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May 2016
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Sunday, 1 May 2016 Dereel Images for 1 May 2016
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Autumn!
Topic: general Link here

I suspect that last month (April) is a good contender for being the warmest April on record.

In fact it was only the second warmest.

Though we're two-thirds of the way through autumn, it seemed like summer. But things changed overnight, and we had a storm that deposited 17 mm rain overnight, and the temperatures dropped to a more seasonal 15°.


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Even the trough round where the winter garden should be was full, for the first time that I can recall:


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Another RCD issue
Topic: general Link here

What comes with storms? Power failures! Woke up at about 3:15 to find that once again we had no power. How long was it out for? Difficult to say: the RCD had tripped again, of course, and the only device with a clock that was not on it was the oven, which is too polite to start counting before the time has been set. But cvr2 had been recording, and it stopped at 1:14, so power had been out for well over 2 hours. I really must do something about the matter.


Monday, 2 May 2016 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel
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Fixing the RCD issues
Topic: Stones Road house, general, opinion Link here

The problems with the RCD are becoming intolerable. I should have contacted Jim Lannen months ago, but I wanted to prepare a complete overview of the mess he has made, and I wasn't looking forward to the discussion. But I had to overcome that, and today I did.

My concerns were valid. Although I stayed completely objective, he did not. He wanted money to fix the RCD problem! And when I told him it was his obligation, and that there were many other issues, he became downright insulting, calling me a “serial whinger” of whom he had been warned before he took on the work.

Who would have warned him? Stewart Summersby? And given the number of faults I put up with, I find that particularly unfriendly. Probably he was annoyed because of my refusal to pay his ridiculous invoice of 21 April last year (not mentioned in the diary at the time).

Still, that makes one thing simpler. He owes me over $1,500 for work not done, but has serious financial problems (or had, at any rate, this time last year), and I had wanted to help him by getting him to work it off, despite my concerns. Now there's no question of that.

Started writing down a litany of the problems we have had, and called up CAV, who confirmed my views. One of the interesting things is that I don't need to give him the opportunity to fix it if I don't want, though I think it's only fair. But documenting the issue is a lot of work!


Time to repair the E-M1
Topic: photography Link here

A couple of months ago I received confirmation that Olympus would replace the burnt viewfinder of my OM-D E-M1 at their expense, and even immediately. At the time Yvonne's E-PM2 was in repair, so I couldn't send it off right away, and since then I've been waiting for a good time. But gradually it's time, so today I confirmed that they had the viewfinders in stock, so into town and sent the camera off, this time express, with the promise that it would be there tomorrow morning. If things work, I could have it back by the weekend. Well, one can hope.


More stove investigations
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

While in town, dropped into the Good Guys to look at stoves (“cooktops”). They're all smaller than the corresponding free-standing cookers, but none are as small as ours. The main issue is the depth, which ranges between 51 cm and 44 cm (free-standing cookers typically have 53 cm). Ours is only 40 cm deep, fully 25% less space than the best ones. Dropped in to JG King in Lucas to look there. Even their cheap houses have a full-sized cooker. So for my $402 extra I have received a cooker that is far inferior to the standard issue. More documentation required.


NBN Satellite: Salvation!
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Julie Donaghy posted a reference to this article on Facebook today:

The National Broadband Network’s new Sky Muster satellite is now operational.

So? It seems that there are enough people waiting for it, not understanding the issues. The alternative would be to put a fixed wireless antenna on a tower. That would cost money, of course, but satellite connections are more expensive, so it could make itself paid. Time for an explanation page.


Cleaning water filters
Topic: Stones Road house, general, opinion Link here

We have two water filters: one for the ground (“bore”) water for the garden, and one for the rainwater for the house. In Kleins Road I cleaned each of them every three months: the bore water filter filled up with grit, and the rain water filter filled up with various fallen leaf material.

Today I cleaned the ones in Stones Road, the rainwater filter for the first time. It wasn't necessary: I couldn't see anything in it at all. Clearly the lack of trees has its positive sides. The bore water filter was full of fine sludge, as on previous occasions. I wonder how long that will go on for.


Tuesday, 3 May 2016 Dereel Images for 3 May 2016
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Lazy day
Topic: general Link here

It's not as if there's nothing to do; I still haven't even put Yana's belongings where they belong in the shed. But somehow the cool, windy weather was a sufficient excuse to do almost nothing all day long.


Auspost but no email
Topic: technology, photography, opinion Link here

When I took my camera to the post office yesterday, they promised me that it would be in Sydney by this morning, and that I would receive email. Given that it took them nearly a week last time, I wasn't convinced.

No email this morning. OK, where is it? Tracking number into the online tracker:

 
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Delivered! And then awaiting collection! How can that be? The wonders of reverse chronological listing! But where was my email? No sign. When will Australia Post get into the digital age?


Sasha under attack
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

A few weeks ago, Sasha had an accident in the hallway.


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After that he was a lot more careful to ensure that the wall didn't bite him again. But somehow he's now afraid again, and we can barely get him to walk down the hallway. What happened? How do we help him regain confidence?


Wednesday, 4 May 2016 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 4 May 2016
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Servicing car
Topic: general, opinion Link here

My car is due for a service. Once that was a frequent event. In October and November 1968 I must have had the car serviced 3 times.

But in those days the service interval was 5,000 km, and I drove about 15,000 km in those two months. Now the service intervals are 15,000 km. I've had my current car for 2 years, 8 months, and I've only done that distance in that time: the first service! Into town round lunch time to drop the car in, and Yvonne took me home on the way back from her weekly shopping.


Auspost delivery again
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Yesterday my camera was delivered in Sydney (more exactly, Macquarie Park). And today, when I went to get a screen shot, I found it had been delivered again!

 
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What's that about? Will they deliver it yet again tomorrow? Called up Australia Post on 03 8847 9045, a well-hidden number: they don't seem to want phone calls in the first place, but the number they give is a 13 prefix number, which costs money. There I discovered that the first delivery was to a PO Box, and that the contents are taken to the office every day by Australia Post. Strange idea, but on looking at the service forms, they specify another address elsewhere in the 8 page document (of which only the first is really important), so I suppose I'll have to accept that one as my own fault.


Trimming trees
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Powercor are in the area trimming trees near power cables again. I've always had difficulties with them (and ETSA before them when we were in South Australia) because of their drastic trimming techniques. This time we don't have an issue: no trees in the line of the power cable that runs over our property, and (fortunately) none that we plan to plant there.

But next door (the Marriotts) is a different matter, and today we found them mutilating a Eucalypt that couldn't possibly have threatened the cable:


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The cable is off to the left of the cherry picker in the first image.


Maigret de canard revisited
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Six months ago we decided that maigret de canard (grilled duck breast) is boring. But we still had one on the deep freezer, and we ate it today.

Opinion unchanged, but maybe that lies in the meat itself. What I see on the web looks very different:

Maigret de canard

That's at least twice as thick as what we get. Maybe that's the problem.


More power woes
Topic: general, opinion Link here

There's something strange about our UPS. In the evening we frequently see the lights flickering, and this evening we had no less than 5 occasions where the TV briefly lost its image. That has never happened before, though the flickering has, and I can only assume that it's due to undervoltage. But isn't that what the UPS is for? For once, anyway, I can't see that it's Jim Lannen's fault.


Thursday, 5 May 2016 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 5 May 2016
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Still more bushes
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

Mick along today to plant the 41 bushes that we bought on Saturday. He didn't get finished. It's interesting to note that if you have to pay to have your plants planted, it will cost significantly more than the plants themselves. And I still need to do the irrigation drippers myself.

Some of the bushes looked less than convincing. This Adenanthos sericeus, (Woolly bush), one of 25, has no roots!


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I wonder how many will make it.


Complaining about the electrical installation
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Jim Lannen's behaviour on Monday was inexcusable, but it had one positive outcome: I finally got round to writing a letter to him stating my demands. To my surprise, apart from the unknown sum for rewiring the UPS, the total came to $2,102.50. It looks as if it would be relatively simple to prove my claims, but it still means the whole legal apparatus. Hopefully he'll see sense and accept the demand.


Colonoscopy: the verdict?
Topic: health, opinion Link here

In to see Dr Majid today to find out the results of my colonoscopy. I'm still not certain what it was. Medical jargon must be some of the most obfuscated I know. The polyp was 6×7 mm in size with a small 2 mm stalk, a tubulovillous adenoma with moderate epithelial dysplasia. What does that mean? Dr Majid wasn't sure either. I told him that the surgeon (Dr Mohammed Al-Ansari) had told me to come back in 5 years, but he thought that after these results he might reconsider. He called up in the hospital and was actually able to locate him and get a statement. No, no change, 5 years.

I got the impression that Majid was really concerned, and it's certainly to his credit that he went to that much trouble. But what does all this stuff really mean? According to Wikipedia, a tubulovillous adenoma is not malignant, but it might become so. But dysplasia is “often indicative of an early neoplastic process”. So not quite a cancer—yet. The good news in the histopathology report was that it was entirely contained, with no part closer to 1.5 mm to the margin.

Further investigation on Wikipedia confirmed Dr Mohammed's diagnosis. The Dysplasia page currently contains:

Individuals at average-risk for colorectal cancer should have another screening after ten years if they get a normal result and after five years if they have only 1-2 adenomatous polyps removed.

So things don't look that bad.


Causes of premature death
Topic: health, general, opinion Link here

Relatively unrelated to anything else, I'm currently doing a course with Coursera on ageing, produced by the University of Melbourne. I'm ambivalent about the course; the assignments refer to material no longer easy to find on the web, the replacements are in a different format, and the course staff are not at all responsive. But there are a number of interesting things to note:


Friday, 6 May 2016 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 6 May 2016
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Visiting in nursing homes
Topic: general, animals Link here

Into Ballarat this morning with Nikolai and Leonid for our first “real” visits to the nursing homes. As it turned out, things weren't that different from last week, though this time we visited all the residents who were interested. There's a wide range of conditions there, from a Bob Carr who seemed perfectly normal, to some people who obviously had great difficulty recognizing that we were there. And in the middle there were people who seemed normal enough but couldn't remember what had happened, asking the same question over and over again.

Niko was quite eager at the beginning, but I think the sheer number of people puzzled him, and he was quite happy to get out again. One thing that's clear is that he prefers people standing to people sitting down.


Car serviced
Topic: general Link here

On the way home, picked up my car. Nothing unusual, except a note on the invoice stating that the timing belt needed changing every 90,000 km. Since the car has done 165,000 km, that would be next service. But I recalled that it should have been changed every 150,000 km, and that Paul Sperber (the proprietor) had told me so. It wasn't until later that I discovered that he had told me that it was every 100,000 km. One way or another, it wouldn't make any difference: it was changed at 150,000 km, just before I got the car. At the rate I drive, it would take over 13 years before I reach 240,000 km. I'm sure I won't have the car that long.


Powercor vandalism
Topic: general, opinion Link here

A couple of days ago I noted the heavy-handed approach of Powercor's tree-trimmers on the Marriott's property. But they didn't stop there. On the inviolable nature strip in front of our house they have cut down all the Acacia myrtifolia.


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Why? I get the impression that they're paid by the amount they cut. The bushes weren't under the lines, nor within 5 m of them, and they only grow to 3 m in the first place. To add to everything, they just left them there. I think this time it's really worth a complaint.


Olympus camera pricing
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Rumours are increasing that Olympus will bring out the successor to the OM-D E-M1 (presumably called OM-D E-M1 Mk II, just to further lengthen the name) at photokina this September. And of course one question is: what will it cost? Some say that it will be roughly the same price as its predecessor, others slightly more.

