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September 2014
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Monday, 1 September 2014 Dereel
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Where are my house documents?
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

We've been waiting for an amendment to the house contract for 12 days now, and a week later Wayne Jones promised that construction would start this week. Where's the promised amendment? Still not here.

Called up Wayne and asked him what was going on. “I assumed that the girls had done it”. That's management for you! But he sent me a machine-readable version, which also specified a further delay of “7.00” working days. That wasn't part of the agreement. I signed it and endorsed it to backdate this delay to 20 August, so it has already expired.

And how about that, it seemed to have worked. Almost immediate response from Tom Tyler confirming receipt, and a couple of hours later a call from Duncan Thompson, the site supervisor, confirming that they would start on Friday, and asking me to tell them—again!—where the sewage outlet would be. Clearly “the girls” hadn't managed to clarify that in the weeks when we discussed it. Sent that off to him. Are we on our way?

While walking the dogs in the afternoon, a ute pulled up, and the driver asked us if we wanted a concrete slab for the shed. Yes, we do, and we discussed the matter for a while. He proves to be Andrew (Andy) Gleave, phone number 0400 569 241, who—according to his card—specializes in Straight Early Saw Cuts, whatever that may be. It looks as if there are still some issues, and I'll have too look at the plans and building permit more carefully. But at least things seem to be happening.

Also contacted Red Energy about the electricity supply and spoke to Mary. All went well, but there was no explanation why they weren't able to contact me, nor even whether they had tried.


French Revolution: Over!
Topic: history, opinion Link here

Over the last couple of months I participated in the Coursera course The French Revolution. It was quite interesting, and I certainly learnt a lot. But unlike most Coursera courses, this one didn't have any “quizzes”, computer-graded multiple choice questions about the course material. Instead there were two “peer assessment” essays, which I liken to the blind leading the blind. To add to the issue, the grading guidelines were so vague that it's difficult to actually grade. In particular, there's no way to grade the extent to which the essay answered the question; arguably my second essay didn't very well, but then the question wasn't clear anyway.

Today I got my results: 9 out of 10, which is more than I expected, and also more than one of the comments would lead you to believe:

peer 1 → A very well thought out and written assignment. I like your idea that the revolution had degenerated into a period of confusion.

peer 2 → Excellent understanding of the events before and after the French Revolution.

peer 3 → I am very confused as to what you are trying to tell me. There is no structure to your argument that I can see. Perhaps it is the work of a machine. This is dangerous because it produces a string of words that do not make sense. You quote Karl Marx but have given no reference. What is the connection between the UK and the French Revolution? You speak of a 'general opinion'. This is a very vague statement and is something called a filler - words that just fill up the space and indicates that you do not know it. Who holds that opinion? Perhaps you do not know what a revolution is although we have been studying one. Few of your statements have any evidence. I can only give you minimum marks.

peer 4 → [This area was left blank by the evaluator.]

I can only assume that the views of “peer 3” weren't included in the marks. But exactly his views are interesting: on the one hand, of course, it bears out my “blind leading the blind” expectation, and his own suggestion of random words appears to be reflexive. I passed the text through dissociated-press, but it didn't make it any less intelligible.

Maybe he didn't understand the concept of links (the essay as submitted was the same HTML as here, including the links). He claims that I quote Marx, when in fact it was just an indirect reference. Are some of his objections valid? I thought a number were, but on closer examination it seems that only “general opinion” might have benefited from more explanation.

That's an extreme view, but what if some poor participant had had his essay evaluated only had that kind of peer? Without feedback from an expert on the subject, the results—good or bad—aren't really very useful.


CJ's phone problems
Topic: general Link here

Another call from CJ Ellis today. He's still getting these phantom phone calls, but somehow MyNetFone haven't been able to contact him. Went as far as setting up a TeamViewer session, which worked, but I couldn't solve his problems—for that he'll have to talk to MyNetFone, and he has difficulties with the accents. He said he'd do so, but I didn't hear the results.


Tuesday, 2 September 2014 Dereel Images for 2 September 2014
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Time for Yet Another Flash Unit?
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

My photos of the Drosera weren't as good as I would have liked. That's not overly surprising for hand-held macro photos, but what do I do to improve it? Removing the grass growing through the plants is one thing, but how about better illumination? Some time ago I bought a clip-on ring flash for my mecablitz 58 AF-1 O digital:


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I was quite happy with it for a while, but it's quite clumsy, and the illumination isn't quite consistent. Now that I can afford it, how about a real ring flash?

Where do you find a real ring flash? Looking on eBay, many of the claimed ring flashes are really LED lights, which are not nearly bright enough.

Revisiting this three years later, I discover that the previously undocumented guide numbers of the LED lights are in fact comparable with flash tubes.

The ones that do appear to be ring flashes are:


Wetness issues
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

In front of the house we have a “nature strip” which we're not allowed to change. Presumably it once stretched from Progress Road to Bliss Road, but successive property owners have removed all except the 70 m odd in front of our property. In the process they have leveled the surface so there's no longer a drain—except in front of our house:

 
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That's the driveway in front; doubtless the collection of water in the remnants of the drain are part of the problem we had with the driveway.


Kuala Lumpur 50 years ago
Topic: photography, history Link here

It has been not quite 50 years since I took a photo of Kuala Lumpur that has proved surprisingly popular: two companies in KL have asked me for permission to print it. Today I received a copy of the first, “Menara KL: Towering Excellence”. As the name suggests, it concentrates on towers, and for them the interesting thing in my photo was the predecessor of Menara KL, the old radio tower on Bukit Nanas (on the right), not the panorama of the Padang, and so they cropped it:


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Still, that's their privilege, I suppose. I'd be far more interested to see what the same panorama would look like today.


Wednesday, 3 September 2014 Dereel Images for 3 September 2014
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Support Hell: MyNetFone
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

CJ is still having no luck with phantom calls on his VoIP installation with MyNetFone, and the support people don't seem to be able to help him. He can't even set up voice mail. He asked me to call them up, so we set up another TeamViewer session, I confirmed that it worked, and then I called up support and asked them to connect and fix the problem. Spoke to Zack, who is clearly not German. He didn't understand the issue—last week Harriet had planned to change a port number, but he didn't understand that. In fact, he didn't even know how to set up a Team Viewer connection, which is really surprisingly simple. So I left him with his problems and asked him to contact me when the problems was solved.

Then it occurred to me: why not just do it myself? If I understood things correctly, it was just a matter of changing the port number (normally sip/5060) to 5061, which proves to be called sip-tls, though I don't think that the ATAs understand TLS. Tried logging in with the secret password I got a couple of weeks ago. No go. Did I write it down wrong? I can't imagine that they changed it. It's stored in pain, my old Dell laptop, and some day I'll try it again.

Fortunately you only need that password to change VoIP provider; the normal admin/admin works fine for setting up the port number. Changed it to 5061. We'll see if that gets rid of the phantom calls.

Then looked at voice mail. I also have a VoIP dial-in number, and I hadn't got round to setting it up, so finished that and tried it out. After timing out, got the voice message “Your call has not been answered, and you cannot leave a message”. Called up support again, spoke to Marsha, and was guided to https://www.mynetfone.com.au/portal/myaccount/VoiceFollowMe.action, which needs to be set up as well—something undocumented, possibly because it's set up “correctly” to start:

 
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She asked me to set it anyway, so I did. Then, despite my objections that nothing had changed, I had to call the number, which meant disconnecting the support call. Did that, and nothing had changed. So I tried another option: redirect immediately. And that worked. OK, at least some progress. Switch back to redirect after 40 seconds. It didn't work. I still got redirected immediately.

Called up support again and spoke to Naomi, who set the parameters from her end and wanted me to go through the same thing again. I suggested that she try it. She did that and—of course—had the same results: “can't leave a message”. Asked her to look into it and contact me by email when it had been fixed.

Got the email in the evening: “How to set up voice mail”. Nothing to do with the problem at hand, and an indication of a complete lack of understanding of the issue. Until last month I had been quite happy with MyNetFone. Now I'm wondering if I have made a mistake, and dragged poor CJ with me.


DxO supports more Olympus?
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

I have a love-hate relationship with DxO Optics “Pro”. It's buggy, glacially slow, and has a number of really irritating issues, like insisting on resetting crop to “preserve aspect ratio”. But it produces good results. About my biggest issue now is that they don't support Four Thirds lenses on Micro Four Thirds bodies.

But they do! Or at least, that's what their supported equipment page says:

 
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So I tried it out. No support. Updated to the latest version of DxO. No support. Sent off a support request, and got nothing back by the evening.


Wars and anniversaries and things
Topic: history, opinion Link here

75 years ago was the beginning of the Second World War. Or was it? In Germany they celebrate it (if that's the word) on 1 September. But that was just when Germany invaded Poland. In itself, that was not significantly more than invading Austria or Czechoslovakia. War was declared on 3 September. Or was it? It was at 23:00 UTC, which corresponds to 9:00 local time on 4 September here.

And when did the war end? On 2 September 1945 with the signing of the Instrument of Surrender in Tokyo Bay. Or did it? The Chinese, it seems, celebrate 3 September, and they did it today in no uncertain fashion. And in the USA it happened on 1 September. That wouldn't be so relevant, except that the Americans date the start of their war to the bombing of Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, about 90 minutes after the Japanese invaded Kelantan on 8 December. How do you celebrate anniversaries on a global scale?


Signs of construction
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Over to Stones Road to take the dogs for a walk as usual, and found the first tangible sign that something is finally happening with our house construction:

 
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It's not much, but it lifts our spirits.


Thursday, 4 September 2014 Dereel Images for 4 September 2014
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Support Hell: DxO
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

So yesterday I sent a support request to DxO. I've had grief from them in the past, but this time the problem was obvious: they advertise that they support certain combinations of camera and lens, but the program doesn't know that. The easiest way to check is to get the program to show what modules it thinks are available:

 
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That's only partial, and of course the window can't be resized, but any Zuiko FT lenses should have been there, and scrolling shows that they're not available at all.

So what does DxO support do? They ask me to provide some sample photos! And that's all they say. OK, that's easily done. 5 photos of the same scene, one each with the Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 II R, the Zuiko Digital ED 50mm F2.0 Macro, the Zuiko Digital ED 12-60mm F2.8-4.0 SWD, the Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm F4.0-5.6 and the Zuiko Digital ED 70-300mm F4.0-5.6. The results, though predictable, weren't quite what I expected:

 
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The circle second down from top right shows the module status. Green is OK, as you might expect. Grey means “no module available”. And the red one with an arrow, somewhat counterintuitively, means “module available for download”. That's the 9-18 mm lens. Why this one, when it doesn't figure in the list? Ah, that's another bug:

 
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It confused the lens with Olympus' Micro four thirds M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 9-18mm f4.0-5.6, a completely different lens. But apart from that, it shows that the only lens that it supports is the 12-40 mm lens.

OK, that's clear enough. It still doesn't work. Tried to upload the images above, but I had already uploaded my limit of 5 images. Sent a message off to DxO and received, late in the evening, a reply which suggested that Marion, the support person allocated to this problem, had not read what I had written. Instead she asked me once again to upload the files. What do I need to do to get through to these people?


Phantom calls resolved
Topic: technology Link here

Did some research on VoIP phantom calls today. This discussion throws some light on the matter: it's a form of spam, where phone spammers scan the net for open sip ports. Why don't they say anything when you answer? Because they're oversubscribed. So if you run your SIP connection on a non-standard port, they (probably) won't get you. Met CJ today, and he confirmed that his phantom calls have stopped.

So why doesn't this happen to me? Because I don't have a SIP port open to the net; it's behind my NAT setup. But this sounds like a traditional application for a firewall: allow connections only from trusted IP addresses.

The other issue of voice mail is still pending in my case, but in CJ's it was at least a configuration error: it was disabled on the web portal. Reenabled that; I'll find out later whether he's also suffering from the same problem as I.


Yana returns
Topic: general Link here

Our daughter Yana returned from Canada today. She's planning to get a job as a waitress (with BA degree) in Melbourne, so we'll be seeing more of her in the time to come.


Friday, 5 September 2014 Dereel Images for 5 September 2014
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Lens problems
Topic: photography Link here

Walking the dogs this morning with Yana, so I took lots of photos. But they didn't quite turn out the way I expected:

 
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What caused that? Looking at the EXIF data, there are two separate issues:

The first thing that occurred to me was a recent discussion about problems with this lens model, the Zuiko Digital ED 12-60mm F2.8-4.0 SWD. It seems to be prone to jammed diaphragm, and that would explain the difference in exposure of the last two images. But what about the first two? For the first, my guess is that the measurement was made at f/8, which the camera thought was f/4. But even that would only make a difference of 2 EV. Maybe I had stopped it down further.

In the afternoon, put the lens on the E-30 and tried stopping down manually. Since the E-30 has an optical viewfinder, it's easy to see. Yes, the diaphragm jams. Damn! That's what comes from writing that my lens didn't have this problem, only last week. Never tempt fate.


Construction begins!
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Duncan had told me that they would start pegging out the house site today, and I wanted to be there when they started. We had discussed that we would measure the distance to the house from the north fence, since that's on the boundary line, and it's also the critical distance for the CFA rating criteria. But of course there was nothing in the variation to that effect, just that I take responsibility for the location, and that it would delay the house by “7.00” days.

So round at 9:00 to meet the people. Nobody there. Round later and found them already hard at work:

 
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And the plans clearly showed that they were measuring from the north fence. It sounds like these people know what they're doing, which is more than I can say for the bureaucrats. Duncan called me no less than 3 times in the course of the afternoon to discuss location of solar hot water panels, gas bottle for the kitchen, and storm water. It's really refreshing to see that things are finally happening.

The storm water was a surprise: I was expecting it in a month or two, but they want it in a week or two. Called Mari Hendricks and spoke to him about it. He's puzzled too. We'll discuss again tomorrow.


Nikolai injured
Topic: animals Link here

Yvonne discovered today that Nikolai has injured himself. There's a big lump on a joint on his left front leg. Called Pene Kirk, whom we met in Rokewood, and who thought that normal bandaging, ointment and no running for a week should do the trick. Let's hope so. For the moment he looks like this:

 
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Camera problems
Topic: photography Link here

While heading to Stones Road, picked up my camera by the strap to save putting it around my neck. A good thing too:

 
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The left-hand strap lug just came straight out of the body, and the camera swung down almost to the ground. If it had been round my neck, it would have landed on the ground and presumably been badly damaged.

How did it happen? Looking carefully at the lug, it's clear that there are two screw threads in it. Where are the screws? How could they both fall out at once?

 
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Two camera problems on the same day! The last time I recall having anything of this magnitude was once again a strap lug on an Edixa nearly 50 years ago.

Called up Olympus service on 02 9886 3999, a number they don't advertise on their web site. Spoke to Vivian, who gave instructions on how to send the things in. The camera is still under warranty, but I still have to pay the shipping to Sydney. Return shipping is free, in this case for the lens too (normally it would cost $16.50 to return a lens if I choose not to repair it). I need to give an address a nameless courier can deliver to. And it'll take a couple of weeks. A good thing we have Yvonne's camera to fall back on.


Saturday, 6 September 2014 Dereel Images for 6 September 2014
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Tidying up the garden
Topic: gardening Link here

Craig Mayor along this morning to tidy up the garden, and managed—as far as I can tell—to fix up the sprinkler system, which was seriously in need of it. There's more to be done, including transplanting a number of bushes to the new property.


Understanding pegging
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

So now the pegs are in place, and they can start on the site cut—if they can get the machinery past the pegs. They're really short lengths of plank with coloured markings and occasional text:

 
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This is on the east side of the house, but the texts “Living” and “Bed 1” clearly refer to the other side of the house. They had the plans with them, so I can only assume that this is a projection of the wall to the east side.


E-PM2 is not E-M1
Topic: photography, animals, opinion Link here

Finally managed to get a photo (if that's the word) of Nikolai's swollen joint today. I'm using Yvonne's Olympus E-PM2, since I don't have a strap for the E-M1. Technically the camera is close to identical: same lenses, pretty much the same sensor. But the image stabilization, although present, is nothing like as good as the stabilization of the E-M1. I have grown used to taking photos at 1/15s and getting good results. Not with the E-PM2:

 
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Still, the swelling is visible. Next time I'll be more careful.

In addition, the more I use this external viewfinder, the less I like it. The photos of the building site above were taken in in bright sunshine, and I could hardly see anything. Even this photo, no longer in sunshine, was difficult to compose. It's a pity the clip-on electronic viewfinders are so expensive—the cheapest I've seen costs about as much as the camera.


Red Energy: uh?
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Call from a very confused person from Red Energy today, asking how my application for a new account was progressing. It seems that at the beginning he thought it was for an existing house, and he rambled on for a while asking questions that didn't make sense. Finally he said he would check the details and get back to me. Maybe he should have done that first.


Sunday, 7 September 2014 Dereel Images for 7 September 2014
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Potato “noodles”
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Since buying the “Spirooli”, Yvonne has been looking for applications. The latest idea was to make “noodles” out of potatoes and then deep fry them. Once again, only a partial success. Here before and after:

 
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First lesson: cut the noodles before deep frying them. Second lesson: use the right kind of potatoes. They give a crispy result, while the others remain soggy even up to the point of burning. Unfortunately Yvonne can't recall which the good ones were, just that they had a dirty surface. I noted that they had a particularly pale flesh. She'll check next time she goes shopping.


Still more flash problems
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Taking the photos of the potatoes wasn't easy. Despite TTL flash measurement and all modern electronics, I ended up with photos like this:

 
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What happened there? I still don't know. This was with Yvonne's Olympus E-PM2 and the mecablitz 58-AF-2. The camera was set in P (“Program”) mode, I had set the camera to -1 EV exposure compensation (normally I seem to need +1 EV), and yet it exposed for 1/60 s at f/2.8. Why? I got it to expose correctly in A (Aperture priority) mode at f/8. But that shouldn't have been necessary. Is this an issue with the camera, the flash, or the object behind the camera?


Monday, 8 September 2014 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 8 September 2014
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Water in the forest is best
Topic: animals Link here

We give our dogs plenty of fresh water, of course. But for some reason they prefer the puddles they find in the forest:

 
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Why is this? On this occasion Zhivago carried on drinking for well over a minute. It's good to see him drinking lots of water—this time last year his bladder stones were made worse by the fact that he hardly drank anything.


Sending off the cameras
Topic: photography Link here

Into town today primarily to send my camera and lens off to Olympus. They say that repairs tend to reset the internal counters, so first read them out using this and this guide:

Page       Code       Value       Meaning
1       B       1000
1       U       1403 0000
1             1400 0000
1       C       1000
1       M       0991 0000 0000
2       R       12442       Shutter releases
2       S       1021       Flash exposures
2       U       1699       Number of automatic sensor cleanings
2       V       0
2       B       3634       Number of shots with IBIS turned on
2       L       0

What's IBIS? The (second) page doesn't say. Image stabilization? In principle most photos should be taken with image stabilization. Looking at Yvonne's camera, the second page shows:

Page       Code       Value       Meaning
2       R       1822       Shutter releases
2       S       53       Flash exposures
2       C       0
2       U       470       Sensor cleanings
2       V       0
2       B       1569       IBIS shots
2       L       0

While in town, also picked up some standoff insulators for the new electric fence.


Applying for the bore permit
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

I had been hoping against hope that we would be able to get by without a bore in the new house, but it's clear that we won't. Finally got round to applying for it today. Called Southern Rural Water on 1300 139 510 and spoke to Simone, who gave me the pleasant news that the sum that Des Murray had written on the form ($735) was not the application fee. That's only $440. In the process, noted on the form:

If you prefer to pay with a credit card, we will call you and arrange payment over the phone.

This is a government agency! How can they encourage that sort of thing? I'm continually amazed by the general lack of security consciousness outside specialist computer environments. Mentioned it on IRC and got the response:

<gr00gle> "if you prefer to pay with a credit card, we will call you and arrange payment
 over the phone."
* Darius rings gr00gle asking for CC details

Wrote my 6th cheque in 5 years (the first, coincidentally, was to Darius).


Stormwater issues
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Long talk with Mari Hendricks on the phone this evening. Doing the storm water now doesn't seem to be as sensible as it seems. Firstly, it means two visits, one to do the stormwater and one to do the septic tank. And how will the pipes line up? More discussion needed.


Tuesday, 9 September 2014 Dereel Images for 9 September 2014
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Wild weather for cats
Topic: animals, general Link here

It's been particularly windy lately. In the garden I found this surprising sight:

 
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That's the cat house, and it should have looked like this:

 
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The wind blew it over. Fortunately there was no other damage.


Reception problems and wind
Topic: multimedia, opinion Link here

The wind also helped confirm something else: for years I've been puzzling about my TV reception problems, and today's wind showed the difference. Although in general things have been relatively bearable lately, all of last night's recordings were uselessly bad. And when the wind dropped, things got better again.

But is it the antenna alone? The reception on the bedside radio was also bad, and it just has a length of wire behind the bed. What else about the wind could cause that kind of problem?


More shed stuff
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Andy Gleave still hasn't replied to my message about the shed slab last week, so followed up and got voice mail. But then there's also Norm Baker, so called him up and arranged to meet on site in the next couple of days.

Then on to contact Dave Tudor, who will be building the shed. “This number has been disconnected”. Wrong number? Checked several times in different places. Same number everywhere. Asked Norm Baker, whom Dave had recommended. No, he doesn't know Dave Tudor, only Dave Kors, the surveyor who issued the building permit; Dave doesn't seem to know him.

But that gave me an idea: I had given Dave T's contact details to Dave K, so called up and got them. He's in Gordon. By that time it was late, and didn't get round to calling him. Mañana.

Also more thoughts about the storm water stuff. The plans clearly show a swale drain, and that seems to be the component that they need right now: there's no point in putting in downpipes when we don't have any walls. But I'm not responsible for the swale drains, as a check in the contract shows. Called up Duncan and got... voice mail. Somehow today wasn't the day.


Wednesday, 10 September 2014 Dereel Images for 10 September 2014
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Site cut, take 1
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Today was the day for the “site cut”, the levelling of the building site in preparation for laying the slab. They didn't get very far. This corresponds to the master bedroom and part of the lounge room:

 
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The bobcat driver found the soil far too soft and decided to get out while the going was good:

 
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Duncan tells me that they'll bring in an excavator to do the job on Friday.

Also discussed the drainage with him. No, they really want the sealed stormwater system installed early on so that the work doesn't impact the workers. I suppose that makes sense, but it's going to be hard selling it to Mari. And he'll want more money if he has to come twice.


Bratwurst again
Topic: food and drink Link here

It's been 10 months since we last made Bratwurst. At the time we made 7 kg, 68½ sausages. This time I was much more modest, only 3 kg and 36 sausages. And I didn't look closely enough at the meat I bought:

 
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Why did they score the skin? To make life hard for me? No, of course they thought I want to grill it. It's amazing that pork belly is considerably more expensive than pork shoulder.

It's a surprising amount of work to make the mixture; it took me about 80 minutes. Filling the sausages, by comparison, was relatively fast, only about 15 minutes.


Shed construction
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Finally some responses from people to do the slab for the shed. Andy Gleave called several times with different questions. Norm Baker gave me a call while I was in the middle of making the sausages and wanted to meet me on site in an hour. Did that, spent some time discussing the matter. He wants to raise the shed to avoid inundation. That doesn't sound like a good idea when it's so close to the house: that's what the swale drains are for. Decided to leave construction until after the house slab is in place, which could take a while. Norm quoted a price for the 7×7m² slab and footings for the rest: $4,000. It's interesting how many of these quotes end in 000. His previous quote on the phone was $3,000. Negotiation needed.


Fixing DxO
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

I've had a couple of exchanges with DxO support since last week, and finally they explained (and demonstrated) to me that yes, they can load Four Thirds modules for Micro Four Thirds bodies. So why doesn't it work here? Broken update seems the most obvious cause.

OK, that's simple: completely remove the old installation and start again. To be on the safe side, tried it out on dxo, my old Microsoft “Vista” machine, after first confirming that yes, the problem existed there too. But after removing two different versions, there were still files left in AppData. Tried various methods of removing them without success. And after every new installation the problem remained. There must be something in those files that break it.

So what now? They want a TeamViewer session—release 8, not the current release 9 I have running, apparently because they're too stingy to buy a license for version 9. That in itself wouldn't be a problem, but their support hours are 10:00 to 18:00 MET, corresponding to 18:00 to 2:00 here, and I don't really want to be in the office that late. I most certainly don't want to give them (or anybody else) access to my machine without me being present.


A new lens for Yvonne
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Yvonne has been relatively happy with her new Olympus E-PM2—in the past 4½ months she has taken over 1,800 photos and videos—but it's still bigger than she likes. Even the tiny lens is too big for her (here Olympus images):

Image

For horseback purposes I bought her a 15 mm f/8 body cap lens:

Image

The image quality is really not good, though Yvonne hasn't noticed. But it's there for all to see. Here comparisons taken with the 15 mm lens, the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 II R, the Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-150mm f4.0-5.6 and the M.Zuiko 12-40 mm f/2.8 “Pro”, first full frame, then near the top left-hand corner:

 
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So what could she use? Even the 14-42 is too big. Looking around, a likely candidate is the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 17mm f2.8:

Image

It's bigger than the body cap lens, but also of much higher optical quality. But it's surprisingly expensive. The cheapest I could find was $299, and the most expensive a completely ridiculous $6,500:

 
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And even that appears to be grey market stuff. Australian stock has a 2 year warranty. But then, I've seen this seller before, selling a different lens (also marginally a candidate) for that same price. In fact, they have over 200 items at that price. I'm surprised that eBay allows them to do it.

Still, I have to sell Yvonne on it. This one has a lens cap, while the body cap lens has a self-closing cover, a difference that's important for her. We'll have to see one in the flesh and see what Yvonne thinks of it.


Thursday, 11 September 2014 Dereel
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Paella revisited
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Paella valenciana is one of those dishes that doesn't always come off perfectly. Today we made it again, and tried a number of changes, not all of them intentional.

First question: prawns and cuttlefish (squid). Both are raw, and they're very easy to overcook. Sous-vide to the rescue! 15 minutes at 52°, and indeed they were just right.

Then chicken drumsticks, in this case some of the biggest I have ever seen—I can imagine turkeys with smaller drumsticks. And we've always had trouble cooking drumsticks. Sous-vide to the rescue! Well, no. We didn't have time, so I ended up preparing them in the microwave oven. But I still need to do it right with sous-vide next time. 3 hours at 65°?

Finally the're's the question of how to cook it. Traditionally it's done in the open, but I don't know how to keep the rice moist, Yvonne helped here: she refuses to wear her glasses most of the time, so instead of 1 litre of water she put in 1.5 litres. And that seems to have made the difference. We cooked it in the pizza oven, and it came out nice, moist and flavoursome. And Yvonne and Yana complained that the base of the rice wasn't crispy enough. You can't win.


Friday, 12 September 2014 Dereel Images for 12 September 2014
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Totally removing Microsoft programs, try 2
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Why can't I remove all trace of a Microsoft program, in this case DxO Optics “Pro”, from my computer? Somehow I find it offensive that the system retains a memory of what I have been doing. But lots of people use Microsoft; went looking for methods to remove the remains. This page promised to do just that, but in the end just removed stuff from the registry, leaving a large number of files behind. And then there are things like Revo Uninstaller “Pro, which was available for a 30 day trial, so I tried it out. Sure enough, it removed all the files too.

Reinstalled the program. It knew my serial number. How? Clearly not everything had been removed. The bug was still there too: I still can't load modules for Four Thirds lenses on Micro Four Thirds bodies. What a pain! Should I just let DxO Support access my computer while I'm not there? No, I didn't think so.


Bulbs for the new house
Topic: gardening Link here

Spring is here, and lots of spring plants, mainly bulbs, are in bloom. There are enough that we can take half of them with us to the new house and still leave enough here. So today we went through and marked the ones we'd like to take, with photos of course. Here Yvonne's notes and my photos:

1-4 Alle weiße gefüllte Narzissen (kleines Sukkulentenbeet):

 
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5 Dunkle Helleboren (neben Vogelbad)

 
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6 Schneetropen (neben Strelitzia)

 
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7 Ungefüllte kleine weiße Narzissen mit gelbem Trichter, neben Strelitzia

 
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8, 9 Gelbe Narzissen, ungefüllt (hinter Teich)

 
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10 Snowdrops (gegenüber Lime Magic)

Specifically, on the footpath

 
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11 Weiße Helleboren (")

 
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12 Lila "

 
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13 Narzissen wie 7 (hinter Birken östl.)

 
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14 Mini Schweinsgesichter (Hügel)

 
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House construction progress?
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Today was the day they had promised to bring in an excavator to do the site scrape in Stones Road. Over round 10:30 to watch the fun. The site was deserted. I suppose it's a sign of the situation that kangaroos had sunk right into the mud where the house should be:

 
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There are some faint dog pawprints at bottom left.

CJ has also been busy, and the electric fence is making progress. For the first time, I've seen a switch in an electric fence:

 
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On the other hand, a sapling has fallen on the rear fence:

 
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I suppose that won't be the last time.

Around again in the afternoon, round 15:30. Still no sign of any work. Yvonne was not amused. I suppose I'll need a chat with Duncan on Monday.


Saturday, 13 September 2014 Dereel Images for 13 September 2014
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Panoramas without E-M1
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Saturday is house photo day, involving many panoramas. But my Olympus OM-D E-M1 is away for repair. How can I cope? It is the only camera I have that can take the correctly bracketed photos that I need for the HDR precursors.

The way I always did, of course, with the E-30. I've barely used it since I got the E-M1, and the fact that I still have it is due to bugs in the eBay listing software. How clumsy it seems in comparison to the E-M1! In addition, it has a really serious disadvantage: it can only take series with a maximum of 1 EV difference, and a maximum of 5 of those, so the biggest range I can get is 4 EV. On the E-M1, I have a series of 3 shots taken at 3 EV intervals, a total of 6 EV. I could also take 5, for 12 EV, but that has proven unnecessary.

So I took them, at the same time marveling how slow the shutter of the E-30 is, and considered using the E-PM2 instead. How do you set exposure bracketing? I've given up even trying with the paper documentation, and the PDF has little help. Read through and noticed a mention of HDR. Were they worth trying? The only direct description was:

 
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What does that mean? It doesn't sound like the corresponding instructions for the E-M1. As in so many things with Olympus cameras, to find out I first had to try it out. And how about that! It seems that the camera can't do the useless in-camera “HDR-1” and “HDR-2” sequences, only the real bracketing that I need!

Repeated the verandah centre panorama, which still doesn't close as well with the fisheye as it did with the Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm F4.0-5.6. But the differences were striking:

 
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In particular, the far left is far darker in the E-30 exposure. That's not surprising: the least exposed image had to be slightly underexposed for the highlights, which for the E-30 meant a series exposed at 15.6 EV, 13.6 EV and 11.6 EV (I didn't process the intervening 2 images). For the E-PM2, the light had changed slightly, and the exposures were 15.0 EV, 12.0 EV and 9.0 EV, nearly 3 EV more shadow detail.

The other issue I had was focus. I use manual focus not because autofocus doesn't work, but because it could occasionally take longer or choose some random object. All my previous Olympus cameras had a button AEL/AFL which, in combination with manual focus mode 3, would perform a single autofocus when pressed—a very useful feature. But the E-PM2 has almost no buttons. There's only one we never use, Fn. And how about that, I can put the AEL/AFL functionality onto that. So about the only issue is that the thing still doesn't have a viewfinder. Considering that it's only barely more expensive than a cheap point-and-shoot camera, though, I'm quite satisfied.


House: progress!
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Went to Stones Road to take the house photos. A surprise was awaiting me:

 
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That's the house site. Some time between 15:30 yesterday afternoon and midday today, they managed the scrape. And doesn't it look wet! I wonder if they're going to be able to lay the slab any time soon.


Patenting genetic material
Topic: history, opinion Link here

A disturbing ruling from the Australian Federal Court: it is legal in Australia to patent genes, in this case BRCA1, a gene involved with breast cancer. The article is from the British Manchester Guardian, and it doesn't give useful information, but it suggests that this is the only way to interpret current Australian laws. Clearly a case for improved legislation.

David Newall put it well:

if a company has been granted monopoly rights to genetic material, and fails to prevent that material from uncontrolled distribution, can they be held liable? If a woman has BRCA1 mutation, can she sue the company that holds the patent?

One way or another, though, a disturbing development.


Still more photos of Kuala Lumpur
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

I now have one book that includes a photo I took of Kuala Lumpur 50 years ago, and another is on its way. And now I hear from Kenneth Tan, who wanted to reprint an unspecified photo of mine that he found on skyscrapercity, a site I have never heard of. They have a reasonable search function, though, and I found these links. It seems that he's looking at my photos of 28 August 1964, over 50 years ago, only shortly after I started becoming interested in photography, and—it seems—my very first colour film. And they're not very good, just historic. Maybe I should try to scan them in again and improve them.


Another power failure
Topic: general Link here

Another short power failure this afternoon at 13:42.


Sunday, 14 September 2014 Dereel Images for 14 September 2014
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Living with Crystal
Topic: animals Link here

Chris Bahlo brought three cats with her. TC (“Top Cat”, named by David Yeardley) and Shadow are both old and gentle, but Crystal, ostensibly a Lilac Point Siamese, is younger and surprisingly aggressive towards Piccola. We've noticed a number of gaps in Piccola's fur, and seen Crystal chasing her on a number of occasions. Today when I got up, I saw from the bedroom outside door:

 
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Piccola was clearly not amused.

In passing, looking at Crystal, it would be easy to confuse her with Lilac, a Lilac Burmese. The two main differences are Crystal's weight and her eyes, which are somewhat muddy blue:

 
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Her head shape certainly looks like a Burmese. That's at least partially intentional: her breeder, also Piccola's breeder, specializes in Siamese that don't look like rats, and this is probably what she calls an Applehead. Piccola was a successful example, but it seems that there's too much Burmese in Crystal, and if it weren't for the blue eyes, she's be considered a Tonkinese.

Crystal is only gradually learning to climb on the roof, probably to chase Piccola. Today, for the second time, she couldn't find her way down. Chris had to help her:

 
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Tethering a dog
Topic: animals Link here

When we go walking in the morning, we leave Zhivago wander around while we put the lines on Nikolai and Leonid. Today he caught himself:

 
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And he couldn't get free. All he had to do was go forward, but that was away from us.


DxO ViewPoint
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

When I saw that they had done the site scrape yesterday, I had to take a photo, of course. But the only lens I had with me was the Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 8 mm f/3.5 fisheye, and the results looked like this:

 
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Clearly that needs straightening. Recently I have received a special offer from DxO for their DxO ViewPoint software which, the documentation tells me, corrects all kinds of distorsion. How about fisheye effects? Yes, it has a correction for that too. Tried it out.

You can enlarge all of the following images up to three times by clicking on them. Some really need it.

First, load the image into the program (“open” it) and select “Fisheye”.

 
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OK, that's better than before, but still not good. But the “fisheye” tool has an intensity bar:

 
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So I tried moving that to 100%. Clearly it can more than compensate for the curvature:

 
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Somewhere in between, round 84%, the horizon flattened, but the trees were off at all kinds of angles:

 
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Still, it has a perspective correction tool, shown above after I had aligned the blue lines through the trees. Apply that and I get something that looks almost OK:

 
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But why such a small cutout? Ah, DxO has this mania about keeping the aspect ratio, resetting the crop tool to “Preserve aspect ratio at all costs”. Reset that to “Unconstrained” and things look a lot better:

 
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Yes, the trees aren't quite straight, but that's a matter of fixing the aligning lines. More of a problem is that the bottom half of the image is missing. And so far I haven't found out how to get it back.

And Hugin?

But Hugin also does perspective correction. It does a good job on my weekly panoramas, but so far I haven't found how to get it to work on a single image. Tried again. I'm doing this with an older version of Hugin, because newer ones have removed important functionality.

  1. Read in the image not once, but twice. For this you need the Images tab, since the Assistant starts trying to align straight away, and it doesn't understand fisheye lenses:


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  2. In the Camera and lens tab, select either of the images:

     
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    At bottom left, select “Full frame fisheye”. It then miscalculates a new focal length (previously 8 mm, now 10.48746 mm).

     
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    I've established that this does not work. Hugin itself calculates a focal length of about 7.7 mm after stitching 360° panoramas, and that's what you need to set to to get useful results, at least for real panoramas:

     
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  3. In the Assistant tab, select Align. You should get a perfect match:

     
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  4. In the Mask tab, mask off arbitrary areas in each image, making sure that there's overlap.

     
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    This is necessary to work around a bug in enblend.

  5. The fast panorama preview now shows the image:

     
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    In the Move tab, pull the centre of the horizon down until it looks straight. In my case it wasn't quite horizontal, and it needed to be pulled up at the left:

     
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  6. Cropping requires the use of the scroll bars. As a result of the nature of the fisheye, there's a lot that doesn't fit:

     
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    Still, there's enough there for a good rectilinear image:

     
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Kiddy snaps, matured 50 years
Topic: history, photography, opinion Link here

Mail back from Kenneth Tan today. No, he didn't want the photos from 28 August 1964. He wanted specifically this one:

 
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Yet another of the photos I took on that day! The other two people were interested in other photos, but taken on the same day, coincidentally 50 years ago today. And surprisingly I still recognize the street: it's looking south-east down Jalan Yap Ah Loy, named after the founder of Kuala Lumpur

None of these photos are artistic or good. I had only started with photography less than 6 months earlier, and there are obvious issues with all of them. But the historical value overshadows all that. How time flies!


Monday, 15 September 2014 Dereel
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Another power failure
Topic: general Link here

Another power failure at 0:58.


Catching the DxO bug
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

So far any attempt to get DxO Optics “Pro” to recognize the new modules has failed. Borrowed Chris' laptop, which has never had DxO installed on it, and tried there. It worked! So somewhere DxO have been too clever for themselves and left junk behind after deinstallation that prevents a clean reinstallation.

What do I do? They want a TeamViewer session to mess around themselves. And strangely their help desk doesn't open until 8:00 UTC (well, currently 10:00 MET), which is after I stop working for the day. If it were a matter of a couple of minutes, I wouldn't be so concerned, but given that they can't just issue a fix, there's a good chance that they'll play around for hours before declaring (preliminary) defeat. It would be easier and more instructive for me to completely remove all the junk they have installed, during my daytime. How do you say find / -mtime -1 in Microsoft?


Denoising with DxO PRIME
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

The photos I took of Chris and Crystal yesterday were during twilight, but I didn't want to use flash. Instead I cranked up the sensitivity of the camera to 39° ISO (6400 linear). Even so, I only got EV 9 to EV 10. At the normal 22° it would have been EV 4 to 5 (shutter speeds round ½ s). But of course the images are a lot noisier. I'm currently not in a position to compare with the E-M1, but it seems that the E-PM2 is considerably noisier at this sensitivity.

DxO Optics “Pro” to the rescue! Tried the “PRIME” noise reduction. It works. Here part of the image as it came out of the camera and after denoising:

 
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I've chosen the crop so that the “small” version (click once) is the original resolution. Run the cursor over either image to change it to the other one.


Nikolai still not recovered
Topic: animals Link here

It's been 10 days since we showed Nikolai's swollen joint to Pene Kirk. In that time, with bandages and ointment, it has decreased slightly in size. But only slightly. Time for an X-ray?

Over to see Pene, who took another look and confirmed that an X-ray would be a good idea. We were thinking of trying the new vet clinic in Bannockburn, but Pene pointed out that she would get access to the X-rays if we went to Eastwood St Vets in Mair St.

Back home, called up the vets, spoke to Lisa, and made an appointment for tomorrow 16:45. Had to answer a number of questions, many of which required spelling out (“Lehey” is always a finger-twister, and even something as simple as “Kleins” is a problem for most Australians). But she didn't even know the breed Borzoi!


Tuesday, 16 September 2014 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel
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Keeping the site dry
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

It's fairly clear that the building site is too wet at the moment to lay a slab. But what will happen next winter? It looks like we could put in some drainage relatively easily, since we have a pond to drain into. Probably the best idea would be to put in a surface drain first to allow the soil to drain, and then to extend the trenches for the sealed stormwater system down to the clay layer and drain them also into the pond. Called up Warrick Pitcher and discussed it with him, and he agreed. But I couldn't get on to Duncan, who didn't call until we were in town to leave a message with Chris that the site was very soggy. Mañana.


Nikolai's X-ray: not
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

Into town specially to Eastwood St Vets to X-ray Nikolai's front leg. Of course he first had to be examined by the local vet, Amy, who tells us that she's a friend of Pene's. And of course she came to the same conclusion as Pene: he needs an X-ray. And that can't be done until next Tuesday! What did we come into town for?

In the process discovered that they want to anæsthetize him for the X-ray, something that I don't like at all, and that we would have to leave him there for several hours! An X-ray takes seconds.

Not at all happy, made an appointment for next Wednesday, since otherwise we have to kick around in Ballarat for several hours. But they want a minimum of $350, possibly more. First I need to see what other vet practices do. The first impression of Eastwood St. was not at all positive. Somehow too many vet clinics seem to be out for money grabbing.


Reinstalling DxO
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

As I said yesterday, what is Microsoft for find / -mtime -1? It seems that the closest I can come is with “Windows” explorer, which explores file systems, not windows. I can specify a time range, so selected yesterday, and found these files that Revo Uninstaller “Pro had left behind:

Directory of C:\ProgramData\DxO Labs\Licenses

21 Nov 2013  09:43    <DIR>          .
21 Nov 2013  09:43    <DIR>          ..
09 Jan 2013  15:38               253 dxoopticspro8demo_8.0_20130109_053828.lic
10 Feb 2013  13:18               273 dxoopticspro8_8.0_20130210_031835.lic
04 Nov 2013  13:53               250 dxoopticspro9demo_9.0_20131104_035353.lic
21 Nov 2013  09:43               275 dxoopticspro9_9.0_20131120_234351.lic
    4 File(s)          1,051 bytes
    2 Dir(s)  29,796,327,424 bytes free

OK, that's easy enough to remove. And, of course, when I reinstalled it no longer knew my license number. But it did know enough to refuse to load the modules I want. What else is there? This could be a possibility:

 Directory of C:\Users\grog\AppData\Local\DxO_Labs

10 Sep 2014  04:35    <DIR>          DXOOpticsPro.exe_StrongName_ukk25szwn2bgpjt3ra3fcszlyidqqavr

What a pain this stuff is!


Entrenching false pronunciations
Topic: language, opinion Link here

Watching the news on Aljazeera today, the news reader started “In the Afgh.. excuse me, Æfgæn capital...”. Æfgæn? That's how the Americans pronounce it, along with obscenities like Eye-Rack. What place do these misunderstandings have in the 21st century and the age of globalization? And why should Aljazeera (apparently) mandate the mispronunciation despite the better knowledge of the news readers? Even the Wikipedia article gives this broken pronunciation.

That's not the only thing Aljazeera has changed recently. What is the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant? Or is that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or simply the Islamic State, or one of the abbreviations ISIL, ISIS or IS? Aljazeera has been tending to IS recently, but now in the light of the American actions they've done a backflip and they're calling it ISIL again. Who dictates this terminology? Admittedly, I'm sure the majority of Muslims find it insulting that a terrorist group should call themselves “Islamic State”, but why use terminology that is out of date? What's the Levant? The rising (of the sun), seen from Western Europe, but most certainly not from Iraq (sorry, Eye-Rack). Somehow this, too, is completely anachronistic.


Wednesday, 17 September 2014 Dereel Images for 17 September 2014
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A vet for Nikolai
Topic: history, animals, opinion Link here

Our experience with Eastwood St Vets yesterday was not overwhelmingly good. What about the vets in Bannockburn? Googled for vet bannockburn and came up with the usual 692,000 results, including the Bannockburn Veterinary Clinic and the new one that we had heard of, Golden Plains Vet Practice in Bruce St.

Called up, spoke to Frances, and confirmed yes, he could come this afternoon, and they would send the results to Pene. It would cost about $230—a whole lot less than Eastwood St—so I made an appointment. Checked the address: Bruce St, right? No, we're on the Midland Highway. I had accidentally called the Bannockburn Vet Clinic, the wrong vet!

Called the Golden Plains practice on 5281 2226 and spoke—ultimately—to Kiera, who was also prepared to send the results to Pene, said that with the obligatory consultation it would be about $200 for the first X-ray and $58 for any further ones. She gave me a number of options, and I settled on Friday at 15:00 before it occurred to me that we had to be in Ballarat at 13:00 for tile selections. Finally ended up with an appointment on Saturday at 11:00.


False positives on Google?
Topic: technology, history, opinion Link here

One of the hits on Google was Bruceview Vets, with a British domain name. How did that get in there? No mention of Bannockburn. But the address looks like the address of the Golden Plains Vet Practice, which is in Bruce St. Is this some kind of bleed-through?

More investigation showed that it was, indeed, a Bannockburn vet practice, in the original Bannockburn, now a suburb of Stirling. And Bruce? The Bruce, of course, the King of Scotland who won the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. In fact, they're in the Bannockburn Heritage Centre, in the shadow of the statue of Bruce: thus the name.

So: Bruce St in Bannockburn, Victoria almost certainly commemorates the same Bruce. Why is it so much on the outskirts of town?


Power and slab: progress?
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

It's been six weeks since we started trying to get power connected to the house, and still nothing much has happened. Called up Jim Lannen and he found that Red Energy want him to lay the cable first. After some consultation with Warrick Pitcher, they decided on next Thursday.

Also spoke with Duncan Jackson about the slab. He'll need to get their engineers in to take a look at the site. Hopefully that won't take too long.


TV reception errors: solid
Topic: multimedia Link here

I've been observing my TV reception errors for some years now, and gradually it has become clear that they're related to wind. Today was windy, and I got not bad reception, but none at all. That has happened before, but not to the same extent. It looks as if whatever flaky connection has now given up altogether.

OK, at least I have a tame sparky on tap, so called up Jim Lannen again, and he'll come by tomorrow and take a look. Hopefully it won't take too long.


MyNetFone voice mail
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

What's happened to my voice mail? When I tried today I couldn't even get a connection to the voice mail number (121): silence for 60 seconds, then a disconnect signal. There's clearly something seriously wrong here. Called up MyNetFone and spoke to Naomi (again), who told me that the matter had been escalated to 2nd level, and that I'd get a call back.

That happened from Mino (if I have the name right) at 14:35. Over half an hour she proved that she could leave voice mail for me, both calling from a Telstra line and from their own lines.

That's better than nothing, but when I tried the same thing from my other VoIP line, I got the same old message: “The phone is unattended, and you cannot leave a message”. More discussion with Mino, who seemed to thing that “it works for me” is good enough. Left her with the responsibility of finding a solution. Is this some network thing?

Not to leave any stone unturned, tried it from a Telstra line. Same thing. Called back—at least 121 is now working again—and spoke to Amrita, who must have been on her first (and possibly last) day in the call centre. She got my ticket number wrong and kept asking irrelevant questions until I got her to confirm the ticket number. And then: “Mr Grey, right?”. But she wasn't able to connect me to 2nd level, and all she could (possibly) do was to update the ticket. I can see this taking a long time.


DxO workaround, try 3
Topic: technology, photography, opinion Link here

More playing around trying to find the DxO Optics “Pro” bug, ultimately without success. There's clearly something, whether a file or a registry entry, that is preventing newer versions of DxO from working correctly. But what? I've removed all files and entries that I can find, but the problem remains the same. Sent off a ticket update to DxO. I can see this, too, taking a long time.


Cygwin revisited
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

It's been decades since I first tried Cygwin. At the time I wasn't very impressed, and when I had to try it again I was no more impressed. But Edwin Groothuis suggested that it might be a way to find my modified files for the DxO Optics “Pro” problem, so I installed it again.

My view hasn't changed. In particular, it still bends the directory hierarchies to suit a Unix-like view of the world. But there's a way to access the bare Microsoft “drives”. To quote Edwin:

<MavvieRVBD> But you can still access the various disk via c: d: etc

But that doesn't work for me. Once I get past the fact that the shell windows swallow the mouse cursor—why?—all I got was:

grog@dxo ~
$ ls -l c:
ls: cannot access c:: No such file or directory

Further playing around shows very non-Microsoft-like parsing:

grog@dxo ~
$ ls -l c:\
> > ^C

grog@dxo ~
$ ls -l c:\\
total 6580023
drwxr-xr-x 1 grog None          0 Jan  9  2013 $Recycle.Bin
drwxr-xr-x 1 grog None          0 Nov  4  2013 11e1bb6e4e663bcb347d
drwxr-xr-x 1 grog None          0 May 14  2013 Adobe
...

And you can do a cd without this hoop-jumping:

grog@dxo ~
$ ls -l c:
ls: cannot access c:: No such file or directory

grog@dxo ~
$ cd c:

grog@dxo /cygdrive/c
$

So something has special knowledge about this kind of name. What a pain! Still, at least I now have find, which could help me.


Thursday, 18 September 2014 Dereel Images for 18 September 2014
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Garden flowers in early spring
Topic: gardening Link here

It's a couple of days past the middle of September, but things have been relatively hectic, and the weather hasn't helped. Today was the “early spring” photo day. I've been taking these photos for over four years now, and not surprisingly there are fewer and fewer surprises. This year we have had roses blooming continually through the winter, and there's no evidence they'll stop soon:

 
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Our tree fern looks different from only a couple of months ago:

 
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I had asked Craig to remove the burnt leaves. He certainly didn't err on the side of too little.


Antenna problems: solved?
Topic: multimedia Link here

Call from Jim Lannen this afternoon, with the information that all the TV channel frequencies have changed. How does that explain that I get better SNR with a piece of bent wire? But clearly the first thing I needed to do was to retune my tuners. Did that, and sure enough, everything changed. Before I had:

mysql> select transportid, frequency from dtv_multiplex order by transportid;
+-------------+-----------+
| transportid | frequency |
+-------------+-----------+
|         563 | 620625000 |
|         880 | 634625000 |
|        2050 | 613625000 |
|        2461 | 655500000 |
|       12922 | 592625000 |
+-------------+-----------+

And now it's:

+-------------+-----------+
| transportid | frequency |
+-------------+-----------+
|         563 | 578500000 |
|         880 | 571500000 |
|        2050 | 599500000 |
|        2461 | 585500000 |
|       12922 | 592625000 |
+-------------+-----------+

So I had reception. But it wasn't good.

I've been through this just recently, and it was fresh in my mind. There are two issues: fine tuning (set by the column column.finetune) and the exact frequency. Years ago I discovered that the base frequency for the channels wasn't the best, and relatively recently I confirmed that in four of five feeds increasing the base frequency by 125 kHz improved the reception, which is visible in the first table above. So I tried that, and things improved. Now I have:

+-------------+-----------+
| transportid | frequency |
+-------------+-----------+
|         563 | 578625000 |
|         880 | 571625000 |
|        2050 | 599625000 |
|        2461 | 585500000 |
|       12922 | 592625000 |
+-------------+-----------+

But reception is still not good. Of course, there's no reason to assume that the offsets remain the same on different channels. It looks as if there's a lot of work to do.


Liver cakes for dogs
Topic: animals, food and drink Link here

Yvonne has a new recipe for liver-based treats for dogs:

 
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The dogs are crazy about them.


Satay sous-vide
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Another attempt at satay today, this time with chicken pre-cooked sous vide. Not a success, even without first burning the peanut sauce.


Friday, 19 September 2014 Dereel → Geelong → Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 19 September 2014
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A new Landbruiser for Chris
Topic: general Link here

Chris Bahlo has finally found an affordable Landbruiser, so off to Geelong with her this morning to pick it up:

 
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It's not exactly new—people born when it was built are now eligible to vote—but it's in very good condition, and it even comes with a spare passenger door because the first one has a scratch. Hopefully it will serve her well.


Asian food shopping
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

While in Geelong, stopped in at Chung Vinh Phat groceries for “Asian” foodstuffs, in this case including Indian, Chinese and Malay (but not Vietnamese). I've been shopping there for years, and gradually they're getting more and more stuff on the shelves, to the point that I couldn't get through some of the aisles. And they didn't have any ketupat—or at least I couldn't make myself understood to a young Vietnamese shop hand who spoke surprisingly little English. But this is where I found them four months ago. They also didn't have any ghee, which seems currently to be a general issue. And the Indian grocery round the corner seems to have closed down.


Choosing tiles for the house
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Barely back from Geelong, headed off to Ballarat to choose tiles for the house. That proved to be less difficult than we thought, though I had to go down to Delta to get a sample of the flooring.


Voice mail problems: identified!
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

Over the last couple of days I've tried various things to work out why voice mail doesn't work with my MyNetFone VoIP service. And then something occurred to me, something you'd normally never notice: when the exact message “Your call cannot be taken at the moment, and you cannot leave a message, so please call later” is produced, I heard it too, from the base station of the wireless phone system. That can't be MyNetFone. Tried disconnecting the wireless phone, and sure enough, voice mail worked normally!

What's wrong with this picture? A surprising number of things:

It's not clear what I can do about it. The obvious thing would be to find the instructions for the phone system and see how I can turn it off. But somehow there are thousands of little instruction manuals little sheets of paper for all sorts of weird and wonderful devices. They should really put them online and write the URL on the base of the device.


Saturday, 20 September 2014 Dereel → Bannockburn → Dereel Images for 20 September 2014
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X-raying Nikolai
Topic: animals Link here

Off to the Golden Plains Vet Practice in Bannockburn this morning with Nikolai to have him X-rayed. X-ray machines have changed considerably since I last looked at one. This is a special purpose digital camera: a pad connected to a laptop via some wireless protocol, and a hand-held X-ray generator to perform the exposure. After a bit of messing around, got three images:

 
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This should be Nikolai-3.jpeg.  Is it missing?
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Rod Collins, the vet, took a lot of time to discuss the images with me. It's nothing serious, anyway, and he thinks it's a bone cyst. He sent off the images to a specialist in Melbourne at no extra cost. He also sent them to Pene and to me, and Pene also confirmed that there didn't seem to be any danger. And the whole thing, including 3 X-rays, came to $198! That's a far cry from what Eastwood St Vets wants, and also possibly less than they should have charged; I had earlier noted that that was the price for one X-ray. But maybe I misunderstood.


TV tuner problems revisited
Topic: multimedia Link here

My TV reception is still pretty rough. How do I check the exact frequency of the transmitters? I must have done it before, but I don't seem to have noted it at the time. MythTV doesn't seem to offer anything useful, so the best bet would be with tzap. It wasn't until later that I discovered that I had saved the information on that wiki page.

But where do I get a channels.conf? Run dvbscan or w_scan or scan or whatever it's called today? Instead I cheated: I took the old file I had and put in the new frequencies, along with new labels, so I ended up with groups of 5 like this:

SBS-8:571250000:INVERSION_AUTO:BANDWIDTH_7_MHZ:FEC_2_3:FEC_AUTO:QAM_64:TRANSMISSION_MODE_8K:GUARD_INTERVAL_1_8:HIERARCHY_NONE:161:81:881
SBS-9:571375000:INVERSION_AUTO:BANDWIDTH_7_MHZ:FEC_2_3:FEC_AUTO:QAM_64:TRANSMISSION_MODE_8K:GUARD_INTERVAL_1_8:HIERARCHY_NONE:161:81:881
SBS-0:571500000:INVERSION_AUTO:BANDWIDTH_7_MHZ:FEC_2_3:FEC_AUTO:QAM_64:TRANSMISSION_MODE_8K:GUARD_INTERVAL_1_8:HIERARCHY_NONE:161:81:881
SBS-1:571625000:INVERSION_AUTO:BANDWIDTH_7_MHZ:FEC_2_3:FEC_AUTO:QAM_64:TRANSMISSION_MODE_8K:GUARD_INTERVAL_1_8:HIERARCHY_NONE:161:81:881
SBS-2:571750000:INVERSION_AUTO:BANDWIDTH_7_MHZ:FEC_2_3:FEC_AUTO:QAM_64:TRANSMISSION_MODE_8K:GUARD_INTERVAL_1_8:HIERARCHY_NONE:161:81:881

The second field in the colon-delimited list is the frequency in Hertz. I seem to recall that the hardware sets the frequency modulo 125 kHz, so these are individual steps. Then I just need to do:

=== root@cvr2 (/dev/pts/0) ~/.tzap 49 -> tzap -a 1 SBS-0
using '/dev/dvb/adapter1/frontend0' and '/dev/dvb/adapter1/demux0'
tuning to 571500000 Hz
video pid 0x00a1, audio pid 0x0051
status 00 | signal 4e00 | snr 0000 | ber 00000000 | unc 00000000 |
status 1f | signal b9a8 | snr acac | ber 00000000 | unc 00000000 | FE_HAS_LOCK
status 1f | signal babc | snr aeae | ber 00000000 | unc 00000000 | FE_HAS_LOCK

I specifically used adapter 1 (-a 1) because it seems to be more sensitive to mistuning. And to my surprise, all the frequencies were correct on the advertised frequency. That's not what it used to be. And reception is still worse than usual. Have they also lowered the output power?


More HDR processing options
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Since I got my Olympus OM-D E-M1, I have been taking my house photos with HDR. But before I get that far, I need to convert them to JPEG. OK, I could convert them to TIFF instead, but I certainly can't leave them in Olympus' raw image format. And that's where DxO Optics “Pro” comes in.

DxO offers a number of ways to convert the images. So far I have been using—rather redundantly—their HDR simulation (“Artistic”, in other words not overly realistic). But why? That's what the HDR merge step is supposed to do. So today I tried it with DxO's defaults. Not a good idea. Here a couple of examples, left with default processing, right with “Artistic” HDR:

 
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Image title: garden centre standard
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This should be garden-se-standard.jpeg.  Is it missing?
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This should be garden-se-noshampoo.jpeg.  Is it missing?
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None of these photos are good; I really should spend more time looking at the overemphasized skies. But particularly the first image (garden centre) shows something like solarization in the greenery at the bottom. That's also evident in the brick row at the right of the second image.


Beef and broccoli sous-vide
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Yvonne bought some broccoli a while back for some purpose that didn't eventuate, so we decided to try Chinese-style beef and broccoli. Where do you get a recipe? Once again I've found the web to be singularly unhelpful for good recipes. This one claims to be the best, despite wanting 2.46 ml (!) of garlic powder. And how do you measure 946.36 ml of broccoli florets? And how do you reduce 78.07 ml of sodium soy sauce, whatever that may be, and by how much?

So I worked out my own recipe. In particular, I was interested in seeing how sous-vide cooking would marry with stir-frying. Yesterday I bought a kilogram of fresh silverside, which I then cooked sous vide at 55° for 24 hours.

The results were interesting. The meat was pink and firm without being tough. It tasted nothing like stir-fry, but for the first time I've found something where sous-vide cooking has created something I could otherwise not have made. More experimentation sounds like it could be rewarding.

And the recipe itself? It's OK, but clearly needs work.

Here's the recipe I made at the time, for reference. The recipe has progressed since then.

Ingredients

quantity       ingredient       step
250 g       beef (see below)       1
250 g       broccoli florets       1
15 g       garlic       1
15 g       ginger       1
45 g       “barbecue” sauce or hoi sin       2
140 g       water       2
10 g       cornflour       2
      oil for frying       3
      chopped coriander leaf       5

The beef

For this particular recipe, I used (fresh) silverside beef cooked sous vide at 55° for 24 hours. It certainly tastes nothing like stir-fried beef, but it's quite an interesting texture, something that I wouldn't be able to make any other way.

Preparation

  1. Cut the beef into thin strips about 1×3 cm in size. Cut the broccoli into small florets. Finely chop ginger and garlic.

  2. Mix barbecue sauce, water and cornflour. Set aside.

  3. Fry the ginger and garlic in the oil until about half-cooked. Add the broccoli and stir fry until bright green. The broccoli will absorb quite a bit of oil.

  4. Add barbecue sauce mix, mix well and bring to the boil. Simmer for 2 or 3 minutes.

  5. Garnish with coriander leaf and serve.


Sunday, 21 September 2014 Dereel Images for 21 September 2014
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New foal
Topic: animals Link here

Just before breakfast, Yvonne came in with the news that Chris' mare Guardaraya had foaled:

 
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Unusually, the navel was still attached. It can't have been more than half an hour old when I took the first photos. Later the navel broke off, and Chris was able to confirm that the placenta was complete:

 
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Things weren't quite ideal: Pene Kirk had established some time ago via ultrasound that Guarda had twins. One must have aborted, but this foal, a filly, was a month premature, and it was so weak that it couldn't stand up and drink, so Yvonne and Chris had to milk Guarda and feed the milk to the filly. Still, by evening it was looking a lot stronger.


Discovering corned beef
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

My experiment with silverside sous vide had an unexpected consequence: I had asked Yvonne to buy some silverside when she went shopping on Wednesday, and she returned with the meat—corned. Not what I needed.

But what is corned beef, anyway? I've eaten it, but never cooked it. And the only corned beef Yvonne had ever eaten was over 50 years ago out of cans, presumably from the US occupation forces. Went looking for recipes and found one in Stephanie Alexander's The Cook's Companion, a book which I find mainly useful because it describes current (or recent) Australian usage. For example, it contains the important information that “silverside” means “corned beef”—thus Yvonne's problem—and for normal silverside you ask for “fresh silverside”. The recipe looked OK at first, but the more I looked at it, the less I liked it. Somehow this absurd claim sums it up:

Corned beef is the equivalent of the French pot-au-feu.

Somehow it sounds like an effort to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

Went looking elsewhere and found recipes in Joy of Cooking (FWIW, apparently the first edition of 1975) and in Leah Leonard's “Jewish Cookery”. Interestingly, the recipes in the latter two were quite similar, though they differed from Alexander's recipe. Ultimately I derived this recipe, mainly from “Joy of Cooking”'s “New England Boiled Dinner”, somewhat hampered by lack of cabbage.

And the flavour? The broth (one of the most important things in a pot-au-feu) was useless. But the meat didn't taste bad, and Yvonne was pleasantly surprised. But between the three of us we ate the entire 840 g piece of meat! It may be cheap by weight, but we ate approximately double the normal quantity of meat.


Monday, 22 September 2014 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 22 September 2014
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New foal, day two
Topic: animals Link here

Guarda's new foal was still not strong enough to stand up by yesterday evening, so Yvonne and Chris got up every 3 hours during the night to milk Guarda and feed it. That wasn't the only issue, though: it had inwards turned eyelids which rubbed against the cornea.

Clearly something had to be done, and Chris called in Pene Kirk, who extracted it and tied it out, if I understand the operation correctly:

 
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But that wasn't the worst of the issues: the foal was still very weak, and apparently jaundiced. Pene thinks that that was probably the cause of the premature birth, that it had contracted an infection via the placenta. Antibiotics probably wouldn't help very much because of the condition of the horse and the extent of the infection, so reluctantly she had to put it down. Sadness.


Cancelling appointments
Topic: animals Link here

On Saturday we had finally had Nikolai X-rayed, but there was still the issue of the appointment at Eastwood St Vets, which I had to cancel. It took me 5 minutes! Instead of just listening to me, they answered the call, potentially incurring long-distance charges, and put me on hold. After 5 minutes they wanted to do it again, but I managed to get a word in edgeways.


News of the day
Topic: general Link here

Watching Al Jazeera News, heard this startling information:

After a 10 month journey across 700 km, NASA's MAVEN spacecraft is now orbiting Mars.

700 km in 10 months? That's roughly 0.1 km/h. A well-fed snail could do better.


TV reception still flaky
Topic: multimedia Link here

Despite my tuning, our TV reception is still pretty flaky. Either it's one of the other issues that I haven't been able to identify, or the power is lower. I can't be bothered to worry until we move house.


New car fridge?
Topic: general Link here

We're off to Melbourne tomorrow, which means shopping at the Victoria Market. In the past we borrowed David Yeardley's car fridge for the stuff that needed to be kept cool, but that's no longer possible.

And then Yvonne discovered that there had been exactly that on special offer at ALDI on Saturday. Off into town to get one. Sorry, sold out in all three locations.

Back home and took a look on eBay. Indeed, there were bigger and cheaper ones to be had. But how can I get one by tomorrow? As it happened, there was one that looked good and was available for pickup in Melbourne. I've seen these before, always on the other side of town. But not this time: it was actually on the way. Sent a message and got confirmation that it was available for pickup. That's surprisingly smooth.


More silly measurements
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Yana brought back from Canada an English translation of «La cuisine» by Jacqueline Gérard, a title that Larousse seems to want to forget. The translation was published in 1980 and has one thing that's missing in the original: units explained in several systems. For example, the recipe for entrecôte au poivre, a variant on our old favourite pepper steak:

2 lbs boneless sirloin strip, in 1 piece (1 kg)
US 2 TB, UK 1 TB, white peppercorns (1 TB)
US 2 TB, UK 1 TB, oil (1 TB)
salt
US ⅓ cup, UK 2 TB, Cognac (2 TB) or whisky or brandy

FOR OPTIONAL SAUCE:
US 3 TB, UK 1½ TB, water or bouillon (1½ TB)
US ⅓ cup, UK ¼ cup, heavy cream (80 g)

It's not clear what the third measurements are, but apart from the total messiness of the recipe, these relationships are nothing like what current measurements suggest. Clearly the British cup mentioned here is the half pint one (284 ml, or about 20% more than a US cup, depending on which US cup they have chosen). But it also mentions UK and what appear to be “metric” tablespoons. I haven't seen any significant discrepancy between UK and US tablespoons, but the only way this recipe makes sense is if the UK and “metric” tablespoons are 30 ml, something I've never seen

And comparing them shows how inaccurate things are. Starting with the metric values, such as they are, I can guess:

“Metric”       Intended       US       Relationship       UK       Relationship
      metric             to metric             to metric
1 kg meat       1 kg       912 g             912 g
1 TB pepper       30 ml?       29.58 ml       108%       30 ml       110%
1 TB oil       30 ml?       29.58 ml       108%       30 ml       110%
2 TB cognac       60 ml?       80 ml       110%       60 ml       110%
1½ TB water       45 ml?       44.4 ml       108%       45 ml       110%
80 g cream       85 ml?       80 ml       103%       71 ml       92%

The columns “relationship to metric” are the proportion of each ingredient relative to the meat, compared with the corresponding proportion for the “metric” recipe. After working my way through it, things don't look that bad. It's a good thing that recipes are tolerant of most quantities, and it certainly explains why the quantity of salt isn't specified.

Wouldn't it be so much easier if people would use the real metric system?


Tuesday, 23 September 2014 Dereel → Melbourne → Dereel
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Melbourne again
Topic: general Link here

Off to Melbourne again today, mainly to take Yana's belonging to her. While there, picked up the new fridge and did our usual shopping in the Victoria Market.

Yana had a surprise for us: pick up a shelf that she had bought round 1 km away. In principle, not a problem: fold the rear seat forward and put it in the back of the car. In practice, everything was full. We managed to squeeze it in the back, but we couldn't shut the tailgate. Drove the whole distance with the tailgate up, and surprisingly the tail gate stayed up the whole while.


New car fridge
Topic: general Link here

Our new fridge is characterized mainly by the fact that it has the highest volume/price range of any I have seen: 55 litres for $399. By comparison, the closest I found to David's freezer had only 40 litres volume and cost $1,549.

And how did it work? We had to unpack it in the parking area of the warehouse. No AC power connection! In fact, it came with an AC adapter (to a car cigarette lighter socket), which is more flexible. And how do you set it? The “instruction manual” went into great detail about irrelevant things like the kinds of cable you could use, though all necessary cables came with the unit, but not into enough detail about the user interface.

Basically, all you need to know is how to operate the control panel:

 
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The unit is on if any LEDs light. To turn on or off seems to require a protracted press on the On/Off switch. Under normal circumstances the LED display shows the current temperature. You set it with the buttons on the left, which leaves the set temperature blinking in the LED display for a few seconds before reverting to displaying the current temperature. With the SET switch you can set temperature display in Fahrenheit or Celsius, and cooling power (either “ECO” or “MAX”). It seems you step through the display until you find what you want, then let the display time out.

The LEDs both light both green and red. Red “ECO/MAX-MODE” means “MAX”, green means “ECO”, as is explained in the manual. But red and green power LED are not described. It seems that the unit can take some time to start the compressor. Initially it lights red, and it turns to green either when the compressor starts or when it really starts cooling.

The other surprising thing is that it has two compartments, one big, one small. And only the big one is cooled. Maybe the other is for things like butter—it seems that this is mainly intended for campers. Still, it works, and it's only a fraction of the price of the Big Names.


Where has all the ghee gone?
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

We occasionally cook either with Ghee or with butter fat (essentially industrially prepared ghee). But lately it's becoming more and more difficult to find. Mainline supermarkets like Safeway used to carry the industrial product, and “Asian” groceries, who in Australia are mainly Vietnamese, carried ghee.

But the industrial product, from Allowrie, doesn't seem to be obtainable any more, and I've now been looking for ghee for weeks. Went to Minh Phat, next to the Victoria Market, today. No, they didn't have it either. Finally round the corner to an Indian place in Peel Street with the imposing name “Indian Pacific Innovations”, where I found some not very convincing ghee with the equally imposing name Nanak. But that was the only kind. Why is it so difficult?


Where have all the ketupat gone?
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Another thing I have only ever found once were Ketupat in boil-in bags. Today I didn't find them either. But then it occurred to me: maybe I don't want to. With the sous-vide equipment I have I can seal rice into plastic bags myself, and all I need to do is to prick some holes into the bags after sealing.


Nikolai unhappy?
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

We left Nikolai and Leonid in the dog run all day while we were in Melbourne, something they really don't like. But lately Nikolai seems not to be getting on with Leonid as well any more.

Yvonne always lets the dogs sleep in her room overnight, but this evening Nikolai didn't want to come. Tried various things, but in the end he wanted to stay outside. Nothing wrong with that in principle, but why has he changed his habits now?


Wednesday, 24 September 2014 Dereel Images for 24 September 2014
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How much uptime?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

It's been over a year since my longest ever computer uptime came to an end: 1,812 days terminated by a hardware fault. But today on Facebook somebody asked me if the machine was still up. Sadly, no.

But then Ollivier Robert piped in: his machine was booted a few months before mine, and it didn't fail. Now he has:

2:17AM up 2279 days, 5:42, 19 users, load averages: 0.01, 0.02, 0.00

I'm green with envy.


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

I sent my Olympus OM-D E-M1 in for repair well over 2 weeks ago, and I haven't heard back from them. Called up on 02 9886 3999 and once again spoke to Vivian—I wonder how many staff they have there—who told me that the camera was repaired, and that the repair to the lens would cost a whopping $431.63.

She had sent me a mail message yesterday and had confirmation of reception, but I couldn't find anything, neither in the server logs nor in my spam folder. How could that happen? Spent the afternoon wondering whether it would be worth repairing the lens. You can buy second-hand ones for round that price. But they, too, might have the diaphragm jam problem.


Thursday, 25 September 2014 Dereel Images for 25 September 2014
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Spring wildflowers
Topic: gardening Link here

It's been relatively warm lately, and a number of flowers are popping up in the forest (but, so far, not in the forest end of the Stones Road property). I've seen this one before:

 
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But there are a number of others that I need to investigate (and take better photos of):

 
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And of course, even VB grows in the forest:

 
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I wonder who puts them there.


Where's my camera, part 2
Topic: photography Link here

So I've decided to have my Zuiko Digital ED 12-60mm F2.8-4.0 SWD repaired after all. But I still haven't seen any evidence of email from Olympus. Called up Olympus on 02 9886 3999 and spoke to Kelly, who confirmed yes, it was sent to grog@klemis.com. Huh? Don't they check the information that they enter? Clarified that and asked them to send the camera immediately. It was to Chris at work (RU Advertising in Sturt St.) In view of the email address, I thought it best to check that too. And indeed, they had the address RU FOOBAR, Ballarat.

How could that happen? This one was my fault. I had entered that provisionally in the source of the accompanying letter until Chris gave me the correct address, and I forgot to reformat the document before printing it out. Egg on my face. But not just mine. Wouldn't an address like that sound strange enough that you'd check? Still, things seem on their way.


Fluid European borders
Topic: history Link here

The Russians are trying to redefine European borders—again. Somebody on Facebook (how do I find out who? It seems that Facebook history is only for the NSA) pointed to this site, which shows how fluid the borders are:

It's just a pity there's no way to single-step it.


Shell shock
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Another serious security bug in “Open Source” software! Once upon a time I was convinced that security bugs were the province of the Microsoft Space—and that despite the RTM Worm. But now I discover I've been living with a bug in my shell for the last 25 years! And sure enough, it's still there:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/11) ~ 429 -> env x='() { :;}; echo vulnerable' bash -c "echo this is a test"
vulnerable
this is a test

Voice mail again
Topic: general, opinion Link here

So I've established that the problem with my voice mail was that the answering machine in my cordless telephone base station gets there first. Spent some time looking for the instructions, and finally found them—36 pages compressed onto a single sheet of A3 paper. I could barely read them, but they were still better than the pixellated PDFs I found on the web. And how about that, the answering machine is turned off. That's why you can't leave a message: being turned off just means that it answers anyway to annoy you.

I don't know how old these phones are, but the displays are dying. Time for something better? Went looking on eBay and managed to buy a set of 4 Uniden DECT 1635 cordless phones for $51.09 (hint: don't bid a round sum, and assume that there are others who don't either; I had actually put a limit of $52 on the set). Hopefully its answering machine will do the right thing.


Friday, 26 September 2014 Dereel Images for 26 September 2014
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More orchids
Topic: gardening Link here

The blue orchid I saw yesterday grows in the shade, both of the canopy trees and the bracken underneath. Today on Klein's Paddock I found another one:

 
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This one grows in full sun. Time to investigate what it is.


Fixing shellshock, the FreeBSD way
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Why hasn't the FreeBSD project issued a security advisory for Shellshock? Simple, it has nothing to do with FreeBSD. It's a GNU problem. Can you compromise a FreeBSD system with it? Sure. But that's not the project's problem. Read your CERT Advisories.

OK, I don't want to finger-point. I want to get rid of the problem, which seems to exist on all my systems. eureka is way out of date (and also completely inaccessible, but that's no reason for complacency). Go to the port and rebuild it:

=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/15) /usr/ports/shells/bash 95 -> cd /usr/ports/shells/bash
You have new mail in /var/mail/grog
=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/15) /usr/ports/shells/bash 96 -> make
===>  License GPLv3 accepted by the user
===>  Found saved configuration for bash-4.3.25_1
===>   bash-4.3.25_1 depends on file: /usr/local/sbin/pkg - not found
===>    Verifying install for /usr/local/sbin/pkg in /usr/ports/ports-mgmt/pkg
You are about to convert your system to pkg while you have ports/packages
installed with the old pkg_install tools.

To switch to pkg:
    1) Install ports-mgmt/pkg
       cd ports-mgmt/pkg && make UPGRADEPKG=1 install clean
    2) Convert your package database by running pkg2ng

*** [pre-everything] Error code 1

pkgNG again! Do I want to convert? No, I want to update to the latest and greatest. My last attempts were 4 months ago, and they were painful enough that I decided to wait until the dust had settled before continuing with the upgrade. But clearly the time has now come. Fired up stable-amd64 and brought the base system up to date, which worked without incident. Then upgrade packages:

...
FreeBSD repository is up-to-date.
All repositories are up-to-date.
Updating database digests format... done
Checking for upgrades (850 candidates)... done
The following 606 packages will be affected (of 0 checked):

New packages to be INSTALLED:
(long list)
The process will require 2 GB more space.
2 GB to be downloaded.
Proceed with this action? [y/N]: Fetching zsh-5.0.6_1.txz... done

A good thing I have more traffic on my link! And it still stops to prompt you! And the responses don't echo in the log. It continued:

Fetching indexinfo-0.2.txz... done
Fetching libxml2-2.9.1_1.txz... done
...
Fetching cmake-3.0.1_1.txz... done
Checking integrity... done (19 conflicting)
pkg: Cannot solve problem using SAT solver:
cannot install package gcc48~lang/gcc48, remove it from request? [Y/n]: cannot install package gcc~lang/gcc, remove it from request? [Y/n]: pkg: Cannot solve problem using SAT solver:
cannot install package abcde~audio/abcde, remove it from request? [Y/n]: cannot install package py27-eyed3~audio/py-eyed3, remove it from request? [Y/n]: Checking integrity... done (0 conflicting)
Conflicts with the existing packages have been found.
One more solver iteration is needed to resolve them.
The following 609 packages will be affected (of 0 checked):

So we're still not free of conflicts. Why? Most are harmless, but potentially the python package could present a problem. Still, it continued, not without confusing comments like this:


[75/609] Upgrading libgd from 2.1.0_3,1 to 2.1.0_4,1... done
==> You should manually remove the "cups" user.
===> Creating users and/or groups.
Using existing group 'cups'.
Using existing user 'cups'.
[76/609] Upgrading cups-image from 1.7.2 to 1.7.3_1... done

My guess is that the first message is from removing the old package and the others from installing the new one. There were many such messages, and it'll take me a while to evaluate all of them.

So now all is well, right?

=== root@stable-amd64 (/dev/pts/0) /usr/ports 21 -> env x='() { :;}; echo vulnerable' bash -c "echo this is a test"
vulnerable
this is a test

It's not fixed! Can this be real?


Saturday, 27 September 2014 Dereel Images for 27 September 2014
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A new camera?
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

My Olympus OM-D E-M1 is back from repair. They even repaired the lens—for which they said they would take a week—within a couple of hours, presumably so they could include it in the package.

And of course it's repaired, though they didn't replace the missing covers for the flash contacts. But they did include the 2.0 firmware for the camera. That's only the second time that Olympus have released a version 2 of firmware, and this is clearly the biggest: they've modified the instruction manual to describe some, but by no means all, of the new features.

A lot of the new features relate to in-camera processing, which I don't do. The things that look interesting to me are:

One thing that they don't describe in the list of changes is that the display now shows the lens focal length—but only for zoom lenses, and when you change the focal length. Previously you had to half-press the shutter release to get this information, and I thought it was to hide the fact that the lenses don't report every possible focal length value. I established six years ago that the 12-60mm lens never reports a focal length of 25 mm, only 24 or 26 mm. And more recently I've established that the Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-150mm f4.0-5.6 reports nothing between 100 mm, 125 mm and 150 mm.

