Anachostic

Another attempt

The Whim Becomes A Wham

The other day, I jumped on an idea to upgrade the storage in my computer.  Lucky for me it was Amazon Prime day, so I got a pretty good deal on a couple of 8TB hard drives.  I laid out the technical idea in another post, which at the time seemed all very logical.  It’s been about six years since I built this computer and it’s been serving me very well all this time.  The only thing it really needed was a better storage structure.

With the new drives arriving in a couple of days, I began planning the conversion.  I don’t do much hardware work anymore, just software, so I have to look some stuff up as I go.  In order to use a drive that is over 2TB in size, you need to partition it as GPT (guid partition table).  All of the drives I have now are 2TB or less and all of them were MBR (master boot record) partitioned.  So the first thing I checked was if MBR and GPT drives could coexist.  I didn’t really get an answer on that, because my question changed to: does my computer support GPT partitioned drives.  And the answer to that turned out to be, no.

In short, I had two drives coming in the mail that I could not use in my computer.  No problem (actually a minor problem), I’ll just upgrade the motherboard.  As I soon found out, you don’t just upgrade a 6yr old motherboard.  Technology has moved on.  Ok, so I’ll get a new motherboard and CPU.  Sorry, your RAM isn’t compatible with newer motherboards.  Ooook, I guess I’m buying a new motherboard, CPU, and new RAM.  Essentially, I’m buying a whole new computer.  Falling down a technological rabbit hole.

And that kinda sucks, because my computer is working just fine.  It doesn’t run slow, it doesn’t crash, it’s fine.  But in order to utilize modern hard drives, I need a modern computer.  And it kind of shows that I’ve gotten off the technology train a while ago.  Computers now are super-powered, because they’re used for a lot of really high-powered gaming.  I don’t game, so I don’t need that level of computer.  Good for me, I guess.

At this point, the thing I have to do is evaluate what I need from my new motherboard.  When I bought my current one back in 2012, I was coming from a small desktop and I wanted as much expandability as possible.  Over time, the cards I had installed in my system came and went based on what hardware I was using, and now, I have to determine what’s really being used anymore.  For example, I have an expansion card that gives me more USB ports and FireWire.  I don’t think I have anything plugged into that card at all.  I have a card that gives me eSATA and also a couple extra SATA ports with RAID.  I don’t have my eSATA dock anymore and I use Windows RAID now.  My motherboard has 6 SATA ports – plenty.  So what’s remaining?  I know I have a video card and a video capture card.

Oh but wait, the motherboard has some new features on it, like support for M2 SSD drives.  Do I need something like that?  Well, it’s pretty cool, and the drives are pretty cheap.  Geez, I paid a couple hundred for my 256GB SSD and now, I can get one twice as big for $55.  Again, do I need it?  Well, I am modernizing my computer; I don’t want to be left behind again, right?  And then there’s the video card.  It’s pretty old, too.

Hold on, stop.  Let’s just focus on what’s needed here.  I quickly placed the order for CPU, motherboard, and RAM.  $311 total.  That’s now in addition to the $300 I spent on the new drives.  So back in 2012, I spent $430 on CPU/MB/RAM, plus a case, and this year it’s $311 for CPU/MB/RAM.  Seems like things are about the same.  And that’s what, about $50/yr to stay current?  Not too bad.

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A Whim

Sometimes, well, maybe more than sometimes, I am prone to impulsiveness.  I’ll get an idea and the more I can justify that idea, through a series of tiny connections, the more likely it is I am going to act on it.  Sometimes, I can stave it off by focusing on the financial aspects of the idea, and other times, it seems the cost isn’t really important or maybe I do more rationalizing of how the cost is justified.  And that is where I’m at today.

This whim is technology-based, so it hits on a few different pleasure points.  It’s a new idea for me, so there’s the novelty of trying it out.  It’s an improvement, so I can justify that it has value.  It supports another of my on-again, off-again obsessions – archival, so there’s indirect benefit as well.

So here’s the idea, which probably won’t make any sense to non-technical people.  I’m going to replace all the hard disks in my computer, and make all the drives virtual.  I’m using some terms very specifically there (and I’ll be inconsistent everywhere else) – I say “disks” to describe the physical hard drives and “drives” to mean the individual drive letters.  Most people have a C:\ drive on their one hard disk.  My system is a bit more complex, for organizational purposes.

Here’s what my computer’s Disk Manager shows.

Disk Mgr 1

I have five hard drives in my computer, one of which is an external USB drive.  What you see in the image is that C: is one hard drive, D: and S: are on another drive, and Y: and L: are paired up on two mirrored drives.  The M: drive is a virtual drive whose file is held on L:.  The B: drive is the external USB.

If you look at the free space of my drives, the M: drive is only 6% free.  This drive holds all my music files, so if you’ve read any of my blog, you would know this space is going to run out soon.  Then there’s other little things that are bothersome.  D: has 95% space free, but I can’t really use it for anything because it’s unmirrored (and thus vulnerable to a drive failure), and also, it’s on another drive anyway.

So, again, here’s the plan.  Get rid of Disk 1, 2, and 3 and replace them with two 8TB mirrored drives.  Right there, that’s nearly 4x my current storage.  Then I could create D:, S:, Y:, and L: all on that mirrored drive.  That would be cool and all, but when it comes to resizing and reorganizing partitions, it can get messy.  For example, taking 100GB from D: and adding some of it to S:, you end up with broken pieces of the drive.

image

To avoid this, and be cool and modern in the process, I’ll do with all my drives what I did with the M: drive.  Everything will be its own virtual drive stored on the mirrored disks.  To reiterate, M: is actually a file on the L: drive.  M: is 500GB and L: has a 500GB file on it.  With my new design, I’ll have one massive 8TB drive, with five large files on it, one for the D: drive, one for the S: drive, etc.

What’s that gain me?  In the case of Disk 1, shown above, it would just be one partition, D:.  S: would be on a totally different disk, say Disk 5.  The drive will always consume 100% of the disk it is on – no sharing or splitting.  So when I expand or shrink the virtual disk, it will always be 100% consumed by the drive.  The change in free space will be reflected in the 8TB drive hosting the file.

What else do I get out of it?  Well, I don’t have to use up the 8TB right away.  I can build a temporary drive for whatever purpose and destroy it when I’m done with it.  That’s kind of the way things are here at my workplace.  We have a massive drive array and whenever we need a new server, we just carve out some drive space and make a new server.  It’s one step closer to me having a entirely virtualized network.  Also, by not using up all the space at once, I can grow the individual drives as they need it.  I don’t have to try and anticipate how much I’ll be using.

Looking back in history, the last time I discussed my computer storage was over five years ago.  So that’s actually a really good run for the 2TB drives I’m using now.  It’s one more bit of justification for me to indulge my whim.

Taming the Excess

Over a year ago, I had written a review of some CD cases that were gifted to me and I was impressed with the quality.  They’ve been in use ever since I got them.  They were initially for my “overstock”, which were CDs of which I had duplicates or had replaced with better versions.  Essentially, the cases held my sell/trade copies.

Over some time, I’ve been scoring a lot of smooth replacement jewel cases, so I started storing them in with my trade collection as my “supplies” collection.  As you would imagine, the supplies come and go with the growth and management of my collection, but the trade selection just keeps growing.  Part of this is because I feel I have some decent value trades.

Let’s address that irrationality of mine right off.  The value of CDs is nothing.  The value only matters to the few people that collect CDs.  I know this.  Otherwise, the CD pressing has no bearing to a person that just wants to hear More Than A Feeling and Smokin’ by Boston.  Again, I know this.  But, my reluctance to simply take them to the local shop and get $1 or less for these is not because I feel I deserve more money for these unique pressings.  My reason is that I’m holding them for the right owner who wants them.  I’m not going to gouge them for the discs.  The money is less important than having the disc appreciated.  And that, is far more irrational than what you might have thought at the beginning of this paragraph.

But that’s not the point of this post.  The point is that I had run out of space with my supplies and my overstock.  When I received the CD storage boxes, my brief research said they cost $65 each.  Out of consistency’s sake, I searched for more cases of the same make.  I figured there would be some used ones on EBay for cheap.  What I found on EBay were brand new ones, with double the capacity, for $37.  And, if I bought two, the price was discounted to $26!  And they had free shipping!  Well, I guess I’m unexpectedly spending some money today.

