Interstitium

My tenure at Hostway has come to an end. Long live Hostway.

I put in my two weeks notice, then walked away a free man yesterday afternoon. It was a long, tangled, messy 4 years, 5 months, 3 weeks. I learned a lot while there, but the biggest lesson of them all is that I do not want to do public-facing technical support ever again. There are too many parts in motion at all times; there are too many façades to keep up; there are too many unfunded and untenable expectations to uphold to get through the job with any shred of self-respect. I found I couldn’t exceed because the constant and random barrage of imperative demands kept me out of focus.

I also learned about networking, how server farms and monitoring systems work, how to file tickets, how to make things talk to each other, and how to deal with remote teams. Which is the set of traits that landed me my next gig.

On Monday, I will start as a contractor for a research team at Samsung. I’m not fully clear on the particulars of the job, but it will be very much like what I did in the product development labs at AMD: benchmarking & power measurement. My new job will also entail the care and feeding of a collection of testing platforms, rescuing any devices that lock up, making sure remote engineers can reach the platforms, working on automation and reporting software, etc.

It will be an uphill climb. But if it means I don’t have to deal with downed servers, failed hard drives, and pissed-off customers, then I’ll be as happy as a clam.

Transit

Ultimately, all technological systems are mediums for human systems. As much as I love computers, networking, radio, etc., I still have to wrestle with the human factor. People are why those things exist. I can study and focus and fixate on the tech, but the tech is completely, irrevocably, in service of human communications. I have to answer to other people.

At the lowest level, closest to the silicon, we all need to be a little bit of Bryce, but even Bryce knows that he has to make deals with the people who ask a lot of him. My job, my hobbies, my relationships ask lots of things of me, and I have to arbitrate expectations and deliverables. I have to be a human.

Please excuse me if I don’t look you in the eye; I’m working through some things and hope to return to humanity soon. Hope you understand.

Slap Head

For those who are keeping score, I’m a dumbass.

So, I have a file server at my home that’s running FreeNAS, which is based on FreeBSD, a popular Unix distribution. I have around 7.4 terabytes of storage capacity across 5 disks; that’s a lot of personal files. I bought a single 8TB disk for the purposes of backing up this mountain of data. The problem is that my methods of making exact copies of files to the disk were failing or taking too long to complete, so the backups were slow and not always good.

When you’re dealing with terabytes of data, everything’s slow and insufficient.

Well, the problem is that I was looking at the problem from the wrong point of view. On my personal workstation, which runs Linux and uses the ext4 filesystem, I have a stack of scripts that basically run “rsync” to make exact copies to a portable 2TB disk. This method is what I tried on the FreeNAS box. Due to the way rsync operates under the hood, especially on complex filesystems where there are lots of hardlinked files, it was occasionally consuming all of the free memory on the fileserver and eventually dying after a few hours of churning, sometimes with no files actually copied.

“There has to be a better way to do this,” I thought. “I guess I’ll split the disk up into smaller chunks and make scripts to do it that way.”

And then, like a strike of lightning, it hit me: this FreeNAS box isn’t running on an ext4 filesystem — it’s running ZFS. What feature does ZFS have that ext4 doesn’t? That’s right — snapshots. Futuristic, amazing, wonderful snapshots. And what can you do with these snapshots? That’s right, you can replicate them, bit-for-bit, to another disk or remote system. Woah.

Just slap me now.

So, I did what any sane person would do: use the available tools as intended. I made a snapshot. I then wiped the backup disk clean, and am currently replicating that snapshot to the backup disk. Then, once the initial snapshot is there, I can take incremental snapshots at later dates and push them to the backup disk in a significantly shorter amount of time.

Use what’s available to you. That’s the key lesson here. This is liberating. Let’s hope this works!

Mobile Power Project: Ham Radio On the Go!

Mobile Power Project: Ham Radio on the go! By KG5RHR

Intent:

It seems minor, but installing the power cables for a ham radio in a car is a major project if you want it done right. After months of thoughts and tactics, I made good on my plan to install a 25 Amp circuit into my car to power my portable amateur radio equipment. I’ve been needing this capability for a while. It gives me another option for operating away from home, allowing me to drive to any convenient spot and make HF contacts, as well as allowing me to make VHF contacts while on the road. I’ll have radio power for as long as I have gas in the tank.

It took me a while to get around to doing it, but once I started, it was two evenings well-spent. Here’s the details. Continue reading “Mobile Power Project: Ham Radio On the Go!”