6 Months in 6 Minutes

It’s occurred to me how long it’s been since I posted something about myself, not about software, Linux or LugRadio. So, here’s an update to bring you back in sync, though, as you might expect, much of it might be about software, Linux and LugRadio. Well first thing, I’m off work on leave for 2 weeks, my first time off since the miserably unrestful week in June. It’s been a tough year, barely time to stop and think. A lot has been going on, a lot of changes have occurred and it’s been my job to move everything from A to B and replace all of the old stuff with the new stuff. So, much so that I’ve been barely able to sleep since August as I was working and thinking about work from morning until after I should have gone to bed and couldn’t get my brain to switch off. Add the new season of LugRadio, my first as a full-time presenter, into the mix and I’ve been spending more time working outside of work, in one way or another, than doing anything else. So much so that I’ve been forcing myself to take one evening a week, as my weekends are spent shopping and cooking and doing household chores, not doing anything, apart from sitting in front of the TV with a laptop, working. It’s gotten so bad, that the few times I’ve not had anything that I had to do, I didn’t actually know what to do with myself, so I ended up working.

Well, as I’m off for 2 weeks now, I should let you know what I’ve been up to. I turned 31 at the end of October, never thought I’d see the day. I’m so boring these days, if I met myself of today 10 years ago, the me of 10 years ago would have laughed at the me of today for being an old man and the me of today would have thought the me of 10 years ago was a pointless idiot.

That said, I’m quite happy with the way things have panned out, I think I have a cause to hang my hat on and a drive to get to where I want to, I should just take more time out now and again.

I went to see The Sex Pistols on Saturday and I have to say, my fears were wrong. I suspected, having seen a clip on YouTube, that they might look and sound like a pale caricature of themselves, but they were fantastic, everything that I hoped they would be – loud, rude, brash and ballsy. John Lydon was excellent, intelligent, witty, snarly and aware that his age is at odds with how the Pistols are remembered. In fact he ridiculed himself for needing over the counter treatments to get his sore throat through the gig. Steve Jones’ guitar sound was infuckingcredible, though he seemed a little subdued, frequently retreating to the drum riser with his back to the crowd. I could barely tell that we were 30 years on and I can pay little better compliment than that. They looked older, but great. It was funny looking around and seeing the aging punks littered around the place, in their zippered and studded leathers and spiky hair and it was strange hearing Pretty Vacant being sung with a Manchester accent. It was a good gig and I’m glad I went. I did feel like I was being repeatedly shot in the face with every song, such is the ferocity of the sound and the delivery, after about 6 tracks I was praying for an interlude. They played every pre-split song I know of (with the exception of ‘I Wanna Be Me’, ‘Satellite’ and ‘Don’t Give Me No Lip, Child’), everything from Never Mind the Bollocks and stuff like Stepping Stone and Did You No Wrong. EMI, New York, Holidays in the Sun and Pretty Vacant were blistering. A great gig.

LugRadio has been doing well actually, at least from my point of view. I was worried, as a new presenter, that the show might struggle with 2 much loved and established presenters departing and 2 new ones arriving but so far I think we’ve done some of the strongest shows in a long time, not to impune the work of Matt and Ade and I think some of the ideas I’ve contributed to the show have gone down incredibly well. It’s been going so well that we came top in Linux Format‘s roundup of Linux podcasts in the Christmas 2007 edition 🙂

Aside from moving offices, data centres and customers this year and then in the last week getting 7 servers unpacked, installed, configured and in the racks in time to hit a product launch and in time for me to be able to take my leave, I’ve been playing with a few things. I managed to get an Asterisk box on my business PSTN line at home, this was an abandoned work project that I didn’t have time to do properly. It did what I wanted but my VoIP phones weren’t good enough and couple of callers said the sound was muffled and made it difficult to hear me, so I dropped it after a day.

