Texas BBQ

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I recently attended a Dell/EMC SAN training course located at Dell’s HQ in Round Rock, Texas.  I’ve been to South Austin several times before and the BBQ is awesome.  I decided this time to hit as many BBQ places as possible.  I was able to make it to 5 different BBQ joints, all of which were spectacular.

Monday -  The Salt Lick

This was the first BBQ place I went to, recommended by some local folks in my class.  It was pretty good but after hitting all the other places, it probably falls last on the list.  The brisket was a little dry (but very tasty) and the turkey and sausage were great.  Sides were good too.  Generally a good place to get some quality BBQ.

Tuesday – Johnny T’s

Very small hole-in-the-wall sort of place, yet highly reviewed on Yelp.  I couldn’t find a website for this place but everyone on Yelp was raving about it.  I think it might have set my expectations a little too high.  I tried the moist brisket, which they are supposedly known for and it was pretty good but a little to moist and fatty for my tastes.  The staff was kind of annoying too.  I guess they knew I wasn’t local and were bothered by me.  Plenty of sides to go along with the food though.  Ordering went something like this:

“Can I get the two meat platter, please?”

“Sure, what kind of meat?”


“What kind?”

“What? oh! How about the moist?”

“*SIGH* What else?”

“Turkey, please”

“OK, what sides do you want?”

“Beans and…”

“What kind?”

“Of beans?…what do you have?”

“**SIIIIGH** Baked, BBQ, Pinto, Green, Black”

“Wow. OK. How about Baked” (In retrospect, I should have tried the BBQ)

“And your other side?”


“What kind?”

“Seriously?! Well…”

“Creamy or [couldn't understand]?”

“Just let me have the first one you said…I’m starving!”

“Alright your total comes to blah blah blah blah”

The BBQ was pretty good though!  A step up from The Salt Lick, for sure.

Wednesday – Bone Daddy’s

I went to dinner with some Dell guys and we hit up a place they like to go.  I was a bit concerned because as we pulled up, I swear we were going to Porky’s.  Fortunately, the BBQ was awesome – some of the best Brisket and Pulled Pork I have had in a LONG time, and the atmosphere was top-notch as well.


Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to BBQ on Thursday.  I went out with the Dell guys again and we ended up at VIVO’s,  a Tex/Mex place downtown near University of Texas.  It was actually very good but I was bummed I didn’t make it to BBQ.

Friday -  Rudy’s

On Friday I made it over to Rudy’s BBQ with some Dell guys for lunch.  The food was great – probably the best of the week so far.  This place was different.  I swear I thought we were going to a Circle K, since the place was a gas station!  Once inside though, it was obvious that most of the place is a BBQ joint.  What was different about this place was that you actually order what your meat by weight.  I found that  1/4 lb of brisket paired with 1/4 lb of turkey was perfect along with some coleslaw and beans.  They use plastic bins lined with paper as trays which looks hilarious.  Since I missed out on BBQ on Thursday night, I went back to Rudy’s for dinner and tried the moist brisket and BY THE BEARD OF ZEUS was the moist brisket tasty!  I would definitely recommend anyone visiting the Round Rock area hit up Rudy’s and get some moist brisket!  I managed to snap a few pictures at Rudy’s:

Rudy’s BBQ Exterior Rudy’s BBQ Exterior again KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS THATS GOOD BBQ

Saturday -  Ruby’s

My last day in Texas.  Adieu to BBQ.  Such a sad day, and yet, on my way to the airport, I was able to swing by Ruby’s BBQ in downtown Austin, just off Guadalupe.  Ruby’s was recommended to me by my good buddy Will, and KUDOS TO WILL, as this place was awesome!  It was kind of a dump and in a questionable area, but the moist brisket and turkey were awesome.  Best of the week.  The sides were delicious too – I got a mustard-based potato salad and vinaigrette coleslaw that was out of this world.  Maybe it’s because it was the last place I ate at, or maybe it’s just that good, but this was by far my favorite BBQ joint!  I managed to snap a few pics as well.

Rubys Exterior Rubys Counter Rubys Plate of HEAVEN

After Ruby’s, I hit the airport and headed home.  It was a fabulous week of BBQ and I learned something new: I prefer the moist style brisket….oh and I learned a thing or two about EMC Storage Area Networks as well!


