When Dust Attacks 
Thursday, 21 April, 2011, 01:57
Posted by Administrator
This is a technical post. If you don't understand it, that's okay.

I've seen a lot of strange computer issues. That should come as no surprise, really, since I've worked with these things for more than half my life now.

For example, I ran into an issue with one of the servers at work at the end of last week. It's a mid-range Dell PowerEdge R200 that's coming up on 3 years old now. I got to the office last Friday and the thing wasn't working. Apparently it rebooted itself overnight and didn't feel like getting past the IPMI initialization step. After a quick bit of troubleshooting I determined that the PCI-X/PCIe riser card was the culprit and gave Dell a call. They sent a technician to replace it (which was somewhat annoying, given that I have no problem working in the R200 myself), but he came with the wrong riser -- the one he had was equipped with two PCIe x4 slots. Problem is, the DRAC is PCI, so we kind of needed the PCI-X slot. At any rate, the dual-PCIe riser worked just fine so I figured the original one that shipped with the system was bad. They sent a new one the next day and that was doing the same thing as the original ... so it turned out the motherboard was the problem.

This is the strange thing. The system works without the riser, and it works with one particular type of riser, but not the other. Bit odd.

Today I saw dust kill a system in a way that I haven't seen in quite some time, which is why I was caught off-guard by it. Normally I see a thick layer of dust gather between the fins of a heatsink, which ends up resulting in the CPU overheating and shutting down the system. This was the case in this particular system to an extent; the dust wasn't packed in enough to completely stop the airflow, but the CPU was getting somewhat hot. The machine has two RAM modules in it and, after running a memory test, I initially determined that one of the modules had gone bad. So, per standard procedure, I pulled one of the modules and ran the test on each one individually. The odd thing here was that both passed when they were in the system alone, but when they were in together, the system flat-out didn't work.

What fixed it? Compressed air. I blew some compressed air in the RAM slots and, for good measure, dusted off the modules themselves. After that, the system worked just fine.

So ... yeah. Not a particularly meaningful post, but it seems that odd things have a habit of catching me off guard lately.
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The End of an Era 
Friday, 1 April, 2011, 03:42
Posted by Administrator
My first mobile phone was an Audiovox PCX 1000XL on PrimeCo, faux-wood trim and all. That was mercifully replaced by a Nokia 6185 ... but PrimeCo had pretty bad coverage and, as I had just started dating Julie at the time, I needed better coverage. Thus began my relationship with VoiceStream, which eventually became T-Mobile.

I started off with a blue Nokia 8290 -- the one that Jamie Lee Curtis was showing off in the early ad campaigns. That thing still works to this day. I enjoyed the ability to swap my SIM card into other phones at will, and went through many handsets by many manufacturers, but when phones decided to stop working I always had that trusty 8290 to fall back on.

Then began my Android obsession. I upgraded my T-Mobile plan to include data for the first time in November of 2009 to accomodate this new addiction. I started out with the MyTouch3G, T-Mobile's best at the time, and eventually upgraded to the Google Nexus One.

But ... I do not treat my relationships with businesses the same way I treat my personal relationships. That is to say, I have no problem whatsoever looking at other options when it comes to things like TV service, internet service, or mobile phone service ... and it was only a matter of time before I started thinking about switching from T-Mobile to something else.

No, it wasn't only the announcement that AT&T and T-Mobile had agreed to merge, but it was definitely a factor.

So, tonight, I walked into a Verizon Wireless store and ported my numbers over from the T-Mobile account. I did not feel pain, I did not feel remorse. It actually felt kind of good to say "okay T-Mobile, been great working with you, but i've got a new carrier now." And with that, my Android obsession continues in the form of an HTC Thunderbolt (though the first thing I did was look for a way to turn off SenseUI).

And now I wait ... for some sign of reassurance that I made the right decision :D
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Pics Are Here 
Monday, 21 February, 2011, 00:18
Posted by Administrator
Chicago Auto Show pictures have now been uploaded. If the car you wanted to see isn't there ... well, you should have requested pics before I went last week. It's pretty difficult to run through an Auto Show in 4 hours, let me tell you ... hopefully Mario will be more cooperative next year :)

Click here for the pics or, if you're actually looking at my site, click on the 2011 Chicago Auto Show link to the right.

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Auto Show Pics 
Wednesday, 16 February, 2011, 22:48
Posted by Administrator
...are not ready yet. I haven't gotten a chance to download them. I didn't take as many this year because we had to rush through the show between Mario's feedings, but I've got to say this one much better than the previous two. It was certainly bigger than last year's show, as they used the entire space; they kind of had to with the four test tracks that they had set up.

Julie was, for one reason or another, drawn to the minivans as if they had some from of gravitational pull that only had an effect on American-born mothers of young children. I, on the other hand, stared at the Lexus LFA for a while before I gathered enough brain cells to take a picture.

Anyway ... no pictures yet, but they're coming. Soon.
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It's that time of year again... 
Sunday, 6 February, 2011, 04:55
Posted by Administrator
I seem to use the phrase in the subject only a couple of times each year. This time I'm referring to the Chicago Auto Show, one of the many things I look forward to each year. I will be going, and I will be taking Mario with me. At least, I hope I will. I don't want him to miss a single Auto Show as long as it's held in Chicago, much like I haven't missed one in at least the past decade.

This year I will be paying particular attention to family-oriented vehicles. Yes, we can fit everything in my Civic Hybrid ... but it's a case of "just because you can doesn't mean you should."

I had the misfortune of driving that poor car during the height of the blizzard and, let me tell you, it was one of the scariest experiences ever. The Civic Hybrid is the least powerful one in the lineup, which I knew going into the purchase, and throwing that at unplowed roads during. the height of the winds made me wish I'd have worn my brown pants.

So, it's with that feeling in mind that I'll be checking out other vehicles with greater interior volume and ground clearance. Not for myself, mind you -- I'm comfortable with the Honda of Fury -- but for Julie. She comes to the Auto Show with me every year, so she can provide input.

If you want to see pictures of a particular car that will be at the show, let me know in advance and I'll makes sure I take pictures.
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