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15Dec/11Off

VMware increases core counts in 4.1 licensing

TechOps Guy: Nate

I just came across this mention on AMD's blog. They note that vSphere 4.1 Update 2 included a CPU licensing change -

For the AMD Opteron 6200 and 4200 series (Family 15h) processors, ESX/ESXi 4.1 Update 2 treats each core within a compute unit as an independent core, except while applying licenses. For the purpose of licensing, ESX/ESXi treats each compute unit as a core. For example, a processor with 8 compute units can provide the processor equivalent of 16 cores on ESX/ESXi 4.1 Update 2. However, ESX/ESXi 4.1 Update 2 only requires an 8 core license for each 16-core processor.

I had not heard of that before, so it's news to me! So not only is the physical cost of the Opteron 6200 cheaper than the 6100, the licensing cost is half as much (per core). AMD's blog post above shows some pretty impressive results where a pair of quad socket 6200 blades outperforming a pair of quad socket 10-core Intel blades(2 sockets populated per blade) and at the same time the 6200 solution costs half as much (per VM). Though it's also comparing vSphere 4.1 vs 5.0, since the Opteron 6200 results seem to be the first vSphere 5.0 VMmark results posted. Also the Intel solution has twice the ram as the Opteron but still loses out.

Based on what I see it seems VMmark is more CPU bound than memory(capacity bound), which I suppose I can understand but still in the vast majority of situations the systems are not CPU bound. People tend to load up more on CPUs so they can get more memory capacity. I won't have real numbers for probably two months but I'm expecting CPU usage on this new cluster I am building to be at least half the amount of memory usage.

The change sounds Oracle-esque in licensing where they have fairly complicated decisions they made to determine how many "Oracle cores" you have on your physical processor.

I am traveling tonight to Atlanta to deploy a new vSphere cluster with Opteron 6100s, I was going to go with vSphere 5 because of the license limits on vSphere 4.1 not supporting 16 core processors. Now I see 4.1 does support it so I have about 48 hours to think about whether or not I want to change my mind. I do like vSphere 5's inclusion of LLDP support, more vCPUs per VM. Though really even now after I have been looking through what is in vSphere 5 I don't see anything game changing, nothing remotely, in my opinion like the change to vSphere 4.0 from ESX 3.5.

Weigh the benefits of what's new in vSphere 5 vs having the ability to have unlimited memory(well, up to 1TB, which for me is unlimited from a practical standpoint) in my hosts for no additional licensing cost...

I'm already licensed for vSphere 5 since we bought it after the deadline of the end of September.

Mad props to AMD for getting VMware to tweak their licensing.

Decisions, decisions..

13Dec/11Off

Extreme Grey

TechOps Guy: Nate

I was on Netgear's site earlier this morning planning on filing a support request for one of my home switches, when I managed to resolve the problem myself, at least for the moment, I'm half expecting the problem to return. Over the past 12-13 years or so I've never had even one issue with the small (8 ports or less) metal-enclosed Netgear switches so have stuck to them they have worked very well for me (one company I was at bought a single netgear 48-port gig switch which didn't work very well by contrast).

I remember reading a while ago how Netgear teamed up with Extreme to re-sell their Black Diamond series of switches.

I didn't think too much of it till I was on Netgear's site today so I decided to try to poke around and see if I could find the product(s) that were being resold or OEM'd, and I found them, here is one.

The Netgear 8800

When I saw that it just looked so strange! It's HP-grey in color, not the usual purple I'm used to seeing. Speaking of HP and purple someone at HP recently speculated to me that the 3PAR arrays will likely stick to being yellow instead of HP-grey because it makes them stand out in the data center.

Tangent comin' hold onto your butts...

While troubleshooting my home network this morning I think I let some of the smoke out of my HP workstation. Which reminds me of this quote I came across on slashdot years ago

 There is no such thing as a "safe" capacitor! They are filled with SMOKE and that smoke is DEADLY. ALWAYS let the smoke out of the capacitors before attempting to handle them! This should only be done by PROFESSIONALS. Do NOT try this at home.

 Always assume a CAPACITOR is holding a charge. And: Capacitors don't kill people, it's the circuit of which the person is a part that is dangerous...

