Shivering on the 49th Parallel
Friday, 28 November 2008

And now, it’s time for a “Fuck You Friday” special!

 

To the Translink bus driver who changed lanes into my lane when I was halfway up the side of his bus, forcing me to STOMP on my brakes and nearly get rear-ended by the morning traffic behind me and then STILL almost clipped my front end with the ass-end of his accordion bus rather than wait the 1.5 seconds until I was past him; a hearty “FUCK YOU, YOU ASSHOLE” and I hope you have a shitty weekend!

Reminds me of an old proverb(ha) I heard on a Maclean and McLean record when I was a young impressionable child:

May bloody piles torment you,

May corns grow on your feet.

May crabs as big as turtles,

Crawl up your ass and eat.

And when you’re old and feeble and become a nervous wreck,

I hope your head falls through your ass and breaks your fucking neck.

 

To everyone else, have a great weekend. ;)

Friday, 28 November 2008 10:14:13 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [3] | Rants#
Monday, 17 November 2008

Last week enough parts arrived that I could start putting together the first of my two new servers. In the end, I decided to buy SuperMicro barebones servers instead of HP or Dell (or IBM) servers because of the size of the hard drives we wanted. My co-worker and I came to the figure of 4TB for where we expected company-wide data storage to be in five years time, based upon the current size and the growth we’ve had and are expecting.

In order to build a RAID5 array of 4TB, we had to have five 1TB drives. Of course, 1TB drive doesn't actually HAVE 1TB of drive space on it, it’s only about 927Gb or so because of the whole 1000 vs 1024 multiplier. Sure it was fine in the days of 100Mb drives, but now it’s just ridiculous. Five 1TB hard drives yields a 3.6TB array. We are “missing” or “losing” 400Gb or almost half of one of those terabyte drives when extrapolated across the array.

The hard drives that Dell and HP (and I’m assuming IBM/Lenovo) use have custom firmware on them so that the onboard diagnostics can talk to the drive and receive information from them. This means that the same Seagate Barracuda or Western Digital Caviar 1024Gb drive that costs about $166 at NCIX or Tiger Direct costs $924 from Dell Direct or CDW. You also need the hot-swap caddy for that particular server, and they don’t sell those separately (unless you find some on Craigslist or eBay). That would have meant that I spent more on those hard drives than I ended up spending on the entire SuperMicro server.

This is the second time I’ve dealt with SuperMicro. When PC Powerhouse closed it’s doors, we (my old company) bought up their server rack, patch panels & switches and there were two SuperMicro 2U servers in there. We called it the Sharktank and used it to set up a completely separate network with a copy of our Active Directory on it to use for testing purposes. We also bought a third SuperMicro 2U server and stuffed it full of 500Gb hard drives to use as a disk-based backup solution. I was impressed with the build quality then and when I needed a cheaper alternative to brand-name servers here at my new job, I went to SuperMicro again.

Fortunately CDW carries SuperMicro servers. NCIX does as well I found out which means I have two suppliers I can have compete against each other for better pricing. The first one arrived mid-week last week and I put it together in one afternoon. These particular servers are Intel Xeon quad-core processors, 4Gg RAM and two 250Gb hard drives in a RAID1 (mirrored) configuration with Windows Server 2008 x64 Standard Edition running on it. The RAID controller is an Adaptec 3805. In addition, they also have the five terabyte drives configured in a RAID5 array. These servers have redundant 750 watt power supplies and are plugged into an APC 2U Rackmounted UPS pushing 2200VA.

So begins the headache. The maximum disk size that windows XP, 2003 and Vista (non 64-bit versions) can see is 2Tb. My array is 3.6Tb. Try as I might, I could not break through that 2Tb maximum. The drive just didn’t show up in the Disk Management snap-in. I tried everything I could think of, it just wouldn’t show up.

I deleted the array that I had created in the controller BIOS settings and re-created it in Windows using the Adaptec Storage Manager (ASM). No good. As soon as I added the 4th drive to the array, the available disk size went from 1.8Tb to 2.0Tb and ignored the remaining 1.6Tb. I searched and searched and searched all weekend and asked every SysAdmin I knew and had access to via IM, email, phone and shouting over a live band at a pub Saturday night. No one had any insight.

I found out about GPT during this time though, and how it works and what it does. There are a lot of limitations to using GUID Partition Tables instead of MBR mostly due to BIOS limitations. EFI bios can boot from GPT disks, so that means all Macs can, but only Windows XP x64, Vista x64, Server 2003 SP2 X64 and Server 2008 x64 can BOOT from a GPT. This had no bearing on my setup as I wasn’t booting from this disk, it was simply a big data drive. There’s supposed to be a way to right-click an unrecognized disk in the Disk Management snap-in and Convert to GPT (or Convert to MBR) but since my Disk1 was not showing up there, I couldn’t do it. FRUSTRATION SETS IN.

I came in over the weekend to relocate the server from my workbench into the rack and re-created the RAID5 array and initiated a Build/Verify rather than a Quick Init. After two hours of solid disk LED lights, the progress meter changed to 1%. Oi. I left and went home for the weekend, thinking that it should be done by Monday morning, and once the drive array is Optimal, then maybe it will magically appear.

No suck luck. I arrived this morning to an Optimal array but still nothing in the Disk Management snap-in. I opened the Device Manager and checked through there to make sure that the Adaptec 3805 had the correct and up-to-date driver. It did. When I clicked “check online for a new version” it returned a message that I already had the best driver for the job. Fortunately I’m not that trusting of Windows Update.

I went to the Adaptec website and navigated through to the 3805 downloads. there was a newer firmware available, but there was a new, windows-certified driver for Server 2008 x64 that was dated Oct 2, 2008. I downloaded that driver and copied it over to the server. The documentation suggested that I could either do it via rebooting the server and booting from a floppy, or I could do it via the Adaptec Storage Manager console itself. I updated the driver and Windows Server 2008 said “your new driver is installed but will not be working correctly until you restart your computer.” Since this is a new server and there’s no data on it yet (hell there’s nowhere to PUT the data) I clicked OK and when it asked me to reboot, I clicked yes.

I was disconnected from the Remote Desktop, and since I don’t have a console KVM in my rack just yet, I kept my fingers crossed and waited a few minutes for the server to come back up.

I re-connected via Remote Desktop (as an aside, as of November 19, 2008 RealVNC’s free version does not work with Windows Vista or Server 2008, just their pay versions do) I fired up the new Server Manager and expanded the + sign next to storage and clicked on Disk Management…

GPT DialogHOLY JUMPING JESUS ON A POGO STICK I HAVE A NEW DRIVE SHOWING!

Disk 1 unknown 3723.99Gb NOT INITIALIZED. The Initialize Disk Wizard popped up on it’s own and asked me how I wanted to initialize this disk: MBR or GPT? Even the note at the bottom is good: The GPT partition style is not recognized by all previous versions of Windows. It is recommended for disks larger than 2TB, or disks used on Itanium-based computers. Honestly, Itanium? Who even USES those? In this case, I’m going to go with GPT because I’m never going to boot off this drive, and Windows Server 2008 sees the GPT partition just fine. The XP Client computers and other Windows server 2003s that will be working with the data on these drives will all be accessed over the network via SMB anyway so it’s all good.

FINALLY the drive is ready to be formatted as NTFS (which should take another bunch of hours, even as a quick format) and I can start preparing my checklist for migrating the old file server on to this one.

Monday, 17 November 2008 11:11:40 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Tech | Microsoft#
Thursday, 13 November 2008

Just over two years ago I came across a link that said that Rip Curl was making a rechargeable, heated wetsuit. DAMN! I posted that I did not know if it was for scuba use or it was merely “splash-proof” for kayaking and surfing.

It took two years, but this morning I saw a post on The Uber-Review that they’ve finally brought it to market.

It’s only rated to 10m so it’s not designed for SCUBA diving at all. Surfing yes, kayaking yes, SCUBA, no. They were thoughtful enough to do a bunch of testing to make sure that the electric field generated by the lithium-ion batteries and the carbon fiber heating elements wouldn’t attract sharks. Thanks guys! Hopefully they didn’t get the batteries from Sony’s laptop battery division. :)

Rip Curl’s website has a cool interactive flash site set up with videos and a neat “thermal body scanner” that shows you where the elements are and how much heat they produce when you have it switched on low or high.

