Category Archives: Materialism

I want things. These things.

I asked Virgin Mobile USA today if, assuming I bought one from the Google Play Store, I could activate the new Nexus 5, and this is the response I received on Thu, Oct 31, 2013 at 9:44 PM:

Thanks for contacting Virgin Mobile Customer Care.

We want to let you know that is not possible to activate a non-Virgin Mobile phone like an unlocked one because our system only recognizes the unique serial numbers that our phones have. You will need to purchase a Virgin Mobile phone.

You can check our great phones and prices by clicking the link below:

If you need additional assistance, feel free to let us know how we can assist further or contact us at 1-888-322-1122 (or *VM from your handset). You can reach us from Monday to Friday 6am -10pm and Weekends 6am -9pm. As a reminder, please include your Virgin Mobile phone number and PIN on all replies.

This is interesting, because as far as I know, Virgin Mobile actually uses the Sprint network, and Sprint is one of the carriers that will support the Nexus 5.

That’s right, the Nexus 5 will be sold through Sprint and T-Mobile, with only Verizon Wireless opting out of carrying the device. Updated at 3:26 p.m. PT: Google came back and confirmed that AT&T won’t be selling the Nexus 5, but it will be able to run on its network.

So, it looks like I’ll be jumping ship to T-Mobile after nearly two-and-a-half years as a satisfied customer of Virgin Mobile.

I wanted to find the fastest SD card for my Raspberry Pi, or at least one that wasn’t so slow that it was going to cause a bottleneck. There are a few threads on the forums about performance benchmarks. The prevailing opinion on the “SD Card Benchmarks” thread at is that the SanDisk Ultra SDHC 8 GB Class 6 cards have perhaps the best random read/write speeds, which people feel is a good, if theoretical, metric for how the Raspberry Pi will access the card. But at least one Raspberry Pi owner who had done some of the benchmarking that suggested SanDisk Ultra cards would be ideal discovered that the board would not boot from the card.

And there are enough other reports of SanDisk Ultra Class 6 cards not working to convince me to fall back to a regular SDHC Class 4 card.

With so much uncertainty around which cards will work, I’m keeping an eye on the growing list of known-good and known-bad SD cards for the Raspberry Pi at

Of the Class 4 SanDisk Ultra cards, SanDisk Ultra 4GB SDHC Class 4 Flash Memory Card SDSDH-004G-U46 is reported to work, but it requires that the power be disconnected and the card allowed to sit for a minute or two before it will reboot. That may be acceptable for a use case where the Raspberry Pi is sitting on my desk, but not one where it will be tucked behind other equipment.

I happened to be near a Walmart over the weekend, so I stopped in and picked up a SanDisk 4GB SDHC Class 4 Flash Memory Card SDSDB-4096-AW11. I benchmarked it with CrystalDiskMark, and found it to underperform my target of random write speeds of 1 MB/s.

CrystalDiskMark 3.0.1 x64 (C) 2007-2010 hiyohiyo
                           Crystal Dew World :
* MB/s = 1,000,000 byte/s [SATA/300 = 300,000,000 byte/s]

           Sequential Read :    12.281 MB/s
          Sequential Write :    11.721 MB/s
         Random Read 512KB :    12.548 MB/s
        Random Write 512KB :     2.475 MB/s
    Random Read 4KB (QD=1) :     4.713 MB/s [  1150.7 IOPS]
   Random Write 4KB (QD=1) :     0.024 MB/s [     5.9 IOPS]
   Random Read 4KB (QD=32) :     4.977 MB/s [  1215.0 IOPS]
  Random Write 4KB (QD=32) :     0.025 MB/s [     6.2 IOPS]

  Test : 50 MB [H: 0.0% (0.0/3773.5 MB)] (x5)
  Date : 2012/06/01 20:34:28
    OS : Windows 7  SP1 [6.1 Build 7601] (x64)

Assuming it boots and reboots normally, I’ll probably use it until the community settles on a real-world benchmark that run on the Raspberry Pi.

And just for posterity, the proper way to format an SD card and ensure optimal performance is to use the SD Formatter software from the SD Association.

I want the SparkFun VC830L multimeter, to replace a $10, no-name multimeter that I’ve had for a few years (and it still works, but the probes are falling apart).

SparkFun VC830L multimeter

SparkFun VC830L multimeter

This is for all those starving students that need to buy their first good, low-cost multimeter. This meter has really impressive overall feel for being so low-cost. We’ve played with a lot of cheap-o DMMs and found that this unit’s function selector has a great, solid, clicking feel to it. This unit has good continuity (rare for low-cost units), and decent probes.

And while I’m at it, I’d also like a GE 50957 GFCI Tester. I’m weird about plugging a multimeter into an outlet in order to test for incorrect wiring.

GE 50957 GFCI Tester

GE 50957 GFCI Tester

Update 2012/06/13: My multimeter measures 5.11V across the two test points, so the HP TouchPad supply seems fine, and is not delivering too many volts.
Update 2013/01/21: I ordered two more Raspberry Pis, and then wanted to have an identical power supply for each. Because the HP TouchPad power supply is now impossible to find at a decent price, I ordered three 5V USB (1A) wall chargers, part TOL-11456 from SparkFun for $3.95 each. As the Rpi was booting, the voltage across the test points measured, on average, 4.99V for two of the units, with the third unit measuring, on average, 5.05V. So, they seem to be functional but not perfectly identical. However, the USB connection at the charger was very loose, and I tried a few different USB cables that make firm connections with lots of other power supplies and computers, so I’m confident that the problem is with the port on the charger.

My Raspberry Pi was shipped today by element14, but I started researching power supplies last week. A page on titled Raspberry Pi Power Supplies indicates that any cell phone charger capable of providing 0.7A (or 700mA) of current should suffice, but the author recommends choosing a name-brand unit, and preferably one that provides 1A (1000mA). A post on titled “The Boreatton Scouts meet a Raspberry Pi” describes a setup using an “old BlackBerry 700mA charger”, which the Raspberry Pi was fine with until a few USB peripherals were added.

I tend to over-provision, so based on the recommendation to use a 2 amp adapter in this forum thread at titled “Adequate Power Supply Critical to Pi Stability”, I picked up an HP TouchPad Power Charger for $4.99 with free shipping from the HP Home & Home Office Store. (That’s an awesome price, by the way.)

HP TouchPad Power Charger

The HP TouchPad Power Charger

It’s reportedly the same charger that originally shipped with the TouchPad, and it’s a 2.0 amp charger, so it should charge just about anything with a USB port, short of a notebook PC. It comes with a one-year warranty from HP, too. A good number of the reviews on complain that the included USB cable is lousy, but I have a number of short, 24AWG USB cables with ferrite cores from laying around, so no worries there.

The specs

Specs taken from the side of the PSU:

Input: 100-240V~50-60Hz 0.4A
Output: 5.3V-2.0A

Specs taken from the page at HP:

Maximum Output Power: 10 W

My only concern is that the 5.3 Volts exceeds the 5.0 Volts that the Raspberry Pi is designed for, but I’m reasonably assured this won’t be a problem. I have a multimeter, so I’ll be testing the voltage across the test points.


There is a good list of verified peripherals, including a number of known-good power adapters, at the RPi VerifiedPeripherals page at The HP Touchpad supply is listed among the known-good adapters, but it’s referred to as a “5V 2A Charger for HP Touchpad”.

Of course, monoprice has some USB chargers, too, and I’d probably pick up a 2.1A, 4 Port USB Wall Charger as a second choice (assuming it’s not still on backorder).

So. Apparently, I’ve been using crap dice my entire life. Well, no longer.

After watching Lou Zocchi‘s sale pitch for sharp-edged dice, which he markets as ‘precision’ dice, I’m sold on the idea that most of the dice I’ve used were junk.

GameScience Smoke Quartz Precision 7-Piece Dice Set

Now, I can’t wait to shell out $15 for this Precision Gem 7 Piece Dice Set, including d6, d4, d10 (0-9), d12, d20, d10 (00-90) and d8, in Smoke Quartz with white, hand-inked numbers, manufactured by GameScience in the USA.

Am I twelve years old? I must be, for there is no other explanation why these Rally Fighter cars by Local Motors make me drool so much. I want like five of them.

The Rally Fighter is the first production car from the new American car company, Local Motors. LM builds its cars in regional micro-factories, breaking ground with advanced small-volume manufacturing and amazing ownership experiences.

Rally Fighter - Sunfire

Rally Fighter - Sunfire

Rally Fighter - Drool

Rally Fighter - Drool

Rally Fighter - Grey Beauty

Rally Fighter - Grey Beauty

Rally Fighter - Dirt Destroyer

Rally Fighter - Dirt Destroyer

Rally Fighter - Orange Stripe

Rally Fighter - Orange Stripe

Rally Fighter - Sharp

Rally Fighter - Sharp

Rally Fighter - Rad Red

Rally Fighter - Rad Red

And you help build your own car, and you get to bring a friend to help.

With your purchase you also buy a Local Motors “Build Experience”. The Local Motors Build Experience is a first for the automotive industry. You join Local Motors experts in the Phoenix Micro-Factory for two 3-day weekends to build your very own Rally Fighter.

The last of the V8 Interceptors has some new competition.

I just picked up an old Dell Precision 690 workstation, which I intend to develop into a file server, a Windows IIS server, and an Ubuntu LAMP server. This monster was built in 2006, but it still has some neat specs and tons of capacity (7 PCI slots, 4 hard drive bays, etc…), should I want to expand further.

Dell Precision 690

Dell Precision 690 Workstation

The main specs

CPU: Dual Core Intel Xeon 5060 3.2GHz, 4M Cache, 1066 MHz FSB
RAM: 2GB DDR2 PC2-5300, CL=5, Fully Buffered, ECC, DDR2-667
HD: SAS Fujitsu MAX3073RC 73GB, 15000 RPM, 16MB Cache
Video: Nvidia Quadro NVS 285 PCI-Express, 128MB

This is not a normal tower

Right away, the size of this thing suggests it isn’t a normal tower. It’s about up to my knee and weights 70 lbs. It feels like it’s made with heavier gauge steel than the typical chassis, but that may be me projecting.

I immediately shopped around for more RAM, obviously. 2GB seems a little thin, even by 2006 standards, when considering the way everything else is high-end. The mainboard has 8 slots and supports up to 32GB, but I figure 6GB is a safe place to start.

The workstation has three enormous fans, like, big-as-your-hand big. Running it with the chassis open causes some sort of thermal protection system to kick in and it spins the fans up to the point that they were blowing stuff on the floor half-way across the room.

The CPU has a big, passive heat sink with six copper pipes and sits between two of those fans. I’m tempted to buy a second CPU, but I’ll hold off.

I’m still on the fence about the SCSI drive. It should be super fast, but I’m a little spoiled by the SSD in my machine at work, so it’s hard to get excited about a mechanical drive, even one running at 15k RPM.

The Nvidia Quadro card is also fanless, and has a bizarre DMS-59 connector. An adapter converts the DMS-59 connector into two DVI outputs.

I want a white Charles and Ray Eames lounge chair. We’ve all seen the original black leather version, but the white one is less common.

Eames Lounge and Ottoman

Eames Lounge and Ottoman

twentytwentyone is one of the few places I’ve seen a white Eames Lounge (670) and Ottoman (671). Vitra being the only manufacturer, of the two companies producing furniture with the Eames name attached (Herman Miller being the other).