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Greg's diary
September 2017
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Friday, 1 September 2017 Dereel Images for 1 September 2017
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Kitchen fire!
Topic: food and drink Link here

Cooked another batch of nasi lemak today. That requires the “high” burner on the stove cooktop, the one that JG King put far too close to the wall. So I put our well-stained aluminium foil between to protect the wall. I didn't realize just how hot it got: it caught fire! Sadly I didn't get a photo—after all, I had a fire to put out—but the mess is obvious:


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I've been waiting for about 6 weeks for the Domestic Buildings Dispute Resolution Victoria to process my complaint, but maybe it's time to raise the level of urgency.


17 years of online diary
Topic: history, opinion Link here

It's been 17 years since I (re)started this online diary! Even at my age, that's nearly a quarter. Of course, another way to look at it is to say that I left a 30 year gap since my last diary, which I stopped nearly 47 years ago. At that time I had been keeping a (paper) diary for over a third of my lifetime, from age 14 years, 3 months to age 22 years. And I really regret that I stopped. Reading that old diary now is really interesting.

But then it occurred to me: I have now kept a diary for a larger proportion of my life than I had then. In October 1970 I had kept it for 93 of 264 months, or 35.2% of my life. Adding in the additional 17 years, I've now kept a diary for 297 of 827 months, or 35.9%.

Not completely by coincidence, today was spent tidying up diary files. Obviously I finished the file for August 2017. Less obviously, I finished entering the file for March 1965. I'm entering 4 days per day, and I had one left over, 1 April 1965. And that was the only day remaining in April 1965, so I finished that too. Another couple of months and my entire diary will be on line.


Saturday, 2 September 2017 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 2 September 2017
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Amplifier with hindrances
Topic: multimedia Link here

Picking up my “new” Sansui San110 wasn't easy. The seller responded to my messages quickly but inaccurately, and by this morning (intended date of pickup) I still didn't know much in the way of details. He appeared to refuse to divulge his address. The correspondence went something like this:

So I called at 9:00 and got voice mail. OK, try again at 10:00 and got him with a barely intelligible mobile phone connection, but was just about able to understand the address, and some garbled statement about meeting him in his car near mumble. Finally off and got there. Car was there, with cat in it, and finally the seller emerged from the house. Took the amplifier and remote control from the car, handed it to me, drove off, and that was that.

The pickup itself was straightforward enough, but the arrangements were really irritating. Still, I have the amplifier—possibly the biggest I have ever seen, at 39 × 43 × 13 cm (21.8 litres). By contrast, my old Technics amplifier is 30 × 41 × 12 (14.8 l), and the receiver in the lounge is 33 × 44 × 13 (18.9 l). Certainly the volume/price ratio is good, but it means that it won't fit where I had the Technics. One of the SPARCStation pizza boxes is going to have to go.


Delacombe Town Centre
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Over 50 years ago we lived in Kuala Lumpur, in a street (lane) called Lorong Kuda (“Horse Lane”) on the edge of the racecourse, on the edge of the town. Some decades later one of our friends from the time, now a big businessman, got involved in replacing the racecourse with an enormous building complex, which for a while included the tallest habitable buildings in the world, and called it “Kuala Lumpur City Centre”. Why Centre? It was several kilometres from the accepted centre of town.

Clearly that has made its mark. To get from Dereel to the western suburbs of Ballarat we take a way that, although obvious, is completely ignored both by Google Maps and all navigation programs I know. The last part involves going down Cherry Flat Road, across the Glenelg Highway into Wiltshire Lane.

Over the last year or so there has been considerable building work on the corner of Cherry Flat Road and the Glenelg Highway. And on Thursday the complex was opened: a shopping centre called Delacombe Town Centre.

OK, you could hardly call Delacombe a city—it's only a suburb of Ballarat, after all, with a current population of 6,297—but you could also hardly call the location a centre. Today it had a sort of second opening (“celebrations”) with lots of events. Since we were in town anyway, we decided to go and take a look, particularly since there was the chance of special offers.

Getting in isn't the simplest thing in the world. It's on a corner, but the entrance is at the southern end of the complex, down Cherry Flat Road. And where are the parking spaces? There are a few when you arrive, but most are on the north side. And to get there every single car has to go between the two buildings, and across a pedestrian crossing. Here's the current aerial (“satellite”) image from Google Maps, made some time before completion:

 
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Not surprisingly, things were seriously clogged up. I wonder what it'll be like in a month's time. The car parks were full to capacity, and I chose to park outside on the highway:


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Looking at the aerial view, it's not clear where they could put a significant number of further parking places.

I was expecting something like a possibly smaller version of the Woodgrove Shopping Centre in Melton, but it's much smaller than that.

First past the not-yet-opened discount chemist (“waiting for the government to issue a Medicare license”) and to Woolworths:


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They had clearly gone to a lot of trouble to look attractive, as this fruit display shows (displaying the Woolworths emblem):


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And sure enough, we found lots of special offers, mainly fish. But somehow the whole place looks dingy and unfriendly. Each of these two images was taken in a different building:


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Paying for the self-service checkout worked well enough, but where's the receipt?


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Where did that come from? It seems to be from shin height, clearly optimized for something else than “customer experience”.

Across the road to K-Mart. Yvonne was concerned about whether we would be allowed in with our Woolworths trolley. I had no such concerns, but she asked anyway. And they advised her to leave it outside: it seems that they automatically lock up if they're taken further than a certain distance from the shop. While that's potentially a good idea, it would probably mean that we couldn't get it back to the car out on the highway. Not good.

At K-Mart we found a frying pan “frypan” that we had been looking for: 24 cm, supports induction, and cheap. But where do you pay? Here's the entrance:


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Looking carefully, in the distance you can see a sign:

 
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But when you get there, there's nothing there!


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Again you have to look carefully:


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It's almost obvious once you have found it and don't need to look for it:


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More fun with automatic payment, and this time we found where the receipt issues from, somewhere down near your knees:


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By the time we got back to the car, others had followed our example:


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That's my car on the extreme right. I had been the only car there when we arrived 40 minutes earlier.

Since we were pointing west, and the traffic in town was particularly bad, decided to take a long way home via Ross Creek. I wish I had an overview of what the GPS navigator thinks it's doing. In the end carried on through Napoleons, and saw a garage sale near Sullivans Road, just south of Napoleons. I don't think we've ever been to a garage sale where Yvonne didn't buy something, and this time it was two rubbish bins for $30 together. Normally you pay about $100 each. But of course we were in the wrong car, so we had to go home, and then I out with the Commodore to pick them up.


More Misery Creek
Topic: gardening, photography, opinion Link here

After picking up the rubbish bins, headed down Misery Creek Road again to see how things were progressing. Once again I saw plants that I can't identify:


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Then there are these Correas, which I might previously have seen at a distance and mistaken for Epacris:


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There are gradually more orange pea-like flowers. Two sorts, one a bush:


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And then there are these ones, which I had noted before:


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The Grevillea bedggoodiana are still not really in flower. It's interesting in passing to note their preferred habitat, hanging down the edges of the road:


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On the way home, down Peppermint Track, which I thought might lead back to our house. After reaching East Dozed Track (where do they get these names from?), found a barrier:


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That's a pity. As a check on the map shows, I was only 1.6 km from home, and the track went on for at least another 300 m (if you believe the map), or possibly even joins with Stones Road (if you believe the aerial view).


