OpInionAteD - Menno Aartsen Rants and Raves - February 15, 2024

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Menno E Aartsen February 2024. Legalese at the bottom of this page. This website is published in Singapore.

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




Thursday February 15: Parties, shooting, taxes

Keywords: backup, superbowl, networks, recovery, tax time, IRS
Other than that I need to re-install recovery partitions on my Windows 10 systems, I am pretty much done with all of the computer stuff. The re-install isn't of desperate importance, bothh work fine, and I have backups and the ability to completely reinstall, should that be necessary.

Because of all of the changes I've made to my systems and network, I've spent a fair amount of time testing and adopting different and new utility applications - on the new Elitebook, I am now using EaseUS Backup to run a daily backup over the top of a full backup, and their "rescue disk" actually is a USB3 boot device. I used DVD rescue disks before, but the new Elitebook does not have a built-in DVD drive - no room for it. The 16GB USB3 dongles, however, boot just fine, and provided I have an Ethernet connection on the unit, find the backup on one of my NAS arrays without problem. So that's cool, though I maintain a weekly Windows disk backup for that system as well. Disk, as in disk drive, not a DVD.

The hype around the Superbowl was little short of amazing, I'm still wondering how Taylor Swift and her boyfriend and her private jet stole much of the limelight, as if two entirely different worlds suddenly decided to merge, for no reason, with no purpose. I've never paid much attention to the game, not being a native born American, who did not grow up in this country - besides, I was never a soccer fan, either. But it was pretty amazing, and in Las Vegas, too - the superlative of the superlative of the superlative. The more I see of these "games", and hear about the amount of money the "fans" spend just on being there and food and drink and travel and all that other stuff, the more I wonder why someone would spend thousands of dollars or Euros to attend a game, freeze half to death, in an enormous crowd of screaming people, frothing at the mouth, with a good mix of violent hooligans thrown in, with their attendant riot police. The mind boggles.

This backup stuff gets to me, occasionally. I backed up the old HP to a network drive, but then, booting from a recovery DVD, couldn't get it to talk to the drive to run a restore. Not that I needed one, just a network test, you see. This was a Windows backup, as opposed to the AIS Backup I use on a daily basis. It is easier to run a restore from a Windows Backup, should I ever need that. Anyway, I am able to back up to an external USB or eSata drive, so it is not a man overboard scenario. I like testing these things, see if I can make them work, many facilities are not well (or not at all...) documented. It is the stuff I used to do, at the start of my career, at IBM Netherlands, and later, after moving to the United States, at Bell Labs and then at NYNEX S&T labs. I started out as a technical writer, and when I then had to document things, found it was often prudent to redesign them, rebuild them, and that's how I ended up with some Patents.

Almost forgot - well, not quite - that it is tax time, I have started collecting the paperwork. It is mostly my savings - shareholdings - that I need to be concerned with, I find the brokerage paperwork I receive a bit daunting. Kind of weird for a retired engineer who spent years in network development on Wall Street. Even physically, I had an office at "1 Wall", right on the corner - but there it is. Then a Citicorp office, I see it is now a converted Harry Macklowe condominium, with one bedrooms going from $1.5 million. Then, I found about half a million dollars' worth of uncashed cheques in a drawer of the desk I was assigned, on the fifteenth or so floor. Welcome to the Financial District...

I think I've got about half of it done, though, finish - hopefully - tomorrow. Converting and reporting my Dutch Social Security Pension is always a bit of a headache.


Friday February 2: Spring, a bit early

Keywords: warm, large backups, testing days, ear buds, ventilation, Robocopy
Toshiba SatelliteJanuary 28 - hard to believe, but the heating is off, and one heat pump is cooling. This is a warm building, heated throughout, even corridors and lobbies, but turning the heating off.. The weather forecast has it seasonal (=winter) temperatures will be back next week, but even so, we've only had a few days of real frost, and no snow at all. So far.. winter can manifest itself into March, though it looks like climate change is here to stay. One hopes.

Well, much to my surprise, the incremental Robocopy backup of my "big" NAS array actually works, and it works well. I am using an anemic older Toshiba Satellite C55 laptop, manually updated to Windows 10, with a Seagate 8TB USB3 external drive attached to it, and a gigabit Ethernet connector lugged into the one USB3 port, and that all works much more smoothly than I expected. The only way to test it was to run a full file copy, which entailed three(!) days of copying some four terabytes of data from my NAS array, using a slow Ethernet connection. Once that finished, without errors, I can try to run an incremental - this time with a gigabit Eternet interface connected to the USB3, and the external Seagate disk connected to a slow USB2 port. I had no idea if the "incremental" bit would work - Windows has to wade through some 300,000 files, compare their flags with the ones on the Seagate drive, add uncopied files, and let that be it.

You can do tests with smaller numbers of files, but a true test means you have to do the entire 4 terabytes, especially since one side of the file compare comes off an NFS mount, which I had never tried with Robocopy before. I fully expected it to bomb, but in fact, the incremental run of the entire file system only took some three hours, less than expected, and uneventful. Amazing. That means I have a full maintainable 4TB file level backup of my NAS array, which isn't just a full backup, I can use that file system to copy the contents of the old NAS array to my new NAS array, as and when. That's a relief, no more worries about losing data, and there is lots of it. RAID5 plus backup, Bob's your Uncle.

I've just bought another pair of ear buds, my first pair was so I could watch TV more easily on my laptop, but the second Bluetooth pair I just bought, for use with my cellphone, is even cheaper ($9.99) and has a stunning sound quality. As in, stunning. Amazing. I ran some bagpipes through it using Youtube over 5G, and the sound quality isn't like anything I have ever heard before, in such small devices - and again, that's $9.99. Woof.

I don't know how often, or even if, you clean the innards of your laptop, but it accumulates dust, over time, like there is no tomorrow. My older HP notebook have a bottom lid that removes just by sliding a catch, so the past few years cleaning / vacuuming those was not an issue, but other laptops, like my new HP Elitebook 840, have a lid that is fixed, it needs for some seven screws to be unscrewed before you can pry it open. And by "pry" I mean pry - thankfully, I have some plastic chip replacement tools I bought a few years ago, that will lever the bottom lid off the machine without causing damage. But simple or easy or quick it ain't. Thankfully the bottom plate comes with captive screws, so you can't lose those, but for safety's sake I have bought a spare bottom plate, even if only for when the original screws end up damaged. Same with the battery, which is internal, I got a spare for that, and I have a spare fan. Fans especially wear - in today's computers, with an SSD and no DVD drive, the fan is the only moving part, so that spare can be crucial. Next time I clean my laptop, I am going to tape off part of its bottom air inlet - I noticed the fan sucks air (with dust) directly through the vent, and as the vent is long, I think it may not adequately cool all of the memory chips. So, methinks, if I force it to suck air through the far vents, it'll cool all of the memory chips, and if the fan sensor detects too much heat, it'll just run a bit faster. I have software that tell me how warm the CPU is, so all I need to do is keep a record. Right now it's running at about 60 degrees C, which is normal - as I write, watch TV, and run two screens, all at the same time.


Saturday January 27: Almost done with the equipment

Keywords: NAS array, Terramaster, Ethernet, cabling, PE partition, arthritis, Robocopy
Temperatures are coming up - freezing last week, my car reports 52 this afternoon. With some rain, of course.

I seem to always have tons of chores to do, in the morning - been at it since 7:30am, when I started with laundry, and I just finished - at 11am - with the last of my email, an annual review of last year's income from the Dutch Social Security. It is beyond me to understand why I pay income tax in The Netherlands, where I haven't lived since the 1970s, but there it is, nothing you can do. Next, household, cleaning the coffeemaker, and running a quick dishwasher rinse, the wash will come later.

Slowly but surely catching up - I'm not necessarily "behind" in my planning, but there were some chores I've been postponing, as they weren't that urgent. One funny one was a plastic catch that is part of the drive holders in the new Terramaster NAS - I lost one of those bits of plastic as I tested a 3.5" drive, and couldn't find it. Before I contacted Terramaster, to see if I could get a replacement catch (they're loose) my robot vac "found it". It was just slightly too large for the vac to swallow, and ended up being thrown across the floor, and I got lucky and noticed that. So that's one "problem" solved. Terramaster should package some spares with its arrays, as I am sure I'm not the only user this has happened to..

In the meantime, I've managed to run a full backup of my Zyxel 4 bay NAS array, after this I will hopefully be able to do quick incrementals, using a Robocopy script. This should then suffice until I get a chance to install the new NAS array, for which I will have to buy four large-ish hard disks, like 6 or 8 terabytes or so. As long as they are cheap - if I can get them running under RAID 6, I could technically lose two drives without losing data, which is, considering my outlay, a relief. Before all that, however, I need to redo the PE tool partitions on my Windows 10 laptops, as I erased those when installing the larger hard disks. It now turns out that their absence stops Windows from running updates, so I need to re-instate them. Thankfully, I managed to find Microsoft's instructions for that, so that, and then re-updating, kinda takes care of the weekend...

As I said, the weather is warming up nicely - I never really knew that places I've lived, such as Lynnwood and Bellevue, are impacted by winter weather much more than Seattle proper - here in Magnolia, so far we've only had a few days of frost, and now snow at all, unlike the Seattle suburbs. It's only Jannuary, so we'll see, it's been know to get wintery in March, before now, but for now, temperatures are back up to the 'fifties, so can't complain. Tomorrow my bone density scan, which I had skipped for a few years, until my rheumatologist reminded me it is a good idea to have that done, periodically, as I age with arthritis.

I was going to run another backup of my NAS drive, just to test if my Robocopy script works incrementally - it is supposed to (it does from disk mount to disk mount) - but the new script I wrote uses a network drive mount, and I hadn't even known you could do that. It did do the full backup successfully (a massive 4 terabytes), but now I need to figure out if the incremental settings work. That will take time, and I couldn't do it because - dig this - the RJ45 connector on my long Ethernet cable melted. It inadvertently ended up inside the baseboard radiator, and that gets so hot (inside the vent) that it melts plastic. Didn't know that.. Anyway, Amazon just delivered two new Ethernet cables, long and longer, so I can start running that incremental test. The driver delivered to the wrong apartment, didn't understand my instructions over the intercom, and as he didn't take the delivery pictures inclusing the apartment number I had to search the entire building to find the delivery. New man, I guess..


Tuesday January 16: Winter: Cold but Short?

Keywords: dementia, memory training, slowpoke, frozen universe, NAS array, extra disks, Robocopy
thermometerSo yes - I don't believe in these "brain training" excercises to prevent dementia. I think you're best off taking examples from your own life and daily activities, and turn those into memory aids. Passwords are a point in fact - on BBC's "Click" program, the other day, the "experts" were all agreed that remembering passwords wasn't a good idea, and there are other ways to log in and access sites and software and email and stuff. But my experience is different, and yours can be too.

Working for IBM in Customer Engineering, back in the 1970s, I realized that I could actually remember those long number sequences I needed to do my job. Not "had to", but "could" - I developed a propensity to remember those number sequences, since I had to use them practically every day. Some of those were 40 and 60 digits long, but I am not suggesting you try that, but just use - every day, 8 to 10 digit passwords, different ones, begin by writing them down, and then try and learn them by heart. It's hard, and takes time, but, like me, you eventually will remember those sequences by rote, don't despair if it takes weeks, you have a purpose with this. And don't use "clever" software to remember things for you, that does not do your brain any good. My oversea bank account, for instance, requires me to use the account number - 9 digits - to log in. It took me a while, but after a few weeks I remembered it by heart. It's easy, just a bit of perseverance will do it. If you use dementia prevention as the driving argument behind the remembering, it is easy. People need motivation to achieve things - avoiding brain fog, as you age, is a powerful motivation. And trust me, it works. Just takes time, and perseverance. Once you've got it down, you'll be pleased with yourself - and what's better than that? Eh?

