Danger, Will Robinson!

Danger, Will Robinson!

I have fallen into the dangerous territory of the mechanical keyboard. See, many years ago I had a rather nice IBM keyboard which died. I can’t remember how it died. It probably got run over by a steamroller, or somesuch (I think it got knocked off a desk and landed key side down on the prongy-footy-bit of a wheelie chair).

At any rate, I loved it, but eventually it made my poor hands hurt when I was doing technical writing. Also, I tried taking it to my office and had to bring it home to prevent my summary execution for the clickety-clackety-noise of it distressing and distracting my colleagues. Anyhow, so first I discovered tenkeyless keyboards, which are nice. Especially if you have a dinky little numpad to go with it that can float off and be moved around as needed.

Mhm.

Then I discovered pretty keycaps.

And while I knew that mechanical keyboards were “a thing”, I’d not really realised the extent of “the thing” that they are. And I can feel myself being sucked into it. Mainly because I thought “oh hey, wouldn’t it be fun* to build my keyboard myself”. Why I thought this is probably related to my dad, who had to build every damn bit of the computer himself, and made a rather fine hardboard cased lilac coloured keyboard. And I am always rather sad that I got rid of that in one of the tidies. I mean, it wasn’t useful or anything, because it was a terminal keyboard for a terminal he built, which I no longer have either.

But I rather liked it.

And then I saw the T0mb3ry SA Carbon keycap set. And I spent far too much money on it. Which is silly, and I couldn’t work out why I liked it so much.

Then it came to me. It reminds me of the old CTL / ITL keyboards my dad used to bring home (scrap ones). I was aware that it kinda reminded me of early 80’s computers, but it’s that whole orange/black bone/black combo that makes me think of the Modular One system. I’m not sure if those keyboards came from Modular Ones, or if they were from some other CTL / ITL machine.

So that explains that.

So anyhow, I’ve ordered the keycaps, because I’m weak and they’re pretty, and I’ve also started to nose around for a mechanical key tester (one with a USB connector so that they can actually serve a purpose as a num pad later), and then I’ll need to work out if I really want to fork out the cash for a keyboard kit, or whether just buying a keyboard and slapping the keycaps on will do me.

 

In the years before…

…when the internet was young[1] I used to collect the odd video. You’d find some bizarre things out there. They’d be uploaded in all their 320×240 glory, usually in mpeg or flv format… It’s not a massive collection, and mainly these things can now be streamed on youtube in vastly higher quality. But I have discovered since resurrecting my media server that something is f’ked up in the flv player on our media player. The speed is hideously variable. It actually makes me feel quite nauseous to listen to any of them. I’ve also got some videos that were sent to me by a nice person who worked at a record label – when they were being sold / closed.

Ugh.

In other related news, as you might gather the server is up and working. The files are mainly where they belong. Some stuff seems to have disappeared and will need to be reripped :(

I want to add some stuff for privacy purposes… I’m gradually trying to move towards behaving like the privacy aware citizen I am, but having installed a VPN I found I couldn’t get either Plex or Subsonic working. Trying to persuade port-forwarding to work with a VPN is quite challenging. I’m aware this would reduce the security of the connection, but… I am trying to hit a nice point between security and insanity.

[1] well, ish.

Just a little bit…

Because Linux’s move command is actually copy-then-delete if it’s not within one partition, I have to do this file shuffling in multiple chunks. Which means selecting a group of files, saying “move them”, waiting an hour while it does that, then selecting more files and doing it again. It seems to be working, so far, and I’ve done a teeeensy bit of tidying of the files on the way past (I really need to either sit down and suck-up tidying up this server, or obtain a minion to do it for me. Given the latter’s beyond unlikely, I think the former will have to occur at some point).

What I really need to do is borrow a few 4Tb drives, shuffle everything onto there, then set up a nice raid array, and shuffle it all back. It’s 11Tb worth of data (well, about 10Tb plus a 1Tb install disk, which is, yes, a ridiculous install disk, but it was a data disk until it got ‘too small to be useful’). But I don’t really have the cash to throw at a new multidisk array. Not if I want to get an EV to relieve my poor Minor of it’s 60 mile commute each work day. I don’t mind taking her some of the time, but I don’t really want to destroy her. So I think, for the time being, we’ll just have to put up with things being the way they are. Mind you, at least they’re now in a case where the disks are all in proper bays. That’s quite exciting. And I can take disks out without disassembling the entire PC.

