CrashPlan Keeps Crashing

I had an issue where CrashPlan kept on crashing on Mac (OSX 10.8.4). The CrashPlan launch menu bar would also fail to show, and even when I started it manually, it would only stay active for no more than about 60 seconds before crashing again.

I thought the issue was related to my version of Java, but upgrading to the latest version did not solve the issue.

I finally came across a helpdesk article from Pro Backup, which uses the CrashPlan engine:

In some cases a large file selection (>1TiB or 1 million files) can cause CrashPlan to crash. This can be noticed by continuous stopping and starting. You may also see the CrashPlan application and System Tray icon disappearing in the middle of a backup. Or the main CrashPlan program will run for about 30 seconds then close down with no error message.

The CrashPlan engine by default is limited to 512MB of main memory. The CrashPlan engine won’t use more memory than that, even if the CrashPlan engine needs more working memory and the computer has memory available. When the CrashPlan engine is running out of memory it crashes.

The issue was that as a heavy user, I backup more than 1TB of data. However, CrashPlan only allocates 512MB of memory in Java, which is insufficient for my large backup size.

  1. Stop the CrashPlan daemon:
    sudo launchctl unload /library/launchdaemons/com.crashplan.engine.plist
  2. Edit /library/launchdaemons/com.crashplan.engine.plist and change -Xmx512m to -Xmx1024m (or whatever is needed).
  3. Restart the CrashPlan daemon:
    sudo launchctl load /library/launchdaemons/com.crashplan.engine.plist

Problem solved!

The Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Action

[ted id=848]

Another great video shown at the Emerging Leadership Development Program meeting I was at last week was Simon Sinek’s TEDx talk on How Great Leaders Inspire Action. The take-away point for me was this part1:

Every single person, every single organization on the planet knows what they do, 100 percent. Some know how they do it, whether you call it your differentiated value proposition or your proprietary process or your USP. But very, very few people or organizations know why they do what they do. And by “why” I don’t mean “to make a profit.” That’s a result. It’s always a result. By “why,” I mean: What’s your purpose? What’s your cause? What’s your belief? Why does your organization exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care? Well, as a result, the way we think, the way we act, the way we communicate is from the outside in. It’s obvious. We go from the clearest thing to the fuzziest thing. But the inspired leaders and the inspired organizations — regardless of their size, regardless of their industry — all think, act and communicate from the inside out.

Ever since learning the “five W’s” — who, what, when, where, why (and how) — in second grade, I’ve thought long and hard about which of them is my favorites question to ask. During college, I finally settled on a split be why and how and I think that this TEDx talk has finally helped me understand why “why” is the most important, followed by how.

  1. which starts at about the two minute mark in the video 

Feynman the Explainer

I love stories about Feynman — probably because I love his style and try to emulate it — and Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character) remains one of my favorite books of all time.

Richard Feynman and The Connection Machine, by W. Daniel Hillis for Physics Today1, is a new story for me though:

In the meantime, we were having a lot of trouble explaining to people what we were doing with cellular automata. Eyes tended to glaze over when we started talking about state transition diagrams and finite state machines. Finally Feynman told us to explain it like this,

“We have noticed in nature that the behavior of a fluid depends very little on the nature of the individual particles in that fluid. For example, the flow of sand is very similar to the flow of water or the flow of a pile of ball bearings. We have therefore taken advantage of this fact to invent a type of imaginary particle that is especially simple for us to simulate. This particle is a perfect ball bearing that can move at a single speed in one of six directions. The flow of these particles on a large enough scale is very similar to the flow of natural fluids.”

This was a typical Richard Feynman explanation. On the one hand, it infuriated the experts who had worked on the problem because it neglected to even mention all of the clever problems that they had solved. On the other hand, it delighted the listeners since they could walk away from it with a real understanding of the phenomenon and how it was connected to physical reality.

