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Seeds 2014

ChardLast year‘s efforts didn’t go completely in vain so I’m back this year with an even more thorough seed lineup. Aside from the seeds I have left from last year and that I will give another go, I have ordered the following:

  • Lobelia (Trailing ) “Fountain Lilac”
  • Lobelia (Trailing ) ”Fountain White”
  • Lobelia (Trailing ) “Fountain Rose”
  • Lobelia (Trailing ) “Monsoon”
  • Lobelia (Edging) “Mrs Clibran”
  • Lobelia (Edging) “Rosamond”
  • Chard “Bright Lights”
  • Salad Rocket / Arugula “Wild Rocket”
  • Salad Rocket / Arugula “Victoria”
  • Salad Rocket / Arugula “Green Brigade”
  • Thyme (Large)
  • Hot Pepper “Hungarian Hot Wax”
  • Hot Pepper “Aji Crystal”
  • Hot Pepper “Inca Red Drop”
  • Hot Pepper “Habanero Hot Lemon”
  • Hot Pepper “Espelette”
  • Zucchini / Courgette “Parthenon F1”
  • Nasturtium “Alaska Mix”
  • Impatiens “Colour Parade F2”
  • Lettuce “Little Gem”
  • Kale “Nero Di Toscana”
  • Pole Bean “Kentucky Wonder Wax“
  • Green Manure Mix (Spring) “White Mustard”, “Lacy Phacelia”, “Buckwheat”, “Yellow Melilot”
  • Green Manure Mix (Autumn) “White Mustard”, “Red Clover”, “Italian Ryegrass”, “Crimson Clover”

Nearly all of these are from Ebay of course. You just can’t beat those prices and you get access to many more varieties (compared to Sweden at least). I tell you these seed distributors like Weibulls, Lord Nelson et al are downright robbing people. A typical seed pack may have 300 seeds whereas on Ebay you’d get 5000 seeds for a third of the price. Clearly there is something wrong with this equation.

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I have also been improving my grow station. Aside from more plug trays and vermiculite, I have gotten a second hand oscillating floor-standing fan and made a new grow light from spare parts and junk. It looks a bit ghetto but I am sure it will work well, give me some more space to work with and allow me to start a bit earlier without having to waste all that light from the big fixture.

Not sure if I will go completely overboard with hot peppers or not. Five varieties might seem like a bit much to be honest but I just couldn’t make up my mind. All five are reliable producers even if grown outdoors in pots in a sheltered location. It’s sure hard to stop once you get started with the seed shopping spree every year.

Other than that there isn’t much to say. I will have two varieties of pole beans this year. Last year’s courgette will be canned in favor of a self-pollinating variety that is also more resistant to mildew. The arugula selection might seem a bit excessive but I just had a bad case of indecisiveness. Wild arugula works better in the summer heat while “Victoria” grows faster than “Green Brigade” and thus could be more suited to indoor growing. Also, do you need six Lobelia varieties? No you don’t. But they are easy to grow insofar as they don’t require individual separation or plugs.

The green manure isn’t exactly my department, but I have been looking into improving the soil quality and nutrient content and felt like experimenting. There is nothing more stupid than buying loads of artificial fertilizer and on top of that having it erode during the autumn and winter. Primarily I’m looking to protect open patches of soil during the winter but I’d also like to try and fit a spring crop into the rotation if at all possible.

HTPC Graphics Upgrade

msi-geforce-cuda-gtx650ti-ocJust one more change before I’m done for the moment with hardware upgrades. Despite having been relatively pleased with the HD2000 graphics in my i3 2100 HTPC build and not really wanting to add more heat inside the cramped quarters of my TV cabinet, I nevertheless went and got a second hand 650Ti (the standard MSI OC version).

Haven’t really had time to test it so far because I lack a mini HDMI cable or converter but installation inside my old mATX case (inside the cabinet) went better than expected despite the MSI card having a custom PCB that is quite a bit longer than the reference model. Plus it has the universally stupid power connector at the far end of the card as opposed to on top of the card. Oh well, shouldn’t be a problem unless you elect to go for a mITX system anyway.

Both power consumption and noise seem to be as low as can be expected from any card. And in terms of speed it is as fast as my old 5850, at a mere fraction of the inconvenience. Looking forward to playing around with this card and XBMC later to see if I can finally get that perfect 23.976 going.

