Nov 202015

Taranis RAID-6 logoYeah, after [part 3] it should be “part 4”. The final stage. However, while I’d love to present my final ~55TiB RAID-6 to you, I cannot do so yet, because there were and probably are some severe issues with the setup, which I will talk about down below. So, since my level of trust for Seagate is rather low because of the failure rates reported by Backblaze and my own experiences at work as well as the experiences from some other administrators I know, their line of Enterprise disks was out of the game. Another option would’ve been Hitachis Helium-filled Ultrastar He8, but since the He6 was reportedly rather disastrous, I don’t really want to trust those drives either.

This Helium stuff is just so new and daring, that I don’t want to trust them to be the very base of a RAID array that’s supposed to last for many, many years just yet.

Ultimately, I decided to get myself 12 insanely expensive Hitachi Ultrastar 7K6000 disks, “The last in Air” as they call ’em themselves. That’s a classic 5-platter 10-head airfilled enterprise disk with 7200rpm rotational speed and 6TB of capacity. I got the SAS/12Gbps version which also boasts 128MiB of cache. Mechanically, that’s all the same old tech that I’ve already been using with my 8 × 1TB Deskstars and now 8 × 2TB Ultrastars, so it’s something I can trust. However, as I said, there were/are some very serious issues. Maybe you remember this image:

"Helios" RAID-6 array emergency migration

Old array to the left…

So my old RAID-6 based on a 3ware 9650SE-8LPML with 8 × 2TB Ultrastars is sitting on the table, while the new one has been plugged into the Chieftec 2131SAS bays and hooked up to the Areca ARC-1883ix-12. Both RAID systems are thus connected to the same host machine at the same time, making it a total of 20 drives. This is supposed to make data migration using rsync very convenient and easy.

The problem is that I didn’t have enough power connectors for this (12 × SATA for the old array, ODDs and SSD, 8 × 4P Molex for the SAS bays), so I settled for Y-adapters to hook up the new array. Then the trouble started. At first I thought it was the passive SAS bays to blame. But as I continued my tests, drives would behave slightly differently as I exchanged and rotated the Y cables. What I observed was some weird “jitter”, where the drive heads were audibly moving around were they shouldn’t have, and sometimes drives would stall for a moment as well.

Ultimately, the array ran into a massive failure during init at about 60%, and 4-5 drives successively failed, collecting tons of recoverable read AND write errors in their S.M.A.R.T. logs. Bleh… At least no unrecoverable ones, but still…

At this point I ripped out half of the Y cables and hooked two of the four bays up to a dedicated power supply (only two, because of a lack of plugs). It seems this greatly changed the behavior of the whole setup, stabilizing it significantly. Of course it’s too early to say anything for sure, because now I’m just at roughly 25% through the second initialization process. But if I’m right, then a few 1€ parts have successfully wrecked a ~8000€ RAID array, now that’s something, eh?

In any case, before getting my Ultrastars I also tried the system with some Seagate Cheetah 15k.6 and 15k.7 drives I managed to borrow at work, 300GB 15000rpm SAS pieces, just for some benchmarks. Since those showed more severe problems even than the Hitachis (probably because they’re more power hungy?), I went down to 11, then 8 drives. Some of the benches will also show sudden stalls. Yeah. That’s the power issue.

Well, it can still serve as a quick glance at the performance levels one can expect with the Areca ARC-1883ix-12, even in such a state. Let me just say: It is a nice feeling to see a RAID array based on mechanical drives push 1000-1200MiB/s over the bus on average, reading at 64kiB-1MiB block sizes. At least that part is undeniably awesome! Here are a few screenshots for you, RAID stripe block sizes are always 64kiB, read block sizes are 4kiB, 64kiB and 1MiB, write block sizes are 64kiB, 512kiB and 1MiB. For the RAID-6 setup there are also benches during init and in 2-disk degraded mode, software’s just a cheap HDTune 2.55 + HDTune Pro 5.00 for now.

Ah yes, you might be wondering why the CPU usage is so high. Well, these were just quick preliminary tests anyway, so some video transcoders were running in the background at the same time, that’s why. Here we go:

RAID-0, 8 × 15000rpm Cheetahs, reads:

RAID-0, 8 × 15000rpm Cheetahs, writes:

RAID-6, 11 × 15000rpm Cheetahs, reads in normal state:

RAID-6, 11 × 15000rpm Cheetahs, reads during initialization:

RAID-6, 11 × 15000rpm Cheetahs, reads in 2-disk degraded mode:

The performance degradation due to the initialization process is somewhat in line with what’s configured on the controller itself, giving the background process a low 20% priority. The degradation in 2-disk degraded mode is what’s really interesting though. Here we can see that the 1.2GHz dual core PowerPC RAID engine is seriously powerful. With double parity computation required on the fly, the array still delivers 64kiB transfer rates in excess of 800MiB/s! That’s insane! I was hoping for normal transfer rates over 600MiB/s, but this really waters ones mouth!

Of couse, all of this is still preliminary, my array still doesn’t work and these aren’t the final drives running through the tests, nor is the controller fully configured yet. Let’s just hope that I can get a grip on that situation soon… because all these problems are seriously pissing me off already, as you may be able to understand, given the price of the hardware and the pressing issue that I’m running out of space on my old array.

Well, let’s hope a real “part 4” can follow soon!

Nov 202015

The InternetIn recent days, there sure are more maintenances scheduled for the DSL infrastructure in my town. So here’s another one: Next Wednesday (it seems it’s always Wednesdays), 2015-11-25 my server and all of its services including this weblog may go offline in between 00:00 a.m. UTC+1 and 06:00 a.m. UTC+1 for any arbitrary time. As usual, my ISP says “we’re going to work as fast as possible”, but you never know, right? So there you have it. Last time it lasted about an hour if I remember correctly, and the time before it was about as long as well. So I guess the downtime’s going to be in the same ballpark roughly. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope they don’t mess up my being hooked up to the correct DSLAM again…

Oct 312015

Arial Unicode MSThe last thing I wrote about font anti-aliasing was probably a little less Microsoft-related than this one, handling [Font AA in Wine on FreeBSD/Linux], but let’s still call this “round 2”. Recently, having to display symbols and asian characters in Windows Explorer a lot (yeah yeah, because of Anime), I found the font rendering quite lacking when compared to what I’m seeing on my CentOS Linux box and my FreeBSD 10 machine. While Windows’ NTFS file system supports a wide enough array of unicode code points with its UCS2-le / UTF-16 character set including [surrogates and supplementary characters], the standard font used for displaying these characters — “Tahoma” — is partly lacking.

Reason here is, that higher Unicode symbols and characters of Tahoma are not covered by Windows’ sub-pixel anti-aliasing, also known as “ClearType”. While zoomed-up screenshots don’t do sub-pixel AA any justice as the actual sub-pixel gradients can’t be visualized anymore, you’ll still see clearly what I mean. But that’s not the only problem. For certain characters the sizing and spacing are just awkward as well, worsening the situation considerably.

Now I’m not sure about Windows 8.x and 10 as I’ve removed my virtual machines, but at least Windows 7, XP and older definitely do it in an ugly way. See here:

Symbols as typically seen in Anime series' and episodes' titles as rendered by Microsoft Tahoma

Symbols as typically seen in Anime series’ and episodes’ titles as rendered by Microsoft Tahoma

And so you can see what I was complaining about when it comes to ClearType, look at this version:

Symbols as rendered by Microsoft Arial Unicode MS

Symbols as rendered by Microsoft Arial Unicode MS

Now that’s a lot better. Just what font may Arial Unicode MS be, you may ask. But let’s get to that later. First, how about some asian character comparison? Have some Katakana and some Kanji mixed in:

Katakana and Kanji characters as rendered by Microsoft Tahoma

Katakana and Kanji characters as rendered by Microsoft Tahoma

Katakana and Kanji characters as rendered by Microsoft Arial Unicode MS

Katakana and Kanji characters as rendered by Microsoft Arial Unicode MS

As said, when zooming up, ClearType or any other sub-pixel based font anti-aliasing can’t be represented properly anymore, because the brightness gradients are lost. If you’re on a CRT that might affect the native screenshots as well, to a certain degree. But still, let’s compare top-down again:

Zoomed-up symbols as rendered by Microsoft Tahoma

Zoomed-up symbols as rendered by Microsoft Tahoma

Zoomed-up symbols as rendered by Microsoft Arial Unicode MS

Zoomed-up symbols as rendered by Microsoft Arial Unicode MS

While character symmetry is still ok with Tahoma in this case (not true for all chars), you may notice that the spacing is just terrible for the musical notes, and the sizing of the notes and also the stars doesn’t quite look right either. What’s most noticeable though is the clear lack of any smoothing effect on the symbols. Let’s look at some Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji:

Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji as rendered by Microsoft Tahoma

Zoomed-up Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji as rendered by Microsoft Tahoma

Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji as rendered by Microsoft Arial Unicode MS

Zoomed-up Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji as rendered by Microsoft Arial Unicode MS

Despite the color-shifting that comes naturally with sub-pixel AA, it’s pretty clear what looks better here in my opinion. Ah yes, please note that Tahoma was actually set to 8px and Arial Unicode MS to 9px here. Despite that, we can now see that there is some loss of detail happening for the most complex Kanji characters with Arial Unicode MS. They’d still be readable, but we can’t deny that either. To do away with that you’d need bigger font sizes, preferably on a higher-dpi monitor, like say, maybe UHD instead of 1080p-1600p. Or in other words, 150-200dpi instead of 90-100dpi. Still, despite that problem on low-dpi screens, the font just looks much neater.

The main issue here is, that Tahoma is ancient. It was one of the early fonts which could cover a reasonable amount of code points from the UCS2-le character set that Windows NTs NTFS came with. TFTs and ClearType didn’t even really exist back then. And Windows doesn’t really have a lot of fonts that can render enough exotic characters to really be sufficiently multi-lingual for certain use cases, not even talking about symbols yet. If you pick a font that can’t cover the characters you’re using, all you’ll get is just a ton of empty boxes where those chars should be.

The font I used as a replacement — Microsoft Arial Unicode MS — was specifically released to tackle these issues. It’s a more modern font that covers a wide array of characters and symbols without having to surrender font anti-aliasing on XP+ either.

That font was included in certain Office versions (2000, XP, 2003) in varying versions and has also been available as a free download from Microsoft. Unfortunately, the free downloads were withdrawn, and I can’t just post the font here due to licensing issues. However, if you search for it on the web, you may find enough download sources for it. Just keep in mind, that it’s not free. If you’re on a newer version of Windows, you may have other options when it comes to choosing your font. I’m just not sure which ones… In any case, the latest version of Arial Unicode MS is 1.01, if you wanna look for it.

If you do have Arial Unicode MS, you can switch it on in your advanced appearance menu of your display properties after right-clicking on the desktop, at least on XP. The font you’ll need to change is the “Icon” one. It’s called that, because it’ll also change the font of your Desktop icons together with the file/folder pane of Windows Explorer:

Changing the icon font

Changing the icon font

After that, pick your desired Unicode-capable font and change the size to your liking, the changes will take effect immediately after confirming the change:

Our new "Icon" font is Arial Unicode MS, changed to a font size of 9px for enhanced readability

Our new “Icon” font is Arial Unicode MS, changed to a font size of 9px for enhanced readability

Of course you could also look for other, free TrueType fonts on the web which can cover enough code points to be sufficient for your needs. Maybe you can also just copy one over from some Linux or UNIX system too. It seems OpenType fonts won’t do though, the menu only allows TrueType fonts.

And that’s — amongst other things — how you make childish Anime episode titles look neat in Microsoft Windows Explorer. ;)

(It’d really be interesting if Windows 8 & 10 give you any better options out of the box…)

Oct 302015

Kirino Kousaka logoOk ok ok, what I actually wanted to do was to post something about technology again after last time, which was a bit massively out-of-context for this weblog, but truth is: I just don’t really have anything. :( And as my Anime craze is getting worse and worse (only by terms of money spent at least, or so I hope), let’s let this here post stand before you as a warning and as a testament to how things can go terribly, terribly wrong real fast! Once you enter the slippery slope you’re pretty much done for, if you’re not particularly strong-willed. And sane. And if you don’t stick to the [rules].

Ok, so there are a lot of series I really like, K-On! being one of them, which is why [I got the Alter figures] of the whole gang in the first place.

Another one that really burned itself into my mind was [Oreimo]. I originally started watching this because it had a theme that was new for me, as it was about a girl named Kirino Kousaka who happened to secretly be a closet Otaku, while instrumentalizing her brother to acquire partially barely legal Anime and visual novel material for her. Or giving her “life advice”. Basically, she’s living two lives in parallel: A normal, or rather high-class one even in public, and a very nerdy one in private. Plus, Oreimo promised to have a lot of typical slice-of-life humor any maybe some very mild harem notes thrown into the mix.

Or so.

Seriously, I did not KNOW when I started watching this. And that’s how I slipped into what’s actually a Siscon Anime for the first time, or to explain properly to those still pure of heart: Into an Anime about a romantic relationship between siblings. Now whether you like or hate that kind of “forbidden love” thing, Oreimo does it more through subliminal tension between the characters than wide-open. Unless the very end, which 99% of viewers disliked anyway (I shall not comment on this). There is also NO erotic content in this title whatsoever. No [Ecchi] or anything worse than that.

Still, I found the whole theme quite… shall we call it “fascinating”.

If only I would’ve never been shown that figure, it might have actually missed it and everything would still be fine! But nooo, It just had to happen, and when I saw it, I immediately knew I had to have it, no matter what. It was Kirino after all, and it was completely insane as well. Let’s give you a little teaser, and as always, click to enlarge:

Kirino Kousaka Teaser

That old öS 10.- coin is roughly 25.5mm or in other words barely over an inch wide… Getting an idea about the issue at hand already?

Ah yes, my apologies for the stamps by the way. I don’t usually stamp pictures I post here, because the license is clear anyway. But I forgot this time, and I’m too lazy to process the originals again, so sorry for that.

Ok, now let me explain something here quickly: You can be figure faggot. That’s weird, ok. People will probably look at you strangely, especially if you own a little bit too many of them. But you can still be a figfag within reason.

Within reason!

There are several types of figures. The classic and most common one is probably the 1/8 scale figure. Those stand around 15cm or 6″ tall in most cases, so they’re rather small and…  uhm, easy to hide I guess. :roll: Depending on quality and accessoires, they might set you back something in between 40-110€ when new. Then, far more rarely you’d find 1/7 scale figures. Those can stand 20-25cm or around 8″-10″ tall and are much more expensive, sums in between 150-200€ can be expected, sometimes more. Those are still relatively normal however.

Well, and then there is…  stuff. Things you just don’t buy. Ever. Because people will simply lose all respect they may have had for you if you do. Things like the 1/2.5 scale Kirino Kousaka. 1/2.5. Bah, let’s just get this over with, so much for guilty pleasures:

Uhm. Yeah. I guess that whoever might’ve still been reading this weblog will have ran away pretty much now. ;) When I first unpacked her, and (already shivering) stuck her onto that pretty nice wooden baseplate to see her stand on my table in all glory… I mean…  It’s… Seriously… Let’s just say, in that moment I truly grasped what it means to have just gone too far with all of this. Like really too far! I did burst into laughter though, after maybe a minute of disbelief, shock and silence. ;)

To say it in numbers: Kirino Kousaka stands about 66cm tall without and roughly 68cm with the baseplate, that’s about 26.8″. Also, the model weighs a hefty 6 kilograms, so you need to be careful when lifting her as a whole. Also, those 6 kilograms of PVC do dispense a lot of nasty smell/gas as well, not sure how healthy that can be. So please don’t lick her, she’s probably toxic, ok? :roll:

In any case, she was made by [Griffon Enterprises], which was one thing I was really worried about, because I had zero experience with the company, and they have a seriously bad reputation amongst fans for two main reasons; First, their quality fluctuates massively, depending on what sculptor/group of theirs is doing which figure. And on top of that they’re well known for showing off beautifully perfect prototypes only to deliver complete shit as an – overpriced, mind you – end product. Ah, and actually, there’s a third, because sometimes they also mess up the painting or scratch the figure somewhere after production, maybe during the packaging process.

Also, Griffon does out-of-canon figures (can you say it like that in English?), and this is one of them. I don’t usually like it when they take regular characters and put them into swimsuits for no good reason for instance. Here it’s diverting in a different way, as they’ve added a tail and cat ears. Now somehow I still totally love this Kirino of theirs to no end, I just can’t help it… But they could’ve made the ears and maybe the tail removable, that would’ve been nice. In any case, it was sculpted by some guys called “TEAM GENESIS”, and they’re supposed to be pretty much amongst the best Griffon has to offer, and it shows:

They did mess up the paint though, so it is not perfect! If you look at the string coming off, you can see it’s pretty much pink in color, and it runs very close alongside her left leg. While some parts like the tail were covered in individual protective plastic bags, the string was not. It seems the figure was packaged or handled in a rushed fashion, and some of that pink paint got onto her leg, giving her pink spots all over. She also has some slight blackish marks here and there on the legs.

Now if you get a figure with deficiencies like those, you can fix them by yourself in some cases, other than what most people seem to believe! As you can see, there are no marks left on those pictures above, right? All you need is a soft sponge and some water, then rub the affected areas very carefully. You really need to use a soft one, otherwise you will scratch the PVC, which has already been softened by plasticizers. And don’t overdo it, or the leg color itself might start coming off. Work slowly and carefully, and it’s gonna look perfect, just like you can see up there. The whole thing’s worth some minus points, but at least it’s fixable.

Ok, time for some action:

Kirino Kousaka and Ritsu Tainaka

Go Ritsu!!!1

I just had to snap that picture. ;) For an 1/8 model, Ritsu Tainaka is actually pretty large because of here extensive baseplate which needs to hold not only her, but also her signature drum kit. It’s probably one of the wider 1/8 sets out there. And still, she can almost play right in between Kirino’s lower legs. ;)

Now where do you put a figure this excessive? It’s not like you can fit one this large into any regular display case. Luckily, my cabinet can just barely hold her when removing one of the glass floors. I was a bit worried about that because the specifications talk about 70cm rather than 68cm, but in the end, she fits in quite well:

Kirino Kousaka in the cabinet

Her display spot

Oh and… ah yes… There is one more detail I’d really rather not talk about, but since it’s funny as well… There are actually two versions of this breathtakingly large figure of Kirino Kousaka. After about a year of delays with the official final release being tomorrow actually, the normal one (I mean, heh, “normal”, nothing’s normal here anymore!!) was supposed to come out first, and after that the… uhm… “Soft Bust” version. Yeah, it really means what it sounds like, sigh…

In any case, and let me make this perfectly clear here, I DID NOT order the Soft Bust version! :roll: Instead I ordered the normal one at [SolarisJapan], partly because I feared Griffon would mess something up terribly with that soft material. Also because it’d look really, really bad to do something like that! ;)

They failed to deliver the normal one though, as it seems the number of units was just too small and all were gone through preorders already. They were able to offer me the Soft Bust version for the same price as a replacement however, and even waived the higher delivery fees resulting from the manufacturer misdeclaring the units’ true weight (Good work deceiving people there, Griffon, haven’t heard that one before).

SolarisJapan is a nice shop by the way, they even have English and German speaking support staff, those guys really hired native speakers for that! So, after sleeping over it for one night I decided to accept their offer before I miss out on her entirely and have to buy for completely insane prices on the aftermarket. I mean, this figure costs around 350-400€ new without custom fees or shipping costs, and that ain’t cheap, but not expensive either, considering what you’re getting. The aftermarket is already asking 700-800€ for the regular one right now, profiting out of the low volume. Well, whatever.

I am still not exactly sure what the hell they did to the plastic, but it seems like they poured in a ton of plasticizer to make her boobs soft. What actually happened is that her entire upper torso and shoulders are a bit soft to the touch, much more so than the rest of the figure, which feels normal for PVC treated with plasticizer. Also, that part of the material attracts dust and dirt more easily, and cleaning it is not as straightforward, as compressed air doesn’t work there. You really have to wipe. :roll: I just hope it won’t change color or shape (yeah, shape ;) ) over time.

In any case, since I do now own the Soft Bust version after all, I guess there’s simply no way I can get around this, eh? So there you have it: ;)

Kirino Kousaka Soft Bust

Words can’t possibly express how wrong this is… But I’ll admit, I did giggle quite a lot. ;)

Talk about losing whatever rest was left of my self-control. As the man who tricked me into this whole thing said it after seeing the pictures (freely translated into English):

“Less well-educated people might presume here, that some things may have went a little bit out of control.”
A terrible Person, who hasn’t even posted his new figures on his own blog after luring me into this whole Anime hell, way to go MacFly!!1 :roll:

Oct 152015

Ho-kago Tea Time logo - Azu-nyanI think I have made a threat about posting Anime stuff before, and since everything I’ve been doing all day for the better part of the past eight months had at least something to do with Anime, I’ll just go with that. There is nothing really new on the PC, storage or Linux/UNIX frontlines anyways. And if there was, i’d probably miss it anyways, heh…

Before I start, I would like to thank… – no wait, rather blame –  [Umlüx] for all this crap, because he (re-)infected me with this whole Anime craze, and after a few series it just spiralled completely out of control. I still don’t quite grasp what the hell actually happened and how I’ve seen 60 Anime titles totalling almost a 28.000 minutes of viewing time in eight months…

Anyhow, like most rather die-hard Anime fans, I wanted figures of my favorite characters at some point. I already own two extremely rare figures from the brutal Yandere series Elfen Lied, [Lucy] and [Nana] (as you can see, I went through some efforts to present them properly) that I got about six years ago. But I never actually started to really collect them, so it was still only those two. I wasn’t really watching Anime anymore anyway, until this March. However, at some point, shit had to happen, and it happened for the Anime series [K-On!]:

As always, click or shift+click to enlarge:

Now whether you love or hate cute [Moeblob] series, I greatly enjoyed quite a few of them, including this music-related slice-of-life series, where the viewer accompanies 4-5 girls through their little adventure of founding their schools’ light music club and with it their band “Ho-kago Tea Time” (eng. “After School Tea Time”). So yeah, this is another highschool series. Yes, it’s very Moe. It’s also very much about nothing most of the time, but hey. If you’re a Moepig like I am sometimes, you might enjoy this. Anyway, let’s get to it, the complete K-On! figure set by manufacturer [Alter]!

I’ll start with the first character of the series, our classic clumsy airhead who goes by the name of Yui Hirasawa. She plays Ho-kago Tea Times’ lead guitar (’cause hey, that’s what clumsy airheaded highschool girls with zero skills do) and does some of the vocals as well:

Now, when looking at the quality it becomes clear that Yui herself is pretty standard fare. Don’t take it the wrong way, the sculpting and painting quality is great, and she resembles the Yui from the Anime a 100% (so the face is perfect), but there is just so much detail to flesh out for a normally dressed highschool girl out of an Anime.

Where Alter really begins to shine though is accessories, in this case the musical instruments. Keep in mind that these 1/8 scale figures stand only about 15cm tall in total, so the details you can see on the guitar are quite tiny in reality. What we get is some nice body finish, actual real strings on the guitar and well-defined details on the neck and body. Just look at the pickups and the bridge assembly! Not bad at all.

Now, let’s continue with the super-shy Moequeen of the series, Mio Akiyama, who is the bass guitarist and main vocalist of the band:

Mio is one of the two founders of Ho-kago Tea Time, – following Ritsu against her will originally, but it was only after Yui named her own guitar something along the lines of “geetah” that Mios beloved bass guitar also got its name “Elizabass”, which was bashfully accepted by Mio only in secret. In contrast to Yuis childlike appearance, Mio looks more grown-up, mostly thanks to her different eye design. This is also reflected in her more earnest character, where Yui is just an airheaded mess in comparison. As mentioned however, she is extremely shy as well, making her the instant Moewinner in K-On!.

As you can see, the details like the knobs, pickups and especially the bridge assembly are once again top notch, as is the finish of the guitars body!

Let’s pull out the last of the three guitarists from behind, Azusa Nakano. She joined as the last member one year after the original founding, and is actually really proficient in playing her guitar:

Yeah, she’s wearing cat ears (jap. 猫耳, hepb. nekomimi). You can remove them as they’re optional, but who would ever want to remove the cat ears of the series’ local cute, semi-loli [Tsundere] character? Ah yes, I feel like I have to post these as well, just can’t help it, otherwise we’re not getting any actually visible Moe here today:

Eh…  yeah, well, now that that’s out of the way…

Besides the nice sculpting, Azu-nyan has a small flaw on one of her legs though, about 1mm in size. It’s relatively negligible though. You may be able to spot it on the top left photo of her, just to the left of her knee.

As for her guitar, the knobs are just “ok” in comparison (ah shit, I can’t get my eyes off those GIFs while writing this…), but the structured whiteish surface of the body and those subminiature screws are excellent indeed! The head of the guitar leaves pretty much nothing to be desired either, and the whole neck plus head even mimic the originals’ wooden structure, which can also be seen with Yuis guitar by the way. I just forgot to take an according picture of hers.

But now it gets really serious, let me show you the second most expensive of the five figures, the keyboarder and classic “calm, blonde and super rich girl” of the group (there always has to be a rich girl), who always delivers the most exquisite sweets and expensive tea for the actual “After school Tea Time”; Tsumugi Kotobuki, or in short Mugi-chan, who is also kind of an airhead on top of things:

Unfortunately, her figure shows quite some damage, likely due to ultraviolet radiation, or in other words: Direct sunlight exposure over an extended period of time. It’s actually worse than it looks on the photograph. Sunlight exposure is generally quite bad for pre-painted PVC figures, as it “burns” the color, severely darkening it in the process. So it’s far from mint condition, and it’s pretty clear that while the figures were completely clean and very professionally packaged in their original boxes, it is likely they’ve been unpacked and on display at some time in the past.

Her keyboard is the real deal however. That level of detail is breathtaking, with many of the features smaller than a single millimeter! Just look at the display! Not only does it look like an actual LCD, but in just about 10mm of width it fits an unbelieveable amount of detail including one of the bands’ song names “Cagayake! GIRLS”. I didn’t even spot that with the naked eye, I only noticed that on the magnified photos afterwards. Insane, given that there are even much smaller features than the track name!

Alter is really showing its strengths here! But let’s take a look at the last of the five, our wild Tomboy drummer, Ritsu Tainaka and her signature yellow drumkit:

Once more, one can feel Alters love for detail! Not only do the drums and hihats look awesome, they have actual drumheads with proper tension. Heck, the snare drum even has an actual working snare attached to it! A shame I forgot to take a picture of that. Ah yes, and the pedals. At least the bass drum pedal even moves a little and the beater is properly attached to and moves with it. Now you can’t really play the drum with that as there is not enough leeway, but still.

I’m not sure if I’m impressed more by Ritsus drumkit or Mugi-chans highly detailed keyboard, as both are really awesome in their own right!

Let’s put ’em all together, this is our fully staffed Ho-kago Tea Time:

Ho-kago Tea Time!

