2010 My First Year of Blogging & Using Twitter


Well 2010 is coming to an end. This year to me was special because it was the first year I decided to speak out on some issues,subjects and ideas on line via blogging and twitter. The idea behind both was to share knowledge and ideas, promote interaction, getting or keeping in touch with colleagues and using it as a way to exchange pointers to information or even as a lightweight support tool. That has been a success. A big benefit is that I can refer myself and others to the blog as a documentation system for solutions and musings. I’ve been able to reach out to many knowledgeable professionals and experts and I’ve enjoyed both getting and providing assistance. There is a very helpful and smart bunch of people out there, who contribute a lot to the community some of whom I had the pleasure of meeting at Tech Ed Europe 2010.  Being helpful brings me to a point Aidan Finn http://www.aidanfinn.com/?p=11002  recently touched on in a blog post: people expecting or even demanding all things for free. There is no such thing as a free lunch and what goes around comes around. I had to tell people to document their problems and post them on the forums, that’s what they exist for. Most people do that but some expect a solution to a problem that they describe as “it doesn’t work”.  I hope people got something out of the blogs and out of the twitter interaction in the same way I do form their contributions. One of the main questions I had when posting my first blog was if would be able to produce some content worthwhile posting and keep doing it over a prolonged period of time. That went reasonably well I think. In 2011 I’d like to share some knowledge and ideas via workshops, lunch & learns beyond the normal “internal” public. I’ll see how that goes. Good content, good delivery and useful application of shared knowledge of that isn’t that easy and takes quite and effort. That’s definitely something I appreciate. I wish all my IT colleagues a great end of 2010 and a very prosperous, successful, fun and healthy 2011.

Heavy Snowfall, Telecommuting & Office Situations Gone Wrong


Well, it’s winter again and we’ve had plenty of heavy snowfall disrupting traffic and the daily commute. Pictures of commuters pushing the busses they normally ride made the news head lines. No worries for me. I just work from home those days. That’s a good thing for a lot of reasons. You spend less time commuting in peak traffic, get more work done than at the office, you pollute less and you’re used to working remotely. That means you’ll be able to do it without any issues when there is a need like a flooded office floor, a flu pandemic or harsh weather conditions. Even better is that you can do this cheap and secure using the licenses you already have for Windows 2008 R2/Windows 7 with solutions like Remote Desktop Gateway  and Direct Access. Sounds pretty good right? So why aren’t more organizations using this to the fullest?

It is amazing how few companies really use telecommuting and remote access to their benefit. The culture shift it requires is usually to big of a hurdle. Yeah right. You often do see it happen on a larger scale when the company can close an office building due to telecommuting. That’s cold hard cash savings right there. Think of it. When there are huge monetary savings involved they’ll outsource work to the other end of the world and all objections disappear or “need to be dealt with”. So why is this? The lack of using telecommuting to the fullest of its potential is, to me, an indication of management failure. It’s so much easier to fool yourself into thinking your employees are productive when you can physically see them and they punch in and out. Whatever happened to that result driven organization? I know some employees need an office, not to have a place to work, but because of all the fun things you can do there. Gossip, small talk, lunches, meetings, etc. Some have bad home situations are are happier at the office or they bought an overly expensive house and the added heating cost would bankrupt them so they prefer to come in even with a 3 hour commute. Those people tend to confirm bosses in their beliefs that people need an office. Crappy managers also need control and rules. It’s a good indication on how your employers see you. Do they see you like irresponsible children who need to be protected against themselves, guarded and ruled by policies? Or do they think of you as responsible adults who’ll get the job done?

Now there is the  careerists view that you need to go to the office as well. You need to be seen working. The more people you can involve the more important your work looks and the longer it takes. Bad managers & bad companies like that for some weird reason. You see nothing is as annoying to a boss than employees who are to good and fast at their jobs. They tend to disturb the balance or come nag for input and direction which leads to having to manage. Ok, some managers like that as it serves their ego’s and confirms they are needed by their “sheeple”. Well in all honesty, when some of your employees get the job done in 20 hours per week that’s not their problem. It’s yours. You have way to many employees that are not up to the job at hand or you have a lot of fakers, who just fill time until they can punch out. And bad managers will never fail to “punish” the most productive employee by assigning them more work. Basically training them to do less and less because they figure out pretty quick productivity and speed doesn’t’ get them anything but more work for the same pay. That meritocracy that everyone seems to want, isn’t that result driven? But to recognize results you need to have a clue. But that’s another problem and I won’t go into that any further here. What do you think your boss like better. All projects completed and money made but you telecommuting 50% or a perfect office attendance record but project over time and over budget? Right.

To add insult to injury the office nowadays are landscape ones. Fields of blatting sheep, people interrupting each other all the time for input, telephone calls, vast amounts of senseless meetings with way to many participants and way to few decisions. They want to drag you in to every meeting as they think you have to execute all there ideas. No, you don’t. You already have a job and if the only thing they can produce is work for others to do there is something wrong. Employees should reduce the workload of the organization not increase it. Than two, three four colleagues who come over for a chat, eating another our of of your day. At one job it’s gotten that bad that when I had to spend a day at the office I tried to get home as soon as possible so I could start doing some work. Which I hated as bad office situations drain my energy. Some people are happy with activity and call it a day. But I’m very sorry, that doesn’t cut it. I need progress and results. A good taught provoking talk on this can be found here http://edition.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/12/05/fried.office.work/index.html, it’s by Jason Fried of http://37signals.com/.

I’ll give you some examples of my own. I recently agreed to go in to the office for one day during a holiday because of an urgent meeting. That meeting wasn’t urgent at all and everything could have waited another month that’s one but hey they taught it was cool and the boss was real happy. But the real silly thing is I sat down at my office to print the agenda for the meeting and within 15 minutes three people came by claiming my urgent assistance, attendance or time. One was indeed urgent but should have gone to the service desk. The other two where prime examples of a meeting culture run amok (yes with all those meetings people are rustling up attendees) and egoistic failure to plan. Really people, your failure to plan does not make it my emergency. Those are typically the people who run out early and can not ever stay late. Or need stuff urgently and when they get it go on leave for 3 to 4 weeks. As true spoiled children they act annoyed, let down and helpless when they are told I’m not there for them. “What to do now?"!”. Well the best answer is “grow up, get a grip and learn to plan ahead”.  That does not mean go moan to the boss, trust me on this one. If you’re entire existence is dependent on people being on stand by for every need that arises or them attending every meeting you hold you must be the commander of SAC/NORAD or something. Either that or you’re doing something very wrong.

Now offices can be useful if and when they are functional. A lot of office environments are far from that. They are toxic time wasters and that is such a shame. Offices can be smaller, more efficient and productive than they are now.  Augment that with flexible working and telecommuting and all the noise around commuter hell, missed deadlines, meetings, productivity and profit can go to garbage bin where they belong. Today, so many jobs do not need to be affected too much by weather, small disasters, pandemics but you will have to learn to work smarter and better. As a bonus you’ll have less tress, a cleaner environment and less traffic jams. What is not to like? So use the winter weather and all its problems with transport to rethink the way you work. You’ll be better of on the whole.

Building A New Lab For 2011 And Beyond


Well with all this (Hyper-V) Clustering, Virtualization, System Center Suite, Exchange 2010 & Lync, SQL Servers, iSCSI demands on my lab network  I really need to refresh my hard ware. It sounds a bit like a paradox but such is life for the people building all this stuff. Yes, they still need some hardware, pretty beefy machines actually, to set it all up, test it, break it, fix it and keep learning. I’ve depleted my 4 years old lab material which in which I can’t put more than 4 GB RAM.  Now that I have finished all my infrastructure projects for 2010 I have time to focus on improving my old setup. Or at least I hope. Things are very busy. Thanks to W2K8R2 SP1 beta I could use Dynamic Memory which helped to keep churning away with these and various Exchange setups but now with Lync coming into the picture I want and need an upgrade.  A couple of SQL Servers in various high availability setups help eat any remaining resources resources . Add to that the fact that I want to do some private cloud testing so there it is. I need hosts with at least an Intel Quad Core  (i7) and at least 16 GB of DDR3 memory. They should have room for extra NIC cards. And I always try to get some speedy disks where it matters.  Now since Windows Server 2008 R2  added support for Second Level Address Translation (SLAT), which Intel calls Extended Page Tables (EPT) and which AMD calls Nested Page Tables (NPT) or Rapid Virtualization Indexing (RVI), we can make use of better graphics cards. Until now none of my processors had SLAT support.  With the Intel i7 (Nehalem) processor I’m good to go. As all machine in my lab are Intel so I’m sticking with them for Hyper-V migrations as that doesn’t work between brands.

So here’s an logical overview of my setup. This is what I already in place with my current hardware but have now drawn with my coveted hardware refreshment Smile Oh, yes the dual 1Gbps switches for iSCSI are new for this setup. I’m adding one so I can play with MPIO in the lab.

NewLab

 

For disks I use 300GB – 16MB – 10.000 rpm and 600GB –32MB – 10.000rpm Raptors in combination with an external eSATA 1TB/2TB Western Digital Black Disk for storage of VHD’s, Images, backups etc.  I have to buy some extra now. The faster disks are expensive but a lab environment needs some performance as waiting around for servers & virtual machines becomes a major of annoyance when you need to get work done. The 10.000 rpm disks are great for iSCSI storage for which I use the iSCSI Target from Windows 2008 R2 Storage server via my TechNet subscription.

All this kit should keep me up and running from 2011 until the end of 2014. Is this expensive? Yes and no.  I can recuperate my 1 Gbps Intel NIC’s and most of my hard disks.  I already have my network switches, monitors and KVM switches. So in all it’s the new motherboards, CPU’s and memory that will eat the  most of the budget.  It’s a sum to put out but here’s a note to all IT Pro’s out there. You need to invest in yourself every now and then.

I’ve blogged about this before in http://workinghardinit.wordpress.com/2010/02/04/having-a-lab-using-it/. Self improvement and learning is a continuous process that never ends. Sure it does have some peak moments in financial costs when you need equipment. Remember you don’t need to buy it all at once. Talk to you employer about this if you’re not self employed. Look at how much a 5 day advanced course or a conference costs. You can use a lab to learn and experiment for many years to come. So basically the potential ROI is very good. In the end, what my employers and customers get out of this is knowledge, insight, skills and results. Think about it, it helps to put the investment in perspective. Sure, I invest more than just the hardware, my time which is very valuable to me. You can’t maker more time, everyone has the same 24 hours in a day. Now it really helps if you like this stuff and have fun whilst learning new technologies or setting up a proof of concept. In a way what people put into their job and knowledge is  an indicator of their professionalism. You do not become an expert by working 9 to 5 and only learning when a course is provided. It’s not going to happen. Even a genius who puts in the effort stands out amongst his or her peers. The same goes for you, but be smart about it. You can work yourself to death and not accomplish anything. So smart & hard is the way to go.