Medhi’s Mother of All Fullest Bridge Rectifiers!

Clara and I have been watching so many great YouTube channels of late, but ElectroBOOM remains my favourite. I’ve learned more about electronics and electricity than I ever thought I would.

A recurring joke is his reference of full bridge rectifiers, which over the years he’s come to embellish to an extreme. And on a shirt from his store, which I wore in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge because I’m a dork!

Me posing in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge last year with a FULL BRIDGE RECTIFIER shirt!

I was catching up on some of his lessons last year, and on his discussion on high-voltage DC power transmission included full bridge rectifiers, even fuller bridge rectifiers, and the mother of all full bridge rectifiers!


I’m not sure how he’s going to be able to top that.


Spam disclaimers

Spam is always a poorly written mess of bad grammar and spelling. I pass no judgement for that; their English is better than my grasp of their first language, and the number of typos and mistakes I make here that I have to fix later are just embarrassing. I judge them instead for using farms of compromised computers owned by innocent people for sending unsolicited junk.

Lately I’ve taken a keen interest in spam footer grammar, and how it can aid in filtering. I did the Merlin Mann life hack a few years ago of flagging any email with the word Unsubscribe, or the far more dubious Update Your Email Preferences. But Spammers don’t have a legitimate site to point you to, so will usually direct you to confirm your existence email them to remove yourself from their lists.

Some of them contain refreshing honesty, like this one from Sarah Mizrahi this morning, who I can only be sure is a real person:

Disclaimer: We’re are using this domain for marketing …

I’m sure you do! This one was more polite:

Please accepts my apologies for writing this email without your prior permission.

But this is my favourite:

Disclaimer: “Note: - We are not spammer. We found your email through manually efforts. You can simply reply with Remove so we will delete your email from our list. Thanks again.

There’s a wild variation in the design and text in these spam messages of late, but I’ve seen a large uptick in ones specifically containing one of these disclaimers. Messages which look superficially different can now be matched and deleted based on the same broken grammar structure, which makes me happy.

The Sorted Gents

If you don’t watch Sorted Food, you’re missing out on five adorable British gentleman cook. And two of them are even chefs! Clara and I love their Pass It On episodes, where they must all prepare a meal together, but one at a time with the others blindfolded. Today’s was dessert.

Their videos always include the gentleman’s name in the corner in these turn-based games, which for your convenience and my entertainment I’ve finally collated to satisfy my need to collect things. I always thought James’ bemused expression was the best, which contrasts well with how he felt at the end of the challenge!


Excitement over Windows 7’s demise

We’ve heard for years that the PC market is doomed, relegated to the dust bin of history thanks to an explosion in the growth of phones and tablets. The latter didn’t really come to pass, but there’s no denying that for a significant and growing slice of the population, their phone is either their primary or only computing device.

It’s a bittersweet inflection point for me as a fan and heavy user of desktop computing since my early childhood, and it raises serious privacy concerns considering the company behind the most widely-deployed mobile OS, and their actions far eclipsing what Microsoft did to warrant anti-trust lawsuits. But it’s the economic reality in 2019.

But there was another factor at play I hadn’t considered: people were holding off buying new machines so they wouldn’t need to upgrade from Windows 7. Microsoft hasn’t made their desire to kick people off the OS a secret: first with its free upgrades to Windows 10, then forcing it through Windows Update without permission, and now by deprecating support for newer chipsets.

But people are seeing it as an opportunity. Simon Sharwood reported for CRN Australia:

“Demand is there,” Gartner principal analyst Lillian Tay told CRN. “The end of Windows 7 support in 2020 and the push to modern PCs has businesses ready to spend.” …Microsoft’s efforts to make Windows 10 and Office 365 perform best on newer PCs are paying off, she added.

Appreciate for a second what a backhanded compliment to Windows 10 this is. People are buying new computers again because they held out for so long to run what they’d prefer.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t like Windows 7. It was a hodgepodge of different interfaces, ClearType made Linux fonts look good, and the Aero Glass UI was chintzy. It earned significant popular press because it wasn’t Vista, and now people hold onto it because of what Windows 10 is.

I have a helper Windows VM around for when I need to run specific work tools. I thought I’d jump on board with Windows 10 and see what all the talk was about. Microsoft has earned nerd cred of late with Azure and VS Code, so I figured it must be alright:

Screenshot of the Windows 10 Start Menu with random tiles and Candy Crush and oh god make it stop!

Wow. No wonder people wanted to stick with Windows 7. Some things never change, even after a decade.

Peak California... on Medium

cobbzilla shared an article on Hacker News by Byrne Hobart titled Peak California. It’s hard to summarise in a brief blockquote, which speaks to how many ideas are contained within.

The same affordability points can be said of Sydney, though more for reasons in common with Vancouver than San Francisco. I also didn’t realise since going to the US again that Los Angeles is significantly cheaper than SF. The second biggest city in Australia is Melbourne, and it isn’t that much more affordable a place to escape to.

The thoughtfullness of the article makes me feel guilty that I wanted to say posting Peak California on Medium was a wry own goal. Kinda like writing a Top Ten Reasons for Disruptive Paradigms on LinkedIn, or a fact-free screed on why vaccinations cause thirteen toes on Facebook. Twitter would be a patronising troll asking why you’re sad about your fridge being broken, when you can just as easily buy frozen yogurt from a convenience store.

Another new newsletter abusing email lists

Companies are still abusing their customer email lists to send unsolicited newsletters. Today’s culprit is an Australian IT retailer:

Welcome to our monthly newsletter
A warm welcome to the launch issue of our newsletter, a monthly email bringing you only the most relevant and informative content. We’re always striving to unearth the best articles and deliver them directly to your inbox.

Your customers never signed up to this, including me! For those with email databases, please consider not doing this, it’s not very nice.

