Replacement Chainrings for Sugino Compact Plus Cranks (OX601D, OX801D)

Since 2016 I have been using a Sugino OX601D “compact-plus” crank on my Elephant Bikes National Forest Explorer. A compact-plus crank offers lower gearing than conventional 50/34 “compact” or 52/36 “mid-compact” cranks. I use 42/26 rings. Another popular combination is 46/30.

These smaller tooth counts allow for lower gears, making hilly courses more accessible to many cyclists of different abilities. This used to be the purpose of triple cranks until they were largely largely abandoned by Shimano, Campagnolo and SRAM a couple of years ago. In 2013 Shimano dropped triples on Ultegra when it moved from 6700 to 6800. The following year it did the same to 105 with the switch from 5700 to 5800. So-called compact and mid-compact double cranks were supposed to be a replacement for triples, but in truth their gearing never went low enough for many cyclists on all kinds of terrain.

Most road triple cranks used a bolt circle of 130/74 mm or 110/74. That meant the middle could be no smaller than 38T (130 BCD) or 33T (110 BCD), though in practice 39T and 34T were more common. The 74 BCD allows rings of 32T and smaller, down to 24T. Shimano compacts give you only 110 BCD, excluding any inner rings smaller than 34T.

Into this void stepped Sugino with its compact-plus cranks that combined the more flexible gearing of triples with compatibility with double front derailleurs and shifters. They do that with a 110/74 BCD combination with 5 bolts, just like an old touring triple (typical configuration: 48/36/26).

Effectively, a compact plus crank is a triple in which the middle and large rings are replaced by one in-between ring that can do both jobs. So for example, instead of a 50/39/30 you would have a 46/30. You just give up some very tall gears, but those typically see very little actual use outside of road racing.

Eventually Shimano also jumped on the compact-plus bandwagon: It is now offering 48/31 and 46/30 cranks in its GRX group set for gravel bikes, using a proprietary 110/80 BCD setup with 4 bolts.

I’ve been very happy with my Sugino OX601D. The 42T large ring and the 26T small ring in combination with a 11-32 cassette (11 speed) provide just the right gear range for my kind of riding. I ride a lot of mountain routes with grades of 10 percent and more and 160 km or more in a day where I really appreciate being able to spin up a mountain in a low gear. If I push heavy gears, I end up paying for it with knee pain.

Recently I replaced my bicycle chain as it had worn and stretched and noticed in the process that the teeth of the large ring were quite worn too. I had put over 30,000 km on that crank already and should have replace the most recent chain a long time ago. In any case, I realized that I needed a new chain ring and it turned out that Sugino no longer makes it. That’s because the OX601D and OX801D cranks have been discontinued, along with the PE110S rings that were used on them.

Sugino only ever sold these cranks with ring combinations of 44T to 50T for the large ring and 30T or more for the small ring. The 40T and 42T versions of the PE110S were made specifically for use with the ZX801D, a Mountain Bike equivalent of the OX801D but Soma/Merry Sales in the US sold them as a combination with the OX601D. That’s where I had bought mine.

Sugino’s current compact-plus offering is the OX2-901D, the successor to the OX901D which in turn was the 10/11-speed version of the 9/10-speed OX801D. My OX601D is a cheaper but functionally identical version of the OX801D – basically just not as shiny. I had no problems running the OX601D in an 11-speed configuration, with an 11-speed chain, cassette and rear derailleur, but I guess there are some subtle differences with the latest versions, such as maybe the spacing between the two rings to optimize it for the narrower 11-speed chain.

The OX2-901D uses CP110S chain rings with the same 110 BCD bold circle as the PE110S, but they’re for 11 speed. The large rings are offered in even steps from 44T to 52T and small rings (CP74S, CP110s) in even numbers from 30T to 36T. There is no 40T or 42T for the large ring or 24, 26 or 28 for the small ring as there was for the PE110S for the ZX801D because there’s no MTB equivalent of the OX2-901D. Sugono’s only concession to people needing lower gearing is the “Super Hill Climb” CY5-SHC, a 27T 74 BCD inner ring.

