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November 2018
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Thursday, 1 November 2018 Dereel Images for 1 November 2018
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ARPAnet and the dangers of daylight saving time
Topic: general, opinion Link here

I've recently become aware of a number of people who strongly object to daylight saving time. OK, I'm not a great fan, but there are many other things I'd rather grumble about.

But then, a couple of days ago was the 49th anniversary of the day I wrote my first program. For some reason, people found it more interesting that it was also the day that the first two datagrams were transmitted across the ARPANET.

Or was it? The documentation states that it happened on 29 October 1969, at 22:30. What time zone? US Pacific Time. DST or no DST? Nowadays it would be DST, since the transition is the first Sunday in November. But was it like that at the time? Spent quite a bit of time reading /usr/src/contrib/tzdata/northarmerica and watching my eyes go funny, and came to the conclusion: yes, standard time. In 1969 (and, it seems, until as recently as 2006), DST ended on the last Sunday in October:

# Rule  NAME    FROM    TO      TYPE    IN      ON      AT      SAVE    LETTER/S
Rule    US      1918    1919    -       Mar     lastSun 2:00    1:00    D
Rule    US      1918    1919    -       Oct     lastSun 2:00    0       S
Rule    US      1942    only    -       Feb     9       2:00    1:00    W # War
Rule    US      1945    only    -       Aug     14      23:00u  1:00    P # Peace
Rule    US      1945    only    -       Sep     lastSun 2:00    0       S
Rule    US      1967    2006    -       Oct     lastSun 2:00    0       S
Rule    US      1967    1973    -       Apr     lastSun 2:00    1:00    D
Rule    US      1974    only    -       Jan     6       2:00    1:00    D
Rule    US      1975    only    -       Feb     23      2:00    1:00    D
Rule    US      1976    1986    -       Apr     lastSun 2:00    1:00    D
Rule    US      1987    2006    -       Apr     Sun>=1  2:00    1:00    D
Rule    US      2007    max     -       Mar     Sun>=8  2:00    1:00    D
Rule    US      2007    max     -       Nov     Sun>=1  2:00    0       S

And the last Sunday in October 1969 was 26 October 1969. Some discussion on the TUHS mailing list, where people repeated their dislike of DST. But this message still contained an interesting example of the dangers of getting your DST wrong


Focus stacked macros: the pain
Topic: photography, gardening, opinion Link here

Off down the road again today to take some more photos of the Thelymitra pauciflora. It wasn't easy: it was windier than I had expected, my footstool proved to be so low that it was almost no help:,


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The barely visible pair of Thelymitra in the middle of the second image show the problem. In addition, I ran into significant technical problems: I really, really want to be able to tell the camera to take a series of images over a focus range, not just a fixed number, which might be too many or too few. And to help that, I need much better support from the camera. “Focus peaking” is an excellent idea, but for some reason it pretty much doesn't work at all when you're close to 1:1 magnification. And then there's this stupid bug in the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II firmware: when the external viewfinder is connected, the camera switches off focus stacking, so I continually had to disconnect it before taking the photos.

Back home with 240 odd photos (about 5 GB), but wasn't able to get any useful results before evening.


CJ's computer problems, next installment
Topic: technology Link here

CJ Ellis along towards evening. He hadn't called or sent email: his entire electronic infrastructure was offline, he said. Aussie Broadband had cancelled his service because he had accidentally replied to a spam message, so his VoIP service didn't work any more either. And his computer continually displayed pornographic images that he couldn't get rid of.

OK, first things first. Contacted Aussie Broadband. No, the service was still intact. OK, fire up the machine. Indeed, as soon as I started chrome, up popped multiple very pornographic images like a Hydra: as soon as you closed on, another popped up in its place. Installed firefox and confirmed that this was some configuration of his chrome. Some time, when I have the time, I suppose I should reinstall that for him. Probably it would make more sense to reinstall the whole system from an image I took a while back.

The other issue: his machine runs Microsoft “Windows” 7. It has 2 GB of memory:


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And that is clearly too little. The poor little thing is swapping its heart out. Now where did I have a spare DIMM? What kind is it, anyway? Do I really have to count the contacts?


Friday, 2 November 2018 Dereel
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Downloading film list: correction
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

A couple of days ago I discovered that I couldn't download MediathekView's file list using the internal download function: it timed out repeatedly. But using fetch worked fine, so I decided to do that instead.

But things aren't that simple. Today fetch timed out repeatedly for over an hour. So I tried it with the internal downloader. It worked immediately! So whatever the issue is, it's not as simple as bugs in the internal downloader.


More Thelymitras
Topic: photography, gardening, opinion Link here

Spent quite some time trying to process yesterday's Thelymitra flowers, with very limited success:


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That's all I got out of a total of 240 images: only four in total (the other two look very similar), and even those don't bear much looking at.

