Georgia Theatre

All over Athens, people have been mourning over the Georgia Theatre fire today.

When I got home, I found a weird voice mail: “Hi, Mr. Greene. My name is <removed name>. I would like to discuss with you the property at 215 North Lumpkin. Call me at <removed number>.” I listened to it a second time. It hit me. Isn’t the Georgia Theatre on Lumpkin? I put the address in Google and found it is indeed the address. Wilmont Greene is the owner.

How weird?

Relative Truth

Found an interesting comment on an article the state of Georgia observing the Confederate Memorial Day….

The truth of history means very little to those who are dead set against learning anything from it. No matter what the history books used in our public school system say, most will never believe anything other than their own opinion about the Civil War. History revisionist are the celebs of the day. As long as people like Rev. Wright, and David Duke exist, history’s truth will be filtered through lies and distortions. Few observe Confederate Memorial Day: UGA to display original constitution; state offices closed

Truth may very well be completely relative. Back during the US Presidential election, I ran across an interesting article in the Washington Post discussing research John Bullock did about the effects of misinformation and idealogical bias ties. I used to think it had to do with a handful of people stuck in their green, second ammendment, pro-life, pro-choice, capitalist, regulation views. My favorite pasttime in college was assuming positions contrary to others even when I agree with the others.

I doubt the effect solely affects conservatives as was proposed in the article. More likely everyone has some blindspots in determing truth from myth or fiction kind of like optical illusions. (Yes, even myself.) We have to choose which information to believe any time we interact with information. Much of the rules in philosophy and science are built around combatting the biases we have.

Rather than force ideas on others, I think we should be teaching children from an early age to recognize when others and most especially themselves are operating under a bias. Its the only way to find detachment.

Resolutions For 2009

  1. Read 10,000 pages of science, economics, health, history, or policy books. For 2008, it was read 25 books. This year, I thought to change it page-based as the previous one shied me away from larger books. Two 350 page books vs one 700 page book shouldn’t be a concern. See Reading for last and this years’ progress.
  2. Be more social. A lot of will power is required to force myself to attend social events. Over the years it has only gotten worse. Before it reaches the point of requiring professional help, I probably ought to change my habits.

Useful resolutions to me are things I realistically can and will accomplish applying moderate effort. Making too hard of a challenge will result in giving up too quickly. Making too easy of a challenge will result in doing something I would do anyway. Last year was the first time in a really long time I even bothered other than using 43things to make some goals I rarely have met more by accident than any real intent.

Some resolutions I would pick I already do to the extent I realistically would….

  • Take the stairs and walk more. I already do these as far down the exercise more resolution as I realistically will go.
  • Eat better. I already mostly avoid red meat and eat lots of green vegetables.
  • Spend more time with family.

There are resolutions I would never actually keep without support from family and friends I don’t really have to keep me honest and stick to the narrow path….

  • Less fat, less sugar, no soda, no sweet tea.
  • Exercise more.
  • Finances.
  • Organization.
  • Less time spent in front of the TV or computer.
  • More blogging.
  • I already do not smoke or drink alcohol.
  • Get a Master’s Degree.

Hmmmmmm… Resolutions are bad for your health?

I haven’t checked my blog in a long while.


Followup on resolution #1. Apparently I did not followup on the 2nd?

Eduyawn

Edupunk is “Do It Yourself” in education or instruction technology. Free or at least cheap tools suitable for classroom use are so ubiquitous, the faculty have plenty of alternatives to the monolithic “enterprise” LMS.

If edupunk was a boat, then what would it be? A bamboo raft?

Kid at an Apple IIeThis is not something new. My mom conned her principal into letting her have an Apple IIe for her classroom where she refused the computer teacher’s help. Instead, Mom found and installed programs herself for what she wanted to do. She was not going to become an extension of the computer teacher’s classroom. She maintained this DIY approach throughout her career. She was always annoyed with technology in education classes because she already knew about most of the technology they taught teachers to use and offered her experiences in not only how to make it work better but more recent technology which looked more promising.

Her approach was simple but methodical.

  1. Try something.
  2. Covertly pay attention to what the students are doing.
  3. Evaluate the effectiveness.
  4. Keep successful approaches and ditch failures.

This was her method in both K-12 and higher education. If she were faced with using something like Blackboard Vista or Academic Suite, then I have no doubt she would be looking for greener pastures. At the same time, she is proud of me for having the job that I do: running the monolithic “enterprise” LMS.

* Picture by Greg G. It was licensed Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic.

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BbWorld Presentation Redux Part II – Monitoring

Much of what I might write in these posts about Vista is knowledge accumulated from the efforts of my coworkers.

This is part two in a series of blog posts on our presentation at BbWorld ’07, on the behalf of the Georgia VIEW project, Maintaining Large Vista Installations (2MB PPT).

Part one covered automation of Blackboard Vista 3 tasks. Next, let’s look at monitoring.

Several scripts we have written are in place to collect data. One of the special scripts connects to Weblogic on each node to capture data from several MBeans. Other scripts watch for problems with hardware, the operating system, database, and even login to Vista. Each server (node or database) has, I think, 30-40 monitors. A portion of items we monitor is in the presentation. Every level of our clusters are watched for issues. The data from these scripts are collected into two applications.

  1. Nagios sends us alerts when values from the monitoring scripts on specific criteria fall outside of our expectations. Green means good; yellow means warning; red means bad. Thankfully none in our group are colorblind. Nagios can also send email and pages for alerts. Finding the sweet spot where we get alerted for a problem but avoid false positives perhaps is the most difficult.
  2. An AJAX application two excellent members of our Systems group created called internallyl Stats creates graphs of the same monitored data. Nagios tells us a node failed a test. Stats tells us when the problem started, how long it lasted, and if others also displayed similar issues.We also can use stats to watch trends. For example, we know two peaks by watching WIO usage rise to a noonish peak slough by ~20% and peak again in the evening fairly consistently over weeks and months.

We also use AWStats to provide web server log summary data. Web server logs show activity of the users: where they go, how much, etc.

In summary, Nagios gives us a heads up there is a problem. Stats allows us to trend performance of nodes and databases. AWStats allows us to trend overall user activity.

Coradiant TrueSight was featured in the vendor area at BbWorld. This product looks promising for determining where users encounter issues. Blackboard is working with them, but I suspect its likely for Vista 4 and CE 6.

We have fantastic data. Unfortunately, interpreting the data proves more complex. Say the load on a server hosting a starts climbing, its the point we get pages and continues to climb. What does one do? Remove it from the cluster? Restart it? Restarting it will simply shift the work to another node in the cluster. Say the same happens with the database. Restarting the database will kick all the users out of Vista. Unfortunately, Blackboard does not provide a playbook on what to do with every support possibility. Also, if you ask three DBAs, then you will likely get three answers.
😀

Its important to balance the underreaction and overreaction. When things go wrong, people want us to fix the problem. Vista is capable of handling many faults and not handling very similar faults. The link example was a failed firewall upgrade. I took a similar tact with another firewall problem earlier this week. I ultimately had to restart the cluster that evening because it didn’t recover.

Part three will discuss the node types.

Software Sucking So Seeking Something

So many to cover let me number them.

  1. Trillian has been my IM client of choice since their beta. I’ve used Gaim and any number of programs who do multiple IMs from one client but found them lacking. Trillian was even the first software for which I was willing to pay my own money. (Otherwise its been work who has paid the price. 😀 ).Lately, we have been coordinating through AIM chat rooms. Trillian was working fine for a while but in the past couple weeks has demonstrated issues with these chat rooms. It doesn’t send or receive invites for the rooms. I have an account with Meebo, so when Trillian didn’t work and Meebo did, I knew it was me. So, Pidgin (formerly Gaim) is installed to see if it works and rule out a firewall or something similar. Too much work…
  2. Much of my work involves using Unix-style shells to connect to a machine and type things at the command line. This is the way things are done. When I first started this kind of work, I was using a Sun Ultra 5. It worked really well. Trying to work similarly on Windows 95 in TerraTerm was not the same at all. Ugh. Things in Windows have gotten better… Sorta. Its still not the same.I finally have gotten so fed up with the ssh software from ssh.com I’ve started looking at alternatives.

Or… Maybe the stress of work is getting to me? I’m taking it out on my software? Wow… what psychobabble!

UPDATE (3007-AUG-13: Naturally, PuTTY is at the top of my ssh.com replacement list. I’ve used it before. However, over the weekend I used PenguiNet. It did pretty well. I’ll probably be playing with a bunch of different software over the few months.

Also, a reader pointed out that if I really want to get back to the feel of the Ultra 5, I ought to go Linux. Its an excellent point. I’ve been thinking since 1996 it would be good to go play with it, but I never seem to actually do. One day… One day…

BYOB

I may have to go to an IKEA store just to show my support. The plastic bags I hate. The paper bags I hate. This is awesome.

Attention Shoppers: Bring Your Own Bag – Newsweek: Tip Sheet Environment – MSNBC.com:

Apparently BYOB translates a little differently in Sweden. At least for IKEA, the privately held assemble-it-yourself furniture chain and Swedish-meatball purveyor, the acronym now means “bring your own bag.” Beginning March 15, all of its U.S. stores will start charging five cents for each plastic bag that customers take their purchases home in. The idea is to encourage the masses to bring their own bags with an eye toward reducing litter—an explicit reminder that what was once free to the customer did not necessarily come without a greater cost.

Science News

News about scientific topics annoys me. The latest, on the melting of the Martian polar ice caps hinting at a warmer than usual Sun causing global warming makes me wonder if Kate reads about science as voratiously as I do? I mean, as I started to read this, I recalled that the number and size of sunspots was related to the amount of solar wind from the Sun. It was tied to that the Sun is currently in a decades long period in which it would make the Earth hotter. A simple Google search yielded this web page from 1997!

At present there is no concern about another Little Ice Age. Recent satellite measurements of solar brightness, analyzed by Willson (4), show an increase from the previous cycle of sunspot activity to the current one, indicating that the Earth is receiving more energy from the Sun. Willson indicates that if the current rate of increase of solar irradiance continues until the mid 21th century, then the surface temperatures will increase by about 0.5� C. This is small, but not a negligible fraction of the expected greenhouse warming. Ref: Sunspots and climate

It doesn’t make sense to me that either one of these must be wrong. A hotter than normal Sun * an Earth predisposed to trap more heat than normal = a hotter Earth.

Look for a Patent Wiki in 2007

Patent review goes Wiki – August 21, 2006:

That’s the basic concept behind a pilot program sponsored by IBM and other companies [including HP and Microsoft], which the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office appears poised to green-light. The project would apply an advisory version of the wiki approach to the patent-approval process.

The issue is that patent applications have tripled in the past two decades, leaving examiners only 20 hours on average to comb through a complex application, research past inventions, and decide whether a patent should be granted.

As a result, critics contend, quality has declined and lucrative patents have been granted for ideas that weren’t actually new.

One solution is to let astute outsiders weigh in during the patent-review process, as online encyclopedia Wikipedia does, vastly increasing the information available to the patent examiner.

This acknowledges there is a quantity and quality issue with people who are approving patents. The applications are complex (certainly when I read them my eyes glaze over). Do the examiners have access to good research tools? Are the examiners good at digesting the research they find? It sounds like all one needs to do is create a patent full of buzzwords the examiner is not likely to understand.

Personally, I think the USPTO should forbid hand drawn figures. Take the Blackboard patent for an “Internet-Based Education Support System and Methods” granted this year and the basis of a lawsuit against Desire2Learn (who posted the complaint and patent). I know the systems pretty well having supported a few. However, I find these hand drawn figures of a browser screen more difficult to understand than the same figure would be of a screenshot or a CAD drawing. I figure the ubiquitousness of drawing software should make this a fairly reasonable request.

Also, I would like to see more in patents about what existing technology the patent is based upon. The major complaint from people about these patents being granted is the amount of prior art. The USPTO is dependent upon the patent applicant and anyone who reviews these applications to find prior art. In knew of students who had papers rejected because there was obviously not enough references. Why not reject a patent for the same reason? Back when the office was founded, I could understand because it was so difficult to find evidence of other’s work. But the USPTO has given patents to Google! Surely with the wealth of information out there they can tell applicants they need to provide more information about prior art? Even make them provide information about items that are similar?

This project has the potential of an RFC (Request For Comment) to the whole world. To go the wiki route and allow people to change the language of the request seems kind of scary?