My Sysadmin Tool of Choice

The title might be a little facetious, but stay with me.

We recently underwent a semi-invasive project here on campus. It involved replacing the backbone switch for the entire campus and replacing it with a larger chassis which allowed us to consolidate some switches into the new chassis along with adding some 10G switching capacity (which we are now using for our VM storage systems).

What tool was the most important during that project? My iPad.

When a student was stating that their router was not connecting properly with the network, I needed the ability to easily check whether my changes were having an effect. Easiest way to do that? Use my iPad and OpenVPN.

We have a metric ton of projects sitting in the pipeline right now which range from pulling out the last of our Novell NetWare servers and replacing them with OES 11.2 to continuing the migration and consolidation of current services onto smaller VMs and SLES 11. That all comes with a lot of documentation I need to wade through and also using Trello to try to keep track of the moving parts.

What is with me for that? The iPad!

When my family and I recently took a vacation to visit my wife’s family in Milwaukee I wanted to bring along the minimal amount of technology so that we could also pack in a half-hog for my brother-in-law. I still needed to have access to the office and the ability to troubleshoot machines while I was on the road.

What made the cut? My iPad, complete with cellular internet connection, OpenVPN, and Prompt for working with my servers.

I did not originally imagine that this is how I would end up using the iPad.

The idea really stemmed around using the iPad to carry around documentation, and that was pretty much about it. Couple that with some email and web browsing capabilities I was going to be happy using it as my daily-carry machine. However, as I dug into the new iPad Air it became apparent that it could be used for so much  more (and in some cases, be better).

So as it stands right now, the iPad is my sysadmin tool of choice in many situations. Of course, there are many tools that I use in a given day, but I have been pleasantly surprised with how well my iPad Air has transitioned into more than just a daily-carry documentation tool.


Apple Soft-Launches CarPlay


It isn’t really a launch since the car manufacturers still need to launch it in the models themselves, but Apple has today soft-launched their CarPlay software stack for integration into your automobile. It should be included wight he iOS 7.1 update coming out later this month and then you’ll just need to purchase a multiple-thousand dollar accessory for your favorite software platform in order to use it.

Snark aside, the inclusion of Toyota, Ford, and Subaru as upcoming supporters of the platform makes me quite happy. While we won’t be looking for a new vehicle for years, it will be something I will try to watch.


Thoughts on iPad Air

I’ve had my iPad Air for almost a week and I do have some thoughts on the overall experience so far:

  • Maybe the greatest “win” so far is the A7. Everything is so much smoother and you definitely get a feeling that then A7 is a big step up from the silicon Apple as putting out before. So nice.
  • I was balking at picking up a full size iPad again! but I am happy that I did. So far I’ve already used the iPad Air in some situations I would have never dreamed of using my iPad mini (mainly focused around typing on the onscreen keyboard).
  • If you are looking for a case to use with the iPad Air, I recommend one with a four-fold cover. It allows you to putt he cover behind and still use it with one hand and also just fir with the larger iPad better. I’ve had a three-fold and a four-fold case to try, and I will be keeping the four-fold case for certain. This also means I will not pick up one of the Apple cases.
  • I finally attached this iPad to our AT&T Mobile Share plan so now it will be interesting to see if it changes where I work since I will have LTE connectivity wherever I go even without tethering. Mobile Share makes it almost a no-brainer to have a cellular iPad.
  • My initial thoughts in iOS still hold true. I seriously consider those people touting an “iPad Pro” or “iOS Pro” to be maybe the greatest threat to making iOS better. Let iOS be iOS and OS X be OS X. Keep sharing but keep them separate.

I’m excited because I’ve eliminated another hinge from my computing experience … it also makes that Mac Pro just a little bit more justifiable.

Alright, I’m half-kidding in that last part.

Business Life Technology

Technology in the Barn

Now that we have almost 4000 little pigs in our hog barns, our focus turns to how to better manage the double-sized operation without needing to add manpower. My dad and brother are excellent herdsmen, and I have no doubt that the added pigs are in good hands … but my end revolves around making sure that our numbers stay good and that we are building a sustainable business not just for the short-and-medium term but for the future a well.


Of course I jump to thinking about using technology in some capacity, so I’ve been working in my mind about how that will work.

The most obvious change we have made is to move our bookkeeping online to Quickbooks Online and using the iOS apps to make us more honest and to easily add receipts for those things we purchase. The update to the website has made the service much easier to use and we have been pleased with it so far.

However, when it comes to working out at the barns themselves that is still going to be a WIP. Since the office is not complete (it is currently a covered mud hole until the ground thaws enough to pour the concrete floor), that will need to happen in the future. However, here are some thoughts on what I am going to be attempting.

  • I am going to keep as little technology permanently out in the office. I’ll have a place to keep papers that need to be scanned, but the technology for the office will be completely mobile so that it can be kept in better conditions.
  • Every piece of paper we need to keep around will be scanned, organized, and stored where it can be backed up continuously. The documents we have are too important to have in only one physical location.
  • I am looking at moving some of our paper stuff to an iOS application. Some benefits would be digital historical records for the pigs along with additional features like a camera that can be used to document needs within the barns and easy access to information like dosage recommendations for medications and other information. That is a very long-term project but after going through PQA Plus certification there is so much to keep track of that you really need to have a companion with you and I think an app could do just that.
  • Our generator maintenance schedule and information will also need to be digital in some way. Possibly a separate application or maybe just a spreadsheet to start until I get a better handle on what the information needs to look like.

Those are just a few ideas I am tossing around at the moment. More will come, many will die off and be replaced with others but the idea is to try and use technology to make things easier and not more difficult. The benefits should always benefit the farmer and the animals and I think there are huge areas completely ignored by the technology industry right now to do just that.



I’m making a rather major change to how I view and use mobile computing. Up to this point mobile devices have been a really nice companion to have around and I prefer to use things like the iPad and iPhone for some tasks, but I’ve never really been “all-in” when it comes to using them for more than just “nice to have” tasks.

UnknownThat’s going to change.

Today I had a box on my desk and inside of that awesome box was two things:

  • cheap Photive iPad Air Smart Case
  • 32 GB iPad AIr

In my mind I’ve had the idea about going with desktop + iPad as my main computing platform for today and the future. I’ll hopefully write about how it goes as times continues unabated. Here is what I am thinking at this moment.

  • I went with the iPad Air over the iPad mini with Retina display for one simple reason … typing. I am hoping to do a lot of typing on the iPad and I surmised that the full-size iPad would make big difference and so far I think that was a smart move. Typing is much more comfortable on the Air than it ever was on the iPad mini.
  • The cheap Photive case is going to get replaced with something better. I have a CaseCrown Omni Case coming and should work better. I’m hoping the construction is better along with being a 4-fold cover instead of a 3-fold. I think the 3-fold works well at the iPad mini size, but the added size of the iPad Air really needs that extra fold.
  • I’m now in the market for a good, high quality bag to use as my daily carry bag. Right now I have a cheap-ish backpack that I used for a 13″ MacBook Pro that worked really well, but it is now too large for something the size of an iPad Air. I’d love a good canvas or leather bag that will stick with me for years. I’ve had a ton of cheap nylon bags in the past and they wear out, I want something to “wear in” this time.
  • The A7 is freaking amazing. It is so fast compared to the A5 I was used to on the iPad mini. That, alone, is almost worth an upgrade.

I will have more to say, obviously, along with some more ideas on how to incorporate the iPad and iPhone into our growing farm operation in the future. This will at least give me something to start with.