Puzzle archives

Today I completed the work I began yesterday with those old computer files. It was to put on my website a mirrored archive of the old CiSRA Puzzle Competition that I ran with some friends of mine from 2007 to 2013 at our old employer. After the company shut down last year (and we all lost our jobs), the original website vanished. There’s a copy on archive.org, but nowhere else. I decided some time ago to host a mirror myself, but haven’t sat down to do the work to reformat the links and make an index page until now. But now it’s done! Another task I can tick off my long to-do list.

I’ve also been doing some administrative work related to ISO photography standards. I’ve probably mentioned that we have a planned meeting to be hosted in Sydney in February next year, and as the chair of the Australian photography standards committee, it’s my job to keep that on track. But of course with the COVID-19 restrictions on meetings and international travel, ISO is currently running all standards meetings virtually – currently until at least the end of August, but that could easily be extended. So it’s not clear at all if the Sydney meeting will go ahead as a physical meeting, or a virtual meeting, or perhaps a physical meeting with some delegates unable to attend due to travel restrictions in their countries. So today I had a bit of back and forth emailing to the international conveners and Standards Australia, to raise the issues and ensure that there are no problems that may arise that we need to deal with now. (It’d be nice if I got paid for any of this work…!)

Oh, and Scully got a wash and trim at the dog groomer today. She’s looking neat and tidy, but with her fur trimmed short and the nights getting colder here, she definitely needs the pyjamas I showed a few days ago.

New content today:

A bit of travel

I’ve hardly driven anywhere since the coronavirus lockdown began – mainly just to the supermarket for food. But today I had a work-related reason – I needed to return a monitor colour calibrator I borrowed to the owner, who needed to use it for his own work. I drove out to his place at Baulkham Hills, and my wife suggested I take Scully for a drive, and maybe walk her around out there for change of scenery.

So we did that, and I ended up spending a couple of hours out there. Enough to stop in for lunch at a bakery, and get more samples for my food blog. And while typing that up I found an old one from last year that I hadn’t blogged yet, and typed that up too.

This afternoon I also did some work for photography standards stuff, downloading documents and voting on a whole slew of ballots to reconfirm ISO standards that are up for their 5-yearly systematic review cycle. And… hmmm, some other bookkeeping stuff related to bills and tax deductions and stuff like that. Fascinating blog material, I’m afraid.

New content today:

Birdie Num Num

This morning I had a virtual meeting via Zoom for Standards Australia on photography standards. This is the follow-up to the international meeting I had in February, where I report back to the Australian experts on what happened and the progress of the various standards the international committee is working on. Normally we meet face-to-face, but this is the first online meeting of the Aus group under coronavirus restrictions. It went smoothly enough, except that my wife is also working from home at the same time, on the phone a lot, and our place isn’t large. I had to use the bedroom as my virtual office.

Unrelated good news: Scully is definitely on the mend from her illness. She’s eating more and is more active rather than lethargic.

And in other good news, I needed some exercise after my meeting this morning, so I played a round of golf after lunch. The course was busy, and I had a slow pair of what looked like a father and son, about 10 years old, ahead of me. So I had a bit of waiting at each tee for them to clear the fairway ahead of me. And then another pair came up behind me – a girl about 12 years old and (presumably) her brother, maybe 9 or 10 years. I saw their father drop them off at the car park, but COVID restrictions here limit golf groups to a maximum of two people, so the kids were playing by themselves. And they were good! Better golfers than me.

So anyway, they came up behind me as I was waiting to tee off at hole 3. I decided to let them go ahead of me, because I didn’t want the pressure of people coming up behind. I told them that they were better players than I was. After we all finished hole 3, the kids teed off on hole 4 (after a bit of a wait for the father/son pair ahead of them). This is the intimidating hole I’ve posted before:

Hole 4, par 3

You have to hit your tee shot over the creek. I’ve lost a fair few golf balls in there. Anyway, the kids hit immaculate tee shots, the boy landing just off the green and the girl landing on the green. I think they both two-putted for pars. The tee for the next hole was still occupied, so they sat to wait on a bench, facing back towards hole 3, and me at the tee. So they were watching me play.

I hit the tee shot sweetly and it sailed high in the air… bounced right on the green, and rolled to a stop about 2.5 metres from the hole. Not bad! I walked over to the green and lined up the putt… and sank it! I scored a birdie! Only my second one ever, after last week’s. As I walked off the green to my golf bag, the girl called out, “Well done!”

I could have played it cool and suave, but I actually replied excitedly that that was the first birdie I’d ever scored on this course.

But how cool is it to have a stranger watch something you’re doing and spontaneously burst out with a genuine, “Well done!”?

New content today:

Report writing

I had some boring work and work-like tasks today. Firstly I had to contact the gas company about our latest gas bill, which arrived yesterday. Normally the bills are around $100, but this one was almost $800. I checked previous bills, which listed the meter readings for our gas hot water meter.

