Good Cartoon Day

Off the Mark has generally been the best of the single-panel cartoons on my daily list for quite a while, and they’ve had particularly good ones for two days in a row now (the second one took me a moment). Comics Sherpa has always been a good source, with a funny though kind of icky entry from Whatever USA and Space is the Place today. Whatever USA is frequently updated and consistently high quality; Space is the Place has been pretty good, but is updated very infrequently. You have to love any comic that does this, though:

platypus panel

Should Have Brought My Camera

My boss informed me a little while ago that there was a red-tailed hawk sitting right over the main entrance to our building. Red-tails aren’t exactly the most exotic of birds, but it’s still pretty cool to see one that close for that long (he was there for several minutes before he flew to another corner of the building). I also got to see something I haven’t seen before. Let’s just say that there is now a red-tail hawk hairball (technically a “cast”) on our roof. No, the camera would have been for the bird.

Happy Amy

I’ve been trying to get a good picture of one of Amy’s happy expressions for a while now. It’s more difficult than I would have thought because as soon as the camera’s in front of her she starts looking at it instead of whatever was making her happy and the expression disappears. I managed to get a pretty good one yesterday, though. The lighting on her hair isn’t that great, but this is by far my favorite picture so far of her face.

Happy Amy

No More Dead Spot

I seem to have solved my wireless problems for now. On Friday night I noticed that the wireless adapter in my laptop (“eowyn” the Averatec, as distinct from “deagol” the Fujitsu that Cindy uses) and began to suspect that at least part of the problem was that the adapter was in its death throes. It had been stepped on and cracked a long time ago, after all, so who knows what extra strain the antenna portion might have been under? Yesterday I stopped by a CompUSA on the way to BJ’s, initially intending to buy only a replacement adapter. I noticed, though, that they were having some really great deals on Netgear equipment. I’ve had good luck with Netgear in the past, so I looked a little closer. To make a long story short, I ended up getting a new Netgear 802.11g router/AP and two adapter cards for what will end up being a total of only $70 (after rebates). After installing the cards and new drivers (the 1.0 driver on the CD was over a year older than the current 2.7 version) everything that used to work seems to be working at least as well as before, plus the dead spot is gone. The whole setup is also a bit faster, which doesn’t matter too much since I rarely do large transfers inside the house; on those rare occasions it wouldn’t be a problem to walk over and plug into the wired network. The fact that the new AP/router seems to have more features than the old Linksys is more likely to be significant.

Wireless Problems

My home wireless woes continue. The springform-pan reflector I set up a while ago helped some, but there’s still a dead spot on my side of the bed and in the part of the master bedroom beyond that. As far as I can tell the real problem is that something in the wall of the guest bathroom (which was also one of the exterior walls of the original house) is blocking/scrambling wireless signals. That means a better antenna on the access point isn’t likely to help much; what I really need to do is bounce the signal around the corner from the office to the good part of the master bedroom to the bad part. Maybe I could put up a big sheet of aluminum foil…except that Cindy would kill me, so scratch that. Instead, I bought a D-Link DWL-800AP+ “range extender” which I set up yesterday. Read on for more of the story.

Color Printers

A few weels ago I bought a Canon Pixma iP1500 color printer so I could print out pictures of Amy. I printed some pictures on regular paper and was pretty impressed, but this weekend I got some actual photo paper and made some real 4×6″ prints. I’m no expert on such things, but I think the quality is amazing. The colors are just as bright as a regular photo, and I have to look really hard for specific signs that it’s digital. The few artifacts I can spot seem to have more to do with the three-megapixel camera’s capabilities than the printer’s. I was just telling Cindy last night that in general it would be interesting to compile a list of the advances in science and technology that have occurred just during our lifetimes, and this little baby would be a good example. When I graduated from high school this capability effectively didn’t exist at any size or price, but now for $50 I can have a device on the corner of my desk that can produce prints indistinguishable from professionally processed photos. I can re-crop and blur and sharpen and make all sorts of adjustments and whatever else to my heart’s content, and then print out results at a quality just as good as any of my older pictures from film. When you think about it that’s pretty amazing.

Democracy or Republic

I just have to get this off my chest: every time some right-wing nut starts getting all apoplectic about how the US is “not a democracy” with the implication that there must be some evil liberal agenda in calling it one, I want to slap them. Here’s the deal: when most people say that we’re a democracy they’re distinguishing it from systems such as monarchy where the people have no say in who governs – not making a technical distinction between systems in which people do have such a say. If they were to make such pedantic distinctions, they might well point out that a representative democracy (what we definitely have) is not the same as a republic (what the wingnuts always claim we have). Both are systems in which a limited number of people can vote on legislation, but in a representative democracy those people are elected and vote to represent those who elected them whereas in a true republic they are designated (e.g. by virtue of heredity, land ownership, etc.) and vote to represent only themselves. Anybody who points out that we’re not a democracy (by which they mean direct democracy) but fails to recognize that we’re not a republic either is just being an inconsistent jerk.

ZFS

I’ve been thinking a bit about Sun’s ZFS, and can’t make up my mind about one feature. One of many things that ZFS does is allow you to have a single filesystem which spans multiple physical volumes (to the extent that a volume in this era of RAID arrays and virtualizing switches and so on is physical any more). In fact, it allows you to have multiple filesystems sharing the same pool. Making the relationship between filesystems and volumes many-to-many instead of one-to-one offers many of the same resource balancing and sharing advantages for storage that a single SMP machine offers (compared to multiple single-CPU machines) for processors and memory.

Here’s the problem, though: I’m a believer in separate layers providing separate functionality, and in general the task of breaking the ties between physical volumes and the units to which filesystems are bound seems like it belongs in a volume manager (many of which already exist and do this) rather than a filesystem (for which it’s new territory). Certainly, if you find that your filesystem has outgrown the logical volume provided for it by the volume manager you need to have a volume manager capable of adding arbitrary pieces of storage to an existing volume and a filesystem capable of adapting when the volume size changes. The volume-manager hooks that would be necessary to do such things automatically could get a bit complicated, and it’s not clear that growing and shrinking volumes could ever be quite as good as letting filesystems share space on one volume. However, I’m not sure any of this justifies replicating what is essentially volume-manager functionality within a filesystem. If you do it in the volume manager multiple alternative filesystems and things that are not filesystems (e.g. databases) could also benefit. I’ll bet that ZFS even has an internal layer that closely resembles a volume manager, which could potentially expose an API to entities besides the ZFS upper layers if the developers and architects (and the marketing folks who seem to be as much involved as the technical folks in making ZFS decisions) wanted it that way.

I guess I’ve just seen too many people who were supposed to be doing something else try to implement their own private volume manager within that something else. I’ve seen databases do it, I’ve seen several different kinds of projects at EMC do it, and every once in a while someone here at Revivio seems to be thinking of it. Maybe I’m too sensitized to the negatives, and in the one particular case of ZFS it’s actually not a bad idea. Does anyone else have any thoughts on it?

P.S. I’ve reenabled comments without registration. Let’s see if the HotSeat trolls with their short attention spans have lost interest in harassing me on my own site.

Pictures from Michigan

Here, at long last, are some pictures from our trip to Michigan two weeks ago. As usual, you can click on a picture to see a larger version.

Amy meets her grandmother Amy and Cindy on the bed at Kevin’s Amy on Kevin’s chair


Amy and Kevin Amy and Ruth #2 Amy and Ruth #3 Amy and (part of) Ruth #4


Bathtime at Kevin’s Niagara Falls #1 Niagara Falls #2

Favorite Songs

By far my favorite album in high school – they were actually albums then, before CDs – was Pink Floyd’s The Wall, and of course one of the best remembered songs from that album is Another Brick in the Wall (Part II). Sinfest‘s cartoon today has a great set of alternate lyrics.