Friday, February 25, 2005

Running on borrowed time

Fresh from the double trouble hard drive failures in my server I've just had to go and buy a new transformer and cord for my primary development laptop. The old cord had just stopped working, I think 3 years of being wrapped and unwrapped every day took it's toll and broke a connection somewhere within it.

They sure do gouge you for those spare parts, $95 Australian it cost me for a replacement but at least it was only the cord and not the whole laptop that needed replacing.

My laptop, a Compaq Evo N160, is holding up reasonably well but it's definitely showing it's age. As I write this there is a folded up piece of cardboard jammed into the hinge of the screen which helps stop the crazy kaleidoscope patterns that appear when I first turn it on. If fiddling with the cardboard wedge doesn't work I have to push down on the bottom right and top left corners of the laptop while pushing upwards into the centre of the laptop with my left knee. Once the spinning screen stops, I have to keep very still to stop it from happening again.

That's pretty much indicative of most of my computing equipment. It was all purchased almost 3 years ago or more and it shows. I can cope with the little quirks each of my machines has for now but they're all on borrowed time. Every time I have to fight with my laptop to stop the screen spinning or my server blue screens at startup I wonder if it's day has come.

I just have to keep them up and running for a few more months. If they can hold together until Sydney is released I can start to retire them gracefully and replace them with some nice bright and shiny new machines. Assuming Sydney actually generates some income that is.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

I hate Western Digital

"...based on the lightning doesn't strike twice principle I should be right for a while now."

That was me almost exactly two months ago. I'd just had a hard drive failure in my server and lost my source code version control repository. It was an annoyance but I could get by since I still had the latest version of the Sydney source code on my working machine. I took it as a warning to improve my backup procedures but reasoned that statistically speaking I should be safe from hard drive failures for a while.

Statistically speaking, I'm an idiot.

The second hard drive that was in that server (another Western Digital 120GB IDE drive) has just failed. While I had some warning that the first drive was going to fail this one died suddenly before I could pull anything off it. On it was my version control repository (again), my build server virtual machine, a bunch of testing virtual machines and most importantly several years worth of real world test data that I have been gathering to feed into Sydney.

And what of my improved backup procedures that the first drive failure prompted me to put into place? Unfortunately they're still on the drawing board. I have a old machine ready to use as a backup server that I'll keep at my house but I haven't finished putting it together yet. Another week and it would have been ready, I've just been too busy with the moves and technical support jobs of late to devote more time to it.

The good news

The good news is that by going into Windows safe mode and using xcopy repeatedly it appears I was able to recover some of the files. I've retrieved my version control repository, an older version of my build server virtual machine and maybe 15% of the test data archive. The drive has now completely died, emitting all sorts of scraping, clicking and clanking noises if I try to use it.

So once again, through good fortune rather than good planning, I seem to have averted disaster. I'm not going to tempt fate again though. As I said last time

"Of course if lightning does happen to strike twice I'll have to be very wary. These things happen in threes you know."

The backup server will be up running at my house before the end of the working week.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

All settled in

It's been almost a month since my last posting. About half that time I was busy with my moves and the other half of the time I guess I was settling into my new surroundings and just didn't get around to posting.

Time to get stuck into it all again though with the moves from my old home/office to a new house and a new office completed. Many thanks to the friends and family who helped me through the whole process, without you I would really have been lost.

It was a very busy time made just that bit harder by a big network setup job for a local business that came through almost the day I started my move. I would have put them off until after the move but I'd been chasing this job for 3 months and didn't want to risk losing it to someone else. So I've been spending my days at their offices these past few weeks and moving my furniture and boxes in the early mornings and evenings.

There's been no progress on the Sydney front but I am in a much better position now, both in terms of my work and home environments and my financial situation.

The new house is really quite good and my housemates are good people. There have been no problems between us but even if there were, I'm traveling light now with all my work equipment at the office so I can quite easily move to another shared house if I need to.

The new office I'm assuming is also quite good, but the truth is I've only been there four times in the past 5 weeks, each time for no longer than an hour or two. Lucky the rent is so ridiculously cheap or it would have been a real waste of money. Starting next week though I'll be making a real effort to spend more time there and get stuck into Sydney again.

I did have one unexpected stroke of luck during the moving process. The real estate agent was able to find a new tenant for my old place before my notice period ended and as a result I didn't have to pay that extra week's rent I thought I was going to have to. A nice little bonus just when I needed it, moving is always a strain on the finances even when you do it on the cheap.