Read my lips: No Recession

If you’ve had your TV or radio on anytime in the last year or so or even if you just get your daily dose of news from the tubes of the internet, you’ve probably heard the word “recession” mentioned a few times, right? Well, bad news for the liberal media and left-wing nut job politicians, but we are not in a recession according the the numbers released yesterday. Check out the story on Breitbart if you don’t believe me:

The country’s economic growth during January through March was the same as in the final three months of last year, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. The statistic did not meet what economists consider the classic definition of a recession, which is a retraction of the economy. This means that although the economy is stuck in a rut, it is still managing to grow, even if modestly.

I’ve had this argument with more than one person in the last month or two, the most fun of which was with my employer’s VP of Sales who didn’t seem to believe me at all. You can bet I’ll email him this article later today.

Discovering My Strengths

Someone recently recommended that I pick up the book “Now Discover Your Strengths” by Marcus Buckingham, so I did. Actually, what I’m reading is the newer, updated “StrengthsFinder 2.0″ by Tom Rath. I quickly read through the first 30 or so pages so I could get to the actual online-assessment. I don’t know why this idea seems so amazing and original to me, because it just makes so much sense.

At its fundamentally flawed core, the aim of almost any learning program is to help us become who we are not. If you don’t have talent with numbers, you’re still forced to spend time in that area to attain a degree. If you’re not very empathic, you get sent to a course designed to infuse empathy into your personality. From the cradle to the cubicle, we devote more time to our shortcomings than to our strengths.

I just completed the online-assessment a few minutes ago and have read through the profile it generated and I’d say it’s pretty accurate. For those who don’t care about all the details, here are my top-five themes:

  1. Belief
  2. Strategic
  3. Connectedness
  4. Self-Assurance
  5. Ideation

A quick skim of what each of those means is very interesting and I look forward to completing the book and learning more about how to “work in my strengths” both at the office and in other areas of my life.

Asterisk Presentation and Calculator

Yesterday afternoon, I had the privilege of speaking to a group of friends and colleagues about Asterisk. As promised, Here are my slides

Also, I created a “quick and dirty” spreadsheet to help you estimate what it might cost to implement Asterisk in your organization. By no means would I urge you to use this if you’re preparing a budget request, but it should be fairly safe if you assume a +/- 5% margin. For those who saw it yesterday at First Baptist Atlanta, I took the time to refine it a little more. I inserted a few IF statements to automatically add the echo-cancellation costs when you enter a number larger than zero for the number of T1 ports or analog ports.

Download Asterisk-Calculator

Upcoming Presentation

I’ll be giving a presentation about Asterisk tomorrow afternoon (Friday, April 24) at 2:00 PM to a group of Atlanta area IT Professionals. I was approached by Tony Dye and Jeffrey Thompson shortly after my visit to Perimeter Church several weeks back about coming back to give the talk and I’m definitely looking forward to it. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll post my slides as well as a neat little configurator thing I’m working on to help you get a rough idea of what it would cost to implement Asterisk.

More than likely, we’ll get a good audio recording to be posted online, but in addition to that, I hope to be able to stream the video live. So keep a check on my uStream channel tomorrow around 2:00 EST if you’re interested.

Microsoft Licensing and Server Virtualization

Are you planning to deploy VMWare Server, VMWare ESX, Mictosoft Virtual Server, HyperV or some other virtualization technology and have no idea where to start trying to figure out what licenses you need? Let me see if I can clear this up for you a little…

The topic of Microsoft licensing in a virtual server/machine environment is a topic of frequent discussion in the CITRT IRC channel, so I feel like I’ve become a bit of an expert by observance. The question came up again today on itDiscuss, so I decided to write it all down in one place and then chase down some links so we could have this documented once and for all.

Here are the basics:

  1. Windows Server Standard – One instance. Period. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.
  2. Windows Server Enterprise – One physical install + four additional virtuals
  3. Windows Server Datacenter – One physical install + unlimited virtuals**

To back up number two above, here’s a quote from an FAQ found on Microsoft.com:

Licensing does not depend on which virtualization technology is used. With a license for Windows Server 2003 R2, Enterprise Edition, you can run one instance of the software in a physical operating system environment and up to four instances in virtual operating system environments. With VMWare GSX Server, this means you can run one physical instance plus four virtual instances. With VMWare ESX Server, it means you can run four virtual instances because there is no need for a physical instance.

As you may have noticed from that quote, Microsoft is surprisingly platform agnostic in regards to which virtualization technology you choose (MS Virtual Server, VMWare, Xen, etc). For more information, checkout the whitepaper pubished last year titled Licensing Microsoft Server Products with Virtual Machine Technologies. Their indifference may have something to do with the many accusations and lawsuits they continue to face in regards to their monopolistic power. Regardless of the reasoning, it’s good news for everyone.

One rather important thing to keep in mind when thinking about licensing Microsoft Server products is that they are licensed per CPU socket, not CPU core. Can you say “THANK GOODNESS!”? This applies equally to VMWare ESX – you need enough HOST licenses of Windows Server to cover each physical processor socket in your ESX cluster.

It’s also important to keep in mind the fundamental differences in the various versions of Windows Server. For example, Server Standard (32-bit) is limited to accessing 4GB of RAM. This would likely be a non-issue for a guest install, but you certainly wouldn’t want to limit your Host box to that little memory. It’s not totally scary, just do your homework and you’ll be fine.

Microsoft has provided us with this handy little Licensing Calculator which should help you make sense of which version will be right for you and your implementation.

One final note (as denoted with ** above): Make sure you’re aware that with Datacenter Edition, you also need per-user or per-device CALs.

If anyone sees an inaccuracy in the information I’ve provided, please do leave a comment and I’ll update this post accordingly. Thanks to all the guys in IRC for helping compile and track down info, specifically, Tony Dye, Chris Green, and David Szpunar.

Big Project Ahead

The blogging has been pretty sparse here lately, and I’m quite aware of that fact. Most of the action for me has started happening over on Twitter because its so quick and easy.

I kicked off a major project or three at work this week and they’re all dependant on one central project: a massive VPN rollout. For those who don’t know, I work for smallish company with a rather large footprint. Counting our corporate office where I work, we have 25 locations. Each branch office relies on several services housed at corporate and connect to these sources over the wide-open internet. A VPN has always been on my radar, but never really been considered fiscally until about two week ago when we finally decided to bite the bullet and do it.

My initial plan was to use OpenVPN running on top of Linksys WRT54GL’s at the branches and grab a new Dell R200 to be the hub of the VPN. After about three days of flashing different firmwares on my Linksys at home (OpenWRT, dd-wrt, Sveasoft) and trying to make it work, I threw in the towel and went back to the drawing board. I’ve mentioned before that we have a Watchguard Firebox Core X750e at corporate and I’ve been mostly happy with it. A quick look showed the Firebox Edge X10e to be the cheapest endpoint available to this with Watchguard hardware. However, at around $300 each, this would really quickly get very expensive. Not only that, but I couldn’t come up with anyone I knew who had a Watchguard deployment of this size to ask their advice and opinions.

As I was seeking advice from my pals in the Church IT RoundTable IRC channel, by some act of providence, Mark Moreno decided to grace us with his presence in the channel. I definitely need to insert a disclaimer and an apology at this point. Mark is a guy who is really knowledgeable and passionate about the product he sells and he makes no excuses for being a salesmen either. As a result, I’ve always given Moreno a really hard time about SonicWALL gear, mostly just for kicks. He knows to expect this kind of trash-talk whenever I’m around and always takes the ribbing in good fun. As Mark came in, I made the joke to everyone that I could probably make him drool with the details of the VPN project I was working on. Sure enough, he took the bait and started putting together some quotes. His initial number was somewhere in the range of $15,000 and I just laughed. We talked back and forth over the course of a few days and settled on a new¬† SonicWALL NSA 3500 to replace the Firebox at corporate and 22 SonicWALL TZ 150 endpoints to go to the branch offices and stripped them down to firmware only – no UTM or support options. The best part of all this is that Mark is preconfiguring all the VPN tunnels before shipping the hardware to me. I really give major props to Mark and SonicWALL for working hard to match an absolutely INSANE price that I found on NewEgg for the TZ 150. The final pricetag with hardware and his consulting time was just a little more than half of his original quote – quite a substantial savings!

Once the VPN is in place, I finally be able to rollout the IP phones I’ve been sitting on for a year to the branch offices, implement a web-based time clock for our staff employees, and join the remote PC’s to our Active Directory domain, which opens a TON of doors for management of these remote computers (software deployment and security patches via WSUS to name a couple).

So, if you don’t hear from me in the next few weeks, just check my Twitter feed (also conveniently located in the sidebar of this blog) or drop me an email or leave a comment. I’ve got a lot of work to do! Thanks again to Mark Moreno for making this a reality from a budget standpoint. I’ll update here as we progress with the implentation and you can bet I’ll let you know if I hit any snafus specifically related to SonicWALL.

Moscow 2008 Photos Online

It took many hours to upload, even with the full 3Mbps upstream link at the office, but I managed to get my photos from Moscow uploaded to Flickr late Monday afternoon. There are 581 photos in the set, so even if you put the slideshow mode on “Fast” you’ll be there a while.

I did some experimenting with my Canon PowerShot S410 this time. Almost all of the shots were done in Manual-mode, a big departure from always shooting in Auto. The main reason I did this was so I could use the “Vivid” color setting after reading about it on a site that David Szpunar linked to in the CITRT IRC channel. Even though I was using Manual, most other settings remained on Auto except for a few of the night-time shots which required some tweaking and the up-close shots which I shot in Macro mode.

Enjoy the pics!

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