Still as I watch file 481 of 1,702 move from one directory to another at a whopping 52Mb/sec (the other board was faster, when it worked, it used to hit about 80Mb/sec – then die), I can’t help but think of the fantastic musical treat that popped into my head as I considered that I had to move the files just a bit at a time.

Sorry.

So far, today has gone better

I spent this morning watching Big Clive tearing down a cheap USB charger which, for unfortunate part-failure reasons – passed mains straight through to the USB port. Sadly for the makers, who actually seem to have given a fig about design – and who’ve actually gone to more trouble than seems common to build a reasonable piece of kit, they were let down by a parts failure.

Anyhow, the thing is gently soothing to me, reminding me of sitting reading while my dad would strip down and repair electronics.

So it finally got me motivated to try and move the cable from the knock-off apple supply (which said “MagSafe” but actually appears to provide the full 85W regardless of whether it’s connected or not) to the old apple one I had which had a faulty cable. I’ve got an array of toys here now, most importantly in this case my temperature controlled iron which was complete overkill (and proved I need a different tip for it – so I’ve added some new tips to the selection of stuff that I’ve got in my AliExpress cart…for later).

Anyhow. The general impression when I stripped the knock-off one down was that it was poorly made:

IMG_20160412_134512

Although I didn’t get in to actually looking at the design. After a fair chunk of time and a bit of a battle I managed to desolder the apple cable and replaced it with the one from the knock-off – which seems to be working nicely. The poor apple brick is now held together with tape tho’.

I also trekked out to return the case I bought from Blinq – they turned out to be very nice people, giving me a chunk of refund for the massively delayed motherboard delivery – and promising to refund the money from the case that was smashed in transit.

Also, the nice guy at the FedEx place taped the box shut for me, when I asked about tape :)

Then I headed over to what has become my favourite computer store and started peering at cases – explained my predicament (i.e. it normally lives out of sight, so I want something that’s functional, has lots of bays, and is also fairly cheap) – and they produced a second hand case for $45. Bargainateous, if you ask me.

Having got home I commenced the joyous task of rebuilding my PC using a new motherboard but the same everything else – not really an upgrade, more a side-grade.

IMG_20160412_123438

Once thrown into the new case, it booted straight up and seems, surprisingly, pretty happy. I’ve now started trying to sort out the pigging mess the file systems had become – with the spurious resetting problem seemingly better (it just moved 160 Gig of files in one go, and before that another 90 Gig), it’s looking like it might be possible to at least get it working and the files back where they belong. Once that’s done I can start contemplating the possibility of sorting out a raid array for it.

Creeping Americanism

So, my card holder finally no longer contains my British bank cards. They’re now securely & safely stored away… I’ve not quite had the heart to remove some of the loyalty cards from the independent retailers in Bristol. But the transition plods on.

I more or less remember to say pants at work, and ask them to get up on the gurney (although gurney still sounds odd coming from my mouth). I still fuck-up though and say plaster, not band-aid, which confuses the hell out of people. And I continue have no clue about degrees Fahrenheit. Thankfully, most of the thermometers at work will do the conversion for me when patients ask (and we work in Centigrade anyhow).

I can say gas station without feeling too silly, although in my head it’s still a petrol station. At some point I’ll switch and it’ll no longer feel unnatural.

I’ve finally got around to contributing to saving an NPR station (KPLU), and I think I may finally have managed to waterproof the front of the minor against the PNW’s weather (no guarantees yet, but it wasn’t wet after two heavy storms). All gradual signs of settling, I suppose.

On the topic of the Minor, the back is proving a little difficult to sort as it turns out most of the reason it’s had water in there isn’t that it’s been running down through the many small holes I’ve been sealing. Or at least, some of the reason is that. Some is that the trunk lid (no, that still feels wrong, the boot lid) actually fits pretty terribly. It’s a glassfibre replacement for the original – I went with glass fibre because the metal ones rust through due to a fabulous water trap.

Issigonis was good at many things, and apparently designing mud and water-traps in his cars was something he excelled at.

Anyhow, I remember when it was installed Jonathon commented that the first one was a terrible, terrible fit, so they sent it back and got a replacement that was merely a bad fit. It looks fine until you get close in and then realise that the panelgaps are all wrong, and from the underside you can see a gap through into the boot (trunk).

Added to which, the seal – which is held on with glue – is peeling off. So I need to find me some impact adhesive and see if I can sort that out.

Also, when we get back into dry weather I need to see if the vinyl repair kit will repair the tear in the front seat. Although I might want to do that when Kathryn’s here, because she’s much better at mixing paint colours, and I need to get a match for the blue of the seat from the selection of not-matching colours provided.

In other news, I gave in and ordered a new motherboard. After a full 4 hours of attempting to get around the fact that my motherboard is buggered, I admitted defeat. Every time you try and move a large quantity of data it falls over in a heap. I considered finding the code for my single byte-at-a-time read-write routine from the RiscPC (which was painfully slow, but did something handy at the time), then realised that I was clearly insane. All the disks report good health (although I’ve had very sick drives report everything is dandy). It does it whether or not you’re using the graphical system (which seemed to make the problem worse at first, but actually seems not to after more playing).

I worked out eventually that the reason it was going quite so spare was that I’ve moved a bunch of files around and both Plex, Logitech’s media manager and Subsonic were all simultaneously attempting to catalogue the roughly 8-9 terabytes of data.

I did pay for the speedy 3 day delivery of the motherboard…which I’m peeved at myself about because I’m not going to be around to install it until next week anyhow. I should have thought about that more. I was previously peeved at myself for forgetting to pay for the extra fast delivery on the case…before realising that I should be grateful that I forgot!

Now we get the excitement of seeing if Linux will nicely handle the sudden change in all the underlying hardware, or if I get to play ‘lets install everything again’, which is a fun game for one (annoyed) player. It almost invariably boots when I do shit like this, but usually there’s some problem that persistently rears its head and causes me to end up renewing the installation.

My main hope is that I can, at least, get away without buying any new hard disks for the moment. I mean, really that’s the bit I’d like to upgrade. I’d like a nice Raid 6 array, but it’s tricky to do so as things stand, because pretty much all the disks are full. And a complete state. Although it might be a possibility with careful shuffling. Hrm. Also; would involve expanding the partition after the installation. I forsee many complications… but it’s worthy of more contemplation. Might have to spend a moment looking at the state of the disks and then playing with them before I get into reinstalling.

Anyhow. House wise we’re still flailing around hopelessly. We look at places, debate whether they’re too far to really be liveable, fail to make any decision on where we’d want to start a business, and basically are having a bit of a crisis of ‘too many big decisions and not knowing what to do’. We’ll get over it, but it may take a little bit.

It lives! At least a bit.

So I went back to 4th Dimension Computers because the insurance co were unhappy with “it’s dead Jim” as the reason my PC was dead. I’d replaced the power supply when I got here with a brand spanking new one, because the one in it was irritatingly only rated for 240 volts.

Having traded in the new supply, the machine refused to boot. And I’ve given away / recycled all the other supplies I had which were, to be fair, also only rated at 240 volts.

So anyhow, I get there, and they’re very lovely and he pulls the plugs and tests the supply. Dead.

He grabs a spare supply from the shelf and tests it. No boot. Computer’s still dead. He tests his supply – dead.

He gets a third supply and tests it before connecting it… working. Connects it and… yes, the machine works. Which demonstrates that having spares around is handy. Unfortunately, now, having been apart so many times I’ve no idea which drive goes where in the case. So although it powers on and detects drives, it can’t boot. Which means I now need to create a rescue USB stick and try and correlate which drive is which to which port they were on before, then switch them around accordingly.

I can see this being a fun game.

…of course, to do that I need several things. A monitor and a keyboard would be a good start. It would also, probably, benefit from a USB WiFi adaptor, given that it’s not got a wired network to plug in to…

Yay! Unyay!

I turned on my RiscPC and lo, “Thwooop” it went.

Up popped:

RISC OS 4.02

And then things went a bit wrong as it ran out of memory (it used to have 64ish meg, now I think it’s got 12 thanks to death-of-battery), but it made it to the desktop.

