More than enough rope.

One of the double edged swords with any *NIX based operating system is that it will give you enough rope to hang yourself with. Without exception.

I was testing a new way of mirroring my data from some cloud storage that the company I work for has. One of the ways to do this is with rsync. After hammering out all of the fiddly details with how the host deals with the secure side of it, and ensuring that I could sync the copy the data properly, I started playing with the ability to delete the files off of the local drive.

And... yes, yes... deleteing? Oops.

It worked exactly as advertised. Fortunately I wasn't in a directory that had anything incredibly important that couldn't be replaced.

Ah the joys of learning new tools.


Long time, no post.

A lot is going on in my life right now. Most of you know about it, but for those few who don't, here's the short-short version.

Michelle is pregnant.

I'm not sleeping well, partially because of that.

I'm switching jobs.

I'm not sleeping well, partially because of that.

I'm making stupid mistakes because I'm not sleeping well.

I'm not sleeping well, partially because of that.

More news as events warrant.


Finding truth in strange places.

I just got finished watching "Muppets Treasure Island".

Yeah, I know, doesn't exactly go with the title of the post. Hang with me a bit, It'll get there.

For those who are not familiar with Jim Henson's creation, I would point you to your favorite online DVD retailer to purchase the movies and seasons 1 - 3 on DVD of "The Muppet Show". Truly funny stuff. Much of the same antics done on the Simpsons, with more slapstick, less lowbrow toilet humour, and guest stars more in line with the time. All in live action, however.

One of the characters is Gonzo, a blue hooked-nosed "whatever" as he proclaims himself to be. He has a very admirable trait: "Embrace where you are".

Now, those words are never uttered by anyone. It's just the way Gonzo is. A few select quotes:

Rizzo: Terrific. Captured by crazed wild pigs and sacrificed hideously before a pagan altar.
Gonzo: Are we lucky or what?

Dr. Livesay: [looking at the treasure map] Say, I know what's happening here. You chaps are planning to sail to this island, aren't you? To dig up this treasure.
Jim Hawkins: Yes, but we must be quiet about it.
Jim Hawkins: There are pirates looking for this map.
Gonzo: [normal voice] Yeah, and they want to KILL us for it! Isn't that exciting?

Kermit: [watching Gonzo fly over the fair with a handful of balloons] Hey Gonzo, what are you doing?
Gonzo: About seven knots!

[In a hot-air balloon]
Gonzo: I'd like to try this without a balloon.
Kermit: Try what? Plummeting?
Gonzo: Yeah.

Now, it may seem strange to call this an admirable trait, but if you look deeper than the superficial gag, you see a person in a trying situation, attempting to get the most from it. It's nearly Job-esqe.

Then again, perhaps being sick has rattled my braincells too much over the past few days.


Open letter to the Obama campaign:

To the Obama campaign:

You have been running on the idea of "hope". We all hope for something. Here is what I hope for from the next president of the United States:

  • I hope for a leader that will encourage less government.
  • I hope for a leader that will encourage more personal liberty.
  • I hope for a leader that will encourage less restrictive firearms laws.
  • I hope for a leader that will appoint justices that interpret the constitution in a very narrow way, as the forefathers initially indicated they wanted to have happen in the 10th amendment.
  • I hope for a leader that will encourage tax reform that does not inequitably burden those whom others consider "rich", as one whom does not fall under said description.
  • I hope for a leader that will encourage social security reform that will prevent the system from bankrupting the government in the next 30 years.
  • I hope for a leader that will take fights to those that would do us harm, preemptively.
  • I hope for a leader that will encourage the idea of "personal responsibility", moving away from the "entitlement" system that we work on now.
  • I hope for a leader that will encourage reform of, or at the very least open up for further scrutiny by the public, the vote buying system in congress, also known as earmarks.
  • I hope for a leader that will that will make hard decisions because are right, not because they are popular.

Will senator Obama give me that which I hope for from the next leader of the United States?


