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October 2013
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Tuesday, 1 October 2013 Dereel Images for 1 October 2013
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Getting more Internet traffic
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

One of the consequences of the Coursera courses I'm taking is that my Internet traffic has increased dramatically. Last month we barely managed to stay within the 18 GB limit on my wireless broadband connection. Roll on the Radiation Tower!

This month doesn't look much better. I'm just under, but a couple of new courses are about to start, and I can't see any hope of staying within the limits. I'd take a tariff plan with more volume if I could, but Internode doesn't offer one. But there's an obvious, if slightly clumsy, workaround: buy another SIM card, though it's a pity I have to do this so shortly before completion of the Radiation Tower.

And with whom? It doesn't have to be Internode, though it does have to be with the Optus network. And having a second card from a different provider would help isolate the network problems I've been having all year. So went off looking at the Whirlpool broadband adviser. I was looking for a monthly plan with at least 5 GB and no setup costs.

What a catastrophe! Most of them were clearly NBN plans, which isn't really “wireless” in that sense. And one that looked interesting, ITG Internet, had a link that looks Just Plain Broken. Even when I go to the home page, it doesn't look like an ISP.

But there are others out there. With the help of Google, found a number of others, all of which seem to deliberately restrict the listings to specific ISPs. You'd have to think that they pay for the service:

Apart from the limited choice, one thing was clear: none were as cheap as Internode. In the end I gave up, called Internode, and got another SIM with 9 GB per month. Hopefully it won't be needed very long. It wasn't until some time later that I discovered that Exetel does have some suitable plans. But it wouldn't have made much difference.


Latest survey madness
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Another online survey today, a particularly repetitive and badly researched one. My favourite one, a potential reply to “On average, how often do you use the information sources you are aware of for work or personal reasons?”, was “Less often than once a year (but more than every 6 months)”.


Wednesday, 2 October 2013 Dereel Images for 2 October 2013
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Radiation Tower progress
Topic: technology Link here

Yvonne went shopping this morning. She had barely left when I got an excited call “They're working on the tower!”. And so they were:


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The truck had an emblem from Task National Pty Ltd, a company that appears to have no web site. But I found references to employees, one of them a telecommunications engineer, so I assume they're doing more than just laying a power cable.


By the people, for the people?
Topic: general, opinion Link here

I'm not very politically informed, but I've been watching with amazement how the US Government has argued itself into a corner. And for what? “Obamacare”, a level of basic government support that most countries consider a minimum requirement, but which was originally coined by sceptics trying to belittle Obama.

How can any non-US-American understand that? Finally got put into law, and the US opposition blocked the budget as a result. So large parts of the US government have shut down.

How can that happen? They're not arguing against the bill, which has come into law: they're holding the country to ransom by demanding changes after the event, or forcing the country into economic chaos. That's blackmail in my book, and probably treason as well. Is that what the US people want? They're the people who the House of Representatives purport to represent.

In other jurisdictions, this kind of impasse could lead to dissolution of parliament. Is that possible in the USA? One way or another, the fact that things could come to this shows a significant weakness in the system.


Thursday, 3 October 2013 Dereel Images for 3 October 2013
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More Radiation Tower progress
Topic: technology Link here

The weather has been wet recently—in the last 10 days, we've had nearly 50 mm of rain, and it shows. Heard a report from Wendy, our neighbour across the road, that she had seen a crane bogged down in the paddock where the Radiation Tower is being erected. It sounds plausible:


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Chris Bahlo told me she saw a crane there this morning, too, so I went by later—this may be becoming a daily exercise at the moment. There was no crane there, but it's clear that they're assembling the tower in preparation for erection:


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It's interesting that the uplink antenna already appears to be mounted:

 
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I wonder if that's indicative of an imminent erection.


Orchids in the forest
Topic: gardening Link here

A couple of days ago, while walking the dog in the forest, came across some small orchids. I wanted to go back again yesterday, but the weather was too damp. And now they're almost all gone—nothing like the long-lastingness of a Cymbidium, it seems:


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It's interesting to note the white flower. There were lots of them in the forest, but that was the only white one. They're about 3 cm across. I must try to identify them.


Documentation web sites
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

My new car has nearly used up a tank full of petrol, which seems surprising. But then, I've done nearly 500 km with it. How big's the tank? That's the sort of thing you'd find in the instruction manual, but mine came without one.

That's what the web's for! Went out searching for (ultimately) hyundai elantra 2002 owners manual download, and found lots of links like this one:

 
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That looked like just what I wanted, and elsewhere it had claimed to be free. So I clicked on “Download” and was asked to register. That wouldn't be too bad—I have a whole list of throwaway email addresses, one per web site. But this one wanted my credit card number! “Just for confirmation”, they say. And after all, they're so trustworthy.

More discussion on IRC. Callum Gibson went to the same site and get the manual without registration, let alone divulging his credit card number. How did he do it? He pressed the other “Download” link (see it? the orange text one underneath). That was made easier by the use of Adblock Plus, which masked the first button.

Somehow the web is becoming an even more dangerous place.


Internode: more decay
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I've commented in the past that Internode isn't what it used to be. Buying the second SIM card proved to be relatively simple, but the followup wasn't. It's clear that with the coming of the Radiation Tower I'll only need the card for one, maybe two months, and that's why I bought one with a one month renewal period. But the follow-up emails read:

Your Order Reference Number: #1264795/nNodeMobile Data at 47 Kleins Road, DEREEL VIC 3352
* For 1 Month                                                                                                                                                           NMD-9 plan

* Setup Fees
* Cost $39.95 per month
* Total $79.90 over 1 Month months

I particularly like the /n in the first line, clearly a programmer's typo. This doesn't make any sense at all, of course, and I replied asking them to correct it. But that was 2 days ago, and I've had no reply beyond a further message telling me:

Your Internode connection details are as follows:

  Email Server:             mail.internode.on.net
  Email Address:            glehey_mob@internode.on.net

Billing for your Internode NodeMobile Data service will begin
within 24 hours of your service first being used, or at the
latest, 7 days after our carrier notifies us that your
service is provisioned.

glehey_mob@internode.on.net? I didn't ask for a new email address, and I certainly wouldn't have chosen that (especially since it's not for mobile). But more importantly, the billing cycle will start long before I need it. That wasn't the agreement. Another ticket.

And I got an answer, I thought. But no, it was a customer satisfaction survey:

Date: Wed, 02 Oct 2013 10:04:48 +0930
From: nps@ticket.internode.com.au
To: groggyhimself@lemis.com
Subject: [ticket.internode.com.au #6306818] Customer Service Feedback Survey

Internode strive to deliver the best customer service possible. To help us achieve this we ask that you complete this short survey based on your recent interaction with us. To participate please visit:
https://secure2.internode.on.net/contact/online/customerfeedback?id=6303665

All well and good, but I didn't have a ticket with that number. And they don't seem to allow online insight into their ticketing system, so if it's an internal ticket, I'll never know. It wasn't until much later that I noticed that the URL and the ticket number in the Subject: line were different. Somehow this isn't the Internode I used to respect.


Friday, 4 October 2013 Dereel
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US Government shutdown: US view
Topic: general, opinion Link here

A couple of days ago I ventured an opinion about the current US government crisis. I was a little concerned that I, as an outsider, was interfering in what is primarily a US matter. And then I got a message from Tom Maynard, not for the first time. From time to time over the years he has commented on my diary, usually disagreeing, but always interesting. So I could see this one coming.

But I was wrong. He agreed completely. Admittedly that's a rather small cross-section of US public opinion, but he makes some valid points. Firstly, the demand for the Affordable Care Act (the correct term for “Obamacare”) is so great that the web site has been overloaded for days. And secondly, there is no provision in the US constitution to dissolve congress. I knew the latter, of course, but didn't think about it.

My understanding is that this rigid adherence to a four year term of government was a reaction to a British habit of choosing the election to suit the chances of the incumbent. We certainly see enough of that in Australia, and it's understandable that the fledgling United States wanted to avoid that kind of abuse of power. But that was nearly 250 years ago, and times have changed. In particular, it leaves no recourse for the present situation where the government has become incapable of governing. I'll watch developments with concern.


Canine urine analysis
Topic: animals Link here

Sarah Triglia, the vet, gave me some documentation about uroliths, specifically Calcium oxalate. Part of the treatment involves ensuring an adequately low density (< 1020 kg/m³) and high pH (> 6.6) of the urine. OK, we can measure that. Or so I thought. My pH meter, only 10 years old, seems to have died a death. The display runs continually between 1 and 16, with a couple of “out of range” displays thrown in. Time for a new meter—less than $10, after all. In the meantime the pH of 5(.0?) that Sarah told me the other day does not seem encouraging.

And the density? I could measure that either with a Hydrometer, if I had enough urine, or indirectly with a refractometer, if I knew a transfer function. Even getting a refractive index is work, since the refractometer is calibrated in degrees Plato or Brix.

Yvonne had collected a couple of samples, and it proved that they were large enough, so I tried out some preliminary measurements, with my own urine as a comparison. Here's what I got:

Source       Date       Density       “° Plato”       Refractive index
Zhivago       3 October 2013       1043       13.7       1.35366
Zhivago       4 October 2013       1050       15.4       1.35637
Greg       4 October 2013       1010       3.4       1.33794

In passing it's interesting to note that the correlation between ° Plato and density are not that different from those of sugar solutions.

We'll monitor pH when the meter comes, but so far things don't look good. How do we lower the specific gravity?


More garden work
Topic: gardening Link here

A little more work in the garden this afternoon, adding irrigation sprinklers. Why is this all so tiring?

Yvonne did some lawn mowing, in the process managing to wedge the lawnmower in a garden bed, and I had to get a car to tow it out again. Again a lot of work for little impact.


Saturday, 5 October 2013 Dereel Images for 5 October 2013
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Garden work
Topic: gardening Link here

Something seems to have gone wrong. The weather was sunny and windy, not the best combination for my weekly photos, so I put them off until tomorrow. And then I discovered that I didn't have much to do, so spent some time weeding in the garden. I still hardly made a dent.


Playing music on Android
Topic: technology, multimedia, opinion Link here

One of the things an Android tablet is good for is playing music, right? Well, that's the idea, anyway. With the promise of more network traffic just round the corner, considered listening to Radio Swiss Classic on the radio instead of ABC: they have a more interesting programme. Just plug the tablet into the Hi-Fi system and we're away. I even found a suitable cable in my assorted junk.

