Hmmm… New PC

That’s a vague enough topic. Now let’s fill in the gaps. My previous desktop I built around 2009 or so, so logically it has components from that era:

  • Processor: AMD Phenom II X6 1090T (okay, I admit I upgraded this recently, but I still made a noticeable performance boost)
  • Video card: Sapphire Radeon 5770HD
  • Boot drive: 1GB SSD
  • Secondary drives: Too many to list
  • Sound: I switched to the default onboard sound after I upgraded to Win10. I have an E-MU 0404 lying around that’s better off in the circular file at this point. Not sure why, but E-MU just couldn’t be arsed to make new drivers past Win XP (Like, on what planet are you from?)
  • I had a FireWire A and B card in there.
  • Rosewill Extreme 850watt power supply
  • Standard DVD burner
  • Asus M4A79XTD-EVO
  • RAM: 12GB DDR3 at a particular clock speed which I don’t know anymore.

Here’s the new PC:

  • AMD Ryzen 9 3900X
  • Video card: 2 x Sapphire RX Vega 64 in Crossfire (or whatever AMD calls it now)
  • Boot drive: 1GB WD Black NVMe SSD
  • Secondary drives: Currently have implemented a parity of 3 x 8TB Seagate hard drives with 2 x 240GB SSD cache drives, total usable disk space is about 14.5TB.
  • Sound: Sound is good, but I’m using the optical out to a Schiit Modi 3, so duh, it sounds like it’s coming from a $100 DAC. Yes, it really does make a difference. It’s amped with an old “ZMOY Pimeta” for headphones, which I have to admit, has caused many headphones to go into nuclear meltdown mode. I finally found “THE ONE”.
  • Headphones: Acoustic Research AR-H1. No dynamic driver here, these are planar magnetic headphones. If you look at the frequency response you’d think they sound awful. As a Senior Test Engineer, I claim flawed measurement techniques were used here and those frequency response graphs mean diddly. The headphones sound great. They are not used, and I did not pay $700 for them.
  • PSU: I chose to do it and just buy a PSU. It’s shipping all the way from China… I hope it doesn’t come with COVID19. It is a Corsair HX1200i, fully modular. That’s 350 extra watts for this rig, so it better stop whining, and the circuit breaker better not join the party either.
  • I went with a BluRay burner drive, but I don’t really burn anything or have a need to burn BluRays. My thoughts are, it would be good as a secondary protection mechanism to protect the inordinate amount of code I have. Especially with M.Disc. If it’s not too expensive, I’ll get a safety deposit box at the bank.
  • Motherboard: Uhm, it’s an Asus.
  • RAM: 128GB DDR4-3200

What I don’t understand, in regards to the last point there, is why all this power is targeted now towards “gaming”. Gaming this, gaming that. I play Portals, and sometimes Diablo on the X-Box. Don’t ask me why I bought the Vegas, but they were all used and cost the same (read: $300). As for price, that’s the exact price these cards command on the used market. Buy one new and you’re looking at maybe $600-$800 depending on model. When buying used Vega’s the biggest thing you have to realize is that most people simple do not have a power supply that is rated to power these cards. These cards can pull 240watts from JUST the PCIe ports (which there are 2 of for reasons which might be apparent). So what happens is, someone goes out, buys one of these, can’t play their games, and sells it, rather than just upgrading their power supply, maybe? So, the Vega’s are plentiful on the used market. One thing I noticed was that with just the one Vega installed that I had constant screen flickering issues, so I knew it wasn’t just my card that was defective. However the workaround was simple: Get another card and SLI them. Boom, problem gone. Seriously.

Hmmmm….

My blog is broken.  WordPress updated and now my theme won’t load images properly.

Somehow it seems my previous post has some 500+ views…  Not sure why or how, but ok.

