Category Archives: How To….

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

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?

Quick PowerCLI- Getting VM hardware versions

A quick PowerCLI snippet for examining what VM Hardware versions exist in your virtual environment:

Using the “Group-Object” cmdlet we can run up a quick count of all the VMs on each hardware version

Get-VM | Group-Object Version

Count Name                      Group
----- ----                      -----
42    v13                       {VM1,VM2,VM3...}
257   v8                        {VM4,VM5,VM6...}
70    v11                       {VM7,VM8,VM9...}
2     v4                        {VM10,VM11}
5     v10                       {VM12,VM13,VM14...}
2     v9                        {VM15,VM16}
2     v7                        {VM17,VM18}

This can be refined using “Sort-Object” to put the most common hardware version at the top of the list.

Get-VM  | Group-Object Version | Sort-Object Count -Descending
Count Name                      Group
----- ----                      -----
257   v8                        {VM4,VM5,VM6...}
70    v11                       {VM7,VM8,VM9...}
42    v13                       {VM1,VM2,VM3...}
5     v10                       {VM12,VM13,VM14...}
2     v7                        {VM17,VM18}
2     v9                        {VM15,VM16}
2     v4                        {VM10,VM11}

We may only be concerned with VMs that are Powered On, so “Where-Object” can be used to filter the original list.

Get-VM  | Where-Object {$_.PowerState -eq "PoweredOn"} | Group-Object Version | Sort-Object Count -Descending
Count Name                      Group
----- ----                      -----
66    v8                        {VM4,VM5,VM19...}
51    v11                       {VM7,VM8,VM9...}
33    v13                       {VM1,VM21,VM22...}
5     v10                       {VM12,VM13,VM20...}
2     v9                        {VM15,VM16}
1     v4                        {VM10}

This quick snippet can be useful when establishing the range of hardware versions in an environment, or estimating the amount of work involved in updating VM hardware to a modern standard across an estate.

How to extend disk on a HyTrust KeyControl Appliance

Symptoms

An alert (and corresponding email) has been issued by the KeyControl service stating that free disk space is running low.

Freespace available on <KeyControl Server> has fallen below 2G. An upgrade to the storage for this system should be considered.

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Solution

Locate the appliance within vSphere and increase the size of the hard disk.

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Next, login to the web GUI of the appliance node in question and reboot the system. This restart should have no impact on the service as other node(s) in the  cluster will automatically take over.

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When the node reboots it will automatically expand the appropriate filesystem to make use of the space and an email alert is sent out confirming that the KeyControl storage pool has been resized.

See the HyTrust DataControl Audit Messages page for more information.

Content Library fails to create when target datastore contains a space

Symptoms

A quick note on an issue I spotted in VMware vSphere 6.5 when creating a new content Library. If the datastore being used for the new library contains a space in it’s name then the Create Content Library process fails. The error given is “The specified parameter was not correct: The provided storage backing xxxxx xx for library xxxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxx is invalid.”. For example, if a second vSAN cluster has been created and the default name “vsanDatastore (1)” was used for the datastore.

 

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Solution

Rename the target datastore to a name which does not contain a space then repeat the Content Library creation process.

 

Notes

This occurred in my environment running vSphere 6.5 (vCenter VCSA build 6.5.0.14000) and hasn’t been thoroughly tested for repeatability (at least by me).