From left to right: Support vocalist Yui on the lead guitar, Ritsu on the drums, Azusa on the support guitar, Mugi-chan on the keyboard and lead vocalist Mio on the bass guitar!

Now I clearly can’t leave them like that, and I don’t have an actual figure display case as I am not (or was not?!?) a collector in the first place. Also I don’t wanna buy one because I don’t have a good place for something like a set of [DETOLFs]. I do have a wooden glass cabinet though, which is an integral part of my living room furniture. That cabinet is large enough and was orginally used for storing decanters, vases and drinking glasses. Now who needs those on display, right?! Right.

So I removed them, and together with the built-in halogen lamp of the cabinet we get a setup with some nice atmosphere, so that’s where I’m gonna leave them:

Ho-kago Tea Time at night

Ho-kago Tea Time performance!

It’s also perfect considering that there is just enough space to place the entirety of Ho-kago Tea Time in there without making it look too cramped. While the door has wooden strips in the middle, moving the figures slightly to the left and right respectively works well enough to make them all visible to the viewer.

It seems I have finally found a new money sink after it doesn’t really make much sense to buy modern multi graphics card setups anymore…

Ah yes, let’s talk about price: If you wanna become a figfag, it’s seriously gonna cost you. Shit’s expensive when it’s high quality and very often you’d have to import from Japan from shops like [AmiAmi], [Solaris Japan] or maybe eBay where US American or European stores don’t carry what you want. This complete set here can be obtained for slighty short of 400€ if you’re careful enough to pick the right sellers. 450€ with fast and safe EMS shipping for a large parcel like this one.

Then there is customs tax, which will NOT apply at least for the EU, as the TARIC code of collectors figures [9703] lists them as being tax free if newer than 50 years. There is still VAT though, which amounts to 20% here.

So for 450€ (yes, shipping is included in the calculation) you’d have to pay an additional 10€ customs handling fee plus 90€ VAT making it a 550€ total. Wohoo, right?

So there you go! This will bleed me dry, but somehow I can’t manage to regret it! ;)

Edit: Ah yeah, before I forget it, there are actually quite a few nice songs in this series, some of which I’m regularly listening to. Here is a quick list of some of my favorites, links to YouTube:

And many more of course…

Oct 012015

The InternetAnd here we have another one: Next Wednesday on the 7th of October, starting from midnight UTC+1 and lasting until 06:00am UTC+1 there will be network outages that may make all my services – this weblog included as well – unavailable. I’m guessing that the line will be down only for minutes, at most half an hour like last time, but you never know with my internet service provider. Could very well be down for hours. So if you can’t reach any XIN services on 2015-10-07, 00:00am – 06:00am UTC+1, that’s why. As usual, the company did not give any details as to the nature of the maintenance work being done on that day. So there you have it.

And in case you’re wondering about the lack of posts in recent weeks*: The Anime madness is still ongoing, and I’m still not tired of it. Heh, maybe I’ll just post some Anime-related stuff next? It’s not like my RAID-6 storage project is really coming along due to lack of hard drives anyway. Maybe during Christmas (It’s not like that wasn’t planned for last years Christmas, uhmm…).

*I’m still pretending that somebody actually reads this!

Sep 022015

colorecho logoRecently, I am doing a lot of audio/video transcoding, and for that I’m using tools like mkvextract, mkvmerge, x264, avconv and fghaacenc on the command line. Mostly this is to get rid of old files that are either very inefficiently encoded – like DivX3 or MPEG-2 – or are just too large/high-bitrate for what the content’s worth. Since I do have large batches of relatively similar files, I wrote myself a few nice loops that would walk through an entire stack of videos and process all of it automatically. Because I want to see at first glance how far through a given video stack a script is, I wanted to output some colored notifications on the shell after each major processing step, telling me the current video number. That way, I could easily see how far the job had progressed. We’re talking processes here that take multiple days, so it makes sense.

Turns out that this was harder than expected. In the old DOS days, you would just load ANSI.SYS for that, and get ANSI color codes to work with. The same codes still work in modern UNIX terminals. But not within the Windows cmd for whatever reason. Now there is an interface for that kind of stuff, but seemingly no tools to use it. Like e.g. the echo command simply can’t make use of it.

Now there is project porting ANSI codes back to the cmd, and it’s called [ANSICON]. Basically just a DLL hooked into the cmd. Turns out I can’t use that, because I’m already using [clink] to make my cmd more UNIX-like and actually usable, which also is additional code hooked into the cmd, and the two confict with each other. More information about that [here].

So how the hell can I do this then? Turns out there is a batch script that can do it, but it’s a very outlandish hack that doesn’t seem to want to play nice with my shells if I do @echo off instead of echo off as well. I guess it’s clinks work breaking stuff here, but I’m not sure. Still, here is the code, as found by [Umlüx]:

expand/collapse source code
  2. SETLOCAL EnableDelayedExpansion
  4. FOR /F "tokens=1,2 delims=#" %%A IN ('"PROMPT #$H#$E# & ECHO ON & FOR %%b IN (1) DO REM"') DO (
  5.   SET "DEL=%%A"
  6. )
  8. ECHO say the name of the colors, dont read
  10. CALL :ColorText 0a "blue"
  11. CALL :ColorText 0C "green"
  12. CALL :ColorText 0b "red"
  13. ECHO.
  14. CALL :ColorText 19 "yellow"
  15. CALL :ColorText 2F "black"
  16. CALL :ColorText 4e "white"
  18. GOTO :eof
  20. :ColorText
  22. ECHO OFF
  24. <NUL SET /p ".=%DEL%" > "%~2"
  25. findstr /v /a:%1 /R "^$" "%~2" NUL
  26. DEL "%~2" > NUL 2>&1
  28. GOTO :eof

So since those two solutions didn’t work for me, what else could I try?

Then I had that crazy idea: Since the interface is there, why not write a little C program (actually ended up being C++ instead) that uses it? Since I was on Linux at the time, I tried to write it there and attempt my first cross-compile for Windows using a pre-built [MinGW-w64] compiler, that luckily just played along nicely on my CentOS 6.6 Linux. You can get pre-built binaries for 32-Bit Windows targets [here], and for 64-bit Windows targets [here]. Thing is, I know zero C++, so that took some time and it’s quite crappy, but here’s the code:

expand/collapse source code
  1. #include 
  2. #include "windows.h"
  4. // Set NT commandline color:
  5. void SetColor(int value) {
  6.     SetConsoleTextAttribute(GetStdHandle(STD_OUTPUT_HANDLE), value);
  7. }
  9. int main(int argc, char *argv[]) {
  10.   SetColor(atoi(argv[2]));
  11.   std::cout &lt;&lt; "\r\n" &lt;&lt; argv[1] &lt;&lt; "\r\n";
  12.   SetColor(7);
  13.   return 0;
  14. }

This builds nicely using MinGW on Linux for 64-bit Windows targets. Like so: While sitting in the MinGW directory (I put my code there as echo.cpp as well, for simplicities’ sake), run: ./bin/x86_64-w64-mingw32-g++ echo.cpp -o colorecho-x86_64.exe. If you want to target 32-bit Windows instead, you’d need to use the proper MinGW for that (it comes in a separate archive): ./bin/i686-w64-mingw32-g++ echo.cpp -o colorecho-x86_64.exe

When building like that, you’d also need to deploy and libgcc_s_seh-1.dll along with the EXE files though. The DLLs can be obtained from your local MinGW installation directory, subfolder ./x86_64-w64-mingw32/lib/ for the 64-bit or ./i686-w64-mingw32/lib/ for the 32-bit compiler. If you don’t want to do that and rather rely on Microsofts own C++ redistributables, you can also compile it with Microsoft VisualStudio Express, using its pre-prepared command line. You can find that here, if you have Microsofts VisualStudio installed – version 2010 in my case:

VC2010 command lines

The command lines of Visual Studio (click to enlarge)

Here, the “Visual Studio Command Prompt” is for a 32-bit build target, and “Visual Studio x64 Win64 Command Prompt” is for building 64-bit command line programs. Choose the appropriate one, then change into a directory where you have echo.cpp and run the following command: cl /EHsc /W4 /nologo /Fecolorecho.exe echo.cpp, giving you the executable colorecho.exe.

Alternatively, you can just download my pre-compiled versions here:

Note that this tool does exactly what I need it to do, but it’ll likely not do exactly what you’d need it to do. Like e.g. the line breaks it adds before and after its output. That’s actually a job for the shells echo command to do, not some command line tool. But I just don’t care. So that’s why it’s basically a piece of crap for general use. The syntax is as follows, as shown for the 64-bit VC10 build:

colorecho-x86_64-vc10.exe "I am yellow!" 14

When run, it looks like this:

Colorecho running

colorecho invoked on the Windows cmd

So the first parameter is the string to be echoed, the second one is the color number. That number is 2-digit and can affect both the foreground and the background. Here the first 16 of them, which are foreground only:

  • 0: Black
  • 1: Dark blue
  • 2: Dark green
  • 3: Dark cyan
  • 4: Dark red
  • 5: Dark purple
  • 6: Dark yellow
  • 7: Light grey
  • 8: Dark grey
  • 9: Light blue
  • 10: Light green
  • 11: Light cyan
  • 12: Light red
  • 13: Light purple
  • 14: Light yellow
  • 15: White

If you go higher than that, you’ll also start changing the background colors and you’ll get different combinations of foreground and background colorization.

The background colors actually follow the same order, black, dark blue, dark green, etc. Numbers from 0..15 are on black background, numbers from 16..31 are on a dark blue background and so on. This makes up pretty much the same list:

  • 0..15: 16 foreground colors as listed above on the default black background, and
  • 16..31: on a dark blue background
  • 32..47: on a dark green background
  • 48..63: on a dark cyan background
  • 64..79: on a dark red background
  • 80..95: ona dark purple background
  • 96..111: on a dark yellow background
  • 112..127: on a light grey background
  • 128..143: on a dark grey background
  • 144..159: on a light blue background
  • 160..175: on a light green background
  • 176..191: on a light cyan background
  • 192..207: on a light red background
  • 208..223: on a light purple background
  • 224..239: on a light yellow background
  • 240..255: on a white background

Going over 255 will simply result in an overflow causing the system to start from the beginning, so 256 is equal to 0, 257 to 1, 260 to 4 and so on.

If somebody really wants to use this (which I doubt, but hey), but wishes it to do things in a more sane way, just request it in the comments. Or, if you can, just take the code, change and recompile it by yourself. You can get Microsofts VisualStudio Express – in the meantime called [VisualStudio Community] – free of charge anyway, and MinGW is free software to begin with.

Aug 102015

S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier logoI know I haven’t posted anything useful recently, or anything at all actually. Reason being that I’ve been basically wallowing in laziness for the last two weeks, using my vacation for barely anything but binge-watching Anime (a seriously vast, clearly unhealthy amount of it, as I have to admit), games and… nothing else basically. I did get a present for my upcoming birthday though, and somehow I managed to complete at least that part.

I’ve been a fan of the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier from the Marvel superhero universes since I was maybe 10 years old or so. I didn’t have a lot of Marvel comics, maybe a dozen or so, but there was one Hulk comic featuring the flying carrier, and I was just in love immediately. Needless to say that I was totally crazy about the [vessel appearing]Small YouTube logo surprisingly in the Marvel [The Avengers]IMDb logo movie.

So I’ve been eyeing the massive Lego version of it for some time, but ultimately, I got ~50% of it as a present, and payed for the rest myself. It would’ve been to much either way otherwise, as it’s priced at a steep 349.99€ and $349.99 at [Lego]. You can also forget other sellers here in central Europe, as they’re all more expensive than the Lego shop itself.

Now I don’t have build log pictures for you (my cousin made some with her phone while assembling the carrier, but I don’t have those photos yet), but here is the final >80cm piece, fully assembled, lacking only the battery pack and motor for the powered rotors and lighting effects. Maybe I’ll get that later:

At 2996 pieces and a length of >80cm with a width of >45cm “small” isn’t the right word to describe this model, which is a mix of regular Lego and Lego Technic. Unfortunately the manual is monolithic, which means that only one person can build at the same time, and other persons can only assist by checking for errors and looking for parts the builder needs. Since we tend to build models in teams of 2-3 people, I’d prefer the way some larger Lego Technic models had this solved with 3-4 individual manuals, where multiple builders could work at a table at the same time. That’s much more fun. The way we had to build it, it took roughly 14 manhours to complete, counting only the builders work (mostly me, partly my cousin).

Anyway, let’s go for the close-ups:

While the microfigures are quite nice considering their scale, the Quinjets are definitely far too large, but I can see how downscaling them further would’ve been hard, and I’m ok with that. Besides the microfigures Lego also added a few normal ones for the display stand:

Display stand

Display stand

From left to right that’s Hawkeye, Maria Hill, Captain America, Black Widow and finally, Nick Fury. I had hoped for the Iron Man as well, but we get Mr. Stark only as a microfigure.

And that was probably the only productive thing I got done in my entire vacation. :roll:

Jul 152015

XP x64 is dead logo[1] Update 2: It’s not looking good. At all. I (and some other users) have been playing around with Windows Storage Server 2003 systems (see the first update below), and while the OEMs are supposed to uphold support for the system, it seems they just don’t care. Two distributions have been inspected, one from Dell and one from Hewlett Packard. The latter actually does feature an updating software, that will however ignore all newer Microsoft security fixes. It just doesn’t do anything useful at all it seems.

For now, I am not even sure whether Microsoft truly ships any updates to the OEMs for rollout to customers, or whether they’ve just abandoned WSS03 completely, making their lifecycle statements regarding the operating system an empty promise, as no OEM could patch the OS itself like Microsoft can. It looks like we’re not getting anywhere with this. If you are a Windows Storage Server 2003 operator and you know more about this, or if you actually do have access to WSS03 Windows updates from after 2015-07-14, please do let me know in the comments! Thank you.

Update: While I’m not completely sure about it, it might be the case that we can disregard the text below this paragraph. A user that goes by the name of [tagg] pointed me towards a comment in the RyanVM forums, where 5eraph is releasing his XP x64 update packs. It seems that a special version of Windows Server 2003 called the “Windows Storage Server 2003” is actually supported until [October of 2016], which could mean that XP x64 could get yet another extension to its lifetime. I’m currently inspecting the operating system and methods to extract full update installers out of it to see whether it can truly be done. If yes, there might be life in the old dog yet!

The dark ages have finally arrived – for XP x64 users, that is. Yesterday, Microsofts extended support for Windows Server 2003 has ended, and with it also my [unofficial XP x64 update] project. There won’t be any more updates for Windows XP Professional x64 Edition SP2 and its on-board components from this day on. And while the regular 32-bit version with its older NT 5.1 kernel will live on until 2019 due to the [POSReady2009 hack], XP x64 will not, as there is no 64-bit embedded POSReady version of XP naturally, given that point-of-service systems like ticketing machines or airport terminals don’t need 64-bit address spaces.

So, as said on the update page, if you’re going to keep using XP x64, you’re doing so at your own risk. And you should really be knowing what you’re doing too, or you may not only put yourself at risk, but also other users on the web, should your machine become compromised. But given that XP x64 users I’ve encountered recently are also often freaks and avid Linux/UNIX users as well, I think the danger is much lower than with 32-bit XP.

Well that’s it. From the Microsoft side of things, this is pretty much where XP x64 ends.

It’s a bit sad that there is no free kernel API extension to make newer software run on the old system, like there is for Win9x with [KernelEx]. Software built with modern Microsoft development environments (Visual Studio 2013+) and in certain cases older ones will likely work on XP less and less from now on. People will no longer care so much for linking against the old platform SDKs and compiling for the v110_xp platform target.

Several free software projects (like FileZilla to name just one of many) have already ceased to support NT5.x even before the end of Server 2003. It’s even worse for commercial applications of course. Then there are others which still care to keep the platform supported, like the x265/HEVC encoder or closed software like AnyDVD HD.

But one thing’s for sure.

From this day on, it’ll only get darker and colder for those who decide to stay on this ship!

[1] Original image is © 2015 Windows 8 Wallpapers

Jul 022015

NetworkIt seems that two months after the last maintenance in May another one needs to be done on 2015-07-08 around 00:00 AM – 06:00 AM UTC+1. Again this means that all services may see some downtime during this period, this weblog included. So no eMail server, no web server, no anything. By trend these maintenances tend to put me offline for short periods of time only, but who knows what UPCs gonna do. Just so you know.