News from February 2006

Tea at the Chinese Garden

Occurred February 05, 2006 (Permalink)

At some point either this weekend or last, I went down to the Portland Classical Chinese Garden for the New Year's celebrations ongoing there. I saw a dragon dance in the rain, a plant sale (no orange trees!), and had tea in the tea house... all with my neighbor Ann. Apparently she knows the woman who runs the teahouse too.

Adaptec HostRAID

Occurred February 09, 2006 (Permalink)

Today, I did something that _nobody else_ in the world has ever done: Booted a system off an Adaptec HostRAID array with dmraid. No binary modules. At all. Just pure Open Source software. I'm sure you readers have no clue what I'm talking about and probably don't care anyway.

Well hell! Tell us how!!!

Fedora Core 6/Mandriva 4 have it working out of the box. Alternately, you can install dmraid and modify the system's initrd to run "dmraid -ay" and include the dmraid binary in the initrd if you prefer some other distro. You may also have to modify grub's device map a bit too.

Twenty Four

Occurred February 10, 2006 (Permalink)

For my birthday, Jason got me a red Swingline. Great. Now my co-workers will think that I'm || close from becoming unhinged and burning the place down. In other news, I had a huge dinner party at my house on Friday night. I made two lasagnas, other people brought chips and cheese (Becky(?)), soup (Dave?), bread and German chocolate cake (thanks, Alexis!) I got in the booze early and don't remember the rest. ;) I recall having a good time, however. Saturday, I spent the afternoon stripping paint off the door mouldings in the kitchen. Very nice looking wood underneath all those layers of paint. I think it's hemlock wood. It's sort of oddly delightful to watch a huge chunk of paint melt away...

Salmon salmon salmon...

Occurred February 12, 2006 (Permalink)

Today's hike took me 40 miles out of town into the Columbia Gorge. I hiked up from Cascade Locks through empty forests to a small waterfall that was carving a "V" shape out of the face of a cliff and had lunch there. Very quiet and pleasant--precisely what I needed to get away from the world for a few hours. A surprisingly easy hike; it looks like there aren't very many people who have attempted this path. Decades ago, the town of Cascade Locks installed some (now very decrepit) diversion gates; it seems that they once got their water from here. 5.4 miles to go from town up here and back. I enjoyed this hike very very much, and now I'm high on life. :)

Since it was only two in the afternoon, I got back in the car and went to the fish hatchery at Bonneville Dam. They have several rectangular pools of small sturgeon and rainbow trout just swimming around and around. Those small young fish can move through the water really quickly! In the back, there were ponds full of ducks, trout, and some really huge sturgeon! It was interesting to observe these large fish in "action" (really, all they did was to swim around and around the pond in circles while the other fish struggled to get out of the way...); unlike most fish, these sturgeon appear to have scales and thick skin armor. I was blown away to read that those fish can become up to nine feet long; one could stand such a fish in the living room of my house and have it crash into the ceiling.

After that, I visited the hydroelectric generators at Bonneville and took a look at the fish ladder they have there. The generators themselves are quite impressive, with huge turbines and even larger coils. The 75rpm speed doesn't surprise me, but the fact that ~90% of the fish that get sucked in survive despite being knocked about amazes me. The fish ladder on the Oregon side is dry, as there aren't many fish (Bonneville dam has two fish ladders) swimming upriver in the wintertime, so I got to see the intricate system of baffles, walls, and gates that they use to persuade the fish to swim into the ladder to be counted. Apparently the best time to go out there is in September, when there are huge numbers of fish trying to make their way upstream from the ocean before the winter sets in. Horny fish do some amazing things. No salmon, alas.

Happy Oregon Statehood Day!

Occurred February 14, 2006 (Permalink)

(Actually this happened 147 years ago...)

I'm Presenting at OLS 2006!

Occurred February 15, 2006 (Permalink)

A few weeks ago, Alexis and I were approached about submitting a proposal to the OLS2006 (Ottawa Linux Symposium) paper review board. We decided (with significant amounts of hinting from others at IBM) that people might be interested to hear about all the stuff that we're doing at IBM to help third party hardware vendors get their drivers into the mainline kernel... or failing that, support via other open source software packages. The committee accepted our proposal, and now I (hopefully we) are going to Ottawa in July! Below is our proposal for the 0.5 of you who actually care.

