Yearly Archives: 2007

Photographic Evidence

I can throw things with accuracy!

[snowball impacts]

Five throws, four hits in an area maybe four inches wide and eighteen inches tall from about 90 feet. Funny thing is that I was throwing off my porch while grilling up a steak, and there was no room for follow through, so it was all arm.

Goals Update

Reconnect with my guitar – Accomplished! I've been playing pretty regularly over the past few months, and have learned a few songs along the way. I've had the Carvin strung up baritone-style, which has helped learn some In Flames, Dethklok, and Unearth songs. I've added another goal in the Ongoing section to make sure I keep playing.

Buying a house – Yah, that one hasn't done anywhere. My lease is up at the end of the year, so there's no way I'm going to make that happen. I've shifted it to a Medium-Term goal, since I'll probably renew here for another year and give myself the opportunity to look for a place at a more relaxed pace.

Being social – I was doing pretty well with this one for a while, but have been reverting a bit recently. Boo.

Everything else has stayed pretty flat, without much progress or improvement.

That is all.

Wildlife Encroaches

Just caught this guy outside my porch window…

[Hawk #1]

[Hawk #2]

[Hawk #3]

I do enjoy this apartment.


In some of the best music news I’ve heard in a long while, Jon Schaffer recently announced that Matt Barlow is rejoining Iced Earth. I have nothing against Tim Owens whatsoever. He’s a great vocalist. As far as I am concerned, however, Iced Earth is not complete without Matt Barlow on vocals. They are once again whole.

I Am The Winner

The saga with my receiver is over. Circuit City finally decided to give me a new receiver. This was after yet another trip back to their repair facility (its fourth total). I got lucky and had one of the Circuit City folks on my side. I dealt with the same guy on my previous three trips in there, so he was quite familiar with my issue. This meant he was as confused as I am when he brought my old receiver up to me at the customer service desk and it had a “cancelled” sticker on it, indicating that the repair order was cancelled at the repair facility. Apparently they couldn't find the defect. I have to wonder exactly how they tested it, because it was clear as day to me. Attach a video device to a S-Video input, attach display to S-Video monitor out. Observe broken picture. Done.

Anyway, the Circuit City guy agreed that it was pretty shitty that they couldn't find my problem, so he said that if I could demonstrate the issue to a tech there, he would honor the replacement clause of the service plan I bought for the thing. He grabbed one of the senior associate types (who was also very cool), and I showed the issue to him. He agreed that a receiver shouldn't do that, so a new receiver was mine. The replacement plan gave me a $500 store credit, so I got the newest Onkyo receiver model in the same vein as my previous model (TX-SR605), which was $499. This one has a few more goodies like HDMI support, which is cool. I ended up getting the replacement plan on that one as well, since having to go through this whole deal without it would have sucked even more.

Streamlining the AoE boot process

A while back, I created a post on my successes with getting a workstation to boot off the network using an ATA over Ethernet (AoE) target as its root filesystem. My previous attempt required a good amount of manual intervention to get the initrd prepared. The boot process relied on gPXE to load the kernel and initrd from a TFTP server, which worked fine, but a downside of this approach is that I would need to make a new initrd and copy the new kernel over each time a new kernel package was released. With Fedora, the distro I’m using on my test machine, new kernels come out farily regularly.

While I was looking for some other piece of information, I stumbled across the means of telling gPXE how to boot directly from a AoE target without having to use TFTP to provide the kernel and initrd. This is desireable, since I wouldn’t need to do any manual intervention when new kernel updates are released. This also allows for one to install an operating system that normally isn’t network-boot-friendly, like Windows, on an AoE target. I’m not sure I would ever do that, but who knows. It might be fun.

The whole process was relatively straightforward, but I hit one major snag. The mkinitrd script that Red Hat provides doesn’t have support for AoE, so I had to write a patch to provide that support. Once that patch was in place, I was able to generate AoE-friendly initrds, and booting the OS over the network became much easier.

I documented my procedure in a wiki article so others can try it. Some of it was taken from memory, so it may not be 100% complete. My next experiment is to see if I can get Fedora to do a native install onto an AoE target.

Man, I suck.

This time…. it’s worse.


Sooo much more there than last time, which happens to be the last time I took bottles back. Definitely need to take bottles back more than once every seven months. What’s funny is that there’s a 17″ monitor on the table that’s completely obscured.

Home Theater Equipment Hates Me

So, in an eerie repeat of what happened approximately 9 months ago, my receiver decided to die. It died in the exact same fashion as it did previously, with all S-Video related video channels going south. I'm really getting tired of this crap. I have all of my Home Theater crap running through one of those overly expensive Monster surge supressing and line conditioning power strips, so I can't really believe that my stuff keeps dying due to bad power. Whatever it is, it's pissing me off.

I took it into Circuit City today to get it fixed. This is the third time that it's been taken in and subsequently sent off to their repair centers for the exact same issue. I told the lady at the desk that I wanted a replacement, and as expected, she said that she couldn't do that without receiving a notification from the repair center that it was beyond repair. Talk about crap.

