11 August 2019

Better Than The Alternative

Still busy, that is, and that’s better than the alternative. Yesterday was given over mostly to food work – a new big batch of salsa, with only tomatoes out of the garden. Everything else came from the store, sadly. I roasted a pountd of coffee. I also made a batch of my potato/spicy sausage concoction, 10 meals worth. That’ll see me through the week.

Today: shopping, clean the shower, patching day for some systems at work, lunch, and lawn. And I’m a bit whacked. Time to get back to the office tomorrow, and spend the week recharging for the next weekend’s worth of chores.

OS News

On the computing front, I’m starting to move on to Red Hat Enterprise Linux version 8 (RHEL8). There don’t seem to be the same underlying massive changes that version 7 brought – no amount of sheer disruption similar to that brought by systemd. Note about that – I can (and must) live with it. There are even features that I shudder to say that I like. But it breaks the UNIX “small tools doing things well” paradigm so very, very much. Anyway, back to RHEL8 – it has a better built-in system for keeping optional subsystems — from the Apache webserver, to PHP, to Python, etc., etc. — more current and easier to work with. I have work to do…

Reading

I just finished up Charlie Jane Anders’ All The Birds In The Sky – it’s a complex story that includes some comfortable old ideas, just to suck you into the story, but then it gets weird (in a good way). Magic vs. technology, and not in a good way. Some of the sub-plots resolve precisely as telegraphed, but I didn’t see that ending coming, so … good? Recommended.

In other venues, I’m waiting to see how my voting aligned with the Hugo Awards. Tick, tock.

Winding Down

No new news from DoD – good. News from most of the rest of the world: floating between weird and sucks. But Al Yankovic is touring, so something is going right.

7 August 2019

Busy days

I’m feeling a bit broken, with the shootings of recent days, and the inflammatory rhetoric of the GOP and their Beloved Leader. Sorry.

The garden is two thirds dead. No peppers. No zucchini. But the tomatoes, they are in full production. We had salsa this weekend, and I’m going to make more tomorrow night, since Marcia pulled out a bushel of red fruit today.

I did manage to find time to roast some coffee the other night. Here I’m pre-heating the roaster before doing the actual deed…

Pictured: In the background, my @behmor 1600+ coffee roaster, pre-heating (the elements are glowing red). In the foreground, a bag containing the remaining pound of Colombian green coffee beans from @sweetmarias, about to be roasted.
Pre-heating before roasting the coffee…

We’re drinking that coffee, and it is super tasty.

I’ve got a new home firewall I’m ready to install and test out, except that brilliantly, I no longer have any VGA cables here at home. I disposed of the last one a couple of years ago, because … why not, I’m not going to have any more gear that doesn’t have HDMI or DisplayPort or … this firewall appliance that only has a VGA output. Sigh.

To be honest, it also has a COM port, and with some little effort I could manage to get a system with a COM port running around here. But the main home server these days is an Intel NUC, with no COM ports. The Macs … no COM ports. I have gear with COM ports, but they’re running Windows, and I just can’t be bothered. I’ll snag a spare VGA cable from work, use it to do what’s needed, then store it with a BIG note saying KEEP ME, YOU REMEMBER WHY!

Winding Down

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

  • Aviation Electronics Technician 2nd Class Slayton Saldana, 24, had been listed Duty Status Whereabouts Unknown (DUSTWUN) following a July 17 non-combat, man overboard incident while underway onboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) in the Arabian Sea.
  • Pfc. Brandon Jay Kreischer, 20, of Stryker, Ohio, died on July 29, 2019, in Tarin Kowt, Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan, as a result of wounds sustained in a combat related incident.
  • Spc. Michael Isaiah Nance, 24, of Chicago, Illinois, died on July 29, 2019, in Tarin Kowt, Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan, as a result of wounds sustained in a combat related incident.

9 June 2019

Hullo

Yes, I know. But me IRL has a lot going on. I’ve been doing a lot of home maintenance work lately, and not a lot of energy for things Internet-ish. Last weekend, along with the never-ending yardwork of Spring through Autumn, I managed to get nearly all of the bi-annual pressure washing done. This weekend, I did some sanding and started painting front trim. I got perhaps 60% of the way through. I might have finished today, but exterior painting and rain rarely mix well (or rather, mix far too well!).

So that’s waiting for another day. I have similar work to do on the back of the house, but that will be done over the next few weeks.

RHEL 8

In what little spare time I do have, I’ve started exploring the recently released next version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux. They’ve done some interesting things to manage the fact that we want the operating system to be stable yet secure, for a long, long time… and we also want the most secure, feature-full, and latest tools available to us to support modern workloads. Just for example, until recently, it was fairly difficult to get a supported recent version of PHP that would run on Red Hat. So, I’ve more to learn, which is always a good thing.

Entertainment

We’ve been watching Good Omens on Amazon Prime. Highly Recommended.

Winding down

DoD announced no new casualties in the last couple of weeks. Now, to rest…

24 March 2019

Sad News

My friend Mark Camack died this last week, after a battle with throat cancer. We’ve been in the exchange holiday cards / biannual phone call place for the last couple of decades, but I’d still have jumped up and headed out if he needed help. I didn’t hear about this until his wife Bonnie got in touch, the other day. My heart goes out to Bonnie and their extended families. Rest in peace, my friend.

New Beginnings, Old Endings

The big news is that I migrated all of the personal sites I manage from an old server to a new server. Not super-exciting from an external perspective, but I did manage to separate the WordPress instances from being embedded in the old sites far too deeply. We *should* have had them be something like blog.orbdesigns.com, but then the site was already a blog, just pre-dating WordPress. So, anyway, www.mumble is the wordpress site for this place, and for Marcia’s two sites. The older, more static sites are more easily accessible via legacy URLs, for example legacy.orbdesigns.com.

One of the links on the legacy site that I clicked in testing was from December 28, 2009. And that was the day we said goodbye to Lucy, our cocker spaniel. So, “Old Endings.” There’s plenty of stuff there in legacy land, from . I’m probably going to fix just a couple of top-level internal links that will make the site work better.

I’m also changing horses on the two-factor authentication tools I’m using, both on the device and on the sites. So, lots of behind-the-scenes technology updates. Drop me an email, or comment here if you find something that’s so deeply broken that I absolutely must fix it. Of course, I may choose to leave something broken, but that’s another story.

Winding down

I’ve got a busy week in front of me, so pardon if I’m even less loquacious than usual.

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

  • Spc. Joseph P. Collette, 29, of Lancaster, Ohio, died on March 22, 2019, in Kunduz Province, Afghanistan, as a result of wounds sustained while engaged in combat operations.
  • Sgt. 1st Class Will D. Lindsay, 33, of Cortez, Colorado, died on March 22, 2019, in Kunduz Province, Afghanistan, as a result of wounds sustained while engaged in combat operations.

24 February 2019

Farewell

Our family said their goodbyes to Dennis yesterday. He’s resting by his grandparents now. Sadly, I didn’t know him as well as I’d have liked, and we didn’t make the trip for his memorial, because it was a small affair, and nobody needed out-of-towners to deal with on top of everything else. He’ll be missed, rest in peace.

Hardware Woes

Work was a week like so many others, not worth remarking on. However, on the home front, the computing environment continues to have drastic changes.

Yesterday, I pulled the final backup from my FreeBSD 11 server, Serenity. After that, I shut it down. Later in the evening, I went to spin it up in prep for putting VMware ESXi 6.7 on the hardware. But it stayed dark. Hmmm. Power supply bad? Dunno. Left that for today.

Today: Same thing. Swapped power supply to my backup Antec. Still no joy. Plopped in the emergency Corsair PS. Still no joy. Okay. the hardware is actually dead. This chassis has seen 3 or 4 motherboards, several different Linuxen, FreeBSD 10 and 11. It’s been the home server and primary home workstation for a long time. But lately it’s ONLY been the home server, which is asking not very much for a server motherboard with a Xeon and ECC RAM. And I was burning 100W continuously keeping that system online. So it was time for a re-purpose.

The little NUC box is now running FreeBSD 12, disk mirrored on a couple of 1TB drives. I’ve got too much RAM in it, 32G, because I planned on something different. Best part: 11W draw in normal operations. So, a good home server.

