Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Last Weekend at VIR

Well, ok, not actually last weekend, but the weekend before...

A scant week after my final HPDE of the 2010 season, I headed down to VIR for my penultimate Time Trial weekend of the season. The neat thing about doing back-to-back events is that (assuming the car isn't broken) there's very little to do between events. Just pack some food, hitch up, and go.

The other neat thing is that the brain stays in performance-driving mode. Going a month between events gives you too much time to cool down. Too much time to look at video and data, over-analyze both, and settle back into a routine of drinkin' beer and watching TV. But a week? Just enough time to still be excited about the previous week's activities, just enough time to assess what the car is telling you.

I pulled 3 whole seconds off my previous best TT lap time at VIR. And that previous best was in July, just over two months ago. That's huge. Yes, I pulled 25lbs out of the car, but all of it from the wrong side to be helpful. In fact, the car is now wildly imbalanced, almost 185lbs off to the left, with only the left-front wheel carrying over 600lbs at rest.

And my 2:24.873 lap probably wasn't a fluke or a trick of the timing beacon: I'd managed a 2:24.9 earlier in the weekend. Traqmate says there's a 2:24.1 out there, which means there might actually be a 2:23.8. Either way, it was only good enough for 3rd place on Sunday (1/10 of a second out of 2nd place--argh!).

And I'm learning a lot each time I do a TT. I'm learning that once I've blown my own mind with a hot lap, it's time to be done. No more scrounging for that last ounce of performance, as I did twice. Both times I went off in big dramatic fashion, and both times my sessions were disqualified.

I'm also learning that a "full day" of TT can comprise 1 or 2 sessions, that the hardware can last a lot longer than initially expected because of the shortened days, and that there's a lot of room left to make the car go faster. I'm still 40lbs overweight for the class, and can make a few mods to the car without jeopardizing my classing.

And finally I'm learning, each and every time I get in the right seat, something new about instructing. I've now had two students go "off", both because they weren't really listening to what I was saying. They got mired in their own thoughts, fears, and desires, and tuned me out. Concentration exercises (e.g., forcing the driver to identify something unique about each flag worker) help get their focus back where it belongs, but each new student is presenting a new set of challenges that I'm having to solve on the fly. It's scary, frustrating, and a lot of fun.

So I can now claim four Time Trial events (each weekend is two separate events). And in that short period, my first podium finish. Three weeks from now I'll be at Summit Point for the final weekend of the 2010 season. If I can put down consistent laps, I should be just able to get 3rd place again. Wish me luck!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Security Elevation...Feature?

--Nerd Alert--

Last night I migrated from an old failing Windows 2003 file server to a shiny new[er] one. I got the printers, the shares, the permissions, and all the stuff you'd expect. Yay success!

Except somehow I managed to overlook that it was also the site's DHCP server. Oops. Fortunately Microsoft makes a handy-dandy DHCP migration tool that exports all the old databases and imports them into the new environment. Which is great so long as you include it as part of your planning process. Trying to run it after the fact results in spectacular failure.

I took the old server out of the domain, renamed it, re-IP'ed it, and rejoined it to the domain "just in case" we needed it. Rejoining it should also, in theory, deal with any lingering SID issues that might abound in a globally-distributed domain where replication intervals can become an issue.

Once that process was done, I removed, renamed, re-IP'ed, and rejoined the new server, using the old servers name and IP address. Simple server swap, right?

But now I needed to install DHCP services on the new one, which should have come up deactivated and required an Enterprise Admin account to activate. It didn't. It came up hot and is serving out addresses without explicit activation. That's crazy!

The whole point of needing an Enterprise Administrator to activate a DHCP server is to eliminate the risk of internal poisoning of your namespace. If any local site admin with privileges to add or remove a computer to the domain can activate a DHCP server, then you have no security. Somehow Microsoft's engineers believe that "security" for a core infrastructure service should be based on IP address and not SID.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Alastair's First Track Weekend!!!!!

