Interviews – Undervalued Internet

Q. What aspect of the Internet do you feel is undervalued and under-used by most people?

Jon Szewczak

The ability to stream video and audio over thousands of miles so that personal communication can be made easier. So many people avoid face to face, and so the ability to video call is hardly ever taken advantage of by the mainstream population.

Stephen Owen

Interactivity with authors and developers. People who write or those who produce code for a living share their work for free on GitHub or elsewhere, and they more often than not have contact forms. Use them! I’ve gotten so much help over my career by asking people politely, and being appreciative of their hard work.

Julie Andreacola

Undervalued – YouTube how to videos, we have saved thousands of dollars by watching how to do something (like remodel a kitchen, wire a switch, etc) How did we survive before YouTube?

Johan Arwidmark

Twitter 🙂

DaredevelOps

Common Sense

Rob Spitzer

This is probably not so much “under-used” as it lost “lost” but I really miss the openness of the original Internet. While many modern things like social networks, IM, etc. are great, I hate the fact that they are walled gardens.

Chris DeCarlo

IPv6. That’s hands down the most undervalued and under-used by near everyone in relation to the internet.

Rod Trent

I think the most undervalued and under-used aspect of the Internet is the second and third mouse click. There’s an enormous amount of information on the Internet and the majority of it is bunk. If people would just click a few more times instead of believing (and sharing) the first piece of information they are presented, our society would be so much better off. I mean how lazy have we become when reading just one more piece of contrasting information to get the full picture is too much work?

Ami Casto

Trying to think of a good way to say fact checking or brain using section. As opposed to the easy access and often paid to be placed content.  Yeah I think that’s my final answer. Stop using the internet to find the answer you want and use it to find the actual answer.

Nicke Kallen

I used to think blogs, but twitter is the exchange. For some reason – its the way to have a genuine conversation. Unfortunately, its also a method to have negative conversations and therefore people sometimes miss the valuable talks.

Arnie Tomasosvky

Interesting question. The more I think about it the more I come to the conclusion that the answer in my case would be “(proper) searching for information”. I am older than the modern Internet and I was lucky to experience it since its infancy (dial up modems :D). I can say, almost everyone was using it for either communication or hunting for information.

Due to becoming mainstream and available, young generation uses it only for shallow things or few lines info that come and go. If you ask a younger generation a question, you might get an answer like “I dunno, Google it”. As I grew up with Google search operators, finding a proper info can be fairly easy. I do know a few things in general and remember them, so I do not need to google every single thing. But can it be said the same about other/younger generation on the internet? Hardly. Internet offers many options and possibilities, yet it is generally reduced to cats, meal pics, selfies and trash talk… So sad.

Skatterbrainz

LMGTFY

An American IT Pro Guide to Microsoft Experts

You’re an American. You love country/rap/pop/ranchero music.  You probably spent your first $300 on a Celtic armband tattoo, just like your friends have. You drive the same Dodge Challenger/Ford Mustang/Chevy Camaro/Toyota Camry/Nissan Sentra/Honda Civic, as everyone else. You ride your Harley with a standard-issue Nazi war helmet and the traditional black leather chaps and vest, with fingerless gloves. You drink serious beers like Bud, Miller and Michelob. You use sophisticated phrases in casual conversation, like “F-ing A, bud!”, “butt hurt”, “snowflake”, “libtard”, “gender agnostic”, and “Trumper”.  When someone doesn’t understand your English question, you just yell it louder and it has to work.

You post every thought on Facebook as an animated GIF storyboard, that takes ten full minutes to read through.  And you make sure to insist your friends repost it after clicking Like.  You make sure to support the local natural resources, like the striped roadside crumpled fast food bag, the spotted beer can, and the nearly-extinct albino cigarette butt.  You’ve spent days perfecting social media jargon, memes and hash tags, to be just like everyone else.  After all, nothing says “American” like being uniquely unique, just like every other American.

But when it comes to IT professionals, how do you pick out the ones who truly know what they’re doing? It can be confusing, and may require additional amounts of 5 hour Energy Drink just to make sense of it all.

Fear not. Here’s a top 5 list of qualifications to help you quickly determine who really knows what they’re doing when it comes to fixing your broken Microsoft products and services.  After all, everyone know you didn’t break them.  They just stopped working properly after you tried using them without any training, right?

1 – They have a Swedish accent

This is particularly important when explaining how Microsoft products and technologies work.  If you run into trouble, just watch this video a few dozen times.  If you say “Have you been to kackerkacka?” and they respond with “Oh yes, but it’s been a while.“, they might be an impostor.  Be careful not to sound like this guy, since he’s supposed to be German.

2 – They live in Sweden

Their business card has a real, honest-to-God postal address in Sweden.  Sorry, but Norway, Denmark, The Netherlands, and Finland don’t count, but don’t be offended, as it’s only 2017 and there’s plenty of time to steal the trophy.  And don’t even think about considering Stockholm, Wisconsin.

3 – They can explain what Swedish food names actually mean

You become exhausted pointing at random menu items and not being able to stump their ability to explain what the dish is made of.

4 – They’ve actually been to Sweden

They can give relative directions from major landmarks (e.g. “Eeees Nort vest oof Shtock-hoooom. Eeees vay-vay nice!“)

5 – Many of their colleagues, family and friends have names like Sven, Johan, Viktor, Maja, or Elsa

If their parents are Bob and Suzy, you might ask for a birth certificate as evidence.  If they refuse, request a DNA sample.

 

That’s it. Once you’ve mastered these five (5) complex skill sets, you’re ready to lock horns with any consultant or job applicant that comes your way.

Good luck!

PS – The above is purely for humor purposes only.  Any offense is not intended nor condoned.

IT Pro Tips for Android Users

Warning: The following information may contain extreme and dangerous technical terminology. Read at your own risk.

  1. Do not submerge your device in water unless it is encased in a waterproof case.
  2. Do not smack the touch screen with large, rhinestone-embossed, 10k gold-plated pimp ring.
  3. Do not operate your device without some sort of protective case.  A protective case does not include duct tape or ziplock baggies.
  4. Do not puke on your device.
  5. Do not use your device as a substitute car jack.
  6. Do not use your device to crush dangerous insects or spiders.
  7. Do not use your device to pry open the jaws of an angry pit bull.
  8. Do not pound nails with your device.
  9. Do not use the flashlight feature on your phone to search in the dark for your phone.
  10. Do not attempt to clean a soiled device by dunking it in boiling water, or paint thinner.
  11. Do – Remove Facebook apps to increase battery life from 3 hours to 7 hours.
  12. Do  – Remove all apps to increase battery life from 7 to 400 hours.
  13. Do – Disable NFC unless you’re one of those weirdos that has an NFC device.
  14. Do – Disable Bluetooth unless you have Bluetooth devices to pair it with.
  15. Do – Install a real keyboard app on it as soon as possible (e.g. Swiftkey)
  16. Do – Avoid conversations with iPhone users. If it cannot be avoided, be sure to respond to the other person’s first question (regardless of the topic) with “You know, Android has been scientifically proven to extend penises.”
  17. Do – Avoid conversations with other Android device users if they’re not from the same manufacturer.  For example, if an LG device touches a Samsung device, it may cause a matter/anti-matter implosion.
  18. Do – Perform a factory-reset after you reach level 40 on Candy Crush Soda Saga.
  19. Do – enable cloud backup services.  If you cannot enable cloud backup services, toss the device in the nearest fire.
  20. Do not forget to enjoy using your new Android device.

On This Day – 1991

On July 21, 1991, I received a small box in the mail from the Kill Devil Hills, NC police department.  I wasn’t expecting any packages, let alone something from a police department. I opened it and found enclosed an old, weather-beaten leather wallet, with credit cards, a driver’s license, and $1 dollar.  There was a small amount of sand in the folds. There was also a hand-written note that said “Your wallet was found on the roadside and turned in by a good Samaritan. We used $4 from the inside to cover the postage, we hope you don’t mind. – KDHPD”

The credit cards had been cancelled four years earlier, along with getting a new driver’s license.  That was early Summer of 1987.

I lost the letter during hurricane Isabelle in 2003, and the wallet long before that, but I ran across a scrap of paper that mentioned the event and date while cleaning out some boxes.

I was a working musician in 1987; playing percussion mostly.  On that day, our band was in Nags Head, Manteo and Kill Devil Hills (North Carolina).  Staying in a cheap hotel, I ran out for lunch at the KFC a few miles up the road, with our guitarist, Jim.  We stopped on the way back to the hotel, at an overlook, to eat and watch the shorebreak, I stepped out, and (stupidly) set my wallet and flip-flops on the roof of my 1985 Toyota Pickup truck. I forgot the wallet when we got back in and drove back to the hotel.  It blew off the roof along one of the (back then) desolate cross roads (between the beach road and the bypass road).  There were no houses, or apartments back then along that stretch of land.  Just small dunes and seagrass, and each of those cross roads looked exactly like the next.  When we got back to the hotel, I realized the mistake and we drove back out and spent three hours driving and walking up and down each cross road until we gave up.

Today, that section of North Carolina doesn’t have a single road without a mass of townhomes, or condominiums.  Yet, they still look exactly alike.

What a journey it’s been from then to now.  After our first baby came along, I sold my gear and haven’t played since (aside from trips to Sam Ash and Guitar Center, every now and then). That led to drafting, which led to CAD, which led to programming, which led to my first IT job, which led to college, which led to more IT jobs, and on to consulting.  Queue the ridiculous sentimental soundtrack…. actually, someone in the house fed something bad to the dog and she has gas and won’t leave my office.  I have to get out.

SCCM, SQL, DBATools, and Coffee

Warning:  This article is predicated on (A) basic reader familiarity with System Center Configuration Manager and the SQL Server aspects, and (B) nothing better to do with your time.

Caveat/Disclaimer:  As with most of my blog meanderings, I post from the hip.  I fully understand that it exposes my ignorance at times, and that can be painful at times, but adds another avenue for me to learn and grow.

marie-wilson-cooking

I don’t recall exactly when I was turned onto Ola Hallengren, or Steve Thompson, but it’s been a few years, at least.  The same could be said for Kent Agerlund, Johan Arwidmark, Mike Niehaus, and others.  None of whom I’ve yet to meet in person, but maybe some day.  However, that point in time is when my Stevie Wonder approach to SQL “optimization” went from poking at crocodiles with a pair of chopsticks, to saying “A-Ha!  THAT’s how it’s supposed to work!

As a small testament to this, while at Ignite 2016, I waited in line for the SQL Server guy at his booth, like an 8 year old girl at a Justin Bieber autograph signing, just to get a chance to ask a question about how to “automate SQL tasks like maintenance plans, and jobs, etc.”.  The guy looked downward in deep thought, then looked back at me and said “Have you heard of Ola Hallengren?”  I said “Yes!” and he replied, “he’s your best bet right now.

Quite a lot has changed.

For some background, I was working on a small project for a customer at that time focusing on automated build-out of an SCCM site using PowerShell and BoxStarter.  I had a cute little gist script that I could invoke from the PowerShell console on the intended target machine (virtual machine), and it would go to work:

  • Install Windows Server roles and features
  • Install ADK 10
  • Install MDT 2013
  • Install SQL Server 2014
  • Adjust SQL memory allocations (min/max)
  • Install WSUS server role and features
  • Install Configuration Manager
  • Install ConfigMgr Toolkit 2012 R2
  • and so on.

Since it was first posted, it went through about a dozen iterative “improvements” (translation: breaking it and fixing and improving and breaking and fixing, and repeat).

The very first iteration included the base build settings as well, such as naming the computer, assigning a static IPv4 address, DNS servers and gateway, join to an AD domain, etc.  But I decided to pull that part out into a separate gist script.

The main thing about this experiment that consumed the most time for me was:

  1. On-the-fly .INI construction for the SQL automated install
  2. On-the-fly .INI construction for the SCCM install
  3. On-the-fly SQL memory allocation configuration

Aside from the hard-coding of content sources (not included on this list), item 2 drove me nuts because I didn’t realize the “SA expiration” date property was required in the .INI file.  The amount of coffee I consumed in that 12 hour window would change my enamel coloring forever.  Chicks dig scars though, right?  Whatever.

Then came item 3.  I settled on the following chunk of code, which works…

$SQLMemMin = 8192
$SQLMemMax = 8192
...
write-output "info: configuring SQL server memory limits..."
write-output "info: minimum = $SQLMemMin"
write-output "info: maximum = $SQLMemMax"
try {
  [System.Reflection.Assembly]::LoadWithPartialName('Microsoft.VisualBasic') | Out-Null
  [System.Reflection.Assembly]::LoadWithPartialName('Microsoft.SqlServer.SMO') | out-null
  $SQLMemory = New-Object ('Microsoft.SqlServer.Management.Smo.Server') ("(local)")
  $SQLMemory.Configuration.MinServerMemory.ConfigValue = $SQLMemMin
  $SQLMemory.Configuration.MaxServerMemory.ConfigValue = $SQLMemMax
  $SQLMemory.Configuration.Alter()
  write-output "info: SQL memory limits have been configured."
}
catch {
  write-output "error: failed to modify SQL memory limits. Continuing..."
}

But there’s a few problems, or potential problems, with this approach…

  1. It’s ugly (to me anyway)
  2. The min and max values are static
  3. If you change this to use a calculated/derived value (reading WMI values) and use the 80% allocation rule, and the VM has dynamic memory, it goes sideways.

Example:

$mem = $(Get-WmiObject -Class Win32_ComputerSystem).TotalPhysicalMemory
$tmem = [math]::Round($mem/1024/1024,0)
...

I know that option 2 assumes a “bad practice” (dynamic memory), but it happens in the real world and I wanted to “cover all bases” with this lab experiment.  The problem that it causes is that the values returned from a WMI query can fluctuate along with the host memory allocation status, so the 80% value can be way off at times.

Regardless, forget all that blabber about static values and dynamic tragedy.  There’s a better way.  A MUCH better way.  Enter DBATools.  DBATools was the brainchild of Chrissy LeMaire, which is another name to add to any list that has Ola’s name on it. (side note: read Chrissy’s creds, pretty f-ing impressive). There are other routes to this as well, but I’ve found this one to be most user friendly for my needs. (Feel free to post better suggestions below, I welcome feedback!)

Install-Module dbatools
$sqlHost = "cm01.contoso.com"
$sqlmem = Test-DbaMaxMemory -SqlServer $sqlHost
if ($sqlmem.SqlMaxMB -gt $sqlmem.RecommendedMB) {
  Set-DbaMaxMemory -SqlServer $sqlHost -MaxMB $sqlmem.RecommendedMB
}

This is ONLY AN EXAMPLE, and contains an obvious flaw: I’m not injecting an explicit 80% derived value for the -MaxMB parameter.  However, this can be accomplished (assuming dynamic memory is not enabled) as follows…

Install-Module dbatools
$sqlHost = "cm01.contoso.com"
$sqlmem = Test-DbaMaxMemory -SqlServer $sqlHost
$totalMem = $sqlmem.TotalMB
$newMax = $totalMem * 0.8
if ($sqlmem.SqlMaxMB -ne $newMax) {
  Set-DbaMaxMemory -SqlServer $sqlHost -MaxMB $newMax
}

Here’s the code execution results from my lab…

sqlmemory2

You might have surmised that this was executed on a machine which has dynamic memory enabled, which is correct.  The Hyper-V guest VM configuration is questionable…

hyperv_setup1.png

This is one of the reasons I opted for static values in the original script.

Thoughts / Conclusions

Some possible workarounds for this mess would be trying to detect dynamic memory (from within the guest machine) which might be difficult, or insist on a declarative static memory assignment.

Another twist to all of this, and one reason I kind of shelved the whole experiment, was a conversation with other engineers regarding the use of other automation/sequencing tools like PowerShell DSC, Ansible, and Terraform.

The final takeaway of this is to try and revisit any projects/code which are still in use, to apply newer approaches when it makes sense.  If that means shorter code, improved security and performance, more capabilities, greater abstraction/generalization (for reuse), or whatever, it’s good to bring newer ideas to bear on older tools.  In this example, it was just replacing a big chunk of raw .NET reflection code with cleaner and more efficient PowerShell module code.  Backing out 10,000 feet, the entire gist could be replaced with something more efficient.

More Information

DBATools – twitterslackyoutubegithub

Ola Hallengren – web  (Ola doesn’t tweet much, yet)

My Twitter list of super awesometacular increditastical techno-uber genius folks – HERE

Back to my coffee.  I hope you enjoyed reading this!  Please post comments, thoughts, criticisms, stupid jokes, or winning lottery numbers below.  If nothing else, please rate this article using the stars above? – Thank you!

Interviews – Common Misperceptions

Q: What is something that you think people assume about you, or your profession, which might surprise them as not being true?

Rob Spitzer

That we know everything about every OS, device, or app that someone is using. Its true that as IT folks we can typically flub our way through and figure out the answer but, just like everyone else, we really only know what we need to know to get our job done. I’m constantly learning new tricks from others.

Johan Arwidmark

That I don’t do mistakes :)”

DareDevelOPS

People assume I served in the Marine Corps.  People assume all IT people are brilliant geniuses.  Wrong on both assumptions.”

Rod Trent

People think I never sleep as it seems I’m online 24 hours a day. While, I *am* online a LOT, and do actually work quite a bit, my work/life balance is actually excellent. I’ve worked from home since around 1999 and have learned to become a high-efficiency person, i.e., everything I do, I’ve taken the time to maximize efforts through efficiency. So, essentially, I’ve found a way to script daily, physical tasks much like I used to do with VBScript/PowerShell in my IT Pro days.

Marc Graham

That because I surf and skate I’m also an extremely avid stoner!

Julie Andreacola

I think sysadmins are assuming that if their systems are patched and they have a good Anti Virus, they are protected from today’s malware attacks. My eyes have been opened to the devastation of today’s malware, and just patching and AV is not enough

Stephen Owen

That I’m always completely certain of the solution to a problem. There is always the opportunity cost of troubleshooting, and sometimes the client cannot afford to find the root cause of their issue. We have to move on, and that’s a shame when it happens.

Mike Terrill

hmm…not sure about that one, although my kids think my job is conference calls since i am on the phone a lot.

Chris DeCarlo

“I’d probably say “one thing people assume about the IT profession is that you need a college degree to get above entry level. I’d say that’s not true. You can get far with finding a section of IT you like and becoming a master in it through certification and many many hours of dedicated research/lab time at home. Showing confidence in your skillset becomes visible to others and you start to become the “go-to” person in your field.

Skatterbrainz

E. All the above.

Interview – Cris Weber

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Your Name: Cris Weber  @cweberits

Official Job Title: Development Architect

Functional role: Consulting / Internal Product Development

Home town: Grand Rapids, MI

1. Describe what you do for a living – to someone who has no idea what it means.

I lead a team of developers to make our consultants and our managed services more efficient by automating everything I can.

2. What aspect or area of technology are you most excited about?

Where to even start… Azure, Windows 10, EMS and ConfigMgr… I love the new MSFT that moves so fast.

3. What gives you the most satisfaction from your job today?

Either the moment where I’ve been working on a problem for hours and I finally solve it or when I finish a product and show it to our engineers and see how much it helps them.

4. Name the 3 most inspiring people in your life or career?

Troy Whittaker – My manager and mentor.

Jeffrey Snover – PowerShell and…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oe_utwHDc9c

CGP Grey – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CGP_Greyhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humans_Need_Not_Apply

5. What 3 books, movies, or other works, have influenced or inspired you the most?

The phoenix project. I’ve worked at companies that are exactly like that book and it helped me bring some sanity to the company.

Time management for sysadmins. – As a sysadmin I used to be overwhelmed with all the things to do. This book has a good system for helping sysadmins out.

Getting things done – I’m kind of a task management nut. So much so that I wrote my own custom task management app that brings scrum and getting things done together… (Yea… I don’t get out much. I do this in my spare time from 5 am to 6 am.)

6. You just stepped out of a time machine in 1100 AD in London or Rome. You have a smartphone in your hand and you demonstrate some of the apps and games to people around you. What happens next?

All of the apps would fail because they require an internet connection. So I would bring up the camera and take a video. Of course then I’m taken to jail for witchcraft because I have stolen their soul in the magic box. Or at least that’s what they think of the video I took of them… It wouldn’t end well. :\

7. What new or promising technology do you see that can’t get here soon enough?

I can’t wait until companies fully embrace Windows 10 and Azure AD Join. As my companies subject matter expert on Windows 10 I talk to a lot of companies about Azure AD Join and it’s implications and benefits. But most companies aren’t ready yet. 8. Do you think the continuous evolution of automation will result in there being very few full time human workers? And if so, what do think people will do?

This is actually a topic that terrifies me. Yes I believe that there will be a large section of the population that won’t be employable. Not because they aren’t smart but because the machines can do their job better/cheaper. I think that we will have to move to a universal basic income. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIL_Y9g7Tg0 I watch the youtube video humans need not apply (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Pq-S557XQU) about once a quarter to remind myself that I need to keep improving so I am not unemployable.

9. There’s never enough time.

10. There’s way too much to learn. I want to know all of the things…

11. What’s something that you wish you could change in your field of work? (Good or bad)

I have encountered many people who don’t believe how windows as a service works or are stuck in their ways because that’s how they have always done things. We are IT Professionals. IT changes and it changes fast. It’s our responsibility to keep up.

12. If you could go back in time to sit down with your younger self at, say, 15 years old, what advise would give yourself?

Dear 15 year old me… Keep working towards your goals. Even if most people don’t understand IT or your passion for it that’s fine. Don’t get discouraged by not being good at school. You’re good at IT and 90% of the things that are happening now don’t matter. So don’t stress so much.

13. You just stepped out of a time machine in 2050 in a major city. What 3 technology gadgets do you see people using around you?

Self driving cars (THANK GOD)

Useful personal assistant AI’s on their phones.

Google glass on steroids and no one blinks an eye at it.

14. You’ve been given the power to bring 2 people back to life from any time in history, for one full day only. Who would they be, and why?

Steve Jobs. I’d love to hear his story and hear what other visions he had but didn’t accomplish before he passed.

Steve Irwin. The amount of passion that he put into his work was very inspiring.

15. What would you like to accomplish in the next 5 years, personal or professional?

I would be like to seen in the community as a thought leader, become a MSFT MVP and overcome my social anxiety to accomplish those two items. There are so many blog posts that I haven’t hit publish on or told others about because of the anxiety of my anxiety around them. But I plan on publishing them this quarter.

Where to find out more about Cris –