Roger Ebert

First, let me say, if you haven't read the piece on Roger Ebert in the new issue of Esquire, go here and do that first. Second, if you have an RSS reader, subscribe to his blog here. His recent entries on London are fantastic, and I was happily surprised we share an affinity for England, and they are a great example of his writing.

Now, I've probably lost everyone who came here to read this, as both of those will be more interesting than anything I write, but I had to say. But I wanted to add my thoughts:

I absolutely love reading Roger's reviews of movies, and was thrilled when he "got back to work" writing them after his surgeries. Other than the comedy genre, I'll find myself in agreement with him on films so often that my wife half-jokes that we can't go to see a movie unless we get Ebert's approval first.

I always liked movies, anyone who has looked at the number of titles I've rated on my Netflix account (2,686 as of today) could probably guess that, but reading Ebert's reviews really taught me how to love movies. His writing turned me from someone who would go see a movie because of the actors into someone who would go see a movie because of the director. I've also come to agree with him that the subject matter of a film isn't nearly as important as the way in which the subject is handled. In short, he's been a great teacher, and often now when I finish watching a film, the first place I go (after rating it on Netflix) is to read his review, to see what he thought of it.

While cancer has robbed Roger Ebert of his voice and his ability to eat and drink, it has rewarded the rest of us by forcing him to join the the Internet with his blog. As the Esquire piece mentions, the writing there is fantastic, and I can't help but assume that he'd never have had the time or, indeed, the necessity to start his blog if he hadn't suffered such a loss.

As the Esquire piece makes clear, he certainly doesn't waste a great deal of time on self-pity. In fact, I think he is very lucky. He's fortunate enough to be able to write exceptionally well in an age, and in a medium (the Internet) in which even writing coherently is a rarity. I found myself wondering the other day how many people could give up their (audible) voices as easily as he did, and survive on only what they could write? I don't mean to make it sound like it was no big thing, as it obviously was, but his writing makes it so clear that he is still here, and is still himself, despite whatever the cancer may have taken from him physically. I think that the majority of people would seem to be "gone" in the same condition, because their primary method of communication would have left, and they wouldn't have such a powerful substitute.

In this case, the cancer didn't attack someone who was defenseless, and rob them of an integral part of their humanity. Instead, it forced his writing talent to compensate for the loss of his voice, with the end result being some of the most personal, touching, and humorous writing I've ever seen anywhere. So much so, in fact, that I almost feel guilty for enjoying the fruits of the obvious suffering he has gone through. Not guilty enough to stop reading them, though! :)

So, in the event he notices this trackback to his blog, let me just say: Thank You, Mr. Ebert, and keep up the good work!

For the rest of you, here are some links to some great entries he's written:

Siskel & Ebert at the Jugular

A slow boat to anywhere

My name is Roger, and I'm an alcoholic

High CPU load on domain controllers caused by imaging clients

Here’s an interesting issue we’ve encountered at work.  This also demonstrates how useful Cacti can be in graphing what’s going on in your server environment.  Even if you don’t have alerting, simply graphing what your “normal” usage is can alert you to problems as well as help you put timelines together that allow you to figure out the source.

I was glancing over some server utilization charts and saw this one, which shows CPU usage jumped way off the charts over Christmas break:


Why is that?  We didn’t suddenly quintuple in size?  Digging closer, I realized a definite pattern to the CPU load:


You can see that the load quiets down at night, and goes up in the morning, in pretty much a specific pattern.  Digging into the graphs revealed that it was almost down to the minute, which probably means it’s some type of automated source, as no user works from 7:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. every day.

The network graph showed a similar pattern, which gave me a good shot of capturing it.  I turned on Network Monitor, and ran a capture for 30 seconds, here’s what it saw:


Holy cow!  In 30 seconds I saw over 30,000 Frames from some of those clients!  The highest “normal” client I see is 136 frames in that time period.  Now that I knew where the traffic was coming from, I just had to figure out why.  I contact the administrator for those clients, who said that they had been re-imaged in the last few weeks.

Further investigation has shown these clients to have all been imaged with an improperly prepared image, causing them to essentially fight over the same records in Active Directory and DNS continuously.  The quiet periods were when the computer labs were shut down for the evening automatically to save energy, and then automatically powered back up in the morning before classes started in them.

Installing BlackBerry OS 5 on Sprint Blackberry 8330

I took the plunge earlier this week and installed the new BlackBerry operating system on my Sprint BlackBerry 8330 phone.  I’ve had really good luck with it, it’s been stable, and the improvements to the browser and messaging portions of the operating system have been well worth the time I spent getting it working.  In order to save others some time, here’s the procedure I used.  The only downsides I encountered were that I had less memory available afterwards in the phone (the new OS is larger) and I had to tweak permissions for some of the Google Apps to get them working.

Disclaimer:  This is unsupported by Sprint.  You may kill your phone doing this.  You may lose data.  You may trigger the apocalypse.  If you do so, it’s not my fault.  This worked for me, but you have been warned.  This very well may work on Verizon and U.S. Cellular 8330 phones as well, but I haven’t tested it.


