Sunday, June 1, 2003

Well, It Is Bondage-A-Go-Go

Ugh, must start doing sit-ups again, my back is starting to bother me.

Various other thoughts that can be summarized as, “I need a girlfriend.”

Other than that, yesterday was kind of an odd one. It wasn't bad, but it kind of promised more than it delivered. I thought I might have had a lead on a job, but it just turned out to be a “business opportunity” (hence the quote in my previous entry).

Going out to Ground Zero was fairly fun, though I expected more people to show up, even though most of my social net is out of town this weekend. Oh well, I shouldn't complain, as I put zero effort into getting people to go (besides, who the hell would I call?)

Anyway, Erin put on a show with one of the guys there, which was “interesting”

Heh

There were a few parts I really enjoyed, though most of it wasn't really my style. Of course, it matters a billion times more that Erin enjoyed herself..

Well, today I am going to try and find 4 sets of 3.5" → 5.25" hard drive mounting brackets for my disk array. For some reason, they are very hard to find, at least inexpensively. I'm sure they cost like 50¢ to produce, but they charge insane prices for the things, and I usually can only find the floppy variety (which doesn't quite fit). At CompUSA last night, I found one they were selling for $15, though that included a UDMA IDE cable.. There were some less expensive ones there too, but I just can't justify spending more than a few bucks on the things.

Posted by mike at 11:57 AM | Erin , Exercise , Hardware , Music , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Consume This!

Bah, looks like the kind of pizza I like to get has disappeared at Rainbow. I wonder if that has anything to do with the fact that a lot of Rainbow stores were closed down recently. I forget exactly what the problem was, but the parent company was having financial difficulties. Rainbow is now owned by some other company (from Wisconsin, IIRC).

I was semi-fortunate to have a bagger for once. Well, he helped the cute girl in line ahead of me, but then was reluctant to do my stuff. I suppose I shouldn't complain too much, as I'm fully capable of doing it myself. Still, it's always a pain to find bags with handles there.

I can usually do a much better job of bagging, though. This guy seemed to be stoned, and didn't even fill my bags halfway. By the time I'd paid, he'd sort of done two of these bags, leaving bread and some other light groceries on the belt. I got a bit pissed off at this, and practically ripped the stuff out from under his hands and topped off the bags myself.

And don't even get me started on parking lots.. Aagh!

Anyway, my mom's going to be stopping by on her way home from Fargo to have some supper. I'll need to clean up a bit.

I just hope people don't call me right when she gets here to say they're going out.. We'll see what happens.

Woo! Finding Nemo has a 99% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

Posted by mike at 02:56 PM | Family , Food , Movies | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Monday, June 2, 2003

Accentuate the Positive

Ah well, kind of hit a down note after coming back from a nice walk this evening. I decided to IM someone who seemed to be annoyed that I wanted to chat. Oh well.

So, after sulking for a while, I popped in Blast from the Past and relaxed a bit. It's a pretty corny movie, but it's pretty funny and I think it fits Brendan Fraser pretty well. Of course, I suppose I've got a bit of a thing for Alicia Silverstone too ;-)

Yeah, I'm weird.

Well, I write far too much, so goodnight.

Posted by mike at 01:14 AM | Movies | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Drive Time

Urgh.. I finally got some hard drive mounting brackets today (I said I was going to do it yesterday, but the computer stores that have them cheap are closed on Sundays), along with a fan and some Molex Y-adapters so I could actually power all of the drives (stupid enclosure only came with two power connectors. WTF?)

Anyway, I seem to have wired it properly on the first try. However, only two of the drives worked, which was really disappointing. I tried replacing one, but that just seemed to make things worse. Unfortunately, during the assembly phase, one drive accidentally slid out of the enclosure and hit the (carpeted) floor—it might be toast.

I decided to stop fiddling for now, as I don't feel like getting stressed out about it. The array can wait for tomorrow, or until I have working drives, if need be..

Erik has a LiveJournal account now.. It kind of sounded like the Great Firewall of China was blocking my website for him, though I don't know why that would be—I'd figure LiveJournal would get blocked much earlier than www.tc.umn.edu. Whatever.

I sent Sarah a note about his journal, since she's been wanting to get included in the group of people he's been e-mailing from China..

Posted by mike at 05:58 PM | Erik , Hardware , Sarah | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tuesday, June 3, 2003

Six of One...

I was going to make a long entry discussing the advantages and disadvantages of various computer storage types, specifically related to RAID arrays. Unfortunately, it got really long-winded and incomprehensible.

To summarize, though:

If you want a blazing fast RAID and don't mind having all of the drives in your main computer case, IDE (or Serial ATA) with a good hardware RAID controller can't be beat. If you get huge drives, you can even pull off arrays that measure a few terabytes in size. I can't say I'd recommend doing software IDE RAID, though maybe I'm just biased..

For external storage, FireWire and USB are easy to do, but daisy-chaining lots of little enclosures together is not my idea of fun, and the speed leaves something to be desired. For not too much more money, you could probably jump to 1Gbps FibreChannel—the disks are cheap, though there are other costs. Doing more than a few drives with FibreChannel will probably require you to go to a rackmount array, which can be a big chunk of change, though they seem to be getting pretty cheap on eBay.

I did this, though I've sort of gotten burned with bad disks. 3 out of 5 of some I purchased last year appear to be dead or mostly dead. Still, FibreChannel drives remain cheap—it looks like I might be able to get some new 36 GB drives for $10-30 (not too bad).

SCSI is not something I really recommend. It has nice performance, and you can make your own external RAID box without much trouble (hell, you don't even need a box—just a cable and power). The problem is that the drives cost 3-4 times what you'd pay for IDE or FibreChannel (well, on eBay) This clobbers the price of other technologies (except probably 2Gbps FibreChannel).

Of course, for all of these, if you want to maximize your throughput, you'll need a “workstation” or “server” motherboard with fast PCI slots. Most of these arrays I'm talking about (the probable exceptions being FireWire and USB2) will completely flood your computer's 32-bit 33 MHz PCI bus. Better motherboards can do 64-bit 66 MHz or even 133 MHz. A fortunate few “slow” motherboards may already have integrated IDE or SCSI RAID controllers that already run at faster speeds.

Posted by mike at 02:15 AM | Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Is That a Lawnmower?

The fan I got yesterday for my drive array was the only one I could find at Tran Micro that came with a finger guard. I should have looked at the fan more carefully. It's a crystal fan with blue LEDs in it, which wasn't obvious from the packaging. That probably ended up costing me an extra $5.

The fan moves an impressive 52.6 CFM, but the cost of that is the noise level of 41.7 dBA—the damn thing sounds like a muffled vacuum cleaner. That's okay in some ways, though, as I kind of wanted overkill for testing my 10,000 RPM drives. I'll have to get something quieter if I actually want to keep the array, since I can't stand to be in the same room as this thing for very long.

I figure I'll try to find a fan that pushes about half the airflow. Hopefully that can get me down to 24-32 dBA, which is a lot less, as decibels are measured on a logarithmic scale. Technically, 30 dBA is ten times less pressure than 40 dBA, but to human hearing it seems like a 3-4x change. Getting it to just sound half as loud would be really nice.

I realized that my previous entry's discussion on the relative merits of different storage types neglected a serious point. Used FibreChannel drives can be obtained fairly inexpensively, but new ones are still spendy. Taking this into account, FibreChannel and SCSI probably end up being pretty close in cost.

Ugh, I suppose I was just desperately trying to justify my purchase of broken drives.. My eBaying for replacements isn't going too well yet, but I should just try to be patient.

Posted by mike at 02:10 PM | Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Everything Is Variable

Ah, my fan has a little variable resistor on the power cable. I thought that was what it was, but I couldn't get it to turn when I first tried. Of course, I was trying to tighten it, but it was already all the way in. Turning it to the left slowed down the rotation, resulting in a much quieter fan.

Cool, now I don't have to buy another one.

Hopefully I don't turn it down too far and toast my two working drives.

I think I'm going to go buy some music soon. My playlist is getting a bit repetitive.

Posted by mike at 05:35 PM | Hardware , Music | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wednesday, June 4, 2003

Ah, What Wonderful Crap

Well, I came back to my place after watching The Animatrix and waited to watch The Daily Show. I didn't want to have weird Animatrix dreams...

