My coffee mug

Hello world, and welcome to my corner of the web. This is where I write words about what I'm working on, and post photographs of things I've seen.

I'm a Software Engineer at the Wikimedia Foundation, and so of course my personal website is a wiki (running on MediaWiki). In my spare time I volunteer with WikiClubWest to work on Wikimedia projects, mostly around my family's genealogy and local Western Australian history (especially to do with Fremantle). I try to keep up with issues on all the things I maintain (but usually fail).

I also try to find time to work in my workshop on various woodworking projects. Recently, that's been focused on restoring a chest of drawers and building a metalworking bench.

Travel features in my life, not because I really hugely want to go elsewhere but because just do — and also because then I can do some more interesting mapping on OpenStreetMap. Sometimes I ride my bike to get there.

I'm currently reading the following: A Puritan Bohemia (Margaret Sherwood, 1896), and Doctor Thorne (Anthony Trollop), and Perth (David Whish-Wilson, 2013), and The Railway Adventures (Geoff Marshall; Vicki Pipe, 2018).

To contact me, you can email me, find me on Matrix as '@samwilson:matrix.org', or the fediverse as @samwilson@ausglam.space. If you want to leave a comment on this site (by creating an account), you need to know the secret code Tuart (it's not very secret, but seems to be confusing enough for most spammers).

New painting in the Robert Harper stairwell


Artwork in the Robert Harper stairwell.jpg
I've not yet asked around, but I assume this has come from the people in the great little gallery next door in Pakenham Street. It opened (I think) last week, and is called Recess. I'll try to get some more photos and find out what it's all about.

Cameras vs phones


· photography ·

Interesting post this morning on r/photography about the demoralising effect of smartphone photo-processing:

To make a long story short, I'm feeling a little frustrated with my experience with my DSLR camera. It is just an entry-level Nikon D3200, an older camera (though from what I understand quite capable for an amateur) with the original kit lens. Thing is, I have taken a lot of time over the last year to get to know the camera and how to make use of the F stops, ISO settings and exposure times, I got myself a tripod and learned about a lot of fundamentals of taking photos and yet.. its still usually outclassed by a google Pixel 2 smartphone with HDR+ enabled. The phone can generally eek out more detail and clarity and does better with avoiding over and under exposing. I don't get it - it's a basic camera but the APS-C sensor is much larger, the optics (even though entry level) should be better than whats on an old smartphone, I'm making sure not to over or underexpose, I'm dialing in my focus as much as I can. Is this an optics thing, a user skill problem, or just.. how good modern image processing has become and is it making cameras a bad deal for beginners? Kinda sad that I've invested time and energy and interest into learning how to use these functions only to be easily out-shot by myself using auto / photo on an old smartphone :(

The comments seem to boil down to: shoot in raw, process stuff yourself, buy a prime lens, and (sometimes) give up and just use a phone.

Commons app failure

White Gum Valley

The Commons app is wonderful, but I'm noticing recently that lots of my uploads are failing. I think that it's something to do with the way I'm selecting depicts statements, but I'll dig into the logs a bit more before filing a bug report.

Wikispore meeting


· Wikispore · Wikimedia · MediaWiki · system administration ·

On Friday evening I attended an online meeting about Wikispore, the new-ish project that's aiming to find a place in the wikiverse for content that isn't suitable for existing Wikimedia projects. I really like the idea, although I know it's hardly a new one and that people have been working on various things like this for decades now. Like any nascent project, the important parts of it aren't really the technical ones (although they're crucial too in lots of ways) but rather it's the people involved and the communication that's most interesting. I feel like the community around Wikispore is friendly, knowledgeable, and sensible — and so I'm hopeful that it can be a success.

My main involvement so far as been to try to help upgrade the test instance at wikispore-test.wmflabs.org, to help get some new extensions installed (including my own new one, UnlinkedWikibase). Thus far, I've been a bit of a failure at the upgrade! The system is on a Cloud Services VPS, and runs the wiki via Vagrant. I know it outs me as a deviant WMF developer (perhaps less so these days now that all the cool kids are moving to Docker), but I've never used Vagrant very much for development or deployment. So I don't really know what I'm doing. The current issue is that Vagrant is still on PHP 7.3 and needs to be updated to 7.4.

For the time being I think I'll retreat to trying to get my own wiki back up and running in the way I want it (it's looking likely that I'll dump Twyne, sadly).

Deep sea research centre


Snailfish and cusk eels.jpg

I've been at a Wikimedia editathon all afternoon at the Deep Sea Research Centre at UWA. Such interesting stuff and so far outside anything that I know! We showed them a few bits of how to get going editing Wikipedia and Commons and they all seemed to just get it. Most satisfying.

Hopefully they'll go on and upload lots of photos and improve lots of articles.

Pumping stations of Fremantle


· Commons · photos ·

I clicked this photo the other day, thinking that it'd be added to an existing set of photos of this fairly prominent building in Fremantle. But there were no photos already on Commons! So I've created a new category and it's very bare so far — but I'll be sure to get back and take some more photos soon. When the rain goes away.

Door to Phillimore Street pumping station.jpg


Merredin, Western Australia

· travel · genealogy · exploring ·

This week my dad and I went to Merredin on a FamilyHistoryWA excursion. It was a very interesting trip, and made me more keen to figure out better ways to link family history and Wikimedia.

