March 2007


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Archive for March, 2007

Progress… I think

Posted in Life on March 27th, 2007

My first pair of glasses: purchased at a major retailer, got them in about an hour and a half in 1995.

My second pair of glasses: purchased at a smaller boutique, got them in three days back in 2000.

This pair? Purchased at a high-end boutique, and it only took them…

Almost three weeks?

I admit, I do like the new specs so far. Extremely light, comfortable to wear, and the big difference is I can once again read something from across the street. But c’mon! I watched the show on Discovery where they demonstrated the process of manufacture, and even if you start with a bag of raw sand it only takes three days to make a lens. Starting from manufactured stock, the process is a few hours even with all of the modern scratch coatings and Transition features.

Apparently this lab’s standard process is two weeks, but they fouled the ‘scrip on one lens and had to re-cut, adding another 6 days. This is just a bit ridiculous. What’s the guy doing, grinding by hand?

Video games make for bad drivers?!?

Posted in Life on March 19th, 2007

Okay, yeah, I’m jumping on the bandwagon here with this post, but I will not link the original article because it already gets enough traffic – which is what I’m here to talk about.

Road rage comes from people not knowing how to drive being in front of people that DO know how to drive.

I grew up in small towns scattered about Southern Oregon, which collectively had less than 25k people, LOTS of twisty back roads, and LOTS of rain. I learned how to surf the same way any Oregonian kid does: by driving a small car with bald tires in a howling deluge. (1977 Subaru GL wagon floated on 1/4 inch of water, but stuck to snow like glue. Go figure.)

I have been driving (legally) for almost 19 years now, and have never caused an accident. The most serious accident I have been involved in as a driver was the time that poor girl slid into the ass end of my ’74 Plymouth in ‘Vegas at a stop sign during a rainstorm. I wiped the paint off my bumper, but she had relocated her front end over a foot to the rear.

None of my skills matter at this point, though, because the moment a single drop of water falls from the sky here in the Portland Metro, you remember that about half of the people on the road DIDN’T grow up here, and haven’t the foggiest notion about how to drive in the rain. Nevermind the fact that they’ve been here for several years at this point, they can’t seem to figure this shit out.

Where a sane and skilled driver would slow down 5mph or so and lengthen his following distance, these people freak the fuck out and drop to about 30mph. This causes all the folks who CAN drive to crawl up on their ass, and in very short order you have a big pile of idiocy doing a bumper-to-bumper crawl down the 26.

In clear weather, I can get home from work in 30 minutes during rush-hour traffic. At anything more than a sprinkle of rain, it goes up to an hour, sometimes as bad as 1 1/2 hours. To. Go. 20. Miles. No, less than that – it can take that long just to get to the Tunnel, which is still a couple miles short of home.

An hour, sitting there with some asshat in an SUV shining his headlights DIRECTLY INTO MY BRAIN all because the fuckheads in front can’t figure out that the rough pavement they are driving on is DESIGNED for better traction in wet weather and they don’t have to slow down this much.

On top of that, those hundreds of SUV’s around me are being driven by one person with no passengers, taking up as much space as they possibly can without upgrading to an actual semi. Me, I drive my car to client sites, so I have to drive. Most of these idjits just drive because they can’t be bothered to take the train. Heaven-fucking-forbid they walk the two blocks from their house to a bus stop. NOOOoooo, they NEED to drive that behemoth to work and take up MY road!

THAT is what causes road rage.

I am a Techie – I build things. I have a degree in electronics, an understanding of explosives, rocketry and engineering and all the machining skills necessary to construct and mount missile launchers on my car. Do you know why I haven’t done it yet?

Because then I’d have to drive through the debris field created by me blowing your slow ass back to wherever it was you learned to drive and out of my way. As soon as I can figure out how to completely incinerate your smoking remains before my tires get there, then I will be a lot calmer.

What’s that beeping noise coming from your OnStar console? That’s the missile-lock warning. Get the FUCK out of my way.

