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If you can see this, it means we're back in business.

The server this blog — and my email — runs on died horribly over the weekend, so we've had to do a rush move to a new machine. Luckily, well, if you can read this there has been no data loss at all and we're back in business.

(Techie addendum: we're still not sure what happened, but from mid-December onwards, the hitherto reliable machine began crashing. It used to be rock-solid, running for up to a year at a time, but the crashes grew increasingly frequent, and didn't seem to be software-related. Last week we began pestering tech support to replace bits of hardware, but our initial diagnosis — bad RAM, then a bad RAID controller, and finally a dying disk — were all proven wrong one at a time. By Monday, the machine was rebooting every couple of minutes, which is no way to run a server. So we're now running on a new box, with the old RAID array plugged in temporarily until we finish migrating off it.)

If you sent me any email since last Friday, it's not lost — but it will take me some time to get to it, because the backlog is truly prodigious. (We redirected it to another host as a temporarily measure while we got this one fixed: it'll begin filtering through shortly.)

In other news I handed in what is hopefully the last draft of "The Merchants' War" (book #4 of the Merchant Princes series), so once the server's up I can hopefully lie down and pant for a while before getting my teeth into the next big project.



Good news, you're visible down here in London.

I look forward to seeing the way that the Merchant Princes series evolves - vol 1 was a bit rough around the edges I thought, but vol 2 was better structured and had a more even tone.

Just to throw a hook out for you, did you catch Simon Jenkins' latest in the Grauniad yesterday? It was clearly intended to get us all chattering, but I thought he deployed a number of quite bone-headed examples in support of his thesis. I'll leave it to the interested student to decide for themselves which are the most egregious.

Regards Luke


In other news I handed in what is hopefully the last draft of "The Merchants' >War" (book #4 of the Merchant Princes series), so once the server's up I can hopefully >lie down and pant for a while before getting my teeth into the next big project.

Ive just finishedMissle Gap` - is this a one-off or will there be any further stories in that setting ?

Andreas Morlok


"Missile Gap" is indeed a one-off.


Fortunately such reliability problems will be solved when Vista is rolled out. All that you have to do is edit the preferences, setting 'Errors=Off'. You will be an early adopter of Vista, won't you, Charles? :)


Vista? Isn't that some sort of Micro$oft abomination?


Unfortunately, setting 'ERRORS=Off" in Vista 1.0 has the same effect as setting 'BLUESCREENOF_DEATH=Please'. Microsoft is expected to announce next week whether or not this is a feature.

All seriousness aside, it's nice to have antipope back. And even nicer that your first announcement is that another Merchant Princes novel is done. Good deal. As a reward, you get to put your feet up for, oh, at least an hour :-)


Unfortunately, it seems that wasn't the real problem.

It turns out that the server room was laid out in a non-standard fashion, and the grounding patterns created a Lesser Portal to one of the datavore realms. Whenever someone accessed the system, there was a small chance of invoking Something Annoying.

I hope they have someone standing ready with a fire extinguisher.


Sounds like one of my more memorable maintenance sessions on my ISPs main server. It was scheduled for a quick reboot after midnight, but crashed on the reboot and then started reporting memory errors. "Oh well", we thought, "this is why we keep spares of everything", and we swapped some fresh RAM in. That also reported memory errors; we swapped it into another machine, and it reported memory errors there too. "Weird", we said. "What are the odds of that?" This turned into hours, as every fresh part we swapped in died in some weird way. Eventually we figured out the power supply voltage regulator was frotzed, and was rapidly frying every spare part we put in. Fortunately we had one almost identical server in light duty, we hadn't killed all the spare parts, and were able to swap the RAID array over to it and get all our services running again. By then we were able to stagger out to a mid-morning brunch - we'd spent nearly 10 hours at it.

To sum up, from your server's symptoms I suspect it could have been your power supply slowly killing everything plugged into it - but you're better off just junking the server and trying to forget about it.


Clifton: that was our working hypothesis -- dying PSU nuking rest of system. Either that, or some obscure motherboard problem. In any event, there was no point trying more parts (by remote control, filing tickets with the support folks and waiting for them to act on them) -- it was clearly new server time.


Charlie, I really enjoyed reading "The Jennifer Morgue" a few weeks ago, and I've just finished Kim Newman's "The Man From The Diogenes Club" -- the last story, 'Swellhead', has another take on those James Bond Villain memes, and I thought you might like it yourself. Cheers, Nick


Ah the hole in my life that requires sanity and open source understanding is back.

Vista is a bastard child of an OS and a 3D game. It should be called SimOS. Why any OS should need a 3d graphics card, just to run the full goddamn system will forever be beyond me.

Maybe Gill Bates got into your server; I'm guessing he has teams for just that kind of thing.

Of course you'll all note it didn't seem to stop Charlie writing. Damnit. There goes another paycheck :P


As a reward, you get to put your feet up for, oh, at least an hour :-)

You can still type with your feet up, Charlie. Just wanted to point that out...


Ain't technology wonderful. When it works. My pda will only talk to my laptop intermittently. Try reinstalling the software, only the laptop cd seems to have ceased communicating. Try reinstalling the cd reader. Doesn't like that either. Oh well, I can work around (download pda to daughter's laptop, copy to stick or maybe just my external hd, then copy files to laptop) and wait until I'm on holiday before delivering laptop to local good guys. Given that I couldn't access my external hd last night and I could the night before it looks like the laptop system is buggered, somehow. I could just restore, I suppose.

The next laptop in front of me will not be a Toshiba.

Anybody got a Selectric they want to sell? (not that you can get ribbons that easily any more)


Hey, Toshiba's are great!

... You just have to get Linux installed on them first.

(What was that about a Selectric?)


There have been 5 Toshibas in this household, and four are still functioning. Including mine, which has found my external hd but still won't talk to the pda it used to have such passionate exchanges with not so very long ago.

I word process, spreadsheet, internet and play patience on mine. I have decades of Word files. Do I really need Linux? You're an expert, Charlie. You're one of the guys who services Fernando's Renault. I only drive the damn thing. I want it to start when I switch it on. I want it to go where I want it to go, when I want it to go. I want it to let me out when I tell it to stop. Is that really too much to ask?

Okay. It was a stupid question.


Martyn: every so often I try to use Windows.

Clunky, inconsistent user interface. Stuff that doesn't make sense. And it needs so damn much tender loving care! Virus scanning. Spyware detectors. Disk defragmenters. Updates every week (and they all want you to reboot afterwards, don't they?). Every damn time you install an application you're worried that it might destabilize something, or come with an unwelcome keystroke logging spambot attached, or whatever, and even if it doesn't, it demands a reboot.

I usually end up discovering I'm spending half my time on system maintenance, until I quit in disgust and go back to OS/X and Linux, which Just Work.

Microsoft's dirty little secret is that computers shouldn't be hard -- and indeed most everyone else's operating systems are easier to use. (Linux is for gearheads who like manual transmissions and tinkering under the bonnet to improve performance: OS/X is for folks who like shiny machines with automatic transmissions and no user-serviceable parts under the bonnet: Windows is a smoky old Citroen 2CV with a tow-bar and a weird gear shift sticking out of the dashboard and some bastard's spot-welded the bonnet shut so you can't get at it.


As you say, it shouldn't he hard. I've got a gammy leg, and drive automatics, and I wish I wish I wish I could treat this with the same insouciance.



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on January 25, 2007 2:04 PM.

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