Grant McWilliams

Getting to France

When it came time to purchase plane tickets we went through the usual process – check every city pair we can think of between the Pacific Northwest and Europe such as Portland to London, Portland to Paris, Portland to Brussels, Seattle to London, Seattle to Paris and so on. I generally check Portland, Seattle and Vancouver BC for departing flights and London, Brussels, Amsterdam, Paris, Milan, Frankfurt, Barcelona and many others for my destination. is a godsend for this task as you can leave the destination open or even narrow it to a country and it will show you the cheapest flights. You can even have it show you the cheapest flight in a month range. What we ended up with was Vancouver BC to Paris France for $716 round trip in the middle of peak travel season. That is the second cheapest flight to Europe that I've ever purchased. The cheapest flight from Seattle was $500 more. Unfortunately the Vancouver flight was on Airtransat which we flew last year to Amsterdam and vowed to never again fly them. It seems everyone can be bought and our price was $500.

Naturally flying out of another city isn't free. We booked Amtrak Cascades train tickets from Seattle to Vancouver BC for $20 each way and we had to pay for the Vancouver Sky Train to get us to the airport so our total savings was $445 per person – still worth the trouble.


I might want to add that my mother has never flown before and I convinced her to sit in one spot at 40,000 ft for 10 hrs the first time out. She was a trooper with the flight but took a bit longer to get used to airport security and even remarking at some point that it was amazing anyone flew.


The arrival in Vancouver has gotten slower as they now de-board the train a couple of cars at a time to stand in line for immigration. The idea that there's a border between the US and Canada is insane to begin with but to take an hour to go through immigration shows how amateur we as a country is.


After getting through security we hopped the very expensive Skytrain to Granville street where we got some Indian street food. Another skytrain later and we're at the airport. My mother accidentally left her coin purse in her pocket so the TSA insisted on patting her down and questioning her. Lesson learned.


Air-transat is a budget airline that only travels to a couple of destinations in Europe. The cost savings are apparent everywhere. They like to charge you extra for everything like choosing your seat. They show up at the gate at the last moment and don't maintain a ticket booth anywhere else. The worst part is the food stinks! We decided this time around we'd bring our own food on the plane so we brought our own sandwiches, muffins and snacks on the plane. We also chose the vegetarian option for food they provide knowing that it would have less meat substitute in it. It's hare to mess up rice and vegetables. Overall our experience was probably better than last year, or has our standards lowered? The flight seemed to take forever and nobody got any sleep as Air-transat seems baffled by the idea that you'd want to be rested when you land.


We arrived at Terminal 3 in the very odd Charles de Guale airport. CDG is the only airport I've nearly missed a departing flight even though I arrived with 3 hrs to spare. Sometimes it just doesn't make sense. On attempting to de-board the plane three of our group got out and my daughter Piper and I had to wait until everyone was off. My daughter came onto the plane with a transport chair because she has a hard time walking so they only way they'd let her leave is the same way so we had to wait for the elevator truck to come get us and this took quite some time. When we finally got hooked up with the rest of our family we were told that Piper can skip the immigration line and go straight to the front but only one person can go with her – me. This doesn't solve any problems for me as I'd just have to wait on the other side of immigration while everyone else wound themselves through a 45 minute line so I proposed that I push Piper through the long line with the rest of the family. Our assistant refused. No, he had to push her and she could skip the line and I could go with. After wasting 10 minutes of our time trying to convince him it was OK, we'd go the slow way we gave up and I went with him and Piper to skip the line. On the other side we waited 40 minutes for the rest of the family to arrive. Welcome to the not so logical French culture.


Upon exiting the terminal my oldest daughter Natalya was waiting for us, but the suburban train wasn't as the drivers were on partial strike. It took an hour to secure tickets as US credit cards don't work in their ticket machines and we didn't have enough coins to pay for $50 worth of RER train tickets.. Natalya paid for the tickets with her card and off we went – to stand in line.


Paris is built in such a way that all of the metro trains aim for the center and few go around the outside connecting the suburbs together. Natalya lived in a different suburb than CDG airport was in so the easiest way to get between them was to ride the RER to a certain station and catch a bus. We found out that it's faster if you catch the right bus going in the right direction and stopping at the right stop. Still we managed. We had one night in Paris an Natalya's before catching the highs speed train to Nimes for a week followed by another 3 weeks in Paris.


