ubuntu update madness

Since i’m in the IT business, it’s nearly impossible for me not to use Ubuntu.  Where most of the people steer clear of the open source world because of prejudice – and because they stick with Windows for other vague reasons – I’ve embraced the Open Source world a long time ago.  Open source is not evil, bent on destruction of your computer network. Contrary to that it can be a valuable and affordable addition to the systems you’ve already have.

One of the best Open Source products out there, in my opinion, is the Linux operating system Ubuntu.   This flexible, low cost – as in free – OS has got a strong back that can carry quite alot of weight.  It’s the ideal platform for webservers, and can be used in many other ways to assist your windows machines.  Ubuntu development is extremely fast, as well.  No wait of 2 year for a service pack to fix problems.  Every 6 months a new version of Ubuntu is available; one a “long time support version” and one version that’s supported until the next “long time support version comes out – 6 months later.

This updating cycle is great but it caused me some trouble today.  I realized that I was one version behind and decided to update.  When doing that, I realized that I was not ONE but TWO versions behind.  Joke’s on me for not paying attention.  This implies that I’ll have to spend quite some time to update all my machines using Ubuntu.  Because of this I’m considering only updating the physical machines and the Virtual machines we use that are crucial for our company – although those test servers could just as well be removed and replaced by the newer, shinier version.   Now you know what I’ll be doing the next few days: update, update, update!!!

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VMWare woes..

Before you read this post, you should know that I work as a network administrator guy for a small local IT company.  I am there to cater to the needs of everyone else, as all my other “collegues” in other companies.  Well, today was the day when technology decided not to help me out…

Everything was fine this morning. The servers were up and running, so I had some spare time to plan the work on a few projects we’ve got running with customers (While I’m the network administrator of the company, I’m also the only tech guy capable of designing and implementing computer networks and everything related.  There’s the manager but he’s far too busy with… well, manager things).  As I was thinking that this would be an easy day – preparing for future work makes work easier – problems started to come in.  First, there was a SQL Express database that started to moan.  Now, I’m far form a SQL server expert.  Yeah, yeah, point your finger at me and say it’s my responsibility to know about it.  Well, either way, this particular server has been up and running for the last four weeks.  It’s a server used by our “temporary development team”; a bunch of students working on a graduation project.  All went fine, until today; when they received complaints about the database in question not having an owner.  As uneducated on the topic as I am, I always assumed that the person who creates the database is the owner.  A quick peek learned me that the database was indeed “ownerless”.  So I fixed that problem and had to move on to the next request.

That request came from another student; one of the two students that are studying to be come network administrators.  Now, I’m not the kind of network admin to play nice with students – they’re of no benifit to me and only create more problems and work for me – but this particular guy is okay.  He’s always been friendly, open for suggestions but smart enough to find it’s own path; and he’s somehow found a way to not annoy me and get things done.

So when he asked me if he could have a server to test things on, I gladly helped him out.  Now, when I say “server” I mean “Virtual environment which will be deleted the minute his internship at our company ends”.  He asked for an Ubuntu “Server”; so I copied one of the existing servers in our VMWare Server 2 environment.  That took me longer than I was comfortable with, because for some reasone the virtual machines were being “locked up” even after closing them.  I had to delete certain folders before I could copy them; and then noticed something disturbing.  The status indicators for the server – the physical machine – were spiking.  Processor usage was at 100%; and RAM usage was somewhere around 80%.  A quick analysis learned me that one of the virtual machines, a stripped Debian machine, was using the maximum of it’s resources; and apparently he was killing the whole box while doing so – I don’t know how that’s possible since you assing only a certain % of physical ram and processor power, but it really happened.  It ended up freezing all of the virtual machines on the box; and the box itself.  None of the Virtual Machines on it could be managed and the physical server wouldn’t listen to the commands either.

so I had to do it; I had to restart the server.  Luckily this server is only a production / testing server; mostly for web appliances so restarting the server wasn’t that big of a deal – I hoped. Before I could restart the virtual machines, however, I had to leave as I had to deliver something to a customer.  I had to fit one iMac and one Fujitsu Siemens Tower server in my little car (google VW Polo to find out how little).  After a half hour drive, we came up to the company in question, and after we rang the bell and waited for 5 minutes I realized our dear customer did it again.  It was the third time (out of four) that they just weren’t there when we had an appointment.  So, we returned to the office, after wasting 1 hour and a half.

Back at the office, bad news arrived.  Some people wanted to see a demo I prepared; a Magento based webshop.  While it’s not a “paying” customer per sé but a business partner of my company’s owner; the manager still insisted that “I showed him the demo as soon as possible.” Only one little problem… the demo was, and is hosted on one of the Virtual machines that had to be restarted.  Most of the virtual machines started just fine and didn’t seem to have suffered any permanent damage from the cold restart, but one Virtual Machine got hit bad – a not so important svn server that’s only used for document sharing between 2 or 3 people.  I had to ignore that problem, in favor of the demo, though.

Not that the demo ever took place.  The business partner in question was about to leave and wanted to see the demo all “quickish”; but we kept loosing the connection to the demo site.  I later found out what the problem was; 2 minutes after he left.  By starting ALL my Virtual Machines on that box; I started a few that have the same IP adress; making it nearly impossible to view the demo store.  Bij the time I solved all the issues around the VMWare server, it was time to go home.  That svn server will have to wait until tomorrow.

In IT, things never go as planned…

iTunes – convert songs to MP3 (or another format)

Itunes is in many ways a truly great product.  It does it’s job, it’s got the iTunes Store hooked onto it to allow you to easily buy songs (which you then play in itunes, obviously); it’s got Genius that will try to match songs that “belong together”; it makes adding songs to your iPod as simple as connecting a cable…

But I still have to spent half an hour to find out how to convert their damn songs to a format I can actually use.  I had the following problem: Yes, I do own an iMac AND an iPod; so there’s no problem with downloading songs and syncing them with the ‘Pod.  But I also own another piece of tech I grew fond of; being my new car radio.  It can play songs from USB Sticks (and SD cards, but I don’t have any spare ones).  The downside is that it can only handle MP3 and WMA.  (the version that supported AAC ended up costing 50 euro’s more.  Which is… well, more than 50 dollars more).  So, I needed to purchase my songs I bought to a format my car radion could handle.  And, in addition, that any non-Itunes media player could handle.  (Or so I thought, until I realized that winamp can play m4a just fine).

Either way, all that doesn’t matter.  I wanted to convert some of the songs I bought to MP3 so I could put them on my USB stick.  However, when clicking the files I was only given the option to convert them to AAC – not something I could use.  Little did I know that I could only change that by changing the IMPORT SETTINGS; of itunes; which handle in which format a cd is imported.  Well, it did the trick and now I can convert all I want.  A little too late, since I already burned the songs to cd’s and imported them on my windows machine.

Patience is a blessing, Toretto, patience… Here’s how you can change this setting for yourself:

Go to Settings > import settings (something along these lines, my iTunes is in dutch) > choose the format you want to convert your songs to. You can’t really do anything wrong there, because iTunes will just make a copy of your existing songs; and every format offered is iTunes compatible.

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