Tue, 27 Mar 2007
VMWare Free Converter - First Thoughts
While we're a Xen shop I've always been a VMWare fan and I had the chance to take a look at the free (as in beer) VMWare Converter Starter today. We've got a couple of old Windows machines with no installation documents or run books so when working towards making them reproducible grabbing a whole system image is a great first step.
The first machine I tried it on has a very unhappy hard drive (yes, it's my work laptop) and the converter refused to play past 5% of the disk; me thinks it's time to verify my backups. The second machine was a Windows 2000 server (amusingly running VMWare server). The converter required a reboot (which it didn't on the laptop running Windows XP) after installation but made an image afterwards without any complaints and with the machine up and running.
I've not had the time to fully dig in to how well this'll work on the more awkward machines (boxes with more than 2 CPUs, apps that expect hardware access, VMWare tools not installed etc.) but the image of my trial machine (which was written out to a UNC path) came up quite quickly and all the settings I checked were correct.
I like the tool, it provides a nice revertable image for me to dissect so I can work out what's on the machines with out being a resource drain on the live servers. It's simple to use, has a nice GUI, a great price tag and will make a painful task a lot simpler. In a worst case scenario the images can also be pushed in to service as a stop gap in order to reduce the MTTR of the original servers. Oh, you can also use it to help bootstrap server consolidation, but that'll never take off... ;)
Sun, 17 Apr 2005
jMemorize Doesn't Store Cards as Binary Data.
Back at the end of March I made a comment about jMemorize Cards being stored as binary. Well I was completely wrong and it's time to retract my statement.
Riad Djemili, the author of jMemorize, was kind enough to send me an email pointing out that I was completely wrong (and he was very polite about it!) and that the cards are actually just gzipped XML. Which addresses pretty much the only problem I had with this otherwise very nice piece of software. Since being told this I've had another play with jMemorize and it should be perfect for the simple card decks I need to create.
Fri, 01 Apr 2005
whois.sc -- IE Addressbar Search
While it's often handy to be able to look up the ownership details of a domain name a lot of the online services have implemented little graphical images which you need to read and then type into a text box before you can actually get the results back. I recently found a new one, Whois Source that allows you to specify the domain in the URL. This makes the service both simple to use from the browser and easy to integrate in to third party programs.
Below is a registry entry that will add the whois keyword to the IE address bar. You can either select the text below, save it locally with a '.reg' extension and then double click or just save the whois_sc.reg file. Once you've got the extension installed, type 'whois www.google.com' in the address bar and you'll be whisked off to the whois.sc information for that site.
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00 [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\SearchUrl\whois] @="http://www.whois.sc/%s"
Warning: This changes your registry which is never fully safe. You use this at your own risk.
Fri, 25 Mar 2005
I saw a piece on jMemorize over at unixreview and decided to have a little play. Quick download, runs from the Jar, OK GUI. Not bad on a cursory glance.
I then built a small set of cards as a sample and had a play. Finishing off I saved the card stack and decided to have a look at the file it created, I'd like to generate my flash-cards from existing docs I have so an easy to write format would be excellent. Except jMemorize saves its documents as a binary format! I'm assuming that it's just serialising the stack object out, which means I have no chance of ever exporting any effort I put in or mass generating decks.
Wed, 09 Mar 2005
Not the Official Yellow Fade Technique -- But it works.
A while ago I wrote a post on the very excellent Yellow Face Technique (unixdaemon post), a slick bit of browser-based UI that made it easier to track changes on the page.
The nice (and patient!) people over at i am jack's design were kind enough to send me a link answering my challenge for usable code. And it seems to work fine! Go and have a look at the Yellow Fade technique -- iamjacksdesign version code and demo; it's worth five minutes of your time and visitors to your site will thank you...
Sat, 18 Dec 2004
IE Blog -- Off the Reading List
I've got a page of Internet Explorer Plugins on Unixdaemon.net, while none of them are complex they do seem to be both useful and quite popular (over 30,000 downloads in the last five months... not too bad :)) and so I have a fair amount of interest in IE despite being a very happy FireFox user.
