The server in your home

A few days ago a friend of mine gave me a fantastic deal on a PowerEdge server coming out of his datacenter. A deal that was so low it could not be missed so after checking the bank account I sprang on it. I walked away with 3 PE 2950s for less than price of a point-and-shoot camera. So after a week of figuring out how to get 3 30kg servers home I finally got them into my apartment and wired up.

I manage our datacenter ESX servers at the office but I wanted to see what else is out there and compare to the VMWare solution. I’ve had limited exposure to Microsoft’s Hyper-V. Some with KVM. And little of Xen. The Hyper-V experience in the past has never been all that great. Disk space, memory, CPU, when you are virtualizing these things are important. KVM didn’t have good Windows server performance. Xen I hear is better and some of our clients use it.

After getting the servers plugged in and powered up the first thing that you notice is the noise. These beasts are built for the datacenter and the fans spin fast through a very small, metallic enclosure. Lots of noise. Also, they put out a good amount of heat. The passwords were unknown to me so I couldn’t login to ESX. I created a Linux boot CD and booted each server from a USB key.

mount /mnt/Hypervisor1
cp state.tgz /tmp/
tar -xzf state.tgz
tar -xzf local.tgz
vi etc/shadow

In vi completely delete the root password. Don’t change any other setting and don’t try and enter a new password since it would need to be encrypted. Save the file and copy it back to the mounted Hypervisor partition

:wq
rm local.tgz
tar -czf local.tgz etc
rm state.tgz
tar -czf state.tgz local.tgz
mv /mnt/Hypervisor1/state.tgz /mnt/Hypervisor1/state.tgz.bak
cp state.tgz /mnt/Hypervisor1/state.tgz

Reboot the server and remove the USB key. At the ESX console hit F2 to change the settings. Login as root and leave the password field blank. You’ll now be able to update the password and network settings. I downloaded the vSphere client using the browser and logged in. These machines have old ESX 4.1 Standard licenses. Fairly expensive but not what I planned to use anytime soon. So after recording the keys I formatted the top one.

The first server has 6x 146GB 10k SAS HDs with a Perc5i controller that has seen better days. The battery is kaput so I won’t be getting the performance I’d expect since Writeback caching is disabled. On this machine I decided to install Windows Hyper-V Server 2012 Core. This is the closest approximation that Microsoft has to ESXi. They do include a lot of functionality in the free version that VMware requires in their more expensive options.

The out of box experience was not nearly as nice as ESXi 5.0. ESXi only requires a 512MB USB key to install and then can install the hypervisor back onto that same VM. Hyper-V can technically do this but the instructions state that you need to download a lot of files and create a VHD. So I formatted the disk array to RAID 5 and installed the server to the local disk.

Hyper-V Server restarts a few times during the install. This was surprising to me since I had stepped out to grab some tea and come back to the USB menu. So, remember to remove the USB key after the initial file install. The first time you connect you’ll be asked to enter a password. Make it a good one because the local policy by default won’t accept “password” as the password. Once you’re in you’ll be presented with the text-based menu. Here you can configure networking, enable remote desktop, and run system updates. You should do all three in that order.
Screen Shot 2013-02-22 at 4.57.12 PM
Once the updates have completed and the server rebooted you can disconnect from the server and resume the session through Remote Desktop.

I’m trying to bring a server instance up using only Powershell. Hyper-V Management tools for Server 2012 require Windows 8 and I only have Windows 7. My plan is to install Server 2012 as a bootstrap server than try the different aspects of Hyper-V and see how it really stacks up. So far the experience hasn’t been enjoyable but I’m willing to slog through it and see this as minor stumbling blocks. Microsoft has invested a lot of time improving Hyper-V so I’ll do my part likewise.

1955-2011

If you haven’t heard by now then you’ll be sad to know that Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs, has succumbed to cancer. There are a lot of words that are paraded in sentences before and after his name: CEO, pioneer, visionary, entrepreneur, Jesus. And yet, at the same time, so many other just as notable people have passed at the same moment, like Nobel Prize recipient Ralph Steinman, and civil rights activist Fred Shuttlesworth. Each of these man contributed greatly to the human conscious and yet only one retains the headline in the news (at least in the Western World).

So what is it about Steve Jobs that draws strong emotions from so many people that have never met him. His inner circle of friends is quite small and still diverse. Being a multibillionaire means you have armed escorts and an almost paranoid entitlement to privacy, yet there are stories after stories of meeting Steve in the mall, at a sushi restaurant, in the Apple store, on 1 infinite loop, etc. He was the best type of salesman, he sold the products he believed in, and he was very prophetic. To him the idea of 2,3,4 button mouses were stupid, computer specs were stupid to a population that didn’t care, blu-ray discs were also stupid (and as an owner of a PS3, I tend to agree).

He was the catalyst in breaking into new markets. There may have been early pioneers but their technology wasn’t very good. He saw what was possible, went into it, and made it better. No one remembers smartphones before the iPhone. There are some (yours truly) that were early adopters, but we paid for it in price, bugs, and stupidity. Competitors love him and loathe him at the same time. If Apple has entered your territory it meant 2 things, you have some serious competition and you have a much larger market. The former meant you were on a countdown to get your products up to snuff, the latter meant that users that didn’t consider your product before are all of a sudden interested (see Roku, Archos, Nokia smartphones).

In business Steve was aggressive, to his enemies he was wiley, to his family he was dad.

Friday night at Patrick’s Irish Bar

The other day I got an invitation from a member of Github hosting a party in the 11th at an Irish pub. Me being an introverted programmer means I don’t get out too often and thought this would be an interesting way to meet other programmers. And I was not disappointed.

The guys I met, and they were mostly guys, were very open to talking about industry, programming, and international politics. Topics ranged from the direction of mobile development, embedded development, and history of mobile development. When we weren’t talking about programming we covered areas such as international finance and being a quant. Occassionally someone would make fun of the Symfony attendees. Since they were familiar with each other and we were not it felt good to break the ice by going after the insiders.

All in all, a great night out with a great bunch of people. As a developer you rarely get to meet other developers except online and the occassional conference. The sharing of ideas is very rewarding and I hope to do it again.

PS: It also helps when someone else is paying for drinks, so a big thank you to Github.

Detours. The app that alters your Mac’s hosts file

The hosts file is a little text file on your Mac, Linux, or Windows PC that is allows you to bypass certain domain names. This is usually found under /etc/hosts. For those not really wanting to drop into command-line to edit the file there is an app for that. Detours is an application by Jerod Santo @sant0sk1 that allows you to easily modify this without having to be root and doesn’t change your hosts file.

For developers this is a handy tool in case you want to bypass a connection from going out to the internet and reroute it to, say for example, a testing or development server.

I’m moving to WordPress

I’ve been using MovableType blogging software for many years. But with the announcement by Six Apart that they are moving in a different direction and the much larger community of developers, plugins, and themes available on WordPress I’ve decided to cast my die and move to WordPress. It’s something I’ve been contemplating for a long time. But with the announcement by Six Apart that they are abandoning the platform I feel that, maybe, now is a good time to take care of that migration. There have been some WordPress plugins that I wish were available on Movable Type and now I’ll finally be able to use them.
Over the next couple of days thinks will start to change around here. If you’ve been a registered commentor you might find your username no longer works. Don’t worry everything should be fine and I hope the migration goes the way I hope.
Also, you can always find me on twitter @yardie. WHile I’m posting here less frequently I’m pushing tweets constantly there.

An iPhone application I’m liking a lot

Recently, I downloaded the iPhone application Zumocast after hearing a recommendation from Leo Laporte on the podcast MacBreak Weekly. I installed the server at on my Mediacenter PC and my Mac. In no time at all I was listening to music over my network, watching videos and browsing through photos. This is an application that shines.
In addition to watching videos, viewing photos, and listening to music you can also view some of your files. Because the iOS includes the foundations of the MacOS there are some files that can be read natively like txt, pdf, doc, rtf. I haven’t gone through all of them. Because reading all of that on such a small screen is futile. But it is nice the capability is there.
One of my favorite features is the ability to encode and download videos to your iOS device. I’ve already done one, the documentary “Gasland”. I have queued up a few episodes of the third season of the Boondocks and eventually I’ll see if it can also download songs and integrate them into the iTunes library. Something I’ve wanted to do but not able to try because the Mac was off.
So if you are like me and have lots of media and a few iPods, iPhones, and other devices around the house give Zumocast a try.

Steam released for Mac: First Impressions

If you’ve been under a cave than you probably haven’t heard that Valve’s Steam game service is now available for Mac. I’ve had an on/off relationship with Steam over the years. Using it on a PC, getting a Mac and all but forgetting about it, trying dismally to use it in Crossover Games, and finally using a native Mac version. You can grab it here at steampowered.com. There is also a limited time free download of Valve’s Portal to start the show and garner interest from Mac gamers.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

If you’ve already bought some of the games from outside the Steam store (in my case I have Tales of Monkey Island I bought through the last MacHeist nanobundle. You can enter your license key and it will be included in the steam menu. I haven’t tested the to see how it deals with Mac to PC and vice versa gaming. But all will be done in due time. Until then, I’m going to take this time to enjoy Portal. A game I’ve been curious for a long time that I didn’t work up the nerve into purchasing.
As for my PS3? It’s still dead to me until Sony gets off their high horse. With the price of quieter blu ray players coming down constantly that also have standard remote IR functionality. This device “that only does everything” has gotten less useful as more capable devices in my apartment have replaced it. It does less than my HTPC, it does less than my region-free DVD player, it doesn’t seem to connect to my ReadyNAS. I’m a little unhappy with it frankly.

Welcome to MacJournal!

Welcome

To get started, create a new entry by clicking on “New Entry” in the toolbar or choosing “New Entry” from the File menu. You can also drag files from the Finder in to the Sidebar or the Entries list to import them as an entry. Show the Inspector from the View menu to see settings for the current entry, journal, and document.
What’s new in version 5?

  • All new interface, built for Mac OS X Leopard.
  • Add any kind of content, not just text. Drag PDFs, QuickTime movies, images, and more into the Sidebar to create an entry with anything on your computer.
  • Open more than one MacJournal document at a time and save them wherever you want, or just use the default document and never worry about saving.
  • Create Smart Journals from searches you perform.
  • Create aliases to entries that you can store in other journals.
  • Assign each entry a rating, status, and priority, and sort any journal by those values.
  • Record video from your iSight and attach it to any entry.
  • Performance enhancements for working with large numbers of entries.

I’ve downloaded MacJournal and linked it to my blog. So I’ll never need to log directly into the system through the portal. This should make it more convenient for me. Instead of having to open a browser, enter the URL, login, and password. Then make a new entry, upload photos, and create the appropriate links. This system should do fine. I’ll have to see on how it handles different image sizes. MT has a good system of creating clickable thumbnails for large images. This has been on my ‘things to do’ for a while, just never got around to downloading and registering MacJournal. Now I see why people like it.
Shout out to MacHeist who made it possible. I didn’t really think about this program until it arrived in my bundle.

Writing iPhone applications for jailbroken iPhones

As a developer I don’t enjoy paying for things when I don’t have to. One of them happens to be Apples iPhone Developer program. I could find better ways of spending $99. Debugging my own stuff isn’t one of them. So what is a developer to do when he can’t or won’t pony up the money to be allowed to load and debug his own applications. He uses that tiny developer brain to bypass all the checks that’s how.

I’m not going to go into the ins and outs of jailbreaking the iPhone. There are plenty of tutorials on the net to do exactly that. If you are in over your head at this point you should probably bail now, shit is definitely not going to get easier from here on out.

Creating a certificate

You’ll need your own self-signed certificate. iPhone OS will check for it, jailbreaking will tell it that it’s good, regardless of who it came from. So crack open Keychain access and create one for yourself. It’s in /Applications/Utilities/Keychain Access.app. From the menu choose Certificate Assistant > Create Certificate.

keychain_access_1.png

Give it the name “iPhone Developer” and check overide defaults.
certificate_1.png

Give yourself enough time. 10 years sounds about right. And change the type to Code Signing.
certificate_2.png

Add as much or little information as you want to the personal information screen.
certificate_3.png

After here, click next until the end. It should be shown in your Keychain Access application list.
keychain_access_2.png

Update the Developer stack

We’ll need to make a modification to the Info.plist of the SDK. Go to /Developer/Platforms/iPhoneOS.platform. Create a backup of Info.plist and open the original in Property List Editor. Change all instancese of XCiPhoneOSCodeSignContext to XCCodeSignContext. There are 3 instances of them in SDK 3.1.2. There might be more or less in future versions.

Back to XCode

In XCode open your project and change the Active SDK to iPhone Device – 3.1.2. Run the build command with Command-B. Go to the Directory with your project, open the build folder and into the Release-iphoneos or the Debug-iphoneos folder you’ll find the executable. We’re going to need to get this file into the iPhone.
project_folder.png

Copy your application to iPhone

You won’t be able to get your application onto the phone using the normal channels. iTunes won’t allow it. So the alternative is to copy it to the phone using SSH or iPhone Explorer. As with all things Mac, iPhone Explorer provides a GUI. And a GUI is always handy. Using iPhone Explorer go to the /Applications folder on the device. And upload your app folder. When complete it should appear like this. In some cases the app won’t be set to executable. If this is the case you’ll need to run the “chmod a+x” on the app folder to allow it to run.
explorer.png

Your application won’t be present on the springboard. For that you’ll need to restart the springboard. There are jailbreak applications that allow for this. You can also install the UIKitTools and run uicache from the commandline to update the springboard without restarting it.

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Media Browser 2.2.2.0 is out

For the Media Center enthusiasts, like me, I’d like to point out a new version of Media Browser has been released for the public. Except for the pictures and music, Media Browser is how I view most of my videos and podcasts on my PC. While the standard video library on WMC is fine for viewing videos, this plugin improves the interface by a factor of 10 if not 100. Some of the things I take advantage of is the screen previews for TV shows and movies, banners and background.

avatar_mb.jpg

One of the things I especially like it about it that it automatically downloads all the show data, images, and season artwork. There is very little you have to do. Once Media Browser finds it it scans the filename to retrieve the internet data. This is great for those that don’t like the overhead of having to manage your files, like mymovies. And it definitely is more informative than the default mediacenter browser. I’ve been looking into replacing my PC with a cheaper device, like PS3 or popcorn hour. The thing that keeps me staying is the interface of mediabrowser. Nothing else, I’ve seen, compares

Don’t take my word for it download it yourself and give it a try.