2024 archive

This page is part of the archives of my blog.

·1998 · 1999 · 2000 · 2001 · 2002 · 2003 · 2004 · 2005 · 2006 · 2007 · 2008 · 2009 · 2010 · 2011 · 2012 · 2013 · 2014 · 2015 · 2016 · 2017 · 2018 · 2019 · 2020 · 2021 · 2022 · 2023 · 2024 · 

This is the full archive for 2024



· Fremantle · photography ·

It's not very early on New Year's Day, and I'm back at the same place I was last year I think: Milkmaid Coffee Bar on High Street. It's busy! I assume because not many places are open. There's a gang of teenagers looking tired and complaining that there's no alcohol in the fridge behind me. A small wet dog, white but not fluffy, is under someone's chair outside on the footpath. Is there any sense of a new year? Not really. But the breeze isn't too hot, which is enough to be glad about, and the wifi seems to work.

I'm excited about exploring with a camera and notebook. There's not much around here to be added to OSM, but that's good because now it's time to focus on improving the details and getting everything more thoroughly photographed on Commons, and to make sure that all the heritage buildings have their metadata in good form. I'm trying to make sure that toolforge:wdlocator is useful, so am using it quite often to find things to photograph. There are lots of categories that only contain a few photos, and with buildings it's often just the exterior. Of course, it's hard to get shots of the interior — but sometimes the side alleys are visible as well as other interesting details like windows and doors. Especially where there's modern signage and other things that are usually not preserved when places are redeveloped, it seems worthwhile to get some piccies for the wikis.

Ron Doig Block


· Fremantle ·

I hope Ron Doig, Sr. liked air conditioners, because his memorial building is encrusted with them:

I cycled through the hospital on my way home, and realised that the second heritage-listed building on the site did not yet have its own category. It does now (although I might try to get some more photos with more care next time).

Before they built this, the outpatient arrangements were "totally inadaquate to deal with the large number of suffering humanity seeking medical relief."[1] Not to put too strong a word on it or anything.

Sharing family photos


· blogging ·

I’m a tech reporter. Can I still post my baby’s picture responsibly? by Johana Bhuiyan, 3 January 2024:

Meysenburg also suggested using an encrypted-messaging platform, Signal, to share images with a close group of friends, rather than posting on social media. “The Signal group has at least scratched the itch of having an audience of people to give you likes and comments, which is what you really want,” he said. He’s right – that itch is the core of my Posting Disease. I want other people to coo over my future son; I can’t help it.

I think that not getting likes and comments is one of the good things about the indieweb. Here, we can just chatter away into the void, and not worry about the responses. It's harder for people to respond, but this is good: they have to respond on their own site, which means that they're less likely to bother if they don't actually have anything to say, and they're more likely to be nice about it because it's on their own site and they'll have a greater feeling of ownership.

That said, I do think the idea of having a family Signal group is a good idea.

Future of the Wishlist


· Wikimedia ·

My team at the WMF is responsible for running and working on the wishes in the annual Community Wishlist Survey. The survey is a system for gathering prioritising ideas from the editing communities, and it's worked pretty well for many years. But there are a bunch of problems with it, largely around the size and number of the wishes and the size of the team working on them. I've always felt that a survey that feeds into more teams' (and maybe even more organisations, i.e. hubs) workflows would be good.

Yesterday we announced a new direction for the survey: Shaping the future of the Community Wishlist Survey.

It's nothing absolutely ground-breaking or different really, because I think everyone's wary of plans that involve massive upheaval and reinvention of things. The key next steps are:

  • Creating a new, continuous intake system for community technical requests.
  • The new intake system will be part of our annual planning.
  • The Community Tech team will work on wishes from the backlog until this new system is in place.
Discussion is at meta:Talk:Community Wishlist Survey/Future Of The Wishlist.

Webmentions aren't always comments


· indieweb ·

Webmentions are just a way to say I linked to you - You don't have to use them as comments, posted on 2024-01-04 by Sara Jakša:

Technology-wise, all webmentions do is send a message of 'I linked to your page'. There is nothing in technology to say that you need to do anything with this - either displaying or checking it.

I think the MediaWiki system of being able to view "what links here" for any given page is great, and have often wondered about extending it to include external sites. In doing that would probably make sense to use webmentions.

More website changes


I've been stuffing around, yet again, with my website. I know I should just settle down and stick with something, but what's the point when there's more fun ideas to figure out? Today's fun idea seems to be "how to break my RSS feeds, and fail to figure out Apache's mod rewrite even after more than a decade of using it for basically exactly this."

Railway Museum


Another trip to the Railway Museum today. Last time I went it was very busy and it was hard to really explore and concentrate. This time it was 37° and there was hardly anyone there! It was a bit warm, but not too bad, at least for the exhibits in the shade under the main roof.

I tried to get a few photos to add to Commons, where the categorization really could do with some improvement.

Culleys' book


· Fremantle ·

A local author, Malakai Lelieveld, is writing a book about Culley's Tearooms and the couple who started it nearly 100 years ago.

