Pending Rennovations

The TL;DR version: I’m shutting down this blog and starting up another. I’ll post the new link here, and to twitter (@dws).

The slightly longer version: For the past few years, with good (and fun) reasons, I’ve had too little attention left over for writing here. There have been some changes on that front, and I’ve accumulated a backlog of things worth writing about.

The boring technical version: I noticed several years back that I was having to upgrade WordPress nearly every time I sat down to write. I was also having to pass on the sad news to friends and colleagues that their WordPress sites had been hacked. I thought my site, which I’d spent some time hardening, was safe and would survive long enough for me to replace it. My ISP had other thoughts. They just sent out an urgent advisory that they were doing to disable older versions of WordPress. So, if you’re reading this, that hasn’t happened yet. They did; I upgraded. I’ll be replacing this site with a new one, using a static site generator.


Goodbye, Reader

If you’re reading this on Google Reader, it’s been fun ride, hasn’t it. But it’s time to say goodbye. The plug on Reader gets pulled tomorrow.

Reader streamlined the way I consume news. It’s been a core part of my daily routine for what, seven years? It seems like longer. seven years of making the firehose less daunting to drink from. Everyone at Google, current and past, who had a hand in making Reader what it is (was) has my heartfelt thanks. Its absense from the scene is going to leave a huge hole.

Knowing something of what goes on under the covers to make the Reader magic happen, shaking off the temptation to write my own Reader replacement was easy. Others are on that, and good luck to them.

Garden Defense

Slugs and snails are a big challenge for gardeners in my area. Some of last year’s Basil went down to slimy defeat, even though it was in a raised Earth Box. I’m trying lettuce and chard this year, which is like hanging out a blinking Neon “Free Buffet!” sign. What to do? Investing in Sluggo wasn’t appealing. Copper is supposed to repel slugs and snails, but wrapping copper tape around an Earth Box seemed like overkill. All you really need to do to keep the slugs and snails out is surround the wheels under the box…

Looking around the hardware store, I hit on the idea of wrapping copper tape around 4″ PVC drain filters, then setting the Earth Boxes wheels in the filters. (Drain plugs were cheaper, but filters avoid having standing water.)

Construction was trivial. (The alcohol was to wipe down the plugs to give the tape a clean surface to stick to.)

Behold, a well-defended Earth Box!

Total cost: $7.50 per box. It would have cost less (about $4.50 per box) to just wrap each box in one strand of copper tape, but the extra few dollars were worth it for aesthetics and fun.

Update, on year later: Did it work? Yes. I found one snail in one box, but no evidence of others.

Still Alive

Hi. I’m still here. Been busy.

The short version: I took a new job, then we moved.

The slightly longer version: I joined Google. After working in narrow, sometimes obscure industries, or on things I couldn’t talk about, the chance to work on products that touch millions of people was compelling. Building things at Google scale is a bit beyond anything I’d taking on previously. That meant a lot of new stuff to learn, and a few things to unlearn. Discretionary time took a serious hit; many evenings have been given over to study. Then, partly because we missed living in Mountain View, and partly to get our daughter in to a well-rounded High School, we bought neat little house in Mountain View that needed some work, and camped out in it for several months while our furniture stayed in San Jose to help sell the old house. Now we’re looking ahead at doing some remodeling. Eeek. And, just as things were finally settling down, I signed on as a mentor for my daughter’s High School robotics team. The competition season starts in 10 days. Eeek. There goes the next few months. (Months? Maybe longer. We’ll see.)

Life has been… disrupted. Mostly in a good way. I don’t know that that means for this blog. We’ll see. I’ve learning a few things along the way. Time permitting, I’ll write about them.


USB ehci_hcd woes

Posting to help the next person who runs into this problem and Googles for help.

I noticed that several log files in /var/log/ on my T400 running Ubuntu 10.04 were filling up with stuff like

... kernel: ... usb 2-4: new high speed USB device using ehci_hcd and address 17 
... kernel: ... usb 2-4: device descriptor read/all, error -71 
... kernel: ... hub 2-0:1.0: unable to enumerate USB device on port 4 
... kernel: ... usb 2-4: new high speed USB device using ehci_hcd and address 19 
... kernel: ... usb 2-4: device not accepting address 19, error -71 
... kernel: ... hub 2-0:1.0: unable to enumerate USB device on port 4 
... kernel: ... usb 2-4: new high speed USB device using ehci_hcd and address 21 
... kernel: ... usb 2-4: device descriptor read/all, error -71 
... kernel: ... hub 2-0:1.0: unable to enumerate USB device on port 4 
... kernel: ... usb 2-4: new high speed USB device using ehci_hcd and address 23 

And by ‘filling up’, I meant 10s of megabytes each, across several log files. And there wasn’t a USB device plugged in. (There’d been a thumb drive plugged in briefly before noticing the problem, but the log spewage continued after a cold restart.)

When I went digging for info, it sounded like this might be a problem with some USB device/chipset combinations. In my case, it’s probably a flakey USB chip.

To stop the spew, I added the following to /etc/rc.local

cd /sys/bus/pci/drivers/ehci_hcd
echo -n "0000:00:1d.7" > unbind
cd /sys/bus/pci/drivers/uhci_hcd
echo -n "0000:00:1d.1" > unbind

I unbound ehci_hcd and uhci_hcd because both were showing up in my logs. You might only need one. If you only need to unbind ehci_hcd, you’ll be downgrading the speed of that USB port, which may just be what you need to do to make things work. You’ll also need to adjust those numbers to correspond to how your drivers are numbered, which will be evident when you look at the files in /sys/bus/pci/drivers/*. Since unbind doesn’t survive a reboot, it’s a simple matter of

sudo tail -f /var/log/syslog

in one window while you try an echo in another to verify that the log spewage stops.

Good luck. There’s the chance that this is an entirely wrong thing to do, so caveat emptor.

Edited to add that’s a bug filed against this that makes for interesting reading.

WordPress Futzing Redux

I start 2011 as I started 2010: Screwing around with blogging software and themes. The goal is to get an updated theme in place over the next two weeks so that I can ignore it for a few years. If you spot anything broken, please send along a note.