Fixing slow VMware Workstation shutdown

This happens to me all the time at work.  I've got half a dozen VMs open, then I realise it's going-home time and want to pack up and get out of there!  Even though I pause my VMs, and it looks like they're suspended, and I can close Workstation, it's still doing stuff in the background.  The disk churns like crazy.  It once took fifteen freaking minutes for it to be done doing whatever it was doing.

This hint from Bryon Brewer worked a treat!  Thankyou, Bryon!

Microsoft study guide for SQL 2008 70-432

Microsoft Press study guide for 70-432 = absolute shit. There are eleven big errors within the first 50 pages (errata published by Microsoft says as much, it’s not just my imagination). No wonder the reviews pan the shit out of it.

Very glad I have a Safari subscription now. Once I’m done with this steaming pile of horse crap, I’ll go read something better.

Online training, part 2

I have a new appreciation for the flexibility of a streaming video course plus my iPad plus online textbook access.

Last night, I hurt my back. Sitting upright, unless it is at a very specific angle, hurts. Lying on my back, however, is just fine. So I am lying on the couch with a hotpack under me, using my iPad to access my study material. Sweet.

Online training

As the one or two regular readers of this blog would know, about six months ago I moved into a new role.  Instead of being a 3rd-level-tech-cum-team-leader-cum-project-manager-cum-network-admin-cum-you-name-it-I'm-it, I'm now a server engineer.  This is good for me in lots of ways, but my favourite thing about it is that I get to focus on just one thing instead of having to spread myself across so many disciplines.

It also means I'm getting exposed to a lot of technologies my fomer role didn't expose me to.  Rightly or wrongly, my workplace's IT infrastructure is largely outsourced, so I've never had the exposure to directly administering some of the fun parts of our infrastructure – eg Exchange, VMware, to a lesser extent, SQL.  That I'm getting exposed to it now is a good thing.  That I need to know it all now is not quite so good.  Of particular "joy" is the fact that I've had to take over a departed team mate's SQL responsibilities.  I've always had a bit of a hate-hate relationship with SQL.  I know just enough to get by, and possibly just enough to be dangerous.  But since nobody else wants it, and I'm "new" to the new IT organisation, I've been lumped with it.  So I am now something of a reluctant DBA.

I spent the first six months in this job hating/resenting having to deal with SQL on a daily basis.  Largely, I regard SQL as something that must be defeated.  They say it is best to truly know one's enemy.  So last week, I decided I had to do something about it.  I've decided I'm going to learn SQL.

Since BlueScope's training budget is zero, I knew I'd have to pony up the $$$ myself.  Classroom training for SQL is around the $5K mark, and I just don't have that sort of money to spend.  I started looking at online/CBT training.  Two companies stood out:  CBT Nuggets and TrainSignal

TrainSignal's demo system lets you view a presentation.  In this case, it was an 18 minute segment on SQL.  It was well-presented and I found myself wanting to buy the course.  Around $600USD.  I noted they also have a MCITP:EA course, listed at $1000 or thereabouts.  So that's $1600 for Windows plus SQL.  Seems like a lot of dough.  The good news is that you can download the content to view it offline, which made it very appealing.

CBT Nuggets' demo, quite simply, sucks.  You get a TWO MINUTE taster of a presentation.  Hardly enough to get an idea of how good the product is.  Interestingly, however, they have a 24 hour subscription for $24.  And it gives you access to their whole library.  So I figured, what the hell, I've got a few spare bucks in my PayPal account, why not?  It was well worth it.  I got to see not only their SQL 2008 training, but their Windows, VMware, Exchange etc etc.  The thing about CBT Nuggets is that their content is not available for offline viewing.  It's a streaming model.  If you buy a course (eg SQL), you get access to it for four months.  Four months just isn't enough for me.  I'm not that motivated, and with a product I'm new to, I need to go over the material many times.  I had a look at their other courses.  Their MCITP:EA course is $1500.  The Exchange course is $600.  That's a lot of money.  And I know that the next twelve months will see me covering all sorts of topics, not just Windows or just SQL or whatever.  I saw then that they have a 12 month subscription for $2000.  It lets you access their entire library for 12 months.

Both providers offer access to Transcender exams, and pricewise, they're about the same (except for CBT's MCITP:EA course which is inexplicably $600 more than TS).  Offline access was really important to me, but so was having access to an entire library of training material.  As interested as I was in the TS products, their sales people just didn't impress me.  They weren't interested in modifying their packages or offering discounts unless I spent over $1300.  Even then, that would only get me a couple courses.

In the end, I decided a wide library was better than offline access.  I pulled out my credit card and signed up for the CBT Nuggets 12 month subscription.  I'm very glad I did.  I've gone through 3 SQL presentations now and have learned heaps.  It's already helped me answer some pressing work questions.

Emboldened by my experience with CBT, I started looking at Safari Books Online.  They also have a subscription model – one with limits (cheaper) and one that's unlimited access to their library for 12 months.  They're running a deal at the moment, where you can get the 12 month unlimited access deal for $399 USD.  I went for it.  Again, I'm glad I did.  They have an iPad app that lets me read their books on my iPad.  You can't read them offline using the iPad (or maybe you can, I haven't looked hard enough), but the point is you can read it on the go.  Eg if you're a commuter stuck on a train or bus or have time to kill or whatever.

So for $2400, I have 12 months access to a large CBT library and a huge textbook library.  That's half the cost of a single face-to-face training course!  My credit card is hurting, but I'm feeling much more positive about SQL and also about my ability to improve my skills at work.  I'd better get stuck back into study now.  I don't want to waste these subscriptions!

REPOST: Max’s Guide To Cycling for n00bs, part 1

Welcome to Max's Guide to Cycling For N00bs, part 1. Everything you're about to read is purely my opinion. There might be some factual stuff thrown in there as well. See if you can tell what's fact and what's not ;)

To cycle, the minimalist needs only three things:

  1. A willingness to ride.
  2. A bike with a working bell (a bell is a legal requirement in most states).
  3. A helmet (so is this). Some people think helmets are uncool. I think brain damage is uncool. The right helmet can both a) protect one's noggin and b) lend coolness to its wearer.

Everything else is an added bonus. People who say cycling is an expensive sport are obviously not minimalists. "But Max", I hear you say, "although a minimalist only needs those things, surely there's stuff I, a non-minimalist, should have?"  I'm glad you asked. Non-minimalists should consider the following additions to their cycling paraphernalia:


  1. A water bottle and associated water bottle cage. Whilst water is not an absolute requirement (in that you can technically ride without it), please consider it a 99.999% requirement. Dehydration is not cool. You may also hear water bottles referred to as "bidons". This is not to be confused with a "bidet". Whilst a bidet also contains water, I'd recommend against drinking from it.
  2. Cycling shorts, commonly known as "knicks". These are typically made from stretchy fabric such as lycra, and have some padding in the crotch and bum area.
  3. Cycling jerseys. Unlike the average T-shirt, these are made of wicking material that draws sweat away from the body, making for a more comfortable, cooler ride.
  4. A small saddle bag that contains, as a minimum, a multi-tool set, a spare tube, some tyre levers and some cash. The cash will get you home if the toolkit, tube and tyre levers can't.
  5. Glasses. Some people enjoy having dried-out eyeballs filled with dust and bugs, squinting into an unrelenting sun. These carefree souls ride around aimlessly, with not a care in the world, crashing blindly into obstacles they would've seen had their eyes been appropriately protected. Make sure you're not one of those people.
  6. A small pump, or a CO2 inflator. Having replaced a damaged tube with the spare you keep in your saddle bag, you will need some means of inflation. Small hand-operated pumps can do the job, and will at the very least give you enough air pressure to limp your bike home. CO2 inflators will get the tube fully inflated without the need for bicep-building pump operations.
  7. If you intend to ride in low-light conditions, proper illumination is absolutely essential. It is a) a legal requirement and b) life-saving. Don't leave home without decent lights.
  8. Lip balm. Closely related to the glasses, lip balm will help prevent you looking like a split-lipped street brawler, or, possibly, a nomadic camel-riding desert dweller. If you are either of these things, well and good. If you are not, do yourself a favour and apply some lip balm. Your lips, not to mention those whose lips you kiss, will be forever grateful.
  9. A cycling computer. This will help you record all-important information like how far you've gone (more specifically, how far you have to ride to get back home), how fast you've gone, your average speed etc.

I can hear howls of protest already. All this gear sounds expensive, doesn't it? Well.. some of it is. But the good news is that it's not absolutely necessary. You don't have to buy it all at once (if at all), and not having it won't prevent you from riding. But having some (or all) of this stuff will greatly enhance your riding pleasure.

Stay tuned for future instalments of MGTCFN, in which I expand on all of these points individually.



I went for a walk today, in an effort to get a bit of fitness back and to change things a little bit.  I took my Garmin 800 with me and recorded it with the GPS function.  Sadly, the GPS got lost at one point and has recorded me going to places I know for fact I didn't.  Anyway, I walked 5.14Km @ 6.9Kph, which I think is reasonable for a first effort.  My average HR was much lower than when I'm on the bike, sitting at 127BPM (usually around the 155 mark on the bike).  I walked up Church Rd, which I later learned has a 13 (or was it 15) percent grade.  I certainly wouldn't want to ride my bike up it!