Dear Santa, thank you for the dolls and pencils and the fish. It's Easter now, so I hope I didn't wake you but... honest, it is an emergency. There's a crack in my wall. Aunt Sharon says it's just an ordinary crack, but I know its not cause at night there's voices so... please please can you send someone to fix it? Or a policeman, or...
Back in a moment.
Thank you Santa.

Monday, October 31


Yes, We Have No Bananas

So, I was all set to buy myself a nice new 8-core Bulldozer system with 16GB of RAM and a whole bunch of disks when (a) Bulldozer a.k.a. AMD's FX processor family turned out to be not that hot except heat-wise, and (b) a quarter of the world's hard disk manufacturing capacity found itself at the bottom of a lake that hadn't been there yesterday.

Seagate drive prices have jumped 30% already, while Western Digital - the ones currently swimming with the fishes - have jumped 40%.  Kind of annoying on the eve of my purchasing a dozen or more.

The other other thing is the pending launch of Intel's Sandy Bridge E, which, when coupled with the right motherboard (that being Gigabyte's GA-X79-UD5) supports 14 disk drives and 32GB of RAM.  Which would let me run my little virtual cloud right on my desktop.

On the fourth hand, the server version of Bulldozer can support a lot more than 32GB of RAM, and I do want to have a desktop Bulldozer to see if the server version is a good option.  On the fifth hand, the low-end serverdozers (the Opteron 4200 family) haven't shown up yet.  On the sixth hand, they're close - a 3GHz (baseline) 8-core dual-socket chip looks set to cost $360. which ain't bad, about the same as the current 2.8GHz 6-core Opteron 4100.

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All Mod Cons

I have hot water, and on Thursday I will be getting a bathroom.

(Been having some plumbing problems at Pixy Labs recently.  On the plus side, they've installed a hot water heater in place of my old tepid water heater.  But I currently have a hole in the floor where my shower was.)

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Sunday, October 23



So yesterday I was down at Phillip Island to see the penguin parade (the penguins are cute but the wind was coming straight from Antarctica - literally) and before the penguins came along there were a whole lot of seagulls about.  Also dead cuttlefish, but they don't feature in this story.

And the night before that I was watching the filthy neo-hippies - the Occupy $location crowd - being rounded up in Melbourne.  And then I realised: The Occupy crowd are seagulls.  The territoriality, the sense of indignant entitlement, that what's theirs is theirs and what's yours is theirs, and the unshakeable belief that the can make a mess anywhere they like with no repercussions  - they're seagulls.

What to do with this information I'm not yet sure, but identifying the problem is a good first step.

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Wednesday, October 19


It Never Rains But It RAIDs

My 8TB LaCie storage thingy just threw a drive, and I'm heading off on a road trip tomorrow and don't have time to look after it.  It's RAID-5, so nothing is lost yet, but another failure and the whole thing is toast.

Only thing I can do is grab a couple of 3TB USB drives this afternoon and kick off a backup to run while I'm gone and hope for the best.

This is where my fansub collection lives, and I'd be kind of cross if I lost them all.

I was about to order a new PC with 8TB of disk, but haven't had a chance yet, so I'll have to go with the external drives for now.  Wonder if they can be pried out of their little cases later on...

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Thursday, October 13



The reviews of AMD's new Bulldozer CPUs are out, and the verdict is pretty clear: It's kind of meh.

It's an 8-core 3.6GHz chip with 16MB of cache, so you'd expect performance to be amazing.  It's not bad, and if you're upgrading from a machine more than a year old it should deliver quite the performance boost, but it's not all you might expect from the raw specs.

Part of the problem is that while there are eight cores, they're arranged in pairs, and there's only one floating-point unit for each pair.  (Which is how AMD managed to fit eight cores on a chip where Intel only provide four.)  So for maths-intensive tasks like games and video compression, the 8-core AMD chip actually runs much the same as a 4-core Intel; sometimes a little faster, sometimes slower.

My primary interest is on the server side of things, though - databases and text processing -  and that part of the picture isn't as clear yet.  I'm hoping it can pull out some better performance numbers there, because the competition in low-end servers is the E3 Xeon, which is crippled by Intel's retarded decision not to support registered memory (the type of memory almost all servers use).  The low-end server edition of the Bulldozer will support 48GB of cheap RAM - 96GB if you go for a dual-processor motherboard.  The E3 Xeon supports 16GB.  You can get high-density modules that let you go up to 32GB, but the cost of upgrading a Xeon server from 16GB to 32GB of RAM is currently more than an entire Opteron server including 32GB of RAM.  And the E3 Xeon doesn't support dual processors at all.

So, I'm planning on picking up a Bulldozer sometime soon and putting it through its servery paces.  And we shall see what we shall see.

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Sunday, October 09


A Channel - Fin

Got the chance to finish watching this series this evening, and it really is an underappreciated little gem.  While it treads ground covered by shows like Azumanga Daioh, K-On!, and Hidamari Sketch, and while it's a bit uneven in places, its charm holds up throughout.

And the sixth omake is brilliant.

There's an OVA on the way, so that's something to look forward to.  With only two volumes to the manga I don't know if there's enough material for another full season, much as I'd like to see it.


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Monday, October 03


Doctor Who Series 6

So, the series final has aired, and I have two commments:

One, I like the trains.

Two, Doctor Who has become a time travel story.  Where the original show mostly used time travel simply as a vehicle to set up adventures, with just the occasional nod to the problems time travel presents, New Who has increasingly made time travel the centerpiece of the show.  The single strongest standalone example would have to be Blink  - though the series 5 final runs a close second - but if you plot out the timelines of the major characters from series 4 through 6, you end up with something that looks like an explosion in a spaghetti-o's factory.  This one only goes up to the second episode of series 6, before things got complicated.  (And contains massive spoilers of anything you haven't watched yet.)

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Saturday, October 01


Where's Pixy Been?

Working.  At my day job, which just recently has also been my night job and weekend job.  Pulled about 100 hours of overtime in two weeks.

On the upside, I'd planned to spend some time working with CouchDB and Redis, and I did.

On the downside, I'd planned to use them for Minx, and I didn't get to do that.

On the upside, I got to do far more scalability testing than I would have otherwise.  (Shard CouchDB and Redis 100 ways?  Sure.  Scale out to 40 cores per server?  No problem.  Shovel in three billion records to see what breaks?  You got it.  Push 250,000 updates per second, sustained for days on end?  Of course.  Build a 300GB LRU cache of sorted sets?  Certainly.)

On the downside, I'm exhausted.

On the upside: Successful product launch.  And I do get paid for the overtime.

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