President Obama wins the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize

I’m writing this as most of America still sleeps, and the announcement by the Nobel committee is still fresh. The committee announced its decision was due to "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples." Anyone who has been paying attention to international media even since before the President was elected can see how strong of an effect he’s had on US foreign relations.  From attempting to heal US relations with the Islamic world to Russia and the missile defense shield to Iraq to Afghanistan to the United Nations to China to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, President Obama has arguably made more strides to improving America’s image and working towards sustainable peace than any President in years.

But that’s not why I’m writing about this. I’m writing because I get that feeling that even now keyboards are clacking away as the hate machine rolls into full gear. I can almost see the headlines: "OBAMA SHOCKER – WHAT HAS HE DONE TO DESERVE THIS?" "OBAMA, AL GORE, JIMMY CARTER – IS THE PEACE PRIZE AN AWARD FOR FAILURE?" I say this because we’re living in a time where anything, absolutely anything the President does is spun by the cable news networks as an awful, controversial thing. The very things that the President has done to even make the list of nominees for this award are the things for which he is castigated by the citizens of this country.  "Why is he spending so much time in Europe?" "How dare he reach out to the Muslim community!" The rabid jingoistic element in the country will froth at the mouth, saying that this international recognition means nothing. This element longs for the days of "You’re either with us or against us!" that is exactly what led to America’s image going from "shining city on the hill" to "schoolyard bully."

As the rest of the world lauds our President in recognition of his effect on the rest of the world, it would be wonderful if we as Americans could do the same. I doubt sincerely that we will.

Update: Yeah, pretty much.

Update #2: The good people over at Jack & Jill Politics reinforced my point much more eloquently.

Workstation Imaging: Transitioning from Symantec Ghost to PING

Recently I faced the challenge of imaging a series of workstations using Symantec (nee Norton) Ghost 8.0.  Traditionally these workstations had been imaged by physically attaching an internal hard drive containing the Ghost image files to the workstation to be imaged.  The workstation was then booted with the Ghost boot disks, and the workstation primary drive was imaged from the attached secondary drive.  This process was time consuming and labor intensive, requiring physically opening each individual chassis and connecting and reconnecting the drive containing the Ghost images.  It also put the hard drive containing the images at risk of damage while being handled.  I began working on a method that was more efficient that didn’t increase cost nor require major retraining.

I started with GhostCast, the bundled tool that allows for images to be deployed via the network.  This allowed me to build a centralized server that would host all workstation images.  I would then be able to boot the workstations via the Ghost boot disks, attach to the network, and image at will.  Everything went according to plan until I tried to create the Ghost boot disks.  The machines I was tasked with, HP/Compaq DC7900, required an ethernet driver that was newer than what had been included with the (admittedly ancient) Ghost 8.0 software.  I suppose I could have manually bundled the driver, but overall frustration with the product led me to seek elsewhere.

Which is what brought me to PING.  PING [PING Is Not Ghost] is a hybrid product consisting of a Linux LiveCD that can either be burned and used directly (similar to the Ghost boot disk + directly attached hard drive scenario above) or integrated into a LAN and used via Preboot eXecution Environment [PXE] which is exactly what I needed.  I was working with a pre-existing test environment in which test hardware was at a premium.  Luckily I had a VMWare ESXi 3.5U machine from a previous project, and was able to spin up a virtual Windows 2003 Enterprise Server that would serve as my image host.  From there I took the following steps:

  • On the image host: Select a location from which to serve your images and unpack the PartImage bundle.  You’ll have a hierarchy with a base called PartImage.  Share this directory on the network (NFS and SMB both work, but I used Windows built-in CIFS sharing) and set permissions as you like.  This is the directory that will be mounted by our PXE booted workstation.
  • PXE requires TFTP as well as DHCP.  I used the excellent TFTPD32 on my image host.  TFTPD32 also provides DHCP and DNS, but my environment had an existing DHCP server so I disabled the built-in functionality.  Once TFTPD32 was set-up and configured I also needed to configure my DHCP server (Microsoft DHCP) to point to the image server for PXE booting, which I’ll cover in a later step.
  • Create the PING LiveCD boot bundle hierarchy:


  • The boot bundle files [kernel, initrd.gz, pxelinux.0] will be placed in the PXEi386templates directory.
  • Within the PXE386templatespxelinux.cfg directory, create a file named default that will serve as our PXE configuration.  It should contain the following:

DEFAULT rescue
LABEL rescue
KERNEL kernel
APPEND vga=normal devfs=nomount pxe ramdisk_size=33000 load_ramdisk=1 init=/linuxrc prompt_ramdisk=0 initrd=initrd.gz root=/dev/ram0 rw noacpi noapm pci-noacpi lba acpi=off apm=off

  • Now for DHCP: The Microsoft DHCP Server I was working with had to be configured to enable Option 066 Boot Server Host Name (set to point to our image server) and Option 067 Bootfile Name (pxelinux.0).  Once complete, our DHCP server was configured to accept PXE requests from any machine that made a DHCP request (our workstations) and point them to the image server to execute the boot bundle.

Once all these pieces were in place I was able to boot a workstation on the network via PXE, eschewing the use of boot disks.  Once the machine was booted it loaded the PING environment, from which the machine could be either imaged or restored.  Image/Restore times were a fraction of what they’d been using Ghost, and I’d added the possibility of imaging multiple machines simultaneously.  All at zero additional cost.

Thanks to the good people at for creating an excellent product, and for the documentation who’s default steps I cribbed above.


A Letter to my Unborn Son

Hello, Son:

Your grandfather died yesterday.  I’m sorry that you never got the chance to meet him; I didn’t know him all that well myself.  I’ve been thinking about you for a while now, which is actually what drove me to get back in contact with him this past holiday season.  He hadn’t been a part of my life for years, but my thinking was that one day you’d want to know where you came from, and I wanted to be able to tell the whole story.  His passing is making me think about a lot of things, so I figured I’d put virtual pen to paper and talk to you about why your Dad is such an insufferable pain in the neck.

What I want most for you is to have what I never had: a sense of community, continuity, and support.  When you’re thirty years old I want you to have a circle of close friends that you’ve known

Behold Monument, Atlanta, GA
Behold Monument, Atlanta, GA

since elementary school, since middle school, since high school, since undergrad.  I want you to be able to say you grew up in a house, on a block, in a neighborhood.  I want you to be able to tell stories about family traditions and summer vacations.  I want you to have opportunity and resource at your disposal; “can’t” will not be a part of your vocabulary.  You will have, know why you have, and never take what you have for granted.  Your grandmother and I both agree: In the past, the major failure of the working and middle class family has been to shield their children from the pain of the labor that bears the fruit that they enjoy.  You will learn the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

Speaking of your grandmother, I hope to instill a strong sense of responsibility within you the way she did for me: If you fall, it’s up to you to get up, dust yourself off, figure out why you fell, and try not to fall again.  All while refusing to blame others for making you fall in the first place.  To be honest I hated what she put me through when she was putting me through it, but today I recognize how invaluable of a gift I received.  As I’m sure I’ve forced you to read by now, it is the willingness to take responsibility for one’s actions – whether right or wrong – that separates a boy from a man.

One last point: A man needs a father to teach him how to carry the weight of this world, but he also needs a woman to show him how to appreciate the beauty of this world and all it has to offer.

More than that, he needs a mother to teach him how to love and respect women, ALL women.  I know your mother drives us both crazy, and you may have even had your heart broken by a few young ladies at your school.  That’s to be expected, especially if you’re any son of mine.  But Son, the moment you begin to let the pain that only a woman can cause make you hate, you’ve lost.  Your soul dies a little, and it isn’t an easy thing to repair.  Trust me, long before I met your mother I was at the precipice, but the way your grandmother raised me allowed me to step back.  That’s a key lesson: Don’t let anyone – no matter how stinging the lash – beat the love out of you, because the moment that happens, you’ve lost something that can’t be regained.

At the end of the day, what I want most is for you to be better than me in every way possible.  I’m sure I’ve made mistakes and I’m positive I’ll make some more, but I’ll never stop improving myself so that I can continue to improve you.  I’ll always have your back whether you want me there or not; that’s one lesson I learned from your grandfather.

Time for me to get out of here, Son.  If I’m going to be the ideal of manhood by which you gauge yourself, I’ve got a lot of work to do.  Kiss your mother for me, and if you tell her I wrote this you’ll be limping to school in the morning.

I love you,

Your Dad

P.S.:  I’d say “Stay out of my office or I’ll hurt more than your feelings,” but if you’re any son of mine you’ve already broken into the computer, found the porno, and figured out how to cover your tracks.  That’s my boy.  🙂