Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Audrey Legacy
Long ago my wife and I each took $100 to buy ourselves something. She bought herself ... shit I forget. But I went right onto eBay and bought myself a 3-COM Audrey. I had a lot of fun with that damned thing. I would sit up in bed with it with the kick-stand down, and the tiny little keyboard on my belly chatting with a Jabber client that I had compiled to run on it, and irc-ii. Good times. I called it "Audrey".

After a while I got bored with my little network appliance, and I needed a meaner toy. I was in the market for something that had wireless capability so that I could explore this phenomenon known as "war-driving". I bought myself a Mac off of eBay. It was a toilet-seat iBook model. In fact, it was the original iBook. I drug it *EVERYWHERE* and I still use it every other day or so to check e-mail or surf the web from bed. It became my new best friend, and I nick-named it "Audrey II" (a play on the broadway show and film, Little Shop of Horrors).

Many years have passed, and I have not since had an electronic gadget great enough to carry the Audrey nickname. But that is about to change.

Today my boss called me from her office, which she does often. It's a little strange, because she sits about 10 feet away from me. But she doesn't like people bothering her, so she often locks herself into her office to get work done. When she calls one of us, we all hear both sides of the conversation. This is humorous, but not relevant to this story. My boss says "I need to order two laptops, but I have no Windows XP option ... so I may have to get them with Vista". I said "that's fine, but get me one too would ya?". She laughed and hung up.

Then I drafted an e-mail to her. I told her that I desperately needed a highly portable laptop which I could take on runs with me around the hospital. It would have to have a decent battery life, a small display, and if possible a non-mechanical hard drive. I chose the Asus EEE PC with a 4GB flash drive. I sent her a link with all the purchasing information she would need to buy it for me. I have sent her requests like these before and she usually just deletes them. But today - she called me into her office. Then she called my cohort into the office and had him look at it. She asked my cohort, "does he need this?". He took a look and replied, "oh yeah ... absolutely ... that would be perfect for what he needs". And with that, she processed the quote and ordered me one.

I really need a small laptop for making small network changes, and for remotely connecting to servers while standing inside wiring closets. But I also need a new toy which I can take on war-driving expeditions.

Don't tell my boss, but she may have just bought me Audrey III.

Ray might be back in the game. Stand by for details.

Historic Comments
We had someone bring one of these over to the office a month or two ago and it was a lot of fun. The display is a little crowded by the flash memory is fast. Just be careful when traveling with one because the TSA get nervous when they cannot hear the hard drives!
Rich | 05.29.08 - 11:11 am | #

I don't think anything could make the TSA more nervous than Audrey II.

http://www.oddree.com/rayhaque/a...que/ audrey1.jpg

I just got word today that my unit was ordered, and it should arrive by *next* Friday.
Ray Dios Haque | 05.29.08 - 4:37 pm | #

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Victories in Life (yet, not in death)
Getting to sleep has been really tough lately. The tossing and turning is mostly attributed to tasks unfinished. And perhaps a wave of hypertension and manic depression which I sometimes just cannot vanquish despite my best efforts. I have taken on a few projects at work which have unobtainable outcomes. Such as correcting issues with an Exchange server which were created during a migration which took place almost four years ago.

The Exchange Issue
It took recreating my server environment with a host of VirtualBox servers, beating them to death, rewinding them, and starting them over again before I started to make any progress. For days I tore through forums, newsgroups, "knowledge bases" and the like. I found an old book on Exchange 2003 server, and read three fourths of it. I stayed up until 3:00AM a few nights working on the server while nobody was around to complain about it being off line. Using a few oddball development tools with huge disclaimers I came across some interesting clues. It seems that the migration was a "bust". When Public Folders were migrated, half of their contents went right out the window in the form of database errors. Permissions were tangled up and handed away to non-existent users. Most importantly, the Free/Busy was duplicated, renamed, and completely crippled until I stumbled upon the problem years later.

Having devised my own plan, I carefully backed up all the permissions for the folders - carefully removing the permissions for the system folders so that the problem wouldn't reoccur. Then I simply dumped the Public Folders into a PST file using Outlook, so as to avoid a recovery disaster with Veritas which would rely on "SIDS" of System Folders which I wanted to recreate. Then - I blew it all away, forced Exchange to give me a new set, and I put all the permissions back. It was ... glorious. My boss was pleased (but not overjoyed, because she really didn't understand why I was so dedicated to solving it).

Certificate Issues
One day I got a call from a user who couldn't access the hospital e-mail. It's a common call, and it's usually because the user is incapable of following simple instructions. But just to make sure that there really isn't a problem, I always remote to my home PC and try to log in myself. Alas - there really *was* a problem. I had no idea how deep it ran. This became another case of something that hadn't been set up correctly to begin with, but had waited nine months or so before becoming a real problem.

A day and a half later, I had resolved the issue. Not only had I fixed it, but I had documented the whole procedure. I was careful to document the details because the certificate would be expiring soon and we would have to repeat this whole process. My boss, who doesn't speak tremendously good English, had come to agreement that I was "her pappy". She wasn't quite sure what that meant exactly, but after shouting "who's your pappy?" repeatedly from my desk - she emerged from her office with the answer.

It's hard to describe that feeling. When you have spent endless days working on an issue, and you resolve it, there is a moment of peace. But it doesn't last, and I am quick to jump onto something else to bring my brain silence.

Math Problems
Aside from the array of problem solving at work, I have had several weeks of torturous math problems at school. I had enjoyed my last class. The reading was quite a lot of work, and writing the end report took a lot of energy. But in the end, I got an 'A' in that class. I've asked around with some of the other folks that took the class with me. They got 'B's. Math class seemed a lot harder. It was supposed to be an introductory class to other bigger mathematical concepts. What it ended up being was a hodge-podge of everything crammed into a six week course. Each week there were four new chapters to read (and therefore four new concepts). Homework usually ran about 10 to 12 pages, and took upwards of 15 hours. Spending all weekend studying and trying to learn math from a course book was frustrating.

The professor had a few issues too. He often derailed discussions, demonstrating his 'old Jedi math' on a chalkboard while we all looked on dumbfounded. Running short on time the past four weeks of the course, he resorted to dropping on quiz all together, and changing the last two so that they wouldn't cover concepts that we hadn't learned in class. I was really dreading the final. I had done well on the mid-term (I aced it). But by the time the final had come on the last night of class, I was very unprepared. The instructor allowed us to have a cheat sheet, and I thought I had made a pretty good one. He even gave us a few hints about what we could expect. And then ... he delivered something wholly other. The first question asked for a demonstration of Egyptian multiplication through addition. This was a concept we had seen and used only once during the course. Most other questions related to complicated scenarios involving odds. A concept which still does not compute with me.

I spent the entire amount of time allotted taking the final exam. I ended up being one of the last two students out of the room. "Where was that geometry?", I asked him. He says, "I didn't want to put a lot of that on there". I indicated that I would have liked more geometry and less odds theory. He said I must be a visual person. I agreed. I left feeling pretty defeated. I had really given that exam my best, and by my own calculations I probably scored a 60 percent at best.

But just today, my grade for the course finally appeared. I have been checking the web site every hour or so for the past week and a half waiting to see what I got. And then ... an 'A' showed up. Relief. I think I know how it happened. 10 minutes into the final exam, a few folks had all ready finished. I know that even working feverishly at 100 percent brain utilization, you could not have completed that exam and have shown your work in that amount of time. I think most of them had simply given up on the class at that point. I'm wondering if he didn't have to curve the class scores to get a few 'A's. I know at one point, I was got one of the five 'A's on a quiz for a class of 30 (there were few B's and C's in that group). I don't think I even care what I got on that final exam. I passed ... with an 'A'.

I can sleep.

There are a few things in life, which remain unconquered. It is the impassible which haunt me most. As I watch my wife take long drives to the city to see her ailing grandfather, I know that each trip might be her last. I cringe every time the phone rings, as we're all expecting bad news. I watch her constant state of unrest. She sometimes tosses in bed at night and grabs for my hand without ever really waking up. We both wait for an influx of imminent pain and depression that will follow the death of her grandparents. But the pain arrives slowly, in carefully prescribed doses. Waiting for bad news is a sure fire way to lose sleep.

Busy hands find no comfort.

I can't sleep.

Historic Comments
Math hates me as well.
Hello | 05.15.08 - 9:52 pm | #