I thought the networking issue may of been somehow caused by the HP box, so I rebooted it, while it was in the midst of rebooting(middle of POST before the screen came up), I powered it off(by holding down the power button), to reset the network chipset entirely. When I did that I heard a weird clicking sound coming from either the HP box(I think so) or my Cyberpower UPS which was right next to it. Within about 10 seconds I swear a little puff of smoke came out of the HP box(I think), there's a remote chance it was just dust but I don't think so. I unplugged the HP box and the clicking stopped. Then I plugged it back in about 30 seconds later, which caused it to turn on automatically, it booted like a champ, no errors, the UPS event log reported nothing. So I don't know what inside the HP box released the smoke but I guess it was not vital?

Back on topic..

Anyways I poked around in the user manuals and they did a pretty good job of replacing all references of the original product and making it look like a Netgear product through and through (with a couple minor exceptions in diagrams).

I remember about 11 years ago now when I was shopping for a Summit 48 on Ebay for my company(this product wasn't known for quality at the time though I didn't know it at the time), I came across some Compaq OEM'd Summit 48s that I think were white in color.

If I was building a bigger network I really would be tempted to opt for this Netgear product if for nothing else to see the expression on people's faces when I tell them I'm using Netgear, not a brand that comes to most people's minds when it comes to data center networks! Speaking of data center it looks like Extreme's 40GbE offerings are leading the market pretty good, I'm so proud of them! Hopefully they can sustain the execution and gain market share. They've had some missteps in the past which has knocked them back a few notches(at the time), but they certainly have another opportunity here.

I remember when HP used to OEM/re-sell Foundry Networks chassis switches though I seem to recall HP not making any modifications to the chassis itself(at least according to the pictures on the website, I don't think it even had an HP logo on the thing). The product at the time was the MG8 which I was entertaining for a data center build out back in 2004/2005. I wasn't going to buy from HP but was just one of those days that I was poking around and came across it on HP's site.

Oh and in case your wondering my home network used to be powered by Extreme, I had a trusty Summit 48 for many years, which I eventually upgraded to a Summit 48si (which I still have now). I stopped using it many years ago because I just didn't have enough ports at home to justify the power usage or more importantly the noise, 1U data center switches are so noisy for home use! I went so far as to replace all of the fans in the 48si (I believe I used Sunon Maglev fans) with quieter ones which reduced the noise by at least half but it was still really loud.

The patented MagLev design is based on magnetic principles and forces that not only propel the fan but also ensure stable rotation over its entire 360 degrees of movement. Utilizing the attraction of the magnetic levitation force, MagLev eliminates the wobbling and shaking problems of traditional motor fans. With this new technology, the MagLev fan propeller is suspended in air during rotation so that the shaft and bearing do not come into direct contact with each other to create friction.

(I dig technology even when it comes to fans!)

The Summit 48 by contrast was 2U and had 80mm fans which spun slower and were quieter. At the moment I have 9 devices wired into my netgear-powered home switching network (one 8-port switch and one 5-port). I used to have a couple Foundry load balancers, and a Cisco switch and a couple other things I think but I recycled them with my Summit 48 years ago, was too lazy to try to re-sell them.

I just saw that picture and was just fascinated by it. It also gives me another opportunity to add more color onto this blog.

Filed under: Networking Comments Off
9Dec/11Off

WebOS to be open sourced

TechOps Guy: Nate

Probably the best thing that could of happened given the scenarios on the table happened to WebOS:

HP Decided to Open source the whole thing, end-to-end

HP intends to fully open source every component of webOS, right down to its Linux core. They aren’t ready to give a public timeframe for exactly when that open sourcing will happen, because there’s some work that has to be done first.

I think it's wonderful news myself, I did not relish the thought that so many people wanted the likes of Amazon to acquire WebOS which made absolutely no sense to me.

Maintaining an operating system is a lot of work, and I can understand other mobile device makers not wanting to take on the mammoth task of doing so themselves.

Open sourcing it I believe will give it a bright future.

I really was not expecting HP to maintain such.. commitment to the platform. I'm sure if the previous CEO was still around they would not be investing to open source the software, so score a big one for Meg in my book with this decision, good job, this is a great x-mas present for WebOS users and fans alike.