Making a macOS Mojave USB key

  1. Download Mojave from the Mac App Store.

  2. Use Disk or diskutil(1) to create a GUID Partition Map and format with Mac OS Extended (Journaled) on a target 8 GiB+ USB key.

  3. Run these commands:

$ cd "/Applications/Install macOS"
$ sudo ./createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/YOURKEY \
      --nointeraction --downloadassets
$ echo The bird is the word, desu

I always forget the syntax for this, and how-to sites are even more of an awful mess of newsletter sign-up lightboxes, JavaScript, downloaded fonts, notification requests, chatbot popups, and other hot garbage. The irony isn’t lost on me that this conclusion was also entirely pointless!

Fate/Grand Order Valentine Rerun

Happy Sunday! It’s been a month since Valentines, which means at least as many days since Clara and I were playing the Fate/Grand Order Valentine Revival event on the world’s favourite mobile game. It seems the most recent Music Monday wasn’t the only horribly delayed post.

I blogged about the event first time, so I feel it’s incumbent upon me to post for the revival/rerun/repeat. Incumbent never looks like its spelled correctly, like cucumber or cactus. Maybe that’s just me. We start with the Saberface contingent!

Musashi had the best reaction. I was surprised they translated takoyaki to dumpling in the game, but both are great!

And reactions from those with the most ridiculous accessories, which presumaly would have made creating chocolate all but impossible:

Scátach’s comment about her alcoholic beverage offer reminded me just how much alcohol is displayed in the game. And yet, they’re always careful to point out that only adults should be engaged in actually drinking it! Compare that to Cartoon Network euphemistically portraying Mordecai and Rigby drinking soft drink, or The Simpsons showing beer as a crutch.

But I think Martha wins this time around :).


No FreeBSD on the Libretto any more

One of the most enduringly popular blog posts I’ve ever written was this brief entry about booting FreeBSD 8.0 on the tiny Toshiba Libretto 70CT almost a decade ago. I’m off to AsiaBSDCon again in a couple of weeks, so I thought it’d be a lark to get it going again as a tiny note-taking device.

Unfortunately, no dice. It kernel panics:

Building the boot loader arguments
Looking up /BOOT/LOADER... Found
Relocating the loader and the BTX
Starting the BTX loader  
BTX loader 1.00  BTX version is 1.02
Consoles: internal video/keyboard
BIOS CD is cd0
BIOS drive A: is disk0
BIOS drive C: is disk1  
int=0000000d  err=00000000  efl=00000246  eip=001f6026
eax=00000000  ebx=000923b8  ecx=00028df6  edx=00000000
esi=00200243  edi=00092398  ebp=00000000  esp=00092384
cs=002b  ds=0033  es=0033    fs=0033  gs=0033  ss=0033
cs:eip=0f 01 15 37 02 20 00 8b-74 24 18 83 fe 00 74 0f
       8b 4e 30 29 cd 89 ef f3-a4 89 6c 24 18 89 fd b9
ss:esp=00 00 00 00 3f 00 00 00-00 00 00 00 98 23 09 00
       00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00-00 00 00 00 02 02 00 00
BTX halted

I soon found out why, from the FreeBSD Handbook:

A FreeBSD installation requires a minimum of 96 MB of RAM and 1.5 GB of free hard drive space. However, such small amounts of memory and disk space are really only suitable for custom applications like embedded appliances. General-purpose desktop systems need more resources. 2-4 GB RAM and at least 8 GB hard drive space is a good starting point.

This machine has 64 MiB of RAM, 32 MiB below what’s required. I suppose I could build a custom kernel for it? I have built a stripped-down one before for this machine. Or maybe this is a sign that I should try NetBSD on it.

Storage versus RAM configurability

Casey, Marco and John talked on the latest ATP about potential future limited configurability of Macs, in light of the new MacBook Air having no option for CPU. Marco compared why having fewer CPUs and RAM options made more sense than storage, which I agree with, but for entirely different reasons!

Marco: Storage makes sense to have configurable … Storage is a hard limit. You can edit video [with the CPU in the] 12-inch Macbook…

Casey: I do!

Marco …it would just take longer.

Casey: It does!

Marco: laughs …you have the same capability; you can still do the same task you want to do, it will just take longer. RAM is similar … but storage is a hard wall. You can’t just fill up your drive bigger if you do it more slowly. You don’t get more space by filling it up slowly. That’s one thing where it matters a lot more to have a high ceiling for people to configure, because it’s so expensive.

I can see where Marco is coming from, but I see storage being identical as CPU and RAM on a performance/price matrix.

You can fill your drive bigger if you do it more slowly; we did it in the 1990s with DoubleSpace. Most file systems today support inline compression, or you can compress individual files. Like RAM and CPU it takes longer, and in the case of DoubleSpace the experience was miserable, but so too is swapping to disk when you run out of RAM, or when your CPU strains under load.

The primary advantage of storage over CPU and RAM is that it can be offloaded easier. If you run short of drive space, your constraint becomes bandwidth to a remote file or backup server, or the number of ports for an external drive. Your Commodore VIC-20 could have more external RAM plugged in, but we can’t with our laptops.

(One could make the case that CPU and RAM can be expanded by using a cloud instance or server hardware to send your intensive tasks to as well).

The justifications and tradeoffs Apple made for soldered on, non-upgradeable RAM is beyond the scope of this post. But for my purchasing decisions for sealed hardware, I’d spend more on RAM before storage, or CPU now that I think about it.

So ultimately I agree that storage should have more configuration options, just for different reasons. CPU and RAM are so easy to misconfigure if you’re unfamiliar, and end up with a system that’s sluggish and doesn’t meet your needs from the start. For storage, throw an extra drive at it and be done if you need a more affordable machine at the outset.