Rohit's Realm - Technology

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September 29, 2002

Something Is Very Wrong

Nothing is working right now. Looks like I might have hard disk failure on one of my computers. And then there is the printer straight out of Office Space that never works. Not to mention the power failing over and over again, causing my UNIX machine to get file system errors. This doesn't include the headphones that play in one ear only, the speakers that make weird noises late at night, and the monitor that gets white lines every once in a while. Then Outlook crashes and reboots my computer when I attempt to delete a message. Wireless works only when I stand near the bed, but not when I stand near the dresser and NFS never works at all. The wireless card won't work with FreeBSD because of system incompatibilities. SP1 on WinXP seems to be causing instability, Microsoft Office doesn't work anymore, and I have no time to deal with any of it, because I have a Bio midterm tomorrow. FINALLY, best of all, the blogger seems to be messing up my archives, in that it's deleting them. WHAT?! Good for all this. So what does EECS really teach you?? How to fix computers?? Of course not, it just makes you more aware of the futility of attempting such a task.

January 05, 2003

Hackers and Con Artists

I read an interesting article in The New York Times today, which is delivered to my email box on a daily basis, comparing Abagnale in Catch Me If You Can to modern hackers. Read it if you have the time or inclination (and a registration to the N.Y. Times site).

February 08, 2003

Compile, Dammit, COMPILE!

Sadly, I'm not even referring to my own code in this situation, though I have felt this same way when doing my own programming as well. But no, this has nothing to do with me at all. I just wanted to reinstall PostgreSQL because the latest port had come out and it was recommended that updates be made. So I went to the ports section, and tried to just type the usual make install clean, but then it gave me some dumbass bug about how gettext was already installed, so I would have to force a re-register or make deinstall. Fine, I went to the port directory for gettext and uninstalled it (what do I care about international support, anyway, right?).

February 15, 2003

Bored To Sleep

Last night would have been a big bust, but I wasn't really expecting much, so it was no big deal. The only thing that makes me mad is that I had to pay to get in to Cloyne (a coop), and then nothing happened, so I just ended up hanging out with other people. I might as well have not gone, and just chilled with the others the entire night, but I wanted to check it out because of multiple recommendations. Oh well, considering the amount of work for school I want to get done, and the other stuff I want to do (for fun), it's probably a good thing that the party last night didn't end up going on until 3 a.m., because then I would have inevitably ended up waking up at 3 p.m., and then I wouldn't be able to do anything today.

March 24, 2003

Ain't No Place Like Home, Right?

Coming home has become a somewhat bittersweet event these days. While I do enjoy the time off, sleeping in my queen size bed (versus the twin in my apartment from which my feet hang out), watching episodes from the first season of The X-Files, and generally doing nothing but eating and chilling, I'm also growing somewhat bored already, and it's only been 2 days. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that many of my friends are not home at the same time as me, so thus I haven't really been hanging out that much. Also, I feel kind of guilty, because when I'm bored and have absolutely nothing to do, I haven't been doing homework like I should be because I have a ton of crap right after break. But it's still early. I'll probably get around to doing my homework soon enough, considering the rate that my boredom is increasing.

September 12, 2003

12'' of Pure Sex Appeal

In case I haven't mentioned it yet (and I probably have not, given how this week is coming along), I purchased a new Apple PowerBook 12'', 10 GB iPod and a HP printer I didn't even need. The total came out to be $2009.12. Yeah, I know I have a problem and I need to stop spending so much money. But, I don't think you guys understand how much I like my new computer!

July 31, 2004

The Unusual Antidepressant

People often ask me how I can say that I rarely, if ever, get depressed. I don't know if that's a routine question or they are insinuating that I should be more depressed than I am, but I'm just going to ignore that matter for now. Usually, I just cryptically say that I have access to an unusual antidepressant, but this has had the negative effect of bringing my emotional stability into scrutiny. To set the record straight, I'd like to explain my technique for not being depressed.

August 11, 2005

Prozac for the People

Although summer time is usually a happy time for most people, I'm sure everyone goes through a slump despite the warm, sunny days and temperate evenings, for one reason or another. Perhaps that summer fling you were hoping for hasn't materialized, or maybe, that summer fling you just had worked a little bit too well, and now you need to tell your boyfriend/girlfriend who was abroad for the summer about it. Or maybe you're just someone who has a lot to be depressed about, regardless of the season. Regular readers of my site probably remember my post on the unusual antidepressant from last year, and hopefully find solace in it, but for all you unenlightened folks, I'm going take this opportunity to discuss another avenue for finding happiness and self-confidence in this dog-eat-dog world trying very hard to destroy both.

September 05, 2005

Rest in Peace

It is with a heavy heart and a wavering voice that I must announce the passing of a dear friend last night at my housewarming party. On September 4, 2005, at about 4 pm, my tried and true digital camera, a stalwart companion throughout my undergraduate years at Cal, took its last picture, before the lens falling out of the socket rendered it nonoperational.

November 23, 2005

To My Children

Dearest Children,

Forgive me, for if you are indeed reading this letter, that means I am veritably a father and probably have much to atone. I sincerely hope you took most of your qualities from your mother, since quite frankly, with the exception of my unwavering cynicism and prolific hatred, I do not offer much, especially genetically. Moreover, she must be quite an amazing woman to have put up with my antics for such a long time.

December 28, 2005

Facebook Friends

Nearly two years ago, at what might, in retrospect, be seen as a golden age of cynicism and anger in the prolific history of, I ventured that all interpersonal relationships could be defined on the basis of convenience, exploitation, and self-aggrandizement. Well, with the advent of social networks such as Facebook and My Space, I realized today that my trusty pyramid of yesteryear could not be veritably applied to the digital representations of relationships on social networks. Thus, for this entry I decided to prepare a more comprehensive analysis of the purported friendships tauted on social networks.

April 02, 2006

Digital Prenuptials

The Wall Street Journal last Monday had an interesting article discussing the travails of modern breakups in the light of the pervasive technologies of the 21st century, and moreover, the ends to which people go to delete, both metaphorically and literally, their former significant other (a/k/a exso) from their lives. I don't think it should surprise any of you that I have something to say about this, considering it has to do with two topics near and dear to me: technology and (the failure of) relationships.

July 20, 2006

Le Roi est mort. Vive le Roi!

Popularity. The quality of being well-liked or admired. A nearly universal human impulse, if you ask me. I mean, even hipsters, scenesters, Goths, and all kinds of other counterculture assholes rely on popularity to define their internal social structures. The only difference between them and the yuppie assholes is their delusional belief that they are in fact different from the rest of society. But that's a different discussion altogether.

September 03, 2006

Coming Full Circle (or 270° At Least)

Some of you may have noticed that over this weekend, heretofore private albums in my photo gallery suddenly became public—sort of. This was not a mistake, nor did my site get hacked. After all the fanfare only nine months ago, why did I suddenly reverse my position regarding privacy of photographs?

October 23, 2006

Insecurity Through Ineptitude

As any self-respecting computer scientist worth her salt could tell you, in the last few years a big stink has been made about the concept of security through obscurity (long story short, it is more or less stupid). Much less has been written about the entirely false illusion of security bought by idiotic, time-consuming, and generally useless methods, or as I like to call it, insecurity through ineptitude. With the recent release of MS IE7 as well as my regrettable encounters with a multitude of ridiculous and generally maddening building security measures, I thought it'd be the ideal time to let out some rage.

March 06, 2007

A Tale of Two Feeds

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Though Dickens may have been writing about the French Revolution when he opened his much-exalted A Tale of Two Cities, his proverbial words could just as easily apply to a very different revolution: the RSS revolution, and its still nascent descendant, Atom.

March 13, 2007

Outsourcing My (Digital) Existence

As my last few entries have likely made abundantly clear to all but the most nescient of readers, I am what some people might politely describe as a technophile. (Actually, geek, nerd, asshole, or idiot are significantly more commonplace, but that is hardly the point.) What is likely less obvious based on my sanguine and happy-go-lucky web persona is that I am also about as much of a control freak—in life in general and in technology in particular—as one can be without also possessing a C.P.A. In the past couple years, these two rather dominant characteristics have become increasingly incompatible: my desire to possess the latest and greatest technology stands in stark conflict with my insatiable need to retain control over all my data. Yesterday, this long-standing cold war suddenly became hot over what most will consider a rather mundane commodity: e-mail.

April 18, 2007

Synchronizing Gmail Contacts

I hate to disappoint those readers who have become accustomed to reading my angst-ridden entries of late (I swear I am not in high school still!), but I thought I would take a (brief) break from contemplating suicide to discuss a topic that is likely just as uninteresting for the majority of readers: how do I synchronize my Gmail contacts with my CrackBerry™?

July 03, 2007

OpenID, Gallery, and the Big Three

Besides the withering battles with existential angst and the woeful failures with women, the biggest problems in my life in recent years have revolved around my photo gallery. Specifically, I have struggled with achieving a proper balance between the diametrically opposed goals of providing access to friends and family, and simultaneously, limiting access to the general public. (My political career may well be ruined, but that does not mean I should actively try to ruin that of others.) A quick historical survey of the archive should demonstrate just how much of a problem this has been.

July 24, 2007

Even Though I Sell Rocks

As the venerable Realm has gained increasing fame and notoriety amongst friends, family, and the odd disaffected, suicide-prone, emo high school student, I have frequently been asked questions in real life about the specifics of my web site. The most common series of questions is as follows:

  1. What the heck/hell/fuck is wrong with you?
  2. What do you use to host your site? and
  3. Why don't you put advertising on your site?

As the first question is difficult to answer (and indeed, may have no singular answer at all), I will oblige loyal readers by answering the latter two.

August 05, 2007

Digital Marriage Therapy

Though I am not one to generally spend much time or energy with the Wall Street Journal's Pursuits section (my preference runs to the Editorials), every once in a while, a gem will surface that is not only worth reading, but also worth blogging about; this weekend's edition presented such an opportunity with 'Til Tech Do Us Part, an article on the problems of marriage in the digital age. Now, regular readers will likely recall that about a year ago, I published a manifesto that purported to mitigate the hassles of break-ups in the digital age, but that analysis tends to breakdown when one cannot soundly assume the relationship will end in catastrophic failure, i.e., the objective is to remain in said relationship (understandably, this is a distinctly foreign concept for yours truly). In any case, though I may know next to nothing about how (or why) one might sustain any such entanglement beyond a couple months, let alone 'til death do us part, technology remains my forté: allow me to impart my wisdom.

August 12, 2007

On Virtual Worlds and Second Lives

In the past year or so, as Linden Lab's Second Life® has gained accelerating coverage in first technology, and then, mainstream media, I have become increasingly interested in the notion of virtual worlds, as well as I might—they present an incredibly interesting environment for study of human behavior, technology, and economics, all topics near and dear to me. However, the article that really took the cake (so to speak) for me was one I read in this Friday's Journal, about one man's virtual marriage within Second Life and the toll it is having on his actual marriage (in real life). Now, even if we leave aside the (entirely legitimate) question of why one would seek an additional, virtual marriage, with no real (i.e., sexual or financial) benefits, when already encumbered with one in one's first life, we are still left with a number of questions about why someone might feel compelled to join, and more importantly, actively participate in such an environment in the first place.

August 14, 2007

It's the Network, Stupid

Social networking may now be the buzz phrase du jour amongst the iPod-wearing, MacBook-sporting techno-dilettantes constantly drinking grande lattes (or whatever the fuck it is they order) who consider themselves computer scientists because they read about Ruby on Rails, but for me, it is a phenomenon that is nearly five years in the making, and frankly, one which, in recent months, has had me wondering whether it is even worth the trouble.

September 04, 2007

Raising the Bar

Since I was a very young boy, my parents have always warned me about the dangers of tempting Fate, and skeptic that I am, I have generally always looked upon such warnings with a mixture of bemusement and annoyance. Bah! What nonsense! Thus, it should be no surprise that last week, in a bout of characteristic irreverance, I did exactly what my parents have long warned me against: I tempted Fate most egregiously. Writing in reference to my classic 2003 rant about bureaucrat ineptitude in my newly self-published book, I observed that I doubt I have ever experienced a more frustrating level of bureaucratic incompetence in my life [than what was experienced with the College of L&S], though that is not for lack of trying. Lo and behold, my parents were right. The honor that was rightly held for more than four years by the esteemed liberal arts school at my alma mater has now passed to an even more worthy entity (or should I say, adversary): Cingular®—wait, I mean the new AT&T®. Raising the Bar™—of red tape, idiocy, and obstructionism.

December 07, 2007

SuperPoke and the Meaning of Life

Those readers for whom social networking is not a way of life (are there really any of you out there?) will be forgiven if they do not understand the reference in the title, but I would think that the vast majority of people will at least be aware of the concept, if not active participants in its ever-growing popularity. Perhaps you even have an opinion on the topic. In the last few months since the SuperPoke Facebook application took off, I have heard assessments that run the gamut. To some, it is the next best thing since Al Gore invented the In-ter-net. To others, it is simply one more mindless and purposeless activity that has come to represent the worthlessness of the unwashed masses. Cynical readers will likely assume that mere invocation of worthless unwashed masses would draw me to that side of the argument like a moth to flame—or a fly to shit. Au contraire, ye of little faith! [...]

February 03, 2008

Economic Incentives for a Life of Crime

Beagle Family

As my dramatically diminished frequency of posting in the new year should suggest, I have been immersed in a lot of unpleasantness in recent weeks. Between increasingly frantic attempts at securing employment for the summer and reuniting with the maladjusted boys of 1524, I hardly had any time before last weekend to work on the quarter's only assignment for Legal Research and Writing, viz. a legal memorandum on intrusion of privacy worth 45% of the grade for the year. Needless to say, I overshot the word limit by over 1,800 words—this blog should be evidence enough of my inability to check the penchant for spewing incoherent nonsense—and had to spend all of last Sunday cutting out entire paragraphs, sentences, and towards the end, prepositions, articles, and other structures vital to sound writing. As hour after tedious hour of reading the same incomprehensible gibberish for expendable words and thoughts passed, I could not help but fall into a state of despair and existential angst (not an infrequent occurrence), pondering the same questions that have haunted me for years on end: (1) What am I doing with my life? and (2) Why did I not choose to pursue a life of crime?

February 11, 2008

Say It Ain't So, Rohit

Those readers who have only recently joined me in the meaningless and ultimately futile enterprise known as my life—I mean, the Realm—may justly assume that the purpose of this blog (insofar as it has one) is to indulge the self-absorbed, narcissistic tendencies of its (optimistically) cynical author as he drifts aimlessly in a turbulent sea of mediocrity, loneliness, and despair. While this may indeed be what the illustrious Realm is about these days, incoherent rambling about mediocrity, loneliness, and despair was not where it got its start. In its original manifestation, the Realm existed for two purposes: (1) to counteract a world obsessed with and deluded by theoretical agents of purported happiness such as love, marriage, and children; and (2) to hate on bums. In a much-referenced entry last year, I acknowledged my shameful hypocrisy with respect to the former; today, I shall do so with respect to the latter. Say it ain't so, Rohit. Say it ain't so.

March 03, 2008

Four Reasons Why Google Reader Shared Items Suck

As many of you who know me in real life could attest to, I am a fairly hardcore user of Google Reader for all my syndication needs. Until quite recently, I would venture that I was a very satisfied user. The introduction of the Shared Items and Friends, however may just change my mind.

April 26, 2008

Much Ado About Chicago Law's Classroom Internet Ban: A Faux-Empirical Study

It has been a month since Spring Quarter classes commenced at The Law School, and more importantly, since the policies outlined in the now infamous e-mail read 'round the world went into effect. Of course, here I refer to the e-mail from the Dean which informed us, much to our chagrin, that the beloved Internet which had once been provided in its full edu-network glory—for educational purposes only, of course—would no longer be available to us in the classroom.

Worse still, this was not a result of the so-called democratic process, where poor and starving law students, induced by promises of free food from sub-par establishments in the greater Hyde Park area arrive to do whatever it is they need to do to get said food, but instead, an onerous mandate from the administration. People had complained, they said. Learning would be enhanced, they told us. In the end, our experience will be better without classroom Internet, they assured us. Somewhere, a University of Chicago Nobel Laureate rolled over in his grave. Paternalism, the bane of libertarians, conservatives, and Federalist Society members near and far, had supposedly arrived at the once stalwart home of the free market economy. Oh, the irony.

May 05, 2008

Stable Marriage and Information Failure in the Social Marketplace

Standing around at a bar last Friday night, sipping a dirty martini and semi-engaged in a lackluster conversation with some random woman I had met approximately ninety seconds earlier, I felt my thoughts drift almost involuntarily from trying to figure out whether she was attractive or I was hallucinating, to the Stable Marriage Algorithm and pervasive information failures in day-to-day existence. This is only one of the many reasons why I do not have a girlfriend.

July 11, 2008

If You Can't Beat 'Em . . .

HFK recently pointed out that it was rather surprising that my shared items were regularly appearing in his reader given that I had excoriated the feature only months before with characteristic vitriol and bitterness. Admittedly, this is quite an about-face. To whom or what do we attribute this nontrivial change of heart?

July 19, 2008

Reflections on Life, Law, and the UNIX Command Line

With grades from the last quarter of my 1L year (finally) in, the dreadful journal competition (finally) complete, and the summer winding down faster than it began, I was already left poised this week for reflection (as though I need any help with that!). Surprisingly, however, it was a minor calamity involving my photo server (the noble that ended up providing the catalyzing spark necessary for me to contemplate the perennial question that has come to define not only me, but more importantly, this blog: what am I doing with my life (and why have I not yet killed myself)?

August 10, 2008

The Other One: Confessions of an Unapologetic Adulterer

News that former presidential candidate John Edwards lied about an extramarital affair got me thinking about my own licentious ways and especially the torrid—and tawdry!—affair that I have been carrying on for past few years. Since it has transitioned from the realm of mere physical attraction to that of true emotional attachment, I can no longer keep it a secret. And unlike Messr. Edwards, who in a race to the bottom justified his affair on the basis that his wife's cancer was in remission, I will not attempt to effect disingenuous contrition; I stand proud and unapologetic over my adulterous ways.

August 29, 2008


In the twenty odd years of my woeful existence on this planet, I have often been accused of possessing various socially undesirable qualities, none of which require rehashing here (lest I start crying). Very likely, attention deficit disorder was not one of them. Indeed, if there is any redeemable quality at all to my (necessarily futile) existence, it is that I can concentrate in the face of rampant distraction very well.

Except that I cannot. (Readers can now rest assured that my life has no redeemable quality whatsoever.) To clarify, my powers of concentration only function when I care about what I am doing. The slightest inclination of the tedious, idiotic, or onerous, and suddenly, I have more ADD than a five-year-old on a sugar rush freebasing with a spoon and lighter (what?).

The latter state is one in which I find myself today, faced (yet again) with the prospect of packing up all my possessions and moving to a new apartment. Worse still, when I get into these ADD moods, it tends to exacerbate my already strong tendency towards obsessive-compulsive behavior. So, with hours of packing left, tomorrow completely unavailable, and the movers arriving Sunday morning, I find myself tormented over why I have never dedicated time to my IM buddy list organization scheme. Someone needs to put me out of my misery.

September 18, 2009

The Fall from (Geek) Grace

While stories of devastating, relentless failure with women—and in life more broadly—are so commonplace to my miserable existence (and this blog) as to be passé, one should never doubt my unfaltering capacity to achieve new lows with each passing year. This week brought just such a low, and in an unlikely arena—technology—demonstrating clearly that my material worthlessness is not limited to social interactions, but instead permeates the very fabric of my being.

May 15, 2010

Melancholy and the Infinite Sadness

There was a time in my life where I would often find myself sitting alone in a dark room in the middle of the night, my face illuminated only by the faint glow of my computer monitor, furiously pounding away on the keyboard, the week-old beard, unkempt hair, and dark circles under my eyes a testament to my hard core ways. After all, I was once a (much reviled) engineer, and more importantly, a code monkey. And though the painful awkwardness, perpetual loneliness, and paralyzing sexual frustration characteristic of my past life as a computer science major have all remained with me, I had thought the days (and nights) of bitter and futile fights with technology were a distant memory. So much the worse, then, that my horrid return to late night keyboard pounding would come as a consequence of something so atrocious I can barely stomach thinking about it even now: installing Windows 7. Excuse me for a second; I am going to be sick.

