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Monthly Archives: September 2010

The Hardware

The Software

The netbook came with Windows 7 Starter Edition pre-installed. Because that was basically useless, I opted to upgrade it to Ubuntu. After firing up the laptop and going through the initial setup for Windows 7 (which took over an hour to complete), I rebooted the system to Clonezilla and took a drive image. Once I had that image, I wiped the system and installed Ubuntu Netbook Edition 10.04. Out of the box that gave me Firefox, Open Office and several other useful Open Source software products. I added the following items to round out the tools I’d need for the conference:

  • Dropbox
  • Truecrypt
  • KeePass
  • Pidgin

What Worked, What Didn’t

Most of the features I needed worked just fine under Ubuntu. Wireless and wired networking; suspend/hibernate worked flawlessly the whole time. The suspend and hibernate modes helped me extend my battery life significantly, as I could quickly close it to suspend when I thought I didn’t need to take notes and open it to return from suspend quickly when I wanted to jot down a quick note or two. I also tried to remember to use hibernate between sessions to help maximize my battery life, but I probably ended up using suspend most of the time.

While I did not actually benchmark the battery life, I had no problems going a full day of conference sessions without stopping to charge up. I did aggressively use suspend and hibernate modes to maximize my battery life. I also kept the screen at its dimmest setting most of the time — all of the conference rooms and labs were lit low enough that I could easily pull this off. On a full charge Ubuntu reported between 5 to 6 hours of run time at the beginning of each day, and I was able to realize 9-11 hours of usage with my battery-saving tactics. If I remember correctly, the lowest my battery ever got was down to 55 minutes estimated run time.

I discovered that the sound card did not send audio through the audio jack on the side. Sound would work find through the built in speaker, and would cut off when headphones were connected, but there was no audio through the headphones. I’m still researching a fix for this but it was by no means a show stopper.

I was also annoyed that I could not turn off the wireless radio with the keyboard hot key combination. In order to use this netbook on the airplane, I had to reboot the system and enter the BIOS to disable the wireless NIC for in-flight use.

Final Thoughts

I was extremely pleased by the performance of this little netbook running Ubuntu Netbook Edition. It met all the needs I had for the conference. In fact, as I write this I’m doing so from this little netbook while riding as a passenger down an Iowa 2-lane highway using the Verizon MiFi for connection back to my server.

I think this little netbook will remain in my hardware arsenal for quite some time.


I don’t have all of the numbers memorized, but here’s what I remember off the top of my head:

  • They had about 400 lab stations available, each with a WYSE thin client and two monitors.
  • Everything was “in the cloud” running from data centers across the country, none of them local.
  • Each lab’s VMs were created and destroyed on demand.
  • One monitor had the virtual environment and the other had your PDF lab guide.
  • Over the course of the conference they created/destroyed nearly 20,000 VMs.

Some Problems

I had to re-take a couple of labs due to some slowness issues. These appeared to be due to some storage latency when certain combinations of labs were turned up at the same time. I overheard some of the lab guides asking people to move to a different workstation when they complained of slowness. They explained that, by moving to a different station you would be logging in to a different cluster of servers, which would possibly help speed you up. I opted to come back later and re-take the two troubled labs. I was only able to get in 8 lab sessions as a result. I could have potentially completed 10 or 11.

Most of the time the lab VMs were very responsive and I was able to complete them with plenty of time to spare. The default time alloted was 90 minutes, but they would adjust that down to as low as 60 minutes if there was a long line in the waiting area. Prior to one lab session, I had to wait in the “Pit Stop” area before my session. Here’s a photo I snapped while waiting:


List of Labs I Took

Here’s the list of labs I sat through:

  • Troubleshooting vSphere
  • Performance Tuning
  • ESXi Remote Management Utilities
  • Site Recovery Manager Basic Install & Config
  • Site Recovery Manager Extended Config & Troubleshooting
  • Vmware vCenter Data Recovery
  • VMware vSphere PowerCLI
  • Vmware vShield

Overall Impression

My overall impression of the lab environment was positive. Despite a few performance issues, I think they did an excellent job of presenting a very large volume of labs. I certainly learned a lot while sitting the labs and look forward to taking more next year. I’m sure the labs team gathered a lot of data which will help them improve the lab performance for next year as well.

