VMWare Server 2.0 – Initial Review

I've
been a big fan of the VMWare server product for a while now. I started
out with the issue where I was running a multi-server environment at
home. I always thought it was a good idea to have at least one spare
environment to act as a redundant as I was constantly experimenting. As
my concepts became more complex, the number of machines grew and at
some point, I couldn't afford to keep up with the number of machines
required to operate both my home management environment and my lab
environment.

Then my friend, Camille, introduced me to VMWare
server, which was launched as an open-sourced product. I was on a home
refresh cycle anyway, so I decided to upgrade my home environment to
the then newly launched AMD X2 3800+ cpu running the Windows Server
2003 operating system. I rebuilt my entire environment from ground up.
After 6 months, I discovered that there was a serious flaw in my design
for Operations by using Windows Server 2003 as the underlying server
for the virtual machines (vm) and this was most apparent on Microsoft
Patch Tuesday of every month. Secondly, I had a very difficult time
with my AMD machines. So I used this opportunity to go to Intel Quad
Core on the 64 bit version of Ubuntu Linux. The migration of the VMs
were flawless. From that point on, I was sold on VMWare Server.

VMWare
Server released version 2.0 recently. Overall, it is an improvement to
1.0.x of the product. For one, the install seems to be simpler. It
bundles both the server and management user interface install on Ubuntu
in one script. I couldn't get the mui to work consistently with any of
my versions of Ubuntu. For 2.0, it worked flawlessly. The other change
is that the server console is now web based which is different from the
client-based consoles which was used before. This has both pros and
cons. It's much easier to now manage and access vms without the need to
install the console client on multiple desktops. On the other hand,
VMWare seems to have changed the way you locate VMs. They've created a
concept called storage where all vms created are stored in the root
directory of your storage directory. I typically create mount points
for each of the external drives that I attached to my server and
mounted them as sub-directories to the default vm folder. There is no
way to select a sub-folder in the interface and I would have to create
a new storage location. What makes this especially tricky is that you
can't chooses a sub directory of an existing storage folder as a new
storage folder. While it makes sense, it's a bit of a conundrum for me.

It's
hard to compare versions of the MUI because mine was never stable
enough to do any thorough testing. However, the features which I really
like now that it is working are that I can sequence which vms boot up
first. This is particularly useful because in my windows environment, I
prefer the Active Directory come up before any other machines come up.
The other thing which I like is that I can control the shutdown
behaviour of the vms. In my environment, I am able to set the vms to
suspend to disk rather than shut down when the host shuts down. The
reason why this is useful is that the only time I forsee me not
manually shutting down a vm is during a power outage in which case, I
would like the vms to shutdown as quickly as possible.

I like
the idea of abstracting the hardware in building out my environments
and vmware has served me well in that regard. So far, it's been a lot
easier for me to recover from outages because I usually have a backup
of a VM somewhere. The abstraction of hardware has allowed me to
quickly port a machine from one physical machine to the next with
minimal effort on my part. It's also allowed me to build and test new
software easily, painlessly and more importantly safely. Recovering
from a botched install is often as easy as just copying a base vm image
and starting again.

Sent from my Windows Mobile® phone.

Digsby – Initial Review

digsby

I've always been an instant messaging fiend and lately I've found myself leaving the Trillian Astra alpha for Digsby. Lately Trillian has been a bit flakey for me. I had a really bizarre problem where whenever I have Trillian running and if I plugged in a USB device, Windows Media Player would crash. If you can follow that, you'll realize how bizarre it is. It took me a really long time to isolate that issue and that involved reinstalling the laptop. So I decided to give Digsby a try.

After all the random problems I had with Trillian, Digsby was a welcomed change. There's really nothing not to like about Digsby. Digsby was also a tool that more closely matched my life and interests. I love how it integrates all of my instant messengers and it also consolidates my social networks and emails all in one client. It's puts my entire communication universe all in one tool.
For the most part, Digsby works like most of the multi-headed instant messengers. You can log on to MSN, Gtalk, Yahoo, AIM, ICQ, and Jabber. It also includes integration with Facebook chat but it's slightly delayed especially if you have Facebook chat open on the browser as well. Although Trillian Alpha implemented the Facebook chat feature as well, I couldn't seem to get it to work without crashing. What makes Facebook chat integration important is really that it broadens the audience of the friends I can chat to. A lot of people who are hesitant to instant message using the traditional applications such as MSN or Yahoo are often more than happy to message using Facebook. Go figure. Both Pidgin and Trillian allow you to merge multiple contacts into one contact but Digsby is the only one that I've figured out how to priotize if a contact has multiple IMs. So for instance, if someone I know is on Yahoo, MSN and Gtalk but I prefer to talk to them on Gtalk whereever possible, I can make the individual's Gtalk client be the default.
Digsby built quite a powerful email client within it's product and the integration with the IM client is quite seamless. You can interact with any contact through email, IM or SMS from the chat window.

The way I set up Digsby is that I have my email and social network accounts show up as bars at the bottom of the IM client. When you hover on the account bar, it lists the last 50 odd interactions of each account. With the email accounts, I can mark an email as read, mark as spam and delete it.

Overall, I personally think Digsby is the new king of multiheaded Instant Messenger clients. It's done a great job capturing how people use it today by integrating instant messenger with email and social networks. It is the killer social networking tool of today.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

New Beginnings

The old thekunit.com is gone. In the past, I’ve been using DotNetNuke and I’ve decided to move to BlogEngine.NET for various reasons. DotNetNuke was great in it’s way; it was rich with a lot of basic features but unfortunately the features never worked to how I would have liked them to be. Towards the end, I was using DotNetNuke mostly as a blogging tool. In the version that I was using, DNN’s Blog module did support categories but did not support tagging. The other feature which I’ve been dying to try was the ability to blog using Flock. It’s one of the key reasons why I started the migration to Flock as my primary browser. Another driving reason, is that over time, I’d like to reduce my dependency on Microsoft tools for the backend in my house. And this is the first step towards that.

On top of technology changes, Friday was also an end of an era for me as I start my new job on Monday as well. I’ve left the Ministry of Health to work on a startup called Zoocasa.com. It’s a real-estate search engine focusing on Canadian Real Estate to begin with. It’s an exciting move for me as it’s the first time in a long while that I’ll be involved in technology projects and hopefully an opportunity to explore and implement some web 2.0 concepts and ideas.