Time to get Serious about Citrix!!!

I’ve begun my studying for my CCA cert, and to be honest, it seems pretty straightforward. Citrix seem to be one of those products that, if you believe the book, is VERY straightforward, and logical. In practice, I’m SURE that its far more complicated and dumb than that, but I’m very used to dealing with that… (looking at you, OSX Server).

I’m trying to compile the most complete set of resources that I’m able to, using all the books and videos I can gather. Additionally, I’m thinking about a CBT nuggets subscription… But I’m not sure about that one yet. I want to pass this, suddenly, and I want to destroy it!

I’m going to try to have a push at work among the team to get certified like crazy. It’s a good goal, and one that I think I can rally support behind!

“InfoPath” or “Where my patience goes to die”–Part 1

I’ve known about Microsoft’s InfoPath for a while, and as a part of most MS Office installs, its not a super huge mystery that it exists. Its existence, though, is questionable. I’m trying to figure out WHY it exists.

Clearly, it was meant for some database integration, as well as form creation, and its meant to interact with SharePoint at some level. I’ve taken up two challenges to try to teach myself InfoPath design, a bit about implementation, and, maybe most importantly, some of its limitations.

Challenge 1: Simple Email Form with Attachment

My initial inclination whenever I need to email something with checkboxes is to make a web form, with very simple email backend. However, as I just installed Office 2013, I wanted to see if I could make a go at using MS’s provided tools, and maybe learn something in the process.

So, after opening InfoPath Designer 2013, it becomes immediately clear that you need to know what you’re doing straight away. There likely will not be hand-holding here. I want to create an email form so that I can QA new user setups at work; something prone to disaster, with many steps and places for us to trip up.

Screenshot_060613_035810_PM

At this point, I should tell you that I used a Windows Mobile phone for a bit, and I thought to myself “Wow, this way of flattening everything and using contrasting colors with tons of white space doesn’t really work for me.” This app is like, full on Windows 8 style. I don’t much care for that.

So after I get into the “design” aspect, the first thing, I’m told, I need to do is set up a data connections. What data connections, you might ask? Well, this is an email form, so that is our data connection. What? You run through the wizard, and select “As an email message” as your “destination for submitting data.” I’m not sure I would have worded that in such a confusing way.

Its important to note that we will absolutely be coming back and changing this connection. After you select email, you’ll see some familiar fields, along with the formula button.

Screenshot_060613_041035_PM

Fill out your submission email, and click next. We’ll update the subject later. After that, you need to get busy designing your form. I’m going to put checkboxes with labels and text entry fields. I’m not going to teach you how to drag and drop fields, but, essentially, under the “home” tab, there are controls. You can drag them. The radio button one confounds me, and I’m not sure how a UX designer tried that and said “yeah, that’s the sweet spot.” Additionally, I’m perplexed that everywhere in the UX got the 2013 / Windows 8 / Obnoxious White Space treatment except the wizards. That is curious.

Each checkbox, text field, or other control you enter should be named properly. Name the field something that you can identify in a list of 100 controls without following the workflow of what-goes-where. If you’re in a section of your form marked “Telephone,” don’t use a field called “type” because that could mean darn near anything when you look at a list of field names.

After you navigate through the horror that is InfoPath Page Layout, and set all your fields, you’re left with your form in its raw form, like so:

Screenshot_060713_111335_AM

To anyone concerned, I don’t think this contains any information that is not publicly shareable.

So, remember how I said we’d go back to the Data Connections? Well, now its time to set up this email to be useful! Open up your Data Connections, select your Email Submission, and click “Modify.” For this form, for me, I’m going to email this to a couple different places, including our ticket system. When you open the Data Connection wizard, its important to note that the data fields here are FOR SHOW ONLY. Don’t put info in there, it doesn’t work. No, I’m not sure why.

Screenshot_060713_112208_AM

So, you MUST click the function button to enter ANYTHING in this. We can do any sort of math we’d like, but mostly, we just want to use the CONCAT() function with our field names to make some sense of this. See where I’m going with this? You don’t have to concat if you don’t need to. SetupTech, in my example, should be an email address, so that can just be defined. If it needs to be more than that, you can just concat spaces. Check out mine:

Screenshot_060713_011544_PM

So now, we can click through, and name our submission (it might still be named from earlier) and save it. You should save your work, now, and press F5, which will open InfoPath Filler (which is the best name they could think of, I’m sure). After you complete the form, you can click submit, and it will go through the motions of sending the email. Important note here, you have to use Outlook, nearest I can tell. In my example, above, I’m also emailing our ticket system to update the new-hire ticket with the contents of the form. Because, predictably, the ticket system has a giant issue with HTML email updates, I’ll likely change this one to attach the form, which, for whatever reason, it handles well.

