I'm a PC Plumber#

You may recall I had a little water problem with my PC... well, I managed to find and fix the leak.

The challenge of fixing the leak was finding it. I slid some paper underneath the machine to see where the water dripped out (after removing the covers from the machine) and left it run for awhile. That led me to the pump. But even knowing the water was somehow coming from the pump, I couldn't actually see the leak. So the pump had to come out.

Now, removing the pump means breaching the water loop (technically, its already breached with the leak, but still). So now I had to figure out how to get the water out of the system without getting it all over the office. The trick is to find the highest point of the water loop, where the water naturally drains out when its not in use. Or create a high point by lifting a hose as high as possible until its full of air. Hopefully, this is on a nice, long hose that you can unplug, lift out and stick into a bucket (or in my case, a large, empty yogurt container). Now you need to fire up the pump again, preferrably without burning up your system.

I have this little plug that I stick onto the main power supply connector that does two things - it makes sure that the motherboard is unplugged so the board won't power up, and it lies to the power supply so that it will turn on while not being plugged into the motherboard. The result is that the pump fires up (and the hard drive, and anything else plugged into the molex connectors).

This is the moment where you realize whether or not you unplugged the right end of the hose - either water is going to pump out into bucket, or shoot all over the case (ask me how I know). I took a shot of the pump extracted from the case, you can see the four bolts that hold the pump in on their rubber bushings.

Now that the pump was extracted, I made a little closed loop solution, hooking a hose from the output to the input of the pump. Poured a bit of water back into the pump and fired it up.

You may notice the water looks rather white and foamy - it is. The pump is under so little pressure, the water is just ripping around the loop and swirling in the reservoir. Good thing I didn't fill the reservoir all the way up, it would have shot it all over the place like an overflowing blender.

After a few seconds, I could see drips coming out of the pump housing, right beneath the reservoir mount. Turns out I actually had two leaks. The output mount sticking out of the top of the pump (which already has silicon on it) was still leaking, and there was a crack in the pump housing around the pump pickup from the reservoir. It took several tries and lots of silicon to actual get all the leaks plugged. Pulling the pump was definitely the right solution - I would have liked to have fixed it in place, but this was the only way to get it right.

Once the pump had run over night without a leak, I drained it, put it back into the machine and refitted all the hoses. After refilling the system, running it briefly to burp air from the lines and topping it up, I left it go for the night with the paper in place to find more leaks.

And this morning it has a clean bill of health. Nothing on the paper, water temperature holding steady at 38C.

Sunday, June 6, 2004 8:52:17 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [0]  | 

 

There are strange things afoot in the Java & Open Source community...#

I wrote my first line of code in 1977, and as what most people think of as an “old time” programmer, I'm fairly resistant to development zealotry. In fact, especially in this day and age, I think zealotry is a bad idea at the best of times. I'm not a true believer in anything development, really... I don't see any one language, operating system or development methodology as the “one best way” to do anything. Granted, I am a Microsoft Regional Director, which to most people makes me more pro-Microsoft than I actually am. I build software and systems the best way I know how (at the time) to serve my customers.

And I say all this only to set the stage that I am a keen observer of the various markets out there. I try not to have an axe to grind when it comes to technology. I'm not a true believer in open source, I've utilized their technologies where it has made sense to me (and facilitated success with my customers). And while I don't routinely program in Java, I'm relatively literate in the language, certainly in the concepts, just as I am comfortable and familiar with many other development languages and environments.

In the Java and Open Source world (and they aren't the same things, but they are heavily intertwined), specifications are developed publicly. There are working groups where interested parties collaborate (and argue) one design over another, until eventually they come up with an agreed upon specification. Then anyone can build and sell an implementation.

Generally, by the time a specification is ratified, lots of companies have built products around the various ideas, and these companies are usually involved in the working groups developing the specifications, and sometimes an implementation is essentially picked as the specification.

And so it was with EJB 3.0 expert group and a technology called Hibernate at The ServerSide Java Symposium in Las Vegas, May 6-8. Hibernate is essentially a tool for persisting entity beans... I could go down the path of describing entity beans and the persistence of them, but that's secondary to the story. The product is controlled by a company called JBoss. JBoss calls itself a “Professional Open Source” company, which is cool as far as I'm concerned - I like the idea that open source concepts can be applied in a for-profit model, not just the non-profit/educational/university-centric model that most people see.

Lots of folks were surprised that JBoss landed this coup. David Jordan's article on the topic is very interesting, as long as you're also aware that he's involved with JDO 2.0, the “losing” specification in the entity beans persistence debate.

However, JBoss has now been caught up in an ugly scandal, being accused of astroturfing: essentially, JBoss staff used anonymous postings to pump up their products and attack their competitors. The ensuing storm caused a response from Marc Fleury, CEO of JBoss, and further recriminations from the folks involved. And there's been plenty of folks writing about this astroturfing incident. It just surprises me that they haven't connected any of this with JBoss's recent successes at the expert group level.

I think it also brings to light some fundamental misconceptions about open source. This isn't all sweetness and light folks. A for-profit company with the open source banner wrapped around them has done the online-community equivalent of a pump-and-dump, and quite possibly stands to benefit hugely from it. How badly derailed is the EJB 3 development path given the implied manipulation of the working groups?

This whole situation is still just coming to light. I think the real trouble has yet to begin. Its going to be interesting to see how the Java and Open Source community responses to this.

Thursday, June 3, 2004 5:47:12 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [0]  | 

 

Why sometimes intolerance is a virtue...#

So a few weeks ago I bought a new laptop, one of the Dell XPS tanks. Its a monster, but the performance is untouchable. And I can stand all the teasing by my fellow RDs, they just wish theirs was so big.

But it had this weird little foible... some web pages rendered really poorly. The fonts were all jagged, and sometimes it painted incredibly slowly. In some cases, web pages were just plain messed up. And I just put up with it - it wasn't that important to me to fix.

So then a friend of mine bought a Dell, partly on my recommendation. No, he didn't buy the XPS, it bought something a bit more moderate. In fact, the only thing his machine has in common with mine is that they're both Dells. Different processor, video card, etc, etc... but he has the exact same screen rendering problem!

However, not as patient as I, he insisted there must be an answer. I figured since we both have the problem, it had to be something in the default Dell configuration. Its a reasonable assumption, but finding out what could be almost impossible. I suggested that we could just blow the drives and do scratch installs of XP (something I'm prone to doing anyway, just to be sure), expecting that the problem would go away.

Maybe a half hour later, he IMs me - in the Advanced display settings there's an option for Large fonts. It increases the default font sizes of everything on your machine by 25%. And for Dell laptops with high resolution screens (like this awesome 1920x1200 screen), its set to large by default. Setting it back to normal got rid of the problem, and the fonts are really small on the screen. However, more importantly, everything is rendering normally, and nice and fast.

Why put up with tech not just the way you want it?

Drivel | Toys
Wednesday, June 2, 2004 1:07:22 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [3]  | 

 

Home from Tech Ed...#

Things I found upon returning home from Tech Ed:

  • My wife and children still remember my name
  • My water-cooled machine leaked enough to run out of water and shut down
  • There was a power outage, my stand-by generator worked fine
  • My cat is mad at me for being away nine days
  • I've lost my insane craving for Haagen-Daz
  • I had a lot of toys delivered while I was gone!

The solar recharger for AA batteries arrived. Very cool. Bit bigger than I thought, even though they had the dimension and I measured them off a couple of times.

Pile of MSDN stuff, equal numbers of checks and bills, bunch of magazines and books...

Here's the coolest gizmo to arrive so far: a Xincom DPG-402. This is a dual WAN NAT router. I already have the equivalent device from Nexland, but since they were bought by Symantec, the product seems all but dead.

Yes, I have two Internet connections - DSL and Cable. I hate being offline, most of the time these are both up. When either one of them is down, the dual WAN NAT router takes care of switching everyone over to the other WAN connection. Its quite transparent - if it wasn't for the warning emails, I'd have no idea one of my connections was down.

Unfortunately, like most NAT routers, the Nexland can only handle one IP per WAN port. But the Xincom can handle more. You can pass multiple IPs through a given WAN port, only one of the IPs uses NAT, the rest pass through to specific machines. Cool.

 

Sunday, May 30, 2004 1:26:01 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [1]  | 

 

Skype Power...#

So yesterday, as the Tech Ed conference center was emptying out, I get a request via MSN from Scott Hanselman, “Help a brother out, contact me via Skype, I want to show a friend of mine how good it is.”

Skype is beta Voice-Over-IP (VOIP) software, free to download, that lets you use your PC like a telephone, albeit just to contact other Skype users. Scott had a friend who was going overseas and wanted to stay in touch with loved ones.

I'd used Skype at home, but not on my laptop. So I had some reservations:

  • One of my fundamental rules at conferences is “Thou shalt not install software on your computer before you have finished all your sessions.” And I have one session to go.
  • I was connected to the Internet via the TechEd wireless network, which is not all that fast (there are 10,000 geeks online, after all) and is heavily filtered.
  • I have no external speakers or microphone set up for my laptop.

But Scott was persistant, so I figured what the heck, and downloaded Skype.

Now since it was the end of the day, there were relatively few people on the Tech Ed network, so my download went quickly. But what I didn't expect was that I could install the software, sign up an account, enter Scott as a contact and press connect in less than five minutes.

And I was totally blown away when Scott's voice came out over my laptop speakers clear and crisp, and even more stunned that he could hear me as well, although apparently I was quite quiet.

No tuning, no fiddling, no specialized hardware - download, install, connect, and it just works!

Friday, May 28, 2004 6:16:26 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [0]  | 

 

A Day in the Life of a Tech Ed Attendee#
The life of a speaker at Tech Ed is rather surreal, so I decided to spend the day as a regular attendee, just going to sessions and soaking up the Tech Ed experience.
Thursday, May 27, 2004 8:54:15 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [0]  | 

 

Making Databases Work and Play Well With Others...#

Well, Stephen Forte and I pulled off the Oracle/SQL Server Interoperate session today. The crowd wasn’t huge, but they were definitely into it – the questions were outstanding, everyone gets the idea that there are hard choices to make in interoperability. Running three operating systems (Window XP host, VPC of Windows 2003 Server and VPC of Red Hat Fedora) isn't all roses and sunshine, either!

We’ve been handing out lots of RD Bingo cards, and signing even more (you have to get an RD on the card to sign their picture, get a line and you win)… the loot is great. I’m astounded at the number of folks here, getting a cellphone connection (or WiFi connection) is a serious challenge.

Now I get to relax for a couple of days and soak up some sessions before my SQL Server Profiler for the Developer session on Friday.

Monday, May 24, 2004 3:09:41 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [2]  | 

 

Time's Up!#
Off to Tech Ed...
Friday, May 21, 2004 12:16:48 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [0]  | 

 

Look ma, there's a puddle under my computer!#

Not a good hardware day.

I like water-cooled computers. Why? Because they're quiet. No 5000rpm high velocity fans on the processor, video card, etc, etc. Just a couple of slow, silent fans on the radiator and the power supply. The way it oughta be.

Putting water cooling into a computer system isn't a trivial task, but its not rocket science either. I've built three of them so far, and noise level in my office is better for it.

Unfortunately, now I have to deal with a new kind of problem... leaks.

See if you can see where this machine is leaking from.

 

See it? Me neither.

 

Thursday, May 20, 2004 6:06:56 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [2]  | 

 

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