Grant McWilliams

I’ve been doing a lot of work on the site like building a new server, hot fail over server etc.. and between all my backups something got messed up so for now the site is a bit handicapped but I’ll get it sorted out soon after I get some of my contracts squared away (maybe within the week)
The last week and a half has been trying to say the least. I have two drives in a RAID 5 go down which basically meant I lost everything. That means all the pictures, blogs, recipes in addition to my company site and all class materials created in the last 5 years. I managed to force one of the RAID drives to come back up long enough for me to copy all data off the drives, get a new server built with new 500GB drives (replacing 200s) and running a 3ware 9550SX raid controller card. As of this very minute the site you’re viewing is now running on the new server. The new machine is a dual Athlon MP 2600+ 4u rackmount server and should do just fine I think. The old server will be rebuilt using 5x 500GB drives and act as my new backup and media server. It will have a live synced version of the websites as well as all data archived so I can retrieve a snapshot anytime I want.

To go along with my extended high-availability scheme I’ve invested in a 1500va battery backup and the Linksys WRT-54G will also be biting the dust. The WRT is a great consumer router but not up to the task of managing commercial web traffic. I was running the ddwrt firmware and my only complaint has been the router locking up every once in a while for no reason. A home user would probably never notice but for business purposes I need more. I have a few 1u mini-ITX rackmount cases laying around and motherboards to match so I think one will be my new router. I have room in the case for one Wireless N card and two nics so that should set me up with an external network, internal network and wifi with firewalls between all.

Now that the site is running again there will be plenty of changes coming up so stay tuned..

BBQ pasta?

I haven't posted any new food pics lately because I've been out of town and busy working but I've been cooking none the less. There is a restaurant in Kirkland called Cafe Veloce that makes a wonderful bbq pasta. Weird, I know but it's good, you'll just have to believe me on this one. The first bite you think "that's odd", then you take another and it turns to "that's not bad" and the next bite your senses are peaked more and so on until you can't stop and you've eaten the whole thing which is a lot. The problem is Kirkland is too far for me to drive everytime I want to eat it so I've set out to recreate it in The man, The myth, The legend kitchen and the first picture are in. I'll have the recipe later when I'm happy with it.

Ingredients are your basic penne (or in my case mostaccioli), grilled chicken, green bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, crimini mushrooms, red onion, garlic, tomato paste and a smattering of different barbecue sauces mixed. Even though I got close by mixing Bone Sucking BBQ sauce and Armadillo BBQ (both local I think to this region) I'm close but not satisfied so I will in the future create the bbq sauce from scatch since it's not that hard anyway.

Stay tuned.

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I got a wonderful new Epson Stylus Photo R300 so I could start experimenting with printing my photos. As most of you know I use Linux for everything and normally it works great but there are areas in which it's behind, mostly Desktop stuff. Well, printing photos is largely a desktop thing. To make matters worse I wanted the printer to be available across the network but since it's a low end photo printer it doesn't have a network port like my color laser so I plugged it into my CentOS server via USB. Problem is CentOS is a server OS meaning the lackluster Linux printer drivers are even older. It does work pretty good however and I can print in 2880x1440 dpi and the output looks great. The problem came when I bought some  8.5 x 11 inch frames  (for $5 at Michaels) for framing printer art. My "borderless" printing in Gimp-print 4.2.7 leaves a 1/4 inch border on one side which could be matted over but these frames are made for a picture exactly 8.5 x 11.

The solution:

Everytime I buy a digital camera it comes with a pathetically small flash card around 32 MB. I inserted one of these otherwise worthless flash cards in my camera, formatted it and took one picture. This was vital to set up the directory structure etc.. for the printer. I then inserted it into the printer permanently and mounted it as /media/printerflash in Linux. Now whenever I want to print true borderless prints I just save the photo over top the one on the memory card and print it from the LCD screen on the printer. A hack I know, but it works.

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I'm always looking for a smaller lighter tripod because ounces count when you're traveling like I do. That's how I found the gorillapod which I swear by. It's not perfect for everything but about 20% of the shots I've gotten in the last year are because of it.

And now for something completely different.... Monsterpods!