One way to guess is to look at the current trends. Olympus has no less than six lines of mirrorless Micro Four Thirds cameras, and the prices don't make much sense to me. In current production are, in rough order of sophistication:

Series       Model       Price (body only, USD)
Air       A01       299
Pen Mini       E-PM2
Pen Light       E-PL5
      E-PL7       399
Pen       E-P3
      E-P5       649
Pen F       Pen F       1199
OM-D       E-M10       449
      E-M10 Mk II       549
      E-M5 Mk II       999
      E-M1       899

The prices are as currently quoted by B&H, and they're somewhat confusing (not to mention incomplete). The price for the E-PL7 is the same with or without a M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 EZ lens. The A01 costs $299 without a lens or $499 with the same lens. In retrospect this was probably not the best choice, but it'll have to do.

The real surprises here are the comparative prices of the standard Pen and the OM-D, and the high price of the Pen F. Why is the Pen F so expensive? Image? The price of the E-M1 is also much lower than I would expect, probably because they're expecting a replacement soon.


Men's shed computer
Topic: technology, general Link here

Doug Braddy came by this afternoon to pick up his computer. Clearly he wasn't in a hurry—it's been nearly a month. Over with him to the Men's shed and connected it up. They already have an Internet connection (National Broadband Network with Aussie Broadband), and they had taken the preconfigured router option, so I really didn't have much more to do than to plug the machine in, confirm that it couldn't recover from power failure during hibernation, and that the mouse was completely lame. Fortunately they had a new wireless mouse, and that, too, worked out of the box. Most of the time was spent waiting for Doug to find a power strip.


Saturday, 7 May 2016 Dereel Images for 7 May 2016
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Streaming multimedia issues
Topic: multimedia, technology, opinion Link here

Some months ago, SBS stopped daily broadcasts of news from Al Jazeera. That's a pity, because it's the only English-language news service that isn't tied to the viewpoint of a particular Western country. But I found a streaming service on YouTube:

It's designated “BETA”, and for good reason. There seem to be significant issues with streaming, including various repeatable image reproduction problems such as image becoming unsharp and tearing. I can backspace and find exactly the same problem in the same place, so it doesn't seem to be related to my connection. But lately there's been a problem that often proves to be fatal: the tone stops, then the last fraction is repeated about a second later, and then there's no tone at all. Frequently the display crashes a few seconds later with one of the most stupid error messages I've seen in a long time:

 
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What's the error? Learn more is a generic page with no relationship to the case at hand (“Video not available in my country” or “Can't see private videos”). Presumably some more detailed error description is available. Why do they hide it?

Of course, there's a simpler solution: provide the news programmes for download. Gone the bandwidth problems. Gone many of the compatibility problems. But that's too simple. Is it a copyright issue? Possibly, but other news sources, such as the ARD, provide the images—if you can only find them. They're at „Download der Videodatei“ on this page, conveniently not highlighted as a link, and you can't get to it without first starting the streaming version. There are copyright issues, but they only relate to sports; they simply blank them out in the video.

I'm more inclined to think that it's a mentality problem. It seems that if you don't access it by a (streaming) server, it's not modern.


X crashes hard
Topic: technology, multimedia, opinion Link here

One of the alternatives for Al Jazeera is their own streaming service. By comparison, it has a number of disadvantages. By far the biggest is that there's no way to position the stream, though you can pause it. But that means starting at exactly the right time and waiting through things like weather forecasts for the Americas. By contrast, the YouTube version can be positioned back up to 2 hours.

Today I was watching anyway when something happened that I have never seen before. First, the browser display froze. Then the X display went blank—only the one on which the browser was running (:0.1). Then :0.0 went blank, and finally :0.2 and :0.3. The system was still running, and connecting from another system showed that the X server had died. But it seems to have taken more with it. I couldn't switch virtual terminals, neither to the other X server nor to a vty. And though I could restart X, I still didn't get a display.

OK, I've been planning some hardware reconfiguration for some time, so why not shut down and do it? Remove a 2 TB disk that has been out of use since I installed the new 3 TB disk over 6 months ago. And then there's the DVD drive, which I haven't been able to use because this super-efficient Antec power supply doesn't have enough SATA connectors, only the old Molex style. I bought an adapter some months ago, but didn't want to turn the machine off to put it in.

That proved to be more difficult than I had expected. The Molex connector jammed! And somehow lying in the dark on the floor isn't the easiest way to rebuild a machine. In the end I gave up on the connector and found another one (really just an adapter for a fan or some such). 10 minutes just for a minor change! I'm getting too old for this.


Döner grill, more insights
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

More skewered meat for dinner tonight. We couldn't quite make up our minds what to make, but it was to be with the new Döner grill. In particular, I wanted to make up for the issues I had had last time. Started with the hypothesis that the bow at the top of the skewer is intended to clip twice into the slot in the top plate:


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But somehow the skewers were still not vertical:


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It wasn't until some time later that I discovered that the two plates were offset. Here the bottom plate (in front, with a single hole) and the top plate with nothing in between:


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But there's an explanation. The central shaft has a square profile, so you can fit the plates in four orientations relative to each other. But for reasons best known to the designers, they chose to provide for 7 skewers, not 8. So by changing the orientation you can get it right:


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So when assembling the plates, you need to pay attention to the orientation. The things the instructions omit!

Apart from that, the food tasted boring. This time it took 30 minutes, and it was neither crispy nor aromatic. The thing might go back yet.


Sunday, 8 May 2016 Dereel Images for 8 May 2016
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ENIAC circuitry
Topic: technology, history Link here

Yesterday Diomidis Spinellis published a blog entry relating to a book he has been reading, “ENIAC in Action”. In particular, he had tracked down one of the valves used in the circuitry, a 7AK7 pentode. Somehow that designation looks Just Plain Wrong. One of the most common ways of naming valves of those days was, as here, a number, letters and number. The first number was the heater voltage, the letters were used for differentiation from other similar valves, and the second number was the number of external connections. So this valve should have a heater voltage of 7 V and also have 7 connections (heater, cathode, 3 grids and anode; the heater has two connections).

But a 7 V heater? Normal heater voltages were 6.3 V and 12.6. And Diomidis found a data sheet which confirms that this valve has a 6.3 V heater (“nominal 7 V”, whatever that might mean; maybe just an explanation for the 7 in the name?).

Still, Diomidis states that the authors had referred to it as the “the so-called computer tube, which improved the reliability of tube computers ... specifically ”designed for service in electronic computers”.

Further backup for this statement is in this almost illegible report on a visit to the Sylvania production facility by project Whirlwind members. It makes some assumptions about what people already know, and it seems that the main issue was reliability, not design: complete evacuation of the envelope and better quality control.

Comparing the 7AK7 with the 6AK7, also a pentode, is interesting. I'm sure I've come across 6AK7s somewhere, but there's no reference in the part of my 1960s diary that I have put online. But looking at the characteristics, the 6AK7 looks more like what I recall from the electronic equipment I used in those days. It was mainly war surplus and thus contemporary with ENIAC. Here a comparison of typical operating characteristics:

      6AK7       7AK7
Heater current       0.65 A       0.8 A
Heater power       4.1 W       5.0 W
Anode voltage       300 V       150 V
Anode current       30 mA       40 mA
Anode power       9 W       6 W
Screen grid voltage       150 V       90 V
Screen grid current       8 mA       12 mA
Screen grid power       1.2 W       1.1 W
Total power       14.3 W       12.1 W

The 7AK7 has a very low anode voltage, but it doesn't use much less power. Could the low voltage translate to higher reliability? On the down side, a flip-flop made with these valves would need at least 2 of them, while double triodes such as the 6SN7 were also used; you only need a single 6SN7 for a flip-flop, which must be more reliable. So probably the 7AK7s were used for some other purpose. But why a separate design? Wouldn't it have made more sense to make a higher-quality version of an existing valve?

The other thing that puzzles me is that most of these valves use the bulky “octal” socket. Like an incandescent light globe (remember them?), the connections were soldered to a separate socket. But by the time ENIAC was built, the so-called “miniature tubes” were available, with pins directly mounted in the glass base. That makes a big difference. The 6SN7 on the right is about twice the height and diameter of the 12AU7 on the left. Both are double triodes.

12AU7 6SN7

The Sylvania report discusses the use of octal bases (it seems that at least in this case the wires were not connected directly to the socket, but via a secondary wire), and there is some suggestion that they were not using octal at the time. I need to read it more carefully.

So: read the book and get more information? The book isn't available online, but it seems that its focus is not the electronics technology but the way ENIAC was refurbished in the late 1940s to have a form of stored-program capability. And the web site points to a trilogy of freely available papers on the subject: Reconsidering the Stored-Program Concept, Engineering “The Miracle of the ENIAC”: Implementing the Modern Code Paradigm and Los Alamos Bets on ENIAC: Nuclear Monte Carlo Simulations, 1947–1948. I'll read them, but I don't expect any help in understanding the circuitry. What might be more interesting would be a trip to the Melbourne Museum to take another look at CSIRAC, hopefully with the aid of a curator.


Monday, 9 May 2016 Dereel
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Miserable weather
Topic: general Link here

Autumn has finally arrived. High winds and rain all day long. It's so depressing that I couldn't get round to doing anything all day. And the forecast is for a week of same!

I hope this continuing extreme weather isn't an indication of things to come, that climate change is more severe than anybody except the crackpots had thought.


Where's my camera?
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

I had expected to have my camera back from repair by the end of last week. Still no notification in the mail. Called Olympus on 02 9886 3999, not the number they advertise (like most companies, they pay good money to maintain a 1300 number, though for VoIP users a “landline” number is usually cheaper). And not for the first time I had great difficulty. The first time I was connected somewhere which gave me a busy tone immediately. The next two times I tried, the main number was busy. Then no answer. I get the feeling that the reception is a part-time job done by whoever happens to be passing.

Spoke to Mary again, who told me that the camera was on the table in front of her. Despite the assurance of a fast turnaround, she wasn't sure whether it would be finished this week: they have a big backlog waiting on parts after the Kumamoto earthquakes, and that they had now come in. I suppose that's possible, but it would be easy to consider it a convenient excuse.


More free bandwidth!
Topic: technology, history, opinion Link here

Mail from Aussie Broadband today. Because I'm a loyal customer (how do you define that?), they're giving me more traffic for the same price, 500 GB instead of 300 GB. That won't cost them anything: I'm not using my current allowance. I'm paying $60 a month, so this represents a price of $0.12 per GB. How things have changed since I got my first Internet connection in March 1992! Then I was paying 0.45 DM ($0.356 at today's exchange rate) per kilobyte! That corresponds to $356,000 per GB. So since then the data cost has gone down by 99.99996623%.

So: how much traffic do I get for the next step down? 50 GB for $10 less, and that's not enough. It seems that it's really an offer for existing customers only; my rate still shows 300 GB.


Tuesday, 10 May 2016 Dereel Images for 10 May 2016
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Mythbuntu revisited
Topic: multimedia, technology, opinion Link here

Why is MythTV pretending that my DVB-T tuner is a satellite tuner? One way to find out is to risk all kinds of physical and mental pain. Another would be to try a standard, out-of-the-box installation such as Mythbuntu (now mythbuntu, it seems) or KnoppMyth. My previous experiences with them were painful, too, but who knows what they're like now?

Oh. No KnoppMyth any more. Now it's LinHES, an abbreviation that is intuitively recognizable. Which do I try? Last time round I settled on Mythbuntu, so that's what I tried first.

First impressions: it looks a lot smoother. And the installation instructions point to this page about installing from a USB stick. That seems reasonable: that way I don't need to burn a DVD. But I didn't have a real USB stick, so I used an SDHC card in a card reader. And sure enough, that booted.

