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.

Parallels Server Beta 2 Download

You can now register to download Parallels Server Beta 2!

From the announcement:

Key Features (Parallels Server Beta 2)

Hardware-optimized hypervisor-based virtualization solution.

Installable on host servers running Linux, Mac OS X and Windows, including the Windows Server 2008.

Bare metal version for non-OS server installation.

x64 (64-bit) and x86 (32-bit) host and guest OS support, including any combination of more than 50 different guest OSes in secure, high-performing VMs.

4-way guest SMP and multi-core support.

Integrated toolset includes Parallels Tools, VM backup and Parallels Transporter (the P2V migration tool).

Parallels Management Console, an easy-to-use, multi-server management tool is included.

Support for Intel VT-d hardware acceleration extension for hardware resource dedication to VMs.

Intel VT-x and AMD-V hardware-assisted acceleration support.

Open APIs and SDK for extensible management.

Command line interface (CLI) and scripting.

Novell to Acquire Platespin for 205M

More purchases and conglomeration on the way this year.

The buzz at VMworld Europe, before it has even started, is that Novell is to purchase Canadian data center management software company Platespin. Novell has now posted the news on their site, and many are scrambling to figure out where this will lead them as the software is very popular in the VM market. (UPDATE: Platespin have posted their announcement regarding the Novell acquisition as well)
Novell is starting to grow again: it now owns SuSE Linux, Ximian (original makers of Gnome), and just recently purchased open colaboration vendor SiteScape.

If you’d like more info about the acquisition, feel free to register for the Novell-Platespin webinar.

From the Platespin announcement:

On February 25, 2008, Novell announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire PlateSpin Ltd. The combination of Novell’s platform and automation management with PlateSpin’s leading solutions for workload relocation, protection and provisioning will give customers the agility to cross physical and virtual boundaries so IT can work together. Both organizations are focused on helping customers maximize the strategic value of the heterogeneous data center. Novell and PlateSpin will deliver products for complete workload lifecycle management and optimization for Linux, UNIX, and Windows operating systems in the physical and virtual data center. Below you will find details about the acquisition and what it means to current and future PlateSpin customers and partners.

From the Novell announcement:

The acquisition of PlateSpin will allow Novell to offer customers a full solution stack with a powerful virtualization platform and a best-in-class heterogeneous management solution. Together, Novell and PlateSpin will solve many of the data center challenges that customers face today, including:

  • Relocation: PlateSpin provides a completely integrated product suite that automates the assessment and migration phases of data center initiatives, like server consolidation, data center relocation and hardware upgrades, to help customers reduce costs, power consumption and space in the data center.
  • Protection: PlateSpin’s disaster recovery solutions offer affordable workload protection that leverages virtualization technology to protect both physical and virtual servers in the data center, for improved security and business continuity.
  • Provisioning: Using PlateSpin’s technologies, customers will have a single approach to imaging and configuring physical and virtual workloads regardless of platform. This eliminates the manual install process and dramatically reduces the time to provision new server workloads. It will also enable customers to address changing resource requirements at peak demand times as well as in test lab scenarios.
  • Optimization and Management: Novell and PlateSpin optimize the balance between physical and virtual infrastructure by automatically monitoring and making infrastructure adjustments based on server availability and workload demand. By automating the process and increasing the visibility into how workloads use physical and virtual resources over time, customers will be able to increase server utilization and optimize their data centers by better addressing common workload movement challenges.

Continue reading

The 10 Best VMware Virtual Appliances

As suggested in the comments, I’ve updated this post here: http://blandname.com/2012/04/09/top-10-virtual-appliances-revisited/

Daniel and Bitnami have quite a few of these already published, which is pretty cool! 

This list is subjective, and you’ve been warned!

All of these virtual appliances have been tested with ESX server, and may have issues elsewhere.

For appliances that needed it, I used R3 Data Recovery VMware Converter, the version that ships with Virtual Infrastructure 3.5 (VI3.5).

Please note that both ESX 3.5 and Virtual Center 2.5 are available as trials from VMware currently, and I would highly recommend trying them out as it really is night and day compared to VMware Workstation, Server and Player.

That said, for the most part you’ll be fine working with VMware Server 2.0 – it’s free and has a special version of VMware Infrastructure Client to boot.

The list:

  1. Astaro Security Gateway – This is a must in any build for me. I use this to bridge between my LAN/WAN and the virtual networks that I create. There is a 10-device, 1000 connection “home user” license available from My Astaro that should be more than sufficient to get you up and running with a clean, secure virtual network.
  2. Ubuntu 7.10 JeOS Mini-image – this image weighs in at only 70MB or so, expands to roughly 200MB, has apt-get installed, and is a perfect candidate for building virtual appliances with. VMware tools is installed, so you don’t need to worry about things like date and time sync.
  3. OpenBSD 4.2 – The OpenBSD image is great for getting started in the OpenBSD world: learning the shell, commands, networking, and in my case, firewalling. The verison I use comes from Chrysaor.info, but feel free to use your own.
  4. OpenSuSE 10.3 – I can’t live without this virtual appliance – I use it for just about everything, and is the first appliance installed in any environment. Note that it is a bit bloated, containing USB, sound and other components typically not needed in a virtual environment. On the other hand, since it’s tried and tested on my end, it’s a lifer.
  5. Trac – I use Trac as a wiki and VM staging log. I consider all VMs, hosts and Virtual Center as software projects, and monitor changes closely. If ever I need to pull up quick info about a virtual machine, host, network, router or firewall, it’s all in Trac.
  6. WordPress – I use my WordPress virtual machine to stage different versions of blandname, to test updates, upgrades, and plugins. This also allows me to change themes, move Adsense blocks around, and generally to play without fear of losing revenue or breaking something.

Continue reading

Design Useable Applications

I’ve been reading the IndieHIG (Independent Human Interface Guidelines) a lot lately, being a fan of Apple’s original HIG, and (to a lesser extent) the Sun Java HIG as well.

While it’s great that they are taking on the Macintosh apps that are not aligning to standards, they don’t really apply anywhere else at all, and that’s a real shame. What the venerable Apple HIG really had going for it was that it could be applied anywhere, and that’s why it was so popular.

I really think the new HIGs to be watching are those from Gnome HIG and KDE HIG as more app development experts are involved and the rules can be applied to all types of applications, and in many environments.

But hey, keep up the good work IndieHIG – just change your name to something more suitable like Indie Apple HIG.

Connect to a Mac Remote Desktop using VNC

This will be a quick howto as it’s mostly a settings issue, but here goes:

Macs have come with a Remote Desktop server for quite some time now, and it’s great for using macs to manage macs remotely, though maybe not as nice as an NX or XMing solution.

When trying to manage an Apple computer using a Windows or Linux computer it’s a different story. When you attempt to open the connection the authorization works, but the window will close very quickly, with no apparent error.

The problem lies in the actual implementation of VNC in Apple’s Remote Desktop server (not to be confused with RDP – it’s MUCH slower). Apple has decided to only support one type of tiling, whereas most VNC clients will attempt to find the best solution in order to connect. Specifically, Apple uses HexTile, and if you specify this in the options or properties of your connection, it will work with no problems whatsoever.

If you’d like to make a .VNC configuration file in order to connect to your Mac server using a Windows VNC client (RealVNC used here), just take the following code and save it as a *.VNC configuration file, being careful to change the host from (null) to the remote Apple Remote Desktop server’s IP address (for example: 10.10.10.10).

