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30/10/2005
[16:05] I want to eliminate the person who thought that marking a RAID array status line as "Degraded" when the firmware didn't match a specific base value was a good overloading of a diagnostics field. When I do I will feel a shiver of pleasure as literally one or two other people don't have to go through the confusion of trying to work out in what way the array is degraded. Yes, today I've been working with Dell's OMSA suite and finding that, aside from one or two really odd foibles it seems to be a fairly cool bit of kit, if you just install the diagnostics and storage bits, rather than the whole shebang. We're looking at using it to replace and augment the Big Brother monitoring we have for the servers by unifying the RAID monitoring script for PERC 3 (aacraid/Adaptec) and PERC 4 (megaraid/LSI) RAID solutions and adding temperature monitoring. We have a sacrificial PowerEdge 1850 I'm allowed to blow the configuration and operating system away on, so that's going to be probed within an inch of its life over the next few days in ways it'll never have been probed before. Baby.

Quiet weekend, coming down with a cold. Elaine spent most of it recording from minidisc to MP3 with the soundcard I got her, the optical cable from my PS2 and some transcoding software I found on the web called WavePad and RecorderPad, I think. Free and uncrippled which was a surprise, but then she doesn't need to do much with it.

I'm off to the gym in an hour or so then we'll probably go to see the new Zorro film with Cormac and Steph and try not to swap too many germs with them.

28/10/2005
[16:25] Actually I didn't do much today. Looked at the requirements for RT on linux, did some work, had some lunch and read far too much Penny Arcade. I did have my first two ever Krispy Kreme doughnuts and spent the sugar high cleaning whiteboards with some kind of freakish manic intensity, but I'm over that now. As pennance I'm off to the gym now. Have a nice weekend.

27/10/2005
[17:20] I got a new keyboard today. It's a little different to my last one so all my finger macros are a little bit out of alignment. I expect I'll settle down after a few days. In the meantime I'm having to use the backspace key a lot more than normal. Still, the angle this keyboard is at means that I'm sitting up a lot straighter now, so that'll help my posture if nothing else.

I didn't actually get to attach the new keyboard until well into lunch time on account of being busy with new versions of Ruby (the previous version I installed being one minor-minor version out of the values that work with Rails properly. I ended up having to use a Fedora Core 3 source RPM and rebuilding it. At the same time as that was going on I had to fight my way through a configure of TOra (a TOAD-alike for linux). Cue lots of fiddling with environmental variables (especially LD_LIBRARY_PATH) and a ton of help from mobbsy. Thanks for that. It all worked in the end and the user for whom I was doing it is now happy.

My team leader has asked me to look into some issue tracking within our group. Where I install it is going to be my first challenge. In the meantime I've been having fun getting gkrellm to work on Solaris 9. It was fairly easy in the end. Just the Common GNU package, gkrellm and (after a bit of thought) the Gnome 2 Desktop installation. Now we have to decide which machines really need it on, or not.

I ran my gym today to ask if Elaine could come and just use it for a session. Turns out she'd have to pay the £10 required for an induction that'd probably only take five minutes and then the cost of a single session on top of that. I don't think she'll be coming. At least this time.

I think I'm going to go home and fit a soundcard with Elaine so that she can do her minidisk to MP3 stuff this weekend when she brings home a minidisk deck for a bit.

26/10/2005
[12:30] Well, the Thai food I made last night was an unqualified reasonable attempt at a success. Maybe. The Tamarind water was made with paste rather than pulp, wasn't steeped for 24 hours, the rice wasn't fried as I suddenly realised I didn't have a fryer for that kind of thing and there were another few things that I didn't manage to get right. With Elaine's help once or twice I was able to cobble something which didn't taste too bad together and had the whole thing with coconut rice. All in all, perfectly edible. Next time I will learn to read ahead and prepare a bit more.

I was in work for 07:30 this morning to make sure that everything was ready for the application restart at 08:00. While everything went pretty much according to plan it turned out that there were no .pid files for any of my Resin servlet containers. This was a bit annoying. In the end I had to kill the perl processes which start them and restart them, which seemed to fix everything.

This afternoon I'm off to the second half of a talk on LDAP and its adoption by the Institution as a whole. Climbing this evening. Tomorrow's the first day I go to the gym as a member. Hopefully Elaine'll come along too.

25/10/2005
[17:05] Hard time getting out of bed this morning. Managed it though, obviously, and got into work to reboot six machines. No-one complained and it allowed me to install the last of the IPMI monitoring stuff on them. Now all I have to do is work out what all the sensors relate to and how to munge them into something useful to give to BigBrother.

I left work for a 'late lunch' at around 14:00 to go and have my gym induction session. It was fairly standard, although I think the woman who inducted me wanted to see my arse as she demonstrated and then required me to try some odd exercises on a gym-ball. She seemed fairly keen to see how I was on the leg extension and bicep curl machines too... Still, I'm a member now, I've paid my year's worth of membership fees (easier and, in the long run, cheaper than a monthly direct debit) and all I need to do now is get some non-iPod headphones and I can exercise and watch Sky One while I do.

I'm in early for the third Wednesday in a run tomorrow to install a new set of Java servlet applications (requires burping the functionality) and make sure everything's OK. Hopefully this'll mean I can head off early for once.

Unless we go to the cinema tonight (and perhaps, even if we do) I'm cooking the house's first attempt at 'authentic Thai' tonight. Well, so long as Elaine brings home some tamarind paste. I should head off and get the minced pork out of the freezer (if it's not actually in the fridge already).

24/10/2005
[17:00] It's been a quiet weekend really. Elaine and I took a good long look at the storage situation in the bedrooms and tried to find something to store our smalls in to make the built-in wardrobe a bit easier to work with. We found somewhere but weren't able to buy it as it's not available to order online but wasn't in the shop we wanted to get it from. I'll probably order it sometime this week and hope we get it within a few weeks after that. Either way we're making some progress on getting the house in order again.

Saw the new Wallace and Gromit film last night. Most excellent it was too. Especially all the jokes-for-adults that were sprinkled throughout the plot, scenery and script.

Today has been a bitty day. I've installed the IPMI stuff on all of the servers I directly administer now. This is helpful only if I get some joy from Dell on what the multiple identically named sensors map to within each of the different kinds of chassis we have here. Currently I'm in contact with a senior software engineer who isn't holding out much hope. If nothing else I'll still be able to see if something goes wrong and take it from there. Somehow.

Either way today has been a day of a little bit of work in lots of places. Not what you really want for a Monday when you're feeling logey and could do with a day off. As a way of waking up I'm intending to cycle to a gym this evening and take a look at it with a view to joining. It's not a swankypants gym, just one in a leisure centre-type place that'll allow me to do some cardio-vascular work without high impact on my knees to keep me fit and unfat, and some weight work to keep me in shape for climbing.

21/10/2005
[16:40] Nothing happened today.

It was that interesting.

Oh, I went to town and bought some soap.

20/10/2005
[17:35] The import of some fairly useful information is still failing to work due to data which doesn't seem to be coming out of the previous application in a 100% sane manner. I've been tasked with running the import procedure and have been reporting back on what has been going wrong. With luck something internally consistent should be available by tomorrow. Either way I've got more work to do on this before it becomes something automatic. Luckily the import tool is fairly smart and won't import 'bad' data which means that we don't have some nasty DB/application interactions which will result in lost information.

That's kind of been going on all day. In the mean time I've installed k3b on someone's workstation and successfully written a CD (no DVDs to hand), used that CD to do an Ubuntu install on a spare machine into which I put a spare Dell PERC 2/DC for fun and been for another punishing run with Brett, the ex-Army captain who is far, far fitter than me. I think my right knee is going to play up again when I stand up to go home. But that's the price you pay for being unfit.

I made an abortive attempt to tidy my workspace today. Thus far I've collected all the papers together and stapled those things which are of the same subject together. Tomorrow is filing day. Whether it's in the bin or in a ring binder I haven't decided yet.

I think I'm going to cycle home and have a long relaxing evening.

