Capturing your knowledge/intelligence should be SIMPLE

Lately this blog has been very personal. This post is about stuff I do at work, so if you are not one of my IT readers, don't worry.

For my IT readers, an interruptions from guitars and music on this blog to share some personal reflection on OpInsights and SCOM.

SCOM is very powerful. You know I have always been a huge fan of 2007 and worked myself on the 2012 release. But, compared to its predecessor – MOM – in SCOM it has always been very hard to author management packs – multiple tools, a lot of documentation… here we are, more than 6 years later, and the first 2 comments on an old post on the momteam blog still strike me hard every time I read it:

whatever happened to click,click,done?

You would think that things have changed, but SCOM is fundamentally complex, and even with the advances in tooling (VSAE, MPAuthor, etc) writing MPs is still black magic, if you ask some users.

I already blogged about me exporting and MP and converting its event-based alerting rules to OpInsights searches.

Well, writing those alerting rules in SCOM needs a lot of complex XML – you might not need to know how to write it (but you often have to attempt dechipering it) and even if you create rules with a wizard, it will produce a lot of complex XML for you.

In the screenshot below, the large XML chunk that is needed to pick up a specific eventId from a specific log and a specific source: the key/important information is only a small fraction of it, while the rest is ‘packaging’:

image

I want OpInsights to be SIMPLE.

If there is one thing I want the most for this project, is this.

That's why the same rule can now be expressed with a simple filter search in OpInsights, where all you need is just that key information

EventID=1037 Source="Microsoft-Windows-IIS-W3SVC" EventLog=System

and you essentially don't have to care about any sort of packaging nor mess with XML.

Click, click – filters/facets in the UI let you refine your criteria. And your saved searches too. And they execute right away, there is not even a ‘Done’ button to press. You might just be watching those searches pinned to tiles in your dashboard. All it took was identify the three key pieces of info, no complex XML wrapping needed!

Ok, granted – there ARE legitimate, more complex, scenarios for which you need complex data sources/collectors and specialized/well thought data shaping, not just events – and we use those powerful capabilities of the MMA agent in intelligence packs. But at its core, the simple search language and explor-ability of the data are meant to bring back SIMPLE to the modern monitoring world. Help us prioritize what data sources you need first!

PS – if you have no idea what I was talking about – thanks for making it till here, but don’t worry: either you are not an IT person, which means simply ignore this; or – if you are an IT person – go check out Azure Operational Insights!

Markets

One thing that we (both me and Jyothi) miss in the States, are markets. Flea markets, 2nd hand markets, veggie markets, spice markets… all kind of open air markets. You must think we are nuts – there ARE markets here, after all!
Well, yeah. Sort of.
I mean, if you consider the various famers markets, thrift stores, garage and yard sales and various other markets (i.e. today we went to the Freemont's Sunday Market for example), yes there are various places where you can get either the market feeling and/or rummage in between old junk and find hidden treasures.
But… the biggest 'but' we have is that all those things are either geographically dispersed (you need to drive miles in between each of them) and even in the case of those markets… they are SMALL. You can see the entire Freemont market above in 20 minutes. It's nice – I even shopped! – but by the time you start having that cozy market feeling… you reached the end of the street, you have seen it all – that WAS it.
Seriously. EVERYTHING in America is big, but markets here are really nothing for us spoiled Europeans who have been visiting Portobello Road, Porta Portese and the Bazaar in Bewerwijk.
I mean a MARKET. in ALL CAPS.
One that you get there at 10 in the morning, you walk around a section of and around 12 you get some lunch, some tea/coffe, then you walk some more… then by 3 PM you still have not managed to see it all, and you finally give up, happy and exhausted, and head back home…
American friends – where are you keeping the good markets hidden? Do you even know what I am talking about?

System Center Advisor has kept me busy and you should check it out

If you were one of my work/Microsoft-related subscribers or other IT geeks, you might have been disappointed this blog has only had my own songs posted, lately. Yes I know you don’t like them. It’s fine.

In general, I tend to blog work-related stuff at my other MSDN blog or on the MOMteam blog, lately. Also, several folks (in Microsoft, and from outside) have reached and keep reaching out to me for APM-related questions. Sorry, I don't work nor own that feature anymore. In fact I have not really worked on it for over a year. It appears ITPro’s and Dev’s are a still a thing over here.

So I stayed with the ITPro’s, and in the last 16 or so months I have  been busy with System Center Advisor. First small but useful things, then the complete overhaul we did the past May at TechEd North America 2014.