Computer upgrades (main)

It’s that time again. And it’s been a while (six years, one month) since I did any major hardware changes around here. Sure, I did set up a new HTPC, changed the graphics card along the way, stopped using CRTs and moved a few things around but other than that it’s been strangely quiet.

So I guess it was time for a change anyway. But the one thing that really brought this on was a bothersome hardware error. Basically something happened a couple of weeks back around the time when I cloned the old SSD boot drive to a new bigger SSD. The setup is no longer able to successfully enter and exit standby (S3), at a reliable rate at least. The error is intermittent. Either, the system bounces back to desktop and freezes. Or it throws a black screen and freezes coming out of S3. Or it restarts when entering S3, sometimes even with an endless bootloop that can only be broken by cycling power off and on. Sometimes it does enter S3 only to switch back on a few seconds later. At first I thought it was some software problem from the cloning. Or the PSU. But none of that panned out. Removing mechanical drives and reseating peripheral cards and cables did nothing as well. Almost went so far as to replace the bios battery but in the end I couldn’t be bothered.

Could it be some odd incompatibility with the 840 Evo SSD? Doesn’t seem likely. And the system runs just fine in every other way, no problems in games when the CPU and GPU are working at near 100%. At this point I will chalk it down to a faulty mainboard since it does in fact remind me a lot of a similar situation many years ago when a bulging capacitor on another board always caused a few bootloops before finally deciding to start. Again, other than this, the old board in question ran fine. Just some power regulation issue under some scenario. Had the current system been a bit more up to date I would surely have spent more time investigating this. But now I’m just dropping it.

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A Song of Ice and Fire

w2voga4rThere. Finally got up to speed with A Song of Ice and Fire. After season three of the TV show I felt like it was about time I got to know the source material. Clearly the best idea I’ve had in a long while for sure.

Obviously I went with the English audiobooks because after all, reading is tedious and a bit hard to do while walking or mowing the lawn. This enabled me to easily catch up with the five main books as well as the three “Dunk and Egg” stories during the summer. I got a dedicated audiobook app to keep things separate on my phone and used the Bluetooth headset with great success.

I know there have been a lot of complaints about the audiobooks, the production and the choice of narrators. I think I was subjected to no less than five different narrators in the process, but in the end they all worked out despite their respective quirks, even “Sair” Lawlor. I honestly couldn’t say who I’d prefer to continue the work if or when Roy Dotrice is unable. For all his qualities I do sort of prefer a more neutral narrator, as long as he isn’t too monotonous.

The only downside, except for having run out of ASOIAF lore? Possibly that absorbing the books made me a fairly snarky elitist that doesn’t appreciate everything in the TV series as much as I used to. And I’m not talking about the case for Strong Belwas or whatever but the more generic dumbing down and downplaying of magical elements in the story.

HP N40L MicroServer

This is obviously going to be the big autumn project around here. Basically, I’ve been relying on the Synology NAS I bought a couple of years back for all my media storage. But now those 2x2TB drives are full and so is the NAS. And besides, I’ve never really been comfortable with the relatively slow performance and ARM architecture of the device. Plus you’re forced to rely on Synology’s DSM software, and they will eventually drop their support just as happened with the x09-line recently. So, enter the N40L

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I got this unit in May (for €100!) and it has been collecting dust ever since, waiting for the right hardware to become available and for me to learn some more about the possible software solutions. The first phase of the project revolves around finding cheap 4TB WD RED (WD40EFRX) drives and a 250GB SSD so I can switch that with the 80GB drive I use in my gaming PC and in turn put that in the N40L. Seagate obviously has 4TB NAS drives as well, but now that WD is available I’d rather go with them. The SSD may seem a bit much but I obviously want to conserve space inside the unit, and since the N40L doesn’t have UEFI, booting from 2TB+ drives is pretty much impossible. The only other option would be to install the OS on a USB stick and boot from that. A slow process even with the best USB drive. And besides, even with an SSD for the OS, I still have five SATA ports free. Still debating if it’s worth the risk importing drives to keep the price down (now that Copyswede has launched its latest offensive). Hopefully I will eventually run 3x4TB for storage and 1x4TB for parity. With room for one more 3.5 inch drive.

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Garden summary

Some things worked and some did not. Time to start planning for the next season …

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Picasa gallery.

