OpInionAteD - Menno Aartsen Rants and Raves - March 26, 2023

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Menno E Aartsen © March 2023. Legalese at the bottom of this page. This website is published in Singapore.

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Résumé - Patents & Papers - 9/11 - Old Stuff - Mail

Sunday March 26: Chilly but Sunny

Keywords: Spring, Photoworks, Shutterfly, Housing Authority, floodlights, HE LED, USB 3.0 Seagate
Well, no, I'm here, I am fine, just did not have an awful lot to report on. Repeating the systems work I've been doing must get a bit boring for y'all, and then my Shutterfly image archive (old, yes) is being discontinued, so I am needing to copy all that photography off before the end of the month. This is the old Photoworks stuff, from before mobile digital photography. My NAS drive was filling up nicely, but with all of this Shutterfly stuff being added, and broadcast video recordings being added, I need more storage space, so I've ordered another 8 terabytes of disk space, I hope I can get that to work off the back of the NAS drive.

LED floods Other than that, little to report, our building manager and I finally managed to get the floodlights out back replaced with HE LEDs, that's the shot you see on the right. One had not been working for a long time, and a few months ago another bit the dust. As we had had some changes of staff in the building, getting these fixed (a job for the building manager) had not happened - and, of course, the manager not being here at night, he didn't know which lights were not working. But that is finally all sorted now, and some of the folks whose cars live out back are really happy. This being a seniors building, there are some folks with impairments, and getting in and out of their cars at night in the pitch dark is not easy. Because all of the technology has changed, Housing Authority maintenance staff had to go get retrained and get new licenses, that's how OSHA likes it, the Fed, after all, part finances this residence, and that means Federal rules.

Middle of the night, my home phone beeped, witch a delivery warning from Walmart. Not having ordered anything from Walmart, and that text coming in at 3am, I figured it was a scammer - I turn the ringer on my mobile off at night, but not the one on my home number, I try and make sure friends and family can reach me at night in case of emergencies. Then Fedex emailed me in the morning, it turns out the new USB drive I ordered from Newegg actually comes from a local Walmart, and they don't care what time they send you texts, and they can't spell your name right, either. So my new drive arrives today (a Sunday) and I can block Walmart's delivery text number, they are idiots, hopefully I can get the thing to work, it is multi-format, and I need to get the NAS drive to format and talk to it, which may or may not work. Keep you posted.

Sunday March 12: Waiting for Spring

Keywords: Spring, Windows 11 Pro, ATSC, Hauppauge WinTV, COVID, Toshiba Satellite, HP Elitebook 840 G5
34th Ave The weather is up and down - it was warming up a bit, but nights are still around freezing. Brrr. There was even some snow, but during the day that melted, I do hope it stays that way, but one never knows. Hard to believe we used to have tons of snow in New York, every winter, and I am complaining about a few flakes.. But this morning early, coming back from the supermarket across the road, I caught this cold but sunny vista outside my building, absolutely gorgeous day. Yesterday, I needed to do some work on my car (the license plate holder at the front had become unstuck, twice), I waited half the day for the sun to come out, and once I was out there with my tools the sun went away, so I was working in the cold after all. Of course, half an hour after I finished the sun came back, go figure.

I will be pleased when it warms up a bit, though. I used to go for walks, summer and winter, but I have found my "absent thyroid" has made me increasingly susceptible to cold. Winter cold, that is. I guess it is a function of age, all I have been abe to do to get some extra exercise is walk stairs, in the building, I've virtually stopped using the elevator. That's a good thing, I am much more stable and capable on the stairs than I used to be, one of those things Medicare worries about for the over-65s, and I make a point of going downstairs, unnecessarily, a number of times a day. But when the temperature comes back up, come spring, I'll be pleased. It continues to be massively frustrating the COVID risk stops me from going to the gym. My health has improved greatly since I stopped drinking (in May of last year), so I can't complain. Almost a year now....

Much to my surprise, my old anemic Toshiba Satellite laptop, bought back in 2015, works very well as a WiFi Hotspot. I maxed out its memory (only up to 8GB, which is all it will take), replaced its anemic hard disk with a semi-retired 2TB SSD (I hardly use the machine, so don't need to worry about drive deterioration), updated the OS to Windows 10 Pro (it came with Win 7), and fitted it with an external thermostatic cooling fan (it didn't have one at all, originally), and stuck a gigabit Ethernet adapter on its one USB 3.0 port. It works amazingly well, and I run the Amazon Firestick off its WiFi all day. The SSD, combined with some manual tuning of its Windows load, gave it a new lease on life, as a backup for my other laptops. It is pretty amazing. Next step should be to replace that with an HP Elitebook 840 G5, which Amazon offers refurbished at a very nice price, loaded with Windows 11 Pro. It is an OS I don't have, and want to learn, and this laptop is cheap enough that I can buy it, max out its memory (to 64GB), and replace its hard disk with a 2TB M.2 PCIe NVMe very fast new type SSD interface disk. Once I have done all that the resultant speedfreak can replace my old HP 2560p, now that there is a new Windows 11 compatible Hauppauge ATSC TV dongle.

Tuesday February 21: Fast Backups and Docks

Keywords: Unitek dock, Startech.com dock, Windows Administrator, Windows login, USB 3.0 Express Card, eSata, Windows 10 Pro, Windows 11 Pro, ATSC, Hauppauge WinTV
startech.com dock So if, like me, you have older computers that run well, you may want to make sure you have active Windows licenses for them, so you can replace them with a newer system, and activate your operating system in a new configuration for free. Unfortunately, I don't have a system that will run Windows 11, so I can't test that, I am going to have to buy a new (or "renewed") notebook to get my hands on "11". One of the important security aspects is that you should have two similar systems, with your entire load duplicated, including the software. I always had a second laptop, which I used to record broadcast TV, using an ATSC dongle, but as time progressed I duplicated all of my software, as well as my files, and the second, older, laptop, has older files that I've erased from my main system (and therefore a larger hard disk). It is nice security - if my main laptop breaks down, I have a full, usable, load on the older machine. This is because I back up all my changed files, every day, to an external hard disk, which I then (I do this using clever scripts) transfer to the "backup" machine, first thing in the morning. Should there be a terminal mishap, I can jump onto the backup machine, and then see about fixing or replacing the broken unit. For good measure, both machines get backed up to a network drive every day - keeping those backups current is done in minutes, more or less automatically. Overdoing it? Nah, if you've ever lost a complete load, as I have, you know why you do it, and doing incrementals, every day, takes very little time.

In the meantime, I have found another hard disk docking station, like the Unitek below, but this time with an eSata as well as a USB3 port, with an auxiliary fan, made by Startech.com. That means I won't have to use an Express Card on my HP 2560 to run a high speed port with the Unitek dock, as that laptop does have eSata ports. The Unitek I can then relegate to use with the old Tosbiba Satellite laptop I have, which serves as Windows 10 license backup. Or, I can use it with the HP 2570, which does have USB3 ports. I've activated the Windows 10 Administrator login on it, and that will let me create another recoverable image backup, and it will boot from a Windows 10 recovery DVD. Ah, there it is, Amazon delivers on Monday morning, I got to test the Startech.com dock, and it flies! Under the Windows Administrator login, hooked up with an eSata connection, it backed up a 1.5 terabyte Windows 8.1 image in under 30 minutes. That's astounding, and the fan on the dock, which I thought was overkill, actually keeps the drive cooler than it otherwise would be - I guess, the high write speed does generate extra heat. And to cap it all off, booting Windows 8.1 from a recovery DVD gives direct access to the eSata backup disk, which means I can recover a Windows Image at high eSata speed.

I have one laptop running Windows 8.1, basically because that is the only way I can watch and record ATSC broadcast TV using Windows Media Center and an ATC USB dongle. That is, until I discovered there is the HAUPPAUGE 1682 WinTV external ATSC decoder / DVR, which uses USB 3.0. Heaven! I am saying that because it is a Windows 10/11 compatible device, which has its own electronic channel and program guide, so I can watch and record broadcast TV with the additional "oompf" you get from a fast port and better OS. I actually have not yet bought the Hauppauge unit, as my "old" dongle and Windows 8.1 continue to manage ATSC recording just fine, the Hauppauge is expen$ive, but it is nice to know I can switch to that unit and install Windows 10 on my HP 2560 laptop (neither my 2560 nor my 2570 will handle Windows 11)...

Monday February 13: The Admin Month

Keywords: brokerage, IRS, 2023 taxes, foreign income, bathroom leak, Unitek dock, Windows Administrator, Windows login, USB 3.0 Express Card, secure lists
Ah yes, there is the remaining income statement from my broker I was waiting for, now I can finish my tax return. Fingers crossed I don't owe anything. Perhaps the gummint will let me offset some stock market losses against my EU pension benefits. Must say the brokerage folks do a good job of generating usable statements, they are relatively easy to load into the tax preparation software I use. Always makes me a bit nervous, but I guess I did right - the IRS sent the approval about an hour after I filed. What with some foreign pension, and some foreign stock, it gets complicated, and with that you have to file, which is something folks on a "regular" social security income often don't have to do. Having said that, it keeps the mind exercised, one of those important things as you get older.

The leaking drain underneath my bath has been fixed, so my downstairs neighbour is out of the woods - well, as soon as they replace the ceiling above her bath. While the plumbers were at it, I replaced the shower curtains and cleaned the floors, plumbers are great, but messy, thankfully they turned up early, and I only missed one morning's shower, can't complain. When I saw the water bulge in my downstairs neighbour's bathroom ceiling, I worried, we called the fire department, but it wasn't, in the end, that serious.

UNITEK dock I am at a loss to explain why the backup of my HP 2560p notebook runs, suddenly, so fast. I have a USB3.0 Express Card I've been using (the 2560 only has USB 2.0 ports), but it now pretty much looks that card never ran at the promised 5GB/sec, and I can't work out why it was running at 2.0 speeds. There are two differences - I've replaced the hard disk with a large (4TB) SSD, but I did that a couple of months ago, so that could not have had this result, which only happened last week. The other change is that I've recently started backing up (to a Unitek USB 3.0 drive caddy with a 3GB 3.5 inch 7200 rpm hard disk, pic to the right) from the Windows Administrator login, rather tan my user login - previously, the 1.4 terabyte backup would take some 10 hours, now, it takes less than two. The Administrator login kicks the Express Card USB ports into high gear? News to me, can't think why, but it seems to be the case. Never knew, and I never used the Administrator login, until I recently realized that would be the easiest way to run a recovery from a recovery DVD with the backup on an external disk - because the Administrator login will log into Microsoft as it finishes restoring, and update anything that needs updating - providing you're using Ethernet, as WiFi would only work if you're restoring using the same router and network you used during the backup. Confusing.

One thing I had not managed was to have my password protected login-cum-password file properly encoded on one of my cellphones. Should I ever lose one of my laptops, or it died on me, I would need that file to recover my Windows installation certificates. Then, a few days ago, I realized I could stash that encoded and password protected file on my webserver, where all I needed was to remember the name, the master password, the location, and the file password (which encrypts the file at the same time). And that worked - I can get at the file from anything (including a cellphones or other PC) and recover my codes and passwords. The only issue is that if you never use that file, you're not going to remember its name, and where it lives, next year, I have to figure a solution for that.

I am going to assume nobody is going to be able to find it, my server is pretty full, and even if they do, the file is encoded. I am assuming that protection is pretty solid, and it will enable me to fully recover one or both of my Windows installs. Hah! All I need to do now is to think of a file name that isn't a dead giveaway, an unexpected location behind a managed firewall, and create an appropriate convoluted access- and encryption password. Not perfect, I know, but close to 99.9%.. There's no such thing as true data security - for as long as there are highly intelligent fifteen year olds with little else to do than scour the internet for things to break / steal / decrypt, you're never completely safe online. You may not have time to break someone's encryption, people who feel challenged by that will spend 72 hours and hundreds of dollars on tools just for the "excitement".

Sunday February 5: Tax time, sorta kinda

Keywords: Windows Image Backup, Windows 10 Pro, brokerage, IRS, 2023 taxes, Intel graphics processor, ILIFE vacuum robot, Windows memory integrity
Annoyingly, some of my overseas shares have not provided the tax information required - my brokerage says it'll take a few more days. It isn't necessarily an issue, but I am so used to having my tax return filed by the end of January, now I have to keep an eye on the paperwork coming in. Otherwise, I have my return done, it's just that one statement the IRS requires.

With the exception of some manual vacuuming I use a small wet/dry vac for, my floors are all done by a couple of robot vacuums, like the Roomba, but a lot cheaper. One somewhat sophisticated unit with a horizontal rotating brush and a powerful battery does my living room and kitchen and bathroom, another, less sophisticated, does the bedroom, which has a fitted carpet and needs more suction, so I do that twice a week. Apart from a small carpet underneath my dining table, the floors are either laminate or vinyl (bathroom and kitchen), and the robot maintains them with ease, including the wool carpet in the living room. Something that helps in the "cleaning battle" are my two heat pumps, both of which have filters that catch a lot of dust.

Where, in the past year, my brokerage account performed dismally (I should think most people's did, during the pandemic), recently, it has been perking up. I am not sure if this is an ongoing trend, but it is on the up, my savings stopped dwindling. The dwindling had me worried, but there wasn't a lot of choice, with the pandemic, and it was not as bad as the 2008 stock market crash, which more or less wiped me out. Even so, I've had to take a small amount of money out, to create some breathing space. You all know how cost-of-living, even groceries, but even my rent, have gone up recently - I guess a lot of organizations are compensating for pandemic losses. So far. so good, is all I can say, I hope the positive trend persists.

Interestingly, I discovered some Windows management capabilities I did not know existed - pleasant, but puzzling, it's not like I got these systems yesterday. At any rate, for more than a year the Intel graphics processor built into the CPU hasn't been willing to drive the external secondary display, and I used an external GPU off a USB3 port to do that. That worked, though the audio (via HDMI) was a bit limited. And then, the other day, I discovered there was a workaround for something else that would not work - the memory integrity check under Windows Core Isolation - an operating system security feature. After many weeks of searching through databases, I managed to find a way to bypass this - a feature that failed with a "managed by your organization" error. As I don't have an organization, I had no idea where that came from - there was some of that in Google Chrome, as well.

Eventually - and that really took me weeks, if not months - I figured out how to defeat that, a safety feature embedded in the Windows registry - futzing with that without knowing what you're doing can really terminally blow up your system. But because I had finally managed to take full Windows Image backups - without the external disk crashing - on a weekly basis, with AIS Backup updates every day, I figured I could take the risk. And - hey presto! - it worked - not only that, but the graphics processor re-activation now lets the backlight time out, as well. And for unclear reasons, the password entry during bootup now works without additional activation - mouse clicks, or enter key. Strange, but nice and smooth - and the boot is even faster than it was already.

Friday January 27: The art of backing up

Keywords: HP, laptops, ZyXel NAS, backing up, storage, redundance, data recovery, restore, Windows 10, Windows 8.1
Where, in the past, before I kitted out all of my laptops with SSDs, I had difficulty adding external hard drives using the USB ports, it would appear that the new SSDs, after installing them and fine tuning Windows, have a very beneficial effect on system health and performance. Add to that the large 12TB NAS drive, now my only large scale storage device, and using that for daily backups, I need fewer ports and sockets on the systems to do what I need to do. The laptops are faster now, run cooler (both have had a faster CPU installed and the heat conducting paste "renewed"), and appear more stable. If, today, my Windows Image Backup on the Windows 8.1 system completes successfully, I can take the image backup off the NAS drive, and recover another 1.4 terabytes of space, which will make NAS maintenance faster and easier. In the past, those backups sometimes failed, but in the new configuration it seems external USB3 drives run flawlessly, on both systems. Letchaknow. If, in the future, I need more space, I still have my retired old 2-drive ZyXel NAS enclosure, which is in good shape, and if necessary, I can install two 8 terabyte drives in that enclosure, and mirror them.

Well, that was cool. I can now do a Windows Image Backup for either HP laptop - one overnight, in three or four hours, the other (larger) once a week, some 1.6 terabytes, in about twelve hours, completely free of "hiccups". I've taken the image backups off the NAS, and that now has some 50% space free. While it is a 12 terabyte box, it has a little over 8 usable terabytes, the remainder is parity space, so even when one of the four drives goes South, its data can without loss be auto-recovered to a replacement drive, for which I have a spare. It is one thing to theorize all this when you buy and install the array, but that was October, and now is January, and it all works seamlessly, and practically noiselessly, without any data loss or hiccups. Good show...

You may think I am overdoing the redundancy, but if you think about how dependent you are on your "devices" for communication and administration, and how you would cope if one of your devices suddenly packed up, life would get complicated if I suddenly lost half the data I need to file my tax return. The problem with backing up is that you never know what data you need, and my experience with backups is that they, too, can fail. At the very minimum, if your primary PC goes South, you lose access to your data - not only do you then need to get a replacement PC, you need to try and recover your data from your backup. In my experience, this does not always work - I know that on at least two occasions, in the past, I was unable to recover a hard disk because Microsoft has built so many safeguards against illicit copying into Windows that restoring the drive onto a new computer just wouldn't work. Windows Restore looks for the electronic signature of your existing system's BIOS, and a new (or even different) PC will not have that signature. That's why I have been doing all of this convoluted stuff - my next step is that I will try and start a recovery using an install/repair disk, something I recommend. I can tell you that if you have not tested a restore, you don't know that a restore onto another PC will necessarily work, the culprit likely being Microsoft's licensing scheme, now all built into the OS, interacting with the motherboard BIOS.

Friday January 20: Maintenance Month

Keywords: Amazon, Fire Stick, ZyXel NAS, backing up, no winter, income tax, broadcast TV, streaming media
bedroom AM I posted the bedroom, left, as I love the view when the sun streams in, early afternoon, especially with the black sheets when I turn up the duvet. Not spectacular, just a bit dreamy...

Big NAS drive or no, I am in process of filling that 12TB right on up. I had not anticipated that the broadcast TV recordings would take so much space, just the past couple of days yielded 5 gigabytes, while both laptops now back up daily, using AIS Backup, to the NAS - that is quick, as these backups are now incremental. It isn't a major issue, but in order for the NAS array to be able to "fail over" should one of the four drives pack up, I need to have more than 3 TB available. That basically means I need to move my standard Windows image backups off the NAS array, and back onto regular hard drives, perhaps on a weekly basis, that will make it easier to do a restore, and update that using the current AIS Backup. That should buy me enough room to fail over, should that ever be necessary. The way this thing is architected, if a drive fails, I ought to be able to simply pull it and replace it with another, one of the same configuration, which I have spare.

It is hard to believe winter is all over, in the past I've seen it roar back in, and it is only early January as I write this, but yesterday the temperature hit 60, admittedly in the sun, which, today, has been replaced with abundant rain. I am really wondering if we're seeing climate change here, time will tell, I suppose.

Apart from the upcoming taxes, I seem to have otherwise done all I needed around the New Year, from moving bank accounts to getting the paperwork for my overseas social security pension done and sent off. All I am waiting for now are the tax forms for my brokerage account, which is essentially my savings account. While I lost quite a bit of savings during the COVID pandemic, we seem to be on a rebound, so I am not unduly worried. Both American and foreign social security have gone up, which is nice, although that has increased my rent, or rather, reduced my rent subsidy. Can't win 'em all, I suppose, and I am largely still "in good nick", as they say. The medical things I needed to do before the end of the year, so they're covered by last year's insurance "remnants", got done too, though one medical outfit has suddenly changed its insurance parametere, that's new and inconvenient, and somewhat puzzling. Why do medical establishments suddenly no longer accept all major insurance carriers? Don't they need all the money?

As I am conducting some training in the use of the newly acquired Amazon Fire TV Stick in my building, it becomes increasingly clear that the concept of "streaming" versus "live" is largely lost on many older denizens. Not their fault, they just have not really been made aware that TV, or broadcast TV, is no longer really "live", it is just broadcasters running and re-running program material that (with rare exceptions) has already been made. There are exceptions - some sports come to mind, "specials" like the Oscars and the Golden Globes, but even most of the early morning programming, like the "Today Show", is only partially live - if only to cater for the different time zones the broadcasters serve. The Dubai soccer championships, the other day, were broadcast live, where you have to ask yourself what the big attraction of "live" actually is. The more I delve into the Firestick, the more "live" becomes a habitual, and unnecessary, accoutrement of entertainment. There was a discussion of whether the Firestick provided last Sunday's "60 minutes" program - as it turned out, that was available on a streaming channel by the name of Tubi, for free. Ad supported, these "free" channels compete with each other, with as a result more and more "free" offerings. Way to go..

Sunday January 8: Happy one to you, too!

Keywords: Amazon, Fire Stick, streaming video, ZyXel NAS, vacuum, system maintenance
The cold, of course, is all gone - one day it was icing and 17 degrees, the next it is raining and 50. The rest of the country is still pretty much in the deep freeze - snow in Miami, can you believe it? I did put my snowboots away, though - only used them once, so far, to clean snow off the car - then again, it sometimes snows in March, so one never knows. For now, let's be optimistic. It is 47 outside, or so my car says.

Having bought the Firestick for our Community Room I am getting to experiment with it without having to program pre-planned stuff. I can set it up completely from scratch, as that TV set is barely used, and I have been able to remove the Wii that was attached to it, and move that to another TV set in the space. Currently, I am testing to see how long our in-house WiFi runs without logging itself out, whether it auto-logs in on demand, and what the Firestick does when it times out. It not only has a built-in screensaver, it also goes into an inactive state after a while, when it has to be "woken up" again. It listens for Alexa input 24/7, though, all you need to do is call it by name. Nice to be able to try this all out.

Now, I need to organize some training for the good folks in this building, a few sessions, so they can get used to "streaming", as opposed to DVDs, VHS cassettes, Blu-Rays, Broadcast, etc. I checked and noted that the vast majority of the titles in our library are available on the Firestick, though some are Pay-Per-View, which we won't support. So we'll see. I've written an instruction pamphlet, now I need to do a flyer, and schedule some classes. Wish me luck...

By this time, we've hit a Brand New Year, can't say I have partied much, sort of been busy writing up the Firestick manual. I have been doing some regular computer maintenance, and gave the "new" ZyXel NAS drive a thorough clean, using a vacuum cleaner. This is not without risk, due to the possible development of static electricity, but using the vacum as a blower, taking the NAS drive apart, and never physically touching any of its parts with the vacuum, should see me safe. It's been four months since I began using it, and as I do not know how much dust it gathers, what with a cooling fan running 24/7, that was important to find out - especially since it took me more than two weeks to run new backups and moving archive files to the Zyxel, which meant it ran for at least two weeks virtually 24/7. Normally, the NAS "times out" when it is not being used, and that means the drives stop, and there is less heat, and the fan therefore does not have to work as hard - though it runs 24/7, by design, at varying speeds. Happily, it wasn't very dusty inside, the blowing action worked well, and I think the four month interval is sufficient, in my case. That also means the drive gets a full reboot when I turn it down, something I normally never do, it is designed for continuous running. But I noticed, one quiet morning I could hear the fan humming, during backups, and that can mean it was accumulating dust, which can make the blades catch more air. Indeed, after the clean the fan RPM was down by some 10%, from 1,000 rpm to just under 900. I am well pleased with that - gave both laptops a blow clean as well, so I am good for a couple months.

Friday December 23: It is freakin' cold

Keywords: snow, ice, Xmas, filters
building lot 8am Not a lot of snow - I made sure I was stocked up, cleaned maybe an inch or so off my SUV, so it is usable, went to the store (which melted whatever was left on the roof), and filled up the fridge, one of those winter-you-never-know exercises. Since then, no more snow, but it did not melt, it is cold, and it just got colder - it's 6pm, and the temperature is down to 21 (Fahrenheit, or -6 in Centipedes). So far, my heat pumps cope admirably, working hard, as they take their air from outside, but as I turn the one in my bedroom off at night, it'll be interesting to find out how the new heat pump in the living room fares, especially since I just replaced the activated carbon filter that came with the unit with a new one, which is a bit thicker and more rigid, but easier to get. I do have baseboard heaters, but am kind of hoping I won't need to use them. We'll see... Yes, the heat pumps crank a lot more when the outside air is cold, but they still seem to extract plenty of energy from that frigid air - so far (it is 19 degrees outside, or so my car tells me) they are both still cycling, which I find surprising. My older whole house heat pumps in Virginia, two 50K units, could not cope with temperatures below freezing, and would switch to their electric heat coils, which was an expensive exercise. Thankfully, I had a woodstove, and five acres of trees, two chain saws, and a fireman neighbour who taught me to fell large oak trees without killing myself....

I am not much of a Christmas person, and I find especially the morning TV show malarkey hard to swallow. Presenter volumes go way up, and half the time there's a stylist praising products that are, to all intents and purposes, too expensive, slightly useless, and not selected and tested by the stylist, but by the vendor/manufacturer. I used to do that sort of stuff for women's magazines, way back when. I recall Jaguar threatening to sue us, because we placed one of their ads on a science page entitled: "Mars, the rusty planet". I'll grant you it is hard to select gifts for other people - I just had that experience wth my sister, who I bought a Hotpot for, which went back to China more or less linea recta. One can only try, eh?

So while my "old" Edgestar heat pump (sold by Whynter as the ARC-14SH) is doing excellent winter duty in my bedroom, the new unit, the Whynter ARC-122DHP, is maintaining my living room and kitchen, and keeps the place warm by itself at night, the 14K unit is just too noisy to sleep next to. Besides, between my goose down duvet and hybrid memory foam mattress, I really do not need additional heat in the bedroom, I don't use the "industrial strength" 240VAC baseboard heaters that are pre-installed in the apartment. While I will admit that "portable" heat pumps are noisy, they have some real advantages - they consume less energy than other electric heaters do, and they have filters, which means they do a decent job of keeping the air in my apartment clean and free of dust. Besides, millions of people use window air conditioners in summer, in the United States, so having that same noise in winter can't possibly be that much of a hardship, considering the cost savings over conventional heating.

Friday December 16: Streaming

Keywords: HP Elitebook, U.S. flag, Fire Stick, streaming media, Windows 8.1, Peacock, Britbox
building flag 4x5 Much to my chagrin the flag I put up in front of our building to replace one that had faded, didn't last that long, so I replaced it, again. I guess the 4x5 foot size flaps ferociously in the wind, and it tore its edge within a year, so I had to replace it. I guess the previous one was smaller, 3x4, but I like this size better on our tallish pole. I've bought a hopefully sturdier one, we shall see, this time I got a spare, as well.

I am trying to transition my television viewing to the Fire TV Stick, not only because it is easier to use than broadcast TV, but because I've ordered a Fire TV Stick for my building's community room, which means I need to get organized enough so I can write a basic guide for the other tenants in this building. For several weeks now, I've been rummaging around the offerings, but every time I browse I discover new channels and program sources, and I was not taking notes. That won't help anyone, so I am trying to get a bit more organized, in terms of knowing what free offerings are available where. The new Fire Stick won't arrive until next week, so I have time to do some homework and begin writing instructions.

Why streaming media now? The Fire TV Stick is, today, dirt cheap, requires no membership or fees, and so is ideal for some of the folks in this building who don't have a TV, or who don't have cable. While I have had streaming media for years, that's been, even before the hardware came onto the consumer market, I ran streaming video on my own servers, having built my own NAS, run on an obsolete PC using multiple redundant disks. Now, Amazon (and others) do it all for you, although many streaming providers do not make a profit on this technology, consumers really are not prepared to shell out for their subscriptions, as NBC has found out with Peacock. BBC and ITV now are trying the same with Britbox, but so much of their programming is available via broadcast, I don't know that they're going anywhere with that.

Considering the HP EliteBook 2560p "subnotebook" was first released in 2011, with Windows 7, an Intel Core i5-2520M 2.5 Ghz processor and a conventional hard disk, it is definitely a bit anemic, but upgrading it worked wonders. Mine now has Windows 8.1 Pro, an Intel Core i7-2620 2.7 Ghz processor with a 4MB cache, maxed out RAM @ 16GB, a 4 terabyte SSD, and it flies. I had it working reasonably well before (I have mostly used this notebook to record broadcast TV using an ATSC dongle), but since I, after many tries, managed to transfer the Windows load onto a large (4 TB) SSD, and re-tuned Windows, the notebook seems to be twice as fast as before. More importantly, in the past it ran hot, especially when recording TV, fan always running, and often at the top of its capability. That's now history - not only is it faster, it needs much less cooling than before, I no longer hear the fan whine - why, I don't know, but to me this just means it will last longer - I did replace the fans in both my notebooks, something I think should be done periodically anyway.

Friday December 9: More maintenance done

Keywords: heat pump, time management, drainage, appliances
Replacing the heat pump in my living room was much less of a hassle than I anticipated - but that was partially due to the help I received from our building manager, H., who helped me remove the old unit, and put it by the trash, out back. But the hoses and vent assembly fit the window kit I already had, I managed to buy a unit with the same mounts, so that was cool, and it being a Monday, I was able to throw the voluminous packing material in the recycling bins, as they had just been emptied. Then, the unit, after "acclimatizing" for a few hours, fired right up, runs fine, and is a little less noisy than the older one was, so good all around. It's smaller, to boot, and mostly silver, rather than black, so doesn't quite stand out in the space. Got lucky. Lucky, too, that Amazon delivered at 10:30am, so I had all afternoon to do the install and swap.

Whynter heat pump I am not sure why I keep being busy - many of my mornings are partly taken up by laundry (in the building laundry room), which I kind of divvy up across the week, but other than that, the odd bit of shopping doesn't take that much time. Today, I went to the car wash, hit the supermarket, and then the hardware store - with some kitchen stuff in between, that took care of my morning. Because I have one of those small worktop dishwashers, I normally don't leave while it is running, it gets its water from a faucet, and drains in the sink, and I just don't like the risk that something floods (not that it ever has..). Once it's done, I open the unit and the dishes can dry while I head for the shops.

I did finish with the heat pumps today - checking the condensation drain works OK on the new unit, and cleaning, draining and replacing the filters on the "old" unit. That works really well - not a drop of water in the drain pan, much to my surprise, but then it begins every heat cycle with an evaporation. The drain on the new unit is interesting - it does not use conventional evaporation, but it has a built in drainage pump, which comes with a small hose that gets run outside though the air exhaust. That seems to work very well, although I'll need to re-check once it starts freezing again, you never know. There are two more drain connections, but my apartment does not have a drainage facility anywhere near where the unit is - those are more for homes where there is underfloor or direct outside access. After re-reading the installation instructions, there was only one remaining action - the condensation pump drainage hose was supposed to sit inside the outside exhaust opening, so I needed to loosen the window kit, push back the poly hose so the opening sat just outside the window kit, and seal the whole thing back up. I had noticed that hose, after a few days' running, was full of condensation, so the pump and drainage are working properly. Happy me - this is a new way of doing things, had not worked with this type of drainage before. My older heat pump drains though the compressor, which means it runs for quite a while in each cycle, first heating and evaporating the condensation, then switching to heating which means the compressor now cools and the circulation fan comes on. With the drainage pump, run cycles for the new unit are "short and sweet".

Saturday December 3: Things keep breaking

Keywords: heat pump, dual hose, credit card, snow, Windows Medcia Center, EPG Freevee, Firestick
The reason I have dual hose heat pumps is, predominantly, that they do a much better job of getting rid of compressor condensation than single hose units do. Single hose heat pumps, in heating mode, need to be manually drained regularly, although some newer models come with a built-in drain pump. They also get their air for heat exchange from inside your space, which is air you've just cooled or heated, depending, while dual hose units get their air from outside. In a house, drainage isn't so much of a problem if you can run a hose from the drain plug to somewhere, but in an apartment that isn't an option. So the dual hose heat pump uses a compressor cycle to evaporate accumulated water to outside, a function that, on one of my heat pumps, has just stopped working. This is when I miss the garage in Lynnwood, where I was able to tinker with stuff, doing repairs in a one bedroom isn't really possible, the place just doesn't have room for a workbench. So I've "done the thing", and shelled out for a new heat pump, a later model, one that not only comes with dual hoses, but a drain pump as well. Might as well, though I am not planning to run a drain hose, however small, out the window - though I can if I have to. I'm making that rare use of my credit card, which I religiously pay off every month, I may have to cash in some savings to top off my accounts, next month, it's only four hundred dollars, so not a disaster. One nice thing is that the new unit is slightly smaller, and silver, it'll look better and less of an obstacle in my living room. Since it is a later model, and has slightly less capacity (12,000 BTU's versus 14,000) it may even be less noisy. We shall see - should be getting here next week.

I really do hope we don't get a snowy winter, though watching the news I get the impression it is colder and snowier up in Snohomish County than it is here, right by the Puget Sound. Perhaps it is the Gulfstream that makes it a bit warmer, closer to the ocean, I don't really know. We do not, in this area, routinely get snowy weather every year, and the mountains are too far East to influence our local weather much - in Snohomish, there is the "convergence zone", where precipitation gets trapped between the valley and the mountains, but not down here so much - besides, technically, I live on an island, I suppose - well, peninsula.

Well, that was nice. I had not reprogrammed EPG (see below) for a long time, and after the re-install it was receiving the wrong channels. I don't want to bore you with this endless story, but another re-install, this time using my old ZIP code from Snohomish County, fixed the problem. Don't ask me how, but I've now got the channels I wanted, which Microsoft probably thinks I am not able to receive in my "new" ZIP code, which is easily an hour South of where I used to live. But it works, so I am happy. Now, all I need to do is stop futzing with it, so it won't break again.

So then, Amazon's Freevee stops working over the Firestick, complaining I have a VPN (which I do, but I don't run the Firestick over it), which is Verboten, while NBC's Peacock suddenly doesn't require a login. Strange. When you use the Firestick there seems to be a new "free" TV provider every week, there are now so many I need to take notes, as they don't necessarily turn up in the base lineup. I mean, good stuff, but things are hard to find, even sometimes for Alexa. It is confusing, and some series have ten or fifteen seasons available online, some free, some not so much, which does not make things easier. Ah, here we are, two days later: Freevee is working again. The Firestick still won't work without a broadcast SID, Amazon is doing data collection on consumer's networks, I think, which is naughty, so I am using a Hotspot mode in Windows 10, which I can turn off and on at will.

