I have an external Seagate Firewire 800 drive that I use on my Mac Pro that has over 700GB of VMware images on it. Pretty much anything I work on I have an image on there, everything from a Windows XP client to Microsoft Exchange servers, and Solaris, Linux and the such. I have had the drive for a couple of years and it has always been rock solid and fast too. (I bought it when Windows 7 screwed up my internal drives.)
Well today I was wanting to run a VM off of that drive to test something, and noticed that the drive did not appear on my Desktop. Weird, it as plugged in, the light was flashing, but no icon. Hmm, where the hell did it go? So I unplugged it and plugged it back in. Still no go. So i tried switching power supplies, still no go. Then if I left it sit for a while I would get the error that it could not use the drive, or that it needed initialized. Holy crap, that isn't good.
I popped up the command prompt, diskutil would list that there was a drive there, but no partitions on it. The gui Disk Utility would see the disk, and again no partitions and wouldn't let me do anything with it. gpt wouldn't let me read it. So I thought to my self, did Windows 7 screw the disk up again (it was working the other day when I had booted in to windows, but forgot to unplug it before doing so ). So I booted in to Windows 7, it could see the drive but said it was unformatted. Double shit. So back to MacOSX, I went out searching for some data recovery programs. The first one was Data Rescue 3 while the graphics were gimmicky it didn't even look like the demo version could even see 1 file on the drive. So I uninstalled it and started looking for another program.
In the past I have used the R-Studio for NTFS & FAT and both have worked wonders. I did a google search, and they now have a Mac version. Now we are talking! So I downloaded the demo, and with in about 2 minutes of starting it, it showed me the entire disk and all the files that were on it. But since it was a demo it would only restore 10 files under 64kb.. So I bought it for $79.99. 2 minutes after buying it, it was busy restoring the files to another external 2TB USB drive. 6 hours later, 100% of my files were restored from the dead firewire drive, and my VM started up just like nothing had happen. Needless to say it saved me hundreds of hours of reinstalling and setting up my VM environment. Now I just need to go get another drive to make a backup of this one.
So if you are ever needing to restore MacOS, HSFS, NTFS, FAT, UFS, EXT file systems, definitely check out r-tools technology and their R-Studio products. http://www.r-tt.com/ For $79.99 it was more than worth it!
So as you may know by now, I am not a fan of "blade" technology, and rather despise it. One reason is that they simply are not as "powerful" as some larger systems. So what is this "true hidden cost". What hardware vendors won't tell you is that, while they think that their hardware is powerful and "compact form", is that software vendors will almost rape you on the license cost. So lets look at a good example.
Say you are building a "cloud" (another word I absolutely hate, as it is just a buzz word some one made up, because "network" sounds so simple) for your company. You decided to go with the "all mighty blades" as that is the "current buzz" amongst the IT industry. So I buy a blade chassis from company X which happens to hold 10 blade's that each hold 4 processors of 8 cores a piece and 128GB of ram (probably fictitious and not a real world blade). You also plan on implementing a virtualization hypervisor on your blades to build your "cloud". On top of this hypervisor you will be using multiple different operating systems and various middle-ware. Sounds good so far right, just like any typical "cloud" environment. So now lets look at the pricing:
- For the virtualization layer, we don't care about CPU's, just memory in use. So we have to buy enough licenses to support 10x128GB of ram. Again, not too bad, but as you add blades and/or memory your price goes up.
- For the OS layer, this seems pretty simple, 1 OS license per Virtual Machine. Probably so far the simplest of all
- For the middle-ware, now this is where the big bucks come to play. Different vendors license their software in different ways so here are some examples:
- Per VM, seems pretty simple, 1 license per VM. Easiest
- Per User, probably the second simplest algorithm, assuming you have an easy user base, i.e. all users are internal company users, or all are external users, etc.
- Per physical host, the most complex and costly. Why so? Well lets look in to this in more depth.
So in #3 above I mention that licensing middle-ware per physical host is the most complex and costly. Some people may be thinking that I am absolutely crazy by now but hold on to your seats and watch the money start adding up.
Say we have a fictitious product from vendor Y, the licensing of it is $100 per core of physical server, and the vendor of the software does not "recognize" virtualization. So if we weren't doing virtualization to license this product on one of our fictitious blades, that product would cost $3,200, as we would have to pay for all 32 cores in the blade. Still not too bad. But here comes the kicker, say that we created a cluster in our hypervisor that contained all 10 of the blades in our chassis. In addition to this, we have determined by usage that to be able to run Y in our environment, we only really needed a VM with 1vCPU and 2GB of ram. In a physical world, if you could find a server with one CPU, then we would only have to pay $100 for this piece of software. In addition if the vendor Y supported virtualization you would only have to pay $100 to run it. However vendor Y is all about the money, so to run this one software package on your "cloud", you would have to pay $32,000.
Wow, $32,000 vs $100 is 320% markup because vendor Y doesn't "support" virtualization. But you are probably thinking, but hold on a second, I know that VM will only run on one blade at a time, why do I have to pay for all 10? Well because your VM has the possibility of running on any of the 10 blades at any given time. So you have to think of it sort of like auto insurance. Say you have 3 cars, but you can only drive one at a time (because you are only one person). But you still have to pay insurance on all 3, because there is a chance that you could drive any of them.
Does this make sense, hell no... But hold on to your seats because it gets even better. The vendor of product Y also make a hypervisor that does the same thing as another companies hypervisor. But the kicker is that if you use vendor Y's hypervisor which has less features and abilities that vendor Z's hypervisor, but does nearly the exact same thing (virtualize an OS instance), they will allow you to only pay for the 1vCPU license to run their product. This is just plain wrong, especially when you have already invested in vendor Z's platform.
So with "cloud" computing being the current wave of IT, why can't software vendors recognize that nearly 75% or more of most environments are already virtualized or moving to a virtualized "cloud" environment. If they can't recognize this, then chances are people are going to go else where for their software needs. Because as your "clouds" get bigger the cost is exponential. To see that just use this as an example, the environment above is for a development. Once we go to production, say we have to have 10 chassis of blades, and there is a possibility of that one application running on any one of the 10 blades on any of the 10 chassis. So now instead of $32,000 you end up paying $320,000 for one little application, that only requires a 1CPU machine to run.
But what the hell does this have to do with blades? Well if you used larger hardware, you could decrease the number of physical servers that were in a particular cluster by consolidating even more. In the simplest term building up vs out. As an example say I could replace all 10 chassis of blades with 6 large servers (large meaning that they could hold 512GB of ram vs my max of 128GB of ram that my "blades" do). Now instead of paying for 100 blades with 4 processors of 8 cores a piece I am only playing for 6 servers of 4 processors of 8 cores a piece, a cost of $19,200, or 6% of the cost of using blades.
I leave it to you to see how much you would save by getting rid of your blades ...
So as a continuation of last years home repairs I did a couple more major repairs in 2011. This year was some doors and a new deck. I started with the doors in August, replacing the front door and basement door. The front door was leaking heat/cold so bad that it was time to be replaced with a more energy efficient one.
After the front door was installed, the basement door was next. It also leaked water, air and was not energy efficient.
After the doors were replaced, I noticed a dramatic difference in the house. The front door no longer was extremely hot or cold on the inside, which is awesome. The next big project was to replace the deck that I removed last year around this time.
The bonus project that was done was replacing the basement window with a new energy efficient one.
All told with the above work and fixing a water leak that was in the wall going to my kitchen sink, it was another $11,000 in home repairs this year. Next year I hope to replace the patio door, fix the chimney and possibly get a concrete driveway done..
Last week, I went to VMworld 2011 in Las Vegas. The conference was great, 20,000+ people all there and focused on one thing, VMware and every product they offer. This was my first time at the VMworld conference, and hopefully will get to go again some time in the future. The main reason I went was because of the recently released vSphere 5 and seeing what all it offered and what all was changed. Needless to say, there are many cool new features that were added, I am only going to mention a few here, but the full list is available in this PDF.
The first cool feature is : Auto Deploy. Simply said, (wish they would have chose a different name) it is PXE boot of the vSphere image from a TFTP server, so no local disk is required to "run" vSphere. For example if you have a "shit ton" of blades and don't want to have to go update and install all of them, just get their MAC address, setup the host in DHCP with a couple of DHCP options to tell it where to boot from and have the blade boot from the network. It will download the image from the TFTP server and run automagically. Once up and running all config is stored in vCenter 5 (a requirement!). So need to upgrade your hosts? Just reboot them after updating the image. A couple of notes for this, make sure you have logging set up to go to your syslog server, and that you set up the Dump Collector incase of a PSOD.
Another cool feature is: vSphere 5 supports Apple Xserve servers running OS X Server 10.6 (Snow Leopard) as a guest operating system. This is because vSphere now supports UEFI "bios". Now "supposedly" this does not require Xserve's (since Apple no longer sells them), but it "requires" them because of Apple's EULA for use of Mac OS X.
There are many other features that have been upgraded, or are new.. Too bad the conference wasn't a little longer, as the amount of sessions I wanted to go to were greater than the amount of time I had available to go to said sessions. (I.E. only one instance of a session and 2 sessions I wanted to see were at the same time.)
The Hands on Lab area was "freaking huge". There were over 800 workstations set up where you could do 1 of 16 LABS (you could do more, just had to stand in line, I was only able to do 1 in the week I was there). Ironically each "lab" station was a Wyse "chubby client" that had dual monitors so you could rdesktop to some windows XP and servers to do the work. The HOL area, sort of reminded me of the CTF area at DefCon, a huge big room, with nearly no light what so ever and hundreds of thousands of screens.
The most interesting part of the conference is that they have grown so big, that next year they have to go to San Francisco to host the event, as there is no place in Vegas that is big enough to house them. This year it was at the Venetian with some spill over to Wynn. They also had the Sands Expo hall, which is connected to the Venetian. The "dining" room was 1.5 million sq ft alone, you could barely see from one end to the other.
I will have to say out of the many conferences I have been to by different vendors, I will have to say so far VMware has been the best. Some of the things that has made it stand out from the rest:
- Food, while not "the greatest ever" it was far better than I have had at other places. They gave us breakfast and lunch every day. In addition the break periods between sessions had different items every day. One day they had fresh hot made pretzel sticks with cheese and different sauces.
- Hang out area: Most conferences if there is "downtime" you usually end up either walking around or going back to the hotel. VMware set up a "hang space" where they had a basketball court, badmitten court, huge chess sets, fake grass to sit on in front of a big screen (like 20+feet) TV. A Twitter vMeetup place, where you could meet other people that you have met on twitter.
- Scheduled sessions. While I was skeptical at first on "pre-registering" for the sessions you want to attend, I think in the end it was a good idea, as it "guaranteed" your spot in the session as long as you showed up 3 minutes before it started. (There were gaps between end and start, so you really had no reason not to be there.)
- Group Discussion: in some conferences, I have seen "group discussion" be these "huge" groups where it ends up being a more Q&A session. VMware had group discussions, where there were maybe max 30 people in a room, each one had a clicker, and everyone voted on how the session went and it was a free form for questions. One of the best ones was the Oracle on VMware vSphere one. I learned a lot from that session.
