18-Apr-2004 (Sun)
Wherein a warning is delivered.

Once again it becomes clear that my one purpose in life is to serve as a warning to others. Here's all the shit that has gone wrong in the last two weeks:

  • Barry and Alexis finally nagged me into opening up access to our mail server to the outside world so that they can check their mail from home. I installed a POP3-over-SSL server, and it worked great with Mozilla and OSX Mail, but it took a week to figure out how to make it work with Eudora. (Someone please euthanize Eudora, thanks.)

  • Before opening up that port to the outside world, I installed a more recent OS on mail server, to avoid the last two years' worth of kernel bugs. I did the install on a new drive in a spare machine. That took 2+ full days.

  • When I swapped the new drive into the old box, its power supply chose that moment to up and die.

  • While we were distracted by that, the disk in the (completely unrelated) kiosk server up and died.

  • Fortunately, I had a backup. Unfortunately, the CD holding that backup had become unreadable some time in the last two years.

  • After reinstalling the kiosk server (3+ days), we still can't figure out how to re-build a working kernel for the particular kiosk that drives the video switcher. Consequently, the webcasts have been on one static shot for quite some time.

  • Concurrent with all this, we're trying (with little success) to figure out how to get a replacement or my money back for the robo-camera that I bought last month. Yeah, the honeymoon is over. Turns out, this camera loses track of its preset positions every couple of days. When you tell it "position 5", meaning, "point at the stage", instead it points at the back wall, until you re-enter all the positions manually.

    Aiming itself at saved positions is like, the one and only function of a camera like this, right?

    Returning it is apparently greatly complicated by the fact that two weeks after I (thought I had) gotten it working, I threw away the box.

If I could send a message back in time to myself, to before we opened this place, that message would be, "do not allow any computer in your club more complicated than a non-electric cash register. In fact, consider not having telephones."

But I wouldn't have listened, because I'm a dumbass.

23 Responses:

  1. wlylj says:

    but I'll share a few things anyway.

    I've been loving Mozilla Firefox + dovecot IMAP. I have not gotten SSL running yet.

    Digressive Story:
    I had a colo box I had running for a few years when I decided to upgrade the case and motherboard, effectively swapping the existing raid subsystem into a new box and letting debian love on the new hardware, a Dual 1Ghz machine with 1GB ECC RAM. Except when we got the machines apart the cheap plastic hot swap bays that seemed like such a good deal had gone and discolored and deformed. Worse, when the drives were finally installed in the new case they made a high pitched whine. One failed immediately and while it rebuilt onto the spare drive I had brought just in case we decided whatever lubrication in the drives had probably cooked off and worse the hot-cold-hot cycle for the first time in perhaps years had pissed something off. Within a week another drive failed and another drive was installed. Another week after that I had a hot spare taking up the 4th port on the 3ware escalade 7506. Nervewracking. The lesson I took from all that is to remember that fucking with shit that aint broke is a great way to break it.

    As far as CDs go, CDR(W)s prove more useless to me for backup every day. I've now read that using CD Labels rots the dye substrate, glad I never used them, sorry for those who have. I have some cheap media from 01997 as "generic mitsui gold" that is completely pitshot and all I used on it was sharpie and it is not even rotting under the writing but all over the disc. I now keep all my backups on other hard drives, some in other places.

    Not sure if they'll meet your needs but a friend has had great success with the at least the fix point mounted models of the Axis line of cameras. They run linux webservers embedded, I think he has a box scripted to record several cameras. I believe they have remote control types as well.

    I try to keep boxes for anything under I have under warranty that would benefit from the box during shipping or other moving. If I don't have space for them, I have too much shit. They really do come in handy for returns, moving, storage, and resale value.

    One last thought: I bought Windows XP OEM for my computer for $149 because I did not want to spend the 2 weeks it would have taken me to recompile the drivers for my Matrox G450. I think Linus says something like use what works. It won't kill you to use Microsoft where appropriate. You do indirectly every day anyway so you might as well eek some benefit from it.

    • jwz says:

      In what possible parallel universe would using Windows have made any of the things I talked about easier? Unless by "easier" you mean "with more viruses" or something.

      I "use Windows indirectly every day" in exactly the same sense in which I "profit from child labor every day" or "contribute to genocide against the indiginous peoples of wherever". Which is to say, no, I don't really.

    • vsync says:

      I have some cheap media from 01997 as "generic mitsui gold" that is completely pitshot and all I used on it was sharpie and it is not even rotting under the writing but all over the disc.

      Maybe it would be worthwhile for you to consider buying something other than "cheap media". You might also consider investing in a specialized CD-R marker pen.

      You do indirectly every day anyway so you might as well eek some benefit from it.

      What is that supposed to mean? Did you want "eke"?

