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March 26, 2006

I updated my musicianship page with a new bass playing sample. I had last updated it about five years ago, before I did much of anything musical in San Francisco and before I started studying music in college.

Some interesting goodies from Crypto-Gram:

March 25, 2006

I went to see The Breakfast at The Connecticut Yankee. Great stuff. I'm not primarily a jam band type of guy but I really enjoyed how well they read the audience and managed the intensity level to match the folks who were doing the crazy hippie dance up front. I had fun just watching some of those people ("Who's having the best time here tonight? That guy right there."). I was super tired and starving after a long day and and early (5:30pm) dinner before band rehearsal so at 12:30am I gave up and went home. I ran into fellow SFSU music student Sam Devine on the bus home and had a quick chat and then jumped on the F streetcar, hopping off at 16th and Noe and finding La Fajita Grill still open. Sweet! Burrito before bed. Mmm. Food coma + long day + gin and tonic at the Yankee = out like a light. (Yes, one drink has that big of an effect on me, especially on an empty stomach; I drink about 2 alcoholic drinks a month, so I have no tolerance at all.)

When do gifts to journalists turn into a conflict of interest? When a New York Times writer gets his computer repaired. (David Pogue was given free services worth somewhere between $2,000 and $2,700, and gave no disclosure of this whopping gift in the subsequent review of the company that performed the services.) The Cost of a Story: Who Pays? is NPR's commentary on the story that they aired by David Pogue about DriveSavers.

Hackers Get Windows XP Onto Apple Computers. Why bother? Because some people want to run both (probably XP for games and Mac OS X for everything else) but don't want to buy two computers. I'm interested to see benchmarks and a price/performance comparison myself. Maybe that'll help the hardware angle of the Mac vs. PC religious wars to burn out a bit. Hmm, no, never mind. That'll never happen.

A phishing site attacks SSL at its weakest point: the user's assumptions about CA diligence: The New Face of Phishing.

Lessig: Only on Fox: All-Out Civil War In Iraq: Could It Be A Good Thing?

March 24, 2006: Shrinkin' ain't easy.

I know everybody's probably tired of reading about my server issues so I'll keep this short. The replacement 80GB drives I ordered showed up. The old ones are Maxtor 6Y080L0, the new ones are Maxtor 6L080P0. Both are advertised as 80GB, and no this is not a Gigabytes/Gibibytes issue. The issue is that they are advertised as 80GB (80 billion bytes / 74.51 GiB), and they both can store slightly more than 80,000,000,000 bytes, but the new model has less storage capacity than the old model. The new model will store 80,026,361,856 bytes / 74.53GiB whereas the older model will store 81,964,302,336 bytes / 76.34GiB. So, I couldn't just stick one of the replacement drives in and rebuild the RAID mirror. I had to back up and then shrink the largest LVM logical volume on the old drive (and the filesystem on it, and the RAID device under it, and the partition under that). I spent a couple of hours planning and measuring and calculating and reading and backing things up and verifying the backup very carefully, and then went for it, and it worked! That is, it worked until I rebooted (always a good thing to do for testing after a major low-level change). On reboot, the RAID mirror wasn't found but LVM somehow found the volumes on it anyway, and the logical volume that I had shrunken was hosed (found but not readable or writable, even with dd). I undid the partition table change and everything came back except for the shrunken filesystem which couldn't be repaired, so I ended up just recreating it one LE smaller than before and restoring all the backed-up files to it. It's fine now (whew), but the big lesson learned here is that I should have just bought a substantially larger (100GB or so) replacement drive to avoid this. I'd rather have to worry about what to do with that 20GB of extra space and have my Thursday back.