Wednesday November 30: Snow is here

Keywords: snow tires, chains, NAS drive, Windows Media Center, EPG123
weather station Rain had been forecast, but then when I stuck my nose out the door this morning I saw lots of sun, Seattle's climate has truly changed - it doesn't rain half as much as it used to. The sun was streaming into the lobby by 8AM, as I made my way to the supermarket over the road, and between the low sun, the fall colours, and the colour scheme, it was pretty enough for a picture, the lobby can be kind of homey. No frost, not cold, seasonal, I guess, as I write this, in the afternoon, the car reports 43 degrees Fahrenheit.

Hmm. That was yesterday. Now the weather forecast is full of precipitation. As in: snow. There is supposedly a storm pulling into the Pacific Northwest, on its way to the other coast, but the forecast and my new weather station are now announcing lowland snow - building management salted the sidewalks already. Need this like I need a hole in the head, but with a bit of luck this will pass though and clear away in a few days' time. Anyway, there it is - by the time I headed for the shops and the gas station, to make sure I had my necessities, there was melting snow here and there, and I had to engage my all wheel drive to get up and over the hill safely, happy to sit on oversize M+S tires (which I do all year round). Just last week topped up the air and fluids and checked tire pressure, air suspension, coolant and oil, got the lined gloves, scraper, snow broom and snow boots out this morning, chains are in the car, so I am all good. Pulling out of the gas station, which sits on a slope, I could feel the rear wheels stutter, but the fronts bit and pulled me through. Way to go.

Having finished all my system backups, I downloaded the latest installment of "EPG 1-2-3", the application I used with Windows Media Center under Windows 8.1 Pro to schedule and program broadcast TV recordings. That hadn't been working, and I removed it a while ago, before I moved the load on my old HP 2560p business notebook to a large SSD, after cleaning up my Windows installation - installing a 4TB ADATA unit I had not been able to get to talk to the 2560's BIOS, and boot from it. When the 2560 was designed, there was no such thing as an internal 4TB drive for notebooks, the largest you could get was 1TB, and that was a conventional drive, there were no large SSD's, if I recall the largest SSD available at the time was 60GB..

Long story short, I had intended to get all of my current files on that machine, and after eventually (I mean, that took days) managing to install the 4TB drive, I was able to move all of my redundant stuff, additional to what was there already. Just in time, because the Seagate 2TB hybrid drive that was there began to lose data as I was doing the transfers. That was (phew!) close.

But to get back to Windows Media Center and the EPG (Electronic Program Guide) utility, I re-set up Media Center, and then re-installed EPG - and it worked! Hole in One! I was truly amazed, because it had given me problems, and I wasn't at all sure I'd get it to work again, but it just roared right in. What with the large SSD, the laptop is so much faster than before, the mind boggles (while Windows is supposed to run faster with a lot of virtual memory, I had no idea a very large SSD would make even more difference). I did spend some time reconfiguring Windows, but the results, overall, are superb. And the laptop seems to run much cooler than before, which I did not expect. Having replaced the TV dongle I was using, Windows recorded a bunch of stuff overnight, so things are kind of back to normal, and while I transferred the video files to an external disk previously, the large SSD I installed makes that unnecessary, there is some 2.5 terabytes of spare space on that disk, and what with it being an SSD, recording doesn't take the amount of horsepower it used to. All good, in other words, works a treat now, probably better than it ever has, the faster CPU helps, too.

Friday, November 25: Flu shot in the rain

Keywords: NAS, flu vaccination, cancer, laptop reconfigure, Fire TV stick
Awright, flu shot done. I tried to find a pharmacy where they offered that close to home, but, like last year, would have had to go downtown or into the suburbs, and then, of course, my own supermarket, which is more of a warehouse, Fred Meyer, close, too, turned out to have stock of the flu shot I needed - the over-65's shot. So I went this afternoon, and shopped at the same time. Five minute drive - well, it would have been, if the bridge hadn't been open. Even so, I guess I've found a new favourite pharmacy (most of my medication comes mail order, anyway).

I hate to say this to you, but there's no thing as "cancer free", after a bout with cancer. Or "cured". Or any of that shit. It is important to understand that all it takes is one single cancerous cell, and you can be in trouble. I get quarterly blood tests and semi-annual checkups by an endocrinologist not because I am cured (though technically, I am). I get those because I am in remission, but always at risk, and to go, as a well known person and "cancer survivor", on national television and proclaim "you've been cured and/or are cancer free" is folly. If you could be cured and cancer free you would not need medical followups for the rest of your life. Right?

The full transfer of all my archives and backups to the new NAS drive is finally done. Checking, it turns out that took just under 5 terabytes, out of the 8.11 TB space available, or 60%, so I am well pleased I bought a big enough NAS. As my backups update, they'll release additional disk space, so I don't need to worry about the disks filling up any more, and with more than 3 spare terabytes I don't have to worry about losing a disk. As I have my files duplicated on the two laptops, I can now start thinning out one of them, which will clear out more backup space, over time - with the data duplicated twice, I can throttle back a bit, but it was important to have everything saved - both laptops now (finally) have a full backup on the NAS, and I can restore either using an AIS boot disk over my network. Way to go. I can now re-install the broadcast TV recording software I took off, and see what there is on the old Windows Media package I can still record. I know that all of the Star Trek iterations are paid subscriptions now, as far as the Firestick is concerned, so I can see what's still being broadcast free-to-air, for as long as I can still use Windows 8.1 Pro, which is nearing the end of its Microsoft support. Etc., there's always something one wants...

Finally some rain. It's been bone dry, for months, so we either get some rain, or a really snowy winter, which I don't really want. My thyroid medication plays havoc with my internal heating system, which doesn't really help, and I still do not want to go to the gym because of COVID considerations. Though the temperatures are up a bit, so maybe I'll take a walk when the next sunny afternoon comes around. Ah - next couple days, no rain in the forecast. I'll believe it when I see it.

I am slowly warming to this Amazon Fire TV stick I bought, although using a combination of screen scrolling and Alexa voice commands seems to work best. There is so much programming available that Alexa lets you find stuff you'd have no idea is available, since some of the channels you simply may have never heard of, and so have no way of finding. Even then, a lot of these buttons have content I have little or no knowledge of, so you have to spend time sampling their content. I found a movie version of Battlestar Galactica, with content from the series, but other stuff as well, and I had no idea that existed, or who even ever broadcast it, if indeed they did. Ah, there you go - found "Sherlock". Wonders will never cease.

Saturday, November 19: Cold and busy

Keywords: weather station, NAS backup, Amazon TV Firestick, WiFi, Swedish Medical, GP, English TV
weather stationThe contraption to the left is a wireless battery driven weather station, this to replace one I've had for six or seven years, which does not work all that well any more. The most important aspect was the outdoor sensor, which lives in my SUV, which is parked in the street, and does not always report in properly. So I found this one on Amazon, which isn't just cheap and cheerful, its outdoor sensor has a huge range, which means I know what the temperature in my car is, and even more importantly, that the car is still outside. Works well, especially if you consider it only cost $14, and doesn't just receive when close to a window, it reads the outdoor sensor wherever I put it in the apartment. Not as colourful and fancy as the old one, but it's better, and runs on batteries, rather than external power (hence the B/W LCD, I assume).

So that's it. I've finished the NAS AIS backup of my HP2570, all that remains is completing the backup of the 2560, which, over WiFi, takes a little longer. The data load on the 2570 is about a terabyte, which is a lot, and it is never quick to back up. By late September, I had installed the new NAS array, configured it, but by that time it was clear I needed to do a couple of other jobs, notably replacing my WiFi router, and get a new Hotspot from T-Mobile. Both had been malfunctioning, so I had to replace them and redesign my network, this due to the NAS drive having two-channel Ethernet bridging capabilities. Every time you buy new equipment, it seems that needs you to replace 30% of everything else to get it to work optimally, like using a spare router to get the new T-Mobile Hotspot to run at high speed over multiple channels. Etcetera etcetera. But it all got done and is working a treat, at this point. I think this may well be one of the fastest networks I've ever had, this despite the fact that the backbone is a wireless bridge, not something I was ever in favour of, but you live and learn..

Cold, then. Mostly sunny days, it does warm up, but by nightfall the temperature dips way down. Not a major issue, but I would like to walk a little more. Past few days, I've spent more time fixing things - the car needed service, there was shopping, doctor visits, lab tests, but I did not get "out and about" much beyond that. I have actually started exploring the Amazon Fire TV stick, which, as it turns out, has humongous number of free channels, there is hardly a point in watching British ITV series "Midsomer Murders" on my laptop, when the Firestick provides every episode ever written, for free. Same with UK "Law & Order", I do like the British series, as I have those via my browser using a (paid) proxy, but much of what that gives me, other than the BBC News, I get via the Firestick, again, for free. And I haven't even explored a fifth of what that offers...

Annoyingly, my doctor's office now has a unit that follows up to make sure patients get followups. Problem is that the folks that send the reminders aren't part of the doctor's office, and write emails that read as if they come from the physician. So I responded to the followup, made an appointment, only to discover, when checking in, that I had had a recent checkup, and that the doctor's office had no idea they were reminding me of an unnecessary visit, it really makes me wonder if Swedish is now trying to make extra money by making unnecessary appointments. I canceled right there, thanks to kind helpful staff, and got the bill waived and my copay refunded.

Friday, November 11: Winter is definitely on the way

Keywords: freezing, low humidity, NAS backup, Amazon TV Firestick, WiFi, vagrants, homeless
We've gone to near freezing in a relatively short period of time, but this week it is raining a lot, which is very good news for Mother Nature, we've had one of the driest summers on record. At any rate, my heat pumps are chugging away, keeping the place nice and toasty, In the very early morning I kick in the electric baseboard heaters by the living room windows so I can have coffee and watch some TV without the heat pump noise. After my shower and early morning building round, I switch to the living room heat pump, The baseboard heaters are great, but expensive to run. It's how they built homes and apartments in the 'sixties...

ultrasonic humidifierIn the interim, the colder weather is playing havoc with the homeless, unusually, I found a vagrant in our community room yesterday, who wouldn't leave. It's always a problem, as you don't necessarily know whether someone you don't know is a new tenant, or a visitor, or a new carer, but in this case, none of the above. She became quite belligerent when I asked who she was, what she was doing here, and told her she had to leave when she wouldn't answer my questions, and that meant we had to get Seattle police to remove her. After all that, she managed to get back in the building, was removed again, and spent a couple of hours harassing tenants on the ground floor, screaming, knocking on windows, etc. Eventually, she gave up, it's been a couple of years since we last had an intruder in the building.

I am still backing up, BTW, the longer I used these laptops, the larger my data load gets, I keep putting larger disks in... AIS Backup is brilliant, but as it converts every single file on my laptops into ZIP archives, it takes forever. What with 8+ terabytes of storage on the NAS, I hope I can do this once now, and then leave well enough alone, that is, do my daily incrementals, but won't have to move the main backup archives. Largely, my data is there twice anyway, as I have my data fully duplicated across my laptops, but have the older files on the HP2560, as well. I can do that now as I have a 4 terabyte SSD in the 2560, which took quite a bit of engineering the BIOS, to get that running properly. Snd now that that is complete, backing that lot up the the NAS is another job altogether. But I got it all settled, and do a chunk of backup every day, while the 2570 now has a completely new SSD, the older one having lost some capacity. Lot of work, almost done, easily took a month and a half, believe it or not, but I've been able to get rid of all of the smaller backups and backup-drives. Considering the big NAS array only cost $199 (plus maybe $40 each for the four 3.5 inch 3 terabyte drives), not a bad deal...

I bought Amazon's Firestick (officially: Fire TV Stick 4K) a year ago, but never much used it. I bought the 4K version, since I have a TV set with 4K/UHD monitor and Dolby Digital audio capability, but never much used it, save for watching the news, it isn't my "main display", so to speak. Part of the reason I didn't use it is that the Firestick, which uses WiFi to connect to the world, will only work with a broadcast SSID, and I try, for security reasons, to turn all of my SSIDs off. But recently, I realized my Windows 10 laptop has Hotspot capability, and that I can turn off and on at will, with one mouse click, so that the SSID is unique to this laptop, and is only broadcast when I turn the Hotspot on - with my main Hotspot, it's always on or always off, no choices.

In the meantime, temps got down to overnight freezing, and I didn't feel my usual chipper self this morning. When I checked my temperature and things, routine now, what with COVID, everything seemed normal - checking my weather station, though, I noticed the humidity in the apartment was down to nearly 20%, half the value it showed a couple of days ago. No wonder my skin is itchy and I have some nasal discomfort. Time to get the humidifiers out, I bought two ultrasonic "cool mist" units last year, they'll get the humidity back up to where I am comfortable again. They worked well, no deposits in the water tanks (I use filtered water, of course), very little mold in the base, easy to clean and store for the winter. One unit was not enough for the apartment, but two, did the trick, they get refilled once a day. The weather went straight to winter, I guess...

Monday, November 7: Elections and more WiFi

Keywords: politics, elections, agression, WiFi security, SSID, HotSpot signal, T-Mobile
I am truly amazed at the amount of agression and mis-information embedded in political campaigns. Even the barrage of negative and misleading political advertising in our local Washington State elections is truly horrendous, and it is actually getting more vitriolic by the day, as the mid-terms approach. I am having a hard time believing anybody actually takes this stuff seriously, but apparently, folks do.

Nuff said, on that score, I'd rather get back to my files and archives and computer stuff. There's only one niggly bit, I can't get my Blackberry to provide WiFi calling unless I hang it directly off the Hotspot, but at least I have managed to turn off all of the SSIDs, the WiFi identifiers. If there is one thing I hate it is a network that broadcasts its identifiers (though anyone with the right software can scan them). I've now even managed to turn off the Hotspot's SSIDs, without losing the connection with the Linksys WiFi bridge, locked at 5GHz. And after doing all that, I find that both the bridge and the Hotspot run at higher speeds, something I can not explain.

Actually, I think I can explain the Hotspot "anomalies". Last night, the T-Mobile service for my cellphones failed, and that was still the case this morning, so I called the trouble folks, who confirmed a network outage on the celltower nearest to me, but then I told the agent my Hotspot (T-Mobile's 4G service as well) was still functioning normally. I had noticed that Hotspot now had a stronger signal - 5 bars, rather than the 3/4 it normally shows. The agent told me the Hotspot must have switched to a new celltower, slightly further away, but providing 5G service. Why the Hotspot switched I shall never know, but it stayed with the stronger signal, and in the interim, about two hours after my call, the 4G service for the phones came back (4G LTE, to be precise). And the somewhat erratic WiFi calling on my Blackberry works better too, that's how I talked to TMO even though my cell service was down. I am also able to run my Amazon Firestick TV dongle off the "at will" WiFi in one of my laptops, so I don't have to have an SSID being broadcast (the Firestick won't work otherwise). Confused? I know I am, but all is working smoothly now, so all's well that ends well, mehopes..

That's annoying: retiring for the night, I dropped my 9mm on the bed, and somehow it tore the duvet cover, not quite sure how, there aren't any sharp edges on the gun I am aware of. Entirely my own fault, then, but I am not going to repair the cover, and instead spent $70 on a replacement. Amazon does have cheaper ones, but they're made of "microfiber", whatever that is, probably some kind of polyester, and cotton is much better for my skin. Ah yes, and microfiber isn't biodegradable, and can be flammable. Definitely stick to cotton, which is what my dermatologist wants me to do, anyway

Tuesday, November 1: Fall is here

Keywords: SSD, spares, fall, rotator cuff, desk, tray table
tray tableLast but not least, with the two new SSDs running smoothly in the HP Notebooks, I moved the used 2TB ADATA SSD that is now spare to my Toshiba Satellite - it took two tries to back that up, and "liberate" the Intel SSD, but it worked. I didn't even know if it would recognize a large disk, but it did, so I have a spare laptop, should I need one - unlikely, but it's working.

The weather definitely has taken a turn for the worse - it's been raining for a couple of days, and that's supposed to go on for the rest of the week. We can do with the water, it's been dry for monts, unusually for the Puget Sound - part of the reason for the incessant wildfires is the lack of precipitation. Not a lot anybody can do about that, the grass was still dead a couple of days ago, fingers crossed. Our intrepid lawnmowers don't help, of course, but they get paid by the hour, so don't deserve complaints, they work hard, and work a lot.

I noticed there are now three Teslas parked in front of the apartment building next door, apart from all of the other Teslas in the neighbourhood, this is becoming an increasingly affluent area. Curiously, I see fewer and fewer Bimmers and Mercs and things - SUVs and pickups, yes, but fewer foreign sedans, with the exception of Volkswagens.

I had "problems", if that's what you can call them, with the rotator cuffs in both shoulder joints. My rheumatologist prescribed physical therapy, I've just not gotten around to doing that, and I have not been doing some of the exercises I should be doing, either. Having said that, I do stretch the joints in the shower, in the morning, and I have just realized my keyboard position (I spend a fair amount of time behind the computer) may be wrong, as well. The table I sit at may be just too high for my shoulders, and I never realized until I replaced my desk chair with one that turned out to be lower, and I developed more pain. Possible, then, that my shoulder joints got too much strain from my sitting position.

Amazon delivered the new adjustable tray table this morning, and so I've been using my Bluetooth keyboard in a new position, with hopefully less strain on my shoulders, all day. That moved my screens, as well, so we will see. Thinking about it, the rotator cuff injuries may be caused by my repeated moves, these past few years, which I did, by myself, with my SUV, which entailed some quite heavy loads, first from Lynnwood to Kenmore, with some of my stuff going into storage in Edmonds, and then everything from Kenmore and Edmonds to Magnolia. In hindsight, I may well have done my shoulders in doing that, I recall having a couple of shoulder injuries during the moves. Just never put two and two together, until now. Yes, the chair and the tray table ended up turquoise, for some reason, really don't know why, but I think that looks good. Different, but good ;)

Saturday, October 29: Updating, replacing, health

Keywords: reconfiguring Windows, large disks, silicon drives, autumn, walking, COVID
Endocrinology testsI am still amazed that my older HP2560 laptop is running like a bat out of hell, now that I finally have that huge (4TB) SSD working in it, I spent weeks trying to figure out how to clone the load I had in there. After the clone, I reconfigured the Windows 8.1 I have running in it, fine tuned things a bit, and between all that and the faster CPU I installed in it last year the thing seems to run faster than the newer, faster, more advanced HP2570 I have - the 2560 doesn't even have USB3. What with the massive hard disk, I can use this for storage and recording - once I finish the backup I am running, I will reinstall the recording software (I've got the media package running again, with a newer broadcast TV receiver), and then should be able to rebuild my broadcast off-air library. Super. I just need to finish the massive (1.8 terabyte) backup...

It is getting colder and colder, I had used my computer activities as an excuse not to go for my walks (that and the lack of sunshine..), but now that I have more or less finished revamping both laptops, I really need to get "my skates on" again.. Get the warm stuff and winter jackets out, etc. Blah, but it has to be done. The pic above right is my quarterly blood draw, endocrinology and rheumatology, just to make sure my medication is "on target", as they say..

I've spent way too much money replacing aging things - the ADATA SSD was a good example, with a 92% life expectancy it didn't immediately need replacing, but having said that, two older conventional drives have intermittently malfunctioned, and that really means I should discard them, I've lost some data on one of them. The 12 terabyte ZyXEL NAS array I bought is getting the loads from these older drives, I never fully realized a RAID 5 array can lose one of its four drives without losing any data (it has 8 usable terabytes out of its administrative 12TB capacity), and I have another 3 terabyte drive as a spare for that.

What with the rain, the cold, several days of computer disk replacement (drive cloning can take 8 hours, and you have to sit there and make sure there aren't error messages) and some other stuff, I turns out I didn't do my walks for a whole entire week. That's bad, thankfully I managed the past few days (2 sweaters, leather jacket, gloves..), I just need to keep that up, may have to head back to the gym when the weather gets colder. Don't like the idea, because of COVID, but I don't do well in the cold, either - and it is something I need to be wary of, my sister tells me she has, after coming through the entire pandemic unscathed, recently contracted COVID when she started traveling again. She's fine, but even so, it is still out there.

Wednesday, October 26: Home stuff and cloning disks

Keywords: autumn, cold, Macrium, drive cloning, Fanxiang, SSD, drive deterioration, Windows 10 Pro
2PM - got up at my usual 6:30AM, but have been doing chores and household stuff since my shower. Don't know how I get so busy with reasonably meaningless stuff - there's always something, and I didn't even do laundry today. Usually, I run a wash three days a week, linen, underwear, this week it was my jeans collection added. That way I only use one of the two machines, early morning in the building laundry room, and the other washing machine is available for other tenants. Though I normally do laundry at 7:30 AM, around that time there's only one other person using the laundry, same way I do.

Today was particularly hectic - the weather turned downright cold (it was 80s only a couple of days ago), so it was definitely the right moment to change the filters in my heat pumps, and reset the wireless thermostats from cooling to heating. It's been raining, intermittently, good news, we've not had any precipitation to speak of for months. Wet enough for me not to go for my daily walk..

I've started up the new (free) version of the Macrium Reflect drive clone utility – I had used version 7.0 to install the 4 terabyte ADATA SSD in my HP2560 laptop, then realized the 2 terabyte version in my HP2570 was indicating a measurable lifetime reduction, so decided to “freshen” that up. Installing a brand new 2TB Fanxiang SSD, I learned that you do not have to initialize or format a new drive for cloning at all, for as long as the computer can “see” the drive, Macrium will use it. You can check this with Windows' Disk Manager, just don't let it do anything, and simply cancel out after you've checked. I am sitting here waiting for Macrium to finish cloning my original drive, after which I can physically install the new drive. One advantage of my HP laptops is that they have a secondary external eSATA port, for which I have a cable, and that lets me create a secondary bootable disk, which often cannot be done on a USB drive caddy.

As the “used” 2TB ADATA SSD will be relegated to spare, I think I may pop that into my Toshiba laptop, which is equally “spare”. I've got a Windows 10 Pro install on there which I only maintain to make sure I have an extra Windows license, should I need one, and moving that to the ADATA drive will mean I can discard the old Intel SSD that's now in there. With only 160GB, it is pretty much obsolete – funnily enough it came originally out of my HP2560, where it ran Windows 7. Seems like a long time ago. I must say that old 2560 is now, with the new 4TB ADATA, blisteringly fast, especially since I updated the CPU in that machine.

Thursday, October 20: Routers and faster WiFi

Keywords: ZyXEL NAS, HP, Adata SSD, Windows 8 Pro, Windows 10 Pro, ASUS, T-Mobile, Victure
I can't believe I spent a good two weeks trying to get software to work with my HP laptops, both in terms of backing them up, and in terms of restoring the disk load on one of them, all this in combination with my new NAS array, and how to do a restore from my network. The older HP, a 2560 business notebook, had a failing hard disk, a 2 terabyte Seagate FireCuda hybrid (part silicon, part mechanical) drive that never worked very well. The silicon/winchester combo has, I think, a problem exchanging and moving data between the media. The one thing I couldn't figure out was how to copy that drive to a new drive, and maintain bootability. Try as i might, I could not get backing up and subsequent restoring to work, in Windows 8.1 nor with one of the backup applications I have.

