Tag Archives: servers

Why I love my Slice

A few days ago it was announced that my preferred hosting provider Slicehost had been purchased by the big hosting company Rackspace. In addition to buying Slicehost, they have also included Jungle Disk in their spending spree. Hopefully this will all be good news for the respective companies, but it has reminded me of a blog entry that I have been meaning to write for a while: “Why I love my Slice”

A bit of background about Slicehost: First-off, Slicehost is a virtual server provider. You pay your money, and in return you get your own virtual server, that is a machine that you can log into, set the root password, and set up as you so desire. So for anyone looking for a simple web host, it might not be the solution you are looking for, but more about that later. Slicehost sell ‘slices’ of a real server, so your virtual server is dedicated a proportion of the resources (disk space / memory / bandwidth) of that server. You can choose what resources you need and buy an appropriately sized Slice. Slices are actually sized upon the RAM you want, starting with 256MB, and going up 512, 1024, 2048, 4096 etc.

I own a slice, and have done for nearly a year. But why do I love my slice? Here’s my top 5 reasons:

  1. It’s my server, and I can configure it how I like! Just that really, it is my server, and I can configure it how I like! My main use for the server is to provide web hosting and database services for several different domains such as this blog. As well as simple out-the-box type hosting, I can configure Apache and PHP as I desire, to include any libraries and modules that I want. I am a software developer and appreciate that freedom. Not only can I configure the machine how I want, I also get a choice of Linux distributions installed (or reinstalled) for free.
  2. I am not just limited to web hosting services. My main use of my slice is for web hosting, but by having a slice I can run other services. The main example of this is the test LDAP service that I run to allow people to test their DSpace repository LDAP settings, although it could be used for other things too. If I so wished I could run any other service I wanted such as mail (although I use Google Apps for this) or DNS (I use GoDaddy for that).
  3. I can define my own backup strategy. Any hosting provider of repute will run a decent backup system. However for the most part this is simply to protect themselves in case of severe hardware failure. They take backups for themselves, not for me. So if need to restore a file from yesterday, I can’t do it. Remember, they take backups for themselves, not for me. They may perform a restore, but it’ll be expensive. By running my own server, I can run my own backups. The way I do this is to rsync the important bits of my server to my Mac laptop whenever I’ve made any changes to code or configuration via a script. Rsync only takes the differences, so this is quick and efficient. I then let Apple’s TimeMachine do its job, and backs it up to my local backup system which provides me with backups going back as far as I have disk space for. If I need to perform a restore, I restore the files locally, then rsync them back to the slice. Slicehost do offer a backup solution, but this costs money, and I like my own solution 🙂
  4. I can experiment and learn. I’m a developer, not a hard core systems administrator – I’m lucky and work with some excellent sys admins who look after most of our systems. But aspects of my job require me to work with Gentoo Linux servers, and I can learn by messing with my slice rather than a production server. I can also do things on my own slice that I wouldn’t be able to do on a work machine…
  5. I can run services on my slice which I couldn’t run at work or home. Being able to run whatever services I want is great. One service I also run purely for myself, and is firewalled accordingly, is a squid web proxy service running on a server in the U.S. This allows me to pretend that I am in the U.S. so that when I encounter web sites that like to change the price to british pounds because I am in the UK, and charge the dollar rate in pounds, I can still pay the cheaper dollar rate. Noting illegal, just being prudent and saving me money!
The service I have received from Slicehost has been excellent. So much so, that I can’t comment on how good their tech support is, because I’ve never had to use it! In the whole time I’ve been with them they’ve only ad to reboot the server that hosts my slice once. So my hope is that the merger with Rackspace will strengthen the company not spoil it. I hope I can continue to enjoy what I get for my $20 a month.

Oh, if you happen to purchase a slice, use this link 🙂vzlomshark

Lessons from teaching DSpace

Yesterday I spent the day with a colleague delivering a training day aimed at new or potential DSpace administrators as part of my role working with the Repositories Support Project (known as the RSP).

We had a fun, interesting and busy day talking about DSpace, but a few hiccups along the way.

With each event we run, we learn new things about planning and delivering events. Whilst we’ve never had a bad event, there have been issues from time to time. With this event, the main issue was the hardware provided to us in the training suite at New Horizons in Birmingham. The staff were great, and the facilities good, the food was excellent, but the PCs were, ummm, a little on the old side! We were teaching DSpace, which is a piece of server software, so requires quite a bit of ‘infrastructure’ in terms of software requisities. Each trainee had their own PC with a copy of DSpace installed so that they had their own copy to mess about with, configure, and populate. To make this a little easier, we used the Ubuntu Linux distribution.

So when we combined Ubuntu (not a lightweight distro) with Postgres, Java, Tomcat, and Cocoon, lets just say that the poor 7 year old Pentium 866’s with 256 MB of RAM couldn’t quite cope. In fact, they couldn’t cope at all! Our other problem was that we’d configured the machines to launch Firefox as soon as they booted, so that the users were presented with DSpace straight away. Firefox had two tabs opened automatically upon startup, one for the JSP interface, and one for Manakin the XML interface. This meant that Tomcat then had to startup these web applications, at which point the whole machine came unusable and started swapping like crazy.

Our solution was to run round each machine and delete the more resource intensive Manakin user interface, and teach the course using the JSP interface instead. Even then, the machines were slow, so we had a lot of the trainees using one of our test servers back in the office instead.

So what is the lesson to be learnt from this?

Make sure you agree (in writing) the spec of the machines that you’ll be provided with at a training suite.

It sounds obvious, and we were probably just naive to assume that a PC training company would have machines that weren’t quite so old. But we live and learn, and have now negotiated a better room for our next course. Now to get the agreement in writing….реклама недвижимости

Remotely killing RDC users

Part of my job involves me having to log in to Windows servers for one reason or another. Unless the machine has died, it is usually easiest and quickest to do this from my desk. However… often other people forget to log off from the same server, and take up all the connections, meaning that there are none left to use to log in. Usually this requires a physical trip to the machine to chuck them off. But no longer….!

This blog post gives a great way of doing it locally, by bringing up a command prompt for the remote server, and then killing anyone who is logged in, but disconnected. For my own reference, here are the things to do:

  1. Download PsTools from Microsoft
  2. Run: psexec \\x.x.x.x -u user -p password cmd (e.g. psexec -u DOMAIN\user -p ******* cmd)
  3. Type ‘qwinsta‘ on the remote server to list the logged in users
  4. Type ‘logoff 2 /v‘ (replace the ‘2’ with the relevant session number)

No more wasted time walking to the machine room!autokeyspy.ru