Warrior Of Light
fighting the good fight   [and slacking off occasionally] RAMBLINGS
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Ever since I started this site I kept trying to post regular updates - first daily, then weekly, then biweekly. Looking back I don't think I've succeeded for more than a couple of months in a row. So after a few broken promises to myself and friends, I decided to use Blizzard and id Software as an example and will not give out any "release dates." If you are interested in this site but do not want to visit it every week just to see if there is an update posted, you can subscribe to WarriorOfLight updates and I will notify you whenever there is anything new on this site.
About two months ago Shinjuru reminded me that it's been a year since my last update. While I had a reminder to post an update for a month or so prior to that everything just seemed to take higher priority - from business clients to household chores to catching up with Bones and Monk episodes :-) I replied that I will be sure to post an update at least by the end of the year. Shinjuru, well aware of my (occasionally) procrastinating nature muttered, "2010 here we come" and (most likely) set a reminder on his calendar to dig me about it as soon as 2009 is over. So this update is at least in part to foil his evil plan.
"The trouble with being poor is that it takes up all your time."
Willem de Kooning
This year I was on a book reading spree, mostly books about marriage, relationships and personality types. I posted a list of marriage books that I found helpful in the Marriage Books section.
One of the most interesting tech discoveries for me this year was server virtualization / bare-metal hypervisors, specifically VMWare ESXi. Since most of the time a server doesn't really use all that CPU power, virtualizing it (running the server OS almost as an application on top of another OS) shouldn't affect it's performance. The ability to clone the virtual server before an upgrade or a major change and then being able to run that clone any time you need to seems almost magical. Add to that the ability to run multiple server OS's on the same hardware at once and you can see why I was as giddy as a school girl (OK, maybe I'm stretching it a bit here :-)

Sadly ESXi would not run on my current servers older hardware so I started researching what inexpensive hardware it will run on. So far I made a list that will cost about $300 (motherboard, CPU, memory, hard drive, NIC) but I am yet to take the plunge and buy it. That pesky budget seems to get in the way and I can't decide whether it's a career-related expense that will pay for itself or if it just seems that way because I really want to play with it.

Another project I worked on this year was connecting a computer downstairs to my server and router upstairs at the opposite end of the house. Wireless-G worked OK but was rather slow (3Mbps) and occasionally would drop the connection. When Newegg had a good sale I switched to a Wireless-N router and PCI NIC. This improved the speeds to about 20 Mbps and mostly took care of disconnects but I had to position my router at an awkward 45-degree angle (it does not have an external antenna). Then finally when a (Craigslist) opportunity presented itself I bought a Powerline networking kit and haven't looked back since. No disconnects ever and speed is around 35Mbps.
I finished Fallout 3. While reviewers said it had about 80 hours of gameplay it took me over 250 hours but every quest has been done and every location was visited. The game was so much fun that I (briefly) considered replaying it with a different character but in the end decided that I still had to finish a few other games first.

Now that DragonAge:Origins is out all the other games are on hold. This is a great role-playing game, probably another 200+ hours (and all for $40, is that a steal or what?)
There is a new post in the Campfire section - Uncertainty. For now it's just part 1 in a (hopefully) short series. While I have the information for part 2, putting it "on paper" in a (semi)-coherent form has proven to be rather challenging. Just getting part 1 finalized took me a month. Part 3 (hopefully the finale) is still in progress. In light of that story this quote seems particularly appropriate.
"Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future."
Niels Bohr
After I finished Fallout Tactics and Half Life 2, I played Tabula Rasa for a few weeks. There was a free 2 week trial without having to submit any credit card information so I decided to give it a shot. Once the trial was over, I went out and bought the game; while I could have just paid $20 and continued playing, a little research and a hint from Jon S. revealed that a boxed version at the store was on sale for $10. So I drove to the store, spent about $3 worth of gas, $10 for the game and $1 for tax and brought the game home. Six dollars in savings FTW! Oh, and I kept our local tech store in business, can't put a price on that :)

The game was quite fun, it's an MMO like World of Warcraft / Everquest / Starwars Galaxies / EVE Online / etc. but with a sci-fi and first person shooter twist. I did notice that certain things were not "polished" enough - WoW spoiled us all - even after the game has been out for almost a year and there didn't seem to be a lot of people playing it. Turns out that the game was a lot worse at launch and many seem to agree that it was rushed out the door way before it was really ready.

As it is now I haven't really noticed any bugs or crashes and game is pretty action-packed and fast-paced. I particularly like their idea of "cloning" your character before making any major career decisions. Saves a lot of "grinding" time when you want to try a new class. If you like first person shooters and/or MMO's I would recommend giving it a try, free 2 week trial is still going on.

At the end of September Mythic had an open beta test for their Warhammer Online. Downloading 9GB from some really slow servers left me only with a few hours of play time at midnight before beta test was over at 4am that morning. Needless to say, sleep had to wait. It was enough to get me hooked and Jon S. being the source of geeky tips that he is pointed me to Direct2Drive.com where I promptly pre-ordered the game a few days prior to its official release, giving me a 2 day head-start on the fun :)

After playing it for 2 weeks my "love affair" is starting to wear off and I'm starting to miss the "polish" that WoW has - that bloody Blizzard! - but it is still fun enough to continue exploring.
One of the best ways to learn something is to start using it. When I started getting into Content Management Systems (CMS) like Drupal and Joomla, I decided to start by converting my business site to Drupal. Take a look - Type-A-Consulting.com. Drupal seems to have a lot of modules that can increase functionality of a website, for now I just kept the same site structure and added RSS feeds from a few tech sites and ability to login. In the future I am hoping to add a tech forum, then there would actually be a reason to create an account and login :)

And in yet another amazing development, I created that Contact Form I was planning to add about 9 years ago. What I am happy about is that I didn't simply use a script someone else wrote but created my own from scratch. Go me! :P
"Note that 'say' is two characters shorter than 'print'. This is an important design principle for Perl -- common things should be easy and simple."
Introduction to Perl
Seven years after I started playing Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood Of Steel I finally finished it last night. It's been reinstalled every time I rebuilt my computer and whenever I became bored with other games I went back to play FT:BoS, the storyline and gameplay were that good. Even though the game was released at about the same time as Diablo II, FT:BoS graphics held up infinitely better than DII. Having fond memories of DII I reinstalled it a few months ago and was horrified by the graphics. I could not bring myself to finish even the first level. FT:BoS was pleasantly easy on the eyes even after 7 years since it's release.

I also finished Half Life 2. It was fun about 90% of the time, which is more than I can say about a lot of other games. I'd put it in the top 10-15 games that I have ever played. What was amazing to me is how well its designers gauged players boredom levels. As soon as it started to feel repetitive, something would happen to bring the fun back. Just when I got tired of running through the streets and sewers, I was put in a car and the fun would come back. When I would get used to my weapons, I would get a new one that was unlike any other one I've used before. Ability to call huge bugs (antlions) to my aid was a lot of fun and ability to pick up almost anything and throw it with gravity gun kept me entertained for many hours. Picking up a barrel and throwing it at an incoming zombie horde is a lot more satisfying than simply shooting them. After I found saw blades that I could throw I was ecstatic!

A while ago Sergey, one of my cousins, reminded me of a really fun mechanical puzzle game that we used to play over 10 years ago - The Incredible Machine. A little searching revealed that while there is no new TIM version, there is a "spiritual successor" to it - Crazy Machines and now there is a new version out, Crazy Machines 2 (link to AnandTech review because games original site is only in German for now.) There is a video on YouTube that shows how the latest game looks and plays. I can't wait until Samuel is a little older and we can work on the puzzles together.
I've been focusing on studying for the last 5 months:
  • UNIX / Linux shell programming
  • Perl programming
  • PHP programming
  • SQL administration (MySQL)
I'm thinking of posting the code for a little program that I wrote here, hopefully sometime soon. While I wanted to continue learning more programming languages (Ruby and Python in particular), to keep it all from becoming one big mess in my head I decided to switch to something that doesn't require as much syntax memorization. For the last two weeks or so I've been learning about CMS's - Content Management Systems. More specifically: I'll post my findings here sometime later.
"If you don't know what this value should be, check with your system administrator. If you are the system administrator, figure out what this value should be."
WordPress manual
I finally own a laptop :) It's amazing how much they have come down in price, at least the basic ones. There were a few on sale recently, 2GB of RAM, 200GB hard drive and dual-core CPU for under $650. My brother Anton, being a big fan of spending money decided to buy a new one with 3GB / 160GB for $550. I, being a big fan of saving money where it is wise to do so, bought his old one for $400 - 2GB / 120GB.

