Adding RSS discovery to Chrome

For Chrome on the mac, it appears that RSS auto discovery is not included by default. This is the feature that puts a little RSS icon in the URL bar when the page that you’re on has an RSS feed available. In order to enable this feature for Chrome on the mac you need to install this extension. This is an extension from Google and seems to work great.
Then if you find a RSS feed that you’d like to add to ReadPath, drag the link below to your bookmark bar.
Add To ReadPath
Then when you’re on a page that you want to subscribe to, press the bookmarklet and it will have ReadPath subscribe you to the feed.

CDH3 Hbase

I’ve spent the last several days playing with and configuring CDH3B2 with Hbase. My test cluster is using an ESXi server with 20Gb of ram to boot up a bunch of CentOS5 VMs. Definitely not something that you’d want to run in production, but it works great for testing. Actually helps to expose some bugs due to the slow IO of running a bunch of servers on the same disk.
My production cluster is still running HBase 0.20.3 and has performed flawlessly. It has a table holding half a billion content items, taking up several terabytes of space, and has made it through several disk failures without a hitch. However, I’m looking at the Cloudera distro because I’m not happy with having to repackage everything, test it out, push to the live cluster, and then retest to make sure that everything made it properly every time a new release comes out. I’m hoping that using the Cloudera distro will simplify a lot of this. I’m also hoping that with the patches that they include and testing being done that I’ll have a more stable cluster. I had a real bad experience with the 20.4 update which is why production is still on 20.3.
One major problem that I still have, even with the Cloudera distro, is that the LZO code isn’t included due to licensing problems. I’m really hoping that the new compression options can be packaged up soon so that these libraries don’t need to be maintained separately any more.
A couple quick notes that I found from my testing.

  • The way that HBase interacts with and manages zookeeper has changed. It’s more like running an unmanaged zookeeper setup. I found that not only did I need to make sure that the zookeeper configs in the hbase-site.xml needed to be correct on all of the servers, but that when I ran map-reduce jobs against HBase that it seemed to be reading from /etc/zookeeper/zoo.cfg and that this needed to be correct on all of the regionservers. I initially had only edited it on the server running my zookeeper instance. I also added the file to the HADOOP_CLASSPATH in hadoop-env.sh but I’m not sure that that’s required.
  • I wish that there was a better way to manage the HADOOP_CLASSPATH and it’s inclusion of the hbase and zookeeper jar files. I’m trying to find a way so that this doesn’t need to be edited each time I update the software to a new version.
  • I had to change the value for dfs.datanode.socket.write.timeout. On the live cluster I have it set to 0 which is supposed to mean no timeout, but it appears that there is a bug with this latest version that doesn’t respect that value properly. So I just set it to a high number.

Playing with ESXi

I had to test out a desktop virtualization product (Pano Logic) this week and as part of the installation I needed a VMware ESX base system. I’m a huge user of their Workstation product, but I had never used the ESX line since it used to be so expensive and required certified hardware. Things have changed though and it’s now possible to download a copy of ESXi for free and to run without a dedicated SAN.
One of the difficulties with VMware is that their acronyms can be very difficult to wade through. ESXi is what they refer to as a hypervisor. This essentially is a very cut down operating system that is designed to only run other Virtual Machines. There are some requirements to running ESXi, I had to go through 3-4 servers before I found one that the installer had all of the drivers. I finally got it to run a server I had picked up from Penguin Computing (2x dual core Opteron with 4Gb mem and 250Gb hard drive).
Once I found a server that worked, the system installed quickly. The next problem was that you need to download the vSphere client to administer the server which is windows only (there are command line clients for other operating systems, but I wasn’t ready for that yet). I didn’t have a windows box laying around (all linux and mac), so I had to launch a WinXP VM in workstation on my linux desktop to administer my ESXi server. Amazingly everything worked great.
The next issue that I ran into was that I already had a large number of VMs created that I was using on workstation, but I couldn’t see how to get them on to the ESXi server. In the vSphere client there are clear instructions on how to create a new VM or download an appliance, but not how to import an existing VM. It turns out that VMware has a very simple way of doing this using the VMware Converter. This product works as a switchboard allowing you to convert or move VMs from one place to another, a really handy tool.
Overall ESXi is a great tool for running a whole bunch of server VMs. VMware offers a huge number of management products in the vSphere product line for managing load and moving VMs in a datacenter. But if you just need to run a few VMs on a single server I would definitely recommend looking at ESXi.

Mail issues on ios4

If you value your email, you’re going to want to hold off on upgrading your iPhone to ios4. There are several posts (here and here) detailing issues that users are having with the Mail app on ios4. For myself, email has become unusable.

  • Often the mail icon will show that I have new mail, but when I open the app there is nothing there, even after hitting the refresh button.
  • After I delete email they’ll show back up again as unread.
  • I’ll often get a list of blank emails that I can’t do anything with.

