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Robrt (1414)

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robert at perl dot org

Journal of Robrt (1414)

Sunday September 19, 2004
04:19 AM

24 Hour Penguin Dance

[ #20938 ]
My last entry triggered a large (and totally unintended discussion). It's been a few weeks, and I've finally had time to get something else written. (Unrelated, of course.) Here's a stream of conciousness type ramble about the computer upgrades I've been doing over the past few days.

For the past 24 hours or so, I've been disconnected. At least in some sort of stretching of the truth kind of way. It all started with Ask. At least I want to blame him. I know he'll say it's my fault -- he's probably right.

Anyway, I ordered myself some new toys on Tuesday night. Wedensday morning I dealt with the anti-credit-card fraud measures in place. Thursday I had a bright shiny 19" LCD display, two 250GB drives, and a 1GB Compact Flash card. None of it was really needed, but I found ways to justify them. The display would allow me to sit at my desk in a more ergonomic fashion, and hopefully increase my productivity. The drives, in a RAID1 Configuration would reduce the chance of catastrophic drive failure wiping away important bits of my life. ("bits" -- get it?) And the CF card was cheap enough -- and I really do mean to take more pictures.

Thursday night, after work and some non-computer obligations, I got the LCD panel in place. I'm in love. It's bright, sharp (almost too sharp! no more fuzzy monitor anti-aliasing), and doesn't take up desk space. Entropy had its way, and my desk became even messier with the removal of the huge CRT. I'm not an expert in thermodynamics, but I'd have expected a brief respite.

The real fun didn't happen until Friday, when I decided that instead of vegging out, I really wanted to inhale dust-bunnies and install the new drives. Installing the drives required removing the old drives, because there is only finite space inside my computer case. Plan 1 was to hook the drives into another box, boot them, and transfer necessary files over 100Megabit to the new drives. I got 80% through the preparations before deciding that was stupid and I'd just make use of the copious amounts ATA busses on my motherboard and rig something up.

'm getting ahead of myself. Fedora Core 1.90 is not Fedora Core 2. (Are you listening, Ask?) It was cut way before many of the FC2 structural changes, including the all important XFree86/X.Org switch. It also happened to not like the combination of my NVidia graphics card, the LCD, and DVI. But, I soldiered ahead anyway... and completed the installation... only to decide that was stupid and I really wanted FC2 proper. Two hours, two Stargates later, I had downloaded and burned fresh copies of FC2 and had a clean and happy install.

Next step -- transfer data. A little tar | tar magic, and the disks started grinding away, transfering a hundred GB of data. Dreaming of flying bits and killer sheep, I hit the sack.

In the morning, the machine had locked up. My guess is a poor interaction between XScreenSaver and OpenGL. I've seen that many times before... and really don't want to see it again. The next hour was spent figuring out what didn't get copied, and copying it. I also began the process of building the tools I need to get things done. Perl and xemacs for example. "Began" being a very vague term - I untarred the source.

The story now enters the outside world, where some food is eaten, some bright green fluid is found in a bike tire, dog poop is smeared around, and we contemplate what google will do with this paragraph. A few hours later...

Returning to the computer, I discover that I'd left a bunch of important files on the disks that were now sitting patiently on the desk. My patience had run out, and I was not particularly interested in re-jiggering them to be accessible. So, after a nice dinner, I broke my vows and went to Fry's. The prices were high, the quality was low, and I got out of there under $150. My bounty? A USB2/Firewire disk enclosure. A USB2/Firewire PCMCIA card. A retractable ethernet cable. And a USB powered massager.

Please take a moment to ponder the "USB Everything" movement. You may want to go read Gizmodo, they tend to report on this kind of thing often. USB Carrot Slicer? USB Blender? Who knows - I'm sure someone is working on it right now.

The storm clouds are gathering on the horizon now. The enclosure quite happily talks USB2 to the computer and we are able to get the files we need. apt-get is installed. apt-get installs spamassassin, clamav, DCC, and many other things. Wanderlust is installed, and we have email again. And all was good with the world.

And then I plug the PCMCIA card into the notebook and wonder why it isn't detecting any Firewire ports. The short answer? Because the 2.4 kernel is hit or miss with Firewire. We try 2.6, which at least detects the bus. But not any devices on it. Not the iPod, not the enclosure. Not anything. :( I'm pretty sure this is actually a side effect of 2.6 being only meta-stable. It still contains much forward movement. (Not that this is surprising - 2.4 didn't really stabilize until 2.4.9.. and then not again until 2.4.18 or so.) It's just a shame that something that is supposed to be really easy doesn't work. And it's really frustrating to not even get log messages that can be googled for.

I've been keeping notes, so next time I need to re-initialize a computer I'll know where to get things from. But next time will be different I'm sure. Maybe it'll be a Mac? Maybe SCO will win and next time will be Windows XP? (Or not!).

Now that I'm back to a stable point where I can access my email again -- reconnected, and browse with all my bookmarks and settings, things will return to normal. The old installation had almost 6 years of cruft and upgrades associated with it. Hopefully I'll be able to keep the new one a little cleaner.

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