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Present Perfect

yay life

Filed under: General — Thomas @ 20:17


Our new office manager (well, our first) starts in two weeks. When she was trying to find this place security downstairs described our company as "Bohemian". I wonder if that means that we work late, or start late, or never shave, or wear shorts. Maybe I should go and ask.

Hero of August Award goes to Jan Schmidt. Not only did he join me in my quest to install machines at the data center - twice - on a Friday, his personal project day, but he also took care of my cat for a full week, but more importantly !

He fixed

  • my Playstation, which wasn't playing DVD's anymore
  • my Hifi, which was refusing most - and even brand new - CD's, and the ones it did play it sprinkled with static
  • the VFD display in my Hifi that allows me to set an alarm to get woken up by beautiful music of my choice is now fixed too. It had been broken for three years, and I took advantage of Jan's enduring love affair with his soldering iron by Googling for my hifi's model, and finding some pages that mention that this type of problem can be caused by two specific capacitors going bad. Jan was sceptic about my odds, but when we found some pages that showed the same brown coloring on the VFD as I had (which Jan thought was a sign of the VFD having burnt up), he replaced the capacitors, and presto ! Fixed. (Yes Peter ! Another case of bad capacitors)

If I didn't know any better I'd swear he's trying to bed me. Everyone should have a hero like Jan - he improved my quality of life by leaps and bounds over the last month.

(The race for Thomas's Hero of September starts tomorrow, for any contestants that want to partake.)

Meanwhile, I didn't get to enjoy my new alarm clock yet, because stress is keeping me up late and waking me up early.

Soon, my pets.

my hands are covered in cake
but I swear I didn't have any

Happy birthday

Filed under: General — Thomas @ 14:13


My baby sister turned 28 yesterday. For her birthday she got a crushed shoe and a bent rear bicycle wheel, courtesy of a truck driver who failed to notice her when leaving a roundabout.

She got stuck between her own bike and a metal bar protruding from the back of the truck. By some incredible miracle she only has a bruised toe; she can't really explain what happened. She was just coming back from a double emergency shift at the hospital she works in as a doctor. She was saying on the phone how surreal it was to have been saving lives herself only an hour before and being so close to becoming a life needing saving. When the ambulance took her off she did request to be taken to a different hospital than the one she works with, because she didn't want her collagues to see her like that. I guess she didn't suffer any personality damage.

Perhaps this is the worst birthday you can have, and perhaps being given the chance to live again, 28 years after the first time, is an unbeatable present.

Treasure your days, people.
Happy birthday, sis.


Filed under: General — Thomas @ 08:22


For some reason I've started watching Alias. It does make a lot more sense when watched in chronological order. I wouldn't say it's good, but it has its moments. I hadn't noticed before that they use old-school unix GUI's to make their computers look hi-tech, and it works in setting the computer side apart from other movies/series. Aside from the download screenshots, the computer stuff in the series actually looks believable.

Well, that is until Sydney has to pass a fake IP address to Dixon, but the IP address starts with 259.

This jetset life

Filed under: General — Thomas @ 10:17


Phew. Last Friday was spent in a datacenter in Barcelona, where a stressful wait for a cab until an hour before my flight segued into - yet again - a 40 minute wait to be let on the plane, because both the check-in queue and the security queue where literally empty. I went from outside the airport to sitting down at the terminal in five minutes, in stark contrast with the rest of the world's airports.

By 11.45 I was in Kristien's arms and ready to be taken home. On Saturday we went shopping in Brussels. I shelled out 1.5 PlayStation's worth of money on CD's (Archie Bronson Outfit's Derdang Derdang is amazing), DVD's (ended up buying the L-Word series because I couldn't find it anywhere through more conventional means), and a whole range of books (including a big Penrose book). Sometimes my feminine side wins, exchanging chunks of emotional distress with bouts of consumerism. We ended up sitting at a dodgy snack bar on the Anspachlaan (where the famous Ancienne Belgique concert hall is) and I got a truely excellent pot of mussels with white wine sauce.

I felt like a tourist in my own country all day (highlighted even more by the fact that I heard people speaking Spanish all around me), but it was excellent. I'm starting to appreciate the finer sides of Brussels, after having hated the city for countless years.
In the evening we went to a drive-in movie, V for Vendetta. The movie was great (I'm talking to you, Johan), and besides the fact that originally we had driven to somewhere half an hour away from where Kristien lives - the Esplanade at the Centenaire which is under the Atomium -, while the actual drive-in was at the Esplanade at the Cinquantenaire (which is just around the corner), we had a great time in the end.

