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DMI News

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Feature Loss

March 13, 2003 14:05

The following is a list of things that were available before the crash that are not presently available, for one reason or another. All of these things will become available again in the future, but no timeframe is available right now:

Doorbell and Motion sensor logs
User selectable music and uploadable music.
System Logs
Cat Blog
Alternate Chat client
Text language filters

In addition to these things, the RC Car is broken for reasons unrelated to the server crash. Check the previous news entry for information on that. At some point, I plan to pick up work on the object of the day again. I've been working on the map, and plan to populate the map with as much furniture as possible before the IRTC deadline at the end of April. After that, I'll probably consider it finished.


The Problem with the Car

March 13, 2003 10:34

It's amazing. When the car works, hardly anyone ever plays with it. But the second it's broken, the bitching and whining and moaning begins. To save myself the excessive repetition, I will post a semi-detailed explaination of the problem here, once and for all.

Ever since I got the camera fixed, the car has broken 4 times. The camera part works fine. The problem resides in four transistors that feed power to the motors in the vehicle. These transistors get HOT. So hot, in fact, that they each have heatsinks with over two square inches of surface area to dissipate the heat. After a couple weeks of 24 hour operation, the car has probably taken more abuse than it was designed for. No, ladies and gentlemen, Radio Shack RC Cars are NOT designed to be controlled via the internet. They're not designed to be crashed into walls 500 times a day. They're not designed to run 24 hours a day. They're not designed to carry 10 extra pounds of weight.

After an exhaustive search, I was able to locate an inexpensive local source for the transistors, and I have stocked up on them in anticipation of future problems. However, all my efforts at repair have taken a toll on the circuit board in the car. All the copper contacts on the board have started peeling off due to all the excessive soldering. It's therefore getting harder and harder to replace the components without destroying the board.

My plan now is to not solder the transistors to the board at all. Instead I'm going to solder some transistor sockets onto the board, then just plug the transistors into those. That way, if and most certainly WHEN they burn out, it will be a two minute process to replace them and won't cause any further damage to the board and my only concern will be the cost of the transistors, but at 50 cents apiece every two weeks, I'll deal with it.

So as soon as I get those components replaced, the car will be operational again and you may immediately proceed with your efforts to break it again. The car itself isn't the best mobile platform, for this reason among others, and it will probably only be a temporary installment until I have a chance to build one of the quakebots. After those are functional, the car will probably get retired. But we'll see.


New Features

March 03, 2003 23:40

I've made a few cosmetic changes. Instead of icons, the cams are now live views from the cams, and if you hover the mouse over one of them, they will update. I'll probably add an option to update all of them at once, but that can wait. I also added a map option. If you select the map, then hover the mouse over the map, it will show you the cam image from the room the mouse hovers over. The map is still somewhat crude, and I'm still working on adding more furniture, doors, windows, etc, but you get the basic idea of what my house looks like. I'll add some labels to the map sometime to show which room is what, or at least add another legend map to show that, since on 320x240, there's not a whole lot of room for excess labels.

The HD is even worse now than it was before. At this point, I've officially given up. I'm going to copy what little remains off the other partition and just nuke it completely. I might try a reformat and see if it functions ok afterwards, but I don't plan to actually trust it again for anything important.


A few new things

February 23, 2003 10:14

Yes, I know the car is broken again. I managed to find an exact replacement for the transistors, but the circuit board itself has taken some abuse with all my soldering & resoldering, so I don't want to have to replace it more than one more time. As soon as I can get some transistor sockets I'll solder those onto the board instead of the transistors themselves, so whenever one of the transistors blow again, I can just swap them out in a couple minutes without the downtime.

Another nifty (at least I seem to think so) feature. Check the manifest page. Some of the pictures on there now have a slideshow... a motion picture if you will. Just hover the mouse over a picture and they'll play a sequence of recorded images until you move the mouse off the picture. Soon, I should have all the manifest page images enabled with this feature and some of the visitors page images.

Finally got the HD cleaned off enough that I'm running fsck on the nuked partition. I started it yesterday. It's still running. And it's been recovering about 4 files a second. There might actually be some hope.



February 15, 2003 17:01

Ok, first things first, the car works again. I somehow managed to fix it. I don't know how long it will last before it breaks again, but at least now I know HOW to fix it when it does. For kicks, I might get the other car fixed while this one is still working, so if and when it breaks, I'll only have to swap them out. YaY!

I've recoded almost everything for the site now. The comments and cookies are now located on a third server. I have a second mirror webserver set up that gets updated periodically. As soon as I'm sure it's 100% functional, I'll loadbalance the website, so both webservers share the hit load. This will have the added bonus of not relying on any one machine as a single point of failure.


More Crap

February 11, 2003 10:07

Someone must have thought that I needed some more challenges. Yesterday I received two additional ones. First off, the other partition on the "Most annoying Hard Disk in the World!!!"(tm) has been rapidly developing little errors that likely foretell the imminent death of the whole drive, but in the meantime just A: give me tons of read errors when I try to copy everything off of it, and B: crash the server at random intervals.

And just in case that wasn't enough, the RC Car broke. Something tells me that these cars were never designed to be controlled over the internet while carrying 10 extra pounds of payload. Excessive crashing into walls/other objects was probably not recommended in the manual either. So now the hunt begins for another car of the same model. And since this seems to be a recurring event, I'm going to need to stockpile one of two things. Either I'm going to need a backup collection of these cars, The Radio Shack Sampson model, or I'm going to need to get ahold of some spare PE200 & PE201 transistors, since these are what actually blows up, causing the car to break. Also, the specs on those transistors would also be nice, since they're blowing up due to overheating, and they've already got a pretty hefty heatsink attached to them as it is. Larger transistors might last longer, but I only know the pinout, and my efforts to replace them with other transistors has so far been ineffective.

This got me thinking, fleeting thoughts for those that once wanted to donate something, shipping me that specific car model if you find it would be great. However, fleeting that idea, it led to another. Would there be any interest in shipping me an RC Car, having me mod it to be controlled via computer, and shipping it back? Probably something around cost of shipping back + $10-15 in parts + $25 labor. Oh well, something to think about.

Right now, my efforts are concentrated on getting the rest of the data copied off the dud harddrive. I'm not really in the position to afford a new one right now, although this one is only 3 months old, so I'll investigate some warranty work.



February 10, 2003 03:06

The recovery process is going slowly but surely. Attempting to scan the partition for source hasn't been successful. At some point I decided it would just be faster to redo the code from scratch instead of wasting all my time searching for it. Besides, I get a chance to do most of it right this time, instead of the fubared wasteland it was before. :)

This is also a turning point of sorts. If I can keep up the momentum I've shown this week, I might actually be able to accomplish something. There are many things I've wanted to do with the site that I simply haven't felt motivated to get done. Perhaps I've spent too much time glorified in my achievements to put forth the effort to continue the quest, whatever that may be. But in the last week, I've managed to redo, almost from scratch, what I've spent the last 4 years working on. Would I to concentrate my efforts that much all the time, imagine what could be accomplished. And I think I will. All those "it would be cool if..." things, will get done. I'm going to shave down that projects list. Its there for a reason. Not to show off the ideas that stagnate in my mind, but the things to work on each and every day.



February 07, 2003 01:19

What started as a simple hardware upgrade turned into a mess. I wanted to install a 100mbps card instead of the 10mbps I had in there. The good news is, the 100mbps card is now installed. The bad news is.... *sigh*

Booting back up, it loaded the wrong kernel. no problem, I'll just have to reboot again, so I wait until it finishes booting. Well, it got stuck in an infinite loop running a couple scripts. I'm not sure why exactly, but it was probably something I did wrong. I can't log in to stop the runaway process, nor can I do the three finger salute to do a clean shutdown, so I hit the power switch. Coming back up the second time, this time choosing the right kernel from lilo. Turns out that one was wrong too, so I figure it'll get stuck in the same trap. I wait for it to finish booting anyway, just in case I have better luck this time. It gets to init, and gets stuck there. Peculiar.

I boot off a floppy to get in there to see if the inittab file or something is acting screwy. Comment out most of the stuff in rc.local just for good measure and try to reboot again. No dice. Still getting stuck at inittab. Well, its possible to mess up my root directory. It happens. And it wouldn't be the first time I've reloaded the OS, so I figure its easist to just back up the few system config files and reload it, a 2 hour process at most. It had been a few years anyway, so why not. So I mount up my partitions to find a convienent place to copy stuff too. And it would turn out the most likely candidate is my 88 gig paritition, /dev/hdc4 which has PLENTY of free space. And that's where I ran into trouble.

mount gives me TONS of errors. That's the first sinking feeling. Then it finally gets mounted and I do a directory listing of the root directory. Well, it sorta looked like a directory listing. Maybe it would have looked better while standing on my head. Root directory was nuked. Inode 2 has been fubared. My life just got a lot more difficult.

I fire up debugfs to see if I can make some sense out of the mess. Even if the root directory is messed up, I can still go in there and rebuild it if I can find the inodes for the directories linked under it, and this isn't TOO hard to do, because all you have to do is find ANY directory on the drive and follow the toplevel inode link up.

