Sunday, December 19, 2010

I Hate Computer Hardware

I enjoy writing software, hacking on other software, and otherwise geeking out at the software level. But I hate computer hardware. It's not fun to work with, it's annoying, and requires an arsenal of special purpose tools to work with effectively.

I used to assemble my own x86 systems back when that could actually save you a couple thousand on a new system. I don't do that anymore. I will upgrade components like memory or a wireless card, but aside from that, I don't want to get inside the computer. And yesterday reminded me why.

I bought a new SSD for my Dell Mini 9. Specifically, the RunCore Pro 64GB 50mm PATA Mini PCIe SSD. That's a lot of technobabble to say I am quadrupling the hard disk space in my netbook.

The Mini 9 is a now discontinued netbook that exposes the wireless card, SSD, WWAN, and memory cards to the user. Remove them and install new ones if you want. The first thing I did when I got it last year was install more memory. The second thing I did was replace the wireless card with an Intel one so I could use it more easily under Linux. Replacing the SSD seemed equally trivial.

I stripped both screws in the process and only got one out. Ugh. So I've got some more tools en route to me as well as a Mini 9 screw kit. Have I mentioned I hate hardware?

Once I get the 64GB SSD in place, I'll do a reinstall of OpenBSD. Oh, right, I didn't tell everyone. I'm not using Fedora Linux on my netbook anymore. I'm tired of the constant changing of core system components. I can't effectively use Fedora for my non-work work and things change so fast that I have to constantly relearn how to do simple things. Or at least learn the new approved way of the week. Some people enjoy this, I just don't want that on my personal system. Call me a greybeard unwilling to change, I don't really care. I want a simple Unix system that runs modern software, but doesn't adopt every new half-baked idea that comes along. I thought of FreeBSD for a few minutes (I used that for about 5 or so years, I forget), but went with OpenBSD because it seemed more like what I wanted now.

Top 5 things I like about OpenBSD:
  • They discourage users from building a custom kernel. They tell users that config(8) on a compiled kernel will most likely do what people are looking for when they try to come up with their own kernel configuration.
  • They discourage users from rebuilding the entire operating system. I think this is what I hated most about FreeBSD. Yes, cool, I get it, I can compile the whole OS. So what?
  • Configuration of wireless devices is provided by ifconfig(8). No need for iwconfig, NetworkManager, or wpa_supplicant. It's nice.
  • Detailed man pages for everything! OpenBSD has great documentation, and a vast majority of it is available in man pages. I really wish Linux did a better job of this.
  • I install 36 packages from ports after installing OpenBSD and that doesn't expand to 2636 like it would on Fedora.
  • I can understand pf syntax unlike iptables.
That was actually 6 things. Ooops. But there are some things I dislike about OpenBSD. Top 5 dislikes:
  • Firmware for Intel wifi adapters is not included with the base system. I understand the reasoning, but even Fedora is shipping those. I think no BSD or Linux distribution has a correct grasp on what can and can't be included from a legal standpoint. I wish we would all normalize what we can include from wifi firmware, MP3 support, and the other taboo technologies that everyone uses but can't ship.
  • I wish there was a ports tree that was in sync with the -stable branch rather than exclusively following -current. If you want to contribute to ports, even just a patch, you more or less have to be running -current.
  • They still use cvs, which is excruciatingly slow. While I advocate git, just any of the other distributed version control systems would be an improvement.
  • fdisk(8) and disklabel(8) suck from a user interface standpoint. The installation goes from yes/no questions to this overly technical clown barf on the screen. This might be because I work on installation daily and partitioning and such is always on my mind.
That was only 4. Another oops. It's probably not the ideal system for everyone.

On the new SSD, here's the mountpoints I came up with:
  • / (100M)
  • swap (2048M)
  • /tmp (50M)
  • /var (100M)
  • /usr (600M)
  • /usr/X11R6 (300M)
  • /usr/src (1024M)
  • /usr/xenocara (1024M)
  • /usr/ports (512M)
  • /usr/obj (1500M)
  • /usr/xobj (1024M)
  • /usr/local (4096M)
  • /home (32768M)
That leaves 20390M unallocated. I predict /usr/ports, /usr/local, and /home growing, so I'll leave space where I can grow those somewhat easily.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

So Close to 50k Miles

Living in Hawaii makes it easy to earn a lot of frequent flyer miles. As a loyal Delta customer (have to support the hometown businesses), I am able to maintain SkyMiles Medallion status. The SkyMiles program has changed a lot since I've been living in Hawaii. Benefits change slightly and the names of things change more often than anything else. Medallion, Elite, SkyTeam Elite, Breezeway, Sky Priority, ... the list goes on. Basically they all mean you can board the plane before other people, which is useful because you get first pick of the overhead storage space.

Delta has 4 levels for the Medallion status. The Silver level is attained after you fly 25000 miles in a year. Gold is 50000 miles. Platinum is 75000 miles. And Diamond is 125000 miles. Diamond is the newest and it was added because Delta found that the super frequent fliers are usually way beyond 75000 miles, so they created a new level.

The mileage requirements are actual miles flown (per program rules) in the calendar year. Bonus miles, miles earned from credit cards, and other such non-flying miles rarely count towards medallion status. Another nice trick is that Delta awards a minimum of 500 miles per flight, so puddle jumping can earn you a lot of miles in a short distance.

I am currently just under 41000 miles for the calendar year. I will most likely hit the Gold requirement for this year again. Karen just leveled up to Silver during Thanksgiving.

So why do I care about this? Delta is really nice to Medallion members. All of the benefits listed seemed pointless, but they are nice. Two free checked bags on every flight. Priority check in, special reservations number, automatic complimentary upgrades to first class (various rules apply and there is a pecking order with other medallion members), boarding before the other suckers, double miles earned, and other things. It all seems pointless, but every since I achieved that level, I don't want to lose it.