Stereo May 22, 2020
I think I missed a week. Sorry about that. It is hard to keep track when I only leave the house once a week for grocery shopping. A couple of weeks ago, I told you that I was finally testing our new server software on our new iMac server. It went much better after I upgraded the software to the latest update. Of course, right after that they announced a new version. I think I will hold off until they work all the bugs out. I did set up our backup protocol this week and it is much more robust when using the server software. I use to run a subroutine whenever the data base was closed which was usually each night. This subroutine would save a copy of the database to a folder which was linked to a cloud service which would then automatically save this backup to the cloud. I also have three external drives which makes continuous back ups of everything on the internal hard drive using Apple’s Time Machine (a really glorious back up program that saves my butt a couple times a month). So theoretically, I should have five backup copies, One on the internal drive, on in the cloud and three on three separate external drives. You can not make a backup of an open file because it will be corrupted. Unfortunately, about six months ago, our cloud service became unreliable so we discontinued it in anticipation of using the new server software. That left us with just the four local backups, not a good thing if there is a fire or someone breaks in and steals the computers.
The server software is capable of making backups automatically even when the database is open. It defaults to creating a backup at midnight each day on the internal hard drive and saving the last seven days. I purchased an 8 Terabyte external and reconfigured this auto backup to go there. The server software also lets you schedule custom backups, so I set up a new iCloud account which is Apple’s iCloud storage service. The server software would not let me select the iCloud drive as a location for a backup because you can not change its permissions. As a work around, I saved a second backup on the internal drive each night at 12:30 am. I then created an Automator routine which moves the backup to the iCloud drive and replaces the existing backup at 1:00 am. Once there, it automatically uploads to the cloud. I also have a 2 Terabyte external drive again running Time Machine which saves everything on the internal drive except the open Filemaker database file. Once I move the server back to the office and get it up and running, I will take two of the three external drives on Melissa’s computer and reconfigure them for the server. That will give me seven automatic backups on the 8TB external hard drive, one local backup on the internal hard drive for iCloud, one in the cloud and three more on the Time Machine external hard drives for a total of 12 copies of the back up. But wait, there is more. This server is also configured to do a continuous or mirrored backup which backs up every change you make to the data base and those backups are also backed up on the Time Machine external drives for a grand total of 16 backup copies. I think I have it covered.
So what does all of that have to do with a stereo set up? Well if you have read this far, you realize that doing this kind of work seven days a week for two months can be a little mind numbing, so I occasionally need a distraction. I got to thinking about our album collection and wouldn’t it be nice to digitize them. I had tried this a number of years ago when the iMacs still had an analog audio jack. I used a small equalizer with a preamp but I always got a hum. When the Macs eliminated the audio in jack, I needed a new way of recording voice over on our training videos. The built in mic wasn’t really good enough. My first attempt was to buy an iRig A to D audio converter and plug my old mics into it. That also was less than satisfactory so I ended up with a USB mic.
While I was doing some housecleaning, I found the iRig converter and wondered if I could plug our old turntable into it for recording on to the Mac. The turntable is part of the stereo system my wife bought after she graduated but before we were married. She spent $1,020 on it with $40.80 sales tax (We used to have 4% sales tax?!). This is when a new Ford Pinto cost $3,000. It included a Sherwood Stereo Receiver, a Dual Turntable, two massive AMC Speakers and a Superscope dual head cassette deck. I never owned an 8-track (Is that a country western song?). The cassette deck died a number of years ago but it was no great loss as we always bought albums and transferred them to cassette. We used this system on our projection tv until a few years ago when everything went to digital audio. We bought a Sony digital receiver and continue to use the massive AMC Speakers but the Sherwood Receiver and Dual Turntable were retired…until now. I plugged my turntable back into the receiver, the receiver into the iRig A to D converter and that into my Mac. I then used Garage band to record and convert the music to digital format and uploaded into iTunes, free Apple software that comes with the Mac. It worked perfectly. It is a little depressing though. The music from the seventies, my music, is not that good. I think the best music was from the sixties and it has been going down hill ever since. I have recorded five albums including Neil Diamond, ELO, Hotel California and America. I have another 15 selected but I am in no rush. This leaves me with over a hundred albums that I will never listen to again.
Ethernet May 12, 2020
A couple of weeks ago, I told you that I was finally testing our new server software on our new server computer. What a disaster. The server would either crash, hang up or take forever for simple tasks. My first thought that something I had done in the programming was not compatible with the server software. It was late so I went to bed depressed.
One error I was able to identify was that the guest computer was disconnecting from the server. So the next morning I did some preliminary research which told me that the Ethernet cables I was using were old technology. They were Cat 5 which was only good to 100 Mbps (megabits per second). I went to Lowes and bought three new Cat 6 cables which are rated at 1000 Mbps. When I went to plug them in, I found one of the cables was not connected correctly because of a broken RJ45 connector, so my computer was connected via Wifi. There was a small improvement with the new cables but it was still unusable. Back to the software theory. That is when I remembered hearing something about early releases of this version of the server software were not very stable. Sure enough, I was two revisions behind. After updating the software, everything started working reasonably well. At least it wasn’t crashing.