hnnng - HTML UPDATES VIA EMAIL hnnnnngghh

Also, InfoPath, throughout its existence, has been plagued with the inability to work with its former versions… As in this form likely won’t open in InfoPath 2010 or 2007. “But Jesse,” you plead, “Its just a form! Surely this is just XML in the backend, and filling out a form is one of the first things a data management system should be able to do flawlessly!” But then you remember this is a Microsoft product, and integration from end to end isn’t actually end to end, but its like, end to half way, then another connected system. Actually, it’s a lot like the Baltimore, MD mass transit system. The Light-rail trains don’t go where most people need to go, the subway exists for a reason unknown to most, and the buses, the turtle of the mass transit system, are the connectors to everywhere in the city. I can’t figure out what Microsoft’s bus-system is. Maybe AD? Maybe. I can’t tell.

More InfoPath fun in the future. I need to get this thing cranking out forms into SharePoint document libraries, which is an option. I asked our SharePoint admin create a document library for me to test with, and it went like this:

Screenshot_060813_062909_PM

This is indicative of the level of hilarious that my team members are used to. Oh, and the document library works fine, its properly specified in InfoPath, and it doesn’t submit. I love learning Microsoft products!!!1

man unrar e

So, did you know that the command unrar does recursion? I suspect I knew it would… 

Anyhow, navigate to the topmost directory that you can, and run the following command:

unrar e -r *.rar

And it’ll just do it. Leaves all the rar files and parts behind… Wonder how we could clean that up… Thoughts for another day.

I started fiddling with a rudimentary inventory system using the things I learned yesterday making that extraordinarily ordinary tiny web app. Its neat to learn things… 🙂

Building a Simple LAMP Web App

I work with laptops at work, and each laptop has a combination lock. Among the team, we share an Excel document on Sharepoint, and its a little bit cumbersome to search through that.

I saw this as an opportunity to build a web app. I dusted off my VMware fusion and brought up a 32-but Ubuntu VM. Started it off with 1 processor core and 2 GB of RAM. I placed the VM on a USB hard drive, since my laptop’s storage is at a premium.

Just picked a few packages during the NetInstall, LAMP, Basic Server, and OpenSSH server.

So after the install, I minimized the VM and went and ate an apple. For what its worth, Fuji apples are not as good as Gala. 

After I did the install, I definitely cheated on importing my data from CSV into MySQL. I used a program called Sequel Pro to set up my database, tables, and import the info, as well as pare down the permissions on the user I set up for the purposes of reading the data.

After I did that, I made two php files, one to display the search bar form, and the other to display the results. Here they are!

The search form page:

So you can see, all this really does is create the form, and set the name “keyname.”

The search page does all the heavy lifting:

And I say “heavy lifting,” even though its very small. So, the first lines say where the database is, how to connect, and which table we’re even looking at.

After that, we grab the keyname that we set in the search form, then we query the DB, and show the results. That was easy!

Next up… Adding a lot of records at once via CSV import, and stylizing the site! Maybe this afternoon? No promises.

I made a serial output. And it was good.

This evening, I got around to messing with the Arduino again, but tonight, I made great progress. The picture you see below is a serial output of the light on my desk. 

I think I need to buy a wireless shield or an ethernet shield. I need to figure out the twitter / email / SMS libraries, and I can’t do that without network connectivity. 

I really like messing around with this. Its teaching me a lot.

You online – Your Website!

So, you’ve found my site. For a mere $10 a year (11.95 if you’re using a dot-com), you can have your own Top-Level domain name, and you can commandeer your presence online, and for just a bit more than that (we’re talking roughly $20 a year, if you do it correctly), you can have a website with your personal touch. Like this one!

Lets go back to the start, and examine WHY we’d even want our own website. Now, for SURE, I’m in the IT world, so you may think that I just have this site because I’m a nerd. You may be right, but I don’t think that a simple, cost-effective online calling card is a bad thing to have for ANY professional. Linkedin doesn’t count, nor does a profile on dice.

So, of course, it’s a little… I don’t know… smug (might not be the best word, not sure) to give someone a business card with “jesse@jessewolcott.com” on it. Wow, you own your own domain name, aren’t you a bigshot? I don’t use that email address (It doesn’t exist, so I don’t mind the spam that’s about to inundate that address). The age-old question: What happens when you google your name? If you have an uncommon name, likely there will be remnants of your internet presence all over the place. I’ll give you some examples, of course.