One option would have been to buy a CP110S 44T chain ring. Given the close family relationship between the OX2-901D, OX901D and OX801D/OX601D, I am pretty sure it would have worked worked just fine on my older crank. It would have raised the gearing on the large ring by about 5 percent though (44/42). On top of that, the difference in tooth count between the two rings would have increased from 16T (42-26) to 18T (44-28). The specification for my FD-CX70 says its maximum capacity is 16T, but it would probably would have still worked. However, 44/26 at the front with 11-32 at the rear would on paper have required a total rear derailleur capacity of 39, one more than the specification of my RD-6800-GS. That can get tricky.

Exceeding the total rear derailleur capacity theoretically creates problems during cross chaining, as the rear derailleur arm can not take up all the chain slack from switching between the two extreme positions. If the installed chain is kept short enough to not go slack when running on the the small ring at the front with the smallest sprocket at the rear, it risks the derailleur pulley making contact with the spinning cassette when running on the big ring at the front and the largest sprocket at the rear. That could be disastrous. The safer way is to keep the chain long enough for the big/big combination, which I quite often use. At worst your chain will slip in the small/small combination which should be avoided anyway (and which is easy to avoid, you just switch back to the big ring after the first couple of upshifts when you have reached the top of a steep climb).

Sugino rings are not the only choice for compact-plus cranks. French bicycle parts maker Spécialités T.A. also offers a wide variety of high quality chain rings that can be used on many different cranks. Specifically, the TA Zephyr rings are also ramped and pinned for Shimano STI and will work with 10 and 11 speed groups. When you are looking for a large ring for a Sugino OX crank, it is best to use a 110 BCD ring meant for a use as a middle in a triple. That’s because these rings are mounted on the inside of the OX crank spider, not the outside. This matters because some rings have bolt holes that are countersunk for mounting on a particular side, to match bolts with conical heads. So it makes difference if the bolt comes from the left or the right. In any case, there’s a TA Zephyr 110 BCD middle in either 40T or 42T, making them suitable replacements for the PE110S 40T and 42T formerly made for the ZX801D that are no longer available.

It’s a pity that Sugino no longer offers chain ring combinations below 44/30, such as 44/28, 42/26, 40/26 or 40/24 which would all be possible with the dual bolt circle of 110/74 mm on OX and OX2 cranks. As long as TA offers the rings we can still create and maintain such combinations though.

Another great option are Rene Herse cranks, which are available in a wide range of chain ring sizes, supporting speeds from 9 to 12 speed. That may be my fall-back position a couple of years down the road.

“Questions About GDPR Data Access Process” Spam from Virginia

The other day, I received the following email:

Subject: Questions About GDPR Data Access Process for [DOMAINNAME]
To Whom It May Concern:

My name is [REDACTED], and I am a resident of Roanoke, Virginia. I have a few questions about your process for responding to General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) data access requests:

  1. Would you process a GDPR data access request from me even though I am not a resident of the European Union?
  2. Do you process GDPR data access requests via email, a website, or telephone? If via a website, what is the URL I should go to?
  3. What personal information do I have to submit for you to verify and process a GDPR data access request?
  4. What information do you provide in response to a GDPR data access request?

To be clear, I am not submitting a data access request at this time. My questions are about your process for when I do submit a request.

Thank you in advance for your answers to these questions. If there is a better contact for processing GDPR requests regarding [DOMAINNAME], I kindly ask that you forward my request to them.

I look forward to your reply without undue delay and at most within one month of this email, as required by Article 12 of GDPR.

Sincerely,

[REDACTED]

It’s a confusing email, but as it turns out, one received by many other website owners. In fact, there’s a thread about it on Reddit.

GDPR deals with processing personally identifiable information. Non-compliance can lead to stiff fines. It even applies to companies outside the EU if they process personal data of EU residents.

If you get a request regarding personally identifiable information from a EU resident, you will need to answer promptly or responsibly or you can face fines. However, no such requirement exists under GDPR regarding data of individuals outside the EU.

I don’t know what the intention of the sender of this email email is, but I have my suspicions.

