One of the computer industry's dirty little secrets is hardware failure. The few of us who work in, near, or otherwise around large computer installations take this for granted. Companies like Yahoo have people on staff that spend a lot of their time dealing with failing memory, buggy motherboards, smoked power supplies, bad disks, and overheating CPUs. Google, from what I read, doesn't even bother anymore.
But the larger world probably doesn't see this very often. Many are likely just blissfully ignorant of how fragile their precious data is until the first time disaster (or mistake) strikes. I know I was. I still remember the two hours I spent at the Commodore 64, typing in that BASIC program listing from the back of a computer magazine. It might have been "Compute" or "Byte."
Over the last two weeks I've been reminded of this fact. While back in Ohio, helping my Dad with some computer stuff I witnessed one hard disk failure. It was a Maxtor that was literally 1 month past the warranty date on the label. After being powered up, it just started to do that "I can't move my head like I used to be able" click ... click ... click thing.
He lost all the data on that disk. It was his Windows 2000 desktop. He proceeded to curse out Maxtor (it was not his first Maxtor failure in recent history) and then we installed Knoppix on the machine--after replacing the disk.
The next day (or later that same day? It's all blurry now), we turned our attention to his old Linux server. I managed to do a Bad Thing on it remotely a few months ago and it needed some help. Along the way, he stuck in the "D:" drive from the former Win2k box so we could extract the data and archive it elsewhere.
Linux wouldn't talk to it.
After a bit of head scratching, I booted the machine again and paid more attention to the boot messages. IDE errors reported trying to talk with that drive. Strike two.
Then, earlier today, I decided to figure out what was wrong with my virtually new Linux desktop at work. It had mysteriously stopped working just before my trip, so I brought it home (it's mine, not the company's--and that's a whole other story for a different day) to hack on later. I suspected the video card but was surprised to find it was one of the two 512MB sticks of DDR-3200 memory. So it's running with 512MB for now. Strangely, I have an identical spare at work as the result of an ordering mistake when I got the parts for the machine.
I can safely say that in my 20+ years of computing (and I'm not even 30 yet), I've seen everything die and almost everything die twice. And this is on equipment that's always been less than 5 years old.
Memory, disks, CD-ROM drives, floppy drives, video cards, mother boards, CPUs, fans, power supplies, monitors, disk controllers, and so on. Of course, some things fail far more often that others. Usually it's the disks, or maybe the power supply. All the others combined are much less common that either of those--at least in my experience.
This is why I no longer put data on anything fragile without an off-site backup, RAID, or BOTH. That new machine has a hardware RAID controller in it. The one above it has software RAID for all the partitions. And I just won a 3Ware 7500 card on eBay to install in my home server. And I use rsync quite a bit between machines. It's run via cron so that I don't forget.
My data's too important for this shit.
From now on, I'm no longer buying the cheap parts. Saving $12 per DIMM probably wasn't worth it. I should have gone to Crucial and got the stuff with a real warranty. At least I buy good CPUs, motherboards, and cases already. After 20 years, I'm still learning. Call me a slow learner, I guess.
Do most computers, which means "Windows" I guess, even come with backup software? I know they don't come with big fat warning labels on the box that explain how much data you could possibly loose and what sort of havoc it might cause in your life.
If you do nothing else this new year, make sure your data is protected. Well, at least if it's important to you.
About a month or so ago, I noticed a recurring pattern in my daily MySQL builds (note: I stopped doing MySQL 3.23 builds roughly 3 months back).
jzawodn@museful:~/cvs/mysql$ ./build cleaning mysql-4.0 ver is 4.0.18 tar is mysql-4.0.18-museful-2003-12-30.tar.gz removing old version in /tmp/mysql building 4.0.18 /tmp/mysql ~/cvs/mysql/mysql-4.0 ~/cvs/mysql ~/cvs/mysql/mysql-4.0 ~/cvs/mysql build 4.0.18 OK ~/cvs/mysql/mysql-4.1 ~/cvs/mysql cleaning mysql-4.1 ver is 4.1.2-alpha tar is mysql-4.1.2-alpha-museful-2003-12-30.tar.gz removing old version in /tmp/mysql building 4.1.2-alpha /tmp/mysql ~/cvs/mysql/mysql-4.1 ~/cvs/mysql ~/cvs/mysql/mysql-4.1 ~/cvs/mysql build 4.1.2-alpha OK ~/cvs/mysql/mysql-5.0 ~/cvs/mysql cleaning mysql-5.0 ver is 5.0.0-alpha tar is mysql-5.0.0-alpha-museful-2003-12-30.tar.gz removing old version in /tmp/mysql building 5.0.0-alpha /tmp/mysql ~/cvs/mysql/mysql-5.0 ~/cvs/mysql ~/cvs/mysql/mysql-5.0 ~/cvs/mysql build 5.0.0-alpha OK
Do you see the pattern? I do. Everything works. It says "OK" every time now. For a while I had trouble with the 4.1 tree breaking now and then. 5.0 acted up for quite a long time. Sometimes only on FreeBSD or Linux. But not everything comes up clean every time on both FreeBSD and Linux.
Kick ass! Life is good.
In reading your The Year's Top 10 Tech Stories story, I was struck by the sub-head you used for the first entry: Open Source Finally Grows Up. What are you trying to say, really?
I look forward to the day when your publication runs a front page story titled Microsoft Finally Grows Up or maybe Bill Gates Finally Grows Up, with the emphasis squarely on "finally" and "grows up."
I know you're trying to be cute with the headlines you use, but to someone who simply skims the article, you're painting Open Source software with an immature brush stroke and that bothers me. A lot.
One of my many goals for this year's trip back to Ohio was to replace my oldest rackmounted machine (family.zawodny.com) with a new one. The old one is about 3 years old, the memory (512MB) is maxed out, the CPU isn't quite as fast (700MHz) as I'd like, the drives were starting to develop problems (yeay! for software RAID), and it doesn't auto-reboot after a power failure.
I had most of the new machine shipped to my parents house (from ASL in California) and brought the disks (120GB) and the RAID controller (3Ware 7000-2) with me. It arrived on Friday, so I got it configured over the weekend. My Dad and I headed down to Bowling Green this morning to rack the new box. (He's going to retrieve the old one in a few weeks and needed to know where it is.)
The setup is pictured on the right. The top machine is "family" (the old one), the middle is "friends" (about 1.5 years old), and the bottom one is "family2". Click the image for more pictures.
Anyway, it's a 14 inch deep, 1U box running Debian GNU/Linux with a custom compiled kernel:
jzawodn@family2:~$ uname -a Linux family2 2.4.23-jdz1 #5 SMP Fri Dec 26 20:42:25 CET 2003 i686 GNU/Linux
The 3Ware card provides me one virtual SCSI disk made of the two RAID-1 IDE disks.
jzawodn@family2:~$ df -h Filesystem Size Used Avail Use% Mounted on /dev/sda1 3.9G 1.3G 2.6G 34% / /dev/sda2 2.0G 176M 1.8G 9% /var /dev/sda4 107G 37G 71G 35% /home
And, if you're curious, the CPU is a 2.66GHz Pentium 4 and there's 2GB of RAM installed.
CPU: Trace cache: 12K uops, L1 D cache: 8K CPU: L2 cache: 512K CPU: Hyper-Threading is disabled Intel machine check reporting enabled on CPU#0. CPU: After generic, caps: bfebfbff 00000000 00000000 00000000 CPU: Common caps: bfebfbff 00000000 00000000 00000000 CPU0: Intel(R) Pentium(R) 4 CPU 2.66GHz stepping 09 per-CPU timeslice cutoff: 1463.05 usecs. enabled ExtINT on CPU#0
The old machine will stay on-line for another week or two while I transition all the services (CVS, mail, spam filtering, MySQL) over to the new box. Then I guess it'll come back to California where I can figure out what to do with it.
The menu doesn't say, but apparently the Chinese place near my parents' house loads up their food with MSG. Last night we had their food. It was good. I got a nasty headache later, which is odd, because I rarely get headaches (since I see my Chiropractor once in a while).
Tonight I ate the leftovers. Got another nasty headache. Then I put 2 and 2 together (finally?). I checked the menu and it says nothing about MSG at all. That sucks. Many of the Chinese places in the Bay Area seem to say explicitly that they do or do not use MSG. Not all of them, but way more than I'd have expected.
Grr. MSG Headache. Hopefully the ibuprofen kicks in soon...
After yesterday's fun with WarDriving in Toledo, I saddled up for the ride toward Cleveland along the Ohio Turnpike (from exit 59 in Toledo to exit 193 at route 44, Ravenna). The results, again, were interesting. A good mix of commercial and residential setups. As with yesterday, the Linksys equipment outnumbered the occasional NetGear and Apple stuff. This time I saw at least one 3com device too.
Another amusing thing was that I'd pick up the "flyingj" network when we'd go past some of the truck stops. I didn't expect that.
There were some long patches (20 minutes or so) of finding nothing, but even the rural areas we'd get lucky once in a while. When I was typing and not paying attention to the outside, I could tell when we approached a more populated area--the kismet alerts would start going off every 5 seconds or so. At one point we found 5 Linksys networks within 30 seconds of each other.
In total, there were 104 access points along that stretch of Turnpike. Door to door, we found 112.
Dan is sick of comment spam and has realized that if he closes off old comments, it'll probably reduce comment spam. He's right. I've been doing this for months now and it's very effective. So, as my Giftmas gift to the blogging world, here's my whopping 26 lines of Perl code to do the job: blog_close_comments.pl.
It should be easily adapted for anyone using MT and MySQL.
Oh, the Blog::DBI module it requires looks like this.
You'll obviously need your own version.
It's not elegant or fancy, but it's working code that Does The Job and that's what's important. I could have written this using the MT API, but I was in a hurry. Someday I may fix that if I get ambitious.
UPDATE: The Blog::DBI module is not something from CPAN. It's meant to be installed "locally" rather than system-wide. I use it to supprt about half a dozen little blog/perl hacks I have. And it's actually a bit larger than the version I posted. Also, Derek sent a patch to make the blog_id an argument on the command-line. I've applied that.
At least that's what the signs say. I snapped the first picture while driving back from visiting my grandmother last night and WarDriving Toledo. I was amused by the fact that Diesel was shortened to "DSL" on the sign. And, of course, I just happened to have my camera with me.
I'm not sure how many bytes come in a gallon of DSL, but hey it's only $1.59!
And, just for those of you on the East Coast or West Coast (or in Europe), that's $1.40 a gallon for Gas. Cheap!
Of course, moments later we passed another gas station that had it even cheaper.
Just so you don't think it was a completely geeky weekend, devoid of holiday festivities, witness the second picture on the right. I snapped a few shots of that house in Oregon. The full set of pictures is on-line, of course.
While driving to my aunt & uncle's place for dinner tonight, I bought along the laptop and external WiFi antenna. I ran kismet for each leg of the drive while my Dad drove and my Mom tried to figure out what the heck I was doing. (The audio alerts are quite helpful when doing this.)
The results were interesting. On the way from my parent's house (south Toledo) to aunt & uncle's (in Oregon, just east of Toledo) I found about 47 wireless networks. A surprising number (40%) used encryption. The number of networks named "linksys" outnumbered those named "NETGEAR" by about 3 to 1.
On the way from their place to visit my grandma in the nursing home (Sylvania and Holland-Sylvania), we found about 42 networks. We were on 280 and 475 most of the ride but still managed to find some along the highway.
Then, on the drive from the nursing home back to my parents house we found tons of 'em. A total of 142 networks. On this leg, the number of "linksys" networks seemed out outnumber "NETGEAR" by at least 8:1. What fun! :-)
Tomorrow I'll try the ride to my sister's place southeast of Cleveland, along I-80 and such.
Yeah, thanks to a remarkably short connection in Chicago, my luggage is still [apparently] there. The flight that arrives at 10pm should have it on board. But these are airlines, so I'm not gonna bet on anything.
Murphy never sleeps.
In related news, there's no snow on the ground here and it's not as cold as I expected. I even timed things so that I missed the big quake in California.
I just realized that I've been remiss in updating my flying blog. I hadn't touched it at all during the month of December.
After spending a bit of quality time with my log book and re-reading some of the recent club e-mail, I've added about five new entries. They cover everything from my DG-1000 checkout (and loops) to some scenic flying on the Wright Brother's 100th Anniversary earlier this week (pictures). It's been a good month of flying so far. I've been able to fly in a Piper Archer, completed my DG-1000 checkout (obviously), and even got some great thermal flying in the Pegasus last weekend.
Also, I recently joined the West Valley Flying Club so that I can also work on my power license (you know, planes with actual engines) in 2004. And now there's even talk of buying a Fox. It should be a fun year for flying!
When I went to fly the DG-1000 on Friday, I was talking to Drew about the sorts of gliders to shop around for if a couple of us decide to partner up and buy something. We're thinking of looking for something with a 40:1 glide and in the $30,000 ballpark. He suggested looking at any of: LS-4, DG-300, or Pegasus. His advice confirmed what we already knew.
He then told me of the MDM-1 Fox he found for sale in Texas. It's apparently in new condition, with only 100 hours on it so far. He'd like to put together a club of 10-20 people who'd like to chip in to buy it. The Fox is an amazing acro glider. It's capable of +9/-7 Gs and is a two-seater. It consistently wins or comes in second place in the international aerobatic glider competitions.
After doing a bit more with loops (and a hammerhead that Brett demonstrated) in the DG-1000, I'm thinking that I just might be up for it. It sounds like a blast to fly.
More on the Fox:
Must decide soon...
Here's a copy of the report I sent to the HGC list on Friday after I got home from flying...
I had the day off work today (yeay for office moves) and headed to Hollister intending to fly in the DG-1000 with Drew to get a bit more practice with loops. Instead, I ended up flying with Brett because Drew was gonna fly with someone (forgot who) in the Duo, hoping to go X-C in the wave. No problem! Sure enough, there were wave clouds in the sky. Brett and I launched around 12:20pm and towed toward the southeast. There was NO wind at the surface but we started encountering some bumps as low as 800 feet. Keeping an eye on the vario, we towed up to 6,700 and released when we were sure there was lift. A few times before, we watched the vario go as low and 2 knots and as high as 8. Seeing that it averaged 5-6, we released in 8 and turned into 2 knot lift toward the southwest. After hanging out a bit, I suggested that Brett grab my GPS so we could figure out what the winds were doing. We did a few shallow 360s to measure our ground speed and ground track. When heading directly into the wind (roughly 180-160 degrees true) at 50 knots IAS the GPS said we were going about 18 knots. We seemed to find a good 30-40 knot wind at 7,000-8,000 feet. We managed to climb as high as 8,500 and tried to make it back that high a few times. But after the first 45 minutes to an hour the lift got weaker and harder to find. Instead of an easy 2 knots up (with occasional 3 or 3.5) the best we got was 0.5 to 1. Just past the 1 hour mark, we got the radio call that told use the glider was due back. (Whoops. Guess who didn't think to check the schedule before chasing wave?!) We were at roughly 7,200 feet, so we headed back toward the airport and finished up my loop work on the way home. We never went terribly far away. The spot we hung out in was roughly 2-3 miles north of Bikle. A few times we drifted farther north into the valley while trying to map the lift. It was quite helpful to have Brett acting as navigator, occasionally setting waypoints to mark good lift, while we wandered the area to get a feel for where it was. All in all, it was a good way to spend a Friday. We flew for 1.5 hours and had to burn off a lot of altitude on the way back. The flight was good practice for working weak wave lift, and the DG-1000 is so quiet and peaceful when you're flying at 45-50 knots--gradually climbing. :-)
Anyway, my goal of getting signed off to fly loops is complete. :-)
Oh, and I finally got a chance to pee in a glider. It's a lot easier when you've got a co-pilot on board! That's a good skill to work on for longer flights.
Oh, also, the guys who took the DG-1000 up after us made it to 10,000 feet. Damn them! I'll just need to go up again on the next good wave day...
In a few days I'll begin what's become an annual ritual since I moved to California almost exactly 4 years ago: going home for the holidays.
Just writing this now, I'm wondering if the day will ever come that I don't consider Toledo, Ohio to be "home" instead of where I'm currently living. Do I have to spend more time away than the 25ish years that I lived there? Or maybe I just need to "settle down and get married"?
I have mixed feelings about the up-coming week. Why? Because I know what's in store for me. There's the fun and excitement associated with seeing family, old friends (and now their babies!), old girlfriends (and almost girlfriends) and being away from the day to day routine of working in Silicon Valley.
It never seems like there's enough time to really catch up with the people I spent 3-4 years with every day in college. It's fun to see how they've changed, and mostly how they haven't.
There's the dark side of going home, too. A lot of driving. 2.5 hours each way to see friends in Columbus. 3.25 hours each way to see my sister and brother in law south east of Cleveland.
And then there's all the computer work that Dad wants me to do. Every year, he's managed to produce a pile of trouble that I have to fix. This year it's a new notebook and a Linux box to re-build. And probably something with the printer too.
Oh, god. And I just know I'm gonna waste time screwing with Windows. He wants to remove the brand new installation of Windows XP from the new ThinkPad T40 he bought and replace it with Windows 2000. Why? Because he hates Microsoft. But I'm starting to think he hates me. Because he isn't going to do the install, I am. I don't know why, but he still seems to think I know Windows--despite the fact that I haven't used it on a regular basis for at least 4 years now.
Ahh, the holidays. What a mixed bag.
We just got an e-mail message at work with the following subject: Want to help with breast cancer research and have fun too??
It was not spam. Well, sort of. It was sent to everyone here, but it's not really spam--if you know what I mean.
Anyhoo... being the kind of person I am, my mind jumped at the chance and I immediately started thinking about ways that I could help with breast cancer research and have fun. Lots of fun! However, now I don't really want to read the message. I'm sure that it's just going to disappoint me.
(Yes, I know breast cancer is no laughing matter. That doesn't make the message subject any less funny. To me.)
If you're interested in the web search world and aren't reading John Battelle's searchblog, you really should be. John's a smart guy who knows a ton of people in this area.
...it is a clear departure from the conceit - and I use that term neutrally - that Google has always maintained, which is that the results offered by their engine are free of human intervention - that they in fact reflect the results of a carefully tended algorithmic secret sauce applied to every site without bias. Clearly, humans have decided to put that category of Product Search on top of the main results. And certainly those results are not subject to the same secret sauce which sifts the rest of the unwashed web. (One can imagine merchants racing to game Froogle, now that Froogle results are showing up - in first position no less - on the firehose of traffic that is the main results page of Google). No matter how you slice it, this marks a departure.
I suspect that this is not a trial balloon at all.
This reminds me of another [important] Google related point that I've really been meaning to make. Stay tuned.
A few weeks ago, on the way back from India, Rasmus let me use his noise cancelling headphones for an hour or so on one of the flights. Even though I understand the science behind how they worked (it's really not that complicated), I'd always doubted how effective they could really be.
I was happily impressed. The headphones worked surprisingly well. I'd say they blocked out a good 70% of the consistent background noise, namely the engines. And that made the music much more pleasant.
Knowing that I'd be travelling a bit more in the coming year (Ohio, Florida, India (again), Mexico (possibly), and Brazil (possibly)), I decided that I'd spend a bit of time researching the options and get myself a set.
After a bit of hunting around, the only headphones that didn't cost an arm and a leg and which seemed to have consistently positive comments were the exact ones he'd let me borrow. So, I'm the proud owner of a new pair of Sony MDR-NC20 headphones.
On the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers flying for the first time, I took a couple hours out of the day to fly again with my friend John. (See also: this story.) We took up a Piper Archer from West Valley Flying Club (which I joined earlier in the week so I can start power training) and flew over to Half Moon Bay.
After landing there, we flew up and down the coast a bit before heading back to Palo Alto. We flew a bit over an hour and it was a great (very clear and calm) day for it. I took some pictures of the sights.
It was a good day to break up the day. And, somehow, it wouldn't have felt right not to fly today.
After a good day of soring on Sunday, Harry Fox came by to drop off the covers for the DG-1000. Lance, Drew, and I helped unload the stuff and got to chatting a bit. In the course of conversation, Harry asked me and Lance if we'd like to become ship captains for 9JH and 2BA.
This makes sense. We're out there flying a lot so we might as well look after the gliders we're flying most of the time. Besides, I knew it was just a matter of time before someone said, "you know, these guys fly a lot and seem to have spare time. Maybe we should give 'em some work to do.
And wouldn't you know it... The newsletter came the other day and we're the new ship captains. I've got 9JH and Lance has 2BA. That's a little funny, since he flies 9JH most of the time and I fly 2BA. But not big deal.
Jay starts but does not finish many blog posts. I know the feeling. My ~/blog directory is starting to feel more like a mail queue. I've got a bunch of stuff that's anywhere from 5% to 80% done.
Here are a few of the titles:
Kasia's adventures in home-made gift giving remind me why I don't do my Giftmas shopping in stores anymore. I've done all of this year's shopping on-line. I will only set foot into one store (a Circuit City in Ohio) to pick up the Tivo that I ordered for someone. Sssh!
But hey, there's kasia sauce on the loose!
Everything else? I bought it on-line.
Sometimes I see funny things in nature but don't have a camera. (Click the little boxes on that site to see more.)
Nelson is sick of "reality" TV, thanks to The Simple Life. I've never watched so-called "reality" TV. Not only is it an oxymoron, it's a waste of time.
Tim O'Reilly is beating the web services drum again. I wish I could get more of that beat into people at work. But hey, we're a media company, not a technology company (despite what some of our engineering VPs will try to make you believe).
The object of my desire has decreased in price. Damn, I'm tempted to go look at that while I'm in Ohio...
Okay, this dump is over. I'd have put all this stuff in my linkblog but this way I get to put in my two cents along the way. And what's the point of a blog if I can't throw pennies around now and then?
I realized something the other day. When it comes to explaining things, I really need a good mix of dialog (2 way communication) and exposition (1 way communication) to really get it right. The problem is that I tend to be quite bad at balancing the two. The same appears to be true for the acts of saying something and writing it down. I need to do both.
For the last 6 months or so, I've been attempting (off and on) to write a document that helps explain data storage technology choices in software engineering at Yahoo: what's available and how you might decide when to use a DBM system vs. Oracle vs. MySQL and so on.
Every time I've attempted to start it, I had written a sentence or two and then stared at the monitor. After 15 minutes or so, I'd erase everything and stare at the blank space on the monitor some more. Never quite sure where to start or even how to put bounds around the problem, I got nowhere. It was like squeezing Jello. Every time I manged to get a hold of something--an idea, stuff began moving elsewhere.
Then, about a week ago, a co-worker posed a very simple question on our "database stuff" mailing list. It was a question I'd answered a few times before. It had came up now and then during the "MySQL at Yahoo!" talk I've given in a handful of Yahoo's remote offices. The question, if you're wondering, was roughly "We seem to have a lot of MySQL around here. Does anyone use PostgreSQL? If not, why?"
Having answered it before verbally, I set out to do the same thing in writing. In the process of doing so, I finally drew (using ASCII art, of course) the visual aid that I'd previously described verbally (and by waving my arms a bit): my database technology continuum.
After I finished, I re-read the message and it hit me. This could be the starting point for that damned document. If I begin here using this (and explaining it), almost everything else just falls into place.
I was further encouraged by the fact that several folks contacted me off-list to say that my explanation really cleared some things up for them.
Duh. It was right there all along. In my head. Someone just had to get me to pull it out. I really wonder how long this would have lasted if he hadn't asked that question.
Is it just me, or does this sort of thing happen to other people too?
How do I know?
They ran a story that contains, among other things, this text:
Always out on the cutting edge of technology, those early-adopters at Google Inc. are already comfortably seated on the next digital frontier. Or perhaps just in the next stall. The noted Internet search engine has recently installed digital toilets at its Mountain View offices, co-founder Larry Page disclosed to a gathering of the Churchill Club networking group in San Francisco this month.
It goes on for quite a bit longer to talk about Google toilets and restroom facilities.
What on earth makes them think the larger world gives a shit about how Google employees give a shit?
If you're really fascinated with high-tech toilets, go spend a week in Tokyo. It's easier than getting a job at Google.
Here's a copy of the note I sent to the HGC list after flying on Sunday. It was a hell of a day.
Every glider was in the air this afternoon and they weren't coming down. Even Ramy came out to play. It's too bad more private guys didn't come out. There were many multi-hour flights from 2,500-3,500 foot tows and a shortage of gliders! We had cloud bases at ~3,500 with a nice big cloud street just west of the airport, running toward northwest--probably into the Santa Cruz Mountains. It headed south over Bikle and appeared to go all the way to Panoche (or farther?) where there was another cloud street visible. There was also a line of clouds over the east hills--maybe just past the 2nd ridge, but the bases looked a bit low and not as solid. Everyone seemed to fly west of the airport today. The lift was quite strong in places. I had at least two really good good 8-10 knot thermals, with 4-6 knots being quite common. If you were lazy, you could just fly straight under the clouds at 60-70 knots and still gain a couple hundred feet every few miles. And, if you were in the right place (just west of the cloud street) it was even possible to get a few hundred feet above the cloud bases. Later in the day I ventured over the airport and then to Christiansen, loosing maybe 200 feet to get there. After a bit of playing I discovered an invisible cloud street that seemed to be roughly half way between the one to the west and the one over the east hills. I must have flown that triangular route 3 or 4 times, never getting below 3,000. There was lift all over the place. We had some serious (8-10 knot) sink in a few places. Jamie had his first flight in a Pegasus and was treated to a nice 2+ hour flight. Excellent December soaring! Hopefully we'll get to hear how far Ramy ended up going...
The only thing I didn't mention was my first flight. I released at 2,000 feet thinking I had great lift, only to end up back on the ground 12 minutes later. Doh! Luckily, I more than made up for it on the second flight. :-) It was about 2.7 hours from a 3,500 foot release in Pegasus 2BA.
Ramy ended up going all the way to the beach near Santa Cruz and back!
Wow. Apparently we got him.
American forces captured a bearded Saddam Hussein as he hid in a dirt hole under a farmhouse near his hometown of Tikrit, ending one of the most intensive manhunts in history. The arrest, eight months after the fall of Baghdad, was carried out without a shot fired and was a huge victory for U.S. forces.
I wonder how this will change things...
On Saturday, Lance and I headed to Hollister to fly the DG-1000 in the morning. The plan was to get a few dual flights in (trading off the front/back seat) and then each take a Pegasus after that to go looking for lift.
We flew two flights in the morning. I flew the first from the front seat and then we reversed for the second. Each flight was about 30 minutes, with tows to 5,000 feet or so. Nothing fancy.
Then, we took a bit of a break while others flew. I was hungry and wanted to grab some food. Lace got a Pegasus ready to fly. Just before I started to eat, Peter finished his back seat checkout in the DG-1000 and wanted to go up again. Charlie asked if I'd go with him, so of course I did!
I gobbled down my turkey burger and hopped in the back seat. Several other gliders were already up in mixed lift about a mile off the departure end of runway 31 near some clouds. We towed out that way but Peter wasn't anxious to play in the lift with them. So I kept an eye out for the other gliders while we wandered around.
After we landed, I noticed that most of the other glider were up. I could have flown the 1-34 but wasn't keen on the idea of doing the pre-flight checks for what was likely to be a short flight anyway. Instead, I checked the reservation schedule and noticed that nobody had the DG-1000 after Peter. So I took it. :-)
I convinced Peter to ride in the back seat and we went up again looking for lift. I didn't find much (it was late), but there was some 1 knot and zero sink in the normal evening convergence area (highway 156 (or 152?) and Pacheco Pass). We had a roughly a 30 minute flight.
I later realized that it was my first flight with a BASA flight committee member in about half a year. How time flies!
Apparently some of you have forgotten about our company's most excellent "sick days" policy. It basically states that there's no fixed number of sick days that you're allowed to use per year. You cannot accumulate sick days and they don't expire. Instead, when you're sick or have a medical obligation, you stay home or otherwise deal with it.
The logical consequence of this policy, I thought, was quite simple--easy enough for a 5 year old to grasp. But you've managed to surprise me in the past, so allow me to make this explicit:
WHEN YOU'RE SICK, STAY THE FUCK HOME!!!
You see, I lost about 2.5-3.0 days of productivity this week due to getting sick. I have a very strong suspicion this has to do with coworkers around me being sick at work early in the week. The cold I picked up on the plane rides to India was almost gone, yet I managed to pick up another illness. And I'm pretty sure my cats didn't give it to me.
Thank you for your time.
I woke up from my "nap" at 2:30am. It had been 6 hours. After watching an episode of Ed (thanks, Tivo) and catching up on a bit of e-mail, it's time for some NyQuil and going back to bed.
I don't know who I got Cold version 2.0 from at work, but it's really annoying. Ugh. I guess the porn star update will wait another day. (I'm surprised that nobody has commented on that. Actually, I'm slightly amused by it.)
And I have a presentation to give at 12:30.
It does seem so. I guess with a dolphin as a mascot it just makes sense.
The name "MySQL Swell" is a bit cheesy, don't ya think? Heh.
Link via Jim's "hmm" entry.
Though the content is long since gone (I think), I found a reference to what I was publishing on the web 10 years ago. Look on this page for 'jzawodn' and you'll see this:
UFO, Alien Page. http://www.bgsu.edu/~jzawodn/ufo
Ahh, the good old days in college. That's also roughly when I learned Perl. :-)
The wayback machine doesn't have it anymore, but it does have a snapshot of the old pizza.bgsu.edu home page from 1997 (I was probably the first student to put a personal machine on the Internet there). Linux 2.0.0 all the way, baby!
In April of 1997 that box was upgraded to a Pentium 133 and a 2.0.29 kernel. I still have the hardware. It still runs Linux.
Then in 1997, I was out of school and working in my first Real Job. I had a revamped home page. It's interesting to see how some things changed. I never went back to school but I did eventually get my pilot's license (7 years later!).
Strangely, the wayback machine has nothing interesting for 2000. Anyway, if you're really bored you can check out all the other variations.
Okay, I'll stop now.
Anyone else wanna showcase your ancient web sites? The more ugly and personal the better! :-)
Here's an interesting scenario that's really not that far-fetched... (The most astute readers will know why I say this.)
BigEvilCompany has adopted weblogs internally--behind the firewall. They've installed MovableType on a few serves and encourage their employees to use it as a notebook, communications platform, etc. Bob, in the Business Development group, has been using his internal blog to track various things: competitors, possible acquisitions, recent discoveries, etc.
One day Bob has a great idea in the restroom and rushes back to his desk (after flushing and washing his hands, of course) to jot some notes on his weblog before he can pitch the idea to the board of directors. However, what Bob doesn't realize (or even understand, really) is that MovableType had TrackBack auto-discovery enabled. As part of that blog entry, he links to a post on Scott's Feedster blog (like I did just now). MovableType happily sends Scott's blog a TrackBack ping with the title and an brief excerpt of the entry (like mine did just now).
The title is: Feedster Acquisition and the excerpt starts out:
To better position ourselves against Google in the upcoming battle for RSS/weblog/news search, we should buy Feedster as soon...
The basic thrust of Bob's blog entry has been relayed to Scott and all of Scott's readers. It's public. Panic would follow, but Bob doesn't realize what's happened until Scott e-mails him to half-jokingly ask what they're willing to pay.
If you're using MovableType (or another TrackBack capable blog tool) internally, be smart about how it's configured. You really don't want it broadcasting your secrets to the world, do you?
Update: Dave Winer calls this a rant, but I really intended it as a warning. Does it sound like I'm ranting? Hmm. Oops.
What's a CFO, really? The head accountant, bean counter, number cruncher, etc? A growing number of financial analysis jobs are being moved overseas, so why not CFOs? Think of the cash savings! Last time I checked, large corporations pay their CFOs several hundred thousand dollars per year as a base salary. And at some public companies the CFO can make millions in stock option exercises.
If these overseas workers are good enough to screen my medical profile and my x-rays, cat scans, and do my taxes, why aren't they good enough to track company numbers and let the CEO how many bags of money are left in the vault?
Apparently, Oracle isn't as "unbreakable" as we've been
brainwashed led to believe.
Oracle confirmed that a variety of its server products could be tampered with through vulnerabilities via the OpenSSL protocol. The flaws could potentially open the door for a remote hacker to cause a denial-of-service (DoS) attack, execute arbitrary code, and gain access privileges.
Read all about it in Oracle Issues High-Severity Vulnerability Warning.
I always wonder if vendors will just give up someday, realizing that no product is secure, unbreakable, hack-proof, or whatever. It's software. It's imperfect. Deal with it and stop trying to convince anyone otherwise.
Amusingly, I just tried to search their site for "unbreakable" but got a 500 server error back: screenshot.
I'd say it's not a good day in Oracle land.
Given the upcoming new year, I figure it's a good time to share what my crystal ball is telling me. The year 2004 will be exciting for technologists. Pressure has been building in several areas that are poised to really cook next year. Here's my brief take on each of them.
Let's face it, PageRank is Dead. Really. I've said it once and I'll say it again. Google knows this. Microsoft knows this. Anyone seriously into search has seen the writing on the wall. The link spammers are out in full force and they're not going away. It's beginning harder and harder to get relevant results for a growing number of common searches.
There are several ways to improve the situation. Expect to see work on personalizing search results. Look no further than one of Google's most recent press releases.
Kaltix Corp. was formed in June 2003 and focuses on developing personalized and context-sensitive search technologies that make it faster and easier for people to find information on the web.
That's just the tip of the iceberg. Don't expect PageRank to go away. But expect it to be joined several other powerful factors when ranking your search results.
Search often leads to transactions. The search engine companies want a cut of those transactions--just like Amazon or eBay get. Think of them as search services for a minute.
Expect to see a lot of work going into vertical search markets: cars, real estate, electronics, hotels, vacation deals, etc. And expect to see the existing big search players aggressively [re]positioning themselves as the place to go to search for products and services, not just information.
Yes, we have Froogle. But it's very, very primitive. The only two services that come close to what I'm thinking of are Yahoo Shopping and Amazon.com. eBay is really lacking in this area.
Yeah, Friendster, LinkedIn, and Tribe.net all appeared this year. But they're all just getting started, working out the kinks, and learning how users network each other. Their plans for making money aren't yet clear--at least to the public.
What will 2004 bring? A lot. This area of "the market" will get more crowded. We'll see a lot more crossovers too. If you've ever thought to yourself, "Wouldn't it be cool if you combined Friendster/LinkedIn/Tribe.net and __________?" 2004 will be the year when it starts to happen.
The web's built-in anonymity has become a real problem. You never know who or what to trust. Aside from being the biggest person to person auction network around, what makes eBay so damned useful? It has a reputation system. It's not perfect, but it works surprisingly well given its simple nature.
When you start to think about the growing number of social networks out there (IM buddy lists, eBay, Friendster, etc.), it's just a matter of time before someone begins applying them (or related technology) to some of the problems we've been battling: e-mail spam, weblog comment spam, impersonal search results, and so on. There are some very, very interesting applications of all this "connectedness" we're building up.
In much the same way that Google rocked the world by applying the relationships among web pages, networks of people and their associated relationships and reputations will provide the backbone for some of the next-generation solutions.
Yeah, we all know that RSS has been growing in popularity, thanks largely to weblogs. What will make 2004 different? Simple. RSS will go well beyond our little realm of weblogs. In 2004, RSS is going to go mainstream--and it's going to happen in a big way.
Remember when you first starting seeing URLs appear on billboards and at the end of movie trailers? So do I. It's going to be like that. One day we're just going to look around and realize that RSS is popping up all over the place. And a couple years later, we'll all wonder how we ever got along without it.
Forget Atom/Pie/Echo/whatever. It will be RSS. RSS may not be perfect, but it's good enough. That train left the station quite a while ago.
Now you've heard my predictions. What are yours?
On Sunday I headed down to Hollister to fly in the DG-1000 with Charlie Hayes, mainly to get finished up on my DG-1000 checkout. I had previously flown with him two weeks ago.
I already felt pretty comfortable in the glider, so when he asked what I'd like to do, I suggested that we take a high tow to practice some loops and other maneuvers, and then maybe one or two more short pattern tows. He agreed and off we went.
For the first flight, we towed west over the hills (and clouds) for some loops. The tow was fun because we got to fly above and around the clouds. Flying around the clouds actually gives you a sense of how fast you're really moving. Anyway, we got off tow at 6,200 feet and did a few clearing turns. Then Charlie took the controls to demonstrate a loop. He dove down quickly until we had 90 knots IAS and pulled back on the stick. He kept a constant 3G most of the way thru the loop (less over the top) and then recovered in a good 40 degree climb to get back some of our altitude.
