Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Great Beeping of '07

My wife and I got home later than usual last night, welcomed by six smoke alarms blaring just as loudly as their manaical speakers would allow. According to the neighbors, this had been going on for a good long while. Just to get it out of the way, no, there was no fire. There were no dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. There was just noise. Massive, massive decibel levels of noise.

I flipped the breaker ever so helpfully named "Smokeys" or some lame thing, and we set about hunting down each of the unholy ear-gouging devices. Grab, twist, pull it down, yank the AC plug, flip open the side and rip out the 9-volt. As if to add to the surreal nature of this process of systematically finding and killing these hateful abominations, several of them hissed with static and gasped with high-frequency squeals as the last watts bled from their capacitors. Die! Why won't they just DIE?!

Our poor cat was already neurotic and jittery, so this whole episode was just terrific for her. I hate to think what being showered in that acoustic magma feels like after hours and hours, let alone for a critter of super-sensitive hearing. My tinnitus is noticeably worse, my wife could barely focus on her homework, and our neighbors would be quite justified in either pitying us or hating us, all because someone thought it would be smart to design a system of smoke alarms that:
  1. Never shut up no matter how long they're raised
  2. Connect to each other and all go off if one is triggered
  3. Are each, individually, deafeningly loud
  4. Cannot be turned off remotely by cutting power
  5. Give no hint as to which unit's faulty sensor started the whole mess
Yes. Brilliant.

So far, home ownership has been just fantastic. What's next, I wonder? Wait, I know. All the light bulbs simultaneously explode, raining sparks down on carpet and furniture and starting fires on every floor. The smoke alarms aren't replaced yet so nobody is warned, the pipes all magically route natural gas instead of water, and the entire place goes up in a huge plume of smoldering annihilation. Oh, and then our insurance company turns out to be a subsidiary of Enron and vanishes without a trace, our cat miraculously survives only to sue the bejesus out of us, and the homeowners association fines us for burning without a permit.

Friday, May 04, 2007

mv /home/apartment /home/house

Moving sucks. Never again, at least not until we can afford to hire movers. All my stuff and all my wife's stuff is at our new home, though most of it's still globbed on the main floor, waiting for us to muster the energy and the giving-a-crap to move things to more sensible places.

I did figure out a good way of explaining RAM and some other concepts to people who aren't computer literate, though. RAM is your computer's tables and counters. If you've got lots of counter space, you can do things. Things like put down a plate, remove the lid of a peanut butter jar and set it down, little luxuries like that. When all your counter space is full, you need to start swapping. Typically you have to swap stuff from the table (RAM) to the floor (hard disk). Holding things in your hands (CPU registers) is handy for juggling a few things at a time, but you have to set them down sooner or later.

The analogy is silly, but its implications are even sillier...

When we first moved in, all our stuff was compactly stored in two rooms on the main floor - the beginning of a disk. We're now seeking to fragment our housedrive on purpose, moving things bit by bit off into the far corners of our available space.

The seek time on our house is ironically much slower than in the old apartment, even though we have three platters as opposed to just one. Then again, the head count hasn't increased so that still makes sense.

DMA would be awesome. If things could get from any floor space to any counter or table space without having to be carried by our sore CPU registers, that would save a lot of time and effort, which I suppose is the entire point of DMA.

Wouldn't it be nice if extra hard disk space could be turned into RAM just by putting a table there? Not swap, but actual, useful RAM. Growing extra registers would be very useful too. Most people would just wind up using them to play solitaire though.

Our cat is a virus who will indiscriminately puke on both RAM and the hard disk. Her runtime is some sort of virtual machine which doesn't make any distinction between the two, it's all just trottable and sleepable surface area.

~ mv /home/apartment /home/house
Permission denied.
~ sudo mv /home/apartment /home/house

"Sudo" must be the 16-foot truck we rented. It was powerful and a little intimidating to use. A person could get used to that level of power and potential disaster, but most of us should stay in user mode most of the time, and only fiddle with the stuff we own.