All Mine

Sachiko has laid claim to the household’s entire stockpile of gooshy fud.

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Not only does she have the shared stock of Purina and the Fancy Feast we use when someone is on medication (mixing the drugs into the “Kitty Krack” ensures the patient gets their full dose), but on her far side is Watanuki’s special low-residue gooshy and Sachiko has one haunch firmly planted on that case as well.

“Share?” she says. “It’s mine now, and I don’t do shares.”

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If retaining ownership means staying put 24/7, Sachiko is up for it.

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In truth, she’s abandoned her hoard a couple of times for visits to the box and–because her hoomins are rude and refuse to put food bowls anywhere but on the floor–to eat. But she solemnly assures us that those minor lapses “don’t count”.

How About 32,000?

A few further comments on my iPod rebuild, now that I’ve had a little time to play with the device and have started to get the hang of Rockbox.

The flash drive is much lighter. Those few grams may not seem like much, but you notice the difference. And, since there are no moving parts, using a modified iPod on the go feels more comfortable. Exercise? Potholed roads? Sure, go ahead. Better yet, add a cheap Bluetooth transmitter that plugs into the headphone jack, and you can do away with that annoying wires to your headphones or the car stereo’s aux jack.

If you’re doing the hard drive replacement, it’s a good time to look at your iPod’s battery life. On the one hand, opening an iPod Classic is such a pain that you might want to save yourself some trouble and expense by swapping in a new battery at the same time you put in the flash card. On the other hand, the flash card uses so much less power, you may not need to replace the battery to get adequate life.

Not only does the flash card use less power than the original hard drive, it’s much faster. When I did some tests with Rockbox prior to the drive replacement, it took hours for the software to build its database of music. After the replacement, with about five times as many tracks, building the database took less than ten minutes.

Similarly, there’s no lag between tracks. Unlike the hard drive, there’s no spin-up time when the iPod wakes up the flash drive. Well, okay, there is, but it’s measured in fractions of a second instead of multiples of a second.

Rockbox supports music in many formats that Apple’s software doesn’t know anything about. If you keep your music in a flac format for the best possible sound on your computer, loading it to an iPod via iTunes requires converting it to aac or mp3. Sure, iTunes takes care of that for you, but it still takes time and you wind up storing a duplicate copy. Why waste the space on your computer–not everyone has a 50 terabyte server in their home office. Admittedly, the music may not sound any better on the iPod–let’s be honest, even when the iPod Classic was new, there were complaints about the sound quality–but it’s certainly not going to sound any worse either.

To be fair, everything isn’t wonderful in Rockbox-land.

It doesn’t work exactly like the original iPod software. Buttons do some different things, so there is a learning curve.

You can still use iTunes, but you don’t have to. Be aware that if you don’t, you lose Apple’s music management, metadata editing, and playlist generation. Those can all be replaced, but if you’re comfortable with Apple’s approach, you might want to stick with iTunes.

If you do stick with iTunes, however, you should know that some versions have a limit on the number of tracks you can store and the number of tracks per playlist. On some older versions, those limits may be as low as 100 per playlist and 25,000 total. If you like the “I forgot I owned that” moment of discovery that comes from setting your device on “shuffle” and letting it skip around through your entire library, 100 tracks isn’t going to work for you.

Rockbox also has a playlist limit (although there’s no total track limit). However, unlike Apple, you can change it. By default, the limit is 1,000 tracks. The “Settings” screen will allow you to change it to 32,000, but if you’re willing to live on the edge*, you can crank it up as high as you want. For the record, I have around 42,000 tracks–I’ve been buying music for four decades and I’m a packrat–so I set the limit at 64,000 tracks.

* The documentation warns that this can result in memory shortages, but so far at least, I haven’t had any problems. (As a reminder to myself, to set a limit higher than 32,000, you copy Rockbox’s “config.cfg” to “fixed.cfg” and edit the new file with any text editor. Delete the lines you don’t need and change the track limit to whatever you want. When you turn on the iPod, config.cfg gets loaded first, then anything in fixed.cfg replaces the settings in config.cfg. That allows you to make changes while you’re listening to music, but always return to your normal setup at power-on.)

