EricHarlan

SharePoint Blog

So you want to brew beer

So you want to brew your own beer

For a long time I’ve wanted to take on brewing my own beer. I wanted to do it because I’m sort of into hobbies at least trying them out. But I also wanted to try it because well 1) beer is kind of expensive, at least the good stuff that I drink 2) I like a variety and to carry that variety is, again…expensive.

I wanted to do a post that highlighted my start up experience for brewing. I had some pretty normal criteria for how I approached this.

1) I didn’t want to purchase a bunch of equipment and invest that much money if I didn’t like it
2) I didn’t want to have all that stuff laying around especially if the hobby didn’t stick
3) I wanted to be able to control the time investment that went into brewing. I didn’t want to spend my whole Saturday doing it.

With that simple criteria I ventured out trying to make sense of this whole brewing thing. Extract brewing, Partial Extract, All grain and variations in between. Honestly all of the different types and methods really threw me for a loop. What was the best method to get the best beer at the cost I wanted to pay.

I have to admit that the folks at northern brewer did some great marketing because for a long time I’d been watching their how-to podcast style videos on brewingTV. The videos talk about all those different styles of brewing, cider, ales, lagers, casks and kegging and everything in between. I was in DC for a week and visited Tasha Scott where we did some extract brewing. We did a 5 gallon batch of a black IPA, the process seemed pretty easy thought. Boil water, Mix ingredients, Sanitize, put into container, wait, bottle, wait, chill & drink.

Extract brewing seemed the way to go for me at least to start. I had one more level of complexity though, remember I wanted variety. I didn’t want 5 gallons of beer sitting around. Contrary to what it may seem, I really don’t drink that often, and I never drink to get drunk. There was something about a 3 year old stout that didn’t really seem that great.

To this day I can’t remember where I first heard of one gallon extract kits but basically they cost about a dollar per beer. Considering I just spent 8 bucks on a 6 back of Indian Brown Ale from the specialty shop nearby (and gladly will continue to do so) a dollar a beer is pretty darn good. So what do you need for your testing of this new hobby. You’ll undoubtedly want to start off slowly with as little invested as possible, keeping clutter to a minimum and being able to reuse the materials later for something else. So here is my shopping list to get you started brewing one gallon extract kits.

First what I initially purchased:

• 1 gallon fermentation jug with cap and airlock
• Mini Auto-siphon and tubing
• Bottle filler
• 8 oz Easy Clean cleanser
• Bottle capper and caps
• Your choice of recipe kit
• FREE “Homebrewing 100: The Small Batch Way” DVD

You supply
• 2 gallon Pot
• Approx. 1 dozen pry-off 12 oz beer bottles (just save two 6 packs)

Small batch kits (keep in mind they include a 1 gallon kit already so your first beer kit comes with it, later you just buy the additional beer kits)

What I would do differently:

Now that I know what I know I would change a few things. First I would not buy the kit directly. You see the 1 gallon jug is nice but it fits like 1.1 gallons and leaves VERY little head space. This can be kind of an issue if you get very active yeast (foam over). So for that if I knew I was going to take to the process I would have just bought a food grade bucket with a spigot to ferment in. This way if worse come to worse I can always use a bucket with a spigot for something. Additionally it will make bottling much easier later.

Second I would not buy the mini auto siphon. I would have just paid the extra 3 bucks for a full size one. The auto siphon is a device that lets you extract the wort (unfermented beer) out of the bucket and into another vessel. You don’t want to use the old gas tank method of sucking on a hose to get your beer out.

Next I would invest in a bottle wand. Basically its just a tube that lets you fill up your beer bottles directly from the button with the spigot on it. You could in theory skip this if the spigot you had on your bucket is thin enough to bottle with (its called a bottling spigot).

So here is the bottom basement equipment list to get you brewing. Remember this is just an upfront cost. The kits after this are only 10-18 bucks (depending on quality and alcohol content)

Fermentation bucket 13.99 (you can get a 2.5 gallon bucket instead for only 6 bucks)
Bottling Spigot 3.25
Lid (with grommet hole) 2.99
Airlock 1.25
Bottle Capper 12.99
Racking Cane (auto siphon) 13.99
Bottle caps (144) 3.50

Total cost: 51.96

You’ll then need to order the kit that you want. Small Kits get what you think you’ll like. You want this experience to be something worth repeating. If you don’t drink IPA’s DON’T order an IPA as your first home brew, you’ll never brew again. You could seriously decrease this as well by getting a smaller bucket and by skipping the racking cane. I will warn you though getting crap in your beer by not using a siphon can seriously affect your beer. It’s a good investment.

Remember you’ll still need a pot and bottles.

Warning, brewing beer is extremely habit forming. It can get REALLY expensive really quickly. In fact many folks alike brewing beer to having two hobbies. The first obviously is brewing the second is refining your kit. There are some others who love to see how good of a beer they can get while keeping things as simple as possible. Then you have the different delivery methods, Kegs, Bottles, Growlers and Grolsch bottles, Whiskey barrels and Cask fermentation. A single pot on a stove to full computer temperature controlled burners, circulators and chillers, conical fermenters and brewing towers. You can take this in any given direction.

For me, I have a modest kit that is pretty much 100% manual. I have two pots I brew from, a Mash Tun that I steep in and Im in the process of buying a cart that has two burners integrated on them. Im moving towards kegging and doing less bottling. I had a kegerator at my old place and I really enjoyed the convenience. I now have an extra chest freezer that I’m going to be converting into a fermentation “room” / Keezer (like a kegerator but from a freezer). Brewing lagers in Texas is difficult because of the constantly high ambient temperature. The keezer has a gauge on it that lets you set the temp of the freezer inside so you can keep it at a constant 50ish to ferment Lagers.

Ultimately the point of it all is to get good-great beer cheaper than if you went to the store to buy it and to give yourself something fun to do on a Saturday afternoon. I hope you can all take this information and use it to brew a few bottles. If you do keep in touch and we can trade experiments. And when things get more detailed, we can trade recipes too, you’ll probably start all grain brewing or at least brew in a bag once you realize you can impart a ton of character in your beer by doing all grain. At least thats where I ended up.

PROST!

My kit looks something like this.

My Kit

Brewing cart


My Mash Tun

Resources:

http://www.reddit.com/r/Homebrewing/comments/17181u/im_always_looking_for_new_homebrew_related_videos/

Just to solidify the process of what you’re going to be doing once you do brew here is a great video that walks through the process (keep in mind this video is a 5 gallon kit not the one gallon method i spoke of but the process is the same:

Windows Azure for SharePoint – Its Free!

