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a blog from Eli the Bearded
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Magneto-Optical


In the 1990s, I had an Apple Mac IIci with A/UX. Most of that is a story for another day. All I have left from that system are a few 3.5" (90 mm) floppy disks, a couple of CD-ROM with programs that run on multiple systems (eg, Infocom Games), and my magneto-optical stuff.

I had done my homework researching storage systems for backups. The best sources I had said that Zip drives were "bad", CD-R was "good", and magneto-optical (MO) was "archival". Zips were the cheapest drives of those, and CD-R the most expensive. Media was another matter, I recall CD-R as being cheapest. Media capacity was another thing. My main hard dirve was just 80MB, so a 100MB Zip drive or 128MB MO disk was a huge amount of space, and a CD-R disk was nearly impossible to completely use.

More than two decades on, the longevity advice seems to have been sound. There's a gotcha, however. MO has basically disappeared as a format. Speciallized industrial use apparently exists. Even the audio version, the minidisc, never gained a lot of traction (at least in the US; Japan is another story). CD-R and CD-RW has proved to be a bit fragile, but it is also very widely available, and eventually the media got very cheap, so making multiple copies and duplicating stuff every year is reasonable.

When I was getting rid of my Mac IIci, I kept the MO drive and disks. Then I bought a computer with a SCSI card to be able to read the files. I've still got that computer (although it works poorly), the SCSI card, my MO drive, and all my MO disks. About five years ago I spun up the computer and drive and copied everything to CD-R. About two years ago, I copied those CD-Rs to back-up hard drives. One was bad. I should really spin the whole thing up again and make new copies from the MO disks, but for today, here's some photos.

MO drive, disks, PCI SCSI card

The whole shebang. MO drive, some disks, PCI SCSI card

The 128 megabyte size MO was the smallest version of MO. In the 90mm form, 128 and 230 were available at the time I was buying, and larger capacities in 5.25" (130mm). Eventually disks up to 2 gigabytes were available in 90mm. As an aside, I was quite fond of that Idemitsu logo.

MO disk closeup open

MO disk closeup open. Sector partitions are clearly visible. I used tape to hold it open for this shot, normally it springs shut.

MO end view, next to floppy

The MO disks are about twice as thick as a 3.5" floppy.

disk side by side with floppy front

Same size, and very similar to 3.5" floppy from front

Pencilled in there is a summary of the partition table. This habit of mine made finding the partitions to read the files off from Linux much easier.

disk side by side with floppy back

And from the back; note thought the cover extends over the hub

disk side by side with floppy, MO opened

Back opened to show MO hub

The MO disks are bigger (in thickness), sturdier, and fancier than 3.5" floppies. Since the disks are sectored, the system doesn't need a notch in the hub to align things.

MO drive top with nameplate

MO drive top with nameplate, Epson OMD-5000, December 1992. Pretty sure I got this late 1993 or early 1994.

This was originally in an external enclosure with a 25-pin Mac-style SCSI connector. I pulled the drive out of the enclosure for ease of use post-Mac. The disks get warm during writes, hence concerns about air flow.

MO drive side view

Boring MO drive side view

MO drive side view

MO drive side view with barcode

MO drive front view

MO drive front, same size as a typical 3.5" floppy drive, but sweet 128 megabytes! The sticker on the eject button was optional.

I got, and probably still have, a special eject tool to poke in that hole instead of the standared bent paperclip. I used the tool with other drives, eg, those Macs that used a similar hole to eject CDs. The regular button eject activates an electro-mechanical eject, like on a VCR.

MO drive rear

MO drive rear with power and SCSI connectors plus jumpers. Gotta set that SCSI ID

Relatively sealed MO drive bottom

Drive bottom preserves secrets.

32bit 5v PCI SCSI card, copyright 1999

PCI (32bit 5v) 50-pin SCSI card, copyright 1999. I probably got this in 1999 or 2000.

Other side of PCI SCSI card

SCSI card, rear

The computer I have to use this card doesn't have space inside for the MO, so I used it with the cable coming out the back. I don't keep the card in the computer, because of the cable mess.

November Third, Twenty-twenty


Night view of a lit up window with a mannequin

I saw this many times over the past month, mostly at night where it stands out from the brightly lit window.

Day view of same window with a mannequin

During the day it is easier to miss.

Closer view of the window, showing mannequin has VOTE TRUMP sign

The "VOTE TRUMP" sign is not typical of this neighborhood.

Closer still, showing mannequin with VOTE TRUMP sign is the Devil

A mannequin dressed as the devil during the run up to Halloween, well that is typical.

I Voted! sticker and San Francisco ballot voter stubs

When I voted in 2016, there were about 120 votes cast at my local polling place. (San Francisco has a lot of polling locations, so between that and people voting by mail 120 is not a bad turnout.) There were something like three votes for Trump at that location in 2016. Today I was voter #35 there, and I expect the Trump vote will be less this time.

Grilled Pizza


I've cooked a lot of pizza over the years. These day's I'm using the Ken Forkish Same Day Straight Pizza Dough recipe, but I was using a simpler one of my own for a while:

  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups flour
  • 1 1/3 cups warm water
  • 2 oz, plus some olive oil
  • yeast
  • dash of sugar
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste)

Mix the water, sugar, and yeast and set aside. Measure out 3 1/2 cups flour and mix in the salt. Pour in the oil and yeast water together, stir to a dough, and knead in more flour until it is not sticky, then knead some more. Pour some more oil in the bottom of a bowl, put the dough in and rotate to cover the dough surface with oil, cover with a damp cloth and put aside to rise. The oil, both in the dough and on the surface, and the damp cloth help a lot. Let rise a while, how long will depend on temperature, at least one hour but probably two, refrigerated it might take eight. Then divide in half and shape.

I developed that recipe after getting a pizza stone for Xmas in maybe 1997. The stone broke after three to five years and I got a better stone which is still going strong. Usually I preheat the oven as high as it will go and give the stone at least twenty minutes at that temperature to soak up heat. I generously use coarse corn meal (sometimes called "polenta") on the peel to keep the dough from sticking to the peel or the stone.

But today was not usual. Today it was very hot and I decided to try the barbecue grill method I've heard about. I have a propane BBQ with a cast iron grill that I cooked directly on. First off was an extra thorough cleaning of the grill, then preheating it. With a shaped but untopped round of pizza, put it directly on the metal grill and cook for two minutes. Then scrape it off, which was pretty easy. (I used a metal pizza peel, but spatulas would work.) Grill mark side up, top it, then return to the grill for five minutes. At this point the dough was cooked, but the cheese could have used a little more heat, so I finished it with a hand propane torch.

I have a trigger start propane torch that is intended to sit on top of a 14oz tank, Ace Trigger Start Torch, I've seen nearly the same used in commercial kitchens to cook meringue, so I don't have qualms about using it for food cooking. I just waved it back and forth until the cheese was nice and bubbly and it came out great.

I expect I'll be cooking pizza this way again.

First side cooked

Off the grill with one side cooked, ready to be topped. The underside is slightly sticky, so be careful sliding it off.

Returned for more cooking

Back on the grill for some more cooking. I found gently lifting one side off the peel, pulling the peel out to the opposide of that, then dropping lifted part worked well. (I cooked it, both sides, with lid closed.

Finishing the cheese

Bubbly and slightly browned is just right.

Ready to eat

I made four pizzas, one completely consumed by the time this photo was taken. Two plain cheese, one pepperoni, and one pesto.

I also made, with leftover dough from the recipe, a BBQ focaccia (not pictured).