Thursday, April 27, 2006

Reliable Backup

Currently, I use a combination of cron, tar, ftp, and some of my own custom scripts to run backup jobs between my company's two offices. Sadly, the data in one office has become so big that it's rarely succesfully transferred to the other office. Consequently, we end up relying on the local backup machine instead of both local and remote backups.

Today on Slashdot, I saw an article about Cleversafe. Cleversafe seeks to build a grid of backup computers in any number of locations and slice-n-dice the data all over the place. What's great, though, is that you can rebuild the data from slightly more than half of the machines on the grid. It would also distribute the load of the data transfers between several different systems.

So, in essence, we could use home DSL-connected systems, workstations at the office, servers at the colo facility, and who knows what else to store backups. Not only would this fix my remote backup woes, but it would also offer a viable option for local mailbox backup.

As of now, I haven't had a chance to test the software, but it looks like it comes to the Open Source market via a commercial company. Hopefully that means it's fairly well tested. Regardless, it still needs Windows and Mac OS X support to make it a universal alternative. As it is now, I could run it on my FreeBSD RAID system which acts as a backup to a NAS and distribute the backup across several systems.

Definitely worth a look and a try...


Thursday, April 13, 2006

Leave Spears Alone

What's wrong with this country? DHS should not have this kind of power:

Britney Spears Baby Drama

Healthcare Progress in MA and CA?

I came across this article this morning primarily dealing with the new Massachusetts Universal Health Coverage signed into law by Governor Romney recently:

Massachusetts to require health insurance

It also mentions some new California health provisions on the books. There are two common themes to these new laws:

  1. Businesses should be responsible for health care costs of employees.

  2. Citizens without insurance are criminals.

Businesses are not responsible for our health care costs. While health insurance has nearly become a mandatory benefit for many professionals, the fact remains that it is a benefit. Employers offer benefits to compete in the job market with other employers, and now we have two state governments turning a competitive advantage into a legal requirement.

Even more mind-boggling, both states are now turning uninsured citizens into criminals. California will levy civil fines against the uninsured, and Massachusetts plans penalties like the loss of certain tax advantages. How does this help anyone? Are we now going to form a new beauracracy to investigate, charge, and fine the uninsured?

Maybe we can have a new state agency built in true IRS-style that can police health insurance. Maybe they'll even offer some incentive bonuses for catching the uninsured through audits. Will they station officers at the doors of every hospital emergency room looking for offenders?

Sounds like fun, doesn't it?

To the politicians, grow up and get the costs under control. Stop using your power to exacerbate the problem.


Thursday, April 06, 2006

Dixie Chicks Not Ready to Make Nice

I'm not a country fan in the least, but listening to my wife's music from time to time has made me appreciate the talent of the Dixie Chicks. Today my wife told me about their new single "Not Ready to Make Nice." Whether you agree or disagree with them, I think the song is worth a listen. Head over to to check it out.

Alba vs. Playboy

In recent news, Jessica Alba filed suit against Playboy to block distribution of an issue which included her on the cover in an "Into the Blue" promotional photo. Alba contended that Playboy coaxed the shot out of Sony inappropriately and did not have her permission to use her picture. Additionally, Alba felt the cover gave the impression that she was nude inside. Consequently, she wanted the issue pulled from newstands.

Just this week, news comes from both camps that Hefner issued an apology which Alba accepted. In a world where lawyers and litigants have run amok, it's nice to see a couple of big names solving things the old fashioned way. My opinion of both has increased dramatically. You can only imagine how vehemently Hefner's legal staff must have discouraged him from this course of action yet he went forward anyway. And Alba who, right or wrong, felt taken advantage of had the compassion to withdrawl her action.

Nicely done on all counts.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Hibernate Named Parameters in SQL, No Escape

This past weekend, I was working on a SQL query that I was executing using Hibernate. Part of the query required two casts to one field. In PostgreSQL, you can write the cast as:

cast( cast( field as text ) as int )

Or, you can use a shorter notation:


If you've worked with Hibernate, you likely know that instead of using question marks as placeholders for parameters in SQL and HQL queries, you can use named parameters. These named parameters are of the form ":parametername".

By now, you know what probably I ran into. When I used the short-hand notation for type casts in PostgreSQL, Hibernate interpreted it as a named parameter. Instead of "field::text::int", I ended up with the database seeing "field?".

After reviewing the code in question, I could find no way for the colons to be escaped and not interpreted as a named parameter. Maybe I'm reading the code wrong. Regardless, features like these need to have escape sequences. Now my already complex SQL query is uglier than it had to be due to the nested cast calls.