A Salute to Netgear’s FS105

A shout-out to Netgear for the FS105. Those little switches were BULLETPROOF. It was a beautifully functional steel chassis that people could (and did) walk on. You could drop them on concrete floors, or forget they were there and yank a network cable and slam them into a wall. I had one client where I found an FS105 under a pile of fabric that, as far as anyone knew, hadn’t been touched in years. They just wouldn’t die

They were just built… ya know? We sent almost 650 of those things to clients at one job, and I think we got 1 back as a DOA. There’s no telling how many hundreds of thousands of these are stuck behind bookcases and filing cabinets in offices worldwide, still silently doing their jobs 15 years later. Hell, I noticed that my county’s voting setup still uses FS105s. And why wouldn’t they? If there was ever a device that’ll genuinely work forever, the FS105 beats even some of those late 1990s HP laser printers, or some of those old HP JetDirect boxes.

They’re the Voyager space probes of small office networking.

Netgear FS105

I still proudly use their successors – a 5-port (GS305) and an 8-port (GS308) gigabit switch – on my home network today.

QUICK TAKES: Time Immemorial

“Time immemorial” is usually used poetically today, often in travel shows. So: “men have been fishing in this small Greek village since time immemorial”.

What you might NOT know is that “time immemorial” has an actual start date: June 6, 1189.

The Statute of Westminster of 1275 was the first attempt to codify the laws of England. As part of this, the idea of “time immemorial” was introduced – a time which was declared “the extent of human memory”. The date chosen was Richard I’s accession day.

So if there was a land dispute, if a family could find witnesses to prove that their goats had been grazing on the land since June 6, 1189, then the courts found for the family. It was a kind of “statue of limitations”, if you will.

A Record-Breaking Game

On December 9, 1973, the Atlanta Falcons played the St. Louis Cardinals in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. Falcons quarterback Bob Lee and Cardinals quarterback Gary Keithley ended the game with 0.00 passer ratings. This is the only NFL game in history where BOTH quarterbacks ended with a “perfectly bad” rating. Lee went 3 of 16 for 27 yards with two interceptions; Keithley went 2 of 10 for 9 yards with one pick. Both teams had five fumbles, although St. Louis only lost 1 while the Falcons lost 3.

The Cardinals won 32-10.

UPDATE: For those of you who don’t follow NFL football, quarterbacks are the “field generals” of the game. They read the defense and arrange players like chess pieces, then decide whether to: hand the ball off to a running back, who tries to carry the ball downfield before getting tackled; or to throw it to a receiver, who can be as far downfield as the quarterback can throw; or keep the ball and run himself. Or, he can chose to simply “throw the ball away” if there’s no one to throw it to.

So here’s the thing: quarterbacks are given a rating based on several factors: pass attempts, completions, passing yards, touchdowns passes and interceptions.

A perfect score is 158.3 (weird, I know).

If either team’s quarterback had simply thrown every football at the closest beer vendor in the stands every single time the entire game, they would have ended up with a 39.9 rating (I think – someone please check my math). To get all the way to a zero rating, you have to throw the ball to the other team almost as much as your own team. That is, to be especially awful.

For two professional quarterbacks to end up with zero ratings – when playing each other! – is extremely rare. Which is why I wrote this!

Windows 10’s “New” Clipboard

Did you know that Windows 10 has a multi-clip clipboard built in?

Most people know you can press CTRL+C to copy text and CTRL+V to paste that text. But in most versions of Windows 10 you can press WINDOWS+V to get a list of all the stuff you’ve copied in a session (the time between reboots or shutdowns):

Windows 10 Paste

This is super-handy when you need to copy multiple bits of text. For instance, imagine needing to copy an address from a web page, but need to copy it individual blocks: name, street address, city, zip. Instead of flipping back and forth between the webpage and whatever you’re pasting into, you can copy them all then use WIN+V to paste the right text in the right place. That’s neat!

To use this, you must be on Windows 10’s October 2018 Update (1809) or higher. Go to Settings > System > Clipboard and enable the “Clipboard History” option. If you like, you can also enable the “sync across devices” option for having a unified clipboard between your desktop and laptop computers, or click the “Clear clipboard data” to flush the cache completely (you can click the three dots on any individual entry to delete just that one, if you prefer):

Windows 10 Paste 2
Click to Enlarge

 

The THREE! Flags of France

In this post from 2016, I talked about France’s two official flags.

The first is the traditional tricolor everyone’s familiar with:

But there’s also the civil and naval ensign:

In this version the red stripe is larger – specifically, the ensign’s stripes are at a ratio of 30:33:37, versus 33:33:33 on the original flag. This is because this flag looks more “correct” when viewed from a distance, especially if constantly flapping in the wind, as it would on a ship. This flag is also used in some places like seaside military cemeteries or memorials, again because it looks “normal” in the wind.

In my original post, I said that the ensign was also used on TV, for press conferences and the like. Well, I was wrong. There’s actually a third flag for that:

French Presidential flag

Informally called the “Presidential Flag”, it’s used by French presidents in televised communications. And it works, too. Check out this pic of the flag behind two former French presidents:

French Presidents
Click to embiggen

In contrast, here’s a picture of current French president Emmanuel Macron at the White House with President Trump:
The French must have left their special flag at home (and the White House stocked only with “regular” French flags) because there’s an ocean of white in the flag that photograph.

And it’s not just the French who do something like this. Here’s a picture of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu standing in front of special flags that have been altered so that the Star of David appears in correct (upright) orientation:

Benjamin Netanyahu
(click to embiggen)

Compare this with regular Israeli flags, where the Star of David is crooked when hanging from a flagpole:

Benjamin Netanyahu
(click to embiggen)

Neat.

My Top Albums Of 2020

2020 might have sucked for most things, but it was actually a damn good year for music! Every year it seems like I complain that either there was not enough good music released – so had to scrape together ten albums – or too much was released and I’m forced to make hard choices to whittle the list to just ten.

2020 was definitely the latter.

Before I begin, let me do something I’ve never done on a “best album” post: explain my criteria. Although any album is technically eligible for the list, I strongly discourage “greatest hits” albums and compilations of any kind. I mean, the whole idea is an album as a single cohesive collection of music. For that reason, live albums are discouraged, too. Albums are also subject to the “one-hit wonder rule”: strongly discouraged from my list if the only reason they rank so highly on my Last.fm chart is because of a single song. Georgia’s Seeking Thrills album was #2 or #3 on my 2019 Last.fm album charts due to “About Work the Dancefloor”, a song I listened to hundreds of times. But I’ve only listened to the full album once, and I don’t think I’ve listened to any other song off that album more than twice. Lastly, I’ve decided that, going forward. EPs will be allowed on the “Honorable Mentions” chart, but singles will not, no matter how many times I listen to them that year.  My list, my rules.

As always, below are my ten favorite albums of 2020. The list comes directly from my Last.fm stats; I have, however, tinkered with the order a bit. After the list is a new item: “Song of the Year”. Soon, I’ll do a separate post of some albums I’ve discovered this year but were released in years past. There’s also the list of few honorable mentions, followed by the raw data from Last.fm.

My Top Albums of 2020

10) Washed Out – Purple Noon – Perry, Georgia’s Ernest Greene made a huge splash on the chillwave scene – hell, he was the King of Chillwave – even before his first album, Within and Without, was released in 2011. Which makes it all the sadder that this album is… “just OK”. I mean, some songs – like the opener, “Too Late”, or the album’s first single, “Time to Walk Away” – are as good as anything Washed Out’s ever released. Yet, others, like “Face Up”, don’t seem “chill” so much as “lifeless”. Overall, this album seems more like a collection of outtakes from 2013’s Paracosm than the evolutionary growth of 2017’s awesome Mister Mellow. Even worse, it sounds like Greene really tried… and this is the best he could come up with.

9) Sylvan Esso – Free Love – Speaking of, the longer Sylvan Esso goes on, the less I like them. And I can’t quite put my finger on why. I think a big part of it is that Sylvan Esso has taken the place of Björk in the sense of “the songs I like, I really like, but the songs I don’t like I really hate” of my music world. On this album, “Ferris Wheel” is pretty damn fantastic… but “Ring” and “Rooftop Dancing” make me wanna punch somebody. We’ll see how the next album goes, eh?

8) The Sounds – Things We Do For Love – The Sounds are a Swedish rock band – kinda New Wavy, but closer to the West Coast New Wave like Berlin and Missing Persons – with a healthy dash of Blondie tossed in for good measure –  than most of the synth-heavy bands I listen to. Yet despite being together for 22 years, they’ve only released 6 albums. So when a new one comes out, you pay attention! I’ll admit that the singles are the big draw here – “Safe and Sound” and the title track, “Things We Do For Love” – are way better than much of the filler down album. Call me crazy, but “Bonnie and Clyde” sounds like a Katy Perry reject song (fight me). Although there are occasional gems like “Hollow”. This is just a good working-class band that really hits when they hit:

7) Kid Francescoli – Lovers – Marseille-based Mathieu Hocine – performing as Kid Francescoli – has released three albums… and all three have landed on my “best of” list: 2014’s With Julia, 2016’s Play Me Again, and 2020’s Lovers. It’s not hard to see why: his lovely melodies and intimate lyrics caress your soul like a glove! The English-language songs on the album all hit it out of the park, while the Italian and French songs may or may not be something you’re interested in. I don’t speak a word of French, but have fallen in love with lots of French-language pop… but none of Hocine’s songs, oddly… until this album’s “Ces deux-là”! It sounds like something sexy people in Barcelona would listen to.

