A Daily Diatribe by a Pompous Git

Who is that fat bastard? A Sturm's Eye View, Guaranteed Free of Harmful, or Potentially Harmful Chemicals -- but Watch Out for the Ideas! Some of them are Contagious! 

A journal of sorts to record Jonathan Sturm's (and others') thoughts and observations on things worth thinking about. Feedback welcome, but be aware that unless you prominently say you want your communication kept private, I may publish it.

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Monday 1 October 2001

Computers do frustrate me! The Seagate Diagnostic diskette that told me the hard disk was faulty became unreadable. I really must buy a box of new diskettes, those I own are all old, recycled and rarely used. Looking for a copy of the executable that creates the diskette proved fruitless, so I downloaded a fresh copy and made a "new" diskette. The drive behaved itself perfectly this time round! I know I wasn't imagining things before -- Win2k's Event Log has Event 7, 9 and 15 several times for the drive. The BIOS occasionally can't communicate with the drive either on POST.

This would appear to indicate a cabling problem except that the original run of the Seagate Diagnostic that found it bad enough to return was an internal test of the drive, rather than through the computer. Win2k's ScanDisk finds errors in the first primary partition, so I am going to format the drive as FAT and run Steve Gibson's SpinRite on it.

Thought for the day:

You don't drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying there.

Edwin Louis Cole


Tuesday 2 October 2001

From Bob Thompson:

Hard drive problems that appear and disappear like that are often the result of a marginal power supply.

I haven't taken time to look up the error numbers you mention, but it's quite common for a drive running with marginal power to generate frequent retries. These aren't reported and so aren't apparent to the user except as reduced drive performance, which (if noticed) is often attributed to some other factor.

From what you describe, I'd suspect the drive may not be at fault at all. You may have a power supply problem, or a mains power problem. Line regulation on inexpensive power supplies is often not tight enough, so that, for example, if your mains power voltage dropped by a few percent, your power supply may not be able to maintain voltage within spec on the rails that power your hard drive. That in turn can result in unreliable drive operation. If the mains voltage subsequently returned to nominal or higher, the hard drive problems may well disappear, which may explain your results.

Note that even if you use a UPS/BPS, that may not make a difference. Inexpensive models kick in only during a full power failure, and even "line-boost" units don't kick in until the voltage drops below a certain level, which may well be lower than what your PC power supply needs to maintain adequate voltage on the rails. Most line-boost units use a simple transformer tap, which means they boost the voltage by a fixed amount rather than boosting it to nominal. Accordingly, to prevent them from boosting to much higher than nominal, the trigger voltage is often quite low.


Thanks again for your cogent thoughts on this issue, Bob. The PC power supply is a 300W A-Open, so I suspect that what it is receiving from the grid is the issue. During construction of The House of Steel, we have had several occasions when welding became impossible as the welder could not draw sufficient current. I will pick the brains of the electrician and a colleague who has solved power issues for a number of clients in the past.

The fact that the problem only appears with the 20 GB 7.2k Seagate, but not the 17 GB 5.4k Seagates or 40 GB 7.2k IBM would be consistent with this if the 20 GB Seagates are running closer to their limits.

From Andrew Duffin:


You might be interested to know that I run a server farm which has a total of 148 spindles - I just went and counted them, saddo that I am - of IBM disk drives (various models). God knows how many platters, these drives run up to 72Gb. Some (but not all) are four years old and have been running all that time.

Since August 1997 we have lost just two disks.

Of course it helps that they are in a proper environmentally-controlled room, and they are never powered off, but all the same I think it is quite an impressive record.

Keep up the good work,

Andrew Duffin

Thanks Andrew. My disks encompass a total of a mere 140 GB, but like yours they run 24/7 (except during the semi-annual thunderstorm). The oldest is a 4.3 GB Quantum and I suspect that's at least 4 years old. Bob Thompson has some valid sounding theories and I will post his thoughts later today, God and the Internet willing.

Thought for the day:

By working faithfully eight hours a day, you may eventually get to be a boss and work twelve hours a day.

Robert Frost


Wednesday 3 October 2001

Today I am borrowing an APC UPS to test the fluctuating power supply problem being the cause of the Seagate hard disk problem. Most of my time will be taken up with shopping for items we will need for building the kitchen in The House of Steel.

Thought for the day:

My unconscious knows more about the consciousness of the psychologist than his consciousness knows about my unconscious.

Karl Kraus


Thursday 4 October 2001

I have the UPS, but find myself strangely reluctant to bring down my server (Win2k Pro) as it has run without missing a beat for so long. I think I'll leave it until tomorrow. My friend who has lent it couldn't find the CD with the Powerchute software on it so he is emailing that to me later. The UPS is of course made by American Power Conversion. Why "of course"? It's a bit like we used to specify laser printers, HP, HP or HP. Which was another way of saying: "quality, quality or quality". 

I noted yesterday that another quality manufacturer has gone the way of HP. This time it's Crescent. My Crescent pliers have given me Stirling service for over 30 years, but are starting to wear. During that time, I have "worn out" several pairs of lower quality pliers, even though I preferred to use the Crescent. When I was praising the virtues of Crescent to the sales clerk, he told me that I was going to be very disappointed if I purchased the Crescent pliers I had taken from the shelf. He suggested Channel Lock instead, so I purchased a pair of those. I notice that they are what Tony the electrician is using, so I'd better mark them with my name. I have enough trouble with my Estwing hammer as Fran owns several of those.

Thought for the day:

Quality isn't something that can be argued into an article or promised into it. It must be put there. If it isn't put there, the finest sales talk in the world won't act as a substitute.

C G Campbell


Friday 5 October 2001

The UPS is doing its thing and finding some very disconcerting sags in the input voltage. Time to talk to the electricity supply people, I think.

I have been suffering  a downward spiral of service and supply from my ISP, DingoBlue so I have found another.

Today, Fran and I went to The Grand Hotel in Huonville for the first time in several weeks. The law has changed since we were there last. I lit up a cigarette to smoke while we waited for the meal to arrive in the dining area and the bar tender told me I had to go into the bar to smoke. Then, when in the bar, we were ordered down one end to the smokers' half of the bar. It was quite bizarre seeing everyone crowded into a quarter of the available space to comply with this ridiculous new law. It was then I understood why the car park was only half as full as it usually is at lunch-time on Friday.

Thought for the day:

Dost thou think because thou art virtuous there shall be no more cakes and ale?

William Shakespeare


Saturday 6 October 2001

No post today, but there's going to be an interesting one tomorrow.

Thought for the day:

Between truth and the search for it, I choose the second.

Bernard Berenson


Sunday 7 October 2001

Aargh! The best made plans... The machine I use for a server is starting to misbehave badly. It runs Win2k Pro and does file, print and Internet connection sharing. It has run pretty well 24/7 since 6 June 2000 apart from needing a replacement CD-ROM drive. When it starts to misbehave (i.e. disappears from the network), it won't even let me run CMD.EXE, generating a message that there is insufficient quota to process this command. I imagine that allowing my son to run several apps to see how they performed has more than a little something to do with this and I want him to solve the problem if possible. He knows what he has done and I do not. I'm going to have to await his return from college tomorrow evening.

The output of the UPS monitor makes interesting reading. The input voltage varies between 222V and 250V. Nominal is 240V. Is this sufficient to explain the misbehaviour of the Seagate hard disk? I will investigate further.

Compounding today's problems, my right arm is generating intermittently severe pain from carrying the sheets of plasterboard from The House of Steel for temporary storage in the carport. They will be used to renovate the cottage prior to its sale. And the roof of the office is leaking in the rain that has continued for some days now. The sheet of clear corrugated plastic that lets the light in is responsible and its replacement is sitting in the carport. As soon as the weather looks fine, that's another task to complete.

The interesting piece I intended to write today will have to wait.

Thought for the day:

Narcissist: psychoanalytic term for the person who loves himself more than his analyst; considered to be the manifestation of a dire mental disease whose successful treatment depends on the patient learning to love the analyst more and himself less.

Thomas Szasz


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Jonathan Sturm 2001


Jonathan Sturm 2001