But the camera reports different focal lengths! Yes, they're still not contiguous, but the 12-60 reports 23, 25 and 26 mm, and the 14-150 reports 100, 120, 135 and 150! I wonder why that is.

Another undocumented feature is that in the setup menus there's now a help popup that obscures the text and won't go away. There's a corresponding setting, but it is only for popup texts from the mode dial, and it doesn't stop this popup. It's really irritating.


Reading the E-M1 secret pages
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Before sending my camera off to repair, I read this and this guide on how to read out the configuration pages of my camera. They're generic and thus not easy to understand for a specific camera. Here's what I do to access the codes of the Olympus OM-D E-M1:

Compared to before sending off the camera, I had:

Page       Code       Value       Value       Meaning
            before       after
1       B       1000       1000
1       U       1403 0000       2006 0000
1             1400 0000       1400 0000
1       C       1000       1000
1       M       0991 0000 0000       F990 0000 0000
1       L       (not recorded)       1012 120A
2       R       012442       012671       Shutter releases
2       S       01021       001021       Flash exposures
2       U       1699       01742       Number of automatic sensor cleanings
2       V       0       0
2       B       3634       3653       Number of shots with IBIS turned on
2       L       0       0

So they didn't reset the number of shutter releases. I took a number of photos before reading out these pages, so the difference seems reasonable. Some day I might try to make sense of the other values.


Leonid's revenge
Topic: animals Link here

For some reason, probably accident, Yvonne locked Leonid and Zhivago in her bedroom this afternoon. Leonid was not amused:

 
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Still more orchids
Topic: gardening, photography, opinion Link here

While taking my house photos in Stones Road this morning, Don Fortescue rolled up with his truck to spray the weeds. He took a look around, then came to me and asked me if I really wanted to spray the north-eastern corner of the property (immediately to the north-east of the house). There are hundreds of orchids there:

 
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That's the best I could do with the Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 8 mm f/3.5 fisheye lens. I can change the mapping from fisheye to equirectangular, but I can't change the perspective. I should really take a second camera (or at least lens) with me when I take a fisheye.

The orchids appear to be the same as the ones I saw on Klein's Paddock yesterday:

 
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We decided not to spray that area; there aren't many weeds there anyway. And Don tells me that there's another kind of orchid on its way. The area is also full of Drosera. When we found the first Drosera over a month ago, I thought they were something special, and I was pondering transplanting some to the property. But since then I've seen them everywhere.


We don't need no steenking uptime
Topic: technology, opinion, photography Link here

DxO still haven't fixed the problem with DxO Optics “Pro”. In fact, they're looping:

Once you have entered your equipment details, you'll be given the option to download the CAFList90.db file.
Please download and copy this file to:
C:\Users\ user_name \AppData\Local\DxO_Labs\DxO Optics Pro 9

Then, restart Optics Pro.
You should then be able to download your modules.

The only problem is, that's exactly what they said a couple of weeks ago, and I reported that the version I had was identical to the one I downloaded. It also doesn't address the fact that it still doesn't work after removing as much as I could and then reinstalling, including this file. 24 days and counting. Maybe I should just take the Microsoft way out and reinstall the system.

Until they get things fixed, I'm using Chris Bahlo's Samsung laptop, which has the same glacial behaviour on resume as eucla does: something like 10 to 15 minutes of extreme disk activity, during which time the machine is almost unusable. But when it came up today, it produced a message which blew my mind:

One week has passed after the system boot. A reboot is needed as it helps to normalize the system. Would you liked to reboot the system now?

It was all I could do not to scream.


Sunday, 28 September 2014 Dereel Images for 28 September 2014
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More Microsoft updates
Topic: technology, photography, opinion Link here

Part of the problem chasing the DxO Optics “Pro” bug is that I have to use Chris Bahlo's laptop to process photos taken with Four Thirds lenses. And for some reason after boot or resume from hibernation, it takes 15 minutes or so of heavy disk activity before it's usable. Why?

Clearly the things to do are defragmentation and software update. Defragging takes forever! And softwareWindows” update had even more surprises for me. It established that 57 important updates were needed, of which it installed none:

 
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And another unknown 32 bit hex code! Despite all expectations, followed the “get help” link, and to my immense surprise... got help:

 
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The icon has disappeared! And that stops the update? I have to admit that Microsoft software update seems more reliable than FreeBSD software update, but this kind of dependency blows my mind.

Replaced the icon and started again. After 6 updates it hung, so I did the typical Microsoft thing and rebooted. During reboot it told me that the installation had hung because some important file was over—probably it had produced a popunder “dialog” to that effect. After that things went normally. I never cease to be amazed by Microsoft.


Menu photos
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Yesterday's diary article about the secret pages of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 cries out for screen shots. But I didn't put any in. Not for want of trying, but for want of quality. I did them with Yvonne's Olympus E-PM2, in principle a more than adequate system. In practice, I made a real mess of it. One thing's clear: autofocus isn't much help with this sort of thing, and even manual focus requires magnification. And then there's the issue of exposure. At first something like this looks out of focus:

 
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But in fact, as the enlargements show, it's completely in focus, only burnt out. The pixels of the display are clearly visible, as is dust on the display:


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Then there's reflections on the display. I'll have to try again with complete darkness.


Filet de bœuf sous vide
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Beef filet for dinner today. How should I cook it? Sous vide? Not all the meat we have done that way has lived up to the sometimes excessively positive claims, and filet is not cheap. In the end I tried it anyway, about 80 minutes at 53°. Then I dried it and let it cool for about 15 minutes, after which I pan-seared it. And how about that, the tenderest filet I've ever eaten.

Was that the sous vide, or the meat itself? We bought it in Melbourne on Tuesday mainly because it looked so good. But my guess is that the sous-vide cooking helped too. We should try it with rump or similar.

Chris and I ate the steaks with pepper sauce, which wasn't so successful this time. I think in the past I had accidentally reduced the sauce, and today I didn't, with the result that it was far too thin. Time to revise the recipe.


Monday, 29 September 2014 Dereel Images for 29 September 2014
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DxO problem: “solved”?
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

My ongoing problem with DxO Optics “Pro” seems to be looping. On 5 September 2014 Marion asked me to replace a file:

Could you please delete the file caflist90.db in the following folder:
C:\Users\ user_name \AppData\Local\DxO_Labs\DxO Optics Pro 9

The file was in fact called CAFList90.db, but who cares? At the time I removed it, and it was immediately replaced by an identical copy. I reported this, and they looked elsewhere. Then I got another message a couple of days ago:

    Could you please go to the following page:
    https://www.dxo.com/intl/manual-download

    Once you have entered your equipment details, you'll be given the option to download the CAFList90.db file.
    Please download and copy this file to:
    C:\Users\ user_name \AppData\Local\DxO_Labs\DxO Optics Pro 9

sigh. I held off trying it out, but I had to go through the motions. The page first wanted me to enter the details of my camera (in the singular), and then included the text:

    Step 1: Download the CAFList90.db file

    You must download the file that will allow DxO Optics Pro to
    associate your image files with the corresponding DxO Optics
    Modules. The correct file to download depends on the version of DxO
    Optics Pro that you use.

    For DxO Optics Pro v9:

    Step 2: Download the DxO Optics Modules.
    ...

Presumably there should have been a link there, but I couldn't find one, and the page was only clever JavaScript, so I couldn't guess what the link was. Finally tabbed through all the links, found it and downloaded it. At the very least it's different:

-rw-r--r--  1 grog  wheel  4,501,504 29 Sep 12:05 CAFList90.db
-rwxr--r--  1 grog  lemis  4,120,576  1 Aug 16:35 CAFList90.db-old

Tried it out, and how about that, it worked! And not just for the camera I selected, but for both of the Micro Four Thirds cameras.

So what was the problem? On checking, yes, Chris Bahlo's computer had the new version. Marion answered and said that they suspect my firewall. It seems that the package includes a default file that gets installed if they can't get an upgrade from the net, and that's what I had But that explanation is unlikely, since Chris' machine is behind the same firewall. And somehow the problem's not solved. If there's a firewall problem, how do I get the next version. How do I find out about the next version?


Olympus Capture
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Olympus has introduced a new feature for the OM-D E-M1: “Tethered shooting”, implemented with OLYMPUS Capture. Tried it out today. Finding the instructions is difficult, and so far I can only get them through the application itself, conveniently set up so that you need several mouse clicks to move from one page to the next. But by comparison it looks a lot better than other Olympus documentation.

When I connected my camera, “Capture” didn't detect it. Olympus Viewer did, and wanted to download images. It seems that Olympus has introduced a new USB access mode. It doesn't have a name, only an image, which I call “hookah”: hookah , and that's the one that you need to select.

I just played around with it for a little while, but it seems to be a great improvement on OI.Share. The display is better, things run faster, and I have control both from the computer and the camera. Quite an indictment of the OI.Share application.

But why? Now we have two different programs that purport to do the same thing. One runs only on computers (Microsoft or Apple), and the other only runs on tablets and smart phones. Theoretically one application should support both hardware platforms.

The difference confirms my aversion to Android and—by association—iOS. And Microsoft has a tablet platform that is essentially “Windows” 8. I had always thought of it as a non-starter, but it has the great advantage that it's a real operating system. I never thought that I would find something worse than Microsoft, but maybe I have.


Laying the power cable
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Warrick Pitcher had told me that he and Jim Lannen would be on site this morning at 9:30 to lay the power cable. Went over to take a look. Nobody there.

An hour later, called both on the phone. Jim was only voice mail, but Warrick was on site, so over again to find him moving soil to be able to dig the trench. Still no sign of Jim. While there, reconsidered where the power should go. Somehow Stewart Summersby's idea of an internal board with the power cable on the other side of the house makes less and less sense, and in the end we decided on a standard external box at the east end of the north side of the house. Back home and got on to Jim, who had forgotten to write the appointment in his diary. He was clearly upset, and he dropped everything to go over and do it. Also spoke to Duncan Jackson to ensure that he didn't have any problems.

Back over to talk to Warrick—the phone connection was so bad that I couldn't understand him—and noted that the soil is still pretty wet in the north-east corner of the property:

 
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Back a couple of hours later to find Jim having been and gone, and Warrick filling in the last of the trench:

 
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Microsoft resource hog caught
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

After all my updates on Chris' Microsoft laptop, it still spends between 10 and 15 minutes of saturated disk activity after each boot or resume. Spent some more time looking at (and learning) the task manager, and found the problem: a process called SanService.exe was performing up to 10 MB/s of consistent disk access during the whole time. And how about that, Google found it for me: it's part of Sophos Anti-Virus. That's something I know nothing about. Is it necessary to scan at startup time? I'll have to do some more learning.


Piccola the undercat
Topic: animals Link here

It's not clear why Chris' cat Crystal hates Piccola so, but she's certainly knocking her around:

 
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How did that happen? That's not the way cats hurt each other. But since Crystal has been here, she has come up with a number of patches of missing fur. Our best bet is that she has scraped through some narrow gap to escape a much fatter Crystal.


Tuesday, 30 September 2014 Dereel Images for 30 September 2014
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Site progress
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Nine months ago we were expecting to move in to our new house by the end of this month. It didn't quite happen that way. Our building site was gradually drying out until we got more bad weather. Today it looks like we're back to square one:

 
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How long will it take?


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