36 Chambers – The Legendary Journeys: Execution to the max!

August 8, 2011

One Computer Down

Filed under: Computing Devices, Programming & Work — Kevin Feasel @ 5:38 pm

Over the past week, I haven’t really posted very much and kind of fell behind on everything.  The reason for that is, when I got to work on Monday, my computer was dead as a doornail.  Unfortunately, we don’t do backups of physical machines.  Most of my important files were still fine—I save documents to a network drive and all code is regularly checked into source control—but I had to rebuild my machine from scratch.  Due to this, err, opportunity, I decided to volunteer for virtualization.  A good percentage of people at work are already on thin clients, so it’s not exactly treading new ground.

The developers and I had been resistant to the idea, though, due to our insatiable resource requirements.  I am the worst about it:  I usually keep three or four instances of Visual Studio, a couple of SQL Server Management Studio, several diagnostic tools, one or two Powershell windows, Excel, a few windows of the three major browsers, and a bit more open at a time.  So I figured that if I could succeed in a virtual environment without major headaches, everybody else could adapt pretty easily.

It took me a few days to get my computer up and running—I also spent a good bit of time training a new developer who just joined—and so I didn’t really have a computer until sometime late on Thursday.  This has limited my amount of time that I have spent testing, but after running roughly 75% of my normal stress load, I noticed that it wasn’t appreciably slower than before.  Part of this is that I’ve moved up to a 64-bit machine with 6 GB of RAM (getting more RAM was one of the carrots I demanded in return for being a guinea pig), but it seems that virtualization has reached a point of mass acceptance in a business environment.  I remember the hubbub about Network Computers back in the mid-to-late ’90s and mocked it mercilessly (and, I believe, deservedly) back then, but at this point, major bandwidth improvements have made it so that we really can do all of this work on servers, streaming across gigabit (or better) connections.  Most importantly, I have a base image now, so if something happens to my installation, I’m back up and running in 15 minutes.  We tested that out on Friday and it worked pretty well—recomposition took about 15 minutes and then I spent another 45 minutes or so rebuilding my profile.

January 20, 2011

The PC is dead! Long live the PC!

Filed under: Computinating, Computing Devices — Tony Demchak @ 3:54 am

I finally have a functioning PC again! I thought I’d share my story with you, the reader, so that you may benefit.

This computer (the one I’m typing on now) was purchased in October of 2009, after my attempts to build my first PC went horribly, horribly wrong. I still blame the motherboard manufacturer for making me improvise with my screws. For the most part, it’s this model, but with an older monitor I’ve had for even longer.

It worked pretty well for the first year or so. Shortly after it came out, I got Starcraft II, which was something I’d waited for for over ten years.

Then I discovered Starcraft II needed an internet connection, which I lacked at the time. Grrr. In August, I got the internet turned back on, which was nice. I couldn’t wait to play Starcraft II!

Then the computer died. At this point, I was cursing and threatening to destroy everyone and everything. Like when I get up in the morning, but much worse.

After troubleshooting, I discovered a problem with my hard drive, a Seagate 750 GB model. I’d formatted it three times, but was unable to install Windows on it. I decided to buy a new hard drive, and selected the Western Digital 1 TB Caviar Black. With my new hard drive, I installed Windows XP and Starcraft II. I finished most of the first mission, and went to bed.

The computer did not turn back on the next day. Worse, it seemed this hard drive had also gone bad. I called Western Digital, they sent a new hard drive. This one worked even worse. More anger and fury ensued. I tried booting Ubuntu from a USB drive, and it worked, but I couldn’t do much. Ubuntu could see the hard drive, though, which Windows could not.

I called WD tech support (a very good group) and they had me troubleshoot everything under the sun. I even switched SATA cables. They concluded my SATA controller had failed.

Fast forward a few months later. I finally got the board I needed, installed it — and nothing happened. See, Windows 7 couldn’t see it and neither could Windows XP. The Rosewill RC-222 had no Windows 7 drivers that worked! XP wanted a floppy disk, so after consulting with Kevin, I built a slipstreamed model of Windows XP with the appropriate drivers. This got me to a Blue Screen of Death.

I was about to throw this piece of shit in the garbage, when Kevin recommended checking the error code out online. Using my laptop, I found an interesting suggestion — change the BIOS setting from AHCI to IDE. It didn’t fool Windows 7 — but it did fool Windows XP. I can’t use Windows 7 until Rosewill comes up with less crappy drivers. But I can play Starcraft II. Huzzah!!!

Wait, what’s that? There’s a new semester starting? Winter break is over? Son of a …

September 6, 2010

Nook Not Recognized

Filed under: Computing Devices — Kevin Feasel @ 1:29 pm

I tried plugging in my Nook to re-charge and remove some PDFs I had completed, but I kept getting a message saying that the USB device was not recognized.  I tried this from various USB ports (sometimes devices only want to use the rear ports on my computer), but that didn’t fix it.  I even checked it on my Linux PC to see if it could find the Nook; no dice.

After checking out this very informative post on Nook basics, I gave the hard reboot a try, and now it works again.  This fix wasn’t specified anywhere in the post, but there was a comment about a hard reboot (holding down the power button for 12-20 seconds) fixing software issues, and that’s apparently what this was.

July 17, 2010

Are Smartphones The Future?

Filed under: Computing Devices — Kevin Feasel @ 9:53 pm

Eric S. Raymond says yes.  Even though I don’t personally have a smartphone, I can see this being the case.  Yesterday, a few guys and I were having a discussion regarding phones.  For all but one of them, they said that they didn’t imagine that a smartphone would be all that important for them, but as soon as they started playing around with it, even their non-techie wives were interested.  There was only one person who really wasn’t impressed with smartphones—or at least couldn’t find a reasonable use.  I’m kind of in that camp as well, at least for now (that and I don’t want to pay the bandwidth fees…).  But I do think Raymond has a good point:  you can get a somewhat-decent (and improving) camera, GPS device, various sensors, small gaming platform, telephone, MP3 player, video player, electronic book reader, data storage device, etc. etc. in just one device.

But the big complaint may be that none of these are quite as good as the distinct devices.  The camera, for example, isn’t anywhere near a point-and-shoot, much less a DSLR.  Each of the other devices is also lacking in various ways.  So it’s nice to have a jack-of-all-trades device, but there are good use cases for the rest of the devices.  So the major question is, to what extent will the smartphone market eat the individual device markets?  Raymond seems to argue that this will be extensive, but I’m not quite as sure.  Though I should make mention that I do agree with him on the substance of his argument, and would only differ in (perceived) market size.

February 16, 2008

Computer Shipped

Filed under: Computing Devices — Kevin Feasel @ 7:51 pm

My computer was shipped yesterday.  As of 10:14 AM, it was in Jacksonville, Florida, due north.  I imagine that by tomorrow, it will be in Tennessee and will probably sit there or make it up to Kentucky on Sunday.  They are anticipating having it to me by Wednesday.  We shall see…

February 6, 2008

Keyboard And Mouse Arrive

Filed under: Computing Devices — Kevin Feasel @ 8:51 pm

My keyboard and mouse arrived in the mail today.  They arrived in a rather large box, one a little wider and deeper than the keyboard box but about three times the height.  On the plus side, I got lots of packing peanuts.  On the minus side, I don’t really need them…

They will be sitting in their respective boxes until the rest of the equipment arrives.  Although you can use an MX Revolution in Linux,  I prefer to use the touchpad on my laptop…

February 4, 2008

New Mouse Purchased

Filed under: Computing Devices, Cool Toys — Kevin Feasel @ 8:49 pm

In the run-up to getting a new computer, I decided to splurge on a mouse and keyboard combination.  Originally, I was going to go with a Saitek Eclipse II keyboard and Logitech G5 gamer mouse, but after trying them out, I found the Eclipse II was a bit too firm with the keys and the G5 good but not quite as good as I had anticipated.  While testing out mice, however, I found the MX Revolution, which felt perfect in my hands.  I liked the shape, the buttons were exactly where I wanted them, and it has enough buttons to do serious applications (and games…).  Unfortunately, it’s also $100 retail.

So then I looked online and found that Tiger Direct offers a combination of the MX Revolution mouse and a Logitech Wave keyboard for $20 less than the mouse alone at Best Buy.  As a result, I decided that if I’m going to splurge, I’ll do it in style…

You Zulu bastards! (apologies to any Zulu who reads this site)

Filed under: Computing Devices, Jerks, Video Games — Tony Demchak @ 2:31 am

After the Super Bowl, I decided to finish a game of Civ IV I’ve been working on for two months now.I played on Chieftain because I’m not very familiar with Civ IV yet, but I’ll definitely go up a level next time I start one. The game began on two continents and a couple of small islands. I was the Romans. On my continent, you had Persia, Korea, and America. On the other continent, you had the Zulus, Germans, and Japan. At some point in the game, Shaka of the Zulus owned the Germans in the face; Germany spent the rest of the game as their vassal. Oh, they would shirk the Zulu yoke for one turn, then go right back the next turn. I was expanding, but with three other civilizations fighting over it, war was inevitable. I convinced America and Korea to join a war to exterminate the hated Persians; they sent token support and I wiped the floor with Persia. They each got a couple more cities, but for the most part, I was the big winner. When I saw how crappy America and Korea were, technologically speaking, I knew it was my destiny to rule the island.

I considered attacking America first; they had precious Coal and I needed it to build railroads. By a stroke of luck, though, a Caravel of mine discovered an empty island with Coal on it; I moved a settler there, built a city, and began constructing a Harbor so I could export my newly found black gold. Soon, my half of the continent was covered in railroads. I would never want for another resource in the game. I began constructing a huge army to invade my new target, Korea. I planned on saving America for last, then going overseas if need be.

In the meantime, Shaka, Tokugawa, and Frederick shared a happy existence on their continent. Frederick constantly switched from vassal of Shaka to free and back. They traded a couple of cities, but war was rare in their lands. The Zulu could have exterminated the Germans without lifting a finger; Japan would have been tougher, but Shaka could have easily done what I was trying to do.

As soon as I discovered Flight, I sent my army north. My army consisted of Infantry, Artillery, Gunships, and some Fighters. I would soon add Bombers to my army. I built a small naval force to experiment with sea bombardment and worked on some Marines and a Transport to amphibiously assault my foes. America and Korea were relatively good friends at this time; they had fought earlier, but things had settled down. I actually called in the Zulus for a bit, mostly to keep America out of the war. I eventually asked them to go home, and they did, leaving me to clean up Korea. America stayed out of the war, which made me happy; America had a bigger military than Korea and had more places to attack me.

Now, for America. America would be my greatest challenge yet. Unlike Korea, America was a lot brighter in terms of technology. They still didn’t even have Artillery yet, but they would be more formidable. I paused to increase my forces, especially my air force. I poured money into upgrading my Cavalry into Gunships. I discovered Tanks, and thanks to my Oil reserves, I was ready to attack.

The Americans were divided in two; only one city kept it from being contiguous, Tarsus, which I captured from Persia much earlier. Tarsus actually revolted and joined America before I attacked; I decided to move my way west to east, initially. America was much better at building fortifications than Korea; I had to use my siege equipment and air force to pound the cities before I could capture them. This delay allowed them to take a few border cities, to my surprise. Granted, it was mostly Korean stuff I had taken and my own cities were safe, but I decided to call in back up. Japan already hated America, and Shaka was only too happy to join the war, bringing Frederick with him. After claiming a few American cities, including a surprisingly effective combined assault on Philadelphia (Bombers + Battleships + Tanks and Infantry make a very potent force). I holed their entire army up in one city and bombed the crap out of it, using Gunships to pick off their army one by one. I was about to move on Washington; I had leveled their defenses and had Modern Armor (a better tank; and by better, I mean fuck tons better) waiting to kill off of their Riflemen. Then the Zulus screwed it all up.