I decided to do a little more research into Ethernet speeds. Turns out the cables I had were Cat 5e not Cat 5. There is very little difference between Cat 5e and Cat 6. The former is rated at 1000 Mbps, the later is guaranteed for 1000 Mbps, a difference without a distinction. Turns out there is also a Cat 6a in common usage which is guaranteed at 10 Gbps (gigabits per second) a tenfold increase in speed.
Now I am thinking that I am going to have to rewire the whole office to get satisfactory performance and I start doing research on what it is going to cost. A few hundred dollars for the cable and a new 10 Gig Ethernet switch, well worth it for a ten fold increase in speed. Then I realized that our computers would also have to be rated at 10 Gig. They are not. Apple only makes three high end models with 10 Gig speed starting at over $2,000 each. That tells me that I should be able to get adequate speed from a 1000 Mbps system. So no rewiring.
The cables I had just bought were Cat 6 not Cat 6a and they were testing at 1000 Mbps. For kicks, I replaced them with my old cables, making sure that the connectors were properly inserted. I also turned off my wifi to make sure it was going through the Ethernet cables. By this time, the server was working reliably and I had found one function that took about 4 seconds on a host computer and 6 seconds over the network. It took about 30 seconds over wifi which confirmed the measured speed difference. Ethernet was measured at 1000 Mbps and wifi a little over 200 Mbps. This told me that we needed to have all computers that would access the server on the Ethernet network.
I wanted to compare my new server speed against our current system. Since I can log into and control each of our computers at work from home, I ran the same function that I had previously used. It ran about 5 seconds on the server and about 7 seconds on my computer. When I tested Karl’s computer it took about 30 seconds. I double checked and the results repeated. I went in that night after everyone left and started inspecting the cables. The patch cables from the walls to the computers were all Cat 5e, but the cable in the wall that went to Karl’s computer was Cat 5. He had been having problems when he accessed the data base where it would corrupt work orders when he entered them. To get around this problem, he would have Melissa enter them on the server. Not a good long term solution. So now I am back to thinking that I do need to rewire the office. I would use the more expensive Cat 6a to future proof our network. I call Mike, my son-in-law, at work the next day. I did not want to bother Karl because he was studying for exams. I asked Mike if he could look for the crimping tool we used on the Ethernet connectors. He could not find it but said he had one at home. I then asked him to find the best patch cable we had in our collection and replace the one in Karl’s office. Karl was there and knew the test function I ran. He tested it and voila, it only took 6 seconds. So all of the problems he has been having for the last year were caused by a bad patch cable that took 15 seconds to replace. I also found out that most of the cable is Cat 5 and not Cat 5e but seems to be working so now I do not know if I should replace it or not. Next time I will know to look at the cables first not last.
Plymouth May 4, 2020
Tom Root, the son of our founder Percy Root, worked as the company photographer for the Fate Root Heath Company. After the company was sold in the 1960s, Tom took his share and bought a Piper Cub airplane and became a renowned arial photographer. He also had a massive historic and antique photograph collection. Tom passed away a few years ago and now his daughter, Percy’s granddaughter is sharing his collection on Facebook. This is one of my favorites. It shows members of the Fate Root Heath Family including Percy Root. Her caption for the photo is:
“The first Plymouth Automobile, about to depart on its maiden (and only) voyage. Destination: NYC. Harley Fate is the big guy in the front seat. I think that's my grandfather, PH Root at the far left, but I can't be certain. If you'll notice, they are parked in front of the Smith Hotel - the original bank building is in the background. 7/8/1919”
PH Root is Percy Root. The Plymouth automobile was built by the Fate Root Heath company which at the time specialized in very rugged trucks. As she said, they made the trip to New York City but broke down on the way home and had it returned vial rail. They decided to stick to trucks which eventually led to tractors and yard locomotives. In 1934, Walter Chrysler was not pleased that a small tractor with pneumatic tires and a top speed of 25 mph was sporting the Plymouth name, one the Chrysler Company had only been using since 1928. He went to Plymouth Ohio with his high priced lawyers with the intent of shutting them down. When Harley Fate pulled out the newspaper article from 1919 about their first Plymouth automobile, the folks at Chrysler had to change their tune. They eventually agreed to pay Fate Root Heath for the rights to the name and Fate Root Heath would not use the name on their tractor, so they renamed it the Silver King. Internet rumor says Chrysler only paid a dollar but Tom Root told me that it was a lot more than that and he was there.