It may be a year or two before another company attempts to release a WebOS product based on this code base but I'm more confident now than I was before that it'll happen. The OS really is great, and now that it will be pretty much the most technologically advanced fully open mobile platform on the planet (more so than Android I believe) it'll come back from the depths of the abyss it was in just a few months ago.

I always felt that the likes of the Touchpad, the Veer, and the Pre- were released before they were ready, they were rushed to market. More so on the software front than hardware for the former, more on the hardware for the latter. The Pre3 was going to be released 6 months too late to make any sort of dent in the market.  I think there was too much pressure to deliver products in such a short time frame they didn't have the time they needed to do it right. With open sourcing of the OS, things will likely move at a slower pace at least initially but the chances of getting it right I believe go way up.

wooohoo!

(I use my Pre3 and one of my two Touchpads every day)

Tagged as: 1 Comment
7Dec/11Off

Protect yourself this holiday season with this tech tip from all of us

TechOps Guy: Nate

Well, I guess it's just from me, since there isn't an us anymore (picture of the evil monkey from family guy comes to mind, pointing at the former techopsguys)

I was having some talks about this with some co-workers today, it started when buy.com sent me an email from their collections department saying that I owed them money on something that I ordered on August 12th 2011. I got the item a long time ago, and buy.com is one of those places that charges you the same time the item ships. Well I guess this order must've slipped through their system somehow (probably along with a bunch of others too). It was an order for a carrying case for a laptop.

I've been a happy and loyal customer of buy.com for almost a decade now, my email from them goes back to December 24th 2001. buy.com and outpost.com (now Frys.com) were two of my main shopping sites early on. I still do a bunch of business with buy.com, but haven't bought from frys.com since they were bought I think.

This was the first such collections email I had received so I thought maybe it was a scam, or a spam or something but the email address I use is not easy to guess and they had all of the right information. So I went to the site and gave them an updated credit card for them to use. You may remember my email system strips out things like links that point to spoofed sites.

The reason the transaction failed is well they weren't supposed to wait four months before attempting to charge the card. I have been using temporary credit cards generated from Bank of America's ShopSafe program for many years now, and my standard is to keep the expiry date of the temporary cards to the minimum of two months. So when buy.com's systems failed and they went back to charge an old order of course it failed since the card was expired.

(Think 4 months is bad? One company I worked for had to literally cut their largest customer a $1M check to sort out an accounting problem(the large customer was and is a publicly traded company so this came up during their quarterly review for earnings) due to their billing system not properly billing customers for something like six months and they weren't able to go back and charge them too much time had passed)

Anyways my point is Bank of America is not the only bank out there that has this ability I know others do (though can't think of any off the top of my head I'm sure they exist). What is sort of shocking to me though is over the years as the holidays come and go there are news casts and stuff that try to give tips for how best to protect yourself with online shopping. Usually the tips are good but I've never -- ever seen anyone mention taking advantage of temporary credit card numbers to better protect your online purchases. I use them even with merchants I trust like buy.com. I think it's a good habit to be in. I booked my recent hotels and airline tickets with them. Not only have I not heard the media report on this technology but I very rarely come across anyone that even knows such stuff exists (or if they have heard of it, they have never used it).

There's really only one place that I haven't been able to use temporary credit card numbers online -- that is wingstop. Damn place wants to see the card you used in person when you go to pick your grub up, and I don't know about you but I haven't owned a printer in seven years.

These temporary cards can be more labor intensive if your ordering through marketplace sites like buy.com, because the cards only allow one merchant to charge them, so if you have an order with stuff from 5 different merchants you have to split it up into 5 different orders, or use a regular credit card (I of course go ahead and split it up since there is no savings for shipping or anything).

The temporary credit cards also work well for recurring payments. I use one for my co-location bill for this blog. The bill is $100/mo, I think my temporary card for that has a limit of $120/mo, and it allows up to $120/mo each month for as long as I want. It doesn't allow more than $120/mo though. I can even arbitrarily increase the limit (but I can't decrease it). I can even arbitrarily extend the expiry date (but I can't decrease that either). It's really handy.

