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Rocky Mountain Forest

1998 on the Web
Daily Technology Diary

Rocky Mountain Forest
  February 1998  

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Monday, February 16  
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I have a friend who is a long time Macintosh user. He recently upgraded his MacOS 8.0 system to 8.1 and implemented the HFS+ disk file system. He was kind enough to share his experiences and now I pass them along to you. This is the conclusion of his report from yesterday. Click the previous week icon on the navigation bar below to view the first installment from February 15th.

Continued from yesterday . . .

I then copied all of my data including the system folder which contained the new updated Mac OS 8.1 back to the newly formatted internal disk. It takes over an hour to copy 900 megabytes of data. When the copy was done, I was surprised (although I had read about this benefit) that all the files took up much less space. My data had been reduced to about 700 megabytes. I used "get info" again to check the total number of files and it was the same as before. Hooray, it worked.

Then I went to reboot and found that I could not start up my computer. I tried and tried, including trying to boot from the external Jazz disk which had a complete copy of my entire system and all of my data. No luck. Finally I decided the system must have been corrupted by having been copied. I decided it would be necessary to reformat the internal drive again and do a clean install of the system from my original Mac OS 8.0 CD.

So I booted with the CD, and reformatted the internal disk. Before putting anything on that disk, I decided to try again to boot with the external Jazz drive. This worked now for some reason. Strange. This enabled me to initialize the internal disk once again with Mac OS Extended format since I was running OS 8.1 from the Jazz disk. (I hated to give up on hfs+ just yet.)

I did that and reinstalled system software from the OS 8.0 CD onto the hfs+ internal disk and used the OS 8.1 updater to upgrade this clean new system. I reinstalled all of the third party extensions, etc. that had been in my system before this lengthy procedure. I copied all of my other data back to the internal drive and it has been running smoothly ever since (with the exception of some problems which occurred coincidentally as a result of a dead internal battery).

All in all, it has been a learning experience which I'm not sure I'd want to go through again just to increase available disk space by 200 megabytes. I would not recommend that anyone try it (hfs+ / Mac Extended format) unless they really know their Macintosh, have the proper backup devices, have lots of patience and really have a desire for the latest technology. I expect to be reading lots of letters in Mac publications in the near future regarding problems with updating to Mac OS Extended file format. It does work though, and I look forward to the data on my hard disk growing at a slower rate from now on.

Thanks Dave.

I am going to Denver, Colorado tomorrow for professional development training for the rest of this week. I will be keeping diary entries while gone, so look for the updates next week upon my return. In the mean time, be sure to check out all the other resources 1998 on the Web has to offer.

Thought for the day: "The trouble with being punctual is that nobody's there to appreciate it."

 

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Tuesday, February 17  
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I will be in Denver, Colorado for professional development training this week. Please visit the other pages of this site and be sure to return on Monday, February 23rd to view the summaries of my trip.

Posted February 23, 1998

Another day of flying over a sea of clouds. I love to look out the window of airplanes to observe geography, but my last two flights have been on overcast days. Bummer. My wife and I flew to Denver, Colorado from our home in Nitro, West Virginia today. I am attending a UNIX Performance Management class and my wife is getting a well deserved vacation. Arriving in Denver about noon MST we checked into our hotel that looked like a medieval castle and headed west up the mountains on I-70 to have dinner with my brother in Vail. While climbing toward the continental divide the skies cleared and we enjoyed beautiful Rocky Mountain blue. If you've never seen the sky at 10,000 feet elevation, it is about 20 shades deeper, richer, and royal.

On the return trip to Denver following dinner, we experienced the opposite wrath that the Rockies have to offer. Through the two passes at Vail and Loveland, the snow called upon all the winter driving skills I had developed in New England during my youth. The trip that took 90 minutes westward, turned into a tense, nerve-wracking two and a half hour venture back down. Fortunately all went well, and we immediately hit the sack after this 15 hour travel day.

Class begins tomorrow . . .

Thought for the day: "Experience is that marvelous thing that enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again."

 

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Wednesday, February 18  
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I will be in Denver, Colorado for professional development training this week. Please visit the other pages of this site and be sure to return on Monday, February 23rd to view the summaries of my trip.

Posted February 23, 1998

Day one of HP/UX Performance and Tuning class.

Today's system managers increasingly include performance management as part of their duties. There are basically two main categories of activities needed for system management. Accounting and monitoring consist of using tools such as accounting logs, software monitors, hardware monitors, or manual logs to monitor the system usage, workload, performance, availability, and reliability. This enables the system manager to do load balancing and to control resource usage. Performance analysis consists of using the monitored data to determine what system tuning is necessary and, by predicting future work load, when upgrading is required.

There are two different measures used for performance. Response time is the time between the instant the user hits the return key and the time the system provides a response. Throughput is the number of transactions accomplished in a fixed period of time. Of the two measures, throughput is the better measure of how much work is actually getting done, however, response time is more visible, and is, therefore, used more frequently. Expectations and needs define good or acceptable performance. Setting expectations correctly is essential. Because needs vary from site to site, the ability to control the system's resource use and response time becomes the key factor in achieving customer satisfaction and the perception of good performance. Basically, the operating system should maintain a high throughput by efficient process scheduling and resource sharing. Most interactive users prefer a small and stable response time which gives them a sense of performance predictability. This is something to keep in mind when monitoring the system for workload balancing and system tuning. User expectations of performance and the underlying needs of business change over time. You must anticipate these changes and plan accordingly.

In general, performance tools are of two types: instantaneous and logging. Instantaneous tools give a snapshot of the system's performance at the moment you are running the tool. A logging tool samples performance over time. Instantaneous tools are most useful for diagnosing system problems which are constant and current. The on-the-spot performance view can assist you in quickly isolating a problem which is degrading system performance at the moment you are using the tool. However, some problems are intermittent or tied to periodic events, and you may not be able to view the system at the moment the problem evidences itself. Also, some problems are the result of conditions which build up gradually over time. To detect problems of this sort, logging tools that collect data over time may be a more suitable choice. Perhaps the most powerful tool of all is experience, but even experience usually needs the use of performance tools to verify and quantify performance problems.

Thought for the day: "A synonym is a word you use when you can't spell the word you first thought of."

 

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Thursday, February 19  
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I will be in Denver, Colorado for professional development training this week. Please visit the other pages of this site and be sure to return on Monday, February 23rd to view the summaries of my trip.

Posted February 24, 1998

Day two of HP/UX Performance and Tuning class.

Like all computer systems, UNIX relies on the three basic components of the architecture, CPU, memory, and I/O subsystem. The CPU ultimately is responsible for how your system runs. The operating system contains the rules of how the system is to work and provides the work that the CPU executes. When a process begins it's way through the system, the CPU directs it to memory to gather the data necessary to perform the process work. Depending on the process, the memory manager may need to access only the buffer cache or it may need to page in memory from disk. The I/O subsystem completes the triad by providing storage mechanisms for system programs and data.

The operating system manages the hardware resources for the user's applications. The operating system translates user requests into commands that are recognized by the hardware. The UNIX operating system operates on two levels: user and kernel. At the user level, the system user can interact with the operating system, entering commands to access functions of the kernel. The user level is connected to the kernel level through the system call interface. At the kernel level, the operating system performs automatic functions that direct the actions of the hardware. As a UNIX system, HP/UX is multiuser and multitasking. It's performance varies, depending on the number of users, the type of user tasks, and the configuration of the system hardware and operating system.

A user interfaces with the computer, usually through a terminal, by issuing commands or processes to perform specific tasks. The process starts when the user enters a command or runs a program. The CPU moves the command into memory where it can be accessed for execution. The length of time it takes to move the command into memory depends on three things. First, where is the data that is needed to execute the command? Second, how fast does the CPU process instructions? And third, are the resources needed for that command available, or are they busy with something else? If the command needs data from disk, the command may have to wait in a queue if the disk is being accessed by other processes. I/Os needing information from multiple disks can have multiple I/Os occurring at the same time. The overall process may require several CPU calculations, pages of memory, and other reads and writes to and from the disk, before completion. Each step of the process requires some amount of time. In system performance management, the concern is not simply with how much time is required to complete a process, but how and where the time is being spent.

Thought for the day: "Why don't sheep shrink when it rains?."

 

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Friday, February 20  
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I will be in Denver, Colorado for professional development training this week. Please visit the other pages of this site and be sure to return on Monday, February 23rd to view the summaries of my trip.

Posted February 24, 1998

Day three of HP/UX Performance and Tuning class.

The job of the performance analyst is to correct performance bottlenecks as they occur in the CPU, memory, and I/O resources of the computer and operating environment. Symptoms of a CPU bottleneck can include zero percent idle CPU, high percent user CPU, large run queue size maintained over time, processes blocked by priority, slow response time, and a high percent of system CPU. It is rarely enough, though, to look at the utilization of just one resource and ignore all others. Memory bottlenecks may be evidenced by a high pageout rate, process deactivation activity, very small free memory and large active virtual memory, high disk activity on swap devices, high global system CPU utilization, large run queue with idle CPU, and out of memory errors. If systems suffer from high disk utilization, large disk queue length, large percentage of time waiting for disk I/O, large physical I/O rates, low buffer cache hit ratio, or large run queue with idle CPU, there may be a disk bottleneck.

There are a myriad of performance tools available to the analyst on the UNIX system. These include the sar command, a data gatherer. Sar samples internal counters that keep track of requests, completion times, I/O block times, etc. Sar then calculates rates and ratios and makes reports on them. When monitoring disk activity a useful tool is the iostat command. For each disk, iostat counts seeks, data transfer completions, and the number of bytes transferred. These counters are used to calculate average seek time. Similar to iostat for disks, the vmstat command reports certain statistics kept about the virtual memory. Vmstat will report on the number of processes in various states: run queue, blocked, or runnable, the usage of virtual and real memory, paging activity, interrupt rates, and CPU usage.

