[Most Recent Entries]
Below are the 14 most recent journal entries recorded in
|Wednesday, July 16th, 2014|
|Im getting old?
Its been an interesting few weeks. Lately I think I am starting to feel old. Or should I say, old is catching up with me.
I used to be very good at fixing things. Computers, electronics, the Land Rover, I could keep it going. Ok, I was never that great a mechanic but I could usually keep the thing running enough to drive.
Lately it feels like all that is slipping away. I have two major issues at work that have been nagging me for weeks, and tonight I fought with the Rover and still can't get it to run smoothly. Is this the start of aging? Am I getting old and my 'talents' are fading? Its a little embarrassing, and extremely annoying to find when you used to be able to do something with the greatest of ease, that now you struggle and maybe can't even do it.
I have a redhat cluster that keeps failing between hosts (xen cluster) for no reason. Maybe its multicast packets? Maybe its something else. I don't know, I can't seem to track that down. My network monitor keeps paging everyone for nothing, and yet last weekend didn't page a single person when the backup data center completely turned off. And the Rover, well, its in a wee bit of a snit. Starts, idles, runs, go to drive it and it has almost no power, and stalls.
I have been running around and around with all 3 of these problems for weeks. Test, tweak, test, test again, tweak again, test some more. Nothing seems to fix any of these problems. Its almost as if my usual bag of testing tools is failing on me. Everything reports "working" but its not. And my diagnostic skills and experience are not coming in handy with any of these problems.
In the mean times I have at least fixed a few minor issues. Not everyone on my current employ is dissatisfied with my performance. In fact, it is probably me that is most dissatisfied. I am my own worst critic, I guess.
The good news is, when I am most stumped with something I can usually step completely away from it and come back and fix it. I am going on a cruise next week and I am hoping that is exactly the break I need. Maybe a few days at sea will get my mind working right again and I will come back and knock all these issues out in no time at all. At least that is what I hope will happen! Current Mood: pessimistic
|Wednesday, May 7th, 2014|
|PenguiCon - the good, the bad, and the ugly
I went to my first PenguiCon. I have never been to a ComicCon or a SciFi con or really anything like this at all. For years all I went to were USENIX conventions, a few LinuxWorlds, and a LOPSA meeting or two. For those that have never been to those events, they are mostly straight forward workshops and training, there might be some silliness but it was general serious business, casual, but serious. For example: Last year I went to OLF (Ohio Linux Fest) and after a day of classes on Vagrant and Puppet, I had dinner and saw MC Frontalot. There was a ComicCon in the convention hall at the same time but it was clearly obvious who was there for OLF and who was there for ComicCon. And this is PenguiCon. I have a penguin tattoo. I've run Linux since 0.99 days. I've been a *nix admin since the 1990s. This should be just like any other convention I've been too, right? All of that is basically to say that I was not prepared for PengiCon.
First, I drove. On Thursday I headed out from CT with my two friends and started what turns out to be an almost endless drive across the state of PA. One minor mistake in CT added a little time but nothing horrible. We finally got to Michigan after 8pm, tired but excited. The hotel was beautiful. I was really impressed. Not that it was a cheap hotel, but I was not quite expecting what was there. I never did get to enjoy the pool or the gym but the room was great, bed was soft, shower was hot.
Friday morning meant we had to go find breakfast. The hotel had breakfast but I wanted to look around a little and Google said there was a Pancake House not too far away from the hotel so off we went. Breakfast was delicious and on the way out we ran into my friend Scott and his wife also looking for pancakes.
My first event was "Geeks with Guns". We met in the lobby and I accidentally (I think) insulted ESR. He laughed but in retrospect it probably wasn't the nicest thing to say. Someone kept asking details on my 'Hackermonkey' ribbon but I didn't understand what they were getting on about. It wasn't until later I learned that ribbon collecting was a "thing" and they were probably trying to get their own Hackermonkey ribbon. The gun ranges in MI are nothing like CT. This was almost high tech. A three door man trap before the actual range, and the targets were electronically sent down range. Very cool. The next lane kept shooting some .50cal that was making me jump. I had a big pile of 22 ammo so I just rented a PPK and had a good time. I left early as the crowds were getting very big meaning (I think) that the event was a success. I now had 2 more ribbons that read "Chitty Chitty" and "Bang Bang".
