October 6, 2007: Visiting with the Family at Dad’s

Happy Thirtieth Birthday to Andrew T. West
It was a quarter ’till eight when I was in my car and pulling out of the parking lot on the Warren campus and heading west towards home. Much later than I had been hoping. I had kind of been hoping that I would have been done by six, almost two hours earlier. Dominica was way ahead of me but was able to warn me about a horrible traffic jam on i81 in Scranton. So I went twenty miles out of my way to route around it. That didn’t make the trip go by any faster.

Traffic wasn’t too bad for me in New Jersey. I stopped at the Wegmans in Nazareth, Pennsylvania (near Bethlehem, of course) which is right on PA33 and grabbed the last of their cheese pizza slices for dinner just as they were closing up the pizza shop. Dominica never wants to stop for Wegmans pizza while on the road so I took advantage of my lonely drive to get me some of that sweet cheesy goodness.

Once I reached i80 west I hit some solid traffic and was slowed down a bit. I had to bypass i380 and go all of the way out to the PA Turnpike Extension, i476, and double back around the west side of Scranton to reach Clark Summit which I would have reached via i81 normally. Traffic was light on i476 but the construction was a pain.

Interstate 81 is just in horrible shape this year and even after bypassing the worst of it the portion running north from Clark Summit to Binghamton was still quite bad and I lost a lot of time dealing with all of the construction there. After Binghamton the roads and the traffic were fine.

Dominica called to alert me to a detour in Leicester too. There was some sort of accident near the Comstock plant just south of Mt. Morris and the sheriff was rerouting people down to Cuylerville to go around it. When I arrived in Mt. Morris half an hour after her the detour was still there so I went down and came up on Jones Bridge Road to see if there was anything to see. I made it to the corner of Jones Bridge Road and NY36 at the exact same moment that the wrecker with the truck from the accident reached the corner. It was a small, red pickup truck and the damage was pretty serious. That section of NY36 near the Comstock plant (Seneca Foods) has always been really dangerous and a couple of my high school friends and classmates were killed on that stretch many years ago.

It was about one thirty in the morning when I got to dad’s house in Peoria. Dominica had gotten there about half an hour ahead of me. My family from Ohio – grandma, grandpa and my Aunt Gayle – had arrived some time earlier but were already asleep when I got in. She had had a really long drive having left Wallington, New Jersey at half past five and having been on the road ever since then. She and dad were still up and Oreo was a little bundle of energy running all over the house. We stayed up until about two in the morning before getting to bed.

It was a really short night for me. My alarm went off at five fifty in the morning. Dominica and I slept in dad’s office on the floor. So I only had to roll out of bed and fire up the desktop on the desk above my head to get to work. I am really glad that we keep a workstation there so that it is really easy for me to work quickly at times like this.

Work started at six this morning. Nothing like getting moving and working bright and early on a Saturday morning. Oreo was a bit incredulous when I got up off of the mattress on the floor and moved him and the mattress out of the way so that i could start working. But he just rearranged himself and made himself comfortable by my side again and went back to puppy slumber land. Dominica managed to not even wake up, as far as I could tell, even with me turning on the computer and moving the dog around.

Since I was up and working already I took advantage of the early morning silence to do some much needed storage maintenance at dad’s house. I managed to clear 12GB off of one of his machines that has only 18GB to begin with. That machine has been lingering on the edge of being out of space for a very long time. The job took over an hour and that is why it never got completed previously. I just never have time to sit down and deal with it.

It was a long morning of work and I ended up working until around noon which wasn’t too much longer than I had expected. It could have been a lot worse.

This afternoon I discovered that my Windows 2003 Active Directory server that I run at dad’s house has lost one of its mirrored drives and is really on its last leg. Actually, it has been on its last leg for an awfully long time now. I can’t believe how that old thing has limped along. I bought it – a black IBM Netfinity (aka iSeries @Server) 3500 M20 – from IBM’s employee sales back in mid-2001 when Andy and I were still working down in Endicott. No one, at the time, was interested in buying this server both because it was a server and because it used the Pentium III “Flip Chip” which, at the time, everyone thought was crap but quickly went on to displace the weird alternatives and relegate them to the annals of computing lore. So I got a great deal on it. I bought two nice 18GB SCSI Fujitsu drives also directly from IBM. The machine was pretty nice.

