Saying goodbye

I had my last physiotherapy appointment before seeing my doctor again. We discussed my options and it looks more and more like surgery will be my only hope. Even if it isn’t, I’m basically looking at six months before I can paddle again, and then I have to start getting back into shape. So there it is in front of me – I’ve got no season this year. Even if I manage to paddle a few miles, I’m not going to be racing, and I’m damn sure I’m not going to do the 90. I hope Doug and Mike don’t mind having me as pit crew again.

But even though I don’t know anything now that I didn’t know yesterday, last week or last month, even though I haven’t talked to the surgeon, I still find myself feeling very depressed. I suppose I should take solace in the fact that unlike my knee pain, my hip pain and even my elbow pain, this one has a definite cause and a solution.

So, so long kayak season 2011, so long Adirondack Canoe Classic, so long Long Lake Long Boat Regatta. So long Wednesday night time trials and Tuesday evenings out with the team. So long erging in Steven’s garage and Doug’s attic and coaching sessions with Dan. I’ll miss you all, but I’m going to do everything I can to come back stronger for 2012.

Interesting, but I’m not sure I understand it all

Namebench is a program that analyses DNS lookups to see if your DNS settings are optimal. My results are here. They recommend that I use my ISP’s DNS server, but they also show the main reason I stopped using my ISP’s DNS server – that innocuous “NXDOMAIN Hijacking” notation beside the entry for that DNS server means that if you mistype a domain name, it takes you to your ISP’s search page instead of having your browser tell you that you mistyped a domain name. I HATE that, “with the power of a thousand fiery suns” as Vicki would put it, because it breaks things, usually in ways too subtle for ordinary users to notice. I run a DNS server on my Linux box (on because it won’t do “NXDOMAIN Hijacking”, and also because I believed it would be faster. One other reason for running my own DNS server is so I could reach computers on my home netwrok via a system name rather than via an IP, something that was probably more important when I had multiple Linux boxes that I needed to be able to ssh into than now, when I basically only connect to my Linux box and (more rarely) into my MacBook Pro.

If you look down the page to the graph “Response Distribution Chart”, it shows that for the first 30% of the responses, my home DNS server is *way* faster than the competition – I guess that means that things that it’s already seen and cached, it returns at the speed of the local network. But the graph trails off pretty quickly, and by the time you reach 50% of the responses, it’s slower than most of the other ones – I don’t know why it would be slower than “Internal 192-1-1”, which is the DNS cache on my router, but I suspect that’s because the router will just ask my ISP’s DNS server when it doesn’t know something rather than reaching out to the broader internet.

What I should do now, I think, should be to set up a DNS server on my colo box and see how it compares.

Random updates

I’ve been tending to write lots of short updates on Facebook instead of long posts here. So here’s a few updates.

My shoulder hasn’t been improving with physiotherapy, although I have regained my range of motion. Friday, Saturday and Sunday it was so sore I couldn’t even do my physio exercises. Worse still, on Saturday it was both shoulders that hurt. The therapist and I did some stuff on Tuesday to see if we could figure out which of my exercises is doing it, but I suspect it’s none of them – although driving for an hour and 45 minutes seems to make it worse. Oh well, I see the doctor in the first week of January – maybe I can get on the surgery list fast.

A few days ago, my project manager Nikola asked me when I was coming in to work. He didn’t say why, but I figured I knew it was one of two things. It turned out to be the good one of the two – he asked me if I would like to become a permanent employee. As a contract programmer, the permanent offer can either be awful or it can be awesome. On the plus side, permanent employment can have benefits, paid time off, sick leave, 401(k), and a sense of belonging. With Vicki wanting to retire in a few short years, a job with benefits will probably be a good thing. On the other hand, a permanent offer can mean lower wages, no paid over time, pathetically short vacation time allowance (US companies think nothing of offering a 50 year old senior developer 2 weeks paid vacation, or even worse, 15 days “time bank – which means you only get your full vacation if you manage to not get sick or you drag yourself into work and spread germs), putting up with sometimes annoying corporate rules (although that doesn’t appear to be too bad with this company) and if you don’t accept it, they drop your contract. So I’m waiting to see the offer with mixed emotions.

On the other hand, today I was a bug fixing *machine*. I had a ton of bugs assigned to me, some because the guys who normally take care of those areas weren’t around. And today I knocked off 5 of them, which is pretty amazing when you consider that I spent at least an hour filling in the various stuff that’s required to progress the bugs through the horribly inefficient bug reporting system. (I’ve suggested FogBugz, or at least Bugzilla and Jira.)

The drive home kind of sucked – freezing rain/sleet which didn’t stay on the windshield, but which did accumulate on the windshield wipers requiring me to stop a couple of times to clear them off. At least the roads were well sanded and slurried.

That can’t be good

After rebuilding the RAID on my colo box, the drive started reporting “50 offline uncorrectable sectors detected”. I figured I’d keep an eye on it and see if things get worse. A few weeks ago, I also started seeing “1 unreadable sectors detected”. Then a few days ago, the “50 offline uncorrectable sectors detected” went away, leaving just the “1 unreadable sectors detected”. Yesterday, I got a couple of “media error” reports and now it’s saying “2 unreadable sectors detected”.

That disk is a 1TB drive with 3 partitions – one swap, one used for /var/lib/xen (which is really only used on reboots), and one for the software RAID. I have a 2TB drive ready to go. What I’ve done is make 3 partitions exactly the same as the existing 3, and leave the rest of the disk open for expansion. I think what I should do is make the 4th partition of type “fd” (Linux raid autodetect) so if the first disk ever gets replaced with a 2TB disk I can add a second RAID to the first one.

I’m going to have to find some time to swap the drives. I wish I’d made note of which types of screwdrivers I need to open things up – unlike the old box, on this box the drives aren’t on convenient sleds.

A thought about EVs (Electric Vehicles)

It’s probably going to be 5 years before we need to buy a new car, but Vicki and I were talking about the new Nissan Leaf and other EVs. With our current driving pattern, we could definitely get by with a two seater EV with 75 miles or so of range, as well as a hybrid or whatever they’re calling the Volt these days. Obviously the state of the art will have advanced by then, but in theory we could get by with what’s available now.

But one thing that gives me pause is heating the cabin. Hybrids and gas engined cars get worse mileage in the winter here in the temperate zone. Part of that is that engines aren’t as efficient in the cold, but also in the case in hybrids, they run the gas engine more often to heat up the engine and the cabin. But EVs are on a pretty limited power budget, and electric heaters suck up electricity like nobody’s business. So what I’m wondering is if EVs currently have the option, or whether I’ve just invented it, to use house power to heat the cabin up before you use it. So if you plug your EV in overnight, it charges the battery, and then an hour or so before you’re scheduled to drive it somewhere, it starts using house power to heat up the cabin. That would save the power in the battery for the important stuff, like driving the wheels and powering your iPod.

Hey, you could even use a peltier cooler to use the house power to cool it in the summer, come to think of it.

I guess for the drive home from work, you’d be stuck using the battery. But no idea is perfect.