Long story short, and without boring the knickers off off you, I eventually managed to get the data off the bad Seagate (most backup software fails when it discovers bad sectors on the from: drive) and finally found cloning software that let me clone the repaired from: drive to the brilliant 4TB ADATA SSD I couldn't get to properly format. Eventually, a free version of the excellent Macrium software did the trick, and over two days helped me create a bootable very fast very large SSD, which the older HP BIOS was able to access and use. I won't bore you with the rest of it, but the 2560 is now fully functional, the large SSD has made it quite fast, and I even managed my Microsoft Media Server under Windows 8.1 Pro to run again. The 2560, with the new SSD, actually doesn't run as hot as it used to, so I am well pleased. Couple more reinstalls and I'll be happy as a clam, especially the lower running temperature is unexpectedly pleasing.

Victure WiFiI have replaced my secondary router as well - it was a T-Mobile branded ASUS WiFi router, which worked well, but it would occasionally "drop" both WiFi channels, for no obvious reasons. Additionally, it was "special" T-Mobile technology, and there was never a firmware update. It was intended to provide Ethernet connectivity from T-Mobile cellphones, but those now all have Hotspot capability, something you have to pay extra for, and so the ASUS functionality was no longer used. I recently decided to look for a cheap replacement, and found a "Victure" (no, me neither) high speed WiFi router with gigabit ports that ended up to be just what the doctor ordered, at a "massive" $33.06, tax included. I got it to support the dual LAN trunking my new NAS array is capable of, and the WiFi ports are pretty amazing, at 300/300 megabits per second, at least that's what my laptops come in at, that's a first for me. I managed to get it to log in without accessing some obscure Chinese (as in, .cn) website, so I am quite happy. Amazing, how many of these products, my ZyXEL NAS drive, my Linksys router, and this Victure contraption, al insist on contacting their manufacturers wen you first activate them, and presumably report your data to them. I hate that, none of their business, and I usually spend a bit of time bypassing that data collection capability, not always easily - Victure in China took the cake, in reporting the router's master login and password directly to its manufacturer in Shenzen, or it would not even activate...

Sunday, October 9: Repairs and Fixes

Keywords: Housing Authority, ZyXEL NAS, RAID 5, Ethernet, tcp/ip, ASUS router, AIS Backup, link aggregation, trunking
elevator landing 2nd floorThe Housing Authority finally fixed my bathroom ceiling - it was all a bit squirelly, there was a fire in the roof space above the apartment above me, but in order to fully rebuild that, they had to replace the bath upstairs, and the drain for that could only be installed through my bathroom ceiling. Then, it took two months for a painter to come and fix the resultant hole, and re-paint. But it got done, and the painter unexpectedly paid me a compliment about the good and tidy shape my apartment is in, which was sort of unusual. I must admit I managed not to clutter the place up, having been used to living in two and three bedroom homes I realized early on I had to make sure not to bring too much stuff, to keep the place manageable. And I guess the painter inadvertently confirmed I have been successful. Many of my neighbours, here in this seniors building, ended up retiring here, but not getting rid of much of the stuff they'd really never need again - like everybody seems to have a sofa, even though they rarely sit on them (besides, slouching is really bad for the back..) Anyway, it's done and dusted, and the apartment is airtight again. They do come and fix stuff, so complain I really can't. That's the second floor elevator landing, BTW, the light was just particularly pretty this morning, "the '60s view".

In the interim, I've just about finished backing up the "secondary" laptop to my new network storage, which takes time. AIS Backup is set up to create ZIP archives, and that over Ethernet, it all takes time, especially considering I have some 1.4 terabytes sitting on that laptop, and I have programmed the backup software to use no more than 35% of processor capacity, so we don't get overheating symptoms, and so far, so good, it is (after a week) just about done.

You may recall I discovered this RAID array is capable of trunking and link aggregation, using its two Ethernet ports. Not knowing this, I had installed the unit with two separate links, and that is how it has been running. So after the "big backup" it was time to get the link aggregation going, not even knowing if that would work on my ASUS / T-Mobile router. But it was smooth as a baby's bottom, I activated the double link on the NAS drive with a single manual IP address (one IP address and one MAC address for two ports, who knew?), gave it the router's IP as gateway, and the NAS array and the ASUS router did the rest, automagically. That meant, of course, that the secondary laptop now had the IP address I gave it before, that no longer exists, but I managed to rehome it on the single link, sharing the IP. Cool, and almost painless..

The remaining issue is that I'd like to move the load of the older laptop onto the large (4 TB) SSD I am not using for backup any more, something I have so far not managed to do. I can restore that machine from the NAS array now, which is pretty cool, and run quick daily backups, but I'd like to move a lot of my data to this laptop, from where it will automagically will back up to the NAS array. Getting closer, but not quite there yet. Maybe tomorrow... right now I am trying to clone the older laptop's drive. ADATA, who made the 4TB SSD I have, now have a cloning facility in their utility software. We shall see..

Sunday, October 2: Backing up and testing

Keywords: ZyXEL NAS, RAID 5, Linksys, wireless bridge, WiFi 5, dual band WiFi, AIS Backup, link aggregation
I have to tell you that the network I've now built, with the new T-Mobile Hotspot router and the new ZyXEL network drive, is probably the best I've had in years, at least since I lived in Virginia all by my lonesome. After I moved to the Seattle area, I've lived in rentals and shared the internet, and even though I had manager access, housemates tended not to understand how to manage their phones and laptop connectivity, and the carrier routers and WiFi were always two technologies behind. NAS arrayNow living in my own apartment, with a dedicated latest 4G LTE dual-band Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) Hotspot, but this time combined with a dedicated Linksys router providing a 5GB dual band WiFi bridge, has really helped with speed and reliability. A classic - I had the Linksys router for a while, but never knew what its WiFi bridging capabilities were. No more USB (other than for charging)....

Something I realized a few days ago, when I went over the NAS manual again, is that this four drive ZyXEL is capable of port trunking and link aggregation, as it has two Ethernet ports, which can work together over a single router, and this improves throughput. The smaller ZyXEL I used before does not have that capability, so I hadn't really looked at it when installing the new unit. At this point, I am in the middle of backing up both of my laptops to the NAS, using my trusty AIS Backup application, so I won't be able to activate the trunking and load bearing until that's finished, and then I will need to first test the AIS restore-over-Ethernet capability, which I have used before, using AIS boot disks. So I'll let you know when I get to that, as the 1.4 terabyte backup from my HP 2560 is taking its sweet time. But after that, I will no longer need to back up to external drives (well, the NAS array is external too, of course), which will make backup management much easier. Patience *smile*.. At least I know now I can simultaneously back up both laptops, without much loss of performance.

Having said that, I am discovering RAID 5 with 4 drives is meticulous, reliable but slow. It is probably partly my own fault, since I did not activate link aggregation when I set up this box (didn't even know I could, or how to), and once I finish running the main backup turning on link aggregation will probably speed things up a bit, but that is not something I am too worried about. I have tested AIS Backup Recovery, and that works, though - I managed to activate an FTP routine I didn't even know was available on the NAS box by default. I can run that from an AIS DVD, which will talk to the laptop's native Ethernet, without my having to do anything fancy, but I'll probably need to activate link aggregation before both my systems will "play ball". There are currently two IP addresses that show on my router, and I should really only use one for both built in LANs, with both laptops. No rush with that, though, as I said, finish the main backup first, then do a ROBOCOPY from one laptop to the other, then swap out the secondary 2 terabyte disk for a 4 terabyte SSD I now have spare. Plenty to do still..

Saturday, September 24: Network drive done!

Keywords: ZyXEL NAS, RAID 5, terabytes
unpack deskWhile I had owned a number of NAS drives, they were always two-disk arrays, which are fast, reliable (though not fault tolerant) and were affordable. The larger arrays were simply too expensive, and I've always "made do" by backing up my computers separately, as well as storing their data on a network drive. At this point in time, however, backing up the amount of data I have amassed just takes too much time, so when I came across a NAS solution that is both larger and cheaper I decided to "go that way". My new four drive array, which I can partly populate with 3 TB drives I already have, will end up with four 3TB drives, with a functional fault tolerant load of just over 8 TB (stripe + parity, for the cognoscenti). That's brilliant, I'll be able to store all of my data on the new device, and only have to separately back up two laptops, once a week or so, with AIS Backup keeping incremental images on the NAS array all by itself. Once all that is done and working properly, I can probably sell the original ZyXEL 2-bay drive. Bought in 2017, that cost me just under $500, and has done very well, though once I moved out of my Lynnwood digs, in early 2019, I no longer managed the LAN. It ended up in storage until recently, only ever saw a couple of years of service, and its disk drives have now moved to the four bay array I just bought.

I must say I am mightily impressed with the ZyXEL NAS drives, both the old and the new - the new, 4 bay, version is mostly smooth as a baby's bottom. It is a little slow by comparison, but that is because of the amount of redundance built into the system. It has so much security, striping and parity provisions that it ends up with 8.11 usable terabytes (out of 12), while it takes a little while for all four of the drives to spin up and load their caches, once the box has gone to "sleep". That means the drives will last, and there is little or no chance of overheating (there is a massive but noiseless variable speed fan that runs 24/7 in the back of the box). At this point, I have transferred most of my archived data, which boils down to 2.10 TB, leaving me plenty of "spare space", and I need to start consolidating some of the stuff on my two laptops, which is pretty much duplicated, a job I need to finish, and then I can start removing data on my primary laptop that I don't need there, after I replace the 2 TB hybrid drive in the secondary laptop with a 4 TB SSD I no longer need for backing up. Five days' work so far, including three for the NAS and two for the network install, and probably another week to follow...

Having copied my one terabyte backup to the NAS drive, next thing down will be to try and run an incremental on the new backup location, check if I've done all that right, and take it from there. Tomorrow :)

Sunday, September 18: End of summer, indoors network fun

Keywords: Franklin T10, T-Mobile Hotspot, streaming,5GHz bridge, ZyXEL NAS, RAID
T-Mobile WiFi HotspotTrue, there wasn't much to write about, the past couple of months, but at the same time there is so much I don't write about in principle, like neighbours, stuff, I don't like to get negative, get personal, or go off on people, and what with the continuing COVID scare I am still not going to the gym, or out in general, the risk is still significant. Couple days ago I got an invitation from the Seattle Visitng Nurse Association to come get my third (Pfizer) booster, so I went and did that, thankfully with fewer side effects than the previous (Moderna) two. And in the interim, summer is taking a back seat, the heat is down, and the temperatures are falling, though it is still plenty sunny and I get my afternoon walks in "as normal". I've had some heating going for the past couple of days, but that may well be a consequence of the chills that come with the COVID booster...

On a completely different note, I've had to replace my Franklin Wi-Fi Hotspot, after a number of access failures, but much to my delight T-Mobile decided to send me the new 4G/LTE Franklin T10, rather than the T9 I had. As it turns out, the T10 has better bandwidth, and particularly better 5GHz coverage, and I am fairly over the moon with that. At the $14.95 old-geezer-subsidy rate Connectall charges, you can't go wrong. That's $14.95/month, unlimited (really) data, and no deposit or security, while the Hotspot is a full blown router, with 15 5.0/2.4 GHz Wi-Fi ports, and one NDIS USB 2.0 connector, rather than Ethernet.

What I "discovered", you see, is that using a Linksys router I've had for a while, I am able to bridge the 5GHz trunk from the Hotspot onto my wired Ethernet, and that works a lot better than I had expected. Better, and faster. I had done that before, to my then landlord's Comcast Wi-Fi router, but that had not worked well. The Linksys always gave me a bit of a headache - it is set up so you're forced to activate it using an online Linksys-provided internet account, and I don't like having to provide my details and network data to manufacturers. Other brands don't make a big deal of this, but Linksys actively tries to hide all "offline" capabilities. I eventually figured out a way around it, but that means you have to figure out your own Ethernet settings, and once that's done you have to try and talk the thing into creating an Ethernet/WiFi "bridge" with the Hotspot. This involves programming, as well as sitting around for ten minutes while it tries to establish the trunk, and I don't have that much patience, and the device does not talk back to you.

So far so good - while the "new and improved" internet connection is the important part, since my new network layout - hotspot, network bridge, terminating router - lets me do things I haven't been able to for a while, I dug up my NAS device (NAS = network attached storage), since I ought to be able to connect that to both my laptops using my repurposed T-Mobile ASUS router. I hadn't used my NAS, which has two hard disks under RAID 0, for quite a while - two-drive NAS devices let you store things via your LAN with great speed, and are accessible from multiple computers and other devices.

Since I moved to Seattle, I've been using multiple drives for storage and backup, since I no longer had a local area network, but as I've now managed to put a "proper" internetted home network in again, I decided I'd splash out for a large redundant RAID array. Much to my delight, Amazon had a larger ZyXEL on sale, a four drive array, for about half the price of their two drive unit (which I have), and that meant I could set up a lot of secure storage, and consolidate the various drives I currently use.

Not too shabby, then, and all caused by having to get a new hotspot, and digging up my existing network equipment. I should get the new NAS enclosure shortly, and two more drives I need to make that work, so I'll give you an update pretty soon..

Thursday, July 28: Heat, and then some

Keywords: A/C, Edgestar, Franklin Hotspot, T-Mobile WiFi, streaming, rugby, blogging, TV dongle
kitchen viewThe heat has finally gotten here, the Pacific Northwest is broiling to the point that the Housing Authority has authorized to keep the Community Room's A/C on, and is providing bottled water. As far as my apartment is concerned, my heat pumps keep it all very manageable. Temperatures are up to the point subsidized portable A/C units are available to folks with low incomes, something that indicates global warming is catching up with the general population, this is an area where traditionally few people had A/C, but that is changing rapidly. I got lucky, I suppose - I'd had air conditioning on the East Coast as far back as when I lived in New York City, but when I applied for a subsidized apartment here in Seattle, the first thing I did, even before the application had been approved, was invest in a couple of reconditioned portable heat pumps, more or less "just in case" - buying them in winter meant I got them cheap. I knew that once I had a lease and needed to buy furniture and things and move and my rent would almost double, I would not be able to afford A/C units, as well. I rarely run both of my (14,000 BTU) units at the same time, but we've reached that stage now, at least until next week. The picture here is one of the testers I took with my reprogrammed Nikon, but for illustration, one of the heat pumps is left in the picture, that's the one I crank up to keep the place cool at night, when I turn the one in the bedroom off, too close to my bed to sleep.

You may recall I got a T-Mobile WiFi Hotspot via the wonderful interconnection.org folks, and that this occasionally "hiccups". Then, last week, I found these WiFi routers at Amazon, heavily discounted, so I just ordered a spare, and then when it gets here I'll see if I can get it to work with my existing subscription. It is exactly the same unit T-Mobile sells, down to the branding, so the idea of having a spare, rather than having to request a replacement, is brilliant. Yes, I may get a 5G unit when they get cheaper, but for now, the 4G LTE version does just fine, I can stream UK and US TV without problems.The router interconnects my laptops and a couple of cellphones, as well, so I should be OK.

Eh? Ireland won the series from the All Blacks, in New Zealand, of all places? The mind boggles. A lot of sports going on, anyway - from the Tour de France and Women's International Soccer to various cricket tournaments.. I've not followed much of it, I like sports live, but some of it isn't a television sport, in my book.

I've not been blogging very actively - I mostly need to catch up with the broadcast TV I do on my "other" laptop, and I gradually lost most of those facilities, and have not gotten around to putting that back together - if I even can. Microsoft is in process of discontinuing Windows 8 and 8.1, and that effectively means the half life of my Windows Media Center is nigh. It isn't an issue, and I may be able to find a Windows 10 source of broadcast TV, I have another dongle, but even Windows 10 isn't going to last, assuming I can find a fuctioning load, which I should have on disk somewhere. The "other" laptop was designed for Windows 7, and so may only be of limited use, it does not even natively have USB3 ports. We shall see, I like futzing, but I may well rely more on the faster, more advanced HP 2570p I use much of the time.

Thursday, July 14: Nikon, decoration

Keywords: Camera, backlight, wall ornaments, apartment, storage, sleep methodology
magnoliabedroomI hadn't used my Nikon in quite a while, and when I finally did I really couldn't get the focus right, I'd had problems with my external flash before. Part of the problem was that I just didn't use it enough to get the controls straight, until today, when I got annoyed to the point I took some time to figure out where I went wrong. There are rather a lot of settings, and my former prowess seems to have stayed the other side of age 70. Anyway, long story short, I finally managed to take a new picture of my bedroom, with the sun streaming in, but with the flash working right, as you can see on the left here. I wanted a well lit shot with light streaming in the window but the black sheets properly lit, and I guess I finally managed to get the camera to behave, I hadn't noticed the screw-on battery compartment was a bit on the loose side. New rechargeable flash batteries seem to have helped too, because the wide angle setting of my main lens is 17mm, I have to bounce the flash to "fill" the shot properly. Finally worked that out, today. On "auto", too *smile*.

And no, if you were wondering, I don't do pictures on walls. Never much did, anyway, but as I did away with books and bookcases, pictures and paintings went the way of the dodo too. I must say I like plain white walls, and what visual aspects I have consists mostly of screens, which have moving pictures on them, insofar as they do. No TV in the bedroom, either, I understand watching TV or a screen before bed impairs the sleep pattern, so I've taken to reading a physical book before bed, which the medical profession says makes for better sleep.

I am quite pleased with the way the apartment has turned out - plenty of space, no clutter, plenty of storage, I've done reasonably well. And no, that's not a small bedroom, it is a huge bed - the absolute largest I could get at Amazon, in fact. The kitchen is uncluttered, and my corner of the building is generally quiet. Having the corner space means I have only one neighbour - well, none, at this point, as the neighbours passed away / moved out, and no new tenants have yet materialized. Even then, the Housing Association still has to do the mandatory refurbishment, so that will be a while. Currently my upstairs neighbour, who had a fire in her apartment, is storing some of her stuff there. In many ways, I realized I used my big house in Virginia more as a storage space than as anything else, and having to get rid of the clutter before moving to Seattle was, in hindsight, a godsend. The pawn shop in Virginia paid for the Uhaul and the gas, so to speak... ;)

Thursday, July 7: Exercise, routers

Keywords: walking, heart rate, heat pump, A/C, T-Mobile, Franklin router
heart rate monitorWhile I am (for COVID reasons) still not going to the gym, I walk as much as I can, meaning I try and get a solid half hour walk in around my neighbourhood, every day. That's the medical recommendation - half an hour of brisk walking, and I wear a heart monitor when I exercise, so I have a statistical overview of my efforts, and just maintaining a spreadsheet keeps me on my toes. I have lost well over 15 lbs since giving up alcohol, by the way, something I hadn't even anticipated. The HRM (heart rate monitor, pic top left), however, didn't always work, and I found that the mobile phone I normally carry interferes with the phone that I have the monitoring app installed on, so I now just carry the monitoring app, and I get perfect readings. It is known that multiple devices with Bluetooth and WiFi will interfere with each other, so that solution was easy.

Much to my surprise, swapping the heat pumps led to one "finicky" unit running better - I recall I bought that reconditioned, and it always had a problem starting a heating cycle when the ambient temperature got up to 65, but as of yesterday, when I moved it, it is working fine. It is the unit that is a bit noisy, but as it sits in my bedroom, and I don't use it at night, that's no issue. I had been all over the internet to see if I could find a replacement, but it does not now look that that's necessary. I noticed that exactly the same heat pump is available with a different brand name, no idea why that is, but at least I can get a replacement if I need one (and have 600 spare $$s).

In the interim, the T-Mobile T-9 Franklin Hotspot continues to malfunction, and I still cannot figure out why. Just as I was about to turn in, last night, it lost its WiFi, but the hardwired connection (NDIS over USB) kept working. I powered down the laptop, and sure enough, by the time I got up the internet service wasn't working at all, hardwire or otherwise. I was planning to call the service folks again, even though it was Sunday, but after futzing a little bit, which included removing the VPN DNS addresses, and manually resetting the router, it all came back. I still have to talk to the support folks, and see if they can send me a replacement, something is squirrelly, I've had four unexplainable internet failures in three weeks, but for now, things seem OK.

Thursday, June 30: A/C on, Hotspot fixed

Keywords: heat pumps, A/C filters, Mobile Citizen, T-Mobile
Edgestar heat pumpIt is time for some more maintenance - swapping my heat pumps, which helps clear out any debris that might have gotten into the hoses, and because one of the heat pumps is noisier than the other, I am better off with that sitting in the bedroom (where I don't run a heat pump at night). Mustn't forget to replace the A/C filters next month, those cut-to-size filters I get at Amazon, wich have a "sticky" layer on one surface, are a godsend. The initial heat wave over, it's best to do some of this stuff now, before summer hits for real, probably in a few days' time. For those of you who are thinking about getting portable air conditioners, get dual hose heat pumps, because the single hose variety will suck air you've just cooled or heated out of the room, and use it to power the heat exchanger. I mean, it works, but that is hardly efficient - my heat pumps are dual hose, so any air the compressor needs it gets from outside. I had a single hose unit, a few years ago, and decided it wasn't terribly efficient, so I sold it, and replaced it with a dual hose unit, which heats as well as cools, and gets its exchange air from outside. It is a little more expensive, but it works very well. Interestingly, summers are getting hotter in the Pacific Northwest, and one charity, which provides energy subsidies to those less well off, has now begun to provide free portable A/C units to the poor, those that qualify for energy support already.

I only just noticed I hadn't done any walking for most of the week, but spent much of my time fixing my laptop network and the network interface - my T-Mobile Hotspot had conked out repeatedly, for no clear reason, and I didn't get it working again until I spent some time on the phone with the folks at Mobile Citizen (mobilecitizen.org), which provides technical support for the retiree discount internet service I lease from Interconnection (interconnection.org). They talked me through a full reset of the Mobile Hotspot, something I eventually figured out how to do myself, when I understood some of the settings in the wireless router just did not work right. The Hotspot provides wired (NDIS over USB) as well as multiple WiFi services, and for as long as I am not trying to do fancy stuff this works just fine. The only "problem" was that Mobile Citizen replaced the Sprint Coolpad they had originally issued with a T-Mobile Franklin T-9 hotspot, more or less without warning, and so I didn't really have a chance to experiment with the new settings, not helped by Mobile Citizen stating it was a 5G device, when in fact it supports only 4G LTE.

