Sunday, April 24, 2011

Today's Random #MPFreebie - Section 27

The Internet has certainly spawned an enormous range of creative outlets, and 'netlabels' promise to be a significant presence in the musical section of the creative spectrum. 

Most of us are familiar with the notion of "major labels," such as Sony or MCA; if your musical taste is on the eclectic side, you've probably explored the world of "indie labels," those independent (usually regional) record labels bringing even more artists to the commercial arena.  Well, netlabels take that idea one step further; they're usually community-driven enterprises, and their music is made freely available, usually under the Creative Commons license.  Given the nature of the Internet, netlabels tend to focus on the more...electronic genres of the musical world.

Section 27 is one such netlabel, and they've released a 2011 sampler of their artists.  Now, I'll be the first to admit that electronica is not my typical first choice of playlist, but (as usual) there's some ear-catching stuff on this 8-track compilation.  My FLFs (First Listen Favorites) are the bookends of this sampler, tracks 1 and 8: Non Dolet's Terminal and Intr1 from Shodan.  In between, you'll find digital meanderings of all sorts, including an interesting take on samples from an 80s chart-topper.

Check it out, and let us know what you think in the comments...

Friday, April 22, 2011

Today's Obscure Command You Should Know: netstat -s

There are any number of operating system (OS) commands that are VERY handy when performing initial troubleshooting or 'drilling down' on a suspected issue.  However, many of the most useful instances are either obscure commands or obscure options to well-known commands,  What?  You say that sounds like a good idea for a blog series?  Why, I think you're right!  Thus, it's time for today's obscure command!

Most of you have used the netstat command to check your current network connections from time to time, but the IP stack also keeps track of a (sometimes) dizzying variety of per-protocol statistics.  These are available to you via the -s option, and they can be an important indicator of "network problems."  The image to the right is a subsection of the Windows output for TCP/IPv4, but--depending upon your OS and the protocols installed--you can also gather the numbers for UDP, ICMP, and even protocols like GRE.  If IPv6 is installed, you'll see those statistics as well.

Now, keep in mind that these statistics are "since last boot," so you'll want to consider them something of a baseline for your investigations.  When I'm looking for intermittent network problems, I use a batch file (or shell script, or even a cronjob) to gather these on a regular basis, which may range from "every 5 minutes" to "once per hour," depending upon the nature of the problem under investigation.  You can then look for 'spikes' in a particular sample and correlate them to the timestamped log/debug entries made by applications or the OS itself (such as the Windows event log or /var/log/messages).  The tie-in to network packet analysis (e.g. Wireshark, Microsoft Network Monitor, et al.) is obvious...

Take a look at netstat -s - it may just bail you out of a jam one day...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Tonight's #MPFreebie - Sounds from Down Under, Courtesy of @soundslikebne

Sounds Like Brisbane is a collective effort from 17 of Australia's independent labels, and it's definitely one of the more diverse samplers I've heard in a while.  Folks in Oz are absolutely kicking it across the board, if these tracks are representative of the indie music scene.  My FLFs (First Listen Favorites) are Marialy Pacheco's wonderful piano work on Sunshine State, the somewhat ethereal Unsolved Mysteries from The Rational Academy, and the straight-up punk of Undead Apes' Taxes.  Check it out - all 17 tracks can be previewed and/or downloaded from SLB's site, linked above...and keep your eyes open for news/downloads of the BIG SOUND music festival, coming this September...

Monday, April 11, 2011

So, You Want to Give a Presentation? Tips for Speakers...

Over the last decade, I've done quite a bit of public speaking on technical topics.  Those of you in the IBM/Lotus community may have seen one of my sessions at Lotusphere, Software University, or various user group events over the last few years.  Well, I've been told that I do these things fairly well, and I'm often asked if I have any tips for technical presentations and those who deliver them.  I just received such a request via email, so I started tweeting tips off the top of my head.  These are short--they had to fit in 140 characters each--and presume the typical slide-based presentation.  So, without further ado:

  • Assume that your audience can read.  Reading your slides is THE fastest way to lose your audience.
  • Make a noticeable transition, either verbal or visual, every 90 seconds or so - or you'll start losing people.
  • In most cases, the podium is NOT intended for use as a boat anchor.  Move around - be VISUALLY engaging.
  • If you can't cover a slide in less than 2 minutes' time, split it into multiple slides.
  • Only use animations when they deliver a necessary accent or transition to the content - forget the eye candy.
  • When speaking, assume a posture as if you were waving to the guy in the last row, but use head/eye movement to engage others.
  • Don't point at the screen unless necessary - your gestures should be engaging your audience, not your slides.
  • You're speaking faster than you think - breathing normally will naturally meter your speech.
  • Don't try for humor unless you're REALLY comfortable doing so - that goes double with an international audience.
  • Bring a few bottles of water with you - there may be none on stage, and it's usually OK to stop and take a sip to maintain pace.
  • Don't "get fancy" with language. You'll be seen as a show-off, especially where words/phrases from other languages are concerned.
  • Don't recite your content.  Talk AROUND your slides, adding perspective/depth to what your audience is reading.
  • The guy in the last row wants to read your slides, too.  Don't create eye charts; use a resonable font/size.
  • If you must "go deep" technically with a mixed audience, bring them "up for air" regularly by tying it to the high-level view.
  • Spend no more than 20-30 seconds on your agenda/intro slide; instead of taking time to compose yourself, get to the content! (from @sjsawatsky)

I'm sure that all experienced presenters have their own "tips'n'tricks" (as you can see from the last entry, I was getting additional tips before I finished tweeting my own),  and those folks who aren't presenters know what they DON'T like.  All of you can feel free to add to my list in the comments...

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Today's Random #MPFreebie - Friendly Fire Recordings

As you're probably discerned by now, I have a fairly eclectic taste in music.  Given that radio airplay is dominated (in most markets) by formula pop, I've turned to the independent scene for most of my "new" listening.  Today's free sampler comes to us from Brooklyn-based Friendly Fire Recordings, and it's an interesting collection.  It features 7 of the 15 bands on Friendly Fire's roster, and--as is the case with most such samplers--it demonstrates the range of artists currently under contract.  My FLFs (First Listen Favorites) are Light Pollution from Acrylics, Regina's hard-to-describe-but-I-know-I-like-it Tapaa minut aamulla, and NYC band Violens' Acid Reign.  Feel free to let me know your opinions in the comments.

Grab this one from

Monday, April 04, 2011

DNS - More than just names and addresses

If you've played with DNS, you know about names and IP addresses.  If you've dug deeply into DNS, you may have some knowledge of TTLs, SOAs and even SRVs (the latter especially true for our Active Directory friends...).  Well, there's a little-known aspect of DNS that may just come in handy along your troubleshooting way...

I was assisting with troubleshooting of an XMPP gateway deployment, and I decided to check the current DNS settings for a few sites over in GoogleLand.  By default, most DNS tools query only for addresses (A or AAAA records); however, you can ask for other types of records, including "any", like so:

Wait a second...what's THAT?!  A URL in response to a DNS query?  Huh?!

Yes, that's right - one can put TXT records into DNS, and they'll be delivered to clients in response to appropriate queries.  In this case, it happens to be a pointer to Google's requirements for XMPP clients/servers connecting to the GoogleTalk environment.

I knew that one COULD popular TXT records in DNS in this fashion, but I hadn't seen it "in the wild" for a VERY long time.  It's a nifty way to leverage a client on 99.9% of one's target systems in delivering additional information to one's users.

Moral of the story?  There's far more to DNS than meets the eye - and, as a troubleshooter, it's worth your while to know (and check!) ALL its capabilities...