Silly Mistake

Just two nights ago when I was happily opening up the wrapper for my new router, ASUS RT-AC3200, thinking that it always easy to configure this brand of router as it is purely chicken feet!

However, this time round, it took me more than 30 minutes to get things right which I find it really wrong as I am a loyal fan of ASUS in terms of their networking side of business. (Previously using RT-N66U – known as the Black Knight).

So to give a slight background of why it is not a clear-cut configuration while the firmware itself has already catered to what our Internet Service Providers (ISP) is required in terms of the settings. I am signed up with our local telecom (SingTel) on their Mio plan where I have both the Fibre Internet connection and Cable TV box that is connected using the Fibre connection.

In the past, customer usually have to rely heavily on the hardware provided by SingTel or even any other providers out there due to the configuration that is preset on the router itself to allow connection to services like TV (Mio-TV) and Voices (Mio-Voice). So we are blessed that ASUS have that all covered for us in a few clicks and all is done.

Now the problem is that, I was way to excited to use this new monster and I have plug my ethernet lan cable from the router to my computer (while doing configuration) to lan port 4. This port is proprietary to the Cable Services (Mio-TV) so naturally it doesn’t seems to work for me. So the error occurred when ever I am trying to pull in the DNS configuration automatically, the screen would have frozen. So I thought, “Oh Shucks”, did this monster just died on me!

So the only thing I could do is to do a hard reset on the router to return it to the factory configuration and try all over again! So I did it for more than thrice (blame it on the eagerness in me from the support background). So in the end, I finally realise that whenever I reaches to the DNS configuration page, my computer will lose it IP address and in return gotten the private IP. Feeling amiss, I look at the port that I have used on the router.

This is really a silly mistake that I have ever made. Hope my dear readers will take note while configuring their ASUS router.

Cheers,
Milton

Silly Mistake

Little bump to my home lab–Crucial M500 mSATA Hard Drive

During the weekend, I have decided that I should be replacing one of the mSATA drive on one of my Intel NUC which I used primarily to run Virtual Machines on Hyper-V.

So I did some research and bought the cheapest available (> 200GB) mSATA. I chose the Crucial M500 240GB mSATA primary because of the price factor. It cost me SGD 189 for 240GB of space. This make sense because it just translate to less than a dollar per GB.

2014-05-10 18.32.11

2014-05-10 18.33.08

If you are an owner of Intel NUC or Gigabyte Brix, please really consider a higher capacity one. I realize that in the market, anything that is more than 200GB and less than 400GB is worth while at this moment for the price per GB cost.

Cheers.

Milton Goh

Little bump to my home lab–Crucial M500 mSATA Hard Drive

Configuring KEMP Technologies Virtual LoadMaster

Hooray! It’s a Sunday today and I didn’t really do anything except for meddling around with my lab environment and completed some of the long overdue tasks. So one of the major milestone that I have hit today is that I have successfully configured my lab environment to use KEMP Technologies Virtual LoadMaster to simulate out how easy it is to use their solutions to create a load-balanced zone.

So, I started off with spinning up two virtual machines and perform the necessary such as getting the machine updated (the usual stuffs which I can’t live without having to do so even if I know I might screw the image up within days!).

So basically, the two virtual machine has IIS installed so that I can use it as a Web Server. For the basic, I will be using pure HTML pages and not going to dwell deeper in using customize ASP.NET solutions which I will be covering in future with a new project codenamed, NerdExpenses.)

Basic Web Servers Environment

Above is a simple architecture that I have deployed i my lab environment where the KEMP Technologies LoadMaster is running virtually on Hyper-V. At the point of writing, I can’t find any proper Visio Stencils from KEMP Technologies to represent the Virtual LoadMaster series so I have chosen to use one of the given ones which can be obtained here.