Anyway, while I'm waiting, I hear one of my remaining drives click and spin down.

Ouch.

All of the drives seem to be having problems now. Not sure if turning down the fan is what did it. Hopefully not.

I guess it's good I didn't buy a Gameboy Advance SP while I was out with Dan at Best Buy this evening.. I did pick up some CDs. Free All Angels by Ash, and Golden State by Bush.

Posted by mike at 12:28 AM | Dan , Hardware , Movies , Music | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Am I Just a Number to You?

Weird. FibreChannel has so many different layers.

I have four physical addresses with the adapter cards I have. Unfortunately, the guy who made these cards hard-wired the addresses, so I would have to gain some talent with a soldering iron to change them. Dunno why he couldn't have just soldered a jumper block on there.. Anyway, my physical IDs are 108, 109, 110, and 111.

The FibreChannel loop seems to pick it's own addresses, apparently just numbering upward as it goes around the loop. I'm not sure if this is a convention of some kind, but my drives show up at 16, 17, 18, and 19 (well, when they all feel like talking). Linux prefers to use hexadecimal numbers for this, so the IDs show up as 10, 11, 12, and 13. The FibreChannel adapter in my computer shows up as ID 0. Confusingly, the loop IDs are in reverse order as the physical addresses. I plan to reverse the order of the adapters I have, and see if that makes the drives any more reliable..

FC drives also have hardware addresses, much like Ethernet MAC addresses. I guess this is fairly important because under certain conditions, you would want a particular drive to appear at the same place at the operating system level, no matter where it's plugged into an array. An example hardware address (called a WWN in FC parlance—I'm not sure what the abbreviation stands for) from one of my drives is 002037473DB7 (a hexadecimal address). Linux adds on a prefix (2100) to this (not sure where that comes from), so the full address that the kernel prints out looks like 2100002037473DB7

Of course, Linux doesn't have the drives show up at addresses independent of their loop ordering (well, not my installation, anyway). My kernel counts upward much like the loop IDs. Each device on the loop is given a SCSI ID. My kernel starts by giving the FC adapter an ID of 0, then the drives are numbered 1 through 4

What a mess.

Posted by mike at 11:47 AM | Hardware , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Yay!

[root@3po][~]# cat /proc/mdstat 
Personalities : [raid0] [raid5] 
read_ahead 1024 sectors
md0 : active raid5 scsi/host0/bus0/target3/lun0/part1[3]
                   scsi/host0/bus0/target2/lun0/part1[1]
                   scsi/host0/bus0/target2/lun0/part1[0]
      71119488 blocks level 5, 64k chunk, algorithm 2 [3/2] [UU_]
      [===>.................]  recovery = 19.7% (7006992/35559744)
                               finish=21.7min speed=21856K/sec
unused devices: <none>

Would someone please explain to me why things tend to start working for me just shortly after I give up? (Well, except for when I give up on ever finding a girlfriend, naturally.)

Anyway, I still only got three drives to work, and there's no telling how long they'll last. Replacement drives, which should bring me up to 4 working disks one way or another, are on their way.

Posted by mike at 08:49 PM | Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thursday, June 5, 2003

Let Me Register My Disappointment

Heh, today's FoxTrot is pretty funny:

When I was at Best Buy the other day with Dan, picking up some music, I almost picked up a CD by Massive Attack. I thought I might have already owned it, and I was right. The CDs I did get are okay, but not great. I'm still eagerly anticipating Radiohead's next release (though I hear it's been floating around the file-sharing networks for a while).

The U pestered me again to renew my DHCP registration for my Ethernet MAC addresses on my laptop, so I did (although, I think one of the addresses is for a Wi-Fi card that I gave back to my employers at CSOM—I should probably replace that one with my new wireless card's address). Anyway, I was surprised that I could actually renew my registration. I'm pretty sure the registration system I built at CSOM has the same bug—you don't actually have to be a student to use the network, you just need an x.500 ID...

I'd been meaning to fix that, really! ;-)

Posted by mike at 12:15 PM | Internet , Music , School | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Friday, June 6, 2003

All Play and No Work

Got calls from my parents yesterday, they're slowly getting annoyed that it's taking me so long to find a job. My dad just managed to annoy the heck out of me. I don't like being pressured to do things, but I guess it worked for the moment.

I find it hard to call people (and lots of potential contacts don't list phone numbers online at least), so the online job search is something I much prefer. Unfortunately, lots of stories in print, on the radio, and on TV point out that some absurdly low number of people find jobs online, in the range of 1-5%. That seems ludicrous to me, but I guess it makes sense when you consider that there must be hundreds of different little job sites out on the web—ones like HotJobs and Monster are just on the top of the heap.

Of course, the web is full of stories like this, and there are tools to assist us—search engines.

So, I search for “minnesota technology jobs” and wouldn't you know it? I start finding stuff..

Anyway, I ended up applying for somewhere around ten jobs last night. Not that I have any way of making follow-up calls on more than two of them...

Ah yes, and then there's the Slashdot story on a related subject: “Offshore Outsourcing Threatens Offshore Outsourcing”

Posted by mike at 10:11 AM | Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Saturday, June 7, 2003

The Many Sides of Life

Dodecahedron: a 12-sided solid. Presumably, “do” = 2, and “deca” = 10. Add the two together, and you get 12.

Google is not helping me to find what a 101-sided object is called. Yeah, I just said “object” because I don't exactly know what to call the things—apparently a polyhedron is something fairly specific..

Anyway, I spent the (late) evening over at JED's place, mostly watching Beth debate some azn (Darin?) on the many facets of the music group U2. We tried to convince her to start an online journal, but it would probably be pointless as she's selling her computer soon anyway. We all got her AIM account, which again, might be pointless.

I spent most of my time outside, after I beat down Josh at a few rounds of Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo. Before that, I tried to get people to watch the John Corbett show Lucky, but there were people in the room who had been drinking and the shaky-camera effect was making them nauseous..

Anyway, I found the conversation outside to be pretty entertaining, though once I got a chair and sat down, the mosquitos started attacking voraciously. I think I'm well on my way to fulfilling my yearly quota of mosquito bites...

Well, fun was had. Now we get to see if I feel like being awake when my dad and my brother come up tomorrow morning to go to a “Ham Fest”-like event. Why anyone would want to do stuff from 7 AM to 1 PM on a Saturday is beyond me (fortunately, my dad and brother will spare me until at least 9:30..)

Posted by mike at 01:00 AM | Dan , Erin , Family , Josh | Comments (2) | TrackBack

I'll Take Ethernet for $500, Alex

My hard drives magically arrived today. I think they were shipped, um, yesterday. w00t ;-)

Anyway, I plugged in three for a test. I'd previously removed one of the connectors from my cable loop, as it was connected to a drive that was broken anyway. That seemed to go fine.

Then, I decided to add the fourth connector, and things start breaking again. Fortunately, the drives seem to be fine, I just need to fix my cabling. The problem is probably because that the guy who made my connectors gave me cables for them that were made from Category 5 cable. You may have heard of this—it's what most people use for Ethernet cabling these days. Unfortunately, Cat5 cable is designed to carry signals in the range of 125 MHz (Fast Ethernet runs at 125 MHz on the wire, but uses an error-correction code that brings the maximum speed down to 100 Mbit/s). FibreChannel, as I may have mentioned, runs somewhere around ten times that speed.

The least the guy could have done was splurge on some Cat5e...

Anyway, I guess I'll snag a Category 5e or Category 6 Ethernet cable from Best Buy sometime in the not-too-distant future, rip it up, and replace the stuff I currently have. I know that some of the 5e cables there have had stuff like “rated up to 350 MHz!” written on the packaging.

I forget what speed Gigabit Ethernet really runs at, but my brain keeps snapping back to 250 MHz. I'll have to look it up at some point. That seems absurdly low, though.

There are 4 pairs of wires (8 wires total) in a standard Ethernet cable, though most cards only need two pairs (4 wires) to be there. Gigabit Ethernet uses all 4 pairs, and the truly geeky may recall that there was a variant of Fast Ethernet called 100Base-T4 that used 4 pairs (the more common version is 100Base-TX). Using 4 pairs allowed a 100Mbit/s connection on an old Category 3 wire, which couldn't adequately carry the 125MHz Fast Ethernet signal..