I took Alastair to Summit Point this weekend. I was nervous about it, concerned that an over-amped driver coming off the track might blaze through the paddock and mow him down, or that he'd wander off to places unknown, or that he'd just be bored to tears and whine all weekend.

He was awesome.

My parents met us at about 4:30pm on Friday, helped pack a few last-minute items, and we were off to the mountains of West Virginia. The drive took a little longer than usual, but traveling w/ a 4-yr-old tends to add time to any trip.

We got to the track a few minutes after 8pm, and it was pitch black. Alastair was a huge trouper about getting everything set up for the night, and as a reward got to ride in the Miata around the paddock area. We even went and watched the go-karts for a little while before coming back to the trailer. When we got there, he told me that he needed to go to bed. And indeed he did--it was 9:45pm!

We slept fitfully, having only brought one pillow for the two of us to share, but the next morning we were both quite chipper, in spite of the cluster that awaited...

First off, the track was super slick on Saturday morning. I got out late and only turned a few laps before parking the car--it's just not worth the effort sometimes. Then, as I was preparing to get in the right seat to instruct Mr. Gohlke, another guy came up and told me I was his instructor. Um... uh oh. Turns out there'd been a mix-up at Registration, and I'd been assigned a completely green student. Which meant we had no idea who was supposed to instruct Daniel. And naturally, we only had about 2 minutes to resolve it before the session began.

Oh, and? Alastair had to be left alone, by himself, in the trailer during the session. With more than a little trepidation for his safety, I fired up a movie, stuffed my helmet on my head, and headed out for what would be an eventful first instruction session.

My guy was very green (it was his first track day ever), but seemed to have a good knowledge of what the car could do. Unfortunately, about 2/3 through the session, we spun. No biggie, but it was early enough in the day that I decided to park him and let him cool down a bit. He was shaken, but no harm had been done. Daniel fared a bit better with his instructor, only scaring the guy half to death a few dozen times as he reacquainted himself with the car (we got the situation resolved later--switched students, and Daniel got promoted to Intermediate AND got solo-ed).

I came back to find things going quite well, and indeed things remained very stable throughout the day, except for a couple of minor issues. The day went so well, in fact, that Alastair asked if he could camp in the trailer again that night. So we said adieu to my parents for the day and prepared for the night.

But first...

...we got to put Alastair's go-kart on the race track. Holy. Freakin'. Cow. I thought he'd be bored after doing 1/3 of a lap, but he wanted to keep going and going. He drove almost the entire track before the temperature started to drop, including Karussel, Corkscrew, almost the whole front straight, the Stonehouse Straight, Hook, and Trigger. We had to cut under some track-walkers at one point, and as we came down the main straight, a crowd gathered to watch him toodle along. Seeing his fans, of course he decided to wave.

And then it was time for me to go karting. Daniel and I entered the 1-hour enduro race at Summit Point kart, and for 30 minutes I held the lead, passing the reins to Daniel in horrible form with a late black-flag and a boot that stuck on the brake pedal. We ended the race in 3rd place, 32 seconds behind the leader, but still on the lead lap (in fact the very last kart on the lead lap).

Alastair cheered through it all, pausing along the way to make some friends and share toys.

We capped the night with grilled hotdogs & beans, took a nice long shower, and Little Man asked weepily to go to bed immediately thereafter. He was worn out.

The next morning I was assigned yet another student. Another instructor had suffered an injury in the night, and I got to take a solo check-ride in a blazing fast Hyundai Genesis. And in the afternoon I had a guy in the Advanced group ask me to ride along with him. So for an event where I was accepted as a provisional instructor with only one student, I ended up having 4 students!

Everybody got to ride in the Miata at least once--dad on the first day, Randy on the 2nd, Daniel rode twice (I think). And in my last solo driving session, I set a personal lap record of 1:45.195. It was a fantastic weekend. Alastair was a delight and didn't gripe about the 3-hour trek up or back, the car held up (even if the tires didn't--all 4 were showing cord by Sunday afternoon), and everybody made it home safely.

And ya know what? I get to do it all again this weekend at VIR!