That's straightforward enough, right? I have already had problems playing music on Android, but I worked around them by installing firefox. Tried again on the stream. “Sorry, can not open file”. Why not? Ah, that's for Android to know and not to divulge. Probably a format that it doesn't understand.

OK, maybe the web site knows something about it? Took a look, and sure enough, you just need to follow the “More information” link, once you find it:

 
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That brings you to a page with a link to a page describing how to access it. With an app, of course. Just go to the toyshop and look for "Radio Swiss Classic".

What's wrong with this picture? With a normal web browser, you just access it and a plugin handles all URLs with this kind of content. Here it seems you need a separate app for every URL you want to access it. But I couldn't find an alternative, so I installed it.

It's an interesting app. Clearly it's intended for mobile phones; it ignores the position sensor and displays in portrait mode only. And it's not clear how to use it. Like nearly all Android apps, it's too leet to have instructions, and the main display is more than a little confusing:

 
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Settings, maybe? No, the only setting is an email address and password. Sometimes I wonder what goes on in the heads of people who design these things. About the only thing of interest were the programme details:

 
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So how do you play? I'm still not sure. It seems to start automatically when started (which I had to do several times because it kept crashing), but when there's a net timeout (far too often round here), it doesn't seem to be able to recover. So a good idea regarding the programme details, but still unusable.


Sunday, 6 October 2013 Dereel Images for 6 October 2013
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Android streamers: a solution
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Yesterday's experiment with streaming audio on Android was less than completely successful, so I went searching further.

Why is the toyshop so badly organized? There's no way to search by feature, rating, or number of downloads. Instead I went to Google and found, right at the top, TuneIn Radio. Downloaded that, and it worked. I still don't know why I need a separate app to play this stuff, but it really seems that Android web browsers are so castrated that you can't do much with them.


New garden view?
Topic: photography, gardening Link here

Spring is well on its way, and today was good weather for the house photos. It's been a while since I added any new views, and the last time they didn't last. But maybe there's a new one that's worth the trouble:


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Looking at it now, it should probably be aimed higher, and I'm still not sure where to make the break in the photo.


New photo processing software?
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

It's fairly clear that I'm going to buy an Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera. That will require some changes to my photo processing. Currently I'm using DxO Optics “Pro”, but it only supports specific combinations of camera and lens. The E-M1 is only just appearing on the market, so so far they don't have any support for it, but when it comes it'll almost certainly be only for μFT lenses. And I currently have 5 normal FT. Based on past performance, it's fairly clear that DxO will not support those combinations.

But what's the alternative? One might be Olympus Viewer, which I tried out earlier this year. At the time I thought that it didn't apply any distortion correction, but maybe I was wrong there. The real issue, though, is that viewer doesn't have very many options, and the output is always with 8 bit colours. I asked around on the German Olympus Forum and got surprisingly little feedback—only Karl Grabherr recommended Capture One, which I tried a year ago. He claims that it performs distortion correction, but I don't see much evidence. It seems that the μFT lenses supply distortion information, so maybe that's what it's using. Again, not quite what I'm looking for.


Monday, 7 October 2013 Dereel
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Unexpected network pain
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I've had enough pain with the services quality of my wireless Internet service, but despite the imminent erection of the Radiation Tower, I needed to increase my traffic allowance in the meantime, hopefully only for one month. I did that last week, but things didn't go as smoothly as I had expected. As I mentioned last Friday, they sent me an invoice for two months' fees, and also stated that billing would start at the latest 7 days after provisioning. And then they didn't answer the mail I sent them.

That happened today:

In regards to your plan costs, I can confirm that as you've ordered the NodeMobile 9GB plan your monthly service cost will simply be $39.95 per month. Having said this, we do charge one month in advance with all of ours services, and this is reflected in the second monthly charge of $39.95 in your order summary.
As such, your first invoice will reflect two monthly charges, broken down as such:

NodeMobile Data 9GB (1st month) $39.95
NodeMobile Data 9GB (2nd month) $39.95

Total                           $79.90

I hope that I've answered all of your questions today, but if you have any further queries please simply reply to this email, or contact our sales team on 13 66 33.

Why should I pay two months' fees? Checked the web site, which clearly states:

1. Total Minimum Price - Monthly Contract

The following table shows the total minimum price on a monthly contract for each plan - ie the standard setup charge which varies with the selected hardware, plus one month of broadband plan rental.

NodeMobile Data       1.5 GB 5 GB 9 GB 12 GB 18 GB
SIM, MicroSIM or NanoSIM card only $29.95 $39.95 $49.95 $69.95 $89.95

Replied to that one, quoting the web site, also pointing out that she had only answered one of my questions, and prohibiting them from deducting money from my direct debit authority until the matter hand been resolved. Got another reply in the evening—at least they're responding a little faster now. But the content was no more useful:

To start things off I would just like to advised that we cannot change the agreement which was made. The reason being is that it is a company policy which is applied for any services for the first invoice, It means that if you cancel your service theres a credit which will be applied to your account because you have paid that month in advance.

“Can't change the agreement”, “company policy”. It takes two to make an agreement, and they have changed it. No mention of the fact that this is contrary to the advertised pricing, no mention of the start of the billing period. I'm now seriously pissed off, and I've asked for a senior customer care person to contact me. I wonder where it will go from here.


Tuesday, 8 October 2013 Dereel Images for 8 October 2013
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Radiation Tower erected
Topic: general, technology Link here

Everybody's watching the progress on the Radiation Tower, and today was a milestone:


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How much longer? Hard to guess. Three weeks? A month?


Still more unexpected network pain
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Even before my current unresolved issues with Internode's sales team, I had decided that I would try Extel for my NBN network connection. Yes, Internode has the best reputation—possibly based mainly on past achievements—but almost the only issues I've ever had with my network connection have been between the ISP and my premises. And with NBN that's independent of the ISP. On the other hand, Exetel offers higher traffic rates for the same price: 50 GB per month instead of 30 with Internode, and only downlink traffic is counted. Most importantly, though, traffic between 01:00 and 09:00 isn't metered. At 25 Mb/s you can download a theoretical 90 GB of data (video, for example) in a single day during that time. In addition, they offer a static IP address that could make life easier.

So last week I faced their emetic web forms and made an application. Today the result:

Exetel has received our supplier's Rejection Advice for your application that was submitted to Exetel on the 2013-10-04. All rejected applications are automatically inactive and hence closed until further action from an authorized person for the application.

Below indicates your rejection reason for the selected ADSL plan - NBN2-50

THE ADDRESS IS PLANNED TO BE SERVICED BY WIRELESS, BUT IS NOT YET SERVICEABLE.

Now isn't that handy? I later got a call from a barely audible person who sounded as if she was calling from somewhere in South-East Asia, telling me effectively that I'm going to have to guess when the tower becomes serviceable, and that it will then take 20 to 25 days to connect me. Damn! There must be an easier way.


Zhivago: not done yet
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

Zhivago is a lot perkier than he has been, but the problems aren't over yet. This morning there was more evidence of bleeding. Sarah says that this is not a cause for alarm, and that it can take months for a full recovery. In the meantime Yvonne will pick up some tablets from the vet.


Trying Sygic again
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

Some weeks ago I tried Sygic on my Android tablet. It was somewhat inconclusive, because I didn't have a windscreen mount for the tablet, and then I discovered that the “free” app in fact was only a one week free trial, which expired before I could do any more.

Now I have a new tablet, but the same account. Can I run another one week trial with it? Surprisingly, yes. And after loading hundreds of megabytes of map data (and surviving a couple of network problems), spent some time looking at the features.

On the down side, of course, it's an Android app, which means that there's almost no help available. But it seems to have most of the features of a dedicated GPS navigator, along with a marginally more usable interface. But what do the displays mean?


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The display at top right appears to be a speedometer, but what's the one below (showing 75)? Maybe it will become apparent when I use it more. On the positive side, it shows speed limits even when you're not exceeding it, as in this case.

It also seems to have several of the map problems that I've seen on other commercial maps. It doesn't know the name of Kleins Road, and it does know the same non-existent roads that I've seen on other maps. Here my old GPS navigator, Google Maps and Sygic:


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They all show a road going roughly south from the lagoon. This road doesn't exist. The parallel road to the west, where the first image shows me, is really just a track (the screenshot was taken while walking the dog). And the rectangular framework to the east doesn't exist in that form, though it's clear that some of it once did. Even the (wildly inaccurate) egg-shaped area around it is the same shape. It seems that all these maps have a common, inaccurate source. OpenStreetMap is not overly complete, but the lack of all these errors is more likely indicative of the fact that nobody can drive down these “roads”.


Wednesday, 9 October 2013 Dereel Images for 9 October 2013
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Radiation Tower progress
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

After yesterday's erection of the Radiation Tower, I was expecting a delay before the next stage, but it seems that they're continuing:


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My guess is that they're about to pour the concrete base.


NBN delays: explanation?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

So yesterday Exetel told me that NBN had rejected my application for a connection. Correct? I also got an automated “courtesy call” on the phone, telling me that my application for ADSL had been rejected, so a bit of clarity would go a long way. First took a look at the coverage map, which has now been updated:


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“Fixed wireless | Construction commenced - construction commenced in your area on [sic] Aug 2013.

It is estimated that the average time from construction beginning to NBN services being available is 12 months”

What nonsense! But I've seen this stupidity in the maps in the past. On 29 March 2012 it claimed that construction had already begun (and was scheduled to take 12 months, then as now). And a year ago they moved the tower to Ferrers Road, where they claim it's still located. And they still can't get the construction start right: it was on 3 September.

Called up the NBN on 1800 687 626 and was connected to Kelly, who confirmed the date of 12 months, until I pointed out to her that based on the current state of construction and observation of other projects it's more likely to be another month. And then she said, yes, normally they're done in 3 months. They'll know more after the next report on 16 October. Yes, she has my email address, but no, I'll have to call back if I want further information. She also confirmed in a somewhat roundabout way that applications for connection can't be made until the thing is up and running (and presumably talking to nobody). If this is the way they organize their operation, it's no surprise that they're so far behind schedule.

At the end of the call, I was asked for a quick survey. How happy was I with my “experience”? How satisfied was I with the response (very dissatisfied). How happy was I with Kelly (OK). Would I like a call back? Yes, please. That's supposed to happen within the next business day. I won't hold my breath.

