One More Family Camp Picture

Apparently this was a rainy year at Camp Huckins. Rumor has it that one two-week session of the regular camp for girls rained all the time except the last two days. Imagine three hundred girls, cooped up fourteen to a cabin, all disappointed because what was supposed to be the highlight of their summer was – almost literally – a washout. That must have been pretty miserable. Fortunately, the weather was excellent for family camp, with just a bit of rain one morning. It had rained a bit just before, though, and that combined with the rain earlier in the summer resulted in a bumper crop of mushrooms. Here are some of what I saw or think I saw.

Here’s a (slightly unusual) example of what’s missing from that list.


There were a lot of these all around camp, most 5-6″ across. I speculated more than once that we could have a feast if they were edible . . . not that I’d want to risk eating any mushroom unless I was absolutely certain of its identity. Since coming home, I’ve tentatively identified these as lactarius deceptivus, and it turns out that whether they’re edible or not is a matter of some debate. The best explanation I’ve seen is about L.piperatus, but it does mention L.deceptivus as well. I’m often amused by how mushroom descriptions mention taste even for known-toxic species, and surprised by how often there seems to be uncertainty about whether some mushroom found in North America is really the same as the one found in Europe or not. I think I’d be interested in trying a small bit of one of these, prepared the way the article describes, if I ever get a chance.

Of course, the picture above is of a very unusual two-tiered specimen, or maybe one growing on top of another. It’s the only one we saw, and I didn’t have my camera with me the first time so I had to come back the next day. I’m very pleased with the find.

Scaling with Blocks

In the course of finding information about Maui yesterday, I came across the following quote EMC’s Chuck Hollis.

Presenting storage as blocks (e.g. LUNs) won’t scale. Presenting storage as files won’t scale. You’ll need an object-oriented approach with rich sematics [sic] — nothing else will work at this uber-massive scale.

Bull. Yes, it’s that simple – what Chuck says is not true. To see why, we first have to deal with some ambiguity. Who is presenting storage to whom? At the user level, presenting storage as files must scale because that’s the only interface many users will accept. That doesn’t mean you have to support full POSIX file semantics or anything, in fact you don’t have to support anything but procedural interfaces for whole-file read/write and listing/enumeration, but if you don’t provide such interfaces within something that looks basically like a filesystem namespace then your goose is cooked. You can call them something other than files, you can add extra interfaces, but none of that matters. To make a long intro short, Chuck’s statements are so absurd at the user-presentation level that it’s impossible to believe that’s what he meant. What he must be referring to instead is presenting blocks/files/objects for use by other components within the system. Let’s take another look in that context.

Maui

Apparently our good friend Twomey got himself in trouble by mouthing off about EMC’s long-awaited Maui cloud-storage project. Nobody seems to be both informed and permitted to talk about Maui, but I find some of the speculation fascinating. Some have tried to tie it to OceanStore, a project I was watching closely several years ago (I played a key role in getting EMC to help fund it, and I was one of the first industry partners to see it actually run on a couple of laptops at Granlibakken). Some have referred to Maui as something beyond a CDN. The CloudFellas video that got Twomey in trouble sounds like an exact reprise of a usage scenario I had proposed for my own distributed-data-store project at EMC back in 2001-2002.

Yes, you read that correctly. All of this is interesting and familiar because I was working on it a long time ago. I was essentially doing it all by myself, and had developed several of the key technology pieces before I left. My plans for turning such a block store into a global-scale filesystem, based on leveraging certain features I’d made sure were present in HighRoad’s design, were all well documented. You can even find hints about it here on this site, around that time. If EMC had given me resources and support instead of obstacles and interference, who knows what they could have had in, say, 2003 or 2004? I’ve heard rumors that some people were working on my old code a couple of years ago, but I don’t know whether to believe them. What I do know is that EMC aggressively pursued patents based on that work, and that some of the people whose names I’ve heard associated with Maui were very well aware of what I was up to back then. On the other hand, maybe Maui is something quite different, based on entirely different technology (e.g. from Mozy). The key thing to remember is that the people at EMC who will try to take credit for this idea didn’t come up with it on their own. Neither did I, but at least I helped move the technology forward while the people you’ll see praised as visionaries were actively going out of their way to squash it. They saw it as a threat, as they instinctively see everything at first, and by the time they learned to see it as an opportunity it was too late as far as I was concerned.

Bitter? Yeah, a bit, this time. I didn’t particularly like having to fight tooth and nail for the right to do something so clearly beneficial to the company (and consistent with its expressed “data tone” vision), or seeing my two closest allies shoved out and my project canceled as a direct consequence, all because of corporate politics. If EMC ever makes any money from cloud storage, it will be despite their so-called leadership. They’re into innovation the way Genghis Khan was into urban renewal.

Family Camp

Family camp at Camp Huckins last week was a blast, if a little rough physically. The soccer wasn’t too bad, but Cindy had some serious bruises on one knee from Capture the Flag. I think I bruised a rib – at least I hope that’s what it was – probably during the first volleyball session, and it’s still bothering me. Then Cindy did something during archery that left her arm even more bruised than her knee. All of the guys who played dodge-ball (a sport I really think I’d enjoy and possibly even be good at) were complaining the next day about being unable to lift their arms, then two of them got bruises on their hands from the second volleyball session. You’d think some of us would learn that we’re not kids any more.

