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Silicon Valley veteran doing Technical Community Management. Photographer with a strong interest in birds, wildlife and nature who is exploring the Western states and working to tell you the stories of the special places I've found.
Author and Blogger. They are not the same thing. Sports occasionally spoken here, especially hockey. Veteran of Sun, Apple, Palm, HP and now Infoblox, plus some you've never heard of. They didn't kill me, they made me better.
Person with opinions, and not afraid to share them. Debate team in high school and college; bet that's a surprise.
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A long, long time ago, in a Galaxy far away (or so it seems), I published a science fiction fanzine called OtherRealms. At its core, it was about reviews. I also spent some time writing book reviews for Amazing Stories, back when it was published by TSR. OtherRealms was well-thought of enough to score me a couple of Hugo nominations (and I finished ahead of No Award, thank you very much!) and I really enjoy the process of figuring out how to help someone decide if hey ought to try something out.
I write reviews, not criticism. I’m not going to talk about deeper meaning or higher purpose — or even, necessarily, if something is good or bad. My goal is to help put things into context so you can make a decision if you want to buy/use/read/eat/watch/whatever something. What I try to do with reviews is help you map my experience and worldview into your worldview so you can make a judgement on something and whether it is worth investing your time in it in some way.
And ultimately that’s the issue here: time is a finite resource, and even in one small segment of the universe, if you did nothing else, you couldn’t read every book published in the SF/Fantasy universe every month (and if you tried, you’d go crazy and be committed, or should be). So given there are many more books published in a month than you have time and budget to buy and read, which ones are worth your time? I hope to steer you towards some, away from others, and hopefully make you spend your time budget in a way that you appreciate.
One reason I do this is to broaden my own universe. When I was publishing OtherRealms, one rule I had was that at least every fifth book was by an author I’d never read before. I’m going back to that rule again, and I’d like to recommend it to everyone; it forces you to explore, it forces you to sample new things and new people, and I pushes you out of ruts where you can go stale and stop enjoying what you’re doing. Revisiting the familiar is comforting and relaxing, and god knows we all need that in our life, but wading into the new and unknown is broadening and energizing, and we need some of that, too. And one small way of doing that is to always be sampling things we haven’t sampled before, so I”m going to try to help you do that by doing it again myself.
About a year ago, I made a commitment to try to stop buying dead trees. I’ve bought a Kindle, I’ve been exploring ebooks and looking into electronic publication for my own writing, and in general, I’ve stopped buying words on paper in favor of words embedded in electrons. It’s not a perfect situation yet (it’s not easy to lend an ebook, compared to a paper one), but I was clearing out my computer tech book shelves again one day and realizing just how much paper was being sent out to be recycled because after 3 or so years the books were effectively useless. That caused me to rethink how many computer books I buy (sorry, geek authors), but also made me get serious about buying books in general electronically, because I can now carry around many books in my pocket, and not throw out my back schlepping them around. The side effect of that is if you aren’t allowing electronic editions of your books, I’ll probably never read them. Sorry.
Today’s Wednesday in Review is about an author I’ve known for a while, but never actually read. I love historical fiction, and I really love when an author can write a good alternative history and make it both an interesting story and an interesting view into a period of the past — especially when there are strong fantasy elements built in; Chelsea Quinn Yarbro and her St. Germain series is a great example of this — meticulously researched historical fiction and accurate renditions of the period. With Vampires. If you haven’t tried this series, a good place to start is The Palace. But a discussion of St. Germain will wait for another day….
For some reason, I’ve never read Michael Stackpole, but when I was searching for a book to take with me on a trip, I ran into At the Queen’s Command. It’s historical fantasy set in a period rarely touched by authors (or pretty much anyone) — the time when the French and English were jousting over control of North America and the westward expansion was just starting our of the American colonies, with the colonies starting to chafe under the demands of British rule. Only it’s not, it’s his own world, and there is magic. And Dragons. and zombies, and…
And it really is rather fun. It tells of the time when two major superpowers are fighting for dominance, and this fight spills over into the new lands that are being colonized; the colonists are at that point where they’re wondering why they are still beholden to a far off land that mostly sees them as a source of revenue, and the age of exploration is just beginning as the western expansion is starting and everyone is seeing the advantage in owning and controlling the lands they’re finding out there. The indians, of course, aren’t so hot on that idea.
The story echoes some of the real happenings in our universe involving the exploration and control around the Great Lakes, and here, Stackpole writes about the creation of a fort by one power to assert control over the lakes while the other power sends people over to work with the colony to prevent this from succeeding.
It’s a well-told story based in a fascinating time period that’s been under-utilized and which most of us aren’t very familiar with Stackpole has some leeway in making events fit his need without creating the “hey, that’s not how it really went” echoes you sometimes hit with historical fiction in familiar locales. The fantasy elements have been carefully crafted into the story, but at the same time, he hasn’t made them a focal point. All in all, I really liked the quality of the writing and the story, and it’s a solid piece of world building.
It is the first book in a series, but this book tells a story in its entirety without cliffhangers. There’s a second story in the cycle — what I think is going to be a fascinating one — that builds out of the resolution of this first book, but it’s definitely a second story, not just phase 2 of this one. One of the things I hated back in the days of OtherRealms were what I called the three book novels — and that hasn’t changed much. This book isn’t one of those; it’s its own story that stands alone nicely even though it’s clearly part of a larger story arc.
So all in all, a successful and entertaining book. Well worth picking up and reading, and I’m definitely putting book 2 on my todo list. If you’re at all interested in historical fiction and historical fantasy, you’ll want to grab a copy and spend an evening or two with it.
One of the projects I’ve been working on the last few days is cleaning up and organizing my files ands refreshing my offiline archives. I generated enough new data on my latest trip that I realized it was time to think out how to store my data when my current setup ran out of room, which it was going to do in the next couple of months at the rate I was adding new images. I wrote abouthow I did backups a while back, but that’s almost 18 months ago now, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised it’s time to revisit this and update my processes.
I decided it was time to retire the older disk mechanisms and upgrade everything to two terabyte drives, and as long as I was doing that, I decided it made sense to move my data to a mirrored RAID and to a NAS. With the exception of the internal drive in my laptop (about a year old) and the bus-powered 2.5″ drive I use as a cloned and bootable backup of the laptop, all of my other drive mechanisms are being retired and refreshed, and all new drive mechanisms are going to be 2 Terabyte drives. The two 2.5″ drives are a year old, and I’ll refresh them this fall when they hit 18 months old.
Remember rule one of my backup strategy — the best possible backup is one you never have to use, and the best protection against needing to use a backup is to replace your drive mechanisms before they fail. It is especially true of drives that get carried around and bounced a bit — like those in a laptop — that in my opinion, they need to be replaced every year or 18 months, depending on how hard you are on your hardware. You still need backups, but if you spend a few bucks on replacing that drive mechanism every so often, you will be a lot less likely to NEED the backup, and that’s ultimately what we all want, right? A good 500Mb, 7200 RPM laptop drive is under $100. How many hours of lost time do you need to waste recovering a disk to pay for that?
So I decided to tear down how I was storing all of my data, and here’s what I came up with. I’m continuing to use a 500Mb internal in my laptop where I carry all of my key files and active set of data, and a 2nd 500Mb that’s bus powered (no power brick) firewire that I update weekly using Superduper! which means that drive is bootable, and if something bad happens, I can boot from the spare on another Mac and carry on with minimal disruption.
What’s new here is I’m replacing my 2nd drive, which was a firewire drive with a 500Mb mechanism inside, with a NAS (Network Attached Storage). Given I rejected that option last time, what changed? Mostly, my work habits. I spend more time untethered from my desk and working ad hoc around the house, and it is nice to be able to access files without going to the desk and wiring in. As my photo library grows, I’m putting more of it on the secondary drive instead of carrying it on my primary disk — the combination of the two makes putting the data on the network and accessing it that was what convinced me to change my mind. I considered a Drobo, I still feel it’s overkill for my use (but don’t consider that a criticism of the Drobo, merely an evaluation of my situation).
I ended up buying the D-Link DNS-323 NAS. It’s an expensive, simple device that came recommended by a couple of co-workers. In it I put a couple of 2Tb drives set up as a RAID 1 mirror, and it’s hooked up via ethernet to my network. Total cost for the NAS and two drives was about $350 (using the western digital caviar green mechanisms — $80 apiece for 2 terabytes. wow).
I’ve used the NAS for under a week so it’s too early to talk about reliability and performance (but so far, so good); installation was straight forward, but be aware it’s windows-centric. If you’re a Mac user, it’ll be a little more complicated, but if you use vmware or parallels to carry around a windows virtual machine (as I did), that works. the NAS creates a samba server; there are ways to make it be an AFP server, but right now, I want to leave it stock and see how things work.
Another thing I needed to upgrade was the home network. I was still using a first generation Time Capsule as my wifi router, which didn’t have the full 802-11n dual band capability. After some research, I replaced it with the Netgear N750 because it does have full dual band wifi, so slow devices won’t slow down the rest of the network, and gigabit ethernet for the wired devices. It should significantly improve throughput here, which will help maximize performance of the NAS.
With a NAS, your network is part if your data pathway, so you need to make sure it’s not getting in your way.
This is requiring rethinking my backup strategy, but in some ways also simplifies it, remember that a mirrored raids adds redunancy and reliabiltiiy but a raid is not a backup. If you lose a drive, at the mirror covers is and allows to to replace the drive and rebuild the raid, but what if you have the controller fry and scrible garbage across your drives as it dies?
So you need backups. Since its not connected to my mac and is a samba device, Time Machine and SuperDuper! won’t solve this. Instead, I’m going to use a 2Tb drive in a firewire housing and use rsync to pull the data over. This will actually be two drives, one being rotated offsite. Since the data on the NAS won’t change as often as on my laptop, I’m not worried about doing instant backups — the rsync backup is more for unit failure or data corruption, and for the latter, having a backup that is NOT backed up constantly is a good thing. If doesn’t help recover your data if all of your backups have been corrupted, so keeping a backup around that isn’t updated immediately is a nice insurance against that. The plan is to manually update this backup once a week, or whenever I put significant data onto the NAS, and rotate this backup offsite monthly.
I could create the offsite backup by removing one of the NAS drives and replacing it and having the NAS rebuild the RAID, but to be honest, I like the idea of having a copy of the data on a Mac-readable device, so I’ll use a firewire drive instead for now and see what happens. I could decide to change this. Adding in diversity if it doesn’t add in unnecessary complexity is good, so little things like buying drives at different times or usinng drives from two manufacturers To limit design issues that might affect all of your mechanisms doesn’t hurt — there are little things you can do to limit some of the more obscure “ouch” factors, like buying your drives from two vendors or over time so you get them from different manufacturing batches, or using drives from two manufacturers — every once in a while a set of drives will have a common flaw that might now show up for weeks or months, and if you can acquire your drives so that not all of them end up being in that same recall batch, so much the better. And if you buy your drives over time, they’ll all be slightly different ages in your rotation — and if you buy them over a period of two months, they’re unlikely to all wear out at the same time on you. These are all decisions that impact rather rare edge cases, but with backups, most of what you’re trying to avoid are edge case failures…
The thing I like about this is how it scales. I expect the NAS will take 18 months or so to fill, maybe a bit more. If it fills faster, I have the option of switching to 3 Terabyte drives, or adding a second NAS (and four drives and a firewire casing). At minimally more hassle in my backup regime, I’ve got a setup that I won’t have to re-architect for a number of years — probably when I hit ten terabytes of data it’ll make sense to go to a larger data array rather than a platoon of smaller NASS, and by then, the technologies to manage this will likely be a lot better, too.
I just need to remember to backup the NAS when I make big changes, and swap offsites on a regular basis; and even if I don’t do that religiously, most of the data on the NAS is static, so even if my offsite is a couple of months old and the house burns down, I have a way to get the data back.
In this format, I end up with lots of copies of my data: my laptop drive is backed up to two different places for a total of four copies (the live version, two bootable backups, and the Time Machine backup); one set of that data also is kept offsite, for a total of five copies, one of which might be a month old, and one a week old — and those protect me from corruption issues that don’t show up right away.
My secondary data is stored live on two mirrored drives, and backed up to a third, with a copy of that third offsite. That means it lives on four drives, one might be a week old, one a month old. That’s pretty good. the biggest risk is a failure of the NAS itself, which would take out both mirrors; if the drives are good, replacing the NAS solves the probelm, if the NAS scribbles the drives, you still have the older backup to recover from (and that’s why it’s always good to have copies of data not plugged into anything that mights scribble!).