And then I discovered something else. According to the terminally broken map, NBN coverage is available in Dereel, even on Chris Bahlo's property:

 
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How can that be? Looking at the broader map, it seems to be claimed coverage from the Cape Clear tower. My understanding is that that tower isn't operational yet, and can't be until the Dereel tower is complete. But who cares? It means that Chris can already apply for her connection. By the time they find their mistake, the Dereel tower will be at least close to completion, so she would have a head start.

My report on Facebook brought a lot of questions, so ended up writing another page on how to connect.


Bad maps: one source
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Callum Gibson commented on my article on Sygic, and pointed me to the horrible official maps of Victoria. And of course they have nearly all the errors I was talking about yesterday:


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In particular, the non-existent road south of the lagoon and the square grid are the same as in the other maps, so they could come from there. But the egg-shaped agglomeration (if that's what it's supposed to be) must come from somewhere else.


Cous-cous?
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Yvonne came back from shopping today with a free sample of something rather strange:


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Those balls of “Cous-cous” must be 5 mm in diameter. I thought they were wheat. I wonder what it really is. And, of course, look at the price. You can buy the same weight of steak for that, or much more chicken. What makes it so expensive? At least I can understand them giving away free samples.


Thursday, 10 October 2013 Dereel Images for 10 October 2013
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More NBN tower investigations
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

Looking more carefully at the NBN rollout map shows that they've put up a number of towers. In this area alone four are marked as being operational:

 
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The one in Cape Clear puzzled me: according to Scott Weston, it receives its uplink from the Dereel tower. So I set off to have a look. It seems that every single tower is significantly misplaced, and to actually find any I had to look around in the area. In Cape Clear I was successful, though the tower is over 4 km from where it is claimed to be:

 
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Looking at the uplink antennas, it doesn't seem to have anything to do with Dereel. There are three antennas. One of the ones at the bottom could be pointing to Rokewood; no idea where the others go.


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The other thing that surprised me was that it is running on a generator:


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Hopefully that's a stopgap measure until Powercor get their act together.

On to Rokewood, where, as to be expected, there was no tower in the specified location. This time, though, I couldn't see one elsewhere either. And later when I looked at the maps, the Dereel map stated:

 
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That doesn't match their claim that the Rokewood tower is up and running.

Finally back to Dereel, where they have also made further progress:


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How much remains to be done? Clearly the cabling needs to be done, but that could be very fast. Let's hope so.

But the NBN maps and the information are so inaccurate as to be useless. Created a Google Map showing the discrepancies, in the process noting that they have had no less than three attempts to locate the Dereel tower since March last year:

 
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At least it seems they don't base their coverage information on these lies, though I've seen several changes round where Chris Bahlo lives.


Good line
Topic: multimedia, opinion Link here

Watching “Analyze This” on TV this evening. One of the heroes is a psychiatrist, who is accosted by a policeman. Policeman: “We're from the FBI OCD”. Psychiatrist: “Obsessive-compulsive disorder”? Policeman: “No, Organized Crime Division”. That's one of the best I've heard.


Friday, 11 October 2013 Dereel Images for 11 October 2013
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Still more map errors
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

Discussed my article about the NBN coverage maps and with Callum Gibson today, and it occurred to us to look at the information from ACMA. They have a search page where you can find all communication towers in the country. So went looking, and sure enough, we came up with information for the Dereel and Cape Clear towers—but not for Rokewood. But Callum did some investigation and found this tower—it's the Optus tower that was erected two years ago. And, of course, it's nowhere near where the NBN put it.

But more careful investigation showed that the ACMA coordinates are wrong too! Here's what we see for Dereel:

 
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The blue pin is the correct location. The red pins with dots are the various claims of the NBN. And the red pin without a dot is the claim of the ACMA.

Or is it? Callum went and looked at the ACMA coverage map and got:


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That shows the correct location, but the wrong coordinates. It's all Google Maps, so what's the problem? It goes to some trouble to repeat the text AGD66, the geodetic system used for the coordinates. Is that unusual? It's difficult to say conclusively, since the Geoscience Australia web site is down for several days for “planned maintenance”. But this page, while not authoritative, sounds more than plausible:

AGD66 and AGD84 are the datums that older maps were printed with. Before the introduction of GDA94, AGD66 was used in NSW, Victoria, Tasmania, and the NT.

GDA94 is the new datum which current and future maps will be produced with. This datum produces coordinates which differ by about 200 metres from both AGD66 and AGD84.

To convert grid references from AGD66 to GDA94, a rough rule of thumb is to add 1 to the easting part and add 2 to the northing part. e.g. GR 717255 in AGD66 is GR 718257 in GDA94. For more accurate conversions, you can use my Convert Coords program.

So: ACMA is using an obsolete datum. Does the program convert things correctly? No, because it only runs on Microsoft. But given that the application for planning permit stated the coordinates to be -37.814544°, 143.755711° according to the GDA94 datum, it seems that ACMA has taken the coordinates and converted them to the -37.81607°, 143.75543° in the obsolete AGD66 datum. Isn't bureaucracy wonderful?


New Bluetooth headset
Topic: technology Link here

A couple of weeks ago I bought a Bluetooth headset on eBay. It arrived today, sent not from Hong Kong, as promised, but from Fiji. That's not the first time I've received goods from countries different from the stated country.

It's a typical cheap eBay product: tiny little manual in English and Chinese that doesn't tell me anything about charging the device except that I shouldn't overcharge. In particular, there's nothing to say where the charger input (micro-USB) is, nor how to know when it's charged. Finally found the connector, conveniently covered to keep the dirt out and to make it more difficult to discover. Charging turned on a red LED, which proved to go out when it was charged.

And “paring”, as the instructions call it? It was surprisingly easy. About the only thing that doesn't work according to the instructions is the function of the buttons: at least when playing music on the Android tablet, the “volume” buttons both reset to the beginning of the piece, and the track skip buttons do nothing. But then, I wasn't even expecting buttons.


Music: clever or beautiful?
Topic: music, opinion Link here

One of the Coursera courses I'm currently doing is entitled From the Repertoire: Western Music History through Performance. It's in its second week, and so far it has been relatively interesting.

This week deals with the Baroak Error, if I were to listen to the pronunciation, and in particular that typical baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach. Nothing against Bach—arguably he's my favourite composer—but he's anything but typical.

Still, he wrote a lot of music that could be considered relatively typical music. So what did they choose? The chaconne from the second partita for solo violin, BWV 1004. What an amazing work! It must be one of the cleverest compositions ever written. Yvonne heard parts of it and asked “what did that poor violin do to him?”.

Looking at the score, it's a really amazing work. Over 100 variations on a theme, all very short. They seem to display every possible kind of variation, and the violin has to pretend to be a whole ensemble, with triple and even (theoretically) quadruple stopping.

This week's assignment is to listen to a specific video and find one place in the music that moves me, then describe why. Conveniently, this specific video is not in the course materials, and it seems that I'd have to listen to it on line. With my current network connection, that's just plain impossible. But I've listened to a CD, and I don't think the emotions it awakes are what the professors intended.

What's wrong with this picture? Clearly you can't describe every detail in a course like this, but why choose a work to analyse that is atypical and which might turn a number of people off? This seems to be part of the North American view of Bach, which varies greatly from what I've heard elsewhere. In the USA it seems that people admire things like this chaconne, the Musical Offering and the more arcane of the other keyboard works. By contrast, in his Keys to Music programmes, Graham Abbott has dealt with the B minor mass, cantatas, Easter music and Bach's family. I'm sure he's done others too in the last 10 years, but those are the ones he's done recently, and i much prefer them.


Saturday, 12 October 2013 Dereel Images for 12 October 2013
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Nothing doing
Topic: general Link here

Quiet day. Took my house photos and spent most of the day processing them.


Humour, then and now
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

While tidying up my web pages, came across an orphan that has obviously been there for a long time: collected humourous articles from USENET and similar sources, about 20 years old. It's amazing how badly they have aged.


Sunday, 13 October 2013 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 13 October 2013
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To Ballarat again
Topic: animals, general, opinion Link here

Yvonne wanted to go to the market in to Ballarat this morning, so went along with her, at least in part to try out my new toys. Nothing of great interest: there were plenty of plants on sale at good prices, but until we know where we'll live in a year's time, there's not much point.

We took Zhivago with us, of course, and subsequently went walking on the shores of Lake Wendouree and in the Botanical Gardens. Lots of good smells for him; maybe we should do this more often to get him to drink more.


Radiation Tower progress
Topic: technology, general Link here

On the way into town, stopped at the Radiation Tower, of course. They've mounted the S-shaped cable channel:


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What needs to be done? The cabling, of course, but presumably that's almost only power, which shouldn't take too long.


Sygic: the weaknesses
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

One of the reasons I went to town was to try out Sygic in more normal circumstances. A good thing, too: it didn't do well. Going from the Botanical Gardens to the petrol station in Sebastopol took a seriously suboptimal “shortest” difference:


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The alternative suggestion to the south-west is just so far from “short” that it's incomprehensible how it could have come up at all. But the correct way would have been down to the east of Victoria park (triangle at top middle), like every other program chose. But even when I went down that way, it recalculated an obviously incorrect route:


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How can that happen? In any case, it's so bad that I'm not sure it's worth keeping. If only OpenStreetMaps were as good in the country as they are in the city, I could use OsmAnd Maps & Navigation. Maybe I should try both.

While in town, also tried my new Bluetooth headset with the phone function. Problem: the phone didn't want to associate. It has worked in the past, but though it found networks, it couldn't connect. To be reexamined.


Monday, 14 October 2013 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 14 October 2013
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Android navigators: worth the trouble?
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

Into town again to see the doctor, and of course took my Android tablet with two navigation programs: Sygic and OsmAnd Maps & Navigation.

Things didn't start well: the clinic is at 49 Albert St, Sebastopol. Albert Street is the main street in Sebastopol, but Sygic didn't know it: it proved that it knew it only as “Midland Highway”, so it directed me to Alfred Street instead. OsmAnd knew Alfred St, but not the number. The building is relatively new, admittedly, but my old GPS navigator knows it. On the whole, a good thing I didn't have to rely on either program.

