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Week of 0 January 2008

Latest Update: Saturday, 5 January 2008 11:49 -0500

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Monday, 0 January 2008
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08:05 - It's the first day of a new year and time for my 2008 resolutions, which are pretty much the same as they've been every year for the last several years. Here they are:

 1. Continue smoking
 2. Avoid exercise
 3. Avoid losing weight
 4. Eat more fatty foods
 5. Avoid getting organized
 6. Ridicule the Politically Correct at every opportunity
 7. Speak my mind on political and social issues
 8. Boycott the RIAA, MPAA, Sony, and Microsoft
 9. Write two or three books
10. Have fun.

Looking back over 2007, I think I did pretty well at keeping those resolutions. I expect to have similar success in the coming year.

Barbara is off to work. The good news is that she has a one-day work week this week. The bad news is that she has a three-day work week immediately following.

For me, today is devoted to administrative stuff. I need to burn a new set of archive DVDs, mail in some rebate forms, and do a bunch of other stuff I've been putting off.

12:50 - I've finished burning my year-end full-monty archive set to DVD. It took 11 discs, with 3.8 GB on the final disc. Splitting the directories and files wasn't as difficult as I expected it to be. K3b makes it quite easy, actually, because it lists the size of each directory and its contents.

I ended up copying /archive to /archive-temp and then deleting directories and files from /archive-temp after they'd been written to disc. Selecting the files and directories to be written to a particular disc typically took me about 30 seconds. I left anything from 25 MB minimum to about 150 MB maximum unused on each disc, so I was filling the discs pretty efficiently. After I burned each disc, deleting the files that had been written to it took another 30 seconds or so.

I boxed up the 2006 archive set along with the incremental discs needed to bring it up to current. I used an old 5.25" plastic diskette case (packratting does pay off eventually) that just held the dozen or so DVDs in the set. I'll drop that off with Mary Chervenak in the next day or so. She works at home, so if I desperately need the discs I'll be able to get them. If she and Paul both happen to be away from home, I have a key to their house for emergencies.

Not that I expect ever to need the off-site archive set. I've been archiving data for many years, from the days when floppy diskettes were the only option. I've never needed to use any of those archive sets. I also keep multiple copies of my archive directories on hard drives, internal and external, so anything I need to recover is readily available.

I'm also in the midst of doing four loads of laundry, and I'd better take the guys for a walk. Malcolm is lying there whining at me with his legs crossed.


Tuesday, 1 January 2008
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08:34 - Beware, beware the kalends of January.

Duncan turns 13 years old today. As always, his birthday was ushered in at midnight with fireworks, which he'd sooner do without. But it's Malcolm who's truly terrified by fireworks.

We took the dogs on their final walk of the evening around 9:00 last night, hoping to get it completed before anyone started setting off fireworks. Alas, someone celebrating early started shooting bottle rockets a block or two away. Booms, bangs, and pops terrify Malcolm, but the worst are the ones that whistle before exploding.

When the first bottle rocket went up, Malcolm went into frightened mode. He dropped into a crouch, put all four legs into first gear, and started pulling for home. When he does that, I'm hard-pressed to restrain him despite my 240 pounds. Dropping the leash and letting him head for home isn't an option. We did that once when he was a puppy, and eventually found him a mile from home.

I got a lot done yesterday, including burning my new archive set, but more remains to be done today, including sending in the rebate form for Barbara's new Pentax DSLR. Tomorrow, I'm back to shooting images for the chem lab book.


Wednesday, 2 January 2008
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10:30 - I'll spend all day shooting images for the chem lab book. I hope to have all of them shot this week, although I'm still waiting on some stuff that I need to arrive.


Thursday, 3 January 2008
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10:30 - I know this is getting repetitive, but today I'll be shooting images for the chem book. I typically make it through only eight or ten images a day, because I have to actually set up the experiment and run it in order to shoot the images. Sometimes I have to run the experiment more than once because I wasn't able to get the image I needed before a reaction completed or whatever.

As of now, I've shot all of the images I need except for those in chapters 16, 19, and 22. I have 16 images remaining to be shot, and for some of them I'm still waiting for stuff I need to be delivered. If the stuff doesn't arrive today or tomorrow, I guess I'll make do or just shoot an alternative image.


Friday, 4 January 2008
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08:24 - I managed to get eight of the 16 images shot yesterday, and should finish the remaining eight today.

We've been trying to estimate the final page count of the printed book, and it looks like I have room to add the one lab session I really wanted to add, one about the effect of catalysis on reaction rate. I'll write that one this weekend and shoot an image or two for it. At that point, the book will be complete.

A reader provides a solution to splitting large backups across multiple DVDs. I haven't tried this script yet, but I will use it next year when I do my 2007 archive set.

From: Bob Corbett
  To: Robert Bruce Thompson
Date: Fri Jan  4 02:26:50 2008
  Re: Making backups fit on dvds

Hi there,

Been reading your site for years and years, and saw your issue with backups. I don't know if this will help, but I saw you had a problem making backup files fit near enough exactly on dvds. So this is a very simple perl script I just wrote which will go through all the files and directories under the current directory. Each filename is written out to a 'backup file' (this file is just a list of files, not the actual contents of the files). When the total size of all the files would go over 4.5GB, the file is closed and a new one started.

The net result is you end up with a series of files, each of the files contains the names of just enough filenames to fit one dvd.

The files go in /tmp (if they went in the current directory they would add to the total backup).

The script will display the names of the files as it completes one file and starts the next.

To run it, put this text in a file called 'makebak.pl' (feel free to call it anything else that suits you better). Put this file in the top of the directory you want to backup.

chmod 755 makebak.pl


It won't create any huge files anywhere, or destroy anything. All it does is create a series of files in /tmp; each of those files contains the names of just enough files to fit one dvd. My dvd writer is bust at the moment, but I think you ought to be able to use k3b to read in one of these files and make a dvd out of it. There are command line ways to make dvd's, if I knew those well enough, they could be tagged onto the bottom of this script to make it a nice little batch job that would run with very little input required, except to feed the machine new dvd's.

The files created have names which use the date and time from the time the script was started, so you ought never to be able to accidentally overwrite a pre-existing file.

If you save the files from /tmp somewhere you will have a fairly easy way to locate the place where any particular file was stored

Here's the script:

# work through a listing of the current directory
# putting file/path names into 'backup files'
# such that there will not be more than 4.5GB worth
# of data in any one file
# Bob Corbett, New Zealand, Jan 2008
open (FILES, "find . -ls|") or die "Cant open file list\n";
#  0    1    2     3     4    5     6     7     8
($sec,$min,$hour,$mday,$mon,$year,$wday,$yday,$isdst) = localtime(time);
$year += 1900;
$bakfilebase = sprintf("/tmp/dvdbakfile-%04d-%02d-%02d_%02d-%02d-%02d",
$year, $mon, $mday, $hour, $min, $sec);
$bakfilesize = 0;
$filecounter = 0;
$bakfilename = sprintf("%s.%02d", $bakfilebase, $filecounter);
open(DATAFILE, "> $bakfilename") or die "Can't create first backupfile\n";
        # a sample of what we get
        # (inode, nblocks, perm, links, owner, group, size, date, date,
date, name)
        $_ =~ s/^\s+//;
        @file_entry = split(/\s+/, $_, 11 );
        next if ( $file_entry[2] !~ /^-/);
        if ( ($bakfilesize + $file_entry[6]) > 4500000000 )
                print "$bakfilename closed at $bakfilesize bytes\n";
                $bakfilename = sprintf("%s.%02d", $bakfilebase,
                open(DATAFILE, "> $bakfilename" ) or die "Cant create backup
                $bakfilesize = 0;
        print DATAFILE "$file_entry[10]\n";
        $bakfilesize += $file_entry[6];

This is what I got running it on my own system:

bob@pc156:~$ ./makebak.pl
/tmp/dvdbakfile-2008-01-04_20-18-58.00 closed at 4498262452 bytes
/tmp/dvdbakfile-2008-01-04_20-18-58.01 closed at 4499397062 bytes
/tmp/dvdbakfile-2008-01-04_20-18-58.02 closed at 3406803447 bytes
/tmp/dvdbakfile-2008-01-04_20-18-58.03 closed at 4494202951 bytes
/tmp/dvdbakfile-2008-01-04_20-18-58.04 closed at 4499882845 bytes
/tmp/dvdbakfile-2008-01-04_20-18-58.05 closed at 4499437994 bytes
/tmp/dvdbakfile-2008-01-04_20-18-58.06 closed at 3982920026 bytes
/tmp/dvdbakfile-2008-01-04_20-18-58.07 closed at 4005533071 bytes
/tmp/dvdbakfile-2008-01-04_20-18-58.08 closed at 4499921906 bytes

I see that file .02 is a bit small, this is because the next file in sequence is over a gig in size, it wouldn't fit on this dvd so we start a new file at that point. I ought to spend more time and make this a bit more intelligent so it fills the dvd's better, but that would take quite a bit of effort.

Hope it helps, feel free to discard it if it's of no use...


Saturday, 5 January 2008
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10:14 - I decided to take a break from shooting images yesterday, mainly because I'm still missing a couple things I need to shoot the last few images. Instead, I wrote up the additional lab session on the effect of a catalyst on reaction rate.

Today, I think I'll just putz around. I may do some cleanup in the lab. Right now, my lab looks like my office, with stuff covering every horizontal surface. In particular, I'm running out of clean glassware.

I also need to do some organizing in the lab, including adding some cupboard and drawer organizers. It's amazing how much stuff I've accumulated, and it's only going to get worse as I add stuff I'll need to do additional books in the DIY Science series.

11:49 - There are a lot of news articles today about Warner dropping support for HD-DVD as of next June and going exclusively to Blu-Ray. Most of these stories hint or say outright that this means Blu-Ray has won. In my opinion, all it means is that HD-DVD has lost, which isn't the same thing at all.

The industry seems to think that the format war is the reason sales of HD players and discs have been so underwhelmingly small. I think the format war had little to do with it. The truth is that there's almost no demand for HD video discs, particularly with the players and discs so overpriced. That, and the fact that the selection of HD discs is pitifully small.

You can buy a decent upsampling 1080p DVD player at Costco for $50 or $75, and the output on an HDTV is indistinguishable to most people from a Blu-Ray or HD-DVD disc, particularly at normal viewing distances. With that player, you can watch any of 100,000+ discs, most of which can be purchased for $8 to $15. Or you can buy a low-end Blu-Ray player at Costco for $380 and choose among a few hundred discs, most of which cost twice as much as the SD versions. Some choice, huh?

I'll go on record now. HD-DVD and Blu-Ray have both lost. Both will wither on the vine, with so-called "consumers" ignoring them in droves. Standard DVD is destined to be the last successful physical video format. The future of video is electronic distribution of DRM-free content, and any studio that hopes to survive must change its business model to accommodate that fact.

The days of $150 million movie budgets are rapidly drawing to a close. In the near future, financially successful movie studios will be those that can produce two-hour movies on $5 million or under budgets and sell $1 downloads to 10 million people. Or, better still, produce two-hour movies on $1 million budgets and sell $0.50 downloads to 5 million people. All of that is possible with current technology.

Of course, that also means the days of movie stars being paid $10 million per movie are gone. Successful actors and actresses will make several movies per year may earn $100,000 salaries. Per year.


Sunday, 6 January 2008
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00:00 -


Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 by Robert Bruce Thompson. All Rights Reserved.