rashbre central: April 2018

Sunday 29 April 2018

Windows 3.11 revisited

After that System 7 emulation, the obvious question is "Well, what about Windows 3.11?".

Well, Yer'tis.

Click through from the screen above to the Internet Archive to install and run the emulation. I've just run it on my Mac.

Minesweeper and the other games all work as do the original Write and similar programs - er- Apps.

Saturday 28 April 2018

System 7 revisited

Continuing my recent post's look at some old technology, here's another one.

This time it's Macintosh System 7 which later came to be known as MacOS 7. This emulated version from The Internet Archive self installs on a modern Mac in a couple of minutes (subject to line speed etc). The original version came on 15 floppy disks.

A small tip is to disable any adblocker for the archive.org domain to make it work properly.

You get a functional version of System 7 (Big Bang) complete with the once revered Hypercard and a copy of Microsoft Word, complete with templates and some games including -er- Risk.

It starts up with a proper system bleep and the whole thing runs in a Safari browser window, and looks surprisingly tiny on a modern Mac.

Friday 27 April 2018

beebomb and #bringthebeesback

Back at our last place, we used to have plenty of lavender in the front garden. During the summer months it literally hummed, being filled with industrious bees. I'd guess that there were thousands of them, happily going about their business.

This year, I'm beginning to spot the occasional bee, including a queen that was bumbling about on our grass. Overall, they say there's less bees around and I was thinking of the ways to encourage a few in our new, and as yet relatively unplanted, garden.

Cue the bee bomb. It's a singular initiative to #bringthebeesback. The hand-made Beebombs are a mix of 18 British wildflower seeds, sifted soil and clay. The seeds are designated by the Royal Horticultural Society as "Perfect for Pollinators". A chap called Ben makes them in his Beebomb laboratory, somewhere in Dorset. I acquired mine from an altogether more local supplier, the zero waste Nourish of Topsham.

It's also akin to zero energy waste gardening. The individual Beebombs contained in the Beebomb bag just need to be scattered onto cleared ground to create a wildflower area.

Now, I won't fib. My attraction to the bee bombs has created a slight pushback. Along the lines of "won't the seeds go everywhere?" and similar comments.

I'm more sanguine. Firstly, a few wild flowers in the garden will look good. And, in any case, I still need them to turn from little blocks of bee bomb clay into actual plants. Not to mention that I've currently only got enough for a couple of square metres.

Although, to appease doubters, I've planted the first tranche in little pots. Stand by for bees. Vroop Vroop.

Monday 23 April 2018

back up the backup

I've used Acronis True Image to backup PCs for years and will continue to do so.

It's akin to a Mac-style Time Capsule backup, simple to implement, incremental and occasionally creating a fresh full copy.

I've recently tried it for the secondary backups of my Mac servers. The theory has been good, but the execution isn't. I already use Chronosync to make copies of everything to a first line backup, so the Acronis copies are supposedly another level of safety, replacing a set of Chronosync 'batch' jobs.

When the Acronis works, it's fine, even adding some compression to the files.

But, if it goes wrong then there's no easy way to put things back together. It's simplicity defeats it.

As an example, I had a circa 3 Tb backup file in Acronis. I want to add increments to it, but the backed-up entry isn't showing in the left hand pane of the Acronis system. I can still mount the image as a .tib folder to copy things out of it, but I will otherwise have to run the full backup again to get back to where this one is, but in a form that allows the increments to work properly. That's a few hours.

Separately I've some backups which started, but then stopped and restarted. They now show as Incremental, but there isn't a Full baseline copy anywhere. Can I trust these if I ever needed to use them, or would I be better to start again? That's another few terabytes to rebackup. Another few hours.

I think I'll revert to Chronosync for all of the non-cloud backup.

Sunday 22 April 2018

tribal and vacant?

My voting slip arrived for the upcoming council election.

It's tribal. There's no useful documentation about the candidates anywhere.

I looked up the one I was thinking of voting for. It gave a local address and I wanted to check that it was real and not an address of convenience. That's when I thought of the old punk song.

Pretty Vacant.

