Well, that escalated quickly…

Ok, so not really. I’ve been thinking about this for a month or two now. I’ve replaced my 2016 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar with, well, a 2013 Mac Pro…and I’m not looking back.

“But John, you travel! How will you work while you’re on the road?” you may be asking. I can’t tell you how much I like my iPad Pro. That’ll be upgraded to a 10.5” shortly – I think that’ll be just right.

Here’s the thing. My job role is changing. Much of that is driven by me. I want to get off the road. I have a new house (and acreage to maintain – that takes time!). My wife and I are raising our grandson. I need to be home more.

Some of it is definitely being driven by the business, too. Education is working on some cool video-based products. And I have most of a studio set up already. It lines up nicely with what I want to be doing.

So if I’m not traveling so much, what am I doing? I’m creating. I’m actually hoping to make this a much more frequent destination for my time. I spent the two months after VMworld kicking out an NSX Micro-Segmentation course. Nothing fancy, but you should go check it out if you haven’t had any NSX training – I think it’s great! Right after we got the first delivery of that out of the way, I made a temporary move to our Curriculum Development team. We’re cranking out new NSX classes, and we’re trying to make ‘em awesome. So there’s a lot of work going into that.

But is that all? Of course not. VMware Learning Zone is a big thing for us right now. You should check that out, too. I’m recording content for that (when time allows). Nothing major right now, but definitely more in the pipeline.

And then, with all of this content creation work I’m doing, I got Scrivener back out, and actually started learning how to use it in earnest. This is one of the greatest things I think I’ve ever found. I can create content until I don’t want to create anymore, and I can do whatever I need to do with it. I think more importantly, it’s helped me start actually organizing thoughts into consumable snippets, and gives me a platform on which to build.

So this has driven me to a change in my daily driver. Earlier this year (once the hype chilled out a bit), I got my hands on a sweet MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. And I _love_ it. I’ve read lots of complaints about the Touch Bar, and whether it’s useful – I hope Apple will be launching a Magic Keyboard with Touch Bar soon. Seriously.

The MBP doesn’t quite fit what I need right now. I bought an OWC Thunderbolt 3 dock to go with it. Which is spectacular. I’ve got my old Thunderbolt Cinema Display rocking out a big screen, and I just picked up a Dell U3417W as a primary display. I do kinda miss the HiDPI joy of Retina displays, but the amount of real estate I have now is unreal, and I’m ok with the tradeoff.

The tradeoff I’m not cool with anymore is the lack of resources for portability. My MBP has 4 hyperthreaded CPU cores, and they’re fast. But they’re not enough for me. I also maxed this thing out at a whopping 16 GB of RAM. Still not enough. Storage, I bumped to a full terabyte, and that’s groovy, but I’ve also got my Synology hanging around in the background for more space if I need it.

With all of this content I’m working through (and the tooling and processes we use), I have a full-time Windows VM I have to run, and I want that to be responsive, so that’s chewing up more than half of my resources right now. And then there’s Camtasia, Logic Pro X, and any other editing tools I need when I’m doing audio or video. And Mail, and Scrivener, and more than one web browser, and whatever else I’m running.

So I took advatage of Other World Computing’s online store (and Black Friday/Cyber Monday), and found a heck of a deal on a trash can Mac Pro, adding another 2 Xeon cores and twice the RAM of the MacBook Pro. Sure, I’m getting what should be considered an old machine, but for what I want to be able to do, it makes a ton more sense. The current Pro certainly doesn’t fit everyone’s use case, but it works great for what I want and need it to do. And I can add memory. Holy crap I miss having that flexibility!

Will I be frustrated late in 2018 when a new Mac Pro is launched? Sure. Am I upset that I’m not waiting another few weeks to get my hands on an iMac Pro? Nah, but that’s an envy-inducing rig right there. I wonder if I can make a business case for my next machine refresh at work………..