That was nothing compared to the way back, though. OsmAnd knew the location of my house only because I had saved it as a favourite, but the “shortest” way it wanted to take me there was unbelievably bad:


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It's clear from the map that I should have stayed on Albert St until Colac-Ballarat Road, and then gone down there. It's difficult to say how much longer this route would have been, since I'm not sure that it even exists: Google Maps doesn't show any such road. When I took the correct route, the program calculated roughly 1.5 km less distance. Clearly this is an issue for OsmAnd: there's a navigation preference:

Precise routing (alpha)

Enable precise routing to calculate precise routes without glitches. It is very limited by distance and doesn't use native library.

That wasn't the only problem: coming closer to home (in fact directly opposite the Radiation Tower), I saw:


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This was taken before I worked out how to stop the display from turning so that the travel direction is up. In fact, in this case up is south. But it's clearly suboptimal even before you know that the shorter road is also much better; there seems to be no reason whatsoever to choose that particular route.

So: at least for the time being I've pretty much given up the idea of replacing my GPS navigator with an Android app. That's a pity.


Allah prohibited
Topic: general, opinion Link here

A disturbing item in the news this afternoon: the Malaysian Appeals Court has outlawed the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims. On the other hand, they don't say what word they should use to refer to God. The official language of Malaysia is Malay, and the Malay word for God is Allah. This looks very much like a witch-hunt, nothing that a government should do to its people. This kind of decision looks more like the treatment of specific religious minorities in Germany 75 years ago. What happened to the gentle Islam I knew in my childhood?


Tuesday, 15 October 2013 Dereel Images for 15 October 2013
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Flowers in mid-spring
Topic: gardening Link here

It's the middle of spring and the middle of the month, time for more photos of the flowers in the garden. I've been doing this for over 3 years now, and gradually it's becoming routine. The garden is filling out, though, and we now have a veritable forest of Echium pininana to the south of the verandah:


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The Echium candicans is now also flowering for the first time. It's unclear whether it will now die and self-seed, or whether it will continue for some years to come:


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The Protea cynaroides that we planted at the same time as the Echium is also flowering nicely. This is the second bloom, which came up much faster than the first:


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The flower is about 30 cm across.

The Paulownia kawakamii is also flowering more than usual:


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It's a pity that we've gradually come to the conclusion that we don't like it very much.

The Rosa banksiae is now finally flowering profusely:


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For some reason, it's mainly on the other side of the arch.


Old vine again
Topic: general, food and drink, animals, opinion Link here

A couple of days ago I got a call from Rodney Stobart, who proves to be Yvonne's doctor. I don't know him because I gave up on the Eureka Medical Centre years ago. Yvonne's still there because she doesn't like the doctors at Tristar.

Rodney had a horse to sell, and Yvonne helped him—he sold it very quickly, to my mind a sign that the price was too low, but he was ecstatic and offered to give her a bottle of wine in thanks. This evening another patient came by with a bottle labelled “Torbreck Barossa Velley Old Vines Grenache Shiraz Mourvèdre”, 2005. That name rings a bell: I drank a wine of that name on a transpacific flight well over 10 years ago, and subsequently we discovered that the old vine is an 80 year old Grenache belonging to the Hickinbotham family in Clarendon. We know Michael Hickinbotham reasonably well, and I visited the vineyard with Ollivier and Élodie Robert 9 years ago. It's a small world.


Wednesday, 16 October 2013 Dereel
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TV reception issues: wind?
Topic: multimedia, general, opinion Link here

I've been keeping reception quality statistics for TV for over 2 years now. In that time I've come to discount my original suspicions that they were related to cabling. From time to time a specific channel “goes bad” for no apparent reason, but it usually comes good again, again for no apparent reason. My best bet is that it's something to do with the transmitter, something so secret that even the help desks aren't informed.

Another issue is the weather. I've noticed increased problems when it's windy. Today seemed to prove it: it was really windy, and my TV recording failed catastrophically. Here a comparison:

Programme       Date       Start       End             File       Number of
name             time       time       Channel       size (GB)       recoding errors
Al Jazeera News       15 October 2013       15:28:03.336       16:04:01.010       2203       2.2       4
Al Jazeera News       16 October 2013       15:28:02.552       16:04:01.131       2203       1.8       58, died after 37%

What does the wind have to do with it? The antenna is on top of a long mast:


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Clearly that will sway in the wind, but is that enough to cause that much of a problem? Or is it a flaky cable connection somewhere that is triggered by the wind? The Internet antenna is almost as high, and I don't have any problems with it that could be attributed to the wind.


Thursday, 17 October 2013 Dereel Images for 17 October 2013
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More Coursera stuff
Topic: general, opinion Link here

I've clearly bitten off more than I can chew with these Coursera courses, but finally they're finishing. The web interface isn't without its light side:

 
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Swedish baked potatoes
Topic: food and drink Link here

Yvonne found a recipe for Hasselbackspotatis on Facebook recently, and today she tried it out:


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It wasn't until later that I found the recipe in Bonniers Kokbok. There are significant differences. The Facebook recipe called for bacon, which isn't in the Bonniers recipe. Yvonne substituted cold-smoked ham, which I'm sure was an improvement. Bonniers also sliced the potatoes much thinner, which I think is a better way to do it. There will be a next time.


Friday, 18 October 2013 Dereel Images for 18 October 2013
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No new house?
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Yvonne has been nagging about moving house for some weeks now. The house that she's interested in doesn't really match the criteria we set over a year ago: a brand-new, easy-to-heat house on an appropriate piece of land. Admittedly that has proven surprisingly difficult to find, but I have difficulty adapting to the idea of moving to a smaller, cheaper house that has no particular advantage over our own. And Yvonne is getting frustrated with the situation.

Off to look—again—at a property on the east side of the ColacBallarat road. It's still not for us. Yvonne has gradually resigned herself to the idea of staying here for at least a few more years. Time to investigate better alternatives for heating. Wood-fired hydronic sounds like a good idea. It's not even environmentally unfriendly, since round here more than enough fuel gets blown off the trees, so we should consider it to be a renewable source.


The surveys to end all surveys
Topic: general, opinion Link here

I'm very opinionated, so it makes sense to participate in on-line surveys, especially if, as with MyOpinions, you actually get paid for it.

Most surveys take between 5 and 20 minutes and bring roughly 10 points per minute. Yesterday I received the mother of all surveys: 4½ hours estimated, and 2000 points, roughly $20. Clearly it's a marathon, and it was divided into several sections. But it seems that the people who put the survey together (not MyOpinions) didn't even try to make it any easier for the user. I had to enter my date of birth a total of four times, not directly but by accessing three pull-down menus that aren't long enough to reach the end of the month. And in addition, my age twice. My post code three times. My location (from a list of Australian cities and states) three times. How do you choose between “Melbourne” and “Rest of Victoria”? Does Melbourne mean the City of Melbourne (population 93,625) or the urban agglomeration (population 4,246,345)? The easiest way to determine is from the post code. So why the silly question in the first place, not to mention the second and third?

Things went on like that. I was given interminable lists of alcoholic drinks which I had to rate. I had never heard of most of them, but for each I had to click on a “never heard of it” radio button. I estimate that for this part of the survey alone I had to click on 3,000 buttons.

After about ⅔ of the way through the survey, I started taking notes. I was asked about which makes of cars I had ever owned. Fortunately there weren't many, only 7, including DKW, which for some reason wasn't on the list. But that can't be: nobody ever has more than 5 makes of car, it seems, and it complained. So how do you answer the question honestly?

And then there's food. A question: “What are the key motivators when purchasing products from each of the categories below?”:


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Simple, right? Quality, price, availability, suitability. But clearly the survey writers can't cook. Their categories are “Product Innovation/Features”, “Multipacks”, “Brand”, “Celebrity/expert endorsement”, “Convenient for my busy lifestyle” and “Other factors”. Admittedly there's also “Price promotion” and “Value for money”. But nothing about Quality, availability or suitability. And their categories are interesting: “Noodles/Noodle Sauces (e.g. Trident)”, and “Pasta/Rice - Shelf stable pasta sauce, dry pasta, packet/microwave rice”. What's Trident? Do I want to know? More importantly, do either of those categories include the pasta and rice that I buy (raw, unprocessed)? Hard to say; certainly the division between pasta and noodles indicates a very confused mind. And what product innovations have there been in fresh fruit recently?

Things go on when deciding what to buy. It seems that you either cook what your grandmother cooked, or you decide while you're shopping. The idea of planning doesn't seem to have occurred to them, though they do offer you the option of using fresh fruit & vegetables as the basis for preparing (“fresh”) meat and seafood dishes.


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Finally I was done, and I was offered a chance to view my opinion about the survey. I wrote a condensed version of the above and pasted it into the tiny window. Bang!


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And that after 7 hours of responses! I only got 5 points!

Is this a suspected violation of their terms and conditions? What does that even mean? My guess is that my response to the final question crashed their server. What a waste of time! And to think that the results of these surveys go into marketing decisions. No wonder we have such a lot of junk on the supermarket shelves.


Teaching China about democracy
Topic: opinion Link here

One of the biggest issues that the Western world has with the government of China is that it's a totalitarian (“Communist”) state. Western diplomats go to great lengths to persuade the Chinese to be more democratic.

Recently the USA, that forerunner of democracy, has demonstrated to the world what democracy can do: bring a nation to its knees. The Chinese were quick to note and to comment. Xinhua published this article and this one which, I'm told, reflect the views of the Chinese leaders. There are some interesting details there:

It's easy for people—particularly US Americans—to criticize this as the rantings of a totalitarian regime. But looking at it from the point of view of the Chinese—and most other countries in the world—it makes perfect sense. They need to protect their investment and their economy. It's clear that the American century is over, and that the Chinese one is well on its way. But what has happened in the USA and elsewhere in the Western world in the last 6 years leaves only one conclusion: democracy and free market economy have failed, and they're being propped up by totalitarian states who are able to do their homework without petty squabbles getting in the way. The recent events in the USA have just proven that beyond any doubt.


Saturday, 19 October 2013 Dereel Images for 19 October 2013
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Climate change revisited
Topic: general, opinion Link here

So in his first month in office our hero Tony Abbott has closed down the Climate Commission and introduced draft legislation to repeal the Carbon Tax. What a man! In the meantime, unseasonal high temperatures and winds have caused multiple bushfires across New South Wales, and have already destroyed hundreds of buildings—and that already in mid-October. In days gone by people might have seen this as in indication of the Wrath of God. But Tony's Catholic, so he doesn't believe in that sort of thing. I'd almost wish that some of the government ministers were directly affected by the fires. That could make them sit up and think.

In the meantime I'm just completing the final essay for the Coursera Climate Change course: “What is a low carbon economy?”. Good question; it can be interpreted in different ways depending on whether you concentrate on “low(er) carbon” or “economy”. I chose the first, and on revising the materials, I was horrified. I get the feeling that the technical man, David Jamieson, is either incompetent or deliberately misleading. Here a couple of examples from his summary lecture about “Electricity Without Carbon”:

In summary, it seems to me that a combination of solar electricity and fuel cells make a lot of sense. When the sun's shining, the panels generate electricity. The excess is used to electrolyze water into hydrogen and oxygen, which is collected for use by the fuel cells. At night the fuel cells take over and burn the hydrogen and oxygen and convert it back to water again. Why doesn't Jamieson even mention this possibility? Instead, his suggestions are:

 
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You might think that this is relatively harmless, but it isn't. Professor David Jamieson is the head of the School of Physics at the University of Melbourne. People listen to him. It's difficult to believe that he doesn't know about the holes I've mentioned above, but if I showed them to Tony Abbott, he'd feel more than justified in discrediting everything that Jamieson and other “experts” say.

From a personal viewpoint, I did this course in the hope of getting good, solid facts and an overview of the topic that I can rely on. I'm personally very disappointed, especially since it brings the name of the University of Melbourne into disrepute.


Sunday, 20 October 2013 Dereel
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Baking accident
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Time to bake bread rolls today. Mixing the ingredients is pretty much the same as for bread—too much the same. Without thinking, instead of adding just salt (13 g) and yeast, I added 20 g of caraway seeds and 20 g salt.

What to do? That's 50% more salt than I usually use, and the caraway was meant for 1.3 kg flour, not the 500 g that I used. But the alternative was to throw it away, so I baked them anyway.

Not a success. But not a complete failure, either. 20 g salt is really too much, but it's not unbearable. And the caraway is strange, but not that unpleasant.


Weather too dry to measure
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

It's been nearly 4 years since I wrote my weather station software. It's been a fight against the vagaries of the weather station, but in general things seem to be working as well as the device will allow. But today I got a whole set of 0 readings.

Further investigation showed that the station wasn't returning valid external humidity information. It was warm and dry, and the last readings had been 10%. Sure enough, as things cooled down, the humidity went up again:

Click to see larger image

So it seems that the station can't report less than 10% humidity. That's not unusual, but what does it report? More investigations needed, but I'll have to wait for the once-in-four-years event where it happens again.


Monday, 21 October 2013 Dereel
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More Coursera work
Topic: general Link here

Another day spent chasing deadlines for Coursera courses. Thank God some of them are ending! Now I only have two with assignments, and I'll be glad when they're over. Why do I do this?

CJ along to look at the fences in the morning.


Ports pain
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Some months ago I had a horrible experience: enblend only worked correctly with vigra if it was compiled with a specific version of gcc. I “fixed” that by ensuring that the correct version was used. But later I started getting error messages by email:

From: pkg-fallout@FreeBSD.org
To: groggyhimself@FreeBSD.org
Subject: [REL - head-amd64-default][graphics/enblend] Failed for enblend-4.1.1_1 in build

You are receiving this mail as a port that you maintain
is failing to build on the FreeBSD package build server.
Please investigate the failure and submit a PR to fix
build.

Maintainer:     groggyhimself@FreeBSD.org
Ident:          $FreeBSD: head/graphics/enblend/Makefile 327733 2013-09-20 18:35:44Z bapt $
Log URL:        http://beefy2.isc.freebsd.org/bulk/head-amd64-default/2013-10-17_23h06m42s/logs/enblend-4.1.1_1.log
Build URL:      http://beefy2.isc.freebsd.org/bulk/head-amd64-default/2013-10-17_23h06m42s

Investigation showed that the maintainer of vigra had changed the compiler specifications from the Makefile, and now we had a third variant:

g++46   -I/usr/local/include -D_THREAD_SAFE -pthread -D_GNU_SOURCE -D_FILE_OFFSET_BITS=64 -I../include -I../src/layer_selection -O2 -pipe -Wl,-rpath=/usr/local/lib/gcc46 -fno-strict-aliasing -Wl,-rpath=/usr/local/lib/gcc46 --param inline-unit-growth=60 -O2 -DNDEBUG -Wall  -I/usr/local/include -D_THREAD_SAFE -pthread -L/usr/local/lib -Wl,-rpath=/usr/local/lib/gcc46 -o enblend enblend-enblend.o enblend-gpu.o enblend-error_message.o enblend-filenameparse.o enblend-filespec.o enblend-self_test.o enblend-tiff_message.o layer_selection/liblayersel.a  -lGLEW -lGLU -lGL -L/usr/local/lib -lX11  -lm -lglut  -lSM -lICE -lXmu -lXi  -lGLU -lGL -L/usr/local/lib -lX11  -lm -lboost_filesystem  -lboost_system  -lvigraimpex -llcms2 -ltiff -lpng -ljpeg -lz -lgsl -lgslcblas -lm -lboost_system
enblend-enblend.o: In function `void vigra::detail::exportImage<vigra::ConstBasicImageIterator<vigra::RGBValue<unsigned char, 0u, 1u, 2u>, vigra::RGBValue<unsigned char, 0u, 1u, 2u>**>, vigra::RGBAccessor<vigra::RGBValue<unsigned char, 0u, 1u, 2u> > >(vigra::ConstBasicImageIterator<vigra::RGBValue<unsigned char, 0u, 1u, 2u>, vigra::RGBValue<unsigned char, 0u, 1u, 2u>**>, vigra::ConstBasicImageIterator<vigra::RGBValue<unsigned char, 0u, 1u, 2u>, vigra::RGBValue<unsigned char, 0u, 1u, 2u>**>, vigra::RGBAccessor<vigra::RGBValue<unsigned char, 0u, 1u, 2u> >, vigra::ImageExportInfo const&, vigra::VigraFalseType)':
enblend.cc:(.text._ZN5vigra6detail11exportImageINS_23ConstBasicImageIteratorINS_8RGBValueIhLj0ELj1ELj2EEEPPS4_EENS_11RGBAccessorIS4_EEEEvT_SA_T0_RKNS_15ImageExportInfoENS_14VigraFalseTypeE[void vigra::detail::exportImage<vigra::ConstBasicImageIterator<vigra::RGBValue<unsigned char, 0u, 1u, 2u>, vigra::RGBValue<unsigned char, 0u, 1u, 2u>**>, vigra::RGBAccessor<vigra::RGBValue<unsigned char, 0u, 1u, 2u> > >(vigra::ConstBasicImageIterator<vigra::RGBValue<unsigned char, 0u, 1u, 2u>, vigra::RGBValue<unsigned char, 0u, 1u, 2u>**>, vigra::ConstBasicImageIterator<vigra::RGBValue<unsigned char, 0u, 1u, 2u>, vigra::RGBValue<unsigned char, 0u, 1u, 2u>**>, vigra::RGBAccessor<vigra::RGBValue<unsigned char, 0u, 1u, 2u> >, vigra::ImageExportInfo const&, vigra::VigraFalseType)]+0xa6): undefined reference to `vigra::negotiatePixelType(std::basic_string<char, std::char_traits<char>, std::allocator<char> > const&, std::basic_string<char, std::char_traits<char>, std::allocator<char> > const&, st d::basic
(many more)

What's all that about? Discussed with the maintainer, who tells me that the changes were necessary to support OpenOffice. And enblend? Clearly not in the same league.

I've been procrastinating on the matter for some time, but today I finally got round, brought my test machine up to date and built the ports. It took all day, but they Just Worked. This is on FreeBSD 9-STABLE, so it looks as if I'll have to try again on version 10, which is just about to be released. What a pain.


Tuesday, 22 October 2013 Dereel Images for 22 October 2013
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More Radiation Tower progress
Topic: general, technology Link here

They're back at work on the Radiation Tower:


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It looks as if they're connecting up the power, which shouldn't take them too long. Hopefully it'll just be a few days now.

So: can I see the tower from my house? Up on the roof to take a look in that direction:


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Where is it? With the help of Google Maps, established that it's behind the gum trees in the middle of the view:


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This is from my Internet connection options map. Our house is the yellow pin at the bottom left, and the tower is the blue pin at top right. The others are historical: discounted alternate sites for the tower.

I suppose it would be visible from the north of the property even from the ground. But not that important: we don't need strict optical visibility.


More roof maintenance
Topic: general Link here

While on the roof, cleaned out some gutters that had filled up with various leaves and droppings from the cypresses, and also took a look at areas I've never been before. The solar water heater doesn't look very happy:


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I wonder if it still works. We do have hot water, of course.

Also discovered that I could get to the antenna mast, though there's not much to see:


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Cleared a lot of crud out of the gutters, but not enough, it seems. They're still overflowing. And I'm a little concerned about the foliage growing between verandah and house:


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That's the vine, and if I leave it to its own device it will completely take over.


Wednesday, 23 October 2013 Dereel Images for 23 October 2013
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More power problems
Topic: general Link here

It seems that there was another power problem last night, this time not here but locally at Chris Bahlo's place. I didn't find out until she arrived here round 8:30 to have a shower. My comment on IRC, with Edwin Groothuis as unwitting straight man:

* grOOgle receives a surprise visit from fenix.
MavvieRVBD: Did she bring a tower?
grOOgle: No, a towel.

Incessant rain
Topic: general Link here

It rained all day! A total of 32 mm in 2 days, about 5% of our annual rainfall. And it demonstrated amply that my gutter cleaning yesterday was completely insufficient. Once it stops raining I'll have to go up and try again.


Androids and Bluetooth keyboards
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Chris Bahlo came in in the evening with a Bluetooth keyboard to try out on the Android tablet. Not an unqualified success:

 
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What's wrong there? And why does it identify itself with something that looks like an Ethernet MAC address? More investigation needed.


