contrast, Skyline offer the heat pump alone for $12,990. With the necessary accessories (pumps, water tank and single wall thermostat, but still without installation), they're talking $16,400. We still don't have radiators, and the thing can't heat water or cool the house. They don't seem to offer cooling, but they want at least another $3,000 for a completely unnecessary hot water heat pump. On that page they also renew their claim that a heat pump is solar energy. Clearly we're tending towards, probably beyond, another $36,000 installation.

But there's other stuff on the Skyline web site. They go to some lengths to explain why “Geothermal” heating is bad. They mean ground-sourced heating where the coils are buried in the ground, not anything that extracts the earth's own heat. This distinction seems to cause confusion at Wikipedia as well. They make some good points on the return on (additional) investment (between $30,000 and $48,000 for my house size). But they don't follow through with the ROI for their own systems. Assuming that $36,000 corresponds to 100 MWh, and that heating with the air conditioner takes the energy they claim, 2 MWh/year, it would take 50 years to pay off the investment. The rule of thumb is that anything over 10 years isn't worth it.

Much of this might look like I'm picking on Sean or Skyline. That's not the case. In fact, he makes more sense than most of them, and there are lots of details on the web site that go beyond what others do. That's why I'm using it as an example. But despite all attention to detail, there's still this lack of perspective, this compartmentaliziation.

From my point of view, there are other issues: hot water heating works better, and it's easy to regulate—unless you take their recommendation and use under-floor (“slab”) heating. I'm still not happy.


Sunday, 4 May 2014 Dereel Images for 4 May 2014
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More network mysteries
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Why do I get protracted network outages after a power failure? There are many reasons, but finding it is easier if the NTD is on a UPS. Did that today, watched the bizarre LED sequences as it rebooted (the power light doesn't come on immediately, for example), and then saw:

May  4 15:26:55 eureka kernel: xl0: link state changed to UP
May  4 15:28:11 eureka dhclient: New IP Address (xl0): 180.150.4.134
May  4 15:28:11 eureka dhclient: New Subnet Mask (xl0): 255.255.255.0
May  4 15:28:11 eureka dhclient: New Broadcast Address (xl0): 180.150.4.255
May  4 15:28:11 eureka dhclient: New Routers (xl0): 180.150.4.1
May  4 15:28:12 eureka dhclient: New Routers (xl0): 180.150.4.1

That suggests that the boot time is 1 minute, 16 seconds, which seems to be about normal for a modern device with the processing power of a 1960s supercomputer.

Only one problem: I couldn't access the network. Further investigation showed that I had no default gateway (should have been 180.150.4.1, which I have reverse DNSed as radiation-tower.aussiebb.net), but none was set. Restarted dhclient and got the same result. So I set it manually.

Things went fine for a while. But then I discovered that I couldn't reconnect to my IRC proxy after it had disconnected due to the power cycle.

06:43:44.148145 IP 180-150-4-134.NBN.ballarat.aussiebb.net.33205 > www.lemis.com.7778: Flags [S], seq 2941921461, win 65535, options [mss 1380,nop,wscale 8,sackOK,TS val 805328852 ecr 0], length 0
06:43:44.148225 IP www.lemis.com.7778 > 180-150-4-134.NBN.ballarat.aussiebb.net.33205: Flags [S.], seq 45471356, ack 2941921462, win 65535, options [mss 1380,nop,wscale 6,sackOK,TS val 4088930771 ecr 805328852], length 0
06:43:44.416980 IP 180-150-4-134.NBN.ballarat.aussiebb.net.33205 > www.lemis.com.7778: Flags [R], seq 2941921462, win 0, length 0

What's that? Setting up a TCP connection should look like this:

06:40:44.293779 IP freefall.freebsd.org.52755 > www.lemis.com.7778: Flags [S], seq 3252687742, win 65535, options [mss 1460,nop,wscale 6,sackOK,TS val 2154445637 ecr 0], length 0
06:40:44.293859 IP www.lemis.com.7778 > freefall.freebsd.org.52755: Flags [S.], seq 2394826616, ack 3252687743, win 65535, options [mss 1460,nop,wscale 6,sackOK,TS val 3503431319 ecr 2154445637], length 0
06:40:44.366559 IP freefall.freebsd.org.52755 > www.lemis.com.7778: Flags [.], ack 1, win 1040, options [nop,nop,TS val 2154445710 ecr 3503431319], length 0

But my end was issuing a reset (“Flags [R]”) on receiving the reply from the server. Why? How do you even debug a problem like that?

While I was ponderingcursing this, discovered that DNS wasn't working either. Lots of requests going out, no replies coming in. What had I done wrong there? Hard to say. More cursing, confirmed that it wasn't a firewall issue, and that things worked fine if I used Aussie Broadband's name servers. So what was wrong with mine?

And then I discovered I couldn't set up any TCP sessions. Curiouser and curiouser. Went round in circles for a while before it dawned on me: I had set the default gateway to the interface, not an address (because I was too lazy to look up the address). That can't really work on an Ethernet, but for some reason it did for existing connections, but not for new ones. It's really puzzling, but unfortunately I removed much of the evidence, so I can't understand what's going on.

One thing that does seem to come out of this is that DHCP is more trouble than it's worth. I've already established that the Aussie Broadband DHCP server is misbehaving, and I've had confirmation from them that they're looking into it, but that they're puzzled too. Since I have what appears to be a static IP address, it would seem that I don't need it. But then there's this option 82 thing, more correctly RFC 3046. Potentially if I don't use it, I won't have a connection.


Flaky sourdough?
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Another loaf of bread to bake today and tomorrow. Took a look at the starter that I had planned to use. It didn't look good:


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The discoloration is only on the surface:


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I've heard it said that this doesn't make any difference, but I'm not convinced, and it's not enough to risk a loaf of bread and the associated effort, especially since the smell wasn't very reassuring. It's more interesting to understand how this happens. It's difficult to see from the photos, but the darkened starter was also much drier. Something to do with not sealing the container properly?


Animal health issues, part 4
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

I was tied up trying to understand my network problems this evening, so Yvonne went walking with the dogs alone. Bad idea, as it turned out. On the way home they started playing around her and knocked her over, hurting her hands. At least she didn't hurt her ribs (mine still haven't recovered from last time. This is happening far too often.


Monday, 5 May 2014 Dereel Images for 5 May 2014
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“Save Dereel”: the ultimate insult
Topic: general, opinion Link here

For a year or two Wendy McClelland had a web site with the arrogant domain name savedereel.com, on which she published diatribes about her take on technology. Her main target was the Radiation Tower, but she also went off at other targets, such as smart meters.

She has allowed the domain to lapse now, as I confirmed today. And of course a domain squatter has taken it up:


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Toshiba FlashAir: first impressions
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Today I received the Toshiba FlashAir™ card that I ordered a while back, along with a “manual” (a single large sheet of paper with pages reduced in size by a factor of about 12). Fortunately I had already located the manuals page, so used that instead. and sure enough, it worked as well as can be expected with my android tablet (“signal strength: excellent\ntransfer rate: 1 mb/s”). but that's not what i wanted to use it for. How about connecting it to a real computer?

The problem there is that, like so many network adapters in the photography space, it behaves as an access point. and the USB 802.11 adapter that I bought for this purpose isn't recognized by my down-rev version of FreeBSD, so I had to try it in dischord, my Microsoft box, instead. And it couldn't see the network. It seems that you need a tool to do that, only 29.1 MB of zipped executable. Why? It works with Android, after all.

Downloaded and installed the tool, which seems to be unique in having a transparent icon (centre right):

 
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Running it installs itself every time you run it. And then it produced an unexpected result:

 
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The card was inserted and not write-protected, and recognized by the Android tablet. And it's a brand new card. Could it be down-rev anyway? Ah, there's a tool for updating the firmware, only 7.8 MB of it. Downloaded that, but it seems to be too leet to tell me what the current firmware version is (presumably there wasn't enough space in the executable for this function), so tried updating it anyway. That required installing the card in a card reader (obviously). After a bit of messing around, I got a message telling me to safely unmount the card. And that didn't work:

 
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So I tried to stop the update program. No sir, won't do that. Click on the red X and it just continues as if you had pressed OK. And then the inevitable results (apart from the dreck in the first message):

 
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How do you umount -f a Microsoft file system? Looked around and found this program (“It is small. Less than 1 MB”). I suppose the size is small by comparison with the other behemoths, but how big does a umount program need to be?

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/27) ~ 35 -> ls -l /sbin/umount
-r-xr-xr-x  1 root  wheel  17360  2 Feb 15:30 /sbin/umount

Why is all this stuff so enormous?

In any case, it didn't work: it got an unexpected error, presumably because a file was open. With a bit of messing around, got the card to be recognized again. But what a mess this Microsoft stuff is!

On the positive side, it looks as if it might be possible to get the card to attach to an existing network, and then I won't have to put up with this emetic parody of a network.


Aussie Broadband: not as secure as a phone call
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Call from Lorena of Aussie Broadband today, telling me that my credit card was about to expire, and would I give her the number of the new one? I told her that the expiry date had been extended by 4 years, and that all the other details were the same. But no, she could only see the first 4 and the last 4 digits of the card number, to protect my privacy. All well and good, but clearly the number was stored somewhere. No, she can't update it. OK, where's the web form? That's too insecure: please call Aussie on 1300 880 905 and give the number by phone.

What nonsense! I'm quite happy with Aussie from a technical point of view, but it seems that their administration has nothing to do with technology. Asked to be put through to the manager, but he wasn't at his seat right then. Asked for a call back, which hasn't happened yet.


