Monday, May 26, 2003

Friday night was one of the longest nights of my life. And it was definitely the worst network upgrade I've ever had the misfortune to be involved with.

We spent 18 hours, from 10 PM Friday until 5 PM Saturday afternoon, trying to upgrade two NetWare 5.1 servers to NetWare 6 and preserve our server cluster setup. Things went well until 3 AM. We had both servers up and running with the new OS and we were re-enabling services that had been shut down. At that point we reconnected the servers to the network storage device (over 3 TB of disk space), and everything went to hell. We spent the next six hours trying to get the servers to "see" the SAN. When they would finally get connected, we'd reboot them and they'd break again. Finally, around 9 AM, we got a solid connection. Then we broke it again and again, trying to tweak things. Around noon, over 24 hours in, we worked on resurrecting the NetWare volumes. By 5 PM, we were goofy from the intense work and the lack of sleep, but the system was working again. Tomorrow I go back to see what bugs we didn't catch the first time through.

Liz and I saw "The Matrix Reloaded" this afternoon. She liked it, but thought it was too wordy. While I enjoyed it again, I felt like I needed a degree in philosophy to be able to understand all the "causality" and "ergos" in the script. And the scene with the Architect isn't any easier to follow on the second viewing. My favorite fight scene is still the one in the Merovingian's lobby, with the swords and acrobatics. That one kicks serious ass.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

I saw X2 this evening, at the Loews 34th Street. Tuesday night is a great time to go to the movies. You miss the weekend crowd, nothing ever opens or premieres on a Tuesday, so you get the theater to yourself. The movie was immensely entertaining, and I'm a little bothered by the fact that I liked it more than The Matrix Reloaded. It had a good story, some interesting character development, and the death of a major character by the Spock treatment (sacrifice to save others, possible hints at resurrection in future sequels). The effects were superb, but not as gratuitous as Reloaded. The action in X2 exists because of the story, as opposed to Reloaded, where sometimes the action is the only point. They're both good movies, but I have to give the edge to X2.

In my continuing quest to try every Linux distribution ever, yesterday I installed Slackware 9.0 on my test PC at work. Slackware has been around for a long time; my brother ran it for a few years in the mid-1990s when he was in college. It doesn't have a pretty GUI-based, auto-detecting installer, so I had to know my PC's hardware and settings to make everything run. It doesn't partition your disks for you, either, so it took me five tries before I figured out just how I had to set up the disks to get the system to boot. Once I had the system booting into X/KDE, I configured X for the proper monitor and resolution on the first try (and a good thing, too, since I could have fried my expensive LCD panel if I made the wrong choices). The end result of six hours of work was a system that is about as plain vanilla Linux as you can get. Red Hat and Mandrake, both excellent distros, come with all sorts of custom utilities to make things easier for the user. That's great, but sometimes you want to see how things were before developers tried to make Linux more user-friendly. I wouldn't recommend Slackware to anyone who wanted to try Linux for kicks, or as a substitute for Windows, or on a server (not much in the way of professional support for Slackware). But it's a great desktop OS for the experienced Linux user who wants something other than the Red Hat, Mandrake, or SuSE designer interface. (I had planned to try SuSE, but since it's a FTP download install only [no CDs unless you pay for it], I gave up and went with Slackware and its one-CD install. Also, I had trouble getting my PC to boot from the SuSE floppies, and who wants to muck around with floppies when you can just use a CD instead?)

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

The Matrix has me.

I love my job. Last December, I attended a free preview screening of Star Trek: Nemesis, courtesy of Network Associates. This morning, courtesy of the good people of EMC, I got to see The Matrix Reloaded before anyone else. Once again, the screening was at the Loews 34th Street, apparently the place to be for events of this nature. There was a continental breakfast at 7:30 AM, and the program started at 8. An EMC rep introduced an eight-minute promotional video for EMC products. It started out with a few seconds of Powerpoint slides with quotes from happy customers. Then the video itself started, with a woman sitting at a computer terminal, receiving messages like "The Matrix has you." Then she's wearing a tight black halter top, leather pants and boots, and she's executing kung fu moves while the narrator talks about EMC products and other video clips play picture-in-picture style. To me, it said "EMC is sexy!" but it didn't make me want to buy a new SAN. It was as if the video were produced by four or five people who worked independently, assembled their work in a few hours, and an executive said "I guess that will work." After the video came the trivia portion of the event. I correctly answered the question "when Tank asks Neo what he needs to rescue Morpheus, what is Neo's response?" ("Guns. Lots of guns." I watched the Matrix again last night.) I won a doll of Neo in his martial arts outfit, with the helpful comment on the box "recommended for adult collectors". At least the toy companies have realized who's buying their products. After the trivia, it was time for the movie.