When I signed up for a premium subscription to LinkedIn, they sent me an email saying they've automatically opted me in to auto renew when my subscription is due next year and that I need to do something special to get out of it. Joke's on them though, the credit card used to sign up will not only be long expired by then but I have the ability to go into the Shop Safe system and pro-actively delete the credit card whenever I want!

Having a hard time getting someone to stop renewing auto payments? Next time use a temporary credit card!

Now they aren't perfect. For example there is really no way to tell what charges map to what credit card numbers, and customer service really has little knowledge of this program. Not only that but I think when it comes to fraud, there is no distinction between Shop safe numbers and regular card numbers. If a shop safe number is compromised I DON'T CARE. Chances are it has less than $10 in credit left on it, assuming it is not expired and assuming I haven't gone in and nuked it anyways! But the bank doesn't have a way to distinguish it (I don't think), so if a merchant reports the card # I used was stolen then they flag the account like they otherwise would.

With Shop safe (or a similar program) I'm so much better protected in the online world than I am in the real world. Not that I have much to worry about anyways, it's not as if I'm liable for fraudulent transactions on my card(I did have a few about a year ago though my card was canceled before I knew what was going on and while the bank said they were going to send me something that disclosed what was bought that never happened, I just signed some paper saying purchases from those merchants was not me).

But I like to be a safe shopper anyways, whenever I can.

So spread the word if you can - use temporary credit card numbers for online shopping for about the most safe shopping experience around!

If you know what other banks offer this capability leave a comment!

Happy Holidays from techopsguys^H

(that makes 100 blog posts for 2011 ! woohoo! I don't think I'll come close to the 132 I did last year at this rate)

I started more formally collecting stats on the traffic on the site if your curious check this site out(updates each Sunday). The number one search term for December for my site? Of all things? The HP Touchpad ? I think I have one, maybe two posts on that (plan to have a follow up once HP makes their big decision). OK looks like 4 posts.

I had one crazy IP from Rackspace hosting hitting this site about once every two seconds, 280,000 hits over the span of about 6 weeks, I blocked them at Apache with a message asking them to fix their bot or justify their traffic to me and I'd unblock it but got no reply. They continued for a few more weeks after I blocked them. Really strange!

My data goes back to the middle of August 2011.

Filed under: Random Thought 1 Comment
7Dec/11Off

Impending rolling outages in EC2

TechOps Guy: Nate

I don't write too much about EC2, despite how absolutely terrible it is, I will be writing about it in more depth soon(months most likely, it's complicated). Nothing is more frustrating than working with stuff in EC2.

I have told some folks recently that my private rants about EC2 and associated services makes me feel like those folks in 2005-7 screaming about the implosion of the housing market yet for the most part nobody was listening because that's not what they wanted to hear.

Same goes for EC2.

Anyways, I wanted to mention this, which talks about impending rolling outages across the Amazon infrastructure (within the next week or two).

Oh wait these are not outages, these are "scheduled maintenance events".

That you can't opt out of. You can postpone them a bit, but you can't avoid them entirely, short of getting the hell outta there (which is a project I am working on - finally! Going to Atlanta next week, more than 4 months later than I was originally expecting)

Yeah, good design there. Better design? Take a look at what the folks over at a provider in the UK called UltraSpeed does, it's clear they are passionate about what they do, and things like 15 minute SLA for restoring a failed server show they take pride in their work(look ma! No hard disks in the servers! Automated off site backups to another country!). Or Terremark - fire in the data center? No problem.

I have little doubt this is in response to critical security flaws which can only be addressed by rebooting the tens or hundreds of thousands of VMs across their infrastructure in a short time before it gets exploited, assuming it's not being exploited already.

I fully expect that perhaps by the end of this month there will be some security group out there that discloses the vulnerability that Amazon is frantically trying to address now.

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7Dec/11Off

Red Hat Bringing back UML ?

TechOps Guy: Nate

User mode linux was kind of popular many years ago especially with the cheap virtual hosting crowd, but interest seemed to die off a while ago, with what seems to be a semi-official page for user mode linux not being updated since the Fedora Core 5 days which was around 2006.

Red hat apparently just released RHEL 6.2, and among the features, is something that looks remarkably similar to UML -

Linux Containers
•    Linux containers provide a flexible approach to application runtime containment on bare-metal without the need to fully virtualize the workload. This release provides application level containers to separate and control the application resource usage policies via cgroup and namespaces. This release introduces basic management of container life-cycle by allowing for creation, editing and deletion of containers via the libvirt API and the virt-manager GUI.
•     Linux Containers provides a means to run applications in a container, a deployment model familiar to UNIX administrators. Also provides container life-cycle management for these containerized applications through a graphical user interface (GUI) and user space utility (libvirt).
•     Linux Containers is in Technology Preview at this time.

Which seems to be basically an attempt at a clone of Solaris containers. Seems like a strange approach for Red Hat to take given the investment in KVM. I struggle to think of a good use case for Linux containers over KVM.

Red hat also has enhanced KVM quite a bit, this update sort of caught my eye

Virtual CPU timeslice sharing for multiprocessor guests is a new feature in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.2. Scheduler changes within the kernel now allow for virtual CPUs inside a guest to make more efficient use of the timeslice allocated to the guest, before processor time is yielded back to the host. This change is especially beneficial to large SMP systems that have traditionally experienced guest performance lag due to inherent lock holder preemption  issues. In summary, this new feature eliminates resource consuming system overhead so that a guest can use more of the CPU resources assigned to them much more efficiently.

No informations on specifics as far as what constitutes a "large" system or how many virtual CPUs were provisioned for a given physical CPU etc. But it's interesting to see, I mean it's one of those technical details in hypervisors that you just can't get an indication from by viewing a spec sheet or a manual or something. Such things are rarely talked about in presentations as well. I remember being at a VMware presentation a few years ago where they mentioned they could of enabled 8-way SMP on ESX 3.x, it was apparently an undocumented feature, but chose not to because the scheduler overhead didn't make it worth while.

Red Hat also integrated the beta of their RHEV 3 platform, I'm hopeful this new platform develops into something that can better compete with vSphere. Though their website is really devoid of information at this point which is unfortunate.

They also make an erroneous claim that RHEV 3 crushes the competition by running more VMs than anyone else and site a SPECvirt benchmark as the proof. While the results are impressive they aren't really up front with the fact that the hardware more than anything else drove the performance with 80 x 2.4Ghz CPU cores, 2TB of memory and more than 500 spindles. If you look at the results on a more level playing field the performance of RHEV 3 and vSphere is more in line. RHEV still wins, but not by a crushing amount. I really wish these VM benchmarks gave some indication as to how much disk I/O was going on. It is interesting to see all the tuning measures that are disclosed, gives some good information on settings to go investigate maybe they have broader applications than synthetic benchmarking.

Of course performance is only a part of what is needed in a hypervisor, hopefully RHEV 3 will be as functional as it is fast.

There is a Enterprise Hypervisor Comparison released recently by VMGuru.nl, which does a pretty good job at comparing the major hypervisors, though does not include KVM. I'd like to see more of these comparisons from other angles, if you know of more guides let me know.

One thing that stands out a lot is OS support, it's strange to me how VMware can support so many operating systems but other hypervisors don't. Is this simply a matter of choice? Or is the VM technology VMware has so much better that it allows them to support the broader number of guest operating systems with little/no effort on their part? Or both ? I mean Hyper-V not supporting Windows NT ? How hard can it be to support that old thing? Nobody other than VMware supporting Solaris ?

I've talked off and on about KVM, as I watch and wait for it to mature more. I haven't used KVM yet myself. I will target RHEV 3, when it is released, to try and see where it stands.

I'm kind of excited. Kind of because breaking up with VMware after 12 years is not going to be easy for me :)

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6Dec/11Off

Is TV Broken ?

TechOps Guy: Nate

Been reading an interesting, and to me at least, kind of surprising discussion over on slashdot about whether or not TV is broken. The surprising part is how negative people view TV at least in that discussion(is it a result of the moderation at work? There's too many comments to check)

Complaint: 500 channels and nothing to watch

Some people even say they get more than 500 channels. Myself I have channels that number up to 800 or 900 but as far as channels I actually have normal content on(whether or not I watch it) I believe is well under 200, there's tons of PPV, or "radio" channels, or even duplicates(east/west feeds etc). There just isn't a very good way to figure out what you may like to watch that your not aware of. One issue I have with a DVR is I sometimes come across shows I really like only to find out they were canceled years ago, since I so rarely see the ads for upcoming shows I don't know what's out there. But the good thing about a (good) DVR is you can program it in advance. I remember seeing some early advertisements for the show Falling Skies but the show wasn't due to air for months at the time(guide data goes out only two weeks), so I set a wish list in my Tivo to record any shows in HD with that name, and right on schedule there it was when the time came.

Complaint: I want ala carte access

A major request seems to be people want to subscribe to only the 10 or 20 channels (maybe less) that have the content they want to watch, pay a tiny amount per channel and cut their bill by a large amount. What people don't seem to realize is this would (if widely deployed) cause probably at least 50-60% of the channels to go away entirely (the vast majority of which are watched by some niche of people including geeks/nerds) and the net result may be instead of having 10 channels of content they want to watch they're down to two because the rest got canceled. Subsidizing is an important part of making these channels available.

There is on demand from some cable (and maybe satellite too) companies. I don't know what the state of that is since I have Tivo which is not compatible with that. Tivo in itself is a form of on demand, one that is compatible with a wide range of cable, OTA and in some cases satellite providers. Though most people don't want to pay for that either.

A good example of this for me at least was the cancellation of one of the only pod casts/web casts/whatever you call them called Cranky Geeks, due to lack of advertiser interest, Cranky Geeks wasn't subsidized much (if at all), and it died (had a good run though, I didn't come across it until the last year or so of operation). I really enjoyed it even if I rarely learned anything from it, it was great to watch the points of view and conversations they had.

Complaint: I want real on demand access

Some people, myself included dream of this, but it'll likely never happen for reasons that have nothing to do with TV as a product or technology. The same applies for books or music too. It is unfortunate as this would be a holy grail.

One post goes to an extreme

Here's how it should work. I pay a content provider a subscription for a show. For instance, $0.75 for a season of House without ads, or $0.05 for a season of House with ads. $1.50 for a season of "The Daily Show" without ads.

If that sort of model gets adopted TV will go dark overnight.

Complaint: costs too much

You still have the option of going with over the air broadcasts, I recently bought a high end HD TV antenna for someone as an xmas present so they could get HD signals since they don't have HD cable service. I don't think I've used OTA since 1989(TV or Radio), I'll see how well it works these days. All of this content costs money which leads me to..

Complaint: too much advertising

You were just complaining that you are paying too much and now your saying there's too many ads too ? You either need to pay more, or get more ads or go somewhere else for your (hopefully legal but probably won't be) content.

There is also a new invention called a DVR, I think TiVo and at one point ReplayTV had them. Tivo has had it's first increase in subscribers in many years recently, which is nice to see as a very long time Tivo subscriber (3 Tivos all with lifetime subscriptions, gave one to my sister earlier this year). My first Tivo Series 1 is still used every day and I bought it about 10 years ago (April 4th 2001 in fact just looked at the receipt - replaced the HDs to get more capacity about 6 years ago). To me at least it's kind of sad to see what passes as a DVR these days from the cable/satellite companies, but I suppose they are sometimes better than nothing.

Complaint: give me more educational programing less mindless sitcoms

If there were more people that were willing to watch such content such content would appear, since there is not, the market goes to where the money is. I saw one person ask for college lectures on TV, these do exist although are probably pretty rare. I skimmed across some when I was at my mother's house a couple of weeks ago in Orange County. There is a community college there called SaddleBack Community College which airs a lot of stuff on cable TV, they have at least one dedicated channel. I attended this school myself for a year or so back when I was experimenting with the idea of going to college, some of the classes I took I had to watch the TV to get the lectures, then study at home and go in and take tests once in a while. It didn't work for me any more than regular school works for me, I could study, take notes, and highlight passages in a book for an hour and at the end not remember a single thing of what I just did (even though the notes and highlights were good) because my mind simply wasn't in it.

So instead of blaming TV you should be blaming the audience since TV is giving the audience what most people want.

Guess what - Fear factor is coming back.. Reality shows are cheap to produce and attract a good number of viewers. My favorite reality shows are the car repo shows on TruTV - it's amazing to me to see the lengths some folks go through to prevent their property from being re-possessed by the bank. Those repo guys in New Jersey have some serious balls. Looks like you can watch the shows online, but when I go to the link nothing happens - must not be compatible with Linux.

My complaints

I share the same above complaints but they are really minor for me, most of them are addressed by Tivo, and having had Tivo so long it's a natural thing at this point. I do wish I could find a better way to find things on TV. I have Tivo suggestions, and I can rate shows with thumbs up/down on my remote which is a start but I'm sure there is more out there, e.g. on the premium channels my usage of them has been very very low for years now, I'm sure there is some good stuff here or there but am not exposed to it. I see many people sing the praises of HBO though I can't remember the last time I was tuned to HBO(not sure why I've kept them around). Tivo did go through a phase with me at one point where it was confident I was a fan of kung fu stuff and kept recording tons of kung fu over and over. I've never been a fan o f kung fu and had never recorded anything, took a few weeks of convincing, but Tivo eventually stopped recording kung fu.

I don't like how badly digital tv degrades when there are signal issues, the audio cutting out is the most annoying. Analog TV degraded so much more gracefully!

I would like a next generation of cable card that was more functional, something that had more cable box-like functionality so I could do things like get on demand, or order PPV from Tivo. Not critical though.

More remote access would be nice, I have a couple of Slingbox solo's that I haven't had hooked up in 4-5 years but plan to hook one up this weekend for my trip to Atlanta next week so I can watch my local NFL games while I'm there (assuming there is time). Slingbox had an annoying firmware update a few years back which did some stupid things, fortunately I never accepted the update so I can still use my Slingbox in Linux. Would be great if I could use it from my WebOS devices but that'll never happen. So even remote access is addressed to some degree.

I'd like to see more creative use of the additional resolution provided by HD on TV. CNBC HD+ does a great job at this, very cool. I've seen other channels like NBC do creative things during big political elections. Maybe it wouldn't work for most other channels but for news (and maybe sports) it would be cool. I think NFL Redzone is sort of like this as well. Though I've only seen NFL Redzone at a bar once in Arizona years ago(and seem to remember having multiple games on at the same time on a single screen). I don't watch it normally since I like to watch the full game.

Last Thoughts

A good DVR goes a long way to me. I just checked the number of season passes and it's more than 70 at this point (all time high for me). I think some shows are canceled and I just don't know it yet, most of the season passes transferred flawlessly when I moved to CA (I thought I'd lose them all), I did lose those that were tied to local TV channels (since those channels don't exist here - the passes stayed but the shows didn't get recorded), but the cable channel ones all stuck around.

A lot of what I watch is news (CNBC mainly, find it entertaining, I'm not an investor), and I watch some NFL too(speaking of sports I find it funny that so many people feel they have to watch it live, as if the results of the game would change if they watched it time delayed, I don't start watching a NFL game until at least and hour after it starts), and a bunch of other things some of which I could probably get online, but the Tivo gets it for me already and has been very reliable so haven't had a reason to change.

Speaking of DVRs, I saw an interview with the president of CBS earlier this morning on CNBC where he actually said DVRs are our friends. Which I thought was shocking, given how easy it is to skip ads and stuff. His reasoning was it boosts viewer ship of shows by a big margin (on big shows the numbers are in the millions). I guess this combined with product placement advertising and stuff offsets the ability to time shift.

I've covered it many times before but the current design of the internet doesn't have the capacity to replace broadcast and satellite tv, it's just not efficient enough by a very wide margin. If IPv6 and large scale multicast come along, assuming it works maybe it would work, I'm not holding my breath though.

