Why the desire to attend conferences?

Team Of Three Orange People Holding Hands And Standing On Blue Puzzle Pieces, With One Man Reaching Out To Connect Another To Their Group Clipart Illustration Graphic

 Recently I have started to express an increased desire to attend tech conferences. The other day, I was mentioning a conference I saw and my wife asked why I wanted to attend conferences. Was it because my friends were attending conferences themselves and tweeting about them and I wanted to tweet about one?

I’ll admit, I do feel a little left out. My friends that I follow are travelling the country and attending these great conferences and have exciting things to share from them. They are building relationships that continue after they head home/o attend an IT related conference. I have to the point that my wife asked why I am looking at conferences? Is it because I want to tweet about it or because several of my friends are attending them and I want to be like them?

Part of me though wants to attend conferences to break out of my own tech bubble. Here where I work, I have a real good feel for what we are doing technology wise. I better have a good feel, I’m the ONLY IT guy for the entire company. While this is nice at times, there are times it would be nice to discuss current strategies and emerging technologies. I do have a friend that I eat dinner with on a regular basis and we sometimes discuss what we are doing, but it doesn’t get very in depth or very critical.

I feel that, sometimes, we as IT Professionals need an outside person to question what we are doing and why. The few conferences I have been able to attend, there is typically a time to converse with those around you. While in conversation, if you get into any kind of depth about methods and procedures, somebody is sure to ask, “Why does your process includes this” or “Why you have a service setup that way?” In times like this, the answer of “That’s just how we do it” doesn’t work. We are challenged to explain why we do it that way and sometimes in that explanation, a revelation occurs and we find a better way to improve an existing process or achieve a goal. This is why I’ve tried to setup a monthly luncheon with the other IT Professionals from my area. So we can build a comrade, get to know what we are doing, and maybe even help each other.

Conferences also give us a chance to get a quick demonstration of new and emerging technologies, services, and processes. Typically the keynote address is somebody that has had a big influence in the technology sector. When you listen to this address, you get inspired. You get pumped up. You get excited about where we have been and where we are going. Additional breakout sessions help build on this excitement so that when you return to work, you feel rejuvenated and ready to attack problems head-on instead of dragging your feet and reluctantly doing the projects.

So, why do I want to attend conferences? To learn. To network. To share. To be inspired. To get out of the occasional rut I get into.

Free Community Based Navigation Software

I typically have used the stock Google Navigation software while driving to our remote offices. It isn’t because I don’t know how to find my way there. I use it so I know how much longer the drive should take and the approximate time I should arrive at my destination. However, on my latest drive, I noticed that once I got outside of the Indianapolis area, traffic reports & road conditions became unavailable. I’m not sure how Google’s systems collect and summarize the data, but I have a feeling that it is collected through traffic management systems that are in place in the larger metropolitan areas. That does me no good when 90% of my time is spent in the rural areas and smaller towns. That got me wondering about a community based navigation system that, would automatically detect and report road speeds & congestion without the owner having to touch the phone. The phones already have GPS receivers. Why not turn them into a big sensor net that automatically collects current road speeds? What if we had the option to mark a traffic hazard so other drivers could be alerted before they came up on the hazard?

Waze map zoomed out showing alerts, road congestion (in red), and other Waze users.

So last night, I got on my Android Market and searched for navigation. One of the first apps that came up was an app called “Waze.” Waze is a free, community based system. From within Waze, you can have it do your navigation or just simply be a map. When Waze is open, it automatically sends your current road & speed data for compilation in their servers. This is then summarized to other Waze users on their map as road updates. You can also mark accidents, police, traffic jams, and other road hazards (pot holes, black ice, etc) for other Waze users to see.

Currently, in my area there are not many Waze users so my roads are not fully documented on their servers. That means the navigation option sometimes will take me out of the way to keep me on roads that it knows about. But with time and with more users, the navigation system & map will automatically adjust and “learn” more efficient routes and roads. The alerts function is based on the 20 most current alerts near your location. Since there are not many users in my area, some of the alerts are from a long distance away. I can see great potential in this as a time and stress saver when travelling.

A list of alerts that are near my current position.

I am excited to be trying this software out. At this time, I fully anticipate this software replacing my Google Navigation program as my default navigation system and getting a permanent home on my Car Dock screen.

Waze is available as a free download on Android, iPhone, Nokia and Blackberry devices. Waze requires you to setup an account with their system and associate it with an email address. I have not seen any spam come from their systems yet.

Waze can be found online at http://www.waze.com

Proactively cleaning work PCs

Dirty Computer Example

It is a proven fact that a build-up of dust & dirt can shorten the life of computer hardware. This is caused by the dirt preventing the system from properly cooling itself. A dirty computer’s processor & graphics card will run 10-25% hotter when compared to a clean system. And for any electronic system, heat kills.

Over the last several years, I have been cleaning (vacuum & blowout) PCs at work just as I notice them getting dirty. Typically it is when I hear the fans having to spin up to their higher speeds that I stop and look to see if they are dirty. But, I don’t know how long they have been in that state and if any damage has occurred.

Lately, I’ve been considering a proactive approach to cleaning the computers. Something along the lines of going around with the vacuum twice a year and cleaning EVERY computer in a methodical & organized fashion. My belief is that by doing this on a regular basis, I will be preventing the build-up of dust and dirt, prolonging the life of our equipment, and possibly identify and resolve issues before they have a chance to grow into major problems.

As I begin to form this plan, I want to hear what you do at your company. Does your company proactively go around and clean the computers or do they clean them out once they start exhibiting issues? If you do proactive and routine cleanings, what schedule do you follow? Or have you done that math and found that it just isn’t worth the labor to visit each of the computers for which you are responsible?

VMWare issues

Start of Observed Problem

So today I noticed my Symantec server having some issues. I issued a reboot command due to it not being a critical production server. About 20 minutes later, I realized it wasn’t back up yet and wasn’t responding to pings. So I log into my vSphere client and see that the VMWare Host seems to be acting up.

Initial Analysis

Notice how the virtual machines along the left are all gray? They should have different icons to indicate whether they are powered on or off. Also earlier, the CPU usage & Memory Usage didn’t have a Capacity amount and the General box wasn’t filled in.

Here, you can see at 10am today my network usage shot up to well above average for during the day. No backups are going at the moment. There is no scheduled task that would be causing this and no servers that are presently running are experiencing any issues.

Further Analysis

Strangely, the vSphere client started responding again. I went into the performance tab for the host and found the read-rate for the Lefthand iSCSI was about the same rate as the MRTG graph showed above. I started going through each server and observing their read rates. Each server was low until I hit my Exchange server. The Exchange server had the same high rates (but extremely low latency).

I remoted into the Exchange server and opened performance monitor. I observed high read rates that matched the high read rates that vSphere indicated and matched the graph MRTG produced. Then the read rates dropped and everything started responding. There is nothing in the event viewer to indicate a backup, defrag, or virus scan was occurring at the time I noticed the high read rates. Processor usage was low at the same time.


I started this blog entry to chronicle my troubleshooting and what I found was the cause of the problem and how I fixed it. Unfortunately, I can’t do either of those goals. At the moment, I am stuck and have no clues as far as what was causing the high read rates.

My vSphere client has started responding correctly and my Symantec server has successfully powered on and booted.

I wish I could come up with a definitive solution to what caused the problem and what I did to fix the problem. Maybe with some more observations I can figure it out and update the entry with my results.