It Started with A Hint of Curiosity:

I happened to glance at the picture of Alice and Edward Culley hanging gracefully on the wall. Although I had seen the picture a few times in my visits, this day I took more notice than usual. Who were Edward and Alice Culley besides the original owners of Culley's I thought to myself. Over the next few weeks, the Culley's kept randomly popping into my mind and I found myself smiling when thinking of them. Without putting too much thought into it, I made a decision to write a book!

It sounds like they're looking for people to contact them with stories and history about Culley's.

Railway frangipanis


The frangipanis along the railway line are in flower:


Victoria Park

The BOM is giving warnings again, even pushing them at me via their app. They like to give warnings, I feel like it's since the great hailstorm of 2010 — they're very keen not to leave people unalarmed when perhaps there's going to be something to worry about.

This weekend it's a heatwave that they're warning about. And to be fair, it is a bit hot. Was still 37° at my house yesterday at 5PM. It's somewhat better today.

(Sorry, I'm not sure why I'm recording this here. There's nothing to say other than it's hot.) My laptop fan is running. The beer goes warm faster than is good. The buses thankfully are being mostly good (other than the driver just now who decided to leave us all sitting without aircon and with the doors open while he headed off for a break).

Big weather things are worth recording, I think. Hailstorms and floods are good for taking photos of — headwaves are less photogenic, and rely on melty things and parched grass to convey it. I'm not even bothering to try (and anyway I left my camera at home).

More bookbinding in Subi


· cafés ·

I'm in a café called Café Café. I saw it on OSM and figured it must be a typo, but it's correct. It looks like it used to be a Dôme, judging by the wooden floor, green tiles, and a few bits of the furniture like the display fridges and water dispenser. It has, however, thrown off the corporate-design feeling of a Dôme and is going for a "squeeze in as many tables as possible" and "expose the back of the fridges and their dust" sort of look. Not really a trendy place, I guess, and at 9AM on a Monday it's mostly empty with the only customers being old blokes with newspapers and sandals.

Subiaco history


Subiaco History Inspiration by Roel Loopers, 15 January 15 2024:

Today I went to look at how Subi celebrates it’s history on the planter boxes on the median strip all along Rokeby Road. It looks great!

And I envy Subi for the tree-lined shopping street. If only Fremantle had trees in the centre of the Cappuccino Strip and on both sides of High Street. It makes so much sense to create shade, and it enhances the streetscape.

Rogerson Buildings on the corner of Rokeby and Roberts roads

I wondered up Rokeby Road myself today, thinking similar things about the trees (although the preponderance of plane trees is a bit worrying, as the summers heat up and they can't cope).

I headed to the library, but it's closed for renovations:

So I headed onwards to the pop-up library:

Project communication with open systems


· OSM · protocols ·

@openstreetmap@en.osm.town at 20 January 2024, 23:00:

OpenStreetMap strives to be open & accessible to as many as possible, and remain independent.

In 2020, the OSMF made a commitment that essential communications will always be accessible through an open, preferably self-hosted platform, i.e. accessible through open-source software and open protocols, and do not require an account at a third-party service to access.


#OpenStreetMap #OSM #open #OSMF



  1. Stare at a problem for two hours over two days, and be confused.
  2. Give up and sleep for 17 minutes.
  3. Spend 6 minutes solving it.
The worst thing about insomnia for me is that it makes my brain generally unable to actually know that it's tired. I might sometimes say that I feel tired, but it's far less often that I actually manage to follow that up with a rest — and so often that's actually all that's required to return things to some form of calm. It's like they say (well, to actual workers, not shinybums like me): if you're wondering if you're thirsty then you're already past the point of needing to drink water.

New home for my blog


I've upgraded my blog's web server to Debian 12. I think it's all working still! I'm writing up the process and will post that later.

Metropolis, Fremantle


I was walking to the bus just now and saw the sun on the verandah of the Metropolis, so thought I'd see how many shots of the building there were on Commons. Turns out, none of the front (lots inside, of concerts).

AlphabeticalZürich project


· Wikimedia · Fremantle · photography ·

The AlphabeticalZürich project looks terrific:

The AlphabeticalZürich project is a pretty ambitious project: I want to take at least one picture in every street of Zürich, in alphabetical order.

I want to capture the interesting, the whimsy, the pretty for every street of Zürich

I do not aim for exhaustivity in every street. I may not even walk the whole street. For instance, Badenerstrasse is spanning 5km: that’s a project in itself!

I have no idea when I’m going to give up 😉 It’s an ambitious project, and life may happen before its end, or I may lose interest. We’ll start, and see where we go from here!

So, here we go, from Aargauerstrasse to Zypressenstrasse!

What is this project?, 2023-08-17

It makes me wonder about the Fremantle streets project that I seem to be engaged in, where I'm currently definitely lacking in guidelines or rules to keep me focussed.

The Freo streets list started just as a way to give more context to the Fremantle Society Photographic Survey, but there's lots more that can be done with it I think. One of the troubles with it is that there's no solid rule about how to handle historical vs current places/buildings/etc. — if a building has been demolished and another build, or a large block subdivided into smaller ones, does that mean the website should have one page that explains the location through time or separate pages for each incarnation of the place? This is really one of the great strengths of the Wikipedia model, I think: that ambiguities and confusion can be handled really well, because you just write it out in words, and link to everything.

Basildon shortcodes


· Basildon · programming ·

I sat at the airport last night and finished fixing a bug with Basildon. I'm not quite sure why I'm persisting with that project, because I think I'm not going to continue using it for the HMW archives (which currently has the messy setup of being simultaneously on two websites). The bug occurred when an inline shortcode was used within an inline Markdown construct. For example, a linebreak in emphasis such as this:

Lorem *ipsum{br}sic amet*.

That should be fine now, although I did make an intermediate mistake of making it necessary for the shortcode callbacks to receive either a ShortcodeInline or ShortcodeBlock object. I quickly followed up with a return to just giving them a Shortcode object (if they need to know which is which they can look at $sc->getBody() I think, although maybe it'd be worth adding $sc->isInline()), so there's no need to change anything. The shortcode package is still pre-release so I don't feel too bad breaking things quickly like this — and of course I'm absolutely the only person who's using it or even knows it exists.

Anyway, it's the next morning now and I've got a while before my next flight, so I might see what photos are needed on Commons. Although I dare say this airport sees enough bored and camera-equipped Wikimedians that there's not that much left to do.

Open geodata in Sweden


Open geodata provides a boost for Wiki Loves Earth in Sweden, 8 February 2024 by Alicia Fagerving and Eric Luth:

For us at Wikimedia Sverige, the most interesting geodata was that of protected natural areas, as it would make it possible for us to run our very first edition of Wiki Loves Earth. While we have been organizing Wiki Loves Monuments since 2011. WLE was not possible due to the lack of a freely available, comprehensive list of protected natural areas in Sweden. Did you know that Sweden has over 5,000 nature reserves? A good number of them – far from all – had Wikipedia articles and Wikidata items, but without an official data source, it was hard to know which ones were missing. Most of our nature reserves are under the administration of local county administrative boards, so in order for the community to assemble a comprehensive list on their own, they would have to check the websites of each and every county administrative board. Furthermore, a small number of nature reserves are under municipal administration.

Fortunately, complete datasets of Swedish nature reserves, national parks and natural monuments are available from Naturvårdsverket under a CC0 license!

Invalid magic words


· MediaWiki ·

Recently I've been getting annoying intermittent errors about invalid magic words, but usually only after updating MediaWiki core:

  • UnexpectedValueException: Error: invalid magic word 'if'
  • "" is not a valid magic word for "if"

(In this case the {{#if:}} parser function comes from the ParserFunctions extension, but the errors happen usually with whichever magic-word-using extension is loaded first in LocalSettings.php.)

It seems that these stem from the $wgLocalisationCacheConf['store'] = 'array' in DevelopmentSettings.php, which means that the localisation cache is stored serialized in text files in the cache directory.

The problem is that DevelopmentSettings.php also defines $wgCacheDirectory as follows:

$wgCacheDirectory = TempFSFile::getUsableTempDirectory() .
	rawurlencode( MediaWiki\WikiMap\WikiMap::getCurrentWikiId() );

Which uses the wiki ID in the directory name. This would be fine, but for the fact that I have a weird set-up and define the wiki ID myself (based on various things that I'll go into in a separate post).

So the fix is to make sure I define $wgCacheDirectory after including DevelopmentSettings.php:

$wgCacheDirectory = __DIR__ . '/cache-' . $wikiId . '/';

Tram 611


The tram at the Albion Hotel in Cottesloe has what I think is a new sign inside it, detailing its history and vital statistics. However, the information appears to be for a different tram! They say it's a Y1 class, number 611, but that tram is in active (heritage) service in Sydney. It looks like they should've searched for number 118 (of some other class).

Favourite café window


· Fremantle ·

I've sat in this window many times before, but not often in recent years since this place turned into a burger joint. It used to be Old Papas, and was then the Merchant. It seems that sometime recently they added the bars.



It seems like five people have recommended Discord to me in recent weeks, so

so I'm giving it another go. There's active severs for MediaWiki, Wikipedia, (but not it seems, Wikimedia in general), and other things I'm sort of active in like OpenStreetMap and WikiTree. So I guess I'll give it a go again, alongside Telegram, Slack, Matrix, and WhatsApp.

Sunday afternoon


1895 receipt for goods purchased from Galbraith & Co.

I headed down to Officeworks this afternoon to get some more foolscap manilla folders. I'm working through a box of documents like the one at left and need to separate them better while they're put through the (year-long) flattening process. They'll not stay in these; for long-term storage I have buffered white ones, but for this it's nice to have cheaper and larger ones that can get dirty.

On my way hom I stopped to rest in the shade near the Women's Auxiliary Services' Memorial and noticed that it's one of the few bits of Monument Hill that doesn't have it's own Commons category. It does now! Although I'll try to go back when the sun's in the east to get a good illustrative shot of the arch.

Love Data Week


· LoveData2024 · Wikimedia · WMAU ·

It's Love Data Week this week! Not data about love, but about how we all love data. Wikidata, mainly.