What went wrong? Mainly the wind, but also getting things in focus. Even the close-up isn't as good as it should be: the tip of the petal at the bottom isn't completely in focus, nor is the back of the flower. In this case, clearly I needed not only a better start focus point, but also more steps. There should really be more help from the camera. And why doesn't focus peaking work at these distances?

On the positive side, I found some more, much more accessible flowers in front of our own property. But it was far too windy—we had winds of up to 33 km/h and gusts of up to 48 km/h. Tomorrow? Then it will be cooler, so the flowers will probably shrivel up and die.


Installing the new cooktops
Topic: general Link here

Now that we have the new gas and induction cooktops, it's time to install them. I had been recommended Mike Simpson (“Mike for odd jobs”, phone 0419 935 147), who proves to do mainly joinery, and definitely no plumbing, electrical or painting work. He charges round $80 just to come out here, but today he was prepared to do it for free—just to take a look, and definitely not to install the cooktops.

He showed up and spent some time investigating. The good news: it's straightforward. The less good news: he can't do it for at least 2 weeks. I was also left wondering whether it would even work the way we planned it, with a single hole for both cooktops. The Bosch cooktop has clips on either side to hold it in place. How can that work if there's nothing to clip to on the one side?


Saturday, 3 November 2018 Dereel Images for 3 November 2018
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Wildflowers and orchids
Topic: gardening Link here

The weather has changed completely in the last couple of days. On Thursday the temperature reached 32.8° and didn't drop below 20° after 8:00. Today the temperatures ranged from 9° to 18°. And not surprisingly, the Thelymitra pauciflora were no longer flowering. While searching for them, though, I found at least a dozen plants at the north-east corner of our plot of land. Have they all finished flowering? I'll keep my eyes open.

Further south, there are plenty of wildflowers, but how do you catch them in a photo?


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It's not until you enlarge it greatly (this is a 52 MP image) that you see what you would see with the naked eye:


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The white flowers are Burchardia umbellata (or “Milkmaids”), and the violet flowers are, I think, Thysanotus patersonii, also called Twining Fringe Lily. The problem is that there is no fringe. Could it be something else?


Air fried hash browns
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Rather against my will, Yvonne wanted to serve hash browns with the pepper steaks this evening. How should we prepare them? Another task for the digital air fryer. But how do I arrange them? Put them flat and they'll only get done on one side. But that wasn't an option: the basket was too small. In the end, tried them in different orientations, and all worked. Here before, after, and in the serving dish (Yvonne had tastefully turned the pale side downwards):


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The sadness of this world
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

Nikolai, in a typical pose:


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Sunday, 4 November 2018 Dereel Images for 4 November 2018
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Sir Christiane rides again
Topic: photography, animals, opinion Link here

Chris Bahlo has been coming here to go riding for a simple reason: she needs somebody to help her to put on her armour. For me, it was a chance to try out new autofocus settings. Kev Russell on the M43 Tech Talk Facebook group had made a post suggesting the use of “small” focus points on the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, so I tried that.

This time things were interesting for reasons not related to photography. Chris had mechanical issues with her armour, and Yvonne needed to fix them (https://youtu.be/oWOyaWG1ZqE and https://youtu.be/jM7LN0D6WKo):

 
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She returned again later for more adjustments. The cord is electric fence wiring, though we considered that cable ties probably would have done better:


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Finally she was off, and I had the opportunity to compare my focus tracking:

Nope, I'm still losing focus, though I kept the focus point on the horse throughout the clip. In addition, the exposure compensation is jerky. I haven't seen that before. Could that be due to the M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-150 mm f/4.0-5.6 that I used on this occasion?

Also took another failed focus attempt.


Fringe lily? Chocolate lily?
Topic: gardening, photography, opinion Link here

While writing up yesterday's article on the wildflowers, I found a discrepancy between what I considered a Thysanotus patersonii (twining fringe lily) and what I had. On Google image search I found a photo that exactly matched my flowers:


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Unfortunately, it proved that I had taken it myself, even in exactly the same place. And closer examination shows that the “fringe lily” is called that because of the fringes on the petals, which are missing here.

Further investigation suggested that it might instead be a Dichopogon strictus, for some reason called a “chocolate lily”:

OK, time for some focus stacked images, this time in a more controlled environment than last time. Much work, and once again failure! Firstly, I didn't get enough shots (WHY can't Olympus supply better aids to decide on start and end focus?):


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Apart from that, of course, the photo was taken from the wrong angle, which only occurred to after it was all finished. I really need to spend a lot more time setting up these images.


Buy Britannica!
Topic: language, opinion Link here

A while back I signed up with Encyclopædia Britannica in the hope of getting some interesting suggestions. Instead I got marginally disguised spam. But today's message was the limit:

Date: Fri, 02 Nov 2018 18:40:47 -0600
From: Britannica <noreply@email.britannica.com>
Subject: Who did Ben Franklin consider deranged?

Interestingly, the content didn't refer to Benjamin Franklin at all. But how should I parse it? Who considered Ben Franklin to be deranged? Good-bye, Britannica.


Monday, 5 November 2018 Dereel Images for 5 November 2018
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Extracting frames from videos
Topic: multimedia, photography, opinion Link here

Yesterday's video clips contained some interesting individual frames. They were 1080p, so the resultant images would be quite acceptable. But how do I extract them? It's not the first time: I did exactly the same thing two months ago. But how? I forgot to write it down.

While pondering the issue, I received one of these horrible spams from Ashampoo: video optimizer, for a special low price. I've had lots of issues with Ashampoo recently, and I'm seriously considering changing to some other software—if I can find something that's not equally painful. Still, it might be what I'm looking for, at least for today, so I downloaded it.

And once again I ran into a hang entering data. I was offered an extension of the 10 day free trial to 30 days—just enter my customer email address. But once again it hung, and I had to shoot it down. But it didn't want to know: when I tried to restart it, it claimed to be already running, no matter what the Task Manager might say:

 
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What's the problem here? I've established that their support department, though well-meaning, doesn't know how to escalate things, but my guess is that this is related to the fact that I access my Microsoft box via remote desktop, and there's some bug that the developers aren't finding out about. But life's too short for that kind of thing, so today I just took screen shots of the frames I wanted. I probably should spend some time investigating video processing software.


DxO PhotoLab 2
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

For a couple of months now I've been investigating various ways to remove the artefacts from this image:


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On 11 September I tried Inpaint, and on 25 October I tried movavi Photo Editor. Both sort of worked, but they were fiddly: they don't offer any help to recognizing areas that I want to mark.

And now DxO has brought out another release of PhotoLab. What are the features? What are the differences? Is it worth paying $70 for the upgrade? In principle I've been relatively happy with DxO, but documentation is not their forte. Spent some time looking at their videos, which are more geared towards advertising, and it seems that it can do the same things as Inpaint and movavi. Tried it out and discovered one serious issue: one of the functions is assigned to Alt-left button. But that's already used by my window manager. Not DxO's problem, of course, but it's a concern: the first time in over 20 years that I've run into this kind of conflict.

Still, I was able to mark things. How do I then delete them? I still don't know. It's certainly not “intuitive”, and once again I couldn't find the manual. Why don't they have videos showing the details and not just the result? This is exactly the situation where it would be a good idea.


Tomatoes: time to go
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

Six weeks ago I planted some tomato seedlings into pots to wait for Melbourne Cup Day:


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Cup Day is tomorrow, and the twelve seedlings have not been idle:


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Time to plant some and give the rest away. Yvonne and Chris Bahlo are off to Garvoc tomorrow to pick up a horse from Nele Kömle, so we'll send four plants for Nele. Chris only wants one, but it looks like we can get rid of two more with Pene Kirk.


Tuesday, 6 November 2018 Dereel Images for 6 November 2018
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Another bloody power failure!
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

This morning was a day to trim my beard. Grabbed the trimmer, idly wondering whether it was worth fixing the old one that had suddenly just decided not to run any more. Clearly a wiring issue, but why bother fixing them when they're so cheap...

Plugged in the trimmer. Nothing. Exactly the same symptoms. Power failure? No, other things were running, including the water pump. But on checking, discovered eventually that the circuit breaker for one circuit had tripped. Damn! Why did that happen?

And, of course, it was the one circuit to which eureka was connected. I didn't have it on the main UPS circuits because that UPS keeps fluctuating (switching on and off based on the power input?), and that causes the second-in-line UPS to beep, so I had moved it to the other circuit. If it had been on the primary UPS circuit, nothing would have happened.

Fortunately, this time the fsck went smoothly, and an hour later I was back online. But I'm left wondering: my decision to use standard UFS (without journaling) was based on the assumption that I would almost never have a crash. And that's just not the case.

So what do I do? Everybody tells me to migrate to ZFS. But that scares me, and it seems to require ridiculous compute resources. Maybe a NAS box? Clearly things can't go on like this.


Ashampoo examined more carefully
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Yesterday's fun with Ashampoo video optimizer had me wondering. In the past I had noticed stuff like that, where characters echo at about one every 30 seconds. So today I tried again. And sure enough, to get my extended trial period took me 27 minutes before my cut and paste had echoed and I was allowed to click on the Next button. And after that, another 4 minutes before the application actually started.