The email was sent from an address at “potomacmail.com”, a recently registered domain (2020-03-02). It was sent from an Amazon EC2 host (52.23.113.96). The HTML portion of the email contains an image reference to a single pixel “web bug”, an image loaded from the potomacmail.com website that will cause the IP address of the browser to be logged on that server when you open the email with a web client that doesn’t automatically block images from untrusted senders:

https://potomacmail.com/p.png?req=GDPR&target=1234

The URI contains a unique value (it was something other than 1234 in my case) that presumably identifies the recipient of the email. In other words, the senders of this email themselves collect personally identifiable information which, if the recipient happens to be in the EU, is subject to GDPR and its potential fines.

Expiring the Internal Combustion Engine Car

The US state of Washington has decided to ban sales of new cars with internal combustion engines (ICE, gasoline or diesel) by the year 2030. That is five years earlier than in the state of California.

There are two issues to overcome for a switch to battery electric vehicles (BEVs): supply and charging. Two common worries however will not stand in the way of BEVs replacing ICEs: cost and range. Let me explain.

Battery cost per kWh has been dropping for decades and this trend is expected to continue. THis is highly significant: Most parts of a BEV car other than the big battery cost either the same as in an ICE car or they’re cheaper. As a result, the cost of batteries will stop being a major obstacle to adoption of BEVs years before the end of the decade.

The same is true for range. Cheaper batteries mean BEVs with more capacity will become affordable. The higher the capacity, the more km of charge can be replenished in a given number of minutes. For example, a Nissan Leaf with a 40 kWH battery will fast-charge from 0 to 80% in 40 minutes. The Volkswagen ID.4 First Edition with an 82 kWh battery (of which 77 kWh are usable capacity) will go from 5% to 80% charge in 38 minutes, essentially double the charging speed (kWh added per minute) for a battery with twice the range. If you can add hundreds of km of range in the time it takes you to use the toilet and get a cup of coffee then BEVs will be just as viable for long distance trips as ICE cars.

By the middle of this decade there is likely to be a wealth of different battery electric vehicle models on the market, with even BEV laggards such as Toyota, Honda and Subaru having joined in. Production could increase to about 50% of new sales of several large makers (e.g. GM, VW). It will have to scale up further, with the necessary increase in battery production capacity, by the end of the decade to make this happen but it seems eminently doable. Right now, the major bottleneck to ramping up production is not lack of demand but limited availability of battery cells. Every big car maker getting into BEVs will have to build Gigafactories churning out battery packs, or team up with battery makers who make these huge investments.

The more BEV there will be on the road, the more the impact on the electric grid becomes an issue. If you have a car that can cover 300 km or more on a full battery and you can charge at home every night then most likely you will almost never have to seek out a charging station, unlike drivers of ICE cars who regularly will have to fill up at a gas station. BEVs parked in a driveway or garage with a nearby wall socket are much easier to accommodate than cars currently parking in the street or on parking lots, who will require capacity at paid public charging points, which are more likely to be used at daytime. The grid has plenty of capacity for off-peak charging (e.g. overnight), but if a lot of people want to do their charging at superchargers or other fast charging points, this could require an upgrade in generating and transmission capacity to cover a higher daytime peak load. Vehicle to grid technology would help to make this more manageable, as cars sitting idle in a driveway could provide spare power for the few cars doing the odd long distance trip.

In any case, I see a date roughly around 2030 as the Goldilocks target for a phase-out of ICE-powered new cars. For high income countries this goal is neither too unambitious nor too unrealistically aggressive. Japan’s goal by contrast for a phase-out by the mid-2030s that still allows hybrid ICEs like the Toyota Prius after that date is quite unambitious. By setting the bar that low, prime minister Suga pleases Toyota, as expected, allowing it to keep selling dated technology in Japan that they will no longer be able to sell elsewhere. That puts Japan in the company of developing countries, which will most likely continue using ICE cars exported from rich countries for years to come.

The sooner rich countries switch to BEVs, the shorter the long tail of CO2-emitting ICE cars still running in poorer countries will be.

Releasing Tritium-tainted Water from Fukushima 1

The Japanese government has approved a plan by Tepco to release more than a million tons of water stored in tanks at the site of the Fukushima 1 nuclear power station. The water is supposed to be gradually released into the ocean starting two years from now.