Salads for dogs
Topic: animals, food and drink Link here

Things didn't quite look right with the salad this evening:


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How had those olives fallen onto the table? And in any case, that looks wrong. It should look like this:


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The cheese was completely gone. But then I had heard a noise in the kitchen a little earlier, and then Zhivago came out. Clearly he was demonstrating what parts of the salad he liked.

I threw the salad out, of course. But then it occurred to me: we should have kept it and put it into his feed for a few days until he couldn't stand the sight of it.


More flash woes
Topic: photography Link here

I had thought that I had more or less solved my flash exposure problems, but the photos of the salads proved me wrong. This seems to be a general issue. Why can't it work better?


Indian Doctor: Easter egg or coincidence
Topic: multimedia, technology Link here

We're watching the third episode of The Indian Doctor at the moment. One thing in the current episode jumped out at me: the registration of what I think is an Austin A30:

 
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Is that an Easter egg or coincidence?


Tuesday, 6 May 2014 Dereel → Geelong → Dereel Images for 6 May 2014
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Periodontist again
Topic: general Link here

Off to Geelong today for my six-monthly periodontics check. Things are looking fine; there's been a continual improvement since I ignored the advice of that idiot dentist in Mount Barker (“clean your teeth better”) nearly 8 years ago.


Mount Mercer Wind Farm
Topic: general Link here

Took a short cut via Trendes Lane on the way to Geelong. I was last there about a year ago, shortly after the Dereel bushfire. Now it's fresh and green, but the horizon has changed considerably:


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It's amazing how big these things are. They must be over 5 km away, and they tower over the houses in the foreground. And it must be several kilometres from one end to the other.


Wednesday, 7 May 2014 Dereel Images for 7 May 2014
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More heating thoughts
Topic: Stones Road house, general, opinion Link here

Call from another supplier of heat pump hydronics today. Talked in some detail about the options, and it's becoming clear that wood-fired hydronics are probably not the best idea for us, due to the amount of work it involves. But what are the alternatives? The heat pump offering seems to be pretty much the same as last time, and it confirms my suspicion that people are thinking in small compartments. Once again separate solutions for hydronic heating, hot water and cooling. I asked why, but didn't get any real answers. And the heat pump requires an input of 6 kW (225 m²/ (45 m² / kW); don't ask). How can I get that with only 40 A at 230 V? He didn't seem to understand the problem, so I mentioned power factor. Not a term he knew. Cos φ? Of course not. So I tried to explain phase shifts. Yes, I could get models for 3 phase electricity. When I explained that a 6 kW compressor would probably have a power factor of about 0.65 and thus draw marginally more than 40 A at 230V, he said that the devices were tested by the standards bodies, and that ones that misbehaved wouldn't be allowed on the market.

Gave up round about there and asked for a ball-park quote, which he promised to send. Then on to look at how much power I would really need. We have a total input power of 4.8 kW in our current badly insulated house, and on the whole it's sufficient. The new house has pretty much the same heated area, so you'd expect it to consume (considerably) less power. Found this article about ducted air conditioning on the Choice web site, which referred to this calculator which gave me an approximate figure of 14.63 kW (electric heater) and a choice of 58.50 MJ or 70.20 MJ for gas heaters, depending on design and not specifying any time component. And then it said:

Note: These are the heating capacities needed to maintain a temperature difference of up to 12¡ãC between indoors and outdoors. In extreme climates this may not be enough and you may need a larger capacity. The calculator can only be used to estimate the required capacity of a room heater, not for ducted systems.

And yes, the mutilation of the ° symbol is in the original. But why was I taken there if it doesn't apply to ducted systems? And why doesn't it apply to ducted systems? I'm left with very little confidence in anything that I find. But a comparison with our present house is interesting: it estimated 27 kW, much more than we actually have. And the ratio of roughly 2:1 in heating requirements is about what I expected.


Yvonne transformed
Topic: general Link here

Yvonne has decided that she wants short hair again. She had come up with some hairstyles from films we watched, and I thought it was a phase that would pass. But no, on leaving on her shopping trip this morning she told me that she would return with short hair. Sigh.

But what returned exceeded my worst fears: one of the worst permanent waves I have ever seen. I couldn't even bear to look at it, and she promised to return to the hairdresser tomorrow and have it straightened. Finally in the evening I drew up the courage to take a couple of photos in evidence:


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To be fair, she had had a shawl over her hair, and she didn't comb it, but the rat's nest wouldn't have gone away even if she had combed it.


Thursday, 8 May 2014 Dereel Images for 8 May 2014
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Choosing power and heating
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Spent much of the day investigating the issues of heating, cooling and electricity supply. Probably the biggest issue is that I don't know how to find people who Do It Right. In the end I had very little to show for the investigations, not even a clear statement of what I want. One important thing is that the low-power (electronics and a few others) and lighting should be on a battery backup so that we can weather the eternal power failures.

And how do we dimension the heating? One person who should know would be Tom Tyler of JG King, since they supply gas heating as standard in their houses—I'm just looking at alternatives because it's only heating, and gas is both ecologically unsound and horrendously expensive. So I called up Tom. He didn't know, but he gave me the phone number of the people who supply the heating, venturing the opinion that they didn't know either. It seems that the mention of kW in conjunction with heating threw him, since in this metric country the output of gas heaters (but not electric heaters) is measured in BTU. Sigh.


Supplying credit card details
Topic: general, technology Link here

Finally got a call back from Denise, the manager of Aussie Broadband billing today. She didn't understand the security issues involved in giving your credit card details over the phone either—all the easier to tap now that I'm using VoIP. It seems that at least half their customers pay in this manner. When will people finally understand even basic security? Still, we found a workaround, and she promised to take it to management, though I had to work hard to make her understand that it wasn't just for my sake.


The next power failure
Topic: general Link here

As if to cement my resolve, another short power failure this evening at 22:06. At least I didn't go off the net this time.


Friday, 9 May 2014 Dereel Images for 9 May 2014
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More planning permit documentation
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

It's been nearly 6 weeks since I submitted my application for the planning permit. That's significant, since that's the time they said it will take. So when I received a letter from the council, I was expecting it to be a planning permit.

No such luck:

A preliminary assessment and site inspection has been undertaken, and has identified that native grasses are present on the site as well as native trees.

What native grasses? All the grass I see is pretty normal stuff. Maybe it's native, but it doesn't look any different from But it seems that I might damage them by building a house on top of them. So I have to complete a Biodiversity Assessment Report. OK, went and looked at that and found nothing useful, except that trees have now been standardized and cover an area of 710 m² each, regardless of size, so the four trees we want to remove cover an area of 0.284 ha. Never mind that they're all in a clump, or that the total area is really closer to 225 m².

Still, that doesn't make any difference. It seems that I have to remove at least 15 trees before it makes any difference. But what about these grasses? I really have no idea. Tried a couple of times to reach Mathew Mertuszka, but he wasn't at his desk and didn't return my call.


Choosing heating
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

I've more or less resigned myself to the idea of heating the house with ducted reverse cycle air conditioning. I really didn't want to do it, but it seems that the heating industry in Australia is so underdeveloped that I have no other choice. I need the air conditioning for cooling anyway, since none of the heat pumps will cool, so anything else would be a (significant) additional cost.

So: who will install the air conditioning for me? Called up Deb Trafford of Trafford Heating on 5334 9044. They install the standard heating for JG King, so discussed the matter with her. Yes, she can make a quote. Probably Monday.

Who else? She mentioned Haymarket, whom I know, and also Angus Eeles (“They won't be the cheapest”), who have recently added interesting decorations to their home page:

Strict Standards: Declaration of PageContent::createParentList() should be compatible with DataClass::createParentList($class, $paramArray = '', $match = '', $noneOption = '', $isArray = 0, $js = '', $width = '', $emp = '', $emp1 = '', $exclude_id = '', $field_name = '') in /home/anguseel/public_html/includes/class.PageContent.php on line 569

Strict Standards: Declaration of Template::findAll() should be compatible with DataClass::findAll($orderby = '') in /home/anguseel/public_html/includes/class.Template.php on line 286

Strict Standards: Declaration of SiteMenu::createParentList() should be compatible with DataClass::createParentList($class, $paramArray = '', $match = '', $noneOption = '', $isArray = 0, $js = '', $width = '', $emp = '', $emp1 = '', $exclude_id = '', $field_name = '') in /home/anguseel/public_html/includes/class.SiteMenu.php on line 363

I wonder if they're a victim of a PHP upgrade.

But I've been there before, so decided to go through the Yellow Pages.

What a disaster! Yet Another Broken Website. It started when I asked for “air conditioning-home” (their suggestion) in Ballarat.

No results found for Air conditioning-home in Ballarat, 3350 Showing 99 Results from the surrounding area”

And all of the entries were from Ballarat, some of them up to three times. Some included suggestions of what they're good at. Most made sense, but for Haymarket the only advantage seems to be “Dog wash available”. And then there are companies like Celsius (twice), who it seems closed down 6 years ago. Tried them anyway, in case they had reopened, and got no reply, just a series of tones that suggest that there was something wrong with their phone system.

That was pretty much the typical response. I got on to Haymarket and Middletons, got answering machines for 2 others, a fax for one, two broken voicemails, and two who don't do domestic installations. Somehow the Yellow Pages just aren't worth the trouble; I should have used Google instead.


Saturday, 10 May 2014 Dereel Images for 10 May 2014
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Yet another new lens
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Yesterday I took delivery of an Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-150mm f4.0-5.6 lens that I had bought on eBay. Gradually I have quite a collection:


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The lenses in the right two columns are all Olympus with the exception of the M42 teleconverter at the bottom of the third column from the left. From right to left, back to front, they are: Zuiko Digital ED 12-60mm F2.8-4.0 SWD, Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm F4.0-5.6, M.Zuiko 12-40 mm f/2.8 “Pro”, Zuiko Digital ED 50mm F2.0 Macro, BCL-1580 15 mm f/8 Body Cap Lens, Zuiko Digital ED 70-300mm F4.0-5.6, Zuiko Digital 18-180mm F3.5-6.3, M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-150mm f4.0-5.6 and M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 II R.

With the exception of a stray Canon kit lens, the second column from the left are additional M42 lenses that I can use on the cameras if I want, and the left-hand column are a couple of bayonet-mounted Pentax lenses at the rear, another M42 teleconverter, and three video add-on lenses that are really of no use to anybody any more.

All very nice, but it took me 30 attempts to get even this far with the photos. Getting every single lens on the photo was clearly a challenge, and I took photos with various lenses. But look at this:

 
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That's from the bottom right corner, and it's so bad that it's visible in the viewfinder. OK, I know that the 14-150 isn't the optically best lens in the world, but this looks very bad. Did some comparisons with other lenses. Here in sequence similar results from the Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 II R, the M.Zuiko 12-40 mm, the Olympus Zuiko Digital 18-180mm F3.5-6.3 and the Olympus BCL-1580 15 mm f/8 Body Cap Lens:

 
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The only one that's as bad is the body cap lens. I can expect it of that lens, but not the 14-150. What's the problem there? Even the 18-180 is worlds better. Is it defective? It's beginning to look so. Looking at the test photos I took yesterday, there are similar patterns to be seen:


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At the time I had attributed that to incorrect focus, but I'll certainly have to check.

That wasn't the only pain I had with photography today. Somehow I've managed to get my camera counting photos from 0 again, with the result that photos from Yvonne's camera clashed with my own. And there are still issues with flash—for some reason, the combination of Olympus E-PM2, 18-180 and mecablitz 58-AF-2 didn't want to flash, though the EXIF data claims that it did. Poor contacts? It doesn't make sense for the problem to be associated with a specific lens.


Sunday, 11 May 2014 Dereel Images for 11 May 2014
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More lens quality investigation
Topic: photography Link here

The new Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-150mm f4.0-5.6 lens looks completely new—not the slightest trace of dust or wear, and the lens cap still had the protective plastic film. But the image quality really doesn't look good. Today I did some comparisons with other lenses: M.Zuiko 12-40 mm f/2.8 “Pro”, Zuiko Digital 18-180mm F3.5-6.3 and M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 II R. The tests confirmed my suspicions: the image quality of the 14-150 lens was much worse. Here some test charts along with a 600×450 selection from bottom right. To compare them properly, click on the images to enlarge to the next larger size, which is native resolution.


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14-150, f/8 18-180, f/8 14-42, f/8 12-40, f/8

Clearly there's something very wrong here. Is this lens design really that bad? I find that hard to believe. The 18-180 has a poor reputation compared to other Olympus lenses. but by comparison here there's hardly any difference between the three.

And fully open? Worse, of course:


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Things do get better when I stop down the lens:

 
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My 14-150, f/8 14-150, f/11 14-150, f/16 14-150, f/22

But it's not good enough. All these photos were taken using my Olympus OM-D E-M1. I've taken others with Yvonne's Olympus E-PM2, and they show similar problems.

I posted an article on the German Olympus Forum, and within 2 hours received some comparison images from Falk Tegtmeier, taken under identical circumstances with the same camera model and two other 14-150 lenses. He even went to the trouble to duplicate my test setup. The images confirm my suspicions:


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14-150, f/8 Falk's old 14-150, f/8 Falk's new 14-150, f/8

So there seems to be no doubt that the lens is defective.

The lens charts I used are available on the web. I just printed them out on A4 paper and stuck them the a backdrop.


Monday, 12 May 2014 Dereel Images for 12 May 2014
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Security and cameras
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

I've grumbled about the network connectivity of my Olympus OM-D E-M1 in the past, but it seems that there are cameras that have more functionality. The Samsung NX300 looks like a competitor to the E-M1, but it seems to have better functionality, well hidden in the documentation. It seems that it even has an X server. But Georg Lukas did some investigations and came up with some amazing security issues. 802.11 with no passwords, no encryption. It reminds me of the bad old days of war chalking. I suppose it's a sign of the changes in wireless network security that www.warchalking.org is for sale.


Fatal pkg warnings
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I still haven't got round to upgrading to FreeBSD release 10. My last attempt, nearly 2 weeks ago, ended with the system hanging on shutdown. But that could have been due to the old machine I was running it on. I needed to try it in my current build machine. And to get at that I had to tidy away the mess on the desk.

Got that done today, put in the disk, and sure enough, it works fine. So the next step was to bring the software up to date. Build world, build kernel, install kernel, upgrade packages. 1 GB of packages to download! It's only been a few weeks since I last upgraded.

That took its time, of course, but after 45 minutes I had a log file with hundreds of lines like:

pkg: WARNING: locally installed docbook500-5.0_1 conflicts on /usr/local/share/xml/docbook/5.0/catalog.xml with:
        - docbook-xml-5.0_2

OK, just a warning, but why? Because the original package had been built locally rather than installed? Who cares?

The real problem came later, though, when I tried to install RawTherapee. It requires 395 MB of space! Most of the download proved to be gcc 4.8. Why do I need that? The recent compiler battlefield means that specific products only compile with specific compilers. From the Makefile:

# USE_GCC must be late so the compiler feature checks work to detect
# that the base C++ standard library switched to libc++:
# We also must pin 4.8+ because 4.6 and 4.7 segfault on 10.0-RELEASE amd64
# wwhen compiling improcfun.cc:
USE_GCC= 4.8+

But this stuff is already compiled. Why do I need it?

Finally it was finished. Only one warning:

Checking integrity...pkg: WARNING: locally installed cups-image-1.5.4_1 conflicts on /usr/local/include/cups/raster.h with:
- cups-client-1.7.2

Not to worry, I don't use CUPS. But that's not important: this wasn't a warning, it was a fatal error. The complete installation failed. I had to manually reinstall CUPS before it would run.

That wasn't the only casualty:

=== grog@stable-amd64 (/dev/pts/1) ~ 1 -> xterm
Shared object "libxcb.so.2" not found, required by "libXaw7.so.7"

pkgNG may be an improvement on the old system, but it's not anywhere close to being finished. Now I have to go and resolve all of the other 551 “warnings” before I can even use the machine again.


RawTherapee: first impressions
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

RawTherapee seems to have a lot of features. What it doesn't have is a manual. Still, photo software is photo software, right, and it should be easy enough to understand. So I fired it up and got a barely legible screen:


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How can you read that? Spent 10 minutes looking for the settings tab (it's at bottom left) and came up with a better looking screen (GTK default):


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But that's as far as I got. Clearly the window at the top is intended for a file name, but entering things there didn't do anything. Oh for a manual!


Tuesday, 13 May 2014 Dereel
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FreeBSD ports: finally up to date
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Continued with the port upgrade on my build machine today. 551 fatal “warnings” to remove. In fact, it wasn't quite that bad:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/12) /src/Music/audiostream 15 -> grep WARN /usr/ports/Log.log.0 |sed 's:conflict.*::'|sort -u
Checking integrity...pkg: WARNING: locally installed cups-image-1.5.4_1
Checking integrity...pkg: WARNING: locally installed py27-setuptools-2.0.1
Proceed with installing packages [y/N]: Checking integrity...pkg: WARNING: locally installed cups-image-1.5.4_1
pkg: WARNING: locally installed docbook-4.2
pkg: WARNING: locally installed docbook-4.3
pkg: WARNING: locally installed docbook-sk-4.1.2_4
pkg: WARNING: locally installed docbook-xml-4.3
pkg: WARNING: locally installed docbook-xml44-4.4_1
pkg: WARNING: locally installed docbook-xml45-4.5
pkg: WARNING: locally installed docbook440-4.4_2
pkg: WARNING: locally installed docbook450-4.5_2
pkg: WARNING: locally installed docbook500-5.0_1
pkg: WARNING: locally installed hdf5-1.8.10
pkg: WARNING: locally installed py27-setuptools-2.0.1

So basically it was only 4 ports, though DocBook accounted for many of them, including—it seems—multiple versions. Removed all of those and tried a pkg upgrade again. Success! Both my system and my ports are up to date. When was that last the case?


Chinese vegetarian food?
Topic: food and drink Link here

Margaret, who visited us 2 months ago, and whose surname I still don't know), will be visiting us again the weekend after next. She's a vegetarian, and last time we fed her Indian food. What do we do this time? Well, there is Chinese vegetarian food, but I don't know any recipes for a complete meal. Went looking and found very little. Yes, of course, there are all sorts of vegetarian courses that go well in a complete meal, but in general it seems that a complete Chinese meal includes meat (frequently pork), poultry and fish.

Many recipes I found weren't vegetarian at all, like the classic 麻婆豆腐 (Mápó dòufu), which has minced meat as a main ingredient, but is mentioned in this vegetarian page with instructions to leave out the meat. Some real recipes I found were 罗汉斋, (Luóhàn zhāi or Buddha's delight) and 地三鲜 (Di San Xian, potatoes, aubergine and capsicum). This page also has a number of suggestions. But none of them seem interesting enough to make an entire meal of them.


Lost Clydesdale
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

Yesterday evening a girl knocked on the door, ignoring the doorbell, and coincidentally I heard her. She asked “Have you seen a Clydesdale?”. Obviously, on many occasions, but it seems they're new neighbours who have a lone Clydesdale whom they agist across the road at the Everetts. And for some reason he keeps breaking out. When will people realize that horses are social animals and shouldn't be kept in solitary confinement?

