Monday, December 17, 2012

What is Wrong With This (Outlook) Picture?

I installed Office 2013 the other day and fired-up Outlook   The first thing I immediately noticed were the colors (or lack there-of).  It looks terrible (IMO)!  There are very few colors in a whitewashed screen of goo.  How's that for a description!

Then I noticed there were no real 3D/Aero type of buttons or controls.  Most everything is a flat 2D rendering.

As evidence, I submit to you 3 Outlook screenshots I "borrowed" from various Internet sources (these are not from me).  The data/email is not important, it's that they show the point I'm trying to make:  Microsoft has taken the visual life out of Outlook and all of Office for that matter.

Here's Outlook 2007:

Outlook 2010:

And finally Outlook 2013:

Here they are side-by-side:

I believe they did this for enhanced tablet usage: fewer colors/widgets = faster rendering and lower battery consumption.  Unfortunately for Microsoft, most people will want the best of both worlds = speed, longer battery life and a better visual user experience.  Even on a tablet.  Do I need a "touch"-optimized Word for my tablet?  Sorry, but if I need to enter more than a sentence or two of text, I'm using a keyboard, even on a tablet.  The one exception is note-taking, in which case I'm using a stylus (the subject of a future article).

My prediction is that consumers and business will hold off on upgrading to 2013 and wait to see what Microsoft will come out with next.  Maybe it will be a nice gray-scale text-based UI - but hey, it will be fast!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Gear Review: Yakima Lynx

I had a request to post more information about this guitar that I mentioned in a previous post.  First, let me re-state what I know about Yakima.  They were a brand that Kramer used to sell lower-end guitars as they didn't want to diminish the Kramer brand.  They were supposedly manufactured in Korea in the 1980's.  Mine is a 1986/87 left-handed model.  My parents bought this for me when I was a teenager and it was my first "real" guitar.

Here are a couple of full shot pics:

It says "Lynx by Yakima" on the headstock with a paw print/graphic (with and w/o flash).  The dent at the bottom is just one of things that happens when you play guitar a lot.  I sure I banged it into something.  Here it is with and w/o flash:

Grover tuners - very nice!  I think this is a big part of the reason this thing stays in tune really well.  Like I mentioned in the previous post, my friends' Squiers would go out of tune if they looked at the tremolo bar the wrong way.  My Yakima stayed in tune fine unless I used the tremolo excessively but even then it held up pretty good.

Here's the neck pocket.  I know it's a strat because of the small finish crack they all seem to have (hard to see in the second pic but its there)!:

The neck is a one-piece maple with bullet truss-rod and skunk stripe.  The nut is 1 and 11/16th width and the fretboard has a nice 12" radius top-to-bottom:

You might have noticed I removed the nut.  This is a cheap plastic piece.  It has always pinched at least two of the strings so I figured now is the time to replace it with a nice black TUSQ XL.  This can cause tuning and intonation issues.  You know you have a nut problem when you're tuning the guitar and hear a "ping".  I'm not sure I broke it when trying to get it out, or if it was already cracked in two:

Nice clean nut slot awaiting for it's replacement to arrive:

Looks like there might have been some print on the heel at one time, but its unreadable now:

Here's the neck pocket.  You can see the body is hardwood laminate per the layers as seen in the sides of the pocket.  We'll see these lines again when we take off the pickguard.  Note that the neck pocket is nice and tight at the back (where it matters most), but not so much on the upper side:

Body - Back
Moving down to the back of the body, we see a 2-ply cavity cover.  Nice since most modern imports are single-ply.  Taking off the cover we see 4 springs and a nice full-sized steel trem block!  You won't see this on hardly any imports that I'm aware of:

Body - Front
Moving to the front of the body, we have the standard SSS pickup configuration with 5-way switch and VTT knobs.  Unfortunately, I dropped(?) the guitar on the bottom tone knob and it cracked the pickguard in that area.  The good news is that there was no impact to functionality.  The bridge-plate is somewhat rough, partly due to age.  Nice bent steel saddles sound great - very acoustic:

A peek under the pickguard reveals dime-sized pots, nice thick wiring, little shielding and those pickups, hmmm... they don't look like standard ceramic magnets found in most cheap imports today.  Someone can correct me if I'm wrong here but they look (and sound) like ALNICO magnets to me.  Finally, more signs of laminate wood.  Most strat enthusiasts prefer alder or ash bodies, but I don't think hardwood laminate is that bad (unlike plywood).  It is very thick, dense and heavy - this thing weighs in at 8.0lbs:


Future Upgrades
I don't want to change things too much as I enjoy the guitar as it is.  However, here is my short list:

  • Body cavity sheilding
  • Replace pickguard
  • Replace dime-sized pots with full-sized pots
  • Replace cheap plastic nut with TUSQ XL (work-in-progress)
  • Replace bridge-plate

If you see a Yakima Lynx for sale, buy it.  It will probably be cheap in price, but not it fit, finish or tone.  This is a very good guitar, on the same level or better than a Classic Vibe.  My one complaint is the weight - too heavy for an extended gigs but no big deal for a hobbyist hack like me.

If you have any more information about Yakima brand or the Lynx line please comment.  Thanks!

Friday, September 14, 2012

VMworld 2012 Best of Show Winners

Here are the VMworld 2012 Best of Show winners straight up from TechTarget.  I can't say I understand all of the choices and you have to take them for what they are - press picks, but most of these products are worth another look.  I share a couple of thoughts after some sections, all just my opinion, of course:

Business Continuity and Data Protection
Gold: FalconStor RecoverTrac 2.5, FalconStor Software
Silver: EMC Avamar 6.1, EMC Corp.
Bronze: Symantec NetBackup 5220, Symantec Corp.

Comment: How does yet another proprietary hardware box from EMC win silver?  Where's vSphere replication with SRM, especially now that it's free with vSphere?  I saw other products at VMworld that were more deserving.

Security and Compliance for Virtualization
Gold: Layer 7 API Portal, Layer 7 Technologies
Silver: None
Bronze: None

Comment:  No Silver or Bronze?  That seems odd.  These guys need to try harder.

Virtualization Management
Gold: HotLink Hybrid Express, HotLink Corp.
Silver: Control Console 7.1, CiRBA Inc.
Bronze: Puppet Enterprise 2.5, Puppet Labs

Comment:  HotLink has some cool products, but the other two?  Again, I saw better management products at VMworld.

Hardware for Virtualization
Gold: Tintri VMstore T540 with Tintri OS 1.4, Tintri Inc.
Silver: Nutanix Complete Cluster, Nutanix
Bronze: Zebi Storage Arrays, Tegile Systems Inc.

Comment:  All of these products are cool and worth a look.  Nutanix won this last year and has since exploded in growth and mind share - I heard several people talking positively about them at the conference.  They should have included SimpliVity and Scale Computing.

Desktop Virtualization
Gold: Atlantis ILIO Diskless VDI, Atlantis Computing Inc.
Silver: SysTrack MarketPlace, 6.1, Lakeside Software Inc.
Bronze: HP t410 All-in-One Zero Client, Hewlett-Packard Co.

Comment:  Again, all products worth looking at.  Only I would have included Teradici PCoIP, they now provide a solutions for Microsoft RDS and "shared GPU" putting them on par (or close to?) Citrix HDX 3D Pro.

Private Cloud Computing Technologies
Gold: Piston Enterprise OpenStack, Version 1, Piston Cloud Computing, Inc.
Silver: ManageIQ's Enterprise Virtualization Management Suite, Version 4
Bronze: Embotics V-Commander, Version 4.5, Embotics

Public and Hybrid Cloud Computing Technologies
Gold: DynamicOps Cloud Suite 4.5, DynamicOpsby VMware Inc.
Silver: Skytap Cloud, Skytap Inc.
Bronze: None

New Technology
Gold:  Systems Management Virtualization, 1.0, Intigua
Silver: EqualLogic Storage Blade Array, Dell Inc.
Bronze: XtremIO Flash Array, Version 1.1, XtremIO

Best of Show
Winner: HotLink Hybrid Express, HotLink

Friday, September 7, 2012

Post-VMworld 2012 Recap

Another good year for VMware and VMworld.  This year the themed seemed to be 'integration'.  VMware announced vCloud Suite 1.5 which includes what is just the beginning of integration between various VMware products.  I spoke with several VMware developers at the conference and this message was pretty consistent.  Here's the rundown on other aspects of the conference:

Location:  From Vegas, back to San Francisco!  Well, the food was much better than 2010, I'll give them that.  But still - blankets to eat lunch outside (again), really?  I walked back to the "hang space" which was perfect.  At one point I was with a group that included one of the event coordinators and it was really interesting to hear things like how early they have to book locations and all of the logistics that go into the event.  After that discussion, I have a better appreciation for what it takes to put on an event of this size and will therefore stop complaining about the location(!).

Key Notes:  Last year was all about VMware's vision for cloud and desktop computing.  This year was more about integration.  They announced products that were consistent with both the "vision" and "integration" themes:
  • vCloud Suite 1.5:  This is the big integration piece, combining vSphere infrastructure with their cloud and management products
  • vSphere 5.1 with vSphere Data Protection based on EMC Avamar technology
  • vSphere Replication - previously tied to SRM, now a separate product feature
  • VMware Horizon Suite:  Integrating several desktop and mobile products including AppBlast, Horizon App Manager, Octopus, ThinApp and Horizon Mobile.
They also announced the end for the vRAM "tax"!  This brought the second biggest applause of the morning (and it was big).  Even bigger was Paul Maritz's 'handing over the reigns' to VMware's new CEO, Pat Gelsinger.  These guys have known each other for some time - they both worked as engineers for Intel.  Small world.
I had the opportunity to meet Pat at the CTO party and he seemed to be a genuinely nice down-to-earth guy.  Let just hope he executes(!).  I highly recommend watching the General Session key notes here: 

VMworld App:  Not much love for the app this year.  Unfortunately last year's was better.  This year it was riddled with performance problems.  Even the live polling was a miss for me.  It obviously worked for some people.  By time the question loaded, the poll was closed so I didn't get to vote on much.  WiFi performance was spotty too.  Both the app and WiFi access improved by day 3, but by then the damage is done.  On a more positive note, the VMworld 2012 community hosted on Socialcast was fantastic.  VMware is shutting this down by the end of September.  I understand why, but have to wonder if this isn't a better tool than - I think it's open for debate.  I hope they provide a Socialcast site again next year, maybe making access available a littler earlier.

Alumni Elite Event: It's been 9 years in a row now (which means next year is the big 10, a decade of VMworld!).  The dinner was mostly anti-climatic.  We landed on Forbes Island, except it's not an island, but a floating boat/barge kind-of-thing. 

Here's the lighthouse - fantastic view from up there:

Whoa... looking down:

Here's the restaurant and lighthouse from a distance.  Notice the lack of sea lions.  Those planks were full two years ago.  Apparently they follow the schools of Mackerel of which there aren't many this year in the bay:

I have to say the food was excellent.  The gift was just "meh", but it was a gift so I won't complain (too much).  On the bus over, one guy said he thought we were getting a MacBook Pro.  I'm betting he was disappointed!  I had to laugh at that as I thought an iPad at best.  Last years iPod Shuffle and Vegas show was an awesome surprise.  In the event planner's defense, she was new to the whole thing and maybe not given much time to put it together.  I expect next year will be better.
When they started recognizing Alumni Elite, it started with 55 of us 3 years ago.  Last year, the number dropped to 45.  This year there were 32.  Technically, there's less than that as they are including guys that may have missed years of the US conference, but attended the European VMworld.

CTO Party:  This was a great party again this year.  As I mentioned before I got to meet Pat Gelsinger and I also met Steve Herrod.  Both guys were accommodating.  I had drank a couple on an empty stomach before meeting either of them so hopefully I didn't embarrass myself!  See drink in hand (sorry, crappy cell camera pics - this is a good justification for having a decent camera on your phone, right?  Will I ever get this chance again?):
ARRITDOR was here!

VMworld Party:  I stayed at the CTO party right up until the start of the VMworld party (and then some).  By time I got to the hall, the opening band, Morning Parade, on played 2-3 more songs.  Which is good because I'm not a fan.  It reminded me of the Killers, a.k.a whiny Euro blandness.  Not really rock 'n roll in my book.  But maybe the kids love it and I'm out of touch, IDK.

Now we're in-between bands and they have this video board/music mash-up thing which is cool (well, except maybe for the Sound of Music, not sure why that was included).  And once Marley's "One Love"  started the party was on!

So out comes Jon Bon Jovi and he gets right down to business.  And for the most part, he's all business the entire show.  Not much interaction with the crowd.  I think he took a que from the Killers.  Oh he did have some witty banter, something like - 'sing-along with me, if you do you can put that you sang with Bon Jovi on your resume, the girls know that's a good thing'.  And 'come on guys you can do better than that, I flew a long way to sing for you tonight', or something like that.  Really?  I'm thinking the guy has a big head.  Maybe I missing something here.

Lack of audience connection aside, he did look like he was having fun and I know everyone around me was having fun.  He did three Bon Jovi numbers - Bad Medicine, You Give Love a Bad Name and Wanted Dead or Alive - and a handful of covers.  His encore was Wilson Pickett's "634-5789 (Soulsville, U.S.A.)".  Hmmm,  would not have been my pick for an encore song but that's what he did.

Overall he was entertaining and his band was pretty good, the stand-out being the violinist.  She did some phenomenal playing during a short jam at the end of the Who's 'Baba O'Riley'.  If you can find it on YouTube I suggest watching.  Again, sorry for the crappy cell phone pics:

Solutions Exhibit: Wow!  This best and biggest one yet!  This was really one of the big highlights for me.  I believe it in everyone's interest to spend a lot of time here talking to vendors and discovering new products and solutions.  This year was no different in this regards.  I brought back ideas that included several different products I had not even heard of before this event.  Here are some pics of the exhibit floor:


The swag was really flowing too.  Many t-shirts, too many... made it to Splunk's booth and got a fantastic T before they ran out this year.  Other vendors should take note - make a T that people actually want to wear, not with just a giant name/logo on it.  People will actually wear it more often than just doing lawn work(!).  The swag of the year award has to go to... drum roll...   sources unnamed for the rubber chicken!  Here it is on my button wall with Darth Tatar protection (yes, weird, I know):

Hmmm.... so what is the rubber chicken all about?  Well, I guess you'll just have to "find" out next year when you take a hands-on lab.