Currently about 1.2 million t of contaminated water are stored on site, an amount that is increasing by about 170 t per day. Tepco is expected to run out of space at the end of 2022. Water is being injected into severely damaged reactors on the site to cool the remains of nuclear fuel left inside. It leaks back out, mingles with ground water that seeps in and is then purified through a filtration system called ALPS. This removes most of the radioactive contamination, but leaves tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen which can not be chemically removed from water. So it ends up in the storage tanks.

Proponents of the release argue that tritium poses little hazard in small quantities. Radiation from tritium is so weak, it only travels for a couple of mm through air and it is stopped by the dead cells on the outside of human skin. Even if ingested it does not accumulate in the human body.

The water released will be diluted to levels so low it would meet drinking water standards in Japan and in other countries. Opponents fear an economic backlash against local fisheries or argue in principle that Japan has no right to contaminate the Pacific ocean, which is not just their territorial waters but shared by many other countries.

Proponents call such criticism hypocritical, given that many other countries, including the Republic of Korea, routinely release tritium into the ocean from their own nuclear facilities.

The issue is complicated. First of all, whether the danger from the water release is real or exaggerated, fishermen will suffer economically because consumers will end up avoiding fish from Fukushima more than they already do, even if it was safe to eat. If the release is unavoidable, the fishermen should receive compensation for their economic losses. That is only fair.

The truth about the water is not black or white. The 1.2 million t of water that has accumulated over the past decade was treated in different ways at different times. Some may indeed contain only those low levels of tritium as a contaminant, but other tanks will hold water that still has significant amounts of caesium, strontium and other dangerous isotopes that unlike tritium can accumulate in organisms and pose long term hazards. More purification and testing will definitely be needed before a release can take place. As Motoko Rich and Makiko Inoue reported for the New York Times in 2019:

Until last year, Tepco indicated that with the vast majority of the water, all but one type of radioactive material — tritium, an isotope of hydrogen that experts say poses a relatively low risk to human health — had been removed to levels deemed safe for discharge under Japanese government standards.

But last summer, the power company acknowledged that only about a fifth of the stored water had been effectively treated.

Last month, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry briefed reporters and diplomats about the water stored in Fukushima. More than three-quarters of it, the ministry said, still contains radioactive material other than tritium — and at higher levels than the government considers safe for human health.

The authorities say that in the early years of processing the deluge of water flowing through the reactors, Tepco did not change filters in the decontamination system frequently enough. The company said it would re-treat the water to filter out the bulk of the nuclear particles, making it safe to release into the ocean.
(New York Times, 2019-12-23)

Long term there is no real alternative to releasing the water. Once its radioactivity has been reduced to only tritium, dilution and disposal at sea should pose little risk.

The challenge however is that Tepco and the government have a public trust problem, at home and abroad. How do we know the water released will be as clean as claimed?

Any release process needs to be transparent and independently verified to make sure there are no shortcuts or other shenanigans.

See also:

My team “Maillot 24Tokyo” ride of AR Nihonbashi Flèche 2021

I survived my second Flèche ride from Toyohashi in Aichi prefecture back to Tokyo (on Strava) and my third Flèche overall.



Although we officially did not finish again, I rode 401 km altogether from Saturday morning to Sunday afternoon, including the entire 368 km route as planned, just not within the set hours. A Flèche is a randonneuring event where teams of 3 to 5 machines (tandems only count once) ride at least 360 km in 24 hours towards a central location / meeting point. At least 25 km have to be covered after hour 22 of the 24 hour ride. It was organised by AR Nihonbashi.

We used almost the same course again as last year, only the part close to Tokyo was different. The biggest difference overall was that it didn’t rain all day on Saturday as it had last year. Therefore I rode the whole day in shorts instead of in rain gear and the temperature was much more pleasant too.

To get to the start, I drove to Aichi by car the day before (I can’t rinko my Elephant Bikes NFE). I was joined by my wife and my son. Together we visited Cape Irago (Iragomisaki) on the Atsumi peninsula of southern Aichi. After dropping me off they drove back to Tokyo. The peninsula is beautiful. I was impressed by the natural forests that are a sprinkle of different colors, unlike around Tokyo where much of the current forests are regrown mono-cultures planted after post war clearcutting.

I had dinner with two other team members, then went to bed at 21:00.