19/10/2005
[16:55] Elaine still a bit ill, but on the mend I think. I left her in bed this morning while I dashed in to be in time for the service switch over vulnerable period. This came and went quickly and effectively and we were back up and running with only about six minutes downtime. From there I spent some exasperating but ultimate successful hours getting IPMI, openipmi and ipmitool to work on some of our Dell PowerEdge servers. I can now monitor (Big Brother scripts still to be finalised) the CPU, chassis and riser temperatures as well as the fan speeds. The only thing I can't do is tell precisely which sensor is where. I'm hoping someone'll be able to enlighten me on one of the mailing lists as to how they tie up with the readings I'm getting. Of course the experience wouldn't have been complete without getting to email the author of one of the scripts to tell them about a few typos/bugs in the RedHat one and showing them the corrections. It's always good to give something back.

At lunchtime we had the director of the other part of the institution's IT area come in to tell us about what his parts is doing, how it'll intergrate with ours and some other stuff. To cut a long story short the man's a twit, he insulted his staff and ours in an offhand manner, talked too fast, stacked/nested his statements and went off on tangets way down the stack/inside the nest and never popped things back off it again. Confused, annoyed, and worried is basically how many of came away from the presentation. I consoled myself by writing up the key points and emailing them to someone.

Cormac's not climbing this evening so Elaine and I have press-ganged someone else into taking us (and Brett) instead. Unfortunately, ringing Brett has meant that he's convinced me to go for a run tomorrow. He's far better than I am and it's only going to make me feel like I want to die when I finish the run. Plus he'll make me do pressups at the end too.

18/10/2005
[16:10] Lots done today. Not much time as off to see Night Watch shortly. Installed a network monitoring machine for someone. Bemoaned the build quality of Dell PowerEdge 1850 parts/rails/etc. Spent some time talking to people online and hopefully arranging a visit some time soon. With luck that should be a whole lot of fun.

Still feeling tired but not terribly snotty. Elaine home ill.

17/10/2005
[15:15] What a weekend! After dashing home from work on Friday, Elaine helped me with my final bits of packing (including lunches for Saturday and Sunday). She then accompanied me for the mile or so walk to my pickup point. Owing to one thing and another my ride didn't turn up for about fifty minutes so we got to chat a bit before I headed off for the entire weekend.

The ride up to the Roaches was uneventful apart from some terrible traffic jams on the outskirts of town. Other than that we arrived at the Don Whillans Memorial Hut - following a fish and chips supper - some time around 21:00. There are plenty of pictures of the place in the gallery collection for this weekend (entitled The Roaches) so I won't describe it much except to say it's half built into the rocks of the lower tier of the Roaches themselves, consists of a kitchen, entrance hall, drying room (below ground), a communal room, a shower room/toilet, spiral staircase and two bed rooms, one with bunks.

When we arrived there was already someone there with a DVD player and LCD projector so we ended up watching Hard Grit before heading to bed at around midnight. I elected to sleep in the large room on the top level of the bunks and was rewarded with one of the worst night's sleep of my life. Snoring, heat, smell and shuffling combined to leave me feeling terrible on Saturday morning. All that went away after a shower, a cooked breakfast and a trip out to do some early morning bouldering on the rocks. Although the rocks were wet and the air very misty there was a good chance the weather was going to perk up so I paired up with a new addition to the club called Mat and we headed out with two other people to Hen Cloud nearby. For the remainder of the day Mat lead up some reasonably hard routes while I seconded and removed gear. I took part in my first multi-pitch ascent as well as some of the hardest climbing I've ever done on a climb called Delstree. By mid afternoon we were fingersore and tired, had eaten our food and were very much in favour of heading back. That wasn't the end of the day's climbing though as we headed off just past the hut to some of the lower tier bouldering problems. While the weather had started off misty and overcast, the rocks went from wet and treacherous to rather grippy by the end of the day. Which was nice.

Dinner was a communal effort chilli con carne which filled the rather large hole left by a day's climbing and while other people stayed up to drink many of us got an early night. This was mainly because Sunday was all about showing the 40 or so new climbers who were brought in by coach at 10:30 how to climb, boulder and abseil. I spent the day teaching groups of five people how to do basic and not so basic bouldering moves on a variety of different problems. Although we were on the upper tier of the Roaches we were protected from the wind and received only the gradually warming sunshine. Of course, the walk off down to the hut meant enduring the high knot winds with a bouldering mat (read: sail) and trying not to take off. The whole day was extremely interesting for me as a climber showing new (and not so new) climbers how to do certain moves and watching their own interpretations of same.

I'd elected to leave in the 'early car' needing to head back to get things ready for this morning so I found myself heading down to the car at 17:30 and performing a push start on a small red Volkswagen Polo before an uneventful drive home to be dropped almost at my door.

Elaine and I both appear to have come down with different kinds of lurgy over the course of the weekend, although I seem to be doing better at the moment. This morning neither of us were in particularly good fettle and as a result, after doing the usual Monday morning's worth of work, working through lunch and realising we weren't going to do much with the rest of the day feeling as we are we're both heading home in a little while.

Oh yes, a present I bought for Elaine turned up this morning so I'll be taking that home for here in about 15 minutes and hoping she gets some fun out of it in the next few weeks/months.

14/10/2005
[16:25] Elaine's physio turned out to be more of a chiropractor in the end. They clicked her neck and back a fair bit and put some pressure on the muscles which seems to have helped a bit, but not enough. I think next time she'll find someone who'll massage the muscles a bit more than trying to pull off both shoulderblades and twist off her head.

I on the other hand am feeling pretty good after the 10.5km run I did yesterday with an ex-Army captain who's far, far fitter than I am. We did it in about fifty minutes with me puffing away and him having merely broken a gentle sweat. I swear I'm going to improve my cardiovascular fitness again to the level I used to have. It's embarassing.

Today has been a bit problematic at work. We lost some network connectivity overnight and it caused a few cron jobs to hang, coupled with some firewall issues, and general network slowdown. They were all fixed (I think) some time this afternoon while I was out bringing home the last of the old Dell PowerEdge 4400 beasts. We're on 1850 or 2850s throughout now and boy does it feel good. I'm going to spend Monday thrashing the bits off this new one, which is going to have all the services I failed off its predecessor allocated to it on Wednesday morning. Other than that I've done some application installs, set up NetBackup on a few machines and had a curry for lunch. All that remains now is to go home dead on 16:30, pack for a weekend of climbing and head on up to the Roaches in the Peak District (just about) for some fun. It just needs not to rain much (if at all).

13/10/2005
[10:05] Elaine's off work again today with the same tension headache she had yesterday and the day before. This time she's found someone in the city who practices physiotherapy and has an appointment free this morning. Hopefully she'll let me know how things go and will be able to greet me with a smile that doesn't contain discomfort this evening.

12/10/2005
[12:30] I was in very early this morning (before 07:30) in preparation for the move of a large number of services from one machine to another. Nevertheless I was beaten in by both of my colleagues who were dealing with what was thought to be a catastrophic SAN failure. There were two Sun engineers on site hard at work and they'd been here since around 07:00. Luckily everything seemed to come back OK and we were back in service (with my flawless service transfer) by 08:30. Since then I've been playing with gkrellm and being amused by simple things.

This afternoon I'm off to a technical seminar on the Institution's new LDAP service which may prove to be quite interesting if the Director doesn't stick his well-meaning but cackhanded paws into it. Climbing tonight, too.

Elaine's off work today probably with whatever lurgy my parents brought when they visited. Hopefully I won't catch it too. In the meantime I hope she stays warm and comfortable.

11/10/2005
[15:55] Just had a bit of a flap trying to get one of the tools that've always worked to work just when we needed it. I even ended up ringing one of the program's authors to find out what the problem was. In the end it was finger trouble on my end.

I have finally removed the last non-RedHat Enterprise Linux linux box from the network as of this morning. In doing so I've also emptied the Institution's DMZ as well (two birds with one Ctrl-Alt-Del) which is almost as good. I've also been able to go out in the great weather we're still having here too.

