Server Rebuilt

My frequent visitors (all two of you! :-P) likely noticed that my site has been down since Saturday morning. I took some extra time this weekend to rebuild my terabyte server. When I put the server up the first time I filled the RAID with 6 200G SATA drives and created one RAID5 set with 5 drives and left the last for a hot spare. I put a couple of logical partitions on it and left a spare 200G ATA drive in for generic downloads and other expendable items.

The problem with this is my entire system was on one drive and that led to performance problems and eventually would create maintenance challenges. For example, I couldn’t unmount the big volume to do a chkdsk without causing all sorts of problems. So, I decided to redo it all and suffer the pain involved.

I added two more drives so I now have the Escalade 8506-8 card fully populated. My hot swap carrier only holds 7 drives so I put the 8th hard mounted in the case and designated it as the hot spare (figuring you usually don’t have to change that since it’s only used if your system is degraded). I did a more traditional RAID1 mirror on the first two drives and divided that into boot, app and data volumes. Then I just did one big export volume on the RAID5 set around 800G. Aside from the hours it took to re-initialize the RAID5 set it went smoothly.

I ran into one big problem though. It seems the ASUS PU-DL 1007 BIOS potentially has some problems booting off of the Escalade 8506-8 that only exhibit themselves when there are multiple volumes. The system would lock on boot and had to be hard reset. You could occasionally get it to boot by loaded the Windows rescue shell and accessing the disk then restarting, but not always. I updated the PU-DL BIOS to 1009 (current) which mentions some “zero config boot” issues and haven’t had this problem since. (Knock on wood!)

I’m still cleaning up, need to deal with permissions and security stuff. But the end is clearly in view. Getting ready to put the server back in the laundry room. Man is this thing loud!

Reading for Dad's to be

I’ve picked up and received a number of books for men who are about to be a dad. I’m pretty amazed at how bad in general these books are. The brilliant advice in these books seem to assume the kind of disconnected, emotionless father figure one can only imagine might have existed. Here’s an example. The brilliant advice contained in one book for expectant fathers included a recommendation to call your wife when you are on a business trip. She may feel lonely and you should let her know you are thinking of her. Huh? I’m only supposed to do this when she’s pregnant? Please… you call your wife when you travel, period.

The other thing I’ve noticed is that these are not really books. It seems when people write for the father-to-be it’s always a list. 101 things you never knew about babies. 57 things you can do to make your wife happy. Top 10 reasons you will be in the dog house. It’s almost as if the publishers of these books assume that men cannot actually read paragraphs and chapters. Our minds can’t possibly follow a single train of thought for more than a paragraph or two.

Luckily, the Internet and specifically blogs come to the rescue of us dads-to-be. Daddy Types is a good blog and links to a lot of other resources. You can quickly find a number of different blogs that cater to the specific kind of thing you are looking for. Including ones you hope to never care about, like Laid-Off Dad. I’ve also went back to the well and am still trying to find some good books. I know there are some out there.

There are some notable exemptions. The Baby Owner’s Manual is a good book for dad’s even though it violates many of the rules above. Somehow I don’t feel like I’m being treated like an idiot when reading it.

HD Antennae Comparison

Warning, this is a really geeky post. Reading about comparing the performance of two HD TV over-the-air (OTA) UHF antennas may be hazardous to your health.

When I got my HD DirecTV TiVo (HR10-250) two weeks ago I needed a decent outdoor antennae to pick up local HD channels. It was a Saturday and I decided to just pick up the Terk HDTVs Antennae at Best Buy along with my TiVo unit. The unit was extraordinarilly overpriced at $150 but I knew I could return it. I slapped it on a cable and threw it on my deck (no aiming at all) and got pretty good signals. Last week I received my real antennae, the ChannelMaster 4221 (the ChannelMaster 3021 is the same unit FYI). This new antennae was a mere $35 with shipping from a good online retailer. The 4221 looks like a real antennae. Four separate bowties, lots of metal, etc.

I took new signal readings off my receiver with the Terk right before doing this to avoid any comparison to previous readings that could have different atmospheric things going on. I allowed the receiver to tune into the station for five seconds and then I recorded the maximum signal strength received to that point. After getting fresh readings for the Terk I plugged in the ChannelMaster and was ready to be stunned. However, on the first read everything was horrible. Lesson number one is the CM4221 is much more directional than the Terk. I went up and pointed it towards the direction of downtown and got much better readings.

In the end I was stunned with the performance of the Terk more than the CM4221. The Terk did as good as the CM4221 and even better than it on the weak signals. Given the price difference I did stay with the CM4221 and returned the Terk, but I was surprised by the differences. Here are the signal strength measurements. (Note: I included the reading from tuner A and B.)

Station Freq Terk HDTVs CM 4221
KMWB 22 62/62 48/40
WFTC 21 92/95 92/92
KPXM 40 57/60 28/22
KARE 35 88/88 90/90
KTCA 34 90/90 95/92
KTCI 16 88/85 90/90
KSTC 44 90/90 92/92
WCCO 32 90/90 92/92
KMSP 26 92/92 92/92
KSTP 50 90/90 90/90

If you are reading this looking for HD antennae advice these tests were done in the Minneapolis area by highways 494 and 62. One disclaimer I need to add here is that I did not spend a lot of time tuning the direction and the CM4221 is just sitting on my balcony pointed toward downtown. Notably, it is about 1 foot behind the metal railings of my patio and I’m not sure if that causes interference. I intend to have it properly mounted on the roof when I have my DirecTV satellite upgraded to a triple-LNB unit.

