Below are the five most recent posts in my weblog. You can also see a chronological list of all posts, dating back to 1999.

After 5 years of continuous service, the mainboard in my NAS recently failed (at the worst possible moment). I opted to replace the mainboard with a more modern version of the same idea: ASRock J4105-ITX featuring the Intel J4105, an integrated J-series Celeron CPU, designed to be passively cooled, and I've left the rest of the machine as it was.

In the process of researching which CPU/mainboard to buy, I was pointed at the Odroid-H2: a single-board computer (SBC) designed/marketed at a similar sector to things like the Raspberry PI (but featuring the exact same CPU as the mainboard I eventually settled on). I've always felt that the case I'm using for my NAS is too large, but didn't want to spend much money on a smaller one. The ODroid-H2 has a number of cheap, custom-made cases for different use-cases, including one for NAS-style work, which is in a very small footprint: the "Case 1". Unfortunately this case positions two disk drives flat, one vertically above the other, and both above the SBC. I was too concerned that one drive would be heating the other, and cumulatively both heating the SBC at that orientation. The case is designed with a fan but I want to avoid requiring one. I had too many bad memories of trying to control the heat in my first NAS, the Thecus n2100, which (by default) oriented the drives in the same way (and for some reason it never occurred to me to rotate that device into the "toaster" orientation).

I've mildly revised my NAS page to reflect the change. Interestingly most of the niggles I was experiencing were all about the old mainboard, so I've moved them on a separate page (J1900N-D3V) in case they are useful to someone.

At some point in the future I hope to spend a little bit of time on the software side of things, as some of the features of my set up are no longer working as they should: I can't remote-decrypt the main disk via SSH on boot, and the first run of any backup fails due to some kind of race condition in the systemd unit dependencies. (The first attempt does not correctly mount the backup partition; the second attempt always succeeds).

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My second daughter, Beatrice Dowland, was born in the last week or so; we are all healthy and happy (but tired). I'm taking most of August off from work (and similar activities). See you soon!

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ticket and cuttings from gig

ticket and cuttings from gig

On July 8 I went to see Nadine Shah perform at the Whitley Bay Playhouse as part of the Mouth Of The Tyne Festival. It was a fantastic gig!

I first saw Nadine Shah — as a solo artist — supporting the Futureheads in the same venue, back in 2013. At that point, she had either just released her debut album, Love Your Dum and Mad, or was just about to (It came out sometime in the same month), but this was the first we heard of her. If memory serves, she played with a small backing band (possibly just drummer, likely co-writer Ben Hillier) and she handled keyboards. It's a pretty small venue. My friends and I loved that show, and as we talked about how good it was, what it reminded us of, (I think we said stuff like "that was nice and gothy, I haven't heard stuff like that for ages"), we hadn't realised that she was sat right behind us, with a grin on her face!

Since then shes put out two more albums, Fast Food which got a huge amount of airplay on 6 Music (and was the point at which I bought into her) and the Mercury-nominated Holiday Destination, a really compelling evolution of her art and a strong political statement.

Kinevil 7 inch

Kinevil 7 inch

It turns out, though, that I think we saw her before that, too: A local band called Kinevil (now disbanded) supported Ladytron at Digital in Newcastle in 2008. I happen to have their single "Everything's Gone Black" on vinyl (here it is on bandcamp) and noticed years later that the singer is credited as Nadine Shar.

This year's gig was my first gig of 2019, and it was a real blast. The sound mix was fantastic, and loud. The performance was very confident: Nadine now exclusively sings, all the instrument work is done by her band which is now five-strong. The saxophonist made some incredible noises that reminded me of some synth stuff from mid-90s Nine Inch Nails records. I've never heard a saxaphone played that way before. Apparently Shah has been on hiatus for a while for personal reasons and this was her comeback gig. Under those circumstances, it was very impressive. I hope the reception was what she hoped for.

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Azoychka modelling the headphones

Azoychka modelling the headphones

Earlier this year, and after about five years, I've had to accept that my beloved AKG K451 fold-able headphones have finally died, despite the best efforts of a friendly colleague in the Newcastle Red Hat office, who had replaced and re-soldered all the wiring through the headband, and disassembled the left ear-cup to remove a stray metal ring that got jammed in the jack, most likely snapped from one of several headphone wires I'd gone through.

The K451's were really good phones. They didn't sound quite as good as my much larger, much less portable Sennheisers, but the difference was close, and the portability aspect gave them fantastic utility. They remained comfortable to wear and listen to for hours on end, and were surprisingly low-leaking. I became convinced that on-ear was a good form factor for portable headphones.

To replace them, I decided to finally give wireless headphones a try. There are not a lot of on-ear, smaller form-factor wireless headphone models. I really wanted to like the Sony WH-H800s, which (I thought) looked stylish, and reviews for their bigger brother (the 1000 series over-ear) are fantastic. The 800s proved very hard to audition. I could only find one vendor in Newcastle with a pair for evaluation, Currys PC World, but the circumstances were very poor: a noisy store, the headphones tethered to a security frame on a very short leash, so I had to stoop to put them on; no ability to try my own music through the headset. The headset in actuality seemed poorly constructed, with the hard plastic seeming to be ill-fitting such that the headset rattled when I picked it up.

I therefore ended up buying the Bose on-ear wireless headphones. I was able to audition them in several different environments, using my own music, both over Bluetooth and via a cable. They are very comfortable, which is important for the use-case. I was a little nervous about reports on Bose sound quality, which is described as more sculpted than true to the source material, but I was happy with what I could hear in my demonstrations. What clinched it was a few other circumstances (that I won't elaborate on here) which brought the price down to comparable to what I paid for the AKG K451s.

A few months in, and the only criticism I have of the Bose headphones is I can get some mild discomfort on my helix if I have positioned them poorly. This has not turned out to be a big problem. One consequence of having wireless headphones, asides from increased convenience in the same listening circumstances I used wired headphones, is all the situations that I can use them that I wouldn't have bothered before, including a far wider range of house work chores, going up and down ladders, DIY jobs, etc. I'm finding myself consuming a lot more podcasts and programmes from BBC Radio, and experimenting more with streaming music.

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Following the initial release of RHEL8-based OpenJDK OpenShift container images, we have now pushed PPC64LE and Aarch64 architecture variants to the Red Hat Container Registry. This is the first time I've pushed Aarch64 images in particular, and I'm excited to work on Aarch64-related issues, should any crop up!

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