After that I attended a few early sessions with the *nix geeks and some BoF sessions. Not exactly what I expected but interesting. People were friendly and the discussions were meaty. Opening ceremonies said there was free beer upstairs. Wait, what? Free beer? I walked upstairs for free beer to find the only tapped keg was PBR so far. No Zombie Killer. PBR gave me an almost instant headache (as it does) and I went to a few more sessions. Back to the ConSuite for beer only to find the Zombie Killer is all gone. Bummer. I switched to Woodchuck and had a few more. I met a guy dressed as Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden who somehow I kept running into that entire weekend. Not sure if we had similar tastes in things or just common patterns of walking around conventions, or just liked free beer. I did have a great time at Rocky Horror, although I think the veterans RHPS in the crowd totaled 5.
Saturday was a huge day of people and mayhem. I talked to tons of people that I now forget. I went to sessions on 3d printing and raspberry pi. I went to sessions on the EFF and free information. Yes I would occasionally bump into the odd costume I do not understand but that was my issue, not anyone elses. (more on that later). Plus, well, free beer. Free beer turned into free food as the ConSuite was stocked and restocked with snacks and beverages and more and more food (usually cold cuts, which are not appetizing looking after too many beers). I watched people play "retro" video games and felt old. I watched people learn to solder. I went to room parties and had free Coffee Stout. I met TronGuy. I found the 'Barfleet Command' and had my id checked by a guy in an LED light up skirt and fedora. I had some blue drink, red drink, and eventually a brown drink (Amaretto and Root beer?). I didn't dance but I enjoyed the DJ. I talked with everyone. Well, almost everyone. I had LN2 ice cream. I ate cookies. I met Dresden (again). I met people with very impressive Daft Punk helmets with Arduino and Bluetooth controllers. I saw a rather large back tattoo of an Xwing fighter. I watched Kareoke of people singing Johnathan Coltraine. I was up until after 2am just walking around talking with people. Star Trek people, Star Wars people, Dr Who people, all of them. In one place. Even the hotel staff started 'dressing up' and wearing ribbons trailing down off their hotel name tags. No matter where you went, there was people, and without fail, they were happy and nice and polite.
Sunday morning I was con'd out and just wanted to head back home. I met my two travelling friends in the lobby and we headed home. It was another 12 hour+ drive, I didn't get home until almost 1am. Exhausted but I still made it to work on Monday morning. Although my level of output is questionable.
All in all, an enjoyable time. I would do it again, although I would do it a little differently. And I would make sure to add in more walking around time and talking to people time, which was a great part of the weekend. I do wish I had spent a little more time in the 'game room' (aka-lobby) playing some of the board and card games. And I should have gone to more of the talks, but when there is 300 hours of programming in basically a 48 hour period, you can't see it all.
Hopefully there are no embarrassing pictures of me anywhere. At least nothing more embarrassing than the face I made 'falling' into Earnie Cline's DeLorean. Best comment I heard during the con? "When a woman dressed as Black Widow asks you to do something, you do it." Worst? "MOOOOVE" being yelled by someone in a rather large and complicated costume who decided everyone needed to get out of their way.
|Thursday, April 24th, 2014|
School makes you take things you don't want to take, for reasons that they are "providing a broad instructional foundation." This weekend I will have to do my final programming assignment in Ruby. I really do not like Ruby for the reason that my introduction to it was less than pleasant. For those that remember, Ruby v1.8 used to come stock with RedHat/Centos/whatever RPM based distro you were running. The programmers I worked with all wanted v1.9 which meant time was spent recompiling the SRPMS, and writing a few files by hand to make things clean. Only to find out the 1.9 base was releasing a version every few weeks. And then I hit the gem dependency. I had to use a gem that only worked on a certain 1.9.x release, but they also required a different gem that worked only on 1.9.y. I was stumped. I had no way to do this. And absolutely no way to figure out HOW they had it working anywhere because of the obvious dependency issue. The only answer I got was "It works on my Ubuntu". I didn't use Ubuntu in production and I wasn't going to change my infrastructure just to make this one thing work. After a few meetings of getting thrown under the bus one of the gem writers fixed their code and I was able to get the main distro, and the gems, installed. And I could never update anything after that....
