NO WAI!!!!

October 12, 2006

So I guess the internet’s favorite nocturnal avians are driving cars now?  I was walking to lunch this afternoon when I happened to see these two license plates not ten feet from each other.


I work with the biggest group of nerds in the world.


Somebody’s watching . . . “Nobody’s Watching”

July 22, 2006

Apparently YouTube has saved the pilot for the comedy “Nobody’s Watching” (starring Billy from Battlestar Galactica, which is the only reason I’m bothering to post this here . . . well, that and the hilarious title I was able to do for this post).  Originally pitched to the WB, NBC has decided to pick it up and re-tool it because of the popularity of the pilot on YouTube.  While a part of me feels the need to root for the careers of the bit characters on my favorite show, NBC has its work cut out for it because that pilot was just godawful.  But hey, best of luck Billy and here’s hoping NBC can turn it into something with a few jokes that don’t make my sense of humor die a little on the inside.

On haters and goal posts

June 15, 2006

Ahhhh, fickle American media, how I love thee.  To them, the only thing that's better than a big national success is a big national failure in an unappreciated sport.  After months of unjustified hype, we go out and lay an egg in our opening World Cup game against the Czech Republic.  And now, all of a sudden, we're declared the biggest disappointment since Ryan Leif's rookie season (BURN!) or Charlize Theron's choice of Oscar dress (DOUBLE BURN!).  I'd like to say that I expected a little more class, but I honestly didn't.  So instead I'm hearing uninformed analysts going on about how our inevitable early exit is going to be such a huge disappointment and I'm hearing depressingly little about what we need to do to beat Italy on Saturday.  How about a little national pride?  A little optimism?  Hellz no, bitches, we like rubbing people's faces in their failures WAAAY more.  America == KICKASS.

But now for the game itself.  Pretty much any soccer analyst who had any idea what they were talking about knew that our chances of a win were pretty slim.  We don't match up against the Czech Republic well at all:  they have a big, athletic team and we don't.  Size, height, and strength are far from everything in soccer, but they make your job a hell of a lot easier.  You can loft the ball into the box and generate a lot of threats through the air, you can muscle the opposing strikers and midfielders off the ball, the list goes on.  Granted, we've added a lot of size since 2002 in the form of guys like Oguchi Onyewu, Eddie Johnson, and Brian Ching, but the Czech team still outweighs us by a large margin.  I mean, how do you defend a guy like Jan Koeller?  He's like 20 feet tall, eats a dozen steaks in a single sitting, bench-presses Volkswagens, and can fire lightning bolts from his ass.  I exagerate, of course, but not by much.  It would be nice if our best athletes played soccer (as Mike from That's On Point remarked a while ago, "wouldn't it be great to see LeBron run over a skinny little Spanish defender?") but, alas, it's not to be.  Couple all of this with a ton of international experience on the Czech team, some very gifted shooters, and one of the best keepers in the Cup and our prognosis was . . . negative. We needed to come out and play smart defense from the start and not give them space to serve the ball into the box.  That means limiting corner kicks and set pieces near our own goal.  It's a difficult task, but not impossible:  we have a smart, stingy, experienced defense that might have pulled this off.  On the offensive end, we needed to play possession football.  We weren't going to win the size battle in the box, so we needed crisp passing and some decent runs to make things happen.  Donovan and Beasley had proven that they could do this in 2002 so while we had a very difficult task ahead of us, we had a chance.  Koeller got the early goal off of a header (big surprise), but I feel we played decently for most of the first half:  our possession was good in the midfield even though we couldn't finish in the Czech third of the field and Reyna had that fantastic shot off of the left post, but Rossicky's first goal (off of a FANTASTIC shot) killed us.  We had a chance to go into the locker room only down 1-0, but Onyewu made a poor clearance (one of his few mistakes to that point) and they made us pay for it.

How would the game have changed if Reyna's shot had been a few inches to the right?  Dramatically, in my opinion.  Bruce Arena would have dropped pretty much everybody back at that point and played for the tie and our team as a whole would have gotten a huge infusion of energy.  But down 2-0 at halftime, we had to try to play aggressively during the second half for a chance to tie.  That was something, however, that we did not do:  we panicked, our passing was terrible, and we couldn't threaten at all.  Reyna's miss proved to be the only legitimate chance at a goal that we would have.  Final thoughts?  Yes, we played crappy, but we were overmatched by the Czechs.  My hat goes off to them:  they simply have a much better team and they showed it.  The best that we could have hoped for realistically was a draw, but we were about three inches away from having a legitimate shot at that. As for Italy next week, we will also have a difficult task before us, but a much better chance at pulling it off.  Italy doesn't have the size advantage that the Czech Republic does and so I think our defense will prove to be a lot more effective.  Up front, Italy has a well-coached defense but we'll have more success running at them than we did against the Czechs.  I think we need to get Eddie Johnson on the field early and give Brian McBride a chance at some headers in the box.  But we also need guys like Donovan and Beasley to snap out of their slumps and actually start playing some fucking football.  Like it or not, they're the future of this team:  they showed the ability to give us some fantastic play in 2002 but they both looked flat during the latter half of qualifying and through the first game.  Having any sort of realistic chance at continuing on rests on us winning out through the rest of group play so Team USA basically needs to just cowboy up and play some ball.

So fire up your televizzle at 2:55 PM EST on Saturday, tune to ABC, and show the Red, White, and Blue some love.

It has begun . . .

May 11, 2006

All I'm waiting on is the TV capture cards (getting delivered tomorrow), the video card (god knows when . . . fucking eBay), and the remote/IR receiver. But I've got all the critical stuff so I can at least format everything, compile the kernel, and begin the interminably long X compilation process.


Because it’ll “change your life”

May 6, 2006

Over the course of the last several months I have been told my no less than three separate people who had no knowledge of, or relationship to, each other that "TiVO will change your life." Exact words. From three separate people. When that happens, you pretty much have to take whatever is being said seriously.

As I mentioned earlier, I watch a lot of TV and I also get held up at work with disturbing frequency which makes following shows in the 8 PM time slot a perilous proposition. With my TV-watching street cred and my technophile status in full effect, I honestly felt like a bit of a Luddite for not having jumped on the TiVO bandwagon earlier. However, as cute as TiVO is, I knew that it just wasn't going to cut it. I've got movies and music sitting on another PC that I want to play, I didn't want to record TV on one machine and use a separate one to watch DVDs, I wanted to be able to schedule recording remotely (which you can do with TiVO now, but you have to go through Yahoo! and it looks pretty woefully under-featured), etc. I've built my own PCs pretty much forever, so I *knew* that I needed not just a TiVO but a full-fledged HTPC. A tiny god, if you will, in front of which lesser machines tremble in fear.

I've been spec'ing parts, reading reviews, and planning this out for the last few months and, with the aid of a recent bonus, I overcame my legendary cheapness and finally bought the parts. The plan is to install Gentoo and MythTV: you see, I need something that I can heavily customize and integrate into my existing network. I'm a control freak about shit like this and I care very little about something working right out of the box. Hell, the endless parade of tweaks and customizations is half the fun for me. The parts list along with where things were purchased is below for those interested. Once everything arrives late next week, I'll be sure to keep you all up to date as I build and configure things.


April 26, 2006

By and large I hate pretty much all music produced after the year 2000: don't get me wrong, I listen to just about every genre under the sun (electronica, punk, ska, hip hop, classic rock, grunge, the list goes on . . .), but over the last couple of years it seems that the music industry has taken up permanent residence in the shitter. There's been almost nothing that I've been the least bit interested in. I used to be baffled at why my parents wouldn't listen to anything recorded less than 30 years ago, but I can understand where they're coming from now: they found what they liked and basically just said to hell with new music, much like I am doing now. And while I'm not as musically hip as I was a few years ago, I'm OK with that and it makes the times when I actually do discover a new band truly special. Something has to resonate with me, it can't just be the latest all-filler-no-killer shit that the labels are trying to cram down my throat. The Cat Empire manages to do this.

They're a six-piece from Down Under that, as many cool bands manage to do, defy classification. They're (get ready for the weirdest combination of groups and genres ever) part reggae, part ska, with a little bit of hip hop and they evoke feelings of Bob Marley, Sublime, the Gorillaz, No Doubt, and even some of The Streets for good measure. Unabashedly poppy and dangerously catchy, you'll feel happy after having listened to them for a little while. It's great coding music, driving music, or just general i-feel-like-shit-and-need-a-pick-me-up music. If you're looking for particular tracks to check out, I recommend "Two Shoes", "Hello Hello", and "One Four Five" but I've yet to discover a bad track from them. Check 'em out!

Trials and tribulations with remote backup solutions

April 23, 2006

God, this blog is less than 24 hours old and I'm already going to shill for something. But don't leave! Trust me, this is some useful shit I'm about to present, namely why will completely rock your ass. Besides, it's not like I'm getting paid for this: I just get that warm fuzzy feeling that comes from doing good.

So basically I'm a data nut and an automation nut: I'm obsessed with backing stuff up and I never want to have to think about doing it. Like any true DIY'er, I've bought my fair share of somewhat sketchy hard drives over the years (including two from the infamous IBM DeskStar batch a few years ago) and have had them fail at the most inopportune times. My favorite story is when both of the aforementioned DeskStars died when I was only an hour away from beating Baldur's Gate II . . . after I had invested a good 60-70 hours doing as many of the side quests as I could. That vein in my forehead still goes crazy when I think about it . . .
My backup source is my Windows 2000 workstation: in the absence of a dedicated server box, it has both the usual personal junk (documents, music, application settings) and a good deal of development-related data (websites, several Subversion repositories, a plethora of MySQL databases, etc.). I've got Cygwin installed, so I cooked up a Bash script a few years back that aggregates all of the essential data nightly and then writes it somewhere. It's that "somewhere" that's changed a great deal over the years: in my quest for automated backup nirvana, I'd gone through a wide variety of solutions before finally settling on

First was a simple Zip drive: I got a 250 MB disk which sat in the Zip drive permanently and was overwritten every night by the updated set of data. That worked fine for a while since it was nice and reliable but eventually 250 MB just wasn't cutting it so I had to upgrade to a more spacious media which meant going with a tape drive. Now, all of you in the network/server admin community know that good tape drives are fucking expensive. I ended up going with a variety of lower-end IDE Seagate models (the Hornet Travan 40 to be more specific) which were a good deal cheaper but also a good deal less reliable. I mean, I'm sorry, but as much as I love my data integrity I just couldn't see myself spending $500 or more on an enterprise-class tape drive. So, I owned three in the space of a year all of which failed after a few months. At this point, I decided to investigate the possibility of a remote backup service.

