Tuesday, January 28, 2014

January Updates

There really hasn't been anything new in my world. I've been keeping myself busy.

This month has been interesting. I took on some freelance work for guys running old Classic ASP websites. Dealing with Windows again is the theme this month. I'm constantly reminded why I went the Linux/UNIX route 14 years ago. It has been fun; refreshing myself from something I used to do 14-15 years ago.

VBScript, SQL Server, and IIS. Old times.

Believe it or not, I know of some sites I worked on in Classic ASP that are still running. People still run them. They run them in 2014.

Those servers eventually die. I gotta admit, Dell makes some reliable servers that have been running 10 plus years. So I've been virtualizing old NT, Windows 2000-2003 builds. We are re-using old equipment as stand by fail-over  These apps haven't been upgraded and people simply don't want to upgrade. There are some old Visual Basic 6 apps still running in my neck of the woods. I even know one guy who still uses clear GIFs and table layouts. I helped him fix some problems on his site and introduced him to "AJAX." The guy's eye lit up. Believe it or not, you can parse JSON and run JQuery/AJAX with Classic ASP. I was interested to find out myself. There are a few JSON libraries for ASP on the internet. I was pleasantly surprise. The one I used was ASPJSON  which could be found at http://code.google.com/p/aspjson/.

It is strange yet amusing to see and old Windows 2000 server serving ASP pages with JQuery, AJAX and JSON. I also happen to do all my work on my 15" Macbook Pro running a VM. Fusion's UNITY mode is pretty slick. I can use BBEDIT and great Mac text editors with Windows.

Next, I am helping these guys with devising some disaster recovery. Virtualization is definitely the way to go but some like to run on physical hardware.

Next, I can't simply copy the ASP files from one machine and set up IIS on a newer build. Some of these old sites rely on custom built OLE COM objects. Yep, the old "Server.CreateObjects" linked libraries. ASP developers use to include them in so their sites couldn't be easily moved over. Good luck trying to find the original developer 10-14 years later. Like Windows 98, Classic ASP won't die and I foresee people trying to maintain these legacy Web Apps.

The problem I have with Windows is everything is so much harder compared to Linux. Yep, much harder because you have to rely on somebody's else's app or port. In Linux, I can set up a LAMP replication, fail-over in 15 minutes; meaning I can have multiple clone servers running live with mirrored data that can instantly be turned on in the event the main server fails. I use a combination of RSYNC, CRON jobs, shell scripts, SSH keys and I'm all good. I can do everything from my iPad or a Chromebook through a light weight SSH terminal. Easy peasy. When one server dies, the second one fires up, and changes it's IP and takes over. Done.

Someone is gonna chime in and say, "PowerShell!" Oh really, I don't know if that runs on NT 4.0.

With Windows, it isn't as easy. You have to rely on a bunch of different apps for backups, the task scheduler which isn't as intuitive. I guess for a point-n-click, some may find it easy. However, the thing I have problems with is cloning live machines. You can clone one Dell server with SCSI  drives using CloneZilla and take that clone over to a newer Dell rack server with SAS. However, issues persist. What happens is the newer hardware won't boot. You have to go into recovery console and try to load up the new drivers for the new machine.  Trust me, it isn't easy when you want to migrate an existing build into new hardware with different hardware. Googling's message forum, the general consensus is . "Reformat, Re-install." Really? These are coming from so called  MCSE certified experts.

Once you get it booted, event log errors galore. I guess it boils down to familiarity.  I can clone *NIX machines very quick. However, I gotta give VMWare's tool for cloning live machines into VM is pretty cool for newer builds of Windows (Windows 2003 and up). It isn't so great at NT4 and W2K.

I gotta give some credit though. Some of these old machines run off dual processor, 1GB of RAM. Come to think of it, I saw a SQL server with 1GB of RAM. That is pretty awesome yet disappointing.  It shows that in the past 10-15 years, hardware requirements have grown quite a bit. Some of those boxes really fly because they're so lightweight.

At home, things are going in a different direction as well. From the recommendations of friends, I've been using iSpy as my CCTV recording system for my multiple home surveillance cameras. I've had this set-up for over 6 months.  I am switching off Windows and going with Zoneminder on Linux in a VM. I have ten Foscam cameras all over my house and iSpy can't handle it. I am running iSpy on my trusty Thinkpad T420 w/ a core i5 processor, 500GB SSD, and 16GB of RAM and Windows 8. If iSpy can't run on that hardware, I give up. I moved over to Zoneminder running Ubuntu 12.04 VM with two cores and 1 GB of RAM and it flies. Yes, it flies. I'm sure iSpy has more features and eye candy but I need one thing and thing only - the ability to record multiple videos without crashing 2-3 times a day. I don't need anything else and I definitely don't want to pay for any extra features I don't need when I can do most of everything else off my iPhone. I don't think it is my build because I tried it on my Fuji MX130 w/ an AMD FX-6100 and 32GB of RAM and it crashes too. Windows isn't getting any love this month in my household.  I simply don't think iSpy can handle more than 4-5 cameras. The real nice benefit of ZoneMinder is I can view and do everything natively from Chrome  on my Chromebooks.

The Windows purging continues. I also decided to move my Plex server (running off Windows 7 build) again to a Virtual Machine running Ubuntu within my ESXi vSphere server. I'm doing this primarily because I find it easier to do synchronization and batch processing through the shell using my Chromebook. Remote Desktop (RDP) really slows me down.

If this post sounds like I am dissing Windows, I'm not. I just find it a bit interesting.  I'm letting my Windows friends come over and fix my Window's issues and taunt them with how easy it is with Linux. I had somebody spend 3 days trying to fix a blue-screen boot issue. It is all fun I suppose.

I guess it all boils down to what works. I am using what works for me.  There are some issues in Linux land as well. My current workstations are getting really slow and updates aren't working great. I've been running Elementary OS on one build for over 9 months. Time to re-install. I might look into another distribution.

That is pretty much it for this old geek.

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