Sunday, June 3, 2007


I know, I know, I don't get a chance to write enough. I really do try, but we are working here a lot. I've literally been trying to finish this post since Sunday (its now Tuesday night...). I'm almost ready to go back to my day job at ACC now just to be able to get some rest. But since I can't do that yet, I think it is time to geek out for a bit and talk about all the cool technology we have here and what exactly my role is in making this stuff work.

First, as I've mentioned a few times are the sensors. I had a good description of them in my last post. For the most part, they are all Hobo brand and take readings and download them via infrared and/or USB links. If anyone wants to know exactly what data we can collect let me know and I'll get the info to you. That is too geek even for a "geek" post, btu we will get there. Oh and I almost forgot the web cams, where Ryan and I have been having a little Canada vs. USA tech war over the Stanley Cup. I could totally nuke him, just like Anaheim is going to do to Ottawa tomorrow, but I like to cut him some slack, sometime.

To protect the data the sensors collect, that we generate via reports and sample processing, to store all the research data we brought with us, and all the photo and video documentation we generate in an easily accessible location, we have a Windows 2003 R2 server. I have already mentioned this too and apologized then to my geek friends for not using Linux in this role. Again if you want to know my reasons let me know and I'll geek-out with you for a while on my philosophy on operating system deployment and the reasons to use Win vs. Linux vs Netware. For now I'll save that for the advanced networking classes. I also mentioned that all this runs on my old Compaq Presario 2100 laptop.

To actually protect that data I had devised a plan to use ten 80gig SATA drives in a RAID 5 configuration. (How many of your eyes glazed over at that sentence, huh? I told you this was a geek post...) Unfortunately I ran out of time to test the setup as well as I would have liked in the lab back home. Largely this was due to the brand new nature of the hardware I had to find to make this work. It was all back ordered or in beta test. That meant that the deployment here was the first time I had it all set up in one place, and well, it is a little unstable. Like someone walks by, or jumps off the bike downstairs, or even breathes in its direction it drops drives out of the array for just long enough to start a rebuild. RAID rebuilds and inits on that old Compaq take a long time, like days; so now we just have individual SATA drives connected to the two port PCMCIA SATA RAID controller. Every time a drive starts to fill up I archive its contents to DVD then compress the data and put another on-line. Its a PITA but it works and with a near and off-line backup I feel safe that the data is not going away, even here in one of the worst environments on the planet.

Well that is a start on what we have deployed now. What we still have to play with are the self reparable sensor networks, the Georgia Tech APRS system, the radiation detector that Emily sent us, and a few surprises that I'll keep to myself for now. I will say that we have a full scientific database with audio, photo, and video components that should be on-line soon. Stay tuned geek readers. There will be a follow up to this post with more; but for now the pictures, geek stuff first, cool-kid stuff later:

Our DC power supply
not high tech, but something I've been tinkering with.

PH test on the biology samples, very high tech

My "office"
Server on the left, my machine in the middle, and Kim's donation to the web cams on the right

OK, cool stuff now.

Kathy, Simon, and James posing before EVA
(yes Mom, the rosy cheeks are windburn)


sharron said...

Glad you came back to your was time...I know you are busy and having fun at it too so I try not to worry. The pictures are good..yeah you do have red cheeks but you looked good. Preston is here watching me type this, he says "Hi, and have you seen any real polar bears?" School is out and he is here for a few day with Gram. Keep having fun and try to find some rest time..that is important too. Love U, Mom

Dad said...

Jim, Well, glad to see that you have caught up enough to write, but, I know that you are busy.So, keep up the good work and write when you can. All is well here,ande I have plans of going to Pidcoke next week to see if we can get the buildings brought in and set up,hopefully the week after, if Paul can get off. I fully appreciate the geek trip on your electronics. (I could atleast undrestand the picturies. (Ha-Ha) I'll say goodby for now,keep having fun, it's a great life.
As always,Love Dad

Linda said...

I'm glad they don't have a fire marshall nearby. He would be forced to "unplug" most of your "office" and cite you for a major fire hazard. You look like you've lost weight. I'm so proud of you and what you are doing. You've accomplished so much with your life. Stay warm and safe.


PauloutWest said...

But with Linux, you could have changed the RAID time out, But I understand why you chose to use an inferior OS. Sadly, you needed drivers...

Ah, such is life on the edge...

James Harris said...

Actually Paul the RAID timeout is in the card firmware. It is an actual hardware RAID, not software. And Linda, don't worry there are no fire marshals on Devon. Even if there were all that you see there, plus the rest of the computer bench, uses less than 15 amps total and is on a circuit that is wired for 20.