The musings of an IT Consultant


June 30, 2009  2:41 PM

Why VMware Workstation is your best friend

Raj Perumal Raj Perumal Profile: Raj Perumal

Hi folks, so in this day and age of virtualization, and many operating systems, how do you cope? With VMware Workstation of course! Gone are the days of requiring multiple PCs to try and create a test lab to try out different operatings systems, or to setup large lab scenarios.

Like I mentioned in a previous blog post, I highly recommend that IT consultants purchase a copy of VMware Workstation. You can install it on your laptop and easily create virtual environments to test out things you might commonly run into. For example I have a test environment set up on my laptop for all the Windows OS’ I commonly see at client sites. Then if I need to test a new patch, or try out a new solution I can just try it out on one of my test virtual machines. If it blows up I can just revert back to my last snapshot.

Now having said that, VMware is offering a new deal if you buy it now. If you buy VMware Workstation before July 6th, 2009 you will get a free online training course from VMware. This is great for those of you who are just getting started in the virtual world. You can take advantage of this offer here.

-RP

June 30, 2009  2:00 PM

Buying a laptop for consulting

Raj Perumal Raj Perumal Profile: Raj Perumal

So you finally decide it’s time to turn in your old clunker of a computer and buy a shiny new laptop for your IT consulting business. What do you get? Brands aside, what specs do you want on a laptop in the wide world of consulting? How much horsepower do you really need?

Well lucky for you I have gone through tons of laptops in my time consulting and I have come up with a veritable list of must haves for the IT consulting geek! You see in the world of IT consulting, you are constantly on the move and a laptop is your best friend. Gone are the days where you sit in an office and get to work from an all powerful workstation. Sure, I have a nice workstation at home, but I find that I use my laptop the most when going from client site to client site.

Here is my list of must haves in your laptop as a consultant:

  • Lots of RAM! – Now with virtualization at the forefront, I would get a minimum of 4 gigs of RAM if not more (make sure your laptop can support more) so you can have lots of virtual machines open on your laptop at the same time
  • Multi-core CPU – With the meteoric rise of virtualization, it’s a good idea to have multi-cores so you can turn your laptop into a wonderful test environment without riding your laptop into the ground
  • Windows 64 bit (XP/Vista/2008/Windows 7) – A 64 bit version of Windows is essential to use all that RAM. If you limit yourself to a 32 bit version then you aren’t going to be able to use all that RAM to run virtual machines.
  • VMware Workstation! – This is my preferred software of choice for creating virtual test environments on my laptop. In my opinion VMware Workstation rules the roost!
  • The largest fastest hard drive you can find! – If you have to decide between large and fast, I would lean towards large first. You’re going to need all that space to store your virtual machines. You could instead get the fastest hard drive you can find and then get a small external USB hard drive for extra space too.
  • A USB to serial cable! – How are you going to configure all those switches/routers as a consultant without a serial port? Get a good USB to serial cable adapter and use that to connect your laptop to these devices.
  • A large USB key! – I carry around a 16GB USB key to transfer large patches and data between machines when needed. Also make sure you encrypt any sensitive data you place on your USB key, there are a lot of free solutions out there. This will save your behind if you lose your USB key
  • A portable mini USB powered switch – This will come in extremely handy when you need to connect multiple devices and your laptop to a network and you won’t have to lug around a clunky power adapter in your laptop bag to power the switch.
  • A good video card! – Don’t cheap out on your video card, you’ll regret it instantly. In these days of multimedia overload, you can’t go without a good card, make sure you buy a laptop with a good video card with lots of power.
  • A CD/DVD burner drive – This almost goes without saying. You’re going to need this to burn countless installation and patch CD/DVDs. It’s part of being a consultant!

-Cheers, RP


June 30, 2009  1:41 PM

New offerings in the switch world from Cisco

Raj Perumal Raj Perumal Profile: Raj Perumal

Hi folks! I have some great news from the Cisco front. Our friends at Cisco have decided to release a new version of their 2960 switches called “LAN Lite”! This is a new version of the Catalyst switch with slightly less features to bring the price point down for people who don’t need everything that the full 2960 normally provides.