The thing I'm excited about this week with Wikidata is a project that I'm working on that involves adding sources to various statements, and I'm then building a bibliography list directly from that. Of course it's possible to do this with a single Sparql query but I'm finding that I keep hitting the timeout and so am doing it a bit hacky: looping through my items (which are cached and updated weekly) and looking for the references to the statements that I want to include, and manually excluding duplicates. Then it's reasonably easy (well… I've not actually finished yet so I might be wrong about that) to do a sort of CiteQ type of thing to output the bibliography.

This has the advantages of both not having to maintain a separate list of references, and also it means that I discover references that other people have added or ones that I've added but forgotten about. The formatting of the bibliography is useful too because it requires all the bits of the reference to be there and so I have to go back and fix up references that are lacking (slightly tedious but usually worthwhile because there's other stuff that can be added to those items).

Geogeeks, February 2024


This evening's Geogeeks hacknight was good. Not a huge group, but big enough. Big enough for beer and pizza (thanks OSGeo Oceania!). I mainly worked on some small parts of wdlocator, fixing up a few styling errors and submitting the project to be included in TranslateWiki.net so that the UI strings can be translated. Also had a good discussion about how to improve it's behaviour with map features that belong to multiple relations (e.g. buildings in a university campus).

Other than that I just continued editing OSM around Fremantle.

UAM building being demolished


· Fremantle · buildings ·

Demolition of the old UAM office in Beaconsfield has started. The office I worked in for seven years is now exposed and smashed up, and it's a bit weird to see!

The office and hardstand is heritage-listed as the site of a former Transperth bus depot (which I think might be wrong anyway because surely it was MTT?). The entry says that it's "DEMOLISHED — retained on MHI database for historical information purposes only." Which will be true soon enough.

Resources tours


In the golden age of railway the WA government ran affordable holidays to show off the state's attractions, by Emma Wynne 18 February 2024:

"Fundamental to the reso tours was that the passengers would sleep on the train rather than a hotel or other accommodation."

A few trains are still operating, the Prospector to Kalgoorlie and the Australind to Bunbury, but there are no more sleeper cars and no more reso tours.

It seems reso tours were a thing elsewhere in the country too.

You should build an 'expert' website


· websites ·

Beyond the Wikipedia Silo Suggestions for Your Next RetroWeb Site, posted on February 17, 2024 by Brad:

I see lots of personal websites and personal blogs both of which I enjoy. But I don’t see as many expert websites like existed in the old Geocities days: these are sites, created by an individual, where he/she shows their expertise on some subject, and I’d like to see these comeback.

People would create a site about whatever they were passionate about and had some knowledge about. There was no Wikipedia, so if you had knowledge about a topic you created a website about it and shared with others. For example, there was no end to: Star Trek sites, TV show episode, character and shooting location guides, fan sites, hobby sites, how to sites, history sites, cooking sites and sites about so many subjects it’s hard to count them all. These websites were more than just animated GIF’s, these sites were the stuff and substance of the Web. They were also the “street fair” of the web as they enlightened and entertained us.

New coworking space in Fremantle


It looks like there's a new coworking space in Quarry Street, called Hybrid Warehouse. Seems cheaper than some, although like others I do wonder how that big tin shed will fare in the heat of summer. It does provide wifi, coffee, electricity, spring water, kitchen facilities, and cleaning. Presumably toilets too, so all the essentials really. I'll go and visit it I think, and at least add it to OSM.



Seeking share URLs for every platform:

Every Mastodon instance has a URL like: [domain]/share?text=

Does Micro.blog have a share URL? How about WordPress installations? Ghost? Bluesky? And platforms like Lemmy, etc?

I’m on a mission to collect them all.

I've been wondering about adding an easier way to quote web pages in MediaWiki, perhaps by importing with the PandocUltimateConverter extension; I've opened a task about that. Then the share URL would be something like [domain]/Special:PandocUltimateConverter/import?url=.

Mapping QEII


Another Geogeeks' OpenStreetMap mapping party today. Only three of us (a fourth signed up but couldn't make it). We met at the café under the carpark, with the intention of spending a few hours mapping Queen Elizabeth II Medical Centre, around -31.96837/115.81595.


Looking back through Borg archives


· backups ·

I've run about three different[2] sorts of snapshop backups I think, in the last 15 years or so. Firstly a dd-based script that hardlinked date directories on a series of (failure-prone) USB hard drives. That was reasonably simple, and I learnt a bit about some useful things, but in about 2015 I thought I'd better not rely on myself for something so critical and switched to SpiderOak. They were all the rage after Edward Snowden recommended (or just mentioned? I can't remember) them as a good encrypted and deduplicating backup system. They were good, for ages. But then a couple of years ago I got sick of their weird client's UI and opaque bugginess — and the fact that they no longer were actually promoting their backup product on their own homepage. So I switched to Borg.

Borg is good, and I do love the fact that the basic configuration is about setting it up how you want it to work. In my case, it's a manually-run thing because I realised that the rate of change on my local machine is not great enough to justify the continual scanning of all changes (for some parts where I do want that, I use NextCloud). But the part of Borg that I do not have working as I want it to is the spelunking side of things: when I want to retrieve a file or directory from an archive, I have to do my own bisecting of where the version I want can be found. That's partly unavoidable, because of the nature of restores like that — it's not really the business of the backup software to know what you want. But it could be quicker: mounting archives to date-named directories currently requires me to copy and paste the name of the archive. I'd rather have some sort of menu thing.

Metalworking vice


· woodworking · metalworking · metalworking bench · vices ·

I finally got around to bolting down the new (old) vice. It's a swivelling one, so I stuck it at the corner of the bench and it can be used on either side (although a spanner does need to be kept on hand). I've been meaning to get it cleaned and greased and fixed down for years, but my dad took pity on me and recently machined a terrific new clamping bar for it so I could actually get it done (the original clamping mechanism was a couple of too-small washers that ended up just spinning in place, quite useless).

Tourists in Fremantle


It looks like there's some sort of luggage enthusiasts' gathering in Fremantle this morning, judging by the number of people getting off the train.

Oh, nope: it's just that a cruise ship is in town, the Pacific Explorer.

FHS April 2024

Walyalup Civic Centre

· Fremantle History Society · Fremantle · military ·

This month's Fremantle History Society talk was by Shane Burke, a senior lecturer in archaeology and history at Notre Dame. The talk was entitled *Defence of Fremantle: Then and Now*, and was an overview of some of the important sites of military defence in this area.

Starting with a fort marked in an early surveyor's notebook, on the corner of Pakenham and High streets, and then jumping to WW2 with the Arthur and Buckland batteries. He showed this interesting photo of Arthur Head taken from the top of the power station chimney in the '20s:

(Ignore the red 'copyright applies' watermark; this is in the public domain.)

The two gun emplacements seen there were demolished (along with most of the limestone headland), and all dumped into Bathers Bay. He was saying that it was all cleaned up in the 1980s for the America's Cup defence (hmm there's another defence, but he didn't make the pun), with the concrete remnants being intentionally left as reminders. I'd always thought they were inadvertently left there.

Buckland Hill Battery was the next topic, especially about a chunk of concrete that remains on the western side of Stirling Highway, that's been mostly destroyed by a modern cable being laid through it. And the remnants of writing in the concrete structures there and on the hill.

Lastly, he talked about the anti-submarine boom in the harbour entrance, and the South Mole gun emplacement (part of Authurs Battery). All up, a good evening.

Goodbye to Mr Harper's building


· Fremantle · offices ·

Today is my last day working from our office in Pakenham Street. It's been pretty great here, although it does feel a bit like things are drawing to a natural close (the wifi less reliable, the sink backing up, the general demise of the air conditioners). The building will be gutted and renovated before too much longer, and I'm off to Europe for a few weeks, so it's time to leave.

Arthurs Battery


· Fremantle · military ·

I wandered down to Bathers Beach on the way to get lunch at Chalkies, because there didn't seem to be any photos on Commons of the old bits of Arthurs Battery that are lying there in the waves. They were mentioned in this month's Fremantle History Society talk.

I also added a 1947 aerial photo to commons:Category:Arthurs Battery.

Fremantle Fenians offline


· Planet Freo · Fremantle ·

I've been trying to resurrect Planet Freo in recent weeks, and it's nearly working. Today it seems that the Fremantle Fenians feed at https://fremantlefenians.com.au/feed/ has gone — or rather, their whole site is offline, including the festival site at https://feniansfestival.com.au.

Why we need nostalgia


That yearning feeling: why we need nostalgia by Agnes Arnold-Forster, 28 April 2024:

Nostalgia could do with a makeover – it needs rescuing from its associations with the sick, the stupid and the sentimental.

Because the emotion is everywhere, a source of both pain and pleasure, and it explains so much about modern life. Expressions of nostalgia are one way we communicate a desire for the past, dissatisfaction about the present, and, perhaps paradoxically, our visions for the future.

Spearwood Alternative celebrates 40 years


· schools · Spearwood Alternative · Spearwood · 1980s ·

Spearwood Alternative School was set up by a bunch of parents — including my own! — in 1984 as part of the Choice and Diversity in Education project. It's a state school, but different. They're having a celebration next weekend of reaching 40 years.
I went to the school for year one (I think), and I don't remember much about it. Mostly just how great it was to have some bushland to explore. And various run-ins with the market gardener next door who for some reason didn't see the fun of us crawling through the fence. There was definitely yoga, as well as dancing to Pressure Down (which suggests perhaps I was there in year two as well).

On not hosting everything yourself


· photography · archiving ·

I've been attempting to get things straight with my system of storing and sharing photos:

  • Let go and stop thinking of my photos as all of one set; they're no more a set than all text files should be stored together.
  • Upload everything possible to Wikimedia Commons, and download a backup of all of those. For this I have an mwcli script.
  • Create annual manually-curated printable private photo albums of the best ones (of mine and anyone else's). This is LaTeX and although slightly annoying to produce it ends up being far better than any programmatically generated thing.
  • Use Flickr for sharing with family and friends, and public photos that don't belong on Wikimedia Commons.
  • Digikam is the local marshalling ground for tweaking/describing/uploading, and then is also used to index the Commons and Flickr backups (actually, it has four collections: a local working temp directory; the two local backup directories; and the photo album directory).
So I think all this gives me a system that works well for everyday sharing etc. and which also can be pretty much given up on at any time and ignored for months on end with zero maintenance. There are some things, such as monitoring Wikimedia Commons for deletion nominations, that cause a bit of bother, but my main goal is to not have to think much and still have a system that's resilient and doesn't rely on me not stuffing it up.