The State of Cyberpunk

Posted in Geekery on March 18th, 2007

One of the underlying stanchions of the Cyberpunk genre is that someday we will be able to control computers and other electronic gizmos with our brains rather than having to use control interfaces such as keyboards, mice or joysticks. A networking adapter socket is installed somewhere on your person, and you simply plug in a cable and off you go.

Well, according to this article at Computerworld, we have stepped closer to this goal.

While the device being used here is very much the Sci-Fi staple of a “control helmet” consisting of a colander on your head covered with electrodes, the theory is the same. Electronic sensors sense the change in the electric fields in your brain as you move through your thought processes. These signals are then interpreted by software into command codes, which are then sent on to the device being controlled.

The theory is sound, and has been in research for many years at this point. The big news here is that the research group has the device down to a mostly-portable size and working with a respectable level of success. From here, the research team should be able to both increase the accuracy and reduce the size in a fairly linear fashion – one could almost apply Moore’s Law at this point with a fairly reasonable accuracy.

With current studies in nanotechnology, the opportunity is also present to begin working on a way to manufacture the sensor grid in such a manner so that it could be implanted between the skull and the skin – relieving you of the necessity of wearing a control helmet.

One of the most obvious uses for technology of this nature (to me anyway) is to more closely integrate the operation of a replaced limb. Instead of having some sort of physical interface for control, one would merely think “extend arm, grasp glass firmly, bring to lips and tip”. Considering the number of recent war veterans who have lost limbs in combat, I can’t imagine they would have a shortage of volunteers for testing.

This also brings us to a second stanchion of Cyberpunk: willfully exchanging your limbs for cybernetic replacements with built-in enhancements. Again, all the recent amputees have resulted in a surge of research into replacement limbs, which have become quite complex.

So now, all of the pieces are in place for Stage One of the Cyberpunk Revolution: control interface, advances in computer technology, and a large number of amputees who don’t feel threatened by the addition of more technology into their lives or bodies. At current levels of research and miniaturization, I would say the first actual “cyberlimb” will be installed before 2012.

Place yer bets, folks.

Hyperion becomes Hyperdrive

Posted in Geekery on March 17th, 2007

For those who may have been wondering, I did get all the gear from NewEgg last Friday, and spent Sunday rebuilding the rig. The Full Monty:

Proc: AMD Athlon 64 X2 4400+ Brisbane 2.3GHz (stock cooler)
Mobo: GIGABYTE GA-M59SLI-S5 w/ NVIDIA nForce 590 chipset
RAM: Kingston 2GB (2 x 1GB) DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 667 (PC2 5300)
HDD: 2ea Seagate 100GB SATA drives (from Hyperion)
Optical: 2 ea LITE-ON 20X DVD+/-R IDE Burner with LightScribe
Video: EVGA GeForce 7900GS 256MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express

Cue “6 Million Dollar Man” theme.

The results:
I had some trouble with the Windows install. Big shock, I know. Using a known good install disk, there were about 20 file copy failures in the initial process. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out WTF, so I went ahead and let the install finish, ignoring anything that wouldn’t copy. Once it had installed and booted, I went back and used the msconfig / expand function to pull those files off the disk and into the file system. I may have missed one somewhere, however, as I can’t get the rear speakers in the sound to work. Not a critical issue, but it’s gonna annoy me eventually. And I also somehow lost the right to a USB mouse, since any mouse will now only work when plugged into a PS/2-USB adapter. (USB keyboard works fine.)

Everything else seems to be ok for now, so I’m going to leave it be.

Performance: Rocks. Flat-out, this is the quietest computer I’ve used since a Commodore VIC20 back in the 7th grade. If I really stress it, the CPU fan will spin up a bit, but otherwise this thing runs at minimum rpms and near silent. Same with the video card. In fact, it may have only been the eVGA’s fan spinning up, I haven’t run Speedfan to figure it out yet.

Video performance has been sweet. DarkStar One runs glassily smooth at maximum resolution and effects, even during a 10-bad-guy furball in an asteroid field. The same goes for X3: The Reunion, which I could finally now play, if the damn thing didn’t bore me silly. The only bummer so far in the gaming aspect is just that: Mechwarrior doesn’t support widescreen aspect ratios, so everything is short and wide. I tried to configure the card and monitor to not stretch, but it won’t work. Maybe I’ll get lucky and someone other than M$ will pick up the license from FASA.

