preparing for WinOps London 2019

I’ve just finished the presentation for my talk at WinOps in about 3 weeks from now, this is going to be fun! I will be talking about (among others)
  • golden images
  • drifting state
  • PowerShell
  • the risks of relying on the cloud
  • Chocolatey & Boxstarter
  • package internalization
  • monitoring, alerting & statistics
It would be awesome to meet and have a chat at the event, looking forward to meeting you soon!

the perfect camera bag?

Last year, I wrote a quick blogpost about my search for the perfect camera bag. This search finally may be over, as I got myself a Lowepro Whistler BP 350 AW II right before our trip to Sirkka, Finland.
Lowepro Whistler BP 350 AW II + Lowepro Photo Sport 200 at the airport in Vienna, Februrary 2019

the bags main features

  • the bag can be used as carry-on luggage
  • I can carry TWO! large DSLRs and 1-2 extra lenses, a couple of memory cards and a tripod
  • my surface book laptop fits in nicely
  • I can carry a 0.5+ litre water bottle
  • the bag is weather resistent

holds LOTS of gear

For our trip to the Lofoten islands, I’ve had a hard time to figure out what gear to bring and what to leave at home, but in the end I came up with the following setup:
the main compartment packed with lots of gear
  • 2x Nikon D810 DSLR (with L-bracket attached)
  • Tamron 45mm SP (attached to Body ‘A’)
  • 70-300 AF-P lens (attached to Body ‘B’)
  • Nikon 14-24mm f2.8
  • Nikon 24-85 ED VR
  • card safe with multiple memory cards
  • battery pouch with 5x en-el15
Even though the main compartment was pretty packed, there still was plenty of space in the front and top compartment, in addition to the dedicated laptop slide-in.
The “Whistler BP” holds up to the elements.
So I’ve had this bag for a little over 6 months now, and I absolutely love it! Currently I can’t think of a task or challenge this bag wouldn’t be up to. It feels super-durable and will probably last a decade or longer. It fits more camera gear than you’ll probably need and also provides a lot of space for additional everyday-items.

a trip to Lofoten, Norway

Hey! Another holiday destination to check off: this August we’ve visited northern Norway, the Lofoten islands to be exact. This holiday was quite special for us, as we’ve hired a campervan for the first time. Going by camper was a lot of fun: my wife and I basically had no clue where we’d be going next, the only thing we’ve really planned in advance was that we’d go from Evenes Airport to Å within two days (that’s two quite long drives). After that, we’d start from Å and spend a whole week going back north towards Narvik. The picture above shows most of the spots we’ve visited, the 10 picutere below is our route, from 16th to 25th of August 2019. As always, I brought my camera and a couple of lenses and tried to capture the beauty of the stunning landscape. We were lucky enough to not only have good weather, but also spot a couple of white-tailed Sea Eagles as well as a group of Orca whales!

psconf.eu 2019

This year was the first time I’ve attended psconf.eu – and it was an amazing experience! To be honest, I wasn’t in the best mood when I arrived late night on Monday before the event. This was mainly due to my connection flight being cancelled from Frankfurt to Hannover, and being forced to take a 4 hour train ride, without a chance to get a seat in a overfilled ICE train. This alone wouldn’t have been too bad, I’ve got a bar table at the on-board restaurant and was able to do some coding, but then also my luggage went missing at the airport – which got me quite grumpy (but you can’t really blame anyone for bad weather.. right?)
Luckily I’ve been able to fetch some essentials at the airport duty-free shopping and pauby was so nice to deposit a new Chocolatey T-Shirt at the hotel desk, so I’d be covered for the first day of the conference.

psconf.eu

psconf.eu“, the powershell conference Europe, is an annual event taking place in Hannover, Germany.This year, about 350 delegates from over 30 different countries had the chance to visit more than 50(++) talks on different topics (generally everything about PowerShell and system automation).

the sessions

The sessions are not available on YouTube yet, but watch out for them on psconf.eu’s channel. Supplemental material can be found on GitHub.
The following is the list of the talks I’ve been attending.

