VMware + Ubuntu

I installed VMware Workstation on my new laptop so that I can test applications i develop on various platforms. The first one I decided to try on it was Ubuntu 8.04 which was just released a few days ago. The results were amazing. Not only did VMware perform exceedingly well on my system, the entire installation of Ubuntu took under 10 minutes to complete.

Once i rebooted the virtual OS, performance was on par with my native windows OS. There was no lagging or other issues I used to find in virtualization. And while I have always been a RHEL / CentOS guy, this latest release of Ubuntu is proving to be quite functional out of the box. Package management is a breeze with built-in tools for adding and removing applications from the online repositories. The other element that I appreciated is Ubuntu’s small disk footprint. It starts out with the essentials and allows you to add on as necessary and thus a standard desktop install only uses 2.4GB.

Will i be using VMware more now? Absolutely! Will Ubuntu replace my beloved RHEL and CentOS on my servers? Doubt it. While it proves to be a nice desktop environment, there is still more support for RPM based packages on the Red Hat architecture. But who knows, as Ubuntu becomes more and more popular on desktops it may one day overtake Red Hat as the dominant distribution for servers.

Vista and BitLocker

So now that my new laptop is up and running, I decided to try Vista’s BitLocker drive encryption feature. This allows you to take your entire Windows partition and encrypt the contents so that should your laptop ever be stolen, your data is completely mostly secure. I say mostly because recently there have been cases where people have exploited the decryption key being resident in memory and have successfully moved RAM from one system to another and decoded the secured drives. However, BitLocker will surely thwart the casual thief and make accessing my files more difficult.

The setup for BitLocker is a little messy as you have to have a separate boot partition to store the unencrypted loader which handles decrypting the OS when you boot. Luckily Microsoft recently released the “BitLocker Drive Preparation Tool” which allows you to create this second drive without reinstalling Vista.

With the proper tools in hand my setup was reduced to these few steps:

  1. Run the Disk Preparation Tool to Shrink C: and create the S: Partition
  2. Reboot
  3. Activate BitLocker and save the decryption key in a “safe place”
  4. Reboot (at this point Vista will verify that the decryption key does work)
  5. BitLocker will begin encrypting the drive.

The encryption process takes some time, depending on the quantity of data already on your hard drive. Luckily it is all in the background. Now you can go about your work knowing that should your laptop ever be stolen, it will take more than a casual hacker to get your files of the drive.

New Laptop

In preparation for my summer in California, I purchased a new laptop (since trying to ship my entire desktop out there seemed excessive). The model of choice was the Lenovo ThinkPad T61p. It just arrived yesterday and needless to say it is awesome. I am currently writing this post from it and it seems like it is up to the task of meeting my requirements.

The specs for anyone interested:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo (2.5GHz, 6MB L2)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 128MB nVidia Quadro FX 570M
  • 14.1′ SXGA+ TFT Panel (1400 x 1050)
  • 160GB 7200RPM HD
  • Dual Layer DVD Burner
  • Fingerprint Scanner
  • Wireless + Bluetooth
  • 9 Cell Battery

Google App Engine

Last night, Google launched App Engine which allows developers to create web applications and publish them on Google’s infrastructure. The exciting part of the App Engine in my eyes is that the language you use to develop on it is Python. Google provides many API’s to interface the Python programming language with the various services they offer. You can authenticate via Google accounts, use Bigtable to store data, and use Google Aps to bind your application to your own domain. They opened the initial “Preview Release” to the first 10,000 developers to sign up. From the looks of it, those 10,000 spots filled up within the first few hours of the launch.

I was fortunate to be one of the first to sign up and got my account last night. I created a basic hello world application to test and overall the system seems very easy to use. My demo is at http://labs.appspot.com.

I also created an account for the PyAMF project and we were able to get a PyAMF echo server running on App Engine. It is currently located at: http://ae.pyamf.org We are continuing to work with it today and tomorrow to write up some examples and a How-to to get people started quickly. We will continue to add more examples to the site as time progresses and we get everything documented.

Hydra Preview

With the public announcement of Hydra EMS being announced any day now, I thought I would give those of you that have been following its development a sneak preview of the UI and some of the new features we have added recently.

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