Petri Wessman's weblog

System Failure Imminent (have a nice day)

Yesterday Janka noted that the server “had been making funny noises”, and lo and behold, my email queue held a few notices about RAID1 disk failure. Seems that the older disk of the pair (a Hitachi 160G) had crashed hard, all partitions unusable. Still, thanks to the RAID, the system is up and running (in degraded single-disk mode). Put in an order for a new (larger) disk at Verkkokauppa, should be here in a few days – I’m betting that the single newer disk won’t also crash in the meantime. Did do some extra backups, though, just to be paranoid.

So… seems that the software RAID is working as intended and the email notifications are also working. Things could be a lot worse. Having suffered one big server crash in the past and lost quite a bit of data due to the backups also being corrupted, I’m now firmly in the group which refuses to run a server without a RAID disk (and reliable backups).

Lots of things I want to improve, once/if I get some extra cash. I want a separate NAS box to handle backups and other mass storage for our home network (D-Link DNS-323 is my current candidate), and I also want to upgrade the whole server at some point – the current machine is a low-end desktop box with a 1.8GHz single-core Sempron and only 2 gigs of memory. It works, but a multicore machine would make a lot of server operations snappier and more memory would naturally also help. The current machine only has 2 memory slots (low-end desktop, remember) and they are DDR400. I’m not sure if 2G DDR400 modules even exist, and if they do they are almost certainly very expensive – so might as well upgrade the whole machine at some point. No real hurry on that, though.

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Daily Show not visible... not!

Well, survived another Vappu (Mayday celebration) again. Had fun, drank a lot, ate a lot, got a bit sunburned… situation normal. We had a nice grill-thingy at our place after Ullanlinna, since Janka was on call over May Day eve and we didn’t party then. Thanks to everyone who showed up, it was a good way to end Vappu. Good thing the next 2 days were not allocated for anything constructive… since I wasn’t feeling constructive. At all. Lizard mode + sun = happiness.

On to something completely different. I’m a big fan of The Daily Show… it’s funny and a bit sad that one of the more biting political commentary shows in the U.S. is billed as a comedy show. Anyway, it’s great stuff. Was even better when the Shrub was in office, making fun of Bush & Cheney was just so easy and rewarding. Obama makes Daily Show work a bit harder… but just a bit.

Anyway, I’ve been watching the thing via the web for a while now. Until just now, when I noticed that suddenly I get a notice “this content is not available in your country”. Wtf? Apparently somebody had bought the rights to show the thing here in Finland, and as a result it’s cut off via the web. For fuck’s sake… I’m not going to watch television at this day and age, that’s so last century. So what to do? Bittorrent? Well, that’s a bit cumbersome for something like the Daily Show, lots of episodes and lots of hassle.

It took about 10 minutes to find a solution. There’s an extension available for Firefox named X-Forwarded-For Spoofer. You figure out the rest.

Yes, it works. So screw you, international broadcasting rights holders, once again. I’m not going to watch this “broadcast TV” thing of yours, I gave up on that years and years ago.

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Though I hadn’t planned it as such, the last few weeks have been quite a get-into-better-shape workout. First a week out on the tundra, and then this week I’ve done a whopping 13 hours of swords practice. “Normal” rapier on Wednesday, then Ilkka’s limited-run Bolognese sidesword course on Friday, then 5 hours of Bolognese sidesword + buckler yesterday and lastly 5 hours of Bolognese/Fiore pollax techniques today. I’m pretty bushed, though in a good way. Oh, and it was fun, lots of fun.

Now I need to keep my head clear (and awake) long enough to go through the Burning Wheel rules one more time, and to do some game planning for tomorrow. We’ll see… it’s a fun game system, but damn is it complex. It’s not every day that a system feels actually more complicated then Exalted. Not sure if it actually is or not, but since we’re used to Exalted and now trying out Burning Wheel, it feels extremely complicated.