UAM leaving


· UAM · Fremantle ·

I'm off to Europe tomorrow for the Wikimedia Hackathon, and this morning went to the gym down on Clontarf Road next door to where I used to work at UAM. I left there in 2016, and headed to Europe for Wikimania at Esino Lario; that was a bit of a turning point in my life, because I ended up getting a job at the WMF after that trip. This time, I'm heading off to Europe again, and the UAM building is now being demolished. I stood for a while this morning watching the big tin shed being crunched up, and it was strangely moving! It feels like it's taken me this long to have that place out of my life.

The speed of editing wikis


· MediaWiki · wikis ·

I wonder a lot about the wisdom of running one's own wikis, when the current fashion is to not have your own server and not run LAMP stack web applications at all. All the cool kids have static pre-rendered sites, with active stuff handled by edge functions or single-purpose services or more usually other people's commercial bollocks. All of which is sort of fun, and I definitely do like the feeling of having all of a site's content in a Git repo and leaving the active parts of it (searching, commenting, image derivations, etc. in the case of this blog) to external systems. That seems resilient in a way that my LAMP stack isn't, and has the added quality of being (almost) something I can recommend to people when they ask about setting up their own website (i.e. point them to GitHub Pages, basically).

But there's something pretty great about a wiki, and it's in the name (if you speak Hawaiian): wiki sites are quick to work on! That was the great revolution c.2001. A webpage that you're reading could have an edit link with which you could edit the whole page text right there and then, with the page being updated immediately upon being saved. More than that: you go from viewing it as it's published, to editing it in its entirety, and back to the published view. That's still revolutionary. It's not how blogs work, usually, nor many other sorts of content management system where you have an 'admin' view of things, where you're likely to go from some sort of listing of content to editing it, and back to the listing. The front-of-house view is for readers, not editors.

So for now, despite my attempts to ditch it, I seem to be sticking with MediaWiki for a few different sites, and it's primarily because I can just click edit wherever I am. (Not even click, really: it's more often alt+shift+e to edit and alt+shift+s to save.)

Outdoors at the airport


There's an "international outdoors terrace" at the Qantas terminal in Perth, and annoyingly it doesn't have a view of anything at all. It does mean you can breath a bit of air, which is nice, or get rained on if you're lucky.

We're flying an A332 (VH-EBL) today, called Whitsundays. I was confused about the plural, but it turns out the islands (there's multiple) are collectively called that and that Whitsunday is just one of them.

Changi airport


I'm whiling away some time in Changi Airport this evening. It's lovely and warm here compared to Perth. I've been occupying myself with trips from terminal to terminal on the skytrain, and beer in (strangly) empty bars.



Arrived a bit late into Helsinki, just before 7AM. It was a nice time to be at the airport as it turned out, because there weren't many people around. Although, it seems that everyone agrees that Helsinki is a pretty calm place, and that's certainly my impression. There's waterfall sounds and birdsong playing in the terminal when you arrive (even in the loos) and a general grey quiet calm to everything. Getting on the train (down and down a concrete chasm to the metro station) was simple, with an integrated system meaning that a €4.10 three-zone ticket got me from the airport to central and out on a tram to the ferry terminal.

But rather than go on the tram the whole way, I jumped off early and walked along the quay. It was so sunny and not at all cold.

Sunrise in Tallinn

Tallinn, Estonia

Predictably, the jetlag had me awake before 4 this morning, but well slept. So I've been up for a while trying to plot out my hacking activities for the next three days (and gain some order to the photos I've been taking).

The sun was up about the same time as me, but it seems to move slowly here and was still rising at quarter to six:

Darlington to Perth


I'm on an LNER Azuma from Newcastle to Edinburth. Earlier today was a couple of local clanking trundling diesel 156s (I think they were), so this swooshy smooth train is pretty great. The seats and tables are not nearly as comfortable as the German ICEs but I'm not complaining. The countryside slides past in just as satisfying a fashion.

Wikimedia Hackathon 2024

· hackathons · Wikimedia · travel ·

This was my fourth Wikimedia Hackathon after Vienna, Barcelona, and Prague (and a Covid gap of four years). It was held in Tallinn, Estonia, on 3–5 May 2024.

Day 0

I arrived from Helsinki on the ferry, with couple of other hackathonarians, and we walked up from the port to the hotel (with OSM of course leading the way with a route that perhaps involved too many residents-only pathways past apartment buildings, but we figured they were student accommodation so we could be forgiven).

Later, I went for a short walk around the nearby streets, before returning to my room to warm up and get ready for the opening dinner.

Day 1

The opening session on Friday morning was inspiring (despite me being awake a bit before 4AM). Estonia has largest number of Wikimedians per capita of any country in the world, and they welcomed us very warmly. About a hundred people filed up to the stage over the course of an hour, pitching their projects within 60 seconds each. I tried to take notes about the ones I was interested in, with with the exceptions of an idea to fork WikiShootMe and something about improving documentation I failed to actually remember much.

After the opening I spent a while talking to people about the work we're doing on redesigning the Wishlist Survey, and then got stuck into firstly some Wikisource code review and then some ideas about what to do next with UnlinkedWikibase.

Day 2

Woke up only slightly hungover (maybe I should just call it jetlag). An early breakfast (although they don't like anyone to turn up in the dining-room before 7AM) and a coffee to take down to the hacking ballroom. The first session was about the recent years' efforts to treat MediaWiki as a product in its own right, and what that means for developers and what areas of it are being focussed on. It's all great stuff to hear.

Day 3

Sunrise saw me awake and not hungover. I often find that the first thing I see of a morning becomes the code I work on for the first hours of the day, and this Sunday it was a backwards-compatibility bug in the Diagrams extension. I made a PR for that (including getting 1.35 running again locally because I've not touched it for a while and had deleted things), and heading down to do some more hacking while waiting for breakfast to open. Released version 0.13.2 of Diagrams, with that fix.

After breakfast, ended up at the Wikisource table, reviewing code for Wikisource OCR popup focus fixing, Special:PagesWithoutScans excluding, and then I switched the OCR toolbar loading to the new 'secondary' section.


A few random photos, still to be sorted:

Too many hotels on Wikidata


Wikidata is full of hotels, which is sometimes annoying because it makes it seem like there are places to photograph when actually they're just boring Mercure places like this!

Techno Z to a cafe


A short cycle from the Techno_Z (the underscore is definitely part of the name, they make sure to put it on all the signs, even the municipal street sign ones) to the Heart of Joy café on Franz-Josef-Straße.

Comments on this blog post+ Add a comment
No comments yet

Salzburg hbf


· train stations ·

I stopped briefly this morning on platform 2 of Salzburg central station, under the older cast-iron canopy, and watched a train being combined. It's nice sitting on empty platforms.

XML Friends Network


XFN versus OPML blogrolls, Ruben Schade 27 May 2024:

Open social graph tech largely withered on the vine with the promulgation of walled gardens, but the IndieWeb and Fediverse have brought them back into focus. This is fantastic! But it leads me to think whether my links would be more functional and useful as expressed on a plain HTML page with XFN data

Static sites are better in all but two ways

Eurostar terminal, Brussels-South

· MediaWiki · hosting · archiving ·

Running your own wiki web server is great: it's cheap, gives you lots of control over the software you run and how it stores data, and pretty much makes you completely independent of how the big platforms think you should manage your stuff. The big drawback is that if you're doing it on your own then it's not a very resilient way of doing things: if you stop paying the bills, don't keep the software up to date, or poke around with a bit too much enthusiasm then things might break and your websites might go offline, never to be seen again.

So I want to make sure sites that I host are safe from those things. Mainly I do this by giving data dumps to various people (if the dumps contain sensitive information), and putting them on the Internet Archive (where they don't). Is that enough? If I found a reference to a site that was interesting, and all that was left of it was a MediaWiki XML page dump and zip file of uploaded files, would that be enough to get it back online? I think it probably would be (with the usual caveats of it not containing any user account info), and I guess I trust the WMF and the MediaWiki community to not lose track of the importance of maintaining the backwards compatibility of the XML. Of course, the wikitext used might contain things that require certain extensions, but that's probably okay. So perhaps this is a sufficient protection against future failure.

The main alternative seems to be Markdown in a Git repository, and that does have a lot of charm of resilience, simplicity, and portability. The main troubles are that it's hard to store large files and that the editing experience is pretty poor. The latter can be overlooked if a site has a dedicated nerdy editor who can help other people (and that's a good thing for sites to have), but the file storage issue can't.

It's possible to divvy up your files to Wikimedia Commons, Flickr, Internet Archive, imgur, etc. but it starts to get messy with not having everything together in one place, and there are still things that don't really belong on those other sites (for example, where would you put photos taken in the 1970s by someone you have no way of getting copyright release from?).

So I think sticking to MediaWiki on a VPS is the best way to go for now, because editing is so quick and easy and all the other issues are solved. It's just a matter of making sure the backups and dumps (those are different things, remember) are safe and distributed as much as they can be. Which does feel like a worry.

QuestyCaptcha not so great

Channel Tunnel

· MediaWiki ·

It looks like the QuestyCaptcha extension is being broken more often now, after years and years of very simple registration questions sufficing to keep spammers out. Even asking people "what site are you trying to register on" was sufficient to block spammers but didn't seem to slow down real people who were actually aware of what site they were on. Now, I guess, it's Arseficial Intelligence that's borking things. Or if it's not, then I'll still blame it. I've changed the questions a couple of times in the last few days, but they kept coming, so I've turned off registration until I have time to figure out what's the best way forward.

(I'm writing this post under the freakin' ocean, by the way.)