I remembered during the last Technical Summit that I have attended weeks ago, Benjamin Hodges shown us how easy it is to configure KEMP Technologies LoadMaster and through the technical deep-dive, it really proven that this solutions is really made so easy that anyone can simple click through the setup (of course, if it is your first time configuring it, it may take some time to get used to the user-interface – however, trust me. it’s really neatly done up!)

Take a look at the video below which I have done up, apology for the poorly done up work as this is the first time I am using Camtasia Studio 8.0. Will definitely learn it well and produce more quality video the next time!

That’s all for this time round, the next time I will be posting how easy it will be to replace the load-balancing feature in Microsoft Azure with KEMP Technologies one.

Regards,
Milton Goh

Configuring KEMP Technologies Virtual LoadMaster

Automation: Using Synology Task Scheduler

As part of the continuous series about “Automation”, I took a look at how my Synology DS 412+ could be part of the story. The situation is where every Monday of the week, my lab environment will need to be shut down as my helpers will be cleaning up my desk area therefore based on my past experiences where they meddle with my electrical appliances and causes it to shut down; therefore I always shut down all my equipment on Monday. However, lately I am getting a little lazy of shutting them down via the readily available web-console so I took a look at the Task Scheduler within Synology NAS.

Let’s take a look at what it offers.

Capture_01

It looks amazing with lots to offer with the hefty price to pay for the tip-top performance that I am enjoying!

Capture_02

After navigating to “Hardware & Power”, I take a look at the “Power Schedule”.

Capture_03

I am able to set the schedule freely!

Capture_04

Within a few clicks, I am able to configure the NAS to shut down by itself at 3.15am on a Monday, prior to shutting down the NAS, I would have use some PowerShell scripts to shut down all the Virtual Machine that uses the NAS and the lab server to be shut down too.

It’s amazing to have all these automatically shut down without manual intervention!

Cheers!
Milton Goh

Automation: Using Synology Task Scheduler

USB Ethernet Adapter–Becoming the norm

I realized that in certain weeks after I have converted my desktop server into multiple Intel NUC box to replaced as a farm of Hyper-V servers, I actually needed to purchase more USB-to-Ethernet Adapter converter so that I can connect to various VLAN (Virtual LAN) in my network. I uses different brand all the times because the local computing store do not usually carry the same brands all the time even though the intervals period that I made the purchase is just 2 weeks. It’s weird, I know.

Take a look at the one that I have bought recently.

2014-01-05 11.24.54

2014-01-05 11.25.01

There are a couples of other brands available but I had affinity with J5Create products because I am currently using their USB-to-DVI converter and it is perfect, I would say.

There are many folks out there who said that it is a best practices to have at least 4 NICs when running Hyper-V for various purposes but since this is just my lab environment, I would definitely add in more, when needed. Since the convenient of just USB converter is so much easier now.

I still remember in the past when I was running my desktop server, what I did was to add in PCI NIC card which I could add to maximum of around 3 (2 x PCI card + 1 on-board LAN).

Cheers.
Milton Goh

USB Ethernet Adapter–Becoming the norm

My thoughts on – ComGateWay BuyForMe Service

Back in November, I was doing some research on switching my gigantic tower server into something that is a small-form factor machine that still slightly match up to my needs to run all my lab instances. So before I decide to let go of the tower desktop, I was deciding between Intel NUC or Gigabyte BRIX. As I resides in Singapore where mostly goodies (mainly latest technology) that was released will not be made available in Singapore market within three months or it will never appear due to whatever reasons anyone could think of.

At that point of time, I was pretty attracted by the latest release of the Gigabyte BRIX NUC with the Haswell chip. As a person who does a lot of online shopping, I chance upon the service provided by comGateWay (BuyForMe Service) where it really interests me. So in this post, I am going to share my thoughts of this service that I have went on to try making my first order from NewEgg through comGateWay spending couples of hundreds.

Here is the breakdown:

  • Who is this service for?
  • What is the charges like?
  • What is the process of the purchase?
  • What are the problems faced? (In my experience)
  • Who is at loss?
Who is this service for?

Generally, this type of service provided by comGateWay serves a few groups of people similarly to what vPost has to offer.

  • Shoppers who do not resides in United States but hope to purchase merchandize from retailers that resides in United States.
  • Shoppers hope to purchase from retailers who resides in United States that do not offer International Shipping.
  • Shoppers who do not have a valid United States credit card to process the payment for the purchase.

So I fall in one of the group where I am a resident of Singapore and I do not have a United States credit card along with a United States postal address.

 

What is the charges like?

Nobody runs a business like a charity and even charity also provide salary / wages to the volunteers even if it the bare minimum. So running a service like this require funding to keep the business healthy.

I am going to extract some sample from comGateway website directly instead. Let’s imagine I am now purchasing an item that cost me USD 100.00 and it weighs around 1.5KG, this is the charges comGateway will charged me should I use their service.

comGateway-BuyForMe-Service-Example

Credits to comGateway. Smile

From the image above, we can see that comGateway charges a 5% of the cost of the merchandize and does not include the shipping charges between my retailer to the designated address of comGateway. So it will cost me approximately USD 17.00 in order to process the international shipping from comGatweway designated address all the way to the lovely Singapore where I resides.

Does it sounds cheap? Well, it really depends. Let’s take a look at the real-life example. The order that I have made.

comGateway-BuyForMe-Service-MyOrder

Just take note that when I was keying into the comGateway BuyForMe form, I didn’t include the shipping from NewEgg to comGateway therefore I was told that the final amount to be paid will be included which I need to clear before the item will be shipped out from comGateway designated address to Singapore.

 

What is the process of the purchase?

To better illustrate how comGateway works, this is an assumption that I have made in the following diagram.

comGateway-Purchasing-Route

  • Shoppers (illustrate myself) fill up the form through comGateway website. Make payment to comGateway first.
  • comGateway will then follow the instructions that I have provided through the form and make the necessary purchases through the “Vendors”. (For this part, I will explain a little more later on in the Problem section.)

All-in-all, NewEgg (or any other retailers) will not know whether you were the one that made the purchases. It is known to the retailers behind the scene which I have classified as “Vendors”.

Do note that any communication will always be between myself (or yourself) and comGateway and not to the intended retailers.

 

What are the problems faced?

If the merchandize that was purchase is not faulty, this service provided will be a perfect one. However, things doesn’t always ended up in a nice way or in any way that one would expect.

So it all happens when I received my Gigabyte Brix and I couldn’t get the system to boot up. Thereafter, I tried to lodge a support ticket with NewEgg directly but unfortunately since I am not the one that have made the purchase, that leaves me out with many details such as,

  • Order number
  • Invoice number
  • Order date
  • Purchaser email
  • Purchaser card type
  • Purchaser mobile number

So I felt a little frustrated and I contacted comGateway directly. So they told me that in order to protect the privacy of the “purchaser”, all these details could not be divulge to me. The only way is that they could aid in getting the “purchaser” to contact NewEgg to explain on the problem nature. (Look, for this, since the coordination will includes so many parties, this simply takes a couple of days before I could proceed with the next action.)

In the end, probably NewEgg have suggested to have the item shipped back to them so that they could process the returns either by swapping for a new set or doing a refund of the product based on the cost. When comGateway informed me about this, I could do nothing but to have it shipped back to comGateway designated address via DHL from Singapore. It costs me SGD 105.00 to have it shipped back.

After I happily (why happily? at least one item is off the tray now and things are moving) shipped it off, I patiently waited for the replies from comGateway to see if they have received my package before they once again have to go through the iteration of packaging the box to have it shipped back to NewEgg.

One greatest disadvantage of this multiple parties relationship is:

comGateway-Responses

The very first email that I have sent to comGateway was on the 24th November 2013 and this case was dragged all the way till 29th December 2013 before it decides to close a couple of days ago which I will have an email detailing it.

comGateway-Responses-01

At the time of creation of this blog entry, it is 3rd January 2014 at around 11.30am (GMT +8) so the it will be around 2nd January 2014 that they informed me the refunds is going through, like finally.

