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Think IPM

Friday, January 31, 2014

Windows 8 shortcut Keys

Have you made the jump to Windows 8 yet?  Aaron Silber sent around this handy chart of Keyboard Shortcuts for the mouse averse.  Click the image for a full size readable JPG version.


I’m clearly ready for the SuperBowl since this reminds me of a SuperBowl box sheet!   Enjoy the Big game everyone!

Follow Aaron Silber on Twitter: @AMSilber

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

vSphere Installation Media : OEM or VMware?

image Here is a topic that has recently come up for me at a few clients so I figured I would just jot some notes down on the subject.  Should I use VMware’s ESXi installer or a Vendor’s Custom Built ESXi ISO?

Depending on the hardware platform you are using, you might have 2 options for installing VMware

The first one (and most obvious) is using the latest ISO provided by VMware.  This ISO will have the latest VMware supported code on it including the most recent drivers, hotfixes, etc on it.  Most times this is the CD flavor you are going to use when installing vSphere on your hardware.

Second on the list is an OEM specific version of ESXi.  HP, Dell and Cisco UCS (among others I am sure), make specific custom built versions of ESXi which can be used to install VMware onto their respective hardware platforms.  These custom versions typically have not only all the latest drivers, but also an extended set of hardware support from the vendor already baked into the ISO that might not be in the VMware version.  No need to track down drivers, create packages or anything else to get ESXi working correctly. 

Historically, I have steered clear of these versions.  Not that there is anything wrong with them per se, I just deemed it as an unnecessary step and possible complication for future operations.  After all, future updates to ESXi would come from VMware via Update Manager so if you didn’t need a different version, why chance the deviation?  Most times, I am working with mainstream hardware models and the stock vanilla install works just fine.

Recently, I ran across a situation where the VMware provided ISO did not work.  I was installing vSphere 5.5 on an older Dell R710.  Pretty old hardware but still in support and not quite ready to put out to pasture.  After upgrading all firmware, I tried to upgrade from the current version of 4.0 to 5.5 using the vanilla ESXi and Update Manager.  No good.  The install went fine but the hostd process just kept crashing.  In an effort to rule out a busted installation via Update Manager, I went with a clean install via VMware’s ISO.  Still no good.  Same scenario as before.  At that point, I downloaded and used the Dell Custom ISO and everything worked fine.  System installed, all appropriate drivers activated and the system connected to vCenter.  +1 for the Dell Custom ISO in this scenario.  As a test, I also imported the Custom Dell ISO into Update Manager and tried an upgrade with that but it still didn’t work.  I was forced to wipe the servers and install fresh.  No big deal and no looking back anymore.

My bottom line: 9 times out of 10, I’ll probably still use the vanilla vSphere ISO and if there is an issue, I’ll hunt down an OEM image.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

IPM Public Relations

It’s a snowy day in the Northeast.  No better time for a self promoting public relations post! :)  I feel like this post is competing with going outside and shoveling. ;)  [So you’re saying I have a Shot!]

Here is a little Q&A article called Tech on the Street – Meet Carlo Costanzo.

We also had some promotional videos shot in our new offices.  I have a small cameo in both of the promo spots along with my fellow IPMers.

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Monday, January 20, 2014

New IPM utility: SetWallpaper.exe

While most of us were busy heating up 7 layer Bean dip and nachos preparing for the championship games, our friend JB was busy coding some new utilities! 
Be sure to follow Jacques on Twitter: @JacqBens 

What better way to celebrate the ousting of the San Francisco Forty-Whiners and the Brady Bunch from Super Bowl contention than with a new utility.  What, just another boring wallpaper setting tool, you say?  Not quite:

As only the true old timers will remember, there used to be a Registry setting (last seen in NT4) that automatically positioned the wallpaper bitmap in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen – it was in its day the signature “look” of an IPM MetaFrame build.  This utility (Download) brings that capability back to modern Windows versions, and supports the other three corners for good measure.  The following screenshot shows the syntax help and a retro IPM bitmap back home in the bottom right corner after an almost 15-year absence.



1. As explained in the screenshot, a command-line feature of IrfanView is used when necessary to extract the specified bitmap’s dimensions (to help calculate the desired (X,Y) position of the bitmap’s upper-left corner).  Storing SetWallpaper.exe in the IrfanView folder is the easiest way to ensure that it can locate i_view32.exe.  (In our utility collection, any subfolder of \Utility will also work, such as \Utility\IPMUtils).  If anybody knows an easier way to programmatically access the dimensions of an image, I’m all ears (but GDI+ API functions do not qualify as easier!)

2. The calculation of the bitmap position is based on the screen’s (or session’s) “work area”, which takes the taskbar height into account when present, so the utility is best used *after* Explorer is already running (when either bottom position is specified).  Having the bitmap move from the center to the bottom right once the Explorer desktop appears is a nice effect.

3. The SystemParametersInfo function used by the utility to specify and apply the wallpaper appears to only support BMP and JPG files (so no PNG or GIF).

4. Once SetWallpaper.exe is used to specify a non-standard wallpaper location, subsequent uses of the Display control panel to specify a wallpaper will continue to use that location (without taking the new wallpaper’s dimensions into account).  To reset things to normal, just run SetWallpaper.exe /C.

5. Due to a limitation of the mechanism used by Windows to specify the (X,Y) coordinates of the wallpaper, a “Top Left” specification (/TL) will actually place the bitmap at position (0,1), i.e. 1 pixel down from the true top of the screen (because (0.0) is interpreted as “centered”).

In two weeks, Peyton gets to roll over the Seattle Shehawks– can’t wait!


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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

“OK Glass, Request Refund”

My Son looked WAY better than I did with them on. So I ended up getting a Glass invitation in my inbox last month.  I had signed up to become part of the Google Glass explorer program a while back and finally got the chance to purchase them.  I was super excited.  Super excited to jump on the wearable technology wave.  I went ahead with the purchase  and had them on my head a couple of days later.  The initial excitement of getting the Glass invite for a gadget guy like me was instant.  I thought the initial email from Google was pretty funny though.  I had 7 days to decide if I wanted to purchase the Glass before the invitation was revoked.  Although it probably wasn’t, it really felt like a hard sell. :)

After sporting them for about 20 days (well within the 30 day full refund limit), here are some of the reasons I decided to return Glass to Google.

At the time, there was no dedicated IOS application for Glass.  This basically meant all WiFi connections had to be set up on the Glass Website/Dashboard via a computer in order for Glass to connect with the appropriate WiFi Passwords, etc..  In addition, GPS and Text Messaging were not available to me.  After returning Glass, Google did release an IOS companion app to address these shortcomings but my testing phase had already been soured. :(

Another huge problem for me was my AT&T data plan.  I am currently grandfathered into an unlimited data plan.  Any changes to my plan would basically toss me into a tiered data plan again.  I currently CRUSH my data plan so going back to paying for actual GBs is not in the realm of possibilities for me.  Adding tethering to my plan would be one of those changes that would trigger the tiered plan.  As a result, I could not tether my Glass to my iPhone.  This SEVERLY limited what I could do outside of the office and home.  With no internet, Glass became a really lightweight head mounted camera.  Cool but not enough for the amount of cash required to participate.

Glass costs a bundle for a Beta product.  One Thousand Seven Hundred Dollars when it’s all said and done!  I feel compelled to spell out the amount.  For my hard earned cash, I need to have a more polished consumer ready product.   I think for the proposed $300 - $500, it will be very compelling when evaluating value vs. cost.

I was not crazy about the battery life. I only got a couple of hours out of it.  I am already fighting a constant battle with my iPhone to eek out a day’s worth of juice and the prospect of having to deal with another power hungry device wasn't too appealing for me.

I have a TON of useful apps on my iPhone.  I love purpose built apps which give me the information I need without forcing me to go visit websites.  While I was testing, Glass didn’t have a lot of those.  Google Now is awesome but without a steady internet connection (#ATT), it really didn’t wow me.  I am sure new apps will be released which will be awesome but at this time, it’s not enough for me. 

I had heard the term Glasshole before jumping into the Explorer program.  It’s the “affectionate” term used for people who walk around all the time wearing their Glass.  Very similar to BlueDouche (for the bluetooth wearers).  I knew I would look like a Glasshole but figured that Glass would be so indispensible that I wouldn't care.  Turns out I cared! … and because Glass turned out to not really be that indispensable to me, it bothered me.  It was cool and all but not enough for me to get over the stares, comments and social awkwardness.  Granted, some of that could have existed previously but with the headgear attached, I was hyper-aware.

All in all, I was REALLY glad to have participated (even briefly) in the Google Glass Explorer Program and really hope a lot of these issues get resolved.  I’m on the fence as to whether it will ever take off completely in its current form but no doubt some type of wearable will make it to our faces.

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Monday, January 13, 2014

New IPM Utility - UnHideICA

Jacques Bensimon has been extremely busy coding thanks in part to the Polar Vortex dropping subzero weather onto the North East. Hooray for us! :)

Here’s his latest Utility  - UnHideICA

Quick note:   I don’t know why this sometimes happens (nor do I know the particular combinations or configurations of Citrix Web Interface, IE and ICA client that can cause it to happen), but I have on multiple occasions and in different environments encountered a weird behavior whereby launching a new remote XenApp desktop causes any existing desktop sessions on the same client machine to just vanish. 


Investigating further, it turns out that those sessions are neither logged off nor disconnected, their windows simply become hidden windows on the client.  I can’t even begin to formulate a theory as to how this could happen or what particular software component is making it happen, but the attached utility UnhideICA will bring all the hidden desktops back into view (it has no user interface or parameters – just run it and the effect is immediate.  I keep it pinned in my machines’ taskbar for easy access).  I don’t know if this issue can occur with published apps as opposed to desktops, or if it can happen with XenDesktop as well, but UnhideICA *might* work as well in those scenarios – no promises, … but let me know in the comments either way if you have an opportunity to test it out).


Be sure to follow Jacques on Twitter: @JacqBens

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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

OFF TOPIC: BLACK HAT Movie CrowdFunding

imageA friend of mine has just launched a SeedAndSpark.com campaign (think KickStarter but for Indie Movies) to help fund a small portion of his movie’s budget and I am using my platform here to help spread the word.  If this is not your thing, move to the next post. :)

The movie is called Black Hat and follows a teenage girl who sets out with her grandfather to win a contest that will turn her comic into an anime.  It is a heartfelt movie that has a great anti bullying message wrapped up neatly with road trips, relationships and of course Anime.  :)

imageVisit http://www.seedandspark.com/studio/black-hat to hear Robbie Bryan (@RobbieBryan) tell you about his vision and the particulars on the movie and the campaign.  Much like Kickstarter, there are a ton of great prizes available when donating including a chance to escort Brooke Lewis to the movie’s screening!

There is also a unique opportunity to Live Skype with the Cast and Crew for an entire day while they are filming.  Chat with the stars and have a really special view into what is involved in making a great feature film.  Behind the scenes access from the comfort of your couch!


So in summary, help support a good friend make his movie.  Donate if you can or just help keep spreading the campaign with Shares, posts, tweets and likes.  Thanks!

On Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/blackhatanime
On Twitter @ http://www.twitter.com/blackhatanime

Now back to your regularly scheduled tech stuff. :)

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