It was a bad day. A lot of bad stuff happened. And I'd love to forget it all. But I don't. Not ever. Because this is what I do. Every time, every day, every second, this: On five, we're bringing down the government.

Saturday, December 15


In Happier News

Haruhi and Yurie are up and running.  Haruhi was still having problems with Memtest86+ - just a couple of errors on a complete pass of 8GB of ram, but that's three too many.  I pulled out the ram, rearranged it (so I could see if the errors tracked the module or the socket) and reinstalled it.  And it came back clean on a full 3-hour test, so it looks like it was Just One Of Those Things.

I was seeing some video glitches before, so I underclocked the built-in graphics, suspecting that it was overclocking itself the way memory was.  That seems to have worked fine, and it's running Aero at a quite acceptable speed.  You'd hope so, but it's nice to see that it works like it should.

Now I just need to install approximately 12,000 programs to get my usual working environment back.

Oh, and speed?  Pretty snappy.  I had a Core 2 Duo 2.4 at my previous job, and this feels about the same, though it's slower in benchmarks.  Definitely much faster than Lina, my 2003-era P4 2.6.  So despite the extra day taken to assemble them, I'm pretty happy with my two tiny goddesses.

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Let's see how it works on 1.1
Okay, I think that could still use a little work...

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The Other Other Thing

The Vista install will freeze in bad places for a long time if you don't have DHCP server configured correctly.

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The Other Thing

I was installing some software on my old Windows box to help the recovery of my old Linux box that died a couple of weeks ago, and it needed a reboot.

The system shut down just fine.

I also discovered that I can crash it by running fixmbr repeatedly.  I need to get off that machine now.  Well, as soon as Memtest86+ completes a full pass.  Takes a while with 8GB of ram...

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Why Is It Always Like This?

So I assembled Haruhi and Yurie last night.  That went pretty smoothly.  I didn't slip while tightening a screw and gouge a hole in the motherboard.  I didn't short anything out, and I only plugged one thing in backwards (the HDD LED on one machine).  Both machines POSTed first try, a huge improvement over last year's effort at building a small media center box, which never worked at all and was eventually scavenged for parts.

So, as I say, they POSTed fine, so I did what comes naturally and ran Memtest86.  The resulting explosion was so violent that I'll be picking bits and bytes out of the ceiling for weeks.  I've never seen Memtest86 actually crash before.

Funny thing, though.  It crashed on both machines, no matter which of the 6 dimms I used.  As a quick test I popped in the Fedora 8 Live CD, and it booted up just fine.  Hmm.  I then tried installing Vista, and that went just fine too.

Until I installed the video drivers from Gigabyte, anyway.  Then it all went haywire.

A bit more poking around showed that the memory was running at 868MHz.  That's not a big overclock, but it's cheap memory, so maybe that was the problem.  So I went into the bios to change the timing settings...  And there weren't any.  Nothing.  Nada.

So I downloaded the latest bios update, put it on a flash drive, and installed it.  (That's something they got right, at least.  No more floppies!)  Still no overclocking settings, and I know I saw some in a review before I decided on this motherboard.  I'm not that fussed about overclocking, but it's handy to have that extra control just in case something goes insane.

So, a bit more poking around, and I find that you have to hit Ctrl-F1 on the main bios screen to access the hidden overclocking settings.  There's no fine-grain control over memory clocks (though you can control all the little details like CAS and RAS delays down to the nanosecond), but setting the clock to 667MHz showed up as 748MHz in Memtest86+.

Oh, forgot to mention.  Memtest86 explodes on sight.  Memtest86+ seems to work fine.  It did find a couple of errors while running at 868MHz, so I restarted it after downclocking the ram.  So far, so good.

It's possible also that the screwy video is connected to the screwy ram timings.  I can test that out too.  If that works, then everything's peachy, except for Vista, which I will loathe for a good long time yet.

One side thought: If Microsoft sold for $100 a program that did one thing and one thing only - told Vista shut up, I know what I'm doing - their profits would be secure for the next five years.

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Thursday, December 13


Eatabus Eataby

My notebook (Compaq Presario V6000 series) now has 2782MB of available memory, which should interest Hewlett Packard who list the maximum supported memory as 2GB.  Most of the rest (there should be 3GB in total) has been eaten by the integrated GeForce 6150 graphics, which has no memory of its own and seems to have gotten greedy at the sight of all the extra RAM; it's bumped its default allocation up to 256MB.

