Monthly Archives : December 2010

Streaming Music

A number of my clients like to listen to Internet radio stations, like Pandora, at work. Why not? They have a perfectly good computer and it has a perfectly good sound card and a pair of speakers. What is the problem?
The problem is Network Performance.
What I find is that a lot of small businesses have limited amounts of available bandwidth to and from the Internet. A common pipeline is the old standby T1, which is about one and a half Megabits per second, or a Fractional T1 which can go a lot less; plenty of speed for users who need email or to browse the Web.
And hey! Pandora works GREAT! But here’s the catch: the free version of Pandora offers 64 Kilobits per second of streaming media to your desktop. And since it is streaming, that is a continual flow of data, as opposed to the short bursts of bandwidth used in surfing the Web.
OK, you say. That’s only 64K – we have a T1!
Well, that’s true, you do. But that T1 is being used for a number of other things, like your email and your web server and possibly remote access… there are a lot of services you and your co-workers use that are making use of that T1 pipeline to the Internet. Your little 64K is likely to go pretty much unnoticed. But what if you are not the only one listening in? A couple of guys in Sales, and maybe someone from the Art Department, the numbers add up. Each of these computers is using up 64K, so multiply that out – ten users is 640K, or nearly half of the total available bandwidth for your company!
Further, Pandora offers a better-sounding version, with no time limits, called Pandora One, and it’s pretty cheap. It offers 192K streaming!
I don’t mean to pick on Pandora in particular – that is just the most common name I’ve been seeing lately. Many of the radio stations in existence on the airwaves also offer Internet streaming, with varying levels of quality. The rule of thumb here is that the better the quality, the more bandwidth it is using up. And multiply that out by the number of users listening in from their computers – pretty soon you begin to see some heavy slowdowns!
I personally am a big fan of music while I work – but an MP3 player or a collection of CDs, or even a real, old-fashioned radio might be a wiser choice for the workplace!

How to Clean Temporary Files for Profiles on Terminal Server

A terminal server was becoming low on disk space. I ran treesize and found that a number of the profiles had alot of temporary files as the culprit, however, how does one clean them all at once without logging on to each one. I found this tool ICsweep. This is a DOS based application which is very simple to use. Just extract to a drive open a DOS prompt and browse to the directory. Then run the icsweep.exe and it will run through all the profiles and clean up the temp files. On this server it freed up over 2.5 Gb of data. Very handy and quick tool to remove unwanted temp files.

Working from home, is that a good idea?

According to Forrester Research there are over 43 million US adults telecommuting today, and by 2016 that number will grow to 63 million, or 43% of the workforce!  Why the migration to telecommuting?  The reasons are many, but they can all be translated into the one simple fact; namely, telecommuting makes economic sense for everyone, businesses and employees.

The historic technical obstacles to telecommuting have been overcome.  Current technology has successfully addressed security issues.  The increase in consumer Internet bandwidth has improved the telecommuting experience, and that coupled with state-of-the-art remote access solutions, has made the telecommuting experience equal to the ‘in-office’ computer experience.

What about productivity? Across virtually all industries, studies indicate that workers get more accomplished when they telecommute.  In a survey of Fortune 1000 managers, 58 percent reported increased worker productivity.  The state of California’s telecommuting pilot program measured productivity increases of 10 percent to 30 percent, and American Express found a 20 percent productivity gain for off-site call center employees.

Studies of companies of all sizes and virtually all endeavors indicate the same thing; that is, workers are more productive when they are allowed to telecommute.

A few Telecommuting benefits:

  • Increased worker productivity equates to increased company profits
  • Less travel to and from the office equates to less wasted time in traffic
  • Employees appreciate the increased personal and productive time along with reduced commuting cost
  • The environment benefits from reduced pollution caused by auto traffic
  • Companies benefit from reduced travel expenses
  • Reduced requirement for company infrastructure, ie. offices, desks, etc.  In some cases the corporate offices can be completely eliminated.
  • Companies can employ people located over a wider geographical area (not limited by drive time to the office)
  • Companies offering telecommuting to employees attract more workers than those who don’t.

Everything being considered, telecommuting is the future, and the future is now.  To stay competitive in business means to utilize Information Technology to advantage, and successful businesses today and tomorrow will be implementing telecommuting solutions on a significant scale.

So, where do you begin if you’re thinking of implementing a telecommuting solution for your business?  How do you get from an office-oriented business model to one that utilizes remote access for some or all of its computer-user employees?  The first step is to do your homework.  Take the time to better understand the options available, their benefits, and their respective implementation costs.  Know the differences in the various solutions available, and learn what solutions are being utilized by businesses similar to yours.  If you don’t have the time to invest in this kind of ‘homework’ you can engage a qualified Consulting firm, with a proven track record for implementing this type of technology, and seek their recommendation.

Whether you research things on your own, or use a third party IT Consulting Company, it should be a priority to understand, because whether you chose to implement telecommuting in your business or not, your competition will.

