Hell Toupee

There were still patches of snow on the ground from the weekend’s Ocsnowber Nor’easter, but it was a nice night for trick-or-treating, at about 45 degrees. I had our light on from 6-9 but still only served 10 kids, and 6 of them were in one group! I do my best to be a welcoming house: porch light on, jack-o-lantern out, and I always play some “appropriate” music, but very few kids come through our neighborhood for some reason. My “All Hallows Eve” playlist includes:

Bad Moon Rising — CCR
Bela Lugosi’s Dead — Bauhaus
Black Magic Woman — Santana
Bright Yellow Gun — Throwing Muses
Burnin’ For You — Blue Oyster Cult
Culling of the Fold — Decemberists
Don’t Fear the Reaper — Blue Oyster Cult
Everyday is Halloween — Ministry
Gallows Pole — Led Zeppelin
Hell — Squirrel Nut Zippers
Highway to Hell — AC/DC
Institutionalized — Suicidal Tendencies
The Mariner’s Revenge Song — Decemberists
Monster Mash — Bobby Pickett
Monsters in the Bathroom — Bill Harley
One Halloween Night — SteveSongs
People Who Died — Jim Carroll
Prince Nez — Squirrel Nut Zippers
Psycho Killer — Talking Heads
Run Like Hell — Pink Floyd
Shankill Butchers — Decemberists
Werewolf — SteveSongs
Werewolves of London — Warren Zevon
Zombie — Cranberries

In the afterlife
You could be headed for the serious strife
Now you make the scene all day
But tomorrow there’ll be Hell to pay

–Squirrel Nut Zippers, Hell

Virtually Impossible

I received a new laptop at work, which is always a treat, but also always a pain trying to get the necessary programs and data migrated from the old one to the new one. My usual crutch is to create a “virtual” copy of the old laptop to run on the new one for the transition period. I end up using the virtual copy less and less as time goes on. Then eventually, I run short on space on the “new” laptop and have to delete the old copy.

I’ve done this through my 2 most recent laptop transitions, and also used the same technique when we got Susan a MacBook to replace an old Dell laptop. The biggest problem I’d had to date was a licensing issue with Susan’s — the Windows license on it was an OEM license, and when going to authorize it, it wouldn’t take my semi-legitimate MSDN license. I finally wore someone down on the phone until they let the registration go through.

With this laptop, though, I’ve had nothing but trouble. And it has nothing to do with the new hardware, AFAIK. I started with my favorite Virtualization engine, VMware. They offer a free “Player” application and also a free “P2V” application for taking a Physical computer and creating a Virtual copy of it. Even getting the P2V process going was challenging, though, as it required software running on both systems, and dealing with Windows permissions, with the old laptop being a member of the work domain, and the new one not yet. And then copying 62 GB over the wireless network wasn’t going very quickly, so I cancelled the process then connected the two systems to the wired network. At that point, name resolution stopped working in one direction, making other things that much more difficult. The process, once I was able to get it started, did go much quicker over the wired network, though. Starting up the newly created VM in Player, though, did not go well. It started with a BSoD related to some supposedly missing file. A little web searching led me to running a “repair” from the install disc, which got me to the next error, which was a different BSoD. That one seemed to have to do with the VM being configured with one kind of storage, and the installed system expecting another kind. You might think the P2V process would manage all of this appropriately, or at least I would, but you’d be wrong, or at least I was wrong. Anyway, after many fruitless hours of web searches, regedits from the repair console, extracting VMware disk metadata from the virtual disk file, modifying it, and re-inserting it, I gave up. I’ve never had such a miserable experience with VMware.

On to Microsoft. Sure to be a slam dunk. Well, the new version of Virtual PC is weird, and is implemented as some shell extensions so it doesn’t even really look like an app. I first tried an application that converts virtual disks from one format to another. I can’t really remember the failure mode of that attempt, but the VM wouldn’t boot. I was willing to accept this, given the heritage of the virtual disk file, and the myriad of changes I’d made to it since first making the image. I then moved on to creating a virtual disk with a Microsoft (sysinternals) tool. I figured I’d try a “simpler” wired network this time, with both nodes on a small hub, but the throughput was terrible. I then remembered that it really was a hub, and not a switch, and I disconnected the other system I had plugged in there, and disconnected the internet connection, and then things really moved along quickly. When I came back a few hours later, though, the app complained that the network connection was lost. Didn’t look it to me, but what do I know. I re-configured the two computers’ network interfaces to have static IP addresses, and I addressed the shared folder for storing the newly created virtual disk with the IP address of the target instead of its name. But that new copy ended up having an even weirder failure mode. The VM would begin to boot, but then simply power down. No BSoD, no error message, no nothing. I did some searching but my GoogleFu failed me, and I could find no similar reports.

At this point I was feeling pretty beat up, but in doing some research on the VHD file format (Microsoft’s virtual disk format), I read that VirtualBox also supported it. So I figured, what the heck. Since it doesn’t require making a new virtual disk, but was just a quick download, the cost to try was low. But of course that failed to boot as well — just gave me a blank screen. However, I was able to go into the settings and figure out by myself some changes to try (mainly the bus on which the virtual disk was configured), and was able to get the VM to boot. It certainly took a lot of doing to get to that point. Even so, the story doesn’t end there. The VM would boot OK, but I couldn’t access the network. The error in Device Manager was that not enough resources were available for the device. And there were a handful of devices in that state, not just the network interface. I tried deleting old hardware drivers, etc., but never got those errors to go away. Some internet research later, I learned that installing their “Guest Additions” solved many errors. So I did this, but still no luck. Some more searching (my GoogleFu had returned!) later, I came across someone who had the same problem, and his solution was to change the PCI bus driver. I did this, and voila! All was well.

