First Week of School (OR NOT)

If it was a normal year, my kids will be going to school tomorrow, the traditional first Tuesday after Labour Day long weekend. We all know 2020 is not a normal year. We are in the midst of a pandemic, and along with this crisis comes with special circumstances. Public schooling is no exception to special treatments. All of this is quite understandable and expected.

What is disappointing is that our school board and our government has had many months to prepare since March of this year, and yet as a parent of two secondary school students, I feel that our schools are woefully unprepared. Yes, they have provided emails, videos, and web resources filled with general information, along with “more information to come”, but nothing concrete and specific to my kids’ schedule. There are sample schedules to be sure, but the answers communicated so far raises more questions than answers. For example, as of the writing of this post, we still do not know:

  • When exactly is the first day of school (physically)?
  • Which cohort?
  • How does a student who opted for virtual learning register?
  • What are the details to synchronous virtual / online learning for those who have chosen in-person learning?
  • Will the above information come from a future email before school starts, or will they get it on the first day of school?

The best information so far is from this web page ( The most important excerpts are:

So if your child is going to grade 9, you currently do not know which cohort. If your child is not in grade 9, they currently do not have any information to attend the so called, “Compressed online schedule for all courses”.

The information for Thursday, Friday, and Monday could not be more cryptic for students who are in grades 10 to 12, because we were lead to believe from previous emails that the idea of cohorts is that the in-person sessions are staggered to be held on alternate days. The above Monday description seems a little contradictory to our previous expectation.

The school board is effectively launching a new service or product, and yet their communication for this new service is well below industry standard. Compare the board’s effort in launching this “re-opening” with product launches from Apple, Tesla, Samsung, and others. I think you will find the difference quite stark.

Is my expectation too high? Perhaps. However, these are the folks who bear the responsibility for teaching our next generation. Collectively as a decision making body, and the execution of this re-opening clearly show “they” do not fully comprehend how to launch something new. Think about this, as this is the example that your kids will be learning from!

Thankfully, the uncertainty does not affect our family too much, but I hate to be a parent of a grade 9 student who is standing on pins and needles as they try to comprehend how they are going to plan for this week and the next. I truly feel for them.

First Dim Sum in 6 Months

Today we went out to Premiere Ballroom & Convention Centre for dim sum. My dad made the reservation for 11am.

The protocol there was pretty impressive. The tables are spaced between 3 to 6 meters apart, very spacious. Along with the high ceiling, you do have the feeling of being “isolated”. All attending staff was wearing face masks and gloves. Face masks are mandatory when you are not at your table eating, and your temperature is checked before they allow you to enter the dining area.

So if you miss your dim sum dining experience during the pandemic, I think Premiere Ballroom provides a very nice compromise. They are also opened on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening for dinner services.

It was the Fan!

Recently I have encountered many hard drive related errors on my home server. These errors were intermittent. Sometimes everything would be okay for a week, sometimes just a couple of days, and more recently within a few minutes. A sample of these errors would look like:

Aug 29 03:55:20 avs kernel: [47250.550847] ata9: softreset failed (1st FIS failed)

I performed a SMART test on the hard drive and the tests reported that the drive was healthy, and yet the drive continues to fail.

I thought it was my SATA controller card, so I swapped the SATA port with another drive, and the same drive had the same issue. Therefore I knew it was not the SATA port, and the SATA cable was fine. I finally gave in and purchased a replacement drive. When the replacement drive arrived, I got the same error!

This is becoming extremely frustrating. The only thing that was left was the SATA power cable. I sourced the SATA power cable to another power source adapter, and finally the error went away. If I only knew!

Now I have an extra 10 TB drive. I didn’t want to return it, so I decided to buy another 10 TB drive and replace all the 4 TB drives in RAID 1 configuration that I had on the server. When I was replacing the drives, I noticed that one of the case fans was not working. It just so happens that this defective fan was sharing the same problematic power line.

After buying a $10 fan from CanadaComputers, and replacing the damaged fan, the server is now running without any issues along with the unintended storage expansion. I noticed from my UPS, the server is now consuming 10 W less.

In conclusion, the failed case fan probably caused some power anomaly. The fan did not totally fail because its LED was still working, but the fan motor seized and is no longer turning. This probably caused the extra 10W draw as the system was probably trying to overpower the unintended friction.

I’m documenting this because I find it fascinating that a simple failed fan could cause such instability to the system. Something to keep in mind for sure. Last point I want to make is that this fan is probably 15 years old, and absolutely more than a decade, so can’t really complain.