Mike Ault's thoughts on various topics, Oracle related and not. Note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are not contributing to the overall theme of the BLOG or are insulting or demeaning to anyone. The posts on this blog are provided “as is” with no warranties and confer no rights. The opinions expressed on this site are mine and mine alone, and do not necessarily represent those of my employer.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Personal Responsibility

Mike Ault, Copyright 2006 (Edited on 11/21/2006 to add a seventh item to list, thanks Robert!)

Since taking up scuba diving as a hobby I pay a lot of attention to diving accidents and near misses, always striving to improve my dive skills so I don’t become a statistic. Many of these accidents begin with typical behavior I would expect from teenagers; dares, trying to do things beyond your skill level, just doing dumb things. The scuba accidents that happen because of equipment failure are few and far between and can usually be traced back to improper maintenance or knowledge of operation. Of course accidents caused by health issues also occur, but that is beyond the scope of this blog.

In many of the follow up posts abut these accidents and incidents people are quick to jump on the instructors, dive masters and other professionals, blaming them for the people who are with them’s mistakes. Many folks seem to believe that unless someone tells you don’t do something stupid, they are responsible for you doing something stupid. Many times it seems our whole tort system is based on that premise.

For those not familiar with the Scuba certification process, the process involves classroom, self study and practical factors. All of the certification agencies provide training materials that are a part of this certification process. There are also many third-party books available for diving.

Let’s examine two divers:

Diver A:

Took a quick Resort Dive cert, decided he loved it. Upon getting home from vacation Diver A enrolled in a full certification class, went to the local library and bookstore and picked up several diving instructional books. Diver A read all that he could and visited many online sources to find out everything he could before class. Diver A read all of the manual, answered all of the questions and participated in class as much as possible.

During the water certification phase Diver A practiced as much as possible and asked questions, even dumb ones.

Diver B:

Took a quick Resort Dive cert, decided he loved it. Upon getting home from vacation Diver B enrolled in a full certification class. Being a very busy person diver B didn’t have time to read the materials or do the questions, he got his answers from folks he knew had taken the class before. Diver B did the minimum needed to get certified. Knowing that questions only delayed the class, he didn’t ask any questions and often made others in the class feel stupid for asking them.

During the water certification phase Diver B did the minimum required, never feeling totally comfortable during the sessions but figured he could pick it up later.

Ok, which diver would you want as a buddy?

Diver A takes responsibility for his actions and his life, he posts his mistakes to his favorite scuba board and asks for criticisms so he can improve. On dives he does his best to be self-reliant and watch out for his buddies. He carefully monitors his air and depth and pays attention to his dive computer. If the dive starts feeling wrong, he aborts it.

Diver B is rude and arrogant hiding his lack of knowledge by being condescending and belittling those around him. In the water Diver B has poor buoyancy control, sucks down air like he has an unlimited supply and expects everyone to help him. He never checks his air pressure or depth figuring that the dive master will take care of that. Diver B depends on the DM for making sure he doesn’t exceed limits, doesn’t have a dive computer and barely remembers where he put the recreational dive planner charts, let alone how to use them.

Which diver do you think will immediately think of suing someone if they get bent or have an accident? We all need to take responsibility for ourselves and our actions. I would say more than half of the problems facing the USA, and the World, today are because we don’t practice self-responsibility. It is always some one else’s fault.

Students don’t learn, we blame the teachers, kids misbehave, we blame video games. No one wants to say Johnny can’t read because Johnny didn’t apply himself to learning to read. Sure, children learn from their parents, however, after a certain age, they have to take responsibility for their actions. We spend too much time finding others to blame for our problems when the person we need to point the finger at is right in the mirror in front of us.

So, what do I believe needs to be taught? These seven basic values:

1. Everyone cannot be a winner
2. Win and lose gracefully
3. Nobody owes you anything
4. Accept criticism
5. Take responsibility for your actions
6. Treat others like you want to be treated, even when they don’t
7. Life isn't fair, don't expect it to be

If these seven things were taught to everyone at an early age more than half of the problems in our society would disappear. The only way to build true character is through both winning and losing. We seem to concentrate on nobody ever having to face defeat, we mustn’t harm Johnny’s self-esteem. Some of my most valuable lessons came from my defeats, not my victories. We have games where no one is allowed to win and everyone gets a trophy, we have to promote students who don’t earn it and we reward benefits to those who have never worked to earn them. And we wonder why society is going to hell in a hand basket? You can’t give someone self-esteem, it has to be earned from both winning and losing and dealing with both.

An old saw says that when you point at someone else, there are three fingers pointing back at you. You have to take responsibility for whatever you do. You are responsible for your life, your learning and your safety, no one else.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Ebay Comments

I do a lot of buying and some selling on Ebay. One facet of Ebay is the comments section where you can enter a comment and rating for a buyer or seller with whom you have had a transaction.

About a month ago I bought some hard drives for my Nexstor 18fc array from an Ebay seller. According to his listing these were Seagate model ST118202FC hard drives. The SAN array I use for my real work (believe it or not I do have a real job) uses this model of drive and I needed to increase my storage space (well, actually I wanted to increase my input/output rate and the increase in storage space is a side-effect.) I found a companion drive to the ones currently in the array (I thought) so I put in my bid, got the drive for a very good price and when I received it, it installed just fine in my array and spun up with green lights across the control panel.

So from the previous paragraph it would seem all was right with the world correct? Well, then I tried to access the drive to format it and make it useful for the system. I am afraid the drive would not respond to any of the low level format or high level commands I issued. I looked carefully at the startup file log, sure enough, was a ST118202FC hard drive, but wait, there was a CLAR18 following the designation. What this means was that the firmware for the drive was modified by a SAN provider (in this case I believe EMC) to be specific for a particular SAN, in this case a CLARIION system. No biggie I thought to myself, I’ll just reburn the firmware, well, you can’t do that with EMC firmware unless you go to another version of EMC firmware, which kind of defeated the purpose for me. Here is how the listing described the drive:

You are bidding on a Seagate Cheetah 18.2GB Fibre Channel 10,000 RPM Hard Drive with a Dell Tray.
Seagate Model #: Cheetah / ST118202FC
Technical Features:

External Data transfer Rate: 100MBps
Seek Time: 6 ms
Average Latency: 3ms
Buffer Size : 1MB
Interface: Fibre Channel

Happy Bidding!

Manufacturer: SEAGATE
Model: ST118202FC

As you can see, no mention of the CLAR18 designation that would be critical to determine compatibility.

Ok, obviously these EMC drives were not going to work for my Nexstor array.

On their shipping receipt they put:

“If, for any reason, you are unsatisfied with your purchase, please contact me at ebaysales@threesalegroup.com with your order number 12551 and the reason for your dissatisfaction. I will make all reasonable efforts to resolve the issue.”

I emailed the representative from the company I purchased them from, explained the situation and asked to return the drive. Here is the email trail:

Subject: eBay Item #170024231254
This disk appears to be a pull from an EMC Clariion or related architecture. Unfortunately that means that it has EMC proprietary microcode burned into its firmware rendering it useless in anything but another array of a similar type. It identifies itself as ST118202 CLAR18 on spin up and won't allow format commands or partitioning commands (reports its size as zero) afraid this is just so much spinning rust and DOA as far as I am concerned. If you don't have something that you know can be accessed by normal arrays then I will return it for my money back. Thanks.

Their Customer Service wrote:
This item only has a DOA warranty. The auction states: This item is represented as accurately as possible; we do not guarantee compatibility please check your part numbers.

(Right, like deliberately leaving off the CLAR18)

To which I responded:
You did not provide the complete part number, the other drives in the array have the same part number except that they do not have the CLAR18 add on which indicates yours were pulled from a Clarion array and which you left off of the description. Had I known the full part number (which I assumed you had provided) I wouldn't have bought them. You did not provide accurate information.

Their Customer Service wrote:
Why didn't you ask? That is what the terms tell you in the auction that you should do. It also states that you should not assume anything.

(So I assume I would need to have a complete list of all incompatible possible microcodes and SANs and call them with a detailed question about this…like their order taker on the other end would know…)

To Which I responded:
You know what? Forget it, I'll just note this in my feedback on Ebay and then resell it, properly labeled and probably get more for it than you did. Thanks for nada.

Their Customer Service wrote:
No problem, just remember that the feedback goes both ways. Thanks...

So, basically I was told that I should have foreseen that the drive might have had its firmware overwritten by a vendor and I should have asked before I bought it. I explained there was no way of knowing this without seeing the full model number (which they hadn’t provided) which required me to install the drives before I could see the serial numbers. Essentially I was told to pack sand and they wouldn’t take the drives back or refund my money.

Being a man of my word I entered the following comment for them on Ebay:

“Was not satisfied, didn't give complete description of item, would not take back”

And here is how they responded:


Extortion? Asking them to stand by their product or I would tell people they didn’t, extortion? A bit of an over reaction I felt. Who was extorting who? Oh, and what was the transaction final amount?


This company, Three Sale Group LTD, I will never have dealings with again, nor will I recommend them.

I also purchased 6 additional drives from a second source on Ebay, unfortunately they also were CLAR18, which also wasn’t indicated in the description, but, when I pointed that out, they handled it as a DOA and fully refunded my money, this company, Online Data Solutions, Inc., I will recommend to others and will use again in a heartbeat.

However, this all has a happy ending, I found 18-72 gb drives for my array on Ebay from Morgen Industries, Inc., they were professional, courteous and knowledgeable and I would buy from them in a heartbeat and recommend them to others.

So remember, Caveat Emptor and ask every possible question you can think of from Ebay sellers unless their description of the object being bought is detailed and precise.

Anyone need some Clariion compatible 18 gb drives? Cheap! I also have some 18 gb Nexstor comaptible drives and a complete Nexstor 8s array....if anyone is interested

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Housing Market

Mike Ault, copyright 2006

I read how the home market is imploding, the bubble has burst, home prices have peaked. It seems to me the home industry really shot themselves in the foot. Have you looked at what they call a home these days? There was a time when a home meant a yard, a garage you could park in (maybe twice) and enough room to move around a bit once you got inside. It wasn’t a re-labeled apartment, it wasn’t within arms length of its neighbor and prices made sense.

Call them town homes, condo’s or whatever else, they are still apartments. You can still hear the person beside you, under you or over you. In these re-labeled apartments you can’t run a router in your living room if you want or knock out a wall and add a room. Yet at least here in Atlanta they want to charge you for the privilege of living in these ant farms at the same rate as if you where in a real house. Less than a mile from my house (on a corner lot, about a quarter acre, two and half car garage and 2700 square foot of space) they want to charge you the same price as for my house for an apartment.

Even when they build a house they now all build them what I call “California” style, seven to an acre. One right up next to another the 300K houses line up all in a row. Again, if I wanted to be that close to my neighbor I would invite them to live with me.

It seems here they prepare the land by raping it down to the bare soil, planting a few small trees and running sod over the exposed red clay (the sold all the top soil when they cleared the land.) I guess I am old fashioned, I like a tree to be a tree before I am ready to retire, not long afterwards.

I guess what I am trying to say with all the above is that if they were really giving people what they wanted, then they probably wouldn’t have had a bubble, but a nice steady growth. People are waking up to the fact that they are spending more and getting less. The builders will need to get smart and go back to what really makes a house a home.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

On Becoming a Grandfather

At the tender age of 50 I have become a Grandfather. After a diligent effort of several years my youngest daughter and her husband have given birth to a wonder known as a Grandson. Michael Caleb Bojczuk took his first breath on 29 October, 2006 and came into the world at 7 pounds 6 oz. and was 20 inches long.

Mikie (as he will be called I am told) is coming into a world full of both great conflict and great hope. In many parts of the world deliberate ignorance and intolerance are causing untold strife, ecological ruin and untold suffering. Yet with all of this there is still great hope for mankind. We have more, greater scientists and doctors alive today than we have ever had in all of history.

In the next few years more inventions and progress will be made than in any previous equivalent time frame in history. We are solving medical problems, finding alternative energy sources, finding new ways to grow and distribute food. Remember that the problem with starvation in the world today is not one of food production, it is one of food distribution. We have decoded the human genome and seen to the end of the universe as well as glimpsed its beginnings.

It is sad that a few (in the entire count of humans on the planet) people are causing so much trouble in the World. The majority of us just want to be left alone to raise our families, worship as we see fit and just enjoy this great gift called life. As I look down on the sleeping face of my Grandson I see the future. I prefer the future where men treat others as equals regardless of skin or belief. I prefer a future where a person is judged by who they are and what they do, not by their religion or skin color. I hope Mikie lives to see it.

We stand on the brink of either the abyss, where a continuing cycle of violence, intolerance and ignorance drags us down to the apocalypse, or the edge of paradise where we provide for the needs of everyone and practice tolerance. It is our choice.

I know it sounds to be a contradiction but we cannot allow those who make intolerance a mainstay of their belief structure to flourish, we must be intolerant of those who preach ignorance as the way of salvation. Anyone who proposes to treat men as 13 year olds and women as slaves has no place in modern society. Anyone who takes away choice and substitutes blind faith where human life is devalued to the point that the worth of innocent lives is measured in how many headlines you can receive from taking them must be exiled to the damnation they deserve.

Holy books are not hammers to beat men into submission, but tools of persuasion. Too many clutch the holy books in fevered hope that mere contact will save them, but neglect to read what is truly inside them. Many believe that the words written inside are intractable, immutable and unchangeable when even a short look at the history of the books will show this is simply not true. The context is what is important, not the words. Many of the words have come down the ages through many minds and hands, going from one language into another, into another, to get to the original words you would have to see the original works and understand the original language and context in which they were written.

I see ignorance and fear driving people to blind faith. Blind faith is easy, it requires no thought. It is the questioning, seeking, thoughtful faith that is hard. The world is filled with infinite wonders that God in his wisdom guided and formed though the crucible of evolution. He provided all of the needed clues for us to decipher his work throughout the billions of years this universe has been in existence and provided us the tools through intellect and curiosity to begin to understand them. We stand on the threshold of wonders.

I intend to see to it that Mikie is raised as a thinking, feeling and loving person who looks beneath the surface of things for only when you are armed with truth and knowledge can you truely believe and are you truly free.