This afternoon Yvonne came in looking for wire cutters. He had got himself tangled in a fence a couple of doors down, and she had to cut him free. I followed to see if I can help, but it seems that the owner (presumably the father of yesterday's girl) had somehow got him free and was leading him off. No word of thanks—in fact, no word at all, not even when Yvonne spoke to him. Strange people.


Wednesday, 14 May 2014 Dereel
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House: next step
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Call from Tessa Ambrose of JG King today, asking whether I had received her text on my mobile. It seems that she is my new contact now that the house details have progressed, and somehow somebody gave her the mobile phone number to be used for emergencies only, so she sent me an SMS message.

Clarified that, and she had lots of questions about the modifications we wanted. In the end got her to send me the document she was preparing, and spent much of the day analysing and modifying that. But at least we're moving.


Ports upgrade: proof of the pudding
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

So yesterday I finally got my FreeBSD ports up to date. Today I checked:

==== Wed 14 May 2014 09:33:17 EST on stable-amd64.lemis.com: pkg upgrade
Updating repository catalogue
Nothing to do

Finally!

=== root@stable-amd64 (/dev/pts/3) /usr/ports 5 -> hugin
Shared object "libexiv2.so.12" not found, required by "hugin"

What caused that? Yes, like so many other ports, Hugin was installed from the Ports Collection, not from a package. But the information was stored in the same database. Clearly there's something wrong here. Still, just delete it and reinstall from the package:

=== root@stable-amd64 (/dev/pts/3) /usr/ports 8 -> pkg install hugin
pkg: No packages matching 'hugin' available in the repositories

I was able to rebuild and run Hugin, but somehow we're not there yet.


Accountability in politics
Topic: general, opinion Link here

I've commented in the past about my amazement that Tony Abbott ever got elected. But he did, and from time to time he has even shown some glimmerings of statesmanship, though they're few and far between.

But how do you get elected? You need to convince the people, and one of the things you do is to promise to improve things. Abbott promised to improve the economy, not to cut welfare, not to cut health care, not to cut education, and not to increase taxes. Today was the first budget. Whether it will improve the economy remains to be seen, but they cut welfare, health and education, and introduced new taxes. A Google search for budget broken promise brought an avalanche of hits, though admittedly one was not about the Australian budget.

Why should politicians get away with this? It's one thing to run into trouble and have to go back on your word. We have, it seems, a “budget emergency”. But only the government seems to think so; the Economist article sees no such thing. Maybe it's the budget that's causing the emergency.

From my point of view, I can live with the additional burden. What really annoys me is that if this had been known before the election, he would never have been elected. A breach of promise of this magnitude is a breach of the conditions of election. Isn't it time to hold politicians accountable for their actions? At the very least it should be possible to sue them, or demand a reelection. Maybe that will happen, of course, as this article suggests. Otherwise we have at least another 2½ years with these crooks.


Thursday, 15 May 2014 Dereel
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More house stuff
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Spent a lot of the day going over the details of the house, with a number of discussions with Tessa. It's a surprising amount of work, but gradually we're getting there.

One thing that is definitely not clear is heating. Deb Trafford of Trafford Heating replied to my request for a quote saying that they couldn't supply a zoned ducted air conditioning system: all rooms needed to be connected at all times. What century are we living in? So far I haven't seen any quote for a system that can even turn off zones at will: the single quote I have, from Middletons, wants a “constant zone” (a zone you can't turn off) for the main living area, and doesn't seem to think that thermostats are necessary (or possible?). We had that in Wantadilla 15 years ago!


Guacamole
Topic: food and drink Link here

Yvonne is very fond of guacamole, but I haven't been very fond of the version she makes, so today I set to it myself. The recipe I came up with is by no means unusual, and the main reason to keep it is just to note the details.


Friday, 16 May 2014 Dereel Images for 16 May 2014
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Still more house configuration
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Another message from Tessa today. She now has provisional figures for the network cabling:

1-20 Cat 6 ethernet cable to study, living, media, family and all bedrooms. To be terminated in single wall sockets: $1,520

1-21 OM162 5/125 dual fibre cable inside duplex jacket to study, living, media, family and all bedrooms. Fibre to be left unterminated behind wall plate. $2,653

$2,653 for 50 metres of fibre? They've got to be crazy. I don't know when I'll need fibre, but it seemed to be a good idea to put it in when it was easy. But those prices are beyond anything reasonable by a factor of at least 10.

Went over the quote with a fine tooth comb and sent it back again. By evening I had a reply that doesn't seem to have addressed more than one or two points. I can see this being fun.


New lens: three of all good things
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Somehow I haven't been lucky with my purchase of an Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-150mm F4.0-5.6 lens. The used prices are surprisingly high. Three months ago I bought one at a very good price, only to discover that I hadn't read the auction carefully, and it was really a M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 40-150mm F4.0-5.6 at not quite so good a price. Fortunately Jashank Jeremy was happy to take that off my hands.

Then 2 weeks ago I bought another at only 25% less than the new price. And it (serial number AAK208277) proved to be defective. I think that the seller genuinely wasn't aware of the fact—certainly it matched his description of “almost brand new”—and he took it back. Hopefully I'll get a refund Real Soon Now.

So I gave up and bought a new lens from Georges in Sydney. $625 including postage, as compared to $500 for the second-hand lens. And after $100 cashback from Olympus. I hate cashback, but what choice do I have?

It arrived today, serial number AAK263738. It works. A comparison of the first test photos of this and the previous lens:


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The cropping's not the same—that's too much work. The new, sharp lens has been cropped nearly 40% smaller than the old one. And the smears are on the monitor, not from the lens: time to clean the monitor.

The other interesting thing about the lens is the build quality. It's pretty much a replacement for the Four Thirds Olympus Zuiko Digital 18-180mm F3.5-6.3. When I got that lens, I noted the “cheap” construction, but there's none of that with the 14-150.


Flat car battery
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Picking up the lens wasn't as simple as I had hoped. I got into the car and tried to start it. Nada. The battery was so flat that my multimeter didn't show any voltage at all. How come? I've never had any trouble with the battery, and from the labels it was made after the beginning of 2012. Put it on charge and took Yvonne's car.

Back home, things hadn't improved. This stupid ALDI battery charger refuses to charge completely discharged batteries (“Err”). So I had to jump start it. And these jumper cables have such terrible contacts that it's almost impossible to get any contact:


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Finally I got contact, and it started right away. Drove round the block (admittedly, 4 km) and there was enough charge in the battery to restart it, and for the battery charger to accept charging it.

But how did it happen? It seems that somebody jammed the buckle of the seat belt in the front passenger door, so it didn't shut properly, and the inside red warning light stayed on until it had completely discharged the battery. I had thought that modern cars cut out before damaging the battery.

And who did it? No idea. Last time I used the car was on Tuesday, and I didn't have a passenger at the time. And if somebody (presumably Yvonne or myself) were to open the passenger door, it's unlikely that we would jam the seat belt buckle in it.


Saturday, 17 May 2014 Dereel Images for 17 May 2014
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Flowers in late autumn
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

Only 2 weeks until the beginning of winter, and it shows:


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But the weather has been unseasonally warm—a maximum of 21.3° today, and it's been like that most of the week. There aren't as many flowers as there should be in the summer, of course, but there are still quite a few. Particularly the roses are flowering better than in the summer:


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Sudden traffic increase
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I don't monitor my external web site traffic very frequently, but RootBSD supply some useful tools. Today I took a look and discovered that I had used about 280 GB since the beginning of the month. That's a little more than average for the whole month. Looking at the graphs showed that most of it had occurred in the past two days. Time to look at the log files:

dsl-hkibrasgw1-58c393-42.dhcp.inet.fi - - [13/May/2014:12:41:18 -0400] "GET /grog/diary-aug2010.php?dirdate=20100409&imagesizes=1111111111111111111121111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 HTTP/1.0" 200 521410 "-" "Riddler (http://riddler.io/about.html)"
ec2-54-87-63-67.compute-1.amazonaws.com - - [13/May/2014:12:43:08 -0400] "GET /grog/diary-nov2009.php?dirdate=20091111&imagesizes=111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111112111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 HTTP/1.0" 200 509842 "-" "Riddler (http://riddler.io/about.html)"
ec2-54-211-80-117.compute-1.amazonaws.com - - [13/May/2014:12:43:52 -0400] "GET /grog/diary-nov2009.php?dirdate=20091113&imagesizes=111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 HTTP/1.0" 200 501004 "-" "Riddler (http://riddler.io/about.html)"
ec2-54-87-63-67.compute-1.amazonaws.com - - [13/May/2014:12:44:03 -0400] "GET /grog/diary-aug2011.php?dirdate=20110822&imagesizes=111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111211111111111111111111111 HTTP/1.0" 200 502215 "-" "Riddler (http://riddler.io/about.html)"

On the face of it, that's not a particularly high hit rate, but each page is from my diary, and it averages 500 kB. Clearly there are things that I should do:

They're not the only ones with strange URLs. A couple of sites with no reverse DNS keep asking for things like this:

93.125.1.70 - - [09/Apr/2014:14:15:54 -0400] "GET /grog/photos/Bigphoto.php?dirdate=20080505%E2%84%91=cameras.listings.amateur-teen-sex.naked-porn.eu/cajun-girl.html.au.gif&width=100%25%25 HTTP/1.1" 200 7850 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; Intel Mac OS X 10_8_2) AppleWebKit/537.17 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/24.0.1309.0 Safari/537.17"
93.125.1.70 - - [09/Apr/2014:14:25:32 -0400] "GET /grog/photos/Bigphoto.php?dirdate=20080505%E2%84%91=cameras.listings.amateur-teen-sex-pic.new-hot-porn.eu/sora-kairi-porn.html.au.gif&width=100%25%25 HTTP/1.1" 200 7938 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; Intel Mac OS X 10_8_2) AppleWebKit/537.17 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/24.0.1309.0 Safari/537.17"
93.125.1.70 - - [09/Apr/2014:14:25:42 -0400] "GET /grog/photos/Bigphoto.php?dirdate=20080505%E2%84%91=cameras.listings.amateur-teen-sex-pic.new-hot-porn.eu/sexy-girl-fucking-braless.html.au.gif&width=100%25%25 HTTP/1.1" 200 8018 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; Intel Mac OS X 10_8_2) AppleWebKit/537.17 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/24.0.1309.0 Safari/537.17"

I don't run a porn site, of course. So why am I returning 200? Because they're just (invalid) date parameters, and they receive an error page. Why are they doing this? They're not alone: there's also 134.17.134.83. Both, it seems, are located in Byelarus, behind the domain belpak.by:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/17) ~/Photos/20140517 610 -> traceroute 134.17.134.83
...
18  100ge.core.belpak.by (93.85.80.150)  409.936 ms  414.764 ms  405.065 ms
19  178.124.168.46 (178.124.168.46)  414.916 ms  408.750 ms  410.958 ms
20  * * *
^C
=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/18) ~/Photos/20140517 611 -> traceroute 93.125.1.70
...
28  100ge.core.belpak.by (93.85.80.138)  393.931 ms  390.803 ms  375.027 ms
29  isp.belpak.by (86.57.252.5)  369.970 ms  383.843 ms  389.994 ms
20  * * *
^C

But at least the pages they load are much smaller.


