In a struggle to be happy and free

Drystone Wall

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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 later 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 hears ago!
  2. See the Wikipedia entry on the topic.

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…

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.

COVID Alert

The COVID Alert app icon

Federal government’s COVID Alert app is out for iOS and Android. I knew it was coming and have been thinking about whether I’ll use it or not. On one side is the government’s insidious gathering of information about us, and on the other is keeping safe and learning when I’ve been in contact with someone who has later tested positive.

It’s strength and weakness is that it’s a contact notification application, not a contact tracing application. That is, it will let you know only if someone you have been in contact with has later tested positive for COVID‑19. It will not let you know who that person is, when you were in contact, or where the contact occurred. All it tells you is that you really should go get tested to find out of you caught it from the person with which you were in contact.

The weakness is the very limited information you’re given. The strength is that you’re not laying your soul bare to the government. They receive very little information.

The main COVID Alert app page. Good news for me! I hope it stays this way.

How it works is your phone periodically generates a random code and transmits is via Bluetooth. Any phone near yours will record any codes it detects from other phones. If you some day are tested for COVID‑19 and the result is positive, you inform the app of this unfortunate occurrence. It then transmits this, with all the codes it has recorded, to a central server. All copies of the app periodically download this information from the server and your app recognizes its own code from any downloaded and marked as having been infected, it notifies you that you’ve been in contact with someone who has tested positive. Then you need to go get tested and see if you caught it.

No GPS data is used. It’s a clever solution to finding out if anyone you’ve been with has caught it, and at the same time protecting your privacy. But of course, you have to trust the application to do only what the government says is does.

I would normally not be onboard with this application, but COVID‑19 is serious. I believe there is so much about it that we don’t yet know, it could be far worse than we currently realize. So I did download and activate it. But at the same time, the Provincial and Federal Privacy Commissioners were consulted during its creation and Federal privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien says: “Canadians can opt to use this technology knowing it includes very significant privacy protections. I will use it.”

The real tipping point to my decision to use the app is the fact that the source code is available on GitHub. If you have programming knowledge, you can download the code yourself and see what it does. I appreciate that level of transparency.

Get it from the iOS App Store or on Google Play. More information is available on the COVID Alert app page.

Subdivision signals

Drivers from different regions seems to have their own quirks.

I may have mentioned before that the some drivers in Ottawa really stretch the yellow lights. I recall once at a left turn, the person in front of me turned on a yellow and I followed them. I shouldn’t have, but I did. To my amazement, the two people behind me also went. I suspect they both ran the red. Certainly the second car did.

Here in Niagara Falls, People often don’t signal. Others signal too late. It’s so frustrating.

Take today for example. I turned into my subdivision and saw a car a block away slowing down. Brake lights were on. No signal. I got closer and closer and the braking car eventually came to a stop, though it wasn’t close enough to the curb to be parking. Okay, I don’t know what this person was doing, but they stopped so I went around them.

Some folks like to make darn sure they don’t hit anything in their lane so they go far into the other lane, especially with bicycles. I really do understand not wanting to hit a bicyclist, but going entirely into the other lane is excessive. Not only that, but it’s dangerous because if someone turns a corner or is suddenly coming toward you in their own lane, you’re in trouble.

So I passed this stopped car. No, I did not leave a lot of space. I certainly did not put the right side of my car on the left side of the road! I know the extent of my vehicle so I didn’t touch their car. Whatever the driver was doing, it was then behind me.

A few turns later, I parked in front of the neighbourhood mailbox. A black Mercedes, an older C‑class I think, approached from the other direction. It stopped in the street beside me, and the driver called over, “That was pretty close.”

I have no idea what he’s talking about, so I replied, “I don’t follow.”

“You came pretty close to me,” he said. Then it clicked. This is the same car.

“Not really,” I said.

“You shouldn’t come that close,” he said. This was going no where fast.

You shouldn’t just stop in the road with no signal,” I replied.

He again repeated that I came too close. I was going to suggest that maybe his signal was not working, but of course it was. It was also unlikely that anything would come of this conversation so I said, “Fair enough,” and got out of the car to retrieve my mail. He left.

Thinking back, I should have stayed in my car until he left in case he was lacking in self-control. I already know he lacked good judgement. But jeez, really?

He put me into a situation where I had to make a choice. That he didn’t like my choice doesn’t bother me one whit.

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