A Quick Look at Elastic Wolf

18 Aug 2013
August 18, 2013

imageI have been doing a lot of projects in AWS this year. I have to say that is has been fascinating to watch this service evolve from month to month and year to year. It is pretty awesome to be able to sit at my comfortable desk and build a “virtual data center” without ever having to leave the office.

Seriously! The VPC stuff (Virtual Private Cloud) is great. Truly the equivalent of racking a bunch of physical servers as co-lo at the data center. Private LAN addressing, VPN site tunnels to your office(s), Network ACLs AND Security Groups and so much more. I truly dig it.

There’s been one challenge though: I have been doing this AWS work for a variety of clients – which means I spend a lot of time logging in an out of AWS services using a series of partner URLs and credentials. The web UI is quite functional and all, but logging in and out of various accounts all days gets a bit tedious. And you know a web UI never seems responsive enough when you’re in a hurry.

imageHowever, I recently stumbled over ElasticWolf. One tool easily configurable to securely access all of your various AWS profiles. Run it as an app in your OS of choice (Windows, Mac, Linux) or a Firefox add-on:

ElasticWolf is a client-side application for managing Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud resources with an easy-to-use graphical user interface.  […]

ElasticWolf is packaged with all necessary tools and utilities to generate and deal with private and public keys and certificates, as well as a Windows ssh client for accessing Linux EC2 instances. In addition, it integrates easily with the AWS command line interface (CLI) tools so that you can use ElasticWolf and the CLI together.

imageFascinating project – and, as near as I can tell, completely undocumented. However, after some experimentation I have managed to get this configured to easily allow me to hop from client to client with just the click of a mouse. Lovely

Navigation is via the traditional tree or outline paradigm (click the image to the right for a better view). You can expand the various sections for all the details underneath. For instance, in the attached image I have expanded EC2 Networking and VPC as that’s where I spend much of my time. Oh, speaking of which: It will show your VPC instances under the VPC section which is a nice upgrade over the AWS Web interface

Credentials are all managed via AWS’s IAM module (Identity and Access Management). Go in there and generate a user and capture the Access Keys (save them somewhere safe!) and then jump in ElasticWolf and set up that user under the Credentials and Regions section. Add entries for each client or partner account that you work with and you’re good to go.

I am still exploring all my options with EW but I definitely love it for the convenience when I need to get something done quickly and then jump back to another client. Priceless. If anyone reading this uses it, feel free to pass along tips, tricks or comments in the comments section of this article.

My Indoor Bike Training Technology Stack

26 Jan 2013
January 26, 2013

January of 2012 was when a new love entered my life: A new bike. Yeah, I’m kind of sentimental about my bikes. I bought this bike to help take my riding up a notch. I wanted to go further and faster and that bike definitely helped me do both.

pinarello_postWinter, however, has slowed me down a bit. I enjoy some cold weather riding but have some limits to as to just how cold I  can tolerate. However, thanks to some gadgets, new Christmas presents and experimentation I’ve assembled a pretty decent indoor bike riding/training setup. Since I’m a sharer, what follows is a bit of a look at that that setup looks like.

First, the bike. Can’t do any of this without a bike! Mine is a Pinarello FP1. Aluminum frame, carbon fork (just look at that sexy front fork in the picture!) and carbon rear stays with a Shimano 105 groupo. It may be in the bottom tier of the Pinarello family but I absolutely love this bike. Before I added pedals and bottle cages she weighed just over 17 lbs – far lighter than I need/deserve and I’m OK with that.

OK, that’s the bike, now the indoor trainer. I’m using the Cycleops Mag Trainer and it is working out great. I’ve found a resistance setting that feels quite close to being on the road and some timed rides and their  mileage basically bears that out. And, unlike some types of trainers, this one isn’t all that loud either.

Read more →

A Netbook’s Journey from Win7 to Win8 — and Back Again

22 Jan 2013
January 22, 2013

NB 255

I have been running Windows 8 full-time on my work laptop for several months now. Big fan and really like it.  On that hardware it seems to run better than Windows 7 did (not that I had any complaints). So that led me to the idea that it might be a good idea to upgrade my little netbook to Windows 8 as well.

That turned out to not be such a great idea.

The netbook doesn’t have a CD-ROM drive but that is easily resolved with the Windows 7 USB/DVD download tool. That tool let me create a bootable USB to use for the Win8 install. The subsequent OS install was painless and quick as always. No worries there.

But once I had the OS installed I quickly noticed that I wasn’t seeing the anticipated performance boost. No, quite the opposite actually. No doubt in some part due to not having all the proper drivers installed. OK, no problem. I figured I’d sort that out later.

Then I hit the real issue: NO Modern UI apps would run at the netbook’s native 1024×600 resolution! Not a one. That freaked me out a bit… I mean, I don’t need all the Modern UI apps (or any, really…) but not being able to have any was simply distressing. A bit of whining on twitter netted me a helpful response with a link to an article on how to “overdrive” the native resolution to something that Windows 8 liked better.

A tolerable work-around, if a bit fuzzy…

But at the end of the day I just wasn’t loving the Win8 experience on this thing; it was time to regress back to 7. Which is when I realized I’d lost the ability to choose alternate boot devices when starting the netbook! I haven’t figured out why yet, but with Windows 8 on it those POST/BIOS-level options were simply gone. That made installing an OS a bit problematic.

I finally worked around that by borrowing a USB DVD ROM drive and starting the Windows 7 install from within Windows 8. Took the option for a clean install, let it reboot and Win7 very politely installed itself.

And hey, that option to select alternate boot devices when I turn on the netbook is back. How odd.

I went with a “real” version of Win7 this time – no more Starter Edition. It runs great and we’re quite happy together again.

Wrestling With Windows 8 Imaging

18 Nov 2012
November 18, 2012

The leap to Windows 8 has gone well. A full week of work later and I see no reason to not commit. Only issue that I’ve noticed is that I seem to get “IO bound” when there’s a lot of disk activity. Since I have Win8 installed in a VHD I figure that might be causing some extra overhead. So, next step is to eliminate that VHD and get to the disk drive directly.

I initially figured I’d use my old friend the Windows System Image, created by going to the Control Panel, searching on “Windows 7 File Recovery” and taking the option to create a system image. Creating that image went fine, and creating the Win8 Recovery DVD went fine. However, when I boot into the recovery environment and take the options to restore the image it is never found! No matter what I try I end up with ye olde “Windows cannot find a system image on this computer.”

I can browse to the USB drive and find it myself but the recovery program refuses to see it (in both win7 and win8 recovery mode). Tried all the usual tricks (make sure USB is “basic” disk, fresh format USB and the only use was to catch the image, etc.) but after hours of experimentation still no love.

Trying out Acronis True Image as I write this post. Image creation is a little slow but if this works I’ll probably break down and buy it (I’m using their free 30 day trial at the moment). I’m baffled as to why the Windows tools aren’t working here but I’ve wasted too much time. True Image seems to be what is most often suggested so that’s where I’ll start.

My goal is to make images of the Win8 partition (currently stored in the .VHD file) and some of the HP recovery partitions and then wipe the drive and restore those images. That way what was in the VHD will be directly on the disk.

That’s the goal at any rate.

[Updated a few hours later]

Acronis True Image has locked up my machine 3 times in a row. About 45 minutes into a backup attempt it just seizes up and kills the laptop.

Rats. Perhaps it isn’t ready for Windows 8?