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New Tool: DrvAdm 10.09

September 5th, 2010 Comments off

I would like to announce a new disk management utility for Linux platforms. Specifically for the 2.6. 32+ kernels. It is called DrvAdm and is currently supported on Ubuntu Desktop/Server 10.04 and Red Hat ES 6 (to be released by end of 2010). Validation for Red Hat ES 6 was done on the second beta release.

You can read more about it on its wiki page or download it directly from its Sourceforge.net hosted project page. For the most part, DrvAdm supports the following features:

  • Dynamically add / remove / update devices in the SCSI subsystem
  • Reset the SCSI host, target, bus or all.
  • Retrieve a list of all SCSI devices with detailed information
  • Retrieve a list of all SCSI hosts with detailed information
  • View the device’s partition table
  • Retrieve the device’s geometry / size
  • Modify device parametets (i.e. queue_depth, timeout, etc.)
  • Send Loop Initialization Primitives (LIPs) to the Fibre Channel hosts

A good trivia question: What technology has Microsoft been the first to market?

September 1st, 2010 8 comments

I am currently employed with a large global company, working in a division that strictly focuses on embedded Linux development. Earlier this week, during our lunch hour, as one would expect with a predominantly Linux crowd, we had engaged in a conversation on the following question: What technology has Microsoft been the first to market? And of those technologies, which was developed by Microsoft? The only thing that came to mind was the family of FAT file systems. Early on, they dabbled with UNIX (i.e. XENIX – which was sold to SCO), then acquiring a company for their implementation of DOS. The graphical desktop predates Windows. Their Microsoft Office suite was far from original. None of their hardware technologies were unique (Xbox, Zune, etc.). C# and the .Net framework is just their (re-)implementation of Java (after the whole Sun Microsystems and J++/Visual Studio 6 incident). So I ask the reader: What technology has Microsoft invented to be the first to market?

If their only real product-based contribution to the technology world is FAT, then their is something to be said about the company: they have a damn good marketing team. Who would have thought that a permission-less, fragmentation-prone, non-journaling and pretty much featureless of a file system has been used for the better part of the past 2-3 decades. And the signs of it disappearing are nowhere in site.

Categories: Microsoft, Misc Tags:

Mozilla Wish List.

May 12th, 2010 4 comments

As long as I can remember I had been using the Netscape web browser which evolved to Mozilla and now Firefox. I still use Firefox and have grown so comfortable with it that I don’t really desire to move onto anything else. Needless to say, Mozilla’s products are not perfect and there is always room for additional features and what I believe to be necessities in order to function in today’s world of computing.

For instance, I wish there was more of a concentrated effort to bring additional usability and manageability of these same Mozilla products (i.e. Firefox, Thunderbird, to even the SeaMonkey suite) where it can truly compete with Microsoft to even IBM’s Lotus in the professional world.

In this initial example I will choose to focus Lotus Notes and SameTime. This application was built around enterprise productivity. Everything is integrated in such a way where I do not only have the ability to work from my e-mail but through SameTime I can easily connect to the same directory of individuals for instant IM messaging. Google saw an advantage to such an approach and had it integrated into their GMAIL web client. So how difficult would it be to have Thunderbird do the same thing? Now, SeaMonkey may be a better candidate for this integration (as it resembles more of what Netscape used to be) but nobody really knows of its existence.

Another example is the way Microsoft integrates all of its products together to provide a complete solution. If I am using Internet Explorer and I click on something that requires Powerpoint, Excel or something else Microsoft developed, there are no problems in opening up those files and working with them in a new tab of my web browser. It could be beneficial for Mozilla to partner up with Oracle and provide similar transparent integration into their products with Star Office and OpenOffice.org. In fact, what is stopping Red Hat, Canonical, Novell or even Oracle from developing such integration modules in their workstation solutions? I always found it annoying that when I click on a PDF file to open it up in a new tab, it runs outside of the browser instead (unless I were to install a third party developed plug-in most of which are written for Microsoft Windows anyways).

Other things that I would like to see Mozilla work on is better management for corporate environments. Internet Explorer has a centralized managed infrastructure in that it can be controlled using Group Policies across an entire network emphasizing consistency. If you need to change the settings across all web browsers in your network, IE makes that easy and realistic. It is not realistic to e-mail co-worker HOWTOs (especially if they do not have the required permissions) nor is it realistic to visit or remote into every node to address those same changes. This form of management also includes patching/upgrading the browser/e-mail clients. Sometimes this needs to be controlled on a corporate basis as opposed to an individual user.

Mozilla has been doing an excellent job in conquering their fair percentage of market share. All without the billions of dollars dumped into marketing (as seen by their competitors). They are a known household name. A lot of end users know what Firefox is. To move on to the next best thing, I feel they need to start concentrating more on the corporate world.

Commercial Advertisement: Kiri

May 2nd, 2010 1 comment

Last month my wife and I had taken one of my two dogs to WCIU studios in downtown Chicago (we live in the western suburbs of the city) for a commercial filming. Both dogs are Shiba Inus: Nemo (6 yrs old) and Kiri (9 yrs old). We only took Kiri because Nemo does not do well with larger dogs. Call it a case of Napoleon Syndrome but he is a 26 lbs. dog who thinks he can take on a 60 lbs. dog and larger.

Anyways, below is the commercial that Kiri is in, and if you think she stands out from all the other dogs listed in this month’s listing, I encourage you to please vote for her. One thing to note is that at the last minute that surprised me by dropping the boom mic in front of my face and asked me to look into the camera and say a few words about why people should vote for Kiri. I wasn’t prepared for that and worst of all, I have an obnoxious yellow band-aid on the right side of my face. C’est la vie.

Categories: Misc Tags:

Updates.

December 19th, 2009 Comments off

Well, it has been 23 days or so since my last update. Things have been a bit hectic. For instance, I am spending all of my free time in a start-up company intended to cater to the data storage industry. My business partner and I have a few commitments with a couple of technology partners to deliver a data storage management suite. Other time is being spent in writing a book for No Starch Press on OpenSolaris. The book is outlined for 12 chapters and the first 3 have already been submitted to the publisher.

Some other exciting stuff taking up free time is that my wife is expecting our first born this January. Between now and then, our baby daughter can show up into this world, so we are on high alert. Although so far, all is looking well.

I have also spent some time playing around with Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala. It had been installed on my wife’s laptop and we have yet to see any problems or concerns. It was a brand new Sony Vaio laptop and all hardware was recognized without an issue. The operating system runs extremely quick and very smooth. Note that she is coming from the LTS Hardy Heron release, so there are some noticeable changes to her.

I must admit that Canonical is doing a great job with this distribution and I look forward to the next LTS release. I am even thinking of making a permanent switch from Fedora Linux to Ubuntu Linux. Please do not misunderstand me. I enjoy Fedora and have always been a fan. The thing with Fedora is that it is a bleeding edge technology distribution and things have a tendency to break every now and then. I have found myself with less time to go in and address those issues. Although it will not stop me from running a stable installation of RHAS on my Intel servers.

Going back to Ubuntu 9.10, while I find the integration of Plymouth a bit redundant in splash screens (one traditional and one in X; the second after an early initialization into X), one thing that I am really impressed and intrigued by is the integration of Upstart. Upstart reminds me so much of the Service Management Facility (SMF) found in Solaris/OpenSolaris as it shares some of the same basic functionality. It is Upstart that helps to speed up the boot process while also offering a nice and uniform service manager to replace the traditional init daemon. It is just amazing to see my wife’s laptop get to the desktop within 25 seconds from post. Some other positives I saw were in the addition of the Ubuntu Software Center and Ubuntu One cloud-based storage service.

Most of my recent computing hours have been spent in OpenSolaris anyways. Most of it is in development of the earlier mentioned application suite while also using it for the OpenSolaris book. The 2010.02 release is really looking good as I have been playing with build 128. It is currently installed on my Asus Eee 901 and also running on one of my 1U Sun Fire Intel servers. I even took the time to really tune the OS on the netbook and it is running fairly well. That includes, disabling unnecessary services, customizing the CPU configuration (modify the cpupm option to read the following in the /etc/power.conf file: cpupm enable poll-mode) file to utilize less power, enable ZFS compression and disabling ZFS atime updates. I even took the time to enable a RAM-based mounted file system for Firefox caching.

Nothing else new to really report but I am looking forward to the coming year and the future of some of these open source projects. Part of that is the excitement is Linux in the mobile computing industry. Linux had always had a good market share in the mobile industry. There just seems to be more excitement around Google’s Android and in turn Chrome OS.

Categories: Linux, Misc, OpenSolaris, Red Hat, Ubuntu Tags:

Some exciting new releases: Virtualbox 3.0 and Firefox 3.5

June 30th, 2009 Comments off

Today Sun Microsystem’s released their newest upgrade to Virtualbox with version 3.0.0. You can download it from here. You can also view the Changelog here. This includes enhanced 3D rendering support along with support for SMP architectures.

Also released is Mozilla’s latest version of their Firefox web browser. Firefox 3.5 can be downloaded from here. From the same page you can view all recently added features. The most notable is that it is twice the speed (if not more) of Firefox 3.0.x.

Categories: Misc, virtualization Tags:

Hard Rectangular Drives (HRD)

June 26th, 2009 Comments off

I do not know all the details on this but I found the concept extremely interesting. It is a Hard Rectangular Drive (HRD) which is very unique in terms of design and functionality. You can read more about it here and here. This technology is being developed by Data Slide. The first article goes on in stating the following:

DataSlide says the new technology would find first use in a PCIe-based card format designed for use in Oracle database applications. The PCIe format is necessitated by the extremely high performance of HRD; like RAMDisks and high-end NAND SSDs, HRD would overwhelm a SATA or SAS interface. The cost of such a device is unknown, but its capacity would be comparable to that of a modern HDD.
Categories: Misc, SCSI, Storage Tags:

Update: VirtualBox 2.2.0

April 13th, 2009 Comments off

As I had mentioned in my last post, I was planning to upgrade from Sun’s VirtualBox 2.1.4 to 2.2.0. You can read my full review of 2.1.4 here. Well, I installed it over the weekend but I have not had much time to play around with it. Although I will say that the upgrade went smooth. Note that this was via rpm installation through Fedora GNU/Linux. The upgrade displayed no obvious problems, so far; not that I really expect any. All my virtual client profiles had to be converted over to a “new” format so that VirtualBox 2.2.0 could play nice with them.

My main objective to testing out 2.2.0 was to find out if there are any improvements in performance; especially when virtualizing OpenSolaris 2008.11. It was kind of hard to tell. I want to say that I noticed a slight improvement but it was not significant enough for me to get excited about. Not too long ago and very briefly I had installed VirtualBox 2.1.4 for Windows XP on a computer at work, it too didn’t perform as well as I had hoped. When I was working with some LiveCDs through it (i.e. Fedora 11 and PuppyLinux) it virtualized the operating systems a little slower than I would have expected. I should see if there has also been improvement there (unless someone beat me to it, then please share your opinions). As I personally do not use Microsoft Windows anymore, this is the least of my concerns. ;-)

Other than the performance of Sun’s OpenSolaris operating system, I am still not disappointed in VirtualBox and continue to use it.

On a side note, my updates have been quite slow recently. I have been spending some time working on a cloud-centric service providing project which I am keeping quiet, at least initially and have been brushing up on my AJAX (Asynchronous Javascript and XML), along with CSS and HTML on top of a postgreSQL and PHP database/query engine. I have also started researching (earlier this morning) jQuery and trying to see the differences or advantages in utilizing it. So my future posts may start focusing on a lot of that.