The Netfinity started off life as my email server in 2001 running SUSE Email Server II. It spent two years running the SUSE 7 based email system and it did a fine job. At some point, probably in 2003, it was migrated to Windows Server 2003 and served as my Active Directory server replacing the older NT 4 solution that I had had before that. I used it as my very first dedicated virtualization machine too running Virtual PC and later Virtual Server with my email server (a custom built SUSE based system with Horde/IMP, Postfix and Cyrus) running virtualized on top of it. That part was eliminated last year when I moved to Zimbra. And since then it has been serving up AD and CIFS exclusively.

At some point while attempting to upgrade the machine to a full (for it) 2GB of memory I had a bad memory stick actually short out and burn out part of the motherboard. It smoked and I thought that the machine must be dead but it ended up only losing one memory slot! Pheww. That was around late 2003 or early 2004, I think. So the machine limped with a partially burned out mainboard and only 1.5GB of memory. I can’t believe that it still works.

So I was perturbed to discover that one of the mirrored drives had failed without any notification and that now I had a machine very close to death that really needed to be replaced right away. Luckily I had transported a spare server from Newark to my dad’s house just last night! An HP DL380 G2 fully stocked with processors and drives, RAID controller, RILOE, etc. Good deal. And I just happened to transport my copy of Windows Server 2003 R2 at the same time. Talk about perfect timing. Kismet, some would say.

So I spent the available afternoon time doing a full install of Windows 2k3 R2 onto the HP.  Nothing like creating work for myself on the weekends.  🙁  The new hardware is amazing compared to the old though.  Of course it is several years newer but it is also rackmount and having hardware RAID versus software RAID is nice.  The biggest difference is moving to six, hot swappable, 36GB drives instead of two 18GB drives.  That is a big difference.  Unfortunately it is a really loud machine.

I didn’t get nearly as much time to visit as I would have hoped and Dominica and I were both really tired this afternoon.  Min and Oreo took a nap together while my grandmother and aunt Gayle went out for twelve miles of bicycling.

At five thirty we all drove down to Perry and ate a delicious dinner at the Lumberyard restaurant.  It was Dominica and my informal anniversary dinner.  The food was really good.  I always forget how good the food is down there.  We only get to go there once or twice a year if we are lucky.

After dinner Dominica and I drove up to Rochester and visited Andy both to celebrate his birthday and to pick up a load of stuff that he has had there ready for us.  I am collecting my HP dx5150 that he has been using because I am going to be using it at home now as my dedicated Windows XP desktop which I need to really be able to work remotely from home in an efficient way without using Dominica’s space to do it.  Andy is also giving us his wireless keyboard and mouse set for us to use in our bedroom when we hook a computer up to the television / monitor that we have in there now.  And I got his copy of Suikoden V for the PlayStation 2 (which he doesn’t have anymore.)  And lastly we got an older, empty ATX computer case that I am going to fill with parts that I have in Newark to build another PC for the school in Castile.  This was a busy trip.

We got to see Andy’s new apartment.  He has been there for about a month or so but neither of us has been up to see it yet.  He moved just a little bit down the street from his old place but now has a newish townhouse that is quite nice.  The space is used much more wisely than before.  He has a two bedroom, one and a half bath with an extra sink in the master bedroom.  Very nicely laid out.  Nice closet space too.  So he has one room for his bedroom and one for his office.

We all drove down to Borders in Henrietta so that I could take advantage of the rare opportunity to shop in a large computer book section.  There aren’t very many of those in New Jersey.  Not a state of people who read a lot, I guess.  I bought three books while we were there.

After Borders we went to Tim Horton’s and hung out for a little while but had to leave once we were surprised by a freak rainstorm and had left the car windows down for Oreo.  The drive back down to dad’s house took forever in the pouring rain.  We had no visibility and could barely hold the road.  It was really bad.

It was around one in the morning when Dominica and I finally got into dad’s house and got to bed.  We are were very tired.

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