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NBN outage, day 2

Fri, 16 Mar 2018 10:09:43 GMT

No NBN outage yesterday, as expected, and when I came into the office, the network was still up, confirming my theory that nothing would happen this month.

That was a little premature, unfortunately. At 7:38 we went off the net, and it didn't come back until 15:10, almost exactly 7½ hours. On the way into town, and also on the way back, I drove past the radiation tower to see what they were doing, but there was nothing obvious.

After the net came back, there was no obvious improvement. In fact, there was quite a bit of congestion for several hours, after which things came back to normal.

A considerable amount of discussion on the DEREEL OUTPOST Facebook group. What I see so far is:

  • The outage affected all users for the same time period. That was to be expected, but it's good to have confirmation.
  • I was wrong in my hope that this week's outages were overtaken by later ones.
  • Claims of only 4 hours outage were wishful thinking.
  • With the exception of Aussie Broadband and possibly another ISP (unspecified, thus could be Aussie), no RSP saw fit to warn their customers. Explicitly Iprimus, Optus and Telstra did not do so.
  • There's no reason to assume that this is over.

An indication of left hand, right hand syndrome is that one person had an appointment with an NBN tech to find out what was wrong with her installation. He was not happy when he got there and discovered no signal.

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SotD: Downpressor Man

Thu, 15 Mar 2018 23:00:00 GMT

In the earliest days, The Wailers were Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, and Peter Tosh. Peter was the guy in the band who was a foot taller than everyone else; also the only one who could play any instruments. A huge guy with a huge voice, his songs never in a hurry, and there are a few that people will be listening to centuries from now. For instance, Downpressor Man.

This is from Equal Rights, a really remarkable recording that includes chestnuts like Get Up, Stand Up and Stepping Razor. Its just a big warm slow bath end-to-end; the words and politics are cutting but the sound is gentle and cradling. It helps that Sly and Robbie are in the bend, which is to say probably the best rhythm section that has ever walked the earth, trailing clouds of ganja smoke.


Peter Tosh sold quite a few records and seemed to enjoy life despite some rough patches; he was eventually gunned down in his own home in Kingston; his killer is still in jail, last time Wikipedia checked. Sadly, I never saw him live.

Im not really sure what to say about Downpressor Man; its not complicated and after youve heard the first verse go by you know what the rest will sound like. But it sounds awfully good; a showcase for Toshs velvet voice, and like I said, Sly and Robbie.

Downpressor Man / where you gonna run to? & You drink your pink champagne and laugh / Ha ha ha ha & I wouldnt like to be a flea / under your collar man / all along that day.

This is part of the Song of the Day series (background).


Spotify playlist. This tune on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon. Heres live video with decent sound and picture, although Peters voice doesnt quite have the beautiful texture he captured on the self-produced Equal Rights.

Hugo nominations close tomorrow!

Thu, 15 Mar 2018 20:59:20 GMT

If you attended either of the past two World Science Fiction Conventions or are registered for the next one in San Jose, California, you’re eligible to nominate for the Hugo Awards, which you can do here — you’ve only got until midnight tomorrow! The 2017 Locus Recommended Reading List is a great place to start... more

Gmail false positives

Thu, 15 Mar 2018 06:29:39 GMT

I've been using Gmail for spam filtering for over 2½ years: first I receive the mail via one of my 450-odd email addresses, then send it on to Gmail for spam filtering. On the whole it works relatively well, though the filter is definitely a bit on the aggressive side: there are many more false positives than false negatives.

But in the last couple of days things have changed significantly. Today I ended up with 174 messages in my spam folder. Of these 28 were genuine spam, 115 were FreeBSD commit messages, and there were 31 others.

Why? Ask gmail:

Why is this message in Spam? It's similar to messages that were detected by our spam filters.  Learn more

That sounds like we analyzed it from all sorts of angles, and the sum suggests that it is spam. In other words, not much help.

A number of people on IRC suggested that it might be because of SPF mismatches:

Received: from ( [])
        by with ESMTP id p6si146007pgc.456.2018.
        for ;
        Tue, 13 Mar 2018 06:48:15 -0700 (PDT)
Received-SPF: softfail ( domain of transitioning does not designate as permitted sender) client-ip=;
       spf=softfail ( domain of transitioning does not designate as permitted sender)
Received: from ( [])
by (Postfix) with ESMTP id E657D1B72839
for ; Tue, 13 Mar 2018 13:48:13 +0000 (UTC)

I know of this problem, and I consider it one of the most serious issues with SPF: forwarding messages like this is perfectly legitimate, but it breaks SPF.

Still, this hasn't been an issue for the last 2½ years. Is this really the reason? There's an obvious solution, since I have control at the FreeBSD end: forward these messages directly to my gmail account. Did that. Now to see if it makes a difference.

ACM only downloads articles once. It's possible that this article has changed since being downloaded, but the only way you can find out is by looking at the original article.

SotD: Barretts Privateers

Wed, 14 Mar 2018 23:00:00 GMT

I suspect every Canadian of a certain age has heard this, probably on CBC or maybe sitting up late of a hazy evening. Its a sad boisterous story of ruin at sea, mens music written for mens voices, and youll never forget it once youve heard it even once.

While Barretts Privateers initially sounds like an old folk tune, its nothing like that; it was written in 1976 by Stan Rogers, whose music I loved, and it really hurt when he died at age 33, yet another touring musician who went down with an airplane. Its got some bars in 5/4 time, hardly a folk standard, and its sort of historically bogus. Yes, there were privateers out of Halifax during the American Revolution, but they went after unarmed merchantmen and theres no record of any ever being sunk.


God damn them all!
I was told
wed cruise the seas for American gold
fire no guns, shed no tears.
Now Im a broken man on a Halifax pier
the last of Barretts privateers.

Rogers recorded the song at least twice, but I only have the version from Between The Breaks& Live!, which is a recording I just cant recommend enough. On top of being loaded with fine soulful songs, its got this totally great you-are-there-in-the-bar sound, a thing I put on when Im trying to impress people with what the big speakers can do. You really need to play it loud; this is five big strong Canadian Maritimer baritone men roaring out a sea-shanty, so anything less than thunderous is just not truthful.

This is part of the Song of the Day series (background).


Spotify playlist. This tune on Amazon, iTunes, Spotify. The only live video thats close is this one from a TV documentary, only OK sound and bad 70s hair. But you really need to turn that live recording off Between the Breaks way up to get the feeling.

NBN public relations

Wed, 14 Mar 2018 06:55:35 GMT

While writing my article on the National Broadband Network outage, I went to their home page. How about that, they're listening to their customers:


That links to another page with planned obsolescence: it refers to February, without a year. It explains the three key areas that they find important:

  1. Progress Were rolling it out, with more than 6.3 million premises able to connect today. And were coming to your street soon, with a further 100,000 homes and businesses being added every month on average.
  2. Co-operation Our work with phone and internet providers has helped reduce average bandwidth congestion across our network from more than 4 hours per week to just 12 minutes, supporting higher speeds during busy periods.
  3. Quality When installing equipment to prepare your homes and businesses for connection we get it right the first time nearly nine times out of ten.

The first and third items are clearly of little interest to existing customers, but it's nice to see that they're addressing congestion. And indeed, I've noticed improvements as well:


So has the Sydney Morning Herald.

On the other hand, there's a way to go before they're really helpful. This whole confusion with the maintenance work is a good example of where they need to improve. And their own figures show that one out of 9 installations fails and needs to be repeated.

ACM only downloads articles once. It's possible that this article has changed since being downloaded, but the only way you can find out is by looking at the original article.

PCs for septuagenarians

Wed, 14 Mar 2018 06:49:00 GMT

I'm gradually heading towards my 70th birthday, and a statistic from Statista brought that home:


Desktop computers are for septuagenarians! Why is that? Unable to change with the times?

No, I think that the real answer is that I don't have to change with the times. I've been using mobile phones since 1990, long before most people I know: in fact, I was known at Tandem as that guy with the cellphone. But I had a good reason then: I was moving around a bit, and people had difficulty contacting me. Now that I'm retired, I don't need that any more, and the disadvantages of mobile phones outweigh the advantages. And so it is with computers. Give me a real keyboard! Nothing else comes close as an input device, despite all the attempts to advance the state of voice recognition. I doubt that it will in my lifetime.

ACM only downloads articles once. It's possible that this article has changed since being downloaded, but the only way you can find out is by looking at the original article.

Finding online TV content

Wed, 14 Mar 2018 06:25:45 GMT

In the previous article I glossed over how to find online TV content. That's not always simple. We had watched the first episode of Die Kirche bleibt im Dorf, and decided to download further episodes. OK, off to the ARD Mediathek, which has a search function: Sorted by relevance, the top hit is Kundin bleibt Kunde (Customer (feminine) remains customer (masculine), a legal decision about German grammar). What earthly connection does that have? A couple of false positives could be acceptable, but nothing this far off the mark, especially since the thing I was looking up didn't show up at all. So how do you do it correctly? Go to ARD Mediathek and ignore the search box. Scroll down several pages until you get to the section Serien: This tries to emulate a mobile phone by requiring several swipes to the right, each going back to the server for completion. But you can also select Alles zeigen (show all), which shows you about a third of the available programmes, not including Die Kirche bleibt im Dorf: Select page 2 (at the bottom): Success! It's at top right. Click and get: There's a page with about one-seventh of the programmes, starting most recently. There's a link to the home page, but that's just a reformatted version of what you see. I'm looking for the second episode out of 30 (or 75, as the page claims). OK, I'm getting the hang of this. Select page 7. Wrong! At the end there are a lot of short supporting videos. What I want is page 4. Click on the programme (being careful not to get the ones flagged (AD), which means Audiodeskription, a version for hearing impaired people), and you get: That takes a while to load, because there's a video player involved. Select the URL from the title bar and pass it to youtube-dl: === grog@eureka (/dev/pts/27) /src/Series/Neu 84 -> youtube-dl --all-subs '' That's all. Oops. The bloody player has started playing, usually after I have iconified it and have to find it again to stop it. That not always the case. Other pages offer a download link, but they'll still start playing when you least expect it. Now surely people can do better than that. Why can't they provide a search function that works, a list of programmes that doesn't spend minutes downloading useless images, a download function that doesn't try to play the programme at the same time... ACM only downloads articles once. It's possible that this article has changed since being downloaded, but the only way you can find out is by looking at the original article. [...]

Dealing with online multimedia

Wed, 14 Mar 2018 06:25:44 GMT

I've been fighting multimedia software and data for over 13 years, and somehow it's not getting much easier. Now I can get material online, and I've been able to turn off my TV broadcast reception, but the software and the suppliers still cause problems. The big plus I found some months back is that nearly all German public broadcast TV programmes are available online, notably at the ARD Mediathek and the ZDF. I'm still hoping to find something similar in English. But how do I find the content? There's MediathekView, but for some reason it limits itself to a maximum age of 30 days, and even then it doesn't find everything. Lately I've been looking through the ARD and ZDF sites, and found a number of additional programmes that should have been found by MediathekView. OK, I can download them with youtube-dl. But they arrive without the promised subtitles. Oh, you want subtitles? Why didn't you say so? === grog@eureka (/dev/pts/37) /src/Series/Kirche-im-Dorf 16 -> youtube-dl --all-subs '' Fine. Then I end up with: === grog@eureka (/dev/pts/37) /src/Series/Kirche-im-Dorf 17 -> l -rw-r--r--  1 grog  wheel       87,919 14 Mar 10:56 Folge 6 - Oma -rw-r--r--  1 grog  wheel  817,376,116 14 Mar 11:57 Folge 6 - Oma Anni-47550082.mp4 I can get rid of those irritating spaces in the file names with despace (thanks to Peter Jeremy): despace () {     for i in "$@";     do         mv "$i" $(echo "$i" |sed "s:[ ()]:-:g; s:&:and:g; s:':-:g");     done But mplayer still doesn't want to know the subtitles. At first I thought that it was the .de in the file name, but no. What it prefers are .sub subtitles. How do I get them? Google, of course, and come up with (the obvious) ttml2srt: === grog@eureka (/dev/pts/37) /src/Series/Kirche-im-Dorf 21 -> python3 /home/local/bin/ > Folge-6---Oma-Anni-47550082.sub Done! Yes, but what a mess mplayer makes of the subtitles. They include the German characters äöüß, of course, and for that I have to pass it the -utf8 flag. But it still doesn't work correctly! Some of the subtitles are mutilated, notably around the special characters. Checking shows that the subtitle file is in an ISO 8859 (Latin 1) character set. And for that I need -subcp latin1, not -utf8. That seems to be a doing of the original is in UTF-8. I'm getting there, but it's painful. What do real people do? ACM only downloads articles once. It's possible that this article has changed since being downloaded, but the only way you can find out is by looking at the original article. [...]

SotD: Gimme Sympathy

Tue, 13 Mar 2018 23:00:00 GMT

I think Im probably a big Metric fan even though Ive never actually sent any money their way, because whenever a song comes on the radio I find myself humming and smiling. Especially Gimme Sympathy.

This is from Fantasies, released in 2009, which sure got a lot of radio play up here in Canada. Emily Haines has a fine, sweet, penetrating, voice, and major songwriting chops. Metric cuts right through the factory-produced schlock that mostly fills rock radio (and by the way always has, its just we forget the schlock of previous decades).


I havent seen them play, but during the 2010 Winter Olympics here in Vancouver, there was a weird but excellent concert in which a bunch of musicians not including Neil Young but including Lou Reed and Elvis Costello put on an evening of Neil Young songs. Emily Haines did A Man Needs A Maid and absolutely nailed it, one of the thrills of the evening.

[Tim, no Neil Young in this series yet, whats up with that? -Ed.] [Yeah, where do I start? -T]

This song has beautiful chord changes, a haunting tune, and the words stick in your head too; would you rather be a Beatle or a Rolling Stone? It can hold its head high in Song Of The Day company.

This is part of the Song of the Day series (background).


Spotify playlist. This tune on Spotify, Amazon, iTunes. Lovely live video.

Preparing for the Big Outage

Tue, 13 Mar 2018 10:18:09 GMT

Tomorrow is claimed to be the first of six total Internet outages announced by the Australian National Broadband Network for the next 3 weeks. Can I believe that? Asked a question on the DEREEL OUTPOST Facebook group and discovered a number of things: Most people hadn't been informed at all, including Telstra customers. Some had been given different times. Part of the different times seems to be that I didn't receive some of the messages. One of the people quoted messages from Aussie Broadband that I hadn't seen. Others claimed that the outages would be in a 13 or 14 hour window, but last a maximum of 4 hours, 0 minutes. So what's the truth? So far I have: Date       Greg       Lauren Minns       Tim Marsh                   (Aussie) 14 March 2018       14 (7-21)             14 (7-21) 15 March 2018       14 (7-21)             14 (7-21) 17 March 2018       14 (7-21)             14 (7-21) 23 March 2018             4 (0-6)       6 (0-6) 26 March 2018             4 (23-6)       5 (23-4) 27 March 2018             4 (7-21)       14 (7-21) 3 April 2018                   5 (23-4) 4 April 2018       13 (7-20)             13 (7-20) 5 April 2018       13 (7-20)             13 (7-20) 7 April 2018       13 (7-20)             13 (7-20) Total outage (hours)       81       12       111 The information is: outage duration (start hour, end hour). Sharon Bowman r[...]

Comparing computer products

Tue, 13 Mar 2018 05:46:59 GMT

Another borderline spam message today today:

I noticed your website sends users to Privoxy here on this page - I wanted to warn you that they're sending their visitors to a couple of shady sites, like a binary options review website which promotes known investment scams (take a look at the bottom of each page).