Cool Mouse – Microsoft Arc Touch

I was at the Microsoft store in Scottsdale the other day and they showed me a really cool mouse that I think will be very popular.  This Unique, portable design has touch scroll with vibrating feedback. Thumbnail USB has innovative storage on base of mouse which is new to any mouse devise. BlueTrack laser technology allows the mouse to be used on a variety of surfaces. Ambidextrous, no skipping or staggering on different table surfaces.  The Microsoft’s Arc Touch is listed retail at $67.95 and is about as portable as you can get and adds style to the otherwise plain mobile mouse market.   The Arc Touch has one of the most unique form factors I have seen in a mouse. When off, it lays in a prone position (2.28 by 5.14-inches, WH), but to power it on the mouse sits bent; its back arched to create a comfortable structure to hold and navigate with. The mouse buttons are encased in glossy black plastic that tends to attract smudge marks and the like. Breaking up the black is the touch scroll wheel that’s encased in a silver matte plastic. The palm portion on the Arc Touch has a soft rubberized coating.  In terms of buttons, the Arc Touch is outfitted with the basics—a left and right click, and touch scroll. Most mice rolling out these days as least have the two browser buttons, but Microsoft decided to leave this extra out.

Weighing a scant 0.2 pounds and having such a slim profile, the Arc Touch is pretty portable. There’s even a spot to store the wireless USB adapter: On the bottom of the mouse there a small metallic strip that will securely hold the adapter in place during travel. The Arc Touch takes two AA batteries (which are included), and according to Microsoft will last up to 6 months.   The Arc Touch has plug-and-play capabilities, but for those who like to tweak their mouse speed and add different functions to their buttons you can download the designated software. Unfortunately, the software provided with the product will only work for Windows XP, Vista, and 7—no Mac support which angers me. However, the Arc Touch device will work with Mac PCs. Within Microsoft’s IntelliPoint software you can customize the mouse speed, the scroll speed and feedback, and what kind of pointer you want.   The Arc Touch comes packed with the aforementioned USB wireless receiver that transmits on a 2.4GHz frequency, which is fairly standard for mice in this category.

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure-VDI-Pro’s and Con’s

In the past 6 months BVA has seen a tremendous push towards (VDI) Virtual Desktop Infrastructure which is unique in my eyes, for the most part it is because we have come full circle.  About 10 years ago there was a tremendous push toward thin-clients and dumb terminals which had a lot of success back then.  After a few years of this, organizations decided to move back to heavy client models mostly due to workstations lowering their cost.  Regardless of how we got to this point, VDI is back and more popular than ever.  BVA has deployed over four VDI solutions in the past three months with minimal hurdles and we are getting great reviews from the client via user experience.

Lets talk about VDI and what it is and is not.  Basically Virtualization technology can provide virtual desktops to your users which, over time, will save you on hardware cost as well as administration. All of us are familiar with the concept of virtual platforms/servers and using this technology to virtualize server applications (like SQL server, print servers, or other dedicated servers). VDI takes this a step farther.

Here are the steps to using VDI:

  1. Create a virtual machine
  2. Install a VDI Connection Broker – this Connection Broker is what determines which Remote Desktop Host a user is assigned or should be connected to. Here are some of the connection brokers available today:
    • ChipPC Virtual Desktop Center
    • Citrix Desktop Broker for Presentation Server
    • Dunes Virtual Desktop Orchestrator (VD-O) and Virtual Service Orchestrator (VS-O)
    • LeoStream Virtual Desktop Connection Broker
    • Propero workSpace
    • Provision Networks Virtual Access Suite (VAS)
  3. Install a desktop operating system on that VM, such as Windows XP or Windows Vista
  4. Install desktop applications on the VM
  5. Allow remote access to that virtual desktop system over the network using any number of possible remote control options

VDI is basically thin-client computing (such as Citrix/Terminal Services). With VDI, you are taking the processing off of the end user’s device and bringing it onto a server. The difference with VDI, unlike thin-client, the virtual desktop is dedicated to a single end user or mapped to provide the desktop OS & applications to a single client viewing device.  Many VDI packaged solutions, of course, uses VMware or Microsoft’s virtual platforms as the underlying virtualization product.

Why should an organization use VDI?

  • SecurityDesktops are more secure
  • Rollback – Can use VMware’s snapshot and revert technology on desktop machines
  • Centralized Apps – Applications upgrades are easier because systems are all in a centralized location
  • Speed Deployment – You can quickly clone existing machines and roll out new systems because machines are all in a single central repository
  • Provide a full desktop PC – You are providing full access to a virtual machine and each virtual desktop is mapped to a single user or a single client device.
  • Reliability – If you could quickly restore any PC OS to a usable state, free from viruses or corruption, how reliable could your desktop systems be?

Here are some key points about the solution for your reference:

  1. You could use older or existing PC’s but that doesn’t provide you all the benefits you could get from VDI. You could also use thin-client devices running RDP. Ideally, you might consider something like the new Wyse Thins OS-VDI, made just for thin clients that will be connected to VDI servers. More information can be found at: http://www.wyse.com/about/news/pr/2006/0802_VMwareVDI.asp and http://www.wyse.com/products/software/os
  2. With regards to remote control application, you can choose from RDP, VNC, or others
  3. For Legacy hardware you can use RDP, for example, which supports USB devices on the client and if you could put a parallel or serial device on the server, you could also access it from the client.
  4. You will have to do your own cost comparison, keeping in mind, the soft numbers related to the increased security and management functionality.  There are several case studies that outline a 5 year ROI that shows the cost comparison where you come out appropriately.