A bit of a blog cataloging stuff I do... Sort of like a lazy mans scrap book of random stuff. Something I can look back on later in life and say "huh... so thats what I spent my time on..."

Pics from NIN and Sound garden @ Red Rocks.  The NIN set was bad ass.  Easily one of the better concerts I’ve seen at RR. 

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Do It!

Photos from tonight’s storm over Denver.  Coors Field is shown mid game in the foreground.    Some impressive lightning tonight, some closer than I’d want them to be.  

 Note these are as they came off the camera minutes ago, and a lot of the strikes have some CA that I need to clean up. Big watermarks on these, as people have a tendency to steal storm pics.

Went on a fun hike this morning with some friends @ Herman Gulch near Silver Plume, CO.    6.7 miles round trip.  Surprising amount of snow up near the top, but the weather was awesome up at 12K (well … 11987ft).   The trail was pretty gnarly in some places, especially mid day with more run off.  But overall it was what I was expecting.  Total elevation gain was 1803ft. (all via a data logger I had in my backpack.)

BTW if you think Fitbit devices are accurate… it reported 8.7 miles.   So yeah only 2 miles off :)

Besides for some sore feet, I am feeling great from the hike and looking forward to doing more!

Start to finish rainbow in Denver.

Start to finish rainbow in Denver.

Been too busy to get to the track lately, so at my desk I got one of my cars all built up to the new spec of the Awesomatix chassis.   Aluminum chassis, floating front gear box, an a new motor.   Hoping to get it on the track tonight.  My first visit to the RC track in just about 2 months!

Amazing how much time it takes to work on cars like this.  I was working on this for 2 full nights to get everything swapped over and setup.   Lots of pretty amazing engineering going on with this car.

This is easily my favorite song off Big Data’s 1.0 album.   So good… but as I saw someone comment on another page “I feel like I’ll be put on some kind of watch list for liking this song” :)

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TechEd 2014 was a far cry different than any other TechEd I’ve been to. This was my 6th year attending and I have seen many technologies and themes come and go.  This year wasn’t a fad theme based event.  No cool flashy big data demos using features no one will use.  No pimping of “cloud” tech that is largely irrelevant or temporary (ahhem… VM roles in Azure pre IaaS).   What was talked  about and shown for the IT infrastructure and cloud side was not only relevant, but was one of the most confident, and consistent messages I have seen from MS.

Microsoft Azure - its everything.

One consistent theme that has been building like a snowball every year is Azure.   First couple years I attended, Azure was a web platform, and MS’s infantile cloud strategy.  As the years went on, it was a low end VM platform, then an Infrastructure as a Service platform.   This year the easiest way to frame how MS is looking at Azure is “its everything”.

Microsoft is not playing around either.   They are playing with numbers that boggle the mind.  In addition to the current datacenters they already run, they are building (currently, already in production) 20 new DCs at the cost of over 1B$ each, and each takes 3 years to complete. More are planned.   MS has already 1 Million+ physical servers running.  Making them 2nd to only AWS… that is until their new DCs come online. ( http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2014/05/11/microsoft-becomes-second-largest-cloud-services-pr.aspx )   I would guess only one or two other companies in the world could drop that kind of money up front.  (Apple doesn’t count, because they spend all their money on purely client focused DCs, and their DC scale overall is fractions of the size of AWS/Google/MS)

MS is also the only major player in the cloud market that has released their Hypervisor to the public (Hyper-V 2012), released their management tools to the public (System Center and Azure Pack), and is participating in the Open Compute Project and has published their server specs and designs.

The other thing that was striking to me was how complete the hybrid (On-Prem/In-Cloud) vision is becoming.   MS doesn’t want to just say “everything in the cloud”, because they even know that’s not likely in the next 10 years for most companies.    The Hybrid strategies are clearly geared at making the move to full “cloud” easy, but they don’t force the issue.   Instead they augment existing implementations.  The message was an enhancement on the “Cloud on your terms” theme from the last few years.

The Ultimatum for IT Pros:

MS has thrown down the gauntlet in terms of your career in IT.   If you work in infrastructure, and you shun cloud technologies, you should probably start reviewing your long term job prospects.   Because you can push back, but you will be about as valuable as a Novell Admin in 2014.

 VMware and the competition:

Looking at the real game that is being played shows an interesting story.  MS isn’t fighting with VMware anymore.  VMware’s cloud stragtegy is based on small DCs (relatively) operated by 3rd parties, and they lack the capital to do anything like what MS or AWS are doing.

Frankly, everyone I talked to at MS and even people at the VMware booth were on the same page.  VMware’s diminishing grip on the on-prem virtualization market, and their increasingly out gunned cloud concept, is going to relegate everyone but 2 companies to the niche market.  (which will still be hugely profitable)

The real competitors that MS is focused on is AWS and Google. On-Prem is the battle ground of the past,  consistent on-prem and in-cloud services are the future, and MS is betting everything on it. To the point Mark Russinovich made the comment that “One catastrophic failure of Azure (data leaking, core security failure, etc…) could spell the end of not only the cloud push for everyone, but could end MS as a company. “   Those are some large dice to roll.  In that same interview it became clear Microsoft knows the risks, and knows what is important to focus on.

Money… or lack of conversation about it:

In the keynote, and any and every breakout session you were shown and told how incredible Azure IaaS, DRaaS, etc… are.  The one thing that they didn’t quite cover in many cases is what the reasonable expectation of cost is with some of these implementations.    Storage is getting cheaper, much cheaper, in the cloud.  Connectivity is getting cheaper. and your licensing may become cheaper in a move to the cloud.

But now you are paying for what you use, and that in some cases could be considerably more expensive than you may realize.   Items like the new MASR (Microsoft Azure Site Recovery) will be an incredible feature for the enterprise DR market, but at an incredible cost for lots of VMs.   Currently the Azure  DR orchestration portion alone costs $8/VM per month.   With MASR expect that to be multiplied many times over for storage size, and demand resource that are held in reserve for your DR implementation.

Before a move to Azure in any large capacity is executed there needs to be a detailed look at what you are doing, how you are doing it, and how you can do it more efficiently.   This is where consultants and managed services providers will come in to the mix in a big way in the coming years.

Overall:

Overall I am encouraged, but at the same time my eyes are open that as an IT Pro I need to consistently refine and grow my skills to stay relevant.  IT infrastructure has had a period of relatively stable progress with skill sets transferring from one project or system to another.   That all changes, and we as IT professionals are about to enter one of the largest shake ups in how we do, what we do.  This is equivalent the move from mainframes to discrete servers.  How many big iron / mainframe admins you see around your IT circles these days?

On the flip side, those who adapt, will have endless work ahead of them in this move.  Yes less IT people will be required (and that’s a key goal of virtualization, and the “cloud”.), but it’s your job to be ready and relevant to the technology you want to be focused on.   There will be plenty of dead weight cut from IT staffs… and that’s OK.   Don’t be dead weight :)

Maybe the last round of Photos from JSC.

On the property they have some land allocated to local students to raise long horn cattle.  And they have some beauties there!  One of which just won a cattle competition and was auctioned for 250K.

The picture of the big round thing, is the Instrumentation Unit ring for the Saturn V rocket, and looking up through the area the LEM lander would have been kept.   In Florida the IU isn’t as well setup as this IU was actually meant to fly into space.   The Saturn V at JSC is the only one assembled of flight pieces, everything shown was built to go into space.

Some other pics of the Mission Control.  I love the big steel doors.   The MET timer (mission elapsed time) clock in the ISS is neat, that thing has been “on orbit” for over 15 years now.

A picture of the test articles for potential Martian manned rovers.  These are tested in Utah and Arizona to see if they can get them stuck.

A picture with yours truly in the reflection of a real 24 Million Dollar Nasa space suit.  Complete with goal plated visor.

And that hatch, is to a training Soyuz from Russia.  All astronauts are trained on this simulator to understand the real thing before they head to Kazakhstan to fly up in one.    This is a real Soyuz that’s been turned into a simulator.

And the final pic is pretty cool, Engineers were testing and working on mobility of Robonaut 2 with his fancy legs.   This is meant to allow this robot to crawl over the exterior of the space station and conduct tasks an astronaut would normally do.   According to the Docent, they recently made a breakthrough in the mobility of this robot.

Some more pics from the day at JSC yesterday.   I heard before I got there that The Space Center Houston had taken ownership of the SCA (Shuttle Carrier Aircraft) from Boeing and the high fidelity mock up of the Space Shuttle from the Kennedy Space center.

What I didn’t know was that they had to take the 747 apart and are now rebuilding it like the largest model airplane ever.    They started on this earlier in the week and were attaching the wings when I was there.   In the parking lot across from the SCA, was the shuttle mock up, surrounded by “model pieces” for the 747.   The Shuttle itself was being given a complete overhaul.   This shuttle is just a metal copy of the real article.   But it does have a identical cockpit, and external appearance as the real deal.

In the Space Center Houston visitors center was pretty neat, but definitely meant for kids and families.  To get the real value you need to take a tour.   KSC I felt was a bit better overall for a visitors center, but there, you need to do a tour as well.

The rocket engine shown, is a validation/test engine that was run in the lead up to the shuttle program to validate the RS-25D Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSME) before the first flight

A small grouping of the almost 600 pics I took today.   Being able to see the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, IIS Mission Control, Historic Mission Control that was where Apollo 11 was flown from, and it’s always awesome to see the Saturn V.

