Browsed by
Author: matt

Art Nouveau Villa Majorelle reopens

Art Nouveau Villa Majorelle reopens

I’m a big fan of the dreamy, ethereal feel of art nouveau. I saw a lot of great works in Prague (especially the grand Municipal House that miraculously survived decades of Soviet occupation) done by Alphonse Mucha and became captivated by the style.

While not one of the grandest examples, the Villa Majorelle is an iconic art nouveau building designed by architect Henri Sauvage for the furniture designer Louis Majorelle. Located in Nancy, France, it was designed around 1902. The historic monument recently underwent exterior renovation. Now the interior renovations have just been completed, and looks like they did a great job.

villa majorelle, the iconic home of art nouveau in nancy, reopens its doors after restoration
villa majorelle, the iconic home of art nouveau in nancy, reopens its doors after restoration
villa majorelle, the iconic home of art nouveau in nancy, reopens its doors after restoration

Understanding SSD form factors and interfaces

Understanding SSD form factors and interfaces

SSD’s have been transformative to the entire storage market. The use of solid state memory instead of spinning platters changed how thin, light, rugged, and power efficient modern laptops are.

However, understanding them well enough to upgrade your system has not been easy. Turns out, there have been not only a bunch of different form factors, but interfaces as well. Most guides I found do a terrible job explaining the differences – and often use form factor and interface types interchangeably in confusing ways.

Lets start our journey in understanding different SSD form factors and interfaces with termenology:

Form factor: The form factor is the physical dimensions for the drive. The form factors tells you if the drive will physically FIT in the system. They tell you nothing about whether the drive will actually WORK with your system – or even plug in.

It is possible to find two drives that have the same form factor, but be based on very different physical or interface technologies. For example: it’s possible to find a 2.5″ hard drive that uses traditional physical platters or solid state memory. It’s also possible to find 2.5″ drives that use the SATA interface or IDE (or many others too).

Interface: The interface of a drive tells you how the drive communicates and transmits data with the rest of the system. The interface is often (but not always) revealed by the type of power/data plugs that the drive has.

It is possible to buy a drive with the right interface for your system, but find out it won’t physically fit in the system. It is also important to know that, just like USB ports, some interfaces have the same physical plugs, but support many different speeds of data transfer. It’s possible to buy a drive with the right interface, but find that it’s nowhere near as fast as the interfaces allows (such as plugging in a USB 1.x device to a USB 3.x port).

Traditional hard drive form factors

These drives look very much like the old platter drives of days gone by. They came in a standardized 5.25″, 3.5″, 2.5″ and 1.8″ drive sizes. This size refers to their form factor – their physical dimensions. You can buy both SSD or older platter sized drives in these same form factors. It’s also often possible to buy display units and usb or flash drive readers in this form factor.

USB 3.0 and audio port kit that mounts in a 3.5″ drive bay

These form factors are legacy from older platter and CDROM drive dimensions; but kept because it made mounting and replacing drives easier for PC manufacturers. Desktop systems often have several 5.25″ drive bays for CDROM/Blu-ray or other optical disk formats (though back in the day, there were even 5.25″ hard drives and 5.25″ floppy drives). 3.5″ and 2.5″ drive bays can be found in desktops and laptops. As laptops shrunk, hard drive sizes did too. 1.8″ drive sizes were the smallest things got before we moved to even smaller formats that didn’t need 4 point physical mountings that spinning drives did.

  • 2.5″ Physical size: 100.5mm x 69.85mm x 9.5mm (height can vary by manufacturer)
  • Connector type: 22-pin standard 2.5” SATA connector

PCI Express Mini/Mini-PCIe/mSATA/MO-300 (full or half size)

This form factor isn’t very common for storage and is something of a halfway step between platter drive form factors and M.2. You’re likely to encounter it in laptops. This form factor comes in two varieties: full size and half size.

Great care must be taken with this form factor. Both mSATA and mini PCIe cards have the exact same form factor AND connector type – but may or may not support both product types.

  • Physical size: 50.8mm x 29.85mm
  • Connector type: 52-pin card edge connector (split into 16-pin & 36-pin sections)

Half slimSATA/SlimSATA (MO-297)

This is a rarer format these days. This form factor comes in half and full sized versions. It can be identified by the fact it uses the standard 22 pin SATA connector.

  • Physical size: 39.8mm x 54mm
  • Connector type: 22-pin standard 2.5” SATA SSD connector

M.2 – Keys and slots

M.2 is the latest, most modern form factor for SSD devices. M.2 was introduce as the Next Generation Form Factor, but I have only seen it referred to as M.2. You can find not only storage in M.2 form factor, but also WiFi, bluetooth, GPS, and other devices. This form factor comes with two important form factor parameters: length and keying.