Now I forgot what I was going to write about…

Anyway, I added some new pictures to my Flickr account.  I built a “Windows Storage Space” with 3 8TB drives and 2 240GB SSDs.  I bought the SSDs on Amazon for $27 each, and not only that, but they were in my hands about 4 hours later.  In ReFS, SSDs are used as cache drives.  The 3 hard disks are setup in a parity array (a fancy name for RAID 5).  Now I have a safe space to pull all of this extra data out of DropBox.  There’s 550GB of photos there, which was a tremendous find.

Classes start one week from tomorrow.  I’ve decided to take 1 class and research again.  This time I’ll be repeating BIO1, which will be online, but this time it will have proctored exams using a webcam, and using a lockdown browser to prevent cheating.  Class will be live streamed, unlike last semester in which the content was pre-recorded.  My goal hasn’t changed, I will just go slower until I find a way to handle things better.

Oh, I remembered one post I have been meaning to put here.  I wonder if I can sticky posts, because this one needs to go at the top.

“NI” is now “NI”

For starters, I’ll introduce myself. I have worked at various companies over the last 10 years since finishing my Master’s degree in electrical engineering. Around the time I was graduating with my Bachelors, I started working in a Biology lab, and eventually, I got to get dirty with LabView. Back then, the latest release was 8.6.1. Several of the subsequent versions following were horribly unstable, and combined with my poor use of SubVIs, I accomplished my task, but LabVIEW was rather unwieldy.

I used to work at National Instruments, I hope I can say that here. I worked there for about 3.5 years, in Austin. Even back in 2012 the company was already started to change. The major rebranding of the company and the new website look were inevitable really. I had the opportunity as a RF test engineer to work on many of the key products NI wanted to bring to market. I won’t list them here for privacy reasons.

Oddly enough, I did my master’s thesis using a USRP version 1 from Ettus Research, which I later learned had been bought by National Instruments. It’s no surprise I wound up working at NI when I was already so familiar with their hardware. To this day, I still work in that same biology lab, and I have been on 2 expeditions to the Amazon to research south American Electric Knifefishes. We have come up with some very unique solutions to the challenges of working in the Amazon (not just the mosquitoes!). For example, the NI-6216 USB is self powered from USB, so we used it in combination with a ruggedized tablet computer and an amplifier or two to do in situ recording.

Enough about that, the new NI branding is a bit concerning. All of the places I have worked, with the exception of National Instruments themselves, were not overflowing with money (and neither was NI for that matter, it just so happens that when you can build your own test equipment, you tend to use it in your own test solutions for testing product. Quite simply, it’s cheaper (for them, anyway).

The 2nd to last company I worked for was so poor off, and hanging on for dear life, at least until the new owners in China figured out how to shut down this particular plant (I don’t know if they have or ever will), that they couldn’t properly license Windows on the PXI controllers in the test racks. There was a very serious problem, because the Chinese engineers would come in and survey the test equipment, study it, etc. Well, they didn’t have antivirus on the controllers, and apparently the Chinese don’t know what viruses are, so a worm found it’s way into the floor network. Every XP machine would broadcast itself out to other vulnerable machines. After enough time, those machines would eventually go into a boot loop. You couldn’t even boot into safe mode. Now you have a real mess, because the LabVIEW versions that run on XP are not the same as what runs on Windows 7.

Anyway, I’ve worked on and off as a test engineer between 4 jobs because either A) my health wouldn’t hold up, or B) I just couldn’t be bothered.

I’ve considered becoming a freelancer and writing LabVIEW code from home. More as a software engineer role. But for now, I’m a student who is actually studying Biology and I am happy to be back in academia again, right here in sunny and warm Florida.

As far as “NI is now NI” goes, I don’t think we have seen just what NI is trying to accomplish yet. My NDA is long expired, but the pattern should be obvious. NI’s days of making test equipment won’t end; what NI is attempting to do is systems engineering and custom test solutions. Really, it’s that simple. The NI-STS uses PXI VNAs, for example. Imagine trying to build a test jig with a 48 port VNA inside? This is NI’s future plan for success, and I do hope they don’t lose track of that.