Now if I could find a battery-heated wooly-bear to wear under my drysuit, I’d be back in business diving up here in the Pacific Northwest… maybe next spring :)

PS: they're just over $1000 MSRP and doesn't really say what the thickness is, although I kinda think it's a 4/3mm.

Thursday, 13 November 2008 09:42:42 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Links | Underwater#
Monday, 10 November 2008

A few weeks ago I posted a rant about some dirty filthy stinking hippy who sheared off the drivers side mirror on my car, less than a month after I bought it.

Of course, it probably wasn’t a hippy, they don’t normally drive cars… the odd VW Microbus but those are few and far between.

I spent a week calling around to wreckers to see if anyone had a replacement. No, no, no, no and haha no, really! The mirror is a power/electric mirror so I had to replace it with another. There’s a little speaker in the corner on the inside, so I couldn’t even replace it with a manual one to save a few bucks.

I called a couple Honda dealers and they all quoted me $340 plus $65 for installation. Funny how the price of one is juuuuust a few dollars higher than the standard deductible for comprehensive insurance. When I got that info, I posted another rant about collusion between auto manufacturers and insurance agents.

In the end, I ordered a 3rd party replacement from PartsTrain.com for $34.99 USD. It cost me about $30 in gas to drive out to Sumas, Washington and pick it up from Package Express, the mail-drop that I use for US shipping. I installed the mirror yesterday and it fits and works perfectly. The only difference is it’s black/unpainted. My passenger side mirror is green, the same color as the car so I’ll have to get it painted one of these days. Even if it costs me $100 to get it painted, it’s STILL half the price of buying one from the Honda dealer.

As soon as I pulled away from the curb this morning without having to twist alllll the way around in my seat to see if there was anything coming, I realized just how much I missed having that mirror for the last two weeks.

Monday, 10 November 2008 16:37:44 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Vehicle#
Sunday, 09 November 2008

Tonight I received my first SPAM message on Facebook. I had 1 new unread message and was putzing around when I went to read it and saw that  I now had TWO messages...

CaptureI clicked into my Inbox and my heart sank...

The Inbox view only showed the first line or two, but that was certainly enough. This is the first time I've seen one that referenced the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, but the details are not the important part.

The important part is that these fucking scammers are starting to infiltrate Facebook. I suppose it was only a matter of time. They've made using Hotmail or Yahoo mail practically unusable. Hotmail at least has the 'exclusive' setting so that only people in your contacts/address book can  actually send messages through to your inbox, but I've had to abandon my Yahoo email account that I've had since 1997 because it gets about 50-60 emails a day, most of it various forms of the Nigerian 419 Scam. The sad part is that even now, in 2008 people are STILL FALLING FOR THIS CRAP. There are various names for it, I know it as a 419 scam because that's what The Register called it when I used to read that. They had a whole section on 419 scam-baiters each week it seemed. There's another one about a lottery going around to and even my mother nearly fell for, forwarding it to me to ask me if I thought it was legit. As if.

This is a pretty serious thing for Facebook, and I hope they figure out some way to nip it in the bud. The whole point of a social networking site is, well, to NETWORK. Meet new people. If everyone starts jacking up their privacy settings to the point that you can't contact anyone unless you're already friends, how are you going to get to be friends?

As soon as I saw it, I looked for and found the "report message" link right there underneath this scumbag's name. It came up with a warning that if I proceeded, the person would be put on my block list and any relationships I had with that person would be broken. The two choices were Spam or Harassment. I kind of flipped out a little bit and vented at the poor administrator who has to open that message. The next popup (remember when THOSE were the scourge of the internet?) said that the message would be forwarded to Facebook administration and that I would not be informed if any action was taken.

Unfortunately, this sets up Facebook staff for a never ending game of Whack-a-mole, where these scumbags who have nothing better to do than sit in internet cafes in Nigeria and create fake user ids and email addresses and send their spam out.

