Getting things done and takin’ notes…

I stumbled upon a blog the other day called 7Breaths with the tagline “Decide it. Do it.” This blog is focused on “Getting things done each day”, or just “Getting Things Done” (GTD for short). He started blogging about integrating GTD and OneNote back in 2007, which means I haven’t been “Getting things done” for a while now. Well, it’s time to start, and one of the things on my list is to blog more. Well, here it is!

For those of you who are unfamiliar with GTD, as I was, here’s a Wikipedia page you can read through. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Getting_Things_Done.

The blog author named Rob, has a great workflow he designed where he uses OneNote 2007 and it’s tight integration with Outlook 2007 to “GTD”. He has detailed this workflow in several sequential blog postings which can be found here. The thing that excited me most about this is I use OneNote 2007 to track all my notes. Also, I would consider my approach to productivity sub-par, and I’m always looking for ideas to streamline how I “GTD”. Integrating technology and productivity couldn’t be more exciting for me!

In addition to OneNote 2007, Outlook 2007 is used to manage appointments and projects. Additional blog postings on the subject can be found here.

In closing, for those of you that need a productivity boost and are looking for a tool to help with that, check 7Breaths out. If you are already as productive as can be, but want to learn a few OneNote 2007 tricks, and you deem this a worthy way to spend your time, then check out 7Breaths!

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I was in the market for a new lab server at home that I could run VMWare ESXi or Hyper-V on, which would support my virtualization needs. I wanted to go with server-class hardware, and decided that the HP ML350 G5 would be the best fit for me now, and allow for some future growth/expansion.

I know a lot of you out there are looking for a solid lab server to setup at home or in the office, and for a personal purchase, I would consider this a middle of the road purchase as far as cost/performance goes.

My journey started and was encouraged by a guy named Simon who runs the Techhead blog which I highly recommend you visit if you are looking into purchasing a virtualization lab server. (a big thanks to my buddy John M. for sending me the link for Techhead). Simon is a VMWare guy, and his blogs relating to HP ML series servers detail his experience with the ML110/ML115 models. Regardless of the virtualization solution/hypervisor you choose, he has a great deal of information on these ML series servers. And if you choose to go the VMWare ESX route, he will put your mind at ease that these servers will work perfectly with ESX.

If you are looking for a cheap server-class system with a warranty and the flexibility of being fully supported by VMWare, I highly recommend the ML110/ML115 servers. However, I needed a bit more ‘oomph’ and decided to go with the ML350 G5 which supports up to 32GB of RAM, two Quad-core processors and 8 SFF (small form factor [2.5”]) or 6 LFF drives.

For those of you wondering, the main reason I totally ruled out Dell’s PowerEdge 2900/2950 offerings was because of the extremely loud fans and initial startup costs associated with purchasing one of these servers. I’ve heard the fans are ridiculously loud on the PE line, where the ML350 is much quieter and geared for the open layout home/office scenario. In addition, some of you may like to build your system from the ground up. I didn’t choose that route because number one, I’m lazy, and number two, I liked the 3 year on site support offered with the machine I purchased.

Our budgets and needs all vary, but mine are capped right around the $2000.00 mark. I needed a server that supported a number of concurrent running VM’s, so I wanted to start out with a Quad-core processor, at least 16GB of RAM, and to be able to load up the server with some fast SAS disks (storage constraint is what I’ve found to be the #1 bottleneck in VM performance).

My purchases all came by way of EBay. I decided EBay was the most cost efficient route, especially with the server purchase. All items I purchased were through Buy It Now, and I went with reputable sellers with feedback above 99%. My purchasing experiences with all three sellers has been great. Prompt responses to questions, willing to negotiate on price/shipping, and very fast shipping. I got a slaying deal on the ML350 through  budgetservers. The price for this exact model on HP’s site is $1689.00. As you will see from my price breakdown below, I got the server for much cheaper.

Highlighting what I liked about the server, I found the most useful features to be:

  1. A 2.33ghz Quad-core processor, with support for an additional Quad-core processor
  2. Support for 32GB of RAM
  3. E200i with 128MB of battery backed write cache RAID controller (Supports RAID 0, 1, 10, and 5)
  4. Integrated Lights-Out port
  5. VMWare ESX is fully supported

In addition to the server, I purchased the following:

  1. 16GB of RAM (4x4GB buffered ECC)
  2. 4 x 146.8GB Seagate Cheetah 15k.5 SAS drives

The server comes with 2GB of RAM pre-installed, so the additional RAM will bump me up to 18GB. I decided on the 15K RPM SAS drives because I got such a great deal on the lot of four. Otherwise I may have opted to go with four WD Caviar Black 7200RPM SATA2 drives. Aside from drawing twice as much power, I think I will enjoy the added I/O and throughput the SAS drives will give me in RAID-0. In case you are wondering why I’m choosing RAID-0, which provides no fault tolerance, in my home lab I don’t need much in the way of redundancy and don’t want to forfeit the IO overhead that RAID 10 or RAID 5 would impose. My 1TB SATA drive that the host will be running on can be partitioned to provide ample space for backing up my most important VM’s.

Here’s a price breakdown of the bits needed to assemble the server, along with links to the EBay items (if applicable).

Item Price (including shipping)
HP ML350 (P/N 458246-001) $1065.00
16GB RAM (4x4GB) $369.00
4 x 146.8GB 15K SAS drives $422.00
TOTAL $1856.00

 

More to come

I’m away from home for a bit, so I hope to make it back to assemble everything that has arrived. I have yet to decide between Hyper-V or ESX/VSphere, so my next posts will detail which I have decided on and what makes most sense for me. I also hope to provide some performance benchmarks as well as real-world results for you folks to give you an idea of what kind of performance you can expect out of a machine like this (I’m excited to find out myself). The one thing I find out there is a lot of specs on home servers, but not many results on what kind of performance they can expect from a particular setup. So I aim to give you guys one perspective based on the gear that I’ve assembled.

Until then, I hope this post has provided you with an interesting angle on building a home lab with server-class hardware for just over $1800.00. And like I mentioned previously, for much cheaper alternatives, check out the Techhead blog for information on the ML110/ML115 models.

Like many of you out there using OneNote 2007, I paste a lot of web snippets into my OneNote Notebooks. I myself like to have the same font size , type and color for all my notes that I’m taking. However, OneNote’s default option when pasting text is to match the source formatting of the copied text. This means that OneNote will try and match the font size, type and color of the website you are copying from. When pasting from a myriad of different websites, my notes tend to look more untidy than normal (my notes are always a tad messy).

One of the biggest gripes is the lack of the Format Painter toolbar button that is present in most other standard Microsoft Office apps.

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The almost omnipresent Format Painter tool is non-existent in Microsoft OneNote 2007. 😦

In a nutshell, this handy little tool tool allows us to replicate the font and paragraph formatting of some source text that we target in the current document, and select the text we want to format identically to the source text.

Maybe this feature will arrive in Office 2010 (we’ll get a sneak peak when the Tech Preview becomes available), but for the time being, a lot of us resort to good ‘ol fashion text formatting.

For those of you that like to shave a bit of time off of your note taking, here’s a tip to help you corral your pasted text and have it behave like you want it to, by default!

Match Destination Formatting and Setting the Default Paste Behavior

When you paste your text into OneNote, observe the little icon, called the Paste Smart Tag, that appears in the lower left-hand corner of your pasted text. Click the icon, and in the drop down menu that appears, select Match Destination Formatting.image

OK, you aren’t done quite yet. If you would like for OneNote 2007 to match the destination formatting every time you paste text from different sources, you can set it as the default, instead of clicking the Paste Smart Tag every time you paste!

All you have to do is click the Paste Smart Tag icon again and select Set as Default Paste. Now every time you paste text from different web pages or documents, it will match your original formatting you had set in OneNote.

Note: If you move on and start formatting the text, or typing additional text, the Paste Smart Tag will disappear. You’ll need to use the Smart Tag as soon as you paste your text if you want to manipulate these options.

Now, a few more things. By default, OneNote 2007 running on Vista will format your notes with 11pt Calibri. I happen to like the defaults, however, if you want to change your default font for note taking, you have the option to do so.

Changing the Default Font

To change the default font, on the menu bar, select Tools –> Options. In the Options window, select the Editing category. You can now change the default font type, size and color for taking notes in OneNote. In the example below, I changed mine to another Windows Vista font, called Cambria, with the size of 12 pt. This is a serif type font, as opposed to the san-serif Calibri font.

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Other Formatting Options

I understand not everyone reading this will like the Match Destination Formatting option. If you noticed on the Paste Smart Tag menu, there is one additional option called Keep Text Only. This option removes all formatting and uses the default font options. What do I mean by all formatting you ask? It removes bold, italics, font sizes, table formatting, etc. It just pastes a blog of unformatted text.

I actually use this feature quite often. And here’s why.

  1. Sometimes I don’t need or like the formatting of text that I’m pasting in. I’d rather throw it all away, and format the plain text if I need to do so.
  2. I can easily get rid of the of the “Pasted from” citation OneNote automatically adds to all information copied from the web or Office documents. Do you ever notice that at the bottom of text you paste? It looks something like this:
    image
    Now, don’t get me wrong. I LOVE this feature and it cuts out the task of including a link to the text I’m citing. However, I don’t use it all the time, and I can easily get rid of it using Keep Text Only in the Paste Smart Tag options, as opposed to selecting the “Pasted from” reference and deleting it every time I copy information into OneNote.

Enjoy your note taking with OneNote!