The alarm went off at 05:15 and we assembled at 06:00 to get the bikes ready.

It was a 20 minute ride to the official start at a 7-11 on the outskirts, where we set off at 07:00. We head a very pleasant tailwind on our ride through farm country out to Iragomisaki, where we uploaded a group picture in front of a road sign to prove passage.

The view from the road next to the Irako View Hotel (伊良湖ビューホテル) was breathtaking. You could see the coast of Mie prefecture on the other side of the entrance to Ise Bay and various islands in the sea. I took in the view but we didn’t stop for a picture. Here’s a picture from Wikipedia (By Bariston – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0):

We headed into the headwind that would be blowing in our faces for the next 120 km. Sometimes we took turns leading the ride. Many of the farmhouses had a storehouse between it and the coastal side, probably to block the wind.

There were also many greenhouses. Regardless of shape and size, glass or plastic they all seemed to have fuel oil tanks with the JA logo (Japan Agricultural Cooperatives), so it’s a safe bet that JA sells most of the fuel oil consumed to help grow crops in the cold season. Lots of signs advertising melons which are currently out of season but we came across many kei trucks loaded with cabbages.

There were many wind turbines in Aichi and also Shizuoka, as well as many photovoltaic installations. Their ubiquity there highlighted for me how few of them we have in Tokyo and Kanagawa. Perhaps Chubu Power is easier to deal with for feed ins than Tepco is, especially for wind power.

At noon we stopped for lunch at a ramen and gyoza place about halfway between Cape Irago and Omaezaki.

As we passed the former Hamaoka nuclear power station (it is permanently shut down) we were passed by a group of three cyclists on mamachari. Actually, one was a hybrid bike with flat bars while the other two were bona-fide mamachari. It was team ”マチャリはロング向き!” (“Mamachari is suitable for long rides!”) running in the AR Nihonbashi event and they were steaming ahead of us.

We got to Omaezaki a little after 16:00. By then it was a Century ride (160.9 km / 100 mi), but not even half of what we had set out to do.

As the course turned north here, the headwind ceased and became more of a tailwind again. It got dark near Shizuoka City.

I had felt a bit sleepy after lunch but then felt OK again. Over the next couple of hours others became sleepy as we were riding through the dark and it became more and more of a problem.

I wasn’t able to see Mt Fuji on the drive on Tomei expressway on Friday because of low clouds and now I couldn’t see it because it was night time. After crossing Fuji city and Numazu we started our climb in Izu towards Atami toge. When we finally got to the top, we had to take another power nap break at the tunnel entrance. We put on all our extra clothes for the steep descent down to Atami (13 percent). After that my rear disk brake, which recently had been very noisy and not very effective (maybe due to oil contamination from the chain) has been working perfectly again, as the heat and wear effectively decontaminated it.

Dawn approached as we headed from Atami to Yugawara and Manazuru.

We had burnt up most of our time buffer for the sleep break planned at the 22 hour stop by then, but the sleepiness in the team only got worse. So after another long break at Manazuru we sent in our DNF-notification to the event organiser. We headed to Odawara and had breakfast at the station.

After that, my friends rinko’ed their bikes for the train home while I continued on the planned route to Yamato, then another 26 km to my home. I also needed a few naps to get me home safely.

With this ride, I now have 104 contiguous months of Century a Month.

I may join a 400 km brevet later this spring and a 200 km brevet or two again after the summer.

As for the Flèche that we DNF’ed twice now, let’s see what we can come up with next year. We may just try it again a third time 🙂

Pacific Quake Risk Report and Nankai Trough

A report by the Earthquake Research Committee of the Japanese government released on 26 March 2021 puts the probability of a magnitude 8-9 quake along the Nankai Trough off the coast of central Japan at 70 to 80 percent:

The results stem from high probabilities of two huge offshore quakes over the next 30 years.

One is a temblor with a magnitude of around 8 forecast to occur with an 80% probability along the Chishima Trench off Nemuro, Hokkaido.

The other one, seen occurring along the Nankai Trough off the country’s central to southwestern coast with a magnitude of 8 to 9, has a probability of 70% to 80%.

