Gigaram sucks?

Hum. Ironic Design runs several machines. We’ve got seven servers for servicing AnteSpam, plus three or four others doing miscellaneous duties, like hosting this blog.

Anyway, having all this hardware that we pretty much keep going 24/7, and especially with the AnteSpam servers, which get driven hard (2 emails per second, which doesn’t sounds like a lot until you consider that means 20x that in various database lookups and inserts (for logging) plus, oh yeah, actually running SpamAssassin) means we have some fairly strong ideas about hardware.

Our current systems are all Opteron-based (though we’ve not made the jump to 64-bit mode yet) with Tyan. Our storage controllers are all 3ware and our drives are all WD Raptors–not, honestly, that I love WD, but I like the 10K performance.

And our ram is all Crucial. And, for the forseeable future, it will stay crucial, because so far our one experiment with another vendor, Gigaram, has really sucked. We’ve had two pieces of our very nice ECC ram fail–and one of them we tried in another machine, and it failed there, too.

Now I don’t want to make blanket assertions off of relatively little data, but I will note that it’s going to take a long time for us to consider going back to Gigaram, because we take our uptime pretty seriously, and they’ve had an adverse impact.

Heh.

Brad DeLong goes to Chez Panisse, then has some fun with it:

“We went to Chez Panisse for lunch last week.”
“Ah! The rough life of a Berkeley professor.”
“The dish they were pushing was chicken-under-a-brick. But i told them my wife had made it just a couple of weeks ago.”
“Did you tell them that what I made was actually chicken-under-a-cast-iron-Le-Creuset-casserole weighted with three soup cans?”
“No.”
“That would have given them their opening. ‘Well, sir, be assured that at this restaurant, our chicken-under-a-brick is made with real bricks…'”
“Real bricks, made by hand by the artisan brickmakers of Sonoma County…”
“‘Sonoma County? You jest, sir! Alameda County. Those who lose big at the local Indian casinos must work off their debt by gathering dung and straw from Shattuck Avenue to hand-make adobe Mission bricks…'”

I cannot, honestly confirm or deny…

Chet’s recollection of me screwing around with people who kept calling my number in error. It has a vague sense of familiarity, but, honestly, it might have been Patrick–simply taking reservations seemed a little subtle for me, I was much more the “beat the phone against the wall” sort of person at that point.

I’m much better now. Unless you’re a telephone solicitor. Or a wrong number calling me too early in the morning.

The Eyre Affair

Oh, I don’t know that I have all that much to say about The Eyre Affair. It’s lighthearted escapism that has some fun with famous literature–the idea of a Shakespeare play being put on as if it were The Rocky Horror Picture Show is awfully amusing to think about, especially if the play in question is Richard III.

As further proof–if ’twere needed–that nothing ever changes, there is a plotline that revolves around the fact that the Crimean war has been running continuously to “present day”–which is to say 1985–that has all sorts of weird echos in this time and place, even though the book was released in January, 2002, meaning it had to have been finished before September 11 and well before the whole subject of Iraq came up.

My new favorite source for recipes

So, it was a total impulse buy when I picked up the March/April issue of Cook’s Illustrated and I had gotten my sister a subscription for Christmas a few years ago, and our friend Chapman had gotten us a cookbook by the same people a year or two ago, but I’d never really looked hard at the magazine, and, well, the checkout line isn’t the place to do it.

However, we’ve tried two recipes from it–one pasta dish (a spaghetti with cherry tomatoes, olives, capers, and pine nuts is actually on the web), which was judged excellent by us and the friends we had over, and their take on tortilla soup–and they’ve both been incredibly tasty, and, even more amazing, easy. Their tortilla soup recipe is as good as any I’ve ever had–although I’ll admit that I don’t live in, say, Houston–and it’s structured in such a way that if you had three people to work on it simultaneously, you could be done in maybe 30 minutes from start to finish.

They also have a roast chicken recipe that I’m dying to try, but for the moment, we’re going to try one of the other pasta variations. Maybe we’ll do the chicken next week.

Regardless, I highly recommend this. We have a shelf full of cookbooks, and they’re all interesting for one thing or another, but we’ve made as many dishes out of this magazine–admittedly, a $7.95 magazine (no ads, though)–as we have out of all too many of our cookbooks, and they’ve been easy and good. This is hard to overrate, IMNSHO.

For the bizarrely technically-minded among you

So, the Perl 6 implementation on top of Parrot continues to chug along. At least, I suppose it does–since Piers Cawley doesn’t write his weekly summaries any more, I have no idea. I guess I need to subscribe to yet another mailing list.

However, regardless of that, a “competing” implementation is being worked on. The weird, mildly disturbing part of it is that it’s being implemented in Haskell.

Now I don’t have anything against Haskell, per se–in fact, I considered learning it as a new language, although I ended up going with C#, which is a whole other story–but everything I’ve seen about it suggests that it is, if not an anti-Perl sort of language, at least a very un-Perl sort of language. To use one to implement the other seems, masochistic.

So, O’Reilly’s got a magazine coming out

Make describes itself as:

The first magazine devoted to digital projects, hardware hacks, and D.I.Y. inspiration.

Sucker that I occasionally am, I suspect I shall subscribe–apparently the first issue will be subscription-only, with the second appearing on newsstands.

Now running on a new host with new software

So, um, I took a week off, more or less, from any real, sensible, useful work to write my own blogging package.

This choice, believe it or not, was not undertaken lightly. Well, that’s not entirely true–the need to resolve the issues I’d been having bit me in the ass one day, and I just couldn’t concentrate on anything else until it was done. But I’d been thinking about moving for a while, because there were issues with the software I had been using, but the software, Blosxom, is basically dead.

Well, perhaps that’s overstating the case. It still has a community of users, and many of them are quite happy–heck, I was mostly happy–but it has no leader to keep development moving forward, and the prior leader, Rael Dornfest, released the last alpha version of the “big new update” nearly a year ago with a restrictive license that forbids anyone from picking it up and continuing development.

And the idea of hacking on the prior version, of which I’ve done a little, was not attractive.

So I decided to take those aspects of Blosxom that I really liked–mostly using the filesystem as your database–and build my own. And I have, and it’s not really ready to be released just yet (there’s still a ton of rough edges), but I can talk about the design a little bit.

The single biggest thing I like about Blosxom is that it uses the filesystem as its database of articles, which are all just text files–you type them up, give them silly names, dump them in directories, and it picks through it all to find stuff. This works great for me, with my devotion to Emacs, and it allows me to easily and reliably do all my editing locally, and then push my changes up to the real server using rsync or sitecopy or what-have-you.

Where my too begins to differ is that Blosxom considers the first line of your file the title, and the rest is the body. For various reasons, I got in the habit of separating those with a line, and I decided to exploit that. So my tool considers anything up to the first blank line to be a “header”, while the rest of the file is the body.

Now, at the moment, I actually prefix this header text with the string “title: “, and then split the whole thing up on the colons, much like one would a mail header. This allows you to define arbitrary properties for a message. You can put:

This is a title
Foo: Fee
author: Jiminy

Etc., etc. The body part of the message gets run through Textile, which is a very nice, very smart formatter that takes a lot of the scutwork out of the sort of text I’m writing. It gives me back xhtml.

From all this, I can produce a chunk of XML to represent the article, including those arbitrary properties from the header. This all gets glommed together with some header information for the whole feed into a big XML document that represents the semantic content I want to produce.

Then, depending on what sort of output you requested (this is the “flavor” in Blosxom parlance), that XML is cranked through a stylesheet that will produce well-formed XHTML, or RSS (of any type), or Atom, or conceivably other things.

Even though this is all written in perl, it’s pretty damn fast–all the XML tomfoolery is done using the XML::LibXML and XML::LibXSLT libraries, which are wrappers around libxml2 and libxslt1.1, which are lightning-fast C libraries for doing this stuff.

I also think it’s ridiculously flexible, for the usual reasons: it divorces content from presentation (mostly), so it’s easy to support multiple formats with a fair shot at producing optimal results in them.

I also have ideas for “plugins”–the fundamental thing to realize is that we can dump as much stuff as we want into our “source document”, and then use XSLT stylesheets to tailor things for presentation. So that list of days with number of posts can be put in some arbitrary place and the XSLT (probably plus some CSS) can move it to be a sidebar.

Overall, I think it’s going to end up being a nice system–perhaps not perfect, but close. But for the moment I need to go to bed.

OK, so I wasn’t able to get through Engine Summer…

I bought a trio of Jonathon Carroll novels in a single volume, and just haven’t made it to it yet, even though John Clute says they’re spectacular.

Sometimes these things happen. I’ll probably try again in six months or a year and wonder what stopped me before.

On the other hand, two posts in, and I find Jonathon Carroll’s blog absolutely fascinating. For instance, the post on 2/9 (you have to go to the February page and then scroll down).

Contrast this, most amusingly, with Warren Ellis’ explanation of where his ideas come from.

And then contemplate the notion of:

…and suddenly you understand what it would be like if Einstein’s brain was placed into the body of a young tyrannosaur, stuffed full of amphetamines and suffused with Sex Radiation.

More posts from Debian Developers

So, decided to cave in and get that grocery store discount card that makes Ben & Jerry’s a buck cheaper, but hate the fact that you’ve just given them a window into your buying habits?

Benjamin Mako Hill has the answer. He and some compatriots put together cardexchange.org so you can meet up with people and swap cards. Yeah, they’ll still collect information, but it’ll be kinda strange.

Reviewing history of Amtrak with John Goerzen

John’s a Debian developer, and I keep up with his blog through the Planet Debian aggregator.

I was very interested to read his post on Amtrak funding.

I think having public transportation is a significant public good–one of the things I have liked most about the times I have lived in large cities (Boston, Miami, DC) is the ability to get to places without a car. That public transportation occasionally provides Chet with an opportunity to note, “That woman had pierced nipples.” (a fact I had not noticed in my still-somewhat-hung-over state) is just icing on the proverbial cake.

That one of the few downsides to the place I live now is miserable air quality because of excessive automobile traffic just reinforces this for me.