Greg
Greg's diary
September 2008
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Monday, 1 September 2008 Dereel
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CJ in this morning dressed as an 1850s miner: he was on the way to Sovereign Hill to do some acting work. He had a whole lot of ideas about how to build the verandah. After he was gone, started writing down things to buy, and realised that I still had a lot of unanswered questions. So sent Yvonne off to buy posts for the fences, and we'll finalize the bill of materials for the verandah tomorrow—hopefully.

Tony from Atmos in today to look at the air conditioners. He confirmed that yes, the temperature sensors were not in the most obvious place, though he was careful not to say that the place was stupid. But he investigated elsewhere and came to a more plausible solution: the control electronics in the external unit were defective, causing it to cut out every so often. That's inspired guesswork, of course: Fujitsu, like other manufacturers, provides no tools for confirming the function of the electronics. Wouldn't an Ethernet interface and a laptop with software make all the difference? In any case, the diagnosis fits the facts, so he'll replace the controller some time next week and take it from there.

I'm currently sending myself email messages about problems accessing web pages on www.lemis.com, and it's helping me identify a number of problems. But there are some that have me baffled:

Date: Mon,  1 Sep 2008 14:05:07 +1000 (EST)
From: www-data@ozlabs.org (www-data)
To: grog@lemis.com
Subject: Broken link:  /loucouby/hufuwou.shtml <- http://www.lemis.com/booquoo/nooquyj.php

Referrer:       http://www.lemis.com/booquoo/nooquyj.php
Referenced URL: /loucouby/hufuwou.shtml
Remote host:
Remote IP:      86.96.228.89
Local referrer: /home/grog/lemis.com/booquoo/nooquyj.php

It's fairly clear that this URL is incorrect, so it's not surprising that it fails. But so is the source URL! How can this happen? Also, the names in this example are very strange. Is this some kind of breakin attempt? My Apache logs show:

86.96.228.89 - - [01/Sep/2008:14:05:04 +1000] "POST /loucouby/hufuwou.shtml HTTP/1.1" 404 999 "http://www.lemis.com/booquoo/nooquyj.php" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)"

This is the only entry in the log file for this host, which, as the message indicates, has no reverse lookup. Clearly it has invented both the referring URL and the link.

More photo scanning today. I'm running out of storage sheets for the negatives.

Yvonne back in the evening with the wood, along with some stuff for the Yeardleys. I couldn't unload it all without having the Yeardleys' wood slide all over the place, so we had to leave it there at the Yeardleys' until tomorrow, when David will unpack his stuff and bring the rest back, at the unearthly hour of 8 am.


Tuesday, 2 September 2008 Dereel Images for 2 September 2008
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CJ along today, none too early, to sink fence posts:


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Got a lot done, but not everything. We'll continue on Thursday, but at least we're making progress. Soon we'll be able to plant creepers on the fences.

My lens has been shipped. Or at least, that's what B&H Photo Video tell me, in a well-formatted message that—of course—includes an HTML version that also looks better than the HTML on their web site. They include the text:

Please be advised that the above Tracking number(s) were created by
the. B&H shipping department and they will only be recorded by their
respective carriers late in the evening of the day of pickup.

That certainly matched what UPS said: “the paperwork exists, but we haven't picked it up yet.” But it stayed that way all day. Still, it's on its way, I suppose. But it's interesting how the availability of tracking information makes me continually check where it currently is. It probably doesn't matter: it's now unlikely to make it here by Friday, and it almost certainly will be here on Monday.

Mail from Jon Hamilton about my strange web site errors:

Many proxies will (or can be configured to) do this. For just one example, see http://www.privoxy.org/user-manual/actions-file.html#HIDE-REFERRER. People configure them to hide the referer for a variety of reasons, most of which are (IMO) either rampantly paranoid, or simply obstinate. In any case, that would be the first thing I'd suspect. Why the nonsense target URL? That I can't answer. Just probing to see what your server sends back? Who knows. Too many people with too much spare time; that's for sure.

Certainly of interest, but I don't think it explains the whole story. There are too many of these nonsense things from different places to explain that.


Wednesday, 3 September 2008 Dereel Images for 3 September 2008
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Planting for spring
Topic: gardening Link here

So now we're almost in a position to plant our creepers over the fences. In principle it would make more sense to wait until we had everything in place, but some of the area has a concrete surface, and we need to drill holes to plant the plants, so it makes sense to know where we're going to put them. Off to Ross Creek Nursery, where we found disappointingly little, though we did leave with a free cutting of a Pandorea of indeterminate kind.

On to Avalon nursery in Haddon, where we found lots of things, nothing like what we had planned. We had originally intended to put jasmine and clematis on the fences, but we hadn't reckoned with the time it takes to establish them; it could take up to 3 years before they covered the fence. In the end decided on Hydrangea petiolaris and Hibbertia_scandens in the shade, Hardenbergias and a combination of Jasmine polyanthus, Wisteria sinensis and Wisteria floribunda for the fences in the sun. They won't grow much faster, though, so rather against Yvonne's wishes, I've decided to plant hops on the fences until the other plants take over.

Also brought a couple of other unplanned plants, a Ginkgo biloba and a tree fern, both of which Yvonne has been planning to plant for quite some time.

Back home and did more mulching. Now we have the hops covered, and also one corner at the north of the garden where Yvonne has planted her Cycad. We're gradually getting there.


Cleaning up the brewery
Topic: brewing Link here

My last brew is now in storage (“lager”, which it isn't), and I can clean up the fermenter. It certainly needed it:


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Most of the mould grew on the copious quantities of yeast that escaped. It's a good thing that the air lock is there, keeping the beer inside clean.


Assembling the cement mixer
Topic: general Link here

We've borrowed a cement mixer from the Yeardleys. The catch: they've never used it, and I have to assemble it based on somewhat dubious instructions. They show off our “metric” system to its best. Although the single sheet “instruction manual” claims CE conformance, it also states that it's a “5 Cubic foot” unit. What's that in litres? They don't say, only that the “Batch output.” is “2.5 cf . 123kg“. The best, though, is the extremely accurate tolerance of the bolts:


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Diary entry for Wednesday, 3 September 2008

 

7.62 cm! That's got to be an error; the spanner supplied was 17 and 19 mm, but 7.62 cm is 3", which makes me suspect that there's an error in the conversion. Oh, and a cubic foot is 28.3 litres, so the capacity is 71 litres, indirectly telling me that the density of freshly mixed concrete is about 1.7.


Tracking the new lens
Topic: photography Link here

My lens has finally made it to UPS, after only a little over 28 hours:

 
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Charities: don't pick me!
Topic: general, opinion Link here

A phone call from (silence) today, a sure indication that there's a telemarketeer on the other end of the line. For some reason, many wait up to 10 seconds after you answer before they say anything. This one, with a powerful American accent, identified herself as Kylie from Able Australia. I asked her why she didn't respect the no-call list, and she gave a smug laugh and said “but we're a Charidy!”. It's true that “Charidies” are not required to respect the no-call lists, but why should they not do so? There are plenty of charities to choose from, and I'd donate to one who respects my feelings. As I told her, Able Australia is now on my “no donations” list. Hopefully charities and other exempt organizations will get the message and respect the no-call lists, even if they're not required to by law.