Saturday night dinner
Topic: food and drink Link here

This week we ate trout that we found in the Delacombe Town Centre this morning. There were a couple of differences from normal. Firstly, Chris Bahlo wasn't there:


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Secondly, the hors d'œuvres were rather minimal, toast with tapenade, most of which went to Chris, despite her absence:

 
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The menu:

Amuse-gueueles       Pain à la tapenade
Plat principal       Truites aux amandes
Dessert       Fraises à la Chantilly

Sunday, 3 September 2017 Dereel Images for 3 September 2017
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New amplifier
Topic: multimedia, opinion Link here

Finally got round to installing the amplifier today, requiring a bit of rearrangement of my desktop (the area above the desk). But apart from the usual issues with cables, everything Just Worked. For one system, anyway. Connecting to dischord (nomen est omen?) didn't work, but that seems not to be due to the amplifier; the inputs worked when connected to eureka.

What really got me was the difference in sound quality. This is no high-end Hi-Fi system, but with the old loudspeakers it's much better than the toy Logitech speakers I've been using so far. Well worth the trouble.

About the only issue is the user interface. When I turn it off, it forgets its settings: which channel? How loud? What balance? My old Technics had mechanical memory (switches and potentiometers), but here it's all digital. I wonder when digital interfaces will attain the level of maturity that analogue devices had 20 years ago.


Cailles aux raisins, again
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Cailles aux raisins for dinner this evening. It's only been 6 weeks since we last made them. Or did we? That was cailles aux raisins secs, with raisns instead of grapes. Today we wanted the real thing.

Or did we? The recipe that Yvonne found included both grapes and raisins. It also wanted the quails wrapped in smoked bacon, something that we didn't have. In the end we faked it:


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We were too lazy to peel the grapes, especially as the instructions (“put into boiling water for 30 seconds to loosen the skin”) didn't have the desired effect. The result was not bad, but I can see us improving on it further.


Monday, 4 September 2017 Dereel
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More MyNetFone problems
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

CJ Ellis has problems with his MyNetFone connection again! It's the third time now: for reasons that nobody has been to explain, outgoing calls function normally, but incoming calls divert immediately to voice mail. This first happened two years ago, then repeated six weeks ago. CJ is non-technical and deaf, and has difficulties understanding non-Australians (including Yvonne), so I offered to talk to support for him.

On each occasion the MyNetFone support people told me that the ATA (a Mitron MV1) was not registered. Wrong! The ATA was registered, otherwise CJ would not have been able to make outgoing calls, including the ones he made to report the problem. What they meant was that the ATA was showing up in their system as “not registered”: a network problem, not a hardware problem. And they should really notice the difference.

OK, just because it has happened twice doesn't mean that the same symptoms this time have the same cause. First, check the settings on the MyNetFone web site.

Login failed! How come? Checked again and in the end asked for a password reset (“Enter email address...”). But it didn't like the (custom) email address, the one to which they send all notifications! Why does this sort of problem happen so often?

In the end gave up and called the MyNetFone number. For further reference: select 1 for “residential”, and then 2 for support. Once again I had to put up with really flaky hold music, which sounded as if it had a poor network connection, and the classic announcement:

While you are waiting, please consider this: Please stay on the line for the next available operator.

Finally connected to Shakeel, who laboriously spelt out his name, then asked me for my name and date of birth, and after being given the ticket number asked “How can I help?”, presumably the next line of his script. I suggested he looked at the ticket, after which he told me that the cable to the ATA was flaky, and that the ATA itself—sold to CJ 2 years ago as part of the bundle—was obsolete, and should be replaced. While writing this up, I checked: it really seems that CJ got the last of the stock, as this article, posted at 4:48 PM 2 years ago, describes.

With a bit more encouragement he decided that the ATA was not registered. I explained once again the one-way nature of the problem, but he kept going on about the flaky cable. To quote last time, literally, I asked him to escalate it, but said he couldn't. Asked to speak to his supervisor, but he couldn't connect me, and I could expect a call back in 24 to 48 hours!

Finally I lost my temper when he repeated things yet again, and he hung up on me. At the time, completely by chance, CJ was standing in front of me, something that happens no more frequently than twice a month. I told him “He says the ATA isn't registered”. CJ: “Then how can I make outgoing calls?”. If a 78-year-old non-techie can see that, why can't the support people?

So I called back and asked to make a complaint. They wanted details all over again, but I refused to give them: too much time wasted already. Connection to the complaints department took a while, but finally I was connected with Ash(ley), who sounded more sensible, and who knew all the details. It seems that somebody must have checked the calling number and done a lookup, something more complicated than I would have expected. Ash arranged to have a senior techie call me back again.

Finally that happened round 16:10: Cory called and we discussed the matter, in particular the discrepancy between the support view and the view from the ATA. He understood, but there was a problem: the ATA was now registered, which I was able to confirm. Clearly there was nothing he could do under those circumstances, but he promised to have somebody keep an eye on it from time to time, and gave me a number to call if it happened again.

Why do these bugs go into hiding just as you're about to catch them? People often bring up conspiracy theories: first they fix things, then they claim that there has never been a problem. I think it's more likely that they fix things while investigating, and don't notice the fact.


Determining entrance pupil, the easy way
Topic: photography Link here

When taking panoramic photos, alignment is very important: you rotate the camera about the entrance pupil of the lens. How do you determine where it is? If you can find them documented online, and you trust the data, use it. For Olympus lenses there's a table on the German Olypedia, but it hasn't been maintained for a long time, so modern lenses aren't there. I've adapted this to my equipment. Panotools also has an entrance pupil “database”, but it currently doesn't include any Micro Four Thirds cameras.

Then there's the alternative of measuring it yourself. This page seems to be the easiest to understand. But the method relies on successive approximation and is slow, tedious and inaccurate.

But then it occurred to me: how does parallax manifest itself when stitching a panorama? Larger “error” values from the control point detector. And they should be proportional to the distance from the entrance pupil. So if I take comparison shots with the lens positioned at two different positions, I should be able to interpolate between the two to find the correct position. To do that, I positioned two tripods in front of each other up against a brick wall:


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These photos were taken with my Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 8 mm f/3.5 fisheye lens, which according to Olypedia, after my adjustments, should have an entrance pupil setting of 84 mm. So I took two shots at 80 mm, then another two shots at 90 mm:


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The first thing that occurred to me is that I really only needed one tripod close to the camera. The wall was at a constant distance, so the error was very small, and the front tripod really stood out. The corresponding control point displays were:


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In each case, the control point on the tripod head is highlighted, and the error is more than 10 times any of the others.

Next, there's an assumption: I assume that the entrance pupil is between the two positions. The alternative is that it's outside the two positions. In either case, the error is proportional to the distance from the entrance pupil position. If the entrance pupil is between the two points, the 10 mm distance correspond to an error of 14.39 (6.21 + 8.18) pixels. The entrance pupil should thus be at 80 + 6.21 ÷ 14.39 × 10 mm, or 84.3 mm—as close as practical to what Olypedia says.

What if I'm wrong in my assumption? Clearly the entrance pupil is closer to 80 mm than 90, but it could be less than 80 mm. In that case, the 10 mm correspond to an error of -1.97 mm (6.21 - 8.18), so the entrance pupil position would be 80 + 6.21 ÷ -1.97 × 10, or 31.5 mm.

