New life

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The bulging trackpad

I said the replacement battery arrived, but I couldn’t undo the screws to change it. Well, worry no more, it’s done.

I visited the new Jaycar shop at Clarkson today and we decided the bit I needed was a Torx T4. It came in a handy kit of 31 other bits, but that’s OK, $18.95 for the set. It fits perfectly, so I had the base cover off in no time.

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Isn’t that a work of art? The battery is removed in this shot. It goes across the lower part with the two large rectangles. Those two narrow horizontal rectangles at the bottom are the speakers! Not bad sound either. The two curvy things across the middle linking the two fans are copper heat pipes in contact with the CPU chip under there somewhere.

I was interested to see that my hard drive is one of the new NVmE modules – I’ve marked it in the shot above, it’s the green rectangle with the white label on the middle left. That’s a 512GB solid state drive, half a terabyte! In the centre is the RAM, 16GB of it. This is one powerful machine. It’s a Core i7 with a 15″ 4K resolution touch screen. It’s as powerful as most desktop PCs.

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There’s the new battery before I screwed it into place. It’s 84Wh and gives me about 4hrs run time. It all went back together perfectly and it was all done in under an hour. I’m using it now. I have to pack the old battery in the same box the new one came in for return to Dell. I was worried about the cost of posting it to Singapore, but it turns out I just phone a 1 800 number in Perth and the courier company comes out here and collects it from me. Now that’s civilised. They’ve even provided a pre-printed label for the box.

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Another sleepless night last night, the third in a row. I was recommended to try some tablets from the supermarket called Sleep. I had noticed them a couple of weeks ago but put them back on the shelf as soon as I saw the word “homeopathic” on the label. But a friend said they work for her, so I paid my $14.95 for a month’s supply.

The first two nights they have not worked at all. I thought there might have been a placebo effect at least, but nah.

I went back for a sleep after breakfast today but only got less than an hour of shallow dozing before I woke again. I felt reasonably OK then, but I’m knackered again now. I’ve had another shallow nap but still feel woozy. This is terrible. I’m effectively only getting two hours of poor quality sleep a night. I can get a full sleep by using sedatives but I find it hard to wake and get going in the morning. This is bad.

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The Jaycar visit produced a good idea today. I’ve been thinking of making a bedhead in my main bedroom. I have in mind a rectangle of nice veneered chipboard or craftwood screwed to a pair of 100x50mm battens, screwed to the wall. I want indirect lighting behind it, shining up the wall, and was thinking about using strip LED lighting, and thinking about switches and so on. Not difficult, but a bit fiddly.

In Jaycar I found that you can buy extruded aluminium channels with LED strip lights pre-installed behind a translucent plastic diffuser. They come pre-wired with switches and a 240V mains plug in lengths from 300mm to 1.5m. I’d need two of the 1.5m at $54.95 each. Easy. This is a very doable project.

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I’ve nearly finished the book Do No Harm by the UK neurosurgeon Henry Marsh. Excellent reading, a very easy style and a good balance between technical and dumbing down.

The interesting thing is how anxious and nervous he becomes when dealing with his patients and especially their relatives. He freely admits he makes mistakes in his surgery, with sometimes catastrophic consequences, leaving some patients in a vegetative state from which they will never recover. He admits it, sometimes there is a slip of the knife, severing a vein, artery or major nerve. Sometimes he has trouble summoning the courage to face the parents or spouse.

He’s very critical of the NHS in Britain, with all its cost cutting and maladministration. He rails against hospital managers (where have we heard that before?). He describes his own failings and illnesses, including a detailed description of his two detached retinas a few months apart. He admits he was able to jump the queues and get the best care because he knew the ophthalmology specialist to go to on a Sunday.

It’s a good read. I’ve knocked it off in less than a week, fast for me. He’s written another one which I’ll order soon.

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Speaking of labels, which I was earlier, reminds me of barcodes. A few weeks ago on ABC radio’s afternoon program on Thursdays with Dr Karl Kruzelnicki, he was asked how barcodes work.

Well, he gave a description that said the system was invented by a young boy in America who saw the pattern made on the sand at the beach by the sun shining through the canvas of a deck chair. He said the bars are different widths corresponding to the different numbers.

The ABC then proceeded to make a radio promo using him saying this, so it was repeated quite a few times over the following days.

BULLDUST! It’s not so. Dr Karl, you’ve got it wrong. ABC, stop using this promo! It’s wrong.

Barcodes are digital. If you look closely, you’ll see that there are only two widths of lines, and absence of lines, meaning white space. If two black lines follow each other, they merge to form a thick line.

The important points are that the code has to be readable from either direction and at any angle. The beginning and end of a sequence of lines is a code that tells the reader whether it’s a start or finish, and the lines are long so that the whole sequence can be held at any angle to the laser scanner and still get a reading. It has to be that way – just watch how fast the checkout chicks pass the supermarket items past the scanners.

As for being invented by a young boy on a beach, balderdash. Just look it up on Wikipedia. It was invented by an adult guy in the USA in 1957, and nowhere near any beach or deck chair.

I get het up about things like this because this is electronics and I don’t want it trivialised. And if Karl gets this wrong, what else does he get wrong?

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