Baking-In Transparency

I’m happy to say that I’ll be speaking at the 2011 Pittsburgh Perl Workshop on Sunday, October 8th. The title of my talk is Baking-in Transparency.

Although my talk will be aimed at people who develop software, don’t think that the sysadmins get off light. In fact, we sysadmins are maybe even more egregious offenders than programmers themselves!

Offenders of what? Of transparency in the software we write. “What?”, I can hear you say, “I don’t write software!”. Well, maybe, but I bet you write more than you think. Have you ever had a production script that you wrote go off the rails? I thought so.

The statement of purpose of this talk is to develop the things that we develop such that there is transparency into the processes – if we want to be able to manage our processes, we need to be able to monitor them, and if we want to monitor them, we’ve got to be able to observe them.

There are way, way too many times where we’re stuck reverse engineering someone’s solutions when we could be spending that time fixing problems. This talk will just be my small attempt to inspire people to change the way their designs come out, so that we can all peer into the machinery.

You should come listen to the talk and attend the rest of the PPW. Register for a website account, then buy your ticket. It’s only $110 (and if you’re unemployed, there’s a massive discount to $40).

Real Status’s “HyperGlance” – WOW!

Kids, the future is now.

I’m going to show you a piece of software that I ran into recently, because it blew my socks off.

I’m a sucker for monitoring solutions, and I’m also a sucker for cool visualizations. When you combine the two, well, it gets my attention. That’s exactly what Hyperglance did.

Here’s a demo of what the software looks like. It’s worth watching, but turn down the sound, because there’s no talking and the music is a bit irritating…

I let my wife watch that, and she said…

Software like this is what I was promised when I went into computers


I liked it so much that I dragged Stephen Foskett over to the booth to do an interview with the CEO of the company. Here that is:

Foskett’s VMworld 2011: Real Status from Stephen Foskett on Vimeo.

What I like about this software is that they didn’t make a lot of rookie mistakes with it. The UI is beautiful, but they don’t try to do too much. Each node only has a label if you’re zoomed in a certain amount. They don’t show the status of every service running on each host, just the exceptional ones. There is no information overload – if you’re a visual-spatial type of person, then this is going to be like crack for you.

I don’t know a lot of the technical information behind HyperGlance, I only know that it is beautiful, and that the interface is done well. I know that it deals with physical, virtual, and AWS-based hosts, but to what extent, I’m not sure.

I was impressed, and I thought you might be, too.

Installing Windows 8 on VirtualBox

Windows 8 is scheduled to be the next workstation release of Windows, following the path of Windows 7, Vista, and XP before it. The developer preview became available the other day, and I just now got time to download and play with it. If you want to, you can pick it up here. It’s free, and doesn’t require registration.

Because I had a couple of problems getting it to work on my platform of choice (VirtualBox), I thought I’d do a write-up with some screen shots.

After you download the ISO, go to VirtualBox, and create a new VM:

On the next screen, enter whatever you want as the name of your new VM, select “Microsoft Windows” as the OS, and “Other Windows” as the version:

I gave my OS 2GB of RAM, but you can adjust this as you need. There are examples of it running with under 300MB of RAM. I think I’d only do that if you want to punish the system to see what it can take. Give it at least a GB just to get a baseline.

Create a new startup disk of whichever format you want. I also make mine dynamically sized (thin provisioned) so I have some diskspace left, but you don’t have to. Basically, however you’re used to making VMs is fine for this part. I gave the system disk 20GB (but since it’s thin-provisioned, it’ll only use what it needs).

Click “Create” at the end of the process to make the shiny new VM.

Before we fire it up, we’ve got to change some settings. First we’ll add the ISO to the VM’s CDROM by clicking storage:

Then in the Storage tree, click the empty CD-ROM icon, then on the far right, click the CD icon next to “IDE Secondary”, then select “Choose a virtual CD/DVD disk file”, then browse to the DVD ISO you downloaded from Microsoft, and select it.

Now, if you are like me, and start the VM right now, you’ll have a problem. Namely this:

Status: 0xc0000225
Info: An unexpected error has occurred

Yep, that was unexpected.

If you research that error, you find that in Windows 7, you got that message when you used a RAM disk on a UEFI-enabled computer. Since Windows 8 is undoubtably using a RAM disk to install itself (because there’s no ACTUAL disk available yet). So to fix that, we need to alter the VirtualBox settings.

Click on the Settings box:

Then under “Extended Features”, make sure “Enable IO APIC” is enabled:

Now, if you were to boot up, it would install, but you would have no network connection. To fix that, lets change the virtualized network card. Click the “Network” box, like you did the “System” box above, then check the “Advanced” settings on Adapter 1.

Pull the dropdown menu on “Adaptor Type”, and select “Intel PRO/1000 MT Desktop (82540EM)”:

After that, boot up the VM, and you’ll be installing Windows 8 in no time!