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Jul 28, 2011

Get Spotify in the U.S. Without an Invite

For the last few weeks I have seen Twitter and Facebook full of people talking about how they got their Spotify invites, and blah blah blah, they are so special. In the mean time, I'm sitting here with my junk in my hands wishing I too could enjoy this mystical new music experience. Alas, I was not privileged enough to get an invite.

What is Spotify you ask? According to Wikipedia, "Spotify is a Swedish DRM-based music streaming service offering streaming of selected music from a range of major and independent record labels, including Sony, EMI, Warner Music Group, andUniversal. Launched in October 2008 by Swedish startup Spotify AB, the service had approximately ten million users as of 15 September 2010; about 1,000,000 of whom were paying members.The service is, as of July 2011, only available in Finland, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The system is currently accessible using Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Telia Digital-tv, and mobile devices running iOS (iPod/iPhone/iPad), Android, Windows Mobile, S60 (Symbian), webOS, andSonos.

Music can be browsed by artist, album, record label, genre or playlist as well as by direct searches. On desktop clients, a link allows the listener to purchase selected material via partner retailers.

Users can register either for free accounts supported by visual and radio-style advertising or for paid subscriptions without ads and with a range of extra features such as higher bitrate streams and offline access to music. A paid "Premium" subscription is required to use Spotify on mobile devices.Subscriptions are restricted to people with credit/debit cards or PayPal accounts registered in certain countries."

Well screw that! If there is a way to get around something like a silly invite, I'm going to try to find it! Well it turns out there is a way, and Lifehacker found it! Here is how:

 

  1. You need to start with a UK account. To do that, you'll need to be in the UK—or, at least, appear to be. To do that, visitDaveProxy (or another free, UK-based proxy service) and go to spotify.com. (Note: if you're using DaveProxy, be prepared to contend with a lot of pop-up ads. Just close them as they come up. They're harmless.)
  2. Sign up for an account on the UK site. You'll need a UK zip code, but just search for McDonald's in London and you'll find one without issue.
  3. Once you have an account, sign out and go to spotify.com like you normally would in the US. You won't see a place to log in because that's hidden behind the signup page. Pretend you're signing up for a premium account and you'll see a message asking you already have an account and want to log in. You do, so click the associated link and log in.
  4. Go back to spotify.com and you'll now see a black box up at the top of the site. It'll read "continue to spotify.com." Click on it.
  5. You're in, but your account is still UK-based. You'll see your username displayed up on the top right. Click it and choose "Edit Profile."
  6. In the "Country" menu, change "United Kingdom" to "United States" and set your zip code to whatever it actually is. Save your profile when you're done.
  7. Download the Spotify app and log in.

Easy right? I did this trick, and I was listening to sweet sounds from Spotify Open in just a few minutes!

[Via Lifehacker]

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Jul 26, 2011

There, I fixed it!

Yesterday while waiting on my cup of coffee to brew on the office Keurig machine, a co-worker from the sales team came in and began telling me about her laptop because I’m one of the office IT guys. Most of the time when someone starts out like that, they are looking for free tech support, but not her. She just wanted to tell me about her laptop because of how funny it is.

You see, a while back apparently she busted the monitor off her laptop. I don’t know if she dropped it or what, but the monitor got busted off it’s hinges, and the only thing keeping it together are the little video cables. Since the cables are still there, the monitor and laptop are still fully functional!

Not wanting to throw out her busted ass laptop, using one of her friend’s suggestions, she started propping up the laptop screen with a book end! In disbelief I asked her to send me pics so I could post them here for you. Check it out!

book_end_077

book_end_078

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I don’t think many of us would keep using the laptop in this condition. I think most of us would suck it up, and make the case to replace the laptop, but bless my co-workers heart for MacGyvering her laptop to keep that sucker usable!

Have you done something like this? Do you know someone that’s done this? Let us know in the comments!

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Jul 21, 2011

My 20TB Openfiler Cluster is Configured!

Today is a good day because it is a long time coming. I finally got all of my equipment to setup the Openfiler cluster I have been talking about! I did run into some snags though that I didn't in my testing mainly because of the large logical disks in my production system. Other than that, everything worked great. I will get into some of the stuff I learned during the setup.

