Bye VMware ESXi, Hello Proxmox VE!

As you may -or may not- know, I manage my own server farm. This farm is composed of several virtual machines hosted on a physical server (an HPE ProLiant one). I’ve used ESXi for the past several years, but I’ve decided to move away from it for several reasons.

I – The context

The physical server is located at home (I’m self hosted). It’s mounted into a medium-sized rack cabinet in a room, with a UPS. This physical server runs multiple virtual machines, and I’ve listed some of them below:

  • The backbone infrastructure (LAN): a DNS server for resolving my internal machines’ names and a SMTP relay so that I can be notified when an event occurs somewhere in the system, like automatic security updates ;
  • The website infrastructure (DMZ): a SQL server, a file server with the webroot, two web servers for HA and load balancing, and a reverse proxy reachable from the Internet.

II – The reasons

VMware ESXi is an enterprise-grade type-1 hypervisor and it gets the job done, not gonna lie. But there are some downsides that prevent a lot of people from using it in a lab or semi-professional environment like I used to do until now:

  • The licenses’ prices are crazy high (there’s a free license but it comes with limits);
  • There’s no integrated backup solution (*wink* Veeam *wink*);
  • ESXi can run on unsupported, retail hardware, but the requirements leave some older machines aside;
  • HPE ProLiant servers (Gen8 and up) can’t run a vanilla ESXi, an ISO issued from HPE that integrates the required drivers has to be used;
  • HPE only certifies the latest servers for VMware and releases ISOs for these servers accordingly.

Do you see the problem? Even tho your older HPE server behaves just fine and can still handle modern operating systems, like Windows Server 2019 for instance, HPE won’t build ISOs of the latest ESXi for them.

According to HPE and VMware, my server can run ESXi up to 6.0. I’ve been able to use ESXi 6.5 because the HPE-issued ISO contained the required drivers for my server but it hasn’t been certified for this specific model. ESXi 6.7 has been released a few months ago but I can’t use it without doing some wizardry I’ve seen on the internets because the latest HPE ISOs don’t have the needed drivers. ESXi 6.5 won’t receive security updates after November 15, 2021. So my only choice would have been to purchase a new server and install a newer ESXi by then.

But here comes Proxmox VE:

  • It’s based on Debian with a customized, fine-tuned Linux kernel from Ubuntu;
  • It’s Open Source;
  • It supports a large variety of hardware;
  • It supports virtual machines (with KVM) and containers (with LXC);
  • It supports ZFS;
  • The requirements are quite low;
  • It has an integrated backup solution;
  • It has an integrated firewall;
  • You can create clusters of hosts running Proxmox VE;
  • It’s free, and you can subscribe to an enterprise support service so the Proxmox team can come to the rescue if something goes horribly wrong and the community alone can’t help.

III – Moving away

Since Debian 10 “Buster” was released this year, Proxmox VE has been updated as well to use this new version as its base system. Moreover my VMs were running Debian 9, so it was the perfect time to start using Debian 10 as well.

I didn’t migrate the VMs from ESXi to Proxmox VE (although you can import VMs from VMware’s virtualization suites, not only ESXi). Instead, I exported the most important configuration files and the website’s data (SQL + webroot) and recreated the entire virtualized infrastructure from scratch after erasing the disks and installing Proxmox VE.

Proxmox VE’s Web GUI can be somewhat confusing or overwhelming at times, but it’s fast, lightweight and you’ll get used to it. Sure, you’ll maybe have to use the CLI for advanced tasks more often than before than with ESXi, but the integration of xterm.js and other console viewers like noVNC makes it incredibly easy to do so, with the comfort of you web browser and without the need of a SSH access. And when using the CLI, you get the power of the Debian 10 beneath Proxmox VE.

IV – Final note

In my use case, Proxmox VE has the following advantages:

  • Integrated backup solution means no more 3rd party software to pay for;
  • Completely Open Source and no additional fees for additional features;
  • With ZFS I can put my hard disk drives in a RAIDZ-2 configuration, meaning that the pool can handle up to two disk failures before being unrecoverable (drives where on a RAID10 configuration when ESXi was installed, with a limit of one faulty disk at a time);
  • Once Proxmox VE is fully loaded and the VMs are on, everything becomes really fast: ZFS uses RAM as a cache, and it stores the data you use most frequently inside for faster access times. And when you want to write something to the disk, it gets stored in RAM, and ZFS writes it physically in the background at the most appropriate time. And since the VMs and Proxmox VE itself are stored on a ZFS pool, everything benefits from this technology.

SwiftUI & Xcode 11 beta

Today, a rant against SwiftUI AND Xcode:

SwiftUI is neat. Really. I’ve seen talented people on Twitter showing what it’s already possible to achieve with it. I’m using it for upcoming projects, and it actually motivates me to move to Swift from Objective-C But.

I know Swift and I’ve written apps in Swift. But to me, Objective-C (or ObjC) is far more readable and easy to learn. I love ObjC. I use Swift. That’s a pretty big difference to me. I know, that’s against Apple’s marketing around Swift. I’ve always ended up writing the core of my apps and my private frameworks in ObjC, and satellite apps in Swift.

