Archive for the ‘computers’ Category

VCDX 2012 Christmas Treat

Monday, December 17th, 2012

So I got home today, and found a package at the front door by UPS.  Its Christmas, and I order stuff online, so I thought nothing of it….Until I opened the box that is.

VMware’s Certification Team reached out to the people who hold VCDX Certification, and stated we should expect something later this year.  We have gotten some nice shirts, stickers, and other do-dads that we all use.  The VMware Team also said we should watch out, as we will have our expectations exceeded when we get this package.

Well, I forgot all about it, until I saw who the package was from.  HUGE box, and I could not begin to imagine what was included, and it was sweet.

1 x Solid vase, with VCDX logo, my name, and my cert number etched into the base
1 x Leeman Binder, with VCDX logo embossed, along with my initials
1 x logoed (with bottle opener attached) drink cooler….looks like more than 10 bottles fit in here!
1 x Fleece Jacket, embossed with VCDX logo, and my certification number embroidered on it
1 x Polo shirt, with VCDX logo embroidered on (very nice shirt too!)
2 x VCDX logo beer glasses
1 x HD Camcorder (sweet….), with my VCDX number right on it

and….not to be outdone by ANYONE else…..

1 x 6-pack of VCDX Special Ale (Thank you for brewing it, Devil’s Canyon!)

I was really excited about this, and can’t wait to find out how the beer tastes!
Those glasses will be getting some use tonight!

THANK YOU TO THE VMWARE CERTIFICATION TEAM FOR THIS EXTRAVAGANT GIFT!!!!!

VCDX – to defend or not to defend

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

I recently received an email from an individual who is considering applying for, and defending for, his VMware Certified Design eXpert (VCDX) certification.  It is a trying process where you submit a design for a solution to be implemented, document the process, its operations, and justify your choices throughout the design.  Once you submit the design, and are approved, you are then invited to defend the design in front of a panel of those already certified.  A trying process…it was for me anyway…

I have promised this individual that I would assist him, when he was ready with his design.  It has been almost two years since we had that first conversation that I would assist him.  He recently sent me this email (which I asked if I could publish).  It shows what went on in his mind, and what sparked his renewed commitment to submitting his VCDX design.  My hope in posting this online, is that other people will see it, relate to this in some way, and have confidence in themselves to tackle this certification if they feel they are ready.

If you do get something out of this, can relate in some way, or are encouraged by the content of the email posted below, PLEASE…. post a comment.  It would mean  a lot to those whom we do not yet know who may feel the same way….

 

Mark,
I missed yet another submission deadline last night, this one for October, 2012. The big difference this time was that I wasn’t sitting around “stirring ice cubes in my drink” watching the clock tick by. I was up until 3:00 AM furiously typing before I finally admitted that I didn’t have things ready to submit. I haven’t been that pissed at myself for a long time.

This whole process has left me with an unfamiliar feeling. I usually am very confident in myself, but for some reason I had a mental block against doing this design. I guess that my lack of ‘large’ customer design experience and a lack of ‘canned’ documentation had me thinking that it was to much for me to do on my own. I wasn’t concerned about my design skills, but more my documentation skills. As a result, I have had several restarts to the process I’ve spent more time ripping and replacing versions than I have actually producing content. For me, it wasn’t my game skills that were in question, but a lack of knowledge about the rules and field dimensions.

I’ve had a framework for what I wanted to do all along, but couldn’t grasp the structure. Was my documentation up to snuff? Would I be laughed at for submitting a design like that? The sheer number of pages was huge. I have never produced over 100 pages of documentation for a single project design. In my defense, I’ve never had a customer that has required that much work for a project. No need, no effort. I started at Acme Inc. 4 years ago as the 2nd engineer on staff. Within a month, I was the only guy there. I had no documentation or templates left to me other that a single SOW. Since that time, I have cobbled together all of the documentation at Acme Inc. myself. Right, wrong, or indifferent, it sprung from my head. Is it ‘industry standard’? I doubt that, seeing how I have not seen any other competitor documentation and have had nothing to compare it to.

Things changed this week. I built (yet again) another project template, trying to incorporate all elements into a viable framework, and started porting over some of my information. Then a strange thing happened. One of my twitter followers asked me to review his design, as he is defending this week in SF. I agreed, and he send me a copy. After reading his design and giving him feedback, all of my doubts faded away. I found several holes in his design that seemed really obvious, but apparently were not to him. Additionally, seeing his documentation framework gave me validation that I was on the right track, and that my ‘template’ was not only as good as his, but possibly better.

And more importantly… This was a design that had been accepted as a possible passing design and he was defending it! Clearly (in my mind) my design was better than his. My documentation framework was better than his. I know that my defense skills, presenting and defending to the panel, are better than his. Why was I doubting myself so much? I needed to get my ass in gear!

Well, long story short… and looking back at this, it isn’t a short email (sorry)… I have been cranking furiously on my design since Monday night. Several late nights later, I spend all yesterday trying to wrap things up and get it ready for the Midnight (Pacific) deadline for submission. Down to the wire, I finally had to stop at 3:10 AM and admit that I might have been able to submit the design, but wouldn’t have completed all of the accompanying documentation such as Delivery and Installation, Testing and Acceptance, and such. I would come up short yet again.

For the first time in the whole process, I was driven to complete. I disappointed myself by not closing the deal. I have nobody to blame but myself, and it took about 30-40 minutes of walking around the house alone for me to cool down enough to go to bed. This morning, I realized that I’m not really that upset about missing the deadline, because I will be ahead of the game for the next one in February 2013. I am ready, I focused, and I have a plan to complete.

Why am I sending this to you instead of packing to head to Boston in an hour? Because I want to say thank you for not giving up on me. All of the gentle (and not so gentle) nudges to get working on my design were appreciated. You have been there waiting for me to get on the ball and weren’t judging me. When I was ready, you would be there to help me on the path. I appreciate that you are there as a friend, advisor, and a mentor through this whole process.

I just wanted you to know that I’ve finally gotten my “Design Mojo” back and I’m ready to rock this thing. And I wanted to say thanks for being a friend through the whole thing. Catch you later tonight in San Francisco.

Signed,
Joe Admin

Starting Services

Monday, April 4th, 2011

So I have decided to take this gabbs.com domain name, and start using it for consulting services.  The changes will happen sometime in the next couple of months, and it will be for my personal exploits.

It will be tough to make sure I don’t compete with my current company, but we serve different types of clients, so I’m sure it won’t be too difficult….

Stay tuned….

The 14 Most Common Mistakes IT Departments Make

Friday, July 25th, 2008

Mistake No. 1: Projects lack the right resources with the right skills.

Mistake No. 2: Projects lack experienced project managers. 

Mistake No. 3: IT doesn’t follow a standard, repeatable project management process. 

Mistake No. 4: IT gets hamstrung by too much process. 

Mistake No. 5: They don’t track changes to the scope of the project. 

Mistake No. 6: They lack up-to-date data about the status of projects. 

Mistake No. 7: They ignore problems. 

Mistake No. 8: They don’t take the time to define the scope of a project. 

Mistake No. 9: They fail to see the dependencies between projects. 

Mistake No. 10: They don’t consider Murphy’s Law. 

Mistake No. 11: They give short shrift to change management.

Mistake No. 12: Project schedules are incomplete. 

Mistake No. 13: IT doesn’t push back on unreasonable deadlines. 

Mistake No. 14: They don’t communicate well with project sponsors and stakeholders. 

– Meridith Levinson, CIO 

July 23, 2008  

 

It’s no wonder only 29 percent of IT projects are completed successfully, according to The Standish Group. Project management consultants and software providers say they see IT departments making the same project management mistakes over and over: IT groups don’t follow standard project management processes. They don’t have the right staff working on projects. They don’t assess the risks that could imperil their projects or determine ways to mitigate those risks. The list of mistakes unrolls like a ball of yarn. 

MORE ON PROJECT MANAGEMENT 

How To Spot a Failing Project 

ABC: An Introduction to IT Project Management 

When Project Failure Is Not an Option 

How to Create a PMO and Select PM Software 

Most of the project management mistakes IT departments make boil down to either a lack of adequate planning or breakdowns in communication (either among the project team or between the project team and the project sponsors). These mistakes can be fatal. They can also be avoided. And who better to point out the most common project management mistakes than project management vendors and consultants. (They also suggest ways to avoid them.) 

The following list of the 14 most common project management mistakes ought to help you pinpoint where your projects are going wrong and measures you can take to improve them. The upside of avoiding these most common project management pitfalls is tremendous. Not only will your project success rate increase, you’ll also improve satisfaction among internal customers, IT’s stock inside the organization will increase in value, and the business will benefit from systems that make them more competitive that get delivered on time and on budget. 

Staffing Mistakes

Mistake No. 1: Projects lack the right resources with the right skills.

Impact: Proper project staffing is critical, yet improperly allocating resources tops the list of most common project management mistakes. Not having the right people on a project can kill it. “The key to getting a project successfully accomplished is getting the right people with the right skills,” says Joel Koppelman, CEO of project management software vendor Primavera. “All the planning in the world won’t overcome an insufficiency of talent.” 

Solution: IT and project managers need full visibility into the skills and workloads of all of their resources, including consultants, contractors and outsourcers, who often get left out of skills assessments even though they’re doing a “huge” proportion of work, says Koppelman. Project management software can provide such visibility into everyone’s skills and workloads. 

Once IT and project managers know who’s doing what, they have to figure out how to allocate resources across myriad projects and day-to-day work. 

“There are all kinds of organizational models,” says Richard Scannell, co-founder of IT infrastructure consultancy GlassHouse Technologies. “I’ve never seen anything that works well. There’s no easy answer [to the resource allocation question].” 

