Raw Device Mapping and 3TB Drives

Raw Device Mapping is actually easy for sata drives in ESXi. Not as easy as just picking the drive from the GUI, but I guess we can’t have everything. I followed the instructions from this blog and they worked.

Also, I found that connecting the 3TB drive to an existing machine to do the formatting and partitioning is the best bet. Trying to initialize and partition the disk from the Windows 7 VM failed, and using a USB adapter failed as well. Connecting it directly to the sata ports on my workstation’s motherboard worked well.

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Windows 8 Updates and Audit Mode

Windows update does not function while in Audit mode in Windows 8.1.

That’s a nice little tidbit of information that I would have liked to have known before trying nearly everything I could to troubleshoot why it wasn’t working.

Chris123NT has very clear instructions to get around this limitation and apply the updates. I have copied the instructions here. Thank you, Chris123NT.

  1. Download the Windows Update Powershell Module
  2. Copy the module folder to %WINDIR%\System32\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0\Modules
  3. Run PowerShell ISE as Administrator
  4. Run the following commands:
  5. Set-ExecutionPolicy RemoteSigned
    Import-Module PSWindowsUpdate
    Get-WUInstall

The rest should be automated with some prompts.

**NOTE: Sometimes setting the execution policy to RemoteSigned doesn’t work, in those cases, temporarily set it to Unrestricted, and then set it back after you have used the script to install all windows updates.

Realtek and ESXi

While building up an ESXi whitebox from some older hardware, I discovered that vSphere 5.5 doesn’t include some Realtek NIC drivers. The motherboard is a Gigabyte P35-DS3L and has a Realtek chipset on the NIC. I used the instructions here to take the 8186 chipset drivers (.vib file) from vSphere 5, the 5.5 .iso, and a utility called ESXi-Customizer to slipstream the two to create a custom .iso. I saved some cash as I didn’t have to buy an Intel based NIC. Although, I probably should get and Intel based NIC and be done with it. There may be a chance that patching the 5.5 install may remove the custom drivers.

Devil’s Canyon

The Brains

Devil's CanyonThe last computer I built for myself was in April, 2008. Quad-core processors were just released and I ponied up big bucks for the Yorkfield based Q9450. It was Intel’s Core 2 Quad 2.66 Ghz desktop processor with 12MB of L2 cache on a 45nm process. That processor has served me well over the years. Its led me through a lot of gaming, video encoding, and virtualization over the years, but now it will serve me as my dedicated plex server. It’s time to upgrade. Over the past six years, the only performance upgrades I did to that machine was moving  from an nVidia 9600GT to a 560 Ti, and adding an SSD as my Windows drive. Pretty good amortization if you ask me.

Six years ago I bought the (almost) best Intel desktop processor and I’m doing it again. I splurged on a new Devil’s Canyon i7-4790K. I’m not much of an overclocker, so the 4.0Ghz base clock speed and turbo boost to 4.4Ghz was quite tempting. It nearly doubles the raw clock speed from the Q9450. Combined with three generations of microarchitecture upgrades will make for quite a large performance upgrade. I’m betting on this chip lasting me the next half-decade. And who knows, maybe I’ll start overclocking when the half-decade is up and I want to amortize my purchase out further.

The Rock

I paired my new CPU with a Gigabyte GA-Z97X-UD3H. The Q9450 was sitting on a Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3L. One of the best things about the DS3L are the solid state capacitors. After moving to solid state capacitors, I’ll never go back. No more popped capacitors from cheap manufacturers. Reliability is important to me. The P35 board from Gigabyte has been rock solid for me, so when I was picking out a board for the new CPU I wanted to stick with Gigabyte’s Ultra Durable series. So far I’m liking the board. The feature set is diverse with the M.2 and SATA Express options, and the layout is clean and usable. Plus, the capacitors on the Z97-UD3H are painted black. It’s a very slick look. Since I built this machine today we’ll have to see how stable the system is, but I’m not worried about it.

Always Trouble

Windows took a while to install. I ran into some issues with it recognizing my SSD. At first, it saw the drive, but I couldn’t delete the existing partitions. The motherboard manual said to add storage drivers during a Windows 8 install. I tried that, but then Windows setup wouldn’t see my drive at all. After fiddling with the new UEFI options in the BIOS and doing a BIOS upgrade (from F4 to F7), Windows saw the drive and I was able to delete the existing partitions and install to a blank drive. Gigabyte’s Q-Flash utility made it very simple to update the bios. I used a laptop to copy the BIOS image to a flash drive and from inside the Q-Flash utility I could browse to the flash drive and perform the update. I’ve been out of the loop for a while using the same machine for six years, but that’s the way it should be. Kudos, Gigabyte.

