Archive for Tools

Azure Explorer – Great tool to map to Azure Storage

cerebrata_logoAs an systems administrator; PowerShell is my tool of choice to perform job functions.  However, reviewing all the steps necessary to connect to Azure storage and all the steps to remove/delete a single file seemed to take more time than it’s worth.

I wanted to just find a way to explore and zap the file I wanted to save storage space (and cost.)

Here is the answer, Azure Explorer by Cerebrata.  http://www.cerebrata.com/products/azure-explorer/introduction

Cerebrata has a great other great Azure tools for purchase.

AzureExplorer

Image from Cerebrata’s website.

This free, tool set was exactly what I needed.  I simply configured Azure explorer with my storage key, and poof!  I was connected to my Azure Storage with a view like Windows Explorer.

I was able to right click and remove the file.  Bonus: Within my backup folder, I was able to download and archive backups to save storage and $$.

I recommend this tool if you are using Azure and leveraging Azure storage as an efficient way to map and work with blob storage.

Here is the link to Cerebrata’s site for the tool.  http://www.cerebrata.com/products/azure-explorer/introduction

~ Tony Maddin ~

Needing a way to manage and track your time? Try Toggl

Toggl LogoI am trying to bring balance to the force.  Well technically to bring balance to my own work life.  Like everybody else in the working world, I am trying to juggle tasks and priorities in an every changing business world.

However, I wanted to go beyond a basic Outlook calendar.  Yes, I can block out time.  But within that block of time; what did I really accomplish?

Also, I continuously to find productive time to keep on top of my professional career development.

I am a huge fan of Trello (http://www.trello.com) to manage tasks and status of tasks.  But I want to way to manage where my time goes during the day.

My good friend, Michael Czarnecki, mentioned awhile back that he uses Toggl.com (Yes, the “E” is dropped at the end.)

Here is Toggl’s website.  http://www.toggl.com

Michael Czarnecki’s twitter address:  @jerzakie

I have been experimenting with it this month.  (May/2014)

I have to say, this tool was exactly what I needed.

Pro’s

  • You create tasks and associate it with a project.
  • A stop and start clock.  Love it!  Especially when I get interrupted during the course of a day. I don’t mind to help.  But I do want to see concise time my given tasks.
  • Reports – Yes, yes, yes!  To see how I managed my time to tasks.  A great, simple built-in light weight business intelligence tool set where you can drill down in the data.
  • Integrates with your Google account.  (You have to love OAuth!)

Con’s

  • Currently, no integration with Trello.  I have to rebuild projects and tasks.  But it quick to create.
  • The free version is good, but the paid version is tempting with the advance features and mobile apps.

Overall, Toggl is meeting my expectation as a precise time tracking to task tool set that I need to go beyond just scheduling blocks/chunks of time slots to work on tasks.

Here is Toggl’s website.  http://www.toggl.com

I recommend it and wanted to share my thoughts.  As always, I welcome any feedback.

~ Tony Maddin ~

 

CamStudio OpenSource – Free Streaming Video Software

CamStudioLogoI am a visual learner.  I love CBT’s.  I am more engaged when I see a topic come alive.  This year, I plan on expanding my blog site to have more video-based blogging so I can remember some of my own tips and tricks.  ;-)

I recently tried out CamStudio as an video recorder alternative to Camtasia by TechSmith.  Do not get me wrong; Camtasia is a great tool set.  I highly recommend it to anybody that has a budget.

However, CamStudio is a great alternative if you want to produce a basic video recording that can be exported to .AVI, .MP4, and/or .SWF file types.

Here is the website if you want to download and try it out.  Also, there is a PortableApps.com version of it.

http://camstudio.org/

~Tony Maddin~

 

Pencil Project open source alternative to Balsamiq

pencil-projectI am a fan of Balsamiq.  Balsamiq gives you a lot of design opportunities for application mockups of various kind.  And I like the rough draft appearance to show it’s a draft of an idea.  Not the final UX/UI solution.  It shows the business actions within each item of the application.  And  the toolset is easy enough to use in a rapid mockup scenario with customers during discovery sessions.

Recently, I needed something fast and free.

I found Pencil. The Pencil Project is an open source toolset that creates wireframe mockups of applications such as desktop, tablet, mobile, and browser.  There are some free Google based templates you can bolt onto your toolset.  Also, it has additional features as mind mapping, application flow, and note sections in the diagram.

I highly recommend it as a supplement to Balsamiq especially if you do not have software budget.

Here is the official website: http://pencil.evolus.vn/

~ Tony Maddin ~

Setting up a SMTP service in Microsoft Azure

sendgrid_logo

 

I am part of a project team that is building a custom Windows 8 application that is leveraging Microsoft Azure.

 

 

My project role is multi-tenant infrastructure architect.  This role curtails:

  • Infrastructure as a service design.  To maximize performance while balancing cost in Microsoft Azure.
  • To perform a detail security analysis on all points of data in motion and data at rest.

One of my task items on the project is to come up with a SMTP solution.  My first thought as a system administrator is to leverage a virtual server and enable SMTP as a service.

However, my thinking is changing with the times.  J  Now there are apps for system administrators.

So I looked in the Azure store and found SendGrid.  After doing some internet searches; there have been positive comments about this SMTP application.

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I have activated this application in my Azure subscription. Below are my steps.

Open up the Azure Dashboard, click New, select Store and then choose SendGrid from the App Services Add-ons list.

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We will not be sending over 25,000 emails a month so the free subscription will fit our current business needs.

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The subscription will be tied in with your monthly billing.

I welcome any feedback.

~ Tony Maddin ~

 

Coogle a free web based mind mapping tool

coggleI am a visual learner and visual presenter.  I enjoy taking complex problems, putting context around it, map it out and then come up with solutions.

I am a huge fan of XMind.  I have my own personal license.  However, I needed an alternative toolset for my new work laptop.

As I trolled www.lifehacker.com, I ran across an article about Coggle.  Coggle is free, web-based and easy to use.

After about 5 minutes of getting familiar with the tool set; I was on my way of diagramming out my new solutions.

I recommended it as an alternative if you cannot get XMind or Mindjet.

Here is the link to the Coggle website.  https://www.coggle.it

 

Trello – Fantastic, free web-based project management tool

 

Trello-Free-Organization-Tool-Easy-to-Use

A former colleague, Jason Coffey (click here to view his LinkedIn profile), showed me a great, free project management tool set called Trello.  Trello has a fresh approach to organizing tasks in a visual manner so you can quickly put your arms around a project.

The company has stated the tool set will always be free. So I have assurance that I can use it without the fear that I may get the hammer of going pay for use route with other great products I have used in the past.

They have a great demo/tutorial that I highly encourage you to look at to understand this new concept. But once you start building your project plan; you will understand why this tool set is popular.  It’s easy.  You can visually see and understand the stages of tasks in the entire project.  I love it!

www.trello.com - It’s now listed under my RESOURCES section.

Dropbox.com

Dropbox

The Dropbox.com toolset has been around for sometime for public and commercial use.

This toolset if fantastic in my opinion.  While working with clients and client workstations I may not have all the physical computer options such USB, FTP, etc.

This website and toolset is a great alternative so I can transfer various files from my laptop to my client’s network to continue conducting business to completion.

The website and toolset is free to sign up and use.  The free use is up to 2GB of storage on the dropbox.com website.  However, you can pay a monthly fee to expand it.

I will add this toolset to the TONYMADDIN.COM resources area.

Cincy SPUG Presentation – November 3, 2011

SP 2010 admin tool to add to your toolbox

While working on a client project, I was refreshing SharePoint 2010 environments to support our various QA and Development teams.

I implemented the SharePoint 2010 content hub for this project.  While detaching/attaching content databases to the staging environment; the Metadata Term Store data did not transfer.

This term set was a key feature in our project.

I searched the internet and came across this tool on CodePlex.  This tool was easy to use and fixed my issue.

I was able to export the term set from the source SharePoint 2010 farm.  Then transfer the CSV file to the destination.  Installed the tool again and the term set uploaded with no issues.

[box type="info"]This is a must have tool to add to your Admin toolbox.

The tool is called the termsetimorter.exe but it also exports the term set as well.

 http://termsetimporter.codeplex.com/ [/box]

Another must have SharePoint admin tool – ULS Viewer

As many of you are aware, reviewing log files are a necessary practice in our information technology industry.  But your standard NotePad on a Windows Server just cannot keep up when it comes to reviewing log files.

This tool has been around since 2009.   However, I when diagnosing a SharePoint 2010 farm, it was the tool of choice to help find the problem.  Here is the link.