Windows Azure for SharePoint – Its Free!
A few months back I was given access to a Widows Azure environment through PFE.  The test was to see if I could build a viable virtual environment to fully power a SharePoint 2013/2010 instance. When I say fully I mean 1-domain controller w/AD, 1-SQL Server, 1-2013 App Server, 1-2010 App Server.
Now first things first, you yes you can go and sign up for a free 90 day preview of Windows Azure.  That said, you will probably not be given the same resources I was given and then obviously it does expire. However, the good news is we have options and I’m going to tell you about them. Additionally, I’m going to tell you all about the learning curve I had to endure in order to understand exactly what the environment could and couldn’t do.
First the gotchas:
1) Technically (at least from when I wrote this) Windows Azure is in “Preview” state. Think of it as Azure Beta. Because of that, especially from the free side of it, the environments can go up, down, be unresponsive or even not function correctly.  This is a growing pain that I fully expect to be worked through. The reason I say that is because through my ordeal I’ve been in touch with a lot of folks on the Azure team and lay privy to what is coming down the pipe. Don’t worry this is if not already is going to be a 100% reliable replacement for on-prem VM servers.
2) As of right now there is no way to technically “save state” or export your VMs in their entirety.  There is a third party tool I was testing out. But because I was so sensitive on time and a flawless instance I didn’t want to mess with what I had going so I didn’t pursue it too far.  Now that we’re finished I’m going to play with it more. Basically it claims to allow you to export the blob that the VM is stored in and save it down as a file on your computer. I’ll give it some testing and post up what I’ve found.
3) You can technically “back up” your VMs but really you are saving down an XML file that has all of your actual VM settings. None of the configurations you make after a VM is provisioned are saved. So configuring SharePoint or joining your DC won’t come down with that back up.  Again I fully hope and expect to see this addressed.
4) I have had issues where for literally no reason I could not delete objects in my account. Example, I try to delete a virtual disk and I’m simply not allowed. The option for me will be grayed out, I come back later and I can delete it no problem.  Additionally there were times when I was setting up my virtual machines and joining them to the domain I created and I couldn’t connect to the VMs both by domain join or simply pinging the machine. Even though all the settings checked out. I chalk this up to growing pains. So if that happens don’t bang your head against the wall, just come back in a few hours and try again.
I understand the reasoning for a lot of these shortcomings in preview as a lot of the pricing model is built around storage and uptime. Technically if you have a VM in your environment but not running you’re still paying for the space it takes up.

Now for the good stuff!
First up, Azure rhymes with badger. I just saved you some giggles from you saying “Asuuure” to someone.  Send checks payable to me please.

Its Free! Well sorta, here’s the 90 day link. http://aka.ms/AzureCloudLab
Depending on what you’ve given access to or what you pay for you will see a TON of options in your Azure portal. Everything from domain and network services to affinity groups and virtual disks.  In fact at first it can be very confusing but fret not, I’m here to walk you through it.
One of the big questions I had up front is if I can have an active directory instance in Azure do I need to stand up a server to host it.  Technically no, however I found it much easier to have a very small core build 2012 server be my Domain Controller and Active directory management than if I created it through the portal itself.  Server 2012 has a new (very bad ass *excuse my language*) feature. You can now build out a full server, walkthrough domain creation and active directory setup THEN when you’re all done scale the server back by literally removing the feature that controls the bloat from the UI of windows.  So basically you can go from full server to core(ish) server without going through the pain of starting from square one, even though doing that once is a right of passage.  In Azure you control the resources of a server in real time. So you can scale up a box or scale down a box WITH OUT RESTARTING THE VM.  So in full UI mode I had the machine running with 8 cores and 12 gigs or RAM. I do this just to make sure I’m not lagging or waiting for things to happen. After I remove the UI feature I scale down the VM to 256 MB and 1 core. Brilliant!
You can also use Windows Azure to work as a domain controller or setup virtual networks. HOWEVER for your SharePoint VM’s domain (i.e. contoso) you’ll want to provision all your domain as you normally would in your DC VM except for some key points.  If you’re familiar with VMWare or HyperV you would create your virtual network with its subnets etc in the virtual network settings of those respective applications.  This is one of the pieces of functionality you do use directly in the Azure portal. I’ll post a link below on how to setup that portion, just know all your networking is done here so your VMs can see and use those v-net setting.
Next up Azure can also allow you to create “SQL Servers” as well as standalone SQL databases.  So do I need to create a VM server that has a full OS and SQL installed. Well technically no, but would you not want to?  First up Windows Azure SQL databases aren’t supported for SharePoint. I’m assuming because it’s very hard to define permissions and roles for a SQL server or a SQL database that technically lives as a blob.  So the answer to this question at least for me was yes.  Yes you should probably create VM that houses your SQL environment. If you want to stretch your company dollar or want to have a different setup with your free account and decide to go SQL Azure for your SharePoint databases and are successful please write up your approach and drop me a note for a link back.
See a theme here?
Affinity Groups. Awe.Some.  So check this out, you can create these groups that basically move the bandwidth that supports your network geographically at will. Example, if you are building a virtual SharePoint instance for your office in India you can create an affinity group in Western Asia to support that office. So the hop itself doesn’t need to go from India, back the US then back to India again.  Then get this, you can then change it to support the same farm. Example, you’re giving a demo in … I dunno say Western Europe.  You can create an affinity group for that region and use that affinity group while you’re in Western Europe to get the best connectivity to your farm. Then when you’re done and back home in the states, you can move it back to North America to allow you to have the best bandwidth back home. Sweet!
Kind of a no brainer but still really sweet, you can remote desktop into all of these machines you create. You are given a URL based off the DNS name you give the machine when you create the VM and literally RDP’ing into that machine is as easy as dropping that URL into RDP and hitting connect.  That’s a good note actually, the DNS name you give a machine when creating it has nothing to do with the virtual networking and everything to do with connecting to the machine from the outside world.
When you create and crush Virtual Disks & VMs be careful because when deleting one or the other doesn’t mean both are deleted just because their bound together. You can use virtual disks to provision more than 1 VM so by default Azure keeps the disk unless you say so.

Now for the best news of all. Literally step by step creation of a SharePoint farm in Windows Azure has already been written up by my colleague Keith Mayer you can see his write up here.http://blogs.technet.com/b/keithmayer/archive/2013/01/07/step-by-step-build-a-free-sharepoint-2013-lab-in-the-cloud-with-windows-azure-31-days-of-servers-in-the-cloud-part-7-of-31.aspx Keith’s write up literally goes through setting up a virtual network for your SharePoint install, creating affinity groups and provisioning servers. It was the guide I used to create my environment. Check out his blog, create your free account and start playing around. Not a sales pitch but just something great that makes spinning up dev/demo environments very quick.  Also make sure you tell him thanks, when Evangelists like Keith do this sort of thing it only benefits the community as a whole. It took a lot of time to write his blog I’m sure and having an impact is always good to hear.

As I think of more things or find something new I’ll try to remember to update this post. Enjoy everyone.

The Sponsor role in SharePoint Saturday

The Sponsor role in SharePoint Saturday
A long topic of discussion around the SPS committee as well as the SharePoint community has been about the role that Sponsors play in the overall operation of a SPSEvent.  The rise and fall of the SPS movement in addition to community acceptance and advancement has been the availability of sponsors to donate their time, money and manpower to show up at an event just as the volunteers to organize and speak.
That said, truth is (try to hold your shock for a moment), SharePoint Saturdays do not need nor have they ever needed sponsors to run a successful event.  Allow me to explain before you put away your checkbooks :).
At its core SPS is a movement deeper than money, deeper than self-progression and most certainly deeper than any sponsor ROI. SPS started as humble as can be with ZERO funding with the sole purpose to cater to the community in which it finds itself. To that end in my opinion and many others’ the events will continue as long as there is need for education and a desire to help an individual foster their career, better their quality of life and their families quality of life.
There will probably come a day hopefully in the unforeseen future that there will be zero sponsorship funding available to run an event. At that time a host must make the decision to either get creative or not have an event as well as question the real reason they are having an event.
My faith as well as the faith of many attendees relies on that dedication to KEEP OUR TECHNOLOGY STRONG, keep each other strong and keep ourselves technically sharp.
The funding is dwindling, and as a host you will need to come to grips with that notion. We as a NEW committee cannot be in the business of collecting from the rich (markets) and giving to the not so rich ones.  There will be events higher funded than others and it’s not the sponsors fault it’s just logical. Spend money where they are most likely to recover that funding as well as create more business.  Its why there are only a few GLOBAL sponsors that are seen at most high visibility events. The reason is because the local firms in that market are the ones sponsoring the events most.

