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September 2007
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Saturday, 1 September 2007 Dereel Images for 1 September 2007
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It's been seven years since I started this online diary. What a change there's been since then! And no rain today, either, like the past two weeks, in a time when there's usually lots of rain. I'm not very optimistic about the summer.

The garden continues to surprise us; just about every week there's some new flower. This week there's a black lily:


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Putting together the kitchen cupboards was more difficulty than I expected. The assembly itself is straightforward enough—I already did the other one 6 weeks ago—but installing it on the wall was a serious problem. Firstly, the floor is uneven, so the whole cupboard leant to the left:


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IKEA have planned for that with a couple of adjusting screws, but they work very badly. Firstly, they're not long enough for this much unevenness, and even after I put something underneath, other problems arose: firstly, the method of attachment (hammer spikes into the wood) doesn't work well enough, and the whole thing just falls off. In addition, the screws can't take the pressure of the bit and just wear out:

 

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Finally got the thing finished, but it seemed to take all day.

More Indian cookery in the evening, this time with a new alu gobi dish.


Sunday, 2 September 2007 Dereel Images for 2 September 2007
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Completed work on the IKEA cupboard today, attaching the doors. That wasn't without its surprises: they didn't fit. The drawers that we installed got in the way of one of the hinge pairs:


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Arguably my other problems with IKEA are minor, but this is just plain silly. Both the doors and the drawers are from the same program (“Komplement”) and intended for this use. The very least they could have done is to document the incompatibility. The drawers could be moved, of course, but that would mean moving everything, and leaving visibly damaged holes behind where the screws had been before. After some consideration, decided just to leave out the hinge, which seems to work without problems. Surprisingly, when I put the second door on, it lined up perfectly with the other; I was expecting problems there.

While I was in the mood, addressed the issue of the six bookcases (“Billy”) for the bedroom. They went together surprisingly quickly, but showed a significant lack of uniformity between the IKEA systems. These have a different method of attaching the backs, no handy tool for the nails (though the ones I have work fine), and cutouts for the skirting boards which I can't use here. The other system (“Pax”) also comes with screws for joining multiple cupboards together. I don't need that there, but I do with the bookcases, and of course they don't have them.

When buying my new camera, I placed more importance on wide angle lenses than on telephotos, and ended up with only a single lens, corresponding to 28 to 84 mm on a 35 mm camera. Surprisingly, that frequently proves to be too short. My Nikon L1 has a lens that corresponds to 38 to 190 mm, and I frequently find I run out of zoom on the Olympus. I could buy a second Olympus lens, of course: the “standard” telephoto corresponds to 80 to 300 mm, and maybe I'll buy one some time. But even that's not long enough to take photos of the copious bird life here. Instead, picked up an old Olympus OM 10 for $50 on eBay, along with an 80-210mm Tamron telephoto lens and extension tubes. I can get an adaptor to use the lenses on my camera, where it'll have effectively double the focal length, between 160 and 420 mm. It can only be used manually, but at that kind of length that's not a serious disadvantage. And maybe I can sell the camera again without the tele lens and get a significant amount of the price back.


Monday, 3 September 2007 Dereel Images for 3 September 2007
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More work on the house today. Finally we have the kitchen cupboards finished! Somehow didn't get too much else done, but at least the place is looking more habitable.

Michael (no surname) writes about IKEA furniture:

I'm quite surprised at the problems you encounter assembling IKEA cupboards!

Not being a carpenter or builder, I expect the odd problem, but hardly ever have any. The worst problem we've ever encountered was that the architrave rebate on the back of the 'Billy' bookcases is the wrong size for our rooms. a few strokes of the handsaw fixes that issue.

A lot depends on what you're prepared to put up with, I suppose. I can't imagine myself doing a sufficiently good job at “improving” the skirting board cutout. And since Australian skirting boards are typically thicker than European ones, this is probably a general problem.

I suspect your problems with the cupboard height adjuster is associated with over-reliance on the electric screwdriver. If not, you may find it helpful to use screwdrivers that fit the slot accurately.

The real problem is that the slots are badly cut, so they can't really fit. But that doesn't address the fact that you need to hammer the bases in so hard that you're liable to shatter the board, nor the fact that the length of the screws is wrong. They appear to have about 3 cm adjustment, but if you hammer the claws in all the way, this is all that's left when the adjuster is extended to the base line of the cupboard. It's about 4 mm:


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Tuesday, 4 September 2007 Dereel Images for 4 September 2007
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It's now been two months since I retired, which involves living to a pretty strict budget. Today spent most of my time collecting data and examining how well we have done. To my surprise, we have more or less stuck to the total expenditure, though of course the time after moving is bound to be more expensive. We really have only made it because no large recurring costs have occurred.

Last month it hardly rained at all. We started measuring our local rainfall on 8 August. Since then we have had 19.3 mm of rain, and there's still no significant rain in sight, and the Bureau of Meteorology predicts less than average rainfall for our part of Victoria. So we're thinking of installing a ground water pump (“bore”, as it's called in Australia), especially since we're right next door to the Dereel “Lagoon” (also, more accurately, called “swamp”), and Chris Yeardley brought by an analysis made of her bore water which shows that the quality compares favourably with that of German mains water: you could probably brew with it. On the other hand, the property we looked at in Swansons Road a few months back had a bore with water obviously high in iron:


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Look at the colour of the water tank on the left. Clearly there's a wide range of possibilities.

