Wow, I've been at this for quite a while

I just happened to notice that this blog has been around for over six years and this will mark my 641st post. I'm certainly not posting as frequently as I used to, for which I am somewhat disappointed in myself, but I'm pretty pleased to have been keeping this thing going as long as I have.

Asceticism post-mortem

My month of asceticism having passed, and having had some time to relapse as the mood strikes me, I am able to draw some conclusions from the experience.

Caffeine - My relationship with caffeine has changed quite substantially as a result of my ascetic endeavor. I suffered pretty bad migraines for a day or so within a few days of giving up caffeine. The migraines subsided a couple days later and I was left heavily craving caffeine for about two weeks. By this point, more than a month after giving up caffeine, I still have some desire for caffeine but I feel as though I wouldn't have any trouble continuing indefinitely without caffeine.

That I could continue indefinitely without caffeine doesn't mean I plan to. I have no plans to relapse to my prior levels (2-5 units per day) of caffeine usage but caffeine can be quite useful so neither do I intend to swear off caffeine. My plan is to go without caffeine in general but turn to it at times when I find myself desiring of more wakefulness or other stimulants.

Caffeine only for a purpose, not out of habit.

High fructose corn-syrup - Adding high fructose corn-syrup to my ascetic month was a very good choice on my part. I have decided to entirely give up high fructose corn-syrup and I'm not looking back. Mostly, all of the things that I have to give up to avoid high fructose corn-syrup are not things that I mind giving up. I kind of miss soda a little bit but only just barely.

It takes a little bit of awareness and vigilance but I feel that it's worth the effort to go without high fructose corn-syrup.

Alcohol - Nothing much learned here. I still enjoy the flavor and side-effects of alcoholic beverages. Having had a month without alcohol has left me with a somewhat decreased tolerance, which has its pluses and minuses but that's about all that I've gotten from this month as regards alcohol.

I guess the fact that I drink alcohol because I enjoy it and not out of habit might be a valuable thing to have learned.

Drugs - Giving something up that you weren't going to have been doing isn't really giving something up.

Conclusion: Giving stuff up for a while can give you a new perspective or appreciation for the things that you give up. Sometimes that new perspective is that old habits aren't worth keeping.

Safe offline ext2/ext3/ext4 defragmentation

I have a very large RAID6 array (11TB) with an ext4 partition that, due to particular use cases, has become disgustingly fragmented (~40% non-contiguous according to fsck). Sadly, as much as ext4 is designed to resist fragmentation issues, my partition has been having substantial performance issues.

The ext4 defrag program e4defrag would be an ideal solution to my problems but it is not yet stable enough for production use.

Putting some thought into the matter, I have came up with a technique for defragmenting my partition using only stable tools. My process is very slow and requires substantial periods of downtime but preliminary results are good.

At present, I have 2TB of free space, which means that I can copy files off my fragmented partition and then copy them back to decrease the fragmentation of individual files; alternatively, the application shake can be used to accomplish a similar result. However, the copy/recopy solution will only work if the free space on my partition is not fragmented. Running e2freefrag I found that the free space on my partition is monstrously fragmented.

However, clever use of resize2fs can almost completely defragment the free space of a partition. If you unmount the partition, shrink it to a minimum size and the expand it, the vast majority of the free space will be moved to a contiguous region at the end of the partition.

If the partition is /dev/md1 and is mounted at /mnt/fragmented, your file system can be defragmented with the following set of commands:

$ umount /mnt/fragmented
$ fsck -f /dev/md1
$ resize2fs -M -p /dev/md1
$ resize2fs -p /dev/md1
$ mount /dev/md1 /mnt/fragmented
$ shake -o 0 -S 0 /mnt/fragmented

This will result in some defragmentation of your partition but it is likely that the process will need to be repeated multiple times to achieve a substantial degree of defragmentation.

It's 5:30 and there's monkey bread in the oven

Sometime round abouts 3, I found myself in the living room, bored, and with my laptop. One thing led to another, and there was Google, font of random knowledge. Typing random word combinations into Google, I discovered (much as ol' Christopher Columbus did the new world) that there is a foodstuff by the name of monkey bread.

Being the me that I happen to be, specifically, the me that you likely know to be me, I could not help but attempt to construct this amazingly named baked good. Googling about the Internets, I decided upon a recipe from The Pioneer Woman Cooks due to a combination of general recipe consensus and a fondness for the tone of the author's writing.

Having chosen a recipe and (mostly) followed it, here I sit, typing while I wait on the oven. The monkey bread, which I cannot imagine being anything less than 4 Billion % awesome, will be done cooking around 6. I'll probably wait around until the monkey bread is ready to remove from its cake mold womb, pop it out, and leave it for my various roommates to discover come tomorrow.

Tasting reports may, perhaps, follow, though given my posting track record, I would not hold out high hopes.

Secular Asceticism

I am not a religious man but I have found, at times, that periods of abstinence/asceticism can be good for one's body and spirit. Of course, as with any abstinence regimen, what one is abstaining from and the reasons for the undertaking play a very large part in what one can get out of it.

This month marks the second time that I have undertaken a month of asceticism; the first having been March of 2009. Last time, I took a straight edge approach, abstaining from caffeine, alcohol, and all other psychoactive substances. This year, I am repeating the same abstention of caffeine, alcohol, and drugs but adding high-fructose corn syrup.

As I mentioned, I feel that the what and why or any ascetic regimen plays a large part in what one gets from the experience. My first bout of asceticism, last year, was prompted by the feeling that my caffeine consumption had reached unreasonable levels and, if the degree of caffeine withdrawal that I went through at that time was any indication, I was correct in my feeling. At the time, I decided that if I was going to go off caffeine for a month, cold-turkey, I might as well do the same with any other mind-altering substance. This time, my reasoning is largely derived from the feeling of homeostasis obtained during my last run of asceticism. I am adding high-fructose corn syrup this time around because I am under the (marginally scientific) impression that high-fructose corn syrup is unhealthy to consume and do not normally maintain any level of awareness over its consumption.

As we're nearing the end of my first week of abstention, I can report on some of the specifics of the experience thus far:

  • Caffeine - Oh, how I miss caffeine; I am an addict and I crave my fix. Actually, as of today, I find myself craving caffeine far less than I did even yesterday. Thankfully, this year, my caffeine consumption was far lower before the undertaking than last year. Last time, I had monstrously intense migraines for nearly a week due to caffeine withdrawal; this time, I had moderate migraines on day two (Sunday) but the major symptoms had cleared by day three (Monday). Cravings, as I mentioned, are subsiding and I hope to be back to baseline sometime next week.
  • Alcohol - Abstaining from alcohol is mostly a social nuisance for me. I usually drink socially, as is the case with a great many, if not all, of my friends. On its own giving up alcohol isn't a huge deal but, when one's abstention from caffeine and high-fructose corn syrup means that you can't even have "just a Coke," things get annoying. Abstaining from alcohol also makes me aware of the frequency with which I will go to the fridge for something to drink and grab a beer; this has largely been replaced by grabbing a glass of milk or Ovaltine (thankfully free of high-fructose corn syrup).
  • Drugs - Not really a substantive change, mostly here to round out the list and allow the classification to be simplified to psychoactive substances and high-fructose corn syrup for discussion purposes.
  • High fructose corn-syrup - Fuck! This shit is in everything! High-fructose corn syrup is really hard to avoid; I'm sure that I'm missing things that contain this stuff. I went into a gas station mart on Saturday to get a beverage and the only things that I could find without caffeine or high-fructose corn syrup were water, milk, and Diet Sprite. I didn't put ketchup on my french fries at lunch today because ketchup contains high-fructose corn syrup. For Christ's sake, they even put high-fructose corn syrup in Saltine's. The addition of high-fructose corn syrup to my abstention list is both maddening and somewhat enlightening.

That's where we're at for now; I'll keep you posted as the month goes on.

As of 04/03/2010, I am 27

So as to be totally clear, \(27 = 3^3 = 3*3*3\), which is to say this is pretty much the threeest birthday that I'm going to have until either ever or arguably 54 years from now. Three being my favorite number, presumably, makes today somewhat noteworthy in a numerological sense. That is all.

A cute geometry problem

I came across a cute geometry problem recently and I would like to pass it along.


Problem Statement

If the sides of the square are of unit length and all curves are circular arcs, what is the area of the highlighted region?

Although substantially easier with the use of calculus or trigonometry, this problem can be solved entirely with basic geometry (no weird laws you might have forgotten since high school are necessary).

I have derived a geometric solution, which follows, but I highly recommend trying to do it yourself first.

Read more…

HOWTO unlock your N900 and turn it into a 3G modem

After reading the recent Boing Boing post about HOWTO unlock your Nexus One and turn it into a 3G modem, I thought it might be worth putting together a similar set of instructions for the Nokia N900.

Some notes before we begin:

  1. This is a supported use of your phone.
  2. There is no risk of bricking your phone.
  3. This does not wipe your phone.
  4. You don't need to back anything up before starting.

1. Install Bluetooth Dial-Up Networking support

  1. Open the Application Manager
  2. Install the "Bluetooth Dial-Up Networking" Application

2. Tether your computer