Category Archives: Uncategorized

Short Form

A friend today challenged me on letting this blog go a bit dormant.  True, I once averaged about a post a day; now it’s about one a month.  The thing he missed most were the (searchable) tips and quick fixes that I often tuck away here.

So, I’m going to pick it up a bit, favoring short form over long form and frequency over duration, but hopefully not quantity over quality. It won’t be thing a day, but at least it’ll be better than silence. Hopefully.

Where Was I?

I hate meta-posts (things like blogging about blogging).  Here comes one anyway.

A few astute readers noticed the sound of silence here: that I neglected this blog for a month now.

Where was I?

In a word: soccer.  Club soccer is in full swing now for my two L kids, with practices four nights a week, team manager duties, and pre-season tournaments every weekend (gone are the good old days when August was still a summer break month).  Family activities and summer reading filled the remaining free hours nicely.  Blog-worthy things continued to happen, but lost was the time in the evenings and weekends to distill and post them.

Where was I?

As I recall, this blog is at least partly about technical problems I encounter and solutions.  Yet absence makes the heart grow forgetful, especially against the backdrop of a (justified) social media pendulum swing.  Leo Laporte’s twitter feed stopped working and no-one noticed.  Frank Ryan drove off a cliff tweeting while driving.  Matt Richtel’s head hurts.  And I didn’t feel so good (about social media) myself.

Many questions answer themselves just by being asked.  Does the entire intertube and Library of Congress need to know what I’m having for dinner?  Ya’ think?  I quickly abandoned Twitter and cut back my Facebook posts because of my low signal-to-noise ratio.  Perhaps it’s just that, in Proverbs 10:19 fashion, as we get older, we “edit ourselves” more (yes, knowledge speaks, wisdom listens).  But, taken in proper measure, there is value in the “reality web.”

For example, I learn about cool things done by far-flung friends.  I get meaningful technology details that never make it to those one page summaries on corporate sites or in glossy print.  Even subtle, simple things like Garmin streams from fellow runners provide balance and motivation.  And when googling for references and fixes, the best ones now typically come from blogs.  Who needs you, Experts Exchange?

Perhaps it’s that debt of gratitude that motivates most.  After gleaning so much helpful information from other blogs and streams, justice demands giving back a little.  And the emails I get in response to even the most unlikely posts help.  So I continue, knowing that WriteStreams sometimes are read.

Barracuda Attack

Like the song’s antagonist, one of my two Barracuda 7200.12 1 TB hard drives just became a real low-lying nuisance.  Yesterday, my four-way Windows 7 box grew incredibly sluggish, a problem which persisted over restarts.  With the case cover off, I could hear intermittent clicks and buzzes coming from the primary hard drive.  They weren’t the extreme clicks of death, but sounds that seemed to indicate stumbling over chunks of bad sectors.

This was one of those once-every-year-or-so moments when backups go from pure overhead to the greatest thing since the ten cent gigabyte.

I suppose there are as many backup strategies as there are computers.  Components of this strategy balance the trade-offs between redundancy and recovery time, with RAID-1 or RAID-10 at one end, and incremental backups of just the personal data at the other.  I’ve gotten out of the RAID-1 habit for a few reasons: consistency with laptops, bad experiences with “logical” data failures (if you corrupt a Windows registry hive, you’ve just backed up the problem), and problems with lower-end RAID controllers.  But for my quick recovery needs, I do perhaps the next closest thing: put in pairs of drives and use periodic imaging and regular XXCOPY script runs (with /CLONE) to keep them in sync.

Because of this, recovery was indeed quick and easy; I simply swapped my shadow hard drive to primary and restarted.  This took the bad drive out of the critical path so I could find out what was wrong, and perhaps RMA this thing that I’ve only had for six months.

A full chkdsk found no bad sectors, and the SMART stats were within thresholds (with SMART, the absence of bad news is not necessarily good news).  Confounded, I let HD Tune run a full error scan.  It reported no bad sectors, but I could again hear the clicks and buzzes at various points: around 250 GB, 300 GB, 568 GB, 596 GB, and 695 GB.