Off to take a look at the community bore round the corner, with intent to get some water from there, but it's not clear that passers-by are meant to start the pump, which looks like it's been there for ever:


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Wednesday, 5 September 2007 Dereel
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Another day spent mainly in the office, though I did spend some time addressing a seriously neglected brewing setup. Finally found the last part of my brewing fridge, but too late to do anything with it today.


Thursday, 6 September 2007 Dereel –> Melbourne –> Dereel Images for 6 September 2007
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Off early to Melbourne today. Despite the dubious accuracy of Google Maps, tried their latest route from Dereel to Melbourne: previously it had been via Ballarat, but recently they've recommended a route via Geelong. It seems pretty much a matter of luck which is faster, but today at any rate the Geelong route was better, and when they finish the western bypass round Geelong (next year) it should be even faster. Got out of the car in the Queen Victoria Market after only 110 minutes, and for once it was open. Yvonne was also happy with the produce, a marked difference from last week.

Then off to Abbotsford to pick up a new scanner, an Epson “Perfection” 4990 Photo. To get there was pretty straightforward: they're just round the corner from IKEA, down Victoria St, which is one of the most congested roads in Melbourne. Gave up after the Exhibition Gardens and turned into Nicholson St, then down a parallel road to—Nicholson St. There are two of them, in two different suburbs, and this road just happened to start at one and end at the other.

The pickup was in Marine Parade and went very smoothly. From there round back streets, past the Carlton and United Breweries Abbotsford brewery—unlike the original Carlton brewery, it's still there, though I don't think they make Abbots Lager any more. Got back to Victoria St just before IKEA, and it was so much faster than going down Victoria St that I think the detour actually got us to IKEA faster.

Got through IKEA relatively quickly, and ended up spending more money than planned, then down to Hastings, along another Marine Parade—today the street names seem to be repetitive—to pick up my “new” Olympus OM-10 with the telephoto lens. Quite a nice little camera; it's sad, somehow, that something like that is obsolete after 30 years and can barely be sold. Back home, arriving at 19:15, just over 10 hours on the road. Chris Yeardley round for dinner, and more silly photos:


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Friday, 7 September 2007 Dereel Images for 7 September 2007
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There's so much to do! Got up this morning and couldn't decide what I should do first, but finally got round to installing some of the things we bought at IKEA yesterday, and also installed my new Epson “Perfection” 4990 Photo scanner on boskoop, my Apple G4 machine.

What a pain GUI software is. The Epson comes with a new level of non-documentation, at least on paper: a single sheet of paper, approximately A2 in size, telling to install the software before connecting the machine (why?). The remainder of the documentation is then in HTML format on the machine, in a manner that ensures that it won't work on a real file system:


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The problem here is that the file INDEX.HTM contains:

<frameset rows="80,*" frameborder="yes">
  <frame src="ref_g/top.htm" name="TOP">
  <frameset cols="30%,70%" frameborder="yes">
    <frame src="ref_g/toc.htm" name="TOC">
    <frame src="ref_g/home.htm" name="BODY">
  </frameset>
</frameset>
But the documentation is stored in REF_G/:
=== grog@eureka (/dev/ttype) /usr/local/www/data/Documentation/EPSON/Perfection-4990 4 -> ls -lR
total 1
-rw-r--r--  1 grog  www   471 Aug 18  2004 INDEX.HTM
drwxr-xr-x  3 grog  www  1536 Sep  7 14:32 REF_G

./REF_G:
total 1
...
-rw-r--r--  1 grog  www   6198 Aug 18  2004 HELP.HTM
-rw-r--r--  1 grog  www   2787 Aug 18  2004 HOME.HTM
-rw-r--r--  1 grog  www   8782 Aug 18  2004 HOWTO_1.HTM
-rw-r--r--  1 grog  www  15435 Aug 18  2004 HOWTO_2.HTM

Sure, this works with toy file systems that fold upper and lower case, but it's just plain sloppy, and of course it's not correct HTML.

Installing the software is the usual mess: entering the admin password several times, and rebooting the machine afterwards. Why do Microsoft and Apple need rebooting every time you install a new package?

After rebooting, the instructions tell me to select an “EPSON Scan” icon:

 

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Looking in the Applications directory, there is no such icon. But there's an EPSON Scan.app, which I suppose is close enough for the documentation writer not to notice the difference.

 

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That's not much help, though. It wouldn't run, because it is “not supported on this system”.

 

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The message is really detailed, of course. Spent some time checking whether they had accidentally installed an Intel binary on the system, but no, it was for PPC. Gave up, called the help line, and got a recorded message telling me that technical support was closed for the Australia Day holiday (26 January). They seem to have been out on holiday for some time.

Finally messed around and found another icon in a pathname full of spaces: Applications/EPSON/Creativity Suite/Scan Assistant/EScanAssist (why all these StudlYCaps in a file system which is case insensitive?), and that worked. Score 0 for Epson documentation, score 0 for Epson technical support. And my opinion of consumer GUI software remains at rock bottom.


