Global Systems and Network Engineer by day, Small Systems and Network Engineer at night.

Reminiscing on the late 90’s I started thinking about how I love what I do and do what I love.  I remember the first time I got to walk through a Microsoft Datacenter and see thousands of servers connected providing services to users all over the world.  It was awesome to think that a machine sitting in Redmond, can be rendering a service to someone sitting in India, Fiji, or Germany.  How electrical current on a wire or pulses of light on a Fiber Optic cable, moves information from one point to the other point instantly.

I was a work-o-holic back in the late 90’s when my then manager Changhui, hired me to work in this new secret team at Microsoft.  It was a small group, but we grew very fast.  The team was still trying to figure itself out, and we had many roles to fill, giving me the opportunity to put on several hats.   Not only was I a Software Engineer, but I also participated in operations, and became the Team’s Lab Manager.  We minimized how many teams at Microsoft we interfaced with since the product we were developing, directly competed with other vendors who were on campus.  We didn’t want the news of what we were doing, getting back to the vendor/competitor.

The Lab Manager role suited me well being a fresh transfer from the Microsoft Windows Division and the team needed someone that could build Windows Server’s, setup test domains, create trust relationships with Microsoft internal domains, etc.

Building a network inside Microsoft was fun, and I had an annual budget of 65 million to spend.  These were the days when Compaq Computer Corporation still existed and had not yet merged with Hewlett-Packard.   We built a Lab it was awesome and provided all the infrastructure we needed from inception/vision to architect, development, testing, and pre-production.   I was quite proud of myself and the accomplishments I made here.  To put this into perspective, this is the Windows 2000 days.  I did have a couple of NT4 machines I built in our test environment, and that was fun.

So what did I do, I went home, spec’ed out four servers and created a Windows 2000 Domain in my closet.  I wired the entire house, connected the several workstations throughout my house to the domain, and even connected it to this new service called @home.  This was the Cable Internet service in the beginning of time.  RCA provided the cable modems. And I found a picture I’m sharing which shows you one of the first models of modems.

In the world of Windows 2000 and Active Directory, your domain was what we call fqdn or fully qualified domain name.  I was thinking and thinking of what to use. In the end, I came up with omeganet.org which was available, cheaper than .com and in those days domain names cost north of $80.00 per year.  This was super exciting.

I built my Domain Controller, Exchange Server, Files Server, and backup Domain Controller, integrated the printers in our house within the domain sharing them out to all computers, etc.  I could walk upstairs into the kitchen, login to the computer in the kitchen, read my email, log off, walk downstairs to my office bedroom, and log in, and have access to all the same resources.   This was just brilliant.

My wife, on the other hand, tolerated it.  While she thought it was cool,  having just a couple computers in the house in her mind was sufficient instead of several.  In these days, most people had one computer maybe two.   I know we had around ten.   I wish Hyper-V or VMWARE were around back then.   In any case, I would go to work and play in a global network, and then come home and play on my little network.  Both needed management and maintaining.

It’s not every day someone can say they go to fun and not to work.  I got to go to fun every day, and it was fantastic.

Respectfully,
William J. Nelson

Starbucks – The new office for today’s workforce

I find myself traveling here and there when working on consulting projects.  In the past, I would find a cubicle, office, or conference room at the client’s location I could setup in and go to work.  Other times, I would hunt down a Regus office and pay the pricey fee. I had to pay an additional fee for awful coffee and unhealthy snacks such as snickers, kit kat, etc.  Today’s millennials are social bugs, enjoy being in an active environment, sit in front of a screen and zone out all the noise focusing on their objective of getting work done.  I had a few millennials working for me at my previous company, and I couldn’t understand how they would work well away from the office at a coffee shop plowing through the work in our ticketing system.   Sometimes they would call me, or I would call them I could hear all the noise in the background but to them it was music, they were good, and were very productive, happy, and achieving more than being at the office.

I have had an opportunity to experience this environment more, and at first, it was very distracting, it has become an option for me when choosing a work environment. I cal always escape to my home office where I have a large screen, desk, TV and other quiet or noise options should I need to adjust my environment.

 

The millennials simply put on headphones, and escape into their music, chat away through Instant Messenger, iMessage, Hangouts, or another chat platform as the baristas are there ready to serve their food and drink needs. They dislike email, voice calls, and prefer instant messaging apps instead.  They would prefer email over voice and will happily respond knowing the next option from email is a voice call.  If I called them, they would respond back in a Text or Email with “What’s Up?  Do you need something? I missed a call from you?” Never would they call me back on voice unless I responded back “Please Call”?

I have adopted the new working environment and believe that companies really should take a look at this new form of a workspace.  The office can be smaller, and dedicated spaces for employees can be limited or even eliminated providing an enclave time solution such as first come first serve, or using Microsoft Exchange room option to reserve spaces just like you would reserve a conference room.

Employees can self-address potential conflicts by shifting themselves around office drama or even avoiding it all together. For example, If they do not like someone, they can choose to sit somewhere else in the office or work at a Starbucks where the personality conflict can be minimized or avoided completely.   In my opinion, employees having the ability to choose their working environment in many ways limits the potential liability a company may have if the employee chooses his or her environment outside of the direction of the company.  I was chatting up an individual today, and she mentioned that she likes to come here instead of going to the office.  She says she gets eighty percent more work done by avoiding the office drama, constant interruptions of people coming by to discuss nonwork-related topics and the commute from her home to this particular Starbucks in 5 minutes vs. 60 minutes.   She also dresses down which allows her a little more sleep in the morning.  All in all, as a Salaried Employee she would work about 6 hours a day driving into the office as she felt if the company is forcing her to come into the office, they should cover the commute time she suffers through.   Working at Starbucks, the time flies, and she says she unintentionally gives her employer on occasion more than 8 hours a day because she is in her element, wants to finish something up and isn’t worried about ten more minutes turning into a two-hour commute vs. a one hour commute.  She is just a two-minute drive away from her child’s school which minimizes the concern of her being so far away from her child.  As a single mom, she invests a lot of time and energy in work, and her child, leaving little for herself.  This work environment gives her a boost not available to the working class single mom or dad of the past.  I find executives have adopted the Starbucks office as well.  You see them sitting on their phone or iPad just managing people.

 

As I was typing this article, the Police Department came in here and started planning the route for a funeral escort from the funeral home to the cemetery.  That was awesome to hear how they wanted to avoid construction areas and make the journey as painless as possible for everyone.  They were discussing options, verifying the military branch the individual served in, and putting a lot of effort into the plan.  After taking the photo, several other police officers showed up, and they discussed the final plan before heading out.  In closing, the office environment, and benefits of the past are not as important to today’s workforce.  I think today’s Executive and Middle Management need to be open to alternative work environments capitalizing on amazing talent that would otherwise go elsewhere to an environment that gives them their individuality and more control of their working relationship. I remember a good friend of mine his name is Dean.  He is a Chiropractor in California.  When the day was over, he didn’t want to stick around the office; he wanted to jump in his car and get out of the office ASAP.  It wasn’t that he didn’t’ love what he did, he just wanted a change of scene, put the top down, windows down, and drive away from the same four walls he just spent the last 10 hours in.  This was 1990, and he was the business owner.  On the flip side though, there are employees that want the cubicle, office, and will function better in that type of environment.   Before choosing one over the other, I would discuss with management a hybrid solution that accommodates both types of employees, so you do not lose talent over corporate policy.   Setup office spaces and cubicle that can be assigned and if someone chooses that, there is an expectation that they are at the office the majority of the time.  Then setup cubicle/office spaces and call them something like ENCLAVE.  They can be rented by the day, week or some schedule.  You can leverage Microsoft Exchange to manage the corporate resource.

In closing, don’t lose talent or create stressful work environments unintentionally.  If or when you deploy a new policy, do not forget the middle management.  I recently had the pleasure of spending a few days over a global cloud-based file sharing service.  Their staff has the flexibility to work from home or come into an office environment that has several floors of themed spaces, restaurant with free food, gym, etc.   While their policy allows for people to work from home or offsite, the expectation was that managers and or executive staff be at the office every day.   This policy is going to cost them some great talent if a change isn’t done in the next six to ten months.   They are looking at losing some key personnel that do not want to create conflict or complaint, they simply are going to jump ship to another opportunity that will afford them the same flexibility allowing them to be close to home, kids schools, minimize commute, etc.

Regards,

Will

 

SUSE the BMW of Linux Operating Systems

 

 

 

 

Many of us drive around in BMW’s, VW’s, and other German engineered cars.  Why?, Because they’re built with perfection in mind.  Not just good, or great, but perfection to detail.  When I entered the world of Linux, I was introduced to Red Hat and SUSE at the same time.  Everyone was pushing me to Red Hat, while I was being drawn to SUSE.  SUSE was built beautifully, everything was clean, from the command line or terminal interface to the GNOME Desktop GUI.  The SUSE team spent a lot of time on this distribution such as customizing the OpenOffice application, so it fits in very cleanly in SUSE giving it perfection. You can see the effort invested into everything overall.  It reminded me of the difference between a Honda and a BMW.  Both cars are built well and built to last, have excellent safety mechanisms in place to protect you from an accident, but BMW just has that attention to detail that is very aesthetically pleasing, looks beautiful, makes you want to get in the driver’s seat and just drive.

Red Hat has yum, and that’s great, but SUSE has yum as well. Over the years yum was replaced with zypper on SUSE but, it’s the same thing when you get down to what it does.  yum install mtr, or zypper install mtr provides the same outcome.  SUSE also has YAST, and this is where you start to see the difference between Red Hat and SUSE.  Yast is a command line or terminal graphical user interface that provides a powerful tool for adding, removing, and configuring your SUSE Linux machine.  This is great for beginners in the Linux world.

A lot of time and effort has been put into the bash shell to make it aesthetically pleasing, implementation of visual design by using various colors as key indicators of what you’re looking at such as a file or directory is the file executable, etc.  The font is clean and crisp.

When I decided to write this post, it didn’t surprise me to find out that BMW is using SUSE Linux to power its data centers, and infrastructure.  They also are using the SUSE + OpenStack as the core.  I also noticed when performing an update to my iDrive; there were Linux files in the zip file I downloaded.  I can’t confirm, but I would guess iDrive was given birth from a fork of SUSE Linux.

I found this article that briefly provides some background on how BMW is using SUSE.

SUSE has several significant partners and clients that leverage this incredible distribution.  I have listed just a few below.

  • Amazon Web Services
  • Cisco
  • Dell
  • Fujitsu
  • Hitachi
  • HP
  • IBM
  • Intel
  • Lenovo
  • Microsoft
  • SAP
  • VMWARE

You cannot go wrong with SUSE Linux.  With all this said, there are a couple of drawbacks.  While much work has been put into this distribution to create the attention to detail, you may find it difficult to modify or heavily customize the distribution without breaking some of the work put in to make it great.  If you want to customize SUSE completely, there are options out there that allow for this.  Just know that one of two things can happen,

  1. You break some of the integration and simplicity that SUSE Developers built such as YAST
  2. YAST or other SUSE apps may overwrite your customizations if you decide to modify files outside of YAST.

In these cases, it may be a better idea to go with another distribution such as RedHat where you have to do more of the hands-on under the hood work.   Replacing the radio in a Honda or a Chevy truck is pretty easy but replacing one in a BMW is almost impossible without sacrificing a lot including your warranty.  Just keep this in mind when deciding on deploying a Linux OS.

Both RedHat and SUSE have Community versions of their Commerical Operating Systems.  RedHat has CentOS and Fedora.  SUSE has OpenSUSE Tumbleweed and Leap.

CentOS is an exact copy of the commercial code base minus the RedHat logo and references to RedHat.

Fedora is their bleeding edge OS where Redhat test technology and updates that will eventually end up in Redhat and CentOS.

OpenSUSE Leap is an exact copy of the commercial version of SUSE.

OpenSUSE Tumbleweed is where SUSE team test technology and updates that will eventually end up in SUSE and OpenSUSE Leap.

So when it comes to Linux, I like SUSE Linux.  I also use CentOS or even Ubuntu depending on the circumstances and who I am working or partnering with.  Everyone has a preference, and I like to be open to other people’s choice.  When it’s my choice to choose a Linux distro, SUSE Linux is my primary choice many times but not always…

Check out SUSE Linux

Check out OpenSUSE Linux