Hint. Hint. Hint.

So. It’s faster, but how much? Unknown. I never ran any real benchmarks on the old rig, so I only have anecdotal evidence – and really not even that until I run something like a DVD encode on it. Hyperion was pretty damn fast itself, so it’s hard to see at this point. If video game graphics peformance is an accurate benchmark, I’d say I got a 20% – 30% increase overall.

In any case, it makes me happy :)

WTF do you mean “Dear John”?

Posted in Work on March 16th, 2007

We got dumped today.

By E-Mail

One of our clients (the first one I signed up in fact) sent us an actual Dear John email to say they were canceling their contract at the end of the month. Completely out of the blue.

Yes, there had been a little friction lately, based around their backups. This friction comes from them not having a workable hardware setup and refusing to take my advice and spend $1000 for a freaking Terabyte of backup storage space. No, they want to keep using their 35GB Rev drive since they just bought it early last year.

Back when their IT staff was one guy, who was barely available. But that is another story.

This story has the CEO telling us that they will be going with another management solution. Now that I’ve thought about a couple of things, I get the feeling that the CEO is bringing his son in to replace us. So I’m feeling a little used today.

Well, good luck to Sonny Boy, because he gets two problems bang out of the gate: first, their backup still sucks, and the software they were using with our service goes away when we do. So does their off-site backup solution.

Second, their email database is running just shy of full and Daddy is the worst offender, with an inbox approaching a GB in size. I have tried convincing them to archive, but no such luck. That db is going to have to be expanded, which means it will have to be moved first, because the partition was cut too small to expand it.

And there’s the whole bit where they won’t take honest advice.

So, good luck to whoever – he’s gonna need it.

The IT House of Horrors

Posted in Humor, Work on March 12th, 2007

Coming Soon to a Town Near You!

Come inside and see the terrifying sights of a day in the life of an IT professional!

here and only here you will see such unbelievably horrible sights as this:

WinME ack


and this:

03-12-07 0856


and most terrifying of ALL!!!



Actually, that middle picture was the new home for a brand-new server I installed today – in the new rack just to the left of where I was taking that picture from. Someone certainly has their work cut out for them.

I also had one of those fun calls today – you know, the one where some dippy bitch decides to completely ignore your correct analysis (your internet is borked because $ISP is having problems – we use them too, and I am getting the same symptoms) just because one time in years gone by there was something wrong with her DNS settings and Bossman was able to fix it at the server.

You just want to reach through the phone and slap the fuck out of ’em. We can do some really impressive things with remote-control of computers these days. You know why? To keep our fishbelly-white asses out of irons due to clue-bat usage. Sure, it’s more efficient and all, but it also means I don’t have to resist the temptation to beat you with Otis (that aluminum clue-bat, for those not on TSC) like the starfish you are.

Hmm…slipping a little, aren’t I?

Posted in Geekery, Life, Work on March 5th, 2007

It’s kinda funny – I get annoyed when I go to read my favorite blogs and webcomics and discover that they haven’t updated…and I haven’t posted in forever. Time to remedy that a bit.

I feel I have now fully investigated every way in which you cannot resurrect a deleted email account. The short story is that if the computer has been nuked, and the server has deleted the account, the only way you are going to get that Exchange mailbox restored is to either spend money or time, take your pick. With a couple of software tools out there costing less than $1000, it will probably be cheaper to buy the software than it will be to build a virtual server and mount a backup of the database.

Luckily for me, I was able to log in to the original workstation, configure Outlook 2003 to launch in off-line mode, and then export the mailbox from the .ost. Un-luckily, I spent about ten hours of headache getting to that point by going at the problem the hard way. This comes from not having done it before and not having any training in the mysteries of Exchange 2003. Now, I know, and you can bet your sweet ass I won’t be walking that fucked-up road again. A bit of advice: if there is not a need, under NO circumstances will I ever delete a mailbox or profile for 30 days. And even then, I’ll wait another 30.

Cruising right along. Things are going pretty well for us here at Chez Wolfe, and I’m enjoying the peace. The Rat is working and being a good lad when he’s about, Pookie is dealing with her little bro well, and I still have The World’s Best Girlfriend. Now the “New and Improved” model, with wonderfully BLUE hair!

This is not some wimpy-ass Anime-style sky blue, either: this is deep, rich and vivid, and damn near glows in sunlight. This is definitely a WOW! color, and it looks great. A round of applause for Chop-Chop the Stylist for a job well done :)

I’ve got a little “New and Improved” going on around here as well. I managed to snag an appointment at an eye doctor last week, and then took Tolerant there Saturday to help me pick out my new specs. I have fairly simple requirements in specs – they should fit, and they should be lighter than what I have so they don’t hurt my nose by the end of the day. Tolerant came along to keep me from looking like an idiot.

The shop in question is Eyes! On Broadway and I’ll give them a little pimping because the doctor was not only thoroughly professional, he was even more of a perfectionist than I and extremely patient. They will be getting return business from me. The only bummer is that they don’t have their own lab on-site, so it will take about two weeks for them to build my new specs.

It’s hard for me to spend $375 on something and walk away from the store without it. Yeah, that’s a lot of scratch for something you don’t want scratched, but I got the transition tint and a frameless design that weighs about nuthin’. If I ever get tired of how much these ones weigh, I’ll have to either get contacts or surgery.

Considering how much time I had spent the other night in front of my CRT at home working on the aforementioned email problem and getting both stress and eyestrain headaches, I thought it would be a good idea to invest a little more in keeping my eyes from getting any worse by replacing the that large chunk of radiation.

So I dragged tWBGF with me down to Mecca and bought a flatscreen. A friggin’ HUGE flatscreen – 22″ wide format, DVI inputs, 5ms response time. And it’s bee-yoooo-tee-fulll, lemme tell ya. Two years ago, this would have cost about twice as much as it did, so I’m glad I waited until now to buy it.

I had also planned to build my Sweetie a new computer this year, but she worked hard to convince me that I shouldn’t spend that much money on something she doesn’t use that much – hers is old enough that nothing short of replacement will speed it up, but she doesn’t need all that much more power with her current usage habits. So, I’ll build me a mostly-all-new computer and rebuild the old parts into a new machine for her. After all, the motherboard is only a couple months old since I RMA’d the predecessor, and I haven’t stressed the rest of it out that much.

So, the new box will be AMD dual-core and faster, but otherwise basically the same. RAM and mobo will be replaced with the move to a socket AM2 proc, but I am staying with 2GB of memory. The DVD drive is being replaced due to it being elephantine: it won’t forget the last DVD you used until you reboot. I’m replacing the video card as well, since the move to the new display has made DarkStar One a little finicky. Just too much monitor for the card, it seems :)

I read a review from a Iraq who claims Newegg shipped his gear to him there in 7 days, so I should have mine by the end of the week. Looks like next Sunday will be spent worshiping technology :)

Mostly triumphant

Posted in Work on March 1st, 2007

I got handed a job from one of our other techs who’s out on personal time last week – add three drives to an existing RAID5 array. Not too much of an issue, right?

Except I’ve never done it before, and nobody else in the shop has done so on a Dell server (We like HP around here.) So, I dig up documentation and am feeling pretty prepared.

Day of the work, I beat my head against it for an hour and a half before throwing in the towel and calling Dell support. Turns out, we need to upgrade the firmware on the BIOS of the system board, the Windows drivers and firmware on the RAID controller before this can happen.

5 times. It’s ten revisions old.

Yeah – it was going to have to wait for another day, since I had already had their server down for 4 hours.

Fast forward to today: BIOS update went fine. Drivers had already been updated? Who did that, and why the fuck didn’t they upgrade the firmware? First firmware: won’t load. Shit. Try second firmware – it works! Cool. 2nd, third and fourth go fine also. 5th craps out. Well, let’s see how lucky I am…

Cool! It’s been upgraded far enough to to the reconstruction!
(over an hour later)
Cool-the reconstruction worked! Now to resize the partitions..
(almost two hours later)
…and it boots!

Run away quick!!!