Saturday, 8 September 2007 Dereel Images for 8 September 2007
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More pottering around today. I had thought I had everything I needed to get my temperature controlled fridge up and running again, but it proved that there was still a cable missing. Gave up on that and brewed in the kitchen instead; it'll show up when I'm not looking for it.

Yvonne and Chris Yeardley spent the afternoon tearing down the fences that made up the greyhound runs, happily not requiring much involvement on my part:


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Sunday, 9 September 2007 Dereel Images for 9 September 2007
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We've been here two months! Or I have, anyway. Then I took some photos of the house before we moved the furniture in, so today I took some more photos of what things look like now, and also wrote a comparison page. The move-in is still far from finished.

Spent most of the day trying to make my office more habitable, with reasonable results. In the evening, magret de canard, grilled duck breast. It always tastes good, but it's occurring to me that the powerful layer of subcutaneous fat makes it a difficult piece to grill correctly. We have another breast; I'll try some tricks with it tomorrow.

Oliver Herold wrote:

refering to your diary entry from Friday, 7 September 2007

http://www.sane-project.org/sane-mfgs.html#Z-EPSON

It would be possible too, to use your scanner in FreeBSD together with Sane. The Epson 4990 has got complete support.

Xsane ( /usr/ports/graphics/xsane ) should provide you with a useful interface too.

Yes, indeed, one of the reasons I bought this particular scanner was because of the SANE support. I had either not known, or more likely forgotten, about xsane, so I tried it today. It reminds me that there's a typo in the expansion for “SANE”: it should read “Scanner Access Not Easy”. Starting xsane gives you a window asking if you will accept the first clause of the NO WARRANTY section of the GPL—every time you start it!. Then it comes back and says “no devices available”. To fix this, I first need to read dozens of man pages. For all the failings of the EPSON software, I was able to get it to work and to scan things. Currently xsane is in the “too hard” category.


Monday, 10 September 2007 Dereel Images for 10 September 2007
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Somehow didn't do much today; spent some time investigating why I can't use sane with my scanner and came to the conclusion that it's probably a kernel thing: the scanner should be recognized as /dev/uscanner0, but what I get is:

ugen0: EPSON EPSON Scanner, rev 2.00/1.00, addr 3

So why isn't it being recognized as a scanner? The man pages don't help, beyond not listing this particular scanner, and neither does the FreeBSD handbook, apart from mentioning a similar scanner:

uscanner0: EPSON EPSON Scanner, rev 1.10/3.02, addr 2

I have some recollection that the USB IDs have to be included somewhere, and maybe it's that, but the documentation doesn't help at all. usbdevs gives more information, but nothing that suggests special IDs:

=== root@dereel (/dev/ttyp6) /home/grog 32 -> usbdevs -d -v
...
Controller /dev/usb1:
addr 1: full speed, self powered, config 1, UHCI root hub(0x0000), VIA(0x0000), rev 1.00
 port 2 addr 3: full speed, self powered, config 1, EPSON Scanner(0x012a), EPSON(0x04b8), rev 1.00
   ugen0

It's a great thing to have the sources available for things like this, but it's still a poor second choice to having it Just Work.

Our two whippets, Tina and Tony, had a fight the other day about food, and Tina bit Tony in the face. The wound wasn't bad, but Tony kept rubbing it until it was. Today Yvonne took him to the vet and had a lampshade fitted:


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Also more experimentation with magret de canard. It took longer than I expected, and I think I could have done the fat side even longer:


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Next time round I'll give it 10 minutes on the fat side, after first scoring it, then 3 minutes on the flesh side.


Tuesday, 11 September 2007 Dereel Images for 11 September 2007
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Finally it's raining! Overnight we had 5.5 mm, and during the day we had another 14.

Spent the day inside, first putting together the remaining bookshelves. They didn't seem to line up very well:


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It turned out not to be my fault: a spirit level (shown here on the other side) showed:

 

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I wonder how much unevenness is normal in a wood floor; I ended up putting an 8 mm wood strip on the right side of the shelves.

While unpacking stuff into the shelves, found some badly printed photos with negatives taken in Provence in July 1994, and decided to scan them. I failed. The documentation that comes with the scanner is terrible; apart from other issues, it assumes that you have a low-res display, and it's barely possible to read it on a 2048x1536 display. Followed the instructions, and got a completely white scan. The help suggests that the same software (and help) is used for multiple scanners, some with automatic document feed, and my guess is that the scanner was trying the wrong feed. Tried again with the other option and got a completely black image. “Auto” actually gave me something: an image of the negatives as a whole. There seems to be no way to access individual negatives.

My guess is that this is a documentation problem, so called up the Epson technical support line and spoke to Brian, who told me that I should be running EPSON Scan.app. He didn't even want to talk about the Applications/EPSON/Creativity Suite/Scan Assistant/EScanAssist, which makes me wonder why it's there in the first place.

