Archive for July, 2012

The Days of Terror

Here’s a silly story I wrote about a decade ago.


When I was born, I was immediately aware of everything around me. I was aware of my father, who also was my mother. Or maybe something entirely different. In a way, I was my father. But that doesn’t matter now. It’s not important for the story I’ll tell you. A story which is of great importance, for I am the last still alive born prior to the End of the Suffering. Therefore I must relate my experiences from the first days of my youth. This knowledge should not be lost.

Like I said, I was immediately aware of my surroundings. Unlike the larger creatures, formerly the masters of the earth, we are as you know one big, conscious growing process. When we are cut off from our base, we stay alive long enough to pass our acquired knowledge to our main body. It’s partially because of this, that I can account of these events so well.

When I was only a few days old, I had my first experience with what is now only vaguely remembered as the Days of Terror. Compared to our present freedom, the Days of Terror lasted longer than any of us can remember. Nevertheless, it was gruesome.

I wasn’t prepared for it. I was just standing there happily, gazing at the sun, when suddenly I heard screams in the distance. First I couldn’t hear what the screams said, but the screams seemed to come closer and closer. After a short while, although it seemed to last for hours, I could finally hear what they were screaming. No! Not again! Spare me! I will stay small!

As the young lad I was, I didn’t understand it at all until suddenly it hit me. A sharp piece of metal hit my body and sliced me in two. Part of me was lifted by an air stream generated by the sharp piece of metal. It was then that I, or rather a long-dead piece of me, first met Him. We must not let this happen to us without doing anything! is what He was shouting at anybody who would could hear. We must fight back!

It was an unwilling crowd. All the pieces of the older ones retorted that it had always been like this. They were not prepared to do anything. But I was, having experienced this terror for the first time and being completely shocked that something like this could happen. So I replied: What do you propose, what can we do against this terror?!

We must attempt not to grow to the sun, but stick to the ground! He replied. So this is what we did. We stuck to the ground. The older ones didn’t do so, however. And so, a few days later, when the Terror came again, they had grown all the way up again. Suddenly scared, they grabbed the few of us lying down on the ground, pulling us with them. Thus it happened again, struck by the Terror for the second time. But now those surrounding us had seen that we were initially not harmed. That day we gained many new followers.

A few days later, we could already celebrate our first little victory. None of those around Him, me and the few other original followers were harmed. This was a vital breakthrough, and the news spread quickly among our brothersisters. I considered this to be the end of it. I thought we could all live like this, happily ever after, until the end of days. But it wasn’t like that for Him. He was far from satisfied. Only the first phase of His big plan to change the world forever had succeeded.

None of us knew what He was up to at first. He was busy with something, but none of us knew what it was. It was such a novel idea that we didn’t even grasp the idea when he first succeeded at what he had been trying for so long. To make a long story short, he had somehow managed unrestricted movement. This might all sound very strange to you today, but at the time, none of us had ever done it. Millions of years had passed and yet He was not only the first to think of it, but also the first to actually achieve it.

With His new abilities, He went to visit all of us. While those close to him, including me, were trying to master this new technique, He walked further and further, visiting those who had but barely grasped the idea of lying down. Walking was an exaggerated rumor to their minds, until they saw it in real life. As I was still relatively young, I did not do much with this new technique, but the older among us, who knew they were going to die quite soon, set out for exploration. They walked up to our great brethren at whose feet many of us still grow, and tried to initialize communication with them — another novelty. After a while they even succeeded, but they were not enthused by the concept of walking.

Many of those exploring never returned. Newer expeditions found out that it was due to lack of food, so newer expeditions decided to be in the ground half of the day to prevent starvation. Because most of us preferred to wander by day, this became known as night rest or sleep in common parlance.

He was happy with our achievements for a while, but as soon as most of us were able to move as well as He could, He wanted more. Instead of avoiding the Terror, he argued, we should attack the Terror. It might take some victims, but it would be worth it in the end, for we would be rid of the Terror. We felt like we could do everything after having mastered movement, so almost all of us agreed with whatever He could come up with.

So the days went by and inevitably the Terror came again. As it was not the metal, but the two things behind it which were important, as He argued, we should shrink away from the metal and then attack the two things behind it. He would give the sign.

Lying down, we waited for the metal to pass. Then, on his signal, we all extended over one of the two things. I don’t remember what we expected, but something much larger was attached to the thing and it fell down, crushing many of us.

The others, who had been waiting at the side, now jumped on the most important part of the Terror. The destructive metal didn’t seem to be doing anything anymore now that we managed to take down the controlling Terror behind it. We jumped all over the Terror, tying it. The Terror tried to get away and a long struggle ensued. At last it stopped moving.

Those who hadn’t actually helped getting the Terror down now went to look. The thing, which had given off warmth before, seemed to be cooling down. But then, not too long after having killed this one, another Terror approached. It was moving much faster than we were used to, so first it crushed many of us while running towards the lifeless Terror on the ground. But then we got hold of it. Tying it down to the ground, we repeated what we had done before. Again we succeeded.

