Thursday, October 16, 2008

Health Insurance for Self-Employed

I noticed this post on the GWB main feed regarding one person's complaints with health insurance in Arizona. I'm facing similar issues and I'm going to name the culprits.
For several years (2000-2007) I was co-owner of a small, regional consulting firm which at our peak had 10 full-time and 1 part-time employees on the payroll. We peaked out paying over 10K per month for health through Anthem BCBS in NH for a PPO plan and dental through Northeast Delta Dental, also in NH. A family health plan cost around $850/month for each employee. I used to call that the "hidden" extra employee - that's how much it cost in benefits annually. Over the last few years we operated, that cost rose to over $1000/month. Towards the end before we dissolved the company I was paying $1300/month from my own pocket for our family plan. This was a "middle of the road" plan - not the best and not the worst.
When the company was rolled into a larger software company we all went on Anthem BCBS/CA and began paying the employee-portion which was just under $500/month. I stuck it out the year that I said I would and when I left this summer the cost of COBRA for health, dental, and the VSP vision plan was up to $1700/month. That's just over 20K for a family plan insurance per year.
Figuring that it must be really high in California, I went shopping for health insurance in NH and for a comparable health plan (health only) it was nearly the same as the full package. For the time being, I'm just paying the COBRA and hating it.
In addition to the doubling of costs is the reduction in benefits. We can't go to any type of doctor visit or treatment where it's "just covered" - the billing costs are always high and we end up paying the difference out of pocket. Thank God we're all in good health with no issues - I can see a family going bankrupt if something bad happens.

Expanding SQL Server 2005 to support MOSS 2007

After setting up my Dell PowerEdge 2900 with Windows Server 2008 x64 and Hyper-V, I began the steps of creating virtual environments for things I work on. I already had a virtual SQL Server 2005 which was underutilized - 768 MB allocated RAM and one processor for my various development projects.
I wanted to set up Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) as a "mostly" single server install with the exception that I wanted to use the existing SQL Server 2005 installation instead of the embedded SQL Express Edition. To prepare for this, I added a second named instance to the SQL machine so that all MOSS traffic would be isolated and separately configurable.
The steps I took were to use Hyper-V manager to add a second processor and bump the allocated RAM up to 1 GB. After rebooting the VM, I went into Add/Remove Programs, selected the existing "Microsoft SQL Server 2005" entry and clicked "Change". On the "Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Maintenance" dialog, click the blue hyperlink above the list box for "To install a new component, click here". Browse for the install media and work your way through to the SQL database engine and choose it to add another one. Give this one a name (e.g. SQLMOSS) and continue through. When finished, be sure to use the Surface Area Configuration Tool to enable remote TCP/IP connections.
In my case, I decided to partition out the virtual as follows:
  • 1/2 the memory (512 MB) maximum allocated to the SQLMOSS instance
  • 1/2 of remainder (256 MB) for the development/play default instance
  • other 1/2 of remainder left for the OS (Windows 2003 R2)

Here's a screen-shot of task manager running inside the Hyper-V remote console window:

Note that this was taken after configuration but before installing MOSS 2007.
The beauty of this virtualized approach is that I can add (or remove) processors and RAM depending on usage patterns and bottlenecks.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Quick 'n Dirty way to move Subversion to another machine

If you have an existing Subversion tree on disk somewhere and you wish to move it to another machine, here's a quick 'n dirty way to do it. I'm pretty sure I read this before somewhere but couldn't find it however I decided to try it anyway. Basically, you install the same version of Subversion onto the new server, create an identically named repository ("svnadmin create foo" - assuming "foo" is the name of the new repo), replace the contents of the "foo" directory from the original machine and voila.
Of course, this is no doubt unsupported - the proper way to move a repository to another location is documented here.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Dell PowerEdge Upgrade To Windows Server 2008

I learned a few things the hard way and thought I'd pass them along in case it helps someone else. I bought a PowerEdge 2900 last winter planning on consolidating my five machines onto a single virtualized server. The PE 2900 has a pair of quad Xeons, supports up to 48 GB of RAM and 10 SCSI/SATA drives. Plenty of room for growth to support Windows Server 2008 and Hyper-V.
Doing my homework, I downloaded and burned the System Management Tools v. 5.5.0, A00 (5.4+ needed for Windows Server 2008 support) to have ready. I also upgraded my firmware to 2.4.3, rebooted, enabled Virtualization Technology in the BIOS and rebooted again.
I first tried running the upgrade from within Windows Server 2003 R2 SP1 x64 but kept finding that it was disabled. Since the PE was just a host for virtuals, I decided to try the System Build and Update Utility approach. Note that using this tool will reformat the boot partition and prepare it for the new OS. After choosing Windows Server 2008 Standard x64, SBUU prepared the installation and rebooted.
At this point you have to provide your own Windows installation DVD so I popped in my MAPS (Microsoft Action Pack Subscription) disc and good ol' Dell told me it wasn't valid. I didn't save the link but I found one post in the Dell support forums stating that their utility wouldn't recognize non-Retail discs. I "confirmed" this by trying an MSDN version that I downloaded with the same result. It would've been helpful if Dell splashed this information all over the utility and documentation so customers would know! I then downloaded a trial edition ISO, burned it and tried it!
Hope this helps!!