The first that I went with was Streamload: now, Streamload is a great service for uploading, storing, and sharing large media files but is a pain in the ass to deal with when you're trying to automate a backup solution. On the surface, it sounds awesome: you pay $10 a month to upload and store as much as you want on their servers. It's only when you download that you start counting against a monthly limit (10 GB/month with the plan that I was on). Sounds great, right? Well . . . not so much. In order to upload via the command line, you have to make use of a third-party Perl module, which is no problem, but once you start actually trying to upload things, the limitations of their protocol become apparent. The most egregious problem was the fact that it can't handle zero-length files, so if you just batch up a bunch of data and try to upload it (like I was) you won't always be successful. For instance, Thunderbird mail folders have a number of zero-length files so I basically had to tar all of the backup data before uploading it. This is a perfectly acceptable solution, except for the fact that it negates one of the real strengths of the Streamload protocol. You see, before you upload a file, Streamload asks you to generate hashes of random segments of the file which Streamload then uses to check to see if it has a copy of that file already exists on the system. If it finds a match, then you don't have to upload anything and you're account is basically just given a symlink to the already-existing file. So it operates a bit like rsync in that you don't have to upload anything that already exists on the server. But, when you generate a tar file to upload, all of those advantages go out the window and you have to send the whole 750 MB file every single night. To top everything off, the command line interface allows you to upload, but that's it: you can't delete existing files, you can't move files around, etc. This is understandable since you're not actually accessing your account, per se, but rather a public dropbox for your account that allows you to uploading things and allows for other people to send stuff to you. There's no command line way to access your private files: you have to do that through their web interface or through a number of GUI tools that they provide. So, since nothing is overwritten in your dropbox when you upload stuff via the command line, you end up with a new backup archive in your dropbox every night and you have to remember to go in every couple of weeks and clean things out. So, not exactly an automated solution.

The second-to-last destination on this crazy train was Amazon's S3 (Simple Storage Service) service: it was new, shiny, and exciting, but ultimately proved to be too immature and unreliable. Its cost structure is pretty straightforward: you pay $0.15/month for each GB of storage you used and $0.20/month for each GB of data transferred (both uploads and downloads count against this). It operates over HTTP to send and receive the data and uses a custom set of HTTP headers to provide authentication. You also get full control over your data: you can create directories, move files around, and perform basically any other management task you can think of. So, the service sounds pretty sweet so far: relatively low cost, provided by a reputable company, and uses established protocols to facilitate data transfer. Unfortunately, as I said earlier, it was just too immature: I was never actually able to upload anything to my account. I wrote my own, custom, FTP-like command line client, but even when I just tried to use the stock sample code provided by Amazon, it would just hang whenever I tried to upload anything. I tried for a week to get stuff to work, but to no avail. However, like manna from heaven, I stumbled across a link to while looking for solutions to my S3 problems. is a simple service built specifically for remote backups over a network. These guys basically just run a series of Linux file servers and give you SSH access to your account which means that you can use any tool capable of operating over SSH (scp, rsync, sftp, etc.) to get data to and from your account. The cost structure is pretty simple as well: you can upload and download as much as you want, and pay only $2/month per GB of storage used. I ended up using rsync as my tool of choice for my backup process. For those of you unfamiliar with rsync, it's a stable, robust, and feature-rich *nix tool designed to synchronize the contents of directories between two servers. It analyzes the contents of the two servers and then only sends over the data that is different between the two, saving both time and network bandwidth and can also operate over SSH, meaning that the process can be completely secure. So, as you can imagine, this is exactly what I needed: you can set up key-based SSH authentication for your account which means that the rsync process can be completely automated. Add to the fact that the people that run the company 1) know what they're doing and 2) are extremely helpful. There aren't any vacuum-brained support personnel that just spit back answers from a script: any time you ask for help, you talk to an actual developer. I had a problem initially where the rsync process was dying when I was trying to delete files that were no longer present on the remote server and so I sent them an email. Within a few hours, I heard back and there was no slick double-talk or attempts to cover up what happened: they told me straight up that they had made some recent security changes that was causing rsync to incorrectly restrict the deletion of files. They sent me several emails over the course of fixing the problem, one saying that a temporary work-around was in place that should allow rsync to run successfully, and another saying that a complete fix was now in place. So, they're quick, courteous, and knowledgeable which is about all you can ask for in a support staff. Bottom line is that I've been using their service for two months now and haven't had a single issue other than the aforementioned delete problem. I can't recommend them highly enough.

So, if you have other services you want to recommend (or warn against) or just general remote backup advice, hit up the comments for this post!