Plumbing

The Linux Plumbers Conference started Wednesday. The morning storage track had someone from Oracle presenting a bunch of problems, mostly to do with asynchronous IO interfaces--e.g., how can we quickly open a few thousand files, possibly read the 1st block, and close them all? Each open necessarily takes some time (because the disk will generally have to seek a few times to find the file), but they can gain by doing a bunch of opens in parallel. (They've typically got a big array of disks so there's lots of disk-heads that can be seeking at once.) For some reason they'd rule out threading their application as a way to get parallelism--I wanted to ask why, but didn't get a chance. It clearly wasn't that they were unwilling to rewrite their applications. Other options were adding a open system call that takes a list of files, or implementing something like syslets.

And similarly she wanted more parallelism submitting IO's. Linus suggested using sys_readahead, which tells the kernel to start reading the given range into the page cache. You can run sys_readahead for a bunch of IO ranges, then go back and do reads for the same ranges to get the data. Since sys_readahead hasn't been used much, its implementation may not be perfect, but it could probably be fixed. One objection to that approach was that under memory pressure the stuff you read into the page cache might not last to the read.

Somebody else did a talk on filesystem benchmarks based on startup of a gnome application.

I went to Zach Brown's CRFS talk in the afternoon. He's making some interesting tradeoffs, in the understandable desire not to bite off too much at first. They seemed like sensible choices to me, but others were more skeptical. Then I tried to do a little work until Linus's git tutorial. It was sort of interesting to see how Linus chose to present that, and I learned an odd thing or two, but it was mostly old hat.

Afterwards Trond invited a couple of us to have dinner with the speaker at Higgins restaurant. Which was very nice.

acrobats

The second day of the kernel summit went fine, though there weren't any big decisions or surprising talks or anything.

The party that night was both the closing party for the kernel summit and the opening reception for the Linux Plumbers Conference. It was at "Aura", just across from Powells. There were acrobats. What more could a person ask for?

excess t-shirts, odd euphoria

I like to fly with just carry-on luggage. (And I mean, real carry-on--just a medium backpack and a small handbag, no big rolling suitcase.) So I count my clothes very carefully. One of the factors that enters into that calculation, therefore, is the t-shirts that they give out to conference attendees.

Thus my calculations are thrown off when, as today, they give out two t-shirts instead of one. If the same thing happens at the Linux Plumbers Conference (which starts tomorrow), then I'll end up with 2 more t-shirts than I needed. Disaster!

The summit was in a nice, light room on the third floor of PSU's student union, with big windows and a balcony overlooking the park blocks. Listening to the talks and looking out the window at the greenery I felt mildly euphoric all afternoon.

Dinner that night was at the Aquariva restaurant, south of downtown on the river, with lots of glass and a patio to show off their view of the river. The moon was low over the trees on the other bank, and strangely orange.

I'm still operating with a substantial sleep deficit, so I took the first opportunity to come back to the hotel.

Breakfast, books, flying puck

My hotel/flight package seemed to include some unexpected breakfast credit, so I had a nice omelet in the hotel restaurant downstairs Sunday morning, then set out for Powells, and spent the bulk of the day browsing at the main store and the nearby technical store.

They have a pretty good collection of old computers at the technical book store, which I didn't remember from before. It included, for example, my first computer, the TI-99/4A.

Eventually hunger forced me out. I got a sandwich at a mall food court, ate it sitting on the steps in Pioneer square, then walked back to my hotel, where I read my newly acquired copy of "Vingt Ans Après" and napped a little till it was time to go to the first social event of the kernel summit, just across the river at the Doug Fir lounge.

I wasn't terribly hungry, didn't want to drink while still slightly jet-lagged, and didn't feel particularly outgoing, so I stood around a while at a bit of a loss until David W. suggested a game of air hockey.

Unfortunately the air hockey table wasn't great. The puck was quite light, and we almost spent more time chasing after it than playing.

But we played a long time. The next morning my right arm ached.

friends, kids, other animals

After finishing my lunch Saturday I sat around at my (outdoor) table reading a New Yorker, then after getting a call back from Matt I took a quick visit to the nearby central library before going to Pioneer Square to wait for him.

The weather was perfect, and I had a nice time just sitting there, reading a paper, and occasionally looking up to watch passerby.

When Matt arrived we sat on the steps there a little longer and talked, then took his car to drop in on another old college friend, Nat, and his family.

In addition to 3 kids, he and his wife have two dogs, a cat, 8 chickens, two ducks, and some goldfish. I may have missed someone. And, of course, a large garden. They fed and watered us, and kept us chatting till well after night. What a nice evening!

Portland arrival

I stayed up late Friday night trying to get some basic raw material sent out to my tutorial collaborator. I fear he may end up doing most of the work, because it's pretty raw.

