Goodbye Smoothwall

Filed under: General - Mark @ 12:50 pm


For the past 6 months I’ve been using Smoothwall at our church’s installation. I’ve decided to throw it out in preference of pfSense. pfSense is a bit more hardcore and not as easy to install or configure, but geeze it’s powerful.

For starters, it doesn’t come in a highly crippled state. Because our server is quite old, it doesn’t have hardware RAID, and with pfSense it’s as simple as SSHing into the box and setting up software RAID the same as you would on a normal FreeBSD box.

It supports failover, load balancing, traffic shaping, right out of the box. The only thing it doesn’t have OOB is squid – and this can be installed with a single click and configured in less than 5 minutes. It also comes with a package for a transparent HTTP anti-virus, to stop virus’s before they are even downloaded to user computers. Brilliant, especially for a shared environment where you might not entirely trust every computer on the network.

And the best part – unlike Smoothwall, it’s completely FOSS (Free And Open Source). Smoothwall is Free (for the crippled version), but pfSense kicks it to the wall.

That said, if you’re a newbie or don’t really know what you’re doing, Smoothwall is probably the better bet. It holds your hand throughout the process, whereas pfSense expects quite a bit of background knowledge. But that’s OK by me.

Add Comment (1) | 30/8/2009



Warm belly

Filed under: General - Mark @ 12:54 pm


I was ironing my shirt this morning when I bumped the ironing board and the iron landed on my belly (I wasn’t wearing a shirt… cos I was ironing it). Now I have an iron imprint on my belly and it really hurts. If that’s not an incentive to loose weight I don’t know what is.

Add Comment (1) | 26/8/2009



BOFH… only he doesn’t know he’s doing it

Filed under: General - Mark @ 8:45 am


I can’t believe this. The VM’s we’re using are out of disk space and I need around 100gb to do some operations that have been pending for over a week. I requested the additional disk space from our sysadmin (which would involve creating a virtual disk and attaching it to the VM – a trivial task), and this is the response I got:


He won’t give any of the VM’s more disk space, in case it upsets them?? What kind of setup is being run? Xen (the hypervisor he’s using) is a very popular product, something must be very, very wrong. And in the blurred out part is a comment about how we can’t use the NAS because it’s too slow. Wtf?

And, for that matter, what kind of network doesn’t even have 100gb free on it? In this day and age when a 1TB SATA drive can be had for ~$120, cheap (but slow, which would be fine for the work we’re doing, and for archiving) storage should be absolutely abundant.

Add Comment (1) | 20/8/2009



I love bug reports

Filed under: General - Mark @ 9:22 am


I just got a bug report from our tester, saying (verbatim):

When I went to pay for my advertisement as an ‘Advertiser’ I entered crap into the CC details fields, and it came back with an XML Message format error

Well… duh… if you enter crap in the credit card field in an XML document of course it’s going to mess up the XML, there’s an XSLT that enforces some sort of integrity…

Add Comment (0) | 19/8/2009



Virtual Machine I/O

Filed under: General - Mark @ 7:52 am


Grrrr. Anyone who uses bloody Virtual Machines for processes that require massive IO (like, say, a database server with 200gb of databases on it) should have their server logins disabled. And if you then only give the bloody VM JUST enough space to run and now there’s no bloody room to duplicate the database…..!!!

Add Comment (0) | 18/8/2009



I’ve gone to the dark side

Filed under: General - Mark @ 1:15 pm


Ok. I’m convinced. I downloaded FireFox 3.5 the other day, and shits all over IE it’s just not funny.

Now, I used to use FF 1.5, and FF2, and I hated them. I hated it with a passion, for so many reason that I’ve already been over in this blog.

But FF 3.5? It’s fast! It just seems to KNOW what I want. The other day I was blonde and I just typed “winrar” in the address bar and hit enter (I meant to type it into the google search). And do you know what it did? It took me STRAIGHT to Fantasic. That’s what really won me over. That and the fact that it’s just (FINALLY) more responsive than IE. And the YSlow plugin.

