greatbear: (old graybeard)
So, frustration has been the key work in recent days. No real improvement in pain levels or mobility, so it looks like this week I push on to the next level. One thing for certain, between pain and pills, my body chemistry and rhythm are fucked up again, I can't sleep at night, and I try going through the day until I start dozing off in the middle of whatever I'm doing. The narcotic pain killers help me to get some sleep beyond what is comfortable or sensible. Not getting a lot of exercise day in and day out leaves me with lots of unusable energy. Rather than climb the walls, I find little things to pass the time and feel useful. Even this has a special little bothersome horror for my brain. You guessed it, it makes me want to do more stuff. lol

I've been taking some time to organize video and music I have stored on the servers here. Keeping with a method I've had for decades, a drive on the server acts as a repository for all my digital music. About 8 years ago when I built the current server, I loaded it with a half dozen 1 terabyte drives. Seemingly huge at the time, most of them are now at or near capacity. The drive containing the well-sorted music held on the longest, but last night while adding several dozen more albums and artists into the heap, I finally get a notice from the server saying the drive only has about 50GB left. I anticipated this about a year ago, I bought a 2TB drive as a replacement. The current drive is being backed up as I write this, then all the data from the current drive will be copied onto the new drive, I will then swap the drives and put the old one in a safe place as a backup. It will take me what will hopefully be a long time to fill the new drive, after all, it's only music. Granted, I am dropping bigger and bigger files on it, everything is high bitrate mp3 or better, with lots of lossless and high res 24 bit/192kHz these days, the latter being a few gigs just for one album at times. When the new drive gets to be too small, I repeat the process. There's no practical way to make offline backups for a terabyte or more of data other than stockpiling drives. I have a separate server that is tasked solely with automatic backups of data stored on most of the PCs here, and I have begun the rely on two NAS units with lots of capacity to hold online backups of the backups as well.

As I was sitting uncomfortably in the Mayhem Lab where all this IT infrastructure quietly hides, I've also realized that I am maxing out some of the electrical circuits I put into the space. This was inevitable too. When I built La Casa back in '88, I slightly raised eyebrows at the electric company when I specified a 400 amp service for the house and garage. This is split between the house and garage, with each having a 200 amp, 42-slot breaker panel. Before the house was completed, because of the all-electric nature of the house (no gas, water or sewer were available) the breaker panel in the house was not enough to hold all the circuits, so an additional subpanel was needed. As I added more goodies to the house and built the workshop in the basement as well as the lab, I tore out the little box that held ten circuits and put in a 20 space panel. The workshop, with the woodworking machines and lots of outlets and other goodies got its own dedicated 20 slot box as well. My plans are to add two more 20amp circuits to the lab, plus a new lighting circuit for the basement. Problem is, I have only two spaces left for three circuits in the main house panels. Soooo, my little lab wiring update will force me to pull out the 20 slot panel and install a second 42 slot in its place. There is a method to this madness as well, since I plan on installing a backup generator as well as solar electric panels in the not too distant future. By juggling the electrical loads between the panels, I can segregate the critical loads (lighting, water pumps, fridges and freezers, the lab and the like from the unnecessary heavy draw items like the heat pumps & A/C, electric heaters and other things that don't need to be run off the generator. This, along with other means of performing "load shedding" lets me have better control of what gets critical power in order to make the best use of it and lower costs. This sort of thing is actually fun for me, and despite having an electrical service more befitting small industry, our electric bills are not that outrageous as one would think. It also adds to my sense of security in cases of emergencies and really bad weather. Like all too many things, I take the electrical installations here very seriously. I use commercial/industrial rated components, and the seemingly excessive numbers of individual electric circuits is done in order to prevent any possible overloading of the individual branches, and to prevent a tripped circuit from causing an unexpected issue. For one example, the branch circuit the feeds the two freezers in the basement was also shared with a pair of infrared heaters in the bathrooms. The branch was sized accordingly, and was never going to be overloaded even if both freezers were running along with the heaters. One day the bulb burned out, and given the bulb's 250 watt rating, it went with a huge flash. Unbeknownst to me at the time, it also tripped the breaker. It took me a while until I found water on the floor in front of the freezers and the food in danger of soon thawing out. Luckily I saw this in time, reset the breaker, then eventually moved the heaters and freezers to their own dedicated branches. In the case of the lab, the computers, servers, etc are on one of two dedicated lab circuits I put in, along with a separate lighting circuit, a shared electric heating circuit and a 120/240 volt special purpose outlet. As my relatively tiny 10x12ft lab accumulated more and more test equipment and other goodies, the two branches have become maxed out. I have some specialized soldering equipment that takes a lot of power when in use, an infrared heating table takes 16 amps just by itself, the hot air reflow unit is 7 amps, a heat gun I use along with all that is 13 amps, and this isn't counting all the test equipment, extra lighting and the surround sound system with subwoofer that is often playing while I am working. The little room gets hot in a hurry, so fans are needed. I am trying to figure out how to install some sort of air conditioning to all of this as well. As you can see, when I get into something, I go all out. :)

Maybe I am just more than a little bit strange, but this is also my way of building a nice place for the two of us to enjoy our myriad pursuits as we close in on retirement age. I want a lot of this done so I can cruise along and not have to worry about anything done half-assed. I've done a lot of involved work over the years, with the eventual result being able to forget about the work and just use it in day to day life. For example, I did a large amount of plumbing upgrades a few years back. I "built in" many means for any future updates if needed. Adding solar water heat, for example, is all about installing the system and connecting two pipes to what currently exists. If a filter, water heater, softener or other major component needs to be replaced or worked on, flipping a few valve levers lets the water stay on and uninterrupted while the problem piece gets removed. The modular nature of a lot of the work I did over the years has been paying off later on. All the climbing around now will make life easier when I am older and unable to deal with it like in my younger days. Sadly, I've been getting a lot of previews as to what that sort of life is going to be like. I just wish my body would stay together to let me get the work done so I can have my enjoyment later. One big plan that vein is an extension of the deck by the sunroom and the installation of a hot tub/spa, something I was hoping to complete in the next couple years. The funny thing is, technology and materials are finally catching up to a lot of the ideas I had many years ago. I never finished the sunroom remodel due to health reasons. Part of that involved hidden lighting and automatic shades. Back then it was not easily done, but now it will be something that will integrate perfectly into bits and pieces I've been adding this year. It's also more efficient and connected than ever. The geek in me is having a lot of fun with it all.