Seeing the IIS controllers actively making changes to the space station while we were there was interesting.   They were also testing new space suit designs in the NBL while we were there.   I have pics of them.  They are modified Space Shuttle bailout space suits.

Here are some cleaned up pics I took @ Arches National Park in Utah on a little motorcycle vacation last weekend.   I had planned to spend about a week in Utah, but after the passing of my grandma, those plans changed.  Instead as soon as I got back from the funeral in WI, I hopped on the bike and rode to Utah to take this in.

This park is stunning, and the ride there and back was also quite a bit of fun.

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With the sad passing of my grandma yesterday, my trip has been scrubbed for now.

May look at planning a properly long one coming up later in May instead.

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Prepping for any kind of multi day camping motorcycle trip after not doing one recently is always fun.  

I am starting to lock down my trip back to Utah for a few days to check off the last national parks I haven’t seen there (Arches, and Canyonlands).   I am only camping one night in the current plan, but traveling over all 6 days.  

The plan as it stands is:

  • Stay in Moab on Monday night
  • Visit Arches NP and Camp at Canyon Lands NP - Islands in the Sky on Tue
  • Ride down to the Paradox valley, and do some exploring on and off the bike, and stay in Naturita, CO on Wed.
  • Ride up through Gateway to Fruita, CO and meet up with friends at a house there for the rest of the weekend on Thursday.
  • Either relax around Fruita, or go on a ride up to Dinosaur, CO on Friday.
  • ?? on Saturday
  • Ride home on Sunday.

I have a ton of work to do on the bike to get it ready, but over all its in good condition.  Most of the work is on cleaning up some wiring I did a couple years ago, and replacing some connectors with waterproof ones.

The only big variable at play is the weather.   This is a very sketchy time on the front rage for weather, it could snow, it could be blowing wind and rain, it could be icy cold, it could be sunny and warm.   So far Monday looks to be cold and rainy, which is OK, rain and cool weather doesn’t bother me.  But icy weather.. that’s another story.

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On April 14th MS launched the Windows Phone 8.1 update via their Developer Preview program.    Anyone can join and update their Windows Phone 8 devices to 8.1 just by enrolling in the free App Studio program.   WPCentral has a great forum post about the program and how to sign up:

http://forums.wpcentral.com/preview-developers/271799-developer-preview-program-please-read-first-post-before-asking-questions.html

The update:

Once you enroll in the Dev Preview program, you need to download a fancy little “Preview for Developers” app in the MS app store.   Once it is installed you associate it to your MS Live account and it installs a special cert to allow the installing of beta patches and updates.

As soon as I did that process I was prompted for the updated GDR 3 + update which is a prep for the Windows 8.1 install.    Once that is done, then you will get another prompt for another update, this one is the 8.1 update!

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This update took around 30 minutes to complete on my Nokia Lumia 920.

It will run through the normal processes of rebooting, and migrating your data.  From what I can tell you lose nothing in this update as far as your data or settings.

Many apps will need to be reinstalled, and the phone does that automatically.   I had to login with my MS Live ID a few times for the apps to reinstall but overall it worked fine.

Post update:

The main items I wanted to see and test our are :

  • Cortana
  • Notification and Action Center
  • App Sound management
  • Live Tile updates and changes to the home screen
  • The new “Sense” apps  (Data Sense, Battery Saver, and Storage Sense)

Cortana:

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You need to enable Cortana in the system settings, once you do  your search button does some fun things , like fires up Cortana.

A tap of the button lets you tell her to listen, or you can type in a query via text if you are in a place you don’t want make too much noise.  Or hold down the search button until she comes up in “listen” mode and you can just have a nice chat with her.

There is a bit of an education phase you go through with Cortana when you first fire her up, she will ask about your interests, news preferences, dining preferences, etc…   And using the geo fencing capabilities she will let you know about restaurants, events, concerts, etc… going on in your area you happen to be around.  

You can launch the Cotana app on its own and see updates and info specific to you.

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There has been a ton of news about her capabilities, and the API is going to only get better as time goes on.  Once you give Cortana the OK to monitor your email, she will automatically notice reservations, invites, reminders, flights, hotels, etc… and remind you about them.  She will track flight and gate info automatically.   She will give you weather for your destination, etc…

Being able to add reminders to phone contacts, or setup reminders based on geo locations is handy as well.  Like when driving past a liquor store, she can remind you that you wanted to pick up some beer.

You can read much more about Cortana around the web, but so far I am impressed.  There is still a lot of work to do to make her transparent in use, and handle the general short hand we use in the American language (like saying to schedule something on “the 23rd”, and have her understand you mean this month, on the 23rd.)   But the app is still in beta and is evolving on a daily basis according to MS.

Cortana will also allow 3rd party plugins to leverage external data sources and commands.   Like you can tell it to add movies to your Netflix queue,  post something on Facebook, reply to a tweet all using those app specific API integrations.   Something iOS and Google cant do currently.

Notification Center:

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A quick swipe down from the top of the screen will show you not only the quick action items at the top of the screen (airplane mode, Wifi, BT toggles, and in my case, Internet Sharing).   But also the catalog of notifications that have popped up.

This is Microsoft’s first try at the notification/action center and it works quite well.   I haven’t used the ‘Droid or iOS notification centers recently, but it gets the job done.   I could use some more quick action items though.

You can manage the quick action apps via this management page:

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You can change all of the quick actions to do different things based on an app list you get when you click on them.

Live Tile Updates:

MS enabled the ability to use background images for the live tiles, and now use higher density live tiles  (meant for larger phones).

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I enabled a background image and the high density tiles on my Lumia 920, which is a 5” screen and like it.   it let me make some tiles bigger that I use a lot, and shrink small ones I don’t.

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Overall it’s let me change how I use the home screen a bit, and I can do more now than I could before without scrolling.

You need to make sure you use a background image that is darker or lower contrast in order to not wash out the text in the live tiles.

Sounds for Apps and Ringer:

Windows Phone 8.1 finally includes app sound management, and ringer/notification/app sound volume changes independent of each other.  Before all notifications were the same sound, and they were tied to the ringer volume.

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Now when you hit the volume rocker on the phone you get a volume adjustment on the screen based on what you are doing.  If no media is playing the volume adjustment is for the ringer.  If you are listening to music, its for the music.   You tap the small arrow to show you the full audio management panel.

To edit app sounds, you go to the management screen shown above for the quick action changes.   You can then click on any app and change its notification behavior

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You can block an app from doing any notification, change its sound, and edit if it allows for the vibration notification.

Sense Apps:

MS launched Data Sense on their phones back about 6 - 9 months ago.  But some carriers have blocked it (like AT&T).    With the Dev Preview I now have Data Sense, and Battery Sense (renamed Battery Saver), and Storage Sense (which is Nokia’s storage app rebranded for all Windows devices)

The Battery Saver is the cooler of all the apps IMO.   This lets you see not only how much battery you are using, which apps are using it, and when they are using it (foreground/background).

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The main screen is pretty generic, but you can see what apps you allowed to run, and which you restricted to only being able to run in the foreground.

Clicking on an app shows you app specific settings and usage info.

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In this case, it shows that Cortana uses most of its battery use when I am accessing it and almost none in the background.

Data sense is similar:

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It breaks down Cell/Wifi use in a general view.   It also lets you set limits on the main screen.  When you go to the Usage screen though, you can see what data was used by what apps and what technology they were using. image

 Storage Sense looks similar, but just shows disk usage in similar graphs.

 Conclusions:

This is a much needed update to the Windows Phone platform.  There is much more to this update than I am covering here, but these are the important bits the struck me as big changes.    I have liked the Windows Phone 8 platform since I jumped to it from an iPhone last year.   But this completes the move for me.   The fact I received this feature full update for a 1.5 year old device and it runs great is pretty impressive.

Cortana is game changing for MS, in that it brings the platform to the current “digital assistant” standards that are out there, and in some ways leap frogs iOS or Google’s voice assistant platforms.

There are still some things I want, like battery % on the top bar, and some higher quality versions of some apps.  Like the Facebook app which does seem to still have some bugs that annoy me.   For some more info on this platform update, check out these links:

http://www.engadget.com/2014/04/14/windows-phone-8-1/

http://www.cnet.com/news/what-you-need-to-know-about-windows-phone-8-1/

http://www.wpcentral.com/eight-tips-make-most-out-windows-phone-81

UPDATE:

Since posting this a few issues have cropped up, almost all of them around the Music API and apps on the phone.   The music app is an older version of the Xbox Music app now, gone is the Music+Video hub.   This means you not only have lost access to the FM radio on your 920 and other phones for now, but the Xbox Music app seems to completely choke on my phone.  

It wont catalog music on the phone anymore (it tries and will spend hours trying), and in general throws errors and doesn’t work.   I had to install the Nokia MixRadio app to get access to the music on my phone, and even that is struggling.  Which tells me the API is broken at some level.

When trying to play music today I could only get audio in one speaker, a reboot fixed that.   I also got a lot of distortion of bass that I didn’t have before when the phone was playing at 20/30 for volume.

Many solutions are posted as “hard reset”, I am not ready to do that just yet, but may have to soon.  

Keep in mind this is a PREVIEW OS…. so Beta for all intents and purposes.   MS is releasing updated system apps daily right now for 8.1 so they are working on fixes, and stuff will get better, but for now… this is an early adopter platform.