Category Archives: Home IT

ESXi Whitebox Hosting

For quite some time, the blog has been running as an Ubuntu VM running in VMware Server on Windows Server 2008.  If you said “yuck!” – you’re right.   It is a decidedly 2009 setup that I wanted to update before a rapidly developing new Juchems makes working on projects like this a luxury.

Moving to VMware ESXi means that I will necessarily have the VMs running much closer to the hardware for better performance, and the most recent release has good support for many newer operating systems as VMs.  It will also be quite “headless” – no monitor, keyboard or mouse needed for 99.99% of the life of the server.

Perhaps the nicest part of using VMware Server vs ESXi was that it was an “all in one” solution where I could work on VMs etc without installing anything on the rest of my computers.  The downside was that it wasn’t particularly speedy, updated for newer operating systems and had one too many levels of “stuff”; VM/VMware Server/Windows OS versus the new VM/ESXi setup.

The “Old” hardware:

AMD 5400+ x2 (2.8Ghz dual core)

8GB DDR2 800 Mhz (4x2GB)

Gigabyte nVidia 430 Chipset ATX motherboard

160GB Seagate 7200.9 (160 GB Western Digital Raptor died a year ago or so…)

Onboard video & LAN


The “New” hardware:

Core i3 2100 (3.1ghz dual core + hyper threading)

8GB DDR3 1333 Mhz (2x4GB)

Gigabyte H61 mATX motherboard

250GB Samsung Spinpoint (will be joined by a 750GB Western Digital Green shortly)

On-CPU video/Intel Pro 1000 NIC


The old case, Seasonic 330W power supply and fan setup was kept as-is.


Having ESXi 4.1U1 install without much issue was quite a relief.  The onboard nic was not detected with the built the default ESXi driver set, but the Intel nic was obviously picked up without any hassle.

I think that 8GB is a sweet spot with a dual core processor.  More RAM and I would have felt an urge to go with a quad core – and spend more money.  The motherboard only has two ram slots so I am safe from that temptation.  I think that I’ll be able to run about ten vms on this guy, what they would all even be I can’t imagine right now.  Five with good performance will meet my needs for the foreseeable future.

The Migration

I copied the VMs first locally to my main workstation and then tried to simply upload them to the ESXi server.  This resulted in a scsi error when I tried to power them on – failure.  The next step was using ESX Standalone Converter to change the VMs from “workstation” to “server” VMs and I have to say that this tool from VMware works great in that regard.

The Ubuntu VM was stubborn in the fact that eth0 had the static IP configured but the new network card was known as eth1 so the blog was down for an additional ~20 minutes while I sorted that out.  The Server 2008 R2 VM moved over easy peasy but needed a VMware tools update.

All in all I was pleasantly surprised at how well it went.  TeamJuchems is now hosted on a completely modern hosting platform that should offer plenty of performance for the foreseeable future.


WebOS – what could have been

What really makes money in our Information Age?  Software.   What’s the best way to sell software?  Sell a hardware device that only runs your software.  Apple, and their tens of billions of dollars in revenue each month is a poster child for this line of thinking.  The xbox 360 and PS3 are even better examples of hardware sold for a loss initially in order to lock in consumers for software sales.

HP could have gotten in on the pie if they had been a little (a lot?) smarter.

Just recently, last Friday, HP decided to stop making phones and tablets using an operating system known as “WebOS” that they acquired along with its creator Palm about a year ago for $1.2 billion.  WebOS is similar to iOS (iPhone, iPad) and Android in purpose but offers a few unique features like multitasking, for which it was built from the ground up.  In getting out out of the business, HP decided to take a huge hit on their Touchpad (iPad competitor) hardware, essentially writing it off to the tune $100 million, and sell it at epic price points of $99 and $149.

Just like that, their Touchpad became the tablet to get.  It couldn’t move at $400 (16GB)/$500 (32GB) but boy did people overload HPs website and beat each other up in Wal-Marts over it at this price.  It is a bit ironic that the day HP announces the end of the product that it becomes an item that no one can keep in stock.  It’s likely that the active webOS 3.0 userbase grew by an order of magnitude over the weekend, no joke.

