Third Alien Shore

In a struggle to be happy and free

Drystone Wall

It's 1993 again!

I recall that the company I was working for had a computer system set up specifically to burn CDs in 1993. Of course it had a CD burner. It also had a special AV hard drive that didn't interrupt the reading of data during thermal recalibration1. On regular hard drives, this operation paused the data flow and therefore the burn would fail, resulting in a bad disc suitable for the garbage. The computer also had no software, other than the operating system and the burning software, that might steal CPU time and slow the flow of data. Burners now have a feature where the writing will be paused while the data flow drops below the rate of it being written to the disc, but back then, as soon as the write buffer emptied, the disc was garbage. So in the old days, once the disc burn started, no one even touched the computer. Just in case.

Oh, did I mention that the blank 650 MB blanks cost in the neighbourhood of $25 each?

So why is it 1993 again? I burned a data disc today that cost me $24 and it took in the neighbourhood of three hours. It wasn't a 650 MB CD, but rather a 100 GB Blu-ray disc. Yes, I know writable CD/DVD/Blu-ray data discs for backup are on their way out. I certainly agree that I won't ever back up my hard drive to writable discs. But in this case, I have my photos backed up to two removable hard drives (one stored off-site) and I'm worried about bit-rot2...which I have experienced. A large capacity optical disc is ideal for this irreplaceable data.

It seems that writable optical discs have undergone some advancement since I last stored any significant amount of data on them.

The obvious advance is capacity. When BD-R discs were introduced, they came in the form of a single-layer 25 GB capacity or a two-layer 50 GB capacity. These days BDXL discs are available in a three-layer 100 GB capacity and a four-layer 128 GB capacity. Given that most years I've taken digital photos have resulted in files that easily fit on a single 25 GB disc, the files are easy to back up. But last year I took photos that total 99.04 GB in size. Sure I could split them across four discs, but that offends my sensibilities, and prevents me from trying these cool higher capacity discs.

The other advance is longevity. M-Disc is a new type of optical disc that uses a non-organic data layer. Regular discs use an organic data layer that is subject to chemical changes, especially if the lacquer fails and oxygen comes into contact with the organic material. As a result, these newer discs are more focused on long term storage and claim to last anywhere from a few hundred years to a millennium. Of course that's overkill, even if it's true, but regular discs can fail far more quickly.

I loaded up on 25 GB M-Disc BL-R discs and have backed up all the music I purchased online and I'm starting the process of backing up my photos. I ordered one 100 GB M-Disc BL-R disc for last year's photos. Happily, the burn and verification were successful.

Now I have my photos backed up a fourth time in a non-modifiable form that should take care of things if I find damaged copies on the backup hard drives. All I'll have to make sure of is that I have a working optical drive that can read a BD-R.


  1. Or did it recalibrate only while idle? I'm not sure. It was 27 years ago!
  2. See the Wikipedia entry on the topic.

VW diesel report: 2020

Happy New Year! I still use Fuelly.com to track my fuel consumption. Here are the results of my driving in 2020:

  • I refueled 6 times.
  • The average distance I drove between fill-ups was 908.4 km (564.4 miles).
  • The average price I paid per litre of diesel was $1.03 ($3.89 per US gallon).
  • The total distance tracked in 2020 was 5450km (3387 miles).
  • To drive that distance, I used 329.49 litres of fuel (87.04 US gallons).
  • I spent an average of $56.34 for each refuel.
  • I spent a total of $338.04 on fuel.
  • That works out to 6¢ per kilometre (10¢ per mile).
  • My average fuel economy for the year was 6.0 litres/100 km (38.9 MPG).

Taking it a bit further, 6 fill-ups in 12 months averages out to a fill-up every two months. A pandemic certainly helps cut down on the driving!

Over this year, I’ve noted that my fuel economy, or specifically, the distance I can drive per tank of fuel has been increasing. To whit, I would typically reach 800 km per tank about 75% of the time. Now I find I’m reaching 900 km per tank about half the time. When I bought the car I recall being told that fuel economy would get better and better until the car was fully broken in at around 160,000 km, and I’m less than 1000 km away from that mark! I didn’t believe it at the time but it seems to be absolutely true.

Steps

Pictured is a graph from my phone. It shows the number of steps I took on the last five days of my holiday vacation followed by the first day of school this term.

Yep…

Picking quarrels

Thirty-seven-year-old Zhang Zhan went to Wuhan from her home in Shanghai on February 1. She performed the role of a citizen reporter and posted interviews with residents and footage of the city to Youtube.

She was detained in mid-May and appeared at her trial last week. Charged with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” she was sentenced to four years in jail. It’s important to note that as far as I’m aware, what she reported was never disputed.

Welcome to China, where the laws are so ridiculously vague, that if officials want you silenced, they’ll certainly get their way. After all, how they and the government appear is far more important than anything as inconsequential as the truth.


Unknown author, “China jails citizen-journalist for 4 years over Wuhan virus reporting,” CBC News, December 28, 2020

A Strange Christmas

This has been the weirdest year ever. I’m only grateful that everyone around me is still well in these times of COVID. I haven’t written since August because it seems that I’d be writing all day, every day, or it’s just too much to pick though.

Christmas has been especially trying because mom had to go to the hospital and ended up staying for a week, partly because there was a COVID-19 outbreak in her ward. Not only did the outbreak have her stay there longer, but she had to self-isolate upon her release, but it would mean that I have to self-isolate as she can’t stay alone for that length of time. So we’ve seen no one, beside her health aids, since the Friday before Christmas, and we’ll see no one until New Year’s day.

The timing is so unfortunate, but I saw no way to avoid it. So as an escape, I watch a few episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation each day on Netflix.

So as it stands, I’m just starting the second of the two weeks in isolation. Last week was long. This week will be longer, I’m sure. I’m just glad everyone is well.

I’m hoping that you and yours are well, too.

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