Archive for December, 2009

Too many books and too few e-books

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Over the years I have bought quite a few technical books which I generally read through once and then later use as a reference from time to time. In fact I’ve over 50 books by O’Reilly alone and varios other books from courses I have done.

In my office at home I’m running out of room. I’d really love to convert these books all to e-books, or to pdf format so I can print or use them from time to time as needed. Current e-book readers are not yet good enough but are getting better. They seem fine for reading novels but often do not have a good enough screen resolution to render things as clearly as the paper page.

I have been considering how to do this conversion and see various options:

  1. First option is simple: buy the equivalent ebook from the publisher. That’s way too expensive, and I’ve already paid for the book.
  2. Second option is cheaper: pirate a copy from the Internet. For many publications this is possible but I do not really agree with this. Besides it is illegal in most countries.
  3. Get some OCR software and scan the books, thus making my own e-book. As my main platform at home is Linux I have looked for software to do this but not found any. At least freeware or open source software. I’m sure that there is commercial software to do this, but it is likely to be pricey.  Also I have a feeling that scanning a single 300-page book is not going to be very interesting and to do my whole bookcase would take a lot of time, and likely have mistakes which I might not find until later.
  4. The really easy option is to throw the books away that I think I’m least likely to use. That’s easy but I’ve already found in the past that when I do this it’s always for the book which later I DO want to consult.

So I am still pondering over what to do. How to free up some space for books which I use infrequently but often do go back to and which alter I hope I will be able to happily use on an e-book reader.

Am I the only one in this situation, and if I’m not how do you solve the problem?

Slowing down after a busy year

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

I have had a busy year playing with databases and it is nice that now things are slowing down. Of course next year holds lots more changes, but that is normal.

The big MySQL 5.0 to 5.1 upgrade that I have been spending a lot of time on recently has nearly finished. In spite of the early issues with upgrading servers with stored procedures and triggers, most of the servers are now running 5.1 so that is good, and the upgrades have been reasonably painless. Only the master servers need to be looked at, but with fewer people being around over the holiday period this will wait until next year.

Several users have been pleasantly surprised by the performance gain in switching to 5.1. That is also good news. When I finish upgrading all servers I will also be able to try out some of the 5.1 features such as RBR or partitioning. On the larger servers I’m hoping this will further help performance.

Finally I should be able to escape merge table hell.  That is something that a lot of people have wanted but has not been possible. It’s strange: merge tables seem like a great idea and in fact work very well, but they have always had corner cases where something would break.  That has been infrequent enough to not stop us using merge tables, but frequent enough for something to break from time to time causing us all to lose sleep and get quite frustrated.

It would have been so much nicer if MySQL had dedicated time and effort to allow us to avoid merge tables altogether: make views work efficiently, or to provide partitioning. 5.1 provides partitioning, but the lack of performance of complex views has kept me away from them. Again, this is where you pay for having an optimizer designed to run very quickly. It does not have time to analyze and determine how best to perform complex operations.

With quite a few machines to install and upgrade one thing is clear: automation is very necessary. I’ve found puppet to be a good tool to get these jobs done.  While it can not do everything, it does avoid me doing all the tedious repetitive steps that are time-consuming, allowing me to focus on more important things. If you have more than a few (database) servers to manage in a Linux or UNIX environment give puppet or an equivalent product a try. You will not regret it. So thanks to those at Reductive Labs for the work they have done.

I see that MySQL 5.5.0-m2 has been released. I will need to take a look at this next year and see how it compares to 5.4.3 which I was playing with this Autumn. If my experiences with 5.4.3 are anything to go by then it will be a nice to use, and the extra performance compared to 5.1 will make it an interesting product to try out.

Last, but not least thanks to the merlin developers. MySQL Enterprise Monitor is getting better and saving me a lot of time. I stress it a little too much perhaps but it has helped me to keep an eye on the db servers I manage. The developers take a lot of flack from me. That’s because I hope that their product will allow me to relax and not worry and tell me if something breaks or needs attention and if possible at some stage in the future fix it for me. Rather a hard target to achieve of course, but many of the day to day monitoring tasks merlin provides do make my life easier. So thanks. Keep up the good work.

So as things are quieter now and I’m focusing on more leisure tasks I’ll wish you all Seasons Greetings and hope that 2010 will keep you busy and entertained.

Update on my N5200 Support ticket

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

If you remember my initial troubles with my N5200 I reported having opened a support ticket (TUX-789529) and had no response. It seems there are 2 support systems: one for the USA and one for the rest of the world. As I don’t live in the USA I opened a ticket here. Well my original ticket got closed without me even getting a response. There’s also a support page for US customers. I opened a ticket with them (NOV-15446-427) and did get a response, though to be honest I did not get answers to my questions about whether I did the wrong thing or how I could have better avoided the problems of the data loss that I experienced.

Conclusion, my N5200 Pro is now working happily in RAID-6 (In theory I can survive the loss of 2 disks) with a replaced disk. I do not have much faith with Thecus support, and am surprised by the fact that a product such as this has as little documentation on what to do if disaster happens. I am using RAID-6 and not RAID-5 because I do not trust the N5200Pro. If you buy this product it’s because you want your data to be safe, so these things are important. I’m not going to buy another NAS product so hope that my warming-in period means that I will safely survive the next breakage, which of course will happen sometime in the future.

I hope that Thecus get to read this page and address their documentation and also solve their non-US support. It is not a way to gain happy customers.