Posted by mike at 04:45 PM | Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Events of the Day

Hmm. I have a running dialogue in my head. That's probably not unusual, though I don't know how many people would admit it. Anyway, I suppose it explains my frequent long journal entries, and makes John Cusack movies more enjoyable for me ;-)

I forgot to mention a few things the last time around.

My brother called at around 9:00 AM this morning. Earlier than I was expecting.. I said I'd rather not go to the swap meet, but they said they'd stop by later. About half an hour passes, and some knocking wakes me up. My door rattles a lot, so I wasn't entirely sure if it was someone at the door and I just went back to sleep.

By around 11:00, my dad and brother come by. I guess Brian got a few things, but it didn't sound all that exciting. Anyway, they found that my package was outside, and they brought it in.

Well, I guess it explains the knocking at 9:30.. I just didn't expect my package to get here so quickly.

We all went out to lunch at Chipotle, then went to peruse an art fair going on at St. Anthony Park (which is on Como Ave. in St. Paul, nowhere near St. Anthony Main...). It was about as interesting as art fairs get for me, though it was less crowded and the prices seemed somewhat cheaper than the yearly Uptown art fair.

Next, we went over to CompUSA, since I figured they hadn't been to a real computer store for a while. Best Buy just doesn't cut it when it comes to computer hardware. I found a nifty USB2.0+Firewire+Ethernet combo card, which I might get, since all of my computer's slots are filled and I had to pull out my SCSI card to get the FibreChannel card in..

After that, I got back to my place and started opening up my package. Turns out it was actually four cubes taped together to form a big thing. In addition, each drive was independently wrapped in a package within each of these cubes. Inside that, there was only minimal packing material—which I guess might explain why the small box was put in a bigger box..

Anyway, all of the drives could have fit in a single one of the cubes, but I guess I now have a number of conveniently-sized boxes for future gift wrapping.

My new drives are quieter than the old ones, but they are smaller (form factor, not capacity), faster, and have bigger caches (4MB instead of 1MB).

I rule ;-)

Lastly, just because Beth mentioned that she and some of her friends could probably manage to make a company by themselves (since everyone has the different talents it takes to form a business), I've been mulling over the few business ideas I've had. They involve hardware, which I'm not really any good at designing or making. I'm not sure any feasible business model could come out of it, though, and there are probably other companies out there already that do things like what I'm thinking...

Posted by mike at 07:04 PM | Family , Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sunday, June 8, 2003

*Cough*

It might have been a bit too smoky at Ground Zero tonight, I'm coughing a bit at the moment..

Anyway, it looks like Erin and Becky had a good time...

Other than that, I noticed that the one female security guard there was smiling, dancing, and carrying on tonight. I never even saw her smile until last week—I figure she must have just started dating one of the male guards there..

Anywho, the music seemed different tonight. It started off with some really poor attempts at beat-matching, but I think I enjoyed more music tonight than I usually do. The DJ also seemed to do more interesting lighting effects than normal.

Now my clothes are all yucky. Time to do laundry tomorrow.

Posted by mike at 01:23 AM | Erin , Music | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I Feel the Need...for Speed!

My head is rolling around many thoughts related to networking and high-speed computer interfaces.

I know that 10Base-T Ethernet used Manchester encoding for sending “symbols” over the wire (in this case, I think each pair of ones and zeroes was encoded, though maybe it was each bit individually). The problem is that it required the physical wire speed to be twice your data rate, so a 10Mbps network would run at 20MHz. An advantage is that it can fairly easily self-synchronize, reducing the need for expensive high-accuracy clocks. This may have also been used for FDDI at 100Mbps, which would require a network capable of 200MHz operation (though I think that must have just been the copper wire variant and not the optical version).

I sort of mentioned in a previous entry that Fast Ethernet (100Mbps) improved upon this by using a “four out of five” encoding, where symbols composed of 5 bits were used to represent 4 bits of actual data. I think this is borrowed from some version of FibreChannel.

FibreChannel itself is descended from HIPPI, FDDI, and SCSI. HIPPI was originally a crazy interface used for linking supercomputers together. It used cables with 50 wires, and operated at very high speeds at the time. I think they had lots of problems with crosstalk, though. Crosstalk (where the signals from neighboring wires start to get blended together) is becoming an issue even on lower-end hardware, and is one of the big reasons we are now seeing a move to Serial-ATA in desktop machines.

In the big-ass hardware arena (supercomputers, datacenters, and Internet backbones), I've heard that SONET and InfiniBand are big. I believe SONET is primarily a network interface, and last I heard it was the speed champ, maxing out at 40 Gigabits per second. I don't know much about InfiniBand, but it seems to be more of a storage and system interconnect, and it appears to my untrained eyes to be very similar to FibreChannel. One interesting thing about it is that it appears to gang together multiple interfaces to achieve insane speeds. Connect together 12 channels each running at 2 Gigabits or so, and have fun.

Another curiosity I'm having at the moment regards Firewire. A new version just came out that doubles the speed. Originally, there was the IEE-1394 standard, circa 1995. I'm not sure exactly how fast that went, but it was either 100 or 200Mbps. 1394a, what is most common at the moment, runs at 400Mbps. 1394b has just started showing up, and is commonly being referred to as Firewire 800 because of it's 800Mbps speed. The strange thing about it is that Firewire 800 has a new connector, which I think is a very bad thing. Significant numbers of weird connectors has had a bad effect on SCSI, so making a new connector is problematic...

Another thing that caught my interest: Slashdot is saying that Apple may show off their next-generation “G5” desktop systems soon. Rumor has it that these systems will use IBM's 64-bit PowerPC 970 processor, and may use HyperTransport, which has been a fairly mythic bus architecture for some time. HyperTransport was originally designed for use with the (formerly DEC, then Compaq, and now, uh, nobody) Alpha processor, and I think AMD has looked at it heavily (they borrowed a lot of technology from the Alpha, which explains why Athlons have largely done so well).

It's becoming clear that personal computers will soon be moving to a new system bus. The old standard PCI interface will hang around a long time (nobody needs their sound card or 56k modem to be on an ultra-fast bus), but something new has to come in to handle high-bandwidth devices. We already have AGP for video cards, and the 64-bit PCI bus helps a lot too. Intel has the PCI-X interface, which runs 64-bit at 133MHz. I seem to recall hearing that HyperTransport will somehow be in competition with PCI-X, but I think they're two different things.

Clearly, this requires more research ;-)

Posted by mike at 06:34 PM | Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Monday, June 9, 2003

It's Raining Women

Well, I'm not exactly surrounded by girls these days, but at least things have improved since last year around this time. Er, sorta. I was living in a frat house, and a number of girls lived there. However, I never really socialized as I was going to be moving out in a few months anyway. I was working and taking classes while everyone seemed to be in transition (moving in or out) or otherwise preoccupied.

So, I hung out with, let's see.. 0 girls on a regular basis, and bumped into one or two others on occasion.

This year, I come across 3 girls fairly regularly, and two or three others on a less frequent basis.

Pretty sad numbers, but at least it's an improvement. It would still be nice to have a female friend who likes to hang out more often, or a girlfriend (of course). I suppose I'm halfway evaluating a few candidates, but I imagine some wouldn't mesh well with me. I'm not too concerned at the moment, as I'm content to just observe what goes on around me, which has been pretty entertaining.

Maybe I just need to start stalking the Aveda girls... Nah, they're all about to collapse under the weight of that makeup and hairspray anyway ;-)

Posted by mike at 12:38 AM | Self | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I Just Flew In, and Boy, Is This Joke Tired

A punny joke floating around:

At Heathrow Airport today, an individual, later discovered to be a public school teacher, was arrested trying to board a flight while in possession of a compass, a protractor, and a graphical calculator. Authorities believe he is a member of the notorious Al-Gebra movement. Two known groups have been identified. Al-Gebra 1 and Al-Gebra 2. He is being charged with carrying weapons of math instruction.
Posted by mike at 11:05 AM | Comedy | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Garr...

I got some Cat 6 cable from CompUSA. Then I found I could get more cable for the same price at Radio Shack (though I couldn't have gotten the 3' cable length at Radio Shack—just 7' for the price I paid for 3').

