… to the cloud!!!

… to sound cliche.


So, my precious VMWare node, running on an old Dell 1850 died a couple weeks ago. I lost a drive. I had it set up with RAID0.  Yes, I’ll admit I was over confident. I was surprised how quickly that drive died, but I lost everything. I lost years of work: my SVN repositories, my Asterisk configs, my DNS records, the list goes on.

A good friend of mine said, “It’s time to go to the Cloud; It’s awesome.

He was right. In recent months, I’ve relied heavily on DropBox and more recently on Box.net, and even more recently on Microsoft’s Skydrive, but what was I going to do with my other services?

… back in my day…

It’s been so many years since I’ve run a server in my basement. Even before my kids were born.  I was one of the first people to get aDSL in Atlanta: this was when the phone company still did a truck roll to their customer’s house.  I ran a FreeBSD box, (I think 4.5), that did PPPoE with a really old 10Mbit switch.  Ever since then, I had a box in the basement doing things.  I used to run mail servers, web servers, media servers, network drive, internal DNS, and even an Asterisk PBX.

Continue reading

the family wiki

I’m surprised about this. I’ve been posting on Twitter and Facebook how I was installing the Confluence at home and several people specifically asked me if I would blog about it. After running everything for a week, I’m finally ready to put it up.

So, what is a wiki (from wikipedia):

wiki (pronounced /ˈwɪki/ WIK-ee) is a website that allows the easy[1] creation and editing of any number of interlinked Web pages, using a simplified markup language or a WYSIWYG text editor, within the browser.[2][3] Wikis are typically powered by wiki software. Wikis are often used to createcollaborative websites, to power community websites, for personal note taking, in corporate intranets, and in knowledge management systems.

We have used one at work for years and it’s an important tool for documentation and for keeping important things for a group out of someone’s email box. I’ve gotten to rely on it.  My wife has been working with a company and keeping notes on a running Word doc, and I’ve been really wanting to set up a wiki for at home.  The challenge was that I don’t think my wife is willing to learn wiki markup language while trying to work, so I needed something that was as easy to edit and create as Word is.  At work we’ve used Confluence, which is an enterprise class wiki.

What is Confluence?

Confluence is a simple, powerful wiki that lets you create and share pages, documents and rich content with your team.

If you’re looking for a better way to collaborate, Confluence has the essential enterprise features for your organisation.

But wait, you say… isn’t enterprise class software expensive?  Right, yes… you are correct.  But the company that makes Confluence offers a license that is palatable for the home users; they offer a 10 user license for $10 a year! You can’t beat that!

the setup

As you may or may not know from previous posts, I have an old FreeBSD box and a VMWare ESXi server on an old Dell 1850 in the basement. I created a new VM using CentOS 5.4.  I installed the latest JRE / Jaa from Sun on it and took off. It didn’t work out so smoothly. Here’s what I did to get everything working.

  • I had to upgrade MySQL on my FreeBSD host to the latest to match the version of the JDBC driver onon the VM/Confluence server.
  • I had to add an option to my MySQL startup so that I was able to update plugins.
    • mysql_args=”–max_allowed_packet=32M”
  • By default, Confluence comes with a version of Tomcat and runs by default on port 8080. I used my router to remap that to 8000 so I had a modicum of extra security. http://my.wiki.com:8000/ <- nope, that ain’t really it!

So if you come any errors with your Confluence plugins, check this option for you mysqld.

now we’re running

So now we are running. Here’s what I did:

  • Created a space for me, my wife, and our family.
  • Created a user group for our family, and a group for the people she’s working with so I can get granular with the permissions
  • Created a space for our family
    • Confluence has a plugin for Google Calendars. We have a family Google Calendar which now displays in the family space.
    • I also have an RSS feed for local weather and news

lessons learned

  • Make sure ALL your versions match up
  • If you are using IE8, to get the rich text editor, make sure you use Compatibly Mode.
  • Have patience with your users. It’s a different way to think about documentation and collaboration.
  • Be very helpful. Comment on the other spaces in positive ways.
  • Learn the macros!
  • Learrn about RSS
  • TAG/LABEL all your posts!
  • Every user must create “their personal space” for blog or news posts. <- allows quick-hit posts!

The performance on the VM is great. In fact it is better than I anticipated. If you were hard pressed you could probably run everything on a single host for just a family.  I love being able to display our Google Family calendar, (you can not edit it).

the result

We use it.  It is really handy and as long as we use it and it’s easy to edit and collaborate, we are in business. If you have questions, suggestions, or comments, let me know!

return of my G1

The big update

Last night I realized that I hadn’t posted that I had gotten my T-Mobile G1 with Android on it repaired and it’s back in business, baby!  Actually, I hadn’t posted much of anything in some time.

Anyways,  I did get it fixed.  I had the broken LCD replaced by a local shop.  Apparently, most higher end cell phones can be repair.  So I had gotten it back right after Cupcake came out.  After some prodding I decided to go ahead and “root” my G1 and install some custom ROM’s.

Am I glad I did!


First off, it was really easy.  Second, you can have your apps on your SD card and just go nuts.  I have a 2GB SD card and have made a 600MB partition (using ext3) for apps.

If you are interesting in rooting your G1, here’s where you can get started:

  • Ultimate Guide 2 Root, Recovery, Partition, Radio, SPL, JACHeroski, Tips

If you follow the first three sections, you are on your way to get your custom ROM, (be sure to install the radio, too).  I couldn’t partition my SD card as described so I took the lusers way out and used a Partitioning program to make the following partitions on my SD card:

  • FAT32
  • ext3
  • Linux swap

the roms

If you were able to get through the directions, you are probably ready to install your custom ROM.   There are several to choose from, each with their loyal of armies.  The most popular seem to be:

  • CyanogenMod
  • JACHeroski
  • JesusFreke

There are a couple of others but I don’t have any experience with them.  At first, I used JesusFreke’s ROM, but now I am using Cyanogen’s ROM.


What I think is cool, is that these ROM’s unlock the true potential of the Android OS.  No one is trying to get something for free to crack the apps.  Rather, they are all adding functionality and features that were not in the original release.  For example, these guys figured out how to get the phone to use linux swap, and then they figured out how to use Linux kernel modules for even better performance.

And yes, I do like my G1 better than the iPhone.  But that’s another post!

T-Mobile G1 vs. the iPhone

I’m sorry I didn’t come up with a more catchy title and hopefully this won’t be another plan ol’ comparison between these two phones.  What, you say?  Why would this one be different?  Well, I own both phones.  More specifically, I got my G1 on launch day and have loved it ever since.  At the beginning of April, we were on family vacation and I dropped my G1 with such force, I broke it.  I had the G1 BEFORE the iPhone…


I found myself going through the “Seven Stages of Grief” over the phone.  This was the first smartphone I had bought myself and my first phone with a real dataplan.

Typically, the seven (7) stages of grief are described as:
– Shock or Disbelief
– Denial
– Anger
– Bargaining
– Guilt
– Depression
– Acceptance and Hope

Sometimes, people speak of five (5) stages of grieving, putting together:
– Shock/Disbelief and Denial
– Bargaining and Guilt


I was using a crappy Samsung phone during my “depression” phase.  I then learned that the G2 might be coming out this summer so I didn’t want to spend over $200+ for a new G1.

Acceptance and Hope

I began my search for a 1st gen / 2g iPhone.  I wanted to jailbreak and unlock it so I can use it on T-Mobile’s network.  I was able to find via Facebook from a friend and we struck a deal and I got a new (used) iPhone.

It’s been about a week and I have been playing around with the iPhone a lot.  It is jailbroken and unlocked and I am able to use it with my T-Mobile G1 account just fine.

Now that I have both, I feel that I can give a good comparison between the two.  Furthermore, I had my G1 first, before I had any iPhone experience.

T-Mobile G1

I loved this phone.   Here’s a list in particular order of things I really liked:

  • Sliding Menus
  • Run multiple apps
  • Google Gmail/Calendar/Contacts Syncing
  • Online community
  • Google Maps, Tracks, and Latitude
  • Could use most web-based iPhone apps.
  • More utility based apps in market
  • Cool GPS apps

And here’s some things I did not like about it:

  • It would “hang” switching back from using the web browser.
  • Too many “Tip Calculators” in the market.
  • No way to see if an upgrade to an once free app now costs money
  • Battery life, battery life.
  • No Exchange support.
  • Did I mention Battery life?
  • Not able to integrate with iTunes
  • Wouldn’t work with my office’s Corporate Wifi, (could only get Edge in the building).

The G1 was otherwise a killer phone, in my opinion.  The sound quality was good.  There were plenty of apps that changed default behavior.  I liked the keyboard a lot, but I wish it did have an iPhone like keyboard; it was somewhat cumbersome to slide the keyboard open and wait for the screen to refresh with the new orientation.  There were plenty of fitness-type apps, too.  Each one improved upon the previous.

2G iPhone

To be clear, I now think the iPhone is also a killer phone. A list of my likes:

  • Seems much faster than the G1
  • The internal memory is shared between apps, iTunes, photos, etc
  • iTunes!
  • All my iPod accessories work!
  • The store is easy to navigate and sort between free and paid apps
  • Twitterfon!
  • Supports Microsoft Exchange via OWA
  • WiFi works great.

And my list of dislikes:

  • Only one Exchange account can be configured.
  • Browser doesn’t default to “mobile” site

I originally had some apps on my list of “likes” that I removed since it is only a matter of time before the Android version of the apps start showing up.

And that’s about it.  I realize it looks like I like the iPhone better than the G1, but that isn’t the case.  The way I see it, the iPhone has been out way longer and has way more exsposure than the G1 and Google Android in general.


Both phones are killer in my opinion.  But I do like Android bettern than the iPhone OS.  And that might be since it’s linux based and just sort of feels right.  But I am enjoying my iPhone and I do plan on getting a G2 but I may not be in as big as a hurry as I was before.

vmware esxi @home

I’ve been getting a bunch of emails about the progress I’ve been making on my VMWare ESXi server.  I figured it might merit a post.

So far, I got three VM’s each running CentOS 5.2.  One is a ZenOSS installation, one is a Trixbox installation, and one is a stock linux install that I plan to use for Web and PHP developing.

What’s interesting about the 3rd on, is that I cloned it from a snapshot of the first one.  But now I’m getting ahead of myself.

First off, in answer to most of the questions, I am experience NO problems with my Trixbox install.  Keep in mind, I am using RAID 0 with three 72GB SCSI drives in a Dell 1750.  These are NOT IDE drives.   I noticed no stuttering or voice quality issues.  Second, keep in mind this is for our home and not a busy office.

Interestingly enough, my biggest problem has been power outages.  The power goes off and the box goes down but comes back up.  I don’t know of a way to automatically power on the VM’s or start them from the command line.  If you know, let ME know please!

The second question I get is, how’s my power bill.  Actually, it seems fine.  My wife hasn’t said anything about it being high or abnormal so “mums the word.”

VMware, Trixbox 2.4, and Viatalk

As I promised, I’d update more often about some of the things I’ve been working on.  In my other posts, I’ve been playing around with VMWare ESXi in my basement on an older Dell 1750.

I had a couple of goals.

  • Update my Trixbox (Asterisk) installation
  • Run SpaceWalk
  • Run ZenOSS
  • Have a linux utility box
  • Screw around and push VMWare’s ESXi until it cried for mercy

Update my Trixbox (Asterisk) installation

I still get a lot of traffic to my site since I have some detailed instructions for setting up ViaTalk with Trixbox.  Some time recently, my current server, version 2.2 stopped working reliably.  The Tin Foil hat crowd pointed their fingers at Comcast but I couldn’t buy that in my hearts of hearts.  Sure enough, ViaTalk updated some of there settings and I could get my Trixbox installation working about 50% of the time.

So, version 2.4 has come out.  So I started fresh.  All my VM’s are 2 CPU’s with 4GB RAM.  ESX|ESXi does a great job of abstracting the amount of memory so even thought the OS sees all 4GB’s, the VM is really only taking up about 150MB’s on the hypervisor; YMMV.

After screwing around (the back up and restore method DID NOT work), I finally got a “golden image.”  I got in the habit of snapshotting my VM image so I could always roll back if need be instead of suffering another complete install.

I have my VM’s to have their filesystem on the drives in the 1750, but the swap is actually served off NFS on my Freebsd box, (you might ask yourself why I did this.  Remember, I wanted to see the breaking points of the VM’s so I did some things intentionally that would create some overhead).

I got everything set up and it worked great… except on tiny thing.  Now, I have to have:

Allow Anonymous Inbound SIP Calls?

Setting this to ‘yes’ will potentially allow ANYBODY to call into your Asterisk server using the SIP protocol

It should only be used if you fully understand the impact of allowing anonymous calls into your server

set to “Yes” in order to receive calls.  Otherwise, callers get “This number is not in service” when they ring our number.    It took me awhile to find this.  It’s in the General Settings.

I have to say that it is working MUCH better.   I tried to run Trixbox under Microsoft’s Virtual PC about a year ago and it sucked.   Granted, the Dell 1750 is much different than my powerful, homebuilt WinXP desktop, but I must admit that I was a little skeptical.

Even setting up my Cisco 7960 was easy.  I did have to refer to my older posts trying to remember how to unlock my phone.

The Rest… more to come…

The rest of the items I mentioned will come in other posts, otherwise I might be here all night.

T-mobile G1 / Google Android… Goodbye T-mobile Wing

A moment of thanks…

First off, I’d to thank a lot of you… most of the traffic I get to my site comes from people looking for information on the T-Mobile Wing.  I had the phone for about 1.5 years and posted all sorts of information.  Most importantly, many of you posted comments and offered help and tips to myself and others, and for that I am very thankful.

One door closes, another opens…

However, earlier in the month, my Tmobile Wing suffered a tramatic episode when all three of the children ran over it, (they were chasing eash other) and it got smooshed… really smooshed with a cracked LCD and everything.   At that point, I got “executive approval” to get a new phone.  My wife suggested an iPhone and I was about to pull the trigger until I heard that the T-mobile G1 was coming out on October 22.  I decided to wait.

The countdown…

I was all nervous on launch day, the 22nd.  I was worried I couldn’t find one and then I read that Costco and Best Buy would also be carrying them, but it was unclear when.  So after my big presentation on Wednesday moring, I drove to Costco and they had ’em.  Plus, you got a free “accessory kit” which was a Jabra bluetooth headset and a car charger.  Hey, it’s better than nothing.

Final Verdict…

I LOVE this phone.  I’m not going to rehash all the reason why I like it, there are a ton of other people who give it a thumbs up, but I am really impressed with it.  And there’s been no shortage of coverage and it looks like everyone is on the same page.


Over at the Download Sqaud, they have some great pieces about the first hands on with the G1 and a good post about Twitteroid, (which I haven’t installed yet since the offical release comes out Monday).

Lifehacker has a hands on post.  Gizmodo has a Android App Marathon and a category to get you going.

Walt Mossberg also seems to think the T-Mobile G1 is worthy.  Btw, Walt is awesome.

There are plenty of forums dedicated to Android/G1 coverage, and they include:

G1 for three days…

I will say that I enjoy this phone way more than my T-mobile Wing.  To be fair, I did not have a data plan with my Wing since I used Wifi with it so maybe that’s not a fair comparison.  But I do like the seemless Gmail integration.

The IM’ing on the G1 is also okay, not great.  Like all other phones I’ve owned, the default IM uses SMS for IM’ing.  I’m not big on that but I don’t it will be long before someone writes a cross IM-platform client for the G1.  Here’s a list of apps I think would be killer:

  • IM: Jabber/XMPP, AIM, Yahoo!, and MSN
  • Facebook App (using mobile web interface)
  • Brightkite App (using mobile web interface)

Apps I love:

  • Google Maps:  This is totally awesome.  You can do “street view” with the GPS and enable “compass mode.”  This is too hard to explain in text but if you see it, it will blow you away.
  • Barcode reader: Yeah, yeah… I know the iPhone has this too, but I think it is really neat.
  • Various weather apps:  All very useful
  • Gmail
  • Web browser: The web browser is better than ANY WM-base browser I’ve seen, including Opera-mini.

I’m still playing with it and rumor has it a slew of new app will hit the market place on Monday.

Expect way more to come.

vmware home project

Okay, it really isn’t a “home project”; I just like playing around with it. We’ve been really going forward with VMWare at work and I have drank the cool aide. I see the bigger picture and how it all fits into place. But I wanted to get an understanding of how it work and how it can be broken and at what point does it fall over.

The Server
I have the fortune to check out a Dell 1750 from work and bring it home and I am running VMWare ESXi.  Yes, I have a rack in my basement and a home run box so this is easy to stick in, (but man, is this thing loud.  I can hear the fans on the first floor).  It’s got dual xeon’s and 2GB of memory.   My goals are as follows:

  • Set up a Spacewalk server (the open source version of Redhat’s Satellite)
  • Run a Trixbox Image
  • Run a media server (TBD)
  • Run a dedicated MySQL server
  • Run a local WordPress installation

So I figure five different servers running CentOS would be a good proof of concept.  At this point, I thought I’d be able to post a bunch of good things about the set up, but it’s been a learning experience.  So I was able to upgrade the drives, reconfigure the RAID setup and start over.  It is my intention to post my finding and results over time. 

Yes, and in case you are wondering, I am intentionally over subscribing my VM’s to my Dell 1750.  I wanted to learn how to make it run as effeciently as possible and see how far I can push it.

Definitely… more to come. 

Ruby, SEO, and CSS… or how I spent my time off…

If you have been following along, you’ll know that I’ve been out of work since October.  I’ve been really busy, though.  I’ve enjoyed spending time with my children and my wife.  I’ve worked on projects around the house, (I made a bench out of scrap lumber), played around with technology (getting around to all those software updates I’ve been putting off), and I’ve been hitting the books.  Oh yeah, I’ve been doing some consulting on the side, too.

One of the things I really wanted to sink my teeth into was the whole Ruby on Rails things.   It’s been a while since I did any heavy lifting in Perl or even shell scripts for that matter.  I used to be into PHP before version five, but with most things, if you don’t use ’em, you loseWeight Exercise them.  Now, it’s not completely wasted.  I can open a script in Perl and PHP and quickly figure out what’s going on and make changes to suit my needs, but writing something from scratch really made the rusty gears turn and cobwebs fall away.

One of my biggest challenges is coming up with a project to do.  There are so many “solutions in a box” out there by fantastically smart people released as Open Source.   It’s an easy temptation not to reinvent the wheel.  Okay, so back to Ruby on Rails.  I bought a book, that turned out to be pretty crappy.  Except I didn’t know it was crappy, I thought I was too dense to grasp it.  Then I had a friend explain the whole MVC framework.  A light bulb went off and I began to understand concepts that I hadn’t seen before.  The book was still a crappy book, but now I had better direction in trying to find a book that I would personally find useful.  I did.  I found two both by the Pragmatic Programmer series. They got to me.  I understood it.  And while I lack sheer experience, I know enough to be dangerous.  I know where to look in a reference to do what I want.  I also know how to search for answers based on my questions, (sometime you got to know how to ask).

In a completely unrelated conversation with a new friend, we were talking about web design.  He said, “Oh yeah… we use CSS for everything.  You know, instead of using tables and frames like they used to in the old days.” Like in the “old days?”  Was I really living in the old days?  HTML was one of the first languages I had learned.  I think that was around version 3.2 and I had one of those “Teach Yourself HTML” books.  And while I wouldn’t consider myself a complete master, I had chops.  But… this comment made me rethink myself… What did he mean “instead of tables and frames?”  I stopped using frames years ago.. but tables?  I used them all the time.  What on earth did he mean?  I became obsessed.  Now, I knew about CSS and how to change colors and fonts and alignments… but what was this… what sort of wizardry was he talking about.

Seriously, I became obsessed.  I tried to read all I could on CSS.  I found more crappy books.  Nothing gave me the answers I wanted.  Until, that is, I found the O’reilly book and that changed my life.  I got it, it was clear… crazy and zen-like webpages polluted my mind.  I can’t wait to get into some hight-art CSS’ing.  I have found what I was looking for… the missing piece in my webdesign toolbox!

