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Virtualization, Cloud, Infrastructure and all that stuff in-between

My ramblings on the stuff that holds it all together

Category Archives: Rant

iTunes Match and the 380GBP data bill

Be careful out there, I have an iPhone 4s with a UK carrier (Tesco Mobile) and a 1GB data bundle on a pay-monthly contract.

I recently upgraded to iOS5 and iTunes Match – which is actually great and makes my music collection much more accessible from my devices, I found this setting the other day to see if it would let me stream iTunes content over 3G – which is did However, there is a risk to enabling this.

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Whilst I fully understand how data works and roaming on/off WiFi onto 3G – read this post for more info (see picture above– settings->store, don’t set it to YES unless you are careful or have an unlimited plan)

Whilst on a WiFi connection I queued up a whole bunch of albums (probably 15-20) to download to my iPhone (Over WiFi/broadband) and left it overnight, as it no longer seems to sync with iTunes directly when you enable match on a new phone.

There would seem to have been some issue with my broadband overnight and those downloads stuttered to be fair there may have been an error message when I got to it in the morning, but certainly nothing that said – I’ll keep trying to download these, is that ok?

The next morning when I left the house (and thus my WiFi/broadband connection) it picked up a 3G signal and I can only think that it proceeded to download the rest of the stuff in the queue in the background, and ate up all my data allowance (and then some!)

Now, normally this wouldn’t be too much of an issue – later that day I got a text message from the carrier telling me I was within 100MB of my allowance – this was odd – but I reasoned maybe the streaming had used more than I thought so I decided not to do that any more. I left my phone on charge that night but didn’t use any further serious data – only to receive another message the following morning telling me that I was over my allowance and my service had been disabled.

I called the carrier – not only was my phone disabled but I had eaten through 1.6GB of mobile data, resulting in a charge of £0.60/MB for everything over 1GB – or, roughly £380, on top of my monthly £45 unlimited call/text + 1GB data bundle)!

Not happy about that really – so be careful out there, whilst enabling this setting was my choice/fault – iOS didn’t really explain what it would do in terms of queuing up the music to download when it saw the Internet again, so I was unaware of the consequences – I had assumed (logically) that it would be just for streaming music and downloading apps (within the 20MB max file size limit), which wouldn’t be a huge amount of data, but most individual album tracks from iTunes are < 20MB – and if you want to download lots of them (say 20 x (12 tracks to an album).

As a side-note for Tesco Mobile customers, they sort of suck…

  • They don’t have a higher/unlimited data bundle that you can choose over 1GB
  • They cannot/won’t set a lower credit-limit on your account (i.e say £100, rather than £400) to prevent the bill getting astonomical before you know about it – they can only “Network cap” your service, which essentially turns it into PAYG for anything that isn’t included in your bundle – i.e calling non-geographical numbers like 0845
  • Their over-usage notification text message notification system (by their admission) is 6 hours behind their billing system – by which time on a 3G connection you’re probably way over the 100MB and into expensive £0.60/MB territory.
  • If you run into this situation, the only way you can unblock your service is by physically going to an ATM or Tesco store and buying a top-up – they can only do a maximum of £30 over the phone! and apparently I need a minimum “top-up” credit of £90 for them to re-enable my service (which, to be fair will be deducted from the total bill at month-end)
  • Tesco carrier-block the iOS personal hot-spot functionality of the iPhone and don’t even have a service to re-enable it.

Whilst iOS keeps tally of cellular usage in the settings, a REALLY useful feature would be a user-customizable warning in the native OS for data usage over a period – however, I suspect there is likely to be an app for that!

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So, lesson learnt – I’ll be leaving that setting off – but I am seriously considering leaving Tesco Mobile and going to GiffGaff – who also use the o2 network under the covers and offer a much cheaper unlimited data tariff – I am going to see if Tesco will be lenient with their charging, it’s not really their fault but their systems don’t make it easy to avoid this situation in future without essentially making my voice plan equivalent to PAYG, by my calculations I can sell my (network unlocked) iPhone, pay off the remaining 14 month contract term and break-mostly-even – so guess it depends if they want to lose a customer over it or not.

