Closing the chapter: My thoughts on year 2013

We are coming to an end of Year 2013 and all are ready to welcome Year 2014. Today I am going to do something new for this blog (miltongoh.com) which I believe most of the bloggers are already doing it. I am going to write about how Year 2013 and what I hope to achieve it Year 2014.

Let’s look back at Year 2013, a hectic year for sure.

January 2013

  • Attended F5 iRules Training – Although this is really an intermediate class for professional who have prior experience in F5 appliances, I still think I did pretty well and therefore have learnt some bits and pieces from the instructor.
  • Started my first paid classes to polished up my Windows Server 2008 R2 skills at New Horizons – Although this didn’t turned out to be a positive matter because the way how the program is being structured, it’s terrible! Wouldn’t believe “Mentored-Learning” anymore. I still prefer the classroom way of mentor lecturing in the classroom which will be filled with real-world experiences.
  • Achieved my first MCSE (Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert) in Private Cloud.

March 2013

  • Attended ITIL Foundation v3 training proudly sponsored by my company, Dimension Data (Singapore) and attained my certification.

July 2013

  • Got promoted! *Hooray* Thanks to my boss at Dimesion Data (Singapore).
  • Helped out at the very first PowerShell Saturday Singapore thanks to Matthew Hitchcock (PowerShell MVP).

August 2013

  • Achieved my MCITP (Microsoft Certified IT Professional) in SharePoint 2010 Administration – my MCTS SharePoint 2010, Configuring got a little rusty and this certificate comes in handy like finally.

November 2013

  • Got nominated and awarded as an Incredible Member in my organization for the year. *hooray* – Thanks to the anonymous person who think highly of me. (Probably there is only one).
  • Completed my last four papers for my Bachelor Degree.

December 2013

  • Got my results for my Bachelor Degree and yes, I finally completed my three-years long course. Smile
  • Applied and attained my MCT (Microsoft Certified Trainer) certification.

That’s just some of the high-level items that really worth noting down and some of the technologies that I have played with and meddled with or rather got my hands really dirtied with…

  • Service-Now
  • SharePoint 2013
  • Windows Server 2012
  • PowerShell
  • Cisco Technologies – Digital Media Player
  • VMWare ESXi Hypervisor – Including vMotion

These are really the focus for the year.

Outlook for Year 2014

Here I will try to list down some of the items that I am going to aim for and hopefully to achieved them within the new 365 days.

  • Join the Winter Scripting Games 2014 – January 2014 – These will be a 4 weeks long program. This is my first time joining so hope to learn more about PowerShell out of this.
  • Speak at PowerShell Saturday Singapore 003 – February 2014 – Have sent my sessions details over and hopefully everything will go smooth.
  • Committed to PowerShell User Group Singapore – Will be helping Matthew Hitchcock out to promote PowerShell to all the Singapore IT Pros. Hopefully they will see the light as we did.
  • Attain the MCSA – Office 365 certification
  • Share my knowledge with the community since a huge part of knowledge is derived from the community.

Cheers and Happy New Year to all! Smile

Milton Goh

Surface Pro / Surface Pro 2 Accessories–HDMI to Mini DisplayPort

I am hooked with Microsoft hardware and therefore rather than going to third-party manufacturer which may cost me maybe one-third cheaper, I still go ahead with getting everything OEM.

Welcome the Mini-DisplayPort to HDMI cable into the family. Right now, I am just short off the docking station so that I can simply connect my Surface Pro 2 to my two awesome monitors at home.

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I feel that the packaging of Microsoft is really getting better!

Cheers!
Milton Goh

TP-Link 150Mbps Wireless N Nano Router

Recently while shopping at the local computer store, I chance across this device which caught my eyes. Introducing the TP-Link 150Mbps Wireless N Nano Router!

Been all the while I am have been trying to find something similar but have not really gotten any because of the size of the device. The reason why I am looking for this device is because I have since moved on to using Surface Pro 2 as my day-to-day device for my work. As all know that for this tablet, I am already restricted to one USB port and instead of utilizing the USB to Ethernet converter and taking up my USB port, I decided that I should just fully utilize the Wireless component.

This device is really very handy! Very small in size and easy to use! Let the picture paint a thousand words!

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–> OK, now you know how much it cost. Smile

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–> Pictorial description on how the device can be utilized.

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–> I have two option, either I charge it with a USB port or I can use the adapter that comes in the box. Perhaps I can also try to power it with a battery juice pack? Will try that out.

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–> Look at how small it is? Well, I have more pictures to justify how Nano it really is.

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–> Typical two-pin plug! Now you know how small it is!

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–> Inside the package… Very nicely packed actually.