But that was all. The booted image couldn't find its file system. So DVD after all? Good thing I had just recently connected up the DVD drive on eureka. And surprise, surprise, cdrecord can now find the DVD drive without help. Things are finally as simple as

=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/3) /home/grog/Desktop 34 -> cdrecord mythbuntu-16.04-desktop-amd64.iso

And that booted, and gave me the usual choices: install on disk or don't install on disk. What could I customize? My language and location (how did it determine that? It was right). But that was all. No disk partitioning, no IP configuration. Where do I go from here? The instructions stopped at explaining how to boot, for the good reason that they're from Ubuntu, not mythbuntu.

OK, reboot after installation. The system crashed! Not sure why; the second time round it didn't. But now I have a system that I can almost not use at all. How do I get in to it? I have to log in, of course, and then I get a completely opaque X display with only a MythTV front end, which tells me “Could not connect to m...”:

 
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What's that (apart from modern truncation)? It's not surprising that the backend isn't running: it hasn't been configured. Why didn't I get a configuration screen? The display included a number of what appeared to be options, and I was able to scroll down to Setup, which offered me a Setup Wizard, offering me to submit, view or delete a hardware profile. “This helps the developers...”. It certainly doesn't help me. Where's mythtv-setup? Where's the documentation?

After a bit of looking around, I found this page, also not run by mythbuntu. It's written in jargonese:

 
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What's a system tray? For some reason I get the impression of something under the system for draining sump oil into. In any case, tried random left and right clicks in various places and finally discovered it was under “Applications”. But I got a very different window. The most likely choices seemed to be “Internet”, “System” and “Settings”.

But “Internet” is Microsoft brain death! Only web browser! But then, what do IP addresses have to do with the Internet?

“System → Networking” gave me a menu which allows me to re-enter my domain name (which it has conveniently ignored from /etc/resolv.conf) and DNS (which it has ignored from DHCP and selected localhost instead). And then there's “Hosts”, which seems to be something like /etc/hosts, except that it bears no relationship to reality. But where do I set interface IP addresses? Attempts to change things required me to enter my password—Every Time! What frustrating software!

Finally found “Settings → Network Connections”, which tells me I have a wired Ethernet connection, last used 2 minutes ago. Does that refer to the last traffic? Who knows? The actions I can do are “Add” (presumably an interface that it hasn't detected), Delete or Edit. How do I find out what the current settings are? Edit, I suppose. A good thing that the thing doesn't require passwords. But it also doesn't apply the settings; that didn't happen until reboot (this is a Microsoft box, isn't it? I continually found myself typing in the (deprecatory) password I use for Microsoft boxen instead of my normal password).

The instructions go to tell me what to do next: run mythtv-setup System → MythTV Backend Setup. And finally I'm where I had expected to be after first reboot to the new system.

What next? Drink a large glass of beer, relax and prepare to move the box to the lounge room to connect the tuner. And for that I'll need ssh. I fear that my problems are by no means over.


Google: don't be evil!
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

The mythbuntu documentation isn't their own; it's on docs.google.com. It's conveniently set up to break X conventions. I can't copy text! I can mark it, but it doesn't get copied. When I right-click on the selection, I get:

 
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What braindeath is that? Microsoft, of course. And it doesn't work! Presumably Google is relying on their assumptions about the underlying window manager functionality. And for some reason it captures Ctrl-W too, so I can't close the window with the mouse.

One more annoyance with Google. Once I thought they were the good guys, but I haven't seen anything good come out of them recently. It's been over a year since I have been able to use Google Maps for anything useful. And I won't even get started on Android.


Changing addresses
Topic: general, opinion Link here

We've been in Stones Road for a year now, and our mail redirection from Kleins Road has run out. I think we're going to have to extend it. Although we informed the authorities shortly after moving, we're still receiving official mail sent to Kleins Road. And I still haven't been able to persuade the Bank of Melbourne to change the address on one (and only one) of our accounts. It seems that they haven't got their act (or their accounts) together. Today called the only landline number on their last statement and got somebody who didn't know about the account—again—but wanted transaction information (along with the inevitable date of birth) to confirm that I was I. How will that help? He doesn't have access to the account, so the only information he can check relates to a different account. It might confirm that I have the other accounts, but not the one I want to change. In the end he told me I would have to fill out a form, and that he would send it by email. If he tried, he failed badly: no evidence of any delivery attempt to the address I reserve for the Bank of Melbourne.

When are banks going to get into the Internet age?


Wednesday, 11 May 2016 Dereel Images for 11 May 2016
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More MythTV pain
Topic: multimedia, technology, opinion Link here

On with my mythbuntu experiments today. Back to remembering how to install NFS and ssh on Linux. Surprise, surprise! They were already there. All I needed was to mount /eureka/home and copy my ssh stuff. Then I was able to move the machine to the lounge room, connect the tuner and run mythtv-setup.

Somehow things didn't work right. Following the instructions, I should have selected “Scan for channels” in the “Input connect...” menu. But it was greyed out. Took a look at the xterm from which I started mythtv-setup (what do people do who start it from the window manager?) and found:

2016-05-11 13:32:25.265804 W  DiSEqCDevTree: No device tree for cardid 1

The same problem that I had with FreeBSD! So it really seems to be a MythTV problem, presumably with this specific tuner. The real question is why mythtv-setup is trying to apply DiSEqC to a DVB-T tuner. And for that, I'm going to have to brave the stomach ache and brain ache and run mythtv-setup under a debugger.

The first attempt to build failed with:

c++ -c -pipe -D_FILE_OFFSET_BITS=64 -D_LARGEFILE_SOURCE -DPIC -DNDEBUG -fomit-frame-pointer -fPIC -pthread -g -Wall -Wpointer-arith -D__STDC_CONSTANT_MACROS -D__STDC_LIMIT_MACROS -Wno-self-assign -Wno-constant-logical-operand -Wno-unused-value -Qunused-arguments -pthread -D_THREAD_SAFE -fPIC -DMMX -D_GNU_SOURCE -DMETA_API -DQT_SQL_LIB -DQT_XML_LIB -DQT_GUI_LIB -DQT_NETWORK_LIB -DQT_CORE_LIB -DQT_SHARED -I/usr/local/share/qt4/mkspecs/freebsd-g++ -I. -I/usr/local/include/qt4/QtCore -I/usr/local/include/qt4/QtNetwork -I/usr/local/include/qt4/QtGui -I/usr/local/include/qt4/QtXml -I/usr/local/include/qt4/QtSql -I/usr/local/include/qt4 -I/usr/include -I/usr/local -I/usr/local/include -I/usr/local/include/libxml2 -I../../external/qjson/include -I../libmythbase -I../libmythtv -I../.. -I.. -I. -I../libmythupnp -I../libmythui -I../../external/FFmpeg -I../libmyth -I../../external/libmythbluray -I/usr/local/include/taglib -I. -I/usr/local/include/qt4 -I/usr/local/include -o metaiomp4.o metaiomp4.cpp
metaiomp4.cpp:213:5: error: use of undeclared identifier 'av_estimate_timings'
    av_estimate_timings(pContext, 0);

Yes, I know how to look for that, I just don't want to. A search for 'av_estimate_timings' in the source tree revealed:

./mythtv/external/FFmpeg/libavformat/avformat.h:void av_estimate_timings(AVFormatContext *ic, int64_t old_offset);
./mythtv/external/FFmpeg/libavformat/utils-mythtv.c:void av_estimate_timings(AVFormatContext *ic, int64_t old_offset)

So was this header file being included? Yes:

// Libav*
/*
extern "C" {
#include "libavformat/avformat.h"
#include "libavcodec/avcodec.h"
}

So why wasn't the definition being processed? Conditional compilation? Change the end of the invocation from:

... -o metaiomp4.o metaiomp4.cpp

to

... -C -dD -E metaiomp4.cpp > foo

This gives me the complete preprocessor output in foo. What did I find?

// Libav*
extern "C" {

# 1 "/usr/local/include/libavformat/avformat.h" 1
/*
 * copyright (c) 2001 Fabrice Bellard
 *
 * This file is part of FFmpeg.

In other words, wrong header file. Why? I left it for another time to debug the -I sequences and just hacked it:

#include "../../external/FFmpeg/libavformat/avformat.h"

That, of course, worked, but it wasn't the last problem. The next death arrived some time later:

cc -c -pipe -D_ISOC99_SOURCE -D_FILE_OFFSET_BITS=64 -D_LARGEFILE_SOURCE -DPIC -g -fstack-protector -fno-strict-aliasing -std=c99 -DNDEBUG -fomit-frame-pointer -fPIC -pthread -Wall -Wno-parentheses -Wno-format-zero-length -Wdisabled-optimization -Wpointer-arith -Wno-pointer-sign -Wwrite-strings -Wtype-limits -Wundef -Wmissing-prototypes -Wno-pointer-to-int-cast -Wstrict-prototypes -O3 -fno-math-errno -fno-signed-zeros -Qunused-arguments -Werror=implicit-function-declaration -Werror=return-type -Wno-missing-prototypes -pthread -D_THREAD_SAFE -DMMX -D_GNU_SOURCE -I/usr/local/share/qt4/mkspecs/freebsd-g++ -I. -I/usr/include -I/usr/local -I/usr/local/include -I/usr/local/include/libxml2 -I../../external/qjson/include -I../../libs/libmythtv -I../../libs/libmythbase -I../../external/FFmpeg -I/usr/local/include/qt4 -I/usr/local/include -o filter_linearblend.o filter_linearblend.c
In file included from filter_linearblend.c:15:
In file included from ./../mm_arch.h:4:
In file included from ../../external/FFmpeg/libavcodec/dsputil.h:34:
../../external/FFmpeg/libavcodec/avcodec.h:611:6: error: redefinition of 'AVColorPrimaries'
enum AVColorPrimaries{
     ^
/usr/local/include/libavutil/pixfmt.h:476:6: note: previous definition is here

That's clearly directly related. Before hacking my way through the entire source tree, chose a different approach. Clearly the problem occurs because ffmpeg is already installed on the system. How about building on a (virtual) machine where it isn't? Fired up stable and tried again:

=== root@stable (/dev/pts/0) /usr/ports/multimedia/mythtv 9 -> Make all -DWITH_DEBUG -DDISABLE_VULNERABILITIES -DNOCLEAN -DMAKE_JOBS_UNSAFE=yes
...
gmake[3]: Entering directory '/eureka/home/src/FreeBSD/svn/ports/multimedia/mythtv/work/mythtv-ad97d24/mythtv/html'
gmake[3]: Warning: File 'Makefile' has modification time 89482 s in the future
gmake[3]: *** No rule to make target '/usr/local/share/qt4/mkspecs/freebsd-g++/qmake.conf', needed by 'Makefile'.  Stop.

What caused that? Probably because I had started in a partial build. I need to build from scratch, but that reminds me of the saying “To bake an apple pie from first principles, you must first create the universe”. Somehow all of this is just far too painful. Mañana.


Evil Google revisited
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Peter Jeremy took me to task for my comments on Google:

I have no problems cutting/copying from docs.google.com with normal mouse operations. I suspect whatever browser you accessed the documentation from is busted.

But no, it happens on multiple browsers, at least firefox, Chromium and Opera. With Chromium, when I press Ctrl-C, I get:

 
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Sorry, that's unpardonable. X provides the functionality out of the box. More proof that Google is breaking the conventions. Is there a good reason? It would have to be very good, and they don't state it.

Callum Gibson came up with another interesting fact: according to Google documentation, Google Maps on Linux and firefox can only run in “Lite” (“castrated”) mode. But Callum has installed a plugin, User Agent Switcher, with which he spoofs OS and browser version, the latter to “Chrome”. And how about that, it works! So it seems that lack of support for firefox is sloppiness at best and deliberate lack of support for the competition at worst.

And why does Chrom* work for Peter and not for me? Possibly because it's a different Chrom*. He has Chrome on Linux, but that isn't available for FreeBSD, so I use Chromium instead. Is that the difference? I don't know if I care any more. At any rate, if anything, after today's comparisons my opinion is even more negative. It would be easy to think that Google is deliberately targeting browsers like firefox and operating environments like X for second-rate service. That even applies to Chromium: I used to use it, but it is now no longer possible to configure it to work right.