Paris has 6 train stations inside the city limits. Train tickets from Gare de Lyon were about 100 Euros each way. There's a cheap TGV called the Ouigo that stops at the Disneyland Paris station outside of town and tickets to Nimes were 40 Euros. Even paying the 10 euro RER fee it was half the price so another hour on the RER to Disneyland Paris and the Ouigo. Taking the RER A to Disneyland Station (Marne La Vallee) can be interesting as it's the busiest suburban train line in the world. This means it's absolutely packed. Here's a word of advice if you're making a return TGV trip - buy your return RER ticket before you leave. The line to purchase tickets from Disneyland back to Paris was a good 2 hrs long and the ride itself is about an hour so in short standing in line to get your ticket and taking the RER takes as long as the TGV to the opposite end of the country. You've been warned.


The French do things in such a strange manner sometimes that you wonder if they're doing it on purpose of they really have no sense of efficiency. At the Disneyland Paris station we had to circumnavigate the entire station on a walkway around the inside perimeter, then we had to go up an escalator and walk the perimeter once again until we got to the ticket agent. Once through ticketing we walked halfway around the outside of the station a third time before going back down two floors to the train platform. Not sure what the purpose of all that is but it's still easier to board a train than an airplane.


One day after taking her first plane flight my mother took her first 200 mph train ride. A short three hours later we're in the very warm city of Nimes. We think to ourselves that we're staying in Provence but in reality Nimes is in Languedoc region - the language d'oc or occitan. Occitan is a romance language like Spanish or French that 1.5 million people speak. It's similar to Catalan spoken in Barcelona and is often referred to as Provencal.










Trip Planning

I've been spending virtually every summer in Europe for 11 years. When I started traveling we were four people - myself and my three young kids ages 7, 8 and 12. I've added a couple of people to my family with my significant other and her 14 year old daughter bringing us to six travelers. In the last couple of years two of my children have grown up and moved out with my oldest living in Paris full time which dropped us back to a family of four. The combination of having fewer travelers, an amazing exchange rate, and a killer deal on peak season plane tickets left us with a bit of room in our budget for someone else – my 75 year old mother.


Now I should tell you that my mother hasn't traveled much unless you call a quick drive from Washington to Illinois traveling. I suppose we shouldn't forget that one trip to Las Vegas in the early 1960's either – still no major travels. Several years ago I took her across the border to Vancouver British Columbia and she loved it. Vancouver seemed so... foreign to her. There were French speaking people, the money looked different and the metric system.


Last year we attempted to take my mother to Europe but she refused due to her age (75) and the fact that she's not as mobile as she once was. I think there were other factors too – you don't just go from wanting to travel your whole life to getting on an airplane for 10 hrs specially when you'd never flown before. That's right – NEVER. However, I bought her a non-refundable ticket this year and paid to get her passport application turned in. Once that was done I continued to update her on my progress in planning the trip and things started getting real.


Plane tickets out of Seattle to anywhere in Europe were $1300 but we could leave Vancouver BC for $716. Multiply that by 5 and you have a month's rent in Paris paid for just by flying out of a different airport. This meant we'd have to take the Amtrak Cascades train to Canada and possibly stay the night on our return trip. It also meant we were leaving on June 23rd and not returning until August 28th – a 10 week adventure. This doesn't bother me much as I've only had one trip in which I wanted to come home. That trip ended with 4 cases of Montezuma's Revenge, a heart attack, three ambulances, one cardiologist, a hotel doctor, on case of fainting at the airport curb, two days holed up in a hotel trying to hold toast down, three blocked bank cards and an airline that told us to get a new passport at the embassy before they could allow us on the plane. THAT trip I wanted to come home from and in fact, we came home early which is the only time I've ever done that. My perfect trip is a one-way ticket so I was more than willing to book a 10 week vacation.


My original master plan was to spend one month in Paris and a second month in Croatia with a few days in between to travel to where my mother's side of the family came from – Thornbury England. Whenever you travel you can save money by staying in one spot for a longer period of time. Usually you can get weekly or monthly rates on apartments that save a ton of money. However, due to the late acquisition of funding for the trip the apartment pickings were slim and the Paris apartment we wanted was only available for 3 weeks which meant we'd fly into Paris and have a week to blow before getting into our apartment. Our options were to rent another apartment for a week in Paris... or go somewhere else. One week rentals in Paris are more expensive then renting for a month so I had to budget $125 per day for accommodations for that week. For contrast we were paying about $85 per day for the other 3 weeks. As we dug through the remaining apartments in Paris that we could fit into our budget we came to the realization that we didn't like any of them so we considered our options. The previous year we stayed in Provence for a week and toured Avignon, Arles, Nimes and Orange. Out of those four cities Nimes was by far our favorite. A quick search for apartments there yielded a whole house for $68/night not far from the historic center! One week's rent in Nimes plus five return tickets on France's high speed train brought our daily cost to $120 which fit into our budget. Nimes is a town of about 150,000 people so it would be a more gentle introduction to Europe for my mother as well. Paris can be a bit overwhelming at times.


With France portion of the trip planned and booked I turned my attention to Croatia. Plane tickets from Paris to Croatia were $150 each but out of London they were $40 each. London is a very expensive city but flying out of London would save us $600 in plane fare which we could put toward accommodations, transportation and food. Audrey Hepburn in the movie Sabrina said “Paris is always a good idea”. She did NOT say London was always a good idea which we were to find out later. Once plane tickets were purchased we bought advance tickets to the Stansted Express train from central London to Stansted airport for cheap. Normally these tickets are 19 pounds each. That sounds a bit high until you do the math to calculate the exchange rate and realize that's nearly $30! The 30 minute train to the airport costs as much as the flight halfway across Europe! At that point you realize that London is rarely a good idea. However, since we were purchasing tickets in advance we only had to give up one kidney, a firstborn and some gold cuff links.


With high speed rail tickets to London, flight to Trieste Italy and Stansted express tickets purchased we went about finding accommodations in London. Keep in mind that we are paying $85/night for a 100 square meter, 2 bedroom apartment in Paris. I sent reservation requests to six different apartment owners without success. One man had a 120 pound cleaning fee or about $200 US dollars. Let's think about that for a moment, the cleaning fee adds up to about $66 per day. The apartment itself was $150 US dollars per day. I complained and he told me he'd drop the cleaning fee a bit but out of principle I can't just stand there and let someone rip me off. You see – cleaning fees aren't added into the airbnb price until you view the property so this apartment look like a reasonable deal and then wham! The price goes up 50% due to the hidden cleaning fee. He justified the cleaning fee by blaming the government (congestion tax) and how many people he had to pay to clean the one room studio apartment and how long they had to drive to get there etc.. Still I got a bad feeling from it so we continued looking. After the sixth turn-down I started worrying a bit – I can't be on the street with my daughter who was in a wheel chair and my 75 year old mother so I booked a place using airbnb's instant book. You usually pay a bit more but there's no waiting 24 hrs to get refused by a host that doesn't bother updating the availability calendar. For a paltry $225 USD we rented a room in someone else's apartment, while they lived there. For only 3 times the price of our big, beautiful Parisian apartment we get a bed in a room, an air mattress and a pull out couch in someone's house while they're living there. London is rarely a good idea but at this point we were committed so I booked it.


The cheapest way to get to Croatia was by flying into Trieste Italy on the border with Slovenia, taking a Slovenian taxi to Ljubljana, then a train to Zagreb the capitol of Croatia and a bus from there to our destination. Sort of the long way around but I wanted my mother to see Slovenia as it's an amazingly beautiful country full of wonderful people. In Ljubljana we get a two story 4 bedroom apartment that I would move into RIGHT NOW if I could. The apartment is on the top floor of a building housing a classy hotel and included a wall of books and a ladder to reach them, a hammock three large bedrooms and one small one, an outdoor balcony and two large bathrooms for half the price of our one room in London. I don't mean to beat a dead horse but just want to stress the value of some places over others.


Our simple one month in Croatia started to get a bit more complex as I attempted to book apartments. My intentions on spending a month in Croatia is for residence practice – I'd like to live there. I figured if we stayed for a month we would go to the market and buy produce, cheese, bread etc. and cook at home to see what the limitations were. The area I'm most interested in is Dalmatia – specifically the city of Split. I've stayed in Split several times before and I'm not that interested in Split proper but the area makes sense . It's a city of almost 200,000 people, has an airport close, it's on the water, has 1700 year old ruins etc.. However, the city itself is a bit industrial with many communist era buildings messing up the view. Near Split is an old Greek then Roman city built on an island named Trogir. Last year we spent a day there and liked it but the idea of staying inside the walls of a medieval city for a month wasn't that appealing. Some people like to live in cramped quarters but I prefer to visit. Trogir is connected to the mainland by way of a bridge. On the seaside of Trogir there's yet another much larger island that's connected to Trogir via drawbridge. Yes, an island is connected to another island which is then connected to the mainland. I remember gazing out to the mysterious larger island and thinking that it would be just about perfect to be out there and walk to Trogir for the green market so that's what I planned on doing.


