Tools united – Part 1

Tools United

Here is a post based on some of the tools that I use. I have a varied workflow depending on what I do or need to achieve.

I do not profess to have the best workflow. I do think there is plenty of room for optimisation.

Dropbox

Dropbox is my primary cloud storage. It is used for a bulk of my files that are allowed to be within the cloud. The best features of (paid) Dropbox include increased sharing settings, integrations, and revoking sharing. It also has the wonderful screenshot plugin where Screenshots made by OSX are lifted into Dropbox and a shared link created. Very handy.

Note that i have been a long time Google Drive user. It no longer met my requirements and the integrations hurt my face a bit. The UI is pretty yuck too. I am currently migrating from Google Drive to Dropbox.

I also use the 50GB subscription of iCloud Drive for iPhone backup, Photos, and some OSX apps for filesync. iBook book sync is just top notch and this is one reason I use it. Bookmarks, page locations, AND the ePub itself. Perfect.

Markdown

Not a tool but a way of writing. Using Markdown allows platform and program independent method of consistent formatting. This means that the code for my text that I write on my mac will work on any platform that knows how to read the markdown language.

Using basic constructs such as double asterisks around words will bold them. A word prefaced by a single asterisks will create an ordered list. Links are wrapped by brackets whilst italics are dealt with single asterisks around the word.

This clean, minimalist, and simple way to write allows less distraction by formatting (looking at you Word!) and more time on content.

Spotify

I am a big fan of Spotify and most streaming services. I have an eclectic taste in music. The key thing here is when I require deep concentration I cannot listen to music that has lyrics in it. My mind quickly wanders to what is being spoken. As a result I listen to a lot of classical, ambient sounds, or video game or movie soundtracks.

When I am doing email I move to things like Blind Guardian, Nightwish, and other collections like Daft Punk.

My “Pingas” playlist contains EDM, DJ mixes and sets, My “Soundtrack” collection has OST’s and classical stuff, and I have a “New stuff” playlist has recommendations from friends.

1Password

1Password represents my method of password storage, sync, and password creation. This application is one of the best on the market. I used to use a sentence based password and alternate the string based on what the password was being used for. After a while I decided to up my personal OpSec and invested in 1Password.

Between easy to use browser plugins, cross platform applications, and ability to enforce new passwords based on known site breeches with WatchTower this solution is great.

Whilst I don’t have a perfect security defence, in conjunction with two-factor authentication, this is a step in the right direction.

Ulysses

For large bodies of Markdown I work in I use Ulysses. This markdown text editor is super powerful, flexible and very easy to use. I have been writing a bulk of my texts in Markdown. It allows me a clean interface to quickly get items out with basic formatting.

Some of the great features here are:
* iCloud sync for access across all devices
* Dark mode for easy eyes
* Writing targets including words per minute and breakdown
* Easy export to numerous formats (ePub, DOCX, PDF)

LittleSnitch

LittleSnitch is a personal OS based firewall. It provides the granularity of a per-application firewall. It allows to block all communication from all applications on each source and destination. Unless specifically permitted it will prompt the user for an action. An action can be treated for an entire application to allow all traffic on port 443, or only 433 to destination blizzard.com.

It has the ability to capture traffic to. This capture traffic function uses tcpdump to pull up traffic to analyse in Wireshark. It can also show how your firewall is interacting with it.

Network Monitor shows top talkers from an application point of view. It also will list all sources and their current and stale connections to the relevant destination.

Per location based firewall rules is nice too. This allows me to create a Bookwriting location and have firewall rules apply to it. This means I can permit Spotify, Permit Horizon View to my lab, and then deny all. No social, no random inter tubes, no Warhammer Total War!

This actually is what moved me away from using Google Chrome. That is one damn verbose application! Lots of chat back to the Borg.

OmniGraffle

Being a Mac user for over 7 years now I have come to live without Visio. Omnigraffle provides Stencil and Drawing functions akin to Visio. It has insanely detailed and smart logic in object placement including spacing and alignment. This helps immensely when drawing network based diagrams.

All your functions are there and as are icons. Lots of .graffle files around for all sorts of applications.

I generally do not share my original content. If I do it is via PDF files. IN the occasion that a colleague needs a visio file then Omnigraffle Pro can export in this format.

Tiptop!

DeckSet App

For when I do external presentations that do not have VMware related branding or content I use DeckSet App. This allows me to convert my Markdown notes easily into a Presentation. The idea here is to express the content using minimalism and design aesthetics driven by markdown. If you’re using a markdown lifecycle (from creation to editing to publishing) then this is superb!

Sublime Text 2 or 3

I have used Sublime text quite a bit. Easy, clean, and minimalist. With a variety of styles based on the language you’re writing in you have a native text editor. It is what all my editing of my scripts and code is done in.

I have done a lot of the PowerNSX work in Sublime text. With the package manager installed I have gone and installed the PowerShell style. It makes working with PoSH very pretty. As a learner too, the matching against object types (such as creating parameters, automatically making brackets) does help.

Fullscreen with split tabs between files lets me to have the ability to create a usable workspace. This ROCKS on a 27” 5k resolution iMac.

I barely use the feature set of Sublime but it is very good for what I do.
An alternate is Atom edit. I have found Atom to trigger my Macbook Air’s “increased battery” sign. For 12 hour flights with a 12 hour battery I need to ensure my battery can last and therefore I use Sublime. It doesn’t trigger the battery to use significant energy.

TunnelBear

I travel quite a bit. I tend to have to use hotel wifi or public wifi when I do that is why when I do I use a VPN service. Why some ask? I don’t trust other people. I trust my infrastructure and components to a point. I trust my laptop. I don’t trust other users on the same network. The reality is shouldn’t browse the internet over unprotected Wifi..

TunnelBear is an OpenVPN front end that allows easy, simple, and a pretty UI for a VPN service.

It provides the ability to

  • Free (500 MB) per month
  • Per month – 7.99 per month, unlimited data
  • Yearly – 4.50 per month, unlimited data

This is not the VPN service if you’re into using torrents. This VPN service blocks 6199 UDP.

[https://www.tunnelbear.com]

#Slack
Ghetto (see unofficial) communication tool within VMware. Skype for Business doesn’t address the needs of the user base at large much to the belief of internal IT it does. Numerous channels, lots of uptake, great content. Syncs across devices which is win! Integrations into Git and BitBucket. Happy days.

Use PowerCLI to upgrade vSphere

So today marked the release of vSphere 6.0 U2. This is pretty cool because it adds the vSphere Host Web Client. A much-needed upgrade if you speak to administrators of a vSphere environment. I have a small lab of around 16 hosts. It forms my miniature lab that allows me to test and scale NSX deployments and use-cases. I am in the midst of writing the book and wanted to minimise the time taken to update. This environment does not use VMware Update Manager so I have dallied with my new love, PowerCLI.

The following script does not consider or take into consideration the workloads. My management cluster along with test applications mean nothing to me.  If you are to use this then do not use -force or -confirm:$false. Do not stop VM’s either – let vMotion and DRS do the work!

So after downloading the latest vSphere update ZIP to the cluster data store the following code is run.

$datastorename = "mgt-ds01"
$clustername = "Management"

$hosts = get-cluster $ClusterName | get-vmhost

$hosts | get-vm | stop-vm -confirm:$false
$hosts | set-vmhost -state "maintenance" -confirm:$false
$hosts | Install-VMHostPatch -HostPath /vmfs/volumes/$datastorename/60u2/metadata.zip
$hosts | restart-vmhost -force -confirm:$false
$hosts | set-vmhost -state "Connected" -confirm:$false
$hosts | get-vm | start-vm

The two environment variables outline the cluster datastore and the cluster name. The order of operations are as follows:

  1. Return all host within defined cluster and store it in $hosts
  2. Get all VMs across all hosts in cluster and hard stop without confirmation
  3. Set all hosts within cluster to go into maintenance mode
  4. Install the host patch from the datastore location defined
  5. Force restart all hosts
  6. Reconnect hosts out of maintenance mode
  7. Restart VMs on hosts within cluster

Screenshot 2016-03-16 23.13.13

Get the latest info on vSphere 6.0 here

vSphere 6.0 U2 Release Notes:
Download: