About Duncan Baillie

Technologist. Product of the ZX81 generation.

Taken the Plunge

So, I installed Windows 11 on the new(ish) laptop yesterday afternoon and happy to say it all went smoothly. So far no problems and it is in general ‘better’. Hopefully my Outlook, OneDrive and Edge will be more stable (although edge still won’t browse my local network using http).

Over the Edge

Something changed in Edge which has meant I’ve had to start using Chrome again. Simply, Edge won’t go to sites on my home network, e.g. QNAP or router. No sign of any recent issues reported from a search (plenty of very old ones). I’ve played with a number of settings to no avail.

I mean, Outlook constantly hangs, OneDrive is playing up. Is it forcing me to move to Windows 11. I suppose it is.

WiFi Upload Speeds. When did they get so bad?

I noticed my Zoom calls on work Surface Pro were getting consistently bad. I did a Speedtest from my personal laptop and discovered that whilst the download speed was good at 60 Mbps, the upload was rubbish at 0.5 Mbps.

I’m no stranger to this problem but one of the advantages of BT Broadband over Virgin was/is that it had better upload speeds and I’m pretty certain I got 5-10 Mbps when the system was new (a few years ago now).

I took my booster disc out of the equation. Doesn’t seem to do anything anyway.

I did a test from the router itself and it reported 20 Mbps uplink bandwidth. Bit of a discrepancy there!

Next test was to eliminate WiFi. Lo and behold, a Speedtest from a wired connection straigh into the hub gives:

Upload Speedtest results on wired connection

Whereas on WiFi, same place same time:

Upload Speedtest results on WiFi


Now I need to go and find out if it’s a generic problem or if there’s anything I can do about it as a result of my setup.


My new laptop has been doing a sterling job as a lab resource. I have created five Windows Server 2022 servers in a lab domain and used them to evaluate storage replication and stretched clusters. Having Hyper-V in Windows is such a massive boon, thinking back a few years ago when we had ESX and Linux based virtualisation.

The performance is great too, but then I did order the laptop with 16G and a 1TB SSD with this in mind.

When I’ve finished this piece of work I can get back to my programming book “Concepts, Techniques, and Models of Computer Programming” by Peter Van Roy and Seif Haridi. It’s quite an old book and uses a rather old Mozart programming language but I’ve got it working (thanks to Hyper-V again). The explanations are good and the exercises worthwhile.

Christmas Has Come Early!

The new laptop (Thinkpad T14s, 16G/8core, 1TB SSD) arrived unexpectedly yesterday (I hadn’t checked my mail). And very nice it is too. Original shipping date was January but it kept moving around.

It offered me the choice of Windows 11 at first boot but I’m going to stick with 10 for now until I know more about 11.

The process of personalisation begins!

Orders and Stuff

A few weeks ago, I finally took the plunge and ordered a new laptop! Pretty much a straight replacement for this sturdy old ThinkPad T430s which has been outstanding – must be 9 or 10 years old now since it was a hand-me down from RedPixie. Still works great apart from the battery (to be expected) and one duff USB port. And the fact that I have worn the trackpad smooth. It’s Windows 7 too so something more modern definitely required. I never recommend updating the Operating System on original hardware. Things tend to stop working.

New model is a T14s, customised, which means delivery timescale is months – they have to build it. Lenovo keep sending emails saying one thing one day and another thing the next. Shipping has been anywhere from late November to mid January. You need patience in IT.

Apart from this excuse to make a post, why does my blog not render in Edge??? Doesn’t even recognise the certificate. Must be settings since the engine is the same. Hence this is being written in Chrome.

Never use an Amazon Locker :-(

Update on 2nd May…Amazon have replied to my support request, which is good even if this blog had nothing to do with it. The have apologised, refunded and guaranteed it will never happen again – I’m not sure how they are going to do that – but I’m not going to choose a locker as a delivery mechanism for a long time.

A rather mundane post but I’m using it to get some anger out of my system.

I ordered Beta Humans and decided to try the Amazon locker near me as a delivery method. Free after all.

I received a message yesterday that the package was ready for collection and duly went to the locker with the app. The app connected to the locker and I hit collect item. Nothing happened. I pressed “help” and got the message “we’re sorry, the locker door seems to be broken”.

I came home and tried to contact Amazon. Impossible to do. There is no help available for faulty lockers. The chatbot has no options for this and just sends you round in circles about returning an item.

The call me back option just does nothing.

I emailed cis@amazon.co.uk but no reply.

Fast forward today and I get a message to thank me for picking up the parcel. Clearly someone else has hacked/stolen the item.

Just now I convinced the robot to send me a refund but this is a piss-poor service from Amazon a) because the lockers are clearly not reliable and b) there is no way to get support and c) they are not secure.

I will not be buying anything from Amazon until this issue is resolved.

