Mixed Post: Solitary Confinement, WD RMA, Tablets, BluRay, APs, etc.

It’s been weeks since I last posted. Silences like these are very much depressing, both for myself and my visitors (I assume). Blogging is like a therapy – it’s a way of letting people know you’re still around, and giving them a window into your thoughts and experiences. In the case of this blog, maybe even technical knowledge. It’s not for everyone, but even away from the keyboard, I’ve seen increasing numbers of views which have been encouraging. It’s very interesting to see that people are interested in these things – and I’m sure the “maker” revolution and “internet of things” movement have had lots to do with this.

My ankle has kept me firmly grounded at home, a sort of “health induced” solitary confinement. Luckily, I’m never bored as I’ve always got something to entertain myself with. Even if that’s just sleep. But unfortunately, early on with the swelling, it wasn’t possible to even sit up at the computer because the swelling would get worse. Instead, I had to rest for extended periods in bed with my leg elevated to quicken recovery.

The elevated leg and lack of movement must have contributed to some muscle atrophy, and my leg began to be accustomed to that rather un-natural position. I have had to slowly walk short distances in the house to avoid over exertion, but muscle spasms have occurred and swelling in the side of the ankle that wasn’t ultrasounded have pushed my recovery back a little.


As an aside, when I was getting ultrasound scanned, I was fascinated by the GE Logiq 7 which had lots of information that I could relate to radar theory – things like frequencies, pulse repetition frequencies, gains and doppler colouring.

It feels a bit like a yo-yo. As I recover a little, and feel a bit better, I make a little more walking which sometimes puts me back into pain the next day. The amount of walking I can do at the moment is roughly to my post box and back. Any more, and I’ll be in pain again.

I still don’t know why this has happened, and I really wish it didn’t. The worst part is not being sure if it will ever fully recover.

Western Digital 2Tb Black RMA

WD 2Tb Black RefurbOne piece of good news is that my Western Digital 2Tb Black RMA process has completed – I received an WD2002FAEX in return for my WD2001FASS. In essence, it’s an “upgrade” from a SATA II to a SATA III interface.

It was packed in an anti-static bag with a dessicant pack inside a foam packed cardboard box. It wasn’t snug, but it was good enough.

The first thing you’ll notice is that the colour scheme of the label is a bit different from retail – the text “Recertified” appears, as well as the letter P after the date of manufacture. The label is also slightly crooked. It’s a refurbished drive.


Now, ordinarily, if things are done correctly, I wouldn’t have much of an issue with a recertified drive. But one really has to question what is done in recertification. From my experiences, I would guess that they perform a full surface zero fill to write all sectors and remap, a full surface read to verify that the remapped sectors are happy, then a G-list to P-list merge which converts the grown bad sectors into “factory” certified bad sectors. Then they will probably reset the SMART attributes, and then print it a new label with a new serial number.

Why would I suspect this to be the case? Why would this not be enough? The reason is simple – some drives have physical defects which cannot be properly remedied in software. In my case, the returned drive functions and all sectors are (at present) accessible, but the throughput in certain areas bogs slightly, and the drive makes a loud “rasping” sound indicating it’s seeking helplessly to try and recover from a seek error. This suggests servo pattern damage. This can really only be repaired with a servo track writer at the least, but if the heads themselves contributed to this, a new drive is really the way to go.

The drive itself, of course, doesn’t believe itself to be in trouble as its recovery mechanism ultimately succeeded. But just because it could recover now doesn’t mean that it will in the future – in fact, it implies a reduced error margin to failure. This might be enough to tie over the remaining warranty period (which is what I’m convinced that their actions are about). Because the drive believes itself to be happy, it’s not an RMA candidate, and I’ll just have to deal with it. Even if given the chance to RMA, the cost is prohibitive – $32.50 each time just isn’t economical compared to the cost of a new drive. It’s ultimately the analogue of “dumping” – where cheap goods are pushed in at a low cost, but the cost of returning it makes it uneconomical.

Aside from that, I still have further criticism for the WD RMA process. After the drive was shipped on their system, no carrier or tracking information was provided. As a result, I was carded by FedEx (I wasn’t expecting the package, but I was at home).

Fedex-Carded Fedex-ATL

Rather nicely written, in purple pen – not often seen. Is this a FedEx thing!?


As far as I can tell, this label should have been removed, but it’s nice to see FedEx has thought of every possibility with their reasons. Interestingly, it appears that these labels have to be manually entered into the system (named Cosmos?).

Android 4.4 Kit Kat, and other “updates”

This week, the big news was the release of the Google Nexus 5 phone. A phone I definitely approve of, even though I don’t own one. It’s amazing how they can offer so much hardware, at a “much better” price – although, honestly, I still find it absurd people pay as much as they do for a smartphone. It’s definitely a worthy contender to all the flagship phones on the market, and to come out with a Nexus name is very unusual (given the Nexus line has mostly been about offering great value). It really puts the OEMs to shame.

