We had this hippie Phish-wannabe jazz-fusion/jam-band on New Year's Eve. I hated it, of course, but it was pretty successful as such things go: we had a lot of people, and they did not smell bad.

Perhaps the significance of this is lost on you:

When one books hippie bands (and even certain psytrance acts), one runs the risk of having the club stink to high heaven afterward, because they are often a bathing-optional group of people. (There was one time that some guy came to retrieve his stuff from coat check, and the coat check girl told him, "you have to wait, because your parka smelled so bad I had to have someone go hang it in the back stairway." He said, "Oh, ok," and didn't bat an eye. You'd think most people would react negatively to "dude, you fuckin' stink." Alas, no.)

But I digress. This was an older, non-malodorous crowd, probably because it cost them $100 to get in, so they tended more towards the "yuppie" than the "hippie." That price included an open bar, and surprisingly, we did not have an above-average number of pukers.

So at some point early in the night, Barry calls Big Dave over to where he's standing. He hands him this small object: it's a pack of rolling papers, with the band's logo printed on the wrapper. Big Dave says, "huh." Barry steps aside, revealing the table behind him, which is covered with them, lined up neatly.

Big Dave gets big eyes, and says, "oh, I am so not ok with that." Barry says, "I didn't think you would be."

I mean really, in what parallel universe is doing something like that ok? Don't these people watch the news? Don't they realize the kind of bullshit crackdowns nightclubs are facing these days? The DEA claims that glow-sticks are drug paraphernalia. I wonder what they'd think about rolling papers? Oh, but I'm sure "it's cool, man" because they probably said "for tobacco use only" on the back. Morons!

Check out the image to the right, from the DEA's site. I can't find a larger version of it, but isn't that just the coolest thing ever? The grim reaper has a glowstick and a pacifier! And laser beams on his head!

We have, by the way, been getting more visits from undercover (presumably) DEA agents soliciting illegal acts from our staff. I understand this is because the DEA recently got a massive budget increase to fight the Demon Drug Extacy, so now they've got the budget to start sending people out to harass nightclub staff every night. Your tax dollars at work.

Remember that wireless network connection we mostly got working a couple months ago? Well, the other day we got an irate phone call from the apparent owner of the loft building on the corner, on whose roof the dish sat. He had a total hissy fit at Barry about "how dare you tresspass on my property" blah blah blah. When in fact, we had gotten prior permission from both the residents of the unit whose roof it was on, and from the building's landlord! I guess "landlord" and "owner" are different people. Whatever, this guy was a real prick about it. So, we took the dish down; we hadn't been using it anyway. Oh, and he'd apparently tried to yank it down himself before he called. (We put our name and phone number on the side of it so it was clear who it belonged to, but I guess he was in a real hurry for it to no longer be there.)

At this point, I sure am glad we managed to get a land line.

There's this recurring problem we've been having where sometimes, the lower-bitrate audio streams will go all chipmunk-voiced: they playing too fast, meaning the MP3 data got corrupted somehow. Of course there's no way to automatically detect this, so the only way it gets fixed is if someone out there listening mails me about it, and I reset things by hand. (Please do mail me if you notice something going wrong.)

This isn't a bandwidth problem, since the 128k stream is always fine (and the lower streams are generated locally from that one.) So, my best theory is that it's a load problem: that the machine serving the streams doesn't have enough CPU to keep up with the current demand. It could be that this problem only started happening when we moved into our new colo, and upped the maximum number of connections. I tried temporarily lowering the number of connections to see if the problem went away, but the results were inconclusive and confusing.

The machine had a 700MHz CPU in it, and we bought a pair of 1GHz CPUs to replace that. Jonathan did his homework, and verified that the motherboard could handle it first... But no. We went down to colo and put the new chips in, and the BIOS was unhappy: apparently the BIOS was old enough that it believed that 700MHz was the fastest CPU available, and complained. If we ignored it and booted Linux anyway, Linux was totally happy, and utilized both CPUs.

So leave it alone, right? Well, when the BIOS complains, it sits there and waits for you to type F1 before it will continue: which means that someone would have to type something every time the machine rebooted. Not exactly a happy state of affairs for a colo machine. So we downloaded a BIOS update, wrote it to a floppy, and booted it. It ground away, reached 100% and then spat out some incomprehensible error message. Oh well, maybe we'd better reboot and try again.

Big mistake. Now we have no BIOS and the machine won't even turn on.

So, there's a jumper for "emergency BIOS recovery." Apparently how it's supposed to work is, you set the jumper, power on with a floppy in, and it has a tiny fallback BIOS that reads the floppy, executes the installer, and upgrades the real BIOS (all this without activating the monitor or keyboard, which is apparently rocket science.) You know it's done when it beeps twice, and you know it didn't work if it beeps continuously.

So what did it do? Nothing. No beeps at all.

Fortunately Jonathan knew that his former employer still had a few of these motherboards sitting in a cardboard box in the corner of their server room, so he was able to beg one out of them, and we got the machine running again (it's the machine that serves our MP3 archives.) But we're still in the situation that if this machine ever crashes, someone has to go in and type F1 before it will come up again. "Yay."

And amidst this CPU shuffling, I also upgraded the machine that runs RealProducer to generate the RealVideo webcasts: it had been a 700MHz CPU, and I replaced that with a pair of 500MHz CPUs. That part went fine, except ever since, the RealVideo stream has been choppy: either audio or video (but generally not both at once) will stop for minutes at a time. The stats have looked like this a lot:

and sometimes even:

...which is not good. So, I don't know, it could be coincidental network weather, or it could be that RealProducer just doesn't work right on multi-CPU machines. Now, you'd have to actually go out of your way to write a program that had that sort of bug, but those folks at Real are very, very creative like that, so I wouldn't put it past them.

Hey, don't forget to come out to see Nina Hagen this Tuesday and/or Wednesday:

We had her here in August, and it was an amazing show. That woman is some kind of high powered mutant never even considered for mass production (to steal a line from Fear and Loathing.) She puts on one hell of a performance; pictures here.

Our advanced ticket sales have been pretty low, which is disappointing to me mostly because it means a lot of you are not trusting me when I tell you that this will be a great show! So, show up, 'k?

DANGER: hard core geekery ahead! I don't make fun of hippies or drunk people at all in this entry.

So, while we were testing some things trying to figure out how to recover the motherboard with the scorched BIOS, I accidentally typed "shutdown" at the wrong machine: I shut down the machine in colo (the mp3 server.) I lost all of my sysadmin cred with that one (if I ever had any to begin with) and we had to get Tom to let us in to colo to try and fix it.

There are three machines involved, all of which are VA Linux FullOn 2230s, with Intel L440GX+ motherboards. Two of the machines are at the club (the MP3 encoder, and the RealVideo encoder) and the third is in colo (the MP3 server that the outside world connects to.) Here's what we've learned:

  • Linux will run fine on these mobos with any processor available (500MHz, 700MHz, or 1GHz), alone or in pairs.

  • BIOS 9.something and 10.something work fine with 500MHz and 700MHz CPUs, alone or in pairs.

  • BIOS 9.something and 10.something freak slightly when confronted with 1GHz CPUs: the BIOS doesn't know what to make of it, and pauses waiting for you to type F1 before continuing. (But after that, it will boot, and Linux works fine.)

  • BIOS 14.3 (build 133, the latest release) freaks hard when confronted with either 700MHz or 1GHz CPUs: it says something to the effect of, "CPU not compatible with mainboard revision." After that, it won't boot at all. That's right, upgrading the BIOS makes it no longer able to boot the 700MHz CPUs (which it previously had no complaints about whatsoever), and likewise unable to boot the 1GHz CPUs, which it would previously grudgingly tolerate. This despite the fact that the release notes say that 1GHz CPUs have been supported since 13.0. (Our mainboard version numbers are recent enough, according to the relnotes.)

  • Intel's BIOS upgrader software will not let you make a backup of the previous BIOS version so that you can back out the change: apparently the BIOS is locked as write-only. (Incidentally, the BIOS NVRAM is surface-mounted, not in a socket.)

  • BIOSes older than 14.x are not available for download anywhere.

We could not find any way to get a 1GHz chip to boot unattended; we could not find any way to get any chip but a 500MHz to work on a mobo whose BIOS had been upgraded; nor could we find any way to downgrade the BIOS. Fuck you very much, Intel.

So, we had three machines, five motherboards with various BIOSes on them, nine CPUs of various flavors, and a jigsaw puzzle of an evening ahead of us. One of the motherboards had a corrupted BIOS, and another of the motherboards has a dead SCSI controller.

We spent a long time trying to un-scorch the dead BIOS to no avail; and we considered switching to IDE disks for the one without a SCSI controller. But to make a long and tortuous story short, here's what we ended up with:

Machine: Last week: Desired: Actual:
MP3 Encoder, club 2 x 500MHz 2 x 700MHz 2 x 500MHz
Real Encoder, club 1 x 700MHz 2 x 500MHz 2 x 1GHz (must type F1 to reboot)
MP3 Server, colo 1 x 700MHz 2 x 1GHz 2 x 500MHz

We could have gotten the 2x1GHz CPUs onto the MP3 Server as originally intended, except then I would have had to go to colo to reboot it, so we made the "have to type F1" machine be at the club.

It turns out that RealEncoder will work on a 2x700MHz machine, or on a 1x700MHz machine, but not on a 2x500MHz machine. In hindsight, this makes a kind of sick sense, if you assume that the single RealEncoder process requires (say) a dedicated 600MHz to work properly. When we had 2x500MHz in there, I imagine that what was going on was that one of the CPUs was overloaded, and the other was mostly idle.

It remains to be seen whether 2x500 is better than 1x700 for the MP3 Server machine. I suspect it will be, since there are many load-ful processes running on it. But it still remains to be seen whether load was the cause of the "chipmunk" problem at all.

If any of you have any suggestions as to how to get an L440GX+ to work with a 1GHz Pentium III (Slot 1, 100MHz bus, 256K cache) please let me know! At this point, all I can think of is replacing both the motherboards and CPUs at the same time with some totally unrelated model, and I'm pretty tired of throwing money down this rathole. We just spent $330 on these new 1GHz CPUs because I thought the MP3 Server machine might have had a load problem! I don't even know if it'll fix anything...

Someone suggested I rig up a Dippy Bird to just keep hitting the F1 key over and over again, but alas, Dippy Bird dynamics does not allow for that (it has to actually be dipping in to water.)

The Nina Hagen shows both had a good turnout, despite the uncharacteristically low early ticket orders. Also they were great shows, as expected! Nina was her usual not-of-this-earth self. I was really impressed with David J: I'd never seen him do his solo material live before. He was very theatrical, and his set had that sinister cabaret feel that his "V For Vendetta" stuff did. Photos will be up in a few days.

We got new seating yesterday! There are now benches downstairs, along the walls on both sides. I think they make the main room a lot more comfortable. They look just like the benches that we have upstairs in the lounge, except they're black instead of speckled silver/gray (you didn't know the benches upstairs were speckled silver/gray, did you? Yeah, it's all black in the dark.) I was going to put up some pictures of them, but, being black, nothing shows up, so you'll have to use your imagination.

We also have some tables and ottomans to go along with them: the "new" tables are really just some of our old downstairs tables that have had the leg cut down so that they're the right height. The new ottomans are square instead of round like the ones upstairs. I liked the round ones better, but, the square ones were a lot cheaper, and I'm sure nobody but me will ever notice.

I must share with you a song that Devon, one of our floor guys, wrote about his experiences working here last weekend. To the tune of "Put the Lime in the Coconut":

    Yuppie bought some tequila, he bought it for a five
    His buddy gave another, and the party come alive.
    You put the poo in the toilet bowl, and not on the seat.
    You put the poo in the toilet bowl, and not on the seat.
    You put the poo in the toilet bowl
    Called the floor-guy, what a treat, and look,
    "Asshole, your folks toilet use not teach?
    I say, asshole, so I wipe it down with bleach.
    I say, asshole, your folks toilet use not teach?
    I say, asshole, so I wipe it down with bleach."

That is all.

Ok, I lied, I couldn't resist taking a picture of the new benches anyway. These are they:

Nina Hagen and David J pictures are up! As mentioned last time, Angela has started getting photo CDs made at PhotoWorks instead of at Wolf, and they're way better quality (though it takes a week to get them back instead of a day.) The CDs we got from PhotoWorks for the Incredibly Strange Wrestling show were good, but that was relatively brightly lit event, so we weren't totally sure. But the Nina Hagen show was typically dark, and they still came out good. So, yay.

For approximately eight months, the bulletin board in our office has had a note tacked to it reading, in its entirety, "email re: space ships." Other notes come and go, but this one remains. I don't know what it means, and I suspect I don't want to. But it makes me smile every time I see it.

Photos from the Claire Voyant / God Module / Grendel / Tesseract7 show are up. For some reason, the webcast for that show sounded awful: it was clipping like mad. I have no idea how it could have gone wrong in that way while still sounding fine in the main room. I guess the settings on the webcast compressor need more tweaking. Sigh...

Tesseract7 and Claire Voyant were enjoyable, but I really can't understand why "bands" like God Module and Grendel even bother to tour: their entire (interchangeable) act is one guy screaming in a Cookie Monster voice while the other guy pretends to play keyboards on top of their pre-recorded song. Someone said "look, it's Milli Vanilli!" but that's totally unfair to Milli Vanilli: at least they danced.

Cookie Monster Karaoke. This is what "industrial" has become.