Archive for the ‘Administrative’ Category

Winner, Name that Ware May 2024

Sunday, June 30th, 2024

The Ware from May 2024 is a Generac RXSC100A3 100-amp automated load transfer switch. It senses when utility power fails and automatically throws a switch to backup power. Thanks to Curtis Galloway for contributing this ware; he has posted a nice write-up about his project using it. The total function of the ware was a bit difficult to guess because the actual load switch wasn’t shown – the relays don’t do the power switching; they merely control a much larger switch.

A lot of questions in the comments about why a 50/60Hz jumper. I think it’s because as a backup power switch, a deviation of the mains frequency by 10Hz is considered a failure, and thus, backup power should be engaged. I also think the unit does zero-crossing detection to minimize arcing during the switch-over. The system drives a pair of rather beefy solenoids, which can be seen to the left of the load switch in the image below.

And this is the inside of the 100-amp load switch itself:

For better images hit up Curtis’ blog!

I think Ben got pretty close in his analysis of the ware, noting the 50/60Hz jumper could be for mains failure detection. Congrats, email me for your prize!

An administrative note: my ISP upgraded the blog’s database server this past month. Because this blog was created before UTF-8 was widely adopted, the character sets got munged, which required me to muck around with raw SQL queries to fix things up. I think almost everything made it through, but if anyone notices some older posts that are messed up or missing, drop a comment here.

I’m also working on trying to configure a fail-over for my image content server (, which is still running on a very power-efficient Novena board of my own design from over a decade ago. It’s survived numerous HN hugs of death, but the capacitor electrodes are starting to literally oxidize away from a decade of operating in salty, humid tropical air. So, I think it might be time to prep a fail-safe backup server — a bit like the load switch above, but for bits not amps. However, I think I’m more in my element configuring a 100A load switch than an IP load balancer. The Internet has only gotten more hostile over the past decades, so I’m going to have some learning experiences in the next couple of months. If you see something drop out for more than a day or so, give me a shout!

Email Subscription Plugin Migration

Saturday, June 26th, 2021

Sorry for this bit of administrivia — apparently, Feedburner, which I have been using for years to serve email subscriptions, is ceasing the email service in a couple of weeks. My first instinct was to just trash the service altogether, but I was pleasantly surprised to see I had a not-small number of email subscribers. So, instead of just trashing the feature I’m attempting to do a graceful migration.

Unfortunately, I’m not well-qualified to configure an email plugin for WordPress — social media is about fifty abstraction layers above my comfort zone of solder and assembly language. It doesn’t help that if you try to Google “email subscription plugin WordPress” you are assaulted by a long list of low-quality but highly SEO-optimized and/or promoted suggestions, many of which seem downright sketchy. So, based on nothing more than the number of installs and the appearance of an active maintainer/developer, I picked the Icegram plugin to try and manage email subscriptions from here forward.

I’m hoping existing subscribers barely notice any change, and of course, feel free to unsubscribe if you find anything annoying — the last thing I want to do is to spam anyone.

But, it seems email plugins have gotten far too crafty about by far too many things. If anyone has any advice on how I could handle this transition better or if anyone notices this plugin doing something strange or privacy-invasive, drop a comment here and I’ll try to figure things out. I’m not going to learn PHP and CSS to fix cosmetic annoyances like the improperly sized email sign-up field on Firefox…but I’d rather trash email updates altogether than invade a not-small number of people’s privacy.

Running a blog was so much simpler twenty years ago…

New Server

Sunday, December 11th, 2011

This site has transitioned to an upgraded server. The transition should be transparent, but if anyone notices anything amiss, please comment!

An Editorial Note

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

It’s unusual that I will modify a post after it is written, but careful readers will note that Name That Ware June 2010 had some words changed. This is in response to a mismatch between Maker/hacker/DIY culture and mainstream perceptions. Apparently, referring to the Infocast frame as “hackable” has caused fear among some people who are interested in buying the product. They won’t buy products that are “hackable”, because they don’t want to get hacked; understandably, the intent that they are being enabled to be the hacker is lost. This is probably due to the evolution of the meaning of “hack” — mainstream media has associated the term “hack” with nefarious intent, whereas traditionally (and perhaps even archaically), “hack” simply refers to the clever or non-obvious use of a complex system.

Since the Infocast frame is marketed toward a mainstream audience, I hacked up the post below to swap out the word “hack” for “DIY-friendly” or “mod” as appropriate. Since it’s difficult to correct misconceptions about a product, if you do discuss the product, it would be nice if you referred to it as “DIY-friendly” instead of “hackable” to prevent further misunderstandings. But, then again, who am I to dictate what you write — it’s your words and your opinions, so take my request as a grain of salt.

Follow-up on the SSD

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

A while back I asked readers for some advice on a reliable SSD. One reader also corroborated my experience with a story of his own Crucial drive’s failure, and a number of readers had recommended an Intel-branded drive. However, some research on the net indicated that several people had reported an unusually high failure rate on Intel drives as well, which leads me to think that possibly Intel is just doing a very good job of marketing their solution (they are pretty good at pushing bad technology to early adopters…there was Rambus, and Itanium…not to mention that of all the ISA’s out there, x86 wouldn’t be the one I’d chose to be the dominant standard). Or, as one comment pointed out, SSD is just not mature right now and it should be avoided altogether if soft-reliability is a key concern (as opposed to a reliability concern due to dropping or vibration damage).

I did end up getting a full refund for my return of the failed Crucial drive, and instead bought a 2.5″ 256 GB Samsung SSD (MMDOE56G5MXP-0VB) at a relatively decent price. I didn’t see too many complaints on the net about the Samsung drive, and I’m hoping the fact that Samsung is 100% vertically integrated for SSD manufacture (they make the FLASH, DRAM, and embedded controller for their SSDs, unlike all their other competitors) gives them some institutional expertise about Flash technology that they’ve baked into their product (how naive of me). I’ve been running with this drive for about a month now, and it hasn’t failed yet (knock on wood). I’m currently at about 160 Gbytes used out of 231 available (this is also one of the reasons why I couldn’t use an Intel drive, its largest capacity of 160GB was too small and SSD’s perform very poorly if you fill them up to near capacity due to the mismatch between erase block size and the native block size of the filesystem).

The Samsung drive is benchmarked to run a bit slower than the Intel and Crucial solutions, and anecdotally there might be a tiny performance decrease compared to the failed Crucial drive, but the system overall is still blazingly fast (and it’s still working). Searching my filesystem is super-fast, and I no longer loathe opening a directory with thousands of files. Boot time is cut down to about 70% of what it was before, and key applications load and quit much faster running off an SSD.

More importantly, I can now walk around with my laptop without first needing to park the hard drive heads. I can use it on bumpy car rides in Asia, and I can brave through turbulence without fear of crashed heads. Another major bonus is I now feel no worry turning the volume up on my laptop when listening to music. The thought of intentionally channeling a high-amplitude vibration into my hard drive always disturbs me, so I rarely listen to music on my laptop speakers, or when I do I make sure it’s very quiet. It’s well-documented that acoustic vibration reduces hard drive performance (here’s a YouTube video of someone shouting at a drive array in a datacenter, causing the array to slow down), and from my understanding it can actually contribute to premature failure of the drive. So, overall, I’d have to say I’m quite pleased with the new SSD, although I am proceeding cautiously — I bought a 64 GB USB thumb drive and I backup my data fairly often in anticipation of the dreaded day when my system seizes up on me again. And, when it does, I will probably once again buy another SSD, hoping that as time goes on the technology will mature and become more reliable.