Blackmail variant – 2022-05-01

Been a while since I’ve received one of these. This came in with the email subject “You have an outstanding payment. Debt settlement required.”

Hello!

Unfortunately, I have some unpleasant news for you.
Roughly several months ago I have managed to get a complete access to all devices that you use to browse internet.
Afterwards, I have proceeded with monitoring all internet activities of yours.

You can check out the sequence of events summarize below: Previously I have bought from hackers a special access to various email accounts (currently, it is rather a straightforward thing that can be done online).
Clearly, I could effortlessly log in to your email account as well ([REDACTED]).

One week after that, I proceeded with installing a Trojan virus in Operating Systems of all your devices, which are used by you to login to your email.
Actually, that was rather a simple thing to do (because you have opened a few links from your inbox emails previously).
Genius is in simplicity. ( ~_^)

Thanks to that software I can get access to all controllers inside your devices (such as your video camera, microphone, keyboard etc.).
I could easily download all your data, photos, web browsing history and other information to my servers.
I can access all your social networks accounts, messengers, emails, including chat history as well as contacts list.
This virus of mine unceasingly keeps refreshing its signatures (since it is controlled by a driver), and as result stays unnoticed by antivirus software.

Hereby, I believe by this time it is already clear for you why I was never detected until I sent this letter...

While compiling all the information related to you, I have also found out that you are a true fan and frequent visitor of adult websites.
You truly enjoy browsing through porn websites, while watching arousing videos and experiencing an unimaginable satisfaction.
To be honest, I could not resist but to record some of your kinky solo sessions and compiled them in several videos, which demonstrate you masturbating and cumming in the end.

If you still don't trust me, all it takes me is several mouse clicks to distribute all those videos with your colleagues, friends and even relatives.
In addition, I can upload them online for entire public to access.
I truly believe, you absolutely don't want such things to occur, bearing in mind the kinky stuff exposed in those videos that you usually watch, (you definitely understand what I am trying to say) it will result in a complete disaster for you.

We can still resolve it in the following manner:
You perform a transfer of $1590 USD to me (a bitcoin equivalent based on the exchange rate during the funds transfer), so after I receive the transfer, I will straight away remove all those lecherous videos without hesitation.
Then we can pretend like it has never happened before. In addition, I assure that all the harmful software will be deactivated and removed from all devices of yours. Don't worry, I am a man of my word.

It is really a good deal with a considerably low the price, bearing in mind that I was monitoring your profile as well as traffic over an extended period.
If you still unaware about the purchase and transfer process of bitcoins - all you can do is find the necessary information online.

My bitcoin wallet is as follows: 1MW4maqRuqi62YiRNMaBiHT65WJJMEAvQw

You are left with 48 hours and the countdown starts right after you open this email (2 days to be specific).

Don't forget to keep in mind and abstain from doing the following:
> Do not attempt to reply my email (this email was generated in your inbox together with the return address).
> Do not attempt to call police as well as other security services. Moreover, don't even think of sharing it with your friends. If I get to know about it (based on my skills, that would be very easy, since that I have all your systems under my control and constant monitoring) - your dirty video will become public without delay. Don't attempt searching for me - it is completely useless. Cryptocurrency transactions always remain anonymous.
> Don't attempt reinstalling the OS of your devices or even getting rid of them. It is meaningless too, because all your private videos are already been available on remote servers.

Things you should be concerned about:
> That I will not receive the funds transfer you make.
Relax, I will be able to track it immediately, after you complete the funds transfer, because I unceasingly monitor all activities that you do (trojan virus of mine can control remotely all processes, same as TeamViewer).
> That I will still distribute your videos after you have sent the money to me. 
Believe me, it is pointless for me to proceed with troubling you after that. Besides that, if that really was my intention, it would happen long time ago!
It all will be settled on fair conditions and terms!

One last advice from me... Moving forward make sure you don't get involved in such type of incidents again!
My suggestion - make sure you change all your passwords as often as possible.

Other Bitcoin wallets associated with this scam:

Amethyst finally gets an upgrade

Build Log:

Wow it’s been a while since I’ve written on Amethyst. But there really hasn’t been much in the way of changes to it aside from a platform upgrade about 18 months ago. Swapping out the 6-core/12-thread i7-5820k to the 12-core/24-thread Ryzen 3900X.

I had intended on upgrading her to a 3000-series card not long after the platform upgrade, but… yeah. We all know what happened.

Now it’s 2022.

Thanks to the scalping, miners, etc., it took until April of this year to get an RTX 3080. I was in EVGA’s queue for one, the 10GB XC3 variety specifically (Model No. 10G-P5-3881-KR), along with an RTX 3070 8GB XC3 (Model No. 08G-P5-3755-KL). And around the time my RTX 3070 reservation came through, Micro Center sent an ad email showing they had RTX 3080s in stock. At MSRP. So I jumped on one and canceled my EVGA reservation.

So 5½ years. Mira has been on a GTX 1070 for almost as long.

So why the RTX 3080?

System specifications

Amethyst is my wife’s system, as I’ve mentioned before. And she doesn’t have any 4K or 1440p screens. Her display setup is three 1080p televisions. I’m the one using 4K screens with Mira. Dual, not triple. And primarily for photo editing, though I love the extra real estate.

So with triple 1080p screens, why the RTX 3080? She also streams. And having the extra GPU horsepower and memory (12GB of GDDR6) will help with the video encoding and still give her plenty of room for gaming. And the lower resolution means better quality settings as well.

She also may not have 4K screens now, but the option is there if she decides later to make the jump.

Some changes needed

For now the system has been migrated into a spare chassis – a 4U x 17″ long rack chassis with the lid removed. This is unfortunately necessary. I need to redesign the loop to accommodate the graphics card and its water block.