Benchmarks

Cinebench 10              Q9450 i7-4790K
Rendering (Single CPU):   3189  8561  (2.68x)
Rendering (Multiple CPU): 11562 32857 (2.84x)
Multiprocessor Speedup:   3.63  3.84

Handbrake 9.9 v6227 x64 (same quality settings)
(fps measurements are approximate)
Q9450    x264 (4 cores):    40fps
i7-4790K x264 (8 threads): 175fps
i7-4790K x264 (QuickSync): 400fps

 

Simple Name Change

I’ve been becoming an Apple guy for a while. I have a iPhone, I bought my parents a Mac mini for Christmas, and if anyone asks what tablet they should buy I always say, iPad (and maybe one or two Kindle Fire recommendations). I think one of the major benefits of Apple is the unified look and feel. Windows and Android seem very disjointed in their user experience. Many Linux distributions have tried to copy the OS X motif, but I think elementary OS is the best one. I found elementary OS last year and it immediately became my favorite Linux distribution. elementary OS is built off of Ubuntu, performs very well, and I’m a big fan of its OS X inspired look and feel. I find it very welcome in light of the other noisy and cluttered looks I find in other distributions. The built in apps are a bit sparse, but there has only been two releases so far and what has been released are showing a lot of promise. The third release is in development, and almost as if taking a cue from Blizzard Entertainment, the release date is when it’s ready.

Being a fan of elementary OS I was quite annoyed to find that on June 22nd, the upcoming release of elementary OS, code named Isis, was changed to Freya. Here was the reason given by the developers:

While Isis worked well, there is currently an active militant group in Iraq and Syria commonly known as “ISIS” (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria). elementary obviously has no ties to that group—and we don’t think people will get us confused—but we want to both recognize the ongoing turmoil and choose a less controversial name.

I am disappointed, but not surprised.

Here is what annoys me:

elementary obviously has no ties to that group—and we don’t think people will get us confused—but we want to both recognize the ongoing turmoil and choose a less controversial name.

This is just more wannabe social justice, politically correct, feelgood bullshit that I come to expect from people. “…obviously has no ties…,” No shit, Sherlock. Any outside visitor to your site employing the logical reasoning that an eight year old is capable of would conclude that the name Isis and the acronym ISIS are not the same. “…recognize the ongoing turmoil…,” There is some perpetual need that floats across leftoids making them believe in the nobility of drawing attention to their concerns for others. In reality, that perpetual need is narcissism cloaked in altruism. “…less controversial…,” There is no controversy. There is no controversy because there are no ties to the ISIS group. I doubt very much ISIS was complaining about it, and if they were, shouldn’t they been told to shove it.

What happens when some terrorist group crops up with the name Elementary. Does the whole project change its name? What if there is a child molester named Freya? Will the code name be changed a second time? Should the elementary OS project try to accommodate the world to lessen controversy?

In the end, it really doesn’t matter. ISIS will continue to fight the Iraqi government and Isis Freya will eventually be released. I will install Freya, I will tinker with it, I will enjoy it, and I will wonder how much time and effort will be wasted because someone wanted to stare at themselves in a mirror and avoid some imaginary controversy.

Maison Ikkoku


Kyoko OtonashiHow much of a Maison Ikkoku fan am I? Well, let’s count… I have the legit DVDs from Viz, bootleg copy DVDs from Hong Kong, two complete sets of first and second edition graphic novels from Viz (both read countless times over), several soundtracks, the same t-shirt in grey and white, and I watched the entire 96 episode TV series non-stop in 41 hours over a single Memorial Day weekend. In summary, I’m a fan. Maison Ikkoku occupies the top spot in my favorite anime list and will never be usurped.

Maison Ikkoku was first published in 1980 and began airing on television in 1986. Written by Rumiko Takahashi, one of Japan’s most successful manga writers it joins her other successes such as Urusei Yatsura, Ranma ½, and Inu-Yasha. These were huge successes in Japan. The power wielded by Takahashi is not to be taken lightly.