The one true test of quality engineering:

Yes, I know it says "code quality", but the idea can be applied to all disciplines of engineering, in my opinion.


As much as I love to use Linux....

I'll probably read this later and say "what the heck was I thinking", but at the time (0430 Saturday morning), I felt I should say something.

The performance is terrible on my G4 iMac. Slow, slow, slow, at least with Ubuntu 7.04. 7.10 and 8.04 cause other problems with the iMac that I'll not get into here.

The biggest problem (I believe) is driver support. The video support works in just the most basic of fashions. None of the 3d acceleration works, so all of the eyecandy that's available doesn't work. The power management for the display doesn't work, so you leave the backlight on the LCD all the time. The WOL functionality doesn't work. A bunch of other stuff that, in the grand scheme, isn't that big of a deal, but put together, just annoyed the heck out of me.

So, since all of the G4 LCD iMacs shipped with OSX, I decided to reinstall it on this machine. It works fairly well, with some caveats:

10.3 (Tiger) has its own share of problems, but it is what shipped with this machine, and since I'm cheap, I'm not going to shell for 10.5. Yet. It's the last PowerPC version going to be manufactured, so it may come way down in price if I wait until the next version. That being said, I have worked through most of the stupidity of Tiger, and am fairly happy with the finished result.

The monitor now goes to sleep as expected. I have the openVPN server running on the machine again using an older version of tunnelblick which has a compiled version of openVPN included. Apache (1.x, unfortunately. I think I can upgrade it, but I'm not too worried right now) is running on the machine. OpenSSH server is running. Synergy for desktop control. Windows shares are talking. Everything that I had on the Linux box, I have on OSX 10.3. Older versions of most of it, yes, but functional versions. And the desktop is much more responsive.

The biggest problem with 10.3 is that most of the applications that I want to use are currently complied for 10.4 and later. Apparently there was some sort of major architectural change that happened at 10.4 that I'm not completely clear on. Something major, however, as most everything that I wanted to use I had to download previous versions.

Perhaps in the future I'll give Linux another swing on the iMac. Right now, however... I can see the allure of OSX. A lot of the power of the UNIX (BSD, techically) OS with the polish of a great MacOS UI.


The (not so) good old days.

One of the thing that I hear when I discuss modern cars with people who used to love cars is "All of the electronics on a car make it impossible to work on!".

Umm... No. And I have the perfect example.

Fuel injection is a beautiful thing. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise, because of the alternative: Carburetors.

To explain it simply, a carburetor is essentially a (or several) very precisely machined tube(s) on top of your engine, that allows vacuum to suck fuel out of a precisely machined hole in the side of said tube(s), that has a reservoir of gasoline inside of it. On top of the tubes, are precisely machined flaps that effectively control the size of the tube. These flaps are connected to your accelerator pedal.

More simply put, it's a very precisely CONTROLLED FUEL LEAK. That doesn't adjust for anything, except the amount of air flowing by the jet.

Yeah... that was great when we didn't have options. Things have evolved a tiny bit since then.

We now have the ability to tell how far your lead foot is mashing that pedal. A throttle position sensor does this simply.

We now have the ability to measure how much air is rushing into the engine when you do mash that pedal. Mass airflow sensors do this for us.

We now have the ability to tell how dense that air is. A simple intake air temperature or manifold air pressure sensor does this for us.

We now have the ability to tell at what point each cylinder of the engine is in, via crank and cam sensors.

With this plethora of information, we can deliver fuel to the cylinder right as it starts down on its intake stroke. In precisely the correct amount for the amount of air that is being drawn into the cylinder. A good thing.

Why in the hell would we want to go back to a controlled leak? Really? I mean, it *really* sucked when driving across country, when you got into significantly different elevations than where you usually drove the vehicle, because one of two things happened:

  • It belched black smoke when driving up the hill, because the carburetor was set up for the soup that people at sea level call air and delivered too much fuel.

  • It ran hot and started knocking because the carburetor was set up to to have an auxiliary O2 tank on top to deliver enough air to actually burn fuel, thus not delivering enough fuel.

Either way, the performance suffered when the elevation changed more than a couple of thousand feet.

Closer to home, fuel efficiency went way up when we switched to fuel injection. Along with more precise measurement (due to knowing how much to deliver for the amount of air) and timing (due to knowing where every cylinder is at any given time), we can now also more precisely place the fuel at the valve, instead of letting it puddle inside of the intake. Ford is currently working on a direct injection system that puts the fuel directly into the combustion chamber, making the placement even more precise.

Tools are available for those who do wish to spin their own wrench. The computer is very good about giving very detailed troubleshooting information as well, at least on the later model vehicles.

There are places where technology has killed the art of the car. Fuel delivery and other engine management is not one of them.



The new Buick Rivera concept. Designed by GM's Shanghai division, it's not American design, but it's absolutely beautiful. Not an Aston Martin, but beautiful nonetheless. This could complete with the Mercedes and BMW midline offerings easily, if they could build it with good fit and finish, even if the gullwing doors don't make it to production.

GM, please... let this come to fruition, with as few changes as possible. It is doable. You could sell these and make a tidy profit off of them. Power it with the LS3 or LS7 motor with matching transmission, sell them for $80k, and make those of us who think that we can do better than we are proud.


My take on American cars... like it means anything

I really wish the quality of the big three's products would rival those of the top tier Japanese manufacturers. It's not that we can't design solid, reliable, easily maintainable cars. Many of the light trucks that the big three make will turn 250000 miles without much more than an oil change or two. Thing is that up until recently, the engines have all been small block motors by their respective companies, which have been in production for 30+ years. GM's small block is nearly, if not over, 50 years old. Same for the transmissions.

That's great. All of the problems have been worked out. These drivetrains function nearly flawlessly. I have read that the GM 350/5.7 liter small block is getting all the power out of it that is possible without force feeding it.

Thing is, it's big. Huge. The smallest factory produced vehicle (That I know of. I've seen kits that put small block motors in some crazy vehicles. Mazda Miata for one.) that one of those is shoehorned into was the Monza, which made maintenance an absolute nightmare.

Why can't they take something like that, and lop one bank off of it? It'd still be big, don't get me wrong, 2.5 liters in 4 cylinders is quite a bit of displacement, but at least at that point you could put it in something econobox size, have a huge parts bin, and a reliable engine. Shure, it'd shake like hell, but that's the nature of a 4 cylinder engine. You could even put an overhead cam head or two on it to make it more efficient, and even put that assembly on the big brother. Best of both worlds.

But even if you went with that, you still have all of the other problems that come with the typical American car: Lousy fit and finish, cheap parts, and designs by bean counters. It just sucks. When you go up the food chain, it gets a little better, but I can get a Honda Fit for less than $16k. Which I would think probably has much better fit and finish wise than ANYTHING I can get from a US manufacturer in the same price range. Probably more fun to drive too.

Part of the problem is that the manufacturers have allowed themselves to be dictated to by the UAW. It is my understanding that a good portion of the profits that GM gets from each sale goes to prop up a very heavy pension and medical care load. Daimler-Benz just spun off Chrysler to a private equity firm because they couldn't pull a profit out of Chrysler after 10 years of hard work. Ford is said to have, and I quote, "bet the factory" on their new Edge station w-.. err.. "Crossover SUV". Pardon me while I chase my eyeballs down the hall.

Perhaps I have just had too many bad experiences with American cars and I'm jaded. Perhaps the quality of the American automobile has improved in 10 years. Perhaps the bean counters have let the engineers design good cars recently. I've been hoping for that to happen over the past 15 years, and have yet to see it happen.

My next car will most likely not carry an American nameplate, and that makes a part of me very sad. I like to think that no one touches US engineering prowess... and in some fields, this is completely true. Just not in the "Volkswagen" category.