The Whiptail booth had a special guest.  I got to meet this guy and get his autograph.  The line was long but the wasn't wasn't too bad:

You can find more photos of me and other attendees here: WhipTail's Facebook Photos Page.  SimpliVity had this junk, er, I mean super car in their booth.  Do you think I'll win an Audi R8?

I've never really "won" anything at VMworld over the last nine years.  I'm not going to start holding my breath now.

Attendance:  Record attendance again this year, roughly 21,000 attendees.  And guess what, another hurricane!  This time it was hurricane Isaac which caused some serious flooding, but was much less powerful than Katrina.  Actually, this was the year of personal tragedy - my wife's van blew a transmission, our home theater receiver went bad and our Acer tablet stopped working.  What's worse, one of my son's slept-walked and fell down the stairs.  My wife rushed him to the ER and luckily he checked out okay, just a big knot on top of his head (whew!).  Both the van and receiver have been fixed now.  Still waiting on the Acer tablet.  So... yeah, getting a Samsung next time!

Signage:  For whatever reason, CRN continues to capture the "wacky" side of VMworld.  Check out their expose here: 20 Weird and Wacky Scenes from VMworld 2012.  The sumo wrestler was hilarious - they had a 20 foot tall version outside on the street corner.  Unfortunately, I was unable to snap a pic of Oracle's taxi signage, but it was there again this year except it read "4x more scalable" with the added "2x faster than VMware".  LOL (again)!

Takeaways: New for this year, I'm including this section of high-level takeaways.  These are things I learned that were interesting or some-how relevant to my current workplace:

  • Pretty much all that was said in the General Sessions (see above)
  • Vidyo had an impressive video conferencing solution
  • vExpert Meeting: they're watching us!
  • Symantec Lunch 'n Learn for vExperts:
    • They have figured out a way to "dedupe" file scanning in their endpoint protection product
    • The feature is called client cache and it looks to actually reduce disk I/O generated by file scans
    • AV vendors take note!
    • Only 5 of the 20 vExperts showed-up - I felt bad for them and have to say shame on those for not showing  up!  If you want vendors to keep extending privileges to us like this, you need to keep your commitments.
  • HP Blogger/vExpert Briefing:
    • Only backup/recovery solution that truly integrates with vCenter Director
    • New switch that offers higher-end virtual VLAN and routing features for significantly less cost.  No separate feature licenses unlike Cisco.
    • They cut the cost of the P4000/Lefthand VSA by what looks to be half.  They are even selling in 100-packs for hosting/managed providers so they can deploy and utilized local disk space on their servers.  It's now called HP StoreVirtual VSA.
  • Session - vMotion Futures:
    • Unified vMotion - no longer requires shared storage
    • Performance - nearly as fast as traditional Storage vMotion
    • Guest Performance Penalty (CPU, memory, storage) = same as Storage vMotion
    • Futures = Unified vMotion across vCenter instances
  • Session - Storage Performance Troubleshooting
    • AV scans generate high I/O crushing storage performance (nothing new there)
    • Mis-aligned guest OS disk partitions can also have a large negative impact on storage performance.  If you're a Netapp customer you're in luck, they have tools and technology to handle this on their arrays.
  • Virtualization monitoring (current project):
    • "Incumbent" = vKernel vOPS Server Standard
    • Others on the list: VMware vCenter Operations, VMTurbo
    • Add Xangati (per discussion in Solutions Exhibit booth)
  • End-to-end monitoring:
    • SecurActive's Performance Vision = these guys have an intriguing end-to-end monitoring solution.  More investigation required, add to the short list.
    • Currently looked at eG Innovations, Citrix EdgeSight and Microsoft Operations Manager
    • Not many tools do true end-to-end monitoring (or do it well)
  • Server-side cache:  based on my discussions with HP and Fusion-io in the Solutions Exhibit, this technology is in its very early stage.  Fusion-io has a product called ioTurbine but more investigation is needed to determine if it meets our technical and budgetary requirements.
  • Vendors continue to push "cloud" and cloud-related products/technologies.  In all of my networking, I didn't talk to anyone who was moving full-bore to the cloud and totally embracing it.  I thought I would at least run across someone that was doing hybrid cloud but no luck.  Obviously there are companies doing this but I found this telling.

So yes, another great conference this year.  As previously mentioned, next year will be number 10 for VMworld and I think we're all expecting big things.  VMworld returns to San Francisco again next year at the Moscone Center, August 26-29.  See you there!