Maison Ikkoku is a simple romantic-comedy. It’s just your ordinary loser-college-boy-falls-in-love-with-his-new-beautiful-yet-widowed-landlady-and-the-tenants-that-share-the-apartment-house-love-to-interfere-with-their-lovelife-or-lack-there-of story. Takahashi wrote Maison Ikkoku to be a love story that could take place in the real world, and she tells it very well.

Yusaku Godai lives in a small apartment house and is a trying to get into college. Unable to hack all the distractions and annoyances that his neighbors cause, Godai decides to move. His plan doesn’t get very far and he doesn’t even get out the front door when the beautiful Kyoko Otonashi walks in and says she is the new apartment manager. Godai’s life is turned sideways. The poor, unemployed, struggling student fights against all odds to win Kyoko’s heart. Including competing against the good looking, wealthy, fun, and all around perfect: Mitaka. Misunderstandings and overreactions are a staple of this series, complete with yelling, slamming doors, and throwing whatever is within arms’ reach. The character’s are stereotypical in the beginning, but each of them grows throughout the series and surprises the audience with their depth.

The well written characters are memorable, but the best quality of Maison Ikkoku is it’s ability to wrench the reader’s emotions all over the place. The series moves from slapstick comedy to tear-jerking heartbreak to bittersweet understanding, and does so often within a page or two. Maison Ikkoku has it all and does it well. There are a couple slow areas in the middle of the series where it can seem the story or characters aren’t moving forward. However, MI starts hilariously and ends strong, and the characters grow over the course of the story. I cannot recommend this series enough.

Wikipedia entry for Maison Ikkoku
Maison Ikkoku @ Amazon

Vampire Hunter D

DHideyuki Kikuchi, the writer and creator of VHD, has created a great and expansive universe to explore. Just watching the first movie, Vampire Hunter D (1985), the universe may seem a bit sparse and the story a bit stereotypical. However, after reading the first novel, which the first movie is based off, did I really get the scope of the playground that Kikuchi has at his disposal. The vampires have taken over and the future may seem dystopian and bleak, but Earth isn’t in complete despair and there still exists hope. Kikuchi’s universe is rich with emotion, story, and detail. There are two movies and more than twenty novels.

Vampire Hunter D begins in the year 12,090. The future has been consumed by rule of the vampires. After taking control of Earth, the vampires ruled over the Earth with an iron fist for many millennium. The books and movies take place after the vampire control has been broken and man’s reign is ascending. The main character, D, is a human/vampire hybrid called a dhampir. The audience is given hints and told early on that D’s father was Dracula, someone the vampires still revere. D has a love for humanity that isn’t shared by his full vampire brethren. He travels throughout the frontier as a hired gun against vampires. Humanity has managed to take back the capital, but the fragile and weak human government cannot deal with the frontier and outer lands. In the outer regions, vampire lords still rule their land from a castle on a hill outfitted with a laser defense systems and personal armies of genetically created monsters. The Vampires have recreated all the monsters from human nightmares. They reinvented the old stories to subjugate their ‘meal source’ as they call humans. Hydra, werewolves, and fear are the vampires control. Even though their complete control has slipped, it is still effective in some towns and villages. Sometimes a town will gather enough money to hire a vampire hunter. Vampires hunters are especially expensive, but if they succeed in their mission then the town might be free for a while. Not having to worry about the dead of the night coming for them.

It is plain to see that Kikuchi was influenced by the motif of the wild west. All the stories have a great western flair to them. Kikuchi does inject sci-fi elements into the story, keeping in line with the idea that ten millennium have passed. However, he keeps the wildly fantastic sci-fi mumbo-jumbo to an absolute minimum. I like this a lot. It keeps the stories uncluttered and focused.

I like what Kikuchi has done regarding the mythology of the vampires, or more accurately, what he hasn’t done to the mythology. Modern incarnations of vampires by Hollywood are secular. Blade, Underworld, and Twilight all remove the religious aspect of the vampire mythos. They also portray the vampires and sympathic character and heros. Blade and Underworld remove the holy water, crosses, and make vampirism a blood-born disease. Just an STD. Twilight takes it a step further and removes the vampires weakness to sunlight. These movies scientifically explain away everything and render their universes sterile and empty. Kikuchi takes the opposite approach, he keeps all the mythology. Vampirism is not a disease; it is a curse. It cannot be described by physical science. In Kikuchi’s universe, Vampires greatly fear the cross. They fear it so much that the vampires went to great lengths to wipe the cross from humanity’s mind. With their advanced knowledge of
genetics, vampires have bred out all memory of the Christianity and the cross. However, even after the technological advancements of ten millennium, the vampires cannot explain their deadly aversion to the cross, sunlight, silver, and all the other mythic weaknesses. The mythology and mystery of the vampire is very much alive in Kikuchi’s incarnation of the demons. It is an interesting and refreshing take from the all the secular cinema vampires.

The movies Vampire Hunter D (1985) and Bloodlust (2000) were entertaining and fun, but the books paint a rich and infinitely more intricate picture of Kikuchi’s undead infested world. The books are easy to read, numerous, quite fun, and now available in a Kindle format. I consider them fluff, but fluff that’s worth it. I highly recommend them. Don’t think of it as anime, manga, or anything foreign if you can’t appreciate that. Just think of it as a sci-fi, western, vampire hunting story. (If that helps.)

Wikipedia entry for Vampire Hunter D
Kindle edition of book one at Amazon.com

Maleficent

I’ve been a fan of the Disney movie Sleeping Beauty (1959) for quite a while. The hand painted backgrounds, the character design, and the beautiful music make it a wonderful movie and probably one of my favorite animated Disney movies. Thus, Angelina Jolie’s new movie Maleficent had to overcome some very high standards with me.

After watching it this past weekend, I think the movie started with a single idea: the kiss of true love to awaken the Sleeping Beauty came not from Prince Phillip, but from Maleficent. Apologizing for cursing Princess Aurora she kisses Aurora and that is the true love that breaks the curse. I like the idea. I think it’s a good twist on the repetitive, romantic love interest swooping in to save the fair maiden. My issue is that the rest of the movie fell flat. The writers worked to keep Maleficent in the canon of the original Sleeping Beauty movie and created a lot of inconsistencies.

The movie starts with Maleficent as a young fairy girl (albeit with evil looking horns and non-fairy like wings) falling for a human boy. However, their romantic feelings are panned over quickly, and the betrayal by this boy (the soon-to-be King Stephan) doesn’t seem real or tragic. The audience is just given a flimsy, one sentence explanation as to the motivation of the betrayal: He became greedy. And the reason for Maleficent’s fall isn’t very sympathetic or believable.

The scene of the curse of Princess Aurora is very similar to the original movie. The green fire surrounding the evil witch Maleficent, complete with crow familiar in tow, was well done with dark imagery. However, soon after the curse and the hiding of Aurora comes the next left turn in the movie. Maleficent begins watching over Aurora because the three fairy Godmothers (Pink, Blue, and Green, whatever their names may be) are completely inept. There are jests that the baby would die of neglect before the curse is complete. So Maleficent begins secretly caring for the baby behind the backs of the fairy Godmothers, and thus begins the slow warming of Maleficent’s heart towards Aurora. Or that was the only explanation the writers could think up.

Most of the story seems to have been built around the simple idea that Maleficent is the one to free Aurora from her curse. From one angle, I think it’s a great idea. It shakes up some often used fairy tale tropes. The other angle builds upon a concern I have. Hollywood has been on a fallen hero kick for the past decade, and I find it tiresome. The constant bashing of heroes has left our society to think that all acts of good are wasted because even our heroes are bad. A friend of mine often remarks that Superman is a horrible character because he’s perfect. I happen to think that all the fallen heroes and anti-heroes is just a way to worship what is broken and a way to despair against life. In Maleficent, there is another twist on the fallen hero. Instead of taking a hero and bringing them down, Disney has taken the most evil animated villain and made her a hero. Except she isn’t fully redeemed at the end of the movie. She has her revenge, but at the end of the movie it is plainly stated that Maleficent is both hero and villain. Had Maleficent been fully redeemed along with King Stephan, I would like this movie much more. However, for a movie aimed at kids (pre-teens at the earliest in my opinion), where none of the characters are redeemed and the villain is stated to be hero, I find it to be on shaky ground.

The final complaint could be added to nearly any Disney movie: the lack of any decent male characters. Frozen had none. Maleficent had none. I would bet the new Cinderella will have none. (There was a Cinderella teaser before Maleficent.)

Even with all that complaining, Maleficent wasn’t a bad movie. I really liked the initial idea, and had Maleficent and King Phillip been fully redeemed at then end, this movie would have been on my ‘to buy’ list. But the story felt shoehorned to fit with the original movie and doing that well was and would have been too difficult.