It seems that their document asking for “EPSON Scan” was based on Apple breakage: this stupid suppression of parts of file names, which I have turned off. I told him that all I get is the “not supported” window:

 

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That, it seems, is my fault, or that of my Mac, and I “should get somebody to look at it”. He told me to reinstall. He couldn't tell me why that should help, but it seems to be the thing to do. First I have to find out how to remove the package. I think I'll do it on a different machine; that should be easier, and it should also help clarify where the problem lies.

Lamb biriani for dinner. It's far more work than most other curries, and it also brought home to me that my recipes have become clearer over the years. Time to overhaul this one.


Wednesday, 12 September 2007 Dereel Images for 12 September 2007
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More playing around with the scanner today. As planned, dragged out tomato, my old G3 laptop, and installed the software there. The installation didn't complete: it produced an error message towards the end saying something like “you don't have permission to install this file”. Which file? Why should it tell me that? It didn't seem to be related to the main application, so I just cancelled the installation, to be greeted with another window saying “Congratulations! You have successfully installed EPSON Scan”. What a mess!

Rebooted the machine, as required. The installation program tries to do it, but silently fails, so I had to help it. After rebooting, the scanner program didn't run on this system either, but the error message was different: “EPSON Scan cannot be started. Please use the Troubleshooting Assistant...”. The “Troubleshooting Assistant” gave me some information that suggested that the real problem was that the program, after being started, couldn't find the scanner. That's reasonable: it wasn't connected, but the error message is clearly wrong.

In the process, noted something else: the icon for the program was different. Here the icons for the installation on boskoop (left) and tomato (right):

 

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I suppose that's clear to a GUI user that the first one is broken—but why? The installation log left no clue.

So found out how to reinstall the software on boskoop, and this time it worked, though the post-installation reboot failed again. And, of course, my original problem with the black or white scans remained, at least until I removed the reflective mat which was hiding the illumination in the top cover of the scanner. Score 0 for Groggy.

After that, scanning worked reasonably well, and about the only problem I had was the extreme cropping of some of the photos. But that'll have to wait for another day.

Chris Yeardley along in the evening, on horseback, and told me that Gobush appears to have gone broke. That's an issue I hadn't thought about, though my concerns about the lack of service have held me back from chasing them. Under those circumstances it's interesting to note that I also got a letter from Senator Helen Coonan, Federal minister for Communications, IT and the Arts, with the “good news” that I have a 99% probability of getting ADSL by mid-2009, and that if not, I can still get satellite broadband. At least there's a web site with some information, but this startling revelation is hardly likely to persuade me to vote for the Liberals at the upcoming federal election.


Thursday, 13 September 2007 Dereel
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Now I finally have the scanner working relatively the way I want it to. Framing negatives is still an issue, though an order of magnitude less so than with the Canon 9900F. Now I just need to know what's on the negatives that I'm scanning. They bring back bygone days, but which?

I really need to do something about a proper Internet connection! Spent all day trying to upload the photos, during which the line dropped continually. Checked the Government web site, which suggests that what we'll end up with will be wireless, not ADSL; if it sticks to the planned 14 MB/s, that doesn't worry me.


Friday, 14 September 2007 Dereel
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Lots of things to do in town today, but first I had to prepare—why do things always take such a long time? Finally got off only shortly before noon, and got the house insurance sorted out, then to a Telstra shop to investigate their wireless broadband offers. To my surprise, we're supposed to have coverage, so ended up buying a modem and an antenna—the rest happens on line.

Also bought some more bookshelves—and had them cut to the wrong length!— and did the grocery shopping, and by the time I got home it was 16:00. Immediately started setting up the wireless broadband modem on boskoop. To my surprise I had discovered that I had a mobile phone signal in my office, but it wasn't enough for the modem, which failed with the information that there was no signal, though the LEDs on the device suggested that there was a weak signal, and even the installation screen showed one out of 5 bars.

Grabbed tomato, my old G3 Mac laptop, and tried it there, not surprisingly with the same results. Decided to go out on the verandah and see if I could get a better signal there. Plugged it in—it's with this makeshift power supply that I put together last year —and the thing blew up on me! On closer examination, it proved that the plastic disk housing into which I had put the supply was in fact conductive:


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The power supply's toast; hopefully the laptop has survived.

Gave up at that point and over to Chris Yeardley's place for dinner. Took the modem with me and confirmed that it didn't work there either. More head-scratching.


Saturday, 15 September 2007 Dereel Images for 15 September 2007
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More work on the wireless Internet connection today. With the power supply for tomato toast, decided to continue my experiments with pain.lemis.com, the Microsoft incarnation of the laptop that usually runs FreeBSD as eucla.lemis.com. To my surprise, it worked out of the box, though the registration was annoying enough. It requires passwords with only letters and digits, but at least one of each, and between 4 and 8 total characters. Stupid! While trying to get a user name/password combination, it timed out on me and required me to restart the installation.

Further investigation showed that the connection works fine under Microsoft, but that under Mac OS it always came back and claimed that there was no signal. Finally called the tech support, which was impressive: almost no wait, and the bloke talked me through what I had to do. For reasons neither of us understood, I first had to reboot the machine, start the BigPond W...nd 2.0.app from the Applications window, and click on Options with the shift key depressed. This gave additional options, including Advanced:

 

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That registered and got me going.

Then spent three hours trying to work out how to set up NAT on boskoop, and failed. With Microsoft it worked out of the box, but on boskoop it just forwarded the packets unchanged. As usual, “Mac Help” was completely useless—I have seldom found worse documentation anywhere—and I was unable to find any other documentation, either on the Apple web site nor elsewhere, that explained how to set up NAT on a desktop version of Mac OS X. Indeed, the documentation I found was ridiculously deficient: only two PDFs relating to Mac OS X: “Tiger Installation and Setup Guide”, 16 pages, and “Welcome to Mac OS X v10.4 Tiger”, 32 pages. There's plenty of stuff for server versions, including stuff about setting up NAT, but I found nothing for the desktop versions. I suspect this is part of Apple's attitude that you shouldn't know the details.

Finally gave up and referred to a book on FreeBSD that I know well, and set up NAT pretty much exactly as I would have done on FreeBSD, using the firewall rules that I had had on eureka, and it worked—all I needed to do was to change the interface name. That has the great advantage that it's been tuned to what I want, but I'm left wondering why I couldn't get NAT to work on the Mac desktop. My best bet is that it would have done so if I had used RFC 1918 addressing, but when I kept my class C addresses, it decided not to translate and not to give me the option. Microsoft handled this situation with no issues whatsoever.

So finally I'm on the Net again! But only for a couple of hours at a time; then I got an unusual screen image:


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It proved that this is the way that Apple displays a panic. The machine paniced a total of 6 times between 16:06 and 22:28: These are the only panics I've ever seen on Mac OS, and I have to belive that it's the driver. More pain.

One of the problems with pain is that it continually accesses the disk once a second, even when it's idle. That has already destroyed one disk, and I've spent considerable time trying to stop it. Today Daniel O'Connor pointed me at a Microsoft Process monitor which looks useful, but showed no file system activity at all. I wonder what's causing it.


Sunday, 16 September 2007 Dereel Images for 16 September 2007
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Back to looking at the wireless Internet connection today, after the machine paniced overnight again. It's very clear that the Microsoft driver works, and that there are problems with the implementation for Apple. Called up BigPond tech support again, and spent 45 minutes on the phone. Here's what I discovered in the course of the conversation and afterwards:

After upgrading the firmware, I was able to continue running for more than 2 hours. But then the connection dropped out and tried to reconnect. What happened then boggles the mind:

It's difficult to believe that anybody would release software that does this sort of thing. Panics are one thing: I'd guess that the ones I've been seeing are due to race conditions, easy to produce with sloppy programming, but difficult to catch during testing. But what I'm seeing here is easy to check for if you understand even the basics of IP. How can any program grab the address from the wrong interface?


Monday, 17 September 2007 Dereel
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Into the office this morning, and of course boskoop had paniced again. Called up Chris Yeardley and asked if she could lend me a Microsoft box. She could, so over to her place with the modem, and while I was there. and out of interest, set it up on her main (Microsoft) machine, where once again it worked without a problem. On the other hand, her satellite connection is currently running, so she's not in any particular hurry to change.

Back home with the Microsoft box (which I've assigned to the already existing name ugliness), and installed the software. I'm getting a bit of routine at this now; it's the sixth machine I've installed it on. This time, however, things didn't go smoothly. It couldn't register; for some reason it wasn't getting an IP address. Called up BigPond again (I'm getting routine with that too) and spoke with Joel, who told me that the behaviour of the Mac software was normal. Asked to speak to a supervisor, but it seems I have to wait for a call back. Decided to put in a complaint, for which he said he had to transfer me, but first we addressed the issues on ugliness. He gave me a few various mouse clicks to do, including setting up the authentication details manually, but nothing helped. Still, the “connection manager” window claimed that I was connected, though I had no IP address. Joel then asked me to see if I could “open” a web page. I told him that I had no IP address, but that didn't worry him; after connection failed with firefox, he made me start “Internet Explorer”. When that failed, he asked me to try changing settings. Finally I refused and tried to explain the way data goes across the Internet, and he accepted that he didn't understand enough to help. But where's the escalation of complex problems?

Then he connected me to the complaints department.

Once back in the technical support, spoke to Rhys, who told me that the Mac OS driver was “not fully supported”, though the web pages and advertising claim that it is. I detect a level of frustration with a number of these people. He finally took a complaint (Questus number 4833661). He also tried to help with the Microsoft issue. On further investigation (with Microsoft's ipconfig) discovered that the system did, in fact, get an IP address after a while, but one in a completely different range, with a netmask 255.255.0.0, and without a default gateway. My guess is that this happens during authentication, and that it's failing for some reason, but Rhys wasn't able to help there either. He suggested that I wait for the supervisor call.

In the meantime got another disk with a Microsoft test system from the black box project and tried that. It didn't even boot: it didn't like the hardware, which was different from the system on which I had installed it. Possibly that was in violation of the EULA, but what do I care? I can't use it anyway.

So: a third day trying to get this thing to work. What a pain! Reverted to running on boskoop, which got its IP addresses confused again in the evening.


