Unpopular Opinions (?)

The Monroe Systems DASDEC literally looks like some hack job I’d have put together out of shell scripts and awful HTML on a Fedora Core Linux box made of spare parts in my parents’ living room when I was 17 years old and still thought Drowning Pool was kinda great

That charming feeling

A police officer just warned me not to leave the property of my apartment complex and cross the street over to the trashed mobile home park across the street because they’ve already hauled off five of my neighbors from this complex for walking over there under cover of darkness and looting.

My neighbors. Ha ha hahahahaha *gag* what

So we made it through Irma. No power and our phones just started working this evening. Ham radio was useless as there are few people on it here and the repeaters are awful little things with no emergency power. Until Internet access returned, the only source of local information was BBC World Service being carried by WLRN. Broward County isn’t telling local media anything. Glorious!

The area is a total mess. At this point I’m just looking forward to getting away from it. That’ll be a while though as our gas stations all went dry SEVEN DAYS AGO and none have been refilled. Some stores have reopened on limited hours (due to the curfew I only know about thanks to BBC World Service!!) but they are not restocking.

Had the first real dinner in a while tonight though. We used one of the big iron charcoal grills out in the common area to barbecue some burgers and hot dogs. I never want to see crackers and peanut butter again.

Just looking forward to things ascending back from “third world post apocalyptic” to “third world war zone” as usual. Le sigh. A cold front would be just as welcome.

NOPE. THAT. SHIT.

So here’s why I would have gotten fired this weekend if not for the fact that I’d already resigned with two weeks’ notice.

I found out early today that I would have been expected to come to work and ride out Hurricane Irma right here:

Which is right here….

And those bands are the outer bands of this….

Which at the time was forecast to do THIS.

I’m sorry, I did like my job there for the most part, but if asked to ride out the storm there, in a building which got three feet of water in it during Andrew which didn’t even hit that area much at all…. Well, I’d have just plain refused.

I was hearing stories of how the staff held off on evacuating until it was actually already difficult to get over the causeway due to storm surge and wind.

I’m sorry. It’s one thing to be a dedicated team player with the company. It’s another to endanger your safety to fight a losing battle to keep a broadcast going.

Not much one could do with three feet of seawater in the studios and electrical rooms.

And for that I’m assuming I would have been fired in one of those furious scenes.

This is of course assuming it’s still on a course for us as of morning– there’s some potential for a deviation westwards.

But still, not worth it.

In a couple of weeks, northern California will be my home. The only common natural disasters known there are wildfires. I’m okay with this.

because we're management and fuck you that's why

Yesterday our apartment complex put out reminders on everyone’s doors that we are not allowed to cover or tape* any windows to prepare for Hurricane Irma.

Today, the manager’s apartment windows are boarded up, as well as the rental office.

Meme semi related.

* taping windows is actually totally useless

Flori-DONE

This morning, some prick jammed a toothpick through the sidewall of one of my tires. Yes– one of THOSE damn tires.

This coming about two days before what’s expected to be a Category 4 hurricane wiping Florida like a piss soaked rag being thrust onto your windshield by a zombie bum in downtown Miami.

Beautiful! Luckily, that same Tire Kingdom (yes, Bullet Hole Kingdom) still stocks that size tire.

There’s no propane, bottled water, canned foods, bread, batteries, or anything else particularly useful left in the stores, and it’s been that way since Monday night. I actually saw some of the questionable little “Food Store” places in the… unsavory areas… spray painted “No Supplies Inside” or “No Water” on their roll up shutters. Yes… All the way back on Monday.

This is pretty much a guarantee that hilarious price gouging will happen on a widespread basis, and to the first person who tries to use supply-side economics to justify this, I will counter with the following argument:

Say I have a great surplus of a special kind of large trout. Its prime directive is to be used for slapping people in the face. However, I have far more slapping trout than I can use, so the cost of a trout slap is so low I just have to deliver them free of charge.

To your heartless late-stage capitalist face.

  • KG4CYX slaps you around a bit with a large trout!

Embedded PC Troubleshooting

It’s not uncommon among broadcast equipment that it contains a small off-the-shelf embedded PC, often running Linux.

It’s also not uncommon that the equipment will just up and die one day for no seemingly good reason, however, while the reason is a maddeningly silly one— it’s easy to get it running again!

So here’s the most common one I run into. This is on an SSL (Solid State Logic) NetBridge, which is part of their system that— well, I’ll admit I have no clue what it does.

The problem: After unplugging the box and plugging it back in, it never started up right. A front panel LCD lit up and indicated something weird like it was waiting for connection to the host, but never did anything beyond that point.

Remove about 64 screws aaaaaand…

VIA Mini-ITX motherboard

Believe it or not… nothing too special here. This is an off the shelf VIA Mini-ITX platform motherboard. If you had to, you could track down a replacement entirely. The RAM is just standard RAM, so if it went bad you could swap it. I forget what’s on the other end of that ATA cable but it was probably a CompactFlash card in an adapter.

Now, look under that multiport serial card’s corner. See the coin cell battery standing at attention in the vertical holder? Well, it was more like… a dead parrot nailed to its perch.

You can just see one wire connected to the header for the front panel LEDs and buttons. In this case I think it was on the reset pin. There is nothing on the power switch pins.

The way this box left the factory, it was configured to expect that it would never actually shut down. It was expected that the box would just lose power, and the BIOS settings were set to “resume after power failure”. Worked fine until… the battery died and the settings went byebye.

 

The fix was simple: Open the box, connect a keyboard and monitor, short the pins on the front panel header for “power button” to wake the board up, enter the BIOS settings and configure them appropriately, then put all 64 screws back in the thing.

 

I dunno, maybe it wasn’t actually 64, but it was a LOT, man.

 

I’ve seen the same kind of setup used also with a capacitor across the power button pins as described in this car PC article; a certain type of satellite receiver used in radio stations (I forget the make/model!) and the Comrex Access rackmount units used this as well. I believe on those it was more a backup measure to ensure the box still started if the settings got lost, though.

 

It probably wouldn’t hurt to keep a spare motherboard around for these units. In some cases the software is very dependent of the hardware being JUST so. In advanced and, frankly, ridiculous cases, the software may have a license key linked to the MAC address of the onboard network card, and you may have to swap a surface mount serial EEPROM. (a pox on your house to anyone who implements this…!!!!)

Also, any easily removable storage device may be backed up for future recovery if needed. My usual solution is to just take an image of the whole drive from a Linux system. You’ll probably have to do these as root.
sudo dd if=/dev/sdx of=backupFile.img to create the file (insert appropriate device node of course)
sudo dd if=backupFile.img of=/dev/sdx to restore it (contents of the device will be overwritten!)
If you use a similar size or larger media as the replacement, it should work fine – I’ve never seen anything care that blocks exist beyond where the partition map says they do.

One star review.

Not surprising or amusing: getting cockplugged in traffic.

Surprising and amusing: getting trapped indefinitely on a closed road in front of an escape room.

https://youtu.be/L7jnk2mv3PU

One star review. Was not pleased with the experience.

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