Everydoor 5

United Kingdom


What's New In Every Door 5

29 May 2024

now you can draw on the map! Saw an unmapped track road or a stream? Open the 4th mode in Every Door, unlock the scribble mode, choose the type and draw with your finger. This goes to a separate database, which you can then use in JOSM

Earl's Court


Despite a rather snory room-mate, I slept very well, and awoke to a cool damp (but hopefully not too wet) day. There was a large group of children running all over the breakfast room, but it turned out I was in the wrong place and that was their room — I moved to the proper place and all was quiet.



Today I ended up getting an earlier train, so managed to get to the local history centre earlier than I'd thought I would — and in fact, they close at 5 and not 4 as advertised, so I would've had some time anyway.

I started with looking for any general material about woollen mills in Perth, and was quickly pointed to (the extended Culross 1986 edition of) Traditions of Perth by George Penny, first published in 1836. That's a bit earlier that I'm looking for, but it was useful (and interesting).

It turns out that George Penny's father (also called George Penny) was instrumental in the beginnings of cotton mills in Perth, after he introduced silesia linens. That was in 1766, with cotton starting in 1872. Wool came later.




Separate index for PTOP. Also to look at the Kincarrathie estate, whose southern border is Annaty Burn.


  • p18. Many mills to the west of the town, driven by the River Almond 4 miles west.
  • p248 onwards. Summary of history of weaving in Perth.
  • p249. Weaving considered "honourable and lucrative calling".
  • p250. George Penny (father of the writer) introduced "selesia linens" in 1766. After that weaving became general in Perth. Cotton weaving (rather than flax) started in Perth in 1782, due to George Penny snr.
  • p252. 1800, mill built at the foot of Mill Street, spinning cotton and later converted to wool. The company employed many people, but at some point was not making a profit and the "building being found to be in a very crazy condition, was pulled down".
  • p252. Before 1810 there were nearly 3000 weavers in Perth.
  • p260. "woollen manufacture has not been attempted in Perth" "Situation could not be better", with wool and labour and water available. "Perth only wants a few men of spirit to set the linen and woollen manufactures agoing, to ensure its propsperity."

Microfilm of Perth Courier 1810 September 13, page 1, colum 5. "Annaty Oil Mill, Scone Road":

Situate about half a mile from Bridgend; the Buildings are extensive, substantial and convenient, the Water Wheel is an overshot 16½ feed diameter; ard 4 feet wide, which, with all the other parts of the Machinery that would admit of it, are made of Iron.

The Premises have been erected about 3 years, and are upon the latest and most approved principles.

The Business will in the meantime be continued. *Lintseed Oil and Cake* Sold, and *Lintseed* Bought, as usual.

Apply to the Proprietor, who may also treat for a Sale if preferred.

Charlotte Street, Perth, 23d April, 1810.

Building footprints in Carlisle


I'm trying to sort out some building footprints and shapes and heights and whatnot, but it's not simple. I think it'd better go for a walk.

Gawler history wiki


· wikis ·

The Gawler History wiki looks interesting. It's 1700 pages about the history of Gawler, South Australia, built on MediaWiki (and SemanticMediaWiki). I should get around one day to making a list of all Australian history wikis (or rather, bringing WikiApiary update to date with the relevant sites and keywords).

Buster deprecation


· system administration ·

It's operating system upgrade time for various servers that I help run (Debian Buster is EOL). I'm not a sysadmin by any means, and while most of it I feel roughly comfortable with I usually get stressed because of all the things that I dimly know about, but which I know that I don't know at all. Mainly around the whole idea of orchestration and being able to nuke and recreate an instance without a care in the world… the servers I'm trying to upgrade this weekend are not like that at all.

They're individual bespoke configurations, I guess: mostly Apache web servers with a single PHP application, possibly needing a MariaDB database (which is sometimes on the same machine). The thing about upgrading these is that the OS upgrade generally includes changes to default Apache and PHP (and other) configuration and so my server-specific config files also need to be changed. This is usually good: things get simpler, and out-of-date config that I've added over the years gets reviewed and removed or improved. It also makes me glad that I haven't bothered with orchestration! (All the non-private server-specific config gets added to a Git repo and symlinked into place.)

My approach to building PHP applications is I think becoming old fashioned: it's the idea that you don't have control over the server environment in which the application is running, so installation should be as easy and robust as possible. This is sort of still how we tell people to install MediaWiki (e.g. "download a tarball and put it somewhere") but with the addition of various other semi-essential services and things it becomes tricker. Most people these days solve this by using Docker for the standard install process. This provides everything neatly in containers that the developers control, so your application no longer needs to care about things like PHP versions.

The old heterogenous target idea still exists though, so I feel like it's still necessary to make things as easy as they can be to install 'manually'. Mainly out of self-interest, so when it's time to nuke a VPS and move things to a newer one, it only takes a couple of hours of learning and tweaking.
  1. R. Doig Memorial Ward (1933, October 5). Fremantle Advocate (WA : 1926 - 1942), p. 5. Retrieved January 1, 2024, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article255759735
  2. I say 'about' because I've experimented with about three dozen different systems.