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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: iPad

Domestic Schedule Bliss? There’s an iPad app for that in the Cloud

 

Anyone reading this that has a partner and family will probably understand my pain… My wife & I have a pretty busy schedule; work commitments and travel that are part of any modern IT consultant job, 2 young children and their highly complex schedule of social and school, nursery, classes add to that a widely distributed network of family and friends and their social events/weekend visiting and it gets pretty complex to keep track of.

As I’ve written about before my Outlook/BES Blackberry calendar is de-facto to me; I just don’t have the mental bandwidth to track everything and the bit of my brain that deals with remembering dates over a week away is either missing or faulty and multiple personal/work calendars just mess with my head.

My wife has performed a heroic task of maintaining a paper family calendar for years, but that forced me to also maintain it manually and often things were forgotten which has led to much confusion and mis-scheduling, especially when I have been away and there have been changes to my schedule.

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We work in IT right? there has to be a technical solution to this pain? well yes, there is; however my wife found using a laptop or small screened mobile phone to manage a shared calendar too difficult whilst juggling 2 small children and always fell back to the paper calendar and lived with it’s limitations.

So, when an iPad was introduced and quickly adopted by everyone in the household as “good-enough” for everything from quick browsing of the web to TV guides, iPlayer, recipes, games I spotted an opportunity.

I was a bit skeptical about the iPad at first and didn’t think it would be much more than a nice toy, however it was used so much by all of the family because;

  • It switched on instantly (unlike a laptop)
  • the battery lasts literally forever so you don’t have to be tethered to power (unlike a laptop or iPhone)
  • Has a usable sized screen that you could read things without having to scroll/pan about (unlike a smartphone); and having 2 young kids it’s wipe-clean and reasonably robust (parents will understand Smile).

So with some fiddling we ended up at this solution

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  • Google calendar acting as the central “hub” reference – accessible via a web browser from anywhere and with a good API that is used by sync applications across multiple platforms.
  • My Exchange-hosted calendar is automatically synced to my fat-Outlook client and to my Blackberry via the BES.
  • the Google calendar sync application runs in the background on my Blackberry and syncs with the shared Google Calendar.
  • The iPad application CalenGoo syncs with the Google Calendar so the calendar can always be viewed and edited from the iPad in a convenient home-use form-factor.
  • My wife’s new smartphone (which will either be a BIS Blackberry or iPhone will be able to sync with the Google calendar “hub” giving her a mobile and up to date editable copy of the calendar.

For us it works pretty well, if you have a similar problem I’d suggest you investigate it, one word of warning the BB/Gmail sync app won’t sync historical appointments from your calendar so be careful if you try to get around this with a manual import; you may end up with duplicate calendar entries (at least I did, and had to de-dupe them).

There are also Google calendar sync plug-ins for Outlook and other mail clients, but I was happy enough with doing it via my BB as that nearly always has a network connection and is kept constantly in-sync with my work calendar.

With all that sync’ing there is a latency of about an hour for changes to get replicated end-end which is more than enough for our family needs.

In terms of security my family or work schedule isn’t particularly sensitive but it’s tied down to usernames/passwords where relevant and transmission is over SSL, entries from our shared calendar get synced into my corporate calendar marked as ‘private’ – but there could be better support for a more granular model both ways here, Google calendar seems to have this concept but it doesn’t federate into into the Exchange/BB world {yet}.

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vSphere App for iPad Download

 

Whilst we all await the “official” vSphere administration app for the iPad, as previewed at VMworld I found myself needing something to control my home vSphere lab environment from my shiny new iPad.

The iPad has now integrated itself as the device of choice with my wife & kids and is in regular use as a web-browser and media-player in the living room at home rather than laptops so this seemed like a logical extension

A quick browse of the iTunes store turned up iDatacenter, whilst not cheap at 8.99 GBP it works well in my testing as a basic administration interface to my lab and allows me to reboot guests/hosts as well as kick off vMotion and storage vMotion tasks.

It doesn’t offer a remote console or any historical performance graphing but it is good for basic administration tasks and looking at current statistics like CPU, memory and disk space – which is handy as my home lab currently has 21 ESX hosts and 54 “production” virtual machines Smile

The following photo shows a quick view of the interface, my only minor gripe is that it doesn’t seem to recognise clusters as a management object – just individual ESX hosts or virtual machines and it can be a little bit slow at times, but those aside it’s worth checking out if you have this sort of requirement.

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The application home-page is here http://nym.se/idatacenter/ and there is a video demonstrating the key features.