Those lucky ducks who have got themselves an early Christmas present should probably unlock the bootloader and possibly root the device to unleash the full potential of their devices. Unlocking the bootloader later will result in the erasure of all stored data, and few easy ways to back-up the existing data.

The good news is that Android 4.4 “Kit Kat” will be coming to many older devices in the coming weeks. I’m still waiting for the official release from Google for my Nexus 7 (2012) – madly tapping on the refresh button for nought.

But first to do that, I had to upgrade to the latest version of 4.3. Unfortunately, as my N7 was rooted, it wouldn’t apply the final 4.3 OTA update, instead complaining of “Error!” After a full re-install using NRT, I’ve managed to get onto the last version of 4.3, ready for 4.4 “the second it’s released”.

Less interestingly, I gave my Blackberry Playbook a run just the other day and I found a new system update. It was 395Mb or so, and it took a whole day to download. It seems that RIM may not have enough money and infrastructure to make ends meet – the company itself is in dire straits after its latest buyer (Fairfax) pulled out and the company is no longer for sale. The CEO left as well with a chunk of money. Who knows where they’ll go – but to their grave is the natural assumption.

BluRay Recovery

I suppose having done some testing on my BluRay recordable discs, their lifetime and stability have been questionable. The good news from my last test was that we may be able to relax our error criterion, as discs remain readable, however, the media could degrade faster than expected and catch us unaware.

As a precaution, but in no way supposed to alarm anyone, I have been slowly reading back all of my written BluRay discs back to hard disk safety. And the great news so far is that not-one in 4Tb of data has been unreadable in any way or required any manual intervention. I still have more discs, but aside from the Riteks, and the TDKs with visible oxidation of the reflective layer (just one), everything else has been great.

Upgrades to Infrastructure

At home, I’ve decided to swap over my old ailing Wireless G router (and another acting as a second AP) for my TP-Link TL-WR740N‘s. I decided to stick to the stock firmware, as it’s likely to be more stable (DD-WRT had a 1-in-16 day wireless crash it seems).

Given that it’s a single stream, single band Wireless N product advertised as 150Mbit/s, savvy users will realize that this is very much a “pie in the sky”. The actual physical layer rate on 2.4Ghz is only going to be 72Mbit/s in N-only mode, as you won’t be able to use 40Mhz “turbo” channels in 2.4Ghz due to AP density (in most cases). Further to that, if you still operate Wireless G cards (as I do), compatibility mode disables 400nS short guard interval, reducing the peak N rate to 65Mbit/s physical layer rate.

Given that the physical layer rate of G is 54Mbit/s, where is the incentive to upgrade to N? I suppose the difference appears small when viewed in this regard, and the incentive is small. The single-stream N products are more of a “G” replacement (as they don’t make them anymore), to target the low end of the market. But remarkably, I find that under G, the real usable throughput amounts to about 20Mbit/s, whereas under this “compatible N” mode, I see about 30Mbit/s to N capable devices. That’s a 50% improvement for the same spectral usage, and probably comes down to better optimized MACs. So the impetus to upgrade can be there – in my case, with two AP’s, I formerly would have had a maximum of 40Mbit/s throughput over two 20Mhz channels, and now I see closer to 60Mbit/s throughput over two 20Mhz channels. It didn’t cost me much, and it takes my “starting to become flakey” Wireless G AP’s (that have served for 7 years+) out of service.

Pennytel Situation

At the moment, we haven’t heard much about what’s happening to the “value” VoIP provider, Pennytel. We are aware that myNetFone has taken over operations and are assessing their ability to continue the service, however, they haven’t said much.

They did send out an e-mail with changes to their terms and conditions which limits their liability to us to the money paid for the service, and simultaneously un-limits our liability to them for damages (which could be a terrible thing should it be proved that the customers have somehow caused harm to the company).

Aside from that, there has been no updates. The service is still operative, and I’ve made a few calls to make the best use of the credit that remains. I suppose that would be the sage advice given the expectation that the “good deals” won’t last.


I know I haven’t posted in a while – and it was high time I did. I’m still alive – I’m still here, although motivation was lacking earlier, my slow road to recovery has allowed me to come back to the computer. I’ve got a heap of topics I’ve always wished to blog about – I don’t think I’ll ever get around to all of them. I promise – more things will be coming, more blank discs in the collection, more old pieces of hardware, more “new things to do”. I just need time.

In the meantime, I’d like to recommend this post by Sparcie – he took apart an old Quantum Prodrive, the only drive I’ve ever taken apart with a hybrid optical servo voice-coil motor system. I’ve taken one apart years before I started blogging and I never took photos of it – but it’s a unique sight nonetheless.

About lui_gough

I'm a bit of a nut for electronics, computing, photography, radio, satellite and other technical hobbies. Click for more about me!
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One Response to Mixed Post: Solitary Confinement, WD RMA, Tablets, BluRay, APs, etc.

  1. sparcie says:

    Glad to hear you’re ok and getting better 🙂 I know the feeling having been cooped up in bed from being sick the past few days. Thanks for linking my post, it’s always nice to get some positive feedback.

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