Personally, I am glad I left NI when I did. There’s a certain sense of pride in the company culture, or at least there was. I can only imagine how NI is now, with a new CEO after Dr. T stepped down.

I truly hope that LabVIEW TOG (The original generation) will not disappear. I refuse to use LabVIEW 2020 based on the reports of how they have crippled it. A lot of companies, quite frankly, don’t want the latest and greatest, because when you build a test station, you don’t won’t equipment drivers that are brand new… You want to fall back on a proven and stable system. NI will seriously shoot themselves in the foot if they stop supporting LabVIEW TOG and it’s associated drivers.

IMHO, this change is change for no particular reason, other than to highlight National Instruments as some sort of “game changer”. Here’s a thought for you NI: Lead by example. Prove your software and hardware is stable enough for a production environment. Down time costs money.

I haven’t touched LabVIEW NXG, except briefly when it first came out. All I can say is, I hope there is not a huge learning curve to it, or you’re just going to push customers away.

Don’t fix what ain’t broken, and don’t break it so you can “fix” it.

-Jeff

When I should have quit, but didn’t.

Back in Maryland, I was busy working away on my tasks, when it started to strike me (pun intended?) that something rather odd was going on outside weather-wise.  There’s only one window in the lab I worked in.  By the time I realized it was raining sideways, it was too late to protect the thousands of dollars worth of keysight equipment sitting on the desk for myself and my colleague to use, not to mention, prototype units of the DUT.

So, of course, as you can imagine, I immediately started unplugging things.  There wasn’t even time to safely shut things down, they wen’t unplugged right then and there.  You can hear the sound of transformers arcing outside from who knows what.

I guess my supervisor didn’t care if lightning blew up our equipment or DUTS.  The test boxes were on loan from Keysight anyway, so why should he care?  I think otherwise.  If there’s no UPS, and you have no ability to discern the weather that is coming, you’re basically throwing away money.  Which is ironic, because typically people try to avoid that sort of thing, not the other way around.

I’m sure the building, or at least the lab, was on some sort of power protection.  A brown-out can still damage a power supply.  I know from experience that power supplies in test equipment usually have to have some of the tightest tolerances in a power supply you can manufacture.  Dirty power can and will result in poor quality of measurement, for a variety of reasons.

This particular storm knocked out power all over the place.  This must’ve been a major thing for Maryland, because here in Florida we tend not to have issues like this.

After my DUT had been vibration tested, it was now receiving the “Act-of-God” test, aka HiPOT in the most visceral way possible.

For my own sake, I should’ve recognized this as a red flag.  First, you can’t work when the power is constantly on and off again.  Even if you could attempt to boot your computer, the power would fail anyway.  Second, while I understand prototypes are of limited quantity, if you’re going to take a good DUT and do vibration testing on it, what and how am I supposed to be sure that the measurements I make in my prototype software yield reliable, repeatable, accurate results?  Third, the LabVIEW API we were using to talk to the hardware was essentially a SSH terminal hidden behind the scenes, so to speak.  SSH is not meant to be used like this.  I find it hard to believe that they couldn’t have used an RS232 port, or even a RS232 to USB adapter to talk to the linux console running on the SoC.  At least then, you don’t need to pay for an SSH API from a 3rd party company.  It’s not a perfect solution either, but then, neither is GPIB, so what else is new?  Perhaps, better yet, JTAG could come in handy, but I wasn’t responsible for that so I don’t know if JTAG was used.

Anyway, yeah.  That job was ridiculous, and all because it was under the pretentious guise that since they were paying for an expert (at doing FFTs in Excel), I should’ve been done with all the code and ensuring everything was polished up nicely in about 5-6 weeks time.  I’ve worked in manufacturing.  I know what goes on in these places.  You don’t just sit down, cruise through the code, and then expect everything to work right from the start.

Add in to this the random occasional condescending attitude (not just from my supervisor), and you have the makings of the most horrible job I have ever worked.  Even putting 50 lb bags of dog food on a shelf at Target was better than this.