That second island is called Ciovo and I set out to find an apartment for a month on Ciovo – and failed. Having not set foot on Ciovo and Google's street view only showing one street it was a bit difficult to find an apartment or even to figure out where we wanted to be. Ciovo has a mountainous spine running down it so on a map you may choose an apartment that's 100 meters from the beach and you'd need a grappling hook to get to it. In a rush I rented an apartment from a man with 1 review and a photo that made him look like the Russian mafia. Questions for clarification were returned with simple one sentence answer and in some cases one word answers – yes, there's a bbq, yes we can pick you up, no you shouldn't take the bus etc.. And the apartment was only available for the last two weeks of the month.


Airfare from Croatia back to Split was another $150 but we could fly to Florence Italy for $40 and then from Bologna to Paris for $40 saving enough money to pay for our Italian apartments. Sound familiar? This airfare schedules set and our Ciovo apartment rented we were left with two weeks between Slovenia and Ciovo to book. On a whim I booked an apartment in Zadar for a week and 4 days in Split. At this point I was getting a little exhausted from planning and wanted it all locked in. I quickly booked an apartment in Florence for 2 days and an apartment in Bologna for another two days and a cheap hotel at the Paris airport for our stayover before flying out.


This planning process was actually still happening a month into our trip. Normally I like having this all done before I leave but it didn't work that way this time around.


I respect the work travel agents do. It's a great deal of work to find all the right accomodations and transportation options. It's even harder to get it done for a decent price. Below is the total daily cost in each location. This includes our daily budget inclusive of food, transportation and trinkets along with our accommodation costs.


Nimes - $168

Paris - $180

London - $370

Ljubljana - $175

Zadar - $165

Split - $165

Ciovo - $165

Florence - $225

Bologna - $235


Nimes could have been $20 cheaper per day but it was the beginning of the trip so we spent our whole daily amount. Split and Ciovo should have been $20 more expensive as we had a pretty tight daily budget at that point as we didn't go out to eat much at all then.



Daily budget summary - Europe 2015

Over the course of this summer I mentioned several times the cost of various places we traveled to. As I write my trip journals I put things in perspective. Here's our costs for each city. This is our total daily budget for 5 people including accommodations, food, local transportation and admission to museums etc.. I'll be writing more in the trip journals later.


Nimes, France $168
Paris, France $180
London $370
Lubljana, Slovenia  $175
Zadar, Croatia $165
Split, Croatia $165
Ciovo, Croatia $165
Florence, Italy $225
Bologna, Italy $235



Nimes - We rented a 2 bedroom house in Nimes and our budget probably could have been $20 cheaper but it was the beginning of the trip so we spent our entire daily amount.

Paris - We rented a 2 bedroom apartment in Paris. This includes daily metro rides, entrance to museums and eating out every 3rd night.

London - this got us one room in someone else's apartment and an air mattress. Our budget would have been $25 higher if we didn't eat free breakfast provided by our host and take the bus instead of the subway. This paid for NO museums or churches.

Ljubljana - We got a 4 bedroom gorgeous apartment in the historic center and 50% of our meals in restaurants. If we booked for a week we would have saved $50 per day.

Zadar - We got a 2 bedroom apartment in the historic center. We were able to eat out several times. No long term discounts.

Split - We got a 2 bedroom apartment near old town. Had I booked earlier we would have spend $30 less per day. No long term discounts.

Ciovo - We got a 3 bedroom apartment 40 meters from the sea. We cooked all of our meals. Had I booked earlier we would have spent $30 less per day. No long term discounts.

Florence - we rented a 1 bedroom apartment with a mini-kitchen. We ate out 50% of the time, didn't use public transportation and didn't pay for any museums.

Bologna - we rented a 1 bedroom apartment. We ate out 50% of the time, didn't use public transportation and didn't pay for any museums.



The cities in Croatia and Nimes, France come in about the same price with Ljubljana and Paris being a tad higher. The two Italian cities are a good $50 more per night and the one extreme is London at roughly double the group average. Ljubljana could be a killer deal if we stayed a week. Croatia gave no discounts for longer stays. Paris was a bargain because we stayed 3 weeks. Had we stayed only for a couple of days it would have added $50 to the price. 


Add a comment

Europe 2015 trip photos

I've just returned from a 10 week trip to Europe and have uploaded all of my travel photos. I've attempted to put descriptions in each gallery but I'll never have the time to label each photo unfortunately.

We flew out of Vancouver BC direct to Paris France. We then hopped the TGV to Nimes where we spent a week before returning to Paris for 3 weeks. We needed to get to Croatia from Paris but flights from London were half the price and my mother's family came from England so we combined the flight and a trip to Thorbury England to see the old dead dudes together. There's a much longer story in there but it will have to wait....

Our flight to "Croatia" was actually to Trieste Italy where we took a taxi to Villa Opicina where we got a Slovenian taxi to Ljubljana. We stayed there for 3 days before taking a train to Zagreb Croatia and a bus from there to Zadar Croatia where we spent a week.  A bus took us from Zadar to Split for 5 days and then we moved to the island of Ciovo to rest and relax.

We flew from Trogir/Ciovo/Split to Florence Italy where we had two days and then a highs speed train took us to Bologna for two days and then we flew back to Paris and on to Vancouver BC again. The Amtrak Cascades train took us home.

I'll do a real blog post later (or even a series) outlining the trip itself. Until then here's the link

Add a comment

Valentine's day weekend

For Valentine's day weekend I take my significant other to Canada. Well, that's not the plan usually but in the Seattle area we don't have a lot of other choices besides Canada and HippyVille (Portland) if we want to get out of town. Last year we took the Victoria Clipper to Victoria BC. This year we took the Amtrak Cascades to Vancouver BC.  Due to site maintenance the photos have just now gone up - vancouver-bc-2015

By far my favorite way of getting to Vancouver is by train. There's two trips per day, it only takes about 3 hrs from Everett, the view of the Puget Sound is wonderful and it's comfortable. Usually tickets run about $20 each way. I know you can drive it in about the same amount of time but it's just not the same. Culturally Vancouver isn't THAT much different than Seattle although it seems to be a bit more cosmopolitan. The three things that give Vancouver somewhat of a "foreign air" is the Canadian Currency, the Metric System and the number of people with French accents. However, when we drive to Vancouver it doesn't feel that much different than going to Portland or Spokane because you're isolated from the people around you. When you take the train you rub elbows with the locals, use the Skytrain, Seabus, Aquabus and regular buses to get around. It FEELS like you went somewhere.  I highly recommend it.

When I stay in Vancouver I like the little quaint hotels and my favorite is the Victorian Hotel on Homer. It's sort of a bed-and-breakfast flavored hotel but you have to book ahead as it's not big and they fill fast. Check for the best deals (often cheaper than the Victorians own website). They also have ONE family room with three beds which we works well when the whole family is with us. They give you a nice breakfast and the service is good. Something happened when I booked though and I made the reservation for March instead of February and the Victorian was full when we arrived leaving us without a room. The nice lady at the Victorian set us up with a room at the Kingsman Bed and Breakfast. The one rule I've learned when a hotel is full and they reserve you a room somewhere else is that other room won't be as good as the one you wanted. Why? Because they will NEVER book you in a hotel that's a better deal then their own or you wouldn't come back! The other room will either be more expensive or won't be as nice. In the case of the Kingsman it was both more expensive and not as nice. It's called Bed and Breakfast and I suppose if you think a man handing you a bagel in the morning is breakfast than the title is fitting. The beds are in very dark depressing hallways and the there's ONE (count it) bathroom/shower on every floor so get up early if you want to be clean. The ONLY nice thing I can say about the Kingsman is it's across the street from Medina Cafe which has long lines in the morning. From the windows of the Kingsman you can keep an eye on the line so you can get quicker. 

Add a comment

Read more: Valentine's day weekend

Site maintenance is done

It's been a long month or so.  The Man, the Myth, the Legend has been on the Internet for about 10 years now with 6 million page views (counter says 5 million as I restored from a backup). The current rendition of the site started with Joomla 1.1 in 2005. We then migrated to 1.5 which broke a bunch of things (Gallery2 being the big one). Then we upgraded to 1.6 and 1.7. Another migration took us to Joomla! 2.5 which is where we stayed for years. Joomla 2.5 was end-of-lifed on January 1st so there would be no more security updates forcing us to do the big move to Joomla! 3.4.

Recently we were using various pieces of software that had to be updated:

  • Joomla 2.5
  • Sobi
  • Gallery2/Gallery2 bridge
  • K2 with Disqus comments
  • Docman

The first component I wanted to get rid of was Gallery2 as I was embedding it into Joomla with a bridge. It had a weird single sign-on that sort of worked and felt old and slow. My Gallery2 installation actually pre-dates my Joomla! installation although I don't remember how many years earlier.  During one of the upgrades the bridge stopped working so I had to move to JFusion as my bridge. Then Gallery2 stopped being developed which left me dead in the water for updates. About a year ago Ignite Gallery became good enough to migrate to - all 10,000 photos! That process took about a month. 

The next component I wanted to get rid of was K2. K2 handled my blogging features, custom fields (which I wasn't using), Disqus comments, tags and more.  Originally Joomla! didn't have a lot of blogging features so I tried out a bunch of the commercial offerings such as MyBlog and EasyBlog. One or the other refused to update his component because he didn't like the license change with Joomla! 1.6 so I moved to the other. I eventually moved to K2 as it had real ACLs, tags and hierarchical categories which were missing in early Joomla versions. Joomla 2.5 got us the all of those things so I stopped needing K2 but since I had over 500 articles written in it  I was stuck. I recently found a migration plugin that would copy all of my K2 articles to Joomla Articles. It mostly worked.

Docman got replaced with PhocaDownloads which I'm reasonably happy with.

Sobi which I liked got replaced with Sobi2 because they stopped developing the original. Sobi2 has issues from what I can see.


I'm now running on:

  • Joomla! 3.4.x
  • Native Joomla Articles
  • PhocaDownloads
  • Sobi2 (for reviews/recipes)
  • Disqus plugin


While I was cleaning things up I went through the database and got rid of any tables no longer needed. My database went from 252 tables to 125! Even more amazing the database size went from 160 MB to 20 MB. I've also cleaned up templates, graphics, CSS files, and found replacements for modules and plugins associated with the software above. K2 had it's fingers in everything so it took a while to get rid of it. 

I have not spent this amount of time in one spot on this website in 10 years! So far I'm happy with it and you can expect more articles in short succession as I feel OK contributing again. I've just spent the last week optimizing and I'll write another article about that in the future.

Site maintenance causing intermittent availability

We've been doing massive restructuring of the hardware that underlies The Man, The Myth, The Legend.  I'll outline the changes in a later post when I'm done but you'll probably notice that the site has been down multiple times and there's probably a few more reboots to go before I'm done. I have several articles waiting to go up but have been holding off until the move was finished. Later in the month I'm moving more hardware out from under the site but due to the changes I've made this week that will entail one outage and no more (in theory). 

Oh, and there's a lot of stuff that just isn't working right. Feeds are messed up, the "Green Guy" logo is missing, blocks not configured right etc.. I'm putting it all back together as I get time.

Stay tuned!

Automated install of CentOS 7 VM (64 bit)

Install Type

  • Non-interactive
  • Network boot
  • Commandline
  • Paravirtualized


  • XCP/Xenserver
  • Access to Internet
  • Working DHCP server
  • Working DNS name resolution


This tutorial was written in the spirit of my CentOS 6 virtual machine (64 bit) installation on Xen howto. In that tutorial I created a disk, downloaded a kernel, kickstart file plus a xen config file which installed CentOS using the kickstart file. This has proven very popular since you can't install a paravirtualized domain using an install disk. This has been a very nice installation howto because you don't have to download any install CD/DVDs and you could create VMs using nothing more than a commandline login. It's also very nice because it can be mirrored locally if you're doing a bunch of them just by rsyncing a CentOS mirror locally then downloading my files and editing them.

I now use Xenserver and it's a very different animal indeed. However, I still needed a system of creating CentOS Virtual Machines in that same manner. I didn't want to download a CentOS install DVD or need a graphical login to install the OS thus this tutorial was born.

Warning! This tutorial is for CentOS version 7 on Xenserver 6.5. To use Xenserver 6.2 or later you will need to shoehorn grub-legacy into it. I've managed to get CentOS7 to run in Xenserver 6.2 but I had to do the following. 

