Smoothwall Firewall project

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Fixing a problem with VMware vcloud when putting a Virtual Machine back into the cloud Catalog

If you use vcloud, then I'm sure you have pushed fully patched and configured virtual machines back into the catalog as gold masters many times. If you have customised scripts, then you may or may not have come across this problem.

However yesterday, I came across a problem where the custom script settings within vcloud version 5.5 were not working, and the init scripts were not be run when you created a new vapp. This is a setting that tells the VM, if they have been run or not

It turns out the code for pushing VM's back into the catalog was not resetting the static file needed, to tell the init scripts to run correctly. If you look in .customisation in roots home directory, you can see the file it is looking for.

So , the work around - after much digging around in the code to find the file that VMware tools were looking for - is as follows

On a Linux system just type the following.

touch /.guest-customisation-post-reboot-pending

Once this file is in place, shutdown your VM, copy it back to the catalog, and all will be fine on the next start - it will run your desired init scripts as you wanted in the first place ;-)

Hope this saves you some time.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Setting up Adobe Flash with Wine and Windows Firefox on Linux - all to get VMware vSphere working in a browser

As I regularly need to use vmware software for a lot of cloud implementations , it has become more of a pain to keep switching to a virtual machine just to allow me to use a later version of Flash, that Adobe no longer supports in Linux. This is because VMware in their wisdom have decided that the web version of vSPhere management will only work with Flash version 11.5 and above.

So I decide today to do something about it, and make it easier.

Here are the steps to get it working.

1) Install wine from your Distros repos - or download the latest from WineHQ

2) If you are behind a proxy make sure you have http_proxy set - if this doesn't work then use this util to set the proxy in Wine - Proxycfg.exe - links at bottom
e.g. wine Proxycfg.exe -p

3) Download and install a Windows version of Firefox from the link below
e.g. chmod u+x Firefox Setup 27.0.1.exe ; wine  Firefox Setup 27.0.1.exe

4) Download the version of Adobe flash I point to in the links - don't go to the Adobe page it doesn't work for me.

5) Run the command "wine install_adobe_flash_11_plugin.exe" and just follow the instructions.

6) Start up firefox with wine, and heh presto you can now connect to the vSphere console, and go to other Adobe sites if you like.

Hope this saves people time when trying to do the same.

Latest stable Windows version of Firefox

Copy of the Proxycfg.exe file for configuring wines proxy settings

The version of Adobe Flash I found to work with Ubuntu 12.04 - wine version 1.4

Wine help on how to use Proxycfg.exe - search page for proxy

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

A quick post on how to get Ubuntu 14.04 graphics working with Virtualbox 3.6 with Ubuntu 12.04

This post is going to be short and to the point.

The title is a mouthful I know, but it does describe the problem.

Like all users of Virtualization I like the ability to look at the future and the past of operating systems, but with this combination it was proving problematic.

Basically the screen resolution was dreadful after installing the Virtualbox tools on the Ubuntu 14.04 guest, and something needed to be done.

I trawled the web and found the following commands that should be run in the guest 14.04 virtual machine, and you then get graphic resolutions you can work with for testing.

Here they are.

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo apt-get install linux-headers-$(uname -r)
sudo apt-get install dkms build-essential
Then mount the install CD image for the Virtualbox tools and install them.
cd /media/nick/VBOXADDITIONS_4.3.6_91406/
sudo ./

sudo apt-get install virtualbox-guest-x11

Then, once this is done you will have decent screen resolutions.
Hope this saves you some time and effort.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Using an External Node Classifier in a masterless configuration with Puppet

I use standalone puppet a lot for managing my own machines and cloud servers, but the site.pp file was starting to grow large and it became obvious the solution was to use an external node classifier or ENC.

There is lots of documentation on the web on how to do this with a puppet master/ agent configuration, but nothing I could find on how to do this.

The key change is where you specify the change of node class information in the puppet.conf file. If you follow the puppetlabs documents , it won't work. If however you put the new ENC definition into the [main] section , it works just fine. Only a minor change , but it will not work unless you do.

The code you need looks like this:

node_terminus = exec
external_nodes = /usr/local/bin/

The node classifier can be whatever you want, but I used python just to get it up and running quickly for testing.

I hope this saves someone hours of hunting around to get this sorted.

During my research , I have also found that it should be possible in the latest releases to use Hiera as your ENC to generate the YAML required. Next on my list to try.

Link to Puppet Labs ENC documentation

Using Hiera as your ENC

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Apple computing can change the end user computer landscape for ever.

As a long time computer professional, I have lived and worked through the mainframe, mini computer , LAN based and now cloud computer eras. I have seen them all, large and small, and the changes that have affected our industry, which does love to evolve, sometimes rapidly. It also tends to have very painful outcomes for the incumbents - just ask IBM about OS/2.

There is absolutely no doubt we are living through one of these large changes at the moment and it is coming in several forms , that all point to a post-PC era - reference below. This blog post is being typed on a Google Chomebook from Samsung, and a lot of the research for the article was done using my iPad and Google Nexus 4 phone. No PC involved at all. I fully accept that I embrace technologies faster than most, but I never jump to join technologies and think carefully before I act. So if you are reading this on your trusty old PC with windows XP installed , then bear with me, you will get to this future faster than you think.

Apple really did push a large boulder over a cliff when they introduced the iPhone, intentionally or not they really did change the industry. Google could see the wisdom in this move and jumped on the bandwagon and built its' own operating system and infrastructure to compete, Microsoft did nothing but release another tired old version of Windows phone which crashed horribly.

At the same time Amazon introduced the world to the concept of cloud computing for the enterprise, which was first seen as a curiosity, but is now in any good CTO's strategic planning as the way forward. Google also saw this as an opportunity and introduced fairly quickly the concept of their cloud applications, and Dropbox showed the way for cloud storage. Microsoft was not so badly placed here, but really did not execute on its' good start with Hotmail, and basically seemed to do nothing, until this year when they released Office365 - years behind its' competitors. Its' cloud offering is not that amazing or different , but does offer some good features.

Microsoft have always been strong on the desktop, which they have owned for a decade, but with another badly received release with Windows 8 in all its' forms, it is currently very vulnerable  PC sales are dropping off dramatically while tablet and smartphone sales are booming. Microsoft is very badly positioned in both these markets and that is where the end user industry is heading. They will be fine in the corporate landscape for many years to come on the server side, but the desktop will change. The cloud means you can use anything as a client access device. Why pay $500 dollars per employee device when you can pay $200 - simple economics. Even better encourage your staff to bring their own - BYOD - even cheaper. If you are paying $100-$200 for a client device - why would you spend $200 on Microsoft office, when most apps are $5 for you Apple or free from Google?

Another cash cow slaughtered.

If Apple wished to grab this once-in-a-generation opportunity all they need to do is have a re-think about prices and product ranges, and simply introduce a budget range - nothing smarter than that. Google are already trying with their Chromebook, but they are not for everyone. They are having a lot more success with their Android smartphones - just see the sales figures and all the very cheap Chinese clones. If Apple were to partner with HTC,Asus or Dell and bring out a budget range of laptops, tablets and smartphones - cheap iPhone is already rumoured - just think how disruptive this would be. Google would have a real fight on its' hands and the competition would be fierce. Microsoft, and in truth a lot of other players would be next to pointless. Their tiny share in the smartphone market would evaporate and the their tablets which are already dying on their feet would disappear. They would become significantly less relevant in the new era, and we would at last have two decent competitors.

This would mean Apple going against a lot of its' historical DNA, and it has always sworn they would not do this, but this strategy is what nearly bankrupted them in the 1990's. They need to be very careful about how they proceed from here. Google is now their main competitor, and not just for devices but for the cloud experience that they are offering to their customers, and Google is a lot more open, and offers most of its' products for free.

I personally hope they do, as we have seen significantly more innovation since Apple and Google really got stuck in, as Microsoft had become stale. Internet explorer was a prime example. Once Mozilla, Google and Apple started to innovate IE became a much smaller player in the field.

Here is a link I read recently on the topic, but there are literally hundreds of other examples - just Google it ;-)

Research from Gartner on post PC era

Friday, 5 April 2013

Using an encrypted git repository on Dropbox to store my puppet code in the Cloud.

Today, most technologists have said they love the cloud storage paradigm and to have files and configs at their finger tips , no matter where they are , or how they access them.

Dropbox was arguably the first, easiest and globally available cloud storage solution out their, and it's the one I continue to use today. Like all cloud solutions - apart from owncloud - they have one drawback, who else can look at your files? This tends to make users suspicious and cautious about what they are prepared to store in the cloud, me too. As I control various ssh keys with my puppet code, I certainly don't want people having access to these.

So the solution I found was Truecrypt - a great open source project that allows you to create encrypted  volumes that you can mount on all popular operating systems, including Linux, OSX and Microsoft. As I use all three of these systems at various times, it gives me great coverage. In the post PC era, it would be nice to see IOS and Android versions available in the future, but in all honesty I have not seen a real need yet.

My purposes only required a small amount of space, as code does not generally take up too much room, so I only made it 10MB. Your mileage may vary of course. There are good tutorials on the Truecrypt web site, and if you like what you see, then please donate to the project.

Once Truecrypt has been installed , created your volume and you have mounted it , you can now create your git repository using standard git commands like so:

git init --bare project.git

You can then take the project you have been working on your local hard drive, and commit it to your new git repo, like so

git remote add origin /media/truecrypt1/git/project.git
git push -u origin master

That's all there is too it, so now I have my puppet git repository where ever I go, and I can very quickly bring a machine up to my requirements with all the settings and packages I need to get work done with puppet and a few git commands. It literally saves hours of time, and I can rest easy in the knowledge it is safe in the cloud.

You can obviously use Truecrypt for storing all sorts of other things in the cloud, as I do. If you want to make sure only you can see sensitive data then this a good way to go.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Is BYOD the real reason Microsoft has gone out of style?

There is no doubt about it , the younger digital natives think Microsoft is the company of their parents, the tool they used for work and it's boring and out dated.  This reasoning has taken a long time to come about, but with Apple ,Google and Linux constantly chipping away at the thinking that you need Microsoft to do anything it has finally taken hold, and I think for Redmond it is going to get a lot worse.

You don't have to look far to see the signs of this , with young people using smartphones far more often than they use any other form of IT device. When they do turn to a laptop, they would prefer to use an Apple or Tablet than anything else. Windows 8 has not been the huge success it was supposed to be, and the Windows 8 Phone has been a complete flop plus the ARM based tablet has been slow to sell. To be honest , in a group of young people you will never see one in action, perhaps just the older IT users. That is part of the problem Microsoft is now seen as the old peoples platform , it's not what younger people want.

Now with the introduction of Bring Your Own Device - BYOD - into the corporate environment, Microsoft has never seen such pressure. People want to use their iPhone and Android phones to access the company data, and their tablets need to work too. They are far more likely to own an Apple, and these need to access the company network and data too. In the past they were given whatever the company wanted, normally with Microsoft , and they just used it. This is now not the case in a lot of cases, so people will not be forced to use anything they don't like.

An increasing large number of people are getting there work done, with the iPhone, iPad, Galaxy S III Android phone. I happily use Ubuntu Linux on the desktop, an iPad and an Android phone , with no Microsoft in sight. This is partly due to the switch to cloud based applications and the market dominance now of Google Chrome and Firefox. These are desktop platform neutral so you can run them on virtually anything. The availability of good apps on the other platforms that let you get work done has also increased, and will continue to become more compelling.

Some analysts are calling this the post PC era, and I can see for a large part of the population that is now true, and will increase. New tablet devices arrive almost daily from India and China at ever reduced prices, and Google is bringing the price of laptops down to rock bottom prices with Google Chromebooks. Smartphones are getting bigger screens and more powerful with each iteration, I can see docking stations for these devices becoming more popular.

The future will be different to what we have known in IT, and Microsoft will be playing a significantly reduced role in it. This is great, as I have never liked their monopoly , and active competition is good for the consumer.