  • Third previous bill: start 3874.04, end 3969.92, units used: 95.88
  • Second previous bill: start 3969.92, end 4175.98, units used: 206.06
  • Previous bill: start 170, end 198.22, units used: 28.22
  • This bill: start 171, end 4480.96, units used: 4309.96

🤔

It took me a little while to get through the phone menu system and talk to a person at the gas company. I explained there was an error in the bill, and asked them to look at the hot water meter readings for the past four bills. The woman on the other end put me on hold for a minute, then came back. “Oh yes, I can see what the problem is! We’ll cancel your bill, correct the error, and issue a new bill.” So hopefully the replacement bill will be correct. It may be slightly larger than normal since we were most likely undercharged in the last bill, although not by a huge amount.

The next bureaucracy I had to deal with was registering for the Australian Government’s announced coronavirus financial aid, which I believe covers me because I’ve previously registered as a self-employed person and I’m losing income due to my market stalls being cancelled. There are some eligibility criteria to be worked through, but I think I should be eligible. The main thing was registering an “intent to claim” as soon as possible, so that payments can be backdated once the whole procedure (which could take weeks given the load on Australia’s welfare system) is worked through. I tried to do this yesterday, but the phone line just hung up on me when I rang. Today they released an online registration portal, and I managed to use that okay.

And then I got stuck into some really juicy work – writing my report on the ISO photography standards meeting ostensibly held in Yokohama that I attended by videoconference last month. I have to submit a report to Standards Australia, summarising all the key technical discussions and items of interest to the Australian photographic community. One main one is that we’re planning to host a meeting in February 2021 in Sydney. Assuming we’re back to physical meetings by then…

The next scheduled meeting is in New York City in June, but that’s already been converted to another virtual online meeting. I was planning to travel to New York in June for this meeting, but that’s now not going to happen. Instead I’ll have to stay awake for a 9am-6pm meeting held in New York’s time zone – which equates to 11pm to 8am in Sydney. As someone who is decidedly not a night owl, that is pretty much the absolute worst possible timing for me. Roughly 10:30pm to 6:30am is my normal sleep cycle. So it’ll be pretty rough.

Anyway, I trawled through my meeting notes, the offical minutes, and all of the presentations given during the Yokohama meeting, and assembled my report, which took up most of the rest of the day.

New content today:

ISO meeting day 3

Day 3 of the ISO photography standards meeting began with more technical presentations and discussions. We heard information about the HEIF image file format, as well as proposals for standardising a high dynamic range (HDR) and wide colour gamut (WCG) encoding format for still images. There exist standards for HDR and WCG in video, but not for still photography yet, so we want to formalise one before manufacturers develop a multitude of competing formats.

We also had a big discussion about how to define exposure for blended images, as I mentioned was an ongoing problem yesterday. An idea raised was to categorise photos by the digital blending techniques used to produce them, so that we can then define different, meaningful exposures for the different categories. This seems to be what we’ll investigate, and some draft proposals will be put forward for the next meeting.

That next meeting is scheduled for June in New York City. My wife and I were planning to travel there, and combine it with a short holiday, but with the coronavirus still spreading we’re going to sit on that decision for a while. It’s possible the New York meeting may also be turned into a mostly virtual meeting.

Apart from the meeting, I took a couple of walks today, just to get away from sitting in front of the computer all day. And… that’s about it. It’s been a busy week – almost like being in a full-time job!

New content today:

ISO meeting day 2

Today was the big technical day of the ISO photography standards meeting that I’m attending virtually. We had presentations and discussions on the topics of standardisation of measurements of camera imaging noise, resolution, autofocus repeatability, depth metrology, image flare, as well as standardisation of Adobe’s DNG file format, and a presentation on new work by JPEG.

Much of it was very technical and probably not very interesting to most people. However the autofocus presentation had some fascinating experimental results. The presenter had at first assumed we could do image statistics to determine the best focused image from a series of photos taken by a camera. Defocus blur smooths out the image, so the variance in the pixel counts is lower, which means that if you measure the variance in a photo (of the same subject, at the same light level, taken by the same camera), then the image with the highest variance should have the best focus.

However, doing an experiment in which he measured hundreds of images, he found that sometimes when the autofocus failed and the image came out blurry, it actually had a higher variance than in-focus images. The reason was that the camera added artificial image noise as an image processing step. The reason it might do this is because it’s known that slightly blurry images look sharper to human eyes if a little bit of image noise is added. So the camera has been designed to add some noise, to fool human users into thinking the photo is sharper than it really is. The result of this is that when a photo is truly out-of-focus, it adds so much noise that the variance ends up higher than an in-focus image. (This was a phone camera that was being tested, by the way, not a DSLR.)

So to make our standardisation of a method to measure autofocus workable, we have to deal with this artificial image noise that some cameras add to the image, and we can’t rely on the image statistics being sensible and based merely on the physics.

This sort of thing is becoming more and more of a problem for us in this work. Measuring the performance of a camera is getting more complicated because of all the post-processing that modern cameras (particularly phone cameras) do to make the image look “nicer”. Even a conceptually simple thing like defining the exposure time of a photo is riddled with complications caused by cameras that take multiple exposures when you press the shutter button, and then combine different parts of different images to produce a composite final image. For example: some areas of the resulting photo might have pixels taken from an exposure with one exposure time, while another area has pixels from an exposure with a different exposure time, while another area has pixels that are an average of two or more different exposures, and then the brightness levels might be adjusted in different ways. At one extreme, there is no single “exposure time” that physically describes what is represented by the pixels across the whole photo, and at the other extreme to fully describe the “exposure” you need to list an array of different exposure times and their blending coefficients for every pixel in the image. While that would be physically correct, it’s obviously impractical. We still haven’t figured out how to address this issue.

Another interesting thing came from the JPEG presentation. JPEG is not just an image format, it’s a large technical committee (separate from the ISO Photography committee), working on a lot of new stuff related to image encoding. Their representative was giving us a report on recent work they’re doing. One thing I thought was interesting is a new project to add privacy controls to images. Say you want to share a photo of yourself on social media, but you don’t want random strangers seeing your face. This JPEG project is working on a way to select a region of a photo (e.g. your face), and encrypt the image data for that region, so that a person without the key can see the background but where your face is it just displays a blurred/pixelated version, but a friend who has your encryption password can see the original photo with your face. (I described this to a friend of mine and he criticised the idea as unnecessary complexity, as there are already ways to achieve basically the same effect without building encryption into JPEG. I’m no expert in file encoding, and I suspect there’s more to it than that, but *shrug*.)

Anyway, this is kind of all I did today – this sort of highly technical stuff. One more day of the meeting tomorrow. There’ll be a bit more technical discussion, followed by administrative stuff. (And I’m not getting paid for any of this…)

Oh, the other thing I did today was go to teach my Ethics class this morning. I had time to do this because the virtual meeting is running on Tokyo time, so it started at 11 am Sydney time. So I had enough time to go teach my class. However, when I was set up and ready to go, and the school bell rang… no students showed up! I had to go find a teacher, and they told me that Year 6 was away on camp this week! So I packed up and headed home. Oh well… next week!

New content today:

ISO meeting day 1

Today was day one of the ISO Photography standards meeting, ostensibly held in Yokohama, but actually connected via teleconference from multiple locations due to the coronavirus travel restrictions and precautions. There was a large group assembled in a meeting room in Tokyo, which acted as the central location, and people (including me) attended remotely from 5 other locations. Tomorrow there will be more attending remotely, as we get stuck into the meat of the technical discussions.

The meeting started at lunch time in Tokyo, so I had all morning free. I started painting the wooden crates that I bought yesterday. I researched a little about painting wood with acrylic paint, and discovered that I should prime the wood first.

So I prepared to go out and went down to the garage, ready to drive over to the hardware store to pick up some primer. While down there, I figured I’d get out the hammer, which I wanted to use to drive a couple of extra nails into the crates to hold a slightly loose slats. I opened the storage cupboard in the garage, and to get the toolbox out I had to move a couple of tins of paint…

One of which was primer! So I aborted the hardware store expedition and returned inside to start work on the crates. Here’s one after priming (I forgot to take a photo of the bare wood before I started):

Crate painting

They’re very nice crates, made of smooth pine wood. They’re “craft” crates, not actual shipping crates for fruit or whatever. And here’s one after the first coat of black acrylic:

Crate painting

I think they’ll need a second coat for a smooth black look. In between coats I matted some more photos. I’ve done about 2/3 of them now. It’s quite labour intensive. The ISO meeting ended at 7:30 pm my time (5:30 Tokyo time). After exercising Scully for a bit outside, it was time to make a late dinner.

New content today:

Shop is launched!

Well today is a big day. I finished configuring my photo site shop and linked it up, so now it’s fully publicly visible.

In other news, I went on another expedition to the hardware store to get a couple of small wooden crates to use as display boxes for the matted photo prints I’ve been working on. They’re a perfect size, and I got some black acrylic paint to make them black to match the colour scheme of the rest of the market stall.

For lunch I had the prettiest bowl of food I’ve eaten for some time:

Açai colour

And the rest of the afternoon I spent preparing for an ISO Photography Standards meeting, which begins tomorrow. It was scheduled for Yokohama, but I wasn’t applying on attending in person, choosing to participate by web conference instead. But with the coronavirus outbreak, the meeting has been converted to a full virtual meeting, with many of the participants attending only virtually. This followed the cancellation of the annual CP+ Camera Show, the largest camera show in Japan, which is what the standards meeting was scheduled around – normally attendees go to the camera show as well. Our next meeting is scheduled for New York City in June, but it may end up being affected by coronavirus as well, depending how the situation develops over the next few months.

So anyway, I’ll be busy with photography standards work for the next three days, and won’t have time for much else.

New content today: