Mooncakes for 2011

Last year’s mooncakes were barely satisfactory.  The dough still has a long way to go to approach commercial quality. Below is the new improved recipe.

Equipment

  • Mooncake mould
  • Round box for dusting the assembled balls. Disposable food container will do nicely.

Fillings

  • Red bean or Lotus paste
  • Melon seeds, roasted in the toaster oven.
  • M&M or chocolate of any kind for kids.

Recipe for the dough or skin

  • 100gm fried glutinous rice flour or “kou fen”
  • 50gm shortening
  • 50gm icing sugar
  • 140ml of water
  • 1 tablespoon of condensed milk.
  • 1 teaspoon of pandan flavoring
  • 1 teaspoon of desired coloring.

Sieve the floor and icing sugar together into a mixing bowl.  Put the shortening and condensed milk into the bowl. Separately, mix water, flavoring and coloring into syrup.

Instead of mixing the floor and syrup together slowly like cake making, pour the entire portion of syrup into mixing bowl.  Using a spatula, I use a rice cooker spatula, stir the mixture till you get a soft dough.  It should be like something like a concrete putty but softer.  If it is like Play Dough, you need to add more water. Make sure there are no lumps but do not over stir or it will harden like plasticine.

Cover the mixing bowl with cling wrap and let it stand for about 20 minutes.

Using a weighing scale divide up dough into lumps of 40gm.  At the same time layout a similar number of balls of filling.  I used commercial white lotus paste. For my small mould, it is about 20gm.   The small mould should take a filled ball of 60gm.  Adjust accordingly depending on the amount of filling that you desire. You should prepare this before hand as when you are assembling the pastry or dough with the filling, it can get messy.

On a pre dusted flat surface, I used a dinner plate, flatten a ball of dough.  Place a ball of filling and slowly cover it up with the filling.  Once the filling is covered, dust it by rolling it in a bowl of flour.  Place the ball into the moon cake mould.  Press firmly to ensure the sides are filled out.  Slap out the moulded moon cake.  See link for more details

You can store the moon cake in a sealed container in the fridge for up to three days.  The skin will start cracking thereafter.

 

Cmdr Taco is leaving Slashdot

Cmdr Taco aka Steve Malda has resigned from Slashdot.  The post is about 30 minutes old.  I have always enjoyed reading the stories in 1999.  The comments and the stories have always been most informative.  From how long you should stay in your job, salary, Zotero and others.

At least Slashdot still lives on.

link

Backup your data

This is the most basic and important operational task.  All data should be backed up as frequently as possible.  This is to protect against logical data corruption or data loss.  The server’s hard disk is protected by RAID 5, but it is possible for Joe from Accounting to accidentally delete last month’s statement of accounts.

The most common form of backup media is tapes, DDS, DLT IV or LTO 4.  If the size of your data on the server/s is small, this can be easily done during off hours, eg night time.

Choose one backup software and tape format.  Stick with it.  Do not fall into the trap having individual server backing up its own data. You will then have to monitor the backup jobs on all the servers when you can only monitor one.

If there is any data corruption on the server, you can quickly restore it from last night’s tape and resume normal operations.  In a worse case scenario, if the Admin’s folder is corrupted at the end of the business day, you can only restore from yesterday’s tape.  The Admin folks will lose one day of data.

There are technologies to help you with this:

  1. Volume Shadow Copy.  This is a feature in Windows 2003 and later.  It can regularly snapshot the changes in the folders.  I usually set it to three times a day on a file server with 300 users.  There was little if any impact.  You cannot rely on shadow copy as a backup service as it is possible for the changes in the data to overflow the shadow copy store.  The users can recover their old data with minimal IT skills.
  2. SAN Snapshot. If your data is on a SAN, some SAN solutions offer a wide variety of snapshot functions.  Check with your vendor for more information.  You can snap 2 or 3 times a day as an interim backup during operational hours.  At the end of business, backup the actual data to tape.  Note if you need access the data in the snapshot, it will require some IT skills.

