About bilborg

I am who I am, there's plenty of data on this site to tell you more. Briefly, I'm a husband, computer geek, avid reader, gardener, and builder of furniture.

The Bionic Woman

Not the 70’s TV show starring Lindsay Wagner, but perhaps, one day, Marcia. She takes one step that direction this week, getting a knee replacement done. We’ve been doing a bit of prep for that, which has kept me pretty busy outside of work, so sorry. Not much else to report until I report how the surgery went, later this coming week.

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Our condolences to the families, friends, and units of these fallen warriors:

Petty Officer 1st Class Chad R. Regelin, 24, of Cottonwood, Calif., died Jan. 2 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Senior Airman Bryan R. Bell, 23, of Erie, Pennsylvania, died Jan. 5 in Shir Ghazay, Helmand province, Afghanistan, when his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device.

Tech. Sgt. Matthew S. Schwartz, 34, of Traverse City, Michigan, died Jan. 5 in Shir Ghazay, Helmand province, Afghanistan, when his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device.

Airman 1st Class Matthew R. Seidler, 24, of Westminster, Maryland, died Jan. 5 in Shir Ghazay, Helmand province, Afghanistan, when his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device.

Welcome to 2012.

Things that might happen this year:

  1. Universe wraps things up, according to an interpretation of the Mayan calendar.
  2. I finish my tertiary education, and get on with life.
  3. The Eurozone dissolves, most of Europe defaults on euro debt, global depression kickoff.
  4. Obama can’t fix the depression, and Ron Paul wins the Presidency.

Two of those are, I think, likely. Observe that I make no REALLY absurd claims about food or exercise. That’d just be crazytalk.

I do note that the loonier portions of Iraq are claiming a victory over the US because we finally withdrew the last of our combat troops from that cesspit of a made-up country. We had one primary goal – dispose of Saddam. Done. We had a secondary goal, which is to leave that country in a fairly stable sovereign condition. Silly secondary goal: expensive in blood and treasure, and pointless since their second favorite thing after killing Americans is killing and torturing each other. Dumbasses.

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Our condolences to the families, friends, and units of these fallen warriors:

  • Staff Sgt. Joseph J. Altmann, 27, of Marshfield, Wisconsin, died Dec. 25, in Kunar province Afghanistan, of injuries suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with small arms fire.
  • Sgt. Noah M. Korte, 29, of Lake Elsinore, California, died Dec. 27, in Paktia, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.
  • Spc. Kurt W. Kern, 24, of McAllen, Texas, died Dec. 27, in Paktia, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.
  • Pfc. Justin M. Whitmire, 20, of Easley, South Carolina, died Dec. 27, in Paktia, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.
  • Petty Officer Stacy O. Johnson, 35, of Rolling Fork, Mississippi, died July 18, while supporting operations in Bahrain.
  •  Spc. Pernell J. Herrera, 33, of Espanola, New Mexico, died Dec. 31, in Helmand province, Afghanistan, of injuries suffered in a non-combat incident.

To Be Continued

And here I am. So, Node.js. First, the lawyer crap: Node.js is a trademark of Joyent. I guess I have to say that, but seriously? Probably, just to protect the project from ne’er-do-wells out here on teh ‘tubes. It’s a sanely licensed project that provides good attribution to the bundled dependencies. I expect nothing less than good open source citizenship from the smart folks at Joyent.

Anyway, Node.js is a hunk of code and libraries that runs on the server-side of the HTML/XHTML transactional pipeline, and allows mind-bendingly simple code to do neat things. Is it secure? I dunno. Is it fast? I haven’t tested that. Is it cool enough for me to download, build, install, and run a web-based file server implemented in about 19 lines of code? Abso-freakin-lutely! If you like web frameworks and such stuff, you owe it to yourself to look into Node.js. You can learn more from an O’Reilly post, What is Node.js?

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Now,DTrace. Why do I *REALLY* want to run Solaris and related operating systems? Two mega-features: ZFS and DTrace. ZFS rocks. DTrace rocks on steroids, all across the universe. (There’s also Zones, and Crossbow, and … there’s so much cool stuff to learn in the OS that used be be Sun’s.) But DTrace definitely takes the cake. And I say that without knowing how to use but the smallest part, yet. DTrace will instrument and help you debug systems, code, and network traffic (that hits your system). DTrace provides the ability to see into places that truss and strace only dream of after dropping massive quantities of hallucinogens. DTrace makes the best chocolate chip cookies on the planet. Okay, not the last bit, but it would if someone taught it how to cook.

I support some interestingly complicated (if small-ish in scale) Solaris-based applications and databases. DTrace gives me the right toolbox to properly support the developers and DBAs.  What can DTrace do? Simple examples abound, just search for DTrace one liners on your search engine of choice. When you want to learn more than web surfing and a few articles online will teach you, do what I did and pick up your own copy of DTrace by Brendan Gregg and Jim Mauro. I’m slowly working my way through the book, using my install of OpenIndiana as my test platform.

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 The coffee, a Nicaragua Mozonte, it is roasted. And that reminds me, I’m down to three pounds on hand. That’s not much, time to visit Sweet Maria’s. Ciao!



Linux remodel, OpenIndiana build 151a, Node.js, and the DTrace Book

Lots of computing updates going on. It all started last week …

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It was the Thursday before Christmas, or Wednesday perhaps, the details blur just a bit. I’ve not been using the Linux box formerly known as Slartibartfast as a desktop machine for quite a while now. My old MacBook Pro got refurbished with a small-ish SSD drive, and that’s the primary desktop system these days. It sits in a custom upright support that I created for the purpose a couple of years ago, and finally put to use

Darlion, the sedentary MacBook Pro

Darlion, the sedentary MacBook Pro

Darlion — the OS X Lion -enabled former Darla — sits forlorn at home each day while the Air, known as Agog, travels with me now. But that’s another story. Anyway, the Ubuntu Linux box needed a shedload of updates, so I let it update. Ahem. That was a mistake.

When I was done, the system no longer booted properly. I’d managed to snag not a set of updates for my system, but a distribution upgrade to the latest and greatest ‘buntu. That’s all well and good, but I had lots of system-level customizations, especially on the networking side, that simply didn’t work anymore. Ethernet devices were renamed, the bloody network manager thing from Hell made a reappearance, and other stuff related to dbus and udev flatlined. That I was unhappy was an understatement, especially since it’s still my fault. I managed that system from a functional desktop that operated most of the time as a fairly reliable home server into a flakey piece of crap that didn’t boot. Me, I did this.

It’s ten o’clock at night on a working evening … I’m not getting this fixed today. Marcia’s nightly backups can skip a night, so can my nightly backups from the web (I back up our webs, MySQL databases, etc. every night into a rolling pattern that lets me restore at intervals back at least 60 days). So the backups just fail out overnight, and by Friday evening, I had time to do the work. Or so I thought.

I tried to get an ISO for Ubuntu LTS 10/04 (the long term support version: LTS) that would install. By around 2300 that night, I was ready to adjust the system with the aluminum LART [1] I keep in the house. I walked away, and re-approached the problem in the morning. Finally, on the fifth optical disc, and following two failures with USB media tries, I got Ubuntu Server 11/10 installed. That’s good for three years worth of security updates, and maybe I’ll have migrated to something else before then. I thought hard about OpenIndiana … but that’s the next chapter in the story.

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Since I was rebuilding the system from scratch, I backed up the data I cared about separately from the normal weekly backups onto a pair of disks that weren’t part of the restructuring. I then dismantled both midsize towers, at least as far as storage was concerned.

For the purposes of conversation, let’s refer to these machines by the names they assumed at  the end of the process: Serenity, the Ubuntu Linux home server, and Hellboy, the OpenIndiana build 151a server and Gaming OS box. Both have quad-core processors (but Hellboy’s is a bit faster, and has VTS extensions, for later experimentation with Zones and KVM). Both have plenty of RAM, at 4G and 8G respectively.

I decommissioned the PCIe 1x 3Ware RAID card out of Serenity, and pulled the two 750G drives out of that system. I also pulled three 1TB drives, and a 500G drive out of Hellboy. All I left there was the 500G Windows 7 system disk. I put two of those 1TB drives into Serenity, and built them into a software RAID0 mirror set, which is fine for my purposes, and removed the dependency on the “custom” 3Ware RAID card. The performance hit for the purposes of this machine is negligible.

The Ubuntu install on Serenity is fine, and everything works. Why didn’t I go with a Red Hat or derivative? I’ve got current scripts with dependencies on packages that are trivial to acquire and install on Ubuntu, and I wanted this done before Christmas. Like I said, later. I configured the DNS, Samba, NTP and SSH services that Serenity provides, transcribing configs and updating as necessary from my backups. Then I restored the 500G or so of Userland data, and nearly everything was working again. I had to do some tuning on Marcia’s box to make backups work again, and modify some of her mapped drives to be happy with the new system, but that took no time at all. Putting the newer, larger drives into Serenity was actually a power-draw win, too! That system is only pulling about 70 watts at idle, where it was nearly 90 watts with the older drives and RAID card in play.

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Next I reinstalled OpenIndiana build 151a onto Hellboy. This time, Hellboy got the two 750G drives as a single ZFS rpool mirror set, and that’s the extent of that system. It’s running, I can experiment with Zones and DTrace and Node.js there, and it doesn’t need to be running 24/7.

Why OpenIndiana? It’s one of the distributions of Illumos, the carrier of the OpenSolaris torch after Oracle abandoned that codebase in 2010. Do you want more Solaris history than that, leading up to what happened? Watch Bryan Cantrill’s Fork, Yeah! presentation from LISA 2011. What an awesome talk! Still, why OpenIndiana? I really like Solaris, but I don’t really want to spend the $2K/year which is the only way to legally license and keep updated Solaris on non-SUNOracle hardware. I want a Solaris playspace at home, and OpenIndiana provides that. And if the rumors are true, which is that internal to Oracle, Solaris is really just being treated as firmware for Oracle storage and database appliances, then the only general purpose computing inheritor of the Solaris codebase will be something evolved from/through Illumos. DTrace is cool. ZFS is über-cool. Zones are super-cool. And I want to play there, in my “spare time.”

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Node.js and the DTrace book. That’ll have to wait for a pending post, I want supper! Ciao!

[1] LART – Luser Attitude Realignment Tool, in this case an aluminum baseball bat.


Happy Kwanzicamas

A quiet day at home for us. Happily, our combat forces appear to be done in Iraq, and perhaps mostly at home with their families, at least until that notably unstable “country” blows up again. I think we have no further responsibility to send young men and women there there die, come the day that decision must be made. Aaaaand, we still have a bunch of folks in harm’s way in Afghanistan. Our thoughts are with them and their families this holiday season.

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I was momentarily hopeful, but that gift was denied – we have one casualty reported from Afghanistan in the last week. Our condolences to Specialist Bragg’s family, friends, and unit on the loss of one more warrior:

  • Spc. Mikayla A. Bragg, 21, of Longview, Washington, died Dec. 21 in Khowst province, Afghanistan.

Process and Paranormal

Process and Paranormal – it’s not a Jane Austen parody, although those are surprisingly popular these days, especially those with zombies baked in. I’m just thoughtful about two different things right at the moment and rather than make progress on anything, I’ll stop and discuss things here.

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Process is much on my mind not just because of my on-again, off-again forays into the land of productivity porn. My in-field class this upcoming Winter session has Pressman’s Software Engineering: A Practitioner’s Approach as the text. Software engineering is all about process (as is personal and work productivity). I’m pre-reading the text before class starts – it’s a practice that I’ve worked at with some little success since I enrolled at UMUC in 2008. Sometimes I merely skim the material, other times (like this one), I’m properly reading the book, and taking a few notes where the process stuff might be immediately useful to me, or when a referenced work might be worth acquiring for further reading.

This depth of reading also means that I manage to stumble over sections, statements or phrases that cause me difficulty one way or another. Sometimes the difficulty is because I don’t know enough about the topic and need more of a mental framework within which to properly hang the information I’m assimilating. Other times I’m catching errors of fact, omission, or commission that make me question the quality of the passage (or if there are enough of them, the value of the whole work).

The last mode of reading problem I have is this: I read something that sends me off on a train of thought that leaves the work at hand tangentially, sometimes so quickly that I’m stuck out in left field. This might, were I in grade school these days, be diagnosed as one or another of the attention deficit disorders that seem so popular among the education set as an excuse for their inability to teach. Me, I think that it happens as a confluence of three things: a momentary lack of mental discipline, combined with a fertile imagination, and a capacious memory for that which I have read before.

Tonight, for example, a sentence from text reads (almost as received wisdom): “People derive as much (or more) satisfaction from the creative process as they do from the end product.” Immediately, I want to know where I read “I don’t enjoy writing. I enjoy having written.” Surely that’s a paraphrase, and one repeated by more than one author of my acquaintance. The intarwebs, courtesy of Google, gives me a University of Manitoba page which quotes Farley Mowat as saying nearly precisely that. But that’s fairly recent, only 20 years ago, and it is a much more universal thing. Others attribute it to Robert Louis Stevenson. The preponderance of attribution seems to go to Dorothy Parker though, with this version, “I hate writing. I love having written.”That has the ring of truth to it: short, pithy, and very DP. I imagine Wilde might have uttered something similar, too. Even Heinlein acknowledged in his fiction that writing was equal parts obsession and curse, making the writer not fit company. I can’t but think that this may be true for other creative types. And now I’m quite a distance from the text that I was supposed to be reading … and I’m writing about the diversion, not the reading!

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What, you want to know about the Paranormal part? Well, there was this weird dream I had of trying to save someone, a young girl or woman, from something vaguely troll-ish, by hiding her in my house which was constructed much like a wooden ship. Yah, not very paranormal, but the troll was fairly erudite, although not very forthcoming about how he disposed of his prey (but she was gone, gone, gone).

You want paranormal? This is the right season for it: The Carol of the Old Ones will darken your day, your spirits, and your final hours on this ball of dirt.

13 Days and Counting…

Shopping in the morning, and several hours of hardware maintenance at the office through the middle of the day … and my day is done.

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Our condolences to the families, friends, and units of these fallen warriors:

  • Lance Cpl. Christopher P. J. Levy, 21, of Ramseur, North Carolina, died Dec. 10 of wounds sustained Dec. 7 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.
  • Sgt. Christopher L. Muniz, 24, of New Cuyama, California, died Dec. 11, in Kunar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.
  • Spc. Ronald H. Wildrick Jr., 30, of Blairstown, New Jersey, died Dec. 11, in Kunar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.
  • Pvt. Jalfred D. Vaquerano, 20, of Apopka, Florida, died Dec. 13, in Landstuhl, Germany, of injuries suffered from enemy small-arms fire while deployed in Logar province, Afghanistan.
  • Maj. Samuel M. Griffith, 36, of Virginia Beach, Virginia, died Dec. 14 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Plague of Imagination

The problem of having a rich imagination is this: Anything that can go wrong, already has … in my mind. Imagine driving home from someplace unusual, as I did this afternoon. Imagine using the Nav system built into the car and pressing the “Go Home” button. Once I get out of the area I don’t know and I’m on a known path home, I want to make the car stop talking to me. So I press the DEST button on the dash, select “Del Dest” on the screen, and be prompted: “Delete Destination? [YES][NO]” I tap the yes button, then wonder … when I get home, is there going to be a smoking crater? Have I just deleted my house? Sigh.

So far today I’ve gotten the car serviced (up at 0615, at the dealership by 0720), gone to a funeral service (and driven home, wondering if I deleted the house), and roasted coffee. A busy day.

School is pretty well done for the year. It’ll be a week or two before I get the grade, but I make no predictions since 35% of the grade is the one final project. I may have tanked it completely (again, Del Dest!!!).

Here’s some Lexi for those that love dogs!

Watching Lexi-TV

Watching Lexi-TV

Sad and cold…


A couple of hours of remote work this weekend, and 15 or so hours of work on the final project for my Java class. Progress is. Oh, yeah, and it was 15°F out this morning. I think I know what the ‘F’ stands for.

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Our condolences to the families, friends, and units of these fallen warriors:

  • Sgt. Ryan D. Sharp, 28, of Idaho Falls, Idaho, died Dec. 3, at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Landstuhl, Germany, of wounds suffered Nov. 21 at Kandahar province, when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.
  • Sgt. 1st Class Clark A. Corley Jr., 35, of Oxnard, California, died Dec. 3, in Wardak province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.
  • Spc. Ryan M. Lumley, 21, of Lakeland, Florida, died Dec. 3, in Wardak province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.
  • Spc. Thomas J. Mayberry, 21, of Springville, California, died Dec. 3, in Wardak province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.

Orchid in bloom

The orchid is blooming

The orchid is blooming

A few years back … three, I think, I got Marcia an orchid as part of my anniversary gift to her. It was in bloom at the time, and stayed that way for quite a while. Wonder of wonders, although the flowers eventually faded and the stalks withered away, the plant itself has been pretty hardy. I keep up with the watering, and it sits by a window in the library, so it gets some afternoon light. But it hasn’t bloomed since there.

Late this summer, I read someplace that orchids need some cooler overnights in order to stimulate flower blooming. Yeah, well, whatever. But as we rolled into Fall, I put the orchid outside, and left it there for a few weeks, with overnight temps between 45 and 60 fahrenheit. As the temps headed quickly towards freezing in early October, I brought the plant back in, and thought nothing further of it. By the middle of November, though, it was clear that what I read was right – the plant was blooming. Only one of the orchids actually threw up a stalk, but still a good thing.

And finally, in the last couple of days, the flower is starting to bloom. We’ll see how long this lasts…