August 26, 2014

San Francisco Conferences


This article describes ways to fight conference fever while in San Francisco. I'm not a native San Franciscan so this article does not intend to be a vacation guide to the city but if you are wearing a backpack, oversized lanyard, and paying a ridiculous price for a hotel room, this article is for you.

Ding ding


Feeling fatigued from consecutive days of information overload.


Break free from the conference hall and explore the city. If it was up to me, I would only go to conferences in San Francisco. Maybe it is the sea breeze and generally mild temperatures or maybe it's my fascination with a city built on such steep hills. San Francisco seems to buzz with excitement much as I imagine it did back in the gold rush days. My San Francisco conferences revolve around technology companies and week-long celebrations of their latest and greatest products. Some legendary tech announcements have been made at Moscone West over the years. The biggest is certainly when Apple announced the original iPhone back in 2007 and while I wasn't there to witness it, it's fun and interesting to go back and relive it. That keynote was Steve Jobs at his absolute best.

I have been lucky enough to attend several big San Francisco shows recently:

VMworld 2013

Here are some tips I have gathered over the years.



San Francisco International Airport (SFO) - coming from Denver, SFO is usually the cheapest way to go. Cab rides to downtown are going to cost you $50 - $60 and take a good 30 minutes. A longer but much cheaper alternative is to take the train (aka BART)) and get off at Powell.  From there it is a block or two walk to your hotel. I haven't used Uber yet, but is also seems like a good alternative to taxis.


Prepare yourself for insanely inflated prices for both independent hotels and the big chains. Basic supply and demand makes booking only a few weeks out nearly impossible. Marriott is my brand of choice and while the San Francisco Marquis may seem the most convenient as it is only a block and a half away, in recent years I have stayed further up Nob Hill. It is a longer, straight uphill walk that can really get your blood pumping at the end of the day but you escape the most dense crowds and possibly save a few bucks.  I find walking down the hill in the morning while sipping a latte and listening to some tunes an enjoyable way to start a conference day.


San Francisco is a foodie's dream. Even if your conference provides meals, you should break away to sample some of the treats the city has to offer. Here are some options listed by proximity.

Mel's Drive-In

Mel's is probably the closest food to Moscone West and thus the busiest. Their staff moves quickly so stop in for a typical diner breakfast. Keep your eyes peeled, too, you never know what kind of big wig you may be eating an omelet next to.

Johnny Foley's Irish House

Foley's is your typical Irish bar except it will be packed at midnight on a Tuesday if there is a conference in town.  Always a popular place to throw back your favorite Irish whiskey or scarf down some fish n' chips.

The Grove

Forget trying to get coffee at the Starbucks next to the Moscone Center as the line never ends.  Swing by The Grove for a hearty breakfast--like the Moroccan Baked Eggs.  This cool coffee shop is a great place to check your before your first session.

ThirstyBear Brewing Company

While several blocks away from Moscone West, keep your eyes open for vendor parties hosted at the ThirstyBear. It often means they appreciate good beer and will have it on the menu. While they brew their own beer, they also carry a good selection of alternatives. An excellent place to take a break and hoist a pint.

21st Amendment Brewery and Restaurant

The 21st Amendment will likely fall outside of walking distance for most. Beer connoisseurs will delight in their beer and food menu. Check this one out early in the week because it may require repeat visits.

Great Eastern Restaurant

Great Eastern is a long walk from the Moscone but worth it if you want to experience the sights and smells of Chinatown. I feel completely safe making the trek late at night but it is dimly lit and like any major city, you may want to bring a friend. I keep coming back to the Great Eastern because their hours and service are good and you can order a small dim sum feast for a reasonable price.

Scoma's Restaurant

You can not visit San Francisco without eating some seafood. Cab or trolley car it to Fisherman's Wharf and try some Dungeness Crab or clam chowder in a sourdough bowl. Scoma's is fairly expensive at dinner so go for lunch and enjoy the same great food for a reduced price. There are many other options at the wharf but I was not disappointed on my visit to Scoma's.


  • Jog - there is no better way to work off the previous night's event then throwing on running shoes and heading outside.  You need to be motivated to go up and over Nob Hill.  I usually take the flatter Market Street down to the water's edge and run along the piers.  It is a great start to a day of hearing your peers pontificate on better ways to do your job.
  • Bike - you can rent bicycles from a few shops at Fisherman's Wharf.  It cost me $28 to ride across the Golden Gate Bridge and back.  As bike rides go, it is on the top of my list.
  • Trolley - the real San Francisco treat.  You'll want to go early or late because the line gets crazy long.

Musée Mécanique

Located on Pier 45, Musée Mécanique is one part arcade and one part museum.  If you are child of the 1980s then you will probably enjoy both the decades old amusement machines as well as some of the more "modern" classics.

Alcatraz Island

The infamous Alcatraz Penitentiary is clearly visible from San Francisco proper.  Ferries take tourists out throughout the day.  Do not wait until the last minute and try to get tickets as it sells out often.  If you book your tickets far enough in advance you can even take a night tour.  The audio tour of the island is both creepy and entertaining and worth the trip.

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island

Golden Gate Bridge

RIP World Famous Bushman


Conference fever is often brought on from back to back days of solid presentations and breakout sessions mixed with free late night vendor drink fests.

SageLike Post ID: SL0007

Applies to:

Conferences located in or near to the Moscone Center.
Maybe others


February 24, 2014

Citrix XenDesktop 7.1 Slow Logon Black Screen

This article explains slow logon times for XenDesktop v7.1.  In addition to slow logons, the wallpaper may show as black during the initial logon process.

A slow logon is a relative thing and depends on a myriad of factors.  If your server or desktop logon does not show the progress wording on logon but instead has only black wallpaper then it is definitely worth testing out this registry key.  If you just think that your logon is slow, then it still may be worth the effort to test.

Add a new registry key to the master image (desktop or server).

Registry Key:
Name: DisableStatus
Value: 00000001 

Before you add the key, establish a logon time baseline.  I historically like to do this manually using a stopwatch (iPhone) but the built in Director logon time functionality is an exciting new feature and will give you additional insight.  Here is an example of a Windows 7 baseline from the SageLike lab:

After adding the key, time another logon to see if your logon duration has improved.  Here is an example of the after:

This is a big improvement but YMMV.  An interesting side effect for Windows 2008 R2 server deployments is the return of the status text while establishing a session.  A blank black screen leaves the user to wonder if anything is happening at all.  This fix replaces the black wallpaper with the rapidly changing logon status information.  This cues the user that many things are happening to build their session.

I have not found the history of this registry key or why it is absent when using the v7.1 VDA.  I have observed this working quite well for both Windows 7 and Windows 2008 R2 in a lab environment.  At the time this was written, the reference CTX article below only indicates it is applicable to XenApp 6.5

SageLike Post ID: SL0006

Applies to:
Windows 7
Windows 2008 R2
XenApp 6.5
XenDesktop 7.1
Maybe others

CTX135782 Black Screen Logging on to a Published Desktop

January 14, 2014

Getting Things Done

To discuss the tools I use to get things done.

Often when I meet a new system administrator, the conversation of tools comes up.  Part of the fun of  being a consultant is learning new ways to get things done.  I have always wanted to collect this information into one place but the the closest thing we have to this idea on is "Windows 2008 R2 on a Laptop".  I have run into posts like this before, my favorite is probably @thurrott's "What I Use".  He updates his from time to time and I intend to do the same.

On Black Friday, I pulled the trigger on a late 2013 Retina MacBook Pro 13" 512 GB.  This is a paradigm shift for me as my whole career revolves around Microsoft Windows.  In the month that I have been using it, I am totally in love.  It is the first laptop that fits in my messenger bag laptop sleeve and I barely know it is there.  The battery life has routinely gone a full work day and the trackpad / gestures have changed the way I interact with applications.

That being said, my favorite computer is my Windows 7 virtual desktop that runs in the SageLike lab.  I have a constantly changing pool of non-persistent desktops of various OSs available but I most often use the persistent Windows 7.  Outlook 2010 is alway running along with Dropbox, ShareFile, and SkyDrive so the second I connect--everything is ready to go.  XenDesktop does a great job of adjusting the resolution to any form factor and I can get to it from any place that has ultranet connectivity.

For over a year, I have been enjoying the iPad 2.  Oddly, I rarely take it out of the house because I always carry a laptop.  There is something really enjoyable about surfing the web or reading email while kicked back on the couch.  My favorite book reader is an older e-ink Amazon Kindle which is an ideal unitasker.

I'm a year into the iPhone 5 and still happy with it.  The power button is starting to go but the rest of the phone is solid.  I want to complain about the battery life but if I honestly look at my typical day I should not be surprised.  My morning commute often involves streaming a podcast (see below) from the internet and then, via Bluetooth, to my car stereo while simultaneously running Waze to avoid traffic issues and speed traps.

They say the best camera is the one you have with you and that is certainly true of the iPhone 5.  It really takes amazing photos for its size and coupled with a variety of apps and internet access it is a total package.  The Canon EOS T3i is my choice for those less spontaneous moments.  I'm also a big fan of using the Patagonia Atom Bag as a camera bag.  It is not meant to be a camera bag which is kind of the point.  Nothing says 'expensive camera' like a big over-padded Canon bag hanging off your shoulder.  Besides being more discreet, the sling nature of the bag allows for quick access to retrieve or store your camera.

Stay tuned for a separate post on this subject.

Windows Software:
I still prefer Microsoft Office 2010 for professional document creation but I do have Office 2013 on some devices.  OneNote, also a part of the Office suite, is an app I can't live without.  OneNote contains five years of my notes, screenshots, white papers, and drawings.  They are organized by vendor and technology but a single search will span all sections.  OneNote does a great job of fitting all this information into 400 MB which syncs from computer currently via with Dropbox.

I also have a host of the typical admin tools like Citrix: GoToMeetingHDX Monitor, Print DetectiveReceiver, Scout, ShareFileXenCenter; Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection Manager, Putty, WinSCP, VMware Virtual Infrastructure Client,

Macintosh Software:
There is a lot to be said about the default software that comes on every Mac.  iPhoto is an excellent built-in photo organizer and editor but this summer I standardized on Adobe Lightroom because of its dual platform support (Windows, Mac) and good reviews.  My hope is that Lightroom will give me the tools to organize the rapidly growing personal photo collection.  It has only been six months but I'm very happy with the progress.  On this same note, I've only tinkered with iMovie but managed to make an amusing trailer using photos taken over Christmas in twenty minutes.

I don't have enough storage for my music collection but iTunes Radio is nice to have built-in.  The same could be said about Messages being handy for communicating with my iFriends.  I prefer Google Chrome for browsing on all platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux, iPad...).  The Microsoft Remote Desktop app is excellent for remoting to Windows machines.

There are many times when the Mac software ecosystem comes up short.  To solve that issue, I've been using VMware Fusion v6.  It is excellent and the ability to swipe back and forth between Mac and Window has changed the way I work.  I'm not sure if it is an issue with Mavericks or Fusion but it crashes every time I try to close the program--so for now, I don't.

I don't need three file syncing services but unfortunately that is where I am at today.  All three have their benefits and drawbacks.  Lewan Technology's corporate standard is Citrix ShareFile which works well because I like the robust file delivery options it provides.  Microsoft SkyDrive gives everyone 7 GB which is reason enough but the integration with Office Web Apps and the remote PC connectivity make me think that this is the best of breed.  Moving to SkyDrive means migrating everything out of my 5 GB Dropbox.  Besides the time I invested in referring people and building up to 5 GB, Dropbox just works and I completely trust it.

Since the death of my beloved Google Reader, I started using Feedly which is a slick replacement but the idea of pouring over RSS feeds seems old fashion.  My new methodology for keeping up with announcements, blog posts, and documentation is save them to Pocket.  Pocket is available across all my devices and provides a great interface to keep track of what I have read or watched and what I'll save for later.  These various links primarily come from Twitter but it works just as well if something comes in by email or even SMS.

I have tried a variety of task management systems but my current trusted system for getting things done is Nirvana.   It is web based (key for me) and also has an iPhone app.

I'm also a big fan of Amazon MP3 and Prime, Aereo, Flickr, Blogger, Delicious, IFTTT, and Twitter.

I do a lot of driving and podcasts are the key to my sanity.  Over the years it has become part of my routine and my main method of getting tech news.

Brian & Gabe Live - Ad-hoc audio of @brianmadden@gabeknuth, @jackmadden talking frankly
MacBreak Weekly - Apple news, ratholes, weekly picks
Old Tech News - Audio version of @ihnatko's various columns
Radiolab - science, philosophy, and the human spirit
TechNet Radio - Microsoft's highly scripted interview show typically centered around a product
TedTalks - "ideas worth spreading"
Windows Weekly - Microsoft news, software and beer picks

SageLike Post ID: SL0005