M.2 SSDs typically come in the three sizes above, which may be deduced from the card name —2242, 2260, and 2280 – “22” represents the width in millimeters (mm), while the next two digits represent the length, also in mm.  It is possible to have a wide variety of widths and lengths – but the above sizes are the most common for storage.

Next up is their “key” type. Believe it or not, there are 12 different kinds of M.2 keying, but the most common for storage are B, M, and B+M.

In this case, you can often determine the interface type by the physical key-ing. B+M (which can fit in socks for B-keyed and M-keyed modules) are usually SATA interfaced. M.2 devices that use the NVMe interface are often only M keyed.

Interfaces

Serial-ATA/SATA

SATA is still probably the most common interface on the market today. You can find it on everything from older platter drives, SSD drives of many form factors, Blu-ray drives, CDROM drives and burners. It was a great replacement for the older IDE interfaces of the 90’s.

SATA has gone through numerous upgrades over the years as speeds have increased. Most modern drives today use SATA 3 – which delivers 600MB/s peak performance. SATA maintains very good backwards compatibility with older versions of SATA. Due to designs, most SATA3 SSD drives get 500-550MB/s. Physical spinning platter drives usually can only get to 100MB/s due to their physical speed limitations (limitations of the read heads/platters – not the interface). So just moving from a platter drive to a SSD version of the same SATA interface can often yield you around a 5x speedup.

The important point about this interfaces is to know that if your device uses the SATA 3 interface, you won’t be getting faster than 6GB/s performance. This can be confusing because some system that use the M.2 form factor supports SATA3 and the much faster NVMe interface.

You might think you are upgrading when you get rid of your 2.5″ form factor SSD drive that has the classic slimline SATA connectors (the ones shown above) for your fancy new M.2 form factor drive, but if that new M.2 drive uses the SATA 3 interface internally, you will be getting pretty much the same drive.

PCIe

PCIe drives are a little more interesting because they’re using the main interface bus of the system as opposed to through a storage protocol like IDE/SATA/NVMe. These devices typically carry additional development costs because they must write their own software/hardware layers to convert PCIe protocol read/writes to solid state memory access.

While PCIe devices have theoretical maximums that are far in excess of other drive interfaces, most typically interface via PCIe 1.x or PCIe 2.x specifications – meaning they have maximum 250-500MB/s rates. Early Intel Optane memory drives used PCIe because that interface was the only ones that could get the to the 2800MB/s range before NVMe.

NVMe

NVMe stands for the Non-Volatile Memory express interface. The Non-Volatile Memory Host Controller Interface Specification (NVMHCIS) is an open logical device specification for accessing non-volatile storage media attached via the PCI Express (PCIe) bus.

Interfaces that were designed during the era of physical platter drives (IDE/SATA/etc) have very different latency profiles and very linear/serial input/output characteristics. These interfaces weren’t designed to exploit the unique performance characteristics of non-volatile memory storage. The NVMe interface was designed to capitalize on the low latency and massive internal parallelism of solid-state storage devices.

By its design, NVMe allows host hardware and software to fully exploit the levels of parallelism possible in modern SSDs. As a result, NVMe reduces I/O overhead and implements performance improvements like multiple long command queues, and reduced latency. 

How fast is NVMe? Well, some drives advertise throughput rates up to 3500MB/s (Samsung 970 Evo Pro) – which is almost 6 times the speed of SATA 3 SSD’s. This makes them around 35 times faster than platter-based hard drives.

Putting it all together

So, now we can put these things all together to help us understand how the different combinations work; and why people often confuse performance when they are not clear about both interface and form factor

Form factorInterfaceSpeed
3.5″/2.5″/1.8″ platter-based hard driveIDE 5MB/s to 133MB/s (ATA100/133)
3.5″/2.5″/1.8″ platter-based hard drive SATA3100MB/s typical
3.5″/2.5″/1.8″ Solid State Memory hard drive SATA1/2/3 150/300/600 MB/s max
M.2 Solid State DriveSATA1/2/3 150/300/600 MB/s max
mSATA (typically SATA1)SATA1/2/3150/300/600 MB/s max
PCIePCIe 1.x, 2.x, 3.x, etc250MB/s, 500MB/s, 1GB/s, etc
M.2 Solid State DriveNVMeUp to 3500+ MB/s

Now it’s more clear why one needs to pay attention to the form factor AND interface. The form factor can give us hints as to what interface is used, but is not a sure-fired way to know the performance characteristics.

