Why It’s Okay To Do Less & Talk More

Why It’s Okay To Do Less & Talk More by Trevor McKendrick

I have definitely come around to the idea that it is OK to talk through ideas more than originally thought. This is the kicker:

And with every iteration of talking about the idea you actually understand the idea better. A new idea is this delicate thing, a mere thought floating in a single person’s head unprotected from criticism.

Ideas need other people to be tested.

Review: Effective Monitoring & Alerting

Effective Monitoring and Alerting by Slawek Ligus was not quite the book I had originally thought I was starting. I was looking for something more prescriptive and I read something far higher up the stack. It wasn’t a bad book, but it was something different from what I went in expecting.

The book takes a high-level look at how to keep alerting from getting out of hand. That is the overall message they are trying to get across. Here is the overall message:

  • You need to make sure you monitor the proper things in the proper way. This brings about a deep understanding of the system as a whole and also forces you to really figure out what dependencies the distinct of parts of your system have in order to be certain you are monitoring things that matter.
  • Armed with that information, you move onto mapping out what should be shooting off alerts. This gets directly to the data about dependencies because we want to be certain that we alert only on the parts of the system that are failing, not on those parts dependent on the failed area.
  • The entire idea is to make sure that the alerts getting sent out are needed and useful. There is talk of standardizing the names of the systems and alerts so you can know exactly what is happening right from the start.
  • There is a huge focus on making sure the alerts are truly actionable and needed so that you don’t give your IT operations staff alert fatigue. The idea is to alert on things that can and need to be fixed and on nothing else.
  • This means monitoring everything but alerting on just a small subset. You can use the monitoring data for capacity planning and also trying to find issues before they start, but you will constantly be changing the alerting thresholds so that only the most important ones are sent through.

That’s the overall look. As far as this review goes, it comes down to this: I would definitely read it again, but be aware of what the book is going to be about. It is NOT prescriptive at all, but it is short enough to be useful even for the smallest of operations department.

OpenVPN on iOS

OpenVPN Connect was released for iOS recently (January 17, 2013) … and I completely missed it.

OpenVPN Logo

I’m not sure how many people will be excited by this, but I know I am one. While the app won’t win any awards for design, it does do one thing really well:

It allows you to connect your iOS device to connect via VPN if you are using OpenVPN in your organization!

You have been able to do this in the past if you were willing to jailbreak your device, but I am unwilling to do that. However, now I don’t have to and it works really well. I am hoping that this will  mean I won’t need to take a laptop with me on some shorter trips just to handle any emergencies that pop up while I am away.

I’ll just connect via our OpenVPN server and then administrate on the servers from the comfort of my iPhone or iPad.

Not bad.

The March of Progress

New Ulm from Hermann

There is a mini-controversy brewing in New Ulm again, which shouldn’t be surprising. It seems that any change, no matter how small, is met by some amount of disagreement.

Verizon wants to add a new cell tower to replace the network equipment that is going down with the aging water tower nearby. The issue is that the residents don’t want it going up within sight of their backyard.

The funny thing is that they would support adding such a tower if it were in someone else’s backyard, more than likely. Either that or they wouldn’t care and just reap the benefits of better coverage and service when the new tower came online.

Someone’s backyard is going to be within “eyeshot” of any new tower. Someone’s property is going to be adjacent to any new tower. In any somewhat-developed area you are going to need to add towers as far inward as you can. You can’t avoid that. I don’t think anyone would complain if we could just blanket whole areas with a single tower and provide the sort of service that people want and expect.

Just read up on all of the complaints about AT&T and the iPhone when the 3G iPhone was released. Read about the network congestion and problems people had. The way you fix those issues is to build out the network by adding towers … or by getting fewer people to use the existing tower. One way to have that happen is to force people to move (I guess).

When I talk about wanting to bring better network infrastructure to rural Minnesota, I’m not even thinking of trying to bring new people into the area. I’m not worried about bringing the next Google, or Facebook, or Goofacetubtwipple. No, I’m thinking about the people who are already here with small businesses and jobs already here. I’m thinking of the small business owner who wants to finally add credit card processing using something like Square on an iPad. A LTE connection removes a barrier of entry for something like that to work well. No longer do you need to have a separate internet connection for your business, but an iPad with LTE and a Square reader gets you started.

There is a lot of opportunity to bring about minor, yet significant changes to rural areas by expanding and improving the network infrastructures in the area. The next time you are complaining about your property values going down with the addition of a tower nearby, think of how much your values would drop if a percentage of the population left instead.

I don’t want to trample all over correlation and causation, but there is a lot in play here. Let’s let go of the past just a little bit so that we might march into the future together.

Network Update

Time to finally put this to bed for a while.

I finished switching things around on the home network this week and I thought it would be good to just state where our home is sitting now.

I decided to go ahead and go “all-in” with Apple hardware because, really, everything else here is Apple-only, so it made sense from an administration standpoint. I had been toying with the idea of going more “homebrew” with the networking setup, but looking at the price to get where I wanted, it just seemed better to go with the less painful route and stick with Apple-branded networking gear for this reconfiguration of the home network.

The first layer is the Motorola SB6120 SURFboard DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem that I own (I’m not going to pay the rental fee) and Comcast supplying the internet behind that. From there it feeds directly into the central 2 TB Apple Time Capsule that serves two main purposes: Time Machine backups for my wife’s MacBook and main router for the home.

Of course, this is where I keep all of my rules for routing and IP address assignments, but it now sits all of three feet away from the cable modem which means it is in the basement and sitting against the outer wall of the back of the basement. Not central … and it doesn’t supply consistent wireless to the whole home.

So I purchased a refurb Apple Airport Express (refurb) to throw into my home office (which is in the basement … on the front of the house) to serve three purposes: AirPlay to the speakers in my office, extend the wireless network so that the upstairs is covered, and provide a 10/100 Ethernet wire for my bench network so that I can have internet there. The little white box provides all three in spades.

That was terrible.

So everything is working wonderfully. We have removed almost all wired connections in our home (including to the Apple TV) and have much better wireless coverage and I plan on adding more AirPlay speakers and Airport Express extenders to the house to add speakers in all of the major areas. My wife’s 2009 MacBook is also being backed up to the Time Capsule, which is great, and since it is the newer version, I can get a decent wireless signal all the way to the alley.

So this is where we are going to sit for the time being. I’m hoping that I will not need to make any more changes to the network setup, and I’m “all-in” with a wireless-only setup so that I don’t need to break open any walls to add proper cabling (and then replace all of the plaster with drywall).

As I posted before, we also removed much of our AV setup and replaced it with out Apple TV, which is nice as well. Less cables, less mess, less fuss.

That was the whole idea.