Happy New Year 2023

To all our family, friends, and readers of this: have a happy new year 2023 everyone. Be well and safe.

Scene from “Dinner for one” starring Freddie Frinton and May Warden, © NDR, Foto: Annemarie Aldag

Like always, thanks for reading.

Some phone shots from today – and some screenshots

At the moment, all three neighbours’ cats are here, and all are sleeping. Two (Wilma and Crunchy) on my bed, and one (Cookie) on the sofa. Earlier, I caught Wilma on my lap with the phone in my hands:

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Wilma on my lap, Mörfelden-Walldorf 2022

I had been trying different versions of LineageOS on an older Google Nexus 10 tablet device which we had laying around unused, and after trying some unofficial ones I decided to try the latest official build which you can get from Lineageosroms.com, which is LineageOS 13.0 – [ Android 6.0.1 (Marshmallow) ] as you can see here:

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That is some years old already as well (the tablet is about 10, this image more than 4 years old), but it is still a nice compromise between speed, stability, and features. Being the equivalent of Android 6 under its hood, I could even install the Zapp app from the F-Droid store, and so now we can watch Live and/or streamed TV on it, like so:

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News (via Zapp app, see F-Droid.org) on a 10 year old Nexus 10 device running LineageOS ‘Marshmallow’, Mörfelden-Walldorf 2022

I had to interrupt my activities to send Mitchie to work with the car, and when we came down to the garage I saw that some neighbour had parked a nice new Honda motorcycle right in front of their partly covered Fiat 500 and beside our car. After coming back, I took a quick pic of that as well:

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A brand new motorcycle, Mörfelden-Walldorf 2022

Oh, and when looking into my blog software today I saw that I’ve got a new version of that as well:

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So I’ll have to see what’s new, and whether any of the also new templates (2022 and 2023) are looking good…

So all photos in this article came from my Pixel 4a phone, and the screenshots from my computer. As always, thanks for reading and for viewing.

Visiting Tuna

After having so much fun lately with the three different neighbours’ cats which are visiting us, it was time to go and see Tuna’s grave again. So after a bit of driving redirections due to construction areas on our way, we’ve made it to Frankfurt. I took a few photos, here’s one of them:

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Visiting Tuna, Frankfurt 2022

We’ll always miss her. And like always, thanks for viewing.

A new PC build – just in time

Thanks to a friend who sent me a present lately (you know who you are), I decided to build a new PC for myself. I had built one for my wife earlier this year, and after waiting for the first reports about newer stuff like the new AMD Ryzen processor family I thought that that’s *not* the direction I wanted to go – these newer ones consume power just like Intel processors, and I wanted something a bit less power thirsty. ARM is the future (see Apple), but for normal PC builds we don’t have anything usable yet, so I decided to take more or less the same parts of the build for my wife, but in a smaller case. Here’s what I chose:

Parts for my PC build in October 2022

Here’s a parts list in case you’re interested:

So that would be my first Mini-ITX build, and I was really looking forward to it when the first of these parts arrived last Tuesday:

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PC parts for a new build, Mörfelden-Walldorf 2022

The case (and mainboard) arrived a day later:

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PC case for a new build, Mörfelden-Walldorf 2022

And last Friday, I had the new machine up and running beside the old one:

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My finished and running new PC, Mörfelden-Walldorf 2022

Of course, building a machine and setting it up to use it are separate steps. First I thought about what I’d need or want, and after copying over my Windows 10 partition it offered me to upgrade that to Win11 more or less right away. I thought: “Why not?”, since I use that only for the Olympus (now “OM System”) raw image converter. In the end I decided for a clean installation tho – you need a Microsoft account even for the Pro version of Windows I had, so it made no difference, and I wanted to start with a more clean plate. So soon enough I was done with that, and greeted by that newer operating system:

Finished my Win11 installation on late Saturday
Ooops – not quite done yet…

First impressions of it are positive – in my opinion it got the looks almost like Apple does, and for its internals they borrowed many good ideas from both the BSD and also the Linux side of things. Even their Edge browser which I tried only briefly seemed to show me less ads and other annoying stuff than (Google’s) Chrome would. But ok, this ain’t the OS for surfing, not for me anyway, so on to more pleasant things…

