Feeds

back to article Why you need a home lab to keep your job

IT professionals can't assume their employers want, or can afford to, train them in the latest technologies and should hone and acquire new skills at home in a self-built test lab. That's the opinion of Mike Laverick, VMware's senior cloud infrastructure evangelist. Laverick has operated a lab for over a decade, starting with a …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

Coffee/keyboard

Lucky?

Guess I'm lucky then that the company I'm at values progression and pays for training courses? Admittedly it's the first company I'm with who do it, previous three didn't, but still...

My "home lab" pales in comparison to the article's "lab", three desktops, one laptop, three switches, six screens, I guess the only one profiting from it is probably my electricity supplier :(

9
0
Silver badge
Boffin

Re: Lucky?

If you get a chance, check out "Synergy" (for Linux, Mac, Win, http://synergy-foss.org/), and Mouse Without Borders (by Microsoft Garage, Win only, http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=35460). Both programs allow you to share a single mouse and keyboard among several computers across a network. My home lab is so much more useful now that I can sit here and control 3 to 4 computers from one mouse and keyboard.

8
0

Re: Lucky?

Input Director is what I use at work.

Windows only, though. And at the time I was using Synergy you couldn't share the clipboard (I see you can now).

Plus synergy's configuration was a bitch (easier to manually edit the config file) - look easier now.

home labs: mine has just died... and of course I have no support (obsolete, hand-me-down hardware from work) so I'm buggered.

1
0
Unhappy

Re: Lucky?

@AchimR : Yes, consider.yourself lucky.

At the final interview my last employer promised me that they would allow me to maintain/improve my skill set. When push came to shove and I wanted to do a course that would help both them and me, they offered to pay my entry to a local computer expo.

Where's a BOFH icon when you want it?

3
0
Silver badge
Linux

Re: Lucky?

> "Input Director is what I use at work."

For Windows machines, you might want to try Mouse Without Borders. The development seems to be more active than for Input Director, and it's got full support for Win8 now. I'm having real good success with it. One interesting thing about this program is that you MUST run the same version of the program on all machines. I had a devil of a time with it the one day until I realized I had installed a newer version on one of the new machines in the configuration.

Synergy has come a long way the past couple of years, and has a pretty full set of features. It's very nice to be able to jump from a Linux workstation directly into a Windows 7 laptop. Synergy tends to lose the connection a bit more frequently (maybe once every couple of hours), but that's to be expected in such a mixed environment. Synergy does have a GUI front-end for Linux, but it's just as easy to start from the terminal with the "synergys" or "synergyc" command, pointing it at the IP address of the other machine.

0
0
Thumb Up

Re: Lucky?

I used synergy in my last job, my desk had a Linux desktop on one monitor and an XP laptop driving the other monitor.

Keyboard, mouse and could cut/paste text between them. Very nice.

Windows GUI, Linux you have to set up a config file and use synergys/synergyc, but once setup it is a joy to use.

0
0

Re: Lucky?

+1 for Synergy. Its a superb bit of kit. Not the most intuitive to setup, but not really that hard. Free, Open Source and cross-platform. I mean what else do you want?

1
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Lucky?

"If you get a chance, check out "Synergy" "

I just did. And I think it will change my life.

I didn't even know this product existed. I installed it on mac/win/linux in minutes and immediately threw out two keyboards/mice. And I can copy/paste across machines! Genius!

Thanks, Andy Prough, you made an old man very happy.

5
0
Bronze badge
Linux

Re: Lucky?

I've been seriously looking at solar panels and batteries to run my home lab. It's small enough right now that it wouldn't take to much of an investment to get that ball rolling.

1
0
Thumb Up

Re: Lucky?

> Synergy tends to lose the connection a bit more frequently (maybe once every couple of hours)

I tunnel Synergy over an ssh connection (using Putty if a Windows machine is involved) and do not experience disconnects. It also gets around that pesky 'synergy sending plain keystrokes over the network' security issue.

2
0
Silver badge
FAIL

Not just training...

I used to live an hour away from work. The computers we had for our OLAP solution were so "powerful", that it was actually quicker to compress the export, copy it to USB, drive home, copy it onto my "home" PC, recalculate the datase, copy it onto USB and drive back to the office and copy it over the original database!

0
1
Silver badge

Re: Lucky? (am I missing something?)

What's wrong with a KVM? You may need a good one to drive a high res monitor (crap ones kill the signal) but it worked for me when I needed it.

(okay, you can't copy/paste but still)

0
1
Silver badge

Re: Lucky? (am I missing something?)

> "What's wrong with a KVM? You may need a good one to drive a high res monitor (crap ones kill the signal) but it worked for me when I needed it."

Nothing wrong with KVM. However, Synergy and Mouse Without Borders are free, whereas a good KVM can run you $80 to $100 (cheaper for used or for less powerful devices). Plus, with the software solutions, you don't have to physically switch a button to go from one computer to the other - it's seamless. The KVM switches I've looked at all required some type of physical interaction with the box in order to switch computers.

1
0
Pint

Re: Lucky?

I wouldn't cope without Synergy in the first place ;) (depending of course if I am trying other network stuff out, where ports may be closed for the time being of course).

One "disadvantage" over time is, I completely lose track where my mouse icon is, heh :)

Beer, from one synergy user to another.

1
0
Pint

Re: Lucky?

I'm thinking along similar plans. Once I buy a house over time I want to switch electricity supply to solar panels and whatever else will be available for home renewable energy use (e.g. wind, depending on location).

Also planning to swap all regular bulbs to LED bulbs, 1/10th of the Wattage, same light. Light up full house for less W than previously just one room.

And that money saved could go into more lab tech (or into my motorbike...)

Beer, it's Friday, end of week (unless on on-call schedule, my thoughts are with you).

0
0
Silver badge
Linux

Re: Lucky?

...or you could just use X and RDP. You don't even need to be in the same room with the other PCs.

A KVM switch is also an obvious solution. You can share the monitor too.

0
0
Silver badge
Linux

Re: Lucky? (am I missing something?)

...you've got 3 or 4 complete PCs and possibly even Macs and you are worried about the cost of a KVM switch?

Really?

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Lucky?

Or you could just fire up Lync and share your desktop....

0
0
Silver badge

Agreed, but.

...try telling the employers who look only at certificates.

For them, a piece of paper always trumps years of solid hands-on experence.

Fun to watch when it bites them on the arse though.

23
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Agreed, but.

Glad I find most employers ask for experience over anything else nowadays, 10 years ago they just all wanted a degree!

1
0
Silver badge
Mushroom

Re: Agreed, but.

Not when the guy with the certificate gets hired and it turns out that if it wasn't on the test, he doesn't know it.

1
0

This is so true. I have been running a home lab of some kind since 1999. Mike actually trained me on VMware 3.5 :)

In addition to having a small home VMware 'production environment', I recently built a new desktop PC with 32GB of RAM. Using a couple of SSD's, I can easily lab many environments. Of course this was all at my own expense, but it will pay off in several ways over the longer term.

As a PAYE employee, training has always been very difficult to obtain, somehow employers seem to expect that you magically know everything about the next version of products before they are even released! If you are working in consultancy as I do, customers also (and rightly so) assume you should have top skills.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

There are companies that love to not train employees on the basis that it lowers their mobility. A home lab is especially important to help you get yourself out of those shit-holes.

8
0

Well said. I was about to respond to the article with something "thanking" the author for making it harder for the rest of us who don't have $10k to sink into the hottest new computer hardware.

0
0
Bronze badge
Pint

How about an Arduino and a laptop?

Maybe a Raspberry Pi with a handful of accessories.