That's clearly ridiculous in this case, but in others it's not so clear. I don't have any information at all for my Leica Summilux 25 mm f/1.4, so I guessed it would be somewhere near the front element, at about 40 mm on the scale, and took photos at 30 mm and 50 mm. The results: error 1.34 for 50 mm and 3.45 for 30 mm. In this case the entrance pupil could either be at 50 - 1.34 ÷ (1.34 + 3.45) * 20 mm (44 mm) or 50 - 1.34 ÷ (1.34 - 3.45) * 20 or 62.7 mm. Which is it?

Based on position, I'd go for the former, but it's easy enough to check: more photos at that position. I need to do that anyway to prove that my method works. And I also need to take more photos to do a proper write-up, which will include real distances rather than the markings on my focus rail.

What I've learnt so far:


Tuesday, 5 September 2017 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel
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Dentist again!
Topic: health, gardening Link here

Off to Ballarat for a dental checkup. Somehow I seem to be going to the dentist and periodontist all the time lately—today was the fourth time since March. As then, he found nothing wrong, but cleaned my teeth for me. I was dubious about the necessity, as I was last time, but he handed me a mirror and showed how he cleaned the scale off the inside of my bottom teeth. That's convincing, but why don't toothbrushes do their job?

On the way home, as planned, took a look down Misery Creek Road, on the off chance that something might have changed. About the only thing that has changed, apart from the weather (for the worse), is all the Acacia bushes in flower. Still, it looks like I have 3 months of observations ahead of me.


How China wins the trade war
Topic: general, opinion Link here

I've commented from time to time on the importance of shipping to the information age. I can buy things in China and have them shipped here for a total price of less than normal letter postage in Australia. Not so from the USA: I seldom buy things from there because the postage makes it uneconomical. And this statistic bears it out:

Analysing this information, it seems that the average cost of a package in the USA is $7.40, while in China it's $1.94. And presumably a far higher proportion of Chinese packages are international, further skewing the relationship.

The other thing I don't understand is the speed. I really wish I understood why postage was so slow. Decades ago I read a book by Thomas HardyJude the Obscure, I think, in which there were mentions of letters passing between Dorset and London by train. Letters were sent in the morning, and a reply received the following morning. That can't possibly happen any more, because there is only one postal delivery per day. But if things could have been so fast then—late 19th century—why can it take over a week for packages to reach me from Melbourne, a shorter distance?


Wednesday, 6 September 2017 Dereel Images for 6 September 2017
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Giant kangaroo
Topic: animals Link here

Yvonne called me out to the south yard this morning to show me one of the biggest kangaroos we have ever seen:


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The clothes host is about 2 m from the ground. Upright, he must have been at least 1.7 m high. And the posture clearly shows how dangerous his claws are:

 
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How many car displays?
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

Last week ALDI had some special offers: a dashcam and a wireless reversing camera. I've had a reversing camera before, which connected to my GPS receiver, but it required running wires through the car, and I never got round to installing it. This one least obviates that problem.

The reality, as so often with ALDI special offers, is different: the camera part can be mounted either wired to the reversing lights, or unwired with a switch. So when you want to reverse, you get out and press the “On” button. If it's wired, it only works when it's powered, either by the reversing lights or the tail lights. Neither is really satisfactory: what if you want to keep an eye on your trailer load?

The dashcam is pretty bare-bones, as you'd expect from something costing $40. It doesn't even have a storage card, something that ALDI have always included in the past. It came with protective film over the camera lens and the display. After removing the lens protection, I discovered that the protection had been stuck to the lens with a not-easily-removable adhesive:


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And the protection on the display was not easily removable in itself:


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More to the point, though: where do I put the devices? They're all supplied with a suction cup for attachment to the windscreen, but that takes up much of the field of view:


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And the “cable salad”, as the Germans say, is also considerable:

 
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Round about this time I need to ask myself what I need the devices for. For me, the dashcam is basically just another way to record my route; it would be nice going down Misery Creek Road, for example. But for that I need GPS logging.

I have GPS logging! It's just in a different box, and never the twain shall meet. And then there's the reversing camera: all the display on the windscreen does is show the images from the camera. My last GPS receiver could do that too, module wiring. So basically, there's no reason to need more than one display on the windscreen.

And that's exactly what a mobile phone or tablet can do, sort of. Mobile phones are too small, and the quality of the software available subpasses even these cheap dedicated boxes. One day, maybe? With a GPS receiver that gives fixes at least once a second?


Scary spam
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Call from CJ Ellis today: Gmail was preparing to delete his email account:

From: gmail.com <info@libdb.stromungunmittelbar.com>
Date: 6 September 2017 at 13:04
Subject: Your account will be -deactivated
To: cjhimself@gmail.com

Hello cjhimself,

This is to inform you that your request on: 9/3/2017 1:30:15 p.m. to remove
your account from gmail.com server has been approved and will initiate in
one hour from the exact time you open this message.
Regards.

ignore this message to continue with email removal or

Please confirm if this is genuine as i have not made any such request.

Regards,
Google

NOTE: If You Receive This Message In Your Junk or Spam Its Due to Your
Internet Provider

That's what I see after it has been forwarded, of course. Gmail tastefully avoids displaying domain names like stromungunmittelbar.com (it could at least contain an ö), so there was almost no way for him to know that it was spam. Even the out-of-sequence date is no indication. About the best was that gmail itself had removed it as spam.

What did it want? Scare people? Receive confirmation for spam lists? The last line of the text suggests that the perpetrator didn't think it through very well.


Thursday, 7 September 2017 Dereel Images for 7 September 2017
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The pain of online purchases
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

I've been buying things online now since the end of the past millennium, and it would be my favourite way to buy things—IF. You'd think that by now people would have got their act together, but in fact, on reflection, there seem to be problems Every Single Time.

Today I finally came to the conclusion that I needed a new lens, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 8mm f/1.8 Fisheye PRO. What do they cost? B&H are my price benchmark: not necessarily the cheapest, but reasonable. They want US $999, but of course they're in the USA, so the very cheapest shipping is another $39. USD 1,038 corresponds to about AUD 1,260.

What about eBay? The cheapest I could find was $870, including shipping. That's a lot better, and it's from my old friends eGlobal, who offer it for $869 outside eBay—with another $19 shipping!

OK, there's this other company, DWI, who clearly don't do business in the USA: DWI is American for "Drink Driving”. I'm told that they're really another face of eGlobal, but with different prices and conditions. And how about that, they're offering it for $839 with free postage! Still better, they offer me a $10 discount for my first purchase. $829 sounds a whole lot better than $1,260.

Only the next day the price had gone up to $889.

OK, click on the popup:

 
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And I got an empty display, repeatedly. OK, accept the “chat” offer at bottom right (are they all run by Zendesk)?), where I was told to do what I had just done. When I explained that it didn't work, I was then given a code, possibly a generic one: RMN2016. 15 minutes fighting web site breakage, $10 gained—maybe.

The following day, while writing this article, it worked:
 
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At least that suggests that the problem wasn't at my end.

Next, create an account, sign in, create profile. Like eGlobal, they have differentiated shipping charges. In their case, it's free to big towns, and some unspecified cost, probably also in the order of $20 more, to ship to places like Dereel. But we've seen that before, and Chris Bahlo works in Ballarat (really Mount_Helen), so I can enter her address as the shipping address.

But that doesn't work! Yes, they maintain both billing and shipping addresses, but when I update one, the other gets updated! After 10 minutes of frustration, more chat.

Over a period of half an hour, I discovered:

Finally I got to checkout (still without paying, since I needed an invoice number). All went well, and finally my order was placed. Time so far: 60 minutes.

Next I needed to perform the bank transfer. Where do I enter the invoice number? The only place I could do that was the “Description” field. The minimal help suggested that I would get that description in my bank statement, and that the recipient may get it from his bank. Thought about this for a while: probably it will work, but just to be on the safe side, I included the invoice number in my name field as well. Done? Almost.

Press “Submit”. “This session has timed out”. The whole bloody thing all over again. This time it went through. Finished, at 16:30.

Total time: about 60 to 70 minutes. Yes, this one was particularly painful, and I still don't have the warm, fuzzy feeling that the incoming money will be paired correctly with my order, but we can hope. But why must things be so difficult 20 years into the Age of the Web?


Online camera supplies compared
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Apart from the pain involved in my order from DWI, it's worth considering what the alternatives are for online camera purchases. Here's my view:

Suppplier       michaels       B&H       eglobal       DWI
Price, with shipping       $1,320       $1,260       $888       $829
%age of michaels       100%       95.5%       67%       63%
Warranty       1 year Australian       1 year international       2 year seller       1 year seller
Web site quality       bearable       acceptable       painful       unbearable

michaels is a leading traditional camera shop. I have bought from them in the past, but not recently. I've downgraded their otherwise useful web site because I can't find shipping prices until I create an account. I'd guess that this is negligence on the part of the web programmers rather than any malice on their part. My price includes a guess of $21 for shipping.

B&H's price of this lens is over $1,000, so it's quite possible that I would have to pay GST on it.


More thoughts on baked beans
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Cooked some more baked beans today. How much water do you put in? This time I used less, so that the result was quite dry:


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I also cooked (baked?) them in the oven, mainly to ensure even heating. I set the oven to 140°, but that was too warm, and later dropped it to 130°. Maybe that is also too warm. Next time I'll try 120°.


Friday, 8 September 2017 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 8 September 2017
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More physiotherapy
Topic: health Link here

Off to Ballarat again this afternoon to have my neck kneaded. Gradually I'm getting the feeling that things are improving, but it's been a slow and gradual process. The sessions—still $0.80 each—are getting less frequent, and next time will be 10 October 2017.


Raclette again
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

We're planning raclette for dinner tomorrow, and I had to buy the cheese. The cheese shop that I once found so good has gone downhill, and when I went there yesterday, they only had Heidi raclette. Their “Swiss” cheese tastes good—a fair imitation of Gruyère—but I've had bad experiences with it for fondue, so I have certain reservations. Asked the saleswoman, but she didn't understand “raclette”; she pronounced it sufficiently differently that the real pronunciation didn't ring a bell.


Bloody foxes!
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

On my way into town, found half an animal lying in the middle of the road:


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That appears to be what foxes leave of a lamb, though I'm told they usually leave more, just eating eyes and liver. I'm surprised it was left in the middle of the road.


Saturday, 9 September 2017 Dereel Images for 9 September 2017
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Curry tree recovery
Topic: gardening Link here

My curry tree has recovered very well from its “autumn” a few months ago. Here as it was on 17 July and today:


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It is also developing a number of suckers:


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At some point I should transplant them. Peter Jeremy, who gave me this tree as a sucker, tells me that they should be frost hardy, but possibly that's his observation in Sydney.

Apart from the obvious suckers, there's another plant there:


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That's clearly not a curry tree. It looks for all the world like a Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, and I think it must be. We'll see when it gets a bit bigger. I hadn't expected a hibiscus to self-seed.


Raclette again
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Raclette for dinner this evening, and I discovered that the cheese I bought yesterday had not been cut into slices. It hadn't even been cut reasonably straight:


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Never mind, that's what the new slicer is for, already waiting in the background. And how about that, it worked very well indeed:


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I don't think I've ever had cheese sliced that well from a home slicer.


Finding German TV series
Topic: multimedia, opinion Link here

We've been looking for German TV series on the web for some time. It's not easy. There seem to be three main sources:

Spent some time today looking further, and I'm still not sure I understand everything. But there's a web site fernsehserien.de that at least gives an overview of what's on on TV at the moment, and may help find it online. It's at least another piece in the jigsaw puzzle that is online TV.


Saturday dinner
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Our old raclette grill is showing its age (probably about 20 years), and if we could find a replacement, we would. It must have heard us talking: the power switch failed when I tried to turn it on. How to fix that?


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We don't really need the switch, but it was incorporated into the handle, seen here from below:


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And the whole thing was screwed together with Torx screws:


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Where can I find a corresponding bit? I used to have lots of bits with things much stranger than Torx, but that was in another life. As it happened, though, I found one pretty quickly, and was able to bypass the screw relatively quickly. I was back at the dining table and testing for live chassis in 13 minutes:


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Apart from that, it seems that the Heidi cheese really isn't the best choice. Like many other kinds, it melts so completely that there's hardly anything left:


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Still, we had fun. And I now have a really good reason to search again for replacements for the grill.


Dinner photos again
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

What's the best way to take the dinner photos? I asked myself this question two weeks ago, but the method I used there only really works when there are two or three people. The week after next we're having another Arne Koets clinic, and apart from Chris Bahlo, we'll also have Margaret Swan and Chris' sister Melanie.

The table's round, so the answer's clear—or is it? A circular panorama. Tried that this evening, with the Vanguard ALTA PRO 263AT tripod contorted differently:


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Then I was able to take a number of individual photos:


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And that in turn allowed me to make a number of related panoramas of the three of us:


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That's a cylindrical panorama, so I can extend it as far as I want round the table, and it will look as if people are sitting in a straight line. Once again the question arises as to what we should be doing. I certainly shouldn't be displaying the remote control.


Sunday, 10 September 2017 Dereel Images for 10 September 2017
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Nele and family visit
Topic: photography, general, animals Link here

Nele Kömle visited Chris Bahlo today, the first time since the birth of her daughter Ellie:


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While there, took a few horse photos:


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That's a particularly difficult scene to expose; this was done with 2.3 EV overexposure. Arguably it should be done with no composition and spot measurement:


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Monday, 11 September 2017 Dereel
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Strange umount issue
Topic: technology Link here

While making a regular backup to my external backup drive, I had a strange experience: at the very end, it didn't complete. Checking, I found that the backup drive was no longer mounted. But umount was the very last thing that happens in the script. Further investigation showed:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/36) ~ 31 -> ps aux | grep umount
root        3267   0.0  0.0   12384    1968  5  DL+   9:30am      0:00.41 umount /photobackup
=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/36) ~ 32 -> ps alx | grep umount
   0  3267  1364   0  31  0   12384    1968 biord    DL+   5       0:00.43 umount /photobackup

So umount had umounted the disk, but it was still reading. From the disk?

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/36) ~ 33 -> iostat -n 8 1
       tty            ada0             ada1             ada2             ada3              da0              da1              da2
 tin  tout  KB/t tps  MB/s   KB/t tps  MB/s   KB/t tps  MB/s   KB/t tps  MB/s   KB/t tps  MB/s   KB/t tps  MB/s   KB/t tps  MB/s
   1  1366  0.00   0  0.00  56.00   7   0.38   0.00   0  0.00   0.00   0  0.00   0.00   0  0.00   0.00   0  0.00  32.00 144  4.49
   0  5465  0.00   0  0.00  96.00   1   0.09   0.00   0  0.00   0.00   0  0.00   0.00   0  0.00   0.00   0  0.00  32.00 151  4.71
   0  2016  0.00   0  0.00  104.69  34  3.47   0.00   0  0.00   0.00   0  0.00   0.00   0  0.00   0.00   0  0.00  32.00 155  4.85
   0  2607  0.00   0  0.00  74.67   3   0.22   0.00   0  0.00   0.00   0  0.00   0.00   0  0.00   0.00   0  0.00  32.00 145  4.52

Yes. The disk was /dev/da2, and I was seeing round 140 32 kB reads per second! This went over a long period of time, and umount used considerable CPU time in the process:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/36) ~ 35 -> ps alx | grep umount
   0  3267  1364   0  31  0   12384    1968 biord    DL+   5       0:00.58 umount /photobackup

What caused that? ps showed that the process was started at 9:32, and it didn't complete until 9:35. I suppose I'll have to climb into the code and see why it's reading at all after umounting.


Still more online TV investigation
Topic: multimedia, opinion Link here

More investigation of online German TV today. There's lots of stuff to read, and the signal-to-noise ratio is low. But I came across onlinetvrecorder.com, which, despite the name, is German. If I understand things correctly, I can download anything recorded in the last few days—for free. Well, only during the “Happy Hour”, the third of the day between 0:00 and 8:00 German time, corresponding nicely to 8:00 to 16:00 here in the winter, or 10:00 to 18:00 in the summer—in other words, the time I would choose anyway. By the time I found this (the help is well hidden), it was past 16:00, so put the rest off until tomorrow.


Tuesday, 12 September 2017 Dereel Images for 12 September 2017
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House forest again
Topic: animals, gardening, photography, general, opinion Link here

Took the dogs walking to the “house forest” at the west end of the property today:


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Not a good idea: it has been raining a lot, and the middle paddock is sodden. But it turned out that there was a lot to see, starting with a mob of kangaroos:


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Dammit, wrong lens again. They were a nice shot, but too far away. This one would have been exactly in the range of the Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400 mm f/4.0-6.3:


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In particular, there was quite a good shot of a female with a Joey—or would have been, if I had had the right lens:

 
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I must remember to prepare better.

In the forest, we finally have a large number of Pterostylis:


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There are also a considerable number of Drosera


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And then there's this plant that I've seen frequently but never paid much attention to:


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It wasn't until I processed the images that I saw the flower stalks, out of focus in this image. Clearly I need to go back with more appropriate equipment.


Wednesday, 13 September 2017 Dereel Images for 13 September 2017
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International money transfers again
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Yvonne has bought another saddle in Austria. How do we transfer the money? Last time I only mentioned the arrival, not the hoops we had to jump through to pay for it.

The main issue seems to be that Australia hasn't quite made it to the 17th century when it comes to money transfers: cheques are still the preferred method of bank payment. Last time Yvonne had to go to a physical bank to perform a transfer which cost an arm and a leg. For this reason, amongst others, I've been trying to open a bank account in Euros, so far without success.

I looked again today, and how about that, there's progress. Both our banks now allow international (”overseas”) transfers from web banking! I had to apply for the privilege in each case (why?), and in the case of ANZ I was told to wait until tomorrow.

OK, Bank of Melbourne. Somehow I found a way to calculate the exchange rates and costs before actually making a transfer, though I can no longer find it:

 
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Their modern rendering make it difficult to see that I had entered the sum of 800 € for this comparison. OK, how does that compare to real exchange rates? According to OANDA, the Interbank rate is 0.67085 €. Factoring in the fee (why a fee?), the exchange rate is effectively 0.6213 €, a whopping 7.3% more! Even a credit card only costs 3%.

I've been here before, and I've been frustrated. Try again. The Currency Shop gives me “5 Cheaper Ways To Transfer Money Overseas”, none of which seem very cheap; they even mention the banks. To get any idea, you need to select “Compare Exchange Rates”, which came up with this top savings:

 
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That's a saving of nearly $60 compared to the Bank of Melbourne. Went to the site, and got a typically misleading exchange rate:

 
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It's not until you read the small print that you discover that “it's not for you”. Still, it was worthwhile following up on, and in the end I was able to get an exchange rate of 0.66638 €, only 0.67% below the Interbank rate. Amusingly, the rates changed while I watched them, reflecting changes in the the Interbank rate. In addition, the first two transactions are fee-free, so that's all I paid. The actual sum I transferred was 852 €, so the costs were: 5.71 €, compared to (coincidentally) $99.99 from the Bank of Melbourne:

Company       Rate       Fees       Total       Total cost
(Interbank)       0.67085             1,270.03       0
Bank of Melbourne       0.62130       20       1,370.02       99.99
HiFX       0.66632       0       1,278.66       8.63

For once, that looks good, though the extra $15 from the third transaction make it less attractive.


More macro flash thoughts
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

My photo of Nikolai a couple of days ago was not easy to take:


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This was taken with my macro ring flash. Apart from the inherent difficulty in keeping a dog still for the photo and the unexpected difficulty in focusing the M.Zuiko Digital ED 30 mm f/3.5 Macro, how do you set the exposure? If he moves only a few centimetres forwards or backwards, the light intensity will change enough to require a different aperture. This image was in fact underexposed, and I had to compensate to get a useful photo.

The technical solution has been with us for decades. Starting in the 1970s, flashes acquired the capability of terminating the flash when enough light had been reflected from the subject. And then TTL flash was introduced (it seems by Olympus), involving the camera too. But most after-market flashes seem to target Canon and Nikon, and there's now precious little available for Olympus.

My current ring flash, a Viltrox JY-670 (URL likely to rot) doesn't have significantly more intelligence than the flashes of the 1960s. Yes, I can set the light output, but that's all. What automatic ring flashes are available? Metz (mecablitz) make one, the mecablitz 15 MS-1. I've discussed this topic in January 2010 and September 2014.

Reading the instructions (PDF) is always instructive, if not in the manner that the manufacturer intended. The good news seems to be that there's only one model, and it can handle all kinds of camera. But nearly all of the instructions relate to remote operation, where the flash is not mounted on the camera. What kind of confusion could have caused that? Who uses a ring flash anywhere except on the lens? Of 46 pages, only about 2 describe specifics of using it as a ring flash: the reflectors can be set at 0°, 10° or 20° to adapt to the distance from the subject, and there's a bounce diffuser for distances under 10 cm. That's good to know.

But the price! The cheapest I have seen is about $430. By contrast, my current ring flash cost about $100. Apart from the swiveling reflectors, the only thing missing is the automatic exposure function. And the mecablitz comes with only 3 adapter rings. I can pay up to $60—close to the cost of my current ring flash—for each additional piece of metal!

Then Andrew Richards on the M43 Tech Talk Facebook group came up with the Dörr Macro TTL Blitz DMF-15 für Olympus und Panasonic. It looks pretty close in specs to the mecablitz, and it's slightly cheaper. But where do you get one? eBay doesn't seem to know them, though I can find a couple of suppliers in Germany. But do I want a unit from an almost unknown manufacturer? The name Dörr rings a bell, but now they describe themselves as „Foto Marketing“, and their “about us” page suggests they have only 50 employees. Do they make their own equipment, or is it a rebadged (and unknown) Chinese product? The appearance suggests that it could be: like my Viltrox, it's clearly a modified on-camera flash.

