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Archive for March, 2018

The BBC writes about “The world’s oldest working planetarium“. The man who built this planetarium must have been very special, very smart and pretty handy – would you tackle such an endeavour?

Uranus, Neptune and Pluto are missing, of course, because they hadn’t been discovered when Eisinga hammered in the final nail in 1781. Even so, it is astonishing: a Baroque theatre for stargazers, crowning the living room of a modest wool comber who lived shortly after the Dutch Golden Age. All told, an unfathomable undertaking considering Eisinga quit school aged 12.

The Royal Eise Eisinga Planetarium is the world’s oldest working planetarium (Credit: The Royal Eise Eisinga Planetarium)

Franeker isn’t exactly a household name, even for those of us who, like me, have traveled to the Friesland province in the Netherlands. But the city is not just home to the house of Eise Eisinga, who built the planetarium mentioned in the BBC article, but is also the birthplace of Jan Hendrik Oort, the man who gave his name to the Oort Cloud surrounding the solar system. I am putting Franeker on my list of destinations for a future weekend trip – it would also give me a good reason to drive over the famous Afsluitdijk.

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Marc makes a great summary of the political event of the month (of the year, perhaps?) in the USA: “Six minutes and twenty seconds“. What else can I do, but salute Emma Gonzalez and all the people protesting gun violence?

As a side note, you may want to know a bit about the person whom the high school in Florida was named after: Marjorie Stoneman Douglas. It seems a bit of her fighting spirit transferred over to the high school students of the 21st century…

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Why Do We Blog, Jason?

Last week, Jason Kottke’s blog celebrated its twentieth birthday. Yes, that’s less than Johann S.Bach, but nevertheless quite a feat: I don’t know many blogs that go back so long (Dave Winer’s Scripting.com is probably the most prominent one).

His first post, March 14, 1998

I can’t say that I have read every one of Jason’s posts, but at least I knew – and appreciated – his writings many years ago; I even referred to his blog in 2003. Some of his latest words resonate clearly with my own experience:

I had a personal realization recently: kottke.org isn’t so much a thing I’m making but a process I’m going through. A journey. A journey towards knowledge, discovery, empathy, connection, and a better way of seeing the world.

In December 2014, I mentioned a similar realisation on the one but last slide of a presentation on blogging. Check it out on “My Life As A Blogger In A Few Images“.

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Happy Bach Day!

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Much has already been written about the life of Stephen Hawking, and more is bound is bound to follow. Here’s what Roger Penrose, a fellow physicist who knew Hawking well, wrote in The Guardian:

Despite his terrible physical circumstance, he almost always remained positive about life. He enjoyed his work, the company of other scientists, the arts, the fruits of his fame, his travels. He took great pleasure in children, sometimes entertaining them by swivelling around in his motorised wheelchair. Social issues concerned him. He promoted scientific understanding. He could be generous and was very often witty. On occasion he could display something of the arrogance that is not uncommon among physicists working at the cutting edge, and he had an autocratic streak. Yet he could also show a true humility that is the mark of greatness.

Hawking undoubtedly advanced our knowledge of the universe, and for that he will be remembered with the likes of Newton and Einstein. But his outlook on life, his sense of humour and his joy of living must be part of what we take with us into the future – after all, he’s the man who thought a motorised toy version of himself would be “cool”…

Read all about that toy as it appeared in a “The Big Bang Theory” episode on the TV Guide website – just click the image to go there.
(Part of a photo by Monty Brinton/CBS ©2016 CBS Broadcasting, Inc)

 

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Just to make the update history complete: my Samsung Galaxy S7 has been updated yesterday with the February 2018 Security Patch. The current version is now called NRD90M.G930FXXU2DRB6. There’s still no sign of a real Android update to version 7.1 or 8.0…

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The BoingBoing website pointed me to the Programmer’s Oath. Good initiative, and I do agree with every one of the items.

As usual, of course, my mind started analysing the text, and soon concluded that 8 of the 10 tenets are not specific to programming, but could be applied to any profession! And tenets 2 and 6 don’t need big changes to make them more generally applicable. So what user Widdershin came up with is the base for moral behaviour that all humans could/should fulfill.

Well, being cynical at times just like anyone, I should perhaps exclude politicians…

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Yesterday I discovered a failing WD MyBook; here’s what I did to replace it.

  1. I dumped the old MyBook enclosure;
  2. Since I still had a working Sitecom “no screws needed” enclosure for 3.5″ disks, I decided to use that rather than a new one. I just bought a new hard disk (a Seagate 1 TB if you must know – cheap, but good enough for a 10 year old iMac);
  3. I also bought a Sitecom “Hard Drive Docking Station” that offers 2 drive bays and a “clone a disk” function;
  4. Using the docking station, I cloned the original disk from the MyBook, which still had all the Time Machine backups from the iMac. This took a few hours, but other than putting in the disks and pushing a button for three seconds it was effortless on my behalf;
  5. Then I put the new HD into the enclosure, connected it to the iMac…

… and presto: the iMac recognised the disk, Time Machine got to work, and… nothing – things are back as they should be. Simple, heh?

The Sitecom docking station with the old HD in it

I can still use the old hard disk – or any other disk, for that matter – as an occasional external disk using the docking station. Even though I have just used it once, I like the docking station for its simplicity: it worked straight out of the box. The instructions take up only a single page of a little booklet. As someone wrote in an online review of the thing: ‘the only thing missing, is an “eject” button, that might save you from pulling out a disk while it is still in use by your computer‘. Well, if that’s the only weakness…

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We’re using a WesternDigital MyBook Studio to make TimeMachine backups of the family iMac in the living room. We bought this device around 2010, if memory serves me well. So when I noticed that it wouldn’t start up anymore, I immediately thought: how can I replace the disk with a newer one? After all these years, a hard disk failure is the most probable cause of trouble, no?

The enclosure of these MyBooks isn’t easy to open, but there’s at least one video on Youtube that explains the procedure:

Click to see the video on Youtube

While it’s not the exact same model as ours, it turns out that the enclosure is nearly (or even perfectly) identical. So I owe BenoniStudio many thanks for helping me. Be warned that you will inflict pain to your fingers while trying to find the right angle to pry the enclosure open!

Thinking I was ready to call it a victory, I replaced the original hard disk with another WD HD from my “stock”. The result, unfortunately, wasn’t what I expected: the new hard drive (which I knew to be OK) wouldn’t come up either. And a quick test with another hard disk enclosure confirmed that the original hard disk from the MyBook was still OK (or at least readable) – and that means it is the MyBook controller that fails.

Conclusion: I need at least a new hard disk enclosure. And perhaps it is even better to get a new hard disk as well – 500GB is no longer top of the bill… So perhaps a new MyBook – if they’re still called that – is the best solution. The old enclosure is ready to be dumped, that’s for sure.

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For those of you who still don’t know it: “weather” is what happens today (and changes sometimes multiple times on a single day), “climate” is what happens over a very long time and is best left to scientists to determine.

Anyway: what is really interesting is that February was a very sunny month here, while December 2017 and January 2018 were pretty dark months.

E-production numbers for our installation during the month of February 2018

Complaining about dark and grey days may be fashionable and helpful to get frustration out of your mind, but in the end the real conclusion is that the Belgian winter was pretty average when it comes to the sun. Just have a look at the numbers at the bottom of the Solar Energy Production statistics: you’ll see that the Winter of 2017-2018 as a whole was neither extremely dark nor exceptionally sunny.

Of course, that’s just Belgium. The weather in the Arctic region as a whole is a completely different story: temperatures are up to 15 degrees Celsius higher than average, rising above zero and thus contributing to the melting of the sea and land ice in the region. As CNN writes:

But one thing is clear: What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic. It is Earth’s air conditioner, helping to regulate temperature and weather patterns in the middle latitudes. When that balance is compromised, only one thing is certain — strange weather.

Be prepared!

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