Sunday, June 24, 2012

Little Debbie

Driving Through the Rain
Driving west on I-10 late Friday evening, 22 June
It has been one long weekend, a weekend devoted to driving up to Tallahassee and back to visit my younger daughter. On the surface it should have been a small pleasant trip. Instead, Tropical Storm Debbie made a surprise visit as well.


My long challenging weekend started Thursday in the lab. I'd finally gotten the second Dell R610 server prepped and added to the vSphere Cluster. Once that was done I started working on a third virtual machine to host a terrain server we've been trying to set up based on Open Street Map. We'd already gone through two iterations of setting up that terrain server. While it worked, it wasn't particularly performant. With the new server in place I created a third baseline VM with 32GB memory and four cores. This new server has a pair of hexa-core Xeon 5675 processors with 144GB of memory and 4TB of local storage. So when I create a an equivalent quad-core system with 32GB of memory, I was re-creating a five-year-old Dell 690 workstation sitting in the lab, with plenty of resources to spare on the server. I figured, what the heck, let's see what happens. Creating that VM using RHEL 6.2 and installing the latest bits took a lot longer than I anticipated. But wait, it gets more interesting.

On one of the real 690 workstations, running the same RHEL 6.2, I had installed a (now modest) 500GB drive for some additional storage space. I had it mounting just fine on boot and gave it no further thought. It was /dev/sdg1 mounted on /opt/common. I had drives on /dev/sda and /dev/sdb respectively, but nothing up to /dev/sdg. I had used the Disk Utility to prep and mount the drive, then added it to fstab. Nothing out of the ordinary. Until Thursday, when an update came rattling down the tubes that included an update to the kernel. That's when things got ugly.

When the workstation rebooted it failed and went into maintenance mode because it couldn't find the drive /dev/sdg1. I had a deep sick feeling in my gut because I had promised to have that particular system prepped for another engineer to use. That specific system. My first reaction was that the drive had failed. I swapped in a spare and attempted to create a new file system on /dev/sdg. That failed. So then I put the original drive back in and went looking for it with fdisk. I found it was now enumerating at /dev/sdc1. Why? I figured I could just modify fstab to point to /dev/sdc1 instead of /dev/sdg1, except the root filesystem was mounted in read-only mode. It took me a little time to find out how to remount the root as read/write, so for those who may have this problem in the future (and to help me remember the solution) I had to execute the following at the prompt:
  • mount -n -o remount,rw /
Once that was done and fstab properly modified, the workstation finally rebooted successfully into full RHEL glory nothing had ever happened.

By the time I had the VM created and the regular workstation back up and fully prepped, it was almost 9pm.


Max and Ruby Zoning
Labs are like little children, they sleep through rainy trips.
I spent the day working from home, answering emails, writing work-related research, and fixing minor bits I'd missed on the VM. I'd planned to work from home so that I could leave that afternoon from the house and drive straight up to Tallahassee. Everything went according to plan until 3pm, when the skies around the house turned pitch black and the thunder began to roll across the sky.I wasn't taking much, and it was already packed, but I had the Prius packed and ready to roll in 15 minutes when I heard the first peal of thunder. I shut down everything, chivied the Labs into the back, and my wife and I hit the road.

For the next hour I drove through torrential rain up the turnpike until I finally reached I-75 north. It stayed fairly clear all the way up to I-10, then heading west we rain into more torrential rain. Little did I realize that Tropical Storm Debbie was forming up nicely in the Gulf and sending rain bands across the entire peninsula. And that Little Debbie would continue doing that all weekend.
Night Colors
It took a good five hours to get to Tallahassee, when under normal conditions (i.e. nice and dry) it takes me four. By the time we finally rolled into our usual room at Red Roof we were starved. We hit our usual place, "On the Border", just north of Lake Ella on N Monroe. We met our younger daughter there and spent a little time together.


The day started out gray with spitting rain, and stayed fairly overcast until around noon when the sun broke through.
Gas Price Tallahassee Florida, 23 June 2012
We met up our second daughter and did the usual family-come-to-visit tasks. While driving about running errands I filled the tank up at this local station, just north of the I-10/N Monroe interchange. This was the cheapest I've seen gas so far in Florida, and the cheapest in Tallahassee. There was one other independent station further south on N Monroe near Tallahassee Mall that was a penny more/gallon.

Because of the lousy weather we went out to a movie: Pixar's new Brave. It was a very enjoyable movie that left my daughter in tears towards the end. I think the story resonated rather strongly with her.

We ended the day eating Vietnamese and Chinese at Far East Cuisine at Thomasville and Killearn on I-10.


There's not much to say about Sunday. It started with rain and it rained all day all the way from Tallahassee down to Orlando. It took six hours this time to drive down as I had to slow down, and at one point pull off for a while in Gainesville. It was solid rain, even worse than what I'd driven through going north on Friday. As an interesting aside, the Prius' gas mileage was 45mpg going up, and 41 coming back. Under dry conditions it's usually 50.

As I write this it's still raining. According to the predictions Debbie will sit in the Gulf until it makes landfall this Friday, just west of Tallahassee. The weather maps all show the peninsula solidly covered with rain bands off the storm. If this keeps up then we're going to get not just a good soaking but a good deal of flooding all up and down the state. It could be a lot worse; this could be Hurricane Debbie. But right now it's predicted to just stay a tropical storm. I sure hope so. We can certainly use the water, and if the rain is pushed up north through the southeast it'll help with drought conditions in south Georgia in particular. This is going to be an ugly week for a lot of people.

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