Entries tagged flat

Related tags: birthday, birthday.my.flat, bytemark, computers, diy, dmonitor, drama, electricians, flood, hacks, home, household, kettle, lenny, life, lvm, personal, raid, random, shopping, sid, space invaders, work, xen-shell, xen-tools.

Some things change, some things do not.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

After seven years working from home I've resigned from my position at Bytemark.

Why? A combination of wanting to do something different coupled with the desire to reclaim my second bedroom, which is currently tied up as an office.

Working in an office in the future will be weird ("You mean I have to get dressed every day?!") but hopefully not unduly burdonsome.

My two-year plan still remains in effect: Pay off this flat as soon as possible, then purchase another and rent this one out. Giving me some income of my own, which I will need.

The "five" year plan involves me quitting work, so that I can stay home and raise children. That makes sense because sometime next year I'll become the partner who earns the least amount of monies, and I'll also be the partner with the lowest upper-bound on salary potential (short of moving to London/similar which I've always ruled out).

Having rental income for myself means I'm not utterly dependant on other money, and all being well this place will be 100% paid off within 18 months.

(After that lots of saving will take place for a deposit for the second place. We did bid on a couple of places locally, which were outstanding, but it is perhaps for the best we didn't win them. No more looking at ESPC!)

Bytemark now becomes a company I recommend 100% for hosting in the UK. In the past I've always said nice things, but I've not strongly recommended them/us, because I'm too biased.

All my personal hosting, except for one virtual machine, will remain at Bytemark indefinitely. Lovely, flexible, and great.

(I have one outside guest for the purposes of diversification. That currently lives at Mythic Beasts.)

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On working from home

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Recently an ex-colleague of mine changed jobs and suggested that I write something about the pros and cons of working from home. I've thought about this subject, off and on, for a few years and frustratingly I think most of the pros and the cons are the same:

  • When you work from home you're working from home.

I live in a two-bedroom flat in Edinburgh. (Having just spent thousands on a new bathroom I don't expect I'll be moving any time soon. A rough budget of £40-50,000 would let me convert my attic into two/three rooms. So there is growth potential!)

In my flat I have made one of the bedrooms an office. The office contains:

  • A huge desk with two PCs, and two telephones on it.
  • Several book-cases.
  • A wall-mounted fan.
  • Very little else.

One PC is for work. One PC is for me. One phone is for work. One phone is my own.

Every working day I switch on the work router, the work phone, the work PC around 09:30. I then work, taking a lunch-break between either 12:00-13:00 or 13:00-14:00, until 18:00 at which point I switch off the work toys.

I ignore my personal PC during the working day with the exception that it is the source of my music. I can reach across and hit the appropriate multi-media keys to select Play/Pause/Next Track/Previous Track/Volume Up/Volume Down. (When thenever the work-phone rings the first ring is ignored as I scramble to hit "Mute" or "Pause"..!)

So what are some of the advantages/drawbacks? Well I'm at home. So the environment is one that I've made myself, and enjoy. The music is mine. The colour-scheme is mine. The pictures on the walls are mine. I have a Steve-loving chair. There is no soulless air-conditioning, no horrible cubicles, and no noisy people talking.

The downside? No people talking. If I didn't leave my house at lunchtime I'd speak to zero people face to face in an average working day. That took a while for me to notice, but it is not nice.

Since I work from home "the commute" takes seconds. I tend to get out of bed and wander straight to the desk. I'll work non-stop, then get dressed around lunchtime so that I can go out for lunch. Hail, Rain, Snow, or Sunshine I leave the house for lunch every single day (unless waiting for an atypical delivery). Because if I didn't I'd have no human contact. In the afternoon if it is a nice day I'll get undressed again, because I can, so why the hell not?

Providing you're focussed working from home has several advantages that I can think of - I've no qualms about setting the washing machine going before I start work knowing that I can "spare" five minutes to empty it later in the day. Similarly I've no concern about ordering (even large) items, because I know what time the postman comes, and I know I'm never going to be out and miss a delivery.

When I first started working from home I had a laptop instead of a PC and there were mornings when I worked, lazily, from my bed, or from my sofa whilst watching TV. That didn't last for long because I just didn't do a good job. I think I got away with it in the sense that I don't think people noticed, but I expect if it had lasted for longer it would have been quickly apparent. I stopped because the line was blurring between "home life" and "work life".

Having a dedicated working area is essential in keeping me focussed. I don't do "home things" when I'm in "work time" - with very rare exceptions. Yes I wander around and pace if I'm thinking, yes I make more tea and coffee than I would in a real office, and yes I might open windows, phone a friend, read my gas meter, washup dishes, or similar as I'm "making coffee". But on the whole it only works if I work when I'm working.

I could save money by using my work-internet instead of paying for personal-internet, but keeping the two links separate is another way of being focussed. I don't do "dodgy" things on the internet, on the whole (haha), but if I do I'd want to be damn sure that that was via my link and not the work-link - and having two PCs and two network links I know that is the case. There have been times when the work link has broken and I've used my personal link + openvpn to continue working, or at the very least re-join our internal chatroom and say "Internet down, brb".

As a system administrator there are times when I have to do things either early in the morning, late at night, or even during a weekend. I guess a final advantage is that this is not a struggle - providing I don't schedule such operations at times when I'm in the pub, meeting friends, or taking pictures of cute strangers, it isn't a struggle to say "I'll do this after 8pm tonight", or set the alarm early. No long walk to an office, and if I've already got food cooking for my tea I can eat it nearby whilst still configuring things and testing sites/services/machines.

So pros: I'm in my own environment, I don't worry about receiving parcels, meter-readings, and have wonderfully pleasant music all day. Ancillory bonuses are really side-effects of being in my environment: I have my good coffee, my nice cups, I can eat food I enjoy. etc, etc.

Cons: You must be dedicated. You must be focussed lest you give in to temptation and cease working for minutes/hours at a time. You lose part of your home space - I can't turn this room into a childrens bedroom, for example.

Nothing earth-shattering. I've done this for five years now, and although I was a little skeptical initially I thought "Why not?" It has worked out well and I think if I ever did need to leave my current position I'd have no hesitation about working from home in the future.

Finally it has to be said that when I've had partners in my life they've traditionally been the type to wake up later than me. I get significant brownie points for being able to wake them up around 10/11AM with a cup of hot coffee & breakfast in bed every morning. By virtue of having a separate space I can close the door and not be disturbed by them walking around.

I'm sure I've forgotten things - but as an initial pass the benefits and disadvantages of working from home are the same: You're in your own house.

ObQuote: "Explorers in the further regions of experience." - HellRaiser

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Planning to be surprised when you deliver?

Thursday, 15 April 2010

I'm constantly amazed by how blasé electricians are with regard to live voltage.

I'm used to mixing with software developers, who have a healthy fear and respect for "hardware", or physicists who're a very cautious bunch on the whole.

A week or two ago I developed a leak in my flat's roof, which lead to a small amount of minor water damage and a failure in my lighting.

I've had a couple of people out to look at it, and they all seem quite happy poking around with the (potentially soggy) electrical cables without me disconnecting the ring / main supply.

Still I guess they must know what they're doing; they've not previously been killed ...

ObFilm: Juno

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He's so mean he wouldn't light your pipe if his house was on fire.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

By the time this blog entry goes live I'll be running upon my new machine. The migration process was mostly straightfoward and followed my plan:

  • Using my existing desktop system as a PXE server to install Lenny over the network.
  • Copied over important directories.
  • Restored backups.
  • Turned off old machine.

Of course it wasn't that simple in practise, as previously mentioned the whole reason I was looking for a new machine was because the software RAID upon my old desktop was failing - One of the two drives was completely dead.

As I'd feared the second drive failed partway through my migration. But thankfully I'd copied off the important stuff before then, and the backups I have off-site mostly covered everything else. (The things I lost were things I can find again such as ~/Music, ~/Videos. On the one hand they're too large to backup, on the other hand I should probably do it next time as they never change.)

Unfortunately the version of X in Lenny refused to work with the GeForce G210 video card I had. To be more correct using the Vesa driver I could get a picture and a smooth desktop, but when watching videos with xine I got maybe two frames a second. Both the open nv driver and the closed nvidia driver failed to support the card - so I swapped hardware, and I'm now running with the GeForce 7300 GS card from my previous desktop. This allows me to watch videos at full-screen with no issues. (Desktop size is 1600x1200 FWIW).

So now it's just a matter of tweaking the system. I've installed enough to be useful:

  • miredo - So I have IPv6 connectivity despite Virgion.
  • squid - So that I have a decent cache for surfing.
  • pdnsd - So I have a caching nameserver and am not at the whim of Virgin.
  • kvm - So I can setup scratch machines for play.

I've still got to setup pbuilder, but that'll be done shortly, and I've installed backported packages such that I can watch youtube videos. I'm currently running firefox from lenny but I expect that will change soon enough - not least because that version fails to support "adblockplus", only "adblock".

Two partitions md0 for /boot and md1 used as LVM, from which I've taken /, /home, etc:

Filesystem                      Size    Used    Avail Use% Mounted on
/dev/mapper/birthday--vol-root   9.9G     2.8G   6.6G  30% /
/dev/mapper/birthday--vol-home   22G      4.3G  16G    22% /home
/dev/mapper/birthday--vol-music  127G    43G    78G    36% /mnt/music
/dev/md0                         988M    38M    901M    4% /boot
/dev/mapper/birthday--vol-kvm    22G      8.8G  12G    44% /mnt/kvm
/dev/sdg1                        163G    143G   12G    93% /media/disk
skx@birthday:~/hg/blog/data$

 

skx@birthday:~/hg/blog/data$ sudo pvs
[sudo] password for skx:
  PV         VG           Fmt  Attr PSize   PFree
  /dev/md1   birthday-vol lvm2 a-   464.82G 274.51G

Update: Three irritations with this machine:

  1. As supplied the BIOS was set with "USB Mouse" and "USB Keyboard" set to "disabled". I had to beg the loan of a keyboard from a neighbour.
  2. As supplied the BIOS had virtualisation set to "disabled". Not a huge shock, but it caught me out regardless.
  3. As supplied the system had only a single SATA power connector. Annoying given that the motherboard is advertised as having "onboard RAID" and I'd purchased it with two hard drives. Happily I had a spare adaptor to hand.