  1. Install CentOS7 in Xenserver 6.5 
  2. Boot the VM and login
  3. Uninstall grub2
  4. Manually download grub-legacy and install
  5. Download grub.conf file to /boot/grub/grub.conf (edit if necessary)
  6. Run the grub command to install it
    1. # grub
    2. grub> device (hd0) /dev/xvda
    3. grub> root (hd0,0)
    4. grub> setup (hd0)
    5. grub> quit
  7. Place exclude=grub* in your /etc/yum.conf
  8. Shut down the VM and export it using vm-export
  9. Copy the VM to the Xenserver 6.2 host and vm-import


Add a comment

Read more: Automated install of CentOS 7 VM (64 bit)

Fedora automated install on Xenserver updated.

I have a tendency to keep using the same tutorials of mine and only when I need them updated do I go through the process of writing, testing and publishing the changes. However, when people attempt to use my Xenserver tutorials to install newer versions of Linux I tend to go update them but if nobody asks then they get ignored. You can tell which tutorials I use by which ones are up-to-date. For instance the Ubuntu Automated Install is still stuck at Ubuntu 12.04. That probably needs to be rectified but since I rarely use Ubuntu it's on the back burner (Kali/Wheezy will get update first probably). 

Today's announcement concerns Fedora 20 on Xenserver. I started using Fedora (again) when the wonderful version 17 came out. Then 18 was released with new bugs followed by 19 which had the same bugs and a ridiculous installer. Fedora 20 still has the same odd installer bits with the same usability issues (OK button is either on the top left or bottom right depending on what you're doing) but Fedora 17 just isn't being supported anymore so I've updated to Korora 20 which is based on Fedora 20. Due to popular demand this also means that my Fedora 17 on Xenserver tutorial just got updated as well.

As usual I only use the x86_64 tutorials so I blindly updated the i386 version as well but have not tested it.


Fedora 20 x86_64 Automated Install

Fedora 20 i386 Automated Install


Add a comment

Goodbye Gallery2, hello Ignite - it was a nice 10 years.

Before I started using Joomla! I had a website with a photo gallery for my travel/food/other photos. Due to not wanting to create a PHP photo gallery from scratch I used Gallery1 which did a fine job. Later when Gallery2 became available I migrated to that. At some point I realized that creating my own HTML website was a lot harder than just using a Content Management System so I rolled out Xoops and a couple of other CMSes and each time I realized they were buggy and/or limited. When the Mambo development team forked Joomla! I installed it and thought that it had enough promise to stick around for a while. I went from Joomla! 1.0 to 2.5 over the years (and my other sites -, and are running newer versions still).

It's been a struggle to keep Gallery2 embedded inside of Joomla!. During the Joomla 1.x series I had a connector made specially for Gallery2 but the developer decided not to update the component when Joomla broke the old code with 1.5/1.6 so I had to find a new connector which I did in JFusion. JFusion connects a lot of outside software to Joomla and it was successful in embedding Gallery2 in Joomla!. It wasn't perfect though and Gallery2 was starting to look very old and slow. Web2.0 happened and Gallery2 didn't notice so I started looking for replacements knowing that moving 10,000 photos wasn't going to be easy so I took the job very serious. Each year I'd look for a native Joomla Photo gallery that supported hierarchies and every year I patched Gallery2 up a bit more to keep it running. This year things became critical because the developers of Gallery2 abandoned it. They realized that a complete rewrite would have to happen and there was no reason to do it. This also meant that vulnerabilities wouldn't be fixed. The search intensified. 

This year I ran into Ignite Gallery which is native to Joomla, supports galleries in galleries and looked fairly nice. The download cost was $40 for one year of support and the code is GPL which I'm willing to pay for. After installing it and testing a few galleries I decided to go all the way and migrate Gallery2 to Ignite. In hindsight I should have written migration software to do it for me but it seemed so easy - create galleries, select my gallery2 photos in the Ignite file selector and upload - voila!  Come to find out I had 550 galleries and 11,000 photos. About halfway though I'd invested too much time to quit and I pushed through. Two months later I'm done with the migration. 

As of now all photos have been uploaded into Ignite. There are some issues with the software that I have to work through as well as theming but for the most part I'm happy. The gallery runs fast on the front-end (slow as heck on the backend though) and it's easy to browse. 

So without further ado may I present my photo galleries. 

Travel Gallery

Photography Portfolio