I'm sure you don't want your visitors getting scammed - if you're looking for an alternative, may I suggest our list of free VPNs as an alternative?

In case you???re unaware, a VPN is another type of proxy that achieves the same end result as Privoxy. VPNs sacrifice a small amount of speed compared to other types of proxies but are more secure, so I think your visitors will find this valuable nevertheless.

Clearly she had noticed nothing of the sort. The reference was completely indirect, and equally clearly not replaceable by another URL. But still, free VPNs are interesting, so I followed the link and was redirected to, which, though it didn't describe free VPNs, does seem to have some interesting links.

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Did Craig Weber (klearview) defraud you?

Tue, 13 Mar 2018 04:34:39 GMT

One of my most irritating experiences with eBay recently was in regard to seller klearview_au, otherwise known as Craig Weber, who took my money, opened a non-payment case, causing me to pay again, and never delivered the item. Both eBay and the police saw no reason to intervene: too much trouble.

I'm not the only one. Although it seems difficult to find, two others have found my diary entries and contacted me. I sent a message to the police, and got no reply. How many people do we need to get something done? And how do they find out about the rest of us?

ACM only downloads articles once. It's possible that this article has changed since being downloaded, but the only way you can find out is by looking at the original article.

SotD: K.515

Mon, 12 Mar 2018 23:00:00 GMT

I believe its official name is Mozarts String Quintet No. 3 in C, but saying K then a number tells everyone that its by Mozart, and since he wrote like fifty instances of every known form of classical music, its easier to just remember your favorite K-numbers. 515 is right up there among mine; strong Mozart, which is all you need to know. By the way, if youre wondering about those K-numbers, Wikipedias Köchel catalogue article has you covered. The thing is that since Mozart was usually broke and trying to convince three different wealthy patrons that he was their exclusive guy, he wrote music like a crazed gerbil on steroids and didnt keep much in the way of records, so trying to organize his oeuvre has been the work of several other peoples lifetimes. Ill tell you about K515, but first I have a Classical Music Joke and a Classical Music Failed Romance Story, so hang in there. Joke: A wise man is lost in a fantastical city and needs to get to the train station. He stands at a crossroads with three ways forward, uncertain. First to come along is the Easter Bunny, and the wise man asks: Which way to the train station? The Easter Bunny says Go left. Second is a good viola player, who says Straight ahead. Third is a bad viola player, who says Go right. The wise man sees that obviously he must go right, because there is no Easter Bunny and there are no good viola players. (Seriously, this is what classical-music people are like when theyve had a couple of drinks.) The joke is relevant because K515 turns a string quartet into a quintet by adding an extra viola. The second story: When I was much younger I was manager of the New Oxford English Dictionary Project at the University of Waterloo; about as much fun as you can have and get paid for. We regularly hosted Oxford University Press lexicographers for a term of residency with the computer geeks at Waterloo. One was a young single female Scottish lexicographer who made quite an impression on me, but I was married, and even though the marriage was failing, it wasnt over. Anyhow, a year or so later the marriage had comprehensively failed and I was visiting Oxford, so I poked around to see what was on, and emailed the lexicographer, wondering if shed be interested in joining me for an evening of Mozart chamber music. She emailed back saying Fortunately, my boyfriend is working late, so sure. Sigh. Oh well. Anyhow, it was in the Chapel of Wadham College, which is a lovely room albeit with horribly uncomfortable seats, and we had a good time anyhow, and the music was K 515, which Id never heard before that and now its one of my faves. This piece is an extended musical conversation, and not subtle either, you can hear the voices flip back and forth between the instruments, dance around each other then together, then in echoes both strong and subtle. Its a remarkable piece of musical architecture and also great fun to listen to. A huge number of chamber-music agglomerations have recorded this. The version I have is on Naxos, by the Éder Quartet (not big stars), but its beautifully balanced and I love it. This is part of the Song of the Day series (background). Links Spotify playlist. This tune (Im just linking to the first movement - if you like it, the rest are great too) on Amazon, iTunes, Spotify. Now, as for live video, I listened to lots and its shocking how few get an even balance between the cello and first violin, which after listening to about 30 seconds is obviously key to the whole thing making sense. This one by Quartetto Stradivari doesnt have totally the best sound or the most charismatic players, but the recording engineer just nailed the levels, a[...]

Unlocking Enterprise systems using voice

Mon, 12 Mar 2018 17:00:00 GMT

At Amazon, we are heavily invested in machine learning (ML), and are developing new tools to help developers quickly and easily build, train, and deploy ML models. The power of ML is in its ability to unlock a new set of capabilities that create value for consumers and businesses. A great example of this is the way we are using ML to deal with one of the world's biggest and most tangled datasets: human speech. Voice-driven conversation has always been the most natural way for us to communicate. Conversations are personal and they convey context, which helps us to understand each other. Conversations continue over time, and develop history, which in turn builds richer context. The challenge was that technology wasn't capable of processing real human conversation. The interfaces to our digital system have been dictated by the capabilities of our computer systemskeyboards, mice, graphical interfaces, remotes, and touch screens. Touch made things easier; it let us tap on screens to get the app that we wanted. But what if touch isn't possible or practical? Even when it is, the proliferation of apps has created a sort of "app fatigue". This essentially forces us to hunt for the app that we need, and often results in us not using many of the apps that we already have. None of these approaches are particularly natural. As a result, they fail to deliver a truly seamless and customer-centric experience that integrates our digital systems into our analog lives. Voice becomes a game changer Using your voice is powerful because it's spontaneous, intuitive, and enables you to interact with technology in the most natural way possible. It may well be considered the universal user interface. When you use your voice, you don't need to adapt and learn a new user interface. Voice interfaces don't need to be application-centric, so you don't have to find an app to accomplish the task that you want. All of these benefits make voice a game changer for interacting with all kinds of digital systems. Until 2-3 years ago we did not have the capabilities to process voice at scale and in real time. The availability of large scale voice training data, the advances made in software with processing engines such as Caffe, MXNet and Tensflow, and the rise of massively parallel compute engines with low-latency memory access, such as the Amazon EC2 P3 instances have made voice processing at scale a reality. Today, the power of voice is most commonly used in the home or in cars to do things like play music, shop, control smart home features, and get directions. A variety of digital assistants are playing a big role here. When we released Amazon Alexa, our intelligent, cloud-based voice service, we built its voice technology on the AWS Natural Language Processing platform powered by ML algorithms. Alexa is constantly learning, and she has tens of thousands of skills that extend beyond the consumer space. But by using the stickiness of voice, we think there are even more scenarios that can be unlocked at work. Helping more people and organizations use voice People interact with many different applications and systems at work. So why aren't voice interfaces being used to enable these scenarios? One impediment is the ability to manage voice-controlled interactions and devices at scale, and we are working to address this with Alexa for Business. Alexa for Business helps companies voice-enable their spaces, corporate applications, people, and customers. To use voice in the workplace, you really need three things. The first is a management layer, which is where Alexa for Business plays. Second, you need a set of APIs to integrate with y[...]

Will ML training drive massive growth in networking?

Mon, 12 Mar 2018 11:42:37 GMT

This originally came up in an earlier blog comment but it’s an interesting question and one not necessarily one restricted to the changes driven by deep learning training and other often GPU-hosted workloads. This trend has been underway for a long time and is more obvious when looking at networking which was your example as...

NBN: How fast?

Mon, 12 Mar 2018 05:54:20 GMT

Mail from MyNetFone today, pointing to this page, explaining Internet link speeds with the National Broadband Network.

Isn't that simple? 12/1, 25/5, 50/20, 100/40, in each case Mb/s down and up. But no, those are old, worn-out specifications. No silly confusing numbers any more, only Plans: Basic, Standard, Standard Plus and Premium. And their speeds are very different. At peak the downlink speeds are 7, 15, 30 and 60 Mb/s. That's round 60% of the old values.

