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recommendations

PSA: Don’t buy Synology with Atom CPUs

Expensive mistake that their site encourages: only the models (typically the ‘plus’ ones) with Intel CPUs can run Docker and the much-improved btrfs. My DS1817, despite having 10gigabit Ethernet and eight drive slots, cannot and that’s an expensive and frustrating mistake.

Their site ellides this when shopping so, caveat emptor, and save yourself money.

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recommendations Uncategorized

Internet speed tests

So you’re online and you wonder how your network is doing. How do you measure it? I’m here for you.

  • Fast.com is my go-to for quick checks. It measures using only Netflix connections so bypasses some ISP fuckery with DPI and slowdowns. Elegant UI.
  • Speed.cloudflare.com is the best by a long shot. Detailed and capable of saturating my 400mbit downlink.
  • Testmy.net is decent but uglier.
  • Speedtest.net is ad laden.
  • Sourceforge.net/speedtest is ok and used to be my favorite. Lots of ads now.

As explained in my series of gigabit posts, making a fast, reliable network takes time and effort, and these sites don’t magically make it happen. However, having a way to measure your changes is super helpful, and I probably use these weekly.

Categories
EVlife recommendations Uncategorized

First ebike ride

My neighbor is in our COVID-19 pod and kindly let me try out his Specialized Turbo Vado. It’s his commute bike.

I just finished a 16.4 mile ride with 1,300 feet of vertical and I feel great. This would have left me mostly dead if not for the motor.

I’ve been wanting the Luna bikes Enduro X-1, mostly based on this review as well as this one by a man who’s nearly my height at 6’9”. Sold out now but I am feeling the want. It’s magical to blast up hills again. At 3 to 5 thousand for a nice one, they’re expensive but as I said, I’m a convert.

Categories
recommendations

Inexpensive indoor air quality monitor

These are $38 on Banggood. It measures temperature, humidity and airborne particulates. Laser light scattering technique, the same as in my more expensive Purple Air I wrote about previously. These are display only, two screens, no connectivity but perhaps that’s all you need for something you place on a shelf.

Thanks to my friend Roger for finding these. I bought two and loaned one to our neighbor who promptly used it to check in vs out and verified his AC filters.

Anyway, it’s well made and cheap, so if you want one I say get it.

https://m.banggood.com/PM1_0-PM2_5-PM10-Detector-Module-Air-Quality-Dust-Sensor-Tester-with-2_8-Inch-LCD-Display-for-Monitoring-Home-Office-Car-Tools-p-1588436.html

Categories
recommendations

New cable modem

Maybe it was getting old, or maybe the much-increased traffic from pandemic WFH caused problems, but for whatever reason our Spectrum-provided cable modem has been a problem. I’ve had to power cycle it a few times to clear slowdowns. Symptoms – speed tests dropped down to under 10 megabits, and on reboot would rebound to over 200. (We’re paying for 400/25 and seem to be provisioned for faster.)

Having seen similar problems before, I first narrowed the suspects down by power cycling the (apple) access point and (Mikrotic) backbone switch and (ER-4) router; none sufficed but a modem cycle did. I found the Spectrum supported modems page, did some research and bought the Netgear CM1000v2 direct from the manufacturer and installed it today.

Install was painless. I called Spectrum’s activation line (877-309-5869) and waited for a callback. The tech took the MAC address, waited patiently for the power, sent down an activation packet and waited for reboot and DHCP to the router. Easiest install I’ve ever had with any ISP!

Now things are back at line speed and I’m a lot happier. I’m spending hours a day on Zoom and BlueJeans and now Google Meet, so fast and reliable internet is rapidly becoming essential.

fast.com is a great test
Admin interface is basic

The CM1000v2 isn’t their fastest – they have ones that can gang 2 or 4 gigabit ports together. I decided not to bother, as 1G is the max available locally and going faster than that would cascade to needing a new router and possibly multipoint wireless. I’ll wait.

New gear

I considered the other supported modems, but the Arris ones ran hot and some had the problematic Intel Puma chipset; hard pass. Do your research if you’re thinking of buying an Arris SB8200 Rev 4 or Arris SBG8300.

Categories
Covid-19 recommendations

1080p webcam for Zoom for $40

Fact 1:In the Covid-19 pandemic, we’re all on Zoom et al quite a lot.

Fact 2: Apple webcams are 720p resolution and quite low quality.

Fact 3: Nerds want to be helpful.

Consequence one: Good webcams are sold out universally.

Consequence two: The people behind the cheap and awesome WiFi webcam brand Wyze have written custom firmware to convert a wireless security camera into a very decent USB 1080p webcam. And it’s free.

Hardware requirements

  1. Wyze webcam v2 – vendor, or Amazon. $26 bucks as of today.
  2. 8GB or so micro SD card. You might have one around if you use Raspberry Pi. I bought this two-pack of overkill 32GB cards, since that’s a useful size for Pi project. $14.
  3. USB3 A to A cable. These are unusual and I had to order one. I bought a two pack so I can have a spare. $12, and cheaper versions exist. Note that your computer needs to have a USB3 port with an A plug – I’m using the one on my LG monitor.

Flash the firmware

Instructions are here on their site – TL;DR is to unzip the download and copy demo.bin into the root directory. Power up holding reset for five seconds. Pretty do-able even for the less technical.

Results

There are two Wyze cameras, basic or a $35 pan/tilt/zoom. I already had two of each, because at $20 to $35 each, they’re in my hobby budget and have been delighted with ’em. I chose the base camera as I see no use for PTZ.

Here’s the built-in webcam from my MacBook. It’s the 2018 15″ model, my work computer.

Now here’s the Wyze:

Color is a bit off, but resolution is a huge amount better. it’s also wide-angle, with strong curvature at the edges.

I was just in time for a Zoom birthday party.

Why yes, my family does look sharper than everyone else. And wide angle was perfect for this use. Sometimes you get lucky. You can kinda see my low-rent mounting:

I’ll leave it that way for now, as it makes it quick to move around and try other lighting.

Overall – recommended. Pretty cheap, the parts are versatile, and when this ends you just re-flash the camera to get back to a nice smart camera/IoT device.

Categories
recommendations Uncategorized

China Law Blog is outstanding

www.chinalawblog.com/2020/02/chinese-coronavirus-solution-more-government-control-trumps-more-medicine.html

is about how Xi is responding to the coronavirus outbreak, but I’ve been reading their RSS feed for a few months and highly recommend it. It’s especially educational for anyone considering outsourcing to there, e.g. micro brand watchmakers. Go read about the IP on injection molds, for example.

Categories
Computer science Random

Ten gigabit home networking

This will be a series of posts. I upgraded my NAS to a model with dual 10G ports, and the compute server already had 10G so I had an excuse.

Old setup – 4-bay Synology DS416play and a USB3 drive caddy for a temporary backup solution. TP-Link 16 port switch, all ports in use.

After some searching, I found this Mikrotik switch for $142 on Amazon. 28 ports of 1G plus two 10G ports. Most switches with 10g are either $100 per port or have fans – this one is 19 watts, no fans, and cheap. Note the “sfp+” notation – it means you need more pricy bits to finish the job, but you can use other media like fiber optic links. So total cost of almost 2x.

Switch in and waiting for NAS backup to complete:

Power usage went down by 20 or 30 watts. Always something I pay close attention to. Here’s semi-final:

Next week I get the SFP+ transceivers and rewire a bit. Trunked dual 1G links for now. Power usage is back to where it was, maybe down a watt or two. The new switch is only 19W (the old was around 30) but the larger NAS uses more power, so even under heavy load with 5 disks going.

Categories
recommendations Watches

You should buy a Scurfa dive watch

TL;DR

It’s sold at cost and you literally and actually cannot buy a more legit dive watch. $268 at your door.

Framing the narrative

Back when diving was dangerous and new, companies like Comex and militaries like the French navy commissioned then-new watches to be used for measuring elapsed dive time. Advances in materials and design produced watches durable and legible enough, which combined with the cool factor of diving, led in short order to them being style icons. Back then, a professional diver could and often did buy a Rolex Sea-Dweller and actually use it as intended.

Rolexes and Blancpain and even Seiko have become luxury now, Veblen goods recast in gold and silver as high-status male jewelry. Behold the latest incarnation of the pro-diver Sea-Dweller:

Two-tone rolex sea dweller.

Though diving is now unglamorous blue collar work, there are still divers who need watches and can’t afford sixteen thousand USD. One of them is named Paul Scurfield, and he spends 28 days at a time in a diving vessel, over a hundred meters below the surface of the North Sea:

Having first been made for divers and support staff who were left without a watch when the value of their vintage Rolex diving watches exploded leaving them the option of a large windfall or too self conscious of wearing such a valuable item in a hostile workplace, Paul Scurfield watch enthusiast and saturation diver tried to fill the void with a few affordable watches built to a high standard using the best materials.

https://www.scurfawatches.com/history

Divers working in the North Sea are made up in teams of three and on any working dive you have a diver 1, diver 2 and the bellman, diver 1 controls the dive and this is where the name for the watches come from, diver 2 is there to make his job easier, the bellman tends the divers from the diving bell and the divers work in the water for a maximum six hours, a normal saturation diving system will house four teams of three divers covering the full twenty four hours of the working day stopping only for bad weather or crew changes, the work period for the divers is 28 days including decompression.

So we have a day-job pro diver who designed a watch for himself and his co-workers. This was his first one:

Picture from Scurfa

I learned about the brand from Jason Heaton’s review on Gear Patrol. At the time, I was intrigued but not enough to buy. Of late, however, I’ve rediscovered the virtues of a good quartz watch, so I was open to the idea, and then via WatchUSeek I saw this:

Picture Scurfa via WUS: https://forums.watchuseek.com/f74/diver-one-d1-500-yellow-available-now-4933985.html

That yellow… I like it a lot. My first mechanical watch was a Seiko SKXA035, and I’ve missed the yellow since I sold it.

Specifications

  • Model: Diver One DI-500 Yellow
  • Case 40mm by 47.7mm by 14.4mm, 20mm drilled lugs
  • 7mm threaded crown, 120-click steel bezel with aluminum insert. His earlier models had ceramic bezels, but he found that he, co-workers and customers were breaking them, so he’s gone to more resilient aluminum bezels.
  • Water resistant to 500m
  • Spring-based helium escape valve at nine, tested by Paul Scurfield down to 154m with multiple gases mixes. How’s that for legit? Usually escape valves are poseur…
  • Domed sapphire crystal with inner anti-reflective coating.
  • Ronda 715 movement, in the Swiss made grade, gold plated, 5 jewels, 60 month battery life with stutter-second end of life indicator. Rated -10/+20s per month. The movement has a cheaper version (non Swiss made), which you can see torn down here.

Normally I talk price at the end of a writeup, but this watch is extraordinary. Talk about burying the lede – in the middle of their history page is this bombshell:

I would like to thank all the customers of Scurfa Watches for helping us grow and be able to invest in new models, We have taken no money for ourselves and we are not looking to sell tens of thousands of watches only as many as Alison and I can handle, we turn down shops and outlets on a daily basis and think it’s too early for magazines so we turn them down as well.

https://www.scurfawatches.com/history

Yeah, these are sold at cost. Buy one while you can, because sooner or later they’ll want or need to turn a profit; until then their prices are astonishingly low. Shipped 2-day DHL prices are:

  • 230UKP in the UK
  • 242UKP in Europe
  • 207.3UKP non-VAT.

So mine in April 2019 was $267.22 delivered. Holy crap that’s a great deal!

It wears quite well; 40mm is a great size and 20mm drilled lugs mean a plethora of strap options. There’s no bracelet yet, but one is promised and until then I’m enjoying trying it on a variety of straps that I’ve already got.

Factory black strap

The yellow makes me smile. If you don’t agree, there are several other dial and hand color combinations for sale at the same price.

Lume is, of course, excellent, in BGW9 white/blue.

DI-500 movement, picture Scurfa

Timekeeping is well within spec, though mine doesn’t hit all of the seconds marks between about 35 to 50 seconds. Ahh well. It’s a solid movement, and I like the 5 year battery and that the EOL feature will stutter the second hand a few months before it dies, so that I’m not left with a surprise dead watch.

And for the price I’m fine thrashing it hard – that’s less than my recent Seiko diver cost. I love my OWC but this is so much cheaper I’ll keep both. If you want mechanical, he makes the Bell Diver with a Miyota 9015 for a bit more, see a review on ABtW here.

So there you are. This is a watch with a best-ever story, a non-profit price and superb functionality. You’ll probably never see anyone else wearing one either, so it’s super hipster in that sense and the antithesis of a luxury good too.

https://www.scurfawatches.com/diver-one-d1-500-yellow

Update 2-Sep-2019: The long-awaited Scurfa bracelets are now available, as I explained here you should go buy one; they’re about 60 bucks which is a typically excellent value.

The URL is https://www.scurfawatches.com/product/diver-one-20mm-bracelet-in-stainless-steel/

Categories
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!

Sensor:

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.