As an investigative report by Keiichi Ozawa in the Chunichi Shimbun exposed last year, this figure is based on manipulation. The estimate for the Nankai Trough uses a different methodology from the one used for all other areas of Japan. If the same methodology were used, the estimated probability would be slashed to about 20 percent.

When a government panel of earthquake prediction experts revised the probability of the Nankai Trough earthquake scenario from “about 70 percent” to “between 70 and 80 percent” in February 2018, some pointed out that the figure was inflated. The minutes of previous meetings in 2012 and 2013, obtained by the Chunichi Shimbun, revealed the figure had been slammed as “unscientific” at the time.

The seismologists were of the opinion that the probability was not being presented fairly and called for the release of not only the highest figure but a low one as well.

But their argument was swiftly shot down by scholars in the field of disaster prevention, who, the minutes of the preliminary meetings showed, made no secret of their desire to prioritize securing themselves budgets over respecting science.
(…)
During joint sessions the committee held in December 2012 and February 2013, seismologists and disaster prevention experts clashed over whether to mention the low figure for the Nankai scenario in the “main text,” or summary, of the government report.

In the draft version, there was no mention of the fact that the time-predictable model — the measurement of land movements from previous quakes taken at Murotsu Port, northwest of Cape Muroto in Kochi Prefecture — was applicable only to the Nankai scenario, and that applying the model used for all other earthquakes would slash the probability to about 20 percent.
((Japan Times, 2020-07-10)

I am wondering how long these questionable figures will remain unchallenged year after year.

Rescuing DVD-RAM Recordings from Obsolescence

I bought my first video camera more than 30 years ago. I went for Hi8, a higher resolution version of Video8, as opposed to VHS or VHS-C which was also popular at the time. Since then I have switched device and formats several times. There was always the worry that I would lose access to my recordings as devices able to read the old media become obsolete or die or the recording media themselves fail from old age. Losing irreplaceable videos of our kids when they were little is something I really didn’t want to experience. Here is a short summary of how I have been dealing with these challenges.

Hi8 (PAL) – early 1990s
I bough my first camcorder when I still lived in Germany so naturally it used the PAL standard (625 scan lines, 50 Hz). I did a lot of analog video editing using an S-VHS VCR, which could interface to the camcorder using S-Video cables. Even after I moved to Japan which uses the NTSC standard (525 scan lines, 60 Hz) I kept recording in PAL. A Samsung multi-standard recorder allowed me to record from the camcorder to NTSC VHS tapes. I also bought a multi-standard analog TV that could display PAL, SECAM and NTSC. However, for many years I just collected the Hi8 PAL master tapes in a cardboard box.
Along came Digital8, a successor to Hi8 that as the name indicates used digital recording but was backwards compatible with Hi8 and could play the old tapes. So eventually, as Hi8 camcorders were already becoming obsolete, I bought a second hand one off eBay when I was visiting Germany. It had an IEEE 1394 (Fireware) connector that made it possible to copy digital video to a computer equipped with that interface. I experimented with PCs with plug-in IEEE 1394 cards, but ultimately it was a Mac mini that allowed me to copy the old Hi8 PAL tapes to a hard disc using the German Digital8 camcorder, a Firewire cable and iMovie which was bundled with macOS. The output files were “.dv” files. Some tapes were difficult to load and took many tries before the camcorder would even play them, but I was largely successful.

Hi8 (NTSC) – late 1990s
When my kids started going to kindergarten I finally switched to a Japanese camcorder, still a Hi8 model but for the NTSC standard (US/Japan). Like with the PAL camcorder I saved all the tapes in a box. The Samsung multi-standard VCR developed issues and we bought a new S-VHS VCR equipped with a DVD drive. It supported DVD-R, DVD-RW and DVD-RAM, the latter with caddies (cartridges). It also supported S-Video. It was relatively easy to use the S-Video interface to copy from the Hi8 (NTSC) camcorder to double sided DVD-RAM media. About 2 hours of video would become one 4.2 GB file on DVD-RAM. I chose DVD RAM because it supposedly was more robust than DVD-RW (especially with the protective case), but as Blu-ray came along DVD-RAM became less and less common, with many DVD multi drives not supporting it any more. In 2008 and 2010 I made a stack of 6 double sided DVD RAM media that held video from 21 Hi8 NTSC tapes, but when the DVD section of the VCR died, I no longer had anywhere to play them.
This year I finally bought a USB 3.1 DVD drive that also supports DVD-RAM, though without support for caddies. I went for the BUFFALO DVSM-PTV8U3-BK/N (2180 yen, about US$21). It worked very well once I removed the DVD-RAM disks from their protective caddy. I hooked it up to a Windows 10 machine, plugging the two USB cables into different USB ports (USB 2.0 for power, USB 3.1 for data). I copied the entire folder structure on each side of the media to a separate new folder on the server hard disk. The actual video information on a DVD RAM disk is in a file called VR_MOVIE.VRO which is found inside a folder called DVD_RTAV. The open source VLC player will play this .vro file, as well as the .dv file captured on the Mac mini from the Hi8 recorder.