6) Linea Aspera – Linea Aspera II – Back when I lived in Atlanta, Album 88 used to play Linea Aspera all the damn time… and I couldn’t figure out what the big deal was. Well, the band is back after a 7 year break… and now I get it! This is some tight darkwave stuff that mages to call back to their earlier work, yet isn’t beholden to it,  and is fully modern. It gets a bit samey, even for a band like this, though.

5) Empathy Test – Monsters – For some reason, Empathy Test reminds me of a cross between Massive Attack and a band like Delerium or Enigma… only without the… cheese, I guess? Check out “Monsters”, the album opener, below. I love that it’s so in your face, the way it tells you all you need to know about the band, in the same way Purity Ring’s “heartsigh” defines another eternity. And the album’s closer, “Love Moves”, is a song I’ve fallen deeply in love with. But there’s more: in fact, there are few bad songs on this album at all. “Empty Handed”, “Making Worlds”, and “Skin” are all fantastic tunes.

4) Kraków Loves Adana – Darkest Dreams –  Freiburg, Germany’s Kraków Loves Adana have toiled away in relative obscurity… until they were picked up by Johnny Jewel’s Italians Do It Better label, instantly making them “a thing” with Chromatics fans everywhere. But after releasing a couple fantastic singles on IDIB, Kraków went their own way. The result is Darkest Dreams, admittedly the first album of theirs I’ve heard, but a worthy one all the same. For people who love Europeans with Synthesizers, tracks like “Don’t Ask Why”, “Love Isn’t Dead” and “The Ocean Between Us” are straight fire. But “Faded to Black” just bangs so hard… I don’t even know where to begin:

3) Purity Ring – WOMB– It would be impossible to top 2015’s another eternity and (spoiler alert!) WOMB doesn’t. That doesn’t mean WOMB is bad, though. As a Purity Ring thing, it’s solid. I didn’t like the opener (“rubyinsides”) nearly as much as “heartsigh”, but it’s grown on me over time. And yes, Megan James is still as into viscera as always (some people call this kind of music “witch house”, but I refuse to use that term in the presence of another sdult). The album picks up with “pink lightning”, the fantastic “peacefall” (see below) and “i like the devil”. And, of course, the album ends with an insanely great song (keep reading). It’s not that anything on this album is bad. It’s all pretty good, actually. But Purity Ring set expectations sky high with their previous album – my “Album of the Year” for 2015, and easily in my top 5 of the last 20 years – that this disc had nowhere to go but down.

2) Young Ejecta – Ride Lonesome – Young Ejecta are Neon Indian’s Leanne Macomber on vocals and producer Joel Fordare… doing everything else. They’ve been around since 2013, and have had several good singles over the years, like “Build a Fire” and “It’s Only Love”. But 2020’s Ride Lonesome is the first album of theirs that make me stop to listen.  NYC synthpop it is, but it’s bubbly and addictive, like soda pop. The opener “Crayon Cactus” just bops along into the ethereal vocals of “Screen Guru”. “Four Corners” was all over my Spotify playlists, then there’s “9 to 5”, and we hit the album’s midpoint with the fantastic “Call My Name” (below). The second half is almost as strong – I can live without “Can I Dance With You”, but it’s all generally good stuff. I don’t know why, but this album really impressed me, and has stuck around in my memory this year.

1) Mint Julep – Stray Fantasies – Mint Julep are a husband-and-wife duo from Boston, Hollie and Keith Kenniff. They make dramatic (but not over-the-top) music. In spirit, they remind me of an early Clan of Xymox (assuming Clan of Xymox formed in 2007), even if the music doesn’t always sound as such. All their albums are fantastic – 2011’s Save Your Season and (especially) Broken Devotion, which hit #2 on my Best Albums of 2016 list. So it’s not surprising that 2020’s Stray Fantasies would end up here. And I think the reason for that is… it was just around all year long. I mean that: the album came out on January 30, 2020, and where a lot of other 2020 albums burned brightly but quickly faded, this album stuck around all year. A big part of it is that I just love the hazy, dazy gauze of this band’s sound. But it’s more than just that. I mean, it is that – wispy, thin, light, airy. But something about Mint Julep’s sound is, like the Swedish group Postiljonen, nostalgic… even if you’ve never heard their music before. There’s this cinematic quality it has, where you hear it and instantly want it to be the soundtrack of your teenage memories. Give ’em a listen:

As I say, I maybe didn’t listen to this album ALL THE TIME. And only one song (“Just for Today”) really became one of my patented  “song I listen to 800 times a year” hits, but the album was there, man. Through good times and bad, the beauty of their music is matchless.

As a bonus, here’s Mint Julep’s cover of When in Rome’s “The Promise”, a track from Broken Devotion:

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