Archive for November, 2009


Monday, November 30th, 2009

I didn’t know what to expect with the Watchmen movie.  All I’d heard was complaints about the in-your-face nature of a certain blue character’s anatomy.  I didn’t think it was that bad, but I could see how it might bug some people.  Then again, it shouldn’t bug anyone in the target audience.  In fact anyone that complains about that should also be piping up about some other scenes as well (of which I heard no piping before).  Personally, I don’t think I liked the movie, but I could see this becoming a cult favorite.  There is nothing in particular I can say was bad about the movie.  The casting, writing, cinematography, acting, make-up (except for the scenes of old Miss Jupiter, that was obvious costuming), and story were all well done.  It just wasn’t for me.  I think it has something to do with the styling cues and thematic continuity of the film that I didn’t like.  Don’t let that dissuade you.  While I don’t recommend the movie, it’s not for being a bad movie.  Watch it yourself and decide.

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs was a name and series milking movie.  Really, that’s the way to look at it.  I certainly enjoyed (and own) the first two movies in the series, but I doubt I’ll by this third.  In fact, I think the second movie was better than the first.  This third, however, didn’t stand up to my muster.  It’s not a bad movie, but more in line with something I’d expect as a made for TV movie or Saturday morning cartoon series.  There’s a lot of predictable dialog, and guessable plot lines.  There are certainly some redeeming jokes and gags, a couple new well developed characters, and a nice twist to the saber-tooth squirrel acorn chase.  It’s probably good as purely a kids movie (which is obviously its target market), but the previous films appeal to a more broad audience.  The voice actors did their job, the animators did their job.  The picture in HD was quite good.  It was the story and to some extent the dialog that were the let-down.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is another summer blockuster in the Transformers 2 fashion — it sucked.  Well, it was better than Transformers 2, but not by much.  It still was just a bunch of computer generated special effects.  There was a slight story to it, but not enough to amount to much.  Avoid unless you have some time to kill.


Sunday, November 29th, 2009

I finally got to see Traitor.  I’ve been anxious to see it since I first saw trailers for it early last year.  For whatever reason it hasn’t appeared in iTunes.  I’ve periodically done searches and only come up with the sound track.  Anyway, the new Blu-ray player meant I needed some content — off to Blockbuster I went.  This is one of the first few.

So, about the movie, it’s very good.  I’ve been disappointed by what’s come out of Hollywood lately, so this was a nice relief.  Don Cheadle was amazing.  He’s a very good actor and always puts on an outstanding performance.  I really can’t find fault with the film.  The story was good.  That and the writing kept me guessing as to “the truth”.  In addition, the cinematography, locations, casting, mis-en-scene in general were outstanding.  I can’t recommend this film highly enough.

Blu-ray – now I understand the low adoption rates

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

So we got a good deal on a 65 inch plasma at hhgregg.  They included a Blu-ray player as part of the package.  I’d thought to myself that someday when I got a Blu-ray player it’d probably be a PS3, but I guess not.  I ran and picked up the BBC’s Planet Earth box set to have some content.  I’d seen it on Discovery when it was first released and was amazed.  I knew I had to have it in HD someday.  We’ve now rented several movies on Blu-ray and my verdict is that it can be quite amazing (like Planet Earth), but mostly not so much.  This has to be a big part of the low adoption rate.  I’ve got to rent some more  to see if I’ve just made bad picks, but so far — I’m not that impressed.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

We rented Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on iTunes last night.  Two words: pure crap.  I can’t believe they put something this bad out and that it made as much money as it did.  Ridiculous.

Got my H1N1 vaccine

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

We got our H1N1 vaccinations today.  I’m particularly concerned about this strain because I have several of the risk factors the CDC has listed as contributors to H1N1 deaths.  I started looking a while back and it seemed no one in Memphis had the injectable version.  I found a company called “The Shot Nurse” that said they were trying to get a supply and had a notification list, so I signed up.  I got an e-mail this week and hoped they wouldn’t run out before I could get over there.  We were in an out in under 10 minutes, so things are good.  My arm is a little sore, but it was to be expected.

The Devil is in the Details

Friday, November 20th, 2009

The devil is always in the details.  Software systems can be quite complex and assumptions about how they work can get you in trouble.  On my previously mentioned TV server, this week, I noticed some nearly unwatchable shows.  My initial thought was that I needed to realign my antenna, but I noticed that the shows were all recorded at the same time and I was watching another.  Maybe they were bandwidth starved?  The worst stutters were during scenes with lots of motion.  Now, in my previous setup, I know I was not able to watch anything while recording 4 HD shows.  At least I could record 4 HD show simultaneously.  The old setup was only one disk, though.  Now I’m running a one disk ZFS RAIDZ.  I absolutely know RAID5 type setups don’t perform like RAID0 setups (and that RAIDZ isn’t exactly RAID5), but early generalizations I’d read lead me to expect RAID5 type performance.  I didn’t investigate further and made assumptions based on my understanding of the technology.  Boy was I wrong.  Take a look at the numbers from bonnie++:

Version  1.96       ------Sequential Output------ --Sequential Input- --Random-
Concurrency   1     -Per Chr- --Block-- -Rewrite- -Per Chr- --Block-- --Seeks--
Machine        Size K/sec %CP K/sec %CP K/sec %CP K/sec %CP K/sec %CP  /sec %CP
dagobah.boonthe 16G    96  99 131609  34 104142  31   277  99 271779  41 116.4  14
Latency               253ms    7136ms    7453ms   36211us     731ms     785ms
Version  1.96       ------Sequential Create------ --------Random Create--------
dagobah.boontheekul -Create-- --Read--- -Delete-- -Create-- --Read--- -Delete--
 files  /sec %CP  /sec %CP  /sec %CP  /sec %CP  /sec %CP  /sec %CP
 16 22615  96 +++++ +++ 17543  97 20137  91 +++++ +++ 18455  98
Latency             12940us    9652us     227us   18233us     153us     377us

Those are crazy numbers.  So, I turned to Google and did some more reading.  It turns out a RAIDZ’s write performance is much worse than I expected.  This quote (well, quote of a quote) is very good:

"Now we come to the crucial decision ZFS has made for raidz and
raidz2: in raidz and raidz2, the data block is striped across all of
the disks. Instead of a model where a parity stripe is a bunch of data
blocks, each with an independent checksum, ZFS stripes a single data
block (and its parity), with a single checksum, across all the disks
(or as many of them as necessary).

This is a rational implementation decision, but when combined with the
need to verify checksums, it has an important consequence: in ZFS,
reads always involve all disks, because ZFS always must verify the
data block's checksum, which requires reading all of the data block,
which is spread across all of the drives. This is unlike normal RAID-5
or RAID-6, in which a small enough read will only touch one drive, and
means that adding more disks to a ZFS raidz pool does not increase how
many random reads you can do per second.

(A normal RAID-5 or RAID-6 array has a (theoretical) random read IO
capacity equal to the sum of the random IO operations rate of each of
the disks in the array, and so adding another disk adds its IOPs per
second to your read capacity. A ZFS raidz or raidz2 pool instead has a
capacity equal to the slowest disk's IOPs per second, and adding
another disk does nothing to help. Effectively a raidz ZFS gives you a
single disk's read IOPs per second rate.)"

This was on a blog of a SUN engineer (although a post from a few years
ago), unfortunately I don't have the link, I actually had to go
through my posting history on the Ars Technica forum to even find this
quote in the first place. If the situation has changed and the above
quote no longer holds true, it would be nice if someone more
knowledgeable on the performance implications could elaborate what
kind of performance is to be expected on a raidz system :) 

- Sincerely,
Dan Naumov

Wow.  In that same thread and in another I found, someone posted some benchmarking results they had done.  They are very interesting.  Follow these links:




I was quite surprised.  Further reading has lead me to rethink my setup.  For this TV/media server I need the ability to read and write simultaneously at high rates.  Write speed is more important in that I’ll likely be recording more shows at any given time than I’m watching, but I’ll still need to be able to stream a couple of HD shows at the same time.  Heck, my 4 tuners haven’t been enough on a couple of occasions.  So, I’m going to have to sacrifice space for speed.  I don’t know how I’m going to do the data shuffle, but I’m considering picking up another pair of 1TB drives and a PCI-Express SATA controller (only one free one left on the mainboard).  That’ll help.  Then I guess I’ll build the pool from mirrored pairs of 1TB drives.  My read/write performance should improve, but the addition of 2TB more drives won’t give me any more space.  It will be interesting to see what kind of numbers I get out of it.

Update: I reconfigured the pool from a 4 disk RAIDZ to a pool of 2 2 disk mirrors.  Bonnie++ results:

Version  1.96       ------Sequential Output------ --Sequential Input- --Random-
Concurrency   1     -Per Chr- --Block-- -Rewrite- -Per Chr- --Block-- --Seeks--
Machine        Size K/sec %CP K/sec %CP K/sec %CP K/sec %CP K/sec %CP  /sec %CP
dagobah.boonthe 16G    89  99 95149  25 87337  23   289  99 270826  31 214.8  28
Latency               354ms   11106ms   10391ms   40391us    3882ms     464ms
Version  1.96       ------Sequential Create------ --------Random Create--------
dagobah.boontheekul -Create-- --Read--- -Delete-- -Create-- --Read--- -Delete--
 files  /sec %CP  /sec %CP  /sec %CP  /sec %CP  /sec %CP  /sec %CP
 16 20303  95 +++++ +++  8108  99 19027  97 11837  99  4149  99
Latency             13531us     265us     478us   39328us     308us    5922us

Update: I got in 2 more 1TB disks (and a HighPoint 2310, as I’ve used up all 6 on-board SATA ports).  I added the 2 new disks (via the HighPoint, no other rearranging of the drives) as another mirror in the pool.  Now the capacity is back up to what it was as a RAIDZ.  Bonnie++ results:

Version  1.96       ------Sequential Output------ --Sequential Input- --Random-
Concurrency   1     -Per Chr- --Block-- -Rewrite- -Per Chr- --Block-- --Seeks--
Machine        Size K/sec %CP K/sec %CP K/sec %CP K/sec %CP K/sec %CP  /sec %CP
dagobah.boonthe 16G   112  99 145807  39 124058  33   289  99 372925  46 274.9  22
Latency               331ms    3891ms    7095ms   31678us    2229ms     457ms
Version  1.96       ------Sequential Create------ --------Random Create--------
dagobah.boontheekul -Create-- --Read--- -Delete-- -Create-- --Read--- -Delete--
 files  /sec %CP  /sec %CP  /sec %CP  /sec %CP  /sec %CP  /sec %CP
 16 22492  94 +++++ +++ 19562  97 16765  97 18918  99  6837  99
Latency             18093us    1113us     185us   37416us     203us     386us

It’s hard to make any conclusions from this.  The numbers for the pool of mirrors are completely different than what I expected.  In addition, I can say that interactive performance with similar workloads to what caused me problems previously have much improved.  Just from the reconfiguration of the existing drives, I was able to record 4 HD streams simultaneously while watching another and no apparent stuttering or the like in any recording or the playback.  Adding the 2 additional disks as another mirror in the pool had apparent impact in the bonnie++ numbers and brought my usable space back up to previous levels, but I’m still rather surprised at the bonnie++ numbers.

Nitro Therapy

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

Today (well, technically yesterday), I got my first dose of nitro therapy (went to the range) in almost 3 years.  I can’t believe it’s been so long.  You know you’re getting old when 3 years goes by and it doesn’t feel that long.

I’m on the hunt for a new carry gun and I’m highly focused on .45acp as being my new round round of choice.  That certainly narrows the field of choices quite a bit and my natural first interest is the venerable 1911.  With 100 years of history, there are a lot of options.  Through a lot of reading and question asking of my local expert I started narrowing down options I thought I might prefer, but I was missing a key component in my evaluation — I’d never fired a 1911 before, or even a .45.  So, today we went up to Range USA to rent one.  I brought along a trusty old Makarov to get back into the shooting groove.  I was certainly a little rusty, but I quickly re-acclimated to the Makarov.  Range USA had a couple of 1911′s and I chose the Kimber Stainless Pro Carry II (with Crimson Trace grips, although I didn’t realize it before making the pick).  It’s a closer match to the options and size I’m considering than the full size Springfield they also had.

What did I think?  Well, I’m not sure.  Recoil and muzzle flip weren’t really a problem, but I certainly shot different with it than the Makarov.  It alleviated my concerns about an aluminum frame.  Reliability wasn’t a problem, but I wouldn’t think an unreliable gun is good for a rental anyway.  The sites were horrible — not that the sites on my Makarov are any better.  Actually, before coming out here to Memphis, I had no idea that the plain sites on my Makarov were that bad (although I’d read it many times on forums).  They seemed fine to me, but back in Oklahoma I always shot outdoors and during the day.  Indoors with poor lighting is a very different thing and makes a huge difference.  The bottom line is that I’ll still be pursuing the 1911 and now I’ve got more of an idea what I’m getting into.

Tires Really Make a Difference

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

I knew it, but I guess I didn’t really know it. I do now — tires really make a difference. A week ago, I bought a new set of Michelin Primacy MXV4′s for my car. If I recall, this is the 3rd set of tires I’ve put on in the 100,000 miles I’ve put on it (in 10 years). I’ve needed them for a while, but I kept putting it off, because I knew they’d be a special order. Nobody stocks the size tires I need. As this October was the wettest October in Memphis history (at least since they started record keeping in the 1800′s), I finally got sick of slipping and sliding like I was on ice and called Sears up to get them to order the tires. They came in after a few days and I got them put on over lunch on Friday a week ago. The difference is dramatically different. The road noise, ride, and grip have all improved more than I expected. The most impressive change is in road noise. I knew my car was loud, but I just assumed it was because I’d pulled out the headliner and that it’s 20 or 21 years old. Sure, I realized there was some tire noise, but I didn’t think it was such a large contributor. Now, it’s like I’m driving a new car.

11/8/2009 – Slight update: Gas mileage increased as well. With one tank behind me I’d say 5%.

11/11/2009 – Further update, I would have been in an accident yesterday if it weren’t for the new tires.  Cruising home from work and suddenly everything stopped.  Lots of cars sliding and pulling onto the shoulder.  I absolutely know the old tires would have let go, but I didn’t even get a chirp with these.