Does anyone know if there is some sort of lemon law that covers stuff like this?

Complete Overkill

This past saturday I spent the whole day at work. Over twelve hours. The day was boring for the most part, tedious, and I even fell asleep once or twice at my desk. Not good you say? The thing is, I wasn’t working. I was migrating data off my personal RAID array so that i could expand it to encompass the second RAID cabinet that I just finished acquiring disks for.

This whole saga goes back to the beginning of the summer. I was in the middle of a pretty large eBay binge, all the while buying tons of compter stuff I didn’t really need. While I certainly didn’t need the stuff, having it around has allowed me to further my knowledge in things like Xen and play with other cool technologies like ATA over Ethernet (AoE). Anyway, during my browsing, I came across a RAID cabinet completely loaded out with 18GB drives pretty much identical to one I had purchased earlier on. The price was pretty cheap, so I nabbed it.

The customary week passed while UPS ground transported the 100 pound-plus package from its origins on the west coast to its new home in Lansing. When it arrvied, I eagerly opened up the box and inventoried its contents, only to find that I wasn’t given all that I was promised. The RAID cabinet itself, the full compliment of twelve 18GB drives, and the mounting rails were all there, but the two external SCSI cables were missing. I promptly got in touch with the seller, and he assured me that it was just an oversight and that he would send the cables right away. Right away turned into a couple of weeks. I finally received the delivery, only to find that he had sent the wrong cables. They would easily fit into the ports on the back of the RAID card in my server, but the other end had the wrong connector type, and wouldn’t connect to the RAID enclosure. I got back in touch with the seller again, and he again promised to right the wrong, and at no charge. Well, those cables never arrived. I was ticked, but I got over it.

Over the next few months I replaced the 18GB disks with 36GB disks so that I could merge the second RAID cabinet into my current RAID array, which is comprised of 36GB disks. Used 36GB drives are relatively inexpensive on eBay so I was able to get the requisite number of disks without too much expense. I also ordered the cables that I was denied in my original purchase.

All the pieces were in place last week, so I decided to try getting everything set up. I got everything put together and connected this past thursday night, and started the process of finalizing things. The RAID card I’m using in the machine (a Compaq/HP Smart Array 5304-128) supports live expansion of an array onto new disks, so I fired up that process from the command line array management utility. I was mildly surprised that I could only extend onto seven of the twelve disks in the second RAID cabinet. I figured that it was just something in the way the expansion algorithm worked, and that I’d be able to expand onto the other disks when the initial expansion finished.

Rearranging 500GB of data on disks is not a quick process, so I had to wait a good twelve hours before I would discover that I was not able to expand the array onto those remaning five disks. I searched around for possible reasons why I was having difficulty and found nothing concrete. I did come across a blurb somewhere that mentioned RAID6 allowing for more disks than RAID5 in an array, which didn’t really seem correct to me, but I decided to try converting the array to RAID6 anyway. Another twelve hours later, I discovered that didn’t work either.

I decided to completely redo the RAID array from scratch, which leads us to last saturday. I was up pretty early, so I made myself a big breakfast and headed into work to do the deed. I got started copying the data off the RAID array, which was no quick process. It takes a while to copy over a hundred gigabytes of data. During this time, I played some games on the laptop, walked around the datacenter, chatted with people, and took a few naps. There’s a surprisingly comfortable position I’ve discovered on my desk where I can just zonk right out…. when I’m not working of course! Anyway, once the data was copied off, I recreated the RAID array and was glad to see that I could use all the disks to their full capacity.

I began the process of copying data back onto the array, and settled in for another nap. I awoke a short time later to find that one of the drives in the array had croaked. It turned out to be one of the disks in the newest group I had purchased, and not really tested all that thoroughly. A disk failure sounds bad, but in RAID6, up to two disks in the array can fail without any data loss. So, in this case, it was just an annoyance. The RAID card detected the failure and immediately started working to rebuild the failed disk’s data on one of the hot spares I have configured. This process slowed down the data transfer pretty substantially, so I was there for a lot longer than I wanted to be. I replaced the failed disk with one of my leftover disks, and the array was happy again.

So, now I have a nice RAID6 array composed of 26 36GB SCSI drives and two hot spares. It weighs in at around 860GB total, and takes up 11U worth of space on the racks at work. I find it pretty funny that there are now single SATA drives that can store more data than that entire array, but they are nowhere near as cool. I have the blinky light factor on my side, as evidenced here…

[RAID setup]

Operation: Eye Health

Here’s a short update for those that check back regularly on the status of my cybernetically-enhanced laserbeam-shooting eye. Well, it’s not really cybernetically enhanced, and it does not yet shoot laser beams, but it is doing remarkably well considering how much its been through. I had another routine checkup with Dr. Saxe last week, and he is still seeing no further evidence of the Coats’ Disease that was plaguing me beforehand. Things have been calm and stable for close to a year now (at least), and I’m still seeing the “slow 20/20” that I’ve been seeing for some time now.

To the others that read up on my situation – may your dealings with Coats’ Disease go as well as mine have.