      • wlylj says:

        Obviously it wasn't clear in my post, I think I meant to type "from 01997 sold to me as" as the media in question was sold to me as "generic mitsui gold" when in fact it turned out to be "cheap media". I thought the price was too low to be good at the time, it only took a few years to find out that it was in fact. I have always advocated buying quality media, otherwise, why waste your time burning? It is actually kind of nice to have a few cheap disks in my archive just so I can show people what cheap looks like in a few short years.

        I think specialized CD-R marker pens are a scam, at least paying 4x as much for what looks to be either a) a sharpie or b) a felt tip pen that simply has CDR stamped on the side of it seems a little foolish. None of the other hundreds, probably thousands, of quality discs I've used over the years have shown any adverse reaction to sharpie markers. I've even taken the time to decorate some discs extensively with doodles or bands logos with no issues as of yet.

        If someone has any documented issues with sharpies I'd be glad to read them. I have seen the documentation showing that CD labels, the kind used with CD Stompers, rot away the substrate within a few years. I'd be glad to look for it and post it for the curious. For whatever else it is worth I hardly burn anything anymore and what I do only to RW media as Rs are just waste waiting to happen.

        Regarding "What is that supposed to mean?" I believe that we not only create but are resposnible for what we participate in. This is in contrast to the belief that once money has changed hands all responsibility for what that money is used for is absolved. Americans at least seem to be hell bent on not taking responsibility for anything they themselves do much less the consequences of their actions furthur down the line.

        That is all to say that Microsoft is as much of a part of our world as anything else and little about you or I or jwz's world would be as it is without them for both better and worse. Since Microsoft is such a part of our environment you might as well enjoy what they do right, and rightly drill them for what they don't, 100% ignoring them zealously is probably making jwz's life harder substantially while making microsofts harder very insubstantially. What he is doing sounds good on the surface, and I believe in, but from another point of view, it's more damaging to jwz in terms of life energy spent for goals attained.

        As an example I'm strongly considering dropping my ban on Sony which I started around the time the DMCA was being introduced with their strong support, after all, I really didn't feel like funding my potential future legal prosecution. After spending many years avoiding Sony I've learned enough about them, the DMCA and my relation to it, and the generally effectiveness of zealous boycotts to decide I'm probably hurting myself more spending several hundred dollars more on a different model of miniDV camcorder than I'm hurting Sony by not buying it.

        Indeed I did mean eke. Dictionary.com does have eek as:
        \Eek\, Eeke \Eeke\, v. t. See Eke. [Obs.] --Spenser.

        So I may have picked up some outdated usage somewhere. I'll do my best to use the more common eke from here on ;)

        • wsxyz says:

          I'm probably hurting myself more spending several hundred dollars more on a different model of miniDV camcorder than I'm hurting Sony by not buying it.

          Ok, so buy a Samsung and spend several hundred dollars less on a miniDV camcorder while giving Sony the cold shoulder.

          I got a tiny Samsung mini DV camcorder right before my daughter was born last September for $550 shipped with extra battery at some discount online place. I've been entirely happy with the purchase so far.

          • wlylj says:

            I have a great Samsung LCD, I do rate Japan over Korea in terms of desirability though... I just like the Sony miniDV cams better, most of the CCDs are the exact same so the lens system is what ends up making more of a difference. Sony tends to have nice optics. The Handicam I want is right around $500. I have a good Nikon digicam so I don't need a model with a flash reader and I don't want to edit in camera, so that shaves $50 or so...

        • jwz says:

          probably making jwz's life harder

          As I said: "In what possible parallel universe would using Windows have made any of the things I talked about easier? Unless by 'easier' you mean 'with more viruses' or something."

          These computers I have -- you know I'm not using them to, like, play Quake and run Excel and stuff, right? They are what we refer to as "servers."

          • wlylj says:

            To answer the last question first: Yes, I have some idea what you are doing with your computers. Being one of your many internet fanboys/followers/lj "friends" I've actually read every post you've made on the history of the DNA Lounge. I find it facinating and was in part inspiration for me to start on my own home:
            http://breakset.com/wiki.phtml?title=1628_S_4th_St%2C_Louisville%2C_KY

            I nonspecifically remember in that history at least one tale of you finding some really nice sound board mixing hardware that you decided not to use because it ran on NT. Speaking in the sense of time being more important than money in an attention based economy I think you would have been further ahead to have bought the NT based systems provided they met some baseline of stability and usability. I'm not a fan of NT but sometimes it works. I've seen it run PBXes fine for instance and for a single web site it works okay. I think you hurt yourself and probably the VAR. Microsoft not at all. Boycott just seems to me useless negative energy. I try to just use what works the best and fits in with my whole personal political bent, zelotry sseems to keep coming back around and kicking my ass. I used to boycott Sony due to their RIAA support. I've come to realize that it doesn't hurt Sony near enough to matter and it does substantially hurt my selection of tools.