Zigeunerschnitzel: Nein, danke
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Chris Bahlo gave us a perfect example of a ripe red capsicum a couple of days ago. What should we do with it? Decided to try Zigeunerschnitzel, a German dish, basically pork schnitzel with a sauce containing much capsicum.

Yes, it was OK. Nothing more. Not all German food is worth keeping, and I think this is one we can miss. We can probably forget Jägerschnitzel as well, though the Wikipedia page suggests that it's really a fine French recipe.


Thursday, 12 May 2016 Dereel
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More MythTV fun
Topic: technology, multimedia, opinion Link here

On somewhat half-heartedly with my MythTV build today. There must be a way to install all the dependencies as packages, rather than building them. But I didn't find an easy way. One Perl module included no less than 96 other dependencies, and that was the easy part. In the end I simply installed the MythTV package and then removed it again. And forgot to continue.


Camera back
Topic: photography Link here

Finally my camera is back! And they upgraded my firmware, of course, so I had to go back and set my preferences again. Or so I thought. In fact, Olympus have finally modified the upgrade process so that it doesn't overwrite the settings. Now if they could also modify it so that you don't need their silly Microsoft-space program to perform the upgrade.


“Speeding”: Please forgive me!
Topic: general Link here

Following my article on my “speeding” ticket in March, I received a couple of mail messages from Ian Donaldson and Mal White about the possibility of having the ticket commuted to a warning under certain circumstances. It looks as if I fulfil them, so I've written a grovelling letter asking them to do so.


Friday, 13 May 2016 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 13 May 2016
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Volunteer expo
Topic: general, animals Link here

Today was a “Volunteer Expo” or some such at the Art Gallery Annexe in Ballarat. Kath Philips of the Delta Society had asked us to come along for an hour, which proved to be between 12:30 and 14:00:


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It was very crowded inside, so we ended up putting a table outside, where lots of passers-by came, presumably attracted by the dogs:


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But then, not all dogs are as big as ours:


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That's Kath with her dog Baz, clearly her third.


Walking on Lake Wendouree
Topic: animals, general Link here

The timing of the Expo wasn't ideal. Yvonne had to do her rounds at the Geoffrey Cutter Centre, where she had the experience of discovering Munch's Scream having just departed this world.

That finished at 11:30, so we had an hour to bridge. I wasn't on duty this week, so I came in with Nikolai, left my car for new tyres, and off to take a walk on the shores of Lake Wendouree, which the dogs really enjoyed:


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Cats: the ins and outs
Topic: animals, general, opinion Link here

Decades ago in Germany we had a cleaning lady who, out of the kindness of her heart, tried to feed the cats with cat litter. It proved that she was illiterate, and she went only by the picture on the box.

Since then, the average literacy rate has probably increased, but the packaging people are equal to the challenge:


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Saturday, 14 May 2016 Dereel Images for 14 May 2016
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Strange Hugin problems
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

House photo day again today, like every weekend (usually Saturday). But today something happened that I didn't expect:


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Even the sun is green! How did that happen? Spent some time investigating and learnt some things about Hugin that I didn't know. In the Photos tab there's a tick box Photometric parameters, which showed:


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Hovering the mouse cursor over the parameter names shows some information, as in this case. Somehow the red multiplier for all images except the first was way out, causing them to be rendered in green. Right click on a line and you get an edit window:

 
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And sure enough, setting Er to 1 fixed the colour problems. Here's a comparison:


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Run the cursor over either image to switch to the other image.

But how did that happen? More head-scratching. Could it be related to the new firmware for my camera?

In passing, it's interesting to see that the edit window also includes vignetting information and this graph:

 
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What's that for? DxO Optics “Pro” should already have dealt with vignetting, though coincidentally it doesn't have a processing module for this specific lens. Still more things to learn.


Finally! Debug MythTV
Topic: technology, multimedia Link here

I've spent most of the week fighting the Ports Collection trying to build a debug version of MythTV. I had the idea of installing the dependencies by first the package and then removing it again, but it didn't work. There were still large ports missing (can you spell Qt?), and I ended up having to install the packages individually. And at least one port wouldn't build. This is all too fragile.

But finally I got it built, and was able to run mythtv-setup with a debugger. All I needed was time to go through the sources, and today wasn't the day for that.


Camera Crew outing
Topic: photography, general, opinion Link here

Over to the Dereel Hall this afternoon for an outing of the Dereel Camera Crew. I wasn't convinced: once again Mount Misery Creek Bridge. I took a photo of that years ago. But we spent nearly an hour taking photos, and certainly there were some different viewpoints. But I'm not really happy with any of them.


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After that, off in the direction of Berringa, but we didn't make it. Paul knows an abandoned gold mine a couple of kilometres from the bridge, and we went around that, in the process demonstrating that this is not the kind of terrain for thongs. For some reason I got even fewer useful photos there. This view shows the tailings on the right, dwarfing the people on the left:


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Clearly it was on an enormous scale.


Yet another hot water failure
Topic: general, opinion Link here

While I was processing my copious photos, Yvonne came in to tell me that the hot water service was leaking. Sure enough, exactly the same problem we had at the end of February:


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How could that happen? Called up Ballarat Emergency Plumbing on 0408 342 300 and spoke to Greg Quayle, who told me that hot water services shouldn't have flexible hoses, and “wait until I talk to James on Monday morning”. He wanted photos, and wasn't able to come today (“24/7 emergency plumbing”, as they advertise). Yet another day with no hot water!


More animal photos
Topic: animals, photography Link here

Having a flash unit in the lounge room certainly encourages taking photos. This evening Yvonne and Chris repaired the dangling mouse that Yvonne bought for Rani some months back, and we got a few (well, about 220) photos, none of which I really liked. Here some of the better ones:


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Sunday, 15 May 2016 Dereel Images for 15 May 2016
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Rani makes friends
Topic: animals Link here

We've had Rani for 5 weeks now, and she and Piccola still haven't really hit it off together, definitely Piccola's fault. But Rani is making other friends:


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Repairing the hot water service
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Greg Quayle along today to repair the hot water service. This time he put in a copper pipe, as you'd expect. And he charged $150, which I didn't expect. That's a total of $350 I've spent on emergency repairs for a device which has been in service for only a year. And it's not all the fun I've had with it. I turned off all power to the service before the repair, and when I tried to turn the switch back on again, it jammed. Why? Various measurements showed that I didn't have any “boost” power (a related but different word, meaning additional heating outside the normal times), which seemed to have something to do with the wiring to the meter. While fiddling with the switch, it seemed to engage again, so I had to hope that the night charge timer would still work. No hot water for today, and the danger that there would be none tomorrow either. Here's what we have had so far:

Date       Incident       Repair time       Cost
8 May 2015       No hot water       1 day
8 May 2015       Boost element not connected       12 days
19 July 2015       Solar panels burst       65 days
27 February 2016       Hose burst       1 day       $200
30 March 2016       Circuit breaker tripped
14 May 2016       Hose burst       1 day       $150
15 May 2016       Boost switch fail

By contrast, I can't recall having any problem with any other hot water system we have ever had.


Garden flowers in late autumn
Topic: gardening, Stones Road house, opinion Link here

It's late autumn already! You wouldn't know it. I suppose part of the difference from Kleins Road is the vegetation (or lack of it) around the house, so even on days like today, where the temperatures were round in the teens, the sunshine into the house kept it warm, almost too warm. In Kleins Road we would probably have had to heat.

The middle of the month is also the day of my monthly garden flower photos. The roses are still holding on well:


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So are the petunias.


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We have a couple of new flowers. The first Arum lilies, a random spring bulb and a Salvia microphylla:


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The salvia is only technically in our garden: it's across the fence to the Marriott's property, and they planted it some time ago. But we've established that the fence encroaches about 1 m onto our property, and since we're watering the plants there, they're coming back to life. When it's a bit happier I'll take some cuttings.

And the Anigozanthos that Sasha chewed up some months ago is making an attempt to return:


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The prostrate Grevillea that we bought a couple of weeks ago, and still haven't planted, is also flowering, as is one (but only one) of the Hebes that we planted last year:


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The Great Australian Accident
Topic: general, opinion Link here

The Australian news services love reporting on car accidents. I suspect that it's not so much sensationalism as a misguided attempt to warn people about the dangers of accidents. I've commented on this in the past, but today we saw what appears to be the prototypical case:


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The only tree in the area, and it was hit head-on. It doesn't seem to have sustained any damage.


Monday, 16 May 2016 Dereel Images for 16 May 2016
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More friends for Rani
Topic: animals Link here

Rani seems to have made friends with Leonid too:


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More garden work
Topic: gardening Link here

Mick (or is that Mike?) along today for more garden work. And once again he didn't get finished. Planted the remaining Hebes, the Metrosideron excelsa and the Grevilleas, the latter in a new bed with rock edging:


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I'm certainly happy that I don't have to do this work myself, but gradually the costs are adding up.


NBN installation again
Topic: technology Link here

Phone call from Chris Rogers, who had got my number from Carolyn Everett. He's planning to have National Broadband Network fixed wireless installed tomorrow, and he's on the edge of the coverage maps between Dereel and Corindhap. He was concerned that he might be told he had no coverage, and asked me to come along in case there were any issues.


Tuesday, 17 May 2016 Dereel Images for 17 May 2016
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Still more anniversaries
Topic: general, history, opinion Link here

For some reason a number of anniversaries coincide on 17 May, and I've mentioned them many times in the past: I started two jobs on this day (Karstadt in 1976 and Tandem in 1982), and I last flew in a plane. But today there's yet another coincidence: half a lifetime ago I made a phone call and spoke to a certain Yvonne Ködderitzsch, who later became my wife. How time flies!


Debugging MythTV
Topic: multimedia, technology, opinion Link here

Finally got round to looking at the problems with MythTV today. It's really painful.

Started by looking for the origin of the message that had been produced:

2016-05-17 14:23:36.228780 W  DiSEqCDevTree: No device tree for cardid 4

That proved to be in mythtv-ad97d24/mythtv/libs/libmythtv/diseqc.cpp. Set a breakpoint on it and got a 35 level stack backtrace:

#0  DiSEqCDevTree::Load (this=0x7fffffffb388, cardid=32767) at diseqc.cpp:328
#1  0x00000008027c7294 in DVBConfigurationGroup::Load (this=0x818ef4f00) at videosource.cpp:3859
#2  0x00000008027c7485 in non-virtual thunk to DVBConfigurationGroup::Load() (this=0x818ef4f50) at videosource.cpp:3866
#3  0x00000008046fbee3 in ConfigurationGroup::Load (this=0x81c3c0400) at mythconfiggroups.cpp:91
...

DiSEqCDevTree::Load() does an SQL query:

    // lookup configuration for this card
    MSqlQuery query(MSqlQuery::InitCon());
    query.prepare(
        "SELECT diseqcid, cardtype "
        "FROM capturecard "
        "WHERE cardid = :CARDID");

A bit further down there's:

    else if (query.value(1).toString().toUpper() == "DVB")
    {
        LOG(VB_GENERAL, LOG_WARNING, LOC +
            QString("No device tree for cardid %1").arg(cardid));
    }
    return m_root;

OK, what does the caller do? That's another Load(), this time DVBConfigurationGroup::Load() in mythtv-ad97d24/mythtv/libs/libmythtv/videosource.cpp, which ignores the return value from DiSEqCDevTree::Load():

    diseqc_tree->Load(parent.getCardID());
    if (cardtype->getValue() == "DVB-S" ||
        cardtype->getValue() == "DVB-S2" ||
        DiSEqCDevTree::Exists(parent.getCardID()))
    {
        diseqc_btn->setVisible(true);
    }

I had already established that parent.getCardID() returns the number of the record in the capturecard table (4 in this case). So although it's not a DVB-S card, diseqc_btn->setVisible() gets called and presumably sets a flag.

So far nothing of great interest. Back a stack level to Yet Another Load(), this time ConfigurationGroup::Load in mythtv-ad97d24/mythtv/libs/libmyth/mythconfiggroups.cpp. It's even less interesting:

    for (; it != children.end() ; ++it)
        if (*it && (*it)->GetStorage())
            (*it)->GetStorage()->Load();

Somehow I've missed the whole thing! But then I saw another error message that I hadn't seen before:

2016-05-17 14:23:45.710309 E  Cannot clone card #4 with empty videodevice

videodevice is a field in the capturecard table, and it contains the device name, in this case /dev/dvb/adapter0/frontend0. Why does it say “empty videodevice”? Further investigation showed that the cuse4bsd module hadn't been loaded (why not), and that there were no devices. The message still seems wrong, but that's normal.

So here I am debugging tuner access, and I don't even have a tuner! And I still get that DiSEqCDevTree message. Looking more carefully, things fall into place. The first function is just a database lookup. The message is really just a warning, and seems to happen anyway. The real problem is elsewhere.

But where? It's difficult to navigate this code, not helped by its size:

=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/5) /usr/ports/multimedia/mythtv/work/mythtv-ad97d24 28 -> find . -name '*.h' -o -name '*.hpp' -o -name '*.c' -o -name '*.cpp' | xargs wc -l
 1948913 total

Nearly 2,000,000 lines of code. If there were comments, it would be even more. And the three functions I looked at are all called Load(). My etags can't handle that well. What alternatives are there? With Daniel O'Connor's help, it seems that C++ is complicated enough that you really need help from the compiler to shine light into the darkness. There are a number of clang-based options, including rtags and SourceWeb. Then there's SilentBob, and there are others links here. But once again I'm left wondering if C++ doesn't encourage obfuscation. And is Myth really that complicated that it requires 2,000,000 lines of code?


Firefox: can't display plain text
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Playing around with some old web pages today, I discovered:

 
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What? Since when do you need a helper application for plain text? firefox is a behemoth process over 2 GB in size, and it wants help displaying text, and that from another program at least as big as itself? It didn't even give me the option to display it directly.

  PID USERNAME      THR PRI NICE   SIZE    RES STATE   C   TIME    WCPU COMMAND
47180 grog           61  20    0  2111M  1564M uwait   3  86:18   4.79% firefox

Further investigation, with the help of a number of people on IRC, showed a number of strangenesses. This was http://lemis.com/vinum/vinum/vinum.4.txt. And there's another file http://lemis.com/vinum/vinum.4.txt. That sloppiness on my part, decades ago. But firefox can display it.

But it's not just firefox. Other browsers did exactly the same thing. Finally we found the reason: http://lemis.com/vinum/vinum/vinum.4.txt is a preformatted man page, and it contains overstrikes in the text:

N^HNA^HAM^HME^HE
     v^Hvi^Hin^Hnu^Hum^Hm - Logical Volume Manager

Remove the ^H and it displays fine.

But that's only part of the story. Put the same text in a web page, and firefox does what is arguably the “right” thing: it ignores the control characters. Why can't it do that with plain text? And at least explain why. But then, who wants to describe problem causes any more?


Camera damage
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

For some reason, at least because of the use to which she puts them, Yvonne is hard on cameras. Her last two cameras had dust-related problems with the focus, and she doesn't like the strap that came with her current one (the Olympus E-PM2). Today she put it in its bag, went outside to put some boots on, and emptied the bag onto the doormat. It wasn't a very high fall, maybe only 30 or 40 cm, but afterwards the automatic lens cap no longer worked properly. Further investigation shows why:


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The good news is that the camera wasn't damaged, so probably the $25 for a new lens cap will be well spent.


NBN installation, for real
Topic: technology Link here

Over to Chris Rogers today to see how the National Broadband Network installation went. In fact, I didn't need to: they quickly established that he had adequate signal (-91 dB, comfortably above the -97 dB cutoff limit). But I wanted to talk to the installers about other similar cases.

That proved to be useful. The installers were Mike and Jordan, who had been here last December to replace the hardware. Got a few new pointers:


Wednesday, 18 May 2016 Dereel Images for 18 May 2016
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The bikeshed that “just growed”
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

One of my morning activities is to check mail and spam. Gmail does quite a good job of detecting spam—better than I've been able to do myself—but it's not perfect, and in particular messages to the FreeBSD mailing lists frequently get classified as spam. Today I had one, sent to the freebsd-current mailing list by Greg Quinlan. Why?

Why is this message in Spam? It has a from address in yahoo.com but has failed yahoo.com's required tests for authentication. Learn more

By gmail standards that's clear. So I replied to him and told him so. And since his question was really a stack backtrace from a panic out of UFS, I ventured an opinion that he might get more information out of the msgbuf in the dump.

But he didn't know how to do that, so I pointed him at gdb(4). I wrote that over 12 years ago, and since the current kernel developers prefer other tools, it is severely out of date. But still, as I said, it could be of use. And then I read:

BUGS

The debugging macros ``just grown''. In general, the person who wrote them did so while looking for a specific problem, so they may not be gen- eral enough, and they may behave badly when used in ways for which they were not intended, even if those ways make sense.

Wait a minute, I didn't write that. ”Just grown”? That's “just growed”! And sure enough, somebody changed the correct incorrect grammar in the quote to, well, just plain incorrect grammar. Still, that's easy enough to fix, so I reverted the change along with the commit message

Correct use of incorrect grammar.

Don't do that! I ended up with an exchange of no less than 17 mail messages, all with US Americans who had never heard of the expression. And I thought it was common knowledge. So off to look for the origin. How about that, it's Topsy in Uncle Tom's Cabin, and the word “just” appears to be a later addition. It seems that it's not that well known after all. Opinions varied from “write documentation in English” to “You just want to be allowed to vote in the core election”. The latter is because you need to have committed at least one revision in the past 12 months to be allowed to vote. But I have, and the complainers didn't bother to check.

Somehow this is all sad. What really needs to be done is to completely overhaul the page. As I stated,

What I have learnt from this exchange is:

And of course somebody had to go and half-correct it again:

 The debugging macros
 -.Dq "just growed" .
 +.Dq just grew.

That makes no sense. The whole point of the formulation was a reference to the quotation. But this was done by the same person whose previous attempt was “just grown”. And the real content of the page hasn't been improved in the slightest.

I'm tempted to say “just groan”. As Mike Smith said decades ago, “it's no fun any more”.


Seating Carlotta
Topic: animals, photography Link here

Yvonne is training Carlotta to sit down. The first step is to sit on a couple of bales of hay:


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Rani and Piccola
Topic: animals Link here

It's been nearly 6 weeks, but gradually Piccola is coming to accept Rani:


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Thursday, 19 May 2016 Dereel Images for 19 May 2016
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RCD: Time for action
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Woke up in the middle of the night with Yet Another outage caused by the RCD. Time to finally do something. I had given Jim Lannen until the end of last week to respond, and of course he didn't. Called up David Grigg of BREAZE (0401 763 553), who confirmed that the prices for solar electricity still haven't come down far enough, and who gave me the phone number of an electrician who wasn't afraid of things out of the ordinary, Steve White (0438 637 925), whom I called and finally got hold of. Looks like he'll be able to come on Monday and do that and possibly other work as well.


Power fail recovery
Topic: technology Link here

I'm still running UFS with conventional soft updates. That seems to be a good choice for a system with reliable power: the system itself almost never crashes, and recovery, though slow, is infrequent. But since my RCD problems started, I have had to run fsck far more often than expected. I've adapted: even if the power fails in the middle of the night, reboot immediately so that the system will be up and running by the time I wake up. And my photo file system, nearly 4 TB in size, doesn't get mounted automatically.

Thus it was today, but things still didn't work out. While running fsck on the /Photos file system, the system froze. Why? I'll never know. I had set dumpdev incorrectly, so there was no chance of a dump, and I was running X, so I couldn't see what might have been on the console. I had to go through the whole recovery again. The /home file system required three passes:

eureka fsck: /dev/ada1p2: UNEXPECTED SOFT UPDATE INCONSISTENCY; RUN fsck MANUALLY

The second two took 25 minutes each. But that didn't matter, because /Photos took 70 minutes. That seems to be related to the block size (32 kB on /home, 16 kb on /Photos): they're not that different in size, and /home has an order of magnitude more files:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/6) ~ 26 -> df -i /home /Photos
Filesystem  1048576-blocks      Used   Avail Capacity    iused     ifree %iused  Mounted on
/dev/ada1p2      2,820,026 2,513,870  80,553    97% 13,544,232 9,068,246   60%   /home
/dev/ada2p1      3,814,382 3,150,748 625,489    83%  1,081,805 1,099,185   50%   /Photos

My pain didn't stop there. When I tried to start firefox, I didn't get an offer to restart my existing sessions. Maybe that was related to problems found in fsck:

May 19 07:11:56 eureka fsck: /dev/ada1p2: ZERO LENGTH DIRECTORY /grog/.cache/mozilla/firefox/ayr10fd5.eureka/safebrowsing I=17892703 (REMOVAL FAILED: Invalid argument)

Restoring from the backup worked. And then, while looking at the gdb(4) fiasco, I discovered:

...
  -rw-r--r--   1 grog  lemis  13218 26 Mar 09:42 gbde.4
  -rw-r--r--   1 grog  lemis      0 19 May 04:00 gdb.4
  -rw-r--r--   1 grog  lemis   3997 26 Mar 09:42 gem.4
...

What happened there? The modification time looks like a smoking gun, presumably something to do with the crash. I hope there aren't any more like that. And I couldn't recover it:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/5) /src/FreeBSD/svn/head/share/man/man4 15 -> svn up
Updating '.':
svn: E155009: Failed to run the WC DB work queue associated with '/home/src/FreeBSD/svn/head/share/man/man4/gdb.4', work item 78959 (file-install share/man/man4/gdb.4 1 0 1 1)
svn: E000002: Can't open file '/home/src/FreeBSD/svn/head/.svn/pristine/aa/aaf4d8d44f52da178d1773a639a54c7566233e3f.svn-base': No such file or directory

How do you recover from that? Given my experience with repository inconsistencies, I simply checked out a new copy of the tree. But it's a little unnerving.

So: next time journalling? I'm still scared of ZFS, so I don't think I'll take that path.


Friday, 20 May 2016 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel
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Nursing home again
Topic: general, animals Link here

Off to the Eureka Village Hostel in Ballarat with Nikolai this morning for the Delta society visit. Niko is now coping better, but the residents aren't necessarily: it seems some are afraid of him because he's so big. There were also fewer people there today, and we got through more quickly as a result. Deb tells me that some of them are “sick”, whatever that means.


More MythTV debugging
Topic: multimedia, technology, opinion Link here

So what's the cause of the problems I've been seeing with MythTV? I had assumed that it was related to the spurious DiSEqCDevTree warning, but after Tuesday's debug session that seems to be a red herring. So what would be an appropriate way to catch it? There are long delays before it comes back pretending there hasn't been a failure. Doesn't ktrace have an option to look at the times?

No. It's in kdump, and there are two of them: elapsed time (-E) and relative time (-R). Chose the latter. After running the card detect function, I had a dump file about 180 MB in size! And no elapsed time was more than 1 second! Of course, the smallest times were a little surprising:

  2545 mythtv-setup 0.000003 CALL  poll(0x818f468b0,0x6,0x525824)
  2545 mythtv-setup -1.999886 RET   _umtx_op -1 errno 60 Operation timed out
  2545 mythtv-setup 0.000129 CALL  poll(0x814961d48,0x1,0)

The times were always round -2 seconds, and always with the return value of _umtx_op. I suspect that this was the time of the event, not the time of the returned value.

But why such a big file? What's it doing? Writing!

  2545 mythtv-setup 0.000002 CALL  writev(0x7,0x7fffffffa580,0x3)
  2545 mythtv-setup 0.000218 GIO   fd 7 wrote 4096 bytes
       0x0000 4802 06ff 0f00 0005 1100 0005 8007 2200 0000 0000 0018 0000 3745 48ff  |H.............".........7EH.|
       0x001c 3745 48ff 3745 48ff 3745 48ff 3745 48ff 3745 48ff 3745 48ff 3745 48ff  |7EH.7EH.7EH.7EH.7EH.7EH.7EH.|
       0x0038 3745 48ff 3745 48ff 3745 48ff 3745 48ff 3745 48ff 3745 48ff 3745 48ff  |7EH.7EH.7EH.7EH.7EH.7EH.7EH.|
...

The third paramter (0x3) looks like the write count, but it isn't. This is writev(), and the parameters are file descriptor, pointer to an array of struct iovec entries, and the number of valid entries in the array. Each struct iovec contains a buffer address and a count, but ktrace can't see them. But clearly it's writing a lot; most of the trace file contains the contents.

Time for a debugger again. Things have improved: now I can set a breakpoint on writev() before the dynamic library has been attached. Run to breakpoint, then take a look at what the call parameters are. A close relation of one of the recently rediscovered “just growed” macros does just that:

Breakpoint 2, 0x000000080a85a3b4 in writev () from /lib/libc.so.7
=== gdb -> xp
esp: Value can't be converted to integer.

Oops. That's another bug in the gdb macros:

     Many of these commands only work on the ia32 architecture.

The problem is that xp refers to the esp register, which doesn't exist on the AMD64 architecture. Looking at the registers showed that rsp (stack pointer) and rbp (base pointer) were the same, which isn't the case on the i386 architecture. And looking at them showed nothing very likely:

=== gdb -> bt
#0  0x000000080a85a3a4 in writev () from /lib/libc.so.7
#1  0x000000080d9e81d5 in xcb_disconnect () from /usr/local/lib/libxcb.so.1
...
=== gdb -> x/10x $rsp
0x7fffffffc770: 0xffffc840      0x00007fff      0x0d9e81d5      0x00000008
0x7fffffffc780: 0xffffc860      0x00007fff      0x0000000b      0x00040005
0x7fffffffc790: 0x00671c9b      0x00000008

The return address 0x000000080d9e81d5 should be first on the stack, but it isn't: there's another value first. And after that should be the parameters. But this is a 64 bit (little-endian) machine, so the display is inappropriate. Try again with the g (“giant”) modifier:

=== gdb -> x/10gx $rsp
0x7fffffffc770: 0x00007fffffffc840      0x000000080d9e81d5
0x7fffffffc780: 0x00007fffffffc860      0x000400050000000b
0x7fffffffc790: 0x0000000800671c9b      0x00000008006ab400
0x7fffffffc7a0: 0x00007fffffffc778      0x00007fffffffc820
0x7fffffffc7b0: 0x0000000814968000      0x0000000000000000

Now we can clearly see the return address. But where are the parameters? On i386 they follow the return address. But there's no way that the third word on the stack, 0x00007fffffffc860, can be the file descriptor (a small positive integer). I need to learn more about the calling conventions. Are the values in registers?

One way or another, and quite by coincidence, it looks like I'm going to end up overhauling the gdb(4) macros.


Saturday, 21 May 2016 Dereel Images for 21 May 2016
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Local Network Problems
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I was hardly out of bed and into the office this morning when Yvonne came and asked me if we had network problems. No, I didn't, but it seemed that she did: no communication from lagoon to eureka, on the other side of the house.

What's the cause? No obvious problems on either lagoon or eureka. Switch? For some reason, switches seem to hang relatively frequently. Power cycled it, and it worked again.

While wondering whether it was worth replacing the switch, discovered I couldn't communicate with teevee. But that's on another switch. My house wiring has a total of four switches:

So why should two different switches (1 and 3 above) both hang at the same time? That suggests that I'm misinterpreting the symptoms.


Remembering svn checkout
Topic: technology Link here

There are a number of open PRs on calendar(1) in the FreeBSD bug database, and also in my inbox. Time to finally do something about them before the first one turns 5 years old.

Checked the “how to repeat” for PR 168785. I couldn't repeat it. Fixed? Check the log for /usr/src/usr.bin/calendar/calendar.c. “This file is not under version control”. Huh? Further investigation showed that once again the svn metadata were corrupt. This is happening far too often, though this time it could be due to the crash I had yesterday.

How do I check out a working copy? It's in the Committer's Guide, which for some reason is difficult to find on the FreeBSD web site. And for some reason it's not the easiest thing to find out how to check out a branch of the src/ tree. For my reference,

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/5) ~ 50 -> cd /src/FreeBSD/svn/stable
=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/5) /src/FreeBSD/svn/stable 51 -> mailme svn checkout svn+ssh://repo.freebsd.org/base/stable/10
 10

I really should keep track of what happens after updating the trees.


... with worn-out tools
Topic: technology, multimedia, opinion Link here

Rudyard Kipling's If— is a poem that has always impressed me. Now that I'm getting older, one of the line pairs that particularly impress me is:

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

Somehow I'm reminded of that while trying to debug MythTV. Decades ago I wrote documentation about how to use gdb to debug normal programs and kernel problems. They came across very well. But they have atrophied. The last time I did the kernel debugging class was just over 10 years ago, on 11 May 2006, and my recent experience with gdb(4) and also with MythTV show that things are completely out of date (and that people no longer have any sense of humour). And even the hardware has changed; in the Good Old Days the i386 was the measure of all things, but who uses that any more? Now it's AMD64, which has a different instruction set, different registers, and different parameter passing conventions. Peter Jeremy tells me that the first 5 or so parameters are passed in registers; I need to read up about that.

But that's not all. We also have new software. I'm not overly enamoured of gdb, but it has one significant advantage over lldb: I know it and don't have to think. But I suppose Peter is right: I need to adapt to the new platforms. It doesn't make my real job any easier.


Perfect pizza: confirmed
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Pizza again for dinner, to which Chris Bahlo and Margaret Swann appeared. Last time I wrote:

And this time, finally, I'm happy. How much did it have to do with the additional rising and how much with the pre-bake? We'll see next time, maybe.

This time I repeated things, and they were just as good. Finally we have it:


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And finally I have written a page on the pizza, and not the dough.


Sunday, 22 May 2016 Dereel → Rokewood → Dereel Images for 22 May 2016
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More notwork pain
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

More hung network switches today, this time with the added fun of a hung NFS connection on cvr2, which meant that I couldn't access it from outside: the ssh hung, and in the end it seemed easier to reboot.

So what's causing the problems? One thing I didn't consider yesterday was the switch in my office. Played around with that, mainly to verify the model, and sure enough, I lost some network connectivity. Loose connection? That might explain why the problems occurred when I was in the office, and why it affected multiple systems. It doesn't explain why the problem went away after power cycling the other switches.

Also found the documentation for the ProCurve. It tells me that it has a built-in web server, though it's too polite to describe what it can do. And sure enough, I found something at the advertised address, 192.168.2.10, but it wouldn't talk to me:

The following error was encountered while trying to retrieve the URL: http://192.168.2.10/

    Connection to 192.168.2.10 failed.

The system returned: (13) Permission denied

Do I care?


Extreme Cowboy
Topic: animals Link here

Yvonne, Chris and Margaret off to “Rokewood” this morning to an event arranged by the Down under Extreme Cowboys. What does that have to do with them? I went down to take a look, in the process discovering that “Rokewood” was an approximation: the location (Bells Road) is about ⅓ of the way to Shelford.

What I saw was basically an agility test or Gymkhana. Here's Chris:


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Yvonne was mainly taking photos, but I got her on horseback later:


Enchiladas rojas?
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

I have a problem with Tex-Mex food: I like (real Mexican) tortillas, but much of the paraphernalia gets on my nerves, like cheese, cream and stuff. But it seems that the time had come for something, so after a bit of consideration and examination of our leftovers, I decided on a filling of frijoles refritos and sliced beef (some accidentally bought blade steak, previously cooked sous vide):


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Rolled up, covered with salsa roja and cheese:


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Almost all instructions that I have seen then ask to bake the enchiladas in an oven (how warm? Guess) for 30 minutes. I started at 200°, but my oven knew better and switched to 170°. Tried again, but it was probably better at 170°. After 20 minutes I had:


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That looks barely not burnt.

And what did they taste like? Boring. If I try them again, I'll do more research about the composition. Yvonne liked them, but would have preferred some sour cream and less chili.


Flash issues
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

On the whole I've been very happy with the studio flash units I've put in the lounge and dining rooms, though we need to be careful where to point the camera:


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But today I had a surprise:


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That's typical of too high a shutter speed: the shutter is only half open when the flash goes off. But no, the speed was 1/250 s, and the Olympus OM-D E-M1 can synchronize at up to 1/320 s—if it's an Olympus flash. What else can it be? Glitch? No, it happened a second time with exactly the same amount of cut-off. Tried at 1/100 s. All OK. Back to 1/250 s. All OK:


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So where does that leave me? I can think of a number of possibilities:

So what can I do about it? Currently just document it. About the only thing of note is that the shot at 1/100s is slightly more exposed than the one at 1/250s. But it's quite possible that the (el cheapo) flash units have a flash duration of more than 1/250 s at full power.


Monday, 23 May 2016 Dereel Images for 23 May 2016
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More TV reception errors
Topic: multimedia, opinion Link here

A month ago my TV reception improved markedly. But it didn't stay that way: now things are really bad.

Why? Looking at the antenna, I'm left wondering if it hasn't rotated a little on the mast. If it hasn't been secured tightly—something that I'd definitely consider possible—the wind could move it in either direction, changing the received signal strength. There has been a lot of wind lately, so it's definitely a possibility.


Revisiting OpenBSD and NetBSD
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Glenn Mawby was asking some questions regarding proxies on IRC today. He's running OpenBSD, which could differ from FreeBSD in that respect. But I don't have an OpenBSD box any more—in fact, it has been over 6 years. Now I have virtual machines, so it's trivial to create one and run OpenBSD on it. Downloaded the install CD and set it up. It asked all the right questions about the network, and then set up to partition the disk. 9 partitions! What a way to improve your chances of filling one up. Tried the (bare-bones) partition editor to create a single root file system, which appeared to work, but for some reason I ended up with an unbootable system. OK, back to the default install. Yes, worked, and X worked out of the box. Now at least I have something to compare against when Glenn shows up again.

OK, what about NetBSD? Again, it's been over 6 years since I used it. Installation was significantly different, and by default it gave me a single file system. But half the system seemed to be missing! No X. No pkgsrc. How do I even install additional software? For today, put it into the “too hard” basket.


Tuesday, 24 May 2016 Dereel
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More reception error puzzles
Topic: multimedia, opinion Link here

I've more or less come to accept that TV reception is terrible again. But then this morning I discovered:

Programme       Date       Start       End             Number of
name             time       time       Channel       recoding errors
Air Crash Investigations       24 May 2016       22:11:58.537       23:46:40.710       2062
Air Crash Investigations       25 May 2016       02:41:53.339       04:35:00.521       2062       62

Here I have two programmes (coincidentally, in fact, even the same episode) recorded on the same channel a couple of hours apart. One had 62 errors, the other none! What can cause that? Wind repositioning the antenna?


DoS?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Seen on IRC this morning:

<callum> Hmm, I'm getting no response from www.lemis.com
<chuzz> Isn't it wwww.lemis.com? ;)
<pez> www.lemis.com not working for me

That can't be right. www is my external web server, and it's a model of stability. But it was. ping worked fine, but the ssh I had to the system didn't respond. Neither did a page load attempt.

How do I access the console on the machine? I've almost never needed to, and it took me quite a while to find out how. It's via vnc, and getting it to work was a problem. Tryied to install the net/vnc, but it told me:

Installed packages to be REMOVED:
        tightvnc-1.3.10_4

New packages to be INSTALLED:
        vnc: 4.1.3_10

What's that? Now that I know the name I can confirm that I installed TightVNC nearly 5 years ago for other purposes. So what's the name of the program? It's not tightvnc, and I had already established that it wasn't vnc. In the end I went to the pkg-plist file, which contains:

=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/19) ~ 41 -> cat /usr/ports/net/tightvnc/pkg-plist
bin/Xvnc
bin/vncconnect
bin/vncpasswd
bin/vncserver
bin/vncviewer

Which is it? Tried Xvnc, but that wasn't right: it's an X server. It turned out to be the last one, vncviewer. There's a relatively adequate man page, and with that I was able to access the console.

In the meantime, though, I had had a reaction from the ssh shell. ps showed hundreds of httpds running. Clearly something wrong, and it's my guess that the machine was swapping its little heart out. Killed them all and restarted, and after a couple of minutes things were almost back to normal. But there were also an amazing number of smtpd (postfix). Why that? Maybe it was normal attempts to reply to fake email addresses, but restarting postfix fixed that. And then I found many:

 root    14251   0.0  0.6  72860 2780  -  DL   12:49AM      0:00.79 /usr/local/lib/webmin/webmincron/webmincron.pl (perl

That matched these, though I don't have an explanation for the time

May 23 23:05:54 www webmin[12972]: Invalid login as  from 199.217.118.200
May 23 23:05:54 www webmin[12973]: Invalid login as  from 199.217.118.200
May 23 23:05:55 www webmin[12979]: Invalid login as  from 199.217.118.200
May 23 23:05:56 www webmin[12978]: Invalid login as  from 199.217.118.200
=== root@www (/dev/pts/0) /var/log 42 -> host 199.217.118.200
200.118.217.199.in-addr.arpa domain name pointer pacific1087.serverprofi24.com.

Did these attempts spawn all the httpds? Do I even need to run webmin? He couldn't get in (especially without a user name), but it's annoying. Time to discuss with Chris, who is presumably the only one to want to use webmin.


NBN satellite: doesn't pass muster
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

Phone call from Barbara Hammond in Fairhaven today. She had read my “Why you don't want NBN satellite” page, which was really intended for people in Dereel. It seems that she is currently connected to the net via ADSL, and she has now been informed by the National Broadband Network that the Sky Muster™ satellite is available. Most of Fairhaven is earmarked for FTTN, but it seems that her location is just outside the limits. And now she's concerned that she will lose her ADSL.

Should she be concerned? Yes, most definitely. She uses a lot of data. She doesn't know exactly, but it looks as if she is paying TPG $80 a month, which would match the “300 GB Off-Net” package. What would that cost via NBN satellite? Beyond price. She would need 5 satellite connections, each with the maximum 60 GB on-peak data per month, for a total price of $950 per month. If she can arrange for the majority of her data transfers to occur in the off-peak time between 1 am and 7 am, she would have another 90 GB per month at her disposal, and this would decrease to ”only” $380. Those are the prices for SkyMesh; TPG don't seem to offer satellite.

In fact, it's interesting to note how few RSPs offer SkyMuster. Currently there are only 8, and none of them well known names. Here's a typical selection:

The others are similar. None offer more than a combined 150 GB per month. I suspect that the prices will come down because of lack of interest. SkyMesh has already dropped their prices by $10 since the last time I saw them. But all these offers have one thing in common: they're not enough. And there's nothing you can do to reduce latency below 480 ms.

So: is Barbara forced to use satellite? Currently ADSL is still available, and she will continue to need copper for her phone connection, She's been trying for some days now (at the wrong address, I think: she's been trying to break through the NBN bureaucracy), and nobody can tell her. It seems reasonable to assume that ADSL will gradually shut down when the majority of users migrate to FTT[NH]. How many people will be seriously disadvantaged as a result? I thought satellite was intended as a solution for people in the outback, not people on the edges of towns.

For once I'm glad that we have fixed wireless in Dereel.


The next mass murderer?
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

We're used to the occasional flame that still goes through the FreeBSD mailing lists, but today I saw one that really worried me. Here a couple of excerpts:

You could pay for me to visit you. If you are right, then there is no reason for you to worry. If you are wrong, then you will have no idea what I may or may not do to you.
You are not bullet proof nor are you stab proof.
I am excellent with crossbows and bows and arrows. I make my own spears. If I have an axe, it will be sharp enough to remove your head from your body. If you bother me enough times and continue to call me a liar, I will remove your head from your body and use you for a public example.
You can be traced to the city in which you live. You can be traced to your home.
I can find a way of going there without you knowing it.
I know how to make bombs, poisons, and extract hallucinogens from plants.
I know how to use a blow gun.
I can pick you off from fifty to seventy five yards and not be traced.
I can burn you alive with my own napalm formula.

OK, just another crank, right? But the violence he is threatening is disturbing. What's going through his head? What goes through the heads of the many US Americans who go on a shooting rampage? Should we just ignore him, or warn somebody who can assess the danger and potentially do something about it? I did the latter, indirectly: I sent a message to the FreeBSD core team asking them to consider the matter.

I'm sure it's just coincidental that, with the core team elections coming up, we're having difficulty to find enough candidates.


Wednesday, 25 May 2016 Dereel Images for 25 May 2016
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Irritating animals
Topic: animals, photography, opinion Link here

Lately the animals have been getting on my nerves. They're continually wanting to go in or out, scratching on doors. Sasha seems to be particularly irritating; sometimes he'll scratch on the laundry door to come in, wait until I wipe his feet, and then go out again.

We discussed the matter and decided that they needed more motion. Yes, we let them out of the house as much as they want, but they don't run about much. And since our incident with the Everetts last April, we no longer let them off the leash when walking. So: we should take them down the back of the property once a day and let them run. Did it today, while I tried in vain to get some photos of them running:


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There are a number of issues there: framing, focus speed, shutter speed, light. Most of the images had motion blur, so I ended up setting the shutter speed to 1/400s, still too slow. And that required increasing the sensitivity to 35°/2500 ISO in the last image. And a number of images were “empty” (no dog): by the time the lens had focused, the dog was gone. Much more practice needed.


Rani and Piccola: coming closer
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

We've had Rani for over 6 weeks, and Piccola still hasn't completely accepted her. But things are getting better:


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Piccola still isn't overly happy, but I think she's resigning herself to the idea.


Filled courgettes
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Yvonne bought some courgettes last week because they looked so nice. A week later they're still OK, but we didn't have a recipe in which to use them. In the past we've filled them with a mincemeat filling, but we weren't overly impressed with the results. Still, if it didn't work the first time, why not try again? So Yvonne went out and bought an aubergine and another capsicum to augment the one we already had. Then I faked a recipe:

quantity       ingredient       step
150 g       onion
23 g       garlic      
190 g       aubergine      
345 g       capsicum      
580 g       courgettes      
300 g       beef mince      
75 g       Bauchspeck, chopped      
0.8 g       tarragon      
0.9 g       thyme      
0.5 g       marjoram      
85 g       red wine      
10 g       salt      
100 g       cooked rice      
      breadcrumbs      
      olive oil      

Remove the flesh from the aubergine and courgettes and chop finely. Chop the onion, fry in oil for a while, add the pressed garlic, then the aubergine and courgette flesh. Cook until soft, add the beef and speck. Fry until half cooked, then add spices, wine and salt. Reduce, then fill into the vegetables:


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Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and olive oil and bake for 25 minutes. I was rather surprised by how quickly the dish went from undercooked to borderline burnt:


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It didn't taste bad. Both the rice and the speck are an improvement over the recipes we've made up to now. I've adjusted the quantities somewhat in the recipe.


Thursday, 26 May 2016 Dereel Images for 26 May 2016
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Wetness
Topic: general Link here

Another 13 mm of rain overnight. Now the soil is moist, and it doesn't drain away. In particular, the council drains on the road have long since atrophied, and there's lots of water out there which drains down through our property:


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Time to have a chat with the council.


New wiper blades
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Yvonne's car (a Holden Commodore VZ) needs new windscreen wiper blades. OK, that's straightforward—isn't it? In Australia, we're too cheap to replace the entire blade; instead we keep the blade assembly and replace only the rubber:


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How difficult can that be? I found it almost impossible! The rubber is attached to the end of the blade like this:


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That black clip goes all round the last hook of the blade frame. How do I get it off? It looked as if the thin strips on the side should come apart, but no, they're fixed. I could just destroy it, of course, but I don't want to do that until I know that I don't need them again.

OK, Google to the rescue. Plenty of videos. This one seems reasonable:

Round 1:26 into the video, it tells me to push the clip together with a pair of pliers and just pull the rubber out. Clearly a different construction. Could it be that the VZ has special blades? Went looking for replace windscreen wiper blade commodore vz, and came up with this video:

This one is just plain strange; it's very long, and at first I wasn't sure it was serious. Certainly the requirement of Bundaberg rum/cola should be optional. It's very long, but basically it just shows how to replace an entire wiper blade, not what I was looking for.

What all these videos have in common is that they don't describe the construction on my blades. While discussing it on IRC, I looked at the one photo more carefully:


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What's that black indentation at bottom right? With a bit of experimentation, I got:


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After that, things were plain sailing. The guide hooks on the blade look like this:


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And the new rubber has the kind of clip all the videos were talking about, and it fits inside the end guide:


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Done! Well, almost.

The rubbers are slightly longer than they need be, and they need to be cut off. This video tells you how to do that:

Basically you slide the metal rails out and snap them off at pre-marked points. Problem: no metal in my rubber. OK, that just simplifies things: cut off the end with side cutters. Then the very first video states that you should leave the rubber protrude from the last guide by about 2.5 cm. Wrong:


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That end overlaps the screen frame.

So now I know how to do it. But it's amazing how many different things there are to consider.


Photos: worth the trouble?
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Changing the wiper rubbers kept me busy for most of the afternoon, nearly 4 hours. Much of it was taken up with taking the photos. Was it worth it?

I was going to say “for the fun of it, yes”. But on reflection, I may not have found out how to remove the clip if I hadn't taken a photo of it. Not for the first time, macro photos reveal things that aren't obvious to the naked eye.

I also had another issue, the “half image” flash photo:


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I mentioned this a few days ago, wondering what caused it. This time I didn't change anything on the camera. On the second attempt the trigger didn't work at all, and on the third it worked normally. So at the moment it's looking like contact issues between the flash shoe and the trigger. Things were easier when the contact voltage was round 100 V.


TV reception: good again?
Topic: multimedia, opinion Link here

For no apparent reason, my TV reception is currently good:

Programme       Date       Start       End             Number of
name             time       time       Channel       recoding errors
ABC News Evenings       25 May 2016       17:57:03.496       18:35:00.854       2024
The Broken Circle Breakdown       25 May 2016       20:49:34.645       23:14:55.382       2032
Air Crash Investigations       25 May 2016       22:36:22.778       00:10:10.377       2062
German News       26 May 2016       10:27:02.819       11:02:00.698       2030       1
ABC News Evenings       26 May 2016       17:57:03.530       18:34:50.200       2024
Air Crash Investigations       26 May 2016       22:54:12.759       00:31:50.963       2062

Particularly the German News is interesting; I almost always have trouble with that particular programme, which suggests that the reception problems have something to do with the time of day. All this suggests that the antenna position is changing.