More to the point, though: is a ring flash the answer? Kev Russell, moderator of the Facebook group. sang the praises of his Olympus STF-8 flash unit (clearly a model name thought out by a non-native English speaker). He says it gives better lighting. It's certainly much dimmer: guide number of 8.5 instead of 15 for the mecablitz, my Viltrox, or even the current crop of cheap LED “flashes”. That's only 32% as bright. Once again it comes with few adapters, suited only to the M.Zuiko 12-40 mm f/2.8 “Pro” (which I have now sold) and the M.Zuiko Digital ED 60 mm f/2.8 Macro and the M.Zuiko Digital ED 30 mm f/3.5 Macro lens. And, of course, it's even more expensive than the mecablitz.


Thursday, 14 September 2017 Dereel Images for 14 September 2017
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Hand-held HDR
Topic: photography, animals Link here

Yvonne is painting another Borzoi painting, this time of Zhivago:


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It's intended to hang next to another painting of Dova, a dog I don't know:


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I liked the look of the latter painting in the window of her office, with the light shining through it:


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But how do you expose it? I really need HDR images. Can I be bothered to get a tripod? No. So I took it hand-held (with my standard +3 EV/-3 EV bracketing, offset by +1.3 EV. And how about that, it wasn't bad. I should do more of this.

Here's Yvonne with her result:


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Gmail: more intrusions
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

For reasons I forget, I accessed Gmail from the browser on my :0.1 display instead of the normal :0.2. Same browser (outdated firefox), same computer. But I still get a message:

 
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I suppose things are getting better: now at least it gives a (correct) IP address. But how does it recognize the “device”? It's the same one I use all the time, and so is the browser. I wonder if I will get new messages when I upgrade the browser.


More money transfer sites
Topic: general Link here

Discussing yesterday's money transfer article on IRC today. Peter Jeremy came up with a couple of alternatives: payeer.com and paysera.com. At first glance, both look usable, but of course the first glance is often misleading. Certainly I'll take another look at them before my next transfer.

Now wouldn't it be nice if I could transfer my pension into it and convert at their rates?


Friday, 15 September 2017 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 15 September 2017
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More breakfast thoughts
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

I've been experimenting with various Asian food for breakfast. One thing I have wanted was something Korean, mainly so that I can have something to eat kimchi with. Today I tried faking something with fish, dofu and spring onions, along with rice, fried egg and the oh-so-Korean ikan bilis. Yvonne was eating poached eggs, so I tried using our fried egg rings to fry an egg that would fit nicely on top of the rice. Not a success: the yolk broke, and the egg stuck to the ring. What a mess:


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There's more than one reason why I don't like to fry eggs.

Yvonne's breakfast is a sort of fake œufs Bénédicte, with sauce mayonnaise instead of sauce hollandaise:


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My opinion requested
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Letter in the mail today:


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What's wrong with this questionnaire? There are so many things I can think of:

On the whole, I don't feel qualified to decide on a matter that is obviously of extreme importance to the people affected, but which has absolutely nothing to do with me. My feeling is that they should be allowed to do what they want. But enshrine that in law, and there will be loopholes and unforeseen side-effects. I'll be interested to see if the new law (and I'm sure it will be passed) will allow people to marry themselves.

So what do I do? Abstinence is one option, but I'd rather abstain explicitly than just not return the form. Maybe I'll deface it, thus at least making some kind of point.


New toys
Topic: photography, general, food and drink Link here

My new Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 8mm f/1.8 Fisheye PRO arrived today, at Chris Bahlo's office. So did our new raclette grill, so of course I had to go into town to pick them up.

Where is Chris' office? It has one of the longest addresses I know outside the United Kingdom: Greenhill Enterprise Centre, Ballarat Technology Park, University Drive, Mount Helen, Victoria 3550. And still it's missing a street number!

Maps can't find Greenhill Enterprise Centre, Ballarat Technology Park, University Drive, Mount Helen, Victoria 3550.
Make sure your search is spelled correctly. Try adding a city, state, or zip code.

OK, how about just Ballarat Technology Park? Yes, it finds that:


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But there's nothing there! It's on the side of the road. The right-hand building is IBM, but the left-hand building isn't marked. Technology Centre? Off to take a look. No, some Government department.

But it wasn't that bad: Yvonne came with me, and we found Chris on the corner of Enterprise [sic Grove, talking on the phone and holding the bag with the lens. I didn't even get the chance to say thanks: Yvonne grabbed the bag, and we drove on to Caledonian Transport, despite the name a local company, in Daveyduke Drive. To our surprise, it was 17.7 km away! It's only 27 km from home to the university. But Google Maps is (almost) equal to the challenge: its preferred route is 26.2 km:

Finally we had the thing and headed back home, stopping off at a couple of furniture shops (the real reason that Yvonne came) to look at lounge room furniture:


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It wasn't until I got home that I looked at the Google Maps again. The place that it had given me (with pin) was a “bus interchange”, as the intuitive marker indicated:

 
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What's that? American for bus stop? I can't see that more than one bus would stop there. In any case, the real Technology centre is a couple of hundred meters east-south-east, but that's not where Google Maps puts its pin:


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New lens, first impressions
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Unpacked my new lens, and of course the first thing was to compare it with the old fisheye:


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The difference in size is all the more amusing when you consider that the new (small) one has a maximum aperture of f/1.8, while the old one only has f/3.5, two stops less.

Spent some time trying to determine the position of the entrance pupil, using the method I worked out last week. It didn't quite work out the way I expected: the first pair of images didn't align at all well. I think I need to be more careful with my control points, but that will have to wait until tomorrow.


New raclette grill
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

The new raclette grill looks quite different from the old one. It's rectangular rather than round, and it comes with a stone for Teppanyaki, something I've never tried, and which Yvonne forbids me from trying indoors:


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It required curing before use—heat to 220° and keep it there for 40 minutes.

Using the grill posed a problem. It's clearly not suited to round tables, and in the end we put it between the two of us:


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The pans are considerably deeper than those of the old grill—not a disadvantage, I think—and the distance from element to pan is also nearly double the distance of the old one. As a result, the food gets browned more slowly, but more evenly:


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We tried some ham on the stone, which was at 270°, but it didn't seem to cook as fast as on the metal surface of the old grill. And it left quite a mess, which was almost impssible to remove:


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After ten minutes of cleaning, it was still clearly visible. I think we won't use the stone much.


Saturday, 16 September 2017 Dereel Images for 16 September 2017
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Panoramas with new fisheye
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

House photo day again today, but first I needed to determine the position of the entrance pupil of the new Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 8mm f/1.8 Fisheye PRO. Last week I had worked out a way to triangulate the errors between two positions to find where the no-error position. Based on the position of the front element, I chose 60 mm (behind the element) and 80 mm (in front). At 80 mm all went well:

 
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The error is all very small with the one exception of the tripod (control point 15). But at 60 mm, things looked very different:

 
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The control point detectors had found things close to the edge (where the illusion of an “entrance pupil” starts to break down), and also things not on the plane of the wall. Basically, the results were useless. So I tried again, this time masking out everything except the wall in one of the images. The results then were much better:

 
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Conveniently, the difference in the error was almost exactly 80 (55.84 + 24.10), and that spread over 20 mm. So I interpolated and came to the conclusion that the correct position was at 66 mm. Tried that and... got an error of 16.91!