Sunday, 09 November 2008 23:49:43 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [2] | Rants | WWW#
Friday, 07 November 2008
Hurricane Paloma is about to rock Grand Cayman with a direct hit. The weather is deteriorating already and the eye is supposed to pass very close by or directly over Grand Cayman tonight at about midnight. What’s the rub? ZAC WAS JUST THERE ON VACATION AND LEFT A DAY OR TWO AGO.
Friday, 07 November 2008 11:12:21 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [1] | Cayman | Hurricane#
Thursday, 06 November 2008
I double-checked and sure enough, the outlets on the wall near my rack are regular 120v outlets (higher amperage sure, but 120v connectors) I removed a little more of the packaging and sure enough, the UPS is set up for 230v operation. Shit.
Thursday, 06 November 2008 12:26:12 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Rants | Tech#
Wednesday, 05 November 2008
“Cannot retrieve the URL specified in the XML Link property. For more assistance, contact your site administrator.” I AM THE BLASTED ADMINISTRATOR! TELL ME WHAT THE FUCKING ERROR IS!!!
Wednesday, 05 November 2008 16:01:04 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [1] | Links | Microsoft | SharePoint#
Tuesday, 04 November 2008
Something weird happened to me last night. I think it had something to do with the time change back to Standard Time.
Tuesday, 04 November 2008 11:00:02 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Misc#
Monday, 03 November 2008

Today’s frustration is brought to you by… SharePoint! WSS 3.0: when it absolutely DOESN’T have to be done overnight!

The other day I received a request to set up a blog in SharePoint to replace an old-school email newsletter that was distributed throughout one of the divisions at work. Sure it’s the beginning of SharePoint Sprawl, but this is a good reason to USE SharePoint and to get people used to spending more time in it.

WSS3.0 comes with a Blog site out of the box. It’s very, very basic though. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by using DasBlog for the last five years or so, but the WSS 3.0 blog only allows ONE category per post and it just looks so plain. There’s a free third-party add-in called Community Kit Enhanced Blog Edition available at CodePlex which allows multiple blogs, theme/skin-ability and more than one category per post but I didn’t feel the need to start experimenting with a new solution on the production site. It’ll do for now.

The good news is that Windows Live Writer works with the SharePoint Blog right out of the box (as it were, it’s a download).

More good news is that like every other thing in SharePoint, it generates an RSS Feed.

The BAD news is that Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 (WSS3.0) does NOT come with an RSS Viewer out of the box. What the shit? It comes as part of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server, but not WSS3.0.

Back over to CodePlex, there’s a free third-party add-in called Feed Reader. I downloaded it and installed it to my test SharePoint site… and it doesn’t work 100%. There’s a broken image link for the icon, a broken image link for each bullet-point image and a broken “refresh feeds” link down at the bottom. Other than that, it works pretty well, but I’m not about to go and start messing around with the production server with something that’s only 90% working. It’s PURELY a visual problem, but it’s enough to generate calls to the helpdesk and minimizing those is of course, job #1.

Falling back to the things that come with SharePoint, there IS an XML web part. I thought I’d give that a try, because what is an RSS feed anyway? It’s an XML file! I even found an XSL example that would display it the way I wanted to that was as simple as copying and pasting. Just when you thought everything was going to work out, there it is. The Rub. The RSS feed generated by SharePoint is a a file called listview.aspx?List={Gigantic Guid} and not a .xml file. Because of that, SharePoint cannot resolve the listview.aspx GUID to an XML file and it fails, even though IE7 resolves it and displays it as a newsfeed properly. Le Sigh.

It HAS to work, other people are using it, and even some comments on the page with the XSL file said “it works great, thanks!" so I don’t know what my problem is, other than the obvious: I’m not 10% smarter than the program is.

Monday, 03 November 2008 15:21:57 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [2] | Microsoft | SharePoint#
Saturday, 01 November 2008

A couple weeks ago I saw a headline somewhere.... not sure if it was online or in print here in Vancouver that said Edmonton headed the list of where the most murders take place beating out even the Greater Toronto Area... Really? Edmonton? I didn't see it...

About the same time I received an invite to a group on Facebook to "Find Johnny Altinger" who was one of my online buds back in the late 80s and early to mid 90s. Apparently he had gone missing and one of his family members was canvassing everyone on his friends list on Facebook to see if he had contacted them. I joined the group and shortly afterward was contacted by a reporter with Global's Edmonton office asking me how I knew him and when was the last time I heard from him.