If you have not yet heard about it and have no clue what I am talking about, then you should definitely check it out. See the following resources if you want to learn more of what I am working on:

clip_image001VIDEOS

Advisor Preview 2min Overview Video: http://aka.ms/unrpst

Advisor Preview TechEd announcement Video: http://aka.ms/Aulpqc

Joseph @ The Edge Show showing off our Log Management capabilities http://aka.ms/R4p9d0

Advisor Preview Onboarding Steps Video: http://aka.ms/Lgt2zu 

clip_image002SOCIAL

Advisor Preview Twitter Handle: @mscAdvisor

clip_image003RESOURCES

Advisor Preview Onboarding Documentation: http://aka.ms/Wrbzug

Advisor Preview Troubleshooting blog: http://aka.ms/G04tcq

Advisor Preview Feature requests can me made inside the Advisor portal by clicking the ‘Feedback’ link Advisor Feedback

I walked all this road (Song)

I have been composing this since February or so… The music has actually been almost ready for a while – in April – , but then things got busy at work (we launched System Center Advisor – Limited Public Preview, I have been responding to feedback, and Contributed some hopefully helpful troubleshooting article), I have not had an occasion to record myself singing and finish the song up.

This is also the first complete song that features both my custom-built guitars: the Plank Telecaster is the one you can hear play the rhythm/chords, while I played the Plank #2 for the melody.

I walked all this road – 2014

Winter (Song)

Well, the name of this is just because I started writing it on December 18th… just before the official beginning of winter, and finished it today, just a few days after spring has begun (again, officially – the weather in seattle doesn't say the same). Anyway, it's instrumental (so you don't hear me ranting there) and a bit trippy.

Winter – 2014

And here's a trippy doodle to go with it – sketched today in my notebook.

Doodling is meditation

Carmen N.51 (Song)

Another song I have been composing and recording recently. This one has lyrics in LATIN – the verses of Carmen #51 from Catullus, a latin poet who was so amazingly modern in his writing… some of it could have been easily written today. That is what makes masterpieces: their timelessness.

You can find the latin text (with english translation by the side) on this site (and on other sites too, most likely – just look at links in the wikipedia page or search…).

My song probably doesn't give justice to the poem, but I tried to respect the metre (as much as possible… and if I correctly remember what I studied over 20 years ago, which isn't guaranteed). In greek and latin the metre isn't just a matter of defining 'this verse is supposed to have X number of syllables', but it really imposes what kind of rhythm and musicality the verses will have when recited (poetry in the ancient world was often accompanied by music, incidentally).

Anyway, enough words, here is the song – I hope you like it!

CarmeN51 – 2014

PS – This is actually the second time in my life that I write a song with Catullus' carmina as inspiration and use their lyrics. Many years ago (in high school) I had also composed music around Carme #8, and we even interpreted with the band Ikebana I was playing in at the time. But that is maybe for another time…

In the quiet of the morning (Song)

Another song I have been composing and recording over the last few week(end)s and during the Christmas Holidays. I actually have a few more that will follow (still working on them) but this one is good to go, I think. This features vocals of my friend Kymberlee, and the line she sings is the song's title.

In the quiet of the morning – 2013

No Memory (Song)

This is a new edition of a very old song (ca. 1995 or 1996) that I used to play/sing with the band 'Ikebana'. It was myself and Tommaso Cancellieri at the time. This was actually one of his songs. I kept the concept and the lyrics (with minor tweaks) but the music is new. Just a dive into memories (funny since the title is 'No Memory'…) for us. Even if you miss the context, I still hope you like it.

No Memory – 2013

DYI Telecaster (Pinecaster) Project

After restoring a guitar around the Christmas holidays, in the early spring I also built one (almost) from scratch!

I started from a plank, hence the name seemed appropriate:

Headstock logo

Here is what it was before the “transformation”:

Can you see a Guitar in this picture?

and this is how it turned out to be:

Almost Ready

If you look at this set on Flickr you can see the whole process I went thru.

It’s quite satisfying to produce something like this. It sounds beautifully. I might do a few more: would you like one?

Restoring an Electric Guitar

I have not posted in a while. New year resolutions? Big plans? Nothing special, really – other than Service Pack 1 of System Center 2012 has finally shipped (this is, in case you are one of my IT-related readers) and I got featured in a video about some of the great things that are in it.

For the rest of the folks who are not working in IT and stumbled here as friends or simply curious, then the rest of this post is for you. During the Christmas holidays I really spent some time on a fun personal project: I bought a cheap Stratocaster copy in a thrift store, and tried to bring it back to life (and was fairly successful in doing so). When I got it, it was full of stickers, scratches, dirt… basically, had been used to play Punk, I assume. Nothing wrong with punk, of course (heck, I have even had a mohawk hairstyle at one point in my teen years!), but it's just that I like to care for instruments better (I never even understood the whole guitar-smashing thing either, for that matter… regardless if Jimi Hendrix did it, it is still a cruelty and a nonsense).

So here is how this guitar looked when I got it:
Guitar Restoration Project - Before

The body was scratched and mistreated (no, don't mention people who "relic" their expensive guitars – I don't get it):
Guitar Restoration Project - Before

The frets were kind of OK (no major dent etc), just horribly dirty:
Guitar Restoration Project - Before

The scratchplate was… well, scratched 🙂
Guitar Restoration Project - Before

And yeah, I had understood that the model of guitar ("Slammer by Hamer") was a cheap mass-production guitar series, but I figured that since I had never done any restoration, it would be worth to try on something cheap, first, before ruining something expensive. In the end it turned out a lot better than even I expected in the beginning.
So I started by unscrewing everything and collected all the pieces, screws, electrical pieces in plastic boxes (a lot of those cleaned separately with a variety of cleaning liquids, canned air, contact sprays, etc – but I didn't take pictures of that phase). So, with the "naked" body I started removing the stickers.
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 2

Then I used a chemical paint stripper. No matter how much I put on and how long I waited, and scrubbed… it really only helped removing the glossy varnish, not the paint itself, after 2 days. Still it made the paint a lot thinner.
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 3

After cleaning up the glossy varnish and the stripper, I attacked the body with sandpaper. Almost 4 hours of sanding with elbow grease (I didn't have a sanding machine – I just did it by hand with a sanding block) to get it back to clean wood…
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 4
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 4
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 4

Then I started filling up some dents in the body and some holes in the headstock: the headstock is actually in pretty decent condition so I didn't do anything to its wood, but a few screws that were supposed to hold the tuning pegs were loose, and dirt was accumulated inside the tuning pegs, so I removed those, cleaned them up, lubricated them, etc.
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 5

Then I started applying multiple coat of stain to the body, with a sponge.
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 8

While waiting for the first paint to dry, I cleaned up the electrical pieces.

I had roughly tested those earlier (with a screwdriver) and they appear to be functioning (at least, electricity is running thru them – but I am not sure of the quality). Anybody knows what kind/model of GFS pickups these are? They have black/dark blue wiring on the coil… probably some of those on this page guitarfetish.com/Neovin-White-Pickups_c_143.html but not sure which ones.

Anyway, this was a pleasant surprise, and I think they had been replaced earlier – and, albeit the way I found them mounted on the plastic board/cover was horrible (some of the screws were longer than they were supposed to be, which lifted the plastic of the cover and deformed it), it at least meant that the thing would not have sounded too badly (there are reports all over the internet about how bad/noisy the stock pickups in this guitar series is sounding).

Anyway, I planned on using what was there at first, hear how it sounds, and then if I am not satisfied I can always replace those later on.  They turned out to be not bad, in the end, but I only found out several days later. At the time, during the restoration, I just gave everything a good clean and used a contact cleaner spray in abundant dosage, and re-assembled the scratchplate.
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 9

Then, as the paint was getting more dry, I started wondering why this body was completely hollow, having the chamber of the pickups directly open towards the chamber on the back, which holds the tremolo system and springs – I imagine they would interfere with each other a lot and cause background noise. Therefore I have carved a small piece of scrapwood and glued it to the body to close and separate those cavities again. I will also be electrically shielding the chamber with the pickups later on.
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 10
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 10

In between the various coats of stain, I did a lot of gentle wet sanding with sand paper (600) to make it smooth and even.
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 11

After many coats of stain+wet sanding, I then passed many coats of laquer/finish and did even more more wet sanding! I have been busy with this process for several days. And man, this thing stinks – do it outdoor if you don’t want to die by intoxication:
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 12

Then, after a lot of coats of finish and a lot of wet sanding, I have used this product (which is used for cars!) that helps bring out the shine of the paint. After three passes of this product, the day after I wiped the surface and then applied wax to protect the wood.
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 13

Time to start assembling the pieces back together! First, I screwed the neck back in place and adjusted the truss rod position (not exactly, yet, but roughly – more adjustment later when strings need to go in place, as part of intonation…).
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 14

Time to screw the bridge back in place. I used wax on the screws before putting them back in place. At this point they are not tight.
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 15

Then you flip the guitar on its back and block the weight in place with a piece of scrap wood, to allow easier installation of the springs.
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 15

Installed the springs and the whole tremolo system. The guitar had no cover for this but I bought a replacement one. Once the ground cable was also passed in and soldiered (later on), this cavity has been closed.
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 15

Soldered the cables for the ground and the jack, and installed the electrical parts back in. I will be eventually be taking all these off again, at some point in the future, because I am planning to electrically shield/isolate the pickups cavity/room – but since the copper foil that I have ordered has not arrived yet, I'll give it a first try without shielding – to see if and how much noise these pickups make. So I will be able to compare later on the "before" and "after" the shielding. And this is how it looks, completely assembled (just missing strings at this point):
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 16
Quite a difference from how I found it! It almost looks like it’s worth something, now Smile

So then I put new strings on, and adjust the bridge/truss rod/string height and intonation.
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 17
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 17
And there you have it, standing next to my other guitar, a Yamaha RGX
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 18
What a difference!

And you know what? After I have been playing it for a couple of weeks, I also like the way it sounds – those GFS pickups aren't bad at all, with a lot of different tone variety, and not noisy as I was expecting them to be. All in all, I was very pleased with the result of this project!

Now, onto the next challenge – I want to build one from scratch! That will be another post, if I actually get to do it Smile