Fight the chaos: Design your toolbox properly

This posting is ~3 years years old. You should keep this in mind. IT is a short living business. This information might be outdated.

You need tools and methods to accomplish your daily tasks. No one will deny this insight.

I would like to give you an insight into my box of tools and methods. These tools and methods work for me, but they do not have to work for you. The design of your personal toolbox depends on your job.

Depending on who you ask, my job role consists of several roles: Currently, I am working as a consultant, head of the business unit, pre-sales consultant and technical account manager. That’s what you get when working in a very small company… And because of these different roles, my personal toolbox may differ from yours.

Daily Toolbox

Independent of the task, role or customer, some tools are always in use.

Google ChromeBrowser
Microsoft OutlookMail
Microsoft OneNoteKnowledge Management
MyLifeOrganizedTo-Do list, task management & personal organizer
XMindMind Mapping Software

Google Chrome and Microsoft Outlook don’t have to be explained. I use several extensions for Chrome, like OneTab, chromeIPass, Clip to OneNote, Adblock Plus, Ghostery and SwitchyOmega.

Microsoft OneNote is my personal notepad, I use it for notes, snippets, sketches, code dump etc. I don’t take paper with me.In the past, I used it on my iPad and my laptop, but for about a year I only take my Lenovo X250 with me. And if I do not have my laptop with me, a simple Internet browser or my iPhone is enough to get my notes.

MyLifeOrganized is similar to OmniFocus. It’s a very powerful tool for to-do lists and task management. I’m currently testing it, and I really like it. But it’s not cheap (MOL Pro for Windows $59.95,  MOL Pro for iPhone $29.99, Cloud Sync for 12 month $14.95).

XMind is available for free, but there is also a Plus and Pro version. I switched from Mindjet MindManager to XMind, because XMind was capable to read MindManager files. Mindjet MindManager is really expensive, and after leaving the FernUniversität Hagen, I was not entitled for academic discounts anymore. But XMind is really similar to MindManager. I like the concept of mind maps and I use it quite often for project planning and management.

Productivity

Microsoft WordWriting docs,  proposals etc.
Microsoft ExcelCalculations, data processing, proposals
Microsoft PowerPointPresentations
Internet ExplorerSometimes you need it…
Notepad++Powerful text editor

Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint are self-explanatory. Sometimes I have to use the Internet Explorer. It is 2016 and there is still software out there that simply does not work properly with Firefox or Chrome. It’s a pity… Notepad++ is a free (GPL licensed) source code editor and Notepad replacement . Good piece of software and it’s free!

Admin

When I’m working for customers, I mostly need three tools: An internet browser, something for RDP connections, the vSphere C# client, and a SSH client.

Royal TSConnection Management Software
VMware vSphere C# ClientStill necessary for some tasks…
KiTTYA PuTTY clone

Royal TS makes my life so much easier! Royal TS is a connection management software for RDP, VNC, SSH based terminals or web-based interfaces. It also includes credential management. Very handy!

The vSphere C# client is mandatory. Even if I have not explicitly listed it, I also have installed the Client Integration Plug-In in the vSphere Web Client, as well as the VMware Remote Console.

KiTTY is a PuTTY clone. KiTTY is a fork from version 0.67 of PuTTY and includes some features like portability, automatic password, session filter, send to tray and many more.

Pre-Sales

HPE SalesBUILDER for windowsPre-Sales configuration tool
HPE Ninja STARS for HPE 3PARSizing tool for HPE 3PAR StoreServ

I often work with HPE products, and because of this, the HPE SalesBUILDER and the HPE Ninja STARS tool are quite often in use. Both are available to HPE Partners only.

Development

I’m not a developer, but sometimes I have to write code, mostly PowerShell.

Windows PowerShell ISE with ISESteroidsPowerShell IDE
VMware PowerCLIPowerShell interface for managing VMware vSphere
GitHub DesktopVersion control and source code management
Python 3.5 IDLEIntegrated Development and Learning Environment

For PowerShell, I use the Windows PowerShell ISE with ISESteroids. ISESteroids is an  add-on for the Windows PowerShell ISE, which extends the ISE with many, many useful features. I have written a blog post about it.

VMware PowerCLI is self-explanatory and a must, if you are frequently working with VMware products.

I have rarely used GitHub Desktop to manage my code, but I have decided to change this for 2017. I use GitHub Desktop to sync my code between my two laptops (one for work, and the other for lab, projects etc.).

I’m still in the process to learn Python, and I have written a blog post months ago why I want to learn Python (Hey infrastructure guy, you should learn Python!). I played a bit with PyCharm Community edition, but now I’m using the Python IDLE again. It’s basic functionality is enough for the moment.

Methods

A fool with a tool is still a fool. You are nothing without supporting methods. I mainly use three different methods:

You may be wondering about this list, because GTD and Pomodoro are both time-management methods. And you may wonder how Kanban fits into this list. It’s all about the flow.

The idea behind GTD is to get tasks out of your head by writing them down, and breaking them down into smaller work pieces. This allows you to focus on accomplishing tasks. Btw: Mind mapping is a great way to graphically depict this.

Pomodoro uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 20 to 25 minutes, separated by short breaks of 5 minutes. After four intervals, a break of 15 minutes is given. This technique can improve mental agility, and help you to focus on the currently active task. But what if a distraction pops into your head,? Write it down, then get back on the active task. That is the link between GTD and Pomodoro.

Kanban implements the pull principle in Lean Management. It limits the work in progress, thereby avoiding waste through multitasking and context switching. Kanban uses visual elements (cards on a board) to visualize the current state of the work and the workflow.

Summary

This box of tools and methods works for me in my current situation. Feel free to leave a comment, or write a blog post about your tools and methods.

Follow me

Patrick Terlisten

vcloudnine.de is the personal blog of Patrick Terlisten. Patrick has a strong focus on virtualization & cloud solutions, but also storage, networking, and IT infrastructure in general. He is a fan of Lean Management and agile methods, and practices continuous improvement whereever it is possible.

Feel free to follow him on Twitter and/ or leave a comment.
Patrick Terlisten
Follow me

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I accept!