Stop Windows 10 Update Notifications from Interrupting Your Games

I had taken quite the hiatus from Windows gaming while I worked on certification, but got a chance to have some quick Overwatch sessions last night, only to have one of the competitive matches interrupted by a popup that took me out of the game (I was able to alt-tab back in) that stated the following: “Updates Are Available. Required Updates need to be downloaded”.

Thanks for letting me know about the updates, but interrupting all apps is not the best user experience

Now don’t get me wrong, this is normally fine, but when you’re in the middle of something, say a movie, intense game, conference call or presentation, this behaviour is pretty awful.

No fear, however, there’s a fix, though definitely not obvious. Let’s disable the Windows 10 update notification. We’ll be using the cmd.exe tool in order to run the following script found on StackExchange:

cd /d "%Windir%\System32"
takeown /F MusNotification.exe
icacls MusNotification.exe /deny Everyone:(X)
takeown /F MusNotificationUx.exe
icacls MusNotificationUx.exe /deny Everyone:(X)
rem

This essentially denies the system from running the app itself, which will stop the popup.

In order to undo it:

cd /d "%Windir%\System32"
 icacls MusNotification.exe /remove:d Everyone
 icacls MusNotification.exe /grant Everyone:F
 icacls MusNotification.exe /setowner "NT SERVICE\TrustedInstaller"
 icacls MusNotification.exe /remove:g Everyone
 icacls MusNotificationUx.exe /remove:d Everyone
 icacls MusNotificationUx.exe /grant Everyone:F
 icacls MusNotificationUx.exe /setowner "NT SERVICE\TrustedInstaller"
 icacls MusNotificationUx.exe /remove:g Everyone
 rem

And there you have it! No more intrusive popups when updates are needed.

Now that we’ve modified this, a quick reminder that if you want regular updates, it may be worth checking for them once in a while.

New Zeal60 Keyboard Layout – Split Backspace, Split Right Shift, ANSI

I’ve really been enjoying the programmable firmware on the Zeal60 keyboard PCB from ZealPC. It’s definitely not all the bells and whistles, this layout gives you 62 keys in total, though you might need a keycap set that supports all of these keys. I’m currently using the Originative Co  Modern Beige set, though I hear most  (if not all) GMK sets would also  accommodate  this.

Zeal60 layout created with Keyboard Layout Editor – note the Fn button to the right of the shift key, and the backspace and backslash keys swapping spots, with an added tilde.

This layout addresses something I sorely needed: the ` and ~ keys (used with Github,  Bash and Slack on a daily basis).

In order to accomplish this, I need to edit the keymap.c and config.h files, which allowed me to generate a zeal60_rmac.hex  file for use with the QMK flasher tool (Win/Mac/Lin).

In order to follow the Zeal example, I also made a zeal60_keymap_rmac.bat file, which can be used with Windows.

The code is currently submitted to Wilba’s fork of QMK as a pull request, but here’s the code as well, so you can see what it looks like.

keymap.c:

// Rmac split backspace, split  shift layout for Zeal60

#include "zeal60.h"

// [0,13] is either left key of split backspace (e.g. HHKB \| key) or 2U backspace
// [1,13] is either backslash or ISO Enter
// [2,12] is either ANSI Enter or key left of ISO Enter
// [2,13] is right key of split backspace (e.g. HHKB `~ key)
// [3,1] is right key of split left-shift (e.g ISO key)
// [3,13] is right key of split right-shift (e.g. HHKB Fn key)