I don't want to give too much away before anyone who actually reads this blog has seen it. So I'll try to keep this review spoiler-free. Reloaded reminded me of The Empire Strikes Back. The Matrix was a seminal movie, like Star Wars before it, so seeing a sequel to it was like seeing TESB for the first time: more of the same characters, new stories, better action sequences, and a cliffhanger ending (OK, that's a spoiler, but we all know there's one more sequel in November). The action sequences and special effects are no less mindblowing than the effects in the first one, and won't be duplicated for a long time. The story is excellent, but there are a few scenes that are just talking, explaining things to the characters, and by extension, the audience. It reminded me of my friend James' comment about Commander Riker's purpose in Star Trek: TNG: to explain everything to the audience. It's a long movie (2 hours 15 minutes), so when they get to talking, and no action, it feels like it's dragging. I almost took a bathroom break, but I couldn't be sure when they'd start the kung fu or blowing things up again, so I stayed put. After the first viewing, I'd say it's at least as good as the original. I'll tell you what it's not: it's not The Phantom Menace, or even Attack of the Clones. I don't think Reloaded will disappoint anyone, even casual fans of the original Matrix. I can't wait to see it again, and I'm really curious how the story will wrap up in Matrix Revolutions this fall.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

This entry should have been posted a week ago, but I had trouble with the browser and then I just forgot about it.

I've had a busy week at work, as usual. Yesterday, I installed the first NetWare 6 server in our production network. All the prep work we've been doing for the past few months paid off with an error-free installation. After that, I represented Georgetown University at my firm's college fair for Washington Irving High School. The university sent two prospectuses (prospecti?), two pamphlets on financial aid, a stack of about 100 blue response cards for the kids to send back, and a blue and gray GEORGETOWN banner for the table. I wish they'd sent more copies of the prospectus; it was the most popular item on the table, but I couldn't give both of them away. The banner didn't come with anything to stick it to the edge of the table (unlike the other schools, most of which came with silken tablecloths that easily hung off the table), so I fought with a makeshift scotch tape mounting system for the better part of two hours. I spoke to about fifteen students, some of whom were seriously interested in Georgetown, and others who had never heard of the school before. No one wanted to know about the English program, but several asked me about pre-med, business, and pre-law programs. One father wanted to know if his son could major in music and track. I kept asking him what he meant by track until I realized he meant the athletic program. I mentioned the Penn Relays and he seemed to understand that track was a sport, not a major. I think I disappointed them a second time when I explained that the school doesn't offer a music major yet, and probably wouldn't for five to ten more years. I enjoyed the experience, though. I don't do enough alumni work, aside from giving money to the school a few times a year, so this fair was a chance for me to do something to help out the school. And I got a free banner out of it, which means I finally have something to hang on the wall behind my cubicle. I couldn't hang my diploma there, and I don't have any artwork or pictures to put there, so the banner will do.

My wife's parents sent us a care package of goodies from Mississippi, and they tossed in a special toy just for me. I guess they remembered how excited I was at Christmas when their niece's son received a mini-RC car as a gift. He was happy to let me set it up for him and run it around the floor for a while, chasing the dog and cats. Now I have my own mini RC car with which I can torment my cats. I don't really have enough room at home to run the car, but it's fun to startle the cats with it. Vladi is the only one who chases it. Starlite runs away from it, and Magenta just sits there, oblivious as always. Liz is going to be out of the house on Saturday afternoon. It might be my chance to set up an obstacle course with jumps for the car. Where were these cars when I was 10?