Now Microsoft have decided to make themselves more open and transparent, and part of this includes something called the IE Blog, a site I subscribed to about a day after it started. In my view IE is an area of MS that I'd expect to have a fair bit of activity, it's used by a high percentage of the 'net, FireFox and Mozilla are beating at its door and, lets be honest, it's an excellent example of how to not do secure coding. From phishing attacks, broken code separation and huge numbers of vulnerable automation interfaces this is hardly a stable, mature and boring project; although that's the impression you get from reading the IE blog.
For a description of what they were willing to talk about have a look at the What we talk about on IEBlog posting (coincidently written by a guy named Dean) and then have a browse through the archives. See if you can find any more than one thing per month that's actually worth reading and not just faff. While most of the MS blogs are excellent and help promote the company this one is a good example of how not to run a corporate blog; it feels too clean, sanitised and well, dead. One less feed for me to read.
Sun, 12 Dec 2004
VMWare 5 Beta Reveals New Features
Firstly I need to try and get on to the VMWare beta program instead of only reading about the neat new changes from articles like Flexbetas Inside VMWare Workstation 5.0 Beta. Secondly I'd like to get my hands on this release for two main reasons, firstly the ability to stop and start groups of machines at once would make testing certain sets of machines (webserver and database server used by it for storage) a lot nicer.
The second one is less immediate, I'm a big fan of Jon Udells ScreenCasting and VMWare now provide the ability to record an AVI of the guest machine and I'd like to get a feel for the quality and the size of th movies produced.
Mon, 01 Nov 2004
What do VMWare Workstation, Windows Media Player and the Windows Volume Control have in common?
They each annoy me on a daily basis.
I use VMWare on a daily basis, it's a top notch product that saves me a lot of grief whether I'm writing applications, testing programs for release or playing with services/daemons such as Apache or Postfix and conducting what-ifs but I've recently noticed a small glitch that is driving me nuts. When ever I open a new VMWare instance and I'm listening to music the volume goes up by a fair amount, I've never noticed this before so it may be new or it maybe I've just never noticed over the hum of the servers and the whine of the project managers.
Next up in my list of small annoyances is WMP, why does this application ALWAYS try and 'help' me by changing the window size? It either maximises the window if it's a newly opened instance or it almost maximises if the window was already open anything under a full screen.
Lastly in this little rant is the Windows Volume Control applet, when you open this the widget that gets the focus, by default, is the volume control balance. Now this may not seem like an annoyance but if i hit the scroll wheel on my mouse, and I always have a scroll mouse, then its setting changes and not the more logical volume. Lets look at usage patterns for a second, what is more likely in day to day use, you need to alter the setup so the right speaker is a little quieter or that you actually want to change the volume?
None of these are really show-stopping bugs or stop me from using the programs but the really annoying part is that if they were open source I could change the code and make it all better, even if only for myself.
Thu, 14 Oct 2004
Google Desktop Released.
Do you want top notch searching on your local machine? Do you want lightening fast results on your (non-commercial; read the EULA!) desktop? Do you want people to stop blogging about the Google Desktop Search?
Well the answer to number three is probably going to be yes pretty soon! I've not had enough time to form any real opinions yet but it does look pretty cool so go and have a play, it'll make the abscense of WinFS easier to bear :)
Wed, 08 Sep 2004
Open Office - It's the little things
My current employer uses Adobe software to print PDFs from a number of programs, Visio, Project, Word and Excel are prime examples. In a valiant attempt to avoid giving Adobe more money we decided to have a look elsewhere and see what was available for Windows users.
It didn't take long to notice OpenOffice, it has document compatibility with Word and Excel and integrated PDF printing; it's just not very good. Here is an example using Excel, you select the current worksheet and click the print PDF button. It prints all worksheets. You then start digging and select Tools - Options - Spreadsheet - Print - Print only selected sheets. This works for normal printing but not from the PDF button. This is where you look at Word in a new light.
You then do some googling and discover Print Single worksheet as PDF. Then comes the head scratching and the cursing. If you select File > Export as PDF you get to name the file AND THEN you can choose the worksheets to print. ARGH!
I'll skip the bit about OpenOffice not displaying the document styles properly and leave my few remaining hairs where they are.