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Apr 28, 2006

Wow - P2V -> Physical to Virtual

Two products I came across while reading a previously linked article offering datacenter tips - PlateSpin PowerConvert and Leostream.

The fantastic thing about these products is that they let you seamlessly migrate physical servers into virtual servers.

This is amazing stuff:

Stream servers between physical servers, blade infrastructures, virtual machines, and image archives over the network

Gone are the bad old days of Systems Admin where you needed to audit and plan every aspect of a server migration to new hardware. Even then it was so easy to miss something - particularly with Windows which doesn't offer much in the way of storing a running config - sure you can restore a registry but if you try that to different hardware you'll render the target system inoperable. Now the only risk is a virtual machine going 'stale' as it gets moved from one virtual environment to another. At least with a hardware refresh you're forced to look at what services can be dropped or how an install can be improved when starting with a clean slate.

[/tech/virtual] | [permalink] | [2006.04.28-20:53.00]

Reading List (Updated 27/04/06)

Natacha Du Pont De Bie - Ant Egg Soup: The Adventures of a Food Tourist in Laos

Mouth watering Laotion travelogue. Shame I'm a vegetarian - most of the recipes seem decidedly porky/beefy/fishy. An excellent read if you enjoy exotic food and travel.

Charles Stross - Iron Sunrise

Followup to Singularity Sky but better. The protagonists race to discover who destroyed a planet before a retaliatory strike takes place. A must read if you like hard sci-fi.

Steven Strogatz - Sync: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order

I find it hard to read non-fiction books about science and mathematics - the last one I read, completed and actually enjoyed would have been James Gleicks 'Chaos'. Sync is actually not to bad and actually pretty interesting and (comparitively) easy to read with lots of personal anecdotes about the nature of synchronisation (how does the body know when to wake up or sleep ? why two pendulum clocks fall into sync ?).

Lynne Truss - Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today, or Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door

Humourous look at rudeness from the author of 'Eats shoots & leaves' (she'd have a field-day with my typos and grammatical faux pas). A nice light read which leaves you nodding in agreement to pretty much every point she makes regarding the increased rudeness encountered in every day life.

[/books] | [permalink] | [2006.04.28-00:48.00]

Apr 27, 2006

ZFS on the Mac ?

Caught this over at John Siracusas Blog - Apple looking for assistance porting ZFS to the Mac.

As John points out the performance overhead probably would preclude its use in consumer machines but for their server stuff it would be ideal. No point re-inventing the wheel for this type of thing if someone else has already done the work. As someone else pointed out hard-drives are getting to be so cheap its a wonder machines don't come with a mirrored pair for redundancy anyway.

For consumer stuff hopefully Apple can pull out a database driven file system like BeOS FS used to have . . .

[/tech/mac] | [permalink] | [2006.04.27-23:32.00]

Apr 26, 2006

Sigur Ros + Amiina Live St James Theatre Auckland 19-April-06

Monday night we joined the stream of people lining up outside the St James theatre to see Sigur Ros.

I'd picked up their '()' album about 18 months ago and had just recently picked up their latest album 'Takk' which they were touring globally.

Luckily Karen saw that they were playing live back in January so we picked up tickets and organised roadtrip to see them. They were obscure and Icelandic so I figured no one would be going to the gig.

How wrong I was - we joined a queue of several hundred people waiting to get in. The venue turned out to be standing room only front of stage but the seated positions were only a third full (tix were twice the price). Being an old fart with a healthy dose of tinnitus already I figured we'd go with the seated option. As it was the seats were designed for midgets and the legroom was atrocious making for a slightly uncomfortable gigging experiance.

Opening for SR was Amiina - this quartet played a kind of funky playground instrumental thing. If you didn't see them on stage you would think you'd walked in on a music performance by a group of 8 year olds banging away on xylophones, bells, water-glasses, bowed saw and occassional violin/cello with PowerBook accompaniment. Actually a much groovier sound than you'd expect considering the instruments involved (kind of Tortoise-esque). Amiina also provide the backing strings for SR. You can listen to a track off their AnimaminA EP called Hemipode. I think I'll be ordering this EP shortly.

Sigur Ros started and finished with an apocalyptic intro and finale backlit behind a huge gauze curtain onto which a suitably visually stunning lightshow was projected from various sources in the theatre. Very cool and the intro set the tone for the entire concert - pristine sound, volume was perfect and the songs themselves were performed beautifully. About the only complaint would be that the vocalist could be a little samey and it would have been nicer if the songs dynamics were left to do their thing sans vocals.

Thoroughly enjoyable and highly recommended - if you ever get a chance to see them play definitely go. One of the best concerts I've seen in years.

A much better review of them live is at Popmatters.

Sigur Ros have a healthy appreciation for sharing music - you can download a number of tracks from their site here. They also host an FTP site of fan-made audio/video recordings too.

