Archive for the 'Home' Category

Jul 29 2014

Hard Drive Failure vs. UPS Failure

When is a hard drive failure NOT a hard drive failure?  When it’s a bad UPS battery that is dying.  For the past week and a half I have noticed that my VMware ESXi server which hosts three systems for me (2 Microsoft Windows Server 2008R2 systems and an Ubuntu Linux server) was complaining about a corrupt datastore (specifically the boot disk).  While the VMware support site didn’t provide much information on the specific error that I was seeing I felt that it pointed to a hard drive that had bad sectors on it and was on its last legs (mind you, this drive is NOT that old and certainly doesn’t get a lot of activity).  I thought, “oh great – this is going to be fun to fix!”  I had moved the VMs off the server and was about to order a new disk when I then noticed that my APC SmartUPS 1400 was indicating that the battery in the UPS had gone bad (the old “when it rains it pours” adage came to mind immediately).  I figured the battery was not an issue – I’ll just replace it…it’s under warranty (1 year warranty and I bought the battery in September of 2013).  I called up and spoke with the customer service representative, told them the problem and they authorized the return.  Given that my VMs were crashing (which I thought was due to the ESXi server having a kernel oops and then restarting) I setup a DHCPd server off of my Cisco PIX 501E firewall, enabled it, got the VMs restarted and then disabled the PIX’s DHCPd process (but did not do a “write mem” on the PIX – so in the saved config the PIX DHCPd was set to enabled).

Yesterday, I suddenly notice that I’m getting an IP address from the range configured in the PIX DHCPd server.  I go in and poke around and discover that the PIX had rebooted at 6:11AM yesterday morning.  On top of that my Cisco AP1200 wireless had also rebooted at 6:11AM, and so did my ESXi server (and the event logs were complaining about a corrupt datastore).  Suddenly it occurred to me that the problem was not in the ESXi server (or the PIX or any other network gear) but rather in the UPS.  The UPS was doing a self-test at 6:11AM, the battery failed and the UPS rebooted itself (thereby interrupting power to my entire network stack).  I quickly replaced the UPS with my other SmartUPS 1400 which is still good and everything has been humming along well since (no problems noticed).

This morning I open up the SmartUPS with the bad battery and to my shock I find that the battery is deformed in shape as can be seen from the pictures below.

photo 2 photo 1 photo 3 photo 4

In essence the battery failed horribly and I am quite lucky that it didn’t explode or start a fire!  It took me 15 minutes and the removal of the UPS cover and pulling the case apart a little bit just to get the battery out.  The battery is an Amstron battery and is manufactured in China.  Suffice it to say I am shipping it back today.  Now, I’m supposed to receive a replacement battery from AtBatt but I will also order one from APC.  I am not willing to risk a fire or a battery explosion to save $80.  It’s just not worth it.

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Dec 22 2008

Brookside Garden – Garden of Lights

Published by under Home,Winter

It’s an annual tradition for us to go to the Brookside Gardens Garden of Lights during the winter. Every year from just after Thanksgiving till the end of the first week of the new year Brookside Gardens in Wheaton Regional Park here in Montgomery County, MD puts on the Garden of Lights festival. It’s a spectacular display of lights in all sorts of shapes and layouts. This year Brookside Gardens also had a model train display done by the Washington, Virginia, and Maryland Garden Railway Society. I created a slideshow of some of the pictures that I took from the trip last night. Next time I’ll take the tripod as a lot of the pictures came out blurred since I couldn’t keep the camera steady enough. Enjoy!

[rockyou 129198035]

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Aug 27 2008


Published by under Home,Thoughts

Yesterday I was on my way to New York for a couple of meetings in Manhattan. I bought tickets for the 5:02 AM regional train from Union Station here in Washington, D.C. to New York Penn Station. I arrived at Union Station around 4:40 AM and we boarded the train. About 5:15 AM we were just outside of New Carrollton (still within the D.C. metro area) when the train came to a stop. We sat there for about 30 minutes before the conductor announced that there was a medical emergency and we were waiting for the situation to be resolved.

Medical emergency? I thought about someone having a heart attack or something. Turns out the 5:00 AM Acela in front of our train struck an Amtrak employee around 5:08 AM. This brought all rail traffic in the Washington, D.C. – Baltimore corridor to a halt. There aren’t that many details on this other than what the news media is reporting. It took about 2 hours for the train to start moving again and stop at New Carrollton. Unfortunately I knew I wasn’t going to make it to New York by my 10 AM meeting so I got off the Amtrak train, took the Metro back to the Capitol South station, walked over to Union Station, got a refund on my tickets and drove home. With a little bit of scrambling about I managed to get all the meeting participants to meet in LiveMeeting (gotta love that service!) and we had our conference call that way. Ain’t technology grand!

Unfortunately the Amtrak worker who was struck yesterday died later in the day.

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Aug 06 2008

My New "Car"

Published by under Home,Thoughts

I work from a home-office. Being a telecommuter is great. And working for a company that provides the technology to make working from a home office easier is even better. I work for Microsoft and it has been wonderful — I use LiveMeeting for both internal and customer meetings, Office Communicator if I need to make a phone call to a co-worker who’s online and a VPN to connect to internal corporate resources.

Now, in our family we have the requisite two cars — a 2001 Honda Odyssey and a 1998 Nissan Maxima. The Odyssey is my wife’s car and mine is the Maxima. Since we moved to Maryland back in November of 2002 I have put about 31,000 miles on my Maxima (about 5500 miles per year). But, that number belies the actual nature of the mileage. In the past two years I have put fewer and fewer miles on my Maxima to the point that this year I expect to only put about 3500 to 4000 miles on the car (which is good because it doesn’t get the best gas mileage and I’m waiting to see the 09 Prius before I get another car). However, I did recently start using a new “car” — it’s my old mountain bike that I bought back in 1998 when we lived in Austin and I used to work for a company called DejaNews (you may have heard of them at one point — they later became and then they were split in two — the news engine and archive was sold to Google and became Google Groups and the buying engine was sold to eBay and became

I really like my new “car”…it’s got a rack on the back with two panniers, it gets great mileage, and it’s impact on the environment is minimal — just my breathing. I started riding it to synagogue in the morning (I leave the house about 30 minutes before services start as the ride is about 2 miles and takes me anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes depending on traffic and I want to have a few minutes to cool down before services start). When I started riding it to synagogue last week I got the funniest looks…here I come in to the synagogue with bike shorts on, a racing jersey (I used to bike race in USCF races when I was younger), and my old Shimano mountain bike shoes. The first day everyone was unsure what to make of me…that was a monday. I didn’t get an aliyah to the Torah because the gabbai said my bike shorts were inappropriate. So, on Tuesday (and for the rest of the week) I wore my winter tights. Still didn’t get an aliyah on Thursday though…I even noted it to the gabbai that I “wore my long pants” just in case. He shrugged. Others wondered what the Rabbi would say if he saw me (fortunately we start too early — around 6:15 AM — for his liking so he doesn’t come to our minyan). Maybe he would institute a dress code — I’m ready for that. As soon as the nine days are over I’m going to buy a pair of sweat pants to put over my legs when I get to synagogue — assuming that the winter tights don’t cut it. Either way, if he tells me that I’m not dressed appropriately then I’ll just say that I’m doing my part to reduce my carbon footprint. 🙂

I’m very happy about my new “car”…and I plan on using it to take me to more and more places. Now I just need to get my old Tommasini Prestige back out of the basement and fix it up. That’ll be my “sports car” 😉

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Jun 30 2008

Nation Building Here at Home

Published by under Energy Policy,Home

Thomas Friedman has written a wonderful op-ed piece on the need for the next President to focus efforts here at home. Whether it’s Senator John McCain or Senator Barack Obama as the next President they will have to focus on getting America back on the right course. President Bush and this Congress has done more damage to this country then any President that I can recall (I don’t remember the Carter years all that well since I wasn’t old enough to appreciate what was going on around me at the time — yes, I just kind of dated myself there).

We need to refocus on rebuilding this country and recapture our sense of purpose. Instead of building other nations and sending our money (it’s not really our money since we’re borrowing it heavily from foreign investors and putting our children more into debt — but it equates to our future and our children’s future) elsewhere we need to keep the effort here at home. We need to focus on rebuilding our infrastructure, re-constructing our industries, and developing the next technology revolution (a Green Revolution that focuses on energy efficiency, energy independence, renewable energy generation and reducing greenhouse gas emmissions), and inspiring our children to study, explore, learn, and build something more than themselves.

We have to change our attitudes — plant victory gardens, cut our energy use, and build hope for the future. From my own perspective I and my family have begun this journey by embracing these principles by planting a garden (and planning to expand it dramatically — who needs all that grass 🙂 ), starting to conduct an energy audit of our house and replace energy in-efficient appliances, solar power for the house, rain barrel water collection for the garden, expanding and improving our composting and recycling efforts, planting a rain garden to control runoff, and looking to other projects — keeping chickens (for eggs and chicken poop for fertilizer) in a portable chicken coop (see here), amatuer beekeeping (to help rebuild the population of bees that has been devasted by mites and colony collapse disorder and to ensure that we have enough pollinators for the crops in our garden) — as well as others in order to try and set a good example for our neighbors that you can do these things as part of our national effort to become energy independent and resource wise.

What I can only hope is that my effort will inspire my neighbors to see that you don’t need to do all of these things but you can do a few of them in order to contribute in this effort. America has always been a “can-do” country — we need to recapture that spirit and stand up as a nation. What we can’t afford to do is to sit around and wait for someone else to solve our problems. We must solve them ourselves.

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Jun 29 2008

Garden Update

Published by under Home

We’ve got tomatoes! We now have 27 tomatoes coming in on the tomato plants in the garden and there appears to be a bud on the zucchini plant. The pole beans are coming out of the ground and we really need to get the peas in. Also, I’m watching the eggplant plant.

We potted a few peppers in pots and they seem to be having a bit of a problem. Unlike tomatoes which are self-pollinators the peppers need help from insects like bees and butterflies. The problem is that I haven’t seen that many pollinators in the garden or near it this year. They’re there…I’ve got these little weeds in the yard that flower and I can see the bees (both honey bees and bumble bees) flying from one flower to another but they’re not really getting into the garden plants yet. My feeling is that people have been spraying pesticides on their yards to kill the weeds (I know because I see the yellow “Caution” flags in their yards that the lawn companies use to tell people to stay off the grass — of course, bees don’t read signs so they still go for the flowers that have just been sprayed) and that’s impacting the overall pollinator population. I’ve decided that I may have to eventually start keeping a hive in the back yard to help replenish the bee population in this area…on top of that it may just be a good thing as I may be able to help fight against the loss of pollinators overall due to mites and colony collapse disorder. I recently read an article on the WTOP website that quoted the fact that the numbers of beekeepers in the United States has declined since the 1970s and that probably the best way to save our bee population is by encouraging hobbyist/backyard beekeeping. That being the case I also found this article talking about how beekeeping is coming to urban areas as well as the outlying farms.

Anyway, here are some more pictures of the garden.

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Jun 27 2008

Update on Baby Chick in Shed

Published by under Home

The baby chick in the nest in our shed has been growing! There appears to be just one chick — originally I though there were two but I only see one now and the other eggs that are still in the nest have not hatched at all. Here is a picture of the baby chick now

Baby chick in nest

You can see that the feathers are not completely formed or grown in. Still, it’s exciting for the kids to see the baby chick grow from a tiny egg into this bird. In addition to this baby chick, we have another nest on the property that has two baby chicks. I’m going to try and get some pictures of them as well.

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