iPad? iSad!

I got home tonight and decided to watch the highlights from tonight’s NBA Finals game on my iPad. How disappointing that it can’t play nba.com’s videos because they require, you guessed it, Flash. Apple is taking a lot of heat over their decision to not allow Flash on their iDevices. It’s like they are the new Microsoft, possibly worse given their tyrannical AppStore control controversies. I left iPad product feedback but I doubt it will make any difference. Steve Jobs has said that they will listen to their customers regarding this issue; we’ll see about that.

VMware ESXi: at home!

A co-worker was making me jealous the other day about how he built an ESXi whitebox, and I got to thinking that I needed something like this myself to host my company’s servers. I have been an avid virtualization junkie ever since the original Virtual PC was made available to me in an old MSDN subscription, and this obsession continues to this day. Currently I use VMware Workstation 7 on my high-powered (Core i7, 9GB RAM) but wholly underutilized HTPC, and while it works well enough, it’s really not very “enterprisey”. Neither is a homebuilt ESXi server, but I can certainly make it pretty close, and it would be far superior to the HTPC which to my horror people often shut down when they are done watching something.

I have a Dell Inspiron 845 that was used by an employee for a past project. It’s a reasonably powerful machine with a quad-core, VT-enabled Intel processor and 8GB RAM, so I figured it would do the trick. According to http://vm-help.com, by simply adding an Intel 1000 GT or CT NIC, ESXi 4.0 will install without any modifications or funky drivers. I picked up a couple of these NICs for $45 each, installed one (the PCI-e CT version) in the 845, and within minutes I had my own ESXi server. Sweet! The only gotcha is that my Windows 7 host can’t run the vSphere management tool, so I need to run it under an XP VM. Oh, the irony!

Next up was to use some enterprisey storage. I have an OpenFiler server sitting in my wiring closet with a 400GB iSCSI volume that’s sitting idle, so after some frustration getting ESXi to see the iSCSI target, I now have what should be a very robust data store for my VMs. I’ll make a post later about exactly what you need to do to get this configured.

I installed the VMware standalone converter utility and migrated my VMware Workstation VMs, initially a development Oracle server and Redmine plus an (*ahem*) bittorrent server, to the new server in its iSCSI data store. Everything went exactly as I’d hoped it would, very smooth. I only needed to reset some static DHCP mappings due to MAC address changes.

I still needed a backup solution though, and last night I got one working. Briefly, it’s the ghettoVCB script which is highly regarded, and I can see why. There are some nice guides on how to get it set up, and I’ll post more on this later. Here’s hoping that tonight’s daily backup works!