Then it seemed to react normally. But can I be bothered? Not today. Peter Jeremy pointed me to FFmpeg, which can extract stills from videos. That's the second recommendation. I should take a look.


More tomatoes
Topic: gardening Link here

Yvonne off to see Nele Kömle today, as planted, taking five tomato plants with her, four for Nele and one for Chris Bahlo. Now I only had six left over, two for Pene Kirk. One was already planted, and I planted two more.

Here's the one that I planted a week ago, and now:


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It's not clear how much the plant has changed; I'd guess that it has grown. But what's very clear are other plants around it. I counted no less than 17 volunteer descendents of last year's plant. What do I do with them?

Here the new ones:


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Also planted one of the snow pea plants that Petra Gietz gave us, but they still look very fragile:


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Wednesday, 7 November 2018 Dereel Images for 7 November 2018
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The demise of the Micro Four Thirds system?
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

A couple of months ago Tony and Chelsea Northrup produced a discussion of MIRRORLESS WARS, in which they predicted the demise of the Micro Four Thirds system. That wasn't enough: they have now produced a second one titled “Micro Four-Thirds is DEAD”.

Is he right? First I need to hear what he has to say, so I watched the entire clip. There's some interesting stuff, but not enough for a blow-by-blow discussion. In many respects I can't agree with his arguments.

One of the big ones is “A manufacturer will not tell you when he's going to stop production of a product”, and he points to Panasonic's introduction of the new Lumix S series, still under development. Why would they jump into that market if they weren't thinking of stopping production of the Micro Four Thirds system?

Well, their CEO made that clear: there's an opportunity. He expects that Micro Four Thirds will continue to be the mainstay of their camera production. And the fact that they're bringing out a 10-25 mm f/1.7 zoom lens—the world's fastest zoom—lends weight to that claim.

Then Tony goes on to state that the reason for smaller sensors in the first place was just because the sensors themselves were so expensive to make that they were a significant part of the camera price, and now that has changed. Is he right? He could be, but I didn't know that. When I chose the Four Thirds system in 2007, that was not a factor. Innovation was.

But Tony says that small sensors produce bad results. He also says that mobile phone cameras produce surprisingly good results. Which is it to be? Four Thirds has a quarter of the area of a full frame sensor. The current best mobile phone camera on DxOMark's site is the Xiaomi Mi MIX 3 with a 1/2.55 sensor, about 8.7% of the size of a Four Thirds sensor.

The other thing that Tony doesn't appear to understand is that sensor performance is dependent on pixel size, not sensor dimensions. The Four Thirds sensor has an area of 224.9 mm², so a 20 MP sensor will have pixels of 11.2 μm². A full frame sensor has an area of (frequently marginally less than) 864 mm², so a 45.7 MP sensor like on the Nikon Z7 would have a pixel size of 18.9 μm². Not as big a difference as it might seem. On the other hand, the Xiaomi pixels, despite the relatively low resolution of 12 MP, has pixels about 1.62 μm² in size.

And then he gets on to lens sizes. Micro Four Thirds lenses are no smaller than full frame lenses, he says. To prove his point, he drags out an Olympus 300 mm f/4 and a Nikon 600 mm f/4. This image from the 43rumours discussion:


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Huh? What has he been smoking? Oh, no, you can't compare an f/4 full frame lens with a Micro Four Thirds f/4 lens. There's this thing about equivalent aperture. You need to compare it with an f/8 lens.

Sorry, Tony, but this is stupid. I'll write a separate rant on the subject, but basically there are two ways to measure aperture: by the amount of light it lets in (the standard method) or by the relative depth of field. And for reasons I really don't understand, some people use the depth-of-field criterion. In this case, it seems that Tony is saying that depth of field (or rather, lack of it) is more important than exposure.

Sure, shallow depth of field can be useful in composition, but for me it's been the bane of my life. I see the increased depth of field of Micro Four Thirds cameras as an advantage. It certainly is in the case of long telephoto photography. But never mind, that goes against Tony's argument. He says that to compare the cameras, you need to compare full frame lenses with Micro Four Thirds lenses with half the aperture (for example, 50 mm f/2.8 FF with 25 mm f/1.4 Micro Four Thirds). And there's the problem: there are effectively no 50 mm f/2.8 full frame lenses.

I did a bit of comparison and came up with a Canon EOS R with a Canon TSE 135 mm f/4 and an Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II) with an M.Zuiko Digital ED 75 mm f/1.8, which, according to Tony, would correspond to a full frame 150 mm f/3.4, both larger “equivalent aperture” and equivalent focal length, so it should be bigger than the Canon lens (here), and then the Sigma 50 mm f/2.8 EX DG with the Leica Summilux 25 mm f/1.4 (here):


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Yup, when Tony's right, he's right. This time he's wrong even according to his own strange standards.