Oops - I have not updated my blog, it now goes back to November, time to cull the first few months, a bit of periodic maintenance keeps the file size in check. I've otherwise finished with the laptop(s) update and backup routines - recent updates get copied over to the "old" HP, which is how I had it before, and from there get backed up to the "big" NAS array. They're both "big", but one has two large mirrored drives (using RAID 1), the other four smaller drives under RAID 5.

Cold. My car thermometer (which reports to my indoors weather station) has it it is 10 degrees (Fahrenheit) outside. That's -14 Centipedes! That's cold. That's 30 degrees down from last week. Weather forecasters have it this will only last a few days, and at least it isn't raining, so I'll be able to go to the pharmacy and pick up my prescriptions tomorrow. One hopes... It is cold enough that I've had to crank up a couple of my baseboard heaters, as the heat pumps can't manage any more. I normally never use the baseboard units, they came hardwired in the apartment. I think I may not even turn the heating down overnight, just turn off the bedroom heat pump. So far, we've been spared snow, here in the lowlands, and the weather folks have it things will warm up a little bit during the week.

After some additional testing, I have taken the 3TB hard disk out of my new NAS array, and put in another, smaller, disk, just to see if I could. The answer is yes - in a while, I'll buy another four large drives, and eventually the new NAS array will replace the Zyxel I am currently using. As one drive in the Zyxel has died already, it is likely the three others will reach their end-of-service in a while, and it is probably a good idea to replace the Zyxel, in RAID 5 losing more than one drive means losing the lot. Some research tells me RAID 6 is the safer way to go - RAID 6 can tolerate the loss of two drives, and installing four 6 terabyte drives will give me 12 usable terabytes in the new box. That way I won't have to think about backing up the Zyxel. In the interim, I've taken my semi-retired Toshiba C55 laptop out of storage, added the semi-retired Seagate 8TB USB 3.1 drive, and managed to set up a copy routine (using Windows' Robocopy) that does an incremental copy of all files on the Zyxel NAS drive to the Seagate. Never knew Robocopy could handle network drives, after I've done ne full backup using this command line in a batch file, I can do regular backups of changed files, Robocopy can do that. Just learning'.....


Thursday January 11: Stuff around the house

Keywords: bedbugs, housework, robot vacuum, Hauppauge, broadcast TV, recording
After some household activities, some reprogramming of the "old" HP and running some diagnostics, some online shopping, some cleaning, and reloading the dishwasher, I grab a cup of coffee and look at the clock - 4:12pm, daylight will be gone in half an hour or so, depending on the weather. After 4:30 I run around the building closing blinds and windows and things, and then I guess I can get to doing some food, before I make my bed - that airs all day, keeps the duvet dry and the bugs at bay. Not that I have bugs, but I know some elderly residents in my building do have bedbugs, and others don't know those don't come about because of lack of hygiene, they don't go for dirt, but for human blood - only the other day I had to explain this to someone. We do have exterminators on staff, but if the tenant does not understand where they get the bugs from, it's not that effective, they'll just "go back to the source".

I tend to spend so much more time on my household than I used to, I sometimes wonder why. I guess part of it is the combination of my age and my state of health, I pay more attention than ever to hygiene and what I can only call "healthy habits". Usually, I do one load of laundry early in the morning, very few people do that as early in this building, and while I do the laundry and drying cycles I run around the building opening shades and blinds and opening a few windows - at least now that it is winter most everything is shut overnight. In the meantime I grab some coffee, and then go on to do some housework, vacuuming, washing up (well, loading and running the dishwasher). While the vacuuming is done by my trusty little robots, I move things from one room to another, so there aren't any obstacles. I'm usually all done by ten or eleven, and get on with paperwork and bills and the daily backup.

I otherwise spend time keeping the place tidy - in a one bedroom apartment, you can't let clutter overtake your living space. I am actually quite pleased I let most of everything I brought but won't need go, like I won't do car repairs again, leave that to the professionals. It was always more of a hobby than anything else, for as long as I had a garage to work in - I've sort of replaced that with doing more computer work than I used to. The new laptop is a point in fact - other than learning Windows 11, I am pretty much done installing and transferring functionality, save for some new functionality on the older HP Elitebook 2570, which now has four channels of broadcast TV recording, which automagically end up being stored on one of my NAS arrays.

It is threatening to get colder, soon - which may mean snow. I am not sure I can physically still handle de-snowing my SUV, although I have a free Orca public transport card, so I could get by without using the car. Especially with Google Maps it ought to be easy to get from A to B using public transport, and I do have winter gear I never really use. We'll see. With a supermarket right across the street there is little I need that I can't get, it's just the doctor visits in somewhat remote locations I need to take into account, though I do have all wheel drive and snow tires on the car.

HP ElitebookI mentioned Hauppauge's broadcast TV decoder a while ago - becuase it runs via USB3, it can handle four data streams at the same time, using an innovative piece of control software that comes with it. I've installed it in all three flavours of Windows I was running (8.1, 10 and now, 11) and though it is a bit finicky to install, it works very well - the "full" install is even capable of moving recorded programs off the C: drive onto a network drive (I've only just got that working, basically because I didn't understand the instructions, and forgot to install the NFS drivers on my new laptop, my bad..).


Sunday January 7: Maintenance avant la lettre

Keywords: terabytes, UHD/4K, backup, storage, NAS, upgrade, Windows 10, Windows 11, cooling fans
It is hard to believe that the two-plus inch circuit board you see below is a four terabyte storage device. I mean, honestly, complete with heat sink, and costing me all of $190 (with a $15 gift card). Technology advances are staggering - the cooling fan is the last and only remaining mechanical thing in a computer, and the fan does not have a real motor with bearings, but works on induction rotation. Running processor-intensive applications, including streaming video, on two screens, one UHD/4K, is clearly much less of a strain than on previous laptops, whose fans would go crazy when I did that.

Several days on, I have more or less finished customizing both my laptops - more so with the Windows 11 HP than the Windows 10 HP - and the 2570 is running a full backup into my newly refurbished NAS array. With 10 mirrored terabytes, it is the ideal storage device for backups. The new Elitebook is using a (to me) new backup package from EaseUS, it took me a few days to figure out exactly how that worked.

The problem with backup software is that you really don't know everything about it until you do a restore, and on today's large drives, with masses of data, that really isn't something you want to do. Both of my laptops now have a four terabyte SSD, and the past need to store data offline has diminished as capacities increased. I do store duplicates on my NAS devices, but that's more for safety's sake than anything else. Even when I was using a two terabyte main disk I stored some stuff externally, you don't want to overload a disk, but with fur terabytes space, for as long as you faithfully run backups you're not likely to lose data.

Finally (after 3+ weeks) received the memory upgrade for my new HP, taking me from 8GB to 32GB, the max. As it turns out 8GB wasn't really enough memory for this contraption with Windows 11 and two displays, with 32GB the machine is clearly much happier. Interestingly, between the memory upgrade and the 4TB storage upgrade, the laptop runs smoother as well as cooler (although I cleaned out the cooling fan, while I had the covers off, it was pretty grubby). Whether or not that has something to do with the cooling, I don't know. Anyway, way to go.

Building manager H noticed how busy I've been working on my new computer configuration - especially Windows 11, and a multitude of appplication changes, did not make it easy. Again, as I mentioned before, these are activities that help me with mental agility, especially re-learning Windows is a worthwhile exercise. So many system functions and commands have moved and/or changed, there is some significant relearning required - much of what I have done, these past couple of weeks, is figuring out "where things went". Especially - and that is not new - "unpacking" Windows' new and changed features, so I can concentrate on the normal functionality, is a lot of work. One nice aspect of the "unpacking" and simplifying is that the computer, and its operating system, become fast, more agile. Microsoft built lots of crap into Windows that nobody really needs. Seriously - and considering how fast this baby now is, with more RAM, more storage, less fancy footwork, and fewer CPU cycles per activity, I bought the right thing.


Monday January 1: Keepin' on goin'

Keywords: Newegg, SSD, Windows 11, HP, Hauppauge, Terramaster, TNAS, clearout
4 terabyte Having ordered some computer bits from Newegg.com, I find their shipping is slow, even taking the Christmas Holiday into consideration. Thankfully there was no rush with the memory I ordered for my new laptop, but it explains why they can be cheaper than Amazon. Hopefully both the drive and the RAM will get here by tomorrow night, so I can install and restore before the weekend is over. At the same time, I've duplicated all of my stuff and the backups onto the two fully refurbished NAS drives, so it does not matter (for the next few days, at least) which PC I use to access my files. I just need to make sure I put any changed files on my NAS archive, so I can replace the SSD in the new laptop, and restore its Windows 11 load.

Windows 11 takes some getting used to, have to tell ya, Microsoft put lots of "pop-up" interruptors in the OS, and I had to spend quite a bit of time to find out how to turn all that off. It's nassty, Microsoft adding more advertising vehicles, and the latest news, weather and traffic from Idaho, where I do not live. HP provides a Really High Resolution HD laptop, and Microsoft then fills up the screens with dross you have not asked for. These days, nobody goes to their laptop to get news and weather, that's what fast 5G mobile phones are for.

This laptop is so advanced it took me all of two hours to replace its small hard SSD with the four(!) terabyte SSD I had ordered, which got here last night. And those two hours included the restore of its Windows load, which installed, painlessly, in an incredible 15 minutes, I don't mind telling you I had not expected that - or ever seen before. When I replaced the disk in my other laptop, under Windows 10, the restore took over three hours.. All that's left to do - it's up and running - is returning my 1 terabyte Archive to the new 4TB drive, I can start that tonight, and it looks this thing is so fast it'll be done before daylight (I have a robocopy script that does that, and then turns itself off). This is an absolutely sweet little machine, it is running at full power and doesn't get more than warm. Huge difference with the occasionally screaming fans on my old Elitebooks, one of which records TV now, but with a 64 bit application and a four channel USB3 Hauppauge decoder.

Saturday 8:30pm - I'm done! Sitting back and watching TV, the full system changeover and installation took the better part of three weeks. That includes copying over dozens of terabytes of data, resurracting a second NAS I had not been using, moving huge amounts of data from one server to the other, and getting my old HP Elitebook under Windows 10 to run a new TV application, which automagically converts and moves broadcast TV recordings to one of the NAS arrays. Pretty brilliant, if I say so meself.

In the meantime, while working on the big Zyxel NAS I managed to bend one of the plastic springs that lock the drive caddys in place, which is when I discovered that Zyxel no longer makes NAS arrays. The spring didn't break, but I can't find a replacement caddy anywhere, Zyxel doesn't even respond to email queries. The next best thing was to order a spare NAS, so that I don't get cauught out of that spring finally gives up the ghost. Thankfully, I found a really cheap NAS array on Newegg, and as luck would have it I still had a 15% discount coupon from when I bought the 4TB SSD. Amazingly, Terramaster, the manufacturer, delivered the new 4 bay NAS, free of charge, in two days! So I am covered, losing that Zyxel, if it ever happens, would really set me back some.

