Thursday Jun 02, 2016

ODA : CDROMs and VMs

    Even as CDROMs slowly fade from common use, their impact is still felt. In this case, affecting the ability to run imported VMs on an Oracle Database Appliance. By taking advantage of Oracle VM on the Oracle Database Appliance, customers can use CPU and memory resources not used by their database tier for other workloads, running on any of the major OSes, including Oracle Linux, Oracle Solaris, Microsoft Windows, Red Hat Linux, and Suse Linux. The easiest way to do this is to import a VM exported from an existing virtualized environment, including pre-built OVM templates from Oracle. In some cases, and I have seen this often with Windows VMs exported from other virtual environments like VMware, after the VM has been imported as a template, and then cloned as a VM, it fails when trying to start.
    Not surprisingly, in most cases the error message gives no clue to what the issue may be, leaving a customer scratching their head, or placing a call to their friendly neighborhood Oracle support line. As it turns out, this is pretty easy to fix. The cause of this issue is a left over reference to a non-existent CDROM device, usually pointing to a non-existent file. Below is an example of a vm.cfg file, from which I will highlight the CDROM in question.

vif = ['type=netfront,bridge=net1'] name = 'odasim1' extra = 'NODENAME=odasim1' builder = 'hvm' cpus = '20,21,22,23,24,25,26,27,28,29,30,31' vcpus = 1 memory = 2990 cpu_cap = 0 vnc = 1 serial = 'pty' disk = [u'file:/OVS/Repositories/shared1/.ACFS/snaps/odasim1/VirtualMachines/odasim1 /493236a76d004dc0a5dc8e0cfd83795e.img,xvda,w', u',xvdc:/OVS/Repositories/shared1/.ACFS/ snaps/odasim1/VirtualMachines/odasim1/cdrom,r] maxvcpus = 1 maxmem = 2990

    Looking at the "disk =" section, the second entry, beginning with ",u',xvdc:" references a "cdrom" file in read-only mode. This entry is a left over pointer from wherever the imported VM was created. Since the "cdrom" file doesn't exist, this causes an error trying to start the VM. Sometimes you actually get an error message about a device needing to support block access, but other times the VM just won't start. The fix is to remove that entry from the vm.cfg file, as shown in the following before and after.

disk = [u'file:/OVS/Repositories/shared1/.ACFS/snaps/odasim1/VirtualMachines/odasim1 /493236a76d004dc0a5dc8e0cfd83795e.img,xvda,w', u',xvdc:/OVS/Repositories/shared1/.ACFS/ snaps/odasim1/VirtualMachines/odasim1/cdrom,r]
disk = [u'file:/OVS/Repositories/shared1/.ACFS/snaps/odasim1/VirtualMachines/odasim1 /493236a76d004dc0a5dc8e0cfd83795e.img,xvda,w']

    Once the change has been made to the vm.cfg file, the VM should now start. But wait, you say, how do I find the vm.cfg file in the first place? Good question. By running the 'oakcli show vm ' command, you will get an output similar to the contents of the vm.cfg file. From that, you can see the path to the vm.cfg file, as it is the same as the boot image file in the disk = line. In the example above, the boot image path is "/OVS/Repositories/shared1/.ACFS/snaps/odasim1/VirtualMachines/odasim1/", which means the vm.cfg would be in that same directory, /OVS/Repositories/shared1/.ACFS/snaps/odasim1/VirtualMachines/odasim1/vm.cfg.

Friday Mar 07, 2014

Understanding Easy

Understanding the Value of an Oracle Database Appliance.
    If you have seen a presentation on the Oracle Database Appliance, you have likely seen the tag words Simple, Reliable, Affordable. These are right on the mark when it comes to the value of the Oracle Database Appliance. Sometimes customers want a little more quantifying information to back up these values, so let's see what I can do to help.

Simple - Saving time
    One of the key aspects of an Oracle Database Appliance that enables us to simplify it's deployment and maintenance, is that it is a known configuration of hardware. There is 1 part number, which represents a single configuration of CPUs, Memory, NICs, HBAs, storage, etc. This makes it feasible for us to create the Appliance Manager software to automate deployment, patching, monitoring and maintenance. We've eliminated a lot of time normally spent acquiring the various components needed to build a 2 node RAC cluster, including servers, storage, OS, and software. Having a known configuration of hardware means we know the characteristics of all the components involved, which means the Appliance Manager can automate the installation and configuration of the Grid Infrastructure, clusterware, and database, using best practices, and tuning to get the most out of the hardware.
    By automating the deployment, we have reduced the time to install, configure and tune a 2 node RAC cluster from several weeks down to under 4 hours. The Appliance Manager continues to save time throughout the life cycle of the Oracle Database Appliance by eliminating the time it takes to research available patches, research patch dependencies, dig up all the utilities needed to patch the various firmware in disks, HBAs, BIOS, etc. We do that work, testing it all together, and making it available in quarterly patch bundles. If an issue should arise, the Appliance Manager saves time here as well, by making it easy to validate the configuration is still correct, and best practices are still configured, as well as making it easy to gather logs into a single compressed file for your own use and to send to Oracle support. The Appliance Manager facilitates setting up Automated Service Request (ASR), so that if there is a hardware failure, the Oracle Database Appliance will automatically create a Service Request with Oracle support, to get resolution moving quicker.
    As an Engineered System from Oracle, the Oracle Database Appliance also saves time when it comes to support.In a traditional build it yourself situation, there are multiple vendors involved, and multiple support contracts. If there is a problem, you need to figure out which vendor to call, and sometimes deal with multiple vendors for a single issue. With the Oracle Database Appliance, you don't have to think about who to call. For any support issues, just call Oracle, regardless of whether it is hardware, OS, GI or DB. No finger pointing, and no having to deal with multiple vendors.

    While the Appliance Manager's automation of installation, configuration, and tuning of the Grid Infrastructure and Database software saves significant time, it also enhances the reliability of the Oracle Database Appliance, by using best practices, and reducing the opportunity for human error. The Appliance Manager GUI Configurator makes it easy to enter the required information for deploying the software in a high availability configuration, taking advantage of the full redundancy in the hardware. Based on the same x86 servers that are used in most of Oracle's other Engineered Systems, the Oracle Database Appliance's X4-2 server nodes are configured with redundant HBAs connecting to the shared storage, redundant, bonded pairs of network connections between the servers, and redundant, bonded pairs of network connections to your LAN, hot-swappable redundant power supplies, and hot-swappable, redundant fans.
    One aspect of reliability that is often ignored is updates to firmware. Most customers don't even pay attention to firmware, unless they run into a problem that is fixed by a firmware update. As part of fixing bugs, firmware updates also enhance the reliability of the hardware, as well as enhance the security. With the complete patch bundle approach for the Oracle Database Appliance, it is easy for customers to stay up to date with patches, and get better reliability from the latest firmware updates to disks, HBAs, BIOS, etc.

    The Oracle Database Appliance allows customers to take advantage of it's Capacity-on-Demand feature to manage their license costs. Rather than paying for licenses on cores that aren't currently being used, either because you can't get a server with few enough cores, or you expect to grow to need more cores through consolidation or db growth, you can start with as few as 2-cores licensed, then add and license more cores when you need them. The Oracle Database software is the same as you would use on any x86 system, which means there isn't a special version for the Oracle Database Appliance, and that means that everything you do with your Oracle database now can be done with an Oracle Database Appliance, including custom scripts, backups, application certification, and licensing of options. the same license control capability can be applied to other applications and tiers, when taking advantage of the Oracle Database Appliance with Oracle VM, offering even more cost savings.

The Oracle Database Appliance provides customers with a variety of values, particularly when deploying high availability solutions. By taking advantage of a known hardware configuration, the Appliance Manager saves customers significant time, increases the reliability of the system, and enables Capacity-on-Demand to save customers money on licensing costs. I hope the above details have made it easier to understand some of what makes it all possible.