Kurt Vonnegut’s view of AI

I re-read “The Sirens of Titan” by Kurt Vonnegut, a book I have read a few times but I always find new angles in it. Kurt Vonnegut is a writer who likes to ask the Big Questions.

In this case I thought the following passage could be viewed as a pretty accurate comment on AI:

“Once upon a time on Tralfamadore there were creatures who weren’t anything like machines. They weren’t dependable. They weren’t efficient. They weren’t predictable. They weren’t durable. And these poor creatures were obsessed by the idea that everything that existed had to have a purpose, and that some purposes were higher than others.
These creatures spent most of their time trying to find out what their purpose was. And every time they found out what seemed to be a purpose of themselves, the purpose seemed so low that the creatures were filled with disgust and shame.
And, rather than serve such a low purpose, the creatures would make a machine to serve it. This left the creatures free to serve higher purposes. But whenever they found a higher purpose, the purpose still wasn’t high enough.
So machines were made to serve higher purposes too.
And the machines did everything so expertly that they were finally given the job of finding out what the highest purpose of the creatures could be.
The machines reported in all honesty that the creatures couldn’t really be said to have any purpose at all.
The creatures thereupon began slaying each other, because they hated purposeless things above all else.
And they discovered that they weren’t even very good at slaying. So they turned that job over to the machines, too. And the machines finished up the job in less time than it takes to say “Tralfamadore”.

I guess that pretty much sum’s up this, and other books by the same author. It is typically a very dark opinion wrapped in a light-hearted way. In this case a chilling summary of many opinions on the future of AI. As such it shares a common theme with Rossum’s Universal Robots by Carel Kapek which arguably started the genre.

QNAP The Saga Continues…

So. After the remedial work below, I fully expected the problem to be fixed. But no! On logging in the next day I see that the QNAP lost power at 3:09 in the morning. It reset, re-synchronised the RAID array and reported the filesystem corrupt. There was certainly no-one unplugging it at that time of the morning unless we have a secret midnight cleaner.

A quick piece of online searching reveals this to be a common problem with some QNAPs and some versions of firmware. Mine is an SS-439 on 4.2.6. I don’t care what models and firmware they say, it looks like the PSU just gives up under certain conditions. This is bad because it means faulty hardware and it’s hard to do anything about that. But, more research needed.

P.S. I switched the PSU for the one from my old QNAP a couple of days after the above.

The Gift That Keeps on Giving…

Giving problems that is. Before I start, I notice it’s very nearly a year since my last blog! Doesn’t time fly! I blame Covid and starting a new job which has kept me busy.

Part of the reason I am writing this now is that I stupidly locked myself out of my work account late on Friday so have had no work distractions over the weekend. Instead I decided to fix a long-standing problem with my QNAP.

Yes, the gift that keeps on giving problems.

To be fair, it’s not all the QNAP’s fault. I’ve tried putting it in various rooms of the house (even empty ones) but somehow, it keeps getting turned off at the mains by “other people” plugging in vacuum cleaners or the like. This tends to wreak havoc with the 2TB ext4 filesystem and sometimes the RAID array too.

This shouldn’t happen but it reminds me of the early days of my career in the early 90s when exactly this thing happened at a company I worked for. They had a SCO Unix PC on a desk in an office in London. It kept going wrong and they kept complaining. After a few trips down to London to repeatedly fix it, we realised that the cleaners were unplugging it. Naturally they hadn’t thought of a cabinet, server cupboard or even a UPS or a note on the plug. IT was a bit of an inconvenience for them.

Anyway, 30 years later and it’s still happening albeit in a domestic context. The background is that whenever I would log on to my QNAP the filesystem would always be corrupt. Sometimes because it had been unplugged but sometimes for no reason whatsoever. To fix this I came up with a process which involved plugging in a console and keyboard, shutting down the services, un-mounting the filesystem, running e2fsck and starting everything again.

After a while however, it became apparent that running e2fsck, even when forced, didn’t fix all the problems. Straight after a filesystem fix I still got messages like the one below:

Suspicious ext4 filesystem errors on QNAP

Now, I don’t know what the errors above mean but e2fsck never fixed them and the filesystem continued to get corrupted. Luckily I didn’t lose any data.

Anyway, this weekend I finally bit the bullet, after copying all the old content to an external drive and all the active content to Onedrive. I took the advice of various websites and decided to use the QNAP as a backup store rather than a primary one.

This involved, deleting the volume completely and re-generating it as a new RAID volume and filesystem. Strangely, after the original volume had been deleted, there was no option to create a RAID5. So I created a RAID10 instead. I deleted that because I wanted more space and the next time the RAID5 option was available.

It’s all just a bit “random” really. I do still like the QNAP but if it continues to play up after this major surgery, I will have to write another blog.