To give you a little background first in case you haven't been following along, I decided to create an Openfiler SAN to add to our NetApp FAS2020 because our FAS2020 is starting to get low on space, and we were budgeted to buy more storage this year. The cost for another FAS2020 is roughly $20,000 or so. I thought I could get more bang for my buck if I built my own SAN using SuperMicro servers and Openfiler. I was right! My redundant setup gives us about 20TB of space for about $12,000!

I followed the steps outlined here: (Openfiler 2.99 Cluster with DRBD, Pacemaker and Corosync)

I found though that since my logical partition was bigger than 2TB, I couldn't use cfdisk or fdisk like I did in my testing. No, for disks that big, you have to use Parted. Here are the commands I used to partition my disks:

root@filer01# parted /dev/sdb

(parted) mkpart logical 1MB 512MB

(parted) mkpart logical 513MB 20971520MB

(parted) set 2 lvm on

(parted) quit

After that I rebooted, and I was able to follow the instructions. You need to change the above numbers to match your config. If you haven't figured it out 20971520MB = 20TB. You can do your number conversions here: (TB to MB Converter)

Another thing I ran into was on the second page of the documentation. You need to change anything that says nfs-lock to nfslock or you will get errors. I think it was a typo.

Finally, after I set everything up, I immediately wanted to test failover. However, when I pulled the heartbeat cables, failover didn't work. Services wouldn't start on the second node. After a while I figured out it was because DRBD hadn't finished syncing the disks. I found in earlier documentation for configuring a cluster in Openfiler 2.33 that for large disks it can take 24+ hours to sync. Sweet damn! You can however check the status of the disk syncing by running this command:

root@filer01# cat /proc/drbd

When everything is set to UpToDate/UpToDate then you should be able to test failover. You can edit /etc/drbd.d/global_common.conf and add the following line under the syncer section to speed up replication:

rate 1000M;

Also, you can increase the MTU on your heartbeat NIC's to 9000 to boost the sync speed as well. You can do that by editing the ifcfg-IFACE files located in /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/. Change the line saying MTU=1500 to MTU=9000 and reboot or restart your networking services. If your heartbeat interface is eth1, edit the ifcfg-eth1 file. If you have bonded NICs like me, it will probably be ifcfg-bond1. You get the point though.

Here is a little video I made of my new setup, check it out!

 

Have you setup an Openfiler cluster before? What issues did you come accross with the setup? Have any recommendations for my readers? Hit us up in the comments!

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Jul 14, 2011

What's a 12 O'Clock Flasher?

So I was talking to my wife and my sister-in-law who is in town for the lext few weeks tonight about my work, and general life as an IT professional, and we got to talking about a type of customer I like to refer to as a "12 O'Clock Flasher". Lucky for me I haven't had to really deal with this particular type of user for the last few years because once you move up in IT past Help Desk and Desktop support, you don't have to deal with end users too much.

Unfortunately for me though, now that I work for a small company, I have to deal with end users a little more. I should say that I do have a Desktop tech working for me that has to deal with the brunt of this (Bless his heart). Every once in a while, I get dragged into the madness which made me think of this post.

I think I may have written about a similar topic before, but I can't seem to find it in the Bauer-Power archives. Anyhoo, what I believe I talked about before was how no matter what IT department you work for, no matter how big the company, there is a small subset of users that you will interact with the most. This subset will be the same users every time.

For some reason, these particular users will be plagued with issues, while everyone else in the company gets along fine. I personally believe that this phenomenon is caused by a lack of training. Pure and simple. There is, however, an even smaller group of people within this subset that just cannot be helped. This is the 12 O'Clock flasher category.

I got this term from a video from DeadTroll.com that pokes fun at the tribulations that come with working at a Help Desk. Here's the clip where I got the 12 O'Clock Flasher term:

 

Basically, a 12 O'Clock flasher is someone who is so technically illiterate that if you went into their house every digital clock would be flashing 12:00 because they have no clue how to program them. These people fear technology so much, that their brains just can't wrap around simple concepts that most people must know to survive in our modern society.

It's sad really to watch these people. Sometimes I wonder how they get through every day life. But then again, not everyone can be as into technology as me. I'm a straight up nerd. Still though, there are some basics in the world of computing that everyone should know how to do. Hell, there are some basics in computing that the average office worker should know how to do. Stuff like how to connect to wireless internet, how to send an email, how to create a Word document etc.

Do you have a 12 O'Clock flasher at your office? Do you have more than one? Let us know some of your horror stories in the comments (Please don't name names!)

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Jul 13, 2011

Installing Openfiler 2.99 On a 3Ware 9750-4i RAID Controller

I haven't been writing too much lately, and the stuff I have been writing about have pretty much consisted of three different things. SuperMicro servers, Openfiler SAN's and XenServer. This article isn't going to be too much different because I am still very much involved in this project. It should have been done already, but I have been plagued with set backs from manufacturers, and retailers since I ordered this stuff, but I digress.

So I finally got one of my SuperMicro storage chassis built out, and I decided to do the initial install of Openfiler 2.99 on it. Turns out there was a little bit of a pain in this process. You see, I am using a 3Ware 9750-4i RAID controller card. Reading online, in forums, and in the Openfiler community it seemed that this card would be supported out of the box because the 9750 chipset's driver is built into Linux kernels 2.6.23 and newer which Openfiler uses. Eh, not so much.

When I booted up Openfiler, it saw the RAID controller, but it didn't detect the right driver so it asked me to load a driver, or search for one manually I find the 3ware 9000 Storage Contoller Linux Driver (3w-9xxxx).

However when I select it, the Openfiler installation craps out with the below error:

glib detected *** /sbin/loader: double free or corrupted...

WTF? It turns out that LSI/3Ware made a driver available for Openfiler 2.3 though, which you can download here: (Openfiler 9750 32bit and Openfiler 9750 64bit)

The good news is the 2.3 driver works for 2.99 as well. The bad news is that the driver comes as a floppy image. Yes, as in 1.44MB floppy! WTF is that? No matter how hard we try, we just can't get rid of those damn floppies (Thats what she said! - Corny, I know...).

Anyway, to get this bastard installed, I had to track down a floppy disk, and a usb floppy drive. I then had to write the image to floppy using a tool called Rawrite. Once I had the floppy I booted up the server to the installation CD, at the same time I plugged in the usb floppy drive with the driver floppy disk. Openfiler read the disk at boot up, found the driver and I was able to get it installed successfully.

When I rebooted though, it wouldn't boot up. This is the final "gotcha" I found with 3Ware and Openfiler. When you are creating your RAID in the 3Ware bios, there is an option to create a separate boot partition as a part of the RAID config. I went back in, re-created the RAID but this time I set up a 10GB boot partition. I then repeated the previous steps and installed Openfiler to the 10GB partiton. This time it booted up without issue.

Not sure why the install wasn't as straight forward as it should be, but now that it's installed it seems to be working well.

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Jul 6, 2011

Free Open Source Time Card Management

At my day job I have myself an employee. Yes, good ol' El Di Pablo is finally in a management type role! Anyway, like most junior IT people, my employee is an hourly employee. At my company I found out that we use Paychex Time in a Box software as a time clock management solution even though we no longer use Paychex for our payroll. They just keep it around for $50 per month because the ADP solution is way more expensive.

So I says to my Payroll manager, "I can probably find you something better than Paychex Time in a Box for free", and she tells me she would like to see that. Finding free software is my speciality! So I hopped on Google, looked around for a bit and found what I think will serve her quite nicely! It's called TimeTrex Standard Edition.

Not only is TimeTrex free, it will also run on Windows, Mac or in Linux. I have it running on Ubuntu 11.04 Server edition, and it works great! Here is a list of features from their website:

  • Employee Scheduling module with flexible pattern scheduling that minimizes data entry and eliminates the need to manually create schedules on a regular basis.
  • Time and Attendance module to efficiently track and monitor employee attendance, including tardiness, missed punches, overtime and vacation time.
  • Payroll module with fully integrated start to finish payroll processing at the click of a button, tax and benefit calculations, tax reports, check printing and direct deposit functionality.
  • NO employee limits, NO time limits, NO annoying advertising!