There is nothing like the excitement of taking a brand new computer and blowing away the pre-installed OS to replace it with your favorite flavor of Linux. Oh, it feels great, until you realize that the Ethernet card driver doesn't work and the SCSI controller driver still hasn't even made it into mainline! The happy rush is replaced with the frustration of a night of arguing with balky drivers; as the Jolt cans pile up, you wonder how large sites manage to deploy Linux, and if the other Un*xes have these driver problems.

Fortunately, efforts are underway to try to ease that pain. Several issues have come up repeatedly during community discussions about the vendor driver support problem, including: keeping up with developments in mainline, troubleshooting broken drivers, legal issues, and integration problems.

This paper will explore the IBM LTC's efforts to bridge the gaps between vendors and the Linux community to ensure that the drivers are written, tested and submitted to mainline; helping vendors to resolve driver problems; and creating open source alternatives when that is impossible. Moreover, the paper will discuss four projects to improve third party drivers: 1) adding Adaptec HostRAID support to dmraid and grub (and pushing those changes into distros), 2) enhancing the performance of the Adaptec AACRAID driver, 3) integrating the Adaptec aic94xx SAS driver with the SAS transport layer, and 4) fixing bugs and adding new features to the pcnet32 network driver.

That's nifty. Don't forget to make sure you have a nice current passport. Sounds like a blast!

Disk Benchmarking Tools Updated

Occurred February 18, 2006 (Permalink)

After many many years of neglect, I've finally updated the disk benchmark utilities for (hopefully) more accurate data gathering. The new utilities are built via autoconf, and I reworked the tools so that the inner loops are tighter, the clock gathering code is more precise, and eliminated many options that never seemed to get used. In addition, I've also automated the creation of a Makefile that will makes adding new records much much easier than it used to be in the past. The new graphs are in the same places as the old ones; I have transfer speed and latency data. Enjoy!

600 Days in Oregon

Occurred February 18, 2006 (Permalink)

Snow Shoeing Around Mt. Hood

Occurred February 19, 2006 (Permalink)

Dave, Sarah, Eliza, CJ and I went snow-shoeing in the mountains above a place called White River just south of Mt. Hood. We were originally planning to head up Lolo Pass Road, but Dave missed the turn and we ended up on highway 35 instead. Eliza said that she and Cheryl had gone on a loop around White River in early January, so we decided to do that instead. So, we wandered around in the cold slushy snow, which had the consistency of the world's biggest 7-11 icee. Afterwards, we ate huge delicious burgers at Calamity Jane's off 26.

Corrupting the Youth

Occurred February 24, 2006 (Permalink)

Instead of going to the office today, Alexis and I were guest lecturers at Benson Polytechnic High School (offsite) in the Central East Side. As part of the National Engineers Month lectures, the two of us spent the day talking to high school kids about how to get into an engineering school, what it's like to study engineering, and how our lives have been as yuppies straight out of college. In putting together our slide show, Alexis and I discovered that we've had pretty much the opposite schooling experiences: she left high school to ride horses; I became the uber hacker of Menlo. I had computing experience since the late 1980s, she didn't even touch one until her first year of college. So, it was very helpful to go to a class and be able to explain to the students that dropping out and avoiding college is a terrible idea, while at the same time connecting with the kids who have been nerds forever. Though, I have to say that the school is a "magnet school" for the technically oriented, thus making our job at least somewhat easier.

I also got to show off some new features of Ubuntu Dapper, such as Xgl, compiz and beagle. I think the kids were impressed with the 3D graphics, though a few didn't really care about the search tool (not as glamourous, is it?) For the most part we were successful at holding the students' attention, though I'm not as confident of our hold on the freshman drafting class. For certain, the kids with advanced projects (OpenGL games, heavy machinery control systems, etc) sure enjoyed showing off their projects. I thought it was going to be hard to go into a high school, but the interaction was fabulous.

I have to say, Benson's program is really impressive! They have such a great program; I say it far outstrips a lot of the things that Menlo did! They have several labs full of computer parts, an automotive repair shop, a room full of airplane engines, and what looks like an introductory course in robotics. There are rooms full of freshmen draftsmen, and the seniors have IntelliStations loaded with Ubuntu. We evangelized Ubuntu Linux a bit, and left some links for where they could find more information. Though I have to say, they already know quite a bit. Just not the flashy features I showed them. :)

On a final note: one slide in the presentation was entitled "What is a Software Engineer?" I snuck a picture of Dwayne Dibley onto the slide; in the very last class, one nerdy girl exclaimed "Oh my god! Red Dwarf!" The crowning achievement of my efforts: a relevant yet obscurely humorous reference to a show that I like. (For those of you wondering: Dwayne Dibley is an alias for the Cat on Red Dwarf; he and his friends "escape" police by dressing as big toothed dorks and claiming to be computer programmers! And she was the only one who got it! I talked to her after class; she can't decide if she wants to go into animation art or game design. I gave her a few pointers, though one thing keeps bothering me: what will happen to these kids? I'd be curious to know...


Occurred February 24, 2006 (Permalink)

The Friday Night Supper Club went to Fenouil (offsite) for our February gathering. The red wine (a Grenache) was very French, which is to say that it was quite salty. I started the evening with a yummy spread of bread with a white brie, figs, and honey and followed it with a wild boar steak with potatoes. The boar was maybe a bit dry, and could have (oddly enough) used a bit more butter, though the rest was pretty good. I finished the evening with chocolate bon-bons. Exhausted, I bade my fellow diners good-bye (they were off to a birthday party) and went home. Early bedtime on a Friday night? I think this means that I'm turning into an old man.

Movie House

Occurred February 25, 2006 (Permalink)

Come Saturday, I realized that I still had the projector from yesterday's fun at Benson High. What did this mean? That I could easily hook it up to the PC in the movie theater, beam it at the wall, and have a 95" television screen. That I did, and spent most of the day watching movies in the basement. I'm quite impressed with the clarity of the picture, even when the pixels (the projector was 1024x768) were at least a square millimeter in area. The image was bright and pretty quick to refresh, and totally fine for the somewhat small space in my basement. In the evening, I turned on the Olympics; it was a whole new experience to watch nearly life-sized olympians on the wall. Eventually I suppose I should see if I can get even brighter paint, but since the Wilcox's favorite paint color was white, I doubt I need to improve on that. Anyhow, quite a delectable diversion despite being the lack of anybody else to share it with.

Barlow Pass

Occurred February 26, 2006 (Permalink)

This weekend, the hikers and I went off in search of Zigzag Mountain. Sadly, the mountain was closed... so we headed further up into the area around Barlow Pass instead. On the way up, Eliza sold us on going there by telling us of a pickup truck that was stuck in a big snowy field... which convinced Dave that we simply had to go there!

So off we went: Dave, Sarah, Eliza, Lara and myself. We had meant to take the PCT south and take the Twin Lakes loop (a2260275) but we blew right past the trail entrance and meandered down Barlow Road instead. That might've been a good thing, since we found the wide open field (aa2260276 - 82) and stopped there to eat all of Sarah's chocolate cookies. A flock of hungry birds flew up and began dive-bombing us to get the occasional peck of food. Sociable creatures they were, daring to come within several inches of us to grab food offerings off our hands; somebody (Lara?) remarked that it was just like the Hitchcock movie The Birds.

Our quick lunch over, we continued down the Barlow Road, encountering a brand new sign buried in snow (a2260283 - 85). Past there, we kept going for at least a good mile away from Barlow Butte and the mountain, throwing snowballs and generally carrying on like brats. Eventually, however, the dread of going uphill all the way to the parking lot overcame our youthfulness, and we decided that we weren't on the loop and that we ought to head back to the parking lot. Since it wasn't a loop, the pictures (a2260286 - 96) are are more or less from the same route that we'd taken down the hill; however, this time I got some cool pictures of my tracks (a2260288) and a five foot tall gap in the snow (a02260292 - 94). I photographed some stumps (a2260296) for good measure too.

Lara hadn't ever been to Calamity Jane's, so we went back there for burgers afterward. The guacamole burger is good, but messy as heck. No more wrangler burgers for me; this time I managed to finish the plate.

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