Proxmox VE (Virtually Serving the Home User)

I have been a long time user of VMWare and have used the product extensively to run Windows on Linux or vice-versa.  In addition, I have used it to virtualize many of the services I use at home.  For instance, my Samba and FTP server is a virtual machine running Ubuntu 10.04 on an Ubuntu 12.04 host.  This has saved my ass in the past when I’ve had hardware issues and had to migrate from one computer to another.  Since the Samba and FTP server was a virtual machine I merely had to move it from the computer it was on and host it on a temporary computer while I repaired the hardware on the main computer.  Once the hardware was repaired I simply moved the virtual machine back.  I recently added Owncloud to my virtual server collection.  This has been very effective and I have been very happy with the decision to virtualize the server since moving it will now be very easy and making backups is as simple as stopping the guest, making a copy of the file and then restarting it.   The virtualized servers have been running on my fileserver which is mostly responsible for storing the 2 TB of data in a raid 1 configuration and making it available to the household users.  This has all been working quite well, but in the words of Tim Allen, I wanted to give it “More power!!!!”.  It was a simple enough decision to split the virtual server part off of the fileserver, let the fileserver continue to host its 2 TB of data and let a new computer do all the virtualization….  Enter Proxmox VE.  Proxmox VE is similar to VMWare ESXi in that it is installed on bare metal and runs virtual machines that you have to remotely access.  Proxmox supports fully virtualized KVM and OpenVZ or containers.  This was ideal for me since most of my home based virtual machines run Linux and containers are known to be much more efficient than KVM, but can not run Windows. With the platform selected the next step was to purchase the hardware.  I selected the AMD FX-8350 processor with its 8 cores feeling that this would be perfect for CPU hungry virtual machines.  I snapped this into an MSI 990FXA-GD65 which would unleash its power giving it 6GB SATA III ports.  I then added a Seagate Barracuda 1TB HD, but this failed after a week and I replaced it with a Western Digital Red 2TB for nearly twice the price.  Last I put in two 4GB sticks to take advantage of the dual channel memory, but planned to upgrade later.  As for video and case, these things are merely fluff on a headless PC, so any old one was fine.  In the end it came to about $630, a little more than I wanted to spend, but a lot less than if I had purchased something prefab.   Installing Proxmox was a breeze as everything is open … Continue Reading →

Worried About Dropbox? Get OwnCloud!

After using Dropbox for years, I finally hit the 5G free limit.  I looked at the prices and while they are fair, it hurts to pay for something I know I can do for free using rsync or a simple FTP.  In this case, I got lucky and found that ownCloud is even easier to use than ever before, and does all the same things Dropbox does and more. Since I do practically everything in a VM, the first thing I did was spin up an Ubuntu 12.04 Desktop, go to the web page and following the links for installing the DIY server edition.  Thank you, OpenSuse for hosting the install packages!   I drilled down and got myself to the appropriate version of Ubuntu (and don’t worry, I know everything says xUbuntu, but they don’t mean Xubuntu, they mean any Ubuntu flavour….LOL). From there, this website provided the best instructions for me, although it is written specifically for using a VPS on DigitalOcean.  Still, most of the instructions apply for someone hosting their own ownCloud server.   Once I got this up and running, the next thing to do was uninstall Dropbox on my laptop and install the ownCloud client.  I got this from as well.  After I got the ownCloud client going, it wanted to sync the whole account.  I didn’t want this and tried to stop it and remove the default ownCloud folder, but it basically hung.  After doing some research I found that the best practice is to quit the sync client and then open it back up, then immediately go to settings and pause the sync.  THEN, remove the default folder and create the new one.  I chose my Dropbox folder.  Why not?  It’s already there and it’s already where I put all my stuff.   The last thing to do was set things up on my phone.  I have an Android phone and the ownCloud client is in the App Store, so again, no worries there either.  Once it was installed and I logged into my server, BAM! all the dropbox files were available.  And don’t worry, it doesn’t download the files to your phone unless you tell it to.   I finished things off by adding linked folders on my server to my fileserver, setting up SSL and configuring the automatic camera upload feature on my phone, but it was all downhill from there.   If you are looking for an alternative to Dropbox and want to be in complete control of your data, I suggest you try it.  Have fun!