Wednesday Apr 18, 2012

Easy Made Easier - X-Windows

    In previous posts in this series, I highlighted some tips for making the deployment of an Oracle Database Appliance using the Appliance Manager Configurator even easier. In order to use the Appliance Manager Configurator, you have to have a windowing environment. If you are deploying your Oracle Database Appliance through the ILOM RKVM capability, or by directly connecting a monitor, keyboard and mouse, you use the "startx" command to start up a simple X-Windows session. You can also start a VNC Server, see end of this post for more detail, allowing you to connect to the Oracle Database Appliance public network for a remote GUI interface. The basic look and functionality of the windowing environment, regardless of which of the above ways you are connecting, is the same. This windowing environment does have some quirks that may cause frustration if you haven't used it before, so let me give you some tips.

    First off, keep in mind that in order to interact with a window, like typing commands, the window must have focus. For this window manager, that means the mouse cursor must be within the window. You will notice in the first screen shot that the text cursor highlight, the rectangular block at the command line in the terminal window, is white, because the mouse cursor, in this case an X, is at the edge of the screen shot, half off the screen, but clearly not in the terminal window.

    You can see in this screen shot that the text cursor highlight is now black, which means that this window has focus and when you type it will show up on that command line. The mouse cursor in this case is both a white arrow and a funny bracket, as seen in the middle of the terminal window. Since I am referring to the terminal window, you will see that by default, it is off the screen. Even moving the terminal window further up will not allow the full window to be visible. Kinda makes it tough to see everything going on, so it makes sense to re-size the window. This is another tricky bit, as shrinking the window involves some dexterous mouse handling. To re-size, move the mouse cursor into the right hand upper corner block, the one that looks like 3 nested blocks, and hold down the left mouse button. Let's move to the next screen shot to continue the re-sizing.

    Below you see that a grid shows up to help guide re-sizing, and in the upper left corner of the screen is a small window showing the size of the window being re-sized. Now, in order to shorten the window, make sure you move the mouse cursor up to the top edge of the window, as seen in this screen shot. From there, you can move the mouse cursor downward, with the terminal window re-sizing as you go. While resizing the terminal window may not be as important for running the oakcli command to start the Appliance Manager Configurator, I use this windowing environment for most of my command line work. Why? Because it buffers whatever scrolls off the screen, so I can go back and see what may whip by.

    In this case, I ran an ifconfig -a, and with all the ethernet ports and bonds set up, the result scrolls beyond the window limits. Here again, the standard functionality is implemented in a way less familiar to many folks used to current OSes like Solaris, Linux, Microsoft Windows or Mac OS X. In order to scroll up and down through the text in the terminal window, put the mouse cursor in the left hand scroll bar, and then use the right and left mouse button to scroll up and down. No need to move the mouse cursor, or to try dragging the scroll bar. There are many times when I want some information that has scrolled off the screen, so being able to scroll back through it helps a lot.

    Now, let's say you want to have more than one terminal window open, so you can do something in one based on content in another, or while something else is running. That's were the menu comes in. Click the left mouse button while the mouse cursor is in the background, and you get the windowing menu. Not a lot of options, and mostly what you would expect, like window managament items (resize, iconize, kill, delete, etc). There is the Xterm item for opening another terminal window. And if remembering to make sure the mouse cursor is in the window you want to interact with before you start typing is driving you crazy, the Focus/Unfocus items allow you to lock/unlock focus to a particular window. Of course this might drive you crazy when you try to do something in another window and forget to unlock the focus. :-)

    It's been quite a number of years since I used this type windowing environment, so I had to clear a cobweb or two off of some far corners of my mind when I got some hands on time with the Oracle Database Appliance. If nothing else, this post will be something I can refer back to should my skills get rusty again.

    I mentioned starting a VNC Server on the ODA to make remote GUI access a little easier. It's pretty simple, and keep in mind that it needs to be done after any reboots. Use the following command :

# /usr/bin/vncserver :1

    This will start up a VNC session on display 1, which means that when you fire up your VNC client, make sure it points to port 5901 on the Oracle Database Appliance's public IP address.