The speed from the device to my Surface Pro 2 is really good. I really enjoy every bit of it at work today. Smile

Cheers!
Milton Goh

Five Reasons to using CloudShare and why it is worth it.

This posts is not going to serve as a marketing story that sells you how much compelling features is being built in and provided by CloudShare but rather I am going to share on my perspective why I chose CloudShare for my day-to-day and I urge you all will see the same value as me. As a Consultant and Developer by profession, I would have to depend highly on my lab so that I could solve my own problems that I have encountered and also problems that my clients met into for their infrastructure that is being deployed and maintained by my organization. On top of that, my recent application to be a MCT (Microsoft Certified Trainer) has been approved and therefore I have joined the league of professional trainers and hope to learn as much as I could. In my opinion, being a MCT delivery a class is not just based on the Microsoft Official Curriculum provided but it should also add in some real-world experience that I have earned when I am doing consultancy to the students. Therefore, being quick and decisive is an important element in the IT world because technology changes so fast that we could pick up the skills.

Therefore, these are five reasons why I would recommend all of you to try out CloudShare.

1. No hardware investment

Microsoft Technologies and the latest line of products have adversely increased the requirements of the hardware needed in order to run the environment smoothly. For example, when I am doing my SharePoint 2010 demo box, I used to only allocate around 4GB-6GB of RAM to the single virtual machine box. As of the launch of SharePoint 2013, I see the need to work with around 8GB to 16GB for the virtual machine. That jump would definitely require me to upgrade my workstation or my lab environment in order to accommodate to the new requirements. I used to lug around my Lenovo ThinkPad T420 with 16GB RAM but since I needed to run SharePoint 2013, I will be looking at either a slower and sluggish performance virtual machine on the same piece of hardware or I am forced to look at higher end model of the ThinkPad W Series which enable me to maximize up to 32GB of RAM. Remember, this is just part one of my hardware investment because for my lab environment at home/work, I will run SharePoint instances along with other Microsoft products for testing purposes. Although the lab servers in the office would usually contain higher class hardware that span across around 96GB RAM, but from time-to-time when the requirement of newer software increased, it means that the number of virtual machines we can run on the same lab server will decrease and therefore needing some upgrade.

For my home, I do not have the luxury to run huge servers because electricity is expensive here. Moreover, switching on the home lab server 24 x 7 would not only consume lots of electricity but it just meant that I would need to bear with the noise of the server fans. Another problem with running lab server within the organization/home lab is Connectivity. A secure environment like mine will force me to only connect to the lab environment via secure VPN connection. For my latest lab environment, it is powered with 2 x Intel NUC (~ USD500 each with 64GB mSATA + 16GB RAM) with a Synology NAS (~ USD1400 with 4 x 4TB hard disk). This would make up to a total of approximately USD3000 for a start include other miscellaneous items.

However, if you use CloudShare, the monthly commitment is USD59 (lowest available plan), it will provide you with 50 months (more than 4 years!) of utilization in order to rack up to the upfront investment for the basic hardware needed. I doubt the Intel NUC could last me 4 years especially when new software requirements are increasing!

2. Usability

All the while I have been trying to compare the various solutions that provide me with an easy way to connect to my lab environment in order to get some work done without the need to lug around with a heavy workstation. I now owe a Surface Pro 2 due to the software that I required to run to meet my basic needs. I wouldn’t be able to survive with a Surface 2 / RT because I could not install the proprietary VPN software that is required in order to connect back to my company VPN server.

One of the feature that allow me to leave my heavy laptop at home is the availability to connect to my CloudShare instances via any browser. With this feature, I could easily live with a lightweight laptop or table such as Surface RT/2 or even an Apple iPad.

3. Huge amount of time saved

Prior to using CloudShare, I used to build countless numbers of virtual machine in order to perform some of the testing needed at work or for my own learning. My latest project or mini project is to explore Team Foundation Server 2013. So I went ahead to time how much time and effort is needed in order to setup my own copy of Team Foundation Server so that I could meddle with the functionalities. So here is the estimated breakdown of the time spent:

· Building the base OS on a single virtual machine + Windows Patching: 1.5 hours

· Cloning the base OS to multiple virtual machine (Active Directory, SQL, Team Foundation Server, Build Agent Server) and perform sysprep: 1 hour

· Setup the domain controller and populating the various service accounts needed: 20 minutes

· Setup SQL Server for Team Foundation Server: 30 minutes

· Setup Team Foundation Server and configuration: 45 minutes

· Setup Build Server: 20 minutes

In total, I spent around 4.5 hours to complete the whole exercise! This does not include… What if I configured certain component wrongly and required re-configuration? With CloudShare, I could spin up an instance with Team Foundation Server 2013 along with Visual Studio 2013 installed in less than 5 minutes! Below are some examples of what is included in the 5 minutes setting up process…

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Team Foundation Server 2013 Image

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SharePoint 2013 Image

4. No longer required for trial software / subscription (Goodbye to TechNet)

One move by Microsoft to kill the TechNet subscription is to enable more users to move to the Cloud, however, for work purposes, I will definitely need to setup my own lab environment so that I could easily demo to my prospective clients the awesome features that is packed in the product. Without the TechNet subscription, I wouldn’t be getting the MSDN subscription for my home development use because the amount spent doesn’t justify the cost spent. Getting trial software would means that I would need to rebuild my lab environment every 180 days.