I decided to look around at another candidate from a different party. Nope. Nothing there either.

"There's no point in asking
You'll get no reply
Oh just remember no don't decide
I got no reason it's all too much
You'll always find us
Out to lunch"

It can't really be like that.

Wednesday 18 April 2018


I've had that thing where the iPhone stopped charging again.

A tiny piece of its protective leather case had broken away and wedged into the charging port.

The air canister and toothpick wasn't enough to remove it this time.

Time for the tweezers. Not any old tweezers, but these ones designed for electronics, which are a delight to use, yet cost less than a tenner.

Tuesday 17 April 2018

backup regime

The recent hard drive swap on one of the Drobo devices created a domino effect of re-organisation. Like buying a new bright red toaster and putting it in the kitchen.

My Drobo NAS storage devices were all set up for the largest available storage at the time they were originally initialised. Back in the day that was an insane 16 Terabytes. Nowadays their firmware supports 64 Terabytes.

Put another way if that were paper it would be around six times the capacity of the complete US Library of Congress. Yep, all three Jefferson, Madison and Adams buildings.

I'm not sure exactly how I got to needing such large amounts of space, but re-arranging it somehow reminds me of the later days of diskette.

Anyone remember the old version of Microsoft Office, which came on 33 1.44M diskettes? I know Microsoft Office has more functions, but I'll bet there's still plenty of people who don't even use the full capabilities of that ancient version.

The copying isn't as labour intensive as using those old diskettes, but it has still taken about three days to move all the files around. And no, I haven't sat and watched it. I'm now at the last stage of the streamlining, with all new volume names, simpler directories and a whole new backup regime.

Fingers crossed?

Monday 16 April 2018

risk 5?

I wasn't going to delve further into the recent missile attacks on Syrian targets, but then this picture popped up in the Financial Times, via Associated Press. It's the aftermath of the attack on the Damascus target. It's the location I predicted would be a target in my earlier post, with a specific block targeted by the missiles.

I compared it with a close-up of my earlier picture and it definitely the same location, albeit rotated around 90 degrees. Use the roundabout for orientation.

The whole zone is home to the HIAST university and the targeted block across the street is separately designated as Centre D'Etudes et de Recherches Scientifiques (CERS) or, as the Americans refer to it, Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC). Since around 2011 this has been quoted as a possible place for chemical weapon research and warhead loading.

Since it's destruction, there's been footage of people walking around the wreckage; no-one is wearing HAZMAT suits, so I assume it's been deemed toxically safe. It's also one building complex out of several at the site. Why this one? It seems fairly surprising that a chemical facility creating dangerous substances wouldn't have security cordons? And what about the wider site? If I wanted to hide something, maybe I'd pick an underground facility, or one away from everyone else? Perhaps like the one leading out at the back of this complex? Or out in the desert instead of adjacent to housing?

And thereby the challenge. Various press sources look at all of this, but the official Pentagon statements are the ones getting quoted.

Along the lines that this location could be a source of banned chemical research and fancy creation of warheads.

I'm still wondering about the reports of terrible chlorine and organophosphates being used.

This would imply other evil pragmatic sources. Barbaric but easier to assemble chlorine in barrel bombs and repurposing concentrated and accelerated forms of insecticides.

But that wouldn't serve the talk show host assisted, so-called president's agenda. And I can't see how this is solving seven years of Syrian crisis.

Sunday 15 April 2018

parking aggregation: one ring to rule them all?

I've a separate folder on my iPhone with all the parking apps that I use.

It's already tipped into a second page.

Worse is that some schemes get locale branding.

Some years ago Westminster (ParkRight) started that trend. Underneath its system was one of the others, rebadged to only work in the Westminster area.

It's a similar story crossing county boundaries. The area where I live has at least three systems, although one of them is also available if I park in, say, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. It also seems to forget my 'local car parks numbers' if I go to Newcastle and then return.

And there's that troublesome nearby car park with no phone signal by the payment machine. I usually pay in advance and hope there's a space if I go there.

And Wavepay. Great when it works, but often it doesn't. Or the car parks like that one on the South Bank that still only take cards and use wet string for the communications to check validity.

"Pay Slow, Fine Fast" could be a good motto, with the gangster-like computerised chase-up systems kicking in instantly if the time overruns. No need for those yellow and black chevroned bags under the windscreen. A photograph of the car, and its number plate mailed direct to the registered keeper.

"That'll be a £120 fine, reduced to £60 for fast payment"


Saturday 14 April 2018

risk 4

Last night's events filled a news cycle and provide plenty of speculation for the weekend media. The Syrian civil war has already suffered over 400,000 deaths, according to the United Nations and Arab League envoy to Syria. Alongside the recent chemical weapons, there's been widespread cluster and incendiary bombing, which reaches back to 2011.

Now, 5 days into his job, we see ultra hawk National Security Advisor John Bolton and White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders watch the US announcement of the strikes in Syria. Bolton appears to want stronger action and Sanders has to untangle the ramblings of the so-called president.

Someone gave Trump an autocue for his last couple of announcements, notice his changed accent and pauses in. phrasing after every. few word. (s).

My guess is that the air strike targeted the area adjacent to the Higher Institute of Applied Sciences, which is out on the boundary of Damascus and adjacent to desert. There's that big messy processing complex of some kind right next door.

The other targeting appears to be of the rather dilapidated complex along the road from the military Al Tiyas (T4) airstrip. My picture shows the T4 runway foreground and this other possible target slightly further away (to the east actually, the runway runs east to west).

Aside from the inevitable political and party political squabbles, no one-one really knows what will happen next. We've just prodded a dragon with a stick.

Trump could, for all his rhetoric, still be running diversionary tactics away from his attacked and erratic ego. Comey's book. Mueller's investigation. Stormy's revelations. Cohen's extending payoffs. The son-in-law. That awkward background of money laundering in Trump Tower. Melania's displeasure. The list goes on.

We had a power cut just after the news came in. Radio 4 suddenly stopped working. I checked the fuses. No, it wasn't a nuclear alert signal.

Thursday 12 April 2018

risk 3 ?

It's impossible to assess any accurate position through the hail of non-diplomacy in current US interactions related to the Middle East. The so-called president is blasting out on twitter and the White House Press Office is blustering about his words. More ridiculous than episodes of a box set.

Now we are also waiting for Theresa May to describe a UK position and whether or not Parliament gets to vote on any action. Even that's partly about whether the Tories lose a vote in the house.

Meanwhile, like one of those movies, the Russians appear to have access to the tunnel hangars at the airfield near Latakia, Syria as well as the Syrian owned S-400 missiles which have an air defence range beyond Cyprus. They are surface to air, but there's be other options around.

The American 6th Fleet is based in Naples, so we may have a lull whilst available missile carrying ships chug into the area. I took a look and there seems to be about half a dozen U.S. warships around the Mediterranean, although any aircraft carriers would probably need to move across from Naval Station Norfolk, in Virginia, although I reckon this would take about 17 days in a fleet formation.

The whole Syrian regime may be horrendous, but missile escalation didn't work for the last Trump endeavour. 59 missiles used yet the runways were tokenistically back in use the next day. And it's not just one airfield. They are scattered all over Syria and generally well-stocked with planes and armaments.

I generated a quick indicative list and although there's still some ageing MIGs active, there's also a fair few modern planes.

However despicable the actions of Syria's tyrant, there needs to be a plan above gesture politics for this knife edge.

Wednesday 11 April 2018

Experiments with Drobo 5N during a spot of housekeeping

I needed to swap out a hard drive on one of my Drobo 5N. It all went smoothly as I swapped in a new 6 Terabyte drive. The whole thing only took a few minutes and I left the drive running to hot-swap the WD Red 6TB. No drama.

It reminded me that one of my backup disk packs has 5 x 6 Terabyte drives, but that the available space is only 16 Terabytes. I know, it sounds a lot, but well, there was around another 5.7 Tb of unallocated 'blue' space.

Drobo changed its firmware a couple of years ago to support up to a 64 Terabyte image, but although I use the latest version, my original disk pack predates the 64 TB limit. Time for some reconfiguration and a little experimentation too.

