Western Digital is unSMART

Western Digital HDD Inadequately Writes or Interprets SMART Data

Just a specific case in point to further validate the [2007 Google study that SMART data is unreliable](http://storagemojo.com/2007/02/19/googles-disk-failure-experience/). At work we have a Western Digital Caviar Blue SATA drive that had obviously, at some point, gone bad. If you tried to write or read significant data to the drive you would get I/O errors so it was clear that there are many bad blocks.

So I was curious what the SMART data would show. I was surprised to see SMART saying the drive is still good!

Smart data from the Western Digital Caviar Blue (note the self tests have all failed):

smartctl 5.41 2011-06-09 r3365 [x86_64-linux-3.2.0-4-amd64] (local build)
Copyright (C) 2002-11 by Bruce Allen, http://smartmontools.sourceforge.net

Model Family:     Western Digital Caviar Blue Serial ATA
Device Model:     WDC WD2500AAKS-00F0A0
Serial Number:    WD-WCAT1E484473
LU WWN Device Id: 5 0014ee 157813d53
Firmware Version: 12.01B02
User Capacity:    250,059,350,016 bytes [250 GB]
Sector Size:      512 bytes logical/physical
Device is:        In smartctl database [for details use: -P show]
ATA Version is:   8
ATA Standard is:  Exact ATA specification draft version not indicated
Local Time is:    Thu May 23 12:40:47 2013 PDT
SMART support is: Available - device has SMART capability.
SMART support is: Enabled

SMART overall-health self-assessment test result: PASSED

General SMART Values:
Offline data collection status:  (0x82) Offline data collection activity
                    was completed without error.
                    Auto Offline Data Collection: Enabled.
Self-test execution status:      (   0) The previous self-test routine completed
                    without error or no self-test has ever 
                    been run.
Total time to complete Offline 
data collection:        ( 4680) seconds.
Offline data collection
capabilities:            (0x7b) SMART execute Offline immediate.
                    Auto Offline data collection on/off support.
                    Suspend Offline collection upon new
                    Offline surface scan supported.
                    Self-test supported.
                    Conveyance Self-test supported.
                    Selective Self-test supported.
SMART capabilities:            (0x0003) Saves SMART data before entering
                    power-saving mode.
                    Supports SMART auto save timer.
Error logging capability:        (0x01) Error logging supported.
                    General Purpose Logging supported.
Short self-test routine 
recommended polling time:    (   2) minutes.
Extended self-test routine
recommended polling time:    (  58) minutes.
Conveyance self-test routine
recommended polling time:    (   5) minutes.
SCT capabilities:          (0x303f) SCT Status supported.
                    SCT Error Recovery Control supported.
                    SCT Feature Control supported.
                    SCT Data Table supported.

SMART Attributes Data Structure revision number: 16
Vendor Specific SMART Attributes with Thresholds:
  1 Raw_Read_Error_Rate     0x002f   192   190   051    Pre-fail  Always       -       116433
  3 Spin_Up_Time            0x0027   201   192   021    Pre-fail  Always       -       950
  4 Start_Stop_Count        0x0032   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       62
  5 Reallocated_Sector_Ct   0x0033   200   200   140    Pre-fail  Always       -       0
  7 Seek_Error_Rate         0x002e   200   200   000    Old_age   Always       -       0
  9 Power_On_Hours          0x0032   069   069   000    Old_age   Always       -       23002
 10 Spin_Retry_Count        0x0032   100   253   000    Old_age   Always       -       0
 11 Calibration_Retry_Count 0x0032   100   253   000    Old_age   Always       -       0
 12 Power_Cycle_Count       0x0032   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       58
192 Power-Off_Retract_Count 0x0032 ...

How Does a Staunch Atheist Turn Catholic?

Updated: 2013-06-29

Leah Libresco is a fairly well-known blogger and self-identified geek, and the reason I'm paying attention is because she was an outspoken Atheist discussing religion, and now she's an outspoken Catholic discussing religion.

Why do I care about what a complete stranger does? I identify with Leah a bit. We both grew up in secular households where our parents did not discuss religion (though unlike her all my friends were Christian). After leaving home we spent a hefty chunk of time researching and debating religion. We both have nerdy proclivities and we both enjoy debating religion. But I became an even more staunch rationalist/skeptic/atheist, and that's where Leah and I diverged.

Besides being irked about losing a member of our team, I think Leah is too grounded in logic to be a theist. I assert that there are very few logical reasons to be religious. The only absolutely convincing one I can think of is the argument from personal experience: i.e. God(s) has visited someone, identified themself(ves), and performed an irrefutably supernatural act. It doesn't prove a lick to me or anyone else, but I'd understand why that one person would be a believer. On the other hand there is a cornucopia of emotional reasons to be religious: fear of death, desire to see the deceased again, feelings of identity, to maintain social harmony with your religious friends and family, etc. But as far as logic is concerned, in most cases Kirkegaard was right, a blind leap of faith (or suspension of reason) is required.

I will not criticize anyone for being religious for emotional reasons, after all we all have irrational emotional needs. If you don't, you will probably not pass a turing test. But I have a bugaboo when people are religious for emotional reasons and they claim a logical base. Usually their logic is flawed. So I asked Leah if her conversion is based more on reason or emotion:

My goal is either to deconstruct her logical reasons, or to learn a new logical reason. Unfortunately she does not make it simple to understand her reasons because she's a prolific blogger and there is no single post or two that simply lays out her logical foundation. Even her explanation of "Why I am a Catholic" skips a ton of steps. I have read some of her material and will attempt to portray her positions accurately. I tweeted and emailed her for further help understanding her positions and her response was that her logical basis is explained in the first few chapters of Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.

If I were to make a pseudo-logical proof for Leah's conversion, I think it would read like this:

  1. There exists a moral framework intrinsic to the universe
  2. The moral framework had to come from somewhere
  3. There must be a God who created the moral framework ...

Interesting Outcomes of Assumption-Laden Perception: 2001 A Save Theodicy

Some people are accused of wearing rose-colored glasses, but you won't be surprised when I say that it's actually a much grander problem than that. I have endless amusement (and sometimes consternation) that an objective event can be interpreted radically differently depending on someone's background. For example, imagine a man telling a woman "Nice ass!". My first reaction to this scenario is that the guy is a douchebag (What does it say about me that that was my first interpretation? And why did I create such a colored scenario to begin with?). But if the two people are lovers and into complimentary objectification, that could be welcomed as a delightful observation.

This was a basic example just to get the point across. The more interesting case is when it's not quite so obvious that a statement could be taken differently. This happens constantly in political and religious conversations or debates and I'd be willing to bet that the majority of the time, the source of the misunderstanding is never reached. I've been guilty of this myself in myriad conversations, and I probably will continue to suffer from these misunderstandings because debating like a philosopher and defining each term you use up front is such a drag.

I was listening to This American Life's re-podcast of episode #304: Heretics, a story about Reverend Carlton Pearson, a protégé of Oral Roberts and apparently one of the early black preachers running a mega-church. His father and grandfather were ministers and he spent his entire childhood following in their footsteps. So it's ironic that he apparently had never answered the problem of evil until after he was a popular mega-pastor. The problem of evil has been resolved in many ways over many years, here are some popular solutions (I'm not suggesting they are all correct):

  • Evil happens because of free will. People have the choice to commit evil, therefore God cannot prevent evil.
  • God is not omniscient. Rather, God is a bumbling idiot god who makes a lot of mistakes.
  • God does not exist.

In particular, the evil that bothered Carlton was that in many parts of the world people would be born, suffer, die, and then go to Hell because they never had the chance to believe in Jesus:

...The God we've been preaching is a monster. He's worse than Saddam, he's worse than Osama bin Laden, he's worse than Hitler; the way we presented him. Because Hitler just burnt 6 million Jews but you know God is going to burn at least 6 billion people, and burn them forever. There's this customized torture chamber called hell where he's gonna torment, torture, not for a few minutes, a few days, a few hours, a few weeks, but forever.

He wrestled with this immoral behavior of God and ultimately solved the problem by resolving that Hell does not exist. This theodicy straightened out Carlton's theology, but he ended ...


November 6, 2012 California Proposition Voting Guide

Mailing in a Ballot

If you are a mail voter, the rule is that your ballot has to be received on or before election day. Postmarks do not count. This effectively means do not mail your ballot any later than Saturday from within San Diego. If you still have your mail ballot on Monday I would drop it off in person.

Where you can drop off your mail-in ballot

Either at any polling location on Tuesday.


In San Diego, at the Office of the County Registrar of Voters, 5201 Ruffin Road, Suite K, San Diego, CA 92123 in Kearny Mesa and will be open normal business hours, 8:00 AM until 5:00 PM every day now, except Sunday.

In other counties, please look up the nearest Country Registrar of Voters.

