Tag Archives: computers

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!

Smart Monkey

Second day of my return to work. Back at my old company as a contractor. Once again, I’m a smart monkey.

It’s not super-exciting-omg-yes, but it’s work. New lab, new team, new job functions: somewhere in the company, somebody wants to know how the data buses leaving the CPU behave electrically, and it’s the job of my team to use high-cost test equipment to find that out. I’ll be doing some of the actual execution of the work, at least for the short term, but during the downtime between product cycles, we’ll be planning ways to automate a large chunk of the test flow. My job during those periods will be to help write the code to manipulate the test equipment automatically so the not-so-smart monkeys can set it up, click Go, and have data by the morning.

Although I’ve been at the company in some manner for over five years, the learning curve in this lab is still a bit steep. I’m still battling with getting my badge to work on the doors, waiting for my login info so I can actually use my computer, and I still have to get all my email and work profile and all the other onboarding stuff done before I’m established enough to learn who’s who and where I fit in. First-week blues. And I know there’s a lot of work ahead of me, so I’m not really celebrating. I’m just relieved. Once I have a few paychecks in the bank, then I’ll consider letting my hair down for a moment (but only for a moment; I have to retire to bed early now).



I’m tired. I hate computers. I had too much dinner, and this coffee is too little, too late. Is this what being a grownup is like? Because I don’t like it. There was a power outage at my apartment today. Lasted almost an hour, much longer than my UPS backup systems can sustain. In other news, my UPS batteries last no more than 7 minutes on my router and 12 minutes on my desktop. I got home from a very long day at work and saw things weren’t right. All I wanted to do was shuck off my stuffy business casual and get very comfortable, but no, the computers were needy. Very, very needy. Is this what having kids is like? Because it’s the closest I’ll ever get. I can hate computers, and I can hate kids, but I can’t hate kids if they are mine. Right? So very needy.

So very tired.

Too Tired for Idealism

Listening to Sophie & Ives’ song “Awaken”. Fucking phenomenal. Product of a transoceanic love affair between two artists, an american man and a New Zealand woman. An impossible love affair made possible by the internet. The hunger of the lyrics, and embrace of the music. Fuck. This is why I love the net; this kind of stuff exists. This is how I pictured the net in the idealism of my mid-20’s, a scant decade ago.

I dug out my boxes of floppies. Decided that since I have a lot of disk space I should probably backup those dusty pieces of yesteryear onto something a little more modern. Floppies and cdroms are poor mediums for long-term archival. Took two evenings, but I got through everything. Sorted and categorized everything into driver disks, boot disks, and important data. Backed up what I felt important. Found three floppies that contained all of the data I backed up from my three VAX accounts on my last week in school, December ’95. Every worthwhile email, every source code file, every text file, every configuration file. It’s all there.

Found a philosophical op-ed piece I wrote in September ’95 in the VAX lab. Forgot that I wrote that beast. Some generic 20-something blag about “This is our/your life, this is our/your world. Take it, use it, live it!” I obviously had some high hopes about the future although I was in the midst of failing miserably in my own schooling. Had no money for books; was dropping out of classes one by one; was working a night job and distancing myself from the very reason why I was in school, and for what? Some idealistic zeal that I just couldn’t shake even after leaving the religious environment which spawned it.

Yet there I was; writing about how we may come from chaos and shackles but through hope, through grasping onto the Now, through embracing new things (like the Internet), we may liberate ourselves and live the grand life we have all imagined. It’s apparent to me, in hindsight, that I had some obviously unresolved existential issues (still do). But the heart was still there: the desire to connect with others, to reach out, trade strength with people “out there” to build for ourselves a better world. Ten years later, a slim glint of that hope still exists in me, but to be perfectly honest, I’m too tired for idealism.

I’ve spun other yarns over the years about the salvation achieved by friends and strangers reaching out and offering kind words, helpful life advice, providing solace to those desolate and of ill psyche. Yarns about how we’re all on this great worldwide network and that it’s our Tomorrow. But the past six years have tought me, if anything, that such a dream cannot, and never will, be. We have forum users calling each other fags. Image boards are waging war on each other. A genre of websites has spawned that use other site’s content in order to serve their own share of the advertising market. It’s all money and marketshare now. Genuity is out with yesterday’s newspaper, seen as a weakness and as source material for someone else’s website.

I thought anonymity would save us; but it has doomed us to partisan bickering, flames, and trolls. It’s discouraging; gives me reason to not post anything on my blog.

Stretch, Reach, and Replace

Some replacements that’ve needed to happen for a long time are now happening at once. It’s unsettling.

First is my laptop. It’s old, it’s busted. It has developed a habit of shutting off at random. After some testing, I determined it was either a) that my installation of Windows XP somehow got pooched or b) the power circuitry, cdrom, or battery is intermittently killing it. So, I uninstalled everything, backed up my important stuff to my desktop machine, and reinstalled Windows.

Reinstallation is, for some of us who live on our computers, a debasing ordeal; all your customizations are lost, all the hacks, programs, and shortcuts you take for granted to get your stuff done are completely undone. You realize what it is about the default configurations that drive you to make those changes. And now I’m going back through all that.

So far, everything is fine. The power did zap off during the install so I had to restart, which makes me wonder if it’s actually the hardware instead. If it is, and if I can’t get this thing to run confidently, then I’m essentially without a laptop again and I’ll need to replace it, which is a pricy possibility.

Second, yet foremost on my mind, is The Dragonfly, my 1993 Mitsubishi Mirage. It’s thirteen years old, smokes like a train, fails emissions tests, and is falling apart. So, after eight and a half years of faithful, everloving service, I have to give it away.

In that regard, it’s time to replace it with another car. After very little looking around, I’ve found the car I want: a green 1999 Honda Civic LX. Four doors, five speeds. I test drove it yesterday, and it does well. I put a deposit on it to hold it, and the dealer offered $200 on a trade-in of my Mirage; basically giving it away (with a car that old, I’m pretty sure, the wholesalers will sell it for parts).

What I’m worried about most is this: money. The car, after all taxes, title, license, and dealer fees, will be $9321. I can swing that through financing. And I have $1000 available in my bank account to go towards down payment. But the dealer, it seems, wants $1500. I’m trying my bank’s financing to see what they can offer. A $500 difference won’t make much of a change in the monthly payment amount, but it’ll affect my interest rate. I guess if I can borrow out of my 401(k) plan at work, I can make it all work out, but everything will have to wait until Tuesday when the work week picks back up.

I know that I want this car, and that it’ll treat me well for years, but I am completely full of trepidation. There’s this feeling I get when it comes to dealing with large amounts of money, like I’m in trouble with my superiors or something. I felt it twice every semester back when I was in college: once at the beginning when I signed my promisory notes for student loans, and once at the end when I was signing another loan to round out my account for finals. I felt it when I signed the financing for my Mirage. And I’m feeling it now.

Am I making a $9321 mistake? Did I make a $200 mistake on the non-refundable deposit? Am I outstretching my reach by affixing my signature to the dotted line without more research, more digging, more financial wisdom? I hope not.