This is all very exciting for you, I am sure.   If you manage to stay on this page, then you are in for a real treat.  One day, when I was the bookstore, a guy came up to me and asked if I knew anything about the Internet.  I smiled sheepishly and said something like, “Yeah, I know a little about it…”  It turned out, he was a contractor, like a handyman-type of contractor and he had a website.  He was interested in SEO (Search Engine Optimization).  His “web guy” didn’t know anything about it, so he decided to take matters in his own hands.   We talked for a while and I tried to recommend him a book.  I found one, leafed through it and said it looked pretty good.  He asked if I had a card, and I said I didn’t and we parted ways.  I was worried I had given him a bum steer so I looked up the book on Amazon and I was surpised to see it was one of the highest rated books on SEO.  I felt good that I gave him some decent advice.

Since then, in my job search, I’ve seen posting after posting for “SEO Experts” so I figured this would be a skill I should learn about.  I was able to find the recommended book at the library and I just started reading it.  You know, I thought I knew a lot about that, but I was very happy to see  that I had lots more to learn.   I’ve enjoyed this book and am going to make some changes to my website, (as it is, I wasn’t far off.  When I view my stats for my website, I was surprised to see how highly I rank in the search engines for topics covered here!).   Am I an expert yet? No, I’m not.. but I think I know a heck of a lot more than a lot of people… read on…

Another thing I have been enjoying, is that I took over my son’s school’s website.  I didn’t do the initial design, which is very good and using CSS, but I did have to get up to speed on it and understand someone else’s code.  I got in the habit of using Subversion to keep whatever I am working on.  The few websites I have been working on, are all stored in my Subversion repository.   I make my edits and then upload my new pages, and then commit everything to subversion.

Now, to gain some additional features, we are moving the school’s website to a new hosting provider, and the new provider allows ssh/shell access.  I’ve used this before, but I had one of those “A-ha!” moments.  If I have shell on the server, why can’t I use subversion to publish my changes on the site?  Sure enough, it works!  It works like this:

  • I have a separate SVN server.  On my laptop, I keep a local copy.  I make all edits on my laptop, verify my changes, (since my laptop is LAM(R|P)), upload my changes to the remote site via FTP, and then commit my changes to SVN.

Since the new provider  has SSH access, I just realized my life is so much easier.

  • I make sure I have the latest revision on my laptop. I make my changes, test them, and commit to my SVN server.
  • On my new webhosting provider, I SSH in and change to my site’s DIR and run “svn update” and viola! Site updated!

Okay, I am sure there are a ton of people doing this and I didn’t make any sort of breakthrough discovery.  But, this IS cool, since I am midway in migrating between providers.  It does make my life easier.

I also got into CMS (content management systems).  I have committed to moving the schools website to a CMS system since so many parties need to updates specific sections.  But that’s another topic entirely and I am going to have to do some hand-holding on this one.

Oh, and I did mention I was doing some consulting.  I enjoy it.  I’ve made some people really happy with my contributions.  So much in fact, my wife and I are in the baby steps of starting a business.  I think for right now, it is on the back burner until I find a steady job; we need benefits.

My final point on is that my experience is somewhat unique.  I worked with some of the smartest and creative people I have ever met in my life.   I’ve been inspired by them and learned from them, but back in the day, I did some hump-busting, too.   In my time off, I’ve discovered that my sweet spot is some balance between creativity, technology, and problem solving.  That’s what I like.

And in case you are interested, I am listening to “Ian Brown” right now.  He’s great!

Fedora (fc8) releases a new kernel

… and saves me a ton of work.  Tonight, I got the notification that there was a new kernel in FC8:  If you have been reading a long, you might know I was trying to roll my own kernel and modules to get my super-compact wifi usb dongle working.  Well, tonight’s kernel release includes the elusive module, zd1211rw.ko AND my sounds is working, so I am really good to go.

We’ll see how the suspend / resume works on my laptop, since that’s been a little goofy.

I got to say I feel a little put off since I’ve put so much reading into how to build a customer kernel, modules, and recompile various the modules via the SOURCE rpm’s; sprms’s.  So a good learning experince nontheless, but I am just happy that it appears that it will work.  I can spend less time polishing my hammer!