Ok now with that out of the way, I propose a different mentality. This is in no way a bashing or a “come to Jesus” post it’s just about reality and evolution of the organization.
For years sponsors have been getting mostly the same contacts, same booth, and same attendee list. Something at some point may have to change.  I’m not here to propose what that is as that information is in the midst of being gathered. As the events evolve and get bigger, demand more sponsorship funding and essentially offer the same thing back to those sponsors (other than maybe even more names) as bigger events are held the ROI for such an event has started to come into question.
At one time sponsoring an event for 1,000 USD (plus the cost of materials, travel and time for employees) for the opportunity to speak and have a booth was an excellent venture. Really all a sponsor had to do to recoup those costs was to close one or maybe two sales to make it all worth it. This was compared to other conferences where literally thousands are paid for the almost identical audience.
We as a “COMMUNITY” will (if not already) need to embrace that we are all in this. I owe personal and career success to a percentage of all of you and I hold that truth to be immovable. As such this ecosystem that is the SharePoint community in all of its quirkiness is ever changing and we, as a community, need to try to understand that and be tolerant of that.  It is NOT all about the speakers, it is NOT all about the advancement of an attendee and it is not all around a sponsor. We are all 100% equal in desire to see this community and its technology we all orbit around succeed.
Lastly a gut check to the attendees of SPS events. And when I say attendees I literally mean all of us in every aspect of the word attendee. Whether you are giving a session, or you stepped away to listen to one. Whether you are a sponsor in a small company who gave up time with your family to attend an event that you hope will build that business and in return build that families future. Or if you came out because you come out every year to attend and you’ve watched the event in your area, grow mature and get bigger and better.
There will come a time where something isn’t done to your liking, there will come a time where something is by golly scaled BACK instead of forward. Where you were once used to hot buffets or table service and now you’re rocking a slice of pizza (if we’re so lucky).  Remember, it’s a free event and with that come all the ups and down swings.  That may mean there are no more speaker shirts, or no mobile app or maybe the SharePoint Saturday is 1 single track with 3 speakers.  Accept it, embrace it and keep carrying the banner forward.
Other wise, its back to unix for a lot of us. And no one wants that do we?

(btw I totally just watched “Lincoln” find that pretty obviously proof reading)

The Microsoft Surface Tested

The Microsoft Surface Tested
Eric approved.

So thankfully many see me as anything further to a yes man or a shill. If something is better I usually will say it. If I think something is terrible and you ask me off the record I’ll give you my honest feedback regardless of the technology or manufacturer.  Its not ground breaking news that a few months ago Microsoft put its money where its mouth is.
Announcing a free surface, a free windows phone 8 a new laptop and a turkey on every table for every employee, ok scratch the turkey.  I was pretty stoked about the laptop and the phone but not as much for the surface. Let me explain what I mean when I say I wasn’t excited for a free piece of technology.
My wife WAS an owner of a Ipad 3 or 7 or whatever I dunno they all look and do the same I can’t remember which is which (obligatory bash against Apple behind us).  The greatest purpose it ever had to me was that we used it to track when our daughter soiled her diaper when she was born. Get it, crap…. Apple…. Ok ok I said I was done.  Other than that one input function I always saw tablets as consumption devices. Tools to waste time or entertain oneself while indisposed to other forms of entertainment. Side note, she ditched the iPad for a Lenovo Yoga w/ Windows 8. I was so proud.
I always figured I had a phone, I had a laptop why do I need a tablet? For someone that travels this question of weight reduction is a constant balance.  When it was announced that we would receive these devices I almost immediately chalked up my device to sit on the couch and provide passing fun or possibly a replacement for vacation laptop travel. Wow was I wrong.
I put a lot of energy into picking a laptop that would give me a good balance of power, and travel-ability.  I can’t stress how crucial it is to have a light laptop in my job. If you know, you know.  So when I chose my laptop I assumed that to be my primary travel device for both work as well as conferences both nationally and internationally.
One day I got a note from my good buddy Mark Rackley (he paid me to say that) saying “holy crap you can RDP from the surface RT”. This was immediately lost on me until sometime later when I received my free device.  The moment I realized that essentially the same risk/rewards I took with a laptop I chose was basically available in my surface my head began to spin. You see a few weeks earlier I had been given a Windows Azure account through work. This gave me great flexibility and power all on a remote platform. The risk obviously is that it’s all cloud based with no connectivity I basically had no environment. I took a lot of soul searching to come to that acceptance for the sake of having a lighter load to carry.
This past week I spoke at the European SharePoint Conference in Copenhagen. I was in communications with the event coordinators to make sure there was in fact GOOD internet connectivity. I went out and bought a true type keyboard for the surface because honestly you cant type WELL with the touch type. I also bought a micro HDMI to VGA dongle to handle the output to a projector and lastly a RJ45 to Wi-Fi hotspot TP-Link gadget to give me wireless access for my surface when there was only wired access. Im also testing out a little usb to RJ45 I have the drivers for. Turns out it hasn’t been made so easy to deploy drivers to the RT with USB devices. So I’ll let you know how it goes.
I delivered a 1 hour session and an 8 hour workshop on SharePoint 2010-2013 upgrade and I’m glad to report the surface CRUSHED it.
I really don’t know what else to say there really isn’t much to say. I had all the tools I would normally have access to (except RDPMAN L ) on my surface RT for my session and never really felt as though I was limited. I really just felt like I was working right off my Hyper V lab as before. I even let the tablet run all day without any battery power and I had about 20% battery left after a 8:45 min session.  Also for those hard core travelers in the house. The tablet with the true type keyboard fully extended fits almost perfectly in even the smallest commuter jet tray tables. Score.
If you’re looking for a good substitute for just such a scenario or are want to get some work done on a plane etc etc. I actually (really didn’t think I’d say this so soon) recommend the surface RT for stuff like this. Should my little sister drop the 5 bills to let my nephews play games on it?  Well, no not yet possibly when the cost goes down some. Would I buy one knowing what it can do now? I would have initially said no to that question.  Now, I probably would.
Jury is still out on the pro.  If anyone wants to donate one I’ll give it a go.

2012 PFE SPC Meet and Greet

Last year at SharePoint Conference 2011, we got together for a very successful meet and greet that resulted in 3 new hires for Microsoft. This year with even a higher demand for good engineers we’re hosting another event. This time a cocktail hour (2 hours) on Monday November 12th at the Ri RA Irish Pub at 7pm.  Click the register button below and save a slot.

 

 

Eventbrite - PFE Meet and Greet 2012

Your farm goes down at what seems like the most crucial time. When it comes to support at microsoft there is only one team to call. Thats the SharePoint Premier Field Engineer. We’ve often been likened to a sort of “Support Swat Team”, we’re there when you need us regardless of the time or day.

 

On Monday November 12th at 7pm (vegas time) we will be holding a small and intiment gathering for those folks both interested in a career in PFE (As we are hiring like mad) as well as potential or current customers to come and pick our brains.

 

This will be a great time to get us to yourselves and ask all the questions you can ponder up. There will be a dozen SharePoint PFE’s from all over the globe at the meet and greet.

The space will be very limited so please RSVP to attend, otherwise there will be no available room.

 

Some quick notes:

  • Location: RI RA Irish Pub – The Shoppes at Mandalay Place
    • The Shoppes at Mandalay Place, located on the sky bridge between Mandalay Bay and Luxor
  • Alone time with the smartest folks in Microsoft Support
  • 2 hours from 4 – 6pm (the hope is to continue the evening at one of the many gatherings planned
  • Must RSVP
  • Sorry, food and beverages are not covered (come early enough and there may be some appitizers left)
  • Talk Shop or talk Job openings
  • Microsoft Services Premier Support
  • Follow #mspfe via twitter to get up to the minute updates

Building a Sitting – Standing desk

Standing/Walking desk

A simple search engine query and you can do hours of research on why standing more can pretty much keep you alive a lot longer than sitting.  Let’s face it we sit all the time, in the car, on planes, at work, after work in front of the TV and that late night blog post draft (I’m literally sitting right now).  So after my (successful) weight loss attempt and overall trying to be more active (although I have a ways to go, someone remind me to put air in my bike tires) I wanted to try to well, get off my backside more.

I’m only 32 and I can already feel the effects of sitting all the time, left side lower back twinges, stiff neck etc, you get the point. So I researched for months on building/buying a standing/walking desk.  I had a few personal criteria that needed to be met. First, the desk I ended up with really had to be adjustable.  I assumed that this desk would be my primary desk and because I split my home office between my normal job and my personal time on two separate rigs I wanted to be able to go to and from sitting or standing at my discretion.  Honestly I just didn’t see myself standing for 12 hours a day, in fact that could be counterproductive.  The second part was that the desk needed to be clean. I’ve built my own desk setup in the past, and although I loved that desk it was way too much work and not modular at all, this desk needed to be simple and clean.  My third requirement was that when adjusting the desk it needed to be either cranked or electronically raised and lowered. I didn’t want to pull everything off my desk multiple times a day just to manually raise the desk and move some pegs to keep it at a specific height. If I did that I would end up just leaving it in one location and probably again be counterproductive.  My fourth requirement was that the treadmill I purchased hand to be light and maneuverable, again I didn’t want it to be a huge ordeal to go from sitting to standing.  The last requirement was that it had to be affordable. Go do a search on electronically actuated desks and see how much those suckers cost, literally thousands my budget was 500 dollars.

With those criteria I set out on my research only to find that it is just not easy to find a desk and a treadmill to fit that bill.  Really the hard part ended up being the treadmill. Finding a light, cheap treadmill that I could take the riser bars off of and have only the moving belt part and controls was extremely hard.  There is a company that makes a treadmill that is just the motor, belt and controls but that treadmill at the time was 900 dollars.

After hours of research I stumbled onto a random obscure blog (here) where a girl who was out to build the same thing as me just so happened (luckily) to mention the brand and model she bought and it working.  I jumped over to Amazon and looked up the treadmill thankfully it was listing at a low low one hundred dollars (USD). The “Confidence Power Plus Treadmill” looked like it would fit the bill perfectly. Now I just needed to find/build a desk (btw looks like the cost of the treadmill went up).

I really thought outside the box on this one. At one point I was going to build the desk and mount it on gas shocks, kind of like the ones in your office chair but more powerful so all I needed to do was release them to raise it and lean on it to lower it.  As I really started to spec this method out I realized it would cost about the same as my second option desk and would be a little challenging to raise and lower.

I happened to stumble across the website for the MultiTable where it seems ex-pro football player Mike Haynes (yeah I have no idea either) and his daughter started a company for manually adjustable desks.  I really liked this model because it allowed me to choose whether I just buy the base or buy a full on custom designed desk. Naturally after pricing out the bells and whistles I went with just the base and luckily for me I decided to buy it just as they had a sale taking 50 dollars off the price of the 400 dollar desk (enough to cover the flat rate shipping cost on it…hmm).

Ok so things are coming together well for me at this point, I ordered both and only had to figure out what sort of desktop I wanted.  The MultiTable has an adjustable weight limit of 150 pounds and a static weight limit of 250 pounds. With that information and a full assembled desk back at home I set out for the home improvement store.  I went to both Lowes and Home Depot and all I could find that would fit my needs and be light enough was pre-fabricated laminate kitchen counter tops.  Now I was no stranger to this type of desktop as it’s what I made my last desk from (you can see that here).  But this time around I wanted something lighter and without a backsplash as that looks kind of strange on a desk.

My wife suggested I look at the Ikea website and see if they had anything that would suit my needs there.  Turns out they had a couple options so off to Ikea I went.  I stood at the kitchen counter top display for probably 20 mins pondering my choices.  On one hand I had a really nice (for Ikea) wood top. It was long square blocks of Oak that were pressed together to make a 6 foot top.  An all white 8 foot standard top and a 8 foot faux marble top.  I finally made up my mind on the wood top as it was stainable and sandable and I already had a deep mahogany/espresso finish in my head when I flipped over the info card and realized that the top was 80 pounds in the 6 foot version and 100 pounds in the 8 foot version. In my head considering the weight of monitors, my arms (cause their massive you know) keyboards, laptops etc I figured that 150 pound limit would come up quick.  That and the 8 foot version was 170 dollars (USD). I checked out my second option which was a plain white pressboard and laminate table top.  This was a table top that I surely had laid my arms on a hundred other times in my career. The 8 foot version was only 58 pounds, cost only 38 dollars and during that week another 10 dollars off dropping it to 28 bucks total. Ladies and gents we have a winner.

I got back home and put the top up on the desk stand and noticed that the width of the desk legs would box me into either shortening the length of the counter top back down to six feet, or attaching a third leg to the desktop.  Again, I’ve worked with laminate pressboard before and if you’ve ever tried cutting it, you know how much of a nightmare that can be. So I opted for the third leg to extend my workspace, the only issue being this is an adjustable desk so I needed to have an adjustable leg.

Back to the hardware store I go in search of some sort of method of either buying or making this mystical leg of destiny.  After a few laps around the store I settled on some PVC tubing.  The desk turned out really wonderfully. Easily adjustable enough to allow me to swap between tasks and rigs when I needed to sit/stand and work on different machines.  Highly recommend this setup as its economical considering the alternative and just works.  I have a few tips below the build photos so check those out for greater details.

So without further delay here is what the build process and the parts list that it entailed.

Build list:
Treadmill
MultiTable

Counter Top

PVC
1x Two inch in diameter pipe
2x One and a half inch pipes
1x Two inch coupling
1x One and a half inch coupling
1x 2 inch end cap (with a flat top)
PVC cement and Primer
Bolt & Wing nut

So the assembly of the MultiTable I’ll leave to you. It was very easy with the instructions provided I had the desk together in about 10 mins.

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Next came the treadmill.  Now ladies and gentlemen this can seem a bit intimidating but trust me it was extremely simple. The overall task was we needed to remove the poles that go upright.  The tricky part is there is a control panel mounted to the top of the bars which we need to unscrew off the bar and make it modular.

