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.

ARM Update

Over a year ago I wrote up some notes on setting up an ARM development environment. Since then a change has occurred. Low Level libraries have been made available for the STM32F103. These should fit between the HAL library and the code I was writing. How well the Low Level libraries work is currently an unknown. I haven’t found the time to investigate. The tool chain should largely be the same. A few additional includes may be required to add the Low Level libraries. I hope before too long to try them out to see how they compare to my current method.

Ryzen PC Backup

I finally decided to perform a backup of my new Ryzen PC running Fedora 26. Normally I wouldn’t leave it too long between backups especially if I have made significant changes. My new PC presented me with a little bit of an issue, I couldn’t run my backup software.

I tend to use Clonezilla to take/restore system images. I’ve used it for years and it has been working well for me. That was until I tried to boot it on my Ryzen system. It was hanging with tpm_tis and tpm_crb errors.

The arch wiki states that “Support for TPM 2.0 is still incomplete (both on the kernel and in userspace), and no known work flow for TPM2 exists at the moment.”

It would appear that I had enabled the TPM option in the bios and I have TPM 2.0 hardware.

The Workaround
Clonezilla 2.5.2-20 (Debian – Kernel 4.11.11-1+b1)

  1. Disable TPM in the bios.
  2. Boot from a CD (non-uefi) and run Clonezilla in graphics safe mode.
  3. Having successfully booted Clonezilla, perform backup as normal.
  4. On completion of the backup re-enable the TPM hardware in the bios.

Schedule Your Offers Properly

Like most people I receive various marketing offers via email. Mostly these get filtered out as spam. There are a few I tend to look at, one of which is for the supermarket offers. If I am doing a weekly shop it’s nice to know ahead of time if there is an offer I want to look out for.

Recently there have been offers relating to my loyalty card. To get certain offers I need to click a link in my email to activate them. Fine, it proves to the supermarket that I have read their email and seen the offers. It also increases the likelihood that I will visit the store and spend money with them.

The supermarket should know when I activate the email offers and should also know by use of my loyalty card when I do my shopping. So why on earth do they send an offer though in the early hours of the morning on the day I do my shop when I only activate email offers later in the evening?
I have missed out on an offer due to a badly timed email. Knowing I have missed out creates a bad feeling between me and the supermarket. Supermarkets should be building a loyal customer base and not irritating them.

A New Computer

This month I gave up on waiting and ordered the remaining parts for a new PC. The build process was as easy as expected. Having learnt my lesson of having to maintain a system over many years; I took my time when routing the cables around the case. The result is one of the tidiest case layouts I’ve ever put together. Less obstacles means cleaner airflow inside the case and less noise.

PWM fans are a must have item. This new pc has 9 fans in total all connected up. It is quieter than my old system with 5 fans. The difference is having fan headers on the motherboard to support additional fans with a PWM signal to control the fan speed. Slower fans means less noise. When they spin up under load I can hear them more but at idle I hardly know the system is on.

Now the negative. Why must everything be covered in LED’s? My motherboard can put on a light show in all the colours of the rainbow, why? I intend to be looking at the screen not inside the case. I’ve not colour matched my components, I chose the best specifications instead. The obsession people now have with the look of their pc internals is staggering. Manufacturers are now adding features just to make them look better. I don’t need my RAM slots to be illuminated. How much additional cost is this adding to my motherboard? LED’s don’t cost a lot but the time and effort that must go into routing the traces around the PCB won’t be insignificant. Luckily I can turn the main lighting off in the BIOS. I just have to contend with the remaining illuminated buttons and status indicators scattered about the board. I wish it had a stealth mode with them all off until it actually had the need to display an error message.

There still needs to be some tweaking done to the system to get it settled in but it’s an upgrade that should last me 5+ years all being well.

The Wait

The problem with buying technology is that there is always something better on the horizon. I am about to build a new PC. I have been about to build it for over a year. I have been buying some parts that will stand the test of time case, fans, optical drive etc. Some of these parts are 12 months old, some 6, some a matter of weeks. But I need to get the important bits, the CPU, the Motherboard and the RAM.

In the past I simply look around picked compatible parts and built a system. The technological standards evolved slowly and many parts could be reused as I upgraded. Today everything is changing and quickly. I had delayed the build to be able to future proof the system by having newer ports, slots and sockets on the motherboard. But prices were too high and new competing products were announced that were coming down the pipeline. So I waited.

Having waiting for new parts to be release I first find that they are in short supply. So I wait. Then more parts are in short supply. Another wait. Just at the point of being able to get parts questions are raised about firmware and compatibility. More waiting. Then more low-level tuning is in the pipeline, just another 2-3 weeks. I’m being patient.

