Thursday, November 1, 2007

Random Thoughts ...

Finally got my main system back up again. New boot partition, and finally scragged the RAID array and went back to single drives. RAID 5 is not a good desktop technology and may never be; the pain-in-the-ass of keeping it up and running is fine for production systems, not so good for home machines.

One thing that's crossed my mind a few times is native RAID 5 inside hard drives -- most of what kills drives is head crashes, even today. If you've got a drive with three or more platters you could offer RAID 5 internally with a single drive ... as long as the heads are working on 2 platters, you're still functional.

This is a freebie to the hard drive industry. I'd never buy anything else, ever again.


I can't imagine why there isn't a "Fight Club" musical yet. I'll write the ad for them: "The first rule of Fight Club ... is you do not sing about Fight Club."

Fight Club is Jodi's favorite movie. I think it's a load of horseshit myself -- "we are the middle children of history" my butt -- but it is funny in places. It's already camp enough: it'd make a great musical.


I can't understand why there's a water shortage on a planet with so much water and sunshine. Is it that hard to build a system that lays water out in the sun and catches the evaporate?


How much electricity could you recover if you put pressure plates under the roads? Vehicle going over the pressure plates depress them, leaving the plates release the pressure and generate electricity. Maybe you could light the roads with it. You could even selectively light the roads with it -- only light the lamps around the spots where cars are actually passing and generating electricity.


For all I've written about flying cars, I'm not really ready to live in a world that has them. It's bad enough passing them on the side of the road on the hottest summer days: you can't drive up the 405 incline on the worst days of summer without seeing cars that didn't make it to the top of the Santa Monica mountains. Now picture them plummeting from the sky ... mothers with small children parachuting to safety ... "What is this on your parachute, Ronnie?"


The Martian Child is out this weekend. Looking forward to it, though early reviews aren't good -- there's apparently some creepy stuff about the kid, the "Martian Child." The Martian Child is Sean Gerrold -- called Dennis in the movie, which was his name when David Gerrold adopted him. Great boy -- I played basketball with him for about a year, 10+ years ago now, on weekends. He'd been through rough stuff (and gave David some difficult times) but he was incredibly bright and charming. I hope the movie brings that across.

Really looking forward to American Gangster, though. That's the best trailer I've seen in years. I'm going out of town on a contract this week -- I don't really like traveling, at least on business -- miss my family too much. But it does give you free time, usually. Maybe I'll get to see American Gangster while I'm on the road.


Looks like it's just time separating Kobe from his exit from Los Angeles. I remember a day 20 years ago -- the Dodgers had won the World Series, the Lakers had won the NBA Finals, and Los Angeles still had two football teams. (OK, one -- the Rams went to Anaheim in 1979, which is when I stopped rooting for them.) Now the Dodgers suck, the "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim" is so stupid it's had to tolerate --

"The La Brea Tar Pits" translates to "The The Tar Tar Pits."

"The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim" translates to The The Angels Angels of Anaheim."

No team that plays in Anaheim is an L.A. team, I don't care what they call themselves.

So we have no pro football, a lousy baseball franchise, a lousy basketball franchise (and the Clippers, too) ... the Lakers are a borderine playoff team with Kobe; without him they're likely to test the losing record of the 1972 Philadelphia 76ers, who went 9 and 72. There's a been a lot of static over Kobe over the years; on most of it I've had his back. But I'm ready for him to go now. No hard feelings, some relationships are broken and it's time to move on -- I'm friendly with 2 ex-wives and one ex-girlfriend, I can manage no hard feelings with a 6'6" basketball player I've never met. But the Lakers aren't committed to winning now -- can't believe I'm writing that, I've never, for over thirty years, doubted the organization's commitment to win -- but here we are, with the best basketball player on the planet in purple and gold, and a front office that's either brutally incompetent or consciously rebuilding while wasting that player's best years. The Lakers should pull the trigger, let Kobe move on, and get honest about the rebuilding process. It would cost them money -- a lot of money; those courtside seats are expensive, and even the ones up in the 300s aren't cheap -- but it's the right thing to do. (Well, no -- the right thing to do is to mortgage the future and win now ... but plainly the Lakers aren't going to do that.)

In Boston they have the Red Sox, the Patriots (probably the best football team I've ever seen) ... the Celtics reloaded with Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett ... and Boston College is undefeaed and #2 in the BCS.

This is from "All Possible Worlds" -- Sam suspects that one of the Princes of his Order is a bad guy, and goes to see a psychic ... who warns him that dark forces are gathering, evil is coming ...

MAMA AGHABARIA: He comes from a dark land, a land of ancient evil.
SAM: Boston?
MAMA AGHABARIA: Not all evil is related to the Celtics, Sam.
SAM: Is he from Boston?
MAMA AGHABARIA: As it happens.

God, I hate this.


My younger daughter ran her last race of the season today. She's short and doesn't have a long stride, so she runs cross country where grim, dogged determination helps compensate. It was great seeing her down the stretch ... a hundred odd people running, most of them out ahead of her at the start, and she just ran them down over the long haul, passing all the people who lacked her determination and wind.

I'm awfully proud of her.


Anonymous said...

I've had similar poor experiences with RAID5. For me, the solution was simply to move to RAID1. No headaches, just safe data. Drives are big enough these days that as a single person I don't find myself with space needs that are greater than a single (large) drive's capacity.

Manufacturers won't offer what you are talking about, though, for two reasons:

1) when one head fails the drive has to be considered as dead anyway and replaced;

2) they would rather advertise the extra space.

The problem with water is less availability than purification and distribution. How long would it take for your evaporation system to fill a lake? Once filled, how do you get it to the appropriate water reservoir (which is probably not near the ocean)? The real problem is economic; it's not cost-effective to transport that much water that far.

NPR did a story a while back about some middle-east nation building something like this, basically an artificial river. They could afford it (oil money), but the cost was huge enough that the project would probably not break even over a very long lifetime.

Generator plates under the roads face similar problems. You'd be creating a tiny height difference for each plate, which the car's engine would need to make up for -- ruining both the car's mileage and the smooth ride. Automobile engines are not very efficient, and your system would be even less so, and that's not even considering the installation cost. Better to burn the oil in large, efficient power plants.

TANSTAAFL, unfortunately.

Thomas said...

We had a saying when I was growing up in Iowa: You know why Iowa can't have a pro football team? It would make Minnesota jealous.

Feel free to modify that how you like for Anaheim. I take cash, check, or money order.

Pagan Topologist said...

One of my daughters twenty years ago answered the water question for me when she was taking a course on such things. She said that water produced by such a distillation method costs about six times as much as conventional wisdom says water ought to cost. ($3 a thousand gallons at that time, vs. 50 cents.)

I had proposed building a boathouse structure, floating, and with a glass sloping roof to drain the water to one side, held in place by capillary force. I still think it is a good idea, it is just a small scale operation, not a large scale one for large numbers of people. There is no need for a "lake" if you are using only a few hundred gallons a week. Thousands of such structures strung along shorelines would provide a significant fraction of water people need, but not all of it by any means.

David Bellamy

Daniel Keys Moran said...

Matthew -- as to the RAID5 inside the drive, make it an option: those who want it, use it. Those who don't, get their extra space. It wouldn't cost much and they'd still get to advertise the full space -- plus they'd get to advertise the RAID 5. Or ...

... you could use the same gag to improve throughput substantially -- take a drive with multiple platters, sacrifice storage for in-drive RAID 0 ... I'll bet you could whip a 15K RPM drive with a 7200RPM drive on throughput that way, and possibly for a lower cost. Now you get to advertise recoverability or improved throughput or capacity ... all for the very minor cost of some added electronics and software.

Those who don't want it, don't use it. Those who do, it's a format-time option. I could see using all 3 options, for various purposes -- storage for media files, redundancy for my work, speed for the boot partition, applications, and swap files ...


My water reclamation idea is basically that you flood a huge plane with salt water, stick ridged plastic sheeting with some holes in it over the water, stick another transparent sheet over that, and let the water run down the ridges to some collection mechanism. It might not be cost-effective but I don't see why it wouldn't work -- and you could build a small-scale model for testing for very cheap.


I don't think the road electricity project would affect car or truck mileage noticeably. That energy's getting transmitted into the road regardless -- it's just that now it's being used to destroy the road.

joseph said...

I had an idea that if it worked might save gas usage. I dont know a whole lot about cars, but I the air conditioning pump was replaced with an electric pump, one that was not operated by the motor, it seems like that would be less of a drain on the motor. The car would probably need a larger alternator, which would raise the cost of the car some, but in the long run (no joke entended) the car would use less gas while the AC was on.

Sean Fagan said...

There was an article in the news a week or two ago, about a "nanotech" plastic (actually, layers of plastic) that could be used to sieve salt out of water. Or many other substances -- they essentially made little holes in the substance, just large enough for water molecules, and other stuff got filtered out. The article seemed to imply it would be pretty cheap in mass production; it wasn't all that fast... but it wasn't slow, either. If we can get something like that going, I think it could have a huge effect on water availability.

The drive thing.... sorry, it's just not going to work. There has been one laptop sold, that had two drives in it, configured as RAID-1. It failed incredibly. Nobody wanted to pay the price.

However, disk drives are getting nice and cheap. We've got our "Time Machine" thing, which does backups via copies; I suspect that's going to have a huge impact on consumer expectation after a couple of years. Once you've got people expecting to have data backup, then you can start doing things differently.

My personal goal, I think, is to set up a little server, with ZFS, and add pairs of drives to the pool. But I'm waiting for some stability, and also an answer to a question about moving data.

Unknown said...
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Steve Perry said...

Alternative sources of power could make a large dent in what we need -- dams, wind, fuel-cells, wave-action, solar, heat-pumps. Problems are the costs -- start-up, to create the technology and build the generators; regulatory agencies and environmental impact; and transmission from where it is generated to where it is needed.

It's still more cost-effective to crank up a new coal plant than it is to build a windmill farm. With wind, you have to build the things, erect them, and store what they produce. Battery technology is still behind.

Distilling clean water from sea water isn't technically difficult, just more expensive than drilling a hole and pumping it. When we run out of ground water and the rivers all get tapped, the alternatives will kick in.

There's an old HIndu saw: Why spend thirty years learning how to walk on water when there's a boat moored right there ...

Anonymous said...

On drives: The head failure problem will still kill the idea, at least until motherboards know how to query drives via SMART and display warning/error conditions as a light in the case. Sure, some can do that already, on the high end, but it would need to be widespread AND wait for BIOS support to be developed... no one wants to be the manufacturer who promised you data protection but couldn't tell you to replace your drive when one of the heads failed.

Not that it's a bad idea. Some companies are already doing this for their usb/network storage across multiple disks, but they control the hardware there.

On driving electricity: It would still be used to destroy the road (and the expensive generator equipment under the road). Whatever additional energy was extracted would still be generated by the car's engine less efficiently than large-scale generator. (Oh, and I forgot -- you also have to move the plate back up to road level after each car, which will eat up a fair amount of your generated energy too).

On driving air conditioners: I once asked that question of someone who would know (a performance-car mechanic). It's actually more efficient to do it directly.

On sean: I want open-source ZFS on Linux. I like what I've read about it, but not enough to install Solaris.

Steve: Because I want to see the look on everyone's face while I'm standing out there on the waves? ;)

Khyron said...

In the long term, it's NOT more cost-effective to crank up that coal plant. The problem is humans have trouble planning that far ahead, and businesses generally plan for a year.

Costs that are longer term than the planning cycle always get ignored. The better life extension gets, the more the relatively short-term nature of human planning will become a problem.

Anonymous said...

Heh. It comes and it goes. As a Celtics fan, I'll never not respect the Lakers, although of course they're a nexus of evil, and I can't help but sympathize as they head towards the sort of dark years the Celtics ...

May still be in. We'll see. I'll tell you, it's fun watching Pierce and Garnett and Allen work off each other.

The 80s were more fun. It's better when your rivals are on a par with you. 2004 would not have been as good as it was if the Red Sox hadn't beaten the Yankees on the way to the Series.

I'm not sure how I feel about the Patriots this year. It's both thrilling and ugly.

Steve Perry said...

"Steve: Because I want to see the look on everyone's face while I'm standing out there on the waves?"

But you know everybody is going to assume it's a trick. You and David Copperfield ...

Daniel Keys Moran said...

Bryant..., yeah, there's no guarantees in sports and the celtics haven't done anything yet. But they didn't sit pat on an obviously losing hand, which is what the Buss family has been content to do. It's dreadfully frustrating to look at the amazing talent Jerry West assembled in L.A. -- Shaq, Kobe, Eddie Jones, Nick Van Exel, Elden Campbell, Rick Fox and Robert Horry ... and watch the Buss/Kupchak brain trust turn that into Kobe, Lamar, and a crowd that wouldn't start for a single other team in the league...

Anonymous said...

Hey Dan,

It's "agi" from LT. Don't know why I decided to google your name today but I did and discovered you had a blog. It could have been because the Laker season started and I'm missing LT and the gang. It's nice to see that you're around. Hope all is well. I'll swing by often and read up on what you've been up to.


Chris said...

How much electricity could you recover if you put pressure plates under the roads?

These people are developing the idea:

The site was last updated a few years ago, I don't know the current status. I believe it's undergoing tests.
The idea seems to be to put them in places where the cars are going to be slowing down (near junctions and on downhill gradients) so it doesn't steal money from motorists, it saves their brakes a little work.

Tim said...

Instead of the ramps, how about a similar idea that fits in better with DKM stuff? a reverse rail gun. On the downhill offramp of major freeways, when the drivers must slow down, it seems possible, although I certainly do not know the numbers, to use magnetic induction to allow the fast steel car to induce a current in a loop , maybe a mesh tunnel around the offramp. The car would slow, the electricity would be generated. Ideally, there would be less loss than a mechanical solution because there wouldn't be any additional conversion to mechanical before electircal.