Today was our big “data centre” upgrade day. Andrew West and Bob Winans drove down to Washington, D.C. with me last night. This was Bob’s first trip to Washington to see where Andy and I have been working for the past year.
Our project for this weekend was to work on a system upgrade for the servers located at Washington Hospital Center. We have a small “data centre” there that has housed our main servers since they relocated from the University of Rochester several months ago. Rochester was more convenient but the space that we have here in Washington is much better and has allowed for greater expansion.
We would have crashed last night at the condo that John Nicklin rents from our friend Rob in Arnold, Maryland. This would have been Andy’s first trip to the condo. All of his former trips to Washington would have been based out of the Extended Stay Suites hotel in Alexandria, Virginia.
The office was hot and very uncomfortable even though it is February and cold outside. Nothing makes the office here cool in any way. Jonathan Stagno, who was living in Pasadena, Maryland at the time, came out to Washington to help out on the project as well. This is, I believe, the only time that Andy or Bob have seen Jonathan as of December, 2007 when I am writing this update.
The work went well. I no longer know all of the work that was done but I do know that this was the weekend that we did some major hardware upgrades to our primary Windows NT 4 IIS 4 Server (a.k.a. “Vienna”.) We added three additional 9GB SCSI hard drives and moved the machine from a straight drive to software based RAID 5 for speed and protection. “Vienna” was one of the two Compaq Proliant 800 servers that Andy and I used in Pittsburgh in March, 2000. At this time it was also upgraded from 128MB to 1GB of memory which helped a lot.
After our day of work in the office we left Stagno to return home and Bob, Andy and I met up with John Nicklin, Rob and Trish at O’Laughlin’s in the Bay Green Plaza in Arnold, MD. It was quite the party. We even managed to convince a “not too with it” Andy that he had run up a $500 bar tab (a fake provided for effect by the manager) and that Andy had to cover it if he didn’t manage to get a girl at the bar to kiss him. The girl was there with a very large male friend who was in on the gag and hilarity ensued.
Today is the beginning of a fun trip for Bob Winans, Andrew West and I. I can’t remember the details but I believe that Bob taught today and then drove down to Endicott, New York to the IBM facility there where Andy and I work. And and I work in the hexagonally windowed engineering building on the west side of the IBM manufacturing campus. The three of us are driving down to Maryland tonight and will be working at Washington Hospital Center with Jonathan Stagno tomorrow. I know that Andy and I definitely had to work today and it would only make sense for Bob to have met us down in Endicott and I seem to vaguely remember that happening. (It is December, 2007 when I finally got around to writing this post!)
We would have driven down in the late evening probably leaving Endicott around four or four thirty. The route from Endicott was easy – a quick jump down NY 17 to Binghamton and then Interstate 81 south to Harrisburg and then Interstate 83 down to Baltimore. A quick loop around Baltimore on the beltway (Interstate 695) and then Interstate 97 down to MD 50 and over to Arnold, Maryland.
Several months ago, John Nicklin rented a condo in Arnold, Maryland to use as a “home base” in the D.C. area. And this is where we are all staying tonight. I have my own room there. Andy and Bob slept in the living room. At this point John wasn’t really considering living in the D.C. area and was more interested in moving to Anderson, South Carolina.
Tonight is the big New Year’s Eve Party! This is the party that Sheep Guarding Llama was originally created to announce. Strangely, I didn’t update the site with any information about the party tonight until a full seven years later! (Post created on December 28, 2007.)
Andy, Bob, Nate and I are all living in the house at 8-1 Sanctuary Drive, Ithaca, New York. This is our first (and only) holiday season that will be spent here in this house. It is also the first time that anyone of any of our friends has their own place that qualifies as a real “entertaining” house. So we decided that we needed to through a real, blow-out holiday party.
The party tonight set the tone for the next several years. The party was semi-formal and everyone was really dressed up. The house members had just gone together and purchased a small, round hot tub that we placed in the garage and had all heated up and ready to go for the party.