A second lesson is that when a fan (or something else in a server) starts making ugly noises, fix it immediately. I found that the fan that had been making sickly wheezing and rattling noises on and off for a few weeks was the one that was in the removable drive tray with the drive that failed. I doubt this is a coincidence; there are two fans in the tray but they are in series as far as airflow is concerned, so if one failed, there would be minimal airflow. I'm not sure if it was temperature, electrical irregularity, vibration, or some combination of those, but I bet that the dying fan is what killed the drive. I could have saved a ton of time by pulling the server out and tracking down that noise, and just removing the fan as I have now (letting the other fan do its job unobstructed). I had meant to get around to installing the appropriate lm_sensors drivers, which make it possible to read the hardware temperature sensors and fan RPM sensors that are built into modern motherboards. That would have at least told me that it wasn't the main case fans or CPU fan that were making the noise. But, I never did install them, and now it's too late for that info to save the drive.

March 23, 2006: Son of a plague of gremlins

Back in my November 27th entry I described how I finally got over my fear of having to properly run mkinitrd on my main Linux server at home so that I could keep up to date with kernel updates. Every month or so, when I needed a software package of some kind (or had to update something), usually for work purposes, I'd do the big "update everything except the kernel", make sure it was all happy, and then update the kernel and run mkinitrd and reboot. At some point I decided to join the 2.6 kernel family, and that was interesting because I found that in their wisdom the Linux kernel maintaining weenies decided that some things regarding what kernel modules to load (for stuff like drivers) should be specified in a different file (now /etc/modprobe.conf instead of /etc/modules.conf), and that you should figure this out by rebooting and having it fail, and then reading and fixing it yourself by hand. Even better, the file format changed slightly, and the new format is well documented for odd requirements but is lacking the simplest possible case which is "I just need this module". Oh, and the Debian people moved things around to make it easier, and if you want to customize things without problems next time you do a kernel upgrade you have to know that you need to create a file that doesn't exist by default and put it somewhere specific and it'll be found. And the utility that can migrate your old configuration files to the new format and location is gzipped and not located on your PATH; actually it's buried in a documentation examples directory. So that was kind of a pain in the butt, but after a few needlessly wasted hours and about two dozen reboots trying to get it to load the modules my server needs in order to work, I got it working. Did I mention that there's no utility to test the file format or to tell you what it would do, except the kernel itself, which only reads this stuff when you reboot? So you have to reboot to test it. Joy.

So this was okay for a while. Then I decided to try the new VMware Server, which, like all hosted-on-Linux VMware products, needs to compile some modules that let it do its funky device access stuff. It didn't work. Why not? Well, there's some background info required in order to understand why not.

I had read with dismay over the past couple of years about the sad state of x86_64 support in the Debian project. AMD has 81.5% market share in the desktop market, and I don't know what share of those processors are 64-bit, but I imagine that it's a lot of them. There was a Debian AMD64 port project, which appears to have graduated from that experimental sandbox and become an "unofficial stable release". Okay, so if you understand that the Debian folks are Vorlon-like in their rather conservative definition of stability, it may make sense that living with a "testing" release is the choice that I made. Sadly the migration path has thus far consisted of reinstalling from scratch. So I decided to hang back and live in 32-bit land, wasting some potential CPU performance but not having to reinstall. At some point I upgraded to this kernel. As far as I can tell, that's an AMD x86_64 kernel that runs in 64 bit mode but with a 32-bit i386 userspace, meaning that everything that isn't the kernel or a kernel module is unchanged. I certainly didn't have to update thousands of packages in order to install that kernel. In theory this is kind of cool because some operations in kernel space would be faster, but I wouldn't have to worry about mixing x86-64 and 32-bit x86 libraries and programs and headers on the same system.

Well, VMWare's modules wouldn't compile, and an hour or so of reading forum and newsgroup and mailing list archives leads me to believe that the VMware installer just won't work; they want a 32-bit kernel, or (assuming there is such a thing) a 64-bit kernel that can load and use 32-bit modules. There are all sorts of patches and prepackaged modules that are supposed to make it work. They don't. Somewhere along the way, at something like the 2 hour point, I got the impression that if I were to install 32-bit kernel sources and headers and make a separate build environment I might be able to build a 32-bit module and then try and load it in the 64-bit kernel, but I decided that I could just downgrade to a 32-bit kernel again much more quickly.

