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Starting a newsletter

I share a ton of links, I have a thing that harvests my twitter account and over a few years it has collected over 4 500 links. Twitter is great for that but also it’s hard to add a bit of annotation or comment to those shared links in the constrained space. Of course I also curate my Free for Dev list which has grown quite huge, so I come across a lot of interesting stuff.

Everyone these days seem to have a news letter and I’ve toyed with the idea for a long time. The idea would be to share the random things I come across, no real theme, goal or set frequency, just a list of stuff I find with some short comments whenever I feel I have a good selection of things to share. I could stick them up here as blog posts but I don’t want one of those sad blogs where the entire frontpage is weekly link lists 😉

Well I’ve decided to give it a go, I signed up with Mail Chimp and set something up there. Last week I tweeted twice about it and tried to get some early adopters on board for the first mail in order to get some feedback and so forth. This has been quite positive thanks a lot to those who took the time to send me a note.

So if you’d like to subscribe please head over to and sign up at the bar above, it’s the usual Mail Chimp thing so you’ll get a confirmation email to double opt-in with. If you want to see what you’re getting yourself into the archive can be found at Mail Chimp, there is one mail there already.

The next one should go out tomorrow or so, looking forward to trying this out!

DevOps talk at London QCon 2010

I was invited to London QCon this year to give a talk, I chose to talk about how I’ve helped to build a startup heavily favoring the scenario where developers do support, rollouts and maintenance of their code directly in production.

My talk go into the approaches I took while thinking about networks, boxes, operating systems, team structure, monitoring and so forth to attain these goals in a way that does not compromise the traditional goals that sysadmins have as a team and profession.

You can watch the talk – 50 minutes roughly – at the InfoQ site.

I should add I was feeling a bit rough on the day and coming down with a cold, but mostly I think I remained more or less conscious during the talk 🙂

London Devops Night Venue Sponsor

Tomorrow is our first public London DevOps meetup, it’s looking like there will be a lot of people given the activity on Twitter, hopefully it will be a great night.

In the mean time The Guardian has offered us a regular venue at their big auditorium where the London Scale Camp was held. This is an excellent venue setup with projectors and everything. We could get it every month but I figured we’ll keep the talks bi-monthly and do drinks night or just something social on the other nights. There are several pubs around the Guardian so we’ll do drinks after the 1 or 2 talks a night.

The upcoming dates – excluding the pure pub nights are then:

02/03/2010 7pm – Agile Systems Administration at London Geek Nights – thanks to Thoughtworks
28/04/2010 7pm – Topic TBA – thanks to The Guardian for the venue
30/06/2010 7pm – Topic TBA – thanks to The Guardian for the venue
27/10/2010 6pm – Topic TBA – thanks to The Guardian for the venue
29/12/2010 6pm – Topic TBA – thanks to The Guardian for the venue

Put them in your calendars and again massive thanks to The Guardian for sponsoring us.

London DevOps

Since DevOps Days last year a number of us have been meeting monthly, it was all a bit under the radar and not announced to the wider public.

The thinking was that we wanted to be sure we will do the meetings roughly monthly rather than start something with a lot of noise and then fizzle out.

We’ve met 4 months in a row and we figured it’s about time to throw open the doors. We are therefore meeting on the 24th of February 2010 at The Priory Bar, we’ll aim to be there from 6 or 7pm on wards.

We’re trying to create a community of like minded people in London – Sysadmins, Ops People, Developers, Puppet Users, Chef Users we do not discriminate. As long as your interested in Agile Infrastructures or in bridging the gap between the Dev and Ops Silos or just want to hang out with a bunch of Systems guys who aren’t stuck in the 1980s you’re welcome to join us. The basic format we’re aiming for is to meet in a pub/restaurant for Lunch or Dinner one month and every second month to try and arrange some meeting with talks.

Our first actual meeting with talks will be in March at a venue provided by Thought Works so the meeting on the 24th is to discuss what we’ll be up to there. We’ll also be very glad to hear from any companies who would like to offer us some space on a bi-monthly basis for our talks.

