Thursday, May 29, 2008

Thale's Eclipse

More than 2,500 years ago, Thales, one of the first Greek philosopher-scientists, predicted an solar eclipse.
Without the Internet, with no computers, not even decent pen and paper for a scratch pad he managed to use science to predict what, till then, was deemed to be the work of a god.

The eclipse duly took place as he predicted - probably on the 28th of May 585 BC

Here are some links about Thales and his eclipse.

Learning Greek 1

Well, another reason I'm writing this blog is my studies of Greek. I want to learn Ancient Greek because it interests me and I think as as long as I'm studying the Classics, I may as well be able to read the language. Unfortunately, I seem to have some mental blocks...

So, As I review the stuff I should already know, I'll post it here.
I'll start with the Greek Alphabet.

Upper Case Lower case Letter Name English equivalent
Α α Alpha a
Β β Beta b
Γ γ Gamma g
Δ δ Delta d
Ε ε Epsilon e
Ζ ζ Zeta z
Η η Eta e
Θ θ Theta th
Ι ι Iota i
Κ κ Kappa k
Λ λ Lambda l
Μ μ Mu m
Ν ν Nu n
Ξ ξ Xi x / ks
Ο ο Omicron o
Π π Pi p
Ρ ρ Rho r
Σ σ or ς Sigma s
Τ τ Taf t
Υ υ Upsilon u / y
Φ φ Phi ph
Χ χ Chi ch
Ψ ψ Psi ps
Ω ω Omega o

Note : Sigma is written σ in the middle of a word and ς at the end.
SOS would be σος

Obviously, Wikipedia has a big page about this.

It there is some problem and the Greek letters don't appear properly, please send me a note...

PULSE for those who missed it...

PULSE, for those who don't know, was a giant Tivoli conference which took place last week in Orlando, Florida.

Lets start with the crunch : The presentations.

Here's the PULSE Blog.

Here's a new IBM initiative : A Web 2.0 Tivoli Community

The new community space looks interesting. It's still very much a work in progress, but go there and look around.

A day in the life of a Tivoli implementer...

Yesterday I installed a small ITM PoC (Proof of Concept) at a customer.

I arrived at their office at about 8:45... and waited at the entrance till 9:30 before the guy I was supposed to meet was located. I should have taken this as an omen.

How long should it take to copy a 4 Giga DVD to the customer's server? About 20-25 minutes I guess.
40 minutes after the copying started, I got a corruption-error on the DVD.

Signing dramatically, I sat down to burn a new DVD as the in-house DBAs started installing the database I had requested to be installed the day before. They couldn't even start the installation because the drive was hardened. Aha! Could that explain my copying misery?

They started a conference call with the system guys to remove the hardening.
It was now about 11:30.
I gave the customer my (newly burned) DVD told him to copy it to the server, unzip it and call me.

I fully expected to wait till next week for that call...


At 13:30 I get a call - the DB is installed and the files have been copied.

I go back and what do you know?
Everything went swimmingly from there on...
By 15:30 I have installed the Tivoli Monitoring server and 5 agents are being monitored.

The biggest problem I had with the installation was the lack of an Adobe Acrobat reader so I could show the customer the documentation.

Just goes to show, what starts out as a bad day just might turn out ok :)


Monday, May 26, 2008

Phoenix Lands On Mars !

The Phoenix space probe has landed on Mars!

Here are a few links:

The next few weeks will be very interesting...

ITM Tools and scripts

ITM 6.x is a pretty simple system and day-to-day, I don't feel that it needs too much hand holding.
Of course, we never leave the poor thing alone and we're constantly upgrading the system, adding agents and changing situations :)

So, every now and then a problem appears.
There is an excellent presentation which summarizes basic troubleshooting and where to look for problems.
(Logs, trace levels, debugging, process flow and much much more)

ITM 6.1 Problem Determination Tools and Best Practices

It also has links to a series of scripts in OPAL which will enable you to see what's going on in your ITM environment in a simpler way.

Simpler for tech people of course, don't let managers see these scripts :)

for the scripts, go to the OPAL catalog

Enjoy :)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

New to Tivoli Application Dependency Discovery Manager (TADDM)?