I sometimes feel as if I am in some sort of race, one to make life simple later on with some concerted effort now. These health/injury setbacks become extremely frustrating. I am getting a taste of the payoff, but the goal isn't reached yet. Life keeps teasing and testing me at the wrong time.
greatbear: (forearms)
Jeff came home early Thursday for a doctor's visit, the last few days he's been having mild flu-like symptoms. We made a trip together to the doc and tests seem to indicate it is viral in nature, so it is mostly a rest and wait it out situation. I went with him to see if there was anything I could help with at home, and to get an idea what it was, since chances are good I would get it too. I've been battling a form of exhaustion for a few days too, I can only do so much before I need to take a nap. Problem is, I sleep and nap during the day and by night time my body clock on its graveyard shift time zone keeps me awake. So, when Jeff along with By-Tor and the Snow Dog head to bed, I head into my little lab and fix stuff. This time I tackled my failing Dell 30" display. After a half hour of thermal testing the display lamp driver board I narrowed the trouble to what seemed like bad soldering in a 1 square inch section of the board. There is about three dozen components about the size of sesame seeds in that space, and out came the tiny iron and other tools I have for such work, including the 3.5-90x stereoscopic microscope I got for such things. After more thermal stress testing after the repair with good luck, I threw it back together and am now using it while creating this entry. I hope it holds out, I absolutely love this display, but I relegated it to lab bench PC duties. The irony here is the particular computer and display is connected to the aforementioned microscope. I could've had a nice panoramic view of the board on the display it it weren't the one in pieces under the scope!

Our latest pup, Snickles, aka By-Tor mentioned above, had his first day of doggie school this evening. He had fun, and seemed to react well. He's finally growing out of his puppy-ish stages and has become a very loyal companion for the two of us. He needs to learn some discipline for his (and our) sake, and I think with some "official" training he will be a model pooch. Kodi did well in his schooling about 7 years ago, and I am hoping for the same results with Da Snick.

Jeff is very close to buying a new vehicle. His '00 Chevy S-10 has been decent for these fourteen years, but it's getting long in the tooth at over 185,000 miles, and given the fact that I have two trucks as it is, he's in the market for a wagon/small SUV sort of ride that gets decent mileage, can haul stuff as well as people and will be reliable. So far he's narrowed it down to the new Jeep Cherokee, the Subaru Outback, and the Subie Forester. Friday we are going to kick tires and take test drives. Hopefully this will be with as few hassles as possible. I had a decent time with my last vehicle purchase once the dealer was finally able to get the model I had settled on to the lot.

I'm happy to see some more old, familiar faces showing back up here in LJ-Land. The more I sit here and take the time for a "real" entry as opposed to a handful of words scooped up and thrown at Facebook, the better I feel about "socializing" online. I see usernames in my friends list of people who have cast off this mortal coil and are no longer with us. Those names seem like pictures hanging on a wall, and their journals acting as memorials as well as places to visit and remember the days gone by. None of the other popular "social media" behemoths have this. Nor do they have the control or accessibility of everyone's posts like LJ does. I think people are feeling this too, and while making entries here is a bit more work, it definitely pays us back in the depth of contact and interaction. Let's keep up the good work.

Well, the display has been performing like new as I've been writing this between other tasks and not flashing and shutting down like it had begun to do several months back. I wasn't about the scrap a thousand dollar display. These things are supposed to come with 3 year warranties, but I bought this from Newegg, and, disappointingly, it showed no warranty from Dell when I started the process. I've since reconsidered a lot of purchases from there, a shame, since I've generally had good luck over these many years. I hope my repair lasts until it somehow becomes obsolete, which I don't see happening for at least another ten years or more.

Cheers, everyone!
greatbear: (jeff and me)
Today is Jeff's birthday. Together we are over 104 years old. I feel every bit of those years too. To celebrate, I took Jeff to Outback Steakhouse (g'day, crikey, fair dinkum, crocs, you call that a knife and all that stuff). On our way home he got a call out of the blue from a former coworker he was very good friends with. Hearing them catching up and recollecting old times and seeing the smile on his face was a treat. I seriously ate too much, and in the last few days, I've been eating more beef than in a long time.

I had gotten him a new bicycle as a birthday gift, his old one was never fun for him to ride, as the frame size was too small. I took him to a "real" bicycle shop where I had gotten mine and we looked at a few and tried a couple out. He came back from a test drive of the one I picked out after a very short ride and said he loved it. It's a GT "comfort" or "hybrid" bike, essentially the frame, gearing and components of a mountain bike, but with less knobby and overall softer tires. It also has 29" wheels, better able to deal with bumps and other hazards. I got a pannier rack delivered today for it as well, and put that on while Jeff was talking to his dad. Our bikes will be the primary mode of transportation when we head up to PTown in July. I can't walk for any distance at all in my condition, but as has been the case with this back ordeal, I can get around quite well on a bike. Jeff's old ride was not comfortable for him, this time I think we'll truly be set.

I've been offline as far as social media goes while I tend to personal issues as well as computer troubles. the UPS (uninterruptible power supply) that powers my primary computer went bonkers a while back. The malfunction made everything plugged into it go on and off like a car's turn signal. Other than perhaps dropping a computer into sea water or hurling it from a cliff, cycling the power is one of the worst things that you can do to it. Consequently, the hard drives were scrambled, the BIOS corrupted, and a few other minor bits of hardware were hosed. While I had mostly current backups of files, all of my current work, saved web pages, and the like were all unavailable. So I had to stumble around on one of the other PCs for a while as I worked on the beast machine in the studio. It's back, but it has some corrupted registry entries and other annoying problems (Photoshop registration got borked, Windows update doesn't function, some other software is screwed up in odd ways, and the like). A while back I had taken the original main hard drive out and replaced it with a nice, big 1TB SSD. This SSD is what got beat up by the UPS, but it was not physically damaged. The original drive has been hiding safely in the Underground Lab of Mayhem, I can simply make a copy of it again, but only after I get through some stuff. The copy would put the PC back to December of last year, when I did the upgrade. There are more computer stories to tell, but I'll save that for some other time.

Jeff has been busting his ass doing work in the yard, and it shows. The flower beds, rose garden and other areas are looking better than they have in years. I wish I could be more help with that, but the required stopping and bending is just too painful. I managed to do some serious suspension work and other maintenance on Jeff's truck last weekend, a friend came over and basically gophered tools and parts while I did the work. This saved me from having to constantly get up and down. I have to do the same on my old Stratus, but I will wait until after the wedding. It does need rear brakes, so those will most likely get done this weekend, it's only about a 45 minute job. Safety first.

As more aspects of our big wedding day begin to coalesce, the two of us are excited as well as still in a bit of a panic mode. It's less than a month away, and there's still a ton of stuff to get done. This is where I'm glad I'm stuck at home. I just wish I was able to do more. Having my back fail again was the worst thing to happen that I was worrying about, and loading up with narcotics to control the pain has the unfortunate side effect of scrambling my thoughts much like the hard drives in that PC. I lose track of time, forget what day it is, and forget things while I am having conversations. Even writing this entry is a chore, and this is one of the prime reasons for me hiding from the world. I just hope this is not a sign of something more serous. Given my luck of late, it's quite possible. But I refuse to let anything get in the way of our big day.
greatbear: (forearms)
Being a professional crastinator of epic proportions at times, I waited until the last minute to file my taxes, given that I have had to pay sizable amounts in the past since being off work and pulling funds from locked-away accounts. Because of some changes, plus the expensive surgeries and other medical bills from last year, I instead found I am getting a sizable refund. I would've so turned that shit in back in January had I known. That's a w00t.

I finished up more network cabling and installed the super-duper wi-fi access point tonight after climbing about in the attic, lifting the floor up there to run the remaining cabling (the AP needs two Cat6 runs just for it's own bandwidth) and it is now in place with the potential for gigabit-plus speeds wirelessly. That's a w00t.

Jeff and I had a nice steak dinner tonight. So far, my tummy troubles of late have eased enough for me to enjoy a meal with some substantial red meat for a change. That's a w00t.

The weather looks to be on track to be nice enough to finally get some work done outside. I got yard work to continue with, plus the usual springtime maintenance of the vehicle fleet and outdoor equipment, and a heavily laden trip to the landfill/recycling center that was put off since before last September. That's a w00t.

The aforementioned tax refund will be put toward the new front door and entryway renovation/upgrade, plus a business class color laser printer/copier/scanner/fax, as well as costs for the upcoming wedding. I hope my back and general health hold out. I guess that's a w00t too.
greatbear: (old graybeard)
Earlier in the week I pulled the plug on my LJ. I had mostly run out of uses for this, and, to be honest, no longer felt the need to have an outlet for what I would call "personal" matters and discussion with the internet in general. It has been about 20 years (!) since I had ventured out onto the internet in a personal capacity, rather than a technical/professional way for work reasons. It took a lot of courage on my part to make that change, and it wasn't long before I was pouring my heart into online interactions, making literally hundreds of friends along the way, even enjoying a bit of both figurative and literal rock star status along the way. I soon learned that much of this was fleeting, with the vast majority of people eventually moving on, leaving what I thought was some incredible friendships, relationships and great causes to founder and die. Perhaps it was the value I had placed in these relationships, or my investment in them, emotionally, mentally and physically, that left me not only disappointed but also feeling left behind once they had evaporated. It took a while, because for the 32 years prior I had been very much a loner until that time, but I learned to reconsider the experience as more of a crucible, or distillery that helped to separate out the fleeting and leaving the best behind. Maybe more like how maple syrup is made I suppose, where it takes a great deal of sap to be carefully boiled until the sweet syrup remains. What came out of these hundreds of fun (for the most part) interactions and countless good (with a bit of bad) memories is a sparkling core of truly great friends, that to this day still amaze me with some of their actions. I sought to leave my online world as I had formed to to simply concentrate on the product from it. After a couple days (I bet you didn't even notice) I switched this back on, not so much as a continuing place for me to pile my thoughts, but for the few remaining people I know and love who remain here. Without my LJ being active, I had no way to interact with y'all. My analogy is this is like a small town of bygone days where people would run into one another while out and about, or take the time to walk from house to house to say hello and talk over the fence. I guess I can't board up my place yet still remain neighborly, given how this system is set up.

This is not the Livejournal I set up shop in over ten years ago. Like so many other online "spaces" in the past, what began for me as a thriving community has become rather barren. Those who remain, however, and still making great use of the medium, and maintaining fantastic connections. What skeeves me these days is the reduction in quality of the service, the politics of the Russian owners and general disregard for the stateside users that really made the community what it is. The latest technical hell here is the never completing page loads. Sure, the pages seem to render properly and mostly stuff works, but some connections never complete, with the page loading indicator spinning away. This is often a sign of bad server configurations, and sometimes of a more dangerous nature, with open connections lying in wait for malware or other bad mojo. This has been going on for a few weeks now on my end, regardless of what computer or connection I access the site with. Aargh. Oh well, the neighborhood falls apart even more, the landowners letting the place fall apart around the remaining denizens.

I will keep my door open for a little while longer, I guess, at least until the wedding and a bit after. Then, well, we'll see. These days I am busy with as much as my day can hold, trying to get the house and yard fixed up, putting the final touches on a huge network upgrade to accommodate new home security and automation now and be usable into the foreseeable future. La Casa Mayhem is my only true home, I built it with my hands as well as a lot of outside help, and I plan on living the rest of my years here. As my health has taken several downturns in recent years, I now have a sense of urgency to get lots of things done while I am still able to do them in order to be able to have some years later to relax and simply enjoy the spoils of all that labor and thought. I am lucky to be able to (sometimes barely) be able to get around, and I am measuring my time wisely. With the wedding coming up in less three months (!) now, I gotta kick it into high gear. I am overlapping projects to my best advantage. I will be redoing the entryway to the house, with a new front door, paint, floor, lighting, landscaping, and more. I am sitting here configuring and testing security cameras I will be installing while I crawl around doing these other upgrades. Several hundred more feet of network cabling has to be installed too, and I am pleased with how this all is shaping up. In the spirit of the days past, here's a photo of the goings-on as I test one of the cameras down in the Underground Concrete Bunker before I finally get it put where it belongs on the outside.



I just hope my creaky old body holds up as I do all this work, if not, I am truly screwed. Our little wedding is shaping up to be a big deal. Certainly it's the most important day of my life in decades. I can only hope all turns out as we are working and planning it out to be.

Seeyas 'round.
greatbear: (forearms)
You might've noticed a bit of quiet around here. This is mostly because I've still being Mr. Crankypants due to an ongoing cold-like thing that both Jeff and I have shared in. Jeff got it first (he probably got it as a free gift from the hospital) and I got the BOGO deal a bit later. Needless to say, days since last week have been a coughy, phlegmy, hacky joyfest, and the absolutely bipolar Maryland weather isn't helping either. Last weekend was nice, practically t-shirt 'n' jeans-like. Monday I awoke to a foot of snow. I grumbled out of bed, opened the door to let By-Tor and the Snow Dog outside to make yellow snow, snapped a couple front door glamor shots of the snow (it was very pretty), then slammed the door on the outside world once the dogs returned. I was in no mood to go and deal with the stuff, and I knew it would be short-lived anyway. With no help from me, by Wednesday afternoon the snow had practically vanished and the more typical March weather had returned. Me and the pooches enjoyed a nice long walk that we hadn't had in a few days and were better off because of it. Today Jeff had come home early due to rejiggering his schedules and we took the time to do some shopping and get some lunch at the Columbia Mall ("Mass-murder free for 53 days!") and run some needed errands. He has to work for some time on Saturday, and possibly next weekend as well, but we can deal with that for the most part. We are moving ahead with wedding plans and prep as well, and both of us are getting excited as the day approaches.

I am almost finished with the computer/network overhaul here, only a few hundred more feet of cable needs to be run as I am able to wrangle my assistant into visiting. The most difficult parts, running cat-6 cabling from the Mayhem Bunker into the attic (two runs) and several runs along with some RG6 and wiring for the security/home automation through the underground conduits to the garage remain, and I hope to get these done sooner rather than later. The garage wiring runs were put off since my initial back issues and surgery in 2010. I have all the supplies, the switch and other sundries needed for the job, I just need a bit of warmer weather and an extra pair of hands. I am hoping the conduit is not broken or flooded. It currently has old phone lines which are still in use and the remains of the original thin-net LAN I set up about 25 years ago that were abandoned once I switched to Fast Ethernet in the house. I just want to finally finish this project so I can completely forget about it for about the next ten or fifteen years. Only some hardware needs to be changed over to upgrade the mess to 10GBEthernet, and beyond that I don't see too much of a need for much more bandwidth in the foreseeable future. I laid enough cabling from various points in the house to be able to trunk them together for higher bandwidth, and the big Synology NAS is already using four cables to hook into the backbone, with four for the main server, two for the small server, and two each for two workstations so far, with more planned. La Casa has intranet bandwidth that rivals what I had when I worked for Northrop Grumman by far.

Another reason I want this computer crap over and done with is because spring is when I turn my attention outdoors. I have a shit-tonne of work to do in the yard as well as some house repairs I need to finish before the wedding. I got sidelined and didn't do a damn lick of any work needed outside since last September, and that includes cleaning up a huge toppled tree taken down during Sandy, lots of general cleaning, and finally erecting the greenhouse in the garden that has otherwise been hogging up space in the garage with all its parts. La Casa will have a new entryway and lots of other goodies. I need to pressure-wash the gazebo as well as apply some stain/sealer to make it look spiffy, since that's where the actual ceremony will be taking place. I hope I can get all of this done. In the middle of all of this, I still have unfinished work on the vehicle fleet, serious cleaning up of the garage, yard beautification, the veggie garden, etc, etc. I sincerely hope I don't have any more health/physical troubles in the meantime, or I will be seriously fucked and moody, not the sort that anyone would want to marry.

