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Monday, March 23, 2009

That was quick

A week is an eternity for someone like me to live without their main computing machine, so facing the prospect of 2 weeks of waiting and fighting with the rest of the family for computer time was daunting. But that was the only way to get my laptop back to fully working condition.

Return shipping to the repair center was "next afternoon" service, so I was pleasantly surprised when the next morning I got an email (email on the phone has become vital without a laptop) saying they had received it and were starting to work on it. Estimates were 7-9 working days before they would send it back.

The next afternoon (Friday) I got another email saying it was on it's way back. FedEx web site confirmed that it was on its way and should be home Monday afternoon.

Now the questions are:

1. Is everything working?
2. Did I get my own hard drive back or will I spend the next 2-3 weeks reinstalling and reconfiguring things to my liking?

Stay tuned for updates...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Repairs are underway

My main machine is in a box on it's way to Texas for repairs, so updates may be a bit scarce here for the next week or so. I have all my important files and stuff backed up on 2 different hard drives and am planning on using the family machine to get a few blog posts up, but there will probably be less posts for the next couple weeks.

In the meantime, feel free to browse some of my older posts. Comments on the older posts will not be posted till I moderate them, but that is just to make sure a spam-bot doesn't go crazy on me. Plus that ensures that I don't overlook a comment on an older post.

Also, you can feel free to checkout my photoblog over at Flowing Desert Photography. I may be a bit less frequently visible on Twitter during the week, but feel free to give me a shout there if you want to say hi.

See you soon.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A New Ironman

St George Utah is a very scenic place and Utah is close for me, so I could drive there and not worry about shipping my bike. May temperatures in Utah should be no worse than April in Arizona was last year.

It would be a beautiful area to race in, but I am wondering how tough the course is going to be. I remember pulling our camper through this area years ago and remember some brutal climbs, but I don't know how they have mapped the course will lay out. Has anyone done a mapmyrun or mapmytri on this yet? Anyone already register for this? Leave me a comment or shout out on Twitter.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Online Communications Methods

Twitter is a great tool for making connections. I think of it as a cross between email and instant messaging, combined with a dose of bulletin board and forums. What do I mean by that? Here is how I see these different technologies being commonly used:


Usually used for non-real time communication for things where an answer can wait anywhere from few minutes to several days or longer. All parties in the communication do not need to be present at the same time for email to be effective. Email is "directed messaging", that is to say, you specify the username(s) of the intended recipient(s). Barring security glitches or forwarding by a recipient, anyone not on the distribution list is not going to see the message.

Instant Messaging:

IM is usually used for interactive conversation. Very helpful for troubleshooting or actively working on a problem. If all parties are not available at the same time, IM does not work. Like email, IM is "directed messaging".


Forums are the modern equivalent of what started out being known as bulletin boards or BBS. BBS's were around before the internet became commonplace and provided "geeks of a feather" a place to hang together. Discussions and replies were mostly public to the members of the board. This provided a great way to have a lively discussion. This is typically less real time than IM, but frequently can get very close to real time. While they usually have a direct message function, forums are usually considered "public messaging" and messages are open either to all participants of the forum or to anyone on the internet.


Twitter only allows 140 characters in a message which can be considered a limitation or a time saver. Most of us have read email messages that were multiple pages long when the relevant information could have easily been contained in a half of a page. Twitter does allow for direct messages, but the primary consideration here are the public messages and what are called "at replies". "At replies" are messages that are intended for a specific recipient and are of the form @username. While targeting a specific user makes it easier for that user to see the message, the message is public. This means Twitter communication can be both targeted and public at the same time.

Direct Messages in Twitter:

While still limited to 140 characters, the dm option allows for a directed message without the public exposure. It is the subject of some controversy in the Twitter world, especially the use of "Auto DM's". Some people use automatic dm's to promote their websites. Others use them for an automatic greeting while others don't use them at all. Finally, some people object to them and will rant and rave about any automatic dm they get.

To try and get a handle on this topic, I have put a survey here and will be asking for votes and opinions to be posted here in the comments. How do you use Twitter, email and other communication? What do you think about direct messages on Twitter? Let me know here in the comments and over on Twitter.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Oracle log file maintenance

Though I have been an Oracle DBA for about a decade, I have only recently started taking on responsibility for some of the other tiers that are part of Oracle Applications, Portal, Enterprise Manager and Oracle Management Server. I am a part of a small team that has not had much training other than on the job experience in these areas. We are managing pretty well, but are still trying to find easier and better ways to manage things.

The latest issue was discovered by one of our team as they were doing some preventative system checks. They noticed some largish log files and added them to the archive and clean script. These new files bring to 4 the number in this particular system and as we were discussing it, we wondered several things.