So maybe this drive is farther from full failure than I thought.  But I’m not taking my chances, especially given Seagate’s checkered past with drives in this line.

Ironically, on the same day of the failure, I received a TigerDirect email offering this exact drive for $69.  Pass.

Johnny Cash-ing In

There’s been a lot of buzz lately about the recent iTunes 10 billionth song winner: a Johnny Cash tune purchased by nearby Woodstock, GA resident Louie Sulzer.  One of our local papers, the Cherokee Ledger-News, covered the story like none other, with some great quotes.  Like this: “Sulcer said he picked up the phone and a man said ‘Congratulations, Lou, this is Steve Jobs.’ Sulcer sarcastically said, ‘Sure it is.'”  And the photo caption: “Now, he has to figure how he’s going to spend a $10,000 iTunes gift card he won in an Apple contest he knew nothing about.”

Just love small town candor.  You couldn’t make this stuff up.

Ceol na Gael

Perhaps it’s that small bit of Irish blood in me, or simply that all my memories of live bagpipes are very pleasant ones, but good Irish music always brings good cheer.  Irish pipe band Ceol na Gael (“music of the Gaels”) from Charlotte, NC is especially skilled at it, and they continue to grow in fame and repertoire.

One of the band members, Wayne, is a friend and co-worker: a talented programmer and piper.  Check them out at their web site or Facebook page.  And if you’re a Carolinian in need of a good Irish fix, contact them.

Football Primary Sources

You can’t confuse information with insight.  There’s been much speculated and said about Georgia Tech’s NFL departures (Bay-Bay, Dwyer, Derrick Morgan, Burnett), but no news from those left to carry the banner.  So it was good to read OT Nick Claytor’s guest blog today.  Stop it with the analysis of the analysis, let’s hear it from the players.  Check it out: http://blogs.ajc.com/georgia-tech-sports/2010/01/14/special-guest-blog-from-nick-claytor-2/.

It’s an annual challenge for my alma mater to stay in the top of the FBS big leagues.  GT is very deliberately a small school (13,000 undergrads) with tough academic requirements, making recruiting a real challenge.  Of course, that’s why the triple option was so welcome.  If you can’t beat ’em on bulk, blind ’em with science.  Paul Johnson has lost some powerful weapons, but he’ll adjust, and will continue to coach players to new heights.

This fan and alum is thankful for an exciting season.  I’ll watch these veterans in the NFL and mark my calendar for Sep 4.

Gigabyte Catch-22

The family surprised me with a new system for Christmas, including that Intel Q8400 I’ve wanted (4 true cores for parallel programming work, of course).  The combo included a Gigabyte EP45-UD3P motherboard whose bells and whistles impressed this Asus fan.

But after putting it together and starting it up, I found that the USB keyboard and mouse were dead.  I really didn’t want to RMA this thing, so I experimented.  I could get the BIOS startup keys (F12, Del, etc.) to work, although sluggishly.  I could bring up the setup screen, but couldn’t do anything in it.

Fortunately, I had an old dusty PS/2 keyboard and mouse that I could plug into those ports, and they worked great.  Once into BIOS setup, I found the settings for USB keyboard and mouse, and they were disabled.  By enabling them and restarting, I was able to switch back to my USB devices.

So if all you have is a USB keyboard, you’re stuck: you can’t use your keyboard to enable the keyboard!  A little googling after all this indicates this is just how it is with many Gigabyte mobos.

Moral of the story: hang onto that old PS/2 keyboard or adapter plug; you never know when you might need it.

New Decade, New Blog

Welcome to DerekWilliams.us, my new blog site for 2010 and hopefully following.

Current interests include parallel programming, databases (especially DB2), family fun, web development, running, Biblical worldviews, hiking, kayaking, and, of course, HomeStarRunner.  D.V., I’ll cover these things and whatever else pops into my streams of consciousness.

So perhaps WriteStreams of Consciousness is a fitting title for this blog, since WriteStreams are written to, never read.  Waka waka waka.