I was looking out of the window during a brilliant sun-setting rainfall. Maybe it was the picturesque view that jogged my brother-in-law memory. He says: “Did I ever show you PicLens?” He has trained an almost muscular response in me with that sort of question. My mouse moved for the default Google Search in Safari. In less than 2.5 minutes after install I’m looking at a full screen 3D wall of images. (The application unfortunately won’t work for Safari 3.1.1. They are apparently working on a big release in the near future. I installed it with FireFox)
Okay maybe I haven’t drummed this up enough. 
How would you like it if you could see a wall of TV channels instead of flipping channel by channel? For those of us with over 300 channels and nothing good on we may be able to spare ourselves the agony. THAT is what PicLens is all about, but for the web. You are able to search pictures, websites, images and much more.
My explanation is not doing this app any justice. Just check it out—>(click)!

This may be old news since it has been documented elsewhere for a couple of years now (see the link at the end of this post), but I only discovered this recently. Over the past several years, I have worked with a number of wireless networks, but only recently have I had the very different experience of moving through the world with my own personal wireless device.

Picture me walking through New York City on a beautiful summer day. Having finished a few personal errands, I’m looking to settle down in one of its several parks for a little bit and get some work done on my Macbook Pro. Since most of my work recently involves development of web applications, naturally I get a lot more done if I have an internet connection. I have heard that many of the parks in the city are outfitted with free wireless, so I drop down my Airport list and begin scanning through the several wireless networks my lappy has found. I come across one called ‘Free Public WiFi’. This looks like it could be what I’m after, so I connect, get a very strong signal but no valid IP address; no internet; nothing.

Another day, similar scenario, but another part of the city. And this time, my Airport has already automatically connected to a strong signal. You guessed it, ‘Free Public WiFi’. Again, no kind of internet love coming from this network. But now I’m curious, so when I do find a valid connection, I set out googling about this mysterious network.

Turns out it’s a bug in Windows. It’s a viral wifi epidemic that has swept at least this country, if not by now, the world. On the whole it’s fairly harmless, but the potential for danger is very great, and it’s taught me a lesson that I should have realized earlier.

Here’s what happened:

  • Somewhere, someone created an ad-hoc network, named ‘Free Public WiFi’, either intentionally as a hoax, or for some indiscernible valid purpose.
  • One or more people connected to this ad-hoc network using a Windows laptop, again, either because they were duped into thinking they’d have free internet access, or for some unknown valid reason.
  • (Here’s the fun part): Once a Windows machine has connected to an ad-hoc network, when it disconnects, it now begins to broadcast that same ad-hoc network as an available connection, essentially inviting anyone to join.

And so it spreads. As more and more Windows machines connect to ad-hoc networks named like ‘Free Public WiFi’ thinking they’ll get free internet, more and more Windows machines end up broadcasting that same network. Take into account business travel, and you should see how quickly this thing is able to spread.

The danger here really should be self-evident. It is two-fold:

  1. An attacker could be broadcasting such a network, waiting for someone to connect in order to attempt exploiting their machine.
  2. If you’re running Windows, you yourself may be broadcasting that network, essentially inviting anyone, including potential attackers to connect to you.

My partial solution to this is to not use Windows. :) The rest is a principle learned that I will be careful to apply and which, I think, more people should apply as a best practice: only connect to networks that you are certain about. For example, after this experience, I researched more carefully what public wifi is available in the city, who provides it and their locations. So now I’ll know what I’m looking for.

Even so, it is likely if you have a mobile device that at some point you will open yourself up for attack. So there is sound reason to make sure your system is secure as a rule. Use a local firewall service. Update your system often. Don’t take candy from strangers.

See: http://www.nmrc.org/pub/advise/20060114.txt

What is JeOS?

Before we begin lets ask ourselves a few questions.

When you just need to listen to music on the radio, do you turn on your Blue-Ray player, TV, and your karaoke machine as well?

When you just need to boil some water on the stove, do you turn your oven on as well and perhaps the 3 other burners along with it?

Right about now you are probably thinking of course not! I agree because of obvious reasons, why would we turn on the other unnecessary devices if we just need the one or two?

JeOS is the abbreviation of “Just Enough Operating System?” or “Just Enough OS”.

Right about now there are hundred of thousands of Windows Servers and few Linux/Unix that in essence have the karaoke machine or the oven on when it just needs to play some classical music.

If I need to setup a print server, why do I need Outlook Express, Windows Media Player, Pinball and a whack load of other not needed services installed by default drinking up precious space and resources that can be needed just spooling print jobs?

JeOS is a stripped down OS that has only the applications and services needed for the function(s) that server was meant for! FANTASTIC!

What does this mean? More space, more available resources, and more reliability for the server to do what it was intended for.

