Rental Car Review: 2014 Chevy Tahoe

Part of my current role and past positions I’ve had over the years is travelling to remote sites and offices to install equipment or remediate infrastructure.  I’d like to say I get to travel in planes trains and automobiles but I have yet to travel in a train for work and the planes I do fly in I try to forget the experience as quickly as possible because I really hate little tin can planes. Usually I like travel in the comfort of my Volvo V70, its fast, familiar and Swedish so its good.  Every once in a while though I get the opportunity to drive something new and that’s what todays blog is all about.  Enter the 2014 Chevy Land Beast!!

Image

It blows my mind that this platform still exists today, I remember my mom driving these monsters in the early nineties as oil patch ambulances and always kind of wanted one when I grew up.  Now that I am a grown up this would be the last vehicle on this planet of ours that I would wish upon even my worst enemy.  The only incarnation of this platform that is worth entertaining is the Cadillac model which in itself has flaws the worst of which is fuel economy.  The Tahoe is no slouch in this department, it will quickly drain your wallet, re-mortgage your home, sell your children and club baby seals to get its hands on some sweet sweet petrol.  Our first fill at 3/4″s empty quickly racked up a $120.00CAD bill at $1.45CAD per liter at the time of our trip it was mental.  How people drive these on the daily I can not understand I get grumpy filling up the Volvo which is miserly compared to this beast.

look-at-those-gas-prices

You’d think that with a big hulking thirsty V8 under the hood of this monstrosity that it would have some pretty good motivation when you gave it the beans.  This theory proved to be disappointing, maybe it was because it was a rental or maybe it’s because its American but the 0-60 can probably be measured in ice ages.  Honda’s could totally destroy us off the line with relative ease even with blue haired old ladies behind the wheel.  It was very anticlimactic to mash down the pedal expecting loud rumbling excitement and acceleration only to receive a long pause with a meek sluggish response.  However with the discovery of a button under the radio and experimentation of pushing, pushing and holding, pushing and holding even longer we were rewarded with the raw beast like performance we were looking for.  What button would that be you wonder, well it was the computer controlled nanny meant to make this land yacht safe for soccer mom consumption, it was traction control.  Even with the nanny at bay the Tahoe proved to be lacklustre at best for all the grunting and wheezing it would make, one pro is that it can cruise really well on highways.

tractioncontrol

Sitting at the helm of this multi tonne behemoth is quite different when you are used to hugging the ground in a European vehicle.  The Tahoe should come with a captain’s hat since you don’t drive one more as you plot a suitable course being cognizant of its size and limitations and once said course is plotted you can then engage the beast and do your best to pilot it to your desired destination.  During the course of our adventure we set sail for various remote sites to install hardware and to remove hardware to take back to the mother ship for repurposing.  This meant that the Tahoe was excited to be put to work for the one thing it is truly good at, being a cargo vessel.  We docked at 6 different sites during our voyage and amassed a great bounty of servers (8 HP Proliant DL385’s), storage arrays (6 HP MSA P2000’s) and an assortment of switch gear and misc items.

bounty

This extra weight made the handling characteristics of the S.S. Petrol Guzzler interesting, the ride when bumpy felt like snuffaluffagus was giving you a piggy back ride and driving through parts of Vancouver felt like trying to pilot Falcor through a miniature model city.  At times this was amusing but most of the time it was terrifying.  Braking distance and effectiveness dropped horrendously, fuel consumption went up and so did passenger anxiety.  I’d feel more comfortable doing the truffle shuffle on the corner of Main and Hastings than I did piloting this shitbeast under load through the lower mainland.

snuffyfalchunkPros: Its big and hulking so it scares other drivers into submission of your will, for the first few days you feel kind of gangster driving it, when in white people think you are a cop car and get out of your way, it had a heated steering wheel.

Cons: Its big and hulking so it destroys the earth calls you names and steals all of your lunch money, you can’t really parallel park the thing worth shit in Vancouver, when in white people think you are a cop car and flip you off, the Bose stereo sucked pretty hard for being a Bose and it had a heated steering wheel which seemed so awesome at first but then felt really weird.

In Conclusion the Tahoe for its purpose did alright, it carried us from the interior of BC to the lower mainland, it ferried us from place to place and carried our nerdy booty back to home base so it get an A+ for effort and a D- for cost and efficiency.

 

What’s Happening

I had mentioned in a previous post that recently I changed companies and roles but did not elaborate on it.  For the past few years I was working for Northern Health in Northern British Columbia.  It was an interesting job and I gained a lot of really great experience there, when I first started there I was working on the server team managing the data center and vm environments.  After a little while of doing that an opportunity came up to join the network group, networking has always been of keen interest to me so I jumped on it.  Being on a small team with a large geographic region to support we were given a great deal of responsibility and latitude to get work done, most of what I worked on in the beginning was network refreshing, building wireless, metro wireless and remote access.  It was during this time the future came along and hit me with a big stick.

Early in 2012 we had a meeting to discuss our pain points as a group and how we could potentially solve them.  The biggest bones of contention being the up keep of our metro wireless environments and secure remote access for our users.  We had systems in place and some were doing better jobs than others but as we talked VDI started coming up again and again as a potential solution to these issues.  I said VDI so many times in that meeting I think my boss told me I wasn’t allowed to talk anymore.  Shortly after that meeting though I was tasked with building an early production VDI environment to trial with our users, this wasn’t a POC but more a soft launch to core users and then a rapid ramp up of the environment if they approved.  So I shifted gears from networking back to virtualization and disappeared from my team for a while into the basement lab.  a few months later our VDI emerged and it was good and the users asked for more, during this time though a seed was planted that would grow into a massive change for me.  I realized as much as I loved networking, I loved virtualization even more but my time in networks gave me a new perspective to view virtual environments from and an appreciation to not always just blame the network guys.

Being involved with VMUG I met a fellow leader that was moving on to a new opportunity and was hoping to find someone he could recommend to replace him.  The jobs core focus was virtualization and the timing couldn’t be better, the seed was quickly growing into a sapling and I jumped at the opportunity.  Now we arrive at today, I relocated my family to the Thompson Region of British Columbia and am working for BCLC on a few of their virtualization initiatives.  Its been a great move and I am looking forward to learning lots of new things here.  One of the things I would really like to finally nail down is getting my VCP and following that up with a CCNA.  I am looking forward to continuing leadership activities with VMUG and if you have not joined your local chapter I urge you to check them out they are a top notch organization and a great resource you can find them at www.vmug.com.  VMware is probably one of the most exciting technology companies out there right now and I am excited to be able to work with the technologies every day and look forward to the new products they are going to churn out, maybe one day I’ll get to work for them :)  Till then there’s lots to learn.

Lab on the go!

Recently my family and I relocated to a different part of British Columbia so I could pursue a new career opportunity with more of a focus on Virtualization.  The move as stressful as they usually are has gone off without many hitches which has been awesome, compared to past experiences.  The unfortunate thing about moving is that all your stuff gets packed away, and for me that meant my lab was living in a shipping container in god knows where while we enjoyed the confines of the Accent Inn’s.

During this transition period I got pulled into this awesome initiative that VMware has going on right now called Cloud Credibility (www.cloudcredibility.com) I could spend a while talking about it but I’ll save that for another post.  The jist of cloud cred though is to do challenges to see how you compare to your peers world wide, its a lot of fun and I highly recommend trying it out.  Part of cloud cred is building some things in labs and playing with them, but that was problematic for me.  I was trapped in the Accent Inn and my lab was somewhere between Prince George and Vancouver, no one could confirm its whereabouts but assured us it was all safe.  So the search for alternatives began…

Enter VMware workstation, its nothing new but I’ve never really spent a lot of time with it.  Mostly because I’ve always had bare metal gear that I would run ESXi on.  Due to the above circumstances that wasn’t possible and all I had at my disposal was a laptop with a Core i5 Proc, 8 gb ram, a external usb drive and a bit of spare time.  The cloud cred challenge I was working on was to build a Zimbra environment so the first step was to download Workstation (you can get a trial here http://mdb1.info/10dOMXj) and once I got workstation installed I downloaded a copy of ESXi (free download here http://mdb1.info/YiubTl) and created an ESXi VM inside of workstation.  Its kind of funny running a hypervisor inside of a hypervisor, something like vCeption but it worked which was really cool.  I gave the ESXi VM 6gb of ram and a few 100gb’s on the external USB and got to building out my Zimbra environment.  Now with 6gb ram you can’t build much but it was enough for this lab.  Inside of the ESXi environment I started off with a Server 2008R2 VM that I used as a Domain Controller and for DNS, once that guy was built it was time to get started on Zimbra.

For those not familiar with Zimbra it is VMwares alternative to exchange, and it is a pretty decent one to.  We use Zimbra for the VMUG e-mail and I am really impressed with the web ui and performance of it.  Anyways so I had to download a trial of Zimbra (you can get one here http://mdb1.info/XllAQo) and you’ll also need a flavor of enterprise Linux for Zimbra to live on, I went with Red Hat (free trial here http://mdb1.info/10dR9co) This is where things got a little interesting for me because I am not terribly familiar with Linux, I used to be a hard core suse geek back in 2000 but then somewhere along the line I fell to the dark side.  I found the following blog posts really handy to get things going with red hat, I looked to this blog for help installing VMware Tools http://mdb1.info/14rJAnS and this one for installing Zimbra itself http://mdb1.info/YMH58O.  After a few hours over a few days I managed to get a hypervisor inside of a hypervisor to run a couple of VM’s to score some sweet sweet cloud credibility and all without my massive bulky lab that kills my monthly powerbill.  This experience has given me some food for thought on what I should do with my lab now that I have a chance to start fresh.

Cheers,
Merlin

workstationesxi
ESXi Inside of Workstation 9

Zimbraadmin
Zimbra running inside of vCeption

PG VMUG VDI Lab

At our first Prince George VMUG meeting our members requested that for the next meeting we dig into VDI a little bit more.  So for our Q1 2013 meeting I put together a VDI lab powered by Nimble Storage and Lenovo.  Nimble was our primary sponsor for the event and very graciously loaned us a CS220 Array to build some VDI desktops on and Lenovo sent up one of their new servers for us to play with.

The environment was pretty simple, we had an old Dell D620 laptop acting as the domain controller running Server 2008R2.  The reason for this was to use the wireless nic in it to provide internet access to the rest of the lab as the venue only provided wireless access.  We had an old Brocade gigabit switch for server networking and iSCSI traffic for the Nimble.  The Nimble it self and the Lenovo server were also in the mix, there was also an old Cisco AP to provide wireless access to the lab environment.

We just downloaded a trial version of View from VMware and built up a small environment with 5 desktops for the VDI demo.  The total build time was probably about 2 days.  I would like to try to find a way to have a lab like this but more portable.  I think the next crack I will take at this will be a laptop with 16gb or more of ram with maybe a small environment running in VMware Workstation.  I’ve been playing with this a little bit for some other environments and have found it to work well.  I’ll probably have a post about that coming up soon.  But until then I’ve posted a few pictures below of what this quick and dirty lab looked like.

vdilab2

vdilab1

Meraki and Me

A couple of weeks ago I was surfing around the intertubes looking for MDM alternatives and came across Meraki’s Systems Manager and down the rabbit hole we go.  I always knew that Meraki made cool wireless products and heard great things about them but in all honesty it had been quite some time since I paid any attention to them.  What a surprise it was to discover that they had expanded and one of the products available was a cloud based MDM and the best part… its free!  If you have a chance check out their website www.meraki.com

I made my way to http://dashboard.meraki.com signed up for a free account, followed the directions to get an iOS certificate and after about 15 minutes I had iPad and iPhone enrolled into the management environment.  That is pretty awesome considering my past experience with other MDM’s has not been similar, you can also add Windows PC’s and Mac OSX clients and Android devices into the Systems Manager.  They are also partners with Google so everything gets all mapped out which is also pretty cool, and Cisco just bought them which means they are totally doing something right.
meraki dashboard

So far the rabbit hole is looking pretty good but then it gets better.  They are offering a free Meraki access point to qualifying IT professionals and all you have to do is attend a webinar.  We all can make an hour in our day to learn something new and free swag is always a bonus I would highly recommend checking out their webinar portal to see if there is something of interest and register up.  http://www.meraki.com/webinars and if you’re a qualifying IT pro you’ll get an MR12 like the guy down below (just not with the cool cut away view)
MR12 Inside

After signing up for the Systems Manager and attending the webinar I was contacted by one of Meraki’s Account Executives who has been extremely helpful to learn more about their products.  One of my clients has been looking for a new router for some of their smaller sites and the MX60W looked like it would be a perfect fit.    The MX60W is an SMB router suitable for sites with around 20 users and is all manged through the cloud which is awesome.  http://www.meraki.com/products/appliances/mx60w  Meraki has a really great trial program and after filling out some forms I had a demo unit at my door step.
mx60wOne of the coolest things about Meraki’s could based System Manager is that you can pre-provision equipment and when it comes online it downloads the configuration you created automatically.  This is a really neat feature especially if you are support remote offices because you can pre-provision gear including setting up site to site VPN connections without having to go to the clients site to configure things.  I’ve attached a quick view of the Appliance Status below for you to check out.
meraki mx60

I’ve just got it going this evening so I will write a follow-up post once I’ve had some time with the device.  Keep posted for more info.

Cheers,
Merlin

What a HEAP!

This is a bit of an old find that I am dredging up but figured it would be good to post anyways.

For the past several months I have been working on a VDI implementation at my workplace.  So far it has been interesting and exciting but there have been a few stumbles along the way.  One of them is what I would like to talk about today.

Trend Deep Security is the technology we chose to protect our VDI environment.  It is one of the more comprehensive suites out there for virtualization and if you are working on any kind of virtualization initiative I would highly recommend checking it out here http://mdb1.info/13eQM4z

There was one snag though that was frustrating during our initial early production trials.  After a few weeks the Deep Security appliances would die and stop protecting the environment.  You could restart the appliances and then everything would be peachy for another week or so and then they would die again.  We tried talking to support a few times and finally were connected with a guy that helped us figure out what the problem was.

Apparently there is a setting deep inside your vm host that needs tweaking if you are going to go down the Deep Security path.  That setting is the Heap size related to the DVSA appliances.  This setting through some sort of magic allows you to run a denser VM host while preventing the pesky disruptions of server appliances crashing or in worse cases the purple screen of death!  For more information check out this Trend KB article http://mdb1.info/VNxxJP but please change the heap size to 512mb or the magic will not work correctly.

Cheers,
Merlin

New Blog Home

I was not happy with the options my hosting provider had for blogs so I have moved here. Will have some new stuff soon!

Cheers,
Merlin