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Posts Tagged ‘real life’

So here I am in Dallas TX, at the annual LISA conference for systems administrators. It’s been a great conference so far, even though I haven’t gotten out of the hotel since I arrived on Sunday evening. Heck, I haven’t gotten off the lobby/2nd/3rd floor zone!

I love it when I can do all my teaching early in a conference and then just relax and enjoy myself. I did two half-day sessions on Monday, and both went really well– interested and involved participants, and compliments afterwards. I started off with my tried and true favorite Practical Project Management, that I ‘ve been teaching and refining for several years now. I estimate that I’ve trained over 200 IS professionals in project management at this point, with typical class sizes of 45 – 50, and in one case, 89 or 90 attendees. This year we didn’t do the advanced class, Project Troubleshooting, although we had a great session of that in June at the Usenix Annual Technical Conference.

The afternoon tutorial was a fairly new class that I developed in 2005, Problem-Solving for IT Professionals. We had a really spirited class discussion, and I was pointed to a great resource after class, a book (and Wikipedia entry about the book) called How to Solve It: A New Aspect of Mathematical Method, by Gregor Polya. It has a set of rules for generalizing problems, and looks useful in building more problem-solving processes. In the class I teach generalized processes, which I hesitate to call “patterns” as they’re not sufficiently rigorously expressed yet, such as server-client interactions, and introduce modified process taskflow diagrams that aid in debugging. It’s possible to debug applications that you have never seen before if you have a strong understanding of fundamental patterns of design and interaction in computer applications and systems.

Right now I’m liveblogging from the Advanced Topics Workshop. I’d been a regular at this workshop since 1996, but had missed the last couple of years due to scheduling conflicts (read: being scheduled to teach!). We’ve had an exhilarating day of sharing experiences, technology to watch out for, and learning what we’ve all been up to for the past year or so. Tomorrow are the keynote speeches, a quick tour of the vendor exhibits, and a book signing session from 12:30pm – 2pm at the conference bookstore. Then it’s back on a plane, back home to Sunnyvale!

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I’d been completely stumped earlier this year while attempting to try Second Life– the Mac client just “no va”, wouldn’t go, for me. I got an error suggesting that my DNS was busted and that I should try connecting to http://www.secondlife.com, and open a ticket if that didn’t work. How I was supposed to open said ticket if I had no IntarWebZ is left as a thought exercise, I suppose.

At any rate, after leaving it alone for the longest time, I was re-inspired to investigate this evening and found the problem. If I’d been a bit more Mac-savvy, I’d have found it long since– a good reminder that Mac OS is Not Unix, but something that Strongly Resembles Unix But With Quirks. Here is what I sent to the nice support folks at Second Life (who were quite helpful, but equally stumped along with me) this evening when I reopened the ticket:

I am reopening this so I can share the solution that I discovered with you. It turns out to be a very simple, yet very profound issue, and is easily diagnosed and corrected, so I want to be sure you add it to your solution base. It’s something to watch out for on folks running the Mac OS X client specifically.

Under Mac OS X, system applications, like Firefox, Safari, etc, use the built in resolver libraries. The Second Life client, like the nslookup utility, apparently is using classical DNS rather than the system libraries and using only /etc/resolv.conf to get information. The problem was that my /etc/resolv.conf file was no longer a link to /var/run/resolv.conf, and thsu was not supplying the correct information. This can happen for various reasons, including system updates, or booting without a network cable.

The symptom to identify this is if the person CAN get to http://www.secondlife.com from a browser, do ssh from a terminal/shell window, etc, but the Second Life client claims that there is a DNS error. This shows that the operating system is correctly doing name lookups via the built-in libraries, but that DNS is not correctly configured.

Diagnosis: Have the customer open up a terminal window and do “ls -l /etc/resolv.conf” and see if it is a symbolic link or a plain file. It should be a link to /var/run/resolv.conf.

Correction: If not, they should fix it: “sudo rm /etc/resolv.conf; sudo ln -s /var/run/resolv.conf /etc/resolv.conf”

If this does not resolve the problem, inspect the contents of /var/run/resolv.conf. If there is a problem with the network DHCP, there will not be any correct nameserver lines in the resolv.conf, and then that’s a client network problem not subject to quick fixes. 🙂

best regards,
Strata aka Maybear

See you online!

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For the curious, and those considering joining the happy-go-lucky ranks of amateur radio volunteers, here are 15 minutes of live SVECS repeater audio from the October 30th earthquake. One of the SVECS (Silicon Valley Emergency Communication Services) members was doing audio capture of something unrelated when the quake hit, and switched his input to get the repeater traffic. Note that I’m not on there; the traffic is local AEC’s, Area Emergency Coordinators, checking in to pass on reports overall from local nets like SPECS (Southern Peninsula Emergency Communication Services) or Sunnyvale ARES.

If this had been a serious earthquake, the dialogue would have been much more focused, and possibly somewhat grim. As it is, it’s a nice sample of folks following the standard procedures: creating a net, Net Control taking damage reports, etc. Mike and I self-activated, checked into the Sunnyvale SARES/SPECS network, and went to the main clubhouse to set up our comm station in case of damage here in our housing complex. It was a nice test run of our own procedures, and we found some things that need work– such as someone moving the Damage Report packets to an unknown location, and the portable antenna being moved to where debris would have hampered access to it in a stronger quake.

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Following links a couple of days ago, I found a really compelling and honest account of someone firing their employee. I didn't want to close the window, because one of the phrases was resonating so strongly with me.

This morning I summarized the teaching I found there and printed out two lines that I've now taped at the top of my monitor– because I need the reminder in this distraction-filled life. Two reminders, really: how to focus, and that people can't see inside each other's heads, we have to go on what we know externally.

“What you really do is who you are; what you say is just moving air. We show our true priorities in life by things we actually do.”
— SR Chalup

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This is the time of year when we take apart the garden and put it back together for winter gardening. We were so busy doing that, and getting sticky and dirty with sap, compost, mud, etc, that we forgot to take pictures! So I did catch-up pictures of the items left over, minus a couple of big stir-frys. This is the time of year when we have the funkiest-looking veggies, as we clear everything off the plant when we take it out of the garden.

As usual, we got a lovely return on our beans. I think beans are one of the great gifts to gardeners. I plant a couple of dozen beans of various types and harvest a quart of dried beans, plus eating several meals of fresh young whole beans. The plants themselves are great nitrogen fixers, and can be shredded and mulched in place on the garden beds at the end of the season, or composted.

This year we added Painted Lady to the runner bean collection, growing it separately on a carport support. The plants quickly climbed up to the roof, and were claimed delightedly by a couple of the local hummingbirds. The Painted Lady beans are white with black squiggles, in contrast to the pink and black Scarlet Runner beans. I’ve picked out a batch for next year’s planting (and for sharing!), from the longest and best-formed pods. Here the harvested beans are drying a bit more on the shelf, along with previously harvested peppers.

Our melon experiments were much more successful this year than last. We also discovered that a local squirrel or rat likes melons (grr!). Despite losing a couple of melons, our mini-melons did very well in the self-watering planters. We got a couple of tiny yellow watermelons, some mini-charentais, and a couple of a variety I’ve forgotten. I think all of these were supposed to be larger. I don’t know if our soil wasn’t amended richly enough, or if the cold snaps in the summer did it. I skipped the usual midsummer composting, being away, and I feel that was a big mistake.

Yes, we’re being cute here. Still, we find cardboard egg cartons to be a good place to store veggies that we don’t like to refrigerate. They allow good air circulation and are handy. I’m thinking of finding some small wire baskets on drawer gliders and hanging them under my kitchen cabinets over the countertop, which would be less cluttery than the egg cartons, and would be safe from countertop spills. There were several Ichiban long purple eggplants in this carton, too, but they went into the frypan before the picture was taken. Really like the Ichiban and the Fairy Tale (shown here) for tenderness and no trace of bitterness.

I’ve left our big Early Girl tomato plant alone, but the Green Zebra is history, as is the Pineapple Beefsteak and the Persimmon, so we have plenty of green tomatoes ripening up. The startlingly dark one is the Purple Russian; they never got more than a pale pink outside before something four-footed harvested them, or we did in self-defense. I had great hopes for a complex, smoky flavor in this, as is supposed to be true of many black or dark tomatoes, but I found it actually rather bland. Purple Russian tomato won’t be returning to my garden next year. I’ll try Black Krim or Black Prince, and rig netting so that I’ll have a chance of ripening them on the vine.

When you’re picking green tomatoes for later ripening, especially if you’re pulling out the plant, take a good chunk of stem along with them. The ripening tomatoes will pull sugars from the stem, which slowly withers and hardens. The resulting tomatoes are almost as sweet as vine-ripened, certainly far and away better than supermarket tomatoes, even hothouse ones.

Our plans for a bountiful potato harvest were dashed by the construction of new fence between our property and the neighbors’ in the back, as we didn’t find out it was coming in until the workmen were already there. They dug out my potato patch to put in a posthole, and I was only able to salvage the area where I’d laid down the standing plants straight out from the fence and covered them with dirt for an extended harvest. That led to a nice batch of small new potatoes, about half of which are pictured here. They were delicious! They are mostly Russian Banana, with a few Russets here and there.

A few larger potatoes survived the shovels of the fence-builders. They’ll be chowder someday soon!

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We spent over 3 hours yesterday messing with our power box, ultimately replacing a 15-amp breaker and the main 100-amp distro breaker.

At least all this was happening on a sunny afternoon. Not dark (though we had a deadline that was very clearly advancing). Not rainy.

All of this started as my darling spouse decided that *his* high-priority shared housecleaning day project would be to “finally” replace the timer switch on the backyard floodlight with a regular switch.

*Headdesk*

But we lived, the house has juice again, and at least the LR got vacuumed and lots of recycling got taken outside & away.

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Just discovered the Apartment Therapy website, and the book. They do regular 8-week challenges, a la the Flylady folks, where you follow along in the book and wreak (chaotic good) havoc in your dwelling.

Starting tomorrow (Sept 5th): The Fall Cure.

I'm SO freakin' there. Who else is along for the ride? Woo!

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