While on the subject I should mention an event that is coming up. In March London hosts Q-Con with a track specifically for DevOps and I will be there doing a talk as well as some of our other regular members.

Please help spread the word by tweeting with the #ldndevops hashtag. We’ve created a site at that aggregates some of the blogs of people who we already know about in London who are operating in this space. Please contact me here in comments or on Twitter @ripienaar to get yourself added.

Do your backups!

I have a QNAP TS-209 Nas device. It’s a Linux based appliance with 2 hot swap drives.

It has now died by the looks of it, QNAP support has been utterly useless to say the least but I have pretty much resolved to just replacing this unit even if they are able to resurrect it. The problem with the 1xx and 2xx range of QNAP is that its some weird CPU architecture and to enable huge files on them they had to patch the ext3 file system.

The end result is that while the devices are advertised as being ext3 they are in-fact a patched ext3 and you cannot just mount them in a Linux machine. They have also now stopped selling this series of machine so should yours ever die you are just plainly out of luck. QNAP have made a live cd available that’s similarly patched so you should have some hope if you are really in trouble.

In my case the device seem to have also totally corrupted the drives when it died so even in the Live CD scenario both are dead. It seems the SATA interface has gone rather than the disks, the moment I put a disk in it seems the CPU is totally kept busy dealing with blocking I/O requests, out of a 1000 pings about 20 will get replies – and those will be 30 second response times.

This brings me to several points:

  • Everyone knows this (right?) but RAID is not a form of backup, it’s most probably that if one drive in a RAID array gets it’s data corrupted the others will suffer too. It simply protects you against hardware failure on a single drive.
  • You should make backups regularly, as it turns out I made a backup just 12 days before it died so every file that was on the NAS is safe.

I’ve now spent the last 2 or so days duplicating my backups so I am redundantly covered while I look for a replacement. I’d have liked to not buy another QNAP but it’s really unfortunate that they do seem to have the best range of products in this space. All the vendors seem to have stopped selling 2 drive units so I am down to getting a 4 drive QNAP TS-439 now, this will set me back almost GBP900 but will give me 2TB of mirrored space, apple Time Machine backups for all my macs etc, pricey but important given that this is all my photos and music.

In the same week it seems my Apple iMac 24 inch has had similar problems. It isn’t booting, it seems a similar problem has afflicted it, I am not getting the usual I/O errors I saw on other macs when their drives died instead it’s other I/O timeouts that suggest more it’s the controller and not the drives. Thankfully I have Apple Care so it’s in for a free fixup. I do not have backups of this machine – that’s by design – since I keep all my data on servers on the internet and those are backed up off-site nightly. My desktops tend to be disposable and simply terminals to online data even browser bookmarks are stored online. The only thing lost on this machine would be chat logs and browser history, nothing else. I need to make some kind of plan with chat logs as those do tend to be more and more important these days.

So to sum up, even if you have multi redundancy in your drives in a NAS you must still do your backups, it’s easy with QNAPs to even do it off-site as you can rsync to a remote location or even sync to Amazon S3. Of course they also have USB ports so you can place files on an external drive.

Moved to WordPress

After years of Movable Type I’ve finally decided I’ve had enough.

Movable Type was great years ago, there was a lot of community around it, lots of themes available, plugins and it was a great little blogging platform.  Today it seems world and dog has deserted it and moved on, you can find almost no out of the box themes for it even if you wanted to pay, not to mention the situation with few plugins etc.

I went through the considerable pain during the last week to migrate things into WordPress and I think I finally got most of it kind of working.  There will be the usual pains of RSS feeds showing old content, broken links and so forth and I apologize for this up front.

The move also made a new theme a necessity, I bought a few commercial ones but none of them really worked for me in the end I settled for one of the free ones that’s featured by WordPress, it’s ok I guess, I might change it again in the near future.  As before when I migrated blogs I’ve kept a screenshot of the old layouts: 2007-12-06 and 2009-10-09