So to any sysadmins who do this kind of stuff on a daily basis, this is going to seem way obvious, but for somebody who doesn’t and has been struggling with this literally for months … let’s just say I’m pretty happy to finally have figured this out!

Also, this post is mostly for documentation’s sake so that I have a place to look back to when I need to do it again sometime many moons into the future…

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a year already since I migrated my Plex server off of my old desktop hardware over to a proper rackmount server. Or at least Plex itself migrated, while the bevy of hard drives that 50+ TB of media lives on still resides in that aged and ever-waning PC.

Anyways, last June when I made the big leap to server-grade hardware, I only had a single hard drive to run VMs from for the new machine. For simplicity’s sake, I set it up as a RAID 0, single disk array, with the understanding that I could “easily” add more disks a few months later and re-configure that array into a more resilient RAID 5.

In fact, according to Amazon I did buy two more drives to use for said purpose in September 2018.

And just yesterday I finally got them working!

You see, it was probably too easy for me to setup that initial RAID 0 array via the new server’s BIOS. At the time, it seemed simple enough to add more drives to the pool and then reconfigure the array itself.

But one thing I’ve learned somewhat painfully since I first set this server up is that everything is more picky than that. Versions have to line up with the hardware, and older versions lack features supported by newer versions, even while they’re all being supported by the companies in parallel. This isn’t really news to me, but it’s certainly something that I never had to scrutinize to this extent.

With my old desktop server…

  1. Connect new hard drive.
  2. Find it in the CentOS Disks GUI, quick format it, and mount it.

With my new server…

  1. Connect new hard drive.
  2. Try to add it to my RAID pool via the RAID controller, but you can’t.
  3. Try to add it via ESXi, but you can’t.
  4. Try to connect via Dell OpenManage, but I didn’t install the server-side software in ESXi right because Dell’s support page for this server only goes up to ESXi 6.0 even though I’m running 6.5 and then I finally find the right software on a support doc found via Google.
  5. Try to connect via Dell OpenManage, but they only make a Windows client so I have to find a laptop to do that.
  6. Try to connect via Dell OpenManage, but the server doesn’t have a certificate and the login failure doesn’t mention that this is a big deal, so you just guess until you see a checkbox mentioning ignoring that and finally it works!
  7. Add new disks to RAID pool and reconfigure from RAID 0 to RAID 5 … and wait a very long time.
  8. Worry that I didn’t make backups of my VMs because I couldn’t figure out how to do it precisely the entire time.
  9. Try to expand virtual disk via ESXi now that the extra space is available, but it still doesn’t see it.
  10. Confirm via Dell OpenManage that the reconfigure is definitely done now and showing the extra space as available.
  11. Wait until 1:30am when nobody is using Plex and just reboot the whole thing, just in case.
  12. Try to expand virtual disk via ESXi, and now it sees it!
  13. Allocate additional space to new VM and reboot that VM, but it does nothing.
  14. Spend an hour Googling for instructions about how to allocate the new space inside of the guest OS until I finally found this random support post that ends up working not unlike magic!
  15. Verify that the new disk space is finally ready to use in the VM, and then debate whether it’s going to be enough or if I should’ve bought yet another disk just in case…

I mean, looking back logically it does make sense – first add the physical drives, then add them to the RAID pool, then rebuild the RAID array, then add new space to the Virtual Disk, then allocate the new space to a specific VM, then update the VM to recognize its new resources … maybe I was just hoping it would be slightly more seamless, even if only in parts! 😛

If anything, I guess it should be a tad easier the next time around, and now that I’ve gotten the bugs worked out of OpenManage, that alone is one less headache to worry about.

That said, I don’t want to rely on my work laptop for managing this server (and others down the road) indefinitely, so it also means I need to put together some sort of Windows box to sit in the corner and collect dust until it’s needed once in a blue moon…

Still, my Plex environment … minus the media itself … now lives on a cushy, new RAID 5 array that could sustain a single disk failure without missing a beat, plus I’ve got some extra cushion for downloading new stuff to boot.

Not too shabby for only ten months worth of work!

Addicted to … Light Bulbs?

February 11, 2019 12:49pm
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Over the weekend I splurged and bought a few of those fancy Philips Hue smart light bulbs with some of our tax refund.

And yes, before we get too far into this – I still think that they’re overly expensive…

…but they’re also undeniably really cool!

I ended up with two sets of lights – three of the color bulbs to update the ceiling fan in my office, and also a light strip to replace the cheap one I ran along the ledge in our living room that burned out about four weeks after I installed it.

All told, I spent about $250 … which I know is crazy for a handful of light bulbs!

(hint: Definitely shop around and pay attention to bundles for the best prices – I got a starter kit with 3 bulbs, the hub, and a switch for $120 that would normally cost $195 separately, whereas the two bulb and hub kit was $100 and the four bulb and hub kit was $200. Best Buy was also cheaper than Amazon for me.)

But so far I’m pretty impressed with their versatility and ease of use once I got the first one setup.

My biggest struggle was getting their hub installed, and to no real fault of Philips – turns out I didn’t have any empty ports left on my router, or outlets left on the nearby power strip, so I had to do some juggling there to hook up a new switch and swap out the power strip for one that better accommodates the bulky power supplies that way too many people still use.

Other than that, the only real setup pain was having to push the button on top of the hub to authenticate it with their app on my phone, which was only a pain because all of our networking stuff is on a high shelf in our bedroom closet, so I had to walk all the way across the house a couple of times to do it.

That said, from a security standpoint I kind of like that the Hue Hub requires a physical connection to your network rather than wifi because it’s a lot more secure than relying on customers to change the default password once they set it up, which would likely never happen.

So on to the lights themselves!

I mean, it’s still about 90% novelty, but I thought it was really neat to be able to change the colors of the lights in my office pretty much in real time just by moving my finger around the color map on my phone! I also like the preset scenes that you can pick from, although I wish that there were more of them. There might be a way to download more – I only spent a little time playing around with things in the Lab, but it looks like there’s a lot of experimentation to choose from as well as 3rd party apps that do animations and stuff, too.

I even let Christopher play with them for a few minutes and he thought it was pretty cool, too!

For my office, I’ve basically got the three color bulbs in my ceiling fan, and then I also have both a dimmer switch/remote thingy as well as a motion sensor linked to them. I’m still unsure on the switches because frankly, I don’t know where to put them where the kids won’t constantly steal them! But I thought the motion sensor was really cool because it actually let me not only set the lights to come on when I walk through the door, but also come on to different scenes based on the time of day!

Right now I have it set to normal lighting during the day and then a much dimmer, tropical scene of blue and green after 11pm.

really want to experiment with trying out different types of lighting for when I’m writing late at night because I think it might be a cool way to help set the mood based on what it is that I’m trying to write!

That said, my other purchase was a light strip (and an extension) to go out in the living room – mostly to be used as ambient light on this ledge we have that runs the length of the room up by the ceiling. I think you’re supposed to put plants and stuff up there, but we’ve just got a couple of pots, a pillow, and a Mickey & Minnie statuette from when we got married. And also now some neato blue lights!

This is a lighting scheme that has evolved for a couple of years now. I first just had some white Christmas lights up there, which turned us on to the idea of having ambient lighting up there but unfortunately burned out after only a couple of weeks of 24×7 use. Next I picked up a much cheaper version of these lights from some random seller on Amazon, which were fine for the most part except that the remote was very finicky and almost never worked, and sometimes the colors flickered and had varying brightness.

For what it’s worth, I paid less than $20 for those and $120 for the new Philips lights.

I honestly think that I like these ones even more than the ones in my office because although I initially set them to a light blue just for some nice ambient light, I changed them to white later after Christopher had fallen asleep on the couch and was surprised that they let off enough light that I didn’t have to turn any of the others on to do any work while he was sleeping. That was a nice bonus that I hadn’t expected.

Now – for the future…

Again, even though these things are still pretty expensive – about $40 for a single bulb whereas I typically buy CFLs or their LED replacements for maybe $6 a piece – I’ve already found myself scoping out the next places around the house where I want to install them!

I think they’d be really great in the hallway at night to add a nightlight effect that we sort of have with our Nest smoke detectors, but not nearly as bright or versatile.

I want to update the ceiling fan in our bedroom just like my office to give us a change while sitting in bed getting ready to fall asleep.

They also just recently released some outdoor bulbs, including ones to go on the front corners of the garage which I think would be really cool, although I might have to upgrade our wifi first because I’m not sure if our existing AP’s range goes that far.

I mean, sure, to do the entire house all at once would just be ridiculous. I think I counted up the other day and found a total of about 50 bulbs around my house, so that’s $2,000 in light bulbs right there and that doesn’t even include switches and sensors and stuff! But if you were to do it maybe a room at a time, I think that’s a lot more manageable, plus it gives me some time to work out the kinks like figuring out the best way to handle switches so that they don’t end up walking away on us.

Eventually I’d love to get to the point where everything is switched over, including adding some accent lighting around the garden out front and the pool area in the back. In theory it’d be neat to then start to tie some of these things together – i.e. turn on the hot tub, set the lights, turn on some music, and pour me a drink…

Ok, maybe not that last one just yet, but the future is right around the corner! 😉

I used to be of the mindset that because domain names are relatively cheap, there’s really no reason why a person’s assorted web projects shouldn’t stay online indefinitely.

And yet right now, I’ve got a couple of different domain names coming up for renewal … and I’m not so sure that I want to bother renewing them anymore.

In total right now I have about a dozen domains registered and I think if you twisted my arm, I could make reasonable arguments for keeping maybe seven of them. It used to drive me nuts when I’d see domains snatched up by spammers just looking to make a few bucks in bulk off the old site’s referral traffic as long as it lasted, although surprisingly if I lookup the last handful of names that I’ve let lapse … they’re actually able to be registered right now.

And not even for $1,200 from a reseller, either!

Maybe that bizarre bubble just finally burst, but it’s still increasingly hard to justify when A) the sites get almost no traffic, and B) if I want to maintain them, I can always throw them under a subdomain on this site like I’ve done in the past. At this point they’re just as good to my portfolio as xyz.scottsevener.com as they are xyz.com … plus, it saves me ten bucks for every one I kill off.

I’ve got four more days to make my decision… 😯

Musing About Disney World and Stats

January 16, 2019 3:30pm
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There are some times when I would really love to get a glimpse of some of the statistics around Walt Disney World.

My curiosity this morning is specifically around Disney Vacation Club (DVC) and how many members there actually are in order to better gauge how many people are really fighting over the tickets to the Moonlight Magic events that are continuing again this year. Today was the opening of registration for the first two events at the Magic Kingdom, and even though I logged in about 15 minutes after the opening at 9:00 am, I was pleasantly surprised that it actually wasn’t difficult at all to get them this time…

I’ve been to a handful of these events since Disney started doing them back in 2016, but more often than not availability was always very limited and if you weren’t ready to jump on the email the second it showed up, you were plum out of luck.

Because if I remember right, the first few events didn’t have a scheduled reservation time, but just sent an email when it was ready … and sometimes it would come at three in the afternoon when everyone was at work … and others would get it a day or two later!

So I don’t know if maybe Disney just wised up and either beefed up the servers that host these sites or increased the capacity admitted to the events … or both. Even looking back further, it seemed like they were always having problems with demand for any Annual Passholder special events that they hosted as well … which always seemed odd to me for a $100 BILLION company like Disney to not invest more in their infrastructure to make their web experience absolutely flawless.

It’s really the same with the My Disney Experience app or guest wifi in the parks. I’m sure their hardware has to be beefy with possibly tens of thousands of concurrent wifi users online in a single park each day, but again … you’re Disney! You charge $100+ admission just to get in the door! Figure it out!

But just from a numbers geek’s perspective, it’d still be neat to know to what scale we’re dealing with for any of these problems – if the Magic Kingdom holds 100,000 people (hypothetically), do they let in 25% of that for the DVC events? Or any of the other hard ticketed events, for that matter???

It admittedly always amazes me how really any of the four parks can average at least 30,000 guests a day (according to TEA/AECOM’s reporting) and it doesn’t feel like you’re surrounded by such a sea of people because everyone is spread out across 100+ acres and eating/shopping/doing attractions to balance the crowds!

I think you could do some really fun stuff, and I’m sure that there are entire teams of geeks at Disney who do just that!, with access to the actual numbers of how many people walked through their turnstiles each day, or rode Space Mountain, or bought Mickey bars.

There’s a part of me that thinks it would be super cool if there’s a NOC-style room somewhere at Disney that has giant maps of each park up on the walls with heat maps showing guest flow around all of the lands and attractions.

They’ve got to be getting something more out of these MagicBands that we’re all wearing now!

Robots Playing Video Games???

January 13, 2019 12:50pm
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This is a really cool video of Super Mario World, and not just because it’s an incredibly fast speed run featuring all sorts of exploits that I’d never seen before, but also … the game is being played entirely by a robot!!!

So apparently what they’ve done here is hacked the SNES controller so that instead of sending inputs to the SNES via physically pressing buttons, they can have a computer send the commands … which is obviously much faster and can enable some pretty neat exploits that are (usually) too quick for a human to pull off.

For example, and I thought this was super interesting, apparently the fastest way to move Mario in Super Mario World is to rapidly change the direction that he’s facing as you move (i.e. pressing left, then right repeatedly). And we’re talking within a single frame of the game, so it’s not exactly something that a person could do, but when its just a computer sending signals to the console, it’s just another command.

Now as far as I can tell (and please correct me if someone reads this and sees that I’m wrong!), but the computer isn’t necessarily reacting to changes in the game – it’s essentially running a script that the designers have testing out and tweaked to get the best possible outcome, whether it’s triggering a Level Complete action before the level is actually complete by playing to an exploit in the game or defeating bowser at the end.

One of the reasons I’ve always enjoyed watching speed runs is because I think it’s incredible to see people play that have such a mastery of a given game that they not only know where every last item or power-up is, but also things like which order to kill monsters in because they understand how the game tracks those kills and determines what power-ups to drop next. So to then be able to take it another step and know what location in memory various statuses get held so that they can exploit weaknesses to make the game do things that it’s not supposed to – just wow!

Just one more example – here’s a glitch in Super Mario World that somehow triggers the end credits less than a minute into the game…

You can read the link above to explain the glitch better than I can, but it’s pretty cool stuff. 😉

oh poopies…

December 20, 2018 1:13am
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So apparently I had a hard drive crash in my Plex server while we were on vacation last week.

Possibly two … still looking into that!

What’s really weird is that throughout the whole week, whenever I’d connect remotely (we typically tether Sara’s iPad to the TV so the kids can watch their shows on the road), the drive that holds most of the kids movies & TV shows was reporting as missing … however when I got home and finally had a chance to troubleshoot, it turns out that drive was fine and it was a completely different one that was clicking away like a hard drive on its last legs!

…one that oddly enough, we were able to connect to on vacation…

Now I’ve got that one unplugged until I can see if I’m able to copy the contents over to a new drive … need to address that sooner rather than later because it’s the drive where all of our new TV shows download to before they get copied to wherever they actually live.

As for the other impacted drive … I don’t know what the deal is there because it mounts ok, but the OS just doesn’t recognize it. Really hoping it’s something I can easily repair so that I don’t have to hassle with re-downloading everything…

I mean, the first one doesn’t really surprise me because it was one of the oldest drives in the server (almost 3 years old) and it honestly gets a lot more use than all of the others. If anything, I can’t help but think that if I had already been able to upgrade to my shiny, new rackmount NASthe system would’ve recovered automatically and this would’ve barely counted as a blip on the radar!

That said, I’m happy that at least Plex itself is up again because I’ve had it down for two days now because the NAS part didn’t want to reboot thanks to the dying drive, so at least the kids can go back to watching their usual shows without having to “borrow” Grandma & Grandpa’s Netflix account.

It’s kind of amazing how much you end up relying on this stuff without realizing it. I definitely need to start exploring some backup options next year as this 50 TB media library continues to grow. 😛

We’ve been pretty lucky in that I’m not sure if we’ve ever had a package stolen off of our porch.

A few weeks ago I had a couple mis-delivered to a neighbor’s house, but they were very cool about it.

Fun Fact – When I was still living in my first apartment, I actually had a neighbor accuse me of stealing their packages because the FedEx guy had dropped them on my doorstep by mistake and I’d pulled them inside to take over to their house after work the next day! The lady left me like a page-long letter taped to my door about reporting me to the police and the building managers because they needed that package to take to her parents house that weekend.

Needless to say, I hope that stupid printer jammed whenever they tried to print anything that their Grinch of a daughter sent to them… 😯

Now that said … this video is still amazingly satisfying!

It’s by Mark Rober, who worked for NASA on the Mars rover, and he goes into incredible detail describing his engineering process before finally showing what this little payback device can do to someone who dares to steal from kids at Christmastime.

P.S. +1 for the fart spray 😉

I get a little antsy about my home Internet speed when I spend any amount of time planning out home server stuff, and considering my little purchase of 50 TB of hard drives the other day…

In a way, it seems only natural – my next steps are to migrate the storage part of my media server into a rackmount NAS to go alongside the other rackmount server I acquired earlier this year that now houses the rest of Plex and the tools that I use to download content.

I’ve already picked out some new Ubiquiti rackmount network gear that I want to replace the router from my ISP with…

…and today I was even looking into the option of running 10 Gbps connections between my servers because, well, the only thing cooler than moving files around at 125 MB/s is moving files around at 1.25 GB/s!!!

So yeah, when we’re talking about internal network speeds in excess of one gigabit, it’s hard not to glance at the weak link in the chain that is my Internet connection and wonder, “Why can’t you keep up, little guy?!”

And don’t get me wrong – I totally get that only 25% of the country currently even has access to fiber Internet and a lot of people are stuck with cable or even DSL … but that doesn’t make it any easier to swallow that the line currently running into my garage could be chugging along at a crisp and refreshing 1 Gbps, but instead here I am scrapping by with a mere 200 Mbps like a chump out of the stone age…

Truth be told, I just moved up from 150 Mbps to 200 Mbps this fall, but before that I’ve been sitting at 150 Mbps for almost 4 years now. In fact, I upgraded just before Verizon sold FiOS in Florida off to Frontier because I was afraid they’d make it a lot harder to upgrade in the future…

Foreshadowing!

To be honest, I have kind of a love-hate relationship with Frontier because the FiOS network itself is wonderful … it’s just that Frontier themselves isn’t a very smart company to be running it. Their customer service is typically awful, their pricing isn’t competitive, and lest we not forget, this was the fiber company previously ran by the CEO who thought that gigabit was a fad and consumers don’t really need it.

Sure, maybe not now, but what kind of a technology company doesn’t anticipate their customers’ needs well into the future?!

Anyways, I’ve been going back and forth with Frontier on various social media channels about how it isn’t fair that they only offer promotional pricing to new customers. They’ve actually argued back that it’s an industry standard and everyone does it … as if that makes it ok … and maybe it would, if only they didn’t charge half again as much for existing customers once those crazy promotions run out!

Seriously – I currently pay $75/month for a plan that a new subscriber can get for $50/month.

…and they can’t find any way to incentivize me sticking around for seven years now?!

I think what bugs me the most is the disparity for upgrading to the tiers above me because $10-20/month extra would be understandable, but that’s not what Frontier’s fee structure looks like…

  • 200 Mbps – $75/month
  • 300 Mbps – $125/month
  • 500 Mbps – $175/month
  • 1 Gbps – $225/month

Another fifty bucks for each leap is excessive, particularly when the likes of Verizon and AT&T and Comcast all selling gigabit access in their markets for around $100.

Even Spectrum, our local cable alternative, offers gigabit for $100, although the argument there is that they don’t support symmetrical speeds yet, so the upload is still way lower than the downstream … at least for now.

I told the account manager I was emailing with earlier today that I’d be happy to pay an extra twenty bucks to go up to 500 Mbps or $125 … hell, I’d even do $150/month for gigabit, despite it being almost double what Verizon is charging for the same service!

But when did we get to the point where $50 upgrades were the norm … unless Frontier simply doesn’t really want to sell these highest tiers and they figure if people want them badly enough, they’ll pay through the nose for them.

I suppose this is technically offering gigabit service, but not at a price where it will ever get widely adopted, that’s for sure…

It just makes me wish that Verizon had never sold us off, or that Frontier would hurry up and go bankrupt already so that someone else could swoop in and buy all of the assets from them. It’s sad that broadband rollout hasn’t been far more aggressive in the United States because it’s not like these companies don’t have the money to do it, and we’ve a million times over proven the value of high speed Internet access in our daily lives.

I really don’t like this direction we’re heading where Verizon is convinced that wireless is what we need for broadband – mostly because of how they love to charge by the GB for it – and right now they’ve got their stooge heading the FCC that’s dedicated to gutting any and all regulations holding them back from maximizing Internet profits for shareholder benefit.

Amidst all of my frustrations this evening, I actually found myself pondering if it would be worthwhile to try load balancing between two ISPs … for the same $175/month that Frontier wants for 500 Mbps, I could keep the 200 Mbps line that I have with them and buy a second, gigabit connection from Spectrum to try them out as an ISP and enjoy the benefits of that extreme download speed!

The thing is, as much as Frontier insists that I’m a valued customer, even though they won’t offer me a dime to stick around despite not having to pay the acquisition cost to earn me back again as a new subscriber already, you would think that they would be quick to stop an existing customer from testing the waters with the competition. You’d think that an extra $75/month would still be far better than negative $75/month for a lost customer…

…but Frontier doesn’t think. That’s the problem!

I know that I’ll get gigabit Internet here at home eventually … hell, it has me wondering if we’ll see 10 Gbps home connections still in my lifetime! But much like Veruca Salt, I want it now! 😉

Plex has become a mainstay in our home over the last couple of years, expanding from only housing our movies and TV shows to also include educational programs and songs for the kids, series I’ve enjoyed and wanted to archive off of YouTube, and now … Christmas movies, too!

This is a little project that I’ve wanted to do for a while because previously all of our holiday shows were scattered throughout the regular movie and TV libraries, which are then separated by adult and kid content, whereas I always thought it would be nice around the holidays to have a dedicated library where you could look through only the Christmas stuff when you were sipping hot chocolate and looking to get all jolly and bright and whatnot.

There are a couple of different ways you can do it…

  • Create a separate folder and copy all of your holiday movies and shows into it, then add it to a new library dedicated to holiday shows … but this takes up twice as much space.
  • Create separate TV and movie folders for Christmas movies, then add them to both your existing libraries as well as your new holiday library.
  • (my choice) Create a new folder for Christmas shows and point your new library at it, then create symlinks to all of the media in their original locations.

This last option ended up working out well for me because it saved me from shuffling a bunch of files around, plus it gave me a fix for an unexpected problem that arose from certain Christmas specials that are normally organized under TV shows…

See, with the main Christmas library in Plex defined as a Movie library, it doesn’t find a metadata lookup for Garfield – S00E06 – A Garfield Christmas.mkv. The nice thing about symlinks, though, is that the linked name doesn’t need to equal the source name, and so I’m able to turn the TV-friendly filename into something that the IMDB can actually recognize like this – A Garfield Christmas Special (1987).mkv.

The command I used in Linux to create these links looks like this (executed in my new Christmas movies library folder):

ln -s "/path/to/TV Shows/Garfield & Friends/Specials/Garfield - S00E06 - A 
Garfield Christmas.mkv" "A Garfield Christmas Special (1987).mkv"

I’d say it took me maybe a couple of hours spread out over several sessions of searching through each library for the shows & movies I wanted, then copy & pasting the links into a Terminal window to create each symlink. The result is a nice, clean library with nothing but Christmas, and if I need to hide it away come January 1st until next season, that’s easy enough to do, too. 😉

Archiving Fun

July 3, 2018 10:00pm
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Now that I’ve more or less got my server upgrades under control, the last couple of weeks I’ve been really enjoying making use of that new computing power and filling up my array of hard drives with all sorts of neat, random things that I’ve stumbled across online.

Stuff like PDFs of Interaction magazine – published by Sierra Online at the height of their rule of the adventure gaming genre, I used to read this thing from cover to cover and ordered a lot of my favorite games from the 3-for-1 sales that they’d feature.

Or old videos of Welcome Freshmen – this weird, sketch comedy about high school that Nickelodeon aired when I was like 12 years old that helped prepare me for all of the girl angst and bully encounters that my own high school experience would come to offer!

Or even very old videos of the very first season of Sesame Street from 1969 – did you know that not only did Oscar the Grouch start out being orange, but that the Muppet characters actually played a fairly small role in the initial episodes of the show???

The last couple of years I’ve found myself becoming more cognizant of the temporary nature of the Internet – simply put, knowing that a site or article or video you enjoyed six months ago could very well not be there if you wanted to go back and check it out again today. And that can be for any number of reasons…

  • the website went out of business
  • the person maintaining it passed away
  • the host got a DMCA notice and took it down
  • the creator changed their mind and took it down themselves

I’ve lost access to some great works over the years, and others I still have only because I had the foresight to save a copy for myself, so now that I’ve got servers sitting in my closet with disk space to spare, the thought has occurred to me that maybe it’s worth personally archiving some of my own favorite content so that it’s still around 20 years from now regardless of whatever happens to the originals on the Internet itself.

I’ve always really liked what the Internet Archive does, particularly with their Wayback Machine, just because it’s super cool to be able to look back at websites from when the Internet was still at its infancy … even sites that I put together myself! Right now they’re storing something like 30 petabytes of data covering everything from websites to books, TV shows, YouTube channels, software, photos – you name it!

And while I’ve got a long ways to go before hitting my first petabyte of storage, it’s also neat that the same tools that they use to archive things are available to me to run on a much smaller scale.

I remember always having sort of a love-hate relationship with my DVR once I finally got one because although I loved the idea of recording my own shows digitally and having them accessible whenever, I hated the limits of the small hard drive that they included and having to pick and choose what to keep and what to delete … because what if I do want to watch episode #68 of The Simpsons at 3am without fishing through a box of DVDs???

Mr. Plow, BTW! 😉

The On-Demand channels of digital cable were cool, but as content began to grow, channels themselves would have to pick and choose what to offer – here’s season 2 of Curb Your Enthusiasm, but if you want season 1, you’ll have to buy the DVDs…

And even streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video and iTunes today have their limits because they’re constantly negotiating licenses with all of the studios – there are entire blogs dedicated to what’s coming and going on Netflix in a given month.

Although I’ve never really hit the level of a hoarder in real life, although I do hate to throw away things that I think I might be nostalgic for later, I’m very much a digital hoarder because hard drives are cheap, it’s a fun way to look back at the past, and it’s surprisingly convenient to access these days when I’ve got entire Christmas tree boxes of DVDs and CDs sitting on a few hard drives in my servers that can then be accessed from any TV or device that I own, 24 hours a day.

I don’t need to wait for FX to run another The Simpsons marathon or wonder if my cable provider offers access to their On Demand thingy because I’ve got 638 episodes sitting on 340 GB of space in a server that *I* control to watch whenever I want.

And of course, that’s the crux of digital hoarding – just because I could doesn’t mean that I ever will, but still…

Ultimately it’s hard to tell what will be “of value” decades into the future – sure, people still probably won’t get much out of the random pictures that we take of our lunches, but it’s one of those things that we don’t really know until it’s too late unless we think ahead and preserve copies of our history just in case. Right now historians are pouring through old books and VHS tapes for content from before the Internet ever existed that will essentially be lost in another twenty years if someone doesn’t take the time to digitize and archive that kind of stuff today.

The other day I stumbled upon this old post from the Internet Archive of a propaganda video created by the US government back in 1943 when they were rounding up Japanese Americans to send them to internment camps after the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. It’s surreal to watch simply because of how positive the narrator talks about this horrific crime that our great grandparents committed in the name of national security, and it’s all the more relevant today as we see escalations around public perception and immigration, and yet with that video predating even VHS tapes, if a historian hadn’t taken the time to archive it, it would’ve just been lost in the annals of time.

I’m not saying that old podcasts and sitcoms will have the same relevancy as historical films, but there are many facets to historical value to a society.

I’ll be sure to post more as I collect more things and evolve my thoughts on this topic, as over time I think they might grow into a more formal effort, whether it’s working with the IA or who knows! 😉

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