Archive for September, 2006

why do Windows filesystems suck so?

September 27th, 2006

As far as I know, there has been *no* development on the filesystem front at Microsoft. Of course, there was the vaporware WinFS, but that was supposed to be a meta fs on top of ntfs anyway. So, I think it's safe to assume that the filesystem that shipped with Windows NT, ntfs, continues to please. Otherwise there is still fat32, and the WinXP installer gives you the option to use either one. I am not impressed by any of these two.

Historically, fat32 was a replacement for fat16, it was great when it first came out with Windows95, supporting long file names, files up to 4gb size etc. But today, 4gb is a size exceeded by lots of files. fat32 is also fairly prone to crashes. If you pull the cord just as a file write is in progress, the drive halts in a corrupted state. So next time you boot, Windows will run scandisk to examine the state of the damage. This could be harmless, it could also be quite serious, depending on your luck.

Enter ntfs, the "industrial strength" filesystem the world was waiting for. ntfs I think is the only option in Windows Vista, and it looks like Microsoft will be banking on it for many years yet. And yet I've had more unrecoverable crashes with ntfs than I've had with fat32 (which I've use longer). I recall using Partition Magic back in the days, which worked like a charm with anything but ntfs. And the checks for corruption on ntfs volumes would also takes ages to complete. I stopped using ntfs as I just didn't trust it. It's like a complicated beast of a system (which I guess is why old PowerQuest didn't do such a great job of supporting it), that noone (save for MS) seems to understand, that only works well in ideal conditions (don't try to resize it or anything 'crazy' like that) and if it crashes, who knows what to do. The lack of ntfs support on linux also tells the story of a filesystem which might just be more complicated than it needs to be. In addition, there's no straightforward way to make a full system backup (without specialized 3rd party software), because of all the special locks and restrictions MS has on selected files.

While it's evident that fat32 is antiquated, I would only use ntfs while vigorously backing it up (to the extent that it's even possible), knowing that if it blows up, there's a host of complicated ntfs recovery tools out there, most very limited in what they offer, but none that I've actually succeeded doing anything with.

welcome to the family, Trekstor

September 26th, 2006

I bought a usb stick 6 months ago. I was skeptical, as I didn't think I would really need it, and it turns out it was only useful for about 2 weeks. Now it's just lying on a shelf waiting to be used for something again. I bought the cheapest one they had at Media Markt, I believe it was about €22 for 256mb. The brand was Trekstor, a company I had never heard of before, but on the box they print that the stick is compatible with Linux, how unusual. So I bought it, and it was. After all, it's just a usb mass storage device, of course it's compatible, it's the most common type of usb device. But it's refreshing to get a break from the "requires Windows" mantra, for a company to have the guts to print "Windows/Mac/Linux" on the box.

trekstor_usbdrive.jpg

So the other day I was looking for an external usb drive, cause my laptop drive isn't that big, and lo and behold, there's Trekstor again. Again they're the cheapest and they even have a penguin on the box. So I went Trekstor again, a nice quiet 200gb external drive is now the latest addition to my [very short] list of gadgets. The little printed manual doesn't mention Linux at all, but the instructions for Windows are exceedingly simple, and Linux users don't need that hand holding anyway, if there's a driver for the device somewhere on the internet, they will find it and figure out how to use it.

trekstor_penguin.jpg

It turns out Trekstor also manufactures mp3 players. If and when my iRiver dies, I will seriously consider going with Trekstor. They may not have the strong audio focus of iRiver, but they support ogg (which so few companies do) and their players are based on... usb mass storage, just like the usb stick and the external hard drive. And since iRiver seem to have gone completely native with DRM, it's time to look for another vendor anyway.

on the steep curve

September 25th, 2006

Whenever you start doing something after a long pause from it, you generally suck. But since you've been doing it in the past, you're don't suck like a beginner, you just suck cause you're out of shape. And that's why the first few times you improve rapidly. You go from zero, nothing, to almost-showing-signs-of-ability. In short, the steep curve. Today was my third time playing and I'm about half way to the level I once was at my peak.

