Sunday, November 15, 2020

Observations in the Netherworld

An somewhat accurate and interesting thing about the original Quake is that each time one shoots an enemy (especially soldiers), they stop and shudder, which conveniently gives the player time to finish them off.

Not accurate but useful to the player is that if an enemy is on patrol when you're shooting them one by one as they come around a corner, each enemy cheerfully walks into your field of fire even they have to step over their fallen comrade. Their cluelessness would make you think they work for an Evil Overlord or something.

I would also say the initial reaction time of most enemies needs work; if the player is awake when an enemy appears, one can channel Han Solo and shoot first.

Possibly accurate (or not) is if the player has a number of enemies (in particular, Ogres) in one spot, and one can get out of the way, they'll attack each other.  (Maybe they just don't get along.) In any case, it saves on both ammo and wear 'n tear on you, especially if the last two manage to kill each other at the same time.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

The March of Time

Long ago (1993), I wrote into the UUCICO program for UUPC/extended support for synchronizing the local PC's clock from an atomic clock by calling (via modem) what was the National Bureau of Standard (now NIST). The NIST dial up Automated Computer Time Service (ACTS) service is still supported, but things have really advanced since then.

Everything in the Kitten Farm West which can automatically synchronize its clock (~20+ devices) does. For example, our Apple, Amazon, Google, and Raspberry Pi devices all use the Network Time Protocol, so no action required there.

But every fall and spring I still have to go on an Easter Egg-like hunt of the remaining time keepers . . .

To start, this house has a bastion of unsynchronized clocks called the kitchen. I've reset the time on four appliances and timers, dumped the ice maker reservoir (it's the first of the month), and verified the forced air thermostat time. Katherine will later use a step stool to the get wall clocks in the both the kitchen and my office.

A call to the house from a cell phone fixed the hour on the landline phones, but they are all off by ten minutes (ZiplyFiber needs to get its Caller Id act together); I can't override that (and have it stay fixed).

In the Living Room our TV, Roku, and Raspberry Pi server are fine (obviously using NTP, you're not perfect to the minute for months without an external source), but the Wii U blissfully thought it was 11:07 until I reset it to 9:35.

The oddest time piece in the house the wireless thermometer in my office, it's synchronized but not via the Internet. Rather it uses radio station WWVB (which broadcasts at 60 Khz, find that on your radio dial!), listened to via the temperature sensor in the backyard for better reception.

My office thermometer synchronized via WWVB
(hence the antenna symbol at the top)

Out in the garage, the MINI Cooper S electronics will magically reset using GPS, but the Audi stereo and the Bike bike computers will need chatting with.

I almost forgot the Master Suite. There are two watches hiding in my nightstand, and a Bose Wave Radio. And the master bath has my Glucose meter. . . . and in two months I'll trip over (and update) some odd device with a clock that I completely forgot about. It happens every cycle. p.s. The networked Nest Protect smoke detectors all got tested too. (They are designed to not get their batteries replaced.)

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Raspberry Pi Cases: Round 3

The Raspberry Pi cases I have mentioned previously because of their appearance  and noise have been replaced by one which improves on both annoyances and more.

The new case, the Argon ONE Pi 4 Raspberry Pi Case, solves a number of minor issues:

  • A Raspberry Pi system normally has cables coming out both the back and side, which can make taming the lot of them a bit tricky.
    This case uses a small daughter board inside the case to reroute all the cables out the back.
  • A Raspberry Pi 4 can run a little warm, thus requiring a fan.
    This case is all heat sink, which drops the usual temperature of the unit 15ºC. 
    This case also has a well integrated very quiet fan, but it is rarely needed.
  • A Raspberry Pi has no power switch. The usual work around is a power switch on the cord.
    This case adds a switch to the back of the case.
  • This Raspberry Pi 4 system previously used a metal case which blocked the power LED indicator.
    This case puts the power indicator behind smoked glass.
  • Raspberry Pi 4 system cases are generally square and geeky. 
    This case at least looks like someone thought about the appearance. 
After a system failure of the house server (DHCP/DNS/IPv6 tunneling), the Raspberry Pi 4 which was and is handling my retro computing needs moved downstairs; it took on the duties of the failed house server (and it still loafs).  Here it is on duty:

Wile E. Coyote, this week's server
Wile E. Coyote
This Week's Cool Running House Server
Lest one worry that our entertainment center has lost its Hobbit Modern Geek look, have no fear; even after removing a couple of items (network controllers for our thermostats), it still has enough gizmos to fill the highly visible eight-port switch:

Our Hobbit Modern Geek entertainment center

(Not shown are the Eero WiFi access point, the FiOS router, and the Chromecast.)

So the balance of Geek is preserved.  

p.s. Click either image for a larger view.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Peace in Our (Electronic) Time

Somehow this house has acquired 8 Raspberry Pi computers.  (I blame Snuffles P. Bear).

Most of them sit around powered off. A Raspberry Pi 3b+ does act as our network server, and a pair of Raspberry Pi 4s take up space in my office. Actually, one takes up space (powered off). The other is reasonably useful as it handles my retro computing needs, hosting a number of 1970's mainframe IBM Operating System images. It runs, cheaply, 24x7. (I used to use my semi-retired Mac Pro in library for the hosting, but it requires ~ 10 times the power.)

I have thermostatically controlled fans (on 65 ºC, off at 55 ºC) on both of the Raspberry Pi 4s. The unit which stays powered up to tends to kick in the fan a few times an hour. Unfortunately, the fan makes a subtle buzzing noise; this not surprising (it's not well anchored, hanging off GPIO pins) but it is annoying.

I put up with it.

Ah, but today I checked ... the machine is not heavily loaded, and a Raspberry Pi 4 doesn't throttle until above 70ºC. Adjusting the thermostat up 5º causes it to run under normal load at ~ 64-66ºC without the fan cycling. That's even with the room temperature creeping up to 79ºF.

So there is peace in our time.