Monday, November 07, 2005

The Promised Projects Post

Didn't I say I would? So here it is.

A casual pet project for the last week or so is the hard drive I've hacked up and re-sealed with plexiglass so that you can watch the sucker work while it,

Crystal is supportive of my projects in general, but at times less than understanding. When I showed her the finished product, she was clearly under whelmed, and couldn't resist asking why I had been driven to do such a stupid thing.

The simple answer is that while I may or may not end up with something cool, I do almost always pick up a new skill or two. The new skill for this project was working with plexi. I actually made two plexi windows for this hard drive mod, and there was a huge qualitative difference between the two. The first was made of an old piece of plexi that I dremelled out of a larger sheet of it. The edges were rough and not at all pretty, and the plexi was the kind that gets stress fractures inside the material from just basic handling, making in more or less opaque.
The second window was made from new plexi, cut with a plexi knife, so it had straight, pretty edges. And it's nothing approaching opaque, so that's a plus.

I also learned how nice a dust mask can be when dremelling steel. As I understand it, steel can be bad stuff to inhale. So I minimized the risk of that as much as I could. I've already learned the lesson of wearing goggles while dremelling (a few more times than I should), so I had quite the getup on my face when cutting steel.

I also had to do some basic electrical work to get the 12/5V wall wart adapter to properly power the molex connector that was to plug into the hard drive. This was easy but satisfying, as soldering always makes me feel geeky.

I'm seriously thinking of re-doing DENTSERVER. Yes, again. I just can't leave well enough alone. I want to turn my four independent basic discs into one big RAID 5 with Striping and Parity Dynamic Disk.

This will serve a few nice purposes. First, it will help performance in terms of file access, because you're pulling parts of each file from each drive instead of waiting on one drive for the entire file.

Second, it will make the situation such that a drive failure won't mean that all the files are blown away with the drive. All I have to do is pop in a drive with equal or greater capacity and tell the dynamic volume to reconstruct the lost drive from the Parity codes on the remaining drives, and off I go!

And third, let me tell you, it's a pain in the butt keeping all of those drives straight, and when I have to add a new share, figuring out where it should go based on what's already where is yet another pain in the buttocks. Having one huge 1TB+ disk to work with would just simplify the hell out of things, and tickle me pink. Then I can pull tricks like creating a single folder 600 GB in size, even though there isn't a single drive in the system that has that kind of capacity.

Toywatch: I got a new Lexar 2GB flash drive. I'm sure it'll fill up right quick. Oh, and by the way, when it comes to flash memory, I'm a Lexar man now. My last Lexar (1GB) was a fast little sucker, and this one seems to be living up to that legacy. I highly recommend Lexar for this reason. My Kingston was fast too, but it might as well have been a banana in my pocket. It was huge.

The lab is closing on me, so I've got to wrap it up.

Catching You Up!

Good heavens, I'm tired. And this is a pretty average day. I was up at 3:00 this morning, and now I'm at the University waiting for an 8:30 PM WEA meeting. I'll get home just in time to fall into bed too late to make up any part of the sleep deficit I'm already running on, so I'll just have to keep looking forward to my Friday afternoon nap. I'm not as young as I used to be. Here's to running on fumes.

One thing that will help, though, is that I was released from serving the Teachers' Quorum on Sunday, thank God. And I don't say that lightly.

I played Half-Life 2: Lost Coast for about 10 minutes the other day, and thinking that I probably had about that much to go, I re-started the movie that had been playing because the wife was staring me down. Yesterday I went back into the game and found that I had about three minutes left in the demonstration level. It was a let-down at the end on more than one level. If you've played the Coast yourself, you'll understand this joke.

The LAN party of a couple of weeks ago was a good time for all. There were some small issues, such as not everyone being able to attain basic network connectivity. Overall, though, it was a good party. The food was good, the planned movies and MCM2 matches were forgone for a straight Half-Life death match, and the pool was good practice for the tournament that Jeff and I played in the next day.

So Jeff and I played in a 9-Ball ring tournament the next day. And boy was it a long day of 9-Ball. I played in four qualifying rounds of 10 racks each before I moved on to the semifinals. Ten more racks in semifinal mode, and I was done. Five or so practice racks before things began, and 50 more racks in tournament mode makes for avid fans considering swearing off the game. I was grateful to make it to the semis, though, and I did meet some fun people.

Jeff, poor guy, just had a lot of bad racks, plain and simple. I felt bad for him, but there wasn't a thing I could do about it. I'm pretty sure he played four qualifying rounds also, and he just couldn't gain a foothold.

My final qualifying round was quite funny, and I'd have laughed about it more heartily at the time if it wasn't pretty much all at Jeff's expense. There were about four racks out of the ten in that round where Jeff took care of the 6, 7, and 8 ball and then scratched, leaving me an easy shot on the 9. I was winning without Jeff's help, but his repeated assistance had me widening the gap by such a margin that I was unstoppable, and I closed the round with 17 points...a nine point lead on my nearest competitor, and by far the single greatest margin of victory in the entire tournament. Leon showed up right in the middle of this round, so his view of the entire tournament will naturally be skewed. That's ok, though. Let him convince you that I'm really that good.

After the tournament, Jeff, Leon and I went to McGrath's for a bowl of chowder and a pissing-and-moaning session. The food was good, and I think Jeff felt better about things afterward.

I want to post about my technical activities, but I think that had better be a seperate post.