How I learned to stop worrying and love working from home

Since starting working for VMware last January, I had to revamp my work from home setup, previously I was on the road almost on a daily basis and that made me lean towards a more “mobile” setup, now that I spend most of my working days sitting in my home office I wanted to enhance and optimize my work setup as much as possible.

Let’s start with the basics, a good computing device.

Macbook Retina 15″ is probably one of the best laptop out there, and more importantly, it’s very fast out of the box, built-in SSD, loads of RAM (16GB) and three possible external video outputs make it a real powerhouse so the choice was a no-brainer.

Next up, screen estate, and that’s when things get a little more complicated :)

I HATE working on a small screen but when you travel much, it’s a necessary evil, now with a stable working place, I wanted to maximize my screen estate as much as possible, enter my screen setup:

Desktop front

I bought a four monitor stand on Amazon (Allcam MDM07), at a bargain price, and I must admit it is better than I was anticipating, very well built and solid, my main screen is a Dell P2411H (24“), the upper screen is an old Samsung SyncMaster 205BW (20”) and the vertical one is a Dell U2212HM (21,5“). I will be replacing the main one with a Dell U2713HM very soon and move the 24” up where the old 20″ is.

Monitor Stand

Lastly, there’s my old iPad 2 mounted on a Vesa stand running Panic Status Board showing my network stats (see my post here).

All this pixel monstruosity is driven natively by the Macbook Retina, using DisplayPort to DVI adapters and an HDMI to DVI cable. To make a sense out all of this, I’m using Slate as a window manager, if you want to take a peek at my slate config, I suggest you to check out my dotfiles on github.

For my whiteboarding needs I reused an old Wacom Bamboo tablet that my wife discarded a while ago, it has pressure sensors and it’s perfect for left handed people like me.

I also reused an old Airport Express base station that was a staple of my hotel stays for a while (where internet was delivered in room as wired only it was a real life saver :) ) to provide a speaker endpoint for the house, so my wife and I can Airplay songs from our Macs or iOS devices, the speakers are JBL Creature III, small but very powerful (and with a decent bass).

On the leftmost side of the pic, a few external WD hard drives used as Time Machine backup and generic slow storage, plus an old Cisco 7940 that serves as my main VoIP phone (its speakerphone is great for confcalls).

And that’s about it, I must confess that now, when I leave my home office to work in a remote location, I miss all this :).


Show your network stats on StatusBoard

Since it was released, a few months ago, I immediately expressed much interest in Panic’s StatusBoard, which is a great tool to show status information on an iPad or HDTV screen.

As Italy is not one of the best served country when it comes to broadband, I had to carefully build my WAN network :) and I’m employing several strategies to maximize my WAN output, right now my environment looks like that:

  • A Cisco 2811 hooked up with three WAN interfaces and does some IPS/IDS:
    • 1 HWIC–1ADSL connected to a 20M/1M ADSL2+ line (that handshakes at 9M/1M due to issues beyond my control).
    • 1 WIC–1ADSL connected to a 7M/384K ADSL line with a different provider.
    • 1 HWIC–3G-HSPA as “last resort”, when the landlines are down due to road works. (yes, it happened before)
  • A BlueCoat PacketShaper 3500 that shapes and prioritize connections (e.g. Facebook down, Webex up during worktime).
  • An old Juniper Netscreen 5XT that serves as a firewall (that desperately needs to be replaced).
  • Another Cisco 2811 that serves as Call Manager Express for our home VoIP system.

To keep track of how things are going, I decided to give StatusBoard a spin and created a few PHP scripts that pull data from MRTG, SmokePing and the PacketShaper and display data and graphs, if you want to take a look, contribute or suggest something, head over to https://github.com/frapposelli/statusboard-net-companions and fork!.


vCenter Configuration Manager, prerequisites install the easy way.

I found myself spending some quality time with vCenter Configuration Manager lately, partly due to some work I did around a vCloud Suite Control and Compliance Online Hands On Lab I developed (look for HOL-SDC-1315 in the next weeks!).

As I found myself installing vCM a few times already, I put together a quick and dirty PowerShell script to verify (and where possible, remediate) the Windows prerequisites needed to install vCM in a single-tier fashion.

Here it is, in all its glory: