Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Playing with Solaris, Perl, and Virtual Machines

This morning I installed Solaris 10 into a virtual machine in Parallels Desktop on my MacBook Pro. Recently I've had the chance to work on a few Solaris boxen at work, and I've found my Sun knowledge lacking. So, a week or so ago I ordered a free media kit from Sun, who sent it to me very quickly. Although I asked for only the Solaris 10 x86 and Developer Tools DVDs, they also sent the DVD with Solaris 10 for SPARC.

Anyway, the install went pretty smoothly. Before attempting the install I read the blog entry here, which was helpful. I didn't have the mouse problems he mentioned, but the default screen resolution was much to large for my MBP. So, I ran kdmconfig and scaled it back so that my Solaris desktop fits on my screen.

The default GUI in Solaris 10 is the Java Enterprise Desktop, which is really GNOME as tweaked and themed by Sun. It's pretty nice. I like it better than Ubuntu's GNOME desktop. I did try logging in and using CDE, the default desktop for earlier versions of Solaris. It's FUGLY, being based on Motif.

Anyway, I plan to dink around with Solaris a bit, diving under the hood on the command line. I'm somewhat tempted to rebuild Bagend, my Althon XP box at home, with Solaris.

Aside from futzing with Sun stuff today I tested a Perl script which one of our developers wrote for us. We need to login remotely to a few thousand routers and change DNS settings. So, he wrote us a script in Perl using the Net::Telnet::Cisco module. I tested it in my Kubuntu 6.10 VM on the MBP. At first it wouldn't run, so he sent me the Cisco.pm file from his Fedora Core 4 box. I backed up my Cisco.pm file then copied his over. This got it working. Tomorrow, I plan to try it using OS X, and also my CentOS 4.4 box. When I document how to use the script I want to be able to point to a specific, tested setup. That will be some Linux distro, since it's unlikely that whoever actually implements the DNS changes will have access to a Mac. But they should have no problem scrounging up a PC to run the script on Linux.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

Thank you to all the American servicemen and women who gave their lives so that we are free.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Friday, May 25, 2007

A Long Time Ago ...

You didn't think I would not have a post about the 30th anniversary of Star Wars, did you?

Yup, today is the 30th anniversary of the release of Star Wars. I was not quite nine years old. I saw it shortly after it was released, at the theater in the Security Mall outside of Baltimore, Maryland. The first night we went to see it traffic backed up from the mall parking lot onto the Baltimore Beltway (I-695), and by the time we got into the lot, the only available seats were way up front. My parents didn't want to sit there, so we left and came back the next night. I recall seeing the poster in the theater's lobby and thinking that I might or might not like the movie.

It turned out to be a defining moment in my life. I've been a Star Wars nerd ever since.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

REI Basecamp 6 Tent

On Sunday I posted to the Survival and Emeregency Preparedness Blog a review of the REI Basecamp 6 tent which I bought a few weeks ago. Forgot to mention it here.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

BitTorrent Follow Up

After a bit of futzing around, Friday night I got Azureus setup on Bagend to both track and seed the torrents of the four DVDs. Aside from Azureus, I had to open up ports 6969 and 50995 on my router and forward them to Bagend's private IP. Port 6969 is for the tracker, while 50995 is for the actual file sharing.

About five other people started downloading them, and the last time I checked this morning I'm uploading at around 40 kbps for each disc.

Distributing content this way can take more time than more traditional means like FTP, but because it distributes the bandwidth needed to do so, makes the ability to share content more accessible to people without fat pipes.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Playing with BitTorrent

A member of one of the mailing lists to which I subscribe made a set of DVDs of a seminar available to interested members for the cost of duplication. I mentioned that BitTorrent would be a good way of distributing copies of the DVDs, rather than snail-mailing out discs. After some discussion, including getting permission from the copyright owner, I volunteered to handle BT distribution. The guy who made the dupes mailed me a copy and I'm in the process of making them available through BT.

See, peer-to-peer technology can be used for more than sharing pR0n and warez.

My first task was to create .ISOs of each of the four DVDs. Actually, I copied each disc to Bagend's hard disk last night, then made the .ISOs this morning while logged in remotely using XP's built-in Remote Desktop Protocol functionality. Because creating and compressing each .ISO took some time, I could start each task then put the MS RDP client into the background on my Mac, then periodically check on things. If I ever do this again I'll skip the initial copy and just use DVD Shrink to create the .ISOs directly from the discs.

As an aside, RDP seems to be one thing Microsoft got right. Even with my RDP client set to display thousands of colors, the refresh times were very quick, much better than VNC. It helps that I have a 1.5 Mbps upstream connection at home. I am using MS's RDP client for OS X. Even though it's a PPC app it seems to run fine. I also use it for remote administration of a client's Windows servers, so this isn't the first time I'm playing with it.

Because I am using Bagend for this, I used the free Windows program DVD Shrink to make the .ISO images. To reduce their size and save some bandwidth, I compressed each image using gzip (I have Cygwin installed on Bagend). The people who will be downloading the DVDs are Mac users, so they already have gzip installed for decompression; they should actually be able to decompress the images in Finder.

Later, I plan to create and host the torrents using Azureus. Hopefully tonight. I'll post an update after doing so to comment on this.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Client Visit and Plans

This morning I paid a visit to one of my clients to apply some server updates and have a planning session. Unlike a lot of small businesses, they are astute enough to realize that their business depends on their IT systems being reliable and performing well.

Our first priority is to get them setup with a backup Internet connection. Their current cable modem service is very reliable, but on rare occasions it does go down, during which time their productivity goes in the crapper. So, they're going to look into a DSL line to complement the cable modem.

With two Internet services, ideally they'll automatically switch to the backup if the primary goes down. Load balancing the two connections would be good, as well. I'm going to look into both failover and load balancing.

Along with a backup ISP, they need a backup email server at a second location. Due to the file sizes they send and receive through email, they are not a good candidate for hosted mail. One more thing for me to look into.

Sometime in the next year or so, they will probably upgrade their LAN from 100 Mbps switched Ethernet to Gig-E. I'm leaning in the direction of HP ProCurve switches, based on what I've heard (i.e., that they are reliable but significantly cheaper than Cisco). If any readers can offer suggestions here I'd appreciate them. Their current backbone switch has 24 ports and it's maxed out. I'm just starting to look at this so a 36 port switch (if such exists) or a 48 port switch is needed. Or maybe two 24 port switches.

They have a second site that is small but has growing storage needs. A Buffalo Terastation NAS box like they have at the main site may be ideal. How to back it up is also under consideration.

A longterm need they may have is VPN connectivity between their two locations. For this I'm looking at either a Netscreen or SonicWALL solution. Both vendors have good solutions at reasonable prices. Also, both should be easier to configure than something that's Cisco-based.

This stuff should keep me busy for awhile.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

D.C. Court of Appeals Denies En Banc Hearing for Parker

{H/T ChestyP at THR}

The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied the city's petition for an en banc rehearing of the Parker case. Thus, the city has two options:

  1. Drop it and let the court's ruling stand, and modify their gun control law accordingly.
  2. Petition the United States Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, i.e., appeal it.
If DC picks number two and SCOTUS grants cert, this will be the case in which it is decided whether the Second Amendment to the US Consitition protects an indivdual right, and to what extent.

Stayed tuned, folks.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Another Full Weekend

We had another full weekend.

Friday on my lunch hour I swung by Holt's Cigars and picked up a few stogies, along with a new pipe. The pipe wasn't expensive, but it's made of briar with a curved stem, and was made in the Czech Republic. I also picked up a couple ounces of natural cavendish tobacco, and smoked it Friday night. Very nice.

Saturday I did some more yard work. Cleaning up some branches which I cut down, cutting them to length and stacking them to season, taking down a small scraggly tree, and raking up a few years' worth of pine needles. I filled four yard cleanup bags with needles and still have a pretty big pile remaining.

Later in the day we went to a birthday party for the son of one of my friends.

Yesterday I hit the sale at REI where I bought a pair of Merrell Pulse boots and an REI Basecamp 6 tent.

The Merrells are very comfortable and fit like heavy duty high-top sneakers. I have flat feet so I'm particular about footwear. If they last me as long as my last set of Merrells, I'll need to replace them in 2020. And I'm not planning on tossing my old boots, they are still quite wearable but they are looking raggedy. I'll keep them as a backup and for when I might not want to wear nice boots.

My plans for the tent include family camping trips, and a three-day trip to the wilds of Central PA that I'm planning with my brother for this Summer. I wanted something a little larger than a 4-man tent but not something as big as one of those gigantic cabin tents that you can buy. It'll also become part of our emergency kit, just in case. Since our emergency plans involve evacuating by truck, the extra weight of the 6-man vs. 4-man tent isn't a problem.

I wrapped things up last night by participating in the weekly MARC club net.

Extending the Reach of a Wireless Network

My latest article, Extending the Reach of a Wireless Network, is up on CMP's ChannelWeb, formerly TechBuilder.org. Alas, TB appears to be going by the wayside and I won't be writing any more articles for them. Hopefully, I can link up with other publishers, because I really enjoy doing these articles.