Windows Phone 7: Will It Suck?

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After years of pushing a tragically stale operating system on unwitting corporate users, Microsoft is promising big things with the release of Windows Phone 7.  “Rebuilt from the ground up!”…”It will save us from our phones!”…Pretty bold statements for a first-release product.  I’ve seen plenty of reviews and photos of the various models.  Paul Thurrott has an amazingly in-depth review on his site:

Windows Phone 7 Supersite Review

All the technology new outlets really seem to be jumping aboard the WP7 love train which is great, but I got to thinking about what matters to ME and what features in WP7 I would like to see.  I am eager to get my hands on the Samsung Focus and see if the new mobile OS from Microsoft is as great as everyone proclaims it to be.  Consequently, I have created my own list of necessary features along with some more lofty features that I would really like to see.


  1. Proper WiFi integration/drivers (similar to iPhone experience)
  2. VPN Support
  3. Properly rendered HTML email
  4. Simple attachment support out of the box (PDF/Office/Images/Audio)
  5. Web Browser on par with Android/iPhone
  6. Decent camera +720p HD video
  7. Dead simple method to switch to/from silent/audible
  8. Unified Email/SMS Inbox
  9. Reminder snoozing with selectable intervals
  10. Activesync/Email retrieval scheduling (certain hours of the day)
  11. Awesome media interface (Zune-like)
  12. Turn by Turn GPS
  13. Multiple Exchange Activesync support


  1. Speech-to-text anywhere
  2. Flash support
  3. Assignable actions for “long-press” on three main keys
  4. Auto-enable VPN for certain apps/resources
  5. WiFi Hotspot capabilities
  6. Ability to create common set of calendars / contacts on phone from multiple sources (live/activesync/google/facebook)
  7. HD Radio

From what I have heard, some of these features are already a lock, but many of them are up in the air until I get a WP7 phone and have some time to experience the new OS for myself!  I’ll try post an update once I’ve had a WP7 phone for a while and can accurately comment on the above features/requests…


Finally a Point-and-Shoot That Doesn’t Suck.

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EDIT: Turns out the W80 sucked after all (well actually it’s alright but had some issues).  Multiple reviews said so.  I ended up going with a new model Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2 and it is by far the best point-and-shoot I have ever used.  Extremely durable, waterproof and it takes great still photos as well as 720p HD videos!

I’ve been wanting to get a new compact point-and-shoot camera for a while now, but every time I seem to find one I really like, there is always some absent feature that ruins it all.  To be fair, I have a pretty lengthy list of required features:

  • 10+ Megapixels
  • 5x Zoom (although 3x would probably suffice)
  • Waterproof to 10+ feet
  • Shockproof
  • 720p Hidef Video Mode (30fps for fluid videos)

With kids and all the fun to be had in the summer, shockproof and waterproof are must-have features for me that severely limit my choices.  The Pentax Optio W60 was nearly a perfect contender but it was not really shockproof and the HD video mode was limited to 15fps, which looks quite choppy.

However, Pentax today announced the Optio W80, which appears to improve on the W60′s few shortcomings.  New on the W80 is a 12 Megapixel sensor, shock proof to 3.3 feet, waterproof an extra 3 feet (total 16ft), as well as 720p 30fps movie mode!  List price is $299 so I would easily expect to pick it up for $250 or less a month or two after it’s released.  I’m curious to see how it fares in the hands of early reviewers….


Samsung “Epix” Failure

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I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for candybar smartphones.  Sliders are nice and feature-rich, but I prefer a front facing keyboard for the convenience it provides.  That’s why I jumped at the chance to try Samsung’s recent WM6.1 Pro candybar, the Epix:
Samsung Epix Product Page

On paper, it has all the makings of a superbly equipped WinMo phone:

  • 624MHz CPU
  • 256MB ROM / 128MB RAM
  • 320×320 Resolution
  • 3G HSDPA
  • WiFi B/G
  • Full GPS Chip
  • Optical Mouse (VERY COOL!)
  • 2.0 Megapixel Camera, Speakerphone, etc, etc, etc

However, real-world use proves just what an epic fail this phone truly is.  I really wanted to love this phone, but it’s flaws proved so extensive, that even with tons of tweaking and hacking, the phone is truly intolerable for everyday use.