Sunday morning was spent strolling the market and getting great cheese, Tartiflette quiche, and having breakfast at a cornet street bar with our fresh cheese. In the afternoon we went to Marktrock, where Kristien was presenting on one of the stages, and her collagues from Donna were broadcasting a show. One of the people performing was Born, a guy who participated in Belgium's Idol contest. The fun thing about him is that he's a lot like our friend Peter - he has red hair, his accent is exactly the same as Peter's, has similar glasses, and although a bit thinner even physically resembles him somewhat. He even drives the same model of car ! When he was driving away after his gig, I told him that he should look up rost schaamhaar in Google, and somewhere on the first page would be a link to Peter's page (it's link 8). He told me he had "rost schaamhaar" too, and I said, "yeah, sure". At that point he opened his pants and pulled them down, and it's true - Born has rost schaamhaar ! I swear, Born and Peter are brothers. Swentel, take Peter to Borns bar in De Pinte !

After that, I got to see Dear Leader, which is the new band fronted by the ex-Sheila Divine frontman. He still has that amazing voice, and he ended the set by morphing his own song into a medley of Cutting Crew's "I just died in your arms tonight", the Smiths' "There is a light that never goes out" and the Pixies' "Monkey gone to heaven", before going back to his own song. Any band that can pull off a transition like that deserves our utmost respect.

And to close off the evening, Metal Molly is together again for a series of concerts. We arrived late, but when I did they had just broken into a perfect trilogy of Orange, Suncomfort International and Happiness. And as if it was 94 all over again, they ended their set with exactly the song I hoped for - a rollercoaster cover of Sloan's "Underwhelmed".

Sometimes it's good to come home, even when home isn't home...

The rest of this week I spent working on the half-finished cluster install and fixing various bugs here and there. Today I'm off to Pukkelpop, and Sunday I return home to Barcelona...

Demon Days

Filed under: General — Thomas @ 12:52


Last Friday was spent at the data center in Barcelona. Our mission, which we chose to accept, was to install fifteen PowerEdge servers into our new rack, including doing the cabling, operating system, and everything. By my side was the inimitable Jan Schmidt of Jan and Jaime fame.

Predictably, we failed in our endavour. In the end, we managed to physically install eight of the fifteen servers (meaning, cabled up, locked in place and booting), and put most of the other seven on rails. The rack itself is cabled beautifully thanks to Jan, and some of the machines have had their minimal configuration applied to the point where I can access them remotely. Not bad for a seven hour job.

Things would have gone a lot smoother if:

  • We had known beforehand that we are supposed to mail the data center before coming. (I wonder what we're going to do when we want to come in quickly because our mail server is down)
  • Dell hadn't decided to change their rails slightly, making them a few centimeters longer. After some serious thinking the only solution we could think of was to move the vertical rails in the rack completely, for which we needed a wrench for the IKEA screws (Jan, as always, knows the correct name for those bastards - Allen screws).
  • Fedora's CD1 would actually be enough for a minimal install. I am fairly certain this used to be the case in the past, but not anymore - let alone that it's hard to get a minimal install going anyway. The worst part was that it only needed one or two packages from the second CD as far as I could tell, but there was still no way to ignore that problem to get at least grub's boot record written. Annoyance number two with Anaconda - more long-standing - is that when you do an upgrade, you can choose to rewrite the grub configuration, but unless the CD actually ends up updating a kernel package, it will not actually write the grub boot record even if you asked it to. And anyone who has ever had to rewrite their GRUB record manually with grub-install can attest that this only ever works after hours of googling and various failed experiments. In the end, we set up a local http server to install from.
  • Dell's PowerEdge servers came with PS/2 ports. I had the foresight to bring a small KVM switch, but I gave up hope using it when noticing there is only USB on the machines - this in contrast to the on-line manuals I for these machines.
  • Dell's PowerEdge servers would be a little more like their SC range. The SC's we had at work for the development cluster have two NIC's, and quite sensibly NIC1 maps to eth0 and NIC2 to eth1. The IPMI stuff (which is exposed by a fancy always-on controller card that allows you to get sensor data, reboot machines, and do serial-on-lan) is piggybacked onto the first NIC, and so on our dev platform we use the first NIC for a private network, and the second NIC for the "public" one. The PowerEdge machines however assign eth0 to NIC2 and eth1 to NIC1, and there was no way for me to see which one had the IPMI. After experimenting with DHCP last night remotely, it would seem that the IPMI stuff is in fact piggybacked on NIC2 instead. Weird. The reason this is important to me is that I really do want the IPMI traffic (which isn't adequately encrypted) to go only to the private router.
    Jan was muttering something about Ubuntu and aliases making this easy, but neither of us could find any reference to it on the web. In the past, I've always configured order with alias statements in modules.conf, but of course that only work if you have different NIC's. In the end, fixing the order of eth0/eth1 was easy - Fedora allows you to specify the MAC address in the relevant ifcfg file, and it figures it out from there.

I hardly had a chance to deploy my excellent new Coming Soon tool to manage all the configuration for these machines, even though I had prepared most of the config for the live platform before installing the machines. Anyway, I expect I'll be going back after my week in Belgium to finish up details, and I can spend part of this week working out some of the kinks of my deployment.

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