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Wednesday, 24 May 2017 Dereel
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Yet Another Power Failure
Topic: general Link here

Up this morning to discover that the power had failed in the early morning, coming back at 0:56. It can't have been long, because only the ovens required resetting.

eBay failure 1
Topic: technology, general, photography, opinion Link here

I'm a real cheapskate, and until proof of the contrary my main selection criterion when buying something is the price. My new Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II uses a USB-C cable, something that I haven't had before. So I ordered one on eBay for the princely sum of $1. It was advertised for some Huawei device, but who cares? A cable is a cable, right?

It took so long to arrive that I requested a refund. Not much response from the seller, so I asked eBay to moderate. Unlike my serious issues with their behaviour towards casual sellers, their response was immediate: they refunded the money. And when I left negative feedback, suddenly the seller became active and offered me all sorts of things that I could refuse.

And then today the cable arrived, after 60 days, and from Malaysia instead of the advertised Hong Kong. Item appeared as expected. Plug into camera, into computer. Nothing. The camera display went dead. Dead battery? Dead USB port? No, the same end equipment works fine with the original cable.

A bit of investigation helped. From the Wikipedia page:

USB-C 3.1 cables are ... electronically marked cables that contain a chip with an ID function based on the configuration channel and vendor-defined messages (VDM) from the USB Power Delivery 2.0 specification.

Sigh Once you could identify a cable by its appearance. Then USB came along, and all bets were off. I thought that USB-C was an improvement, but it seems that we still have compatibility hell.

eBay failure 2
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

The USB cable wasn't the only eBay item that arrived today after a long delay. Last month I ordered a copy stand for on-the-ground macros, because I wasn't happy with the Bolex “mantis”. It arrived today. Not quite what I expected:

This should be Macro-stand-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Macro stand 1          Dimensions:          3888 x 5184, 1340 kB
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The camera mount and “ball head” are so weak that they can't hold the camera (650 g as shown). And it's supposed to hold 3 kg! I thought that the camera mount of the mantis was weak, but this is an order of magnitude worse, here on the right:

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Image title: Macro mounts
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The mantis may be bizarre, but it will do the job until I find something better:

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Image title: Mantis 1
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In the meantime it's time to look for some more professional tripod equipment.

Understanding modern disks
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

My photo disk is filling up again:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/49) ~ 68 -> df -i /Photos
Filesystem  1048576-blocks      Used  Avail Capacity   iused     ifree %iused  Mounted on
/dev/ada2p1      3,814,382 3,730,286 45,952    99% 1,175,738 1,005,252   54%   /Photos

Time for a new disk, at least 8 “TB”. But what? The backup disks I have are SMR, terrible on writes. But what I see offered are “surveillance” disks and NAS disks. I don't have a NAS system, though my NFS accessibility makes it look like that. Or maybe I should go for a colour: Western Digital offers blue and purple disks. Off to look at their web site:

Built for 24/7, always-on, high-definition security systems. With a supported workload rate of up to 180 TB/yr and support for up to 64 cameras, WD Purple drives are optimized for surveillance systems.

That begs the question of how to connect a camera to a disk drive, and what happens if you connect 65 of them. It also seems that red is the colour of NAS. After some discussion on IRC, we came to the conclusion that “surveillance” disks could be optimized for sequential transfer speed, and NAS disks for access time. So off to look at the specs. Capacity, interface, “RPM class” and cache size. But wait! There's a PDF spec sheet as well.

Comparing the spec sheets for different coloured disks was difficult. The transfer speeds look fantastic, 178 MB/s in each direction, and the same for both series. But that doesn't match real life, where the transfer speed depends on a number of factors: it's simply the interface transfer rate, which is of only marginal interest. And of course it's the same for both series.

What about access time? What? Why should I want to know that? In any case, there's no mention of it. In fact, about the only difference between the two spec sheets is that they use different fonts. Both have

Non-recoverable errors/bits read: 1 in 10¹⁴

OK, the way I read that, it means that the disk can have up to one non-recoverable error in 10¹⁴ bits. That's 1.25 × 10¹³ bytes, or 12.5 TB. In other words, if you read the entire disk sequentially 3 times, you can expect up to 2 unrecoverable errors. Is that really what they mean? And if not, why do they write it.

OK, this is Western Digital. I didn't read the Seagate documentation, because I couldn't find it. I got a page that came up in German, and which offered me videos, but no technical information. Somehow (customer?) stupidity is winning.

A bit more searching, however, brought me to this page, which looks a little saner. Now to read it...

Thursday, 25 May 2017 Dereel Images for 25 May 2017
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The pain of shopping
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

One of the nice things about modern living is that our choice of food is no longer restricted by geography and season. Well, to a certain extent. In Australia we can't get a good choice of cheese: it's all either Camembert style or hard cheese (“Swiss” or “Dutch”, frequently indistinguishable in flavour). But there are so many things that we can get, especially from South-East and East Asia.

Lately, however, we're noticing more and more failures. I've already commented on the lack of laksa paste. We've been looking for small, cooked prawns for weeks now, and they seem to be generally out of stock. And then there's the question of bacon. In Australia, it looks very different from in England, and we've noticed surprising quality differences. Yesterday Yvonne bought some good-looking bacon at Woolworths, and today I tried it. I couldn't get the slices apart! The result looked terrible:

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Image title: Bacon 3
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The part in the middle was torn to shreds trying to get it apart. And despite the appearance in the package, it was watery and didn't taste nearly as good as previously.

This isn't the only problem I've had with Woolworths. Last month we had mouldy lasagne sheets. A single incident isn't significant, but gradually there are too many issues that suggest that they're no longer taking enough care.

Is this just Woolworths? We also shop elsewhere, and in general Woolworths has the best choice. So far we haven't seen anything to suggest that the other places are any better.

Online education again
Topic: music, food and drink, technology, opinion Link here

I've pretty much stopped doing online courses, but recently I found a couple that looked interesting: Introduction to Music Theory, something that I did half a century ago, but which might do with refreshing. But the course! It seems to be aimed at the John Lennons of the 21st century, people who enjoy pop music but don't know anything about the background. It was completely unscientific, and it turned me off completely.

Still, that's only one course. Then there's the succinctly titled Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science (part 2) (I didn't find out where part 1 went). Took a look at it today. They started by talking about elasticity, using cooking a steak (well, in fact an entire filet) as an example. Good example. Your meat starts out elastic and gradually becomes firmer and more plastic.

But not in this course. Here, elasticity and firmness are the same thing! The steak gets more elastic as it cooks! How can that be? The course comes from Harvard University, hardly a second-rate institution. Have I made a mistake? Not according to the sources I checked. This irritates me to a point that I can't rely on the correctness of those things that I don't know. Another promising course gone down the drain.

This page contains (roughly) yesterday's and today's entries. I have a horror of reverse chronological documents, so all my diary entries are chronological. This page normally contains the last two days, but if I fall behind it may contain more. You can find older entries in the archive. Note that I often update a diary entry a day or two after I write it.     Do you have a comment about something I have written? This is a diary, not a “blog”, and there is deliberately no provision for directly adding comments. But I welcome feedback and try to reply to all messages I receive. See the diary overview for more details. If you do send me a message relating to something I have written, please indicate whether you'd prefer me not to mention your name. Otherwise I'll assume that it's OK to do so.

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