Parallels Server for Mac Pricing

Fresh from my inbox..

Parallels Server for Mac will be available soon. As a thank you to all participating Parallels Server for Mac Beta users, Parallels is offering an exclusive discount on a single Parallels Server for Mac license. Purchase this new software for only $700* – a 30% savings.

Hmm… well, the product has been working fairly well for us at OpenRain, but I’m not sure $700 per major version is going to be worth it as opposed to buying another cheap Dell machine and running VMWare Server on Linux for free, which we already do in some of our hosted environments. Here’s the kicker in tiny font at the bottom of the email explaining the asterisk after “$700”..

The limited-time discount offer is limited to a single server from May 30 – June 30, 2008. Annual maintenance is required at the time of purchase, starting at an additional $249.75 per year. For academic pricing and volume licensing, register now or contact Parallels Sales at +1 (425) 282-6400.

So that’s $950 for the first year of our first system alone. Hmmmm… 


Leopard Server: Bonjour-Based DNS A Performance No-No

Prior to moving into the new OpenRain office (announcement coming in June), we used OS X’s magical .local addressing to find all our servers. This allowed us to keep almost everything on DHCP, which is trivial to set up and administer. Little did we know, however, that this was being the root cause of many internal issues.

  • General network I/O performance (file server access, OpenLDAP-based logins etc.) sucked. Simply using Server Admin or Workgroup Manager across the network would often take 5+ seconds to log in.
  • Portable Home Directory (PHD) syncing, VPN and firewall services never seemed to work right, possibly due to nonequivalences between “” and “server.local” in SSL and SSH. I’m not completely sure, but stuff broke in more ways than one.

Case in point: do not use bonjour-based DNS for your core network services. Use a proper DNS server from the start. DNS is a cornerstone dependency of all the other services provided by your Leopard server, so any performance issues you introduce at this level will carry through to your entire infrastructure.


Five Major Apple Design Irritants


My software development firm–OpenRain in Arizona–spends buckets of money on your products. Stuff works pretty well in general, but you really need to address these issues. Really.

  1. PowerBook, MacBook and MacBook Pro power supply cables invariably rip. Not only that, but it’s always at the same freaking places. The MackBook/Pro power supplies are better than the PowerBook ones, but still don’t last more than a couple years of real-world use. The issue is at the endpoints of the laptop end of the cable that get bent constantly from travel and being wrapped sharply when the electric outlet is on the wrong side of the laptop. I really love the small and agile design, but the cables need to last at least 4 years without tearing.
  2. Laptops still run hot. Phoenix summer get hotter than 110 degrees Fahrenheit, and I have gotten physically burned by the MacBook Pros when wearing shorts. Product such as the iLap are amusing, but should not be necessary. Getting physically hurt by a computer is a problem.
  3. Keyboard are not ergonomic. The latest iteration of post-modern laptop-style bluetooth keyboards are great to look at, but absolutely horrid on the wrists. No one at the office really likes them in practice, and we’ve had to revert to the Microsoft Natural series of keyboards when have been around f-o-r-e-v-a-r but Apple hasn’t responded to. I’m 100% confident you could build a swanky, highly usable bluetooth keyboard that puts the Naturals to shame.
  4. iPhone copy/paste support. It’ll be an awesome design accomplishment when we no longer need this, but you haven’t gotten there yet, sorry, and everyone else agrees. Add copy/paste support (if only in key areas) to iPhone.
  5. iPhone needs to support dvorak. Yeah yeah…. I know I’m in the minority on this and am sneaking it in, but I spend a lot of money with you guys, and having to use QWERTY just for the iPhone is driving me insane. Add the freaking layout please.




Debugging JavaScript With Safari

I usually use FireBug and other FireFox-based tools for troubleshooting JavaScript issues, but never found a solid way to approach it in Safari, my primary browser. It turns out that the nightly builds of WebKit (Safari’s core) also come with a great utility called, which allows you to attach to a running WebKit process and get funky with a JavaScript console.

w00t l00ps! drosera.png


Mac Users: Buy This Now


The latest MacHeist bundle: $50 for 12 apps, the most notable being Pixelmator, CSSEdit and Snapz Pro X. I picked up the 3-pack bundle for $100 and a total of 36 license key. 4 days left. w00ties!


Writing Good Error Messages

I received this little note from my Mac today.


This made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside despite the interruption of my work because it satisfies my general criteria for displaying error messages to users.

  1. A graphical severity indicator is given so I know whether or not to care.
  2. It provides a succinct, human-readable desciption of the issue. (No “ERROR CODE: 23DD8” crap which is meaningless to the user.)
  3. An immediate, resolvable course of action is given to the user. Providing this makes the user feel empowered and accomplished for acting. Neglecting this makes the user concerned and irritated.
  4. A description of future symptoms is given for when/if the user does not take the suggested course of action. This gives the user reason to do what you’re asking.
  5. It shut up about the issue when I clicked OK and let the failure happen like it told me it would. When I noticed my mouse wasn’t responding I immediately remembered why.

The dialog is in stark contrast to this nifty gem constantly pooping out of my Solaris kernel..08-21-07_1354.jpg

“Pin widgit 27 is EAPD capable.”

WTF??? What the heck is a “pin widgit” and why do I care if it’s “EAPD capable”? Is this even a bad thing? Do I need to do something here? What happens if I ignore this, which I most definitely will since I have clue what it’s talking about? Why does it tell me this every time I start the machine?

Criteria failure on all counts. Bad computer!


Xserve w/Leopard Server (Mac OS X 10.5), First Impressions

picture-4.pngWe just picked up a refurbished 2.66GHz quad-core Xeon from Apple, which we’ll be using for internal infrastructure. (We’re in the process of migrating from a mix of Solaris and Linux). After about 8 hours of learning the ins and outs of Leopard Server over the weekend, we had the box running Open Directory (Kerberos and OpenLDAP), DNS, AFP, SMB, FTP, domain account and machine management, mobile home directories, MySQL, Software Update, Xgrid controller, Wikis, Blogs, iCal and VPN services, all tightly integrated with single sign-on (via Kerberos) into a sexy 1U package.

  • Xserve (refurbished discount, direct from Apple): ~$3K
  • 3 x 750GB Disks (Newegg): ~$450
  • 2 x Apple Drive Module (direct from Apple): ~$380
  • 2 x 2GB FB-DIMM RAM (Crucial): ~$300
  • Infrastructural sanity: priceless. (…or ~$4.5K after tax and random small stuff)

That’s some serious value considering how much of a PITA setting all this up can be in Linux (or whatever) without vendor support, and far cheaper than paying a Systems Administrator in the long run. The Server Admin and Workgroup Manager tools are pretty freakin’ usable, too, relative to the internal complexity of the system. I’m a happy camper for now… let’s see if it lasts.

computer personal

Switching To Dvorak

After years of deliberation, I’m finally taking this Thanksgiving break to switch to the Dvorak keyboard layout. It’s been frustrating, yes, but I believe my wrists will be much better off with the change. Within a couple hours of switching I’m probably crawling at ~15 words per minute, which is faster than I expected. Stuff that still throws me off due to being permanently etched in muscle memory..

  • My name.
  • `cd` and my custom `ls` aliases.
  • OpenRain.
  • . (period)
  • Common commands such as cut/copy/paste, closing and opening files etc.
  • The letter ‘o’ for some reason.

Ohh, and I switched my command and caps lock keys too, so my brain is a tad bit overloaded at the moment 🙂