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This is a list of articles with teasers.  The headlines below are links to the full articles.


too much bang for buck

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Posted under Other Technology at . Last updated 2019-08-23 22:52.

Bang

blown fuse

Some time ago I needed a new soldering iron. And a heat gun would be handy, but I had little cash spare. Soldering stations with temperature readouts seem to be the thing now, and I can see the attraction. My interim solution was a WEP 852D+ 2-in-1 iron / heat gun. (Which may be a rebranded something else, not sure.) I prefer a more modular approach to tools, but, well. Worst case, I thought, it would do as a heat gun with a fallback iron, and I’d pick up a primary soldering station at some point. Initially, all was well, and I’ve been doing a few essential jobs with it while life beyond electronics gets sorted.

A few weeks ago during my last bout of repairs, the soldering iron handle began to loosen every time it warmed up, eventually falling apart in the hand in the middle of a job. Lacking time to do anything about this, the only immediate solution was to tighten it manually.

[...]

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some data recovery

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Posted under Other Technology at . Last updated 2019-07-16 01:48.

an experience of recovery from Postgresql database files

Ooh weirdness.

I had a significant drive failure a few weeks ago during backup, which managed to take out both the source and destination drives. OK I should be rotating backups to avoid this problem, check that for the future. Amongst the files was the most-recent-state postgres, and this is tricky. I could have restored from the last dump, but thanks to a months-long bout of illness this was a bit behind.

I managed to recover basically everything else by dint of some older recovery software on an older machine, but as I suspected, just switching the recovered postgres data folder to the new installation didn’t work. Part of which might be that the recovery software writes all its recovered files under ownership of privoxy rather than the original owners . . . perhaps on the basis that you won’t know how to chown, not sure. Or perhaps because the original owners might not be present on the new system, fair enough. Maybe that’s enough to prevent postgres starting with the old folder (even with a few configuration tweaks).

So instead I cloned the whole drive . . . slightly overkill for 100-odd MB of database gunk, but hopefully simpler than either figuring it out or trying to reconstruct manually — and I think the latter would be easier of those two. This isn’t really critical data, just a convenience thing. But it took several hours.

The particular implementation of postgres here is Bitnami’s MAPPstack, and this makes one particular option attractive — to run the whole thing again from the cloned drive (which would include the data files), do a dump, and restore to the new installation. Will it work?

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Default to Home

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Posted under Other Technology at .

OhhhhhFFs. Oafs. What happened to Firefox? Not surprising its market share has crumbled away, there’s so much wrong with it since about version 18 (or 5?) . . . seems now there is no longer any option to really set the default encoding recognition to UTF-8, which means FF can’t be made to work as a convenient tool to view plain page fragments any more — unless you’re a Windows-using American, addressing only that part of the domestic Anglo audience which has never had any exposure to either traditional typography or emoticons, to take two examples. How many of that remainder can even read ASCII I couldn’t say, but that’s the market segment Mozilla are catering to here.

Apparently this default is now set in Gecko, and so can’t be changed in FF about:config. You could recompile it, presumably, if you really wanted to. Oh, and adding a BOM doesn’t trigger recognition, and the menu option retains the UTF-8 setting on reload even though the display is mojibake — not interpreted as requested. And changing locale doesn’t make any difference.

Seriously, Mozilla, if you don’t want people to be able to view fragments and text files, don’t allow FF to open anything without an HTML header. Then your project can just die off quietly and you can all go home and find something useful to do.  <angry dinosaur emoticon placeholder>


the tubes

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Posted under Other Technology at .

tubes out for cleaning

Some tubes from a newly arrived vintage radio, out for cleaning . . . for about the first time since it was manufactured. Aren’t they shiny? The story with these is the strange and wonderful alliance of thermionic valve technology and the Internet.

This set is a little over fifty years old. (And I suspect there are people out there who could identify it from the tubes alone.) One of the same model used to live in my parents’ house, humming away happily for nearly twenty-five years, until one day in the late eighties they said it had stopped working and would I look at it.

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MagSafe As It Should Have Been

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Posted under Other Technology at .

(Or closer-to.)

Since I last wrote on this topic I’ve been living uncomfortably with my fourth Apple MagSafe PSU in a temporary-repair state; and many other things have been getting in the way, some of which have been much more interesting than fixing old PSUs. But recently the (now, what, 18-month-old?) cable on Nº4 has shown additional signs of deterioration, requiring further bandaging. Won’t last long. So on to a full refurbishment of Nº2, which (including previous emergency repair) looks like this:

heavy cable degradation

As the migrant plasticiser had almost completely evaporated when I took photos last year, there is no significant further deterioration, though a few flakes of sheath have fallen off. The plan was:

3. Whether or not (2) is successful, open up Nº2 and replace the whole cable. I did look for something similar in the way of coaxial cable last year, unsuccessfully. But I suspect this isn’t necessary; it’s just a DC power supply. Ordinary 2-core flex should do — though all things considered I think I’ll opt for heat-resistant. Ideally this should include putting a socket in the adaptor, so the cable can be replaced if need be. This will probably not look very elegant . . . but nor does it in its existing state.”

So, to work. Start with cutting.

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another day another battery

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Posted under Other Technology at .

I’ve spent much of today trying to get my main workstation working. This is a Mac G5 Dual-Processor machine. I remember when they came out, actually I remember seeing a picture of one for the first time, a week or two before they were released . . . someone was trying to sell one on eBay, and I thought, that looks interesting but I doubt it’s a real Mac. Then there was a flurry of technical ecstasy in the Mac Press, and I don’t remember a single critical and informed article, but maybe I wasn’t reading the right sites. I did note one significant disappointment in the design — the thing which made the New-World G3 tower even better than the excellent PowerMac 9600/8600, the hinge-out motherboard, had been dropped. Surprising, given the convenience it represented. The board-at-the-back approach in the G5 looked likely to be less manageable than any Mac since the early Quadras.

G5 tower case open (2010)
the G5 opened on arrival in 2010

A few years later I needed to upgrade my rather underpowered G4 (underpowered for the latest round of software updates, that is). And so I obtained a secondhand G5 . . . which was great in as much as it worked, it was visually striking, it has all these fans in separate cooling zones, and maybe as a result is actually noticeably quieter than the G4. Today I notice it also has a lower maximum power rating. But handling it is comparatively unpleasant, as the aluminium case is a lot heavier, and the handles are less comfortable. It’s a minor issue but I did think it surprising, as I often do, when design updates result in poorer products. Should we not record our successes and study them?

Intending to get to grips with the G5 technically, I attempted to disassemble it it — you know, as you do . . . 

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