Strange compliance symbol

I noticed this strange EMC conformity certification on the way to a Thai restaurant.  What this is  photosupposed to mean is above my pay grade.

FreeNAS as a home NAS

NAS Selection

I have been looking at installing a NAS (Network Attached Storage) in my home for some time. For me, it came down to Synology, FreeNAS or NAS4Free.  Synology is a commercial product. Friends who own them rave about them.  I was looking for about 8TB of net storage, and the DS412+ looked like the best model for me.  The Synology DS412+ was running at $599 last time I checked.  One nice thing about Synology NAS boxes is they have a lot of apps they call, “add on packages”, the most interesting of which, for me, are for video surveillance.  In the end, I thought $599 was a little steep, and besides the IP camera surveillance plug-in, I thought  I mightdo better with a home-built system.

I decided to install FreeNAS, and then NAS4Free on an old PC and then see if either of them worked well enough, of if I should go buy the Synology.  I the end, I just tried FreeNAS and didn’t evaluate the other options, as it worked well enough for me.


If you use FreeNAS, you need to buy or build a system.  FreeNAS (like NAS4Free and others) use ZFS.  A non-toy system that uses ZFS requires ECC DRAM.  In the past, ECC DRAM was much more expensive than non-ECC DRAM but that is no longer the case.  Most consumer motherboards and Intel chips do not support ECC DRAM, but the Intel i3 does.  I priced out building a system at Newegg but ended up buying a Lenovo TS140 server with 4GB .  This is a very decent server with efficient 280W power supply, and an Intel NIC.  I added 16GB (2×8) of Crucial ECC DRAM for a total cost of $467 on Amazon, or $187 less than the Synology, with Kalifornia tax included.  Of course, you have to buy the drives after that.  I got 2 WD Red 4TB drives and plan on adding 2 more.

Drives and Where to Buy Them

A lot of people I know who have NAS drives have complained of drive failures.  It seems that Amazon-sourced drives failed the most.  I have noticed a steady deterioration in the quality of packaging that Amazon sends with their products, which probably has a lot to do with it.  For example, I received from Amazon woodworking bar clamps and hand cream put into one big box with a grand total of 1 of those air packing pillows inside.  I guess you get what you pay for with free shipping.  Anyway, I figured the best thing was to source the hard drives from a local store.  I’m not saying the 4TB WD Red drives were hand carried on a velvet pillow from Singapore to my Micro Center store, but I had reasonable confidence they were not too beat up in shipping.

RAID Level

One of the benefits of NAS is the ability to have some fault tolerance for your data (without it being a true back-up)  In the past, it made sense to do RAID5, which uses drives to provide distributed parity of the data.  These days, when a drive fails, the rebuild time for RAID5 is so long that it can cause an additional drive to fail, and since RAID5 only can tolerate 1 disk being lost, many people recommend using RAID 1 or RAID 10 instead.  RAID 1 is just mirroring without parity.  Raid 10 is simply two spans of RAID 1.  Right now I am using RAID1 and will move to RAID10 when I buy 2 more 4 TB drives.  This would give me the ability to loose 1 drive in each span without loosing data.


The first step is to install FreeNAS to a USB stick.  In windows, you need to use 7zip to decompress the FreeNAS image and Win32DiskImager to write it to the USB drive.  Directions are on the FreeNAS webpage.  Then, you have to configure your server to boot on a USB drive.  For the TS140, this is rather involved.  I couldn’t figure out how to get the drive to boot the USB drive until I found this forum post: source.  My BIOS was already updated so I disabled UEFI and it finally booted the USB.  It took a long time to install, but it finally installed.  Subsequent boot-ups have been faster.

Setup for FreeNAS is rather involved and it has nothing directly to do with FreeBSD.  I decided to just do a simple CIFS setup.  The setup for CIFS could be easier, but I got it working.  I did some mild performance tuning for the Windows machine’s SAMBA buffers and logging and then I was in business.

I immediately found that it took forever to browse photographs and videos, right clicking (from Windows) on a directory and going to >properties>Customize> Optimize this folder for ‘Pictures’ helped speed things up.

Test Results

I used Crystal Disk Mark to characterize the performance.  Again, this is using CIFS (Samba).

CrystalDiskMark 3.0.2 x64 (C) 2007-2012 hiyohiyo
Crystal Dew World :
* MB/s = 1,000,000 byte/s [SATA/300 = 300,000,000 byte/s]

Sequential Read : 104.921 MB/s
Sequential Write : 109.971 MB/s
Random Read 512KB : 102.207 MB/s
Random Write 512KB : 105.567 MB/s
Random Read 4KB (QD=1) : 13.472 MB/s [ 3289.1 IOPS]
Random Write 4KB (QD=1) : 8.261 MB/s [ 2016.9 IOPS]
Random Read 4KB (QD=32) : 113.568 MB/s [ 27726.7 IOPS]
Random Write 4KB (QD=32) : 13.724 MB/s [ 3350.5 IOPS]

Test : 1000 MB [Y: 46.2% (1686.7/3652.8 GB)] (x5)
Date : 2014/08/02 13:27:11
OS : Windows 7 Professional SP1 [6.1 Build 7601] (x64)

i thought that maybe the large ZFS cache was skewing performance for the FreeNAS system, so I increased the test size to 4GB.  Here are those results:

CrystalDiskMark 3.0.2 x64 (C) 2007-2012 hiyohiyo
Crystal Dew World :
* MB/s = 1,000,000 byte/s [SATA/300 = 300,000,000 byte/s]

Sequential Read : 105.850 MB/s
Sequential Write : 109.361 MB/s
Random Read 512KB : 101.837 MB/s
Random Write 512KB : 104.718 MB/s
Random Read 4KB (QD=1) : 13.144 MB/s [ 3209.0 IOPS]
Random Write 4KB (QD=1) : 8.261 MB/s [ 2016.9 IOPS]
Random Read 4KB (QD=32) : 4.051 MB/s [ 989.0 IOPS]
Random Write 4KB (QD=32) : 2.443 MB/s [ 596.5 IOPS]

Test : 4000 MB [Y: 46.2% (1686.7/3652.8 GB)] (x5)
Date : 2014/08/02 14:01:26
OS : Windows 7 Professional SP1 [6.1 Build 7601] (x64)

This seems to compare favorably with some of the results I have seen on the web for DS412+ performance.  source.  For additional comparision, here are the Crystal Disk Mark results with my Western Digital 2TB WDC WD20EARS-00MVWB0 drive which is mounted inside my Windows i7 box:

CrystalDiskMark 3.0.2 x64 (C) 2007-2012 hiyohiyo
Crystal Dew World :
* MB/s = 1,000,000 byte/s [SATA/300 = 300,000,000 byte/s]

Sequential Read : 119.550 MB/s
Sequential Write : 119.714 MB/s
Random Read 512KB : 34.464 MB/s
Random Write 512KB : 62.779 MB/s
Random Read 4KB (QD=1) : 0.424 MB/s [ 103.6 IOPS]
Random Write 4KB (QD=1) : 0.812 MB/s [ 198.3 IOPS]
Random Read 4KB (QD=32) : 0.810 MB/s [ 197.7 IOPS]
Random Write 4KB (QD=32) : 0.832 MB/s [ 203.2 IOPS]

Test : 1000 MB [E: 50.2% (147.0/293.0 GB)] (x5)
Date : 2014/08/02 13:39:44
OS : Windows 7 Professional SP1 [6.1 Build 7601] (x64)


I am pleased with FreeNAS and my Lenovo TS140 server.  If you are reasonably technically adept, you can install FreeNAS on a server and have a high performing NAS for less price than a Synology unit.

Hydrogen Cars On 73

I’ve seen two hydrogen-powered cars on CA-73 this year.  I know they are hydrogen because (a) they say they are hydrogen-powered (b) they have white stickers.   It’s interesting they have white CARB HOV stickers even though they have out-of-state plates.  It looks like one is FCHV-adv and the other is Mercedes’ F-Cell.  




More 808 photos



apple blossom

Nokia Pureview 808

Now that Microsoft has announced it will purchase Nokia, I thought I would review my Pureview 808 phone a year and a half past its introduction date.  Released on an outdated Symbian platform the phone had two compelling traits, for me. It has a Broadcom image processing chip (GPU) and most importantly, an awesome camera. Basically the Pureview concept, when enabled is to variably oversample an image by taking a 38 the megapixel image and decimating it, from 7:1 at the widest zoom setting to 1:1 at maximum zoom. When it is 1:1 each pixel captured = pixel on screen, so only the center portion of the sensor is used, which also happens to be the sharpest part of the lens. If it is zoomed out, you get a decimated image. The image is always 5MP or 8MP in size when PureView is enabled, or you can dump the entire 38MP image to flash. This is a brilliant concept. I was skeptical at first but it works great. The camera is almost great enough to replace a Canon S90 point and shoot. Why almost great enough?

Here are the pluses:

  • low noise sensor for most shots
  • illwater hazard

    old catif you zoom in, however, noise is more apparent, and they do some smoothing in addition to decimation. designated driver(this makes sense since images are being sampled at 1:1)

  • zoom is convenient
  • full size images, at low iso, look great
    still life

Here are the problems:

  • The autofocus is terrible
  • It wanders all over the place and is frequently inaccurate. The focus assist light is distracting to the point people ask you to turn it off, which makes the problem worse. A lot of times I will use hyperfocal mode to eliminate the focus wander.

  • Highlights blow out
  • Putt Putt See the picture at top, too. I don’t know if this is due to the image sensor being saturated since the pixels are so small. If so, this would be an advantage for HTCOne’s UltraPixel (small number of large pixels). Another reason may be the jpeg engine is only capturing 8 bits (or even less). I dont’ think you need to be able to capture the dynamic range of a nuclear explosion but a little more dynamic range would be nice.

  • It has a real xenon flash, but it doesn’t work so well

    the flash is so close to the lens backsidethat it is guaranteed to cause redeye, or in case of our four legged friends, makes them look like they have diode pumped solid state yellow-green laser beams for eyes or something

  • Slow to startup.

    starting the phone up is difficult and requires tapping through several screens. A point and shoot has a convenient on switch and starts up almost instantly.

  • Noise is non-uniform

    noise, when present, and it will be at 800 ISO, it is worse on one side of the sensor. Look at the bottom of the image. dead rabbitIn landscape shots it is on the right.

The phone has some other nice features:

  • no stupid iTunes
  • I hate iTunes! With the 808, I just dump MP3s I want to play to the flash

  • removable microSD card
  • save photos to the removable storage and if the phone dies, you still have your images. My iPhone died and I lost all of the images I didn’t back up.

  • maps built-in
  • I like the ability to download maps and have GPS location if I am outside of cellphone range, or in a foreign country where data access is expensive.

  • can connect car stereo to headphone jack and still use microphone
  • I never could get this to work on my iPhone. My stereo is too old to support anything but line-in

Overall a surprisingly nice phone, but I am looking forward to taking a look at the Lumia 1020. I understand the UI is better, and it has a newer image sensor. The newer sensor is smaller, but since it is back illuminated, it is claimed to be lower noise than the 808, although images on Nokia’s website appear to have more noise at the same ISO than the my phone. link (I know the images on Nokia’s site are 38 Mpix) The image stabilization looks awesome though, and should help keep a lower ISO in images to make sure they are low noise. If you don’t want to carry around a point and shoot and a camera, there appears to be one other alternative. Would you like to carry this monster Samsung S4 Zoom? bolshoi samsung phone Peronally, I’ll pass on the S4 Zoom but I’ll probably never buy a point and shoot again. I’ll definitely keep my Nokia Pureview but I can’t wait until the PureView concept gets even better. With Microsoft now controlling Nokia’s mobile business, I hope that they will continue developing it.

Stop Bellyaching and Embrace our Communism

Most newspapers/blogs ran congratulatory stories on how poor children’s school lunches have been made healthier thanks to the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010″.  Daily Caller ran an article (link) which referenced another article by the Harlan Daily (link) that showed not everyone is happy with the changes.  In the rural Kentucky county of Harlan (it’s okay, I had to look it up too) parents were apparently shouting at the school board “Kids can’t learn when they’re hungry!” during a school board meeting and complained that the milk was skim or 1%.  I’m sure the food wasn’t tasty, but In this particular case, if they were really hungry, they would be eating the food.  Think about what happens in places like India or Africa.  More importantly, if the parents felt that bad about the food choices the federal government decided their child should have, they could have used their food stamp/EBT to buy a loaf of white bread and peanut butter, and a box of Parmalat whole milk in a brown bag lunch for their kids.  The larger picture, though is the big problem: like a cat that thinks it’s a dog, America is a socialist country that thinks it’s capitalist.  And just like a cat makes a strange dog, America makes a really strange form of socialism.  I was talking to a Russian.  The Russian said, “you know, the US is [a] more communist country than Russia is these days”.  The spouse of someone married to a Chinese woman agreed, “The US is certainly more communist than China.”  As has been written by numerous other people elsewhere, these entitlement programs create dependency, corruption, and inefficiency, and the programs have an agenda different from their ostensible goal.  For example Truman created the National School Lunch Act to raise food prices and find a place for surplus agricultural goods (source).  The purpose of the “Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act” appears to be to make food choices for the parents whom the government apparently thinks are too stupid to make the choices for themselves.  Earlier I was explaining  what the Department of Agriculture did, to a recent immigrant to the US.  I explained half of the $123 billion per year department creates policies which make food more expensive.  The other half hands out subsidies to people who are too poor to pay the artificially high prices.  While the USDA does other things, like food safety inspection (I estimate < 5% of budget based upon appropriations), and inexplicably, the US Forestry Service, the majority (as in > 60% of employees) are working towards creating policies to pay farmers not to grow crops on their land, distribute food stamps, set a minimum price on the cost of milk, and the National School Lunch Program.  The problem with these programs, centrally managed, is the calories that are appropriate for a kid in the suburbs are not necessarily appropriate for a kid who helps out on a farm.  A parent, not some bureaucrat in Washington consulting with a nutritionist about the calories required for an average kid, should be who decides what their children should eat.  It shouldn’t be a marketing representative for some beef remnant factory, a pork industry lobbyist, or some vegetarian activist group, either.  Another big problem with subsidy programs is corruption.  My mother’s uncle Edmond was a wildcatter who discovered and developed a large oil field.  He often went hungry as a child and gave money to the local Catholic school in Greenville for free lunches for the kids, so they wouldn’t have to be hungry.  One day, he decided to go check on how the kids were doing at lunch.  He found several adults, including the mayor, who were eating his lunches.  That was the end of Edmond’s free lunch program.  There is also the case of Tino De Angelis (link).  You would think after reading all of this that I would be completely against subsidies and entitlements.  I am not.  For various reasons, food subsidy programs for children make sense, if they are structured properly, don’t encourage parents to outsource parenting, and are not too paternalistic.  The Guardian (the Obama’s favorite English newspaper besides the Sun, no dobut) has an article (source) which shows that in France, the state pays for half, and the rest is paid on a sliding scale.  In Sweden, primary school lunches are paid for all students, and some secondary schools charge parents.  Of course, that would be too sensible, and too difficult to change.  Instead, let’s embrace our communist tendencies and salute tovarich Lenin.  I certainly did.  Image  The author and the great American patriot Vladmir Ulyanov.  

Hard day in the lab in San Jose…

Back before the Apps lab had the important equipment moved out and replaced with IC testers…I used to fly in all the time.   I’ve stayed in just about every hotel in San Jose, and even crashed at friends’ houses, when all hotels from Pleasanton to Gilroy were fully booked,  including the EZ-8 (both locations).  IMG_0484

Building shelves

What dodoes every smartypants do when shown a  shelf set in the Room and Board  catalog  for four thousand dollars?  He thinks he can build it!  How hard could it be, right?  🙂  The thing is, you probably can build it, but it’s a lot harder than you think.   While Room and Board’s  linear cabinets are made of solid wood, I chose to use Baltic birch plywood, and plan to save about $2900, including tool,plywood, veneer, and stain cost, but not including labor.  Solid wood would require a table saw and a lot of woodworking skill.  Since people who know me know I have an attention span only slightly longer than that possessed by the target demographic for ‘Sesame Street’ (more in the ‘Electric Company’ range), a table saw would not be a good fit for me, at least right now.   Since the rule is, do every home improvement project, but always get a new tool, I decided to buy a track saw and a plunge router and tackle this project.  Festool makes good equipment with superior dust collection.  However, after I saw the prices for Festool equipment, I went to my Makita dealer and bought the SP6000K1 track saw on clearance (it has since been discontinued) as well as the RP2301FC plunge router.  The SP6000K1 instruction manual had some interesting stuff in it, including the helpful hint not to hold the saw upside down in a vise.  Good to know!  I have done stupid stuff with tools before but I hope I never do anything that stupid.  Hard as it is to believe it had to happen enough that Makita would write this up in their instruction manual.  A contractor told me that he’s seen guys forgo the vise and just hold the skillsaw upside down,  while somebody pushes a 2×10 into it…


I found you can make really accurate cuts with the tracksaw, and track.  It’s basically a skillsaw with an integral guide track the saw rides upon.  You get good value with the Makita system but there are two problems with the Makita saw: there is no riving knife, and the vacuum port is a terrible design.  The hose port always wants to stick straight down, it isn’t articulated or anything.  Because of its position, this means the hose can get hung up, especially on the track.  When this happens, you have to take one hand off the saw and try to move the hose (not good), or turn the saw off.  If you turn the saw off it will leave a burn mark on the plywood as the saw spins down.  You can’t pull the saw up because it will pull backwards because the hose is hungup and prevents it from moving out of the plunge.  The alternatives are to forgo the vacuum, which will leave a mess, or to position the vacuum hose over your shoulder.  The RP2301FC is a great router except it leaves sawdust everywhere.  I wondered why people would spend the money for Festool, and well, now I know.  Anyway, this is what the shelves look like so far…

Photo1 (2)

Mafia sets up shop in Long Beach

This circular was sent to my house when I was in Germany.  Who on earth take out a loan that starts at 196.96% APR?  Too good to be true?  Don’t worry about that ‘teaser’ low initial interest rate,  it will never exceed 199.99% for the life of the loan.  I’m sure you could get better vig from your local thug down the street.

rip off interest rate

rip off interest rate

Show me the EBT!

Show me the EBT!

Sign on Subway restaurant, Long Beach, 2013