Category Archives: Technology

Moving Stuff: Moving Away From DSL

I just cancelled my DSL service. Not sure how I feel about that, as I’ve had the service for almost 8 years. It was a “geek friendly” package, which meant I paid a premium for a couple of static IPs and the privilege of being left alone to run whatever services I wanted. But the service over the years became more and more “slow”, relatively speaking (ADSL, so 1.5/768), and with the advent of so-called “cloud computing” it didn’t seem like such a great deal anymore. So I started moved my hosting to Rackspace, and as I’ve just completed the transition, it was time.

For all but the last few years, it was a great service, and I’m going to miss the aspects of it that gave me the warm fuzzies of knowing everything was (literally!) in-house. The last few years, however, in addition to the growing feeling that I wasn’t getting my money’s worth any more, the service started to go downhill a bit. For the last few months I’d been having an intermittent issue with connectivity, affecting voice and network traffic (which, despite decent support, they never did solve, big negative), and that, and a couple of other minor issues, all came to a head when the move became real.

So in the end, I think I’ll be just fine using commodity residential internet (he says before he has to re-experience the wonders that are the cable companies…*shudder*) and cloud computing services, but I’m going to miss pointing at a rack in my house and being able to say “my website runs there”.

Rackspace Rocks

Of the many challenges that we have in the upcoming move, there was one major one that was my own fault. But you get complacent, you know? I have been using the Speakeasy DSL service, as they had a “geek friendly” package where you pay an exorbitant amount of money to them, but you can do whatever you want (on whatever port you want), and they leave you alone. 2 static IPs, a dozen websites, and services ranging from mail to dns (and beyond) later, and I’m pretty entrenched. Some of the stuff I had been hosting for another group I have started to move to a more traditional web hosting service, but for my stuff, I wanted a little bit more. I had been investigating things, but now that the move has begun to gain momentum, I needed to spin something up.

My choice was Rackspace, and oh, boy, am I ever happy so far (ok, ok, it’s only been 6 days, but still!). I have my own cloud server where I have full control over a complete Linux install. The first day, I had a web server, a database server, and a nameserver running, and had started to move things over. 6 days later, I’ve moved almost all of my stuff (including this blog).

Of course, to a sysadmin/web guy, a machine is a machine, it doesn’t really matter where it’s physically located, or, these days, if it has any physicality at all. So what’s the deal with Rackspace? It was easy to get the server going, the metered billing (based on bandwidth) is fantastically cheap for what I need, and little details like the iPhone app I can use to control aspects of my server all make it painless. And painless is so good…

First Impressions of Google’s Cr-48 Netbook

Standard disclaimer: I am not an employee of, or in any way affiliated with Google.

Cool Box! After watching the Google ChromeOS press event on the 7th of December, I had gone to the form (a link for which had conveniently popped up on my “new tab” screen of the Chrome 9 browser I run on my Linux workstation – I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader as to whether or not that affected things) to request to take part in the just-announced Cr-48 netbook test. On Thursday, I come to find out Google had sent me one! In itself, this is pretty amazing for me: I’m not usually the first person to see new things Google rolls out, or get invites to try new products (I’m still waiting for the slight redesign of the Google Maps interface to grace my browser). This is, however, even more amazing to me considering, given the scope of the pilot program, the relatively few devices (60,000 by some reports) that they were making available.

But, having said that, I have been a heavy Google user for some time now: I use most of their products, including several “Apps for your domain”, Docs, Reader, Maps, and more recently Health, to name but a few. Going to the dashboard for my account reveals a surprising number (even to me!) of products that I’ve touched over the years.

Continue reading First Impressions of Google’s Cr-48 Netbook

End of a (Keyboard) Era

Today, I’m replacing my workstation keyboard. Not really a big deal, until you consider I’ve been using the same one for 16 years. In 1994, Microsoft released their Natural Keyboard, and after I had tried it at the local computer store, I was hooked.  I know, I know, Microsoft!  But, despite the fact that I, er, dislike their software, for some reason they tend (tended?) to make great hardware.  I bought one, and in the next few years would buy 2 more. Nice and solid, the typing feel and the ergonomics were always perfect for me, and I quickly realized I needed one for my campus office (I was still a student working part-time at a great sysadmin gig in one of the departments), one for home, and one for my workstation at a new start-up I was spending more and more time at.

My original MS Natural Keyboard

That the original one I bought has lasted this long is not only a testament to how well these things were built, but also a fortunate thing for me: in 1999, Microsoft changed the design such that the keys were smaller and the feel was very mushy.  I had been hoping to upgrade, but just 30 seconds on the new one and I took an instant dislike to it.

One of the three stopped working some time ago, and this one is showing signs of wear: some of the keys are just sitting loose after several disassembles for cleaning, and some keys aren’t contacting as well as they should be (a well-used and worn shift key chief among them), so I’m finally taking the plunge.  This is fuelled by a couple of things: first, I’m starting to find other keyboards that I like (despite what it looks like, the new thin Apple Mac keyboard is quite nice), and switching back and forth is a still a little jarring. Second, the connector is still the PS/2-style and computers with those ports are getting rarer to find; I’d rather adjust now before being forced into it. I’m not going too far though: I’ve chosen the Logitech Desktop Wave. Even though the two halves of the keyboard aren’t physically separate, the keyboard is still curved, which I think (hope) is the main reason I like the Natural (I’m a little fearful that part of the reason for my affinity to the Natural *was* the physical split, but like all things, it’s probably just a matter of getting used to it).

One last note: the upper right-hand side of my Natural has an interesting feature: a “linux inside” “sticker” (ok, not a sticker, it’s stuck on there with 16-year-old scotch tape).  Around the same time I got the keyboard, my friend and mentor PJ had come across a postscript file with nice renderings of “linux inside” done in the style of Intel’s “intel inside” logo that they were using.  The keyboard had, of course, the Microsoft name stencilled in the upper corner, and we couldn’t have *that*, so I seized the opportunity.  I think I might miss that as much as the actual keyboard!  Oh, one other thing I will miss: the look on most people’s faces when they come to my office to change their passwords, look down at my keyboard, and realize they’re going to have to try to type on this thing! I’ve had several comments over the years although everyone seems to manage ok.

I’ll probably follow this post up at some point with an update on how things are going, especially as the new keyboard has a bunch of special keys and controls on it, so it might be interesting trying to get this to work on Linux, but I’m thinking I may be pleasantly surprised…we’ll see.