Wednesday, June 29, 2005

For a mere $300,000...

Its amazing what happens when you start to be thought of as a real person in an organization. When I was a student at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln (UNL) I was shielded from all the crap that faculty have to do in a day just to begin to do work. Now we're trying to buy hardware for our new USCMS Tier 2 facility (read that as supercomputer) and people are actually asking my opinion on what to buy (!).

Geez, what do I know about multiple processor clusters that the next guy doesn't know? All I know is people are asking me about how we should spend roughly a half a million dollars in the next 3 days. (!)

Its also amazing what kind of thinking has to go into buying your run of the mill supercomputer. We thought we could go with solution x, but solution x would saturate the cooling of the machine room, which we'd then have to replace. So, even though solution x was the cheapest bid, it would cost us $100,000 to upgrade the cooling and replace the facilities capabilities that we'd be tying up. Once you fold in $100K into any bid it stops being the cheapest. The stupid part is someone in facilities told the vendor that 'cooling wouldn't be a problem', then told US 'you know, cooling is going to be a problem'. Nice to know buddy. Now the vendor is going to be pissed when we don't go with their bid.

We're also in the market for some storage. We need about 10 - 15% of the total storage that we'll need in 2007. For you and me that 20-30 Terabytes. That's Tera. With a T. 1000 Gigabytes. You just don't go to bestbuy and pick up storage in the size range. We're hoping we can get that under $40,000 so that we don't have to send that out to bid because that would take too long.

Some day (next 1-2 years) we'll have to have 200 Terabytes ready to go. Mindboggling.

To top it all off, I have no earthly idea how to do anything useful with any of this stuff.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Another Year Older...

I passed another milestone Saturday. I turned another year older. I'm not what you'd call old, but I've long since passed being called young. Birthdays are supposed to be a time of reflection and re-evaluation. I've grown very tired of reflection and re-evaluation. I went out and bought plastic model kits and xbox games. Bully for me.

The sad part is the plastic model kits don't seem as slick and inspiring as they used to and the xbox games are hard as hell. What kind of super freak can play these things anyway? I used to be one of the best modem dial up quake players in the world. Now I'm fodder for thugs in Spiderman. Depressing.

Happy freakin' Birthday, Carl. Welcome to dullsville.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Linux Resurrection

I've been without linux on my desktop workstation at home for some time now. Its no big deal since my research group saw fit to provide me with a powerbook. (OSX just wishes it was as cool as linux.) With my powerbook in hand I can work from home, which is nice for a procrastinator like me.

The problem with my desktop was that we (my wife and I) had recently moved all our computers to the second floor of our house. Since the cable came in downstairs I thought, "Heck, I'll just get a wireless router and some wireless pci cards and I won't have to run wires upstairs." It worked like a charm for my wife's Windows machine and my Windows laptop, but not so well for my dual boot workstation. I've gone through 3 different wireless cards looking for the magic combination of card and linux distro to get everything to work. I'd all but given up, using my desktop for the occasional Windows game, but little more.

Recently I had to replace my wireless router (I think lightning ate it, but it might just have been a POS). I replaced it wish a nice 802.11G router. Through some horse-trading I got an 802.11G PCI card for my workstation for nothing (free as in beer). I was positive that it wouldn't work with linux. It didn't, out of the box. No surprise.

I kept hearing about this open source project called ndiswrapper. It was supposed to magically use windows drivers in linux. I scoffed at the idea. "That trick never works!" Well last night I installed Ubuntu Linux. Its supposed to be "Linux for real people". Huh, I never considered Linux to be for anyone else, but what the hell. (Their homepage looks like a 'United Colors of Benetton ad from the 90s'.)

I installed Ubuntu. It has a real old fashioned feeling to the install. No gui, no pictures, no whistles, no bells, no problems. After grinding through the install I found it weird that it never asked for a root password. "Oh well, it'll ask upon first start." Nope. Ubuntu has this philosophy that you never need to log in as root (what real person would want to do that?). It adds all users to the sudoers, but no root log in. That confused the hell out of me for a bit, but after I figured out what was going on I 'sudid' a passwd change for root and tried to log into root via the window manager. That pissed it off. "Root not allowed to log in via this method".

Well excuse me.

After logging back in as a pedestrian user I installed ndiswrapper (sudo this...sudo that). I then proceeded on a quest to find the driver disk for my net card. After killing several orcs and an ogre magi I was rewarded with the 'Diske of Drivers +4" and was able to copy the .inf file and associated folders over to my computer.
Then it was simply a matter of
ndiswrapper -i driver.inf
ndiswrapper -l (Shows what drivers are loaded)
modprobe ndiswrapper (To load the module into the kernel)
Fire up the wireless networking utility nicely provided by ubuntu.
ndiswrapper -m (To load the drivers on boot).

I was thrilled, but cocky. If it works for this tinker toy linux, I'll bet it'll work for a real distro like Fedora Core 4.

I wiped ubuntu and installed FC4. Long story short, ubuntu is back on the workstation and its working just ducky. (FC4, you's got a lot of 'splaining to do!)

I've now found that ubuntu has some real nice features and I'm going to give it an honest trial run.

This makes my day. It amazing that it takes so little to make me so happy.


Thursday, June 23, 2005

First Post

I don' t know if I'll do this 'blogging' thing. I tried this 'post my thoughts and stuff' on the web back in '97. I didn't do it very long before I trashed it and gave up.

We'll see...