I put in the replacement NAT box for home last night. Obviously this meant that the NTL connection went completely wrong for a few hours so I couldn't test the new iptables rules (moving from the easy-to-understand ipchains and ipmasqadm the RH6.2 2.x kernel used). Instead I had to wait until this morning when I realised that none of my port-forwarding rules were having any effect. I think I've fixed them now but it's a suboptimal fix as far as I'm concerned.

Either way the new machine is in, it works but it makes an awful noise compared to the old one (which had passive cooling). I'm going to have to see what I can do about a quieter colling solution for a P-III 866MHz Coppermine in a Socket 370 ZIF.

10/10/2005
[11/10/2005 - 15:00] Mostly a day of trying to stay awake. After getting in at a sensible time I and my co-worker decided to pop out for an early morning bacon and sausage sarnie and a free coffee. Not having those would probably have resulted in two unconsious sysadmins by around 10:00. The weekend was, as usual, pretty good. We saw Serenity on Friday night. It was pretty much excellent. Despite being made in Hollywood it had enough rough edges and odd feel to it to make it distinctly un-Hollywood and therefore just a bit better than expected. Either way, I liked it a lot and will be adding it to my DVD collection eventually, along with the truncated TV series.

My parents turned up on Sunday evening as I was doing the last of the copying of data from the house's old NAT/firewall/Apache/Samba/fileserver to the new one. The old (still perfectly usable) box is a P166 with 32MB of RAM. It runs RedHat 6.2, which is the reason I've finally decided to replace it with something a little more recent. The new box is a P-III 866 with 256MB of RAM. Additionally it's got a RAID1 / filesystem which gives it a bit more resilience. Both boxes have an identical 160GB of storage for us to stick things on. I made us all dinner before (it being Sunday night) we all went to bed.

Most of the rest of today has been spent preparing for Wednesday.

07/10/2005
[17:40] I went to change the backup tapes this morning and only took five tapes out of the robot, not six. When I went to get the new tapes I realised this and brought a sixth tape back. This means I have an extra live tape on my desk which I really can't be bothered to take over to the fire safe. I'll put it somewhere safe for the weekend and take it on Monday or give it to the person doing the tapes on Monday to take over.

In an effort to get myself out of the doldrums I find myself in at the moment I went for a 10km run at lunch time. It gave me time to think and to realise that the things that're on my mind should be solvable by simply changing my expectations and making the most of what I have. They're probably unreasonable anyway. There's plenty of scope for the improvements I would like, it's just a case of allowing them to happen rather than forcing the issues all the time. In the meantime there's plenty I can do to keep myself occupied. In fact I'm very slowly upping the amount of things I do in the evenings and on weekends again after a rather long hiatus. I should try and get things in some sort of order and up on the calendar at home so I can see where there's room for all the things I need to fit in.

Today's been a bit of a non-entity as far as work goes. There's nothing to do except prepare for the service switch next Wednesday. To stave off complete boredom and to try and stay awake after completely shattering myself after running what was close to a 45min 10.5km lap I delved into Ruby on Rails in the folorn hope that RedHat's Ruby RPMs would put all the Ruby stuff in a sensible (read: standard) place such that RubyGem would install happily and provide a nice mechanism for getting Rails installed. Alas, it was not to be. As a result I'm going to leave it all alone until Monday at which point I'll talk to the people who want the installation and probably come to the conclusion that running "rpm --erase (list of ruby RPMs)" followed by a download of a recent Ruby tarball and the Gem tarball is the way to go. I really wish RedHat wouldn't make sticking to a supported/vanilla install so bloody difficult. Why oh why oh why do they insist of putting stuff in their own places?

I'm off to see Serenity (the Joss Whedon finishes-up-the-abortive-Firefly-series film) this evening. I won't post any spoilers except to say that even though the posters don't mention it, all the nine major characters are in there, which was my primary worry. Whether they can tie up all the characters' backplots in one film... well I have no idea, that's why I'm going to see it, see?

If nothing else, there's always someone online who'll perk you up with some banter over the electronic communication medium that is MSN (with Kopete, not MSN Messenger).

06/10/2005
[17:30] Two song lyrics/samples I listened to today which struck home in various different ways. The first is "What a man had to go through for a piece of ass in the modern age was highly ridiculous." I won't comment on that one for fear of retribution. The second was (to my shame) from an Avril Lavigne tune and was "I'd rather be anything than ordinary, please." There's not much I can say about that one either, without sounding trite or weird. Suffice it to say that it struck a chord today. I'm trying to be more than ordinary these days; to do more with who and what I am. I'm not sure how much chance I have of achieving anything other than shining mediocrity, but it's better to attempt than to simply wish it. Part of my attempts are volunteering to help with showing people the ropes (literally) with the climbing club I'm in as well as some larger things which may or may not happen, but if they do could be really rather impressive.

I think I should head off for the day. I've done some, but not much today. What I have done has been useful though. Fighting for a morning with RHEL3's sendmail version proved to be more than even my team leader could deal with so I don't feel so bad that I wasn't able to get it to look at the /etc/aliases file when sending to root. In the end I just frobbed the actual application (arpwatch) itself to send to a valid external email address.

05/10/2005
[17:00] I went to the dentist this morning. Turns out it's been more than seventeen months since my last visit. It really didn't feel that long. I think the dentist took my tardiness out on me in the form of an x-ray and some enamel to fix a minor chip in one of my front teeth. The whole deal cost £23.50 and I've been told to make an appointment with the hygenist (at a cost of another £30) to have my teeth cleaned/tartar removed, etc. When you get down to it, fifty-odd quid to keep your teeth in working order isn't that bad a deal, given how long you want to hold on to them for.

Work today has been sporadic but achieveful. I've helped the web team migrate off their last bit of desktop-hardware-being-a-server (their second oldest box after the one running RedHat 4 a few months ago), rewritten a few more scripts now that the database updates have to go through a man-in-the-middle machine and finally helped one of the network guys get their network monitoring RHEL3 box send them email properly.

I'm also feeling a bit low at the moment, could do with some attention and am generally in need of a pick-me-up. It's probably all the hyphens I've used in this entry. They can really take it out of you.

Climbing tonight. Must go home and do some washing up.

04/10/2005
[18:10] Went out this morning pretty much as soon as I got in to decomission two old machines in two different locations across the city. I got the bus into town, removed on machine, lugged it across town to the other place and unplugged that one too. Happily there were only Dell GX270 desktops rather than anything larger and I was glad to be getting rid of them as servers. You shouldn't run services on PC hardware. Anyway, as I was lugging the two of them out of the building my bus went by so there I was running down the road through tourists and the like with two moderately heavy boxes under my arms. Of course I miss the bus, but that meant I could sit around on top of them watching fresher students wander by looking lost and lonely.

Back at work I settled down just long enough to do some documentation on the Wiki before my team leader dragged me off for a Thai lunch before our meeting with a sysadmin at the other end of town about how he stores his terabytes of data on NetApps. We're in the market for a new SAN-like solution and are scouting out possibilities. That took most of the afternoon so by the time I got back here there was only enough time to do some quick scripting for the move of a database and it's associated website from one server to another before it was ten past six and time to go home. Like now!

03/10/2005
[17:50] First days back after time away are always a bit fraught. Today was no exception. Aside from a mildy disturbed night (check out my bags at the moment) I got in to fid that Big Brother was complaining about RAID and backup issues on two servers. As I'm trying to deal with that my line manager comes in to ask about a cronjob which seemed to have stopped working a few months ago and is just now requiring being looked at. I then fire up RedHat Network and notice that RHEL3-u6 has come out. Cue me spending most of the day upgrading machines, doing testing, etc.

In the middle of all of that I got a helpdesk call about some users - some ragingly anti-techno users - who needed access to a Samba drive I didn't even know we provided on one of our live database servers. After dealing with one person whose clipped-to-the-point-of-rudeness tones let me know exactly what she thought of techie people I managed to get the whole thing sorted such that I could close the ticket and get back to emailing a person of such uncureable uncluedness that I'm not sure what (short of beating them to death with their own spleen) would penetrate their head with regard to acceptable email behaviour.

I'm now deciding whether to go home or not before heading off for a curry with the climbing club I've been a member of for a while. We're expecting new people to be joining soon so it'll be time to teach again as well as new outdoor weekend trips.