I’m also going to take this opportunity to paint her chassis, something I first discussed doing quite a few years ago and just never got around to doing. Only the inside of the chassis will be painted, though – my wife specifically said she wants the outside to remain black. The plan, currently, is white with a pearl clear coat, though with some purple accents – e.g. replacing all the screws with purple anodized screws, and probably painting some parts of the interior purple, such as the GPU bracket.

Needing to disassemble the chassis for paint will also give me a chance to rectify the space issue with her reservoir and pump by removing the drive bays. I did install a front intake fan into the drive bays using a fan mount adapter from Mountain Mods. That’ll be replaced with an acrylic or, likely, aluminum flat panel that I’ll just screw or epoxy into place.

There’s another complication as well: her mainboard is PCI-Express Gen 4, and so is the card, but the riser cable on the GPU vertical mount is PCI-Express Gen 3 compatible at most. I don’t want to downgrade the PCI-E version in the BIOS unless I have no choice. So I’ll be replacing the riser cable with a Gen 4 cable.

The graphics card is also the most power-hungry of anything I’ve ever used. It requires three (3) 8-pin power connectors, whereas her GTX 1080 only needed one, like my GTX 1070. Thankfully CableMod makes Corsair Type3 cables and sells them individually so you can get exactly what you need.

Building for longevity

Just a small commentary here.

We’ve had the Corsair Obsidian 750D for over 8 years, and the RM1000 power supply for almost 8 years. How many of us who’ve built PCs in the last 10+ years can say that? Seems especially counterintuitive when looking at the PC building channels on YouTube. New build, new chassis, which seems to warrant a new power supply as well.

That seems to be the norm anymore. And really… that needs to change.

I mean how many PC builders on YouTube stick with the same chassis for longer than… one or a couple years? Seems to be very, very few. I think Linus Sebastian (of Linus Tech Tips) is the only one who’s stuck with the same chassis for any significant period of time. That custom rack chassis he has for his personal build along with something similar for his wife, though he recently changed out his custom chassis for something a little better suited to his needs.

Instead, pick one chassis, paint it if you want, and stay with it for the long haul. Only swap it out if it no longer meets your needs.

I considered proposing that I swap out my wife’s chassis for something… slightly smaller and, likely, full white. But there is no need. And I don’t really foresee moving away from the 750D at all, to be honest, unless mainboard standards completely change. And given ATX has been around since 1995, meaning it’s been in use far longer than the preceding AT form factor standard, I don’t see that happening any time soon either.

The fans and internal hardware will get swapped out as needed. The power supply is already out of warranty but showing no signs of dying, thanks to it being plugged into a UPS, which conditions the power. The front USB ports may lose their utility entirely.

But the chassis itself? Again, unless the ATX standard is completely replaced, it shouldn’t be going anywhere. And there have been attempts to replace the ATX standard, but none have succeeded.

And the Corsair RM1000 has been in the system since later in 2014, when I swapped out her GS800 non-modular power supply with a full modular one when rebuilding her system following the catastrophic water block failure. So over 8 years on the same power supply. 8 years! The warranty on it was only 5 years. And again, it’s showing no signs of dying, most likely due to the UPS.

If you’re building brand new, pick your chassis and power supply first. Get a quality brand power supply with adequate power delivery and room for future expansion. In all actuality, just get an 800+W unit and you should be fine unless what you plan to start with dictates otherwise. 1000W wouldn’t be a bad starting point either.

And on your chassis, make sure to find one that’ll allow for adequate cooling – read and watch reviews to help you with this – that’ll also fit the power supply you want to use. And get a UPS.

Plan your build into a chassis you intend to keep for the long haul and resist the temptation to move it all into a new chassis every year or several years unless your needs change in an unpredictable way.

No, charging an EV from a generator does not use less than a gas-powered car

I recently came across this on Facebook:

So is this true? Not even close.

Lets plug some numbers into this. Someone feel free to double-check my numbers here if you wish. The actual amount of kWh used to charge the battery will overall actually be LESS compared to what the generator can produce due to inefficiencies in the charging, so this is basically being generous to the claim. But as you’ll see, that doesn’t help it all that much.

The generator I’m eying can run at about 2 gal/hour at full load to produce around 10kW. This means about 5kWh per gallon of gasoline from that generator. To get the miles per kWh for an EV, take the estimated range and divide by the battery capacity. Then multiply that by 5 to get an approximate equivalent mile per gallon.

The lowest-end Tesla Model 3 has a 50kWh battery and a range of about 280 miles, so about 5.6 miles per kWh. (I imagine that this will be the new metric for comparing vehicles in 10 years.) Or about 28 miles per gallon of gasoline from the generator.

My 2007 Kia Spectra (loved that car, hate that it got totaled) could beat that without issue. And my 2019 CR-V, which is a full-size SUV, can also beat that without issue.

What if you have the Tesla Model 3 with the 82kWh battery and about 350 miles of range? That’s about 4.2 miles per kWh, or a little over 21 miles per gallon. That’s horrible fuel economy from a sedan.

The F-150 Lightning fares much worse at about 10 to 12 mpg equivalent (100 kWh battery, 200 to 240 mile range). The current model F-150 gets about 25 mpg city/highway.

Now this isn’t to say we should not move toward EVs, as we definitely should. Along with building and commissioning new nuclear power plants so they can be charged cheaply without contributing to CO2 production. We can’t get completely away from fossil-fueled vehicles, but we absolutely should to the furthest extent possible.

And everyone who owns an EV definitely should have a generator. At least 10kW and dual-fuel preferably so you can use propane or gasoline to power it, such as the one I linked above. Propane keeps for a LOT longer than gasoline and burns cleaner, meaning your generator will run better in the long run – provided you keep up with oil maintenance.