Arma 3

ARMA_3_box_artIt’s a good thing I don’t pay for games or I’d be pretty angry right now. I thought I’d give this game a shot, even though I was skeptical about all this realism I’d heard so much about and I’d never played anything Arma before.

I can’t understand why people go for this sort of thing. And here I was thinking  Battlefield 3 ruined everything and that games in general had become too realistic. I guess I had seen nothing yet. Arma 3 sets a new record for realistic games that are overly complicated and employ one-hit-kills. Not to mention a new record for half-baked releases that should have stayed in beta a few more months. And been ported to an entirely different engine that doesn’t look like its ten years old yet performs as if it was Crysis 6. And the physics must have been cooked up by the same people who thought of Planetside 2.

It’s sort of the other side of the spectrum from CoD and CS (a type of game I’ve also never enjoyed, and in fact never played). And not just in terms of realism. Sure, team play can help in every game but there is team play and there is team play. Nearly all of these modern shooters have embraced the flawed idea that people like to work together. Here’s an idea instead. How about handicapping groups who choose to play together, let them have their VOIP jerkoff and leave the rest of us alone.

I’d be very curious to see what sort of people play a game like this. I mean, what sort of psychiatric diagnosis they have. It’s the same thought I had when I desperately tried to like flight simulators back in the early 90s or when I tried EVE Online a couple of years ago. I am also highly suspicious of people who get off on this sort of military realism, not to mention sick of this thinly veiled pro-US propaganda that is present in every single game in the genre.

The fall release schedule looks more depressing than ever, to the point where I have to wonder if a  hardware upgrade is even worth it right now.

Kindle eBook Reader

kindle2012frontI bought a used Kindle gen 5 in back February and have now had the proper time to evaluate the whole eBook situation as well as e-ink technology and so far I’ve been impressed. About 50 or 60 books later and it’s still going strong.

E-ink proved to be just as superior to LCD as everyone had claimed. Perfect for reading outdoors in full sunlight, and at the same time with a battery that lasts for ages literally. Sure, the device is slow and good for absolutely nothing but reading eBooks, but better to to do that one thing really well in my opinion. The price was a little higher than I had liked for the function it provides, but the market for e-readers in Sweden is quite limited, and you’d have to order from Amazon US to get  them to ship anything this way.

One snag that I did know about was its lack of epub support. The one format that dominates the library lending of eBooks in Sweden and hence is the primary source for reading material in my case. Though thanks to Calibre and the appropriate deDRM plugin, converting epub to mobi/azw3 is a breeze if you don’t mind the extra couple of steps. And as a bonus, your borrowed books will never expire and effectively be “cracked”.

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Seedlings week five

germination03

These sweet peas turned out to be real stubborn. Despite having been inside a damp paper towel for the better part of a week, a fair number of seeds failed to swell up. Particularly from the Fire and Ice variety. Positively impossible to make them budge. Had to chip the seeds with a nail clipper for them to complete the transition. And even so, I will be very lucky if I can break 50% germination. And I only have twelve seeds … Cupani on the other hand is already up to 75%. For the record, just soaking the Cupani seeds in water overnight (and watching them all swell before planting) yielded no better than 40% germination.

Borage germinated at 100% without any special measures. Thank god for weeds eh. Nemesia seedlings are actually becoming quite large and have all been transplanted once now. Quite frankly, they show a tremendous increase in the number of leaves. Could get sticky if things drag on.

Planted a few Zucchini seeds the other day after subjecting them to the paper towel treatment. Worked like a charm. Basically, I’ve gone through the almost entire list of seeds by now. All that is left is sowing Dill in situ. And starting the suger snaps and climbing beans. Next week perhaps.

Seedlings week four

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Still no luck with the sweet peas. Had to employ the old wet paper towel and bag trick. We’ll see how it goes.

Also, despite lots of light, some seedlings from the Umbelliferae family have developed annoyingly long root collars. Fennel for instance. Perhaps it is foolish to pre-cultivate these things but I will nevertheless transplant and bury most of the collar. Should have grown them in bigger, and deeper cells at any rate. Fennel in particular doesn’t transplant well because of its tap root. But I have a couple of different fennel experiments going now so we’ll see how it turns out.





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Colophon

This journal covers the personal side of things. That is my normal daily life and stuff. At least what little there is left that hasn't been completely politicized. And what little I am comfortable sharing. Hence so far it has been rather shallow and tedious.