Category Archives: Miscellanous

White box home computers – Am I alone?

I started really getting into computers, which eventually led me to IT (duh!), just as I was entering college back in 1995.  Not knowing any better, I bought a piece of crap AST computer, which was a Pentium 60, and 8MB of RAM.  It had no 3D accelerator, a 540MB hard drive, and was slow, despite it being one of the first Pentiums around.

I got into PC gaming, starting with Doom, and it grew to other games.  I also ended up finding a mom and pop computer shop locally in Richmond, VA, a trustworthy source for computer upgrades.  I ended up working for them eventually to pay for college.  I attempted to a few upgrades on the AST, before determining it was a piece of crap.  I learned how much better a white box could be, and that was that.  Short of laptops or mobile devices, that was it, I was a white box guy from then on.

I still, to this day, build my own computers.  There’s something about being able to research each part and buying the one that’s going to work best for you.  I know it takes time to do that, but the end result to me is better.  It’s great to know you can replace any part in it.  It’s great to build in the capability to upgrade.  It’s great to build in reliability.

But there are definite downsides.  It takes time to research all those parts.  It takes time to build it, install the operating system, etc.  It takes time to be your own tech support.  I notice other bloggers generally speak of various pre-built machines they bought.  I’m guessing that maybe why.

So my question to the community is do you still white box your own personal home computers?  Why or why not?

You’re gonna lose a lot of free OneDrive space!

I suspect most of us have personal Microsoft ID’s and probably at the very least store some OneNote notebooks there! You’re about to lose a lot of OneDrive space if you don’t take action.

TLDR version:

You will lose 10GBs or 25GBs of free Microsoft OneDrive storage if you don’t opt in to keeping it by 1/31/16!  Opt to keep it here:

So here’s the deal…

Microsoft was offering 15GBs of free storage, plus the camera roll bonus of an additional 15GBs of cloud storage for free if you opted into that, totaling 30GBs of cloud storage.  Microsoft is lowering new accounts and existing accounts if you do not take action to 5GBs and no camera roll bonus, meaning you will lose a free 10GBs or even 25GBs if you do nothing.

First, try to activate the free camera roll phone backup to OneDrive to gain another 15GBs if you haven’t already done this.  Even if you don’t wish for your camera on your phone to automatically upload pics, you still get additional space for whatever you want.  Also, I would recommend if you don’t care about the feature to disable it on your phone to ensure it never takes up cell data allotment trying to upload all your phone camera photos.  If you didn’t do this before, I don’t know if it still works…

Finally, you need to opt in to keep your OneDrive allotment as it is using this link:

If you cannot get the camera roll bonus, you still will net a free +10GBs to keep compared to taking no action at all, which is triple the OneDrive storage!

Spread the word!

Consider donating to the Mozilla Foundation

‘Tis the season of charitable giving.  Have you ever donated money to the Mozilla Foundation, or considered doing so?

I know many people have a browser of choice.  I like Chrome, Firefox, and I even like Internet Explorer.  I use whatever works.  I find that while all three generally work on most sites, IE works best with Microsoft based technologies within web pages.  Chrome works generally best on anything related to Google, and Firefox often times works well when the others don’t.

Funny how that works out, huh?  Of course Microsoft technologies and websites work best with their browser.  Of course Google related sites work best with Google.  That’s precisely why they developed Chrome in the first place.  Both have a vested interest to make sure they give the best experience for their stuff with their respective browsers.

I think honestly all three would like everything to run best on their browsers, but that’s a tall feat, and of course what’s important to their respective interests come first.  And that’s why it worked naturally out that way.

But what are Mozilla’s interests?  Who funds them?  Royalties coming from in browser internet searches, and charitable donations, some from people like you and me.

And is it any wonder then that their browser fills in the holes nicely where Chrome and IE fall flat on their faces?  As an engineer who deploys EMC VNX’s frequently, I’ve found that Firefox has worked by far the best for me the last year or two (thanks evil Java!).

I know it’s not perhaps the most noblest of charitable donations.  I’m not even here to try to persuade you to donate $1,000, $100, or even $50.

But how about $5, $10, or $20?  Has Firefox bailed you out when all other browsers failed you?  Was that worth at least $5?

If so, consider donating!  It’s tax deductible, too.

Matching $25 donation for Movember

Tis the season for charitable giving, so I wanted to raise awareness to a promotion for Movember, a great organization that helps raise money to help with men’s health issues, including cancer and others.  You may be familiar with their Movember annual “get guys to not shave” event for the month of November.

While I didn’t do that, I am donating to their cause, and you should, too!

The promotion is to donate using the VISA Checkout system, and VISA will match up to $25 of your donation, up to $1,000,000 of total matching.  Let’s make them donate that entire million dollars for a good cause!

Be sure to make your donation by 12/6/2015 to get that match!

Jon Stewart Leaving Daily Show

This is first and foremost a technical blog, but on occasion, when I think it’s merited, I would like to comment on other topics, and this is a topic I have to comment about.  This is more probably for me to come to terms with it than probably it being any value to anyone else, I understand, but here it goes….

Jon Stewart’s run as the host of The Daily Show has ended.

You have to understand I used to teach US History in public schools.  Naturally, US history, current events, and politics are going to be important to me.  And that world for me has been forever changed upon discovering The Daily Show, and it’s going to change now that Stewart has left it.

I unfortunately discovered Stewart’s incarnation of TDS several years late.  I don’t know specifically when, but it was sometime just prior to the 2004 Presidential election, because I do remember TDS coverage leading up to it.  And it grabbed me almost immediately, and through the years, it was a staple of my life.  I went through periods of watching pretty much no television to keeping up with several shows, but the constant? TDS.  I don’t think I missed an episode from 2004 to now.  And when it was on break, I missed it.

Now, I know some people who may be reading this might not like Stewart, and perhaps it’s because he was on the wrong side of the political spectrum.  But if so, you probably missed the point.  During an interview with Mike Wallace on Fox News, Jon Stewart asked Wallace what he thought was Stewart at his highest aspiration, and Stewart told him plainly – Mark Twain. And this is why I admire Stewart so much.  Nobody cares today if Mark Twain was a Democrat or a Republican.  Mark Twain was great and important because of his insights, and his ability to articulate ideas.  Make no mistake – Jon Stewart is our Mark Twain.

Nobody articulated better the reality of our current political landscape than Jon Stewart, from corruption within the government on both sides of the aisle, to systemic problems within the political system, and, most of all, his insights and relentless critique of the media.  And I mean all media.  While Fox News attempted to illustrate what they felt was the problem that the mainstream media has a liberal bias and attempted to counterbalance it, Stewart held seemingly all media outlets accountable for lacking journalistic integrity, from the network news, to the 24-hour news networks, and the overtly partisan news networks of Fox and MSNBC.  He even called out all financial news networks such as CNBC, culminating in the incredibly popular confrontational interview of Jim Cramer in an interview on TDS.

He spoke out about incredibly important issues, and didn’t just take a side, but provided invaluable insight.  And most of all, he was very often disarmingly sincere.  When he spoke to Cramer, after making his point about the financial news networks seemingly promoting behaviors like stock speculation, or spreading false information to gain advantage in the markets with clips of Cramer doing these things, which when done systemically contributed partly to the downfall of the economy, he vividly told Cramer, “this isn’t a f***ing game.”

His calling out of Congress for not helping first responders to 9/11, his relentless attacks of anyone promoting disingenuous talking points on either side, whether it be the Swift Boaters or attacks by the New York Times against Marco Rubio finances…  I could go on and on.

Stewart helped millions of people, including me, not just see through various outlets plays to distort the truth, but to understand how and why it was happening.  And that’s something that isn’t something valuable to one side of the political aisle or the other.  It’s something that’s helpful for all of us.

And… his show was funny!  From political humor, to somehow being able to laugh at the Crocodile Hunter’s passing thanks to Stewart’s uncomfortably hilarious interview with Norm McDonald after it happened, to making fun of Arby’s repeatedly for absolutely no reason, and more…

I’ve watching Jon Stewart and The Daily Show for over a decade now.  Jon Stewart’s departure for me is the emotional equivalent of losing a family pet, which is a horrible comparison, but it’s the best one I can come up with that can approximate the emotional punch to the gut it is for me.  It’s like being told, “Yeah, Mark Twain’s around, but you’re not gonna hear from him as much anymore starting NOW.”

There won’t be another Jon Stewart, just like there won’t be another Mark Twain, but I’m ultimately glad we got him as long as we had him.

Are you a Daily Show or Jon Stewart fan?  What are your favorite moments?  How are you taking his departure?

Containers are coming!

Some of you may already are in the know, or have even deployed or managed them.  Some of you may have heard about them, heard of Docker, and even have a vague sense of what they are.   But make no mistake – containers are coming!

The question first though is what exactly are they?

Containers challenge what you know about operating systems, VMs, applications, and such, because they really make you realize how much you bind into the definitions of these things without realizing it just because that’s how it’s been.  Containers make you rethink much of what you know, just like VMs did when they were becoming the rage.

But let’s first make an analogy to help you understand what exactly containers are.