Finally, the wedding. If you are reading this and want to be a part of the festivities, which are shaping up to be totes awesomesauce, btw, drop me a line with your mailing addy, and I will send out one of the truly neat invitations we had made up. I want to share my happiness with all my friends.
greatbear: (forearms)
Trying to make the best of my unwilling homebody-ness, I've taken the opportunity to do some upgrading of my implements of computing and music, and in this case, there's a lot of overlap. Last year I replaced the troublesome Onkyo receiver with, well, another Onkyo. I have to admit that the company treated me well, repairing the unit twice well outside of warranty at no cost to me. If I had to do it, it would've needed a board that costs about a grand. I got the latest model (TX-NR5010) because it fit a bit better into the overall use I wanted for the home theater, and the old 5007 will become the center of a second system downstairs. All I need to do is haul away a metric cubic shit-tonne of junk down there and reclaim the space. The studio setup got its final upgrade with the Mackie monitors and audio controller. That was years in the making, and I decided it was time to finish it off and begin making the best use of the equipment. A lot of time and a fair amount of money sent on the enjoyment of music. If it seems a bit sudden it's because I honestly feel I don't have many good years left to truly enjoy music as I know it. My hearing is slowly failing, and apparently as my body falls apart in other ways, the treatments for those ailments have a nasty side effect on my hearing. So, rather than suffer in silence, I will keep listening until I can no longer listen. I might go deaf next week, or it will be several years, but that part of my life will apparently have a soundtrack. In addition to satisfying my urges as a long-time audiophile and a (sadly, lapsed) musician by doing this at the homestead, Jeff and I will continue to head off to concerts, shows, performances of all sorts. It is so good for the soul, after all.

I've also taken on the needed upgrades for some of the computers and especially the rather involved network that ties it all together. A few years ago the LAN got upgraded to gigabit ethernet in order to handle the high-definition video and audio flying around the cables, and I eventually began running into problems as to where to keep all this digital goodness. I demoted my main server to file server duties, and today installed a Synology 8-bay NAS to handle both the backing up of the various PCs on the network as well as the main repository of the various media. I threw a pair of 4TB drives in it to start with, and it's running nicely. The NAS has a total of 4 gigabit LAN ports that can be aggregated for a fourfold increase in throughput. The main file server as well as my monster Xeon workstation have paired LAN ports, and I need to add another switch eventually to handle all the cables. I knew I should've gotten more than a 24-port switch. I will get another, similar switch and heap all the high-bandwidth stuff on it, and team two or three ports between switches as a trunk to handle the traffic. It should be able to handle 4K video without trouble. Beyond that, I doubt if I will need much more. Unless the thing becomes sentient and starts making demands, that is.

This weekend is special here in the Land o' Mayhem, and I'm gonna be a happy chappy with having a 4-day weekend with Jeff. It's Groundhog Day, after all, and we do some celebrating. I hope to make the best of it.
greatbear: (walken)
I'm currently sitting in the bowels of Ice Station Mayhem watching the temperature outside drop with every glance at the thermometer. It's currently 4 degrees F, and still steadily dropping. The house is toasty warm, with the woodstove working at near blast furnace levels thanks to the howling winds outside causing the flue to draw like crazy and fanning the fire. I have the electric heater on in the basement workshop where I was prior, and here in the infrastructure bunker the computers alone have the otherwise unheated room at a balmy 84. I don't envy Jeff having to head out in the crackling cold at 5am, the temperature being predicted into the negatives possibly by then, and a high of a steamy 17 for our Tuesday. Brrr! My Russian heritage normally has me tolerating even rather extreme cold, but ever since my first back surgery, it's taken a while for me to regain that tolerance while recovering. Add in creeping old age, and I prefer warmth more than ever. I have another round of PT tomorrow afternoon, so I can shake my cane at Old Man Winter if necessary.

Warning, extreme geekery ahead! Danger! Introspection! )
greatbear: (fucking painting trees)
Here's a rare glimpse behind the scenes at the underground bunker at La Casa Mayhem. What am I doing, you might ask? Well, once again I am directing the full power of my fully operational battle station awesome IT infrastructure to bear on an innocent old man in hopes of making him cry again. In other words, I am fixing and printing more family photos lost to the fire at Jeff's parents' place.



He has "officially" moved in today, getting his permits signed off. Jeff's phone rang this evening, announcing the number as originating from the landline rather than dad's cell, something that made us both smile. There are some relatively minor tasks that need tending there, railings for the stairs into the basement, walkways and landscaping, some of which I will help with this weekend. The trailer gets moved back to its storage space in the driveway so the yard can be repaired and grass planted in remaining areas. Right now it's raining, and the yard is pretty much a mud bog. This is typical during construction. By mid summer, the place should be looking mighty fine. Dad can finally begin to relax and start making the new house a home.

I spent a bit of a beautiful yesterday trudging around in a junkyard auto dismantling and recycling facility yesterday helping a friend collect parts for one of his cars that recently got wrecked. I managed to find a rare item, a compass/mini trip computer out of a 2000 Chrysler Sebring convertible. This is the same JA body series as my '00 Stratus, and I had wanted to hack the computer into the Strat, as it was never offered as an option. Today I took some time to tear into the dash and wiring, splicing wires and modifying the dash to accept the computer. Success! I also lucked out in that the yard also had a section which had tractors and other outdoor equipment, and I found a steering wheel that I could adapt to my old Gravely garden tractor. The original wheel is still available from Gravely, but it goes for a downright silly $160. 12 bucks later I had a perfect replacement which also got installed today while I did yearly maintenance on the tractor. So, garage duties today were productive.

My aforementioned friend and I go way back, to the 6th grade. For years he had operated his own auto repair shop, but hard times as well as disability forced him to close down. I took a lot of the equipment off his hands and set it up here at Mayhem, and there's still more to get as I make room for it. Sadly, he's not going to be in the business anymore, even the relatively short walk through the junkyard wore him out. His health has never been stellar, at 6'8" and 400-something pounds, all that weight finally is taking a toll on his well-being. While he has tried to address some issues, old habits (and a healthy appetite) are hard to break, and the lack of income and job opportunities keep him from obtaining medical help that could help. He says he is not going to undergo surgery on his back that is the major issue. I am far from a glowing example of successful back surgery, and I am one of the many examples of people he knows that are no better if not worse off after surgery. Still, he could be better off losing the ample belly he's had ever since I've known him. I've suggested it many times with no success. I worry about his future.

A week ago Jeff and I roused the pooches before the crack of dawn and took a weekday trip to the beach. We wanted to get Snickles accustomed to crowds, walking, other pets and the beach. Well, we hit on all points but the last. As it turned out, Rehoboth beach no longer allows dogs on the beach or boardwalks between Memorial Day and Labor day, and we missed the opportunity. We could've taken a trip north to the state park where the dogs are welcome, but that is a pretty quiet area and we wanted immersion education for da Snick. We were disappointed, but rather than waste the two-and-a-half hour trip, we hung out downtown and walked the dogs while doing some shopping and eating. Snickles did pretty good once he got acclimated to the surroundings. He's naturally very friendly with people, and surprisingly good with kids. He barks loudly at anyone on a bicycle. Little does he know the next step in his preparation for a Big Gay Life with us will involve not only getting used to Jeff and I on bikes, but riding along as well. I got a new pannier carrier for my bike as well as a made-for-the-purpose pet carrier which attaches. Kodi has his front-mounted carrier on Jeff's bike, with mine being a full suspension bike the best I could do is a rear mount. I will soon be taking the little guy for rides in the neighborhood. If that is a success, he and the rest of us will be ready to ride through the streets of PTown together, where the dogs are certain to be rock stars. People got a kick out of Kodi riding with Jeff, a pair of pedaled pooches is certain to bring out the smiles of passerby. Not to mention hunk/babe magnets deluxe. ;-)
greatbear: (me and mom)
Lately I've been engaging in some computer building and other related nerdery. The PC that got wrecked by the malware got a different hard drive and was nicely reborn as a workshop PC, and I actually bought my first desktop machine, as in one I did not assemble from parts. Newegg.com had a sale on refurbed business desktops, I picked up a cheap HP with minimal flash and glitz to use in the garage. For 149 bucks complete with Win 7 Home Premium, and a cheapass new keyboard and mouse thrown in, I figured what the hell. These PCs seemed to be all over the place at work, they go through life functioning quite reliably, and they get replaced with the latest 'n' greatest in a couple years. It's a five year old machine, ruggedly built and small. Hell, for all I know it came from my lab.

I have the reborn PC on the side cabinet on my basement workshop toolbox. The HP is in an identical situation out in the garage. While the purchased machine came with a kb and mouse, I needed to come up with something for the one downstairs. I didn't want to use anything fancy, the sawdust and dirt would take their toll in time. I was rummaging through my collection of still-usable computer junk and found a nondescript Microsoft optical mouse. This would work fine. I notice the green sticky dot that was affixed to the left mouse button and it gave me a bit of pause. Then it hit me. This had been the mouse that was attached to a PC that I put together for Mom many years ago. I had stuck the green dot on the left button as a reminder to her which of the buttons was the "main" one. She had gotten used to using the PC, but the dot remained. The PC was repurposed later on after she had died. Sitting there and staring at the cheap little mouse with the green dot, knowing what it had been used for, left me in a hollow, silent place for a bit of time. I got choked up, I stopped futzing with the computers for the night, I took the mouse with me, cleaned the dust and smudges from the time in storage, making it look new again. I left the green dot attached, still hanging on with its now dried-out adhesive. It's a nice little reminder.
greatbear: (candle)
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs has died from pancreatic cancer. I was watching Jeopardy tonight and the show was interrupted for the notice along with a capsule history of Steve and his days with Apple. He was only 56.

greatbear: (forearms)
Mother Nature's "heavy flow days" continue to be a thorn in our side. While we remain high and somewhat dry, the garden languishes in a sea of weeds and tomatoes rotting on the vines. We will mount an attack to dig around and harvest the surviving veggies, then once it (eventually) dries up, till the spent stuff under and possibly throw a little bit of fall crops in.

Nature in its infinite wisdom in the form of a black snake has once again run afoul of the Basement of Serpent Doom. For the third time now, I notice a nasty smell hinting about. True to form, yet another snake managed to wriggle its way under the front porch and into the floor joists under the entryway. That area of the basement is unfinished (thankfully) and the joists have fiberglass insulation between them. This insulation is held in place with a plastic mesh netting. Said hapless snake tired to slide through one of the holes in the mesh and became ensnared. You can figure out the rest. I now once again have the displeasure of cutting out sections of fiberglass, insulation and rotten snake. I've found the spot in which the snake gets in under the concrete (I missed the chance of hauling it back out by the tail), so I will seal that up. What I can't locate, because of how the front porch is built, is the entry point into the basement. I now have an inspection camera, which is a tiny camera on the end of a flexible, well, snake that can get into dark tiny areas and return video of the trip. I will use this to suss out the breach of security and seal the area.

I think this also explains Kodi's outbursts of barking a while back. Out of the blue, Kodi would run into the living room barking like a fool. Perhaps the snake was bumping around under the floor and neither Jeff nor I heard, but Kodi might have. No outbursts for a while since.

This is not the only time that snakes have met their demise around here at the hand of the same plastic netting. The aforementioned mesh is the same stuff sold in garden shops that Mom and I used to keep birds and critters out of the berries we had been growing. I've had to cut away the netting to free snakes that became messily ensnared and tangled in the stuff. The snake's scaly skin glides wonderfully in a forward direction, but like a barbed fish hook, gets stuck trying to back out. The poor creatures were lucky when one of us were there checking out things in the garden and could free them. Not so when we had been away for a couple days. I found that the thrashing snakes became quite docile when they discovered they were being freed. The dead ones were deposited in the trash along with the mesh. Jeff and I are currently using the same stuff in the garden to keep wabbits out of the raised bed boxes. Luckily there have been no serpent encounters.

Jeff had been eagerly awaiting the day that Penn State would be playing Alabama (along with over a hundred thousand other fans) and managed to snag tix for the game. Mother Nature also is making this tough on us at the last minute, as flooding along the Susquehanna River and other waterways have caused the closing of numerous roads and bridges along our usual route. So, rather than heading up to his parent's place the night before, we will take a more westerly route tomorrow and try hopefully to avoid the closures and such. Maybe the waters will have receded a bit by then as well. We missed too many shows/games/concerts/events in the past few years due to many reasons (mostly medical, it seems), and it has to stop somewhere. I told Jeff I'll get him to this game if it kills me. :) Wish us luck (and maybe a solid route to travel).

I'm tearing up the studio as I revamp the studio PC and install a gorgeous new 30" Dell display. It's more a nest than a studio, with so much accumulated cruft crammed into nooks and crannies everywhere. Time to clean house. The PC I used as a backup can finally be put back in the garage. What was supposed to be temporary ended up being more than four years! The backup PC with its integrated graphics does not like the new monster display. The new one can handle six of them at once. Ah, to have that much desk space (and money!). lol

Jeff just got home and informed me that the closures and such have been lifted, so we are going to try our usual routes up. Good news for a change!
greatbear: (Default)
This morning I wanted on teh intarwebz, but my computer awoke to a black screen. There was audio when mashing keys, but I figure, being a PC and not the perfection that is Apple, it just needed a reboot after being on for weeks. A reboot did nothing, but I noticed a curious behavior with the display. Usually the power light blinks when in between video modes or the PC is rebooting, instead, it was solidly on. I cycled the power and expected the little on-screen menu to pop up. Instead, there was fire. Actual fire, with the acrid smell of burning solid state deices and smoke. I dropped the backup display in its place and now am looking for a replacement. I'm jonesing for something larger than the 24" Samsung that stunk up the room, and something that will play nice with the new replacement PC that I built about a year ago. A bit of unexpected research and shopping is in order, as well as an unneeded expense.

I have a batch of photos to upload for LJ posts and such, but my Flickr Pro account lapsed and it's nothing but wonky now with the limited features and groups, so that will have to wait as well. My time has been taken up with outdoor projects and our rekindled efforts to put in a decent vegetable garden. My attitudes towards gardening have been guarded at best since losing Mom, being that it was her primary and ultimate passion. Just looking at the various beds makes me sad and uneasy, so for the past several years the gardens received minimal care is any. Jeff tried to take the mantle of suburban farmer, but his time is limited. This year, however, I am finally getting a bit over my apprehension (and outright breakdowns) when faced with Mom's favorite activity and the memories it brings flooding in. This year, if I can keep the critters out of it, we should have the most productive garden ever. I'll be installing the various electronic countermeasures to protect our crops.

You can probably guess already that it's gonna be called... The Garden of Mayhem. Hey, I have branding continuity to consider, after all. ;-)

Last week I had pulled all the wheels off the trailer, checked and adjusted the brakes and regreased the bearings as well as other mechanical checks, then hauled it up to Pennsylvania and Jeff's parents' driveway. I took along lots cleaning supplies and the bigass pressure washer which we used Saturday and Sunday to clean up our vacation home in preparation of our upcoming trips. I just hope my health issues don't ruin things like late last year.

Speaking of vacations and trips, who's gonna be in Provincetown for Bear Week (or in spite of, for all you post-whatevers)?
greatbear: (f.u.)
This shit is getting out of hand. First is was just smeared and wavy-gravy text. Then the silly made-up words that trip up my brain's internal autocorrect. Now the obscuration of the text has been getting so out of hand to the point where I have to refresh the captcha half dozen times or more to get something readable enough to enter, much less without errors. I'll get Greek or even Cyrillic characters, shit in sub-and superscript, equations, and shit like this:



I realize that these things have been getting tougher to decipher for us because automated solving of these things has gotten more sophisticated. But this is getting way out of hand, and this is far from the worst I have encountered. I propose that for every one of these stupid-assed messes of a captcha that shows up on someone's screen, some web programmer gets an automated, open-handed bitch slap. What say you?
greatbear: (seasons greetings)
It appears my preparedness for the snow has apparently scared it off. Just a light dusting out there.

Now that it's almost 364 shopping days until Xmas, I don't have to worry much about it for a while. Jeff and I had a relaxing few days. While we did not pimp out the house with lights, we did get into the spirit of the big day by going to see Dickens' A Christmas Carol performed at the Olney Theater on Christmas Eve. Olney Theater is a wonderful local outfit that has been around for decades, and every show I've seen has been very well done. We were in for a little surprise with this show, as it was performed entirely by one man. And if you ask me, it was probably one of the most engaging performances I've seen of the classic. Both of us enjoyed the performance greatly, afterward we headed to our favorite local restaurant/bar Looney's Pub for a nice, (very) informal dinner. A good day overall.

The Big Day was almost as low key, Jeff make our little dinner whilst I tinkered with stuff. I had ordered a new (overkill) video card and (really overkill) power supply for the crazy quad-core PC I had built early in the year but basically flung aside while I took care of house- and garage-oriented projects until my body gave out. If I desire, the new mega-PC can support a hee-yooge desktop/workspace across no less than six displays. While such an endeavor is highly unlikely, I would like to eventually set up a two- or three-display desktop using monitors in portrait configuration. When funds free up, though.

Today we braved the oncoming non-blizzard by taking a quick trip to the grocery store for some goodies, then I occupied my time in the basement workshop doing wiring and installing the new heater. The heater is a definite help, but not as effective as I would like since it basically has to try and heat the entire 36x48 main basement area that the workshop is part of. I have been wanting to wall up the various areas and have been making progress with other upgrades and such that needed to be done before such an undertaking. Perhaps this coming year will allow me the chance of clearing out a huge amount of cruft and beginning the creation of actual spaces rather than one big outrageous mess.

Tomorrow both Jeff and I have medical and financial bizness to take care of. The lack-o snow and accompanying driving insanity will make this happen much easier. This week will be one of more recovery for us both, and we both hope to be somewhat productive around the homestead as well.

I hope everyone reading this had the past few days at least as nice as we did. And here's hoping for a good '11.

Cheers.
greatbear: (Default)
Taking a step away from my usual building of computer systems, I decided on buying an HP Mediasmart Server EX495. This is probably the high end of a class of tidy little machines running Windows Home Server. It cost less than 600 bux. About the size of a toaster, it can hold up to 4 drives and sit quietly in the LAN, performing regular backups of PCs and Macs, collecting and converting videos and becoming a repository of various digital media that can be shared not only among computers, consoles and other media players on a network, but over the internet as well. It's silly easy to set up, and quite robust. Windows Home Server is kinda like a well-kept secret, it's well respected among the geekerati, extensible and flexible, yet runs perfectly on very minimal hardware. I picked up the dual-core version (many use Atom processors) with an installed 1.5TB drive. I threw in three more 2TB drives as the thing was running, which immediately became a part of the storage pool after selecting their function. The backups ran perfectly, though cramming over 3TB from this PC alone took about a day and a half, still not bad considering the backup throttles back when the PC is in use to avoid slowdowns. My LAN handled it without a problem. The upgrades from a couple years back to Gigabit, the 24 port managed switch and whatnot should future-proof things here at Mayhem Amalgamated for many years to come, with luck.

It's a shame that this tiny server will take up residence down in the Lab of Doom and not be seen. It's a gorgeous little gloss black box, and built like a tank. The sad thing here is that these things might be on the way out. Microsoft has been working on the successor to WHS, and have removed some of the key features, most notably Drive Extender, that make the OS so simple to use and expand. Now there is talk of abandoning the product entirely. How often do companies have a great thing, then ruin it?

Now there are two dedicated and one multipurpose servers humming away here. 27.5TB total. And you know that big number will become quaint in no time.
greatbear: (forearms)
As far as geekery is concerned, this wedding cake is pretty 1337.



Truth be told, I've grown to dislike programming as I get older for some reason. I have an innate need to tinker with hardware. Granted, I've cranked out at least a million lines of code in my lifetime (some even in HEX). I guess I am the physical type (in many ways), and with more and more value being placed on "virtual" objects these days, I guess I yearn for the tangible stuff you can touch, hold onto, give away or sell when you are done with it, etc.

Cupcake wedding cakes are all the rage now. If Jeff and I ever have the chance to tie the knot, he'll probably want a cake from one of those Food Network Challenge shows. I'd be fine with cupcakes though. :)
greatbear: (Default)
Since my last video got pah-owned for not giving 20 million dollars to 20th Century in order to run on YouTube, I will post something else instead.



It does appear that running Flash is a big drain on system resources. ;-)
greatbear: (homestar seriously)
Many of you might believe that Apple is an elegant, well-run company behind their flashy gadgets. I think it might be more like what's pictured below, given their latest PR foofaraw.




It seems the lost iPhone saga has finally begun to spotlight Apple as being far more Big Brother-ish and anti-consumer than most tech companies, and far more worthy of such a label than Microsoft, the company that so many like to paint as a bully (but not entirely unjustified). I had traditionally balked at buying Macs over the years primarily because I didn't like paying essentially double or more for some rather average hardware, despite having a nearly flawless operating system and UI. Besides, I like rolling my own boxen, creating crazyassed machines that suit me and the way I use them. The latest crop of Macs are still nice, but fall once again under the same entirely-average-hardware-wrapped-in-shiny-for-twice-the-price non-value. Add to that the increased bullying by the company, and my respect for the whole shmegeggeh is kaput.

It'll be interesting to see how this latest episode plays out.
greatbear: (Default)
A couple of wonderful people on my f-list noticed that I had deleted my LJ for about a day on Thursday. While I was mostly keeping myself from posting due to various issues, the reason for deleting my LJ was because one of my PCs got nailed with a nasty rootkit/trojan/virus trifecta through my own stupidity. Rather than risk compromise of various accounts, I took stuff offline as I dealt with the PC and did some changing of login credentials once I had the chance. I cleansed the PC this morning and all is back to normal. So, I am still here. And I definitely appreciate the fact that some noticed my absence and were genuinely concerned. I have not been very forthcoming about things of a more personal nature here, keeping instead to lighter fare like comics, music, memes and such. The reasons are many, but part of me had it in mind that no one would care, electing to pass over on the emo stuff. Granted, LJ has been a tough venue for me lately, it's real benefit being interacting with others on their turf rather than opening up mine. I still am loathe to post here, perhaps that will change.

As for what happened to the PC, my own damn fault. Typical shady pop-up ad that served up a confirmation dialog. Rather than killing it by closing, I answered "no" (or "cancel"), which, as we all know, lets the scum run wild. For my lack of vigilance, I ended up with something ironically titled "Antimalware Doctor", a rogue mess that wrecks the system and holds it for ransom by finding all manner of fake positives and demanding money for the cleanup. Thing is, the money won't get you anything but a compromised credit card account and the program itself installs a rootkit and various trojan droppers during installation. I cleaned it all up this morning and all is back to normal. Well, except for the power brick for a backup drive that died in the middle of the night and smelled bad this morning.

Those who attempt to tell me that having a Mac would have prevented all this will be openly ridiculed the next time they take a trip to the Genius Bar. ;o)

Well, there you have it. The reason for my short disappearance, explained less with personal notes and relying instead on geekery details. Maybe I will spell things out more as they should be. maybe not. Same as it ever was. ;)

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greatbear: (Default)
Phil

December 2016

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