The next point that Tony makes is a good one: research and development for new equipment is expensive, and to be amortized it needs large sales figures. So now that Panasonic has gone the full frame way, it's clear that they'll give up on Micro Four Thirds within 12 months. Never mind what the CEOs say about relative market, never mind the fact that they've spread their costs by going along with Leica and Sigma.

And Olympus is going down a “lonely path” with Micro Four Thirds. They're too expensive. The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II costs (US) $2000, but it can't keep up with the Sony A7 III, which costs the same.

OK, we can check what other people think about that. Here is a good comparison. Summarizing (my choice):

Camera       E-M1 Mark II       A7 III
Price (B&H)       $1,599       $1,998
Better lens selection      
Still frame rate       60.6 f/s       9.9 f/s

So it's not really clear that the A7 III is the Olympus killer, and his price claims don't hold out.

But no, Micro Four Thirds will be dead within 5 years. That's why Olympus has not started on any alternative route, of course. And if small sensors are no longer worthwhile, what's Fujifilm doing?

Of course there have been other people who disagree. This rebuttal by Joseph Ellis goes into some detail about his claims.

First, the dangers of mobile phones: that battle is over. Mobile phones won. Micro Four Thirds is still here.

Then, Tony is far too fixated on sensors. The mobile phone battle shows that pretty much any sensor is good enough, and the difference in quality between individual sensors is no longer what it was.

Instead there are other factors, like weather sealing (in that connection, it's interesting to note that the EOS R is barely weather sealed, despite its considerably higher price) and multishot functionality like Pro Capture Mode. He didn't mention it, but things like focus stacking and HDR mode also come to mind.

Other aspects that he mentioned are what I have experienced, that users of long telephoto lenses are migrating to smaller cameras because they're easier to use, and that Olympus, in particular, is very innovative, while the big brands are quite conservative. That rings true: that's one of the main reasons I got started with Olympus in the first place.

Regarding “equivalent aperture”, he notes that there's a real epidemic of bokeh (a word that I hadn't heard of before the beginning of this century, and which the OED still doesn't know), and that it's “the enemy of good composition”. But without bokeh (which the US Americans seem to pronounce in two different ways), Tony's main size argument falls even flatter.

And maybe he sums the whole issue up with the statement that the Northrups need to produce something to please their (far too prominent) sponsors: “They've got to create articles that make some buzz and stir things up”

That's probably the best summary of the whole thing. It's a pity, though, since it won't help sales of Micro Four Third cameras.


Wonders of Jalapa
Topic: gardening Link here

Other plants that are coming up in the garden include some Mirabilis jalapa, which stowed away in a pot plant:


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They're not the only ones. Around one of the pots I found this:


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That's many small plants. I think I'll leave them there until they finish flowering, and then dig out the bulbs.


Cockatoos!
Topic: animals Link here

There are plenty of Sulphur-crested cockatoos in Victoria, but they normally don't come very close. But a couple of days ago, one flew past me so close that I thought he would hit me. And today, while walking the dogs, I saw this:


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That was just at the entrance to the driveway, and the bird was one of two or three, only about 6 m away. They seemed to be interested in the bark of the tree, or maybe some secretion. I wonder if we'll see more of them.


Thursday, 8 November 2018 Dereel Images for 8 November 2018
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Welcome Ruth
Topic: general Link here

Ruth Viebrock arrived today almost as planned. We had spent some time looking at flightradar24, which disagreed with the flight schedule. Of course the (British Airways) schedule was wrong: BA7410, leaving HKG at 18:05 yesterday and arriving at MEL this morning at 6:35. Problem: it was code shared with Qantas QF30, leaving HKG at 19:00 and arriving at 7:30. How do people make such a mess?

In fact, she took off at 19:29 arrived at 7:07, though British Airways reported completely different times, but too late to catch the 7:45 shuttle to Ballarat, so Yvonne went off to meet the next bus at 10:35. Not there: there had been a pileup on the freeway, they had to take a deviation, and the staff member at the station had no idea when they would arrive (or of much else, it appears). But she ended up arriving only about 10 minutes late.


Australian animals for Ruth
Topic: animals Link here

Ruth is overjoyed to be in a place that she previously only knew from photos. And being an animal lover, of course she wanted to see Australian animals. The first one we encountered was while walking the dogs:


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A black snake (Pseudechis)! I don't know when I last saw one. It must be well over 10 years ago. But they're very poisonous, and we gave it a wide berth.

Later on Ruth saw some kangaroos at a distance in our paddocks, so she has the definite feeling of being in Australia.


Tony Northrup again
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

To my surprise, people on IRC were relatively interested in yesterday's article on the Micro Four Thirds system. I knew that Jashank Jeremy has one, and by extension Peter Jeremy supports the system. And it seems that Daniel O'Connor also bought one for his daughter (a Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM5), and has also invested in a couple of lenses. So clearly they're interested, but it's also an indication that the system is popular. I may have influenced Jashank with his purchase, but Daniel didn't even buy the same brand.

Some discussion on IRC, in which (for once) everybody agreed with me, and one overriding concept came out of the discussion: Tony Northrup is fixated on sensor size, to a point where his other arguments don't make sense. R&D costs? The best way to reduce them is for makers to cooperate, and that's exactly what Micro Four Thirds does. Nearly all new full-frame mirrorless cameras (Nikon, Canon) continue the old line of one maker, one system.

I need to think about this more and update my article.


Activating a SIM card for Ruth
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

One of the first things we wanted to do for Ruth was to activate a SIM card for her telephone. OK, finally a use for the free Vodafone SIM that I got with my new phone.

The first thing you need to do is to activate it, of course. The recommended way is “Insert the SIM into your device, switch it on and follow the prompts”. OK, insert, switch on. Nothing exciting happens.

Is that because there's no coverage? Or does it expect to be put into a Nokia 3? I could try activation online, but that way madness lies. Instead I took the ALDI SIM that I had bought for this eventuality and put it into the phone. All OK, please activate. This time I tried the online method and was asked to provide a credit card number so that they could deduct a random sum to be used as a password, then to be refunded.

Been there, done that. It takes for ever. So I tried the phone approach instead (2534, free call, works even when not activated). Connected to <mumble>. How do you spell that? <mumble><mumble><mumble>. Lee? No, finally it turned out to be Fay. I don't have any issue with outsourcing phone support services to countries where English is not the main language, but I wish they'd choose people whom I could understand.

The first thing that she wanted was a “Security PIN”. I've never heard of one of those before on this service; maybe it's because I avoid phone contact. She wasn't very helpful, and finally I gave up and decided to bite the bullet and deduct the sum from my credit card.

But that didn't work. Something went wrong (!), as they said.

 
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What? They're too polite to say. Tried again. Same thing. Different browser. Another different browser. Another system. Always the same thing.

Dammit, call them up again, and this time <mumble>'s name proved to be Marly. Some script again. I asked to be connected to a supervisor, but no, she could help me. I had to ask three times and threaten to complain to the TIO before I was finally connected to Martin, who was in fact quite helpful. The reason for this business in the first place was a discrepancy between my name on the driver license (GREGORY P LEHEY) and on my account (Greg Lehey). And the deduction didn't work because the last <mumble> had cancelled the order. And yes, I need to do the deduction, but he can do that for me. That involved resetting my password, but that's not an issue.

Only the deduction didn't show up on my account. That's not surprising, but it means waiting until tomorrow before I can continue.


Friday, 9 November 2018 Dereel → Cape Clear → Berringa → fDereel Images for 9 November 2018
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Spring planting
Topic: gardening Link here

Mick the gardener along today, this time with the task of planting many plants in the garden—in fact, so many that I wasn't sure where to put them all. We put the Hibiscus rosa-sinensis in the bed on the north side of the house. Both required to be propped up:


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The second one also looks rather unhappy:


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Mike didn't water any of the plants, so I did it later; hopefully it will recover.

Then there were the couple of creepers that I had grown from cuttings. Unfortunately I don't know what each is, so we'll have to wait for them to flower:


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The first one is barely visible at the right side of the arch.

In front of the second creeper we did a second attempt at a row of Cannas, since the first ones (surprisingly) didn't do very well:


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Then a Pelargonium that Yvonne had found somewhere:


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It, too, is looking surprisingly unhappy, but I'm sure that it will recover.

And finally some more tomatoes, not quite in the order in which I had wanted them:


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Nikolai to the vets again
Topic: animals, general, opinion Link here

Nikolai has been biting himself on the behind for a while, for no obvious reason. Today off to see Pene Kirk, in the process introducing her to Ruth and getting rid of the last of our tomato plants.

We couldn't find much wrong with Niko, so Pene shaved the area and put on some cortisone ointment, which will hopefully do the trick:


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Took a different way back, despite Yvonne's objections, to show Ruth a little more of the countryside. In Berringa I couldn't find my way home:


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For once I didn't have my GPS navigator with me, and I wasn't really sure where we were. Followed the sign to Dereel and ended up in a little track far too reminiscent of Westons Road in Dereel on 4 July 2014, where we ended up like this:


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Managed to turn around, and then I asked my phone, which really helped, though it's still fiddlier than with a real navigator. It seems that somebody had rotated the signpost.

Past Mount Misery Creek Bridge again, which, I was going to say, has further declined (like I did the last couple of times), but in fact there's not much difference. Here this time last year and then today:


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Then looking for spider orchids (a term that I haven't been able to uniquely identify, probably a Caladenia atrovespa or Caladenia attingens) where I had found them two years ago.


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We found almost nothing. I had assumed that it was because it was earlier in the year last time I was there, but in fact it was on 12 November. The difference must be the dryness this year.

About the only things I did find were these:


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What are they? No idea.


ALDImobile activation, day 2
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

First thing in the morning I checked my bank account for the promised deduction from ALDImobile. Nothing. There was other activity, but not from ALDImobile.

Dammit, what now? Nothing for it, I had to brave their phone help service. This time <mumble>'s name proved to be Ann. Why is it so difficult to understand these names? I have never been able to understand them when they announce themselves, and I almost invariably need them to spell it for me.

She, too, went through her script and wanted me to do the same thing I had tried twice before. Once again I got fed up and asked for a supervisor, and once again she insisted that she could help.

Finally she put me through. This time <mumble> proved to be called Ethel, and how about that, she was able to perform the activation there and then! Another change of password, of course, which, compared to the previous one, suggests that their generated passwords consist of 4 random digits, initials of customer in capitals, two lower case letters and a ?. For me, the two lower case letters were am in each case, for something like 0815GLam?.

Finally through. The moral of the story?


New Melaleuca
Topic: gardening Link here

Walking the dogs today I saw an interesting plant:


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What is it? From the kind of flower, it has to be a Melaleuca or a Callistemon. I was just surprised to find it there, where we've been past hundreds of times before.


Overflowing ice
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Freezing chicken stock in small pieces is the only way to go. It's easy to portion and easy to thaw out. Today I froze 5 pieces of about 200 g each. But this one was interesting:


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How did that happen? The left hand side was facing the door of the freezer, where it's clearly not quite as cold. So as the liquid on the right froze, it pushed its way out of the left hand side and over the edge.


Saturday, 10 November 2018 Dereel Images for 10 November 2018
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Camera crash!
Topic: photography, general Link here

While taking my house photos this morning, something terrible happened: while I was carrying the tripod over my shoulder, with the camera overhead, the panorama bracket parted company with the tripod, and the whole assembly, including camera, lens and remote control, fell to the ground, taking a couple of photos on the way:


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$3000 worth of photographic equipment! How much damage?

The obvious things were that the remote control lost its battery cover and batteries (seen on the photos above), and the rail lost an adjusting screw. Nothing obvious at all on the camera or lens!

Further examination showed that the adjusting screw is held in place with a clip, and the rail and remote control weren't damaged. And the camera? After careful examination, all I could find was this:


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The rubber cup round the viewfinder had been pulled to one side on the left,showing the clip underneath. After replacing it, it was a little crumpled:


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And that was all! Even that went away after a while. How lucky can you be? Took many more photos, and clearly there's nothing wrong inside the camera. But I'll certainly check the tripod mount three times in future.


More Hugin strangenesses
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Processing my house photos has got a lot easier since I created my batch scripts. Now I do a make pto and just have to do minor adjustments before the scripts continue. But from time to time I get really strange results. Here the house from the entrance:


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Why is it upside-down? Tried various things, but somehow they didn't work. In the end I edited the project file with Emacs, changing the orientation of the individual images. Here one of them:

--- Hugin/house-from-entrance.pto~      2018-11-10 12:20:00.222276000 +1100
+++ Hugin/house-from-entrance.pto       2018-11-12 12:03:35.190438000 +1100
@@ -5,13 +5,13 @@

 # image lines
 #-hugin  cropFactor=2.00308
-i w5182 h3885 f3 v126.811512466541 Ra0 Rb0 Rc0 Rd0 Re0 Eev11.9366378213403 Er1 Eb1 r178.950393178411 p4.12238129606885 y-75.5161071842899 TrX0 TrY0 TrZ0 Tpy0 Tpp0 j0 a0 b-0.0331988153129906 c0 d-3.63558774910979 e83.9426169915306 g0 t0 Va1 Vb0 Vc0 Vd0 Vx0 Vy0  Vm5 n"C/house-from-entrance-0.tiff"
+i w5182 h3885 f3 v126.811512466541 Ra0 Rb0 Rc0 Rd0 Re0 Eev11.9366378213403 Er1 Eb1 r0 p4.12238129606885 y-75.5161071842899 TrX0 TrY0 TrZ0 Tpy0 Tpp0 j0 a0 b-0.0331988153129906 c0 d-3.63558774910979 e83.9426169915306 g0 t0 Va1 Vb0 Vc0 Vd0 Vx0 Vy0  Vm5 n"C/house-from-entrance-0.tiff"

That gave me this:


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They're the right way up, but the positions are wrong. But running another alignment fixed that:


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But why does this even happen?


The three riders
Topic: animals, general Link here

A visitation from three riders this afternoon:


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Why three? It seems that in this case, at any rate, there are four of all good things.

The background: Margaret Swan has lent Keldan (on the right) to Ruth for the duration of her stay here, and they had brought them over from Chris Bahlo's place.


Dinner for seven
Topic: food and drink Link here

Chris Bahlo along for dinner today as usual on a Saturday. Christmas tide is with us, of course, and has been for about a month, and we had bought various deep-frozen poultry specialties. Today had a stuffed turkey roast, with cranberry and apple filling, enough for 7 portions. It was quite boring, but that didn't stop it from going away. Between the 3½ of us (Yvonne hardly eats anything) we nearly finished it. Not to be repeated.


Sunday, 11 November 2018 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 11 November 2018
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Ballarat Bird World again
Topic: animals, photography Link here

Off this morning with Ruth to visit the Ballarat Bird World for the first time in a while; we've been there three times before, all in the relatively short period of time 9 May 2010 to 11 Februrary 2011.

It's an interesting place, but they have always had financial problems, and now they're only open on the weekend. It used to be run by an old married couple, but it seems that the wife died about a year ago, and now the children are taking over the place. Hopefully they'll be able to make a go of it; there was almost nobody there today. And for the first time we couldn't go into the cockatoo cage, but Yvonne had her fun with a Major Mitchell:

Went through rather faster than I had expected: I had brought my Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400 mm f/4.0-6.3 with me to get some photos of the birds in the aviary, but there seemed to be very few there. Were they hiding, or are there really only about 10 in total?

In any case, I was quite happy with the results:


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In particular, the depth of field was about what I would expect. Thinking back to Tony Northrup's claims a few days ago, I'd like to know which Nikon lens he would have used to get these results. The last photo was taken at 1/25 s, focal length 400 mm (full frame equivalent 800 mm). What lenses of that focal length are available for Nikon? I looked at this a couple of months ago: the AF-S NIKKOR 800mm f/5.6E FL ED VR (“surprisingly compact” at 4.59 kg) for only USD $17,000. Clearly an absolute specialist lens. At least it has image stabilization (which Nikon calls “vibration reduction”), so it's not clear that it couldn't also have taken this photo. But who can carry a lens like that around with him?


Hey Google! Botanical Gardens!
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

We were finished at Ballarat Bird World earlier than I had expected. What now? Off to the Botanical Gardens? How do we get there? It's on the other side of town, and though I could find my way with no difficulty, I couldn't think of an optimum way. I hadn't learnt from my experience on Friday, and I still didn't have my GPS navigator with me. OK, what's Google good for? Hey, Google, take me to the Botanical Gardens.

It didn't say very much, but showed me a map. In which direction should I set off? It was too polite to assume that I didn't know. In this case I did, of course: we were in a dead end street, so there was only one way to go. After that I got quite reasonable instructions. Hey, Google, thank you. After some consideration, “You're welcome”.

Ruth sees this as proof that mobile telephones are the way to go. That's significantly overstating the case, especially since the directions weren't optimal. In particular, the lack of a map is a nuisance. I had it in my pocket, but even if I had mounted it on the dashboard, the map would be too small to be useful. Still, it's definitely useful.


Botanical Gardens again
Topic: gardening Link here

To the Botanical Gardens, also for the first time in a while. Down the Prime Ministers' avenue, where it seems that Tony Abbott so shocked the sculptor that he gave up; at least the past two prime ministers are not yet there. And by comparison, the days of Honest John seem positively nostalgic:


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In the Statuary Pavilion, found another Ruth:


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The Friends were selling plants again, and in to say hello. Yvonne Curbach was there, of course, and I introduced Ruth, discovering that Yvonne isn't Dutch after all: she's Indonesian, and though her first language is Dutch, she doesn't like Holland much. Also saw Lorraine Powell. And of course we bought some plants (now $8!): a Fuchsia triphylla and a more normal Fuchsia.

Burnt leaves and weeding
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

Back home planted the normal Fuchsia in front of the house:


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That's the Fuchsia triphylla on the left.

Also noted with mild concern the way the leaves of the newly planted tomatoes and Hibiscus rosa-sinensis have gone white:


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But there's good new growth on the Hibiscus, the buds are looking a lot happier, and I expect to see some flowers soon:


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Ruth agrees with me that it's probably too much sunlight for the old leaves.

Ruth also showed another very positive trait. She loves weeding:


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She's welcome here.


Blow-dry Wiener Schnitzel
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Wiener Schnitzel for dinner today. Once again I tried some of them in the “digital air fryer”. And once again they tasted better than the ones that were just deep fried. The down side is that the basket only has enough space for three small Schnitzel, and without fat you can't layer them. But it's worth thinking of alternatives.


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