    This has been the third post in my series 'Easy Made Easier', and I hope you have found the tips useful.

Friday Apr 06, 2012

Easy Made Easier - Networking

    In my last post, I highlighted the feature of the Appliance Manager Configurator to auto-fill some fields based on previous field values, including host names based on System Name and sequential IP addresses from the first IP address entered. This can make configuration a little faster and a little less subject to data entry errors, particularly if you are doing the configuration on the Oracle Database Appliance itself.

    The Oracle Database Appliance Appliance Manager Configurator is available for download here. But why would you download it, if it comes pre-installed on the Oracle Database Appliance? A common reason for customers interested in this new Engineered System is to get a good idea of how easy it is to configure. Beyond that, you can save the resulting configuration as a file, and use it on an Oracle Database Appliance. This allows you to verify the data entered in advance, and in the comfort of your office. In addition, the topic of this post is another strong reason to download and use the Appliance Manager Configurator prior to deploying your Oracle Database Appliance.

    The most common source of hiccups in deploying an Oracle Database Appliance, based on my experiences with a variety of customers, involves the network configuration. It is during Step 11, when network validation occurs, that these come to light, which is almost half way through the 24 total steps, and can be frustrating, whether it was a typo, DNS mis-configuration or IP address already in use. This is why I recommend as a best practice taking advantage of the Appliance Manager Configurator prior to deploying an Oracle Database Appliance.

    Why? Not only do you get the benefit of being able to double check your entries before you even start on the Oracle Database Appliance, you can also take advantage of the Network Validation step. This is the final step before you review all the data and can save it to a text file. It can be skipped, if you aren't ready or are not connected to the network that the Oracle Database Appliance will be on. My recommendation, though, is to run the Appliance Manager Configurator on your laptop, enter the data or re-load a previously saved file of the data, and then connect to the network that the Oracle Database Appliance will be on. Now run the Network Validation. It will check to make sure that the host names you entered are in DNS and do resolve to the IP addresses you specifiied. It will also ping the IP Addresses you specified, so that you can verify that no other machine is already using them (yes, that has happened at customer sites).

    After you have completed the validation, as seen in the screen shot below, you can review the results and move on to saving your settings to a file for use on your Oracle Database Appliance, or if there are errors, you can use the Back button to return to the appropriate screen and correct the data. Once you are satisfied with the Network Validation, just check the Skip/Ignore Network Validation checkbox at the top of the screen, then click Next. Is the Network Validation in the Appliance Manager Configurator required? No, but it can save you time later. I should also note that the Network Validation screen is not part of the Appliance Manager Configurator that currently ships on the Oracle Database Appliance, so this is the easiest way to verify your network configuration.

    I hope you are finding this series of posts useful. My next post will cover some aspects of the windowing environment that gets run by the 'startx' command on the Oracle Database Appliance, since this is needed to run the Appliance Manager Configurator via a direct connected monitor, keyboard and mouse, or via the ILOM. If it's been a while since you've used an OpenWindows environment, you'll want to check it out.

Wednesday Apr 04, 2012

Easy Made Easier

    How easy is it to deploy a 2 node, fully redundant Oracle RAC cluster? Not very. Unless you use an Oracle Database Appliance. The focus of this member of Oracle's Engineered Systems family is to simplify the configuration, management and maintenance throughout the life of the system, while offering pay-as-you-grow scaling. Getting a 2-node RAC cluster up and running in under 2 hours has been made possible by the Oracle Database Appliance. Don't take my word for it, just check out these blog posts from partners and end users.

The Oracle Database Appliance Experience - Zip Zoom Zoom

Off-the-shelf Oracle database servers

Oracle Database Appliance – Deployment Steps

    See how easy it is to deploy an Oracle Database Appliance for high availability with RAC? Now for the meat of this post, which is the first in a series of posts describing tips for making the deployment of an ODA even easier. The key to the easy deployment of an Oracle Database Appliance is the Appliance Manager software, which does the actual software deployment and configuration, based on best practices. But in order for it to do that, it needs some basic information first, including system name, IP addresses, etc. That's where the Appliance Manager GUI comes in to play, taking a wizard approach to specifying the information needed.

