anarag's blog

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...

covering up

Hereʼs a public policy suggestion from a few weeks ago, which I havenʼt encountered before.

... A real solution for gratuitous violation of civil rights by the police would be to abolish their immunity.  Force individual officers to carry insurance or a bond, paid from their own salaries.  By all means give the officers a raise to cover premium expense, but if an officer faces too many claims or judgments, a responsible, objective third party (the insurance company) can revoke his badge by cancelling tort coverage.

Iʼm not sure quite how serious the suggestion is.  But as a thought exercise...  I suspect there are problems with it, over and above the ones hinted at by the author (the police & unions wouldnʼt like it, sort of reasons).  Iʼm going to have to think about it though.  At a first guess they would involve the kinds of problems that usually crop up with insurance companies ... and the kinds of problems that usually crop up in court cases dealing with insurance companies, and dealing with police actions.

However, some of those are in part about a sort of (sub-)cultural attitude regarding police officers, both inside and out of the forces.  Were a suggestion like this enacted, perhaps there would be a culture shift?  (Noting that ‘immunity’ means different things in different countries, and possibly different US States, so the nature and degree of effect should vary.)

There are as things stand some professions where this kind of insurance has to be in place ... really, not that different from driving insurance – but for most people thatʼs not really comparable, because driving is a luxury rather than an essential or a livelihood.  It would be interesting to look at the effect of required insurance on different professions.  Maybe it would help draw a conclusion.

Or in fact, what are the effects on police officers of having to have driving insurance, where that is the case?

Polivoks Update

(Anorak Adventures in Synthland 3)

This is an update to Polivoks Notes.

Getting Further In

As mentioned in the last edition, it turns out that the steel shims holding the Polivoksʼ rotary switch knobs on can fall out while the knob is being inserted. [1]  They could in principle fall through to the base so you might be able to pick them out and finish what youʼre doing.  Alternatively they could get trapped on top of the main circuit boards, where they could potentially cause shorts, and you have to get the whole thing open again and try to remove the boards to find them.  If they donʼt fall out visibly, you donʼt know where they are.  (I do understand why some resort to glue.)

So, refer to the previous getting-the-case-off process.  While shim-hunting, I also want to check the probably-failed reed switch, see whatʼs with the 2nd octave, and see whether thereʼs room for improvement on the key damping to reduce playing noise.  Iʼve commandeered a bit of table space ... and floorspace.  This isnʼt going to make me popular if Iʼm not done by nightfall, so letʼs go.


Subscribe to RSS - anarag's blog