Animal photography: needs improvement
Topic: photography, animals Link here

Out with my camera and the new lens today with the intention of taking video. Somehow things don't work as well as they should. I still have this issue with focus:

Also some stills of the dogs running around. This one is frustratingly close to being useful:


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That was taken at 1/125 s and f/8. Looking at the depth of field, I shouldn't go much wider than f/8 (and in any case, this lens is limited to about f/5.6 at that focal length). What do I need? 1/1000 seems about the minimum. To be experimented with.


Double cream
Topic: food and drink, general, opinion Link here

Yvonne bought and whipped double cream for our dessert. It's certainly firm:


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Sunday, 18 May 2014 Dereel Images for 18 May 2014
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Raw image processing, more options
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

We've been discussing processing software on the German Olympus Forum, and Subhash claimed that I can get good distortion correction from Adobe products. OK, there's this product called Camera raw. How do I run it? It seems to be intended as a plugin for Photoshop, but there's also a suggestion that it works with Adobe's DNG converter. And that's a free download. Tried that, but the combination of various third-party tutorials and what intuition I could raise weren't sufficient: it seems that to use it I probably do need to use one of Adobe's products. And I had already tried Lightroom and given up because of the baroque way it wants me to think. Spent more time messing around with the DNG converter, and didn't get beyond the fact that an empty directory display window doesn't mean that there's nothing in there that it can process. It seems that it just doesn't tell you what it's doing. Why is this stuff so complicated?


Tanya does a runner
Topic: animals Link here

Yvonne was at Chris Bahlo's place today, and the dogs (Tanya and Nikolai) wanted to go outside. Not a problem. I put Nikolai on a leash and went out with the two; Tanya always follows.

But not today. A car drove past, and Tanya set off in hot pursuit. Fortunately she didn't catch it, but she also didn't come back, and I had to follow her down to Jenny Bartlett's old house. Even then she didn't come when called.


Sate with ketupat
Topic: food and drink, language, opinion Link here

One of my favourite dishes in my youth was satay (or was that sateh?). In any case, it's neither any more: since the advent of the ejaan baru it's sate.

Basically, sate is simple: meat on skewers. But there are three things that make it distinctive: the marinade, the sauce and the ketupat.

Ketupat are one of those things that are simple to make in their environment and almost impossible to make here: take some rice, wrap it up in palm leaves and cook it. The palm leaves press the cooking rice together, and what you have in the end is a cake that you then cut into pieces:


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But where do you get suitable palm leaves in Australia, or most of the world? I've been trying without success to find a way to make it. So I was happy when a couple of weeks ago in Geelong I found a package of ketupat in the Vietnamese grocery shop. Also found a combination pack of marinade and sauce for sate. And today we tried them out.

There's something obviously wrong about the marinade and sauce pack:


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It's made in Thailand, not exactly the heartland of sate. And indeed the spices seemed all wrong, and the sauce was very thin. I ended up chopping up some peanuts and adding them to the sauce.

The ketupat were a different matter. I don't know what I expected, but basically they're boil-in-bag rice:


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That's been around for decades. The difference here (I think) is that these bags are so full that the rice is compressed into a cake. I've never used boil-in-bag rice (in fact, I had to go looking for the term based on German „Kochbeutelreis“), but I assume the result isn't intended to stick together.

The rice didn't look right for ketupat: it's normal long-grain rice. More glutinous rice would have been better, and indeed the Malay page for ketupat mentions that, in the process enriching my vocabulary. I now know four words for rice in Malay:

padi       rice growing in field
beras       harvested, dry rice
pulut       glutinous rice
nasi       cooked long-grain rice

In any case, the sate didn't taste as bad as I had feared, and even Yvonne, who refused to eat the sauce (doesn't like peanuts) was quite happy. Now to find a way to make ketupat without the bags.


Washing Tanya
Topic: animals Link here

When we picked up Nikolai and Tanya, Tanya was very dirty, and Ron washed her before we left. She didn't like it, and Yvonne was worried that she would have trouble in future, so she tried very carefully in the bathtub:

Things seem OK now.


Monday, 19 May 2014 Dereel Images for 19 May 2014
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Tanya: another runner
Topic: animals Link here

Tanya must be going through a new phase of her development. While returning along Swamp Road from walking this morning, she shot off across Kleins Paddock into the scrub and couldn't be found. In the end we left her there and went home. And of course I got in the car and went looking for her. Why do I do that? I've never found a dog that way.

Drove all over the area again, once again with no luck. Then down Swamp Road. There she was on the side of the road, looking very sorry for herself. I suspect that she had thought that we would still be there when we got back, and was rather horrified to find herself lost. In any case, no harm done, but it looks like it's now her turn to be on the lead most of the time.


Old dogs, new tricks
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

During the course that Yvonne and I did with Tanya and Nikolai a few months ago, Sandra, the trainer, said that it was almost impossible to get sighthounds to sit. She should know: she breeds whippets, and she could never get them to sit.

That was a challenge for Yvonne, of course, and within a week she had taught Tanya to sit on command. It took a little longer for Nikolai, and he still only does it reliably with a hand sign, but it's working well there too. But what about Zhivago? He's over 8 years old, and though he wanted to, he had never really sat down, and he didn't know how to. The result is something like this:

If you look carefully, Zhivago is trying, but he doesn't know how to do it. But recently, to my surprise, I saw him sit down by himself, for no obvious reason—not once, but twice. So things are looking up. Strangely, though, he doesn't seem to associate it with the sitting we're asking for. Yvonne hasn't given up, though, and we're seeing signs of success:

The problem is that he doesn't seem to understand what's required of him.


Heating in Australia: not possible
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Last week Chris Middleton of Middletons Heating & Cooling had sent me a quotation for ducted air conditioning—without thermostats and with a “constant zone”, a part of the house that is always turned on whether we want it or not. I asked him to redesign, and had a chat with him today. No, sorry, can't do that. If you don't have a constant zone, the pressure in the ducts will build up to a point that they will burst. Why? From his point of view, because that's the way it is.

From a more balanced point of view, it's because the fans only have two speeds and can't be regulated. And he also mentioned a point that I had known but forgotten: Daikin measure the temperature of the return air. That's another flagrant violation of basic principle of control systems (“measure the variable you want to control, not something else”). The other thing is that all these units are designed to have only a single thermostat, so anything you add to that will just add cost and not get fed back to the master electronics.

It seems that Daikin are working on something better, though it's not clear that it's not just a smart phone app to require a wireless network connection to control no more than you could before. Another problem of ducted heating is that the ducts may go to each room, but there's typically only one return air. So either you leave all the doors open or put up with suboptimal performance and wind whistling under the door. When are they going to get out of the 1950s?

So we're no closer to sensible heating than we were 5 months ago. Today I went looking for alternatives, and found some documents on the Heating & Cooling Alliance of Australia web site (why do all these people have an & in their names?). They have a Guide to Systerm Selection in PDF format, 14 pages with all details—and not a word lost on temperature control. Are these people all living in caves?

I really don't know where to go. Maybe hydronic is the best option after all, despite the cost. At least you have individual temperature control—for heating only.


Sate quantities
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Yvonne wanted to eat sate again today, the rest of the sticks that I marinated yesterday. To my surprise, that meant making new ketupat as well. And we ran out of sauce, although Yvonne didn't eat any. Somehow the quantities aren't what I expected.

We eat less than most people, but the 700 g chicken breast that I processed was just sufficient for four portions. I'd guess that 250 g per portion would be a better quantity. And for that, we'd need probably 60 g rice per portion.

And the sauce? I made a total of probably 250 ml. That seems like quite a bit for only two portions, but it was barely enough. Probably 150 ml per portion would be a better quantity.


Tuesday, 20 May 2014 Dereel
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More house pain
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

More investigation of air conditioners today. I've come up with a scenario that the system should be able to cope with: it's a warm summer's day, 35° outside, and we're in the lounge room at a comfortable 24°. In the other rooms the temperatures are closer to 30°. And then my old mate Fritz turns up out of the blue, and we invite him to stay the night. Fritz sleeps cool, so we need to get the temperature in the bedroom down to 18°.

No problem, right? But none of the ducted systems can handle it. Since the lounge room is already at the desired temperature, the unit is running pretty much on idle. And the cooling in the bedroom will be minimal. And that's the problem I've been complaining about.