 

Who is at loss?

As per the topic, who is at loss for the whole process? Me, yes, the shopper will have to bear all the cost and charges for every action they have committed since the day they decided to buy from the retailers who do not support International Shipping. Let’s calculate the loss –

  • I made a total purchase of US$489.98 to NewEgg and I am getting back US$400.65. (a loss of US$89.33 which is for the miscellaneous deductions as highlighted above)
  • I paid comGateway US$24.50 as a fee for the service rendered. (the 5% charge)
  • I paid around US$10 for the shipping from NewEgg to comGateWay.
  • I paid SG$105 for the shipping from Singapore back to comGateWay.

So the total amount that I am getting back in reality is – SG$390 after conversion from USD to SGD.

 

Summary

I am not trying to discourage people in using this service provided by comGateWay, however, I hope that people would consider what to purchase online before deciding what service to be used in order to enjoy the same merchandize that folks are enjoying in United States.

I would definitely be using this service provided by comGateWay the next time when I am buying something but definitely not computer hardware.

Just my two cents. Cheers!
Milton Goh

My thoughts on – ComGateWay BuyForMe Service

Five Reasons to using CloudShare and why it is worth it.

This posts is not going to serve as a marketing story that sells you how much compelling features is being built in and provided by CloudShare but rather I am going to share on my perspective why I chose CloudShare for my day-to-day and I urge you all will see the same value as me. As a Consultant and Developer by profession, I would have to depend highly on my lab so that I could solve my own problems that I have encountered and also problems that my clients met into for their infrastructure that is being deployed and maintained by my organization. On top of that, my recent application to be a MCT (Microsoft Certified Trainer) has been approved and therefore I have joined the league of professional trainers and hope to learn as much as I could. In my opinion, being a MCT delivery a class is not just based on the Microsoft Official Curriculum provided but it should also add in some real-world experience that I have earned when I am doing consultancy to the students. Therefore, being quick and decisive is an important element in the IT world because technology changes so fast that we could pick up the skills.

Therefore, these are five reasons why I would recommend all of you to try out CloudShare.

1. No hardware investment

Microsoft Technologies and the latest line of products have adversely increased the requirements of the hardware needed in order to run the environment smoothly. For example, when I am doing my SharePoint 2010 demo box, I used to only allocate around 4GB-6GB of RAM to the single virtual machine box. As of the launch of SharePoint 2013, I see the need to work with around 8GB to 16GB for the virtual machine. That jump would definitely require me to upgrade my workstation or my lab environment in order to accommodate to the new requirements. I used to lug around my Lenovo ThinkPad T420 with 16GB RAM but since I needed to run SharePoint 2013, I will be looking at either a slower and sluggish performance virtual machine on the same piece of hardware or I am forced to look at higher end model of the ThinkPad W Series which enable me to maximize up to 32GB of RAM. Remember, this is just part one of my hardware investment because for my lab environment at home/work, I will run SharePoint instances along with other Microsoft products for testing purposes. Although the lab servers in the office would usually contain higher class hardware that span across around 96GB RAM, but from time-to-time when the requirement of newer software increased, it means that the number of virtual machines we can run on the same lab server will decrease and therefore needing some upgrade.

For my home, I do not have the luxury to run huge servers because electricity is expensive here. Moreover, switching on the home lab server 24 x 7 would not only consume lots of electricity but it just meant that I would need to bear with the noise of the server fans. Another problem with running lab server within the organization/home lab is Connectivity. A secure environment like mine will force me to only connect to the lab environment via secure VPN connection. For my latest lab environment, it is powered with 2 x Intel NUC (~ USD500 each with 64GB mSATA + 16GB RAM) with a Synology NAS (~ USD1400 with 4 x 4TB hard disk). This would make up to a total of approximately USD3000 for a start include other miscellaneous items.

