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A Tale of Two Tablets…

I like my Surface Pro 3.  Despite a couple of hiccoughs before the drivers were stable I have always liked it.  It is a wonderful computer for what I use it for… and frankly, for a lot of things I don’t use it for.  So when I started commuting to a new office in Toronto earlier this year – a commute that involved nearly an hour on a GO Train each way – I figured I would simply load my movies, TV shows, and books onto the Surface and keep myself entertained on the train.

This system worked perfectly for a couple of months, until I discovered the HP Stream 7… if you read my article (Stream-lining: A review of my new companion device) you will see why I switched.  I have had the Stream 7 for several months, and really the only complaint I have had about it is the battery life.  Of course, it is a little slow… that is to be expected from a Windows 8 device with only 1gb of RAM, but for my purposes (and for the absolutely incredible price) I was not complaining.

A few weeks ago I won a contest, and HP sent me a new device… the HP Pro Table 408.  It is slightly bigger than the Stream 7 (8” as opposed to 7”), has more RAM (2gb), more storage (64gb over the 32gb Stream), and in addition to the micro-USB port that both devices use for charging, it also has a micro-HDMI port to plug in external video.  Okay, It was a present, so I was looking forward to trying it out.

If I was a consumer looking at the two devices side by side I would probably use my Cuban cigar analogy… they are probably 15% better than other cigars, but for 100-200% more money, so not worth it.  The Pro Tablet 408 (the higher end version with the 64GB) retails on the HP Store for US$399, which is 400% of the cost of the Stream 7 at the same HP Store.  Can the slightly larger device really be worth it?  I dunno… The Stream is a pretty good companion device, especially if all you want to use it for is reading and watching movies.

But wait… what if that is not all you want a tablet to do?  What if you want to use it for productivity apps and web surfing and so much more?  What if you are going to use it as a communications device with Skype and Lync (Skype for Business) and Viber?  What if you want to not only do all of these things individually, but multi-task as well?  Well my friend, if that is your game then the $99 Stream 7 isn’t going to cut it.

By the way, I should state one thing for the record right now: The battery life on the Stream 7… well, how do I put it nicely?  It sucks.  It is simply awful. Don’t get me wrong, if I charge it overnight I have no problem using it for the train ride into Toronto, and even to watch a movie or read a book at lunch.  But that’s it… I would expect a device like this to last much longer, and that is just not the case.

The battery is not the only weak component on the Stream 7… the wireless networking is not the greatest.  It takes several minutes to copy files over the network, to the point that I decided it was simply quicker to pull the Micro-SD card out of it and copy the files direct from my Surface Pro than it was to move them over the Wi-Fi.  I am not talking about terabytes of files… I mean it might take 25 minutes to transmit 5gb of movie files.  Yuck.  Also I like to use it to connect to via wireless HDMI to watch TV, and it works fine when I am sitting on the couch directly in front of the TV… but when I sit at my kitchen table eighteen feet away from the TV the signal gets disrupted (as in, whatever you are watching is no longer playing) whenever my cellphone rings.

The Pro Tablet 408, on the other hand… this is a device that you can work with.  I am able to stream Netflix over my wireless HDMI from any room in my condo (which is not something I should be overly worried about, seeing as my TV is no more than 40’ from any far wall in the place) clearly and reliably while checking my e-mail and writing this blog article.  I’m not saying it is going to run Hyper-V or Adobe Photoshop, but Microsoft Office and most of my day-to-day apps work just fine.  As well the 408 has an 802.11a/b/g/n (2×2) WiFi device, as well as (and this is why a lot of professionals will pick the 408 over anything else) HSPA+ Mobile Broadband (in other words… cellular data!

The Stream’s battery is a 3000mAh Li-ion polymer, which is less than 60% of the 4800mAh Li-ion polymer one sported by the 408.  Unfortunately neither of these are user-replaceable, which is a bit of a tease, because when you pull off the back cover of either to put your GSM and SD cards in they are right there… but like a dancer at a gentleman’s club, you can look but don’t touch.

With regard to the battery, I am seriously disappointed by the Stream 7 battery not only because of how long it lasts when using it, but because it seems to drain at a similar pace when the device is off (not Sleep Mode… OFF).  If I charge it overnight and then unplug it, I seem to have about a day to use it before it dies of natural causes.  In comparison: I lost the Pro Tab 408 this weekend.  That’s bit true… on Friday I placed it in the glove compartment of my car, and then spent the week-end trying to find it (eventually checking where it was Monday morning).  I had used it Friday for an hour before leaving it.  As I sit on the train typing away on it shortly after rediscovering it, the battery is at about 80%.  Advantage: Pro Tablet 408!

The weight differential shouldn’t be a factor… .8lbs for the Stream and .83lbs for the Pro 408.  However when I bought the Stream at the Microsoft Store they had a special on a case for about $20, and while the HP Store does have a case in theory, in actuality it has been out of stock, and I eventually opted to buy a third-party case on Amazon (Cooper Case Backlight Executive) which I am quite happy with. 

On the surface the CPU in the Stream 7 is faster (1.8GHz to 1.33GHz), but since the Pro Tab 408’s CPU has Intel Burst Technology (kicking it up to 2.16GHz) the Pro Tab wins there too.

Conclusion

The Stream 7 does what it needs to do very well, as long as you remember to plug it in every 12 hours.  For my ex-wife to share with our 5 year old son for his games it is perfect.  For a professional on the go who may not have time or remember to plug it in, make sure you are also carrying a charging device with you (I love the Aukey 20,000mAh Portable Charger).

The HP Pro Tablet 408 really kicks it… It is more money than I would spend on a tablet for a 5 year old to play games on, but it is about the same as an iPad Mini, and it is the device that fanbois wish was made by Apple.  Add to the superior screen and battery the 64GB of storage and 2GB of RAM standard, the SD Card reader, micro-USB and micro-HDMI ports, and you have a winner on your hands. 

By the way, my Aukey charger that I find necessary with the Stream 7 will give both tablets a full charge… three times in fact.  If you are looking for a portable charger, this is a device to consider.

I should mention that I have not done a lot of research on competitive options, so if you have a device you like, tell me about it!

Toronto 2015: What an experience!

A year ago I got an e-mail from WTF (World Taekwondo Federation) Canada reminding me to apply to volunteer for the Pan Am Games. I was walking back to my hotel in Bellevue, Washington one afternoon in January when the e-mail offering me a position came. I started getting excited right then and there. I was going to be on the Field of Play Crew for Taekwondo!

…And then the e-mails started coming in reminding me of all of the training I would have to do – first on-line, and eventually in person – before the Toronto 2015 Games would begin. This wasn’t going to be like the Canada Open, where you show up and do what you are told. We had to do several hours of on-line training (about the games in general, and about Taekwondo (and the other martial arts) in particular. We had to watch videos, read manuals, spend an afternoon going down to the UDAC (Uniform Distribution and Accreditation Centre) to pick up our uniforms, and then an entire day of in-person training at our actual venue (in the case of Taekwondo that is the Hershey Centre most of the time, but this week it is the Mississauga Sports Complex).

For a while it didn’t seem worth it… what a pain!Mitch United!

Mitch & Tim Suzuki…And then the Games started.

We came in the week before to set up the mats in the practice arena, and there were volunteers all the way through that week, but the games are two weeks long, and the Taekwondo component is only four days. For me, the Games started Sunday.

It is hard to explain just how great an honour it is to be here. I was assigned as a Marshall. My job (not just me – there were twelve of us) had the job of holding anything that the athlete was not going to take into the ring. When the athlete came into the prep area (backstage) we meet them with our large box. They give us their accreditations, and put anything into the box – hats, chains, shoes, drinks, whatever. We escort them through the verification area – they are checked top to bottom with metal detectors and more – and then wait with them to get called into the arena.

The progression into the arena is regimented: Flag Bearer (a fellow volunteer) then the athlete, then the coach, then the team doctor, then… ME. Yes, I was part of the progression into the arena, which means I was on TV… a lot. I followed the athlete into the arena, waited until he walked on to the mat, and then sat right behind the coach. What an incredible experience!

TKD Team 1

Some of the athletes wanted to talk, some of them wanted to be left alone. Either way was fine. No matter what they wanted I accommodated them. Most of the coaches and doctors chatted with me, but I was very careful to stay out of the athlete’s way because I didn’t want to disturb them. However EVERYONE I worked with got a little gift… a keychain, a lanyard, a pin, something. Every morning I went to Dollarama and bought $25 worth of tchotchkes to give out… a little memento. I got a lot of thank-yous, a lot of smiles, a few hugs, and a few pins. It was worth every penny!