At about the same time our local BestBuy had a clearance on SimpleTech external 2.5" drives, $60 for 250GB. The catch was its color - BubbleGum Pink. So I picked one up, tried to avoid eye contact with anyone all the way to the cashier and asked him to wrap it in 2 bags just to make sure no one would see me in the parking lot with anything BubbleGum Pink :) A few minutes with my trusty screwdriver and it became a 2GB / 250GB laptop.

Another 10 hours of research, downloads and testing and now it's a dual-boot Windows XP / Ubuntu Linux. I was amazed to see how slow this laptop responded while running Vista. I mean, 2GB of RAM! What else does this thing need? I only recently went from 1GB to 2GB on my desktop PC and only because it was cheap enough to do so and games would benefit. Everything else was perfectly speedy (or as Shinjuru would say - snappy) with 1GB. After installing WinXP and Linux on the laptop, I am actually enjoying using it.

While I never cared for Vista, being forced to use it on Anton's laptop and then seeing how much faster 2 other operating systems run on the same hardware made me a Vista-hater. And to make Jon proud, I'm not just any Vista-hater, I'm an informed Vista-hater, I have proof that it sucks!

Recent sale at GoGamer gave me a chance to try Jade Empire. Jon put it very succinctly, "It's a KotOR in ancient China." Excellent description and since I enjoyed KotOR [Knights of the Old Republic] quite a bit, this was a lot of fun for me too.

Thanks to William I also had a chance to play Half-Life 2. While I didn't want to buy it originally because of forced Steam installation, getting a game that received so much praise for free kind of forced the issue.
I added a few pages to the Marriage section - Guys' Rules, Ya Ya Sisterhood Rules and Girls to English translation.
Getting older...

While I don't really consider myself old - at 33 I'm probably more of an early "middle-ager" - I keep noticing how things in my life are changing.

Some time ago my Mom gave Samuel an audio CD with Bible stories on it. Being a boy, his favorite one was about David and Goliath of course. For weeks he walked around the house with "swords" (wooden sticks) and would strike Goliaths in the backyard (trees.) One night he came up to me and asked, "Can you make the noise that Goliath made when David hit him with that stone?" I made some "ouch" sounding noise. "No, he made the same sound you make when you are trying to get off the sofa, make that noise!" :P

I remember talking to Don a few years ago about building a computer and the benefits of overclocking. Don, being a decade or so older than me was saying, "It just isn't worth the headache, I'd rather pay $100 extra and not mess with it." That kind of thinking was amazing to me. "It's just a couple of days of testing, rebooting and testing again," I thought, "How can it not be worth it?" Now I can definitely relate. While I still overclock by bumping FSB (Front Side Bus) frequency, messing around with different heatsinks and trying extra fans suddenly just doesn't seem worth the effort.

Years ago, when I was just getting into computers, wiping hard drive clean and starting over from scratch was a semi-annual occurrence. It was a fun time of trying to streamline the process, figuring out what programs I really needed and which were not worth reinstalling. Lately my fresh installs are about 18 months apart and the process seems to be a lot less fun. I just want it to be installed as quickly as possible so I can get to the actual work or games. I have even delayed hardware upgrades because I didn't want to start from scratch again; 10 years ago I would have slapped myself just for thinking that.

"There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full."
Henry A. Kissinger
I am not a huge fan of "social networking" sites - MySpace, Facebook, etc. I don't really understand the purpose of it, perhaps if I was a teenager I would. I did sign up with MySpace because my brother and sister are on it but I just put a link on there that points back to this site.

During my web browsing, I did come across a few geeks that had a page on LinkedIn.com. At first I dismissed it but then it just kept coming up in different places, finally I decided to take a closer look. There was no place on the page to post some silly comment - "OMG, your page is so-o-o cute!". It wasn't flashing ads and "Welcome out latest member" boxes all over the page. Hmm, what did it have? A place to enter your career information, education, past and present employment; sort of like a summary of your resume but without revealing too many personal details. Nice and pretty clean.

So I broke down and signed up. It had an easy way to import all my friends and business emails and after that it even marked the ones that already had a LinkedIn account so I could "link" with them. Not bad! When I entering my past employment, I discovered that there were 26 people from SCUSD there :) I didn't know any of them but it was pretty cool anyway.

After sending an "invitation" to one of the people from my address book that already had a LinkedIn account, I discovered that he was a UNIX Team Lead at Time Warner Cable. With any luck he may be able to give me some tips on how to join his geeky team :)

While looking for a full time Linux Admin / Engineer job I came across an article that was discussing different ways to look for a job. One was to sift through Monster, CareerBuilder and CraigsList. Another was to talk to a recruitment agency and have them "plug you in" somewhere. There was also a suggestion to make a list of companies that you would like to work for and send them your resume. Because they don't necessarily have an opening your chances of getting a job may be low but at the same time yours should be the only or one of very few resumes that they will be looking at, giving you a higher chance to be noticed.

I had to think of where a Linux Admin may be needed and what place would have some geeks that I can learn from. A "server farm", an ISP or a server colocation facility seemed like a good idea. Some "googling" around revealed about 7 companies in the Charlotte, NC area. Most of them had a general info@company email so I sent an email with my resume to them. One of them was big enough that they listed job openings on their site but did not provide an email address to submit a resume for jobs that weren't open.

So I rolled up my sleeves and started digging. First, there was a name of their CTO but no way to contact him. Obviously I "googled" him :) A few useless links later, still no email address. Then I spotted a link to some press release about a workshop that he participated in. Scan through the press release quickly, still no contact info. But wait! There is a mention of their Sr. Systems Engineer that also participated in the workshop. Time to "google" him. Bingo, he has a blog and an email! You have to love "the internets"! :)

"All I ask is the chance to prove that money can't make me happy."
Sometime last year I think when DJIA (Dow Jones Industrial Averages) index hit 12,000, most of the analysts were amazed and talked about a "bubble" similar to Nasdaq, only smaller. This year when people are starting to figure out that it is rather high and DJIA is going down, those same analysts are complaining that we are going into recession. What happened, only a few months and everyone already got used to the 12,000-13,000 high and thought that it will never come down?

For years analysts were talking about Americans not saving enough and getting into debt too much. Now when people seem to have stopped spending as much, everyone is complaining that economy is slowing down and the stores aren't doing as well as before. Um, duh?

While looking for a job on Monster.com, I came across an article about "writing an effective resume." I read the article, then there were more links to other articles... in the end I printed out about 50 pages worth of advice on how to write a good resume. Some of them talked about functional vs. experience-focused resumes, with the latter being better but the first being necessary for people changing careers or those just getting out of school. I liked the way I wrote my resume, it was sort of a mix of functional and experience-based but the article made me doubt my choice. Then I got to the next article that talked about resumes for IT jobs and suggested that those are better when written as a combination of both. In other words, I spent hours looking for and reading those articles only to figure out that what I had was the right thing!

To be honest I did find a few tips that were useful. One of them helped me change an objective statement from a generic "talented and motivated ... looking for challenging and rewarding..." to something that doesn't make the readers eyes glaze over. Another one was on WikiHow and helped me with an interview question that I would get occasionally, "Tell us about one of your weaknesses." Not that I don't have weaknesses but I couldn't think of one that would be relevant to jobs that I am applying for. This article was pretty helpful - "How To Communicate Your Weaknesses".

I will probably write more about my job search quest, there were a few interesting lessons in it for me. For now I'll just say that I really miss work. Coffee in the morning with Don, Round Table all-you-can-eat pizza lunches with Shinjuru, Jon S. and Don, Friday lunches at Crepeville with Patty, Kelly and the guys and of course Squeeze Inn burgers first Friday of each month. Hmm, maybe it's not the work that I miss but my friends at work? Excuse me while I go and cry in a pillow for a bit.

I've been playing EVE Online since May 2006. It's a very geeky sci-fi game. As if they had to prove their geekyness, CCP [developers of EVE Online] hired a real-life economist as a consultant to help run the in-game economy. You can take a look at EVE's in-game economic report for the 4th quarter of 2007 here [1.5MB PDF file]

For the longest time I wanted to see how important it is to have proper gaming equipment for racing and flight simulator games. A few months ago there was a sale on a Logitech racing kit for a PC - force-feedback racing wheel and pedals. Anton pitched in by buying the latest Need For Speed game - NFS:Carbon. All I can say is, "Wow, what a difference!" I can almost swear that I felt the car "hugging" the curves.

As much as it may bother me to admit it, I think Anton is a bit of a better driver than I am (at least while driving a virtual car :) I had to ask for his help with a couple of "bosses" in the game. To my amazement, Samuel who is only 6 did pretty well too; he even won a few races all by himself! I just had to take a few pictures and video-tape him driving, it seemed that with him there were only three positions for the steering wheel - hard left, center and hard right, there was no in-between.

"My Father had a profound influence on me, he was a lunatic."
Since my brother Anton moved in with us I have been exposed to a few new things - Battlestar Galactica fanboyism (yes, I am making up new words) , political radio talk show views, 1-hour-long morning grooming routines, etc. :) Up to this point I've also never tried Listerine and since Anton does use it, I decided to give it a shot. I remember seeing a commercial for the new Listerine Orange (I think) and it was talking about how it was "less intense." "How much of a wuss do you have to be to not be able to use regular one?", I thought. Well, now I know, this is my 3rd day of using the regular one and every time I use it my eyes water.

There are some good things that Anton introduced me to as well. Pandora.com, Lilly Allen and High Def cable TV are just a few of them. When he first played Lilly Allen for me I really wasn't impressed. The "Alfie" song about her brother I thought was pretty cute but that was about it. Well, after listening to it a few more times, I was seriously hooked. For weeks after that I've been listening to nothing but "Knock 'Em Out", "LDN", "Friday Night" and "Alfie". Warning, some of the songs on her CD have the F* word but none of the ones I mentioned do.

Pandora.com was another nice discovery. It's a customizable internet radio station; you tell it what songs or bands you like and it uses a formula to play songs similar to that one. Bad thing is that it may take some time before it actually plays the song you specified; the good thing is that you can discover bands that play music similar to the kind you like. Pandora helped me discover Keren Ann [myspace], Emilie Simon and Sia [myspace].

While I'm talking about music, 3 of my favorite bands have released new albums:

P86 and DH turned out to be a bit disappointing. On the P86 CD, out of 10 or so songs there was maybe 1 that I really liked, a few that were OK and the rest just didn't click with me. DH was a bit better, 3 or 4 songs that were quite nice, a few were OK, the rest were not my type. AILD was a great CD, practically all of the 12 songs were excellent; I've been listening to it alone for days in a row.

I've included links to their MySpace pages because they have songs that you can listen to. I have no idea why everyone seems to be going "gaga" over MySpace. I wish that the bands would spend more time on their own websites rather than wasting time and money on their MySpace pages. Just my $0.02.
I've worked on a few websites lately and was reminded of a dilemma I had a few years ago. Should I continue using HTML tables for website layout or should I switch to CSS (Cascading Style Sheets)? I liked the idea of CSS, a lot more organized, separating design from content and being able to change the design of multiple pages just by editing one file. What bothered me at the time was the lack of proper support in major browsers. If using HTML tables did the trick, why should I bother with something that isn't ready for prime time?

Now I am back at the same fork in the road. As I mentioned before, I found this website template on OSWD.org and was quite happy with it. Even though it uses HTML tables and is a bit messy, once I figured out how it works, got rid of unnecessary code and added my own comments to it, it became fairly easy to use.

