Clustering File Systems

I’ve used Stornext on several storage projects when I worked for Chyron.  My customers were Turner Studios, HSN and NBC Olympics.

This was a number of years ago using Stornext 4.  Stornext is what is known as a “clustering file system”.  The storage is usually connected through a SAN and looks like block addressable storage. Each node has a common file system (stornext)  but the nodes themselves can be heterogeneous E.G.  Mac, PC, Linux, Solaris , etc others.  Accessing these files is very fast which is their claim to fame.  To prevent each node from stepping on the others there is a metadata controller which acts like a traffic cop.  From what I remember Quantum can now sell vertical solutions that include storage and the metadata controller, as well as piecemeal solutions.

Competitors are:

Isilon – Now owned by EMC, these systems are known as scale-out NAS.  NAS is known as Network attached Storage, a fancy term for file servers.  File servers can be a bottleneck because a single the File server must serve out each file to all its clients.  If you add enough clients File Servers can slow down.  Isilon gets around this limitation utilizing multiple File Servers serving the same content.

HyperFS– Sold by ScaleLogic.  ScaleLogic is  run by a bunch of colleagues/Friends of mine.  HyperFS is a work-alike of Stornext developed in China.  Reputed to be cheaper and perhaps faster.


GlusterFS– If all you are concerned is  Linux devices there is a free alternative called GlusterFS.


Quantum itself– They started out making Hard disk drives, then acquired various tape drive companies.  IMHO tape drives are still a valid backup medium.  Looking at their website , is completely oriented around storage. Broadcast and related is  one of their big markets.  I would investigate on how they are doing vs. Isilon/EMC.



Macbook musings

I have an older Macbook pro.  I bought it when Microsoft came out with Vista.  I thought so little of Vista that I bought a Macbook Pro.  Come to think of it it is time to buy a new Macbook Pro.  After all Microsoft came out with the new Vista!

Macs are different.  Their keyboards, mice, etc. are different.  I understood this better when I read the Steve Jobs Autobiography.  Steve was a minimalist.  This shows up in the Apple products.  I really like the way that the  Apple caps lock works just like a typewriter.  The way that PC keyboard’s caps lock works is stupid , and has been since 1982.  I must admit that I am less impressed with Mac Mice.  I usually substitute one of my trusty Microsoft Red Eye mice for a Mac mouse if I need to do any amount of work on a desktop Mac.  On my laptop, I am perfectly happy using the trackpad.  BTW the trackpad stinks on my Windows PC.  It is just not as good or effortless as the Mac Pro.

The Mac’s underpinnings have always impressed me.  If you study your history the Mac’s OS is based on Mach, developed at Carnegie Mellon.  According to the Wikipedia article Mach was a replacement for the BSD kernel.  This is why there is a nice Unix-like terminal interface with familiar bash and tcsh command shells.  I say Unix-like because enough has moved around that you know you are on a different platform than a typical Unix.


Macs are strange.  Only on a Mac can you chant magical incantations like “resetting the PRAM” .  Or resetting the SMC.  You never encounter them on a PC.  Of course PCs or more properly Windows systems have their own foibles most notably the registry, the wasteland where data goes to die.

Speaking of PRAMs and SMCs that brings me to the point of this post.  Jerry Pournelle, a science fiction writer and technologist once said that Mac problems fall into two categories, trivial and impossible.

I recently ran into a Mac problem that had me stumped for several weeks.  Randomly, after it got warm it would shutdown with no warning.  Since it is old and out of warranty I did not bring it into the Apple Store since any hardware fix would be better spent on a new Macbook. So if you Google Macbook pro shuts down unexpectedly you get a series of suggestions.  Some of which involve resetting the PRAM , some involve resetting the SMC.  This didn’t do anything for me.
Recently the laptop would shutdown several times a day.

Some of the suggestions seem to imply a bad power supply and/or battery.  So first I unplugged  the power supply

and ran though my tests.  I first boot the laptop and then run Prime95 which runs the CPU cores at 100%.  I did this to get the CPU temp up to 70-80°C.  I would then jiggle the laptop and sure enough it would just shutdown.  Since this is an older laptop I removed the battery and and just used the external power supply.   When I booted the Mac it reset itself like I had used the “reset PRAM” key combination.  (Cmd-option-P-R).  Then it booted normally.  I repeated my test and the problem apparently went away.  I replaced the battery and tried the test and still no problem.

No problem? You have to be kidding me.  I was figuring a corroded ribbon cable or bad mainboard or something.   But no apparently the PRAM, SMC or something was not in a happy space.  Reminds of one of my old sayings about software based systems.  “In the world of software all is not as it seems.”


My love/hate relationship with MS Word

Even though I currently work with Unix/Linux I use MS Office for my daily tasks.  You would think that I would use some variant of OpenOffice since this is available on the Linux workstations that I normally use.  My major complaint with Open/Libre office is they don’t support engineering notation.  That has been an issue for at least ten years and  I just gave up waiting for it. My other issue with the free office suites is lack of instant search which exists on MS Word 2010 and later.


So today I had issues with MS Word crashing that I almost asked to have my company laptop re-imaged.  However, just before I gave up I managed to mitigate the issues. The partial fix was to clear out all the template files , temporary files that Microsoft decides to strew all over your hard disk. Here are some places to delete your hidden files:



and of course your local documents folder.  There are temporary files for your documents.  These temp files have the pattern “~$*.do*”

And of course there is the very popular registry edits.  You can refer to them here:

The second part of the problem is that word 2010 kept crashing and corrupted some original .doc files.   Luckily I had backups and were able to restore them. Until I restored these files Word 2010 kept crashing.


I was thinking about how much we gave up as users by going to MS Word.  I remember the old DOS and cp/m days when I used Wordstar , WordPerfect and its ilk.  I just don’t remember this amount of crashes and this amount of work trying to fix it.  Is it really worth it that we sold out to MS Office and its clones?

The funny thing is that there is now “Write Mode” in some versions of word, which is pretty much what you had with wordperfect, wordstar etc.


I probably won’t switch to LibreOffice on my pc, which is what I use when Word 2010 crashes UNLESS these problems continue to plague me.



Microsoft discontinues support for Desktop versions of Windows XP today

All right I am officially sad that Microsoft has, as of today,discontinued support for Windows XP. It is the last Microsoft OS that I actually liked, as opposed to put up with.  Although it hasn’t been my main OS on any of my machines for more years I fired it up yesterday to investigate an issue for a client.  Just looking at the familiar home screen brought a smile to my face.  With some wistfulness I did my last Windows Update.
There are still millions of XP boxes out there but I don’t feel the deep need to push my luck. There are rumors of hordes of hackers launching zero day attacks against  My current main line Microsoft OS is 7 or 8.1 depending if I am work or home.
After XP things went to hell in Microsoft OS Land. First there was Vista.  My reaction to vista was topurchase a Macbook pro.  Then there was Vista Service Pack 2 which everyone knows as Windows 7.
Now there is the new Vista , otherwise known as Windows 8 or 8.1.  When I install these things on a new box, it takes me about 30 seconds before I install Classic Shell.
I always felt the most productive when I was running XP, almost as good as Linux.  Too bad Microsoft shoves what they think is a better UI down your throat. (Yes I know there are work-arounds, like I am using Classic Shell for Windows 8/8.1. Since I have to work on other people’s systems I try to keep this type of creativity to a minimum.)
Well the new Vista is out and has been for a while.  Perhaps it is time to get a new Macbook.

How to download videos from youtube on Linux and Mac

I wanted to edit a video I found on youtube.  Since I have a  Macbook Pro with iMovie Editing software I decided to start there.

Naturally when I don’t know something  I Google for the answers.  There were a couple of posts that lead me to some tutorials on youtube.

Approach #1 is to download RealPlayer SP with RealPlayer Downloader and RealPlayer Converter.  Which I did, installed all this stuff on my MacBook  and downloaded the Movie clip.

Result: the downloaded clip just played black.  (No this isn’t a typo.  The resultant video was BLACK for the entire clip) I installed a newer version of Flash player which did not help.  Finally I uninstalled all the realvideo stuff.

Approach #2 Was to d/l another program called mytube widget.  I took at look at the downloaded files and asked myself if I wanted to install all this “junk” on my Mac.  I thought there has to be another way.

Approach #3 At this point I thought perhaps I can do this on a Linux box since there are several at home here.  Turns out you can easily install youtube-dl

(Debian and its derivatives # apt-get install youtube-dl)

Fedora # yum install youtube-dl

Mac (Do this in terminal)

# sudo curl -o /usr/local/bin/youtube-dl
# sudo chmod a+x /usr/local/bin/youtube-dl

This apparently will work in Windows also but you need to download a Python interpreter.  This comes with OSX and Linuxes.

This is a python script.  So all you do is

a) Get the youtube URL that you want.  The easiest way is to startup a browser and copy the youtube URL.

b) % youtube-dl -F “<desiredyoutubevideourl>

It will list a number formats .  Here’s an example:

171         webm      audio only  DASH webm audio , audio@ 48k (worst)
140         m4a       audio only  DASH audio , audio@128k
160         mp4       192p        DASH video
133         mp4       240p        DASH video
17          3gp       176×144     
36          3gp       320×240     
5           flv       400×240     
43          webm      640×360     
18          mp4       640×360     (best)

Now just pick the format you want and download the video, E.G.

% usr/local/bin/youtube-dl -f 18 “”

Now you get your video in the format you want you can just redisplay it or edit it.

I suppose that Mac (and Windows) people are just afraid of the command line.  I believe it far easier to run a simple script in a terminal than to have several megabyte downloads and converters that don’t even work in a GUI.  But of course YMMV.

Oh yes.  My edited video.  I was trying to make a point on why Microsoft likes developers.  You can see the results here




Nvidia Cards and Linux

I must be hard on graphics as this is the 3rd Graphics card I had to install in my main Linux system.  The first card was an obsolete power-hungry GT-295.  I didn’t especially miss it when it went south.  The second card I had lying around which was an old 8800-GT.  Since I am running Linux and I don’t bother with games it made no difference to me that it was slow.When channel 1 mysteriously died on the 8800GT  (Alright I pulled out the card out the card for another one but I didn’t like that card so I swapped it back.)

Probably the only thing I wanted for this card was

A) Nvidia Technology and

B) Dual DVI-I connectors.  I have two 1920×1080 monitors


For those of you who don’t know above is a bunch of DVI connectors.  The DVI-D are digital only.  Single link is only good to 1920×1200 60hz.  So if you have a higher resolution monitor or want to go faster than 60HZ (unlikely) you would need dual link.   For my purposes the single link is fine.

DVI-I means that it can either be Digital or Analogue with a suitable converter.


You need a handy-dandy little converter like you see above  to connect to a VGA monitor.

BTW: DVI-A stands for DVI analogue , beats me why anyone would use this , must have been a slow day at the VESA spec writing department when they came up with that.

Also the DVI interface is considered old school.  Many graphics cards are using a variant of display port.  Apples are in the forefront of this.  However,  you can get Display Port <-> DVI or Display Port  <-> VGA adaptors for not too much money so most bases are covered.

Anyway back to my saga.  It turns out that many cheap Graphics cards use a combination of DVI, VGA and HDMI connectors on board.  That way the manufacturers can save a few $$ on converters.  However ,they are  not good for my purposes as I want the rear connectors to be interchangeable.

Why is that you ask?  (Perhaps you didn’t ask but I will tell you anyway). Nvidia based cards act differently when you power up a system.  With some  models one Graphics port will display , sometimes both ports will display during the power up.  There is no way to tell beforehand which port will power up. This tends to have an influence in Linux using the Nvidia drivers as one port wants to be the main display and the other port wants to be the aux display.  (Yes, for those Linux ppl out there I know that there are overrides in xorg.conf.  I have used them but they don’t seem to persist over time , sometimes the screen will switch back and I have to restart X to get the display back to my desired configuration.)

And yes I know that there is the nouveau driver out there but I actually enjoy installing the Nvidia proprietary driver.   The fact that I can’t control the is my only (major) issue with the Nvidia drivers and card setup .

So I settled on a GT-640 card from Best Buy.  It was in stock about 20 miles from my home so I went there and noticed that the image on their website did not match what they had .  I.E. they had a VGA on one port and a  DVI-I connector on port 2.  Well that wouldn’t work as you can’t reverse them.  So I had to go to Microcenter and they had a GT-610 card with DUAL DVI-I connectors.  The only thing is that I had to pay LESS.  (Woo hoo).  There is a lot to be said for looking at the package in your hand rather than at a website.

I doubt that this matters much in a Windows box but in this case Linux is more particular.  The only thing that put me off was that this GT-610 had zero converters, so if you were connecting a VGA monitor you were SOL.  Fortunately for me I have a ton of those converters but it does underscore how little margin there is with these devices.

So after I installed this card, I d/l and installed the latest Nvidia driver 334.16. Then I found out that Nvidia gave me an “Easter Egg”.  It turns out that if you turn off one of your monitors the system will dynamically reconfigure itself as a 1 monitor system.  Right now this only works when I disconnect my secondary monitor.  I do this as I usually have more than 1 computer connected to my monitors.  One is through a KVM and the digital display I disconnect/reconnect manually.  Just thought that was pretty cool.

BTW: Apparently Nvidia is not well like by some in the Linux Community.  Here is What Linus Torvalds Thinks of Nvidia


Expect is a nice little Unix program. It is meant to automate UNIX commands that never meant to be automated. I used expect to automate a ssh session using username/password rather than a host key.  The “normal” way to automate ssh sessions is to generate public/private ssh  host keys and distribute the public host key to your target servers.  That way you would never have to enter your password in order to log into a remote server.  I didn’t have this option as I wanted to “leave no footprints” on my target servers.

I’ve been wanting to learn expect for years but this was an opportunity to do so in the context of a project.  I had more than  30 servers to log into , examine  some logs and go on to the next server.  Using “expect” I was able to do this in less than 30 seconds vs. 1/2 day doing the same thing manually.


Moving Shared hosting from FreeBSD to Linux

Recently we moved a shared hosting site from Verio to Bluehost.  I don’t recommend shared hosting if you are having security issues.  Please refer to my earlier posts on DDOS attacks.

Verio, at least for some of their customers, use FreeBSD and Bluehost uses Linux, most specifically a version of Ubuntu.  It looks like 10.04.4 LTS Lucid.This wasn’t a particularly hard migration just a couple of different ways that a Linux site treats shared hosting relative to FreeBSD.

FreeBSD uses jails which is an enhanced version of chroot.  Some of the features of jails are:

a) When Apache spawns a process I (or my FreeBSD login user) own this process.

b) On a FreeBSD system when I do an ifconfig -a , I only see my own ip address.  Not all the other ip addresses that are  bound to the NICs.

When logging into a Linux shared hosting site, a pseudo-user , presumably apache owns all the httpd processes.  I had to fix permissions on all the website files so that “other” can read all files and read and execute all directories.  (Thank Goodness for the “find” command.)  The other peculiarity is that you had use a web interface to create new mysql databases and database users.  A web interface , Really on a Linux system? I suspect that this is a limitation of non-chrooted shared hosting systems. It is annoying nonetheless.

None of these are show stoppers. Just something to be aware of.