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Monday, 18 September 2017 Dereel Images for 18 September 2017
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eBay: Unpaid bill
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

This time last week I bought a disk on eBay. Unlike just about everything nowadays, there was no PayPal option, so I had to pay by bank transfer. But this morning I received a mail message from the seller, and discovered that he had opened a non-payment case.

How could that happen? No idea, but after checking my bank accounts, no transfer had been made. Either I forgot it (unusual), or the bank messed up, which wouldn't be the first time. There's no way to tell which it was any more. Either way, the seller was right that he had almost certainly not received any payment. OK, pay up, in the process running into a bug on the ANZ web site: I copied and pasted the details to be sure I got them right, but it managed to get a leading space, and claimed that the account number wasn't a number. It accepted it after I removed the (almost imperceptible) space, but by then it had truncated the account number.

Back to eBay. So I had paid the bill. What next? I had no less than three messages from the seller, and all I could see were the headers. How do I display them? There's no indication on the index of how to do it. But there is a link “Tell us what you think”. Clearly they're not interested: the link is broken.

Finally I found that the message I had received was sent by real email, and not eBay's concept of email. How did he get my (eBay) email address? Maybe from the communication after I purchased the item?

Back to the unpaid item case. The instructions say:

When paying by electronic funds transfer, include the transaction code that you were given when you checked out.

What transaction code? There's an email ID, too long for the banks' antiquated systems, and containing # characters, which aren't in their (48 character BCD?) character set. And that's all.

Anyway, the item page also includes the information:


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OK, Pay Now? I've already done that in real life, but maybe I need to tell eBay too. Nope, nothing there, just bank details and the Seller notes:

Please include your USER NAME. Otherwise your deposit may be difficult to identify. Thanks.

It also included an RIB key, whatever that may be (identical to the BSB number, which they choose to call “bank code”), and IBAN and SWIFT information (not used in Australia, and thus “not specified”. What happened to the transaction code? An old, worn-out magic word?

OK, how about “contact seller”. That's a generic contact page, including their irritating “We'll look for an answer for you, whether you want us to or not”:


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In the end I just replied to the seller's message. But how do I close this case? It doesn't seem that I can do anything about it.

eBay, every encounter with you is painful. Twenty years and you're still such a mess.

In passing, it's clear that paying with PayPal (also not exactly a friend) has its advantages. At least it (normally) goes smoothly.


Sourdough fade
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

I don't bake as much bread as I used to, and it's been nearly 2 months since the last loaf. Fortunately the sliced bread keeps well in the freezer, so we always have some. But the last starter smells funny, and there's a dark grey patch that seems to indicate an infection at the top of the pot.

 
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That's not because of the length of time. This starter was two months old, from the last loaf I made. That's comparable in age to the length of time I left starters when I was baking more frequently. And though the bread rose, it was barely enough, and it took nearly 5 hours. I've been cultivating this starter for 8½ years. I think it's time to buy an alternative starter and see how this it works out.


Don't disclose your voting documents
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Callum Gibson commented on my article on same-sex marriage today. I shouldn't have published the bar code at the bottom:


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It seems that I'm not the only person to have done so. But why not? It says so here.

Ah, but that's fake news. Real official statements come from Twitter.

More seriously, though, what is the purpose of the bar code? And what are the dangers of publishing it? I can only think of two concerns: that the results of the survey could be falsified, or that my personal details could be compromised. I'm not overly concerned about my personal details, but it does beg the question as to whether they can identify my by the bar code. That shouldn't be possible. And if they're checking the bar code, it's trivial to reject all but one (or all) of the forms with a specific bar code. And the instructions say that the form must be returned in the envelope provided, so submitting a duplicate would mean that another vote would go unregistered.

And if they don't want us to publish the code, why don't they say so on the accompanying “information” sheet that came with the form?


Intuitive error messages
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I've mentioned in the past that I'm quite happy with the Mendhak GPS logger. It works well, while the corresponding function in OI.Share is fiddly to turn on, and it frequently turns itself off again for reasons that I haven't established.

But today I had no logs at all. The entire directory was empty. But the logger was working:

 
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Only nothing got written to disk. Why was the message Gpx10FileLogger.write in red? Is that an even more polite way of saying “failed, but I don't really want to tell you”? I had deleted the files in the directory via WiFi File Transfer. Could it be that it set the directory permissions to something that GPS logger can't access? Who knows? Everything about Android seems to be designed to hide details. In the end I removed the directory, restarted the device and GPS logger, and it worked. But why is this stuff so painful?