How I wish it was that easy. Unfortunately, it would appear that fsck, while booting up, decided that since there wasn't anything linked from the top directory, that all the inodes were really free space, and proceeded to clear all the inodes. And I mean ALL of them. Now I'm feeling sick.

The problem here, is the two most important directories on the system were on that drive. All the webspace and my home directory, which contains, among other things, all the source code for all my projects. The semi good news is that I had a recent backup of the website, and SOME of the code was copied in there, and other source is availble elsewhere. In fact, most of the source I'm currently lacking is a bunch of small cgi applications that I can reproduce if I need to. 400 lines of code max.

However, I may not have to. Although the inode table on the drive is effectively worthless, the data itself is all still there. I can't directly access it anymore, but I CAN access the partition device and read the entire drive byte by byte, including all the source. So I have dd scanning the drive and grepping for #include lines, which typically will mark the top of my source files. Since most of my source files are less than 4k in size, they'll fit within the datablock and I won't have to search for a bunch of pieces. Of course, all the media I had stored on that drive is gone, but that's only a minor annoyance. Seeing how I can't even remember what any of it is, I'm not planning on losing any sleep over it.

Now, here's the lesson for everyone, including myself. BACKUP! no.. really. BACK YOUR SHIT UP! This is a really shitty way of losing a lot of work, and a totally unnecessary one. I got lucky. It could have been worse. But I'm going to make every possible effort to be sure it never is again.

But at least the network card is working! :)


Responsibility of Authority

February 04, 2003 14:58

When you play the peon, people's expectations of you are lower. You are not considered to have an air of authority. People will generally take what you say with a grain of salt until you've proven yourself to be of reputable character. However, once you've been granted a position of authority, people will generally take your word for things, even if they have no reason to otherwise. They expect you'll be honest and straightforward with your answers. While sarcasm has its place at times, there are times when it is not appropriate. And those in authority have a duty to understand the difference.

That being said, when someone joins the irc channel and asks if the site is real, when someone being sarcastic says that it's fake, they accept it and leave. They have no reason not to believe you. And while I'm of the impression that anyone who thinks the site is fake probably still lives in the stoneage, I'm also willing to entertain someone's scepticism when all they require is a simple confirmation from some other living human being that things are what they appear to be.

When someone comes along acting rude and disrespectful, certainly, encourage them to leave. I don't have a problem with that. But when someone comes along asking honest, if simple and obvious questions, either answer politely or politely point them to a page that will answer their question more adaquately than a simple oneliner can. Or say nothing at all. But don't answer with sharp rude comment that puts the newcomer on the defensive. It's simple human nature at that point to react appropriately. How would it feel, you come along, impressed by the site with additional interest in it, and your first encounter with someone who seems to know what's going on responds by telling you to basically get lost.

So yesterday, when someone new joins the channel, asking everyone if they've heard of the site, all it would have taken would be ONE person to say that "yes, we all know about it". But no. Instead there are tons of "We never heard about it" "It must be fake!"... This from people I've trusted and respected. And after making this new person feel very low for asking, putting her on the defensive, she responds to the abuse and gets kick/banned as a reward. And not one person tried to stop it. Everyone's just laughing along like the random abuse of strangers who had nothing but nice things to say is perfectly acceptable.

And then I come along. And I attempt to put things in perspective. And I get the same load of sarcastic BS from the same people I respect when I'm trying to be serious about something. Of course, its my fault. My fault I ever trusted any of them to begin with.



Googlesnacks Explained

February 04, 2003 10:52

For those that look at the average googlesnack list and wonder why the sudden obsession with 14 year old girls and thongs, a little explaination may be in order. Anytime a website links to me, and someone clicks on that link, it makes an entry in my logfile. Part of that entry is the full URL of the webpage that has my link. I usually use this to see what people out there are saying about my site. Its (usually) good for my ego. :) Now, on google, a popular search engine if you didn't know, when you enter a search term, it returns a bunch of links to pages. Go there now and search for something, like silly things. You'll get a page with a bunch of links to sites on it. If you look at the URL of this page, you see that the words "silly things" appear in the URL of the page you're currently on. If one of the links on this page was for my site, that URL will show up in my logs, so I know what people were searching for when they found my site.

Now, normally, when I get a hit from google, the search makes sense. They're searching for the site itself "Drive me insane", or something about insanity, or webcams, or rc cars, or the names of some of the people on my site. All of those searches make perfect sense. However, every so often, someone is searching for something strange and it still returns a link to my site. That strange search is what I call a googlesnack. And I list some of them here for your enjoyment.