Saturday, 20 December 2014

The Wonder Of Stuff - 5 -20/12/2014

Vodcast about Science, Engineering and Technology and anything else we find interesting. This weeks show notes...

1) History of 'Life On Mars'

2) Chinese Malware

3) Quantum Internet

4) RI Christmas Lectures

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Like, Drugs, Milk and Computers?

Then it sounds like your need to watch and inwardly digest the latest Wonder Of Stuff Vodcast.  Go on... enlighten yourself today!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Shortcuts and Aliases

I've added another page to the Linux Basics guide, this time it's about Links, the Linux equivalent to shortcuts and aliases;

A Little About Linux: Hard and Symbolic Links

Sunday, 30 November 2014

The Wonder Of Stuff - Episode 2

The second episode of the Science, Engineering and Technology Vodcast The Wonder Of Stuff is available now.  Covering such topics as Regin Spyware, Space Engine Space Simulation Software, The New Generation of Food Science Start-ups in Silicon Valley, Solar Roadways, A history of Computer Graphics on YouTube.

So, if this type of stuff peaks your interest, why don't you spend an hour catching up on latest news and comment?  

The Wonder Of Stuff Vodcast

Saturday, 29 November 2014

The Potentially Confusing World of Linux Permissions

After a extraordinarily long wait, I've added another element in my basic guide to Linux.  This one covers the strange world of  Linux file and directory permissions...

A Little About Linux: File Ownership and Permissions

Saturday, 22 November 2014

The Wonder Of Stuff

If you're interested in Science, Engineering and Technology news and comment, why not have a look at a new Podcast (or rather Vodcast) on Google Hangouts called 'The Wonder Of Stuff'

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Linux Disk Quotas

I've added another small guide on using disk quotas in Linux, not something I use very often, but important and useful in some instances;

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Technology and the British Obsession for Weather

In the last few days, the UK media has gone mad on the fact that the UK Meteorology Office (Met Office) is getting a new 'toy' (yes, that's really what it was called on some channels!)  The interest in this story from a mainstream perspective is primarily aimed at the fact that the UK might have more accurate weather forecasts, more often and for a longer period... but if you're interested in the tech, there was scant information in any of the news broadcasts, I'll try and fill in the bits that were missing.

Firstly, what have they got now?  Well, they are currently running an IBM Power7 system running AIX and coming in at around 140 Teraflops.  It's processors are Freescale ARM based QorIQ that maintain PowerPC compatibilty and the whole thing came online in 2009. 

Now, according to all of the information available, they are returning to Cray (which they have used a couple of times in the past) for their new system and this time are going to use their XC40 range.  This system is based on Intel Xeon processors and the really exciting thing for me, is that this will be yet another supercomputer running Linux (The Cray Linux Environment is SUSE Linux Enterprise Server with their own Compute Node Linux (CNL) kernel.)   It's rated at 16 Petaflops and will come online between 2015 and 2017 which should mean it will go straight into the Top 10 of the most powerful supercomputers in the world, for now anyway!  It will cost around £97 million and will weigh 140 tonnes.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

More Information About Linux File Systems

As part of my little guide to learning Linux, I've written some stuff about maintaining file systems and finding out what is using space on your disks... As always, I hope it helps someone;

A Little About Linux: Keeping File Systems Happy

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Finding Files and Applications in Linux

I've just added a small article on the Linux File System and highlighted some tools for finding out where files and folders are from the command line...

A Little About Linux: How Do I Find Where Things Are?

Sunday, 12 October 2014

A Little About Linux - Part 2

Back in August when I started my Blog up again, I said that I was going make a little online guide about Linux to hopefully help other people but to primarily jog my memory about some of the basics.

Some of you will have seen that it's been progressing quite well and is appearing on the left hand menu as and when I get a new section finished.  Well, it's probably time to give it its own section on the Blog, so from now all of the topics will appear on the following page...

Saturday, 4 October 2014

XenServer: A Demonstration of Storage XenMotion

Following up from my last little XenServer 6.2 demo where I showed how we can move VMs from one host to another, this one shows how to live migrate from one iSCSI LUN to another using Storage XenMotion.

As before, the rig is;

  • 1 x Home Built Workstation with AMD Phenom Hex Core CPU and 32GB RAM
  • 3 x XenServer hosts running as 3 x VMs under VMware Workstation 10
  • 2 x QNAP TS-112 NAS Devices craved up into multiple LUNs
  • 1 x  TP-Link TL-SG1016 Gigabit Layer 2 Switch

How the Hong Kong Protesters Communicate

How do you organise protests when your government wants to block or cut your Internet connectivity?  Well, the answer appears to be to use Firechat.  Firechat is an app available for Andrioid and IOS devices and is produced by Open Garden, on the surface it's just another in a long line of Internet connected social media chat apps but the real uniqueness is when your Internet connection is no more.  By switching on your phone's Wifi and Bluetooth connections you immediately become part of a local social mesh network communicating with other Firechat users up to 200 feet away and they can then subsequently become a new node in the network relaying the messages around the extended local mesh.  It may be the new enemy of dictatorial regimes around the world.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

XenServer: A Demonstration of XenMotion

It's been a little over a year since XenServer 6.2 was open sourced by Citrix and I've been using it on and off since then and I have to say I'm extremely impressed.  Now obviously I'm only running it on a test rig with all of the hosts running as VMs within VMware Workstation 10, but it does appear to work really well.  

I'm so impressed, I thought I'd do a little demo of how it performs when migrating a VM from one XenServer host to another.  Something that they call XenMotion (analogous to VMware vMotion.)

The test rig specs are as follows;
  • 1 x Home Built Workstation with AMD Phenom Hex Core CPU and 32GB RAM
  • 2 x QNAP TS-112 NAS Devices craved up into multiple LUNs
  • 1 x  TP-Link TL-SG1016 Gigabit Layer 2 Switch

An Alternative Unboxing

So today, I decided to start using a headset for doing Skype/Hangouts calls.  I usually use my studio headphones and Sure PG48 mic but sometimes it just gets unwieldy. I remembered that three years ago, somebody gave me a professional Contact Centre USB headset, so I thought I'd dig it out and use that.  That's when I found this issue...

Shellshock - Bash Vulnerability

Everyone using Linux, Unix and OSX should have hopefully heard about this by now.  For those who don't know, the Bash shell which is included in pretty much all Linux distros along with Unix variants such as Solaris, Mac OSX, NetBSD and FreeBSD will all be vulnerable to this issue, along with all sorts of embedded devices such as Routers, VPN and SSL Concentrators, Load Balancer Appliances to name but a few...

The issue is a flaw in the way Bash evaluates certain specially crafted environmental variables. An attacker could exploit this by bypassing environment restrictions to execute shell commands. 

There are now 4 separate issues relating to this;


To check to see if your system is vulnerable run the following command as a non-root user; 

env X='() { (a)=>\' sh -c "echo date"; cat echo

If a file called 'echo' is created in the current directory and it contains the date, you need to 
patch your system.

Red Hat have produced a good FAQ on the whole issue.

Also, Virtualisation platforms that have a Linux element such as VMware ESX and ESXi 
and XenServer will also be vulnerable.

Monday, 22 September 2014

ZTE Open C and Firefox OS Review

I've just purchased my very first Firefox OS phone and after a couple of days of using it, I'm pretty happy, so I thought I'd do a little review so that if anyone wants to take the plunge, they can virtually try before they buy so to speak...  The phone was purchased from ebay UK as the only official British distributor. 

I hope you get something out of it and if you have any questions, just add a question below.

Friday, 19 September 2014

The Scottish Referendum - No Change

So, no change in Scotland... Which is a shame because I wanted to see the years of legal wrangles when they realise that Scotland was created from an International treaty and not from Acts of Parliament and therefore couldn't of easily been repealed.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

The Scottish Referendum

I think that living in the most Northerly city in England, the day before the Scottish Referendum, it would probably be remiss of me not to mention what's happening over the border.

I do admit that for the vast majority of the time leading up to the election, myself and I suspect other people in England haven't paid much attention to the whole situation, other than possibly feeling a little jealous that the Scots had this opportunity.  However, as the day finally arrives and the bluster from both sides increases exponentially, I've seen a lot of lies, half truths and false extrapolation from everyone.   I have no incredible insight on this topic, other than recalling the moves in New Zealand to join with Australia to increase their monetary clout and the poor performance of the Euro, I can't help in thinking this isn't the best time to make such a momentous decision and I do hope that everyone remembers it isn't a film called Braveheart... It's real life and it's forever.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

The Cloud Experiment: Friday

So, the experiment is over and what did we learn? Well, the cloud is indeed pervasive in people's lives... I counted that I had direct interaction with 12 unique cloud based services and no doubt loads more behind the scenes.  But I also found out what I suspected all along and that is most of the cloud interaction will be at home or directed at the consumer and not at work.  In my case, we are very risk adverse at work and some of the main people who influence security hate the idea that data should move out to anywhere other than within our four walls, so farming it off to Datacentres in other places around the world fills them with fear and dread.  I suspect that many other Medium sized enterprises within the UK feel the same and that the main take up in Enterprise cloud computing will come from startups.  I think they are wrong as it happens and if fear of of data leeks is indeed a real concern, simply build financial penalties into the contract between you and the cloud provider.   If you have any comments on this little experiment or if you have done your own and the results differ greatly from these, why don't you share them within the comments section?

Friday, 12 September 2014

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

The Cloud Experiment: Wednesday

Well, there is definitely a pattern emerging here... no cloud usage at all throughout the working day, but loads of cloud usage with Social Media apps at home in the evening, plus a new service... Evernote

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The Cloud Experiment: Tuesday

So, we're half way through the experiment and I've had another quiet day on the cloud front whilst at work but once home, I've checked my Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, listened to Podcasts and watched some old shows via my Tivo.

Monday, 8 September 2014

The Cloud Experiment: Monday

So, it's a little late in the day to be adding something to the experiment, but the truth is I've had no Cloud interaction all day until I got home.     I can tell that you are incredulous about this information and hear you asking, "So you're telling me that you work in IT and you haven't used a Cloud based service all day??? Well, yes that is exactly what I'm saying... until I was exercising a bit when I got home and started listening to my Podcasts through the Pure Connect app, I have had no cloud interaction all day. Blimey.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

The Cloud Experiment: Sunday

So, Sunday morning arrives, I start the day reviewing all of the Twitter feeds I've missed over the last week and amazingly for me, look at Google+ which I hardly ever use... I'm actual quite amazed about how many people post to Google+, we're always told the nobody uses it, but I've seen loads of colleagues and friends posting stuff on there recently.

After breakfast, I go into the kitchen and wash up, but while doing that I fire up the Roku box and catch up on some news streams. I've got a few questions that have arisen from the news I've just seen, so it's onto the tablet and see what Wikipedia says about the topics and my questions are now fully answered.

In to the afternoon and it's my Podcast listening time.  Usually on a Sunday afternoon when I'm doing some exercise or having a bath, I go through and listen to my Podcasts through Pure Connect and sent to my Jongo S3 and this an entirely cloud service which I have to say is very, very good.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

The Cloud Experiment: Saturday

Day 1 starts with my Internet Radio waking me up at 6:15.  Is this the first cloud device?  Well, it is true that it can connect to the cloud (it's one of these if you're interested) but in this case it was receiving a DAB broadcast so, I can't really count that.

After a quick wash and brush up, it's down stairs and a quick check of my Gmail (that's the first cloud service) and a quick read of my Kindle (that's the second) over breakfast... all this and it's still before 9am.

Now it's after 1pm and we've had no more cloud usage, just a bout of physical shopping, which is very much a non-cloud operation!

So, we're into the evening on the first day and I've used my phone and the Kindle app to read some ebooks and check Facebook, which means I've used another unique cloud service but we're after 6pm and on Saturday evening I normally don't do much other watch some old fashioned television or something from the PVR.

To end the day, I used the Flipboard and News360 apps which although are aggregator services, will have loads of cloud content behind the scenes, so I'll add these as unique services four and five, and then read a bit more on my Kindle before bed.

P.S.Writing this on Sunday morning, I suddenly remembered that there was another Cloud based service I used while watching TV yesterday evening.  A advert for a Peugeot came on and my wife asked what was Shazam, so we downloaded it and used that for awhile... actually that is a prime example of how we use cloud products and don't even realise!

It's Getting Very Cloudy

Currently there is a huge furore in the British press around some celebrities who have had dubious images of themselves published online.  Nothing out of the ordinary there you may think, except that these photos were originally stored on a Cloud service that appears to have been hacked.  Although this issue is specifically regarding the iCloud service, it hasn't stopped the Red Tops pronouncing the Cloud as the new global evil.  It did also start me thinking about how quickly Cloud based services have crept into the daily lives of people that don't necessarily have an IT background.

Then at breakfast one morning, my wife mentioned in a conversation about how silly these people were in storing their 'adult' images on such services and I explained that they might not necessarily realise that this synchronisation is happening at all, Even when I take a snap on my phone or tablet it gets whizzed off to Dropbox or Google+, all without any interaction from me.  That is when I decided to perform a little experiment... How many different Cloud services do I use over the course of a week and will I surprise myself at the end of it?   Now as I work in IT I have a little idea of how I think it will turn out, but lets not pre-empt the results eh?

Sunday, 10 August 2014

A Little About Linux

I'm a big fan of Linux.  I have been ever since I was introduced to it by my then boss (and still very good friend) Andy Armstrong in the late 1990s.  Back then, I remember that Andy used to use Debian (He still does) to perform some infrastructure operations which Windows quite frankly really wasn't up to.  I remember that after a couple of years, I started to get interested in the things Andy was doing.  So, I bought a boxed copy of Caldera Linux, (I have no idea why I chose Caldera) installed it, didn't quite 'get it' and then never bothered with Linux again for awhile.  Then Andy started showing me what I could really do with it, Bash and Perl and it all started to click... so I downloaded a copy of Red Hat (I think it was version 7, before RHEL came out) and I've used it (and distros based on RHEL) ever since.

Since that time, I've been a Linux Sys Admin, performed Linux consultancy and generally fiddled with it continuously.  Then in 2011 I took a managerial job which made me step back from the day to day tech and since that day, I've found that commands I used to use daily, I realise I've forgotten the syntax to and some concepts I used to be able describe in minute detail, I'm now a bit hazy with.  So, I've decided to put myself on a refresher course by writing it all down in a blog.  I'll be posting it all here during the coming weeks...


So, I've finally decided to re-start a blog that I originally first had way back in the late nineties.  At that time, I worked for a small tech company and we had time to play about with things, research and generally immerse ourselves in interesting digital stuff.  Times have changed however, and I now work for a much larger company where research (otherwise known as farting about with Computers) is far, far away from the day to day work I have to do.  So, in order to involve myself more with the life, I've decided to start up the blog again.

I'm hoping to but some tech tutorials on here and probably some comments about how I feel about things, or maybe it may drift into obscurity as my last blog did... Time will tell.