First the unboxing

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Here you can see one of two bolts we need to remove to make the adjustable arms come off the main treadmill unit. Literally just take a wrench or in my case a set of vice grips and unscrew the bolts from the arms.

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You’ll immediately notice that the wire for the control panel runs up through the arms. (Crap) Ok no problem lets get the panel off the bars.

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First unscrew the 4 screws that hold the bracket onto the bar. Once you do that your panel is free, we we just have to get that wire out.  You now have to unscrew the other four screws from the back of the panel. So you remove all 8 and pop off the top.

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Once you remove the top you can see the workings of the panel. Its actually extremely simple the switches and what they do are even labeled on the circuit board so if you want to build your own personal enclosure you can do so (if someone does please let me know I might want one).

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Now you’ll notice that the wire coming into the panel is held down by a simple bracket. Unscrew those two screws and you’ll be left with just the connector into the circuit board.

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Now a bit of an important note before you go tugging on the connector. Its held in place by a sort of mild glue that you need to CAREFULLY work free. I noticed this right away thankfully because the pins holding the female end of the connector onto the board is fairly flimsy.  I took a very small screw driver and SLOWLY worked the connector free.

Once its free just thread it back out of the panel box and down through the bars.  Once out run it back up to the box, attach the bracket holding the wire back down and plug the connector back in. Give it a test run and make sure it still works. Make sure you put the little quick release magnet onto the front of the panel otherwise you’ll get a message on the board that says “SAFE” and nothing will happen.

Ok now onto the adjustable leg.

The sitting height of my desk was 25 inches and fully extended while standing on top of the treadmill was 47 inches (yeah yeah I’m a shortie). That measurement is important because at some point you need to cut down one of the 1.5 inch tubes to match the lowest height of your desk. Also keep in mind if you are tall, you may need to add a third tube in the adjustable leg because you wont be able to get your max height and a normal sitting height with just those two tubes. So you may need to play with the leg a bit.

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Ok so first we need to attach the end cap to the bottom of the desk. I pre drilled 4 holes in the bottom of the cap to make sure it wouldn’t crack and using some washers screwed it to the bottom of the desk.

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Next I cemented the 2” coupling to the top of the 2” pipe.

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Next I cemented and attached the two 1.5” tubes into the 1.5” coupling.

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I slid them all together and measured the max height and minimum height

I took the two attached 1.5” tubes out to the garage and cut one of them down to size to match the marks. Slide them all together and cemented them to the end cap I mounted to the desk earlier. I then set a few heights I knew I’d work at and drilled holes for the pin that would keep the leg at height.

 

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That was it, fairly straight forward and I only barely went over my limit of 500 dollars. I think I spent 520 dollars. Not exactly cheap in terms of a desk but for what you get out of it. Very affordable.

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Hope that works for others.

A few tips:
The treadmill seems a little under powered in terms of torque.   On the lowest setting when I step on it I can hear it strain a bit as it pulls my foot and all my weight across the deck of the treadmill. When I lift my foot to step I can hear it speed up. I run mine at about the 1.3 settings to try to compensate for this but that speeds things up ever so slightly. I’m going to keep my eye on it and make sure its well-oiled.   For 100 dollars you can’t expect the world but I hope it lasts a year or two.

Ikea was literally the cheapest and most straight forward material I could find. I even went to their dent and ding section only to find 7 foot doors that were more expensive then the 8 foot countertop I bought. I think you’d be hard pressed to find something that is cheaper and nicer. Not the best desk top but clean and easy to maintain. Plus I bought the white multitable base so it all matches.

Make sure when you run all your wires that you set the desk at max height then run them. Nothing like pulling out all your power cords as you raise the desk. (No it didn’t happen to me, I thought that far ahead 😉 ) You’ll have to accept a certain amount of displaced wires as the slack settles in fully lowered mode.

The metal MultiTable legs work as great heat sinks for hot power bricks 🙂

At full height i get some wobble when I’m typing and walking. This is mostly due to the change in the center of gravity and the fact that my monitor mounts are elevated. With those conditions the monitors rock a little and cause the desk to move a bit. But it’s totally manageable and not very noticeable.

The treadmill automatically stops after 30 mins. 30 mins goes by really fast when you’re working and then suddenly “BEEP” and you almost run into your desk.   It’s not all bad it gives you a chance to remember to take a break. Wish i could over ride it though.

Climbing Kili

Climbing Kili

A recap and informational post on packing for and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

The week before I set off to attempt to climb Mount Kilimanjaro my wife asked me a question that rings over and over in my head. She asked me, “Are you looking forward to your climb”? As I struggled to find the words to explain what I was thinking all that came out was “No, not really”. I knew the climb was going to challenge me, tempt me, test me and flat out kick my ass.

You see I had been training in various ways getting ready to for the hike up the world’s largest solo peak (4th on the S7 list). Between packing up my old home in my hiking boots to break them in to various hikes around Utah and Colorado to get some altitude under my belt and test my equipment. Even as a youngster my father and I hiked a lot of the Application trail, so I was no stranger to grinding out a long long day or scaling a knife edged ridge. A few 14,000 foot hikes later I knew that the mountain would be a challenge but quite honestly there was zero doubt in my mind that I would summit Kilimanjaro, not an ego thing it was just that I was in the best shape I’ve been in since high school and I manage altitude pretty well.

Fast forward to the first step out of the Marangu gate and there was no turning back. Our trip would take us overland 51 total miles up the mountain and back down. It would cover 25,753.5 feet of vertical ascent and descent and a hell of a lot of millet porridge eaten (more on that later). Mount Kilimanjaro can really be summed up as 2 separate mountains when taking the Marangu route (aka Coca Cola route). This is because the pace and pitch is pretty steady and in some cases down right easy to hike. That is of course until you hit day four and your summit attempt. Going from Kibo hut up to Gillmans point and on to Uhuru peak was a pretty good grind.

The route is called the Marangu route because it starts at the town with the same name. From everything I’ve read this is the easiest route to take and has the highest chance of success if you have a limited amount of time to do the hike. A limited amount of time is where we found ourselves because it was stuck in between Sharing the Point events. It’s called the easiest route but from the description of our guide it’s the 2nd easiest because of the conditions during peak season.

The first day you will find yourself in the forest with all types of birds, monkeys and farmers cows who have broken loose and found their way up the mountain. The trail is pretty well worn and they even have some rock roads they built to keep the erosion from slowing you down in the rainy season. At a steady pace it takes about 4-5 hours to get from the gate up to Mandara camp. The accommodations are pretty solid for the fact that you’re on the side of a mountain. Communal buildings house individual rooms that sleep usually around 6-8 people. In each case our group of 5 had their own room or own hut. Toilets… well it was a western style toilet with no seat and a Turkish style toilet. Luckily you get to choose which one you visit, that is of course as long as you choose one that was pretty disgusting. That rang true for Mandara as well as pretty much every stop along the way. But again you’re on a side of mountain and you’re already on the easiest route. Suck it up.

