Wednesday, December 17, 2008

New Years Resolution

So, in preparation for the end of year festivities, I've decided to post the results of my New Year's Resolution for 2008. This year my goal was to lose weight, and I succeeded well beyond my expectations, as of this morning I've lost approximately 100 pounds.

Here are some pictures. The first two are of me at a charity event in Feb of 2008, more or less at the start of the process.





The last two are pictures of me this morning.





One last one. I've used the same belt through the whole process, adding new holes as needed. This picture shows the difference between where I started and where I ended. Above the belt is the width of a standard sheet of paper to give a sense of scale.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Dead Computer, Salavaging And Mac Switching

Late Sunday night, I was goofing off on my main computer, purchasing some new music and just generally feeling good about life. As my new purchases were downloading, I got a message that my home partition was out of disk space. Odd, I thought, I should have at least 10 Gigs free there. So, without putting too much thought into the matter, I started making room by moving stuff to other partitions and deleting some old files. No biggie, right?

This went on for about 45 minutes, and my new music downloaded( David Bowie Low & Alladin Sane), Switchblade Symphony (Three Calamites and Sinister Nostalgia) and Second Person (Elements) )... just in time for a major hard drive crash. *SIGH* Ok, I've dealt with those before. The hard drive was relatively new, so I really didn't expect anything too serious. So standard procedure, find a live CD, boot, run fsck and whatever else I need to do and get on with my life....

Not so much. After about 10 minutes I realized that there was a MUCH bigger problem when I could smell the unmistakeable reek of overheated circuit board. So with much swearing, I turned the computer off and checked all the fans... case, CPU, graphics card, power supply all working fine. By the time I finished the check, the computer had cooled so, a quick blast from the dust remover and try again. This time it lasted less than 5 minutes before I could smell it. By this point, it was well past midnight and I was quickly realizing I was in for a LOOONG week, and packed it in for the night.

As I was mulling this over, trying to get to sleep I realized that my best choices were 1) fully replace the guts of the computer or 2) buy a whole new computer. Now, as I said I'm maintianing two homes right now; my apartment in Pittsburgh and my old house in Du Bois (*PLUG* it's nice, please buy my home *END PLUG*). So neither idea was completely satisfying, but I also needed to be back in operation ASAP on Monday for work.

Tossing and turning all night, I convinced myself I could afford a new computer, and that really it made sense. I was spending 5-10 hours a month just keeping Frankencomputer going, I could use those 5-10 hours to do something fun! So, around 5:30 AM, I got up and went shopping online for a computer that I could pickup at a near by brick and mortar store.

Part of my thought process was that in the last 6 months we've had a huge surge of Mac users at work, and part of my job is to support them. So, I finally settled on a Macbook, which would let me run anything that I might need to support thanks to VMWare and/or Parrellels. So, 10:30 AM I'm on a bus headed down to the local Apple Store in Shadyside. Nice place, great service and i was in and out in about 20 minutes. I'll probably blog more about the switch in future, but right now I pretty much like being back in Macworld for the first time since OS 9 was released. Although, the dock takes some getting used to, it seems like Apple decided it was the dumping place for everything that they weren't sure where to put.

Now I was faced with not having a backup of my old data. Yes, I deserve to be mocked and mocked heartily but even with Frankencomputer I really didn't give much thought to backup. Most of my work files get backed up to sourceforge or other servers... but my gnucash files, mp3s, videos, notes for my horror novel and all that stuff was circling the virtual drain.

At this point, I really thought that my harddrive was probably OK at its core and the errors were due to the overheating issue. I figured that if I got the HD into a working rig, I would be able to just pull the files off. So saturday, I headed off to a friend's house to hook the computer up to his Mac Pro. First thing to try was to boot directly from that drive. No dice, HD errors after a long wait. Then we tried just mounting the disk in OS X and I was kind of surprised that Macs don't ship with support for ext2/ext3. Tried to mount from a VMWare image, but it couldn't even find the drive. So, we downloaded a live linux CD and from there we were able to mount every partition, except for the home partition (of course).