Of course, after reaching the almost-decent level, the steep curve ends. Then comes the polish phase, which takes forever. I played football for 10+ years and I would have maybe 1 games in 10 when I felt it went off like clockwork. The rest of the time it was always part good, part not-so-good. And always working on the polish, repeat ad nauseum. Tennis is looking really good at the moment, I've drawn up a schedule to play twice a week and there seem to be more people out there interested in playing. Today was a beautiful 2 hour session, it started to drizzle toward the end, gorgeous.

My game still needs a lot of work, I'm slow and my reflexes are off. But once I get the basics to a half decent level, there'll be plenty of time to polish, polish, polish.

I hate falling asleep

September 24th, 2006

There's a reason why sleep feels so good in the morning. There's a reason I like sleeping in, waking up, and staying in bed to get more sleep. It is such a wonderful change from trying to fall sleep and not succeeding. It doesn't happen to me a lot, once a month maybe. But when it does, it really pisses me off. Last night I felt tired, so I thought I'd try to go to bed early. I turned in at around 9pm and I sensed I was a little too alert to sleep. Nevertheless, I was determined to stick with it. After a while I hear noises from the kitchen, people talking and yelling. I knew this is not going to happen. Every time I try to sleep and can't is a defeat, which only adds that much irritation and bad experience to the night.

So I go to bed again at around 2am. By now the house is completely quiet. Just as I feel I'm falling asleep, a goddam fly buzzes right over my head and knocks me out of that feeling of losing consciousness. It is by being awoken from it that I actually know that I was about to fall asleep, cause by then I was already well on my way. And now comes the worst part, the thoughts. There's nothing worse in trying to fall asleep than starting to worry that it's not going to happen. I know this, but somehow the thought comes to me anyway. I try to push it away, but the moment I'm just a little bit conscious of it, I sense that I can't escape it. I try not to think about it, but it's there and while I'm not thinking about it, I'm conscious that it's just it's just one little thought away, so basically it's just as bad as consciously thinking about it.

I've heard people say that if you don't fall asleep within 10 minutes, then you're not tired enough to sleep right now. I cannot think of a time when I would take less than half an hour to fall asleep. So far as far as I'm concerned, that rule is nonsense.

One thing that really gets in the way of sleep is knowing that tomorrow there's something I have to get up for. This kills the prospect of a good night's sleep like nothing else. If it's just an everyday thing, it's not a problem. But if it's something out of the ordinary, a one time event, that is what triggers it. Again, I'm not obsessing about it, but I know that the thought is within reach. And at the first sign of insomnia, it comes knocking. Now there's pressure to fall asleep, cause there's a reason to be up at a certain time in the morning. A couple of times this has happened to me, I couldn't sleep for hours, I gave up and canceled my appointment, and then I could finally sleep.

So I try to distract myself from not sleeping. I watch some tv, a sitcom episode, surf the net for about 20 minutes, something to take my mind off not sleeping despite being increasingly tired. I go back to bed and the bed feels great. I lie on one side, after a while I turn to the other. The longer I'm not sleeping the more uncomfortable the bed feels. Suddenly it's hot, the pillow feels big, so I push it aside, I lie on my stomach, then on my side, on my back, again I can sense this is not going to happen.

I've tried various things to sleep, but I haven't found anything that really works. Taking a shower, going out for a walk, jogging to make myself physically tired, reading, watching tv, a glass of milk, a glass of water, coffee, tea, herbal tea, it's all just a stab in the dark.

Not falling asleep sucks. Eventually there comes a time when fatigue sets in (around 6am I'd say) to the point where falling asleep is very easy. Of course, by that time, any prospect of having a normal day tomorrow is long gone.

baby steps

September 22nd, 2006

6-0, 6-1. And an improvement of about 100% over last time, which doesn't show in the scoreline (did I mention I don't play well under pressure?).

The beauty about being rock bottom is that there's only one way to go. Up.