This application from IBM is really a mouthful!

Pity, because it's (in my opinion) one of the new additions to Tivoli over the last few years.
TADDM is an application which maps out your network, getting full information about each and every element (Application Discovery) and finds out the relationships between each (Application Dependency).

So, for example, TADDM will find out that application A runs on Server B is accessed by Web Servers C and D while application A accesses  Database E which is on server F. It also keeps  a full history of the parameters and information of each element so you can see what changes have occurred.

TADDM works centrally, no need to install anything on any other server (unless you need to cross firewalls and then you need an SSH server for each section). It works by scanning the network and running Sensors on each device it finds. If it find a computer, it will use a generic sensor to find out what kind it is. It will then use the relevant Windows, UNIX,etc sensor. Once it knows what applications, Databases, etc are on the server, it will use the relevant sensors too.

Those of you familiar with ITIL will realize that TADDM is IBM's system for building the organization's CMDB.


TADDM Links:
IBM Support
TADDM Redbook (For a slightly earlier version, but 90%+  is still relevant)
Developerworks Wiki

My TADDM Tips:

  • After the initial installation, be prepared to wait a LONG time for the initial database to be built - I've seen the installation take, say, half an hour and then wait another 20 minutes for it to start for the first time.
  • Despite this, it's quite common for the initial startup to fail for some reason. The documentation has a specific "Initial startup troubleshooting" section. I've found that running the support script make_db2_db.bat solved my problems.
  • Familiarize yourself with the /etc/ file.The number of configuration items is immense and just by going over them you'll learn a lot abut how TADDM works. (Chapter five of the admin guide)
  • The TADDM logs are excellent! Make sure you're set the configuration so that you get a separate log for each sensor.
  • If the logging level is set com.collation.log.level=DEBUG you will see the script which is run to activate each sensor. You can now run this exact script with the same parameters for yourself to debug any errors! How often do you have an application which tell you precisely what it's doing and lets you do that same action for yourself?


Sunday, May 18, 2008

What on Earth is Ἀρετή?

I’m very fond of metaphors and idiomatic expressions and I try to use them when ever I can.

The reason I called this blog Ἀρετή (an ancient Greek word pronounced Arete) - Excellence is slightly complicated.
I wanted something that would merge both my professional life (Software Engineering) and my non-professional life (Studies of the Classics, Astronomy, History and Science).

At the cost of being pretentious, I have found that this wonderful word - Ἀρετή - encompasses a lot of my personal philosophy of life.

The word means excellence as a value - living up to your potential, “Being all you can and should be”.

Other expressions I like are:

  • Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
  • It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.
  • The Golden Mean
  • Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity

I have found that in the long term, co-operation and mutual aid has helped me advance my goals faster and more efficiently than had I just blundered forward without any regard towards my co-workers.

I don’t pretend that I live a blameless life or that I am a perfect role-model, however, I do make an effort to go through life realizing that it’s a team sport…

I would be happy if this site helps others solve problems they have encountered, broadens their horizons and teaches them something new or even if it just lets a few slow minutes pass enjoyably.


Saturday, May 17, 2008

IBM Tivoli Monitoring 6.2 Fixpack 1 - ITM6.2FP1

Well, ITM6.2 FP1 has been released.

You can read the release notes here:

There are a couple of pretty nifty things about this Fixpack which should come in handy.
Here are some of the items which I know I'm going to be using...

  • CLI for Historical Data Collection Configuration : Today, just getting a list of what historical data I'm keeping is painful. Even if I only use this for reporting and not for managing, it will be very useful.
  •  Provide CLI for Maintenance Mode : No more situation floods during upgrades or backup downtime.
  • Improved DLA file export : There is a new utility to create an XML file for feeding to TADDM - hopefully this will have all the bugs ironed out :)
  • Regular expressions in situation rules - Need I say more?

Not all of these are found in the README, go through the documentation too...

Read the "new in this version" that's at the top of every book.

I'll update the Blog with my experiences with this FixPack.

Enjoy :)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Back again

Well, I think I'll be sticking with Blogspot after all.

I like Wordpress and it is certainly friendlier to start things with.

Also, I really do like the static pages which Wordpress has and Blogspot lacks. However, the fact is that Wordpress is more limited from the point of view of template design and I prefer the Blogspot widgets.

So, at least for now... I'm back on Blogspot.

I'll have to make up my mind before I start telling people about my Blog ;)

That Didn't Hurt...

Well, if all went according to plan, this message should arrive in my new blog on Wordpress...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Changing Already?

I've done some research and perhaps I should change my blog to Wordpress?

Well, the whole point of this exercise is to try out new things, so I've created a Wordpress blog and I'll try transferring this blog from Blogger to Wordpress.


We'll see if it works...


Oh, I'm also using Windows Live Writer to write this instead of doing it in the browser.

Wish me luck!

Buying Books

Bought a few books today...
The links I've given have all been from Amazon, but that's just because Amazon has the most information about books on their site.
I use to find cheap copies of books (both old and new)

I especially like it because it includes the postage and handling in the price AND converts to shekels for me.

I've just noticed that even the Asterix book has an astronmical connection ;)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Mythical Man-Month

I ran across a copy of "The Mythical Man-Month" in a second hand book shop yesterday.

Despite being written back in 1975, the book is a still Delphic oracle of software engineering. I credit it (and the friend who introduced me to it) with starting the boost me from a code-monkey-programmer to a software engineer.

The largest theme of the book is that adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.
i.e. if you're behind schedule, adding a newbie is NOT going to help.

Sounds like a truism in these days of XP/Agile/Scrum and so on, but it was revolutionary back then.

Mouse 1 : Scientists 0

I don't often visit the news satire The Onion.

But this article had me crying with laughter...

Son of a bitch mouse solves maze

New to Tivoli Monitoring?

Lets get some content onto this blog.

I'll assume you're a new recruit to your IT company and you now must start working with a product called IBM Tivoli Monitoring (ITM).

Where to start? What to do?

In a (very brief) nutshell, ITM is one of a series of Tivoli products. The entire Tivoli suite is designed to help companies manage and understand the various pieces of computer technology they use. ITM manages the servers and applications that the company uses. Remember Mission control in the movie Apollo 13? Well, they were using NASA specific systems, but the analogy holds - they were using a product which monitors and controls the spacecraft, just like ITM does to the servers.

First day on the job, someone has given you a welcome speech, shown you your chair and you've scribbled your user/password on a note.
What now? How to find information about ITM?

There are three types of websites which will help you
1. IBM documentation
2. Forums
3. Personal / Company websites

The first places you should go are
There are two main public forums for ITM
And here are some websites/blogs by a few people and consultancy companies that supply Tivoli services.
I don't represent any of them, nor should my linking to them constitute endorsement of any kind by myself or my employer (IBM).
But you will pick up a few tips, ideas and help from them which vary from good tips to excellent ones.
By alphabetical order:
All of the sites I've referenced here have RSS options so you don't need to check them daily.

I'm sure I've forgotten any number of other sites, so just drop me a line / add a comment if you think I should add/change anything.

Good luck with your new job ;)


Friday, May 9, 2008

First Post


The purpose of this blog is, like most blogs, to be a "portal" of sorts outward.

In this blog I plan to concentrate my thoughts and conclusions about various aspects of my life and hopefully, those who read these words will enjoy both the fruits of my labour and seeing the process by which they are born.

My interests are varied - and thus will be this blog.

My occupation is that of an "Enterprise Management Specialist" in a small company called IBM.
Most of my work entails implementing various applications in IBM's Tivoli line. At the very least, I expect this blog to contain the various tips and tricks I pick up along the way.

While working I am also studying towards a BA in Classics(Ancient Greece and Rome) and the History and Philisophy of Science.
Yes, thats quite a mouthful of a name for a degree and Yes, I have no idea what I'll do with it when I finish. But I am learning a lot from it.
Another thing I know this Blog will contain is aid in the study of the Greek language.

Further interests of mine are Astronomy and Military History.

Lastly, no blog can be complete without the required political posts...
Since I live in Israel, an "interesting place", I doubt there will be few of these...

I start on this journy without knowing where it will lead me, but the joy is in the journey - more than in the destination.