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September 2015
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Tuesday, 1 September 2015 Dereel
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Spring?
Topic: general, opinion Link here

The first day of spring! But you wouldn't have known it. The temperatures overnight dropped to -1.1°. By comparison:

mysql> SELECT min(outside_temp) FROM observations WHERE month(date) = 9;
+-------------------+
| min(outside_temp) |
+-------------------+
|               0.5 |
+-------------------+

How much of that is attributable to a particularly cold winter (which is beyond doubt), or to the more open location here? I wandered around the garden at about 7:30 and found ground temperatures as low as -3.2°. Hopefully that'll be the last of it, though I note from the Ballarat Climate Statistics that the monthly record minimum temperatures are below 0 for every month except January (where the record is still +0.7°). But it seems it's a new record low of -4.6° for September in Ballarat, though the statistics page hasn't been updated yet (the previous record was -4.5° on 7 September 1994).


Diary: 15 years and counting
Topic: history, opinion Link here

It's been 15 years since I got this online diary up and running. Time flies when you're having fun, but I wish I hadn't stopped between 1970 and 2000.


Nikolai: jealous or sick?
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

Sasha continues to assimilate, and he's no longer as timid. That's normal enough for dogs, and we're exepecting worse. But what we didn't expect is that Nikolai is behaving aggressively towards him. Why? Is he jealous? Is Sasha just getting on his nerves? He hasn't done him any harm, just snapped at him, but somehow it's out of keeping.

On the other hand, he seems to be in some pain. When he's lying down and wants to turn around or get up, he frequently squeals a little. We've tried feeling his entire body, but we can't find any obvious injury. Has he pulled a muscle, maybe, and is thus a little grumpy?


RSS reader problems
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Mail from Rodolfo Gouveia today. He's been reading this diary—for 10 years!—via the RSS feed, and his RSS app (apparently on iOS) displays my feed (and apparently only my feed) in chronological order. That's particularly bad for him, because the feed has dozens of items, and the app only displays the first 30.

I write the diary in chronological order, of course: it's a chronology, and I have a horror of reverse chronological documents. But RSS should go by publication date. I tried it with NewsFox, and it worked as expected. Bad app? Maybe. The developer of the app suggested using Feedly, which at least suggests that it's not a configuration issue.

Confirmed on IRC that those few who use RSS have no difficulty with the sequence. What do other readers do? Found this page describing a personal top ten list of free readers. Try them out:

  1. Digg Reader wanted me to login via Facebook, Twitter or friends. For security reasons, I don't share these details with other sites. So I can't use it.

  2. Feedreader allowed me to use my own email address (one I made specially for it). It first claimed that it couldn't find the feed, but later added it anyway. It seems to work, and it sorts things in reverse chronological order by default. I didn't try to configure it. Interestingly, it displays images as well. And when I select “Show unread”, it removed nearly all of the items; maybe it assumes that anything more than a couple of days old has been read.

  3. Commafeed allowed my own email address. It found my feed and added it, but claimed that there were no unread items. Refreshing didn't help. It also annoyed me by not allowing me to save my password.

    But when I tried again later, it found the feed. It sorted in chronological order, but allowed it to be reversed. And then I discovered that it didn't find all the items in the diary: at least the last 3 were missing, and it showed only 80 entries. Feedreader is too polite to mention the number of items, but Newsfox tells me that there are 91. My best bet is that Commafeed has serious refresh issues.

  4. Flowreader also wanted a social network login.

  5. Feedly also wanted a social media login. It offered “Enterprise Login”, whatever that means, but it didn't allow me to specify an email address. So no go.

So: of the five services I tried, I could only use two. Both had their strangenesses, but they allow sorting in reverse chronological order. Maybe Feedreader is useful.


Wednesday, 2 September 2015 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 2 September 2015
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Chasing finances
Topic: general Link here

The inability to sell the Kleins Road property is becoming a serious problem. In to Ballarat today to talk to Peter O'Connell about investments, which have taken a hit due to the recent stock market instability. We're far from going broke, but it looks like we'll have to do some serious thinking about how to improve the returns.


Dogs misbehaving
Topic: animals Link here

Sasha is gradually becoming more self-confident, and it shows:


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That's paper out of the flower pots, put in there to stop weeds growing. We told him several times not to do it, but he kept going back. The last time round, I chased him into the lounge room and growled at him. Then Nikolai snapped at him. Shake and growl at Niko.

Later they both came in, Sasha showing signs of having been licked on the head. Niko hasn't snapped at him again since. Was he maybe just taking it on himself to teach Sasha, the way we do? In any case, things seem to be improving.


Vomit!
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

In the evening, Piccola was sitting on my lap. She got off my lap and went onto the floor, where with a single heave she emptied her stomach onto the carpet.

OK, it was amazing how quickly she did it, but animals vomit. And other animals eat vomit, so I called a dog or two to dispose of the mess. But I wasn't prepared for what I saw when I came back a couple of minutes later:


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That's very unusual. Did Piccola eat something poisonous?


Thursday, 3 September 2015 Dereel
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A new lens?
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

There have been a number of Zuiko Digital ED 14-35mm f/2.0 SWD lenses on eBay recently. Do I need one? I don't know. Do I want one? Yes. Spent some time reading about the lens today. The lens is clearly very fast, the fastest normal range zoom, I believe. Sigma make a 24-35 mm f/2.0 lens, but apart from the extremely small zoom range, it's very much skewed towards the wide-angle range, since it's designed for full frame and APS-C sensors. A comparable lens for Four Thirds would have a zoom range of 12-17.5 mm.

It seems that even wide open, the Zuiko is very sharp, a big difference from the f/1.4 lenses of 50 years ago. Here a couple of sample photos, courtesy of Ian Burley, first at 14 mm f/2.0, then 35 mm f/2.0. The details are full resolution, taken with an E-3 from the extreme edges (bottom right in the first example, bottom left in the second):


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By all accounts the results on the Olympus OM-D E-M1 would be even better. Now I just need to find one that's affordable. The new price is in the order of USD 1,900, which currently corresponds to AUD 2,700—far more than I am prepared or able to pay.


Marriotts on the way again
Topic: general Link here

I saw Garry Marriott a couple of weeks ago, home alone: Diane had headed off to a wedding in Sweden, so I planned to invite him to dinner. But it took so long that Diane is now back. They came over this afternoon with a gift of an Anigozanthos rufus—coincidentally something that I had been planning to buy. They're off on their 18 month tour round Australia on Saturday. They started it 18 months ago, but somehow there were always interruptions. I'm half expecting to see them back in a month or two.


Friday, 4 September 2015 Dereel Images for 4 September 2015
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Power fail!
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Since moving into Stones Road, our power supply has been much more reliable than previously. Apart from a planned outage, we have only had one short failure in 4 months.. But all that changed today. I woke up at 1:57 to discover no power, which meant that the UPS had also given out.

And the power didn't come back. Round 7:30 I got up, fired up the emergency generator, and waited for fsck to do its thing so that I could find out what was going on. Yes, the network gave out at 0:1, and the UPS for eureka gave out at 0:28. When did the outage start? That depends on how long the main UPS managed to keep things going. 20 minutes seems a reasonable guess, so it would have started round 23:40. And in the morning the power was still out!

On Facebook somebody had shown a Powercor outage page, showing that the fault was in the Dereel-Mount Mercer road, the cause was under investigation, and that the estimated restoration was at 14:00!

How accurate is that? If they hadn't found the cause after 9 hours, how likely was it that they would be able to keep to their estimated restoration time? The page has changed, of course, but this excerpt indicates its trustworthiness:

 
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That's clearly the same outage reported twice, with different address, different cause, and a different number of affected customers. In our case, they had one person in Enfield, Victoria, four in Mount Mercer and 186 in Dereel. And the rest? Probably they didn't register the people who, like me, hadn't reported the problem.

After breakfast, went down Dereel-Mount Mercer road looking for Powercor crews. Nothing. And then I saw this post:


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What on earth is that? It seems that this particular post is some kind of switch point.


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The vertical devices in the middle are the switches, and they're clearly disconnected. We're looking west here, from the supply side, so there's no longer anything connected to the supply side. The wires hanging down from the other side make no sense to me. But why wasn't anybody there?

Drove on via Buninyong to Napoleons, where I refilled the reserve petrol canister (just in front of somebody else from Dereel doing the same thing). And they knew all about it in the General Store, and were full of sympathy. Got back home and discovered that power had come back at 10:57—our second longest outage yet. And what was the cause?


Saturday, 5 September 2015 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 5 September 2015
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Fake tagine again
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Chris Bahlo been given some Ras el hanout, so we planned a Tagine, me cooking. Somewhat late I dragged out my standard recipe and and discovered I needed 300 g chick peas. Where are they? At first it looked as if I had none at all, but finally I found 126 g of indeterminate age: nothing written on the label (which suggests that they were there before I started dating my labels, about 15 years ago). Soaked them, but then decided that it was probably a good idea to go into town and buy some more.

Even that wasn't easy. At Woolworths I had to ask two assistants, and one brought me in the general direction, but in the end I had to find it myself on the other side of the aisle, in the area marked “soups”. They were reduced, presumably because nobody bought them, because they couldn't find them.

Back home, while the peas were soaking, had time to do some more research. Gradually more plausibly authentic recipes are showing up on the web. This page goes into a lot of detail about the techniques and the background, including the word Tattagint, which might be the original word that has become “tagine”, but I couldn't find a useful recipe, maybe because he has written an eBook with recipes. Unfortunately, he doesn't say how you can get hold of it. But the site is interesting, and I'll have to read through it more carefully.

This site has more practical information, including this recipe, which doesn't look very different from my own “fake” recipe. In the end I made my recipe with a couple of ideas suggested by this recipe, and it tasted good.

Cooking the tagine wasn't easy, though. There is no flame on the stove which fits the tagine. The “wok burner” is too wide, and the “hot burner” is squeezed into a corner, where you can't fit the tagine:


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So I has to use the wok burner anyway for the start. And the minimum flame on all except the smallest burner is too hot, so I had to do most of the cooking on the smallest burner. Four different burners for a single dish! What a load of junk.


Tony Abbott meets his match
Topic: history, opinion Link here

Turn back the boats! Who cares about the refugees? They're all Muslims anyway!

I've ranted about the inhumane actions of the Australian government often enough, most recently last week. It's nice to see that Al Jazeera are now referring to the “detention centre” on Nauru as a prison. Good for them.

But much as Tony Abbott and his band of inhumane idiots disgust me, there's worse. The unfolding crisis in Europe has been made worse by Orbán Viktor, the Prime Minister of Hungary, who has stated that he does not want to have that many Muslims in Hungary. So what does he do? They don't want to stay, Orbán doesn't want them there, so he refuses to let them leave (at least on even-numbered days). Beat that, Tony Abbott.


Fixing the RSS feed
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

More information from Rodolfo Gouveia today, mail forwarded from the developer of his RSS reading app. When reading an RSS feed with a smart phone, there's a question of storage usage, which is why his app stops after 30 items. That got me thinking: my strategy is to assume that some people will only read my diary infrequently, so just feeding the last two days could result in items getting lost. Instead, my feed comes from the monthly diary, and for good measure it includes the last week of the previous month. That can result in files of over 100 kB in size.

But there's a simpler way: give people the choice. So I spent some time today hacking some remarkably bad PHP code (my own) to make that work. That code is really a mess, but I think things are OK now. The new feed is here, and it usually contains only a few items. Now to wait and see what I have broken doing it.


Wildflowers?
Topic: gardening Link here

Coming back from Ballarat this afternoon, I saw a surprising plant in Enfield State Forest:


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That's a Hardenbergia violacea. How did that get there? I can't imagine it's native.

It seems that it is, however. They're everywhere in the forest.

Ducks in the garden
Topic: animals Link here

Looking out the lounge room window this afternoon, I saw:


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They're Australian wood ducks. What are they doing there? Looking for the pond we filled in, maybe. They left the garden area not by flying over the fence, but by crawling under it:


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It's been a little under 11 months since we saw a duck with ducklings on the pond, so presumably they're back for this year's brood. Sorry, ducks, you'll have to go elsewhere.


Sunday, 6 September 2015 Dereel
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Ripping CDs, revisited
Topic: multimedia, technology, opinion Link here

Some years ago I played with copying my CDs to disk for easier access. The results were not encouraging. My first attempts were with iTunes, and they drove me to distraction. It wasn't all iTunes' fault: the CD database (in this case Gracenote) made it almost impossible to understand the output. Later I tried grip, though the only mention of it in my diary was of failure.

Tried it again today. It couldn't find the CD device, because my config file contained /dev/acd0 instead of /dev/cd0. OK, fix that. But it didn't seem to care. On the other hand, it offers a whole lot of configuration tabs in its interface—but not a way to save the configuration!

OK, RTFM time. According to Sourceforge, that's at http://nostatic.org/grip. But no, that's 404. Any local documentation? No, there's a directory doc/ in the source tree, but apart from a Makefile it just contains images. Run without saving? OK, it seemed to work, and the status page showed that it thought it had ripped the CD—but it hadn't. I ended up with a number of “tracks” (or is that songs?) with just a header in them.

More investigation showed that the last version of grip was over 10 years old. The tarball is dated 26 June 2005. It looks like it has succumbed to software rot. OK, what else is there? Looked through /usr/ports/audio/*rip* and came up with ripperX, which seemed similar, though it didn't have as many knobs. Still, it did the job, and I ripped a number of CDs.

But the names! Here's a rip of a 2 CD set of Gaetano Donizetti's La Figlia del Reggimento:

=== grog@stable (/dev/pts/1) ~ 21 -> l -rt /Music/rawmp3/*Figl*
/Music/rawmp3/Bruno_Campanella-Le_Figlia_del_Reggimento:
-rw-r--r--  1 grog  wheel  12,120,064  6 Sep 17:39 Bruno_Campanella-Sinfonia.mp3
-rw-r--r--  1 grog  wheel  13,701,120  6 Sep 17:39 Bruno_Campanella-Silenzio!_Silenzio!.mp3
...
-rw-r--r--  1 grog  wheel   6,514,688  6 Sep 17:39 Bruno_Campanella-Se_andate_io_qui_non_resto.mp3

/Music/rawmp3/Gaetano_Donizetti-Le_Figlia_del_Reggimento_-_Bruno_Campanella:
-rw-r--r--  1 grog  wheel   4,952,064  6 Sep 18:34 Gaetano_Donizetti-Introduzione.mp3
...
-rw-r--r--  1 grog  wheel  11,827,200  6 Sep 18:34 Gaetano_Donizetti-Maria!_...Cara_madre...

It's in two directories with only vaguely related names, and yes, they've made the daughter masculine. I could only guess which of these is CD 1 and which is CD 2—and I was wrong. This wasn't the only such case. I also have:

Gaetano_Donizetti-LElisir_dAmore_(Hubert_Soudant,_Orchestra
LElisir_dAmore_-_Merritt_CD1_of_2-Donizetti_LElisir_dAmore

And then there's:

Kammerorch._CPE_Bach_-_Hartmut_Haenchen-Orchesterwerke_-_Bach

Which Bach? Johann Sebastian Bach? Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach? There's no other name in there, including the track names, but in fact the music is all by Wilhelm Friedemann Bach. How do I get order in this chaos? I think I'm going to have to scan the CD covers and put them in the directory.


Tony Abbott meets his match, take 2
Topic: history, opinion Link here

What's worse than a Tony Abbott? Two Tony Abbotts.


Monday, 7 September 2015 Dereel
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More ripping fun
Topic: multimedia, technology, opinion Link here

Ripping CDs with ripperX is relatively straightforward. There are two main issues, one serious, the other less so. The less serious one is that handling is less than completely smooth: CDs aren't recognized immediately, and I still need to tell it to look up the tracks (two mouse clicks). And when the CD is finished, it doesn't eject automatically. grip can do all that—if it works at all. Tried building it from the ports collection. Bingo! It worked—sort of. For some reason, after recognizing a CD, the display cycled continuously through all tracks. It didn't stop it working, but it was irritating. But with grip it's not immediately obvious how to get better quality output (I was aiming for 256 kb/s MP3s), and it creates file names with spaces in them; ripperX thoughtfully offers the option of replacing them with underscores. In addition it doesn't seem to recognize when a new disk is inserted; I've had to restart it after every CD. Possibly I can configure around this, but then, there's no documentation and no way to save the configuration, so it's back to ripperX.

The more serious issue is the appalling lack of consistency and accuracy in the online data base. I've been using http://freedb.freedb.org/~cddb/cddb.cgi. What about Gracenote? Went to the web site and spent some time looking for how to access the feed, in vain. Then went googling. In this FAQ I read:

Sometimes I get "Error Code 22: CD not in database"

This is because ripperX uses freedb.org, which sometimes is not as up to date as cddb.com, especially for new titles. (And vice versa can be true!) I believe freedb.org is the "Right Thing To Do", and that is why freedb is the default CDDB server. If you keep getting Error 22, there are 2 things you can do: 1) open gtcd or similar program and with the CDDB server set to freedb.org, fill in the information and submit it. 2) Change the CDDB server in ripperX to us.cddb.com (port 888) or us.cddb.com/~cddb/cddb.cgi (port 80 for HTTP).

So I tried those server URLs. The first URL caused a timeout (one minute? Very long, anyway). The second gave me the error code 22, without the helpful information that it meant “CD not in database”, and not the EINVAL we all know and love.

Much more searching, in the course of which it eventuated that cddb.com is (or maybe was) the intuitive name of the Gracenote database server, and well hidden in the Wikipedia entry for Freedb I found:

In March 2001, CDDB, now owned by Gracenote, banned all unlicensed applications from accessing their database.

That was well hidden! No mention (yet) on the page for Gracenote.

Gregory Orange suggested MusicBrainz, but once again I wasn't able to find a gateway. But the real issue, which Gracenote seems to have addressed, is that the old database format is not suited to classical music, as I ranted years ago. And the only database that addresses the issue is Gracenote. So for the moment I'm back at the beginning.

Callum Gibson came up with an alternative ripper, ripit, which he described as a command-line ripper. It's more an interactive program, and it's remarkably verbose, prompting for a replacement for every track, and asking other questions that should (and maybe can) be specified on the command line. It works, but it suffers from the same database issues as the other ones, and it requires much more interaction, so I'll leave it be.


Updating ports, a year later
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

FreeBSD's new pkg facility has gradually settled down, and I can keep my ports up to date with minimum impact. But today we had a different issue: Chris Bahlo wanted to install sudo on www.lemis.com. Why? Real BSD users don't use sudo. But it's trivial to install: pkg install sudo.

Well, that's what I thought. The ports on www date back to January 2014. It first wanted to modify 116 packages, including removing Emacs and Apache—and not reinstalling them! Exactly what you want for a web server machine.

OK, let's upgrade the Ports Tree. How do you do that? With subversion, of course. Not installed. How do you install it? pkg went through a smaller list of ports to remove, still including Emacs and Apache. But then there's portsnap, which I have never used before. Surprise, surprise! It fetched the tree in a matter of seconds, and expanded it in a matter of minutes.

But why did Chris need sudo? To install rvm. Why didn't she log in as root? No idea. For me, pkg installrvm worked just fine. And so did installing sudo from the Ports Collection.

Clearly there's a lot of tidying up to be done here.


Planting cuttings
Topic: gardening Link here

I've collected a number of cuttings over the last few days, mainly from the Mariotts: two different species of Buddleja, some Hardenbergia violacea and some Carpobrotus. I'm not sure how to handle the Carpobrotus, but I've put the other ones in rectangular tubes. What colour are the Buddlejas? No idea; I've marked them “left” and “right” to indicate their relative position seen from our house. When the parent trees flower, I'll know.


Tuesday, 8 September 2015 Dereel Images for 8 September 2015
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Where's my solar panel?
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

It's been another week since my last communication with Chromagen about the solar panels. No reaction. Called them again today (their undocumented landline number is 9999 2147), spoke to Christina, who had great difficulty finding my email, though I gave her exact details. Finally she found it and couldn't do anything about it: her manager, out to lunch, had to decide. She told me that he would call back.

Nothing happened, so at 15:20 I called again and spoke to Colleen, who managed to get my address as “Spones Road”. OK, my accent is a little strange, but normal error correction is oriented towards well-known words. Manager had gone home. But they had sent an email to “GJ King” asking for a purchase order. Why do you have to chase up all these things to get anything done?


Section 32 for Kleins Road
Topic: general Link here

Spent some time looking for the Section 32 for Kleins Road. Where did I put it? It has nothing to do with the new house, for which I have a separate directory hierarchy. Finally found it in ~/household/Section-32.pdf. Reading it is interesting. The first page has:

This statement must be signed by the vendor and given to the purchaser before the purchser signs the contract. The vendor may sign by electronic signature.

I wonder what that means.


iTunes again?
Topic: multimedia, technology, opinion Link here

My investigations of CD databases established what I knew years ago: the CDDB database format is poorly adapted to classical music. But I can't access Gracenote because it's commercial. On the other hand, programs like iTunes do have access, and I have an old, mouldy Apple PowerMac G4 lying around, and it has iTunes, of course.

Spent some time connecting it up—it seems it's been about 9 months since it was last powered on—and rediscovered some of the nice, intuitive Apple features that I had happily forgotten. The display driver seems to ignore EDID, and the highest resolution I could get out of it was 1280×1024—this on a 1920×1080 display, so the aspect ratio was terrible. But yes, it sort of worked. La Figlia del Reggimento is now female again, but Gracenote found two options for the recording, which it presented tastefully truncated in a non-resizeable window:

 
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Which is correct? Neither! The first one seems more likely: it's the correct orchestra, but the conductor was Bruno Campanella, not Ricardo Chailly. After that, it presented saner titles, with the ever-popular truncation:


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To be fair, this time it's because of the screen width, but it's also clear that iTunes doesn't like to be expanded this much: the green button doesn't go full screen, it goes to the minuscule display of the kind that Apple so loves. I had to stretch it manually to get it even this big. Still, it's arguable better than this, which completely omits the name of the composer, though it does get the conductor right:


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But where are the files? Ah, a bit of right clicking helps. They're here, once again tastefully truncated. To get this much of the track name, you first need to manually close the column to the right:


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To be fair, this is an ancient version of MacOS (10.3). Are recent versions better?


Wednesday, 9 September 2015 Dereel Images for 9 September 2015
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Solar panels: finally?
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Sent off a mail message to Duncan and Wayne at JG King this morning, and got a relatively fast response. Yes, they've sent off the purchase order, and Wayne copied me on an email to Steve Norris of Chromagen asking for speedy resolution. And in the late afternoon I got a phone call from Michelle, also of Chromagen, telling me that they would be installed late this week or early next week. That's a whole lot faster than things have been so far.


Jawbone
Topic: animals Link here

While walking the dogs this afternoon, Nikolai found a bone on the side of the road:


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What is it? A sheep?


More dog problems
Topic: animals Link here

Somehow Nikolai is still not happy with the current two-dogs-and-a-puppy situation. He hasn't snapped at Sasha again, but today he growled and snapped at Leonid when he came too close to his food. Hopefully this will pass; it's not at all in their nature.


Rognons d'agneau en brochette
Topic: food and drink Link here

Yvonne came back with some lamb kidneys today. We have a couple of ways of preparing them, but not grilled. On the other hand, it seems that grilling is a good way to prepare them, so off to look for some recipes. Finally came up with this recipe, as modified by Yvonne.

Was it worth it? I'm not sure. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't spectacular either. The original recipe called for grilling for 4 minutes each on two sides, but it wasn't enough.


Thursday, 10 September 2015 Dereel Images for 10 September 2015
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Kangaroo jaw
Topic: animals Link here

Message from Michael Hughes today regarding yesterday's jawbone. He tells me it's a kangaroo jaw, and modulo species, this page confirms it. I need to find it again and take photos from in front. Presumably it has two closely spaced teeth at the front, while sheep have several.


Another grevillea?
Topic: gardening, photography Link here

Stones Road north of our house has a number of Grevillea bushes that I had considered to be Grevillea rosmarinifolia, possibly introduced. But as spring comes on, other bushes start flowering, and the flowers are subtly different, like this one, about 50 m from the one I commented on last month:


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By comparison, the other ones seem darker in colour, though the flower shape is the same.


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While I was at it, tried out my new extension tubes, getting some very detailed photos:


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There's probably space for more experimentation there.


Friday, 11 September 2015 Dereel Images for 11 September 2015
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Hugin or ICE?
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

B&H Photo Video have published an article on panoramic photography, something that I've been doing for some time now. It's interesting reading, though I don't think I learnt too much that's new. But there was the option for comments, and one of them suggested using Microsoft ICE, which proves to stand for “Image Composite Editor”. How does that compare to Hugin?

It can take advantage of 64 bit processors to stitch a lot of photos together automatically while still allowing you to adjust a variety of parameters.

Well, Hugin does that too. But exceptionally, ICE is free, so I could try it out. Either I'm missing something, or it's very bare-bones. Given that the package is on 7 MB in size, it looks like the latter.

Where's the documentation? The ? symbol links you back to the home page, which doesn't really document it. OK, the interface is so small that there's not much you can do wrong. Select images, create control points (which they call “stitch”), crop, stitch (which they call “Export”). About the only thing that can be changed is the projection, and even then the results are different from Hugin. It's certainly quick, much faster than Hugin, but the results are less than convincing. Here was one of the panoramas I did last week:


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ICE made it unlevel, for some reason. I was able to straighten it a little—something that Hugin does much better where necessary—but not enough. And it didn't know where to stop, repeating part of the house with a different perspective:


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Both representations of the house have a strange perspective. These are cylindrical projections, so the edges of the house are a little further away and thus smaller, but the verticals should remain straight, and the horizontals should be relatively straight. That's what happens with with Hugin; it doesn't with ICE:


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In addition, the proportions of garage door and house door are wrong, at least in this version of the house; the proportions of the garage door are better (but still not good) on the other one, but the verticals are not

 
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The display on the “stitch” preview is strange. It projects the image onto a grid, and presumably the middle is the horizon, but what I got was hanging out of the bottom of the grid, and the calculation of the angles was all wrong. As displayed, this image spans about 400°:


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And what about centering the panorama? It's 360°, so it should be possible to put the centre anywhere. But I haven't found a tool to do that with ICE.


Saturday, 12 September 2015 Dereel Images for 12 September 2015
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What's going on in Europe?
Topic: history, opinion Link here

The refugee crisis in Europe is puzzling for a number of reasons. The most positive surprise for me is that the Germans, not normally known for friendliness towards strangers, have welcomed the refugees with open arms. But what about the rest?

The current Hungarian government has expressed strong xenophobic views, and doesn't want refugees in Hungary. So when they arrive on their way through, they won't let them out again. Why? That defies all logic. They claim that they are obliged to protect Europe against illegal immigrants at the first point of entry to Europe (more exactly, the Schengen Area). But most of the refugees entered Europe in Greece, also part of the Schengen area. And since both Hungary and Macedonia are so hard on the refugees, why don't they go via Italy? It seems that they do have money, and the Greeks are shipping them from Lesbos and Kos to the Greek mainland; why not on to Bari? Going via Slovenia is not really an option due to the mountains, and via Bulgaria and Romania still just gets you to Hungary. About the only thing I can understand is that the press doesn't seem to understand the real issues.

In passing, kudos to Werner Faymann, who compared the treatment of refugees to the Nazi persecution of the Jews:

“Flüchtlinge in Züge zu stecken in dem Glauben, sie würden ganz woandershin fahren, weckt Erinnerungen an die dunkelste Zeit unseres Kontinents”.

“Refugees put on trains in the belief they are going somewhere else entirely brings back memories of the darkest period of our continent” (translation by the Daily Telegraph).

„Der Spiegel“ (which recently seems to have become “Der Spiegel”) also managed to drag out photos of other people being transported out of Budapest:

Image

At least the current refugee “camps” are so primitive that they don't have showers.

In passing, why are the Russians supporting Syria? Clearly Bashar al-Assad has to go, and Syria could join other success stories of a US-led change of power, like Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. Why are they trying to prevent that?


Anatomy of a snipe
Topic: photography, technology Link here

I'm looking for a new lens for Yvonne again. The standard 14-42 mm lens on her Olympus E-PM2 makes the camera too big to fit into a jacket pocket. I had previously rejected the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 EZ because it had electric zoom. Instead, in succession I bought a 15 mm body cap lens with particularly bad optical properties, and later a M.Zuiko Digital 17mm F2.8 Pancake lens. They're both much smaller, but the 17 mm is of course not a zoom, and it still has the issue of the particularly fiddly lens cap. The 14-42 EZ comes with an optional automatic lens cap.

This week ALDI had a Sony Cyber-shot WX350 superzoom on offer, for the admittedly very good price of $199, $100 less than the lowest price I can find on eBay. But the reviews aren't spectacular, and it's not that much smaller. Yvonne took a look at one and decided against it too. But clearly I need to do something, particularly about the jacket pocket aspect. So when today I found a 14-42 EZ on eBay for $145, it sounded like it was worth bidding on it.

But when? Just before the end of the auction, of course, with a sniper. How much is it worth? It was used (“hardly”), and came with the automatic lens cap. After some deliberation I decided on a maximum bid of $235. A couple of minutes before the end of the auction I came in to watch the fun. I wasn't quite prepared for what happened. This is from the bid history, with the correct date specifications and in chronological order to make it more understandable:

Bidder       Bid Amount       Bid Time       Before end
Starting Price       AU $145.00       07 Sep 2015 17:00:30 AEST       1 week
j***r( 199)       AU $151.00       12 Sep 2015 17:00:12 AEST       18 seconds
l***a( 35)       AU $160.00       08 Sep 2015 14:37:23 AEST
l***a( 35)       AU $180.00       08 Sep 2015 14:37:37 AEST
g***i( 503 )       AU $162.50       12 Sep 2015 17:00:15 AEST       15 seconds
i***8( 328)       AU $197.00       12 Sep 2015 17:00:21 AEST       9 seconds
w***w( 210)       AU $220.00       12 Sep 2015 17:00:21 AEST       9 seconds
groggyhimself( 222)       AU $235.00       12 Sep 2015 17:00:21 AEST       9 seconds
groggyhimself( 222)       AU $235.00       12 Sep 2015 17:00:21 AEST       9 seconds
g***i( 502)       AU $237.50       12 Sep 2015 17:00:15 AEST
      Ended:       12 Sep, 2015 17:00:30 AEST

In other words, everything was normal until 18 seconds before the end. Then j***r offered a little more, the original bidder's automatic bid cut in and raised the price to (ultimately) $180. 15 seconds before the end g***i bid and raised the price to $162.50. Then, 9 seconds before the end, no fewer than 3 bidders bid, myself included. Ultimately it was between g***i and myself, and g***i won. That's OK: I had given my maximum price. But in such cases, without a sniper you're lost.


German food in exile
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

This evening we decided to eat a typical German dish, Kassler with dumplings and sauerkraut. Where do you get the ingredients? In Germany, in any supermarket. Here it's more complicated. Kassler is available from time to time in even the big supermarkets, but we haven't seen it lately. We can get sauerkraut and dumplings in packages from various small retailers, and when we do, we tend to stock up.

That is particularly evident with the dumplings. The German dialect word Knödel has been taken over both in mainstream German and in English, while the more correct work Kloß (that's a double s at the end) has not been used in English. There are various kinds: Semmelknödel, originally made with old bread rolls („Semmel“), Kartoffelknödel, made with potatoes, and „Kartoffel Knödel halb & halb“, as Pfanni chooses to misspell them. „Halb“ means “half”, so the name suggests that they are half something and half something else. What? Pfanni doesn't know either, though they make the things. Chefkoch has a large number of recipes, but no obvious answer to the question. The first three recipes I saw all used only potatoes, so it's not really clear what the term means at all. Wikipedia doesn't even mention them, not even in the German version.

Then there are dozens of other variants, but most seem to be potato based. Rohe Klöße are made with (some) raw potato to make them a bit crunchier. From our point of view, ease of preparation is important, which is why we buy things that we could make from scratch. A number of companies make dry mixes, either in a bag („Kochbeutel”)“ for convenience, or without for shape. We've bought a large number of Semmelknödel, Kartoffelknödel and Knödel halb und halb, to be sure we don't run out. But we're far from that danger. We eat dumplings maybe every other month, a total of maybe 18 a year. And here are our supplies:


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Each of those packets holds at least 3 dumplings. We have nearly 100 of them, some past their use-by date for over 10 years. Here's an attempt to reconstruct the situation before the meal:

Type       Quantity       Use-by date
Knödel bayrisch       12       27 May 2004
Knödel halb und halb       8       17 November 2007
Knödel halb und halb       12       6 February 2009
Knödel halb und halb       12       7 November 2010
Semmelknödel, Kochbeutel       20       7 August 2014
Rohe Klöße, thüringer Art       8       31 January 2015
Semmelknödel, Kochbeutel       6       19 March 2015
Knödel halb und halb, Kochbeutel       18       28 October 2015
Total       96
Total expired       78

Interestingly, the oldest ones were unopened “Knödel bayrisch”, “Dumplings Bavarian”, a word order as strange in German as it is in English. We weren't sure what they were, so we left them unopened for probably something like 12 years. We didn't eat them today, either: don't experiment when you have guests.


Sunday, 13 September 2015 Dereel
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Spring!
Topic: general Link here

The month didn't exactly start off warm—Ballarat had the coldest September day on record (-4.6°) on 1 September, though the climate statistics page hasn't found out yet. And since then it has been unseasonably cool. But today, finally, it warmed up, with temperatures up to 23°. What a relief!


Kangaroo jaw
Topic: animals Link here

Walking the dogs down Harrisons Road this afternoon, and found the kangaroo jawbone that I had seen on Wednesday:


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The point at the end is in fact a tooth. This is only half a lower jaw, and it ends in a single tooth:


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More German food stuff
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Saturday's meal wasn't just dumplings, of course. We also had Kassler and Sauerkraut. Or did we? What Yvonne found in the local Woolworths was called Kaiserfleisch, literally “Emperor Meat”. We had never heard of it before, but it proves to be an Austrian term of varying meaning. The meat she bought looked and tasted exactly like Kassler.

The Sauerkraut is also something that we know well, from Leuchtenberg in Neuss.


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But somehow it didn't taste the way we remember it. Could this be the problem?


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And all day long I had this raw taste in my mouth, something I've associated with overly cured meat. Is there something wrong with this „Kaiserfleisch“?


Use-by dates revisited
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

We ate the rest of yesterday's Kassler today. More dumplings, not something that's in short supply. We've decided to start with the oldest and use them up in chronological sequence—or I have, anyway. The oldest were the „Knödel bayrisch“, which expired on 27 May 2004. But as far as I can tell (I don't know exactly what they're supposed to be like), there was nothing wrong with them. How important are these use-by dates? How accurate? How do they determine what they should be? When I see salt with a 5 year use-by date, I really wonder. In Germany, at any rate, they dig it out of the ground, where it has been for millions of years.


Monday, 14 September 2015 Dereel Images for 14 September 2015
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Cicak!
Topic: animals Link here

Found an unexpected visitor in the kitchen this morning:


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It's some kind of gecko-like lizard, similar to the ones I remember from my childhood in Malaya, where we knew them under the name Cicak. They're considered bringers of good luck, but then anything that eats mosquitos should be considered lucky. In addition, to quote the Indonesian page,

According to the Balinese, a lizard is a manifestation of Goddess Saraswati, the goddess who protects speech and writing.


DxO memory leak?
Topic: technology, photography, opinion Link here

DxO Optics “Pro” seems to get slower the longer you use it. I don't really understand Microsoft, but at least the “Windows” Task Manager produces some useful output. Today I took a look at memory usage:


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This starts when DxO was running but idle, and system memory use was round 6 GB. I stopped it (big step downwards, to about 3 GB), and then restarted it and allowed it to become idle again (4.4 GB). So has it really leaked 1.6 GB of memory? Is this typical of Microsoft-space programs?


Sasha's teeth
Topic: animals Link here

We've had Sasha for 17 days now, and he's growing fast. I had meant to take photos of his teeth every week, but this is the first time I've done it, and they already look very different from when we got him:


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Tuesday, 15 September 2015 Dereel Images for 15 September 2015
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Goodbye Tony Abbott
Topic: history, opinion Link here

Image

The Liberal Party of Australia was particularly disparaging of the way the Australian Labor Party kept changing prime ministers in mid-session. But don't underestimate their ability to learn. Woke up this morning to discover that Tony Abbott has been replaced by Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister of Australia, something that even yesterday afternoon nobody expected. Turnbull looks as surprised as anybody:

It's no secret that I despise Tony Abbott. Arguably Turnbull is the best choice as replacement. It'll be interesting to see what changes he makes.


2 days of spring
Topic: Stones Road house, general, gardening Link here

The last two days were really warm, but overnight we had a cool change and 19 mm rain. The results are visible. For reasons they didn't explain, JG King excluded the sliding doors from their double glazing, and it shows:


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But yesterday the tulips (red) all decided it was warm enough to come out together. They're newly planted, but they're still earlier than usual:


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Tooth pain
Topic: health Link here

For the last week or so I've had a tooth sensitive to pressure. That has happened before, and it has gone away. Not this time. Time for an emergency dentist appointment, unfortunately not before tomorrow.


More destruction
Topic: animals Link here

For some reason Sasha has been particularly interested in the Anigozanthos that the Marriotts gave us last week. A few days ago he bit off a stem, but today he completed the work:


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That empty pot in the middle is where it used to be; the biggest piece was on the mat. There are still roots on it, so I replanted it, and maybe it will recover.


Dumplings half and half
Topic: food and drink Link here

Yvonne and I had tended towards the idea that „Knödel halb & halb“ were made with two different kinds of potato. Today I got a message from Bartosz Fabianowski, who confirmed that they're made from half raw and half cooked potato. Looking more carefully at the recipes, yes, indeed, that's what they say too.


Solar panels: the next delay
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Last week I had heard from Chromagen that the replacement solar panels would be installed at the end of last week or the beginning of this week. Nothing happened—I'm getting used to that. Another prod with Wayne Jones resulted in a call from Brett of Laser plumbing (phone 0439 630 773), telling me he had the panels, and they'd be installed next week! He came up with a halfway plausible reason that the weather this week would not be suitable. It's been nearly 2 months, dammit!


Mystery plant
Topic: gardening Link here

We've seen a few of these growing on the side of Bliss Road:


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What are they? I'm guessing some kind of weed.


Dead kangaroo
Topic: animals Link here

This kangaroo died some time ago about 100 m from our house. At the time somebody had sprayed some paint on it, and I was expecting it to be gone soon, but it just didn't happen:


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It's interesting that nothing seems to want to consume a kangaroo tail.


Wednesday, 16 September 2015 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel
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Tooth problems
Topic: health Link here

Into Ballarat this morning to see Mario Cordioli about my tooth pain. Superficially, it was much simpler than I expected: the tooth was too high, and he had to file it down.

But why? I've had that tooth for well over half a century. Why is it suddenly too long? In fact, this isn't the first time this has happened; 14 years ago I had the same thing, and unless I'm mistaken, it was directly opposite (lower jaw). But that wasn't the end of the story: six months later I had to have root canal work done on the tooth.

So what causes it? It seems there are a number of possibilities, and until things get worse there's no way of knowing. But yes, it could mean another root canal job.

Things were a lot better after having my tooth filed, but the pain didn't go away immediately; in fact, it seemed to get worse. Hopefully that doesn't mean another visit to the dentist.


Measuring air speeds
Topic: Stones Road house, technology, opinion Link here

I still have a number of issues with JG King, including the extremely poor throughput of the range hood. The service people didn't even try to measure the throughput: they only checked whether it could hold A4 paper against the filter (result: 1 out of 3 filters managed it, and that was good enough for them). At the beginning of last month I ordered an anemometer on eBay, and it didn't arrive until yesterday evening. OK, let's measure the throughput. As discussed last month, the air flow through the air conditioner filter should be 2.5 m/s. Clearly it won't be even across the whole surface, so I divided each panel into 9 sections and measured the throughput at the centre of each section.


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The results (m/s):

2.3       2.3       2.3
2.3       2.2       2.2
2.0       2.0       2.0
1.8       2.0       1.8
1.8       1.7       1.8
1.6       1.6       1.8

That's an average of 1.97 m/s, close enough to my calculated 2.5 m/s to satisfy me. So the anemometer works. Now to the range hood, which proved to be very difficult simply because of its position:


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That's looking upwards. The wall is at the bottom of the image.

Again I divided each panel into 9 (coincidentally 10 cm wide), so at the end I had (mapping the image above):

0       0       3.0       3.0       3.0       3.0       3.0       0       0
0       0       2.0       1.3       4.1       4.7       3.0       0       0
0       0       3.0       1.3       3.4       3.7       3.0       2.3       0

There are a number of things to note here. Firstly, of course, this “90 cm 900 mm” range hood is really a maximum of 50 cm wide. In addition, there's a bias to the right. The left panel has an average throughput of rather less than 0.9 m/s, the middle one just shy of 3 m/s, and the right panel about 1.25 m/s. In total, that's an average of 1.73 m/s.

Wait a while. Last month I calculated that it should have been 1 m/s, and that was using the maximum flow rate of 770 m³/hour (214 l/s). Since then I have been told that it should be 590 m³/h (164 l/s). The area of the filters is 0.22 m², so the rate should be 0.164 ÷ 0.22, or 0.75 m/s. 1.73 m/s is more than double the rating.

Can that be the case? It's had to believe. What did I do wrong? Was I maybe just confused by the lack of function at the edges? That's still unacceptable, but it's a different problem.

But no, the answer was somewhere completely different: the anemometer is broken. It seems that magnetic fields influence its reading. Here it is on top of the hood, which is running: it shows 3.0 m/s even though no air is flowing (the fan isn't turning):


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For some reason, it almost invariably shows exactly 3.0 m/s. That's a real nuisance, since it means that I can't measure even roughly the speed of the air flow. There's only one indication: if the fan isn't turning, it's less than 0.1 m/s. And checking that, it seems that it only turns in 6 of the 27 positions, so the absolute best that I could get would be:

0       0       0       0       0       0       0       0       0
0       0       0       1.3       4.1       4.7       0       0       0
0       0       0       1.3       3.4       3.7       0       0       0

Even if those values were correct, we would now be down to 0.69 m/s. But those readings include the magnetic influence. Clearly I can't just subtract 3 from them all, or I'd have a couple of negative readings. The best I can do is measure again with the hood running and the fan covered over. There I got, for the centre panel only:

                  0       0       0
                  2.5       3.0       3.0
                  3.0       3.0       3.0

That's not very satisfying, though repeatable: the left part of the centre panel really does read higher when covered over than when air is flowing through. But ignoring that one, the best approximation I have is:

0       0       0       0       0       0       0       0       0
0       0       0       0       1.1       1.7       0       0       0
0       0       0       0       0.4       0.7       0       0       0

Now we're down to 0.14 m/s or 0.0308 m³/s through the 0.22 m² filter. That corresponds to 110.88 m³ per hour, which is roughly what I was expecting: a little under 20% of the specified air flow. How reliable is the value? I really need something more reliable, but maybe this will be enough to get the manufacturer to come and do his own measurements.

In passing, this anemometer is a real pain. Apart from the sensitivity to magnetism (why?), the controls are really difficult to use. It's yet another modern device that needs a button held down for 2 seconds to turn on, and it needs a two-button combination to turn off. It has a maximum and average function, but you can only turn them on via configuration, and then it retains the last value even after being powered off. And the scale illumination stays on for only 12 seconds, and it requires pressing any button to turn on again. I suppose most of these details aren't as much of a problem for its intended usage, whatever that may be.


Thursday, 17 September 2015 Dereel Images for 17 September 2015
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Understanding pain
Topic: health Link here

My jaw pain didn't go away yesterday, and at 23:00 I took another couple of Paracetamol tablets. That didn't help much either, and I had an uneasy night. Round 6:00 it was clear that I would have to go and see either my dentist or my GP.

But where exactly was the pain? It wasn't the tooth itself. Did a whole lot of feeling round my mouth and found that a lot of it was under the lower jaw, though the tooth in question was in the upper jaw. Any pain there? A little. The locations were puzzling.

My next allowed painkillers were at 7:00. But by then the pain had gone. Completely. And it didn't come back. How can that be? I can only guess that feeling around my face pushed some pus out of where it was hurting, and that was all that was needed.


Blast from the past
Topic: history, technology Link here

Round 20 years ago, Microsoft discovered the Internet and embarked on a campaign to bend it to its own ideas. One of the innovations was the graphical mailer, preferably in HTML. We were young and foolish in those days and thought that we could teach people the errors of their ways. Thus I wrote a number of pages explaining to people how to configure and use their MUAs.

They're completely out of date now, but I've left them there for historical interest. And today I got an error message: missing image in http://lemis.com/grog/email/fixing-communicator.html (written in February 2000 by Wes Peters). I've fixed that, but reading the old documentation shows me how little has changed: just the names of the products.


Friday, 18 September 2015 Dereel Images for 18 September 2015
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Power outage, again!
Topic: general, opinion Link here

At about 9:58 this morning, Yvonne said “Funny. The radio just went out”. Damn! Powercor had sent us a letter telling of a planned outage between 9:00 and 14:00 today, and I had forgotten to prepare for it.

Quickly put the generator in place outside the office, because this damned Eaton UPS doesn't run on generator power, and gradually shut down the other machines. And waited for power to come back.

And waited. And waited. Normally these outages last about 30 minutes, but this one went on for ever. Even after 14:00, the power didn't come back, though the useless web site didn't want to know:

 
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It's not clear what the red areas in this map are. Surely it can't be the planned outage? That's shown with the pickaxes, 6 of them because 6 different post codes were affected.

 
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Finally, about the time of the last display, called up Powercor and asked whether they planned to restore power. She checked and told me that they had had some mechanical failures and that had delayed things, and power would be back at 15:30. Asked to have Eddie Barkla call me back. But it only took another 5 minutes, almost as if my call had caused them to hurry up.

Eddie called very quickly—15:48—and told me that they had managed to get a truck bogged down in the mud, and another one had some mechanical problems. But that had only delayed things by an hour: they really had intended to take 4 hours to do the work, which was to do with a battery backup system in Buninyong. Was it worth it? Like me, he hopes they'll never have anything like this again.

When the power came back, things weren't over. Every time this happens, the UPS trips the circuit breaker; presumably it has a higher power requirement. Time to compile a list of Jim Lannen's sins and get him to come and fix some of them.


Random translation misinterpretations
Topic: language, food and drink Link here

Decades ago we subscribed to Cuisine et vins de France, a French cooking magazine. Now much of it is available online, and I get an almost daily email suggesting improbable dishes. But this one stood out:

From: "Cuisine et vins de France" <mariecl@edito-groupemarieclaire.com>
To: <groggyhimself@lemis.com>
Subject: Que faire avec de la grenade pour surprendre tout le monde ?

Putting it through Google Translate doesn't quite give “What to do with the grenade to surprise all the world”, but it's close enough. Of course, “grenade” originally meant “Pomegranate”.


Saturday, 19 September 2015 Dereel Images for 19 September 2015
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“Selfies”: why?
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

One of the non-spam advertisements I received today was from LinkDelight, a photographic accessories supplier. Today they had what everybody needs: a waterproof selfie monopod:

 
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What earthly use is that? What's the point of “selfies” anyway? It seems that it's an outgrowth of social media. But selfies appear to be the epitome of loneliness: not even somebody to take a photo of you. And if you do want a photo of yourself, why a monopod? Why not a cheap tripod? Or, of course, a shorter focal length lens:


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I tried first hand-held, and it's very difficult. Here a couple of attempts:


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Without a viewfinder, you can't frame things properly. In the end I took the last image and cropped it. But what a horrible way to take photos!


Garden flowers in early spring
Topic: gardening, Stones Road house, opinion Link here

The new garden is still nothing like what we had in Kleins Road, so much that I forgot my monthly garden photos. Did them today instead, and it's clear that they're still not very interesting.

About the best thing is the way the roses are doing. They're all putting forth new growth, and one (I think it's “Monsieur Tillier”) even has a bud:


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This one is surprising. It's a monocotyledon, but it doesn't look like it:


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The rest are in the monthly flower page.


Speed limits are dangerous!
Topic: general, opinion Link here

The last time I was in the Northern Territory, there were no speed limits on country roads. That's in marked contrast to the rest of the country, where “speed kills” is the main “road safety” maxim.

But the Northern Territory government doesn't have the same powers as state governments, and in 2006 the government was forced to impose speed limits—still 130 km/h, which is bearable compared to the states. In fact, it's my suggested speed for the journey from Echunga to Dereel. But the intention didn't work: instead of having fewer road deaths, there were more. Now I hear from this article that the speed limits on part of the Stuart Highway have been lifted again, “permanently”. Hopefully they'll then be able to register a drop in deaths. A lot speaks against it: large animals jumping out in front of you, Australian cars that aren't really designed for speeds above about 130 km/h, Australian drivers who aren't trained for the situation. But at least it shows a saner approach to the problem of traffic accidents.


Fast rising bread
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Last month I finally gave up on a sourdough starter because it seemed to be losing its power. Instead of the normal 3 to 5 hours rising time, it wasn't really good after 9 hours.

Today I baked bread again, and experienced the opposite phenomenon: it was fully risen after 2½ hours. That was with starter G14. I'll have to keep more careful notes of how well the other strains (D and H, the latter just branched from D) do.


No Youtube!
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Yvonne recently told me that she can no longer view YouTube on her machine. And it's been like that for a while, so I don't even know what could have caused it.

Checked and confirmed that it didn't work. firefox started off using 400% CPU (quite a feat on a single processor machine), and apparently the system didn't have enough power to run it. Now I've seen this before, but it ran until recently. There was some talk on IRC a while back about firefox problems, but I was able to repeat the problem with chromium and Opera.

Problems with npviewer.bin? It doesn't seem to be running any more; maybe that's part of the problem. Tried a complete port upgrade (which failed first time round because of some issue with Hugin, which Yvonne doesn't use), and it still didn't help. OK, this system isn't that old (14 August), but how about upgrading to the latest and greatest first? That took forever, nearly 4 hours. Maybe this computer is really too slow for modern browsers, but I didn't have a chance to see how it performed after that.


Configuring X
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Another alternative for Yvonne is to give her stable, the machine that I use for software upgrades. But I've never run X on it: I just access it from eureka. Ran X -config and tried to run the resultant configuration file. It crashed. Further examination showed that it didn't recognize the (Intel) chip set, and it created a multi-headed configuration for a single-head chip and a single monitor.

People, I've really been running X for over a quarter of a century, since April 1990. When I started using BSD not quite 24 years ago, I had some difficulties, which in those days didn't surprise me. But we're talking about more than a third of the history of digital computers! Why can't this Just Work?


Advantages of modern kitchen equipment
Topic: Stones Road house, food and drink, opinion Link here

Yvonne made Coquilles Saint-Jacques à la julienne de légumes et truffes, originally from the Auberge de l'Ill, as an entrée this evening. It required reducing the sauce:


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Isn't it nice to have a stove where you can adjust the flame? Wouldn't it be nice to have a stove where you can adjust the flame?


Sunday, 20 September 2015 Dereel Images for 20 September 2015
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Revisiting OI.Share
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Yesterday's selfies were greatly hampered by the lack of viewfinder. But there's a solution to that: use a smart phone or tablet and OI.Share. Tried that again today.

What a pain these Android devices are! Tried to connect to the camera, and it failed. Why? It's far too sensitive of my feelings to upset me with the truth, so it said nothing. But the camera has been repaired since the last time I used it, so it seems reasonable to guess that the password has changed. How do you update the stored password? After 15 minutes messing around with the damn thing, I still couldn't find a way. RTFM? I wish.

In the end deleted the interface and scanned, after which it asked for a password. That worked, so it seems my assumption was correct. What a pain!

But not the last. I had managed to forget most of the things I complained about last time: the inability to find the shutter release, the slow reactions, the stupid insistence on storing a JPEG version of the image (which subsequently broke my photo processing, which only transforms raw images for which there is no JPEG). All in all, the results were hardly better than with no viewfinder:


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But then, that was my point: who needs selfies?


Understanding PHP error messages
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

The source of this diary includes a liberal spreading of PHP calls, like this present one:

      <?php pubdate ("2015-09-20T23:26:55+00:00"); ?>
      <?php texttopic ("co", "Understanding PHP error messages"); ?>
      <p>
        The source of this diary includes a liberal spreading of <?php href ("http://www.php.net/",
        "PHP"); ?> calls, like this present one:
      </p>
      <?php endtopic (); ?>

So it's clear that there's a good possibility of getting errors, and the parser is always good for cryptic messages unrelated to the user's view of the syntax. But today I got one that blew my mind:

 Parse error: syntax error, unexpected ';', expecting :: (T_PAAMAYIM_NEKUDOTAYIM) in /home/grog/public_html/diary-jan2009.php on line 132

What's that? Finnish? Hebrew? I decided it was more likely to be Hebrew, and that proved to be right. To quote this page,

It is not okay to have errors which are only decipherable by using Google to get a translation.

X on stable
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Why couldn't I run X on stable? In principle X should now start without any configuration file at all. Removed the badly designed configuration file, and there was no change: I had an old /etc/xorg.conf, and coincidentally it contained a 2 head configuration. Removed that, and X started with no problems. Did X -config get confused by it?

Unfortunately, the problems aren't over. Switching to a different virtual terminal freezes the display. But at least I now have a way to compare the browser problems on lagoon.


pkg: not there yet
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

While getting X running on stable, discovered that xearth wasn't installed. OK, that's trivial:

=== root@stable (/dev/pts/0) /etc/X11 14 -> pkg install xearth
...
New packages to be INSTALLED:
        xearth: 1.2
        jpeg-turbo: 1.4.1

Installed packages to be UPGRADED:
        wx28-gtk2: 2.8.12_5 -> 2.8.12_6

Proceed with this action? [y/N]: y
Fetching xearth-1.2.txz: 100%  111 KiB 113.5kB/s    00:01
Fetching jpeg-turbo-1.4.1.txz: 100%  270 KiB 276.5kB/s    00:01
Fetching wx28-gtk2-2.8.12_6.txz: 100%    2 MiB 312.8kB/s    00:07
Conflicts with the existing packages have been found.
The following 5 package(s) will be affected (of 0 checked):

Installed packages to be REMOVED:
        gnuplot-4.6.6_1
        hugin-2013.0.0_6
        audacity-2.1.0_4
        xchm-1.23_2

New packages to be INSTALLED:
        xearth: 1.2

Proceed with this action? [y/N]:

Why on earth does it need to remove those packages? Tried building it from source, and things ran fine. Somehow we're still not past our problems.


Browser pain revisited
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Now that I have X running on stable, I can compare browser performance. Went to the same YouTube video that caused lagoon to hang. It didn't hang. But it used an inordinate amount of CPU time:

  PID USERNAME      THR PRI NICE   SIZE    RES STATE   C   TIME   WCPU COMMAND
 2361 grog           64  20    0   829M   355M uwait   0  10:16 150.00% firefox
 2323 root            1   4    0   131M 51104K RUN     1   1:10  13.87% Xorg

And it stayed there, bouncing a bit between 120% and 150% CPU. What's it doing? Tried it on teevee, the TV driver, where things were normal enough.

So why the problems with lagoon? I had just watched the Al Jazeera news on teevee. That's a YouTube live stream. What should it do on lagoon? It ran normally. But it spawned an npviewer.bin process.

How does the CPUs compare? Went searching and found, to my surprise, that teevee and lagoon have the same slow Sempron processor:

Machine       Processor       Clock       CPUmark
eureka       Intel Core i7-4771       3.50 GHz       9933
lagoon       AMD Sempron 145       2.8 GHz       800
stable       Intel Core 2 Duo E6550       2.33 GHz       1499
teevee       AMD Sempron 145       2.8 GHz       800

So if stable needs 150% CPU to display the video, lagoon or teevee would need about 280% CPU, more than it has. But it runs on teevee. So whatever is causing the problems, it's not the processor. I've seen the same behaviour with chromium and Opera, so it's not the browser. What remains? The way it's played, and that's what the missing npviewer.bin process suggests. My guess is that YouTube is serving an HTML5 version, and it's an order of magnitude less efficient even than flash. Now to find out what I can do about it.

All of this makes perfect sense. The only problem is: it's wrong. On 21 December 2015 I checked again and found that the processor in (the now old) lagoon was an Athlon II X2 4450e. It was marked as a Sepmpron, but it identified itself as an Athlon. I noticed this when I got it, but I misidentified the Athlon, confusing it with an Athlon X2 4450e. The speed differences are significant: the Sempron has a CPUMark of 800 (reported as 910 4 years ago), the Athlon has 1088, and the Athlon II had 1532 at 2.3 GHz. But the BIOS clocked this one by default at 2.8 GHz, so the CPUmark would be closer to 1865, more than double the speed of the Sempron.

The problem here is: if you look at a per-core CPUmark, the Sempron has a CPUmark of 800, the Athlon II has 932, and the Phenom has 639. YouTube only uses one core, so in fact the Phenom was the slowest! I don't understand.


Guess your nationality, Facebook style
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

Somebody posted this URL on Facebook today. 15 questions or so, mainly technical or historical, and all very easy. Two of them were obviously US-centric: when the “declaration of independence” was signed (which declaration of independence?), and in which hand the Statue of Liberty holds her torch. That was the only one I couldn't answer off the top of my head, and I assume that I got all the answers right. The result?

 
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Why Japanese? None of the other questions showed any national bias at all. And the original poster thought that the questionnaire itself came from Sweden. But then it wouldn't take for granted that some things are US American.


麻婆豆腐
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

We haven't eaten much Chinese food lately, but today I finally got round to making some mápó dòufu (麻婆豆腐):


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It didn't taste bad, but despite my attempts to limit the heat, Yvonne found it difficult to stomach. We should keep dishes like this in the freezer in small portions so that we can thaw out a number of them for a more balanced meal.


Integrating Sasha
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

Sasha is growing, of course, and he's become much more assertive. Today all three dogs were in the lounge room, Sasha next to Nikolai. Nikolai growled. And then he licked Sasha's face. It looks as if he's not upset with him, just trying to teach him manners, in very much the same way as we do. I wonder if he has picked that up from us. It would also explain his behaviour at the beginning of the month.

In the evening Sasha showed how little he was afraid of the other two:


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Monday, 21 September 2015 Dereel Images for 21 September 2015
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Microsoft backup fail
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I do a backup of dischord, my Microsoft box, every Sunday evening. Well, almost:

 
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I suppose that backups don't fit into the Microsoft mentality, but that is really bare-bones. Even the 32 bit hex error number (didn't they go out round 40 years ago?), which you only get if you click “show details”, doesn't help. This page suggests it's due to misconfigured system files. If that's the case, why doesn't it say so?

But searching for microsoft error code 0x8007013D brings only discussions, nothing at all from microsoft.com. I had suspected that the destination of the backup, a disk on eureka, might have been full. Indeed, there are only 47 GB on it. But that seemed plenty. A repeat worked, which at least suggested that the corrupted file hypothesis is wrong. Why do so many people think that a successful repeat is sufficient?


Panorama rotators revisited
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

It's been a couple of years since I gave up looking for a better rotator for my panorama photos. The one I bought, a Sunwayfoto DDP-64M, was so badly made that it started to wear out in a matter of weeks, so I'm still using the old Manfrotto rotator. The Sunway was the cheapest I could find, round $130 US from memory, and even when I bought it, I found it silly that it only had the same steps as the Manfrotto: 5°, 10°, 15°, 20°, 24°, 30°, 36°, 45°, 60° and 90° for 72, 36, 24, 18, 15, 12, 10, 8, 6 and 4 positions making up a full circle. I could very well have done with 5, 7 or 9 positions as well. But it's difficult to do that with a purely mechanical device.

Recently there seems to be movement in the market. Now there's a Sevenoak SK-EBH01 electronic rotator (which they call a ball head) going on eBay for the surprisingly low price of $87, including a completely useless metal case:


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So finally the ability to select your own increment? By no means. It doesn't even have all the steps of the mechanical models. Instead it offers steps up to 360°: turn round and come back to where you started. In particular, though, the 24° and 36° increments are no longer available. It also seems that you can't just make a step: you select the length of time the rotator stays in each position, and then it moves on whether you're ready or not.

It's nice that people are bringing out things like this at a reasonable price. Now wouldn't it be even nicer if they thought of building something that has an advantage over the purely mechanical devices?


Tuesday, 22 September 2015 Dereel Images for 22 September 2015
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Browser agony
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Mail from Didier Legrand today, pointing me at this article on the FreeBSD forums. But it wasn't easy to look at:


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What's that? Went looking everywhere before I discovered that the problem was specific to this instance of firefox. chromium and other versions of firefox didn't have that problem, even though they all go through the same proxy. Another bug, it would seem, but this time with an old version.

The article discussed firefox performance problems at length, and some people traced it to a compilation issue with audio/alsa-plugins. The workaround was to set the parameters BLKCNT_P2 and BUFSZ_P2. The article suggests setting the values to on, but in fact it's just a tick box.

Tried that. Yes, maybe it works better. But there's really another issue: how can top show 400% CPU usage for a single processor machine? It seems it's not top's fault. The indications are Just Plain Wrong:

=== yvonne@lagoon (/dev/pts/5) ~ 5 -> while :; do ps up63945 |grep ^yvo; sleep 1; done
yvonne 63945 100.0 21.8 864464 390808 v0  I     7:30PM 16:06.28 firefox
yvonne 63945 100.0 21.8 864528 390912 v0  I     7:30PM 16:07.26 firefox
yvonne 63945 100.0 21.8 864592 390976 v0  I     7:30PM 16:08.20 firefox
yvonne 63945 100.0 21.8 864656 391020 v0  I     7:30PM 16:09.18 firefox
yvonne 63945 200.0 21.9 865476 392176 v0  S     7:30PM 16:10.09 firefox
yvonne 63945 191.5 22.0 865672 394624 v0  S     7:30PM 16:10.83 firefox
yvonne 63945 172.7 21.9 864200 393104 v0  S     7:30PM 16:10.95 firefox
yvonne 63945 157.0 21.9 864328 393208 v0  S     7:30PM 16:11.01 firefox
yvonne 63945 142.2 21.9 864392 393248 v0  S     7:30PM 16:11.06 firefox
yvonne 63945 129.2 21.9 864392 393284 v0  S     7:30PM 16:11.12 firefox
yvonne 63945 117.7 21.9 864456 393320 v0  S     7:30PM 16:11.23 firefox
yvonne 63945 107.0 21.9 864456 393324 v0  S     7:30PM 16:11.27 firefox
yvonne 63945 97.0  21.9 864456 393324 v0  S     7:30PM 16:11.31 firefox
yvonne 63945 87.9  21.9 864456 393324 v0  S     7:30PM 16:11.34 firefox

Not only is the CPU time indication (3rd column) wrong, it doesn't match the incremental CPU usage once it exceeds 100%. In the 8 seconds where the CPU percentage is indicated at more than 100%, the incremental CPU usage is only 1.09 seconds. So it seems that there's something strange about how we're reporting the CPU usage, possibly related to threading. But that's yet another thing to follow, and I'll do that Some Other Time.

After recompiling ALSA, things did work a little better—on stable. But I couldn't get the same results on lagoon.

Why hasn't this bug been reported? Why, hasn't this bug been reported? It has, 6 months ago. Still in status UNCONFIRMED. It doesn't look as if this is high on the firefox scale of urgency.

What next? Juha Kupiainen suggested trying midori. Installed that. Same problem. That's not surprising: other browsers have the issue too.

Peer Jeremy suggested the www/linux-firefox port. OK, that might be worth trying. Built it and ran it:

Fontconfig error: "/etc/fonts/conf.d/10-scale-bitmap-fonts.conf", line 70: non-double matrix element
Fontconfig error: "/etc/fonts/conf.d/10-scale-bitmap-fonts.conf", line 70: non-double matrix element
Fontconfig warning: "/etc/fonts/conf.d/10-scale-bitmap-fonts.conf", line 78: saw unknown, expected number
process 26475: D-Bus library appears to be incorrectly set up; failed to read machine uuid: Failed to open "/var/lib/dbus/machine-id": No such file or directory
See the manual page for dbus-uuidgen to correct this issue.
  D-Bus not built with -rdynamic so unable to print a backtrace
Redirecting call to abort() to mozalloc_abort

What's all this nonsense? Why didn't the port set up the /var/lib/dbus/machine-id? OK, it tells you what to do. But it doesn't work:

=== root@stable (/dev/pts/0) /usr/ports/www/linux-firefox 46 -> dbus-uuidgen --ensure
=== root@stable (/dev/pts/0) /usr/ports/www/linux-firefox 47 -> echo $?
0
=== root@stable (/dev/pts/0) /usr/ports/www/linux-firefox 48 -> l /var/lib/dbus
ls: /var/lib/dbus: No such file or directory
=== root@stable (/dev/pts/0) /usr/ports/www/linux-firefox 49 -> mkdir /var/lib/dbus
=== root@stable (/dev/pts/0) /usr/ports/www/linux-firefox 50 -> dbus-uuidgen --ensure
=== root@stable (/dev/pts/0) /usr/ports/www/linux-firefox 51 -> l /var/lib/dbus/
total 0
=== root@stable (/dev/pts/0) /usr/ports/www/linux-firefox 52 -> dbus-uuidgen --ensure=/var/lib/dbus/machine-id
=== root@stable (/dev/pts/0) /usr/ports/www/linux-firefox 53 -> l /var/lib/dbus/
total 1
-rw-r--r--  1 root  wheel  33 22 Sep 12:41 machine-id

So the instructions are wrong. After finally getting a machine-id file, I started linux-firefox. It didn't give me a display. Instead I got no less than 53 processes, one of them using 100% CPU time:

=== root@stable (/dev/pts/0) /usr/ports/www/linux-firefox 57 -> ps aux|grep linux-firefox
grog       26567 100.0  1.0 542000  51040  5  R+   12:41pm    1:29.28 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox
grog       26431   0.0  9.5 471268 466580  5  I    12:33pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Gecko_IOThread)
grog       26432   0.0  9.5 471268 466580  5  I    12:33pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Link Monitor)
grog       26433   0.0  9.5 471268 466580  5  I    12:33pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Socket Thread)
grog       26434   0.0  9.5 471268 466580  5  I    12:33pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Analysis Helper)
grog       26435   0.0  9.5 471268 466580  5  I    12:33pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Analysis Helper)
grog       26436   0.0  9.5 471268 466580  5  I    12:33pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Analysis Helper)
grog       26437   0.0  9.5 471268 466580  5  I    12:33pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Analysis Helper)
grog       26438   0.0  9.5 471268 466580  5  I    12:33pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Analysis Helper)
grog       26439   0.0  9.5 471268 466580  5  I    12:33pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (JS Watchdog)
grog       26440   0.0  9.5 471268 466580  5  IN   12:33pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Hang Monitor)
grog       26464   0.0  9.4 469068 464660  5  I    12:34pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Gecko_IOThread)
grog       26465   0.0  9.4 469068 464660  5  I    12:34pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Link Monitor)
grog       26466   0.0  9.4 469068 464660  5  I    12:34pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Socket Thread)
grog       26467   0.0  9.4 469068 464660  5  I    12:34pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Analysis Helper)
grog       26468   0.0  9.4 469068 464660  5  I    12:34pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Analysis Helper)
grog       26469   0.0  9.4 469068 464660  5  I    12:34pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Analysis Helper)
grog       26470   0.0  9.4 469068 464660  5  I    12:34pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Analysis Helper)
grog       26471   0.0  9.4 469068 464660  5  I    12:34pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Analysis Helper)
grog       26472   0.0  9.4 469068 464660  5  I    12:34pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (JS Watchdog)
grog       26473   0.0  9.4 469068 464660  5  IN   12:34pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Hang Monitor)
grog       26478   0.0  9.4 469068 465220  5  I    12:34pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Gecko_IOThread)
grog       26479   0.0  9.4 469068 465220  5  I    12:34pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Link Monitor)
grog       26480   0.0  9.4 469068 465220  5  I    12:34pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Socket Thread)
grog       26481   0.0  9.4 469068 465220  5  I    12:34pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Analysis Helper)
grog       26482   0.0  9.4 469068 465220  5  I    12:34pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Analysis Helper)
grog       26483   0.0  9.4 469068 465220  5  I    12:34pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Analysis Helper)
grog       26484   0.0  9.4 469068 465220  5  I    12:34pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Analysis Helper)
grog       26485   0.0  9.4 469068 465220  5  I    12:34pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Analysis Helper)
grog       26486   0.0  9.4 469068 465220  5  I    12:34pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (JS Watchdog)
grog       26487   0.0  9.4 469068 465220  5  IN   12:34pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Hang Monitor)
grog       26529   0.0  9.5 469068 466696  5  I    12:37pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Gecko_IOThread)
grog       26530   0.0  9.5 469068 466696  5  I    12:37pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Link Monitor)
grog       26531   0.0  9.5 469068 466696  5  I    12:37pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Socket Thread)
grog       26532   0.0  9.5 469068 466696  5  I    12:37pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Analysis Helper)
grog       26533   0.0  9.5 469068 466696  5  I    12:37pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Analysis Helper)
grog       26534   0.0  9.5 469068 466696  5  I    12:37pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Analysis Helper)
grog       26535   0.0  9.5 469068 466696  5  I    12:37pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Analysis Helper)
grog       26536   0.0  9.5 469068 466696  5  I    12:37pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Analysis Helper)
grog       26537   0.0  9.5 469068 466696  5  I    12:37pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (JS Watchdog)
grog       26538   0.0  9.5 469068 466696  5  IN   12:37pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Hang Monitor)
grog       26596   0.0  1.0 542000  51040  5  I+   12:42pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Gecko_IOThread)
grog       26597   0.0  1.0 542000  51040  5  I+   12:42pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Link Monitor)
grog       26598   0.0  1.0 542000  51040  5  I+   12:42pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Socket Thread)
grog       26599   0.0  1.0 542000  51040  5  I+   12:42pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Analysis Helper)
grog       26600   0.0  1.0 542000  51040  5  I+   12:42pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Analysis Helper)
grog       26601   0.0  1.0 542000  51040  5  I+   12:42pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Analysis Helper)
grog       26602   0.0  1.0 542000  51040  5  I+   12:42pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Analysis Helper)
grog       26603   0.0  1.0 542000  51040  5  I+   12:42pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Analysis Helper)
grog       26604   0.0  1.0 542000  51040  5  S+   12:42pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (JS Watchdog)
grog       26605   0.0  1.0 542000  51040  5  IN+  12:42pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Hang Monitor)
grog       26607   0.0  1.0 542000  51040  5  I+   12:42pm    0:00.00 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Timer)
grog       26609   0.0  1.0 542000  51040  5  I+   12:42pm    0:00.10 /usr/local/lib/linux-firefox/firefox (Cache2 I/O)

What kind of nonsense is that? Is that the way firefox runs under Linux, or has the port split out threads into individual processes? And one way or another, why does it need so many threads, many intended for the same purpose? I couldn't even stop most of them; for some reason pkill didn't find them. Instead I needed:

=== root@stable (/dev/pts/0) /usr/ports/www/linux-firefox 94 -> ps aux | grep linux-firefox | awk '{print "kill -9 " $2}' | sh

But I'm not close to being done. After over 20 years running web browsers (mosaic, netscape, mozilla, firefox, chromium), I've found a couple of common threads: each comes with its own annoyances, each seems more brain-dead than its predecessor. Eleven years ago I had similar complaints about firefox. Things just aren't getting any better. The latest annoyance is with chromium, which refuses to work properly in an X environment. My window manager provides decorations like this:

 
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But chromium knows better what I need, so it ignores the window manager and gives me:

 
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I have different colour frames for different windows, but it changes them. It also removes the page title! The only way I can tell that it's chromium is that (so far) chromium is the only program to practice these obscenities. Why do they do it?

In addition, chromium doesn't seem to understand the X protocol. Try running it on a display on a different machine and it vomits its heart out, giving me a completely black window.

=== grog@stable (/dev/pts/4) /eureka/home/grog 9 -> DISPLAY=eureka:0.1
=== grog@stable (/dev/pts/4) /eureka/home/grog 10 -> chrome 2>heart
^C=== grog@stable (/dev/pts/4) /eureka/home/grog 11 -> wc -l heart
     622 heart

So that's another non-starter. Round about now it's worth summarizing all the bugs I've found:

So what does all this mean? How could anybody want to use FreeBSD as a desktop system? This should be easy, and I've spent all day looking at one bug after another. Not for the first time, I seriously considered changing to Linux, but caught myself in time: all the comforts I know and love with FreeBSD would require serious retrofitting in Linux. I'm too old for this; this was stuff I was doing 20 years ago. Since then, CPU performance and memory has increased by orders of magnitude—but not, it seems, enough to make up for the bloat of modern browsers.

Somehow I'm really sad. Should I use Microsoft or Apple instead? I tried the YouTube test on dischord, a Microsoft “Windows” 7 machine with a CPUmark rating of 2559, a little more than 3 times the 800 of lagoon. It ran smoothly, but it used 35% CPU time. At the same rate, it would max out lagoon.

So the only thing to do is to buy a more powerful machine. That's easy: I found machines on eBay which would outperform dischord for in the order of $150. The best seems to be an Intel Core 2 Quad Q9505 with a CPUMark of 3641, nearly 5 times the speed of lagoon. It also includes a copy of “Windows” 9 “Professional”, so I could use it to replace dischord (proposed name despair), and use dischord to speed up lagoon.

Hopefully web browsers won't outstrip top-end processors.


Wednesday, 23 September 2015 Dereel Images for 23 September 2015
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Solar panels: finally!
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

An unannounced visit from Laser Plumbing this morning to finally install the replacements for the solar hot water panel that burst over two months ago. Well, almost. They had only brought one panel, though I had gone to lots of trouble last month to confirm that they were going to install two.

But it turned out that was the intention; only the purchase order was wrong, and they had plenty more in stock. Michael went off to pick up a second one while Kelly dismantled the old panels:


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But if they had them in stock, why did Chromagen tell me that they had to be made specially?

Assembling the panels proved to be more complicated than I had expected. They were all individual components:


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Finally the were done, or, as Michael put it, he had good news and bad news. The bad news was that 3 of the 40 tubes were defective:


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He had to go back to Ballarat again to get another 3. But finally it's done, and even in this overcast weather they're heating a little bit:


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So why did it take so long?


Despair
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

As planned yesterday, got round to ordering a new machine for photo processing today. There are a lot of machines on eBay with similar specifications: Intel Core 2 processor, 4 GB memory, enough disk for it not to be an issue. But how fast are the processors? Compared a number of items and found:

Item       Processor       CPUMark       Memory       Price
171852222019       Core 2 Quad Q9400       3433       4       135.15
131473919943       Core 2 Duo E8400       2179       4       149.00
131235525152       Core 2 Duo E7600       2049       4       149.00
171866298095       Core 2 Quad Q9505       3641       4       152.15
131495737870       Core 2 Quad Q8400       3233       4       152.15

There's no relation between price and CPU performance! The cheapest is the second fastest. Possibly there's a difference in disk size, but they're all over 100 GB, and that's plenty for me. dischord has 1 TB, but it only uses about 140 GB, and most of that can probably go. The fastest box (only coincidentally the most expensive) was a Lenovo ThinkCentre with 250 GB, and that'll keep me going forever. I've bought a couple of second-hand ThinkCentres in the past, and I'm happy with them: small, well-built and functional, as long as you're not looking for extensibility. The only issue is that it only has 4 GB of memory, and I really wanted 8 GB to run things like DxO Optics “Pro”. Called up the seller (yes, they had the number prominently displayed) and confirmed that the motherboard had 4 memory slots, and only 2 were occupied, so I could easily upgrade to 8 GB. But the price! $60, 40% of the total price for the box, which includes an installation of Microsoft “Windows” 7 “Professional”. That alone goes for upwards of $130 on eBay.

So: do I have any spare DDR3 memory? How can I tell what is in the boxen? Daniel O'Connor suggested dmidecode, which, on dischord, happily reported:

Memory Module Information
Socket Designation: A0
Bank Connections: 1
Current Speed: 155 ns
Type: Other Unknown EDO
Installed Size: 2048 MB (Double-bank Connection)
Enabled Size: 2048 MB (Double-bank Connection)
Error Status: OK

EDO? That's ancient! Went looking further to when I bought this machine, and discovered that it's really DDR2, so dmidecode was wrong. But it means that I can't use any of that memory.

What do the others have? After a fair amount of comparison, it seems that the only machine that has DDR3 memory is eureka, but they're 8 GB modules, and the “new” box won't understand them. I can get 2 GB modules for round $19 each, not that much cheaper. But do I really need more than 4 GB memory? Took 4 GB out of dischord and found that there wasn't an obvious difference in performance (though it did change its processing from 4 images in parallel to 2). So initially I'll leave despair as it is and wait for proof that I need more memory.


Browser woes continued
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I established a number of things about my browser issues yesterday, few of them pleasant. But there's another angle: until recently, there was no problem playing YouTube videos on this box. What has changed? I had noticed that we were no longer running npviewer.bin and guessed that it was displaying the clips with HTML5. Is that right? Is there a way to change it? Went searching and found this YouTube video, which I was able to view on eureka:

It pointed me at a special plugin to use flash for YouTube (doesn't that say something about compatibility?), and claimed that on the machine flash used more CPU time than HTML5. But he was looking at individual processes, not the total CPU usage for all involved processes. He showed the task manager (this is Microsoft, of course) some of the time. Total CPU usage with flash was between 22% and 40%, mainly under 30%. I'd guess 25% average.

With HTML5, firefox used less CPU, but the system usage was way up. Total CPU was between 38% and 43% total CPU usage. But the speaker didn't account for the system usage. In addition, it looked a little jerkier to me.

Tried the flash plugin on lagoon. Yes, it no longer maxed out the CPU. But it didn't work properly either. I can't be bothered any more. Soon we will have the new hardware, and HTML5 should work on it, at least for a while.

So in summary: at least for the moment, I'm right. Browsers have become so bloated and slow that you can no longer run them on low-end machines. But as I have already observed, even before this blow a single browser would have maxed out several supercomputers of the 1970s, if only they had enough memory to run it at all.


Thursday, 24 September 2015 Dereel Images for 24 September 2015
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Still more browser stuff
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

In principle, I've done what investigation I can of web browsers, but there are still a few things to follow up. Message from Rodolfo Gouveia pointing out that chromium has a settings option “Use system title bar and borders”. OK, ignoring the fact that it's confusing “system” with “window manager”, let's try it:

 
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And how about that, most of chromium's own decorations go away. Here's before and after:


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But it doesn't deliver. It doesn't give control back to the window manager: the window is still blue, and there are none of the decorations that should be there. There's also this funny head icon. I thought that this option is attuned towards Microsoft, but it's not present on Microsoft versions of chrome.

As I discovered the following day, you need to restart Chrome first.

And what about profiles? Ah, says Peter Jeremy, Google has a new word for profile: “User”. Click on that silly head icon and you get:

 
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Switch people? What's that nonsense? That's what login is for, and it does a lot more than just change a browser profile. What I really want is to be able to run browsers on multiple screens. That has nothing to do with “people” (or is that “person”?).

I made the mistake of doing this before breakfast, and the result left me feeling nauseated. It's clear that chromium is going in a direction that I don't want to follow. It's a program, dammit, not an operating system, at least in my environment. I'm reminded of Henry Spencer's quote:

Those who do not understand Unix are condemned to reinvent it, poorly

For some reason tried building chromium from source. The tarball is 321 MB in size:

-rw-r--r--   1 root  lemis  321164908 Sep 17 06:47 chromium-45.0.2454.93.tar.xz

It took 5 hours to build, and of course it didn't behave any differently. I think I'm going to have to give up on chromium.

Also mail from Peter Dilley enclosing screen shots of top output for two of his firefox browsers. They look very much like my ps output a couple of days ago. Then I had 53 processes. Peter had 56 threads—on a relatively standard browser:

 
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He runs another one with lots of security plugins:

 
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72 threads! Has the world gone mad?


Dereel Men's shed
Topic: general Link here

Doug Braddy along to pick up a table from Kleins Road. He's the main mover in the Dereel Men's shed, and they're currently finally building the new shed, next door to Kleins Road, but much closer to the CFA shed:


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Friday, 25 September 2015 Dereel → Napoleons → Dereel Images for 25 September 2015
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Confronting despair
Topic: technology Link here

As expected, the new computer arrived today, so in to Napoleons to pick it up. It's pretty much exactly what I expected, and looks very similar to swamp:


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That's despair on top. Inside the box, though, the difference in age is clear more by the specs than the appearance. Both boxen can be taken apart to a great extent without tools, though I have the feeling that the new one is flimsier. stable has an Intel Core 2 Duo E6550 with a CPUmark specification of 1499; despair has an Intel Core 2 Quad Q9505 with a CPUmark specification of 3641, more than twice as fast.

And the software? Microsoft “Windows” 7 “Professional”. I gather that's not as good as “Penultimate”, but for me the big thing is that it can run rdesktop, and it can. One thing I forgot to check before purchase was whether it was the 32 bit or 64 bit version, but fortunately it was the latter.

Followed (and updated) my HOWTO for configuring Microsoft boxen. The OS appears to have been freshly installed, so the first thing I needed to do (after making a backup, recovery disk, etc) was to update. That took all afternoon: 2 hours or so to check for updates (yes, sir, yes, sir, 3 bags full of 197 updates), 12 minutes to download the best part of a gigabyte of software, 3½ hours to install it, and the best part of another hour to reboot and configure the software. Then of course there were another 20 updates and 183 MB of downloads waiting, and after that another 4. By then it was evening.

Installing DxO Optics “Pro” was about the only problem: I had no less than 3 aborted downloads, along with an inability to register their ViewPoint product. That's another 500 MB of wasted data, which in the bad old days would have taken nearly 6 days and cost 225,000 DM. In the end loaded it to the external web server:

=== grog@www (/dev/pts/1) ~/www.lemis.com/grog 3 -> fetch http://download-center.dxo.com/v10/Win/DxO_OpticsPro10_Setup.exe
DxO_OpticsPro10_Setup.exe                     100% of  335 MB   20 MBps 00m17s

It's not that long ago that I couldn't get that kind of speed locally. Then copied it to the local system from there, which worked without a hitch. It seems that DxO have issues with their web servers.

The surprising thing is that everything went relatively smoothly. But it makes it clear how important it is to keep notes. Microsoft keeps its configuration in the strangest places, and without help it's just a maze of twisty little menus, all alike.


Chrome revisited
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Comment from Peter Jeremy today: it is possible to get chromium to play nice with X window managers. My experiments yesterday omitted an important, undocumented detail: the settings won't completely take hold until you restart the browser. And they, yes, there's a normal window frame.

In passing it's interesting to note that so many Microsoft-space windows don't have a title. You have to guess what they are based on other characteristics. And so many have their own decorations. Does that come from a time when Microsoft didn't provide window manager functionality? All in all, I'm amazed how primitive the windowing environment appears.


Borzoi family reunion
Topic: animals Link here

Cherree Benter and her daughter Alyssa came along today on the way back from Steve Zuideveld's place, bringing with their three dogs: Nigel, son of Zhivago and father of Tanya, Nina, a daughter of Princess and thus also a sister of Tanya, and Archie, a littermate of Sasha. They have all probably met in the past, though I'm not sure about Nina, but don't know each other very well. Once again the typical aggressive behaviour of our vicious hunting dogs:


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That's Nigel in front, followed by Leonid and Nikolai.

In fact, they were so calm with each other that it was almost boring. Archie tried to animate them:


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But on the whole they didn't run much at all:


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And of course Yvonne had to teach them to sit:


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From left to right, the sitting dogs are Nina, Archie and (with his back to us) Sasha. Behind are Leonid and Nikolai.


Saturday, 26 September 2015 Dereel Images for 26 September 2015
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More despair
Topic: technology, photography Link here

Yesterday's installation of despair went relatively smoothly, at least partially because I don't run many programs on it. But how do I copy the configurations, notably of DxO Optics “Pro”? I've had pain with that in the past, and I didn't want to go through it all over again. More investigation: apart from the “Presets” that I looked at last year, there are also “Modules”, descriptions of corrections for camera/lens pairs, and “Workspaces”, the contents of which aren't quite clear, so I tarred up the entire directory /Users/grog/AppData/Local/DxO_Labs/DxO OpticsPro 10 on dischord and copied those directories to despair. That was almost enough: there's also a file user.config in a directory with a name like Users/grog/AppData/Local/DxO_Labs/DXOOpticsPro.exe_StrongName_ukk25szwn2bgpjt3ra3fcszlyidqqavr/10.4.3.739, which suggests security through obscurity. Copied that too, and things looked pretty much the way I expected.

