Archives for 2012

Terrific Asian Fusion in Minneapolis , Wakame

I took a group of 9 people to Wakame restaurant in Minneapolis recently and the experience was fantastic.

We made a reservation and they were ready for us when we arrived, even though it is a busy place. So far, so good. There were several different palates to satisfy, but we decided to go family style anyway and share everything (except drinks).

Just to make things clear, everything was freaking great, this restaurant really knocks it out of the park – from sushi to chicken wings to curry to noodles to entrees.

There was a decent selection of sakes, the beer and wine selections were ok – not great, but nobody seemed to notice, they got something to drink and the food was excellent.

Starting with appetizers, their spicy chicken wings were a surprise hit around the table and everybody dug into the sushi rolls, many singled out the Cowboy Roll which was a beef covered roll, but I tend to go more for crunchy rolls, I think it was the Crunpy Roll, that I liked best. But the favorite appetizer was Yuzu(sp?) Salmon – lightly seared and eel glazed (I think it was eel sauce) under a fresh bed of greens and sprouts. Big time yum!

The entrees and noodle dishes maintained the momentum including scallops risotto, Pad Thai and what I consider their signature dish, curried walleye.  They all come served with various greens and the flavors and sauces were all lively but not over powering. The walleye especially had a very subtle curry that blended well with the flavor of the fish , and walleye is widely regarded as the finest of freshwater fish.

Yes, we had deserts too, Tiger Chocolate cake and tempura ice cream stood out, but the lemon cake was a big hit too.

We all thought it was freaking great and we went to my brothers house afterwards for conversation and games. A fine, memorable evening for all of us.

Sushi Heaven

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We went to a new Sushi restaurant tonight in Saratoga. It’s called Sushi Heaven and we all agreed that we liked it and are looking forward to going back again.

The menu had a lot of interesting options, with a 2 sided sheet of rolls. We ordered grilled beef asparagas rolls and deep fried tofu for appetizers and four rolls – all excellent, but my faves were the dynamite roll -deep fried spicy hamachi , and the 49er roll – spicy tuna with salmon and lemon. The fish was excellent and fresh and the wait staff friendly and attentive.

It’s not a destination restaurant for big events, but it is a great place
for a “damn I feel like Sushi” night or weekend lunch. It’s in a strip mall and not easily seen from the road (Sunnyvale Saratoga) at the corner of Prospect. I hope people find it because I’d like to see it succeed.

Nespresso bliss coffee tech

There are many ways to bliss out on coffee in this world and my newest favorite way to do it is pictured below, the Nespresso Pixie.

The Nespresso makes terrific shots of espresso that you can have first thing in the morning to shake the cobwebs, mid afternoon when things get dull or in the evening when you are just trying to hang in there. Just stumble into the kitchen, drop in a capsule, press the button and watch it do it’s magic.  As they say, it’s all good.  The shots are hot, but not tongue searing and they have a nice layer of crema (aerated coffee foam) riding on top. There are a number of machines that will do this for you, but a lot of them cost a lot more or require you to mess around with the coffee a lot more. Nespresso is flat out the easiest way to make a great cup of espresso.

Nespresso is made by Nestle and it has a definite European mojo to it.  The unit is small, the capsules are small, the cups it pours are small and the buzz is definite but not harsh. You get a decent lift for a small amount of java and if you are like me, that’s important. What the heck, I wouldn’t bother  if it was just for decaf – I’d go for beer instead, but beer and coffee point me in opposite directions and there you have it.

The only hitch with Nespresso is that you have to get the capsules from Nestle, either over the web, or if you are lucky enough like we are to live near a boutique that sells them you can walk in and pretend you are in Switzerland. As far as I know, nobody else makes them. The business angle is pretty clear, get a customer to buy one and they buy coffee from Nestle the rest of their lives.  The capsules look like little space ships – they are metallic in a mix of gemstone colors and there are a 16 regular flavors all with ridiculous European names you will never be able to remember if you are over 45 – regardless of how much coffee you rev up your head with. Ristretto, Livanto, Volluto, Indriya, Rosabaya – they sound like Urugayan reindeer. Anyway you can buy these things by the hundreds and get fancy accessories like they probably had on the Orient Express. Here’s a picture of the one we have to help us pick out the perfect capsule:

They also have limited-time special flavors that you need to order before they run out. The corner drug pusher has nothing on these guys.

The idea is that you drop the capsule down into the miniature bowels of the machine like you are making a tiny orc or something. The mechanism for opening the front is cantilevered where you rotate the handle up and the front of the machine pushes outward where the handle had been. This in itself is a really cool little design detail that I appreciate every time.  When you pull the handle back down, the capsule seats in the machine where it is ready to have pressurized steam blown through it.  Three small holes are made in one end of the capsule and a grid of punctures go on the other end (the cup end). These apparently are the blow holes that the steam gets blasted through on the way to your cup. You push the button and the compressor kicks in. It doesn’t shake the house but it could wake up dog and shortly thereafter the desired result is in your hands. The next time you open the handle, the expired capsule drops into the receptacle of wasted capsules below.  It took either Swiss or German engineers to come up with this compact mechanical wonder.

In addition to the espresso machine, Nestle also makes Nespresso milk frothers for making lattes, cappuccinos and any other drink where foamy milk is used. Darn, if they don’t turn out great too. In addition to coffee, I’ve been using it to make milk for chai lattes and the results have been excellent.

We’ve had our Nespresso about a month so we don’t know how long it will last, but the quality of the coffee drinks has been top notch. Highly Recommended.

This blog post was 100% produced on my Microsoft Surface -all words and pictures.

 

 

 

Why does StorSimple Matter?

Today is one of those spotlight days when people who don’t know much about StorSimple will want to find out more.

In a nutshell, we have been developing what we believe is the best cloud data management technology that allows our customers to use cloud storage services to manage their enterprise data and storage.

We don’t make the cloud look like a disk drive or tape drive, we make the cloud available as a place to manage data. Our technology segments data that is stored in our systems into small pieces and we track each and every one of those segments wherever it happens to be – whether it is in SSD storage, on hard disks or in the cloud.  As the data is updated, we track all those changes too.

Why?  Because it makes things like recovery from the cloud a whole lot faster than pretending to be a tape drive and it creates a system where data portability between the enterprise data center and the cloud is possible. If you are going to move data between earth and sky, you need to keep track of it somehow and keep up with the changes.  We have a system for doing that.  The various segments of a volume can be anywhere within reach – such as in the cloud – and customers can mount the volume. We assemble all the segments and serve them to applications as they are needed. That’s why disaster recovery is so fast with StorSimple. Customers mount the volume – in the cloud – and have access to everything in it – but only download the data they need to get up and running again.

For those readers who are not into enterprise storage, the technology has similarities to both Data Domain and 3PAR.  All the data in the system is deduplicated like Data Domain systems do, and all the small pieces of the data are presented as live online data the way 3PAR does.  It’s small grained storage virtualization that includes both deduplication and cloud storage.

There is no special hardware required to do this. StorSimple has built systems that have a certain blend of SSDs and hard disks in order to meet certain performance expectations. While there are many exciting opportunities to further leverage our technology in the days ahead, for now we are enjoying the news and looking forward to the excitement of suddenly becoming much more visible and important to a lot of potential customers.

My Ubuntu epiphany – that old Dell lives again

I’ve always been a Windows user. I’ve never had problems finding the apps I needed to get the job done – and that includes audio and video production, so I’ve stuck with it and Windows has treated me well in return. FWIW, I’m definitely looking forward to Windows 8, although I probably won’t be an early adopter, preferring to wait for the first round of gotchas to get ironed out.

But in the last couple days I had a situation come up that drove me off Windows for a solution. A family member is having problems with their aging Mac and asked what they should do. My technology-tired spouse unit piped up: “Ask Marc, he has a bunch of machines lying around, he should be able to help you out”.  And of course, like a moron, I said I did and I would as long as they could use a Windows system. They were desperate and finally caved.

So I pulled the door open to the closet from hell and extracted a Dell bag from the bottom containing an old corporate system (Dell D630). I was supposed to have turned it in at work some years ago, but it had been a good friend and it looked so sad sitting there – I couldn’t have just given it to the grim reaper of corporate transition. Besides it had a bunch of source files on it from various ongoing blog concepts that I thought might be useful. Of course, once it hit the closet, it was never seen again.

All I needed to do was fire it up, clear out the old data and give it away.  As if.

CTRL+ALT+DEL  and the prompt for credentials appeared. 15 minutes later I could see this was going nowhere and so I turned to the Internet having seen references years ago for recovering XP passwords. There’s nothing quite like getting your hopes up with an Internet search to find that everything written is an insult to your intelligence. “Here’s a great tip – try logging in as Administrator!” Uhhh, yeah, I did  already as well as trying as guest, admin, petrock and several other favorites. I finally tried Ophcrack which involves downloading an ISO file on another system, burning the a CD and  booting the locked system. At this point I was in geek heaven, but it turns out that Ophcrack didn’t reveal anything on the first pass and I didn’t want to take 5 hours figuring out which hash tables I needed. It was becoming clear to me that this would cost me money if I had to replace the hard drive and buy another Windows OS license. Spending $$ was never a part of my good-family plan.

Then it hit me. Linux. Reinstall over XP and get it over with. The only problem was that I never really worked with the stuff. The last time I tried, I got it installed but never really did anything with it. The learning curve seemed too steep for something I didn’t need.  FWIW, it was experiences like that had me questioning my geek status. Anyway, I had enough awareness to know that Ubuntu had some popularity, so after verifying that with Google, I downloaded an ISO for Ubuntu, made the CD, booted it and started the installation.