Rockbox isn’t as polished as Apple’s iPod software, but it more than gets the job done. I love having 42,000 tracks in my backpack. Assuming the average song is five minutes long, that gives me more than three months of continuous music and comedy with no commercials. Not bad at all, even if the iPod has to be recharged every couple of days.

A Bad Fit

Lefty shares some of ‘Nuki’s size and shape issues.

Not that they have bad body images or anything like that. I’m talking about their ability to fold themselves comfortably into caves.

Lefty has been hanging out in a condo in my office lately. Mostly in. Over the past week or so, I’ve seen him leave a leg outside.

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A tail.

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And, on one memorable occasion, two paws and a tail.

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Kind of makes you wonder why he bothers with the condo at all, doesn’t it?

When 120GB Isn’t Enough

I’ll admit up front that this post will probably only be of interest to a couple of you.

But for the sake of the two or three of you who might find it useful, allow me to take you all back into the past.

Before there was the iPhone, there was the iPod in all its many sizes and shapes. And in those days before streaming, you needed lots of storage to carry all your music with you.

Of course, back in those days, “lots of storage” meant something very different than it does today. We’re talking 2001-2004, and the top of the line iPods had astoundingly large 40GB hard drives.

Yes, actual hard drives, not flash storage. Itty-bitty 1.8-inch drives. Packing that much storage into something that small was expensive. The fourth-generation iPod that came out in 2004 cost $399 for that 40GB model. But you could, in all likelihood, put your entire music collection on that drive.

Fast forward to 2007 and 2008. By then, Apple was moving to the streaming model. They didn’t really want people carrying their collections. They wanted everyone to stream their music from the iTunes store to their spiffy new iPod Touch devices which maxed out at 32GB of flash storage.

Of course, those of us who had big collections didn’t go for that at all, and we jumped on what turned out to be the last generation of non-touch iPods: the iPod Classic with 80GB, 120GB, or 160GB of storage.

Those Classics have served us well, but our collections have grown. And, regrettably, hard drives do fail. A fifteen-year-old drive should rightly be regarded with suspicion.

The result is a bunch of excellent music players gathering dust.

Naturally, this is the point where the Internet and some dedicated hardware hackers step in.

Flash storage is cheap. What if we could replace that 1.8-inch hunk of metal with an SD card? Physically smaller, use less power, read and write faster, and offer capacities well beyond 160GB.

Turns out you can.

It’s a three step process, which I’m going to document here, partly for any of you who have elderly iPod Classics going to waste, and partly to help me remember how to do it, in case I need to repeat the process somewhere down the line.

Step One: Get the necessary hardware. You need a small circuit board to allow you to put an SD card where the hard drive used to be. You also need the SD card or cards.

At this point, I’m going to recommend iFlash. I bought their iFlash Solo*. Total cost, including shipping from the UK, ran me $44. I probably got lucky, but even in the face of world-wide lockdowns, it only took a couple of weeks to get here.

* The Solo, as the name implies, holds a single SD card. Iflash also offers the Duo and the Quad, which allow you to use multiple cards and have them show up on the iPod as a single drive. Handy if you want really awesomely large capacities or want to make use of whatever SD cards you have lying around the house.

Note that the iFlash boards call for SD cards. If you want to use a microSD card, make sure you get one that comes with an adapter. I wound up with a 512GB PNY microSD card. It came with an adapter and ran me about $100.

Step Two: This is the hardest part. Apple very much does not want you to open your iPod Classic. I failed completely. A friend of mine who repairs computers failed completely. I finally wound up taking the whole pile of parts to a local Mac repair shop. They opened the iPod, swapped the drive for my Solo+512GB microSD card, and reassembled the device. Best $30 I’ve spent all year.

Step Three: At this point, if all you wanted to do was replace a failing hard drive with and SD card, you’re done. Plug the iPod into your computer, let iTunes format it, and you’re all set.

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Unfortunately, if you wanted to increase the capacity of the iPod, you’ve got more work to do. Take another look at that picture. “127 GB Free”. What happened to the rest of my 512GB?