You just have to try synchronizing people and projects as best you can, says Koppelman, adding that one potential solution is to appoint a resource manager who’s responsible for figuring out who will be assigned to each project and for ensuring there’s a fair allocation of talent across projects. 

Scannell suggests setting up “tiger teams” where people get taken out of their traditional job responsibility for a year or more to work on a specific project. Ken Cheney, director of HP Software’s PPM Center, recommends assigning resources at a project level as opposed to a specific task level, which he says is much more arduous. 

If you’re still hard-pressed to adequately staff projects, you may be able to free up resources by cancelling a “discretionary” project (e.g. one that isn’t tightly tied to the business strategy), says Cheney. He suggests looking at your entire portfolio of projects your IT staff is working on to identify ones that aren’t mission-critical. “By stopping those projects and reallocating resources to projects that will have the biggest impact, the organization as a whole can be much more successful,” he says. 

Mistake No. 2: Projects lack experienced project managers. 

Impact: Projects can quickly grow out of control without a savvy project manager at the helm. 

Solution: Hire project managers with certifications and the finesse required to manage stakeholders. Matthew Strazza, vice president of services (North America) for CA, says good project managers have to have strong soft skills. They need to know how to facilitate meetings, manage risk and handle a variety of different stakeholders—the business people who are looking for functionality, the IT people who care about security, and the financial people who are worried about the budget. 

“If you’re not addressing the financials, managing the budget on a week-to-week basis and notifying the client of any change, you can get into trouble pretty quickly,” says Strazza. 

Good project managers also need to possess technical expertise in whatever technology is being deployed, he adds. 

Process Mistakes

Mistake No. 3: IT doesn’t follow a standard, repeatable project management process. 

Impact: This is the second of the most common project management mistakes. Lack of methodology increases the risk that tasks related to the project will fall through the cracks, that projects will have to be re-worked, and ultimately that a project won’t be completed on time or on budget. 

Solution: A project management methodology helps you tackle projects efficiently and makes you aware of all the activities involved in the execution of a project. 

“Having in place a baseline of standards and methodologies will remove a lot of the risk associated with IT projects,” says HP’s Cheney. 

Douglas Clark, CEO of Métier, a provider of project portfolio management solutions, recommends establishing repeatable processes for scoping, scheduling, allocating resources and communicating with stakeholders. “Those are the things you want to get a handle on first because they would probably give you the biggest payoff,” he says. 

Mistake No. 4: IT gets hamstrung by too much process. 

Impact: Too much process makes the project team inflexible, and their inflexibility frustrates stakeholders. 

Fumi Kondo, managing director of NYC-based consultancy Intellilink Solutions, once observed an exchange between a software developer and a project manager where the developer told the project manager that he could add extra features to an application with no additional effort. The project manager told the developer not to add the extra features because users hadn’t asked for them. “My response would have been, ‘Go to the users and see if those features are useful,’” says Kondo. “I see nothing wrong with over-delivering if it doesn’t impact the budget or the schedule.” 

Solution: Be flexible and communicate with project sponsors and stakeholders. 

Mistake No. 5: They don’t track changes to the scope of the project. 

Implication: The budget for the project explodes. So does the timeline. 

Solution: CA’s Strazza recommends following a formal change request process: The individual requesting the change in scope (e.g. additional features or functionality) needs to explain the specific changes on a change-in-scope document, and the project manager needs to determine how that request will impact the budget and timeline. The project sponsor has to sign off on the change-in-scope request. 

Mistake No. 6: They lack up-to-date data about the status of projects. 

Impact: You can’t manage what you can’t measure, as Peter Drucker would say. Nor can you coordinate resources or react to changes in scope, says HP’s Cheney. 

Solution: Software. 

Mistake No. 7: They ignore problems. 

Impact: Problems don’t solve themselves. They fester the longer you ignore them and ultimately compound the cost of the project. 

Solution: “If you do something wrong, it’s about how well you fix it,” says GlassHouse Technologies’ Scannell. “Most people batten down the hatches and look up in the month. Understanding when you’re starting to fail and quickly being able to engage as many stakeholders as possible to fix it is critical.” 

Planning Mistakes

Mistake No. 8: They don’t take the time to define the scope of a project. 

Impact: If a project’s scope isn’t well-defined by the business and IT up front, the project can end up ballooning like Friends actor Matthew Perry in the sitcom’s later seasons. What’s more, IT lacks the clarity and direction it needs to complete the project on time and on budget and meet the business’s expectations. 

Solution: Ill-defined projects are best served by a business case and a scoping exercise, says Intellilink Solutions’ Kondo. 

Mistake No. 9: They fail to see the dependencies between projects. 

Impact: Projects don’t happen in isolation. They’re often dependant on other projects going on at the same time. When project managers fail to see the dependencies between projects—such as staff assigned to one project are needed on another&mdashh;projects get held up. Such slowdowns can have a ripple effect on all projects. 

Solution: Take dependencies into account during project planning, says Métier’s Clark. Talking with stakeholders and diagramming the project can help uncover dependencies. 

Mistake No. 10: They don’t consider Murphy’s Law. 

Impact: Stuff happens, and IT gets surprised by it. Consequently, the project goes off-track while IT tries to clean up a mess it didn’t anticipate. 

GlassHouse Technologies’ Scannell recalls a company in the U.K. that his firm acquired, that was moving its mainframe to a new data center. The IT group devoted an entire Saturday to taking down the mainframe so that they could move it to the new data center the next day, he says. While the IT staff were en route to the new data center with the mainframe on Sunday, they ran into a gay pride parade, and they couldn’t reach their destination due to roads blocked off for the parade. They had to drive back to the original data center and put Humpty Dumpty back together again. The lack of planning caused the IT staffers to do more work than was necessary. 

Solution: Perform a risk assessment as part of the project planning. With your team, brainstorm what could happen to slow or derail the project, to make it go over budget, or to prevent you from delivering the expected requirements. Then figure out ways you can mitigate those risks, says Primavera CEO Koppelman. “If they sit down and think about those risks, they’ll come up with a pretty good list,” he says. “This exercise doesn’t take a long time, and it’s enormously helpful in understanding the soft spots in a project before it even gets underway.” 

Mistake No. 11: They give short shrift to change management.

Impact: All the time, money and hard work that went into delivering a new IT-enabled capability can be for naught if users don’t adopt the new technology. 

Solution: Spend time up front during the project planning phase to consider where resistance to a project will manifest itself and ways to address it, says Métier’s Clark. Identify the stakeholders whose jobs will be impacted by the new capability, adds Intellilink Solutions’ Kondo, and plan how you’ll communicate changes to their processes and workflows with them. Not all of the changes will be negative. 

Mistake No. 12: Project schedules are incomplete. 

Impact: Project team members don’t know what is due when, which makes completing the project on time a challenge. 

Solution: Clark says a quick way to come up with a schedule for a project is to determine all the activities involved in getting the project done (e.g. scoping, getting requirements, testing and implementing) and then attaching due dates to those activities based on the deadline for the project. Project management software can also help create schedules. 

Communication Problems

Mistake No. 13: IT doesn’t push back on unreasonable deadlines. 

Impact: IT sets itself up to fail and gets a reputation for not being able to deliver projects on time. 

Clark says IT departments will scramble to accommodate project deadlines set by the CEO. But tampering with dependencies and with the plan only creates more problems that make delivering the project on time even more difficult, he says. 

Solution: IT management has to explain to the CEO what it’s going to take to meet that deadline in terms of cost and resources and has to get the CEO to choose between cost, scope and schedule, says Clark. 

Mistake No. 14: They don’t communicate well with project sponsors and stakeholders. 

Impact: IT fails to deliver the expected requirements. 

Solution: Project communications need to be catered to the audience, says Kondo. She sees misunderstandings about the scope of a project or a systems’ requirements arise when IT departments hand over a spreadsheet to the business with thousands of lines describing the systems’ functionality and specs. Because the business owners don’t have time to look over such detailed technical documents, they ignore them. 

“One side is communicating, but in a language the other side can’t understand,” says Kondo. “Then IT gets frustrated and they say, ‘We described this to them. How come this isn’t what they want?’” (Business analysts play a critical role as the liaisons between users and IT.) 

Kondo recommends giving every stakeholder who will be impacted or involved in the project on the business side a high-level overview of the entire project, from design to rollout. The overview should highlight the activities that require interaction with the business and should explain why the business is needed, she says. 

In general, IT needs to put more effort into educating the business about the steps involved in executing a project, says Kondo. 

“If you have an open dialog about what’s needed, what you’re really delivering, and you have fluidity built into the process, the budget and scope becomes a dialog so if you go over budget, it’s not necessarily a failure,” she says. 

Kondo’s firm once worked with a client that was deploying a financial system and whose employees had never been involved in a large system implementation before. When design of the system was complete and Intellilink was beginning to plan for testing, Intellilink explained to the employees why testing was important. 

“We told them about different kinds of testing and what they did and didn’t need to be involved in. We talked about why we needed user input, what kind of input we’d need and how much time it required,” says Kondo. “That gave people an idea of why it takes so long to test.”

OS X Leopard

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

You know…this is the first time I upgrade my MacBook Pro’s OS.  I ran 10.4 for about a year.  Never had any problems with it.  I was cautious regarding the OS upgrade, as in the Windows world, for years now….you’ve had to back up, then test all you applications, then figure out how to make things work, THEN maybe you could get back to work.

With the new OS, I just popped in the DVD, did the upgrade, and voila!  it all worked freakin great!  not a single issue yet!  been 2 hours, just launching my e-mail, and testing everything, but I’ll be damned that I can’t find a thing wrong.

My cynicism comes from me working with Windows 3.11, Win95 (version a, b and c), Win98 (first & second editions), WinME (for the brief 30 minutes I had it installed), Win2000 (all versions and all SPs), WinXP (gotta give kudos….XP was stable and had no REAL issues), and Windows Vista (who cares what version….it didn’t make it to the 30 minute mark for me) for the last 12 years.  I’m all set with Windows.So….for those of you looking for advice on upgrades….I’d do it.

I’ve heard that there is one application out there causing issues, but I didn’t have any issues with the upgrade.

Convert, damn you! convert!

amazing how an OS upgrade is kind of NOT a real big deal.  Given…had my backups prior to the upgrade, but don’t all geeks? 

Windows To OS X – The Conversion Part IV

Sunday, December 17th, 2006

Alright, so I’ve now had my MacBook Pro for about a week, and I’ve gotten so much done to/on it that I’m just flat out impressed. I’ve got a lot of thoughts that I’d like to put down, but I’ll try to keep things simple.

iTunes

Moving my iTunes library without reimporting. I could have copied over all my MP3 files over to the new MacBook from my home PC, and then just did a discovery with the iTunes application to find all the music again, but I wanted to keep all my ratings, play counts, and other data that is kept by iTunes.
Amazingly enough…I copied over the iTunes folder from my PC to my Mac, and when I started iTunes…EVERYTHING was there. AND …. it all worked. I’m kind of amazed at this, but I’m very happy that this just worked like that.

Adobe Acrobat Reader and CutePDF

I can read PDF files with the Preview application included on OS X. I didn’t need (yet…) to download the Adobe Acrobat Reader. I also can print to a PDF file from any application. SWEET! I used to do this on my PC’s with an application call CutePDF…now its just right there on OS X.

Ahead Nero and MagicISO

I can use Disk Utility, but I think its kinda of lacking in ease of use to burn CD’s and DVD’s. I picked up FireStarter FX, which is Donation-Ware. Pretty good software, and easy to use. I can make CD’s and DVD’s with no problem, AND they are still readable from my PC. I can also make ISO files (or bin/cue if you want) right out of this application. (I’m still looking for an easy way to make ISO’s right from a CD-ROM/DVD though…some of this discs are bootable, and copying the data just won’t work). So I’m planning on throwing these guys a few bucks because I’m real happy with this software.

Daemon Tools

This was some freeware I use to install on my Windows PC’s. It created a ‘virtual CD-ROM’ drive, that could point to ISO files, and present them to the Windows OS as a real CD-ROM. This saved me a lot of headache, because I no longer needed to carry around all of my CD’s…I could just keep a file on my laptop/desktop and get to the data with a click or two. Well….if you double click an ISO in OS X, you can access it right in your Finder (the equivilent to Windows Explorer).

Gadwin Printscreen

I used to use this Freeware on Windows to help me with screenshots. I do a lot of this when writing my documentation, so I like something that can just make it easier than hitting Print Screen, (or now ctrl+shift+F3). I found a lovely Widget that I’ll be trying out called ScreenShot Plus. puts the files where I want them, uses the format that I select, and has different options for whole screen, active window, drag a window, or use a timer (unique….I like this one…).

InterVideo WinDVD

Came with my PC, and eh…it worked, but I never really used it. Playing DVD’s is supported right in OS X, so no new software was needed.

Logitech Harmony Remote

I’ve got an Xbox 360, and was looking for a universal remote, and ended up with this one. Personally, I’ve used a few of these universal remotes, and this is BY FAR the easiest one I’ve ever had to set up (including ‘learning’ commands). Currently, this software does not work with Intel based Macs, but IF I need to change the setting on it before they fix the software, I can always just connect this remote to a Parallels VM if I need to.

Macromedia DreamWeaver MX

I used this a bit on the PC, and figured I’d try to use iWeb on the Mac. Well, I don’t think it will work out, and I may need to shell out the cash for a copy of DreamWeaver on the Mac. We’ll see….

Microsoft Office

So I’ve used MS office for YEARS now. I’m definitely NOT an expert at using all of the many features that were included with the suite. I mean, ok, I know many people use the entire Office Suite together, but I’m not one of those. I figure the most work I do is using Excel for my timesheets and expense reports, Word for keeping track of all my day to day activities in a log, and used Outlook for the calander/contacts/e-mail management. It’s worked well for a while, but I mean….I just don’t use all the features.
OK, so I ended up using Apple Mail, iCal, and the Address Book that are built into OS X to replace my Outlook use. I ended up using some software from a company Little Machines http://www.littlemachines.com/ call Outlook 2 Mac. It cost me $10 US, but worth every penny. I tried doing it for free using freeware, but I just kept missing a couple of things. Using Outlook 2 Mac, I got all my 1-GB of e-mail migrated, all 500 or so contacts, and kept my calender for the last 5 years of appointments (not because I really needed them, but because I could).
For Word and Excel replacements, I use OpenOffice 2. It’s free, and it does the job for me.
OK, now I do use a Parallels Virtual Machine (until VMware releases their VMware Workstation for OS X) to run a VERY limited number of Windows applications for my office, so….I’ve got Word and Excel there as a backup (you know…just in case). Not planning on using it, but IF I have a document from a client that has some kind of issue, at least I’ll be able to get things done in a pinch.

Microsoft RDP

Here’s a usefull utility to get a ‘remote’ display of some other Windows Server (XP, 2000 can also support RDP). No loss here…The software is available native for OS X, so I can go on using it.

Microsoft Visio

Well, I use Visio for documentation of datacenters, networks, servers, some project flow, and I only use it at work. Since there is no equivalent for OS X that I know of…I have to run this application in the Parallels VM.

Firefox

I’ve stopped using Internet Explorer a while ago…I’m not really sure how long I’ve been a Firefox user, but I tried to use Safari. A couple of things I liked better about Firefox, so I just downloaded and installed it. Easy switch. Just imported all my bookmarks from my old PC.

PuTTY

In Windows XP, there is no native utilities to make SSH connections to remote devices (servers, switches, routers, SAN arrays, etc), so I use to download this utility and use it all the time. It is freeware for Windows. BUT since OS X is native *nix under the covers, the functionality I needed is right in OS X from the beginning. I did end up missing a couple of features that you just can’t get from the command-line (saved sessions so you don’t have to keep typing your connection information all the time), so I found iTerm and can get most of what I need through that.

Quicktime

I only use QuickTime once in a while, but I consider it worth $30 US. I did have to get a new key to work on the Mac, but that was pretty painless.

Symantec Antivirus

well, for now…don’t really need it on a Mac, but that may change someday….

VMware Virtual Infrastructure Client

A Windows only application that I use on a daily basis. This software manages VMware ESX Servers in the datacenter, and is required application.

VMware Workstation and Parallels

Both companies make great Virtualization software. Right now, I’m using Parallels, as VMware hasn’t released their Workstation for OS X just yet. I’m biased to VMware (as I have been using this for quite a few years), so I’m being up front. I use Parallels right now so that I can use my Windows specific software for work (but as you can see, that list is VERY small right now).

Windows Media Connect

Once again, I use an Xbox 360. I use to stream my my MP3 collection, photos, and such from my WIndows XP desktop at home. I found some lovely software called Connect 360 that plugs into iTunes and streams all my MP3s, photos, and video (the video has the same limitations for formats as Windows Media Connect on Windows XP). $20, and worth it.

WinSCP

Here’s some software I used to use on Windows XP so I could securely copy files over to *nix based systems in bulk. It’s freeware, so I used it extensively. I can do this natively from the command line in OS X, but I may end up trying out Fugu.

Winzip

We’ve all used this in Windows to open archives, but now Windows can open these natively. I use to use this to make Zip files every so often with the Eval copy. Now, the ability to create and extract Zip files is native to OS X, so no problem there.

My Companies Custom Applications

Since these are specifically written for Windows XP, I must use the Parallels VM to use these applications. Can’t work around it.

Now that’s a lot of reading already, so I’ll chime in again later with my general praises of OS X at another time.

Windows To OS X – The Conversion Part III

Sunday, November 26th, 2006

So now comes the fun part, right? Gotta figure out how to do all the things that I’ve got to do on a Mac that I do in Windows. Well, the snag is, I’m still in preparations mode, as my Mac has yet to arrive. I’ve been researching lots of things to help me in my trasition, and this time, I’ll be writing about moving my iTunes library from Windows XP to OS X.

So here’s the situation. I have a 55-GB music library. I’ve ripped all of my 900 some odd CD’s, and have them as MP3s on my computer for the last 5 years. I have an iPod which I carry around my whole CD collection around on. I don’t currently use it for pictures, videos, contacts, or calanders, but that will change as I move over to OS X. The MP3s currently reside on my computer, ‘The-Doctor’.

Why not just copy over the files to the Mac, and then use iTunes to discover the files I’ve copied over? Well, I spent about 2.5 years rating all my music while traveling to customer sites. I did this so that I could always have ‘my favorite’ songs with me on my 20-GB iPod (which FINALLY died and was replace with an 80-GB model after 3 years of abuse), and so that I could figure out what I like to listen to a little more. So now that I’ve got 7000 songs rated, and some history about play counts and last play dates, I’d like to keep that information (not only that, but I pride myself on having kept all my metadata correct, and have tested this to the nth degree). If I just copied the files over to the Mac, and imported those songs, I would lose the ratings and play dates and times that I’ve been keeping track of.

So in planning my iTunes migration, I backed up the files that make up my iTunes directory on my Windows machine. Not the MP3′s, as those are already backed up, but the ‘iTunes Library.itl’ and ‘iTunes Music Library.xml’ files (these files make up the iTunes ‘database’. I moved my ‘iTunes Music’ folder to a different directory so that I could do some importing/exporting with the software and not ‘damage’ my MP3 files and their metadata. After the backup of those core files, which contain all the important data about my MP3 library, I’m ready to explore my options for moving around my MP3 Library. I deleted the files left in my iTunes Music folder, and that gives me a clean iTunes database

So I went into my iTunes preference (found under the Edit pull-down menu in Windows) and looked for some settings to tweak to see if there was anything to help me migrate my data. I found something in the ‘Advanced’ tab’s ‘General’ tab. I do NOT have the ‘Keep iTunes’ Music Folder Organized’ check box ticked. ‘I’ want to keep my folders organized (long story, but being anal retentive, I like to have all my Opeth albums under Opeth, not have some songs under Opeth, and some under Opeth & guest Star…). More importantly and relevant to the discussion, is the 2nd checkbox, ‘Copy files to iTunes Music folder when adding to library’. I put a tick in this checkbox to enable the feature and try it out with a SMALL subset of my data. I import the band 311, and some of my compilations (namely Star Wars Soundtrack, Raiders of the Lost Ark Soundtrack, and Judgement Night Soundtracks) because these compilations have ‘Various Artists’, and mulitple artists in their metadata. I was very happy with the results…it kept all the 311 albums under the 311 band folder…it kept all the soundtracks under the ‘Compilations’ folder and did NOT seperate or break them down by ‘artist’ which could have been a mess. the Judgement Night soundtrack has 11 songs, and they are all co-operative efforts between rap and metal bands, so the ‘artist’ metatag has 2 entries, like Biohazard & Onyx. The problem I had was that I lost ALL of my ratings, and other information that I use in iTunes (but all the metadata was right at least). Time to try another way. I clean out my iTunes directory structure, and try again.

So…under the iTunes ‘Advanced’ pull down menu, I found something interesting…’Consolidate Library’. This is actually what solved my problem…I think…
So before adding music to the fresh and clean library, I cleared the ‘Advanced’ tab’s ‘General’ tab, ‘Copy files to iTunes Music folder when adding to library’ setting. I added the same subset of music. I then went to teh ‘Advanced’ pull down menu, and did a ‘Consolidate Libray’ action. It stated…
‘Consolidating your library will copy all of your music into the iTunes Music folder. This cannot be undone.’
Not being concerned at this point about losing data, I clicked the ‘consolidate’ button.

The result was perfect. It maintained the directory structure I spent so much time creating…with NO issues! This leaves me with some ideas on how to migrate my MP3 data, the metadata, as well as the iTunes database with all its information. I’ve got the plan, so now, to see if it will actually perform in the way I expect it to.

The plan is to do the following…I plan to change the default ‘iTunes Music Folder Location’ to point out to my network share out on ‘Tardis’, do a ‘Consolidate Library’ action, and let all my music copy out to the network share. I’m expecting that when I move the iTunes files (the itl and xml files) over to the Mac after the ‘Consolidation’ to the network drive, that the files and their metadata will be absolutely fine.

Results will be posted…

I plan to keep this up on MY MySpace page as a blog as well, so for those of you interested, click the link above, and check out my page.

Windows To OS X – The Conversion Part II

Sunday, November 12th, 2006

Now for a little bit of my normal use of my computers, both work and home, as well as the setup of how my hardware is configured at both my home and in my office (without giving specific details of either network).

I’ll be discussing Virtual Machines a lot, so for those of you who do not know what they are, check out VMware, Wikipedia, and Virtual-Strategy Magazine.

My home world is easier to work with first, so let me start there. I have a computer at home call ‘The-Doctor’. This is the machine I use for iTunes, backups (both work and home), my simple web sites (check out Gabbs.com if you care to) that I manage with Dreamweaver, editing home video with Quicktime, doing my surfing when at home using Firefox, and running Virtual Machines to test things out for work. I also use a Virtual Machine to do all my day to day work. The reason for this is because I’ve been using Windows long enough to realize that no matter how careful you are, you WILL catch a virus, or get some spyware, or some kind of stupid problem that means you have to rebuild your system…no getting around it. My old record, prior to Virtual Machines, was about 3-6 months using Windows XP Professional.

I have a 2nd system, call ‘Tardis’, which is a NAS (or Networked Attached Storage) device where I keep backups of all my data. The exception to that is that all my video is out on ‘Tardis’ because to keep it all on ‘The-Doctor’ would be a bit too troublesome.

Since we’re on the discussion of backups, what I do with backups…I run a full backup every month to ‘Tardis’, and then incremental backups every day to ‘Tardis’. This way, at the end of the month, I copy all the ‘backups’ to ‘The-Doctor’, burn them off to DVD, and start the process over again. Once things are backed up, I can be assured that I don’t lose any data (only someone who HAS lost data will do things to this extent, let me tell you!). Oh…and being SOOOO paranoid…I make 2 copies of each DVD that I create as a backup, one to leave at home, and one to leave at my office. I do this for both my work data and my personal data. It only takes a matter of a couple of hours to do this, while I’m doing other things, so it is not much of a time commitment, just a commitment to do the work every month.

