The Caffeinated Penguin

musings of a crackpot hacker

And another Kickstarter…

| March 11, 2016

Cubetto, a programming robot for children 3 and up The language is simple, think “flowchart decision blocks”, because it teaches logic, not a language.

The end of an era

| February 17, 2016

So, this weekend, the boys and I decommissioned my last remaining Linux desktop. It hasn’t been powered on for about the past three months. Now, I still have a few low-powered “kiosk” machines – like the one I use to control the 3D printer, but those don’t really count because I only use them for a specific purpose and they’re off most of the time.

Anyway, the history of that machine (or, at least, the big blue case) dates back to June of 2003, when I built a Dual CPU Athlon system (note – not dual-core. This is 2 separate CPUs, so 2 separate sockets. This is what multiprocessing used to look like, folks.) I used that machine largely as it was for 5 years, though I think I might have upgraded the video card and RAM along the way. I think at the end it had 1.5GB RAM and some variety of ATI (now AMD) AGP video card. I know I replaced the heat sinks at some point as well, because one of the original fans failed, so I replaced both while I was in there.

In June of 2008, I rebuilt the box into a Core 2 Quad CPU with 8GB of RAM and a Radeon X850 with 256MB RAM and a 4 bay hot swap cage with 4 1TB drives (in 2 RAID 1 mirrors, so 2 TB of usable space). In the fall of 2010, I upgraded the video card, replacing it with a Radeon 4870 w/ 512MB RAM, because Steam was starting to sell Linux games, and the ATI/AMD drivers now supported the Radeon HD series, so it was worth the upgrade. In July of 2012, I pulled the RAID cage out because we built up a SOHO server with 4 3TB HDDs (in 2 RAID 1 mirrors, so 6TB of usable space) and used it there. Since my desktop was no longer the whole house storage / DLNA server, it lost 2 drives for just a mirrored 1TB RAID 1 configuration. Somewhere in 2013, I upgraded the video card again to a Radeon HD 6870 with 1GB RAM for the same reason as before – more, newer games on Steam. It sat like this, being used for games and remoting into work for the next 3 years.

Now, in parallel to this, for my birthday in 2011, my brother gave me a mid-spec box (which we’ll call the “black box”) explicitly intended to run Windows so he and I could play some of the Battlefield games together over the internet, which we did for a couple of years until kids and such got in the way of that. In the following couple of month I maxed out that box with an AMD Phenom II X4 940, 8GB RAM, and a Radeon HD 6870. (For those paying attention, I liked the card so much in this box that I bought one for the Linux box too). That box came with XP, I installed Windows 7 on it, and then upgraded it to W10, and upgraded it from a 500GB HDD to a 1TB HDD somewhere along the way, mainly because I ended up with 2 surplus 1TB drives after I pulled them from the blue box. And that box sat that way, used to play games that only ran under Windows, until this weekend.

This weekend I took the blue box, put both Radeon HD 6870’s in it, configured them for Crossfire, then proceeded to do a fresh install of Windows 10 on to the blue box, because that box had RAID hardware in it. (As it turns out, the black box did to, but I didn’t know this at the time. Still, I like the blue case better, and the machines are otherwise very similar, so which box got kept came down to the case that the board and CPU happened to be in). After testing that for a bit, and coming to realize that these cards, while still officially supported, are effectively legacy so not all features (like, say, Crossfire) work under Windows 10 with all the games I tested them with (Fallout 4, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II, and L.A. Noire), I pulled out the second card because it wasn’t doing much good. Finally, I realized that Fallout 4 requires a video card with 2GB of RAM, not the 1GB of RAM that I had, so I needed a new video card.

What do to? Well, I had a perfectly good quad core box with 8GB of RAM, and a Radeon HD 6870 w/ 1GB RAM. So I sold it to a guy at work, and used the proceeds to (mostly) fund the acquisition of an ASUS STRIX R9 390 w/ 8GB RAM. The 750W PC Power and Cooling PSU can run it, so we should be good. It came in and I installed it yesterday. It is enormous and barely fits:


I had to remove the lower hard drive bracket (empty except for the fan it was holding) in order to get clearance, and, even then, the GPU heatsink is about 5mm away from the remaining metal bracket.

But, it fits, it’s quiet, and it ran Fallout 4 for 2 hours last night with no crashes.

Still, I’m somewhat saddened by the departure of the Linux desktop, but it does free up some space in my small office. The only thing constant is change, I suppose.

Peep peep peep!

| June 11, 2013

(You’ll have to make the sounds yourself, because apparently all my technology is old. My point and shoot camera doesn’t do audio with its video, I don’t have a smartphone, and my tablet’s camera sucks. I could steal Liz’s camcorder, but then I’d have to pull the stuff off it via firewire, but new laptop doesn’t have that – only USB 3.0 – for firewire, I’d need to use my desktop (because it has a firewire add on card).

But, anyway.. PEEPS!

So, it’s been a few months

| June 6, 2013

It looks like September was my last blog post.

The problem with trying to keep up with blogging about things is that it proves difficult when one is actually doing things.

Firstly, I want to apologize for flooding various folks’ LJ friends page with an “all Matt, all the time” session. When I set up my new blog software, I imported my LJ posts with generic categories. In fits and spurts, I’ve been going through and recategorizing them. However, I still have something like 500 old posts to go through and fix up. Apparently, however, when I do that, it causes them to be ordered by modification date, not original posting date, in some peoples feeds. In the future, when I make those changes, I won’t go changing the LJ side of things, just the wordpress side.

In other news, after getting fed up with my venerable WRT54G routers running out of RAM and periodically rebooting, I bought A TP-Link WDR4300, selected because of its large amount of RAM and the fact that it runs OpenmWrt.

Finally, in case anyone ever doubted that my paranoia and predilection towards cryptofetishism was justified, they are watching. Not that this is new, of course – Carnivore, anyone?

Anyway, I will endeavor to publish more frequently – I’ve just been busy living life and all that jazz. Perhaps I shall install the WordPress app on my tablet, and that will make life easier.

I think there is a cat in the ceiling…

| August 28, 2011

As a result of the hurricane, at least one of the cats has decided to seek refuge in the hung ceiling of the basement.

The wind is blowing, but as of right now there is nothing tremendously interesting going on – just rain and wind and we still have power. It’s flickered a bit, but is otherwise stable.

The garden has been going well so far. The pea crop was bad – largely my fault, as I underplanted. Plus, that batch of seed seemed to have a pretty poor germination.

The rest of it has been fine – squash and corn were fine, the pumpkins are looking good, as are the onions and potatoes.

Beer is good, carboys are full, and phase 2 of the beer system is complete (phase 1 was 4 kegs with ability to tap 1. Phase 2 was 4 more kegs, with the ability to tap 4. Phase 3 is bringing the taps out of the refrigerator so that they’re proper bar taps).

We’ve decided to keep chickens, starting next year. has a pile of interesting breeds. Liz found a fairly over the top chicken coop, which we’ll be hiring our neighbor to build. He builds houses, and this coop is more “small house” than “shed” or “coop”. That and the economy is pretty down, so he’s available, and building it ourselves will end up taking a couple of months of weekends.

I also picked up a new video card to add to the computer my brother gave me for my birthday. Right now, we’re playing a lot of Battlefield: Bad Company 2, and I’m planning on gearing up for Battlefield 3. This requires an upgrade to Windows 7, which I’, not particularly looking forward to, as I fear it will break a good portion of my existing games. My brother, for example, claims that he’s not been able to get Mechwarrior 4 to work.

I think that I’m going to preemptively partition the drive to multi-boot, likely using xosl as the boot loader. That way I can still play games on XP (even after it goes unsupported) if need be. The working theory is that XP will be a fallback if I can’t get it to work in Windows 7.

Anyway, pictures behind the cut. ASUS card with ATI Radeon 6870 w/ 1GB of RAM. It’s a little absurd.


I should probably mention… and computers..

| December 26, 2010

That I’m going through old emails, catching up on my reading. A lot of it includes “things about which I should blog”, so expect to see a bunch.

Growing up, I had a Tandy 1000TX. It was a good machine, in many ways a lot better than the actual IBM machines – the video had more colors than just the 4 color CGA, while being backwards compatible with it. It had dedicated joystick ports (these were round, and looked like the keyboard ports of the time, as opposed to the later 15 pin trapezoidal joystick connectors), and a much better sound chip. I was surprised, however, to learn later that they were clones of the IBM PCjr. I actually acquired one of these some years later, as part of a drop off of a pile of equipment, but it was missing all the peripherals which went with it, so I scrapped it.

Still, an interesting piece of history.

Why does…

| October 6, 2010

My new video card have a sticker with a large-breasted narrow waisted computer generated woman on it? Are these the only chicks gaming wankers get? Further, it’s not like you see it – it’s inside the computer!

Updated Fishies

| April 28, 2010

More pics.

  • Woz now has live plants
  • Heater cables are now routed so the case fits correctly.
Finished Aquarium - Front

Finished Aquarium - Front

Finished Aquarium - Side

Finished Aquarium - Side




| April 20, 2010

So, the iMacQuarium is done, and now has an inhabitant – Woz the fish.

Lizzy finishing up the iMacQuarium

Lizzy finishing up the iMacQuarium

All set up

All set up

It's Woz!

It's Woz!

We’ve since added a heater and a bit of terrain. I’ll take pictures once we route the wires correctly for it. However, in order to do so, we need to empty out most of the water, and we don’t want to disturb Woz quite yet. He got a little cold a couple of nights ago, and we want to give him a few weeks of nice warm temperatures before we go rearranging his world.

This was a kit from Jake Harms. The instructions were very detailed, but the process does take some time. Of course, he has ready-made ones already built, so if you don’t want to spend the time, it might be worth ordering one.

Hard disks… of DOOM

| December 18, 2009

Well, I won’t be buying any Western Digital drives again anytime soon.

After many years of exclusively buying Seagate drives, I convinced myself that all current hard disk manufacturers are basically of the same quality. Therefore, I should be shopping on specs and price, not brand.

As such, I bought a 1TB Western Digital drive.

It didn’t last a week. It didn’t even get into service. I ran badblocks on it, and it didn’t even make it through that before the servo blew and it couldn’t move the heads anymore.

I looked up their RMA support, found that they had a “ship me a replacement and we’ll hold your credit card until we get yours back”.

Fine and dandy.

Fill out the forms, get the drive, package mine up… no shipping label. WTF?

Contact their RMA service – apparently I’m on the hook for the shipping back to them.

So, Western Digital’s customer service sucks, and I won’t be buying from them anymore.

(Note that I can’t comment on Seagate’s customer service, because all of the drives of theirs which I’ve had have at least lasted until the warranty period expired).