Grant McWilliams

Site maintenance causing intermittent availability

We've been doing massive restructuring of the hardware that underlies The Man, The Myth, The Legend.  I'll outline the changes in a later post when I'm done but you'll probably notice that the site has been down multiple times and there's probably a few more reboots to go before I'm done. I have several articles waiting to go up but have been holding off until the move was finished. Later in the month I'm moving more hardware out from under the site but due to the changes I've made this week that will entail one outage and no more (in theory). 

Oh, and there's a lot of stuff that just isn't working right. Feeds are messed up, the "Green Guy" logo is missing, blocks not configured right etc.. I'm putting it all back together as I get time.

Stay tuned!

Fedora automated install on Xenserver updated.

I have a tendency to keep using the same tutorials of mine and only when I need them updated do I go through the process of writing, testing and publishing the changes. However, when people attempt to use my Xenserver tutorials to install newer versions of Linux I tend to go update them but if nobody asks then they get ignored. You can tell which tutorials I use by which ones are up-to-date. For instance the Ubuntu Automated Install is still stuck at Ubuntu 12.04. That probably needs to be rectified but since I rarely use Ubuntu it's on the back burner (Kali/Wheezy will get update first probably). 

Today's announcement concerns Fedora 20 on Xenserver. I started using Fedora (again) when the wonderful version 17 came out. Then 18 was released with new bugs followed by 19 which had the same bugs and a ridiculous installer. Fedora 20 still has the same odd installer bits with the same usability issues (OK button is either on the top left or bottom right depending on what you're doing) but Fedora 17 just isn't being supported anymore so I've updated to Korora 20 which is based on Fedora 20. Due to popular demand this also means that my Fedora 17 on Xenserver tutorial just got updated as well.

As usual I only use the x86_64 tutorials so I blindly updated the i386 version as well but have not tested it.

Enjoy!

Fedora 20 x86_64 Automated Install

Fedora 20 i386 Automated Install

 

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Goodbye Gallery2, hello Ignite - it was a nice 10 years.

Before I started using Joomla! I had a website with a photo gallery for my travel/food/other photos. Due to not wanting to create a PHP photo gallery from scratch I used Gallery1 which did a fine job. Later when Gallery2 became available I migrated to that. At some point I realized that creating my own HTML website was a lot harder than just using a Content Management System so I rolled out Xoops and a couple of other CMSes and each time I realized they were buggy and/or limited. When the Mambo development team forked Joomla! I installed it and thought that it had enough promise to stick around for a while. I went from Joomla! 1.0 to 2.5 over the years (and my other sites - Recessionchef.com, xenapiadmin.com and xenmagic.com are running newer versions still).

It's been a struggle to keep Gallery2 embedded inside of Joomla!. During the Joomla 1.x series I had a connector made specially for Gallery2 but the developer decided not to update the component when Joomla broke the old code with 1.5/1.6 so I had to find a new connector which I did in JFusion. JFusion connects a lot of outside software to Joomla and it was successful in embedding Gallery2 in Joomla!. It wasn't perfect though and Gallery2 was starting to look very old and slow. Web2.0 happened and Gallery2 didn't notice so I started looking for replacements knowing that moving 10,000 photos wasn't going to be easy so I took the job very serious. Each year I'd look for a native Joomla Photo gallery that supported hierarchies and every year I patched Gallery2 up a bit more to keep it running. This year things became critical because the developers of Gallery2 abandoned it. They realized that a complete rewrite would have to happen and there was no reason to do it. This also meant that vulnerabilities wouldn't be fixed. The search intensified. 

This year I ran into Ignite Gallery which is native to Joomla, supports galleries in galleries and looked fairly nice. The download cost was $40 for one year of support and the code is GPL which I'm willing to pay for. After installing it and testing a few galleries I decided to go all the way and migrate Gallery2 to Ignite. In hindsight I should have written migration software to do it for me but it seemed so easy - create galleries, select my gallery2 photos in the Ignite file selector and upload - voila!  Come to find out I had 550 galleries and 11,000 photos. About halfway though I'd invested too much time to quit and I pushed through. Two months later I'm done with the migration. 

As of now all photos have been uploaded into Ignite. There are some issues with the software that I have to work through as well as theming but for the most part I'm happy. The gallery runs fast on the front-end (slow as heck on the backend though) and it's easy to browse. 

So without further ado may I present my photo galleries. 

Travel Gallery

Photography Portfolio

 

Going back to Canon

I haven't done a proper review of my Sony RX-100 yet as I haven't really felt like writing about it. I've used Canon Point and shoot cameras for years (s230, sd500, sd870, G7, s90) but Sony just plain outgunned them in every aspect short of one - usability. The RX-100 is a phenomenal piece of equipment with a sensor 3 times larger than the Canon S120 and a much faster lens too. This thing just plain creams the competition in the hardware department and it's small enough to put in my pocket too. 

However, there's that usability issue.

 

I saw DPReview's complaints about it but I thought I'd just customize the buttons and move on. However, it's more complex than that. I'll pull it out of my pocket and it may or may not decide to take photo depending on how it feels. You see, it's a computer with a CPU, memory and operating system and sometimes it's just busy doing something else. Sometimes it will take my auto-exposure bracketed 3 photos, and sometimes it just takes one until it gets warmed up. Sometimes my thumb will hit the help button which brings up the help menu.... when I'm in the middle of shooting and I have to cancel it before I can go on.  Sometimes I want to adjust my white balance with a plain piece of white paper and I haven't yet been able to figure out how. Also why does it have a video mode AND a video button? When you put it in video mode and press the shutter you'd expect it to take a video but it doesn't because you didn't press the OTHER video button. You get all of this for only $700!

This camera drives me insane. I've never had a love hate relationship with a camera before. The RX-100 has truly amazing hardware and truly incompetent software. I've come to the point where I realize Sony just doesn't get it. 

When it comes to buying a new camera I'll be going back to Canon because after several years of sitting on the sidelines they've decided to compete with Sony. The new Canon G7X has the same 1" sensor as the Sony RX-100,  an amazingly fast lens (1.8-2.8) with more zoom than the RX-100.  It's shortcomings seem to be that the battery life is mediocre at best and it doesn't have a viewfinder. I can live with both. I'll carry extra batteries, a solar charger or even drag around a 1982 delorean with a backpack full of plutonium if necessary as long as I can have Canon's wonderful ergonomics.

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Airplane food delivered to your house (is that a good idea?)

For those folks who live in Cologne and Dusseldorf and love airplane food you can now get it delivered to your door!

I'm not entirely sure why anyone would want to eat airplane food when they could just go down the street to a real restaurant where the food is made of.... food and cooked fresh. If you attempt going down the street on an airplane you'll create a great deal of havoc when the passenger compartment decompresses and oxygen masks drop followed quickly by you plunging 40,000 ft to your grisly death. This I believe, is the main reason people eat the food their served on airplanes - they have very little choice.

However, if you long for those wonderful little plates of textured vegetable protein poorly pressed into familiar shapes resembling McDonalds' attempt at a chicken pattie then you're in luck because the catering arm of Lufthansa Airlines has announced that residents of the two aforementioned cities can order the very same food and have it delivered to their door. I have an idea, how about having Lufthansa carry out the reverse and have land food delivered to your airplane while in flight. Now you'd have something news worthy.

https://www.allyouneed.com/magazin/airfoodone_menukalender

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Jolla smartphone case

I've had my Jolla Other Half for a couple of months but I've held off on using it as my main phone due to my Nokia N9 still working fine and the Jolla is super slippery. Yes, the phoneback might as well be made of ice. I'm fairly sure that if I carried it that way it would last all of a week so I set out to do something about it.

Introducing what the guys at work call my "hipster phone" - a faux leather covered Jolla Other Half! It turned out pretty good and I hope to put up my pattern if anyone else wants to do this but it will have to wait until I have time to finish it.

I've never had a phone that got so much attention as the Jolla and that was BEFORE I skinned it. To me it looks like a big flat rectangle, not that exciting but for some reason people are drawn to it and people ask me several times a week what kind of phone it is. It goes something like this

Me: It's a Jolla

Them: A what?

Me: A Jolla, it's a Finnish company

Them: I've never heard of it.

Me: It's new, they just started making them last November and they became available in Europe in January.

Them: I've never seen one before.

Me: They're not sold here yet.

Them: Is it Android?

Me: No, it's SailfishOS but it can run Android apps

Them: <confused look followed by silence>

That's pretty much how it goes. A couple of times I've gotten so far as explaining that a bunch of folks from Nokia started a new company called Jolla. Twice I got that it was Linux based out and once I got to show them how the back comes off and that it's modular who which they exclaimed "That's flippin' cool!". Yes, yes it is but currently it's more of a gimmick than anything as there's not much to plug into it.

 {gallery labels=filename}galleries/cover{/gallery}

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Screen protectors for your Jolla

I got my Jolla TOH (The Other Half) a couple of weeks ago and I'm still not using it as my main phone for a couple of reasons - 1. It's so very slippery 2. It has no screen protector. Yes, it has Gorilla Glass 2 and people in the Jolla forums keep saying you don't need a screen protector but that's what they said about my Nokia n9 too and I managed to scratch that screen. To put my mind at ease I wanted to put a screen protector on my Jolla but currently nobody makes one. I imagine since the phone still isn't available in the States it will be quite some time before there's accessories for it. With that in mind I went looking for an alternative.

Most screen protectors for other phones have cutouts for front facing cameras, buttons and microphones all in the wrong places or their screen is a completely different size. The Jolla has a 4.5 inch screen but the glass area is closer to 4.9 inches. One one end the front facing camera and microphone take up a bit of space so ideally I need a protector 4.7 inches long with no cutouts. The HTC One ended up being my best chance so I ordered a three pack of plastic screen protectors for the HTC One and boy do they fit the Jolla. I'd say there's NO room side to side as it's a perfect fit. Lengthwise there's about a 1/4 of an inch or less of uncovered space where the camera and mic are. I couldn't imagine a better fit from a screen protector that isn't designed for the Jolla.

With that I installed it and am very happy with the fit. However, what I really want is a tempered glass screen protector which Amazon has for $25. Now that I know the HTC One protectors are perfect I'll probably order one. Stay tuned.

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Install xe on CentOS6

Sometimes you want to control your XCP/Xenserver pool from another host. In my case it's my firewall/iSCSI SAN box which is CentOS 6.5 X86_64. I could just remote execute xe using SSH but this doesn't allow me to set $XE_EXTRA_ARGS. Setting $XE_EXTRA_ARGS allows me to run xe commands remotely without having to specify the server, username, password or port number every time I run xe.

 

export XE_EXTRA_ARGS="server=${POOL},port=${PORT},username=${USER},password=${PASSWORD}"

 

A better choice is to install xe on the CentOS 6.5 host. 

Install pre-reqs

Install stunnel

yum install stunnel

 

 Install xapi-xe rpm from Xenserver CD

Because the Control Domain in Xenserver is 32 bit the xe command included is also 32 bit. If you have 64 bit CentOS you will need to install 32 bit glibc. The best way is to just let yum worry about it as apposed to using rpm.

If you already have a XenServer CD available you can copy the xapi-xe rpm to your CentOS host directly. If not follow the directions below.

wget http://downloadns.citrix.com.edgesuite.net/akdlm/8159/XenServer-6.2.0-install-cd.iso
mkdir xsiso
mount -o loop XenServer-6.2.0-install-cd.iso xsio
yum install xsio/packages.main/xapi-xe-0.2-5669.i686.rpm

 

 Control remote poolmaster using xe

 Because the poolmaster is remote you'll need to include the server, port, username and password in your commandline. 

xe -s <poolmaster> -p 443 -u root -pw <root password> vm-list

You can set these items in the XE_EXTRA_ARGS variable to make using xe easier.

export XE_EXTRA_ARGS="server=${POOL},port=${PORT},username=${USER},password=${PASSWORD}"
xe vm-list
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Goodbye Canon, hello Sony?

 

It's been a really long time since I wrote about photography. Generally I buy new cameras every year as new technology comes out and the driving force behind that is travel. As you probably know I like cameras that are able to fit in my pocket so it's always been a struggle to get a camera that's portable, takes good photos and has the features that I want.

Previous point and shoot Canons

My first digital camera was a Canon S230 with a 3.2 MP sensor and a 2x zoom. It was good enough for the time. That got replaced by a Canon SD500 with a 1/1.7" sensor (large for a Point and Shoot), a 3x zoom but no wide angle. I added a Canon G7 to that mix with the optional (and massive) wide angle lens. This lasted one trip until I knocked it lightly against some asphalt at while trying to take a photo of the Space Needle in Seattle. I never got it fixed.

The SD500 was replaced by an SD870 which got me Image Stabilization and a wide angle lens in a small package. The sensor was smaller but due to improved technology the image quality was equal to the SD500. That camera lasted me a few years until Canon reintroduced the S series. 

Canon S series

The Canon S90 almost single handedly created a new category of point and shoot cameras for more serious photographers. It had amazing low light performance, a wide angle lens, full manual controls, auto exposure bracketing and raw mode. The lens was reasonably fast on one end and not so fast on the other. All of this in a very small package. The S90 was replaced by the S95 which mainly fixed usability issues I outlined in my review. The S100 got a wider angle lens with a bit more reach. The S110 got wifi and a touchscreen (meh). The brand new S120 is almost exactly the same but with a better video mode. Note that every change since the S90 4 years ago has been very small. 


The problem with the incremental improvements Canon has made is that the world hasn't stood still in the last four years. Panasonic keeps churning out new LX cameras, Fujifilm's XF1 has a sensor that's 50% larger than Canon's. Sony has really changed the game with their RX100 which has a 1 inch sensor with nearly 3x the area of Canon's. Yes, these cameras cost more than Canon's but still occupy the same market. Sony's RX100 ii is being sold along side the previous generation RX100 with $150 separating them. This puts the new RX100 ii at $750 which is very high in my opinion. The good news is the original RX100 is now selling for $550. This is still quite high for a compact camera and is $150 higher than Canon's S120, Panasonic's LX-7 or Fugifilm's XF1. The RX100 ii customer is an odd one because that person could have bought a DSLR.

Sony RX100

The secret here is that I just purchases the previous generation RX100. The difference between the RX100 and the RX100 ii is a tilt LCD screen and a bit different back lit sensor. Are those things worth $150? I really don't think so. Is the RX100 worth $550? I'm not sure but the fact of the matter is it's the only compact camera with a sensor that large and I'm excited.

I already ordered the Richard Freniac grip for it. His grip for my S90 made it usable and cut down on my stress level drastically as I no longer had to worry about dropping it.

Comparison table (thanks to dpreview for the data)

 Sensor area, mm2
(dimensions)
Focal length rangeFocal length range (equiv.)Aperture rangeAperture range (equiv)*Dimensions (mm)
Canon S110 41
(7.4x5.6)
5.2-26mm 24-120mm F2.0-5.9 F9.3-27.4 99x59x27
Sony 
DSC-RX100
116
(13.2x8.8)
10-37mm 28-100mm F1.8-4.9 F4.9-13.4 101x58x36
Fujifilm XF1 58
(8.8x6.6)
6.4-25.6mm 25-100mm F1.8-4.9 F7.0-19.1 108x62x33
Panasonic DMC-LX7 34**
(6.7x5.1)
4.7-17.7mm 24-90mm F1.4-2.3 F7.1-11.7 111x68x46

The major advantage the RX100 has over these other cameras is the sheer size of the CMOS censor. At nearly three times the size of the S120 or Panasonic LX7. This allows more light to hit the sensor so you can take photos at a lower ISO resulting in a better photo. It makes a huge difference in low light situations. The lens on the RX100 is very fast on the long end (F1.8) but slows down just like the Fujifilm and Canon although the Canon is the worst.  It doesn't have the same amount of zoom but I find myself needing wide angle more than zoom so I'm OK with that.

I'll do a real review after I've had some time with it.

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New Orleans - Day 8

Our last half a day in New Orleans...

We had a short list of things we didn't get to do like going to the St. Louis Cathedral and picking up souvenirs for kids back at home. I also wanted to try a beignet at another restaurant because I wasn't willing to give up on the idea. The ones we had at the oh so famous Cafe Beignet were pretty bad. I have a hard time believing the little desserts that people rave about were just fry bread with sugar on them.

But first, breakfast at the Ruby Slipper. I've mentioned before that I'm not much of an American breakfast type of person but I'm starting to get a bit attached to this place. I had the Eggs Blackstone and Kris had the Chicken St Charles Benedict which she loved.

After breakfast we were off to the Cathedral to see if it was any more interesting than any other church we've seen. It's painted white with gold trim inside which is a bit nicer than the normal concrete blocks. As far as churches go it's nice I suppose but I have some issues with gold laden churches in cities with poor folks which I won't get into here.

We strolled the normal tourist shops to pick up the obligatory t-shirts and spied a Beignet shop that's only open on the weekends. We saw it earlier in the week in the Jackson Brewery building but it never seemed to be open so we figured it was closed for business. Come Saturday it was open and doing a brisk business so we stopped in. It pays sometimes to be relentless as these Beignets were what I expected them to be - light and delightful.  Sorry I was in a hurry and didn't take photos. Now that we'd found decent Beignet's it was time to head to the airport and say goodbye to the Big Easy and more specifically the Frenchman Hotel and Balcony Music Club where we spent several nights listening to music.

 

 

 {gallery labels=filename}galleries/neworleans-day8{/gallery}

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