The MonsterPod™ has no telescoping legs, clamps, beans, straps, glue, or suction cups, not even magic. Instead, the MonsterPod™ sticks to surfaces via a patent pending “viscoelastic morphing polymer

It's not a tripod, a monopod, or hovering robot. It's MonsterPod™, the gravity defying tripod that holds your digital camera motionless, vertically, horizontally or upside down!

Hmmm, sounds interesting. It's made to support up to a 10oz camera which would include all sub-compacts and about half of all compacts including my future one. I'm still a bit sceptical though so I guess I'll have to try it. At the time of this writing though you couldn't yet purchase them.

Here's the link -

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We up late and missed breakfast so we decided to split off and Jade and I would walk to TAME and get the plane tickets and Mo and Natalya would head for the internet where we would meet up with them. We got to the TAME office and like true Americans we forgot that the rest of the world takes really long lunches so we had an hour and a half to wait so after picking up a hotdog we headed back across the river to the internet cafe and met up with the others. After rejoining we needed to kill time so we headed for the little Zoo inside a building that had mysterious and strange creatures of Ecuador. It's a little shop run bimg_0833y a guy and what appeared to be his daughter. They had the ugliest looking turtle in the world (matamata turtle) as well as an Anaconda skin, a Crocodile and a bunch of fish including Piranhas. The only thing separating the crocodile and us was a small bridge about 2 feet off the ground. He didn't look interested in us and actually looked very depressed as he had about 20 feet of room to move in is all. Mo spent most of her time freaked out because we went in a section where the lights were all off and our 15 year old guide had a flashlight.

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img_0854I thought it quite strange that a museum would be called Central Bank until I got there. It appears that the bank owns the land and/or finances it's operation as the museum is in an adjoining building to the Banco Centro. Before Ecuador was conquered by the Inca there were other cultures there. Cuenca was the city of the Cañari people. We saw Cañari on the bus coming from Riobamba. They were attractive people but like many of the other indigenous groups they were quite small and wore little light colored bowler hats. Anyway, the location of the Museo Banco Centro was a royal Cañari palace which after being conquered by the Inca became a royal Inca palace naturally. It seems the city was founded (which they called Guapondeleg) about 500 AD which makes it very old for an American city. The Incas took over in about 1450 or so. The Inca replaced the Cañari architecture with their own impressive works and in some of the buildings you can see the layers. The Cañari didn't have the advanced carved stone architecture that the Incas had but it was no worse than what the Spanish eventually built over top the Inca buildings.

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I thiimg_0802nk I've said this but most Latin American cities are stink holes but Cuenca is different. I'd put it on par with most Italian cities for cleanliness and probably as clean as the more dirty French cities (Nice, Tours etc..) so it's not too bad. The city center is very nice with many restored colonial buildings, many plants and clean streets. It really is odd that Ecuador could have a city as nice as this when the rest are so dirty. It's as if we just took a bus into another country. The people dress nicely and the women are much more sexy than other places in the country. Maybe it's just money, maybe it's education or maybe it's something else but it's different here. The attitude is different too like the people here aren't struggling and have higher self-esteem. The women move when they walk like they're trying to look good and more men strut. In other cities people are just getting things done and there's not much thought about style or presentation. I don't have a problem with img_0816that because I don't spend any time with presentation or style either but I'm just noting the difference.

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Five-thirty came early like it always does. Mo and I talked about our plans for quite a while and our thoughts about the trip and the next thing we knew it was too late to get our tickets so we decided to just take a bus to Cuenca and day trip Alausi and the train down the devils nose. This allowed us to eat a proper breakfast which was included in our stay. Breakfast was huevos tortillas (omelette's) with juice and some sort of bread. We paid and took a taxi to the bus terminal. We erroneously assumed that since Cuenca was the third largest city in Ecuador and we were on the Panamerican highway that there'd be many buses going there, we were wrong. The next bus wasn't for 2 hours and there was only one company serving Cuenca from Riobamba. We decided to kill the 2 hours on the internet and took a taxi back downtown. When I told him I wanted to find an abierto internet he looked at the other driver and said “They want internet” in Spanish and made a funny face. It seems silly to take a taxi to find internet but it only cost one dollar and the internet for Mo and I both cost another dollar. We won't exactly go broke at that rate.

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