Let’s imagine a much simpler world of automobiles.  Imagine you needed a vehicle to accomplish a task.  While there were lots of brands, makes, models, and colors, there were really three basic types of vehicles in our hypothetical world:

  • Monster truck
  • Armored Humvee
  • Moped

What you would consider just a car didn’t exist.  No SUV’s, no  regular trucks, just those three basic types.  Now, imagine your task was to get across town where you need to smash other cars, and see above traffic.  That’s easy, you take the ridiculous monster truck.  If you needed something to get you to see your grandmother to say hello, that monster truck or the humvee would be pretty hilarious to show up in, but they’d not be particularly practical, so you take the moped.

That would look weird showing up to your grandma’s house…

But what about going to the grocery store to get a few bags of groceries, and you go to the local market where you need to parallel park?  Suppose the moped can’t carry all those groceries, so that’s out.  The monster truck is WAY overkill, too.  While the armored humvee would probably have a high safety rating, it’s overkill, and would kill you on gas mileage, but it’s the least ridiculous option you’ve got.

Ahnold, please tell us you have something more practical to go on an ice cream run… actually, nevermind, because this is so Ahnold!

But then… a new option existed – a novel idea called a car.  Except it’s not what most would typically think of.  Instead, it was one of these:

Admit it, the first time you saw one of these, you WTFBBQ’ed…

AND… it was a hybrid, and hybrids hadn’t been invented yet.  You start asking (what you would now consider since hybrids are ubiquitous) stupid questions like… “do I put gas in it?”  “What kind of gas does it take?”  “If I get in a wreck, will this happen?”

I have nothing to add other than I just wanted an excuse to use this…

Welcome to containers!  You used to run your applications (tasks) only on computers (monster trucks), but then we realized one application per physical computer was ridiculous, so we made VMs (humvee’s).  And we didn’t just get more efficient.  There were other inherent benefits to humvee’s.  Parking, while still difficult, is easier in a humvee than  that monster truck.  VMs ease DR, etc.

But we’re so used to VMs, we don’t see their downsides and the fact that those are often overkill, too!  Ever made for example six or one hundred redundant web servers for an application for high availability and to scale for the load?  Ask yourself something… do you honestly think you really need the full OS six or one hundred times to achieve your redundancy and scale out?  When you think about that, that’s pretty insane to store windows or linux that many times. Why do you think VDI environments often use linked clone techniques?  (Not that containers are linked clones, they’re not at all.)

Go look at your VM inventory sometime.  You’re bound to find some redundant VMs that store AND run entire operating systems multiple times, and there’s not necessarily a good reason other than, “I’m using VMs, what else am I supposed to do?  Each of these VMs needs a unique name/MAC address/IP address to work, so I can’t run the same application twice within the same VM, it just won’t work.”  That’s because you’re stuck choosing between grocery shopping with a monster truck, a humvee, and a moped.

And you’ve also just come to expect that the OS gets an identity on a network, not the applications within them.  A NIC bound to an OS gets an IP address.  If you want isolation between applications, they must be in separate OS’s.  Nevermind you already know that’s not true because your hypervisor is an OS, so your VMs technically are running on the same hypervisor server are in a sense running under the same OS, yet we expect isolation between them.

Containers, just like when server virtualization became all the rage, cause you to rethink and realize that IP’s don’t necessarily coincide with OS’s, but you kinda knew that since a NIC can have multiple IP addresses, and a OS can have multiple NICs, and you can add virtualized NICs, too, right?  Why does a computer name HAVE to refer to an OS instance on a physical or virtual machine?  It doesn’t, and you already know this with DNS aliases, network load balancing technologies, etc.,  but it’s so ingrained in your brain, it’s hard for you to think it could be any other way.

You think that’s air you’re breathing?

Containers are essentially VM-esque in that they’re in some ways a virtualized instance of an application, with their own unique instance identities (container1, container2, etc.) complete with IPs, names, MAC addresses, etc., but they’re not completely independent like a VM is as far as its OS, as they depend upon a controlling OS instance that can and generally is shared between multiple containers simultaneously.   It’s that notch on the dial between a VM and an individual application within an OS.

You may think this kind of technology is unnecessary and just causes confusion.  It’s honestly similar in my mind to the whole smartphone/phablet/mini-tablet/tablet/laptop/desktop computer continuum.  You may completely not participate in the use of one of those devices whatsoever because it doesn’t fit your needs, but it fits others.  I personally use a smartphone, a tablet, a laptop, and a workstation class computer, and I find those cover my needs, and have no use for a phablet and mini-tablet.  Some people find that they can go with a phablet instead of a smartphone and a tablet.  That’s all well and good.  Everybody doesn’t own every major type of automobile either.

But there’s a reason why each of those devices exists, and there’s a reason why container technology exists, too.  And it’s becoming more popular.  It’s been done for quite sometime in linux, and Microsoft is finalizing it’s first go with containers within Windows Server 2016.  So, as IT pros, it’s better to be aware of it before you’re driving a car you don’t know how to drive, as my analogy goes.