On day two we hiked from Mandara another 7-8 hours to Horombo camp. This honestly was my favorite day of hiking and my favorite camp. It was literally just above the cloud layer and situated at the top of two lava chutes and a ridge down the middle which you can go off hiking to explore. At night time, because it was above the cloud layer Kilimanjaro offered up some spectacular views of the stars and even more spectacular sunrises. You actually spend two days at this elevation (12,204 ASL) acclimating to the altitude. Honestly for someone that spends a lot of time above 12,000 feet ASL the second day at Horombo was more of a vacation day. You hike off to Zebra Rocks (named because of the color lines in the rock) but really it’s a cake hike just meant to get you out of camp and see the area. It was pretty cool though, I’ll never forget the way the clouds rolled UP the lava chute valleys when I was coming back down to camp from Zebra Rocks.

Day four and you start to hunker down and get serious you get up early and hike from Horombo to Kibo camp which is at 15,429 feet. Higher than I’d ever been mind you, however to get there you walk through Mars. No, literally it feels like you left earth and found yourself walking on the planet Mars. As you come out of the Moorland area you crest over a ridge and look over a vast valley that undoubtedly the glaciers carved out. There are literally no trees, no bushes or scrub it is all dust and rock. Very surreal indeed. The pace here is almost easier than any part of the entire trip if it were at sea level. Being that you are so high up each step gets a bit more labored but it is still very manageable. Once you arrive at Kibo camp you get sorted with a room and a bed and go directly to sleep. After a 3 hour nap or so you are awoken to dinner around 7pm. After dinner you literally go right back to sleep until about 11pm where you wake up to start your day 5 summit day.

At 11pm you wake up and start to gear up, our group was totally scared off by the hordes of people coming down the mountain saying to “wear everything you brought” and that it was terribly cold. Unfortunately I listened to them and we got a fairly warm day at the top of the mountain and I sweated the entire way back down as my pack was only large enough to take off a few things and stash them. Make sure on this part you take a large enough empty bag to stash clothing in as your temp goes up or goes down. In hind sight I should have carried my large pack emptied of its contents like others did.

Regardless the hike starting at midnight takes you from Kibo camp up to Gillmans point. What you can’t see while you’re climbing up is that you are literally switch backing through nothing but volcanic scree about ankle deep and this comes into play on the way down. The stars going up are just unbelievable from the perspective of someone that has seen the stars mostly from North America. It really does feel like you walked into a new world. For us Mars was close to the moon so it had a very surreal feel to it all.

Just about 6:15 or so you reach Gillmans point (18,200+ ASL) where we stopped to watch the sunrise. Amazing. Your guides will probably shuttle you off as quick as possible because at this point they are thinking about time to summit, time at summit and then the descent.

It took us about another one and half hours to get from Gillmans to Uhuru peak. Quite honestly from Gillmans on is a bit of a cake walk again taking into account the altitude which really does some funny and sometimes scary things to people.

The Zombies leading the Blind.

One of the things that altitude can sometimes do to people is literally making them blind, at least temporarily. High Altitude Retinal Hemorrhages (HARH) can take your sight partially or totally while at altitude. A very scary thing if you don’t have a guide to help you back down to a lower altitude where your sight comes back (most of the time). The double scary sight is watching a zombie guide someone who has been hit with HARH. We saw a ton of zombies at altitude on the way up to and on the top of Kilimanjaro. A zombie is essentially that, someone that has the will to continue as they have mentally conditioned themselves to continue but has totally mentally checked out. Usually you’ll see them being helped along by friends, or guides to complete the trip up to the summit. From all accounts each of them made it down safely which is more than we could say for those folks getting run down the mountain on stretchers.

Being at that altitude I noticed interesting changes in myself as well. It’s a bit hard to explain but it is a very solitude feeling. You are completely alone in your thoughts (or at least I was) but almost out of body at the same time. I remember each breath being fairly labored as I approached the summit but very excited that I was mere feet away. For 4 days all you thought about was making it to the top and here you were within spitting distance you get tunnel vision in completing your task. So much so that I walked right through and stood in someone’s photo as I approached and kissed the sign that marked the high point on the crater rim.

After some photos and some personal reflecting time as well as some tasks carried out in representation of my family we started back down the mountain. With each step becoming painfully obvious that the 25.5 miles uphill to the summit will be matched by a formidable 25.5 miles back down. The trip down is a bit of an uneventful one as you relive all the moments you had on the way up except now under the perspective that you made it to the top and the personal satisfaction that came with that. The only notable portion of the descent is the time frame and the span between Gillmans point and Kibo camp.

Once you reach Gillmans point on the descent you come face to face with what you trekked on the way up. Scree, you see scree is volcanic gravel, rock and dust. There are two ways to approach it in descent, obviously the first way is the way you came up and that’s navigating the switch backs where thousands of people have packed down the scree to the point where its manageable to walk down. The other way, the much more fun and exponentially more exhausting and tricky way is to boot ski the scree. Boot skiing is exactly what it sounds like you essentially lunge and push your way through the gravel. You have to be pretty careful though there are rocks buried in the scree and you can tweak a knee in a second. Staying limber with bent knees (“Benzee knee’s if you please”) will ensure that when you do hit a rock, you can bounce back up. Oh, and try to keep your mouth closed all that dust flying can make you pretty thirsty pretty fast hopefully your water has thawed by this point. For the 3 days of actual hiking going up, you descent the mountain in a little over a day and a half!

Going back to the initial question I was asked “Are you looking forward to your climb”? I would still say no, I don’t think I would do this climb again after doing it once. Not because it was too hard but in a way it was too easy. There were no technical portions, no ropes, no crevasses (on this route) and entirely too many people on the mountain. That said, knowing what I know now, and presumably never having climbed Mt. K I would do it (for the first time) in a heartbeat. If you have the opportunity go for it, it is extremely rewarding to reach the top and beat out mother nature’s altitude.

Now for the tasty bits. In our search for information leading up to our climb, below is the most sought after information that I know myself and the others in my group were looking for.

Packing list. One of the major things people do when going to climb Mount Kilimanjaro is over pack. The thought is that you’ll have a porter or someone carrying the majority of your things. Honestly there isn’t a lot of things you really need to bring. Here was everything I brought along with notes on if it was used or if I needed it.

Also I went in early September which is the dry season. From what I understand it can get down right nasty there in the rainy season. Additionally it was unseasonably warm the day we summited. So a lot of if I needed it doesn’t reflect if I would bring it again. Under usual circumstances you would need the heavier warmth.

Item

Was it used?

Notes

6 oz SPF 80 sunscreen

No

8 oz SPF 50

Yes

Only ended up using 4oz total

Diamox

Yes

I only took ¼ doses (75mg on summit day) I noticed no change plus or minus

Doxycycline

Yes

Still taking it unfortunately although it was mostly too cold where we were for mosquitoes

800 mg motrin

Yes

Took a few one before summit attempt and a few here and there for sore muscles

2 roles Moleskin

Yes

Went through 1 role between myself and my team

First aid kid w/2nd skin

No

Still would advise taking a small one. Band-Aids ointments 2nd skin etc

Neosporin

No

Still would take it

4oz 100% deet

Yes

In the forest region I deeted up, that was the only time.

In boot sticky pads (for cushion)

No

Probably leave at home if your boots are broken

Anti-diarrheal

No

Thank goodness, still take it.

