Tuesday, November 27, 2007

They say that multi-drive failures are infrequent enough that you generally don't need to worry about them. RAID-5 is good enough.

Well, buy me a lottery ticket. I had to deal with a multi-drive failure on one of our login databases on Sunday night -- first drive failed at 9:30 pm, then the second at 10:08 pm. It took us about six hours to recover the database. Fortunately, our applications are resilient to a single-database failure, so there wasn't any impact -- but those were a tense six hours nonetheless.

Friday was another interesting day. A few web devs thought it would be neat to implement an AJAX script which updated a progress bar showing the progress of a sale (what percentage of items have been sold). Alas, they didn't think through the impact their little script would have as a few million users hit the site with a refresh request every half second. The script was badly written enough that it grabbed data from multiple services and then ignored 90% of the information retrieved. The net result? A few services and networking devices melted down. And guess who got to help clean up the mess?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

My people? Crazy.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I haven't checked work e-mail since late Friday night. I've been tempted, especially since today's Newsweek had the Kindle on the front cover and I'm sure there's a bunch of buzz in the office, but I need the unplug time.

Incidentally, I've known about this for a year or so, though I only knew it by its internal name, Fiona. I hadn't heard anything about it for a long time; I was wondering if it had died. Obviously not. My first impressions: Ugly? Yes (and it was just as ugly a year ago), though part of me says that if you focus on these sorts of things, you're not the target audience. Expensive? Ayup, too much so for my tastes (though the price will surely come down). Will I give up books for it? Doubtful; books don't have restrictive DRM and you can dogear pages much more easily. They are heavier and (in the instances where it matters) less searchable.

Vacation has been quiet and nice so far. Spent much of today working on my console (an electronics workbench). Lots of sawdust everywhere. Trying to use a 1/8" Dremel router bit to mill out a largeish area (about 10" x 6" x 1/4") is very, very tedious. Tomorrow will involve swimming, maybe some wandering over on the Olympic Peninsula, and more milling. Notably absent: work. :-)

Friday, November 16, 2007

One of the better things about Amazon: our senior managers are not out-of-touch with the engineers. Nor are they afraid to speak their mind; what they say is not couched in managerspeak.

Brian Valentine, my division's SVP, gave a talk today entitled "Lessons Learned" -- basically a rundown of what he worked on in his career (most of it -- 19 years -- at Microsoft), described the mistakes made, talked about what he wanted to do at Amazon, and related a lot of war stories. It was hilarious and inspiring -- and this is from someone who is usually a bit pessimistic.

Alas, I don't know how much I can relate here, so I won't go off quoting bits and pieces of it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Heh... so my son will be Robert'); DROP TABLE Students;--. I guess my daughter will be Elaine:

Monday, November 12, 2007

I was starting to wonder just how much energy a compact fluorescent bulb saves in terms of carbon footprint. It's widely known that you can use a lower wattage CFL bulb to replace a given incandescent bulb; e.g., the light given off by a 23 W CFL bulb is the same as that of a 100 W incandescent bulb.

However, CFLs also contain mercury (on the order of 5 mg per bulb). Disposal regulations vary widely; in my area of the woods, there's some confusion as to how households are supposed to dispose of them. We'll play responsible citizen here and take them to a recycling center.

In my county, there are three sites which accept CFLs. The nearest one is in Poulsbo, a 25.2 mile round trip.

Let's assume it's time to take that bulb to the recycling center. (Ok, normally I would bundle them up and take a bunch at a time.) In my 2000 Honda CR-V, this trip would consume a gallon of gas. According to a random environmental site on the Intertubes, this is 10.9 kg (24 lbs) of CO2.

Yikes. That sounds like a lot. Does this offset the benefits of a CFL?

The average lifetime of a CFL is 15,000 hours. Assuming our earlier 23/100 W bulb comparison, that's a difference of 1155 kWh over the lifetime of the CFL. According to this carbon calculator, 1 kWhr of electricity results in 0.43 kg of carbon emissions.

That's a 496 kg; discounting our (silly) trip, I will have released 486 kg less CO2 into the atmosphere -- that's half a ton.

Ok, I can rest easier now. :-)

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Watching a train wreck...

A Canadian dollar is now worth 1.08 US dollars. Next stop: Australian dollar parity. And I don't see a bottom to this:

My investments have been flat. As expected, losing money on domestic stocks; gaining it on foreign stocks.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Friday, November 2, 2007

What the heck is this? I see it popping up on various sites -- it's one of the most annoying Web 2.0 inventions I've ever seen.

I'm guessing it's supposed to show a thumbnail of the linked page. I've never seen anything but the "Loading Preview" text, though.

As another blogger aptly put it, "I was beginning to think it was the 90’s all over again, with the blinky text and the annoying midi files."

Even better:
Snap’s preview anywhere gizmo is ruining the reading experience for millions of people. Its intrusive, obstructive and un-useful in almost every respect and use case. The fact that so many big blogs are using it, big well respected blogs, does not mean that it’s useful, it just means that they, like most bloggers, have all the self restraint of a magpie in a sparkly things factory.

What's next? Are these folks going to go around and start modifying cars so they honk every time you hit the brake? Have my office phone ring anytime someone on my floor gets up to use the restroom?

Edit: Thanks to for providing this tip on how to disable it:
If you click on the gear, there should be an option to "disable", and the little preview-page that results will let you chooose "all sites" and then "save". It'll set a cookie somewhere and never bother you again, as far as I can tell.