As 2023 closes, I've done some useful stuff - including clearing more stuff out of my apartment that I did not need any more. I'm even wondering about some of the car stuff I hang on to - I've mostly maintained my car myself, but without a garage that's hard to do, and my body, simply from aging, isn't all that agile any more. Only last year did I realize - after talking to my rheumatologist - that my joint discomfort was caused by my moving myself - twice in three years, with lots of gear that I really did not need. I am glad I put my apartment together myself, but I don't think I am installing and building in another couple of heat pumps any more. The last heat pump I bought I made sure it could fit on my existing air handling infrastructure, not doing that again, I think.


Friday December 29: Still playing 'round

Keywords: USB3, RAID5, Windows 11, life change, redundancy
Elitebook G6Still finishing with the system and storage maintenance, I've deleted the old backups, and the Seagate 8TB USB3 disk is copying its copious load to the big NAS drive. Something I knew but had never actually done is recovering one of the drives in the RAID 5 array, but that went (with some confusion) swimmingly. It took some twenty-seven (!) hours for the NAS to re-distribute its load, but I am pleased I now understand how it works. The 8 terabytes of data that NAS can handle sits completely recoverably on four 3 terabyte drives, and you can lose an entire drive, and replace it, without losing a single byte of data.

I don't think I mentioned this, but part of the reason I bought this "re-newed" HP Elitebook was that neither of my older HP notebooks would run Windows 11, and I thought it was time I learned that flavour of Windows, too. So part of the install was a learning curve, sometimes mushing around for hours trying to find Windows "things" I am used to using. But "11" is fast, quite sophisticated, and it's all there if you take time to look for "it". At the same time, I am replacing some of my older software with newer "Windows 11" versions. before the creators decide to call it a day. My "old" backup software has difficulty with network drives, solvable using FTP:, but I've been using that for so long that it is high time to grab a newer package. That takes time, and testing - the first one I tried didn't do very well, so I have switched to another, testing, testing..

As you get older, you have a tendency to "stick with what you know", when in fact continuous learning keeps your mind agile and flexible. And that learning is something you have to trigger yourself, it isn't handed to you. The important aspect of this learning is that your mind, if it does begin to fail, will let you know if things are going backwards. Changing your routines is an important part of knowing how you're doing. This new Elitebook has a much higher resolution, both in its native screen and in the external monitor, and that takes getting used to. Curiously, I had bought a 4K/UHD monitor, but had no systems that were able to generate 4K. So now I do, and the new laptop immediately ran in higher resolution, something I really had not anticipated, but totally cool..

As of this morning the data on the 8TB Seagate USB3 drive finished transferring to the 8TB NAS, after two(!) days, and I can discontinue the online use of that, I had it mounted on the NAS as an external drive - that meant, of course, extra traffic on the redundant Ethernet ports on the box. The Seagate is a single drive, and on the NAS I have, under RAID 5, full redundancy. I've had one drive (out of 4) go South on that, and was able to replace that drive without any data loss. I used to back up to this NAS, too, but I've put two 10 terabyte drives, under RAID 1, in my older NAS, and that is now my fully redundant standard backup unit. To be on the safe side, I've just ordered another cheap four bay NAS (without drives), as a spare, when I have more money I'll stuff that with four 6TB drives, for when one of the Zyxels eventually dies. For now, once I get the extra memory and bigger SSD for the new HP laptop, I can back up the HP 2570 and use that while I re-install the new system. No worries ;)


Monday December 25: Jolly Yuletide!

Keywords: Elitebook, Windows 11 Pro, HDMI, 4K/UHD, backing up, port replicator, recovery media
Friday evening: I am just about done with the new laptop, including backup software, futzing a mail application that wouldn't transfer, and some other stuff. Finishing the data transfer won't happen until the big SSD arrives, but I have made backups and boot drives and recovery drives for both my systems, tested an' all. Not too shabby, if I say so meself.

I even remembered to renew my gun permit, before the current one expires, in January. Good to go..

By Saturday morning the HP dock I had ordered for this Elitebook arrived - no HDMI output (the laptoop itself has one, now obscured by the dock). but two Displayport outlets, which, much to my surprise, "do" 4K/UHD the same the HDMI connector did. So this is major cool, audio out is 24 bit by 192000 Hz, and from the display an optical connection sends the audio to the sound bar I bought - no stero cables or Bluetooth, but a fiber connection built into both. Spending some extra dough on that sound bar was worth it. While my new laptop runs my mains display effortlessly at 4K (3840x2160), the laptop's own screen runs at 1920x1080 - that was, until yesterday, my high resolution main display. That's different, very different.

By Sunday I am "back to normal" - the new Elitebook is running fine, I've figured out which USB port on the dock (there are four, on top of the two on the machine itself) does what - some can be powered when the computer is off, which is handy if, like me, you like to charge a cellphone overnight, but let the laptop turn itself off. I must say the combination of the Elitebook with HP's dock (to all intents and purposes a fancy port replicator) makes for a very complete computer. I've not checked out what all the ports do, it'll even take a SIM card, which I guess can provide cellular networking, I am not needing all of the bells and whistles though.

Best Wishes for y'all, BTW, Xmas and New Year's and all that good stuff. My target for the new year is to spend less, although I've not indulged in too many luxury items, but the laptop etc, etc, necessitated by the broken HP I suffered, was really a bit beyond affordable. The computer itself was not expensive, but add all of the accessories and ancillaries and spares I needed to add, and you're still looking at a good chunk of money - total cost of the $299 refurbished laptop came to $519.81, not huge, but as I said, a good chunk of money.


Friday December 22: It's hard work

Keywords: Elitebook, Windows 11 Pro, double backup, ageing, memory, dementia, brain training, tuning laptop, 4TB SSD, 32MB RAM, battery test
Elitebook G6 It is pleasant (considering my age, just having advanced by a year) to spend some time "inaugurating" a new computer - something I used to do for a living, way back when, in the Lab in White Plains, NY. I decided to try and get the activities and sequence out of memory, rather than writing notes ahead of time, as I age I try and make sure my mind and memory still work "as of old". It isn't because I worry about possible dementia, but I try and build things into my routine that will warn me if ever my mind begins to fail. Passwords, for instance, and logins, I don't keep in one of those handy applications, but in memory - dozens of them, different ones, too. It's like gymnastics for the mind, and it isn't "exercise" - it is stuff you use and need every day. Ipersonally believe that mental exercises that have nothing to do with your everyday life are completely useless - if spelling isn't something you normally do, using it as an exercise isn't going to help the mind either. Using everyday activities, and making those more "interesting", helps the mind with its agility. Forcing myself to use passwords from memory, rather than looking them up, helps. Making sure you use a dozen different passwords, and having to remember which password (make then complicated!) goes with which login sharpens the memory, and exercises the mind. We're driving around using our GPS units already, so that part of memory isn't used any more. GPS "knows" where the traffic jams are, so not using it really isn't useful. If you use GPS religiously, you'll soon find that what you thought your shortest routes were, actually aren't. That, by itself, is a learning curve, but you must follow its instructions, another one of these learning things.

So far, in four days of work, I've made one truly major mistake, not reading a software dialog properly, and losing some three terabytes of data. Thankfully, that was the double backup, so I've not lost the master copy, which I am currently, laboriously, recopying to the second NAS drive. It is a good excercise, then, and it's a good test of the new laptop, which now spends some 24 hours working as an Ethernet switch. Once the new Elitebook is in full "production" those aren't tests I can do any more. Same yesterday - I didn't like draining the battery in a refurbished computer, but it ran, with an external USB drive attached, and the display going continuously, for almost six hours. Super. I must say I am very pleased with the quality of the "new" laptop, considering how thin the thing is, not even room for a DVD drive. It is running warm, though, I'll just have to make sure I do a monthly internal dustoff, something that didn't involve screws with my old Elitebook.

The more I finetune this Elitebook, the faster it gets. It's pretty amazing, considering it is supposed to have the slowest CPU of this model range. By now, I have ordered a full 32GB of RAM for it, and a 4TB SSD, which was heavily discounted at Newegg.com. I mean, cheaper than any of my regular vendors, which is how I make sure I buy safe, if I've never dealt with a vendor, I normally will never use them, even if that means an extra buck or two. I am truly happy with this laptop, it can go in full "production" once I have the RAM and SSD expanded, and receive the port adapter I ordered. I can't transfer my files until I have the larger SSD, the one that came in the laptop just can't handle my files - just my primary archive is a terabyte or so in size. That is one reason, by the way, while I am anal about backing up - I think I've been using laptops since 1979. Sheesh.


Monday December 18: Next steps

Keywords: HP upgrade, Elitebook, Windows 11 Pro, backups, Windows installer, system test
So my current HP Elitebook, running Windows 10 Pro, will be relegated to "spare" status, as soon as I finish setting up my new laptop (another HP Elitebook, but with a different type designator, larger screen and keyboard, and Windows 11 Pro). The old Elitebook traveled with me a lot, where "ultra-portable" helps, but the traveling is sort of history, and a larger unit suits me just fine today. I'll take my time over setting that up, so I can properly get to grips with Windows 11 Pro, which I understand comes with it as a (free) upgrade. The Post Ofice kindly delivered early, Saturday rather than Monday, so I have half a weekend to tinker..

I (re-)discovered that to set up a Windows 10 full installation disk needs a double layer DVD, which I don't have any more, and then I found those aren't in the stores very much. I ordered some from Amazon(who else?), I'd completely forgotten those things even existed. Microsoft still makes the ISO installable file available, which is cool. I wanted to get the DVD going, as I am, once my new notebook is all set up, going to swap the 2 terabyte SSD now in the older HP for the 4 terabyte SSD I put in the old notebook. I just want to be safe and have a Windows 10 master disk, just in case.

In the interim, I got the new laptop around 7pm, and soon discovered that it was one model up from the one I thought I bought, and that Windows 11 Pro was installed, no need for the free update from 10-to-11. Having said that, after I got the thing up and running I spent much of the weekend running Windows update, and configuring the unit without the Microsoft login Windows seems to require, these days. The vendor had included instructions on how to avoid "slaving" Windows 11 to Microsoft, and that worked remarkably well - it did actvate its license after I connected it to the Internet, but did not need a Mccrosoft login to do that. All told, it took me almost 24 hours to finish the full install - that's without additional software, but with a full backup and two USB flash drives with a full load of W11 installation code. Tested and all, and with my 1TB external USB3 drive it takes only eight or so minutes to run a full backup. Lovely.

The very last part of the machine install is a battery test - especially since this laptop is equipped with an internal non-user replaceable Li-Ion battery. I normally completely run down my laptop batteries once a month, so I guess we'll see how good or bad the battery in this refurbished device is. I am not buying it for mobile use, so am less worried about that, but it is good to know how good or bad the battery is. I've occasionally had batteries die on me, but then I always had a spare. Amazon does list replacement batteries for this laptop, so I'll need to open it up next, to check the model number..


Thursday December 14: Another PC bites the dust

Keywords: sound bar, TV sound, failing apps, broken notebook, HP upgrade
Dolphin soundbar I never got one of those sound bar things that make the sound of your TV better, but I recently swapped out my "daily" TV set for a 4K UHD version I had in storage, and then discovered the sound of that, for all its fancy screen, was dismal. And so, a sound bar, and I am much amazed by the quality, considering its size. So much that I just ordered anothere (cheaper) one, to use with my new LCD TV projector. One sound bar runs from the TV's optical output, and the one for the projector will use Bluetooth, as the projector doesn't have an optical audio output. That's made the second sound bar a bit cheaper, as it does not need an optical input. Curious how it will sound, for all of $25...

But while that isn't here yet, all sorts of other things go wrong. One of my banking apps suddenly insists I have rooted my Blackberry, and refuses to start - "call us". I don't root Android devices I need, so that's weird. Even weirder, when I install that app on an old Android phone that doesn't even have a SIM card, the app runs just fine! How's that?

I somehow broke my "old" HP Elitebook 2560p laptop recently, that's the one running Windows 8.1, and have not been able to get it back running. The only reason I still used this was for backup, and to run Windows Media Center, although I have a new Hauppauge decoder with new TV recording software, so could ditch 8.1. After a gazillion attempts at restoring the backup, re-installing Windows, installing a newer Windows, I was just about (after a week) to give up, when I managed to re-install Windows 8.1, but it would not activate the (existing) license key, and that meant I couldn't really update it any more. However, as it would now boot into Windows (it wouldn't before) I am trying to do a full restore from backup, hoping Windows will boot. I was tempted to buy a new Windows laptop, but cannot afford that at the moment. I don't need the 2560, was just using it for broadcast TV recording, and can probably do that on my Toshiba, now that I have a new Hauppauge TV decoder with software. This restore is still going, os tomorrow I can check and try. My primary laptop runs fine, but I do need to buy a new laptop soon, just to make sure I have something to fall back on "if necessary". Fingers crossed.

Of course, I didn't think I had enough money to replace the "broken" laptop, I don't like relying on just one functional unit. Realized, this afternoon, that I had completely forgotten I had moved some of my savings from my brokerage account to an overseas checking account. I'd had my eye on an Amazon-refurbished HP business laptop with Windows 11 Pro for a while, and as it is cheap, that would solve the problem, if it indeed is one. It'l1 let me learn Windows 11 (which I need to switch over to anyway), and over time I can make it faster with more RAM and a larger SSD. Problem solved, we keep busy, and the oldest HP gets scrapped (or parted out, we'll see....). Effectively, I get a new, full license for Windows 11 Pro with CPU for under $300..


Friday December 8: Backing up is hard

Keywords: NAS, large drives, terabytes, file server, backup, Ethernet, warmer
By tomorrow, I should receive the two 10TB disks I ordered, which will turn my "old" two bay NAS into a backup drive with 10 mirrored terabytes. I can then move the two system backups from the four bay NAS with the failing drive, I've decided I don't want to make a NAS repair attempt, simply because it isn't necessary. I'll then clean up the "big" NAS, replace the failing drive, and that box can then become my file server. Currently, I use an 8TB USB drive for that, but that has no redundancy (being only a few months old, there was little risk of it going South), and so moving those files to the two bay mirrored box give me the security I didn't have. The two NAS boxes together will have more capacity than I have now (18 versus 16 terabytes), while each drive will have its own Ethernet (the big box even a redundant connection). Both boxes will run off a surge suppressed UPS.

16TB SSD Well, that's cool. Not only did the two large drives get here on time, the small Ethernet switch I had ordered got here much faster than I anticipated, and the install and configuration of the 2x10 terabyte NAS was much easier than I anticipated. The updated ZyXEL NAS operating system is as good as automatic, when it sees new and/or blank drives. Magic. Took little time - although formatting two new 10TB drives under RAID 1 is time consuming, if you're the impatient sort. The laptop says it'll take 21 hours to copy the backup, so we'll see. Then, I can replace the failing disk in the big NAS, which, under RAID 5, has been safe, as I've only used a little over half of its total capacity, so if the bad drive goes South, I'm still good.

Copying the four-or-so terabyte backups to the "new and improved" 2 bay NAS ended up taking 24 (uneventful) hours, afterwards the now 20 terabyte NAS took another hour to synchronize its RAID 1 drives, and the drives went to pause. Good show. Now I need to restore the backup databases to my backup application, and then run an incremental backup, and we'll be home and dry. I've tested and checked everything, and we see to be home dry, the installation and copy phases took two days, not bad, the array seems happy.

It is raining cats and dogs, and quite warm now - 50 to 60 degrees in the daytime, unheard of in December. Glad it isn't colder, because we might end up with snow, which currently only manifests in the mountains, above 4,000 feet or so.


Friday December 1: More zings to fix ;)

Keywords: stock market, international banking, NAS array, failed disk, hotspot, dead battery
I've sold some stock and moved the resultant cash to an overseas bank account, sort of dividing the risk between stock and foreign currency. It is an account I nearly closed last year, as it became very difficult to access, because the two tier security often did not work. That's changed now, I can access on my mobile using fingerprint identification, which is new, all of the financial institutions I do business with now have fingerprint security - and today, most mobile handsets have a fingerprint reader.

Only yesterday I discovered that one of the four drives in my NAS is failing. That isn't by itself a disaster, or shouldn't be, it is running RAID 5, and has plenty of spare capacity, but I have never had this happen with a NAS, so I am hoping I am going about the disk replacement the right way. Learning, learning, methinks. Anyway, I need to copy the load off that NAS first, so decided to re-activate my older two bay NAS, which I took the drives out of and was no longer using. Today, mirroring under RAID 1 on that NAS, using two 10 terabyte drives, is very affordable, I snarfed two drives on Amazon at under $75 a piece - when I bought that NAS, 10TB drives didn't even exist... Once that load is duplicated, I can replace the failing drive on the four bay NAS - never having done that (a replacement under RAID 5 should be automatic) and use that box for the load I now have on an 8TB Seagate disk, currently hosted by the big NAS, which will become spare. So there :)

Yesterday, my internet packed up - I thought it was one of the regular resets, but I couldn't get it back up. Eventually, I took down the hotspot, and, since restarts did not work, I opened it up and pushed the reset button (which it turns out I had never done, only with its forerunner, the Franklin T-9). That worked, cool, but then I discovered that I could no longer close the case, as the lithium-ion battery was too swollen. I discovered that, thankfully, I had ordered a spare battery when I got the upgraded Hotspot, and that had a remaining charge, and worked (and works, today) absolutely fine. The old battery is really swollen, and clearly deceased, so I've ordered another spare. I had never checked the battery, unusual for me, so I am going to have to do that every once in a while, and maybe swap and "rest" the batteries, periodically. Anyway, I am good, luckily...


Tuesday November 21: End-of-Year medical

Keywords: time change, Labcorp, Gaza, heating
dusk I do not like the time change - it is about 4pm, here in the Pacific Northwest, and it's getting dark. Which means it's going to get even darker before it gets lighter. I had my late afternoon run around 6:45pm, and now I do it at 5 - "run", as in closing up the building, drawing the shades, closing the downstairs windows, to prevent burglars, that sort of thing. Makes for a long(er) evening, is true, but I'm just not used to it yet. We should just let nature do its own thing, don't you think?

Cold and soggy then, but more like fall, for a moment there I thought we'd have an early winter, but it's turned to proper soggy autumn. I sat down and looked at my medical stuff earlier today, and found a good dozen doctor's and test appointments, not counting the ones I hadn't made yet, like my annual Medicare checkup. So that's all set, I even found a next year dental appointment. Tomorrow is a lab day, hopefully all my blood orders are in, that's been dismal of late.

Or so we hope. Labcorp's patient system was down, as in, flat on its back, corridor full of people spilling over from the waiting room, I decided to not even try on Friday, but the following Monday. I could technically go to another hospitsl, but whether or not any of their systems work is anybody's guess, and the desks are unmanned. I don't know why Swedish handed over their labs to Labcorp, but heaven it ain't.

I went back there today, still a line of waiting patients, as it turns out Labcorp is shutting down their kiosk system altogether, and closing a number of their offices, why I don't know. All it means is that the workload at their open offices increases, and staff is chagrined, which is not a good thing. There are changes in the medical service environment here in Seattle, and none of them are beneficial to the customer / patient. I went this morning, normally that means the test results are on the system by late afternoon, but not now. Wonder who did what wrong, and how they're going to fix it..

It isn't that I do not have an opinion, but I tend to not comment much on situations that I do not know enough about. I am reminded of 9/11 - apart from the fact that I was directly involved in the recovery effort, both in Manhattan and in Arlington, VA, at the time my position in what would soon become Verizon was one where I had my feet on both sides of the conflict. That's one of the problems of being a senior executive in an international corporation. I vividly recall shocked members of my Indonesian staff calling me, and letting me know that on some of the outlying islands some Muslim folk were celebrating in the street when the Towers came down. If anything, that taught me not to get involved, or express opinions, because these folk had a reason to hate Westerners, while some of their fellow countrymen and -women expressed shock and sorrow. Anyway, knowing all that, I can see how the problems between Arabs and Jews have kept growing, without even an attempt at resolution, and that from here on in it'll steadily continue to fester. But nobody needs my opinion, nor do I have even an attempt at a solution. All I know is that they're not trying very hard, and the rivers of money the Israelis are spending on destroying Hamas come, lergely, from the United States. That's a sobering thought, and will not lead to a solution.

My two heat pumps do fine, heating the place from early morning, at the present time it is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 in centipedes) outside, in the morning. I do like my bedroom cold at night, the duvet and mattress are nothing if not toasty. I actually turn on one A/C when I go to bed, or I spend the night sweating like a pig. Not having a thyroid does not help.

It occurred to me I can run the big heat pump in dehumidification mode whenever I have the bedroom (where it lives) door closed, or when I am out shopping or sumtin' - dehumidify mode cools the air. The manual does not specifically say so, but I believe that when it dehumidifies it evaporates condensate in the lower coil, which exchanges air with the outside. In dehumidify mode, it should generate sufficient heat to evaporate the condensate. Best thing to do is try, I've so far only once had one "condensate stop", so I might have a solution there.


Tuesday October 31: Fall? More Pills?

Keywords: freezing, antibiotics, bladder, ramen, vacuum, robot, Ilife
colours Cold. As in, freezing. It isn't even November, so lord knows what the winter is going to be like. Tomorrow I need to head back to the pharmacy, which shortchanged me on injecton vials, and as they put those in a container with cotton wool, I never knew until I got home. So we'll go there and see.

Nearing the end of my umpteenth round of antibiotics, this time combined with something called Flomax, which apparently helps some bladder muscles relax. It seems to work, I have fewer wakeups to urinate at night, which I understand is how it works. Not the prostate, just the bladder, while the antibiotics should do the rest. Something I didn't know is that the Taltz biologic does not play well with antibiotics. That makes me wonder wheter the previous rounds of antibiotics were "Taltz-impaired", and now that I have replaced Taltz with another medication should do better.

Something I have grown particularly fond off is ramen noodles, you know, these microwavable containers with a mix of stuff in them. Until I rummaged though the offerings on the internet, I did not realize that I could actually dispense with some of the ingredients, since I add things to the soup base anyway. Things like a sliced frankfurter, an egg, spicy sweet soy sauce, h-h-hot salsa, and dehydrated vegetables. So I don't need to worry about meat or shrimp or hot sauce. I am going to try a fully vegan ramen as base, and then add all of the above, as I do anyway. Cheaper, too!

My new Ilife robot vacuum (refurbished / renewed) got here, I'll set that up and charge it, Sunday is my vacuum day. Tomorrow I'll package up the broken unit and swap them and the power supply. The only problem will be the filters - the new unit has a different design, but all suppliers seem to be out of stock. Late addendum: after trying a dozen suppliers in seven countries, all of whom were out of stock, guess where I found them? Right, Ebay! Expensive, it's true, slow, but free shipping, and I was able to snarf a pack of three from a Chinese suplier. Owell, I'm good for a couple of months, though, much to my surprise, I can't find those filters overseas either - that previously was where I'd go. This is a refurbished unit, so they hopefully did a good job on it. Refurbs are often returned units with nothing wrong with them, so fingers crossed.

Well, that was nice. The "new" Ilife vacuum bot worked perfectly, even more so than any of the others I have owned. This particular unit has an upward looking camera on the control panel, with which it creates a map of the space(s) you're cleaning. That actually works - where previous units, and even the Roombas before that, did a random job to make sure it got everywhere at least once, the A9 creates a map of the room, and so ensures it only cleans each area once, and fills in the gaps. So: what used to take 50 minutes, now takes 20!


Thursday October 26: Fall? Or Winter?

Keywords: cold, heat pumps, medicine, mobile banking, vacuum
From one day to the next, the average temperatures drop from 70s to 50s, I expect fall is properly here. I can tell because the bedroom A/C goes to its heat function on Sunday, and a scant two days later the living room unit does too. As I acquired both of these this year, we'll have to see if their dehumidification funtion works properly, with a new heat pump you can't tell how well it works until the relevant season starts happening. For now, it is nice and toasty..

I receive another $1,600 worth of medication, the day after my rheumatologist has taken me off it, as it apparently does not agree with the antibiotics another doctor put me on. And I go back on the immuno-suppressant injections I was on two years ago. That stuff was pretty effective, as I recall, but my liver tests showed an adverse effect, this combined, clearly, with my alcohol intake at the time. But today, I am off alcohol, so I am back on the other stuff, and maybe won't go back to the biologic. Wait and see.

The last mobile banking and brokerage apps that did not do fingerprint recognition now do. That's is cool - this is for an overseas bank account, and I now no longer need to use my login, password, security code and number callback, which is how it used to work. It now just fetches my fingerprint from Android. Took a while, considering many American apps had that years ago. Go figure. I have, at any rate, never used banking apps, other than maybe to deposit cheques. The screen of a smartphone, however large, is just too small to see all of the information, and I guess I've been lucky in that I've mostly used smaller notebooks tethered off 40+ inch screens. Especially with my financial management software is is easier to have that and a banking website side-by-side, copy and paste and all that.

One of those "chore" days - some laundry, and a bit of vacuuming. This week that meant I needed to test my iLife A7 robot vacuum, which stopped with an error message last week, indicating the front sensor wasn't working right. I was hoping it just needed some thorough cleaning, and from the look of it, that did the trick, I am waiting to see whether it finishes, yes or no.
Duh..
No, was the answer, the unit stopped with the same error, . No warranty, because I had it in storage for a year or so, as a spare, so no choice but to buy another - refurbished, but even so. Can't win 'em all. At least I am able to buy this on credit (@ 0%), I really can't afford another expense this year, but you have to do what you have to do. I am marginally lucky in that the accessories for the "retiring" A7 vacuum will fit the new A9, as well, so I am not having to shell more money out on new filters and bits, which I had just bought for the A7. Not only that, but the Android management software for the unit controls both the A7 and the A9. That's cool - to find that software I had to spend hours wading through various iLife applications, try them, and move on to the next iteration.


Friday October 20: Networking

Keywords: Blackberry, WiFi, Deskjet, AIS Backup, ftp, vegetables, food ban, nutrition standard, medical, rheumatology
So how does my (new-ish, Android) Blackberry know how to connect to my (WiFi) printer? I never even tried that, let alone set it up, but it not only "knows" my Deskjet, it prints email straight off. Wonders will never cease.
Blackberry
I don't necessarily even need to print from the smartphone, but at least it works. I guess I never looked at this before because I had my printer connected via USB - only a few months ago I managed to get the printer and one of my routers to talk to each other, and was able to fully reset the Deskjet.

It took me a while to figure this out, but AIS Backup's bootable recovery disk does let me access my NAS drive to restore backups. I wasn't sure I'd set up the LAN correctly, but AIS' boot app (on a DVD) starts up and then lets me access the NAS drive over FTP by its IP address. That means I should be able to do a complete restore (or an install to a new hard disk / SSD) of both my HP Notebooks without bells and whistles, connect an Ethernet cable to the laptop and the NAS drive and Bob's your uncle. I could actually test that b installing a new SSD that way the exisitng one stays "unharmed", as it were. Expensive experiment, though...

Something I noticed is that folks get lots of veggies and fruit, both those who get Food Help, and those who shop. But when I look in our communal fridge, much of that veg is just sitting there, going off, and just today I found beverages in the pantry that were more than a year out of date. It may help if you have a family to feed, or even if you're a couple, but for lone folk like myself, keeping perishables in the fridge is a good way to waste money, and deteriorating fruit and veg are inedible, IMHO. I noticed that, not long ago, the FDA, the American Food and Drug Administration, changed the standards for preferred nutrition, but choosing foodstuffs to consume is way too much of a chore, having to figure out what is in which food, and how to treat it to be able to absorb the nutrition effectively. That's a job, not a pastime. It amuses me to see in TV ads how you can "subscribe" to a food delivery service, which delivers boxes full of "healthy" and "nutritious" food to your home, tries to deliver much more than your household needs, and then forgets to tell you how much of this stuff, in various states of deterioration, you end up throwing out. You also don't get to know what loses nutritional value after three or four or five days in the fridge. Again, if you have a family of ten to feed it may be the bee's knees, but otherwise.. Selling works on the principle of parting you from your money, not on the principle of taking good care of your needs, cheaply.

I am still confused why I eat so much less than before, the only reason I can think of is that I stopped drinking, which, after all, was part of a 45+ year pattern of living. I've not actually asked any of my doctors, perhaps I should, although it does not bother me and I am not unwell.

Bit by bit, I am taking care of several medical issues, all of that stuff takes a lot of time, and often, trying out medications I had not tried before. My arthritis is now treated with Taltz, which appears much slower acting than the four or five previous biologics I've been on, but no less effective (as I am writing this, my rheumatologist has just taken me off Tlt, so... go figure....). And as soon as my new urologist is done with tests and treatment (which can take weeks to months) I shall head for the dermatologist - last time I tried was in the middle of the COVID pandemic, and I just couldn't get an appointment. Even finding a new endocrinologist, after some insurance coverage changes, took several months. Never had that before...


Saturday October 14: From Oz to Seattle

Keywords: passport, fall colours, video calling, clothes buying, losing weight
potted tree Renewing an overseas passport is always a bit of a chore - you need all kinds of documentation, and the Dutch add new requirements every few years - now, you have to provide proof that both your parents were native Dutch born. That probably means there are now different classes of citizen in my home country - naturalized, native born, and native native born. But then when you tell the consular officer you don't have your parents' birth certificates, don't even know where they are, she tells you that, in your case, they're on file back in The Hague. Problem solved, I guess... As my Dad was born in the Dutch colonies, I don't know that we ever had all of his paperwork, there was this World War II thingie, the Japanese occupation of what eventually became Indonesia, and then the Indonesians did a number on the Netherlands-Indies colonial civil service archives.

Friend and former colleague A., who lives in Australia, suggested we should do some video calling - problem being I haven't done that for years, and my primary laptop (for security reasons) doesn't even have a camera. That's deliberate - it is one of HP's "secure encrypted" devices, not that I need that, as a retired person, but data security, which used to be part of my responsibilities, continues to interest me. And I must say HP puts rivers of security in its business notebooks. So I dug up my old Toshiba, which does have a camera, and is upgraded to a large SSD and Windows 10 Pro (it originally came with Windows 7, believe it or not), which makes it pretty spiffy, despite its age. And because I don't want to run a video link over my "normal" Hotspot, together with everything else, I have now slaved the Toshiba off my 5G T-Mobile phone's USB tether. The 5G should give it enough oomph, once I get the link to Oz up and running.

Observant readers of my *stuff* may recall I quit alcohol in May of last year - as it turns out, that was for good, as I intended. Something I did not expect, at the time, is that would cause me to lose weight - I didn't think of myself as overweight, didn't have much of a tummy, or so I thought. But here we are - first of all, I lost waist- and belly fat, to the point I have some permanent spare skin where my tummy used to be (at my age, having a tummy tuck does not seem overly important, and there's not enough there that Medicare would bother) - not to mention the 25-odd pounds I since lost permanently - I now weigh in at a svelte 160 lbs, 150 if I lay off the peanuts (I eat less, too!). Needing to replace a worn couple of pairs of jeans, recently, I discovered my standard pant size was always 36W and 32L, but is now 34W by 34L. I guess my waist used to be on my hips, and now is above them! Cool, eh?

I had intended to buy pants in a department store, but as it turns out, Amazon sort of has everybody beat, there, too - good quality GAP brand 100% cotton denim jeans are around $20, with free shipping. Many jeans are mixed fabric - like "53% Cotton, 28% Rayon, 18% Polyester, 1% Spandex" to get a tight fit, and the artificial fabric does not agree with my skin, "don't" says my dermatologist, and they price from $40 up. So I am good with Amazon, material- as well as price wise. Way to go.


Saturday October 7: Fall Maintains

Keywords: passport, fall colours, system retirement, Elitebook, seasonal, COVID-19
I spent the weekend more or less "under the weather", after my Friday COVID vaccination. Not a major event, no temperature, just fatique and a bit unwell. Much better today, which was a good thing, having to do household stuff, helping manager H. with some technical things, stuff. As I mentioned previously, I don't use salt, so maybe don't get enough iodine - normally made by the thyroid, mine's been taken out due to cancer - so I will try and remedy that by taking iodine capsules, no iodine in my multi-vitamins either. I noticed the iodine capsules contain a whopping 667% of daily requirement, so as not to upset my metabolism, I think I'll try one a week, see if that has any effect, and maybe email my endocrinologist for good measure.

passport application My replacement passport arrived, much quicker than I had anticipated - while I have no immediate travel plans there is always the possibility of something happening in the family overseas. So I am covered, considering the whole deal involved the San Fran consulate and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The Hague, quicker than I anticipated. Good job, people!

Fall colours (and temperatures) have arrived - a neighbour's potted tree was first, looks gorgeous. Two tenant volunteers maintain the plants in front and back of the building, and I gather have been doing so for many years. The housing authority manages the grass and shrubbery, while the City maintains the trees.

I have finally got rid of my old Sony Vaio All-In-One computer - it worked well, had one of the best system designs I have ever seen, but I did not really use it any more, updated it every few months, but otherwise it slept in a box under my bed. I de-partitioned the hard disk, made sure it had an undefeatable boot master password, and in the bin it went. Now, I only have my old spare Toshiba Satellite laptop, which has both WinTV and the ability to play multi-country Blu-Ray disks, should I ever want to do that. Otherwise, the Toshiba, too, sits in a cupboard, being spare. I would really like a new HP Elitebook with Windows 11 Pro, and Amazon has a renewed/return unit that is very affordable, but I'd have to get a larger SSD and gobs of extra memory with it, and altogether that would still set me back $800 or so, money I just don't have going spare, not after recent extras, such as my passport renewal, a replacement heat pump, and a replacement mobile phone, yes, 5G+, of course *grin*. So I'll have to be patient for a while, the heat pump will be paid off (interest free) at the end of November.


Monday October 2nd: autumn noodles

Keywords: ramen, noodles, instant food, sodium, nutrition, heat pumps, moisture, CNN, Amazon, inoculations, seasonal, COVID-19
home food ramen I eventually, a while ago, began to enjoy those prepacked (in a tub) ramen noodles, making an effort to use the "low sodium" variety. I say "low", but the amount of sodium in those noodle packages is significant, and can vary from 50 to over 100% of recommended daily value. The ones I order from Amazon are about 35%, I can get away with it because I don't otherwise use salt, I don't even have salt in the house, and I don't eat processed foods, which are often bulging with salt. Iodine, which is added to consumer salt, I am less concerned with, these days, as my thyroid was removed when I contracted thyroid cancer (yes, you guessed it, 9/11). Anyway, I have embellished the ramen with various consumables, evap milk, raw egg, sesame oil, frankfurter, extra spicy salsa, and spicy sweet soy sauce (kecap manis pedas). Delish. I've ordered Polish economy dried vegetables at Amazon, as well, see if that ups the ramen a bit, as well.

As the season gets colder, I realize I have never used either of my new(ish) heat pumps as heaters, so how well they do getting rid of moisture remains to be seen. Their manuals say they do fine, and the majority of evaporation does take place in humid summers, but my old heat pumps had a de-moisturizing cycle, and I don't think these do. So we'll see - one of them has a pump for that, the other says it is self-evaporating. As of last week, I have one heater on, briefly, first thing in the morning - yesterday, the early morning temperature dropped below 50 (Fahrenheit, that is). Fall is here..

CNN advertises Amazon's Swedish Dishcloths for $13, for that you get 10. Swedish Dishcloths? What happened to Norwegian Dishcloths? Or the Peruvian kind? Are these people crazy, advertising a completely invented product on what used to be a news site, as if this product is something special? I've noticed the marketing done on the Today Show and on Good Morning America, there are so many useless, overpriced, unnecessary products recommended by "anchors" who do little else than scream at the camera.. Hair "treatment" concoctions that cost $35, and do absolutely zilch (hair is dead human tissue), and different "brands" every three days or so... horrendous, it is. Amazon, by the way, has always provided free shipping with a minimum order of $25, but that just changed, it is, as of yesterday (at least here in the USA) now a minimum of $35. Not such a big deal, I guess Amazon inflates a bit, too. I find myself ordering things I might normally get from the supermarket, and perhaps buying slightly larger quantities. One thing I don't want to do is fill up my cupboards with things I won't need until weeks or months down the road, that would be more like financing to Amazon. I am saying that because I just noticed it was easier to put a $25 order together, than a $35 order. We'll see.

Had my flu shot and the RSV inoculation last week, resulting in my feeling slightly peaky (as the Brits would say), but only for a day or so. My building manager, out of the blue, asked me if I was OK, though, so it wasn't my imagination. Last Friday was my turn for the new seasonal COVID-19 booster, so I guess I am done for the season. I'll give it another week or so, see if my tendonitis goes away with the anti-inflammatories, and then I ought to go back to the gym. I am the unwitting "victim" of conflicting doctors - my GP does not want me to take the infection risks the gym entails, while my rheumatologist is adamant I should be just fine: "Wear a mask if that makes you feel safer, but go". Guess it is up to me, then... it's paid for, so no excuses otherwise. I am a little under the weather from the COVID shot, but nothing I can't handle.


Saturday September 23: video calling

Keywords: communication apps, Google, 5G mobile, cellphone pictures, 5G, Blackberry, ankylosing, rheumatology, COVID, boosters, anti-inflammatory
downstairs walkway I love this shot down the downstairs corridor, against the morning sun. I've started using the building stairs, rather than the elevator, better excercise.. Taken with my trusty Blackberry, though I probably should have used my new T-Mobile 5G handset, which has a higher resolution. I only recently realized I need to take off the protective cover when I do selfies, there's no such thing on the Blackberry, and the (otherwise excellent) cover on the T-Mobile distorts a little. Anyway, not to worry, they both do fine, and there is always the Nikon, if I want to get fussy.

Out of nowhere, of course, I got an email from friend (and former Asia colleague) A., from his home in Oz, wanting to connect via one of the social media apps, so I needed to look at what I use, these days. To be honest, I've dumped Twitter, never used Whatsapp, and it's been aeons since I have used Skype - just checked, as I still have a Hotmail account I am able to actually use Skype on the web, not that I intend to, but the Microsoft account I use with some Windows Administrator logins still works.

Anyway, I just discovered Google Meet can be used without Google login, just one's cellphone number as an identifyer. I've set up my new 5G mobile so it does not use Google's login, which I am slowly getting allergic to, but that handset does have Google Meet, that might be handy, and does not collect all manner of spurious data - one hopes.

Shortly after I went for a routine visit to my rheumatologist, my left foot started to swell - I am assuming it is some kind of inflammation, though I can't think how or why. Anyway, because of a tendonitis in my wrist, she recommended anti-inflammatories - I had bought some a while ago, Naproxen, way back when prescribed as arthritis medication, before Voltaren and all that other good stuff got approved by the FDA - these days it is OTC. So, as I am taking a large dose of Naproxen already, I hope that will fix my foot, as well, I don't normally get swollen appendages. If not, back to the doctor, I guess. While I've had my flu and RSV jabs, my pharmacy hadn't received their allocation of the updated COVID vaccine yet, but now they do, so that'll be my next stop...


Thursday September 14: Rich or Happy?

Keywords: rich, power, passport, consulate, vegan, food, diet, alcohol, weight loss
Picture taken into the low morning sun outside my building at the tail end of summer, I thought it was pretty, especially with some folks waiting for the regular bus, and for the school bus, now that school is back in session in King County. It is still mostly sunny, and there's not been a lot of rain, according to the agriculturalists. But sun is fine with me, and the mountains still show sizeable snow caps.

first fall day Here's what a Guardian writer wrote about rich individuals, recently: "When rich people convince themselves that they re rich because they re smart instead of lucky and ruthless they misapply their talents to areas beyond their expertise." The article had Elon Musk as the subject, and the prime example. To be honest, I am not sure that's correct. I've met, and known, some rich folks, one of my ex-wives married a billionaire, and my expeerience has been that those folks get rich (exceptions excepted) because they'd learned how to make lots of money, and keep doing it. I think getting rich is itself a talent, one you apply because you want to. I don't know that "lucky" or "ruthless" come into it. If you're lucky, you get rich, and then you can lose it again; if you're ruthless, you may make lots of money, but you take a lot of risk, and the happiness may be make-believe. I don't know that you can "convince" yourself you're smart - you're smart, or you're not, it is not a misconception, not a figment of one's imagination. I don't know that Elon Musk is rich because he wanted to be, he's just someone who decided he wanted influence and power, and with that, more often than not, comes money. You can get rich if you're good at manipulating, but that does not mean you have the skillset to hang on to the wealth. So yes, Musk is rich, but I doubt that that is the goal he set out with.

This year, for the first time, the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs has enabled passport renewals in or near one's home town, in the United States (I don't know about the rest of the world). A Dutch Pop-Up Consulate has been doing the rounds, even coming to Seattle. While in the past I was able to do those renewals in New York or D.C., when I lived there, now that I live on the West Coast, the last time I had to go up to Vancouver, British Columbia, as that was the nearest consulate. This time I could just make an appointment at a WeWork location in downtown Seattle. They took my current passport, and the new one won't get here for weeks, so hopefully I won't have to travel in that period..

Interesting article in The Guardian written by a professor who switched from regular food to vegan food, and made some scientific (really?) comparisons. He says vegan is better. I am disinclined to agree with him, as the prospect does not attract me, and my weight loss, quite unplanned, came from giving up alcohol. Humans, I think, are designed for mixed nutrition, just look at the complex biological systems animals need to sustain themselves on grass and other veggies. Yes, we've got a food problem, mostly caused, methink, by overpopulation, indcluding the vast numbers of completely useless pets in cities.

So yes, giving up alcohol, as in, cold turkey, not a drop in the past year-and-a-half, and yes, I was a "functioning alcoholic", and had been for fourty-five or so years. But the weight loss came as a complete surprise, some thirty pounds of it, in the space of a few months, and when I stopped I wasn't fat or overweight, or so I thought. I did have a tummy, and that's completely gone, to the point that my GP, the other day, said I should not lose any more weight. And again, this wasn't intentional, triggered by a repeated liver status warning by my rheumatologist, who religiously checks these things because of the medication she puts me on.


Tuesday September 5: Vacuum is a gentle Art

Keywords: Hauppauge, Hauppauge 1682 tuner, broadcast TV, USB3, robot vacuum, iLife, remote, WiFi, HEPA
Couple of years ago, I bought two refurbished robot vacuums, one to use, the other as spare. It's a habit - when I run into discounted household equipment, I usually get two, so that once a unit breaks I don't have to shell out lots of unexpected money to get a replacement. But one of these vacuums - made by iLife - came without remote, but was WiFi/phone compatible, using a downloadable app. It's been sitting in its box since then, I didn't download the app and try it out, as the other vacuum came with a remote, and has been working well since I got it, so that was that.

Hauppauge ATSC adapter I recently bought some replacement filters and brushes for the "in use" vacuum, and then decided to try and get the WiFi version going, didn't know if that even worked. Long story short, the Google app store had five or six different versions of the iLife remote control app, but none of those mentioned the model vacuum I have, the A-7. So I ended up downloading and installing various different app versions, each of which you have to generate a login and password for, but not until the fourth version did the app tell me it was compatible with the A-7. Now that I have that installed, it actually works very well, you give the app your WiFi router login, and it magically connects. It provides a fully functional remote control, I've tested that but not yet used the unit, which is doing its initial charge. It can schedule cleaning runs, a function I don't plan on using, and I understand it can keep a map of where it's been and what it's done, and where its power dock is. So we'll see, kinda cool, the vacuum only cost me $110, and now that I've found its accessories (weirdly, most are at Amazon UK - order there, and the accessories come from China, for something silly, like 4 pounds) so I've been able to order spares. Solid units, these iLife vacuums, and they take (expensive) HEPA filters. Keep you posted. I used to clean the filters, but now I've gone to cleaning them every run, and replace them once a month, realizing that HEPA filters clog up like there is no tomorrow.

I have increasingly noticed that equipment manuals omit lots of things - only the other day I found that the Hauppauge TV decoder has a number of capabilities (wot we used to refer to as "undocumented features") that aren't mentioned anywhere, neither in a manual (if there even is one) or at the support website. The Hauppauge is a point in fact - on my ancient Toshiba Windows laptop (manually upgraded from Win 7 to Win 10 Pro) Hauppauge's WinTV 10, and the decoder, installed smoothly. On my HP 2570 Windows 10 Pro the install failed miserably - WinTV 10 didn't "see" the decoder on any of its USB3 ports. But when I tried to install the older Windows 8 version of WinTV, it did see the decoder, and ran! I have no idea why any of that happened, and if it hadn't been for my habit of wantonly experimenting, I would not have been able to get it to run. Interestingly, when I installed just the Windows 8 drivers for the decoder on my HP 2560, which runs Windows 8.1 Pro, I could get the decoder to work with Windows Media Center - even using multiple tuners simutaneously. I could only do that by getting the Windows 8 installer for WinTV to start up, and then break it off before it installed the software package. Go figure. So I've got the Hauppauge decoder to run on all of my computers, and especially recording on the Windows Media Center, where it will record multiple TV chanels simultaneously, now that I have found a USB3/Expresscard port adapter that works (the 2560 has USB2 ports, which aren't fast enough for the decoder). Cool, eh?