Well, back in those long-ago days, operating systems couldn’t easily deal with drives larger than 128GB. There were some tricks available (hence that 160GB iPod Classic), but they were very limited.

So, to take advantage of that new space, you have to replace Apple’s iPod software with something more modern. Like Rockbox. Specifically, Rockbox for the iPod Classic.

Let’s extend our steps a bit.

Step Four: Install Rockbox. It’s easy. Plug in the iPod to your computer, download and run the installer. Whoops, forgot a step.

Step Three Point Five: Rockbox doesn’t recognize the Macintosh disk format. So you need to use iTunes on Windows to format the iPod. Launch iTunes, plug in the iPod, and say “Yes” when iTunes asks if you want to initialize the iPod.

Okay, back to Step Four. You can take the defaults on the installer. Select your iPod and follow the prompts. You will have to reboot the iPod at one point, but don’t worry, the Rockbox installer will tell you when to do it and how.

Once Rockbox is installed, you’ll see this:
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Yup, still only seeing 128GB. That’s because we have to reformat the iPod to use the entire SD card. So, on to

Step Five: This is the tricky bit. The iPod needs to be formatted in FAT32*. Unfortunately, Windows won’t let you format a drive larger than 32GB in FAT32. There are a number of programs that will let you get around that restriction. Google is your friend here. Or use a Mac and choose “Windows (FAT)” as the format.

Don’t worry about what these names mean. They’re just different ways to lay out the data on a drive.

    1. Using Windows File Explorer or Mac Finder, copy the folder “.rockbox” from the iPod to your desktop. This folder is where Rockbox stores its configuration. Without it, your iPod won’t boot to the point of being able to play music.
    2. Format the iPod.
    3. Copy the “.rockbox” folder back from your desktop to the iPod.

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Ta-da! (Let’s not go into why a 512GB SD card only gives you 462GB of storage.)

Step Six: Load up your iPod. You’ll find that it is much faster. (Quieter, too.) Which is not to say it’s fast. The connection is still USB2, which puts an upper limit on how quickly your music can be copied. But you can always start the copy and let it run overnight.

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That took about twelve hours. But I’ve still got more than a quarter of the SD card free. I figure I shouldn’t need to upgrade the storage for at least another six months.

(Oops. Just realized I forgot to set the iPod’s clock. I’ll go do that now.)

Anyway, total cost of the upgrade was well under $200. That’s less than a 32GB iPod Touch. (The current top of the line iPod Touch will run you $400 for 256GB.) Makes the math easy, doesn’t it?

Dotty

A little while ago, I decided to introduce Lefty to the Little Red Dot. It didn’t go as expected.

He was definitely interested and made some tentative moves toward chasing it.

Then Sachiko showed up, and, well…

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Lefty was baffled by her performance and has studiously avoided the LRD since then.

Inevitably

According to one of those little human interest stories in the newspaper, a lad in Utah was recently pulled over for impaired driving.

Turns out he wasn’t so much medically or chemically impaired as he was chronologically disadvantaged. He’s not-quite-six years old.

In an unusual deviation from the normal process of suppressing the names of underage suspected lawbreakers, the papers are naming him in full. Congratulations, Adrian Zamarripa: your name will forever be linked to driving without a license, reckless endangerment, and (probably) speeding.

Adrian, it seems, had saved up three dollars and was driving to his sister’s home in California to buy his dream car, a Lamborghini. It’s unclear why he felt he needed his sister’s assistance. While there don’t appear to be any dedicated Lamborghini dealers in Utah, a quick Google search shows several more general dealerships who have Lamborghinis available. There are also at least a couple of Lamborghini-specific dealerships in Texas, which is likely to be an easier drive for someone who can’t see over the dashboard of the family car.

Also no word in the story of whose keys Adrian was using. I’m assuming he doesn’t have his own set*, so I have to wonder if he snagged Mom’s keys or Dad’s. Perhaps the parents should look into the purchase of a key safe?

* I could be wrong about that. I gather that kids in the middle of the US learn to drive at younger ages than on the coasts, and that enforcement of licensing laws can be spotty in rural areas.