Weighted Blanket

When I was in the Oviedo Medical Center Hospital being wheeled to my hospital room the day before my surgery, the nurse was walking me through the hallways and made a comment.  The color temperature of the fluorescent bulbs in their fixtures was sterile.  I looked paper white.  I haven’t been out of the house to get any sun in so long.

I live in a small house, in a room with two concrete block walls, one window with the blinds always closed, dirty laundry on the floor and a closet of the rest of my clothes.  Next to me is a radio and 2 alarm clocks, and at the foot of my bed is my tv stand with all the usual suspects, my air filter, and 5 storage boxes of vinyl.

I have everything I need in here.  A printer/fax/scanner, a computer, wifi access.  For luxury I have a huge 15″ subwoofer and Alexa so I can control my lights and other things automatically.  I can get into bed with the lights on, and I can just speak to Alexa to turn them off without having to move.  The internet of things is not the future, it’s the present.  Semiconductor processes get smaller and electronics become increasingly integrated everyday.

The iPhones and the Samsung Galaxy’s of the world… planned obsolescence or just slow, progress, regardless, technology is a fad that gets taken for granted, but, in the pursuit of the things we want in our lives, it will not go away, unlike Beanie Babies.

Having been put in the position to work on many extraordinary projects, I feel lucky, but underwhelmed.  Change is a constant.  It is time for change.  I look forward to the future.

The corporate world is not for me.  Like the movie “There Will Be Blood”, I will trace my way to success.  I’ve made many missteps, but that doesn’t make me a failure.  Never stop learning.  Always have an open mind.  Be curious, and ask questions no matter how dumb they may seem, because that is how you learn.  Seek information from the people who know better.  You won’t learn everything from one place or one person.  You will spend a lifetime learning, and you will only have more questions as time goes on.

Academia doesn’t stop after you get your degree.  There are people working tirelessly to understand the world and ourselves.

You are the light of the world, and the salt of the Earth.  Never forget that.

06:35 < intp> let me think

IRC has played a major role in my life over the past…what…16 years now?  People have come and gone, but at the core of it all, there are a select few who’ve been around since the early days (including myself, relatively speaking).  I was different back then, in a lot of ways.

Here is a photo album put together by one of the network owners: https://www.flickr.com/photos/owlgames/sets/72157635869807546/ Most of the pictures in the album now consist of people who are long gone and probably never to return because they have moved on in life.  I, on the other hand, am going in a giant circle.  Back to square one.  It’s not been a waste, but it’s been a disappointment.  People need to learn compassion.

Anyway, it’s not just that #intp and the ECNet network attracts a wide variety of diverse people, but it has a very distinct culture to it that’s formed over such a long time.  In recent months, it’s gotten even stranger.  I don’t mind; in fact I fit right in, with the exception of one of the IRCops who (now) claims he has schizophrenia.  I thought he was bipolar, but I guess he changed his mind because he’s too much of an idiot to see a real psychiatrist, so he goes to see a quack instead.

The Pied Piper

I was going to write something here, but I’ve already forgotten, heh.  It’s only been about 1 minute…

Well, I’m planning on building a new PC, but I’m unsure of how I want to approach this.  I’d also like to sell my laptop (Dell XPS 15 9560).  The laptop is fully loaded, but it’s just insanely fragile and I worry about taking it anywhere.  I feel more comfortable carrying around a 12 year old Dell Latitude E6230.  Actually, I was thinking of buying another Latitude, one that I can use with the docking station I have and that has an i7 processor.

When it comes to stuff like this, I just have no moderation… gotta have the best.  However, I’m sealing my fate by spending this money.  It’s ironic how you can continue to go into debt while you’re going through the motions of bankruptcy.

There are only so many pages left in this chapter, and things will change soon.  I look forward to grad school for my Biology studies.

There’s not really a lot I want out of life, but for once, I just want to relax.