You could have a 3.5″ drive that is IDE, or a platter-based SATA3, or even a SATA3 based SSD. Each has almost an order of magnitude performance difference between the previous. A PCIe device might use PCIe 1.x and get 100MB/s or be as fast as an NVMe based M.2 drive if it’s PCIe 3.x. A mSATA/mini PCIe device might give you 150/300/600MB/s if it’s SATA1/2/3, or 250MB/s, 500MB/s, or 1GB/s if it’s PCIe.

One of the more common current difficult ones is reading advertisements that tout M.2 drives. Many do not clearly advertise the internal interface – and you can’t tell by looking at the drive or connection. As we have seen, a M.2 drive that has an internal NVMe interface might make it up to 6x faster than the same one with a SATA interface internally.

Next up:

Now that we understand form factors and interfaces, one can move on to understanding the memory technologies behind SSD drives. There are many different kinds of memory that affect performance just as greatly as interface. Most SSD’s are designed with MLC, TLC, or QLC memory configurations. Even newer is XPoint memory used in Intel’s Optane drives.

Each of these memory technologies has performance characteristics on top of the limitations of their interfaces. Some of technologies lead their drives to become slow once the drive is mostly full, some start slowing when the drive is even half full. Some have longer MTBF reliability while others statistically fail much earlier. In some cases, different controller hardware can do much better or worse jobs with these inherent limitations.

But that might be a talk for another article…

Resources:

Interfaces:

Form factors:

The Origins of the Game of Life

The Origins of the Game of Life

The Game of Life drew me in as a kid with it’s colorful 3D mountains, money, car tokens you could put your kids in, and a big candy-like spinner.

Turns out, the original version was used by Milton Bradley (who himself taught some kindergarten classes) as one of his many learning tools which included: educational puzzles, art tools, and even to teach moral instructional. The original game covered such deep topics as poverty, bravery, honor, truth, disgrace, public service, and even suicide.

It’s a fascinating look back on where we came from; but makes me think: what would such a game look like today?

Winter shelters in Oregon

Winter shelters in Oregon

Gold Lake Shelter with deep snow on roof

I was aware and visited the warming hut at Teacup near Mt Hood on several occasions, but little did I know that the Willamette National Forest has winter shelters maintained by volunteers for use by winter sports enthusiasts. Some of the shelters even permit overnight stays; some are warming shelters only. There are also three winter cabin rentals available by advance reservation. How cool is that?

Fuji Shelter with skiers overlooking hill to snow covered mountains in background
Maiden Peak Shelter with deep snow on roof and skiers along side

List of shelters with information, recent condition, and trail links.

https://www.fs.usda.gov/detailfull/willamette/recreation/wintersports/?cid=stelprdb5109521

Bill Evans

Bill Evans

On of my favorite albums is Kind of Blue. Most people credit Miles Davis with the album’s genius, but the reality is that Bill Evans came up with some of the most iconic phrases in the album – including most of the piano portions (which are some of my favorites honestly).

One of the most obvious is Blue in Green. Give the genius of Bill Evans a listen and see how their amazing talents worked together.

Blue in Green from Kind of Blue (18:03)

Dream jobs to make you leave it all behind – in shrinking villages

Dream jobs to make you leave it all behind – in shrinking villages

Small villages are dying as young people flee to the opportunities of cities has become a problem many European countries. The efforts of these governments to save their villages is starting to create a lot of really interesting opportunities for the adventurous of heart. Check some of these out.

Couple wanted to run Great Basket Island Inn and Coffee Shop

Great Blasket Island Dingle Kerry Ireland

Ireland’s Great Blasket Island, with over 1,100 acres of unspoiled, largely mountainous, terrain, is on the hunt for a couple to run its quaint coffee shop and manage the island’s accommodation for seven months. The job runs from 1st April 2020 – October 2020 with accommodation and food provided. Contact Alice on info@greatblasketisland.net for more information.

The fishing island shrank to about 20 inhabitants, but the government has stepped in and the population is slowly rising. Great Basket is part of a six island archipelago and is only reachable by boat from the surrounding islands.

€1 homes in Italy

Sambuca is a hilltop town on Sicily with views of the Mediterranean. It’s also seen its population decline as people leave for bigger cities. To combat this, houses are being offered for an astounding 1 Euro. The catch? You must commit to refurbishing their 40 to 150 square meter dwelling within 3 years at a cost of at least €15,000 (about $17,200). Update: these offerings became so popular, that the last 16 homes put up were auctioned with the highest going for 25,000 Euros. Only one went for 1 Euro.

This was quickly followed in 2019 by many other announcements. Other dying Italian towns and villages from the northern Alps to Sicily started similar programs. These offerings quickly drew large crowds, reporters, overwhelmed local mayors, and surprised locals.

As of late 2019, Bivona, Gangi, Ollalai, Cammarata, Zungoli, Sambuca, Nulvi, Cantiano, Fabbriche di Vergemoli, Mussomeli had similar programs. Each of these cities has different offerings, rules, and opportunities. Some allow you to reclaim 60% of refurbishment costs in under-developed areas. Others require you commit to having at least 1 child.

Locana had one of the most amazing deals – not only sells you a house for 1 Euro, but was offering $10,000 to move there, and $1000 per child born there by a couple. Nearby Borgomezzavalle is selling abandoned mountain cottages for €1 and offering €1,000 for each newborn and another €2,000 to anyone willing to start a business and register for VAT.

How has it gone for those that did it?

CNN caught up with 4 different buyers and interviewed them. Their responses – positive experiences all around. Most are looking at these properties as vacation homes or retirement locations for later life. They’re all definitely putting a good bit of money into the properties, but the notorious Italian bureaucracy hasn’t been as bad as many expected.

New Deathtrap Dungeon FMV game?

New Deathtrap Dungeon FMV game?

It’s no secret that I love the old Fighting Fantasy adventure gaming books. It’s a series that had the perfect mix of choose-your-own-adventure and D&D stories. It was something I discovered around 10 years old – and now have collected almost every book in the original series.

One of the best of the series was Deathtrap Dungeon. Turns out, Eddie Marsan is narrating a new FMV version of the original Deathtrap Dungeon book. Wireframe has a writeup on the new effort, and a short clip gives a teaser:

In reading that article, I found out about something equally cool. Knightmare was a British children’s adventure game show that ran on from 1987-1994. A team of four children – one who takes on the game by donning a sight-blocking helmet and the other three acting as their guide and advisers – attempting to complete a quest within a fantasy medieval environment, traversing a large dungeon and using their wits to overcome puzzles, obstacles and the unusual characters they meet along the journey.

The show is most notable for its use of blue screen chroma key to put the child into the dunngeon, use of ‘virtual reality’ interactive gameplay on television, and the high level of difficulty faced by every team.

I had no idea this show existed. I would have loved to watch it as a kid.

Retro game pricing

Retro game pricing

I went to the annual Portland Retro Game Swap Meet (sponsored by SideQuest Games – a newer game shop that seems to land shockingly amazing and rare gaming gear on a regular basis – see the link) and picked up a few small things. I’m mostly interested in old PC stuff, so I’m not the direct target audience.

However, I did find folks referring to the following resources when valuing their games.

PriceCharting.com

This site gives current and historical prices for almost every video game on every platform. They track and price loose, complete, new condition games. Fascinating site to see what’s hot, and what’s not.

Watagames

WATA is one of the professional game grading services. You send your game and they pay for them to grade them. Prices range from $35 for a basic grading to well over $200 for rapid grading.

So you want to be a game developer

So you want to be a game developer

Great GDC 2019 talk by Richard Vogel who discusses his observations of what it’s like working in the games industry for over 20 years and the most important soft skills needed for success. Kudos to him for just giving facts about actual conditions and staying away from the modern desire to editorialize it.

This is a great no-nonsense talk by a guy that’s been in the trenches. As someone that worked developer relations with game companies – what he says is really true. The summary:

  1. Realities of job instability/layoffs, rapid and constant change, stress, little onboarding, training, mentoring, or career counseling. The reality is this is rough industry that chews people up if not careful.
  2. Hierarchies of perceived job role importance (programmers, artist, QA, etc)
  3. Identifying and matching cultural fit with your employer – indie or not. Top down/bottom up management, tech or design focused, etc
  4. Emotional awareness as most important key to your success
    1. Self awareness and ownership of your personal/emotional state.
    1. Self-management of your time/productivity.
    2. Social awareness of your environment.
    3. Relationship management – between coworkers, bosses, etc. Ability to work in groups and positive collaboration.
    4. People who rise are those that master both technical and soft skills.
  5. Dangers of Egos
    1. Humility is a skill. You can learn ego control. If you do not, egos will destroy you, others, and lead to poor decisions.
    2. Not to be confused with confidence. You must be confident to secure funding/etc. Body language too. Nobody will give work/$ to those with no confidence/body language/acting timid.
  6. Communication
    1. Listen, hear, and understand. Communication is NOT a huge thesis or manifesto. Learn how to summarize and be concise.
    2. Learn the soft skills of how to deal with rational vs emotional people. Introverts vs extroverts. etc.
    3. Learn how to address others in the right forum: public/private, etc.
  7. Stress/conflict management
    1. Dealing with super-heated conflicts. Do not respond by email. Take a break before you respond. Go for a walk first. Say you need to take a moment if it’s too much to respond.
    2. Use prayer, yoga, exercise to manage stress.
    3. Look where you are going, not back. Try to leave past hurts in the past.
    4. Focus on where you want to go, not looking back.