November 12

Delivering Droplet Computing containers with Citrix Virtual Apps (formerly XenApp)

It’s been a long, long while since I looked at anything Citrix based. It feels really odd saying that because, before VMware came along, I was a Citrix Certified Instructor (CCI) and a Citrix Certified Enterprise Admin (CCEA). I first got into Citrix on the tail end of NT4 Terminal Services Edition (available from Q4 1999 to the end of 2003) and MetaFrame 1.8 (1998 to 2001 when it because MetaFrame XP) and stuck with it until around the Presentation Server 4.5 days (launched in 2007). At the time I wanted to keep both Citrix and VMware on my resume, but once agencies and other sources of my freelance work knew I was VMware certified, it seemed like no one wanted to punt me out for Citrix-based courses. The market kind of dictated my career direction to some extent. So, it was nice to hit citrix.com this week and download the binaries to check out what they now call “Citrix Virtual Apps and Virtual Desktops”, or the products formally known as “XenApp and XenDesktop”.

Read On….

 

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November 1

Droplet Computing Videos

Some handy video links!

Installing Droplet Computing to Windows 10:

Installing Droplet Computing to Apple Mac:

Installing Droplet Computing to Ubuntu Linux:

Installing Droplet Computing to Redhat Enterprise8 Desktop:

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October 11

Droplet Computing containers on Amazon AppStream

Amazon WorkSpaces was a doddle to get up and running as I am very familiar with VDI and workspace concepts. I’d not touched AppStream before, so I needed a bit of primer. I found this video by Thorr Giddings to be excellent. To the point and, for someone with quite a bit of experience, I was able to pause the video at the various steps and get the process down. The best 8 mins of my time this week!

In case you don’t know, Amazon AppStream is a fully managed application streaming service. You centrally manage your desktop applications on AppStream and securely deliver them to any computer. You can easily scale to any number of users across the globe without acquiring, provisioning, and operating hardware or infrastructure. AppStream is built on AWS, so you benefit from a data center and network architecture designed for the most security-sensitive organizations. Each user has a fluid and responsive experience with your applications, including GPU-intensive 3D design and engineering ones, because your applications run on virtual machines (VMs) optimized for specific use cases and each streaming session automatically adjusts to network conditions.

Read on…

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October 2

Droplet Computing containers on Amazon WorkSpaces

This week I spent time working with Amazon WorkSpaces. In case you don’t know, Amazon WorkSpaces is a managed, secure cloud desktop service. You can use Amazon WorkSpaces to provision either Windows or Linux desktops in just a few minutes and quickly scale to provide thousands of desktops to workers across the globe. You can pay either monthly or hourly, just for the WorkSpaces you launch, which helps you save money when compared to traditional desktops and on-premises VDI solutions. Amazon WorkSpaces helps you eliminate the complexity in managing hardware inventory, OS versions and patches, and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), which helps simplify your desktop delivery strategy. With Amazon WorkSpaces, your users get a fast, responsive desktop of their choice that they can access anywhere, anytime, from any supported device.

Read on…

 

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September 17

Droplet Computing Inception

Well, it’s just gone past a month since I joined Droplet Computing, and I’ve been busy, busy, busy, as well as you would expect when you start with a new company. As you might suspect, I’ve been quite “internally focused” (which sounds like some sort of medical examination!). But I’ve been trying to hold true to my goal of making Friday my geek-out day where I just get some technical playtime. I’ve been considering renaming Geek-Out Day as Michelle’s Mad Half Hour. You never know, it might catch on.

Read On…. 

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August 17

Unbuntu, Android Studio and Emulated Google ChromeOS

Note: Before you go down this particular rabbit hole. Three words of advice.

Firstly, even with all the CPU accelerators in place and as many of the performance barriers removed, this emulation is not very horribly quick. It’s useable, but you could just go out and buy a cheap Chromebook, and get fantastic performance.

Secondly, the version of ChromeOS currently available on Android Studio is quite old its version 6.7.

Finally, although this performed better than the nested Windows version I had running on my ESXi host, I found it crashed more frequently on Ubuntu than it did on Windows10. I’d be tempted to try this on physical Windows.

For me, the deal-breaker is the ancient release of Google ChromeOS available through the ChromeOS Repo. Its something I might come back to using a Windows build in a few months time. The setup here works for ALL operating systems including Windows, just skip the Linux bits if you setup on Windows.

Continue reading

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August 14

Ubuntu and Screen Resolutions

I recently had a need to install Ubuntu to a physical box (I know what a concept!) and I connect it remotely using VNC Viewer from RealVNC. One thing I noticed was how poor the screen resolution was on my 27″ wide-screen. I assumed I’d just need to crank up the resolution relative to my screens capabilities. The trouble was that there were only 3 resolution modes available.

1024×768 (4:3)

800×600 (4:3)

848×480 (16:9)

I must admit my first thought was perhaps this was an issue with my graphic controller not being discovered. Actually, it turns out that Ubuntu doesn’t ship with many resolution modes.

To add additional resolution modes open a terminal………

1.) Type the command to retrieve the display mode:

xrandr

This should give us an output like so:

Screen 0: minimum 320 x 200, current 1024 x 768, maximum 4096 x 4096
VGA-1 connected primary 1024×768+0+0 (normal left inverted right x axis y axis) 0mm x 0mm
1024×768 60.00*
800×600 60.32 56.25
848×480 60.00
640×480 59.94

Make a note of the video type in this case VGA-1.

2.) Next, we need to retrieve the configuration settings for creating a new resolution mode for example 1920×1080:

cvt 1920 1080

This should give us an output like so:

# 1920×1080 59.96 Hz (CVT 2.07M9) hsync: 67.16 kHz; pclk: 173.00 MHz
Modeline “1920x1080_60.00” 173.00 1920 2048 2248 2576 1080 1083 1088 1120 -hsync +vsync

3.) Next, we can use xrandr to define the parameters of a new display mode, copying and pasting the parameters retrieved from the cvt command:

sudo xrandr –newmode “1920x1080_60.00” 173.00 1920 2048 2248 2576 1080 1083 1088 1120 -hsync +vsync

4.)  Finally, we can use xrandr to add and activate the newly created mode:

sudo xrandr –addmode VGA-1 “1920x1080_60.00”

 

RESULT! 

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August 9

Rockpools of ShadowXP

Well, I’ve just completed my first full week here at Droplet Computing – and I’m loving every moment.

There are so many things I could blog about right now, but I’m opting to do a blog post a week – mainly so I don’t fire everything off in a hailstorm only to dry up months later. But also because I’m drinking from the firehose (more Silicon Valley-speak) at the moment. Blogging isn’t really what I’m here for, and there’s other “real” work that must take a priority. I have a very healthy to-do list that needs focusing on – I’ve got a security guide to write for a government based deal, and partner enablement collateral to update and improve, as well as QA testing.

But anyway, I thought I would start off with discussing a pretty critical use-case that I’m already seeing out there with customers – and what my colleagues are seeing in terms of engagements with partners and their customers.

The blogpost titles need a bit of explanation.

The metaphor of the “rockpool” came from a customer who we need to buy a beer sometime (many beers!). I think it’s a wonderful metaphor for what is beginning to become a concrete fact. Many organizations have had programs to decommission Windows XP from their estate, but the rapidly retreating tide of Windows XP has left behind significant rockpools of Windows XP. Often Senior Management has little or no visibility of this fact. That isn’t down to not knowing their environments, but more to do with how impossible it is to keep a handle on the vast expanse of technologies at use in various parts of a sprawling organization. There’s also a kind of reluctance to admit to Senior Management that these rockpools of Windows XP exist. Ironically, these rockpools form a small percentage of the environment, but in a company of 25K, 50K, 75K or 100K that small percentage actually represents a significant thorn in the paw of IT strategy to get off legacy Windows, and onto Windows10.

This is also something our technology partners are seeing as well. Those partners have major projects to roll out new EUC projects that are based around the more “workspace” approach. Those of us who have been in the space for a while will know that the “one-portal-to-rule-them-all” concept is not new… But old ideas that once gained little traction in the past can come along a decade later and be successful. Bottom-line is there are often few really new innovative ideas in our industry, just concepts that have been knocking around for some time, whose time has now come. Of course, many of these new projects are geared up to automate logins and fulfilments for cloud-native applications, and the kind of apps found present in a Windows10 environment. Trouble is, that does not help any accounts department still using macros in Microsoft Excel 2010. It’s in this way that Droplet Computing complements (never ever, competes!) the Workspace model, which is really the future of EUC delivery for the conceivable future. IMHO.

So far, so legacy. The other big opportunity I’m seeing is on the horizon. Hopefully, not too distant – and that’s getting Droplet Computing on ChromeOS. I saw a news article recently how the education sector has been moving away significantly from Windows to adopt Chomebooks and Pixelbooks. There’s some (but not much) evidence of that happening in the public sector as authorities try to squeeze the very last from budgets that are already under pressure. The bottom line here is people who must upgrade (because of Windows XP and also Windows7), but don’t have the budget to do so will creatively find other solutions. Necessity is the Mother of virtue after all. Again, the problem here is getting legacy applications on to those devices, without having to resort to constructing a big VDI solution (load-balancers, DMZ navigation, storage, image build optimization etc., etc.) to run a couple of poxy but important legacy apps. I’ll blog more about Google’s Project Crostini in future, once I’ve got my hands dirty.

That leads me to “Shadow XP”. To be fair this is my feeble attempt at clickbait marketerism (did it work?!?  ). We have all heard over the years about Shadow IT. The situation where developers and middle-managers whip out their credit card to dial-up resources from the public cloud. The reasons for that are well documented elsewhere, but the result is the same. It creates a kind of stealthy IT infrastructure that is not detectable on the Senior Management radar. Put simply, you don’t know, what you don’t know. And what you can’t see, doesn’t exist until it comes along and bites you on the bum. In the world of Shadow IT, this is usually a financial ceiling being triggered. In the world of Shadow XP that is an unexpected security breach caused by an operating system you believed had been expunged from your organization years ago. I accept that you, my friend, have absolutely not one drop of Shadow XP remaining in your environment, and like the Trojan’s you have nothing to fear about the wooden horse that appeared within the walls of your fortress this morning.

Dismiss Shadow XP as FUD and “Fake IT News” if you like, but it’s better to be safe than to be sorry after the fact…

 

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August 1

Ubuntu Screen Sharing, Encryption Settings and a Masonary Drill

As part of my work at Droplet Computing, I need to test our software on 4 different platforms (Windows, Apple Mac, Unbuntu and RHEL… and if I’m feeling frisky Chromebooks too!). As Apple Mac physical user, it makes sense to use virtual machines for this functional kind of testing (performance testing is another matter and has to be really done on physical systems). Being a long-standing vSphere user, it was logical to crank my home lab back up and use that gear than buy 3 laptops.

That was a pretty easy affair, but I was tussling with Unbuntu even with VMware Tools installed using Windows10 jump box to access the lab (which coincidentally resides in an enclosure in my garage. I’m using those horrid powerline adapters to get ethernet into there at the moment, needless to say, I hope to borrow a masonry drill in the next couple of days) so I can be wired directly to the wifi router that sits behind my telly.

So I thought I would give Unbuntu “Screen Sharing” a bash to see if that was any better than VMware Console. You can find Screen Sharing by simply typing “Sharing” and enabling it like so:

Trouble was I kept on getting refused/access either using the free VNC Viewer or the Apple Mac’s own Go To Server options.

Turns out Screen Sharing has its own encryption settings which are incompatible with these viewers. The easiest way to fix this is to use a dconf editor to turn off the encryption – and Bob’s your close relative…

1. Open a terminal and install dconf with:

sudo apt install dconf-editor

2. Run dconf-editor with:

dconf-editor

3. Browse to org -> gnome -> desktop -> remote-access and turn require-encryption to OFF

I did find VNC to be more network-friendly, but not as effective as a masonry drill… 🙂

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August 1

Hello Droplet Computing

Well, you might have noticed my last couple of blog posts have been about this company, Droplet Computing.

I wondered if there was a bit of hint of a possible new direction for me? You’d not be wrong. I’m pleased to announce (sounds a bit grand, I’m not sure people are hanging on every one of my pronouncements!) that I’ve joined the company. I guess it’s like that old Victor Kiam ad from the 80s (70s!?!?) I liked the company so much, I decided to join. If you don’t get that referrence then you really are infuriatingly too young. Be gone with you! :-p

I first came across Droplet Computing more than a year ago when they came “out of stealth” (to use a bit of Silicon Valley-speak) at Cloud Field Day in Silicon Valley. I was immediately taken by their pluck and chutzpah. For me, it’s not just about the technology, although that plays an important part in the equation – but also the spirit of the company. What attracted me to Droplet Computing was how they were approaching the challenge of delivering applications in an entirely new, and novel way. In a crowded marketplace of server-based VDI, application sequencing and application virtualization – that is important. For a new company to stand out from the crowd and “move the needle” (more Valley-speak) you have to hit the target in three main areas.

(1)  Offer the customer a net-new method of solving a problem, and net-new opportunities to take a new approach.

(2) Offer value-for-money to customers especially if you’re looking at unseating an incumbent or making sure that you win out in any vendor drag race (even more Valley speak)

(3) Offer performance improvements, whilst at the same reducing the complexity associated with server-side solutions that inevitable incurs multiple servers or virtual machines, fault-tolerant load-balancers, and high-availability solution to protect data center infrastructure.

If you been around for as long as I have – you will have heard the “any, any, any” pitch original espoused by Citrix, and then co-opted by VMware…

Droplet Computing supports Windows, Apple Mac, and Linux. This achieved by leveraging the client-side resource of the Windows PC, Apple Mac or Linux Workstation. It might not have escaped your attention but many modern laptops now have the kind of resources servers used have a decades ago. Those resources are vastly underutilized, so that platform offers great opportunities to more the workload from the MOST expensive place to run any computing activity (the data center) back to one of the most cost-effect places to run applications. There are other host devices on our radar, but for now, it’s important not to bite off more than we can chew. OR if you enjoy Valley-speak, not “boil the ocean”.

[Incidently, Droplet Computing is a UK start-up so hopefully, we will be short on Valley-speak, and long British classic understatement. 😉 ]

Here really isn’t the place for me to “pitch” Droplet Computing. All that remains to say is I’m really excited to be joining the company at such a critical point, and I know it’s going to be a great experience, mainly because I will have SO many different things to do. Initially, I will also be responsible for creating and reviewing technical documentation (Hello Grammarly!), be a liaison between the customers and development for product feedback and contributing to the overall product strategy. I’m excited to be working back in “vendorland” and moreover getting my hands dirty with technology at the coalface.

One of my first tasks will be to develop and deliver technical channel enablement program. That will mean getting to know all the partners really well, and really listening to their concerns and priorities, and help them deliver the technology to customers. I’m sure over time as we grow, my role with develop – in other words I will be asked to even more with the same amount time! :-p

Finally, I’d like to give a shout out to my former colleagues at SureSkills in Ireland. You guys are a great bunch of people and for me were a great illustration of what being in a team really means. I wish you every success in the future. 🙂

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