With CloudShare, you wouldn’t even need to bother about the licensing, you just spin up the instance as and when you like and delete it from your account when you are done with it. Forget about finding the product key to the software and having trouble activating virtual machine for your testing purposes.

5. No complex solutions needed

Sometimes I wonder whether I could mimic the solutions by CloudShare and create a Self-Service Portal as user-friendly as CloudShare so that my developers could easily launch an instance for their testing purposes as and when needed. However, after a serious consideration of the amount of hardware investment needed in order to ensure that every developers will get a fair share for them to deliver their project on-time, it really made me hard to present the idea to the management. On top of that, there will be on-going maintenance needed to ensure that the condition of the hardware are good for use. Below is some of the pointers that are part of my solution conceptualization.

· To deploy System Center Virtual Machine Manager to manage all the Hyper-V hosts and to deploy Virtual Machine.

· Time is needed to create the various Virtual Machine Templates.

· Time is needed to update the various Virtual Machine Templates.

· Need to engage the various specialist within the organization to borrow their time so that be part of the architecting team.

Hope you are able to see the value that I see in CloudShare. Interested? Head over now to get your trial account. Sign up for Trial

P/S: I am not affiliated with CloudShare in any ways.

Cheers!
Milton Goh

[PowerShell Efficiency]–Check the list of installed programs

As part of my lab environment where I am using VMWare ESXi Hypervisor, I am required to install VMWare Tools similar to the Integration Services that is found in Hyper-V. However, due to the challenge that I have threw to myself that I am going to use “Server Core” for most of the servers unless there are software that required the GUI.

So since I can’t do what I use to do by finding out what I have installed and in current situation, I don’t even know whether VMWare Tools are installed already since I am deploying multiple virtual machines at one go.

In the GUI way, I could simply do the following,-

  1. Go to Control Panel
  2. Click on Programs and Features
  3. Tada, the list shown!

However, if we were to do it the PowerShell way…

Get-WmiObject -class Win32_Product

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What if… I am being greedy? What if I have a long list of programs that are installed? Wouldn’t I be scrolling till I go mad?

Then let’s do some filtering…

Get-WmiObject -class Win32_Product | where {$_Name -like "*VMWare*"}

The first segment of the one-liner is the same as before, just that I have added a “where-clause” to do filtering of the intended value that I hope to find.

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So, is this much more convenient and faster? Can you do filtering in your add/remove programs? Smile Of course you can do filtering by doing “Search”, but time it yourself to see how long it takes!

Cheers,
Milton Goh

The Importance of After-Sales Support

Recently, I made some revamp to my home lab hardware inventory. Some of the significant changes that I have made is,-

  1. Sold away my Tower Desktop (which consume way too much electricity at home since I usually do not shut down my lab environment due to the need to access during my working hour)
  2. Added 2 Intel NUC into my home lab

So let’s me explain a little of what I have encountered during the purchased of my Intel NUC. I bought my first Intel NUC (DC3271IYE) and later on my second Intel NUC (D34010WYK). Both set I have made my purchase from this local retailer over at Sim Lim Square – Video Pro.

The very first set of Intel NUC is purchased solely just the set itself and do not have much problem with the memory I bought from NewEgg. So knowing that sales purchase are pretty smooth with Video Pro, I decided that I should invest into the store again for my second NUC. So I happily went to the store and made my purchase, this time round with 2 X 8GB of matching RAM.

During the purchase, I indicated that I needed RAM for my NUC and the lady that was serving me gave me 2 x 8GB with the speed of 1333Mhz. Didn’t know that for the 2nd generation of the Intel NUC would only run well on 1600Mhz. I couldn’t be bothered so I made the purchase. At the point of time, each piece of 8GB RAM cost SGD 95.

So the next day, I start to meddle with all the newly purchased gadget, then I am stuck with the error where the LED blink, so a simple search online leads me to this link. The link simply says that, count the number of blinks it appears before it pause for a second or two before it starts again. So it just simply says the following,-

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So the following day, I immediately brought the set to the same store hoping that they could do something for me on the spot. So the conversation starts here… The folks involve in this conversation are as followed,-

Me – Obviously, I should be the main lead actor here.
Technical Folk (TF) – The guy who is the guru in the sales of hardware
Sales Folk (SF) – The lady that sold me the hardware

Me: Hi, I made a purchase of this set from you all and it is not working. I am suspecting it is the memory that is causing the fault, can you kindly help me check?

**Action** – TF took the memory case and saw it was 1333Mhz, turned over and told SF, “you should not sell 1333Mhz for the NUC in future, only sell 1600Mhz.”

So TF start to dismantle my NUC because the RAM is still inside while SF took a new pair of RAM over. Now here come the most classical moment.

SF: Excuse me, since there is a price increment for the RAM from the day you purchased, you are required to pay additional SGD 4 per piece which made up to a total of SGD 8 top-up.

Me: Excuse me, you gave me a pair of RAM that doesn’t work and you expect me to top-up?

SF: It’s because there is a price increment.

At this moment, I was very reluctant because I felt cheated. In the first place, I wasn’t given something that didn’t work due to her negligence in ensuring that she asked her co-workers which frequency of RAM to be issued. She should at the very least asked me if the RAM is for the NUC and not purely assuming IT IS NOT.

I took out a piece of 10 dollar note and wanted to settle it by giving way but I decided that I shouldn’t be doing that. SGD 99 for a piece of RAM is not expensive since I have paid SGD 95 previously but it is the principles that I am going against. So I told her, “removed the RAM, I am refunding it.”

I took the refunded cash and went into another store to purchased a pair of RAM at SGD 98 each. This save me SGD 2! Two dollars out of the intended Eight dollars, I saved 25%!

—-

What I am driving at is… This is the second NUC that I have purchased from the same place and I can definitely assure that this relationship will not stop here. I wouldn’t be stopping at just two NUC because looking at how low-powered it is and it’s small form factor, it is really a good home lab server.

What’s the harm of giving SGD 8 discount for the RAM knowing that I may be the prospective client that come back for another NUC or other hardware peripherals? The Intel NUC cost SGD 429 and SGD 8 is just 1.8%. I feel that it is a stupid move.

Let’s hope that the owner of Video Pro would wake up to the senses that his/her employee are doing such thing that may or may not directly or indirectly harm the sales in future.

Cheers.
Milton Goh

What is an ideal prefix / tag?

I had a thought of a series of blog post that ideally describe how PowerShell have efficiency helped myself or my team in getting work done. It may be simple PowerShell script or even down to one-liner rather than doing it via the GUI way of clicking and clicking.

What will be the best tag or prefix should I fixed it for these series?

This is probably going to keep me thinking too, although may not more important than the content of the post. Smile with tongue out

Cheers.
Milton Goh

[Efficiency with PowerShell]–“Get-Disk”, “Get-Volume” for checking available disk and volume

Realize the power of “PowerShell” today! Do the following…

The GUI Way…

  1. Go to Control Panel
  2. Administrative Tools
  3. Computer Management
  4. Expand “Storage”
  5. Click on “Disk Management”
  6. See your available disk
  7. Right click on the Disk –> Properties

Tada! You will get to see what you will see with this one-liner below.

The PowerShell Way…

Get-Disk

Get-Volume

Results (Based on my computer)

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Cheers! Smile

[PowerShell]–Checking the version of Office installed

While I could simply launched my Office that is installed locally to check the version, I am thinking how can I query all the computers within the organization or at least a group of computers.

Here is a few simple lines of code to start off with.

– Create and initialize the object

$objExcel = New-Object -ComObject Excel.Application

– Query the version of the Office installed

$objExcel.version

Results

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– Query the build of the Office installed

$objExcel.build

Results

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Isn’t that much more simple? Imaging if you were to do it from GUI, how many clicks are there to achieve the same results? Smile

Presentation Gadget–Logitech Wireless Presenter R400

I have been pondering for awhile each time I went to our local computer store (Challenger) for window shopping on whether to grab one of those.

There are many models to choose from, from beginner range which is the one that I have gotten to the more advanced range which has LED on the presenter controller itself. I don’t think I am a good presenter yet, therefore something simple to start off with is adequate.

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These are images of the packaging, pretty robust and nicely package.

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One thing that I always chosen Logitech is,-

  1. Hopefully one day Microsoft also come out with something similar, perhaps part of the mouse?
  2. Logitech always take care of the consumer interests, look at the nice pouch that comes along!

I am going to find a time where I am doing one of the presentation for my work or in one of the user group meeting to start flaunting my new toy. Smile

Cheers.

Milton Goh