Tag Archives: cool

Hacking the HP 5406zl…

The HP 5406zl
The HP 5406zl

The venerable HP 5406zl.  This switch has been around for many years, in fact, it was introduced back in 2004.  Over time, this switch has seen a number of upgrades, and the current base model 5406zl’s provide 379Gbps of non-blocking goodness.  A while back I acquired one of these to replace the Cisco SG200-26 I had.  The 5406zl is a fully modular switch, and great deals on eBay can be had, if you know where and what to look for.

One of the modules for the 5406zl is the Advanced Services Module.  I have two of these.  They are x86 servers on a blade, letting you run VMware, Hyper-V or Xen.  Normally, you have to buy them from HP pre-configured.  The reality is you do not, you just have to be a bit creative.

These blades J4797A, come with a dual core 2.53Ghz, 4GB RAM and a 256GB 2.5″ hard drive.  You can easily upgrade the RAM from 4 to 8GB (it is DDR3 SODIMM).  You can also swap the Hard drive for a SSD.

I have a J4797A which is supposed to run Citrix XenServer.  I simply upgraded the RAM, and installed VMware 5.1 to the SSD, and viola, I was able to get a $2000 VMware blade for around $250CAD all in.  While not super speedy, these blades work great for DNS, Firewall and TACACS.  They even come with HP’s Lifetime Warranty.

Oh, and if you did not hear, the latest K15.16.0006 (now .0008) firmware, enables the “Premium” features for free.  Even more reason to find one of these switches on eBay.

Windows Server 2012, VDI and nVidia GTX 650

So it has been a while since my last post.  Many interesting things have been going on, but, let’s chat about one of the more interesting technology develops I have been upto.

For years now, I have been a fan of VDI solutions.  I believe they offer customers the ability to significantly reduce spending on IT operations and maintenance for PC’s.  Of course, VDI removes the large “fat” PC at the desk, and replaces it with a “thin” client that uses backend server power to render the screen.

When I first got this working in 1997 with X11 and Linux, I thought it was very cool and interesting.  I have played with Citrix Metaframe back in 1999, and Windows NT Terminal Services Edition too.  That dates me doesn’t it?

Well, fast forward to 2012.  I wanted to take a oppourtunity to move my PC at home to a “thin” client infrastructure.  Using Windows Server 2012, Hyper-V and a Windows 7 VM of my desktop I gave it a try.  Things I can confirm,

  • RemoteFX DOES work with a GeForce GTX 650.  As advertised it does work worth with nVidia’s latest drivers (WDDM 1.2 DirectX 11), and Windows Server 2012.  I could not make this work with Windows Server 2008R2.
  • AMD Radeon 4870’s do not work with RemoteFX and Windows Server 2008R2 or Windows Server 2012.  Just too old and AMD calls this a “legacy” card.  Since this card is not DirectX 11, I expected it would not work with 2012, but not working with Windows Server 2008R2 was a bit f a surprise.
  • RemoteFX with a vGPU works for most applications.  I have a modern fully switched, enterprise-class network, and where the system faltered was on video.  Flash videos and Youtube HTML5.  While is works when you have it in a window, it does not work so well in full screen mode.  QuickTime videos, well, they play but there is a lot of tearing at 720p.

So for me, VDI at home is not quite ready for prime time.  Before anyone says “you just need more horsepower”, this was on a Xeon 1620 system with 32GB of RAM.  That should be more than enough to host one desktop with good performance.  Otherwise, performance was ok.

For my testing thin client testing, I borrowed a HP t610 Thin Client.  It works fabulously.  It is quiet, and you do not even notice it is running.  HP has a winner with that little machine.

Here is hoping SP1 for Windows Server 2012 improves the performance so I can try this again.  In the meantime, my desktop will stick on its high-fat diet.

Squid vs Apache: Reverse Proxy Champ?

So it begins.  Another year of making the slow transition to a new version of RHEL.  With it, comes refreshing some of the basics for the infrastructure here.  I traditionally use a Apache Reverse Proxy for filtering content into the server subnet here.  It is fast and has served the purpose for the last 2 and 1/2 years.  The trouble has been that going to newer versions of Apache have typically not happened since the configuration file is several hundred lines long and debugging it is a pain at 2am on a Sunday night.

I decided to take the plunge and moved things over to Squid.  I had a hack in Apache that let me do http AND https.  Squid supported everything out of the box.  The difference?  17 lines for Squid, and 744 for Apache.

So far so good.  It has some quirks, but, nothing that cannot be worked around.  If you are considering Squid for a remote proxy, you should not be disappointed!

Now just to keep figuring out RHEL 6.0 ….

Virtual PC 2007, Virtual Windows XP & Vista

virtualpcLately in the Tech Press there’s been a lot of interest in Microsoft’s new “Virtual XP Mode” for Windows 7.  This addition has the possibility (and some headaches) or allowing older, XP only software to work just fine in the Windows 7 environment.  Not running the Windows 7 RC here, I decided to see if it could be made to work on Vista.

The answer is Yes.

You can download Virtual PC 2007 for Vista here.

You can download the “Virtual XP Image” from Microsoft here.

You’ll need a little utility to extract the VHD from the Virtual XP Image you downloaded from Microsoft.  You can find that here.

Simply install Virtual PC 2007 for Vista, extract the.VHD file from the MS download, and then create a new virtual machine in VPC2007 with the XP image.  And it works!  Install the Virtualization Additions and the performance will be just fine.

My only complaint with VPC 2007 is that it does NOT have USB support.  The whole reason for me to use it is to get my old NEC SuperScript 1400 laser printer working in Vista x64.  I have a hack for Vista x86 (32-bit), but not x64 for not having printing is a pain.  Yes I could buy a printer, but, this one works just fine.

To get the printer working, I did a little Virtualization magic.  I converted the .VHD image from MS into a .VMDK file, and ran it with VMPlayer 2.5 from VMware.  I installed the Windows VMware tools, and everything works just fine.  I now have my old USB printer working on Vista x64.  I expect to use the same trick on Windows 7 when I upgrade.  Incidently, the USB support is pretty slick in VMplayer 2.5.  Unity mode rocks too.

HP Mini 1000 Review

HP Mini

So.. you’ve been wondering about taking the Netbook plunge.  You’ve read the PC enthusiast sites, and compared to late 2007 there are now a large number of “netbook” offerings on the market.  What’s an IT guy (or geek) to do?

As any good IT consultant, I need a good laptop to see customers and move between the office.  I have a nice HP Compaq 6910p, it’s great, but it’s large and really a full desktop replacement.  I’ve found that taking it around to customer locations is a bit of a pain.  I’m one of those people who are constantly tossing laptops over my back and having them fall down my arms!  Not to mention I would hate to really use it on the plane.

Enter the netbook and my HP Mini.  Read on for more details on the little machine that could!