And performance? Sure enough, despair runs about 50% faster than dischord. It's surprising how obvious that is when you're waiting on every reaction. But surprisingly it had limited the number of concurrent conversions to 1; on dischord it was 4. Or was it? Now it's 2. I suspect that's because I have removed half the memory. despair now runs DxO happily in 4 GB of memory, with plenty left over, and the lack of concurrency doesn't seem to make any difference to the speed. In other words, it looks as if it uses more memory if it's there, but it doesn't make things any faster.

The other interesting issue is the directory Cache, which appears to hold these irritating images that won't go away even when I change the contents of the directory. I must play around with the size and see if I can get DxO to stop annoying me with them.

Finally, hibernate works. Since installing the current dischord, I haven't been able to get it to work properly. Now it Just Works. All in all, a well-spent $150.


Nele and son arrive
Topic: general, animals Link here

Nele Kömle and her son Nelson (Nelesson?) arrived today in advance of a mammoth “Gaited workshop” (held by Chris Bahlo) and “Connected Riding Clinic” (held by Trisha Wren). Both Nele and Trisha will be staying here for a few days.


Sunday, 27 September 2015 Dereel Images for 27 September 2015
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Three days of despair
Topic: technology Link here

There were still a few things I needed to complete the basic installation on despair, notably printer and scanner. As warned in the HOWTO, Microsoft fails on both counts.

Installing the scanner was interesting. After downloading the driver, I got this meaningless message:

 
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How can I know what this is? Only because there's only the one possibility. But in fact it turned out to be wrong. After installation, the system complained that the driver still wasn't installed. Reinstalled. Same thing. Then I looked back on the web browser, which showed me that I had installed a driver for the Epson “Perfection” 4490 Photo. My scanner is an Epson “Perfection” 4990 Photo. But the installation software didn't check. And now I have both installed, and I have to find out how to get rid of the wrong one.

I had intended to take my time with the remaining computer reorganization, but everything was going so smoothly that I reconsidered. Took the disk out of lagoon, Yvonne's computer, and put it into dischord. Can I dual boot? Yes, I can, and both Microsoft and FreeBSD had no issues. So I can leave the disk in and boot from it if I need anything more from dischord.

Starting X was another matter, of course. The display card is one of the GeForce 9500 GT cards I bought seven years ago, so I needed to configure it. Once again X -configure created an invalid configuration file, this time with three heads. The card supports two monitors, but where did the third come from? The motherboard has no graphics, so it seems to be a figment of X's imagination. The Device section is bare-bones:

Section "Device"
        Identifier  "Card2"
        Driver      "vesa"
        BusID       "PCI:1:0:0"
EndSection

About the only thing of importance is the BusID, which is the same as for the GeForce card. Looking at the broken configuration for stable, it's exactly the same thing: a vesa entry duplicating the BusID of the existing card. Why is it there?

But I already had a configuration for this card in eureka's version control, so pulled that out and put it in the existing configuration file. Everything worked.

Took the advantage of having the disks for lagoon and dischord on the same machine, and started a dd of the dischord disk to lagoon. And then the first issue came up: disk errors on the lagoon disk, to an extent that they weren't logged, and the system crashed. How did they happen? It's fair to assume that the dd accessed a flaky part of the disk, but why is it flaky? It was a relatively new replacement for another disk that ran into the same problem. Time for Yet Another New Disk.


YouTube regained
Topic: technology Link here

The main reason for the computer rearrangement was so that Yvonne could watch YouTube again. Tried it. Didn't work. But I had played around with this YouTube flash plugin. How do I disable it? It seems that about:addons (care, one :, not two) takes you to the Add-ons manager. I've never seen that before.

From there you select Plugins and you have the opportunity to activate or deactivate the plugins. Why not just go straight to about::plugins? That's a purely informative view, and you can't change anything there.

After deactivating the YouTube flash plugin, I was able to view YouTube with normal HTML5. It maxed out a CPU on what, until 2 years ago, had been my fastest machine, but it worked.


YouTube lost
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I took a few short video clips of the Borzoi family reunion on Friday, but didn't get round to uploading them to YouTube until today. And suddenly all my old videos were gone! It seems that, without telling me, YouTube has changed my name. I logged in via my Google account, and should have had the nick grOOgle, but instead it logged me with my own name. That in itself is not a big deal, but it means I can no longer modify my old videos. Why do people do this?


Warmer weather
Topic: general, animals Link here

It's finally getting warmer, and we can open the windows and verandah door. There's a fly screen in front, of course, but that doesn't seem to interest the dogs:


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Animal issues
Topic: animals Link here

Trisha Wren arrived in mid-afternoon fresh (or maybe not so fresh) from New Zealand and proceed to take a nap in the afternoon. Later on I got a call from Yvonne to tell me that Sörli, one of Nele's horses, had colic. Would I please call Pene Kirk? Tried that, found that she was in Snake Valley for some time, and after considerable phoning around, Pene gave me the number of Jim Hancock . It proved that Nele knows him from another life. He came out and took a look at Sörli. Not colic, but it's not clear what it was.


Monday, 28 September 2015 Dereel Images for 28 September 2015
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Small children again
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Nele and Nelson are sleeping in the same area that we do. Some of the time. Nelson wakes with the dawn, and so must we. I had forgotten how much fun it is to have small children in the house. But later in the week we will be able to catch up on our sleep.


Nasi goreng again
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Discussion on IRC about cooking rice and nasi goreng. Some people think it's too complicated, others swear by rice cookers. My own experience with rice cookers is that they're not worth the trouble:, and for things like nasi lemak or ghee rice they're pretty useless, and SBS Food Safari has confirmed my opinion: they tried making nasi lemak in a rice cooker and burnt it. They seem to have lost the video, but this image clearly shows browned rice:

I seem to have forgotten this when I bought the rice cooker a year later, but it seems I never followed through with my intentions to try to use it for nasi lemak.

But the issue people had was primarily how to cook rice. How hard can it be? One person came up with a recommendation to rinse it in water after cooking and then dry it out in the refrigerator. He was also the person who had had real trouble cooking nasi goreng. So I promised to write up my recipe. There's nothing special about it.


How many photos?
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

The riding events of the last few days have made themselves felt in the number of photos Yvonne has taken. Over the last three days, with a little help from Amy Haldane and Margaret Swan, she managed 1,213 photos:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/27) /Photos/yvonne 69 -> for i in 2015092*; do echo $i; ls /orig/*ORF | wc -l; done
20150926
     204
20150927
     391
20150928
     618

Today's 618 photos were taken in a span of 6 hours, 36 minutes:

File P9287432.ORF
Date taken:     Monday, 28 September 2015, 11:21:11
Camera:         OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP. E-PM2
Lens:           Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm F2.8 Pro
Focal length:   38.0 mm (full frame equivalent: 76 mm)
Exposure:       1/80 sec, f/2.8 (EV 9.3), 26/320 ISO
Size:           4640 x 3472 pixels
Copyright:      Yvonne Lehey

...

File P9288056.ORF
Date taken:     Monday, 28 September 2015, 17:57:27
...

That's an average rate of 38 seconds between photos. I'm impressed.

It's also interesting that she managed this on a single battery. The instruction manual is too polite to mention things like batteries discharging, but according to the specifications a battery is good for about 360 shots. And this was an after-market battery, which typically doesn't deliver as much charge.


Yet more after-dinner fun
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Everybody came over for dinner this evening, with the exception of Nele, who wanted to put Nelson to bed. It took her over an hour, by which time the rest of us had finished.

After dinner, Chris Bahlo couldn't resist getting up to her usual tricks, and others soon joined in:


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Tuesday, 29 September 2015 Dereel Images for 29 September 2015
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Where did my space go?
Topic: technology, photography Link here

Yvonne continues to take lots of photos, and I've been processing them generically while she goes and takes more. Today there were 425 shots, making a total since Saturday of 1,638. Doubtless she'll make the 2,000 mark by the time the clinic ends tomorrow.

How much space does that take up? Looking at the 16 GB memory card, it looks like almost all of it:

=== grog@stable (/dev/pts/0) /eureka/home/grog 3 -> mdir -s a:
...
      425 files       5 539 585 350 bytes
                        376 274 944 bytes free

But wait. That's nearly 6 GB, not 16. Where did the rest go? After backing up the photos and deleting everything on the card, I had:

DCIM         <DIR>     2014-05-18  16:00
        1 file                    0 bytes
                     15 922 888 704 bytes free

The first listing adds up to 5,915,860,294 bytes, almost exactly 10 GB less than the second. Is something being truncated somewhere? It seems so:

=== yvonne@eureka (/dev/pts/28) ~/Photos/20150929 111 -> du -sk orig/
15045392        total

I never expected anybody to fill a 16 GB card in a single day. But it looks like it's time to take a look at mtools and fix the truncation.


Processing ridiculous numbers of photos
Topic: technology, photography Link here

How do you process 600 raw images taken in low light? Using DxO Optics “Pro”, the answer is undoubtedly “slowly”. At ISO ratings up to 36°/3,200, you need the slower “PRIME” processing. Until a month or two back it took 4 minutes for dischord to process a single image, or 15 per hour. At that rate, it would take 40 hours to process the 600. And that's without the manual work, notably cropping.

Since then, though, we have a newer, somewhat faster version of DxO, and a newer, somewhat faster machine, and now it only takes about 1⅓ minutes per image, or only about 13 hours.

But most of the images are not worth keeping, so I decided to process them with the normal quality processing, which now manages nearly 4 images per minute. She can go back and process the ones she thinks are worthwhile later. Even so it took most of the day.

The other thing she needs is a second monitor so that she can look at the “contact prints” on a web browser on one and run a despair window on the other. Surprise, surprise, we have one, and the display card in her new machine supports two monitors. Again, RCS proved superior to the X and the nVidia tools, and after working my way through the material, it worked first time.


Wednesday, 30 September 2015 Dereel Images for 30 September 2015
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Another new lens
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

A few weeks ago I bought a M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 EZ lens for Yvonne. It finally arrived today. It's certainly smaller than the kit lens. I had assumed that it was basically a repackaging of the older M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 II R lens. It has the same number and arrangement of elements, but there are subtle differences. Here images from the Olympus web site:

The image for the EZ is misleading; it shows the lens collapsed, in a form that can't be used for photography. It extends at two different rates, and probably the rear element stays where it is. But it has an ED and “Super ED” element, and at least the second element from the front is shaped differently. And the specified resolution is also different:

And the sizes? We now have four tiny lenses for the camera. Apart from the two 14-42 mm lenses, there's also the 15 mm body cap lens and then the M.Zuiko Digital 17mm F2.8 Pancake lens. Both are smaller. Here from left to right the 15 mm, the 17 mm, the new EZ and the old R, in collapsed form:


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The new lens is apparently only 0.5 mm longer than the 17 mm, but it looks more here. Of course, that's only part of the story. I also bought an aftermarket automatic lens cap. It has two little levers that protrude from the back, and when they hit the rear of the lens they close a diaphragm:


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That adds to the length, of course:


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When extended, though, things are interesting. I had expected to lose all the length advantage, but that's not the case. Here are the maxima and (roughly) minima for each lens:


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So it seems that from a size point of view, the new lens wins. Arguably the image quality is better too, though we have better lenses if that's the issue, like my M.Zuiko 12-40 mm f/2.8 “Pro”. But what about the zoom? The hype says that it has two different speeds, and maybe it does: slow and very slow. Here the old lens wins. It's also irritating in a lens of this quality that the camera doesn't recall the zoom setting when the camera is turned off: it always goes back to the 14 mm setting. Yes, compact cameras do this too, but we're talking about a different price class here.


TPOCSA
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

For the past two months almost I've been trying to review “The Practice of Cloud System Administration”, by Thomas A. Limoncelli, Strata R. Chalup and Christina J. Hogan, for the The FreeBSD Journal. It hasn't been easy. Today was the deadline, and I'm glad I finally got something useful together.

What's a cloud, anyway? A nebulous term. But the authors have addressed that in advance: you get a choice of two titles, and “Designing and operating large distributed systems” suits me far better.

The difficulties don't reflect on the quality of the book, but because it comes from a perspective so different from my own. Concepts like DevOps have just passed me by, and similar concepts that I know seem to have been forgotten in today's “cloud” world. It has been quite a learning experience. And anybody who is seriously working in this area would be crazy not to read it.


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