Die Disk, Die

There's been a lot of "Ubuntu kills laptop hard drives" buzz going around lately. The implication is that over aggressive power management is causing excessive load/unload cycles, exceeding a reasonable duty cycle, and drastically shortening the life of your drive. I run Debian unstable on my laptop but I looked into it anyway and sure enough it's something which is effecting me as well.

As Matthew Garrett points out, it doesn't have anything to do with Ubuntu, Debian, or Linux in general, the culprit is aggressive power management settings in the drive firmware, or settings applied by the BIOS.

If this is happening to you, it's possible that it can be rectified with a firmware upgrade or by updating settings in the BIOS. The solution I chose was to allow laptop-mode-tools to control power management, applying maximum power savings when on battery (hdparm -B 1 /dev/$device), and disabling it when on AC power (hdparm -B 254 /dev/$device).

If you have an otherwise default install of laptop-mode-tools on Debian you can accomplish this by setting CONTROL_HD_POWERMGMT=1 in /etc/laptop-mode/laptop-mode.conf and issuing an /etc/init.d/laptop-mode restart.

Not Ready To Be A Grandparent

One of my daughter's electives this semester is Child Development. That's the course where you're issued an infant and graded on the condition of the child at the completion of the assignment. Return anything other than a healthy well-adjusted baby and your grade suffers.

When I was in high school your "baby" was a raw egg. You were encouraged to personalize your egg/baby and many people did (drawn-on faces, clothing, facial hair, tattoos, etc). As goofy as it sounds, lugging around something as fragile as an egg is difficult for a high schooler so it's not surprising that many of them came back cracked (or worse), Attempts at cheating were common and usually consisted of hard boiling the baby, or replacing it with a suitably similar one in the hopes that the teacher wouldn't notice (somehow they always did though).

My how times have changed.

Sara was issued a startlingly realistic doll, a carrier which doubles as a car seat, a diaper bag, a bottle, and several changes of clothing.

This doll not only looks like a real baby, it's weight and other physical characteristics are very close to that of a real infant. To the point of making it creepy. It's also jam-packed with electronics.

Sensors in the doll detect feedings and diaper changes and record them for later download by the teacher. Let its head fall back or subject it to any undue impact and that will be recorded as well. You'll know when it's hungry, or needs a burping or changing because it gets "fussy". If you fail to respond to your baby's needs properly, and in a timely fashion, it transitions from "fussy" to Screaming At The Top Of Its Lungs. For added effect, the eat-excrete cycle is also accurate which means waking in the middle of the night to care for it.

The program is convincing enough that when my daughter takes her homework someplace public (she can't leave it at home. that'd be bad parenting), she receives very authentic looks of disapproval.

High school child development courses are always pitched as a way of teaching how to properly care for a baby, but in reality it's always been about scaring the living shit out of teenagers. They may have finally succeeded, I for one am terrified.

I don't know if I should be impressed by the genius that is Baby Think It Over, or saddened by the fact that teenage pregnancy is enough of an issue to warrant such extremes.

Duplicity backport for Etch

I've been backing up all of my important machines to Amazon S3 using Duplicity for sometime now. It's worked out really well but required just enough hackery to prevent me from providing straight forward instructions for others.

I'm all about sharing the love so I submitted a new S3 backend to upstream using the excellent [boto] (http://code.google.com/p/boto/) library from Mitch Garnaat, and I packaged boto for Debian. The new backend made it into the 0.4.3 release of Duplicity, which in turn migrated to testing a couple of weeks ago. Now there is an Etch backport of 0.4.3 on backports.org.

In addition to installing duplicity from backports.org you will also need to pin python-boto from Lenny.