anarag's blog

achievement changes you

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the tubes

Some tubes from a newly arrived vintage radio, out for cleaning ... for about the first time since it was manufactured.  Arenʼt 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 parentsʼ 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.

MagSafe As It Should Have Been

(Or closer-to.)

(This is an update to “MagSafe – the Last Straw?”)

Since I last wrote on this topic Iʼve 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.  Wonʼt last long.  So on to a full refurbishment of Nº2, which (including previous emergency repair) looks like this:

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 isnʼt necessary; itʼs just a DC power supply.  Ordinary 2-core flex should do – though all things considered I think Iʼll 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.

Some Pipe and Register Measurements

(Anorak Adventures in Synthland 5)

(This is an update to a tangential note in Notes from an Exploration of a Vermona Synthesizer.)

I mused: “Are feet and Prime an English-language convention?  Since this convention stems from pipe organs, were pipe organs all over Europe described in feet, in the past? ... Have there ever been organs (or synths) described in cm?  Or, were the Prime (′″) marks used with other pre-metric measurements?

From a survey of the web, it seems that different languages do use versions of the ‘foot’ measurement to describe organ registers, but the Prime mark was not always used.  e.g.:

Notes from an Exploration of a Vermona Synthesizer

vermona synthesizer drawing
(Anorak Adventures in Synthland 4)

Back in the DDR days, before Vermona were reinvented as a purveyor of cool synthesiser and effects gear, they (or at least the brand) had already been a purveyor of moothies, organs, amps and effects to the people for decades, so far as the people were allowed such.  But in the early 1980s they came up with an all-in-one synth, simply named the Vermona Synthesizer.  (References to Vermonas below are to this model unless otherwise specified.)  They were manufactured from 1983 to possibly as late as 1990, though Iʼve not seen a definitive end date. [1]  This page begins with me getting one.  And recovering a few square feet of usable working space.  Up on the table with it:

Vermona Synthesiser front


We now know that terrorists have found ways of hiding communications encoded in financial transactions.

Never mind the evidence for the prevalence of this problem; weʼre only beginning to uncover the threat.  For now, itʼs clearly a technical possibility.  Even Paypal have done it for years.  Each single figure in an arbitrary decimal sum can represent four and a half bits of digital character information; the essential, brief command messages sent between terrorist cells can therefore easily be hidden in a few purchases between sock-puppet traders on eBay, Etsy and Amazon.  We know this sort of activity goes on, for all sorts of reasons.

But now weʼve realised that stock exchange high speed trading is also a perfect medium.  The volume of transactions is such that, with customised trading software, they can hide enormous amounts of data about targets, how to get round security systems, where to get the latest training videos and when.  And letʼs face it, terrorism is well-funded by certain interests with connections to people we know have access to a share of our oil wealth.  It might be time we did something about that.  Finish the job.

And not only stock exchanges.  Consumer-grade bank accounts can be used.  A disturbingly high proportion of the population now has these, and theyʼre all available over the internet.  Potential terrorists with no police record, no record of anything apart from walking past security cameras with abnormal features, could now be simply logging into a superstructure of terrorism command and control networks through their online bank accounts, sending a few pennies at a time in any currency, according to some master plan dictated to them by unidentified controllers.  Remember, we donʼt have total surveillance yet.  We donʼt know what theyʼre really doing in the gaps when weʼre not watching them.  Donʼt believe the naïve suggestion that the larger planning instructions can only be disseminated in the media weʼve already succeeded in monitoring.  If only it were that simple...

Clearly, thereʼs only one thing to be done if we are to give our children the secure future they deserve.  We have to take control of the stock markets. 

another day another battery

Iʼve 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 itʼs a real Mac.  Then there was a flurry of technical ecstasy in the Mac Press, and I donʼt remember a single critical and informed article, but maybe I wasnʼt 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 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.  Itʼs 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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