At the end of the day, you can use one tape to backup all the data, day in day out or you can use a system with more depth.  For example 2 sets of rotating weekly tapes (10), coupled with archival monthly (12) and yearly tapes.  Yearly archival of data is a legal requirement in most places. All these tape rotation requires some investment. You will need at least 3 boxes of 10 to start with.

What to do with these tapes?  If you can afford a professional tape storage service, that would be excellent.  Alternatively, if you have multiple offices that are spread out, you can keep the tapes in another office. Work with the regular internal courier service to move the tapes and someone at the other office store it for you.  Use a locked box or professional case when the tapes are in transit. If you have a small single site office, consider bringing the tapes home, in a locked box of course!

The most important thing to remember is to check for backup alert messages and don’t forget to change the tapes!

The importance of the domain controller

The first step of any site disaster recovery (DR) is the recovery of the domain controller.   This server holds all the user and service accounts and controls the rest of the servers.  Without it, the entire IT infrastructure won’t really work. You will find by now that it is a chicken and egg situation; you need an operational domain controller to restore the backup copy. Hence rule number 1

1. Always have a working domain controller at an off site location. Off site does mean the other office on the 12th floor or Tower B. Off site means literally another office in another city block or another suburb.  Why?  If there is a large fire, the police will cordon off and evacuate all persons within the affected property.

You do not need to buy a spanking new top of the line server for this.   Just a physically secured PC will do. During normal functions, this server is working as a cache.  If there are users at the same site, it will help to authenticated them.  In the event of a disaster, it will be the queen bee to create more domain controllers.

If the organization is a small single site outfit, consider having the off site domain controller located in your cubicle.  Do not use your work PC as a domain controller.  Otherwise any virus infection or operational mistake will knock out your whole organization.

If the off site has sufficient space to be a DR data center, that would be excellent.  If not, you need to go over there, get the doors open and alarms disabled, cart the PC to your DR data center.

There are now new technologies to make your life easier.  Consider the options:

1. Disaster Recovery restore option from Backup Exec  or  Arcserve.  These products works best when the target server hardware is the same as the source server. If you have this, you will need to keep the required boot CD up to date.  You will also need to test this after any hotfix or service pack update of the backup software.

2. Virtualization. It is possible to operate one of the production domain controller as a virtual or guest.  For day to day backup, just backup the entire fire image or vmdk file.  All you need to restore is just this set of files and you are good to go.  There are some issues to consider.

How is the backup performed and how you plan to restore.  If you are going to use FTP to save on the necessary software options to talk to the virtual hosts, remember to add some alerts so that you know that it is working.

Some food for thought

Practical disaster recovery plans

I thought I share some tips on creating a practical disaster recovery plan.  Most people has a misconception that such plans are large complex and ultimately expensive.

Well I am going to show you how you can have a practical disaster recovery plan for your IT operations without spending a whole bunch of money.

Why have a plan?  You do want the business to continue functioning when the data center gets a power blackout, flooded or caught fire?  You need to communicate with your customers and suppliers, business systems to support your key business functions. Eg ERP systems for the manufacturing and inventory, the logistics systems for the trucks.  Business needs to carry on, so must the IT systems.

Remember disasters can come in bite size too.  Let’s say you have 2 disk failures on your RAID 5 file server, rare but it happened to me.  Are you going to rely on the server vendor’s 24x7x4 hardware support and go grap a cup of coffee?

I have listed below are some main points of disaster recovery plan. These will branch to other posts when completed.  Any topics of interest to you?  Drop me a note I will try to include.  Note disaster recovery (DR) plans are not business continuity plans (BCP).  BCP deals with the identification of threats and risks, creation of the appropriate responses to these issues. DR plans deals with how to do implement these responses.

1. Backup your data. link

2. The importance of the domain controller. link

3. Email.  It is always email.

4. Business Applications.

BCP DR