RSS

Author Archives: mglaverick

About mglaverick

Formerly the founder and owner of "RTFM Education", this is my new blog dedicated to virtualization, cloud, videos, guides, books and other valuable content. In August, 2012 I became VMware's Senior Cloud Infrastructure Evangelist.

My Amazon AWS Certification Plan with @pluralsight and @ekhnaser (Part God Knows!)

So I’ve played about with AWS in my time at VMware, but really only dipped my toes. Like many people I like to have a goal to work towards – so it felt reasonable to think about going through the steps to prepare for certification. For me the important thing is the learning process and getting the old IT Brain working again. So I may or may not end up doing the eggzams for AWS, but thought the structure around that prep could help frame my learning. I took a look at the certs on Amazons websites:

https://aws.amazon.com/certification/certification-prep/

The above link is pretty good for generic info – if you want more detail for the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate certification this – a much better location – https://aws.amazon.com/certification/certified-solutions-architect-associate/

And I can tell I need to do the “asssociate’ stuff before I do anything ‘profesisonal’ – and given my background the Administrator/Architect path is one that suits me. I’ve spent most of my career training, education and teaching sysadmins how to manage systems – and AWS isn’t going to be any different to that. I’m not about to morph into a developer at my advanced age. You can can teach a dog new tricks, but you can’t teach an old dog to be a cat.

According to Amazon – Step1 is take a training class. As understand it authorised training is not a requirement, only recommendation. So unlike some (ahem) certification tracks that mandate authorised training, that’s NOT the case with AWS. Yippee. That means I can spend my plentiful time instead of my limited cash on training.

As vExpert (2009-2017) I bagged a free 1-year subscription to Pluralsight so it makes sense to use it as alternative to authorised training from a recognised training partner. As rule I prefer classroom training with an instructor is who alive (as opposed to dead). But given the finances I will make do with the passivity that is online training. Pluralsight does have a course entiteld “AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate” which fits the bill. It’s created by Elias Khnaser. I know Elias though Linkedin and Twitter, so intend to be little cheeky monkey and ask him questins directly. Although to be kind, I’ll probably store them up until the end of the course. There’s nothing worse for an instructor to be asked questions in Module1, that is answered in Module2, right?

https://app.pluralsight.com/library/courses/aws-certified-solutions-architect-associate/table-of-contents

Right out of the bat, Elias recommends attending another course to the above if your a novice. I’ve never been one to skip steps in learning process so I opted to do that first.

https://app.pluralsight.com/library/courses/aws-system-admin-fundamentals/table-of-contents

If you are going to do the fundmentals course first – I would recommend skipping to Module3: Introduction to AWS Global Infastructure, if you have been in the industry a while like myself. The course is itself feels pretty up to date (I notice there’s no date of creation) and isn’t going date that much because its fundmentals. But you will spot little changes – for instance the course states that there are 10 Regions plus GovCloud. Actually, its now stands at 16 regions with another 3 planned. So long as you follow the URLs in the course you should be able to see these difference. For a more up to date list of the Global Infrastructure – you need this page:

https://aws.amazon.com/about-aws/global-infrastructure/

My plan once I’ve gone through both courses is double back to Amazons 8-Step program outline on their webpages. Both courses are about 8hrs in duration… and I would recommend perhaps going through each one twice. One of the decide benefits of online training like this is the “rewind button”. Something that is decidedly lacking in instructor-led training – although I believe some vendors do allow access to online versions of their training material AFTER you have passed the exam. Although in my personal opinion I imagine few people can spare their time out of the bizzy schedules to re-do a course all over again. The benefit I think is “refreshing” yourself on a particular topic or subject you found tough.

 

 

Posted by on April 11, 2017 in Amazon

Comments Off on My Amazon AWS Certification Plan with @pluralsight and @ekhnaser (Part God Knows!)

Tags:

What Next?

So I’m back from my family holiday in Wales with my Mum and Big Brother (no relation to George Orwell). And my thoughts have been turning to what I do next with my time, now that my grown-up gap year feels properly over. I’m not the kind of person who likes to sit on my big fat butt waiting for opportunities to wash up on my shore. So I’ve been thinking about what I can do to ease my way back into the world of work, after my time way. I guess this is always a concern or anxiety that anyone would have during time away from gainful employment. So it’s not just finances that stop people from taking time out from work, as well as those other commitments – mortgage and family usually!

For some months I’ve been volunteering in my local area. Volunteering is a great way to give back to wider society whilst giving your week a focus, not least getting you out and about in the big wide world. I currently volunteer at Derby Museum as well as a local National Trust site called Eyam Hall. I’ve been asked by some what this work is like. The work at the museum started by supporting their recent exhibition on the History of Children’s TV. That was a fun exhibition as we got all age groups coming through, and it really was a little snapshot of how British Culture has changed. My role there as a “Volunteer Ambassador” was just to meet and greet people, and ideally engage with them about the exhibits. It makes such a difference to persons visit- to have a chat with someone, rather than walking through silently through a gallery speaking to no-one. Eyam Hall on the other hand is different kettle of fish. It’s a National Trust property and built around the 16th Century in a village that cut itself off from the world when the plague hit the country. The NT’s approach is to let people wonder and discover, and not ‘impose’ an interpretation on visitors – but its great when folks do ask questions as that means I get the chance to do my best Lucy Worsley impersonation!  My last piece of volunteer work is for local charity called Aquabox. My role there is more work-from-home – in finding new source for fund-raising. So far I’ve managed to get Aquabox listed on the VMware Foundation (and I’m on the look out for other corporate style foundations to add to the list) and applying to official bodies like UK-AID. Anyway, the moral is simple one. If you seeking new employment after being out of the circuit for a while – get volunteering. There are no shortage of areas or opportunities. When I do find employment again – I will probably reduce the time I spend volunteering and move them to the weekend. If you are an employee of big company remember lots of these business now have programs that encourage you taking ‘service hours’ to help good causes. For instance VMware calls this “Service Learning” – http://www.vmware.com/company/foundation.html For the moment – my plan is to ring-fence Thursday and Friday as my volunteering days (these are always times when there is a shortage of people), and use the remainder of the week doing something more IT related.

So one questions I’ve been asking myself is what do on the technical front. Things have moved on since I’ve been away, but they also moved on whilst I was at VMware. If you have a full-time job with a large software vendor – it’s full-time job just keeping up to date with your own responsibilities, never mind peaking over the cube to look at what the rest of the company is doing. So there question has been – do I throw myself in learning more VMware stuff and refreshing existing knowledge OR do I branch out and do something totally different give myself an entirely virgin field to explore? I mean I don’t want to lose my connections with VMware because that’s been such an important technology and company to me in the last 14 years (2003 is when I opened my first VMTN communities account!). But if I’m going to learning its important to learn some brand new to me. The other consideration as well as ever to someone who is on their own and learning without the backing of an employer is what pre-reqs (physical, virtual, software, knowledge) are needed. Do you play to strengths or try to plug gaps in your knowledge that may not be your strengths?

One thing I’ve noticed in the community is significant rise in folks working towards the AWS Certifications. I guess that’s testament to Amazon’s dominance in the Public Cloud space, but also reflects that fact that many in the enterprise world are users of VMware on-premises and Amazon in the off-premises (is that actually word? it feels so odd to type it!). The other interesting thing to me that happened last year – was the collaboration between VMware and Amazon that was announced last year (http://www.vmware.com/cloud-services/vmware-cloud-aws.html) This is currently in a techpreview format, and I think it’s an interesting pivot. There have been lots of different partnerships of this ilk over the years – but I do think this one is significant. The appeal to me is the possibility of cross-over of skills. As we all know find someone who is equally strong in two areas is tricky – and being someone who can comfortable talk about VMware and Amazon with equal authority could be an interest area.

Right now my knowledge of Amazon is pretty thin. Like many I had an account for testing purposes usually of things like VMware vRealise Automation, but also test products that leverage AWS as it related to VMware technologies Revello (now owned by Oracle) and Velostrata. On the plus side, as recent vExpert I have as benefit access to PluralSight’s library of courses. So plan is to use my Mon/Tue/Wed to work through these course, and maybe do the exams associated with Amazon certification. I don’t suspect that this will lead or even relate directly to finding a new role – but what’s important to me is getting my “IT Brain” moving again. The other thought I had is that learning something new will inspire some blogging on my part as well, and that blogging will help (re)build my presence in the community. But also In the spirit of –  learning something new can never hurt….

 

Posted by on April 10, 2017 in Amazon, Announcements

Comments Off on What Next?

Retail Software Update/Upgrades in the era of the Silver Surfer….

Old YouView

New YouVIew

So I have this PVR box here in the UK called “YouView” which now pretty much standard fair – you know Series Link, Pause/Rewind Live TV etc. etc. This week they did a software update/upgrade which reskined the thing with quite a shift in the UI. The UI change is pretty typical of what’s in fashion nowadays, and you see it on modern day website designed for tablets. So reduce the detail; menus – and opted for the more stripped down ’tile’ view along the lines of say OSes like Window8/10. The kind of less is more approach.

Of course, this raises the thorny questions of when is software change – a patch, update or upgrade. This old catagory question has got even more blurry as stuff that was meant to just fix stuff is now generally sweetened up with additional features or a new look. The other SW vendors are doing are doing is “depreciating” features. This is a clever use language for what is affectively an arbitarary removal of functionality without notice. Finally, with domestic retail software we seeing an increase us of over the air updates which are mandatory, not optional – and happen automagically without your triggering them. I guess this is requirement nowadays as more and more devices are web-connected, as vunerabilities are discovered those fixes need to pushed out quickly in order to gain ‘herd immunity‘ from potentional virus or exploits in badly patched managed environments.

I guess my generation is probably going to be the last to be irratated by this, as the younger generation will be able to absorb software changes as fast rate, and have more important things to do like curating an interest image on themselves on social media platforms, and wondering why their uber hasn’t arrived yet.

But I think the retail software people are forgetting a core demographic. The baby-boomer generation or “silver surfers” who react badly to any change, of any type. I’ve seen this happen loads with my Mum as Microsoft ceasely change outlook.com an almost weekly cadence, for almost negiable benefit, unless they definie “benefit’ as confusing the shit out my elderly parents. So how to manage this radically divergent user types. Well, I think these vendors should be going back to a very simple Q/A of “Doing want our radical new update that makes everything bright and shiny, or would rather have the good classic look”.  At the very least the ability to go back to a classic look and feel should be offered. With the rise in the aged population, there’s going to be rise in people who struggle to adapt change, and need to make notes on ‘how to do stuff’.

Of course the silly thing is. This ’tile’ UI is in itself quite old-hat now. I mean its been around for donkeys years and think the first time i saw it was on an early AppleTV. Personally, I prefer the good old fashioned list – when you could see more on a single screen and navigate through more content in a single page, and also see what shows I’d partly watched… Finally, we with every mass software update there is always a % of DOA updates. Mine went thru perfectly fine, others less so. I assume retail sofware vendors budget for and have the PR chaps ready for any blowback…

 

Posted by on March 18, 2017 in Other

Comments Off on Retail Software Update/Upgrades in the era of the Silver Surfer….

Altaro VM Backup V7 Released

Download the 30-day trial: http://www.altaro.com/vm-backup/download.php
Product Info: http://www.altaro.com/vm-backup/

Hi there, and thanks for reading this blog post about Altaro VM Backup. I was asked by the guys at Altaro to take a look at their latest release. I said yes, and I also managed to persuade Altaro to make a donation to the charity (aquabox.org) who I’m volunteering for whilst I look for a new role. So firstly, a big thank you goes out to Altaro for agreeing to this arrangement. I think its setup that works well for all. Altaro gets exposure to their new offering; I get stick time with a product that’s new to me – and a good cause benefits as well. I managed to raise £280 for Aquabox. If you want to donate to Aquabox as well click the logo!

Lets start with some basic facts. Altaro has won a number of pludits from the reviewers on Spiceworks and VirtualizationAdmin.com. Their Altaro VM Backup software can backup both VMware vSphere as well as Microsoft HyperV, so is handy for those people working in a hybrid environment. It’s licensed on a per-host basis, not per-socket or CPU, so customers who go for a high-density consolidation ratios (the number of VMs per hosts) are really going to benefit from a licensing perspective. It’s chocked full of all the features you would normally expect from any enterprise backup system. Altaro VM Backup is fully compatible with Microsoft VSS, and that means you will get a consistent backup from those tricky customers like Microsoft SQL. The software is granular enough to restore individual files and emails from within a virtual machine backup. Finally, a number of backup targets are supported including USB External Drives and Flash Drives eSata External Drives, File Server Network Shares (via UNC), NAS devices (via UNC), RDX Cartridges – as well as the Offsite Altaro Backup Server with WAN acceleration. In my own case I pointed my simple Altaro Server to my local NAS box that already had backup shared out accessible to Microsoft Windows, the same NAS is visible to my VMware ESXi hosts on the same network using NFS.

The Setup

As you might expect the setup routine was a relatively trivial affair, and indeed the software itself does a good job of walking you through the 3-step routine to provide the core details need to do your first test backup – this means adding your VMware vCenter, individual VMware ESXi Hosts or Microsoft Hyper-V Hosts.

Each of these stages has a ‘test connection’ component before you proceed, tha you can see in this screen grab below:

The next stage is adding your storage options for carrying out the backup itself. You can opt for a directly connected device, or for a remote location supported by UNC. In my case my Altaro VM Backup Server was a Windows 2012 R2 virtual machine, with access to my remote NAS.

As you can see once a backup target has been added its simply a case of dragging and dropping a VM to that target. From this point onwards most of the admin tasks are of a drag-and-drop variety – dragging VMs to predefinied schedules and retentention policys, so you can control the frequency of backups, and hold old backups are disgarded. As my lab has been offline for a year, I don’t really have that many VMs to backup, except of course the infrastructure VMs that make up the lab itself. So I decided to backup these VMs as a matter of course.

What’s New

The V7 Edition boasts a number of new features. The first is “Augmented Inline Deduplication”. This decreases the time it takes to both take and restore a backup. It creates the smallest backup size, and doesn’t require you to group VMs together to get the benefits. The fact that its inline means the deduplication process isn’t run as a post-backup process. This is important because the storage savings that deduplication brings mean little in real terms if you still need the temporary space required to carry out the backup. By definition backups often mean backing up the same bit of data that repeats itself in different VMs over and over again, and this deduplication cancels out bloat in backups.

Altaro have published blogs that explain this augmented deduplication process. This blogpost is a centred around Hyper-V and they have a very similar one for VMware as well. Calculating the upfront exact amount of potential savings any customer will get from any dedupe process is difficult. However, the Altaro VM Backup Dashboard does a good job of showing those dedupe and compression savings.

Also new to V7 is “Boot from Backup”, it’s the ability to power on a VM directly from the source backup. Typically, this means a network location like a CIFS/NFS server share/export is mounted directly to the hypervisor and powered on. That means the IO performance will be constrained by the disk capabilities of the system backing it. Remember this is merely away of getting the VM up and running in the shortest possible time. In most cases the availability issue trumps any short-term performance hit, because it’s the clever stuff going on in the background that matters. In the background the restore process is continuing – once the restore process has completed, all you need to do is schedule a small maintenance window to shutdown the “boot from backup” and replace it with the restored copy. As you might expect, a reboot takes less time than waiting for a full VM restore.

The “boot from backup” feature has two modes – a verification and recovery mode, and of course the performance mileage will vary dependent on the qualities and capabilities of the storage backing that VM’s backup target location.

Once you have gone through the usual suspects of selecting the mode, backup location and VM itself – you get granular control over the way VM is brought up. This includes attributes such as renaming the VM and ensuring its network card is in a disconnected state – to avoid conflicts with the existing VM.

What’s Next?

VM Backup V7 will soon promises a feature called Cloud Management Console (CMC), which will allow administrators to monitor and manage remotely all their backup installations using a single tool that can be accessed from any web browser – without VPN or any requirement to be on-site. The CMC dashboard gives a more site-by-site or customer-by-customer point of view and will be designed for a more multi-tenant approach to backup management.

What’s There?

Well, as I stated earlier everything you’d expect from an enterprise backup solution is pretty much there. So along side multi-hypervisor support you’ll see an impressive list of features:

  • Drastically reduce backup storage requirements on both local and offsite locations, and therefore significantly speed up backups with Altaro’s unique Augmented Inline Deduplication process
  • Back up live VMs by leveraging Microsoft VSS with Zero downtime
  • Full support for Cluster Shared Volumes & VMware vCenter
  • Offsite Backup Replication for disaster recovery protection
  • Compression and military grade Encryption
  • Schedule backups the way you want them (View video)
  • Specify backup retention policies for individual VMs (View video)
  • Back up VMs to multiple backup locations

So there are plenty of positives to be hand, along side a competitive licensing policy… but….

What’s Missing?

If there’s one repeated criticism levelled at Altaro VM Backup is the lack of public cloud as a backup targets. So for offsite backup use your very much dependent on having another site in which to host the Altaro VM Backup Offsite Server. Now for many small businesses this might not be an issue, as many SMBs actually have more than one location – such as their main warehouse facility and the customer-facing location. However, for SMBs that literally only have one location this is tricky. Such customers might look to services like Amazon S3, Glacier or Azure as way of getting their backups a distance from the core site. The alternative is transporting removable media to another location – and that feels decidedly 1990’s for an era where data can and should be held anywhere.

I raised this issue with the guys at Altaro and they pointed me to blogpost they have which show using the Altaro VM Backup Office Server in Azure. The first blogpost covers off the planning and pricing aspects of placing an Altaro Offsite Server in Microsoft Azure. The second blogpost explains the process of how to setup it up. This configuration is something that Altaro intends to fully develop and it in the pipeline, and part of an overall cloud strategy – but they weren’t understandably able to give me an ETA on that – because it would be commercial sensitive to do so.

In Conclusion

If you are familiar with virtualisation and have been following the backup space for virtualization for a while – there are no surprises here. What’s certainly true for me is that a new tier of backup vendors is entering an already crowded space. This is not dissimilar to the shake-up we saw in the storage space in the last 5 years. Features that were once unique and only available from premium vendors are now going mainstream. The question remains – if you are working with a premium mainstream vendor what unique features are they offering you that you can’t get elsewhere from a relatively new player in the market who is hitting the streets with very attractive pricing and licensing policies? So I see it as a mark of ‘due diligence’ to do a scoping out of alternatives, rather than simply disengaging the brain and signing the renewal contract. You don’t do that with any other insurance premium, so why do that with your backup insurance premium?

Finally, for home labs and small environments, that need basic features, they can also use the free edition that enables backup up to two VMs for free, valid forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by on January 30, 2017 in Other, vSphere

Comments Off on Altaro VM Backup V7 Released

@LastPass and Password Management

password_postit

This blogpost is about my recent escapades in password reset and password management. Before I dive in I need to fess up. Despite decades of experience, I have over time seriously miss-managed my passwords. That’s despite having used tools like Lastpass for a couple of years. I haven’t been naughty such as writing down passwords on PostIT notes, but I have re-used similar or same passwords across multiple websites – even though I knew this exposed me to so-called “weaker sister” style breaches – that is to say that if you use the same password across multiple site, it’s the one that is most vulnerable to attack which then allows access (assuming the same user ID is in use) to all the rest. So this New Year I decided to put a stop once and for all to this bad practise. What follows is a description of what that was like, how bad/easy it was, and some general thoughts about the nature of security in the modern world. I might add the recent 1B breach of user ID by Yahoo was a wake-up call. I wasn’t personally hacked and I believe my account was secure (after all 1B accounts takes some going thru even by modern computing standards). I guess the operative word there is ‘believe’

Firstly, if you a LastPass user – check out how many websites you have listed, and run the security challenge. This does a good job of flagging up how bad your situation is, as well as flagging – compromised passwords, weak paswords, reused passwords and old passwords. You can see the result of my score above. Actually, this was in terrible state until I set about resetting the passwords. I had bad reports for Step1/2/3/4. My master password (the one that allows access to the LastPass word vault) was the same as one of the websites I had saved. Lastpass does warn you about doing this – but I foolishly ignored it and never got round to resetting it…

screen-shot-2017-01-02-at-18-40-03

Secondly, where possible use Lastpass ‘Change Password Automatically’ feature to reset bum entries. This feature works well with the website it works with (paypal, twitter, amazon). However, it DOES NOT work with the vast majority of other websites. This is NOT Lastpass fault, but because we have no uniform standard for how password reset webpages should be constructed and formatted. This means authenticating individually to each and every site, and doing the password reset manually. I had over 240 sites. A follower on twitter had over 600 (admittedly he said he was okay as everyone was unique)

Note: Incidentally, I found “Change Password Automagically” is available for Yahoo, it didn’t work. I also found it got confused with the multiple Google accounts I have. I think this is because both Yahoo and Google have their own special UI and method of handling logins. I found Lastpass would reset the wrong accounts password.

screen-shot-2017-01-02-at-18-43-16

Thirdly, let LastPass generate new passwords for you. But beware that not all websites support special characters (!@£%^&*_), and some require things like 2 numbers and two letters with Upper-Case. Also I found occasionally that Lastpass would not ‘see’ the password reset, and it wouldn’t prompt to update the username/password stored in the Vault. I took to copying the password to the clipboard, just in case – and doing manual updates. This is because there are really no standards for how password resets are managed for web-pages.

Lastly, Lastpass creates a little icon in the username and password areas – this works on Yamaha’s website for example but not for Hertz’s website.

screen-shot-2017-01-02-at-18-56-25

screen-shot-2017-01-02-at-18-53-02

Note: You can right click in these fields, and select Lastpass, and Generate Secure Password

Also I spent many minutes trying to find the place to reset my password in some websites which slowed the process down. This is because there is no standardisation really for where this information is held. Sometimes it’s easier to pretend you’ve forgotten your password, to get an easy to click reset link. However, this isn’t standardised either – as some websites reset your password to a value which you have to subsequently change (which means you wind up having to locate and work with their password reset feature).

Fourthly, rinse and repeat for every single login ID – I ended up running down my 240 stored usernames/passwords to about 160. This is because some of the websites no longer exists or I couldn’t access them. For instance I had username/password combo for internal systems at vmware.com stored behind a VPN accessible firewall. This does raise the spectre of bad username/password combinations that can never be fixed. However, I take the view that if ALL of the existing websites I do have access to – each have their own unique password – I’m as safe as I could ever be. And in comparison to my poor rating before – I now have a much better situation. It does raise the issue of remembering to delete accounts or reset passwords on systems you are not using anymore. The Yahoo warning was about an email address I have not used in years….

Conclusions:
Firstly, You will notice that the word ‘standardisation’ comes up a number of times. It’s my belief that this lack of standardisation in the industry concerning password management significantly reduces the value of tools like Lastpass. This isn’t Lastpass fault, they must work with the reality they find. However, given recent breaches I think pressure should be put on the large stakeholders to adopt uniform standards.

Secondly, I shocks me that today in 2017, many website use your ’email address’ as the username. I doubt very much if the average joe/Josephine creates a bogus email address simply for the purpose of logins. This means the very means by which people requests password resets can be hacked. I see no reason why folks can’t have a user ID that is distinct and separate from their email. It would make swapping out email when they change infinitely easier. If I change my email address many hundreds of entries in my Lastpass vault become stale or invalid.

Thirdly, given this a manual process cared out me a monkey with an oversized wet brain – mistake can and do happen. There are couple of website where I screwed up their password reset process and found myself locked out. This means I have to request a password reset email (or in the case of outllook.com/live.com get codes sent to other email addresses or my phone).

Finally, although Lastpass has an automatic password reset feature, it’s not supported uniformly. This makes the process very labourious, and is a dissensitivity to fix the problem – but also reset passwords. It’s common standard in the enterprise environments to change passwords on a 30/60/90 cycle. No such standard exists in the private internet space. It took me ALL DAY to fix my problem – starting at 9am and finishing at nearly 11pm. It’s unacceptable to me to have carve out a whole day annually, quarterly or monthly to reset all 160 entries. The only ‘reasonable thing is once a week do a block of 10 or alternatively – make a folder of the MOST sensitive accounts (email, banking and anything that processes money – paypal and ebay for instance) and put them on a more frequent cadence of resets.

 

Posted by on January 2, 2017 in Other

Comments Off on @LastPass and Password Management

Employee Alert: VMware Foundation Charity Listing – AQUABOX

aquabox

Hello my fellow VMwareans. (Yes, I know that makes people sound like their some kind of alien species that have just landed on planet earth).  Although this post is public on my blog, it’s actually directed at all the folks who work at VMware. I’m currently on my gap year which officially ends at midnight on the 31st Dec, but will mostly like carry on until such time as I find gainful employment. One of the things I’ll be doing in the mean time is volunteering. I had thought of starting in the New Year, to mark the end of this time. But after attending September’s VMworld in Vegas – I realised that there was no time like the present.

If you are searching for Aquabox in the VMware Foundation – change the filter to be “UK” you can locate it Registered Charity Number which is 1098409.  This year the company has allowed you to donate a fixed sum for a good cause, if you donate more this triggers a matching donation from VMware.

What follows below is a description of Aquabox and what we do. I realise many are you time poor, but if you prefer videos. Grab yourself a brew, some M&Ms, and watch this 8 minute YouTube. It will tell you why Aquabox is so important, and how the technology works.

For the rest of you who enjoy reading my excessively verbose blogposts… Hello!

One of my activities is volunteering at local charity to me called Aquabox. I say local to me, because although the technology and concept we developed in the town I now call home, its remit is a global. So what is Aquabox? At the heart of it is a unique and innovative water filter that’s gone through a number of iterations over the years. When a disaster strikes the first thing that goes to pot is the water supply. You can survive for many weeks (if your well nourished) without food, but without clean and non-polluted water you will die in days (and in some cases hours). Historically, the big charities have distributed chlorine tables to kill off water born bugs such as cholera. Have you ever taken a gulp of water in a swimming pool? Think of that, but 100 times worse. So what happens is people in dire straits (and this often includes children who know no better) drink dirty and polluted water – and die not of starvation or thirst, but from the diseases that water contains.

There’s two type of AquaFilter – a Community and Family. As you might imagine the big daddy serves a large number of people, whereas the family is intended for a group of five. As for the Aquabox itself some of the filters have been running for 4 years in Africa. The technology is robust, simple and easy to maintain. As piece of technology its a thing of beauty to any engineer worth their salt, and it’s perfectly fit for its purpose. And of course, it needs to be – given the hostile environment it has to function in. Aquabox has been operating for 20 years – and employs just one part-time manager – the rest of us are volunteers. So you can rest assured that the vast majority of your donation will go to the end-user. Aquabox started its life as part of the Rotary Club Organisation which has a global reach with a good reputation for trustworthiness. So the supply chain of getting the boxes to the family is one that comes with a high integrity.

As for myself. I’ve been packing the boxes which include not just the AquaFilter, but whole host of items a family would need in the first hours, and days of humanitarian crisis. The other thing I’ve been doing is trying to establish other methods of raising funds. As former employee I thought of VMware and you my former colleagues – and the VMware Foundation. I’m exceeding grateful to the folks within the VMware Foundation who have expedited this new beneficiary so swiftly and efficiently. And I’m very grateful to my good friend Hans Bernhardt (who many will know as Chicken Man!) for helping getting the word internally.

By its nature Aquabox  goes everywhere and we operate in the most extreme of situations because that is where the greatest need exists. Aquabox has been helping the many tens of thousands of people who remain trapped inside a war zone in the Aleppo. These include incredibly brave team members from our aid distribution partner Hand in Hand for Syria يدا بيد لنبني سوريا . Hand in Hand in Syria is UK registered charity, and the team at Aquabox have been sending shipments to distribute to Syrian refugee camps, and they have 1,000 Aquaboxes ready to give out to families once they have been evacuated from Aleppo. Very few aid organisations are able to operate in Syria because of the nature of the conflict, and the only way to achieve this is with trusted partners who’s only concern is life and limb.

Of course, Syria is not Aquabox’s most recent recipient of aid. In fact, the main focus has been Hatti. We are continuing to send emergency disaster relief to the people of Haiti whose lives have been thrown into chaos following the devastation of Hurricane Matthew. We are sending a further 250 family sized Aquaboxes, to add to our previous shipments of 500 Aquaboxes and 18 Community Aquafilters.

That timeliness even more acute today. As you have seen Aleppo in Syria is about to fall, sparking yet another massive humanitarian crisis – with mass exodus from the city of almost biblical proportions. I want to put aside any political analyse or opinions, to ask you to think of those people this Christmas Time – the vast majority are innocent civilians just caught in the crossfire. People just like you and me, caught at the wrong place at the wrong time. All too often in our modern media saturated world, tragedy spills out on to our screens. The scale of the suffering can lead you feel to be numb at times. It’s so overwhelming it makes you wonder what can be done. Well, something can be done. An Aquabox can be sent. You can make that happen. Today.

Please think of Aquabox if you if you have the opportunity to donate.

And if you reading this and your not a VMware Employee, there’s nothing stopping your donating from your own pocket. Think of it this way, how much do you spend in coffee shops in a week. Why not give that amount?

 

Posted by on December 16, 2016 in Announcements

Comments Off on Employee Alert: VMware Foundation Charity Listing – AQUABOX

Check out Neil Anderson’s (@flackboxtv) “How to Build a NetApp ONTAP 9 Lab”

68mwgl0y_400x400

Neil Anderson has been in touch to let me know that he’s produced an extensive guide to building a complete vSphere Lab with NetApp ONTAP 9 as the backend. So its essentially a free eBook to cover the new version. Neil is kinda tooting his own horn but he’s confident my book blows the NetApp setup guide out of the water – He’s got full step by step instructions with screenshots about how to build a fully networked two cluster lab with Windows and Linux clients. I’ve taken a quick gander and I can tell its a quality ‘product’ that might have once found a home on my old “RTFM Education” site from the good old days!

Readers can download it from Neils blog (it’s free of course) and the goal is to help people get their first hands-on look at the new OS

It’s downloadable from http://www.flackbox.com/netapp-simulator/

If you interested with connecting to Neil here’s followable (is that word now?) on twitter here: https://twitter.com/flackboxtv

 

 

Posted by on October 19, 2016 in Announcements

Comments Off on Check out Neil Anderson’s (@flackboxtv) “How to Build a NetApp ONTAP 9 Lab”

Do you want to be an author?

image001

For me writing a book was the next step up from being a blogger. True some of my early “RTFM Eduction” guides got pretty lengthy – but the commitment to writing a book was a whole new order. I really enjoyed the process and understanding how the publishing industry works. Plus there’s the satisifaction of seeing your work on the bookshelf at VMworld – or even you local bookshop. The other thing I would say is if your aim is to build your ID in the community and perhaps getting on the speaking circuit. Of course, a bit like a PhD you can’t measure the value of being an author in dollars and cents (I wouldn’t measure it in pound and pence, in case it devalues further). Its more a sense of achievement. But I would say that writing a book does seperate the men from the boys, and girls from the women. Lets face anyone these days can crank up a blog and write a couple of posts. But its different skill and commitment to write a book. I wouldn’t say your joining an elite officers club either, but you will become part of the support group (see it like Authors Anonymous) who have been there, and done that. Who knows you might actually enjoyed it. After each book I always said it was the last one –  some eight books later – I was still saying it.

My former publisher, McGraw-Hill Education, recently let me know about an authoring opportunity for a new book covering the VCP6-DCV certification exam. They are interested in technical expert(s) with a passion for educating. Ideal candidates will have the VCP6-DCV certification credential and possesses a combination of classroom training experience; course content development; and user group/community participation. They are interested in both prospective authors and technical reviewers. If you are interested, please contact them at authoring@mheducation.com

 

Posted by on October 19, 2016 in Announcements

Comments Off on Do you want to be an author?

Bright Light City…

…gonna set my soul, gonna set my soul on fire….

Just a quick blogpost to tell folks that I will be at VMworld Vegas this year (I arrive late Sunday afternoon). I had some frequent flyer points and hertz points to use. So I was able to cover my cost of travel to the event with minimal costs. A big shout out to the communities folks (you know who you are!) for seeing me clear for a bloggers ticket (not that I’ve been that prolific in this my gap year). I wasn’t sure initially if I was going to make the event – but with a cool head I decide that I couldn’t really not attend, as the event is a great opportunity for me to meet, greet and reconnect with people in the community & industry, and start the process of looking for my next role. I’ve assumed that its going to take anything from 3-6-9 months to find a suitable position – so it doesn’t feel too early to start putting the feelers out (so to speak), as in my experience things can take time to reach fruition. With that said, if there is anyone out there reading this who thinks there might be interesting opportunity that would suit my sort of unique background and skills – do get in touch by the usual methods (linkedin or twitter). As for what I’m looking for I’m open-minded and open to suggestions. Although another stint in vendorland or cloudland seems the most likely place.

After the trip I will be heading off to the Shenandoah National Park in West Virginia. In case you don’t know its part of the Appalachian Trail. I’ve enjoyed to holidays along the trail in the last decade, but I felt I need to see this end of it. Not least so I can take my guitar to the banks of the river, sing Country Roads!

 

Posted by on July 28, 2016 in Announcements

Comments Off on Bright Light City…

Open Home Lab Project

Ohpmedlogo

I’m pleased to hear that the Ope Home Lab Project has launched its website today. It’s testament to the guys who provided the inspiration for this project have acted so quickly to move from open discussion to open project so rapidly. As we all know Home Labs have been central to many people’s career development in the last decade, and the topic is a perennial favourite on the VMUG circuit. To date much of the material around home labs has been fragmented across a number of different blogs and forums – and those deciding to take the plunge, have had to resort to many hours of piecing together the information together – and speaking from personal experience – often one bit advice conflicts with another. We’re an opinonated bunch of people who is often a good reflection of different experiences and attitudes.

The Open Lab Project mission is to try to provide a central location where all the neccesary info can be found – whilst maintaining and encouraging that diversity of opinion. Here’s their blurb:

Homelab presentations are some of the most popular at technical user groups. The challenge is that unless they are recorded, the contents of these sessions is always lost at the end of the day, and only the attendees could consume the information and utilise it. What is needed is a method for crowdsourcing and capturing the collective homelab knowledge and experiences of the community, to provide people with a single source of information and advice which will help them make decisions on the best homelab solution for them, based on their individual requirements.

Although the site was started from a VMware user group, we believe that a homelab is a homelab! As such, we are keen for people across the IT community to contribute with their knowledge and tips across operating systems, hypervisors, tools and applications.

Technology agnosticism FTW!

Check It out today!

http://openhomelab.org/

 

Posted by on May 10, 2016 in Announcements

Comments Off on Open Home Lab Project