Categories
Ubuntu Web Development

Ubuntu (7.04) on HP Proliant DL385 G2 Server

2 word summary = Works well! -Here’s a picture of one of the boxes I got in for work recently:

HP Proliant DL385 Server

Thought I’d share a few notes…

Firstly these don’t appear to ship with Optical drives as standard as (after talking to my friend who works at HP) most large customers use network based deployment systems to install the OS.

Not an issue though – just get hold of a USB CD or DVD drive to do the install from. Once I got hold of one of those everything just worked. RAID (using very flashy 2.5″ SAS drives), Ethernet everything – so thought I’d document that as when I ordered not much came up on a Google search for this specific model. And is working well after 3 months of use as a LAMP and SVN server.

Currently we are using 2 in my dev team – one for Wiki and SVN and another to host our LAMP Development work on a central box – Apache 2.2, MySQL 5.0 and PHP 5.2 – having a central development box really helps when working together (I will write an article on that in due course!).

The iLO feature on these boxes is quite cool too – for those of you that don’t know iLO (Integrated Lights out) is basically a mini server inside the server that has its own Ethernet network connection – you can use a web based interface to boot, reboot or even install an Operating System – if you have the relevant HP software). Very handy – particularly when the server isn’t in the same area as you!

At 7city we ordered IBM xSeries servers for LAMP use but those generally needed a little bit of fiddling to work on Linux (an X336 required a Kernel parameter so it would shutdown/reboot properly) none of that needed with these HPs – they just work – very impressed.

Categories
Technology

Work on the real Oliver’s Yard is underway!

My new home office setup is starting to take shape!

Olivers Yard under Construction

New black Ikea desk looks good (well what you can see of it anyway!) was pretty cheap and matches my chair pretty well. Going to have lots of space for all my kit once I’ve got it organised! A new black 20″ Widescreen monitor (probably a Samsung) is definitely going on the Xmas wish list!

p.s. Shame the blinds are shut as you’d get to see the Woods out of the window – when its finished I’ll take a day shot!

Categories
Life Technology

Organising your online life using Google Browser Sync in Firefox

Use of Bookmarks Toolbar folder, RSS feeds, Ta-Dah lists, some organisation and Google Browser Sync to keep your online life on track!

I find that its all too easy to endlessly surf the web from page to page making discovery after discovery but obviously this is very time consuming. I found that my browsing would match my thought patterns – jumping and connecting topics from one page to the next – quite often afraid to stop in the fear that I would loose my great surfing session(!!) Quite often this ends up with late night and my long suffering (well not that long – only 2 years!) wife getting annoyed by me staying up late!

So I’ve made an effort to organise my web browsing a bit more – I’ve heard of techniques such as making a list of things you want to do on the web and sticking to it (hmm I do love lists!) but I have come up with something a bit more high tech which is working well for me. Also with web applications and colloboration sites sometimes you don’t have fixed objectives in that way!

Basically it involves making the Links toolbar on firefox work for you a bit more. If you haven’t heard of Google Browser Sync I suggest you check it out (with the usual privacy disclaimer): http://www.google.com/tools/firefox/browsersync/ its a Firefox plugin (rather than an Internet Explorer one). This is really useful by itself if you use several machines to get on the net (eg one in the office, laptop, desktop at home) but when you start to organise your links toolbar too it really start to become handy.

Click on this screenshot for a better idea of what I am on about:

Google Browser Sync

I use the top level of the links toolbar as links I am looking at the moment type area (these then get dragged to sub folder in my bookmarks – which I have thoroughly organised!). Under the different headings I then have:

  • News sites (BBC etc)
  • Personal (sites I visit most frequently eg facebook.com linkedin.com)
  • a Dev folder (for sites I am developing/working on) this could be called projects
  • To Do folder which you can see in the screenshot – which makes use of the Live Bookmarks featute which lets you take a list of summaries (known as RSS) I am using Ta Dah lists here – a great Web 2.0 app for keeping lists -n below is it in action in more detail:
    Ta-dah lists
  • AEA – my work place has a range of Intranets and other sites (an Intranet project is one of my potential future projects part of which would be consolidation and integration which will hopefully render this one obsolete!)
  • Web Dev Docs – quick access to things like the PHP and MySQL manuals, the Zend Framework docs, various other specs.

Hopefully this is food for thought and you’ve come across a few things here!

Categories
MS Windows Vista 7, 8 etc Sony Stuff Technology

Sony Vaio SZ review and Vista Notes

Sony Vaio VGN-SZ3HP Overall Review

I knew it was time to replace my ageing HP Omnibook when some of the keys stopped working (well actually stopped working in combination with the shift key – which is really strange!). This time I knew I wanted something far more portable that the 15” desktop replacement that the Omnibook 6000 was – as I’d be using this on my train commute into London every day*. And although I wanted a small notebook I didn’t want to comprise too much on performance -hence the dual core & nVidia powered SZ3 appealed…

Ollie’s Vaio SZ3 running Ubuntu

 

I am often asked for purchasing advice on laptops and Sony is often my response – mainly on reputation as I have never owned one until now. People often say with a Sony you are paying the brand name – whilst this is true to a degree I also think you are paying for R&D and build quality. This certainly comes through with the Sony SZ3 – a well thought out compact & light but powerful notebook.

The SZ3HP is the entry level machine – with a slightly lower spec than that of the top of the line models mainly in processor and memory terms. I couldn’t justify spending much over the £1K mark and didn’t feel you got much more for quite a bit more money. The higher spec model is a different colour and has a fingerprint scanner, is marginally lighter with a thiner screen – quite how they can make it thinner than mine is beyond belief!

See the Vaio site for full specs and info on the SZ range (I see they are now on to the SZ5! I should have published this article sooner!)

Some of the nice features the SZ has are:

  • Dual Performance modes “Stamina” and “Speed” – with a switch to change between – requiring a reboot to changeover – this mainly changes between the Nvidia graphics and the on board Intel graphics.
  • Screen Mounted Webcam – not particularly high res but works well for MSN etc
  • Performance – both in speed and usability – for example the screen is excellent.
  • Design and looks – never fails to get comments from people – as it is a very nice looking machine!

Some of the annoyances are:

As shipped the Hard Disk has been split into 3 volumes – one for System use, and a C: and D: drive. Although I have now re-partioned the machine and dual boot Ubuntu and Vista (got the upgrade via a free deal)

Some of the Vaio software nags you quite a lot unnecessarily

Lack of a physical volume control or mute button like I had on the Omnibook. As it can be annoying when you realise you’ve just booted the thing up on the train and the Windows startup sound is about to play full volume! The only way of changing the volume is via the Fn+F4 and F5 keys which don’t work until your in Windows! I have just discovered you can assign muting to the S1 button – but this can be a bit flaky.

Slightly rattle to the battery – there is a small amount of play in the batter which slides into the back. This might just be my machine (and maybe I should have returned it – but couldn’t be bothered for such a small thing)

Initially it took a while to get used to the keyboard – as it was quite different the HP – the keys are bigger (strangely for a smaller machine!) and surprisingly there is a bit of flex in the keyboard – but I don’t really notice now I’ve been using it for a while. I got on better with the trackpad better than I was expecting (it better than most of the trackpads I’ve used before) to although on occasions I do miss the trackpoint (IBM Thinkpad stick style mouse) that the HP has. I use it in the Speed mode most of the time (apart from on really long journeys) as that gives well over an hour of battery life with good performance. I have managed to get over 5 hours out of the machine in Stamina though (on a trip back from France) using it mainly to read some documents, but also some image editing in Photoshop.

In terms of performance the machine has amazed me – dual core really is impressive – unfortunately with Windows I suspect that 1 core is used to power Windows and its inefficiencies and the other for your applications! It certainly runs a lot cooler and quieter whilst doing nothing on Linux than on Vista! The application that my desktop has been struggling with – Adobe Premiere Elements – runs well – again I think Dual core helps here.

Haven’t played many games apart from a short spell with Secondlife (which I gave up after a few hours – after realising I just don’t have time for games anymore!) which worked better than I expected – the nVidia graphics chip is pretty good.

Vista Notes

Okay so currently I can’t get the Webcam working under Vista (I probably just need to have a bit more of a play with the drivers but so far no joy)

Runs noiser and hotter under Vista than XP or Ubuntu Linux

General Vista issues

– Some software not working (or having to be hacked to get working – like 4oD)

Wireless gets disconnected everytime you lock your notebook (using the Windows Key and L)

More to follow when I can remember them / they annoy me again!

* As it turns out I am no longer doing that commute, but its useful having a truely portable notebook and as I plan to cycle commute the light weight and small size will come in handy!

Categories
MS Windows Vista 7, 8 etc Technology

Almost £1000 for Vista and Office Ultimate – what a bargain!

Couldn’t help but rant about this “offer” for Windows Vista and Office Ultimate edition(s) I saw on Amazon:

Vista and Office Ultimate Bundle Deal

I think £777.46 is expensive enough – but it illustrates quite how much (£969.98) you could Spend on just Windows and Office with Microsoft! I was amazed so thought I’d share!

Just think of the PC / laptop you could buy with that cash – with which you could buy the OEM versions of the above and save loads (look up Vista OEM on somewhere like Ebuyer.com or Dabs.com). Or if you can do away with Windows altogether – use Ubuntu and OpenOffice

I doubted the usability of Open Office until a few months ago – when I installed it on my parents new PC – they said that they haven’t really noticed the difference! They also said “how can they get away with doing this? Its exactly like MS Office!” Looks like MS might be trying to address that with its recent patent rumblings then!

Categories
Linux Technology Wireless

(Debian) Linux support quoted on the box of a product

This is the first time I’ve seen this (see the line highlighted in Orange) obviously I’ve seen Redhat or SuSE before but this is good to see. Hopefully we’ll start seeing Ubuntu too. (Ubuntu is Debian based but many users won’t know that – or care for that matter!)

Edimax Wireless USB - Debian Linux Supported

I also think its comedy that they’ve mistyped Mandrake as Mandark! For those of you that don’t know Mandrake is another Linux distribution that aims to be easy to use.

Talking of things that are good to see hopefully the Dell Ubuntu Store will be in Europe before too long!

Categories
Linux Sony Stuff Technology Ubuntu

Ubuntu on the Sony Vaio SZ3

Full post to come on this but a summary – 99% of the features of the laptop (nVidia Graphics, Wireless, Mouse etc) all work out of the box (no messing about at all – it just works!) with Ubuntu Linux 7.04 aka “Feisty Faun”!

Ollie’s Vaio SZ3 running Ubuntu

I am really impressed with Ubuntu 7 – its a very well polished piece of software and what with the news of Dell announcing Ubuntu as a supported/pre-installed operating system in the US I think its starting to reach a level of maturity that makes Linux more accessible to the average user – interesting times…

When I did a google I found a link to related model. I have yet to try out all of its suggestions (such as detecting what graphics card is switched on – from the Stamina/Speed selector switch and changing the X config) but as I learn more I’ll update this post.

Hmm looks like this question on Launchpad might get the Webcam working.

Categories
Linux Samba Ubuntu

Ubuntu Server Kernel Opps turned out to be faulty memory

The title of this one says it all really, but after spending hours scratching my head with a office file server I built for L.S.A. Ltd (www.travelf1.com) late last year I found the solution to the crashes that started occuring a couple of weeks ago.

See this Ubuntu Server Crash Output file – for the error message that was appearing basically it was a Kernel Oops that occurred when large files were being copied/transferred via samba. It turned out to one of the memory DIMMs going weird which I discovered after having the idea to run a Memtest on the machine (Memtest is available as a boot option when starting up a Ubuntu machine). At first I suspected the software RAID 1 but that’s actually been rock solid on this box and on my home Ubuntu server too.

Categories
MS Windows Vista 7, 8 etc Samba

Using Vista Offline Files with a Samba Share

So after tearing my hair out for the last week with Vista – almost to the point when I was going to put Windows XP back on – I have finally got Vista Offline files working with my Samba shares…

I like to move the My Documents folder on each of my machines from the C: drive to a network share that lives on my Linux file server – on my laptop I make that available offline – in case I am away from home etc. On Windows XP this was fine and worked pretty well. I recently upgraded to Vista and mapped the drive for my home directory – all good made it available offline (or “Always available offline” as Vista now calls it). It did its initial sync and all was good.

Next time I logon (and after making sure I am connected to the network) I go back to my network drive to make sure its working online – and nope it isn’t! I make sure I can ping the machine – thats okay and I can access the share online if I access the machine by its ip – \\192.168.1.4\share. Very weird and very frustrating!

Whilst searching for the solution I came across some useful info on making sure Samba is setup correctly for offline files (mainly to do with oplocks – see below for a useful link).

Anyway tonight I have a brain wave whilst looking at Vista’s user management stuff and reading some more stuff on the net. It turns out that Vista’s offline files works per user rather than per share and as a result is more reliant on usernames and passwords. My Samba share uses a different password to my vista login. So I made them the same – and hey presto it works!

So in summary if using offline files in Vista make sure your usernames and passwords match. I also think I’ve seen something under the user accounts section that lets you link in different user account details – but I haven’t tried that yet. Here is a screenshot.
Vista Network Password Screenshot

Vista Offline Files Samba Settings Link Broken as of June 08 ;-(

Categories
Technology

Ollie’s on the blogwagon!

I’ve held off for a while but now it seems that everyone has a blog these days! Scott Mills said on Radio 1 the other day that some people are even posting as their Cat’s on My Space… all very strange!

Anyway I’ve had quite a few things I’ve wanted to share on the web over the last few years but its always been such a hassle to get them online (mainly articles on techy stuff that others might find useful) hopefully using a blog will make it less painful!

Hopefully (if time permits) I plan on putting articles up on my experiences with Linux, Web Development, Mountain Biking & Life in general!

Let me know what you think of the design of the site – I’m not 100% happy with it – but it will do for now! The Blog itself is WordPress which I went for after trying LoudBlog which I came across on Hanni Ali’s Blog. The design is originally by AskGraphics.com I’ve just dropped in my Oliver’s Yard sign (Oliver’s Yard will be the name of my study/messy area in my new house!!) and tweaked it a bit.

Cheers

Ollie

Ollie!