Author Archives: Chris

Experiences using Microsoft To-Do

2019-04-11_21-39-55-MicrosoftToDOFor over a year now I’ve been using Microsoft’s To-Do application to manage and organise my tasks. This has probably been the longest I’ve stuck with a personal task manager for some time, and I believe the app has just the right amount of features for me, sitting somewhere between Outlook tasks and a more in-depth project management/ planning application. In this post I will discuss how I use the app; you might find To-Do is something you want to check out, or if you’re a current user you might find new ways to use it.

To-Do is not a heavy duty time management application, but it does allow you to manage personal tasks, set due dates or reminders, and have sub-steps if required. For example the “Deploy new Server” task might have “Buy Server”, “Rack Server”, “Configure Network”, and “Install Hypervisor” as steps.

I use the one application for both work and personal tasks, using lists to categorise these but not having a separate application to go to for my non-work tasks. This helps me balance my time focused on the job against my personal time. I believe Work-life balance isn’t just about not working in personal time. When done properly doing some personal activities in work time is balanced against when you have to work in personal time. For example I might answer the odd work email when sat on the couch in the evening, but I won’t feel guilty about instant messaging my family from the office. Microsoft To-Do has a number of features that will help here, not least “My Day”.

My Day is possibly the best feature in To-Do, and can be used similarly to a Work In Progress (WIP) panel on a Kanban board. Tasks from the different categories can all be assigned here, giving me a list of what I need to accomplish next, rather than being overwhelmed by a much longer list. This also allows me to mix those personal and work related tasks – I need to check my VMware licenses today, but I also need to book an appointment at the optician (who won’t be answering their phone when I get home tonight).

When using My Day I set the sort order to put the tasks flagged as important at the top. These are the things I’ve marked that must get done- further down the list are the lower priority things I’d like to get done today, but might not.

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When starting up To-Do in the morning it offers me the “For Today” listing, so I can pick the tasks I need in my list at the start of today. These may be items passed over from the day before, one’s I’ve had reminders set for today, or emails I’ve flagged and tweets or websites I picked up the evening before for follow up. With To-Do installed on my Android phone I can quickly share from the other apps, for example Twitter or Chrome to automatically create new tasks for my list.

Looking at how my task-lists have evolved, I have general “Tasks” for work related items and “Personal” for non-work ones. I also have a “Learning and Finding Out” list for all those educational links I want to fit in, and a “Blog” list for blog post ideas.

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In addition to the general work list I have “Delegated/ Parked with Others” for where I have a task which I’ve subsequently passed onto a colleague but want to check back in on progress- things I don’t want to totally disappear from my radar just because someone else is doing the work. I also have a list here for “Project Ideas”; these are those ideas which aren’t quite a task yet, a list of “wouldn’t it be great if we could do x?” or “should we be looking at implementing y?”.

As To-Do is a single-user viewpoint it’s important that it works well with the other work management tools I’m exposed to- project management, collaboration, and service-desk apps can’t just be ignored. My method here is to take those support calls and project actions and add them to my To-Do list, this way I can manage my own time. It’s important to remember that progress updates and documentation need to be recorded in the correct systems, but the use of To-Do as a simple tick list works well for me here.

As someone who has flipped between task management apps and their paper equivalents I’m impressed that I’ve been using To-Do for so long, so if you’re on the lookout for a personal task manager I’d recommend giving it a try. If this app interests you, Microsoft has more details here: https://products.office.com/en-gb/microsoft-to-do-list-app

To Do List

Other task managers are available

vSAN- Controller Driver is (not) VMware Certified

In the process of upgrading a vSAN ReadyNode cluster from ESXi 6.5 to 6.7 a warning appeared in the vSAN Health check. The first host in the cluster had gone through the upgrade and was now showing the warning “Controller driver is VMware certified” (Note 1 in the image below, click on it for a larger view). The Dell HBA330 card was using an older version of the driver (2 in the image below) than recommended (3).

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All workloads were still online, but running VMware Update Manager (VUM) did not clear this warning. Looking in the VUM patch listing showed the driver for ESXi 6.5 (4) but not the version recommended for 6.7.

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Solution

It was necessary to manually load these replacement drivers in. A quick google showed they could be sourced from VMware’s download site. Extract the ZIP file from the download and then use the “Upload from File” option in VUM (5) to upload the ZIP file which was inside (in this case “VMW-ESX-6.7.0-lsi_msgpt3-17.00.01.00-offline_bundle-9702440.zip“). The new driver should then appear in the list (6) and will automatically be added to the “Non-Critical Host Patches” baseline (7). Final remediation is now just a case of applying that updating baseline to the host.

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In this particular instance the hosts were Dell PowerEdge R630 vSAN ReadyNodes with the HBA330 SAS HBA Controller option but the principles outlined in this post should apply to other configurations with the same symptoms.

PowerShell Maths

A colleague recently popped in a support request after noticing that the Calculator app wasn’t installed on their computer. This prompted an office discussion on how else you can solve sums when sat in front of a computer, and I mentioned you could just use PowerShell.

Open a regular PowerShell window and you can just start typing in basic sums

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So addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division work fine- but what else can you do without making it complicated or hard to remember?

PowerShell this comes with the backing of the .NET Maths library, so you can enter [System.Math]:: (or just [Math]:: ) and then tab through possible operations – for example square root (see screenshot), power, trigonometry and so on.

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There’s currently 35 methods in this library and you can get a full list of these using the GetMethods property. This example lists them nicely in comma delimited form so you don’t have to scroll this webpage too much 🙂

PS C:\> ([System.Math].GetMethods() |
Select-Object -Unique -Property Name ).Name -join ", "
Abs, Acos, Acosh, Asin, Asinh, Atan, Atan2, Atanh, Cbrt, Ceiling, Cos, Cosh,
Exp, Floor, Log, Log10, Pow, Sin, Sinh, Sqrt, Tan, Tanh, BigMul, DivRem, Clamp,
IEEERemainder, Max, Min, Round, Sign, Truncate, ToString, Equals, GetHashCode,
GetType

So, who needs a graphical Calculator app now?

VMworld

VMworld 2019 Dates

It was announced this week that registration for VMware’s VMworld 2019 conference will open at the beginning of May so now seems a good time to look at some of the key dates for the event.

Call For Proposals – March-April

The CFP process seems to be a little different this year being only open to VMware Employees (till -April 9th). However Non-VMW staff can submit an outline for review, applications for which are accepted through to April 16th. The reviews then happen through May and submitters should find out by June 11th.

The process is running concurrently for both US and EU events and full details are on the vmworld.com site.

Early Bird Registration 7 May

If you’re definitely going (and why wouldn’t you?!) then Early Bird pricing is the way to go. For VMworld Europe this deal runs from registration opening on 7th May through to 27 July and cuts the price by 200 Euro.

For the US event Early Bird Registration ends 15 June and offers a $300 saving on the regular rate.

Remember, there’s additional discounts on top of these offers for VMUG Advantage members, VCP holders, and Alumni.

Content Catalog 18 June

The release of the content catalog is the first chance to see the sessions on offer for both EU and US events. Whilst timings aren’t announced at this stage it’s a good opportunity to start marking the breakout sessions that are of interest.

The sessions listed can change, with some being added or possibly removed as the catalog develops so keep popping back during this period to keep up to date

US Session Builder 16 July

The Schedule Builder is where you can plan out your week and the US one goes live about a month before the event. A top tip is to get in early on the day this goes live and book in your “must see” sessions. As with the content catalog, keep popping back as the event draws near (and even after the keynote) as new sessions are always added in- particularly those tied around as-yet-unannounced product releases.

VMworld US 25-29 August

After a couple of years out in Vegas, VMworld US returns to the Moscone Centre in San Francisco for 2019.

EU Session Builder 25 September

Like the US session builder detailed above, the timetabling function for the European leg is released a few weeks before the event itself.

VMworld Europe 4-7 November

The European leg is back in Barcelona again this year and keeping to the November dates from last year.

 

Full details of the conference can be found on vmworld.com

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Cohesity Marketplace

During the recent #vRetreat event in London, Cohesity presented their latest release of DataPlatform – and with a launch happening the very weekend of the event, February 26 2019 this was timely presentation. This release included a number of new features- and when following up on the vRetreat event one which caught my attention is the Cohesity Marketplace.

The Marketplace is designed to allow third parties (plus your internal developers and Cohesity themselves) to release products that plug directly into the Cohesity framework- “bringing applications to the data, versus data to the applications”. From what I have seen of previous integrations they have been focussed on automating the backup/recovery process- for example using ServiceNow to provide end-users with self-service restores. This marketplace however allows third party applications to interact with and process the data on the Secondary Storage directly, without it leaving the appliance (or the public cloud storage). I see this as an interesting development, and visiting the website today you can get an idea of how this is going to grow.

Already in the list are analytics providers such as Splunk and Antivirus/ Threat Protection providers such as SentinelOne and ClamAV. The potential here for not just data protection but also analysis and business intelligence operations is intriguing- all that old, dark, data that companies hold but don’t make use of should be in this secondary storage and the ability to tap into that directly opens up many possibilities.

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This all sits alongside a new Developer Portal and the existing REST API and PowerShell frameworks provided for the DataPlatform. Apps can be developed in-house but the big benefit I see is the third-party products being presented to admins to deploy- simplifying the traditional method of liaising with all the vendors in your environment separately to try and achieve a level of integration. And because the data is being processed within the Cohesity platform there’s the benefits of additional security, less duplicated storage, reduced network costs, and potentially better performance because we’re not spending time shifting data around to process it.

It’s early days yet so there’s only a handful of apps available (Mid March 2019), but it will be interesting to see how this develops and whether the work developing apps falls to Cohesity or will partners and third-party vendors take up the mantle.

For more information, check out this video from Cohesity.