Of course, it wasn’t all like that. Swimming and other aquatic activities are always a major focus, then there was the clambake and the talent show and many sessions in the craft shop, and of course meals. The weather was excellent. This was our second year, so I didn’t feel like such a noob, and being able to participate more in the various sporting activities – I had the dubious distinction of being the only guy to lose two ping-pong matches because my victorious first-round opponent had to leave early – helped me become acquainted with a few more people. It also doesn’t hurt that everyone there is so welcoming. In case any of them read this, I’d like to give special thanks to the families who let us share their table, and to all of the other volleyball dads, and to the folks who let us borrow all sorts of toys down at the waterfront. I know it’s corny, but their really is such a thing as Huckins spirit and it’s a wonderful thing.

Without further ado, then . . . pictures! I have one non-Amy picture and some videos that I’ll save for later.

Themed lunches are a feature of the family camp experience, where all those who choose to dress according to the theme get to parade around the dining hall while everyone else claps. This day’s theme was Tacky Tourists. I think this was the first time Amy did a watermelon smile, at the “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” lunch. She referred to it as her green teeth, and immediately decided that she needed a suitable tooth brush (the stick).
One of many sessions in the (very well equipped and provisioned) craft shop. The rubber pig was Amy’s favorite item in the athletic shed last year. The shuttlecock-and-field-hockey-ball ice cream cones were entirely her idea.
Just a generic picture from the waterfront, particularly good for comparison to last year’s photo. Lastly, a picture of Amy in the water. She was actually feeling brave enough to do backstroke where her feet couldn’t touch the bottom, so long as she had one of these. Maybe next year she’ll truly be swimming. Might be a little longer before she can pass the camp’s outside-area test and jump off the tower, though.

It’s the Issues, Stupid!

As I’m sure you all know, I love talking about politics. I enjoy talking about specific issues, and even more I enjoy talking about underlying principles. Unfortunately, none of the people at or covering the DNC convention seem to care about any of that. As far as I can tell, all of the coverage is about who’s a boring speaker, who’s showing the right level of support for some particular candidate or constituency, what words people choose, what clothes they wear, and – most banal of all – whether the Clinton supporters will rally behind Obama. YAWN. I know things have been heading in this direction for ages, but the rate of deterioration seems to have increased this week. As much as I love politics, as soon as I hear any mention of Denver on the radio I change stations. The horse race, popularity contest, fashion show kind of politics is as insulting to the average person’s intelligence as any morning-show DJ, and at least the DJs are funny once in a great while. Really, how is “I do not approve this message” any better than the average fart joke?

Three more months. What a bleak prospect. I think I’ll burn a whole lot of fiction podcasts on CD for my commute.

WordPress Upgrade

I’ve upgraded to the latest version of WordPress. The process seems to have been admirably simple and painless, and as far as I can tell everything is working fine, but if you see any glitches please let me know.

Drumlin Farm, August 10

Nothing earth-shattering here, just some generally nice pictures.

A goat standing on an upturned box so she could look over the side of the stall. A greenhouse full of onions.
They had a tepee-like structure like this last year, too. I’m fond of both morning glories and nasturtiums (nasturtia?) so I just had to take a picture. Just a plain old garden-variety cabbage moth. There are thousands of better pictures out there, but I wanted to see what the new camera could do and I think it worked out OK. I’ve had little luck with the macro feature in general, with every picture taken at less than about 1′ being blurry. Maybe there’s some special trick to getting good focus in macro mode, or maybe it’s just an otherwise fine camera’s Achilles Heel.
A goat family portrait. Amy and some other kid I don’t know in the tack room.

Michigan Trip, part 3

Just a couple of videos from the solarium. These are interesting to compare with previous visits.

(1.5MB AVI, 1.6MB WMV) Riding on one of the old exercise bikes.
(1.5MB AVI, 1.4MB WMV) Just skipping around . . . or is it galloping? I can’t always tell. Her favorite was running along the ramp in the hallway next to the solarium and back past the elevators, but I was too busy following on those to take any video.

Happy Birthday, HTP

Hack the Planet is ten years old. Congratulations, Wes. Looks like this site (including all of its previous hosts and platforms) just turned eight, BTW.

Video Conversions on Linux

Figuring out how to do the various video conversions I need has been a slightly non-trivial task, so I thought I’d share some of the mencoder-based scripts I’ve developed.

zencode input output [framerate]
For converting video to play on my Creative Zen pocket player. The Zen actually claims to support frame rates above 24fps, but I could never get the sound to sync properly except at that rate. Even worse, every once in a while the device would hang completely, requiring a hard reset. I haven’t had that problem since I decided to stick with 24fps.

decanonize input [output [framerate]]
For converting video from my Casio Exilim EX-Z1080 camera to an AVI that I can then crop and color-correct using avidemux. If the output is not specified it’ll be the same as the input except with the MOV extension changed to AVI.
makewmv input
Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out how to get avidemux to produce an AVI that was playable on Windows. If you’ve ever done video editing or conversion you’re probably familiar with the syndrome – AVI is just a container format, with a bazillion options of what video and sound bits can go inside, and it’s very easy to create something that plays on some systems but not others. If you haven’t done such things, you don’t know about that and probably don’t care. In any case, this one always produces output with the same name and characteristics as the input except of course that it’s WMV instead of AVI.