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Back in from the cold

We’re back, more or less in one piece. Was a great trip; even though I was initially a bit sceptical of the idea of camping in subzero temperatures for a week, it turned out to be very cool (pun intended). Nice physical workout too – even though our daily distances weren’t much worth mentioning, the act of skiing with a backpack on your back is work in of itself. It was a strange and somewhat alien feeling to find out that you can both survive and be quite comfortable while camping out on an icy plain, in temperatures that would kill an unprotected person fast. As long as you have proper equipement and know what to do, you don’t have a problem.

In total, we slept 4 nights out in the wilderness in a tent and 2 in wilderness huts. The first “hut stop” wasn’t an intended one; we originally intended just to stop there for lunch and then soldier on, but then Janka’s ski binding suddenly broke (in a non-fixable fashion) and our stay became an overnighter. The hut (which thankfully was close by at that point) was out of GSM range, so we sent a written note back to Kilpisjärvi via some snowmobile-equipped visitors and hoped for the best. Lo and behold, the next morning the Border Guard guys came along and dropped off a pair of skis plus ski boots, obtained from the Kilpisjärvi Travel Center (Retkeilykeskus). Wow, that’s both “my tax dollars at work” and damn good service. A huge thanks to both parties, and also to the couple who carried our note back.

Things I learned:

  • winter/arctic camping is actually quite fun, assuming you have good gear and good company
  • despite what some claim, for a beginner it’s not easier to ski with a backpack as compared to a pull-along sled (“ahkio”, in Finnish). The weight of the backpack made ski control a lot more tricky than it needed to be, and during difficult descents my legs tired very fast – and the backpack wasn’t even that heavy, 18kg or so.
  • always remember to check camera lens for dirt after each day of shooting. Didn’t do it this time, and as a result I have a lot of nasty splotches in the raw “footage” that ends up consuming a lot of post-processing time.
  • even though it’s not a pro body, our trusty Canon 20d performs well in subzero extended stays, too. A week in arctic temperatures and 300+ pictures: no problems, and no need to swap batteries. Impressive.
  • next time I’ll take along an extra pair of “technical” long underwear. Even though I did ok with just one, baing able to switch to a clean set halfway through would have increased my comfort level.
  • wool-padded winter (rubber) boots plus thick wool socks rock for camp footwear.
  • next time I’ll probably want to have my own set of skis, preferably with some (small) telemark-suitable site cuts. The borrowed set I had along now performed fine, so this is more of a “tweak” than anything else.
  • The Kilpisjärvi area of Lapland has pretty awesome scenery.

All things considered, a huge success (cue “Portal song” here). Even though I guess it goes into the “extreme camping” category, the trip felt like a wonderful vacation and I feel mucho relaxed now. Seeing how we were all already talking about “next time” after the trip, I think everyone felt pretty much the same way.

The weather was (mostly) fantastic. Almost too hot in the beginning, it dropped to a wonderful “few degrees below zero” for the rest of the week. The coldest temperature we recorded was -16C one night just before crawling into the tent to sleep. That started to be a bit on the chilly side, but not too bad. The final day was very windy, and our last few kilometers of travel were done in the middle of a honest snow storm; visibility in the 20m department and wind howling. Fun at that point, but would have been a lot less fun further out in the field.

Huge thanks to Timo for both the initial idea and for being the “winter camping expert” of the expedition – and for being a great field chef, as always. Our pizza and lasagne (made in a camp cooker oven thingy) in the middle of the wilderness raised more than a few eyebrows and got us some envy points.

I’m still working of doing post-processing for the pictures, but a small selection from the first 3 days is available now. I took a lot of handheld HDR pictures, using the 20d’s auto-bracket feature (+/-2 EV). Some pretty nice results, though the dirt on the lens I mentioned forced me to do a lot of post-proc work – and some of those still need more tweaking later on, you can still see artifacts here and there that I want to clean away at some point. Still, for handheld HDRs I though some of the results were quite acceptable.

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Summer scheduling

Looks like I need to start scheduling my summer right about now, a lot of things need decisions round this time. For example, I just heard that The National are coming to Ankkarock… and of course Ropecon is on the same weekend. Gah. I really want to see The National, they were one of the best “new finds” of last year for me. Good news is that they are performing on Sunday. I’ll probably be able to combo the con Sunday with a rock festival. Somehow. It might involve beer.

In addition, a friend’s paintball weekend thingy lands on top of Provinssirock. Probably choosing the paintball there… sure, it would be nice to see Placebo (again) and Nick Cave, but now that (another) friend no longer lives nearby that would be a pretty expensive trip – I think I’ll opt for the cheaper “run in the woods and get shot” option. Oh, and of course there’s a KMFDM club gig on that same weekend. Already have tickets for that, but not yet sure how I’ll combo everything.

Oh, and we’re planning of maybe visiting Iceland in August, and continuing from there to Burning Man (once again!). Still in the planning stages, but that one will eat up both our vacation time and a chunk of cash. Why Iceland? Because we can. And because it should be less horribly expensive now, due to their financial crash. Sucks for them, good for us.

Having fun takes work, I tell you.

Off to the frozen wastes, ho!

A hiking & wilderness -expert friend made a suggestion somewhat along the lines of “let’s take a week off over Easter and go ski-hiking in Lapland in the snow! It’ll be fun!”, and Janka & I replied with “sure, why not” (in the grip of some dementia, no doubt). I have some amount of hiking and outdoors experience (and gear), but the last time I tried skis was… 20 years ago or so, and I’ve never been on an extended winter outdoors trip. Janka has, but said she’s never liked it before. So why go? Who knows. It might be fun, this time. We’ll see.

So anyway, in a few weeks time we’ll be packing a ton of winter gear on the train and heading towards Kilpisjärvi (almost as far North as you can get in Finland). The plan is to spend about 6 days out in the snow, sleeping in a tent (or an igloo if the snow is suitable and we feel like it). It might be really cool. It might be miserable. At least it shouldn’t be boring.

I still need to locate some warm mittens for myself, and some extra warm footgear for the non-ski times. The good point here is that due to the time of year, we’ve been able to get lots of good gear really cheap from all the “X% off!” sales. I found a brand-new ski coverall (also suitable for snowboard use) for 20e. Not complaining.

If we don’t come back, send out the huskies. We’ll try to survive by eating lichen and the occasional stray raindeer.

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Alkoholi on myrkkyä...

So, the school had its 8yr celebration party on Saturday. Much fun was had by all, and much alcohol was imbibed. Thanks to our visiting lovely bunch of Hungarian lunatics, the booze levels didn’t drop off at any point, and by the time we staggered off home (via taxi) we were quite plastered. There was a weird side episode there, where the taxi’s card reader refused to read our debit cards – so we ended up doing a detour to a local ATM, after some argument with the driver (who spoke with a strong Russian accent). We got it all sorted out in the end.

Anyway… Sunday was a lost cause. I tried to get up around noon, figured I was still too boozed-up for that, and went back to bed. Got up an hour later, had some breakfast… and then went back to the horizontal. Some hours later I finally felt semi-alive, and spent the rest of the day doing no-brain stuff like watching the end of 2nd season of Burn Notice. The wife and friends were having fun hotdropping some carriers on pirates in EVE, but I didn’t feel stable enough to do anything requiring coordination or brain cells (the ones not dead from the previous night, that is). Sigh.

In contrast, now on Monday I feel great and the sun is shining… and tonight is a Sisters of Mercy gig at Nosturi. Sometimes Monday is the good day.

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Winter hibernation

Still alive, though the recurring flu of this winter is (was) back for a short while. Feeling much better now, but we spent the weekend in Jyväskylä at a wedding and Sunday morning had me feeling like something the cat dragged in… and I didn’t drink that much. Decided to stay home and vegetate yesterday, was feeling pretty crappy – and it was worth it, now back at work and more or less ok. Managed to watch some small bit of my tv show backlog when I wasn’t horizontal in bed, so at least something good….

Otherwise it’s life as normal; nothing spectacular has happened but I manage to keep busy and entertained. I bought the board game Arkham Horror and most of the expansion packs, and we’ve been trying that out. Fun game, and even though it is complicated we’ve mostly managed to figure it out. FFG really does publish some brilliant board games; the newer Battlestar Galactica board game is also very, very good and a huge amount of fun.

Been playing a bit of EVE now and then, but it comes and goes. The new expansion does sound very interesting, I have to admit; I’m busy brushing up on my exploration/scanning skills so I can go try out the new “wormhole” stuff once it goes live. At the moment nobody knows how the new Tech3 stuff will work out. I suspect the devs are clueless there, too, and the “let’s tweak it as we go along” model is in play. I’m ok with that, as long as they do balance things eventually.

Oh, and I do have to mention my new (work) phone, the Nokia 6210 Navigator. Now, it’s not often that I praise anything done by Nokia, I’ve usually found their hardware to be ok but the software abysmal. Well, this thing is actually pretty sweet. Nice, compact form-factor, a navigation suite that actually works quite well, and software (on both phone and PC side) that doesn’t utterly suck. Even the PC Suite thingy was usable now, instead of the mind-eating horror it used to be. Go figure. It’s not a total home run.. the GPS reception is patchy at times, and in true Nokia fashion the menu choices and “which button does which logical thing” seem to be randomly assigned at times. But I don’t want to bitch too much – this is a very nice phone. I’m especially loving the combined A-GPS navigation plus compass… having a GPS map on a phone which rotates according to your own orientation is cool. As is the walking (or driving) routing guidance it can do. I’ve already used it as a car navigator a bit, and it works. Pretty well, in fact.

Pew pew pew kaboom: Alliance Tournament finals weekend

Well, we lost that one. We fielded what we considered to be a pretty good setup, but Star Fraction brought pretty much the last thing we wanted to see – something very similar to ours, but absolutely focused on fast cruiser firepower (we had more support stuff there). As a result, they had a lot more cruiser-level dps out there than us, an also proved to have more skill than us in flying that sort of nano gang engagement. While I think we did pretty well considering (we took out quite a few of their Fleet Stabbers), in the end Star Fraction won that vicious, close-range furrball.

It was a fun fight, though… but a very short one for me. I got taken out by a huge drone swarm during the first minute. In hindsight I should have started burning away the second the fight started, but instead I did drone launch and assignment, and then got my tracking disruptor on my assigned EW target. By the time that was done, those Stabbers were pretty much on top of us, and they did the smart thing and waited to launch drones until they were on top of us. I guess I didn’t realize just how fast those Stabbers can move. I was watching my overview for drone aggro, but when it did come I didn’t have time to run much. I called for a smartbomb (and got it), but that was too late to help me – Gahrian’s smartbombs actually ended up killing me (final blow on killmail). Got my pod out with most of the pod armor gone…

The fight after that was a fast, close-range knife fight. SF did some nice maneuvering there, pulling our primaries out of our range and forcing us to chase them (took a while for us to realize what they were doing). That and their superior firepower soon left us with just a Fleet Tempest and a Damnation on the field. Those ships were seriously tanked (the commentators started talking about “Tempest Hero Tank Issue”), since their function in our team was to provide support and not die. Well, it actually took so long for SF to chew through the 250k ehp of the Tempest (and more on the Damnation) that the fight timeouted before the Damnation went down – Teo got to keep his ship intact.

In any case, SF got a deserved win. Better fleet composition versus what we brought than what we had against them, and very good FC and piloting. In the rock-paper-scissors game that is the Alliance Tournament, this time both teams brought “rock”. SF just brought more rocks than we did.

After that was done, the rest of the weekend was spent watching the rest of the tournament on our TV. Excellent fights in there, this current tourney format proved to be very nice – very few boring fights, as compared to last year’s turtle tank fest. I especially loved that hero Nighthawk pilot vs the Abaddon… awesome job from both pilots.

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Fake insomnia in Helsinki

Had an opportunity to finally play in a Don’t Rest Your Head oneshot on Saturday. Was a lot of fun, and the GM had twisted the word game -names in the original into fun Finnish variants (we had a herd of lemmings (sopuli) as reporters, and also a duck (uutisankka)). We played as a gang of four people in modern-day Helsinki, with the PCs having only cursory connections to each other. Worked out fine. The mechanics seemed to work nicely, though we never really got into the deep death spiral that the mechanics are intended to steer things towards.

Very little use of madness talents in the game, things never got quite desperate enough for them.

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