However, if you use CloudShare, the monthly commitment is USD59 (lowest available plan), it will provide you with 50 months (more than 4 years!) of utilization in order to rack up to the upfront investment for the basic hardware needed. I doubt the Intel NUC could last me 4 years especially when new software requirements are increasing!

2. Usability

All the while I have been trying to compare the various solutions that provide me with an easy way to connect to my lab environment in order to get some work done without the need to lug around with a heavy workstation. I now owe a Surface Pro 2 due to the software that I required to run to meet my basic needs. I wouldn’t be able to survive with a Surface 2 / RT because I could not install the proprietary VPN software that is required in order to connect back to my company VPN server.

One of the feature that allow me to leave my heavy laptop at home is the availability to connect to my CloudShare instances via any browser. With this feature, I could easily live with a lightweight laptop or table such as Surface RT/2 or even an Apple iPad.

3. Huge amount of time saved

Prior to using CloudShare, I used to build countless numbers of virtual machine in order to perform some of the testing needed at work or for my own learning. My latest project or mini project is to explore Team Foundation Server 2013. So I went ahead to time how much time and effort is needed in order to setup my own copy of Team Foundation Server so that I could meddle with the functionalities. So here is the estimated breakdown of the time spent:

· Building the base OS on a single virtual machine + Windows Patching: 1.5 hours

· Cloning the base OS to multiple virtual machine (Active Directory, SQL, Team Foundation Server, Build Agent Server) and perform sysprep: 1 hour

· Setup the domain controller and populating the various service accounts needed: 20 minutes

· Setup SQL Server for Team Foundation Server: 30 minutes

· Setup Team Foundation Server and configuration: 45 minutes

· Setup Build Server: 20 minutes

In total, I spent around 4.5 hours to complete the whole exercise! This does not include… What if I configured certain component wrongly and required re-configuration? With CloudShare, I could spin up an instance with Team Foundation Server 2013 along with Visual Studio 2013 installed in less than 5 minutes! Below are some examples of what is included in the 5 minutes setting up process…

clip_image002

Team Foundation Server 2013 Image

clip_image004

SharePoint 2013 Image

4. No longer required for trial software / subscription (Goodbye to TechNet)

One move by Microsoft to kill the TechNet subscription is to enable more users to move to the Cloud, however, for work purposes, I will definitely need to setup my own lab environment so that I could easily demo to my prospective clients the awesome features that is packed in the product. Without the TechNet subscription, I wouldn’t be getting the MSDN subscription for my home development use because the amount spent doesn’t justify the cost spent. Getting trial software would means that I would need to rebuild my lab environment every 180 days.

With CloudShare, you wouldn’t even need to bother about the licensing, you just spin up the instance as and when you like and delete it from your account when you are done with it. Forget about finding the product key to the software and having trouble activating virtual machine for your testing purposes.

5. No complex solutions needed

Sometimes I wonder whether I could mimic the solutions by CloudShare and create a Self-Service Portal as user-friendly as CloudShare so that my developers could easily launch an instance for their testing purposes as and when needed. However, after a serious consideration of the amount of hardware investment needed in order to ensure that every developers will get a fair share for them to deliver their project on-time, it really made me hard to present the idea to the management. On top of that, there will be on-going maintenance needed to ensure that the condition of the hardware are good for use. Below is some of the pointers that are part of my solution conceptualization.

· To deploy System Center Virtual Machine Manager to manage all the Hyper-V hosts and to deploy Virtual Machine.

· Time is needed to create the various Virtual Machine Templates.

· Time is needed to update the various Virtual Machine Templates.

· Need to engage the various specialist within the organization to borrow their time so that be part of the architecting team.

Hope you are able to see the value that I see in CloudShare. Interested? Head over now to get your trial account. Sign up for Trial

P/S: I am not affiliated with CloudShare in any ways.

Cheers!
Milton Goh

Five Reasons to using CloudShare and why it is worth it.