The Zulus had burned San Francisco to the ground. For some reason, burning one city scared them more than my taking four others. Shaka convinced them to become his vassals. I was forced to sign a peace treaty (part of game mechanics; they were technically part of the Zulus now). Now I had a huge army, cities to take back, but the biggest army in the world that wasn’t mine opposing me. What was worse, EVERYONE loved the Zulus. Frederick liked me, but Tokugawa was indifferent. Roosevelt (the bad one) was understandably less than pleased. I knew Frederick wouldn’t betray the Zulus, and Tokugawa wouldn’t be enough to contain the Zulus on his continent. If I moved to attack the Zulus, the Americans would attack me; if I attacked America, the Zulus and Germans would protect him. I decided to let things stand and work towards a Diplomatic or Space victory. I had industrial capacity up the wazoo and built a stronger relationship with Tokugawa.

I built the UN and began building space ship parts. Shaka was actually elected Secretary General of the UN. This saddened me; he forced through a resolution on Environmentalism, which hit my economy hard. I decided to attack the Zulu politically by taking Tokugawa out of his coalition. Frederick threw off the Zulu yoke again; this time, surprisingly, he stayed free and immediately became my closest allies. All of sudden, the diplomatic balance shifted. I passed a whole bunch of free trade type agreements and a nuclear test ban agreement (the only thing I truly feared, since the Zulus had already built the Manhattan Project). The Zulus, oddly enough, still liked me; they were the only power who consistently liked me from the very beginning. My space ship was almost done; I won two more Secretary General elections, and noticed the only civ still on his side was America. I decided to hold a vote for Supreme Dictator of Earth (it’s a much lamer title in the game; I’ve since forgotten it). I won in a landslide, thus winning the game. If not for the squirrelly Zulu, I would have won much quicker; I would have unified the entire island with an ocean between me and the other three civilizations. The closest empire to me was Germany, only because they built a city on the southern half of my island (the coal island). Their city revolted and joined me. I could have constructed a huge navy and an even bigger army. I would attack the Zulu and win the game by default (if you hold 50% of the world’s population and 66% of the land, you automatically win). In the end, I won a great victory for Rome, but I learned a valuable lesson: the Zulu are weasels and not to be trusted.

January 30, 2008

Searching For A New Desktop PC

Filed under: Computinating, Computing Devices — Kevin Feasel @ 8:45 pm

As a result of being gainfully employed in the computing sector, I have access to a fair number of tools and a lot of opportunity to develop my coding skills.  Unfortunately, most of the tools I use at work are Windows-based and do not have Linux analogues (such as the latest version of CodeSmith, for example), so I am now in the market for a new PC.  I’m looking at building one for myself so that I can program at home and become a bit more efficient at work.  I figure that I won’t purchase such a computer for another couple of months, as my probation ends in just under two months and I would like to have that job security ensured before blowing lots of money…

November 14, 2007

Hard Drive Received

Filed under: Computing Devices — Kevin Feasel @ 10:40 pm

I got my external hard drive today.  It’s the size of a DVD case or trade paperback book, and I have to use it in USB mode for this laptop, but it works just fine.  Because I am using Linux, I had to download ntfs-3g to mount the drive.  That caused some issues, such as the fact that ntfs-3g doesn’t like automount for my particular kernel.  As a result, I decided to repartition the drive as Ext3, and now I can turn it on and off at will, and automount will just pick right up on it, just like a USB stick.  If I want to use it in Windows at some later date, there are applications which let you open up Ext2 or Ext3 partitions in Windows (just do a Google search if you’re interested; I’m not…yet…).

And for those curious, my 500GB drive is actually 465.8 real GB, and of that, I appear to have access to about 435 GB after all of the overhead.  I’m not complaining, though—that’s still 7 times the size of my laptop hard drive…

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