That's not what the NBN promised. Is this just an indication that you shouldn't sign up with MyNetFone, or is the industry diluting its promise? After discovering that I'll be off the net for days at a time in the following 3 weeks, I wonder.

ACM only downloads articles once. It's possible that this article has changed since being downloaded, but the only way you can find out is by looking at the original article.

Has my password been stolen?

Mon, 12 Mar 2018 05:41:46 GMT

One of the things I'm very careful about is not to share passwords across various Internet services. In particular, I never log in using a Facebook or Google password, and I use different IDs (including email addresses and password) for each service. So I was rather interested to read this article, which pointed me to OK, let's check. Yes, indeed, I have had my password stolen!

Really? Tried again with my standard fake email,, the one I only use in examples in this diary. Bingo! It too has been exploited:


Problem. It doesn't have a password. In fact it doesn't exist.

Checked with a completely unknown address, and that hadn't been pwned. So what have the pwns been smoking? My guess is that they have just checked to see if the name crops up elsewhere on the web. I know that it does (and that's why it exists): I continually get messages like:

Mar 11 16:16:16 www postfix/smtpd[70567]: connect from[]
Mar 11 16:16:17 www postfix/smtpd[70303]: 191931B72838:[]
Mar 11 16:16:18 www postfix/cleanup[70565]: 191931B72838: message-id=<>
Mar 11 16:16:18 www postfix/smtpd[70567]: NOQUEUE: reject: RCPT from[]: 550 5.1.1 : Recipient address rejected: User unknown in local recipient table; from= to= proto=ESMTP helo=

Interestingly, though, the vast majority fails for another reason:

Mar 11 16:38:07 www postfix/smtpd[70945]: NOQUEUE: reject: RCPT from unknown[]: 450 4.7.1 Client host rejected: cannot find your hostname, []; from= to= proto=ESMTP helo=

ACM only downloads articles once. It's possible that this article has changed since being downloaded, but the only way you can find out is by looking at the original article.

SotD: After Midnight

Sun, 11 Mar 2018 23:00:00 GMT

After midnight, its gonna be peaches and cream& mmmmm. This, originally by J.J. Cale, is one of the Twentieth Centurys sweetest little electric-music outings, gentle, sexy, and fast. Now, J.J. made a whole lot of money on this song when Eric Clapton decided to put it on a couple of albums and play it at a whole lot of concerts, and both versions are worth hearing. I saw J.J. play once stage-managed the show, in fact had to convince him to play an encore. Ive seen Clapton several times and while he might not the greatest guitarist to have ever lived, he never plays a song the same way twice. So if you go to see him, youll hear music that didnt exist before that night and will never exist again. Pretty good bargain, Id say. There was a thing he did in his early-Nineties shows that I havent noticed recently when hes on TV, which is on a slow blues, hed go way up the neck and play these slow more or less completely atonal sequences that you kept noticing were somehow perfectly pitched against the underlying blues chord changes. Ill never forget it and I dont know if anyone ever recorded it. My favorite version of this song is on Claptons Just One Night recorded live in Japan in late 1979. Its a great album end to end, with masterful versions of Dylans If I Dont Be There By Morning, the Clapton/Danko All Our Past Times, and of course J.J.s own Cocaine. But After Midnight, wow, they take it double extra fast, and the big closing solo is a pedal-to-the-medal rhythm workout, the only time Ive ever heard Clapton just bear down and play a half-dozen choruses as fast as he can, and he was really on that night. Wonderful work. While Im recommending Clapton products, hes had a series of Crossroad Guitar Festival fundraisers, which have produced some really great Rock-&-Roll TV and DVDs. Also, his autobiography, while lacking the hilarious decadence of Keefs and the musical depth of Miless, cuts across a super-interesting slice of twentieth-century music history. This is part of the Song of the Day series (background). Links Spotify playlist. Clapton live in Japan on Spotify, Amazon, iTunes. J.J. Cale on Spotify, Amazon, iTunes. Now, as for live video, you can sure enjoy blowing an hour watching performances of this song. First of all, heres a gentle, lilting take by Eric and J.J. together, with Derek Trucks the singing in close harmony is sweet, and the guitar breaks so pretty, especially J.J.s. Then theres Clapton with Steve Winwood at Madison Square Garden. The gimmick on that tour was that Eric picked the Winwood songs and Steve picked the Clapton songs. Anyhow, its fast and loud and muscular, Eric bangs it out and Steves supporting Hammond-organ thunder is way cool too. [...]

SotD: Atomic

Sun, 11 Mar 2018 01:00:00 GMT

Oh& your hair is beautiful well, that lyric divides people. Ive read high-falutin rock critics slam its superficiality, embedded in a track that hardly has words anyhow, and certainly none that make sense. But you know, every time she sings that phrase, I melt. And love the whole song.

Back in the day when the band had hits on the radio I liked every one of them, and when they didnt any more, I bought The Best of Blondie and man, Im not sure theres ever been a pop recording with more end-to-end concentrated excellence. I noticed when my kids were young, Id put it on and every time, theyd both start dancing right away.


The songs are great, the arrangements are razor-sharp, and then Debbie Harry, on top of being a fine singer, has in certain periods been the hippest, coolest, most fashionable human being on the planet. I saw a show in the Nineties when she was touring under her own name; and got pretty close to the stage. She was wearing this dull-silver one-piece dress with a fine diamond pattern on it, neither tight nor loose, matching shoes, and when the spotlight caught her, there was just absolutely no looking away; I dont know how that star quality thing works, but Im pretty sure Ive never been a room with anyone who had more. Whats remarkable about it is, she carries it off without even being much of a dancer.

Anyhow, I could have picked a half-dozen songs off the Best Of to be todays song, and made a strong case for every one of them. My personal favorite is Call Me, but theres a dark side; I read an interview with one of the band members, who was bitter: You got to understand that Blondie wasnt a band, it was Debbie and Chris Steins project, they went off in the studio and made Call Me for the American Gigolo sound-track, and none of us ever got to play a note, and then the band broke up, so I never played it in concert either.

This is part of the Song of the Day series (background).


Spotify playlist. This tune on Amazon, Spotify, iTunes. Now, as for live video, heres Blondie in 1979, super-young and in fine form. Now snap forward thirty-five years to Glastonbury 2014 - give Debbie a verse to warm up her pipes, then shes great. But whats wonderful is the this shot at 4:17 of the side of the stage where, watching sixty-something Debbie tear it up, are what look like a thirty-something mom and her pre-teen daughter, dancing hard together and smiling wide. Their hair is beautiful. Put another dime in the jukebox baby, I so love rock-n-roll.

Camera USB problems cornered

Sat, 10 Mar 2018 07:36:37 GMT

I have continued to have intermittent but frequent problems reading photos in from my Olympus OM-D E-M1, but not with the OM-D E-M1 Mark II. Lately I've had exactly the same syndrome with the E-PM1, which at least suggests that the problem isn't in the camera.

The E-M1 (Mark I) and the E-PM1 use Olympus' old-style USB 2.1 cable, while the E-M1 Mark II uses a USB 3.0 type C cable. Could it be related to the connection? On a whim, changed the cable to a different USB hub. Bingo! The problem no longer occurs (after only one or two attempts). The old hub is an el-cheapo USB 2.1 hub, while the new one is USB 3.0. The cable is still USB 2.1, but maybe the designers of the old hub weren't expecting to have to handle sustained traffic.

ACM only downloads articles once. It's possible that this article has changed since being downloaded, but the only way you can find out is by looking at the original article.

SotD: Phase Dance

Sat, 10 Mar 2018 01:00:00 GMT

So back in the Seventies, if you were a college student and it was summer, youd sit around smoking weed and then someone would say Lets go to the record store. And in those days the people who worked there knew all the coolest music. So in the middle of the head-banger era, youd float into the record store and thered a fast brilliant jazz-guitar instrumental, and youd suddenly find youd become a fan of Pat Metheny.