Most modern computing environments are heavily dependent on the network that ties together several or many systems. This network is a shared resource, it is used by many people. Network underperformance will be visible to nearly everyone in the shared environment as soon as it occurs. Access to network-mounted file systems or other resources will be compromised, either in terms of data transfer speed or inaccessability of needed network resources. The netstat command displays statistics for network interfaces and protocols, sockets in use, memory in use by networking, and contents of network related data structures. The nettune command allows tuning of kernel parameters to support a consistent, reliable, and secure network.

Relational Database Management Systems (RDBMSs) typically make full use of all system resources. CPU usage is often high, both in the database server and in the application client process. Most RDBMSs use shared memory to handle data buffers, locks, and so on. The size of this shared memory segment is often very large and may be a significant percentage of main memory. Relational databases usually consist of a number of data tables, associated indexes, rollback logs, and before-image logs. These are all held on disk and can involve a high level of activity. All of these resources must be monitored and tuned by the performance analyst.

Thought for the day: "Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

 

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Saturday, February 21  
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I will be in Denver, Colorado for professional development training this week. Please visit the other pages of this site and be sure to return on Monday, February 23rd to view the summaries of my trip.

Posted February 27, 1998

Aahh, a couple days of relaxation following the UNIX Performance and Tuning class. My wife and I set out late yesterday afternoon(20Feb98) to drive from Denver, Colorado across the continental divide to Vail, 100 miles to the west. On the way, we stopped on the outskirts of Denver at the Red Rocks amphitheater, a wonderful concert and stage play setting carved neatly out of the natural, but unusual, stone fins found there. I recall a night in 1980 when my brother and I watched Kenny Loggins perform there before a packed house. It is quite a different experience during daytime hours with empty terraces. If you climb to the top of the amphitheater, the valley floor containing Denver opens up for miles. On this mid-February day the temperature was in the mid 50s and the sky was a royal blue. The rest of the drive was breathtaking.

Saturday was a full and enjoyable day spent taking in the sites in Vail and the surrounding area. My wife, brother, and I spent the morning exploring the latest alpine construction at the Beaver Creek resort, above Avon, just west of Vail. For lunch I tried buffalo for the first time, albeit just one bite from my brother's sandwich. We met Helmut from Germany, a long time Vail Valley resident who was out entertaining the tourists with his alpenhorn and accordion, quite a character, a marvelous human being. The afternoon was more or less spent shopping for our kids and grandchild, our bit for the local Chamber of Commerce. We visited shops in Beaver Creek, Avon, Lionshead Village, and Vail Village. I purchased some new hiking shoes early in the day and broke them in trudging the shopping trail.

The highlight was later that night when we bundled up and rode the Lionshead gondola half way up Vail Mountain. We stopped to watch the ice skaters, the snow boarders, and the snowmobilers before heading out onto the darkened ski slopes on foot to see what the night sky had in store. Finding a sufficiently blackened area about 1/2 mile from the mid-mountain fun area, this star-spangled night brightly displayed the glory of the Milky Way to us. We all wished we had spent more time in the astronomy chapter in science class as we marveled at the light show you cannot see at lower elevation. The trip back down in the gondola was spent wondering if any of the pictures of the Vail city lights would be evidenced on our film(and digital memory chip). All in all, a wonderful day, especially when spent with those you dearly love.

Thought for the day: "Enjoy every minute. There's plenty of time to be dead."

 

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Sunday, February 22  
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I will be in Denver, Colorado for professional development training this week. Please visit the other pages of this site and be sure to return on Monday, February 23rd to view the summaries of my trip.

Posted March 1, 1998

If you have been following this diary for some time, you may recall how I trashed the logistics at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport on January 27th and 30th. I will tell you the opposite story about Denver International Airport. This facility is top notch, extremely well designed, and aethestically pleasing. It starts with the drive northward from the city. There is plenty of room on the entrance highways for increased future traffic rates. Returning rental cars is a snap, in fact they provide a gasoline station on the airport grounds for those who may have forgotten to fill up before returning their car. There was no line to wait in whatsoever at any of the 7 rental car companies I passed on the way to returning mine. There was a bus waiting to immediately wisk me on to the airport terminal. Looking like a huge circus big top from the outside, the DIA terminal is clean, airy, and artsy. The floors are all marble. There are lots of huge windows, making the lighting exceptional. About the only complaint I had was the funnel effect through security, a little bit of a wait in queue. An undergroud train takes passengers to the concourses which are again well lit and airy. For frequent travellers looking for airport efficiency, I strongly recommend Denver International.

This entire week has been wonderful. The travel days were efficient and on time, the training class was worthwhile, and the weekend vacation was an excellent adventure. I hope to do more of my business travelling to the Colorado area in the future.

Thought for the day: "The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair."

 

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