Thursday, July 31, 2014

Tech Field Day Extra: VMworld 2014 in San Francisco!

I'm very happy to share with you all that I've been selected as a delegate for Tech Field Day Extra at VMworld 2014 in San Francisco!

The Tech Field Day Extra event spans three days, and will give us a chance to learn about new solutions from companies such as SolarWinds, EMC, and SanDisk. And perhaps more importantly, it's a unique opportunity to ask good questions in order to dive deep into the inner workings of these things. It's certainly not a lunch'n'learn led by a salesperson who can't go beyond the glossy exterior of the product packaging.

Each day will have a different selection of delegates; I'm excited to be included on Monday's panel. That means I'll be getting smart(er?) on SolarWinds, Asigra, and the infamous SECRET COMPANY. Most of you know that I'm a regular contributor at Thwack!, the SolarWinds community forum. I was even fortunate enough to take a turn as a Thwack Ambassador in April of this year. I'm doing my homework now on Asigra; I just might have a two part question to ask. And secret company... more later.

You'll likely recall the discussion that occurred on Duncan Epping's blogpost about a TFD from earlier this year. I think it was a great conversation, especially my dialogue with Hans De Leenheer. I was happy to see that we'll be delegates for Monday's session.

And that's really the point, isn't it? The esprit de corps that springs into existence when you get some social geeks who would otherwise only interact via comments and tweets into the same room... that's truly an amazing opportunity.

And for that reason, I'd like to sincerely thank Stephen Foskett, Tom Hollingsworth, and Claire Chaplais for selecting me to participate, and for covering my travel and lodging for the event. I mean really, I'm just a guy with a blog and a Twitter account. But maybe that's the point. Maybe TFD is for all of us.

See you in SanFran.

Monday, July 21, 2014

PowerCLI cmdlets not loading in ISE?

Since I'm spending most of my time in PowerCLI these days, I thought I'd share a fix for a strange problem I ran into this morning. The problem is that the PowerCLI cmdlets weren't loading automatically when I launched the ISE from a PowerCLI prompt. The PowerCLI cmdlets loaded just fine when I launched ISE from the Start menu.

Here's why this happens. (Spoiler alert: I was doing something wrong.)

One of the first things you learn about PowerCLI is how to enable the cmdlets in the PowerShell ISE. You do this so you can take advantage of the native PowerShell scripting environment while working on your PowerCLI scripts. At first, you may just issue the command to add these cmdlets manually:

Add-PSSnapin VMware.VimAutomation.Core

And with that, PowerCLI cmdlets are now available in the ISE. But you quickly learn that you need to issue this command each time you launch the ISE. So you discover PowerShell Profiles, and you learn that creating a profile allows you to load these cmdlets at the start of each ISE session automatically. Pretty sweet. You end up with something like this:

And it lives in your home directory at My Documents \ WindowsPowerShell. Each time you lauch ISE from the Start Menu, the script runs (you'll notice a status message in the lower left of your ISE screen that says "Running script / selection. Press Control+Break to stop." You're good to go.

But every once in a while, when you launch ISE from anywhere other than the Start Menu, you find that your PowerCLI cmdlets are nowhere to be found. That's the problem I ran into, and it turns out that we need to go back and read more about those PowerShell Profiles from earlier.

When you created your PowerShell profile, you may have not noticed that the profile was specific to your user account. That means that if you launch ISE with any other account, your profile will not load. If you want the same profile to apply to all ISE sessions on your machine, you need to create a different profile. The file itself is identical to the one you created before, but this file needs to be in a different location: C:\Windows\System32\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0. Just copy&paste your profile.ps1 from earlier into this location, and every ISE session on your machine will load the PowerCLI cmdlets for you.

Sure, that sounds great. But what was really going on here, dude?

As it turns out, this behavior (in which my profile ran sometimes but not always) was the result of me running the PowerCLI shell as my administrative user, while using my non-privileged account to log into my workstation. With PowerCLI running as someone else (or more specifically, not the account that I created a $profile for), my personal profile wasn't loaded when ISE was launched (since ISE inherited the credentials of the user associated with the PowerCLI process). The system-wide profile that I created fixed this problem, but I could have just copied my profile to the correct location in the profile path for my administrative account.

tl;dr - I am now slightly less stupid than I was this morning.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

On Writing with Conviction

Writing well is a skill that requires study and practice. By no measure am I an expert on writing, but I'd like to think I've got a decent background in the field; I earned my BA in English (specifically language, writing, and rhetoric) from the University of Maryland, College Park, I've worked as a copy editor for a financial firm, and I spent time as a technical writer... oh about fifteen years ago. And the modest frequency with which I post here at the #eager0, along with some side work at Thwack and the short-form writing at Bugs In My Back Yard, provides me with lots of practice. I think I'm on my way; I'll let you know in thirty years.

Part of the craft of writing is having the audacity to subject your thoughts and opinions to public (and, as is often the case, anonymous) scrutiny. This is by no means an easy task. It's the pen-and-ink (anachronistic, sure, but okay because nostalgic) equivalent to stage fright. And to avoid this scrutiny, we employ all sorts of trickery. We're vague, but disguise it through humor, esoteric intimation, and sarcasm (a wit we're meant to grown out of, not into). We wiggle out of declarations with woulds, coulds, and shoulds. And sometimes, we even resort to... snark.

I recently re-discovered this poem by Taylor Mali. It's titled "Totally like whatever, you know?" and it's required viewing / reading / listening for, you know, like, everyone?

These words should inspire you to write with that same conviction. Again, it's not an easy task. And it's a lesson I'm re-learning on a regular basis; no need to scour the #eager0 for posts that violate this rule.

Have the audacity to make clear, concise statements. Play loud, and make big mistakes. Put yourself out there.

Oh, and if you're looking for better advice from a better writer, check out my friend Oliver Gray's post at Literature & Libation. I blame him for making me work on my writing these days.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Calculated Community

It can't be just me. I can't be the only one who is getting a bit suspicious about all of the tech communities out there, and the ever-growing number of evangelist designations that we publicly love put privately loathe. Some of us try to collect them all, just to earn the right to stroll the exhibit halls covered in logos like a race car while tweeting an endless barrage of vendor-inspired hashtags.

As members of these communities (and the absurd meta-community that they form, Voltron-style), we IT professionals pride ourselves on being a smart group of people. But if we're so smart, why is it we fall into the same trap over and over again? "What trap," you ask? The Calculated Community trap.

Deploying from Template

This story starts the same way most IT stories start: by blaming Microsoft. Blame them for the MVP program they launched in 1993 (even though MVP itself was modeled on previous groupings of IT rock stars). VMware recognized the marketing potential of these community-oriented programs and paid a compliment to Microsoft by creating the vExpert program. Clearly, John Troyer (incidentally, have you subscribed to TechReckoning yet? DO IT.) hit that one out of the park; the vExpert title is a highly sought-after recognition of one's contributions to the VMware community. (FD: I'm a vExpert for 2014, and was rightfully rejected in 2013).

Microsoft's MVP program created the template for recognizing individual contributors in the technical community. VMware, EMC, Cisco, and Citrix deployed their programs from that template, with only a few guest customizations. :)

The problem is these communities follow that template so well, you have to squint to see the differences. That's fine when you're deploying VMs; you want them to be identical. But these communities aren't populated with virtual machines; they're populated with people.

Pets versus Livestock, Round Two

You're likely familiar with the pets vs. livestock metaphor that we like to use when it comes to systems management (Joe Baguely's VMUG presentation on this topic is a classic). You can treat large collections of VMs identically because they're not sentient, intelligent bags of bones. But people are.

People don't like to be treated as simply a member of a group. People want to be treated as individuals. Sure, there's camaraderie and solidarity to be realized in groups of like-minded people. And there's a lot of time to be saved when you meet a fellow geek and can quickly negotiate a common technical competency by identifying which communities you both participate in. But after the users groups, after the conferences, after the vBeers, we're individuals. I know I've left a few of these events thinking, "is this a users group, or a thinly veiled marketing campaign?"

What's the Point?

The point is this: the explosion of technical communities, and their striking similarities to every other technical community, is getting out of hand. It's next-level community fatigue. Unless Twitter gives us a higher character count, we'll run out of space for content by the time we hashtag all of the "titles" we've "earned." And slowly, the engineers and administrators and practitioners that truly comprise the technical community at-large will recognize the cookie cutter nature of these communities, and the value of membership will plummet.

It's a community bubble in every sense of the word.