Michael . Born in 1980. Native resident of Los Angeles (who misses his 5-year sojourn in NYC). Computer Science and Engineering turned Political Science student at UCLA. Formerly an ice cream clerk, a Starbucks barista, a software engineer at UCLA’s College of Letters and Science, Lead Developer at a boutique L.A. web development firm, software engineer at GameFly, technology consultant at LAB49, and creator of Blocvox, a community opinion site which launched in December 2013. Worked in Stack Overflow’s engineering team April 2014 through June 2016. Socially conscious, current events junkie. Likes to help people. Likes to laugh. Likes to write. Ponders a lot. Wide-ranging interests. Despises hubris and vanity, but acknowledges the self-indulgent nature of this website as a necessary evil. And aware that his impatience, elitism, and lack of commitment to formal education demonstrate that he is flawed in oh-so-many ways.
Much of the rest of this page dates back to 2005.
Scrambled Brains, the Server
In March 2005, I upgraded my mail server to support hosting scrambledbrains.net. The machine was self-built and powered by an Intel Pentium III, 733MHz (133% clocking) on an Abit BE6 motherboard, with 512MB RAM, XFS on a software RAID 1 of a couple 160GB hard disks, and a Belkin Universal 500VA UPS. The machine ran the Gentoo distribution of the GNU/Linux operating system (the cool kid on the block, at the time) after switching from FreeBSD (a wonderful environment, particularly for learning *nix). It also ran Apache webserver with PHP scripting engine, Postfix email server, amavisd-new with SpamAssassin and ClamAV for mail filtering, Courier mail access server, MySQL database, Samba CIFS file server, OpenLDAP directory, OpenVPN, FreeNX remote display server, and several other facilities, all of which are Free and open source.
In August 2006, that CPU died (it had been overclocked continuously for six years), so I installed an Intel PIII/500MHz on a janky Gainward mobo. At that time, I started planning to switch operating systems as well as hardware, since maintaining Gentoo was a nightmare unworthy of the performance benefits of custom compiled binaries. I decided on Ubuntu 6.06 LTS, which has a simple-to-administer binary-based package management system, the stability of it’s Debian background, immense popularity and community support, fully open development, five years of maintenance support, and of course a focus on usability. So, using an old desktop machine that was replaced by my 2006 MacBook, I performed system-administrative acrobatics to install Ubuntu on a degraded RAID 5 array so I could keep the original Gentoo system in production (also on a degraded array). I then ran them in parallel for a week or two, methodically migrating files and services, and switching the port forwarding on my Tomato-flashed router. With careful planning and execution, it was a relatively smooth process, though altogether the process of building the machine, researching and installing Ubuntu, and migrating the system took a couple months of free time to complete.
When complete, ScrambledBrains.net ran on an Asus P4S8X-MX mobo with Intel Pentium 4 CPU at 1800MHz, 2GB RAM, software RAID 5 of three 160GB disks, with 80GB external backup drive, and the UPS listed above, all in a super cool and amazingly quiet Antec P180 case. With all that Linux horsepower, I was also able to install VMware virtualization server and host a Windows 2003 Server SP1 installation, which I intended to use for Microsoft-based web development (exposed through Apache reverse proxy) and to host my private wiki. The new Ubuntu system also ran all of the services listed above for the old Gentoo system, except for FreeNX.
Over the summer of 2008, the machine was upgraded to an Athlon 64 X2 5600+, cheapo ECS GeForce7050M-M, 4GB DDR2 RAM, 4×250GB@7200 RAID 5, 500GB external drive for media backups, two 120GB external drives for data rdiff-backups (rotated offsite weekly), and APC UPS. The operating system was upgraded to Ubuntu 8.04 LTS. In Fall 2010, indications of bad sectors by SMART diagnostics on one of the disks prompted a storage upgrade, to 4×500GB@5400. The new disks have slower rotation (effectively slower access time), but bigger caches, lower power consumption, lower noise, lower heat, and higher reliability: a positive trade-off. The media backup drive was also upgraded to 1.5TB.
In 2010, the Windows installation was upgraded to 2008 R2, Ubuntu was upgraded to 10.04 (finally, a practical version of Mono!), and trac was setup for my personal development projects. In April 2012, the CPU became a 4-core AMD Phenom X4 9600B, which greatly alleviated growing pains in the virtual Windows instance triggered by the increased demands of my startup (test environments, and TeamCity build server). A few months later, Ubuntu was again upgraded to the first point release of the latest LTS, 12.04.1, which brought a greatly modernized version of Mono. In November, I swapped the nicer-but-still-cheap Gigabyte GA-MA785GM-US2H mobo into the machine from my HTPC. This mobo has two more DIMM slots and allowed the immediate upgrade to 8GB total RAM. It also features a AM3-compatible socket, which permitted the upgrade to a hexacore Phenom II X6 1090T, Black Edition, in June 2016. This was the last incremental upgrade before a major hardware overhaul; although the mobo also supports 16GB RAM, the high monetary cost of old DDR2 sticks made a memory upgrade unattractive. In early 2017, I swapped in a Dell XPS 8700 mobo, replete with (octa-)Core i7 and a roomy 24GB RAM, salvaged from his Stack Overflow workstation. The speed! The power!
These machines have faithfully performed their duties from the farthest reaches of my bedroom’s closet, or behind a room divider in my living and bed rooms.
No, “scrambled brains” has nothing to do with the anti-drug commercials of the 1990s. Rather, during less optimistic times of my life, I found it common for me to get so extermely caught up in fits of frustration, confusion, and despair that my brain would simply and completely exhaust itself, having spent all its sort, process, and synthetic energies alternately churning inert gears and spinning its wheels. In this state, inundated with surges of neurochemicals, my brain felt like a conductor highly charged with static electricity, imminently close to combustion. Beyond this electricity, my brain’s functionality too acquired a “static” quality - that of the scrambled reception of a broken television. Hence, I coined the phrase “scrambled brains,” ironically in the very midst of one of these cerebral storms.
Scrambled Brains offers several subscriptions services for those of you too lazy to check the page with your web browser on a regular basis.
Email. There are two email subscription services. The first is the New Posts Mailing List, which allows you to receive the text of new posts via email immediately after they are put on the site. What convenience! You can access the mailing list sign-up page from the Push It section of the sidebar.
The second email service is the Comments Mailing Lists. There’s a seperate Comments Mailing List for each post, and they allow you to follow the comment discussion of any particular post. If you are on a post’s Comments Mailing List, you will receive all subsequent comments of that post in your email. To add yourself to a post’s Comments Mailing List, you must leave a comment on that post with the “Subscribe to this post’s comments” box checked.
RSS. (Read RSS Intro for an introduction to RSS.) Scambled Brains provides many RSS feeds, and their URLs are located in the Meta section of the sidebar. There’s the All Entries RSS feed that syndicates (i.e. represents) all the posts; when a new post is published, it will show up on this feed. This feed mimics the contents of the New Posts mailing list. In addition, each post includes a This Page feed that syndicates all the comments for that post. This feed mimics the contents of the Comments Mailing Lists. Scrambled Brains also provides the All Comments feed, which syndicates all the comments for all the posts in one feed. There is no mailing list that corresponds to this feed.