The whole WD Red 30TB pack was a backup of a backup, so I decided to try a couple of experiments before rebuilding. These are kind of 'worse case scenarios' and the kind of things that meander along unanswered on forum posts. I was more interested in the latitude of the Drobo against a human error than in really exercising these varied disasters.

Experiment 1: Reset the Drobo (which should cause it to lose everything) and then re-insert 4 of the 5 disks. Would the Drobo still find the remnants of the pre-existing pack and attempt to rebuild it? Yes, it did, although it estimated around 60 hours for the rebuild. Despite the reset, the revised pack would still be a maximum size 16 TB. Useful to know.

Experiment 2: Shuffle the still existing 5 Pack of disks before re-insertion. The Drobo figured this out too, and attempted to rebuild all 5 of the now jumbled disks. Interesting.

Experiment 3: Erase the 5 disks, one at a time in a USB3 caddy using OSX Disk Utility. Then reinsert four of them into the Drobo and see if it would attempt a rebuild. Yes, even this appeared to work, although I didn't let the 60 hour rebuild run.

Experiment 4: Take 4 of these good disks and another Mac erased WD Red 6TB disk, which had previously been defective in another Drobo. See whether this 'reset' Drobo also decided the disk was defective. Yes, even after the reset I got a red light on the duff disk. The disk works fine in a stand-alone caddy, but in such a mode it isn't subject to the same level of duty as it would be in a server pack. Implies that Drobo maybe marks the disk as well as storing a defective drives table.

Finally, another reset. No drives in the unit. Put in two and wait for the proper re-initailisation to start. New space offered, 64 Terabytes, of which my 30TB pack with redundancy has 21TB to use. That should keep me quiet for a while.

Tuesday 10 April 2018

risk 2

When I put up a picture of the Risk board a couple of days ago, I didn't expect things to escalate quite so quickly, but the world is getting ready for a Nato/US/Russia face-off in the already war-ravaged Syria. My map shows in blue the 90 km road route between the two biggest Syrian air bases.

Syrian ruler Assad and his cohort have much blood on their hands with unlawful attacks by both Syrian government and Russia forces against civilians, with attacks on medical facilities, schools, and mosques. There have been cluster munition attacks by Syrian government forces against opposition-held areas as well as use of thermite incendiary weapons. Add continued use of chemical weapons and organophosphorus nerve agents. Then there's been sarin dropped from a Sukhoi SU-22 plane and helicopters dropping chlorine. All with huge civilian casualties. That's the Human Rights Watch picture, but the UN has been stymied to even write a report on all of this by Russian downvoting.

Now the so-called US leader has jumped in making pronouncements about action. His speeches continue to be full of double-talk. One minute he is saying he wants to withdraw American troops. His soundtrack wasn't about atrocities, more that the sphere of influence is away from US strategic interests. Now he's talking about a military strike.

He did the same around a year ago, when he suddenly attacked Shayrat airfield. I know he's just allocated over half the US budget to military spending, but he's already diverting part of that spending to domestic border control.

Trump continues to act erratically. He has other distractions related to 'alleged' sleaze, corruption, vote rigging, payoffs. Even the Trump Tower fire illustrated that his company built this luxury tower block without any upper floor sprinklers. He issued a duck'n'dive DontheCon tweet about that too.

So now we see him hinting at strong-arm retaliation. I've used a particular version of an ISW map to illustrate some of the lines.

But for Trump it's about symbolism. Gesture politics. He can make some good headlines, even if they are against what he has said only a few days and weeks and months ago about this situation.

Syria has around 20 airforce bases. They've also taken to spreading their planes around the desert to make them harder to hit, when on the ground. My satellite picture over one of their main airstrips indicates the situation. Four decoys in a row and four real planes sprinkled around the sand.

Russia has sold and operationalised its S-400 missile system within Syria too. They are ground to air systems that can supposedly track 35 airborne targets and fire missiles at Mach 3.

So far they've not been deployed but if there's a hint of air traffic from Rammstein or other big US airforce conurbations then I'd expect that to all kick off as well.