Anyway, I got back home and started fiddling with it. Ripped it apart and replaced some of the wires going between the drives in my disk enclosure. Unfortunately, it's not helping the 4-drive setup I want to have.

After mucking with this a while, I stopped out on the front porch of my apartment building to hang out with Kari and Becky a bit. No sense getting too stressed out with my computer stuff, as the next step will be to replace the more complicated cable that comes into the case. Fun.

On a positive note, all three lanes of University Ave. were open all the way through Dinkytown for once! We'll see how long that lasts.

Posted by mike at 08:32 PM | Hardware , Kari | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Revenge Against Overconfidence

Ugh. I did not sleep very well last night. Sleeping in 5-10 minute bursts is no fun. One of those mornings where you feel like you've woken up enough times for it to be 10:00 or 11:00, but it's still only 6 or so. Any of a number of things could be the source of that trouble..

Well, my Cat 6 cable experiment seems to have made things worse so far, though I haven't managed to swap the connecting cable yet. Yesterday, I'd picked up some DB9 connectors from Radio Shack, but I got male connectors instead of female ones. I guess I'll take another trip out today and get the right stuff. I should go buy some food too.

Oh, and I want to buy Radiohead, which is probably already sold out. Maybe I should go do that at Best Buy, so I can possibly pick up the third season of Deep Space Nine.

I've been reading more about network technologies and buses, learning little bits here and there. I guess InfiniBand isn't quite as fast as I thought, but it still sounds pretty cool. It's basically a cross between a computer bus and a network, so you can share your computer's bus with others. You could access the modem in another machine directly, for instance. This is most interesting for clustering applications..

HyperTransport is pretty wicked-fast, at least on the high end. In theory, I think it could do the same sort of things that InfiniBand does, but I think it's more being designed as an internal system bus rather than a combination internal/external one. At it's core, it uses serial links, though they can be ganged together to make faster connections.

Both the AMD Opteron and the IBM PowerPC 970 are designed to work with HyperTransport. I'm still not quite sure if Intel has some analog of it or not (probably, I just haven't figured out what it is yet).

I've written a few times about various types of Ethernet, but my memory isn't perfect, and some of the sources of information I have aren't complete. I think I may pick up the O'Reilly book Ethernet: The Difinitive Guide at some point.

One of the most interesting things I came across involves a merger of sorts between two long-standing rivals ATA (IDE) and SCSI. Serial ATA drives will be compatible with Serial Attached SCSI. You will be able to mix and match drives. Not exactly sure how you would tell the difference between them, though, or if it's even relevant.

One question I have is, will you be able to use Serial Attached SCSI drives in Serial ATA-based systems? Or does it just go the other way around? If things go both ways, I think the next few years will be an interesting exercise in marketing. How would the cost of one be justified against the other if they're compatible?

Posted by mike at 10:30 AM | Food , Hardware , Music , Self , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mike Hicks: The Special Edition

What's with everything having special editions nowadays? Can't we just have one version and be done with it?

I went and got Radiohead's Hail to the Thief and discovered that they have two of them. One appears to have a poster or some sort of pamphlet, but no jewel case. Otherwise, you can just get the (cheaper) standard CD. I just got the regular CD because it was $10, and I was going to try to buy the DS9 third season, which is a story in itself.

Star Trek: The Next Generation had a rainbow color theme to it's boxes. Each box is a different hue. The same is true of Deep Space Nine. Unfortunately for me today, both the second season and the third are green. Season two is a light green, and three is a not-so-light green. I mistakenly picked up season two, so I had to run back and exchange it.. I'm sure a lot of places are having problems with this.. Star Trek geeks are not really known for their good eyesight ;-)

Posted by mike at 01:19 PM | Music , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

The Jobbing of America

Ugh

I'm having fears that my resume is being rejected by people because I'm not sending it to them in Word format. I'm sending HTML, which I think looks wonderful in any damn browser on the planet. But I have no idea if it looks any good printed out, because my Linux printing setup is being a bitch. It worked before, but now it's just b0rked.

Now, I'm trying to figure out what to send to some people at the Walker Art Center, since they specify that they like things in RTF format. At the moment, I can't convert my HTML resume into RTF. I don't know if should do it or need to do it..

Lots of places are being very unresponsive to me. Other sites require me to enter my information in over and over, which I guess is just as bad as filling out paper applications...

This is just...stressful...

Posted by mike at 03:48 PM | Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Password Is “Walt Sent Me”

I suppose I'll have to get an actual LiveJournal account at some point. I can't see some entries because they're protected, but maybe that's for the best.

That's a feature I sometimes wish I could have on my website, but there are a lot of other things I can't really do with LiveJournal...

Posted by mike at 06:22 PM | Internet | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Check This!

Hmm. Looks like I can't reorder checks, because I've never ordered checks. TCF Bank used a different company when I first got an account. My old checks were from Deluxe, but they now use Harland. I guess I'll wander over to my bank branch and talk to a real person.

Posted by mike at 10:56 AM | Money | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Radiation

I was surprised when I called up Time Warner Cable to get TV and cable modem service and the guy sounded really confused when I said I wanted to have radio service as well. Not that digital radio stuff, but terrestrial FM radio transmitted over the wire (just like they do with the local TV stations). This was offered by the cable system back in my hometown, so I figured a big outfit like TWC would do it too.

Oh well, they probably wouldn't even carry stations I'd want anyway.

Posted by mike at 02:48 PM | Music , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A Comedian This Way Comes

Bill Maher is coming to town on Saturday the 28th.

Posted by mike at 07:13 PM | Comedy | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Friday, June 13, 2003

Newsies

Some silly news stories.

Britney Spears to have inflatable breasts:

LONDON (Reuters) - U.S. pop star Britney Spears (news) is to get a pair of inflatable, throbbing breasts that will pulsate in time to her dancing—at least her waxwork model will at Madame Tussauds museum in London.

“There are plans to make a new figure of Britney Spears,” a spokeswoman said on Friday. “She'll be very sexy and she'll have heaving bosoms. But this is only in the very early stages of planning.”

Spike Lee is winning so far

State Supreme Court Justice Walter Tolub on Thursday said Lee presented enough evidence at a hearing this week to warrant a trial to decide the fate of the network's new moniker. Until then, no name change can take place.

But just in case he can't prove his case in the courtroom, Tolub made Lee post a $500,000 bond to cover Viacom's potential losses.

Just out of curiosity, I searched Google Images for “spike” and found a hell of a lot of images of Spike, the character on Buffy the Vampire Slayer...

Posted by mike at 10:56 AM | Internet , News , Spike , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What Tangled Webs

Just turned on my apartment's air conditioner. I feel accomplishment at waiting this long, though I guess it's nothing really great. I think we once had the A/C running in March when Josh, Dan, and I lived with Seth. Of course, the old U Village apartment was pretty much a big greenhouse.

It's hit 80 degrees inside my apartment daily for the past few weeks—must be too much insulation. It's hit that temperature now, but it's warmer outside and my mom is staying here tonight. She came up yesterday to do some stuff at a quilt show, and slept here last night. I felt bad because my room was a bit cooler than the living room. I suppose that's because of my computers..

Anyway, I dropped her off at RiverCentre in St. Paul this morning, and I'll pick her up before supper.

My car was running on fumes by the time I got back to Minneapolis, so I stopped at the place on 10th and University to get some money (closest TCF ATM to my place these days) and gas.

I went home and finished up watching season 3 of Deep Space Nine. The Star Trek folks really did an excellent job on the extra features..

Then I got some lunch and went over to the IT Career Center to look at some jobs. A few interesting things, but not much.

I stopped by Erin's work to say hello, and went out and sat listening to her and Beth when they went on a smoke break. John came out too, and I tried to pull a name out of him for a job lead, but he couldn't remember who he was thinking of the last time we talked..

Anyway, I'm just glad I decided to stop by there, as I figured that Erin had left already. Hope her (and Beth's) trip goes well.

Posted by mike at 03:08 PM | Abode , Dan , Erin , Family , Josh , TV , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack

You're History

Just got a little family history lesson from my mom. My great-grandfather is on the Internet, or at least his name is. Ingebrigt A. M. Teigland is listed on a page of Word War II prisoners of war. I guess the “A. M.” stands for Andreas Mikkal (or maybe Mikkel... I'll have to look that up at some point).

He was a merchant marine working in French Indochina (Vietnam) when stuff happened. The page says he became a prisoner on December 7th, 1941, though I'm not sure if that's directly related to the attack on Pearl Harbor. They don't list when he was released, but apparently my grandmother has said he wasn't imprisoned for very long. However, the story goes that he was forced to captain some Japanese ships until the conclusion of the war.

Another story I've heard before indicates that one year, my great-grandfather was on the first ship to get to Duluth after the lakes thawed. My mom has never been able to figure out when that happened, though.

My grandfather, Eivind Horvik, shows up a few times on the Internet. That's mostly because of a scholarship in his name (he died a few years before I was born).

Back to WWII for a moment, my extended family in Norway owns property that still has old Nazi bunkers in it. The one I saw when I went there on a trip about 10 years ago was carved into the side of a fjord. It overlooks a large waterway, so I'm sure they kept a close eye on the water traffic..

Anyway, just some random tidbits.

Posted by mike at 11:38 PM | Family | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Saturday, June 14, 2003

I Like the Way the Hand Works

Bah.. Looks like my Palm IIIx just died. I press the reset button and it starts to boot up, but then a Fatal Exception thing pops up..

I think I've had it for about 3 years, so I suppose some warranty just ran out ;-)

I guess I'll have to get a Sharp Zaurus :-D

Posted by mike at 02:06 PM | Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Fam-tastic

Heading home this evening. I got a Father's Day gift for my dad, though it isn't much. I'm going to a play, The Last Night of Ballyhoo, with my family tomorrow afternoon. Other than that, I'll probably try to take in a movie or two. Perhaps The Italian Job, and for some reason, I haven't seen Finding Nemo yet...

I suppose I'll head back up on Monday.

I'm debating if I want to go see Bill Maher when he comes in two weeks. I'd enjoy it, I'm sure, so I should probably do it.. I guess I'll have to see how my pocketbook feels when I come back up to the Cities.

Well, time to pack.

Posted by mike at 04:42 PM | Comedy , Family , Movies | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Super Prize Fighter

My mom won a nice prize at the quilt show—$500! You all can see her prizewinning quilt decorating the entryway to my apartment when I get back (er, when I remember to hang it again, at least). For that kind of money, I should have made her stay at a hotel ;-)

Anyway, she didn't expect the prize to be quite that much. She was thinking $250... But even that is a long way from the prizes she has won at the State Fair and the Olmsted County Fair.

Heh, a funny thing happened at today's TCLUG meeting—a guy there said his wife was at the quilt show too ;-)

Posted by mike at 10:33 PM | Family | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Superheroes

Bah, updating too many times today. Oh well.

I just noticed in my parents' copy of tpt Magazine that the British sitcom My Hero will be on the air again. It's a weird bumbling superhero show... The main character is Thermoman, played by Ardal O'Hanlon, who has also been in Father Ted (though I guess I've only seen one episode from that show). He was also on the British version of Whose Line Is It Anyway? a time or two.

Anyway, it's on Monday through Thursday at 10:30 on channel 2. I suppose I might get into the habit of watching it after The Daily Show.

Posted by mike at 11:06 PM | TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sunday, June 15, 2003

Oh God

Even for a Sunday, I think I had to deal with too much religion today.

Went along with my family to church, which of course meant that this week's preacher was a woman who, with her voice, should have followed the call to become a kindergarten teacher rather than a person who interacts with adults on a regular basis. In addition, baptisms and communion followed, prolonging the whole mess. At least we were outside in some lawn chairs, so I could stretch my legs rather than being confined in a pew.

Got lunch after that, and did Father's Day gifting back at the house. I got my dad The Shawshank Redemption while my brother got him the book God's Debris by Scott Adams.

The play followed, and was actually very entertaining. However, it had religious overtones too—Jews calling each other ‘kikes,’ plus some more subtle stuff... I guess the play was written by the same guy who did Driving Miss Daisy, though Jews in Atlanta is about as far as the similarities go (or was the movie in Alabama? I forget...)

It was funny, though, and I went backstage afterward to visit with Suzi, my friend who was in it. She was excited to see me again, and I have no complaints about a cute blonde jumping at the chance to give me a hug ;-)

We sort of planned to see a movie together tonight, but then she went and tired herself out with the others there while striking the stage. Instead, continuing the religious theme, I went to see Bruce Almighty with my brother. It was okay, though I certainly had higher expectations for this evening...

Still, my friend said she's planning to come up to the Cities in two weeks, so hopefully we can finally see a movie together (well, actually, we once went to see Muppets in Space together years ago, though that was just because the movie we wanted to see was sold out).

Posted by mike at 11:29 PM | Family , Movies | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Monday, June 16, 2003

Chip 'n' Dale

Hmm.. All this time, I thought Rosedale was the first fully-enclosed shopping mall, but that was actually Southdale. I guess the many dales in the Twin Cities must have messed me up. Southdale opened in 1956, but Rosedale didn't open until 1969...

Posted by mike at 10:49 AM | News | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Tick

Wow. Prices for “atomic” watches have plummeted. I wouldn't be surprised if this is because Casio got into the game. Walmart.com (not that I'd buy from there, but Google found a link) has one for $30. Of course, that's just a digital watch.. I'd like to get a nice analog one, but it's hard for me to justify buying one of those at the moment. My watch band is on the verge of breaking, so I just want a decent replacement.

It's awesome that this technology is now cheap. Hopefully clock setting will be a thing of the past in a few years. Of course, picking up a 60 kHz radio signal is a pretty neat trick that can't always be accomplished...

Posted by mike at 02:38 PM | Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Interview with the Ground Wire

Currently lining up an interview with some people at Adaptec. They have a place in Hudson, Wisconsin and I might be able to get a job doing testing there. Ugh, I probably oversold myself in the note I wrote, though. Well, it's not really overselling, just being vague ;-) However, if they're real hardware guys, the wording I used would probably be interpreted as something much better than what I can really do (since I'm more of a software guy, or someone who is in-between).

Oh well, I can at least work on my interviewing skills.

I shouldn't bring myself down too much, though. I do know a lot of stuff about hardware—I just couldn't build the little pieces to save my life. I know a crapload about PC hardware, though from a top-down perspective rather than a bottom-up one.

Er, it's a contract position, though. I don't want to be the dumb guy learning from them if I'm only going to be there a few months. I guess I'll have to see what they're looking for in the interview.

Posted by mike at 12:40 PM | Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tock

My brother just left. He stayed over last night because he went to a Ham club meeting yesterday evening, and he's off at capoeira practice now.

He had tried to go to lunch with some Ham people earlier today, but apparently nobody showed up. We went to the MoA in the afternoon, and I was reminded how boring the place can be for guys. We left and then headed to Target, where I got one of those “atomic” watches I'd talked about previously.

Unfortunately, Casio doesn't seem to like incorporating countdown timers into their watches. I don't understand why.. I never use the chronometer function on my watches, but I set timers fairly regularly.

Oh well, maybe Timex will come out with a good self-setting watch. The last few watches of theirs I've owned have had fairly easy to use interfaces, while this watch I just got seems to operate in weird ways.. Maybe it's just the different brand styles...

Anyway, my brother and I got some Chinese food from the place at the tiny shopping center near my house. Well, it's not even a shopping center since most of the places are restaurants—which reminds me... There's a steak place there called “Best Steak House.” I'll have to drag some of my meat-eating friends over there someday to try it out and see if it's remotely worthy of the name.

Posted by mike at 07:08 PM | Family , Food , Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thursday, June 19, 2003

How Do You Fail?

I worry a lot when I hear about new technologies (especially computer technologies) being added to cars. The main problem I have is that computer parts can fail fairly suddenly.

I think my family's old ’84 Cavalier had computer parts fail a few times. The last time it happened, the failure caused the fuel pump to shut down. I could only drive as long as there was gas in the fuel line. Well, the car had been hesitating a bit as I drove it earlier that day, so maybe the failure could have been anticipated. Fortunately, I was only a few miles from home when the car broke down.

I had a similar problem with the ’88 Cavalier I have now. I'm not sure if the computer ever outright failed (the fuel pump always worked, at least), but the car would hesitate intermittently. Apparently it was no longer doing proper fuel mix calculations. At least this failure was accompanied by a “Service Engine Soon” idiot light on the dashboard. I could drive the car, but it behaved funny, and in theory the engine could have been damaged if I continued to drive it in that condition.