Initially, the phone was released with a very buggy set of software, including the following problems that I noticed during daily use:

  • No email alerts sounded upon inbound email – missed all sorts of emails…
  • No ability to latch to HDSPA 3G – UMTS with about 300kbps was the fastest I ever got.
  • LED notifications do not work according to settings
  • Notes do not sync with Outlook!
  • About once a day the phone starts vibrating and wont stop.  The touch screen stops working at the same time.  Only way to fix is to pull the battery
  • Occasionally, audio stops working – even resets will not bring audio back.  Only way to dix is to pull the battery
  • Notifications settings are not remembered after a reset or power cycle – have to change alert notifications EVERY TIME
  • About 2-3 times a week, a message box appears, stating “Forced SLOG Dump”.  This is known in the Epix community as the “dreaded SLOG dump error”.  Again, the only way to resolve this is to pull the battery.
  • The ascending ringtone is hard-coded.  Even selecting a normal ringtone still ascends – lots of missed calls due to this bug

In April 2009, ATT and Samsung released an over the air update, known as the UCI3 update, which addressed some of the above issues, but introduced a new bug that would often lock up the entire phone for 60-90 seconds when placing calls.  I didn’t notice this happen to me that often but there were widespread reports this occurrence.

Most recently, in May 2009, Samsung released a new update, the now infamous ID1 update.  This was not an over the air update, rather, a downloadable exe file that patches the phone directly via USB.  The steps required to complete the update are quite confusing and many users are still unable to fully flash the phone to the new version.  However, I was able to successfully update the phone but quickly discovered a major flaw: GPS is completely unusable!  In addition to the fact that GPS is broken in the new update, any sort of call to the GPS subsystem results in a hidden process, device.exe, consuming upwards of 80% CPU utilization!  Typical CPU usage of device.exe is no more than around 8%.  As a result, the battery on the Epix dies within 6-8 hours even when fully charged due to device.exe tasking the CPU.

So here I am, two major updates later, left with a phone that I really WANT to like…but the lack of GPS is a huge shortcoming and unfortunately, I will likely be taking ATT up on their offer to replace my Epix with an HTC FUZE…


How To Open A VMware Workstation 6.x VM with VMware Server 1.x

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Although we have some user licenses for VMware workstation 6.0 at work, I still prefer the Server product, as it allows you to run VMs in the background as the local system account.  Additionally, the Server product can be configured to automatically startup/shutdown VMs based on the needs of the host.  Either VMware Workstation does not support this feature or I am not looking in the right place.

I tried to open a VM that I created with VMware workstation 6 with the latest stable VMware Server version, 1.0.7.  VMware server threw an error that the “Configuration file was created by a VMware product with more features than this version”.


I was able to get around this error by browsing on my host OS filesystem to the base directory for this VM, then I updated the main VM config file (vmname.vmx) and the master VM disk config file (vmname.vmdk)

For the VM configuration file (.vmx), I changed the line:

virtualHW.version = “6″


virtualHW.version = “4″

For the VM master disk file (.vmdk), I changed the line:

ddb.virtualHWVersion = “6″


ddb.virtualHWVersion = “4″

Now VMware Server 1.0.7 can run the VM!  Everything appears to run fine, and I have not seen any negative side effects.


Customizing Email Addresses With the Exchange Recipient Policy

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By default, Exchange creates email addresses based on the default smtp domain name and username.  If you want to customize email addresses, you can set the recipient policy to do so automatically, using special variables.  This can come in handy if you need to add a secondary domain address or if you wish to have custom emails such as firstname.lastname@company.c0m.

The variables that Exchange supports are:
%g  = givenName (First Name)
%s  = surName (Last Name)
%4s = the integer corresponds to the number of letters of surname
%d  = displayname
%m  = Exchange alias

For example, let’s say that my default exchange policy is only configured with my smtp domain name and my username is cfriday, my email by default would be cfriday@fridayfarm.c0m.  However, if I update the default smtp address to be %g.%s@fridayfarm.com, my email would now be carson.friday@fridayfarm.c0m.

I am in no way endorsing microsoft exchange, just giving some advice on how to make it suck less…


Accessing the Virtual KVM on a DRAC5-Equipped Dell Server with IE7

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I’ve talked before about Dell’s remote access card, DRAC5 in a previous post.  Although a great tool, sometimes just accessing certain features is a pain.  Surprisingly, current DRAC5 cards don’t have very good support for IE7 or Firefox, which comprise the lion’s share of browsers out there.

Although I haven’t found a good fix for Firefox browsers, there are some settings that can be configured to allow IE7 to properly install the IP KVM and Virtual Media pluginss of the DRAC5 card.

Here are the steps needed to fix IE7:

1. From the “Tools” menu, select “Internet Options

2. Go to the “Security” tab and highlight “Intenet” and select “Custom Level”

3. Scroll to “ActiveX control and plug-ins”, and set the sub-setting “Automatic prompting for ActiveX controls” to “Enable”

4. Click “OK” a couple of times to save settings and then try to access the DRAC5 KVM plugin again – it should properly install now.

If you don’t have the above settings, when you try to install the DRAC5 IP KVM activex plugin, IE7 will boot you back to the DRAC5 login page.  It will continue to do that until the above settings are in place.  Why Dell has not updated the plugins yet is beyond me, but with the above settings, you can get around the problem.


How to Configure a Cisco Switch for Network Sniffing

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Sometimes it’s necessary to analyze (sniff) packets flowing thru a network for reasons such as congestion or virus outbreaks.  I can remember two specific occasions where I had to sniff:

1. A user had fired up a p2p tool and was downloading some music files

2. A user had set an OpenGL screensaver on a Citrix terminal running over a MPLS wan link

In both cases, I used a tool called  Wirehark (aka Ethereal) to sniff packets running across the local network which helped me to track down the source of these issues.  However, since most networks these days are switched, simply firing up wireshark isn’t enough.  The nature of a switched network means that it’s impossible to capture all packets without some special switch configuration, hence the need for port mirroring.  Essentially, you tell the Cisco switch to mirror all data across a physical port or range of  ports to a destination port.  This destination port is special and does not act like a regular port so it is important to document this change.  Here’s how it’s done*…

To mirror ports 1-47 to port 48 (assumes you are already on the switch as a privileged user):

conf t
no monitor session (clears out any already there)
monitor session 1 source int fa0/1-47
monitor session 1 destination int fa0/48

This configuration will mirror ALL data in/out of ports 1-47 over to port 48.  It would be best to do this config on a core switch so that all switches cascaded off the main switch will also be monitored.  Crack your laptop into port 48 and launch Wireshark and watch the packets fly!

Once I’ve captured a good chunk of data, I’ll use the conversations feature of wireshark to check out the chattiest machines on the network.  Usually with this method I can pinpoint the cause of network congestion and other abnormalities.

*Certain versions of Cisco IOS require different commands, but I have had pretty good luck with the above settings


Disable Windows Update Reboot Nag

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Windows Update is a great tool for keeping your computer up to date.  However, some updates require a reboot and will keep nagging every 10 minutes to reboot your system.  This can be quite annoying, but with a new system policy setting, you can tell the Windows Update interface to not bug you for a real long time, or not at all.

To get rid of the Windows Update Reboot Nag:

1. Go to Start -> Run, then type in gpedit.msc and hit Enter

2. Navigate the Policy Editor interface to: Local Computer Policy / Computer Configuration / Administrative Templates / Windows Components / Windows Update, then double click on “Re-prompt for restart with scheduled installations”

3. You can configure how often it will nag you (I re-configured it for 720 minutes, which means I’ll be asked twice on a work day), or completely disable it.


Internet Explorer Connection Limit

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I prefer Firefox for most browsing these days but occasionally I still need to use IE.  Unfortunately, there is a hidden setting in IE that limits the number of simultaneous connections per website to 2!  That means if you need to download more than a few items from a particular site, you will have to wait until each one is done before you can download the next.  Fortunately this setting can be changed from within the Windows Registry.

 To update this setting, follow these instructions (use caution when editing registry values):

1. Start Registry Editor (Regedt.exe)

2. Locate the following key in the registry:
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings

3. On the Edit menu, point to New click DWORD Value, and then add the following registry values:
Value name: MaxConnectionsPer1_0Server
Value data: 10
Base: Decimal

Value Name: MaxConnectionsPerServer
Value data: 10
Base: Decimal

4. Quit Registry Editor

You may need to restart your computer for the settings to take effect, but usually restarting IE will be enough.

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