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Virtualization, Cloud, Infrastructure and all that stuff in-between

My ramblings on the stuff that holds it all together

Category Archives: Blogging

That was 2010 so what next

 

I’m a bit late to the Internets with this post but happy new year to all my readers – and judging by my WordPress stats there are a lot of you! over 400k visitors this year!

So – what happened in 2010? for me, it was a strange year, I knew from the start of the year that I had chosen to leave the relative comfort of the position that I had held at ioko for the previous 10 years to do “something new” – and that it was that stark, a long notice period and nothing definite lined up so I took a bit of a leap of faith and it worked out as I joined VMware the day after I left.

However, there were plenty of projects to complete before I left ioko and I also cracked on with my blog in my limited spare time whilst also juggling a new-born baby and assortment of home DIY projects

So, what’s next…?

This year I would like to focus on the following;

  • New layout and look for vinf.net – the default WP theme is getting a bit tired.
  • Spend more time bridging development and infrastructure; these are two traditionally separate camps, and particularly with “cloud” there needs to be a much better integration across the two, devops is particularly of interest to me.
  • Working with an “upcoming product” to unify the two camps for the cloud (see what I did there? Winking smile).
  • Learn to program again, it’s been a long time since I did any real hands-on development and its going to be very helpful in enabling this inf/dev bridge.
  • Keep developing the vTARDIS and do not talk about fight-club
  • Keep up with the presenting at user groups, conferences etc.
  • Learn to play bass guitar properly at least a little bit
  • Complete my VCDX on VI3 or VI4.
  • Blog at least once a week, I’ve found twitter has replaced some of my “look at this, this is cool” type blog posts that I used to enjoy writing – but it’s hard to get any kind of objective opinion into 140 chars – so I’m going back to blog basics.
  • Manage twitter distractions better, i.e close TweetDeck.
  • London – Brighton bike ride with a better time than the heavily jet-lagged one I put in this year, and not to walk the beacon.
  • London – Paris bike ride (either the 24hr race or 3 day ride)
  • At least 1,500 miles cycled (oh and upgrade my road-bike, again..)
  • Spend less of my own money on my home lab (donations accepted Smile)…

 

Have a good one!

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Bloggers, keep an eye on your RSS feed validity

I had an issue recently where my RSS feeds were not being picked up correctly by the PlanetV12n aggregator, I have never really had any problems in the past but as of a post last week it stopped passing through the article title to the PlanetV12n and thus it’s twitter feed(s).

I had not made any changes recently other than publishing content but I guess somewhere down the line between my blog and feedburner more strict validation settings had been turned on – had I not spotted the problem via twitter it would probably have continued without my knowledge.

If you are a Feedburner customer I would recommend checking out and subscribing to the FeedMedic and FeedBulletin features which will alert you straight away to any problems in processing your feed, if like me you no longer have much time in your daily workflow to work through your RSS feeds you may be interested in http://www.feedmyinbox.com which is a free online service that emails contents of RSS feeds to your email address (which in my case doubles to my mobile phone) – you can point this as the unique URL of your FeedBulletin service to be alerted to any problems via email as soon as they are picked up.

You can also manually check the validity with this online tool FeedValidator.org

As an aside, I was pleased to see that several hundred people subscribe to my FeedBurner RSS feed, as it’s a while since I last checked and apologies for the interruption to service.

normal service should now be resumed (hopefully)…

Find all the Good v12n Posts every Week

 

If cast my mind back 2 or 3 years, finding good VMware related information on the web was hard, there were 2 or 3 good technical blogs (RTFM, Scott Lowe, Eric Sloof) and there was 1 book by Ron Oglesby/Mike Laverick but that was pretty much it.

Since then things have come along leaps and bounds, the Planet v12n list that VMware maintains aggregates all the good virtualization blogs into one place for easy digestion (RSS feed here) but this now tracks a large number of bloggers (myself included).

It’s almost like you need someone to cherry-pick the vast number of weekly posts, on ooh. say a weekly basis?

Well, have no fear – for some time VCDX007 (Duncan Epping) has been doing the hard work for you and picking the top 5 v12n posts on a weekly basis, usually published on a Sunday you can find the list here on the VMTN blog, I’m pleased to say I’ve made this list a few times now for various blog posts.

I’ve deliberately left twitter out of this (follow me here if you wish), as long-form blog posts are more my kind of thing; Twitter is ok for general chit-chat and quick Q&A but it’s a lot to keep on top of, and do a day job! – But if Twitter is your thing – Maish has a twitter list of the top-25 v12n Bloggers (based on Eric’s list – I’m at number 53, thanks to everyone that voted for me :))

And, just in case you were wondering; v12n is a numeronym for virtualization (yes, I had to look that one up :))

It’s voting time..

vinf.net at 2 years old

 

I just noticed that my blog has been running for 2 years and 1 month with the 1st post in October 2007 and that got me thinking..

Ever since my school days I’ve been a compulsive note-taker for my personal and professional life, I have numerous paper notebooks in my study going back the last 20 or so years – they’re interesting to go back and review, but also serve as a useful reference point for what I was doing and thinking at the time (particularly the youthful enthusiasm of my teenage years!)

The biggest problem I had with these notebooks was finding anything – you can’t search paper notebooks and you risk loosing them if something were to happen to them like theft or fire so in early 2003 I switched to using Microsoft OneNote; which is great for solving the search problem and allowed  me to keep screen captures/log relevant files etc, about this time I got very busy so the quality of my notes started to deteriorate; because it was so easy to dump information there and plan to re-organise it later on that’s pretty much what I did, but never got around to doing the re-organising, or at best by the time I did my train of thought had gone and the results were less than useful.

My original inspiration for starting this blog came from attending BriForum and VMworld in 2007 and the burgeoning number of bloggers at Microsoft and VMware, maybe I was a bit later to the party than some but blogs were quickly becoming a core part of my workflow in researching potential solutions and resolving problems.

Blogs were quickly becoming a mainstream way of getting concise, quality information from big companies like Microsoft that just weren’t in the books/KB articles – they were almost a direct access to the product dev teams; although some teams treated them more as marketing channels you can always find the useful blogs and as they say, “content is king” which beats fluff and cheerleading by miles.

Blogging by it’s very nature makes your content readable by the entire world; this brought a new challenge and driver – the fact that real people may read what you post means there is more of a driver to write something that is understandable and correct lest they may complain, berate you or at the least quietly leave with the impression that you are an imbecile.

So, to me my blog represented a way for me to put all my research and findings into one place, searchable and accessible from anywhere – hosted outside of my own equipment and home (now known as “the cloud”) so it should be safe, and less at risk from my technical tinkering – my blog was deliberately intended to be about the content, not the tech that delivers it – I’m a compulsive geek so there would be too much temptation to hack about with a wordpress install, web server and potentially screw it up.

I decided to focus the content of my blog on areas of technology that interest me; I made an early decision to avoid too many personal or social type posts – I don’t think anyone is really that interested in my life or family – and I have other tools like facebook for interacting with people I know personally but don’t get to see very often.

Virtualization, Windows and Infrastructure are the areas I follow professionally so that was the chosen topic of my blog and the name derived from that (it was also the shortest, cheapest domain name I could find :)).

I actually setup this blog during the lunch break at BriForum 2007 in Amsterdam using the on-site wireless, so Brian Madden was kind of responsible for it’s existence 🙂

I set about a couple of initial posts and eventually my blog got picked up by some people at VMware and put on the v12n list which aggregated virtualization related posts and I saw a large increase in traffic and google placements which was cool.

A lot of my early posting was commentary on cool articles I saw out on the web, and was reflective of my interest in fluid and grid type computing, which later have developed into cloud computing – I still like the idea of the mobile datacentre  and follow-the-energy computing model – the tech is getting there.

Blogging has brought some challenges, I don’t do this full-time or make any money out of it; I am a full-time consultant and a I have a young family so I have to try and juggle this blog with my other extensive commitments – for me the schedule post feature of wordpress.com is a godsend, at those 3am moments of inspiration/baby-feeding or long train journeys I can get posts queued up a couple of weeks in advance to ensure a steady flow of posting rather than a surge of posts when I get time – which I think works better, for me anyway.

A more recent addition for me has been my use of twitter – although I don’t “tweet” as much as others – it’s a useful channel for news/current information – so I see a good split between quick, breaking news type content via twitter; and more long-form blog posts for reference.

I’ve been amazed at how traffic to this site has grown over the 2 years, and am grateful for some of the opportunities this blog has brought me, such as a blogger-pass for VMworld Europe in 2008, my VMware vExpert award and the invitations to speak at conferences.

As I said, I don’t make any money from this site (unless anyone would like to offer me some money? … no? thought so :)) and I have a busy day-job – it’s a useful piece of reputation for me and my place in the conversation as well as a good reference – rather than explaining an early concept like cloud computing I could just point people at the article – which was very handy in 2008.

Oddly my most popular article this year has been about the lack of Intel 855 video drivers in Windows 7 – which even now pulls in a significant number of page views/day.

I recently saw Jason Boche’s post on a similar subject so here are some numbers since the start..

image

Total views: 442,637

Busiest day: 2,233 — Thursday, October 29, 2009

Posts: 265

Comments: 527

Categories: 222

If you are reading this and you don’t have a blog, or think you have the time to maintain a blog I hope this has given you some food for thought – it’s a good way to keep your thoughts in check.

BlackBerry app for WordPress

I must be a bit behind the times, but I have just stumbled across the beta version of a blackberry app that let’s you publish and manage your blog directly from your phone, there is also an iPhone version

Very cool, you can now all look forward to accidental posts from my pocket and I can look forward to RSI from my blackberry Pearl 🙂

If you are interested you can download it OTA from httphere

Incidentally it also supports the builtin camera, and this post was typed on on a blackberry 8120 pearl.

Can’t see a way of viewing stats yet, which would be a nice addition.

Cloud Computing Stack – formalised

 

Sam Johnston has an interesting article here where he’s attempted to formalise the cloud computing stack into something like the OSI model and has an associated wiki for contributions.

I’ve not come across Sam’s blog before before but a quick review shows that Sam has some interesting architectural discussions around cloud computing – check it out.

Microsoft Blogger on Licencing

 

This is a great blog, from one of the licencing managers at Microsoft – Emma has made a good start on providing easy to understand articles on MS licencing in bite sized chunks.

It’s not everyone’s favourite topic, but we all have to do it 🙂

Useful for virtualisation people as there’s a whole section on it with pictures some further hilights (for me) on SPLA licencing, SQL and System Centre

Welcome Emma, keep up the good work – even if you are forced to adopt the American spelling of the word for your main job role like me 😉

Thanks to James for the original link.

SpinVox: The Future of Voicemail

 

SpinVox is changing the game for busy people..

I don’t know about you but I tend to treat my mobile (USA:cellphone) phone as my personal contact device, in that I use it to manage both my inbound and outbound communications and plug that into my daily work/life workflow.

Because I travel about a lot for business (and in my spare time also) I give everyone my mobile number, rather than a fixed line as its far more likely to reach me and I don’t have to track numerous voicemail/UM numbers, I also gain a unified call log and history on a single device so I can refer back over time to find numbers I would have otherwise lost.

I have a fax to email service for the same reason for the odd occasion I need to receive a fax… I can get it anywhere and file it electronically.

However the fact that people have my mobile number does not (for me at least) set the expectation that I will be at their beck and call, or answer on demand – I make use of caller ID to screen my calls, I’ll make no secret of that; I manage my workflow during the day and quite often other people’s sense of “urgent” is different from my own [unless you are actually my boss of course – when your calls will usually be answered directly], and at the end of the day I need to balance the needs (…of the many) people who want me to do something for them, and my ability to actually do so and carry on with my day to day workload.

So for example people that ring from lines with withheld numbers will almost always be allowed to go to voicemail, unless I am expecting such a call; I know most people have no control over corporate switchboards but I’ve never understood the logic of withholding caller-ID, especially from a large organisation as you can make the number almost anything, even a central or local office switchboard number if you don’t want to expose people’s regional DDI’s. it also works to their advantage as I’ll be better prepared to speak to them if I know what they want to know – clever as I am I don’t always know everything off the top of my head!

This often means I have a fair number of voicemail’s building up to listen to, and unfortunately more often than not the spare time I have to listen to the messages is whilst on a train or car when I don’t have a pen handy to jot down that number – or am more likely to leave the number written on the copy of the metro on the train.

Now, this is where I’ve found Spinvox really useful in the last couple of weeks; it’s essentially a paid-for service that you use to replace your normal o2/Vodafone/etc. voicemail service. you change your divert on busy/unavailable settings to point at an assigned geographical number (in my case in 0208 one, so it’s inclusive in any bundled minutes your tariff includes rather than a national rate 0870, 0845 etc.).

It offers the normal voicemail features where you can call a special number (again geographical, rather than national-rate etc.) to listen to the actual messages and set your greeting message etc.

But the advantage of SpinVox is it’s ability to convert the speech into text, which can be delivered to you either as an SMS text message or an email (my preference).

I was a bit skeptical at first, but I was very, very impressed after using the 7 day free trial. so much so that at one point I doubted that there was any technology behind it at all and that they were employing a large battery of English speaking monkeys to listen in and type it all up… their website assures me that this isn’t the case and they use a tiered architecture of several speech-text engines depending on the content as some are better at number recognition etc. (can’t find the original link to that article so will keep digging)

It also does an excellent job of transcribing phone numbers and extracts the caller-ID from the caller if it’s available so no hunting around for that elusive pen!

If there is a word in the message Spinvox can’t transcribe or has made a guess at it marks it with a “____” or (?) and if you want to hear the subtle intonation of the person who left the message, each message includes a quick code so you just dial the Spinvox retreival number and key in *03 for example and it will replay the message – a godsend compared to the usual next, next, next drudge with most voicemail systems.

For example – here is a real message left for me.. (names and numbers changed to protect the innocent, but if you really can do my extension cheaper than they can – please do call :)).

You received a new voicemail from +4420812312312:

———-

“Hi there Vinf my name is Bob. I’m calling from a company called XYZ Construction. We received your details via our website regarding your extension. I was wondering if you could give me a call back when you get the message. My telephone no. is 0800123123, in order to discuss the project further. Thank you, bye.”

– spoken through SpinVox

———-

Message received at May 8, 2008 1:25:55 PM

If you wish to listen to this message, call your voicemail on +44207xxxxxxx and press *08

For assistance, see www.spinvox.com or email service@spinvox.com

Thank you,

SpinVox

So, back to the point; email delivery of the text content of voicemail messages into my Outlook Inbox allows me to flag, follow-up, set reminders, file, delete etc. and integrate them into my normal daily workflow so I ensure I can manage any resulting actions.

Previously I’ve found where I have had a large number of unheard voicemail messages (due to holiday or long meetings) it takes longer than I’d like to listen to them all; as they often overlap or are irrelevant due to the elapsed time and let’s be honest people (myself included) tend to ramble when they are leaving information in brain-freewheeling mode on an answer machine, or just say it’s X – call me back, which isn’t all that helpful.

So dealing with such a pile of messages, especially when compared to the quick gratification of dealing with normal emails – where you can scan, easily re-read and file, mark for follow-up etc. means dealing with voicemail often fell to the bottom of my priority pile. This, in turn means I risk missing that one important message or take longer to respond to people (yeah I’m a fickle sort of guy – make my life easier and I’ll get back to you quicker… I’m sure I’m not the only one)

In meetings, it’s also ideal – because they’re delivered as SMS or email they also turn up on my Blackberry so I can glance at them during the meeting and make a value/balance decision on wether I should step outside to respond. Doing this in 1:1 meetings might be a bit rude as someone is dedicating their time for your use. But for larger meetings or conferences where you are not always involved or contributing to everything it’s a discrete way of making a judgement call on what requires your current attention.

image Overall I’m very impressed, sometimes I’ve seen it take up to 10mins to deliver a converted message (maybe there really are monkeys involved :)), and it’s a bit annoying that the caller (on my o2 network anyway) gets a “your call is being diverted, please hold..” message rather than just cutting to Spinvox as it does with o2’s own voicemail service – but I guess that’s a network feature rather than Spinvox and it’s not a huge deal.

The billing is interesting, and to be honest I think a little bit unclear, as you are basically signed up once your 7 day trial is finished and I’ve not really had any visibility of how they bill other than a message on the last day of the trial saying my account had been charged £5, call customer services otherwise. I can only assume it’s doing this via reverse-SMS billing – for me, this is handy rather than having to manage another subscription and set of card details, however I could see that bothering some people.

Note: I have a “company phone” and don’t always see the bills, so I’ll probably be expecting a call from accounts at the end of the month to query it!

Another use which I hadn’t thought of is for deaf and people with hearing problems, this is ideal as they often make heavy use of text and email to exchange information as they are often unable to call people directly as not everyone has a minicom type setup, I see they are offering text to speech services

They also have a variety of blog/social network interfaces on the way; I don’t think these would be much use for me, but you never know… it takes a while to type these things up, but I’m pretty sure it’s clearer if I’m forced to think about what I’m writing than if I were allowed to ramble at a translator 🙂

In summary it’s an excellent service, and one that I would be happy to pay for myself (even if the billing process is a little unclear, to me and the other user’s I’ve polled anyway) I wonder how long before this technology is adopted by the carriers themselves… it’s got to be the next step, everyone I know hates normal voicemail. most current Unified Messaging systems I’ve seen don’t offer this type of functionality, they’re still geared towards dealing with audio content.

Lastly, one feature that could be quite useful is a web based system for listening to the actual voicemail messages from a PC, rather than dialling into the Spinvox system – although I wonder if I really would use this, it’s so accurate in converting the audio!

Steve Richards blog on work/life balance has a good post on dealing with email overload, that could be extended to take on management of voicemail if you combined it with SpinVox as I mention above – it all ends up in one place which allows you to manage it… rather than drown in it.

I’m not the only one finding it useful, some further reading from other SpinVox Users…

http://www.atmasphere.net/wp/archives/2008/05/14/with-spinvox-im-reading-your-voicemail

http://darlamack.blogs.com/darlamack/2008/05/how-did-i-live.html

http://www.womworld.com/nokia/3305/spinvox-a-lifeline-for-busy-users/

http://davestronach.wordpress.com/2008/05/02/spinvox-voicemail-to-text/

Walking between London Underground Stations

 

Slightly off-topic from my usual posts, but I had to link to this article that Annie Mole links to, which is a very useful map for anyone who lives or works in central London – it shows the actual walking distance between zone 1 tube stations.

I often get off the tube and walk between stations, luckily in my previous life as a courier I got to know some good shortcuts that avoid lots of complicated changes on the tube for some of my usual routes.

London has such interestiing architecture it’s a shame to miss it all, the alternative is often standing underneath someone else’s armpit on a hot tube train… I know which one I prefer.

Excellent work…!