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Computers, Science, Technology, Xen Virtualization, Hosting, Photography, The Internet, Geekdom And More

On Q&A And Broken Windows

Published on July 13, 2010 at midnight by XC

Have you ever driven through a bad neighborhood with lots of rubbish blowing about and felt less guilty than you would otherwise by throwing a banana peel out of your car window? Perhaps an empty soda can? If you have, you’ve demonstrated what we call the broken window theory. Not surprisingly, the theory also applies to digital real estate, if you can accept that term long enough to finish this brief essay.

When most people get in their cars, they have every intention of arriving at a specific place in a certain amount of time. Some people just get bored and go for a drive. The Internet works this way as well, you might boot up your computer and go straight to e-mail, or wander around a bit. In either metaphor, both people have equal chances of driving through the same ‘digital’ neighborhoods.

I’m digressing into metaphors, so lets get to the point. One of the broadest reasons people use the Internet is to gain some kind of knowledge, though some may not realize that hidden intention when they start. If you want knowledge, its most conveniently obtained by asking a question. Q&A sites help ensure that your natural “how do I ...” question works in search engines, by providing results that they can index.
If I go to Stack Overflow, I find lots of very interesting and specific programming questions. If I go to Super User, I find lots of questions related to using computers in general.

Yet Another Virtual Appliance

Published on Oct. 28, 2007 at midnight by XC

In my on-going effort to make the building blocks for a “poor man’s” cluster, I’ve decided to get to work on some virtual appliance images suitable for use with Xen (and possibly others).

Pound is a great load balancing tool. Its light weight, super easy to configure and pretty reliable. Depending on the kind of kernel used, pound can be setup to bind two separate load balancers to a single CVIP (cluster virtual IP).

There doesn’t appear to be any kind of control panel (web/GUI) for pound, nor could I find someone who has made any kind of an API for automation (for instance, 5 new http servers being added to the back end of host xyz.com). If you know of one, please e-mail me and point it out.

It would be neat to have a “ready to go” image with pound + APF and/or Shorewall featuring a basic web CP to control things with an API to allow scripts to update the load balancer / firewall. I’ve decided to begin work on one, most likely based on a very minimal install of Ubuntu Feisty (or later).
Pound won’t be hard to ‘wrap’, its rather easy to configure with straight forward simple text files. Pound supports many virtual hosts sharing a single CVIP and operates rather sensibly. I’ll likely store stuff in a sqlite database and make a utility to ‘spit out’ pound’s configuration files.

Wrapping APF will be a little time consuming (lots of sanity checks needed), but rather straight forward. As far as iptables wrappers go, APF is the king of simplicity.

New Mercurial Theme Brewing

Published on Oct. 24, 2007 at midnight by XC

For those of you who have not been a long term visitor of my web site (that I nicknamed “Rose Red”), I’ve been slowly but surely converting many scripts and applications to match my original XHTML 1.0 strict static design. You can see the site design notes if your really curious about what I’ve done. I named the site “Rose Red” because it tends to change 20-30 times a day while I work on it.

Today, the default Python Mercurial repository directory was converted over to PHP, mostly so that I could easily pull in things from the WordPress loop, thus allowing me to show recent blog entries along with the repository list. Special thanks to Paul for help getting the class put together.

I’m still not quite done, I might use magpie or simplepie to pull (via rss) some of the changelog to present in a list with each repo in the directory. Right now its just reading */.hg/hgrc like hgwebdir would do.

My next goal on my never ending road to geekdom: make a Mercurial theme (xhtml 1.0 strict) that matches my static pages. After studying Mercurial for months, I think that I’m finally ready to take on a theme.
I’ve been using the “Git” style for Mercurial because most people are used to its layout and functionality. I’ll probably stay close to the Gitweb theme, while bringing it into XHTML 1.0 strict standards and making it match my existing site. Since Echoreply is 100% CSS driven, it should be easy for anyone to modify to match their site (header and footer should do it in most cases).

Star Wars Television Series Planned

Published on Oct. 19, 2007 at midnight by XC

Associated Content is reporting that George Lucas is now working on the foundation for a Star Wars television series. Who says that there is nothing good in the news these days?
According to Lucas, the new television series will share the same galaxy as the Star Wars movies, however none of the well known characters will appear or be mentioned in the new series. Lucas wants to focus on the tech and robotics while gardening many other plots that could exist in the Star Wars galaxy.
Viewers of course have high expectations for the series, Lucas appears to be taking great care to ensure that the series has the neat Star Wars feel to it and keep us entertained. I am so sick of reality programming that I’d watch this new series even if it didn’t feel the same as the movies.

You see, if Darth Vader was simply ‘voted off’ of the Death Star, the world would be a very boring place. I hope that this series does well and producers wake up to the fact that geeks can’t stand reality programming. Since being a geek is now (finally) the trendy thing to be, you – my production friends must welcome your ‘sorda smelly’ overlords.

The confines of a small screen (yes, even your monster sized television is small compared to a movie screen) will be interesting to overcome. Lucas is being rather tight-lipped about how he plans to pull it off. I haven’t found word yet on an expected kick-off date for the series, however I’m sure that it will be heavily advertised and promoted.

George, thanks for giving us something good to watch. I can’t wait to see how the series is shaped

Category: Future Presents

Radiohead Is Using Their Head

Published on Oct. 2, 2007 at midnight by XC

Radiohead announced that fans will get to pay what they want, if they want for the upcoming album In Rainbows due out on October 10 (which happens to be my birth day!).

What Radiohead is going to do comes very close to what free software authors have been doing with our products for years. We make stuff that is completely free and give it away. Free to download, use and share, not just free as in cost-less. Many of us make money from making things free, we find creative ways to package our stuff (such as nice printed manuals, boxed sets with lots of programs, customizing it, etc). Radiohead is going to make some really nice boxed sets that contain the new album on CD (its release will be high quality .MP3) as well as other things related to the album that they can sell.

Some people are arguing that moves like this by recording artists will drastically cut the value of music as a whole. Value comes in more forms than money. We value our parents, our children, our hobbies, we also value our culture of which music is a significant contributor. Intellectual Property is a mirage, a misnomer, a ghost that we have been chasing with bad (and far reaching) effects on our culture. I would really like to meet someone who was solely responsible for shaping their intellect, such a person would be quite remarkable as they would have been born on a deserted island with no parents or human contact.

Php Glue – Install Applications Easily Without Fantastico

Published on Sept. 25, 2007 at midnight by XC

I’ve been sitting on the domain phpglue.com for over a year while wondering what in the heck I want to do with it. I often register domain names because they are interesting without much of a plan of what to do with the domain once registered.

Quite a bit of my time lately has gone into making free replacements for proprietary programs used by the Web Hosting industry. Companies that offer hosting need to be able to modify their software in order to tailor their offerings to the unique needs of their customers. Proprietary software that does not allow you to modify the source code ties the hands of the industry.

A popular program is named Fantastico, all this thing does is allow you to install free web applications with a few clicks. Fantastico has an update feature, to keep your software up to date, however this breaks if you modify your free software. A good example would be Joomla, PHPbb or others.

I’m going to download all 40 + programs that Fantastico enables you to install and create Mercurial repositories of each one. These repositories will be hosted on phpglue.com available to anyone for free. As these applications update, I’ll update the repository.

I’ll then make a simple wrapper that helps hosts install and configure Mercurial correctly so that it is available to clients. Clients then simply use a familiar web application to get their scripts and install them.

The beauty of using Mercurial for this is the ability to merge.

Gnupanel – Poised To Replace C-Panel/Whm?

Published on Sept. 25, 2007 at midnight by XC

One of the things I have been spending as much time as possible to advance lately is GNUPanel, a from scratch GNU-centric web hosting control and automation system, very similar to C-Panel. C-Panel is a proprietary web hosting control system produced by Cpanel, Inc.

Most of us know, one server is simply not enough. The emergence of social network and social bookmark services have added a new ingredient of unpredictability in the hosting industry. Out of the blue, Digg or Slashdot can and will drive millions of visitors to a web site, usually crippling the servers hosting the web site. Web hosts must be able to ‘scale’ to meet demands for their customers in such a way that customers pay for only what they use. I talk about this need more in another post.

C-Panel and (most other) proprietary control systems do not like the idea of ‘clustering’ (many computers teaming up to do one task) because it is very difficult for them to determine fair licensing costs. I once had the difficult task of erecting a 50 server cluster which used only one instance of C-Panel. This means, 50 servers ran, however, the host paid only for one license. This was not an intentional means of ‘ducking’ license fees, the host had plenty of money.. if we installed C-Panel on each computer, all cluster services broke, or we could not modify C-Panel’s behavior to lend well to clustered services (such as e-mail).