Multimon: Software My Chiropractor Made Me Buy

Well, he didn’t exactly do that. The big frown and look of disapproval at the photo I had been instructed to take of my work area told me almost all I needed to know about what he was about to say.

I work from home quite often and although I’ve never had a problem with how my desk is arranged etc, it came up when I needed to visit a chiropractor for the first time in my life. He wasn’t too impressed with where my laptop was on my desk and my second screen that I used for my Fusion VM, Twitter and my less used apps. After he explained all of the reasons why, he then proceeded to suggest what I needed to do to remedy the problems that he perceived. I’ve taken his advice and interpreted it in the way that suits my methods of working best.

Instead of raising the height of my laptop by about 12 inches, I’ve demoted it to “second screen” status and  rarely run anything on it whilst it’s on my desk. My second screen has been promoted to primary display and its height and position are where my chiropractor would want them. I’ve even replaced it with something bigger and better so that I have oodles of desktop space.

Great. The problem now is that OSX (Mountain Lion) is quite frankly pants at handling multiple displays and I don’t want to spend ages rearranging desktops and application windows every time I unhook my laptop to go to the office or a client site. Supposedly the next version of OSX (called Mavericks presumably because they ran out of big cat names) fixes a lot of these problems but I think I’ll go mad waiting for it.

In the meantime, Multimon does exactly what I want it to do. It remembers settings for different monitors, duplicates application menus on different displays, can resize and reposition app windows via shortcut keys and restores my app window positions when I reconnect and disconnect the external display.

I suspect he won’t let me deduct the cost of the software from the fee for the next appointment I have though…


Google Reader RIP, Should I Care?

Yesterday, Google announced that as of July 1st 2013 they are retiring the Google Reader service. It was one of several stories that caused some bloating of my twitter timeline as scores of people that I follow picked up on it.

My initial reaction was not a good one. I started using Google Reader only a few years ago but it has become a trusted and valuable way for me to consume information and news from the industry that I work in. Its absence will have a considerable impact on my daily activities.

Having slept on it though, I’m certainly a lot more relaxed about it. Yes, it’s going to have an impact but have Google actually just provided me with a catalyst to change the way that I consume information? I mean, I could easily just swap to using another service. Feedly, for example, even have processes in place to allow you to migrate from Google Reader (something that may have contributed to their site being incredibly slow last night after the Google announcement broke). But does Googles decision point towards a trend of moving away from RSS? What then is the alternative way of reading updates from the various sites and feeds that I have been following?

I don’t have a clear answer to any of these questions just yet but I’m going to be thinking about alternatives now. In the short term, moving my collection of feeds to another service seems to be the logical thing to do. After all, that’s one of the benefits of cloud services – portability. It will only be the work of a few minutes and I can carry on reading my RSS feeds on any of my devices beyond the end of June.


New vOPS Server Explorer 6.3

dell-vkernelA new version of vOPS Server Explorer is being launched today by vKernel (who were acquired by Quest and subsequently Dell).

The company have a history of releasing free tools to assist vSphere administrators and the new version of vOPS Server Explorer builds on this reputation by bringing in an additional subset of functionality from their commercial product (vOPS Server Standard).

Of course, as a free tool, one of its aims is to prove its value and help generate sales of the full, commercial product. I don’t think that should stop anyone trying it out though – you can’t knock a free tool. I used one of vKernel’s early tools to highlight a growing issue for a customer.

So, what’s new in this version?

Environment Explorer

This is actually a pre-existing component in vOPS Server Explorer but some additional functionality has been added in this release:

  • Potential zombie VMs are highlighted.
  • The savings possible from resizing VMs are now shown (although the costs are pre-configured in this free version).
  • The dashboard has a new tile that highlights the major changes to the infrastructure made over the last week.


Storage Explorer

This component exists in the commercial vOPS Server Standard already but now some of the functionality is being brought into vOPS Server Explorer. It exists to show consolidated statistics and issues related to storage.

One of the things that I like about this component is that so many different pieces of data are visible and accessible in one place. For example, for each datastore you can easily see both the VMFS version and the path selection policy. Also, hover the mouse over a datastore and you can see useful tootips (for example you might see that 16% of a datastore’s throughput comes from a single VM).

You can also see VM capacity information (as long as your VMs have VMtools installed) and any warnings about actual or potential performance issues. Naturally the warning thresholds are not configurable in vOPS Server Explorer but only in the full vOPS Server Standard product. The free version is also limited to the top 10 datastores.


Change Explorer

This component is intended to show a history / overview of changes made within a virtual infrastructure. Again, it’s built on functionality available in the full product but provides some useful insights into changes that have occurred.

It contains filtering functionality that allows you to search for actions taken by specific users or for actions taken on particular VI objects. Each change comes with an associated impact risk (that is configurable in the commercial version) to allow you to view the highest impact changes only for instance.



vOPS Server Explorer 6.3 is available for download at: http://www.vkernel.com/download/server-explorer


VKernel Environment Explorer released today

VKernel have today released a new, free tool to complement their existing suite of effective and useful utilities. For people like me who run a home lab these things are often a godsend and in the field, they’re also great for starting to dig into issues that crop up.

Naturally free tools are often reduced functionality versions of full products, designed specifically to give you just enough information to want to buy a license. In this respect, vOPS Server Explorer 5.1 (of which Environment Explorer is a component) is one of those. The nice thing that VKernel does though is to allow you to convert to a fully functional, 30 day trial of vOPS Server Standard at the click of a button. Under the hood everything is the same, regardless of the license being used, the difference between free and licensed (or trial) versions is the amount and detail of the data being displayed.

VKernel’s value-add with this new tool is in the presentation of data. Much of it is readily available through a number of default interfaces and views within vCenter etc but it isn’t in one place and easy to get to all of the time. Additionally the information is analyzed to present you with useful capacity statistics, resource under / over provisioning and to highlight possible mis-configurations that might affect performance.

As a bonus, if you’re not a 100% VMware shop, the tool can present information about multiple hypervisors on one screen.

vOPS Server Explorer 5.1 is available for download now: http://www.vkernel.com/download/server-explorer


What’s New in PHD Virtual Backup 5.3

I’ve just been catching up on some blog feeds and emails that I haven’t had a chance to read in recent weeks. Apparently PHD Virtual dropped version 5.3 of their backup and replication product on the world.

It’s now more efficient and each Virtual Backup Appliance (VBA) can handle 8 concurrent backup / restore operations.

The replication features of the product look handy too with the ability to use a portable drive to “seed” replicated servers thus minimising the amount of WAN traffic transmitted.

There’s a “What’s New” 7 minute video on YouTube that explains all of these bits that I just watched. Now I just need to find some time to run it up in the lab!



Adobe Reader Install

I just found myself in a situation where I wanted to be able to read PDFs on a Windows Server VM. It’ll be too complicated to explain why, just trust me. Over time Adobe have changed how their free Reader software is downloaded and installed. No longer is it just a case of downloading an EXE or MSI file and running it on what ever host you want. Now they have a download manager.

If you go to Adobe’s site using your browser of choice and try to download the Reader, you are nowadays prompted to install Adobe’s browser plugin. This plugin downloads and installs your software for you. Marvellous! So easy.

But what if you want to install Adobe Reader on a non internet facing server? How do you download a normal installation file that you can use?

Adobe don’t make it easy to find out but it is possible. They have a public FTP server that you can browse very easily. Problem solved.