Wednesday, 31 January 2007

New monitor (Iiyama 22" widescreen minireview)

After working with an Iiyama 17" CRT for the last few years, I recently decided to upgrade to a TFT; something that uses a bit less power and takes up a lot less space. I've always thought highly of Iiyama as a manufacturer and decided to get their new 22" widesceen LCD.

It's a nice piece of kit.

The screen is big (obviously) and runs at a pleasant 1680x1050, which although not as high as my work laptop (1980x1600), is very comfortable to work with. It's amazing how much more desktop there is to work with...

There's not a lot else for me to say about it - colours are bright, resolution good, it's got a black casing which fits in nicely with my black Shuttle next to it. All in all, I'm pleased with this purchase and hope it'll last as long as the trusty (and yellowed) CRT.

Friday, 5 January 2007

Getting Virtual

As someone who has spent the last 5+ years specifying and building servers, the shift to a virtual environment has been... interesting. From the moment I first heard about SAN technologies and, later, virtualisation, it's made a lot of sense. However, it's only in the last month or so, when taking a step back and thinking things through has the true potential hit me.

(Apologies to those who are quicker than I am; I'm sure this will cause a few people to go "duh!").

Previously, when asked to specify a server, a number of metrics would be considered: Processor load, memory requirements, disk usage and performance. These would be totted up and a server specified. The result is a server room with a large number of servers, most of them 1U, sitting idle for the majority of the time while waiting to run a single service. Of course, when it came to adding more disk, this was often a problem as the previously specified server is now full (typically a 1U server would be specified as more would be overkill... until the upgrade is required).

The implementation of a SAN therefore made a lot of sense. By consolidating all storage into a central location, disks can be added and distributed as necessary. The first use of the SAN was quite reactive and basically involved assigning a bunch of disk to a box for file serving. The second server to use the SAN basically took so much disk (24x73GB FC disks) that the effect was the same as adding the arrays directly. The next step however will be more intelligent - to effectively utilise a SAN, I think you need to provision the storage up front so that you can proactively assign it when needed.

The same applies I think to virtualisation. I've spent a couple of weeks now working on the detail of a new server room infrastructure that is virtual. Getting my head around the idea that I no longer need to be specifying specific servers, but rather capacity, has taken some mental adjustment. The result is a breakdown of a server into components that units can purchase, starting with a basic server (1xCPU, 512MB RAM, 1x36GB disk) and then scaling up as necessary.

So today, I plan to take a close look at specifying a couple of servers that are meaty enough to host a number of virtual machines. I was originally looking at the Sun Fire X4100 - a 1U server capable of supporting 2 x dual core Opteron processors. Having spent a bit of time getting to grips with the possibility of creating a large number of servers as necessary, the X4600 (capable of 8 x dual core Opterons) seems more appealing, as additional capacity can be bought at a later date.

All exciting stuff...

Wednesday, 3 January 2007

Synchronising - progress so far

Got back to work this morning and setup Yahoo! Intellisync. Now got it working synchronising my Outlook to my Yahoo Calendar, Address Book and Notepad. All good so far.

Tried yesterday to get Evolution working with my Palm. Managed to get a backup of the Palm using pilot-xfer, and also got sync working with Kpilot, but gnome-pilot just doesn't want to work. It just sits there when I try and sync and eventually times out. Will do some more investigation...

Monday, 1 January 2007

Synchronising my life

I've been a Palm user for years - originally starting with the Pilot Personal before upgrading to the M500 and now the Tungsten T3 which I use today. For a long time, I tried to keep my personal life and work life separately, but one day realised I was spending too much time and effort entering the same data twice.

It was also around this time that I became fully acquainted with Outlook and started sharing my calendar with colleagues, managing my time using appointments etc. Synchronising with the Palm made a lot of sense, and I abandoned my previous attempts to delineate my life and embrace a joined up world. I effectively made Outlook the hub of my organising and started syncing the Palm with it (instead of Palm Desktop). The advantage of using Outlook in this way is that everything connects with it. I was then able to install my phone sync software (for the Sony Ericsson K800i) and ensure my contacts on my phone were up to date.

The problems I have at the moment is that my Linux box at home has nothing to do with my schedule, and there is no easy way to communicate my schedule with my fiancé.

Having spent a couple of days looking at the problem, I'm going to attempt the following:

1) Use Evolution instead of Thunderbird for email, and Palm sync to it for calendar, tasks and contacts. This is primarily because the PIM component of Thunderbird (Lightning - a reworking of Sunbird into an extension) isn't ready yet and cannot do Palm syncing.

2) Use Intellisync to connect Outlook to Yahoo Calendar and grant my fiancé read (and write..?) access to it.

This means that there is a danger of the Yahoo Calendar becoming out of date if I'm not at work, but it seems like the easiest way to do it.

This whole exercise has proven several things to me - most importantly that there is no easy way to share data that doesn't involve Outlook. It really has become the de facto schedule management software.

Also, I've learnt that Yahoo Calendar does not provide an automated way of reading the calendar as an iCalendar file. Also, Google Calendar does not provide any form of synchronisation beyond initial import/export of data.

If there is ever going to be a decent Open Source replacement for Microsoft Office, a worthy cross platform competitor to Outlook is needed. Hopefully Thunderbird/Lightning will be it and they'll get the Palm sync sorted.

The above seems like the most straightforward, but I'm also aware of Funambol - a potential server side solution which I might get around to investigating if Plan A doesn't work.