What went wrong there? There's some reason to believe that I collected the wrong data. I'll have to repeat the whole procedure. In any case, for today I decided that I could try a bit further, at 70 mm, and how about that, it worked: an error of 4.15, which is easily good enough. But I still need to find out how to avoid this kind of problem.

And the results? Still to be analysed. The difference in position on the rail makes it visible at all times, and it limits the height of the resultant photo. Here full height and trimmed:


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Looks like a few hardware mods are in order.

There are many other things I want to investigate, but they'll have to wait.


A plumber!
Topic: general Link here

Mark (or is that Marc?), a plumber from Cape Clear, along today to see about fixing the taps that we've been waiting for for over two years. Problem: they've been stored badly, and the chrome surfaces have developed blisters. Given the price, it makes sense to buy new ones. He also does tiling, so we may finally get round to covering all the bare concrete areas.


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

Middle of the month is time for the monthly flower photos. There's really not much this month. The last month has been unseasonally cold and wet, and not much has come up apart from spring bulbs. The frosts have taken their toll:


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The Carpobrotus that we planted a couple of months ago shouldn't flower until November, but one of them is trying anyway:


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And the big brothers, planted in December last year, have really taken off:


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I had expected the Senna aciphylla to have finished flowering by now, but it's still going strong:


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On the south side of the house, in the shade, some Vinca minor have escaped their pot and are working their way along the wall:


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The narcissus have just about finished flowering, but misguided and misshapen tulip is already on its way:


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Indoors, things are going well. Just by chance I had more Hibiscus rosa-sinensis flowers together than I've had in a long time:


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And the Phalaenopsis also have more flowers than I've seen:


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Cailles aux raisins secs: sous vide?
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

ALDI has had quail on special again, so Yvonne bought some more for freezing. Under the circumstances—once again Chris Bahlo wasn't here for a Saturday night dinner—we decided to eat a couple of them fresh, using the cailles aux raisins secs recipe.

This time I wasn't as happy. They need to be cooked in a pot for 30 minutes, and though they tasted good, they still weren't as tender as I would like. Possibly this is a candidate for cooking sous vide.


Sunday, 17 September 2017 Dereel Images for 17 September 2017
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Media download from Germany
Topic: multimedia, opinion Link here

For some time I've been fighting the online content („Mediatheken“) of German TV stations. They have just about everything there that they broadcast, but hidden behind such an unpleasant interface that you'd think they were trying to stop you from seeing it. Recently we watched a film from the ARD (Bayerischer Rundfunk). „Falsche Siebziger“. Quite good, and even the image quality was good (ABC take note), but the data rate wasn't sufficient to watch without interruption.

In the past couple of days I've done some investigation and discovered on both the CHIP and Heise-Verlag a program called MediathekView, a program for finding, viewing and downloading TV programmes from all German and many other European web sites.

Is it legal? It must be, otherwise two leading publishers wouldn't refer to it, at least not without mentioning the legal status. So I installed it and tried it out. Typical undocumented user interface (and one that somehow shouts Java), but it works, and I was able to download three films with no problems.

Now why is the normal web interface so painful? Lack of care?


Indoor plant progress
Topic: gardening Link here

The Hibiscus rosa-sinensis cuttings that I made have made good progress. One of the first has now significant new growth, including a bud:


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And another, one that I had given up for dead, is clearly on the mend:


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Our Phalaenopsis is also flowering more profusely than ever before:


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Focus stacking revisited
Topic: photography Link here

It's been nearly two years since Olympus came out with firmware support for Focus stacking, and I have yet to completely make friends with it. Every time I use it, I have to go back to the instruction manual and read what little it can tell me.

Today's photos of the Hibiscus and Phalaenopsis were done with focus stacking, but they were only the result of an incredible amount of fiddling. Time to write up some notes:

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark I and Mark II have two different kinds of focus stacking:

Kim Holst summarizes the in the following image (click to get full size):

The distance moved is controlled by a value that Olympus calls “focus step”, a number between 1 and 10 that has some relationship to the size of the step. The larger the number, the larger the step. Apart from that, there is no reliable information. Some say that the size of the step also depends on the depth of field, and some say that step 1 means a step of exactly the depth of field, so that for any two images the near limit of the second image is the far limit of the first image. That doesn't make sense to me for two reasons: first, that would make the larger steps far too large, and secondly “depth of field” is a matter of opinion: how unsharp can something be? In addition, it doesn't line up with my inaccurate observations. One thing is clear from observation is that the step is not constant: it gets larger with focus distances.

In each case, the camera uses the electronic shutter. This places severe (and undocumented) restrictions on the shutter speed with flash: 1/8 s maximum for the Mark I, and 1/50 s for the Mark II. The camera will happily shoot at higher speeds, giving images like these (E-M1 Mark II, 1/250 and 1/60 s):


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When using flash, you can extend the time between shots to allow the flash to recharge. There's no feedback from the flash, of course, so if you choose it too short, you'll get uneven exposure.

Setting the parameters

There's nothing obvious about where to find the settings for focus stacking. They're in the camera 2 menu, under Bracketing.


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. The eBay site showed that it had been paid, but after checking my bank accounts, I found that 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. And clearly eBay messed up by marking it “paid”.

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.


Wednesday, 20 September 2017 Dereel → Clarendon → Dereel Images for 20 September 2017
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Clarendon again
Topic: photography, animals Link here

Off to Unicorn Park in Clarendon, near Scotsburn, today to take some photos of Arne Koets teaching Yvonne some of the finer points of riding.


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It's tiring work, and I was glad when the 45 minutes were over. Margaret Swan didn't have any such problem, though she did manage to fill up an SD Card with her continuous video:


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Horse photos: the frustration
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

The whole horse photo affair was somewhat frustrating. I had taken my two big bottles, the Zuiko Digital ED 14-35 mm f/2.0 SWD and the Zuiko Digital ED 35-100 mm f/2.0. Unlike last time, I was closer to the action this time, so I didn't need the 35-100 mm lens at all. For once, most of the recording was video, and I discovered the hard way that the Four Thirds system lenses don't support continuous autofocus, which made the 14-35 as good as useless. Instead I used the Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60 mm f/2.8-4.

And even then, I couldn't find a focus system that worked. Continuous autofocus with tracking seems to ignore the AF targets. It works well enough as long as it can see the horse's head, but when the horse turns away, the focus point wanders off into nirvana, and it's almost impossible to catch it again. And continuous autofocus without tracking gets lost if I let the horse leave the target area. Somehow I'm left with the feeling that there's no good way to do this. I wonder if other cameras do it better.


Misery Creek Road again
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

On the way home, drove down the first couple of kilometres of Misery Creek Road. As expected, things have changed considerably since last time: it's warmer now, and these orange pea-like flowers are everywhere, interspersed with at least two kinds of acacias. One kind is a bush:


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And the other kind looks like a grass:


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They were already there last time, and I got better photos then (had a macro lens with me), but there are many more now.

The Grevillea bedggoodiana are also flowering more profusely, if not obviously:


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But one seems to have died completely, though the ones around it look fine:


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I wonder what happened there.

Then there are the purple-flowering bushes near the end of Orchid Track, now flowering more profusely:


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In the forest, they really stand out, but they're barely recognizable in the photos. How can I emphasize them?

Once again I'm impressed by how many of these flowers are close to the east (highway) end of Misery Creek Road. This Hardenbergia violacea is directly on the turnoff from the highway, and it's the best specimen I found:


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MediathekView insights
Topic: multimedia, technology Link here

Why can't I download Mediathek videos that I can watch online? It all sounds like a web proxy issue. So how do I set a web proxy for MediathekView? Once again Google to my aid. It pointed me at this forum discussion (!), which states that you should start MediathekView like this:

java -dproxyset=true -dproxyhost=<proxy server> -dproxyport=<port> -jar mediathekview.jar

And how about that, that did the trick. It's not clear why, but who am I to complain?


Thursday, 21 September 2017 Dereel
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Where's my disk?
Topic: general, technology Link here

On Monday I discovered I hadn't paid for an eBay item, so I rectified that quickly. Sent a message to the seller. No reaction. Sent another message to the seller. Still no reaction.

OK, time to take further steps. Where eBay had claimed that the item was paid when it was not, it now claimed that it was not paid when it was. Back to eBay's confusing web site. “Take action”. What action? I've been there before on Monday. OK, get eBay to call me “valued customer” and walk me through. Maria called back pretty quickly. Problem: she had a strong fake American accent (probably originally from the Philippines), and I really couldn't understand her. I don't like doing it, but I had to ask her to get somebody else to call me back.

That was Michelle, not much more intelligible. I'm beginning to wonder if it isn't the telephone. I must try changing to the other phone some time. In any case, she was not able to walk me through the matter: there is no way to “take action” in this case. “Take action” means “Pay with PayPal”, and if I pay by other means, the system can't handle it. I need to contact ask a question of the seller and get him to “answer” it by closing the case. She was prepared to give me his phone number. No, sorry, I want some kind of record. OK, she would contact him. That sounded like a reasonable workaround of the site breakage, so we left it at that.

And that's where it stayed. No evidence of any activity. OK, I can open cases too. Sent the seller a message asking for response by tomorrow evening.

Some of there things are inevitable, but eBay's system makes it much more difficult.

By coincidence, received a message from eBay sent to my second account, the one I set up trying to fix the breakage they caused three years ago. It seems that they're celebrating their 18th birthday! I've been with them since July 1999, so I must have signed up with them some months before they were born. There's an explanation, of course: this is eBay Australia, but they didn't tell me that.


Goodbye TV
Topic: multimedia, opinion Link here

Six months ago I finally gave up on TV, mainly because of the appalling usability of the software available. We still have live TV reception, but I gave up on that in late 1983 when I got my first video recorder. Clearly technology is overtaking the concept of transmitting information only at fixed times.

So it was interesting to see that I'm not alone, at least if I pretend to be a young adult:

Surprisingly, Statista followed up this with a less focused article about the display device:

Here they distinguish between a TV set (“only”) and a digital device (“only”). Apart from the fact that I'd expect the vast majority of people to use both, what do they mean by “digital device”? Everything in a modern TV set is digital with the exception of the tuner. I suppose they're lumping mobile phones, tablets and computers (remember them?) into the latter category. But there are enormous differences and considerable overlaps. My TV is a real TV, with tuner and toy digital functions, but I use it only as a large monitor. And that's why: I can get a decent sized image. In an age where people are rushing to resolutions of 3840×2160 and larger, displayed on screens with diagonals of 160 cm and more, who wants to be limited to a mobile phone with a diagonal of, say, 10 cm and an aspect ratio that makes much of that useless?


Friday, 22 September 2017 Dereel Images for 22 September 2017
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Damaged pump unit
Topic: gardening, general Link here

Finally a day that was warm, sunny, and not too windy. Just what I need to spray the weeds. And the battery of the spray unit was flat! OK, put on charge. Came back half an hour later to find the thing rattling to itself and producing smoke. Had I forgotten to turn the power off? No, the switch was off. But this thing has a stupid knob (potentiometer?) that bypasses the switch. It looks as if the unit is dead. I think that's worth a return to the seller.


Pterostylis
Topic: gardening Link here

I don't think I've ever seen as many orchids in one place as in our “house forest”, the wooded area at the west of the property:


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They're some species of Pterostylis, and there are at least 4 patches of them. There must be hundreds of them.


Focus stacking again
Topic: photography, gardening, opinion Link here

I've done many attempts at focus stacking over the last couple of years, and even bought a tripod to help. But I've never used both outside the house. Today was the day, taking photos of the Pterostylis:


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And this time I definitely hit the limits of in-camera processing (“focus stacking” as Olympus defines it). Here both foreground and background are out of focus.


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OK, “focus bracketing”, the main difference of which is that I can take more than 8 images (a ridiculous 99 by default). But what's the correct number? I guessed at 20, but when I looked at the images, I found I had 35! That turned out not to be such a disadvantage: I used 24 of them. But how did I get that number? Did I set the number incorrectly? Checking the camera, I found it set to 9.

There's something funny here. It seems that the camera stopped because focus had reached infinity—maybe. According to the Exif data, the last 7 images had a depth of field reaching infinity. Theoretically I could have failed to save the new number of shots—the menu system makes that easy—but that doesn't explain why the camera was set to 9 when I checked. And it also doesn't explain why the camera carried on taking 6 further images after reaching infinity. There's more stuff to puzzle about here.


More panorama refinement
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

The weather was good today, and tomorrow they're promising rain and wind, so I took my house photos a day early. After last week's experience, it was clear that I needed to remount my rail so that it wasn't so visible, they way I did at the end of July. That worked, up to a point. I still have the issue of the side of the panorama rail in the right hand side of the image:


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That will be difficult to remove. It really does stick out in front of the horizontal axis, by about 2.5 cm. The horizontal angle of view of the lens is only 144°, so I can minimize it by moving it closer to the camera, but that brings the rail back into view. I wonder if any specialized panorama hardware addresses the issue, but I rather suspect that not.

Fortunately it's not that important. Today I had another problem. I left the cable for the remote shutter release hang forward:


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That, too, proved not to be that much of an issue, though it did require masking.

And what about flare? Today the sun was low in the sky, and I had some direct shots. Happily, the lens is quite good there. Here a comparison with the new M.Zuiko 8 mm f/1.8 Fisheye PRO (first image) with the Zuiko Digital 8 mm f/3.5 fisheye:


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In each case, there's a reflection below the sun and to the left, in a very similar position:


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Here the old fisheye seems to be just better. It is round the sun and with the flare below the sun as well:

 
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But then it has an additional reflection to the right, where the new fisheye has none:

 
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On the whole, I think that for flare the old fisheye is (barely) better than the new one. But I think both are very good. There aren't many lenses that can deal with direct sun in the image. I must compare with some other lenses.


Saturday, 23 September 2017 Dereel Images for 23 September 2017
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VoIP problems, worked around
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

CJ Ellis has problems with his MyNetFone VoIP service again! That's the fourth time that he has had the same issue: outgoing calls work normally, but incoming calls divert immediately to voice mail.

This time it happened at a particularly inopportune time for me, with the Arne Koets clinic taking up most of my time, so by