So, when these cases come in, my overstock storage capacity will go from 120 to 360.  It just seems to be the next logical step in me becoming “the CD guy” at the local flea market.  That’s sort of been my long-range, expected, retirement plan (for social enrichment, not financial).  How many CDs do you need to have an impressive storefront?  Not quite sure, but I should be there when I’m ready.

It wasn’t buyer’s remorse that set in right away, but I started to get a real suspicion that I had bought cheap knockoffs.  You know, “too good to be true” certainly applies here in the price department.  I began studying the pictures in the listing very closely.  They looked nearly identical to the authentic Vaultz product with two exceptions.  There was no Vaultz nameplate on the ones I bought, and the drawers had adjustable velcro dividers.  Both of these differences seemed like reasonable design changes over a few years, and I couldn’t really find any official Vaultz imagery to prove otherwise.

Then UPS sent me a delivery notification that my package would arrive tomorrow.  It was being sent by… Yahee Technologies.  Oh, there’s that sinking feeling.  I’m already preparing a scathing feedback message for them misrepresenting their product as Vaultz.  And you know, they got me.  Shipping these things back will cost me probably half of what I spent, so I might as well keep them.  I guess the best I can hope for at this point is that the quality isn’t complete shit.  Maybe there’s actual wood construction and not fiberboard.  The aluminum edge protectors look decent and the rubber feet look just like the Vaultz. 

I received the cases and as expected, they are not authentic Vaultz product.  However, they are a very close replica.  The locks are different and a lot of the construction that is wood on a Vaultz is thick fiberboard (again, as expected).  I jumped on EBay to vent about it, but after reading their “please contact us before leaving negative feedback” pleas, I slowed down and thought about the whole situation.

All things considered, these cases aren’t too bad.  They aren’t as flimsy as I expected.  Honestly, they were packed quite well and had no China smell.  To be fair, they were exactly the quality for the price you should expect – not cheap, not premium.  For a replica/knockoff/ripoff, they’re well done.  And I think I can live with them.  So instead of negative feedback, I just chose to leave no feedback.

Is that fair to future purchasers?  I think so, because I don’t think the great majority of people who are buying these cases would be like me, actually looking for additional authentic Vaultz product.  They would have no basis of comparison, as as such, they would be perfectly happy with what they got.  After all, I found the product decent for what I paid, too.

The Next Collector’s Goal

It was almost five years ago that I made a concerted effort to collect the entirety of a music label, the MCA Master Series.  The Master Series is a collection of largely instrumental “new age” music from the late 80’s.  For a little while now, I’ve been kicking around the idea of trying this again with another label.  I’m going to make a start on it now.

The label this time is IRS NoSpeak.  It’s another instrumental label from the same time period.  The label considered themselves “anti-new age” in the sense it was much more rock-oriented.  The scope of the collection is much smaller, with MCA having been 40+ releases, this label is only 19 strong.  With the price of CDs being depressed across the board, plus having these CDs never really reaching a large audience outside of individual fan groups, these should be obtainable for a reasonable cost. 

It’s kind of funny that with as much as I shop at thrift stores and get CDs for a buck or two, shopping online is actually a little unreasonable.  When you have to pay $3-4 for shipping on a $3-5 cd, that money can get you a good haul at a thrift store.  But when you want something specific, your chances of finding what you want in a random thrift store are pretty slim, so you gotta pay.

My history with the IRS NoSpeak label is pretty limited, and honestly, I don’t like most of what I already have.  But what I do like, I really like, so I’m hoping that I can find some winners again.  I did find some amazing stuff as I built my MCA collection, so maybe this good fortune will happen again.

The first album I got on the NoSpeak label was their first release, Guitar and Son, which was a guitar-based album.  Every time I hear it, I’m taken back to the days when I’d be playing the CD on repeat, over and over, while reading the monstrous Computer Shopper magazine and dreaming of getting back into computers again.  Those were simpler, happier times.

Maybe when the collection is complete, I’ll do the same as I did with the Master Series and make a set of pages for them here on the blog.  The album artwork is nice, although of a much different style than the Master Series.  It might be suitable for framing. 

Current stats: 6 on hand, 3 on order, 10 remaining.