Mitch on the Mat

At the end of the match, win or lose, I was waiting with my box to join the progression out of the arena. Some of the athletes stopped to talk to reporters, many shook hands or took pictures with fans, and then we were out, behind the scenes again. I took their armour from them, gave them their little gift, and wished them luck going forward. I escorted them back to the Training Area, and that is where I left them.Mitch & Martin Sio (ARG)

This was, obviously, not my first rodeo. I have worked at several Taekwondo tournaments, not to mention the Junior Maccabiah in Montreal. But like the rest of the volunteers, this was my first time at the Toronto 2015 Games. It was a blast, and I will remember it forever.

I noticed two things that warmed my heart. Firstly the athletes… they are kids. They are the best in the world (or among them), and most of them aren’t much older than my son. Maybe that is more an effect of my getting old than of them being young. The second thing was the sportsmanship. In the ring they were trying to kick each other in the head, but behind the scenes, and even on the mat before and after the match, they were hugging, shaking hands, and joking. I don’t know if that has more to do with the fact that we are all martial artists, or if it is that they are athletes; whatever it is, it was great to see. Losers congratulated winners, winners consoled losers. It was great.

Mitch & Rafael Alba

Certainly one of the great highlights – in a week replete with them – was being in Rafael Alba’s corner for both his semi-finals match and his Gold Medal match.  I was his marshal for the semi, and his coach asked me to join them again for the finals.  As cool as it is to escort the athlete into the arena, and to sit in his corner as he (or she) fights, there are few cooler experiences than when he hugs you after the match; I stood quietly to the side as he spoke with reporters from ESPN and other networks, and then backstage, right after he took off his chest protector, his coach took a picture of us.  Yes, this picture was taken less than three minutes after he won the Gold Medal in the 80kg division.  He shook my hand and hugged me again, and then I rushed him back to the training area to change into his track suit that he would wear on the podium.  I may have been dirty, but I will never forget that moment,  Watch for Rafa in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio… He’s going to win there too!

Pachi & Gold!

I don’t know if I will be able to volunteer again – Rio is in a year, and that would be an expensive prospect. This was, for me, likely a once in a lifetime opportunity. And what an experience it was. Thank you to everyone, and keep fighting!

The World Has Changed…

I looked at my eBay profile today to see if someone had left me negative feedback out of spite. He hadn’t… But as I was in there I took notice of an interesting stat.

Member since: 2003.

I was a latecomer to online commerce for the simple reason that I didn’t have a credit card at the time. I got involved in eBay because my boss at Poppy Industries had a lot of stuff that he wanted to unload… And frankly there aren’t a lot of companies with three employees that need a full time IT guy.

I was living in near poverty back then, but I had a lot of stuff… I sold off bits from my Army days (including my jacket which was, shall we say, less than stylish). I sold other stuff, but couldn’t tell you what. I remember buying a bag full of Smurfs at a garage sale for $0.10 each, and sold three of them for $20 each. There was a thrill to it, and since David didn’t seem to mind my selling my stuff along with his, I went with it.

EBay was the clear winner of the genre, but I remember five years before I even joined eBay my friend Michelle tried to buy something on Yahoo Auctions.  I don’t know when that site closed, but it was still during the days where there were hundreds of search engines and they were all trying to differentiate themselves. Of course we know who won that battle.

There was no such thing as Chrome (or Google) when I started on the Internet, but you did have three browsers to choose from – Netscape Navigator, Mozilla Mosaic, and the upstarts at Microsoft decided to get into the game at some point by releasing Internet Explorer 1.

Back in 1996 I had bought a used Gateway laptop with an 80486 processor in it that I brought to my Army post in Lebanon with me. When I decided to get on the Internet with it there were several challenges… The first of which was that I had to download a program called Trumpet Winsock, because Windows 3.1 did not have a tool to actually dial in to the Internet.  Once I was connected though it wasn’t a great experience at first… I was using the same terminal program (Procomm 2.4.2) that I used to connect to BBSes. I frankly thought the World Wide Web was overrated… Until I connected to the same chat site (IRC) using the proper tool and not just a terminal session.

Downloading music was still years away, but I remember this feeling of ‘what do I do?’ – and not an excited ‘what can I do now?’ Feeling. I was connected to this Internet… But what can I do? I still hadn’t heard of search engines at that point. It was only a few months later when I visited Montreal that my friend Steven Rich introduced me to Yahoo.

During the weekends during my Army service I worked as a bouncer at Joey’s Pub in Tel Aviv. I got to the bar a couple of hours early one day and was sitting at the bar plugging away at my new Windows 95 (that was given to me by someone in UNIFIL) and someone asked me if I was on the Internet, and then if I liked to chat. Yes and Yes. So he asked if I would be interested in trying a new chat program that he and a friend had just created. It was called ICQ, and long before AOL bought them out for $300,000,000 it was just a quaint little chat program written by a guy I met at a bar.

When I moved from Israel to Canada a program called RealAudio became central to my being because I could continue to listen to Istaeli Radio from Canada. And when I realized I could make a few extra dollars by installing a program and letting them show me ads on my computer as I worked I was glad because extra money – even the $20 or so they sent me every couple of months – was a welcome injection of cash.

TD Bank asked me if I wanted to bank on-line, and when I agreed they gave me a floppy disk (remember those?) to install a program (the word app was in the distant future) to install that would securely connect me to their bank. It never worked… But since I had no money back then, it didn’t really matter.

The world of computers, which until a couple of years before had been mostly professional, now had programs that told me in a loud baritone voice that whipped the llama’s ass. Much of the Internet was about porn, it was possible to walk down the street and see a major retailer that didn’t have a website… And buy their domain name. A majority of web pages were static code, and companies would use their sites to get you to visit them in person, in their B&M (brick and mortar – another term that was still a ways off) locations. There was no Amazon, but when there finally was they sold… Books. Not e-books by the way, because nobody had figured out how to protect and monetize those… And there were no eBook readers or tablet computers that would make them ubiquitous.

Cellular phones were pretty popular by then… And aside from making phone calls, some of them could store your phone numbers too… Up to 100 of them in the high-end models. The words camera and phone were years away from being hyphenated. Video games would come before smartphones, but when Blackberry came out it was revolutionary… But still years in the future.

The late 1990s were a great time with regard to computers. I hosted a radio show from 1997-1999 and received during that time precisely two e-mails… I get more than that while I am in the shower these days.

Then the bubble burst.

The world had been getting rich off high tech, and a lot of the companies that were nearly household names went away overnight. Giants collapsed into the annals of History. 

When dinosaurs roamed the earth there was no chance for mammals to grow and flourish. It wasn’t until the giant predators were wiped out that or ancestors got the opportunity… And a land previously ruled by giant lizards gave way for a planet that would eventually be populated by mankind. One day we will be gone, and something else will rule.

In much the same way, the collapse of those Internet giants of the late 1990s paved the way for Google and Amazon and eBay and the like to grow into the giants that they are. One day those companies will vanish (or at least be made irrelevant) and that will pave the way for… Something sale, whatever is next.

I started writing articles and such in those days, and I would e-mail them to a list of people. I did this for years before I finally built a website, and did that for a few years before actually starting a blog. 

I would love to go back in time and tell the 26 year old Me that one day I would be sitting in bed writing an article like this, that would be read by tens of thousands of you… On my cellphone while lying in bed.

So here’s the secret to becoming rich… Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg rich:

Figure out what’s next… Then make it happen.

That Was the Week That Was…

This has been one of those weeks that I love as an IT Professional.  I have succeeded in keeping meetings to a minimum, and got to play with a lot of cool technology.

If I look back on the week, and this is without reviewing my notes, I have built:

  • Storage Pools
  • iSCSI Targets
  • Failover Clusters
  • Scale-Out File Servers
  • AlwaysOn SQL Instances
  • Secure Windows To Go (WTG) keys
  • Azure RemoteApp
  • Azure Virtual Machines
  • Azure Active Directory

… that is to say nothing of the Cluster-Aware Updates that I got to play with, the PowerShell scripts I got to figure out, the tunneled VPN I got to test and start using for my company, Designated Names, Hyper-V, Windows 10, Server 2016, Group Policy Objects, and so much more.

I expect that most of my readers are IT Professionals, and most of us got into the business because we were passionate about the technologies.  I am equally sure that many of us spend a lot of time doing the type of monotonous minutiae that can make us forget that we get to come to work and play with toys most of the time.  Well, it’s weeks like this one that serve to remind us, and reinvigorate the joy in what we do.

The next few weeks will be interesting, leading right up to the days I will be taking off working at the PanAm Games.  Until then, it looks like an exciting time.

Have a great week-end folks!

My New Word…?

I was driving with a friend over the week-end, and describing the behaviour of someone with whom I recently cut all ties.  Part of the reason I did is because she is a master manipulator.  “She is a Manipulatrix.”

