April 10

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….

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December 16

Employee Alert: VMware Foundation Charity Listing – 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?

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October 19

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


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


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October 19

Do you want to be an author?


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

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July 28

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!

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May 10

Open Home Lab Project


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!


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January 4

The Adult Gap Year…

Note: If you have never seen this parody of slone ranger types on their “Gap Yah”, you have missed out… 🙂

Today was officially my last day with VMware. I’ve been at VMware since August 2012, initially securing a role in the competition team as the “Senior Cloud Infrastructure Evangelist”, and then I moved into a “Senior Product Integration Architect” role in the EVO:RAIL Team in August, 2014. I was at VMware for 3-years, but of course it feels much longer, because really I’ve been solely focused on VMware technologies since 2003. This year was my 10th VMworld, and I’ve attend both the US and EU events for 10 years in row. That’s 20 VMworlds (for those who find 10×2 a bit of challenge).

It’s been crazy 3-years, going from essentially company of 1 person as independent freelance contractor – to joining a company of 20K strong with billion dollar profit was quite a transition. One I hope I successfully executed on, and I would cheerfully recommend to anyone in similar position that you spend sometime in “VendorLand” in your career. You owe it to yourself to be exposed to as many different perspectives and experiences in life. And that was partly the reason I joined the company. And if you like that also a reason for moving along.

I’ve been in the IT industry since 1993, and whilst I’ve had some ‘breaks’ such as doing Masters in American Studies in 1996, and taking 3-months out to travel round the US in 2000 – it has been a long time since I’ve taken time out to do something that’s 100% about me and my interests. The last 10 years have probably been the most significant to my career – for my own satisfaction I thought I might be interesting to list those achievements of the last 10 years:

  • Became one of the first freelance VMware Certified Instructors (VCI) in Europe
  • Pivoted the “RTFM Education” website to be one of the top go-to locations of quality content on virtualization
  • Sold the said website to a media company in Boston, MA
  • Spoken at practically every VMworld event since 2006.
  • Spoken at innumerable VMUG UseCon events in the US and EU, being state-side one-week every month for two years..
  • Authored 9 books on VMware technologies – two of them self-published with money donated to charity
  • Launched and ran two successful podcast channels for five years – the Chinwag and Vendorwag
  • Co-hosted the VMware Communities Podcast with the industry legend that is the mighty, John Troyer…
  • Raised money for UNICEF and others charities via book royalties and the successful “VMworld Swagbag” Competition
  • 2 Years as tech journalist for TechTarget, Inc
  • 3 Years at VMware….
  • Helped found the VMUG Wiki and Feed4ward initiatives…

It’s my guess that in 12-months time when I’ve recharged the old batteries and little grey cells – I will need to come back this bulleted list as reminder what I have achieved and contributed to the industry. I personally feel I’ve lived through an exceptional period in our industry. 10 years ago or more there was no such thing as virtualization in production x86 environments. VMware cut swath through the datacenter, and radically changed the way do things – and continues to do so. I’m quietly proud that in my own small way I had my own part in that story….

So it feels ‘right’ at this stage in my life to step back and take sometime out. After all we only have one life, and its not always good idea to defer things into some hazy future that never arrives. So I’m taking what I call an “Adult Gap Year”. Of course “Adult Gap Year” is a bit of joke, on the way the current generation seems to take a break before or after university to go ‘travelling” and decompress after all the pressure of high education (yes, its so tough having 10 hours of lectures a week, right?). But in similar way I kind of feel a break would do me the power of good.

So what am I going to do in the next year? Put simply all the things I’ve been saying I was going to do in the last 10. I’ve had ideas and ambitions of non-IT nature that I’ve been thinking about for ages. The vast majority (in fact all of them, and that’s some majority) are of a creative format….

Committed To Community: It’s my intention to carry on speaking at VMUGs. In fact in recent years I spoken less at VMUGs because my responsibilities to the company, projects and customers had to come first. So I’m hoping to spend sometime state-side speaking at UserCons. The VMUG community is something I feel passionate about, and it will be my way of staying connected with y’all even whilst I’m taking my Adult Gap Year. I’ve decided to spend at least 1-day or perhaps 2, supporting two key initiatives – the VMUG Wiki and Feed4ward projects which I helped kickstart. I really care about these two projects, and I’ve begun to realise whilst its one thing to help launch these things, the real ‘graft’ is in the continued support and development.

Travelling Man: Like many a road warrior I’ve seen an awful lot of airport carparks, airport terminals, taxis, hotel rooms, and business parks and convention centres. I rarely get enough to time explore places. I have more than a tourists interest in the United States, having done a degree and post-graduate research on its literature, cultural and history. During my research its become clear that I want to discover and explorer the national parks of the US – as well as my own area of Derbyshire and Peak District. Along side I want to write a Travelog/Reportage/New Journalism account of the journey, which I hope to self-publish in a book form, hopefully with photographs of the places I visit.

Poetry Please: I’m poet. And I know it. Hope I don’t blow it. To quote Bob Dylan for second. In my teens and early 20s along side writing lyrics for songs, I also tried my hand at some poetry. That’s a passion I recently re-discovered when I moved to the country. I joined a local poetry group and rekindled the interest. I have ideas for two collections of poetry – and have a working title for the first called “False Confessions” (The title is reference to the idea that you cannot trust confessions that are made under-duress, something our friends in Bagram and GitMo never really understood). The working title for the other collection is “False Memory Syndrome”. The theme is about memory and how much humanity can trust memory and history. I hope to self-publish these two collections by the end of next year…

I could make a wild sensation as rock ‘n’ roll star: As some of you might know I’ve got a big passion of music. This year i joined my local song writers group, and penned my first song in about 25 years. Right now, it doesn’t feel like I’m going to have the creative head-space to write poetry and songs (and yes, I do know there’s some cross over in both directions). But what I do want to do is be more out there from a performance perspective. Currently once a month I walk down to my local pub, and hammer out about 3-4 songs along with my fellow musicians at our local “acoustic session. There’s a very healthy live music scene in my area, and I want to get on that circuit – and build up my confidence in performing to a crowd. I think the way to be a good performer is to perform frequently – and once a month isn’t really cutting it. Plus I tend to bring new songs to the group every month (after all you can’t trot out the same song to the same people every month!) But that means I rarely perform the same song more than once. I think the way to get better at performing isn’t just practise and rehearsing – but performing that same material multiple times to different audiences in different venues. At the moment I’m thinking of focusing on the local pubs ‘session’ nights, but I’d like to try my hand at the bigger “open mic” slots in the larger towns and cities near where I live.

Oh, for those who don’t get the reference (sigh…)

So yes, I know a long blogpost. Is there any other from Laverick? But I wanted to explain my thinking and the rationale about taking this time away. I hope to see you all in my travels….

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December 7

UK National VMUG – Raises £500 for CodeClub

A couple of weeks ago the national VMUG event was held in Birmingham. As ever I was there with the VMworld Swagbag and supported by Michael Poor and Barry Coombs in the process of raising money for this years good cause. This years good cause is “CodeClub”. They are a not-for-profit that run after school coding classes in the UK for children between the ages of 9-11. I’m pleased to say we managed to raise £500 for their worthy organisation…

Thanks to everyone who donated!


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May 7

New Skinny Linux Distro Available – Includes VMware Tools


I have a new skinny linux distribution available on my site. I’m not the author of this release, but a colleague of mine Doug Baer orginally put it together. It’s used primarily in our hands-on-lab environment where you need some small VMs to run on top of nested vESX environment. These nested VMs that run within the content of vESX environment are sometime referred to as vVMs. This whole configuration where a physical system (Workstation, Fusion, pESX) runs VMware ESX in a VM has been dubbed by some in the community as “vInception:

These skinny linux distro uses MicroCore Linux and has VMware Tools installed using the “open source” edition which means its re-distributable in this manner. The environment is non-persistent except for /home and /opt.

I’ve taken this VM and created a .OVA for you download – and you might find it useful in your home lab where memory resources are limited.

The VM has 1xVCPU, 64MB RAM and it has single 1GB Virtual Disk that is thinly provisioned – this VM is available in the download section of my site.



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April 23

Introducing the VMware EVO:RAIL vSphere Loyality Program

Today, we are delighted to announce the launch of the VMware EVO:RAIL vSphere Loyalty Program.

We developed the VMware EVO:RAIL vSphere Loyalty Program to allow our VMware vSphere customers to apply their licenses to the purchase of VMware EVO:RAIL appliances from our nine Qualified EVO:RAIL Partners. This program enables our customers to preserve their existing investment in VMware software, while reducing their overall cost of an VMware EVO:RAIL appliance purchase.

Customers with licenses obtained through Enterprise Licensing Agreements (ELAs), OEM partners, distribution, or other resale channels, are eligible for the program. Customers will also require a minimum of 8 CPU vSphere Enterprise Plus licenses to commit to one VMware EVO:RAIL appliance.

Read on….

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