Saturday, April 16, 2022

Everything Old is New Again

We're thinking of replacing our late-2015 27" iMacs with Mac Studios, which don't have monitors. While we could buy shiny new 4K-resolution monitors, it's overkill. 27" Retina iMacs by default run at only ~50% maximum resolution, and I wouldn't be able to see a thing at full resolution on an iMac or a new 4K monitor. And from my Mac Pro era (2008-2016) I have two 30" monitors with a full resolution which is about same as the default (50% resolution) of the iMacs. I'm writing this on of one them hooked to the iMac. I think this is an excellent intermediate and quite possibly permanent solution.

I just need to find my Webcam …

Dell Monitors fronting (and hiding) my 27" iMac
(The second monitor above is a 24" Dell monitor which has been the iMac's second monitor as well.)



Tuesday, March 15, 2022

I haven't heard that name in years …

I commonly write my name as "Drew Derbyshire", but for legal purposes my full name has always been "Andrew H. Derbyshire"; the former never has my middle initial, and the latter generally does. Unfortunately, people tend to shorten my birth name to "Andy", which my mother (and by extension, me) disliked. 

Thus, I've used "Drew" since August 1985; I switched when returning to Clarkson for my final undergraduate tour of duty. My login was "$AHD" or "ahd", but my email said I was "Drew Derbyshire", and people simply accepted it. Now, decades later, I still use "ahd" when I can, and there many people who have no idea where the user id comes from. 

(I just tell them "Automated Help Desk".)

Earlier at Clarkson (as a freshman) when I still went by Andrew, I first learned the ancient incantations of IBM OS/360 and its Job Control Language (JCL). I extensively used it in my work well into the Drew era (1995 or so). OS Jobs run with JCL start with a JOB card; it has an account number, a jobname (often based on the account), and a 20 character field for the programmer's name and job description (printed on the green bar listing to keep it from becoming Little Listing Lost).

(Of course, when was last time you even saw green bar paper? But I digress …)

Meanwhile, I've written before about my muscle memory on computers. I'll go to do something on an old IBM host, Microsoft box, or UNIX system and I can't remember how. However, my fingers tell my brain to "Stop thinking … we are on the case". So my head listens to the stereo, and they summon the ancient incantation and bang it out.  Usually, it's right.

Lately, I've been playing with OS/MVS systems (the successor to OS/360), including writing jobs on it. Yesterday, I noticed my magic fingers had taken charge without bothering to tell me, as shown by the attached.

Simple batch JOB on my local copy of OS/MVS

When I looked at that job the last night, I realized my fingers were indeed trained to write OS JCL in the "Andrew H. Derbyshire" era. Well, that's what they still do, and who am I to argue?

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

A Modern Relic

Our first HD (32") TV, bought for the Red Sox in 2004 World Series, now sits quietly in the library with an HDMI switch and various spare media equipement — a DVD player, an older (unsupported) Roku, Chromecast, and a stereo. It cannot pick up live TV because it lacks a digital tuner.

(If it died tomorrow, I could stuff a spare 30" Dell monitor in the TV's place with the monitor's line jack out feeding the stereo, with zero loss of functionality.)

We barely watch the newer, smarter, bigger, networked HD TV on the living room mantel. That TV has surround sound and newer versions of all the toys in the library and more. The library TV gets used even less than the living room. Being chubby and dumb, the library TV sort of annoys me. But given the lack of use, we do not need a library TV which …

  • accepts multiple HDMI inputs.
  • has a digital tuner (and an antenna).
  • has modern Roku model as a source.
  • is thinner.
  • is smart.
  • is networked.
Nope. Nope. Nope.

I feel better now. 😀

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

End of an Transportation Era

PURR MORE the Green as envisioned by the MINI web site

I became a member of Zipcar (the hourly car rental company) on July 23rd, 2005.  As I recall, I mostly signed up in order to rent a MINI Cooper for an extended test drive of the brand. We liked it, and we purchased what became our 2006 MINI Cooper S, PURR MORE the Green. 

That car took us round-trip coast-to-coast and set our record for length of vehicle ownership, so clearly we choose well.

I know the date because (for the first time in years) today I logged in, and I glanced at my account as I cancelled my membership.

Zipcar has been free for me for years as a (former) Google employee, but that's getting to be a long time ago — now they are moving my account to their $70 standard annual plan and retiring my previous membership plan.  (Which makes me wonder if current Googlers are being moved as well, but not enough to ask.) 