2
0
404
Bronze badge
Thumb Up

Far more advanced than I

My wife despairs at the amount of parts, servers, towers full, empty, and in-between, domain up, domain down - as long as I don't lose her data (it was an honest mistake, dogs and kids interfering, bad command, really! I fsck.exe'd up and it was very successful lol)

;)

2
0
Bronze badge

Re: Far more advanced than I

Your wife should look after her own data and be responsible for her own backups.

Backing up and backup maintenance is a tedious bloody chore and it comes under the category of personal responsibility.

Hopefully this will not result in any marital disharmony.

2
0
Silver badge
Happy

That was a tad obvious, no ?

"“The days of being sent on training courses is gone,” he told the user groups. “The burden is now on you to get the skills and knowledge you need. It is assumed you will learn as you go."

Talk about open doors. I mean this has been an issue forever already which is also heavily depending on the company you work for and/or are involved with. The reason I consider this an open door is simple; most of the more skilled people I either know or have met have mostly gained their experience on their own. Sure; sometimes a training course can give you a good foundation to work on, but to really get into the subject you'll want to dive in on your own.

Hmm, could this be the reason why schools in the old days used to give us these tasks to do called "homework" ?

Naaah ;-)

3
2
Silver badge

Argh!

There are all sorts of problems with having a home lab. The noise the damn things make is one of them, I used to have an HP N-Class at home, it wasn't so much noisy in other parts of the house, as it was quite noisy outside in the street when it was running. Fortunately someone took pity on me and lent me a spare corner in a data centre, so the rx7620, disk arrays, stack of other Itanium and ProLiant servers no longer have to live in the house. The 10 smaller Linux boxes still take up space.

I just wish the UPS didn't need a fan.

Please can we have a noise rating for all new systems tested :-)

3
0

Re: Argh!

You can rent a reasonably powerfully VPS for as little as 12 quid a month, and load it with the software of your choice.

It probably has a noisy fan, but as its in a sub basement in another city this should not bother 'we indoors. An added advantage is there are no cables for your significant other to trip over. It's so unfau when you get an ear bashing when they just crashed your system.

1
0
Bronze badge
Meh

Re: Argh!

But what if you want to try running a VPS server of your own, even a leased dedicated server doesnt give you as much control as having a machine right next to you.

Also taking your own backups can be a pain, where as with the machine next to you, slap in usb drive.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: Argh!

But I need to practice doing things I can't do a VPS. Like running clusters full of virtual machines :-) why else would I own an HP rx7620 :-)

0
0
Unhappy

Re: Argh!

My concern tends to lean toward having to spend over $60k building such a lab. Considering how much enterprise class security devices cost I would need one hell of a pay raise if I'm expected to be building my own lab.

3
0
Bronze badge
Holmes

Re: Argh!

"why else would I own an HP rx7620"

Reminiscing about the good old days of Itanium when it might have turned out successful?

1
0

Re: Argh!

Nevermind this little thing called "real estate".

I live in a place where it's actually quite uncommon to have anything in your basement besides renters, because you can't afford the mortgage otherwise. And *that* is only if you have a detached house. Most people around these parts appear to be living in condos or townhouses. Put the rack in the living room? When pigs fly.

0
0
Silver badge
Boffin

Re: Argh!

What would seem at a first glance as my 'living room' is actually half living room, half an unwalled space meant to be a third room. I have mostly used the latter space functionally as a "third room", and lo and behold, this is where all my IT gear lives. That includes my very first "home lab" which given that the hardware isn't top notch (and wasn't when I built it back in 2009) is now lagging. Though the 8Gb RAM helps.

These days, most of my "lab" resides in the 16Gb RAM, i5-powered MBP I take to work, which gives me the advantage of carrying my lab with me to work. For the stuff I use these days, VMs cover most of my needs.

0
0
Silver badge
Holmes

The Catch-22 Secnario

When you boss makes you put some training (which he company will pay for) in your goals and said company keepy you far too busy to attend the training and thus gives your boss an opportunity to mark you down in your end of year review for 'not attending the training'.

Pah.

The other reason for keeping your home lab is that many companies lock everything down so tight these days that actually installing a bit of sofware is like getting a bill making hard drugs legal through parliament. With your home server you are you own sysadmin.

In my last job, the IT dept finally admitted that some of us know more about the system we develop for that they did and gave us (very reluctantly) local admin rights on our dev machines.

5
0
Trollface

Re: The Catch-22 Secnario

"In my last job, the IT dept finally admitted that some of us know more about the system we develop for that they did and gave us (very reluctantly) local admin rights on our dev machines."

Now you know what it feels like to be a user.

2
0

Re: The Catch-22 Secnario

" the IT dept finally admitted that some of us know more about the system we develop for that they did and gave us (very reluctantly) local admin rights on our dev machines."

What did you break first and how did they fix it?

;)

4
0
Silver badge

Re: The Catch-22 Secnario

In my last job the IT dept gave me local admin rights for all the PCs on the factory floor because I could fix them when they couldn't. Technically I was a developer in a different dept. They used to phone me to suggest fixes for the office PCs too.

My current job is for a small company so I do a bit of everything and I decide who gets what access. :)

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: The Catch-22 Secnario

The reason is that developers install all sorts of crap on their workstations and need to be re-installed every 3 months or so.

They aren't necessarily competent, they just think that they are.

4
0
Anonymous Coward

It's been my MO since I was 10yo.

School was for things my mum wanted me to learn. I took care of the rest myself.

7
0
Bronze badge
Joke

Luckily for most who will even consider having servers at home...

...the "Girlfriend impact" doesn't come into the equation ;)

17
1
Thumb Up

Re: Luckily for most who will even consider having servers at home...

I would laugh if it wasn't true

1
0
Silver badge

Re: Luckily for most who will even consider having servers at home...

There are ways around it. Many NAS boxes are capable little servers. I have two HP boxes, a Mini running two debian VMs and a Mediasmart 495 (hardware hacked for decent chip and 8GB of RAM) running Windows Server 2012 with one extra 2012 VM for exchange and SQL.

These are quiet, quiet little boxes. Low-power, too. And the hot-swappable drives are a real bonus.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: Luckily for most who will even consider having servers at home...

...the "Girlfriend impact" doesn't come into the equation ;)

Well the wife won't let me have a girl friend so that's not a problem.

She does get a bit hacked off about all the computers in the house.

But she gets far more hacked off when any of the keys ones aren't working so she can't work.

5
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Luckily for most who will even consider having servers at home...

I would however suggest that for many of us, looking after work servers is much like having kids.

They are both expensive, keep you up late at night occasionally, have temper tantrums and require you to spend time with them after work and at weekends.

Seriously though, who hasn't got a bunch of equipment at home too play with? I wouldn't say I have a "home lab" but I do have a few bits of equipment that ended up coming home to play with instead of being binned.

2
0
Silver badge
Linux

Re: Luckily for most who will even consider having servers at home...

Why would wives be an issue? Just have a den / home office / man cave.

If they aren't completely mindless they might even appreciate where you're coming from.

0
0
ql
Bronze badge
FAIL

Idiot sexist

Sexist for obvious reasons that he thinks only blokes would have such an interest, and idiot for choosing to splash 870 a month on what at that rate is no longer a home lab but a personal obsession. I've run servers at home since 1995 but don't think they've run me.

Mixed feelings about the sentiment he expresses though. Many in technology are in it out of interest anyway and enjoy the pace of change, so doing extra-curricula stuff outside of work is more hobby than intended for the somewhat single-minded reason of making oneself saleable.

9
0
Bronze badge

Re: Idiot sexist

I assume Mike isn't reliant on a typical computer industry salary (and hasn't been for sometime) and hence the 870 a month is of no consequence to him.

For most people 870 a month would go a long way to paying the mortgage on a half decent house.

9
0

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.