You All Fail Economics

https://www.ibtimes.com/nasa-asteroid-tracker-eyes-giant-golden-asteroid-could-make-all-humans-billionaires-2803286

Have you seen the headlines for this news story?

NASA Asteroid Tracker Eyes Giant Golden Asteroid, Could Make All Humans Billionaires
NASA to explore heavy metal asteroid 16 Psyche that could make everyone rich
Golden Asteroid Could Make Everyone on Earth Wealthy

Who?  Who believes this?  First of all, who thinks that anyone, corporate or government entity, is going to spend the money to capture a distant asteroid, haul it back to Earth, then distribute the asteroid’s contents to all people on the planet, making everyone rich instantly?  Like they will do it out of the kindness of their hearts?  Just trying to make everyone’s life better, you know.

Then there’s the simple economic reality that gets in the way.  Let’s say that this crazy idea is implemented.  Is everyone rich now?  Of course not.  Everyone is exactly where they were before, because all that happened was the floor was raised.  Your net worth increased by two billion dollars – you’re rich, bitch!  But your neighbor’s increased by the same amount.  Are you both rich?  You’re richer than everyone you were richer than before.  Good job!

The sad reality is that the one(s) that will be rich beyond comprehension will be those in possession of the asteroid.  And even then, will they be rich?  Kind of.  Because wealth is really just an illusion.  Maybe you’ve read some fringe articles that express disbelief that our world economy even functions.  How does it function?  It’s all on faith.  We all agree a dollar is worth so much.  What makes it worth that much?  Agreement.  That’s it.

Value is determined by scarcity.  If there is less of something and with the assumption that demand for that something remains equal, the value rises.  If supply increases or demand falls, the value falls.  It’s simple supply and demand equations we all should have learned in school.  Now, take a mega-millionaire like Bezos, Gates, or Zuck.  They are mega rich because they have tons and tons of stock in their respective companies.  Yeah, they’re rich, but what if they wanted it all in cash, right now?  If they sold all their stock, the supply of stock for the company would explode and because it’s not scarce anymore, the value falls.  They aren’t as rich as they are on paper, when they control the supply.

And that’s what would happen to the golden asteroid owner.  They can’t cash all the gold in right away, because the price of gold would plummet.  Even if they dole out the gold over a period of time, it’s still going to affect the quantity available, reducing scarcity, reducing value.  Just like a company owner, it’s a stockpile of wealth that can’t really be utilized directly.

I could go on about this, but my only real point was the stupidity of the headline suggesting that everyone on Earth could be made a billionaire.  While it may technically be true, it doesn’t mean that anyone would be wealthy as a result.

Holding My Ground

I got another friendly visit from a Spectrum salesperson.  Wonderful.  This time, when I got the inevitable question about how much I’m paying for what services, I got a response of, “Wow.  You are paying WAYY too much!”  Well, thanks.  It’s always smart to suggest your potential customer is stupid.  When I was asked how long I’ve had Frontier, I said since they arrived in the neighborhood.  She replied, “Well, I guess you’re just really loyal.”  Uh huh. Don’t think I didn’t detect only the tiniest pause before “loyal”, as if she wanted to say something else.  Ok, then.  Let’s play.

Obviously, I’m not going to change my service.  I didn’t last time they came by and this time is no different.  But this rep was motivated.  Unfortunately, when you fail at establishing rapport and you just start to go off the rails, motivation can be a bad thing.

This time, I was prepared, because last time, I didn’t get the opportunity to explain that I wasn’t going to switch from a company that has been good to me for 15 years to a company I have no history with.  I told her so.  Her response was that Charter (Spectrum’s owner) had the highest customer satisfaction ratings.  Let’s check that.  According to BroadbandNow, yes, Charter has higher customer satisfaction than Frontier.

Next she made the claim that you can tell the strength of a company is through their stock price.  Let’s check that, too.  And yes, comparing the stock charts between the two is no contest.  Frontier is sinking like a stone and Charter is shooting upward.  So far, her information is accurate, even if I couldn’t verify it at the time.  But then, things started to turn dark.