None of this is rocket science, but you wouldn't know that if you ask most installation companies. Decided to call up the manufacturers. I already know about Fujitsu and Daikin. What other manufacturers are there? Went looking and came up with Mitsubishi and Hitachi (which they pronounce to rhyme with “High tacky”). Called both up and got the news that it would take a long time, and would I like a call back?

No call from Mitsubishi, but I gota a call back from Russell of Temperzone, who seem to be the Australian representatives of Hitachi—not exactly a convincing impression for a world-class company. But he knew what he was talking about, and he came up with something that might be the solution: VRF, which proves to be a line of equipment that I didn't find on their web site. VRF stands for “Variable Refrigerant Flow”, which in itself doesn't say very much, but basically it's a heat exchanger in each zone. Each with its own thermostat, no separate return air, and they can even heat in one zone and cool in another. The only question is price, and he couldn't even give me a rough estimate. Still, it's likely to come much cheaper than a separate heat pump solution.

Went looking for retailers. There's nobody in Ballarat: the closest is in Geelong. The lack of coverage is a minor worry, but if the equipment does the job, it should be worth it. Called up Connectair and spoke to Frank, who is prepared to make a quote, so sent off the documents.


Planning permit: when?
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Yvonne has been pushing me to hurry the council along with issuing the planning permit. Admittedly, at the end of March, they told me that it would typically take about 6 weeks. That would have been a week ago, but instead I had to fill out a meaningless Biodiversity Assessment Report. While talking to Bram Müller about it, discovered that it was the result of a site visit they had made some weeks earlier.

Today called up Mathew Mertuszka and confirmed that yes, it was just another box to tick, and that they had sent it along with the other documentation to the CFA for their perusal. That's the longest part of the process! The CFA has 4 weeks to respond, so it could be up to another 3 weeks before the permit is issued. Mathew thinks that it'll be faster, and as soon as it's in, they can issue the permit. I suppose the real question is whether it's in the critical path or not: we still have JG King to contend with.


Weed spraying
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

Craig Mayor over today to spray the weeds in the garden. He mixed in some red dye so that he could know what he had sprayed and what not. The results were less than pretty. Apart from the dogs getting red feet and myself getting red smudges on my hands (why?), the dye is quite obtrusive:


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We'll have to find a better way next time.


Wednesday, 21 May 2014 Dereel
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Monitor damage?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I've been quite happy with the Matrix NEO 270WQ 2560×1440 monitor that I bought 18 months ago. The price was right, and it works well—most of the time. About one time out of 10, when I turn it on, the display is scrambled, just a lot of vertical lines. I've found that switching to a different vty or X server gets rid of that.

When I came into the office this morning, it happened again. But this time I was so engrossed in an IRC topic on monitor 3 that I didn't notice for several minutes. And when I did the switch, there were residual vertical lines on the display. Burning? Or some other damage? Tried switching to a vty, with no obvious improvement. Turned it off and considered what to do. Decided that one of the possibilities was really overheating, so after about 5 minutes I turned it on again. Back to normal. But that's clearly something I need to keep my eyes on. Who said that the days of potential monitor damage ended with CRT displays?


House extras: decided
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

I've been talking with Tessa Ambrose of JG King about extras for the house for over a week now. They weren't made any easier by the exceptionally high costs for electrical extras: $834 for a TV antenna, $1,520 for 8 Ethernet cables, and a staggering $2,563 for unterminated fibre in the walls, a total only just short of $5,000. Called up Stewart Summersby and discussed the matter with him. It looks like the best option would be to get him to cable the whole house. Normal electrics are straightforward enough, but Stewart also has experience with battery-backed solar panels, and he seemed to agree with my plans to keep low-power circuits on battery and only use Powercor for higher consumption circuits. He'll be around on Friday, so we can talk about it more then.

Apart from that, there was a question of $1,500 for “Provide category B drawing in lieu of category A to meet client requested drawing alterations”. That wasn't agreed when we signed our preliminary contract, and Tom Tyler told us explicitly that it wouldn't be the case unless we wanted changes after the drawings had been completed (which in this offer would be an additional $600). This isn't the first time that Tessa has changed something that was agreed to: we also have an additional $65 for a window change. Sent her a message asking what the justification for that was, and whether she intended to spring any further costs on me.

She called back and basically said that Tom shouldn't have said that, and that apart from that there would be no additional charges. All well and good, but we signed an agreement, and they should honour it. And during the discussion discovered that if we change anything in this agreement after the signature, there will be an additional fee, nominally $1,000, for any further change—even something as simple as deciding not to take their TV antenna. I can't see any justification for that, but it suggests that we should get as much as possible done by others.

Apart from that there wasn't much to discuss, apart from the fact that about 6 of the items are still guesstimates, and she can't get a definitive price until I agree to them. Somehow this is all the wrong way round. But that's only a preliminary agreement: if I don't like the pricing, I can still refuse them without financial penalty.

What a pain! I feel like they're taking advantage of my position.


Air conditioning: one supplier less
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Mail from John Stevens in Ballarat today. They've decided that they don't have the capacity to offer to do the air conditioning for us. Nice of them to say so, but it was unexpected, and somehow it's indicative of the problems we're facing.


Thursday, 22 May 2014 Dereel Images for 22 May 2014
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Give the dog a bone
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

Bumped into a number of people while walking the dogs this morning, including Zali O'Dell with new child and Bindy, a daughter of Zhivago, tied round her waist. That worries me: if Bindy decides to run and play and pull her over, the baby could be severely injured. As it was, while our dogs were there, I put Bindy on a leash and led her separately. And of course I didn't have a camera with me. I should take one every time.

One of the problems that we have when returning from walks is that Nikolai doesn't want to return, and it takes forever to get home. Today was different: I found a prototypical bone on Kleins Paddock and pointed Nikolai at it:


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He had to take it home, so for once he was fast. I had difficulty keeping him away from it long enough to get the first photo.


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Another mystery flower
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

Yvonne back round lunchtime with some cuttings of a plant I don't recognize:


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Debbie from next door had given it to her, but she didn't know what it was either—just a “native”. Yvonne hopes it will grow from cuttings, so she brought some with her and planted them:


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The real question is whether it belongs to the Proteaceae or not, since they're particularly sensitive to phosphorus.


Mail address harvesters
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Spam's a fact of life, of course, but occasionally I see things that are a little unusual:

 740 N   21-05-2014 PlatinumPfizer       To bloedmann    (  12) N   Mr. bloedmann, Ready For 71% OFF?
 743 N F 21-05-2014 To freebeer          To freebeer     (  12) N F Mr. freebeer, Ready For 71% OFF?
 745 N + 22-05-2014 PlatinumPfizer       To brewer       (  12)   + Mr. brewer, Ready For 71% OFF?
 747 N   21-05-2014 PlatinumPfizer       To daemon       (  12) N   Mr. daemon, Ready For 71% OFF?
 748 N   21-05-2014 PlatinumPfizer       To exetel       (  12) N   Mr. exetel, Ready For 71% OFF?
 749 N F 21-05-2014 To myebay            To myebay       (  12) N F Mr. myebay, Ready For 71% OFF?
 751 N   21-05-2014 PlatinumPfizer       To mypaypal     (  12) N   Mr. mypaypal, Ready For 71% OFF?
 753 N   21-05-2014 PlatinumPfizer       To growmaster   (  12) N   Mr. growmaster, Ready For 71% OFF?
 755 N   21-05-2014 PlatinumPfizer       To oly-e        (  12) N   Mr. oly-e, Ready For 71% OFF?
 757 N   21-05-2014 PlatinumPfizer       To serif        (  12) N   Mr. serif, Ready For 71% OFF?

Most of these addresses are one-off addresses that I tie to specific sites, like http://www.growmaster.com.au, http://www.serif.com and http://www.exetel.com.au/. That means that I can just delete them, like I've done for those sites. I've changed the others, of course, but they include my eBay and PayPal accounts. How are these people getting such a broad range of addresses?


Dying freezer?
Topic: general Link here

Yvonne bought some chicken frames for the dogs yesterday, like she does most weeks. She puts them in the freezer and thaws out a pair a day. But by this evening they still hadn't frozen!

Further investigation shows that the freezer is cooling, but slowly, and the compressor is running constantly. High time for a new freezer.


Friday, 23 May 2014 Dereel
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House electrics
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Stewart Summersby along this morning to talk about the electrics in the house. He was amazed to hear what JG King wanted for TV antenna and network. Also a bit of discussion about solar electricity: as I feared, Stewart confirmed that a UPS is probably not the best way to provide battery power, since they're not really intended for continuous use. There should be purpose built inverters available for a similar price. So now he's off to do his sums.


House contract
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Also heard from Tessa Ambrose with a “final” quote for the house, still with no less than 4 “provisional” items and at least one incorrect item. It seems that I have to sign this contract, and if I want any change it'll cost me $1,000. Under those circumstances the very least I would expect is that the quotation is complete. I'm getting rather fed up with the way they're running things.


New freezer
Topic: general, opinion Link here

So we need a new freezer. Not such a big deal; the old one must be the best part of 15 years old, and hopefully the power consumption of a modern one will be less. But what model do I choose, and where do I get one?

Looked on the web and found that there's not much choice, basically Electrolux or Westinghouse (same company, different badge) or Fisher and Paykel (the makers of our current freezer). We were hoping for something bigger than our current freezer, but it seems that with an estimated 389 l, it's pretty much the biggest upright freezer available, with the exception of Harvey Norman's offer of a Míele Mastercool F 1811 VI with a claimed 495 l—and a $12,999 price tag! And at that price, the thing still doesn't have baskets, so you can't utilize the space as well as in a freezer with baskets. And the manufacturer's page claims only 403 l. That could be due to different ways of measuring the volume, but I'm reminded of the nickname “Hardly Normal”.

We can get chest freezers cheaper and bigger, with volumes of up to 700 l. But it seems they all need regular defrosting, and in any case, where would we put a 700 l chest freezer? They cover a surface area of 1.7 × 0.7 m. It doesn't have to be that big, of course, but it's clear that a chest freezer takes up more space than an upright freezer, and almost none of them seem to have enough baskets.

So: what can we get? After some deliberation, decided on what looks like exactly the same model that we already have. But it's not available everywhere. It seems that the local Ballarat shops don't sell it, and Staticice gave me only 5 sources. Seconds World offered by far the best price, at $1,231—until we factored in the shipping cost of $298.51. In the end the second most expensive offering, from Appliances Online, proved cheapest: $1,339, but only $50 shipping, about as much as we pay the The Good Guys to deliver from Ballarat. So that's what we chose. And they're promising delivery on the coming Thursday.

In passing, it's interesting that the web is becoming competitive even for big things like freezers. How long will it be before traditional retail outlets become the exception rather than the rule?


Saturday, 24 May 2014 Dereel Images for 24 May 2014
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Zhivago: So nice, so nice, we do it twice
Topic: animals Link here

Somehow the dogs are taking turns at running away while we walk them. Today it was Zhivago, and we didn't have time to look for him, because Yvonne had to take Tanya to dog training. So based on the fact that he had always come back before, we just waited for him to return.

About half an hour later I heard Nikolai whining, so I assumed Zhivago was back. What I saw wasn't Zhivago. In fact, it was very close to this image:


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That was taken in exactly the same place, but 7 years ago. By the time I returned with a camera, Lilac was gone, the rabbit was gone, and a very wet Zhivago had taken their place:


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But he hadn't done much with the rabbit beyond moving it away a little bit:


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Maybe Lilac did that, of course.

While I was pondering this, and also trying to keep Nikolai from getting at the rabbit, Don Fortescue arrived unannounced to spray the paddocks. Zhivago took the opportunity to break into the house, leaving his rabbit behind and dripping water all the way to Yvonne's office:


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Don wanted water, so I went to show him, and when I got back Nikolai had opened the door and stolen the rabbit, and was in the dog run eating it:


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But why did Zhivago let Nikolai take his rabbit? We got a clue in the evening. He didn't want to eat anything. My best bet is that this was the second rabbit that he caught in that time, and that he had already eaten the first one.

We originally thought that he had got wet in the lagoon, but the fountain in the pond had been knocked over, so probably he had had a bath there before returning. Quite an impressive feat for a time of only about 35 minutes.


Mystery “native” identified
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

While in town, Yvonne took a cutting of her mystery “native” to a nursery for identification. They said Grevillea Deau, which proved to be a misspelling of a pseudocultivar name for Grevillea rhyolitica.

That name rang a bell, and sure enough, I discovered that we had bought and planted one 5 years ago. Where is it? Where did we plant it? I didn't say, but it looks as if it didn't survive.

On a more positive note, the web page notes that the preferred way to propagate this species and Grevilleas in general is from cuttings, so hopefully they'll take.


More flash experiments
Topic: food and drink, photography, opinion Link here

Margaret is here for a couple of days, so we had more vegetarian food. Well, sort of. We had a raclette, so Margaret was able to make vegetarian servings, while we ate ham as well. She had bought quite a good wine with her, not to mention a green walnut aperitive, and all were merry. Took the usual silly photos as a result:


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And then there's the eternal flash problem. Here are some that didn't work out as well:


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The reflection of the flash in the TV is difficult to get rid of, and having the flash on the camera makes consistent exposure an issue, as the second photo shows. But it's not clear why the last image was exposed so unevenly. In any case, time for bounce flash. And that quickly drained the batteries in the flash. So: use a studio flash unit. And indeed, that worked relatively well. I put the little Meike flash on the camera, with the power set to manual and 1/128 strength, so it didn't really do much except trigger the slave. But the units are possibly a little weak, and I had to set the aperture to f/5.6. Time for new flashes?


Time for new NiZn batteries?
Topic: general, opinion Link here

The other issue with the flash was the batteries. OK, put in new batteries, continue. Nope. The new batteries seemed even worse. Checked the voltages: they're NiZn batteries, charged only 6 weeks ago, but they now had voltages of 1.558 V, 1.133 V, 1.303 V and 0.909 V. They should all have had at least 1.6 V. They're only a little over 2 years old, but I was somehow expecting inconsistent quality and short life for such a new technology, so probably it's time to give up on those cells and buy some new ones.


Sunday, 25 May 2014 Dereel Images for 25 May 2014
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More photo software
Topic: photography, technology Link here

Recently I've been taking more and more videos, and Yvonne has been doing it for a long time. They're potentially much larger than photos, so it's impractical to store them on our web site. That's what YouTube is for, right? But how do I integrate the images into my web page?

I made the first step a few years ago with the PHP function youtube (), which effectively inserts:

    print <<< EOS
<iframe width="$width"
            height="$height"
            src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/$id"
            frameborder="0">
     </iframe>

EOS;

But there's much more to do. Firstly, we have the originals on our local network, so why download reprocessed videos from YouTube? The script should take a second parameter, the location of a local copy, and give that the preference. And then we need to assign names to the video clips, since YouTube incorporates the source file name in the clip. So today I started by incorporating the video clips into my contact print page. That's progressing relatively well. When that's done I can look at the issue of preparing the web pages based on that information.

What use is this to anybody else? Very little, I fear. It's very much tailored to my environment. But the alternative point-and-grunt interface is not really an option.


Monday, 26 May 2014 Dereel Images for 26 May 2014
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More house specification pain
Topic: general, opinion, Stones Road house Link here

I've been trying to get a number of details from Tessa Ambrose, including stuff that Stewart Summersby needs to know for his electrical quote: how many power and lighting circuits, and how are they laid out? Today I got a reply from Tessa: a switchboard layout, something that she had already sent me 2 weeks ago. Only this time it was different:

Today       13 May
not mentioned       80A main switch
1x 50amp circuit breaker       not mentioned
not mentioned       2 20A circuit breakers for HWS
4 x 20 amp circuit breakers       4 20A circuit breakers (same)
2 x 10 amp circuit breakers       3 10A circuit breakers
2 x 40amp rcd,s/ safety switches       3 40A RCDs

Why is this so hard? It's been 6 weeks since I first tried to contact Tom Tyler to finalize the house contract. It's been a real painful time, and we're still not done. A time line:


Tuesday, 27 May 2014 Dereel
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Another day wasted with house planning
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

I thought I was gradually getting on top of the house extras, but somehow it managed to take all day today as well. Got a reply from Tessa, not the easiest to read. I don't know if I should complain about it or recognize her attempt to answer inline rather than the typical Microsoft space “answer as much as you can remember and append the old message”. On the whole, I think that I should give her points for trying. But she took “inline” rather too literally:

I did reply to this question You haven't answered my questions about his phone number, so I gave him 5330 4444 (in email 26/05/2014 12:58 PM) and yes that phone number is correct.

My question was embedded in that line. I recognized it and discounted the whole line:

I did reply to this question You haven't answered my questions about his phone number, so I gave him 5330 4444 (in email 26/05/2014 12:58 PM) and yes that phone number is correct.

It also included this claim:

I have discussed this with my manager and he has advised that we would never provide the wiring layout. It is the responsibility of your electrician to design this layout.

Isn't that amazing? Why should they not specify the way they wire the house? And why do I get this now, when I asked for the information 2 weeks ago. Clearly this is a “this is too hard, let's refuse” answer. They also wouldn't let me speak with their electricians, who could have addressed the issue in a couple of minutes:

Unfortunately you cannot talk to our electrician, you will need to field any questions to Wayne or myself.

By chance Stewart came by while I was fighting my way through the mess, and we discussed the matter. The big problem is that JG King will only refund $3,837.80 for the house wiring, much less than it really costs. Discussed the matter, and we agreed that we'd let JG King do the house wiring, and Stewart would do the rest.

Called him up later in the afternoon. He wasn't at all happy, and didn't want to do anything any more. It seems that he thought I was trying to beat him down to JG King's price, and I had to go over to his place and smooth a few ruffled feathers. It's clear that if either he or JG King would do all the work, he would come in far cheaper: their pricing for network and TV made sure of that. But the real decider was the fact that I can talk to him, and make changes if necessary. I've spent 2 weeks of hell trying to get a straight answer out of JG King, and if we change anything afterwards, it'll incur a fee of at least $200. It's just too much pain.


Planning permit: approved
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

On the positive side, got a call fro Mathew Mertuszka of the Golden Plains Council this morning: the application for planning permit has been approved, and we should have it by the end of next week at the latest. It's beginning to look as if JG King will take even longer than the council to get their act together.


Wednesday, 28 May 2014 Dereel
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Online deliveries?
Topic: general, opinion Link here

While I was lying in bed at 7:30 this morning, the phone rang. Maybe we should really have phones by the bed. Yvonne was in the shower, so I decided that it couldn't be important, and let it ring.

Later, while I was in the shower, it went off again. It proved that Yvonne was out feeding the horses, so again it was unanswered.

Finally a call from Lauri at Appliances Online. It seems that it was the delivery company for our new freezer, which wasn't due until tomorrow. Confirmed that the phone number was correct (she shouldn't have needed confirmation, since she reached me) and asked to have the freezer delivered today. Nothing happened.


Facebook tracks me!
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

BSDCan is over, but not forgotten. David Maxwell posted a photo of a whole lot of us, including not only me, but also Jordan Hubbard, Kirk McKusick and Randi Harper.

Problem: none of us were there. Jordan and Randi confirmed it,and I can't see Kirk there. In fact, I haven't been out of Australia for 8 years, coincidentally after returning from BSDCan 2006. Why did David claim we were there?

Why, did David claim we were there? No. It seems that Facebook decided that it recognized us there. It's clearly not very clever: as far as I can see, all the people in the photo are male, but it seems that Tamara Colby (whom I don't know) is female, and so is Randi. In some cases, notably Jordan, Kirk and myself, it even identifies the faces that it thinks are us if you run the cursor over the name. From left to right “Jordan”, “Kirk” and myself:

 
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None of those photos look anything like us. How did it make such erroneous claims, and that without warning David? Now I suppose I'm on file with the NSA as having been there.

Later Jordan Hubbard admitted to having faked most of the identifications. It seems that something (or somebody?) incorrectly identified him, so he added a few more to make it worthwhile.


Thursday, 29 May 2014 Dereel Images for 29 May 2014
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ANZ card registration
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

Yet Another set of cards from ANZ bank today, this time combined ATM and Visa debit cards. It seems only a few months ago since we received the last ones, but in fact it was 3 years.

Along with the cards came instructions on how to register them. Although signatures are no longer required, they say that we should first sign them. Then we should call 1800 652 033 to activate them.

But that's not what it said on the card:


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OK, log on to... what? Where's the URL? It's https://www.anz.com/INETBANK/bankmain.asp, not something that you could easily guess, though if you have an account, you can probably find it. And it pops up this almost empty 2560×1440 window with a couple of menu items at top left, none of which relate to card activation. But then, isn't that what the web's for, to search? Third time and two menu levels further, and I was lucky. And since I was logged in, all I needed to do was to type in the card number, carefully avoiding the spaces. Box “activate dependent” cards? That must be Yvonne's card. Ticked that, and sure enough, I got a message saying “Card activated”. Which card or cards? They're far to leet to tell me that.

OK, let's try activating Yvonne's card:


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“We are unable to activate your card online”. What does that mean? Because it's already activated? Because their web programmers are also too leet to give any reasons? I'm guessing the former. Yvonne will find out next time she tries to pay with it.


Freezers: 15 years without progress
Topic: general Link here

Mail from Lauri Cohen of Appliances online today, asking me for a phone number on which the delivery company for our freezer could call us, since the one she called me on yesterday obviously didn't work. I replied with the obvious answer, but got no call.

Instead a bloke showed up round midday with the freezer. They're based in Ballarat, which explains the low freight costs. And yes, we got our freezer on the date specified, at well below normal retail prices. I can see department stores (in German „Warenhaus“) being replaced by companies like these, with only a local warehouse (German „Lager“, meaning “store”). We're in for a turbulent change in the way business is done.

But that's the Internet. What about the freezer? It's almost identical in appearance to the one we bought 15 years ago. The biggest difference is that the baskets are made of thinner gauge wire, and the logo has changed. At least it had the advantage that I was able to transfer the baskets from the old freezer to the new freezer with no difficulty at all. I only hope that the thing is more economical.


More NiZn insights
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

The NiZn batteries in my mouse were discharged and needed changing today. There are two, and they're in parallel. On removal the voltages were 0.387 V and 0.630 V. That's surprising for two reasons: firstly, being in parallel the voltages should have been very close. Secondly, they're far too low: a discharged NiZn battery has about 1.55 V. But until yesterday evening the mouse worked normally. What happened?

One issue with batteries in parallel is that they need to discharge at the same rate. That implies very consistent characteristics. The fact that the two batteries had such markedly different voltages after discharge shows that that's not the case here. Interestingly, after recharge they also different, but in the other way round: 1.829 V (normal) and 1.751 V (rather low) respectively.

What can I do about it? Clearly the reason for the batteries in parallel is to supply more current. But a NiZn battery does that anyway. So from now on I run it with only one battery.


Friday, 30 May 2014 Dereel Images for 30 May 2014
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Walking with Zali and Bindy
Topic: animals Link here

Zali O'Dea along today with daughter Roni and dog Bindy to take the dogs for a walk:


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At least this time she was happier with me taking Bindy, and noted, presumably with interest, that Bindy nearly pulled me off my feet. It certainly did her good to run around a bit:


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It's a pity it's so difficult to get good photos of these things, especially when you have a very excited dog on a leash as well. But gradually they're all learning to sit:


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On the way home, Zhivago ran off again, apparently after a rabbit. He didn't return the way he did on Saturday, and Yvonne went off looking for him. And she found him, down Swamp Road. It wasn't until the evening, when he refused his food again, that we decided he must have caught at least one rabbit.


Planning permit issued
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Call from Kirsty Blake at the Golden Plains Council this afternoon: we have a house number, 29 Stones Road, Dereel. She also announced the arrival of the Planning Permit, and sure enough, it arrived shortly before close of business.

Spent some time working through it—it's 21 pages in length and has 19 conditions, including duplicates, and many with subconditions. But as far as I can see it's basically all boilerplate, and it includes such irrelevant requirements as that the driveway have no more than 14.4% (!) gradient—this on a plot that, to all intents and purposes, is completely flat. Half of the permit is a copy of this nonsensical Biodiversity Assessment Report that I supplied three weeks ago.

Still, it's done, in 8½ weeks instead of the projected 6, but still considerably faster than I had expected, and fast enough that JG King's planning department has become the critical path. Questions remain, in particular in regard to this stupid biodiversity thing. At our discussion two months ago I was told that I would have to plant 4 times as much as I removed. But the condition in the planning permit reads:

Before any native vegetation is removed, evidence that an offset has been secured must be provided to the satisfaction of the responsible authority. This offset must meet the offset requirements set out in this permit and be in accordance with the requirements of Permitted clearing of native vegetation - Biodiversity assessment guidelines and the Native vegetation gain scoring manual. Offset evidence can be either:

a) a security agreement such as a Section 173 agreement for the offset site or sites, including a 10 year offset management plan.

b) a credit register extract from the Native Vegetation Credit Register.

For Foo's sake! We're removing some Acacia melanoxylon, hardly an endangered species. This sounds more like some international treaty.

Anyway, it's becoming clear that we'll have work to do next week. If I understand the permit, we can get started with the driveway and the shed right away. Power is still a problem, because it could depend on the heating system we use. It seems unlikely that we'll get an air conditioning compressor that will use less than 25 A, which means we'll probably need single phase power. And that limits the entire house to 40 A.


Walking the dogs
Topic: animals, general Link here

To celebrate the planning permit, decided to walk the dogs along Spearys Road, which resembles the forest where we are now. We had hoped to be able to get through to the other end (Rozenstein Road, currently not identified on Google Maps), but it petered out into nothing. It wasn't until we got home that I discovered that it veered too far to the north.

Apart from that, it's not much good anyway: too many kangaroos, and lots of old mine shafts from the gold-digging days. We'll have to check other alternatives.


Olympus firmware update revisited
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

There's more new firmware for our Olympus cameras. Last month I had a really bad time fighting the broken software that they insist you use for the update, and I had got as far as installing USBPcap to trace the USB bus traffic. But I really didn't have the time today, and for once one of the updates (improve focus speed for Four thirds lenses on the OM-D E-M1) was important enough that I didn't want to wait.

So I tried, and confirmed that the problem is still there, and it also occurs with the E-PM2. And again it worked with my ancient Apple, once again at a snail's pace. Why is it so slow? Took a look with tcpdump, but it looks as if what I saw was irrelevant. boskoop only has USB 1.0, so that's probably the reason.


Saturday, 31 May 2014 Dereel Images for 31 May 2014
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Native vegetation offsets: feral bureaucracy or satire?
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Spent more time looking at our planning permit today. I get the feeling that some of the CFA requirements aren't as draconian as I recall them. In particular, it seems that we are allowed to plant trees in the inner zone, as long as there aren't too many. In fact, it seems that we don't really need to remove the trees round the pond after all.

But problems came from an almost completely unexpected direction: the Biodiversity Assessment Report. I noticed this yesterday, but it hadn't sunk in. A 10 year offset management plan! What kind of rabid nonsense is that? Went looking on the web for details, and discovered a Native Vegetation Scoring Manual (78 pages) and a First party general offset kit (34 pages), both of which seem to be so completely over the top that I'm wondering whether it's the revenge of a slighted bureaucrat or an attempt at satire. Here's an example of the sort of thing that I apparently need to do to resettle a couple of wattles:


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And then there are things like not being allowed to have horses in the area, dedicating a minimum of a hectare to native vegetation, and not removing any plants even when they're dead. At the council they told me all I needed to do was to plant some more natives elsewhere on the property. Probably that's what it will come to, but what is all this nonsense?


Satay again
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Yvonne so liked the satay that we had a couple of weeks ago that we made it again today for Chris Bahlo's weekly visit.

Satay? Isn't the modern spelling Sate? Yes, but it's confusing, and most people only know the old spelling, so for the time being I'll stick with it.

We couldn't find any other spices than the ones we used last time, but Yvonne did find some satay sauce from Yeos. It was very expensive, but the colour looked right, so I used it as a backup for my own attempts to make the kind of sauce I knew.

That was difficult enough. The sauce in the spice package did have some peanuts in it, but not nearly enough, so I added 100 g of roasted peanuts. That in itself was a pain: they needed to be peeled, and they needed to be crushed. It took about 15 minutes, and the result at the end wasn't very good.

But it didn't taste bad. The Yeos sauce did, and we left it. Yeos puzzle me. They make their products locally (either in Singapore or across the causeway in Johor, it seems), but the results don't always seem very authentic. And what's with this spelling Sambal Oeleck? As far as I can tell it was never spelt that way, and “Sambal Oelek” is also obsolete. But where do you find the (correct) spelling “Sambal Ulek”?


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