Do you know what I’m gonna miss, at least a little bit? Of all things, USB-C. And the Touch Bar, but since I’ve been using the MBP essentially as a desktop, that’s been hidden away from me for a couple of months. But I’m really digging USB-C, for all it’s little gotchas. I like it. And I won’t have any more of it until I refresh this new (old) machine in a while. By then I’m sure we’ll be on a whole new USB spec. And Thunderbolt 4.

Anyway, I’m back to the desktop for a while. I can do everything I need to on the road with my trusty iPad Pro, Pencil, and Smart Keyboard (oh, don’t forget the Spotlight).

What’s out there looking forward? Content. Content on all things NSX. And whatever else I come up with. And I’m going to try to put some here. I’ll see you on the flip side!

How to Attend a Live Online Class

So, I teach a lot of online classes for VMware. Many of you may know this, for those that don’t, well, here ya go 🙂 Probably 60% of my classes are delivered online, the rest are in a live classroom.

The Live Online classes are great. All the same material, all the same labs, nearly the same experience, but no travel is involved. But not everyone knows how to attend a Live Online class. We already know all of the stuff in this post, but I think it bears repeating, if only to bring it back to the forefront of our minds. Bear with me here.

Take an online class with the same discipline and habits you have developed in the opportunities you may have had to work remotely. This may sound like common sense, really, but I think it needs to be said. In order to get the most out of these classes, I beg of you, don’t take the class while you’re in the office. This provides far too many distractions to actually get anything out of an information-packed class like ours.

Before you choose to sign up for an online class, check your home office workspace (whether a dedicated office or just a workspace that you can use at home). Let’s think about the basics.

  • Do you have broadband connectivity? You’ll probably want this for the presentation and the labs.
  • Do you have a telephone, or are you going to use a headset on your computer? Ideally, you will have a land-line telephone with a speaker (or even better, a headset) for the voice component of the class. This will provide the cleanest overall audio experience. Our online Training Center provides VOIP services for the session, and that tends to work rather well, but you will definitely need decent broadband and a computer headset so that the audio doesn’t turn into a terrible echo-tastic mess!
  • Do you have more than one monitor you can work with (one for your documents, one for the class and lab sessions)? Multiple monitors is a serious benefit. For those that don’t have many displays just hanging around, most laptops can drive a secondary monitor while the laptop screen is open.
  • Do you have a reasonably comfortable chair? You’ll be in it for most of the day – good to have.
  • Stuff to make lunch in the kitchen? While heading down the street to grab a bite is probably ok, traffic can be a little unpredictable.
  • Is there a TV (or any other possible distraction) nearby? These are the biggest concentration killers in any online class. It’s awful easy to mute your line and kick on a DVD that you’ve been meaning to watch, but then you’ll miss out on all the entertainment your instructor can provide!

I think it’s really best to treat an online class much like you treat a classroom-based class. You need to remove yourself from the office, from the troubles of work. When you take a class and travel to the classroom, you can focus on the education aspect of your job. In most organizations, training time is precious and rare. Take advantage of it.

In the office, you can sit and listen, but how many people just pop by your cubicle during a day? How often are you pulled away from your desk for an impromptu design meeting or troubleshooting session? How dedicated can you really be to the training?

When you don’t give the class your full attention, you’re not only providing a disservice to the instructor, in many cases, you’re providing a disruption to the class. In our classes, for example, the lab exercises are progressive – almost every lab depends on the successful completion of the prior labs. But more important to that, later in the class, when we start talking about distributed and clustered services, each attendee will be teamed up with another so that clusters can be built. If you haven’t been able to keep up with the lab exercises, then you’re not only hurting yourself, but also your lab partner.

So Live Online classes definitely mean we need to look at the bigger picture, as we’re potentially bombarded with constant distractions. Put yourself in a position to focus on the class. Even if you’ve been working with our products for a while, I promise that we’ll both learn something about the product during one of my classes. But only if you’re paying attention.