So this weekend I need to do battle with my old nemesis again, this time from the programmer perspective. And I hope I can get this done quickly and not spend the weekend screaming at my computer screen. The semester ends in 2 weeks so I do not have much time to do this. Next weekend I will be at PenguiCon
, so this is my final weekend for class work!
|Monday, April 7th, 2014|
|Spring has sprung, maybe
Spring has arrived, mostly. The days get warmer but the nights are still chilly. I cannot wait for the warm spring and summer and walking around on campus enjoying the weather. I still have to grab my coat before heading over to the student center, hopefully soon I wont need the coat. This weekend I started working on the yard, rather slowly, and picked up dog poop. It wasn't a big improvement, but it was something. I have to get a new lawnmower this year. Last year the mower deck rotted away to the point that my welded brackets couldn't keep it from flexing any longer. The last few times I cut the lawn, I could hear the blade "pinging" on the deck as it flexed turning around the edges of the yard. More than 10 years isn't bad for a cheapo sub $200 lawnmower. I will get another cheap one. I am convinced the walking around is better for me than riding around.
Penguicon is in another month and I have a dog show in 2 weeks to help out at. Its going to be a busy few weeks coming up. Current Mood: Working
|Tuesday, March 25th, 2014|
Back to vi. *sigh* Current Mood: Annoyed
|Friday, March 7th, 2014|
Its fun to take exams from professors that do not speak English well. They often forget articles that can completely change the meaning of a sentence. "What is Communications Protocol?" is very different than "What is A Communications Protocol?". The former isn't even really a question, but my own interpretation lead me to think he wanted a definition of what a communications protocol was, not an example.
The next question was even more confusing because it did make sense, only everyone got it wrong. "What layer of the OSI model makes the physical connection between source and destination?" No, its not the physical layer. If you take the word "physical" out of the question and try again, you would probably guess "Network Layer : 3" which is correct. Only that word "physical" in the question completely changes the meaning.
Throw in some questions about Token Ring and I got more than I would have liked to get incorrect. I did fine (B) overall, but I do feel a little cheated. I will have to remember the odd questions when its time to take the final exam. If the question is missing an article, or the phrasing looks weird, I should ask for clarification. That wouldn't have helped me with Token Ring, that is a black hole I refuse to spend brain cells on. I'll lose the points there.
|Tuesday, February 25th, 2014|
|I am the operator of my pocket calculator
I had to buy a new calculator this weekend. The math in Networking class has gotten too complex to do on my phone. Or at least to do on my phone with any kind of speed. If I have to keep waking my phone up, starting the calculator, changing it from basic to scientific, that is going to add way too much time to my test. So I got a $9 one from Target. I have no idea what 1/2 the buttons do. I spent part of the weekend re-learning how to do logs and solving for X in a log equation. This class is pretty evenly split between memorization of facts (fiber optic frequencies are 850, 1300 and 1550 nm) and complicated math formulas (MDW = W*Log2(1 + S/N) SN in db = 10Log10(S/N)). Maybe that one isn't so complicated, but having failed Calculus more times than anyone really should, its complicated to me. Amazingly if I just take my time and go slow, it is not too bad. I occasionally mess up forgetting to turn kbytes into bytes, or on the last few problems I decided that 47x10^6 was Gb, instead of Mb. Those are my mistakes, and I accept them. I'll just have to remember to go slow on the test. Its been quite a few years since my last college exam (>14 years) so I am a little nervous about it.
What drives me most crazy, and I have yet to find an answer for, is the vagueness of some of the questions. Example - "Calculate the transmission time and propagation delay of X bytes over Y meters of cable at Z Mbps". What kind of cable? That is pretty important in the calculations. I always seem to guess wrong. Another one was "What protocol is used for web pages? A) HTTP, B) TCP/IP, C) UDP" Umm... Well, application protocol is A. Network protocol is B although I am pretty sure you can do HTTP over UDP if you wanted. I sort of got the impression it was asking application protocol so the answer was A, but really that is a bad question. And this book is just full of that sort of thing.