Tailoring your OS allows more available connections for processes required to the specific application or service you want to run. It becomes more reliable, secure, easier to manage and performs better then an all purpose OS.

For some Linux/UNIX experts this is not new to them as they have been customizing there servers for each task it was intended to perform. For the rest of us not so crafty in that area of OS building or have limited time on packaging and compiling there own, this is a perfect solution to getting that goal accomplished.

Almost all Linux and Unix Distributions have already created there own JeOS version.

Perhaps Microsoft can follow along with this fast growing common sense way of changing the way our OS serves the tasks we want it to do in the small-enterprise level business.

Most IT professionals have used some kind of virtualization software on there personal computers because they see the benefit of having a single point and click access to there secondary O/S. This is very convenient. The hardware available today is more powerful and flexable then before. Having 2-8 cores on a single processor with GB-TB’s or memory is the norm these days and purchasing another server to do the same tasks you did on 4 single pizza boxes, blades or towers with a single core almost can be a waste of resources on money.

Let us see how in various ways virtualization can be a benefit to the IT field.

- Development / Labs
- Consolidation
- Resources
- Single Point Management
- Disaster Recovery

Development / Labs:

Almost all medium to large sized businesses serious about there company’s infrastructure have a complete hardware mirror of there production environment for there testing and development needs. Replicating your exact production environment equipment and software does mitigate future migration for software and hardware upgrades or changes, but comes at a cost. Some companies abandon that idea for that reason, only to rely and risky live or scheduled times to make changes to there current production environment.

A Virtual lab can lessen the pain for both the IT staff responsible for the changes, and gives the same peace of mind when new projects need to be implemented as you do with a real replication of your environment. With a virtual lab you cut the needed servers in half or more depending on the hardware available and what you plan on using them for.

Consolidation

Almost every company has a few common services they require i.e. print server, active directory or user authentication server, licensing server or a backup server to name a few. These are services that can be shared on a few single hosts. Instead of having 4 dedicated servers for each service, you now have 2 or maybe 1 doing all these tasks at once!

Some may ask, wait a second here wouldn’t that be pushing it?

Yesterday we had single core dual socket possibly quad socket boards were the choice for your high end processing needs.

Today for the same price you paid for that high end server you get up to eight sockets with quad core processors! That is the equivalent of 6 additional servers in one. What does that mean? Less power consumption, more room for growth, maximized server resources and less required cables when running up to 6 servers or more (virtual appliances) on a single server vs. 6 dedicated servers!


Resource Savings

How much does it cost to keep the power flowing to all your servers 24 hours a day 7 days a week 365 days a year?

For every server that is removed from the data center, approximately 12.5 tones of CO2 emissions are saved industry estimate. To offset the 12.5 tones of CO2 you would need to plant 55 Native trees each year if you plan on keeping that server. If you have 1000 servers, 12,500 tones of CO2… you need to plant 55,000 trees a year to offset it. If you virtualized 1000 servers over 3 years you don’t need to plant 55,000 trees.

Single Point Management

Every IT professional has some type of tool for managing there hardware whether web based or application based. There are also hundreds of them out there that do the job quite well. Do you want to juggle between the various types of management software or just a single one?

Vmware has a standard console that manages all your virtual appliances with a single click. From here you can reboot, modify or add system requirements as necessary without interfering with the other appliances.

Disaster Recovery

All virtual appliances are fully customizable to suit your requirements. Each initial appliance you create can be a single dynamic large file or multiple spanned files that can be backed up or run on any vmware server for rapid deployment and recovery. In the event of a server failure or major disaster most likely the “Dell beefy R2-D2 series” you purchased 5 years ago is discontinued, you will be forced to re-build from scratch on a new server. This can be costly and time consuming. Instead you install your vmware server in 10 minutes or less just copy you’re backed up appliance and your back in business. No need to install Microsoft Windows Server, drivers, updates which can take up to most of the day!

Conclusion

There are many benefits and case studies on using vmware on your servers. Just search in google.ca. I myself have and is enough for me to start finding areas to consolidate our servers for the future. This solution is a must to investigate into and see how it can benefit your environment. The savings are huge not only on the company’s pocket but the environment as well!

Alright, here it goes! A first post for LightCube Solutions (if you don’t know who we are, take a look at  http://www.lightcubesolutions.com)

We formed the company in November 2007, feeling that there must be a way to work with the technology we love and still be masters of our own time. Since its inception, there have been scores of opportunities presenting themselves on the consulting horizon, one of the more interesting ones being an opportunity to pioneer an open source courseware application (more details on that later).

We’ve created this blog as a means to track the progress and experiences of the consultants here. We hope to regularly provide interesting posts: tracking unique experiences we encounter, links to articles of use to those in our profession and, of course, updates on the open source adventures we pursue.

Let the fun begin…


JH