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.

*     *     *

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.

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

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

*     *     *

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.

*     *     *

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.

*     *     *

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.”

*     *     *

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.


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.

*     *     *

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!

*     *     *

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.

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

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…


The formerly missing screwdriver.

The formerly missing screwdriver.

Remind me not to attempt brain surgery this week.

I ended up remounting the Windows drive into the chassis, and booting there for the financial management software. Hard mounted to metal, so it’s noisy as hell. But it got the job done, and I was able to boot back into hellboy shortly thereafter.

It was opening the chassis to pop in the drive that revealed the missing screwdriver. Hmmm.


Another busy week, another year nearly wound all the way down. Work was assisting in proposal writing, preparing for a big weekend systems test, and ten hours yesterday working remote on said test. In between, a bunch of reading and some coding and conference participation for my Java programming class, a bit of left-over turkey for noshing, and sleep when it was able to fit into the schedule.

Oh, yeah. “Transitions”, eh? So I stripped out all the installed games off of the Windows box, and got that all winnowed down just the small-ish C-drive. Then I pulled the drive out of the system and plopped in spare terabyte drives from here and there, as well as a 500G boot drive. All that was in support of installing the latest version of OpenIndiana – build 151a. OpenIndiana is the illumos-based operating system that is the inheritor of the OpenSolaris code base. So I’ve got a UNIX platform now that I can use for all the stuff I’ve been doing with Ubuntu, only it’s got ZFS, and dtrace, and all sorts of happy stuff to experiment in my copious spare time. I’ve named the box hellboy. Easy to remember, and easier to type than Slartibartfast, the name held by the Ubuntu box.

That install was done before I retired Friday evening. Saturday, during periods where all I was responsible for was keeping an eye on my email box, I got BIND9 (for home DNS services) and Dovecot (for home IMAP services) installed, configured and running properly. I started experimenting with ZFS sharing and ACLs, too. Keeps the mind nimble, change does. I’m going to attempt putting that Windows disk into the external eSATA chassis from Antec, and see if I can boot from it for those occasions when I need Windows. If not, then once the Linux box is done with, I’ll mount the Windows disk in there instead. I need to get a low-end video card for hellboy, too – a top-notch gaming card is too good (and sucks down too much juice) for a UNIX server/utility system. I’d run it headless, or just use the motherboard video, but the latter isn’t recognized by OIb151a drivers.

Today so far: Walking the mutt, shopping, walking the mutt, roasting some Yemeni coffee, and (whoops!) this post. I should have gotten out some things to thaw for cooking, starting shortly. Be right back…

*     *     *

We’re glad to see the last of the troops are headed home from Iraq. It’ll be even nicer to have all of our people home from Afghanistan, sooner than later. I’m sure that the efforts of our men and women in uniform in pursuit of policy will make that happen. Our condolences to the families, friends, and units of these fallen warriors:

  • Cpl. Adam J. Buyes, 21, of Salem, Oregon, died Nov. 26 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.
  • Sgt. 1st Class Dennis R. Murray, 38, of Red Broiling Springs, Tennessee, died Nov. 21 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.
  • Staff Sgt. Vincent J. Bell, 28, of Detroit, Michigan, died Nov. 30 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.


One Nation Under A Groove

Thanks, Funkadelic, for brightening up my afternoon!

*     *     *

Busy week (huge surprise there, eh?) – four days working at the office, including a day of racking new gear and helping to get the electrics run properly for the new gear. Friday was an appointment in the morning, followed by writing and coding for school. I’d been working on the final paper for the Social Gerontology class for a couple of weeks, and yesterday I finished it and submitted it. In the evening, I worked on the Java project that’s due on Sunday evening (or, confusingly, Monday, but I’ll go with Sunday – that’s safe). I just finished that up, including testing, documentation, etc. So I’m all caught up with the world at this moment. Yay!

Now I need to find a longer (or better shielded) audio jumper cable – the one I’ve got running to the Logitech gear from the windows box picks up noise from the ethernet cables. Shielded is *always* good, but longer would allow a route away from the noisemakers. So I’ll go with either if I have such in my stash.

Other tasks include cleaning out the front flower beds, cleaning up my filing system here in the home office, and cleaning up my woodshop. None of that sounds very exciting right now, so I’ll do something else, instead.

Real Snow (TM)


Snow. Sticking. October. Believe it.

Snow. Sticking. October. Believe it.

Had I said I was going to celebrate All Hallow’s Eve by decorating the whole DC Metro area for Christmas, they would have laughed at me.

The snow is still here, hours later, and the temps are dropping through freezing, so it’ll be here for a short while tomorrow, too. Wow, just wow! And our overall precipitation is around an inch and a quarter for the last 18 hours. We’re 3/4 of an inch away from 20 inches of rain in our back yard since Irene made landfall here in late August.

Snow? SRSLY?


First snow of Winter 2011-2012

First snow of Winter 2011-2012

First snow of Winter 2011-2012 – it ain’t much, and it ain’t sticking to anything, but I’m still impressed with the can-do attitude expressed by this weather system. We started off with rain in the middle of the night, and were just shy of an inch of rain today when it flipped over to the snow delivery system about an hour ago. Right now the occasional flake is still falling, and it’s hovering around 35-36°F (~1.5°C)…

I guess it’s a good thing I winterized the watering systems yesterday. We might get our first frost tonight, eh?

*     *     *

I made a big dent in the paper that’s due next Sunday – the organization and cited documents are all in place, and I’ve begun on the prose. I also want to get a head start on the Java project that’s due next week, but first it’s time to roast some coffee and bake some cookies! Ciao!