Thursday, 4 September 2008 Dereel Images for 4 September 2008
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Another power failure in the middle of the night. Why do they nearly always happen then?

And once again the X server had got in a loop. I had deliberately shot firefox down yesterday evening, so that suggests that it's not firefox's fault.

CJ here again today, and we put in the rest of the posts, and also pulled out a tree in preparation to planting the Ginkgo biloba in that position:


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I never like pulling out good plants, and this one was just about to flower (somewhat insignificantly, if last year was anything to go by), but I was surprised how much better the place looked without it. Tried in vain to convince Yvonne that the Ginkgo should go elsewhere. It stays.

Spent the afternoon planting some of our creepers. The soil in front of the garage is interesting: here an example of a hole dug with a 30 cm augur:


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The orange top soil is some kind of gravel, followed by a thin layer of what might be clay, and the dark soil is relatively sandy. Hopefully the plants will like it.

Sent feedback to Able Australia about their telemarketeers, and got an answer, format not fixed:


Date: Thu, 4 Sep 2008 14:22:16 +1000
From: Chris Stallard <Chris.Stallard@ableaustralia.org.au>

Greg,
  Regarding the do not call registry, if we were to voluntarily adhere to this our database of current supporters would be affected along with
+recruiting new raffle buyers.  We have looked into the overall affect of this and it would drastically reduce income
+and potentially make this form of fundraising not viable.  Our raffles are conducted by Apple Telemarketing (call
+centres based in Melbourne & Gold Coast) and they have an internal do not call registry, if you would like to go on it
+simply email across your phone number.

Thanks

Chris Stallard
Fundraising Manager
Able Australia (formerly The Deafblind Association)

This reminds me of the tactics of spammers: “Click here to be removed from our list”. It shows no evidence that Chris has considered that he's annoying people who might otherwise contribute.

UPS tells me that my lens arrived in Australia at 7:25 AM this morning (or was that 9 April?). That's not bad. Should be here tomorrow.


Friday, 5 September 2008 Dereel
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Into town this morning to buy some things for the garden. I had planned to do a number of other things too, but somehow none of them worked out. Into a camera shop to look for negative albums—that's almost an anachronism nowadays, and though the shop looked like it would match, all he could find were inserts for 120 film.

Then, just after noon, to the railway station to pick up my lens. It wasn't there, even though it arrived in Melbourne yesterday morning.

Back home, where CJ was attending to the fences. Had yet another discussion about the verandah, and I think I'm now in a position to order the materials. With any luck we'll start the first stage (floor frame and concrete posts) on Thursday. Also did some more work in the garden. We're training the Jasminum_polyanthum and Wisterias on wire, and put in the first of those. So far nothing much can reach it.


Saturday, 6 September 2008 Dereel Images for 6 September 2008
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According to the Bureau of Meteorology the weather's no warmer, and it's raining, but we saw no evidence of either. Spent most of the day in the garden, with temperatures of up to 20°, and also replaced the chairs and table in the shade area:


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There was plenty of garden work to do, including a comprehensive stock-taking of what we currently have in the garden. With that and the weekly exterior photos, I took over 100 photos and managed to fill up my 1 GB memory card for the first time: I don't use the card for long-term storage, and I delete the photos as soon as they're on disk.

In more detail, finished wiring the fences, planted most of the creepers—only the tree fern (waiting for the grass in its new bed to die down) and those for the new verandah are still waiting for completion of the verandah, which probably won't be until the end of next week, planted the Ginkgo (which I think I'll call “Ginkyo” instead, because “Ginkgo” isn't easy to pronounce distinctly from “Gingko”). I still have to sort out the irrigation for the newly planted plants.


Sunday, 7 September 2008 Dereel Images for 7 September 2008
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Another nice sunny day, and I had thought of going riding with Yvonne in Enfield State Forest, but Yvonne had some youngsters to ride, and I didn't feel like going slowly again, so stayed at home and worked on images and things. She showed up with Chris a bit later:


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More work in the garden in the afternoon. I had intended to do the irrigation, but discovered that I was missing a whole lot of parts, so only did some of it. Instead did a little more work on the creepers, transplanting a climbing rose, adding another wire to the south fence, and pruning and tying up the Wisterias. There's still plenty more work to be done.

Started re-scanning the slides of the Asia trip. I had originally scanned these with the ill-fated Canon 9900F scanner, but the quality was pretty terrible. Part of that, I thought, was the combination of slight exposure differences and the use of 8 bit colours. Set “48 bit” colour (i.e. 16 bit colours) and tried again with my new Epson “Perfection” 4990 Photo scanner, but it stored the images in JPEGs, which are only 8 bit colours. The results were no better than with the Canon. How do I get the thing to maintain the 16 bit colours?

Chris along for dinner. For a change, we had a different viewpoint for the silly photos of Chris and Lilac:


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Monday, 8 September 2008 Dereel Images for 8 September 2008
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Lots of things to do in town today, most importantly ordering the materials for the verandah. In the process looked again through a brochure I got at Home Timber and Hardware and discovered they had a video tape (so they said, anyway) on the topic, so decided it would be a good idea to look at that first. Another postponement.

Into town anyway for irrigation stuff, and also picked up DVDs on building pergolas and decking. Then to the railway station, where my new lens had finally arrived. As usual, the only information they wanted was the name and address, and I needed no identification to pick up the package.

Back home and did some comparisons of the lens with the other two I have. It's enormous! Here a comparison. From left to right, ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 70-300mm, ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-60mm F2.8-4.0 and ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-42mm F3.5-5.6


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It weighs more than 3 times the weight of the 14-42mm lens it's replacing. But it offers lots of advantages: one stop more light sensitivity, much faster focussing, and wider field of view. Here the maximum zoom of the old lens on the left and the new on the right:


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One thing that the lens photos show is that the lighting is inadequate. That is probably a worthwhile area for further investment.

This was a general problem for quite some time until I changed my photo processing. The photos above were processed with ufraw. Reprocessed with DxO Optics "Pro", they look like this:


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Run the mouse cursor over the images to see a direct comparison with the old version. The change in shape is partially due to the different cropping and partially due to distortion correction.

All this playing around stopped me from doing much work in the garden. Decided that the fence in front of the garage could do with more plants, and I had a Pride of Ringwood hop rhizome that had obviously developed a few children, so dug out what I thought was a small rhizome:


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I'm left wondering whether I dug out the main rhizome and left a child behind; but the rest, too, looks happy. Chopped this one into four pieces. I wonder how well it will do; it's a bit late in the year for this sort of thing, and the rose I transplanted yesterday isn't looking overly happy either.

