Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
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fun social media stuff

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Like my brownhouse:
   cats and hard drives
Thursday, August 13 2009

setting: rural Hurley Township, New York

Whenever we return home from some vacation spent elsewhere, I'm always a little nervous about our cats. Since moving to Hurley, we haven't had perfect luck keeping them alive. On random occasions one will simply disappear and never return, probably killed by coyotes, owls, or (perhaps) a fisher. We lost the two cats we'd brought from Brooklyn after only about a year, and we've gone on to lose other cats we've adopted along the way. Maxwell and Lulu randomly vanished, though Mavis was lucky enough to grow old and infirm and have an end-of-life decision made for her by a two-human death panel.
When we'd returned home yesterday afternoon, I did a quick cat accounting and found all of them happy and alive except for Clarence. Now Clarence is a tough boy, the longest survivor of our free range feline farm. He's bold and brash and generally fearless in the face of the mild uncertainties that cause lesser cats (such as Julius aka "Stripey") to panic, but he has a commonsense fear of strange dogs and the prudence to get out of the road when a car is coming. But by yesterday evening, I'd become concerned by his failure to surface. I'd gone out and called for him, something that would have normally made him materialize within seconds had he been within earshot. For a moment I'd thought indeed he was coming; I'd thought I'd heard him answer my call. But then he didn't show up and I'd begun to wonder if perhaps a neighbor had been mocking me.
Then last night I'd had fitful sleep, partly out of concern for Clarence. I've had similar fitful sleep on nights when cats really had vanished, suggesting perhaps my subconscious knew something about which my conscious was still ignorant.
When I woke up this morning Clarence wasn't in the bed, a place he would normally be in the hours before receiving his morning wet food. As I got out of bed, I'd already begun to try to make lemonade out of the lemon of Clarence's demise. We wouldn't have to buy so much wet food from now on. And the chipmunks and other furry varmints of the nearby fields and forest would finally be able to live in peace because, ding dong, the cat is dead.
So you can imagine my joy when I went downstairs and saw Clarence sprawled out happily on one of the living room dog beds. Nothing was amiss; he'd just been out doing whatever he does. He's done it before and he'll do it again, and I should just have faith that he's a big guy and can take care of himself.

For the past few months I'd been working under the delusion that the existing hard drive on Woodchuck, my main computer, is a full terabyte in size. It turns out, though, that it is a little less than half that size. Because of this delusion, I'd concluded that hard drives were no longer undergoing the spectacular increase in storage divided by price I'd experienced through the 1990s and the earlier part of this decade. But once I'd realized the "pathetic" size of my hard drive, it was clear that replacing it with a much larger drive would be inexpensive.
This evening I took delivery of a new 1.5 terabyte hard drive ($130 from, tripling the storage capacity I've had since June 21, 2006. That storage had originally been provided by two hard drives, but I condensed down to one on January 13th, 2008 as an energy-saving measure.
I've had hard-drive-containing computers continuously since 1990, and the it's rare that I've experienced such a large percentage increase. In 1991, when I added a 120 megabyte hard drive to my Macintosh SE, which had a 20 megabyte hard drive, I was expanding my storage by seven times. Since then, my percentages of storage increase have mostly been doublings (a quadrupling and a tripling appear to have happened in 2001 and 2003 respectively, though they came after after unusually long upgrade delays). Here's an updated version of a chart first presented on April 3, 1999:

year size price type
1991 120 MB ~$340 SCSI Macintosh
1993 205 MB ~$320 SCSI Macintosh
1995 512 MB ~$300 SCSI Macintosh
1996 1 GB ~$300 SCSI Macintosh
July 9 1997 2 GB $250 IDE PC
February 7 1998 4.3 GB ~$200 IDE PC
April 1999 10 GB $195 IDE PC
April 20 2001 40 GB $160 IDE PC
August 11 2003 120 GB $110 IDE PC
October(?) 2004 200 GB $130 IDE PC
June 21 2006 300 GB $115 IDE PC
January 13 2008 500 GB ~$120 IDE PC
August 13 2009 1.5 TB $130 SATA PC

As hard drive capacities have increased, getting a new hard drive up and running in an existing computer has become an increasingly time-consuming experience. This is because increases in data transfer rates have not kept pace with increases in storage as the technology has advanced. Getting all the old data from the old drive to the new one has now become the sort of thing you set to run overnight and hope nothing fails while you're sleeping. (The worst offenders of user interface design fail to log errors and simply kill a long procedure at the first one.) The offender today was an old, admittedly-pirated copy of Partition Magic, so I went online looking for a usable partition copier and found a company called EASEUS that markets a suite of freeware disk tools. They have a partition copier that comes as a .iso you burn to a CD and boot from, and they also have a program that allows you to resize your partitions. The company is Chinese and the copy on their website isn't always the best English, but the software is free and works well. I have no idea what their business model is; perhaps they're an offshoot of the Chinese intelligence apparatus and there is now a rootkit on my computer sending copies of my data to Chinese spooks. (Imagine how offensive that would read if I were writing about the intelligence agency of a nation of African Americans!)

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