I'll admit the price tag of Tivo isn't cheap, it wasn't an easy decision way back when to spend what I think was around $950 for a DVR,and my series 3 unit which is my newest but still four years old was around $1,300 (just looked at the receipt - March 2007 included storage upgrade). But they have paid for themselves many times over during the years, especially given how long they have lasted and the lifetime subscriptions (which have gone up over the years, originally for me it was $199, next Tivo was $299, most recent Tivo Series 3 was $399, now it's $499). I remember reading at one point that "lifetime" technically meant something like 3 years with Tivo (in the fine print - this was ~7-8 years ago not sure about today), fortunately Tivo hasn't declared my oldest Series 1 units obsolete and stopped serving them, probably because there's still a fair number of those boxes out there and if they stopped serving them they would take a decent hit to their subscriber numbers and they don't want to take that hit. They did cut off UK users a while back when they pulled out of the market.

My Tivos probably wouldn't lasted as long as they have if I didn't protect all of my electronic equipment with UPSs which I believe goes a long ways towards extending their life. It almost pains me to see someone with fancy electronic gear just plugged into a cheap surge protector. UPSs at home are so incredibly rare outside of the tech community.

Tivo isn't exactly rolling in spare dollar bills so it's hard to say they are ripping me off for this stuff, it costs a lot of money to do good R&D, and they don't have large economies of scale to drive the costs down so the cost remains higher than it otherwise would be. People have been writing the obituary for Tivo for what seems like a decade now and yet it keeps on kicking (fortunately for folks like me!).

With the Tivo upgrade program I can get the lifetime service for $399 again and retain my existing Tivo subscriptions (it doesn't transfer it just gives a discount which is nice), I have contemplated over the years whether or not to get the next generation of Tivo but so far haven't had a big reason to do so. A lot of the new functionality revolves around internet streaming (some of which I have on my current Series 3 but don't really use it much - haven't come across much I'm interested in), and Apple iPad and iPhone integration (I have no Apple products so that doesn't help me either).

I don't think TV is broken, the basic model is outdated to some extent, but bolt ons like on demand, and DVRs are helping extend the useful life of the concept, the lack of patience of the younger generations will result in the continued slow erosion in market share though.

The lack of patience reminds me of this from Star Trek.


[..]
STUBBS: Nobody will say anything at all, Wesley. We will not even be mentioned. I could live with failure. Well, maybe not. But never even to try. To miss your one chance at bat. Do you know baseball?
WESLEY: Yes, my father taught it to me when I was young.
STUBBS: Once, centuries ago, it was the beloved national pastime of the Americas, Wesley. Abandoned by a society that prized fast food and faster games. Lost to impatience.
[..]

Filed under: Random Thought 1 Comment
2Dec/11Off

New record holder for inefficient storage – VMware VSA

TechOps Guy: Nate

I came across this article last night and was honestly pretty shocked, it talks about the limitations of the new VMware Virtual Storage Appliance that was released along side vSphere 5. I think it is the second VSA to receive full VMware certification after the HP/Lefthand P4000.

The article states

[..]
Plus, this capacity will be limited by a 75% storage overhead requirement for RAID data protection. Thus, a VSA consisting of eight 2 TBs would have a raw capacity of 16 TB, but the 75% redundancy overhead would result in a maximum usable capacity of 4 TB.

VMware documentation cites high availability as the reason behind VSA’s capacity limitations: “The VSA cluster requires RAID10 virtual disks created from the physical disks, and the vSphere Storage Appliance uses RAID1 to maintain the VSA datastores’ replicas,” resulting in effective capacity of just 25% of the total physical hard disk capacity.
[..]

That's pretty pathetic! Some folks bang on NetApp for being inefficient in space, I've ragged on a couple of other folks for the same, but this VSA sets a new standard. Well there is this NEC system with 6%, though in NEC's case that was by choice. The current VSA architecture forces the low utilization on you whether you want it or not.

I don't doubt that VMware released the VSA "because they could", I'm sure they designed it primarily for their field reps to show off the shared storage abilities of vSphere from laptops and stuff like that (that was their main use of the Lefthand VSA when it first came out at least), given how crippled the VSA is(it doesn't stop at low utilization see the article for more), I can't imagine anyone wanting to use it - at any price.

The HP Lefthand VSA seems like a much better approach - it's more flexible, has more fault tolerance options, and appears to have an entry level price of about half that of the VMware VSA.

The only thing less efficient that I have come across is utilization in Amazon EC2 - where disk utilization rates in the low single digits are very common due to the broken cookie cutter design of the system.