Sunday, September 25, 2016

ARM Server Chip - For Real

You heard it here 4 years ago - ARM Server Chip.

Now it comes to reality - Fujitsu: Why we chose 64-bit ARM over SPARC for our exascale super

And it displaces my beloved SPARC chip.

A few quotes from Fujitsu...
When was the last time you heard nice things about SPARC Linux?
Fujitsu chose 64-bit ARM CPU cores for its upcoming exascale supercomputer for two reasons: Linux and the ability to customize its own processors.
[Fujitsu] chose ARM over SPARC due to ARM's larger and healthier software ecosystem.
ARM has the best software ecosystem for us.
And you thought Intel and Sun ruled the world.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Chromecast Data Usage

I love my new router.

When I was looking at the Traffic Monitor I noticed that my Chromecast was in my top 5 clients. This chart is only about 5 days into my using the Asus RT-AC68R.

I found this thread on reddit. In that thread there's a link to a earlier thread.
Bottom line is that a chromecast will use 8-20 MB per hour when turned on and idle no matter what. Disabling or changing backdrop settings does not disable the background images, it just customizes them. When backdrop is disabled, new images still appear at the same rate, just with a message about enabling backdrop in the lower right instead of information about the image. 
The workaround I found was to power the chromecast from the TV's USB port instead of using the wall adapter, so it's only on when the TV is on. This isn't perfect, because the chromecast is still on when watching regular TV. Additionally, the chromecast takes time to start up. Unfortunately, one of my TV's doesn't have a USB port so I can't do anything about that set.
My old TV didn't have a powered USB port. When I migrated to the new TV I just moved the Chromecast along with the wall adapter USB power. My new TV does have a powered USB port so I moved the Chromecast's USB cable to that and the problem is solved mitigated.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Asus RT-AC68R First Look

Almost 3 years ago one of my former co-workers told me he had just upgraded to an Asus router and it really improved his throughput. He didn't remember which it was so I started shopping.

You'd know I'd come up with something cheap inexpensive. I got a refurbished Asus RT-N65R. It has performed very well for me.


We have been noticing some blips of the Internet but my EMCO Ping Monitor didn't complain. I finally realized that it was the radio in the router failing.

So my quest for a new router started.

I really liked the ASUSWRT firmware. But the firmware for the RT-N65R hadn't been updated since January 2015. Operationally it was fine but I was worried about security patches.

While Comcast has raised their bandwidth "trial" to 1 GB I still am interested in tracking my bandwidth usage. I wanted to maintain this ability and even expand it to tracking by device.

I looked at dd-wrt and Tomato. There are plugins for those firmwares to do this but it takes more command line skills than I was ready to tackle.

My son-in-law had the Asus RT-AC68R. It is dual-band 1900 Mbps so it is FAST. And its firmware is still being updated.

Not only does it have the same bandwidth reporting as the RT-N65R but it will break out bandwidth by client and application.


And there's so much more to play with. Like Merlin.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

VHS to Digital Dubbing

The recent news that the last maker of VCRs was halting production scared me into action. I have upwards of 100 VHS tapes dating back to 1982. I still have several VCRs but my SageTV box that I could use to convert the VHS tapes to digital has long since bitten the dust.

I found the Toshiba DVR620 that has a standard function of dubbing VHS to DVDs. I'm sure that there are others out there but on Amazon this item had a 4 star rating, over 2,000 reviews and 1,000+ answered questions.

My goal was to convert the VHS videos to digital, e.g. MPEG-2, rather than just move them to DVDs. So what I did was scrounge up an old DVD+RW disk. I dubbed each VHS tape to this DVD+RW disk, copied the full video to my Drobo, cut the full video into logical segments with VideoRedo and uploaded them to Google Photos.

Here are the properties of the MPEG-2s:

I have had one problem with tracking and I couldn't adjust that out. I guess on a 30+ year old tape made using a rented camcorder that's Ok. I've had a couple of tapes that the leader separated from the reel when I rewound it. This YouTube will walk you through fixing that. Instead of rewinding it at high speed and risking this separation you could press PLAY [10] and then REV [9]. The downside of this is that it moves the oxide over the heads and if the tape is very old the oxide could flake off and the video is ruined.

Overall the process has worked very well.

The User Guide is here.

Here's the step by step.


  1. Connect the DVR620 to a TV. I used an old flat screen and used HDMI just for simplicity.
  2. Turn on the TV.
  3. Turn on the DVR620 [17].
  4. Press DVD [31]. Press INPUT SELECT [1] so that either L1 or L2 appears. You can't do DVD dubbing when L3 is chosen.
  5. Press REC MODE [32] repeatedly until you see the record mode that you want to use. I use SP to get 2 hours on the DVD+RW.
Here's what the various recording modes mean:

Repeat for each tape
  1. Press DVD [31]. Press OPEN/CLOSE [2] and place the DVD+RW in the DVD tray. Press OPEN/CLOSE [2] to close the tray.
  2. Press SETUP [4].
  3. Navigate to the DVD menu and format the DVD+RW.
  4. Press VCR [30].
  5. Insert the VHS tape in the tape slot. At this point the tape may begin playing if read/write tab has been removed. I always press STOP [10] and then REV [9]. When it finishes rewinding. I press OPEN/CLOSE [2] to eject the tape and then reinsert the tape and press STOP [10]. This will reset the time displayed to 0:00. This is significant as dubbing will stop automatically if no image is detected for more than 3 minutes. One of my tapes stopped at 39 minutes and I had to restart the dubbing.
  6. If you want to be selective about what you dub to the DVD now is the time to position the VHS tape. If not, press DUBBING [13] and sit back. If you get a blinking red light on the unit you have a problem with the DVD. Remember you have to format EVERY time.
  7. If you want to be selective about what you dub to the DVD press STOP [10] when you're done. I just let the tape run to the end and it stops dubbing automatically.
  8. Just to make sure the tape is rewound I press REV [9]. When it finishes rewinding. I press OPEN/CLOSE [2] to eject the tape.
  9. Press DVD [31] then press SETUP [4]. Navigate to the DVD menu and finalize the DVD+RW.
  10. Press OPEN/CLOSE [2] to eject the DVD+RW.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

BlackBerry PRIV Experiences

I thought I had owned my last BlackBerry. But the $300 price of the PRIV was too good to pass up. And the big battery suggested long usage. The display is wonderful and the phone is fast. It updated Over The Air (OTA) to Marshmallow after a week or so with no problems. While it came with a SIM unlock code (that worked fine the first time) it does have a locked bootloader and is running an AT&T ROM. It'd been a while since I've used a carrier ROM and it came with its share of bloatware. I just disabled all of the AT&T software and that hasn't been a problem other than Carrier IQ I mentioned earlier.

The big screen is hard on the battery and while I can go all day on the battery I haven't observed the expected looooong battery life. The Marshmallow update did seem to improve it.

Before the Marshmallow update the battery ran down at 4.52% per hour. After the Marshmallow update it ran down at 3.29% per hour.

I haven't used the physical keyboard as I love the Google Keyboard. The keyboard makes it heavier than I expected.

A double tap on the screen wakes it up just like the OnePlus One.

Another carryover feature from legacy BlackBerrys is the holster magnet waking the PRIV when the phone is unholstered. Similarly the PRIV is put into sleep mode when you put it in the holster.

My previous phones have taken a couple of minutes for the Bluetooth to connect to my car. The PRIV connects before I get out of the driveway. I can't explain this. Other than slow connecting to the car I haven't had any Bluetooth problems with previous phones.

The PRIV has been getting Android security updates about a month later than my Nexus 5 does.

I like it.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Carrier IQ

One day shortly after I started using the PRIV I decided I should try the AT&T DriveMode app. Let's just say it was aggressive. For example, I couldn't change the volume on Pocket Casts using the steering wheel controls while I was driving. I disabled it after my first drive. And then I noticed a new consumer of the battery that hadn't been present before.

Here's what the battery usage looked like before DriveMode:

Here's what the battery usage looked like after DriveMode:

Notice the battery usage by "Device Health Application" and the GPS activity.

So what is this "Device Health Application?"

This CrackBerry forum post answered that - Carrier IQ.

From my experience it seems that DriveMode triggered something in Carrier IQ that caused the GPS to run almost constantly.

A factory reset helped that but it took the Marshmallow upgrade to completely resolve this.

Here's what the battery usage looked like after Marshmallow:

Battery usage has been fine ever since and I haven't tried DriveMode again!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

SSD Migration

My X201 is getting slow with its 1TB Toshiba HDD. I installed that big drive for photo storage on my trip to Ireland. When I returned, I copied the photos to my primary storage so I haven't been using most of that 1TB.

Monthly I use Windows' "Create a system Image" tool to take an image backup of each of my PCs boot drive.

When I used this on the 1TB drive in the X201 I only selected the C: partition. I had resized this partition to less than 250GB so it would fit comfortably onto an SSD when I was ready to move that way.

2 months ago the monthly backup failed with drive errors on the C: partition of the 1TB HDD.

I pulled out my copy of SpinRite and let it run on Level 2. It confirmed that there were unrecoverable errors on it.

Not expecting much I tried Windows' chkdsk. My expectations were met. It would reboot to a command prompt and then run to 13% and sit there. While you weren't looking it would do something and reboot to Windows.

Windows kept on running fine but I knew it was a ticking time bomb.

I bought a Samsung EVO 500GB SSD and set out to move to it.

I had a Windows system image backup from 2 months ago. I installed the SSD and I booted from my Windows 10 installation USB drive. I went to "Troubleshooting" and chose "System Image Recovery."

I selected the backup image and began the restore.


I got a message that "The disk that is set as active in BIOS is too small to recover the original system disk" with error 0x80042407.

The problem is that Windows system image backup requires a target drive that is as large as the sum of the partitions defined on the drive when the backup was made. This means that even though the partition I backed up was less than 250GB I needed a 1TB drive to restore to.

A word to the wise, test your backups.

As luck would have it I had a 1TB drive sitting around so I restored to it and then used the Samsung Data Migration tool to copy the partition to it.

In retrospect, after I had resized that system partition to 250GB I should have dropped the partition that was just holding a place on the drive before I took the Windows system image backup.