[Connection]
Host=(null)
[Options]
UseLocalCursor=1
UseDesktopResize=1
FullScreen=0
FullColour=1
LowColourLevel=1
PreferredEncoding=hextile
AutoSelect=0
Shared=0
SendPtrEvents=1
SendKeyEvents=1
SendCutText=1
AcceptCutText=1
DisableWinKeys=1
Emulate3=0
PointerEventInterval=0
Monitor=
MenuKey=F8
AutoReconnect=1

I have tested this method on many Windows and Linux machines, using RealVNC, TightVNC, UltraVNC and even Chicken of the VNC for Mac OS X. It works fine, though I’d like to pound home again that I would really like to have the option to either tunnel application over SSH, or have some type of locally-accelerated RDP-compliant protocol (heck why not use LTSP 5.0?)
One can only dream…

Distro of the week: Berry Linux

Up until a few years ago I was getting fed up trying to show Japanese friends that linux was a viable option to Windows XP SP2, because the input method that Linux used at the time quite truthfully stank. The conclusion was that with an English keyboard, Windows was the way to go because of the (then) fancy Japanese input method applet.

Later on, I found out about Berry Linux, a Japanese LiveCD distro based on RedHat/Fedora that can easily show off Linux and allow users to do things like compose email that Japanese people can actually read (common problem on Windows), and surf the web in Japanese by default, instead of having to manually choose codepages and the like, which frustrates must computer users (if they haven’t already given up).

Berry Linux got an update today (to version 0.75), and now supports fancy-pants XGL – which I’m sure you’ll agree kicks Aero’s behind quite handily (footily?). If you’re trying to run Berry Linux Mini as a virtual machine you’ll get a console instead of X and you’ll lose the XGL capabilities, so I’d recommend testing it on a physical machine instead of a virtual machine – it’s a LiveCD so it’s quite safe to do so.

Berry LinuxBerry LinuxBerry Linux

Here’s a feature rundown taken from the Berry Linux site’s English page (corrected a few typos):

    Common Features:

  • Support for Kernel-2.6. ALSA, ACPI, selinux.
  • Overlay Filesystem Support.
  • XGL, 3D Desktop, support.
  • Berry Linux is not necessary to install. (Root partition is in the RAMdisk using initrd, all commands are operated by being transfered from CD-ROM)
  • It can install on Windows without parting partitions to use Setup.exe or install.bat. (Using squashfs/cloop/loopback device)
  • It can install to your hard disk on Linux. (Use Berry Linux Installer or Copy under /BERRY/, and set up LILO or grub)
  • Berry Linux can boot from USB-HDD/memory.
  • Berry Linux uses WHIZ, a very sharp Kana-Kanji conversion system. (WHIZ Project)
  • If you push the windows key, and show the K-Menu.
  • Automatically recognizes USB storage, and show icons.
  • Berry Linux uses free Japanese True Type Fonts.
  • Berry Linux uses bootsplash when booting.
  • Berry Linux uses DHCP to connect the Network. (If you’d like to use PPPoE, you should setting up it on the Terminal)
  • It’s possible to save personal setting.
  • Red Hat Fedora compatible.
  • Using new technologies.
    Berry Linux’s Features:

  • You can listen to mp3 using BMP/XMMS, and play DVD/DivX using MPlayer, XINE and Kaffeine.
  • You can edit files of Microsoft Word, Excel by OpenOffice(TM).
    Berry Linux Mini’s Features:

  • Minimum Linux environment is available by using Berry Linux Mini.
  • Its file size is very small. (148.0MB)
  • It’s light. Because of the Window Manager is Fluxbox.
  • You can enjoy comfortable Linux environment.
    Berry Linux Server’s Features: (Published Berry Linux Mini as alpha version)

  • Build the Linux Server easily.
  • Minimum Server Linux enviroment is available by using Berry Linux Server.
  • Its file size is very small. (161.3MB)
  • It’s light. Because of the Window Manager is WindowMaker.
  • You can enjoy comfortable Linux enviroment.

    To do:

  • Support Software Suspend.
  • Support Captive NTFS.

You can grab Berry Linux from the SourceForge page or the Berry Linux main page – but I’d recomend using SourceForge if you are in North America as it is much faster.

Distro of the week: Tinfoilhat Linux

Tinfoilhat is a bootable floppy linux distribution for PGP encryption/decryption. Over-engineered, and under-sized, THL comes in handy when paranoia hits it’s peak!

From the README:

What Tinfoil Hat Linux protects against ….
***************************************************

* Worms & viruses

The OS doesn’t support networking, all binaries are compiled staticly, and all non-root partitions are mounted with no-execute permissions. A hash of the NVRAM is displayed at boot time.

* Data retrieval

All temporary files are created on an encrypted ramdisk which is destroyed on shutdown. Even the PGP keyfile information can be stored encrypted on the floppy.

* Keystroke monitoring

THL has gpggrid , a wrapper for GPG that lets you use a video game style character entry system instead of typing in your passphrase. Keystroke loggers get a random set of grid points, not your passphrase.

* Power usage & other side channels

If you start the Paranoid options, a copy of GPG runs in the background generating keys & encrypting random documents. This makes it harder to determine When your REAL encryption is taking place. See the TEMPEST section below.

* (some) User stupidity

If you use THL, it’s very difficult to leave a plaintext file on your hard drive by accident.

9 Great, Free Applications that Work with Vista

This is a list of my favorite Windows applications that I honestly couldn’t live without that also work on Microsoft Windows Vista RC as well, much to my surprise. All of the software is free to download and use, and in fact most of them are open source.

ConTEXT – ConTEXT is a free and lightweight editor for programming or can be used as a notepad replacement. ConTEXT supports find and replace in multiple files at once so changing one method in loads of files is no longer an issue. Works in Vista with no problems whatsoever.

Synergy – Synergy is like a software KVM, but only shares keyboard and mouse capabilities. Synergy is multiplatform, and I currently use it to have my keyboard and mouse work in Ubuntu, Vista, and my Mac Mini running Leopard with no problem at all! This way I get to use my favorite keyboard and mouse and get to free up some space on my desk at the same time.

VLC – VLC has been my favorite media player for years now. VLC comes with most of the codecs you will need to watch videos on your PC already. VLC is very lightweight, and JUST WORKS, something that can’t be said about many media players. The only issue with VLC in Vista is that it turns Aero Glass off while it is playing.

FileZilla – I use FileZilla to interface with clients that still haven’t moved to SCP. FileZilla is an open source FTP client that gets the job done, supporting drag and drop, SSL, and NAT to NAT connections. The only thing it is missing is FXP support, but that’s not really a big deal in my case. Works fine in Vista with no problems at all.

IMGBurn – I love IMGBurn. This is hands-down the easiest way to burn .IMG, .ISO and BIN/CUE disk images to backup CDs or DVDs. Free, open source, and awesome. Works a treat in Microsoft Vista Beta 2 as well.

WinSnap – I use WinSnap to make many of the screen shots you see on blandname. WinSnap supports full screen and windowed screen shots, and also allows for rotation and drop shadows if you feel the need.

Electric Sheep – I often refer to Electric Sheep as “the best screensaver ever”, but truth be told, it’s really a collection of computer-generated screensavers that allow users to vote on them using a Digg-like system. On Windows, Electric Sheep uses bit torrent to transfer the sheep data. Again, working just fine in Vista!

Xming – Xming is my prefered interface to remote Linux boxes. Xming is for Linux what RDP is for Windows – you get a local X server and acceleration that displays data from remote applications running on Linux machines. Tested more than a few times to a remote Ubuntu computer, and one Gentoo box with no caveats.

WinSCP3 – SCP is now my preferred file transfer method. Luckily my favorite client also works on Vista, or I may not have used it at all. Much like FileZilla, WinSCP3 has a very simple, streamlined interface that is feature-rich and gets the job done, even on Vista.

So there you have it: 9 free applications I couldn’t live without that work just fine on Vista, and make it easy for me to do my day-to-day tasks. Hopefully someday this list will include F-Spot and Amarok, but I’m happy with this as a start considering neither of them work on Windows XP SP2 either!