June 03, 2010

Ramblings on Privacy and Limited Access

Ever since the latest (though very likely, not the last) Facebook privacy brouhaha broke out last month, I have been struggling to formulate my thoughts on the subject into a coherent position. It has not been easy. My initial reaction was both simple and simplistic: Want privacy? Don't put shit on the Internet you wouldn't be comfortable with the entire world knowing or seeing. And as a theoretical matter, that's probably exactly right: with most positions in people's respective relationship portfolio occupied by commodity and deadweight relationships, there is no telling when betrayal might next strike. Indeed, under generally accepted principles of the venerable Realm, namely that all personal interactions are better treated as corporate transactions, we might expect that a betrayal is likely as soon as the counterparty gets a better deal (somehow defined) elsewhere. So, when reputational costs and the like associated with betraying a friendship exceed the benefits derived therefrom, we should expect—and in fact, for the sake of all that is efficient holy, demand—that at least the commodities and deadweight relationships and maybe even the value-added ones sell us out. Efficient breach! Social utility! Fuck the poor! (Wait, what?)

But the more I think about it, the more I am convinced that both as a normative and practical matter, this sort of approach to living is neither desirable nor attainable. And it is precisely that notion that I will occupy myself with in this post.

January 02, 2011

The Death of the Public Journal

It has been half a decade since I last posted New Year's resolutions, and by and large, my track record with accomplishing the resolutions I have mentally set for myself since then has been just as dismal as my performance in writing for this most forlorn of sites in the past few years. As I was thinking of what I wanted to accomplish this year, however, I could not help but recognize how useful the practice of writing down resolutions was, and for two independent reasons. The first (and most obvious) is that writing down the resolutions provides a means of referring back, and measuring success (or, in my case, failure) on a year-to-date and year-on-year basis. The second, however, is what I find to be more interesting: being able to look back years after the fact and see what I was thinking at a very different time in my life. The latter gets to a point I made some years ago: I only wish that I could have had the foresight to have begun writing earlier . . . ; it is an immensely powerful feeling to read what you have written so many years before, feeding not only wistful nostalgia, but an undeniable sense of accomplishment and maturity.

Having established that writing down things is necessarily a good thing doesn't, however, say much about the medium in which it is written. And in many ways, the conundrum I face today is that I am looking to find personal significance through blog posts I had composed at other times in my life, knowing full well the manner in which those posts were composed. Put otherwise, what I am looking for is a journal, and what I have is a blog. There is a distinction between the two, and for this particular enterprise, it makes all the difference in the world.

July 04, 2011

On Asset Classes and Relationship Portfolios

As the wretched few who have been with me for far too many years know, there are moments, thankfully few and far in between, when I emerge from a haze of existential angst and school- or work-induced stupor to direct my attention and incoherence upon some subject other than the futility of life. One such phenomenon with which I have occupied myself over the years is social networking, or more specifically, the proper mechanisms by which to sort the disparate groups of individuals—value-added, commodity, and deadweight—that comprise one's relationship portfolio to protect what little semblance of privacy still exists on the web.

And while I have in the past touched upon this topic, first, in analyzing the state of relationships on Facebook back in 2005, and then in advocating for asset liquidation in 2008, I must admit that I have never fully thought through how to best implement what is fundamentally a rather complicated access control problem rife with real world social considerations. The advent of Google Plus last week and this holiday weekend presented an excellent opportunity, however, to sit down and think (alone and in the dark, obviously); what follows are some initial thoughts on the subject.

July 23, 2011

Good Things, Small Packages

The clock struck four. I looked up from the book in which I was buried and considered my options. If it was going to happen today, it would have to happen now. Silently, after a moment more of indecision for which we Libras are known­, I set down the book, and surveyed my apartment for what I would need as I traversed the depths of hell. Having found my wallet, keys, and sunglasses, I was out the door and on my way.

August 29, 2011

Virtual Reality

Madden 12

For all the mind-numbing technical gibberish I routinely spout on this most wretched of sites, there remains one technical topic that I have rarely—if ever—breached: video games. Considering it is a subject so closely aligned in the popular psyche with technology and computer geekery, that is as strange an omission as it is a confounding one. What could possible have motivated such a silence for over nine years of this blog's existence?

Could it be shame? But, as a rather unapologetic (computer) nerd who as recently as 2007 refused to outsource my e-mail, what possible shame could there be in admitting I like video games? None, as it were. My consummate failures are, after all, well known to this readership—to reveal, for instance, that I was a video game addict wouldn't do any more harm than, say, this entry, already has to my beleaguered (online) reputation.

So, what's the deal then? Simple: I don't write about video games because I neither play nor am interested in video games. (I know: blasphemy!) In fact, of mainstream societal indulgences today, I can't think of one (besides maybe television) in which I have less interest than gaming.

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.

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 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.