Miscellaneous

26 December 2011 Leave a comment

My latest gig has kept me occupied tremendously, and I am getting near one year at the new gig. Managing a budget, documenting and controlling a previously neglected domain, engineering a FileMaker infrastructure, and walking down the road towards paper-reduction (originally branded “paperless” but now “paper-reduction” so as to set realistic expectations) is an immense collection of projects… And, while very busy, I have been enjoying it!

As the year end grows near I am pushing to deploy two iPads and prepare a departmental three-year plan. A two pad deployment seems simple enough, whether iOS or Android based, is and will have a huge impact on computing in our department, but the first two have been procured ahead of a deployment plan, and so the plan is a super-Agile plan, where it develops as it is deployed. I picked up the iphone-management-app, recommended by Apple, and will be using it for initial iPad management, but will also be looking at JAMF Casper Suite and Equinux Tarmac as enterprise tools. The three-year plan is well under way and will likely be delivered as a powerpoint presentation, plus a multi-page paper to summarize my collected data.

Budget restrictions are forcing me to find creative storage solutions, and I have a collection of 100+ 750GB SATA hard drives as part of a recycled video archiving array. The colection had been relegated to a holding area, waiting to be DoD wiped and sent to the crusher, but now I am looking at open-source NAS solutions to add storage that can stand at the ready, as both disk-to-disk backup and scanned document repository space. Experience with document management issues tells me to be ready with 100’s of GB’s of storage as datasets are copied or replicated, and developed databases are versioned, and that the many internet predictions on space consumed by scanned generally underestimate realistic overall storage needs.

There was at least budget for the FileMaker infrastructure, so there will be two FileMaker servers, one the production rig and the other a development rig, either having the horse-power to function in both capacities. Both servers are dual Xeon chassis with 12GB of RAM and mirrored arrays locally, plus an attached external SAS array with room for future expansion. We have procured FileMaker Server Advanced under volume licensing, have one database in alpha and plans for several others. Plus FMGo is in the developer’s queue. Unfortunatley there was a disaster in Thailand, and the SAS HDDs we ordered are on back order, so infrastructure build-outvwill be delayed.

The Quadshot

11 September 2011 Leave a comment

I heard about (on the the HAK5 podcast) a trick new platform for aerial autonomy called the quadshot, from a group of developers out of Santa Cruz, CA. It has four propellers and takes off vertically, but uses a mono wing design, so flying under a pitch-yaw-roll scenario is second nature. I even contributed to their fund raising cause over at kickstarter.com. If I had time I would get busy playing with one, but I need to devote myself to my new job, which means constant techno-lust

VMware for, from iPad

21 August 2011 Leave a comment

The next feat for me was to access my VMware box with a tool loaded on the iPad. I loaded the vSphere Client for iPad, but it requires vCMA running on vCenter, or as it turns out on ESXi. Found a youtube video on how to do this, actually there are two parts, one for installing the vCMA and another for configuring the iPad client: this has had to be one of the easiest setups so far.  The two videos are not 100% accurate,  since they are tailored to the vCenter install details, rather than the community version ESXi v4.1  that I have at home, installed on an HP Pavilion m9000t, but the results are really cool.  in the part two video we are instructed to use the settings icon and set the IP for the vCMA but my experience was that there was no setting, I  went directly to the iPad app and logged into the appliance, then supplied the virtual appliance with the IP of my VMware server.

loading up

21 August 2011 1 comment

Getting busy with work and staying current, loading up the iPad with all manner of apps and reference material. Made the mistake of loading all my existing iPhone apps onto the iPad. They’re compatible, that is not the issue, the issue is the format. Most, not all, but most load in portrait mode and refuse to auto rotate to landscape. And most also do not adjust for the larger landscape of the iPad versus the iPhone, most annoyingly are the reference books: the little 2x button in the lower right corner does fix it , but the pixelization is ragged (the fonts appear as if magnified, rather than smooth) and it takes some getting used to. Other applications benefit, it seems, from built it logic that sense the alternate venue and reformat themselves for the iPad. In iTunes I had to go through and deselect apps from the iPhone, iPod, iPad section, that didn’t auto-rotate and demanded the 2x thing. Some I left because they were pricy and I frequently have use of the reference material contained within, I guess it all boils down to what is too annoying, and what you can put up with.

Apps of note for me are Lynda.com, Safari Books Online, and of course iBooks.  I have annual subscriptions to both Lynda.com and Safaribooksonline.com, both help me stay current on applications, or help me adapt to spot jobs where I need a bit more than a passing knowledge.  Recently I discovered Lua, a scripting interface for the iPad, but I will need to carve out some time to dig into it, as time permits.

iPad

17 July 2011 Leave a comment

Well I made the decision to add an iPad to the personal entourage, an iPad 64Gb 3G rig and I will be doing FileMaker Go application development with it.  This is an iPad 2, with the AT&T plan, although I have not yet signed up for a data plan.  For the most part I expect to be updating it from my home network, but use and familiarity will dictate future service decisions. At the office, there has been a request that one department have the use of a mobile device, specifically the iPad was requested, and management has approved procurement of three, so I need to be thinking administratively on how to support these devices; but I have been wanting one for a while now.  I need to study how to move data to and from the iPad as efficiently as possible, and yet as securely as possible.  The recent release of FileMaker Go is a well timed event for this project, and I will be leveraging and or testing FileMaker Go with an initial proof-of-concept implementation.

Now more than ever I am shopping for portable solar backup power generators to add to the disaster kit, but also to add to the day-to-day operations kit. I’d really like to have a mobile solar power array on the roof of my SUV, I can think of several good uses for it: trickle charge the automobile system, charge cell phones, provide camping power (when car-camping), and even roadside assistance when someone needs a jump. Once I thought it might me a cool way of offering a mesh-network solution, to bring the internet to the masses, but that would take some resources and a coordinated team of people to accomplish: it could be an interesting business venture, and I wonder if anyone has tried it yet?

What would you do with 100 Drobos


If Drobo, in their infinite wisdom, were to award me 100 drobos, I would be compelled to find 100 worthy schools, with computer labs that have the fewest resources, and give them each a drobo to store and backup their students’ computer lab projects.

Doing Business as an independent consultant?

28 February 2011 2 comments

1099 worker, IC (Independent Contractor), or Consultant, call it what you may, there is an overhead that must be considered. If you accept a contract gig for $25/hour, your net will likely be 35% less because you are responsible for paying self-employment taxes, which constitute the portion an employer would normally pay (visit the IRS‘ page for the Self-Employed). On top of that, some contracts you might be quick to sign may include sections pertaining to contractor or subcontractor indemnification. Look up indemnify here for a quick refresher from that business class you may have taken years ago. As an oft overlooked item, for a fledgling technical consultant, indemnifying oneself, or buying commercial insurance may be prudent.But how do you do that, and how much does it cost?

As a consultant, you are a professional and your services are commercial, so you contact a commercial insurance broker.  But before you make contact you need to brush up on insurance jargon such as Workers’ Comp, E&O, Umbrella and Excess. Beyond that I suggest a visit to the California Department of Insurance, and more specifically the Guide to Commercial Insurance. One quote I saw online suggested that the premium for commercial insurance might be $1350.00 but it didn’t clarify if that was annually, semi annual or monthly.

I will seek some quotes from local commercial brokers and post my findings here in a future blog entry.

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