Closing the Email app has no effect. The only thing that has helped so far is to double click the button to get to the quick switch screen, hold down the mail icon until they vibrate and the minus icon appears (I believe that this kills the background process), click the minus’ to close all running background processes. Once I do this Mail will begin to sync again. This leads me to believe that there are issues with communication between the background process and when you bring the app to the foreground.
I’m checking every day to see if Apple has pushed an update, but this was a pretty big bug to let slip into ios4.

Using Chrome

It’s taken awhile, but I’m finding myself starting to use Chrome as a browser more and more regularly. Firefox has started to get bloated again. I just don’t see why it seems to take so much memory, if I let it run awhile it tasks close to half of the 4G I’ve got on my macbook. Things start to bog down after a day or two of running and maybe I’m being too demanding, but I just don’t feel that I should have to restart a browser periodically to maintain performance.
There seems to be some healthy competition again in the browser space and Chrome is pulling ahead with the JavaScript performance. I had stuck with Firefox for a long time because it had Firebug, which is probably the single most useful web development tool out there. But now that JavaScript libraries like YUI are getting so much more solid and stable I’m finding that I don’t need to dive in with Firebug as much.
Overall I’m just happy to see that I have a choice. While performance and stability are great, I hope there’s more competition among the browsers as web application platforms and not just web content distribution. There’s still a long way to go in this area.

Market Makers Shouldn't Participate In Their Own Markets

There was a bit of questioning of the Risk Management Manager that when added to that of the CFO led to some very interesting insights into Goldman Sachs. The market making staff has the ability to hold or sell items that are taken opposite those of  the customers at a time and place that maximizes the profits for Goldman Sachs.
Goldman Sachs as a firm has internal views into almost every market there is. Seeing both sides of trades as well as the demand for creation of new products. The Manager would not say that internal talk among different groups wasn’t used in the determination on how to handle products that Goldman itself held. He squirmed out of taking any position.
The clear implication that you can take from these different data points is that Goldman Sachs has the ability to hold any product that they like and sell those that they don’t. They are not a neutral market making entity. They don’t see selling products that they don’t like to their own clients as a conflict of interest. Customers of Goldman Sachs need to ask themselves why the firm is selling any product. Because, if the item up for sale was worth holding, Goldman itself would hold it and not sell to the customer.
Goldman Sach’s ability to take positions and to be a market maker should be stripped. There should be a requirement that they can’t profit by taking positions as a market maker. There is no way to separate the conflict of interest otherwise.

Kindle for the mac

Kindle for the mac was just announced last night. I was really excited and downloaded it immediately.
The software is still listed as beta and definitely has a rough around the edges feel. But it does all of the basic things that kindle for the iPhone does. It allows you to pull in any of the books from your amazon archive, sync locations between different devices, change the font and reading formats to fit the device, and sync notes between devices. The main disappointment that I had was that the mac version doesn’t appear to have a book search feature. The laptop version of the software is the ideal place to be able to go back into your books and take notes or look up relevant parts. Without a basic search feature though this is severely hampered.
Up until now I’ve been splitting my two basic classes of book purchases, books that I’d just like to read from cover to cover and books that I need as reference material. I still purchase in physical form most of my computer books because I want to be able to look something up quickly and flip to exactly the point that I need. This is not an ideal use case for the kindle though, which is really good at reading from cover to cover. If the laptop software had a good search feature I would definitely start looking at purchasing reference books in digital form. It would be a great tool for looking things up and taking notes.
Well, hopefully Amazon listens and gets search implemented. It’ll transform the laptop software from a curiosity into a really powerful tool.

Playing around with the layout

I’ve updated the theme to try out a new look for the blog.
I had originally placed a few types of ads on these pages, just so that I could try them out somewhere other than at the day job. But now that I’ve got ReadPath cranking there really isn’t any need to experiment here any longer.
I’m fairly happy with this new theme, but you might continue to see some changes as I customize things.

Kindle syncing

I’ve had a kindle since they first came out, I’ve loved it since day one and use it pretty much every night to read for hours on end. In the past I would leave the wireless off though. With the 1st Gen kindle you could get a lot longer battery life if you didn’t turn the wireless on. Once you were reading a book, you could read for several days without needing to connect to Amazon’s servers. Only once you had finished a book and needed to add more did you need to turn it on to sync.
A few months ago, I downloaded Amazon’s kindle app for the iPhone, more out of curiosity than anything else. Initially I just couldn’t see myself reading books on such a small screen, especially one that was backlit and would cause eye-strain. However, in the last couple weeks I’ve discovered how seamlessly Amazon has made syncing devices and reading locations. Since during the day, I pretty much always have the iPhone with me, I can just pull it out and start reading. The iPhone is perfect for the situation where you might only have a few minutes and might need to put it away very quickly. I was getting my van washed yesterday and was able to read for 5 min at the car wash. The magic happens though when you get back home, turn on your kindle and it knows to sync your reading location up to where you left off on the iPhone and vice-versa.
I’m now finding that I’m able to get even more reading done during the day. Filling in small breaks instead of waiting for a single block of reading before bed.