Heartbleed – NOOOOOOOO!!!!!

Wow, some big news hit the computer security industry recently.  It turns out when the mostly unused heartbeat feature built into OpenSSL IS used the server returns a packet LARGER than what was sent by the client.  This wouldn’t be such a big deal except the portion that is larger contains a snippet of recently used OpenSSL memory from the server.  So, the word is that the OpenSSL developer’s decided to write their own memory allocation manager instead of using the system allocator and as a result the memory wasn’t completely random or initialized, but instead contained actual recently used UNENCRYPTED data from the OpenSSL application.  It has been proven that it is possible to extract not only user logins, but also the actual certificate from the memory leak that is returned to the client.  This is absolutely CRAZY!!!  I have updated all my servers and am good to go, but the bigger concern is, did anyone else know about it before it was revealed and actually get certificates for bank servers and the like. Without actually knowing, since using this “attack” leaves no trace, the only assumption that can be made is that the certificates HAVE been compromised.  How will the certificate providers ever keep up with all the new certs they will have to create and all the old ones they will have to revoke?  This is going to cost a fortune.  UGH!

Ubuntu 14.04 Has Been Released

I kept checking and checking all day and finally they had the download linked on the main page.  I quickly downloaded it and promptly installed it into my new 250G SSD.  The very first thing I noticed is that the keyboard backlight function keys now work…. WOOHOO!  So far it seems to be pretty snappy and I will still need some time to customize everything and get my software all reinstalled, but it’s working well and I should be able to stick with it. The only con is that there is no Steam package yet available from the Software Center.  It looks like you can install it by running the .deb file from the Steam site, but I am not sure I want to do this yet.  I would prefer to see Steam in the official Ubuntu Repository for 14.04 before hacking it into my system. I still see the sites where people claim to have problems with Ubuntu and I just don’t get it.  I am not sure what they are doing that I am not.  Probably installing PPAs and .debs from websites and hacking up their system or taking advice from “Linux gurus” and hacking up their system from the command line.  I think if you owned a MAC you wouldn’t try doing these things.  What makes someone immediately want to hack up a Linux system?  Well, it works for me and I hope it maintains enough popularity to continue to be supported, because I love it.

Windows XP is Dead… Switch to Ubuntu!

I have been using Ubuntu for the last 4 years.  It works great.  I still have to use Windows at work because there simply aren’t any Linux versions of the proprietary software I am required to use and our IT department hasn’t gotten back to me about the possibility of virtualizing my Window’s environment.  I think they are worried they will have to support two OS’es on the desktop or they simply are not familiar with Linux.  Oh well.  I still use it exclusively at home.  In fact, I am using a Samsung Ativ 7 with Ubuntu 13.10 on it and everything worked out-of-the-box right after installation.  No tweaks required. I regularly install the OS on old computers for novices to use who just want to browse the web, buy something on Amazon or email their kids.  It just works and no viruses or malware or degraded performance overtime or any of those other Window’s issues. If you are going from Windows XP, give it a try.  Use the Software Center to install new apps, and run your apps from the Launcher.  Stay away from all the nonsense on the forums that may tell you to change the desktop manager or put another distro on your computer until AFTER you feel comfortable with Ubuntu and you feel adventuresome. Come at it with an open-mind.  Things will be different.  Before you start looking online for ways to modify it so it behaves more like you want (or are used to), I suggest you get used to how it works before potentially breaking it.  No one buys a $2000 Mac and then says, “I wish when I pushed a window to the left it would snap like it does in Windows.”  They just deal with the differences.  After all it’s not Windows. With that said, once you get comfortable, Linux distributions have the most customizable desktops of all the OS’es.  This is both a blessing and a curse.  But for those who are up to the challenge and love their computer it can be well worth the effort for a beautifully customized system. Read more: