The Problem With The Web....

Tuesday, 19 May 2009
... is currency!

I have a Windows 2003 Server VMWare image within which I build demos and test environments. (I do have a SUSE Linux v10 demo environment for real stuff but sometimes customers want to see applications running happily inside Windows). The latest installation I attempted chucked a hissy-fit when it came to calculating disk space. It wanted 10GB and I only had 7GB on my C:!

Resolution 1
I thought, no problem... I'll add a new virtual disk, give it 20GB and call it my D: drive. After just a few moments, my disk was available and I restarted the installation. But guess what... it refuses to install anywhere other than C:

Resolution 2
Disappointed, I figured I'll just resize my primary partition. And the fun began...

VMWare Workstation 6.5 comes with vmware-vdiskmanager.exe which allowed me to resize the virtual disk. (For information, I took it from 15GB up to 30GB). But, of course, that doesn't help unless I resize the partition as well.

Time to boot Windows 2003, bring up a command prompt and type diskpart in order to resize. But diskpart will refuse to resize a bootable partition! Doh!

That's OK though - I have a copy of Easeus Partition Manager! Try to install it and it said "You've got Windows 2003 Server! Please purchase the Server Edition of EPM".

hmm.... seems my EPM version is for non server based Windows installations. Off to the Easeus website then and I found that the server edition will set me back $150!

Google Time
I'm not paying $150 for a one-off resize! Someone must've done this before so let's give Google a bash.

It seems that people have had this problem before and I study their techniques for resolving the problem. I find 3 possible options:

Option 1 - Knoppix with QTParted
I download 700mb of a Knoppix Live (as instructed) and boot my VM using the ISO image. But... the latest version of Knoppix doesn't ship with qtparted any more. The instructions I've found on Google are, sadly, out-of-date.

Option 2 - Knoppix with ntfsresize
Fortunately, my version of Knoppix does have ntfsresize so I give it a go. It says that it will resize my C: but only if the partition has been resized first so I have to use FDISK. I launch fdisk and tell it to increase the number of cylinders to be used on that partitioni and it point-blank refuses. More Googling tells me to delete the partition and recreate - but that just merely destroys all my data (I know - I did it - but only after I'd backed up my partition - phew!)

Option 3 - vmware converter
Next, I follow the procedure sfor vmware converter. I say follow... I did download the converter (which took a while) and installed it (which took longer) and then ran it. The screens didn't offer up the options that were describe by my Google search! It seems that my version of converter is a lot more recent than the one described in the web article and the functionality I'm looking for no longer exists.

Option 4 - GParted
My final options was GParted - a live bootable ISO image that claims to do the job. I searched for it, found it on Sourceforge, hit the download button and..... NOTHING. Doesn't exist or at least it's offline for the time-being.

Time to give up and go to bed

Next morning, though, I tried to retrieve GParted again and thankfully it was now available. Downloaded it, booted, clicked a couple of buttons and my partition was resized perfectly.

The Moral
This was a very simple procedure and it did not require too much effort to achieve it... in the end. The problem is that this is just the latest example of the web sending me off on tangents because the information that I found is no longer relevant or out-of-date. Unfortunately, the information has been round long enough to find itself high up on the search results yet the up-to-date, relevant stuff was actually tricky to find.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of Google but as the web clogs up with more irrelevant information, I'm finding it more and more difficult to get the information that I need.

It would be great if the custodians of information would clean-up their act. Maybe a "Best Before" date ;-)

Self Promotion

Wednesday, 13 May 2009
I had the pleasure of attending a wonderful wedding at The Manoir last weekend.

I was fortunate to be asked to be "Best Man" at the event. Of course, I had to give a speech which was quite nerve-racking but it went down a storm.

Speaking at such an event is a great way of getting introduced to people. Everyone came to me after I had spoken to congratulate me and tell me how much they enjoyed what I had to say. Would they have been so eager to speak to me if I had been a mere mortal at the event?

So lot's of strangers spoke to me and the usual conversation ensued: "How do you do?"; "Nice weather, isn't it?"; "What do you do for a living?".

Normal run of the mill stuff you might think and you'd be right. However, I did get some interesting questions:

  • How do you get business and how do you promote yourself?
  • How do you keep on top of your reputation?
  • Would you be my friend on Facebook?

I guess the answer to these questions differ depending on the business that you are in, but for me, getting business and self-promotion is all about the following:
  • Reputational enhancement through constant delivery
  • Ensuring the right people are made aware of the delivery success
  • Promotion through social networking (LinkedIn, Twitter, Website, Blog, etc.) and being careful what I say on each medium
  • Standing up in front of people and speaking - getting noticed

Indeed, giving a Best Man's speech, while important for the recently married couple in question, is another means of self-promotion I guess - unless you make a mess of it!

So how do I keep on top of my reputation? Time... might just take a few minutes each day to post to Twitter; maybe 15 minutes to write a blog entry (like this?); and just a few moments each month to check that my website is still relevant.

It doesn't take much and there really is no excuse for people allowing their reputation to waver!

As for being a friend on Facebook? Again, it might be reputationally damaging for me to be friends with certain people - I don't do too many randoms! Gain my trust first please.

Identity Mapping

Friday, 1 May 2009

 got to thinking the other day about my online "presence". I do the Facebook thing, the Twitter thing, the LinkedIn thing and I have a .tel domain now!

Some of these "things" talk to each other. Twitter feeds Facebook and Plaxo, for example. I thought it would be quite cool to try to map these services to show the linkages (and it was more difficult than I thought). I haven't included Flickr, Trip IT, Friends Re-United and probably a whole host of other services that I use but here is the current map:


I pulled together this map not by merely recalling the services that I use (although I could've done that quite easily with this particular map) but rather by taking a look at my Password Safe datbase and going through the various accounts I have. My Password Safe now has 257 items in it and I know there are some accounts missing!

257 account details. Whatever way you cut it, that's a lot of accounts. Thankfully, I only know the password to a couple of services (and have never known, and probably will never know my Facebook password, for example). I rely almost entirely on Password Safe to access my online accounts.

And here's the issue... So paranoid am I about losing my Password Safe database that I have it copied from my desktop PC to my Mac Mini (on a nightly backup). It is synchronised with my 8gb Freecom USB disk. It is then synchronised with my two laptops (one personal and one work) and it is copied to a secure location on a server I have in a data centre.

So, my precious information is stored in a number of locations. That's a few opportunities for the baddies to try to get it from me. What are the options, though?

Well, of the 257 accounts that I have, hardly any of them support some kind of federated security model. It is true that I can log in to some services using my Google ID or my Yahoo ID, but not many. OpenID? Again, hardly any of my service providers support this. In fact, it seems that I have THREE amazon accounts - one for purchasing; one for Affiliation and one for Amazon Advantage! (I may have an amazon developer account for their API, but can't remember!)

So managing my identity is a fairly manual process just now. Not the case, necessarily, for big corporations who can throw a Sun, Oracle or IBM Identity Management solution at their various data repositories. Could these tools be used "in the cloud" for web users? Would I want to pay for that? Could I host IBM Tivoli Identity Manager on a server on the net, build some connectors to the major websites (such as Facebook, Twitter, Google & Yahoo) for managing accounts? Could I, host a reverse-proxy on this internet-facing server which would provide me with a web-based single-sign on solution to these services?

Technically? Everything is possible. Is it likely? Not a chance... well... not yet. Too many companies are trying to gear themselves towards offering this terrific opportunity to be the master of identity related data but you've got to question why any organisation would want to do it. For your benefit? Not likely.

Maybe I'll build an IdM service just for me :-)