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.

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.