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I had planned to mow next week, but then I saw the weather report. Plenty of rain. It's a lot chillier today, and at half past noon as I write this there's still mist in the air from a foggy morning.

It's rather ironic that we're now officially "in Spring" and now the weather is behaving like summer is done with.
So it's a good thing I got the mowing sorted yesterday.

Getting the mowing done
Getting the mowing done.

It would have been good to say that I started Marte, whizzed around, got it done...
...but it's never that simple, is it?

As I was engaging the blades after a petrol refill, the control cable snapped. So I patched something together using a replacement bicycle brake cable (actually bought as a spare for the little mower) and a bolt with washers to hold the thing in place.

Mower blade control
Mower blade control.

One of these days, something is going to break in a way that'll be outside of my skill set to bodge fix.


Pi swap

Yesterday I swapped my Pi machines over. I had the main Pi, the Pi 3B+, in my bedroom acting as an always-on file server (via ShareFS) and the Pi 2 in the living room (where I am right now). But since I seem to be spending most of my time in the living room (comfy seat, piano, nice view, etc) it didn't make sense that the machine that mostly does background stuff have a 1400MHz processor while the one I actually use has a 900MHz processor.
So I swapped them. This machine can run "sort of twice as fast" with 500MHz more clock speed and a later revision processor. Not that I'd notice when prodding keys in a Zap window, but Netsurf feels snappier.

However, as a developer, something I'm quite used to is stuff crashing. And since RISC OS is designed using principles from home computers of the 1980s, if anything running at kernel level (which is a massive pile of stuff) falls over, so does everything else.
Which means the machine will need to be reset.

Yanking out the power is a method, and it works, but it's akin to the "nuke it from space" option. Not really recommended.

Which means that a better method needs to be found. More specifically, a reset button.

The first job is to solder a header to the correct place. You'll need a two pin header to attach to the place marked PEN and RUN on the other side from the USB sockets. You can see it in the middle of the photo below.

Location of header holes
Location of header holes.

This photo is edited from the one at the Pi Foundation. I'm not opening up my Pi to take photos. I suppose I should have thought of that yesterday, but...

Anyway, on older models of Pi you hooked a switch between the two pins and briefly shorted them (press a button) to reset the machine. This will no longer work. If you notice, the other pin is marked PEN rather than GND. It's for entering some sort of low power mode, I think.

What you need to do is connect one side of your switch to RUN and the other side to any of the GND pins on the GPIO header. Conveniently the corner closest is, indeed, a GND pin.

Wiring up a reset button
Wiring up a 3B+ reset button.

I wrapped mine in heat-shrink tubing for protection and also to reduce the risk of potential static issues.

A new reset button
A new reset button.


I noticed, as an aside, that my OLED is pretty much toast. Well, I don't think I should be too surprised, they suffer from burn-in and I wrote my OLED module in 2014 so it's about ten years old. This might be why serious devices use LCDs instead of OLEDs. You don't get as much flexibility with a 16×2 or 20×4 LCD, but it'll still be running years later. Not so much these little OLEDs.

That being said, it depends on what you're looking for. The little OLEDs (128×64) are not expensive. LCD strips are a little bit more. For twice the price of an LCD strip you start getting into SPI LCD panels with 320×240 or 600×480 resolutions. Add twenty euros more, you're looking at very basic monitors. For a little under €50 you can get a 7" 1024×600 IPS with HDMI input with optional touch, and some buttons on the front for setting it up. Add another €10 and you're looking at 1280×720 (HD) that's 9 inches. And, from there, a real monitor (or TV).
So these OLEDs fit a specific tiny-notification use case, but they don't have a particularly long service life.
I've ordered a pack of three (€12, if I recall) from Amazon. Because, you know, inertia. I can simply switch my dead one for a new one, or I can make things more complicated. Meh, the easy option wins.


Kate's photo

Given that they're not only one of the richest families in the UK, but also the royal family, you'd have thought that they would be capable of either setting up a photo correctly and/or paying a professional to perform the necessary editing.

I'm not that bothered about the editing of photos. Are they "lying"? Not exactly. An edited photo isn't the "truth", but it's what they wish to present. It happens everywhere all the time. Those lovely photos of steaming hot food in the adverts? That's not food. Pretty much every food pack will say "Serving suggestion" somewhere as it's extremely rare that what you get actually looks like the wrapper. Loads of photos that people upload have been edited. From getting rid of red-eye (a common factor of flash photography) to using AI to identify bodies and tweak the proportions of various parts, smooth out blemishes, and so on.