Now I need to get my hands on their Agaetis Byrjun album . . .

[/music] | [permalink] | [2006.04.26-01:41.00]

Social Pressure + More

Great post on the evils of Social Pressure over at Gaping Void. I'd blow it up and print it out to stick on my wall but its sure to offend someone :-)

Rob points to a WebOS article over at zdnet in his blog with some pertinant comments. ArsTechnica points to the same article and links to another web based OS project that actually covers the basics rather nicely - Is there a WebOS in your future.

Some annoying suprises in Microsofts Vista OS - Endless Security Warnings. I guess they're damned if they do and damned if they don't. Warning the end-user of suspicious activity is always a balancing act between annoyance and security.

Wonderful architectural concept - library built from discarded aircraft bodies.

Interesting - Perils of publishing.

I could only answer 50% of these questions without having to think to hard about the answer - Scientists offer 10 basic questions to test your knowledge.

Geek heaven - A tour of Microsofts Mac Business Unit.

I used to spend an inordinate amount of time playing the first old Mac game on this page over the rudimentary PhoneNet network - Spectre. And then it was superceded by my Bolo addiction ;-)

Rob Janoff - Invented the Apple Logo.

Can't see this being acceptable for anything but the geekiest small companies - BYOL - Bring Your Own Laptop. Maintaining standards is hard enough without having to support unknown hardware/software too.

Interesting - How a manager treats a waiter gives a true indication of what they're like as a person.

Interesting - Microsofts web servers move to 64-bit.

A review over at ArsTechica for Silent Hill - The Movie. Almost sounds reasonable. The first two games were fantastic for creating a creepy atmosphere - like almost every game to movie translation its never going to be as good as the original but at least they've made a decent effort.

Post on the dire state of Mac OS X Backup Software. Does have a recommendation for a product which would appear to do the job quite well though - SuperDuper.

William Yeagerinvented the multi-protocol router back in 1980.

Handy - OpenBSD Tips.

The first release candidate for the fancy new Windows shell/scripting environment is available - Windows PowerShell RC1. Its development name was 'Monad' and the first Microsoft product to use it extensively will be Exchange 12 (eg it won't be in Vista).

Interesting - Datacenter Do's & Don'ts. Related - Xen in Action. Both articles found via OSNews .

[/links/2006] | [permalink] | [2006.04.26-01:38.00]

Eds Obituary

As a followup to the previous article I've also posted Eds Evening Standard obituary which is a wonderful and poignant piece of writing that goes some way towards describing what a cool guy he was.

My close friends and I had known Ed since starting high-school back in Form Three (1983) through the end of University and into work after that. He was a one of lifes genuine nice guys. Even though its been a long time since his death whenever Anzac day rolls around you can't help but feel theres an Ed-sized-hole in your life and wouldn't it be great if he were still around.

I actually wouldn't be doing what I'm doing now if it wasn't for Ed offering me the chance to cover for him at the College of Education when he started to undergo Chemo. What turned into a couple of months went on for a couple of years and a career in IT while Ed continued to undergo various treatments.

If there were more Ed Fahys in the world it would be a better place all round.

[/ed] | [permalink] | [2006.04.26-01:29.00]

Apr 24, 2006

Honest Ed

Its more than a decade since Ed Fahy died - he was a great friend and is still sorely missed by all those who new him.

I've added a new blosxom category and included a scan of a wonderful article that appeared in our local Palmerston North Evening Standard newspaper as Ed attempted to sell his old Morris 1100 (he had a knack for collecting old cars - lest we forget his ancient Vauxhall Wyvern). I figure once Google indexes and caches this post he'll achieve a kind of 'virtual' immortality.

Unfortunately Ed died as his cancer took hold about six months after this article was written - just before Anzac day.

So please spare a thought for those that have gone before us on this day of rememberance . . .

[/ed] | [permalink] | [2006.04.24-18:58.00]

Apr 14, 2006

Stupid User Tricks + More

I've seen some of these before - Stupid user goofs - Eleven IT Horror Stories.

Interesting - Breaking firewalls via SSH.

Have your favourite web pages emailed to you via ToRead.

Handy - I want a freeware utlity to . . .

This car is amazing - Wooden Cadillac.

Google released Calendar.

Caught on slashdot but still worth a read of the linked article - The world's most modern management - in India. It almost sounds like a call tracking / incident resolution system for an organisations management team. Genius.

[/links/2006] | [permalink] | [2006.04.14-20:14.00]

Apr 13, 2006

Bootcamp + More

Lots of commentary around Apples 'Bootcamp' release allowing you to run WindowsXP on the new Intel Macs - from Daring Fireball and John Siracusa of ArsTechnica.

Fantastic - Neatpatch. Tidy your rack cables away in their own horizontal drawers rather than coiled up or hanging loose in your comms rack.

A new twist on USB memory - Inflatable USB Memory Stick. The more you add the bigger it gets.

Now sporting dual DVI for multi-monitor goodness - New Sun Rays. If only more people would accept network computing into their lives it would make an admins job much easier :-)

Funky - Wireless SCART Plug. Grab the output and fire it off to another SCART device wirelessly.

Possibly the ultimate tree-house - Tree Sphere.

Another useful guide to DFS - Configuring and using DFS Replication. Modern SANS can do this type of thing without being tied to a particular OS too (eg cache & replicate data).

Fascinating - Core Wars. Evolution in action via a glorified game of 'Life'.

Be sure to scroll all the way to the right as this is one *long* page - Evolutionary timeline webpage.

Looks useful Basic guide to procmail.

Useful - Getting started with Nagios 2.1. I believe the confg stuff changed radically so it didn't seem like a simple job migrating from an older version the the new one - this basic guide helps recreate some of the basics though.

[/links/2006] | [permalink] | [2006.04.13-19:29.00]

Apr 07, 2006

Friends Logs

Updated my head.html with an extra sidebar for friends sites.

[/misc] | [permalink] | [2006.04.07-23:19.00]

Apr 06, 2006

Questions to ask a prospective employer . . .

Well I'm sort of job hunting again.

I've decided that when the interviewer asks the "is there anything you'd like to ask us ?" question I'd followup with "its funny you should ask . . ."

A selection from these questions should give you an idea as to how "switched-on" the organisation is with respect to IT service provision (and potentially the head-aches you might have to deal with if you work for them - then again fixing some of the issues might be what the role is all about).

Then again they might just think you're a smart-ass and not hire you as you may come across as a potential troublemaker ;-)

So in no particular order -

  • What make / model servers do you use ?
  • How old are they ?
  • What hardware vendor maintenance do you have for them ?
  • How often do you roll over old hardware ?
  • Do you have a standard server build document / run book for each system ?
  • How well are the IT systems documented ?
  • What processes are in place to migrate services with minimal client impact (eg can you migrate your database server without having all the apps that rely upon it falling over) ?
  • What critical services need to remain 'up' all the time and what provision is made should one of these fail ?
  • What Monitoring do you use ?
  • What Backup system do you use & how reliable is it ?
  • How is storage provisioned and managed (do they have a SAN/NAS or consolidated storage plan) ?
  • What Failover provision do you have for critical services ?
  • Do you use data replication for critical information ?
  • What services and applications rely on outside vendors or consultants ?
  • Are there key services and applications that rely on any single persons expertise to work ?
  • What call tracking system is in use ?
  • Is there a change control process in place ?
  • What is the induction process ?
  • Is there a mentoring system to help you settle in and upskill ?
  • Is there an on call component ?
  • How often are after-hours alerts raised - what proportion of these can be handled remotely vs going onsite ?
  • What SLA's are there ?
  • What desktop OS do you use ?
  • Is it a managed desktop (eg how is remote support, patching, anti-virus, software deployment, auditing handled) ?
  • How do you rollout new hardware, software and services to the client community ?
  • What access rights do people have and how is this managed ?
  • What firewall, web proxy, virus / spam checking system is in place ?
  • What remote access, vpn is in place ?
  • What technologies do you use for your extranet / intranet ?
  • Do you use a CMS (content management system) for your website ?
  • Do you use an intranet, information is availabe to staff and who updates its content ?
  • Do you use a DMS (document management system) for knowledge management ?
  • What groupware system do you use ?

[/tech/ultimate] | [permalink] | [2006.04.06-00:47.00]

Apr 04, 2006

TiddlyWiki + More

Keeps getting better and better - TiddlyWiki. Really useful if you want to keep a wiki without a webserver on your desktop or memory-stick.

Why Worse is sometimes Better - Why Blosxom Sucks.

All your South Park needs - Mr Twig.

Escellent article - Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Planning. Islands of replicated information (and service) sounds like the way to go.

Linux server with a complete web-interface - Zeroshell.

Genius - How the Apple RDF is generated. The truth is revealed.

All open-source proponents should be backing these guys - Linux fiddles while OpenSSH burns. OpenSSH is one of the most useful multi-faceted tools in any OS arsenal.

First trailer for the Simpsons Movie. Short and sweet but it looks good. Hopefully it translates to a longer format.

Interesting - Art programs drops OS X and moves to Ubuntu. Some nice open-source draw, paint and DTP apps linked in this article.

Handy - Solaris CPU Caps. With increased virtualisation the ability to put resource limits on systems is more important than ever - although as many have pointed out the system schedular can usually take care of 99% of this unaided anyway.

New IM bells and whistles in this SametTime 7.5 Preview.

[/links/2006] | [permalink] | [2006.04.04-18:44.00]