Sunday August 20: Broadcast TV Revisited

Keywords: Hauppauge, Hauppauge 1682 tuner, broadcast TV, USB3, EPG, Windows Media Center, Windwos 8.1 Pro, HP 2560p
Hauppauge ATSC adapter Using two older HP notebooks, one of which runs Wndows 8.1 Pro, so I can record broadcast TV using an ATSC USB dongle, I worry that that laptop will conk out one day, and Windows 8.1 was the last version that came with "Windows Media Center", an app that lets you watch, record, and play back broadcast television. I'd been looking for something to replace it, but most of the dongles on the market come with USB2 (slow) and dodgy applications that don't have a useful electronic program guide - an EPG. While Microsoft discontinued its EPG a while ago, there is a third party application that can read program information into Windows, that's what i have been using since. So the question was: if I need to replace my Windows 8.1 laptop, what will I use for a third party Media Center that will talk to my ATSC dongle?

Long story short: Hauppauge, an electronics firm out of Long Island that makes TV and video adapters, recently came up with a nifty little box with USB3, that comes with a Media Center app, and multiple tuners. Brilliantly, with it USB 3.0/3.1 interface, it is capable of recording multiple channels simultanously, So I'll be able to move this contraption, with the application that comes with it, to my Windows 10 Pro laptop, should that be necessary, and eventually to Windows 11, once I get going with that. The reason I am still using Windows 8.1 was the Media Center, so that problem is solved, for a couple hundred bucks. Swell. It is the Hauppauge 1682, BTW. Cheap at Hauppauge, but "out of stock", a bit more expensive on Amazon, but available. Go figure.

Completely to my amazement, the 1682, which comes with its own Windows 10/11 app, works fine on my Windows 8.1 Pro setup, which has Microsoft's Media Center. All I needed to do was download the older Windows 8 package from Hauppauge's website, let it start its install, but stop it when it wanted to install its software package. The first thing the installer does is set up and update the drivers, and those are fully compatible with Windows Media Center. Once you've done all that, Media Center accepts all four built in tuners, and is able to record multiple channels at the same time. In face, it even runs with a single channel using a USB 2.0 port, which I had not expected. Backwards compatible, as they say..


Tuesday July 4: Happy Fourth!

Keywords: heat pump, rheumatologist, cortisone, Cooper & Hunter, Holland, Australia, Schedules Direct, EPG123
C&H heat pumpNo particular reason to post on the Fourth, today just happens to be That Day. We celebrated (that is, the folks in my building) on Sunday, on our sunny patio, these days with our new electric BBQ, which means we don't have to smoke up the folks who live at the back, no more charcoal, what with many windows open - though there are now quite a few folks with subsidized electric who have HUD-subsidized A/C units, what with the climate in the Pacific Northwest warming up steadily. It's climate change - the electric heating had been subsidized for years.

Annoyingly, my GP will still not let me go to the gym - I had my annual physical a few days ago, but she still feels that with my immune condition, COVID remains too much of a risk. I am happy to comply though, I still (like many others) wear a face mask when in the supermarket or a store, I just wish the stats were better, but they are not. I do walk, and actually have taken to not using the elevator in my building, stairs are much better for one's health (not in any way related to COVID, btw).

Ths pic to the left shows the top view of my new C&H heat pump in the bedroom - I really like the design, and much to my surprise it was cheap-ish, well designed, very silent, and very powerful (=cold). I am saying "cold" as I can't test its heating capacity until the fall, of course. I bought the bits I need to install an external drain pump, but so far it evaporates its moisture just fine, so I may not need to put that together at all. We shall see...

Watching the news, I see the lines at the airports, here, on the other coast, and even in Europe, are horrendous. Glad I am not going anywhere - I wouldn't mind visiting my sister in Holland, and I was supposed to visit Andy in Australia, but I am not sure either will happen anytime soon. Mind you, Australia is a good place to go in winter, when it is summer there. Let me see if the price is right...

My excellent rheumatologist got my right hand working properly again, thanks to a well placed steroid shot in my hand (sort of where the hand meets the wrist). It took a number of days, but I am close to pain free - I may go back for another shot if it doesn't "fix" itself completely. I've had numerous steroid joint shots, over the years, sort of never quite stops. I once flew from the Philipines, where I couldn't find a competent rheumatologist, to Singapore, to get just such a shot. Medical care has improved greatly, in SE Asia, over the years, I hasten to add, this was a while ago.

Why I keep losing the Schedules Direct function in the EPG123 broadcast TV tuning app in my Windows 8.1 laptop is beyond me. I lost bit by bit of its functioning, and then, today, I recovered it by adding a lineup in an adjoining ZIP code. I won't know 'till the morn' if it is now functioning properly - it was recording even though it said it wasn't able to tune. No idea why, but it now seems to be back to working normally. There is now a tuner set for Windows 11, but I'll need to buy a new laptop before I can use that, my HP 2560 can't run Windows 11, nor does it have the USB3 ports that TV tuner can use - a device that would preclude my using the old Windows Media Center. So we soldier on...


Wednesday June 14: Shopping and surgery

Keywords: heat pump, rheumatologist, cortisone, fence, Hotspot, 5G, knee surgery
There are several reasons why I am blogging less than I used to - for one thing, I've been having (presumably arthritic) problems with my right wrist, which is the side I use to operate the touchpad and controls on my Bluetooth keyboard. I suppose I could have tried to switch to the left hand, but that never occurred to me. At any rate, I've waited to see if the wrist would improve, after seeing my rheumatologist, and now I've gone and gotten a cortisone shot. I should give that a week or so, cortisone, when a joint is forced, can do more harm than good (I have experience).

fence with rose I do like that rose peeking through the fence - it's actually out back in the trash storage enclosure, which is why nobody's messed with it, I guess. Otherwise an uneventful week, moved (with a neighbour's help) my old portable heat pump into my SUV, so I can take it to Goodwill, and that was an excellent moment to check tire- and suspension pressure, and replace the phone holder that's been on my windshield since 1880, that I discovered won't accomodate my new T-Mobile 5G handset. Not that I use that phone while driving, but I'd like to use it as my dashcam, since I has a huge bettery and a set of hires camera's. Being a 5G device, I could even use it as a mobile hotspot for my Blackberry. Yeah! Let's try that right now..

Well, that worked beautifully. Once I activate the Hotspot on 5G, and mount the handset on the windshield, I can set its video camera running, and my Blackberry will automatically use the Hotspot. That's brilliant. Not only that, at that point the Blackberry will have WiFi calling in the car. That's new, and very convenient - I'll have to see how well 5G works inside a steel box. We'll have to see about the data use anyway, but one thing at a time.

I've been helping a neighbour who has recently had knee surgery - a friend stayed with her for a while, but she's able to move around again, and today I took her shopping, giving her car some exercise at the same time, as she's not driving right now. She's doing well, but older folk with knee surgery, that always worries me a bit, you never know how careful a person is, when they need to be. Anyway, we can do these trips for as long as she needs them, thankfully, we both frequent the same supermarket, at least I know where to find everything, always a problem when you're not familiar with a store. In her case, since she can't stand to cook for periods of time yet, lots and lots of frozen ready meals..


Sunday May 28: Re-installing things

Keywords: heat pump, dual hose, notebook, HP2560p, USB3, Windows 8.1, FedEx, Kohberger, Indiana, Cooper & Hunter
14ton C&H heat pump My older HP 2560p notebook does not have USB3 ports, just USB2, and I had bought an Expresscard adapter for Windows that gave me that faster USB3 port. It came with a Windows driver, and has, so far, worked fine, but I have always assumed that the card would only work with Windows (8.1, in this case) loaded and running. That precludes using it when booting from a DVD, for troubleshooting, because a recovery disk does not load special drivers. So I had never tried to use the Expresscard after a "raw" boot, from a Windows 8.1 DVD recovery disk, but much to my surprise, that worked fine - where the DVD found the USB3 drivers, which the 2560 isn't supposed to have, I shall never know, but it did, and so I am able to recover the Windows load for that machine from a backup disk. Who knew.

FedEx drives me bonkers. Last week a shipment arrived the day after they had scheduled, this week it is the same story. They provided Tuesday as the delivery day, then by Friday adjusted that to Monday, I needed to be home because I need to sign for it, and they've not turned up - again. That, again, is the second or third time they changed the date, and then changed it again, with me being unable to leave my apartment for much of two days. FedEx has a real problem, one I don't see with UPS, the Postal Service, or Amazon. Yep - they changed the delivery date just now, from "Today" to "Pending". Jeez.

So Bryan Kohberger, the chap from Pennsylvania who, studying in Washington State, allegedly murdered four students at the University of Idaho, wouldn't enter a plea during his arraignment. What is with this guy? Why did he callously kill four people he allegedly didn't know? Why did he then try to abscond to his parental home on the other side of the country? Kudos to the cops who found and nabbed him, but you have to wonder what actually happened, and if we'll ever know. Right? I guess that's why there is this endless overload of "whodunit" documentaries on TV, who watches this stuff? And why?

I spent much of the morning replacing my remaining old Edgestar portable heat pump with a brand spanking new Cooper & Hunter ditto, not a brand I had ever heard of, and one I only found on some deep searching. A 14K BTU heating / cooling unit, it was significantly cheaper than any of the units Amazon had that day, in fact, under $500 (without tax). Dual hose, too - those are usually more expensive, as the single hose variety sucks air you've just cooled or heated out of the space the unit is installed in, and uses it for the heat exchanger. That's expensive. The window install kit that came with the C&H was different than any of my others, but the panels were the same width, so I charged my drill batteries and got out the paraphernalia and tools I had needed during previous installs. As it turned out the kit fit the window beautifully, all I needed was one xtra sliding panel to fit the height exactly. Magic, esy as pie. Much to my surprise, the unit is quite powerful, has a low noise level, and very easy switching between modes. It is a bit lower than my previous unit, so does not block light coming through the bedroom window, and as it has much more than enough capacity for the bedroom, it manages to cool most of the apartment by itelf, with a little help from its friend in the living room. I'm chuffed - it's about 80 outside, and the units aren't even working very hard to maintain 73 degrees inside.


Saturday May 20: Medical insurance? Fuggedaboutit

Keywords: medical insurance, Aetna, The Polyclinic, endocrine, heat pump, heat wave, dual hose
Annoyingly, medical care is becoming harder to obtain, even for the well insured. Only recently I discovered that The Polyclinic no longer accepts Aetna insurance - with a 22 million membership and over $60 billion in revenues, now a wholly owned CVS Health subsidiary, hardly a small insurer. But the Polyclinic merged with Optum, itself part of United Healthcare, I just can't fathom why some medical facilities now don't accept all or most insurance plans. Competition? Maybe, but I found that even Swedish, now merged with Providence, is beginning tp pick and choose. My local Swedish endocrinology department has actually sent me to get edocrine care in the suburbs, an hour's drive away, amazing, considering I am an existing Swedish patient.

We have sort of a heatwave going on - where the normal temperatures, this time of year, are in the '60s, we're heading for 85-90, so it is hot. I'll go and walk this afternoon, first real time since the Fall, though I do rounds around the building, stairs, that sort of thing, several times a day, stopped using the elevator pretty much. I haven't put on weight - actually, my hairdresser commented, yesterday, that I had lost weight. I explained that's really from a year ago, when I stopped drinking alcohol "cold turkey", and my weight has pretty much stabilized. Anyway, that made, and makes, me happy...especially since a neighbour commented on my supposed weight loss, as well. I am not seeing it on the scale much, but if multiple people notice and provide unbidden comments, there has to be something to it.

In the meantime, one of my heat pumps, the older (2016) one, bought refurbished, is losing cooling capacity, so I've had to order a replacement, though the newer unit in my living room seems to cope well on its own. But I've found a relatively cheap ($479 plus tax) new portable heat pump, 14,000 BTU, which is on its way to me from Miami. I guess I'll donate the old, but still working, unit to Goodwill, which isn't far from here, and it should fit nicely in the back of my SUV, if I can get a neighbour to help.

I've managed to find a dual hose heat pump, which is a lot more efficient than a single hose version, happy with that. A single hose heat pump, or A/C, uses air it sucks from your house to heat or cool your compressor, and the resultant warm or cold air goes to the heat exchanger. Effectively, you're using air that you've already paid to cool or heat, while the dual hose version gets its air from outside, so there is no loss of energy. The dual hose versions are relatively expensive,and now you know why the single hose versions are a lot cheaper. It took some searching, but I did find a cheaper dual hose version, one with internal evaporation as well, so you don't have to futz with a waste water tank (well, unless you live in Mississippi or Florida...).


Wednesday May 10: Largest drive I ever owned

Keywords: Spring, SSD, terabytes, disk storage, patrolling, security, disk formats
16 terabyte memory stick I just bought an external SSD to use as a transfer device between laptops, something I had been doing with a "regular" 2.5 inch drive in an external USB3 enclosure. It is how I take the day's updates from one laptop to the second, which I use as a backup device, more or less. Now I thought I had ordered a 4TB external SSD for $31, which would be amazingly cheap, but when it got here it turned out to be a 16TB storage device, improbably small and improbably cheap, and larger than any other drive I own. I managed to get it working (no manual and description in Mandarin), and currently it is taking a full copy of my transfer files. Those were occupying 1.5TB of the drive I was using, so it was time to get a little more transfer space, but 16TB... for $31.. Amazing. It is supposed to be a USB3.1 device, so it should be manageable.

In the meantime, the temperature went up to 80 degrees (a week ago, we still had night frost) so my heat pumps are cranking. The temps are still a bit up-and-down - today the heat pumps are pumping heat, overnight one is cooling, it is that transitional time of year. Nice to be able to easily switch from heat to cool, though.

What with the days lengthening, I am adjusting my schedule, governed, to some extent, by the time in the evening I head downstairs to close some of the shutters and check the ground floor for trespassers. Although we don't get a lot of those, there have been some incursions, on two occasions we've had to involve Seattle PD. So these days, I try and make sure there's nobody downstairs who is not supposed to be in the building, and make sure communal spaces are closed and secure. The Housing Authority itself has locked down the downstairs windows, there are tenants who left some open, giving homeless folk a way into the building. By now the folks downstairs are used to my patrolling, and appear to be pleased I do.

Coming back to the very large SSD I bought, I've managed to get it working "properly", it uses a different format than conventional drives (or even smaller SSD's) do, and not all "scriptable" tools work. Robocopy, for instance, does not, and that's the command line tool I used for timed backups between systems, but it looks like I can use xcopy, at least, so far, but I need to test a bit more - a 400 GB backup took all night to accomplish, though my backups are usually incremental. So, tonight another test, with a large and an incremental backup. I am wanting to optimally use my 16 terabytes, though I don't have an actual need for that much backup. It's kind of amazing, I don't have, nor do I need, anything that large - while my two network drives together have some 16 terabytes of space, I don't use half thst, and even that much data is partly because of the redundancy I build into my data storage.

Anyway, it's just about Spring - but daytime temperaturea are going for 70's already, so it will be summer soon.


Saturday April 29: And the printer prints..

Keywords: T-Mobile, 5G, cellphone, Blackberry, REVVL V+ 5G, cost of living, COVID
34th Ave W This picture may not be all that spectacular, it's just the streetscape outside of my building, but I wanted to give you an idea of the colour rendition my new T-Mobile REVVL V+ 5G handset offers. It isn't the sharpest image on the planet, but colour and shades are unmatched. My Blackberry is a little better, in terms of acuity, but this unit provides terrific colours, as you can see. No colour or image correction in this shot, either, unusual for me to feel no need. I am still experimenting with it, especially since the camera app has a lot of settings that aren't explained in the manual, like "PRO". A matter of experimenting, I guess, I still have not figured out why some images come out in 16MB resolution, others in 8, and there are some other settings new to me. That's for pictures, not video, which gets different resolutions and things one can set. But for a cheap 5G camera/phone, this thing is pretty on the ball. Just waiting for the belt clip / desk stand I ordered, this isn't one I want to drop, occasionally, I've ruined one Blackberry that way already. The Blackberry I already looked at, as they have a Key Two version, but as it turns out that got popular, new prices between $850 and $1,000. Can't afford that - and that's the 4G LTE version, they've not upgraded it.

I am kind of pleased, looking at my finances, to see I have about the same level of savings I had just after I moved here (that is, the last time I moved, February 2020, after the Seattle Housing Authority allocated me a HUD subsidized seniors apartment in Magnolia, one of the nicer places to live in Seattle. What I am saying is that I largely recovered my outgoings from the move, and recovered the living cost increase caused by the COVID pandemic - prices never dropped back to before-COVID levels, nor will they, methinks. 12 rolls of toilet paper cost around $11, today, which is double what they were before - a 2 liter bottle of Cherry Coke costs $2.50, these days, as opposed to the $1.25 they used to cost. Etc. My social security pensions, both the American and European variants, have increased a bit this year, which presumably is how the various governments have tried to help use pensionado's to survive. That had me worried for a while, but I think I am good now, even though my rent suddenly went up by some 12% per month, but the Housing Authority avoided rent increases all during the pandemic, so I can't complain.

I've spent some extra time "fixing" some of the network stuff that hadn't quite worked. My printer, an HP Deskjet 3633 I've owned for a number of years, I could never get to work right, after its initial install, using WiFi. When my router packed up and I bought a new one, I found I had no record of the printer's IP address, so couldn't reset its network parameters. I was able to use it via its USB interface, but could never do a full reset of its network. That is, until a couple of days ago, when I tried using my Toshiba laptop, which had never had the HP drivers installed. As it turned out, I was able to start up the printer's "WiFi Direct", and that showed up in my Toshiba's WiFi settings as an accessible network. That gave me a chance to use HP's downloadable Start Print application, and that allowed me to reset the IP address to something my router could work with. Next, I was able to reconfigure HP's Deskjet Management software with the new IP address, and hey presto! I could print as well as scan using WiFi, and disconnect the USB port. All it needed was a computer which didn't "know" the printer, which actually is mentioned somewhere in the help pages the printer can print from its memory. It's perfect - thankfully, I remembered the password I had set years ago, so I was able to fully reconfigure. It's a nice printer, and considering it was on special offer from HP for something like $20, years ago, a good deal. The reason it got difficult is that I had always refused to set it up with an internet connection to HP, which they insisted on, and why it was so cheap. So all that sorted, and I don't have to tell HP what I do, and what printer cartridges I use - had I connected it to HP, I would only have been able to use HP brand inkjet cartridges, and have the printer order them direct. Teehee, I won!


Monday April 24: 5G got to me!

Keywords: FedEx, T-Mobile, 5G, cellphone, Blackberry
Increasingly, FedEx does not deliver, or does not deliver on time, unlike Amazon, UPS and the Postal Service. This is massively annoying, especially since FedEx occasionally delivers refrigerated medication that they confirm is shipped overnight, but rarely actually arrives in the set (by them) timeframe. An occasional mishap I can live with, but most FedEx deveries actually do not get here on time, or even on the day they're supposed to. Today's is a good example, they scheduled this for tomorrow, then changes the schedule to today, then didn't deliver. What's with these folks? This is their bread and butter... Now, after waiting to sign for this delivery half the day, FedEx emails me it is going to be tomorrow after all. That's two days waiting for the intercom to buzz, honestly, it is not good enough. When UPS gets closer to delivery, they give me a time and an interactive map - so does Amazon. FedEx - nuttin'. Well, umm, I should rephrase that - the overnight FedEx delivery of my refrigerated medication eventually did come with a tracking map, and was pretty much on time. Which took some doing, because FedEx got here at the same time a fire truck and and ambulance turned up, that was a bit unusual.

Not too much later another FedEx truck delivered my new T-Mobile 5G handset, and that is now being charged. While the charger that came with it is a fast charger, meaning it can deliver 5V, 9V as well as 12V DC "on demand", I've hung it off a USB3 port on my HP Elitebook, for which I have a new USB3 high voltage high speed cable (I have no idea if that does anything special on this new phone, but we'll see). At least it fits, and I don't need a fast charge on a new phone, just a full one...

So Ebay had the previous version of T-Mobile's 5G handset, new, cheaper than the current one, but it did take me quite a bit of figuring out before I had it working right (if the alarm clock works fine, which I'll know in the morning, I'll be happy). The "REVVL V+ 5G" works fine, and runs at a good 5G, judging from what testing I have done, and the USB3 "C" type port it has seems to be talking "at speed" to the USB3 ports on my laptop. I've not set it up to use with Google, so I can't use the app store, but I have enough handsets that do that, and I don't need the same apps on the TMO handset I have on my Blackberry. The TMO handset has an "always on" nighttime clock / alarm that is very dim, and night charges and wakes me up reliably, so I can now have my "primary" phone on a slow charge by my bed, and dispense with the retired Blackberry Z10 I had been using as an alarm clock. The selfie I've posted here, the one with the Stars and Stripes over my head, was taken with the new TMO handset - click on the shot and you can see how good the quality of even the front firing camera is. I like it.


Monday April 17: Downloading and storing

Keywords: Spring, Photoworks, Shutterfly, Housing Authority, elder care, EMS, 5G, mobile phone
911 Nothing alarming, but I just decided to take a shot of the front of the building, with the emergency vehicles we see all too often. I live in a municipal seniors building, and so there are frequently older folk who have a medical emergency. Unlike in other countries, in much of the United States a fire truck with EMS trained technicians on board turns up before an ambulance does - the latter, in most cases, gets called in when a patient has to go to the emergency room. In this case, it was a City Aging and Disability case worker who called the troops in, when one of my neighbours was unwell. The system works, what can I say.

I have managed to get all of the photography I had stored in Shutterfly downloaded - originally "Photoworks", these folks supplied Kodachrome 35mm slide film that was returned to them for processing and scanning, and until I got my own scanner I amassed thousands of digitized slides in their care. Eventually, Shutterfly took them over, and stored their images at their website. Recently, they let us know they were discontinuing the storage, and so I spent the better part of a week downloading all of the digitized photography (I had ditched the slides earlier). Because of the large volume of files I have, combined with broadcast TV recording, I've had to add an 8TB USB drive to my NAS array - those files I can't afford to lose on the NAS, the rest on the USB attached Seagate. Done, just a few more archives to move around. All in all, I will then have a total of just under 16 terabytes of storage space, which is, for now, a lot more than I need, I've used, combined with the new Seagate, some 5.53TB, leaving some 10.47TB of disk space available. The big NAS, by itself, was filling up faster than I was happy with, what with daily incremental backups from two systems. I like having less than half the storage space I need, which will make it easier to replace a drive in the NAS array, should I need to.

One of my mobile phones wasn't working quite right, something with the audio path, and as that had happened before, I decided to get a replacement, it was always a cheapie. Much to my surprise, I found a previous generation T-Mobile 5G phone on Ebay - I didn't even know 5G phones already were in their next generation. As it turned out, this handset was cheaper than the current one, it is new, and not expensive, so I'd ordered one. I was, for what I do with my phones and Hotspot, perfectly happy with 4G LTE, so getting a 5G device will be an unexpected benefit - I'll need to see if I need to adjust my network subscription, though. Worst case, I'll have 4G LTE, which is what I have now. I'll know in a few days, it'll be very interesting to see how fast 5G really is.


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
The time machine through Monday November 7, 2022, with linkbacks to October, 2008, is here

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

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