Tag Archives: life

Rumors of its death have been greatly exaggerated.

Surprise!

Yes, it cost me an arm an a leg. Yes, it is more than “just repaired”. At this point, I decided it should be restored to its former glory. It’s an actual full repaint, and I let repair pretty anything that came to light. The hatchback was also replaced so that the spoiler could be done away with. As such the car is back in it’s original state. All rust it had is gone.

The work was done by Carrosserie De Cock. They did outstanding work, including telling me where the Audi dealership did sloppy repairs on the bodywork. I don’t think I’ll ever go to my dealership again for bodywork.

The attention to detail is astounding, and I was so surprised to find they even made sure I had a new emergency triangle (which was destroyed when I deployed it on the scene of the accident).

Now I first need to get it through technical inspection again, as it expired last week. Then, I’ll have to get it appreciated by the insurance and in the long run, I’ll get the interior and the rims redone. The boss from Carrosserie De Cock told me he would have loved to redo the rims, but he had already exceeded the budget.

For now it’s back in my garage and awaits new adventures in its well deserved retirement.

Digital degradation

https://xkcd.com/1683/ “If you can read this, congratulations—the archive you’re using still knows about the mouseover text”!

It’s been a while, but I’ve been confronted once again with “digital degradation”. Of course, I’m not the first one to notice these things as the above classic XKCD shows.

What exactly happened? Well, about two weeks ago, a family event happened on which pictures were taken. Digital of course, and with actual cameras. So, we know, these pictures were of a certain resolution and quality when they started off. The pictures I made with my Fujifim X-T20 were obviously copied from the SD card and then uploaded to my server, which has a nightly backup.

However, someone else also made pictures with a point and shoot camera. With events like this, you’re happy with every picture you get so you can select the best. Well, my mom was compiling all pictures in Shotwell and told me the USB stick she received with the pictures wouldn’t automatically import. I didn’t know, but if you don’t mimic the DCIM folder structure, the USB stick is just regarded as data, which complicated things for my mom.

So, she asks me to check it out and I immediately see something I don’t like: All filenames have the word “WhatsApp” in the file name. I look at the resolution and they are indeed all just 1024×768. I presume WhatsApp (just like Facebook and many other platforms) modified the pictures to make them small and reduce data usage.

My mom already looked at the pictures and had noticed nothing. Of course not, a 1024×768 picture looks just fine on a 1920×1080 screen, and I’m pretty sure the person who saved them from WhatsApp, also didn’t notice: After all it looks just fine on most cellphones.

Now, I told mom that these pictures were next to useless and showed her why, by example. My mom really “gets” these things quite easily.

Stand back a bit of how this happened: Someone made pictures with a decent point and shoot. They, somehow, copied these pictures to their cellphone (probably over Google Photos – which already adds data loss), then sent it over WhatsApp to someone else, who saved it from their cellphone to a PC to copy it on a USB stick to give it to my mom. Resulting in an extreme data degradation, to the point the pictures are -at best- useful to be looked at on a computer screen.
All of this, while the users did not notice anything because we tend to use relatively low-resolution computer screens…

It all boils down to the fact that users know how to transfer data, but they don’t think a second about how this data is modified in transit. They don’t even realize it’s modified.

I have no real solution. Personally, I would say that education is the only way and we need to tell people to check the data during transit. I would say that, at a bare minimum, everyone should know about resolution and lossy vs lossless compression. I know, from other scenarios at work, that is even too much to ask for. This is just going to get worse. As a matter of fact, if you don’t want to lose pictures, make a physical copy.

Two decades of TT

Today, exactly 20 years ago, I received the keys of my new Audi TT. It was the first and still is the only new car, I’ve ever owned. Now obviously, I don’t know exactly when it was built. I know it had been in the dealerships showroom for a few months, probably Autumn 1999. Regardless, the age of a car legally starts at the first registration, which was 7 February 2000.

Model badge on my Audi TT

Now, of course, finding someone who has a car that is two decades old isn’t exactly hard. Finding someone who has a twenty year old car and is the first owner, that is quite a bit harder. I haven’t reached 400000km yet, but I expect to reach that somewhere this year.
This is consistent with about 20000km/year: I had no driving license of about 5 months, and used the car less when I drove my wife’s Mini for a few months. That easily explains the “missing” 10000km.

I’d like to put the age of this car a bit into a personal context. In those two decades:

  • I left my parents to live alone in my apartment.
  • I met and married my better half.
  • I stopped drinking
  • We built a house together.
  • We had a son.
  • I had five different employers, and with all of them I had this car.
  • It served as a wedding car on two weddings, one being my own. (Protip: Don’t. Hooped dresses don’t mix at all with this type of car)
  • I lost all my hair. I’m pretty sure, I still had some when I bought it .

At the beginning of the year 2000, when I bough this car:

  • We all just survived the Y2k bug.
  • The twin towers still stood in New York.
  • We made jokes about cigars, blue dresses, and blow jobs in the white house.
  • The Euro hadn’t been introduced yet. I paid this car in LUF (Luxembourgish Francs). The official exchange rate to the Euro has already been set though.
  • The dotcom bubble was about to burst.
  • Digital photography was slowly taking hold of the market.
  • Apple hadn’t released Mac OS X yet.
  • … and Microsoft hadn’t even released Windows 2000.
  • The Playstation 2 wasn’t released yet.

Or perhaps you want to see how the world changed in those two decades:

  • Thirteen countries joined the European Union.
  • One left…
  • The United States had a black president.
  • A tsunami caused another nuclear disaster in Japan.
  • The middle east became even more of a mess than it already was, resulting in an uprise of terrorism across the world.
  • The Internet became ubiquitous.
  • Smartphones became a thing, mainly with the release of the iPhone.
  • The Concorde crashed and the only supersonic passenger plane was subsequently retired.
  • The Space Shuttle “Columbia” exploded.
  • The Space Shuttles were retired (but unrelated to the aforementioned disaster)
  • Three Mars rovers were landed and drove around on the red planet.
  • Thousands of exoplanets were discovered.
  • Someone sent an electric car to space, because he could.
  • The large hadron collider was turned on an we didn’t all die in an artificial black hole.
Two decades later, including the traces of time… and bird shit.

Want to have a numeric perspective? Here you go:

Numbers, numbers everywhere!
  • At 390000km, the car could theoretically have driven to the moon and about 3,5 laps around its equator.
  • Average speed over it’s whole lifetime, is a whopping 2,2km/h.
  • At an average of 9litres/100km, it burned 35100 litres of gasoline. This is about the volume of a 1C-series freight container. That’s the type of container you could transport a car in.
  • These 35100 litres of gasoline produced about 81 tonnes of CO2. That’s about the mass of sixteen African elephant bulls.
  • At today’s price of 1.288€/l for 98 oct gasoline, this would cost me 45k€, which is more than the car cost me two decades ago.
  • The average Luxembourger would have owned three cars, and would be thinking of buying the next one. (Average age of a passenger car in Luxembourg is 5,55 years)
  • I’ve had this car for 79% of the time that I had my driving license.
  • If it were a human, it still wouldn’t be allowed to drink in the United States.

Now, obviously this car has its quirks. There are quite a few things I’d like to repair, but well one has to balance annoyance vs expenses:

  • It really starts badly when the tank is filled below 1/2. I’m not sure what exactly causes it. It seems as if not enough fuel makes it to the engine. Cranking and flooring it often gets it started, until the tank is filled below 1/4, then the flooring doesn’t do anything any more. However, on the second try it invariably always starts. It might just be a relay that primes the fuel pump before starting. This really is one of the things I’d like to fix. I mean, in a zombie apocalypse, this is a deal-breaker.
  • The other major issue is, that it does consume about 1l of oil for ever 700km (I do about 700km with a full tank of gasoline and I check the oil at each fill up). I presume, that to fix this, the engine needs to be rebuilt. There is no oil leakage, so it must be burned. Occasional blue smoke confirms that.
  • The driver side Xeon light sometimes goes out after about 1 minute of driving on a cold start. You see it flicker a few times before it does that. Turn it off and on again, and it usually works for the rest of the trip. It’s probably a defective “Vorladegerät”, but alas for my car that’s integrated into the headlights. So, I’d have to replace the full part which goes for 1200€. I can live with the annoyance.
  • There is a decade old dent on the driver side front wheel arch.
  • There is rust, on the underside of the booth where the lighting for the license plate is. I suspect this is caused due to the added spoiler in the recall. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have gotten the spoiler.
  • There is rust hole on the driver side sill. I do have an appointment to get that fixed in two weeks.
  • The heating really doesn’t heat well any more. I probably should have the thermal exchanger cleaned.
  • There is a tear in the leather on the driver seat. You don’t see it and it doesn’t get much larger because it is exactly next to a seam.
Radio cover of my Audi TT.

So, let’s try to keep it a little longer. After all it has been my, mostly reliable, day to day car for two decades.

The ultimate goal would be to get it registered as a classic car. Whether I’ll succeed in that is still unclear: I’ll have to wait quite a bit longer than expected to get it qualified as a classic car: They increased the required age from 25 years to 30 years.

Let’s raise our glasses to, hopefully, at least another decade of TT.

WordPress back up!

Exactly two years ago, a lightning strike destroyed my ADSL Converter. I had to emergency switch to my FritzBox and it has remained like that ever since. I decided to clean up the rack and re-cable it. I removed everything, and well, suddenly the little one was there and everything lay just there for ages.

I think about a year ago, I modified my Cisco SG300-28P with more silent Noctua fans, and while that was successful, it really is something I’m not going to do ever again. Besides, turns out it’s mostly the house ventilation that makes the most noise.

Recently I did a minimum of re-cabling, and cleaned the rack up and now I could get back to running my servers again. I’m not there yet, but I used my Shuttle NC02U to get at least my WordPress site up and running with the data I exported from the Dell R210 II. Eventually, everything will be moved back to a virtual machine on the Dell, but for now this will do.

I fought some Latin1 to UTF8 conversion issues with that WordPress export, and decided to delete a few older articles that I didn’t think were worth keeping. I do find that I have a tendency to make articles way too long. I should impose a word limit on myself.

Is it worth running a WordPress in a Facebook and Twitter dominated world? Yes, I think so. It’s probably not for everyone, but at least it gives me back some control over my data.