I Am In Geek Heaven

I am in geek heaven.

I am in geek heaven. I’m typing this on my main computer. Immediately to its right an older, slower computer is doing some downloading. It’s mainly used for storage nowadays. These two PCs share a common monitor through a KVM.

My current video card has two VGA ports and I’d like to go to two monitors if I could just figure out how to hold them on my desk. I got this when we moved in 18 years ago. It’s a great desk. It still has a slot so paper can feed from below into a dot matrix printer.

Down the hall in what is still considered Stef’s playroom I am formatting and reloading a friend’s machine so it can be recycled through the family. There’s another carcass on its side nearby. Running Windows 98, the owner would like her files but can find no way to retrieve them. Worst case I pull the hard drive and plug it in to a little USB hard drive reader I’ve got

This house has a small wired lan and wireless elsewhere. My router has 11 devices logged in since its last reboot. There are actually two routers and two small hubs. This was all bought when I saw things on sale–very cheaply. I have few brand names and consider these parts totally interchangeable.

With all these machines on at the same time I’ve had to temporarily unplug the MythTV DVR. It will be back tomorrow, I hope.

I enjoy these tech projects and am usually pretty good at them. I have built PCs from a table full of components without instructions. I often take on more than I can comfortably handle.

There was a time when shade tree mechanics could work on a car with a few tools. No more. Everything’s locked down and part of a system. I suppose that will happen to PCs too. For guys like that will be sad.

Beware The Evil Screensaver

I want to get to work early – there are already thunderstorms on the radar, but I want to make mention of a little computer trouble I’ve been having lately. This way, maybe you won’t have to go through the same trouble.

It’s a computer I use at work. It’s constantly bringing in fresh data. It uses as large a pipeline for it’s raw info as the rest of the TV station combined!

We would notice from time-to-time this server would fall behind. But, as soon as we’d notice it, it would catch up and be back to normal in a matter of minutes.

Maybe it was doing this fall behind/catch up thing ’round the clock. We suspected as much, but didn’t know. All we knew was, anytime we started to look at it, the problem didn’t persist for long and we had fairly good tipoffs to tell us when to look.

No one at the vendor, or at the station, could figure out what was going on. We checked the local network (it is on a gigabit speed LAN) – nothing. We checked the incoming T1 data line – fine. The vendor looked at their servers upstream – nope.

Then today, while a service tech from the vendor was poking around, a “Eureka” moment&#185. I’ll pause ten seconds while you see if you can guess.


Our server had a very pretty screensaver (thankfully, installed by the vendor and not us). After a period of keyboard inactivity the screensaver would kick in painting pretty blue boxes on the screen.

The screensaver activity was so CPU intensive – so taxing – the server couldn’t do its real job! So, it would start pushing things back.

Here’s why it was so touch to pin down. When we’d go to look, the screensaver would stop. So within a few minutes of discovery the server would catch up. And, of course, it never fell behind while we were looking.

I can’t begin to tell you how frustrating this was. It was the bane of our existence. Now, it’s over… well I think it’s over.

I’ll let you know later if it’s not.

&#185 – eu