Visualizing your Solutions: Mind Maps and Wireframe Diagrams

Let me start this post out with a huge thanks to Rene (aka @vcdx133) and Melissa (aka @vmiss33) who has been very helpful with me getting from idea to diagram/document using these tips. Having a simple template to start things off with becomes the best way to get Visualization helps your ideas become more clear because it forces you to see the relationships between things, and to do the physical process of drawing them out on paper and/or using a digital platform. Before you think you need to be an AutoCAD, or even a Visio export, you have to learn to quickly get ideas drafted out.

There have been many days where I stared at a blank diagram software screen and fought with how to get it to work in a nice way using the product when what I should have done is to start with just sketching it out in rough format first. This goes to the classic phrase “don’t let perfection get in the way of good enough” When you need to take the thought process from ideation to visualization, there are many tools and techniques that can help you. The most popular ones I use nearly every day are:

  • Paper sketches
  • Mind Maps
  • Diagram Tools: Visio, OmniGraffle, PowerPoint

Each has a distinct purpose in the process.

Paper Sketches

This is one that Melissa (aka @vmiss33) has taught me to leverage more and more. When you want to get started on an idea, just break out a pencil or pen, and some paper. Scratch diagrams and sketches take your idea and put them into a visual form. This helps you think about how to visualize it before you go diving into OmniGraffle or Visio and find yourself searching shape catalogs for hours and getting frustrated. Scratch pads and notebooks are excellent for both words and diagrams. As you write out and sketch out things, your mind is forced to connect the physical motor act with the thought process. This helps to enhance learning and to get closer to a result for you with your ideas. I’ve also gotten some really nice notebooks which I enjoy using. Rhodia is one type that have very nice paper and lots of different styles. My favourite to use is engineering paper or graph paper style.

Mind Maps

Whether it’s a site map you want to work out, some ideas and related content/thoughts, or just general brainstorming, mind maps are also a great tool for taking verbal and thought processes and putting them to paper easily. Start with your core idea/thought and then branch out from there using simple mind map diagrams. There are lots of resources online to help you as you learn to use this technique to expand on your ideas. MindNode is a product I use for the Mac, but there are many different products which you can find online. The goal is really just to adopt the practice first and then you can use this for both self-ideation as well as for collaboration. A project manager who I worked with for years taught me the value of quickly scribing down discussion ideas for project planning using a mind map which has served me well over the years.

Diagram Tools

Before you think you need to be creating perfect diagrams with visually-stunning graphics, start with the basics. Wireframe diagrams can be easily drafted out as a digital version of your earlier sketches. You can choose the level you want your graphic quality to be, but the best diagrams I’ve used and created are ones that I modelled after a template that I got from Rene Van Den Bedem (aka @vcdx133). Using a seemingly simple diagram format means you concentrate on the content. Once the content is completed and your idea is committed to a diagram, you can then tune the graphic style all you want. The first step is moving from concept in your head to the concept in a diagram. Products I’ve used include OmniGraffle, Microsoft Visio, and even Microsoft PowerPoint can be quite handy for doing such diagrams. Hopefully these are helpful tips for you as much as they were for me.




Using Touch ID on Macbook Pro for sudo Authentication

Full credit goes to Cabel Sasser (@cabel) on this one for sharing the original tip. I’m simply sharing it here and showing the process to prove the awesomeness of this capability.

If you run a MacBook Pro with the Touch ID option, you have already discovered the speed at which you can authenticate for a number of GUI-driven products. Running sudo in the command line does not give you that luxury, usually.

By making a small change

First, you have to edit the /etc/pam.d/sudo file with your editor of choice. It’s a read only file and you need admin privileges to do so. Oh the irony!

I’m going to use sudo vim /etc/pam.d/sudo to open up the file. This prompts me for credentials in the terminal session, as it should:

Add the following to the first line in the file after the comment:

auth sufficient pam_tid.so

You can space it out for consistency with the other lines:

Save the file. It’s read-only, so I have to use w! to save, and then exit back to the shell and close your terminal.

Launch a new terminal session so that you have no cached sudo session credentials and try a new sudo command such as sudo vim /etc/hosts and watch the magic happen:

This should be a nice time saver for you, especially when you use complex passwords…like you should 🙂




Resetting vSphere 6.x ESXi Account Lockouts via SSH

VMware vSphere has had a good security feature added since vSphere ESXi 6.0 to add a root account lockout for safety. After a number of failed login attempts, the server will trigger a lockout. This is a good safety measure for when you have public facing servers and is even important for internally exposed servers on your corporate network. We can’t always assume that it’s external bad actors who are the only ones attempting to breach your devices.

Using the vSphere web client shows us the settings which are used to define the lockout count and duration. The parameters under the Advanced settings are as follows:

Security.AccountLockFailures
Security.AccountUnlockTime

Resetting your Failed Login Attempts with pam_tally2

There is a rather simple but effective tool to help you do this. It’s called pam_tally2 and is baked in with your ESXi installation. The command line to clear the lockout status and reset the count to zero for an account is shown here with the root account as an example:

pam_tally2 --user root --reset

In order to gain access to do this, you will need to have SSH access or console access to your server. Console access could be at a physical or virtual console. For SSH access, you need to use SSH keys to make sure that you won’t fall victim to the lockouts for administrative users. In fact, this should be a standard practice. Setting up the SSH keys is relatively simple and is nicely documented in the Knowledge Base article Allowing SSH access to ESXi/ESX hosts with public/private key authentication (1002866)

https://kb.vmware.com/selfservice/microsites/search.do?language=en_US&cmd=displayKC&externalId=1002866

Uploading a key can be done with the vifs command as shown here:

https://docs.vmware.com/en/VMware-vSphere/6.0/com.vmware.vsphere.security.doc/GUID-392ADDE9-FD3B-49A2-BF64-4ACBB60EB149.html

The real question will come as to why you have the interface exposed publicly. This is a deeper question that we have to make sure to ask ourselves at all times. It’s generally not recommended as you can imagine. Ensuring you always use complex passwords and 2-factor authentication is another layer which we will explore. Hopefully this quick tip to safely reset your accounts for login is a good first step.




Installing PowerCLI 6.5.x on Windows Server 2012 R2 after Find-Module Error

Now that PowerCLI is part of the PowerShell Gallery, you can install it using the native module installer…but there’s a catch. Windows Server 2012 R2 requires a couple of minor updates to get this process underway. You’ll know really quickly if you open up your PowerShell terminal or PowerShell ISE (as Administrator) and try the following command:

Find-Module -name VMware.PowerCLI

The issue is easily solved be deploying a more recent installer for the PackageManagement PowerShell Modules. Download the installer using this link and run the install:

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=51451

Select the Download within the page once you’re there:

Choose the x64 version (assuming you’re running a 64-bit OS):

Run through the installation and accept the defaults. Nothing significant to worry about with this file as it’s a necessary update for what we need to do.

If you run the Find-Module command again, you’ll see a much better result. You’ll be prompted to update your NuGet components which are used to pull resources from the PowerShell Gallery. Accept the update and then we can keep going:

Time to get back to the issues. Just relaunch your PowerShell terminal or ISE as an Administrator. We are running as Administrator so that we install the module for all users of the server. If you only want to run for your user then run your PowerShell session as your regular user and add -scope CurrentUser to the Install-Module command. Run the following to install for all users:

Install-Module -name VMware.PowerCLI

Now we have to import the module into our session using the Import-Module -name VMware.PowerCLI command:

Just like that, you’re up to date and running the latest and greatest PowerCLI goodness. Happy scripting!