We tried to take advantage of Richard’s talent for clarity by getting him to critique the technical presentations that we made in our product introductions. Before the commercial announcement of the Connection Machine CM-1 and all of our future products, Richard would give a sentence-by-sentence critique of the planned presentation. “Don’t say ‘reflected acoustic wave.’ Say [echo].” Or, “Forget all that ‘local minima’ stuff. Just say there’s a bubble caught in the crystal and you have to shake it out.” Nothing made him angrier than making something simple sound complicated.

Getting Richard to give advice like that was sometimes tricky. He pretended not to like working on any problem that was outside his claimed area of expertise. Often, at Thinking Machines when he was asked for advice he would gruffly refuse with “That’s not my department.” I could never figure out just what his department was, but it did not matter anyway, since he spent most of his time working on those “not-my-department” problems. Sometimes he really would give up, but more often than not he would come back a few days after his refusal and remark, “I’ve been thinking about what you asked the other day and it seems to me…” This worked best if you were careful not to expect it.

I do not mean to imply that Richard was hesitant to do the “dirty work.” In fact, he was always volunteering for it. Many a visitor at Thinking Machines was shocked to see that we had a Nobel Laureate soldering circuit boards or painting walls. But what Richard hated, or at least pretended to hate, was being asked to give advice. So why were people always asking him for it? Because even when Richard didn’t understand, he always seemed to understand better than the rest of us. And whatever he understood, he could make others understand as well. Richard made people feel like a child does, when a grown-up first treats him as an adult. He was never afraid of telling the truth, and however foolish your question was, he never made you feel like a fool.

  1. Phys. Today 42(2), 78 (1989) 

Parallel Construction

One of the largest concerns I have with things like the NSA listening and reading everything I do is that they would share that information without clearly establishing its legitimate source.

The receiver of such information would need to have a plausible back story for how they came in to this information and that what “parallel construction” is.

Remember back in grade school when your friend Dave “accidentally” overheard a secret that Jane was going to kiss Tommy on the playground under the slide during the next recess? No Big Deal, except that just yesterday Jane had promised to marry you after you both graduated 5th grade.

Of course, this was a secret and Dave made you promise not to tell anyone. But you also couldn’t Tommy intervene with your plan to marry Jane.

What’s a first grader to do?

No problem, you’ll just “happen” to be playing with your trucks under the slide during next recess, “the sand under there perfectly recreates the muck most front loaders excavate during mining operations,” you’ll tell Jane.

Then you “suddenly” notice Tommy and with an inquisitive look on your face (that you spent all of lunch practicing), you cock your head to the side and ask, “what are you and Tommy doing here?”

Jane drops Tommys hand: busted.

But now parallel construction is happening for real:


A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.

Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin – not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.

The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to “recreate” the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant’s Constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don’t know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidence – information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses.

In the past, the mere fact that parallel construction occurs from secretive places no one talks about would likely be quashed by the “states secret” privilege. Fortunately, it appears that judges may be having second thoughts about allowing the government to indiscriminately exercise the “states secret” privilege as evident in Judge White’s ruling1 on the motion for partial summary judgment in Jewel v. NSA:

In the ruling, Judge Jeffrey White of the Northern District of California federal court agreed with EFF that the very subject matter of the lawsuit is not a state secret, and any properly classified details can be litigated under the procedures of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

Unfortunately, the NSA are likely collecting everything, contents word for word, everything of every domestic communication in this country, including content from Supreme Court Justices:


The NSA were targeting individuals. In that case, they were judges like the Supreme Court. I held in my hand Judge Alito’s targeting information for his phones and his staff and his family.

  1. No. C 08-04373 JSW 

So This Happened On My Flight Back

After my fight1 was delayed for two hours due to weather, we’re finally getting ready to push back from the gate when the purser2 calls over the intercom for doors to be disarmed. Not good.

The next ten minutes basically played out like latter parts of Gaylord Focker getting removed from the airplane, finally culminating with Philly PD escorting our character off the plane:

  1. Alaska Airlines 37, Philadelphia to Seattle 

  2. head flight attendant