All posts by Mark Rushing

Happy Birthday US Postal Service!

For a good while, Benjamin Franklin was the Postmaster General for the British. But in 1774 the English fired him for his unruly and revolutionary talk.

A year later, on this day, July 26th, the Colonial Congress created its own post office and gave Benjamin the job of Postmaster General. We may owe American independence from Britain to a disgruntled postal employee who wouldn’t shut up.

The seal the new US post office used was, of course, an up-tight European cliche, Mercury the Winged Messenger. But about 60 years later, we switched to a guy riding a pony. πŸ™‚ And it stayed that way until 1970! When they started talking about privatizing it, and it went all corporate-looking eagle.

AMD Ryzen 1800x Performance and Experience

A couple days ago I purchased an AMD Ryzen 1800x CPU as part of a new system build. Having more that 4 physical cores is very important to me since I do a lot simultaneously, including virtualization. That’s why I stuck with my last AMD 8350 for so long. It’s been a great workhorse and still performs very well, especially on heavy loads.

I’ve heard mixed results from people about DDR4 memory speeds usable by the Ryzen CPUs – that they are very picky about memory and can never reach 3200 MHz. I had no trouble reaching 3200 MHz, and with a CAS Level 14 as well! I chose the G.Skill Flare series memory which purports to be Ryzen AM4 oriented, and which was in my motherboard’s tested models as well.

The motherboard I chose was, at first, the Asrock x370 Taichi. I wanted a motherboard with a good reputation, good features and a good price. I also wanted it to support ECC memory, as the Asrock boards do. Although I wasn’t buying ECC memory now, I tend to turn these AMD multicore systems into servers down the road, and having the capability in place makes me sleep better. πŸ˜‰

The trouble is, I could never find the Asrock x370 Taichi in stock – it was always sold out. So I decided to buy the Asrock board which is the top-of-the-line x370 board instead, the Asrock Fatal1ty X370 Professional Gaming. It was a little more expensive, but it tended to be in stock, and it had a couple added features I liked: dual UEFI capabilities and it also had an extra 5gig network interface.

I had such good luck with my old Asrock board on the AMD 8350 system that this new Ryzen is replacing that I was confident going with Asrock again. I think these guys are my top favorite brand now after trying them in several different machines and form factors. The Asrock Fatal1ty x370 motherboard was a real pleasure to see and hold. You can tell some serious, solid work went into making these things. I have little doubt that the quality here is what made memory overclock so easily, too. And the CPU. Flawless and solid. I bet the Taichi x370 model would be the same.

The first thing I did after assembling the system was to enter the UEFI and use Asrock’s built-in network UEFI update utility to get the latest BIOS version. I love that you don’t even need to install an OS or mess with USB keys to update Asrock UEFIs. After doing this and rebooting into the latest UEFI, I just selected the memory profile for 3200 speed, and that’s it! Nothing else. Not one bit of hassle. I really have to hand it to G.Skill too for those nice modules. And they are fast with CL 14.

Asrock x370 Fatal1ty UEFI Screen

After this, I just bumped up the CPU base clock frequency from 3.6 to 4.0 GHz. Didn’t even change the default voltages. Touched nothing else. And there it was – perfectly stable. I’m very, very pleased with this CPU and motherboard. πŸ™‚ I have never had a little bit of overclocking go so easily.

And power use? It’s just sipping power right now as I type this, with very little else going on. The CPU, a Radeon Fury video card, an LG Ultrawide monitor, a Corsair H110i water cooler/pump with its 2 fans and 4 additional fans in the case — all of that is drawing 105 Watts, 113 Watts and 121 Watts — it keeps alternating between those 3 values.

Ambient temperature in the room right now is 23C — the CPU is 32C. When I ran the CPU benchmarks shown below, the highest temperature the CPU reached was 42C very briefly. I’d say I probably have a lot of overclocking room if I want to.

I have to say, my experience with the the AMD Ryzen 8100x has been a real joy, especially when paired with this Asrock board. I can certainly feel a zippyness in normal use over the 8350, especially in such silly things as scrolling a web browser on a page full ads πŸ˜‰ Not even one little stutter with this machine.

I haven’t installed Linux on it just yet – that will happen after I’m done typing this. But Windows 10 works wonderfully. And I really like this Ultra M.2 SSD. I went with the Corsair Force MP500. My Linux system will be on a normal Crucial MX200 SSD I’ll be installing.

So, the performance of using this thing — very fast and responsive. And you can load it up too, and not even notice. I’ve tried the gaming and recording at the same time – couldn’t even tell the difference.

For benchmarks I like to use actual CPU benchmarks and not just how many FPS a game might have. I used the AIDA64 suite here, which is a really thorough set of testing and system cataloging software. I’m going to have to buy a copy I think — I like the whole inventory aspect they have too for your systems.

Anyway, this Ryzen 8100x system performs absolutely, completely stellar on the benchmarks. It’s right up their with incredibly expensive 16 and more systems on most, and always right up toward the top. Of particular note, and importance to me, is its performance on AES encryption — nothing can touch it. This will be wonderful for full disk encryption on the Linux side. πŸ™‚

I’ll include screen shots of all the benchmarks – I ran every one in the suite, just once, except for 1 I ran 3 times because I accidentally kicked off Thunderbird. Hopefully this might help someone who’s thinking about getting one. I honestly couldn’t be happier, particularly considering what I’m getting for the money! And I’m happy to have some solid new AMD tech. This system really feels well engineered.

FPU Julia
FPU VP8
AES
CPU PhotoWorxx
CPU Queen
CPU ZLib
FP32 Ray Trace
FP64 Ray Trace
Hash
FPU SinJulia
Mandel
Memory Read
Memory Write
Memory Copy
Memory Latency

Where Dad Is

The wind blows sticks off trees to be picked up

This is my dad. He is almost 90 years old. Doctors often tell him now that he doesn’t need routine medical tests that older people get, because of his age.

It is a strange thing if you live to be old.

My dad grew up in Kansas during the Great Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. He was very poor. He had a brother and two sisters. I remember when his mom died.

When he was a kid, there were no jobs. People were starving. My dad says most kids were very skinny and had those big bellies like you see on kinds in starving African pictures.

When he was 10 he managed to get some work at a farm where they paid him with some food. He said that as he worked on the farm he started to fill out.

He said that Republicans took surplus farm food, bought it up, and dumped it in the ocean in an effort to raise prices so that profits could come back from scarcity. He also became a Republican later.

Dad’s family

He was happy when Roosevelt became President because the extra food that got bought up was instead sent to warehouses in cities instead of being thrown away in the ocean, and that food was distributed to starving people.

It was nice when you could get pork belly fat for meat. It spoiled quickly though. Nobody had refrigerators. But you could melt the fat into lard and it would keep longer and then you could eat the lard.

Trains came through town all the time loaded with men who left their homes looking for work. A man would hear a story about there being work in some town, and people would start flocking there, only to find nothing.

Eventually he started getting paid money for working on a farm in addition to food.

All the dirt roads that the farmers needed to use were never maintained by the rich farmers. They were too busy. It was the poor people who kept up and fixed the roads for no pay. Sometimes a poorer farmer might bring out a mule to help.

When the New Deal happened from Roosevelt, the roads really started to get fixed and so did the railroad.

My dad got married to my mom when they were teenagers in Dodge City, Kansas. He joined up with the Army. When his stint was done he got a job on the railroad between Kansas and New Mexico.

Mom and dad in Dodge City in the 50’s

They wanted to get out of Dodge. They heard rumors about a place called Seattle. They came here with a friend who had got a job at a military base.

My dad saw an ad in the Seattle paper from a company called Boeing who built airplanes. The ad said you didn’t need know anything, just come on down if you want a job.

Dad got hired and they taught him math and trigonometry. He wasn’t used to learning anything, but they were paying him a lot of money and he didn’t want to mess that up. He worked for Boeing the rest of his life until retiring.

He and my mom found some property here for a good price out away from the city. He could buy it with his wages and a bank loan. There was only one store nearby out here. You could take things from the store, and when you got your paycheck, you could cash it at that store and they would just take out what you owed for the things you took.

He built a house here with the help of friends from work. He also helped them build their houses. He sold a lot of his property to friends from work over the years. All of them are gone now and their property has been resold.

I came into the picture much later as an adopted child when they were in their 40’s.

My dad is lucky because he gets a pension that the aerospace union got for him and that gets added to his social security payments. This lets him buy food and pay property tax and his mortgage. He would have lost everything at his age, if he was back in the US of his childhood.

But property taxes go up and the prices of food and utilities keep going up. And he has lived longer than most people do. So his pension and social security could no longer easily cover the expenses.

When my mom was dying over several days I promised her that I would take care of him. She died that night.

I paid off his mortgage and bought the property and house from him and now he has extra money each month. But he insists on being the one to buy the food.

He tells me stories a lot. Most of the time I have heard the story already. He also shares ideas for inventions he’s imagined. I try to get him to write them down so I can help him follow through. But there are always sticks in the yard needing picked up. Or the jittery birds fed.

It’s a peculiar thing, a life. Just a single one. How and where a life starts. What you do and learn. And how the world changes around you.

The ego. The humility. The happenstance and the design.

My dad always wanted me to learn. And my mom, even more so. Our whole country has learned. So many things during all those years he’s been alive. The whole world.

He’d like some fried potatoes and onions right now. I get to make it. It’s comfort food on a cold day. Only for him, now, a still peculiar luxury: an olive oil base and hint of rosemary seasoning.

A Satellite Dream

I had a dream that a guy was having surgery to place all kinds of electronic equipment inside his body, all over, including antennas, so that he could be a satellite.

The doctors were happy to do it, because it was something new. They wrinkled up all the skin around his shoulders and chest with a long, thick wire. He was wincing a little.

He said the only drawback so far is that it gave him scoliosis in a few places in his spine, and he felt heaver and it was hard to move because the metal inside always seemed to move separately from his flesh.

Give a Little Bit

Every person on the planet who uses information technology owes debts of gratitude to literally hundreds of people they will never know, or meet — those people who contribute their personal energies and efforts to the creation of free software and technologies that benefit us all, while asking nothing in return.

It is a labor of love, passion and obsession for these creators. And their greatest reward is seeing that their labors are useful and appreciated.

Some are nearly silent and invisible, working away for years on things we take for granted, with no recognition, and often intentionally so. Others, more loud and boisterous, who can draw and rally and prod.

Every large and small profit-seeking organization that uses or develops information technology exploits the work and and passions of these people, be it Google, Apple or Microsoft, some network switch vendor, a small website developer, SaaS provider, or even a writer making a blog post.

It’s the year’s end, yet again. Please consider donating some of your cash, if you have it to spare, to these people who do so much for us, and whose numbers we will never really know. For all they have done for you, and all they have empowered you to accomplish yourself.

It’s hard to single out people to give rewards to, in such a democratic sea, when viewed from above. But some organizations exists who blanket much good work.

Here is a small list that I give to. All are tax deductible non-profits.

Free Software Foundation, Inc. is the “original”. There is no way to estimate the value of what this organization and people have done, and the impact of what their ideas and efforts have had. And they continue to be a very important guiding light — some would say the ethical center — of free and open. This, in addition to providing key technical foundations.

Software in the Public Interest, Inc. is another venerable organization that gathers funding for many free and open software projects, including Debian (to which I owe so much), PostgreSQL, LibreOffice, Arch Linux, even such stuff as FFmpeg… πŸ™‚

The Mozilla Foundation has been instrumental in helping push web development in free and open ways, as well as technically good ones, and they are in many ways the last bastion of any privacy hope we may have in browsers. Not to mention a great email client for home and business, Thunderbird.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation doesn’t do much directly developing software and technologies, but they are critical to helping us keep good government and legal standards in place to allowΒ  freedom and innovation to thrive.

Personally, I feel so incredibly happy that these organizations exist, and that people made the effort and took the risks to create them, and that I can help propel them along in my own small way.