Prop 30 Taxes for Education- Yes

Nobody likes raising taxes or paying more money. But it's either that or additional spending cuts to education and our future can't afford dumber citizens.

Prop 31 Budget Rules- No

This is a really, really complicated measure. And to be honest nobody can understand this bill without a intimate understanding of the California budget process (myself very included - so why are citizens voting on this instead of the legislature?). I really like parts of the proposition. I like the emergency power of the governor to cut spending. However, the objective analysis I've read online seems to indicate that feelings are mixed on this, and that the opposition may be correct that lawsuits could result. I'm leaning "no" on this one.

Prop 32 Block Union or corporate Contributions - No

This proposition is worded in a way that makes it sound like it tries to combat "special interests" and effects unions and corporations equally. This is a lie.

Unions tend to give money to candidates they support. Corporations tend to hire lobbyists and fund superPACs. But this law only applies to giving money directly to candidates. And thanks to Citizens United, direct cadidate contributions are not our primary concern right now on campaign financing.

You don't hear a defense of unions in the media much, but unions have a long history of protecting workers from being exploited. The reason American workers are not commonly exploited today (and mistakenly why people seem to think we don't need unions) is because unions work. Sure unions aren't perfect, but we need to strike a healthy balance, not eviscerate unions entirely.

I'm all for preventing unions from spending money on politics, but we need to take all private money out of campaigns and severely restrict lobbying. Until we clean up campaign financing unions need to be able to defend the interests of their members.

Prop 33 Reverse Robin-Hood Insurance - No

Funded by the founder of Mercury Insurance and other insurance companies, the primary effect of this measure is to, surprise, enrich insurance companies.

The way it would work is by charging more to people who do not constantly maintain car ...


Why We Should Vote Obama, Again

So Obama's Presidency thus far has been less substantive than the "Hope and Change" that we had been promised. Why am I voting for him, again?

Well, the GOP made the choice easy. "Not the Republican" is the obvious choice, again.

Republicans Wrecked the Economy

W says: Thanks for Blaming the Black Guy

Under George W Bush and a Republican controlled Congress (until 2007), banks were encouraged to make lending easier while W put lobbyists in charge of regulatory bodies (since he couldn't change the laws, he'd just stop enforcing them). Republicans believed that the free market would smoothly regulate itself and that government need not interfere. The market did what poorly regulated markets always do - it crashed. Curious and curiouser, the GOP cites too much regulation as the cause of the crash. Because these days, being a Republican means turning a blind eye to evidence (also see: global warming, rising sea levels, evolution, women's reproductive systems...). Democrats deserve serious demerits too: they either were ignorant of what was happening or they had too little backbone to stop it. But the point is Republicans crashed the economy, and they weren't courageous enough, or were perhaps too ideological, to admit or recognize what went wrong.

Faux News and GOP buddies were blaming Obama for the bad economy 8 days into his presidency and have never stopped. W started, and could not end, two optional wars, massively cut taxes for the rich, and gave away handouts to pharmaceutical companies in the form of an add-on to medicare. So when the economy tanked and tax revenue plummetted it's understandable that the national debt balloons; it was already ballooning under W well before the recession started.

Republicans Put Party Above Country

To his credit, Obama did try to work with Republicans on every issue he approached. The trouble with Obama's 2008 plan to change Washington is that to change a relationship it takes two. As evidenced by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnel, the GOP's top priority was to make Obama a one-term President.

He did not say the number one priority was to fix the economy, reduce the national debt, or stop the rising cost of health care. He said the number one priority was to torpedo Obama. And that's exactly what they've done. Whether that means blocking economy-and-country-fixing infrastructure spending or holding the economy hostage to grand stand about the national debt. Here is an apt metaphor for the debt ceiling debate (though I hate it when the GOP over-simplifies the national budget and compares it to a family's). Here's what happened: Congress racked up a bunch of debt on their credit card, and Republicans were threatening to not pay the bill. We lost $1.3 billion as a result. If Republicans really cared about the massive national debt they would have done two things differently:

  1. They would have raised at least an iota of complaint when George W Bush doubled the national debt.
  2. They would be willing to ...

A Review of Dwolla

What is Dwolla

Dwolla is a new payment network. From the user perspective it's kind of like Paypal except they intentionally don't support credit cards - only direct bank to bank transfers like ACH. But ACH is slow and sometimes ineffective (ACH accounts can be overdrawn). According to some people, banks slow down ACH transfers on purpose to make money off the "float" (I don't have an authoritative source on this). Dwolla invented their own method to instantly transfer money with fund verification they call FiSync. They are trying to get banks to support FiSync so that their customers can utilize instant transfers. So far, the list of FiSync-capable institutions is relatively small. If you're interested in FiSync, I recommend you ask your bank to adopt it; and if they won't, see if you can switch to a bank or credit union that does.

Why is Dwolla

Everytime we use a credit card, and up until recently a debit card, banks would leech on average 2%-3% from that transation. This means that merchants raise prices around that much just to pay for all the credit card fees. We are giving parasitic banks literally trillions of dollars every year. Yes credit cards have useful purposes, but do you think they provide enough utility to justify leeching 2-3% from us? I sure don't.

Dwolla is cutting out the credit card networks. Every transaction made with Dwolla is putting more money into your wallet, into your merchant's account, (and of course Dwolla is making some money too). If we were able to switch from credit cards to dwolla, the economy would be more efficient and prices would be lower.

How is Dwolla

Dwolla charges $0.25 per transaction for transactions larger than $10, to the recipient of the money. Transactions smaller than $10 are free. In general that is the only fee but Dwolla sells additional services I won't cover here.

  • Dwolla can be used online or with a mobile device.
  • FiSync transfers are instant and funding is guaranteed.
  • Everyone stuck with ACH transfers must wait for normal ACH delays (e.g. 2-3 days).

My experience with Dwolla

I work for an organization that could save a hefty chunk of change if we could switch to Dwolla, and Dwolla would still be making money off every transaction (because they are always more than $10). The organization would put most of the money saved into lowering prices so everyone I care about would win. However Dwolla is young, most people don't yet have Dwolla accounts, setting up a Dwolla account isn't quick or simple, and one can only assume that the big banks are going to avoid supporting Dwolla until they are forced to, kicking and screaming.

What Dwolla Nails

  1. Dwolla is very developer friendly and that is great news for everyone (but especially developers). Their code libraries are on github, and they support all major web programming languages.
  2. Their technical support on the ...

Why We Need Surcharges on Credit Card Transactions

I've learned about credit cards recently and I've found something disturbing. gasp Credit card companies are taking advantage of people! But seriously, we can help stop it.

Visa and Mastercard recently settled a lawsuit; now merchants are allowed to surcharge credit card paying customers. Before they were not.

A surcharge on credit card purchases would help right a present injustice. Consumers are given an incentive to shop with rewards cards. In fact, rewards cards make up around 50% of visa purchases (citation needed). This means that a merchant makes about 3% less on those purchases. In order to make up that 3% loss, the merchant has to raise prices on goods. Now people who pay with debit, check or cash (and don't get frequent flier milers) are subsidizing those making "free" flights to Hawaii. But most rewards cards only give about 1% back to the consumer. The consumer is tricked into thinking they got a good deal, when in fact they paid more than 1% in the first place for the right to use their credit card. In the meantime, the issuing bank of the credit card, the card companies, and the processor have taken about 2% out of each transaction.

Visa makes 1 billion dollar gross profits quarterly. And Department Stores care more about signing you up for a credit card than customer service because issuing banks take over 1% from each deal.

That ~3% is money that is coming out of consumer's and merchant's pockets. And a 3% surcharge on credit card users could right this wrong. However placing a surcharge on credit card purchases is illegal in California, see California Civil Code Section 1748.1 and in at least 9 other states: Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma and Texas.

If you live in one of these states, contact your local legislator(s) and ask that they make it legal to add a surcharge to credit card purchases.

My hope is that we can reduce the amount of money that is being drained from all of us by parasitic credit card companies. Instead, debit card or new electronic transfers have the potential to be cheaper because without a lender or debtor there is less risk.


What First (or Any) Time Home Buyers Need to Know About Drywood Termites

Congratulations on buying a home. It's an exciting time with thousands of details that need to be worked out. It's easy, even required, to gloss over some details simply because there isn't enough time to manually check everything. I'm here to tell you that termites are not a detail to gloss over.

I bought a home that was "treated" for termites and then "cleared". Three weeks after escrow closed and I moved in, I found more termites and had to pay to get my house treated. Over a year later I'm getting my house tented. I would like what I've learned to help someone else buying a house.

In some states, termite treatment is mandated by law. In California there is no such termite law, but almost every mortgage requires that the property is "cleared" for termites before escrow will close. But a clearance simply means that a termite inspector could not find evidence of any live termites - which actually can be very different than there not being any live termites.

The Single Most Important Thing to Know About Buying a Property with Termites

If you are buying a house with termite activity have the seller tent the property during escrow, even if the termite activity is not substantial. Do not accept local treatments - especially not orange oil treatment. Drywood termites are incredibly difficult to detect. When you finally do see signs of a termite presence, it is usually just the tip of the iceberg. And the only 100% effective way to kill termites is to tent the building (fumigate) with sulfuryl fluoride (aka Vikane). Because termite colonies are impossible to map, local treatment is ineffective.

Tenting with Sulfuryl Fluoride

A common misconception about tenting is that the gas will leave a poisonous residue behind. This is not true. Sulfuryl fluoride is a true physical gas; it is not a vapor or suspension. Just like carbon dioxide or oxygen, when it leaves a container it leaves no trace behind. This is why you don't even have to wash your silverware or dishes after your house has been tented. You do however, have to seal any food or liquid that you, or your pets, might eat or drink after the fumigation.

How Sulfuryl Fluoride Is Poisonous

When a human or animal is exposed to sulfuryl fluoride, they get fluoride poisoning which can be fatal. This is why you, your pets, and even your plants must evacuate a building before it is gassed. Food and water can absorb fluoride from sulfuryl fluoride - this is why you have to seal all comestibles in airtight containers before tenting. There has been research on this, and there is no connection between sulfuryl fluoride and cancer.

Sulfuryl Fluoride gotchas

Any half-decent tenting crew is trained to look for a few things that could potentially end up with a human being accidentally poisoned. The one that surprised me the most is water-proof mattress covers. Normally sulfuryl fluoride disperses quickly, but ...


Simple Fix for Bootcamp Partition Error: "Files cannot be moved"

This method may not work for everyone. If it doesn't I would try Apple's recommended solution of a backup, reinstall (this step may not be necessary, a reformat might be good enough), and restore.

The easy method:

      Restart OS X
      Hold the keys cmd+s for single user mode.
      Type "fsck -fy" - this will do some filesystem cleanup and should be safe (unless you have hard drive or filesystem corruption - if you're worried about this run disk utility repair first)
      Type "exit" to continue booting - then try boot camp again.

    This worked for me, YMMV (your mileage may vary).


    Paypal charged my credit card, without my permission, and didn't tell me about it

    Adding to the growing number of stories concluding that Paypal is evil [1] [2], I finally felt their cold callus fingers myself. But admittedly, I had it way easier than the poor violin seller.

    I sold an old laptop on ebay (try to avoid doing this, ebay charges a 9+% commission, yikes!). I received money, transferred the money to my checking account and shipped the laptop. What I did not know is that the person who bought the computer was technologically challenged. They complained that they could not use the computer because of a relatively simple software configuration problem. I emailed back a short response about about a potential fix; apparently this wasn't helpful enough so they filed an official dispute with ebay without replying to me directly.

    When a dispute is filed on ebay, paypal immediately places a hold on your account for the amount of the auction. In my case, this money was already withdrawn. So when my last.fm subscription tried to automatically withdraw $3 from paypal for the monthly fee, the transaction was cancelled because of the hold. At this point I was irked but wasn't surprised that paypal was giving me minor grief. Around this time VISA called me to ask me if a paypal transaction was valid - Paypal was trying to charge me for the amount of the hold! I told VISA it wasn't fraudulent but it was an invalid transaction and to block it; I emailed paypal with my distaste for their action. But a couple days later Paypal somehow charged my credit card for the amount of the laptop and the last.fm charge. without. my. permission. and without informing me.

    One month later, or about 3 weeks after the ebay buyer stopped returning my emails and phone calls (I assume either they realized their error and felt shame, or decided to give up on new fangled devices all together), the dispute was automatically closed and Paypal returned my money. But not to my credit card, that would have been too simple. I have to withdraw the money to my bank account and pay my larger credit card bill (it wasn't until I investigated the larger than expected credit card bill today that I realized that paypal actually succeeded in charging my credit card).

    So what did I learn? I learned that:

    • Don't use paypal if you can help it.(alternatives Google Wallet, Amazon Payments, Moneybookers)
    • If you must use paypal, try not to keep a credit card on file with them
    • Don't sell things on ebay if you want more than 90% of the value of your item. Are there other good and cheaper auction sites out there?

    Poetic Justice?

    Paypal may know my credit card number, but one thing they don't know about me is that I'm the developer of a website which processes hundreds of thousands of dollars in credit card charges every year. And right now I am considering which ...