Yellow Fever Vax

Yes

Had to have it to enter Tanzania, they’ve since lifted that requirement

2 packs of wipes

Yes

Definitely take them for bathroom runs and body wipe downs

5 “GU” energy gels

Yes

Went through 4 of them most on the last few days

5 packs cliff shots

Yes

Good for a snack/energy push

10 mini cliff bars

Yes

Went through about 5 of them, loss of appetite and granola bars took a most of the desire

10 chocolate granola bars

Yes

Ate them all

collapsible water bottle

No

Big enough bladder pack to not need it. Leave it home

Small pack for holding water bladder and hiking essentials

Yes

Keep it really small, you wont need much on most days. I had a super compressible backpack I used

1 two liter camel back bladder

Yes

Everyday all day

Head lamp

Yes

At night and on summit night

2 sets extra batteries

Yes

Only needed 1 set but bring 2

collapsible “Monotrek” poles

Yes

Personal preference but I use poles and I used them a lot

2 pair Coolmax sock liners

Yes

Bring 3 pairs, they are your base socks and they get nasty.

2 pair medium weight Smart wool hiking socks

Yes

Love me some smartwool

1 pair heavy weight wool socks

Yes

Only on summit day

UV blocking bandana

No

Gave it away to the porters

Asolo Fugitive boots

Yes

Love my boots!

3 spare laces

No

Bring them anyway

Para cord bracelet

No

I would bring it again just in case

1 pair heavy ski gloves

Yes

Only on summit day

1 pair spring time ski gloves

Yes

Moorland and above I used all the time

Silk sleeping bag liner

Yes

I rented a sleeping bag from Zara so I used my silk liner as a gross out barrier plus its easy to pack J

Solar powered gadget charger

Yes

Every day to charge my altimeter and map watch

Sunglasses

Yes

Everyday all day

Ski goggles

No

Wasn’t cold enough on summit to need them but I’d bring them again in a second

1 pair convertible hiking pants/shorts

Yes

Bring 2 pairs after 6 days of dust and grim these were NASTY

1 pair ski pants

Yes

Didn’t need them though but normally most people would. I’d bring again

1 full set thermal underwear

Yes

Used at night time in my bag as well as on summit day

1 pair thermal tight running pants

Yes

Only used on summit day, I’d bring again

4 pair moisture wicking underwear

Yes

Easy to wash and dry

1 long sleeve under armor shirt

Yes

Standard gear for me when I hike

1 short sleeve under armor shirt

Yes

Standard gear for me when I hike

1 ski jacket shell

Yes

Used it as a medium jacket when it was cold with no liner

1 ski jacket fleece inner jacket

Yes

Only used on summit day, would bring again

1 thin rain shell jacket

Yes/No

Team mate lost his and I gave it to him on the second day. Super thin jacket would bring again

1 pair of tennis shoes

Yes

At camp you want to get out of the boots

2 pair cotton socks

Yes

Again get out of those boots

1 multi country power adapter

Yes

1 cotton shirt

Yes

1 pair of jeans

Yes

1 ball cap

Yes

All the time

1 knit hat

Yes

Cold nights/summit day

Ultimate Kilimanjaro is the company we went through to purchase our tour. However when we arrived we quickly realized that Ultimate Kilimanjaro is just a middle man booking agent. Not really a bad thing but our actual tour was done through “Zara” tours who seems to have a lock down on most of East Africa for diving, safari’s and climbing. Ulitmate Kilimanjaro charged us 1,500 USD per person where if booking directly with Zara on their very western style website would have only cost us 1,250.

If you are not sharing your hut with anyone and you have an odd number of team mates you should walk into the hut and instantly grab one of the mattresses and lay it over your own mattress. The extra padding goes a long when if you’re a side sleeper.

Kinda gross but as I said above none of the toilets had seats to them. As a person who’s come accustom to having a seat to sit down on, this can be an issue. Again, kinda gross but here’ show I tackled it. Don’t go. Don’t go until you just know you wont have an issue going while squatting (yeah I know gross sorry). A tip though, hang on to the door beams and lean back, it takes the stress off your thighs and kinda makes it easier. Sorry everyone that had to read that, that will never go climb.. but if you do go you’ll really thank me for that tid bit. Also while in Horombo camp, watch out for the wet ground… that’s from the bathrooms.

Millet… BLOODY MILLET!(that was going to be the original title of this post) I swear if I never see millet porridge again (not that I had seen it before this trip) it will be too soon. Ok straight up, the food was pretty rough. A lot of what I read said most of the food was good and based off of the different companies servicing guests I can see how that could be the case. I never saw anyone really eating the same thing. So whatever your porters and cooks haul up the mountain is what you get to eat. All week. The day we summited none of us ate, we were just too sick of the food, coupled with the exhaustion we just let it ride and went to sleep. A typical day at least for us:

 

Breakfast: Millet porridge, egg, bread/toast, hot tea/chocolate mix for a drink, hot dog like sausage

Lunch: cucumber soup, sandwich made of jam….onion, carrots and bread or whatever was leftover from dinner

Dinner: Varied between pasta in an orange sauce that caused instant heart burn (literally), dried fish, dried chicken, cucumber soup or various combinations

I still gag thinking of that soup and porridge.

Tipping. Tipping can be a challenging topic. Some folks in our group tipped higher than others. On most of the websites they list what is “customary”. My issue with the way it worked on the mountain is that we had 5 people. All of our people are professional travelers; we pack EXTREMELY light so our bags were MAYBE 12 pounds max each. Every time I saw our porters I saw the same three guys picking up our bags, the problem is that Zara “assigned” 10 porters (2 each) total to our group. When I asked who/where these other porters were I was told that a lot of the work is divided up between porters/cooks who are lugging pots/pans, food and your belongings up the mountain. To that effect I gave a bit of leeway. But after really thinking about it and watching the way these guys carry stuff up and down the hill I realized there was just no way there were 10 guys and the tips were going to be split up between three of them with a cut probably given to the guides etc. I brought this up to our group and each person factored that in and came up with what they wanted to tip the porters. This was later cemented by the fact that the people lining up at the bottom of the hill as “porters” were the same guys hustling wrist bands and t-shirts when we came in. To be ok with this you have to understand how Africa works and we were ok with it. In the end it was a difference of about 20 dollars for each person in our group. It’s the principle of it but still 20 bucks to some hard working folks.

Money talks. You want a cabin to yourself, bribe the caretaker. You want to tap into the solar power to charge your camera or altimeter. Show some cash it will get done no problem.

As I think of more tips I’ll add them here, or if you have questions ask away.

 

Thank you to Michael Noel for packing out the camera and taking all the great photos!

Sharing The Point Africa Wrap up

Sharing the Point Africa 2012

In early September 2012 an expedition was launched that would truly embody the goal of Sharing the Point. Reaching under-served markets that usually wouldn’t have SharePoint events and would not experience what the SharePoint Community has to offer. Helping build local communities that will carry on long after an event is held there.

