Sunglasses Shopping Rant

December 18, 2006 by · 2 Comments 

About 6 years ago I decided to purchase a decent pair of sunglasses from a local Sunglass Hut. I spent an hour or so checking out what was available and settled on a nice set of Ray Ban glasses (which looked nice and also happened to be on sale). Those glasses finally met their match the other day when they fell between the driver's seat and center console in my car. This wouldn't be an issue for most people, but my seat automatically moves back to let the driver in or out, so the lenses were a bit scuffed up by the time I determined that that is where they were.

Knowing that I wouldn't be able to get replacement lenses before I went out of town for the holiday, I decided that I should probably just go out shopping a but a new set of glasses. I figured that if I really liked the new set then I'd have the others repaired and would keep them as spares. If I didn't like them, they'd go back for a refund after I got new lenses. I really didn't expect much of a problem. I guess I was wrong...

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Stretching your vBulletin Servers with OpenVZ

December 13, 2006 by · 3 Comments 

Most of the people reading this blog are familiar with the LAMP software bundle (Linux, Apache httpd, MySQL, and one of PHP/Perl/Python). The LAMP stack on a single server is common-place on the internet today because the components are all free and work well together to provide a stable, dynamic web platform (although, interestingly enough, they were not designed to do so). Who says that it's the best way to do things though? When working with complex applications such as vBulletin, there are definite benefits to keeping things separate.

For the past 6 months or so I've been consolidating my servers (both in the office and at remote data centers) using a virtualization package called OpenVZ (the open-source branch of SWSoft's Virtuozzo). Unlike virtualization packages such as VMWare (a system emulator) or Xen (a paravirtualization system), OpenVZ does not allow you to run multiple, different operating systems. OpenVZ will allow you to run Linux on Linux and nothing more. Moreover, it is heavily biased towards RPM-based distributions, so don't plan on getting wild. That said, if you can get past those limitations, OpenVZ might just help you get more out of your existing server because unlike the alternatives, OpenVZ's operating system-level virtualization technique has almost zero performance penalty.

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OEM Operating System Install & Driver Disk Troubles…

December 11, 2006 by · 2 Comments 

Ok, for those of you that build your own systems, this really doesn't apply. However, for those of you that have pre-built OEM systems lying around (like I have at work), listen up because this advice is going to save you hours of wasted effort... DON'T LOSE YOUR WINDOWS OEM INSTALL CD AND DRIVER DISK!

Earlier today I spent almost 4 hours reinstalling a Gateway E-2100 system. The entire process was one giant comedy of errors. I started out by installing Windows XP Home because that is what all of the Gateway systems we have are running. As it turns out, that assumption was not a good one to make. It seems that this particular Gateway box is the ONLY Windows XP Professional system we have (aside from my notebook). In any case, there went 30 minutes...

Once learning that the only Windows XP Professional CD I had was for my Dell notebook (Latitude D820), I figured, "how badly could it go?". That, again, was a bad assumption to make. After spending 40 minutes installing Windows (again) I was greeted with a first boot at 640x480 in 4-bit color. Now, there probably aren't many people who remember 4-bit color, but yes, 20 years ago, 16 colors was all you got. Unfortunately, Windows XP was never meant to be viewed at this level and that made fixing the issue all that more difficult.

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Review: Antipatterns – Identification, Refactoring, and Management

December 8, 2006 by · 4 Comments 

If you've read my "About" page then you'd know that in addition to working full-time, I'm also a graduate student at Penn State studying Software Engineering. The class I'm currently taking is on Software Project Management and is taught by Dr. Phillip A. Laplante. As a part of this class (which I'm already paying too much for), I was required to buy one of the books the professor wrote. The title of that book is "Antipatterns - Identification, Refactoring, and Management".

I assumed that like most text books that this one would be boring and that the professor was only doing it to make a few extra bucks. I couldn't have possibly been more wrong. As it turns out, he only gets about $0.80 for each book sold (there are only about 20 people in the class), and this is one of the funniest books I've read in a long time.

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The site’s new look

December 7, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

So, I was flipping through MaximumPC while I was eating lunch and I saw that they had mentioned the K2 theme engine as a must-have. I decided to pick it up and install it. For now, it looks almost identical to the default theme I was using but I'll customize it a bit down the road. I'll say one thing for sure though, it does load faster than the default skin did and it is a lot easier to use.

Some notable improvements include the "type and wait" livesearch box (give it a try, just type something and then wait a couple seconds) and live comments with AJAX (no page refreshes).

Rebate Rip-offs

December 7, 2006 by · 3 Comments 

One of the people I work with, Dave (yes, the same Dave who got the tattoo in Las Vegas), recently made a post on his site about all of the cheap stuff he's bought recently with mail-in rebates. He wrote that out of the 5 rebates he's been waiting for, he's received one. Well, Dave, you're not alone.

In general, I try to avoid buying items that come with mail-in rebates. They really only comprise a small portion of my purchases, maybe 10% at most. The reason is that the odds of someone actually receiving a mail-in rebate on a tech product are pretty low these days. For example, in the past year, I have ordered 2GB of OCZ DDR memory ($40 MIR), a PNY GeForce 6600GT PCI-E video card ($20 MIR), two 1GB SanDisk USB Sticks ($10 MIR each), and a Cuisinart Coffee Maker w/ Built-In Grinder ($20 MIR). Out of those rebates, the most recent of which was filed about 8 weeks ago, I have received exactly $0.00. That's $100 that I'm owed that I will, in all likelihood, never receive.

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Upgrading to MySQL 5.0.27 on RHEL and CentOS

December 5, 2006 by · 23 Comments 

One of the most common technical recommendations given on the vbulletin.com forums is to upgrade your software versions to the newest available. I've already covered how to upgrade Apache's httpd and PHP so now I'm going to explain how to upgrade your RHEL/CentOS 4 system to use MySQL 5.0.27. This is not a terribly difficult process but it is VERY time consuming. Expect to spend about 10 minutes prepping and about an hour compiling (even on a high-end box).

To start, you'll need three things. First, you're going to need 'root' access to your server. If you don't have it, even if you can build the RPMs, you won't be able to install them. Second, on most machines, you'll need to install a huge list of dependencies. Finally, you'll need the MySQL src.rpm from FC7's development tree.

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Build Your Own Home/SOHO NAS

December 4, 2006 by · 17 Comments 

If you're like me, you're probably got more than one computer at home. In fact, if you're like me, you've probably got a half-dozen or so. Wait, that's still not quite right, let me try one more time... If you're like me, you've got a half-dozen computers at home, running a few different operating systems, and you use them all. Yeah, that one's right.

If so, you will, no doubt, have run into the nasty little problem of keeping your files synchronized. If you keep a copy of everything on every machine then that's a huge waste of space. If you don't, you no doubt will need something from a machine that you can't easily access. You've probably thought about setting up a file server but the thought of dishing out $200 (plus hardware) for a copy of Windows isn't really appealing, nor is the thought of taking an old box lying around and installing Linux on it. Luckily, there is a solution that lies half-way in the middle. Its name is OpenFiler.

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Upgrading to PHP 5.2.0 on RHEL and CentOS

November 30, 2006 by · 47 Comments 

With the release of an src.rpm for PHP 5.2.0 in the Fedora Core 7 development branch, I've decided to roll out PHP 5.2.0 as a test on a couple of our smaller forums that are running vBulletin 3.6.4. According to the changelog, PHP 5.2.0 has an improved memory-management system. With any luck it'll be faster than 5.1.6 and won't break anything in the process.

The procedure to build the PHP 5.2.0 RPMs for RHEL and CentOS 4 is almost identical to the one I used to install PHP 5.1.6 on RHEL and CentOS 4 so this is going to read very similarly to the original how-to. In fact, I recommend reading that post as well before you begin.

One quick warning though, PHP 5.2.0 is currently the bleeding-edge release. I do not recommend that you install it on your production servers without first testing on a development box to make sure that your applications still work as expected. I would also recommend that you build the PHP 5.1.6 RPMs as well, that way you can easily roll back if needed.

To start, you'll need three things. First, you're going to need 'root' access to your server. If you don't have it, even if you can build the RPMs, you won't be able to install them. Second, on most machines, you'll need to install a huge list of dependencies. Finally, you'll need the PHP src.rpm from FC7's development tree.

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Drunken Videos from PubCon 2006

November 29, 2006 by · 4 Comments 

As promised in my PubCon 2006 Night Life post, I've got a bunch of videos from Thursday evening. All of the videos I've got so far are from Amanda. Andrew's content is stuck on his phone because he lost his USB transfer cable.

The videos have been recompressed using DivX (with MP3 audio) so they should be playable on almost every computer. That also had the wonderful side effect of reducing the total file size from 585MB to 54MB. In any case, getting to what you're here for... The videos!

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