Thursday, October 21, 2021

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Send them to Pete at: ReleaseNotes@
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November 14, 2006

RAID and the No Good, Very Bad Day

Yesterday, I did something very, very unusual and left about 90 minutes early in hopes of beating out the traffic snarls brought on by rain. (In my experience, Californians are by and large fine drivers, but they’re shaken to their brake pedal-stomping feet by the merest hint of precipitation). Still feeling the lingering touch of vacation, I did something even more unusual and went to bed at a decent hour instead of working into the wee hours of the morning.

So it was that at 8 am, having dropped Neil off at robotics club before school, I got into work today and discovered that everything had gone completely to heck. Specifically, our main production database server, “Astro” (all our production boxes are named after Jetsons characters), had suffered some sort of massive hardware death and was down for the count. Naturally, in this database-centric world, that also meant that both the ComicBase and Atomic Avenue sites were similarly crippled.

I spent the first hour of the morning in utter disbelief. For the past few years, we’ve been using RAID (employing multiple hard drives as real-time back-ups of one another) in all our computers to insulate us against just this sort of problem. In theory, when one drive goes down, the computer just puts out an alert (but keeps running) until you can replace the disabled drive. At that point, it syncs up the surviving drive with the replacement and never misses a beat. This actually performed exactly according to plan when another of ours servers lost a drive a month or so ago, and I was starting to think that the investment we’d made in RAIDing all our computers was wise indeed.

Today, however, it seems that the drive failure was such that it destroyed the array itself. Googling around provided no answers for the “Set0 Invalid RAID Drive” alerts on the suddenly non-bootable Astro, and nothing I could do would get the machine to boot in any configuration.

So, after a couple of hours of trying and failing to resurrect the dead server, I headed over to Fry’s Electronics and picked up a couple of new 400 GB drives (replacing the original 74 GB Raptors), along with an external enclosure to use in hopes of mounting the original drives to recover the data. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a fiend for backups, and we had several levels of backup ranging from a few hours to a couple of days old which would have let us restore almost exactly where we’d been, but my only chance for a backup up to the minute of the failure lay in pulling the old database files from the original drives. (Much larger companies than us can afford failover clusters and other types of fault tolerance. Unfortunately, the admission price for this sort of protection tends to run to the tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars: It’s a drop in the bucket for Yahoo, granted, but more than one easily makes selling comic book software.)

As it turned out, the old drive read just fine in the external enclosure, and as I write this, I’m in the process of copying the data back to the restored server. Sadly, even when you plan ahead, and spend a ton of money to prevent disasters like this, it takes some time to get back on your feet. (For any MCSEs in the reading audience: I left out the part about this server also being one of our domain controllers; the process of decommissioning it, formatting the new drives, reinstalling the software, and recommissioning it takes hours, even in the best case). Then, there’s the time you spend simply waiting for files to copy: Gigabytes upon Gigabytes of files... We’ve got a fast network here, but if I make it home before midnight, I’ll consider it something of a triumph.

Ugh. All things being equal, I’d much rather be home drinking hot chocolate and playing Guitar Hero II with Neil...


November 9, 2006

Forums!

After much prodding (and with much thanks to Shiaw-Ling), we’ve got the ComicBase and Atomic Avenue forums up and running. I’ll admit, I’m saying a prayer right now that the whole thing doesn’t degenerate into one great big mess of spam, flames, or other such banes of the internet world. Initial indications, however, are that the whole thing just might wind up being Really Useful.

If you get a chance, head on over to forums.atomicavenue.com and see what you think...

 

Disneyland (and a Secret Origin story)

After months upon months of breakneck development, four product launches, and the in-progress, rolling-beta rollout of Atomic Avenue, I’m going to be taking a couple of days off to take the family down to Disneyland. This’ll be Kelly’s first trip to the Magic Kingdom (and my first trip to California Adventure). We should also be stopping by Legoland while we’re down there to pay homage to all things brick-like and geeky.

Secret Origin! : The last time I visited Disneyland almost about three years back, when I’d finished up ComicBase 8, and was laying the groundwork for the huge overhaul that was to be ComicBase 9.

Simultaneously, I was scouting around for a name for a new online venture we were planning to allow folks with ComicBase to easily sell their millions of comics online. Inspired by 1950s science fiction, I wanted a name that was both nostalgic and forward-looking—a sort of “retro-futurism—the way folks in, say, the 1950s thought that the future would be.

Astro Orbiter

With my mind full of spaceships, hovercars, Jules Verne fantasies, and toy robots, I kept on searching for a cool name for this system which we could still manage to get a trademark and a domain registration on. Inspiration finally struck as I admired the rocket ride in Disney’s Tomorrowland. Rushing back to my hotel room that night, I discovered that my ideal name appeared nowhere on the internet, and I immediately registered “AtomicAvenue.com”. The rest, as they say, is history!