Tuesday

  • State of the Shell 2019 (Keynote)
  • Improving Performance by Reducing Memory Allocations
  • Pester internals and concepts
  • “RegEx 4.0”

Wednesday

  • Tracking Activity and Abuse of PowerShell
  • Test infrastructure as code?
  • Building a better command line experience: Windows Terminal and WSL2
  • Lean on me: Managing dependencies in PowerShell
  • Generating Azure PowerShell (and more) cmdlets via AutoRest
  • Attack Surface Reductions for Adventurous Admins

Thursday

  • Learn Classes with Class{}
  • Don’t do that, do this instead: PowerShell worst practices
  • PowerShell Remoting Internals
  • Automating the Software Deployment Lifecycle with Chocolatey, Jenkins and PowerShell
  • Visual Studio Code: deep dive into debugging your PowerShell scripts

Friday

  • A better way to do WPF in PowerShell 5+
  • Lessons learned from a large scale infrastructure as code project
  • Click-free application deployment using the magic of PS and Chocolatey
I’m not going to get into detail what I liked most or what I didn’t like, every single one of the talks at least gave me one new idea or something to think about concerning my current workflow, which I consider highly valuable. Just know that I am looking forward to the other talks being available on YouTube, and I’m pretty sure I will also be re-watching some of the talks I went to.

the people

Anyone who’s attending conferences like this one probably has a similar mindset about it, IT’S ALL ABOUT THE PEOPLE. Getting to know the real person behind that avatar in Slack or GitHub, who’s been talking to you or that you’ve been angry about because he or she closed off your pull requests, really put the value into the conference (at least for me it did). The conference offered a great mix of quality content and “networking possibilities”, especially the many coffee-breaks and the evening event at the zoo.

my takeaway

I’ve had a lot of fun and interesting discussion with experts that excel at what they’re doing in the field of Windows automation. It was very helpful to discuss certain problems, do’s and dont’s in system administration and automation. Getting some insight, in how other people and companies approach tasks that are similar to what I’m (trying) to do will definitely influence my future work.
In the end, a cancelled flight and lost luggage (my bag actually went missing again on my trip home!!) wasn’t all that bad. I’ve been able to pick up a lot of great ideas, meet nice people and even make some new friends.

Finnish Winter-Wonderland

My wife and I have been on a 1-week vacation to Sirkka, Finland – which is better known as the winter sport destination “Levi“.

If you ever get the chance to visit Sirkka, especially in the “cold season”, definitely go there!
Even though we’ve got nice winter landscapes here in Austria, the Finnish winter has been a whole new experience.
Sirkka Pano 2
I’ve been dreaming of seeing the Aurora Borealis with my own eyes for a while now, and luckily this dream came true on Feb 11, 2019!
Northern Lights #1
I’ll devote a separate blogpost to my experiences trying to capture this phenomenal natural spectacle, as well as a quick “review” of my new (?perfect?) camera bag that accompanied me along this trip.
ProTip: If you’re up there, way north of the polar circle, try not to stay in sauna all the time – you’ll miss what’s going on above you!

WinOps 2018 Recap

I’ve had the chance to re-visit WinOps London this year, meet a couple of old friends and make new ones – after all, a great event!  I really enjoyed all of the talks and workshops I attended, but following topics somehow really stood out for me. (I am honestly looking forward for the videos being available on YouTube, so I can watch those talks for second time!)

SRE with Steven Murawski and Trond Hindenes

Negating releases is not a solution to face site reliability issues / incidents.

Steven Murawski
If it’s scary. You are not doing it right. Build robust systems: TRUST but VERIFY.

Trond Hindenes
Systems Reliability Engineering” really did feel like a “hipster buzzword” to me (sorry) .. UNTIL I attended those two talks, one from Steven Murawski and one from Trond Hindenes. Steven really gave some important insights in the why, Trond into the how of their experience with SRE in 2017/2018 and they presented some incredible results and numbers (achieved uptime, basically).

Docker with Elton Stoneman

Tearing down monolithic applications does not imply we have to do code changes. Elton Stoneman
To be honest, I never really thought about the possibility of splitting a monilithic app into pieces without having to modify the existing code base. Although I think nobody will ever be on par with Elton in concern of “containerization speed / efficiency”, seeing how a DotNet 3.5 app is split up into a bunch of containers whilist no code changes are being carried out really is an experience. 

Chocolatey with Rob Reynolds

You can’t spell system automation without package management. Rob Reynolds
In the last two years I’ve been lucky enough  see a couple of Rob’s talks and watch how Chocolatey matured and grew both as a tool, and as a company. The fluffy boss unicorn and dancing coworkers in Robs presentations have just been beat by the CCM (Chocolatey Central Management) live demo this time. I can’t wait for this feature to get out of it’s beta phase.

PowerShell with Chris Gardner

Pester is your friend. Chris Gardner
Watching Chris talk about how you should be developing your PowerShell modules really reminded me of a couple of things I tend to forget when I’m down coding.
  • when you’ve got a bug, write testcase for that bug
  • AFTERWARDS, fix that bug!
  • create docs for each public, preferably also for each private function
  • make the docs available!

So that’s my writeup for WinOps LDN 2018. Despite revisiting some topics I kind of forgot about I was lucky enough to get some insights in how folks at other companies tackle problems I’m still facing in my daily work – got a couple of ideas for improvements too, so I’d say – a win 🙂

My Search For The Perfect Camera Bag

Once I thought I had the “perfect” camera bag – then my requirements changed, so I got another one, then I got a new one, and a new one – now I need a dedicated closet for these bags 🙁

Is it really that hard? – I am not able to find a bag that satisfies all my needs, these are my requirements:

  • I don’t care if shoulder bag or backpack – even when I’m doing a short hike (< 5 hours) I’ve been comfortable with a messenger bag in the past
  • I need to carry the bag on a plane (carry-on luggage)
  • I need to carry a large DSLR + 1-2 extra lenses, a couple of memory cards (and optionally a tripod)
  • My 14″ laptop should fit in somehwere
  • I need to carry a 0.5+ litre water bottle (hydration pack also possible)
  • The bag needs to be weather resistent

If you think you know the perfect bag for me – please let me know!

“Killing Golden Images” at ChocolateyFest

After my wife and I [visited Hawaii], we took a short detour to San Francisco, where I was given the opportunity to give a talk at ChocolateyFest. After attending WinOps conf in London last year, I was really looking forward to this event, being able to exchange my thoughts on Windows infrastructure automation with experts and other folks working in this area. (Every single talk at ChocoFest was somehow related to the work I’ve been doing for the last two years or so.) “Killing Golden Images In Your Infrastructure Setups”
Being my first international talk, I must admit that I’ve been quite nervous, and you can definitely see this in the first 3-5 minutes watching the recording of the talk. I’ve prepared supporting material for the talk on my GitHub page (you can also grab my slides there) I really enjoyed listening to awesome, informative talks at the event, the evening workshops and coffee-break-chats with Dan, Stefan, Paul, Gary, … and of course, Willi Wonka himself 🙂
Rob Reynolds as Willi Wonka after the event
Looking forward to meeting a lot of you folks at WinOps London 2018 in less than 3 weeks from now!

a honeymoon on Hawaii

Hey! It’s been a while since I had time to sit down and write something for this blog, and to be honest, I really haven’t got much time now either, but this writing feels more like “taking time for yourself” – and we all should do that from time to time, right? 🙂


So where to start? My wife and I have been to the islands of Hawaii for our honeymoon between October and September, followed by a short trip to San Francisco where I was given the chance to talk at WinOps San Francisco, also known as ChocolateyFest.
If you ever get a chance to visit the Hawaiian islands, definitely take that opportunity! Even though we sadly haven’t been able to see any active lava flows, it’s been an amazing experience.

Oahu
We’ve been to the island of Oahu just for two days. After 27 hours of flight from Austria to Honolulu, the main purpose of this stop was to get over the jetlag and acclimatize. Honolulu definitely has a lot of things to offer, but we weren’t looking for yet another big city, so we went for a hike on Diamond Head and basically relaxed the rest of the time, enjoying our first hawaiian sunset on Waikiki beach.

The Big Island
After this very short time on Oahu, we’ve got on a plane to “The Big Island”, which as the name suggests, is actually the largest of the islands.

When you’re flying in from Oahu, you realize a huge difference in landscape and scale before you touch the ground of the airport. We’ve been at KOA airport, which is built right over a old lava flow (basically a lot of black rock and little to no vegetation), so you get the “lava island” feeling before you even get out of the plane. Once being on the other side of the world, I felt the urge to “treat myself”, so I’ve decided to rent my favorite car: a Ford Mustang convertible :-).

In the following 7 days, we’ve made over a thousand miles. Going from east to west, north to south (all the way down to the southmost point of the USA). Sidenote: if you plan on driving up Mauna Kea, get a 4WD car (and be there a couple of hours before sunset), or you’ll have to wait at least 30 minutes at the visitor center and they won’t let you get up further without 4WD.

To be honest, driving in the USA was pretty stressful sometimes. Not because of the amount of traffic, but rather the allowed maximum speeds. (As an Austrian, I really could not understand why you had to go so *dead slow* on this wide, excellent road network.)
Besides being stressed due to the terrible, terrible speed limits, the big island presented us with amazing views, walks, nice weather and welcoming people.

Kauai
Time flies, and after a week on The Big Island we’ve headed towards the island of Kauai – the oldest and most vegetated island.

Kauai really is a unique place. The stunning Na Pali coast in the west, the incredible Waimea Canyon, wonderful beaches in the north and pretty towns scattered over the south and east there sure is something there to be explored by anyone.

In our week on Kauai, we’ve basically done a “standard visitors program”, which is:

  • a helicopter tour
  • sailing along the Na Pali Coast
  • taking a day off at a beach in the north
  • hiking Waimea Canyon
  • visiting a Luau

In retrospect, we should have spend a couple of extra days on this beautiful island, but I guess that’s just part of it – you always know better in retrospect.

I really enjoyed our time on Hawaii and even though there is no current plan to re-visit the islands, it definitely was an adventurous experience that we’ll remember for long.

Update: some additional images from the trip can be found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mwallner/sets/72157701782115385

ChocolateyFest
On the way home to Austria, we took a quick detour to San Francisco, where I was given the opportunity to give a talk at ChocolateyFest.

There is separate blogpost dedicated to ChocolateyFest. (see [here])

Kudos
Organizing a trip that includes 9 flights, 4 hotels, 2 cars and a lot of tips and info bits for sightseeing and photography locations can take some time – and this time my wife and I didn’t want to do all of this ourselves like in the past years. 

We’ve booked this trip at a local travel agency called “Springer Reisen”. I highly recommend their service as they do not only have “ready to book” pre-planned trips, but really respect your personal style of travel and budget. [https://www.springerreisen.at/]

For additional research, the website “gohawaii.com” as well as “hawaii.com” really proved to be helpful. [https://www.gohawaii.com/] [https://www.hawaii.com/]

the case of the missing blog posts

Heya!
As you’ve might have noticed I’ve pulled down nearly all of my technical posts from this blog as well as deleted some of my GitHub repositories. This has several reasons, and I’ve got the feeling that I need to explain myself.

There have been some legal issues concerning code I’ve created for a contractor that wishes to keep certain pieces proprietary – and exactly those pieces were heavily dependent on code I’ve written in my spare time and published on this blog as well on GitHub – I didn’t want to get into arguing of which parts were completely independent from business related topics – so I’ve decided to take everything down.
If you’re looking for those lost blog posts, I’m sorry – I can’t share them anymore, but there’s probably some internet archive where you can still dig them up. When you’re missing my Chocolatey posts specifically, maybe visit the Chocolatey Gitter chat room – there are many folks that are more than capable of helping you with any issue or question you may be facing.

If you’re looking for my old GitHub repositories – there were some forks like this and that. 🙂

Don’t get me wrong – there will be tech stuff on this post in the future, but it’ll be far apart from what I do at work, so it’ll take longer to gather enough material to share …

The other (much more pleasant) reason I’ll take this blog into another, more easygoing direction is the fact that I’ve just got married and want to spend more time with my wife and family 🙂 – My wife is VERY understanding when it comes to me spending time in front of the computer, still there are other things that we both enjoy and want to spend more time with, such as hiking, traveling and photography.

So whats next?

I’m pretty packed at work right now but definitely looking to traveling to Hawaii (kind-of-our-honeymoon-trip) and speaking at ChocolateyFest, where I’ll be talking about how to kill golden images in your infrastructure setups. (So there’ll still be me talking about software automation trying to give something back to the awesome Chocolatey community!) After that I’ll be visiting WinOps London again this year, accompanied by my wife 🙂 – we will spend a couple of days in addition to the event, doing sightseeing and meeting up with some friends. All this time I’ll be accompanied by one of my trusty cameras and (probably) a couple of lenses, trying to “up” my photography and having a great time.

After all, I’ll try to publish the things I’ve initially intended to publish: short stories about me trying to capture certain photos plus the outcomes of it, travel plans & reviews, maybe even little summaries of my “gardening experiments” (I’m growing the ultimate yucca) and of course – whatever comes to my mind that I feel I’ve got to share with whoever is interested in reading this blog (no offense if you’re not ;-)).

Thanks for reading, hope to see you soon!