I’ll see you at GusDay 2015!

I will be attending GusDay 2015 with a couple of my colleagues this Friday. I am looking forward to meeting and talking with a group of technology professionals working in the private higher education area.

It is always good to collaborate with friends.

Business Life Technology

Choosing Your Tools Again

I forgot one huge thing, at least for me, when I am looking at tools: how they look.

It is completely and totally superfluous to an extent, but I won’t deny that how a tool looks (thinking of software mainly, but the same goes for hardware) does have an effect on how much I enjoy using the tool which generally affects how I feel about it overall.

A tool that looks terrible is less likely to have me coming back to use it in the future. For a CLI tool, the better the interface I am using, the more likely I am to continue to use it.

This is one of the reasons I continue to use Apple OS X and iOS instead of moving onto something else … they look and feel better. To me. This is entirely subjective, but it is still a quality I use to judge a tool by.

If you have a tool, and a website for that tool, but do not show off the user interface there is a good chance I am going to just pass on by for something else. Have a demo I can play with? Even better. Do you take real pride in your interface (both software and hardware)? That’s going to get my just that little bit more excited about looking at your tool.

Any tool still needs to ultimately get the job done, but if it can get the job done and look good doing it … then all the better. If it can get the job done, look good doing it, and then also be easy to use … I’m getting ahead of myself here. I’m going to try to not get greedy.

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Business Life Technology

Choosing Your Tools

What sorts of questions does one ask when choosing a tool?

I’m running into issues right now in my own head when it comes to choosing the tools I want to use for my work. It doesn’t matter if it is for my day job as a sysadmin or at night attempting to somehow fall into becoming something approximating an iOS developer (maybe … perhaps … somehow … ). It is hard to choose tools if you don’t have any questions to ask when you are choosing them.

Since sysadmin work is something I do more often at the moment, I’ll just list off some of the questions I ask when trying to evaluate a software package or any other kind of tool.

  • What is the license? This is where I start with systems stuff because licensing is a pain and often full of different ways to try and “get” you in the end. Microsoft seems to change its licensing scheme every few hours and SMART Technologies is doing the same sort of thing with their SMART Notebook software. Even forgetting the issues I have with interactive whiteboards (don’t get me started, they are a support nightmare), just dealing with licensing is a pain. If something is open source or has a pretty easy-to-understand license (thank you Attachmate), then I am more likely to look in that direction.
  • Does it have a web component? We have some things on campus which lack a web component and it hurts at times. What a first-class web component does is allow me to choose other tools (like my operating system) based not on if I have the proper software, but if I want to actually use something. “Enterprise” software is the worst with this because almost everyone has some Windows-only GUI you are almost required to use to do anything worthwhile.
  • This is a new one, but here we go: Does it have a mobile component? This is becoming more important as I use my phone for more and more sysadmin work. I can do a lot of stuff while on the road, but often mobile is an afterthought. Currently Request Tracker is the one tool I wish had a better mobile access to their excellent issue tracking software. I know these things will come, but it would be nice if it was sooner rather than later.
  • Does it force me to choose an operating system? I want to use my Linux distribution of choice and something forcing Windows on me or only “supporting” Ubuntu really doesn’t make me all that happy. I’m not going to toss it aside automatically, but I’m also more skeptical from the start because the tool is attempting to dictate infrastructure choices I would rather be able to make myself.
  • Is it in active development? Pretty self-explanatory. I want to see life before I start using a tool for something important.

Obviously this is not an exhaustive list, but it is a place I can start when trying to evaluate options. I left off some obvious ones (I assume that the tool will do the job and do it well), and there are many I automatically use even if I don’t think about them. What are some thing you need to consider when you are looking at tools?

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Pulling Apart

I’ve had these two books floating around my house for the better part of six months now. I’m not exactly proud of it, but it is a fact of life. I have always had an issue of focusing on a single project at a time and putting other things away.

So here the books sit, two different from my own head made into concrete (and somewhat heavy) objects. I’m exaggerating, obviously, but sometimes I will sit and stare at the two books for minutes at a time and not open either, afraid to make a poor decision about my future and “waste” time on something I should not.

That’s how I’m feeling right now, pulled apart in a sense. The IT Ops person in me really wants to dig into systems programming and automation while the iOS and Apple user in me wants to dig into iOS development and Swift. Is there a decision that I really need to make here or can I have it big ways?

The pull, however, is still there. In a day and age where it feels like we are told to specialize more and more, the idea of instead working to be as much of a development “generalist” as possible seems to be passé.

However, I still feel that mobile is the future and that mobile has two different sides. There is the big iron of large servers on the backend and the mobile front ends which are lighter and allow people to use all if that power to get things done. It is an interesting dance between large and small, nimble and lumbering … kind of cool.

Maybe there is a way to do both?

Business Review Technology

Review: The Phoenix Project

Back when Mrs. Sallie Draper joined our team at Martin Luther College’s Network Services, she recommended a book for our group to read. Being the person that I am, I filed it away to read in the future and bought it for my Kindle and then promptly forgot about it for far too long.

That book is The Phoenix Project by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, and George Spafford.

I regret that I did not pick it up sooner because as soon as I began reading its tale, I was engrossed and finished it in a single day. I don’t often do that anymore with three kids, but I found the time to do it this time.

it is billed as “A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win”, and that is a good synopsis for the entirety of the book. It is fiction about how a company falls to the bottom and then bands together to work to the top.

I’m going to try to stay away from any spoilers because I do recommend that you read this book if you work within the IT departments of any company or organization even if the story isn’t totally applicable to your size or sector.

The story is split into two halves, even if the split isn’t where you would expect it to be right away. It follows the old saying of “things will get bad before they get better”. It really does for this story but the whole it worth it to get the mind thinking about what the future might bring.

Those reading the book closely will find the agenda the authors have quite early, and you need to be aware that while they are not selling anything in the specific sense … they ARE selling an ideal for how IT should operate within the business and I tend to agree! That, of course, makes it easy to recommend the book.

It is an easy read and, I feel, time well spent.

Highly recommended.