Back to the ‘84 for a moment: I once had the car overheat while I was driving in light city traffic. I tried to mitigate the problem by turning on the heat, and I probably started driving slowly as well. However, my mother (who has an Electrical Engineering degree) looked at the car's repair manual and discovered that turning on the air conditioning would have temporarily fixed the problem. The thermostat that failed controls the fan behind the radiator, but turning on the A/C makes the fan run continuously. Anyway, the problem went away once I got on the highway, since there was actual airflow through the radiator..

In my opinion, the scenario with the ’88 turned out the best. There was a failure—but the car fell back to a simpler mode of operation, informed the driver that something was wrong, and kept the vehicle drivable.

I'm not impressed with how the other parts failed. Of course, it's possible that the first problem I mentioned could not have been worked around. Also, the last scenario with the failed thermostat might have turned out the best way—the car could have been set up to keep the fan on if the thermostat failed, but then you'd have to take it into a service station to have them communicate with the computer to determine the problem... That's way more expensive than just going down to the parts store to pick up a $10 thermostat.

Well, I guess there's a whole other discussion of open formats and protocols for communicating with onboard computers in cars that I could get into here, but I'll hold back on that for now.

The main point I'm trying to get to is that, when designing a system that needs to be robust (like a car) you need to think about how to react when parts of that system break. And things will break on cars—they're hot and cold, dry and wet. They produce and accept lots of shock and vibration, and are just dowright dirty.

Now, new cars are getting all sorts of sensors and doodads. Suspensions and brake systems are computer-controlled (or at least computer-influenced). Some steering wheels aren't even connected to anything. Some cars are bristling with miniature radar systems for parking assistance, collision avoidance, and even controlling airbag inflation. Continuously variable transmissions are neat new toys too.
However, what happens if nothing is in control of these things anymore?

I'm sure many of the engineers who have worked on these projects have thought this out, but there are probably more than a few products that can fail in very strange ways.

Posted by mike at 12:18 PM | Car , Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Boeing Boeing Gone

Wow. Late last month, a Boeing 727 was stolen from an airport in Angola (in Africa). It had been sitting out on the tarmac for over a year when a white guy climbed up into it and flew it away. For some reason, reports indicate that the plane had been loaded up with fuel before it left. It's believed that the man who took the plane was actually from a company that bought the plane two years ago (Aerospace Sales and Leasing), and he has been missing since he left for Africa in mid-May. He's not a licensed pilot, though—just a mechanic.

One of the more humorous things about this situation regards the non-presence of an emergency locator beacon:

[L]osing a plane as big as the Boeing 727 is not common.

The authorities have considered the odds of a plane just vanishing into thin air to be so remote that emergency locator transmitters are not installed on large aircraft, said former US National Transportation Safety Board director Ira Furman.

The devices are standard equipment on small planes to help locate them in the event of a crash.

Airliners such as 727s had not been provided with the transmitters “on the theory that we don't lose them,” ABC news quoted him as saying.

Posted by mike at 08:02 PM | News | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Friday, June 20, 2003

Parallels of Serial

Came across an article discussing the relationship between Serial ATA and Serial Attached SCSI. Seems to make sense.

Posted by mike at 10:53 PM | Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Saturday, June 21, 2003

Touring Machine

Well, I was originally going to rant about how web site designers think that making links pop up in new windows all of the time is the greatest thing since sliced bread. However, arguing about that would only serve to show that I have no life.

Instead, I decided to go out for a walk and then get a late lunch. I figured I'd wander toward downtown across the stone arch bridge and then swing back on the Hennepin Ave. bridge. However, I got sidetracked and wandered through the “Mill Ruins Park.” A really crummy name for a park, but not a bad idea. Actually, when I first saw the name, I thought it said “Mill Runs Park,” which makes a bit more sense to me.

The city is slowly reconstructing the water raceways that used to power some of the area grain mills. Part of the project is the mostly-collapsed building across the river. Apparently that is turning into a museum.

Anyway, I detoured through the area and ended up being spit out a bit east of downtown. So, I took the opportunity to wander past the West Bank campus and go to Noodles & Co. for my meal.

Unfortunately, the detour also made me come back in a different direction than I was expecting, so I didn't go by the grocery and Snyders to get stuff.. I guess I'll have to do that tomorrow.

Also, I may have to pick up an iron and an ironing board to make my clothes a little more presentable for my interview on Monday evening.

Posted by mike at 04:49 PM | Exercise , Food , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Randomness

Hmm. Just had an odd idea pop into my head. It's a peer-to-peer network (like gnutella and friends), but it would be a more restrictive system of distribution. It would only allow connections between people who have a web of trust (probably based around GNU Privacy Guard keys and signatures, or some other crypto system). This would in theory work a lot like Friendster, except that it would be a distributed system. You could do more than just send messages back and forth. All sorts of other data could be shifted around too.

Probably a fairly useless idea, though, and I'm sure other people have thought of it before...

Posted by mike at 06:09 PM | Internet , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wahoo Internet-Fu!

Got bored watching TV, and then Hackers started up on SciFi channel. Watching it reminded me how much I always wanted the soundtrack, but I think it was only available in stores for about a week—three years after the movie came out. Something like that, at least.

Anyway, a simple search for “hackers soundtrack” found it.

Yay for the Internet!

Update: Of course, some of the files are broken, and the soundtrack didn't include all of the music in the movie (there's a track by Massive Attack that wasn't on it—I used to have the Massive Attack CD, though I think one of my friends took it years ago and never gave it back). Must have been replaced by a token rap song or closing credits diddy.

Posted by mike at 11:01 PM | Movies , Music , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Smell-O-Vision

“What's so gay about Greco-Roman wrestling?”

Looks like The Industry (a.k.a. Made in Canada in Canada) isn't on Bravo anymore. It was a pretty entertaining show, based around the antagonistic relationships between some execs in a small TV production outfit. Makes me wonder what other good Canadian programming is out there.

Er, I mean, stuff that only airs in Canada—I have to qualify that since it seems like most American shows are made there anyway...

Posted by mike at 11:22 AM | TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack

ica rumba

After failing miserably to chat with Sarah online, and then succeeding somewhat in greeting the recently-returned Beth, I went out to get some lunch. I was stressing because I just didn't feel like going to any of the normal fast-food places out there, but I finally settled on the Taco Bell near The Quarry.

I was joyfully reminded that the place there is a combination Taco Bell and Pizza Hut. I think a Personal Pepperoni Pan Pizza was really what my stomach was craving. Mmmm...

Headed over to Target to get some and then headed over to Barnes & Noble at Har-Mar. Upon leaving Har-Mar, I randomly decided to head south on Snelling, and noticed that there were a lot of nice cars going by.

Yep, we missed yet another classic car show at the fairgrounds. One of these years...

Posted by mike at 03:19 PM | Food , Sarah | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Kneepads-R-Us

I think I will try to buy some rollerblades soon.

Posted by mike at 11:33 PM | Exercise | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Monday, June 23, 2003

Flagriotism

Flag of the United States of America

For most of the past two years, I've felt that the flag was taken away from me. It's a slight shadow of what my grandmother felt when the Nazis invaded Norway and took over the country.

Hmm. I guess I'd better stop that train of thought before invoking Godwin's Law on myself.

Anyway, the nationalistic fervor finally seems to be dying down. That makes me feel better. Seeing the flag tended to disgust me—especially when mounted on big black SUVs. That sight has slowly dwindled as the nation returns to normal levels of apathy.

Well, perhaps I'm not very different than anyone else. I mentioned in a distant journal entry that a small flag poking out of the side of a building near the Carlson School on the morning of September 11th was a comforting sight for me. Local primaries were being held that day, and the flag was advertising that people could vote there. A little sign of normalcy.

Later in the day, I decided to wander to Dinkytown to see if I could buy a flag somewhere, but I couldn't find one. I'd had the image in my head of walking home carrying the flag over my shoulder, the colors flapping in the breeze as I walked home down University Avenue. I'm not sure what would have really happened if I'd found one, though.

By that evening and the next day, the flag started to represent something abnormal, a discontinuity in the rules by which our society had been governed. The flag often appeared in association with “In God We Trust” and “United We Stand.” In a sense, those are nice sentiments, but they really seemed to go against what the flag itself stood for. The 13 original states and the 50 we have now don't always get along. The flag is in some ways an acknowledgement of that fact.

If I had mounted a flag in our apartment at the time, I wonder what slogan might have gone along with it. Probably nothing at first, but I probably would have needed to differentiate our mindset from that of the others nearby. E pluribus unum could work (I feel it would be less antagonistic than “United We Stand”), but would probably just be a cop-out. “Truth and Justice” would be more along the lines of what I would like to say, but “justice” can be a messy term (and so can “truth” for that matter). “Truth, Peace, and Justice”? Maybe, but that would probably just make me sound like a hippie ;-)

Anyway, the point is that I want my flag back. I think it's time again to see the positive things it represents rather than terrible events of the past.

Hmm.. Some flag regulations I found say that the flag can't be used for advertising. Maybe I can sue Fox News Channel ;-)

Opportunities Abound (Sort of)

Well, I just got back from my interview. Seemed to go pretty well. They showed me around and explained a lot of stuff to me, which I figure is a positive sign. I was also dressed better than they were, which I suppose could be good or bad...

They said that they were just starting interviews, so that unfortunately, means the timeframe for notification (about 2 weeks) overlaps with another thing I might be able to do for a month. I'll have to call the people heading that up tomorrow and see if they're still taking people. However, this Adaptec job would pay a lot more and would likely be steady for 9 months or so.

So, I'll send out a post-interview thank you tomorrow, after I've called those other folks.

Too bad the Adaptec place is pretty far away on a pretty sucky stretch of I-94 and right next to a truck stop. Just what I need to be dealing with at 9 in the morning—screwed up roads overflowing with fleets of semis. At least I'd be going in the “wrong” direction (less traffic) and there would be plenty of opportunities to stop for supper on the way back. Still, I'd have to invest in some nice sunglasses (always driving toward the sun) and a CD player or MP3 player for my car so I don't have to listen to the DJs and ads on the radio.

I have a hypothesis that more crashes happen when DJs are yapping and ads are blaring than when music is on the radio. I'm sure there's no good way to figure out if that's true, though.

Posted by mike at 07:30 PM | Car , Music , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Men in Tights

I just watched the recording my computer made of Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked last night. A pretty interesting show. I'm sure the History Channel will be running it a lot in the future, and the next showing appears to be on Sunday at 5 PM.

I never got into comic books very much. With the allowance I got as a kid, they always seemed too expensive for me to bother. I suppose I just watched too much TV...

Posted by mike at 12:21 PM | TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Not Leather

So, Netflix has patented their business model (as seen on Slashdot). The idea of paying a subscription fee to get movies delivered home is theirs for the moment. I guess they came up with a fairly unique approach, but it just seems weird to patent things like that.

Hmm. I suppose that many public libraries have worked on a similar model in the past. I'm sure many places have had lists where patrons are informed when the book they want has come in. Heck, brick and mortar video rental places do stuff like that. The aspect of home delivery, though...

On one hand, Netflix could use the patent to fend off big competitors like Wal-Mart. On the other hand, small companies that do the same thing might get forced out of the market.

I guess I wish there was a way for patents to stand up for the little guys while holding back the big ones. It just doesn't work that way these days.

Posted by mike at 12:47 PM | Corporations | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'

I saw Sarah was online earlier, so I decided to say hi. She said she was about to go out rollerblading, which reminded me that I was thinking of getting some. So I thought, “no time like the present,” and went out shopping.

I was hoping to get some cheap used ones, but I could only find a few that were in a usable condition, and one I tried on felt like it was already starting to build callouses. So, I jumped for some new ones.

[Insert need-a-job remark here]

Anyway, I got home about 5:00 and put them on, hoping that I could try it out on the carpet in my apartment and in the hall before heading outdoors. Of course, the carpet just provided too much resistance for me to do much other than stand and clumsily walk around. I have some patches of linoleum in my apartment, but they're just too small to be of any use..

So, I headed outside, clinging to whatever I could get my hands on as I went down the steps and onto the grass. I picked a little stretch of sidewalk that I could practice rolling across without having to go too far.

Eventually, I was able to roll over a few slabs of concrete before ditching in the grass. After practicing a bit by rolling past a bush about 4 slabs wide a few times, I managed to keep going and went about 1/3 of the way down the block. Not much, I guess, but I only spent about half an hour outside before the sky started turning dark, my shirt was drenched with sweat, and my brain decided it was time to call it quits for today.

I just hope I keep practicing, if only to get my money's worth out of the 'blades..

Posted by mike at 06:20 PM | Exercise , Sarah | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Rolling Thunder

From the radar, it looks like we're going to have intermittent rain all day today.. I guess I won't have much chance to practice rollerblading outside, so I'll have to be content to roll around on the little patches of linoleum in my apartment and down by the laundry room.

Posted by mike at 08:34 AM | Exercise , Weather | Comments (0) | TrackBack

No Rain

As usual, I read the radar wrong, so now it looks like it probably won't rain very much for the rest of today. Once I changed my prediction, I decided to go outside and try rollerblading a bit more. Perhaps I should have stayed inside.

Never are you more aware that the Earth is not flat than when learning to skate. Well, okay, I shouldn't make it sound so bad—I did manage to roll most of the way around the block. Toward the end, my brain was being less and less helpful, so I decided to finish up by clomping through the grass.

I was kind of disappointed, since I'd hoped earlier to spend much more time outside. Oh well, I've got a lot of other stuff to get done today anyway.

Posted by mike at 11:46 AM | Exercise , Weather | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Welcome to Cloudville

Well, I guess I'm going to sign a lease that goes well into next year. One of the few things that annoys me about this place is the fact that leases can only terminate during 5 months of the year. Add to that a two month notice to leave, and it makes things a bit difficult..

Oh well, I can sublet the apartment if the need arises.

I've noticed in the past that I sleep much more soundly when I'm at home than when I'm in the Cities. I figured that street noise was the main problem, but I've still had problems recently when the windows were closed (since I had the A/C running).

I suspet the problem is caffeine—I've been drinking large quantities of Mountain Dew recently, mostly because I've been lacking other beverages. At home, there tends to be a slightly larger selection of drinks available, so my caffeine intake is much lower.

Well, I guess it's time to visit the grocery store anyway.

Posted by mike at 12:22 PM | Abode , Food | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Inky Blackness of...Asphalt

Tried a little more rollerblading. I walked across the street to the school/park area and rolled across some fairly flat stretches of asphalt. I guess the main thing I was going for was getting my speed up past one mile per hour.. The stretches of sidewalk I'd been attempting before had the problem of having gaps every four feet..

I probably should have kept at it a bit longer, but some kids started playing in the vicinity, and that got to be distracting... I suppose I started to worry too much about falling, too. I still need to work on that fear a bit.

Posted by mike at 03:11 PM | Exercise | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hey Hey!

Yay! They offered me the job. I guess it's not the most secure prospect in the world—they said it would likely run through the spring, and they supposedly re-evaluate things every 3 months. That's okay, though, since it's a different kind of job than I'd been looking for. Still, it's work, and the pay should be good.

Now I've got to contact the contracting people that they want me to go through. I guess I'll be working by Monday or Tuesday...

Posted by mike at 05:12 PM | Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Time Flies When You're Having Fun

I noticed a weird behavior on my laptop. Well, I suppose it's not all that weird in context, but it seems odd on it's own.

While watching MythTV recordings, the playback will pause for a few seconds approximately every 15 minutes. The reason this is happening is that the system clock is drifting forward a few seconds in that time. The pause happens when a program running in the background (ntpd) talks to some servers on the Internet and updates the time on my system.

Normally, the clock doesn't drift that much. Well, that's not exactly true. After a BIOS update sometime last year, my laptop's clock started drifting at a fantastic rate. I forget what it was, but it was on the order of several seconds every minute. Through some trickery, I was able to tell the Linux kernel to adjust for this clock skew, and the clock ended up being even more accurate than it had been in the first place.

Well, it is accurate, except when the system is under a fairly heavy load (such as when playing back my videos). I'm not exactly sure how the Linux clock system works (even the experts seem confused—it was very difficult for me to figure out how to fix the problem in the first place), but it appears to update the clock whenever the CPU handles interrupts. The system expects that all interrupts take the same amount of time to handle (or at least respond to), but apparently this isn't the case (at least on my laptop).

Well, this whole discussion is basically moot, since the clock skew problem can probably be fixed with a BIOS update to fix what Dell broke previously. It's just a neat problem to find ways to work around...

Posted by mike at 08:38 PM | Laptop , MythTV | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Friday, June 27, 2003

Death, Taxes, and Spam

Well, I'll have to be careful with my income, once it starts up again. I'm going to be in a contractor position where they don't bother much with the taxes. They probably report my income, but I have to deduct taxes on my own. I'm not really sure how that works—my dad was saying once that consultants need to deal with taxes on a quarterly basis. I'm not sure if I will fit into that category or not...

Well, I suppose if I do things right, I can earn some interest on the extra money. It might not work out to be much, but it might cover the amount of time it takes me to figure out the whole tax mess...

Posted by mike at 11:09 AM | Money , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Fall Down Go Boom

So, two or three days ago when I was out attempting to rollerblade, the thought occurred to me that lots of sports and outdoor activities were invented by people who like to scare the shit out of themselves.

I am not one of these people.

Anyway, I suppose I'm just working to justify the length of time it's taking me to learn how to move around on them. Adam said that he got to be moderately good within a day, after going out with friends for about eight hours straight. Of course, he has the scar on his rear end to prove it.

So, since I'm still moving pretty slowly even after a few days, I'm feeling a bit wimpy. I suppose my time has been more spread out, though, and still only adds up to eight hours or so. Well, there are lots of reasons why one person might learn more quickly than another.

Other than biking, I've never really done anything that requires much balance. I did do some cross-country skiing, but I never got the hang of it. I basically just used them to walk, but sliding through the snow was not something I was comfortable doing. My mom once broke a bone while downhill skiing, so she never encouraged me to do that. My parents once tried to get me to ice skate as a kid, but I think I spent more time falling than skating (and I seem to recall that the skates were really tight). I imagine that anyone who learned how to properly do any one of those things probably has a leg up on learning to rollerblade.

I'm learning this on my own, mostly because there are probably only one or two people I know who I'd be comfortable having as teachers. I don't want to be coerced by “C'mon, the hill isn't that steep” ;-)

So, I guess I didn't learn to rollerblade in a day. But, I am getting better each time I go out, and that's what matters to me.

Posted by mike at 08:08 PM | Adam , Exercise | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Saturday, June 28, 2003

Body Snatchers

Left Dan's place, where people were watching Re-Animator. The actor I was thinking of was Jeffrey Combs—he played Weyoun on Deep Space Nine and showed up as an Andorean (sp?) and I think some other species on Enterprise.

Interestingly enough, the character he played in DS9 gets killed off and then comes back (multiple times, I think). Not exactly re-animated, but he got to be on the show a while longer at least...

Posted by mike at 01:30 AM | Movies , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack

In This House, We Obey The Laws of Thermodynamics!

I keep hearing about this “hydrogen economy” idea. It seems like a lot of people talking about this never bothered to pay attention in high school physics.

A lot of noise gets made about the lack of a “hydrogen infrastructure” like the distribution network we have for gasoline. Nevermind that hydrogen doesn't really need a distribution network. I see little reason why there couldn't be little solar- or wind-powered hydrogen generators spread all over the place.

It would seem to me that the simplest thing to do would be to use electrolysis to separate hydrogen and oxygen from water, though I know there are certain problems with that. Heck, I'm sure people have had the crazy idea of keeping a bank of solar cells on top of a car, and using that power to generate more fuel while the car sits in a parking lot. It might not generate a lot of fuel, but it could be worthwhile..

A lot of attention is given to extracting hydrogen from gasoline or other fuel sources, which seems a bit odd to me. You'd lose some energy in that conversion process, though there is a method to the madness—fuel cells are much more efficient at using hydrogen than piston internal combustion engines are at using gasoline, for instance. I'm not sure if the scheme really works very well, though—perhaps a better approach would be to more efficiently use the original fuel, like in a turbine.

Well, whatever ends up happening in the future, we're stuck mostly using petroleum products for now. Just so I don't feel like an evil planet-destroyer, I think I'll have to consider getting a new fuel-efficient car in the next year or so. At the moment, the Volkswagen Jetta TDI and Toyota Prius are at the top of my list. Yeah, they might not exactly be performance automobiles, but almost anything is an improvement over a 4-cylinder automatic transmission Cavalier ;-)

Posted by mike at 08:29 PM | Car | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sunday, June 29, 2003

I, Consumer

I've been researching various things today. I looked over options for cars a bit more, and figure I will probably end up shooting for a 4-door Volkswagen Golf TDI. I could probably run it on biodiesel if I became so inclined. It's more expensive, but I'd want to do it just because petroleum-derived diesel produces a lot of nasty gases in addition to your standard carbon dioxide and water vapor.

(Dropping away from my “what I'm going to spend my money on” topic for a second, I came across an interesting article on thermal depolymerization or TDP. That's a technique for breaking down almost anything into oil, water, and purified minerals and simple chemicals. Kind of a creepy-sounding process, but it could be a really important technology in the future. It's even supposedly a better way to do petroleum refining, strangely enough! ;-)

I'd like to buy a car outright when I do decide to get one, so that will require me to wait a while (probably two years). But, I wouldn't mind a relatively short-term payout (over 2-4 years, probably) if I had to get something sooner. I suppose I'll wait a year and see how much money I've managed to save.

I went to Best Buy today, mostly to look at car stereos, but I need to research those a bit before deciding on one. I had wanted to get one that would just rip music off of CDs I put in and store it on an internal hard drive, but I think I saw one they had previously, and it cost $1500 or something insane. I think I'll try to go for something a little more standard like a CD player that can handle MP3 CDs, or a deck that can be connected to an XM or Sirius radio receiver. I should figure out which one of those services I'd like more...

I stopped by the television area and decided to shoot for a nice Sony KV-34HS510. Pretty spendy, but the image quality seemed quite a bit better than the other similar sets nearby. I'll have to research what all it has for connectors—the display model cycled through about 10 inputs, but I need to figure out how many of them can work (hopefully full resolution) with a computer. It'll take me a while to save up money for that, too. I'll see how things look in 2 or 3 months.

Posted by mike at 06:59 PM | Car , Music , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Monday, June 30, 2003

You Did What?!

I had an interesting first day of work. Got a new cryptic username to use at work. And I thought hick0088 was bad... They gave me a pretty silly default password, though I didn't have a chance to change it right away. I managed to get my voicemail password changed, at least.

Sounds like the guy who left and made my position available was getting into trouble while he was there. It sounded like he may have been stealing stuff...

Just to get me famliar with the processes they use, one of the guys there set me up to spend most of the day making some simple DVDs and VCDs after doing some video capture (picture). I had no idea that nearly all DVD writers could also write to CD-Rs, but apparently that's the case.

I was also shown some of the software used for testing devices on Macs. Looks like my Linux expertise will help with some of that stuff. Of course, Mac OS X is way different than Linux, so I'll be running into more than a few brick walls...

Posted by mike at 06:35 PM | Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Crash and Burn

Just saw Linux crash in a new and interesting way. The system just stopped, but the Caps Lock and Scroll Lock LEDs on the keyboard were blinking. I found a reference to this online that said this happens when the kernel panics, but is in bad enough shape that it can't write to the console. Of course, I've seen systems crash even harder in the past—without any warning of any kind, they just stop.

Well, that was on a new kernel (Debian 2.4.21-1-k7). I went back to the one I had been using, and it seems to be fine so far. I hope there isn't something wrong with the rest of my computer. It's kind of disappointing, though, as the newer kernel is supposed to have some nice performance enhancements.

I would have been in a really pissy mood if I didn't have a journaling filesystem on this computer. I'm so glad I do..

I'm in the midst of updating some other software on the system, and it's not going well either. The testing distribution of Debian finally got Gnome 2. Sort of. Now I have to figure out how to fix everything that is broken with that...

Posted by mike at 11:29 PM | Software | Comments (2) | TrackBack