Friday, 27 May 2016 Dereel Images for 27 May 2016
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Dogs in forest again
Topic: animals, photography, opinion Link here

We intend to take the dogs into the house forest every day, but yesterday was so wet that we decided not to. Today I was a little more prepared, and got a couple of acceptable photos of them:


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Unfortunately, even 1/500s is not really fast enough:


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I'm getting the feeling I've found a use for my Zuiko Digital ED 35-100mm f/2.0 lens after all.

All went well until we were almost back at the house. Then Yvonne let go of Leonid a little too early. Off they shot into the dam, Nikolai jerking the leash out of my hand:


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Tanduri murgi and nan
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

We still haven't made up our mind about the ALDI döner grill that we bought last month. We have until mid-June to return it, so time to try again, this time with “tanduri chicken” on skewers. Real tanduri chicken is made on vertical spits, but it's not in cubes: it's entire chickens. Still, it seemed a reasonable thing to try.

While I was at it, had another stab at a sourdough tanduri nan. Today was bread bake day, so it was easy to make a little more starter for the nan. But what recipe? Went looking in my cookbooks, and just by chance found the silly stand-up cookbook by Mridula Baljekar open at a page with a recipe for “naan”. I really had it open because the other side had a bean recipe that I was thinking of trying.

But without exception all these recipes, and those I found on the web, used plain white flour for the nan. Why? I have some atta for chapatis, so I used that instead. And the recipe? For want of something better, I chose:

quantity       ingredient       step
90 g       sourdough starter (rye)
200 g       atta      
95 g (too much)       yoghurt      
5 g       salt      
25 g       ghee      

Things didn't go as well as I had hoped. The bread had risen very quickly, in under 2 hours (depending on the starter it can take up to 5 hours), so I didn't mix the nan dough immediately. I should have. It just about rose by the time I wanted to bake it (after over 4 hours), but it wasn't exactly fluffy. And it was a little sticky. I had intended to bake it like a pizza, which is similar to the conditions in a tandur, but it was difficult to get on the stone. Ultimately it looked like this:


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I made a total of three lots and left the third to rise on a ceramic plate. Bad idea. It wouldn't come off, so I baked it on the plate, and the result was less than excellent:


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That's the underside of the bread in the second photo.

And the chicken? That went better, but it showed a disadvantage not only of the grill, but also of the skewers. They bent wire, and the carefully positioned pieces of meat just slid to the bottom:


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Still, after 20 minutes' grilling, the were OK. But somehow the thing is too much work for what it delivers, and it has too many disadvantages. It goes back.


More Hindi transliterations
Topic: language, opinion Link here

Cooking dinner tonight involved three Hindi terms, and I think all three are transliterated incorrectly. It's important to note that letters are (almost?) never doubled in Hindi, so there should be a good reason to do it in the transliteration.

That's not just pedanticism. In some cases, these incorrect transliterations completely confuse matters. I've known of the Punjab, the land of the five rivers, for over half a century, and it's been nearly that long since I visited the place. But how do you pronounce it? I pondered that question six years ago. I had always taken it at face value, though I know that the Hindi word for “five” is something like “panj”. That would make the correct transliteration “Panjab”. But I'm sure I hear many people pronouncing it “Punjab” as written. Then it occurred to me: if it's really Punjab, some misguided Englishman would have transliterated it “Poonjab”. But no, no hits. So it must really be Panjab, not Punjab. It's only taken me 50 years to be (reasonably) sure.

Why is “Panjab” correct and “Punjab” incorrect? Yes, of course vowel sounds change, like they did in English with the Great Vowel Shift between 1350 and 1600. But that was a purely English phenomenon, and in any other language they would have changed the spelling to compensate:

Bat thæt wås a piurely Inglish phinomenon, ænd in æny other længuage they would hæv chænged thi spelling tu compensæt

But this transliteration has spread beyond English speakers and has influenced at least German, Italian and Spanish. In none of these languages does “u” reflect the correct pronunciation.


Saturday, 28 May 2016 Dereel Images for 28 May 2016
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More dog photos
Topic: animals, photography, opinion Link here

As planned, off to take some photos of the dogs running this afternoon, this time using my 35-100 mm f/2 telephoto lens. I set the shutter speed to 1/2000 s, which caused the camera to set the aperture to f/2 and the sensitivity to round 33°/1600 ISO. Even then, I wasn't able to stop the motion completely:

 
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The other issue was the irritating preview of the last photo that appears in the viewfinder for all of 500 ms. That may sound short, but it makes it almost impossible to track fast-moving objects. How do you adjust it? Worked my way down the maze of little twisty menus, all different, but couldn't find the settings. You'd think it would be under cog menu D (“Disp/bang/PC):

 
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But no, it's not there. I recalled having addressed this issue before, but couldn't find it, and I didn't put it on my settings page. In the evening, spent over half an hour poring over the excuse for an instruction manual, and still couldn't find it.


Sunday, 29 May 2016 Dereel Images for 29 May 2016
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Disable image display: finally!
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

An electronic viewfinder has many advantages over a purely optical viewfinder. One is that when you take a photo, it is briefly displayed in the viewfinder, by default for 0.5 s. You can get rid of it sooner by half-pressing the shutter release.

But what happens when you're taking many photos of moving objects, like yesterday ? It's really irritating. So, of course, you can turn it off (you can also set the display time to between 0.3 and 20 s). But how? Looking at the overview of the cog menus, it's clear that it belongs in menu D (“Disp/bang/PC):

 
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But no, it's not there. Yesterday I spent over half an hour looking through the manuals, my old diary entries and the camera menus themselves. In vain. One of the problems is: what do you call the function? Today went through John Foster's page and finally found it: it's called “Rec View” (something that I would have associated with video, not stills), and you set it not in the cog menus, but in the spanner menu bottom left on this view:

 
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No wonder I couldn't find it. Now, of course, I can find my previous reference, but of course I no longer need to. At any rate I have updated my settings page so that I don't have that problem again.


More dog walking
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

As planned, off for more photos with the dogs today, this time without the hindrance of the previous image display. Things are getting better, but it's still not easy. Focus is still an issue, and it's bound to remain one: dogs running straight at me change focus constantly, and at f/2 the depth of field is paper thin. And framing is also not easy. Still, I got a few interesting photos:


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It'll be a while before I get a photo that I really like.


Some garden work
Topic: gardening Link here

Our garden looks terrible compared to the way it did in Kleins Road, but surprisingly the Cannas are doing well, as this month's garden photos show. Today I felt motivated enough to trim off the old dead flowers, but when I got out, I found that strangest of things: no wind. So first I went round the garden with the poison spray, pondering in the process the now apparently refuted claims that Glyphosate is a carcinogen. Could it be a rumour created by the competition and designed to lower the immense profitability of the product?


Monday, 30 May 2016 Dereel Images for 30 May 2016
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Dog photography: low yield
Topic: photography, animals Link here

More photos of dogs running today. It's really not easy, and I suspect it will be some time before I get usable photos. Here a couple of borderlines:


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More focus stacking software
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Special offer from FRANZIS Verlag today: photo stacking software for only half of the normally surprisingly high price, 69 € instead of 129 €. Of course, the price outside Europe is $129 US, corresponding to 116 €. With considerable difficulty (their web site seemed to have gone to sleep) found a test version and downloaded it.

Somehow I have difficulty coming to terms with graphical interface software, even where, like here, it makes sense. The web site points to two demonstration video clips:

But it was very small, and I couldn't full-screen it. Still, it was a YouTube video, so I tried there. This stupid “an error occurred” message! I had previously assumed that meant “you are not authorized to view this video”, but I could view it in postage stamp size via the FRANZIS web site. OK, I have my own PHP function to display the clips (as above):

      <?php youtube ("D5L9ji6NnIY"); ?>

And that worked fine. HOW I wish this software would produce usable error messages.

I started with my Hibiscus photos from early March. They had shown significant problems with enfuse:

 
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Tried again with the same images. I didn't expect this message:

 
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Yes, I know that dischord with “only” 4 GB memory is is borderline for photo stuff, but this really wasn't much. Tried the “long waiting time” option, but after an hour, decided to stop it. But how? The system had swapped itself into catatonia. This stupid Microsoft idea of requiring the cooperation of a program to stop made it impossible, and it took 15 minutes just to convince it to shut down.

OK, “reduce the size of all images”. And that created quite a nice image:


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It's certainly better than anything I got with enfuse. But it's only 1137 x 877, mainly because I didn't want to wait another couple of hours before getting a result. More playing around needed, not to mention payment if I want to get rid of the watermarks.


Upgrading dischord
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Clearly dischord needs more memory. It's also been a while since I last did a software update on it. So tried again today and was offered:


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If I do nothing, it installs “Windows” 10 on the machine and leaves me dead in the water. What an insult!

For some reason didn't continue then. When I came back and tried again, it spent several hours checking for updates. Why does it take so long? It finally came back with a list shortly before dinner. Left it running overnight.

More importantly, though: where do I get more memory for it? Going back some months, I had already investigated that, and confirmed that the machine has 4 RAM slots, of which only two are occupied. But that's not the case! There are only two slots. How could I have made such a mistake?

Simple: when “Windows” 10 failed to deliver, I took the disk from the old dischord and put it in the new machine, which I had planned to call damnation. I must stop doing that. It really clouds this kind of issue.

So: what kind of memory? dmidecode will report that, sometimes correctly. But not this time: it doesn't run on Microsoft. Found a program called CPU-Z that reported that I had 4 GB of 665 MHz DDR3 RAM, which is correct as far as it goes; dmidecode would have told me how many DIMMs, and maybe other information. So I need 2 new DIMMs with at least 4 GB each. Off to eBay to look for them. Available from $12.82 each: “4GB PC3-12800 1600 MHz 240-pin DDR3 Memory For AMD 760G 880G 890G 990G Chipset”.

What's this AMD chipset thing? All the cheaper RAMs seem to say (implicitly) that they won't work with Intel. More stuff to investigate. Why is this always so complicated?


Tuesday, 31 May 2016 Dereel → Geelong → Dereel Images for 31 May 2016
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DDR3 RAM compatibility
Topic: technology Link here

So does dischord require special RAM? All the cheap offers on eBay are “AMD Only”, and dischord runs Intel. But what's the difference? Spent some time investigating. dischord is a Lenovo Thinkcentre M71E 3132A8M, and there's a support page for it with numerous links, including to manuals. It took a while to discover that nearly all the links are dead, pointing back to the page itself. No mention of any RAM compatibility issues. Still, a good basis for further investigation.


Dog photos, next attempt
Topic: animals, photography, opinion Link here

Looking at yesterday's dog photos, it's clear that I have a focus problem. Here a couple of details:


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It's not difficult to guess that that's because the dog moved after the camera focused. It's completely sharp where he was, but not where he is. OK, alternative focus methods? I was using S-AF (single autofocus), so that makes sense. How about C-AF (continuous autofocus)? And where should I focus? With this lens (Four Thirds) I have the choice of one of 37 targets (compared to 81 for a Micro Four Thirds lens), or let the camera choose. It seems no longer possible to select a group of focus points the way I could with the E-30. In general I select the target in the middle of the image, but for today I chose the “any target” option.

And the results? We're not there yet. In particular, the “any target” option is useless:


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There's no way to tell the camera where to focus; that's a feature, not a bug, but it's not a feature I can use here. On the other hand, some of the images show promise:


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One thing's clear: exact framing is impossible, so I have to crop, like here. It'll be a while before I'm satisfied.


More dental stuff
Topic: health Link here

Off to Geelong in the afternoon for my six-monthly periodontic maintenance. While there discussed the tooth that Mario wants to remove. Yes, says Leela, take it out first and then decide if something needs to go in in its place.

I suppose the good news is that my gums look better than six months ago, as we had hoped.

Took a long way back home, via Anakie, Steiglitz and Meredith, at times directly into the setting sun. Strangely, it hardly took any longer than the normal way.


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