const uint16_t PROGMEM keymaps[][MATRIX_ROWS][MATRIX_COLS] = {

// Default layer
[0] = {
 {KC_ESC, KC_1, KC_2, KC_3, KC_4, KC_5, KC_6, KC_7, KC_8, KC_9, KC_0, KC_MINS, KC_EQL, KC_BSLS},
 {KC_TAB, KC_Q, KC_W, KC_E, KC_R, KC_T, KC_Y, KC_U, KC_I, KC_O, KC_P, KC_LBRC, KC_RBRC, KC_BSPC},
 {KC_CAPS, KC_A, KC_S, KC_D, KC_F, KC_G, KC_H, KC_J, KC_K, KC_L, KC_SCLN, KC_QUOT, KC_ENT, KC_GRV},
 {KC_LSFT, KC_NO, KC_Z, KC_X, KC_C, KC_V, KC_B, KC_N, KC_M, KC_COMM, KC_DOT, KC_SLSH, KC_RSFT, FN_MO13},
 {KC_LCTL, KC_LGUI, KC_LALT, KC_NO, KC_NO, KC_NO, KC_NO, KC_SPC, KC_NO, KC_NO, KC_RALT, KC_RGUI, FN_MO23, KC_RCTL}
},

// Fn1 Layer
[1] = {
 {KC_GRV, KC_F1, KC_F2, KC_F3, KC_F4, KC_F5, KC_F6, KC_F7, KC_F8, KC_F9, KC_F10, KC_F11, KC_F12, KC_DEL },
 {KC_CAPS, KC_TRNS, KC_UP, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_INS, KC_TRNS, KC_PSCR, KC_SLCK, KC_PAUS, KC_TRNS},
 {KC_TRNS, KC_LEFT, KC_DOWN, KC_RGHT, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_HOME, KC_PGUP, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS},
 {KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_VOLD, KC_VOLU, KC_MUTE, KC_END, KC_PGDN, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS},
 {KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS}
},

// Fn2 Layer
[2] = {
 {KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS},
 {KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS},
 {KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS},
 {KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS},
 {KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS}
},

// Fn3 Layer (zeal60 Configuration)
[3] = {
 {KC_TRNS, EF_DEC, EF_INC, H1_DEC, H1_INC, H2_DEC, H2_INC, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, BR_DEC, BR_INC, KC_TRNS},
 {KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, S1_DEC, S1_INC, S2_DEC, S2_INC, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS},
 {KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS},
 {KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS},
 {KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS, KC_TRNS}
}

};

config.h:

#ifndef CONFIG_USER_H
#define CONFIG_USER_H

#include "../../config.h"

/* enable/disable LEDs based on layout */
#undef USE_SPLIT_BACKSPACE
#define USE_SPLIT_BACKSPACE 1

#undef USE_SPLIT_LEFT_SHIFT
#define USE_SPLIT_LEFT_SHIFT 0

#undef USE_SPLIT_RIGHT_SHIFT
#define USE_SPLIT_RIGHT_SHIFT 1

#undef USE_7U_SPACEBAR
#define USE_7U_SPACEBAR 0

#undef USE_ISO_ENTER
#define USE_ISO_ENTER 0

#endif //CONFIG_USER_H

And as promised, zeal60_keymap_rmac.bat:

@echo off

zeal60 backlight_config_set_values ^
 use_split_backspace=1 ^
 use_split_left_shift=0 ^
 use_split_right_shift=1 ^
 use_7u_spacebar=1 ^
 use_iso_enter=0 ^
 disable_when_usb_suspended=1 ^
 disable_after_timeout=10

zeal60 backlight_config_set_alphas_mods ^
 MOD ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA MOD ^
 MOD ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA MOD ^
 MOD ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA MOD MOD ^
 MOD ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA MOD MOD ^
 MOD MOD MOD MOD MOD MOD MOD MOD MOD MOD MOD MOD MOD MOD

zeal60 keymap 0 ^
 KC_ESC KC_1 KC_2 KC_3 KC_4 KC_5 KC_6 KC_7 KC_8 KC_9 KC_0 KC_MINS KC_EQL KC_BSLS ^
 KC_TAB KC_Q KC_W KC_E KC_R KC_T KC_Y KC_U KC_I KC_O KC_P KC_LBRC KC_RBRC KC_BSPC ^
 KC_CAPS KC_A KC_S KC_D KC_F KC_G KC_H KC_J KC_K KC_L KC_SCLN KC_QUOT KC_ENT KC_GRV ^
 KC_LSFT KC_NO KC_Z KC_X KC_C KC_V KC_B KC_N KC_M KC_COMM KC_DOT KC_SLSH KC_RSFT FN_MO13 ^
 KC_LCTL KC_LGUI KC_LALT KC_NO KC_NO KC_NO KC_NO KC_SPC KC_NO KC_NO KC_NO KC_RALT FN_MO23 KC_RCTL

zeal60 keymap 1 ^
 KC_GRV KC_F1 KC_F2 KC_F3 KC_F4 KC_F5 KC_F6 KC_F7 KC_F8 KC_F9 KC_F10 KC_F11 KC_F12 KC_DEL ^
 KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_UP KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_UP KC_TRNS KC_TRNS ^
 KC_TRNS KC_LEFT KC_DOWN KC_RGHT KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_LEFT KC_RGHT KC_TRNS KC_TRNS ^
 KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_DOWN KC_TRNS KC_TRNS ^
 KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS

zeal60 keymap 2 ^
 KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS ^
 KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS ^
 KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS ^
 KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS ^
 KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS

zeal60 keymap 3 ^
 KC_TRNS EF_DEC EF_INC H1_DEC H1_INC H2_DEC H2_INC KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS BR_DEC BR_INC KC_TRNS ^
 KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS S1_DEC S1_INC S2_DEC S2_INC KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS ^
 KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS ^
 KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS TG_NKRO KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS ^
 KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS KC_TRNS

pause

Here’s a link to all three files with the compiled `zeal60_rmac.hex`.

Hope you enjoy this! It took a bit of doing, but was well worth it 🙂

Note that the files in question do a good job of walking you through the mods, making it rather easy. The one caveat was the tilde key being on a different row, as there’s only 13 spots per row, but that’s covered in the comments anyway.

As for the batch file for windows,  you can see that it’s really a combination of the config.h  and keymap.c files, to a certain extent, so copying and pasting the modified bits did the trick.

Building Zeal60 Keymaps on OSX

Before starting, this guide requires Homebrew, which you can install from here: https://brew.sh

Open Terminal, and paste in the following. It will take a while to build, but you should be able to get it all done in one fell swoop:

cd
git clone https://github.com/Wilba6582/qmk_firmware.git
cd qmk_firmware
git branch zeal60
cd keyboards/zeal60
git submodule update --init --recursive
brew tap osx-cross/avr
brew install avr-gcc avr-libc dfu-programmer

You can then make your keymap, like so:

  • make keymap=default
  • make keymap=poker2_ansi
  • make keymap=poker2_iso
  • make keymap=hhkb_ansi

You can run them all if you want, but you’ll probably only need one 🙂

Getting Started with the ZealPC Zeal60 Keyboard PCB

Recently I picked up a Zeal 60 printed circuit board from BC-based ZealPC, and I couldn’t be happier!

The board supports a few layouts for now, though it’s open source, and you can either fork it to add your own, or add a pull request to share with the community.

The first thing you’ll want to do after getting a Zeal60 PCB is to flash it with the “default.hex” file. I used Windows for this, though you can achieve similar results on Linux and MacOS (OSX).

Initial Downloads

  1. Download Java Runtime Environment (JRE) here: http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/java/javase/downloads/jre8-downloads-2133155.html
  2. Download the Atmel flashing utility “FLIP”: http://www.atmel.com/tools/flip.aspx
  3. Grab the most recent Zeal 60 keyboard zip: https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0490/7329/files/zeal60_v0_3.zip
  4. Unzip the zeal60_v0_3.zip file to your desktop

Install the Driver

  1. Plug in your Zeal60 to your computer via USB
  2. Hit “Windows” and “r” keys together, then type “devmgmt.msc”
  3. Right click the device with the exclamation point next to it
  4. Click “browse for driver”
  5. Navigate to C:\Program Files\FLIP\Drivers
  6. Hit “next”

