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Scott's Column
The Old Laptop, Work

March 1, 2004
By Scott Lewis

As stated last month, I didn't expect much this month. I have been working on a couple of secret projects. Some I can't tell you about without violating my self imposed vagueness about my work, and one project that I will be able to tell you about in a month or two. Stay tuned.

The Old Laptop

I did have a little time to play around with my wife's old laptop... now mine. As you recall from last month I determined the power down problem to be an overheating issue. The laptop gets used almost exclusively on my bed. I don't think I will be able to properly test its ability to run well on a table... at least not for really long hours on end. Ideally I would leave it running for a few days straight on my desk, and see if it has any problems. But then I would not be using it for what it is for. 

To prevent issues with it overheating while sitting on a bed spread I have gone into the power management tool and reduced the processor (CPU) to High, one step below Full on ALL the power profiles. I assume that this should put the CPU into a slower speed resulting in less heat build-up.

So far this has worked just fine. I have not had one unexpected power down since I made this change. I do not know how "slow" the 2.8 GHz CPU is running at. The laptop seems to be speedy enough that I cannot tell a difference in anything I use it for... including watching DVDs.

Because the laptop has become so stable I haven't bother to think about restoring it to factory specs with the discs that came with the laptop. I will save that for when I have a lot of free time to "play."

Work

I can't help myself. I know I have to be vague, but I want to tell you some of what I am working on. In the past I have mentioned that we switched from using Mecca on a Unix platform to DL Formatter on a Windows platform to generate Postscript output. Well that work is continuing. I will be starting the conversion of another system that still uses Mecca. This will take months, but will ultimately make a better system. It should be better and far easier to maintain and add new products to. However, the transition will probably be bumpy.

We are also getting more printers. This means more work coming from the presses (which still use Mecca) coming over to the digital side (with DL Formatter). We ordered new servers to handle the increased load, and to allow future projects to be moved to DLF. I have been coding a way to use the servers in a multi-tiered environment.

The program I use now to prepare work for DLF builds all the input files for DLF then submits the job to the server for composing our Postscript output. Now I have broken that program up. the original application just builds an XML file and FTPs it to a server. That server has a program that reads the XML file and builds all the DLF input files. Then it launches the composition on the final server. We will have two composition servers in production shortly.

I still have some network/server pathing issues to work out. I also have not decided if I will let the queuing software pass work between the two composition servers or if I will handle that myself. I could do a better job if I load balance them, but that would take a lot more time to code than letting the queuing software use both composition servers in a round robin fashion (job 1 to server 1, job 2 to server 2, job 3 to server 1, job 4 to server 2, etc., etc., etc.)

The new program that generates the input to DLF should run faster than the old program on a PC. Remember, I took this code from the a PC based application. It will run faster for a number of reasons. 1) The code will now be on a faster server. 2) The code does not have to update any screen objects for user friendliness. 3) The servers will be all in close proximity to each other (all plugged into the same switch) so network traffic between them should be faster. All these items should improve the speed of my code even if it isn't any better code. Nothing like throwing lots of hardware at a software problem. Microsoft does this all the time with Windows. It runs faster... when it is on faster hardware.

I should have all this running in production next month. I'll let you know how it goes.

Conclusion

That's it for this month. Work has been taking a lot of my time. I like it when I am busy. I am still keeping overtime to a minimum, though.

Until next time...
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