Wrong. Kernel image 2.6.15-1-k7 complains about "Incompatible libdevmapper" for some odd reason. I searched for solutions but found none that seemed applicable, and never got that kernel to boot. Kernel image 2.6.8-2-k7 boots but won't mount my Serial ATA hard drive at boot time (the other 2.6 kernel does, which suggests that my config files are right), but it does run /etc/init.d/ and /etc/init.d/modutils. If I run those after it boots, they suddenly discover that hey, I have this Serial ATA interface and there's a drive on it that needs to be mounted. No idea why that doesn't happen at boot time. I was sort of okay with limping along like that (and adding a hacky script to run those two scripts after booting, such as in a daily cron job) but after about 36 hours of uptime I got a ton of disk error messages on the console and the machine was effectively hung and I had to reboot. So, I'm back on the 2.6.8-11-amd64-k8 kernel, no VMware for me.

During several of these many reboots I got an email saying that a "DegradedArray event" had happened on /dev/md0. Okay, that's bad. That means that my RAID 1 (mirror) array on that server was unhappy. That's where the root filesystem and most of the data (everything except MP3s and an old VMware Workstation disk image) on that server are. As it turns out, the mirror has been failed since November. Whoa! Thanks for waiting 5 months to let me know that. Grr. I have to reboot to find out that my RAID mirror failed? Even stranger, I was able to just re-add the removed drive to the mirror, and in 45 minutes or so it had duplicated all of the data and the mirror was complete again. Whew. Gotta keep an eye on that, I thought.

That was how I wasted last Thursday, and some of Saturday (the 36-hours delayed failure part). I could have been working & making money, or practicing music, or doing homework, or writing music, or any number of other worthy pursuits, but instead I was putzing around with a server in ways that I would really rather not have to putz.

On Monday morning, the drive that had been removed since November failed utterly, making an unpleasant scraping noise. The server was up and running but it was very clear that the drive had failed and had been removed. I tried to re-add it and there were a bunch of I/O errors and it failed to re-add the drive to the mirror. Wondering if this was a dying fan making the noise and a brain damaged kernel making the drive seem to have failed, I rebooted. Now it can't find the drive at all. Okay, it's really dead. I should have had an identical spare drive on hand but I didn't. I ordered two new drives of the same size and they should arrive today.

Shawn tells me that Ubuntu allows a straight upgrade - just add their servers to sources.list and do a dist-upgrade. I'll probably do that after I get the RAID mirror up again, maybe even using the RAID layer as a backup strategy (i.e. rebuild the mirror, pull a drive, insert the spare, rebuild again to the spare, swap it out again so it's now an offline backup drive, and then upgrade to Ubuntu). If it doesn't work I can always just reboot from one of the mirrored backup copies and rebuild the mirror based on that, overwriting the unwanted Ubuntu installation. I might wait on this until next week or some other time when I have a whole day available to try it out and possibly revert to a backup if it doesn't work.

March 19, 2006

Sad: The spreading meme of IP extremism (via Lessig). Funny: German coast guard TV commercial (via Kim).

March 14, 2006

Tech journalists have mentioned the Osborne Effect in relation to Apple's Intel migration. Of course I want a MacBook Pro but some of my most important apps aren't available in Universal form yet so I'm not in a hurry. In fact some of the software vendors out there are themselves making me not want to update to their current release because I'm waiting for the next one which will be Universal: this Sibelius 4.1 tech note is a good example. Yeah I want Sibelius 4 (Sibelius 3 is excellent but I'd like some of the new features) but what's the point in buying it now, when Sibelius 5 will be the Universal release?

An even more pronounced example is Adobe's statement that they won't make the CS2 versions of apps Universal, which has led to (or supported) some fairly farfetched conclusions.

'Press Your Luck' Host Visited By Grim Whammy: game show host Peter Tomarken has died in a plane crash. I watched this show when I was a kid. Big money big money no whammies!

Wanna waste some time, and you're bored with NewGrounds, gprime, YouTube, and of course YTMND? Try The Amusing Bass/Guitars Index. Since I'm sort of a bass collector I look at a few of these and almost want to own 'em... almost.