Tuesday, 18 September 2007 Dereel
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boskoop had paniced again during the night, of course. Didn't even try to reconnect, but decided to use an almost virgin Microsoft XP image that I had found on tvremote.lemis.com, the lounge room machine that I use as an overdimensioned remote control for teevee.lemis.com. That came with the machine, and apart from a couple of months where Yana used it to play videos, it's been unused. That's a far cry from Chris' machine, which has had all kinds of networking software installed on it, including satellite software, so I was expecting less of a problem. But I had exactly the same problem as before. Called up BigPond yet again, and spoke to Daniel, who tried a couple of different things. In the process, it seemed reasonable to reboot ugliness, which showed the same problems as before—at first. Then, suddenly, for no obvious reason, it connected, and stayed connected. Nobody knows why, but it supports my theory that it has nothing to do with the local machines.

After that, things worked “normally”. I really hate having to access the Internet via a Microsoft box: firstly, there's the image problem, and more importantly, I don't have any control over the thing. How can I monitor what's going on? After 20 hours, the manager window tells me that I've sent 7 kB and received 23 MB; clearly that's wrong. How can I set up a proper firewall? Again, no idea.

Telstra isn't the only game in town. Both Daniel O'Connor and Steven (who doesn't want his surname mentioned) have pointed me at http://quozl.netrek.org/bp3-usb/. I haven't had time to investigate it yet, but it certainly looks like an attractive alternative to what I have now. Steven also pointed me to the Maxon forums (Maxon is the manufacturer of the modem). They have a forum on exactly this topic, and it looks as if better software for Apple is on its way. I can't wait.


Wednesday, 19 September 2007 Dereel Images for 19 September 2007
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Now that I'm on the net, even if in an ugly fashion, back to the real work I had to do, and made some progress on unpacking. Also tried to mow the lawn, but the lawn mower stalled and wouldn't restart, something that it's never done before. Should I try to repair it or take it in for service?


Thursday, 20 September 2007 Dereel Images for 20 September 2007
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Into the office this morning and failed to download my mail, though the indicator said that the connection was still up:

 

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That turned out to be a lie, as ipconfig shows:

 

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It's also interesting to see what the program thinks the transfer counts are. Clearly this software leaves a lot to be desired. I wonder what the source looks like. Later I checked my real usage on the BigPond web site and found, in succession,


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How can you trust data like that?

Phil Pilmore of White Swan air conditioning came along today with his crew to finally install the air conditioners:


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That took them all day, and at the end of it they still weren't finished, but finally we're on the way to civilized temperatures. Spent the day tidying up in preparation; I also didn't get finished.


Friday, 21 September 2007 Dereel Images for 21 September 2007
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Phil back today to finish the installation of the first air conditioning unit. We have heating again! What a relief!

Spent most of the day updating my photo album web page generation scripts, which previously could handle only GIF or JPEG formats, but not both. I'm also closer to not generating spurious references to exif data.

Open letter to Telstra

After the letter from Helen Coonan last week promising “broadband” within two years, I received another letter today—correctly addressed, presumably because I'm a customer—from Geoff Booth of Telstra, telling me that the letter from Helen Coonan was recklessly attempting to mask Telstra's broadband service offerings, and claiming that they were exemplary. He even gave a number to call, which proved to be BigPond's signup line. Telstra doesn't seem to have an address, so I can't reply directly. Instead, here's an open letter to Geoff Booth.

While on the phone with BigPond, put in another application for ADSL; they still can't tell what the situation is without going through the whole rigmarole. A couple of points from the application process:


Saturday, 22 September 2007 Dereel Images for 22 September 2007
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Chris Yeoh and Kelly Daly got married a few months back, and today they had a secondary celebration in Ballarat, where Kelly's parents live. Off there at midday, and for a change a barbecue that I didn't have to manage myself:


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After that, back home to install the antenna for my wireless modem that I had received in the post. It didn't look promising: the packaging looked like an afterthought, and was damaged, and there was no kind of padding inside:


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That was only the start, though: the documentation (a poor photocopy) appeared to refer to a different antenna (COL 1790 instead of CD 1798), and it referred to components not supplied, such as the mounting tube, and the hose clamps supplied seemed to be far too big. It also referred to phones, but not to the modem. The modem has two antennas; this is a single antenna. At least it has the correct connector, but what do you do with the other one? Leave the old antenna on there, or remove it? Are the antenna connections even equivalent? You'd think so, but how can you be sure?

Taped the antenna high on the outside wall and tried it out. The only measurement I had was the five bar scale on the toy display. Results:

In other words, it didn't work at all, heightening my suspicion that it was the wrong item. Rang up Big Pond technical support yet again (133 933, menu codes 1,3,1 (the last to indicate what kind of modem I have)), and spoke to Mitesh, who told me that my account had been aborted. After I assured him that this was not the case, he changed his mind and asked me what kind of modem I had. Finally I was able to explain what my problem was. He asked me what kind of antenna I had, and what the gain was (something not mentioned on anything that I had at my disposal). I replied that I didn't know, and that it should have been in my account, since it was sent to me from them. He appeared unable to determine the type, and though I had told him it was a roof mount rod antenna, he continued asking about other kinds of antenna. Finally he put me on hold and came back to tell me that he had spoken to the technical support people (I thought that's what he was supposed to be), who said it was a very high gain antenna and needed professional installation. He was unable to explain why professional installation is needed for high-gain antennas.

I asked to be connected to the technical support people, and was finally connected to Zack, who asked all the questions over again, and finally told me that “antennas get installed”. I explained that this had been sold to me as a self-install antenna, and he decided that maybe he should connect me to the technical support people. After a while, I was connected to Mikaele (Me: “Who am I speaking to?”; Mikaele “Me”), who went over the whole thing all over again, and finally told me that I should call the technical support people on Monday. I asked him to have them call me back, but that wasn't possible.

It's clear that all three people completely missed the point. My concern was that the antenna is defective, ineffective, or just plain the wrong model. They seemed to think that I was too stupid to install it, and Mikaele effectively said so. Finally asked him to put in a complaint, which he first refused to do: the one I put in on Monday as Questus number 4833661 has now been reentered (yesterday!) as reference number 112743918. He said that that should be enough, though that complaint referred to the bugs in the software supplied for Apple. Finally he took a complaint, or told me that he had done so, and gave me the reference number 20070922. I pointed out that this was today's date, but that didn't seem to worry him.

I'm left wondering what really goes on there. It's clear that nobody I spoke to has the slightest idea about these antennas; but one of them sold it to me, and I'm wondering if it will do any good even if it's the correct one and not damaged. But I've wasted another hour talking to people who can't hel at all, and it looks as if I need to persuade Big Pond to take the thing back. How I hate Telstra!


Sunday, 23 September 2007 Dereel
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What a difference the air conditioning makes! It's only half complete, but now the house is warm, made no more difficult by the fact that spring is coming. Spent the day unpacking our belongings and use the entire house instead of just a few rooms.

Michael (no surname) responded to my report of problems with the modem antenna pointing to the RFI catalogue, which on page 45 refers to a COL 1798 antenna that looks pretty much like mine (which is inscribed CD 1798). So possibly that part of the story is OK. I wonder what the problem is; maybe it was really damaged in transit. One thing's interesting, though: the gain is given as 6.5 dB, hardly “high gain”. I wonder if that would even make any difference to the number of bars on the modem display.


Monday, 24 September 2007 Dereel Images for 24 September 2007
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More work on moving in today, punctuated by an 84 minute phone call to Big Pond technical support which brought effectively nothing. After establishing that the help desk knows nothing about the antennas, I had hoped that I would be connected with somebody who did. Instead, I was answered by Laura, who wanted to know the IMSI and IMEI values for the modem, though it had nothing to do with the modem. Finally she connected me to Darrell, who was in the high gain antenna department. That, of course, meant 14 dB Yagi arrays, so he was unable to help me. There's every reason to believe that the gain of the rod antenna won't be enough, though, so I noted the phone number: 1 800 305 307.

Darrell connected me to Jamie in sales, not quite the person I wanted, but at least he confirmed that I could get a refund if I decided to go for a Yagi antenna. He then connected me back to the entry menu of the technical support. After choosing the options again, was connected to Brendan, who wanted to know what kind of antenna I had. I said “CD 1798”, but he didn't know what that meant. He connected me to Jay in Telstra satellite activation, who of course couldn't help either, though he is apparently also responsible for installing Yagi antennas. I get the distinct feeling that the rod antennas are not taken seriously.

He connected me back to tech support again, and this time I was connected with Kathy, who told me that all they had about the antenna was a sheet of paper—I suspect it's the same one I have. She wasn't able help me, she wasn't able to connect me to a supervisor—“They're all out on training”, and she wasn't able to find anybody else to help me. Clearly the management structure and escalation procedures are completely inadequate.

Of course, she also wasn't able to answer any questions: What do you do with the other antenna connection on the modem? Are the antenna connections even equivalent? How many dB between the bars on the modem? Finally, I gave up and asked them to take the antenna back. Was connected to Tara, who wanted to cancel the entire account, but I think I talked her out of it. She then connected me on to Michael, who promised to arrange a bag to send the antenna back. I wonder if he hasn't been told the size of the antenna.

So, back to square one. Should I order a Yagi? At least it would be installed by a technician who would not be able to leave it there if it didn't work, but would it make enough difference? It occurred to me that I have an old Yagi TV antenna (300-700 MHz) which I could rebuild for the 850 MHz band, and conceivably I could get more than 14 dB out of it. Hugh Blemings pointed me to some antenna design programs, but unfortunately they all cost money, in fact in the same order of magnitude as buying and installing an antenna from Telstra. More to think about.


Tuesday, 25 September 2007 Dereel Images for 25 September 2007
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Phil and Ryan came along today to finish the air conditioner installation—they had been called out on an emergency yesterday. Now everything's finished, and the house is warm—almost too warm; I suspect that Fujitsu is not measuring the air temperature that interests me.

Spring is coming! And Yvonne found out the natural way:


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Also did some work in the garden, and discovered dozens of rhizomes under bushes, where they can't grow. I think they're irises:


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They look quite like the ones shown in Wikipedia. I wonder where I can put them.

Strange letter from Telstra's Customer Relations department in the mail today, telling me that Telstra regret the problems I've been having and have credited $450 odd to my account, leaving a credit of $28. That's all the more puzzling because it was dated 21 September, at which time I had just put in a complaint about the completely broken driver software for Apple, and at the time the letter was written my total debt to Telstra was about $50. Tried to call up the maybe toll-free number they mentioned, but got a recorded message telling me the hours of operation, and that I should call back later or maybe leave a message. Did the latter.

In the meantime, got a message that a new release of the driver was available, so installed that.

Some hours later got a call back from the author of the letter, Diana Booth. It eventuated that she had mixed up my case with another, so sadly no $450 for me. At least she was a sympathetic listener and sounded horrified when I told her of the problems I've had with Big Pond technical support. For reference, they are:

All this must be very frustrating for the personnel themselves.

As if to emphasize the issue, got a call from Steven Honson reminding me to read a mail message he sent me a couple of days ago, referring to a mailing list thread on the subject of connecting antennas. It seems that, indeed, the two antenna connections are not equivalent. Seen from the front, the left hand one is marked “primary” and the right hand one is marked “secondary”. This was exactly one of the questions I asked Telstra support staff over the last couple of days, and which they couldn't answer.

Of course, I had connected my antenna to the secondary antenna, which is only supposed to be used for searching for alternate signal sources. And that's the one I had connected the antenna to. Took it back outside, lashed it high up on the house, and tried the primary antenna. It worked, but the difference in signal strength didn't seem to be anything like the “from one bar to 5” that some people mention. I've been looking at the verbose log, and it includes information like:

[25 Sep 07, 14:13.56] CMaxonCHU628.OnQmiInformation: RSSI: -96

I'm assuming that the -96 is a dB value. In that case, it might have added 1 to 2 dB, certainly not the 6.5 dB that they claim, and not enough to make any difference to the number of bars displayed on the modem. Presumably the antenna is really defective.

What did happen, though, during the changeover was:

 

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That in itself might not be so surprising, but it didn't go away. The same screen shot shows the signal to be 2 bars, and in fact everything was working fine. In addition, the outgoing traffic values are still completely wrong, less than 1% of the real value. Clearly the new software hasn't removed all bugs.

As if that wasn't enough Telstra for one day, got a call from Shane to tell me that I couldn't get ADSL. That was a foregone conclusion, but he gave me a different reason from others: it's purely a matter of line loss, not equipment like pair gain systems. Although there are pair gain systems in the area, our line doesn't have one. And of course Telstra aren't planning any upgrade in the foreseeable future. He also stated that Alita's claim that they would keep the application for 6 months was wrong: I should try again in a month or two.


Wednesday, 26 September 2007 Dereel Images for 26 September 2007
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Into town early for a blood test—what a nuisance these fasting tests are! Also to my investment people to handle various documents, and did a bit of grocery shopping.

At the post office finally picked up an adaptor ring that I had bought on eBay. It had been sent off from Shanghai exactly 2 weeks ago, and I was beginning to suspect the vendor, but it seems to really have been a problem with the postage.

Back home, another call from Diana Booth at Telstra, telling me that yes, indeed, I can keep the $450 that she accidentally promised me last week. That's nice to hear, though I wonder how it will work if they haven't actually credited it to my account, but it still doesn't solve the broken Apple drivers. Diane promised to ensure that the problem was escalated; let's hope it works, but as I said, this should be done for everybody.

My Panasonic PT-AE 700E projector seems to be dying; one corner of the screen is discoloured (no real black, more like dark blue, and the mid-tones are far too bluish). Looks as if the display panel has had it. I wonder how that happened, and whether it's worth replacing it.


Thursday, 27 September 2007 Dereel
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More work to do in town today, including finally returning the first antenna I bought for my wireless modem and sending off forms to Fujitsu that were due by 1 October—never mind that it's a public holiday. How I hate cashback schemes.

Things are gradually becoming more organized, but somehow I always seem to have more to do than I want.


Friday, 28 September 2007 Dereel
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Back to unpacking today; gradually the house is looking more like it should. I wonder what I'll do when I've finished.


Saturday, 29 September 2007 Dereel Images for 29 September 2007
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More unpacking and garden work. I nearly have the “music room” finished, though there's not (yet) enough space for all the instruments. I'll have to build some kind of show case. With any luck, by the time we've been here 3 months, it'll look roughly as if we have moved in.


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Sunday, 30 September 2007 Dereel Images for 30 September 2007
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More work on moving in, which kept me going for most of the day. While unpacking my bassoons, compared with some on the web, and noted that at the time that my oldest bassoon was built (1824, by Savary jeune), Savary père was also active. On closer examination, it was very difficult to read the inscription. Bassoons by Savary père are as rare as hen's teeth—was this indeed one? Decided to take some really close-up photos to make comparisons easier.

This bassoon has stamps on all joints, but some of them appear to read simply “Savary / A PARIS”. Spent an inordinate amount of time taking photos of the stamps on the butt and the wing, in the process discovering:

Finally I have emptied a carbon dioxide cylinder normally—it lasted nearly 10 months. Put the other one back on—the same one which gave me problems last year—and I again have leakage problems with the valve. There's obviously something wrong with this cylinder, though they checked it last time I had it refilled. I need to find somebody in Ballarat to look at the thing for me.


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