But don’t delude yourself into thinking that a generator charging an EV is more efficient than a fossil-fuel powered vehicle, since it absolutely is NOT. If you rely on a generator to charge an EV, you’re massively increasing your carbon footprint instead of decreasing it.

Blackmail variant – 2022-03-15

Okay, I’m just going to start naming these the date I first receive them. I can’t keep trying to come up with new article titles for all of these. And I’ll probably go back and rename all the other articles to something similar. If I feel like it.

Greetings!
Have you seen lately my e-mail to you from an account of yours?
Yeah, that merely confirms that I have gained a complete access to device of yours.

***I have been observing all the events and actions in your computer, while checking through browser history of yours.***

Within the past several months, I was observing you.
Are you still surprised how could that happen? Frankly speaking, malware has infected your devices and it's coming from an adult website, which you used to visit. 
Although all this stuff may seem unfamiliar to you, but let me try to explain that to you.

With aid of Trojan Viruses, I managed to gain full access to any PC or other types of devices.
That merely means that I can watch you whenever I want via your screen just by activating your camera as well as microphone, while you don't even know about that. 
Moreover, I have also received access to entire contacts list as well as full correspondence of yours.

You may be wondering, "However, my PC is protected by a legitimate antivirus, so how could that happen? Why couldn't I get any alerts?" 
To be honest, the reply is quite straightforward: malware of mine utilizes drivers, which update the signatures on 4-hourly basis, 
which turns them to become untraceable, and hereby making your antivirus remain idle.

I have collected a video on the left screen where you enjoy wanking, while the video on the right screen shows the video you were watching at that point of time.
Still puzzled how much damage could that cause? One mouse click is enough for me to share this video to your social networks, as well as e-mail contacts of yours.
In addition, I am also able to gain access to all e-mail correspondence as well as messengers used by you.

Below are simple steps required for you to undertake in order to avoid that from occurring - transfer $1250 in Bitcoin equivalent to my wallet 
(if you don't know how to complete that, just open your browser and make a google search: "Buy Bitcoin").

My bitcoin wallet address (BTC Wallet) is: 1GkrqGsN3ZpusEqQQqESZ6h2Wxdo6AW8xc 

Once the payment has been confirmed, I shall remove the video without delay, and that is end of story - afterwards you won't hear about me again for sure.
The time for you to perform the transaction is 2 days (48 hours).
After this e-mail is opened by you, I will get an automatic notice, which will start my timer.

Any effort to complain will not change anything at all, because this e-mail is simply untraceable, just like my bitcoin address.
I have been developing these plans for quite an extended period of time; so, don't expect any mistake from my side. 

If, get to know that you tried to send this message to anyone else, I will distribute your video as described earlier.

Blackmail variant – 2022-02-23

This one is very similar to the one I posted on Jan 16. Almost identical, in fact, and I nearly did not post this due to that.

The slight difference is this one claims to know the password to my email, which is a trait I’ve seen numerous times across all these blackmail scams that I’ve posted here. And, like before, the password they’re claiming is the one to my email came from the infamous LinkedIn data dump. Otherwise, again, my email gets delivered to a server behind my firewall, so no one has any way of accessing it.

Hi. How are you? 

I know, it's unpleasant to start the conversation with bad news, but I have no choice.
Few months ago, I have gained access to your devices that used by you for internet browsing.
Afterwards, I could track down all your internet activities.

Here is the history of how it could become possible: 
At first, I purchased from hackers the access to multiple email accounts (nowadays, it is a really simple thing to do online).
As result, I could easily log in to your email account ([REDACTED]).

When I got access to your email - your password was: [REDACTED]

One week later, I installed Trojan virus in Operating Systems of all devices of yours, which you use to open email.
Frankly speaking, it was rather straightforward (since you were opening the links from your inbox emails).
Everything ingenious is quite simple. .'(>_<)'.

My software enables me with access to all controllers inside devices of yours, like microphone, keyboard and video camera.
I could easily download to my servers all your private info, including the history of web browsing and photos.
I can effortlessly gain access to all your messengers, social networks accounts, emails, contact list as well as chat history.
Virus of mine constantly keeps refreshing its signatures (because it is driver-based), and as result remains unnoticed by your antivirus.

Hence, you can already guess why I stayed undetected all this while.

As I was gathering information about you, I couldn't help but notice that you are also a true fan of adult-content websites.
You actually love visiting porn sites and browsing through kinky videos, while pleasuring yourself.
I could make a few dirty records with you in the main focus and montaged several videos showing the way you reach orgasm while masturbating with joy.

If you are still uncertain regarding the seriousness of my intentions, 
it only requires several mouse clicks for me to forward your videos to all your relatives, as well as friends and colleagues.
I can also make those vids become accessible by public.
I honestly think that you do not really want that to happen, considering the peculiarity of videos you like to watch, 
(you obviously know what I mean) all that kinky content can become a reason of serious troubles for you.

However, we can still resolve this situation in the following manner:
Everything you are required to do is a single transfer of $1770 USD to my account (or amount equivalent to bitcoin depending on exchange rate at the moment of transfer), 
and once the transaction is complete, I will straight away remove all the dirty content exposing you.
After that, you can even forget that you have come across me. Moreover, I swear that all the harmful software will be removed from all devices of yours as well. 
Make no doubt that I will fulfill my part.

This is really a great deal that comes at a reasonable price, given that I have used quite a lot of energy to check your profile as well as traffic over an extended period of time.
If you have no idea about bitcoin purchase process - it can be straightforwardly done by getting all the necessary information online.

Here is my bitcoin wallet provided below: 12FQQNhsPSbx8FFcp8fVqaXtoGj6Cyk31S

You should complete the abovementioned transfer within 48 hours (2 days) after opening this email.