DNS strangeness
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

What's my test box called? It's headless, so I need to connect to it before I can find out. But then there's ARP. After booting, it should show up in eureka's ARP table, since it NFS mounts file systems. Took a look:

eureka.lemis.com (192.109.197.137) at 00:1f:d0:20:4e:7f on re0 permanent [ethernet]
swamp.lemis.com (192.109.197.138) at 00:10:5a:75:8d:ad on re0 expires in 36 seconds [ethernet]
dxo.lemis.com (192.109.197.173) at 00:21:86:21:ab:7e on re0 expires in 1190 seconds [ethernet]
stable-amd64.lemis.com.197.109.192.in-addr.arpa (192.109.197.192) at 08:00:27:3c:7f:5e on re0 expires in 1005 seconds [ethernet]
? (192.168.1.2) at 00:1f:d0:20:4e:7f on re0 permanent [ethernet]
? (192.168.1.100) at 00:1f:d0:20:4e:7f on re0 permanent [ethernet]
? (192.109.197.134) at 00:25:22:d3:0d:97 on re0 expires in 352 seconds [ethernet]
? (192.109.197.135) at 08:00:27:49:bc:68 on re0 expires in 454 seconds [ethernet]
? (192.168.1.254) at 00:1f:d0:20:4e:7f on re0 permanent [ethernet]
? (192.109.197.241) at 02:03:7f:42:21:b2 on re0 expires in 1087 seconds [ethernet]
? (192.109.197.178) at 6c:f0:49:09:7a:4d on re0 expires in 1185 seconds [ethernet]
? (192.109.197.151) at 00:1f:d0:20:4e:7f on re0 permanent [ethernet]

Huh? Why are those addresses in 192.109.197.0/24 not resolving? Tried again:

...
stable-amd64.lemis.com.197.109.192.in-addr.arpa (192.109.197.192) at 08:00:27:3c:7f:5e on re0 expires in 981 seconds [ethernet]
? (192.168.1.2) at 00:1f:d0:20:4e:7f on re0 permanent [ethernet]
? (192.168.1.100) at 00:1f:d0:20:4e:7f on re0 permanent [ethernet]
lagoon.lemis.com (192.109.197.134) at 00:25:22:d3:0d:97 on re0 expires in 328 seconds [ethernet]
dereel.lemis.com (192.109.197.135) at 08:00:27:49:bc:68 on re0 expires in 430 seconds [ethernet]
? (192.168.1.254) at 00:1f:d0:20:4e:7f on re0 permanent [ethernet]
...

A couple more resolved, but not all. And that was the same on a further attempt. But host finds them with no trouble:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/18) ~ 6 -> host 192.109.197.241
241.197.109.192.in-addr.arpa domain name pointer flachmann.lemis.com.
=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/18) ~ 7 -> host 192.109.197.178
178.197.109.192.in-addr.arpa domain name pointer cvr2.lemis.com.
=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/18) ~ 8 -> host 192.109.197.151
151.197.109.192.in-addr.arpa domain name pointer quartet.lemis.com.
=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/18) ~ 9 -> arp -a
...
? (192.168.1.100) at 00:1f:d0:20:4e:7f on re0 permanent [ethernet]
lagoon.lemis.com (192.109.197.134) at 00:25:22:d3:0d:97 on re0 expires in 220 seconds [ethernet]
dereel.lemis.com (192.109.197.135) at 08:00:27:49:bc:68 on re0 expires in 322 seconds [ethernet]
? (192.168.1.254) at 00:1f:d0:20:4e:7f on re0 permanent [ethernet]
? (192.109.197.241) at 02:03:7f:42:21:b2 on re0 expires in 1070 seconds [ethernet]
? (192.109.197.178) at 6c:f0:49:09:7a:4d on re0 expires in 1116 seconds [ethernet]
? (192.109.197.151) at 00:1f:d0:20:4e:7f on re0 permanent [ethernet]

What's going on there? I've been having strange DNS issues for some time, but I can't blame these on my flaky Internet connection: the name server is local.


Thursday, 24 October 2013 Dereel Images for 24 October 2013
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ANZ: Too stupid for their own good
Topic: general, opinion Link here

I've complained in the past about ANZ bank's complete lack of understanding of security. On that occasion I was asked to send the email to their security people. They didn't even answer, and that's one of the reasons why I'm in the process of moving to a different bank.

Today I got another reason. In order to continue using their web (“Internet”) banking, I have to provide answers to three “secret” questions:

 
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How many of these are secret? Looking through my web site, you could find answers for four or five of them. The other ones (“Where do you first remember going on holiday?”, for example) are so difficult to answer that I would probably have to write it down. And that's the obvious thing to do: think out completely inappropriate answers, write them down and give them when required. That would work, but it's clearly not the intention. Some deranged “security” person at the bank clearly wants correct answers and thinks that this will improve security. Now how about something like an RSA key instead?


Everybody hates the USA
Topic: opinion, general Link here

Last week I commented on the damage that the US government had done to the country, and expressed the opinion that it would just hasten the decline of the USA. But I wasn't expecting what has happened over the past couple of days:

This is news? Not really. Yes, The Guardian published an article recently, though strangely it was a report about it in Der Spiegel that rang the alarm bells. But it was really revealed in the mass surveillance disclosures by Edward Snowden months ago. And we've known about the atrocities in Guantánamo for years. The news about drone strikes, along with the startling claims that it's legitimate to violate another country's air space, aren't new either.

Never mind that the US government didn't deny having tapped Merkel's phone, nor the fact that it's probable that the Pakistani government is involved in the attacks: people are talking about it now. Why ? It doesn't seem so far-fetched to think that it's related to the falling esteem (or is that fear? that the world has for the USA.


Bluetooth keyboard: success
Topic: technology Link here

More playing around with the Bluetooth keyboard today. This time it Just Worked, irritatingly while I was trying to get some screen shots of it not working. And once it was there, identifying itself not with a MAC address but with the name of the keyboard's owner (not Chris Bahlo), I couldn't get rid of it.

So: how well does it work? There's no problem entering data, but it's still difficult to use: Android isn't really designed for keyboards, and I still need to smear the tablet to navigate the screen. The keyboard is really only useful when doing a lot of text entry with little screen navigation. It could, for example, be useful for writing this diary—except, of course, that the Ctrl and Meta keys are in the wrong place. I'll play with it a little more, but it doesn't look like it's worth spending $50 on my own keyboard.


Friday, 25 October 2013 Dereel Images for 25 October 2013
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How to compromise ANZ web banking
Topic: general, opinion, technology Link here

Despite my complaints about ANZ yesterday, it was clear that I would have to go along with their silly “security” questions, so I chose some with answers that nobody—not even I—could guess. Then a little later Yvonne came in and told me that she had managed to lock herself out of the web banking service—typed the correct password three times, and it was rejected each time. Now we had to call 13 33 50 to get it reinstated.

How could that happen? Clearly they couldn't have objected to my choice of answers (which, in fact, were less unflattering than usual). Something wrong in their application? Called up the phone number, which wanted my customer registration number and refused to accept it. Pressed #### until it gave up and connected me to a human, whose name appears to be Dili (Dilip maybe?). I explained to him what had happened. He asked me for my full name (“Greg Lehey”, which of course isn't full), and he gave me a replacement password. And that was all! What about the silly questions?

I don't need to ask “what's wrong with this picture?”. It hits you in the face. To break into an ANZ web banking account, follow these three simple steps:

  1. Find somebody's customer registration number (CRN). This used to be the ATM card number, but it seems that it has changed, maybe because the number is the only security of any kind that you have. In my case, I got it from the manager of the Sebastopol branch last month with nothing more than my ATM card as identification, so it's not that safe either.

  2. Go to the web banking application and enter the same password three times. Except for an infinitesimal chance that you guess the correct password, it will lock you out.

  3. Call 13 33 50 and ask for a new password.

I was pissed off with ANZ before. But this is unbelievable negligence. It's conceivable that Dili checked the phone number I was calling from, but even that's not sufficient security: one way to steal somebody's CRN is to do it while visiting him. In any case, that's the end of the relationship. I'll prepare a stiff letter in the next couple of days.

One final question remained: why did she get locked out? It seems that she fell foul of a bug in their application. It presents a login screen:

 
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After you enter your details, it opens a full-screen display (2560×1440 in my case) and clears this screen. Yvonne performed a transaction, closed the window, and then wanted to check. So she entered her details in this login screen again. But you shouldn't do that: it's insecure (or mumble). And it won't work beyond locking you out if you try too many times. You have to close the window and re-open it. I wonder if ANZ thinks there's some use in this, or whether it's just a bug they haven't bothered to fix.


Radiation Tower close up
Topic: general, technology Link here

The work on the Radiation Tower this week looked like completion, so off to take a closer look. Up to now I have only taken photos from the road, but it looked like time to go in and take a closer look. For some reason they've locked the gates leading to the tower, though that's not the case with the other towers I've seen. In any case, it's easy enough to get in:


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And clearly the tower isn't complete yet:


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Still, there's not much to do. Next week maybe?

They've put in a generator here too, though unlike the one at Cape Clear, it seems to be temporary:


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It's not connected yet either:


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And can we see the tower from our property? As I suspected, it's visible from further north:


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In the first photo it's barely visible in the top middle of the image.


Effective telephoto photos
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

The photo of the Radiation Tower taken from our property was interesting.

 
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It was hand-held with the Zuiko Digital ED 70-300mm F4.0-5.6 and then severely cropped. The EXIF data tells me that the effective focal length is 4157 mm—that's the equivalent of 8314 mm on a full-frame camera! Yes, it's not as sharp as most photos, but for a hand-held photo at that equivalent focal length it's amazing.


Saturday, 26 October 2013 Dereel Images for 26 October 2013
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The disadvantages of weeds
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

I've been dragging my heels on weeding the garden, and in some areas they've taken over from the plants. Yvonne mowed the lawn today, and then some:


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Those were, respectively, a Euphorbia and a Banksia. She thought it was just grass. I suppose the Euphorbia will survive; I'm not so sure about the Banksia.


Goodbye Darah
Topic: animals Link here

Chris Bahlo was late for dinner today, so I went out to look whether she was coming. She wasn't, but I saw another disturbing sight. Darah was lying down again, and looking decidedly uncomfortable:


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Once again she had her legs stretched out, and it seemed that she couldn't get up. We were half expecting this after the results of her last vet examination. Chris arrived and we spent some time considering what to do. Tried to give her some bute mixed in some grain, but though she took the grain into her mouth, she didn't chew or swallow it. While we were trying to find a way to give her some, she started flailing around, clearly in great pain:


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It's interesting how the other horses reacted. Clearly they were disturbed as well:


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After some discussion, both Chris and Yvonne recommended that we have her put down. Managed to find Pene Kirk, a vet in Cape Clear, who came along to do the deed. I had hoped that Pene would check her and maybe find some alternative, but she filled up her syringes (barbiturates, I think) even before looking at her. By this time she was up again, looking almost normal, and we led her off to the dam, where we'll probably bury her. At least this time was less violent than last time. But it's a sad day.


Sunday, 27 October 2013 Dereel Images for 27 October 2013
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Farewell to Darah
Topic: animals Link here

As planned, Chris Bahlo came by this morning to allow the other horses to bid farewell to Darah:


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They spent a couple of minutes sniffing her and the tarpaulin that she had been covered in, and then moved on. I wonder what went on in their heads.


Backup data corruption
Topic: technology, photography Link here

Yesterday's photo data backup didn't exactly work as planned. Looking at the output, I found lots of:

rsync: stat "/photobackup/Photos/grog/www/20080531/small" failed: Bad file descriptor (9)
rsync: recv_generator: failed to stat "/photobackup/Photos/grog/www/20080531/small/daisy-bush.jpeg": Not a directory (20)
rsync: recv_generator: failed to stat "/photobackup/Photos/grog/www/20080531/small/dam-ne.jpeg": Not a directory (20)

Further investigation showed a couple of things: first, the (USB-connected) disk had been detected as a 1 MB/s device:

Oct 26 17:04:33 eureka kernel: da2 at umass-sim3 bus 3 scbus11 target 0 lun 0
Oct 26 17:04:33 eureka kernel: da2: <ST ST2000DL003-9VT1 3.00> Fixed Direct Access SCSI-4 device
Oct 26 17:04:33 eureka kernel: da2: 1.000MB/s transfers
Oct 26 17:04:33 eureka kernel: da2: 1907729MB (3907029168 512 byte sectors: 255H 63S/T 243201C)

Normally I'd expect to see 40 MB/s transfers. I suspect that this speed change is due to some flakiness on my motherboard. During the backup, I had a number of errors:

Oct 26 19:17:47 eureka kernel: (da2:umass-sim3:3:0:0): READ(10). CDB: 28 0 aa fb 0 4a 0 0 4 0
Oct 26 19:17:47 eureka kernel: (da2:umass-sim3:3:0:0): CAM status: CCB request completed with an error
Oct 26 19:17:47 eureka kernel: (da2:umass-sim3:3:0:0): Retrying command

Oct 26 19:25:59 eureka kernel: (da2:umass-sim3:3:0:0): READ(10). CDB: 28 0 59 2b 21 ba 0 0 4 0
Oct 26 19:25:59 eureka kernel: (da2:umass-sim3:3:0:0): CAM status: CCB request completed with an error
Oct 26 19:25:59 eureka kernel: (da2:umass-sim3:3:0:0): Retrying command

Oct 26 19:41:14 eureka kernel: (da2:umass-sim3:3:0:0): READ(10). CDB: 28 0 20 6e 0 46 0 0 4 0
Oct 26 19:41:14 eureka kernel: (da2:umass-sim3:3:0:0): CAM status: CCB request completed with an error
Oct 26 19:41:14 eureka kernel: (da2:umass-sim3:3:0:0): Retrying command

I didn't see any write errors, but presumably something similar corrupted the directory inode for /photobackup/Photos/grog/www/20080531/small. fsdb said:

fsdb (inum: 401280)> cd small
component `small': current inode 401536: screwy itype 0130000 (mode 0133000)?
fsdb (inum: 401536)> print
current inode 401536: screwy itype 0130000 (mode 0133000)?
fsdb (inum: 401536)>

Decided to try fsck before any heavier weapons, and sure enough, it removed the inode:

=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/18) ~ 25 -> mailme fsck /photobackup
** /dev/da2p1
** Last Mounted on /photobackup
** Phase 1 - Check Blocks and Sizes
UNKNOWN FILE TYPE I=401536
CLEAR? [yn] y

** Phase 2 - Check Pathnames
UNALLOCATED  I=401536  OWNER=root MODE=0
SIZE=0 MTIME=Jan  1 10:00 1970
NAME=/Photos/grog/www/20080531/small

REMOVE? [yn] y

** Phase 3 - Check Connectivity
** Phase 4 - Check Reference Counts
LINK COUNT DIR I=401280  OWNER=grog MODE=40755
SIZE=1536 MTIME=Oct 27 10:23 2013  COUNT 3 SHOULD BE 2
ADJUST? [yn] y

UNREF FILE  I=401537  OWNER=grog MODE=100644
SIZE=80030 MTIME=Dec  5 16:55 2010
RECONNECT? [yn] b

I made the mistake of allowing fsck to create a lost+found directory. This is a backup disk, and any missing files can be recreated from the original. Putting things in lost+found loses their names, in this case I had to confirm every single file, and at the end I could only delete them. Did that, then tried to remove the lost+found directory. Bang! Panic! “Freeing free inode”. I wonder how that happened. Ran fsck again on the file system, and it worked fine.


Yet Another Pizza Oven
Topic: food and drink, opinion, general Link here

I've been working towards better pizzas for some time, and currently we're baking them in individual electric “ovens”. They have the disadvantage that they're not much space between the pan and the heating element:


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We've learnt to avoid that particular problem, but this week ALDI had a gas-fired pizza oven in their weekly specials, and we heard from Nele Kömle that she had bought one and was happy with the results. So off into town to buy one. It's a strange device, and it seems that even the people who made the packaging didn't really understand:


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We didn't need to use it today, and based on prior experience I had a horror of actually assembling it, so that will have to wait until tomorrow.

ALDI was also thoughtful enough to provide a typical pizza recipe:

Ingredients

quantity       ingredient       step
1 pkg       Fresh Approach Fresh Pizza Bases 600g       1
1 jar       Remano Passata 700 ml       1
900 g       Pumpkin, diced & oven roasted       2
1 pkg       Tibaldi Prosciutto, sliced       2
2       medium red onions, sliced and sautéed until soft       2
1 pkt       Emporium Selection Greek Feta Chees 200g       2

Method

  1. Place pizza base on the pizza stone and spread enough tomato passata to cover the base.

  2. Arrange pumpkin, followed by prosciutto, onion and crumbled feta.

  3. Pop in the oven and cook until cooked through.

That's amazing enough to remember.


VoIP reliability
Topic: technology Link here

Years ago I bought two Sipura SPA-3000 VoIP ATAs. After retiring I only needed one of them, but it died two years ago. Today I discovered that the second one had died too. I didn't record the exact symptoms of the death of the last one, but I suspect at least the LEDs still illuminated. This time there was just no power indication, though the power adapter seemed OK. Not a good advertisement for SipuraLinksysCisco.

With the upcoming Radiation Tower, time to buy a new one. Saw one (a NetComm V210P) being auctioned on eBay and got it for $9.99. Who can be bothered to fix old hardware when you can get new stuff that cheaply?


Monday, 28 October 2013 Dereel Images for 28 October 2013
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ALDI Pizza oven
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Got round to assembling the pizza oven today. It wasn't as difficult as I have become accustomed to with ALDI devices. But I'm left wondering what they were smoking when they designed it:


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My recollection, not helped by the extremely low signal-to-noise ratio on Google, is that a pizza oven is flat with a ceramic base, the (wood) fire to one side and the flue on the other. The hot gases from the fire go sideways to the flue, heating the ceramic base in the process. You put the pizza on the base, which cooks the pizza from below, and the hot gases cook it from above.

In this model, the ceramic base is square, and it's heated from below by the (surprisingly strong) gas burner. But how do the gases go over the top of the pizza? It seems that this is a recognized problem: the instructions, such as they are, don't tell you how warm to make the oven, nor how long to cook the pizza, only (original punctuation):

Because the pizza stone sits directly above the burner it can get extremely hot. If you are finding that your pizza bases are cooking too quickly or burning on the stone then the first step is to turn the gas setting to low.

If you are still cooking the pizza's too quickly we recommend starting to cook the pizza's on either of the two roasting racks first... We also recommend using pizza trays to cook with.

Doesn't that fill you with confidence? Using a pizza tray (whatever that is) is contrary to the idea of cooking it on a stone? How hot should the stone be? How hot the ambient temperature? What use is the thermometer at all, especially since, like the barbecue it's marked in obsolete temperature units with Celsius added as an afterthought:


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How do you set 200°? There are 5 markers between the marked temperatures of 177° and 204°, steps of 5.4° each, so the last mark before 204° is 198.6°. Why do people have to do this? The thing is made in China and sold in Australia, both metric countries. What does this have to do with the USA, just about the only country still using Fahrenheit?

In any case, we'll see what happens. So far it doesn't look very promising, especially as it can only do one pizza at a time.


MySQL communication failure
Topic: technology Link here

After yesterday's panic, I had difficulty accessing the freezer database on dereel. It's using phpMyEdit, which no longer works with modern, backwards incompatible versions of PHP, so I run it on a different, down-rev (virtual) machine. But since the reboot I couldn't access the database.

Much checking, not helped by the lack of error reporting. Running wireshark didn't help: I only saw the traffic in one direction, presumably because of the virtual machine. But running mysql directly showed:

=== root@dereel (/dev/pts/0) /usr/local/www/data/household 16 -> mysql -u grog -h eureka
ERROR 1130 (HY000): Host '192.109.197.135' is not allowed to connect to this MySQL server

No, I don't have passwords for this database (clearly that will have to change if I go back to direct connect to the Internet). So what was it? More by coincidence than anything else I discovered that DNS reverse lookup wasn't working:

Oct 28 09:39:20 eureka named[1267]: lemishosts.reverse:189: unknown RR type 'This'
Oct 28 09:39:20 eureka named[1267]: zone 197.109.192.in-addr.arpa/IN: loading from master file lemishosts.reverse failed: unknown class/type
Oct 28 09:39:20 eureka named[1267]: zone 197.109.192.in-addr.arpa/IN: not loaded due to errors.

