Raspberry Pi: New NOOBS and Raspbian releases

February 9, 2016
By J.A. Watson

New distribution images have showed up on the Raspberry Pi Downloads page, for NOOBS 1.6.0 and Raspbian 2016-02-03. There has not been an official announcement yet (also known as a Raspberry Pi Blog post), but I assume one will come along very soon.

Image: Raspberry Pi Foundation
Image: Raspberry Pi Foundation

The last time there was a delay between the release showing up in downloads and the actual announcement, it was because they were waiting for the Pi Zero announcement before spilling the beans about the software. So maybe it is the same situation this time… or maybe not.

The Release Notes are available, and don’t indicate that there are very large changes in this release, just some nice incremental updates, bug fixes, and general cleanup. There may be some interesting internal changes; we’ll have to wait for the official announcement to hear about that.

These images are compatible with all Raspberry Pi models (0, 1, and 2). I have installed the new Raspbian release from scratch on my Pi2 with no problem, and I have upgraded an existing installation (apt-get update; apt-get dist-upgrade), again with no problem. I have not tried the NOOBS release yet. It appears that one of the biggest changes, at least to NOOBS, is that Windows 10 IoT has been added. That might be good news for some; it is a no-op for me. I happened to notice these releases because I was working on the Manjaro-ARM release. Now there’s something to get excited about… I should be posting a first report in the next day or so

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Top 5 Management Mistakes going to VDI

Top 5 Mistakes Made by IT Management when Moving to Virtual Desktops

Don’t make these critical errors

Many organization have moved to VDI successfully, while others have struggled, with their project coming to a screeching halt. What makes some organizations successful? What do they do? More importantly, what don’t they do? A successful implementation can result in some of the following benefits:

  • Mobility, secure access to corporate applications and data from any device and any location
  • Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
  • Decreased operational costs
  • Increased IT agility for growth or downsizing
  • Enhanced security and compliance, removing risk of data residing on lost, stolen, or compromised devices
  • Streamlined operations, getting organizations out of the business of procuring, configuring and managing end devices
  • Extended desktop refresh cycle

However, an unsuccessful project results in headaches, heartaches, dissatisfied end users, shelf ware, and a vast amount of pain for the IT department. We will review what it takes to be successful, and what to avoid. There are already a number of good articles out there on the technical aspects of hardware, storage, and sizing, so this article focuses more on the project and operational aspects. Also note that this applies to both virtualized desktop and application environments including Citrix XenApp/XenDesktop, VMware Horizon, and Microsoft RDSH.

Mistake #1: Not assessing business drivers and end user requirements

While desktop and application virtualization solutions involve some great and interesting technologies, there must be sounds business reasons for going this route. What problems are we solving? What is the benefit to the business? How is life going to be better upon successful implementation? Assuming that these have been identified, the focus must then turn to the needs of business groups and end users. Primary focus must be placed on the applications, including dependent applications, components, and plugins required for each user group to function. Many organizations use this exercise as an opportunity for rationalization, consolidating redundant applications and/or versions. At the end of the migration to a virtual environment, the user is going to need to have a positive experience, with access to needed resources in a functional and responsive manner.

Mistake #2: Lack of proactive performance monitoring of the end user experience

You must proactively monitor the systems and metrics that indicate a positive or negative experience. A common issue in virtual environments is session latency, and this can happen for a number of reasons including latency in network connection or other resource bottlenecks. Those managing the environment should be made aware of any brewing issues prior to any end user picking up the phone to log a ticket. Think of it this way: if you aren’t proactively monitoring, then you are relying on the end users as your method of notification. And many users don’t take the time to log a call until the third, fourth, or fifth instance of an issue. By that time, they are likely to be extremely frustrated with the virtual environment and are likely to be complaining to their boss, peers, or anyone else who will listen. When the noise starts reaching influencers and decision-makers, it can get painful and possibly political.

Stay on top of your environment, and get in front of issues. Tools like HDX Insights from Citrix and vCenter Operations Manager for Horizon View are a must for each respective environment.

Mistake #3: Letting end user dissatisfaction persist

This one is closely related to the previous mistake listed, and follows the same principle of being proactive. You not only want to identify the issues, but resolve them within a timely manner. We have seen a number of organizations with a sizeable log of help desk tickets around end user performance, and many times little has been done to address the issues. Once an issue is identified, determine the solution and implementation plan within a timely manner. While some users are more vocal than others and may be prone to getting overly emotional, it is best to filter out the emotion and resolve performance complaints that have validity. Again, a barrage of complaints can halt the deployment, requiring not only the resolution of the issue, but many rounds of damage control with the business.