    Using the Appliance Manager GUI is pretty straight forward, stepping through several screens of information to enter data in typical wizard style. Like most configuration tasks, it helps to gather the required information before hand. But before you rush out to a committee meeting on what to use for host names, and rely on whatever IP addresses might be hanging around, make sure you are familiar with some of the auto-fill defaults for the Appliance Manager. I'll step through the key screens below to highlight the results of the auto-fill capability of the Appliance Manager GUI.

    Depending on which of the 2 Configuration Types (Config Type screen) you choose, you will get a slightly different set of screens. The Typical configuration assumes certain default configuration choices and has the fewest screens, where as the Custom configuration gives you the most flexibility in what you configure from the start. In the examples below, I have used the Custom config type.

    One of the first items you are asked for is the System Name (System Info screen). This is used to identify the system, but also as the base for the default hostnames on following screens. In this screen shot, the System Name is "oda".

    When you get to the next screen (Generic Network screen), you enter your domain name, DNS IP address(es), and NTP IP address(es). Next up is the Public Network screen, seen below, where you will see the host name fields are automatically filled in with default host names based on the System Name, in this case "oda". The System Name is also the basis for default host names for the extra ethernet ports available for configuration as part of a Custom configuration, as seen in the 2nd screen shot below (Other Network). There is no requirement to use these host names, as you can easily edit any of the host names. This does make filling in the configuration details easier and less prone to "fat fingers" if you are OK with these host names. Here is a full list of the automatically filled in host names.
<systemname> <systemname>1 <systemname>2 <systemname>1-vip <systemname>2-vip <systemname>-scan <systemname>1-ilom <systemname>2-ilom <systemname>1-net1 <systemname>2-net1 <systemname>1-net2 <systemname>2-net2 <systemname>1-net3 <systemname>2-net3

    Another auto-fill feature of the Appliance Manager GUI follows a common practice of deploying IP Addresses for a RAC cluster in sequential order. In the screen shot below, I entered the first IP address (Node1-IP), then hit Tab to move to the next field. As a result, the next 5 IP address fields were automatically filled in with the next 5 IP addresses sequentially from the first one I entered. As with the host names, these are not required, and can be changed to whatever your IP address values are. One note of caution though, if the first IP Address field (Node1-IP) is filled out and you click in that field and back out, the following 5 IP addresses will be set to the sequential default. If you don't use the sequential IP addresses, pay attention to where you click that mouse. :-)

    In the screen shot below, by entering the netmask value in the Netmask field, in this case, the gateway value was auto-filled into the Gateway field, based on the IP addresses and netmask previously entered. As always, you can change this value.

    My last 2 screen shots illustrate that the same sequential IP address autofill and netmask to gateway autofill works when entering the IP configuration details for the Integrated Lights Out Manager (ILOM) for both nodes. The time these auto-fill capabilities save in entering data is nice, but from my perspective not as important as the opportunity to avoid data entry errors. In my next post in this series, I will touch on the benefit of using the network validation capability of the Appliance Manager GUI prior to deploying an Oracle Database Appliance.

Thursday Jul 07, 2011

Sun Ray coolness ala iPad

    I've been a fan of Oracle's Sun Ray technology since I first saw it as a Sun Labs project 14 years ago. I've blogged on it many times, and while I am not as directly involved in the sales process for Sun Ray and other desktop virtualization technologies, I still try to stay on top of what is going on. I also try to get some hands on time as well, but that's not as easy as it used to be.

    What makes me excited enough about Sun Ray technology to again take to my blog? My iPad 2. I got an iPad 2 a few weeks ago, and I'm still working on getting the most from it, beyond just being a bigger version of my iPhone 4, which has it's merits for my aging eyes. I really love the Smart Cover, and the size has made it even easier for me to do stuff that I used to prefer doing on my MacBook, but in a lighter and quicker to access form factor. I like my iPad a lot, but my iPhone is still my ultimate 'portable' computer.

