07 September 2010

Making a Small World Smaller

Attended a seminar/event today, Making a Small World Smaller: A mixed bag as usual. Some good ideas, some less spectacular ones, but it generally had a good feel.

An interesting tidbit came out from one of the speakers (to me anyway): Melbourne is apparently the first city in the world to make use of Wiki technology to make city planning a collaborative experience with the public.

They put the actual city plan on the internet in a Wiki and allowed, for a limited time, any member of the public to edit and change the city plan document.

The great success is that instead of getting a lot of profanity and rubbish, they actually got ideas, changes and edits for services, infrastructure and processes that even their highly paid consultants didn't even come near to thinking about, realized was a problem, or proposed better ways of doing things.


06 September 2010

Greening Offices

As we move into a new awareness of resource scarcity, businesses are finally realizing that greener practices go hand in hand with productive and cost efficiencies.

I came across a program called CitySwitch, run by the Australian government that attempts to bring big office tenants under wing and the results seem impressive.

What I did notice, however, consistently across a lot of this greening is that our computer systems are frequently overlooked.

How about considering thin client technologies as a replacement for traditional desktops where specialized software is not required? We consistently see energy saving bulbs, green architecture, behavioral programs, and so on, but hundreds, upon thousands of power hungry PCs are still the de-facto arrangement in offices. Odd to me considering the problems associated with them and the applicability of newer approaches and technologies and the advent of the Cloud.

The 80-90% use case of word-processing, spreadsheets, email and group-ware are far more efficiently deployed centrally.

The keys here are:

- Thin client hardware, far smaller manufacturing, energy and emissions footprint.

- System consolidation, simpler management and scaling of infrastructure.

- While data centers are huge resource users, they are also far more easily optimized than lots of individual desktops or user-endpoints, e.g. converting a data center from AC to DC based already cuts waste without even having to reconfigure any software.

- Cloud-themed approaches to this are also more and more available eliminating a lot of the capital costs related to systems deployment.

23 February 2010

Configuring IP Printing in Snow Leopard for the Epson AccuLaser C1900

I was originally using AppleTalk to get my Epson AccuLaser C1900 to play nice on my office network.

It worked great all the way through 10.5.x but it went south as soon as I upgraded to Snow Leopard.

I actually found out quite late that AppleTalk was dropped. *sigh*

Now the C1900 was actually quite the printer in its day. It supports a wide range of protocols, colour laser printing, was made to play nice with Windows and Apple (and *nix) equipment, and is just a good overall work horse.

Still it took the better part of a month to figure out how to get the C1900 working without AppleTalk.

The problem I had, and mistake I made, was configuring OSX to talk to the printer via IPP (mislead by the ability to configure IPP in the printer configuration). I dutifully configured the network address, the queue, and the correct printer driver even showed up.

No sweat, except the problem was that print jobs would mysteriously hang after completing, thus preventing the queue from clearing. This, in turn, kept jamming the print queue.

Turns out the solution is simple: When using IP printing, use the "HP JetDirect" option instead of IPP. Point it at the same network address, and you don't even need to configure the queue (OSX will use the default queue). The AL-C1900 driver should auto-detect, and you're good to go.

The HP JetDirect option works like a charm and I haven't had a problem since.

01 January 2010

Installing VMware Tools on Ubuntu 9.10 Server (Guest)

Virtualization continues to amaze me.  It really was not that long ago when thinking of emulating a computer in software sounded great on paper, but simply didn't work in practice -- too slow, too many crashes, the list goes on.

Then cut to 2009/2010: it's all the rage.  Big service providers like Rackspace build entire business models around virtualized systems, and we consumers love it.  At least I do.

I used to have about 3, maybe 4 servers running at home to provide for a number of applications, services, and just isolation in some cases.  It was a noisy, messy affair with KVMs and cabling and switches all over the place.

These days, I have one box, under my desk running all those servers.

I salute VMware for making VMware Server available to the masses.  For that matter I salute all the open source efforts (like virtualbox) for making virtualization available to the world at large -- and not just some anaemic faulty versions, but solid industrial strength virtualization.

Anyway, I've been mucking around with Ubuntu 9.10 Server of late and thought that it would be helpful to post the procedure I used to get it working with VMware Tools.  If you've done this before you already know that it's messier than the Windows install :).

I did this after running "sudo bash" to get me a long-lived privileged session after logging in to the administrator's account in Ubuntu.  Not sure about best practice, but it saves me a whole bunch of sudo's.

This guide assumes that you have a clean, fresh install of Ubuntu.

Step 1: Install Basic Headers, Sources and Dependencies

apt-get update
apt-get upgrade
apt-get install build-essential libproc-dev libdumbnet-dev psmisc linux-headers-`uname -r` libicu-dev libglib2.0-dev libfuse-dev

Step 2: Uninstall any instances of Open VM Tools or VMware Tools

apt-get remove open-vm-tools
perl /usr/bin/

Step 3: Get VMware Tools tarball from VMware Virtual CD/ISO

It needs to be made available by selecting "Install VMware Tools" from the VMware Server "Host" menu.  The command chain below will create a build directory, mount the CD-ROM, grab the file, and unmount the CD-ROM.  Yes, I'm anal that way.
mkdir /build && cd /build && mount /media/cdrom && cp /media/cdrom/VMwareTools-*.tar.gz /build && umount /media/cdrom

Step 4: Build VMware tools and configure modules as needed

cd /build
tar xzvf VMwareTools-*.tar.gz
cd vmware-tools*/
perl ./

You will be bombarded by configuration questions.  For the most part all the defaults will work just fine.  Building the modules seems to be a problem for me using the VMware Tools tarball from VMware 1.0.8, but you might get better results from a VMware 2+ install, in any case the startup and shutdown controls work fine.