A Tale of Two Stories
Mood: bouncy
Posted on 2007-05-24 09:22:00
Tags: car story computer
Words: 858

1 - djedi and I were driving home when I heard a noise coming from under the car that quickly got louder. It sounded like something had fallen under the car and we were dragging it along or something. We were slowing down anyway so djedi poked his head out the door to see that the right front tire was quite flat. I pulled over to the side and we got out. Luckily we were less than a mile from home by this point, so regardless we could walk home or whatever. Anyway, djedi gets out the mini compressor that was a present from djedi's family (thanks!) and starts pumping air into it. After like 5 minutes of this, it's pretty clear it's not filling up, and I find a reasonably sized hole in the side. (I tried applying pressure with my finger while it was filling up, but that didn't seem to help)

So, djedi looks in the trunk and finds no spare tire. Ack! So I call AAA (the fact that I have a membership gives me great peace of mind, as I'm not so good with cars), and after they transfer me to the Maryland office (I hadn't changed my address...) she sends a tow truck out. Luckily we remember there's a Firestone just down the road, and they're only open until 7 (it's around 6:40 by now) but I can drop the car off out front.

While we're waiting, we both think it's awfully odd that the car, which definitely came with a spare tire, doesn't have one now, despite the fact that I've never used it or anything, so we go back to the trunk to check. Turns out all the storage is done origami-style - so you fold up some stuff to get to the jack and stuff, but then if you fold it up again there is a spare tire! Whoops. I read the instructions while djedi changes out the tire, which goes pretty smoothly. Just around the time we finish I see a tow truck driving the other way that honks as it goes by, and sure enough it turns around and stops. I explain to the friendly driver that we did in fact have a spare and so we could drive it ourselves :-)

Anyway, djedi walks home to start dinner and I carefully drive over to the Firestone. It's already 7:10 but they're still around finishing up, so I watch some "Jeopardy!" while I wait and finally tell them the situation, drop off the key and jog home. I don't like jogging, but this wasn't a long way and it was really a beautiful day out so I didn't mind.

Afterword: Since the hole was in the side of the tire, I'm getting four new tires. I needed an oil change anyway, so this works out decently. (and I'm not getting a Firestone charge card despite getting halfway through the application before realizing what the guy was trying to sell me...)

2 - Ever since I got my new computer a year and a halfish ago, it's been slow. Not for doing big computations, but for switching between screens, starting up Firefox, etc. World of Warcraft is particularly bad, as I've noticed a couple of times that when I switch away and from it, it's very slow and jerky, and loading new zones takes fooooorever. This made me kinda unhappy, but I had mostly learned to live with it. A few days ago I was rereading Linux Server Hacks and I got to the tip about using hdparm. Now I had set this up a long time ago but it suddenly occurred to me that maybe it wasn't working, and this was why things were so slow!

I went to my computer and did the timing tests with hdparm -tT /dev/hdc. The "Timing buffered disk reads" came back with 1.67 MB/sec, which even my years-old book says was laughably low. Encouraging! So I tried turning on lots of stuff with hdparm -d1 -u1 -X66 -c3 -m16 /dev/hdc. Unfortunately, it said that turning on DMA was "not supported", but everything else was turned on, and that got the speed up to around 3 MB/sec. (it turns out the old hdparm settings weren't working because my hard drive had changed from /dev/hda to /dev/hdc)

Not bad! But I wondered why I couldn't turn DMA on, as that would in general help the most. So after doing a little research I discovered the problem was that support for the IDE controller wasn't built in to the kernel. I decided to go ahead and download a new kernel anyway and (after eventually finding the right option) turned on the IDE controller supported. After installing it, I was indeed able to turn DMA on, and now the speed is anywhere between 30 to 60 MB/sec! I had to recompile a couple of times to get my sound and iptables filtering working again (I think the options changed between kernels), but I finally got it all up last night. My system is noticeably more responsive, and loading WoW screams (at least comparatively).

This makes me a happy panda!


Comment from kernelm:

Ick, flat tires. I haven't had one in a while, thankfully. *knocks on wood* But when I lived in Houston that time for the IBM internship, I had a flat like, every other week. I learned to be very good with changing into the spare tire. And I knew the NTB guys way too well.

Dude, yeah, not having DMA is huge. On my old laptop DMA kept turning off randomly on the DVD drive which meant all of a sudden playback would be horrid. What distro are you using these days? I've got Gentoo on my old laptop but I really need to do an emerge update soon. I'm still trying to decide what distro I want to put on the new laptop. Gentoo is fun, but just a bit too much of a PITA sometimes.

Comment from gregstoll:

Wow, that's crazy. I wonder if there was some glass in the road or something on your normal route to work...

I'm using an ooold install of Debian - when I change hard drives, etc. I just copy everything over. (although I do, of course, upgrade packages, etc.) It works OK. I've thought about "upgrading" to Ubuntu (or Kubuntu, I guess) since it looks pretty nice but I'm afraid things will break and I won't be able to get them working again. I've gotten to the point where fixing my computer to the functionality it had yesterday isn't exciting anymore.

Comment from kernelm:

Sadly, the culprit was pretty much my own inept driving... Back then I had a habit of running into the curb when trying to park and sometimes even when cornering. *headdesk*

Yeah, I hear you on the tinkering thing. That's part of the reason I've been so lazy and haven't gotten Linux on the new laptop yet. That, and the Linuxy stuff I need to do I can still use the old laptop.

Comment from wildrice13:

Yay for making WoW faster!! My laptop's DVD drive totally messed up once and recovered itself when I removed it from the devices and let it Plug n Play back in. Granted, my laptop is a Windows PC, but maybe it was something of the DMA ilk?

Comment from djedi:

To be fair, I didn't have to stick my head out the door to know it was a flat tire. The sound is very distinctive. I was just surprised at the fact that it was neither really slow nor a blowout, but sort of a slow blowout.

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