Sunday, November 15, 2009

Chinese Water Torture

It has been a while since the last posting and I'm not sure if anyone is actually reading this anymore. Two of my favorite Blogger blogs (you know who you are :-) have had an eerie silence for the last few months. Several things have happened since I last wrote, keeping me away from writing here.

Mom & Dad's Visit & Home Improvement

My parents came to visit for a week a couple of weeks ago. I always look forward to seeing them - being 2,000 miles away means we only get a chance to see each other in person about once a year. They have a dog and I have a geriatric cat that has special needs, so we both have a bit of a problem coordinating visits. Since I live alone, having people in the house is always a little challenging because I'm used to my own schedule, interests, TV viewing habits, etc. On the other hand they're low maintenance, and I get a chance to show them all the neat places around here to eat, and they get a chance to take a break from all the chores of their own house (mostly).

My father and I replaced the exhaust fan in my master bathroom, and that was overly-complex like everything in this house is to fix. I learned about a new problem with the latest thinking in making houses air-tight for energy efficiency purposes. The term is called negative pressure, and it is what happens when you try to suck air from a space without providing some air coming in to replace it. My house was made very energy efficient, and by that I mean they made the living area pretty much air-tight. There is actually plastic sheeting behind the sheet rock on the outer walls. What contributed to the bathroom fan going bad and not working properly is the lack of any air coming in from outside to replace the air the fan was trying to suck out of the bathroom and blow outside. This also explains why the kitchen exhaust fan never seems to sufficiently pull cooking odors from the house. There is no easy fix, and with the city mandating even more "energy efficiency updates" it is likely that the problem will get worse. This, again, is an example of unintended consequences. Why are people all of a sudden having problems with mold, radon, and outgassing of construction materials? Here's your answer, and the fix doesn't come cheap. It also underscores why all these chemical perfumes in air fresheners, cleaners, and other products are so irritating to those sensitive to them (like me).

The other thing my father did (since he was involved in water distribution for a while) was take a peek at my water meter, and like when he did last visit he discovered I had a water leak. It didn't take long to find it (it took a while to convince Dad though) - the culprit was the cold water faucet in the master bathroom tub that Smokey likes to drink from. There was a slow drip that is leaking about a quart of water a day (not horrible, but it is staining the tub and is just plain wasteful). So we try to fix the faucet, which should be as simple as replacing a plastic cartridge valve stem ("should be," being the important phrase here). Don't believe Moen's lifetime warranty for a second. Why? Well, nothing that comes in contact with water that contains a lot of calcium/mineral deposits lasts forever. The other thing is that Moen has so many exclusions in their warranty that it renders the warranty practically useless. I digress, though. What I found first is that removing the cartridge from the tub valve requires a special tool, and while Home Depot and Lowe's carry the cartridges in the store, one can only obtain the $3.50 tool online. The tool arrived the day after my parents left, and I went to the store, bought what I thought was the correct cartridge, and proceeded to do the fix. I then discovered that the cartridge for this Moen two-valve set is slightly larger than the ones available at the store. I need to purchase the new cartridge online, of course. Dad recommended trying to replace the O-rings to see if that's where the leak was happening, but as I figured the problem was mineral deposits scoring the plastic surface in contact with the valve stem, so the cartridge is just bad. So for now, my faucet continues to drip...drip...drip. Thankfully I don't think I made anything worse than it originally was.

I told Dad he was not allowed to look at my water meter the next time he was here! :-)

Sick Again

In return for my comments about not getting paranoid about germs, I came down with a nasty cold a couple of days before my parents left last week. That has completely taken me out-of-service for the last several days. This is one of those upper respiratory things where your head hurts and the post nasal drip on your throat causes a hacking cough. I stayed home from work on Thursday and Friday and am now only now (on Sunday, of course) feeling well enough to handle my usual workload. This bug was particularly weird. I woke up Friday morning with blood all over my face that had dripped down onto my pillow case. I didn't realize it until I looked at myself in the mirror and realized I looked like a scene from CSI. I never get nosebleeds. A less dramatic version of the same thing happened last night, and the only thing I can figure is that the airflow from my CPAP irritated my nasal passages enough to cause bleeding. Last night I started coughing after I went to bed (after a whole evening of feeling pretty good), and that's when I noticed I had a bloody nose again. So I think that I'll need to be a bit careful tonight. Here's hoping all is back to normal finally. I haven't died yet, although I didn't get much sleep last night.

Learning About Subversion

I'm not a good patient when it comes to getting sick. I feel I need to always be doing something, so I spent a lot of Thursday, Friday, and the weekend (during periods of lucidity) learning the finer points of the Subversion version control system for work. In particular, I have been trying to find a more elegant way to track the custom changes we make to the Asterisk PBX software in our environment, while still leaving us a way to upgrade as newer releases come out.

It turns out that the feature we're looking for is called "vendor drops," and is explained in the very helpful online book, Version Control With Subversion. The way I set-up the repository was like this (click on image to get a more readable version):

What I was trying to accomplish here was to load branch versions of Asterisk (from the open source project) as needed into asterisk->vendor->current and then tag that release and put it under "vendor." That version would get merged back to "trunk" that would be used for development of our internal changes and releases. When we release a version to be put into production, we tag the current "trunk" into "tags" with an internal revision number tacked onto the original Asterisk version number (in case we needed to make several internal releases from that revision). The same thing will be done to libpri, dahdi, and asterisk-addons in the same manner. I have the last 4 internal releases we have done put into Subversion so far, and it looks to be working. Since the phone system is running Gentoo Linux, I'm creating an ebuild for all the components each time there is an internal release to be made (that will likely be tracked under trunk and moved into our portage overlay).

Ultimately I am shooting for putting the entire phone system development tree into Subversion as it should be (right now it is only in RCS). There an extensive amount of dialplan & configuration files, MySQL database table/trigger/function definitions, perl scripts, and a bunch of other stuff (including some sound files) that really need to be tied together in a more cohesive fashion.

As an aside, I'd like to add that Blogger doesn't have a nice way to add diagrams or preformatted text of any kind without simply adding them as an image. This is one of the reasons why I hesitate to put more technical information in here.

Political Rants?

I am going to refrain from Blatant Stupidity, political or religious rants for the time being. Not that there isn't an abundance of frustrations on my mind - in fact, enough to really make me wonder about human beings in general - I just can't see where writing it all down right now is going to be constructive.

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