The following list contains actions you should avoid attempting:
#Do not try replying my email (email in your inbox was generated by me alongside with return email address).
#Do not try calling police as well as other security forces. In addition, abstain from sharing this story with your friends. 
 After I find out (be sure, I can easily do that, given that I keep complete control of all your devices) - your kinky video will end up being available to public right away. 
#Do not try searching for me - there is absolutely no reason to do that. Moreover, all transactions in cryptocurrency are always anonymous.
#Do not try reinstalling the OS on your devices or throwing them away. It is pointless as well, since all your videos have already been uploaded to remote servers.

The following list contains things you should not be worried about:
#That your money won't reach my account.
- Rest assured, the transactions can be tracked, hence once the transaction is complete, 
 I will know about it, because I continuously observe all your activities (my trojan virus allows me to control remotely your devices, same as TeamViewer).
#That I still will share your kinky videos to public after you complete money transfer.
- Trust me, it's pointless for me to continue troubling your life. If I really wanted, I would make it happen already! 

Let's make this deal in a fair manner!

Owh, one more thing...in future it is best that you don't involve yourself in similar situations any longer!
One last advice from me - recurrently change all your passwords from all accounts.

Adding an SLOG… or not

Let me preface this: for most home NAS users, any kind of cache devices with ZFS are a waste. Only if you are frequently copying a lot of files to your NAS or modifying those files in place will an SLOG help. And a read cache device (L2ARC) has very few use cases where they are beneficial, almost none of which apply to home NAS.

And this is especially true if you don’t have a faster than Gigabit connection to the NAS. Without that, an SLOG or L2ARC is all cost and no benefit.

I’m a photographer, meaning I’m backing up several tens of gigabytes of initial RAW files from my camera to later be culled and edited. I also have a lot of movies backed up onto my NAS and recently started doing the same with my PS3 and PS2 games. So that’s a lot of medium and large writes going outbound. I also have a 10GbE network connection to the NAS.

Recently I also discovered that NFS is available on Windows 10 Pro, which I have on my desktop system. So I decided to enable that and remount my file shares using NFS since it’s supposed to be better than SMB in terms of performance.

And it…. wasn’t. Far from, actually.

But NFS is faster than SMB! That’s what everyone says at least.

Well, yes, overall it is. There are plenty of metrics that prove such. But why is it slow on Nasira?

It involves a third acronym: ZIL. The ZFS Intent Log. How it works and the kind of performance you’ll get will depend on the “sync” setting for the pool. Here’s the long and short of it:

  • “disabled” = all writes are treated as asynchronous
  • “standard” = only writes declared as “synchronous” are treated as such, asynchronous otherwise
  • “always” = all writes are treated as synchronous

“Disabled” is fastest but least safe, and “always” is slowest but most safe. And “standard” is going to vary between the two depending on what you’re copying and what’s doing the copy.

Let’s get a little technical. ZFS writes data to your pool in “transaction groups”. If you’re familiar with relational databases, it’s a similar concept. With synchronous writes, the intent log is a mirror copy of the transaction groups stored in memory. If something goes wrong, having that mirror copy allows some level of data recovery. This is definitely a good thing.

And unless you have a separate log device, the ZIL sits in the pool itself.

On the platter HDDs.

And based on my testing and that of others, the NFS Client in Windows always operates synchronously. Meaning write speeds were… not even close to fast enough to saturate a GbE connection, let alone a 10GbE connection. Set “sync” to “disabled” and write speeds to the NAS were coming in around 300 to 400 MB/s. It was also a sustained speed as well, holding about steady around that mark. Whereas SMB file transfers would peak early then drop down to around 200 MB/s unless I used robocopy to force more data down SMB’s throat.

So the solution, then, is simple, right? Just add an SLOG device?

Latent issues

Now if you’ve been researching whether to integrate an SLOG device to your NAS, you’ve probably come across the term “latency”. A lot. And you’ve probably even come across a lot of web and Reddit posts that boil down to, in short, if you’re not using an Optane, you might as well not have an SLOG.

Yeah there’s a lot of religious undertones with TrueNAS and ZFS. I mentioned it in my first article discussing Nasira with regard to ECC RAM, and you can say the same about using an SLOG.

So what gives?

Well it’s namely because Intel’s Optane devices are some of the best in terms of latency and throughput. But how much does latency matter? It’s important, don’t get me wrong. But not to nearly the degree so many people think. And this all or nothing thinking does nothing to further the conversation.

Now obviously there are options you absolutely should not be using as an SLOG. Any SSD that is actually slower than your pool in overall write throughput (check by turning sync to “Disabled”) is a setup you definitely should not touch. This means that in any decent NAS setup, most any SATA SSD on the market is breaking even unless you’re striping two or more together, while most any NVMe SSD is going to be adequate. Just pay attention to write throughput.

And why do I say that? Why am I not joining in on saying “Optane or don’t bother”?

Because the metric that matters isn’t latency and throughput, but latency and throughput compared to your pool. It doesn’t matter if the drive you select has the best metrics available, but whether it’s better than your pool.

Since the idea is to give ZFS a location better than your pool for writing the intent log.

And the latency and write throughput of most any NVMe SSD on the market should easily outpace a pool of HDDs.

And if you’re lucky enough to have terabytes of SSD storage in your pool, why are you even thinking of adding an SLOG? Well, there is one benefit to it that I’ll touch on later. You’ll probably have to stripe NVMe SSDs together, though.

What about all that other stuff?

Oh you mean things like power loss protection and mirroring the SLOGs? None of that matters nearly as much as the zealots like to believe.

Again, a lot of talk about ZFS and “best practices” has taken on religious and apocalyptic undertones with talks about specific risks being thrown out the window with an all-or-nothing “no risk is acceptable” type point of view – hence the “ECC or don’t bother” type thinking I saw when first building Nasira. But then I shouldn’t be horribly surprised by the risk aversion of the average person (let alone our governments) given how things played out during the COVID-19 pandemic, and still are even today (as of when I write this).

Yes, I went there.

And it’s this near-complete “no risk is acceptable” type of risk aversion that seems to have flooded discussions on whether you need to mirror your SLOG and whether you need power loss protection. So let’s inject some sanity back into this, starting with mirroring the SLOG.

“Mirror, mirror of the SLOG”

How could data loss occur without a mirrored SLOG? Well two things have to happen pretty much simultaneously: your NAS crashes or loses power before the in-flight transaction groups are written to the pool, and the SLOG device dies either at the same time or it dies on reboot.

Since having a copy of the synchronous transaction groups in case the system does crash or lose power is the purpose of that intent log. Asynchronous transaction groups are lost regardless.

So if the SLOG gives up the ghost, meaning in-flight transactions cannot be recovered, you’ve got some corrupted or lost data, depending on what was in-flight. Provided there were in-flight synchronous transactions when that happened. Having a mirrored SLOG should protect you from that to a degree. And there’s always the chance the mirror completely gives up the ghost.

Here’s the million-dollar question, though: how likely is that to actually happen?

In actuality, it’s so low a likelihood I’m surprised people actually give it any thought. And there are steps you can take when building and deploying your NAS to keep the risk of that as low as possible. And it goes back to what I said when I built Nasira: use quality parts!

And primary storage devices normally don’t just up and die without any kind of warning from your system, especially if they’ve been in service for a significant period of time. So make sure you have S.M.A.R.T. monitoring turned ON and that you’re not ignoring the alerts your system is generating.

How bad of a time you’re going to have should that happen is entirely dependent on your use case. If the NAS is being used purely for backups, then it’s not a huge deal. Just redo the backup when everything is back online. If you’ve just ripped a 4K UHD disk and was in the middle of copying the file to the NAS when everything went down, redo the copy when everything is back online. If you were ripping the disk to the NAS, just delete the partial output file and redo it.

If you’re editing photos or video straight from your NAS, then you’re in a bit more of a bind.

If your SLOG dies while the system is still live, though, ZFS will revert to putting the intent log back onto the pool and it’ll detach the device from the pool. You may notice some performance degradation on writes, depending on your workflow, but the system will otherwise keep chugging away and you’ll get a notification that you need to replace the device.

So what about power loss protection, then?

Keep the power on!

If the system loses power, power loss protection is supposed to keep the SSD powered on just long enough to flush its internal cache. Typically this is in the form of capacitors or an external battery. But do you really need that? Likely not since there are ways to protect your system from just losing power.

For starters, have an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) externally, and use a quality power supply internally with quality power cables. Again, use quality parts!

And like storage devices, power supplies generally don’t die without any kind of warning. And that warning comes in the form of system instability. So ignore that at your own peril! And that system instability could signal a problem with the power cables or the power supply itself.

If you really want to go all-out, use redundant power supplies. But I’ll leave you to determine if that’s worth the cost to you and your use case. For most people, the answer will generally be a No. You’ll likely know if your answer is a hard YES.

But whether you need power loss protection on your SLOG drives comes down to your use case. If you’re not working directly with the files on the pool, such as, again, editing photos and videos straight from it rather than using a scratch disk on your workstation, then not having power loss protection on the SLOG is likely not a big deal.

It all comes down to how much risk you’re willing to accept. Since losing the SLOG only risks losing in-flight synchronous writes. But then, if you’re talking about a mission-critical system where losing in-flight synchronous writes means a really bad time, I really hope you’re not using a DIY storage solution.

Never interrupt a writer!

And there’s one other detail as well: interrupted writes/saves = corrupted data.

And mirrored SLOGs and power loss protection cannot protect against that.

Interrupt the rip of a BluRay or 4K UHD disc to… anywhere, for example, and the output file is basically useless. And interrupting writes to a file would produce the same result for most file types. Interrupt the writes to database files stored on your pool and you might as well just restore from a backup.

Adding the overkill drive

So… what did I select?

To ensure I had write speeds in excess of what 10GbE could give, while not spending a substantial amount of money (e.g. Samsung, WD Black, etc.), I went with the HP EX900 Pro. 256GB. Absolute overkill on space. But rated at up to 1,900 MBps on sequential writes. More than enough to handle a fully-saturated 10GbE link.

Now the process to actually add the drive is beyond the scope of this article. I’m taking this as a chance to merely mention the upgrade and how I selected the drive, some pointers to keep in mind. And one place where you need to pay attention is PCI-E link speeds. For Nasira’s mainboard, it’s this chart in the manual:

Initially when I added the SSD with its adapter card to the system, write speeds were… not what I expected. At first I thought I did something wrong adding the SSD. Well initially I added it as a cache device, not a log device. But once I corrected that, write speeds were again far below what I hoped.

So what was the issue? PCI-Express lanes. I first added the card to the system in the 2.0x16_4 slot thinking the operating mode that would apply is the first line. The SAS card is in 2.0x16_1 and the 10GbE card is in 2.0x16_2. So then I looked at the PCI configuration to see how many lanes the drive was getting.

Just 1 lane. If this was a PCI-E 3.0 mainboard, that wouldn’t be a huge deal. Not ideal, but not crippling. Being a 2.0 mainboard, though, it needs all the lanes it can get.

So I moved the drive to the 2.0x16_3 slot. This meant having 3 cards crowded together, so not ideal. Did that improve write performance? Over NFS compared to no SLOG, it did. Like order of magnitude improvement.

Pool topography matters

In all the articles describing how SLOG devices improve write performance to the pool, they all omit one. key. detail. The pool topography. And along with topography is how fragmented or balanced, or not, your pool is.

And Nasira is arguably a worst-case scenario on all of that. Six (6) vdevs, all mirrored pairs, no common size (4TB to 12TB), with each pair added at different times as space filled up on the pool. This means heavy imbalance or fragmentation, with no way to alleviate except dump the pool to the cloud, wipe it, and pull everything back down. A process that would take… probably 2 weeks both ways. Even copying off to a pair of high-capacity HDDs would not change that.

After accounting for network throughput, write performance to your pool is throttled first by the intent log, then second by the actual writes to the pool. Without an SLOG, you’re doing writes to the pool twice. With the SLOG, you’re writing first to that device, then to the pool. This improves performance… to a degree. It’ll never be faster than full asynchronous writes, and that metric can give you an overall idea of how well your pool is performing.

And, again, pool fragmentation matters. ZFS will write data out according to the free space available per vdev. The more imbalanced your pool, the slower your writes (and reads) will be regardless of whether you have an SLOG or not.

But one benefit no one seems to mention about having the SLOG: it reduces the overall I/O going to your vdevs, helping their lifespan. So even if you don’t get a substantial performance increase adding an SLOG, you at least get that benefit. This could matter more with SSD-based storage, which will grow in popularity as prices continue to come down.

Conclusions and TL;DR

Let’s summarize.

First, it’s not entirely correct to say that any SSD as an SLOG is better than none. You need an SSD that will be faster than the write speed to your pool, or you’re not doing yourself any favors. Since, again, the idea is to give ZFS a better spot than your pool for writing the intent log.

For most everyone, this means most any NVMe on the market should suffice. Just make sure to go with a quality brand and read reviews to make sure you’re getting one with decent throughput.

Do you need power loss protection? Likely not.

If your NAS is light duty, you’re not writing to it much and only really using it for backups, power loss protection is extra cost for no extra benefit. Just make sure you have a quality power supply and watch out for symptoms it may be failing. And have a quality UPS as well that outputs pure sine wave power to keep your power supply running well for years.

Do you need to mirror your SLOG? Likely not.

Like with power loss protection, mirroring your SLOG is extra cost for no added benefit if your NAS is light duty. The risk of actual data loss should your SLOG device die is minimal because the risk your SLOG will die without any kind of advance warning is also minimal.

And the possibility it’ll die at the same time your NAS crashes or loses power while you have synchronous writes in-flight is so low you really shouldn’t be giving it much thought. Just make sure you have S.M.A.R.T. enabled and pay attention to any warnings the service sends out. And if it dies while your system is still live, you lose performance, but all your data should still otherwise survive.

So, again, if you want to add an SLOG device, just pick a quality NVMe SSD, buy an adapter board if you need it to put it in a PCI-E slot, and call it a day.

USB type-C to Milwaukee M12 adapter

In figuring out a portable light wand, I discovered some very small USB type-C power boards, one specifically locked at 12V. And I’ve used them in testing to power a light strip and I’ve got other ideas in mind for using them.

Well one idea I had is using them to power a Milwaukee M12 device. So how to do that? The simplest solution is soldering a couple spade connectors to the power board and just plugging it up that way. And while that would work, it’s obviously far from ideal. Ideal is having an M12 battery shell with some kind of 12V input on the bottom. Or USB type-C, which supports 12V.

So that’s what I’m discussing here.

Bill of materials

Limitations

The USB type-C power boards will do 3A (36W) without issue with any USB type-C charging cable, but needs an “active” USB type-C cable for up 5A (60W). 18650 cells can do 10A typically without issue, making Milwaukee’s M12 capable of over 100W of power delivery. So this adapter is best suited for the lighter M12 devices. It works fine with my borescope, which draws only a couple watts of power. But it definitely should NOT be used with anything with a motor, since they have a surge current when powering on. And absolutely do not use this with the AXIS jacket. Keep to light power devices like lights and the aforementioned borescope and you should be fine.

Preparing the shell

The panel mount plug I linked is keystone size, so you’re going to be drilling a pretty sizeable hole in the bottom of the battery shell. You’ll need a step bit that has a 1″ step. I do not recommend using a 1″ hole saw. Just drill out the bottom through the center divot (see below), though I’d recommend using a 1/4″ drill bit to start the hole. And I highly recommend using a drill press if you have one. Without the lid, the battery shell should sit flat on your drill press platform.

That divot!

Once the hole is drilled out and cleaned, the panel mount plug should fit, though it’ll be a loose fit. I followed up with a drill and M3 tap for using M3x6mm screws.

Now for the wiring.

Wiring it up

This is pretty straightforward. Positive to battery positive, negative to battery negative. The 4V and 8V connectors are used only with charging the batteries to balance them, so don’t worry about those.

Once you have it wired up, push the battery board into the shell’s lid. Then connect the power board to the USB plug in the shell body – you may need to use a tool to fully seat the plug. Then snap the lid into place and you’re golden.

The portable charger is a 65W portable charger from Baseus. It works reasonably well, though it seems to inexplicably lose its charge. And the USB type-C cable is, obviously, from Anker.

Conclusions

While I built this partly as a curiosity, I can definitely see a use case for this. Since a lot of us have USB type-C portable chargers anymore, and even the Milwaukee Top-Off becomes an option for powering M12 items from an M18 battery.

Though that brings up another idea for which parts are already on the way as I write this: an M18 to M12 battery adapter. I’m surprised Milwaukee doesn’t already already make one, though it does mean selling a lot fewer M12 batteries if they did. But it would mean selling a lot more M18 batteries, though, since they have higher capacities and can handle higher wattage draws.

So how easy is it to build one? You’ll see when I publish the article on it.