TV programme woes

I've been using Shepherd for TV programme information for over a year now, but recently the times have gone haywire. Sometimes, and only sometimes, they're off by the time zone offset, currently 10 hours in the future. Frequently it “fixes” itself shortly before the recording is due to start, but that's too late. Spent some time trying to refresh the data, hampered by shepherd's refusal to update so frequently:

Shepherd last ran successfully 11h30m ago.

WARNING: Shepherd is being run too frequently!!
Please don't run Shepherd so frequently.
Re-using (existing cached) output for this run.

If you are experimenting/testing and really want Shepherd to fetch fresh data,
do so using the --notimetest setting but please don't make a habit of this.

So I tried that:

=== mythtv@ceeveear (/dev/pts/6) ~ 7 -> mythfilldatabase --notimetest 2>&1 | tee -a filllog
illegal option: '--notimetest' (use --help)
      

So I tried --help, which didn't help; no mention of --notimetest. After a bit of experimentation, discovered that the correct incantation is

=== mythtv@ceeveear (/dev/pts/6) ~ 9 -> mythfilldatabase --graboptions --notimetest 2>&1 | tee -a filllog
2008-09-08 16:20:04.799 Using runtime prefix = /usr
...
WARNING: Shepherd is being run too frequently!!

Allowing normal operation due to '--notimetest' override, but please do NOT
make a habit of this.  Overuse strains resources needed by all Shepherd users.
      

Wouldn't it be nice if it would Just Work? Decided that it was time to download the programme information later. Spent some time trying to work out how to do that; it's hidden inside the mythfrontend settings, and it's not a time, just a start hour and an end hour. Set it to start at 9:00, which is still before I'd look at the data.

Callum Gibson did some playing around with mencoder to create an AVI “slide show” of one of my sequences of house photos. It's interesting, but it shows the necessity of normalizing the photos first. The incantation is:

mencoder "mf://*.jpeg" -mf fps=2 -o dereel.avi -ovc lavc -lavcopts vcodec=mpeg4

He also notes that you need to include an additional “fake” frame at the end to get the last real picture to display, and that it fails silently if all images are not the same size. That's an issue because of the strangenesses about the raw image size: when I changed to using raw images, my JPEG image size changed from 3648x2736 to 3720x2800.

Understanding UPS tracking information

So finally my lens is here. It took over a week, most of it spent in New York (origin) and Melbourne. Now I can publish the tracking information, which would have been enough for anybody else to pick up the lens. In fact, it wouldn't even be necessary: all they wanted was the name and address, and no identification on pickup. But where was the lens all this time? UPS doesn't make it easier to compare times, writing things in reverse chronological order and using local times at each location, but it seems that it's spent:

So, it seems that the shipment times break down like this:

What should I make of that? Clearly the last leg of the transport took nearly half the time. But this is UPS' cheapest rate, and I still got it within a week. You'd think, though, that they could have had it here on Friday.


Tuesday, 9 September 2008 Dereel Images for 9 September 2008
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A few weeks back we removed the swallow's nest under the roof. They haven't taken it lying down:


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The new nest isn't nearly as large as the old one, but it's surprising how much mud they have been able to move. Now we're wondering what we should do. On the one hand, they make a pretty terrible mess, but on the other hand they're just trying to survive. We're thinking of putting something like a litter tray underneath it.

More irrigation stuff today. Somehow it was particularly frustrating, probably because of the amount of digging I had to do. In the end only got the espalier in front of the garage and side one the north entrance, where we're planting Jasminum polyanthum and Trachelospermum jasminoides. The rest will have to wait until tomorrow.


Wednesday, 10 September 2008 Dereel Images for 10 September 2008
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Into town today to hear the results of the blood test I had 8 months ago—I should have these done every three months, but I positively HATE waiting hours in the waiting room of the Eureka Medical Centre. It takes half a day just to go to the doctor. I have made numerous attempts over the months, but I've always tried to combine the journey with other work, and there just wasn't enough time.

Today I registered and then went out again to make an appointment to have my eyes looked at. There should have been a one week wait, but by chance an appointment had just been cancelled (that seems to happen a lot), and I was able to be looked at immediately. Result: eyes have changed, but it's not clear what kind of new glasses I need. She was actually going to prescribe something about 0.5 dioptre weaker than the current glasses. I need to think about that one.

Back to the Medical Centre and finally, after another 45 minutes, got looked at by the wrong doctor, who had accidentally taken the details from his colleague. Nothing much to say about results 8 months old, I suppose, so had another blood test immediately. I need to stick to my schedules.

Back home and did some more irrigation stuff, also transplanted another Chlorophytum comosum into some hanging pots:


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Hopefully it'll look happier after a while.

Photographic flash units: tower of Babel?

I'm thinking of buying a new flash unit for my camera. The one in the camera (Olympus E-510) is pretty useless, and I consistently get underexposed photos. I should remember to set +0.7 EV compensation, but I usually forget. My external flash is a Mecablitz 40 CT 4, over 20 years old, and though it's (surprisingly) at least as bright as modern units, it lacks a lot of the modern whizz-bang.

Or does it? I'm currently looking at the Olympus FL-50R and the Mecablitz 58 AF-1 digital (what a mouthful). And I can't work out what they do that's different. There are few reviews, and those that I have found don't give me the feeling that the authors really know what they're talking about. So I've started to read the instruction manuals.

The Mecablitz manual, conveniently written in 6 languages, starting with German and continuing in a sequence that doesn't obviously match the descriptions on the first page (English starts on page 84), starts by talking of the flash modes: TTL flash mode with measuring preflash, TTL - flash mode with high speed synchronisation HSS, Automatic flash mode, Manual flash mode, HSS Manual flash mode with high speed synchronisation HSS, and Stroboscope flash mode.

What does that mean? I know what TTL means—“Through The Lens”, the metering system pioneered by the Pentax Spotmatic. But what does that have to do with flash units? The manual explains:

The TTL flash mode with measuring preflash is a further development of the standard TTL flash mode of analogue cameras.

That's really helpful. It also suggests that I look at the camera manual, which gives me the added information when connecting external flash units:

The external flashes communicate with the camera, allowing you to control the camera's flash modes with various available flash control modes, such as TTL-AUTO and Super FP flash.

Again, no mention anywhere in the manual of what these terms mean, though it suggests that “Super FP” is the feature I've heard about where the flash unit flashes several times during the picture to allow illumination of the complete subject at shutter speeds where the slit width is less than the full image. But TTL? Acronymfinder returns 28 definitions, including “Through The Lens”, but nothing else that relates to photography. So maybe it does mean “Through The Lens”. Maybe a description of how the camera's exposure meter cooperates with the flash? Who knows? They're certainly not telling. As usual, I had to go to Google to get some useful links. In particular, Toomas Tamm's Electronic Flash Information states what should be in all the manuals:

TTL measures light reflected off the film plane during flash exposure. Once enough light has reached the film for proper exposure, the flash pulse is cut short.

So, problem solved? No. What's “TTL-AUTO”? Are Metz's “TTL - flash mode with high speed synchronisation HSS,” and Olympus' “Super FP” the same thing? How can I choose a flash unit this way? The instructions I have are specific for Olympus, but they don't tell me whether the unit will work on my camera. Instead, I read:

This flash unit is suited for: Olympus - Digital cameras with TTL flash control and flash socket system, as well as the compatible digital cameras from Panasonic and Leica. This flash unit is not suited for other brands of cameras. Also take a look at the image page at the end of the manual.

The image page at the end of the manual shows a photo of a factory, presumably Metz. The German version is clearer: the manual is designed to have a fold-out image at the end. It's not clear what belongs there. But probably it will work on my camera, but I'd hate to be wrong.


Thursday, 11 September 2008 Dereel Images for 11 September 2008
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CJ and Sue along today to put up a dog run for the dogs:


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When we moved in, we had dog runs, but Yvonne didn't want to put our dogs in them, so we dismantled them. How times change.

Somehow didn't get much done all day. I really should be tidying up not just the shed, but the house as well. Once our hay is finished—a week or two—we'll have more space to move.


Friday, 12 September 2008 Dereel Images for 12 September 2008
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Finally I'm in a position to order the wood for the verandah! Into town to Whiteheads to order the timber, spending at $2200 odd, nearly double what I had expected. In particular, the roofing was much more expensive than I had expected. Still, it's a relief to have the stuff under way—should arrive on Tuesday. I wonder what surprises we'll have.

My house photos are due again tomorrow, the first time with my new ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-60mm F2.8-4.0 lens. One problem with the Olympus system (at least the E-510) is that the system doesn't indicate the focal length at which a photo will be taken. For that, you need to take a photo, and then it'll report the focal length from the EXIF data, rather sillily with a precision of 0.1mm, though all reported focal lengths have been integers.

Previously, many of the photos were taken at 14 mm focal length. On the ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-42mm F3.5-5.6, that's easy to set: it's the widest setting. But how do I set it on the lens? The scale isn't very precise:


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So I tried a series of test shots to compare the scale with the focal lengths reported by EXIF. The results were interesting:

Running the mouse cursor over the image exchanges it with its partner. The differences are because the camera was not on a tripod.

None of this reflects directly on the lens, just the way the information is reported. On the whole I'm happy with it, despite strangenesses and the fact that it focuses beyond infinity (see image).

Also more investigation of flash units, not made easier by yet more web site breakage:


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There are many things to think about there, so started a web page on the subject. This may not be of much use to others (certainly in its current form it's pretty useless to anybody), but it helps me focus my thoughts.


Saturday, 13 September 2008 Dereel Images for 13 September 2008
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Gradually it's becoming more like spring; for the first time this spring the temperatures exceeded 20°, and we finally got round to go riding in Enfield State Forest, something that we've been planning to do for months, almost since we first came here.

Things didn't go smoothly: despite my religious attention to knocking out boots before putting them on, I somehow managed to miss a whole lot of mouse droppings; clearly we need to pay more attention to where we store the boots. While taking them off to clean them out, one of the zippers broke, and I had to ride in short boots (fortunately I hadn't come in thongs). Then Yvonne forgot to put on her helmet, and we had to go back to get it. Towards the end, Darah tripped and nearly fell; I wasn't so lucky, but neither of us were hurt.

Still, it's pretty there, nothing like Kuitpo Forest in South Australia. Kuitpo is a commercial forest, where they grow mainly Radiata Pine, and all the paths are straight. Enfield seems primarily for walkers, and there are a number of paths which have a “no horses” symbol:


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This is the right time of year for spring wildflowers, of course, and we saw plenty, enough to make us think that they have been planted. In particular, there were Hardenbergia violacea and various unusual Grevilleas, and a plant with small trumpet-like flowers that I think I've seen before, but can't identify:


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Back home, and our bad luck continued: turning into Rokewood Junction-Dereel road, Darah stumbled and hurt herself:


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Hopefully it's only superficial.

Discussion on IRC this afternoon, where I voiced one of my standard answers to these silly airline security questions:

Security drone: “Do you have anything which is a weapon, which looks like a weapon, or which could be used as a weapon?”
groOgle: “That depends on your imagination”.

“Netherby”, one of these nameless people on IRC, came up with an imaginative example:

<Netherby> <groOgle>: Security drone: "Do you have anything which is a weapon,
           which looks like a weapon, or which couuld be used as a weapon?"
           --> Head-butts drone.. "So should I just leave my skull at the
           service desk?"

Tried to barbecue in the evening, with only moderate results. Once again it's really windy, and that's death for barbecues. And while I was at it, the provisional screw holding the lid (the original got lost during the move, and we haven't found a replacement) fell off. Somehow not the most pleasant of days.


Sunday, 14 September 2008 Dereel Images for 14 September 2008
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What horrible weather! There were heavy winds the whole day long, blowing over a number of plants, such as this Chinese Cabbage that I was hoping to let go to seed:


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As a result, we barely went out of the house until the evening. But yesterday's warm weather has, well, not borne fruit, but at least started some of our more reticent plants growing:


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This is the Sapphire Dragon that we bought in April. It's deciduous, but until a couple of days ago it showed no sign of life whatsoever, and we were beginning to think that it was dead.

I had intended to brew today, but the incomplete brewing equipment completely turned me off. Forced myself anyway, but by the time I had crushed the grain, it was nearly 1 pm, so put the rest off until tomorrow.

Mail from Ian Donaldson today referring to my comments about the ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-60mm F2.8-4.0 lens:

It is almost universal across manufacturers for AF lenses to focus past infinity. Although I have seem explanations about thermal expansion, this doesn't ring true to me as MF lenses would also suffer from thermal expansion and they don't focus past infinity. I believe the reason is to prevent the AF motor ramming the focus mechanism up against the infinity stop. AF mechanisms can sometimes “hunt” a bit past best focus, particularly in low light.

That's an interesting thought. This particular lens is supposed to have the fastest autofocus of any lens, so possibly this is a consequence. But more to the poing, it's the only digital camera lens I have that even has a focus scale (and a pretty useless one at that). The others don't have a direct focus ring: it's all controlled by the camera's firmware. It would be nice if the camera would indicate the distance it had focused on in the viewfinder.

Spent some time trying to write my page on electronic flash, somewhat hampered by the fact that I haven't decided what I want it to be or to whom I should aim it. It's surprising, though, how much confusion seems to exist. Juha Kupiainen had difficulty understanding that guide numbers have nothing to do with the camera, nor with the lens. Spent some time trying to describe the basics, but somehow it's particularly difficult. Few people seem to understand why there's a maximum shutter speed for flash with focal plane shutters. Spent some time taking some sample photos at 1/1000, 1/500, 1/400 and 1/320 s to show the way the shutter gets in the way of the flash:


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That's interesting in itself: the Olympus E-510 is rated at 1/180 s for flash, but it seems to work perfectly at nearly double that speed. The trouble is that you need to set it to manual to use the fact.

I wasn't excluded from misunderstandings about flashes, though: there's this new “FP” mode, where the unit emits multiple flashes at short intervals during exposures, thus getting round the problem above. But it wasn't immediately clear that the illumination intensity can only be a fraction of that at slower speeds, since only the light from one flash illuminates a particular part of the photo. And I still don't know how this mode manages to expose the picture evenly. Maybe it doesn't; I'll have to suck it and see.


Monday, 15 September 2008 Dereel Images for 15 September 2008
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Finally got round to brewing today; once again it wasn't much of an issue except for the hot water. I wish I could find a suitable vessel.

One unexpected problem was my temperature control hardware: for some reason, the temperature readings were all wrong, and sometimes they all seemed to be the same. I suspect that this was the result of the overflowing fermenter from the last brew, which had spread wort all over the connector to the temperature probes. Took it apart and cleaned it, in the process fixing a damaged connector which I think happened when I took it apart. After that, the fermenter probes worked, but the other two (ambient and room) both showed the same incorrect values. More work ahead.

The weather's still terrible; had a lot of hail in the afternoon, which took several hours to thaw. When will spring come?

Peter Jeremy commented on one of the plants I saw on Saturday:


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He suggested that it was a Epacris impressa, but there's only a drawing on that page, and somehow I can't relate easily to that. Found another description on the ASGAP web site, which confirms that it's Epacris impressa, the Victorian floral emblem. That seems rather fitting, except that the emblem has pink flowers, and this one has red flowers, so it's the Bega variety—and Bega's in New South Wales.


Tuesday, 16 September 2008 Dereel Images for 16 September 2008
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My temperature probe problems seem to have solved themselves at about 2:40 this morning, though I still have the issue of the flaky external sensor:


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Today the timber for the verandah arrived:


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High time to put the cement mixer together. I've already commented on the appalling instructions; but that was before I tried assembling it. The “7.62cm nut and bolt” proved to be 6.57 cm long:


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The instructions are positively an intelligence test, and it seems that I failed. Called up the company, only to find that they had been sold out some years ago—it proves that the mixer was manufactured in November 2003—and there was no assistance available. Continued for some time and finally got the thing assembled, apart from the tip lever. The instructions say:

Insert tilting handle into the handle mounting tube add secure with large cotter pin.

What mounting tube? I didn't see one. This is the first mention, so it can't be a lost non-attached component. I'm baffled.


Google Chrome: first impressions
Topic: technology Link here

In the afternoon, played around a bit with Google Chrome. It only works on Microsoft, and even there the “installs in seconds” proved to be inaccurate; it takes just as long as anything else. And any hope I had that they might deal with issues of presenting only small parts of texts, or overflowing boxes, were dashed from the start:

 
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It's certainly minimalist. The text size is tiny, of course, and I can't find any way to change it. It also talks about “tabs” as the only method of displaying more than one web page at once; no mention of additional windows. They exist, though, and I can get them via the same method as with firefox. I had hoped that Google would lead a new way away from the current breakage so prevalent in the web—their own web site does a good job—but so far I don't see any advantage in Google Chrome. Maybe somebody can persuade me when it's out of beta.

The best kept secret: what's on TV?

My TV guide (“EPG”) is still full of gaps. About the only one I know that looks reasonably complete is ebroadcast. Considered extracting the data from that page and discovered that each entry in the table looks like this:

<script type="text/javascript" language="JavaScript">
ps10815('VmuXF6g-yxpLX2VabKserf-BVZQZNWBPdd-aHH5CFDfJNmUEgqusX_xZVvxHAdvrF1e_2NWztLxATNp6u
_o_wQ0YlYlljPEX2N-sbViDhk1hG5RqYX7-f1QdP373Q_qsUID0XcKHCF1mp6zAA2MmhwNpRCf-L51Kj3eB7JisQu-
wFNxEm2Tte8houa-SLFJ05X65u3FYH6B5EGjoK5tWG-dGRVidkoJrarFdW3Wl5RxOvb3Tl3koh-ul5iAjjwDcCCoLY
XvHUoZFCxrqCBtvGxZdydDV6rc_19jpnGdqV0c-dipSJ8dzRRzZm2wY4WGRysLsQS6Xlz7a1xJmfrLOGeTW4nCTYzX
7KK2JCofTE849ut1ym_-V8EfK45eSvKcC-UNBtyDq941DKUv3kjxHcj7l-evMYKu6')
</script>

They're encrypting the information! You'd think that nobody wanted you to know what's on TV! Yes, people sell this information, but ultimately it's intended for the consumer, and currently I don't know what's on TV. What kind of nonsense is this?

As if to prove the point, we missed “Midsomer Murders” on ABC for the second week in a row, and on Sunday we were supposed to get an episode of “Gardening Australia”. In each case the programme was replaced by sport programmes, without any warning. As of today, the ABC web site claims that they have broadcast the programmes in question. Who are they supposed to serve?

While on the topic of difficulties with TV sites, SBS is at it again with their calendar:

 
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How do they manage such breakage?


Wednesday, 17 September 2008 Dereel Images for 17 September 2008
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Finally we have started building the verandah! First thing we looked at was the cement mixer, and finally found where to insert the tilting handle. Nothing to do with a mounting tube: it slid in through a hole next to the motor, where it had to be tilted to miss the motor:


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Here's what it looked like before we started.


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First did some discussion about how to tackle the task. One of the issues was that there are a number of pipes in the area, and CJ suspected a septic tank. Spent a lot of time digging test holes. We didn't find an active septic tank, though the plans for the extension indicated that the extension would use the existing septic tank. It seems that there used to be an outside toilet to the right of the house in the photo above, and we thought there might be a septic tank there, but there were pipes in all directions:


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Finally found our septic tank safely outside the area of the verandah:


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Also found the soakage, quite a way from the tank and on a feature that I had already noticed in Google Maps. It continues down across the road on a bearing of about 260°; but could part of it be the soakage? That's the way it points.


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Finally, just as we were sure that everything was OK, we did find parts of a septic tank under the verandah area:


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Apparently it was part of the old septic tank; clearly it wasn't in use, so the only issue was that we had to slightly move the position of a post.

By the time we started doing any work on the verandah itself, it was 14:30, and then Tony Nesci came along with the replacement circuit board for the air conditioner. In the process, he discovered something disconcerting about the old one:


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One of the chips was covered in ants. Why doesn't Fujitsu ant-proof their units? It's as simple as a water gap. But were they the cause of the problem?

First, we had to install the new board. That proved to be damaged, presumably because it had been shipped in a completely inappropriate container:


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That and the obvious construction deficiencies certainly don't give me the warm fuzzy feeling that they know what they're doing. But it looked as if the damage wouldn't stop it from working, so Tony installed it. We were able to confirm that it made no change whatever: the problem was still there, so neither the ants on the old board or the crack in the new board had any effect. In the process, discovered that there are 4 LEDs on the board to display error status (bottom of the photo), but that nobody knows what they mean. What kind of nonsense is that? Tony did a bit more checking, but effectively his hands are tied because Fujitsu doesn't have adequate error reporting techniques and policies.

Continued with the verandah, and got as far as putting the first beam in place:


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By then it was 17:48, so we left the rest for tomorrow.

Spent an inordinate amount of time processing the photos. I don't know if it was the light or some other factor, but my camera got its white balance completely off. Here the balance before and after processing:


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Others weren't as bad, but many had a blue cast.


Thursday, 18 September 2008 Dereel Images for 18 September 2008
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Power failure
Topic: general Link here

Another power failure this morning, yet again in the small hours of the morning. What is it that causes that?


Download problems
Topic: technology Link here

Apple have released another security update, and for some reason “software update” couldn't download it; it didn't get beyond about 100 kB before timing out and presenting me with a STUPID error message telling me to check whether I have an Internet connection. Confirmed that other people weren't having problems, and set off to download it manually.

The system doesn't fill you with confidence: there was no certain way to correlate the security update in “software update” with the security update on the web site (which didn't even mention the recent updates on its main page). So I went looking at the sizes. According to “software update”, the update is 69.4 MB in size; but the update on the web site was given as 67.68 MB in size. That would be sufficient difference to assume that it's a different update. Did a quick calculation to see whether one was MB and the other millions of bytes, but that's not the case. Downloaded it anyway (without any speed problems) and found that it's 71076719 bytes long. That's 69411 kB (“69.4 MB”) or 67.78 (“67.68”) MB. What a mess! Is it so difficult to quote sizes correctly and consistently? At least it installed correctly, but if I didn't replace the kernel, why did I need to reboot? It also appears to have reset my display size to minuscule 832x624—how come?

In that connection, it's interesting to note that Apple not only follows industry tradition by having broken web site layout, but present it even on their own machines running their own web browser (“Safari”):


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This is a standard Apple display, with no tweaks on my part, so nobody can blame my environment for the breakage. Of course, maybe most people don't see any breakage there: it's “modern”.

The issue isn't just aesthetic. The security update description tries to include ah SHA1 digest, but fails. Here the rendition under Safari and under firefox:

 
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In the first case, the digest is truncated; in the second, it overlaps everywhere. Neither is usable. I've tried changing the Safari display, but I can't get it to display the complete SHA1 digest.


Verandah progress
Topic: general Link here

CJ arrived later today, along with Sue, and we continued with the verandah. The very first hole we dug showed yet another underground pipe:


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Fortunately, that was the last one, and the rest of the day's work went relatively smoothly, though laying out the beams accurately and putting them together with the posts took quite some time, but by 17:40 we had everything in place, ready for concreting in tomorrow.


Greenhouse self-destructs
Topic: gardening Link here

It's been pretty windy, and our toy greenhouse has given up the ghost after exactly 3 months:


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Not exactly a good advertisement for ALDI. We took it apart and put the shelves elsewhere, screwed to the walls:


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Now we just need to add some polycarbonate roofing and something in front, and we'll have a real—if somewhat primitive—greenhouse.


Dead swallow in nest
Topic: general Link here

We've been trying to get rid of the swallows in the verandah area for some time, but when they rebuilt their nest so quickly, we felt a little guilty, and are half thinking of letting them stay. Today, though, we saw a strange sight:


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The swallow seems to be head down in the now-completed nest, but it's dead. How did that happen? I want to leave it there for a day or two to see what the other birds do.


Friday, 19 September 2008 Dereel Images for 19 September 2008
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CJ over early this morning, and we made relatively short work of aligning the beams and concreting them in. The cement mixer certainly helps, but it's a bit of a pain to work with, especially since the drum is so high up.

I suppose it's a typical situation that pre-mix cement comes in 30 kg sacks with lots of text written on them, including the requirement that the sacks should be lifted by two people, since they weigh between 16.1 and 40 kg, but the only indication about how much water to add was “the least amount of water to obtain the correct workability”. By experimentation, decided that you need about 2.75 litres of water for 30 kg of cement.

We were finished by 11:30. Spent the rest of the day catching up on other things, including scratching my head about a stuck fermentation. Also a bit of work in the garden. Despite the continuing cold weather, plants are gradually growing again.


Saturday, 20 September 2008 Dereel Images for 20 September 2008
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Saturday is photo taking day, and in the past few weeks I've spent quite a bit of effort in improving the photo quality. I think it shows, though there's plenty more to do, but it takes up a considerable part of the day.

On a recommendation on the Australian Craftbrewers' mailing list, “roused” the yeast in my stuck brew, which may have had an effect, if the ambient temperature of the fermentation fridge is anything to go by. At the height of a normal fermentation it can drop to 1.5° to 2° below the wort temperature; in this one, it was barely 0.1°, but now it seems to be widening to about 0.3° to 0.4°. Hopefully that'll continue.

A bit more work in the garden, mainly weeding. If only the weather would get warmer! In Sydney it hit 33°; in Ballarat it was 15°.


Sunday, 21 September 2008 Dereel
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Off riding again today, this time in our own forest. Our horses have been going unshod lately, but Carlos has been showing signs of sensitivity, so Yvonne tried some clip-on horse shoes for him. We can't make up our mind whether he didn't like them, or whether it was just the spring in the air, but he wasn't much fun to ride, and in the end we cut the ride short, mainly round the lagoon.

More backing up my photos—a total of 13 DVDs up to the beginning of the month. Well over half of my /home file system is now taken up with photos, and it's filling up; time for new hardware.

Keeping track of these files will be an issue. There are currently 37379 files, and the DVDs sorted by date: the first DVD contains all the photos from 1963 to 1999, and the last contains the photos from 18 August 2008 to 11 September 2008—what a difference in time scale! I don't want to re-burn a DVD every time I change an old file, or scan in some twentieth-century photos, but how to keep track of them? In the end decided to store the file details in a database, and wrote a couple of scripts to read in the DVDs and store the details in the database. I'm assuming that if the modification timestamp and the size haven't changed, the file itself hasn't changed. I still need to write a script to go through the directory hierarchy and select the files that haven't been backed up yet.

Garden work: finally weeded all the beds and mulched them. It still doesn't look much tidier.


Monday, 22 September 2008 Dereel
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We had intended to continue with the verandah today, but the weather determined otherwise. It started off mildly enough with an outside temperature of 17°, but in the course of the day it dropped to 9°, and in the process we had 11 mm rain and lots of wind. Decided right at the beginning to put off the work until Wednesday.

Instead, decided to think about hardware upgrades, which are becoming urgent. My /home file system now has less than 3 GB space, and that's only a few days' photos. But what do I buy? There are currently Samsung 1 TB drives on the market for as little as $150, but they're all SATA, which means a new motherboard. And if I do that, I should also restructure my office and return—after 15 years—to having only one machine running on the desktop. That again means finding display boards to drive 5 monitors, and none of it is easy. Spent a quite frustrating time fighting the mess that the web has become to find information on what components to buy. If I could be sure that the hardware and software were compatible, I'd be a lot happier.

Heard of a new photo processing utility, bibble. It can also handle raw data—in fact, it seems to require it—and produces the usual plethora of twisty little menus, all different. But there's a Linux version, which also—with a bit of frobbing—works on FreeBSD, and it seems that it could do a reasonable job of fixing up photos. I suppose I should read the documentation. Pity that it seems so expensive.


Tuesday, 23 September 2008 Dereel
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Another slow day; I should really be tidying up the place or something, but the weather was too unpleasant, and once again I spent much of the day with the computer, trying to work out how to use bibble. It would help greatly to understand colour and luminance better.

The 13 mm of rain that we received yesterday helped moisten some of the weed-ridden flower beds, and so spent some time pulling out weeds. I can see that it'll be a while before we're rid of them.

Moore's law reversed

Also spent some time looking for new hardware. These continual lockups of the X server on dereel make me think that the hardware is giving up the ghost. Finding new hardware is really difficult. In particular, since 2000 I've been running one or two monitors at 2048x1536; nowadays it's almost impossible to find anything of this resolution. CRT monitors are pretty much dead, and LCD monitors seem to max out at the HDTV resolution, resolution, 1920x1080 or 1920x1200. Far from increasing resolution, it's becoming difficult to maintain the current levels. What happened to Moore's law?

That's not the only evidence I've seen of technological stagnation. Decades ago, when I worked for Tandem Computers in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, many members of our department used to have lunch together, usually at a nearby Greek restaurant with the unlikely name “Talhütte”. Others complained that much information was disseminated only at these “meetings”, and that they were being left out of the information flow.

I had just got my second laptop, an Epson Equity LT (NEC V30 CPU, 20 MB disk), and I had the idea of keeping minutes of the lunch meetings. That carried on for a week or so, while some people got significantly annoyed about the fact that they couldn't say anything without the whole department knowing it (or, as I recently put it, they were worried about the details becoming available on the web decades later—hindsight is a wonderful thing).

Henrik Johansson recently became aware of these minutes and thought it would be a great idea to apply it to the Fika (coffee break) meetings at his company. One difference, apart from the use of abbreviations for people's names:

Garals questions henjoh about the frantic writing on a block of paper.

It seems that he has power supply problems; we noted this twenty years ago too.

Incidentally, full marks to Epson to have documentation on the web for a 20 year old laptop.


Wednesday, 24 September 2008 Dereel Images for 24 September 2008
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Woke up in the middle of the night with a throbbing foot—bloody gout again! And what an inappropriate time, with the next stage of the verandah due in the morning. Took a couple of pills and went back to sleep.

CJ arrived on time, and I thought we might be able to get through today's task—erecting the three main pillars in the front, along with the beams in between them—in a similar time to the 2½ hours it took us last Friday. No such luck: it took all day, mainly adjusting levels. Fortunately my foot recovered well, and by the evening there was no pain at all.

One of the mistakes I made when setting out this thing was to assume that the timber was straight. The result were “levels” that contradicted each other, fortunately all in the range of 1 to 2 mm. What a pity that we didn't have a laser level. We've decided to use shims to adjust things. At least the all-important transition to the existing deck looks right.


Thursday, 25 September 2008 Dereel
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We're having a party on Sunday to celebrate (if that's the correct action) my 60th birthday. That's a welcome excuse to finally make the place look a little more presentable, though we're resigned of course to having a half-completed verandah and a cement mixer in the garden. But we finally recharged the battery of the lawn mower and Yvonne performed the first mow of the new season.

In the meantime, I had another task: I'm putting together a second-hand computer for my nephew Chris. What software? I don't have anything with Microsoft on it, and buying a copy would cost more than the computer is worth. So FreeBSD, right? Well, no. My attempts years ago to have an out-of-the-box FreeBSD desktop system never quite made it, and Chris isn't a computer expert. So, with his agreement, I decided on an end-user Linux distribution instead. Hopefully he knows what he's letting himself in for.

There's no shortage of such distributions; in the last few months I've had two copies of OpenSuSE and at least one of Ubuntu 8.04. The OpenSuSE was newer, so installed that.

The installation was easy enough, once I had got past various hardware issues, but in the end I had a desktop that said nothing to me. A “My computer”, but no way to administer it. In the way these Linux distributions try to emulate Microsoft, you'd expect a “Control Panel”, but I couldn't see one. This may be the fault of KDE, and not of SuSE, but if I can't find things easily, Chris almost certainly won't.

Never mind, I had plenty of disks, so set to installing Ubuntu as well. Didn't get finished before evening.


Friday, 26 September 2008 Dereel Images for 26 September 2008
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Last week we found a dead swallow in the nest:


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I was going to watch what happened to it, but somehow I forgot about it. It's still there:


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Clearly the other swallows haven't been able to remove it, so they just built the nest over it. It's also an interesting indication of how fast they put these things together. I think the nest is now larger than the old one.

A little work in the garden, spending an inordinate amount of time weeding about 1 m² of the north bed. In the process discovered why Oxalis is so difficult to eradicate:


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Normally you only get the stem when you pull one out, leaving the bulb to try again.

A couple of days ago, B&H asked me to do a review of my new Olympus lens—for their web site, of course. Problem: the web site they gave was broken for everything, it seems, except Google Chrome. It issued a redirect starting with some random junk, and everything, including Microsoft “Internet Explorer”, treated it as binary data. It took a couple of reports to their web master before they fixed the problem, and then I discovered that I was only allowed to add a mini-review, without even links to the real one.

More work installing the computer for Chris. I had configured the network, and for some reason sudo didn't want to work:

sudo: unable to resolve host chris

OK, so there really wasn't any DNS entry for chris. But why should there be? This machine will go away on Sunday, and it'll probably end up connected to an ADSL connection. So who cares about the machine name?

I couldn't fix the problem. I found that I could set the root password, so I did that, but for some reason just about every command, even as user chris, did a DNS lookup and nothing else until it timed out—even if the network cable was disconnected. Finally gave up and modified my DNS configuration to work around the problem. But this is supposed to be a system for end users. How would they cope?

Next, I wanted to take some screen shots, which involved putting ab xv on the screen—but X was started with this horrible -nolisten tcp option. I've been there before with startx, but this was with gdm. Found a reference to the issue in /etc/gdm/gdm.conf:

# If true this will basically append -nolisten tcp to every X command line, a
# good default to have (why is this a "negative" setting? because if it is
# false, you could still not allow it by setting command line of any particular
# server).  It's probably better to ship with this on since most users will not
# need this and it's more of a security risk then anything else.
# Note: Anytime we find a -query or -indirect on the command line we do not add
# a "-nolisten tcp", as then the query just wouldn't work, so this setting only
# affects truly attached sessions.
DisallowTCP=true

That's clear enough—or is it? If it's not true, what is it? false? Nothing at all? Whole entry commented out? I tried both of the latter to no avail, noting only that you only have to change this file for gdm to crash. Then I went searching the entire file system for the text nolisten, and apart from here only found it in /usr/sbin/gdm.

Ended up giving up and manually editing the binary of gdm, but that didn't work too well either. I was able to start X without -nolisten tcp, but for some reason it came up in “safe” mode. Probably not the problems that Chris wants.

Yana and Diane Saunders came in from South Australia in the evening in preparation for the party on Sunday.


Saturday, 27 September 2008 Dereel Images for 27 September 2008
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After my lack of success with the X display on Chris' computer yesterday, decided to play it safe and, contrary to my normal rules, reinstall Ubuntu. In the process, while writing my diary, it occurred to me that there was one version of the configuration I hadn't tried. As I wrote yesterday:

If it's not true, what is it? false? Nothing at all? Whole entry commented out? I tried both of the latter to no avail ...

So if you exclude the obvious, the non-obvious must be correct, right? Yes! The correct entry is:

DisallowTCP=false

No thanks to the documentation.

On this installation, the screen resolution changed. Previously it had started up in some high-res mode that blew the mind of the graphics card and made it produce flimmering artefacts that only went away at lower resolutions. This time round, it came up in 800x600 mode (and at 60 Hz vertical refresh!) and refused to go higher. The background? This time I had installed it with the correct monitor (an ancient ADI 5D without EDID), and so, instead of asking, it just guessed that the monitor couldn't do more than 38 kHz horizontal frequency and stuck to that. Got round that one with a remnant of bygone times. These are the correct values from the product manual:

Section "Monitor"
        Identifier   "ADI"
        VendorName   "ADI"
        ModelName    "5AP"
        HorizSync    30.0 - 64.0
        VertRefresh  50.0 - 100.0
EndSection

Then it found hundreds of megabytes of updates, in fact about 286 MB, quite a considerable proportion of size of the original CD, and proceeded to download them from the “nearest” mirror, in Sankt Peterburg, bringing the data two-thirds of the way around the world. Another case of trying to be too clever: clearly it thought the computer was in Germany.

In the process of that, saw this message:

 
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Somehow, that worries me. If there's been some exploit, it would be nice to know what it was.

The good news is that the systems recognizes all our digital cameras out of the box, including Yans's two Canons and even the raw format of my Olympus E-510. That's quite a difference from all other systems I've used, most certainly from Microsoft. One point to Ubuntu.

Finally finished that and did some work in the garden. The whole month has been particularly cool, but yesterday and today were exceptions, and the today we hit 25°. The trees have taken notice:


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In the process, I wonder if I'm irrigating enough. I'm giving about 2 hours a day (starting at 5:00), but nothing looks very moist when I get up.


Sunday, 28 September 2008 Dereel Images for 28 September 2008
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Sixty years old! How did that happen? Now I'm officially an old fogey. And to add to the nonsense, I celebrated it.

My uncle Max, wife Margaret, son Mick and my aunt Audrey came along, Max bearing gifts. I had asked for a Platycerium (staghorn fern) and another cutting of the hibiscus that I took a couple of months ago, and which hasn't really taken. But then he brought a considerable addition to my plant collection: apart from four kinds of Pelargonium, another strawberry plant, two tomato plants and a raspberry plant, also a couple of Callistemon of unspecified nature, a Clivia (presumably a Clivia nobilis), a Daphne, a Nandina domestica, something that we thought was a Croton, but which is probably a Codiaeum variegatum, an Acer palmatum (Japanese maple), and a tree identified as and an ornamental cherry tree, which apparently means the Japanese flowering cherry. Many of the smaller things were cuttings, and we spent a hurried half hour watching Max putting them into pots at lightning speed. throwing in some cuttings from a nearby Grevillea for good measure:


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Then in to dinner—yesterday's weather didn't hold, and it was a lot cooler, though at least it didn't rain:


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And then they were gone again, leaving me to puzzle over the new plants. That'll keep us busy.


Monday, 29 September 2008 Dereel Images for 29 September 2008
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We were supposed to continue with the verandah today, but it started raining, and it occurred to me that I had enough other stuff to do. Called up CJ and left a message on the answering service, but he showed up anyway, so we got him to take the cement mixer to the Yeardleys and put the rest off until tomorrow.

I was right in my assessment: apart from the less than suitable weather, I had plenty of other work to do, and was rotating most of the day. Spent some time identifying the plants—there's more material for my mystery plants collection there—and planted a couple. The real issue is that some of the plants are big—the Japanese Maple for example—and we need to think where to put them.

Also thinking about a new machine, and discovered that I gave away my last spare computer case yesterday. Should I choose something smaller this time? It looks as if the biggest disadvantage of a 1 TB disk is backing it up, so it'll probably make more sense to choose a couple of 500 GB drives.


Tuesday, 30 September 2008 Dereel Images for 30 September 2008
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CJ and Sue along this morning to help with the verandah. I've identified my issues with the construction: if I work all day on it, I don't have time for other things I want to do. Today discussed it with the others, and they agreed that they'd rather only do half a day at a time, so today we only did 3½ hours work (should have been 4, but 3½ proved to be a convenient point to stop). Spent most of that time trying to align joists and bearers, some of which don't quite line up:


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In the afternoon, used most of my new-found spare time searching for hardware for my new machine. It's becoming fairly clear what hardware I need now, but the price differences between the suppliers are enormous. For two 1 GB PC-6400 DDR-2 memory chips I can pay between $41.18 and $90.09, apparently without any quality difference. A 1 TB disk from Samsung costs between $150 and $207. But who are the cheap suppliers? Do they have the stuff in stock? What about shipping? Many questions to ask and broken web sites to search for the answers. The following real life mail is indicative (I've just reformatted the upside-down reply for intelligibility):

> Hi AusPC,
>
> Groggy wants to know about OC-ZT-85TEG2P-FSL.
>
> http://www.auspcmarket.com.au/show_product_info.php?input[product_code]=OC-ZT-85TEG2P-FSL
>
> They ask  :-
>
> Does this card come with DVI/VGA converters?

I don't have one in stock at the moment to confirm, but most video cards
come with at least one.

Isn't that helpful?

To the Yeardleys for dinner. David is off to Ukraine tomorrow, as he discovered yesterday, apparently to dismantle a ship and transport the parts up some small canal to an inland sea. I'm reminded of the children's song “The big ship sailed up the alley-alley-ay, on the last day of September”.


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