In fact, in Alvadi Classic, the frameworks that the app is built upon are ObjC (except for Charts that is written in Swift, but it’s a 3rd Party library). The watchOS app is built with Swift. But it’s a tiny satellite app revolving around an ObjC core.

When Apple introduced SwiftUI, I saw a lot of possibilities and the opportunity to jump on the Swift bandwagon. So I followed Apple’s tutorials and finally made a new project for an upcoming app that I plan to write entirely in Swift instead of ObjC and design the UI with SwiftUI instead of Interface Builder.

But.

The combination of SwiftUI and Xcode can be very frustrating. The horrendous errors that are throw for a small typo in a SwiftUI struct is very intimidating for a somewhat-accustomed-to-Swift developer. Let alone a newcomer to the wonderful world of software development…

Since the SDKs bundled in Xcode 11 are still in beta (and the IDE itself being in beta), I hope that Apple will improve it by the time they reach the Golden Master state.

Bloomberg: “Apple to Reveal New Home-Grown Apps, Software Features at WWDC”

On Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. is planning to unleash a slew of new apps, features and development tools at its annual software conference next month. To improve its devices and strengthen its connection to customers, the consumer technology giant will continue to walk a fine line between wooing outside app makers while also competing against them. 

– Mark Gurman

On iOS: It seems like the iOS 11 debacle paid off – Apple focusing one more time on performance improvements for a major iOS update is great news. I’m also thrilled by the revamped Health app and the improved Home app. To me, health and automation is the future, and Apple continues to improve their vision of it. Next year’s AR improvements seems to indicate that the “Apple AR Glasses” might be released in the near future. Also: multi-user support for HomePod! 🙂

On watchOS: Finally! The App Store is coming to the Watch itself! No more shrinked down App Store as a tab on the Watch app. And new Watch faces! I hope that by next year we will get 3rd-party Watch faces on the now-on-device App Store…

On macOS: Marzipan coming (officially) to developers is the salvation of the platform. macOS has suffered bugs for the past years (like allowing root login with no password? Seriously?) and the Mac App Store is a disaster. This year, Apple focused on the roots of macOS (apparently as a two-year effort, Mojave being a transition version) and Marzipan will allow the Mac platform to tap into the iPad’s vibrant app ecosystem. I just hope that Apple really improved UIKit to support macOS’ UI/UX (basically multi-window support and mouse input).

This year’s WWDC sounds really exciting: all of this is just reports from various sources and we still have to see all of this working in front of us, on our own devices. We, developers, will sure have a lot of work to do.

Link to the article: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-05-06/apple-wwdc-2019-ios-13-macos-10-15-watchos-6-tvos-features

Recode: “Anki is shutting down”

On Recode:

In a teary all-hands meeting on Monday morning, CEO Boris Sofman told his staff they would be terminated on Wednesday and that close to 200 employees would be paid a week of severance, according to people familiar with the matter.

– Theodore Schleifer

Farewell, Anki. It’s disappointing to see that company close. IMHO, Cozmo was a great product and it was almost mainstream, it wasn’t that hard to find one at a tech shop or even in some malls as a christmas gift.

Link to the article: https://www.recode.net/2019/4/29/18522966/anki-robot-cozmo-staff-layoffs-robotics-toys-boris-sofman

Concept: watchOS 6

Link: https://www.behance.net/gallery/78721721/watchOS-A-New-Horizon

There are really interesting ideas, like the new Activity rings or the scheduled Watch faces.

Not sold on the idea of folders in Carousel (Carousel on watchOS is like SpringBoard on iOS: it manages the apps’ life cycles, and so much more). I barely use the grid view, aka the “cloud of apps”, and I don’t like the list view.

But there’s one thing. One little and silly thing. That my body is ready for…

… and it’s A SIMPSONS WATCH FACE

Digitimes: “AirPods 3 said to be launched by year-end 2019”

On Digitimes:

Apple is reportedly set to release its third-generation AirPods for sales by the end of 2019, with the new wireless earphones to incorporate a noise cancellation function.

Aaron Lee, Taipei; Willis Ke

Sounds way more useful than the “Hey Siri” feature from the AirPods “2” (more like AirPods 1.2 to me IHMO). The double-tap gesture was enough for today’s Siri. If Apple really improves Siri to the way that it finally becomes useful, except for setting timers and text dictation, then I’ll be more than happy to put those weird-shaped wireless headphones into my ears and talk to Siri all day hands-free.

Sadly, this report does not indicate when, or if, the AirPods will gain the rumored heart rate reading capability and a new black finish.

Link to the article: https://www.digitimes.com/news/a20190424PD208.html

Thoughts on Apple Watch’s Leather Loop band

The Watch isn’t only for tech enthusiasts, it’s also designed to be a desirable piece of jewelry.

When Apple introduced the original Watch to the world, on September 9th, 2014 (it wasn’t available until April 24th, 2015), along with the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Pay, they made it clear that the device wasn’t only another electronic gizmo that the customer would have to charge every night, but also a lifestyle product, with health & fitness features and a fashion-oriented marketing.

The Watch was originally curated into 3 collections: the somewhat affordable Apple Watch Sport, the classic-looking Apple Watch and the unapologetically expensive Apple Watch Edition. Each collection was made of a different material (Series 7000 Aluminum, 316L Stainless Steel & 18-Karat Gold) and intended for different budgets. Of course, all the Watches shared (and still share) the same band swapping mechanism, so any band can fit on any Watch (as long as it’s for the right case size, 38/42MM or 40/44MM for the current Series 4).

The three distinct collections. Now the Edition is gone, and there is no separation between Sport and classic anymore. It’s just Watch.

Like there was 3 materials for the case, they also designed bands in 3 materials: plastic (sorry, fluoroelastomer), leather and metal (nylon bands were released in 2016). At first, I was interested in the Apple Watch with Milanese Loop, but reason did prevail and I preordered a Sport model with a blue band, mainly for budget reasons. I actually left work earlier on Friday, April 24th, 2015 because I was one of the happy few who received their preordered Watch on Release Day.

The Leather Loop was released alongside the first gen Watch, but I wasn’t interested in it: I wasn’t a fan of the available colors, I found it bulky and it wasn’t just good looking to my eyes. By the end of 2015 I bought the Milanese Loop and wore it on my Sport Watch, and when the Series 3 came out I finally jumped on the Stainless Steel train. And boy that Milanese Loop really shines with a Stainless Steel Watch.

Now, here I am, in 2019. Apple released new Watch models (Series 2 with GPS and dual-core processor, Series 3 with LTE and Series 4 with ECG, fall detection, new design and 64-bit processor), refreshed their bands twice a year, for fall and spring (again, fashion). I am used to wearing a Stainless Steel Watch, with nylon and sport bands. The Milanese Loop is reserved for fancy occasions. I was getting some interest in the Leather Loop, mainly due to the new colors, but I had yet to see one in person (the closest Apple Store is at a 2 hours drive, so I don’t frequently go there).

Last weekend I went to an Apple Store, and asked a salesman for a try-on. The overall experience is nice: the staff is friendly and they are willing to help. At first I tried a Leather Loop on their demo Watch, but the band was too long (it was the Large one). Since I have relatively small wrists, it looked kinda bad. The person brought me a Medium one, still in its box, and opened it for me to try it with my own Watch: it was a perfect match.

I bought it.

The band reminds me of the Milanese Loop: with its magnetic closing, they share the same overall experience: wrap it around your wrist and because it is magnetic, you can adjust it very precisely. The feeling is not the same though, the Milanese Loop has a metallic, cold feel on your wrist, when the Leather Loop is lighter and warmer. And it looks just fantastic with a Stainless Steel Watch!

Apple Watch (Series 4, Stainless Steel, 44MM) with Leather Loop (Cape Cod)

Conclusion: I now have another bracelet that can be wore for fancy occasions. But if someone at Apple reads this, please: A slightly larger Modern Buckle band for the 42/44MM Watch would be to die for.

9to5Mac: “BlackBerry Messenger shutting down next month”

On 9to5Mac:

In a blog post, Emtek announced that it will shut down the consumer version of BlackBerry Messenger on May 31st. The company says that while it tried make BBM a reality in 2019, users have simply moved on to other platforms

– Chance Miller

Woooooaaaaaa! This is mind-blowing! BlackBerry Messenger was still a thing in 2019!

Link to the article: https://9to5mac.com/2019/04/18/blackberry-messenger-shutdown/

TechCrunch: “Facebook now says its password leak affected ‘millions’ of Instagram users”

On TechCrunch:

Facebook  has confirmed its password-related security incident last month now affects “millions” of Instagram users, not “tens of thousands” as first thought.

– Zack Whittacker

I wonder how anyone can still trust Facebook. They track you around the web. They store data that they are not supposed to. They sell your data. They target you with ads. They can’t even securely store passwords. It’s astonishing. I can’t even.

They released a device called “Portal” with video calling capabilities on November 8th, 2018. And now rumor has it that they are developing a Siri or Alexa-like competitor. Welcome to 1984.

Link to the article: https://techcrunch.com/2019/04/18/instagram-password-leak-millions/

9to5Google: “Samsung Galaxy Fold display issues emerge just 48 hours after first outing”

On 9to5Google:

Over the past hour, journalists from The Verge, Bloomberg, and CNBC all shared issues they encountered with the Galaxy Fold review units they received on Monday.
According to Dieter Bohn, a small “bulge” appeared on the crease of the Galaxy Fold that’s “enough to slightly distort the screen.” Besides being able to feel the lump, there are “telltale lines of a broken OLED” after just normal usage by The Verge.

– Abner Li

Once again, this is why Apple is not launching a foldable iPhone: the technology behind Samsung’s Galaxy Fold is neat but it’s not ready for prime time yet. It’s not being the first that really matters, it’s being the best.

Link to the article: https://9to5google.com/2019/04/17/samsung-galaxy-fold-broken/