The UK is being encouraged to take part in whatever happens. RAF Akrotiri is a few minutes Mach 2 airspace away and has Tornado bombers and Typhoon fighters. But with Trump at the front of all this it is potentially a case of Ready, Fire, Aim.

Saturday 7 April 2018


I enjoy an occasional board game of Risk. Seems as if the real world versions are back in play.

The U.S. National Guard will deploy up to 4,000 troops to the U.S.-Mexico border beginning Friday night, according to a the tRump memo from Defense Secretary James Mattis.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 600 points on Friday, a decline of around 2.3 percent. The sell-off came after that man threatened a new round of tariffs against China, upping the ante between the two nations.

Is the so-called president taking his China sanctions from Bob Lighthizer? A “might makes right” believer in the trade world. A brash and successful negotiator, a free trade sceptic who believes in using hard-hitting measures to protect domestic industries.

And what about the Russian angle? Kamchatka and all that? Former Trump campaign head Paul Manafort filed a motion late Friday to suppress evidence that special counsel Robert Mueller’s team found in a storage locker in Virginia. Evidence which could illustrate some of the curious Manafort/Trump dealings prior to Trump's election.

It's better than box sets. Even before the minor sub-plots like the non-climate change believer Pruitt heading the Environmental Protection Agency having a Capitol Hill condo for $50 per night, via an energy lobbyist's wife.

No wonder Instructables have created a nuclear option for the board game.

Just remember, no fighting in the war room.

Thursday 5 April 2018

Topsham gulls tempted by tractor

The tractor was out on the field at the front today, much to the entertainment of the local gulls. Usually they will fly purposefully past here, as a short diversion from the nearby estuary.

But a freshly ploughed field...Too much of a temptation. I think they are mainly herring gulls. Wings tipped black, red spot on the yellow bill and pink legs. Excuse the blurry pictures taken through a window.

Wednesday 4 April 2018

drive failure on backup day?

Someone said it was 'backup day' or 'backup week' or something similar. Co-incidentally, I had a drive fail in my backup disk array. The picture shows the disk out of its normal NAS enclosure and being examined in one of those hard drive docking stations.

I've already replaced it with a fresh disk in the Drobo and didn't even need to take the server offline.

The last 6 Terabyte drive failed about a year ago, and was in the same unit, but a different slot.

I decided to look at mean time between failure on these devices. I've quite a few Western Digital RED drives for servers and have a pretty good experience with them. Mine are mainly 3 Terabyte (15T packs) and 6 Terabyte (30T packs). By the time they have a single or dual disk redundancy, the available space diminishes somewhat.

It still seems crazy large compared with my oldest disk computers which had something like 2x32Mb disk drives.

Nowadays, I should probably be storing all of that data in the cloud (it's not like I need it all at once), although I'm still somewhat nervous about the way various services just come to an end. A recent example is the termination of the Amazon cloud storage of personal music libraries, which isn't allowing any new things to be uploaded after the end of 2018.

I like the stats that backblaze keep on disk failure rates, from their server farms, as a quick way to get a sense of relative failure rates, from a population of about 90,000 drives.

Sunday 1 April 2018

Pig and Whistle

Pig and Whistle
An expedition to the Pig & Whistle, out in the Essex countryside. I know there's a lot of Pig 'n Whistle bars in America, but the pictures of pigs with whistles is a somewhat more literal translation than what I think of as Pig and Whistle, which is more or less a piggen wassail. That's a bowl or jug of beer which gets dunked/poured with individual beer mugs.

It used to be a thing in London, around some part of the City. Draft bitter sometimes gravity-fed from the barrel into a jug/pitcher and then distributed around the table.

Mainly just 4 and 8 pints, but nowadays it has almost completely disappeared except for the buckets of beer, which is simply iced (usually foreign lager) bottled beers bought in units of around 5. Those sawdust floored real ale pubs, underneath railway arches and lit by candles have been progressively replaced with Weatherspoons or expensive cocktail bars.

But back to the country pub in Essex. It serves a lovely Sunday carvery. Oh yes.