    I've played with a couple apps for getting remote access to a desktop machine, for accessing my kid's PC at home and my PC at work. Heck, I even have it set up to remotely access my MacBook, when my MacBook is left running somewhere. But none of them are as seamless and full featured as the Sun Ray at home I had when working for Sun. Wouldn't it be neat to have that kind of access, with the portability of an iPad? Yes it would, and it is now available. Oracle has just announced the Oracle Virtual Desktop Client App for iPad.

    For those that didn't just dash off to get it, here is the link to it on the Apple AppStore. And did I mention that it is free. Obviously you will need access to a Sun Ray server, but that's the point, isn't it. This takes the existing Oracle Virtual Desktop Client (OVDC), available on Windows, Oracle Linux and Oracle Solaris, to a new, more portable platform that has not only created a new market, but is extremely popular, and continuing to sell faster than they can stock them.

    I got the chance to try this iPad OVDC internally and I'm impressed. One thing I really love about it is the keyboard. By tapping with 3 fingers at once, it brings up the on-screen keyboard, which includes access along an additional row across the top to various additional capability. This includes a button to bring up all the function keys (F1-F12), another button to bring up cursor keys, as well as toggle-able Control, Alt, and Shift keys, and Esc, Tab and Del keys. Man, I wish there was a way to get that keyboard for many of my other iPad apps. :-) You can use the standard iPad gestures for zooming and moving around the screen. A quick 2-finger swipe to the right brings back the connection panel, allowing you to easily change connections or disconnect the current session. It also has a button for getting help on supported gestures.

    It's probably just the geek in me, but I'm loving this new client. If you have access to a Sun Ray environment and have an iPad, check it out. For years customers have wanted Sun Ray laptops and tablets. I can't think of a better option for filling that need. For those of you who try it out, please let me know in the comments your impressions. Mobile corporate computing just got more accessible. Congratulations to the Sun Ray engineering team for a great addition to the Sun Ray family.

Wednesday Apr 01, 2009

April Fools at Sun

    Yup, it's that time of year again, and the Internet is abuzz with April Fools Day jokes of various kinds, including Google's, YouTube's, and the first one I saw this morning at Expedia. Some are pretty funny, some well thought out, and others just kinda sad. I always find a laugh to be well worth the effort, particularly during difficult times.

    I'm sorry to say that I haven't seen one prank within Sun today. Over the long history of Sun, April Fools Day pranks have usually been creative, sometimes amazing, and always fun. There was one during the days when Scott McNealy was fond of the phrase "put all our wood behind 1 arrow", and sure enough, he ended up with a gigantic wooden arrow through his office. We have a web resource called Onestop, and many pranks were pulled through it's pages, including amazing new products from SunLabs, etc.

    OK, I'm getting old and can't seem to remember all the details, but one of Sun's execs found his fancy car in the middle of one of the ponds on campus, on a raft or other surface such that it was fine, but not easily accessible. And not long after Sun announce Project BlackBox, there was a video of OpenWork 3.0, built into a shipping container much like the Modular Datacenter. Ah, those were the days. Maybe I was snoozing today and missed it, but it sure would be nice to see some of that old 'Kick Butt and Have Fun' attitude around the Sun family again.

    At this point, the best I can do is try to bring some levity to the rest of my fellow employees at Sun Microsystems by digging up some of the fun old mock ads. Enjoy :-)

Anti-Microsoft Jacques Cousteau style ad

The IT Guy - Episode #1

The IT Guy - Episode #2

The IT Guy - Episode #3

The IT Guy - Episode #4

Tuesday Mar 31, 2009

Solaris powered Nehalem

    Yesterday, Intel had a big announcement of their Xeon® processor 5500 series CPUs for servers. In conjunction with that announcement, Sun announced some impressive world records with Solaris on these new processors. Some of you may know of the Xeon® processor 5500 series by the code name Nehalem, and there has been a lot of press about this new CPU architecture, and the performance it brings to the x86 space. Intel CPUs have come a long way since the old 8086s, and the 8088s used in the first IBM PCs. (yeah, I have one in my collection)

    But where are the Sun server's using these new CPUs, you might be asking. Well, you need to be patient, as we have several coming on April 14th. And we've made it easy for you to keep from missing it, by offering to send you an SMS reminder of the Sun Open Network Systems Launch - April 14. So go get yourself registered for that SMS reminder, and make sure you don't miss these energy efficient, high performance servers using Intel's Xeon® processor 5500 series and Sun's innovation. You won't be sorry. :-)

Wednesday Mar 11, 2009

New Reading Opportunities

    For those who are new to e-books, and for those regular e-book readers looking to try something new, we are well into Read an E-book Week, which is from March 8th through the 14th. There are several publishers and authors who are offering free e-books or reduced prices on e-books this week. For those of us using the e-book reader Stanza on their iPhones, check out the online libraries for the Read an E-book Week library with many free and reduced price books.

    I've been an e-book reader for many years, having started on various Palm OS based devices, a Windows-based PDA, laptops, and now my iPhone. I like them because they are convenient, but I am disappointed at the prices. I've blogged before about some of my sources, from Project Gutenburg, offering free access to classics and non-copyright material, to Fictionwise, whom by the way was just purchased by Barnes and Noble, and who has more flexible pricing to handle the purchase of single stories. So far I have found plenty of e-books of interest for free, and have even purchased or gotten some for my birthday, but I still think that the publishing industry should not follow the music industries lead, and should start building the market with prices that reflect the reduced cost to 'print' and distribute the content. Some publisher's, like Bain, are headed in the right direction, and I support them and cheer them on.

    Speaking of e-books, a close friend of mine has made the travel book for children he and his wife did available as a web e-book, as they have found it challenging to get it published in hard copy so far. I went with them on at least one 'photo shoot', and have been interested in the project from the start. The book is built around a stuffed koala named Kiki who loves to travel. It is a photo book, with Kiki visiting many tourist sites around Boston. I think they have done a wonderful job with the website, and the formatting of the web e-book. Some of the shots are really great, and I'm sure my kids would have loved the book when they were younger. Check it out at Kikibooks. I hope they get enough positive feedback to continue the series in other cities, although I know there is a lot of planning and logistics involved, particularly in the post-911 environment we live in these days.

    I encourage anyone who likes to read to take this opportunity to check out e-books for the first time, or to try something different in e-books. I've recently discovered the existence of cartoon/comic e-books myself, and am trying them out on both my iPhone and my laptop. :-)

Monday Feb 16, 2009

SF34 Live - Coming to the end

image2129740568.jpg My oldest us getting tired and a headache, so he us lying down for a bit. He made it through 'Transformers', and my dad is still watching, although I expect he has dozed some.

Every year I think I'm going to make a list of notes for helping plan next year's, and haven't made them until just before, so I'll do it now. These might be handy for other folks as well. While we got here by 11am, there weren't enough seats together on the 1st floor for our party of 4, so we ended up in the balcony. I may not be remembering rightly, but I seem to recall more leg room when we were downstairs last year. For a party of 4 or more wanting to sit together, I would suggest getting there closer to oeming time, which was 10:30am this year.

Another thing I should do better is to plan when to go out for dinner as soon as I get the line up with times, particularly when going with friends. I really like the social aspects, and having a meal with friends is a nice way to break things up, even with the increased social nature of watching movies at this event. Food has gone well this year, for both my son and myself. Neither of us has overly eaten, and I think our selections worked well. I've found fruit a good choice again this year, with this year's selections including some easy peeling, tasty oranges, plums, Fuji apples, and grapes for Alexei. I brought 3 swiss cheese sandwiches, and have only eaten 2 so far. Plenty of fluid, some peanuts and a shared can of pringles. Not too bad.

We've entered the final stretch with 'Star Trek II : The Wrath of Kahn', and the die hards are excited. The best, or at least one of the best Star Trek movies, this is the first time Alexei has seen it. I hope he enjoys the big screen experience. With another marathon wrapping up, it's time to discuss movies for next year's, at the Boston Science Fiction Marsthon 35 website. \^_\^

SF34 Live - Past halfway

We are past the halfway point, which ocurred during 'The Thing from Another Planet', a truly classic, well made 50s movie. Next we enjoyed another classic, this one from 1984, 'Repo Man' with Harry Dean Stanton and Emelio Estevez. The current movie is the remake of 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' with an all star cast including Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldbloom, and Leonard Nemoy. "rat turd. Caper." \^_\^

Sunday Feb 15, 2009

SF34 Live - Update 2

image1229843367.jpg The movies continue, as well as the MST3K style comments. Sadly, 'Chrysalis', based on a Ray Bradbury story, was slow and awkward. Storyline was good as usual for Ray, too bad the movie didn't pan out. A short break and we were on to 'Logan's Run' staring Michael York and Farrah Fawcett, a classic that had a short run as a series.

Oh yeah, in case you are wondering what the picture is, after seeing that large a turn out for the tinfoil hat contest, most of which were pretty darn impressive, my 'stealth' hat and I decided to sit this one out. The team of space Vikings won, and a well deserved win too. The children's winner used a Dr. Who theme, with a fantastic K9 model as a hat. We're well into 'Runaway' with Tom Selleck, Kristie Alley and Gene Simmons (of KISS fame). What a step into electronics antiquity, yikes. \^_\^

SF34 Live - we're off

image882846045.jpg SF34 is now officially under way, as this pic showing Duck Dodgers attests to. Our first film was a premiere of 'Alien Trespass', a great film with gorgeous scenery, and modeled after 1950s film like 'It Came from Outer Soace'. Really brings a nostalgic feel with modern color and beauty.

And speaking of 'It Came from Outer Space', it has just started, and in 3D to boot. I guess it's been a while since I've seen a blue/red 3D, cause this looks pretty cool. I am finding the darkness of the red side a bit annoying, but still cool.

I've started off slow on eating, and ended up with no breakfast, which seems to be working well for stomach comfort. A lot better than starting off with a film like 'Cloverfield', with it's stomach turning videography. A friend from Mosaic Commons, Tim Pierce has joined us for the fun. They ran out of programs, so I emailed the line up to Tim, using a copy/paste jailbreak app, to copy it from Evernote to gmail. \^_\^

SF34 - Settling in

image722288774.jpg We are at the Somerville Theatre for the Boston Science Fiction Marathon 34 (SF34), and settling in. This year they handed out a large Manila envelope along with the traditional Atomic Fireball. Looks like someone had a warehouse to empty, but I'm not complaining. They contained comic books, a random sci-fi book, and assorted chotchkes. We are watching a bunch of trailers as blast off time approaches. More updates to come. \^_\^

Saturday Feb 14, 2009

Local Flavor

image1959841441.jpg This past summer, we sold our house in anticipation of buying our new home in our new community at Mosaic Commons. Until our unit is complete, we have been living in an apartment complex, which happens to be down the street from the Weetabix factory. We have seen the factory in passing, but never gave it much thought until we moved here. Now, when the wind is right, and it's not so cold that we have the windows closed, which needs to be pretty cold with the always on heat in this apartment (but that is another story), we catch a wheaty, toasty whiff from the Weetabix factory by the Nashua River.

The scent isn't terrible, but it can be strong. Out of curiosity, my wife bought a package of Weetabix, as can be seen in the picture. The package calls it a biscuit, and it claims to be organic. It has a delicate, almost nutty taste, and tends to crumble easily. I haven't spent much time investigating what the common ways of eating it are, but my youngest has enjoyed it crumbled with milk, by itself or added to other cereal. I have tried it, and while it is tasty, I think it would be better with something else. I hope to have more time to play with cooking once we are move in and get settled, and I can see potential for Weetabix. Till then, it's a tasty snack for home, as it doesn't seem like it would travel well short of being dust. \^_\^

A place where Perley Mears sounds off on topics relevant to his work at Oracle.


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