Vaping / e-cigarettes

So I mentioned electronic cigarettes, or personal vaporizers (PVs for short) yesterday, so I figured I’d spend a little time explaining, for those who may be unfamiliar with the devices.

I’m not going to spend too much time talking about what a PV is, or how they work. Those topics have been well covered, some examples are here, here, and here. In essence, an electronic cigarette works by vaporizing a solution of nicotine, flavoring, and either Propylene Glycol (PG) or Vegetable Glycerin (VG), called e-liquid. This creates a water vapor that’s inhaled by the user. This results in an act that looks and feels like smoking, “smoke” exhalation and all.

Now, some people are offended by PVs just like they’re offended by traditional (or “analog”) cigarettes, which can be explored philosophically at a later time. The interesting thing, though, is that PVs are (arguably) harmless.

I want to stress the use of the word “arguably” a second ago – there is a lot of debate about PVs right now. The FDA has tried to pull the devices as drug delivery devices. Currently, the courts have ruled that they are to be regulated as tobacco products, easing the immediate possibility of FDA regulations. There is much discussion about this, you can hit up Google for the narrative, or you can look at a few examples here, here, here, and here.

There are many discussions about the safety of the devices as well, with an FDA report published after testing some low quality imported e-liquids and finding some potentially dangerous compounds. The School of Public Health at Boston University, however, found that there was nothing to worry about. The point of all this is that the contents of the e-liquids certainly demand further study. Personally, I believe, if nothing else, electronic cigarettes are far less bad for you than a traditional tobacco cigarette. This opinion comes from the understanding that nicotine, while an addictive and somewhat toxic alkaloid, is not currently known to be a carcinogen. The carcinogens found in tobacco cigarettes are largely due to additives. We consume pretty much everything in an electronic cigarette liquid daily – PG and VG are bases for many food products we consume, the flavoring is (so far as I have found) food-grade natural and artificial flavoring, and nicotine is also found (in varying quantities) in other members of the nightshade family of plants, such as tomatoes and eggplant.

Does all this mean that vaping, the term coined for using a PV, is safe? Not necessarily. Given current evidence, though, it is stripping arguably all of the carcinogens out of the activity. But PVs warrant further study. Also remember that the addictive substance in a cigarette is still nicotine, which is delivered by a PV.

With all that said, I am a big proponent of electronic cigarettes. Smoking is a very tough habit to kick – I know. I’ve tried to quit a number of times in my life (once for 3 years), and have managed to fall back on smoking every time. PVs are not, however, a smoking cessation aid. It is an alternative to smoking tobacco cigarettes. In other words, if you don’t smoke now, don’t start smoking, and equally, don’t start vaping. But vaping has been very good to me. I feel much like I have after a few months of not smoking (comparing to previous attempts). I no longer have a classic smoker’s cough, I can breathe better, my senses of smell and taste improve a little more each day.

I’m also vaping indoors, as the water vapor exhaled from a PV is not riddled with tar and other nastiness. It often smells much like the flavor I’m vaping (peanut butter cup, pomegranate, and green tea are some of my current favorite flavors), and that aroma dissipates very quickly. No longer do I (or my clothes or surroundings) smell like an ashtray.  Vaping smells much, much better!

Perhaps, in time, I’ll drop the vaping habit as well, but in the mean time, I’m enjoying the fact that I’m not shivering out in the freezing cold just for a smoke, and I’m relishing the fact that I’m not winded so easily (I’m still way out of shape, but that’s a whole different discussion!).

If you smoke, I personally recommend that you look into vaping as a less-bad-for-you alternative. It can be a little intimidating at first, I’ll start posting about some of the different vendors and products with which I have experience, and the comments and email are always good ways to be inquisitive!

-jk

A New Year

And hopefully that means I can start working a little harder on this blog. I never make any guarantees, but it’s possible 🙂

This past year has been a wild ride. Professionally, I got out of consulting and joined VMware Education so I can teach full-time. There were changes internally shortly after I joined that changed my perspective about that a little – ultimately good, once the dread of change washed over me and passed. Essentially, it means I’m much more busy with class delivery, which I am very much good with.

Personally, I have tried (very unsuccessfully) to help my better half sell her house. The problem we ran into is that we just can’t compete with bargain-basement prices on foreclosed homes in the area. We’re going to have to continue on carrying two households until the real estate market resolves itself. How long will that be? Your guess is as good as mine!

I also stopped smoking analog cigarettes this year thanks to personal vaporizers (also known as PVs or electronic cigarettes). Sure, anti-smoking folks still see them as terrible as analog cigarettes, but if you check out this study, there’s evidence mounting that PVs most definitely less bad for everyone. Being a longtime smoker, I’m used to the anti-smoking vitriol, and still saddened that it’s become a moral crime. I’ll be talking, from time to time, about my vaping hobby/habit, so if you’re unfamiliar with PVs, feel free to ask questions!

I broke down and jumped in with the iPad crowd, and I can’t be happier. I use my laptop less and less frequently these days because of it. Expect more to come on that front as well.

As for the next calendar year, well, we’ll see. I tend to not set too many specific goals right away, thanks to the ease of becoming overwhelmed. Professionally, I’m gunning for my VCAP-DCA and VCAP-DCD this year. 25% of that goal was passed on 12/30 when I actually sat the DCA exam. Work was driving me to that, as I will have to be DCA certified to continue to teach the vSphere Troubleshooting and Performance classes. I should hear shortly as to my DCA fate. The DCD certification is more of a preemptive strike, as it would make sense that we will begin to require it of our instructors to continue to deliver the Design Workshop, which I also currently teach. When I get the results from the DCA, I’ll post more about it and my experiences.

On the personal front, we’re trying our hands at the property rental game, just to offset the cost and vacancy of Jen’s house. Maybe we like it, maybe we run screaming into the night after the first lease expires. We’ll just have to see.

I’d say this blog will be changing, but that would be redundant, as it never particularly coalesced into anything over the course of the past year. So maybe I can get this blogging thing nailed down this year!

Thanks for reading!
-jk


How does life get in the way?

Well, not much to report these past few weeks. Team meetings, classes, and most time-consuming, getting a house up on the market has been getting in the way of content for my little, unknown slice of the blogosphere.

Nothing has been forgotten, and for the moment, unfortunately, things like this have to be placed on the back burner for a short period.

This week is last-minute touches on the house, and studying for the Enterprise Administration Exam, which I am scheduled to pass Saturday. I’ll report back on how that goes.
I would like to report, though, that a very good friend and colleague of mine has joined me on this blog. Joe has a fantastic ITSM background, and thinks a lot about virtualization in that frame of reference. Look for some amazing thoughts to roll out of his head!

In the mean time, I hope you stay tuned and be patient. The next few weeks should be better.
-jk


Delays, delays, and delays

Well, I’m still working on the vApp post, but it’s been a little while since I’ve put anything online.

The lab is, naturally, in a pretty constant state of flux, and I’ve dramatically minimized and consolidated my hardware. But that’s having a little bit of an adverse affect on performance (what a shocker, right?!). The impact is much greater than I had originally anticipated, but that should be resolved later today when a new machine will appear when the UPS guy magically appears at my doorstep 🙂

Add to that some messy travel back home from Alabama, family time, and home demolition this weekend, I’ve been a little tied up away from the lab.

So keep your eyes on this spot, a post with actual content will be coming soon, I promise!


Miscellaneous Mac Mayhem

So, I’m a MacHead, I’ll admit. So I share things when I find them.

First off, MacHeist just launched their nanoBundle 2 – 7 apps for $19.95! Go check it out!!

Today, MacUpdate Promo is running Blogo (which I use to write this blog, BTW) for a budget-friendly $12.95!

And last, but not least, how often do you use the optical drive in your portable Mac? I can say that I don’t use mine all that much! I was thinking about this the other day, and asked my friend Google, as I thought I had seen something about replacing the Superdrive in a MacBook with a hard disk once upon a time. Lo and behold, MCE Technologies showed up, and for $99, you can get a Superdrive bay replacement to put a hard drive in. And for a little more, you can get a drive preinstalled in it!

I thought this was great because I’ve been thinking about dropping a SSD in this machine for the performance, but I was concerned about the lack of storage space. See, this machine is my primary system, and I really do use a lot of the space. I buy music, TV shows, and movies from iTunes, store all kinds of documents, and generally take up all kinds of space. So SSD is not cost effective in general. But now, I can, within reasonable financial boundaries, get the system performance of SSD, and still maintain the capacity I know and love 🙂

So there are my Mac tidbits for the day.

-jk


Ramblings on ESXi

As VMware continues the push to a Service-Console-less world with ESXi, there are things that we may want to contemplate with our customers.

Something that came to mind earlier today was logging. ESXi, by default, has a built-in syslog, but it writes logs to a local memory-based file system. That means that when the host goes offline, the logs just go away. There is a method by which one can redirect those messages to a specific Data Store, but let’s face it, centralized logging is all the rage! If nothing else, it provides a remote facility that won’t be modified if someone gets into the ESXi host and cleans entries up after they’re done. To me, that’s some pretty important security. So how does one redirect syslog on an ESXi host, you ask?

It’s as simple as changing a single Advanced Setting via the vSphere client. Take a look at this brief blog entry atVirtualizationAdmin.comby David Davis:http://blogs.virtualizationadmin.com/davis/2010/02/22/how-to-redirect-esxi-system-logs-to-a-central-syslog-server/

Some other things we want to think about in the transition will ultimately all be COS-related, that being the biggest difference between ESX and ESXi.

Does the customer have agents running in the COS for anything?

  • Backup agents – Perhaps it’s time to revisit backup strategies and methodologies.
  • Hardware management agents – Insight Manager, OpenManage, etc – Many of these functions are being replaced through vendor-specific CIM providers. VMware has available 4 total ISOs for ESXi Installable – one for each of the major vendors (HP, IBM, Dell), and the basic ESXi. The vendor-specific distributions have the appropriate CIM providers cleanly integrated. We should work with our customers in their labs to determine if the CIM providers have the functionality necessary for their specific environments.

Scripts in the COS – customers have developed many scripts to help with management activities in the ESX environment. It is time to begin investigating the transitioning of these scripts to a remote environment. There are a couple of directions that a customer could take in porting their scripts

  • vCLI – the vCLI is a set of tools available from VMware to provide much of the COS toolkit on a remote host. The vCLI is available in 3 forms: a Windows installable package, a Linux installable package, and the vSphere Management Assistant (vMA). The two installable packages can be installed on and run from a Windows or Linux environment. The vMA is a Linux-based Virtual Appliance that can be integrated into a customer’s environment and is designed to provide a prepackaged remote scripting environment for a virtual infrastructure. The vMA provides a number of benefits over the installable vCLI tools such as FastPath Authentication to streamline session authentication functionality without compromising security and simplified deployment as an OVF appliance.
  • PowerShell/PowerCLI – PowerShell is fast becoming a favorite management and scripting toolkit of ESX administrators, partially due to the overwhelming number of Windows administrators that have inherited the responsibility of managing the virtual infrastructure. The PowerCLI toolkit from VMware is a robust set of cmdlets and objects to be used from PowerShell scripts to work with a virtual infrastructure
  • Other SDKs from VMware – VMware provides SDKs for API access from Perl and Java as well, if those languages are more to a customer’s liking

There are still some pieces of functionality that are missing from this stack, admittedly. I’ve spoken with customers about the lack of tools available to manage things like RAID controllers from ESXi. Many of these things are up to the hardware vendors to implement, but VMware can be a conduit for functionality requests as well. We can work with customers to file feature requests through VMware (http://www.vmware.com/support/policies/feature.html). When filing such a request, please be as specific as possible regarding what functionality is being requested. Using the above-mentioned RAID controller management as an example, a good feature request may document that a user would like to be able to add disks to a RAID array, create a new RAID array, destroy a RAID array, and rebuild a RAID array after disk replacement. The more specific the requests are, the move VMware can help implement the functionality.

Expanded functionality seems to be the focus of the next release of vSphere (from the small amounts of info flowing out of VMware’s recent Partner Exchange), and the product continues to improve. Just because a customer doesn’t want to migrate now is no reason to put off testing, evaluation, and porting of the customer-developed management tools.

Just remember, I’m a consultant and a trainer, and these are the kinds of things I think about 🙂

-jk


Inaugural post

Well, I guess it’s time to stop putting this off.

I’m sitting in a hotel in downtown Chicago. The Fast Track is moving along very nicely, and my co-instructor is a blast. The class is good, and the week is warming up (it is January, after all…temps above freezing are positively balmy!)

Technical stuff will be coming shortly, but not tonight. Tonight is recovery from a long day yesterday (it’s amazing how tiring driving is) and a 10-hour FT day. Just wanted to get something up 🙂

-jk