November 2005 Archives

Good grief

December is almost here. Public displays of holiday decorations are everywhere. The tree in Rockefeller Center is now lit. I figured it was time to do a bit of decorating myself, albeit on a much smaller scale than most.

If any of you frequent the many shopping and/or gadget-related weblogs, you may have seen the Charlie Brown Pathetic Tree, sold by Urban Outfitters.

Charlie Brown Pathetic Tree

I figured this tree was perfect for me. Any kind of extravagant decoration is kind of a waste for me because few others see the inside of my apartment. This tree is perfect, though, because it is small, simple, and has that nostalgic cool-factor working for it.

Because it's a fake tree, it is actually a bit sturdier than a (formerly) living version would be. It comes out of its prism-shaped box rather squished and two-dimensional. You must then bend the branches to sculpt it to your desired level of pathetic droopiness.

Pathetic Tree box

I have to admit--the box is cute. "This tree needs you; one tree for you to love" is printed on the side.

Linus Van Pelt: "It's not a bad little tree. All it needs is a little love."

Um, so I rebooted my sad iPod

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So last week I mentioned how my out-of-warranty iPod and my co-worker’s iPod recently were suffering from “sad iPod syndrome.” Supposedly, this is a condition for which there is no easy fix, besides sending it back to Apple for a repair or replacement.

What a difference a week makes.

DISCLAIMER: In no way, whatsoever, do I advocate what I describe below as a legitimate repair method for any iPod or any other electronic device. Doing what I did is probably pretty stupid, and I still can’t believe it, myself, that it actually worked.

Anyway, we were a bit exhausted at the end of the day yesterday. So maybe it was the exhaustion. Maybe it was built-up frustration. Maybe it was the mimosas. My co-worker drop-kicked his dead iPod across his office, and it bounced on the floor. He was surprised to find that a working menu screen now replaced the sad iPod screen.

Upon witnessing the revelation of his iPod’s improbable resurrection, I grabbed my iPod and turned it on. Sure enough, the sad iPod screen came up. So I booted my iPod…right off of my size 11 Kenneth Coles. No luck. I then rebooted my iPod…across the room. Still no luck. Finally, I held my iPod about 4 feet off of the carpeted office floor, and let gravity take it down to the ground with a dull thunk.

Lo and behold, my iPod returned to full working order. Up popped the menu screen. Angels sang down hallelujahs from the heavens. Okay, there weren’t any angels, but my iPod works again!



Princeton is finally on the TOP500 supercomputer list. Old Nassau’s new 5.7 teraflop (peak) Blue Gene/L is tied for 73rd place. Yay!

The ribbon-cutting and after-party were late yesterday afternoon. All day Monday and Tuesday I helped get ready for the dog and pony show for the VIPs, which turned out satisfyingly well. The system is named Orangena because our school colors are orange and black, and its a Blue Gene, and then there’s the drink Orangina. Yup. Accordingly, they served mimosas (champagne and orange juice). Yum.

The day the music died II


Sometimes I really hate sequels. Back in late April I wrote about the hardware failure of my beloved iPod and its subsequent replacement.


sad iPod screen
iPod in a coma. I know, I know. It’s really serious.

[exhalation] Well…

You know, I appreciate the homage to the sad Mac icon of yesteryear, but seeing the sad iPod pop up on the screen, knowing that there is nothing I can do about it, makes for a very sad Michael.

This time, unfortunately, it is out of warranty. I did an online search hoping for some answers as to whether my iPod was recoverable. Nope.

I tried the “Hold button on-off, Menu and Select together” reset thing. No dice. I tried to restore it, using both the Mac and Windows versions of iPod Updater. Nada. Bleah.

How’s this for timing, though? Yesterday, someone commented on this blog after their iPod had failed, asking me if mine ever got fixed. I replied that it had, but my co-worker, who had his replaced soon after mine, experienced iPod failure a short time ago. :-(

Looks like a flash-based iPod nano needs to be added to my X-mas wish list. I will not waste another dime on a hard drive-based MP3 player.

Fortune cookie 18

Wow, I actually got home from work before 9 PM today. First time in quite a few days. So what did I do with all my extra free time? I took a nap. I’m a wild one.

A rare triple header today…

Nature, time and patience
are the three great healers.
Lucky Numbers 1, 5, 13, 15, 30, 43
No one grows old by living, only by
losing interest in living.
Lucky Numbers 5, 14, 18, 22, 35, 40
You will conquer obstacles
to achieve success.
Lucky Numbers 16, 17, 26, 28, 36, 37

Backups of backups

You’ve probably heard the maxim—there are two types of computer users—those who have lost data, and those who are about to.

This past Friday I thought I had irretrievably lost a few FileMaker Pro database files that are very important to my department and one of our sister departments. The only backup that I could find was almost two weeks old, so any data entered since then would have been gone.

I had stayed that evening until close to midnight doing everything that I could to recover those files, including running an undelete scan on the hard drive, which took over three hours, but allowed reconstruction of two of the four key databases.

I e-mailed my manager with the bad news and stressed about it all weekend. I stayed away from my computer most of the weekend because I did not want to face what might be in my inbox.

Monday morning came, and with a fresh mind, I actually found a recent backup of the files, which meant that nothing was lost, except a bit of my pride. I had worried for nothing, and caused a few others to worry for nothing.

One can never have too many backups…or backups of backups…or backups of backups of backups….

83,371 spam comments

So when I took over our university’s Movable Type server two weeks ago, I knew that I would be in for a few surprises. Some of them good—I now know more about using the command line than I ever thought possible, which is odd because I consider myself much more of a visual person than a “code person.”

Case in point, one of the first things that I did when I took over the server was give it a bit of branding, including a spiffy new Princeton shield-inspired logo, which one can see on the new portal for the revamped service.

Some of the surprises were not so good—a public server is not really something that one can neglect for very long; evil, nasty, scum-sucking people will exploit it. After upgrading our primary Movable Type installation, which currently hosts over 200 blogs, I had to clean out a couple thousand spam comments and TrackBacks. I thought that was a large number. Silly, Michael.

Oh, no. It seems there was a legacy Movable Type 2.6 installation on the server with no active spam filters whatsoever. Thirty-one blogs on that installation—over eighty-three thousand spam messages. I would love to just wipe them all out with a click of a single button, but that wouldn’t be right.

Mixed in with the comments about penis enlargements, incest pics, horse ejaculation(?), and texas hold-em sites are some really interesting discussions that arose from a Writing Center class last fall. These students all had to keep a dream journal, and all of the students actively commented on the other students’ posts about their dreams. It was a wonderful idea that produced fascinating results.

So I upgraded the 2.6 installation to MT 3.2 to curb the constant flood of new spam and to give me system-wide control over the comments. With a few key search terms (sex-related, gambling-related, etc.), I started to chip away. After about 7 hours of work, there are now less than 30,000 spam comments left. Die, spammers, die!

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