This Week’s Accomplishments

Another week. This might become a habit.
In no particular order:
  • Set up the solar portion of my aquaponics kit so it’s now fully self-contained. There’s an air pump that’s on all the time and a water pump that will run 15 minutes per hour to circulate the tank water and flood the grow bed. To power everything, a 75Ah deep-cycle battery (like this, but less than half the cost), an HQRP 10A charge controller, and an 85w monocrystaline PV panel roughly mounted. Next week, I’ll construct a more suitable mount for it to get it off the ground, angled properly, and get all of the cabling into some flexible metal conduit. If there’s enough wattage to go round, I may even add a small fan to circulate air in the greenhouse, though there are some dedicated solar powered greenhouse fans out there.
  • We started three more trays of assorted vegetables and ornamentals. Wow — I’d forgotten how tiny oregano seeds really are.
  • Installed another auto-opener for the greenhouse roof. This one’s a bit more sensitive at lower temperatures, which is good because I think it got too hot in there and killed off our tomatoes just as they were sprouting.
  • Checked voltage on the solar pumps after the first night. At sundown, the battery voltage was 12.83v at sunrise, it was 12.55v. A bit lower than I would have expected, but still tolerable. A full day or two in the sun should be sufficient to get it topped off.
  • Morning of the third day and the battery voltage was 12.9v — so it’s definitely coming up.
  • Had to bring in some of the plants from the greenhouse overnight. It still dips a bit too low out there at night for them. Might need to invest in a kerosene heater for next season.
  • Took a moment to be grateful that I finished my taxes early — way back in February, in fact — so I don’t need to do them on BAG Day. Speaking of BAG Day, I’m not planning on buying one this year. Scary, I know. But if I were, then the next one would be that Sig P238. She’s a darn fine-looking little pistol. Wait a minute! Tax Day is extended to April 18, which is also Patriot’s Day. Maybe I should look into that purchase after. I’m also considering selling my Ruger P94.
  • Moved the greenhouse. This, of course, required removing its brick floor first… then putting it all back when done. In the hot sun… in a greenhouse. It’s never moving again.
  • Reconfigured and tuned notification scripts for all of our production Linux systems.
  • Researched Zenoss as a possible replacement for our Nagios monitoring systems. Looking very briefly at the interface, it looks like a combination of Nagios and Cacti. While Zenoss is impressive, it also comes with an annual fee (US$25K!) yet Nagios and Cacti are free. Zenoss also only allows 200 managed clients on the base license. We have several hundred systems we’d want to monitor, and not just Linux. So that $25K annually doesn’t seem so bad — it’s cheaper than a helpdesk technician.
  • On the topic of Nagios, management has asked that we find a way to add some custom verbiage to the email notifications that go out. Not sure yet how that’s going to happen, but may need to write a custom wrapper to capture exit statuses of the Nagios checks. This could take some time. Maybe Zenoss isn’t such a bad idea after all.
  • Worked on two very basic How-To videos for work. One around how we implemented a seemingly trivial, but very important enterprise security change to OSX and the other around how we use, configure, manage, and interpret Nagios. I feel like I’ve spent the whole week doing primarily Nagios tasks.
  • My policy of S.T.O.P. and Stay Paranoid seem to have started rubbing off at the office. We’re under standing orders from upper management to not make any production changes without a full management review. I couldn’t agree more. Our rate of change is scary and mistakes can cause our very complex production environment to do some rather unexpected things… like stop working altogether. S.T.O.P. = Stop, Think, Observe, Plan. Stay Paranoid means, well, stay paranoid, because the world is trying to find new and interesting ways to kill you.

So, what kind of cool stuff did you do this week?