At work, I’ve got my IBM ThinkPad T-42. It’s my 4th laptop in 5.5 years at my office. I would consider myself a road warrior, as I’m off on customer sites at least one-third of the time, up to one-half of the time. I use VMware Workstation a lot, Microsoft Office, Outlook for my e-mail, Microsoft Visio, things like Acrobat Reader, Winzip, Secure FTP, Putty, Magic ISO, Firefox, Thunderbird, and a couple of work specific appliations that require Microsoft’s .NET. I have a mix of physical machine use and Virtual Machine use to get me through the day at the office. I have a small insignificant problem when I travel away from home though, and that is my data does not go with me. This is due to the fact that I don’t really need or want to mix personal data with work data on a work owned machine. Really, it’s more of a ‘I don’t have the disk space to do so’ issue rather than a ‘I don’t want to mix the data on the same machine’ issue.

Now my goal is to be off Windows ENTIRELY in 2 months, so January 11th will be the deadline. I will be cutting over my work environment to the Mac sooner than that…I’m expecting the end of this month that the only way I’ll be using Windows at the office is SPECIFICALLY for things that I can not find a replacement for in OS X, things like my office’s home grown applications, specific web sites that REQUIRE Intenet Explorer, and other things that I’ll keep track of.

Some of the resources I’ll be using to help me through my trasition to the Mac. My buddy, let’s call him Ratbert. He’s been a Mac guy for a long time. Another Engineer at my office, let’s call him Dilbert. This is the kind of guy Unix/Linux loves. He can script, embrace, and communicate how to solve problems. Dilbert has a 2 week advantage over me, in that he got his new MacBook Pro ahead of me, but I’ve got an advantage over Dilbert because I’ve been looking into this for a year.

Ahh….the next chapter….coming soon to a web page near you…

I plan to keep this up on MY MySpace page as a blog as well, so for those of you interested, click the link above, and check out my page.

Windows To OS X – The Conversion Part 1

Saturday, November 11th, 2006

All right, so here’s the plan…for me to keep track of my transition from the Windows world to the OS X world. Keeping track of what I’ve done, software that I’ve used, things that I learn, how my data migration went, hardware components I used to do the migration, and hope to wrap up the totatl transition in 2 months. I’ve set a goal of 2 months, just due to the fact that I won’t be able to do EVERYTHING I want to do in a weekend, so I’ve set a realistic expectation of 2 months to NOT HAVE TO USE THIS WINDOWS GARBAGE ANYMORE!

Don’t get me wrong…I’ll still need to use a Windows XP Operating System for work (thanks to VMWare for providing the engine to do this!), but I’m must sick and tired of problematic things in the Windows world. Now with the appearance of Vista, I’m all set. Talk about double-talk and screwy licensing aggreements, and whatever they want to call that Windows Genuine Advantage On-Steroids thing. OK, so Windows don’t be gone from my world, but I’ll be using it at work for work specific function, and only when I have to. Oh…and I don’t plan on giving up my MCSE as I find it to be a valuable certification to have since I work in the IT world.

I’ve been seriously thinking about switching over to Apple’s OS X as my primary Operating System for about a year now. Seriously enough to have had a couple of Mac systems as a loaner to beat on for a month or so total. I had a Mac mini about a year ago for a couple of weeks. I liked it, but I just didn’t have time to dedicate to learning a new Operating System. I spent about a month running a developers copy of OS X in a VMware Virtual Machine. It ran dog slow, and had no internet connectivity. Even with those (major in my opinion) issues, I was still intrigued enough to hunt down a loaner system to try to use it as my main system for both work and home. In August, I borrowed a Macbook (not a Macbook Pro) from a friend for 3 weeks. It was the most painful experience for me to wipe it clean, and hand it back to my friend after my time with this laptop was up. (I would have bought the unit, but it had this ‘wierd’ random shutdown issue…hmmmm). Still…I noticed that my hand/wrist felt a lot better after using the Macbook for a few weeks. When I went back to using my IBM Thinkpad T-42, those wrist cramps started coming back.

Now, after using OS X for some time, I found myself longing for the system, as I was now without. To be truthful, the use of the Macbook during August was the turning point. So why wait till November to make the change? I was waiting for the 64-bit release of the MacBook Pro hardware. This way, my Virtual Machines, which I use on a daily basis, would be able to load the 64-bit versions, like Solaris 10 x86 64-bit. OK, maybe Windows Vista or Longhorn 64-bit too, but that will be to keep up my MCSE only.

I’d lay out the chapters that I plan to write here, but I’m gonna completely wing this one. I’ll add my notes to the blog as I go along. I do know that my next entry will have to do with how my home and office setups work, what I use a computer for at work, what I use a computer for at home, and the benfits that I’ll find when using a MacBook Pro as the only computer in my arsenal.

I plan to keep this up on MY MySpace page as a blog as well, so for those of you interested, click the link above, and check out my page.