My new minimalist blogging platform

The phone that I’m always carrying around anyway, plus a really compact — say about 2 stacked credit cards in size when folded up — iPhone stand, plus a Logitech Keys-to-go.

The Keys-to-go is surprisingly reasonable to type on. I’m able to touch type at full speed.


  • Apologies for the potato quality photo. Since I was taking a picture of my phone, I had to use the webcam on my laptop to take the picture. 🙂
  • Yes, I know the picture doesn’t show me blogging. I used the WordPress iPhone app to write this post, but the post wasn’t written when I took the picture, so…

Raspberry Pi 5


I had pre-ordered a RPi 5 a couple of months ago, but really had no idea when it was going to show up, so it was a pleasant surprise when I got the email from PiShop earlier this week to say that it had arrived. A quick trip over to their warehouse on Colonnade Road et voilà.

As you can see from the above picture, I also got the stock active cooler, but that was it. It’s actually mounted to the bottom panel of an old RPi 4 case I had lying around, just to keep it elevated off of the desk. Hopefully that will help to keep it cool, and reduce the chances of damage to the board.

Speaking of cooling, like many other RPi enthusiasts, I was surprised by how hot the wee beastie gets. I haven’t done a lot of testing yet, but just based on the CPU temp plugin in the taskbar, idle temp is around 38° C. As soon as you start doing anything (like typing a blog post) it rapidly goes up to around 48°C. Somewhere around this temperature the fan on the heat sink will spin up, but because it’s variable speed, even with it running there is next to no sound. The only time I’ve heard the fan spin at full speed is during boot up, and even then it’s still quite quiet — i.e. it’s not the screaming monster you might expect a fan that tiny to be. Regardless, the heat sink fins do get hot enough that you probably don’t want to touch them while it’s running.

I have been holding off upgrading my webserver Pi to the latest debian bookworm based OS, since there was no (official) upgrade path from the previous version and it’s a pain to move all of the hosted sites over to a new install. Now that I have a Pi 5 too, I think it may be time. The combination of more performant hardware and the move from PHP7 to PHP8 in bookworm should provide a significant boost. Note: I really don’t *need* to do this, the current sites load just fine, but a few pages (like the NextCloud dashboard) aren’t quite where I’d like them.

Anyway, I’ll post again once I have moved the server over to the new hardware. For now, I can say I’m very happy with it. If you’re looking for a super cheap, small form factor desktop, the RPi 5 will definitely work for you. It’s still not a speed demon, but it will play 1080p/60fps video without dropping a lot of frames, and feels quite snappy to use (running off an SSD). Peace!

Cicada Sound

In case anyone who reads this blog is a eurorack gearhead in Ottawa, I’d like to make a plug for a (relatively) new music store I discovered recently.

Cicada Sound
1198 Bank St
Ottawa, ON K1S 3Y1

I was, in fact, pointed at them by someone from L&M because I had been bemoaning the fact that they no longer had any eurorack modules on display. The person I was chatting with suggested I check out this new store, and wow am I ever glad they did! I also greatly appreciate a vendor that will send you somewhere else when they can’t satisfy your needs. Thanks, L&M!

Cicada Sound has a range of synths and some guitars, etc. but their main focus seems to be eurorack gear, which is something I have been desperately looking for in Ottawa. As you can see from the picture, they have lots of modules set up and wired into workstations with headphones on each, so you can actually figure out what the modules sound like before buying them. Woot!

In the spirit of “putting your money where your mouth is”, I purchased a Cre8Audio NiftyKEYZ modular case+keyboard from them. After some fiddling here’s a picture with it filled with some of my eurorack modules:

I really like this device. I can honestly say that this is the nicest euroack controller I have ever used. It has some things I’d tweak if I had access to the firmware, but really it’s great.

Another season for Divertimento

The first rehearsal for the Fall 2023 Divertimento concerts was last Thursday.

The program is…

  • Brahms, Academic Festival Overture, Op.80
  • Chopin, Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op.21 (1st mvt only)
    (Laura D’Souza piano soloist)
  • Gounod, Faust: Ballet Music
  • Chausson, Symphony in B♭, Op.20, 35 minutes

Most of these we’ve played in previous seasons, but there’s a ton of good music here. The Chausson, in particular, has some great cello parts.

The soloist for the Piano Concerto won the honour of playing with us by taking first place at the Ottawa Piano Festival in May of this year.

Concert dates are November 10 and 11. Hope to see you there.

CP/M (!)

My first job after university was working for a small (at the time) Ottawa company named “dy-4 Systems Inc.” programming an “Orion-V” computer. This was an extremely solid, industrial grade microcomputer, which used a z80 CPU and ran the CP/M operating system.

(Yes, those are 8″ Floppy drives.)

Well, the other day I was in a nostalgic mood, and I wondered if anyone still made z80 CP/M hardware, or whether they were all relegated to history by devices like the Raspberry Pi Zero, which is literally 3 orders of magnitude faster and has 8 times the memory of the old Orion-V, for 14.00 $CDN.

Well, it turns out that it is still possible to buy a z80 machine, from a few small makers out there. Here are some examples:

Note that these are all real, physical hardware devices running z80 class CPUs, not emulations running on modern hardware like this or this.

Since I don’t have a 3D printer to build a case, and even using a project box of some kind seemed like too much work 😛 , I ended up getting one of the MinZ-C devices from Circle M Systems, with the added benefit that it supports a small, Canadian company.

So… Keep in mind the monolith that was the Orion-V above, in all its glory, and now here is the MinZ-C (loony for scale):

What I find particularly hilarious about this is that it runs at almost 37MHz, which might look slow compared to the 1GHz (!) RPi Zero, but keep in mind that the Orion-V ran at (as I remember it) 2.5MHz. In fact, this machine is something like 8x the performance of any z80 CP/M machine in existence in the period I was using them.

This isn’t a full review of the machine, but I will say it worked flawlessly OOTB, and included a MicroSD card that had both the CP/M OS and a ton of other software written for CP/M. Remember Wordstar? MuLISP? TurboPascal?

Trolling around internet archives I even managed to find a copy of MINCE (i.e. “MINCE Is Not Complete Emacs”), which was my absolute favourite editor back in the day. It took a bit of work to train it to use VT100 protocol, but once I did it came up and ran perfectly!

The next step is to find a decent free CP/M FORTH. I actually did some of the programming on the Orion-V machines in FORTH, but I remember that it was a commercial product that was quite expensive. I guess we’ll see what’s out there.

Mini PCs Redux

It’s been not quite two years since I bought a mini PC to play with. That one continues to work just fine as an internal server on my home network. Unfortunately, it’s starting to feel a bit slow running Ubuntu, and since I continue to be fascinated by the ultra small PC form factor, I figured it was time to look at maybe getting an upgrade.

There are a lot of manufacturers of these devices now, and they can vary in price from less than $200 to devices like the Minisforum Neptune HX90G a power tool with discrete graphics, 32Gig of RAM, and a 1TB SSD, for >1000 $US.

As much fun as that would be, I ended up with something a bit more reasonable. The ludicrously named “KAMRUI Mini PC with Windows 11 Pro, Intel Celeron N5105(up to 2.9GHz) Mini Desktop Computers, 8GB RAM/256GB M.2 SSD Micro Computer Support 4K UHD, 2.4G/5.0G Wi-Fi, LAN for Business Home Education“. If nothing else, that gets the point across. Here’s a product shot:

The thing that appealed to me about this one is that it’s basically the same price as the previous one I bought, with more RAM, a bigger SSD, and a significantly faster processor.

After several days of playing with it, I can honestly say I’m totally happy with how it performs. Originally I had a bit of trouble with the somewhat dubious Windows 11 version it came with, but since I already knew I was going to run linux on it, this wasn’t a big deal. If you decide to get one, and intend to run Win11, watch out for the Windows Update cycle. YMMV, but in my case it hung badly enough that I couldn’t even reset the PC.

Regardless, running linux it’s great. I don’t have benchmarks, but it’s very significantly faster than the old one, even to the point that I can do some low spec Steam gaming on it. Woo hoo!