One chapter closes, another begins…

Today a chapter closes on my career at CSC.

I’ve been working in the same office for 22 years, originally starting straight from Uni in the Unix Support team for the Post Office, looking after NCR and HP Unix servers around the country – much of which was on dial-up modem rather than IP networking.

While part of the Post Office/Consignia/Royal Mail I moved through NT Infrastructure and Internet Infrastructure teams, picking up Windows Server and Internet technology skills, then we were outsourced to CSC in June 2003.

I spent a short time in the Firewall management team in CSC, but then moved to the team looking after Windows server infrastructure for the NHS account. This team was almost entirely formed from ex-Royal Mail staff, and had set up a significant amount of automation and standardisation already. It was here that I was first exposed to VMware ESX, and it immediately resonated with me.

Due to the similarities with Unix, and because I could see the future benefits of virtualised infrastructure, I decided to try and become the team expert in VMware ESX. I learned a lot along the way, and I’m grateful to the TAM team at VMware for the learning opportunities they made available – Joshua Lory, Adrian Voss, Jesse Shapiro and Liam Farrell, I thank you all.

I was by no means the only VMware expert though, having colleagues with the same thirst for knowledge really pushed me along and we have been pretty competitive in our quest for certification and recognition. I wouldn’t even have thought to apply for vExpert if my colleague Darry Cauldwell hadn’t done so, and I believe my achieving double VCAP-DCV and VCIX-NV has pushed others along the certification path.

But 22 years is a long time to spend in one location, and I’ve felt for a while that it was time to find a new challenge, so I will be starting a new role on Monday, with Sky Betting and Gaming. It will be a very different working environment compared with a global outsourcer, but one I’m really looking forward to.

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Github Desktop from behind a corporate proxy server

After having just helped a colleague get through the tortuous path of configuring Github Desktop to work through a proxy, I thought it might be worth blogging it all.

Different parts of Github Desktop require the proxy information to be provided in different ways, and without all 3 pieces of configuration, you will find that some things work, but not others.

  1. Internet Explorer proxy setting
    This *has* to be set to a specific proxy server, and not using an autoconfig script.
  2. .gitconfig
    This is found in your user home directory (usually C:\Users\<Username>) and requires the following lines:
    [http]
    proxy = http:// <proxy-address>:<port>
    [https]
    proxy = http:// <proxy-address>:<port>
  3. HTTPS_PROXY/HTTP_PROXY environment variable
    You can set this in your local environment, or in the system environment settings, as long as it’s visible to the Github Desktop processes.
    eg.
    set HTTPS_PROXY=http://<proxy-address>:<port>

If a userid/password is required, it’s recommended that you run something like CNTLM to do the authentication, rather than adding the plaintext credentials to the proxy string.

Once you’ve configured all that, if you’re using Enterprise Github, you will probably need to use a Personal Access Token, rather than your password, to authenticate Github Desktop. This can be created by logging in with a browser and going to Settings / Personal Access Tokens.

I hope that helps someone out, but if not, I’m sure I’ll be using it as a reminder when I have to change it all between using it at Home and at Work…

ITIL V3 Foundation

Over the years I’ve generally sneered a bit at things like BS5750, ISO 9000, and more recently ITIL. It’s all a bit tedious and boring, involving endless documentation, dreary standards to follow, and not part of the exciting technology I wanted to work with when I entered the IT industry.

However, we were all pushed recently to undertake a very basic ITIL Awareness training course, and I was surprised at how much of it I knew just from the way things have been driven on the account I’ve worked on over the last 10 years.

On top of that, we had a significant business re-organisation recently, and one of the suggested requirements for the role I’m now in was the ITIL V3 Foundation certification.

So, I thought I may as well have a go.

I spent quite a few hours on the online training provided internally by SkillSoft, as well as utilising my free training at Pluralsight (as a current vExpert), and the study notes shared by Edward Chung

Today I made the journey up to Leeds (there appear to be no Prometric or Pearson Vue testing centres in Sheffield these days), to attempt the certification.