I’m a bit anal on my backups, and I admit it happily. On the other hand, having lost key data under deadline, I’d rather not ever do that again; and so far, the strategy I’ve used has worked pretty well. How’s your backup strategy working for you?
As is my tradition, I am now going to embarrass myself by picking the playoff winners in the first round and my choices for Stanley Cup finalists and winners. Please do not use this info for betting, unless you like losing money. For what it’s worth, last year I picked 6-2 in the first round, but I’m normally closer to .500. and 3-1 in the second round, and then sort of faded to black. My choice for the finals were San Jose and Washington, so you can tell I didn’t keep up that torrid pace.
This year the playoffs look to be some really good hockey. I’m definitely looking forward to it.
In the West –
Vancouver/Chicago — Chicago snuck in to the playoffs after losing so many players from their Cup run. good for them, but it wn’t last long. Vancouver is a great team, and Chicago won’t beat them. Canucks in 5.
San jose/Los Angeles — Growing up in hockey a kings fan, I can’t think of a series I’m looking forward to more than Sharks/Kings. And Lombardi gets to face his old team in the playoffs. And it’s a california rivalry series. And.. And… And LA is a pretty darn good team. I don’t believe they can beat the Sharks, adn I don’t believe the Sharks will beat themselves, but I don’t think it’ll be remotely easy, and it’ll be a lot of fun. Sharks in 6.
Detroit/Phoenix — Detroit isn’t the team they have been and their goaltending is suspect to me. That means they’re merely scary as hell. Phoenix is a well-coached, hard playing team, but they won’t take the Red Wings. But the Red Wings need to be careful they don’t get injuries or bad bounces, or there could be a surprise here. Wings in 6.
Anaheim/Nashville: all three california teams in the playoffs. But in this one, I like Nashville, as good as Anaheim is. I’ll take the Predators in 6.
My pick coming out of the West — San jose. Because it’s what I do. And because I think this year, this team looks like it’s solved the things that have gotten in the way in past years (like growing up and learning to not let down) but having said that, I also won’t be surprised to be wrong. Vancouver is scary, but if the Sharks are going to advance, it’s going to be through LA, through Detroit, and through Vancouver. That’s a tall order (if things go as I expect, 2nd round is Vancouver/Nashville and San jose/Detroit. And THOSE will be fun, too). Vancouver has an easier path, but not easy. So I can easily see San jose being worn down along the way, but Vancouver is going to come out of series with Chicago and Nashville tired and bruised, too. So in some ways, it’s a three way toss-up; I won’t be surprised at all if the western challenger in the finals is any of the top three seeds.
But I’ll pick San Jose, because i must.
Washington/Rangers — I definitely like the Capitals again this year, and the Rangers got in, but not by much. and deserved to get in, but they won’t win. Caps in 5.
Philly/Buffalo — ditto Buffalo. Flyers in 5.
Boston/Montreal — series to watch in the first round. Two teams with a history, most of it full of bad blood and anger. and now a playoff series or go home. I expect this to go seven, be tough, tight, physical and the biggest question is whether the winner will have enough to challenge in the second round, or be beaten up, exhausted and sent home. I’ll take Montreal in 7, and too tired to win whoever they play in the next round. But it’ll be historic hockey.
Pittsburgh/Tampa — lots of questions in Pittsburgh, starting with “Will he play?” If he does, all bets are off. but the way it looks now, I have to root for Tampa, and I think they’ll take this one in six.
My pick in the east? Washington. If they stay healthy and carry on the way they’ve played, I don’t see a team in the east stopping them. Philly is a dark horse, and I can’t see anyone else taking them out, barring injuries or a breakdown. the caps can beat themselves, nobody else in the east can.
And before I go…
As I noted earlier, we decided to sit out the playoffs and not renew our seats next year — take a step back, not spend so much time in the arena, and so we’ll be watching this playoffs from the couch on the big ass HP 50″ plasma in the media room. We’ve talked a lot about whether this was the right decision, and we both agree it was. I’ve talked to a number of our friends who’ve been going to the arena mostly since the start, and it’s surprising how many have been thinking down this same path, or have in the last couple of years. We’ve already talked a bit baout buying some games from folks in our section, and another couple we know from the cow palace days also are looking to back off, and we may just grab a chunk of their seats.
