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VMworld Session Full- DON’T PANIC

If you’re planning your schedule for the upcoming VMworld Europe event, you’ll no doubt find that some sessions are at capacity. Don’t panic- there’s still options open for you.

1- Is the session being duplicated? Some sessions are available at multiple times- for example vSphere Clustering Deep Dive, Part 1: vSphere HA and DRS has a second showing added on Thursday morning.

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2- Turn up in advance of the session. If you arrive in plenty of time there is usually a wait queue outside the hall- this queue is for people who haven’t signed up in advance and the conference staff start to let these delegates in a few minutes before the session started. From personal experience the past few years at the Barcelona event I haven’t had a problem getting in by this route.

I’d suggest using the star-shaped “favourite” button in the Schedule Builder- this pops it in your calendar as a reminder.

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3- If you really can’t fit a session into your timetable, most sessions are recorded and you can catch up online after the event. The conference is only a few days long so a certain level of prioritisation is always required. I’d suggest considering which sessions you’re going to benefit the most from seeing live and having the opportunity to talk with your peers (and possibly the presenters themselves) about whilst at VMworld.

A couple more related points of note: The VMworld app is being launched tomorrow (23rd October 2018) which will allow you to work with your schedule on your phone, plus the “Agenda Export” feature of the Schedule Builder will be available from the 30th October which means you can export your timetable straight from the website to your calendar of choice.

Get planning! The event kicks off in less than two weeks- see you there.

 

Happy 18th

Lighted Candles on CupcakesOctober 2018 marks my 18 year anniversary working in Higher Education IT (so yes, about the same time since this year’s Freshers were born). It’s been a long ride and things have changed dramatically from technology, personal, and industry perspectives in that time. In this post I’ll be discussing a few of those differences, so gather round and imagine me sat in a rocking chair holding a pipe and talking about the olden times.

October 2000 was a time of change in technology- the perils of the millennium bug were nearly 10 months behind us, Napster had gone legal, the last major release on LaserDisk hit the shelves, Sony released the Playstation 2, and Amazon was best known for selling books online.

I arrived fresh faced to the University department and one of the first tasks in my new role was to order some parts for my new computer. There was little budget for IT and we scraped things together from what was around. If memory serves I ordered a motherboard, memory and AMD K6 processor and coupled this up with an existing beige case, power supply, 14″ CRT monitor, and old hard disk from the recycling pile.

These days we order laptops and desktops from (insert major manufacturer here) and my office desk has a 15″ 8th-Gen-i7 hooked up to a pair of 29″ widescreen displays. As well as the advances in technology this is one of the most apparent signs of the professionalisation (and some might say commercialisation) of IT within Higher Education. There’s less scrabbling to recycle outdated components and squeeze assets for decades and a lot more focus on allowing IT to spend it’s time fixing and improving things.

Behind the scenes the server infrastructure consisted of tower cases on a desk in the corner of my office- a sneaky way for a junior employee to get an office to themselves- there was a small UPS on the floor under the table, and the entire lot ran off a single wall outlet. Windows NT 4 was the platform of choice here, about a year later upgrading to Windows 2000 and Active Directory. Fast forward and we saw the proliferation of rackmount servers and disk arrays in purpose built datacentres. Then there was the arrival of virtualisation, VMware Server and then ESX providing the opportunity to run multiple servers on one piece of tin. These days we’re putting some of these servers “out in the cloud” on the other end of an internet connection, something we wouldn’t have considered 18 years ago.

The network joining all these things together has changed as well. Gone are the days of 10Base2, crimping BNC connectors on cables we’d threaded through the suspended ceilings, and troubleshooting T-pieces and terminators.

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CentreCOM 3012SL Hub

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Today Gigabit ethernet to the desktop is norm, the datacentres run on fibre and 10G copper, and you can sit outside by the campus lake and get a Wifi connection.

As with the network, storage capacity has increased dramatically. On my first day in the office I had a 15 MB quota on my network home drive. In addition to storing all my personal files and settings this also had to hold my POP mailbox which I accessed by Eudora. Jump to 2018 and I’m working at a University where staff get a 1TB OneDrive account and a separate 100GB for their email.

Personally, whilst staying in the HE sector I’ve developed from a “Generic IT Support bod #7” to a more senior role, whilst keeping myself technical. I still retain some of that generalist approach, but my day-to-day work has become much more focused- particularly around virtualisation, servers, and automation.

In conclusion, as with everywhere else technology has definitely moved on dramatically in the past 18 years. Network, Storage, and Compute have all grown incredibly and this has allowed us to do things we wouldn’t have considered back in 2000. As well as that though, I believe the UK Higher Education industry has also changed and it’s IT departments have worked hard to adapt to that. We now take on many more of the processes and technologies you’d expect from our colleagues in more commercial backgrounds in a bid to provide a modern, up-to-date IT environment for the teaching and research activities of Universities in the current era.

As I finish writing this post, someone has just brought in a laptop from 1992 which they’ve just decided is no longer required. Please ignore the text above about how things have changed.

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Dev 4 the Ops Team Preview

In one month from now I’ll be speaking at VMworld in Barcelona with a concise session on coding skills for the IT operations team. To quote the abstract for the session:

I believe every IT Ops person, SysAdmin, and vSphere administrator should do some coding

This belief is one I definitely work to in my day-to-day IT activities, and something I encourage my colleagues to do as well. My intention isn’t that every Systems Administrator becomes a full-time developer, writing (or contributing to) large-scale applications. However, I do mean for this coding to be more than just using the command line in place of a perfectly good graphical user interface.

imageA good base in coding leads to better understanding of how admin tasks should be performed and it can provide you with better documentation and more auditable processes.  Even small amounts of coding can greatly improve your productivity when tasks must be repeated and can be a stepping stone to more automation of the IT environment.

Here is the remainder of the abstract:

… this session will explain how to get started. This session will cover the core concepts required along with some PowerShell/ PowerCLI examples. The session is aimed at vSphere admins with little coding experience and they should come away understanding that coding isn’t something to be fearful of.

To see the whole presentation, come along to the VMTN theatre on Wednesday afternoon, or catch up after the show with the recording (link tbc). Click Here to view the session in the VMworld Europe Content Catalog and add it to your schedule.

Get the Windows Install Date of a remote computer with PowerShell

A quick script that came up in response to a situation where I wanted to know the date a workstation on the network was last built without visiting the machine or interrupting the currently logged on user. PowerShell to the rescue!

The WMI property “InstallDate” comes into play here.

(Get-WmiObject Win32_OperatingSystem).InstallDate

Returns a date: “20180717202039.000000+060” for my workstation. The Get-WmiObject cmdlet can again be leveraged to make this into a more usable PowerShell DateTime object:

(Get-WmiObject Win32_OperatingSystem).ConvertToDateTime( (Get-WmiObject Win32_OperatingSystem).InstallDate )

Which returns 17 July 2018 20:20:39.

Get-WmiObject can also be used on a remote computer, this example would return the date that the computer called WS12000 was built.

(Get-WmiObject win32_OperatingSystem –ComputerName “WS12000”).InstallDate

I’ve taken this work and expanded it into a PowerShell function (available on GitHub). This function “Get-BuildDate” takes one or more computer names and returns a table of build dates and, because it’s handy, the number of days that have passed since that date.

Some example usage would be:

Return the installation date of workstation 40200:

Get-BuildDate  -ComputerNames "WS40200"

Computer BuildDate           DaysSinceLastBuild
-------- ---------           ------------------
WS40200  17/07/2018 20:20:39                 55

Return the installation date of workstations WS40200 and WS46000:

Get-BuildDate ("WS40200","WS46000")

or alternatively using pipeline input:

("WS40200","WS46000") | Get-BuildDate

Finally, return a table of the last build dates for the sequentially numbered computers called WS12300, WS12301, WS12302…. right through to WS12399:

$Computers=((12300..12399) | ForEach-Object{ "WS$_"}) | Get-BuildDate

The script (and any future refinements) is available here: https://github.com/isjwuk/powershell-general/blob/master/Get-BuildDate.ps1

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VMworld Europe Session Builder

DfnJhy1W0AAI2LLWith VMworld US 2018 out of the way, focus turns to the European conference now only a couple of months away. For attendees of the Barcelona event, 25th September is a date to put in your diary as the “Schedule Builder” will be released.

The Schedule Builder is used to book yourself seats in the hundreds of sessions which will be held during the week. Although pre-booking is not strictly necessary it does mean that you are guaranteed a space and don’t have to wait in a queue in the hope that enough seats are free when the session starts.

Here are my top tips:

  • Visit the Content Catalog now to see what sessions have already been listed. Favourite any sessions that catch your interest. There are no dates/times/rooms set yet, so don’t worry about timetables and scheduling.
  • Mark the 25th September 2018 in your calendar to visit the Schedule Builder and book your seat.
  • Keep checking back as the event date draws closer. More sessions will be added as the event draws closer (for example the Hackathon, vBrownBag, and {code} sessions are not currently listed)- and possibly even after the doors open if new products are announced at the show.
  • If a session you’re interested in is fully booked, don’t panic- just turn up before the session starts and join the wait queue. The occasions I’ve done this I’ve had no problem getting in. Also keep your eyes open for repeat sessions being added for the more popular breakouts.
  • If you do end up with an unresolvable clash, remember that the breakouts are all recorded and posted online- I’d suggest picking the topic you’ll benefit most from seeing live, or the one you’re most likely to follow up on whilst at the conference.

Hopefully this is helpful, and I look forward to seeing you all in Barcelona soon.