Quite a few on my blog are edited (with varying degrees of competence) to cover up things I noticed after taking the photos, or to omit stuff I don't want in them but either couldn't be bothered to move or couldn't move. Usually it's the first case, I'm so busy looking at what it is that I'm wanting to take a picture of that I don't notice the tissue that fell out of my pocket onto the ground. I think the word mom would use is "clatty", and it's a perfectly good word to describe things that are in photos that shouldn't be.
So, yes, I tidy pictures... when I can be bothered. Sometimes I also play with the tonal balance and what Google Photos called "Pop" because some flash photography can look... Insipid. Flat. Lifeless. Sometimes pushing the contrast and adding "Pop" can rescue a photo. Sometimes, I just have to go and take it again, this time differently.

Granted, Kate's apparent (if it was indeed her that did it) merging of multiple photos together is a rather more extreme form of editing...
...which of course is leading to all sorts of global commentary on "where is Kate?", which took a further twist when The Sun published photos of her dressed in a track suit going shopping, and loads of people were like "Nope, that's not her".

There are two possibilities. The first, that far too many are aiming for, is that she didn't survive whatever she went into hospital for, though this is rather unlikely as it's not exactly as if they can replace her with a different Becky. It could well be a career-ending moment for the entire institution if they have been trying to cover up the death of a prominent royal.

Which means, the vastly more likely version of events is that she's just taking it easy, recovering in her own time, which is complicated by her laughing her arse off at all of this nonsense.

As for Kate's editing abilities? Well, actually I'm impressed. Sure, there are numerous rather obvious errors, once you know what to look for. But at a quick look it seems to be a family photo, and it's not as if there's a missing leg or the girl has two different eyes (so we know it's not AI generated, at least). It looks as if the girl's tights are blurry and not in the focus that one would expect at the focal length, which could be over-excessive smoothing around a merge. But, then, if she actually pasted different photos together... that's actually kind of non-trivial for a person who doesn't do this sort of thing for a living. Anybody can merge photos, I've done it, but doing so and making it look convincing? That's an entirely different proposition. And in this respect, Kate's efforts aren't actually that bad.


Bodging aspect ratio in ffmpeg

I recorded Bright Hair from Talking Pictures TV last week.

I then used YouCut video editor to remove the advert breaks. This, however, meant that the original aspect ratio of the anamorphic recording was lost, leading to...

A scene from Bright Hair
A scene from Bright Hair at the wrong aspect.

While the original was broadcast in 1024×576, which is 16:9, it clearly isn't exactly widescreen. Things look a little too squat and stretched.
So let's try it at 4:3 in case it's old enough, though I have my doubts given it's a BBC production.

A scene from Bright Hair
A scene from Bright Hair also at the wrong aspect.

Nope, that's not right either. Everything is too tall ans squished.

But, wait, there's another option.

MCMXCVII is the nerdy way of saying 1997. Back then the old square TV to new rectangular TV transition was happening. In response to audience tests by the BBC, it was fairly common back then to broadcast things in 14:9. This led to letterboxing on both 4:3 (old) televisions and 16:9 (new) televisions, no doubt aiming to annoy both camps equally. ☺
While 14:9 is not a true format (material is shot in 4:3 or 16:9 and cropped accordingly), it may be that things were framed for 14:9 so this is the best way to continue to broadcast it?
So let's try 14:9.

A scene from Bright Hair
A scene from Bright Hair, looks like the right aspect.

Yup, that looks better. But my video, saved at 640 × 678 (because Americans haven't heard of 576p so it's not a well known resolution, the next option down was 480p) is 2.2GB and I really don't want to have to re-encode the entire thing in order to fix the wonky aspect ratio.

There is a solution, but to understand this you need to understand that there are two different aspect ratios in a video file. The first is the "SAR", or the Sample Aspect Ratio, which tells you how the actual pixels relate to each other. The second is the "DAR", or the Display Aspect Ratio, which tells the video player what aspect things should be shown in.
If this was an anamorphic recording, one should change the SAR to say that the pixels are not as tall as they are wide.

FFMPEG can do this for us without the need to re-encode the entire file.

ffmpeg -hwaccel auto -y -i "<input file>" -c copy -bsf:v "h264_metadata=sample_aspect_ratio=14/9" "<output file>"

That's all one line, however your browser has rendered it.

It'll copy the raw pixel data (and the sound) and switch the flags describing the pixel aspect ratio, so things will see that it's a video with so many pixels that's supposed to be interpreted at 14:9.