I still don’t buy into the whole zelot war of “Lets destroy IE” and “IE is evil”, but I think I’ll be switching my default browser.

Ugh, I feel dirty. But oh so good.

Add Comment (1) | 14/8/2009




Filed under: General - Mark @ 2:00 pm


A topic that’s been coming up a lot lately (particularly by the guys over at Stack Overflow is optimisation of HTTP traffic.

These guys have gone anal, trimming milliseconds and bytes off their requests. And the kind of traffic they serve, I’m seriously not surprised they’re working so hard at it.

So, I decided to make a few changes to the websites we run. They’re very graphically heavy websites, with shitloads of Javascript and CSS loading in external documents, hosted on IIS 6.0. I did the following:

– Enabled GZIP compression for all HTML, CSS and JS documents
– Set content expiry header for all images to be 7 days
– “Minified” large JS and CSS files

End result? The first initial hit to our websites have dropped from about a 3 second load time to < 1 second. See, we had assumed that because our website was just so heavy and intense on graphics that there wasn't much we could do. Seems that we were wrong. Very wrong.

Add Comment (0) | 11/8/2009



I know this guy!

Filed under: General - Mark @ 7:29 am


I know this guy:

I won’t say his name in case he googles himself and finds this, and would probably be hurt by it, but I went to high school with him. He was a few years younger but used to latch on to me when he saw him because I was the only person who used to give him the time of day.

I feel bad writing about him like this now though, so maybe I’ll just delete this post.



Etiquette of getting the hell out of there

Filed under: General - Mark @ 7:14 am


When the end of your work day arrives, what is the correct thing to be doing?

For example, say your work day ends at 3.30 (as mine does). At 3.30 what should you be doing?

Should you still be actively working, and then wrap up your work, pack up and leave?

Should you already be in the process of wrapping up your work, so that you can start leaving at 3.30?

Can you be wrapped up and packed up, ready to walk out the door at 3.30?

I started at the first and have worked my way through the chain until the stage now where if I’m not in my car, or at the train station, by 3.30 then I’ve worked overtime 😛

Add Comment (0) | 10/8/2009




Filed under: General - Mark @ 8:38 am


I know I know. Everyone posts XKCD comics. And not only that, but this is an old one. But I stumbled upon it again today and I wish to share it with everyone, because of how true it is:

yes you are... yes you are!!

Add Comment (2) | 7/8/2009



iPhone satnav

Filed under: General - Mark @ 8:09 am


I was browsing Google News on the train this morning when I came across the following story. Basic synopsis:

Navigon has released an Australian version of its iPhone navigation software to boost the company’s global footprint.

Wicked, I thought. Finally, satnav for the iPhone! As a TomTom user for years (I started with a Symbian version for my Nokia, and have had a few of their traditional car-mounted units) I researched if they have released their iPhone software yet.

Turns out TomTom have. Sort of. It’s not avaliable for purchase yet but it has a release date. Big catch though: You have to buy their iPhone cradle in order to use their software.

Now, I know why they’ve done this. It’s akin to a hardware dongle for expensive software. It’s used to stop piracy, i.e. even if you get your hands on the software via a dodgey source you still can’t use it because you don’t have their hardware.

But what this means is that it’s going to be absurdly expensive. In the traditional GPS market, TomTom are expensive, but that that expensive. In the iPhone market they’ve shot themselves in the foot. Why would you pay to buy a hardware dongle, and then pay for the software and then pay for additional maps? And ontop of that, my car has a really good iPhone cradle in it already. Why do I want to duplicate this?

For $69 (introductory price, normal price $99) I purchased the Navigon software. It seems to work quite well. It has its faults (no iPod control, but no biggie for me), but at the end of the day it’s a fully functional turn-by-turn GPS navigation software. And so is TomTom. Difference is, Navigon was avaliable today. For $69. TomTom is avaliable in the future, and is quite likely going to be three times that price (if not more) when pricing is finally released.

Add Comment (2) | 5/8/2009