Getting these 7 servers installed and in the racks within a week was largely down to Kickstart, which I finally found the time to investigate. I played with it while looking at Xen and spent a morning or so pinning the kickstart file down so now I can have a machine installed and partially configured within around 15 minutes and most of that time is spent waiting for the disk formatting. So, cool for me. I hope to add a few extra bits to the kickstart configuration which will mean I only have to reboot the machine after installation to make sure everything is ok, no configuration required at all. I have a list of other software to check out to make my life easier, like daemontools (not the Windows optical drive emulator), RT, Varnish, Cfengine, Puppet, ISconf and so on as well as SNMP traps.

On the subject of Xen, I’ve been working with it quite a bit recently but there seems to be this impenetrable inner world of knowledge which I don’t seem to understand, like why, every time I build a new VM, it seems to complain that there is no space left on the device (does it mean the local disk, there’s acres of space there, or does it think there’s something wrong with the disk image I created?) and tells me the hotplug something is unavailable so I have to shutdown the working VMs, stop xend, move /var/lib/xenstored/tdb and then reboot, which is driving me nuts. Or how to create LVM disk images so I can resize the disk sizes should people wish to change their package (do the LVs live on the host machine and get passed to the VM, or do you create multiple disk images and create the LVs in the VM?) or how xen networking works – despite reading the docs repeatedly, or how the hell am I going to back up a 20GB disk image when it changes constantly? or what to do if a disk image becomes damaged in the same way a hard disk might, say GRUB get’s messed up, or the VM won’t boot, or the disk image gets corrupted. Of course these are all questions which will be answered over time as I get to look at them properly, it’s just a steep hill ahead and not much time to climb it or research alternatives like Virtuozzo/Open VZ and the VMware products on a cost, ease of use, managability and performance basis.

On a final technical front, despite now being in position to cruise at work after all of the hard work I’ve put in, I have a growing list of things to deal with at home, like my monster of a laptop needs to be reinstalled as Gnome doesn’t finish loading on login sometimes and I have to reboot, or my wireless card won’t start and again I have to reboot. I’ve not had these kind of problems under Linux before. I suspect that the 2 things are related as we have a wireless TV thing in the house which means I have to sit next to the wireless gateway for my laptop(s) to connect before I can go sit in the front room (turning the wireless TV thing off would be one technical intrusion too many for my more than patient partner I think), but even still, it’s not been the same since I had to return to WEP and I had to delete the Network Manager config file for my network to make it realise that the network with my SSID isn’t a WPA2 network any more, as I have some devices which aren’t capable of WPA and some which I’m not willing to pay to upgrade. Before I can do this, I need to move the 8GB disk images off my USB disk so I can back up the laptop as the resolution of the Ubuntu installer was too large to be able to choose anything other than a default partition layout, meaning /home is on the same partition as / (my graphics card was too new for the drivers at the time of the installation). To be able to do this, I also have to fix the disk problems on my main desktop which have cropped up over the weekend, which amount to the disk with my / partition on is showing hardware errors and struggled to boot, so I’ve had to leave it on and spinning while it’s ok while I wait for the chance to fix it. It also sent me a message saying that one of the disks in my /home partition RAID 1 pair has failed, so I have to fix that too before I can copy the disk images to it. Before I can do any of this, I have to write a set of slides for a talk I’m giving to Wolves LUG in 2 days and sort out my remaining CCNA work as I have to visit my lecturer tomorrow in preparation for the new semester which starts in around 2 weeks. Jeez, if it’s not one thing…

On the work front, I decided a while back that I will look to move on next year, but while I am happy to see that there are the kind of jobs I want to do, offering the kind of money I want and I have the skills to do them, almost none of them seem to be near where I live. So, decisions to be made.

Finally, it is now more than a year since I quit smoking and nearly a year since I last got drunk. Am I happy? Yes, of course. Do I miss it? Getting drunk, definitely – as you might notice, I don’t get to let loose very often these days and I really enjoy getting drunk as a means to just forget everything ordered and sensible that I carry around in my head all the time. I only miss cigarettes when I’m drunk, which hasn’t happened in a long time and is a good reason not to drink. Was it worth it? Absolutely, the hangovers were just far too much to deal with on an ongoing basis, 3 days of feeling like shit isn’t worth it for an average amount of alcohol to most people.

I think I’ll leave you to digest all that for now, speak in another 6 months 🙂