Flashing the Board

  1. Install the driver –
  2. If you’ve not started assembling anything yet, press the golden button between the “A” and “S” pads on the board (if you’ve already assembled it, unplug it and hold the “space” and “esc” keys while plugging in the USB cable)
  3. Open FLIP
  4. In FLIP, hit connect to the device, and select “ATMega32U4”
  5. Hit “ctrl” + “U” keys to connect to the Zeal 60 PCB
  6. Hit “ctrl” + “L” to load a file
  7. Select the “default.hex” file in the Zeal 60 folder you extracted to your desktop
  8. On the left-hand window, click “Run”
  9. Once completed, then click “Start Application” in the right window

You’re all set!

Outemu Blue JSpacer Jailhouse Mod

This tutorial will cover removing Outemu Blue switches from a TeamWolf Zhuque+ and applying the “Jailhouse Mod” – so-named as it stops the mechanical keyboard switches from “clicking” when depressed. What’s great about this mod is that it also retains the tactile feeling of the switch, and slightly increases the force needed to bottom out.

An interesting side effect was that these switches became very quiet! If there’s interest I can also post a video with a comparison of before and after, and compared to Zealios + Zealencios, Gateron Browns, Gateron Browns + Zealencios. Just leave a comment and I’ll see what I can do  🙂

Note that it took about 6 hours to do this for each switch on the board, though admittedly I was watching a movie at the time, and it was New Years Eve. Also be prepared for some eventual pain in your fingers: Outemu switches are a bit hard to pry apart in this fashion, but I’m open to suggestions for easier methods.

Modding a blue Outemu switch for a mechanical keyboard in order to remove the "click" sound and maintain tactility - Ryan MacLean @ Blandname.com

Tools we’ll be using for this tutorial

Tools required:

  • A “spudger” – available at Mac repair shops
  • A 2.5mm size flathead screwdriver
  • A switch removal tool (or a soldering iron, if the board is not hot-swappable)
  • A set of JSpacers from the Van Keyboard

A note about the keyboard used:

Modding a blue Outemu switch for a mechanical keyboard in order to remove the "click" sound and maintain tactility - Ryan MacLean @ Blandname.com

1. Remove the switch from the board using the included switch remover

Modding a blue Outemu switch for a mechanical keyboard in order to remove the "click" sound and maintain tactility - Ryan MacLean @ Blandname.com

2. The removed switch

Modding a blue Outemu switch for a mechanical keyboard in order to remove the "click" sound and maintain tactility - Ryan MacLean @ Blandname.com

3. Put the screwdriver under the top (clear) part of the switch housing

Modding a blue Outemu switch for a mechanical keyboard in order to remove the "click" sound and maintain tactility - Ryan MacLean @ Blandname.com

4. Insert the screwdriver into the other side, being careful not to push the lose side back on, and pop the top off the switch housing

Modding a blue Outemu switch for a mechanical keyboard in order to remove the "click" sound and maintain tactility - Ryan MacLean @ Blandname.com

5. Rotate the screwdriver slightly and push in order to get the top of the housing over the retaining clips

Modding a blue Outemu switch for a mechanical keyboard in order to remove the "click" sound and maintain tactility - Ryan MacLean @ Blandname.com

6. Insert the screwdriver slowly at an angle

Modding a blue Outemu switch for a mechanical keyboard in order to remove the "click" sound and maintain tactility - Ryan MacLean @ Blandname.com

7. Place the flat head screwdriver between the top and bottom of the switch housing

Modding a blue Outemu switch for a mechanical keyboard in order to remove the "click" sound and maintain tactility - Ryan MacLean @ Blandname.com

8. As you pop the second side off, make sure to press firmly between the thumb and forefingers as there’s a spring inside just dying to get out!

Modding a blue Outemu switch for a mechanical keyboard in order to remove the "click" sound and maintain tactility - Ryan MacLean @ Blandname.com

9. A dis-assembled Outemu Blue mechanical switch

Modding a blue Outemu switch for a mechanical keyboard in order to remove the "click" sound and maintain tactility - Ryan MacLean @ Blandname.com

10. Wedge the spudger in the middle of the slider

Modding a blue Outemu switch for a mechanical keyboard in order to remove the "click" sound and maintain tactility - Ryan MacLean @ Blandname.com

11. Gently rotate the spudger to pop the two apart

Modding a blue Outemu switch for a mechanical keyboard in order to remove the "click" sound and maintain tactility - Ryan MacLean @ Blandname.com

12. Place the Jspacer on the slider, ensuring that the longer edges are rotated to fit between the opening in the stem side clips

Modding a blue Outemu switch for a mechanical keyboard in order to remove the "click" sound and maintain tactility - Ryan MacLean @ Blandname.com

13. Put the tactile white plastic piece over the slider and Jspacer

Modding a blue Outemu switch for a mechanical keyboard in order to remove the "click" sound and maintain tactility - Ryan MacLean @ Blandname.com

14. Place the switch spring on the switch slider

Modding a blue Outemu switch for a mechanical keyboard in order to remove the "click" sound and maintain tactility - Ryan MacLean @ Blandname.com

15. Place the spring and slider into the notch on the bottom half of the switch housing, ensuring that the clicking mechanism is facing the switch itself (copper coloured in photo)

Modding a blue Outemu switch for a mechanical keyboard in order to remove the "click" sound and maintain tactility - Ryan MacLean @ Blandname.com

16. Hold the combination of switch bottom, spring and slider together between thumb and forefinger of one hand – you’ll need the other hand free in order to attach the top

Modding a blue Outemu switch for a mechanical keyboard in order to remove the "click" sound and maintain tactility - Ryan MacLean @ Blandname.com

17. Click the top half over the bottom half quicklly and firmly in order to ensure that both sides “click” at once

Modding a blue Outemu switch for a mechanical keyboard in order to remove the "click" sound and maintain tactility - Ryan MacLean @ Blandname.com

Modding complete! A removed, assembled Outemu Blue switch

Modding a blue Outemu switch for a mechanical keyboard in order to remove the "click" sound and maintain tactility - Ryan MacLean @ Blandname.com

Final Step. Put the blue switch back on the board, then place the keycap back on – you’re done!

Because the beauty dish was already setup, I figured I might as well pay the dog tax! Ryan MacLean @ Blandname.com

Doge. Because the beauty dish was already setup, I figured I might as well pay the dog tax!

Top 10 Virtual Appliances, Revisited

It’s been almost 4 years since I’ve rounded up VMs used on a daily basis, so it’s high time I take another kick at the can and make an update list.

My workflows have changed quite a bit over the years, with more focus being on the Windows side of things. That said, I havent stopped using Linux and still have a keen interest in both storage and management, which should be reflected here.

FreeBSD 9 – I’ve made the switch to this as my go-to server OS. The jails functionality and ports collections are amazing! This could run many of the functions listed herein, but at the very least is a great ZFSv28 test box for the uninitiated.

Astaro –  I’m still using Astaro after all these years, and Sophos purchasing them has not stopped the love. By far the easiest way to start using Squid, Quagga and OpenVPN.

GNS3 Workbench – I use this for testing Cisco configurations on my way to certification. Load up an IOS image, configure, test away!

Nexenta Community Edition – My ZFS primer was done a few years ago using Nexenta, and it is still the easiest way to get into ZFS, so it deserves the nod. The first time you see the speedometers you’ll be in love.

Solaris 11 11/11 – For newer versions of ZFS, you’re stuck with Solaris 11.11.11. You can download this for free, but won’t be able to get support and updates without a license, so I wouldn’t consider it production-ready.

Bactrack 5 – Time to test your wifi security. I’d recommend plugging an Alfa USB wifi device into ESX, sharing the device with the VM and scanning your access point in order to do quick audits.