MPEG (NTSC) hard disc recorder – 2000s
After the various Hi8 recorders I moved from tape to a hard disk based camcorder, a Toshiba Gigashot GSC-R30. This used a Toshiba-made 1.8″ notebook hard disk. It also had a USB 2.0 interface and could be connected to any PC. The MPEG files would play on any MPEG player with support for its audio codec, including VLC. Therefore backing up and preserving these videos was pretty painless.

Smartphones – 2010s and beyond
The Toshiba GSC-R30 was the last camcorder I ever bought. Occasionally I still shot video on my Nikon D3300 DSLR camera, but mostly I moved on to mobile phones which may not have had an optical zoom or as much recording capacity, but they were always in your pocket and so easy to use and the quality improved with each generation.

Don’t lose your media!
If you value the images and videos you recorded over the years, make sure to migrate them to recording media that you can access for years to come and keep doing that. Also make sure you have backups. Tapes, DVDs, hard disks and SSDs will all become unreadable at some point. Don’t keep irreplaceable files on one laptop and hope that it will work forever because it won’t. At the very least, buy a USB drive and make a backup copy. Even better, buy another USB drive, make another backup copy and give it to someone else in your family. It’s better to have your valuable data saved in more than one place.
I am a great fan of the VideoLAN VLC media player. You can throw just about any video or audio format at it and it will be able to play it. I highly recommend it! 🙂

Navalny tells the truth about Putin

If agents working for Vladimir Putin had succeeded last August when they tried to murder Alexei Navalny with a cold war era chemical agent, it would have made him only the last of many Putin critics who lost their lives since this crook took power in Russia. Anna Politkovskaya, Boris Nemtsov, Alexander Litvinenko and many others died without their killers or the people behind their deaths ever being brought to justice.

Navalny was lucky to survive because his plane made an emergency landing, he got emergency treatment quickly and was then transported to Germany where he recovered. His courage to return to Russia, despite facing certain arrest, is simply incredible. He is a true hero.

Now Putin, who doesn’t dare mention Navalny’s name in public, has a problem. Too many eyes are on Navalny’s fate now. If he gets killed, there will be retribution. But if he doesn’t get silenced, his courage will inspire others to no longer put up with the theft, lies and oppression.

I watched the powerful two hour documentary that Navalny and his Anti-Corruption Foundation prepared and which was made public after his arrest. It is already on course for more than 100 million views on YouTube. I expect Putin’s Russia will never be the same again. He has finally been exposed for who he really is. I hope the courageous protests of countless brave Russians and pressure from abroad will deter Putin’s regime from murdering Navalny this time.

Putin’s Russia is a prototype for authoritarian regimes in a number of countries that use nationalism as a cover for crooks and their families and friends looting the country. When Putin finally loses power, it will be a game changer for the struggle for democracy, human rights and justice worldwide.

Parler is Back on New Web Host

Parler, the web forum popular with Trump supporters and far-right groups, is back online after losing its web hosting when AWS kicked them off for violating their terms of service. After the violent insurrection on January 6 in which 5 people died, AWS had confronted Parler with a a list of 98 examples of messages that “clearly encourage and incite violence.” Posters had threatened politicians with firing squads and encouraged protesters to bring weapons to the presidential inauguration on January 20, 2021.

“We need to start systematically assassinating #liberal leaders,” read one post. In another now-deleted message posted the day after the attack, pro-Trump lawyer Lin Wood called for Vice President Mike Pence’s execution, writing “Get the firing squads ready, Pence goes FIRST.”

“These are things that mainstream social networks have policies against,” said Kevin Roose, a tech columnist for The New York Times. “And so, if you got kicked off Twitter for saying them, a lot of the time your next step was to make a Parler account and just move your followers over there.”
(CBS, 2021-01-11)

When Parler did not remove all of the violent messages they had been notified about, AWS terminated the hosting. Since then Parler scrambled to find a replacement.

As has been reported, Parler had first moved to Epik as their new registrar, as can be seen in their WHOIS record:

Domain Name: PARLER.COM
Registry Domain ID: 1336588_DOMAIN_COM-VRSN
Registrar WHOIS Server: whois.epik.com
Registrar URL: http://www.epik.com
Updated Date: 2021-01-11T19:28:03Z
Creation Date: 1998-05-28T04:00:00Z
Registrar Registration Expiration Date: 2022-05-27T04:00:00Z
Registrar: Epik, Inc.
Registrar IANA ID: 617
Registrar Abuse Contact Email: abuse@epik.com
Registrar Abuse Contact Phone: +1.4253668810
Reseller:
Domain Status: clientTransferProhibited https://icann.org/epp#clientTransferProhibited
Registry Registrant ID:
Registrant Name: Privacy Administrator
Registrant Organization: Anonymize, Inc.
Registrant Street: 704 228th Ave NE
Registrant City: Sammamish
Registrant State/Province: WA
Registrant Postal Code: 98074
Registrant Country: US
Registrant Phone: +1.4252025160
Registrant Phone Ext:
Registrant Fax:
Registrant Fax Ext:
Registrant Email: 20373@anonymize.com

Now they’re back with a single page placeholder site while the forum itself is still unavailable. The website currently resolves to IP address 190.115.31.151, which is in the following network registered in Belize but with a Russian phone number:

inetnum: 190.115.16.0/20
status: allocated
aut-num: AS262254
owner: DDOS-GUARD CORP.
ownerid: BZ-DALT-LACNIC
responsible: Evgeniy Marchenko
address: 1/2Miles Northern Highway, –, —
address: — – Belize – BZ
country: BZ
phone: +7 928 2797045

According to that company’s LinkedIn profile they’re based in Rostov-on-Don. This Russian company is a major provider of protection against Denial-of-Service attacks. In other words, they filter web traffic for websites hosted behind the filter. Most likely the actual hosting is at a different company to which DDOS Guard Corp. forwards the filtered traffic.

Parler’s troubles go deeper than finding hosting. Without access to Google’s Play Store for Android or Apple’s App Store, even with new hosting mobile users will only be able to access the site from a browser. The company also lost access to its SMS provider and other services, all of which will make it an uphill struggle to make a comeback. Most likely, other sites and services will absorb some of the user base while the forum is gone.

As the domestic terrorists who invaded Congress on January 6 will get prosecuted, that will also cast a spotlight on what went on at Parler in the weeks and months before the violence took place. Freedom of speech does not extend to inciting people to murder.

See also:

Germany Reaches Renewable Energy Milestone

The drop in demand for electric power due to the Covid-19 pandemic helped Germany reach an environmental milestone in 2020: For the first time more electricity from renewable sources was fed into the German grid than from fossil fuels and nuclear combined.

50.5 percent of the net electricity production came from wind, solar, hydro and biomass vs. 49.5 percent from fossil or nuclear. Wind power alone accounted for 27 percent of all electricity, more than brown coal and hard coal combined (24.1 percent).

2020 numbers for Japan are not yet available, but in 2017 renewables excluding hydro power accounted for only 8.1 percent of the Japanese electricity production, with hydro providing another 7.9 percent. 39.5 percent came from LNG, 32.7 percent from coal 8.7 percent from oil and 3.1 percent from nuclear.

Japan’s power generation plan for FY2030 foresees only 1.7 percent for wind power, 7 percent for solar and an overall share for renewables (including hydro power) of 22-24 percent of the total. That is less than half the share that Germany achieved in 2020, a whole decade before Japan.