After looking at many options like Arch, the new beta of Fedora Workstation and so on, I decided against a triple boot this time. I wanted to keep things easy and just set up for my personal use (music, photography, blogging, and so on), so except for Windows which didn’t get that much space I took about three quarter of the space on the new SSD for Debian, so here you go:

Debian 11 “Bullseye”, but with a newer kernel

What you see is Debian stable (which is currently nicknamed “Bullseye”). In the upper right hand corner you see the processor temperature and fan speeds reported by a Gnome desktop extension called “Freon”, and under that you see that I have installed a kernel 5.18 from the Debian bullseye-backports repository, otherwise you wouldn’t see those fan speeds, and the Intel WiFi chip which is integrated into the mainboard wants a newer kernel as well – I knew that already from Mitchie’s machine where wireless and Bluetooth started working with Ubuntu 21.10 (instead of their older 20.04 LTS).

So this morning I was about ready, and short after lunch I was greeted by TEE-KWA’s pretty cover picture on Wikiloops:

Wikiloops’ album of the day on my new machine

Of course I also installed and tried Ardour, my Digital Audio Workstation of choice, and within it, the headphone correction by Sonarworks:

Ardour with gimproviser’s wonderful song “Cloudy
Sonarworks correction for my Sennheiser HD560S headphones in the monitoring section of Ardour

So, regarding music and photography and blogging, this more or less completes my build.

Which was, coming back to the headline of this article, just in time. I wanted to give my old machine to my brother, but alas, it gave up its ghost just after I was finished building this one. Broken heart syndrome on a CPU? Hm, that would be something new even for old timer PC doctors like me… anyway, I tried lots of things today, but it seems we’re out of luck with that one. So yeah, phew, that *was* just in time! To really ‘nail it down’ to a single not working component, I’d need to have a bench and spare parts like Jay so I could change each part and see what/who the culprit is… still sorting out if my brother – who lives in a much bigger city than we do – maybe has neighbours who are hobby PC builders with enough parts for that.

So for me, and thanks to my friend, it’s this new one from now. So cool… and by the way, 8 cores and 16 threads are way more than enough for what I do… still these machines are waiting for us most of the time, not vice versa 🙂

And like always, thanks for reading.

GAS, FOMO, or an embarrassment of riches?

Beginning of next year, I’ll officially retire. Which means that from then on, I’ll have much less income compared to what I’ve had during the last years, or even now. And when a friend from Paris recently mentioned that he was thinking about building a new computer for himself “which will have to last a few years” as he said, I started thinking about my own one.

I have a self-built computer (all of ours are, except the notebooks) based upon a “Haswell” processor, which was Intel’s internal code name for their 4th generation Core series. To be more precise, it’s the Intel Core i5-4460. That CPU together with 16GB of RAM sits on an Asus Z97M-Plus Micro-ATX mainboard, is cooled by some top-blowing Scythe Shuriken, and inside a very nice (with a thick aluminium! front plate) Antec 2480 case.

I’m running mostly Debian Linux, and for looking at newer stuff, I also often dual-boot into Arch Linux. On Debian I have set the CPU ‘governor’ profile to ‘performance’, which means that it’s always running at 3.2GHz (on Arch it’s mostly at 800MHz) – that’s because Ardour, my main program or ‘application’ as they are called nowadays complains if you don’t use a real-time kernel, and the CPU at ‘performance’ mode.

And while running Ardour together with some Sonarworks headphone correction software does make use of that older processor a bit, I’m far from really demanding anything of it – the CPU Usage in these cases stays around 25-30% as long as I don’t use lots of plugins in each channel/track of the DAW (digital audio workstation). While reading internet pages in a browser, or while writing, the CPU is kind of bored as you could say, and I’m also far from using much of the RAM as you can see on my partly screenshot from conky:

(Part of) conky on my computer

So I’m kind of very happy with that machine, and I doubt if I need more than that. Okay, when making videos I sometimes wait for it a bit, but as you can see, in the vast majority of times, my computer waits for me rather than vice versa.

So why am I thinking about a new one? Is that because of GAS, or FOMO? Funny side note about that term of ‘GAS’: it doesn’t have an English Wikipedia page, only German, Spanish, French, and Portuguese ones – although the term is cited to come from the late Walter Becker of Steely Dan fame…

No, it’s the thought my Parisian friend had, about “having to last for a while”. As you can see from the link to my CPU, it was discontinued in 2017, and also the mainboard, RAM, and everything else including that wonderful case aren’t available any more (which is sad, because some things like nice *and* small computer cases are vanishing at frightening and accelerating paces, with a downward spiral of ‘cheaper’ ruining most of the quality we were used to in my opinion).

So what would I do if my computer fails, and I won’t have much of an income any more? Well, yes, using an older notebook with a dual core Celeron and only 2GB of RAM, or even my mobile phone. Both of these would be more than good enough to read internet news (who does still know that term?), or for ‘surfing on the internet’ (and who does still know that book?) – but to work a bit on Wikiloops, or to make music with Ardour? I could forget about this…

And that is why I’m thinking about building a new computer for myself, although I have a wonderful and perfectly fine working one right now. So it’s hopefully not an ‘embarrassment of riches‘ in this case, and also no gear acquisition syndrome.

So what *am I* thinking about?

Well during the beginning of this year, it was my wife who had the oldest machine in the house, and a close relative had no working computer at all. So we gave her old Core Duo away for free, and I built her what at that point in time I would also have built for myself – a machine based upon an AMD Ryzen 7 5700G processor on an Asus (full ATX-sized) mainboard, with 32GB or RAM (both double the size and speed of mine), and a 2TB M.2 SSD. So, this one:

AMD Ryzen 7 5700G processor

This one is already kind of ‘old’ as well now, since later this month, AMD will start selling the next generation which they call the Ryzen 7000 series. These will *all* have graphics cores, so the 8-core equivalent processor to the one above will be the Ryzen 7 7700X I guess. And my friend from Paris even talked about getting a Ryzen 9 one (so with 12 or 16 cores). Perfectly fine, except that they will cost quite a bit more then the outgoing 5000 series, and also demand newer and also more costly mainboards (with at least a B650 chipset, these will be introduced on October 4th), and also with DDR5 RAM instead of DDR4 (or my DDR3).

So which one to get, that is the said question? Keep it cheap and cheerful with “Zen3”, or wait and pay quite a bit more for the newer “Zen4” one? Both options would be better than to go with Intel and their ill-named “Intel 7” architecture which in fact is still based on a 10nm process (and I hate liars and marketing people who just “pretty up” (non-)facts). Zen3 is 7 *real* nanometers, Zen4 will be 5nm, an architecture as small as the one on iPhones. Take that, Intel – and of course this will again help in saving energy as well (while our machines are waiting for us).

Keep that last bracket in mind – most of the time, the *vast* majority of time, computers are waiting for us, and not vice versa. Which means that a *faster* computer will be waiting *faster* for you and me, idling at higher clock speeds, consuming more power – for nothing. So yes, energy efficiency is a big point for me (us) – we never bought or built machines with dedicated graphics cards for instance, since first we’re no gamers (and for any 3D games Zuleikha also has a Nintendo Switch), secondly because these graphics cards would also be idling most of the time, and *when* being used, these consume up to 300 Watts – for comparison, my machine while waiting for me in the picture above takes slightly over 30 Watts (the processor has a TDP of 88W), and Mitchie’s machine is around 20 Watts doing the same (her processor has a TDP of 65W). That’s still more than a good notebook would take, but well…

So while Intel’s processors caught up a bit, mostly due to improvements in the Linux kernel as a recent article on Phoronix shows, they are still drawing up to 240 Watts out of your wall socket even without any graphics cards – so they’re out of the question. The Zen4 processors start at 105W TDP, mostly – I guess – because they want to catch up with Intel’s brute power single core results, don’t know if I’d really need that. But of course, 5nm against 7nm for Zen3, so in theory while doing the same, the newer ones should take less power. Guess I’ll have to wait for the first benchmarks and comparison tests, so until October. Earlier ones will be made on X670 mainboards which are simply overkill for most of us (except maybe some gamers, or whom are they going to impress with that kind of overbuilding things?).

Time to steer back a bit in my humble opinion, and to think about what we really need. Normal ‘web surfing’ is best done on mobile phones since quite a while, notebooks are way more efficient than desktop computers, and the latter ones could be made to other standards than pure and max power performance I think…

Plus, the maximum efficiency is of course only achieved when using your computer(s) as long as you can. Which means that for me – inflation also considered – I should perhaps lay some money on the side for later; not for now. And if ‘later’ means that I wouldn’t be able to buy a Zen3 (or Ryzen 5000) machine anymore – well that’s the way things are going; can’t change much of that. Plus, who knows, maybe there still *are* improvements which are good for us all?

Like always, thanks for reading.

P.S.: I just read on ZDNet (one of the better online magazines) about Linus Torvalds and his M2 MacBook Air and self-built home computers… very interesting, very much my thoughts – except that I definitely wouldn’t need an AMD Threadripper 😉

P.P.S.: above thought about laying some money aside and to wait and see how long mine will keep working is exactly what Mitchie proposed – sounds clever to me 😉

Modern day Linux on an older machine

Recently I reported about another article on why people run Linux on their machines. And one of the reasons is always: because it doesn’t make your hardware obsolete, like Windows or MacOS both are doing. Proof of the pudding: here is Mitchie’s old Lenovo SL500, a dual core (Intel T5670) 2GB notebook from ca. 2008, running a current Arch Linux with the latest 5.18.2 kernel, the same which I have on my main machine:

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Modern day Linux on an older machine, Mörfelden-Walldorf 2022

If you enlarge the photo on Flickr you can probably see that its CPU is at 1%, which means it’s doing nothing except wait for any user input. And the system together with the very nice and modern XFCE desktop consumes just about 750MB of the total 2GB main memory – so it’s perfectly usable. Well maybe not for real number-crunching, video de- or encoding, or music production, but you get the point – as an everyday surf machine or even to watch videos on your lap, it’s perfectly fine.

I always encourage friends to try this, and we have converted many older machines in the greater family to Linux, no need at all to constantly spend any money just to stay “current”. As you can see, the version of Linux I’m running here is as current as it can get, much more modern, safe, and stable than your typical consumer OS.

We only boot into Windows if we absolutely must, and we’re all doing that since years (and Zuleikha since she was born). So this is an easy recommendation from friends to friends, ’cause that’s what we’re doing here. Oh, and by the way: thanks again to my son Jeremy who first suggested trying Arch to me some years ago. If you need “current”, that’s a nice one!

As always, thanks for reading.

Art buyers

Last time we were in Frankfurt, I discovered that little store where they sell limited photography prints of all kinds of things. Mitchie and Zuleikha loved it, once inside and browsing, and in the end they bought a smallish (and not so limited) print of the library of Trinity College in Dublin. You can see a bigger version left of them in the shop:

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Art buyers, Frankfurt am Main 2022

They packed it nicely, and it’s not even unpacked yet:

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Art buyers’ bag, Mörfelden-Walldorf 2022

More about the artist on his website. As always, thanks for viewing.

Activities on a Sunday in late April…

Today I upgraded Mitchie’s computer to ‘Jammy Jellyfish‘, and I also installed a small WLAN repeater which we bought yesterday so that both Zuleikha and Mitchie have better WiFi coverage in their rooms.

Oh, and the new and LTS (long term supported) Ubuntu desktop is also covered here. Personally, I am running Debian and Arch, but I’m still a big proponent of Ubuntu. It is in fact the better business desktop, just as Steven writes.

As always, thanks for reading. And good night.

4G

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We’re recovering from CoVid. And we all had mild progressions, thankfully – and surely because we all had three vaccinations. Don’t take this one easily, friends, it could seriously hurt you, and it’s definitely not a walk through the woods…