And then I discovered that like many modern LCD monitors, the one I’m borrowing to test things has little to no knowledge of ancient ‘puters. I think I may need a VGA to HDMI converter that’ll handle any input, because I suspect it’s switching to something like 50Hz 640×480, or some other hideous mode, and the monitor just cheerfully says “Mode not supported”.

After a few abortive attempts to play games I thought “ah, but what about Xenon 2! That might work”.

*Splutch*

Oh well.

Still, the 115v mode on the power supply seems to work, there were no hot or burny smells, I think that one counts as a win.

Smooth as a grit sandwich

So I checked over the media server, spent ages making sure all the drives were plugged in correctly after shipping it over and then I turned it on. Well I tried to turn it on.

Dead.

I checked it over and made sure that all the connectors were definitely well seated, that there were no untoward bits of crap floating around, that nothing was obviously amiss.

Dead.

I stripped it down to just the mainboard / processor / memory / GFX card.

'It's Dead Jim' -- Bones McCoy

I stripped it down to just the mainboard / processor / memory.

So that’s another thing I’ll have to claim on the insurance.

Sadly, the phrase ‘woefully under insured’ springs to mind. When we got towards the end of the insurance items list we were starting to realise that we were running out of money to actually ship the damn stuff. So it’s only insured for around $400 (most of the other computers I shipped over I could ask lovely John to find a free replacement for, and then just ship over). That’s not enough to replace the hard drives in it, because it’s got “quite a lot of storage”. I’m thinking that if I replace the mainboard, processor, memory and at least one HDD I should end up with a working machine. Hopefully, whatever’s killed it didn’t kill all the hard disks, otherwise I will be a very, very sad bunny.

Thankfully, the cost of parts for an FM2+ machine isn’t way high, so even with the fairly low level of insurance I should actually be able to get a working machine again. How quickly, though, that’s another entire question.

I am, however, considering the possibility that it might be time to get a new case while I’m at it. If I’m throwing a new motherboard in, I might as well have a case that actually can hold a few more drives to put it in.

It’s quite frustrating. Not least because I was really looking forward to having our video server back online, and listening to podcasts again.

Tomorrow is, I think, claim day.

As planned, then not quite as planned

Not that there was a plan. But yesterday actually seemed to go okay. Spent the evening offering my nursey services for free. There’s a volunteer run clinic here in Oly, for people who’ve got no health coverage. And I spent the evening shadowing another nurse, although realistically I could have stepped in to start work after the first patient. It’s triage, it seems to be the same the world over. Apart from the fact that I suddenly have to recall my 12 times table for frickin’ inches, because every-damn-person gives their height in feet and inches.

And also Fahrenheit. Bloody Fahrenheit. Gah.

But other than that, it was peachy. And it happens the computer translates when you enter it, so I actually can use my nursey-sense when I look at the temperature in centigrade. It’ll come, when I get some practice, but it’s just when I look at a temperature in fahrenheit, or a height in inches, it means very little to me at the moment.

To be fair, we switched units on our blood gas analyser at the place I used to work, and it took me a little while, but fairly soon after we were forced given the opportunity to switch over I was happy with the new units. It’ll come.

Also yesterday I tried to make clotted cream. About $8 worth of cream got cooked for about 12 hours at 185°F / 85°C… I think it’s a bit long. Taste wise, I think it’s not far off. But texture wise, it’s positively crumbly. Which is a shame. I think maybe a couple less hours in the oven, maybe a bit more of the runny milky stuff that I strained off (and used to make the scones. Healthy, huh).

Still, it’s a step up on the stuff that we got from the shop. That was positively not right too.

Today, though, apart from the scones which are a smidge over done has been a little tricky. Pyoor.org, the actual home of my entirely narcissistic blog (no matter where you’re reading this) today got flagged by a friend as potentially having been hacked and showing up as having malware on it. After much dinking, I now think it’s probably server misconfiguration – and am waiting for the company that I use who do the underlying configuration (yes, I am now that lazy – or I admit that this is not what I’m spending my time doing, and therefore not ideally placed to keep it up to date). But that took a while, and lots of tedious fiddling.

I’m hoping I’ve not broken anything in the interim.

So yuh.