RANT: Cheap Server Rail Kits

This is a very specialized topic, but my hand hurts this morning for a very specialized reason, and I wish to rant about it.

Attention cheap white-box server manufacturers: the cheap, flimsy, rickety, ill-fitting, funny-smelling rail kits you continue to ship so you can save $10 are absolute garbage, and you should be ashamed of yourselves. I would so dearly love to name names, but as this post surely proves, I am too pro for that.

You can and should do better. The mechanism responsible for holding something heavy and important should not be made of materials as utterly not-resilient as (and unfavorably comparable to) plastic wrap, talc, or balsa wood. I would rather use duct tape, because at least I know what to expect from duct tape, and it typically does what I expect.

IKEA ships better rail kits to hold a two pound drawer.

I would shake my fist at you, but I am having trouble making my hand into that shape this morning because of an encounter with one of these travesties of engineering yesterday afternoon.

Please round up all such alleged rail kits and leave them out in the sun, where they will surely melt into a greasy puddle of sadness and embarrassment in under 15 minutes.

This is perhaps the leading reason I do not prefer cheap white-box servers, and have a moment of nausea whenever I know I will have to deal with one. It is never by choice.

Thank you for your time and attention. My soul feels better, but my hand still hurts.

Windows Wireless

Dorks: I am about to trash Windows.

Non-dorks: Sorry, nothing to see here.

I think I first used wireless networking on a ThinkPad X31 back in like 2002 or something. The last time I regularly used a Windows notebook was maybe in 2004. Last night, I had the pleasure of helping set up a wireless network at my favorite Halloween scary place on some admittedly not-modern Windows hardware.

My observation: Using a Windows machine to connect to and use a wireless network remains an embarrassment.  The OS might manage it, or your manufacturer may have decided to put their own wireless management software in the way, but getting things to Just Work is fraught with peril.  Much more so if you’re smart and turned off SSID broadcast and enabled the best encryption your access point can manage.

The alternative is this:

Screenshot of Mac OS X 10.6 dialog for joining a wireless network

I sometimes use Windows 7 on a desktop and don’t hate it. I’m sure wireless configuration is better in Windows 7 (not that it could be worse), but I think I’ll stick with the alternative.

How I Made StarCraft II Work

I bought StarCraft II as a digital download on Sunday and began a long hard slog of zero fun.

The first thing I got to enjoy was disabling peer-to-peer in the Blizzard Downloader so my network connection wouldn’t repeatedly die. Still don’t know what that was about, but it definitely made for a long downloading experience.

Wait for the paint to dry, then install, patch, fire it up, start the tutorial, SPLATCRASH *@!*#&!

My steps for fixing this problem:

  1. Whined about it on Twitter and Facebook.
  2. Updated video drivers.
  3. Crash.
  4. Updated audio drivers, which immediately forgot about my front panel audio in.
  5. Reverted audio drivers.
  6. Ran the Windows 7 built-in memory diagnostic. Waste of time, but it felt like doing something.
  7. Crash.
  8. Ran CHKDSK with surface scan. Waste of time, but it felt like doing something.
  9. Crash.
  10. Whined about it on Twitter and Facebook.
  11. Added these settings in Documents/StarCraft II/Variables.txt:
  12. Disabled 3D portraits through the menu settings.
  13. Works!

Actually, I should probably hold off on “Works!”, since my test was “Does this run the first tutorial for more than 10 seconds?” For now, it feels like doing something.

For the dorks, some specs of my entirely mediocre PC, which largely meets the “Recommended Specifications” listing I read the other day:

Operating System: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit (6.1, Build 7600) (7600.win7_gdr.100226-1909)
Language: English (Regional Setting: English)
System Manufacturer: System manufacturer
System Model: P5K
BIOS: BIOS Date: 10/14/08 13:59:09 Ver: 08.00.12
Processor: Intel(R) Core(TM)2 Duo CPU E6750 @ 2.66GHz (2 CPUs), ~2.7GHz
Memory: 2048MB RAM
Available OS Memory: 2048MB RAM
Card name: NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT
Manufacturer: NVIDIA
Chip type: GeForce 8800 GT
Driver Version:

Solaris 10 u6 has no “-u” on “zfs receive”

Despite what you might read at docs.sun.com, Solaris 10 update 6 doesn’t have a “-u” option for `zfs receive`.

jmcmurry@lemon $ cat /etc/release
Solaris 10 10/08 s10s_u6wos_07b SPARC
Copyright 2008 Sun Microsystems, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.
Use is subject to license terms.
Assembled 27 October 2008
jmcmurry@lemon $ zfs receive -u
invalid option 'u'

This could’ve been brought to my attention before I decide to create my ZFS export streams recursively. One at a time, I’d have been fine. What seemed to be an awesome way to retrofit a metadata slice for an SVM volume into a whole disk ZFS root install turned out to be a miserable trail of heartache and pain.

But I can take it; I am a Unix guy.

UPDATE: “-u” seems to be in Solaris 10 update 7, but even there, it’s not in the man page for zfs(1M). Thanks so much for updating the docs without indicating that the “recover your root storage” function only works on the OS release that you made available for download today.