Categories: Misc, UNIX Tags:

Sun Microsystems: Releases VirtualBox 2.2.0

April 9th, 2009 Comments off

Some of you may remember my review on VirtualBox 2.1.4. Sun Microsystems just released VirtualBox 2.2.0; available for download here. According to their Changelog for this release, some major bug fixes and newly implemented features are integrated into this major release. Although I do not see it specifically called out, I do hope that they addressed certain performance problems (excluding performance fix to hypervisor in context switching), specifically when virtualizing Sun’s OpenSolaris 2008.11 from my Fedora operating environment.

I will be sure to update from version 2.1.4 to 2.2.0 and write a quick review if anything is worth noting on top of the last one written.

Categories: Misc, UNIX Tags:

Understanding what it is to be open source.

March 4th, 2009 Comments off

Yesterday afternoon I was speaking with a local administrator of one of the companies that I work for and in the past we had discussed topics such as GNU/Linux among other technical things but certain “concerns” always seem to come back up, not only with him but also other Microsoft using technical individuals that assume open source is bad, against Microsoft and anything good, and/or insecure (“a result of the source being available to everyone”). Where have these false ideas sprouted from? Was it Microsoft’s initial and blatant attack on open source with their misinforming “Get the Facts” campaign? These are intelligent individuals that I speak of and this post is not intended to attack them in any way but instead help as an educational guide of what it means to be open source. Also, the posting is not meant to convert individuals to using open source application. That rests solely on that individual’s comfort with the environment(s) that they are accustomed to.

First and foremost, I think it is best to understand that open source does not mean anti-Microsoft. It also does not mean Linux. Although the latter is licensed under an open source license (GPLv2). If you pay careful attention there are numerous open source projects such as Mozilla Firefox, MySQL, Apache Server, GIMP, etc. that are available on a wide range of operating platforms including Microsoft Windows. In fact Microsoft hosts a site for open source projects called CodePlex. I have not read too much about it but I also believe that the developer(s) have the right to adopt Microsoft’s open source licenses. Microsoft understands the advantages of open source, even if it still results in them not adopting it as their main business model. Just recently Microsoft had donated $100K to the open source Apache project, admitting it to be superior than their IIS server.

Second, open source does not mean free. Free software is another category and depending on the licenses used can determine how free an open source application is. When it comes to free software there is a saying: “Free as in speech, not as in free beer.” I would delve more deeply into this topic but it is one meant for another posting.

Going back to open source, open source development can be introduced into an environment with design or strategic goals in mind. What I mean by this is that open source can involve a community which can grow and aid in the development of that project. With this same community, the project’s development can also accelerate at a rapid rate. Now there are different approaches to open source development and instead of taking all the words out of his mouth, I will refer you to Eric S. Raymond’s The Cathedral and the Bazaar. Raymond details the advantages and disadvantages to two different styles of open source development, i.e. the Cathedral method and the Bazaar method. To highlight some of his comments on the Bazaar method which is the most traditional and widely used method, Eric states:

Or, less formally, “Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.” I dub this: “Linus’s Law”. {…}

It’s one thing to observe in the large that the bazaar style greatly accelerates debugging and code evolution. It’s another to understand exactly how and why it does so at the micro-level of day-to-day developer and tester behavior. {…}

One key to understanding is to realize exactly why it is that the kind of bug report non–source-aware users normally turn in tends not to be very useful. Non–source-aware users tend to report only surface symptoms; they take their environment for granted, so they (a) omit critical background data, and (b) seldom include a reliable recipe for reproducing the bug.

The underlying problem here is a mismatch between the tester’s and the developer’s mental models of the program; the tester, on the outside looking in, and the developer on the inside looking out. In closed-source development they’re both stuck in these roles, and tend to talk past each other and find each other deeply frustrating. {…}

What does some of this mean: “given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow“? What better strategy than to have not only testers and end-users reporting the bugs but also developers who traverse through the code and understand where a problem may surface even as far as the core of the application itself. This is feedback that is returned from a global basis as opposed to an isolated and closed environment. As Eric had mentioned in his paper, in closed environments most bugs are reported from what is visually seen and not physically coded. Therefore, it is not a fair comparison when stating that an open source version of an application had xxxxxx amount of bugs at release or currently while a closed version had xxx. Most likely xxxxx amount is being overlooked and never known until something in the near future forces it to be seen. This will in turn increase cost and time. Instead of tackling the problem earlier on, resources must be pulled from other location to put out the current fire.

Does this saying mean that because so many eyes view the code that so many individuals can then write malware and or attack the systems that these applications run on? Not even close! All project owners/facilitators control what gets officially placed into the stable builds of a project. So when the project is tested and compiled and/or built into binary form the appropriate facilitators manage what features and functionality get built right in. In the end, chances are that if an individual(s) with negative intentions spots a bug, another good percentage of individuals with the same access to the source code would have spotted at around the same time or possibly sooner. The more popular projects also have frequent release cycles or updates. Through the open source model, a lot of times when a bug is exposed it is almost immediately resolved.

Also, where is the logic that because open source is available to the public, it is insecure? Look at the closed source Microsoft Windows operating system. It is plagued with attacks and nobody except for Microsoft has the source. We see how secure it is. The evidence speaks for itself. It is a result of open source methodology that projects like the Linux kernel can develop new features, have them tested and released as stable long before NT kernel developers finish their planning process.

A third attack toward open source is quality. Most attacks seem to focus on a lack of quality when the case is just the opposite. I guess this would also depend on the reader’s definition of quality. Is this quality measured by stability, usability and/or graphical appeal? While it is true that early on in a good number of open source projects more focus and emphasis had been placed on stability (which includes security) rather than usability or graphical appeal but as of the past 5-8 years or so I find that the other categories have caught up significantly. But I guess I will let you be the judge. Use Open Office instead of Microsoft Office. Use GIMP instead of Photoshop. Mozilla Firefox instead of Internet Explorer. Or run under an entirely different operating environment such as a GNU/Linux or BSD-based distribution instead of Microsoft Windows. Give it a trial run and then return with your feedback on quality. A great portion of these distributions have gotten great in terms of usability and graphical appeal. In fact, some of these projects have gotten far advanced from their closed competitors. This could be a result of involvement from quality filled contributors with rich development and test backgrounds.

A fourth concern is support. The general assumption is that by utilizing open source applications you will either be offered poor to no support for those applications. Again, the fact is the exact opposite. Sun Microsystems offers support subscriptions for MySQL, Red Hat, Novell and Canonical offer support subscriptions for their operating platforms and the supported applications that they offer with them (which range in the thousands). If you do not wish to spend money, then free support is available around every corner from general forums to even the project’s forum (if one exists).

Additional advantages to open source include early exposure to proper coding etiquette. This is extremely important to a developer such as myself. This is something that is rarely taught and maintained in closed environments. During my history of employment and consultation development I have had the opportunity to see what closed and sloppy coding can do. This in fact results in buggier builds which can take a long time to troubleshoot and resolve. Most resolutions in these environments result in hacking quick fixes on top of other quick fixes which in turn produce additional problems and bugs. I can honestly say that I am grateful for the open source community in more ways than one on this issue.

So, if open source was so evil, then why are large and small companies which include IBM, Sun Microsystems and Novell pooring millions of dollars into it a year? Companies such as Red Hat, Canonical, and Mozilla would have never built their business model around it. If open source was so terrible, would Microsoft donate money to the Apache project? If open source was so bad, would the usage of web browsers such as Mozilla Firefox gain such popularity and over time be a contributor to the decline in usage of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer? According to recent Network Application number IE usage has dropped to 67.44% while Firefox has climbed to 21.77% (as of February 2009). Can 21.77% users be wrong in utilizing open source applications?

Believe it or not but open source is a culture and not a virus. It attempts to offer everything good that is possible and runs entire industries to even countries. Its communities have grown and they will not disappear. At least anytime soon.

BTW, in response to a comment made by an Aronzak from a previous post, I made sure to answer most if not all of my questions in my post. ;-)

Categories: Linux, Misc Tags: