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Month: February 2009

Unholy adventures in multi-terabyte land

Unholy adventures in multi-terabyte land

Between lots of other activities this weekend, I fiddled around with my three new 1.5TB drives.  It’s been years since I’ve felt like I took some sort of Apocalypse Now trip up the technological congo – but adventures in installing these drives has made me feel close again.  What awful adventures getting some wild combination of things working in tech-land have you had?

How about:

  • Getting more than 640k recognized in DOS on an IBM XT via a memory expander card (I had a 512k ram drive!)
  • Getting an 8-bit IBM XT to boot from a very specific Seagate ST351A/X IDE drive (the only IDE drive ever that could run on an XT)
  • Getting over 4gb of memory recognized (not hard -unless your motherboard has a bios bug that freezes the system up with four 1gb DDR2 sticks install -a bug I found and reported to Intel’s support guys…)
  • Getting windows media player to stop f*** waking my system randomly in the night to update the program guide.

But anyway, TerabyteLand wasn’t quite as bad as those – but installing these drives helped me relive those days a bit.  Long story short – don’t expect to boot from a volume over 2TB.  Now, I have hardware RAID on my motherboard with ample SATA ports (six hot-swappable) and hardware support for RAID 0, 1, 5, and 0+1.   My hope was to put all three drives in a RAID 5 setup for redundancy and read performance.  I could successfully create the 3.0TB RAID 5 set, but it was reported as not bootable by an ICH9 and ICH10 RAID controller.  After trying 2 other motherboards and digging around on forums, turns out due to current bios limitations.

MBR BIOS limitation to 2TB
Current BIOS uses MBR (master boot record) for drive support – and MBR only supports drives or partitions up to 2TB.  However, the new EFI (extensable firmware interface) specification is a BIOS replacement that removes this limitation by allowing the new GPT (GUID Partitioning Table) format that supports up to 18 exobyte drives/partitions.  So, in order to boot from a drive larger than 2TB, you need to have a motherboard that runs EFI (currently: Apple, Itanium, and HP-UX boards), and drives formatted with GPT.  So at the moment, that means not much love for Windows world.  You can create GPT partitions in Vista SP1 – but just not boot from them.

So, that leaves only two options: run my OS from one of my existing 750GB drives and then have the remaining 3.0TB in a second set as RAID 5, or put two drives in RAID 1 for the OS (mirroring for fault tolerance and read speed) and leave the second drive alone for DVR storage.  I went option #2 – but I hate the fact I can’t just have one big bucket of bits.  I HATE secondary drives that exist simply because of these stupid limitation.  At least I’m not alone.

Still, even doing this was painful.  Vista had trouble recognizing the drives when I first plugged them in.  You had to format them with AHCI first, then switch the bios over to RAID and set up the volume – then vista could install to them.  Weird.

Any of you set up a large bootable volume like this in Linux?

2 more 1.5tb drives – in a raid – in wrapping paper??

2 more 1.5tb drives – in a raid – in wrapping paper??

The deal for 1.5terabyte drives I mentioned earlier for $83 was quickly replaced by one from Dell with the drives at the still steal rate of $105 (using the same discount code strangely enough).  I picked up 2 more of the drives for a total of three with plans of putting them into a raid 5 setup (so I can lose one without losing my machine). However, when the two new drives arrived – they arrived just like this:


(except the anti-static bag was fully closed).  But I kid you not, the drive was just flopping around at the bottom of the box with no real protection.  Sure enough, I plug them in, one works – the other delivers a never-ending string of grinding, heads clicking back and forth, and ultimately isn’t seen by the bios.  Dead, dead, dead.  My first drive came with nice foam brackets protecting it all around – this came with a single wad of brown paper thrown uselessly on top the drive. Not only that, but the box says Western Digital all over it – when this is a Seagate drive…. curiouser and curiouser.

So, when I call to replace it – it takes no less than 45 minutes and 5 different transfers before I can get the drive replaced.  That and they tried to get me to send it to Seagate instead (at least a 2 week turnaround and you get a refurbed drive – not a new one like I paid for).  In the end, after a bit of haggling I did get a new drive over-nighted to me and it should arrive today. But I must say it does leave me with a slightly worried feel about the next potential order.

The surviving drive has been running through massive copies, defrags, and surface scans to give it a good workout to see if it’s up to snuff.  So far so good.

Ah, FedEx reports that my drive is now on the truck for delivery – should be home when I get there.   Fingers crossed.

1.5 terabytes for $83

1.5 terabytes for $83

Dell Home has the Seagate 1.5TB SATA Hard Drive for $143 – $60 off coupon code HNP1LLLS?ZKS48 [Exp 2/18] = $83 with free shipping.

Are they dumping them?  I just joined the masses that bought one of these drives at a staggering 5.5 cents per megabyte for 1.5 terabytes before the deal quickly died.  This price is about 1/2 the price this drive sells at normally.  There was some question whether this was a misprint – but it appears the drives did ship and mine is on its way.  Wow.

I only bought one since the price was too ridiculously low I had to try.  However, caveat empetor! This is the drive that’s was first plagued with random freezing (especially in RAID setups), then the bad firmware update meant to fix the problem was actually bricking drives, and reports of high failure and DOA rates.  Still, it should make a nice drive to store saved TV programs from my DVR – and if the rumors of it’s early death are true – I won’t be crying too big a river.

As for that, I’ll re-iterate one more time – WHERE ARE YOUR BACKUPS PEOPLE?  You should never have a single drive with the only copy of your information on it.  I have an external eSATA drive that I keep at work for ‘offsite’ monthly backups, a secondary drive that my primaries (in RAID 0) backup to automatically and regularly, AND for my most precious data (photos) I burn 2 DVD copies each time I get a DVD’s worth of data.   Storage is so cheap, you shouldn’t ever need lose data again -even if a drive dies.  And with automated tools, I almost never even think about or do anything myself anymore.  No excuses, get you data backed up.

Mexican bomb hammer party

Mexican bomb hammer party

Be sure to watch to the very end.

Strap explosives to the business end of a long hammer and bang it hard on the ground. That’s the basic idea of this strange celebration in the town of San Juan de la Vega in Guanajuato, Mexico.

“This event occurs every year during February in the tiny town of San Juan de la Vega, Guanajuato, where people re-enact a 400+ year-old battle in honor of a local farmer recognized as the “Mexican Robin Hood.” Expect to see the battle take place by the church, men arriving on horseback with banners and flags, and of course the sledgehammers.”

 Metafilter user aetg also adds some details:

OK, so the reasons for doing so may be a little vague, but in any case, they’re exploding ‘artisanal’ explosives of a potassium chloride and sulphur base with big hammers. Apparently 17 people had minor wounds seen to by medics in 2007, and 50 in 2008, mostly due to being hit by explosive fragments, etc. That’s not so bad given that there are 10-20 thousand people that come for the celebration. There are actually authorities supervising everything that’s going on.

Lieca studios and Coraline – in my backyard

Lieca studios and Coraline – in my backyard

Nike founder Phil Knight isn’t just about shoes – he opened a movie studio here in Hillsboro just a few miles from where I work in the sleepy little farming town.  Laika is a huge studio – covering a city block where artists used skateboards to get around faster.

They just finished the stop-motion clay-mation 3D film Coraline – which is opening tonight and then nationwide tomorrow.  Directed by Henry Selick, the same guy that did James and Giant Peach and Nightmare before Christmas, it seems to be promising.  The local free paper did a good review of the studio and the folks that worked on it. Good story – but the takeaway is that the studio may go away depending on how Caroline does.

Seems like Portland has fits and starts at getting a film industry going.  Movies come through the town about once or so a year – such as the latest vampire movie Twilight, but there seem to be far more creative types than steady jobs. Still, it’s always great to see familiar locations in your movies – many of which I’ve had the good fortune to be able to visit or see the actual places various scenes were filmed.

Here’s some goodies that have been filmed in Oregon if you’re trying to find a good netflix rental:
Animal House, Without Limits, Twilight, Goonies, Short Circuit, Kindergarten Cop, Bandits, Zero Effect, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Drugstore Cowboy, The Shining, Mr Holland’s Opus, Stand by Me, Fools Rush in, Mean Creek.

Wanna go through a Mario warp – its outside of Bowden, North Dakota

Wanna go through a Mario warp – its outside of Bowden, North Dakota

Turns out – there is a really cool place in the middle of nowhere – just follow the link, and click forward (west on 43rd ave) two to three spots.  Warp zone!

And there are other cool google street-view goodies:
Google map car hits a deer.

Or just browse this site with the top 100 funniest Google Street view scenes:

My favorites are the kid wiping out on the bike..