All in all, it was a surprisingly miserable experience to get to this point. But thank you, Virtual Box, for coming through in the end!

I Want to Ride my Bicycle

So I’ve been riding my new bicycle around town, but in the wimpy freewheel mode. Yesterday I got my courage up to flip the rear wheel around and give the fixed gear mode a try on the ride to Tyler’s soccer game. And today, I went for a longer ride — Arlington Center to Lexington Center on the Minuteman Trail. Including the short bit from home to the bike path and back, it’s just about exactly ten miles.

It takes some getting used to, I’ll say that much. I stopped in Lexington Center at the water fountain, as the bike doesn’t yet have a water bottle cage. So essentially it’s five miles of continuous pedaling. So there are a few things that are tricky. First is getting started. I’m very accustomed to having the pedals stationary when getting my second foot in the clips. No such thing now. Must get the pedal oriented and the foot in while the pedals are moving. It’s challenging. Second is while biking: there are times when I’m used to coasting a bit. Usually, it’s when I get out of the saddle to go over a bump more gently. It’s very disconcerting to be mentally prepared to stop pedaling, and to have the pedals not cooperate. Also very jarring to say the least. Finally, stopping can be a bit tricky. When riding a “normal” bike, you have the ability to adjust your pedal position when stopping. Not so with a fixed gear — the pedals are where they are.

But aside from starting, going, and stopping, it’s really easy. Sheldon says that “It takes a couple of weeks of regular riding to unlearn the impulse to coast, and become at ease on a fixed gear.” We’ll see.

My Bike

Having largely completed Clara’s bike, I moved on to my bike. This is the bike I bought in High School, early 1980’s, from the bike shop that was at the edge of our neighborhood (The Bike Rack). It cost me about $300 at the time. I rode it all over during my High School year, or at least as far as I ranged back then. I wasn’t allowed to have a driver’s license until I was 18, so there wasn’t much driving for me in High School, though of course I did get rides from friends. Anyway, back to the bike. It got a lot of use in those years, and I brought it up to college with me, though with some trepidation given the reputation Cambridge had for bike theft. I didn’t use it a lot in those years, but when I needed to get off campus on my own, or even to the other end of campus, it was handy. One of my roommates borrowed it once, and the back wheel got stolen. He graciously replaced it, even before bringing the bike back, but that made me even more anxious about riding it. Or more precisely, parking it. I had a Citadel “u-lock” and the idea was you’d remove the front wheel and lock it up along with the back wheel and the frame to something sturdy. But what a pain, and you end up scratching up the fork ends.

After college, the bike saw even less use. And after getting married (or maybe it was just before), Susan and I bought snazzy new Specialized mountain bikes, which meant that the old bike really languished after that, sitting in basements, attics, and other random storage areas. I had a $10 price tag on it at a yard sale once, as it had gotten a little rusty in some parts, and someone offered me $5 for it. I hate yard sales. As if $10 wasn’t enough of a bargain. I couldn’t let it go for that, so it sat in the basement some more, but its presence there began to bug me. So a few years ago, I stripped it of all its parts, and began to strip the paint from the frame. It sat for another year or two, and last summer I got “inspired” to turn it into a single speed/fixed gear bike, and did a lot of research. The trickiest bit was getting a special rear hub that would allow some front-back adjustment of the cog (to tension the chain properly) even though the rear dropout was essentially vertical. I eventually bought a set of wheels on eBay where the rear wheel had this special White Industries Eccentric ENO hub. The pair of wheels, all built up, cost about a third less than the hub alone would have, brand new. Seemed like a good deal. But then it sat some more. Oh, and the new wheels are size 700c, while the old ones were 27″ so the conversion necessitates a longer reach brake.

This summer, we bought Clara an old road bike that she and I fixed up for her. Part of that job was having the frame painted (or more accurately, “powder coated”). I thought I could perhaps get a discount getting more than one frame done, so I got both frames ready. That didn’t turn out to be the case, and it turned out to be quite a bit more expensive than I’d hoped, but I’m very pleased with the end result. After essentially finishing her bike, I started on mine. I bought about half the parts via eBay, and others through a couple of online bike shops, and even some parts/tools from local shops. At this point, there remain but three original parts: the frame, the fork, and the seatpost binder bolt. After that, there are a few things I bought used: the wheels, the seatpost, and the saddle. Beyond that, everything on the bike is new. Which means the project cost more than it was worth, but it has been a fun and interesting project, and I learned a lot doing it. Plus, I still have my old bike and all the sentimental value that carries.

I rode it for the first time last Friday. I had it set up in fixed gear mode, but felt a little freaked out in that mode, so I switched it to single speed (by simply flipping the rear wheel around!) until I could get comfortable with the bike as a whole. Hope to make the switch and get some practice riding “fixie” soon. I expect it will take some time to get used to it.

Here’s a listing of most of the components:

Frame: 1981 Panasonic DX2000
Fork: original Tange
Rims: Mavic Open Sport
Rear Hub: White Industries Eccentric ENO
Front Hub: some Nashbar sealed bearing hub
Headset: Velo Orange Alloy Headset, in JIS size (not many choices in that size!)
Stem: Nitto Pearl 120mm
Handlebar: no-name Bullhorn style
Bar Tape: Arundel cork
Bottom Bracket: Tange sealed cartridge
Crankset: Sugino XD
Pedals: MKS Sylvan Prime Track Pedals
Toe Clips: MKS (NJS Stamped :-))
Brake: Tektro R536 Caliper
Brake Level: Tektro RX 4.1
Cross Lever: Cane Creek
Seatpost: SR Laprade
Saddle: Selle San Marco Island Ponza