As you all know by now (I hope), Microsoft’s Azure Stack, the “run some of the Azure Portal on-prem and use it to manage in-cloud and on-prem resources” solution, is only available as, essentially, an appliance. You have to buy it from OEMs like Dell or HP, and it comes preinstalled on select hardware. It’s a sealed OS – you can’t install your own drivers, your own management agents, and so on. You can’t even really mess with it’s patch application schedule.
This is a new approach for Microsoft. It isn’t going to be the last time they do it.
Check out the “ITTRANSFORM”-tagged sessions at the IT Transformation conference website. This is an event that I’m helping to content-manage, in conjunction with the event’s organizer and Pluralsight. I’ve often been asked if my annual DevOps Camp will be a larger thing, and this is about as close as I think I’m able to come.
Jeff Hicks and I are pleased to announce the first release of The PowerShell Scripting & Toolmaking Book, a new Agile-published book available now on LeanPub.com. We’ve released Part 1 of the book’s eventual 5 Parts, and set the pricing to $29.99 as an introductory rate. That price will rise as we publish additional Parts in the future. Because you’re essentially paying a one-time fee for a lifetime subscription, the final price will be around $60-$65. The first Part alone is 175 pages long, so we’re anticipating a pretty deep, involved book by the time we reach the end.
This year I’ll have a scaled-back conference schedule, so if you’re interested, I thought I’d share. Most notably, after around 13 years, I’ll no longer be attending TechMentor Events, or assisting with their content planning. This is in no way a falling out or anything bad; I still recommend the show, but it’s just a time commitment that, in addition to my full-time job, I’m no longer able to fulfill. I’ll miss working with everyone there.
The Pester Book is now available in its first release. Hop eon over and check it out!
For a while now, I’ve been wanting to lighten my travel load. I currently carry a MacBook Pro 13″ from mid-2014. It’s a great machine, and I really like it, but its weight is non-zero, and it comes with the usual raft of accessories – video dongles, power brick, and whatnot. Thing is, for the most part, I need very little when I’m on the road other than the basic Office apps, email access, and a Web browser. The gotcha is when I present at a conference, when I need to run 2-3 VMs, which the MBPs 16GB of RAM does just fine.
So for the recent TechMentor Orlando, I decided to conduct an experiment. I brought my laptop as Plan B, but resolved to try and teach entirely from my iPad. My iPad Mini, to be precise, equipped with an Apple Bluetooth keyboard and Lightning-to-HDMI dongle. If the experiment worked, the plan was to shift to a 12.9″ iPad Pro as my only travel computer.
To handle my lab VMs, I turned to Azure, where I get a $150 monthly credit as an MVP. I used the Marketplace to create three VMs: A Windows 10 client, a Win2016 DC, and a Win2016 SQL Server. I left these spun down and deallocated until the morning of my sessions, and then spun them up. They’re all quite decently equipped in terms of CPU and RAM, but they only cost about $10 a day to run out of my credit. When stopped, they literally cost a few cents a day for storage. I planned to use Microsoft’s iOS RDP client to connect to them.
Everything worked like a charm. I tested the connection over my T-Mobile service (the iPad is on my cell plan), and over the conference’s general WiFi (not even the speaker-exclusive, less-crowded network). Worked great both ways. My only hiccups were around getting used to the RDP client, and in the Bluetooth keyboard. There’s a quirk in iOS where it won’t recognize modifier keys on BT keyboards – so Ctrl, Alt, and Windows didn’t work. The RDP client provides a “supplemental key bar” with those modifiers, and once I figured that out, it was OK. The iPad Pro’s hard-connected keyboard does support modifier keys, so that’ll be even better.
I also accomplished all my usual daily work on the iPad, despite it’s tiny screen (again, the Pro will solve that). Updating Pluralsight’s master catalog documents from email status reports was easy thanks to the split-screen view. Video conferencing worked great thanks to a native Blue Jeans client. Skype calls were smooth. Email and Web browsing were obviously fine (I use both Safari and Chrome on iOS). We use Google Drive and its related apps a lot, and both those and the Office apps worked very well. I even presented a couple of slides using Keynote (I like its presentation mode better) on the iPad.
So I’m pretty much sold. I’ll have an iMac at home (I really love the sharpness on the 5K screen). Apple’s iCloud Drive works much like Microsoft’s OneDrive to keep all my documents in the cloud where the iPad can reach them (so there’s no need to explicitly sync documents when preparing for travel), and nearly every app I need has an iOS version. And for tasks like Visual Studio, I have an Azure VM already set up to run from the iPad, although I don’t need that on the road all that often.
You could do something almost exactly the same using a Surface, of course, and those weigh in almost to the ounce as much as an 12.9″ iPad. I just personally prefer macOS on my daily machine, so iOS makes a better companion to that. But if you’re in the Windows world, a Surface could easily be your travel computer, and for a lot of people your full-time machine as well. And, the PC ecosystem has a lot of super-lightweight-yet-powerful options, including some great choices from Lenovo. As I said, I’m personally very attached to macOS, not Windows client, and so my setup makes more sense for me.
I’m really keen to see Microsoft’s new breed of pocket computer (I’m not sure calling them “phones” is valid anymore) that can go from your pocket to a big-screen desktop monitor and be your only computer. All in all, it’s just amazing how far these gadgets have come in the last few years. Provided you can have Internet connectivity for certain things, a tablet really can replace a PC in a lot of ways. I expect companies like Microsoft and Apple to continue blurring that line, too. I mean, we feel really close to a world where you slot your tablet into the side of a 5K monitor for working and home, and just slide it out when you’re ready to hit the road with a lighter-weight device.