Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Installing VMWare Server on my Core i5 running Windows 2003

I recently bought a Core i5 PC to be used as the Dragonpay online payment server. I wanted to run VMWare ESXi on it but ESXi could not detect the onboard Intel network adapter. There seems to be no way to specify an external driver either. Its either ESXi supports your network adapter out-of-the-box or it does not. And from the hardware compatibility list at VMWare, it seems that ESXi only supports a selected number of motherboards (mostly Lenovo, HP, Dell).

So I had no choice but to install Windows 2003 Server as the host OS. But even that, I had trouble at first. The driver that came with the motherboard only supports Vista and Windows 7. There are no drivers anymore for XP, 2003, or earlier incarnations of Windows. I asked one of our tech guys at Mozcom for assistance and he was somehow able to install it manually. So my Windows 2003 Server is now up and running with the onboard Gig-E network adapter.

Installing VMWare Server is a breeze. It is similar in function to VMWare Player except it runs as a service upon bootup. So there is no need to login to Windows and start a user application. And since its a service, it does not open a window on screen. To administer it, you just use a web browser and point to the local http-based admin url. You can start/suspend/stop virtual machines (VM's) via the very intuitive interface.

Next, I downloaded pre-built VM appliances from the VMWare marketplace. Turnkey Linux makes excellent appliances. I downloaded the Turnkey Linux core appliance and installed two instances of it. I also downloaded the Turnkey Wordpress appliance and installed one instance of it. Each appliance only requires about 256MB of RAM and very little hard drive space. I'm using the Wordpress appliance to run Dragonpay's official website ( During first run, it downloads updates and patches from Turnkey with minimal fuss.

Turnkey's web-based system administration interface is incredibly user-friendly. In fact, you can pretty much configure the Linux OS and run whatever you want to run, without ever touching the shell interface. Everything from iptables, processes, cron jobs, and File Manager can be done via the web interface. It also has an AJAX-powered web shell which gives you the feeling of typing on the command-line even though you are on the browser.

VMWare can be configured to startup all its VM's upon the host OS bootup (something you cannot do with VMWare Player). The reverse is also true, I believe (it can stop all its VM's if the main host OS is being shutdown). You can manage the memory and hard drive allocation from here. Since my PC has 2GB of RAM, I currently set each VM to exclusively use the RAM allocated to it. That means, the system will not need to swap memory to disk if there is not enough to go around. It is possible to have several VM's using more memory than what is physically available. But that will affect performance.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Windows 2000 Cannot Detect Large SATA Drive

This is actually a very old issue, but I was not aware of it until today. I recently bought a new PC with an Intel motherboard fitted with a Core i5 650 processor, 2GB RAM and a 250GB SATA drive. I'm going to use this box as a VMWare server running multiple virtual machines.

I initially wanted to run VMWare ESXi on this box. Much to my dismay, ESXi works only with very selected motherboards/chipsets/drivers and won't correctly work with the onboard Gig-E network adapter. Installing an external PCI network card also does not work. It seems that ESXi can only work with built-in network adapters of specific mobos (mostly branded ones from Dell, IBM, HP and the like).

So it looks like I'm stuck to installing a Windows server OS and then use the VMWare Server. I tried the minimum server -- Windows 2000 Server. After installing Windows 2000, the installer only detected about 128 GB out of the total 250 GB SATA drive. Strange. I did some research and it seems that circa Windows 2000, ATAPI/IDE drives were only about that size because Logical Block Addressing (LBA) were only 28-bit.

To support large disks, one needs 48-bit LBA. I installed Win2k's Service Pack 4 and modified the registry key EnableBigLba as instructed in After that, it saw the rest of my drive already! Yehey!

Anyway, this whole exercise was moot-and-academic as I decided to eventually install Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition as my host OS for VMWare Server.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Firebird Server and .NET Provider Incompatibility

Since my drive crashed the other day, I've had to reinstall my drivers. I've been having problems with my old applications written on Visual Studio .NET 2003 that uses the Firebird .NET Provider 1.6.x and 1.7.x. When I ran them, they would get really strange errors in the conn.Open() call.

After uninstalling and reinstalling the .NET Providers, I eventually tried uninstalling Firebird 2.x and re-installed the older Firebird 1.5 server. Voila - it worked! It seems that these old .NET Providers only work with the older Firebird server also. In contrast, the FirebirdClient 2.0.x providers for .NET 2.0 worked with both 1.5 and 2.0 servers.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

FlashForward Ends!

A friend introduced me to the ABC series FlashForward last year. But it was not until a couple of months ago that I started downloading and following the series. After the first couple of episodes, I was hooked!

The basic plot is as follows -- on Oct 6, 2009, everyone in the planet blacked out for 2 minutes and 17 seconds. During that time, everyone saw their future in Apr 29, 2010. To some, it carried hope; to others, hopelessness and death. The main story revolves around the FBI with agent Mark Benford (played by Joseph Fiennes) playing the lead role. There is apparently this large criminal syndicate that caused the blackout and is using the FlashForwards to know what lies in the future and use it for geopolitical and economic gain.

The first season was made up of 22 episodes. After finishing the series, I think there were a lot of episodes with subplots that seemed to lead nowhere and were superfluous -- ex. that Nazi criminal in the earlier part of the series, or even Dyson Frost's involvement. And why is it that "Dyson" is often associated with geniuses whose invention causes problems (remember the other Dyson in Terminator 2?).

Anyway, I was curious enough to want to find out about the original book that inspired the TV series. The novel's synopsis can be found in Wikipedia. I was surprised to find out that aside from the physicist, Lloyd Simcoe, pretty much everyone in the TV series were not really part of the book's original story. FBI agent Demitri's name was also obviously taken from the assistant of Simcoe in the book, Dimitrius. Their storyline were also similar -- they did not see anything in the future, which implied that they died before that date. There were no FBI people involved in the original story, and the setting was in CERN Switzerland instead of California.

In any case, ABC decided to cancel the show after the first season. This really sucked because while the last episode nicely tied-up the cycle and showed how the visions of most people came true, it left a lot more things hanging. The writers must have been hoping for several more seasons so that they can slowly unravel things. But no such luck. The series probably did not gain enough advertising dollars to justify its continued existence. That's too bad as a lot of fans seem to think its a good show. Granted that some series like Heroes really dragged on with poor storyline, but FlashForward seemed pretty interesting. Oh well, that's the thing I hate about TV series. They don't properly close. They just get cancelled (ex. Sarah Connor Chronicles).

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Citibank Call Center IVR

If you have ever tried to call Citibank's hotline 995-9999, you have most likely been frustrated also with navigating through its endless Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system. But unlike the other bank's phone system (ex. Standard Chartered), Citibank's IVR menu has no opt-out to talk to a human operator. You just endlessly go from one menu to another.

Industry-standard IVR menus have a press '0' or '9' for operator. But not Citibank. Since I was calling to ask for a waiver of my annual fee, I had to talk to a human. In frustration, I eventually chose an option that I knew had to be answered by a human -- "reporting a lost card". Once the operator answered the call, she had no choice but to entertain my inquiry which actually had nothing to do with losing a card.

From my conversation with the operator, she told me that one can hit the "*0" in the IVR menu to talk to an operator. Now, isn't that just plain brilliant? The intentionally do not say that in the IVR spiel, and yet that "secret key" actually exist. So next time I called, I tried "*0" during one of the long prompts, and what do you know, I did get transferred to a human operator!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Hard Drive Crash

My office desktop's hard drive finally came to a halting stop. Its been giving me a weird sound now-and-then like the hard drive spindle going nuts and hitting something. But since I have 3 x hard drives inside, I was not sure which one was causing the problem. But finally, it refused to boot up today so I guess its the main SATA drive after all.

I guess its about time I reinstalled a new Windows anyway. That XP has been around for so many years -- I don't recall anymore. Lots of components have been acting strangely:
  • DivX video output goes haywire
  • Visual Studio cannot debug ASP.NET applications
  • Constantly running out of disk space in the system Drive C
  • The onboard USB ports stopped working
So maybe this is for the better. I've ordered a new 500GB SATA. That should relieve me of my disk spaces woes for awhile. :)

Saturday, June 12, 2010


Very interesting use of an iPod as a synthesizer/drum machine/what-have-you.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Spending Caitlin's Birthday @ Clark Hotel Vida

I took a vacation leave today to spend time with the family. Its Caitlin's 7th birthday and we went to Clark where we checked in at Hotel Vida. Ilene came along with us. There was nothing much to do at Clark and the hotel. However, the kids totally loved the pool slide.

From Hotel Vida Clark

At first, Caitlin refused to try it. Ethan was a bit more brave and was willing to try anything. After several coaxing, Caitlin finally tried it and loved it. After that, the two kids would not stop sliding the whole afternoon.

We had dinner at a Korean restaurant inside the Mimosa compound. We were the only customers that night, I think. Business sure is slow here. We brought our own birthday cake, which Ilene ordered from Goldilocks. Of course, it had Caitlin's favorite cartoon character Spongebob.

The room was affordably priced since we availed of their rainy season promo. It came with breakfast for two and a gift certificate worth P300 which can be used to buy pastries at their cake stand. The room was clean and it has a sofa with a pull-out mattress which can fit 2 more people. Ilene and Caitlin slept there while Ethan slept with me and Cols on the Queen-sized bed.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Lost Tomb of Jesus

I just finished watching the 2007 Discovery Channel special "The Lost Tomb of Jesus". The documentary is about the Talpiot Tomb that was unearthed in Israel in 1980 while construction workers were digging the foundation for an apartment complex to be built.

The show claims that there is a very high statistical probability that the tomb is that of Jesus and his family. This conclusion was based on the names inscribed on the ossuaries (the stone coffins). While names like Mary, Jesus, Joseph, James, Matthew, etc. are not exactly rare during that period, the statistician claims that the likelihood of all these people taken together in the same tomb is very rare and it can only point to one conclusion -- this was the tomb of Jesus, his brothers, mother, and 'yes', "wife" (Mary Magdalene) and their 'son'. For Dan Brown / Da Vinci Code fans, this has all the conspiracy theories for a good novel. I just wonder why this did not really make such a big splash on the press.

Israel's agency that handles historical antiquities certainly is not convinced this is Jesus' tomb and sticks to their assertion that these names were too common back in the early days. Supposedly, 1 out of 4 women back then were named "Mary". While the show makes a big fuss about the uniqueness of the way the names are written, counter arguments say otherwise. I guess its up to the discerning reader to come up with their own conclusions. I wonder though why Israel would not want to try and prove that this is Jesus' tomb. After all, wouldn't that vindicate their Jewish belief that Jesus was just a mortal?

The documentary is executive produced by James Cameron of Titanic and Avatar fame. I don't think this documentary will go into 3D anytime soon. :P Here's another reference to the tomb for those interested in knowing more: