The Shame of the Motorola Sale

I’m not going to comment much on the actual sale of Motorola Mobility to Lenovo or why Google has done it … not really that interesting to me and the rest of the internet is handling that part quite well/horribly.nexusae0_128734-050-2AF822A11

However, this is the end for one of the true pioneers of the mobile space. Motorola was a once-proud company making real strides and now it has been picked apart and sold for scrap. The once dominant company has now been sold for parts. That’s kind of sad. Nokia is in the same boat right now. They were the two dominant players in the old-school cell market and now they are both pretty much gone.

However, it does give me more respect for companies like Microsoft and Apple who are still hanging around after 30+ years. That’s remarkable. Even IBM, who is still there, is not the same company today as it was 30 years ago.

But Microsoft and Apple are still here, doing their thing. That earns respect from me.


The Importance of HCLs

This is going to get a complete and total “DUH” from many of my system administrator friends out there, but I thought I would just share my experience as well … and why I should never just expect that a little extra work will be worth it in the end.

We run XenServer here on campus for our virtualization infrastructure and have been relatively pleased with how it has fit out needs. While updates should be trivial, a decision I made definitely complicated things far beyond what they needed to be.

For all other servers on campus we use Adaptec RAID controllers and have been very happy with them. We also used them in our storage boxes (running Ubuntu 12.04). They have been rock-solid and so I wanted to stick with what we know when it came to the XenServer host boxes as well.

The only problem is that Adaptec is not well-supported by XenServer. You can do it (and we did originally) by creating driver disks every time a new kernel is installed. That means that normal updates can cause headaches as you wait for the DDK to drop, then create the driver disk, and then hope that the driver installation works when you install the update. We did it a number of times and it worked fine, but it was not ideal.

It also caused an issue where we could not move from XenServer 6.1 to the new, open source, XenServer 6.2 at least in part because we were using Adaptec RAID controllers. That was enough. So I finally sat down with the HCLs for XenServer 6.0.2, XenServer 6.1, and XenServer 6.2 and worked to find a RAID card to help us with the upgrade to XenServer 6.2 and also push us into the future as well.

Needless to say, I found one, and I wish I would have done this sooner.

Working with a supported RAID controller has the following benefit, so far:

  • installation is faster because I do not need to install separate drivers for the RAID controllers
  • updates as faster because I do not need to have driver disks for each kernel update
  • upgrades are faster (and possible) because I can now do an upgrade to the XenServer pool without needing to do a fresh reinstall and migration of VMs
  • I have peace of mind because if something happens, I’m just a reinstall away from a working box again … regardless of whether I have the driver disks anymore or not

So I’ve learned my lesson. I am now going to pour over the HCL for a given software package before I go off making decisions. Fortunately we have use for the Adaptec cards I am replacing … and I am very happy to finally be rid of them soon in our XenServer host boxes.

Business Technology

A Paperless Farm: Scanners

One interesting thing about starting to get more involved with a growing farm is that you start to get a grim picture of just how much paperwork there is to do any small thing. I know that we are putting up a new hog barn (which I would say is a “big thing”), but even just hauling manure onto land that is owned is cause for paperwork.

So what is a person to do?

I’m not sure what the “end game” will look like for this, but I do know that I want to try go as paperless as I am able to. This will require a few things to happen:

  1. I need to get my hands on every piece of paper that flows to and from the farm.
  2. I need to try to digitize as many of the forms as I am able to, including invoices.
  3. I will need to find myself a capable scanner I can tuck into a backpack. I can’t keep a computer and scanner in the hog barn office, so I will need to be able to take one with me.
  4. Figure out the best way to catalog, share, and backup all of the various pieces of paper I will be digitizing.
  5. Invest in a good paper shredder.

The idea is to digitize as much as possible and then to transition more and more of the paper stuff that we need to do to digital as well. It will be a long process, but I think it will be worth it in the end.

However, the wildcard at the moment is the portable scanner. It would be nice to have something be small enough to fit into a backpack (along with a laptop), comes with a document feeder attached, scan both sides of a document, and be USB-powered as well. Actually, that is also the order I wold rank those features (1 being most important):

  1. Small enough to fit into a backpack
  2. Has a document feeder
  3. Scans both side of a document
  4. USB-powered

After throwing the question out to Twitter and doing a little research myself I’ve come up with the following possibilities (all links to Amazon):

Each has problems so I’m not sure what I am going to ultimately purchase.

  • The Doxie One is the smallest one along with being the cheapest. I can also scan directly to removable media, which could be a benefit where I just bring it a long, scan the documents, and then bring them back to my computer to work with them. Sadly, no dual-side scanning and only a single page at a time.
  • The Canon imageFORMULA P-215 is perhaps the front-running at this point. It is the middle-of-the-road option as far as size and weight but it has a document feeder, does dual-side scanning, and looks to be pretty speedy at the same time. While it is still small, it IS more than twice the weight of the Doxie One.
  • The Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i is the largest of the bunch and is comparable to the Canon P-215. The ScanSnap series is very well-regarded overall.

At the moment it is a toss-up between the Doxie and the Canon. I’ll report back when I have made a decision and used it a little bit, but it will need to be soon. That paperwork does not go away.


On iPhone

Apple had a little event this past Tuesday.

Yes, every word is a different link. Really, you don’t need to bother clicking them, you probably know everything I just linked to anyway.

If you want to read some pundit writing and analysis, then you can take a look at these three pieces:

Yes, they are all Apple fans, so keep that in mind. I really don’t have a ton to add to that, so I’ll let them stand on their own. I DO recommend, out of the three, reading the one by Ben Thompson. They are all good, but I thought his take on everything was especially keen.

I’ll just end with a few words about what I am going to do with Apple’s new product announcements and how I will steer people with the new entrants into their product lineup.

First, I’m sticking with my iPhone 5 because I’m on-contract right now and I really don’t have the need to pay for an unlocked phone. It is just not going to happen. The iPhone 5, even with the iOS 7 GM on it, is really fast and by the time it starts getting slow, I’ll be able to pick up whichever iPhone is new at that time. I’m not someone who needs to update every cycle.

Second, the new iPhone 5s looks awesome. The additions are subtle in one sense and far-reaching in another. The speed increases are always welcome, but the subtle changes to the camera along with the added M7 coprocessor are more subtle and more far-reaching.

However, the iPhone 5c is the phone I will probably be recommending to most people who ask “which iPhone should I get when my contract is up”. I am saying that without having actually used one, but from the sounds of it, the polycarbonate (read: plastic) case might just hold up a little better than the glass or glass + aluminum back of the iPhone 4/4S/5/5s era. The iPhone 5 innards they have stuck in there are also quite fast, and the inclusion of a 32 GB model at $199 means that you can get twice the storage on your iPhone for what a “low-end” iPhone 5 used to cost.

Like I said, I need to take a look and feel what the 5c is like, but it looks like an awesome device for someone who wants an iPhone … not necessarily the newest or “best” iPhone.


Single vs Multi Monitor

Multiple MonitorsYeah, that is just a little bit ridiculous. I don’t have anything near that (nor do I think I would ever want anything like that), but I have been testing out a dual-monitor setup for the past few weeks to see if I like having the extra space or if a single, larger monitor really works best for me.

So far the results are inconclusive, but I do have some thoughts on the whole matter.

If you don’t like messy, stream-of-consciousness posts you might as well navigate to some other place … it is going to get messy from this point forward.

  • So far my favorite setup tends to be a single large monitor (between 23″ and 24″) hooked up to a 13″ laptop. Mainly it is a 13″ MacBook Pro. Having an obviously-primary monitor allows me to put it front-and-center and then I keep minor stuff on the secondary monitor (laptop screen). Minimum amount of head-turning, but it seems to fit best for me at the moment.
  • The distance from the screens seems to be a major factor with how well I work with them. It is pretty easy for two 23″ to 24″ panels to get too close and feel like the panels are going to eat your soul. So that might be hyperbole, but for me I need to be able to get the two monitors far enough away that I don’t feel crowded by them. It also has the benefit of leaving me more workspace directly in front of me for other things.
  • Get a decent mouse and keyboard. This isn’t monitor-setup specific, but it still needs to be said. I like Apple’s wireless accessories, but if you are not using a Mac I almost always reach for Logitech first. I still have my original Logitech optical mouse from 1999 (or something) and it still works. That’s pretty darn good. The main things is to find something that is comfortable and has decent keys (for keyboards).
  • Full-screen apps in OS X are really nice (and Mavericks is going to make it even better). It help eliminate some of the claustrophobic feeling that a laptop screen can bring. Not a complete replacement, but try out full screen apps as often as you can to see which ones will work for you.
  • When using large monitors, just don’t full-screen anything. I can’t. There is so much wasted space that it bugs me and I need to be using windows where I can see the ends of them. Kind of the opposite of working on a laptop. I think that is part of the reason single-window, single-app workflows on mobile devices are so popular and work so well. The limitations of the screen size almost necessitate single-window, single-app workflows.
  • I have not been able to try out things with 27″ monitors, and if I did I’d need to spend for the higher resolutions. I’ve used a 27″ iMac in the past and ran into the problem I have with multi-monitor setups … mainly that you need to be able to get it far enough away from your eyes or else you feel like it is going to come and eat you. Whole. One gulp. Gone. I don’t have the same issue with a single 24″ + 13″ laptop as I do even with just a single 27″ monitor. There must be some physiological switch flipped in my brain. Bad brain.
  • Linux multi-monitor setups can be very finicky. I think that OS X Mavericks has about the easiest time getting things to a working condition and being useful. That’s part of the benefit of owning the entire platform.

It really just comes down to what works for you. You need to experiment and I am going to continue to do so. Here are the OSes I have been trying out so far along with the hardware(ish):

  • OS X 10.8 on Mac mini and 13″ MacBook Pro
  • OS X 10.9 Developer Preview on Mac mini and 13″ MacBook Pro
  • openSUSE 12.3 on desktop
  • SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 11 SP3 on desktop
  • Windows 7 on desktop and 12″ HP convertible tablet
  • Windows 8 on desktop

A lot of different possible setups and I am going to spend some more time in GNOME 3 with openSUSE and also probably load Ubuntu 13.04 on the desktop at some point.

So give them a go and see what works for you. Right now I’m still on the fence, but a 23″ monitor plus the 13″ MacBook Pro has seemed to be the most natural for me so far.