This series of switch is aimed at the SMB market that needs POE switching for voice and data for unified communications. More and more we are seeing companies requiring enterprise level equipment to facilitate unified communications in their SMB networks. This isn’t easy for these SMB companies because enterprise level equipment can get quite expensive. Cisco has seen this need and is now offering the necessary equipment to fulfill these needs at a lower price by offering “LAN Lite”.

You can read more about it and compare the different versions here at Cisco’s web site. You can also go here to this other link at Cisco’s web site to read more about their offer.

-RP


June 30, 2009  1:19 PM

The importance of wireless site surveys

Raj Perumal Raj Perumal Profile: Raj Perumal

Hello again! Here’s some more information for you techs delving into the world of wireless. Wireless site surveys! One of the things I find often overlooked when implementing a wireless strategy, is the lack of one! Even when people listen to me about putting in the proper access points and controllers, sometimes they just don’t think about placement.

Now I don’t understand why on earth you wouldn’t do a wireless site survey. A proper survey can save you tons of headaches for your users and for yourself, as well as save you on countless hours of troubleshooting. Access points should not be installed into an organization with no regard to placement, that’s just a dumb idea. You’ll more than likely end up by way too many access points to deal with a given situation and end up wasting your money.

Instead, you should hire a wireless certified individual or company and have them come in and run a wireless site survey. They will come in and scan the surrounding area that you need to have wireless coverage in and they will present you with a nice report that shows you exactly how many access points you need, and where to place them for maximum coverage. Then from this report, you will have a good idea of which wireless controllers and access points you’ll need to buy.

Remember, don’t go into wireless blindly, take your time, do the proper legwork and install a solution that will make your users happy and make you look great!

-RP


June 30, 2009  1:08 PM

Implementing wireless in your business

Raj Perumal Raj Perumal Profile: Raj Perumal

Hello again folks, once again I wanted to talk a little bit about wireless connectivity. More and more, people are finding that they are requiring wireless access in their organization. Unfortunately a good majority of them are going about it the wrong way.

What do I mean by this? Well let’s take a small business for example, one with just a few people and a very small sized office. If they need wireless access all they need to do is go to their nearest electronics retailer and buy a small Linksys or D-Link wireless router and hook it up and they’re good to go. Simple, effective,  cheap, not so bad at all.

But now take the slightly larger business, with many people and a larger office than a single wireless router or access point can serve. I’ve seen way too many people try and setup wireless by buying multiple home based wireless routers and spreading them across their premises with no rhyme or reason to try and get the best coverage. Also the larger the building(s), the more management the administrator ends up having by having to go and configure each access point individually.

Never fear, there is a better way. Our friends at Cisco and HP(technology recently acquired from Colubris) both have competing solutions that will serve your needs. The idea is to use a Wireless Controller device which you configure which then in turn controls your access points by use of LWAPP(Lightweight Access Point Protocol). LWAPP allows you to control and configure multiple access points from a centrally accessed wireless controller. The controller pushes out it’s configuration to all of these access points making administration quite easy.

-RP


June 30, 2009  12:54 PM

BlackBerry app making a buzz!

Raj Perumal Raj Perumal Profile: Raj Perumal

Hi folks, so there is this cool new app for all you BlackBerry users out there. It’s called BuzzMe and it’s made by BigTinCan!

What does this app do? It vibrates your BlackBerry of course! Now you may ask, why the heck would I want that, my BlackBerry already vibrates! True, but does your BlackBerry ring and vibrate at the exact same time? You see BlackBerries alternate between ringing and vibration as opposed to both at the same time, which is really silly if you ask me. They should just add this as a feature already.

Since RIM hasn’t done this yet, you have this app called BuzzMe. You start it up and it runs in the background and then you turn off vibration in your phone and just leave your ringer on tone. Then when people call you, your ringer goes off and then the BuzzMe app starts vibrating your phone at exactly the same time.

You get all this functionality for free but if you buy the pro version you can have the program autostart with your phone when you reboot that way you don’t forget about it. Also it allows you to set this functionality for things other than just phone calls. You can get the full details at BigTinCan’s web site.

-RP


June 30, 2009  12:37 PM

Windows 7 at 50% off?

Raj Perumal Raj Perumal Profile: Raj Perumal

Hello again folks, as you know the Windows 7 launch is getting closer and closer to us. Well as of late I just saw this new offer from Microsoft.

Microsoft is offering Windows 7 at 50% off for a pre-order deal. You can go to Amazon and pre-order it now. You can also check out the offer here at Microsoft. So what’s going on you might ask?

In my opinion, Microsoft has decided to take advantage of all the buzz surrounding Windows 7 and take a much needed break from all the crap they’ve been getting about Vista. By selling Windows 7 for 50% off, they will instantly generate good will towards themselves after the Vista boondoggle. This is a smart move on their part and it should be interesting to see how this plays out.

So if you were on the fence about upgrading from Vista, let me tell you now, do it! Windows 7 is way better than Vista and the early releases I have tried have been great!

-RP


June 30, 2009  12:22 PM

Extended vlans in Cisco switches

Raj Perumal Raj Perumal Profile: Raj Perumal

For those of you venturing into switching for the first time, one of the things that can be hard to wrap your head around if you’re just a beginner is vlans. Vlans are great ways to make the management of your network a lot more organized, and are used everywhere in this world. You’re not going to be able to enter the switching world without running into them so it’s best to learn about them asap.

Now one of the things that can cause you troubles down the road is configuring vlans across many switches in large environments. This is made easier by the use of VTP (VLAN Trunking Protocol). You can use this to automatically configure vlans across many switches.

Unfortunately you might run into a problem when using extended vlans. If you use extended vlans and VTP version 2, you will find that you can’t use vlans all the way up to 4095. Instead what you need to do is use VTP version 3 which will enable you to use the entire range, or you can put your switch in VTP transparent mode to allow it to use extended vlans.


June 29, 2009  12:58 AM

RIM doing well despite the iPhone

Raj Perumal Raj Perumal Profile: Raj Perumal

Hi folks, so recently RIM has been claiming more market share due to their BlackBerry phones. Recent reports have pegged RIM at having 55 percent of the smart phone market share in the industry.

This is more than any of the competing companies going against RIM. Even Apple! So despite the poor showing with the new BlackBerry App World store, how is RIM doing it? I suspect they’re doing it with the inherent usability of the BlackBerry devices.

RIM has always made great smartphones, and now by expanding their offerings by including the Storm and the Javelin, it’s easy to choose RIM. I love the iPhone as a personal use device, but not for business. I still personally prefer the BlackBerry. I carry around an iPod Touch for other functionality I need that my BlackBerry doesn’t provide. It will be interesting to see how this competition turns out.

For more information see this article here.

-RP


June 15, 2009  12:11 PM

How’s BlackBerry App World doing?

Raj Perumal Raj Perumal Profile: Raj Perumal

Hi folks, I’d thought I’d take a moment to speak about App World again. Now that it has been out there for a while I thought I’d offer up my opinion on what I think of it.  For those of you that don’t know, App World is the application store for BlackBerry devices. This is RIM’s answer to Apple’s app store for their iPhones and iPods.

Now the strategy to come up with their own app store was a good idea on RIM’s part. I’ve always said that software is a huge determining factor when choosing a platform. After all, if a device doesn’t have the apps you want, you’re not left with much of a reason to buy it.

Well I have to say that App World is easy to use and very cool. It’s very easy to navigate through, read reviews and download my favourite apps. Also now that I’ve had it for awhile it also notifies me when my current apps need upgrading and it makes that process fairly simple too. So what’s the downside on all of this?

The apps themselves. There are only a few really good apps for the BlackBerry. Even after the AppWorld launch I’ve found that I don’t have nearly the selection that my friends do on their iPhones. I have to say I’m quite dissapointed in the app turnout. Let’s hope that this changes soon because right now, Apple has nothing to worry about on the app front.

-RP


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