Monday, November 7, 2011

VCAP-DCA: The wait is over...

Finally, after 17 days of anxious anticipation, the exam results are in...  and... wait for it... I PASSED!!!  w00t w00t!  I needed a 300 to pass and I scored 358 out of 500.  Not the best score in the world but considering I decided to just "try it" and only gave myself two weeks to study, I couldn't be happier!  Now, if they would just hurry up and send my ID so I know what number I am...

Update:  Number 474!

Poor performance after upgrading from vCenter 4.1 to 5

I recently upgraded a VMware vCenter installation from 4.1 to 5.0.  Everything went well during install from what I remember but afterward I noticed that things kept timing out when managing the vSphere environment.  Upon further investigation I found that java.exe seemed to be the culprit.  I tried updating it, tried to remove VMware Update Manager, tried simply shutting down the vCenter and SQL services, but none of that helped.  The CPU was still pegged at 100%.  At that point I started shutting down services one at a time, starting with anything VMware related.  Within a few minutes I found that the Converter services, which were installed in the 4.1 environment but not updated, were the most likely culprits.  I removed the programs related to Converter and CPU dropped to 0%.  At this point I decided to reboot and ensure things were sane.

Unfortunately, after the reboot, the java.exe CPU issue had returned.  I then started the troubleshooting process again but this time with a little help.  I downloaded and ran an old favorite of mine:  ProcessExplorer from Microsoft/Sysinternals.  This let me see more information about each process such as what the running environment looks like and which process is considered the parent.  There were three separate java.exe's running but the most interesting one was launched by the vSphere Web Client services.

I went ahead and removed the Web Client.  While I was at it, I also removed the new Dump Collector and the Syslog Collector services.  They each prompted for a restart so I did and checked CPU usage again when it came back up.  Still at 100% with another java.exe fighting sqlserver.exe for highest allocation.  This time it was the Inventory Service.  Even though it was pegged, it was still more responsive than usual so I feel like I am making some progress at least.  Back to Process Explorer...

While I was looking at some articles about this to understand what it did, I found that the CPU returned to a sane state.  This must have been the Inventory Service catching up after the reboot.  I'm still seeing sqlserver.exe running at a pretty constant 50% (essentially the equivalent of 1 CPU core) but I would half way expect that.  I also see Tomcat spike up occasionally and together with SQL consume 100% CPU.  At this point I am going to continue to monitor the situation.  If I find anything else I will try to post.

Just for reference, the vCenter server in question is a VM with 2 vCPU and 8GB RAM running on FC storage managing 6 hosts with approximately 60 VM's so I would assume based on the recommended specs that this would be sufficient.  I may increase the memory to 12GB to test further though.  Maybe the next step is to finally separate out the SQL instance to a dedicated server since we are technically over the supported limit of 5 hosts and 50 VM's (although I think that is more of a size restriction but who am I to argue with VMware best practices).

*UPDATE:  Well, I feel like an uber douche.  I was getting ready to call it quits when I saw some alerts coming in from one of our monitoring tools saying that our newest host, the one where the vCenter server ran, was swapping memory in and out frequently.  I started looking and found a fair amount of memory ballooned and swapped.  This was totally unexpected because that host has 120GB of RAM and only about 60GB was actually in use.  Upon further investigation I found that several VM's had limits set on their memory, including (you guessed it) the vCenter server.  It was actually capped at 2GB!  Not sure why this would have ever been set in this environment but it has been addressed and resources look great again.  Java hates being low on physical RAM.  CPU is still getting hammered on by SQL but total commit on memory is back down to less than 4GB.

References:

Installing vCenter Server 5.0 best practices
http://kb.vmware.com/selfservice/search.do?cmd=displayKC&docType=kc&docTypeID=DT_KB_1_1&externalId=2003790

Upgrading to vCenter Server 5.0 best practices
http://kb.vmware.com/selfservice/documentLinkInt.do?micrositeID=&popup=true&languageId=&externalID=2003866

Minimum requirements for the VMware vCenter Server 5.x Appliance
http://kb.vmware.com/selfservice/microsites/search.do?language=en_US&cmd=displayKC&externalId=2005086

vSphere 5 ‘s new services in vCenter
http://geeksilver.wordpress.com/2011/08/31/vsphere-5-s-new-services-in-vcenter/

Update management service at 100% CPu after patching to 4.1.0 build 345043
http://communities.vmware.com/thread/306584

Saturday, October 22, 2011

VCAP-DCA: now I wait...

And now I wait.  I think the test went better than I had expected, but I would still be surprised if I passed.  Overall it was a great test and I actually had fun doing it.  I am very much a hands on learner and I work best when I am told to just get it done, and that is 100% the nature of this test.  Everything was very relavent to real life with no real abstract scenarios or trick questions that I could see.  My test was 34 questions/scenarios and in the end I counted about 6 total that I knew I had missed, didn't finish, or didn't even start.  Even though 3.5 hours seems like a lot of time, it really isn't.  You either know it or you don't and if you don't, move on and come back if time permits.  Having VMware documents available for reference was nice, but you cannot rely on them due to the time limitations.

Regardless of if I passed or not, I learned a lot in studying for this and will be able to apply everything to my job role.

I wanted to give a shoutout to the following people who's blogs about their experiences, their study notes, or just generally good articles helped get me to a point where I felt more confident and ready to try:

Sean Crookston:  http://www.seancrookston.com/vcap-dca/
David Davis:  http://www.trainsignal.com/blog/vcap-dca-exam
Edward Grigson:  http://www.vexperienced.co.uk/tag/vcap-dca/
Kendrick Coleman:  http://www.kendrickcoleman.com/index.php?/Tech-Blog/vcap-datacenter-administration-exam-landing-page-vdca410.html
Eric Sloof:  http://www.ntpro.nl/blog/
"Virtual Vargi":  http://virtual-vargi.blogspot.com/p/vcap-dca.html
Duncan Epping:  http://www.yellow-bricks.com/2010/06/28/vcap-dca-exam/
Ray Heffer:  http://www.rayheffer.com/1861/vcap-dca-results-and-exam-experience-i-passed/

And everyone who has posted their experiences on the VMware Community Forums:  http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&biw=1304&bih=656&q=+site:communities.vmware.com+vcap-dca+passed

Hopefully within the next couple of weeks I will be able to post that I passed!  And if not, I will post that I am scheduling my re-take!

Also wanted to say thanks to Brad Butler and Acropolis for rolling the dice with me :)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

VCDA410 Tomorrow! A LOT nervous!

From what I am reading, very smart people are saying this is the hardest test they have ever had to take for an IT certification.  There are apparently about 40 exam questions, all of which require configuration in a real lab environment, and there are ONLY 4 hours to do it.  4 hours seems like a lot right?  I am starting to sweat bullets here because doing the math on that, it is about 6 minutes per question, which means I will be expected to just get it done and move on.  This is not my style.  I tend to analyze, configure, re-analyze, and then re-analyze again.  And the worst part, I won't know my results for up to 2 weeks after.  Again, not my style!  I like instant gratification!  Agh!!  Back to studying.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Exam prep for VCAP-DCA

I really wish that I had an unlimited budget of time and money.  Unfortunately, I have neither so I study when I can and work with what I have.

I've been preparing the VMware Certified Advanced Professional Data Center Administrator certification exam and wow, it is daunting.  I've been working with VMware for a few years now and I got my VCP back in March of last year.  I manage a small data center and have been fortunate enough to get my hands on a lot of really cool technology that I thought I knew quite a bit about.  But in studying for this exam, I realize just how much I still need to learn.  I will be taking it on Friday, fully expecting at this point to fail, but it has opened my eyes so much during my studies that it will only make me better at what I do.

I have to applaud VMware for putting together a fantastic "exam blueprint" for this exam.  It is loaded with great references.  Also, I found several people who have done a great job at posting their study notes and taking deep dives into specific areas.  I am planning on doing the same once I get done with the actual test.

I'll post again on Friday after I take it but I will not know the results until up to 10 days after since it is a lab test and the results will be reviewed by a human being.  If you have any interest in specific objectives, please let me know and I'll do what I can to help.  Wish me luck!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Vasectomy - the first week

Sorry if this type of post grosses you out, but I felt like I needed to share my experience with the world because that is just the kind of guy I am. It's just life, we all live it. Some of us just talk about it more than others. If it makes you uneasy, stop reading and tune into my next post about how I switched back to Google Apps from Windows Live Domains (should be super exciting! *sarcasm*)

So if you are still reading, good for you. I'll try not to go into too many details about my scrotum or anything like that because I have a feeling my mom or grandma may read this (which if they made it this far might be cause for concern anyway... just kidding, I love you guys!).

My initial consultation was kind of surprising to me. Everyone said that the doctor would grill me about it being permanent, ask tons of questions to make sure I knew what I was doing, and basically try to talk me out of it. When I finally got back to see the doc, he came in and said they were busy so he would just do a quick exam then send in his nurse to go over the rest. Then he made me drop my pants so he could feel around. I don't think I had ever had as much shrinkage before in my life up to that point. After saying everything looked good and explaining what needed groomed, off he went and the nurse came in. She talked for about 5 minutes explaining what the procedure was like and kept emphasizing there would be no pain. Blah blah, need two jock straps, blah, use Aleve after surgery even though the handout says not to, blah, get frozen peas, blah blah, fill prescriptions, blah, give specimen after 12 weeks. I have the attention span of a gnat. During the whole time though I did notice that she never mentioned how long before I would be able to physically have sex again, not unprotected sex but just sex period with protection, and when I asked her she seemed kind of shocked, almost as if no one had asked that before. "I don't think there is really a set time you have to wait..." Good enough for me!

So I went out and got two jock straps (aka scrotal supporters), a bottle of Aleve (no coupons this time :( but I did catch them on sale), and two bags of peas. I was set, but boys were not happy with me. The week leading up to the procedure they felt depressed, almost like they had been defeated. Not sure if you have ever had that feeling, but its not exactly a pleasant one. Since there was a chance (however slight it might have been) that my unit would be nonfunctional after the procedure, I tried to talk my wife into stockpile sex. Like carb loading or something before a crash diet. I finally had her convinced and then a few days before the procedure, she decided to start her period (yes, I think it was a conscious decision on her part). Thanks for the support babe :(

So anyway, with my stuff already feeling depressed and no "therapy sessions" to help it, I started getting ready for the procedure. A couple hours before, they said I needed to shower with an antibacterial soap and shave. Well, my normal soap wasn't antibacterial and I didn't have time to run to the store at that point. My wife found some antibacterial soap for me that made my junk smell like "fresh picked apples". While I was showing my wife the job I did shaving to see if I missed any spots, she starts giggling and shows me a picture she just snapped of me pulling stuff to the side and pointing. This was starting off to be a fantastic experience.

I will say this though... I was very nervous about getting a razor or anything close to that area. I had used trimmers before with a guard, but nothing with direct contact. I finally just bucked up and did it and it really wasn't difficult at all. If you have never done it before, just make sure you keep your skin as wrinkle free and smooth as possible while you are doing it and you will be fine.

So I popped my sedative and my antibiotic and we headed up to the doctor to get it started (or ended, however you want to look at it). I got back to the exam room and one of the nurses had me undress from the waist down and put a large paper sheet (napkin) over my bottom half. Now I had even more shrinkage than my first exam because they sensed the doom that lie ahead. When she came back in, she rubbed some cream on it and then broke out the plastic wrap. When I asked the nurse if she literally just saran wrapped my scrotum she replied without missing a beat "yep, we are going to bake it like a turkey". Of course, my ever so witty wife chimed in "more like baking an apple pie". Ha... ha :) During one little chat between my wife and that nurse, I heard the nurse say "yeah, I just tell people I work in a doctors office and leave it at that. It would be kind of awkward to say I saran wrap scrotums all day."

So everything was going fine until I literally did start baking like a turkey or apple pie or whatever. The cream turned into hot lava and my crotch was on fire. Luckily it only lasted a few minutes and then I guess I went numb for the most part. While I was laying there freaking out about my oven roasted almonds, I hear my phone go off and when I look I see a text message with the picture my wife took earlier of me pulling and pointing. Fantastic!

The nurse came back in and had me put on gowns so I could walk to the next room. I was a little shocked because I thought we would do it right there in the exam room from what I had read on the internet. Oooh no... we walked down the hall into like an operating room. Flat bed, lights above, table full of tools, the whole bit. This is when I think my sedative wore off and panic started to set in a little. The biggest procedure I had done before this was pulling a tooth when I was like 14. I had never had a broken bone, a stitch, anything, and now I was going for a full blown operation where I was conscious the whole time. My wife even made the comment "sorry I didn't realize it was going to be a big deal". Thanks, that helped.

So I'm laying there, sheet over my body with a hole cut out for the main attraction, my wife is in the corner texting a play by play to one her close friends, giggling every 10 seconds or so. The nurse and the doctor come in go over a few things, unwrap me and clean up the fire cream. Then they stretch me out and tape it to my stomach to keep it out of the way. Then I feel them poking and prodding around, pinching, etc. I tensed up a few times and they asked if I could feel it. I said I definitely could feel everything they were doing, but it didn't really hurt, it was just uncomfortable. They acted like I shouldn't have felt it and asked if I had taken my sedative... Didn't exactly give a warm fuzzy that things were going well. I told them yes I had and asked for another. It got a laugh, but no extra meds. So they continued pinching and poking and then they were done.

Doc: "Did you feel that?"
Me: "Yep, just a little prick. *ba dum tsh* uh... wait a second."

The doctor said he would be back in about 20 minutes to finish up. I asked my wife if she actually watched them make the cut and she laughed at me and said they hadn't done anything yet. What?! All that and I still wasn't done?! At that point I was really panicking. I guess they had just given me shots or something to numb it up more.

So the doctor came back and said lets get started. I tensed up and clinched my teeth. Then something got mentioned about fresh picked apples and everyone in the room was laughing. I really didn't feel much during the actual procedure, but I could definitely hear something that sounded like a geiger counter or a welder and then I smelled burnt apples. I asked them if it was a flesh soldering iron and they said yes. I told them to solder on a circuit board so I could have a bionic penis, and maybe even make it shoot rockets or something. They laughed and said they didn't want it shooting anything when we got done. Point taken.

So... (I have started a lot of paragraphs with that now) we were pretty well finished. The doctor and nurse went through a bunch of blah blah blah (glad my wife was there to listen) and it was over. I never thought that having two cute nurses playing my junk while my wife was in the room watching would be so not enjoyable. It always played out a little differently in my dreams... Anyway, I got dressed, shuffled out to the car, got home, and retired myself to the recliner for the next 3 days with my laptop and a bag of peas.

Everything was going well until I got the first urge to go to the bathroom. I decided to not eat anything and keep myself borderline dehydrated to avoid it. I was able to avoid it for the rest of that night until the next morning. The first pee was awkward. Like I said, I had never had stitches before on anything so I wasn't sure if my insides would fall when I removed the gauze pad or what exactly to expect. I didn't want to dribble anything down on it so I stood sideways and aimed down and to the right. Being confined to a jock strap with an already depressed member doesn't exactly give a guy a whole lot to work with either. But... it all worked out. I put some fresh povidone ointment on with a new gauze pad, and back to the couch.

The next challenge was dropping a deuce bomb, or as some like to call it, poop. I actually went online and tried to find someone else's experience but I wasn't able to find anyone that described this. On one hand, it made me nervous not knowing how it would go. On the other hand, it was kind of reassuring because maybe it meant that it wasn't a big enough deal for someone to blog about it. It finally hit on the second day and I had to go. So I sat down and tried to figure out where to tuck it down at but the stitches were in the way no matter what I did. Lucky for me, I found an empty water bottle sitting by the bathroom sink and used it as a catchall. My wife was not proud. Not exactly a high point in my life, but it got the job done. I had been so scared of how it feel when I had to push, but it really wasn't bad. It was probably actually the best I had felt since before the procedure was done. Kind of a relief in fact. Back to the chair.

The final major challenge I faced was taking a shower (three days later according to doctors orders). My first attempt, I pussed out (again not knowing how it would feel with water over stitches) so I took a whore's bath in the sink and deferred until the next day. When I did finally get up the nerve to do it, it felt wonderful. No pain from the stitches or anything, just a feeling of cleanliness. At that point I felt like I could take on the world, but I finished out day 3 on the couch enjoying the peace and quiet while it was still being offered.

The worst part of the last few days has been having to wear the jock strap 24/7. I'm a boxer brief kind of guy so I appreciate a little support, but the jock was a little over the top. Either way, I did it and now on day 7 it feels pretty good to go back to normal. There is still a little tenderness, but overall things are feeling pretty good. Now I need talk the wife into a little therapy, make sure all the plumbing still works :)

Anyway, for anyone considering having it done, the procedure wasn't bad at all and thanks to my awesome wife my recovery wasn't bad either. Having my wife in the room did actually help knock some of the tension off because she was able to keep my laughing and keep my mind off of what was really happening. If fear of pain is the only thing keeping you from doing it, don't let that stop you. The years of enjoyment I plan on getting out of this seem well worth the few days of discomfort. It gave me a whole new appreciation to what women go through for child birth. As the doctor said while he was poking around, "if it were up to men to have babies, the human race would cease to exist."

There, now that wasn't so bad was it? :)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Extreme couponing: a real man's sport (part 2)

Sorry to keep you all waiting... I thought I had already posted this but I guess it has been stuck in draft!  Nothing like suspense!  :)

After my first mega fail of a shopping trip with coupons, I was determined to get a "good deal" using coupons and solve my problem of "why it works for others but not me".  I started preparing for my second attempt at extreme couponing but this time with what I thought was a solid plan.

I started on a Saturday with all the coupons my wife had collected for the first trip.  We got the kids involved and clipped just about every coupon from probably 6 copies of each of the coupons book.  When we got done clipping four hours later, our entire dining room was nothing but coupons and scattered remains of the coupon books.   Now, I was faced with a new problem: how to take all this and turn it into money!  I had so much coupon money I was going to be rich!  Muahaha!

First, though, I needed to figure out how to organize the chaos that had now consumed my house (maybe that is why it is called "consumer goods").  I decided to start simple, which was probably one of the smartest choices I made during this whole process, and get a handful of broad categories so that we could at least get the table cleared off. I think we started with what I called Personal Care, then Household, Groceries, Medicine, and Dining Out/Misc.  About 15 hours in and two shopping trips later to buy organizers (more details on how we do it in a future blog entry), we ended up with a three ring binder that zipped shut and was full of coupons.

Sunday morning came and I had my wife go out and buy several papers so we could get the RedPlum, SmartSource, and P&G Brand Saver coupon books as well as the ads to see exactly what our shopping trip would need to look like.  I spent some time clipping and organizing but then decided it was time to start planning this trip and to get my redemption.  I started going through the Dollar General ads, she started going through Target or something.  Then we switched, then we started going through Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, basically looking through all of them.  We would see random items but nothing that was just such a great deal that I had to get it.  Overwhelmed, I went back to my friend Google and did more research.

I saw a post somewhere calling Walgreens and CVS the stores for beginners so I figured I would start there. My wife and I both like Walgreens more than CVS so we pulled out the Walgreens ad and started planning.   By the time I got done several hours later, I had a list of about 20 things that I felt I could get a good deal on.  One rule that we established early though was not to buy things just for the sake of getting a good deal.   If there is a sale on adult diapers, we are not buying them because we do not need them (no matter how much simpler that would make life ;).  There are some exceptions to this rule, but I'm not going into that right now.

I was ready like Spongebob.  We grabbed our binder, loaded up the kids and told them we were going on a treasure hunt, and we headed to Walgreens to prove I could do this.

Did it work?  Um... well.  My wife considered it an epic fail.  When we took our two carts up to the check out (two carts = two sets of register rewards... cha ching!) and each cart came to about $100 so we spent right at $200 at Walgreens.  $200 AT WALGREENS and we didn't have any prescriptions!!  Luckily I bought the adult diapers!  (just kidding... or am I?)  So, feeling defeated again, I went home, we argued, and I declared I would not try to coupon anymore and we would return the stuff that we did not absolutely need later in the week.

Now, after thinking about it for a bit, I consider it taking one for the team.  When I started looking at what we could return, I found that the kids had thrown in a few extras.  In fact, about $40 worth of toys and candy that slipped through because I was so focused on coupons and my wife was focused on keeping the kids from destroying the store.  Then, I analyzed some of the other stuff... we spent about $70 just on razors and razor heads.   At first it seemed like a lot, but I was out of the razor heads for my razor and my wife needed a new one so these would have been things we were buying anyway and at Walmart, they wouldn't have stood out on the bill.  Plus, because they had a special going on, we got 2 x $3 register rewards for the razors, 2 x $10 back for the razor heads, and 2 x free cans of the shave gel I use (priced at about $4.50 each).  So in the end, we took back about $50 worth of junk, meaning out of pocket we spent about $150, but we got back about $60 in register rewards and got a couple of freebies.

So in the end, I felt somewhat OK with the way trip #2 went.  My wife still didn't think it was worth it, but after the next couple of shopping trips she was calling me her coupon sugar daddy!  Over the next three trips, we were able to get about $80 worth of stuff for about $10 with $10 back in register rewards so it was practically free.  More details on the next trip in part 3 of this post.  Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sorry Microsoft but I am falling for Google again (part 2)

I started looking at Google's services a little more after I found that the two big complaints I had back in the day seem resolved at this point and things are looking better than ever.  I found a way to get OneNote synced up to Google Docs using a tool called DAV-pocket and I can now access all the services that I use through my Google Apps account!  Life is great!  I will still have two separate accounts, but they can now be linked so I can easily switch between the two.  This is fine for now and I will eventually be consolidating them, but I am happier than a tornado in a trailer park (yes, I've seen Cars too many times :)).  Anyway, I'm going to slowly start the journey back to Google Apps tonight for at least a few things.  I may leave it split between Live and Apps for a few reasons:

#1 SkyDrive:  Hey, it's 25GB of free storage!  I can't pass that up.
#2 Office Web Apps:  I still use this quite a bit at work so I don't see this going away.  The whole Microsoft Gold Partner thing you know.
#3 My Wife:  If I tell her she is going to have to change her email settings again she will cut off my .... dinner.  What?!  She can be ruthless but come on, what did you think?

Anyway, I may be having this same debate again in a couple of months when Apple officially releases its iCloud service offering.  I do very much like my iPhone.

Maybe the smartest thing for me to do would be focus on developing a unified portal to all of these free public clouds so I could use them all for what they are best at.  Hmmm... just what I need, another shiny thing to catch my attention.  Stupid ADD.  Oh well, gotta stay busy somehow!  (just a hint of sarcasm there in case you couldn't tell)

Sorry Microsoft but I am falling for Google again


There was a time when I was mainstream and loved everything Microsoft put out.  DOS, QBASIC, Windows 3.1, Windows 95, Hover, Weezer (you know what I am talking about!), Flight Simulator, Bookshelf '95, Encarta... you name it.  But, as with most things for my generation, the years went by, the initial luster wore off, and boredom set in.  Not to mention it hurt a lot, like physical pain in the wallet area, to spend my hard earned lunch money (I was in 8'th grade I think) on the Windows 95 Upgrade only to find an IRQ conflict between my 2x CD-ROM and my 33.6kbps modem because the new Plug and Play technology didn't know how to handle it properly.

Luckily, I spent a lot of time on IRC and was fortunate enough to make friends with some very smart people, one of which introduced me to the wonderful world of *nix (Slackware Linux 3.0 to be precise).  I spent the next several years of my life reloading operating systems on my 486SX and planning for total world domination when I launched my hosting service "Beast Networks" (actually there were a lot more ASCII charaters involved and rainbow colors because it was cool to play with text).  Anyway, the cycle began again and I got bored with always "fixing" my computer so I went back to Windows as my primary OS and have been there since primarily because of my job and the fact that my wife just wants the computer to work without having to think about it.

Where am I going with this?  Well, besides illustrating my obvious attention deficit disorder, my cycle has apparently started again but this time I am between Microsoft Live and Google.  I am currently hosting my critical stuff for Yarbi.com with Microsoft Live Domains and use SkyDrive pretty heavily, but they are lacking in a lot of areas.  Google's Blogger is a great service and is what I have decided to use for my blogs (at least until my total world domination scheme works out, then I will host it through Beast Networks of course).  Microsoft's Live Spaces was not so much and I guess Microsoft knew it because they had their users convert to WordPress.  Gmail is just awesome, and the fact that they beat Microsoft at their own game by making Gmail work with Activesync before Hotmail even did just makes it that much better.  Hotmail isn't too bad nowadays, but it still doesn't have nearly the flexibility that Gmail has.  The free edition of Google Apps has almost everything that Windows Live Domains has, and now that Microsoft is switching over to Office 365 and has eliminated the a lot of the formerly free services, Google Apps is looking more appealing again.  Google Voice is absolutely amazing, Google+ looks very promising, and Chrome Browser is now my default backup browser instead of Firefox or Safari.  And don't even get me started on Bing vs Google.  The only good thing I have to say about Bing is that it literally is "the sound of found", but I only hear that sound when I use Google search :)

So, label me I a Google fan boy?  Absolutely.  However, there are are two big buts involved and I am not talking about donkeys here.

Number 1:  Google, Gmail, YouTube, Google Apps, etc can all have different accounts and I have not found any way to link them together if you register for them in the wrong order.  What does this mean?  To get to my Gmail account back when it was invite only, I was johnyarbi@gmail.com.  Then eventually I signed up for Google Apps as john@yarbi.com to host my domains there.  Then I realized I could use a real email address as my normal Google ID so I created my Google ID as john@yarbi.com but quickly realized I could not link it to my existing Gmail account and it was a different account than my Google Apps account (which had the same name but was definitely not the same account).  This meant I had johnyarbi@gmail.com and had been using it for a while, my Google Apps ID which was very limited in what it could do, and my new Google ID with the same name as my Apps ID and now with a new Gmail account jyarbi@gmail.com.  Then I went to sign up for YouTube and had to come up with yet a different username.  It was very frustrating, especially when I deleted johnyarbi@gmail.com so I could try to recreate it under the john@yarbi.com account only to find out that all deleted Gmail accounts are permanent.  Update:  This has apparently changed so I might be trying to get my johnyarbi account back, yay!

Confused yet?  I was too!  To sum it up, Google doesn't seem to have linked accounts figured out yet, which is one thing Microsoft has actually done a pretty good job on.  Frustrating for sure, but not necessarily a show stopper.  [UPDATE:  https://accounts.google.com/b/0/MultipleSessions and http://www.google.com/support/accounts/bin/static.py?page=guide.cs&guide=29934&topic=29936.  It looks like Google has fixed this for the most part as well.  Yay again!]

Number 2:  The other reason I went with and am still with Windows Live on this most recent ebb, and this is a big one, is Office Web Apps, specifically OneNote.  I love OneNote and yes I would marry it if I could claim it on taxes.  I've been planning on writing a blog entry about it but every time I sit down to do it, I end up with pages of how much I love it.  Anyway, I'll save all that for another time.  Google has some "Web Apps" of its own, but the integration with Office 2010 found in Windows Live is something Google can't touch (yet) when you are primarily a Windows user.  When they introduced offline access to their apps, this changed the game a little, but the fact is they still do not have a fully featured editor, and they definitely do not have OneNote.

So why am I falling for Google again?  Well, maybe it is just that time of the month again in my manstruation cycle, but Google services seem to be consistently getting better while Microsoft is falling behind in most areas (or maybe has not caught up yet?).  Either way, the tide is turning and I am washing back out to sea.  I've been doing a lot of work getting ready for a 10 year class reunion and have used Google Docs to create web forms, am using Picasa to store and share pictures, Blogger to host the website, YouTube to host videos, etc etc.  Things that are just not really doable for free with Microsoft Live suite.  And on top of that, I am able to use my single Gmail account in most cases now.  The more I dig around, the more I see just how far Google has come.  And my initial fear that a lot of these services would be like Google Wave (what every happened to that?!) have pretty well vanished because of Android and Chrome power on the tablet, phone, and light notebook markets Google is in now.  Their services are here for the long haul and seem to be aimed directly at Microsoft (and Apple for that matter).

So, at the end of the day, I still like Microsoft and that will not change for the foreseeable future, but Google is winning my heart again through innovative services like Voice and improvements to the stables like Docs and Blogger, and will probably get a lot more of my attention moving forward.  Welcome back to the family G.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Goodbye Yarbi swim team, hello life!

This is the official notice that the Yarbi swim team will official be cut from sanctions effective 3:30PM on this day, September 15, 2011. Their record setting seasons of 2004, 2005-2006, and 2009-2010 were unrivaled in the sport, showing best in class execution, and taking home three beautiful trophies. While it has been fun working with each and every one of you over the years, it is in the best interest of this establishment to cease further activities and focus on personal operations such as family, friends and career. Thank you for your efforts as we would not be where we are today without you! You have showed us what true joy feels like with each win. You will be missed.

Sincerely,

JohnYarbi | Owner/Operator

Now, off to the doctor to execute the contract! Wish me luck!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Trying 1-Db Overdrive

I'm normally not one to be sold on a product, especially a supplement or weight loss product.  I know after doing the South Beach Diet for several months that the best diets are those with a good mix of healthy eating, lower caloric intake, and regular exercise.  No tricks or gimmicks required.  However, I have had a total lack of motivation in the exercise department lately, and eating low calories is hard because I was always hungry and would blow it at dinner.  I wanted to do the South Beach Diet again, but my wife is already at her goal weight (GREAT JOB BABE!) and it is too much of a struggle to get my kids eating like that, so it would pretty much be me doing it by myself which equates to near impossible.  So... what to do...?

I had heard a radio commercial for 1-Db overdrive.  Then I heard another commercial on a different station, then another on yet another station.  I thought to myself, this stuff must either work pretty well, or they have a hella good marketing team with deep pockets.  I was between trying it and the HCG diet craze (the one apparently with pregnant woman pee drops).  Some friends of ours were really successful with the HCG diet but I wasn't sure if made sense for me.  Anyway, after quite a bit of soul searching (on Google), I decided HCG was not right for me at this time.  So that pretty much left 1-Db or nothing.

So the next day, I was eating lunch with Blaze (from http://fortiblazin.blogspot.com) and was talking about HCG and why I didn't think it was a good idea.  He mentioned that he wanted to try 1-Db Overdrive.  What timing!  I guess great minds really do think alike!  After we talked about it for a bit, we decided to just head over to Supplement Superstore and get it.  I was a little leery of paying so much for something I still had some doubt about, but Blaze was determined to buy it so he said he would split the first one with me.  After mentioning (admitting) we were sold by the radio ads on 105.7 The Point (thanks Woody and Riz!) we got a discount and it came out to be around $75 + tax.  It is probably that much anyway, they just make you feel good by giving you a "discount", but I can't complain about a 25% savings.  I also picked up a sample of the 1-Db Goddess for my wife.  This was at her request by the way.  If I showed up at home and out of the blue gave her a diet supplement to try I can only imagine the doom that would follow.

When we got back to the office, we separated out the bottles of 1-Db Overdrive and Thyro-Burner (the FAST Pack).  This should last us 2 - 4 weeks each, depending on 1 pill twice a day or 2 pills twice a day.  We each took 1 Overdrive and 1 Thyro-Burner at around 1:30pm.  By about 1:45pm I could feel it doing something because my body felt warm and my leg was bouncing.  I didn't however notice any real improvement in focus :(  I know, it is probably all in my head, but at this point I'm pretty much willing to try anything to get more motivated and have a little more energy.

Just for reference, I get about as much exercise per day as a rock.  I've never ran over a mile in my life, and I only did that once!  I work in IT at a desk and my home life is pretty sedentary as well.  Wish me luck!

So begins my public dieting story.  Starting weight September 12:  252.  Goal weight by October 1:  235.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Extreme couponing: a real man's sport... or so I keep telling myself (part 1)

Who hasn't heard of "extreme couponing" by now?  I'm not sure how something as stereotypically feminine and boring as clipping coupons suddenly turned into something that could be mistaken for an X-games sport, but it has, and it has caught my attention. My challenge:  avoid clipping my man card while I plan trips to the store for deals on make-up and tampons.

My wife, like so many other women (and men too I guess) started watching Extreme Couponing on TLC and decided she wanted to try her hand at it.  I thought to myself what a waste of time.  I mean, is it really worth hours of digging through ads and clipping coupons to save $.25 on a $10 package of paper towels?  The people on the TV show really are extreme, almost to the point of being sick.  I have a sneaky feeling we will be seeing some of these people on an episode of another popular show called Hoarders :)  We have enough of the crazy spectrum covered in our house so adding coupon clipping to the mix wasn't exactly top on my list.

I had pretty much written off the idea as crazy and hardly worth the effort, but if she wanted to try it I would at least be supportive and let her.  She went out and bought a paper then spent a few hours going through ads and got what she felt was a decent amount of coupons for stuff we "could use". 

For whatever reason she decided to send me to Walmart to pick up a few things and try out the coupons.  It was a disaster.  I went through the store like I normally do, which was a big mistake, randomly browsing clearance aisles, walking through hardware, checking out sporting goods, playing with electronics, etc.  At the check out, I used her coupons and saved about $6.  Not too bad... but considering my overall bill was about $250 I considered it a mega fail.  I bought a ton of stuff on impulse and we ended up with a bunch of food no one liked, or that we liked but didn't want to cook because it required too much effort (Jimmy Dean Skillets).

My wife had pretty well given up, but I couldn't now.  I despise the feeling of failure and I took this very personal.  So, instead of giving up, I decided to treat it like a problem that needed a solution.  The problem was:  "why didn't coupons work for me while they do for other people?"  With this, I turned to my good friend and mentor Google for research and advice as I would with almost any other problem I need to solve.  I'm sure there are millions of sites out there about the topic, but I found a great website that clicked with me called Living Rich With Coupons and it seemed to have very up to date information but most importantly, a "Beginners" section :)  I started to realize that coupons are big business and can be a serious way to save some cash.

With a little research under my belt and a fresh set of terminology in my head, I set out to get redemption (and hopefully a few deals).  We bought a few Sunday papers and got started, again.  My wife did help me clip coupons but this time the planning was up to me.  This time was going to be different.  I was a man on a mission and nothing could stop me.  My target:  Walgreens.  My goal:  I wanted to come out with a cart full of stuff for around $10.  How did I do?  Well... tune in for part 2 of this documentary to find out but let's just say the phrase "third time is the charm" seems fitting.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

I ate a whole package of cookie dough and started thinking…

I’ve been trying to eat healthy lately and it has been tough.  My wife eats ultra healthy but yells at me if I eat something she bought for herself.  My kids refuse to eat healthy all the time and we have company quite a bit so we always have snacks and other junk food available at arms reach.  I’m normally fine with that stuff.

Yesterday, however, was a different story.  We had several packages of Pillsburry Ready-to-Bake sugar cookie dough in the fridge that mom had given us to cook for the kids.  Well, anyone who knows me knows that I love cookie dough!  It is like my catnip or something.  Anyway, it was getting old and my wife said she was going to throw it out.  Anyone who knows me also knows that I don’t like to waste food.  I had to rescue it!

While I was packing my lunch for the day I went ahead and threw the cookie dough down in the bottom of my lunch box, hiding it like a teenage boy with a Hustler.  When I got to work I had planned on just eating a couple pieces and then throwing it away myself, but, well, ended up eating the whole package.  I felt like garbage for the rest of the day and even today my stomach is all sorts of messed up.

So I started thinking.  I wanted revenge on the little bastard for being so irresistibly delicious, but what to do?  Ah ha!  I would take the rest of the cookie dough and make a big Pillsbury doughboy likeness and cook him!  But then I thought, when cookies bake, they get golden brown and even more delicious looking so that would be counter productive.  This made me wonder, what kind of dough is the doughboy actually made out of?  Flour?  Cookie?  Pizza?

I turned to Google to try and find an answer but no one seems to know for sure what he is made of.  I did however find that others have gotten their revenge by looking at Google Images for “cooked Pillsbury doughboy”.

Then, my heart dropped and I was filled sadness when I found his funeral announcement.  Rest in peace little doughboy.

What do you think the doughboy is made of?  Any pictures of your own revenge schemes?  Let me know!

“Somebody set up us the bomb! We get signal. What!”

Wow!  I just read an article from CNN about Charlie Miller, a St. Louis resident who just recently demonstrated a hack at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas that can disable the battery of a MacBook.  He said his goal was to see if he "could make one blow".  He unable to accomplish his goal because of different mechanisms in place on the battery hardware itself but he was able to get it to essentially stop working.  A pretty cool proof of concept!

0324_p40-risk-miller_398x380

Getting one to blow up though is not too far fetched of an idea, however.  The circuitry that protects the battery from exploding is probably accessible through the same mechanisms he used to disable it.  Purely speculation here but he was probably a few lines of code away from getting to those protective mechanisms, exploiting them, and then having complete control over the battery in an unstable way, but was probably on a deadline to get his presentation out and figured disabling it was going to have to do for now.

So what does all this mean to the general public?  Well, it means we should be thanking Mr. Miller for finding this exploit before someone malicious released it into the wild.  Because of his efforts, this problem will probably be “fixed” relatively soon with a patch from Apple.  I would imagine that a stream of devices will probably all be patched in the near future to prevent this type of attach from occurring including primarily phones and laptops, but think about the number of devices you use or know about that connect to the internet and have a battery:  Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, high end alarm clocks, satellite radio, home security systems, cars with OnStar, etc.

While disabling a battery doesn’t really seem like much, think about the potential for a few minutes.
Let’s look a totally fictitious scenario for a moment:  a major software company wants to drive sales of its latest operating system but it found that many people were still satisfied with the one from 10 years ago and have no real desire to upgrade.  What to do, what to do?  One way to get people to upgrade is to drive new hardware purchases, right?  Ah ha!  Release a “patch” for that 10 year old operating system that disables the battery of those older laptops!  Then people will be forced to upgrade!  Brilliant!

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Is that all that can be done though?  Not necessarily.  Picture this more sinister scenario:  a terrorist cell identifies the logic to disable the safety mechanism on the battery and actually get it to explode.  This opens the potential to disable it on any similar battery.  They also figure out how to trigger a remote code execution on your laptop, phone, OnStar, whatever and push this code out via text message, email, website popup, etc.  Payload day comes and boom goes the dynamite!  Millions of micro chemical explosions worldwide, disabled workers, crippled communications, highways littered with dead vehicles, etc, etc.

We could essentially all be carrying bombs with us that could literally be remotely detonated and explode at any time!  Sounds pretty crazy, but it seems like almost every wireless device has a battery, and inside the battery is a combination of chemicals, and on the cover of every battery is a warning that says caution, explosive!

Probably VERY far fetched....... or is it?!  You tell me!  ;)  Until next time, keep your electronics away from the women and children!

References:

http://www.cnn.com/2011/TECH/mobile/08/05/miller.apple.battery.hacks/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2010/0412/technology-apple-hackers-charlie-miller.html

Oh, and for those that do not get the "Somebody set up us the bomb!" reference, see the classic worldwide phenomenon All Your Base Are Belong To Us.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

FortiGate 200B - Central NAT Table causes potential performance issues

I just had the pleasure of dealing with a strange issue on a FortiGate 200B 4.0 MR3.  The client was reporting slow internet browsing from their hosted offsite Citrix server (which is behind the FortiGate).  They were able to connect to their Citrix server without any problems, run all of their applications at normal speeds, print, etc. just fine, but when you launched Internet Explorer from within the Citrix session, it would give sporadic results.  Most pages were just very slow to come up, others would load only half of the page, and some would just load the title bar.  I checked to make sure that it was not just the Citrix server but it was also happening from their Small Business Server, their Microsoft SQL server, and other line of business application servers in their environment, although the Citrix server seemed to be the worst.

I went over to SpeedTest.net to run a quick speed check and it failed.  Yes, failed.  I have seen some strange results from that site but I had never seen it actually say fail.  I was able to get it to fail repeatedly from their environment but it worked everywhere else I tested from outside of their environment.

After looking over the rules on the firewall and looking at performance counters, my co-worker wanted me to try and change the outbound NAT policies on the FortiGate from "Use Central NAT Table" to "Use Dynamic IP Pool".  Since then, the problem seems to have gone away and internet browsing speed has returned to normal.  SpeedTest.com also now completes successfully from their environment.

I did a quick search on Fortinet’s website and on Google and have not found any similar issues being reported.  I am going to have my "FortiExpert" (the co-worker that had me change to IP pools) review this and give me his analysis and submit it as a “FortiGlitch”.  Luckily the client was just trying to use the Central NAT Table as a convenience so they did not have to enter each address that they wanted to translate in the policies. 

Maybe this is why the Central NAT Table is disabled by default?  Or maybe it was just a misconfiguration that half-way sort of worked.  Either way, more research is required on this one.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ideas for future posts

I am sitting on my back porch and thought I would try out the option to post a blog entry via email. So here it is. Just wanted to put some thoughts out about topics I plan on writing about in the near future:

The "Insert Project"
Microsoft OneNote 2010
Netgear ReadyNAS
VMware vNetwork Distributed Switches
Used Car Buying Experiences
Geek Speak of the Week - as seen on the interweb

See, I told you it would be pretty random :) As you will see from my posts, however, I enjoy the work I do so most of my brain cycles revolve around that (which is Information Technology in case you haven't been paying attention). I also intend to provide a public service to those needing tech advice (or really any advice for that matter) so ask away. I'll do what I can to help!

Sent from my iPhone

Trying this again

Do you find yourself starting things but never finishing them? Yay, I'm not alone! This post is the official (re)start of my blogging career. A friend of mine and I are starting a new collection of sites that you are going to love! They will make you laugh, make you cry, and make you keep coming back for more! I will "insert" more details when they become available :)

In the meantime, feel free to drop me a line with a request or something. Just for reference, my knowledge niche revolves around virtualization (VMware vSphere), SAN storage (NetApp, HP), networking (Cisco, HP, Fortinet), and server platforms (Microsoft Windows). I do have varying degrees of experience with a LOT of random things due to the nature of my job and role so feel free to ask me anything. I can usually find the answer or point you in the right direction.

Enjoy and blog at ya later!