Dinner guests again
Topic: food and drink, photography, opinion Link here

Arne Koets is, if not in town, then at least in the area, and he's holding a clinic in Clarendon, near Scotsburn, where there have been a number of such clinics. He has 8 participants, 4 of whom came for dinner this evening: Yvonne, of course, Chris Bahlo, Margaret Swan and Chris' sister Melanie. More fun with dining table panoramas:


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Those are only two of 15,552 combinations of the individual images. Things are getting better, but I'm still not happy with the lighting. A bit of fill-in flash from the camera? And maybe marginally more serious poses?

Oh, and food. Grilled tuna with baked potato, pumpkin and sweet potato, followed by a “Quark Sweet Cheese Strudel”, whatever that may mean.


Tuesday, 19 September 2017 Dereel Images for 19 September 2017
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Where in the world am I?
Topic: multimedia, technology, opinion Link here

There's something funny about MediathekView: sometimes it doesn't find things that are listed in the Mediatheken, and sometimes it can't load things that I can watch directly, claiming “forbidden” (HTTP error 403). Why?

One reason could be something that I've frequently observed: my network block (“Class C”) was allocated in Germany in the dark ages, round 1992. When I moved here, it moved with me, but much software still thinks I'm in Germany. In general it's a minor nuisance—some broken sites of Big Business decide to redirect to their German subsidiary when I access their site, for example—but in this case it appears to tell the Mediatheken that they can display the content—if I use a Class C address and not the gateway address.

OK, how do I work round that? eureka.lemis.com is the gateway machine, but for some reason I can get the content there, currently only via a web browser. How about installing MediathekView there? Of course it doesn't say that it works on FreeBSD, and there's no port. But it's in Java. How hard can it be?

Not very hard. As the instructions said, I needed to install Java 8, and then it ran—for a fraction of a second. Then it died with the message:

JavaFX wurde nicht im klassenpfad gefunden.
 Stellen Sie sicher, dass Sie ein Java JRE ab Version 8 benutzen.
 Falls Sie Linux nutzen, installieren Sie das openjfx-Paket ihres Package-Managers,

What does that mean? Basically, that it couldn't find JavaFX, whatever that is. ktrace showed that it didn't look for anything of that name (and that the output of the error message was messy, with the newline characters output with a separate write system call). And that I should ensure that I have JRE version 8, along with some Linux-specific information. I had that. Configuration error?

Spent a lot of time looking for details of how to configure Java, along with lots of web sites dealing—mainly inappropriately—with the error message. Finally I discovered that the last line of the error message was relevant: in FreeBSD terms, it meant that I should have installed the java/openjfx8 port. Problem: there is none, only java/openjfx8-devel. What happened to the stable version? It seems that there is none.

Installing Java 8 was relatively straightforward, but openjfx8 is a whole different kettle of fish, and it took forever, paradoxically including a new version of ruby. But then it ran, which means I no longer need to fight Microsoft to use it.

But I still can't get my content. Whatever is failing the test, it's not the system itself. Wouldn't it be nice to just store things from the web browser?


Dinner panoramas again
Topic: photography, general, opinion Link here

Yesterday's dinner panorama wasn't bad, but Margaret Swan's face came out a little underexposed: she was sitting side-on to the flash unit, and the reflection from the ceiling wasn't enough. OK, we can do that: a little bit of fill-in flash with the toy flash that came with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, and use it to trigger the room flash. Here's the arrangement. The whole thing is mounted on the Vanguard 263 AT PRO, with the centre column spread out horizontally, with the end over the centre of the table:

 
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The end of the column is a minor problem: I need something to turn things through 90°. I used an old ball head, turned through 90°, and with the broken Sunwayfoto rotator on top:

 
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And sure enough, the test photos worked fine. But not the for-real photos. It looked as if the room flash didn't go off, which is more likely to mean that it went off too early, probably a pre-flash. Here one of my tests, and then the real thing, without any correction:

 
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I had set the fill-in to ¼ strength, -2 EV. And that's the exposure I got for all the photos.

I still ended up with a panorama, of course, but it's clear that it has been salvaged:


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So, for next time, I have:

  1. Ensure that all flashes go off at the right time.
  2. Find a way to get the guests (yes, Chris, I'm talking about you) to look sensible.
  3. Maybe raise the viewpoint a little.

Tonight's dinner
Topic: food and drink Link here

As planned, I'm recording what we eat with guests. This time it was simple: German Abendbrot. And everybody was happy.


This page contains (roughly) yesterday's and today's entries. I have a horror of reverse chronological documents, so all my diary entries are chronological. This page normally contains the last two days, but if I fall behind it may contain more. You can find older entries in the archive. Note that I often update a diary entry a day or two after I write it.     Do you have a comment about something I have written? This is a diary, not a “blog”, and there is deliberately no provision for directly adding comments. But I welcome feedback and try to reply to all messages I receive. See the diary overview for more details. If you do send me a message relating to something I have written, please indicate whether you'd prefer me not to mention your name. Otherwise I'll assume that it's OK to do so.


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