Nice flight up.

Vicki and I flew up to Ottawa today in the Lance. The plane was a bugger to get started, and at first we had a problem where the push to talk (PTT) on my yoke and that on the hand mike refused to work, so we cross threaded the headsets and I pushed the PTT on her yoke when I wanted to talk. A major pain. A few minutes later I noticed I still had the button pushed down to put comm1 on the overhead speakers. I turned that off and suddenly my PTT started working again. I’m not sure what the connection is, but it was good to get rid of the criss-crossed wires and the hassle of reaching over every time I had to talk.

The Lance climbs like a slow dog in hot weather, so I took off with the gear override on and two notches of flaps. That made a huge difference.

Rochester was very hazy, reporting 3 miles visibility, with few clouds at 500 feet and a scattered layer at 5000. I said to Vicki “it will get clear as soon as we’re above that scattered layer at 5000”. Actually by the time we got above the layer, it was more like 6000 feet, but it was clear, cool and very smooth up there. We levelled off at 9000 feet around the KONDO intersection. We could see a “wiffle-diff” (a rising plume of cloud punching through the cloud layer) just ahead of us as we turned direct to ART. I guessed it was the steam from the power plant at Oswego. I guess the air below the cloud was so unstable that the moisture from the power plant started rising and kept rising until it hit 9000 feet.

I was a little disconcerted when I was about to reach ART and they hadn’t ammended by clearance to specify the CYRIL.SIX arrival. Usually Wheeler Sack approach does that by then, because the FSS computers won’t take that when I file, but Ottawa insists on it. I called and queried, and he said that it was already on the strip, so he thought I’d already been given the clearance. Good thing I know this route.

There was a weird strip of clear air over the St. Lawrence River. I’ve often seen different weather on each side of the river, but this is the first time I’ve seen the same weather on both sides and different weather just in the narrow confines of the St. Lawrence valley.

After crossing the St. Lawrence, Montreal Center started us down. First we were in and out of the tops of cumulus clouds at 7,000 feet, but as we were getting vectored for the approach it was almost completely solid between 4,000 feet and 3,000 feet. In the infrequent breaks, I could see that at 3,000 feet was only a few hundred feet above the base of the clouds. So as soon as Ottawa Terminal cleared me for the NDB 25 approach, I descended (I still can’t get used to the way they don’t give you an altitude for the approach) down to 2,500 feet and said I’d take the visual.

After I was cleared to land, a Dash-8 reported ready to take off. She probably could have taken off before I got in, since I had my gear down and was slowed down to 90 knots by then, but the controller made her wait. I admit, I still get a feeling of power making 50 people wait for little old me, but I wonder if I should have offered to slow down more to allow them to take off.

Never trust the label

I’ve just wasted 4+ hours because I trusted the label that said that the CD our build-meister gave me had the latest build on it. I guess I trusted the build-meister too. I should have noticed that many of the RPMs said “3.6-006” instead of “3.6-007” like I was expecting.

Instead, I have to rebuild two systems (a CMS and a CP, as defined in the post the other day) back to RedHat 7.3 and version 3.3 of our software, configure it, burn a new DVD with CentOS 3.4 and version 3.6-007 of our software, and upgrade the two systems. See you in another 4 hours.

Oh, and did I mention that the air conditioning at work has one of its three chillers off-line, and has for the last three days, and so it’s hot and sweaty here?

What were they smoking?

Sometimes I’m forced to question the sanity of my cow orkers. If you run our setup program and choose the option to set the time and date, you are presented with a string like “062716452005.40” As near as I can figure, that’s DDMMHHmmYYYY.SS, or translated into English, day, month, hour, minute, year, period, seconds. Besides the utterly moronic order of the elements in the string, the input routine has absolutely no flexibility in what you can enter and no error checking. Get one character wrong or miss a column, and you’re going to get a date and time that are utterly unlike what you expected, and you won’t find out until you exit the setup program and type “date”.

Hmmm. How do I do this?

Ok, picture a network with one “controlling computer”, which I’ll call “the CMS”, and a bunch of satellite computers which I’ll call “the CPs”. These satellite computers live in projection booths in a theatre and have digital projectors hooked up to them, but that’s not important. The problem I’m dealing with is upgrading the machines from version 3.3 of our software to version 3.5. The software upgrade also necessitates an upgrade from RedHat 7.3 to CentOS 3.4.

I’ve got the upgrading of the CMS sorted (I have a non-bootable DVD with an apt repository with CentOS 3.4 and our software, and a kickstart file that does the upgrade without touching the partition with our data on it).

The CPs have hostnames of cp1 to cpN, and IPs of and up. cp0 ( is reserved.

What I’m working on now is upgrading the CPs. What I’ve been doing is making the CMS a PXE boot server, and wiping the boot partition on the CPs one at a time, re-installing them as cp0 and then when it comes back up, ssh-ing in and restoring the backed up configuration, including the hostname and IP.

The problem with that is that it takes 20 minutes per CP, and the powers that be are complaining that it takes too long. They’d like something more parallel.

So I’ve been thinking of retrieving the MAC addresses of each CP before I upgrade. Then I do them all in parallel, and use the MAC address afterwards to figure out which one is which. I understand that I can use “arp -a” to retrieve the MAC addresses. I’m wondering if there is something I can do to DHCP to give out the correct address to the right machine, or whether I should have DHCP hand out addresses in some other range, and then use “arp -a” again to find which machine has which address and fix them one at a time?


Yesterday was another back breaking and knee hurting day of getting ready for the move. This time the target was the Video/DVD/CD shelf and the book shelves. I went through the videos and DVDs and put the ones that belonged to me and I wanted to keep in one place, the ones that belonged to me that I didn’t want to keep in the garbage, and the rest in semi-categorized piles for Vicki to sort out. The biggest problem was the stuff oriented to little kids. The real crap like “Babysitters Club” and like was tossed, and the quality and semi-quality stuff like Disney movies was kept. The second biggest problem was the pile of about 15 unlabelled tapes. Most of them have been kicking around unlabelled since I moved in here 9 years ago, and Vicki has been saying for the past 9 years “I’m going to watch them and label them”, but of course nobody ever gets around to it. And since our VCR is currently doing this weird “flash of death” thing, we can’t watch them now. So they’re stored away where they’ll go another 9 years without anybody looking at them. Oh well, such is life.

After all the fun of the video collection, I moved onto the rest of the book shelves. It’s amazing what crap gets tucked into our bookshelves and forgotten. I found a girl’s swimsuit in a plastic bag with original price tags on it. I found plates and knives and forks. I found old board games that nobody has played in 10 years. Lest anybody think I’m picking on everybody else, I also found about a dozen print outs of manuals and installation instructions for computer programs that I’d obviously meant to get back to later and never did, all tucked in random parts of the bookshelf. I found school binders full of blank paper. I kept a stack about two feet high of various types of blank paper, but threw out a shocking amount. I found one of our missing copies of “Pronounced” (sorry, I don’t have the actual title in front of me – I think it was a take off of a Lynryd Skyrnd album cover), which is a priceless treasure.

All in all, I think I filled up about 6 or 7 garbage bags. I also threw out a gigantic Sun workstation monitor that I borrowed from work (if anybody asks for it, I’ll claim I dropped it when moving it, which I came close to at least twice) a Mac LC-III and two old SCSI drives, and two bird gyms. And we moved a van load of boxes and two computers to the new place.

Vicki, besides doing the incredibly angst-full job of sorting videos, also worked hard up in Stevie’s room. I believe that the last time Stevie’s room was cleaned up, it was done by a chap named “Hercules”. I wouldn’t have taken on that job for any price.