Feeds

It MUST be the END of the WORLD... El Reg man thanks commentards

Cool tech, nice PRs, breaking the server-client tether: This was 2012

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Sysadmin blog As the year draws to a close, I'd like to take the time out to thank companies and individuals that have made my life as a writer, a systems administrator, and business owner easier in 2012. Readers of The Register - myself among them - are notorious for their endless cynicism and love of a right good digital kicking, but some companies, products and services in our industry do well by others and they deserve some recognition.

Influencing the influencers

Writing for The Register, I get to deal with a lot of PR and marketing folks. The number of press releases and so forth landing in my inbox is threatening to match that generated by my systems administration clients. Dealing with PRs is rarely fun - they are judged by how successful they are in convincing me to write a piece on their client's gear... I am notoriously lazy and their desperation can reach a fever pitch.

VMware stands out above the rest here. When I talk to them I use words like "vTax." I argue with the suits about licence-tiering. VMware's marketing folks - most notably Melanie Terbeek - have handled my ingratitude with aplomb. More importantly, they answer even my most difficult questions, including the ones I'm not supposed to ask. That sets them apart.

Supermicro has to be on my list. They may well be the busiest (or most understaffed) PR department on the planet, but they make a solid effort. Drobo gets a gold star here too. Their VP of technology even added me on Skype so I could pester him in real time with questions. Not the brightest move if you value your sanity, but it made sure I got a chance to test every single feature on that device.

Spiceworks has of course been amazing; they found time during the middle of their busiest week of the year to let me ask the brass hats uncomfortable questions and have worked with me to improve specific features in the application that bug me. EasyDNS and Ninite should get a mention here as well, for similar reasons.

Intel has been awesome this year. They have a byzantine, multi-tentacled marketing machine consisting of internal PR folks as well as various contractors. Both Intel insider Brian Johnson and PR contractor North of Nine Communications have been notably helpful. When I needed to cut through marketing and branding crap and get to the substance of the matter they delivered.

I mention these companies not to thank PR bodies for doing their jobs properly, but to recognise companies whose corporate culture allows their staff - and contractors - the freedom to answer the tough questions and work with people like myself who are deliberately never "on message".

As a systems administrator I find it far easier to trust companies that let their marketing and sales folks speak plainly. Banging on about being on message more than being proud of the products or companies you represent is always worrying. When company representatives are upfront and honest with me I am far more likely to believe that they are convinced their products compete on merit.

A stress free philosophy

While I find most software ultimately replaceable, Dragon, ComboFix, Hirens, DBAN, Housecall, Ninite, Puppet, Webmin, Teamviewer, Trillian, Notepad++, PuTTY, WinSCP, Navicat, Pocketcloud and Firefox's enormous library of plugins are all tools I am not sure I could live without. They are my list of 2012 "must have" tools and applications.

Microsoft's Small Business Server 2011 is a truly amazing product that I have grown to adore. I lament its brutal murder at the hands of Microsoft's ham-fisted licencing department. (No Microsoft, I will not be buying an Office 365 subscription.) I will continue to use the installs I have for as long as I possibly can.

The CyanogenMod, CentOS and Mint communities have produced excellent Linux distributions that make my life easier. CentOS has replaced Windows Server 2003 R2 as my go-to server OS, while Cinnamon Mint has become my desktop of choice. CyanogenMod has been my preferred mobile distribution (go team Hacksung!) I find it a lot more usable than stock ROMs or the ASOP.

VMware's 5.1 Essentials Plus offering has changed the way my clients do business. By bringing high availability and live VM backups down to a mostly reasonable price, smaller businesses are finally able to compete with larger enterprises. It has saved me a lot of time and grief; I appreciate the change in their tiering.

A special shout out to Classic Shell, Start8 and RetroUI for making Windows 8 just that little bit more palatable than being waterboarded by SCO lawyers using liquid Oracle licences. Thanks guys; it makes more of a difference than you'll ever know.

At your service

The beginning of 2012 involved a major reorganisation of my employer, including closing two locations and engaging a distributed, work-at-home workforce. Our ageing phone systems had to be replaced, and SIP provider Planet Telecom stepped up to the plate.

The last thing that I want to do when I am done fixing all my clients' computers is spend time fixing my own. I turned to Google Apps to provide my company's e-mail hosting and productivity suite. So far it has been excellent; quite a bit less stress than the Office 365 installations I maintain for some of my clients. The inclusion of Mobile Device Management for Android users as a freebie for business users was greatly appreciated.

Wave accounting is another fine cloud service. Intuit's online store in perpetually broken; if we can't buy their product we can't evaluate it or use it. Sage Accounting's store worked, but I really wish it hadn't. A few months of use had one of our number in tears; it ultimately proved less effort and frustration to move a year's worth of books to Wave than continue trying to beat Simply into submission. Bonus points for being a Canadian company; helps put to bed any legal issues that might exist if we dealt with an American outfit.

Year of transition

2012 is the year I broke the client-server tether. While not an intentional transition on my part, I have slowly moved towards Android devices as my primary endpoints. I live in various RDP sessions most of the time, but am seeing cloudy SaaS applications creep in at the edges. While I still use Firefox as my primary browser - I don't like browsing the internet without shields - Chrome has started to see far more front line use. Sometimes I need a website to "just work," even if that means risking things crawling through my browser.

With the exception of Outlook 2003 still kicking along in my home Windows XM VM, I've almost kicked the Office habit. Libre Office has matured enough that the last time I wiped my PCs arguing with an Indian call centre representative to have my Office activations reset just didn't seem worth it. I started the year off with Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 and have ended it with VMware 5.1 Essentials Plus.

How I use computers has changed; to some extent it has been a natural progression driven by necessity. Some of it has been exposure to new things thanks to all the press releases that land in my inbox. A lot of the change, however, is driven by The Register's excellent readership.

Our beloved commentards certainly do not hesitate to make their voices heard. Whether it be insightful analysis, a helpful email to the author or stinging criticism, I learn a lot from our readers. A lot of interesting tools and services I ultimately adopt I heard about in the forums first. So to the our readers, thank you. If you have the time, fill up the comments section below with your take on the best tools, products, services and people of 2012. Share your tales of woe and the unexpected moments of awesome; who knows, maybe your comments will help change what we end up using next year. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Boffins who stare at goats: I do believe they’re SHRINKING
Alpine chamois being squashed by global warming
Space exploration is just so lame. NEW APPS are mankind's future
We feel obliged to point out the headline statement is total, utter cobblers
Down-under record: Australian gets $140k for pussy
'Tiffany' closes deal - 'it's more common to offer your wife', says agent
Internet finally ready to replace answering machine cassette tape
It's a simple message and I'm leaving out the whistles and bells
FedEx helps deliver THOUSANDS of spam messages DIRECT to its Blighty customers
Don't worry Wilson, I'll do all the paddling. You just hang on
The iPAD launch BEFORE it happened: SPECULATIVE GUFF ahead of actual event
Nerve-shattering run-up to the pre-planned known event
Win a year’s supply of chocolate (no tech knowledge required)
Over £200 worth of the good stuff up for grabs
STONER SHEEP get the MUNCHIES after feasting on £4k worth of cannabis plants
Baaaaaa! Fanny's Farm's woolly flock is high, maaaaaan
Adorkable overshare of words like photobomb in this year's dictionaries
And hipsters are finally defined as self-loathing. Sort of
Not a loyal follower of @BritishMonarchy? You missed The QUEEN*'s first Tweet
Her Maj opens 'Information Age' at the Science Museum
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.