Wednesday, March 18, 2009

New York on business

I'm in New York City for a few days to provide a deposition in a patent infringement lawsuit. IBM is putting me up at the Club Quarters hotel on 51st Street, at Rockefeller Center (for $237/night...). I came down by train this afternoon; Katy drove down and joined me. (She's driving directly to my mom's home from here, hence the need for a car in New York City.)

We had a quiet, but pleasant, first evening. The weather is gorgeous, so we walked from the hotel to Greenwich Village for supper, enjoying the sites as we strolled south on Broadway. At 14th Street, at Union Square, we encountered this bit of street theater in progress.

From NYC, March 2009

It turned out they were handing out flyers, so Katy walked up and took one.

It was an ad for the home opener of the Red Bulls (vs. the New England Revolution).

I got a little confused as we got close to Washington Square Park, and we wound up much further east than I intended. We came across this parking lot; it makes sense, but it's funny (to my eyes) nonetheless.

We continued south on Lafayette, and eventually reached 339, home of the Peace Pentagon. When I lived in NYC 30 years ago, I spent a number of afternoons doing office work for the War Resisters League (still alive) and Mobilization for Survival (defunct, I believe).

My connection with these groups was through the SHAD Alliance, an anti-nuclear group I belonged to in the early 1980s. Here's the plate by the entrance.

With my nostalgia itch scratched, we walked west on Bleeker Street, taking in shop windows, like this one:

We had dinner at Panchitos, a Mexican restaurant on McDougal Street that I frequented back in the day. Thirty years later, the vegetarian salad was pretty much unchanged (and still a delicious meal all by itself), the quacamole was fresh and tasty, and atmosphere funky and relaxed.

AFter dinner we walked across McDougal for coffee and then took the subway back to Rockefeller Center. By this time the ice skating rink was almost deserted.

Tomorrow - work.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Woodward Mountain

Katy and I spent three days skiing with our friends Dan and Sue in mid-February. On the second day we skied the Woodward Mountain tour, a 6-mile backcountry trip from the summit of the Bolton Valley ski area to the Waterbury Reservoir. Conditions were excellent (maybe a foot of light, fresh snow over a sound base), and we had a great time.

This trail is described in David Goodman's Backcountry Skiing Adventures: Vermont and New York. The Maple Ridge Mansfield Region Nordic Skiing & Snowshoe Trail Map covers this area in detail; you can pick up a copy at the Bolton Valley Nordic Center, where you can also check conditions and get the single-ride ticket you need to start the tour. It starts near the top of the Vista Quad lift, winds over Woodward Mountain and down to a parking area near the Waterbury Reservoir.

Dan, a short way into the trip. The snow was great.
From Woodward Mountain tour, Feb 2009

We had beautiful weather for the trip; it was cool enough to keep the snow fresh, but not too cold.

There's a lot of up and down on this trip; here's Alex enjoying some down.

The deep, fluffy snow made for great skiing, but it was challenging if you fell.

There are plenty of nice views on this trail. Here's look south toward Camel's Hump.

Skiing, of course, is what it's all about.

There are more pictures in the online album.
Woodward Mountain tour, Feb 2009

Dancing with Mom

Katy and I visited my mother in Elizabethtown in early February. There was a dance at the Masonic Village the night we arrived, and we got some pictures at the dance.

Warming up in the hallway
From Dancing with Mom,Feb 2009

There are a few more pictures in the full online album.

Bye Bye, Birdman

The de-serverization of my life continued this week with the demise of birdman, the BSD virtual private server that I've shared with Dave for the past two years, at The folks at JohnCompanies provided us with, boring, unexciting and entirely competent service, and I recommend them to anyone looking for a relatively inexpensive, but industrial quality, collocation provider.

Google now well and truly owns me.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A tombstone for Tombstone

RIP, Tombstone.

Tonight I powered down Tombstone, the Dell Poweredge 1400SC in the basement, for perhaps the last time. I bought Tombstone in 2002 to replace the no-name PC whose motherboard fried when the CPU cooling fan failed. I ran FreeBSD on this system and used it to provide external services (HTTP via Apache, SMTP via Postfix, ssh) for and, as well as internal services for our home PCs: DHCP, NTP, Samba, DNS caching, outbound email and other odds and ends.

Hosting my own domains in the basement gave me a lot of flexibility and largely freed me from limitations of ISPs, but it also meant that I had to be the on-call system administrator for my own family. If Tombstone went down, so did all of our email and network connectivity. Over the years, this trade-off has come to look less attractive. A couple years ago (before my 6-month stint in India) I went in with a buddy on a BSD VPS at that took over for email. I also dropped the local DNS cache, NTP and DHCP servers, relying on our ISP's name servers (Speakeasy) and the DCHP daemon in our little Linksys BEFSX41 router. All that was left externally was the web server, and internally the file server.

The advent of Google Apps finally seduced me away from all this roll-your-own stuff. Email and web services for my domains are all with Google now, pretty much completing the process of Google owning me (I've been a gmail/picasa/blogspot junkie for years). We never really used the file server very much anyway, so it was time to stop burning those kilowatt-hours. But I'm still a bit saddened by this.

Tombstone was a fine example of an on-the-cheap server. I think I paid about $700 (brand new) for Tombstone, with a mighty 1.2GHz Celeron processor, 128MB of ECC memory and a huge 36GB SCSI drive (in addition to the 4GB ATA primary drive). This modest hardware easily handled all of our services: NTP, DHCP, DNS (both caching and separate internal/external name servers, using dbjdns), Samba, Apache, Postfix, a CUPS printer queue, ssh. Granted, our internal machines didn't exactly constitute a huge load, but I did a fair amount of web and email traffic. FreeBSD never crashed; all my outages were due to power failures (I had a UPS for a while, but when it died a few years ago I never replaced it). Auto-reboot always brought everything back without intervention.

Good-bye, Tombstone. I'll miss you.