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Wrapping up November

Started: 2008-11-30 23:23:35

Submitted: 2008-12-01 00:14:53

Visibility: World-readable

My clock tells me there are just over thirty minutes left in November (at least, in Mountain Time, though I'm actually sitting in Pacific Time at the moment), so it seems like a good time to wrap up a few notes on the rest of November.

As alluded to in my last post on the month of November, I'm working on improving my basement to make it more suitable for some sort of home office and for Festing. (I understand that all bets are off for planning Megafesting in the post-Calvin era.) Kiesa assures me that we're going to be living here for a while before we have enough of a down payment to move into Boulder. I've waffled a bit on the best way to make the basement more livable (and, in fact, on the very nature of my goal itself -- am I cheating by trying to improve the basement without really going ahead and finishing it? Will my improvements simply make finishing the basement more difficult in the future?) and finally almost decided on a course of action: Get the basement professionally carpeted in the month of December. If we go ahead and hold Megafest 7.2 in Colorado (as one competing plan suggests), I should have a carpeted, well-lit basement in time for the New Year. If not, I'll still have a good place to set up my ever-improving home office.

Two other small parts of the improve-the-basement plan came together recently: Wiring all of the light fixtures onto a single circuit (which took an hour, including a trip to Lowe's for supplies) and using the power distribution system in my cubicle walls. I believe I also understand how to wire Ethernet cabling through the base of the cubicle walls, which might reduce the tangle of wiring snaking along the side of my basement to a minimum.

I spent most of last Sunday wiring a pair of Ethernet drops from my basement into the room that will be occupied by Calvin starting sometime next year. (My real motivation was for a good place to put my computers other than the basement while I get carpet installed. I'll need to clear out the entire basement, which will be no small achievement, since there's four years of accumulation on top of twenty-eight years of stuff.) Several years ago I identified the path I could use to wire the second floor of my house, punching through the wall separating the basement from the garage and following the path a previous home owner used to wire land-line phone service to the second floor. (Fixing that wiring job was on my list of "things to do before Calvin arrives", since the remodel box was falling out of the wall.) I acquired a hundred-foot spool of Cat5 and started stringing cable from my wiring nexus, near the base of the stairs, along the route I identified. All went as planned until I got to the last two feet of cable, where it disappeared into the garage ceiling and emerged in the wall in the upstairs bedroom. My plan was to use the hole drilled for the phone cable, but this proved harder than I imagined since the hole was barely large enough to fit the two-pair phone cable. Two four-pair Cat5 cables were out of the question. I tried various things to get the cable through the hole. I went back to Lowes for fish tape, but when I realized that the hole was too small to fit the fish tape I knew I needed a bigger hole. I went back a third time for an eighteen-inch-long drill bit and successfully punched a hole into the wall without causing any further damage to the drywall or my house in general. On my last try before we needed to leave for our birthing class, I pulled the two cables through the newly-expanded hole.

I returned Monday evening to wire connectors to the ends of the cable and start using the cable for my relocated computers. This proved somewhat more difficult than I anticipated. My first attempt at using the cables worked well, but only after I drug Hiro and Ziyal up two flights of stairs did the cables start showing signs of trouble. I eventually decided that the drops were marginal; some of the switches I used worked, and some didn't; only after extensive trial and error was I able to find a set of switches that worked on both ends. I presume I violated some wiring guidelines somewhere, but I don't know quite enough to figure out where or why.

(Another accomplishment for last weekend was installing binary nvidia drivers on Hiro and getting Google Earth to work on 64-bit Debian. The whole thing was a bit more complicated than I had hoped -- Debian doesn't ship with all of the 32-bit libraries that Google Earth needs -- but the end result was beautiful, and more than enough to make me wonder if I had been worshiping false gods by rejecting the sacred ways of binary nvidia drivers. Once I tore myself away from Google Earth running smoothly and beautifully, I worked on writing code to place USGS quads into Google Earth. I can download PDFs of the 7.5 minute quads, which look like scans of the paper maps. They tend to be rotated slightly off square and use the older NAD27 datum rather than the newer WGS84 datum, so getting the maps into kml files was a bit of a challenge. This is something I need to document in greater detail for the benefit of future generations.)

I'm in the process of scaling up my exercise program to provide most of my physical fitness through running during the winter months and help me train for the Bolder Boulder in six months. I have a running training book that includes a four-month training schedule for ten-kilometer races; I'm going to implement that training program starting in February, four months ahead of my favorite Memorial Day road race. Between now and February, I plan to run a short 5k race in Boulder next week, then build up my weekly distance before beginning the official training schedule. The training guide suggests running twenty to thirty miles per week, which seems a bit ambitious by my standards early in November but easily achievable by my current standards.

Between running races, upgrading my television, and carpeting my basement, December looks like it'll be a busy month. And that's not counting any holiday parties.

Meddle not in the affairs of sysadmins, for they are
quick to violence, and have no need for subtlety.