Day One

The Avon River in the clouds, as we headed up the valley.

We left East Perth just after 7AM on Thursday, which meant getting the first buses into Fremantle a bit before 6. It was almost drizzling, but not quite. We were both rather quiet and still waking up by the time we got to East Perth and sat down for a cup of tea in the café there — the worst cup of tea, possibly ever. It tasted as though it'd be infused with coal smoke!

The train journey was very comfortable, and I dozed because I'd barely slept the night before. The new wifi service worked well (when it had an outward signal), and I read the news on my phone ("never complain; never explain") because I couldn't be bothered fetching my book down from the luggage rack. Bringing a flask of fresh coffee was a terrific idea, and the sun came out after we'd passed Toodyay. The OSM maps on the Prospector showed their normal red dot which didn't quite keep up — and then failed to move at all after about Doodlakine. (I wonder if Leaflet has a "stick to line" plugin?) As well as wifi, the train has 240v sockets, but of course I managed to forget my USB adapter and so was reduced to relying on my external battery.

The buffet closes a bit before Merredin, and so despite the red dot on the map not moving for half an hour we knew we were close to Merredin. Upon arriving, we headed straight off to the motel to dump our bags and then head off to find firstly lunch and secondly the WAGS group. We walked around the place, unknowingly following in reverse pretty much the same route that the tour was to take later in the day. We peered at the theatre:

The old town hall:

The ('replica' of the) Bills water trough:

And a few other things around the place:

The light wasn't great for photos, but I was in the mood for filing in blanks on the Commons and Wikidata maps. The place we ended up at for lunch was nice: a cafe in the old postmaster's residence, with tables on the verandah and built of much finer bricks than many we'd noticed around (pressed not wire cut; there seems to have been a brickworks in the wheatbelt when this place was built, but there was also lots imported from Midland). After lunch, it was off to the library (the regional library, in the old north-side primary school). Got there early, and so got to check out the memorabilia room.

The military historian Bob presented first, talking about his family history in Merredin and the districts (we met him again the following day at the military museum). Then Mal spoke about the natural history of the area — followed by a tour of the Merredin Wildflower Society's herbarium (also located in a classroom of the old primary school).

A knowledgeable local (with a terrific tour-guide voice that had no trouble carrying over the wind and traffic) took us on a tour of Bates Street and elsewhere.

Unfortunately, we were both rather kaput and so gave up after an hour or two and went back to check in to our room and relax for a while before dinner. The news of Patagonia being sold to a non-profit was all over the feeds. I was attempting to catch up on my diary by typing on my phone (in a Nextcloud app), and it was all rather frustrating — but still better than handing over data to the usual companies.

Dinner was at the Grandstand Bar at the sports ground. All fairly much as expected, but one nice thing was that the acoustics were actually not terrible, and so we could talk to each other. The WAGS membership is mostly rather older, and so there's an element of needing to speak clearly!

Sleeping was easy, and the motel was pretty comfortable. The train sounds were fine; the air-con of the next door room was less so.

Day Two

Things dawned quiet, cold, and reasonably satisfied by breakfast in the motel dining room. It's weird that decent toast is such a hard thing to come by while travelling, but I always find it very comforting when it is.

We ambled down the road, sticking to the sunny side of the street, to the military museum where the WAGS group was assembling in the car park. To get there we skirted the landscaping works happening around the base of the water tower.

We explored the military museum for a while, and then got the call that it was morning tea time at the refreshments' room at the railway museum — so off we went (circumnavigating the old train station, because the eastern pedestrian crossing was closed for the landscaping works). A grand morning tea put on by (the vice-president? president? something like that) of the Heritage Society. Followed by a climb up into the signal cabin and a great explanation of much of its workings by an ex-WAGR technician.

After that, everyone explored that museum for a bit, and then dispersed to drive off to see wildflowers or head home, and we walked south to the old cemetery. That was a lovely place, full of flowers and bush that feels pretty untouched (no idea if that's the case).

Day Three

The motel dining room wasn't open when it said it would be, so we gave up on it and thought Saturday morning would be a good time to try one of the other cafes in town. However, none of the others were open so we ended up back at Dimensions. It had a lovely sunny courtyard, and was close to the railway station, so all was good. It did mean that we had to walk back to the motel to get our stuff though.

The train was half an hour late. It did come though, and it did take us back to Perth. The royal funeral was still top of the news: "…these processes that have been in place for a very long period of time. They began tragically on Friday morning…" — it it really 'tragic' though? Sad, sure, but hardly tragic.

Anyway, all up, Merredin is a lovely town, and there's still lots more that I want to explore!

Post master's house Merredin.jpg



· royal family ·

The Queen has died. Long live the king? The news coverage is massive of course, but there's quite a few of them with little to say yet. The BBC has just informed us that "Aberdeen airport is 45 miles from Balmoral", and there are many articles full of phrases like "traditionally x has happened" and "we can expect to see y".

Still, it's something of a meaningful moment, I think. Hopefully it's the start of the process for Australia to become a republic. Hopefully someone's hanging out with the corgis in their time of sadness. I don't think I'll extract her maj's portrait from its storage.
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