Then the airport shuttle showed up for me at 7:45 the next morning. The flight to Portland went more quickly than I'd feared. The light rail took me straight from the airport to a few blocks from my hotel, where I checked in, did a little email, got in touch with Matt S., an old college friend who'd recently shown up on Facebook, then had lunch at Maya's, a few blocks from the hotel.

Maya's is a fast-food burrito place. Probably nothing that special, but I like it, and it's one of the first places I ever ate in Portland, when I first arrived as a Reed freshman nineteen years ago.

tired

Note to self: get to bed on time, or you'll be unhappy.

I got a start on a tutorial I'm collaborating with someone on in November, but other than that it was a pretty slow day.

Yesterday was another Sunday spent at the new library branch.

I've got work, and then a weekend of vacation, coming up in Portland. Sara's going to be joining me for a while too. So we've been thinking idly about what we might want to do.

produce, proposal, chronicle, darwin, buffy

I took a drastic step this morning, and left my laptop at home. I never go anywhere without a computer. But I knew I wanted to pick up a bunch of produce at the farmer's market, then juggle, then meet some friends for dinner, and I just didn't want to be carrying around more than I had to.

Later--maybe 2:30ish--I was standing on the grass juggling, heard applause, looked, and saw passerby cheering on a couple in the middle of the diag. A nearby line of people were holding up signs that together said "will you marry me?". Or words to that effect.

Chris and his daughter Page were in town for a UM football game, so Bill invited me to an early after-game dinner with them. It was pleasant. Page was sort of energetic and goofy and not really interested in having any kind of conversation I could understand.

Mary and Dave seem to be starting some sort of newspaper.--woah. Ed Vielmetti reports on "early reviews".

I spent some time with Sara this evening trying to get Fink set up on her laptop, with mixed results. Fun fact, new to me: fink is German for finch?

We've been doing season 2 of "Buffy" over dinner. The good-guy-vampire Angel and turns bad in the most recent two-episode story. I knew that was coming and thought it would a drag to watch Angel as a bad guy. Actually, it's a relief--I hadn't realized how boring the always-brooding, always-concerned Angel had gotten.

crash

I crashed five computers simultaneously this afternoon. One of them's fine, the other four I'm not so sure of.

The one that survived was my laptop, and the other four were virtual machines running on it that I use for testing. Unfortunately, they were all getting updates at the time, so when I restarted them the dpkg databases that keep track of what software versions are installed were corrupted. I spent some time following some instructions online in an attempt to rebuild the corrupted database on one of the machines, with no luck yet.

The laptop's normally fine, but I think it's frozen up in the same way three times now in the last month or two. I know I had the virtual machines running the last two times at least, so I wonder if it's a kvm bug.

Oh well. I kept fairly good notes on the setup, so in the worst case I think I can reconstruct them all in a reasonable amount of time if I have to.

Still, it's never fun to end the day feeling like you've gone backwards.

At least I got some laundry done in the morning. But why were there *three* of us in the apartment laundry room doing laundry on a Friday morning? My only reason was basically that I thought it'd be an unlikely time for anyone else to do laundry. I suppose that was their idea too.

frisbee golf

Chris and Scott, both from my grad school cohort, were in town this weekend, and we met at Bill's condo just before noon Saturday. After having lunch and sitting around a while, Bill suggested a round of frisbee golf; so we piled into his car and he drove us out to a course in Ypsilanti.

Frisbee golf is a big obsession for Bill, and he and Chris get together once a year to go on a few days' tour of courses in some area. I'll never reach his level of accomplishment or obsession, but I can see it being a fun thing to walk through the woods throwing a frisbee every now and then.

I pretend not to care about scores, but really I like winning, more than I should. There was no hope of that yesterday, but I know what I got anyway: on the 18 holes, the number of throws it took me to reach the goal was 5, 5, 5, 4, 4, 3, 5, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, 4, and 3, respectively. Except that I was confused at first about where I was allowed to throw from, so the first half of those might actually have been a little longer if I'd known. They claimed 3 was par, and Bill was getting a fair number of 2's.

Afterwards another grad school friend, Dave, showed up, and we went downtown to meet Sara for dinner at Cottage Inn. Sara and I went home afterwards, while the others set out for a pub crawl.

I have a working mp3 player again--the previous one broke a while ago, and then I picked up one as an impulse buy in the Detroit airport on my way to Windsor the other week. So I've been catching up on my French podcasts. I feel like my comprehension's improving a little.

One weekly podcast is a word-game show, "Des Papous dans la Tête", a little reminiscent of the old British radio show "My Word", but more more involved, and with a heavy Oulipo influence. I think I get about 1% of the jokes, but when I get one, I feel like I've accomplished something!

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