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When the Latest and Greatest Isn’t That Great

I recently went on a wild ride while with family. Thanks to a last-minute cancellation, my sister and niece needed to get from Rochester, New York, to Newark, New Jersey, to catch their connecting flight home to Phoenix.

That flight, from Newark was scheduled to leave around 8 p.m. We were notified of the cancellation around noon, which at least gave us some time. While the airline did offer them a flight from Rochester to Chicago, there was a catch: two more connecting flights would follow, from Chicago to Los Angeles, and then from Los Angeles to Phoenix.

As a seasoned traveler, I knew that itinerary was problematic. A delay at any point, and my sister and niece could be left to wander through airports for a day or longer. It made the most sense to keep that original nonstop flight and find another route to Newark. Since I already had a rental car with a full tank of gas, I decided to channel my inner Elwood Blues and hit the road.

The drive took roughly 11 hours round trip. That’s about as far as driving from Phoenix to Denver, or Phoenix to Salt Lake City, or Phoenix to San Francisco. As I’ve mentioned, I’m good with driving. Last fall I drove across the country and back. Just a few weeks ago I chose to skip the hassles of flying and drive some six hours to a customer site in California. Really, considering the time I’d spend parking at the airport, going through security and waiting at the gate, the time commitment was about the same flying or driving.

But back to the Rochester to Newark run. Adding to the excitement, a thunderstorm rolled through; it literally rained the whole way. Living in the Arizona desert as I do, this isn’t something I’m used to. My rental car was another unfamiliar space. It was a 2023 model with only about 5,000 miles on it. This vehicle had all the modern bells and whistles and tech.

Odd as this may sound coming from me, a technology professional, I prefer older vehicles. They’re reliable, and they’re cheap to register and insure. I drive my cars into the ground before I replace them.

Certainly, the technology in new vehicles is impressive, but it seems each innovation leads to new things that can go wrong. In this case, it was the cruise control. In many new vehicles, the cruise control system utilizes sensors that determine the proximity of your vehicle to the one ahead of you on the highway. If the car in front of you slows down, your cruise control slows you down to maintain safe separation. If that vehicle ahead of you speeds up, so does yours, automatically. This is all fine and good in normal weather conditions, but again, it was raining. And once the rain got really heavy, that triggered an error message on my dash. The sensor stopped working during the downpour, so the cruise control stopped working, and there was no way to override it from what I could tell. So, for a time I actually had to use the gas pedal. That felt like the Dark Ages, or maybe the Flintstones. Anyway, not being able to set it and forget it with the cruise made things a bit more arduous.

I’ve found similar challenges with four-wheel drive. In my old 4×4 Suburban, I just press a button and I’m good to go. Newer vehicles have computerized traction control that are designed to compensate for the driver’s abilities; they do things that you might not expect. This and other automated settings can get you in trouble if you don’t realize they’re active.

Not that there isn’t precedent for that sort of thing. A Windows laptop will update and reboot itself every few weeks. Automatic updates are great, provided everything is working as expected. But what if some application stops working because of issues with a patch? What if you were not expecting a reboot and you lose work that was in progress, or, in the worst-case scenario, what if a bug with the patch causes the OS itself to stop booting? As frequently and fervently and as I advocate for everyone to regularly patch their systems, I wouldn’t want the production systems that I work on to automatically download patches from IBM and reboot without my input.

In any event, the rain eventually let up and the error with the sensors went away, which allowed me to reengage the cruise control. I spent the rest of the trip wistfully thinking of my old car and its simple settings.

News and Tips from IBM Support

1. An important update on regarding Call Home and electronic fix distribution: “Due to technical issues, the May 30/31 change will not become active until Sept 19/20, but leave in your firewall configuration if already configured from our previous guidance.”

2. This information on AIX ulimit and maxuproc may come in handy: “A design change took effect in AIX 7.2 TL5 and AIX 7.3 so that ulimit shows the value set for maxuproc. Since processes per user, or nproc, is not set in /etc/security/limits, the value shown in previous releases of AIX was always unlimited…. The design change ensures that ulimit shows what the actual limits are for this value.”

3. Get an rPerf performance rating: “Run this script of your AIX server to calculate an estimated rPerf rating for that particular logical partition (LPAR), also called virtual machine (VM). The estimate is based on the number CPUs and Machine-Type-Model (MTM) calculated from the official documented rPerf ratings.”

4. I ran into this recently after upgrading VIOS: “Starting in VIOS version and above, the following message of the day (motd) message is displayed upon login after the VIOS is updated to or higher…”

In my case I had to run the rulescfgset command twice for it to work.

Nigel Griffiths Retires from IBM

Did you see that Nigel Griffiths recently retired from IBM? Nigel is truly a unique presence who has contributed so much to the AIX world. I, for one, have cited his deep dives into the technology almost constantly over the years. But on that note, if IBM is looking for someone to carry on with the behind the scenes videos of their brand new servers, I’m certainly available. Seriously though, congrats and best wishes to Nigel.