One more night of studying and test is tomorrow. I have to do well on this. I passed in my assignment for another class only to discover what I thought was an artifact of the screenshot program used to take the web page screenshots (assignment was more or less "write code that makes pages like this") was really something the professor really wanted in there. Whoops.
And so, as I go back to studying, I leave with this.
|Wednesday, February 19th, 2014|
|Didn't I just say that?
One thing I forgot about working in large groups is that occasionally you say something and then a week or so later, hear that pronouncement almost word for word at a large meeting from another person as if it was an original idea. Luckily I find stuff like that funny because sometimes I am flat out wrong, learning lots of new information between my speaking and their repeating, and it amuses me to hear someone repeat my flat out wrong assessment. Current Mood: amused
|Thursday, February 6th, 2014|
|Snow Days and ISPs
Snow days are weird when you get older. As a kid I was always excited when it was a snow day. I got to stay home and do fun stuff. Now I am sort of annoyed by snow days. It means shoveling the driveway (well, snowblowing anyway), making sure pipes don't freeze, keeping the water heater from turning itself off randomly, and otherwise sitting on a sofa with nothing really to do but think of all the things I SHOULD be doing if I was at work. I am sure 10 year old me cannot fathom thinking about wanting to go TO work instead of staying home. Coincidentally the two days off so far were both days I had class, so that was also cancelled. 10 year old me would probably kick older me in the shins for not only wanting to go to work, but to class as well.
Its different when the weather is warmer. I have so many house projects to complete that if it was warmer, I would be busy.
One of the good things of being home is the amount of "BS" I can get done quickly when not in the office. Email responses, reading news sites, watching a few training videos. Or I could have, if Internet had not gone out. I should have done that first, then dug my car out. Instead I dug out the car and came back into to find out it had gone out. Annoying isn't it? Now that its back on, I have finished dealing with email and getting a few minor tasks out of the way. So I took a few minutes to read the Bob Metcalfe AMA on Reddit. And found this nugget of wisdom:
I guess I need to redo all my networks. If ethernet cable is anything like Porsches, then yellow is faster.
|Thursday, January 30th, 2014|
|I was framed.
Last nights class was the beginning of "the hard stuff". The issue I always have with taking networking classes and training is I know a lot but little depth. The first few days are always "boring" and the last days are hard but I didn't pay enough attention in the first few to have the last few make sense. I am really making an effort to stay in the game this time. Sure I know the OSI model
front and back, but if I didn't pay attention to THIS teaching of the OSI I would have missed a few instructor comments that tied into later discussions.
The first half the class was spent on frame dissection and the second half was messing with Wireshark
, a little theory and a little practice. I've used Wireshark many many times before, and I am pretty familiar with the operation. Only in the past I was usually looking at the connection only to see if it happened, and then paying attention to the payloads. When troubleshooting why someone was unable to get their mail via IMAP, I would have to see the client requests and server responses. I usually ignored the frame sections. It was pretty cool to now know what all that "stuff" above the payload was. Not to mention Wireshark has much more packet regex tools than I remember, and those come in handy when looking at a 5 minute sniff that turns out to be a few thousand packets, but I only care about a dozen or so.
In other news, my water heater keeps turning off. This house was NOT built for more than an occasional day at 0 degrees. After a few days of single digits, the water heater trips. I have a feeling its the fuel gelling in the supply lines, although that is a little hard to diagnose. I purchased a bit of additive for externally stored oil tanks and I hope that helps. My tank isn't "outside", but I doubt the shed its in is a great insulator. This summer I will really have to do a tear down/rebuild and insulate that tank and water heater area better. And while I'm in there I should fix the tank gauge. Right now it always reads 3/8 tank, not very useful. The good news is I have fixed the freezing pipe. Its been a while and no more freezing of water in the bathroom. It was only a temporary fix, I will do a better job come spring/summer, but for now, it will work.
I find it very amusing that I always have energy to do tasks, when I cannot do them. I am gung-ho to replace that pipe and fix the shed NOW, but I bet once summer comes I will be less enthusiastic. Current Mood: energetic
|Monday, January 27th, 2014|
|Classes and Cold
I feel like either administrators or students are much wimpier than they were in previous years. Not to rehash the old "I walked to school uphill, both ways" story, but the number of times we have closed this year because of snow seems stupidly high. And closing because of cold? I have never heard of that before.
Interestingly, this parallels my own issues at home, and the complaints I have. Houses, it seems, are built for "average" rather than for extremes. Last year we had a huge amount of snow. So much that roofs were collapsing because of snow load. I have some fun cracks in sheetrock where there was some flexing, but nothing tragic seems to have happened. This winter it is colder than usual, with more weeks of 0 degree nights, and I have had more plumbing issues and heating issues than I did last year. So far I have had a bathroom pipe freeze more than 10 nights, 5 of them were in a row, before I finally punched a hole in the wall to fix the problem. [The issue is an un-insulated and undersized T fitting - I insulated it, but haven't replaced it yet.] The water heater also keeps turning itself off. I *THINK* I solved that issue too, but I am not very good with oil fed appliances, so I could be wrong. The issue was the "shed" that holds the water heater was very poorly insulated. Not a problem during most years but when a good subzero wind is blowing for 24 hours straight, it was freezing the oil line due to some rather large cracks in the door jamb. I used some foam core and fiberglass to fix that. Its ugly, but its working. Again, something to replace this spring.
The point of all that rambling is that when you design a system, you need to design for the extremes. You cannot design for the average. The average temperature on the moon is around -25C. During the day it can get to over 100C and at night it can go to -150C or colder. If you build a robot only to deal with the average, you are not going to survive even one complete day/night cycle. I doubt that is the issue with the Jade Rabbit, but it does show that not planning for extremes will eventually come to haunt you.
Built houses better, build schools better, plan for too hot, too cold, and high water near the coast. I am tired of hearing about these 100 year storms every few years, and excuses as to why no one is prepared. I am going to start improving my house considerably this spring, although its going to take a few years.
On another note, I absolutely love taking notes on graph paper. I got some spiral bound graph paper notebooks for my classes and they are fantastic. The graph squares come in considerable handy when drawing tables for Manchester/Differential Manchester Encoding. I am not the greatest artist, and those little lines helped. Current Mood: chipper
|Thursday, January 16th, 2014|
|A tale of 3 servers
I was here late last night, and here early today. Why? Because it was the server week from hell. I had 3 down at the same time yesterday, and each of them provided a little bit of knowledge. Some new, some reminder, and amazingly all were completely different causes despite the similar circumstances/symptoms.
First up to act up was a "cluster" of two machines. I believe the intent was to make them redundant but in reality they were both undersized so when one would crash, the 2nd could not handle the load and it would crash too. Great software, huh? I am only slightly shocked the software behaves this poorly. I have noticed the more you pay for custom software, the worse in general it behaves with things out of the ordinary. During this time I also discovered some home written software that if it cannot connect to one of these two machines also crashes. Nice error checking, eh? Since this was student registration software, and it is the first week of classes, there is no doubt it was being "hammered". (The scale of "hammered" is small to me, coming from an ISP, but here it is considered quite a large amount of requests) In the end we got both servers back online and behaving. The underlying causes was something with java and the developers/application administrators took care of it. The take away lesson is, if you plan on having redundancy, make sure either/any of your machines can handle the full load. At the very lest, a loss of 1 shouldn't result in the loss of all.
The second was the online trouble ticket system. How do you open a trouble ticket when the trouble ticket system is down? That joke never gets old. The system, another one paid tons of money for, turned out to be a set of perl CGI pages and a back end Oracle DB. What I had a hard time getting across to the rest of the department was that if Apache throws an error, it does not mean Apache is the issue. In fact, the error clearly stated "Cannot connect to DB". Unfortunately the Oracle DBA has a bit more seniority than I, so when he says its not his issue, I have to spend a good 2 hours poking/prodding until I can prove it is, in fact, his issue. 10 minutes work in that area and ta-da, the ticket system is back. The take away from that? "Don't believe the DBA."
Lastly was the most complicated of the beasts. And its still giving me guff this morning. There is a very old and rather complicated system that does both web space for students (html programming classes) and a windows shared space for them. Probably a decent idea in 2003, not such a great idea in 2013. Also in the mix is the philosophy of "once a student, always a student". That means I have over 150,000 accounts on that system and the /home drive, while not huge (only 1TB as we only give the students 20MB of space) is almost full and chock full of files. The fsck I needed to run took over 2 hours just to get through the inode and file check. The problem I was having is that it is a Xen instance on a clustered master array. Something very bad happened to it, and it locked up hard. And rebooted. And then rebooted. And rebooted again. Each time it was making the situation worse. I had a plan though, I would tell it to shut down and reboot in single user mode to fix whatever needed it, run fsck, and all should be fine. Only when I started the shutdown on one master Xen server, another server unit would see it go down and spin it back up for me. How nice. No amount of configuration poking would make this behavior stop. I have explicitly told Xen to NOT spin it back up. (on_poweroff = "destroy", on_reboot = "destroy") Yet it would still move around, rebooting when I didn't want it too. I finally managed to catch it on a reboot, run fsck (the previously mentioned 2 hours) and then reboot it once more. Its behaving mostly, and by behaving I mean I have to bounce it every 36 hours or so as samba just stops working, but thats better than locking up completely. It needs a rebuild/redesign and I do have hardware coming for it this spring. The lessons here? 1. Education institutions move SLOW when it comes to new IT projects. 2. Plan to revisit systems. Just because its a great idea/design in one year, doesn't mean that it will be a great design/idea 10 years later. 3. VM technology is all similar in concept, and completely different in practice. 4. Don't ever let Computer Science faculty get your office number.
Now off to enjoy the last few minutes of peace and quite before the campus starts filling up with people. I forgot how much I enjoy walking around on a quite campus in early morning or late at night. That was a good thing to rediscover this week. Current Mood: Tired
|Monday, January 6th, 2014|
|A new year - a new start
Welcome 2014. It is time for me version 2.0. What is version 2.0 you ask? One that isn't quite such a laze-a-bout in areas not related to work. I left the ISP in 2013, and went to work for a hedge fund. That did great things for my work productivity (kick starting me into working on some projects and other geek-nerdy related things) but the drive was killing me and did little for my home projects, seeing family, or anything really. So I quit that and now working at a state university. Yes, I am back in higher ed. And loving every minute of it. Sure there are days of slack, but I am making my mind work hard keeping up to date on all sorts of things. The biggest of which is grad school. I start classes in a week. Yes, I am going to be a 40+ year old CS grad. Not sure what that says about me, but it'll be entertaining at the least, educational for sure, and I suspect a good time. I always liked class. And I think class could be an amusing thing to write about in here.
This week I remembered what I DIDN'T like about college. I had to visit the bookstore. My Networking book is $180 new / $90 used. I was really hoping in this day and age we would be working on kindles/nooks and we could rent books per semester for less than $50. I did get a cheapy Android 7" tablet in the fall but its not exactly a great reader, so I still use my kindle touch for books. What can I expect for $30? In the end it doesn't matter much as I still have to get a hardbound text written by the professor. Which seems a little bit like a scam to me.
I also just spent 30 minutes at the gym. One of the great things of being on a college campus is having access to a cheap gym at work. Right now its between sessions so it is empty. Once the semester starts I'll have to feel out the busy/non busy times.
So - me version 2.0 : smarter, faster, better? Just call me Steve Austin. Current Mood: Mixed
|Wednesday, March 5th, 2008|
|Heartbeats - The Knife
One night to be confused
One night to speed up truth
We had a promise made
Four hands and then away
Both under influence
We had divine scent
To know what to say
Mind is a razor blade
To call for hands of above
To lean on
Wouldn't be good enough
For me, no
One night of magic rush
The start a simple touch
One night to push and scream
And then relief
Ten days of perfect tunes
The colors red and blue
We had a promise made
We were in love
To call for hands of above
To lean on
Wouldn't be good enough
For me, no
To call for hands of above
To lean on
Wouldn't be good enough
And you, you knew the hands of the devil
And you, kept us awake with wolf teeth
Sharing different heartbeats
In one night
To call for hands of above
To lean on
Wouldn't be good enough
For me, no
To call for hands of above
To lean on
Wouldn't be good enough
For me, no