He then asked me to simply do what he did. My first two worked pretty well, but we had a bit more float going over the top than his loops. For the third one he suggested I pull 3.5Gs instead, and that seemed to make all the difference. I was able to fly the whole loop with positive Gs
After that, we decided to head back closer to the airport before doing much more. But we had to get thru the clouds. He fist thought we could go over them, but as we got closer it became apparent that it wasn't going to work. We'd have to go under them. He left the route up to me, but there weren't many options. We cold either exit in the direction of Pacheco Pass or head south a few miles and punch through there. Seeing that there appeared to be more room toward the south, I took us that way.
As we got closer, Charlie told me to fly as fast as I had to in order to get under the clouds. In short order I had us going about 90 knots and loosing just enough altitude to get under between the clouds and the hills (or the power lines on top of the hills). It was fun to fly that fast for a few minutes. The ailerons are certainly heavier when you're going 80-90 knots in the DG-1000.
We punched through and headed back toward the airport. On the way there, he had me trim the glider for about 42 knots and take my hands off the stick. He wanted me to get comfortable flying with just the rudder pedals. It was a bit odd at first but I got the hang of it after a minute or so. All I needed was very small rudder inputs to get the glider to do what I wanted it to.
From there, I took us into the pattern for a normal landing on runway 24.
We then launched again for a quick pattern tow to make sure I knew what I was doing on landing. No real surprises there. The DG-1000 is pretty easy to land. A bit harder then the Grob 103 and a bit easier than the Duo Discus, in my opinion.
After that flight, he asked if I felt comfortable. I told him I did, so he completed my logbook endorsement (with the 20 meter tips).
First off, I'm no expert on the anti-spam world. But I do happen to track what's going on in that world and know some of the folks who are important there.
You might have read about Yahoo's "Domain Keys" announcement. Many folks have weighed in publicly as have many others in private e-mail lists. By all accounts, the larger community of anti-spam folks were generally surprised by Yahoo's announcement. And that's a problem in my mind.
I'm not sure if it's arrogance, stupidity, or a need to somehow impress the world with Yahoo's ability to "innovate" (it's really not a new idea), but it strikes me as rather misguided.
Spam is not going to be solved by a single company. There's a large community of hackers and business folks working on it. They cooperate, share information, discuss trends, and brainstorm new ideas. This happens all the time in that world.
Yahoo said its "Domain Keys" software, which it hopes to launch in 2004, will be made available freely to the developers of the Web's major open-source e-mail software and systems.
For a company that uses ass-loads of Open Source software, you'd think they'd open up the development on something that's this important. And I don't mean this "we'll release when it's ready" method they're apparently using. I mean "here's our CVS tree and design documents. We welcome your feedback, patches, and ideas for improving the system." That kind of "open." Just like SpamAssassin, for example.
What would have been helpful is for the folks at Yahoo Mail to explain why they've not adopted or tried to get more involved in some of the other upcoming initiatives, such as SPF. Heck, it'd be nice if I could go to antispam.yahoo.com to find out about everything Yahoo's doing in this area. (Note: part of that site appears to be a dynamic ad-like module, so your chances of getting a good answer seem to be random. Or you could just keep hitting the reload button.)
Amusingly, on Yahoo's own antispam site, I see the two most recent headlines are:
Do you notice what I notice? First, there's no mention of "Domain Keys" there. The latest headline is from October 21st. Second, they trumpet the fact that AOL, Microsoft, and Yahoo! have decided to "Join Forces" but this isn't reflected in any of the "Domain Keys" information we've seen.
What's going on here?
If Yahoo, MSN, and AOL had jointly announced this, we'd have a whole different beast on our hands. But since it seems a lot more like another lone cowboy going after the bandits (again), it doesn't have the same level of credibility.
Anyway, the reaction in the anti-spam community (at least the parts of it that I see) hasn't been very rosy. I've seen a lot of "well... good luck" comments, suggesting that there's little chance of it getting much traction. The more positive ones have been along the lines of "sure, it'll help... but not much."
Oh, and in case it's not abundantly clear, I don't speak for my employer on my weblog. Anyone who thinks otherwise needs some serious medication.
I'm not sure why I was surprised to discover this, but a blogging network has grown up around my home town. If you're interested in what's going on around Toledo, Ohio have a look at ToledoBloggers and ToledoTalk.
I haven't been reading them enough to quite discern the relationships among them, but there seems to be quite a bit of local issue coverage on ToledoTalk. Maybe someone from Toledo can enlighten me a bit?
I've prepared a table comparing the $560 cost of a single windows + office licence to GDP/capita for 176 countries and some geographical aggregates. In India, GDP/capita is $462 so the licence cost of windows is 14.5 months of average income, translated into US terms that's $42725. Not surprisingly, the higher this effective cost, the higher the BSA-estimated piracy rate.
Ok, I'm not nearly as fast as Rasmus when it comes to getting pictures on-line, but mine are up now. No captions yet--I need to fix a few things in my picture processing software. In fact, they're pretty raw all around. I haven't removed the truly bad ones yet either.
Find 'em right here.
In case you haven't guessed, I'm back from India. The trip back was much more pleasant than the trip there. It looks like I'm way behind on my RSS feed reading too. Lots of stuff to comment on--and some employer bashing queued up too.
Me? Apparently so. At least in some small circles of the world. I no longer recall how (I really need a personal proxy that keeps track of this shit--anyone got one?), but I recently ran across something surprising.
Want to know what a good education from a simple local college can lead you to? Ever hear of Jeremy Zawodny? He was born in Toledo, went to BGSU and graduated with a degree in computer science. He worked through various jobs and is now a part of Yahoo's platform engineering group working as a MySQL architect. He is responsible for planning and deployment of MySQL throughout the Yahoo enterprise. I found out about him through his recent article "PageRank is Dead" He has also been the executive editor of Linux Magazine and is very very well respected in the computing community with many laurels to his name. He is truly the technologist that Toledo is looking to attract. I hope I grow up to be like him!
Well I'll be damned. I haven't quite figured out if I even know the author of that weblog (and it's exceedingly difficult to research such things at 2:14am in the Bangalore airport), but I guess I've managed to impress him.
I guess that's one thing I can cross off my TODO list now: Impress someone back home. :-)
One of the running jokes before my visit to India was the spicy food. Kalyan was trying to convince me that there was a chilli chicken dish that would "burn my ass." (The origin of that is really Neal from Yahoo! Japan, who had an ass-burning experience after eating way too much of the stuff.)
Aren't you glad I shared that little story?
Anyway, as Kalyan notes several of us went to RR's last night for dinner. The food was quite good. It was the first meal so far here that contained rice instead of bread. We had a variety of spicy chicken bits and some fish--all good.
In other words, the food here is most excellent. And the folks in Yahoo's Bangalore office know how to treat visitors from the U.S. Thanks, guys!
In about 14 hours (at 2:30am local time), we'll hopefully board a plane for the first leg of our return trip to the U.S. It's hard to believe the week is almost over already. But, hey, I got to sign shirts yesterday! And I even got the chance to interview a job candidate this morning.
On a low bandwidth, high latency network connection (like the one at the conference here in Bangalore), it's readily apparently that my blog would load way faster it the content was compressed.
Mental note: Install mod_gzip on web server soon. Very soon.
To those of you who read my web site from half way around the world on a regular basis: why didn't anyone point this out sooner? Seriously. It's a simple thing I can do to make your life a tiny bit better.
I was gonna write a summary of day 1 and day 2 separately but didn't have time. Damned jet lag and cold and stuff. Anyway, I'll start out by pointing you at a few day #1 write-ups: Atul Chitnis and Yahoo's very own Kalyan Varma.
When we arrived at the conference on day 1 (Tuesday), I was surprised by how many folks showed up. There was a massive line. Thousands of people. According to what I've read, more people showed up for day 1 this year than the entire conference last year.
In no time, Kalyan began introducing me to members of the Bangalore Linux community--and many from beyond. I spent a lot of the time being a "booth babe" for the Yahoo booth, but I managed to attend a few talks anyway. I saw Nat and Miguel talk about Linux on the desktop. I was especially interested in the real-life deployments they covered in various countries. I also got a preview of KDE 3.2 in another talk.
I met a lot of interesting people at the booth. At least a dozen folks came up to introduce themselves and mentioned that they read by blog. Cool! Thanks for dropping by to say hi.
I also met a guy who was visiting from Dubai. He asked if "famous" people like Rasmus made a lot more money at Yahoo. Heh. That sparked an interesting discussion in which I learned that Linux sysadmins in Dubai apparently make 2 to 3 times as much as their Windows counterparts. So, if you're looking for a good paying job as a Linux admin, head over to Dubai! :-)
At lunch time, we headed over to Windsor Pub for lunch with Madhu. After a bit of beer and some light chow, we headed back for the second half of the day. After some talks a more booth time, we headed out for drinks. Amusingly, we ended up back at the same place, but as Kalyan notes, we had a ton more people there--including Nat and Miguel. Chaos and fun ensued.
Today I presented two brand new MySQL talks for an audience of roughly 250 people. First off was MySQL Optimization and Scaling Tips and the second was MySQL New Features. Slides will be on later, as the WiFi network at the conference is way to anal. (We get outbound port 80 but *nothing* else. No SSH or https. Grr.)
The talks went well for first-time presentations. I had a lot of good questions and small group discussions after the talks. After a bit of lunch I decided to crash in the booth, see if the network was alive, and maybe post an entry.
I had hoped to post my newest pictures, I can't rsync or SCP 'em to the server yet. I guess it's too bad I never thought to leave an SSH server running on port 80 somewhere.
Bangalore has a ton of passionate Open Source folks here. I'm blown away by the crowds of people and the number of them stopping by the Yahoo both (picture later) to say hi. Oh, the folks from Linux For You magazine dropped by to interview me. So I'll go do that and post this later.
I'm enjoying my time in India. The food positively rocks.
Oh, it appears we've been /.'ed too. Heh.
One of the cool things I've discovered is the Tea served at the Yahoo Bangalore office. After getting situated in some unused cubes this morning, Rasmus and I were just catching up on some e-mail and stuff when a guy came by and offered us tea. That's right. There's a guy who comes around to all the cubes and offers tea.
Unfortunately, the tea has milk mixed in with it and I'm lactose intolerant. But after a couple seconds of negotiation, I found that I could get "back tea" which means they'll omit the milk and drop some sugar in its place.
I must say, this tea is most excellent. I'm on my third cup of the day. That probably explains why I was bouncing in my chair earlier. That guy just appears once in a while to offer it, and I have a really hard time saying no. I need to figure out how to get this tea back in the US.
More importantly, I need to figure out who to convince back at HQ in Sunnyvale that we need a guy to come by and offer drinks every once in a while. How cool would that be? :-)
In related news, the cafeteria is nice. The food is good (and free). There's a balcony (that doubles as a designated smoking area) with a view of some of the surrounding trees and buildings (pics up later). We have a decent pool table but are completely lacking a foosball table. Rumor is that Filo promised one but it hasn't shown up yet. Perhaps some mild bugging is in order when we return...
I'm not sure if anyone will know this, but it's finally time to try
and figure out what's going on. Besides, it's been a while since I
abused by blog for free tech support. :-)
For ages, I've had a heavily customized ~/.fvwm2rc file that makes my "desktop" workspace suit me quite well. It sure beat the bloat that is GNOME/KDE and such.
I have this bit in my file:
# Button 2 + Alt/Meta in Window iconifies it. Mouse 2 W M Iconify
which means I can "alt + middle click" in a widow to iconify (or "minimize" it. For a long time, when I did this, the icon would end up on the desktop directly under my mouse. I got quite good at placing icons exactly where I thought I'd want them.
Then, maybe 1.5 years ago, apt-get installed a new version of fvwm2 and it changed the behavior in a slight but annoying way. When I iconify a window, fvwm2 puts the icon near the upper-left of the screen and I then have to manually drag it to the location I'd like it to stay.
Of course, I looked thru the relevant change log at the time but didn't find much that seemed relevant. And it's been a while since I tried to find out what might have done it.
Anyway, I know there are at least a few die-hard fvwm2 users around here. Maybe? Anyone know if there's a workaround or solution for this?