Date Confusion

I was looking through the ads in the newspaper yesterday morning and came across one I didn’t expect to see. The ad is for Value City Furniture and was titled “After Christmas Sale – Starts Today!”

Confused, I looked at my watch, and it was indeed only December 21st, 4 days before Christmas. Just to double check, I looked at the back of the ad and it said that sale prices were “in effect from receipt of circular through January 5th, 2009.”

I’m really not sure if the ad came early by accident or if the furniture companies really are getting that ruthless and have begun a new sort of post-Christmas-sale creep.

Rebuiding My Virtual Empire

I’ve been using virtualized systems for years now and finally began using Xen. Xen is similar to a bare-metal hypervisor like VMWare ESX but instead of using a proprietary host OS, Xen uses Linux. Most of the common Linux distros like Debian/Ubuntu, RHEL/Fedore/CentOS, etc provide support for Xen out of the box. I’m used to using Linux and have used it for years, so it just made sense.

Previously I had used VMWare Workstation for creating test servers, etc., but that required a full host operating system. For a while, I had used Windows, then I was using Linux, but it was still clunky. I had to manually start machines after reboot and if I upgraded the kernel on the host, I had to re-run some perl script to configure VMWare. After a while, I realized it was time to let go and do things the smart way, the Xen way. However, I do still use Parallels Desktop on my Mac just to have something available when I travel.

I have a custom server in my basement that I built a few years back and have modified over time. It has a 2TB RAID 5 array that I use for my network storage. It also has a dual-core AMD processor that I might swap out for a quad-core Phenom early next year. Just before rebuilding it as a Xen box, I upgraded the RAM to the maximum 8GB. Oh, and I added a 640GB drive to store my Xen machines.

I got the Xen Dom0 built the other week and have it running just enough to basically boot and allow me SSH access. This was really just a matter of doing a base install plus the Xen kernel and booting to the Xen kernel post-install. I kept the services to a minimum for security purposes and will run what’s needed off one of the DomU machines. Before I rebuilt this box with Xen, the host OS also doubled as the file and print server. This will be moved over to the first Xen DomU I create.

CentOS 5.2 comes with Xen 3.0 and unfortunately, none of the default repos have Xen built other than 3.0. Xen 3.0 is fairly outdated and I was looking to update to a more recent version to take advantage of the new features. The only options for updating were to upgrade/install from source or to use the wonderful Gitco repo that has a few Xen versions built for EL5 based operating systems.

I’m now the proud owner of a Xen box! I’ve learned quite a bit so far and have gotten my first DomU created. I’ll detail that more in a later post. I’m also looking at setting up Puppet to deploy and manage my machines. That’ll probably be the second DomU that I create.

Barcamp Philly

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend Barcamp Philly. It was my first Barcamp and it was an enjoyable experience. I met up with some old friends, Owen and Skippy, both of which I have not seen in the past 2-3 years. Technically, that’s not true, I saw Owen three weeks prior at CPOSC.

There were some good discussions and thankfully it wasn’t all “social media” topics like I’ve heard rumors of from other Barcamps. Most of the discussions I went to were good, and as usual, there were a few I wish I had skipped and a few I wish I had attended. The big one I missed was the discussion by Comcast Interactive Media where they discussed the web technologies and back end hardware used to power comcast.net.

One of my other favorites was “Building Better Web Developers – What Should Colleges be Teaching?” by Jason Wertz. Jason is a teacher at Montgomery County Community College and was looking to rebuild his cirriculum. There were a lot of bright minds at this and a lot of good ideas thrown around. Topics discussed included how to develop skill sets, what subject matter can be skipped as well as what subject matter isn’t being taught, but should be reqiured. It was interesting to see people there with very different backgrounds too. Some had just graduated, some had graduated 20 years ago. Come people had Computer Science degrees, and others had degrees nowhere relating to Computer Science.

Overall it was a good experience and I hope to go back if it is ever held again. Unfortunately I live in central Pennsylvania and there aren’t as many tech related conferences and thriving meetups in the area. Philadelphia has plenty going on, but it’s a 2 hour drive for me which is a bit too long to make on a regular basis.