Payroll is a very important part of a business. I mean if you can't pay your employees for their time, then you won't be in business very long. It's also important to keep your Payroll information secure. TimeTrex encrypts your data at the database level on the server, and since it's a web-based app you can secure the information in transit easily with SSL.

If you do what I did, run TimeTrex on Linux with an SSL cert from StartSSL, then you have yourself a 100% free Payroll, time keeping solution!

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Jul 5, 2011

XenConvert Failed To Snapshot

As many of you know I am setting up some virtualization awesomeness at my day job to replace to old aging servers, and some sub-par servers running on desktop class computers. Everything is going swimmingly transitioning from physical to virtual using XenServer!

I am down to my last physical server running on a desktop now, and I have run into a little bit of a snag. When I run XenConvert to try and do a physical to virtual conversion on it, It fails telling me that it failed to snapshot. Damn! One one to go and I am done with these crappy hunks of junk forever and this happens?

No biggie, I have a pretty good work around. The cool thing about XenServer is that it uses VHD format for the virtual hard disks. That happens to be the same format as Microsoft Virtual PC and Hyper-V. The great thing about that is there is a free tool from Microft's Sysinternals that will create virtual clones of your hard drives in VHD format called Disk2VHD!

All I had to do because XenConvert was unable to snapshot, was to run Disk2VHD to create the virtual drives. After that, I was able to use XenConvert to import the VHD into XenCenter without issue. All I had to do was modify the default CPU and RAM the XenConvert gave it. Easy Pasy!

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Jul 1, 2011

A Shout Out To A Local SuperMicro Specialist Shop

I haven't been writing too much lately. I've had a lot of stuff going on at work. I just hired a new Desktop tech straight out of college, had a few outages at work thanks to Time Warner and SDG&E, and generally lots of projects. As most of you know one of my projects has been setting up virtualization at my home office on two SuperMicro servers. My other big project is building my own SANs using SuperMicro storage servers and OpenFiler.

The problem with those last two projects was that since my company already had a relationship with a fairly big name in IT sales, I decided to go through them. That company was TIG, and I have done tons of business with them over the years, and they have always been good to me. This, however, was the first time I ever ordered any SuperMicro equipment, and apparently I was the first person to order it from TIG. The reason I say that is that every aspect of my orders were messed up in some way.

On my first order they ordered me the wrong RAM twice, then they told me I didn't need an additional RAID controller because the motherboard had RAID integrated. After sending the RAM back twice, I found out that the integrated RAID wasn't supported by XenServer, or even VMware if I decided to fall back on that.

My second order was for the storage servers. I asked for those to come as barebone kits because although building computers is fun, I really don't have time to do that stuff at work. For servers I would like for them to come pre-built, or at least mostly built. Anyway, the chassis and motherboards came separately, and the RAID controllers I ordered for those were too big. It needed low profile cards.

PCN San Diego SuperMicroI finally got tired of having to go back and forth with TIG, and hit up my buddy Craig who owns Total Tech Resource Corp in San Diego. I asked if he dealt in SuperMicro, and he said he didn't but then he directed me to Dave over at Priority Computer & Networking (PCN). PCN happens to be a local SuperMicro dealer, and they have all sorts of SuperMicro stuff in stock. If they don't, they can get it. Fast!

TIG finally sent me RAID cards that would work with XenServer, but they didn't send me cables. Because I was putting Xen on SuperMicro 6016T-MTLF's, I need some special SAS to SATA cables that would fit in tight spaces. I tried heading over to Fry's but their selection sucked! I decided to call over to PCN, and sure enough they were in stock! I ran over there, grabbed the cables and had my servers running like absolute dreams in about an hour later.

I decided that with big name servers like HP, Dell, IBM etc you can go with just about anyone. When you need to start getting specialty built servers like when dealing with SuperMicro, it's important to work with experts on the subject. Dave and his team are super knowlegeable about all things SuperMicro. Plus if you order any server through PCN, they will assemble them before sending them out to you, plus they will provide hardware support themeselves! I am positive that any future orders I place for SuperMicro will go through PCN.

Do you use SuperMicro? Do you go through a local dealer for your SuperMicro needs? Are you yourself a SuperMicro guru? Where do you go for hard to find parts to make your life easier when building SuperMicro servers? Let us know in the comments.

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