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Month: December 2021

Writing your own OS and running in a VM

Writing your own OS and running in a VM

JDH sits down and writes his own OS from scratch – and it runs in a VM on modern x86 hardware. But what should his OS do? How about play Tetris. With graphics, keyboard input, and even Soundblaster sound. He writes everything from scratch to handle all of this. As someone that grew up with 8086 assembly and programming old DOS based TSR programs, this was a blast from the past and definitely worth a watch.

A whole game in a QR code and Crinkler – a demoscene compressor

A whole game in a QR code and Crinkler – a demoscene compressor

MattKC asked himself if he could put a whole game into a QR code. He actually succeeds at it, but with some fascinating turns along the way which include changing linker settings and creating a window in assembly.

One of his other adventures is compressing the executable using an old demoscene tool: Crinkler. Crinkler is not your normal RAR, ZIP, or other self-extracting executable compressors. Crinkler replaces the linker used to generate the executable by a combined linker and compressor. The result is an EXE file which does not do any kind of dropping and decompresses into memory like a traditional executable file compressor.

It also uses context modelling, which produces a far superior compression ratio than most other compressors. The disadvantage of context modelling is that it is extremely slow and needs quite a lot of memory for decompression, but this is not usually a problem with 4k demos.

Give his adventure a watch below. Also

Halo Edition lighting

Halo Edition lighting

Lighting effects have come a long way – especially with new color LED setups. Enter Halo lights by Mandalaki. They can create a variety of really interesting lighting effects.

However, at an astronomical $1000+ for one of these lights, one has to wonder if you could do a lot better on a good projector. Still, it’s interesting to see what design houses are coming up with – once you get past the somewhat insufferable product claims.

Prices to live in Tokyo

Prices to live in Tokyo

It’s always valuable to look before you leap. After taking several trips to Japan, I really loved it and was curious what it might be like to move there.

GoinGlobal had a solid breakdown of the cost of living in Tokyo that I found pretty accurate based on my travels.

A frugal single person might live in Tokyo on about $1,103 USD a month (excluding rent); and a family of four can get by on about $3,984 USD a month (excluding rent), according to Numbeo. However, living costs vary a good deal, depending on lifestyle and accommodations.

Housing is very interesting.

For renting, you can spend anywhere from $1700 per month for a furnished 480 sq ft apartment in an average cost surrounding area in west Tokyo, up to a astronomical $4000 per month for a 900 sq ft furnished apartment in one of the Tokyo wards. As a foreigner, you will almost certainly need a guarantor who is financially liable in case a renter fails to pay rent or make necessary repairs. Even more shocking, renting an apartment also involves a number of fees – fees that can cost the equivalent of five to six months’ rent or more. As an alternative, there is shared housing setups where you can share common spaces. In shared housing, you can renting a simple guest room for $400/mo.

As for buying a place, as a foreigner, it is pretty much off the table until Japan is listed as your official residency and you have at least 2 years of employment with your firm. If you’re curious, prices can range from $7800 per square foot in the western suburbs of Tokyo, up to a jaw dropping $11,000 per square foot in the main wards.

Mind boggling.

Open office spaces causing the great resignation?

Open office spaces causing the great resignation?

Fast Company decided to test the idea that open office spaces are better than cubicals or offices. So they did a scientific controlled study on noise aspects and published the results in the Cambridge Press.

The results? There is a significant causal relationship between open-plan office noise and physiological stress. Compared to quieter private offices, even after a short exposure of 8 minutes, they found a causal relationship between open-plan office noise and both stress and negative mood. Negative mood increased by 25% and sweat response by 34%. While there was no immediate effect on reduced work performance, it is reasonable to assume such hidden stress over the longer term is detrimental to well-being and productivity.

Chronically elevated levels of physiological stress are known to be detrimental to mental and physical health. Frequently being in a negative mood is also likely to harm job satisfaction and commitment. It potentially increases the likelihood of employees leaving.

Is it a surprise then that surveys show up to 70% of employees will seek new jobs if their employer does not offer flexibility to work from home some of the time?

Combine this with the fact that workers have demonstrated they are usually MORE productive working at home, and one should really start to question what has made us so unhappy at the office – even when 70% of people supposedly have these ‘better’ open office workspaces.

It might not matter anyway – because COVID issues that will likely linger for years may be the final straw that kills open offices, since open office spaces provably spread illness at much higher rates than cubicles and offices.

Lenovo Yoga 730-13IKB Keyboard Replacement

Lenovo Yoga 730-13IKB Keyboard Replacement

Something I wish I knew before picking the Lenovo 730-13IKB in a super-sale open box deal. The Yoga 730-13IKB has 2 really common, and pretty unforgiveable, problems. One is display flickering issues and keyboards that have keys that are randomly flaky. I got the display fixed while it was under warranty (after trying re-seating of the display cable through the hinge and only getting a little improvement), but it went out of warranty when I started having keyboard issues. I would often have the A,S,D keys stop working, but it wasn’t always consistent and was sometimes different keys. One solution that helped was to pull the bottom off, clean the contacts, and re-seat the keyboard connection. That, however, only worked for a little while until it started again.

Time to replace the keyboard with a new one – fortunately it was only $29 in 2021. As for how to do it, It’s Binh Repaired & Reviewed gives a great disassembly demonstration. The most annoying part is the removal of the black plastic wrap over the keyboard. I actually tore the backlight layer – but since my replacement kit had a new one I just tossed the old one. Once you’ve done that, it seems to go pretty well.