We had been hoping to be able to get some digital pictures of the party and I bought a $99 digital camera at Walmart that turned out to not be any good and we took it back. We weren’t expecting much of the camera but we got even less out of it. It’s 640×480 resolution was horrible and it couldn’t take a picture even at that resolution worth anything.
The most famous moment of the evening was Matt Hoch playing piano and singing several of his own tunes for us like “Look at my Ass”. Once he had had enough to drink, Andy joined Matt and sang along with some impromptu piano tunes making up the words as he went.
By the end of the night the hot tub was full. It sounded silly at the time but a lot of the late partiers went for it. The garage at Sanctuary was pretty small and we didn’t have much space for much else in it. All we used it for was the hot tub and additional storage. We didn’t have as much storage in the basement as you would expect since my bedroom was down there.
By late in the evening we had people running out into the cold, New York night making snow angels in the front yard. There was a lot of snow out there.
So who made it out for the party tonight? I wish that I could remember more clearly. A lot of people made it and I hope that people who know that they made it can email me and let me know to add them to the list. I know that Nate, Bob, Andy and I were there as we were the hosts. Matt Hoch clearly made it. Ryan Cloud was there – he was in the hot tub and making snow angels. Nate’s cousin Mandy came back from Connecticut for the party. Carrie was there – I can remember her getting tackled into the deep snow in the ditch out front. I assume that Eric and Amanda made it although the weather may have kept them away as I can’t picture them being there. Josh definitely made it as he always did. I am pretty sure that Joe Howlett made it as well. There were probably a dozen or more people that I just can’t picture for sure.
Cinco de Mayo!
Today was a huge day for Andy and I. When we first came to Pittsburgh in March our schedule for getting the Waste Watcher project up and running and “live” was May 1st. That day was insanely ambitious and it was not realistic at all for the project to move that quickly. But we did all that we could. May 1st was Monday. Today is Friday.
Since March 20th we have been working around the clock on this project. Everything that we have done has been eating, sleeping and breathing this project. Sixteen hour days, seven days a week has been almost constant. We have been going completely crazy – barely taking time out to eat and neither of us has so much as seen a single television show, movie or anything else since we were here (except for that first weekend with my parents.)
We did not manage to “flip the switch” on the Waste Watcher as we had hoping on the first but we did flip it today and the first “production” data started flowing into the Waste Watcher system this morning. The project is far from done but just getting to this phase and already replacing the paper processes at the first hospital location is a really big deal. Today is a major celebratory day.
The new machines that are being used for the production tracking stations are Compaq iPaq Celeron 533 black and silver small form factor units with 64MB. These are the first machines that we have worked with that run Windows 2000 Professional. We had originally chosen these machines because of their low air-flow and forward looking design. But quickly we discovered that RS232 serial communications was a critical piece of the system and that these units, needing USB to Serial adapters, were overly complex and error prone.
Today is our first real day of doing work in Pittsburgh. We don’t have much time to “settle into a groove”. We are going from “zero to one hundred” practically overnight. Today we got set up with an office in the bowels of UPMC Shadyside from which we will be working for the next several months.
We don’t have Internet access from the hospitals but we do have phone lines in the office that will allow us to dial up to our AOL account to get Internet access. This makes doing our work extremely cumbersome. But that is just the beginning.
We are equipped with a limited amount of physical computing equipment while in Pittsburgh. We have two Compaq Proliant 800 servers (each a Pentium III 500) that are being used for all development and we have two Hewlett-Packard Brio desktops (Celeron 433, 64MB, Windows NT 4 Workstation) that we have to use for all of our non-server work. This wouldn’t be bad but we have only two monitors which leaves us in a pretty tight situation. Andy will be stuck carrying a monitor back and forth from the apartment to the office many times over the next several months.
My parents left in the morning to head back home. For dinner Andy and I drove downtown and walked around for a little while to learn where we were and what Pittsburgh had to offer. We stopped at a small pizza shop near the confluence of the rivers to eat our first real meal of the project in Pittsburgh.