Baby Update

We had our second ultrasound appointment yesterday. It was amazing to see how much the baby had grown in the last 8 weeks. In the first ultrasound you could see the whole baby on the screen at once, now you could only see a third at any time. It was moving around a lot and everything looked very healthy! Yeah! It’s amazing how much I worry about all of this — I’m going to be a wreck after it’s born and running around the house! :-)

We asked to find the out the gender and it looks like we’ll be having a girl! The baby wasn’t in an ideal position for the ultrasound (breached) so it was a little hard to tell, but that is what the Dr. thought. Exciting! Watching the ultrasound was pretty amazing. The last time the heart was just this moving squiggle on the screen. This time you could see each chamber of the heart independently.

Tammy had already decided that the baby’s room is going to be gender neutral. So were not ordering truckloads of girl stuff. However, we are getting ready to order truckloads of stuff. :-)

Now in High-Definition!

If you are a regular reader of my site you may be thinking I’m on a consumer electronics binge at the moment. In truth, I sort of am. I fully expect that in a couple of months everything is going to be baby, baby and more baby! I’m looking forward to that and in preparation am trying to get things like a new TV and HDTV programming out of the way. I figure some time with a new video camera before baby arrives is a good thing.

On Friday I received our new television. We ordered a Sharp Aquos LC-45GD4U. The TV was easy to unpack, a little surprising given it’s size. We are using it purely as a display so didn’t need to bother with putting the detachable speakers on it. I had it up and running in a few minutes. The picture is absolutely stunning. The TV has a native resolution of 1920×1080 and the LCD panel gives crisp detail. I was able to plug my PC into the DVI port and had my home theater PC working quickly as well (however, I’m battling some problems with HDCP and the like so I’m still limited to 1280×1024).

After getting the TV up and running and admiring the detail it was pretty clear that I needed to make a follow-on purchase and really dive into HD programming. I’m a TiVo junkie and can’t stand watching live TV except for sporting events. So, I took the plunge and got the DirecTV HD TiVo unit. At this point I had a rewire project for my theater cabinet so I decided to do it right this time and put in some cable management and rerouted everything. This took a couple hours but I’m very pleased with the results. I also decided to retire my VHS and LaserDisc player. See ya guys, it was nice having you around.

The HD content over DirecTV is simple, it just shows up. But I needed an antennae and the one recommended to me by my friend Chris wasn’t available on the weekend. I’m impulsive and seek immediate gratification so I purchased a high-end Terk HTDVs outdoor antennae for too much money so I could have it right away that another friend Chad had read good things about. I ran a 50′ RG6 cable out of the house and just set the antennae on the balcony upstairs. I’ll mount it for real when winter is gone. So far though I’ve got great results. Here are the signal strengths I’m getting for local OTA (over the air) HD channels. (The strength measurement is done using the antenna test utility in the DVR.)

Station Freq Strength
KMWB 22 50
WFTC 21 90
KPXM 40 65
KARE 35 90
KTCA 34 92
KTCI 16 85
KSTC 44 90
WCCO 32 88
KMSP 26 85
KSTP 50 90

I’m all set now to enjoy the Vikings/Packers game in full HD! The picture is amazing.

MacMice Not So Great

I have to withdraw my endorsement of the MacMice 2-button wheel mouse for the Mac. There are two main issues with it. First, it takes it far too long to come out of sleep mode and to wake up the iMac. The Apple mouse does this instantly and the MacMice takes as little as 5 to as long as 20 seconds. Very annoying.

Worse is that occassionally it just operates very poorly. It’s movements become choppy and unpredictable. Too bad, this one button mouse is a drag. I realize I could plug a Microsoft BlueTooth mouse in but it would just be wrong. In the meantime, I’ve got them both on the desk so I can wheel from time to time but use the Apple mouse most of the time.

Birthday Boy!

Today was my birthday. We went out of town to celebrate and spent a couple of days at the Spider Lake Lodge outside of Hayward, WI. It’s a really cool lodge. The rooms are just average but the lodge itself really looks like a “northwoods lodge”. We hoped to XC ski and snowshoe but the lack of any good snow left us playing Boggle and seeing the Lemony Snicket movie.

I got a bunch of fun stuff for my birthday but most notable was a telescope that Tammy gave me. When I was a kid I used to go to the college in Minot and look through the telescope in the obersavotory. I was definitely one of those very geeky “space” kids. I hadn’t really looked at telescopes for years and then someone mentioned some of the new telescopes and how easy they are to use. I picked up a copy of Sky & Telescope and was amazed at how advanced telescopes have gotten.

Tammy got me the Meade LX200GPS 8″ telescope. It’s an amazing device just to open up and spin around. The controls are so precise and the lenses and mirrors are amazing. I haven’t had the opportunity to use it for actual stargazing but hope to in the next week or two. I eventually would like to play with some astrophotography but that will require some more knowledge before diving in. Tammy also ordered the model with UHTC, which stands for Ultra-High Transmission Coating and gives about a 20% increase in brightness.

Anyway, I’ve picked up every astronomy magazine I could find and a couple of books and am trying to figure this all out. I can’t wait to check out Saturn this month while it is opposition to the Earth.

Don’t I have a pretty amazing wife!? Lucky me. :-)