Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Plus a free Isis!

"so I'm supposed to get up in like 2.5 horus."

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

New apartment pictures!

I finally got around to taking pictures of my apartment. I'm not done yet, because I haven't figured out how to frame pictures of my bathroom, kitchen, and lanai. The basic floorplan is sketched out to the left. Things in black are walls, and things in red are doors of some sort. This is hawaii, so 91% of them are sliding doors. It's pretty convenient, as I don't need to worry about door swinging space.

The top picture is the view of Honolulu from my lanai. In the distance on the left is Diamond Head, "downtown" is towards the right, and as is probably obvious, the ocean is in the middle. Also on the right and left. Technically also behind me, over the mountains. It's an island, we've got lots of ocean around.

  • Living Room

The first view is of my living room from the front door. You can see the lanai, and all the boxes I still need to get the movers to take back. For some reason, I neglected to get a picture of the one chair that's to the left of the front door, so pretend you see it in that jaggedy black splotch.

This is the opposite view, from next to the kitchen door. This is a good shot to illustrate the "open arrangement" of my apartment. Since the living and bed rooms are separated by big sliding doors, I can open it up into a single large room. This also helps the airflow, since I don't have air conditioning. I really haven't needed it, though, since there's almost always wind coming down the mountains, through the bedroom windows, and then back out through the lanai. Also: there's some weird distortion in the mosaic. The area rug and the entertainment center are separated by maybe a foot at most. I should have caught that when I was making it.

  • Bedroom

This is the view from the bathroom door into the bedroom. For some reason, they thought walking to the bedroom from the bathroom via the living room was far too much work, so they added a second door next to the other one. This door can also be blocked by the two big sliding doors. You can see where Roomba has his garage. The one wonky leg next to it on the desk is not a mosaic distortion, that's the leg the movers bent. I still don't know how they did that.

I'm still trying to sort out what I want to do in my bedroom. There's a big empty space (or, there will be once I get the last two boxes emptied and gone), that I'm not sure what to do with. I can't really put any furniture there, as it would block all sorts of doors, and access to the closet. My best thought is some sort of small table or bookshelf. The alternate thought is to buy a bunch of Legos, and have that be the Lego Building Area. This is a snazzy bounce shot, taking advantage of the mirrored closet doors.

  • Closet

I spent far too long putting this mosaic together. There's still some bad joins, but I think it's pretty clear. This is what my closet would look like if it didn't have doors, using the magic of computers. You can see the pile of cardboard under my dresser, as the movers also decided that four legs was at least two surplus, and kindly broke the extras off. I'm trying to sort out where I put everything, so for now, a lot of stuff is just piled in where it fits. Since I don't have a closet in the bathroom, the shelves on the right are taking that job. I need to clean them up (those books need to go into one of the book piles I have around), and then adjust the shelves so that they're wide enough for all the towels and sheets and whatnot that needs to go there.

I'll probably do a second post in a few days with pictures of my kitchen. It's pretty small, so I'm not sure how well I'll be able to get pictures.

Friday, August 7, 2009


My Roomba arrived today. My old vacuum died inconveniently just before I moved, when the brush bearing seized up. I've been looking at these things for a while, and I bought one when Amazon had a fancy Gold Box sale on them.

My apartment has been getting messier and messier, as it's kind of hard to keep things clean with just a swiffer. This made it a perfect test for the vacuuming skill of a Roomba. Other than some difficulty navigating around everything on the floor (helped significantly when I remembered I had lighthouses), it did an excellent job. I now know what things it has trouble with (cords aren't a big deal, but rugs bunch up sometimes. Also: the chair in my living room is just an overpass on the Roomba highway), so I'll probably try to rearrange things to be easier for it.

The final thing I need to fix is to put the dock in a better place. It drove around for about ten minutes before I realized it was trying to go home. A quick lift, and it drove in and started recharging. The other problem is that even though the main idea behind getting a Roomba was so I didn't have to spend the time vacuuming, it's really cool to watch, so I'm not sure how much time it'll save.

I haven't set up the scheduling yet, but I figure cleaning MWF is probably good enough to keep things clean. I figure I'll see how it works after a month or so.

I learned almost everything about cooking from Julia Child

Dinner tonight was super tasty:
  • Cast iron pan corn bread
  • Mashed potatoes with speck
  • Sauteed mushrooms with thyme and coriander
  • Shrimp in Three Onion Sauce a la Julia Child (made by panfrying the shallots/onion/green onions with butter and garlic, adding shrimp (8-12 count) to pan, cooking until both sides look good, splash in a bunch of vermouth and cover to steam the middle of the shrimp, then uncover, and finish sauce with butter and cream).
Rule #1 of cooking: adding vermouth, cream and butter makes anything taste delicious.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Nom nom nom!

I was going to post about my apartment, and how nice it is since I've gotten all the boxes out of the way, but instead I spent the day finishing unpacking the last of my kitchen stuff. That allowed me a chance to finally sit down and cook for realsies again.

I only got a picture of the salad, as I was too hungry to wait on the rest of dinner. The salad was simple: romaine and strawberries, with a balsamic dressing and sea salt, pepper, and parmesan. The main goal of this was to see if strawberries go well with pepper (surprising answer: yes, very much so).

Julie was talking about a recipe for garlic studded baked potatoes she found somewhere, so I stole that idea. I spent far longer than I'd expected cramming little slivers of garlic into the cuts I'd made in the potato. I finally found the secret: don't try to stab them in, crush the garlic in sideways. I then rubbed the potato down with olive oil and salt, wrapped it in foil, and stuck it in the oven to bake for two hours (350ish. I know it sounds long, but for Yukon gold potatoes, the long cooking time helps carmelize the sugars).

This paired very well with the ribeye I got from Whole Foods last week. I put my cast iron pan in the oven with the potato, so it would be nicely pre-heated when I needed it. Salt/pepper/a pat of butter in the pan/cooky cooky cooky. The ribeye wasn't perfectly even, so I had a bit of a done-ness gradient, making the one side nicely rare, and the other somewhere around the well-done side of medium. While the steak rested, I made a quick sauce with a glass of vermouth, two teaspoons of this snazzy looking balsamic onion jam I picked up at Williams-Sonoma yesterday, and some butter. The sauce never quite thickened as much as I had hoped, something I'll probably fix next time by adding cream. Since it wasn't really the right consistency, I poured it into a rammekin, and used it as a dip for the steak.

All in all, a delicious end to the weekend. A dessert of some sort would have been good, but I don't think I have anything that quite works. I almost stopped at Godiva yesterday to get some chocolates, but the line people stretched out the door, and I'm not really patient enough to deal with that.

Saturday, August 1, 2009


I've had this computer for close to twelve years now. I bought it just before my freshman year of undergrad so I could be "connected" and compute, I guess. The original specs for this Compaq Presario 4504 were a Pentium 1 running at 200Mhz, with 16 MB of RAM and a giant (at the time) 2 GB hard drive. Let's see if I can sort through all the modifications I've made over the years:
  • Replaced the original 33kbit WinModem with a full hardware 56k modem that would work in Linux. At the time, Linux could not support software modems, so I needed a new one to connect to the MichNet. This modem supported the internet connection for the (somewhat questionable) LAN we made on 2A Bryan. That LAN was powered by
  • The 10Base2/10BaseT ethernet card my undergrad roommate and I bought in a two pack. At the time, MSU had ethernet in only a few dorms. Given the cheapness of thinnet cable, we decided it would be easy to wire our own network by feeding cables through the smoke detector connections and lay the cables over the drop ceilings in the hall. I think we had six or so rooms wired together, with this computer serving as the router and gateway between the LAN and the modem driven internet connection. When I moved to Butterfield, I was able to switch over the the 10BaseT ethernet there. This card died recently, just before my move. This prompted me to buy a proper router, although it still forwards all outside connections to kadatheron for handling.
  • An additional 32MB RAM module. Installing this was when I first cursed at the design of this computer: in order to get to the motherboard, all ISA and PCI cards need to be removed, the motherboard tray unscrewed, and then removed from the right side of the case. then the memory could be installed, and the process reversed.
  • A second 10BaseT ethernet card, that I bought to allow me to continue using it as a router for my subsequent other computer purchases. Most of those are now dead. A summary of the computers this served as a router for:
    1. "celephais" An IBM Thinkpad 455C if I remember the model number correctly. 486DX/66 with 12MB of RAM and a 700MB hard drive. My first laptop, and (although I haven't checked in a few years) booted perfectly fine last time I checked. I stopped using it because the odd power supply started to crack and fray, and I didn't want to burn down anything or shock myself on it.
    2. "navi", homebuilt computer #1. Dual Celeron 533Mhz/128MB RAM/20GB drive on the sainted Abit BP6 motherboard. Built when kadatheron no longer seemed up to snuff. Suffered from the bad capacitor problem for its entire lifetime, dying finally after about 5 years to a shock while upgrading RAM. Hence:
    3. "navi" Mark 2. Pentium 4 2.6Ghz/512MB RAM built with the same drives and case and stuff as the previous version. This seems to have perished in my recent move to Hawaii, so it will likely be replaced with navi, Mark 3 in the not too distant future.
    4. "niea" A Toshiba laptop I got my first year of grad school to replace celephais. I don't recall exactly, but I think it was a 1Ghz/256MB/20GB (remember this hard drive for later). It died when I left it in my car during grad student recruitment a few years later, and then booted it up when I got home. Probably wouldn't have been a problem, except for the fact that it was in Michigan, in February, and I think it was somewhere around "ass-freezingly cold" at the time.
    5. "tachikoma" A Dell laptop bought to replace "niea." 1Ghz/1GB/40GB? The screen backlight fritzed out, making it largely unusable as a laptop. I continued to use it as a file/process server for close to two years, and I developed a lot of my thesis code on it. I then converted it to play videos on my TV, as it had an Svideo out. I think it still runs, but once I hit post-doc-hood-itude, I replace it with
    6. "thebigo" My second IBM (Lenovo, whatever) Thinkpad. An R61 this time, with a Core 2 Duo at 2.1Ghz, 2GB RAM, and 120GB RAM. What I'm using to type this post right now.
  • An 8GB hard drive. Files got bigger, and 2GB no longer cut it, even after deleting the half devoted to Windows 95. This died at some point, after making horrible grinding noises.
  • The 20GB 3.5inch hard drive from niea, connected with an adaptor. Once niea died, it didn't seem useful to waste such a big hard drive. By this point, kadatheron was running as the CVS server I used to store most of my home directory. 48MB RAM + 24MB swap no longer cut it, so I devoted 512MB to what was at the time, the largest swap partition I'd ever heard of. I think it's the only thing that's letting the system make it through this upgrade.
  • The Plextor CDRW drive I bought long ago when such things were uncommon for niea. It's sat fallow for years since I bought a DVD-RW drive, so it's been switched over for kadatheron for this reinstall.
I think that's it, not counting countless mice and keyboards. I think the fact that it's outlasted five other computers, four generations of processors, six major revisions of the linux kernel (I first installed 2.0.18, and I'm installing 2.6.2X right now), two major libc changes, twelve years, and three presidents suggests that those crack smoking Compaq designers (I mean seriously, the CPU fan blows through a baffle to cool the power supply? WTF?) must have known what they were doing.

I know it probably won't last forever, and it probably uses more power to do its jobs than a new computer would, but I'll be sad when it finally does stop working. I'm not sure anything less than a nuclear war will kill it though. If I count correctly, it made twenty-seven trips between my parents house and MSU, one cross town to my grad school apartment, and now to Hawaii via my movers' Two-Month Special. It would still be running fine if I hadn't tried to upgrade it.

I stopped bothering with upgrades long ago, in 2001 if I'm to believe the timestamp on my kernel. This left me with a 2.2 kernel, which cannot directly upgrade to a modern 2.6 kernel due to differences in libc. Without navi, I had no good way to access my USB drives from the office, so I attempted to upgrade using a fresh partition, chroot, and debootstrap. I'm pretty sure it would have worked correctly had I not screwed up running lilo. As I can reconstruct it, I accidentally had lilo point to the new (incomplete) installation on the disk MBR, and not on the partition. This caused lilo to panic on boot, preventing me from even accessing the old install. Therefore, I needed to make a "fresh" break, and install from CD. It's a bit of a shame, but I'll be able to keep the new system up to date now, so I won't have to worry about falling so far behind again. I will have to redirect things in the new configuration, as the webserver will have to get all my (https and password protected) MP3s from USB drives instead of NFS mounted from navi. When I finally put together the new computer, I'll probably have to design a more sane NFS/drive scheme.

In any case, the nostalgia of doing a reinstall of linux on this computer (which was first installed using a giant stack of floppy disks and the power of Quality Dairy slurpies) made me want to sit down and put together some sort of history for this wonderful little box. It kind of reminds me of R2-D2: it's old and a bit out of date, but it's nearly indestructible and does it's job far better than anyone would have ever expected.