Brad said he loved that word, even though he had never heard it before.  I admit, I hadn’t either… we thought that I had coined a new word.

When I looked it up on-line before claiming the credit for it, unfortunately there was not only a definition on Urban Dictionary- Manipulatrix, there is even a site www.manipulatrix.com (which claims on the first screen to be “NOT FOR THE MEEK!”  So obviously, there is, within the world of alternative sexual lifestyles, previous uses and claims to the word.

With that being said, there is nothing sexual or alternative to the family member to whom I was referring, so I am coining the term thusly:

Manipulatrix: A woman who will manipulate every situation to her advantage, often using detrimental or derogatory actions to belittle the target of her manipulation.

A woman who, using her own wiles, causes others to do her bidding and/or to change situations to her favour.

Let me be clear, before anyone gets any silly ideas: I am not referring to any woman to whom I have dated or been married.  While my marriage to Theresa has ended, we are on very good terms, and I do not consider her in any negative terms.  My first wife may have been a lot of things, but she was not a manipulatrix.

Let’s Spread the Action Around… With NLB! (Part 1)

**AUTHOR’S NOTE: I have written hundreds of articles on this blog over the past decade.  Until recently I spent a lot of time taking screen shots of GUI consoles for my how-to articles.  For the time being, as I try to force myself into the habit, I will be using Windows PowerShell as much as possible, and thus will not be taking screen shots, but instead giving you the cmdlets that I use.  I hope this helps you as much as it is helping me! –MDG

I have written at length about Failover Clusters for Active-Passive services.  Let’s move away from that for a moment to discuss Network Load Balancing (NLB) – the tool that we can use to create Active-Active clusters for web sites (and other static-information services).

While NLB does, after a fact, cluster services, it is not a failover service… and is in fact a completely different service.  For my use case, it is usually installed on a server running IIS.  Start by installing it:

PS C:\> Install-WindowsFeature NLB –ComputerName Server1

Of course, having a single server NLB cluster is like juggling one ball… not very impressive at all.  So we are going to perform the same function for at least a couple of hosts…

PS C:\> Install-WindowsFeature NLB –ComputerName Server1,Server2,Server3

By the way, notice that I am referring to the servers as hosts, and not nodes.  Even the terminology is different from Failover Clusters.  This is going to get confusing at a certain point, because some of the PowerShell cmdlets and switches will refer to nodes.

Now that the feature is installed on all of our servers, we are almost ready to create our NLB Cluster.  Before we do, we have to determine the following:

  • Ethernet Adapter name
  • Static IP Address to be assigned to the Cluster

You are on your own for the IP address… it is up to you to pick one and to make sure it doesn’t conflict with another server or DHCP Server.

However with regard to the Ethernet Adapter name, there’s a cmdlet for that:

PS C:\> Invoke-Command –ComputerName Server1 –ScriptBlock {Get-NlbClusterNodeNetworkInterface}

Notice that I am only doing this, for the time being, against one server.  That is because I am going to create the cluster on a single server, then add my hosts to it afterward.

So now that we have the information we need, let’s go ahead and create an NLB Cluster named WebCluster, on Server1, with the Interface named Ethernet 2, and with an IP Address of 172.16.10.199:

PS C:\> New-NlbCluster –HostName Server1 –InterfaceName “Ethernet 2” –ClusterName WebCluster –ClusterPrimaryIP 172.16.10.199 –OperationMode Multicast

It will only take a minute, and you will get a response table listing the name, IP Address, Subnet Mask, and Mode of your cluster.

Now that we’ve done that, we can add another host to the NLB Cluster.  We’ll start by checking the NIC name on the second server, then we will add that server to the NLB Cluster:

PS C:\> Invoke-Command –ComputerName Server2 –ScriptBlock {Get-NlbClusterNodeNetworkInterface}

PS C:\> Get-NlbCluster –HostName Server1 | Add-NlbClusterNode –NewNodeName Server2 –NewNodeInterface “Ethernet”

Notice that in the first part of the script we are getting the NLB Cluster Name from the Host Name, and not the Cluster Name.

This part may take a few minutes… Don’t worry, it will work.  When it is done you will get a response table listing the name, State, and Interface name of the second host.

You can repeat this across as many hosts as you like… For the sake of this series, I will stick to two.

In the next article of the series, we will figure out how to publish our web sites to the NLB Cluster.

Follow-up to a comment.

Per my comment reply to Peter, this is from the My Certifications > MCSE: Private Cloud page.

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