I'd still recommend Novatech, but the last point had me swearing for a few minutes until I realised I did have a spare adaptor in the house.

ObFilm: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

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You Greeks take pride in your logic. I suggest you employ it.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Tomorrow, all being well, I'll receive a new computer.

I've always run Debian unstable upon my desktop in the past, partly because I wanted to have "new stuff" and partly because I needed a Debian unstable system for building Debian packages with.

However I'm strongly tempted to just install Lenny. I use that upon my work desktop and it does me just fine for surfing, building tools, and similar.

I can use pbuilder, sbuildd, or similar to build packages for upload to Debian, and if I want to experiment with new-hotness I can use a KVM guest or two.

Providing the hardware works with Lenny (and I have no reason to believe it won't) then there's no obvious downside I can think of.

The only potential complication will be restoring my backups, it is possible that my firefox databases, and similar things, might not work on older version. Still we shall see.

I plan to install software RAID, and run the system on LVM because quite frankly it rocks. Unless my current system fails in the next 24 hours I can use that to do the installation (My current desktop acts as a TFTP/DHCP/NFS server so I can use it to PXE-boot).

Anyway now I need to go eat food, tidy my desk, and decide what to call the machine .. At the moment the choice is between "march.my.flat" and birthday.my.flat, as my 34th birthday is on March 10th.

ObFilm: 300

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For the record, that's a question you never have to ask.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Five years ago I spent an hour wandering around a large department store looking to buy a kettle & a set of bathroom scales. Much to the amusement of the woman I was shopping with I spent a very long time trying to find the cheapest available set of scales. (We're talking at least 20 minutes, due to the nature of the store and the crowds.)

Once I'd selected the cheapest possible set of bathroom scales we walked over to the kitchen section of the store. I glanced over all the available kettles and picked up the one that looked the nicest (in terms of size, shape, and handle design) with no regard for the price at all.

Why? A set of bathroom scales I use maybe twice a year. A kettle I use in excess of ten times a day. Something you use that often should be right. Even if over time you take it for granted and forget about it. (FWIW the scales were £6.50 and the kettle cost me £39.95 - John Lewis 15/03/2005 - I kept the reciept!)

I'll haggle and quibble over prices for a lot of things, trying to ensure that I don't pay too much. But there are items which are worth paying for (and I don't just mean that "expensive == good" idea some people seem to have). On that basis I'll think nothing of paying £150 for a pair of shoes for example, even though I'll go out of my way to save £5-£10 on a DVD player. Because shoes are important, used very very often, and DVD players just aren't.

(ObReference: I have one pair of shoes. I have five pairs of boots. I might pretend I don't but I also have a pair of sandals. Sshhh it'll be our little secret. ;)

Anyway today my kettle broke. I had to buy a new one at short notice. I did so and the replacement is obviously more advanced. It boils quickly and quietly which is technically an advangtage but in practise is actually a drawback.

Generally speaking I'll fill the kettle, turn it on, then wander away. I'll only return to the kitchen to make my delicous beverage when I hear the "click" signaling that the kettle's job is done. This new one? From outside the kitchen I cannot hear it at all...

In conclusion: Technology and progress is all around us. Sometimes a technical step forward "being quiet" is a bad thing.

In other news I'm fighting with IPv6 & a head cold. Both suck.

ObTitle: Alias

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A lot of people drink mineral water

Monday, 4 May 2009

dmonitor now has a webpage.

I've been running it for a night now, watching alerts come and go via manual firewall rules so I'm pretty confident it works reliably and in a way that avoids transient failures. The only obvious failure case is if each monitoring node loses the links to each of the others. (Solution there is to have a sufficiently large number of them! Hence the reason the configuration is file/directory based. rsync for the win!)

Still I will leave it there for now. The only things missing are better instructions, and more service checking plugins..

Now to go paint some more ... adding new wall decorations has inspired me a little!

ObFilm: Heathers

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Shout it out

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Well I've had a busy weekend, but I'm sober now.

I made a new release of xen-tools, which has a couple of minor bugfixes and not much else. I also released a new update for Debian of the xen-shell which fixes a couple of bashisms.

Finally I've managed to sign up two new users to my anti-spam proxy. Hopefully they're very happy.

In real news I painted about 1 square meter of my flat, (we're now into week three of painting a single room...), and replaced five light bulbs:

My eyes! The goggles do nothing!

Now I need to install a request tracking system (otrs2) and catch up on significantly outstanding RT status updates.

I'm getting hopeless again.

Maybe I should just give it all up and become a plumber. Plumbing is easy: Water goes downhill. The rest is just regulations and a willingness to get dirty...

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