- P.A.R.T.Y. : By far the best conference / vendor party I have ever been to. First was the food, you name it, they probably had it. I didn't realize this till I had already ate a couple of slices of pizza. Then I saw a station where they were making fresh cut cheese-steak sandwiches, another was doing fresh made crab cakes. Like I said, name it, and it was probably there. In addition, a huge open bar (not that I drink, but it was there). So now that we got past the food, they had at least 4 different acts during the night. Two people doing fire tricks, then the openers was Recycled Percussion, which I didn't realize who they were till I got back to the hotel room that night, but they were on the America's Got Talent show, and previously had a show nightly in Vegas. The headliners were The Killers. They played for an hour and did all the "popular" songs along with some that I hadn't heard before.
This part of the party ended around 9PM. Which was the start time to the "after party" which was at the Venetian pool. I did not go to it, but it sounded like people had a bunch of fun there too.
So if you are still reading by now, you are probably trying to figure out the second part of the title "... should have stayed in Vegas". Well, it seems that some time either on Sunday or early Monday morning I either sprained or got a stress fracture in my left foot. Needless to say, the 30+miles of walking I did, (cause my hotel was 2 miles away from the conference hotel, it is a damn long walk from Planet Hollywood to the Venetian even if you take the monorail when your foot it hurting like a Mofo) did not help it any. By the time I got home it was still hurting and I noticed that the top of my foot started to have some swelling and bruising. I just iced it on Saturday and Sunday, but as of today it was still hurting and didn't seem to change much, so I ended up going to the doctor to have it X-ray'd. They said it didn't show any fractures, but thought it was just a really bad sprain or a damaged ligament. So it is more ice, and a ankle air cast for a while. So that is what I "wish that it should have stayed in Vegas."
I currently have 5 (yes 5) DVR's for recording shows. This goes back some years, but I have 3 ReplayTV DVR's (2 with 80 gb Drives, and one with a 200 gb drive that I hacked to get it to work after the original 40 gb drive died in it.). They were / still are great DVR's. They were pioneers in many ways compared to TiVo. They have built in network connections long before TiVo did. They allowed streaming of shows between units, years before TiVo could. All around they are great little Standard Definition DVR units. Granted they could only record what was on the analog tuner, however they supported multiple inputs so you could hook a cable box to them or other device and record it.
Up until late last year, 2 of them were connected to a Comcast cable box so I could record any channel that I received on the cable box. The third unit was connected just to the cable, so it could only record the analog channels. Well as with the "rest of the world" Comcast decided to drop all analog channels from their cable line up, in favor of the "better" digital signals. (Which they compressed to hell and back....) Anyways, this would have made the one DVR a door stop. However, Comcast decided to give away 2 free "Digital Tuning Adapters". So I thought this would be cool, I could just hook it up and put it in front of the DVR and be able to record the channels. Well, the DTA required me to "hack" the ReplayTV unit as it (the ReplayTV) did not have the IR codes to control the DTA. This took me a better part of a day one weekend to get working. So at least it is able to record the basic/extended cable line up.
So fast forward half a year, and I turned on the ReplayTV one night to watch a recorded episode of Top Gear [because Comcast doesn't have BBC in HD ] and I see a message stating that:
The ReplayTV Electronic Programming Guide (EPG) Service will be permanently discontinued on July 31, 2011. After this date, owners of ReplayTV DVR units will still be able to manually record analog TV programs, but will not have the benefit of access to the interactive program guide. Effective immediately, monthly billing for the ReplayTV service to remaining customers has been suspended.
The industry conversion to HDTV is complete and ReplayTV DVRs are unable to take advantage of the wealth of HDTV programming. Please contact your service provider for current offerings.
What pissed me off the most was the last line: "The industry conversion to HDTV is complete...." Wait just a minute, there are hundreds of SD channels on Comcast's lineup, that aren't available in HD. So now all of the sudden I go from having 5 DVR's to 2. Granted ComCRAP just raised my bill by another $16 a month, so the saving in the lost of paying the ReplayTV monthly fee makes my cable cost go down a little, but this still makes me mad as the ReplayTV DVR's are still useful and very much liked by their user's.
Well it appears that some people are trying to get a fix to allow them to continue to work after the July 31, 2011 cut off. One of the workarounds is by using WiRNS and Schedules Direct. Since I had previously set up a WiRNS system to hack the one DVR to get the IR codes in it, I decided that it wouldn't be too hard to set it up on the new VMware server I have at the house since it didn't require much processor and disk space. Also the Schedules Direct method only charged $20 a year for guide data vs the $23+ a month I was paying now for the ReplayTV units. (So almost a $260 a year possible savings.)
This is all cool, however there is one thing that hasn't been figured out yet. That is how to handle the encrypted clock connection on the ReplayTV unit. If this can't be figured out, then the 3 ReplayTV's, basically become the VCR's of the 90's.
So on now to TiVo. I have had one of my TiVo's for a year now, the other for about 6 months. Over all it is pretty good, but there were items that the ReplayTV made so much easier that I can't do yet with the TiVo. For example, there is a Java application called DVArchive that I run on one of my servers that "talks" to all the ReplayTV units and shows me a list of what all shows are recorded on them, what upcoming shows will be recorded, lets me transfer shows from the ReplayTV to the local server and lets me schedule recordings from one web interface to go to the ReplayTV's instantly. This isn't available on the TiVo. Yeah I can go to TiVo's site, but it is some what of a kludge to see the entire ToDo list across both TiVo's. Also the scheduling is based on the TiVo polling the Internet vs the push of the recording to the ReplayTV.
One of the big things that was missing on the TiVo side was the ability to "stream" between the two TiVo units. This was one of the reasons why I went the ReplayTV route instead of the "mainstream" TiVo route. Yeah you could "transfer" recordings between the TiVo's, but this could only be done IF the cable company did not set the Copy Protection flag, which nearly every HD and SD digital channel has this set except for the local OTA channels. In the long run, this meant that if I recorded a program on one TiVo I had to watch it on that TiVo, instead of "where I wanted to" like with the ReplayTV's. Well as of yesterday, this seems to have changed. It appears that TiVo with their latest software update has enabled "Streaming" between the TiVo's (like the ReplayTV's had probably a good 7+ years ago). Now you don't have to "copy" the entire program to the other TiVo to watch it, in addition the Copy Protection flag does not apply to the "streaming" of the video between the 2 TiVo units.
This is excellent news as now I can record a movie on one and then watch it on the other and vice verse with my weekly shows that get recorded.
So you are probably thinking if you are even reading this far, what the hell does this have to do with the "General state of DVR's"? Well it just shows how some DVR's are pioneers, some are the "popular" ones and then some are ones that people are just "stuck with". What I mean by "just stuck with" is those people who are unlucky enough not to realize how good ReplayTV was, or how much functionality the TiVo Premiere's have VS a "Cable company" DVR. Seeing how I have had all three now for a while, (although I did get rid of the ComCRAP DVR) I would still rate the ReplayTV as the best DVR that I have had. Granted it doesn't do HD picture, but then again not everything on Comcast's lineup is in HD. I still use them to record all my SD content and use the TiVo's only for HD content.
Comcast's DVR is just plain the worse thing I have ever seen. They only have a 160 gig HD in their HD-DVR which means that after a week of shows, it is usually out of space. Not to mention, there was NO way to schedule anything on it except scrolling through the on screen guide. There was no "searching" for items to tape. No way to save programs. No way to stream it to other units.. Think of it as the VCR of the 90's with the VCR+ module added in.
Overall I think that DNNA made a bad move by discontinuing the ReplayTV EPG, but I guess in this day and age every one has to way the good vs the bad at some point.
WiRNS (the Windows Replay Network Server) URL: http://wirns.com/
DVarchive URL: http://dvarchive.org/
Schedules Direct URL: http://www.schedulesdirect.org/
ReplayTV announcement: http://www.digitalnetworksna.com/replaytv/