Midwest tour recap

I was fortunate enough to work remotely the past couple of weeks so that I could do a mini Midwest tour. I started off in Saint Paul, MN and connected with friends. It was great to play catch up. From there we went down to Winona for Pam’s cousin’s wedding. The wedding was beautiful and everyone had a great time.

Next stop was my sister’s place in Illinois. I hung out there for a couple of days and got to celebrate my nephew’s birthday through a fun visit to a mini golf and go cart center. I also helped my sister setup their new trampoline and got to bounce around on that a bit. It was good just having downtime with my sister and her family as usually we only get to connect around holidays or special events and there isn’t enough socializing time or even time just to hang out.

I went to my brother’s place in Indiana next. I lucked out to see my niece’s end of the year dance recital. It is crazy to see how fast they have grown and how talented they are. I also got to play video games with my nephews and brother. We made it to a couple of movies including Kung Fu Panda and Xmen, both were good. I also got to have downtime with my bro and weight lifted along with grabbing some breakfast.

I think moving forward I’m going to try and do one of these trips every year, except the next time I need to have Pam with me. I was away from her for about a week and a half and it was way too long. Also I missed Lucy and she missed me too. Pam said she waited outside of our bedroom door in the morning and whined as she was waiting for me to come out. Poor pups.

All in all it was a great break from routine and amazing bonding time. Thanks to all of the family that I saw and stayed with. Definitely a highlight of 2011.

Life as a Pet owner

This past weekend Pam and I got a golden retriever puppy named Lucy.  She is 8 weeks old and adorable.  It has been a long time since I’ve had a dog and there are a lot of things that are coming back to me as we train her.  There have been some frustrating moments like when she woke us up at 5am to poop all over her crate, but when you look at the following face it all goes away:

Support Plan Management Application

The support plan structure that we subscribe to at MindTouch includes 2 tiers of tickets.  The first tier is a System Maintenance ticket which are basic questions about how to use/install/configure MindTouch.  Then we have advanced tickets called METs (MindTouch Expert Tickets).  These allow for support for advanced functionality within MindTouch.

METs are a cornerstone to the support plans as far as one of the main differentiators.  With this in mind we needed an effective way to track and communicate to the customer their usage of these tickets.  This motivated me to create a PHP/AJAX application that surfaces the number of tickets used and how many are left.

The key functionality of this application relies on effectively categorizing tickets in a way that can be surfaced and counted.  We use ZenDesk for our helpdesk which has a pretty robust RESTful API.  I setup a workflow in ZenDesk that would automatically tag the ticket with an MET tag based upon the categorization of the ticket itself. Once this is done then the ticket will go through its normal cycle of resolution.  In the background nightly I have a PHP script that hits the ZenDesk API and queries based upon values from our database and the categorization in ZenDesk.  It then loops through all of the organizations and parses the total number of METs have been used during their support plan timeframe.

Once it receives this information it updates the database.  The information is then surfaced through a javascript widget that receives information from ZenDesk as to the user’s organization.

This helps the agents have a better idea of the customer’s support level along with providing useful information to the customer as to the status of their account.

How to increase virtual RAM on a VMware image when launching with VMware Player

I thought I’d do a quick blog post on this as a lot of people evaluate VMware Virtual Machines on VMware Player, but a lot of times it is hard to change the Memory allocation.  Here is a quick and easy way to do it when the Virtual Machine is off.

  1. Open the folder that the Virtual Machine is housed in and find the .vmx file
  2. Right click on the file and select to open it with notepad (or other similar text editor)
  3. Find the following line: memsize = “256”  (Note the value may differ in your configuration)
  4. 256 means that the max amount of RAM allocated to the virtual machine, change this to the amount you want (measurement is in MB)
  5. Save the file and start up your virtual machine with the new RAM allocation

Hope this helps

Rant of the month

So I’m sitting in front of the tv the other day having a relaxing night when a commercial comes on and shows a guy ordering a Grilled Cheese off the kids menu at a restaurant.  First off let me say that the commercial was trying to portray the guy as being embarrassed for ordering off the kids menu in order to get a grilled cheese when he clearly wasn’t.  Being a man who has ordered Grilled Cheese off of the kids menu, I can attest that I’m not embarrassed either, just stoked to get a good grilled cheese.  Anyhoo back to the commercial, so it is a Carl’s JR and they are like: “Do you like Grilled Cheeses but are afraid to order off the kids Menu?”.  Here is where they were getting me excited because I was like, “Oh man, if they have an awesome large grilled cheese sandwich at Carl’s Jr, then I’ll definitely go there”.  NO…they don’t have a Grilled Cheese but instead suggest that if you are embarrassed ordering off the kids meal to go to Carl’s Jr. and get a cheeseburger.  Uhh….Hello!!!  A Cheeseburger is not a Grilled Cheese.  While both of them have cheese and bread they are not the same.  It is like saying, you like beef stew?  Then you’d love the new tacos we have.  Both have beef…so they are the same, right?

Damn you Carl’s Jr.  Next time talk to people who actually order Grilled Cheese off the kids menu before you blatantly slap them in the face.

And that is my Rant of the month.

How to backup your Google Calendar routinely

About a year ago something happened on Google’s end that caused one of my calendar’s information to be lost.  Fortunately I had a backup that had a majority of the information in it, but it got me thinking about backing up my Calendar to ensure that if, worst case scenario, I lost a calendar I wouldn’t be SOL.  Here is how I routinely backup my google calendar thanks to an easy to use bash script.  Note these instructions assume you are running from linux.

  1. First thing to do is to get the Private iCal link for your Google calendar.  I specify private as in most cases the Google Calendar is a private calendar
  2. Once you have that then you can add it to the bashscript below, replacing the bolded calendar url with the private iCal url that you have
wget http://www.google.com/calendar/ical/[email protected]/private-4bfd506b6d$
mv basic.ics calendar/personal.ics
wget http://www.google.com/calendar/sample_ical/calendar

Copy the above script and save it in a file called googlecal.sh.  Next configure a cron job to run the script routinely.  Here is my sample cron command:

# m h  dom mon dow   command
30 9 * * * sh /root/googlecal.sh
This runs the above bash script at 9:30 am GMT everyday.  I take it to the next level and rsync the file to my backup server, but if you run this on any server then you will have a backup stored that isn’t on Google’s Servers.
If you have any questions about this please feel free to leave a comment.  Hope this helps.

What’s going on

2010 has started off pretty crazy.  I got into a car crash early in the month but luckily everyone was ok.  The ole nissan was not so fortunate.  I needed to get a new car so I settled on the Toyota Matrix.  It is a 2005 so it didn’t fall under the recall.  It is awesome.  At work it has been crazy with getting ready to move to a new office.  We are moving at the end of this week and it will be great as it is spacious and the network is going to be fast.

Overall I feel like things are progressing well and am excited to bring on some more help into the support department.  We still have a tier 2 position open and am looking forward to more applicants.

Christmas Post

Keeping with tradition here is the 2009 Christmas Post.

2009 was a very busy year for Pam and I.  We bought a condo in the early part of the year and couldn’t be happier.  Pam finished her Master’s Degree in Social Work in May.  We went on a couple of trips including up to Sequoia national Park and to Seattle.   We had a lot of visitors and made it to DisneyLand and LegoLand.  Work has been busy for both of us but all good things.

Not much else to say, except if you want more details read earlier posts on my blog 🙂   Sorry for a the brevity of this post, have a lot of stuff to get done before the new year.

Merry Christmas to all and a Happy New Year.

November recap

I haven’t been blogging a ton lately so I thought I’d recap on the month.  I got a new phone, the Samsung Moment, and am still thoroughly excited about it.  It has saved me a lot of time and gives me a piece of mind when I’m not in front of my computer.  I’m looking forward to Q1 2010 as that is when the upgrade for Android 2.0 will be out.  I installed DD-WRT on a buffalo router on Friday and it was a snap.  It was the first time I had installed DD-WRT and am really excited about the advanced functionality that it offers.

I’ve been playing catchup on my side projects lately which has felt good, I still have a lot of things to catchup on, but I’m taking my time with them. Work has been super busy.  We’ve been bringing on some great customers and tickets have been increasing in number and complexity.  I’m working on pulling together specs so that we can launch a documentation site in the months to come.  This will help reduce support requests but will be an undertaking upon itself to ensure that we capture all information within the portal.

I have a mound of paperwork I need to go through related to the purchase of our condo this year along with preparing for the 2009 tax returns that are coming up.  I like to file early and get it off my plate.  I used turbo tax last year and was happy with the simplicity along with the value of the offering.  I will be heading back to MN for Christmas which will be cool.  It will be good to see family and friends again.

Other than that, this year has been really eventful and I’m working on wrapping up 2009 with a strong finish so that I can accomplish some goals in 2010.

Save 10% on your sprint bill

I just upgraded my phone at Sprint and found out that I can get 10% off my monthly bill by having a Credit Union account.  I went out and set one up and went back to Sprint and they adjusted my account to give me 10% off.  The adjustment will take 1-2 billing cycles but thought I’d mention it in case anyone else has Sprint.  Not sure if this is unique to California or even San Diego for that matter.