I made cheese!

I made cheese!
2013-04-27 13.04.46

Farmhouse cheddar curds

Awhile back my wife and I saw a TV show that featured a lady that waxed cheese for long-term storage. Seeing as we love cheese, food storage, and DIY projects, we decided we also wanted to wax our own cheese. So I put some cheese stuff on my wishlist and my parents ended up getting it for me. Unfortunately, I discovered that you can’t really wax a block of cheap cheddar bought at Target. So I said fine, I’ll make my own dang cheese and wax it. I then realized I didn’t know how to make cheese, so I decided to take an all-day cheesemaking workshop offered by the self-proclaimed cheese queen, Ricki Carroll. It was a lot of fun!

The photo on the right is of me straining some curds for a farmhouse cheddar we made in class. We also made mozzarella, ricotta, crème fraîche… umm… some other cheeses… I don’t remember what all we made, but it is delicious. I of course got suckered into buying even more cheese-related merchandise, although I am proud of myself for refraining from purchasing the $280 cheese press.

Crème fraîche, straight from the bucket

Crème fraîche, straight from the bucket

On my way home from the workshop I ran by the grocery and bought some light cream so I could make crème fraîche for Becca and Anna to try. I was worried it wouldn’t turn out because they only sold ultra pasteurized light cream, but it turned out delicious! We’ve been eating it almost non-stop since it was ready.

The process was incredibly simple: heat the light cream on the stove, add the culture, stir it up, and stick it in an insulated bucket (or wrap in blankets or stick in stove with the light on, or whatever else you want to do to keep the temperature up over night). Let it sit undisturbed for 12 hours.

P1010365

Draining the whey

We did this at about 9pm that night, so at about 9am the next morning I dumped the somewhat solid mass of cheese (yeah, it is technically a soured cream, but I’m going to call it a cheese anyway) into a strip of butter muslin (like cheesecloth but with a tighter weave) over a colander. I tied up the butter muslin and hung it from a hook so the whey could drip out over the next 4 hours.

I probably should’ve let it hang a little longer because it was a bit softer than I would have preferred, but I was impatient to try it out. It was great! We put it on some club crackers and munched through way more than we should have in a single sitting.

Anyways, next on the list is cheddar. We’ll have to buy or make a press in order to make a hard cheese, and it takes weeks and weeks to age before you can eat it, but I think it’ll be worth it.

Read More

Finding your friends on Google Images

Finding your friends on Google Images

IMGP2942-300x225My wife and I had some fun tonight searching for people we know on Google Images. We found an old photo of a friend commemorating their score of a 5 on the AP U.S. History exam, a funny college photo of a friend that has been in the workforce for years, a bajillion photos of a family that we know, and other random things. Oh, and lots of photos of my wife, like the one I put in this post (Becca is on the left).

Sounds dumb but is actually really fun to see what the mighty Google thinks is worthy of associating with a friend’s name, and what random crazy photos have found their way onto the internet. If you are bored, take a minute to search for some random old friends you haven’t seen in awhile and see what comes up.

Read More

Replacing MySQL with MariaDB

Replacing MySQL with MariaDB

Mariadb-seal-flat-browntext-altTurns out I’ve been living under a rock. I found out a few days ago that there are several drop-in replacements to Oracle MySQL that provide additional features and better performance. After doing some research, I chose to try out MariaDB.

Although MariaDB is a drop-in replacement for MySQL, they don’t really go out of their way to make it easy to switch. It took a fair amount of searching and some trial and error, but eventually I figured it out. Here is what I did for CentOS 5 and CentOS 6:

  1. Backup all databases. I didn’t need to use my backups, but it’d be foolish to attempt something as drastic as switching out your database software without having a fresh backup.
  2. Add the MariaDB repository to yum. Instructions for this part can be found on MariaDB’s website.
  3. Remove MySQL, and install MariaDB at the same time. I accomplished this by using yum shell:
    yum shell
    remove mysql*
    install MariaDB-client.x86_64 MariaDB-common.x86_64 MariaDB-compat.x86_64 MariaDB-devel.x86_64 MariaDB-server.x86_64 MariaDB-shared.x86_64
    run
    exit
  4. Unfortunately, this didn’t quite remove everything so I had to find any MySQL packages that didn’t get removed by running rpm -qa | grep -i ‘^mysql-‘ and then rpm –nodeps -ev <package-name> for any packages that were returned by the rpm command.
  5. Next, I started up MariaDB: /etc/init.d/mysql start
  6. Last, I ran mysql_upgrade to fix any version compatibility issues.

All said and done the entire process took less than 5 minutes and resulted in downtime of about 1 minute.

I’ve read that MariaDB takes more memory than MySQL, but my experience has been the opposite. I have drastically more free memory than before the switch (we’re talking gigabytes of extra free RAM). No idea what was going on with MySQL that it was eating all this RAM that MariaDB doesn’t seem to need. I ran a few informal benchmarks and things seem to be slightly faster. Not enough by itself to justify the effort of switching, but a nice perk.

Read More

AWS Summit 2013

AWS Summit 2013

summitI had the privilege of going to AWS Summit 2013 in New York today. It was a blast! There was quite a variety of people in attendance, including a man that was literally wearing a tinfoil hat, a Hasidic Jew wearing Crocs, and a man whose first name was K (just the letter). In addition to the great breakout sessions, I snagged 6 (!) t-shirts and a sumo wrestler stress toy. Yay for free stuff!

I’m frequently tempted to move my stuff to AWS, but always run into the issue of cost. It would cost me a fortune to get the power of my dedicated server using AWS services. What the summit helped me see is that, unless I’m actually using all that power, it doesn’t really matter. I could potentially get enough computing power for my actual needs while decoupling some of my services and adding some redundancy, all for about the same amount of money. I’m excited to give it a try by migrating some of my lesser projects over for a trial run.

On the other hand, one of the speakers said that for applications with consistent traffic, it is often less expensive to start with a micro AWS instance, scale it up until usage levels out, and then migrate to a traditional environment for the cost savings. In other words, AWS isn’t a magic cure all option. As this article outlines, it is a great fit for some use cases, just a so-so fit for others, and comes with its own set of problems. You need to evaluate what your usage patterns are and what you are trying to accomplish before picking a solution.

I’m also really excited about Redshift. It is billed as a data warehousing service, but I caught the tail end of a breakout session that talked about using it to analyze large datasets, like census data, to compile statistics and build reports. This triggered half a dozen ideas for new sites I could make with minimal upfront costs. The great thing about Redshift is that the bulk of the associated costs are only incurred when you are actively running it. You can cheaply store all your data indefinitely, then fire up Redshift to do some processing, pay the bill, and shut everything back down until you need it again. Neat!

Anyways, my only real complaint about the event is that they gave everyone free alcohol at the end but refused to give me a soda (apparently they were only for mixing with alcohol) and they didn’t have any bottled water available. Seems sort of dumb that they’d be happy to give away expensive drinks but not a $1 bottle of soda.

Read More

Fake Music Generator

Fake Music Generator

Fake-Music-GeneratorI had an awesome idea the other day: create my own computer generated music by using Markov chains and MIDI files. “I’m a genius! Nobody has ever thought of this before,” I said to myself. I registered FakeMusicGenerator.com and planned on looking into it later. Well turns out everybody has thought of this before. Oh well. I already had the domain so I went for it.

I ended up taking the lazy route and used some existing free code I found to generate music. I then converted to MP3 using a fancy SoundFont (I never knew that sounds had fonts but I guess it makes sense) so they would sound better than a MIDI.

I took it a step further and added fake track names, album titles, and artist names. I even added computer generated art for the album cover. I think it is shaping up pretty well.

Anyways, if you are bored and need some free instrumental music (maybe for a YouTube video or something), then feel free to check out the Fake Music Generator.

Read More