Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

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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I like our new car a lot, even though it is more than three years old. Buying a second-hand Audi has consequences, one of them being the difficulty of upgrading the maps and POI data for the navigation system. The 2014 Audi A3 uses an SD-Card to store its data. Unfortunately, there is no simple way to update that card, since it seems to be protected with special encryption and/or certificates, possibly even linked to the VIN. The Audi website offers no solution, not even as a paying option.

The MMI (the car configuration and navigation interface) has no way to add POI manually. That is a shame on a car that is only worth its higher cost if you can run on CNG as much as possible… but finding that fuel type is difficult when the list of gas stations in the car is outdated by four years! Neither has the 2014 MMI the possibility to use Apple Car Play or Android Auto (how hard would it be for Audi to add that option? It would relieve them of the need to continue and support navigation and other apps to “older” cars!).

So I had no choice but to install a smartphone holder to use my phone for all the latest apps with realtime road information. Luckily, I took my time to research the possibilities. I am not keen on suction cups and glue-based solutions, but what are the alternatives?

Well, in the case of a few Audi models (the A3, the TT and the Q2), there is the Clearmounts solution. It’s an aluminum bracket that you can easily mount between the circular vents in the dashboard. The bracket can take all kinds of cradles and holders, as long as whatever you want to use can be fitted to it. I haven’t tried it yet, but I pretty sure the cradle for my Garmin Zumo will fit onto the bracket as well – at least the reverse, mounting Clearmounts holders on the suction cup of the Zumo, works perfectly.

The mounted bracket

I went for the charging cradle, but you’ll get a simple cradle as well as a magnetic holder (with magnets to glue to your phone or slip into its case) in the same package. Mounting is simple and quick, and I like the result. Too bad there is no simple way to hide the charging cable, because that would make the complete setup perfect.

The charging cradle on the bracket

You might think that I have installed the cradle upside-down, but that’s how I prefer it: this way, the release button for the clamp is on the underside of the cradle, forcing me to have a hand below the phone, thus preventing it from falling to the floor. All in all, this is I a solution I can strongly recommend.

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Want to learn something about SSL and SSL certificates? I sure do, having just encountered an revoked certificate blocking an app at work. So I read “Revocation is broken” by Scott Helme. In summary:

We have a little problem on the web right now and I can only see this becoming a larger concern as time goes by. More and more sites are obtaining certificates, vitally important documents that we need to deploy HTTPS, but we have no way of protecting ourselves when things go wrong.

As you can guess, that didn’t really help to solve our problem – but it’s a clear explanation of the current state of affairs in certificate validation land, at least for browsers!

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The EPSRC writes: “An image of a single positively-charged strontium atom, held near motionless by electric fields, has won the overall prize in a national science photography competition, organised by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).”

‘Single Atom in an Ion Trap’ - a photo by David Nadlinger

‘Single Atom in an Ion Trap’, by David Nadlinger (University of Oxford)
The photo shows the atom held by the fields emanating
from the metal electrodes surrounding it.
The distance between the small needle tips is about two millimetres.

Just head over there, it’s a great image – even if you have to enlarge it quite a bit to see the strontium atom. Well done, David Nadlinger!

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Cake is a Swedish company, and they’re preparing the launch of their first bike: the KALK. We’re talking about an electric motorcycle here, even if it does not look like one. In it’s current form, you can’t take it on the road. But at some 70 kg it must be great for off-road riding.

I guess it’s not entirely surprising that they want their “fun bike” to be as light as possible. Unfortunately for them, and regardless of whether it’s an electric bicycle or an electric motorcycle, I think this thing is quite ugly. Really ugly. Sorry!

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