It was occasionally useful me when it was free, but it wasn't worth paying for. Likewise, it could be useful for Katherine when she still traveled extensively for work and took day trips down into the Silicon Valley.  Even before the pandemic, her travel dropped off over the years to where she didn't even go to the last SEMICON West before the pandemic. (That broke a streak of ~25 years.)

Ah well, Zipcar taught us MINI Coopers are fun.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

The Power Hit Catalogue (No expects the Spanish Inquisition!)

    The tools you need for a longer power hit has appeared in the Wirecutter by the NY Times. 

    While PSE has greatly improved our system reliability since we moved here, one should be prepared. Thus I took inventory based on their list: 
    • Portable generator (none)
    • Surge protector (3)
    • Uninterruptible power supply
      • Small/medium (5)
      • Large (3) 
    • Small Power bank (3)
    • Portable power station (see UPS, above)
    • Power inverter (none)
    • LED lantern 
      • Small (2)
      • Large (2)
    • Flashlight
    • Headlamp (left behind by a contractor, actually …)
    • Entertainment
      • Board Game (several)
      • Card decks (several)
      • Music 
        • 9200 tracks on iPhones 
        • BT Speaker 

    We don't have a generator, portable power station, or power inverter.  With three 1500 VA UPS units, we do have basic power reserves, and have never really felt the need for more.

    We also have things other devices which don't need A/C that the Wirecutter didn't mention:

    • Natural Gas 
      • Water Heater
      • Stove
      • Fireplace
    • Radio
    • Small refrigerator (12 VDC)
    Katherine notes our freezer is good for keeping things frozen for 24+ hours without power.

    In case of a Zombie Apocalypse or lesser event (the Pacific Northwest is earthquake country), we also have Go bags and cat carriers for bugging out. The inventory of those bags is not included above. We really need to update all the perishables in those bags.

    Friday, August 6, 2021

    An Accommodation

    I rode on my usual schedule of every other morning; due to minor distractions, today wasn't quite as far as Wednesday. Given I did get reasonable mileage in, and that my legs had trouble holding me up after I slid off the bicycle, I guess I did a decent amount of work.

    As they say in Weight Watchers, "Progress, not Perfection".

    I really detected that  my legs were wobbly when I crouched to swap my water bottle for a post-ride Cherry Coke Zero in my tiny office refrigerator (loaded only yesterday).

    The new refrigerator is both a reward for my riding regularly, and an accommodation of my knees not wanting to do the stairs too often (and not wanting to bother Katherine, either). It also makes a refrigerated prescription that I take weekly more accessible.

    My now riding regularly was highlighted in two small ways this morning:
    • I asked Katherine to bring up breakfast so I could save my knees, and I noted to her, "We know I'm riding this morning".  I realized it just wasn't a question to me. It doesn't happen until it happens, but I had A Plan, and I meant to follow it (and did).
    • Mid-ride, I realized that I could and wanted to ride harder, and I picked up the pace a bit.
    I have long way to go, including fitness not related to the bike and making other accommodations as needed, but . . . progress.

    New Refrigerator Between the Cat Tower and the Wastebasket 

    Monday, August 2, 2021

    Plan BT

    I mentioned that I needed to adjust the music for my exercise bike now that it is in my office. This had multiple failed iterations:

    • The main speakers in the office stereo are oriented for my desk, not the window that my bike is under.
    • The secondary zone for the office stereo has a UX which was clearly an afterthought.  (I suspect drink was involved, too.)
    • My spare set of cheap computer speakers weren't nearly up to the task of music.
    • The computer (iMac) speakers were good in a pinch, but don't fill my ears from across the room. (On an absolute scale, they may be higher quality than what I'm actually using.)

    But now, success!

    The exercise bike console has a field expedient solution — a battery powered stereo BlueTooth speaker which my phone talks to. (I also used the phone as the music source is riding downstairs.) The speakers required no cash outlay; credit card reward points were my friend.

    The field expedient part is the impromptu harness that keeps the speaker balanced on the console.  The strength part of the harness is a quartet of 12" gear ties; I am not sure they would be up to holding the unit on a road bike, but are fine here.  Two long rubber bands act as a secondary suspension to reduce wobble.

    It occurs to me that the no longer mobile speaker will require recharging; I'll either dig out our longest USB cable or use one of the battery packs that live in our various briefcases.

    Most importantly, I am now using the bike (and the speaker); I have had eight rides since it moved upstairs.

    (Formerly) Portable BT Speaker Secured to My Exercise Bicycle.