They question becomes  – why didn’t HP take a loss to move the hardware in the first place?  Remember at the beginning when we talked about how software makes the world go around anyway… not to mention $40 cases and $70 “touchstone” chargers.  If the Touchpad would have come out at say, $150 and $200 based on capacity it would have been nearly as a big of a hit and would have attracted 1)many buyers and then 2)many app creators and then the classic 3) profit.

Instead, HP thought that for some reason people would buy their tablets at iPad prices despite lack of brand recognition (webOS?  wtf?), lack of apps, and hardware that is not freaking blessed by Steve Jobs.  It was born to be a loser with that plan.

No wonder HP stock dropped 20% on last Friday, the leadership of HP showed everyone just how dumb they really are.


The blog is back!

So I underestimated the drudgery of changing my DNS settings for the blog, clearly. I also learned the pain of the “nx” record – what your DNS cache retains if it fails to hit a site the first time.

Basically, I messed up the “www” registration – I made it a “CNAME” versus an “A” record. If that goes right over your head, I obviously won’t think less of you. 😛 Anyway, since it was messed up and it failed DNS servers all over the globe cached “ doesn’t exist anymore, don’t look for it” – essentially that “nx” thing I mentioned before… so we all had to hold our breath and wait for that record to expire.

Let the rejoicing commence – is back!


EveryDNS is going down….

Since EveryDNS, the nice, free DNS hosting site was sold out to a company that now wants some $20 per year (!) for DNS hosting I had to find a new home – back to I went. Surprisingly, my domain was still alive there. I wiped that, uploaded my teamjuchems info and killed off my EveryDNS registration. I have updated GoDaddy and such, but if you don’t have the site in your DNS cache you may experience an outage.

I am just hoping it works later tonight and I don’t have to waste more time mucking with it.


Video Card Nostalgia…

Video cards I’ve had/used since 1998

Voodoo 2 12 MB!!!!! – OMG $$$  (Thanks Dad!  The gateway worked for quite a while 🙂 )
Geforce 2 MX onboard – In my shiny Falcon NW talon system!  Well, it was actually pretty Beige…
8500 64 MB – $130 new clearance @ BB – different drivers for different games! Things have gotten much better since 2003, right?
9500 Pro 64 MB – $130 new clearance @ BB, used for almost 2 years!
9800 Pro 128 MB – $80 used, Doom 3 caused me to sell it after about three months.
6800 128 MB – NewEgg, not sure – It rocked Doom3, which I hated and only used as performance benchmark.
6800U 256 MB – $400 (!!!), NewEgg to go along with the fastest parts available at the time – 2x 36GB raptors in RAID0, 2.4 Ghz AMD 3700+, DFI Lanpart S754, and OCZ Powerstream 500w Power Supply, when plugged into the UPS I had it would blue screen as it was power starved.  Had to plug it right into the wall!
5900U 256 MB – $50 John Deere Swap Sheet (was in college and realized that I couldn’t afford the entire rig the 6800U was in  )
6600 256 MB – NewEgg, Passively cooled, ~$100 I think
7800 GT 256 MB – $345 new on launch day! 
6800 GT 256 MB – ~$200 fs/ft (sold it later for $170, was defective on delivery, had to eat $170 loss  )
6800 256 MB – ~$100 NewEgg
7900 GTO 512 MB – ~$230 NewEgg – used for almost a year!
3870 512 MB – $130 clearance @ BB (full circle!)
4830 512 MB – $70 fs/ft – used for almost two years!
4830 512 MB (xfire) – $60 fs/ft
5870 1GB – $200 Newegg

Marriage, the great man-hobby depresser 🙂  Kristin has saved me quite a bit of money in the last four years or so 😉


SSD – Locked, Loaded and Stupid Fast

I bought an Intel branded Solid State Disk (SSD) last fall when the hard drive in my server died and the blog lost nearly a months worth of entries. SSDs are much more reliable in the fact that they are not mechanical; instead they are like a big thumb drive but much faster and built with more expensive (reliable) components.

Luckily, I was able to recover the entirety of the blog off of the fallen Raptor hard drive that it had lived on before.  I got the server up and running with just one hard drive – and then I got lazy.  Finally, after talking about some future spending plans it came about that there was going to be something like a voluntary spending freeze on my main PC (hello 1080p projector!) and I determined that the best way to use the SSD that I already had in the basement was the boot drive for my main rig.

It is only the boot drive because it is only 40GB and even less actually usable.  Back in the day I tried to live on a 36GB raptor and found it impossible.  The difference now is that I am shoving everything except the operating system and applications like Chrome and Office off onto the larger, normal hard drive that I have had in the PC for some time.  No games on the SSD either, given that many games are approaching 10GB+ each installed these days.

Now my PC boots up crazy fast and applications launch almost instantaneously.  Even after installing 7 and Office along with a few other apps there is still over 20GB (50%) left available on the drive.  Before optimization, that was more like 13GB.  Important optimizations:

  • Move your page file.  The “System Managed” page file is usually the same as your installed ram.  In my case this was 4GB – over 10% of my drive set aside for some worst case scenario!
  • Change your system restore percentage.  By default its 3%, minimum is 1%.  This is your safety net for things like Windows Updates gone bad, so you should leave it on but keep it to a minimum.
  • Drag and drop space hogs out of your user “library.”  This is folders like “My Videos”, “My Downloads”, etc.  You can just grab them and “move them” in windows explorer to a different hard drive.  Windows 7 takes care of moving the contents – but you won’t see anything different in your library as it also takes care of doing some nifty redirection.  It looks the same to you, but now those folders are taking up cheap space on your secondary hard drive.

At this point I am more impressed with my hard drive upgrade than my video card upgrade which was substantially more costly.  It feels like I got a whole new PC!  Review sites have been saying it for some time now, but having done it myself now I am really a believer.

— Nat

Senators being useful?

Well, it looks like I misplaced my vote in the 2010 elections – and it could have been a huge loss for not only myself but perhaps the country. Luckily, Al Franken was still elected as Minnesota’s Senator and he is there now actually championing some legislation that is good for the people and not the folks with fat wallets who can write checks to support campaigns.

This article over at Ars Technica pretty well sums it up:

Net Neutrality (NN) is a necessity with the way that communications companies are currently government protected monopolies.  It is what keeps Comcast and the like from charging an extra $3 a month for netflix, $1 per month for Skype, etc.  It keeps the pipe to your house free for using how you see fit for the one price you pay for it.  Without NN, the internet will be fragmented as pay walls are erected and those without the means to pay will be stuck with some subset of the Internet.

Franken has worked with another Senator to write a concise, readable piece of legislation that we want to see passed.  Really, we do – as your resident technologist, don’t believe rhetoric that tries to paint any other picture.


Fry’s Annoyance

Being in Seattle, I was pretty happy to stop at Fry’s.  I didn’t have much that I needed and there wasn’t anything that was an deal I had to take home.  My Uncle Alex has a nice late 2006 iMac that only had one GB of ram, much less than the typical guidance for Mac OSX.  An excellent excuse to stop at Fry’s if there ever was one.

We wandered the store while I pondered whether I should scimp and get the clearance 2*1GB kit or splurge on a 2GB stick so that the total memory would be 2.5GB.  The difference was $12 (~25%) so I went with the $32 1GB*2 stick OCZ kit.  Down on checkout three, I signed the paperwork and waited patiently for the slow staff to get the memory.  The checkout lady took the credit card, swiped it, then handed my memory.  That’s when I noticed that someone had half-halfheartedly tried to tape the kit closed – it was either returned or a floor show piece kit.  In any case, not worth full price even if it was a reasonable clearance price.

That’s when things got really annoying.  The checkout lady refused to get another kit until she was instructed to do so multiple times by the on duty manager.  The guy in the cage supposedly said that all the kits were open, that is why they were on clearance.  I should have insisted seeing another kit if that was the case.  Then it turned out they were going to charge me a restocking fee to return it – even though I hadn’t signed the form.  Enraged at this point, I stalked back into the store, got a 2GB stick, used my new in-store credit to buy it, and left the store behind my entire family who had grown sick of waiting the fifteen minutes it took me to check out.

My Uncle’s iMac is snappier now.  I guess it was worth it.


Do you know what is better than having 1 video card in your computer?

Two video cards, of course!   I have had the current rig for awhile, and one of my goals has been to “finish it 2008 style” – the motherboard supported AMD/ATI’s Crossfire multi-video card technology.  I have already put the fastest processor it can handle in as well, so adding another older video card was the finishing touch.  Over a year ago I bought an AMD 4830 (the lowest of their top tier card offerings at the time) for a steal on the Anandtech For Sale/For Trade forums where I get all my good used computer goodies.  I told myself when I saw another for $50 I would buy it.  That never happened, but I found one for $60 a couple weeks ago and picked it up.

You might be wondering why this would be exciting – two video cards means twice the heat, twice the power and twice the noise.  They also bring in almost twice the performance 🙂  Well, sometimes as you can see below…

Frames Per Second

Frames Per Second

For my $60 I am seeing a solid increase in performance.  100%?  No, but we can see that there are solid performance gains across the board that I am fairly impressed with.  The 2008 Power Rig is now complete… Time to do a full PC upgrade, right 😀

There will be a couple follow on posts talking about the benchmark choices and some  more pictures of the dual card goodness.


Computers are fun…

Precious blog time has been consumed lately by issues with the home computers.

As the NFL season is ramping up along with new seasons of Survivor and The Amazing Race, I thought it would be a good idea to refresh the Media PC. The one that was there was put there in disgust when I couldn’t get the last refresh built out of some Frakenstein components and smallish case that was a little too loud and ran the drives a bit too hot. Makes sense to recombine a few parts that I had been hoarding from “great” deals to refresh it, right?

Well, this became a huge time waster. The new machine was totally silent, a little bit speedier and looked a lot nicer than the old one. Great, eh? Until it would randomly freeze. This was particularly distressing as that was what had forced me to abandon the earlier refresh in frustration. Just like I did about a year ago, I started down the path of replacing components to figure out the problem was.  I accepted that the power supply was good as it had been in use for over a year and was a solid brand right in the same Antec case, so no worries about electrical  shorts and extremely horrible power supply.  By using integrated graphics, the power footprint for the new media center PC should have been very tiny.

I was convinced that components shared with the previous failed media center build out where the culprits – that was limited to the CPU, heat sink and memory.

  • Changed out the heat sink.  No change.
  • Changed out the CPU. No change.  Ran PRIME95 for hours.
  • The old, failed setup was running better with a newer CPU.  Picked up a used, newer CPU.  No change.  (the PC sat in the corner for a couple days here)
  • Ran memtest4 overnight, no issues. (memory checked out)
  • Plugged the PC right into a surge protector rather than the UPS.  Now getting a “signal lost” freeze when watching TV.
  • Changed the tuner out for a different Hauppauge tuner.  No change.
  • Replaced the power supply with a brand new one.  No change.
  • Added in a ATI all in wonder 3650.  BAM.  Blue screen.  Reinstalled Windows 7, same issue.

I had to think about this for a while.  So, the only repeat part that was still in use from the previous, failed build was the damn ram. Replaced that, no more blue screen.  Theory?   The integrated graphics were using the RAM that was bad, hiding it from memtest.   Tonight I am going to put that ram into a box that isn’t using integrated graphics and test it out.

Lesson learned?  Dammit, maybe memtest doesn’t work with new AMD chipsets (as the memtest forums indicated)?  Bleh.  Too much wasted time.