Mobile Citizen was very helpful, though no solution was immediately found, a Sprint (now part of T-Mobile) customer support agent spent well over an hour on the phone with me, and then opened a trouble ticket with T-Mobile for me, to be actioned the next day. After a huge amount of troubleshooting, as he was on the phone with T-Mobile technical support, I turned off my VPN, which directs my internet to dedicated DNS servers, this is how I access some European services. Once I had all of the networking on my laptop looking at default services (= T-Mobile's default DNS), Internet service came back, though I had to reboot both the Hotspot and the laptop to get it to actually work. A short while later, normal Internet access came back, and after I finished up with the support person, I reprogrammed my network stack to access the VPN, and somehow, magically, that worked. I don't really know how I got it to misfire, this has happened a couple of times over the past week, but at least I now have some kind of solution that works.

Sunday, June 26: Summer's Here!

Keywords: HP laptop, solid state drive, eSATA, backup, weather, COVID, King County Health, car maintenance, Durango
Durango outsideWhat with Summer arriving, I've done the necessary car maintenance, or rather, had the various mechanics do it, the last job was topping up (myself) the refrigerant in the A/C in my trusty old Dodge, in the pic top left. It was more a quick check the A/C was OK, it did not need a lot of refrigerant, literally a top up, so I can be pleased with the maintenance I had done previously. The A/C, additionally, comes on whenever I use the defroster, which means it runs in winter, occasionally, especially in cold and rainy weather, it isn't just "hot weather apparatus". But it's fine, checked the oil and other fluids, tires, I needed to top up the oil a few weeks ago, after the oil change, once it had run it wanted another half quart, I added some 10W40 High Mileage oil, always a good idea in an old V-8 in summer, it normally wants 5W30, next will be the air filter, and that will be it. It is doing well for an old car, fingers crossed, I could not afford to replace it.

The weather is improving, here in Seattle - today, for the first time this year, the forecast calls for 74 degrees, and we'll take summer from there, I guess. I've just replaced my A/C filters, so I'll be able to run the cooling cycle in my heat pumps as necessary. Having said that, we're waiting for the sun to put in an appearance - hopefully, once FedEx delivers my refrigerated medication shipment, I'll be able to do my daily walk, it is frustrating not to be able to go to the gym due to COVID. People do go and work out, but I just don't yet want to take the risk, considering the COVID statistics in King County. The COVID "hit rate" has been going up slowly (that's number of cases as well as deaths) since April, so now is not a good time to experiment with exposure risk. Having said that, I can take my daily walks, much like I used to in Lynnwood, before I got my gym membership.

So I had two external eSATA cables, with USB power, and at some point I could not get the (external) drives they were intended for to work any more. Turns out the cables (both!) simply died, I ordered another to test (with Amazon, you can just return something you don't want / need), and that worked just fine. Not only that, running a backup over eSATA (one internal, one external) is blisteringly fast using SSDs, something I didn't know. It is kind of important to do these backups - one of them, using AIS Backup, failed, I have no idea why, and I have to do it all over again. But since I can run the Microsoft backup over SSD/eSATA really fast now, it isn't that much of an issue. I just need to grab a Windows recovery DVD and test that I can talk to the 4TB backup SSD over eSATA. Should be OK, but one never knows for sure unless it's been tried, right? I just received the second eSATA converter cable I ordered, and that works fine, too. What it boils down to is that I can largely dispense with the USB connectors, and at least use large 2 to 4 TB) disks on eSATA. USB3 is supposedly fast, but the USB ports all share the system's bandwidth, where the eSATA ports (two internal, two external) get locked down on the system bus, where nothing can interfere with it. I've tried the backup drive on eSATA, more or less for the first time, and that runs swimmingly fast, from the look of it faster than USB3. Since I lost a partial backup on USB3, the other day, it looks like backing up via eSATA is the more sensible solution, especially since my HP 2560 only has USB2, but it does have eSATA, and because I have docking stations for both HP's, they both have three eSATA ports, one of which is internal. The drawback of eSATA is that the drives have to have a separate power supply, either a USB port, or an external 5VDC power unit.

Friday, June 10: Drive swaps

Keywords: HP laptop, solid state drive, Google mail, POP and IMAP, video broadcast recordings, SSD transfer rates
The "worksurface" you're looking at is actually my 6x6 foot dining-table-cum-desk - I figured that I could clear the table quickly enough to use it for entertaining, serving dinner, as the computers I use are smaller "business notebooks", and the larger screen is a lightweight Sceptre LCD monitor, easy to move and remove, and only used as a computer monitor, connected to the docked HP laptop on the left. Having both a smaller desk and a smaller dining table in the same room didn't seem the best way to go. Of course, I have no family close, and no kids, so my furnishing needs are different from those of my neighbours - I don't have a settee either, mostly because slouching would really do a number on my lower back, damaged as it is from a vehicle accident in the 1970's.

Magnolia deskThe reason I have two mobile phones is simply that I believe in spares, one of these not only has my old East Coast number, but receives my emails, duplicating what comes in on the laptop. The other is my "home phone", I use that for my local calls, and there are some duplicate apps that are important to me, like banking and VOIP. That way, if one of my handsets fails, I don't lose the stuff I need, which is mostly both on a laptop and the primary handset. The phone I carry on my hip has navigation and my health app, which I use to monitor heart rate and other health functions. Not all apps agree with each other, so having all you need on one handset is generally asking for trouble.

Google has now disabled both POP mail and IMAP, if used from third party applications, which is really annoying, I am no longer able to retrieve Gmail using my standard mail application. While that still works with my own domain, I am going to have to stop using Google mail - and I do not really understand why IMAP works with Android phones, but not with Windows laptops. Does not make sense.

In the meantime, I've decided to swap my video broadcast drive, which is getting old, with the 4TB SSD, which is more or less new. Not being electro-mechanical, the SSD should last a long time, and I have the ADATA diagnostic software needed to monitor the drive. Of course, the very night I began moving almost 2TB of TV programming to the SSD, there was a power glitch - the drives came back, but the transfer rate more than halved, so I am going to have to try that again.

One day later, and I did manage to copy most of the broadcast video - I have a sneaking suspicion the old hard drive just has a hard time keeping up with the 4TB SSD, which isn't just a lot faster than the "regular" drive, but, using an older eSATA interface, which runs at 1.5GB/s, while the external eSATA SSD rates at 3GB/s, while the internal drive, which does the buffering, runs at 6GB/s. Anyway, this is done, and the old 2TB external ia in storage, though I will likely retire it, drives don't last forever. Something I like about the "big" SSD is that I can check its state using the diagnostic software ADATA has made available, though there is some diagnostic software for the older drives, too.

Wednesday, June 1: Banks and phones

Keywords: HP laptop, solid state drive, international bank accounts, price increases
HP 2570p business laptopWhile I had intended to move the 4 terabyte SSD to the older HP laptop, necessary it isn't, and when I tried to format the "big" SSD all I ended up with was a repeated access failure. So I eventually gave up - the 2560 with Windows 8.1 Pro now has a 2TB hybrid drive - part SSD, part conventional - while the 2570 with Windows 10 Pro has a 2TB SSD. Both run fine, for as long as I have patience booting, they both have a significant load of data on them, and I need to give them the time to get running propperly, with all of the Intel drivers loaded and running. Cutting corners is not in the program, nor is it really necessary, I have an Intel "Rapid Storage" app that autostarts and helps check drive runtime parameters.

Then, I needed to replace one mobile phone, got the new SIM card installed and working, removed the SIM card I had used for testing, and called T-Mobile again to see if I could additionally turn the spare phone off and save myself some money. Much to my surprise, that was possible, and the assistant helping me do all this told me I can switch to an "Unlimited 55+" calling plan that saves me an additional $50 per month. As I had used the older Blackberry only for navigation, and I have Google Maps on my new phone, I am pretty well set. So now everything is working, I am saving some money, and I've got a decent new phone with facial and fingertip recognition, which is convenient.

I had not been able to access my European bank account through its webpage, this since November of last year, I'd spoken to folks in their office, but nobody ever managed to turn it back on. From when they started with two step verification, I just couldn't get their system to call me for verification, which is what its security depends on. Then, yesterday, I can't even remember why I tried again, but it suddenly worked. Whether this has anything to do with my new phone I don't know, but I have access. It isn't an account I use every day, but I like being able to check balances and stuff, if I do not access periodically they send me nastigrams about data security. Having spoken to the bank again, I've managed to turn on the mobile bank app as well, so I can now access my account both on the web and on the mobile, meaning I have a backup access method if one does not work, as has happened before. European banks aren't as "astute" technologically as American banks are, honest. As I use a relatively slow WiFi Hotspot, this isn't luxury, if the interface is slow bank access can be problematical, but one out of two usually works. Occasionally, I have to switch off WiFi and revert to 4G LTE on one of my handsets, as the Hotspot isn't particularly fast, and is shared by several mobile devices and two laptops.

On the financial front, I am for now doing OK, though the price increases are not making my life easier. To all intents and purposes, the war in Ukraine has effectively halved my savings, which weren't huge to begin with. Just keeping my fingers crossed I am not going to run into big medical bills or unexpected car expenses. I don't know where I'd be without my HUD subsidy - when I got the lease on this apartment I had no idea the Fed would be subsidizing my utilities, and not until the next year did I realize I actually get some money out of that deal every year. Not too shabby...

Friday, May 27: Fixing systems

Keywords: Windows 8.1, HP laptop, EPG123, Android Blu, endocrinologist, walking, exercise
street viewI spent the better part of a week fixing all sorts of technical things. My Windows broadcast recorder stopped working, twice - it runs under Windows 8.1, on a dedicated HP laptop, but the Electronic Program Guide I use, together with something called Schedules Direct, wouldn't work for a week, and I could not figure out what was wrong. Then, after I reinstalled the app, it came back up, only to die again a couple of days ago. This is all shareware, so there is little support online, but I followed what instructions I had, and this morning everything appears back to normal, "normal" meaning I am able to copy the recorded TV programming to the external disk I have hanging off my other HP laptop. ready for playback, which I usually do in the evenings.

I've now got the new mobile working reasonably well, and I think that between the Blu handset and my trusty Android Blackberry, I can likely dispense with my third mobile, equally an Android Blackberry, but an older one, which is slowly dying. As I don't need that unit any more (I used to use it for navigation with a Nokia app, but it just isn't reliable any more) - when I receive my new SIM card, and install it, I'll just switch to Google Maps on the Blackberry, where my phonebook lives anyway.

Then, of course, more doctor stuff, where I find my endocrinologist agreeing wholeheartedly that going to the gym, at this point, is not a safe idea. He and his entire family have just had a bout with COVID-19, and I guess the statistics in King County (Seattle and environs) don't look really good, at this point in time. On top of that, my thyroid hormone level is all out of whack, very likely a consequence of my quitting alcohol, which has so far caused me to lose a good 10 lbs of weight, which negatively affects my hormone level. So I am back to adjusting thyroid hormone medication level, which ususally takes a couple of months before I can see some results. All in all, the alcohol abstinence has medical consequences - apart from the thyroid hormones, I have more energy walking, and my heart rate is down, something I noe because I wear a monitor when going for a walk. All of that takes some getting used to, though none of it surprised my endocrinologist, while my rheumatologist stated my liver enzymes were "back to normal". Cool, I guess....

I am glad I walked today - that's becoming more and more of a habit again - it was overcast, but didn't start raining until just now, several hours after I got back. Condition is much improved, so I really cannot complain. Top left is just a view down the street, my building in the middle, I took this mostly because the sky was so pretty, it is getting to be spring, most days have a modicum of sun, heating is mostly off. Tomorrow I'll talk to T-Mobile and get them to activate my new SIM card, they didn't want me to install it unless they had me on the phone with a technician. Letchaknow....
The time machine through Monday May 23, 2022, with linkbacks to October, 2008, is here

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