But it isn’t a good VMware host for a couple of reasons. So I wanted to use the Xeon box for that. Nope. I’ve got another NUC8 Performance on order, and that’ll be the VMware box.

Winding Down

Not much to promote – we’ve not got a show at Annapolis Shakespeare until next weekend. And I’ve not had much time for reading. Pretty boring, outside of my normal tech routine.

DoD announced no new casualties in the last week.

Ciao!

17 February 2019

Sheepishly

Yet utterly unlike a sheep. Last Sunday, we were out at Cabaret Night at Annapolis Shakespeare. It was song and dance and showtunes from the 50’s, and the joint was rockin’! So much fun I forgot to post. And as I remembered, each ensuing day, well, I was at work, not relaxing at home, so I kicked the can down the road and here we are. The cabaret was wonderful, as always. Up next at the theater, another Cabaret Night, 60’s this time, and then it’s time for Pride and Predjudice to open (runs for 6 weeks starting on March 15). So good, so looking forward to the work!

Computationally

I’ve been building out new infrastructure for this joint, and for the home server. FreeBSD 12 has been out for a while, and I wanted to upgrade at a reasonable pace, rather than waiting for the 11 branch to go out of support. Additionally, unlike the transition from 10 to 11, I’m not upgrading these systems, but building out fresh, and doing clean configurations of the services I really need (and leaving every prior experiment behind).

Additionally, for home backups, I’m migrating to using the Free edition of the Veeam Agent for Windows. I’m a big fan of Veeam, and there are features in the free agent that are perfect for my needs.

First, the backups can be encrypted. Do that. Keep the credentials in a password manager software, use a good passphrase, and secure your backups. Why? Because you plug in the disk, run the backup, unplug it and take it offsite (like to work, or keep it in the glove box of your car). Because the backup might be in a less-than-secure environment, encrypt that backup.

Secondly, by default Veeam runs backups based upon changed blocks in the volume, rather than changed files. So if you edit a few bytes of a huge document, you may only have to back up a few tens of kilobytes instead of the whole file.

Finally (for me, there are lots of features), while Veeam defaults to configuring a job with a calendar schedule, that doesn’t make much sense when you’re backing up to media (say, a 1TB USB3 mobile disk) that only gets plugged in when you remember to bring it home. The answer is to change the job schedule to simply run automatically when the media is plugged in, then eject the media when the backup is done. That’s about the best you’ll be able to do. Why is this important? If you click on a malicious link in an email, and your AV solution lets you down, some jerk’s ransomware will encrypt or wipe every file on your system. Your backup won’t help you IF it’s also attached to the system, encrypted or not. Only attach your backup disks for as long as you need to run the backup.

One last point – every once in a while, plug up the backup disk, and restore a file or two and check them. Backups are wonderful, but you don’t know if they’re good unless you test them, regularly. You don’t want an emergency restore to be the time you find out that the backup wasn’t really working because you misconfigured the job, or the disk has errors, or whatever.

Bottom line: Make backups. Encrypt the backups. Test the backups. Only leave them connected for as long as needed for backups and testing. Store your backups offsite – a disaster that takes your house shouldn’t take your precious data, too!

Winding Down

It’s been a slightly busy weekend – we celebrated Marcia’s birthday on Friday, so I took off work that day. We hung out, did stuff together, and went out to supper in the evening. Saturday was a total write-off. I relaxed. Today was shopping and remote work and haircut and coffee roasting, oh my! Tomorrow’s a holiday, so it’s a four day weekend, but I have an office that needs cleaning, yet.

DoD announced no new casualties in the last two weeks.

17 December 2018

Winding Up

Almost nothing to report, other than the continuing deluge that is our weather this year. Over the weekend, we got ANOTHER 2.6″ of rain, as measured in my back yard. And more rain due on Thursday and Friday. Lovely. We’re up around 65-66″ on the year, smack between the record-breaking DC and Baltimore totals.

Marcia’s been baking some wonderful things, and we also attended a fun Broadway Holiday production at Annapolis Shakespeare on Saturday evening. That was a total hoot, and there are two more of those to go, running in rep with their stellar production of A Christmas Carol. Both highly recommended!

Lexi

Lexi, the dog, wrapped in a towel,  warm and looking worried...
Lexi, warm and worried…

Reading

I’ve just finished reading Fran Wilde’s Cloudbound, the second book in her Bone Universe series. Oooh, does that woman know how to craft a tale! Continuing to build on the events that started in her superb debut novel, Updraft, Cloudbound gives us Nat as our central character, being twisted and thrown down by people wanting power, and people wanting what’s best (usually also, power).  Dix made me so very angry, and still, how that ended made me a bit sad. Gosh, what a good writer Fran is. I’ve got a mystery to read, then I’m straight into Horizon, the trilogy closer. I know she’ll wrap it up real pretty, with a bow on and all … but it’s the getting there that has me on edge.

Computing

I picked up an Intel NUC, an inexpensive terabyte of SSD storage, and 32G of RAM to build a small VMware home lab. Next thing on that box: A FreeBSD 12 install.

Winding Down

Our condolences to the family and friends of Pfc. Joshua Mikeasky, 19, from Johnstown, Pennsylvania, who died on Dec. 13, 2018, at Bagram Airfield, Bagram District, Parwan Province, Afghanistan, from a non-combat related incident.

25 November 2018

Coma

Turkey coma, that is. We roasted a full bird for the first time in a few years, and it was certainly one of our best. We started with a fresh Butterball, and Marcia dressed it and put it in the roasting pan with a cup of water to keep the humidity up. That trick worked a treat, and the bird was flavorful and moist. The other winner of the evening was also of Marcia’s concocting: a wonderful apple pie. Since then, leftovers, including a turkey tetrazzini that I made this evening, using … the pasta that Marcia made yesterday. So good!

Apple pies that Marcia made for Thanksgiving.
Apple pies by Marcia

We did make a few phone calls here and there, to family and friends. Happily, everyone seems to be in good health and spirits.

Lexi the chipuggle mutt on watch
Lexi on watch

Theater

Saturday evening, we attended the official opening night (and press opening) of this year’s production of A Christmas Carol at Annapolis Shakespeare. Wonderfully, even better than last year! The marvelous Dexter Hamlett took Scrooge and made the character his own. The whole cast brought the show to life with a minimal set, and superb mood setting with judicious use of a smoke machine and back-screen projections to set the place for each scene. Highly Recommended!

Next up from ASC: A Broadway Holiday: song and dance on the main stage.

Work

I’ve wrapped up patching for the month, and I’m in the middle of my on-call week. One thing I’m looking forward to is spelunking through the Beta of the new Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8. The thing they refer to as App Streams interests me most, I think, as it should permit use of newer applications than the RHEL series have been able to provide in the past. More when I know more.

Reading

On dead trees, I’m still reading Cloudbound, from the splendid Fran Wilde.  On the phone, I’ve been reading The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, a collection of Holmes stories intersecting with multiple genres, written over the last 25 years, and edited by John Joseph Adams.

On the “other entertainment as required” front, our background noise over the last week or so is binging the first two seasons of Amazon’s The Grand Tour, in preparation for a probable early December start to Season 3.

Winding Down

Our condolences to the family and friends of Sgt. Leandro A.S. Jasso, 25, from Leavenworth, Washington, who died on Nov. 24, 2018, in Garmsir District, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, as a result of wounds sustained while engaging enemy forces in Khash Rod District, Nimruz Province, Afghanistan.

18 November 2018

Holidays

Last week, Veteran’s Day. This week: Thanksgiving. So, food coma pending. Just sayin’ … not that I can really do that, I’m on call this upcoming week. Still, we bought an actual full turkey for this week. In recent years past, we’ve only roasted a turkey breast.

All in, it was a good week just past. I spent most of it puttering around in a BMW X2 M Sport. My car was in for servicing the headlights. They ended up replacing at least one of the assemblies, possibly both. Downside of computers and motors (in the headlights!!!). Had the car not been under warranty, this would have been bloody expensive. Those things go for between one and two grand each on eBay. Cthulhu knows how much BMW charges for them. Still, Tuesday through Friday noon for headlamps. Maybe it’s time to trade in for a ’68 Camero. No computers. No tracking devices. Hardly any effective driving around corners. Heh!

Much of the extra hours of the week were given over to patching assorted UNIX-like operating systems, rebooting, and testing them.

Technology

Marcia’s seven year old Windows 7 laptop finally gave up the ghost. She needs a small, relatively inexpensive machine to haul around when she’s getting training on the software she uses to run her assorted sewing devices. So I toddled down to Best Buy and picked her up a Dell touch screen Inspiron 13″ Windows 10 laptop. She’s smart, so Windows 10 won’t cause her a bunch of grief.

Also dropping this week: the Beta of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8. It’s been four years – a long time – since the last major release. I’m excited to see what’s new in this version.

Entertainment

The entertainment side of the ledger has two items of note. Well, three. First, we’re nearly done binging all of the modern era Doctor Who shows. It’s been really quite lovely.

Second, on the book front, I finished up J. L. Gribble’s Steel Victory. The first book in the author’s Steel Empire series, Steel Victory introduced me to  Toria (mage and mercenary-to-be), Victory (Toria’s mom (?) and an elder vampire, as well as a ‘retired’ mercenary). They’re in Limani, smack dab between British and Roman forces, with a few choice local folks who want nothing to do with anyone or anything that ain’t human. Oh, yeah, in a post-nuclear war world, somehow. Weird, but it works.

I met Ms. Gribble (What an interesting pseudonym!) at her reading at Capclave this year. I enjoyed the excerpt she read from the third book of the series, so I bought the first volume from her to give it a proper try, and really enjoyed it. Yes, yes, yes. Vampires. Magic. Were-beasts of virtually every species. Brian (you say), not really your wheelhouse? No, but the story hangs together, it is very well written, and I found I cared about the characters. So, yes, I enjoyed it and I’ll be reading the rest of the books in the series. Only question – why didn’t I get her to inscribe the book when I bought it from her. Sigh.

Next up on the book front, I’m going to finish up Fran Wilde’s Cloudbound (Bone Universe book two), and jump right into Horizon, the third book in that series. I’ve had them in my stack for far too long (in hardbound, no less) and I only read hardbound at bedtime, so it takes me a long time. But I WILL get there, because these stories are great.

Upcoming – A Christmas Carol at Annapolis Shakespeare. Get your tickets today, we did already!

Lexi

Lexi (the dog), 'wearing' my sweatshirt
Lexi, ‘wearing’ my sweatshirt

Winding Down

Take good care of yourselves, enjoy time with family and friends, try to mend any fences that have been torn by the politics of this loony era. But first, be kind to yourself. Then you may find you have enough left over for those that need it.

DoD announced no new casualties in the last week.

1 November 2018

Travel Time

Nope, this time I didn’t forget. I just planned on waiting until I got back from Nashville.

This was a 4 day trip to attend LISA 18, the USENIX Large Infrastructure Systems Administration conference. I think, though, that they dropped the long form a couple of years back. I hadn’t attended since it was last local, in 2015. This trip was great. The event itself is shorter, just three days of blended talks and short trainings, as opposed to the prior 6 day run. Looking back, I actually miss the dedicated training days, and the much more extensive training available in half- and full-day format.

That, however, is my only gripe. This event is organized and run with cheer and great professionalism. I attended programming continuously throughout the three days, and found nothing that disappointed me. Left me wanting more? Sure, why not.  Also, a conference full of people I either know and like, or will know and like … all good. Met some wonderful new folks this go round. Smart, funny, smart, eloquent, did I say smart? I love hanging out and learning new stuff from people.

And Nashville: What a lovely town. I got out and walked a bit, mornings and evenings (except this AM – it was bucketing down rain). The tiny bits I managed to make it to were full of friendly people. I will note that a lot of them seem to have an affinity for country music for some reason…

Downtown Nashville from 19 floors up...
Downtown Nashville from 19 floors up…

So, that was fun.

Vote

Have you voted already? THANK YOU!

Oh, yeah … and I made it home in time for us to get out for early voting, so  we don’t have to brave the crowds on election Tuesday. Early voting has ended in Maryland, but whether you can still early vote where you are, or get you and all your friends and all your frenemies and your families and everyone out … VOTE. Give someone a ride and help them vote. Thanks.