Mistake #4: Going it alone

Many IT departments take pride in their ability to execute and meet the demands of the business. However, there is no shame in engaging a professional services organization for planning, design, implementation, and ongoing maintenance. Consider engaging a trusted solution provider or the vendor, as they have numerous experiences with other clients that can help you be successful and avoid potential pitfalls. You think their rates are high? Nothing compared to the cost and pain of a bad implementation and halted project, let alone the cost of unused licenses sitting on the shelf. If there is a solid business reason for the initiative, then the investment in professional services is justified. This includes all necessary support contracts and training, which should all be incorporated at the start of the budgeting process.

Mistake #5: Managing your virtual desktops and applications the same as your legacy desktop environment

The game has changed, and you are no longer running independent desktops in a traditional and distributed manner. Your desktop and application resources are now consolidated within a centralized and virtualized environment. Your virtualized desktops and applications reside within a complex and integrated system that when running properly can provide you with numerous IT and business benefits. However, if not properly managed, can result in issues that affect multiple users. In a legacy PC/desktop environment, most issues reside on the actual end user device itself, likely within the hardware, OS, application, or user profile. For example, a user may have some corruption or an OS issue that is confined to their desktop, and the troubleshooting effort is typically confined to their desktop and profile. Taking this same troubleshooting approach as issues arise in a virtualized environment is not applicable, as problems is likely to affect multiple users. In a virtualized environment, a more holistic approach is needed to determine the root cause of such issues. Is there an issue within the OS image? Application package? Resource allocation? Storage configuration? Proactive monitoring is essential to provide you with insight into such potential issues. While there may still be cases of “one off” issues specific to one user or instance, most are indicative of larger scale issues.

In summary, virtual desktops and applications have been viable solutions for years, and are becoming more prevalent in environments across all types of industries and organizations. VMware is making significant investments in this space with their Horizon View solution, and Citrix is refocusing efforts toward XenApp. And don’t forget about Microsoft, as many organizations are achieving their goals with RDSH. We are also seeing increased awareness and adoption in Desktops-as-a-Service (DaaS), with both Amazon and VMware making significant pushes here. Most industry analysts agree that these solutions will continue to see growth and adoption, and for good reason. Whether you are looking at adopting or expanding your virtual desktop or application environment, make sure to take the proper approach, avoiding these issues as described within, and you will reap the benefits of a successful implementation.

Conference Room Etiquette

Conference Room Etiquette: Thoughts from a Pre-Sales Engineer

Do you love conference rooms? I do.
Just as Jerry McGuire thought he was good in a living room, I think I’m good in a conference room. Meetings provide a way for me to become an artist. I get to paint a picture for someone of how wonderful life will be when they start using our technology. I try to remember and understand my successes and failures, what worked, what didn’t and why. Over the years I’ve learned some tips that have helped me improve my conference room etiquette.
Here are a few:

  1. Identify what your audience wants. A conversation, a presentation, a demonstration, or a combination.
  2. Whenever someone else speaks, I freeze. I literally stop talking mid-sentence. I want to hear whatever it is they have to say. My job isn’t to fill every silent moment. Let the customer guide you. Let them talk to each other without feeling like you need to interject. Remember why you are there and don’t ever talk over someone.
  3. Ask about projects, their environment, and problems they currently experience. You want to understand what life is like for them today. Not only is it good information but its engaging. And then apply that new knowledge to your message accordingly.
  4. Write it down. If you have a thought while someone is speaking, don’t sit on the edge of your seat and race to blurt it out. Write it down and wait for the right moment to bring it up. Timing matters.
  5. Body language is important. It reflects your attitude and it can make customers think you aren’t interested. I knew an SE who sighed a lot, he would breathe deeply, rub his face with both hands, sometimes while speaking. He was a great guy, but his body language was distracting. Instead of engaging in the meeting, he often checked out. Meetings are like fingerprints, they are all different. If you start thinking they are all the same, you’ll disengage. Boredom can be contagious, if you are bored, then you will likely bore others. Also try reading the body language of others, what are they trying to tell you?
  6. Take your time. Tell a story, build on that story and then personalize the story to their environment. Buzz features are more powerful if the customer understands the feature and how to connect that feature to their world.
  7. Provide use cases. Let’s follow a user throughout their day as they use our technology. Don’t assume the customer understands your technical jargon or why something is important. You have to paint a picture in their minds eye. And then you have to figure out if that picture matters to them.
  8. Know your current customer base. Current customers can provide you with endless real world examples of how your software helps.
  9. Be honest. I am a pleaser, I feel good when I feel like I’m helping. In my early days I tried to answer every question immediately. I would try to answer even when I knew I didn’t fully understand what they were asking. Then I would just ramble. If you don’t know something, tell them you don’t know. “If you are honest about the things you don’t know, people will believe the things you do know.”(Adrian Rogers, date unknown) Say I don’t know, find out the answer and follow-up.
    I am always looking for new tips, everyone can improve. It may sound silly, but I try to approach meetings like an artist. I remind myself that good art is intentional; it requires thoughtfulness and practice. Everything I say and do is painting a picture in the customers mind about the company I work for and the technology we sell. I want them to see a masterpiece.