The current list


We are using a rudimentary script that makes a copy of the archive, a copy of the current log and then empties the current log. This process gives us 2-3 weeks of history and is self-maintaining (what every DBA should strive for).

There are about a million log files in this rats nest of directories, but they all seem to be pretty small and slow growing. Are there other log files that should be maintained regularly?

An Ounce of Prevention

Besides ongoing maintenance, what can a self-respecting DBA do to reduce unnecessary logging? I do not know of a list of what can be turned off or reduced.

I am counting on my Oracle friends, both here in the blogsphere as well as in Twitlandia to help me flesh out this list so we can all can have a master list of log files to include in maintenance scripts. Your comments here are greatly appreciated.

Monday, March 9, 2009

A New Addition...

Giovanni arrived to the world late last week allowing my little brother to finally become a fellow member of the "Fathers of boys" club. I am sad to report that none of Giovanni's cousins that have met so far wanted to spend any time with him.

baby, newborn, blanket, boy

Just kidding. Not since the arrival of the Wii game system in our house have I seen my boys argue over sharing this much. baby, newborn, blanket, boy

Giovanni's parents also seem to be pretty taken in with him which is a good thing since they will be spending a lot of time with him for the next 15 years or so.

baby, newborn, blanket, family, mom, dad

A few more pictures over at my photoblog if you still have not gotten your fill of baby pictures. Clicking on any picture will take you to a bigger version.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Shooting Jams

My youngest son told me a few weeks ago that he didn't remember ever shooting a gun. He had come with a few years ago once or twice when I took his older brother, but he hadn't wanted to go since then. As it had been about a month since I had been to a range, we made plans to go to a local public range this past weekend.

My Dad came with and brought his .22 revolvers with as they were a good size for a new shooter. I brought my guns with as well since I wanted to shoot the long guns as well as get some trigger practice with my 9mm pistol.

The weather was a perfect Arizona winter. Not cold enough for anything more than a t-shirt and not hot enough to get dehydrated. After showing my son how to load, cock, aim and fire one of the .22 revolvers and supervising him for awhile, my Dad took over supervising duty and I loaded up the .308 and got started on my targets.

My target was about 40 yards away and I was shooting from a bench and leaning on a cement shooting table without blocks. I took my time lining up my shots and did not rush. Three of my first 4 were in the black circle that I was aiming for. Oddly, that was better aim than when I used the .22 rifle a few minutes later. I thought the kick of the .308 would throw my aim off more. Maybe it was the better scope that helped.

After a couple magazines of .308 kicking me around, I was ready to give my Taurus 9mm pistol a workout. The last time I was at the range, I had some jamming trouble. I thought I had narrowed it down to a specific clip not feeding correctly and so I was not using that clip anymore. Sadly, almost every clip I shot had at least one problem. This happened with both types of ammunition I had with me as well as both clips that I was using.

Last time I was at the range about a month ago, another shooter suggested that my problems were lack of lubrication, so when I it that night, I made sure to be more generous with the oil when re-lubricating.

What do you do when you have a problem? You search for the answer online. Who knows, that may even be how you ended up here. Well, one of the first hits I found was from North Carolina Sportsman with an article titled "Why your semi-auto pistol jams." I found this article very informative and useful.

First of all, it appears that my problem is properly defined as "failure to extract" and happens when the empty shell does not get extracted properly after the shot is fired. Furthermore, it seems that the most likely cause of this is what is called "limp-wristing" or not having a tight enough grip on the gun.

It looks as though I have something to practice next time I go shooting. In the meantime, I was able to take advantage of the problems to practice clearing malfunctions.

All-in-all, it was a fun day shooting and we all had fun. I need to plan on doing this again real soon.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Movie Time

I just watched The Flying Scotsman about cyclist Graeme Obree. I thought it was a pretty good movie and it got me thinking about other sports or athletics movies. I realized I could not think of very many off the top of my head so I asked my friends on Twitter for some ideas.

Instead of just giving you a list of movies, I am going to put them in some general categories. I know they could all be put in other categories, but I'll let you provide feedback as I have not seen most of these. Leave me a note in the comments and I'll continue refining this list with better categories as I get them.

What it Takes Ironman - Triathelete documentary
Running on the Sun - about the Badwater ultramarathon
The Runner - about ultra runner David Horton
Spirit Of The Marathon

Other (motivational, inspirational, love story, etc.)
The Flying Scotsman
Breaking Away
Remember the Titans
Little Giants
Facing The Giants
Tin Cup

Mighty Ducks
Rookie of the Year

Thanks to the following members of the great Twitter-nation for these movie names. If you are on Twitter give them a shout and think about following them.


I would love to update this list and include more titles, so please fill out a quick comment with your favorite sports movies (I'm surprised no one said Blades of Glory yet) and give a quick review if you want to recommend one (or recommend avoiding any).