Later I found the same template but recoded to use CSS. Should I switch to that or should I keep what I have? It would be a pain to redo the whole site again, especially after I just spent almost a week converting it from the 1999 version. At the same time it should be much easier to change the site layout in the future if I choose to. It may also give me a way to implement color schemes that visitors can change "on the fly". I think I'm going to give it a try.
My apologies to anyone who tried to access the site in the last few days using Internet Explorer. Because the site design is fairly simple I didn't think of testing it on all of the browsers. Firefox worked fine but the front page would not display properly when viewed with IE. It should work fine now but I had to temporarily remove GodSpeaks banner at the bottom of the main page.

This is what this site looked like
from 1999 trough 2007
As you may have noticed, I've been a little busy lately, making the site a bit more contemporary. I've been wanting to change its design for the last couple of years but haven't been able to find a good look and as you can see by the frequency of my updates, didn't really have the time to do it either.

Recently I came across Open Source Web Design and really liked the look of Autonomous template by Adam Particka. A few hours spent looking at the code, cleaning up and changing the look and my new design was ready. Next I had to decide whether to keep all the existing pages and simply give each one the new look or if I should also change the site content. Looking through the pages I realized that most of The War section has been "under construction" since the last millennium. That was a rude awakening.

The only truly useful thing in The War section was Campfire, so I got rid of everything else. Also, since Soapbox and Campfire were quite similar, I decided to combine them under Campfire name. I am still deciding what to do with the About section; for now I think I will keep the Chuda story but will remove the rest of the selfish pages :) That story is in the Marriage section.

The Tech section didn't really fit with the rest of the site; any articles, links and downloads that I thought were relevant either have been or will be moved to my business site - www.Type-A-Consulting.com.

Ramblings has the most content - I sure posted often in those first few years - and it's going to take a while to update those posts with the new look. I have thought about removing all the really early posts but have decided against it. Reading how excited I was about a new Pentium III made me nostalgic. It's also interesting for me to see how the site progressed and how I have changed over the years. All the old posts are still available but aren't 100% converted yet.

Because I really dislike broken links on the Web, I decided to keep all of the old pages that didn't make it into the new site. If you have a shortcut saved or a link on your site pointing to one of the pages directly, everything should still work.
Wow, this was a really, really long break, 1.5 years... Let's see if I can get back to weekly updates again. Here is a very short recap of what happened.
  • We moved from Sacramento, CA to Charlotte, NC
    Between fixing up the house and getting it ready for sale, packing or selling everything we had and looking for a house in Charlotte, this one bullet took almost a year :)

  • I became an RHCE (Red Hat Certified Engineer)
    This was one of my top 10 goals in life (to become a Linux Engineer.) It took a few months of studying and a lot of work but I did it! Just to be clear, I don't think just those few months would have been enough was it not for my previous Linux experience.
I've been asked a few times how I first got into computers and what I would recommend for someone else interested in it. In the beginning I used to give people helpful advice (I think) but as years went on, I started to forget what my journey into computer support was. I think my very last advice was something like - "Well, you just start tinkering with it. Break a few things then fix them. Try to fix things that others broke. After you find out that you like it, start charging for it, write a resume and start applying for jobs."

While that seems like perfectly good advice to me - and it is how I got into it - the person I gave the advice to wasn't all that happy. I think he wanted something a little more specific. To avoid this in the future, I decided to keep track of my Linux progress. Here is a list of books that I found helpful on my way to becoming a Linux Engineer.

  • Learning Linux (O'Reilly) - basics
  • How Linux Works (No Starch Press)- basics
  • Think UNIX (QUE) - UNIX philosophy
  • Linux Network Servers (SYBEX) - intermediate networking
  • Classic Shell Scripting (O'Reilly) - scripting
  • UNIX Shell Programming (SAMS)- scripting
  • sed & awk (O'Reilly) - grep, sed, awk and RegEx basics (first 3 chapters)
While studying for the RHCE test, I started getting into shell scripting. This is a quote from one of the books I am reading.
"The pipes and filters allow us to create an elegant piece of scripting. Now, instead of five individual commands, we have a single, flowing process."
ls -l ~ |
grep -v "^d" |
awk '{print $5, $8, $3, $6, $7}' |
sort -nr |
awk '{print $2 "\t" $3 "\t" $4, $5 "\t" $1}' |
mail -s "File List" info@example.com
Can you see the beauty and elegance too? :P
Ancient History

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