Along with the claim that Frontier is fading, she said that Frontier is trying to sell FIOS, because they’re losing money on it.  Checking the news, this is true as well, although maybe overblown.  I was told that Charter had the chance to buy Frontier but they turned it down.  Why?  They’re just going to wait for Frontier to go out of business, then they’ll take the customers for free.  Then I was strangely lectured on the greatness of monopolies and how Charter had complete control over certain nearby towns.  It sounded mildly threatening, and I made the comment, “well, I guess I’m just delaying the inevitable, aren’t I?”

I reiterated that I wasn’t interested in switching until I was given a reason to.  Again, she went back to price.  She brought up that new customers are getting the same thing I’m getting for $30/mo and I’m paying $75/mo.  Well, yeah, it’s an introductory offer.  I know about that.  Obviously, a company can’t afford to always offer their service at that price. 

And as we closed our conversation, I got one last threat.  When Frontier goes out of business and Spectrum is the only service provider, there’s not going to be any special offers or introductory prices, because there won’t be any other options.  Yes, that’s right.  She did say that.  I did get to fire back, “Well, that’s just what a good company would do” and we parted ways.

There’s no shortage of words spent on the evils of monopolies, but I have always imagined that the evil was concentrated at the top of the organization.  I’ve never had the thought that the domination and control mindset extended right down into the culture of the company and reached the front lines where it became a threatening sales tactic.

So, You Want To Work Here

My current activity in job seeking has gotten me thinking about the interview process.  It’s something I’ve written about before – in anger – but my recent thoughts have been more antagonistic.  These would be more suited for a prank skit, since you just couldn’t get away with jokes like these in a real situation.

My first idea, which has a slight bit of validity, is to give a coding challenge that has a task to be accomplished, but the results don’t have any bearing on the required task.  For example:

Write a small application that tests a number to see whether or not it is a prime number, then output that number to the screen.  Use values 1 through 50.

The candidate would probably be confused, because as requested, the output would be a list of numbers from 1 to 50, with no indication of whether each is a prime or not.  That’s exactly the point.  Two things would need to be verified: that the output only had numbers 1-50, and that the code to check if the number is a prime does exist.

What this could establish is how the developer deals with odd requests.  Are they going to fight you and say the prime test is irrelevant (which it seems to be)?  Are they going to skip it and output 1-50 and expect that the end justifies the means?  You could learn a lot about an employee this way.  After the arguments, you could say that there is an actual reason for the test, like you have to measure CPU usage in a standardized way and the prime calculation provides that.

The other idea I had was to use a really offensive statement as industry jargon and then act disappointed when the candidate doesn’t seem to understand it.

“Ok, then.  So, do you shave your balls?”

“Excuse me?”

“When you’re done coding, do you shave your balls?”

“I’m not sure I can answer that.”

“Sigh.  When your code is all done and working, you go back and clean up the whitespace and format it all nicely.  You know… shave your balls.”

“Oh.  I do clean my code up afterwards, yes.”

*shakes head and writes down a brief note*  “Very well, then.”

“I’d never heard that term before.”

“I see.  Well, moving on.  When in the coding process would you say it’s time to stick a dick in it?”

Female candidates would be especially fun to deal with.

An Unmissed Milestone

It was April, 2013 when I hit my first milestone in my car.

WP_20130401_005

I honestly don’t remember when the second milestone was hit, but I do remember I was kind of upset about it because I missed it.  I have no photographic evidence it happened.  This time around, I wasn’t going to miss it.

And I did not.  I actually took a picture every mile leading up to the rollover.  I won’t bore you with those pictures because they’re moot with the final picture.

IMG_20190621_163756

This is kind of a big deal for me, especially since I’ve never owned a car that even got to 200k.  For sure, this is the best car I have ever owned.  I’m starting to get the itch for a different vehicle lately.  Mostly, because the MX-5 is not well suited for long highway drives.  It’s rough and loud, like a sports car should be.  I’ve lived it and enjoyed it for nine years now, but I’m ready to relax a little more.  Not that I’ll be getting rid of the MX-5.  It will still be in the stable for cooler days and evenings.

So in the nine years and 300k miles, what’s been done to the car?  You would imagine as it gets up there in years and miles, some stuff is going to begin failing.  Here’s a list of major repairs I’ve had done.

  • New engine at 75k (my fault for driving into a flooded street).  You might say this invalidates the 300k claim, but it’s still 300k on the body.  And I’ll get back to you at 375k.
  • New starter in 2018
  • New cooling fan in 2019
  • New radiator in 2019 (my fault)
  • 2x AC recharge
  • 2x spark plug changes
  • 2 new MAF sensors
  • New o2 sensor
  • Permanent air filter, cleaned 2x
  • Brakes, rotors, tires, many times over
  • New struts all around
  • New headlight/fog light bulbs
  • New headlight lenses
  • New rear view mirrors (because someone snapped one off, not exactly a mechanical failure)
  • New key (yeah, I wore out the key)
  • On the short list: AC blower fan is near failure

That pretty much all I can recall.  It’s not too bad; all things that you might expect.  I’ve kept up on fluid changes, so things should be pretty good going forward.

The next adventure, when it’s time, is going to be a sportwagon.  It seems after my initial experience with standard vehicles, I prefer the unconventional.

The Mission

What are your thoughts when you read a company’s mission statement?  On first blush, it usually reads like bullshit.  It’s usually a bunch of feel-good words with a touch of fake humility and naïve optimism.  Mission statements are an easy target for people who want to attack a company for not fulfilling any promise they may or may not have explicitly made.

Who is the mission statement made for?  Cynics would say it’s for the owners and executives to make them feel like they’re changing the world.  Less cynical people would say it’s for the employees of the company to be inspired and motivated to do their best for the company – working for a higher good.  And then some people think it’s part of the company’s marketing strategy.

I was following a box truck for a company that had that particular viewpoint.  On the back of the truck, covering the entirety of the door, it read.

Our mission is to fulfill the specific needs of each customer by offering quality product, exceptional customer service and exemplifying Jesus Christ in every facet of business and life.

I have many issues with this.  First, I don’t believe a mission statement is a marketing statement.  Can you tell what business they are in?  No?  So, there’s your marketing success.  Then, the statement is so generic, it wouldn’t even inspire an employee or even an owner.  Every company wants to offer the best product and service, right?  Then, there’s the obvious.  You are putting your religious beliefs in your company’s mission statement.  Since there is nothing else differentiating your mission statement from any other company, and you are choosing to use your mission statement as marketing, your business proposition boils down to, “Do business with us because we are Christian.”  That’s about as compelling as saying, “Do business with us because we’re white.”  Oh wait a minute, that doesn’t make my point at all.

My primary point is that this is a dumb use of advertising space on your company vehicle, unless you feel the need to remind your employees of what they are working for every time they close the truck door.  What is their goal?  Be like Jesus.  No pressure, guys, just try to be the son of God while you’re on the clock.  And off the clock, too.  You did notice that little bit in our mission statement, didn’t you?

UberBastards

I just got a piece of spam mail, to my Uber email address.  I don’t recall saying I was ok with that.

The email is sketchy as fuck.  A company name of “Opinion Research”?  None of the proper CAN-SPAM hallmarks like indicating what email address this was sent to, or why it was sent.  Only because I use unique addresses for every account, do I know this came from my Uber signup.

image

The survey is run by Qualtrics, which doesn’t mean much, since they’re just a survey platform, like SurveyMonkey.  This company has their own subdomain, opinionresearch.co1.qualtrics.com, so they’re at least somewhat legit (as legit as it looks so far).

As you see in the email screenshot, I did click to unsubscribe, which I thought would bring me to a page asking if I was sure.  It didn’t, it just took me off that list.  and it gave me another link to unsubscribe from all lists.  ALL lists?  How many have I been put on?

It’s really not a big deal.  If I see that my Uber address suddenly gets spammed, I’ll shut it off and create a new one.  But really, the point is, Uber has sold me out.  Those mother fuckers.

Then, I clicked on the privacy policy.  In bold type, in very simple to understand language:

image

No fucking thank you.  Recall what the original email said, “…will not be used to sell you anything.”  However, they will tailor the ads you see to the information you have given to them, then will ask you why they were or were not effective, so they can try harder next time.  What is this world coming to?

As a recent implementer of Pi-Hole (maybe a future post on that), this wouldn’t have worked at all for me anyway because my entire network is actively ad-blocked.  Suck my dick, Opinion Research!