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Doran's Journal - 23 July 1997

It's Wednesday July 23 in Eagan, Minnesota... and a large portion of the rest of the world.

Christine tells me this has been the 2nd wettest July in Minnesota's recorded history. And I believe it. We've seen at least 12 inches of rain since the first of July.

Justin Banks, who is sharing our two-bedroom apartment with us, made a comments about the rain last night- about how it had rained every day for the previous seven days. I thought it was odd for Justin to make such a comment because Justin has so far been spending all his time pretty much either asleep or at Cray in his office. So I said, "What would you do if it didn't rain, Justin?" His response? "The same thing I do now... only I wouldn't get wet."

Christine's work has been getting more sophisticated all the time... and, in a way, more stressful and scary. She now has two very expensive SGI O2 workstations in her office- each with its own 21" color monitor. She has supervisor rights on both of these machines as well as some of the big multi-processor Origin-series computers that sit in the E Building computer center. For the last couple of weeks she has just been installing and configuring software that does load sharing between computers.

(non-egghead-note: Load sharing allows you to run a program on several computers at once - giving each of them a small portion of the overall program - and getting the work done much faster.)

Today, when I got back from my Wednesday Desktop Group admin meeting, I had a voice mail message from Christine. She had rebooted one of her computers and it would not boot back up again... and she felt she just had to tell someone. She seemed pretty upset, but by lunchtime she had figured out what the problem was. Even though she had turned off a program she thought was causing problems, *another* program was turning it back on when she rebooted the computer.

Needless to say, after this summer, Christine's going to be a Unix system administration expert.

I've been working hard on a couple of projects lately. The first one is moving people off of the Novell NetWare servers, which, I'm sorry to say, are going bye-bye. It wouldn't be happening if it were my choice, but, of course... it's not my choice.

The other project is a backup monitoring system. I'm writing programs that process the daily reports from the backup system and log the various statistical information into a database. Then (this is the fun part) the statistics will be availale in a variety of forms through a web site.

Yesterday I wrote a program in the Perl programming language that generates a GIF image of a bar or line chart from raw data. Eventually, I'll be using this program to generate charts on a web page from the database of backup statistics.

Today, I wrote another Perl script that parses the data in the daily backup reports (which are e-mailed out every morning to a couple of people in the IS group.) Perl is a pretty powerful language for detecting patterns in text like this. Here's a line of Perl code that detects a time in hours, minutes, and seconds (ex: 09:11:34) from the e-mail message:

($s_time)=/\s(\d+:\d+:\d+)\s+\d+\s+\w+$/;	

(and yes, that does mean something useful to me.)

In other news, Cody (my buddy back in Utah who has taken over a lot of my responsibilities administering systems for USU Continuing Education) and I have started working on a replacement for the software that generates the Utah Statesman WWW site. This new software will be called GUPPI (Generated Using PHP/FI Publishing Interface) and uses a SQL database engine to do just about everything. We're very excited about this. I've been spending many of my nights working on this. GUPPI will be very generic and multi-purpose, so if we find it works well for the Statesman, it may be something we could market or set up for other online publications.

For those of you who know my friend Jason (aka Panda) from Logan, he and his family have successfully returned from Chicago, Ill where he and his wife were working for a couple of months. When Jason arrived home, he got a UPS package containing a Viewsonic 21" computer monitor. Wow! How many of us would DIE to have this! Jason says normal DOS text shows up 1/2 inch high and he jokes he has to wear sunglasses just to use his computer. I've taken to refering to his monitor as the "BFM-9000" (taken from the BFG-9000- everyone's favorite weapon in the Doom video game.)

I've received word from Blake back in Logan that the full-time network technician that he worked at the USU Merrill Library with left USU to take a job with American Stores. Blake has been asked to fill this guy's shoes and take over a lot of his duties. There's even talk of an official university position for Blake with benefits and all the works. Wow! Unfortunately, that means Blake has even less time for classes and other activities this Summer.

Could someone who has heard the new Primus album (Brown Album) let me know what you think? :-)

Thanks to everyone who's been keeping us company via e-mail while we're away from home. We still have almost 2 months left and we're already pretty homesick. And me... I'm just longing for some dry, salty Utah air!

Extra special thanks to Mark- a friend in Logan who works as a draftsman. Mark has sent me more mail than anyone else. I guess it helps to have Internet access right there at your desk, doesn't it Mark? :-)

BTW: Mark is moving into an apartment in the same house with Chadd VanZanten. If they don't do it themselves before I get home, I'm probably going to be asked to run some network cable between their computers so they can play WarCraft and Carmageddon with each other.