The Thrill is Gone April 27, 2020
When I was a freshman at the University of Rochester many long decades ago, they took a different approach to frosh week. We still got the beanies that identified us as freshman but wearing them was optional (no one did). Hazing freshman was banned and instead we were treated to a bunch of free stuff including a BB King concert, one of the best I have ever been to. I can still remember the agony on his face when he sang that song.
While not agonizing, it is a little depressing that I am no longer excited when I buy a new computer. This one sat in my office for a month before I unboxed it. I bought it early because of several promotions that were running at the time. It will be used as a server for our Filemaker database that runs the company, everything including accounting, payroll , documentation, inventory and production. I installed my first networked accounting system in 1986. It was 4 Mac Pluses with one megabyte of memory. One had a twenty megabyte. external SCSI hard drive that served as the server and one users computer. Each computer cost about $2,500 and the hard drive cost another $2,000. I have used a half dozen accounting software packages over the years and they have all allowed the server to also be used as a terminal. For comparison, the new server cost about $1,200 and has a built in 256 gigabyte solid state drive that is wickedly fast. Filemaker has decided to deprecate this feature and require you to use server software on a dedicated computer. The good news is that when they did this, they made their server software free. They are doing this because It is supposed to make the software more stable, always a good thing. Running my data base on the dedicated server requires some revisions but since I am already programming a major update, I will wait until it is done before we start using the server. Maybe that is why the thrill is gone.
UPDATE: I originally wrote this blog post last October. I never posted it because I was waiting until I actually started using the new computer. Since we are self-isolated at home, I have been spending most of my time working on the upgrade to our data base. I finally decided to test the data base using the new to me Filemaker Server, so I finally fired up the new Mac. I’ll let you know how it goes.
The Beard is Back April 18, 2020
We are going into week 3, or is it 4 of self-isolation, and I am going a little bat $#!† crazy. Ooh, that was a bad joke but remember, I am a little crazy. Crazy enough to think I should write a blog about my facial hair.
When I was 21, my brother, a couple friends and I took a month long trip out west in my van. Since we slept in the van, we did not bath regularly and I stopped shaving. When the trip was over, all I had to show for it was a dirty lip. I fancied it a mustache, so I left it untouched when I shaved the rest of my face. A few “dirty lip” comments from my “friends and family” and my bubble was burst. Rather than shave off what took me 6 weeks to grow, I enhanced it with eye brow pencil, which was quite effective. After another month it resembled a mustache even without the enhancement. So for the next twenty some years, I had a mustache that I would not shave off for fear it would take months to grow back.
Finally, it itched too much and, without telling anyone, I shaved it off. I thought my wife and kids were going to shoot me with a shotgun until in my best James Earl Jones voice, I convinced them I was there father.
I would frequently nick a mole on my upper lip that would take a while to stop bleeding, so I stopped shaving again. Much to my relief, it only took a week for my mustache and goatee to become presentable. The rest of my face is peach fuzz that only needs to be shaved every couple of days. My razor blades last for months. I also learned that if I trim my mustache, it doesn’t itch as much.
Eventually it still itched too much and off it came. A little side story. When Anne got married, I cut that mole shaving and it would not stop bleeding, even after two hours. Nothing worked. Finally the wedding planner retrieved a bottle of super glue from his supplies and Anne’s Maid of Honor, Kelli, patched me up and even applied make up to hide my shame.
Since we have been self isolated, I stopped shaving and let it all grow back. I think it needs a little eye brow pencil.
Lock Down April 10, 2020
As we enter week three of lock down, there is no one I would rather be with than my beautiful bride as we celebrated our 43rd wedding anniversary yesterday.
Yes, that is the same dress and hat and she still looks great in them.
Normally we would go out for a fancy dinner for our anniversary. Our favorite was CK’s revolving restaurant atop the Tampa Airport Marriott at sunset but they closed a few years ago. Instead we celebrated communion via live webcast from our church. They are doing a wonderful job. I did splurge and bake the bread for the occasion.
Mike’s Tool Boxes April 5, 2020
You can tell a lot about someone by their tool boxes. This top one belonged to Mike’s(ourEastern Regional Manager and my son-in-law) great great grandfather. He built it for himself in the late 1800’s and brought it with him when he immigrated to the United States from England. This thing is a monster and, with the tools, ways over a hundred pounds. Mike plans on preserving the tools and returning it to his mom. She is going use it as a base for a coffee table. Before you start hollering “sacrilege”, this will keep this box and its tools in a climate controlled environment and should preserve them well so they can eventually take it to “Antiques Road Show”.
This box is the one he and his father shared at their shop where they serviced their fleet of semis used for hauling oversized loads. They continued to use it when they bought and sold trucks, specializing in pre-electronic log models. It has a lot of specialty tools for truck maintenance that wont be used in our shop but obviously it also has a lot of generic tools.
This tool box is Mike’s portable tool box he used in their shop and just like most good mechanics, you can see he is a little anal. I might actually start liking my son-in-law.
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