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Where is the wireless iTunes Sync?

A lot of i* devices from Apple have turned up in my household over the last few years, it started with iPods until we all had one (or more!) then an iPad, an iPhone, a MacBook pro and most recently an AirPort Express and most likely an Apple TV in the future (for streaming music in the family room and/or kitchen).

But there is still one Achilles heel for these device; iTunes – they all rely on this awful application to update their content, sync photos, music etc. from my own collection. I own a lot of music CD’s and I have lots of DVDs ripped to MP4 format – I don’t buy everything online (despite Apple’s best efforts).

Why, when almost all of these devices have built in WiFi do I still have to sync them via a USB cable with iTunes, particularly as my iPad has 64Gb of storage, that takes ages to sync over USB.

Apple has had all this chatty bonjour p2p networking stuff in the products for year and home-sharing was a long over-due feature but still nothing in the iPad 2 and most recent OS updates.

I can see this being integrated into MobileMe; but for people like me with a *large* multi-TB media collection that’s going to be an expensive (and for many folks) impossible solution.

Come on, Apple – your stuff is generally great but this is rapidly becoming a pain point!

HP iLo Very Slow for Installing an OS

 

A bit of a disappointment; we’re trying to do a WinPE 2.0 CD/DVD based installation for our Windows 2003/2008 standard blade servers in an HP c7000 enclosure.

Installing from a .ISO image presented to the iLo via the virtual media applet is dog-slow (5-10 times slower than from a physical CD/DVD- why is this? – surely its technically possible to make this access run faster and GigE chipsets are cheap-as these days. I’ve been through every combination of switching/duplex/port config and even via a cable directly into the Blade OA.

The same issue seems to manifest itself on traditional rack mount HP servers – the iLo just isn’t fast enough to make this a workable solution, unless you are really patient.

I know we could use the RDP and do it as a PXE type installation over the network to each blade, but this doesn’t really achieve what I want…

Most customers maintain an OoB (Out of Band) network to which all of the management interfaces  (iLo, DRAC, etc.) are connected to. the reasoning for this is obvious; if you loose your main core switching network you can get access via a totally different physical network and path to assist in troubleshooting.

For this same reasoning I would like to use this method to build servers from a master boot CD/DVD image, you can present a .ISO image to a server via the virtual media applet on the iLo. We have a fully end-end build process that sets up the HP array controllers, flashes BIOS and installs the OS and drivers etc. from a CD/DVD.

We just update the boot CD .ISO file as required and its flexible and it doesn’t rely on any deployment infrastructure (PXE server, RDP server etc.) so we can port it between customers and data centres, VM’s and physical machines and do a bare-metal builds without requiring any build/network infrastructure in place.

This isn’t just limited to a Windows OS – I tried the same with an ESX installation; took over an hour (compared to 5-10 mins from a local CD)

Support for Virtualized OS/Applications – an Open Debate..

 

Martin’s post here prompted me to blog something I’ve been meaning to do for a while.

Virtualization projects and services are cool; we all understand the advantages in power/cooling and the flexibility it can bring to our infrastructures.

But what about support, if you are a service provider (internal or outsourcing) you normally need to be able to offer an end-end SLA on your services. typically this would be backed off against a vendor like Microsoft or Oracle via one of their premium support arrangements.

From what I see in the industry, with most software vendors especially Microsoft there is almost no way a service provider can underwrite an SLA as application/OS vendors give themselves significant scope to say “unsupported configuration” if you are running it under a hypervisor or other VM technology… Microsoft use the term commercially reasonable in their official policy – who decides what this is?

I would totally accept that a vendor would not guarantee performance under a hypervisor – that’s understandable and we have tools to analyse, monitor and improve (Virtual Centre, MOM, DRS, increase resources etc.). but too many vendors seem to use it as a universal “get out of jail free card”.

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Issues of applications with dependency on physical hardware aside (fax cards, realtime CPU, DSP, PCI cards etc.) In my entire career working with VM technology I’ve only ever seen one issue that could be directly attributed to being caused by virtualization – and to be fair that was really a VMTools issue; rather than VMWare itself.

Microsoft have an official list of their applications that are not supported here – why is this? speech server I could maybe understand as it would probably be timer/DSP sensitive – but the rest? Sharepoint? I know for a fact ISA does work under VMWare as I use it all the time.

Microsoft Virtual Server support policy http://support.microsoft.com/kb/897613

Support policy for Microsoft software running in non-Microsoft hardware virtualization software http://support.microsoft.com/kb/897615/

Exchange is specifically excluded (depending on how you read the articles)

· On the Exchange Server 2007 System requirements page it only mentioned Unified messaging as being unsupportable in a virtual environment http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa996719.aspx

· Yet on TechNet it is clear stated that “Neither Exchange 2007 nor Exchange 2007 SP1 is supported in production in a virtual environment”  http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb232170(EXCHG.80).aspx

Credit due to a colleague for pulling together the relevant Microsoft linkage

But I know it….

a) works fully – I do it all the time.

b) Lots of people are doing this in production with lots of users (many people at VMWorld US last year)

c) VMWare have a fully-supportable x64 hypervisor – It’s just MS that don’t

What is the industry going to do about this?, I asked this question of peers a lot at VMWorld and at BriForum; and to be honest everyone has the same concern but have a few different approaches;

Dont’ tell/ask – 99% of the time a tech support rep won’t know its running under VMWare/a.n.other hypervisor so why complicate matters by telling them – could of course back-fire on you!

Threaten – “If you won’t support under VMWare we’ll use one of your competitors applications”; however this only really works if you are the US govt. or Globocorp Inc. or operate in a very niche application market.

Mitigate – reflect this uncertainty in an SLA, best-endeavours etc. this would kill most virtualization efforts in their tracks for an enterprise customer.

The same support issue has been around for a long time; Citrix/Terminal Services, application packaging, automated installations, etc. are treated as “get out of jail free cards” by support organisations…

But whilst there are some technical constraints (usually only affecting badly written apps) with terminal services and packaging, virtualization changes the game and should make it simpler for a vendor to support as there is no complex runtime integration with a host OS + bolt-ons/hacks it’s just an emulated CPU/disk/RAM you can do whatever you like within it.

So – the open debate; what do you do? and how do you manage it?

Please comment…

Where There’s Blame, There’s a ….

 

Argh, I hate this kind of thing .. give us £5.99 and we’ll send you some PDFs to allow you to claim compensation from the govt. for identity fraud arising from the loss of confidential data, if you read around a little bit I doubt they’ll be paying much out unless something serious really does happen but the ambulance chasers with the website will have made a few quid. And even then if they did get forced to pay some kind of compensation – don’t you people get it? if you sue the Govt. where do you think the money comes from? that’s right – your own pocket, we fund the govt. they don’t really “earn” money; they are not Comet, or Sofa Warehouse, we are the share-holders – you might as well take an extra £10 out of your monthly salary and put it in the bank as compensation; as if the govt. have to pay the entire nation compensation they’ll pay for it one way or another via via your tax money, or by shutting down a hospital etc; it’s like fining police forces and the NHS for not performing.. by doing so you reduce their capacity to pay for improving things and give them a further excuse to grumble about how they don’t get enough funds.

I think it would be better for the govt. to do some kind of deal with Equifax’s identity watch scheme to give people a cheap/free subscription to their service for ID fraud detection.

This would be a good thing to do on a national level as the trouble with ID fraud is that it goes un-noticed for so long, it might also be better for the people that seem totally incapable of working out their monthly finances and don’t realise what impact missing payments/defaulting really has on their future pans to buy a house, TV, car “bling” etc. on finance. All those ad’s for sub-prime loans etc. are not cheap money and lenders don’t really just “write off” your debts just because you say you can’t pay them back and say “never mind… don’t worry about it”.

Seeing your credit report really makes it plain to see what criteria lenders use to assess your credit-worthiness, rather than making it such a dark secret; I guess the other side of the argument is that it gives people some scope to “game” the system; but this information is already available on request from the credit scoring agencies (£10 IIRC) so anyone wishing to do so already has the tools available.

Anyway, rant over.. must get back to the paracetemol, this cold is making me cranky!