It might also suffice to specify the display aspect ratio in the header, but this isn't really fixing the problem, it's just telling the display software to gloss over it. In Mi Video it is shown as being 640 × 678 (showing the raw image size) and displayed correctly. In MX Player, it is shown as being 1055 × 678 (14:9; the scaled output size) and is also displayed correctly.


French school uniforms

Here in France, several schools are doing an experiment in the use of school uniforms. While some uniforms look sort of like real uniforms, some others are sort of preppie polo tops and trousers.
Here is a screen capture from a video on Ouest-France.

French children wearing school uniform
French children wearing school uniform.
© Ouest-France

They appear to be wearing a blazer, white shirt, skirt/tights (girls) or trousers/socks (boys), and whatever shoes they had.
One of the frequent complaints about this experiment is the cost. Apparently it costs €200 per child, half of this being met by the state and half by the town.

There are two reasons for this seemingly excessive cost. The first is that school uniforms are not a normal thing in France, so you'd likely have to get the clothing specially. The second is, if behaviour in the UK is anything to go by, schools proscribe a very specific uniform which tends to only be available from one or two suppliers at a markup (you know the school gets some money from this). A common theme here is "the official school blazer".

Girl wearing generic school uniform, Marks and SpencerWhat France needs to do, before the greedy vultures get involved, is say that uniforms should be as generic as possible and that specific items (such as the blazer) should not be excessively priced. Better yet, require the school to supply the decals and logos so parents can attach them to a generic blazer.

By way of example for the pricing, we shall look at the girl on the right. She has been taken from Marks & Spencer. She is advertising the skirt that she is wearing. Depending on size, it's £10-14.
A two-pack of white blouses, £11-15 depending on size.
A 3-pack of tights, £4-11 depending on size, colour, thickness.
Not pictured on this girl, a blazer. £23-29 depending on size.

So, let's say... Two skirts, a two-pack of shirts. A three-pack of tights. A blazer. £48-69. You can throw in a pair of leather school shoes (around £30-40) and it'll be just over a hundred quid.

Why is it so much cheaper? Well, seeing teenage girls dressed like that is pretty normal in the UK, and since it's so common, the clothing is ubiquitous.
Bear in mind that I'm referring to M&S prices. You can get stuff cheaper at some supermarkets (but, of course, you get what you pay for...).

If France committed to introducing uniforms more generally, rather than a test at some select schools, then this sort of clothing would stop being specialist and become more commonplace, and thus cheaper.

And, of course, I do wonder how many parents whinging about the price of uniforms (that they aren't actually paying, note) are quite happy to spend €45 on one official football shirt. The big deal around here is Stade Rennais (yes, that means "Rennes Stadium", it's a peculiar name for a football team - the stadium itself is called Roazhon Park). That price is how much official shirts are, and there's a load of other branded goods with associated price tags.


More bramble whacking

I decided that what I'd like to eat this evening is a nice fluffy bit of brioche. So I put everything into the bread maker, and since amazingly the sun had come out, I decided to do something with my hours of waiting that didn't involve sitting staring at a screen.

I started with this...

Brambles, your time has come
Brambles, your time has come.

Did some of this...


And ended up with this...

Another clearing
Another clearing.

As you can see from the final photo, the sun went away and it was preparing to drizzle. Oh, and it felt about ten degrees colder without the sun.

Oh, and the middle picture has been edited for "added drama". Can you tell? ☺



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jgh, 23rd March 2024, 00:08
Somewhere I've still got the sew-on badge from my school blazer. You (or rather, your Mum) bought it from the school office in first year and attached it to whatever sized blazer you'd bought from whatever generic children's clothiers you'd bought the blazer from. 
David Pilling, 23rd March 2024, 13:11
Groan school uniforms, how they like to go on about them. Sit in assembly and listen to the chief beak going on about poor kids or whatever. 
So (in our all uniform school) there was the lad who was followed around school by chants of "busman's kegs", because he was wearing the green trousers from his dad. 
Then you'd not get teased at school because your clothes were not as good as others, which is the most convincing reason for a uniform, instead you'd get teased on the weekend for wearing uniform out of school hours. 
Generic is the best way, not schools specifying rare and expensive. 
But they should go with something that elevates the reality, orange jump suit with baseball cap, bar code number on the front and back. 
Oh yes, school named after famous WW2 general, logo on pocket, sword. Now had to be abandoned.
Rick, 23rd March 2024, 13:45
A common theme in the SIBA stories is the protagonist's often not bothering to change out of uniform at the end of lessons. 
Based on reality. I often didn't bother... 
Yes, generic is the best way.

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