Unexpected Changes

E-mail is one of those things that you take for granted. Once you have set-up an address and a client you can reliably receive mail for many years until something changes.

Over the past 2 months something changed and I almost didn’t notice. There are certain sites that mail me a few offers, I subscribe to a few mailing list items, github updates me on a few projects that I keep an eye on. I don’t get a huge amount of email but there is normally something being downloaded when I open the client. There were a couple of days when I didn’t get as much as I expected. Not a problem as perhaps there wasn’t anything being sent. When this persisted for a few days I began my investigations.

I was aware of my web host updating the mail-server back-end. I had received an email stating that this would be occurring and to expect a little downtime. But apart from that I wasn’t expecting any significant changes. Significant changes had happened.

Having a domain name had allowed me to use a catch-all email address. Any email that would be sent to the domain after being spam filtered would be received. This made it incredibly easy to create a new address on the fly when creating an account for a new service. I had a few actual mail box addresses in addition to the catch-all. What I had noticed was email only being received from actual mailboxes and not the catch-all addresses.

This was a problem as I had a few accounts where I really needed to be receiving correspondence. I needed to get a solution and quickly. I was able to contact my host and get the catch-all re-enabled. This workaround allowed me a little more time to arrange a permanent solution.

The permanent solution would be to create actual mailboxes rather than rely on a catch-all system. How many unique email addresses had I been using over the years? I stopped counting at 114. Creating mailboxes for all these would be too much effort since most wouldn’t see a large volume of traffic.

Looking through the long list of addresses I was quickly able to discard a large number of them. I had a few that I had used for stores and services that have since closed down. I shouldn’t be getting any future mail from these so I have just made a note of them in my spam filter and ignore them. To reduce the remaining addresses I decided it was best to create a single mailbox and then update various accounts to use it. I can then discard the original address. This was a long and time consuming task.

Currently I have reduced my 114+ addresses down to a more manageable 25. In an ideal world I would have been able to reduce it down even more. A stumbling block was not being able to change my email address on some accounts. For the ones that matter it was easier to create a mailbox, for the others it was easier to unsubscribe and resubscribe.

In future I am only going to use a more limited selection of addresses to hopefully reduce the 25 even more. Whilst this process has been an annoyance it has been necessary to tackle it. I think it has been about 5 years since I last tackled a big email change. All being well I shouldn’t have to do anything as significant for at least another 5.

Email Settings

I checked on the connection settings I am using to log into the mailboxes. Technical information from another email provider provides a good overview of the available settings.

RFC8314 (Jan 2018) outlines the current thinking over connection security for email.

Simply put implicit security using SSL/TLS is preferred as it encrypts the connection by default. STARTTLS is discouraged as it begins as a plain text connection which can upgraded to an encrypted connection. It is worth checking your settings with your own provider to ensure you are as secure as you can be.

HDMI Monitor Problem & Fix

The recent warm weather had made using my 3 monitor configuration a little uncomfortable. To make things a little more bearable I decided to turn off two of the monitors to reduce the amount of heat output into the room. I disabled the monitors using the display settings in Gnome 3.28. All was working well.

Today I attempted to re-enable the screens and here a problem arose. Whilst my DVI connected monitor powered up correctly and could be managed in display settings, the HDMI connected monitor could not. The HDMI cable was exchanged and the monitor confirmed to be working by connecting to a laptop. I had begun to suspect a faulty HDMI port on the graphics card. No amount of powering down and rebooting would solve the issue. However the monitor would display the BIOS screens and boot process up to and including the login manager. The only point at which it would fail to display anything was upon logging into Gnome.

Some research pointed to a monitors.xml file. This can be found in the users home directory ~/.config/monitors.xml. Opening this in a text editor and reviewing the contents showed that it had become corrupted. It showed monitors connected multiple times to different inputs. In the past some of this information would have been correct, but as my monitor connections have changed the file had not been kept up to date.

I removed the file, since it gets automatically regenerated, then logged out of my session. On logging back in my HDMI monitor became enabled again and working alongside the others. I was then able to tweak the display settings to have them all back to my desired configuration.

Facebook Account Deleted

Today I finally got round to deleting my Facebook account. I have never really been an active user and it has been years since I actually logged in. My only use was to use the “Log in with Facebook” option with a mobile app that I am not too fussed about.

I downloaded an archive of my data. Before I did so I removed all the linked applications that I never use. I was left with a zip file a little over 15MB. The vast majority of this appears to be animated GIFs.

Being such a light user there is nothing left in my archive to make it worth keeping. The major benefit for me will be a reduction in email traffic. No longer will I have to put up with the regular email telling me who is posting and trying to get me to log back in.

If you want to delete your account then you can follow the same guide I used at https://fossbytes.com/how-to-delete-your-facebook-account-permanently/.

Aims for 2018

It's that time of year again when I look back over the goals I set myself over the previous year and decide on some new ones for the year ahead. I’m a little late posting this year but I was suffering from a winter cold.

What I intended to do in 2017:

  • Lose weight – Failed, I managed to stay the same for most of the year only to gain weight for Christmas 🙁
  • Continue work on STM32 development – I have done very little
  • Clear out Garage – A few large items need to go and are still there.
  • Build a new PC – I managed to do this one. About time too.
  • Finish Back Yard – The last step is still waiting to be installed.
  • Buy a new kitchen bin – It didn’t happen.
  • Cook something new – I cooked some duck legs and served with a plum sauce.
  • Eat more healthily – I ate more healthy things but ended up eating more.
  • Perform more data backups – Can always use more.
  • Read more books – I still have a shelf of unread books.
  • Plan Free time – Limited success.

2017 was perhaps a year to forget. Work was busier due to retirements and changes in staffing levels and increasing workload. Getting home from work tired doesn’t result in productive evenings.

What I aim to do in 2018:

  • Lose weight – I have some trousers I would like to fit again.
  • Continue work on STM32 development – I had a new board for Christmas and I need to do something with it.
  • Experiment with CPLD – I found a cheap development board I want to play with.
  • Clear out Garage – The last garage fridge failed so it can now due a full clear out.
  • Go 4k - It might be time to buy a 4k TV or computer monitor.
  • Finish Back Yard – The step will be installed at long last.
  • Eat more healthily – Less chocolate, fat, carbs.
  • Perform more data backups – More off-site backups too.
  • Read more books – I have a shelf of unread books waiting to be read.
  • Plan Free time – Make time for things I want to do.
  • Reduce Netflix use – Spend evenings away from TV
  • Tackle the Rodent Problem – The rats have returned to my loft 🙁

2018 has many of the same goals as for 2017. The 3 I would like to achieve are losing weight, clearing out the garage and reading more books. If I can manage these 3 then I might find some of the others get done as a result.

Fixing the Printer

I finally reached the point where I needed to fix my Laser Printer. My Kyocera FS-1030DN has been serving me well for years and whilst the print quality is as good as they day I bought it I have had a problem with the page alignment. I have been loosing the top and bottom of pages which has been irritating.

I found a Techspot forum post detailing a solution.

Adrian123
Just fixed mine tonight with the help of Google Translate and a german printer forum...

The cause is small piece of foam rubber tape on the registration clutch solenoid, which gets slightly sticky with age and affects the timing of the paper mechanism.

If you're reasonably comfortable dismantling stuff (and reassembling successfully!) it's not hard to fix. It helps to get the service manual, which has nice diagrams of how the parts can be removed - Google "fs-1020d service manual".

Here goes:
Lift out the "process unit" (toner and drum).
Remove the top cover - 2 screws.
Remove the thumbscrews from the rear to get at the option slots.
Remove the right side cover - about 6 or 8 plastic clips (service manual shows where).
Disconnect the 12 cables from the engine board (the one with 12 cables 😉
Remove the engine board - 3 screws.
Unclip a few wires and remove the light-grey plastic cover (1 screw).
You'll now see 3 solenoids (coils with metal levers attached; mine had the coils wrapped in blue tape). Top right one is likely the main culprit, but probably worth looking at all of them. Take the solenoids off one at a time - 1 screw each.

There's a small piece of 0.5mm foam tape that's supposed to stop the solenoid from clicking too loudly when the magnet pulls the lever in, and it's probably very gooey. I scraped off the goo and replaced it with some foam tape I cut down thin with a razor blade. You could probably just omit it altogether or cover the goo with some adhesive tape.

Reverse to reassemble - good luck!

Well I tried out the method described and it worked a treat. I did indeed have sticky residue on the solenoids which I cleaned off. I reassembled the unit and ran a few print tests.The following pictures show the results, before print on the left, after print on the right.

Print Alignment 1
Print Alignment 1
Print Alignment 2
Print Alignment 2

Stable System?

I think I can finally say I have a stable system once again. After the RMA replacement of my Ryzen CPU to fix the “Performance Marginality Problem” I noticed that I was still getting some regular system lockups/freezes when it was left idle.

How long this secondary issue has been present I am unsure. Over the summer I had been using the machine but turning it off after use as it was keeping the room a little too warm. I probably didn’t notice the idle issue as I wasn’t leaving it idle. Any occasional occurrences of problems I attributed to the old CPU.

The current workaround has been to disable the C-States in the BIOS. It appears when the system is idle it is going into a low power mode but for some reason this isn’t happening correctly. At this time I’m unsure if this is related to the BIOS itself or Fedora 26 running a 4.13 kernel.

I have upgraded both BIOS (AGESA 1.0.0.6b) and kernel over the past few months so I will have to test again when one of them changes. Next week Fedora 27 is released, it will likely ship with a 4.13 kernel but 4.14 should follow shortly after. A BIOS with AGESA 1.0.0.7 might arrive before the end of the year.

For the time being I will settle for a little additional power usage and no crashing.

Ryzen RMA

This week I finally decided to send away my Ryzen 1800X CPU for a warranty replacement. I had a CPU made early in the production cycle (2017 Week 12) and it was affected by the “Performance Marginality Problem”. Once it became apparent that it wasn’t going to be fixed by a bios microcode update a warranty replacement was always going to be an option.

Sending away the processor was going to be a hassle as the machine would be offline for the duration. The awkward first step was removing the heat sink to read the serial number and production date from the top of the processor. With this step done and the heat sink remounted I was able to continue using the machine until I was ready to send it away.

The steps for the RMA were straight forward. Fill in a form on the website with my contact details and the serial number of the processor. Within 24 hours I had a response, quicker than I had expected. Due to the weekend I could only arrange to post off the processor on Monday morning (Following the packaging information instructions supplied). Being in the UK my processor was sent to the Netherlands, DHL shipping and handling paid for by AMD.

Two days later I was emailed to say my processor had been received and checked. The RMA was approved. It took another day to receive a notification that a replacement was on its way and I received it a day later. In all it took about a week, the replacement I received is from 2017 Week 37. It appears the problem is solved. I am impressed with how smoothly the whole RMA process worked.

Planning for Halloween

This is not a post about carving a face into a pumpkin or preparing some form of scary costume. It is about my planning to avoid Halloween entirely.

Halloween for me normally involves getting home from work, turning off the lights and pretending I’m not home. I don’t want to be giving out free sweets to strange folk knocking at the door.

I do buy in a sweet stash for the emergency situation of needing to fend off marauding freeloaders. But since pack sizes are shrinking I’ve had to spend more to have a suitable supply.

This year poses the additional risk of needing to put the bins out. This leaves me out in the open and vulnerable during the process of multi bin recycling. The outside light will be on alerting the opportunistic sugar hunters to my presence. A waste pre-sort will reduce exposure time but I’ll have to move quickly and remain alert.

Next will be my activities for the evening. TV is a no as the excess light washing around the curtains is a give-away that you are in allowing the hordes to pillage. I need to move to the back of the house where I can have the light on without raising curiosity. I have a quick dinner planned, minimal noise no fuss. I have a project that I can work on quietly. A low backlight on the kindle wont be noticeable from outside.

Hopefully I will make it through the night with the sweet supply intact.

How long can ‘shrinkflation’ continue?

In a week where McVitie’s announced that a box of Jaffa Cakes would contain 10 rather than 12 cakes, I wonder how much longer ‘shrinkflation can continue?

Bottles of Coca-Cola have changed from 2l to 1.75l, Toblerone has bigger gaps between chunks, segments of a chocolate orange are now concave. Just put the prices up and leave the size/volume/shape alone.

There is going to be a point at which a product cannot be shrunk down. What then? Should we hand over some money for some empty packaging? Ultimately the customer will decide to either purchase the product in its smaller form or switch to another product.

I was at one point buying a premium brand of orange juice in a 1.5l bottle. This would just about last me a week and all was well. Currently the same product is 900ml, this does not last the week unless I consume less per serving. I don’t want to shrink the serving so I either buy a second 900ml bottle increasing my overall spend or switch brands. I switched to another brand and once again have 1.5l to drink.

Recipes are going to become a problem at some point. Look in a cookery book and it will tell you to add a tin of something or 500g of something else. The recipes were written with items being sold in quantities and sizes that have remained the same for many many years. If I have to open a second package to make up the shortfall I am likely to increase waste if I have no other use for the excess.

Only time will tell. I’ll be on the lookout for the next thing to shrink, but at the same time I’ll be on the look out for alternative brands to switch to.