Scott's Column
Apple iPad Air 2, Server Upgrades & Life Plans

November 4, 2014
By Scott Lewis

Back to our old format with multiple topics this month. I would not expect this to continue if I were you.

This month I wanted to very quickly give my take on the recent refresh of the iPad, the iPad Air 2. I also cover some more of the server upgrades I am dealing with in my day job. Finally, I am beginning a plan to move out of my current apartment, and the minor life choices that come with it.

Current Topics:

Apple iPad Air 2

Yawn!!! Sorry, I was almost asleep there. I was going to tell you about the new Apple iPad tablet, called the iPad Air 2. For those of you trying to stay awake... lets make this simple. The iPad Air 2 is actually the 6th generation iPad. It goes like this:

1 = iPad
2 = iPad 2
3 = iPad 3 (gains retina display)
4 = iPad 4 (gains the lightening connector)
5 = iPad Air
6 = iPad Air 2

Essentially versions 3-6 are all the same. Yes... they each got a little faster and/or thinner. But an iPad 3 with the retina display is a perfectly fine tablet... and the one I have. Apple has not done anything to make the iPad appealing enough to justify an upgrade.

The iPad, starting with version 3 and its retina display, has become a commodity item. That means there is little to no reason to buy a new one, unless you are replacing one that is not working.

Apple needs to make a real change. Now that I am doing a photography as a side business I would like a larger iPad. The rumors of a 12.9 inch iPad would have been something I would be interested in. This would allow me to show photographs to my clients better. Otherwise... I am sticking with my iPad 3.

Sorry Apple!


Server Upgrades

When we last covered this topic I mentioned we were going to start working on our "control" servers. That was a poor descriptive term. Let's call it what is was originally named for... traffic server. This server acts as a "traffic cop" for the flow of a lot of work through all the servers I am responsible for.

So we received 2 new virtual servers, each to be traffic servers. One for test, and one for production. I talked it over with my boss, and we decided I would move the queuing software over to the new traffic servers, and just the apps that use the queuing software. This will provide us the biggest bang for our buck increasing the stability of our environment. We will literally get a 90% boost is stability from 10% of the effort.

It was so easy to set this the test traffic server up. I uninstalled the composition software (because it was cloned from a machine that had it installed in a different configuration). I uninstalled the queuing software (again, the machine it was cloned from had it installed with different options).

I then reinstalled the composition & queuing software and configured the queue. I then installed 8 apps that use the queuing software. Over the weekend of September 6th, I logged in from home and stopped all the 9 processes (the 8 apps and the queuing software) on the old traffic server. I then started those up on the new traffic server for test.... and all went without a hitch. I did have to change three table values that pointed to the new server between the stops and starts.

Then I realized that none of the apps can communicate through email. Many of the 8 apps will send an email if they get a known error that needs to be acted upon. The new servers needed to have firewall rules put in place to allow them to access our mail server.

After the firewall rules were in place for all the servers we performed the migration of these 8 apps and the queuing software to the production server.

All seemed fine until... we were getting the same level of instability as before. And I could not figure out why. On the new servers one of my apps would start increasing its memory footprint. I have to suspect a memory leak in the code somewhere. But when we look in the Event Viewer on the server it shows that it crashed trying to talk to the Queuing software. So maybe the issue is their code, and not mine.

In the long run we will be migrating a LOT of apps and such off the original traffic server. We decided not to put all our eggs in one basket again, and came up with a plan to have 2 traffic servers in production. So we cloned the first, setup the firewall rules for it and initially tried just separating the queuing software from the apps I built that talk to the queuing software.

Again, we are still getting one app that is leaking memory. It is also the app that individually calls the queue the most.

As I write this I added code to the one known app to have an apparent memory leak. It is a Windows Service and sleeps for 15 minutes at a time then wakes to process orders. I added logging at the beginning and the end of the routine that submits jobs to the queue. In that logging I put memory information, so I can hopefully see if memory is increasing within this routine. I also put the same memory logging at the start of its wakeup. So we will be able to see if its memory is going up at some other point.

Finally, I did see two data tables that were not being reset. So every 15 minutes these table would be populated with some lookup information. The information in these two tables are small. But since they were not being cleared... I added code to clear them. I also commented out some dated code that performed a function that should not be needed anymore... just in case.

At the same time I was working on the code changes, I received an updated version of the queue software from the vendor. I am hesitant to install both changes at once. If the problem gets fixed, how will I know which was the solution. I do have both installed on the test server, but that server was not having stability problems. Probably due to the much smaller volume of work it does.

We are going to install my change into production first... just to see if it reveals the issue. At least we will get some memory footprint information for a few days. Likely this will happen after I publish this article.... so....

Stay tuned. It is not over yet!


Minor Life Plans

My current apartment lease ends at the end of April. I am planning to move into a 2 bedroom apartment at that time. My ex-wife and I (just separated at this point), are slowly getting more and more independent of each other. As of 2015 I am removing her from my medical insurance and she will be getting her own insurance through her job. This will hopefully cover the difference in rent from a 1 bedroom to a 2 bedroom.

Unfortunately, I do not know exactly how much my paycheck will change come January when the medical payments change (and since it is pre-tax dollars, who knows what could happen). I really don't know what I will be able to afford until late January. Also, my photography business could provide enough income to make the rent increase easier to swallow.

My most basic criteria is as follows... I want a 2 bedroom apartment, and the complex must offer 2 car attached garages. I may not be able to get a garage in May 2015, however, when my son graduates high school in 2016 I will be able to afford more and I want a garage then. I just assume find a complex I can stay in. My current complex only offers attached garages with 1 bedroom apartments. Oops.

Speaking of photography. The business is moving along. I have done a few paying jobs, and getting lots of interest and praise for my work. Since the automotive photography I do is half based on controlled light photography (i.e., flash photography), I really want the attached garage.

I am presently setting a budget of $1,200 for my next apartment. I may have to refine that come the end of January.

There is a complex literally around the block from me (though a large block, so about 1.5 miles) that has attached garages with EVERY unit. They have 2 nice floor plans that start under $1,200/month. One is 1151 sq.ft. with a price starting at $1,185 and the other is 1095 sq.ft. starting at $1,179.

I really want a garage, so this is likely my first choice. I could setup a garage to be a car studio for photographing client's cars, as well as holding my own cars.

However, in case the apartment around the block is too much more then there "starting at" price... my current 2nd choice is a higher end apartment about 3 miles away. This place has a great 1250 sq.ft., 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment. It does not include a garage, but the complex does offer two car garages on some of its 2 & 3 bedroom apartments... perfect for June 2016. The 1250 sq.ft. apartment is available (as I write this) for three prices: $1,045, $1,171 & $1,375 per month. I assume that the floor you are on, and possible views and options (such as wood flooring) effect those prices. The main reason this place is #2 is because it has a HUGE gym. It would be #1 if the garages came at that price. If I have to wait a year for a garage, I might as well enjoy everything else they offer. And they do include assigned underground parking, billiard table, etc. One last thing... this 2nd choice apartment feeds into the high school my son is attending, so he could theoretically move in with me for his senior year. The 1st choice above feeds into another school. Darn!

If there is a chance I can't get a garage at the end of April, I will probably jump on this 2nd choice.

So... the short term goal is to get a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment. The long term goal (summer 2016) is to get a 2 or 3 bedroom apartment with a 2 car attached garage.

I created a spreadsheet where I can keep track of all the apartment properties in my area. I will make notes of the pluses and minuses with each complex. Pluses include a well equipped gym, while minuses would include satellite TV instead of cable.

I actually love doing this stuff, especially when I have time. And I have about 7 months to plan this. I should be able to narrow the number of properties down to my top 3 or 4 pretty easily (I already have it down to 2, but have not seen anything yet). After that... ooh... it really gets fun.

My spreadsheet has 17 apartments in the running (just based on pricing I can find online). It is unclear from the information on the internet which apartments offer garages vs ATTACHED garages. That will be the first criteria for being removed from the list.

I'll keep you posted as I narrow the list.



Well, quite a lot this month. Except for the server updates, I am not sure what is happening next month. Either way... see you then.