Health Uncategorized

Coronavirus 2019-nCoV

Coronavirus 2019-nCoV
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Epidemic/pandemic tracker, courtesy of Johns Hopkins.

Uncategorized Watches

You are not imagining things

Health recommendations Uncategorized

Quantified self

So I bought a heart rate sensor, the Polar OH1 Plus. (Based entirely on this epic review from DC Rainmaker.) I am curious about fitness and have been liking the 0.5Hz readings from the Motiv.

So this new one should provide better data. And it has a VO2 max fitness test, which of course I promptly took:

Yay me!


This week I’ll play more volleyball and see. I like that it’s cheap, accurate and works for all sports including swimming. And DCR like it too, and he’s a much better judge than I am, so consider the OH1+ recommended.

Get one from Amazon for $80 here.

recommendations Uncategorized

Three good things

I had a good Christmas and wanted to share! First off, a Kickstarter that delivered on time, a really good Raspberry Pi case, the Argon ONE:

Assembled case

Here’s the back, showing the magnetic GPIO cover and rearranged port layout. Simple, clean and elegant.

You can get one via their Kickstarter page. It adds a shutdown/reboot circuit, temp-controlled fan, IR LED option, HDMI/audio redirect and a really nice aluminum enclosure with (as seen above) translucent window over the indicator lights. I put a Pi 3B+ into it and plan to collapse three single-purpose Pis onto it. (PiHole, Raven and AWS Greengrass). The cooling fan should help immensely, and the quad-core model 3 with 1GB of memory performs really well, leaving room for more code and projects.

I think I paid either $15 or $20 for it; even at $20 this is a great deal on a well-designed and well-made metal case. The additional cooling should also increase the reliability, lifetime and ability to handle compute loads. Highly recommended.

Echo wall clock

This is my favorite piece of Amazon hardware. It’s a $30 clock, driven by and synchronized with an Echo device using (probably) low-power Bluetooth. It comes with standard AA batteries, sets itself, carries no visible branding and has a spectacular peripheral array of LEDs to show timers:

That’s a 45 second timer counting down. Here’s what you see when I add a second timer – another LED at max brightness:

I’m a plodding cook; I have a few things I’ve learned and I rely heavily on timers for most of them. Having voice-set timers be visible is nice, because a) I can name them (‘oats’) and b) Chris won’t accidentally erase them when using the microwave. Yeah, that happened more than a few times since I used the microwaver timer as a second device.

The downsides of Alexa and Echo are well-known and I’ll not repeat them here, that said music and timers are very useful to me. Here’s the Amazon page for it.

HP multifunction from Costco

We’ve long had an incredible monochrome laser printer, the Brother HL2270DW, bought in 2011 and and running with zero problems for an incredible seven years. Duplex, compact in size, has WiFi/Ethernet/USB, well-priced toner cartridges and, with 24lb paper, jammed four times in seven years!

However, we wanted the ability to print color and, having long used and been burnt by inkjets, it had to be laser. Chris found this HP M281cdw at Costco and it’s worth sharing:


  • Built in support for AirPrint (iOS) and Chrome print (print from anywhere). I had a, you guessed it, Raspberry Pi running Chrome print before plus a desktop MacOS software app to provide AirPrint; this is simpler and works well.
  • Copier and scanner – low usage expected, but there if necessary.
  • 2.4 and 5GHz WiFi support
  • So-so price on refills – black is comparable to the Brother, but it should last a while.

I found a friend who can use the Brother, so it’ll keep cranking for someone else. The HP is a bit larger but so far working great.

It was on sale for around $250 and is now currently $320; still a good deal but you might bide your time for another sale.


2018 machine learning home build

It’s been a while since I last built a computer. Years, in point of fact. Laptops plus AWS now have replaced my old uses, and I’ve a great deal less time for gaming. However, my 2013-era server died and took with it my RSS feeds, main web server and SSH bastion. I debated simplifying with Raspberry Pis, but we decided that we’d use the occasion to repurpose my wife’s old compute server and build her a new machine.

Before this, she had used her NUC (i5, 16GB, 1TB M.2 SSD) plus renting time on AWS GPUs as needed. However, recent nVidia license changes have driven spot prices way up, so it starts to make sense to own versus rent.

Needs and wants

  • Built for machine learning and data science. Extended time at full load, so server motherboards, ECC memory, high-efficiency power supplies and attention to cooling.
  • More memory – SVM in particular. Old box was 16G, so 128GB at least. 
  • M.2 SSD slot on the motherboard – I can stick the old 1TB SSD in and be up in minutes.
  • Fast I/O – SSD, SATA, 10GBit ethernet, PCIe 3.0 x16 slot(s)
  • CUDA GPU acceleration and Intel CPU – too many optimized libraries to bother trying AMD.
  • Minimal power consumption at idle
  • Small physical size
  • As quiet as possible – SSDs, etc.

What we chose and why

  1. SuperMicro X10SDV-6C+-TLN4F motherboard. 6 cores/12 threads, MiniITX form factor, 35W thermal design power, up to 128GB of memory in 4 channels /RDIMMS. This is the last-gen Xeon D-1521, but the lower power and smaller size are compelling. $726 shipped.
  2. Dan A4/SFX case, based on a recommend from Jeff Atwood. Super clever use of space and quite attractive. $260 shipped.
  3. SilverStone Technology SST-NJ450-SXL power supply. 450W, but so efficient that no fans or vents are needed! $190 shipped.
  4. nVidia RTX 2080Ti ‘graphics card.’ A beast with over 4,500 cores, plus another thousand-odd stream/vector/special purpose chips, 11GB of memory, and a whopping 250W power target. No ‘buy’ link, because my brother used his employee quota for me! (They don’t get a discount, just the ability to buy at list price. That’s actually helpful, as bitcoin and derivatives have driven up prices over list.)
  5. 64GB of memory, registered ECC DDR4, in two 32GB sticks, $610 shipped. Leaves two open slots to max it out at 128, and we get 2 of the 4 memory channels to use.

Pros and Cons

So we’ll have card and CPU cooler noise, we’ll see. I don’t have the ability to do 10Gbit networking yet, though I can probably trunk a couple at 1Gbit for the heck of it. I will need to try some games just to enjoy having the state of the art, though I’m bracing myself for driver torment on Linux. Here’s hoping!


These are all high grade choices, you can spend a lot less for a similar machine if you don’t mind space, power and noise. The 2080 is overkill, a 1060 would have sufficed but the employee plan only had limited card selection. After a few years at it (she’s got master rank on Kaggle), we were sure enough of her uses to buy the high-end GPU. Similar with cores (6) and memory (start with 64) – that’ll do well for her current contests and workloads; there are a lot of Supermicro boards from 2 to 24 cores, so you can flex there depending on need and budget. A desktop gamer system would probably have worked too, but I now get to try management consoles and the like plus I expect better reliability from this. I’ll post updates, of course.

This is the case – cute, eh?



Yay for RSS

As explained before, I adore RSS, and it shows in my phone usage.

MiniHack is a client for hacker news – decent. I am truly a news junkie.

Politics Uncategorized

The Empty Core of the Trump Mystique | The New Republic

Another pertinent factor is envy, a basic human emotion that rising social inequality can only exacerbate. To put it in cruder terms: “The world sucks for me, so I am going to make it suck for you too. I have lost my job, my status as a white male, and may even lose my gun. So you, my smug, privileged friend, are going to lose your civil liberties, your faith in social progress, your endangered species, your affirmative action, your reproductive freedom, your international alliances, your ‘wonderful’ exchange student from Syria.”

A stellar and thought-provoking essay.

via The Empty Core of the Trump Mystique | The New Republic

Music Uncategorized

BWV 1008 – Cello suite No. 2 in D minor – All of Bach

One of my ongoing joys in life is a weekly-ish email from the ‘All of Bach’ project in the Netherlands. Not just a well-filmed and recorded performance, but conductor/performer notes and historical context.

I have a few performances of the cello suites, and prefer Rostropovich but this is well worth your time.

It’s odd, I’m used to modern rapid-rewards, short attention span videos so these require a bit of focus to watch.

via BWV 1008 – Cello suite No. 2 in D minor – All of Bach

Computer science Uncategorized

Lying with averages


We can do better than percentile latencies |, this amazing animation:


Every one of those has the same mean and standard deviation in both X and Y!

Read the linked paper for details, but this is by far the best visual education I’ve ever seen for why you absolutely cannot trust summary statistics.

Politics Uncategorized

The Cruelty Is the Point – The Atlantic

Trump’s only true skill is the con, his only fundamental belief is that the United States is the birthright of straight, white, Christian men, and his only real, authentic pleasure is in cruelty. It is that cruelty, and the delight it brings them, that binds his most ardent supporters to him, in shared scorn for those they hate and fear: immigrants, black voters, feminists, and treasonous white men who empathize with any of those who would steal their birthright. The president’s ability to execute that cruelty through word and deed makes them euphoric. It makes them feel good, it makes them feel proud, it makes them feel happy, it makes them feel united. And as long as he makes them feel that way, they will let him get away with anything, no matter what it costs them.

Read the whole thing. I don’t want to devolve into another rant-y political blog, but this is worth sharing.

via The Cruelty Is the Point – The Atlantic