Next thing I heard was that the Edmonton RCMP or Police homicide division was looking into the matter and he still hadn't been found.

This morning I received another email from a reporter with the Edmonton Journal saying that the police had made an announcement in the case and could I call him and answer some questions about how I knew him and what he was like, etc. I checked Canada.com and got to the Edmonton Journal's homepage and there on the right, top link was a headline about a 29-year-old man had been arrested for first degree murder. With a sinking feeling, I clicked the link and sure enough the arrest was in connection with the missing man case.

I emailed the reporter back and told him the same thing I told the first reporter... we met when we were teenagers (online-ish, before the internet had graphics) because we both had the same kind of computer system and traded games with each other. I hadn't seen him since the mid-90s before I moved away, and then reconnected with him on Facebook earlier this year.

When I got back from lunch today I refreshed the link to see if there was any new information and there was a little more info. There was also a flurry of activity on the group page on Facebook as well. Shortly after that, Little Bucket IM'd me and since she lives in Edmonton I asked her if she had heard about it, and she sent me a different link to a longer story that was much more shocking. I don't really know what to say, it sounds like the plot from a bad movie.

Saturday, 01 November 2008 15:00:53 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Misc#

Yes, collusion, not collision although in this case it's pretty close.

Last weekend I posted a rant about some hippie bastard who sideswiped my new (to me) car and sheared off the driver's side mirror. I suppose because I've been driving for close to twenty years, and five of those as a truck driver it's second nature and I don't even think about it, I never realized just how much I use and rely on my mirrors. I have a huge blind spot now, as I can't really even turn around that far in the driver's seat to see what my mirror normally does. Add in gray skies, rain and condensation on the windows and it's a recipe for disaster. Fortunately that hasn't happened yet, but has driven me (ha ha) to extremes to get it replaced.

I started off at UAP/Napa Auto Parts online site. No dice. I tried Googling but any parts online place, while having a plethora of engine and body parts, don't carry mirrors. A few days ago at work I was "cleaning up" the user profile of a former-employee before archiving his or her documents and in his or her temporary internet files was a cookie text file for Partstrain.com. I checked them out and to my surprise they had the mirror I needed, and it was only $36. $36 USD, and it was black, so I'd have to get it painted to match but it was better than nothing. I ran into a problem shortly in that they didn't ship to Canada. I clicked the "chat with sales help" and she confirmed that they don't ship to Canada, but referred me to autopartsonlinecanada.com who was an affiliate of theirs who did.

Autopartsonlinecanada.com does indeed ship to Canada but don't have any mirrors. I called their customer service 800 number and the sales rep confirmed that they did not have the part I was looking for and in fact only carried mirrors for Volkswagens, but they didn't advertise that. Shit.

I filled out a parts request form at Carter Honda's site and also one at Ralph's Used Auto Parts, a network of auto wreckers/used parts places around the Vancouver area. I didn't hear anything back for nearly two days from either, so I called Ralph's on Scott Road. Nothing. I called their affiliate on Mitchell Island, nothing. He kinda laughed a little so I asked him if this was a hard part to find and he said "Very." Great.

Dictionary.com defines collusion as "a secret agreement, esp. for fraudulent or treacherous purposes; conspiracy" Now I wouldn't go so far as to accuse fraud, but check this out: I got an email back from the parts man at Carter Honda. A new mirror from Honda was $314 and they quoted me labor of $65 (one hour basically) to install it. $314? Sounds fishy... I checked my insurance policy and sure enough, the baseline deductible for comprehensive insurance is $300.

I had avoided ordering from PartsTrain and having it shipped to my mailbox in Sumas as it costs me about $30 in gas to get out there and back as well as about three to four hours round-trip depending on if there's a lineup at the border. In the end, $36 + $30 in gas and then getting it painted still comes out to less than half the price of the factory replacement part so I ordered it Friday afternoon from PartsTrain and I'll have to make arrangements to get out to Sumas next week sometime and then install it myself.

Meanwhile I have to keep driving around with no mirror for another week.

Saturday, 01 November 2008 13:40:16 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Rants | Vehicle#
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