I’m waiting, patiently. I want to buy the right bits for my needs. I’m mostly decided on what I want. I just need that last little bit of information to allow me to choose the final parts. So what happens, more news. New product announcement in 30 days, release expected in a few months. Do I wait again? Do I buy now and regret not waiting? Do I build cheap and upgrade sooner?

A new system will be faster. But it could be even faster if I wait for it. How long do I wait?

A Cat Sitting Service

Today a flyer arrived in my letter box offering a cat sitting service. A helpful service to some and I can understand the need for it. Then I saw the price. £8.50 per day for a single visit, £15 for 2 visits. Quite a lot for opening a door and putting food in a dish.

A week of visits (discounted) is still £100. If that wasn’t enough there was an option to get a daily video call at an extra cost.

At those prices no wonder people ask friends and family to look after their pets.

Bookmarks

I use Firefox as my web browser. I’ve been using it for years. During that time I have accumulated a huge amount of bookmarks. In being able to migrate my Firefox profile by copying it between machines and between installs my bookmarks have migrated too.
Some I can’t remember why I even bookmarked them in the first place.

I took the step over the past few days of exporting all my bookmarks and deleting all the ones stored in my browser. I now have a new starting point for which to accumulate some more.

My bad idea has been to start trying to organise my old bookmarks into some sort of list. What struck me is what utter rubbish is stored along with the original bookmark. The useful bit is the URL, in most cases this is accompanied by the title to the article or the site I wanted to bookmark. The less useful entries have information about the author looking for job opportunities, great long strings of text about other subject matter the site covered or generally unhelpful titles that don’t actually tell you what you bookmarked.

I should have taken the time to edit the bookmark entries at the time of saving them. It is never something I want to do at the time as it breaks my train of thought. It a habit that I am unlikely to change.

Trying to sort the bookmarks by subject area I notice that quite a few span multiple areas. Looking through the bookmarks I find that I have often researched topics. I’m thinking that in future it would be easier to gather stored bookmarks around these topics. In this way I can dispense with certain collections of bookmarks once I no longer have need of the topic.

I am regretting starting this process as progress has been slow. I am working through the list, checking that the links still work, seeing if they are still relevant, renaming and finally storing under a suitable category. Once completed I should be left with a nice list of topics that I can easily refer back to.

So far I am not missing the historical bookmarks in the browser.

New Theme

Today I am going to start playing around with a modified version of the WordPress twenty-seventeen theme. I want to be able to write content in a nicer style and it is easier to do this with a clean slate. Some of the existing content will need reformatting and this will happen when I settle on my style. In the meantime be patient.

Aims for 2017

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.

What I intended to do in 2016:

  • Contribute to some open source projects – Failed miserably.
  • Put more time into electronics projects – Plenty of time put in, much frustration and little fun :(.
  • Clear out Garage – It’s getting clearer.
  • Write an android application for my tablet/phone – Fail – idea abandoned.
  • Build a new PC – Some parts have been sourced, waiting for AMD to release the Ryzen processors early in 2017.
  • Do something useful with a virtual machine - Fail, looked into 3D acceleration of a VM. It appears that it is best achieved with a separate graphics card. This requires hardware support which my current set-up lacks.
  • Finish Back Yard – Still need to put a slab in for a step.
  • Buy a new kitchen bin – I still need one that matches, but it functions.
  • Cook a good Lamb Pathia from scratch – Failed – attempt next year.
  • Eat more fruit and veg – More cabbage has been eaten (along with pie & mash).
  • Perform more off-site data backups - More backups in general are needed. 2016 saw me attempt crypto-ransomware recovery. Luckily a success due to decryption program availability. Backup Now!!!
  • Read more books – Didn't get through many in 2015 or 2016.

2016 hasn’t been the most productive year. I hoped to have progressed further with my electronics projects but difficulties along the way resulted in periodic loss of motivation. The PC build was researched and was close to being realised. The VM 3D investigation focused new build on needing 2 graphics cards. Intel’s platform offering made this set-up along with new and future hardware connectivity quite limiting. With AMD’s new CPU offering and Intel’s new chipsets on the horizon the decision was made to delay purchasing core build components until the new year. One thing has become clear, I need to plan my free time to achieve more.

What I aim to do in 2017:

  • Lose weight – I have slowly been gaining weight 🙁
  • Continue work on STM32 development – I’m slowly making progress.
  • Clear out Garage – A few large items need to go.
  • Build a new PC – This will happen, I can’t delay it any longer.
  • Finish Back Yard – The step will be installed at long last.
  • Buy a new kitchen bin – It might happen.
  • Cook something new – I will break out of my routine dishes and try making something different.
  • 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.

2017 has some achievable targets. I three I want to achieve are losing weight, building a new PC and finishing the back yard. I need a good excuse if I don’t manage these.