The Tour

The trip consisted of six stops around EMEA: Dubai (UAE), Johannesburg, Cape Town (South Africa), Nairobi (Kenya), Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania), Axum (Ethiopia). The group landed in Dubai for a 12 hour layover. A lot can be done in twelve hours and that rang true for this stop where we brought together the local SharePoint community in Dubai for a dinner and mini sessions at the foot of the Burj Khalifa. With no sleep, the group then boarded a plane direct for Johannesburg SA where an all-day event was event was held at Microsoft Johannesburg covering topics from Disaster Recovery to 2013 Upgrade. After a short SharePint the group boarded yet another of many flights on to Cape Town and their first chance to get some sleep. The following morning was SharePoint Saturday Cape Town which was a great success with over 300 people and was the largest free SharePoint event to happen on the Continent ever. (Video of SPS Cape Town)

The group then took a detour to climb Mount Kilimanjaro (Tanzania) bring awareness to their sponsor (Colligo) as well as Sharing the Point and the message it tries to embody. The entire group made the climb and everyone summited the 19,340 foot mountain (4th largest solo peak in the world). The trip down, was followed by congratulations and yet another ride to another airport to be whisked away to the speaker dinner of SharePoint Saturday Nairobi where 18 people were expected for the first ever SharePoint event in Kenya. Unbelievably 100+ people attended the event not including speakers. To anchor the tour the group then made their last swing through to Tanzania and the capital of Dar Es Salaam where a lunch time session was held over local food and drinks. SharePoint community was discussed as well as technical talk around code deployment in the cloud to demos of SharePoint 2013 preview. Part of the group split off to travel on to Axum Ethiopia where visits to some local orphanages were made, chickens and shoes were given and smiles were exchanged.

26,240+ air miles, 62 ground miles (walked), 25,421 feet of elevation gained or lost, hundreds of lives impacted in some way and another STP tour down in the history books.

Tangible and Trackable progress

The Sharing the Point goal manifested itself ideally in Kenya on this trip. During the lunch time talk, an open session was given on user groups and building the technology community in the area. When given the call during the session on who wanted to champion the Nairobi SharePoint Users Group, 27 people volunteered. The leadership, location of the events, time of the event and even the first few event speakers were lined up right then, right there. This for an event that was only slated to have 18 people show up total.

Global Reach

Building community has many benefits both to those involved and those who invoke. To those involved it helps create jobs in the area, it helps keep jobs through new technology education and it helps further careers of those who seek out that knowledge and furthering their reach. It also allows people to connection from all over the world virtually and in person (in this case) under conditions that may not have existed in any other way.

Let me tell you something about KIA

Let me tell you a little something about KIA.

A year ago, quite honestly if you told me I would buy a Kia I would have told you that you’ve lost your mind. I, myself, have always been a Honda/Acura guy. Performance when you needed it penny pitching fuel economy when you didn’t. So when my wife and I started shopping around for an SUV that would accommodate our new found growing family I wasn’t looking forward to looking on the KIA lot.

We shopped around and compared for two months. Test driving every weekend from high end Volvo and BMW models to Ford and Honda models, each time the KIA hung tough in the comparisons. We were test driving the turbo charged Sportage SX (in Florida Gator orange naturally). The vehicle got 27 mpg highway and was a direct cylinder injected motor. What this means is that instead of using a traditional fuel injector that shoots gas into the chamber the gas is fired directly into the piston chamber. This almost 100% eliminates the risk of destination basically meaning that you don’t need to put premium gas into the car. This is a big deal when you factor overall long term cost of ownership if by chance you haven’t seen the cost of premium gas recently.

Along with the gas mileage and regular gas, a 100,000 mile bumper to bumper and a sticker price about 11k less than even the next competitor and the fact that the vehicle just looks sweet, we decided to take a chance on the KIA. We drove the crap out of that suv from about 5 months leading up to the birth of our daughter. I don’t know if you’ve ever had the privilege to drive a turbo charged vehicle, but man is it a lot of fun!

Fast forward about 8 months later with 15,000 miles on the vehicle we set out to start a new beginning in Dallas Texas. To make a long story short we decided to drive the Sportage and ship our other two vehicles. With my wife, still nursing we had a few coolers on the hitch with dry ice, two cats in the rear, an infant in the back seat and my wife and I sharing the drive from Maryland to Texas.

Over the course of the next two and a half days outside of the obvious stress of managing logistics, driving the actually vehicle was a lot of fun. That was until we actually hit the Texas line. We pulled over for some gas and BBQ (naturally). After we topped off and filled our bellies we set out for the last 150 miles from Texarkana to Dallas.

About 15 miles down the road the Sportage began to lose power and wouldn’t accelerate over 35mph. We drifted to an underpass where we started our 1.5 hour virtual juggle of tow trucks, uhaul dealers, rental car companies, insurance companies and dealerships in 108 degree weather. A very traumatic experience followed just getting the vehicle to Rockwall Texas which is where the warranty work would take place. A post for another day for sure.

Fast forward to dropping the vehicle off at the dealership where I was greeted by one of the service representatives. He barely introduced himself when he tried turning over the car only to find the starter failing to disengage and a very rich smell of exhaust and gas coming from the tailpipe. With clipboard in hand he immediately asked me if I had the gas receipt from the last place we filled up. I dug out the receipt to find that we did in fact fill up with regular unleaded, pump 13 from a gas station which shall remain nameless.

“Kevin” then said “I bet my weeks salary there is diesel in the gas you last pumped”. This meant a few things which set off a series of events. First, if that was the case none of the repairs would be covered under warranty and I would need to go after the gas station to reimburse the cost. Insert immediate call to lawyer and insurance company here. Flushing the gas tank found just that, bad gas. Fast forward almost a month, final bill for repairs 4,700 USD. Insurance company covering a portion and gas station on the hook to cover the rest.

A few days later I get a call from Kevin with an updated. “Hey Eric, if you still have those spark plugs I gave you, KIA has agreed to warranty all of the repairs” . I immediate grab the plugs and head over to the dealership to get the paperwork done before this too-good-to-be-true event passed me up. You see Kevin gave me the spark plugs and a sample of the gas from the tank to use as evidence in the case. The spark plugs tips were completely melted off, these of course fell into the chamber and caused havoc to the motor breaking some valves etc. There is only a few ways this could happen to a spark plug. Ultimately the temperature from diesel burning in the cylinder melted the plugs into the motor. Kevin mentioned that KIA wanted to cover it under warranty and have the plugs to look into how to make the motor more resistant to issues like this. Regardless if they were just getting it covered before it headed to court and they would surely be called upon or if they really just cared about us and getting us back on the road, I’ll never know but they folks at KIA were wonderful the entire time. They even gave us a loaner vehicle for the entire time our car was in their shop, keep in mind they weren’t going to cover the car under warranty so they literally gave us the loaner at no cost even though it wasn’t their responsibility to do so.

I normally don’t do product reviews but a huge thanks to SouthWest KIA and KIA corporate for seeing my issue and saving me just a TON of time and headaches from an already tragic course of events.

 

Shatter plugs

 

 

Gas on the left was the dirty gas in my car.

SharePoint 2013 Prerequisites Download

With the push of SharePoint 2013 (BETA) there will be a lot of folks wanting to put together a Dev server or a play ground. If you get to a situation where the beta prereq installer is failing on an item, or you need to run a manual prereq offline install you’ll need the links to the individual installs.

Here goes:

Windows Server AppFabric http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=235496

Update for the .NET Framework 4 (KB2468871) http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=220903

Microsoft WCF Data Services http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=234151

Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 SP1 Native Client http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=228086

Windows Identity Foundation (KB974405) http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=226830

Microsoft Sync Framework Runtime v1.0 SP1 (x64) http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=224449

Windows Management Framework 3.0 (CTP2) http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=233187

Microsoft .NET Framework 4.0 http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=215384

Windows Identity Foundation v1.1 http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=220684

Microsoft Information Protection and Control Client http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=219568

 

Side note, this will probably change with RTM so i’ll update this as needed.

Enjoy