Now it appears to work perfectly, hopefully it will continue to do so.

Update 2022: I gave up. The first keyboard worked ok for a few months, then started loosing different keys. I replaced it with another one, and after a few months that one too started having failed keys. I would recommend buying a full price OEM one if you must try this. But I ended up buying a new laptop instead of dropping $100 on a replacement keyboard. I just put it towards $500 for buying a nice lenovo laptop that works as I need it.

ASUS Maximus Z690 Hero failures

ASUS Maximus Z690 Hero failures

UPDATE: ASUS has issued a recall. You can check the capacitor, or check the serial and part numbers. See the bottom of this article.

I recently bought an ASUS Maximus Z690 Hero for my new i9-12900K build. In the last few weeks since release, some people are reporting their ASUS Z690 motherboards are burning up and quit working. Fortunately for me, I have been unable to find DDR5 memory, so my board is still sitting in the box – which is fortunate because it appears the board I got his this very issue.

What is the issue? Reporters say the system runs for some time, then there is often an audible pop and the system hangs. People report smelling smoke and even seeing the upper corner of the board glowing. After powering down, there is damage to the upper corner of the board by the digital readout. Powering on the board throws code 53 and never reboots.

As more reports came in, they seemed to focus on these two 4C10B MOSFET components getting fried.

Buildzoid started looking at these reports and noticed something strange. The boards that are blowing up have a capacitor that appears to be backwards. These polymer-aluminum polarized capacitors have defined positive and negative electrodes. According to the specs on these types of capacitors, if you reverse the polarity accidently (i.e. if you put them in backwards) then leakage current will increase and ‘the life span may decrease’. This would explain why they might work for a short time, but then burn out.

Here’s a picture of a burned up board with the backwards capacitor. You can see the polarity stripe on the left. All the boards that appear ok have the positive stripe on the right.

There is no official word from ASUS on this yet, but a big reddit thread has basically concluded that this is the issue and discourage anyone from using these boards immediately. If they happen to blow when you are away, the system does not always power down and could present a real fire hazard as people have reported the components becoming glowing hot by the time they can even shut the system down.

Give buildzoid’s whole video a watch:

also JayTwoCents.

12/29/2021 Update: Here’s the recall information from ASUS

We have recently received incident reports regarding the ROG Maximus Z690 Hero motherboard. In our ongoing investigation, we have preliminarily identified a potential reversed memory capacitor issue in the production process from one of the production lines that may cause debug error code 53, no post, or motherboard components damage. The issue potentially affects units manufactured in 2021 with the part number 90MB18E0-MVAAY0 and serial number starting with MA, MB, or MC.

eSports Medicine

eSports Medicine

Did you know competitive gaming is now a $1.5 billion industry (the NHL is a $2-3 billion industry)? Did you know that 50% of competitive college eSports players have persistent back pain? Did you know that nobody has academically studied the long-term use of game controllers on wrist and hand issues?

Enter the new science of esports medicine. Growing numbers of physicians and physiatrists are starting to study this field. Enter new medicine programs like the New York Institute of Technology’s esports medicine program, Cleveland Clinic, GamerDoc, and others. They are starting to study, publish, and work with the unique injuries and problems that competitive gamers encounter.

Data revealed that the players’ trained an average of 5 to 10 hours per day with many reporting physical injury. Common physical complaints included eye fatigue (56%), neck and back pain (42%), wrist pain (36%) and hand pain (32%). Only about 2% of them sought medical attention.

This is an interesting field of study – because gamers are basically the accelerated version of your average office worker. Studies on competitive gamers seem (at least to my eyes) to have the same kind of injuries that long-time office workers and programmers like myself experience. Perhaps studies on these players can reveal some improvements for all computer users.

Some of the tricks I have learned over time, though I only have anecdotal evidence. I started having some wrist discomfort when I was using the exact same mouse at work and home. I loved the mouse, but I realized I was now using the same hand hold not for 8 hours a day, but 12-15 hours. I swapped mice on my work computer, attended to hourly stretches, and the problem went away. 15 years later, and still don’t have a problem. It’s harder to have a repetitive injury if you’re not repeating the exact same motions by using very different input devices.

  • Use completely different makes, models, and styles of keyboards and mice on all your systems. Example: I have a lighter touch Steelcase keyboard and simple and large 2 button wheel mouse for my work computer. I use a Corsair gaming keyboard and 7 button Logitech gaming mouse for my home pc. Each laptop has one of those low profile keyboards and a wireless portable Logitech mouse. They are as different as I can make them in spacing, pressure, hand size, etc.
  • When working, stop every 1-2 hours (60 min is best) and stretch your hands, massage your forearms, and move your neck/shoulders/arms. There’s lots of techniques – but find REPUTABLE medical stretches (your company has probably paid a bunch of money to consultant firms to give training. Use it – because those people teach techniques that withstand lawsuits).
  • Support your wrists and mouse hand and arm. I love the bead-filled IMAK Ergo wrist and IMAK keyboard rests. I actually prefer the normal ones without the non-skid backing as you can move them around easier.
  • Get regular monthly massages for neck, shoulders, back and especially your arms and hands.
  • Replace your mice/keyboard with new ones every 1-2 years – with completely different makes/models. Even if they are fine.
  • Have reasonable physically regime/fitness – base level fitness improves and helps all kinds of injuries. Unlike mechanical devices, our bodies actually require a regular amount of physical work. Sitting around for long periods hurts us.