The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Thursday, Debtember 09, 1999

“The politics are so fierce precisely because the stakes are so low.”

The politics are so fierce precisely because the stakes are so low.

—Dr. Arnold J. Mandell

As I'm walking out to my car I notice that it seems to be farther away than normal. Sure enough, taped to the driver's side window is the following note:

Next time you park here, your car will be towed

At least it wasn't one of those self-ahesive stickers the Condo Commandos use around here. I pull the note off and go to pop the trunk when I hear someone yelling at me.

“Is that your car?” It's coming from in front of my car, up somewhere. Sure enough, there's someone from a second floor porch yelling at me. “That's my spot you parked in!”

“I'm sorry!” I yell back.

“You're not allowed to park there. You don't park in handicapped spots, right?”

“I'm sorry! I must have parked in the wrong spot last night,” I said. I hop over to the next spot. “This is my spot. I must have parked here by mistake,” I say, putting the package I was carrying in the trunk and shutting it. The man on the porch was glaring at me. Even at 50' away, I could tell.

There was a second note under the wiper of my car as well. Said the same thing. Gotta love those Condo Commandos.

Surreal upgrades

Now the package I put in the trunk is a new harddrive I picked up from CompUSA yesturday. Tower (the webserver for is running a bit low in disk space so I figured I'd put in a new drive to alleviate the problem.

Now tower is a 486SX-33MHz NCR IBM PCompatible that was given to me by a friend (otherwise it would be tossed into the garbage). Not wanting to turn down an otherwise usable machine I took it, increased the memory to a whopping 20M and installed Linux on the just barely 200M harddrive.

Yup. I'm serving up the primary web server, an online bible and friend's site on a machine that most people would otherwise toss into the garbage. It's adequite enough for what I do with it (and for four years another friend ran his company, a web hosting company, off a 486 (okay, so it was twice as fast as my 486, but it worked).

So I went to CompUSA yesturday to find the cheapest harddrive I could find. I don't need that much space.

The cheapest drive I could find (okay, it wasn't the cheapest, but it was the best price per gig) was a huge 17G harddrive for $150.

Sure, I could have probably scrounged around for a drive, but it's cheap enough to get a new one.

But it feels odd installing a 17G drive in a 486. My home system only (only!) has a 3G drive.

Why not put the 17G in my home system, and move the 3G to the webserver? Too much hassle. I had quite a bit of fun installing the 17G drive in the 486. The supplied drive cable wasn't long enough (the two drives sit side by side) but fortunately my host company provided a “just long enough” cable for me to use.

Then it was a matter of getting Linux to recognize the second drive. Enabled it in the BIOS, then had to reconfigure some settings through the BIOS (and here I'm glad the NCR had a BIOS program built in. The Compaq 486 I have here doesn't) to get Linux to see more than 500M (the CMOS had some default values which I upped using the settings from another Linux system with a 17G drive installed).

My only concern with such a huge drive is if the machine goes down uncleanly. My Linux system takes forever to fsck a 3G drive, and it's an AMD 586-166MHz system. Lord only knows how long it'll take a 33MHz 486 to fsck a 17G harddrive. Shudder.

I'd hate to think what it would do on a corrupted system.

UPDATE: I ran “time mount /dev/hdb1 /mnt” (under Unix, this will time how long a command takes to run) and found that it took 7.08 seconds in the kernel to mount the 17G harddrive under Linux 2.0.36 running on a 486SX-33MHz. Ouch.

I also ran “time fsck -f -y /dev/hdb1” (under Unix, this will check the consistency of the filesystem and make corrections. The -f option forces the program to run, even if the filesystem isn't corrupted) and it took almost 15 minutes to run. That on a clean filesystem. I'd hate to think what it would do on a corrupted system.


I've been following the various Linux IPOs and today I see that VA Linux Systems had their IPO today.. Briefly, it IPOed (can you verb a TLA? Can you verb the word “verb?” Whatever … ) at US$30 and opened at US$299. Inbloodysane.

Andover.Net wasn't nearly as inbloodysane.

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