It’s a 40 multiple choice question exam, allowed 1 hour for completion – so quite a lot shorter than the recent VMware exams I’ve been taking. I must have revised well as I got through the 40 questions in under 10 minutes! Another 10 minutes re-checking the ones I’d had to think about, then I hit the End Test button.

The slightly ancient PC then paused for what seemed like an age before confirming that I’d passed, with a score of 98% – I just got the one question wrong, and I even think I know which one!

Do I recommend it? If your company is a believer in ITIL, then definitely – it’s not a difficult exam. If they don’t, well it may still give you some ideas about how things can be done better.

I can’t believe I’m championing one of those boring methodologies that I used to turn my nose up at, I must have a lie down….

CSC TechCom 2014 over – ctd.

The Tuesday and Wednesday were long days. A general session about the current business strategy started things off, then we were into the breakout sessions. Again, I can’t really go into details, but they varied in relevance to me. Some of them were very good though and really interesting to hear the gospel from those who are developing the strategies and direction.

Vendor sessions followed in the late afternoon, and over the 2 days I attended ones from Citrix, Microsoft and VMware. All were well delivered and interesting material.

The evenings I started off at the VMware stand in the Ignite zone (exhibitors stands). Food and drink was provided, some strange combinations were on offer, due to a loss in translation, the most notable example being fish and (potato) chips, rather than proper chips (what we call fries in the UK).

I was very lucky to be able to spend much of this time chatting to VCDX001 (John Arrasjid) about VMware certifications and primarily the VCDX process. He is a very knowledgeable chap and a great person to talk to.

The late evenings were spent at the VMware Hands On Labs area, where I was on hand to chat to people and assist with any queries on the labs.

A free bar followed the Thursday HOL, and a small number of tequila shots may have been consumed….

The Friday involved more general and breakout sessions, the talk on “Mapping” by Simon Wardley (CSC Leading Edge Forum) was outstanding, it was recorded (for viewing by CSC staff) but the recording unfortunately doesn’t do it justice.

Despite nearly an hours’ overrun, a few of us managed to visit a nearby shopping mall in the afternoon (Converse for $40 anyone? £45 in the UK!), then headed back to the airport for the long journey home.

If you’d asked me on the first day whether I thought it was worthwhile, I’d probably have said no, however the value of the sessions from Tuesday onwards, and the networking opportunities (how often do you get to have a face to face with colleagues on a different continent?) were immeasurable. Overall, it was a great experience, and inspiring.

CSC TechCom 2014 over.

I’m just about over the jet-lag from last week – 3 nights is too short for a trip to the US, I’d just got over the time difference there when I had to set off back!

I had an exhausting but enjoyable time overall – the Tuesday and Wednesday I was on the go from 7.30am until around midnight!

The Monday, I set off from home at 5.30am to drive to Manchester Airport. I’d allowed 90 min to get there, so that I would be checking in 3 hours before the flight. As you’d expect, this was way too much time, and because I was so early I passed through the normal traffic jam spot of Mottram without even stopping! Unheard of!

The flight was bang on time, and a good selection of films, along with my kindle loaded with VCAP5-DCD revision materials, helped the 8.5 hour flight to pass relatively painlessly.

Baggage claim and immigration were cleared quite quickly, then it was a short-ish journey on the MARTA system to the Hyatt Regency hotel.

A quick check-in and dropping bags off and it was time to meet folks and head to the first general session. I can’t really discuss the content of the sessions on here, but they were of a high standard, and covered business direction and technical matters.

After the general session we headed to the exhibitors area, and had a buffet meal, a drink or two, and toured the stands. I headed to bed about 9pm, having been up for 21 hours at that point. As it happened, the latest episode of “24” had just started, so I watched that and called it a night!

CSC TechCom 2014

So I’m off in the morning to our company’s internal conference – CSC TechCom 2014, in Atlanta.

It’s going to be a busy few days, and I’m going to be on the VMware stand and Hands On Labs area on Tuesday and Wednesday evening, to talk to people about the certification process and my experience. I’m hoping there will also be some discussion about VMware products and virtualisation in general.

With an early start to drive to Manchester airport (getting up at 5am) and 5 hours timezone difference, I reckon I’m probably going to be up for 24 hours tomorrow, wish me luck!