Step 1. Plug your BlackBerry into your PC via USB and back up all your data via Desktop Manager.  I sync my contacts to Gmail using Google Sync, so it was easy for me to restore them back into the phone once I was done, but you’ll want to back up all the data on your phone before you start this.

Step 2. Download the Boost Mobile version of the OS from this site. Install it on your PC.

Step 3. Download version 1.7 (or newer) of BBSAK from this site, you’ll need to register for a free account to access the download.  Install it on your PC.

Step 4. Make sure your backups are good before going any farther.  Launch BBSAK, (your password is probably blank).  Select “Wipe Device” and BBSAK will nuke your BlackBerry.  It’ll take a few minutes, and will automatically reboot, then give you an error message on the screen, indicating that your OS is gone. This is normal.

Step 5. Click the Load OS button in BBSAK.  This will now let you load OS 5 onto your phone.  You can select or deselect a few optional components that you want to load onto the phone, then wait as it copies the OS over, and reboots.

Step 6. Wait.  Be patient, seriously.  A progress bar will pop up on the phone as it boots for the first time.  It’ll appear to hang at around the 60% mark, but it’s not frozen.  Go find something else to do for 10-20 minutes, and it’ll be done by the time you come back.

Step 7. Start reinstalling all your data and apps.  It should now be up and running.  Performance may be lousy at first, as it re-downloads all the shortcuts from Sprint for things like Sprint Navigation, the IM clients, the software store, etc.  You’ll want to reinstall the pieces you use on the phone, then start adding in the third party software pieces you use, including BlackBerry App World.  I had to modify the permissions for some of the Google Applications, which you can do in Options –> Applications in the phone.  Google Sync refused to install properly using the installer that installs all Google applications, but going to the Google Sync web site with my BlackBerry directly and installing just that piece worked fine.

Step 8. Enjoy!  You’re now the first kid on the block with BlackBerry OS 5 on your 8330!  Performance will improve after the OS settles down from that initial boot, and I’ve had no issues with lockups or memory leaks, but as always, your mileage may vary!

Jungle Disk

I installed Jungle Disk on my home PC last night to use for backing up my personal data. I've been using Mozy for the last year, and was pretty happy with it, but since I don't back up a ton of data, I think Jungle Disk will be slightly cheaper, and has a few unique features. I chose RackSpace as the location to store my data, though Amazon's S3 service is the default. They both charge 15 cents per GB per month to host your data, but S3 charges an additional bit for every GB you transfer in or out, and RackSpace doesn't charge that. I'm not sure why it defaults to S3, when RackSpace is cheaper, but it does.

I'm very curious about their "Enterprise" offering. The rate they're charging is very very low, but at the same time, they aren't EMC, they aren't Symantec, and I wonder how many enterprises are really ready to trust their data to Jungle Disk...

I'm using the Desktop edition, and I like that it lets you also mount your backup space as a drive, though I was a bit dismayed at first that I had to schedule a particular time to do my backups, as I tend to leave my PC asleep. Going through the options, I saw it had the ability to wake my PC from sleep, as well as perform my backups at the next time the machine was on, which is how I actually prefer to run it. I also liked that it let me throttle bandwidth usage during certain hours of the day, so that I can turn it loose from midnight to 6:00 a.m., but it won't eat up all my bandwidth when I'm likely to be using it. I do wish that it would let me configure separate settings based on days of the week though, I'd be fine with giving up all of my bandwidth during weekdays too, but not on weekends.


I've updated some of the software that drives this blog, so you can now post a comment without creating a username, as long as you solve the reCAPTCHA to post it. If you get one that you can't decipher, click the two arrows chasing each other to get a different one. If you're a registered user, you'll only have to solve one reCAPTCHA, at the time you register. I'd initially disabled un-registered comments to avoid spam, but was still getting registration spam. Hopefully, by using reCAPTCHA, both problems have now been solved!

That New Battery Smell

I got a new battery for my 15" MacBook Pro today. My computer is nearly two years old, and I was sad to give up my beloved 12" PowerBook at the time I got it, but I really love it now. Sadly, I used it so much the battery was down to less than two hours on a charge, instead of the original 4+ hours. Today, with a shiny new battery in the laptop, I'm showing over four hours left as I type this... I see a lot of students in my cubicle who have batteries that won't even last 5 minutes, yet they want to blame the computer, as if it's defective. Sadly, that's not the case, if you buy a laptop and you use the battery daily, you need to be prepared to replace the battery after a couple of years. They're expensive, and paying that out can be painful, but everyone I convince to do it remarks how their computer is like new again.

In short, next time you buy a laptop, just make sure you take into account that you'll probably need to replace that battery after a couple years, and don't wait too long to do it, as a notebook you can't unplug is just a slow desktop...

Teabaggers unite!

This clip made me laugh really, really hard, kudos to Ana Marie Cox:

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

For those of you who "don't get it", you'll have to check out the, um, "adult" practice that teabagging is slang for. Do not click this if you are easily offended. :)

[Via Andrew Sullivan's Blog]