The critical hatin' on Ultraviolet continues: Shirk The Violet. (Aw man, now that I've said hatin', now I have to watch the Player Haters Ball again.)

Funny: James Lipton reads Popozao (via Tero but a different video link)

March 9, 2006

A rich guy crashes in a fancy car, possibly while drunk, possibly while not actually driving, and tells the police an unlikely story. The plot outline sounds familiar and boring, but somehow this time it's interesting. Of course I'm talking about the Enzo crash in Malibu (thanks to Tero for that link; I originally saw the story via Faisal). It belongs to Stefan Eriksson. The overhead photo shot tells a pretty interesting story: the big black streak on the road left by the tumbling engine (presumably spewing oil the whole time) is about a hundred yards long. I don't know how much an Enzo's engine block weighs but I do have a hunch that it's not round and bouncy. Try and imagine that you're in a parking lot. How hard would you have to throw a soccer ball to make it go 100 yards? Now imagine that times several hundred pounds of oddly shaped oily sharp hot metal, bouncing erratically down the highway. I'd guess that it wouldn't make it that far unless some of the bounces were pretty high. I'm pretty curious what half a car must have looked like bouncing down the road in front of it. The police have a computer simulation that shows the beginning of the crash, though.

Speaking of computer simulations, Hans sent me this overview of A Day In United States Airspace. The animated air traffic video is particularly cool, though I wish they had kept the US map as the background.

To the shock of no one, the Metreon isn't living up to expectations and is being sold.

If you want to install LAME on Debian, go here. Read the FAQ for the GPG key to avoid messages during apt-get update.

From Kim: ipod hoodies. Replaced by CGI, please help!

March 8, 2006

I had a very nice day at school, in which everybody seemed friendlier and more favorable to me than usual (is it the nice weather?), topped off by an SFSU Wind Ensemble performance that was the best I've seen. On the way home, I started thinking about what I wanted for lunch, since I had been in nonstop classes and studying and a meeting with some students from my speech class and this concert from 8am-2pm without a break for even a teeny snack. Hmm... Hoagie. Yess... but what's the main ingredient? I'm a vegetarian so it's not gonna be sliced beef. Shrooms! Yum. Since I figured Kim would want some I kept the ingredients vegan. Basically that means no cheese and Vegenaise instead of mayo.

In many ways I'm a total control freak, but cooking is not one of them. I tend to pick the basic ingredients, and then improvise based on what's around in the kitchen. Since this was basically a Philly cheesesteak (minus the steak, and the cheese!) I decided to stay with savory steak-sauce flavors. Here's what I came up with, which was OMFG so yummy that I had to share it.

Savory Spicy Vegan Mushroom Hoagie

1/2 large yellow onion
1 green bell pepper
1 bunch (~12 stalks) green onions
2 portobello mushrooms

1 tbsp peanut oil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp Sriracha hot chili sauce (aka Vietnamese pho sauce)
1/2 tbsp jerk seasoning (<- dude, we've had that stuff in our pantry for ten years!)
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp minced garlic

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

6 sourdough sandwich rolls
1/4 cup Vegenaise

Dice the yellow onion, green bell pepper, portobello mushrooms (without the stems), and green onions (the middle part that goes from light green to white).

In a hot skillet, heat the peanut oil, oregano, basil, hot chili sauce, jerk seasoning, maple syrup, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and garlic. (Feel free to improvise with these ingredients, but make sure to keep something sweet like the maple syrup in the mix to balance out the hot and savory ingredients.) Stir until it's well mixed and hot.

Add the vegetables and mix thoroughly. (I poured the sauce into the glass bowl the vegetables were in and then dumped that back into the skillet.) Sauté for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Stick your nose in the skillet and inhale deeply. Get excited about how good it's gonna be. Add the nutritional yeast and stir some more. Sauté some more until the water is mostly gone.

Toast the sandwich rolls. It's a good idea to cut them in a "V" shape instead of straight across, to create a little trough for the filling to go in.

Put about 2 tsp of Vegenaise on each sandwich. You'll probably want to use a little more than you ordinarily would, because the toasted bread will be pretty dry and the spiced veggies with sauce will be very flavorful. The Vegenaise balances both of those out nicely.

Even better, I just noticed that Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Widescreen Two-Disc Deluxe Edition) on DVD just showed up today. Yay! And there are two new episodes of Samurai Champloo recorded and waiting to be watched. There's a show that I didn't like the first time, but once I made myself watch a whole episode I got hooked. It's clearly pretty teen-oriented but the story is pretty good, and though each episode is slow at first, they always pick up momentum toward the end. (I like Jin best, of course.) I'm a Shinichiro Watanabe fan now, I guess; I love Cowboy Bebop too. Kim and I are starting to recognize the voice actors too; there are some in Bebop that were also in Trigun (another favorite).

March 4, 2006

Aw man, I was all set to like this movie. Via Faisal, reviews of Ultraviolet include "Milla Jovovich's abs are the only reason to suffer through Kurt Wimmer's monotonous sci-fi mess" and "An unholy combination of comic book and video game... so awful that you'd swear it had been directed by Uwe Boll." Who?

Oh dear. This guy. He's directed a bunch of movies that I saw posters or trailers for and said "ugh, no way am I watching that!" IMDB user ratings of his films aren't pretty. BloodRayne: 2.2. House of the Dead: 2.1. Alone in the Dark: 2.2. Oh look! Here's an exception: Blackwoods got a relatively welcoming 4.9. The new stuff he's working on looks like it's all cheesy film adaptations of video games, which in case anybody hadn't noticed usually have incredibly thin, contrived storylines designed to tie together action and explain why the bad guys deserve to be blown up, shot, stabbed, etc. Video games are not a source of deep and moving plotlines, or even coherent plotlines, or interesting characters.

Oh look, there's even an Uwe Boll movie based on Dungeon Siege, which is one of the many computer games I've played for 20 hours or so and then shelved permanently due to boredom. It's In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale. I like Jason Statham, for a number of reasons, and there are quite a few other actors I like in this movie. Heck, basically almost all of the stars of this film are people I like. So this one's a real mystery. Gonna suck? Hmm. Yeah, probably. But maybe not as badly as the rest of his movies.

Why do I like Jason Statham? Well, mainly because I liked The Transporter (which was worked on by Luc Besson, Stanley Clarke, and Robert Mark Kamen, all of whom I like), and he was great in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. But I also like having a protagonist to identify with who looks like me in the not-so-much-hair department. He's a good looking, very fit action hero type who has male pattern baldness and keeps his hair trimmed short. The world (and especially Hollywood) needs more examples of men who have male pattern baldness who don't end up getting hair transplants or wearing toupees or wigs just to feel like they're masculine and attractive. Hair-ism isn't a word but if it was, I'd say that I like him because he's a frontline soldier in the war against hair-ism (along with Bruce Willis, The Rock, Jerry Doyle, and a few others).

March 1, 2006

Usually I'm not a big fan but this time I think Ted Rall has it right.

The Office is coming to France.

The Flip4Mac player lets you watch Windows Media in the Quicktime Player, which is a much nicer (less bloaty, better transport controls) player than the Windows Media player. It's free.

I like this sarcastic 7x7 magazine review. They've been sending us free copies and it's just a fluffy socialite rag of the sort you find in hotel lobbies. You know, the ones that make you feel like there is a caste system in the USA after all and you're peeking in on the level above you, where there are all these "famous" people you've never heard of who've never actually done anything and have nothing interesting about them except that somebody in this magazine you've never seen before seems to think that they are worth keeping track of. Where cultivating good taste and writing about this awesome opening of somethingorother you were invited to is the only profession, and non-whites mysteriously fail to appear in photographs like vampires from a mirror. That stuff. Their restaurants issue is adequate but not really any better than the free weeklies, or Yelp for that matter.