Even with that, I can run two Linuxes under VMWare with 512MB each and still have more memory left than I did yesterday when VMWare wasn't running.  Not bad for a $55 investment.

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Wednesday, December 12


Christmas Shopping

Just ordered the motherboards, cases, power supplies, and operating system for Haruhi and Yurie, my soon-to-be new Windows and Linux boxes.  Tomorrow I'll be making a little expedition to see what I can get from MSY.  They're one of the cheapest sources of computer parts in Australia, but their stock levels are terribly unreliable.

With luck I'll be picking up two CPUs, two 750GB disks, and 16GB of memory to complete the build.  But we'll see.

Both of the systems are AMD based.  Yes, Intel chips are better right now.  But low-cost Intel motherboards suck, and good low-end Intel motherboards are anything but low-cost.  I thought I'd found a solution, but it turned out that Gigabyte screwed the pooch on the GA-G33M-S2H (the PCI-E x16 slot only runs at x4), so I went for two identical machines based on the GA-MA69GM-S2H.

Updates will follow once the small goddesses arrive.

Update: I have in my hot little hands:

2x Athlon 64 X2 5200+
6x Apacer 2GB DDR2-800
2x WD 750GB SATA
2x Pioneer SATA DVD-RW (215BK)
1x Lian-Li V600A
1x Lian-Li V600B
2x Corsair VX-450 PSU

Just waiting on the motherboards and Windows (Vista Ultimate 64-bit).  And the other 4GB of memory, but that's not urgent.

I also picked up a 2GB memory module for my notebook.  I'm not sure it's going to work, but if not I'll just swap it for a 1GB module.

Update: Have motherboards and Vista.  Now need cart to cart it all home.

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Monday, December 10


Meh And Anti-Meh

When I kicked off the Passmark run on Aoi, the entire install directory I had started on suddenly disappeared.  That, on what should be a journaled filesystem, is a little disquieting, and I'm tempted to do a full reinstall and run some more tests.  But I haven't made up my mind yet, so I'm watching repeats of House.

The first five minutes of episode 3-12, One Day, One Room, is classic, flawless House.  Rest of the episode is a bit of a downer though.

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Wabbit Season!

I've been cursing SoftLayer's flaky hardware for the past forty minutes or so.  While I was installing and updating software on Aoi, the whole system blew up, choked, died, failed to respond.

A Passmark hardware test came up clean.  I logged in again after the reboot, and ran top...  And realised as the session froze again that that was exactly what I had done just before the previous meltdown.  My habitual wrapper script for top had a slight bug in it that had turned it into a wabbit - a fork bomb.  And on a quad-core Xeon that's awaiting a shipment of memory, it doesn't take very long for a wabbit to eat you out of house and home.

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Sunday, December 09


Say Hello To Aoi

After collapsing down to one big server in October (moving all the stuff running on Akane, Nabiki and Kasumi to Midori, a new quad-core 6GB server), I'm doing the same on the side.

Over the next two weeks, the servers, Ukyo, Shampoo and Kodachi, will be replaced by Aoi, a quad-core 8GB system.  That means a little downtime for - probably two outages of less than half an hour each.  There'll also be a little downtime on the side; I'll be adding an extra disk and another 2GB of memory there to give Midori the space to act as a backup server for

What all this means is that I no longer have a Ranma naming scheme. Instead, I now have a colours/girl's-names scheme.  And the problem with that is that I don't know of any other Japanese colour names that are used as girl's names.  And that means no more servers. sad

I could cheat a little.  Ai means indigo, and is the basis for aiiro, meaning dark blue.  Akane gives us the term akaneiro, for crimson, and Sakura gives us sakurairo, pale pink.  Mikan is the term for Japanese oranges (the fruit), though I haven't seen it used as a colour name; that would be daidai or simply orenji.

Any others?

Update: Okay, according to this list, Akae, Akaho, Akana, Akane, Akari are all forms of aka/akai, red.  So Akari would be a good one.  (Hey, it's hailing!  Plink!  Plinkity!  Bip boop blep! Clack!  Hell, I'm glad my car's not parked outside, some of those buggers are an inch across!)

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