* Posts by JW Smythe

7 posts • joined 27 Apr 2009

Doctor Who and the Dalek: 10-year-old tests BBC programming game

JW Smythe

Re: Eight puzzles to solve...

Is level 9 making souffles?

JW Smythe


Is the game playable? I don't see it on the provided link, just a preview video. I wanted to try it, mostly out of curiosity.

From the description, it sounds like a game that we played on the Tandy Coco in the 1980s. You could "program" various pieces in different ways to accomplish various tasks. It wasn't programming in the sense of being able to write something outside of the game, but it gave kids an idea of what some of the concepts did.

I can't say that it worked for everyone, but I played it as a kid, and I did get into programming later on in life. That was more "people pay more money if I learn..." thing.

When your squash partner 'endorses' your coding skills on LinkedIn...

JW Smythe

Re: doubleplus like

You know, that really encourages me to update my profile. I think I'm going to be a theoretical astrophysicist, recreational extreme mountain climber, astronaut, practical exobiologist, retired covert agent, and successful entrepreneur. I could at least partially pull most of those off. I don't think I'd be very good at nuclear physics.


JW Smythe

Re: Where's the brakes.

If I were to build a flying car, I'd sure as heck have glowing lights on the bottom. If people expect it, why give anything less.

It'd be more impressive if it wasn't clearly CGI'd. I love those overdone shadows. They should work on that for the next "version".

I'd have it going cross country, and laying down crop circles.

Can virtualisation rejuvenate your old servers?

JW Smythe


No, you're pretty close to on target.

Where I work now, we had a whole mess of servers running, and a power bill around $7,000/month. When I inherited the mess, we started looking hard at what each one was doing. Many were just on because "they've always been on". Some did trivial functions and had no load on them.

Rather than reinventing their horribly designed wheel, I went the VM route. I built out a couple new servers (mostly gaming parts in a mid-tower case) with 6 3.8Ghz cores, 16TB storage and 16GB RAM, for about USD 1,500/each. I use VirtualBox for my VMs, because I've been very happy with it over the last few years. And yes, I've tried the others.

VMWare has a migration tool, to move the running OS from physical hardware to a VM. A little black magic later, and all the low usage machines were moved. It made quick work of it. I did the migrations remotely, shut down the source machine when I was done, and then had someone local to the servers go and unplug them.

I should clarify at this point. The "Low usage" servers had things like the accounting software, Active Directory servers, miscellaneous file servers that people just *HAD* to have, and the mapped drive letters couldn't change. For some of the applications, I did not have the option for installing them on a new server. Disks were misplaced or some special technique to get them to work left the company with previous employees.

All in all, the two machines that I set up are handling the job very nicely, and have plenty of resources for other tasks.

There was some discussion of moving the mail server over, which I vetoed. Mail servers thrash away at ditching spam, processing inbound and outbound queues, and dealing with the horrendous user requests (hey, lets search our 10GB mailbox for the word "A").

We went through a cycle of pulling network cables to machines that didn't look like they were doing anything, and letting them sit for a week. Guess what? Most of them weren't doing anything.

One advantage to this was memory usage. I was concerned that some of the old servers wouldn't survive a reboot. I also priced memory and found that a decent upgrade would cost several hundred dollars each. It's hard to justify that kind of money for machines that people barely use.

I was lucky in that the machines were single or dual core machines with up to 1GB RAM, and a primary drive of around 20GB. Ya, that old. I gave the VMs more memory as needed. Some of them were swapping horribly because they really needed about 1.5GB RAM. Voila, swapping problem solved.

The users are happy that the machines are much quicker now. I'm happy that I can log into two machines and have the "consoles" in front of me.

Apollo 11 - The Owners' Workshop Manual

JW Smythe

Haynes on ....

Both the Haynes and Chiltons books drive me nuts. For example my car had significant drivetrain change while still in the same body style. 1993 to 2003 is one body. 1998 through 2003 has a new drivetrain. The books don't mention that and go on the idea that they're same.

Some things read simply. Steps 1 through 5 indicate taking a few things apart. Should be a piece of cake, they are a total of 5 lines. Nope. Item 3 is a 6 hour process where they haven't documented what has to be done to accomplish it.

Sometimes they're simply off. For example, change the fuel pump. It's in the fuel tank. Remove the exhaust, loosen a few bolts, and detach the tank. No problem. They forgot to mention raising the car high in the air, and disconnecting the entire rear suspension, rear wheels, and setting the axle on the ground. That was the only way to get enough clearance to do it. Option #2 found online is easier. Cut a hatch in the trunk (boot), swap the pump, and seal it up. The first option is an all-day project. The second option took about 20 minutes.

Thankfully, the Apollo 11 book won't be used by anyone in a pinch. :)

US lawmakers to de-silence electric cars

JW Smythe

beep beep beep beep beep

I can just see every car on the road, by law, having the jetsons car noise.

I can almost understand the need for a little noise. Someone I work with has a hybrid car. I've walked out of work with him, walked the other way, and never heard him drive off. I just glance over, and his car is gone (with him in it).

I drive a nice loud car, when I want it to be. At idle, it's quiet. If I rev the engine, the throaty V8 sound reminds you that I'm there. I've found just revving my engine once is more intimidating than the horn. One night, a driver (probably drunk) was sitting at a green light, with 6 cars behind him. I was #4. My friend was #3. Everyone was honking, except me. Once I was sufficiently annoyed that he didn't know how to go through a green light, I just revved my engine once. He was moving almost immediately. When we got to our destination, my friend was laughing his ass off about it. I have no need for a horn. I also use it to let a friend know I'm almost home. As I pass the house, I rev my engine one. Not much, just a quick rev to 3k RPM and back to idle. It's a subtle reminder that I'm driving past. It's our prearranged notice that I'm almost home. If they need me for something, my phone rings shortly after. :) It's not as obnoxious as a horn honk, so no other neighbors have complained.

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