Large Scale Geek Assault

Moscone Center wasn’t big enough for the whole conference this year. With a record 17,000+ attendees, the halls were crowded and the lines to sessions were quite long — especially the first couple of days. I think a larger venue is in order for years to come. Not sure where they can go, though.

I was unable to get in to a couple of sessions the first day, but managed to fill in some of that time with work in the labs (more no those later). Overall, though, I was able to cram in enough sessions to make it well worth the trip. My main problem was trying to narrow down my focus. This year, I tried to stick to sessions dealing with Troubleshooting and Best Practices.

In all, I took notes in 13 sessions and sat through 8 lab sessions. Not bad for a New-V?

Notes and Power Outlets

I made a good call and picked up a small netbook computer to take with me in lieu of my larger T61 ThinkPad. The longer battery life on the netbook (more info on it later) allowed me to skip the power outlets when racing to my next session. Still, I tried to conserve power by putting it into sleep or hibernate as much as possible during and between sessions. I uploaded my notes to my Dropbox account so I would have a backup.

Why was this a good call? Because there were a lot of people there with larger laptops suckling power from the outlets wherever they could be found. On the third day of the conference I found a small room on the second floor of Moscone West with a sign in front stating “VCP Lounge.” Assuming I would have to prove I held a VCP certification, I quickly pulled up my transcript on my Droid, then walked in. Turns out no one was checking, so I sat down, plugged in and caught up on some work e-mail whcih had accumulated over the first part of the week.


The food provided at the conference was hit or miss. The breakfast area in Moscone West was huge and never seemed full when I was there (maybe it got busy later in the day?). They had croissants, muffins, danishes, bagels, fresh fruit, coffee and juices — everything you needed to fuel up for a morning of work in the lab which was in the same building.

I had a couple of cold boxed lunches. One was called Mediterranean Salad, which consisted of a main dish of mixed greens, veggies and a vinaigrette dressing, an apple and a sort of fruit brownie. I grabbed that box, headed over to the Yerba Buena Gardens to eat outdoors and escape the crowds. The other cold lunch was in a similar box also with a brownie bar, fruit and a sandwich. The only hot lunch I had was not very good, so I avoided the hot lunches from that point on. It consisted of overcooked fried chicken, cole slaw and a biscuit. Next year, I’ll stick to the cold lunches.

One day, I decided to escape the conference food and had a bowl of Seafood Udon at Shiki Japanese Restaurant which is across Third Street from the Moscone South building.

More to Come?

What have I missed in this first article? In the coming days I’m going to write up some articles with more detail on the following:

  • My impressions of the lab environment.
  • My netbook setup for the conference.
  • List of labs I took and any significant notable items.
  • List of sessions I attended and some of my notes from each.

First off, my hat goes off to both Sean Clark and Theron Conrey for organizing an excellent gathering which mixed geeks, beer and munchies at the Thirsty Bear. I got to rub elbows with Scott Lowe, author of Mastering VMware vSphere 4, which was instrumental in my obtaining my VCP 4 certification this year. I resisted the urge to ask for a photo, but I did manage to get his business card.

Anyway, I think Theron and Sean will need a bigger venue next year. The place was packed with people, but just to capacity. I’m sure interest in this event will grow for next year so I hope they can find a suitable location. Maybe get a few kegs from the Thirsty Bear to keep the tradition going?

Hopefully I can make it again next year. I need to get better at introducing myself to people and socializing. Guess I’m just your average introverted Geek, but I’m working on it!

Went to VMworld 2010 in San Francisco and took some photos. I’ve picked out a few to share. Click the photos or go to this set’s Flickr page for more photos, larger versions and slide show.