But with the limitations listed above about how you should use this only with the lower-power devices, why did I build this? In part as a curiosity, but also in part as an alternate means of powering devices I build using Milwaukee M12 battery adapters. But if you’re wanting a light-power Milwaukee M12 device but don’t want to buy into another battery system, this at least gives you a viable alternative.

Misunderstanding how insurance works

It’s pretty bad when a practicing attorney is far, far off the mark in how insurance works. So time to revisit firearm liability “insurance”, something this attorney has apparently been advocating for over 20 years.

Article: https://www.yahoo.com/news/gun-safety-mandatory-arms-insurance-193610382.html

So first of all, here’s one thing to get out of the way: insurance will not cover an insured where intentional acts are involved. It will only cover you where there is negligence or it results from someone else’s actions. Intentionally burn down your own house, for example, and your homeowner’s insurance will basically tell you that you’re on your own. Intentionally crash your own car and your auto insurance will say the same.

Intentionally take your own life and your life insurance policy is void. (Except in physician-assisted suicide, in States where that is allowed.)

And since the vast majority of firearms injuries and deaths result from the intentional actions of the person pulling the trigger, that makes that whole discussion entirely moot. Which makes it utterly baffling that a practicing attorney, of all people, would be advocating for an insurance policy that covers someone’s intentional actions.

Insurance has never worked that way!

So this leaves unintentional actions. And generally where someone’s unintentional actions lead to the death or injury of another person, it is the result of either negligence or ignorance of the person taking the actions, or a malfunction or failure of whatever they are using that led to such.

And injuries and deaths caused by a firearm are strict liability torts and crimes under the law in pretty much every State. This means intent is largely immaterial unless there was an unforeseeable malfunction of the firearm. And even that might not save you since a malfunction of a firearm leading to the death or injury of someone else violates the cardinal rules of handling firearms.

One other detail that’ll be very relevant later: virtually all instances where a firearm discharge results in injury, let alone death, are felonies. And, to reiterate, they are strict liability crimes as well, meaning being unintentional won’t save you from criminal charges. And that is true in every State. And convicted felons are prohibited persons with regard to firearm ownership under the laws of every State and the Federal government.

Okay, so let’s get into his article.

Mandatory insurance makes people be responsible for choices that impose risks on others. We must require gun owners at any instant (maker, seller or buyer) have liability insurance to cover any harms that weapon causes.

Liability insurance pays out only when someone is liable for a loss. As such, including the “maker” and “seller” in the list means they, and probably everyone else along the chain of ownership, should be held liable for every firearm homicide and suicide. Yeah… no. That’s like holding Fiat and State Line Jeep here in Kansas City liable if I get into a car accident that kills the other driver.

But, again, liability insurance doesn’t cover the intentional actions of the person carrying the insurance. So this would only pay out in a very small minority of all firearm-related injuries and deaths.

The insurance will be from a private firm, not the government. Each insurer will seek to earn more premiums with fewer claims.

Apparently he’s never heard of the insurance loss ratio. That is the ratio of money that is paid on claims versus revenue from premiums. And that loss ratio is dictated by government regulation.

So if the government mandates a loss ratio of, for example, 80%, that means for every $5 in premiums, $4 must be paid to claims. If an insurer finds themselves lax on claims and awash in cash with a topped-up reserve, then they must refund money back to their customers (either directly or as credits against future premiums) in order to maintain their loss ratio. They can’t just keep that money.

It’s why auto insurers were issuing refunds or credits in 2020. And dental insurers as well, and probably vision insurers, too.

As such, insurance companies actually do NOT have an incentive to “earn more premiums with fewer claims” since they won’t be able to keep that money. Their profit margins are effectively capped by government regulation. The only way they can increase their profit is reducing their operating costs. Contrary to popular belief, health insurance companies in the US aren’t making money hand over fist.

Insurance payouts would go to the crime victims’ compensation fund, whenever a crime involving guns is committed or a gun mishap occurs.

Why not pay the victims directly? Why put the money into a fund where there is a statutory cap on how much crime victims can get? Here in Kansas, that cap is $25,000, $5,000 for funeral expenses. And that amount is reduced if you receive compensation from other sources. Such as insurance!

So you’re requiring insurance presumably for payouts to crime victims, many of whom will likely not be able to benefit from it due to having other forms of insurance that will cover the losses and other expenses. So this isn’t about helping crime victims, but putting another financial barrier in front of gun owners.

Or, rather, white gun owners. More on that later.

Rates will vary according to the gun we want to insure, our expertise, and claims history.

So ban “assault weapons” and require a certain level of training without actually going through the legislative process. Gotcha!

In a way, this could actually end up backfiring on gun control advocates calling for “liability insurance”. Because it’ll show what is already readily apparent from the FBI statistics: so-called “assault weapons” aren’t the problem they make them out to be. Any “claims history” would show this.

Instead pistols are the firearm of choice for gun crimes and suicides. But police also carry pistols, but I’m sure we’ll exempt them from this whole thing per usual.

But the “claims history” is basically about making “insured” gun owners pay for the actions of the uninsured. Since we all know that the gangs, mafias, and cartels aren’t going to go along with buying this “insurance”.

And it also puts another legal and financial barrier in the way of the lower class and minorities from exercising a CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT. It’s another example of a white person in their ivory tower mistakenly thinking that white gun owners are the problem, and so coming up with a policy proposal that will disproportionately affect Latinos and blacks, making it – say it with me! – RACIST.

Quoting an article on the idea of liability insurance I wrote back in 2015:

Gun owners are not just white people living in well-off areas. Yet many of the policy ideas seem to think this is their assumption. When you make it more expensive to exercise a right, those who are lesser-off will be less likely to exercise their right. That’s exactly how poll taxes used to work, yet because we’re talking about guns, no one is seeing it the same way.

Yeah I went there again. It’s impossible to not whenever someone proposes a financial barrier of any kind to the exercise of a right.

Since, again, much of the policy ideas that white gun control advocates conjure seem to think that all gun owners are just well-off white people, benefiting from white privilege and so having a comfortable enough existence that they can afford to give up some more money to own their guns. When in actuality gun owners are a very diverse group of people, and only became more so in 2020 and 2021.

The whole idea of “firearm liability insurance” is pushing the cost of gun crimes onto all gun owners rather than onto the people committing those crimes. And while the push-back might be “we push the cost of all car accidents onto all car owners through insurance”, you’re again missing the intent factor if you present such an argument. Since the vast majority of vehicle collisions are unintentional whereas the vast majority of firearm injuries and deaths are clearly intentional.

Now that’s not to say there isn’t any role for insurance with regard to firearm crimes. But it’s a role they already take: covering the victims. Property and business insurance, for example, covers the victims of crimes. Health insurance (or property or business insurance, where applicable) covers any injuries requiring medical attention. Then the insurance companies may try to go after the perpetrators for whatever they can get to make up that loss, to the extent they’re allowed by law.

And as already noted, those already covered by other forms of insurance will see reduced or eliminated liability for reimbursements from their State’s crime victim compensation fund.

I understand the push for this kind of thing as well: it’s to make victims of crime (or their survivors) as whole as possible. But the main flaw in any call for “liability insurance” is simply that you’re talking about an insurance payout for someone’s intentional actions. And regulations in most (if not all) States – e.g. California – specifically preclude the ability for insurers to cover intentional actions.

But even if the regulations or statutes were updated to eliminate that preclusion, you’re still talking about a financial barrier to the exercise of a constitutional right. The equivalent of a “poll tax”, so to speak. And once you start including intentional actions under the umbrella of insurable events, the cost of such insurance will skyrocket. Since, again, those who are actually committing gun crimes aren’t going to buy the insurance, leaving the cost of those crimes on those who are willing and able to.

And that’s the point.

It’s similar to all the calls for per-round taxes on ammunition and additional taxes on firearms: make it financially infeasible to exercise a constitutional right.

DIY audio input switch

Courtesy of the pandemic, I’ve been a full-time work from home (WHF) software engineer for coming up on 2 years. I previously wrote that I have a pair of 4K televisions I use for desktop monitors. And for my work laptop, I have a universal docking station that supports 4K output. To allow me to use my peripherals between both, I have an audio switch for my headphones and a USB switch for the keyboard, mouse, and microphone.

The USB switch works great! But the audio switch started getting… flaky.

The physical switch is the audio switch’s weakness. It got to the point where getting it to fully actuate onto one of the two inputs with full audio was a bit of a chore. So… what to do? Well as the title suggests, I went DIY.

Sure it’s more expensive than just replacing what I have – the original switch was only 14 USD. But it comes with some exploration! And employing a double throw toggle switch that should give a solid connect or cut-off to either audio input that won’t wear out in the same fashion as what it’s replacing.

Bill of materials

For this I used:

The three-pole switch is what’s important here as a stereo audio jack has three connections: ring, sleeve, and tip. And it’s important to be able to cut off all of them to avoid audio interference. There are versions of this switch with screw terminals. Don’t use them. Get the one with spade terminals since you can also use those terminals as solder lugs, giving you a solid connection.

I used 1/4″ stereo phone jacks instead of the typical 1/8″ (3.5mm) as it seemed finding one of the latter that would latch onto a standard 15mm male plug was going to come down to trial and error. Yes it means I need to use adapters, but it’s more flexible if I decide to repurpose it for something else later. Plus it requires adapting from the smaller to larger connector, not the other way around.

And I went with the open-body connectors as they were most capable of supporting 14ga wire. Larger wire will provide for a better audio connection. And the terminals on the switch and the size of the open connectors could probably allow for even 10ga if you wanted to go absolute overkill. I used stranded core, but solid core would work just as well here.

Wiring it up

The middle set of terminals on the switch is connected to the output while the outer terminals are connected to each of the inputs. While they are made for spade terminals, I used solder to make sure there would not be any connection issues or a connection that could get just slightly loose and cause problems, such as completely losing one side.

On the jacks, you’re connecting point-to-point: ring to ring, tip to tip, sleeve to sleeve. Basically just make sure all the jacks are wired the same to their specific set of terminals on the switch and you should be golden.

And with the open-body jacks, again they’re capable of supporting 14ga wire. (As already mentioned, they can handle larger without issue.) And I didn’t rely on the solder lugs for the tip and ring connectors. Instead I soldered wire to the connectors directly, which I feel gave a much more solid connection – which is important with the larger-gauge wire. The solder lug was the only option for the sleeve connector.

And with the shallowness of the junction box – it’s less than 1-1/2″ internal depth – get the wires as flat as possible.

I chose the simplest wiring route. This means the center connector is the headphone output while the left and right are the inputs. The downside with the switch as well is the toggle will not point to the active input. But you can wire yours up however you choose. For example in the first image below, the leftward audio connection will be the active input, not the rightward connection.

Yeah my soldering and wiring could’ve been a little cleaner… Solder connections give you the most solid connection, though, compared to the aforementioned screw terminal version of this switch. (Yes, I tried using that switch and it was nothing but issues and I could not get solid, reliable audio switching no matter how much I tried.)

Testing and Troubleshooting

When testing this, make sure to test with different types of music and audio. And of course test everything before closing it into the box.

While the audio is playing, I’d recommend tapping the box on your table or desk along with flipping the switch back and forth so the audio goes in and out. If audio channels come in and out doing either, or parts of the audio drop out, check the connections on your switch.

If you lose audio or it drops out plugging and unplugging any of the audio connections, check your solder joints.