            As a more current example for your update:

            "OSX Mail, but it took a week to figure out how to make it work with Eudora. (Someone please euthanize Eudora, thanks.)"

            Why don't you euthanize it? Why are you still using it at all? Outlook Express is not that bad. mutt is not even that bad. Mozilla Mail should work for most anyone...

            Viruses are mostly the symptoms of warez kiddies and idiots who click on random email attachments, everyone else should be up to date with their security regardless of the client OS and I shouldn't think you in either of the above categories.

            Quake is a debian package last I checked and Lotus 1-2-3 on an XT is still better than Excel. Servers are an software classification and have jack all to do with the computers themselves, but that sounds like semantics so I'll just say I know what you mean.

            You did of course look into my other helpful suggestions which will shortly be making your life easier instead of dismissing them all as being the ramblings of one of Bill's brainwashed lackeys. Right.

  2. enochsmiles says:

    Hey, I just quit my job, and I'm bored. I'm going to be up in the Bay Area soon -- want a hand?

  3. dustout says:

    Buy another of the same thing, put your faulty one in the new box and then get a refund on it.

    • ciphergoth says:

      This only works if the flaw is with that unit. I fear it is a design flaw...

      • jwz says:

        I'm also worried that it's a design flaw, but it's just such a glaring, basic flaw that I can't imagine how this camera could possibly be of any use to anyone if that's the case.

  4. solarbird says:

    By "re-enter [the positions] manually," do you mean something you could automate?

    Assuming you can't return it, you could have some cron job remind the camera what "preset positions" means before opening time every day. Or if it won't interfere too much with camera operation, every 10 minutes if necessary.

    I ran a multi-line BBS once where I had to make a similar solution to keep the modems running. Basically, if someone disconnected before logging off, there was a 50/50 chance the modem controller (don't ask - it wasn't my hardware) would decide to never answer that modem again until it was reset. So we set up a job to reset all the modem controllers ran every half hour. It didn't disconnect current users, so was harmless and solved our problems.

    Sometimes stupid solutions are the best you've got. :-p

    • jwz says:

      There's no way to fully automate it, because there's no way to tell the camera "go back to zero." It loses track of where "zero" is.

      I did automate it somewhat -- I wrote a script where, after I've set position 1, it will set the others -- but it's still a pain in the ass, and doesn't work right all the time.

      One thing I have not tried is using the "reset to factory settings" command on the camera to see if that clears it up; I haven't tried this because one of the factory settings is that DHCP is off, and I don't want to have to fight that battle again if it turns out that it resets to that state as well.

      • cryllius says:

        There's no way to fully automate it, because there's no way to tell the camera "go back to zero." It loses track of where "zero" is.

        Could you make it go left a bunch, then down a bunch, to effectively find the corner? Just make it keep going in a direction until it hits a hard stop. Then reset all the positions from there.

        Assuming it doesn't try to tear out its own gears doing that...

        • jwz says:

          It can rotate freely forever: it never hits a stop.

          • cryllius says:

            You know, I figured that would be the other problem, since my idea was pretty obvious... that's a pretty nice camera though. Complex enough to design them that way that I'd imagine most companies don't bother.

            Or it would be a nice camera, except for the screaming flaws. Good luck with it and the rest of the computer horrors.

          • gen_witt says:

            You could put a largish red dot on that beam its attached to. Then write a script sweep the camera around and find it, and then use that point for refrence. It'd be a pain in the ass, but it might just work.

            • jwz says:

              Your plan will not be complete until it involves an anvil, a candle, and a mouse running in a wheel.

  5. Once again it becomes clear that my one purpose in life is to serve as a warning to others.

    No, I don't think there are any lessons to be learned in all this. I think you're just uniquely unlucky.

    [j]

  6. reuben_h says:

    Could you not stick a tiny fluorescent orange sticker (or other reasonably-uniquely-coloured small thing) near it, maybe on the beam it's attached to.

    You could then write your camera-calibrating client to zoom around randomly, scanning each downloaded picture until it locates the bit of orange colour which it can then centre on. This would be obviously be your 'zero' position.

    If the uniquely-coloured-dot-in-a-fixed-position solution is feasible, I'm sorry to admit I could write the image-scanning client stuff quite easily for you, if you don't mind it being Win32. (It's only an http client from your point of view - not like it'd have to run on any of your machines.)

  7. Well, goddamn.

    I'm sorry to hear about your computer woes, I know I've had plenty of my own. I'd offer to help out if I didn't know you and your cadre were entirely capable.

    I went to DNA Lounge a while back for a show, I don't recall who - VNV, maybe - and I was so impressed with the place that I drunkenly sought employment. I noticed xscreensaver's 'deluxe' module running, but didn't realize who intimately involved with the shop you were.

    It was a good time, thanks for contributing to my evening.