Rich Frangiamore

About Rich Frangiamore

Systems admin, geek, Trekkie, nature lover. Finding easier ways to do stuff since 1980.

Windows 8 Treats

Since upgrading to Windows 8, I keep finding more and more little treats. Remember all those essential programs you had to install after a fresh Windows XP or 7 installation? Not anymore! I’m so glad to see these new built-in features (with the apps I used to use in parentheses). Win8 screenshot

* A native PDF reader. (Adobe Reader / Foxit Reader)
* Long awaited native ability to mount ISO and VHD files (Virtual Clonedrive)
* Built-in antimalware/antivirus with an improved Windows Defender (Panda Cloud AV / Microsoft Security Essentials)

What nifty features have you discovered on Windows 8?

No Excuses: Password Security

Pardon me for being verbose here, but we need to talk.  It’s about your passwords.

It’s official.  There is no longer any excuse for any of us to not be using multi-factor authentication with our sensitive accounts.  There is also no longer any excuse for any of us to not be using complex and unique passwords for every site we visit.  None.

It’s all over the blogosphere.  Everywhere.  Online businesses and services are being compromised.  Accounts are being stolen.  It does not take a PhD to have a secure online identity, but sadly, some people still don’t take this seriously.

The resources are out there, and they’re mostly free.  Yes, 100% gratis.

No excuses.

I’m going to talk about two components:  password security, and multi-factor-authentication (MFA), (aka, two-step verification).

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Life is all about the little extensions: a great bookmark sorter for Chrome

Sometimes the most insignificant things make my day.

Recently, I converted from an avid Firefox devotee to a Chrome enthusiast. In the past, there were many little quirks which kept me from switching over, such as the missing spell-check context menu when I hit the menu key on a misspelled word (which works now), the third-party search dropdown (which works now from the omnibar), and the very clunky bookmark manager.

After I switched to Chrome last year, I bemoaned the lack of “Sort by name” when I right click on a folder of bookmarks. Instead, I must open the Bookmark Manager, navigate to a folder in the right hand side (not the left!), click Organize, and then Sort. And I had to do this for every folder I want to sort. My bookmark sync extension, Xmarks, couldn’t help me here either.

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Two Buck Chuck or How I Had My Load Balancing Epiphany

Last night, I detoured over to my very favorite purveyor of groceries, Trader Joe’s, on my commute home. This is a new-ish location, in Clarendon, just across the street from the Metro station. It being rush hour, the checkout line was massive. I finished my list by grabbing a five dollar bottle of Zinfandel (don’t judge me) and got in line. Servers

It was then that I had an epiphany. This TJ’s, unlike the other locations around Arlington which have individual lines for each register, has a long row of vertically stacked registers with one huge line. When a register is ready for another customer, an expediter waves you to the open spot. I thought to myself, “Wow, the throughput is faster than the other location. I’m not at risk of getting stuck behind some person who demands that the butternut squash is ten cents cheaper, then spends 5 minutes digging through her purse for a checkbook. Hey, this is almost like load balancing on VMware.”

The analogy is to one of my favorite topics, hardware virtualization. Two of the biggest features of VMware’s Enterprise Plus version of vSphere (i.e. the Cadillac of virtualization) are Storage Distributed Resource Scheduler and Storage I/O Control . These two tidbits, in a nutshell, let you prioritize certain I/O traffic to your perferred VM’s, as well as perform load balancing on pools of datastore volumes.

If a bottleneck forms to the storage array containing the virtual disk of a top-priority server, the product will prioritize throughput to that server, and allocate additional resources from other storage in the pool.  You can even hot add additional storage to a storage pool and have the additional space and performance dynamically allocated where it is needed the most.  It’s the holy grail of virtual storage.  Combined with other features like vMotion and Storage vMotion, I often have a Tim “The Toolman” Taylor moment when I think about the raw power of this solution. It’s why VMware wears the crown in the industry.

Now, if only I could have an epiphany about something that hasn’t been invented yet…

Have you had any epiphanies about web tools while out in the world? What have you discovered?

The Best Things in Life Are Free Storage

I’ve always been a huge fan of Dropbox. They have a very nice way to keep local files in sync between multiple platforms. However, the free account has traditionally only offered 2GB of storage.

Well, as Hubert Farnsworth would say, “Good news, everyone!” A service called Box (ambiguous name aside) is offering 50GB free storage in celebration of the launch of their Android app. Yes, five-zero. For free. My first computer had a 2GB hard disk in it. Oy.DVDs

Box is different from Dropbox in that the focus is on integrating with other services, such as Microsoft Office, Google Docs, Salesforce, and all sorts of other cool stuff. Box targets businesses more than personal users, but that doesn’t mean we can’t all take advantage of it.

Nifty features include 1-click links to share a file with others (sort of a cross between YouSendIt and Microsoft’s SkyDrive) and very easy uploading from your Android device.

I installed the app on my Nexus S the other day, and it was quite painless.  Now it’s cake to share that enormous movie with anyone, via a few taps.

To install, search the Android Market on your device for “Box.net” and sign up from there. You’ll get a notification that you’ve been upgraded to 50GB of storage! (Twice the usual.) This is only good for about the next 4 weeks, though, so hurry before this special runs out.

Are you using Box? What free storage services do you prefer?