Thursday, April 19, 2012

Venturing into Cloud Development

Over the past few months I've taken up development on Amazon's Web Services (AWS) platform.  Looking at the integration of development and IT operations in devops my foray has started with the AWS Cloudformation service which allows the programmatic creation of other web services such as computing (EC2) and storage (S3).  I like the ability to upload a JSON template, specify some parameters, and soon have a brand new system up and running.  What's more, using Canonical's cloud-init scripts I'm able to use the Cloudformation template as a base to further service configuration with Puppet.

Puppet is a configuration management tool that provides the ability to define the packages, users, and services (among other things) that a particular server should be running.  It allows me to get away from manually setting up a server each time it comes online.  Instead I simply have the Cloudformation template download my puppet modules from GitHub and apply them using the cloud-init script.

My plan for this infrastructure is the ability to quickly and easily create an environment for Java development.  While there are currently other services that provide similar environments, rolling my own on AWS has given me an opportunity to customize it to my liking and learn to use some of these new tools.  This means that I can install the latest development tools such as Gitolite for private Git repositories, Eclipse Orion for online code editing, Gradle for builds, Sonar for testing, Jenkins for continuous integration, and Artifactory to store the completed products.

Check out some of the resources that enable my setup on my GitHub page:

Friday, April 13, 2012

Spring Break, Part 2 (Ticks and Taiwanese Motels)

Waking up in Taroko Gorge Wednesday morning was a treat as we exited our cabin and saw the verdant sides of the gorge surrounding us. After breakfast we set off for a variety of small hikes in the gorge. After a variety of hikes through the beautiful scenery we went back to Hualien for lunch.

It was then that I noticed a tick embedded in my leg. We tried several ways that Erin and I had thought were right (burnt out match and hot metal on the tick) and visited a pharmacy for their recommendation (some cream that I was instructed to leave on for 24 hours). After driving up the beautiful North-East Coast of Taiwan we finally got to our motel on the outskirts of Taipei which had an Internet connection.  It was only then when we were corrected of our misconception as the widely-held advice was to gently remove the tick with tweezers; the one thing we thought you absolutely shouldn't do!

Internet: +1, Old Wives' Tales: 0, Taiwan Pharmacies: 0.

Before I go on, I feel I should explain taiwanese motels. With big families and limited space, homes can often be very crowded; sometimes containing three or even four generations of a family. Recognizing that this makes privacy for couples difficult, taiwanese motels provide private, secluded, romantic rooms with hourly rates.  Understanding this, we were intrigued by a colleague's recommendation for a motel on the outskirts of Taipei and reserved three nights at their nightly rate.

The first thing we notice on arrival is that there is no lobby. Instead there's a drive-up booth and a gate. After finding our reservation and getting payment, they waved us through to our garage.  The only way to access the room is through the one-car garage (which also happens to have a small vending machine filled with things you would find in a sex shop). Going through the door in the back of the garage to our room and putting in the key card activated the soft, multicolored lights and smooth music.  Playing with one of the three remote controllers that controlled everything we were able to get regular lighting and change the music. Most of the room seemed relatively clean and after we got over the overt sexual tones (e.g. complimentary condom by the bed) we were able to settle in.

The next day it was raining in Taipei and we were a little tired from all of the travel, so we decided to head into the city.  We had lunch at a wonderful sushi place called Sumi Sushi then we found a Starbucks to have a drink and relax at. As the afternoon wore on we made our way to the Museum of Contemporary Art which had some very innovative and interesting pieces. We finished the night with dinner at The Mayan: the best Mexican Restaurant we've been to in Taiwan.

Friday was our last day in Taipei, and even though it was still a bit wet out we decided to got to Pingxi for the day.  Driving from the Taipei Zoo on route 106 for about 45 minutes took us to Jingtong station. The last station on an old coal-mining railroad that has been renovated for tourism. We grabbed some prime seats at the front of the train giving us a wonderful view as we rode out to Sandiaoling.  Following the directions of our Lonely Planet guidebook we got off for a hike up to some beautiful waterfalls.

Seeing how beautiful the falls were and having the afternoon free we decided to take the authors advice and continue on the trail walking back to the previous train station.Though there were some warnings in the book we were not fully prepared for how harrowing the hike became. There were many times when local dogs were barking and snarling at us. We climbed down old trails with trees covering the way and slick wet stones.  There was even a long tunnel we had to pass through without a flashlight.  Even so, it turned out to be an exciting adventure.  We finished the day at Pingxi where we got more paper lanterns that our families had enjoyed so much over Christmas.

Saturday was the last day of our trip so we spent most of it driving back down to Kaohsiung.  On our way we stopped at a nice ceramics museum and a temple with an outdoor market nearby.  By the time we got back to Kaohsiung we were pretty tired though.  It had been a great trip and we were glad we went. It was very nice to see a little more of Taiwan before we leave this summer.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Spring Break, Part 1

Last Saturday morning was the start of Spring Break for Erin and me. We had decided to rent a car and drive around Taiwan. Having gone out to see "Hunger Games" in the theater the night before and trying to decide what to do with newly found mold on our stuff we had a late start.  But then, after picking up the car and making a stop at Costco for supplies we were on our way.

First stop was the Taitung Sea Art Hostel near Dulan. The couple there has created a beautiful home in the woods. While somewhat difficult to find it turned out to be a very peaceful stay. They had recommended a good Vietnamese place nearby for dinner. Before heading back to bed we stopped by the Dulan Sugar Factory which has been transformed into an artistic community.

The next day we started at a local attraction where the water appeared to be flowing upward. We then found a trail that the hostel owners had recommended. It was a very technical trail with many slippery rocks and need for ropes, but the views were beautiful. We then drove to our next stop, The Wisdom Garden Guest House at Yuli. The owners were very nice and offered to take us and several of the other guests out to dinner. We were very fortunate to taste the local food with the host and guests from Germany, France, and New Zealand.

The next day we left out early with one of the other guests to hike the nearby Walami trail. Part of a Japanese-era cross-island trail it featured several suspension bridges and beautiful views. Our new friend helped push us a bit further than we would have normally gone so after the 10 mile hike we were exhausted. It ended up being an early night back at the guest house.

On Tuesday we drove up the Eastern Rift Valley of Taiwan. It is very pretty countryside. We stopped at the Hualien Sugar Factory for some ice cream and then at Liyu Lake for a bike ride. In Hualien we found a nice brunch place serving Western food for lunch. We then made our way to Taroko Gorge. After battling the traffic on the narrow winding roads we stopped for a short hike. Finally we made our way to the Leader Village where we had a cabin room for the night. After a delicious dinner of grilled meats and vegetables we were ready for bed, looking forward to the hikes we would do the next day.