OMG – was this ever the easiest installation for anything, or what?  It went flawlessly and quickly. It found all my hardware like my wireless card and gave me a list of networks to use.  I had to adjust my touchpad settings to my liking, but that was all I had to do. Damn! The distribution came with Firefox and software called LibreOffice for word processing, spreadsheets and presentation. I haven’t tried them, but they look reasonable – especially for somebody who doesn’t need them for  work.

It also came with an app called the Ubuntu Software Center, which is like an app store, but a lot of the apps in it are open source freeware apps and utilities.  There is a ton of stuff in there and after 30 minutes or so of dorking around, I figured out how it was organized and could search it with some effectiveness.

In short order I had a basic working system that looks good, performs well and does a lot of things a lot of people need a system to do. And it didn’t cost me anything except for the time it took – most of which was wrapped up in futile Windows password cracking attempts.

A pleasant surprise this morning happened when my wife mentioned she was up early and saw some stars that she wondered about. I fired up an application called Stellarium (Linux is great for scientific and educational software) that allowed me to get a picture of the night sky from any time. Amazing! A screencap from Stellarium is below.

Of course it looks better on a full screen, you can get the idea by clicking it.  Ultra-coolness.

So it turns out that this machine is suddenly fun again and I’m liking it too much to give it up to somebody that can’t possibly appreciate it. It will be back to the closet for me to find another orphaned system. FWIW, This blog post was written on my new/old Ubuntu machine. I couldn’t really tell the difference from my Windows 7 system while doing this (working in Firefox).

 

 

 

The new world of DR: cloud-integration

When most people think about disaster recovery they automatically assume it requires a complicated configuration with replicated data on redundant storage systems in two locations some distance apart from each other.  There are many details to pay attention to, including storage performance, network performance, available bandwidth and data growth. It costs a lot and takes a long time to implement.

But more and more customers are discovering that it doesn’t have to be that way. Just as cloud technology is changing how developers think about structuring and deploying applications, it is also changing the face of business continuity.

One of the biggest ways DR is changing with cloud technology is by removing the requirement for a separate DR site with all the networking, storage and server equipment. Customers are starting to realize instead that backup and recovery data can be automatically stored at one or more cloud storage service providers, such as AWS, Azure, EMC/ATMOS, Google, HP, Nirvanix and  Rackspace.  Using the cloud for DR provides the following key benefits

  1. Transfers infrastructure costs to cloud service providers
  2. Facilitates DR testing and validation
  3. Eliminates physical tapes and tape management
  4. Provides flexibility for the recovery location
  5. Centralizes DR storage from multiple sites, including ROBOs
  6. Improves RTO
  7. Enables recovery-in-cloud

StorSimple makes Cloud-integrated enterprise storage that does all of these things by automating data protection between on-premises storage and cloud storage services.

Transfer infrastructure costs

Equipment and resources for DR have costs with a very small chance of generating a return on the investment. There is no point in owning resources such as storage, networking, servers, racks, power and cabling that you hope to never use. Clearly, the cloud mantra of paying only for what is used applies here.  Don’t overpay for insurance.

Facilitate testing

Of course everything has to work when you need it to. The interesting thing about cloud DR is that it is even easier to test and validate than traditional DR because it can be done without interrupting production systems. Many of our customers at StorSimple cite this as a very important benefit.

Eliminate tapes

One of the worst parts of any recovery operation is anything and everything involving tapes. Naming tapes, loading tapes, unloading tapes, moving tapes, retensioning tapes, copying tapes, deleting tapes, disposing tapes, and all things tape-related.  They aren’t needed with cloud DR.

Recovery location flexibility

Cloud-based recovery can happen at any site with a reasonably good Internet connection. Moreover, it can happen at multiple sites, which means it is easier to make contingency plans for multiple-site complications as well as being able to spread the recovery load over more resources.

Centralize DR storage

Another aspect of location flexibility with DR is the ability for companies to store DR data in the cloud from many sites or remote branch offices (ROBOs). While each site or branch office will have a unique URL to store their data, the access to this data is centralized in the cloud where it can all be easily accessed from a single Internet connection in their primary data center. In other words, the DR data from any ROBO can be instantly accessed at headquarters.

Improve RTO

The data that is needed to resume operations after a disaster can be limited to only the data that is needed by applications – as opposed to downloading multiple tape images in-full and restoring data from them. This can save weeks during a large scale recovery. Data that is not needed immediately does not consume any bandwidth or other resources that would interfere with the restore process. This approach to DR uses a concept called “the working set”, which is the collection of data that is being used by applications. Working-set based DR is the most efficient way to recover data.

Recovery in-cloud

Related to recovery flexibility is the ability to resume operations in the cloud by using of cloud compute services. In this case, the DR data stays in the cloud where it is accessed by cloud-resident applications. Application users connect to the application through a connection to their cloud service provider. The data that stays in the cloud needs to be presented to the application in it’s usual fashion – as a file share, for instance.