Rohit's Realm

The thoughts, observations, and rants of the proverbial young urban professional.

September 04, 2018

The Photo Gallery Comes Home to Nest

As should be readily apparent from the lack of activity on this most wretched of sites—the last post was nearly a year ago and about some weird computer shit—very little these days can wake me from the somnolence that set in over me and this site years ago. But asleep shouldn’t necessarily be interpreted as moribund. While this pathetic excuse for a site hasn’t seen a comprehensive update in more than a decade, I have not abandoned all my web properties just yet.

For instance, following the untimely demise of the Gallery Project, I did develop and release a web application for displaying my photos on the web, built on top of the command line software that I had developed in 2006 to facilitate my photo management that has served me well over the years. Over Labor Day weekend, I managed to finalize and release a much needed update to that system. The balance of this post summarizes the changes made, and also briefly (and, very likely, futilely) discusses what is up next.

October 25, 2017

A Very Odd Couple: Apache Web Server Response Time and IPFilter

As those who have been with me on this miserable excuse for a website for awhile can likely attest, I am a fairly unabashed fan of *nix systems. I have been running FreeBSD at home for more than sixteen years and, for several years during that period, it was the only operating system I used. No Windows; no Macs; and sometimes no graphical user interfaces. Back in my truly hardcore days (i.e., Berkeley, circa 2002), I didn’t even bother to own a router; why waste the money on some piece of shit hardware (and back then, they really were pieces of shit, even more so than now) when I could route and NAT all the traffic through a computer I had built? Hell, I even flirted with OpenBSD, for crying out loud!

Of course, not all is beer and skittles when it comes to open source software: hardware incompatibility, broken device drivers, lacking (or worse, inaccurate) documentation, and maddeningly cryptic bugs will all sap your will to live if you spend enough time with it. And, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that over the years, my once unwavering dedication to all things *nix began to waver. I gave up running my own homebrew router sometime in 2004, and tearfully bade farewell to hosting my own e-mail in 2007.

So much the worse that I did, as those sysadmin skills would have undoubtedly come in handy in debugging one of the most cryptic bugs with my systems that I have encountered to date: massive Apache webserver (httpd) performance degradation resulting from a IPFilter glitch. For those interested, more on the problem, the symptoms by which it manifest itself, and also the eventual solution is below.

June 03, 2017

Learning the Hard Way: Postgres Recovery from the File System

There are some lessons in life that are perhaps better learned the hard way. That you should have a proper backup system for your data is not one of them. And it's especially not a lesson to learn the hard way when you have been building and working with computers for nearly two decades. But so it goes.

Earlier this week, I had a hard disk fail in one of my servers that doubles as my main workstation. It wasn't the first time I have had a disk fail (or even the first time one has failed in this particular machine), but it was by far the most damaging instance. For reasons that now escape me, I never bought a second hard drive to setup a RAID 1 mirror when I upgraded the system a couple years back (which I normally always do for this system), nor did I ever get my regular backup system running after the upgrade. Even more inexplicably, during that same time period, I went from using that machine solely for development to using it host my definitive photo database (described here).

So you can imagine how I felt when the computer refused to boot after an update. After several consecutive nights of staying up into the wee hours, I can say that I've almost brought things back to normal. No part of the process was pleasant, but by far the worst of it was trying to recover the Postgres database cluster from the file system because my database backups generated by pg_dump were too old.

October 02, 2016

Rohit Reviews: Light in August

Light in August

As I briefly observed in my review of Demons some years back, the order in which one approaches a particular author's catalog (oeuvre, for the pretentious among you) often influences one's perception of his or her individual works. And so was the case when I read William Faulkner's 1932 novel Light in August.

I was first exposed to Faulkner in high school (The Sound and the Fury), and since then, have made my way through two of his other major works—Absalom, Absalom! (for an English class in college) and As I Lay Dying (review here). In each of those instances, I recall enjoying the read but also struggling to make my way through it. The distortion of time, the dense, unpunctuated prose, and varying narratives all required tremendous focus to follow. Light in August was different.

August 21, 2016

An Update (of Sorts)

Well, hello there, dear readers. It's been a long while, has it not? Nearly three years to be precise and, really, quite a bit longer than that (tepid book reviews hardly count). And while I primarily decided to return to this site after so many years to test that the bug fixes I implemented over the weekend were working, I thought I might as well also put out an update (of sorts) while I'm at it.

August 24, 2013

Rohit Reviews: Demons


I would say something about my long absence from this loathsome affair, but is there even a point any more? You, dear readers, should know not to expect anything of me—I told you as much last year.

I return today to this miserable site to review Demons, Fyodor Dostoevsky's 1872 novel about political intrigue and revolutionary conspiracies in nineteenth century Russia, which I finished while traveling through India earlier this year. This being the last of Dostoevsky's major works on my reading list after Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamozov (review here), The Idiot (review here), and Notes from Underground (review here), I was expecting to be somewhat disappointed—how could this novel possibly match up to those awesome works of literature? Instead, I was rather pleasantly surprised.

March 24, 2013

Rohit Reviews: Nausea

Well, dear readers, it's been a while. I hope you didn't miss me too much over the past few months. (It's hard to imagine the scenario in which anyone might miss me or this dreadful blog, but hey—the world is full of strange and dreadful phenomena. Who am I to judge?) In any case, I wish I could tell you that I emerge today full of spirit and motivation to begin writing again, but that's simply not the case. I have, however, gotten through several books since I last wrote here, and will hopefully be reviewing a few of them over the next couple week. The first of the set is Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre, which I finished on a plane from Los Angeles to New York last Christmas. To put it mildly, it was definitely not a merry read.

Sartre's first novel, and purportedly his best, Nausea takes the form of the diary of Antoine Roquentin, a listless French writer who has moved to the small (and fictional) town of Bouville to research the subject of a biography he is writing. Fixated on and horrified by his existence, however, Roquentin spends much of the novel documenting his feelings and sensations as he goes through his daily routine and interacts with both animate and inanimate objects. And while certain other characters do make appearances, including an ex-lover (Anny) and a local acquaintance (the Self-Taught Man), the novel is largely a collection of Roquentin's (actually, Sartre's) thoughts on consciousness and the meaning of life (or the lack thereof).

August 18, 2012

Some Reflections on the Tenth Anniversary of the Realm

Even typing that title is a little disorienting: has it really been that long? Have I really been tending this miserable little spot on the web full of irrational rage and misguided existential angst and random computer shit and really crazy ideas for ten years? Am I really so old that a decade can pass me by with nary a notice? Hardly seems possible.

March 12, 2012

Rohit Reviews: War and Peace

War and Peace

For the benefit of those who have not had the insurmountable displeasure of interacting with me in person of late, I must admit that I have become somewhat fixated in recent months upon the so-called Mayan apocalypse and the prospect of world coming to an (unlamented) end on or about December 21, 2012 (the winter solstice). That's not to say I believe the world is coming to an end in nine months, because only lunatics and buffoons believe in such rubbish, but only that this prospect has caused me to contemplate the meaninglessness of life (alone and in the dark, of course) and consider the extent to which I have accomplished nothing more than I normally might. One natural question that follows from this line of thought is as follows: what would I regret not having accomplished if when I perished along with the rest of the wretched mass of humanity that torments this miserable planet like a biblical plague? The answer shouldn't be too hard to guess: I would regret having not gotten to Leo Tolstoy's 1869 epic, War and Peace.

And so, with heady thoughts of the world's end consuming me, I set out on January 1st of this year to accomplish at least this one goal in a life otherwise riddled with and downright failures. Last night, I accomplished this goal, some nine weeks after I began, and below I briefly summarize some of my impressions on this vast, towering novel.

February 01, 2012

Handwringing on the Subject of E-Books

Having committed most spare moments of the past month to making progress in Leo Tolstoy's massive 1869 tome, War and Peace, it seems only fitting to pause as I pass the approximate halfway point (end of Volume II, page 600 of 1224) and consider the vexing question of book format that has tormented me since the start of the e-ink revolution in late 2007. Although I bought a second generation Kindle shortly after its release in April 2009, and have since then occasionally used the thing to read books (as opposed to law articles), it has never replaced the physical format for me (as it has for many fellow techies I know). Indeed, both of my last two ill-advised book-buying binges have involved brick and mortar bookstores, and my version of War and Peace is the 2008 Vintage translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (easily my favorite Russian translators, incidentally).

As with most things in my sorry excuse for an existence, the question of why bothers me. Why haven't I abandoned the physical format yet (as I long did in music, TV, and movies)? E-books mean less clutter and less expense—what's not to love? Perhaps nothing. But I can think of at least three possible explanations as to why I—and many of my fellow bibliophiles—might not have made the leap to e-ink wholeheartedly: (1) books are intrinsically different than other media such that (a) format matters and (b) the physical format can be superior; (2) the utility people derive from pretension (i.e., others seeing your library) exceeds the cost of the clutter; or (3) we are relics of a soon to be bygone era on our way to waxing nostalgic about bookstores and paperback books much the way our parents' generation goes on about record stores and LPs.1 Bear with me as I tackle each of these thoughts in turn. Or don't: it wouldn't be the first time I (or this third-rate site) have been abandoned, and it certainly won't be the last.