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Dear Santa, I want an Amazon Kindle and an iPod Touch

With today’s introduction of Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader, I’ve decided that there are two products that would cover all my personal entertainment needs this year. The new Amazon Kindle is simply amazing, and would be the single-most reason I could get back into reading books other than technical manuals. The iPod Touch would provide all my video, podcasting and music needs, all in one small package. So, if anyone is feeling generous this year, I’m also providing a couple handy links where you can purchase these items for someone you love.

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More ‘tops’ to Keep you on Top

Yesterday, I posted about how htop was my new replacement for top on all Linux systems I manage. Tonight, while looking through the Google search words that lead people to my site, I found a Google result page which contained a 'hit' that immediately caught my eye. Mike Malone, of the I'm Mike blog had an entry titled 'Top 5 tops: keep tabs on your system'. In it, he describes not only the htop utility I came across earlier, but 4 additional tops to make any Linux administrator smile.

  1. mtop (MySQL top) monitors a MySQL server showing the queries which are taking the most amount of time to complete. Features include 'zooming' in on a process to show the complete query, 'explaining' the query optimizer information for a query and 'killing' queries. In addition, server performance statistics, configuration information, and tuning tips are provided.
  2. Apachetop is a curses-based top-like display for Apache information, including requests per second, bytes per second, most popular URLs, etc.
  3. iftop does for network usage what top does for CPU usage. It listens to network traffic on a named interface and displays a table of current bandwidth usage by pairs of hosts. Handy for answering the question "why is our ADSL link so slow?".
  4. htop, an interactive process viewer for Linux
  5. atop is a performance monitor that can display:
    • Resource consumption by all processes
    • Utilization of all relevant resources
    • Permanent logging of resource utilization
    • Highlight critical resources
    • Watch activity only
    • Watch deviations only
    • Accumulated process activity per user
    • Accumulated process activity per program
    • Disk and network activity per process

While I use mtop on a regular basis, and have now started using htop, the other 3 monitors definitely look like they're going to be part of my 'tools' for the various servers I manage. iftop and apachetop seem especially interesting to me, given their more specialized monitoring target.

I'm Mike | Top 5 tops: keep tabs on your system –

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RSSOwl – Platform Independent Standalone RSS Reader

My RSS reader of choice is currently Bloglines; it meets all my needs, is always accessible from any computer/browser I’m using at any point in time, and all the RSS data and fetching processes is conducted by the Bloglines servers. Whenever I can avoid installing another client on any of my computers is a blessing.
Now, if I needed to install an RSS reader, RSSOwl ( is definitely the client I would use. First off, it’s Open Source and as such is freely available. It’s available for many system architectures I use, such as Linux, Mac OSX, Windows and Solaris, with an emphasis to keep the same look and feel across all of these. The one negative point I have is that being a Java application, it depends on having a properly installed working copy of the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) on the computer you intend to install it on.
RSSOwl has a long list of features:

  • Import your favorite newsfeeds using the OPML format.
  • Bookmark your favorite newsfeeds in nested categories.
  • Import Blogrolls into RSSOwl.
  • Built-in internal browser to read news that contain HTML.
  • Export the content into one of the formats PDF, RTF or HTML.
  • Choose between a 2-column and a 3-column layout.
  • A lot of search-options make RSSOwl a powerful application to search inside a newsfeed or an entire category.
  • The integrated newsfeed-search engine allows to search for newsfeeds by keyword.
  • Simply enter the website containing links to newsfeeds into the feed-discovery and RSSOwl will show all the newsfeeds it has found.
  • Place RSSOwl into the system tray on minimization.
  • RSSOwl is highly customizable. “Preferences” allow to change fonts, languages, colors, hotkeys and a lot more.

All in all, RSSOwl is the feature-rich reader that will definitely become my stand-alone reader of choice, when the need/time for such a thing comes around in my case. Until then, I remain faithful to Bloglines.

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Using GMail to backup files

By now, most of us have a Gmail account. Heck, I can’t even give invitations away anymore. So, what can you do with an extra account? Why, use it as a 1Gb online backup repository!

While surfing around, I came across an ingenious PHP script which does just that. Ilia Alshanetsky, the creator of the script, put it in these words:

“a quick utility to make use of at least a small portion of the available space for backup purposes. To accomplish this task I wrote a small PHP script that can be used to backup files to Gmail and then quickly retrieve them back if and when you need them. I trust that Gmail servers are fairly reliable, and this offers an excellent offsite backup that is extremely fast (I can max out my connection on download 300k/sec) and accessible from anywhere internet is available. Given that you do have 1gig of space quite a few things can be backed up”

Take a look at it for yourself,

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Blocking out IP’s from China

Sick and tired of getting spam and ‘open web proxy’ probes from IP’s originating from China? Do you do absolutely no business with anyone in China? Want to block all IP’s orginating from China and rid yourself of this issue? Take a look at
I actually made use of their lists in order to block some large subnet blocks which were sucking about 10-15% of my total bandwidth just through their incessant probes of my network.
And before anyone starts crying about how sad it is that I’m ‘censoring’ people from China, well too bad. I can’t afford to keep paying for an internet connection that is slowly being used up by probes originating from servers which can’t keep up with security patches. Not to mention the crazy amounts of spam originating from these IPs…

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‘Listen’ to your RSS Feeds

While going through my regular series of RSS feed reading, I came across this great application. It basically lets you listen to your RSS feed articles while you work on other things. Great idea and concept. While the voices could use a little more polish, the readings are quite understandable. The application is called News Aloud, by NextUp Technologies, LLC.
More info can be found by going to

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Working from Home

Eric Bazerghi Working from HomeA couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to work from home for the day. I hadn’t worked from home in almost 6 months and it was just the perfect time to do so. Things were a little bit slow at work and everything I needed to do could be done remotely and via telephone. No meetings, no reviews, etc. And then, all hell broke loose. About 5 minutes after this picture was taken, a production server that I manage started acting up. CPU load went from a normal of 0.8 to an unheard of high of 188. That’s 235 times higher than it should be. Of course, this caused the main website to be nearly inaccessible, as well as some email services. All in all, it took me over 9 hours of straight work bringing the server back to its normal state. Oddly, I doubt I would have been able to accomplish this if I had been at work, with all the distractions, network policies and lack of reference material. Being at home on the deck, I was isolated with everything I needed to resolve any issues as they creeped up. By the time I shutdown my laptop, it was dark outside and I had a sunburn on my face and arms. It was all worth it though; it was nice to be able to take a quick break and play with my little daughter or just chat with my wife. Needless to say, if it wasn’t for my wife’s understanding that when I’m working from home, I’m REALLY working, I couldn’t have done this. You need that kind of support and understanding in order to do this.

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Washington, DC Traffic – My personal 26.2 miles of pure hell

Washington DC TrafficEveryday, I drive from my home in the suburbs of Northern Virginia to my office just inside the Beltway. How ironic that my commute is exactly 26.2 miles from my driveway to my parking spot at work; 26.2 miles being the exact distance of a ‘Marathon’. So each day, I get in my car with my cup of coffee and begin my trek with the hundreds of thousands of other commuters on the roads here in the Washington, DC area. As you can see from the first picture, I’m usually stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. I swear I get some sort of a tan from exposure to all those red brake lights in front of me. Then, I get to look at the wide-open HOV (High-Occupancy Vehicle) lane on the left side of the road. Why don’t I commute with other people you ask? Well, I have a weird schedule so some days I need to be in early, other days a little later. So, the law-abiding driver that I am, I stay out of the HOV lane. Of course, that doesn’t stop hundreds of other drivers who are alone in their car. From my informal statistics that I gather everyday while stuck in traffic, I can safely say that approximately 60% of the cars in that lane are breaking the law. I love it when politicians keep saying “HOV lanes work! Let’s add more!”. Sure, they work, if you ENFORCE them!
And when traffic starts to get better, I get to deal with the incessant construction being conducted on most roads here. As you can see in the picture on the bottom-left, Virginia DOT just loves to block half the lanes of the Beltway during rush-hour. What was so important as to block traffic during such a busy time of day? When I passed the last truck, I found a small pickup stopped in the middle of the lane. A man with a small bucket of tar was taking his time ‘sealing’ small cracks in the asphalt. They couldn’t have done this during the night? Or maybe mid-day when traffic is a little less heavy?
Every once in a while, I’ll get lucky though. Maybe all the planets get aligned and there’s a perfect wind or something, but I’ll reach a point in my commute when the road is entirely clear, as you can see in the last picture. THAT is what I want to see each morning and evening during my commute. Think there’s a lot of traffic where you live? Come to the Washington, DC area for a couple days and drive around during rush-hour. I’m sure you’ll change your mind rather quickly.

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Who thought up this product name?

Creme Filled Long John CloseupCreme Filled Long JohnI’m imagining a room filled with marketing folks. They’re all sitting around, trying to come up with a clever name for a brand new snack cake product they would like to launch. One of the ‘brainstormers’ jumps up and yells “I got it!” We’ll call this giant Twinkie-like snack cake a “Creme Filled Long John”. And the rest is history. And someone paid good money for a ridiculous product name such as this…

I found this tasty treat while buying a soda at a gas station while driving down to North Carolina.


I’m addicted to the Pepsi / iTunes Promotion

Pepsi / iTunes Promotion Winning CapIt’s getting out of hand at this point. It’s gotten to the point where I will walk into our cafeteria, open the door to the fridge full of soda and proceed to tilt individual bottles of Sierra Mist and/or Pepsi just to make sure I’ll win a free iTunes song. I’m up to 19 free songs right now. Ironically, I don’t usually drink this much soda at work, but I just can’t stop myself. It’s like the caps keep calling out my name…

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Mr. Bazerghi goes to Morton’s

Morton's Double-Cut Filet - AfterMorton's Double-Cut Filet - BeforeHere’s a BEFORE and AFTER view of my delicious Double Cut filet mignon I consumed for lunch today at Morton’s. Since the whole project team at work was able to make it to 7 consecutive staff meetings without being late (a GREAT feat for us, believe me), our client treated us to lunch at Morton’s Steakhouse.

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Unreal Tournament 2004 – Productivity’s Worst Enemy

Unreal Tournament 2004 BoxI recently got my hands on the Limited Edition “Unreal Tournament 2004 DVD Special Edition” at Best Buy for only $29.99. It’s a box full of goodness! The multiplayer game is insane! I’ve been playing a few minutes here and there 😉 and all I can say is *WOW*. I’m slowly getting better, but my coworkers still have fun yelling at me when I’m driving a tank in the wrong direction…

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