For me, there was a politician with the name “Jesse P. Wolcott.” Haven’t looked him up enough to know his policies, or whether I should be outraged. As far as image searching (using Google Images), the following result:

http://s3.dmimg.com/pictures/users/309216/1317736592_profile.jpg

http://a2.ec-images.myspacecdn.com/profile01/148/bb7496381cc948a0bc80770810455431/p.jpg

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-W7eKbUFX2TE/TiCmqrFF1uI/AAAAAAAAAS0/wK0wiofx7pc/s250-c-k-no/Screen%2Bshot%2B2011-07-15%2Bat%2B4.44.09%2BPM.JPG

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-ZsvzB8TJuLg/TrrXzj5eqPE/AAAAAAAAAOo/e8UkzCbBhVg/s0-d/MarsEditImages

Now, I’m going to let you just look at those, and take heed that I’ve done everything I can to “clean up” my presence online. Yet these got through! These are from MySpace (seriously, ugh!), Google Plus, and DailyMile.

I’m not embarrassed or ashamed about ANY of these pictures. The DailyMile picture is easily explained as the practice of Jowling, and its on a site that keeps track of how much I run. Not embarrassed.

However, if Facebook changes its privacy policy, or security settings, and some of my pics from college get lose, what happens if a potential employer sees a picture of me drinking in college? Or something else that could potentially be misconstrued without a proper context? The point is, you want to make sure that YOU control your online presence. If someone is searching for “Jesse Wolcott,” this website is the 6th website you see. I’m working on that… Its called “Search Engine Optimization.” I’m not going to catalog how to fix that if your name is “John Smith.” I would recommend differentiating yourself in another way if your name is extremely common.

Ok, lets get started. First things first, you need a domain name. I use Dreamhost (not a referral link, but if you want one, let me know). You can register your domain there for cheap. If you’re serious about your website, and want it to be good, they can also host your site for roughly $9 a month. I pay for a hosting plan with Dreamhost, and they have been almost always up.

If you would like a cheaper option, I can help with that too… But it may not be as reliable, and it is definitely harder to set up! Perhaps I’ll do a mirrored site tutorial in the near future.

Once you’ve registered your domain and picked your hosting plan (the lowest one is probably fine. Should be roughly $9 a month), enter your Dreamhost control panel, and select “Wordpress.” Simple blogging software with TONS of features, plugins, and support for pages, etc. Its what I use!

After you follow the instructions, you’ll receive an email that your site is ready to go, with instructions on how to complete the setup. After that, you login to www.yoursite.com/wp-admin, and get to creating! Make your posts describe what you’re doing in your life that is interesting. I’m constantly getting into dumb stuff (like arduino, etc), and I like to catalog my adventures.

You might be saying “But.. Jesse… I don’t have anything interesting that I’m doing.” Well, that is your first problem! Go find some trouble to get into!

 

10,000 Kettlebell Swings. Again.

Around October, I read about a story where a guy named James Heathers grabbed a heavy kettlebell and swungit 1,000 times a day for 10 days, accomplishing a seemingly-impossible 10,000+ swings.  Check out his saga here.

Being the  glutton-for-punishment that I am, I decided to give this a go in early march, spraining my IT band, and regretting my decision. I may pick up a lighter kettlebell (after all, it may have been ambitious to start with 50 lbs). The big deal, this time around, is foam rolling and properly handling my IT band… Or I’ll likely have more trouble than the whole thing is worth. I’m going to start with 5 days at 100 swings, and see how that goes. Of course, physical therapy and running will continue. My original plan was to complete this once Laura is through with school in June, standing outside in the mornings.

In other news, I may seek out a DEXA scan. Turns out Advanced Radiology will do one for $168.80. While I’m saving for my ESX host and NAS array, I’m not sure I can swing that, exactly, but it sure would be nice to see where the fat is on my body, and a really accurate display. We’ll see, I guess.

I will update tomorrow with my first day of kettlebell swinging. Tonight’s run should be light (assuming my shoes are dry) so I should be in reasonable shape for giving it a go tomorrow. I’ve also been using the Universal Nutrition “Animal Cuts” supplement pack for 2 days, and there is none, zero, absolutely no effect on appetite. I feel like the first priority of ANY weight loss supplement should be appetite suppressant, but, perhaps that’s why I’m not in that game.