Archive for category Software

Wanna go green? Start with business practices!

Its about time I dust this blog off! I have had 3 post ideas in my inbox for months and never sat down to write them! So lets start with going green.

These days it doesn’t matter where you look, you will find a reference to going green. CFL light bulbs, ‘green’ household cleaners, ‘green’ billing practices, etc. Green is as much a buzzword as it is an actual attempt to save the environment. Well in this post I’m going to do what everybody else does and use the ‘green’ initiative as an advertisement to further my cause.

Here’s the real point. Why are companies asking me to go ‘green’ and sign up for e-billing for their service while AT THE SAME TIME their marketing department is paper-mailing advertisements addressed to me by name asking me to sign up for SERVICE I ALREADY HAVE? First of all, that advertisement is going straight in the trash recycle bin. Second, this is an annoyance to the customer and as a software person its a disgrace. Why can’t different groups communicate just enough to check if someone has a service before sending an advertisement? Surely you could do the math and prove if this is rolled out nationwide the cost of developing software to check the customer database before printing ads would pay for itself in no time.

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iTunes is driving me nuts!

I’ve never been the biggest Apple fan so my friends won’t find this rant to be too much of a surprise. I use an IBM Thinkpad w/ 2.1GHz mobile processor + 2GB ram. I recently upgraded from Server 2003 (basically XP) to Server 2008 (basically Vista) just to give it a try. Since the upgrade I have not been able to get iTunes to playback music without stuttering!

Before the upgrade I remember I had iTunes do this before. I don’t remember the solution but I do remember that I almost always ignore when new versions come out because I fear that they would bring the stutter back.

So when I upgraded to Vista of course I reinstalled iTunes and grabbed the latest version (8.0.1). I have a consistent stutter when I play music now. I tried the suggestions of many others in the net ( but to no avail. I also tried downgrading to the last 7 release but no luck. This just stinks. Makes me wish that I didn’t have half of my music tied up with Apple’s DRM so that I could use a different media player.

Just for the record, Windows Media Player and other players can play my mp3s with no stutter.

The stutter does not seem to have a bearing on CPU usage. Even if iTunes is the only thing going, and I give iTunes higher priority I still get stutter. I hope that a new version with a fix comes out soon or that someone can point me to a working fix!

PS: Some day when I have time to make a long post not during working hours I’ll give a good detailed review of my OS transition.

PowerEdge 6650 NIC Issues


I have a new problem with my Dell PowerEdge 6650 servers. They crash! Well sort of. Under heavy NFS usage (usually compiling a large program over NFS mount) the machine seems to hang. I use the word seems because all SSH connections to the machine timeout and it does not respond to network traffic. However, a look at the console proves the machine is alive and well.


  • 2x Dell PowerEdge 6650 Servers (One NFS client, One NFS server)
  • Embedded Broadcom BCM5700 Gigabit NICs (Connected via Cisco Gigabit switch)
  • CentOS 5.2 custom kernel 2.6.25


Once on the console the obvious act is to check the system logs. If you wait long enough, the network interface begins working again and the following messages are in the system log. Of course eth1 may be replaced by your interface.

kernel: NETDEV WATCHDOG: eth1: transmit timed out
kernel: tg3: eth1: transmit timed out, resetting
kernel: tg3: DEBUG: MAC_TX_STATUS[00000008]  MAC_RX_STATUS[00000008]
kernel: tg3: DEBUG: RDMAC_STATUS[00000000]  WDMAC_STATUS[00000000]
kernel: tg3: tg3_stop_block timed out,  ofs=1800 enable_bit=2
kernel: tg3: tg3_stop_block timed out,  ofs=4800 enable_bit=2
kernel: tg3: eth1: Link is down.

This says that the ethernet watchdog figured out that the network interface hung or crashed or deadlocked or got stuck. The remedy? The watchdog restarts the interface.

So everytime you get the network crash you have two options….

  1. Wait ~15 minutes for it to fix itself (miraculous, I know!)
  2. Restart the networking service

Resolution 1

As I mentioned this was fairly repeatable for me. All I had to do was attempt to compile an application in a remote directory mounted with NFS. The NFS client was always the party to crash. The cheap (well lazy) fix that I took was to add a spare PCI gigabit NIC to the client machine. This resolved the problem on the client side.

Problem Re-emergence

After a couple weeks of operating with the client on PCI NIC and server on embedded NIC, the server’s NIC locked up just like the client’s had previously. This time I got a little fed up because I didn’t have a spare gigabit NIC to put in the server.

Resolution 2 – I Hope

This resolution is tentative. I have implemented it and have not had a crash but I do not trust that it is permanently fixed until more time has passed. I’ll post an update if I have any new issues.

At the advice of the local sysadmin I went to Dell’s website and poked around until I found an ISO cd image that contained all of the possible firmware updates for the PowerEdge 6650 on one CD. He recommended I give that a try and upgrade every single piece of firmware possible.

The result of the scan from the CD was that I was up to date on everything but “BMC” the Board Management Controller. My version was 1.64 and the latest was 1.78. So I let the CD do the firmware upgrade for me.

Since the upgrade (28 days ago) and a reboot I have not had another NIC crash. I don’t consider this conclusive yet because it is very possible that the situation has to be just right.

In summary the correct solution appears to be to update all of the server firmware (duh?). The easiest way to do that is to get the update CD for your OS from Dell. The CD is called something like “Dell CD ISO – PowerEdge Updates”. Let this also be a warning. Until I knew that update CD existed, I thought that I had upgraded all of the firmware possible in the server via individual floppies. Don’t make the same mistake, try Dell’s update all CD.

Failure .. Again!

Today I have crashed the NIC in the NFS server again… I’m looking for a new fix!

See Comments for updates from me.