That proved to be due to a comment written with # instead of the ; that named requires. Fix that, and it worked:

=== root@dereel (/dev/pts/0) /usr/local/www/data/household 17 -> mysql -u grog -h eureka
Welcome to the MySQL monitor.  Commands end with ; or \g.
Your MySQL connection id is 3349
Server version: 5.1.63-log FreeBSD port: mysql-server-5.1.63

Does that explain the issues I saw with arp a few days ago? No. In that case, resolution was selective. In addition, Yvonne confirmed that she accessed the database yesterday before the crash. Potentially it's an issue with arp(8).

And, of course, the error message did tell me what was wrong, in its own way: it showed the IP address of the caller, not the name. And my permissions were for dereel.lemis.com, another thing that I should change if I access the global Internet directly again.


Burying Darah
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

Our attempts to find somebody to remove Darah's cadaver went nowhere. Finally Will Tatnell, who had done some earthworks for us years ago, came along to bury her. Not too early: her intestines had bloated to the point that they burst out of her gut. Not a pleasant site. I take photos of most things, but I decided against this one.


Tuesday, 29 October 2013 Dereel Images for 29 October 2013
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The advantages of dithering
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

My Android tablet proves to be quite good for reading PDF documents, much better than the E-book reader that I bought last year. That seems to have more to do with the software (dare I say Acrobat reader?) than the hardware, since the resolution isn't very different. A closer looks shows the advantage of dithering:


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I consider dithering just a substitute for high-resolution displays, but here it does the job quite well.


Another fallen branch
Topic: general Link here

While watching TV, heard a noise outside and looked out just in time to see yet another cypress branch fall to the ground, destroying the clothes hoist in the process:


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Fortunately CJ was available—in fact, he was in the process of sharpening his chainsaw when I called—so he came over and got rid of it quite quickly. Conveniently, it's near the woodshed:


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Since we're thinking of installing wood-fired hydronic heating, he cut it into oven-sized pieces.


Zhivago's bladder stones
Topic: animals Link here

Finally the results of the analysis of Zhivago's bladder stones are back. Not Calcium oxalate, as we had expected, but Cystine, specifically Cystinuria. Not an improvement: there's a good chance they'll be back, at least without treatment. We still need to get his urine pH up and density down. It seems that meat, eggs and wheat are no good for him, which doesn't leave much else to eat. Sarah recommends u/d diet, which unfortunately costs an arm and a leg (she quoted $155.50 for 12½ kg). There aren't many suppliers, but at that price it probably makes sense to shop around.

And if that doesn't work, there's Tiopronin, also known as N-(2-Mercaptopropionyl)glycine, which is even more expensive: 100 tablets for about $160, and he would need 6 a day. That's round $10 a day. An alternative might be Potassium citrate, which they can sell us for $20 a kg. But there's the lie: I've already established that I can get it for well under half that price. If we have to keep this up for long, it will clearly be worth shopping around.

In any case, the goal is to get the urine pH above 7.5. It seems that there can be side effects if we overdo it. but there's clearly more investigation needed. In the meantime the pH meter that I bought on eBay nearly a month ago must finally arrive, and in two weeks we'll get another urine sample analyzed.


Alternative Android software
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

My search for a good navigation app for Android has not been very successful. I had expected something better than the Nav N Go software, but so far I haven't found anything that is anywhere near as good. So why not Nav N Go? It clearly has the advantage that I know how to use it. Spent some more time looking around and came across a site that offered it. So I tried to install it. Ended up with a 415 byte file in the Downloads directory, with no explanation of what to do with it. Clearly I had to sign up with Aptoide. Tried again, following the instructions, but the installation somehow just fizzled out. Looks like a lot more investigation will be needed, and based on the (lack of) documentation, it's not clear that anything will come of it.


The proof of the pizza
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Of course we had to eat pizza this evening to try out our new pizza oven. The first issue is the way it's built: there are two shelves, neither adjustable in height, and the lower one is so low that you can't access the stone if it's present, so I removed it. And they've conveniently put an apparently useless shelf underneath just on top of the gas cylinder, which makes it really difficult to insert the cylinder or turn the tap on or off without kneeling down and scraping your knuckles:


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How hot? Went looking on the web and found the usual vaguenesses, but also the suggestion that pizza ovens run really hot, up to “800°” (i.e. 425°). Coincidentally that's the highest temperature that my oven shows, so probably it should be really hot.

But conventional ovens don't heat the stone from below, so I was careful and started baking when the thermometer showed 204°. A good thing, too. After an appropriate period of time, the pizza looked like this from above:


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That's clearly underdone. I took it out and put it on the top shelf, where it browned nicely from above. Here's half the first pizza, which browned above, and the second one, which didn't:


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But the first pizza was on the stone when it was hotter, and the underside showed:


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It was also uneven, probably reflecting the shape of the burner.

So: as I suspected, heating the stone directly in the flame is Just Plain Wrong. But maybe there's hope yet: the first pizza browned nicely placed further up, so maybe that's where the stone belongs. Clearly more experimentation is needed to work around the basic deficiencies of the device. It's a good thing I have two months to try.


Wednesday, 30 October 2013 Dereel Images for 30 October 2013
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Price of home-grown wood
Topic: general, opinion Link here

One of the reasons we're thinking of installing hydronic heating is because we have a practically unlimited supply of home-grown wood that falls from the trees when it feels like it. But it's not free: today CJ spent an additional hour cutting the fallen branch to oven-size pieces. I should investigate the costs more carefully.


More Radiation Tower activity
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

They're doing more work on the Radiation Tower:


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At first I thought it was the electricity, but the heaps of soil don't seem right for that.


New VoIP adapter
Topic: technology Link here

My “new” NetComm V210P VoIP adapter arrived today. Why does it have a “WAN” and a “LAN” port? It seems to want to be a firewall as well, and it's a little hazy about which port it uses for DNS requests. After a bit of playing around, discovered that it works better with the “WAN” port connected. But I still can't find a way to create a sensible dial plan. On the one hand it's a lot simpler than the dial plan for the Sipura, but on the other hand it's a lot simpler than the dial plan for the Sipura. I can't find a way to tell it to go via PSTN for specific numbers, for example.


Purple fringing and no correction
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

I quite often use my Olympus Zuiko Digital 18-180mm F3.5-6.3, which I got on 6 November 2012 for taking photos away from home where the absolute quality isn't paramount. It's quite a good lens, after all, just not as good as the Zuiko Digital ED 12-60mm F2.8-4.0 SWD or even the Zuiko Digital ED 70-300mm F4.0-5.6. One of the issues is that DxO Optics “Pro” doesn't support it, so I end up with details like this (top left):


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Clearly something I need to address, and a good candidate to experiment with.


More wildflowers
Topic: gardening, photography Link here

The forest round Dereel doesn't exactly have a large number of wildflowers, but sometimes there are some interesting ones. At the beginning of the month I found a wild orchid:


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Walking the dog this evening, we found a surprising number of other flowers, including a quite spectacular orchid:


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It's really quite a complicated flower to photograph, since it's quite three-dimensional in shape. Took a whole lot of images at different distances to experiment with focus stacking. Hopefully I can get it to work before all the flowers have faded.

Apart from that, there are a number of less interesting flowers:


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The first is everywhere, probably some kind of exotic snowdrop. I'm not so sure about the second (also a candidate for focus stacking). And then there's this particularly ordinary looking thorny flower:


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I seem to be making a lot of work for myself.


LinkedIn: Somebody wants to link to you
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Mail from LinkedIn (yes, really, not spam) today:

 
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Who? It doesn't say. It seems to be unimportant, though viewing the profile showed that it was, indeed, somebody that I know. But this was the entire message, apart from my personal details below. Still, documentation is overrated.


Thursday, 31 October 2013 Dereel → Geelong → Dereel Images for 31 October 2013
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Investigating hydronic heating
Topic: general, opinion Link here

One of the two biggest suppliers of wood-fired hydronic heating that I found on the web is Pivot in Geelong, so it seemed to be a good idea to talk to them. Yes, I could do it over the phone, but it seemed that it might be a good idea to talk to somebody and look at what they had to offer.

Only: their head office is in Geelong, but they have a specialist hydronic department in Dandenong Why not go there instead?

Distance. Geelong is 80 km, Dandenong is 183 km. Called in Geelong and was told that I could get most information there, so off to talk to Aiden.

He knew enough for the start, I suppose. But what primitive stuff they offer! The radiators look like they did in Germany 40 years ago, and so did the valves: no thermostats, not even as an option! The wood heaters look like they'll do the job, but there's no kind of temperature control whatsoever! You'd at least expect something that would regulate the air flow.

On the positive side, the boilers were cheaper than I expected at $3,300 (and no, adding temperature control would hardly make a difference), and Aiden said that they'll typically run 8 to 15 hours on a single log, which seems remarkably economical. But I'd really like to find something more modern than what they have on offer. Still, left a plan of the house, and they'll send me a quote. I'm expecting something in the range of $10,000 to $15,000, which compares favourably with the air conditioners we installed 7 years ago.


More pizza oven stupidity
Topic: general, food and drink, opinion Link here

While at Pivot, took a look at their pizza ovens. There was quite a nice brick one for a wood fire, laid out as I had expected: fire one side of the pizza, flue on the other side. Price: about $3,600.

They also had a gas model, only $985:


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But the layout is identical to that of the ALDI oven:


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It looks prettier, but it has the same failings, it looks a little smaller at the top, and it costs four times as much. As far as I can tell, both the stone and the shelves are identical, and it even has the same knuckle-scraping shelf above the gas cylinder. What are people thinking?


Olympus “Viewer” revisited
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

The image quality of my Olympus Zuiko Digital 18-180mm F3.5-6.3, as processed by DxO Optics “Pro”, is less than stellar. Part of the issue is that, unlike my other lenses, it doesn't correct the optical problems of this lens. And it's the one that probably needs it most of all.

So what does? Olympus “Viewer”, it seems, though it has such a horrible interface that I first thought it didn't. And then last month I found that it only exported 8 bit TIFF! Today did some more trying and discovered that that, too, was not quite correct. It gives you the choice of TIFFs with or without EXIF data, but TIFFs with EXIF data are always 8 bit. Why? It's perfectly possible to attach EXIF data to 16 bit TIFFs, and even the choice of images with or without EXIF data is Really Strange. They don't give you the choice in the camera, for example: all images, including raw images, always have EXIF data.

Still, I can work around that, and 16 bit TIFFs mean that I can perform postprocessing, if necessary, with DxO. Tried that today, but I haven't had time yet to do any comparisons of the results.


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