The story does have a happy ending. Nobody was injured or killed. Contrary to my expectations, no dealership has scrounged some publicity by offering to sell Adrian his dream car. Check back in ten years, though, when he gets his license; somebody might be willing to cut him a deal–though probably for more than three bucks.

Vexingly, the story doesn’t say a word about punishment. Did Adrian have to go to bed without supper? Get a week of extra chores or restrictions on his sport car racing video time? Did Daddy take his T-Bird away? (Sorry, wrong song.)

Instead, it devotes a paragraph and several pictures to the juvenile miscreant taking a ride with a local Lamborghini owner.

This is not a deterrent.

I expect we’ll be seeing a rash of copycat crimes as dozens of pre-teen boys and girls crack open their piggy banks, swipe the car keys, and set out on their own quests for the cars of their dreams.

Steps in the Right Direction

Lefty is continuing to settle in to his new life. He’s increasingly comfortable around the humans–he even occasionally accepts a patting (he especially enjoys having his neck scratched).

It’s obvious he misses Rufus at least as much as we do. He’s trying to fill the void by cuddling up to the other cats, especially Yuki.

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We’re not sure if Yuki is just more tolerant of Lefty’s attentions, or if it’s a case of “black cats stick together”. Yuki has missed spending time with Rhubarb lately, so he may be predisposed to hang out with whoever wants to spend time with him. Or it may just be that his mobility issues make it harder for him to get away when Lefty hits him with a full-body head bump.

Regardless, they are spending a fair amount of time together. Though that pose is a little unusual: Lefty is usually the one wrapping himself around/across Yuki, but there is a lot of mutual grooming and reciprocal pillowing.

Lefty has also discovered the kitchen window.

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He’s got a fascinating chitter when prey appears outside. It sounds mechanical; combined with the way his head and tail twitch, he almost seems like a feline bobblehead.

He hasn’t joined Ooki Brothers Security. It’s clear that ‘Nuki doesn’t yet trust Lefty to keep proper watch, and has been known to chase him away from the window when he comes on duty.

But, surprisingly, they do manage to spend some time in relatively peaceful coexistence.

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Admittedly, having a barrier between them helps the relationship–and Lefty wasn’t as deeply asleep as this picture suggests.

It’s definite progress, though, and we’re pleased to see it.

Hungry?

I really wanted to write something cheerful today.

(Disclosure: I’m writing this Tuesday evening so it’ll be ready for you all in the morning.)

But then I made the mistake of looking at the news.

Yeah, I know, I know.

I presume you’ve heard by now that our government has declared meat processing plants to be critical infrastructure.

I’m an unrepentant omnivore, and I was not looking at the predictions that meat could follow toilet paper* into virtual non-existence on store shelves.

* Our TP supply dropped low enough last week that we went in search of a few rolls. As it turned out, we found some in the first store we checked. It’s a 30 roll package, which should be enough to stave off the total fall of civilization for at least a month, and quite probably several times that. Mind you, it’s a Korean brand–not the one everyone knows–and of totally unknown quality, but it’s almost certainly better than, say, last week’s newspapers. We haven’t tried it yet, but in the spirit of helping one another, I’ll issue a report once we’ve put it to the ultimate test.

So, on one paw, it’s good to know that meat will remain available. On another paw, though, the fact that our gracious president highlighted the fact that his declaration will “solve any liability problems” does lead one to wonder (a) just how sweeping that immunity from liability is and (b) just how safe that meat will be. On a third paw, one also has to wonder what effect the presidential order will have on the cost of meat. And, on the fourth paw, will that shield remain in place indefinitely?

Let’s face it. The current administration is fond of rolling back laws and regulations that improve the health of most individuals. And, as we all know, the meat packing industry’s favorite recreation is dancing back and forth across the red line of legality.

Without more details than we have right now, I can only assume that the price of meat is going to go up in lockstep with the health risks of eating that meat. And there is, of course, no upper limit to either cost.

I see only one solution for those of us who aren’t going to go vegetarian.

Anyone got a good recipe for coyote?

Here We Go Again

You all know what it means when this happens, right?

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Yes, the transitional cage in Lefty’s room–formerly known as Rufus’ and Lefty’s room, formerly formerly known as Rufus’ room, formerly formerly formerly known as the library–is clean.

Parenthetically, this migration was in the works more than a month ago. It got put on hold by Rufus’ departure and an in-house epidemic of feline sneezing. So, please don’t think this is in any way an attempt to fill the Rufus-shaped gap in our lives. (Not that it would work that way. For somebody who didn’t wear clothes, Rufus left behind some very big shoes to fill.)

We’re hoping that Lefty will step at least partly into those metaphorical shoes and pass along some of the lessons he learned from Rufus. With that in mind, we’re not pushing him into full integration with the others: still feeding him separately and shutting him into the room at night; if he and the new arrival bond, it should smooth the transition for both of them.

It probably comes as no surprise to anyone that the new resident is MM*. She’d been obviously bored in isolation out in the catio, and had been neglecting her self-appointed sentry duties. We had to do something, and letting her go wild again still seems like a bad idea–yes, the coyotes are still around.

* Renaming will come later, when we get to know her as an indoor cat.

Her transition is going slowly. Which is fine. We’re not in a hurry, and we can give her as much time as she needs to adjust. For now, she still spends most of her time curled up in either the milk crate:

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or the condo:

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But she does seem healthy. Her appetite is good

and while she definitely prefers gooshy fud to kitty krunchiez, she doesn’t neglect the later.

She interacts with the other cats–primarily Lefty, since he spends more time in the room than anyone else, even without counting the bedtime lockdown hours.

And she has been exploring her new residence–with, it must be admitted, mixed results.

Check out the upper right hand corner of the screen. That bright light is Lefty watching the show and, no doubt, laughing.

Goin’ Back

I’ve been listening to the Fifties channel on SiriusXM lately.

Yes, the decade when the saxophone was a legitimate rock and roll instrument. Because really it was a decade in transition. Swing was on the way out, but rock and roll wouldn’t take over the world until the Sixties. There were plenty of cuts that could have been either rock or swing (in fact, there were more than a few early rock releases that had been swing hits.) And, of course, there was a giant market for sentimental pablum*.

* Let’s be clear: every decade has a giant market for sentimental pablum. It’s just that the definition of both “sentimental” and “pablum” changes. But I digress.

Which, of course, meant there was also a market for that unholy (ahem) hybrid known as the religious love song.

Brace yourself and allow me to direct your attention to “One Hundred Pounds of Clay” which is my candidate for The Song Most Likely to Make You Cringe Harder Every Time You Hear It.

I’ve had a lot of practice cringing over this song lately. Specifically, it’s come onto the radio three times in my last four hours of listening–that was spread over two days, so it’s not like you’re guaranteed to hear it if you listen for an hour and a quarter. But still: heavy rotation.

Anyway, I’m not nominating it because of the religious content. Not my cup of fur, but there’s been plenty of good religious music.

Nor is it because the song suggests that women’s only purpose is to be sexual. I beg your pardon? The BBC banned the song for that reason, but I don’t hear that at all.

There’s a sexual element, yes, but the only way I can interpret this song is that women’s only purpose is to shine by her man’s light. That charming only “love, worship, and obey” thing. Take the guy out of the picture, and the gal goes poof as well.

Say, Mike Pence was born in 1959, which means he’d have been two years old when this piece of tripe was at the top of the charts. Psychological scarring anybody?

(The really vexing thing about the song is that it didn’t come out until 1961. Why is it even on the 50s channel? It’s not that Gene McDaniels’ career started in the 50s. Well, his career did, but he didn’t start recording until the 60s. But I digress again.)

So, yes, I do cringe or change the channel–usually both–when it comes on. But there’s enough good stuff on the station to make up for it most of the time.

And, by “good stuff” I mean plenty of silliness and fluff to help you forget that you’re living in trying times, with just enough seriously solid material mixed in to keep you grounded.

Who Put the Bop” (Also from 1961. Win some, lose some.)

Summertime Blues

Only You” (Or darn near anything else The Platters did.)

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting you rush out and subscribe to SiriusXM to get “’50s on 5”. But if you’ve already got the service, give it a listen.

But keep a finger near the power switch, just in case…