Windows Server 2008 R2 – Not free, per se, but a good trial that should be enough to get you going on your road to certification. I use the Core install for DHCP and DNS when Windows integration is important.

Citrix XenApp – You’ll need to convert this one, but combined with the developer license, you’ll get 2 concurrent users, include the web access gateway. Click this for a tutorial on getting a hostgator coupon or the developer license, which has always been a bit of a pain.

Plop Boot Manager – Great ISO for booting and testing USB sticks.

Amahi – Easy as pie mDNS and uPnP autodiscovery. I’ve written about this being a poor Windows Home Server replacement before, but to be fair they get an awful lot right at this point in time.

OSX Lion – A $20 purchase, and well worth it! Follow the guide here to get it all working in ESXi

Ubuntu LTS – Ubuntu is currently the most popular Linux distribution, can run a wealth of software. Finally took over OpenSuSE as my go-to distribution. The only thing I would mention is that unity does not work so well in ESXi, and if you require the whole desktop experience, you might be better off with Xubuntu or Mint.

 

Top 10 Chrome Applications I Can’t Live Without

I’ve been trying to become as agile as possible when it comes to personal data in order to be able to run and test any platform of my choosing. To that end, I usually resort to web applications.
That said, Chrome and its open source cousin Chromium can only be run on many (but not all) platforms:
CHROME
  • Windows XP/Vista/2008/7/8
  • Mac OS 10.5.6+
  • Flavours of Linux – Debian, RedHat, OpenSuSE, Ubuntu, Fedora, CentOS
  • ChromeOS
CHROMIUM
  • All of the above
  • BSD: FreeBSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD, DragonflyBSD
  • Solaris and Open Indiana
  • ChromiumOS
  • Gentoo
Unfortunately one OS left out is HP-UX 11i. This is typically a server install, and while I know it’s no excuse, no longer has the mindshare it once enjoyed.
On to the apps!
  • Google Music – free sync for up to 20000 songs. My iTunes replacement that allows offline play for iOS and Android
  • Adblock – A must. I block adverts on everything.
  • Google Reader – It took a very long time for me to get used to the way Google reader works, but it might actually be the best there is at the moment especially considering the aggregation of many feeds into one.
  • Mint – Personal finance application I could not live without.
  • IMO – Goodbye Adium, Pidgin and MSN Messenger! IMO.im is not only a multi-instance web chat client that runs everywhere, it also runs on iOS!
  • Kindle Cloud Reader – Never lose your place. The web client knows where you were on your Kindle, iOS device and syncs it up for you.
  • Google Finance – For stock checking and even watching mutuals. Find out when the next dividend is, sort companies by financials and even display candle graphs.
  • Aviary – Has just surpassed Picnik as my only photo editor, and is now also integrated with flickr. Note that there are many Aviary editors ranging from vector to audio and even video.
  • Netflix Instant Queue – I’m sure you’ve heard of this, but did you also realize that it will resume from PS3, XBOX 360, iPhone/iPad on the web? Outside of the US, we’re not able to use “Instant Queue” but this app brings it back.
  • Offline Gmail – Spotty wifi? Don’t worry, Gmail offline has you covered.
  • Google Voice – This doesn’t get as much hype as it should, but is a great app that can not only make calls for you, but also send SMS.Soon they will make loans app and pay day loans apps.

 

RSync Files to a Unix/BSD Backup Device from your Mac Laptop

My photo-taking workflow while on vacation usually involves taking a lot of photos daily, dumping them to a laptop, processing, then backing them up once I have returned home.
Previously, I accomplished this manually using BeyondCompare for Windows, as that would run on Windows Home Server.
Since moving to ZFS-based storage, however, this is no longer an option as BeyondCompare only has a Linux client (nothing for Unix/BSD).
There are other ways to get around this:

  • SSHFS and Meld – Complicated, somewhat bloated, but great BeyondCompare alternative
  • *Commander Utilities – Midnight Commander derivatives can accomplish similar tasks using the ctrl+x,d shortcut
  • Rsync – typically installed by default, easy to script

I chose Rsync as I wanted something more automated, but I do find myself using Midnight Commander from time-to-time to simply “get things done” when syncing files other than my images.

Here’s how I did it:

rsync -a -e ssh /volumes/PICTURES/ 'username@mymac:/Volumes/BIGRAID/'

Let’s break this down into smaller pieces:

rsync – this is the command that will do our heavy lifting and file comparison

-a – archive mode

-e – specify an RSH replacement

ssh  – use SSH

/volumes/PICTURES/ – this specifies the “Volumes” folder on my Mac, and the “PICTURES” drive within it. Replace this with the location of your items to backup

 – note the use of single quotes here. We’re using these in case there are spaces in the folder names, and we could have done the same above.

username@mymac – We’re logging on to the host “mymac” with the username “username”. You’ll probably want to change these. I use a hostname here, but you could just as easily use an IP address if you use static IP addresses.

:/volumes/BIGRAID/ – the colon denotes a subfolder on the server we are backing up to, and /volumes/BIGRAID in this case refers to a ZFS pool called “BIGRAID”.

Do you have a similar backup strategy for BSD/Unix targets that you would like to share?

Clear All ZFS Snapshots

If you’ve been running snapshots for a while and have already backed them up, you might occasional need to delete all zfs snapshots for your pool.
Typically, you’d do this as part of your backup script, assuming that they have been written correctly.

First, to find the used snapshot space, run this command:
zfs list -o space
This will give you a detailed readout of your pools and snapshot space used.

Here’s my script to wipe ZFS snap shots, but I am certainly open to suggestion:
zfs list -H -o name -t snapshot | xargs -n1 zfs destroy
Again, caution is needed as this will remove ALL SNAPS from your pools.

ZFS Build Checklist

I’ve decided to replace the Windows Home Server Vail server with something capable of handling newer builds of ZFS and the inherent deduploication.

Here’s a quick kit list and build diary I’ll try to keep up-to-date as I go along.

Kit:

  • Dell Perc6i – this is essentially a port multiplier. I scored it from eBay on the cheap, though it was delivered from Israel, took awhile, and had neither cables nor mounting bracket.
  • OCZ RevoDrive 120GB – Though the RAID controller on this card is not supported in Linux/Solaris, the drives show up as two separate devices as long as you make sure to put it in the right PCIe slot. That means it’s perfect for both ZIL (log) and L2ARC (cache).
  • 2x Intel 80GB X25-M SSDs – these will house the virtual machine files to be deduped. Very reliable drives, and though they might not be the fastest in terms of writes, the speeds are relatively constant which is quite handy compared to solutions that attempt compression like SandForce controllers. ZFS will take care of that, thanks.
  • (IN TRANSIT) 2x Dual Port 1gbit Intel PCIe NICs – I’ll use these for the direct connection to the virtual machine host. Currently one link is used, but when reading from the SSD drives the line is saturated.
  • (IN TRANSIT) 32 Pin SAS Controller To 4x SATA HDD Serial Cable Cord – This is needed to plug in 8 drives to the LSI controller.
  • 5x 1.5TB Seagate hard drives – These will be the bread-and-butter storage running in RAID-Z2 (similar to RAID 6).
  • 3x 3TB Seagate hard drives – These might simply be a large headache, but the plan was to have an extra 3TB RAID-Z2 for backups in another machine. Unfortunately there seem to be issues with drives that are 4k presenting themselves as 512b. I may be able to get around this by hacking or waiting as they become more popular. For now 2 of them are in software RAID1 on a Windows 7 host, and the other remains in the external USB 3 case and is used as a backup drive.
  • NetGear GS108T Switch – A cheap VLAN-capable switch should I decide to use more than 2 bonded ports (I doubt it), currently running the lab.