(image) (image)

Phase Dance was that song on that summer day, from his debut Pat Metheny Group. Its not his masterpiece (more on that later) but its a fast bright shiny cheery piece of music with a nice bass-line and it moves right along and is never boring. You can treat it as pleasant background noise or listen in close to what the band is playing and you may find your eyes widening.

There are lots of good Metheny recordings once you get past the debut, and since I ran a Bowie number a couple days back, I have to mention that Metheny backed him on This Is Not America (Spotify, iTunes, Amazon), a lovely tune.

But Methenys masterpiece is a 1981 outing, As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls, and especially its title track, which is a 21-minute symphony that flows through multiple slinky dream states until it builds to a crushing climax, one of the best records ever to turn up real loud. But 20-plus-minute mood epics with no live video are just not Song Of The Day material. Well, if you want to get the feeling, heres live video of September 15th from that record.

This is part of the Song of the Day series (background).


Spotify playlist. This tune on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon. Nice live video (and there are lots more out there).

Remove that link!

Fri, 09 Mar 2018 11:18:36 GMT

Received a strange email today:

Date: Wed, 7 Mar 2018 20:51:50 +0000 (UTC)
From: EAG Marketing
Subject: Link Removal Request
Message-ID: <1702181020.31743.1520455910533@ip-10-1-0-82.ec2.internal>
Reply-To: EAG Marketing

[-- Type: multipart/alternative, Encoding: 7bit, Size: 2.3K --]

 I am writing on behalf of the Hertz Corporation.

I work for EAG , which is one of Hertz digital agency partners. I???m working on cleaning up links to, and I need your help in removing some links from your site. While we appreciate the support, at this time we are requesting that you please remove this links as we strive to better control our backlink profile.nk profile better.
 Here's the page on your site with the link:

The link needs to be actually removed, rather than just disavowed. Even if they are ???nofollow,??? I???d still like them removed.

Once you???ve removed the link, please send me a quick note so I can create a record of it.

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

  • What right do these people have to ask on behalf of Hertz?
  • Assuming that they do, why do they want me to remove the link? Normally companies enjoy being linked, especially as (exceptionally) in this case the link was to the home page, and there was nothing derogatory in the reference.
  • What right do they have to require this of me?
  • What's a backlink profile.nk?
  • Why didn't they want me to remove the other three links in my diary?
  • By contrast, it's hardly worth mentioning that the text contains characters that don't belong to the specified character set, and the message ID refers to an internal system.

Replied in this vein, but didn't get a response.

ACM only downloads articles once. It's possible that this article has changed since being downloaded, but the only way you can find out is by looking at the original article.

NBN: Some uptime possible

Fri, 09 Mar 2018 10:20:29 GMT

I've commented frequently in the past that the Australian National Broadband Network is not the most reliable. But it seems that I ain't seen nothing yet. Over the last couple of weeks I have received the following mail:

We have received the following advice from nbn:

This notification is to let you know that we will be performing Fixed Wireless network capacity work. Due to this activity the services listed below will experience a loss of connectivity for up to 30 hrs 0 mins during the change window

NBN estimates interruption 1 (Listed Above) will occur between:
Start: 14th Mar 7:00AM
End: 14th Mar 9:00PM

NBN estimates interruption 2 (Listed Above) will occur between:
Start: 15th Mar 7:00AM
End: 15th Mar 9:00PM

NBN estimates interruption 3 (Listed Above) will occur between:
Start: 17th Mar  7:00AM
End: 17th Mar  9:00PM

This notification is to let you know that we will be performing Fixed Wireless network capacity work. Due to this activity the services listed below will experience a loss of connectivity for up to 24 hrs 0 mins during the change window

NBN estimates interruption 1 (Listed Above) will occur between:
Start: 4th Apr 7:00AM
End: 4th Apr 8:00PM
Back up date: 5th Apr - 7th Apr

NBN estimates interruption 2 (Listed Above) will occur between:
Start: 6th Apr 7:00AM
End: 6th Apr 8:00PM
Back up date : 7th Apr - 9th Apr

NBN estimates interruption 3 (Listed Above) will occur between:
Start: 7th Apr 7:00AM
End: 7th Apr 8:00PM
Back up date : 8th Apr - 10th Apr

If your customers would like to know why this planned work is taking place, please advise them that the activity is being performed to optimise the serviceability and performance of the Fixed Wireless network.

Serviceabilty? In the 25 days (600 hours) between 14 March and 7 April they intend to suspend service for a total of 54 hours? That's an availability of only 91%! And it's all in the daytime and early evening. Taking the time frame 7:00 to 22:00, it represents an availability of only 85.6%. How can they justify that?

I sincerely hope that it's just stupidity on the part of the people who wrote the document, and that there will only be one outage. But even 10 hours would be unacceptable.

ACM only downloads articles once. It's possible that this article has changed since being downloaded, but the only way you can find out is by looking at the original article.

SotD: Love Me Like a Man

Fri, 09 Mar 2018 01:00:00 GMT

This was composed by Chris Smither (no, Id never heard of him either) but was a hit for, and is now sort of a trademark of, Bonnie Raitt. Bonnies recorded a lot of good music over the years, but the thing with her is you need to see her play live, its at another level entirely.


Bonnie is a tuneful, convincing, loud blues singer (listen to Love Me Like a Man, for example), and is also a dazzling guitarist. In particular she has this gritty, textured slide-guitar tone that absolutely nobody else gets. This was brought home to me one time when I was at a concert and the opening act was led by her bands keyboard player, and they werent bad at all, funk and soul and energy. But Bonnie came on to play their last tune, just played along on guitar in the band, and all of a sudden it was like they turned the volume up to eleven, there was this huge growling beast lurking in the center of the bands sound.

But on Love Me Like A Man, she normally drops the slide and fingerpicks her breaks, which dont have the raw intensity but are really just awfully graceful.

I have another connection with Ms Raitt. In 1989 I wrote a benchmark, a computer program which exists to test how fast computers can do a particular task in this case, reading and writing data to and from files on disk. Because this kind of program exists to find bottlenecks in computer systems, and because Bonnie is so great with a bottleneck guitar, I called the program Bonnie, and people are still running it.

Now as for the words& are we into dangerous territory here? There is a breed of male songwriters who might have gotten themselves deep into the sexist weeds starting with a title like this. (And in fact, the original title was Love Her Like a Man). No, I dont believe so at all; but give it a listen and see what you think.

This is part of the Song of the Day series (background).


Spotify playlist. This tune on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon. Now for a live-video treat: First, very young at Austin City Limits, then a much more grown-up version; you wouldnt want to miss either. Listen to those guitar breaks!

Classroom materials for Little Brother from Mary Kraus

Fri, 09 Mar 2018 00:02:17 GMT

Mary Kraus — who created a key to page-numbers in the Little Brother audiobook for students with reading disabilities — continues to create great classroom materials for Little Brother: Who’s Who in “Little Brother” is a Quizlet that teaches about the famous people mentioned in the book, from Alan Turing to Rosa Luxembourg; while the... more

SotD: Riding On The Rocket

Thu, 08 Mar 2018 01:00:00 GMT

Ive probably seen Shonen Knife (Wikipedia if you dont read Japanese) more than any other currently-performing rock band. When they get on stage you can count on a couple of hours of pure high-energy high-melody high-rhythm hard-rockin fun, and you just cant have too much of that. Riding the Rocket is just one of a couple of dozen totally great as-good-as-Rock-gets tunes. Naoko Just the facts: Shonen Knife were originally three young Japanese women from Osaka, two of them sisters. Theyve switched instruments and members and have, over the years, become a rotating planetary system around Naoko Yamano, who provides lead guitar and vocals and a lot of songwriting. Shonen Knife songs are short, loud, melodious and completely incomprehensible. They are also usually extremely well-recorded, I originally ran across them in the audiophile press. It helps that Naoko has fabulous guitar sound and has never, over the years, failed to hire a drummer who apparently eats high explosives for breakfast. Did I say incomprehensible? They sing in both Japanese and English but you cant understand either; they have adorably-cute Japanese accents but even if you can listen through that, its still pretty hard to understand. Consider our song of the day: Riding on the rocket / I wanna go to Pluto / Space foods are marshmallows, / asparagus, ice cream, ooh / Blue eyed kitty cat said / Please let me go with you. BTW, the food theme is part of the story too; their (amusing and bilingual) blog is very food-centric. Ritsuko I know that buying records or albums is so passé these days, but if you were going to do such a thing, there are very few things that will juice up your music collection than a collection of Shonen Knife tunes. I have their greatest-hits collection Lets Knife; another good option Burning Farm, whose title track is explosively brilliant and somewhat based on Land of a Thousand Dances, which was a big hit for Wilson Pickett. But even more important, go visit the Live page on their Web site; they tour the Anglo-sphere almost every year (in fact I see theyre in Britain next month), and go see them! I guarantee youll walk away with a big smile. Also, take your camera, I have loads of fun shooting them. This is part of the Song of the Day series (background). Links Spotify playlist. Well, I wrote all this only to discover that you cant get Riding on the Rocket from either iTunes or Amazon. So, Im going to substitute some other tunes: Twist Barbie on Amazon, Explosion! on iTunes, Calabash on Spotify. Aaaand, heres live video of Riding On The Rocket. [...]

Hey, Wellington! Im headed your way!

Wed, 07 Mar 2018 04:26:30 GMT

I’ve just finished a wonderful time at the Adelaide Festival and now I’m headed to the last stop on the Australia/New Zealand tour for Walkaway: Wellington! I’m doing a pair of events at Writers & Readers Week at the New Zealand Festival; followed by a special one-day NetHui on copyright and then a luncheon seminar... more

SotD: Ashes to Ashes

Wed, 07 Mar 2018 01:00:00 GMT

Its hard to pick a Bowie because, obviously, there were so many Bowies. One time my son and I, he then fifteen or so, were driving somewhere, and he asked me Dad, whos David Bowie? and I said A musician who& then I was stuck. For me, there are really two big Bowie songs, Heroes and Ashes to Ashes, and while the former has more emotion, I think Ashes has more musical depth. Oh, yes, and This Is Not America, but thats a niche taste.


I believe the full title is Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps).

I remember my then-wife bringing home Scary Monsters; at the time I was in a jazz&blues phase and would never have bought a Bowie record, deeming him too synthetic. But somehow I find myself putting on Ashes to Ashes over and over again, sometimes sitting up late after shed gone to bed.

This is part of the Song of the Day series (background).


Spotify playlist. This tune on Spotify, Amazon, iTunes. Now as for live video, were in the period where Bowie was the most beautiful living human being, so these are a treat for the eyes. More feminine (with better photography and bass) vs more masculine (better dynamics).

How to be better at being pissed off at Big Tech

Tue, 06 Mar 2018 03:59:48 GMT

My latest Locus column, “Lets Get Better at Demanding Better from Tech,” looks at how science fiction can make us better critics of technology by imagining how tech could be used in difference social and economic contexts than the one we live in today. The “pro-tech” side’s argument is some variation on, “You can’t get... more

Internet banking, not our problem

Tue, 06 Mar 2018 01:38:09 GMT

I needed to do a bank transfer this morning, from the Bank of Melbourne this morning, using their Internet Banking service. But this time logon failed in a number of different ways. To log in you need three parameters: an access number, a Security number, effectively a PIN between 4 and 6 characters long, and an Internet Password, where the word Internet is doubly superfluous. But when I tried to log in, I got a transient error messages against the Security number: Please match the requested format. The value is numeric, of course, and this looks like the page's way of saying You entered a non-numeric character. And it wasn't repeatable, at least not completely: sometimes it went off to talk to a server with a name that looked like an IP address with 0 replaced by o. It didn't return. After about 20 minutes of alternative attempts, including the discovery that on Microsoft the browser hung and had to be force stopped, finally called the help line on 13 22 66. Connected to Bill (I think), who listened to my problem report (Please match the requested format) and went through all sorts of identification procedures: Can you give me your full name, please?. Me: Greg Lehey, 29 Stones Road, Dereel. Driver license number, please? Dug that out, then Your address, please. I already gave it to you. Huh?. He carried on with all sorts of things. Account number? That's not anywhere in my documentation. More digging. Can you give me details of transactions in the last two weeks?. No, of course I couldn't. It seems that he had forgotten why I was calling. Finally I got through the business20 minutes on the phone, a total of over an hour trying to access the systemand he told me he would have to put me through to Internet help. By this time I was running out of time. I explained again that the problem was clearly at their end, and would they please call me back when they had fixed it. No, they can't do that, they're not allowed to make phone calls. Grr. Please connect me to your supervisor (he had confirmed consulting with him earlier). Long wait, then I was connected with Josh, who had absolutely no details of the issue. And he wasn't a supervisor: he was 2nd level Internet support. He listened to my problem, and then asked me if I was using an iPhone or an Android. No. Huh? iPhone or Android? Finally I had to spell it out to him that I was using a computer. Interesting suggestion then: I should try logging in to St George, ostensibly another bank. But the login screen had the same structure, and when I tried to log in there, I got the same error message. Still more proof that it was their problem. OK, tried with firefox and Chrome. How about Internet Explorer? Dammit, I might as well humour him. Tried it and... it worked! Finally he became more informative and said that they had ongoing issues with firefox, and that I should use something else. I said that I would give them a week to fix the bug, and if it wasn't gone by then, I would indeed use something elseanother bank. Was this really a firefox issue? Back to try logging in with fi[...]

SotD: Brothers in Arms

Tue, 06 Mar 2018 01:00:00 GMT

Dire Straits records have always been notably good-sounding, and Brothers in Arms became the occasion for the purchase of a brand-new CD player back in the day for many music geeks I was one of them. The title song sounds good too, but today were acknowledging its beauty and sadness and message.


The beauty, superficially, is in the exquisite guitar obbligatos that come in after each sad verse. But theres more; while nobody would call Mark Knopfler one of the great singers, he really gives it all hes got on Brothers, suggesting notes that are way out of his reach, and just the right amounts of room in between, here and there. Also, he had a beat-up old mans voice right from the start, and thats what this song needs.

Also, the sound. If youre one of those troglodytes who still has a stereo that you play recordings on, and also you happen to have this recording, go put on this song and turn it up. Turn it up really loud; louder by a wide margin than the loudest you ever go. Chances are, itll sound great. Theres something about this song (and also The Mans Too Strong) that makes it keep sounding good at huge, crushing, unreasonable levels.

And then theres the message; sadness, mens sadness specifically, the sad stupidity of men going to war especially, and losing their homes, and the absolute companionship of being Brothers in Arms is not close to making up for it: Its written in the stars / and every line on your palm / We were fools to make war / on our brothers in arms.

This is part of the Song of the Day series (background).


Spotify playlist. This tune on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon. There are loads of performances out there on video and it sure is an enjoyable way to spend an hour, watching a half dozen or so. I picked four: early & minimal (georgeous outro); later and more musically ambitious, later again in 1997 with a full orchestra, and finally 2010, seated and with a little extra feeling.

Next HDR software

Mon, 05 Mar 2018 06:46:20 GMT

My experience with Aurora HDR was mixed: it was much better than HDR Express, but still left a number of questions unanswered. Before looking in more detail, it seemed worthwhile to look at the alternatives, notably the top of the list that I had found. In passing, it's interesting to note that I received no reply from Macphun about my findings. I would have expected some kind of reply, though clearly they would not have agreed with me. That's Photomatix PRO, and to my surprise I discovered that I had had contact with it before, nearly 9 years ago. At the time, it seems, it was only available for Apple, and it didn't work on my (PowerPC) Apple, though it didn't make it clear whether the lack of function was due to the hardware. It's also not clear whether I understood at the time that it was HDR software. Five years later I tried again, but somehow didn't get very far. This time things worked well. The thing installed, and I was able to convert images without looking at the manual and store them where I wanted them. And the results looked usable. Here the one image that I have been using for comparison, using the Normal preset. Here the results with HDR Express, Aurora HDR, enfuse and Photomatix: How about that, the gradation is just about the same as with enfuse. There are plenty of other presets, including ones that are much gaudier than the Aurora example, but it's good to know that I can get normal images too. Ghosting is a different matter: Clearly Photomatix is much better, but it's not perfect. There are knobs to tweak that could help. The biggest issue, one of the few that I had observed before, is that I can't find a way to enlarge the image on the screen to the point where I can see the difference (like in the crops above). And batch processing? (Almost) just works. You can tell it how many images there are per shot, and by default it stores the results in a subdirectory with a name derived from all components, and with the inevitable loss of expertise: === grog@eureka (/dev/pts/13) /Photos/6-HDR4-grog/PhotomatixResults01 529 -> l total 150 -rwxr--r--  2 grog  wheel  4,254,378 17 Feb 13:44 e-from-house-0+0EV_+1EV_-1EV.jpg -rwxr--r--  2 grog  wheel  5,019,091 17 Feb 13:44 e-from-house-1+0EV_+1EV_-1EV.jpg -rwxr--r--  2 grog  wheel  5,090,466 17 Feb 13:44 e-from-house-2+0EV_+1EV_-1EV.jpg -rwxr--r--  2 grog  wheel  4,087,074 17 Feb 13:44 e-from-house-3+0EV_+1EV_-1EV.jpg -rwxr--r--  2 grog  wheel  4,788,053 17 Feb 13:44 e-from-house-4+0EV_+1EV_-1EV.jpg -rwxr--r--  2 grog  wheel  4,652,090 17 Feb 13:44 e-from[...]

Olympus firmware: worth the trouble?

Mon, 05 Mar 2018 06:38:22 GMT

Taking the photos of the flowers brought a surprise: they were stored in LN format, which in Olympus speak means full sized JPEG, average quality, round 3 MB in size. This was with the OM-D E-M1, where all the settings got reset. Spent something like 30 minutes putting them in again, with the exception of one that I forgot to write down and can't find: instead of the Super Control Panel, display a single menu item at once.

Is it worth upgrading the firmware? The purpose of this particular upgrade was:

Corrected issue of autofocus (AF) function not operating correctly when using the "LEICA DG ELMARIT 200mm F2.8 [sic] / POWER O.I.S. (H-ES200)" interchangeable lens produced by Panasonic.

I don't have the lens, so I didn't need the update. I certainly didn't need the irritation caused by resetting the camera to defaults.

ACM only downloads articles once. It's possible that this article has changed since being downloaded, but the only way you can find out is by looking at the original article.

Refund: done!

Mon, 05 Mar 2018 06:23:49 GMT

Last week I cancelled a purchase of a lens cap, because it didn't fit. The seller responded quickly with a refund and the indirect recognition that the cap was faulty: he didn't want it back.

That was confusing, though: I got a message saying that the purchase price had been refunded:

Date: Fri, 23 Feb 2018 23:21:34 -0700
From: eBay
Subject: Seller initiated a refund: Leica Plastic Lens Cap Press Tabs apx 46mm just under 2&quot; Superb

But that was just the purchase price, not the postage. OK, message to seller, who again replied quickly: He had refunded the postage too. Checked my PayPal account: yes, all OK, though it was two separate refunds. PayPal or eBay up to their usual tricks. Case closed.

And then today, a week later, I received not one, but three more messages:

  84   + 02-03-2018 To Greg Lehey   (  22)   + Notification of a Completed Refund
  85   + 02-03-2018 eBay                 To Greg Lehey   ( 279)   + You have a refund for: Leica Plastic Lens Cap Press
  86 N + 02-03-2018 To Greg Lehey   (  22) N + Notification of a Completed Refund

The first read:

Date: Fri, 02 Mar 2018 06:38:01 -0800
From: ""
To: Greg Lehey

This email confirms that the Pending Refund you received for $11.00 USD from has cleared. The funds are now reflected in your PayPal balance.

That was the postage, and the third message referred to the item itself. What does this mean? It seems that it's one of their irritating delayed payments, this time nearly a week. Do they suspect the seller? Or me? And why was I able to see the transactions in my PayPal account? I'll never understand these people.

The message from eBay was just about the item, not the postage. No further mail from them.

ACM only downloads articles once. It's possible that this article has changed since being downloaded, but the only way you can find out is by looking at the original article.

SotD: Am I Blue?

Mon, 05 Mar 2018 01:00:00 GMT

Well, since yesterday I reached all the way back to the Nineteen Twenties for a show tune that went through many hands including Willie Nelsons, lets do it again today! Am I Blue was written by those big stars Harry Akst and Grant Clarke (Who? A couple of Tin Pan Alley types) in 1929 for the screen, and Wikipedia says its made it onto 42 different screens. Its a cool tune and up to the Song of the Day standard, but mostly here because I was charmed by video.

The most famous, of course, would be the songs debut in On With the Show!, which reading about introduced me to the notion of Pre-Code movies; if the notion is new to you too, follow that link. Sadly, while this was one of the first color films with sound, only B&W prints survive.


Anyhow, Am I Blue? is a showpiece for Ethel Waters, and you can still watch her light it up, 89 years later; well worth your time. Ethel Waters was quite a person; at one point in the thirties, the highest-paid Broadway performer of any race or gender.

And then, all those covers. But first, since Im hoisting the video links up here, check out Rita Coolidge and Les Paul; so much fun.

Right, the covers. Basically, every woman who covers this sounds great, and the men mostly strike out; even Ray Charles is dismal. Except, as noted above, a much younger Willie Nelson, whos just fine. Among the women, its hard to find any to dislike.

This is part of the Song of the Day series (background).


Spotify playlist. Heres a sample: Willie Nelson on Amazon, Billie Holiday on iTunes, and Annette Hanshaw on Spotify (no, I dont know who she is, either, but its a cool version, also from 1929).

MySQL 5.6 to MariaDB 10.2.13

Sun, 04 Mar 2018 16:54:12 GMT

Its hard to believe that a relational database in personal use at home will ever have much of a load when it comes to transaction processing but our home RDBMS is surprisingly busy, with more than a hundred database interactions per second.  Its still not even within an order of magnitude as busy as many...

SotD: Blue Skies

Sun, 04 Mar 2018 01:00:00 GMT

From waaaay back in 1926, this one. What happened was, I wanted the series to drop by Willie Nelson, and my fave Willie album is Stardust, and song on it is Blue Skies. That whole album is salve for the wounded soul I think, and Blue Skies maybe the sweetest and strongest. But, boy, does this one ever have a history.

Typing Blue Skies live into YouTube gets you into some surprising territory. Just so you dont have to, I listened to versions by Nina Simone, Frank Sinatra, Dinah Washington, Al Jolson, Earl Hines, and Ella Fitzgerald. I think the clear winners on musical merit are Ella and Willie.


Then theres this sub-sub-sub-genre of people who do weird shit with Blue Skies, notably Al Jolson in the Jazz Singer, a little on the creepy side, and then this completely deranged jazz mashup starring Nat King Cole, Patti Page, Ben Webster, and Gene Krupa. I guarantee youve never seen anything quite like it.

As for the song, its only got about thirty seconds worth of lyrics and a melody that goes around three times, but oh my goodness that melody, its a keeper.

This is part of the Song of the Day series (background).


Spotify playlist. This tune on Amazon, iTunes, Spotify. Now, as for live video, it seems theres one posted to YouTube for each of Willies many years of life, and hes gotten into this really mannered phrasing, where the beats are cruising by pleasantly, then Willie goes BlueSkiesShiningAtMe& all packed into the first quarter of the line; I think hes trying to introduce a little sadness? But it doesnt work, because while every singer fools with the phrasing on Blue Skies, you have to feel the attachment to the underlying beat, which by the way Willie does effortlessly on Stardust. In this Budokan show, Willie is better anchored; plus, he plays a pretty cosmic guitar break.

E-M1 Mark II Firmware 2.0

Sat, 03 Mar 2018 10:34:47 GMT

After fighting my way through the firmware update for my Olympus equipment, I finally have not only new features, but also a new manual. So what's new? The list is here, but most of it is uninteresting. The things that interest me are: Smaller AF points. This could be of use most of the time, but I'll have to play with them. Focus stacking (Olympus terminology for in-camera focus stacking) now supports the M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100 mm f/4.0 IS PRO. That's useful, but nothing so exciting that I'll go out and take some sample photos. (Quote): Fisheye compensation photography has been added for use of Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 8mm F1.8 [sic]. You can view the effects in live view while shooting images. What does the last item mean in practice? The updated manual contains an appendix with descriptions of the changes in the new firmware. Here's what it says about the fisheye compensation: What's missing here? What's the angle (1 to 3)? And what does it do? What's distortion? Did a bit of experimentation. Distortion is the term they use to mean divergence from rectilinear projection. The feature takes a (presumably undistorted) fisheye projection and converts it to an (implicitly undistorted) rectilinear projection. What, in the raw image? No, of course not. It doesn't say, but this is Yet Another camera function that overrides your choice of image format and creates JPEG images even if you didn't explicitly ask for them. The raw image is unaffected by any of these settings. That makes sense, but can't the instructions say so? And angle? It's a crop specification. Crop 3 (smallest image, longest equivalent focal length) corresponds to a rectilinear lens with a focal length of marginally less than 9 mm. Crop 1 could correspond to a rectilinear lens with a focal length of 7 mm. Here's what I found with a series of images taken from the same place: Original image from fisheye lens: Image converted to rectilinear by DxO PhotoLab: In-camera conversions with angles 1 to 3: And finally a shot with the Zuiko Digital ED 9-18 mm f/4.0-5.6: So angle 3 is marginally wider than the 9 mm image. And angle 1 is considerably narrower than what DxO makes out of the same view. Arguably that makes sense, since the DxO view shows the real limits of rectilinear projection. But what use is this? It all crops, it all only produces JPEG output. I don't see myself using it. ACM only downloads articles once. It's p[...]

Updating Olympus firmware

Sat, 03 Mar 2018 10:10:56 GMT

Olympus has released firmware upgrades for several products that I have: the OM-D E-M1 Mark I, the OM-D E-M1 Mark II and the M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100 mm f/4.0 IS PRO. The pre-release discussion suggests a way to download the firmware and install it from an SD card, just what I have been looking at for a long time. The information was posted on Facebook, so I can no longer find it, but it seems to be related to this page. It let me download the code (88 MB!), but it's structured so that I can't find out how to do the transfer to the SD card. Instead I need to follow the procedure that the author of the page decided on, without knowing up front what it is.

This may be worth it, but right now I didn't have the time, so I used the painful way via Digital Camera Updater, in the process discovering that it wouldn't update both camera and lens at the same time, though both needed updating, and that, without warning, it didn't save the configuration for my E-M1 Mark I (which I now need to reset manually).

ACM only downloads articles once. It's possible that this article has changed since being downloaded, but the only way you can find out is by looking at the original article.

A key to page-numbers in the Little Brother audiobook

Sat, 03 Mar 2018 06:34:45 GMT

Mary Kraus teaches my novel Little Brother to health science interns learning about cybersecurity; to help a student who has a print disability, Mary created a key that maps the MP3 files in the audiobook to the Tor paperback edition. She was kind enough to make her doc public to help other people move easily... more

Im coming to the Adelaide Festival this weekend (and then to Wellington, NZ!)

Sat, 03 Mar 2018 03:30:47 GMT

I’m on the last two cities in my Australia/NZ tour for my novel Walkaway: today, I’m flying to Adelaide for the Adelaide Festival, where I’m appearing in several program items: Breakfast with Papers on Sunday at 8AM; a book signing on Monday at 10AM in Dymocks at Rundle Mall; “Dust Devils,” a panel followed by... more

SotD: Im a Man!

Sat, 03 Mar 2018 01:00:00 GMT

Wait& you say, thats two Steve Winwood songs in a row! Indeed. Only, this one is shorter and hotter. And anyhow, its a Spencer Davis Group song, so there.

You have to feel a little sorry for Spencer, hell always be known as The Guy Who Had Steve In His Band. So, the world owes him one.

This is the most primitive major-progression rave-up imaginable, which shouldnt be surprising since Winwood was still a teenager; he was 14 when the Davis band launched. And the lyrics, well, dont go there: Well, if I had my choice of matter I would rather be with cats / All engrossed in mental chatter showin where our minds are at is a high point.


This is part of the Song of the Day series (background).


Spotify playlist. This tune on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon. Now, as for live video, heres a good one from Finnish TV. Get up and dance!

Free as in free beer?

Fri, 02 Mar 2018 05:31:05 GMT

Where do I find maps that I can embed on my pages without worrying about copyright? Google Maps allows embedding, and OpenStreetMap exists for that purpose, but neither of them do atlas-style maps. So I went looking and found this page, which looked like it could do exactly what I'm looking for:


But it only showed a small fraction of the maps, unsorted. How should I sort them?


Nothing useful. And why sort by price?

In the end, I didn't find just what I was looking for (a world map centered on Asia and Australia). There are plenty of them, but not free.

ACM only downloads articles once. It's possible that this article has changed since being downloaded, but the only way you can find out is by looking at the original article.

SotD: The Low Spark

Fri, 02 Mar 2018 01:00:00 GMT

The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys was the album and the song, and its a song thatll never die. It was recorded by Traffic, written by Winwood/Capaldi, and last time I checked, Winwood still goes out on the road and plays it for people. Play it for yourself, but sit back and listen carefully, theres a lot happening.


OK, John Barleycorn may be more coherent, but Low Spark is the Traffic album (and the song) for me. The melody is memorable, the singing is strong, and the piano foundation is dreamy, but for me its the sax line from Chris Wood that brings it home.

Wood is another chapter in the sad old rock-n-roll drink/drugs/death story, but he left some fine music behind. I have an obscure 2008 album called Vulcan; then there was a later, apparently distinct, compilation called Moon Child Vulcan.

Anyhow: If you see something that looks like a star / And it's shooting up out of the ground / And your head is spinning from a loud guitar&

This is part of the Song of the Day series (background).


Spotify playlist. This tune on Amazon, iTunes (album only), Spotify. This live video from 1972 is a little unfortunate in that the audio mix loses the percussion entirely (and is that Larry Wall on drums?) but it does highlight a big Chris Woods solo. Theres lots more video, mostly from one of Winwoods other touring bands, each of which has a sax player, and they all sound like they listened to Chris a whole lot.

Reading mail attachments

Thu, 01 Mar 2018 06:12:54 GMT

My MUA of choice is mutt, a descendent of the original elm. It can handle MIME attachments, but not well.

The mail from Dr Tagkalidis had about 8 PDF attachments, which were not the easiest to view, so I bounced the message to gmail and looked at it there, confirming that other MUAs don't do very well with this kind of document either. Each document was presented as an icon with three different sensitive areas, one to display directly, one to download, and another that took me a while to understand.

After reading one document, I got the message safe to drive, which I suppose made sense given that it didn't relate to a procedure. But they all said safe to drive. So why spend the night in Melbourne? Ah, I misread: Save to drive. How do you parse that? It seems that drive is some Google concept that I don't think I want to know, probably related to the concept of disk, disk drive or (shudder) hard drive.

ACM only downloads articles once. It's possible that this article has changed since being downloaded, but the only way you can find out is by looking at the original article.