As the months passed, we spent our time taking out an ever increasing number Terrors. Also, thanks to our movement technique, we found out that both we and the Terrors were with many more than we ever had expected. More importantly still, we were with many, many more. Our army kept on steadily growing and growing as we continued our struggle, The Terrors applied many different ways of fighting us. Billions upon billions were murdered in blistering flames. Later, these weeks became known as The Days of Terror, as the Terrors seemed to have reached a turning point. However, we found out that drinking our weight in water, while making us only barely able to move, also protected against the flames. From that moment, the war was all but won. The Terrors were cowardly running retreating. They fled to places were we couldn’t follow. As you know, they are still there. But they dare not harm us any more.

Finally having gained our freedom, we also thought He was appeased. But He was not. He wanted us to think of new techniques to better our lives. But it was then, that he suddenly passed away long before His time. A sudden frost struck us, and like many He was frozen. Still, the casualties were few compared to the battles we fought against the Terrors.

Our first independent new idea was to protect ourselves from things like frost. If we could battle the Terrors, why not winter? The Terrors left their dwellings behind, and we occupied them. Our scientists, as those with an aptitude for coming up with and testing hypotheses are called now, researched these dwelling. They found a lot of interesting stuff, but not all has yet been uncovered.

Recently the purpose of the objects made out of the dead bodies of our great brethren was discovered. These contain knowledge. The very kind of knowledge you are looking at right now. Yes, He changed the shape of the world forever. As the last of those who were there, it is my time to go now. I can already feel life flowing out of me. I’m no longer able to drink well any more.

I hope this message will not be lost over time. Do not forget the past. Do not become new Terrors yourself. Good luck living in the most exciting of times.

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SSD Optimizations

As I wrote yesterday, I migrated my Linux install from an HDD to an SSD. That runs great by default, but you should add the discard argument to the relevant entries in /etc/fstab to enable TRIM support. Long-time SSD performance should remain great thanks to that simple action, which in my case looks like this:

# /dev/sda1
UUID=b8024bbf-9d29-417d-b6eb-ef87d0d586ec /               ext4    errors=remount-ro,discard 0       1
# /dev/sda2
UUID=30efde45-b883-464d-966c-605e091078b9 /home           ext4    defaults,user_xattr,discard        0       2

Some also recommend to set noatime to prolong your drive’s life, but since relatime is the default these days that doesn’t seem necessary to me. However, what you should probably do if you’ve got a sufficient amount of RAM, is to mount /tmp in it.

tmpfs /tmp tmpfs defaults,noatime,mode=1777 0 0
tmpfs /var/tmp tmpfs defaults,noatime,mode=1777 0 0

You can do the same thing with your logs, but I’m not too sure whether I want to do that myself, even if it would cut down on writes.

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Copy Your Linux Install Without Using DD

I know, everyone’s all over dd and depending on your needs it can be a great tool. However, for a variety of reasons it may not always be what you need. In my case I was migrating my OS to an SSD, and I wanted to upgrade from ext3 to ext4. In spirit this post is no different than the 2009 article on this subject in Linux Journal, but being from 2009 is exactly why it didn’t quite work for me today.

To start, get a live CD and boot into it. I prefer Ubuntu for things like this. It has Gparted. Now follow the steps outlined below.

I don’t think a LiveCD is strictly speaking required, but it’s certainly the safest route. As an aside, using an external USB hard or flash drive typically gives you significantly better performance than a DVD drive.

Copying

  • Mount both your source and destination partitions.
  • Run this command from a terminal:

    sudo cp -afv /path/to/source/* /path/to/destination

    Don’t forget the asterisk after the source path.

[…]

Configuration

  • Mount your destination drive (or partition).
  • Run the command “gksu gedit” (or use nano or vi). [I prefer SciTE myself.]
  • Edit the file /etc/fstab. Change the UUID or device entry with the mount point / (the root partition) to your new drive.

    You can find your new drive’s (or partition’s) UUID with this
    command:

    $ ls -l /dev/disk/by-uuid/

That’d be the end of what’s still usable. Here’s what you need to know to set up GRUB 2 on the new disk.

sudo mount /dev/sdXY /mnt #most likely something like /dev/sda1 or /dev/sdb1
mount --bind /dev /mnt/dev
mount --bind /sys /mnt/sys
chroot /mnt

Here we mount the relevant partition, chroot into it, and give it access to what Grub will need to set up. chroot allows you to effectively run multiple systems without needing to reboot. All that should be left now is to install Grub:

grub-install /dev/sdXY
update-grub

Do you love the consistency there as much as I do? Anyway, notice that you need to run update-grub manually since grub-install doesn’t do it for you. It sure tripped me up.

In case you’re migrating to an SSD like I did, there are some other adjustments to make, which I’ll write about in more detail soon.

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