By this point, both Dan and I both were getting frustrated. And one of us figured "why not try dd to get an image we can mount in a vm?" So, we tried that and got the first 1288 bytes of a 75 GB image before the process errored out. However, some quick googlin' revealed that something like
dd if=/dev/hda4 of=rob.dd conv=sync,noerror
would ignore any errors and replace the corrupt sections with 0s. So, we started that process and gave up for the day.

Next day, Dan shows up at my place with his Macbook and the file. While its transferring we run down to the Waterfront and I get a new external drive so that I'm all setup with Time Machine.

We get back and Dan heads off, so I start trying to mount the file. However, it still has some minor errros, so I run fsck on it. After what seems like forever, if have a mountable disk image! After about six more hours of copying files, I have about 90-99% of all the files restored. There are a few damaged files, but fortunately nothing important.
It really is amazing how far you can get with simple free tools...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

More about the last few months....

So, I'm trying to post a little more regularly than I have been for the last little while. Its been a long time since I did this, so I'll try to get people caught up.

Aside from the divorce, I think the biggest news was that in May I was diagnosed with Sleep Apnea. Fortunately, while untreated apnea is a serious issue, it is easily treated. I received a machine which I wear at night that forces my airways to remain open as I sleep. While the machine is slightly uncomfortable, the discomfort is well worth it.

Before the treatment I would fall asleep watching TV, reading a book, and if I was the passenger in a car for more than 10-15 minutes. This was happening about once a day during the week and two or three times daily on weekends. Since the treatment, I've taken exactly one nap... and that was when I was heavily medicated for a cold.

Also before the treatment, I was waking up several times in the night. There were always reasons... I was thirsty or had to go to the bathroom or heard a noise. Starting with that first night, I now sleep the night through about 90% of nights.

I have more energy, look forward to bed time and just generally feel better than I have since my early 20's. I've also noticed a significant improvement in my ability to focus mentally. Its not that I was having problems focusing before, but now I can focus much more clearly on whatever I'm doing. It really is great.

As I mentioned in my first post, I've re-taken up cycling and that is directly attributable to the increase in my energy levels and mood. I've also gone from walking 1-2 miles a day on relatively flat paths to 4-8 miles a day (depending on my mood and time available) . And instead of flat paths, I'm now heading up some of the steepest paths (both maintained and those tiny little ad-hoc mountain bike paths) in Frick Park.

So, the reason I'm posting all of this is to let people know: If you're having problems sleeping, waking up a lot in the night, or just generally have low energy levels I recommend you talk to your doctor. I recommend this even in circumstances where you aren't exhibiting overt signs of apnea. In my case, my ex-wife felt very strongly that while I was a loud snorer she saw and heard no evidence of apnea at all. When the test results came back they showed a case of apnea that was rated as "Severe", the strongest classification. But even if that is not the case with you, there may be some other diagnosable and treatable reason you are not getting enough sleep.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A New Canadian Province?

I caught this blog post while waiting on some code to compile. Its an interesting idea, but... 1) would the Icelandic government go along with it? (I doubt it) and 2) Canadians already complain that Americans only see their country as "that cold place up north," having a province called "Iceland" is absolutely going to cement that idea in the American psyche.

First Post!

So, I was thinking about this last night. Previously, I was hosting my blog at performwith.us , which is a site I'm working on for the tween market... basically a safe youtube/myspace for kids.

However, that limits my ability to post things that parents might not want their kids to see. For example, things about my life, work, computers, politics, etc. So I decided to move all that stuff off into a separate blog... this one.

So, I will do a quick catch up since my last post on performwith.us: The big news is that I'm in the middle of a divorce. I moved out on August 2 and relocated back to Pittsburgh. I'm really enjoying the new locale, and have picked up some really good habits... more exercise, better eating habits, etc. Just (last night) took my first bike ride in 12 or more years, and I'm planning on doing a lot more cycling over the next year.

In fact, I'm planning a cycling excursion to Wales sometime next summer... so I really need to build up my endurance! That's about it for now, I'll post some more stuff later.