About Scott

I'm a computer guy with a new house and a love of DIY projects. I like ranting, and long drives on your lawn. I don't post everything I do, but when I do, I post it here. Maybe.

Choosing a Disk Drive: HDDs, SSDs, and Then Some

This video covers almost everything you need to know about HDDs and SSDs to make an educated choice before pulling the trigger on a purchase.

Well, almost everything. This video is primarily directed at the home user trying to get some additional storage, whether that be an extra drive in their workstation, a NAS, or a full file server. If you’re trying to choose between SAS drives for a large-scale datacenter installation, then you probably know this stuff already.

As I promised in the video, here’s some links to my HDD TCO worksheet from 2013 (though I may have updated it in the interim with a couple of “new” drives). Please download the Excel version and use this for any drive that you want. If you make any interesting changes or large scale updates, I’d love to see it, so please let me know!

I also added a bunch of notes so you know what I meant with all the field names.

HDD Total Cost of Ownership Worksheet (Google Sheets – View only)

HDD Total Cost of Ownership Worksheet (Excel – View and edit)

Let’s Open: Cheap “Smart” Watches from AliExpress: Ken Xin Da W1 and U Watch U80

This is a quick very long video about two “smart” watches, one which isn’t all that smart and another which is more of a phone than a smartwatch.

In case you want one for some reason, here’s where I got ‘em:

Bluetooth U80 Smart Watch (AliExpress)

KEN XIN DA W1 Smart Watch Phone (AliExpress)

Don’t take those links as an endorsement, though I do kinda enjoy the Ken Xin Da watch for music and emergencies on the go.

Let’s [Quickly] Open: Crappy NiMH Cells from AliExpress vs. Panasonic Eneloop Cells

A look at some possibly-fake random “NiMH” AA cells from AliExpress, comparing them to Panasonic Eneloop cells.

From my somewhat limited testing, these little green guys had an actual capacity of about 342mAh, which is less than 10% of their claimed specification of 3800mAh (which is probably impossible anyhow for AA-sized NiMH cells.

The part about them perhaps not being real NiMH cells? That’s not the weirdest thing. Unlike most of my AliExpress purchases, these shipped from The Netherlands, despite the seller being called Shenzhen DeKang International Trade.

Random Green Chinese Cells - Packaging Label

Let’s [Quickly] Open: ORICO 4-Port USB Charger + Teardown

I had been looking for a cheap and cheerful USB power supply for general charging of phones, tablets, and plenty of etcetera. Hence I ordered this ORICO 4-Port USB Charger with high hopes!

I never have too much optimism when it comes to crap from AliExpress, but not only did this ship from California, it also seems to be a really good buy.

Some of the testing I did on this was inspired by Clive at bigclive.com who does an absolutely obsessive number of teardowns on his YouTube channel. If you haven’t heard of him and you like that sort of this, give it a look! (Plus he has a much better accent than I do.)

And finally, as promised in the video, here are some full-size macro shots of the PCB:


Let’s Open: Intel Mini PC G2 (from AliExpress)

This video features a review and teardown of the Intel Mini PC G2 manufactured by — uhhh — Random Chinese Company 5000.

Did it ship with tons of bloatware and malware? Is it too good to be true that it comes with a full copy of Windows 10? Are the specs worth a damn in the real world? Watch me ramble on about it to find out!

If you want to buy this cylindrical masterpiece mediocrity, a link to the original AliExpress listing is below (which may be way out of date by the time you read this). Note that this is not an endorsement and I don’t receive one penny if you do end up buying it.


Not every product from China is crap, but in the “Let’s Open” series I’m buying stuff that seems really good on paper, but has a whiff of the toilet about it.

Let’s [Quickly] Open: Outtek Qi Charging Stand

Lets Open - Outtek Qi Charging Stand

What follows is pretty much the script for the video. I mention this in case you have a sickening hatred for the medium of video, my voice, or are at work. Perhaps like you, I bought the Outtek charging stand for my night table. I usually charge overnight, and use my phone as my alarm. A stand like this would give me a much better view of the time and snooze/cancel controls in the morning. In the Amazon listing it looks quite sleek, and in person it doesn’t disappoint… too much. In real life it looks pretty good — though it lacks the luster of the pics in the listing, of course — but it also reminded me of one … Continue reading

FreeNAS Fibre Channel LUN Error / Timeout

FreeNAS Server - Fibre Connections (Ethernet and FC)

TL;DR I’m a bit long winded, I know. If you’re pulling your hair out, scroll right down to the solution (which of course may or may not match your actual problem). Background I’m posting this because there is very little information on Google regarding these particular error messages, and I’m hoping that this will help point you in the right direction if you’re having the same issue. I have a new FreeNAS server that’s going to be serving my home network via SMB / NFS, but I also wanted to give my dev and production environments access to its main storage pool for non-critical file systems (backup staging, test environments, etc). My TCP/IP networks (home/dev/prod/management) are rigorously firewalled off from … Continue reading

JetBlue: Password Encryption is for Suckers

JetBlue: Encryption is for Suckers

The Background The Missus and I flew to Florida a couple of days ago, and as usual we took JetBlue. The only eventful part of the flight was a pleasant arrival 30 minutes ahead of schedule. The flight crew had mentioned that the satellite TV was out of commission, and that all in-flight movies would be free for the duration. I thought that was a good way of handling the issue, and figured that was the end of that. However, the next day we both received emails from JetBlue stating that we’d been signed up for their Travel Bank, and that a $15 credit had been applied to both of our Banks in exchange for the inconvenience of the malfunctioning … Continue reading

Sixteen (!) New Batteries for a 3000VA APC UPS

I recently got a good deal on a 120V 3000VA APC SURTA3000XL, a 120 pound beast of a double conversion online UPS which boasts over 30 mins of runtime at half load (and that’s still over 1000 Watts)! It didn’t come with batteries, so this video shows the process of “refurbishing” a couple of old modules with new batteries, and testing out the UPS.

The reason I was hunting down reasonably priced DCO UPS wasn’t because I’m especially concerned about poor-quality power from my wall, but because I needed a UPS that would play nice with generator power.

I’d love to be able to afford a couple of ~7500 Watt inverter style generators (one primary and one backup) to run the whole house during a power failure, but the best I can do is a pair of contractor style gensets. They’re noisy and output a mess of voltages and frequencies, but they work. Well, they didn’t work with line interactive UPSes, but they’ll work fine with something like this APC.

Vitality Air Joins the Pile: Selling American Air to China

Jurassic Park - One big pile of sh*t (I mean supplemental O2)

Air in a Can This is a follow-up of sorts to my Bullsh*t Product: Boost Oxygen video. If you don’t know what that is and you’re too lazy to click the link (is that click-baiting or just click-dicking?), Boost O2 sells oxygen in a can for various phony baloney health benefits. I mentioned in the video that Boost wasn’t the only company shilling this sort of thing, and indeed I was right: News stories about Vitality Air have been making the rounds on social media in the last few days. And the stories are on relatively legitimate websites like CNBC, Fortune, and CNN. Fortunately the stories have primarily been about how clever a business model it is to sell cans … Continue reading