Taran Rampersad's blog

Yes, Old Hard Drives Are Safe To Take Apart.

Old Hard Drive... circa 1982 (6)One of the interesting things about posting my pictures on Flickr with Creative Commons licensing is where they turn up. This particular image is associated with this response as to whether or not old hard drives are safe to take apart.

Clearly, it's too late for me to be reading that article.

The hard drive pictured, as I recall, was from an original IBM PC/XT and had 10 whopping megabytes on those metal platters. It was plenty under DOS - and it had Windows 3.1 as well as GEM Desktop on it, with various archaic desktop publishing software.

A bit of history. Safe to take apart (and trust me, there's little I haven't).

It's nice to have my images used like this.


Revisiting The ASUS G74SX-XA1 Republic of Gamers 17.3-Inch Gaming Laptop

In November, 2011, I got my ASUS G74SX-XA1 Republic of Gamers Laptop and was pretty impressed with it. The trouble with first impressions, of course, is that they are only first impressions. Almost 2 evolutions of Moore's Law later, it remains a powerhouse compared to most laptops out there, with it's i7 processor still performing better than most laptops (compare the i7 and the i5).

Until a month ago, I had no problem.  Then, for the first time in decades, I managed to spill coffee on the keyboard and found that ASUS support 2 years later is pretty non-existent. One could argue - in fact, when I finally got a hold of someone at ASUS they did argue - that the system was too old for them to support. A replacement keyboard for the system couldn't be found through the ASUS online store. I ended up with a knock-off from China that works well. The laptop remains worth keeping 2 years later because it still outperforms most of the systems on the market, but when it comes to the ASUS Republic of Gamers Laptops, there's something you need to know: You can't expect them to actually have your system hardware off the shelf when you need it.

In fact, it's such a pain that I spent a bit of time looking at replacement systems so that I could continue working. When it comes to the actual support, ASUS isn't very responsive and, really, doesn't care too much after the initial sale. For low dollar systems, I might be more understanding - but the system was/is not (I've seen used systems selling for $700). When it comes time to purchase a new system, based off of my experience in dealing with ASUS in North America, the lack of support for a simple keyboard replacement is something I will not soon forget.

So if you do buy an ASUS Republic of Gamers system, don't expect too much in the way of hardware replacement. In that way, you won't be disappointed.

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Stopping Troubling Cheap Popularity Algorithms

Warmed by the SunsOne of the more silly issues of popularity algorithms is that they do  not degrade over time - and it's really simple to fix.

In the context of social media and the internet, the cheap and easy algorithms that people who consider themselves programmers copy and paste into their code, or install as a module or add-on, simply point to things based on statistics on how many views. In some cases, these are prominently displayed on front pages of websites or even in feeds from certain social media sites. It's a red herring - it tells you what has been viewed the most since the items have been posted - but it doesn't tell you what is actually more popular at the moment and what is more popular over time.

As usual, the problem gives away the solution. If a page has so many hits, it could  be because of longevity - a well written article can be timeless - but it doesn't mean that it's the most popular, either. What gets the most views per day? That would likely be popular. So rather than popularity being defined by what has been viewed the most (which is almost always inflated by bots!), popularity is defined by what is most viewed per unit time.

Thus, if you can define when things are posted, and you can define what the date is, you suddenly have an idea of how many times something has been viewed over a period of time. However, is it relevant? Relevance degrades over unit time for many items, particularly dated articles that clutter the Internet - but how fast does that relevance degrade? I've seen one Drupal module that attempts to use a sort of 'half-life' argument for relevance - and while it is better than simply counting views, it's a bit too linear for my liking.

So this is what I'm considering (Math notation, not programming notation):

Popularity = (Views/Time) x (1/Time)

Popularity = (Views/Time2)

That's really not too taxing of an algorithm for a server, is it?


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