Just to reiterate — not mad at the sharks, it’s not about money, it’s not about the team, it’s not about anything, other than when you commit to 35 games a year like we have for 20 years, you end up spending all of your time in town and going to hockey games. Which we don’t regret a bit — but we both feel we want more flexibility to do other things, and I want the ability to go out and do more photography on weekends and do some traveling, where it seems it’s a real chore to coordinate that around games right now. If the sharks win it all this year, awesome. I’ll probably regret not being in the building when they win (but not much). I’ll definitely be watching and cheering. But I won’t miss the half dozen barker games a year, the not-competitive teams, the trapping teams. And we can always buy more games than we planned, or we can use this as an excuse to get back into going to other arenas like we used to, and get back up to Vancouver, or mayber finally get to Kelowna or do the edmonton/red deer/calgary trip. we’ll see.
Knowing that we were running down to the last few games in those seats, I’ve been kind of drinking it in, seeing it with fresh eyes; you tend to get in a routine being at so many games a year, maybe taking it all a bit for granted.
I remember a good number of years ago, back when the sharks really sucked (it may have been the Al Sims era in fact. shudder) when we were at one of those games you try to forget, and griping about how bad the team was playing that night. And two rows behind us were a couple of guys who’d painted their faces and were just having a ball, loud and just being crazy (in a good way). And so I got talking to them about why they were cheering such utter crap, and their response has stayed with me all these years — this was one of their two games in the arena that year and for them, the quality of the hockey was almost irrelevant. THEY WERE THERE.
I’ve tried to remember them ever since, and just back off and enjoy it for what it is; hard to do some nights, and hard to do when you spend your time tearing games apart and analyzing them and nit-picking everything to death. that’s one reason I backed way off on hockey blogging, because I think there’s something about being that tied into the games and trying to be analytical that turns you jaundiced and cynical after a while, and I simply didn’t want to go there (don’t believe me? Name me a beat writer or columnist out there who’s been covering hockey for any period of time that isn’t primarily negative and many times sounding rather bored with it all. Other than Elliott Friedman at CBC, it’s a ratehr short list; I find the vast majority of Canadian writers and many of the broadcasters absolutely intolerable, because they take is so damn seriously and negatively all the time. Although there will always be a place in my heart for Tom Benjamin at Canucks Corner, who has turned negativity into an art form, and I love him for it).
My seatmate the last couple of seasons is relatively new to hockey (Hi, doug!) but knows more than he thinks, and it’s been a lot of fun talking games through with him; he also has a strong sports background on the business side, and so we’ve had fun chewing on aspects of that as well. That’s been good for me, because it has helped me see games through his eyes as well, which has helped me keep that perspective on the games.
I have to admit I’ve had a ball this season, both watching hockey in general and in the arena watching the Sharks. It’s hard to remember today that in December and into January people were questioning this team, and even having the “should we trade Marleau” chat when he was in his enigmatic phase (again). And you look today, and watch them the last 20 games, and you need to remember that a season is a marathon, and nobody wins a marathon in mile 6 (but you certainly can lose one there). The best factor for the Sharks is that they finish seasons strong, and I’ll take a team that plays well in April over one that’s red hot in November any day. Of course, in November, April is a long way away so it’s hard to be sanguine…
If Doug Wilson doesn’t win executive of the year, I’ll be pissed. He doesn’t make blockbuster deals, but he makes deals that others don’t see that help the team. Don’t underestimate what bringing in Mayers and Wellwood and White did for this team.
And I don’t know about you, but I’m off to the couch to watch eight weeks of really kick ass hockey. Is the game perfect? No, waht is? can it be improved? sure. Am I going to worry about that? Not now, right now I’m going to enjoy it for what it is, and we can nit-pick how to improve instant replay some other time, okay?
And if you can’t step back and just enjoy this game for all the things that it is — maybe you need to step back… And speaking as someone who has, you may find the view better than the one you have right now.
On to the playoffs! may the best team win.