• Define Essential

    Two weeks ago, after regretfully trying to use the iOS 11 developer betas on my primary devices, I was forced by general instability to roll back to iOS 10.

    Unfortunately, there’s no great way to do this without doing a restore and fresh install. I had a backup from iOS 10 that I’d taken prior to jumping on the beta train, but it was old now. This process is further complicated by the way Apple Watch activity and health data is really maintained on the phone, not the watch itself.

    The result was I ended up fresh installing iOS 10.3.3 (beta 6) on my iPhone 7 and iPad Pro 10.5”, as well as doing a factory reset of my Watch. It also meant losing a couple years worth of workout data, awards and streaks. But such is beta life. It did give me an opportunity to reassess what gets installed on these devices. I find it helpful to mix things up from time to time, even going as far as doing a reset of my app icon layouts periodically to reshuffle the deck chairs and throw out any old cruft hiding in corners. One of my favorite activities is to delete apps that don’t get used anymore, or used enough to take up my attention.

    This time I took the approach of installing only the apps that I know I need on a daily basis, and then filling in the rest as the need for them arise.

    For the most part, these are the apps that if I couldn’t put anything else on my phone, I’d be able to make due. These are the apps that I interact with daily or that provide an essential service or workflow.


    Hands down, 1Password is the best password manager on the market and without a doubt the one app I couldn’t survive without. There isn’t really much more to say except if you’re not already a user, become one.

    There’s been a bit of controversy recently about their move to a subscription model, but in my mind, it’s overblown. This software is worth every penny.


    I’ve been using Better as my iOS content blocker of choice for at least the last six months or so. It’s not as aggressive as other blockers, so you’ll still see ads, but it’s focus is more on blocking the unethical user tracking. It also tends to not slow down site rendering, or be detected by anti-ad-blocking scripts.


    At this point, I’ve been a Tweetbot user for so long, I don’t even know how to use (or why anyone else puts up with) the regular Twitter app. I even own stock in Twitter, and refuse to submit.

    There are a few features you lose by going with a third party app, like group DM, but its advanced keyword muting, gestures, plus the clean and “traditional” timeline/tweet view, keep me hooked.


    This has been my podcast player of choice since it came out a few years ago. The syncing between devices works great, and it has a nice clean design. What really motivates me to keep using it though is Voice Boost and Smart Speed, which cleans up the audio on even the most well produced podcasts, and saves you time listening to dead air.

    86 hours, in my case.

    Carrot Weather

    Who doesn’t love a little attitude with their weather report? This is exactly what Carrot delivers. It’s powered by Dark Sky, with an option to enable Wunderground data as an alternative. To be honest, before last week I kept flipping between this app, the stock Weather app, or apps like Weather Line, as my “primary” app. What kept Carrot on there for me was actually it’s fantastic Apple Watch app, but prior to Carrot Weather 4.0 the app wasn’t hands down The Best on iOS.

    However, since 4.0 came out this week, that really put it over the top. I’ll still use RadarScope during storms for active tracking, but for general use, it’s all about Carrot now.

    Also, they threatened me.

    It rained later that day.


    It’s a calculator. I mean, not really a lot to say here. I suck at math, so I use it a lot. But really it’s so much more advanced than the stock one, that I can’t not use it. It also has a built in unit conversion system. Also, since there isn’t a calculator on the iPad, it gets installed there and I like to have things consistent between it and the phone.


    I started using Workflow a few months ago, and now I have built enough little scripts with it, that help me get things done faster, that it’s become a part of my essential kit. Tip calculator, sending items to Tweetbot, getting public links to iCloud documents, cleaning up screenshots in my Photo Library… just to name a few. The app was recently acquired by Apple, and is now free.


    There are many to-do list applications I’m not totally married to this one, and occasionally I will just go back to the stock Reminders app (or use my #9 pick’s integration with them) but right now it’s Things.


    Fantastical takes the stock Calendar application and turns it up a notch. It integrates with the system calendar and reminder synchronization to pull in iCloud, Exchange or Google data but it just presents them in a far more useful way than the stock app.

    These days my current employer forces the use of Good as an corporate email/calendaring app, so Fantastical is really just for my personal and shared/family calendar, but I’m hoping corporate policies change to allow native Exchange integration at some point.


    My phone number is on a list somewhere, multiple lists probably. I get a lot of crap phone calls, sometimes a dozen a day. Well, at least I used to, until I subscribed to Nomorobo. It integrates with iOS to act as a blacklist for known robocallers and spammers. It’s not perfect, and some still slip through, but it’s better than nothing.


    If you were counting, this would be #11. Didn’t I say there were 10? Yes I did. Tough. This one is too important not to include. Cloak is my VPN provider of choice, for use when connecting to insecure wireless at hotels, coffee shops, etc. I don’t leave home without it. It automatically activates on unknown networks, and can even work around captive portals.

    One thing you’ll probably notice, is that these are all independent app developers. They’re also all paid, or free with in-app subscription. There’s a reason for this. Not only is it because these particular folks make what I consider to be the best software, but I want to make sure to support their ecosystem and their livelihood.

    Friday July 21, 2017
  • Reasonable Salary

    The process of looking for a new job is stressful. If you already have one, you’re a bit like a secret agent, sneaking around town trying to complete the mission of getting someone new to agree to sign your paychecks, without the old boss finding out. If you don’t have a job, it’s even more stressful, as you wait around and watch your bank accounts dwindle, with nothing to replenish it.

    I knew by March of this year that I was ready to move on from my now previous employer. I’ve never really had a difficult time finding a job when I decided to commit to the process. I don’t think this time was any different in that respect, but it was interesting. I was fortunate and excited to accept the position that I had the most interest in of all those I looked at during the entire process.

    My process was around the same time that my friend @davemhenry was in the midst of his #HireDaveNow campaign on Twitter. It was fun to watch Dave advertise himself, while I was lurking in the shadows, although I’m sure it was super stressful for him at the time. It would have been refreshing to be able to shout “I’m available” to the world.

    Someone eventually hired Dave.

    I have never used a third-party recruiter in any of my job quests. I’ve always been a direct applicant, and it was no different this time. I’m sure people have had success with external recruiters, but I’ve never tried. I’ve shared my thoughts before, on that process.

    It just seems like even direct recruiters could do better to make the process suck less for the people on the other end. If the application, interview and waiting process is completely crushing all your enthusiasm, what does that say about your future if you’re offered a job there?

    Direct recruiters, I like to think, are salespeople. They’re looking for qualified applicants sure, but they’re also selling you on the company itself, and they’re the first line in representing the culture of the company. In a twist, as the candidate, you’re a salesperson too. In every moment of the interview process, you’re supposed to be putting your best foot forward to try and make the sale, of yourself. It seems like the recruiters should be doing the same thing on the other end.

    I’m happy that I’ve found one that did.

    I was pretty surprised that a recent comment about the efficient hiring process of my new employer on LinkedIn, seemed to be popular, garnering 7,600 views over the last week. It gave me the idea to discuss a little bit of my process for my most recent job search.

    From the application on April 27 to the accepted offer on May 19, there wasn’t more than a few business days that went by without some contact with employees of the company.

    The application process itself consisted of a phone screen with the recruiter, three phone interviews, and an on-site interview. Each one lasted between 30 minutes to an hour. Honestly, it seems like a reasonable amount. A few years back I interviewed for a position that involved a total of seven interviews, three phone interviews but then I was flown out to their offices to do four of which were back-to-back-to-back-to-back.

    At least they took me out to lunch for the last one.

    Since the offer was accepted, I’ve continued to be impressed by the manager and recruiter keeping in contact with me. For instance, I closed out of my work with my previous employer on June 2 at 11:30 am. After lunch that day, I got a call from the recruiter that all of my background check processing completed and before 2 pm, I had an employee ID and access to the HR system to begin filing as much of my new job paperwork online before I started.

    I didn’t even get an afternoon of “true” unemployment.

    Even this weekend, I got a personal email from the recruiter letting me know how excited they were for me to be starting on Monday. To say that I was impressed by the efficiency and professionalism through this entire process is an understatement.

    During my search, I had other companies that I was talking to about various positions, which is atypical for me. It sounds strange, but my last three jobs were mostly I knew I wanted to work for Company X, and so I figured out how to make it happen. In fact, with one of my past employers, I purchased my house less than a mile from to their headquarters with the intent of going to work for them eventually.

    I did, 8 months later.

    This time around, after expanding my community involvement over the last six years, I put out feelers to see what was out there. I blasted my resume out to some places I had no connection with, sure, but for the most part, I tried to focus on where I could leverage my professional network to some degree. However, none of them got as far into the process as the company that I accepted a position with, even though they all had a much more extended period to try.

    The shortest process (aside from those who never get back to me at all) was a vendor I applied to for a professional services role. Their recruiter emailed me on a Sunday morning asking me to call them as soon as possible! It was Mother’s Day, and I knew I’d be traveling the next day, so I quickly emailed to let them know my plan to call them in the morning. After leaving a couple of voicemails across the next two days, I was finally called back, and they immediately asked what my salary requirement was.

    When I told them the number, she cut me off to say that was way too, and that was the end of the call. I swear the entire event lasted less than a minute. I was driving home, but I couldn’t stop laughing after I hung up. It didn’t upset me, in a way I respected her for just getting to the point. Nobody wasted any time.

    Still, maybe tell me I’m pretty before you dump me.

    Another vendor, I applied for a sales position with back in March. I had multiple internal referrals. I don’t have a background in sales, but I know the technical subject matter inside and out from a post-sales role and want to see at least if I could talk about making the jump. I had the contact information for the hiring manager and left a voicemail one afternoon as an introduction, but I didn’t hear a peep from anyone for a long time.

    Finally after two months, during the last week of interviews with my new employer, the recruiter reached out to let me know I was under consideration, but one of two candidates. Then despite the excitement in that call, I didn’t hear anything else from them again until after I had another offer. At that point, I was told I was no longer under consideration despite never having spoken to anyone else.

    For a brief time, I considered the possibility of relocating. One VAR that I applied to, I had an internal referral for and the day after filling out the application got an email from the recruiting manager to let me know they were interested. He asked when I was available for a call, so I replied with possible times over the next few days. I then didn’t hear anything back for a week. I politely replied again with some refreshed dates and got an apology for missing the previous email. We agreed that I’d get a phone interview that next afternoon, but my phone never rang. I reached out to my internal contact to see what was going on, and then the next week got another email with a time scheduled for a call, and we had a friendly chat.

    Then I was told a recruiting coordinator would be setting up another interview with one of the hiring managers. Except that scheduling process was me getting notification of when they’d call me. No asking if it worked, just a date and time predefined. In all my interviews I’d never had it happen that way, and my initial reaction was that it was very off-putting. In this case, the date and time was about the worst option it could be, so I asked to have it rescheduled.

    The next assigned date (again not even bothering to ask me for suggestions) worked for me but then 15 minutes before the call I received an email notifying me the manager was stuck traveling. Understandable, given the nature of what we do. But the call was rescheduled again, and then again. Each time they were never asking me when I was available. Finally, the call comes, and I’ll be damned if it’s one of my poorest interviews in recent memory.

    Information that I could have told you about in my sleep, that I’ve talked about in every interview I’ve probably done in the last few years, or that I’ve talked to customers about daily, I choked on. Based on my experiences in the process at that point, I didn’t even want the job and wasn’t interested in relocating. The whole thing felt like it was my body’s involuntary way of just making sure I didn’t stand a chance.

    Despite being an uncomfortable mess, they told me that I’d proceed to another interview but … here’s the kicker … they didn’t need to fill the position at this time. I’m just on a list, I guess. Someone else told me that they went through multiple interviews with the same company to be told the same thing at the end.

    At this time, the position is still listed on their website.

    Saturday June 10, 2017
  • Beginnings End

    This morning I gave two weeks notice to my current employer, a Kansas City based VAR, where I have been a senior data center engineer for the last six years.

    I’ve enjoyed many aspects of my current role; becoming certified in new technologies, learning new skills, and solving problems for customers. I’ve had the pleasure to work with a lot of talented people within the organization and within our partners… and of course, with our customers.

    Looking through my documentation folders, it appears I’ve worked with at least 242 different customers on technology implementations. Some of these have been single day, one and done type customers. They needed a VNX, so I stood it up for them, and I never talked to them again. But really, many of these have been customers that I’ve had the pleasure of serving as a trusted advisor, where I can not only help guide them through infrastructure changes, but also build relationships. I will absolutely miss working with them on a daily basis.

    There have also been other countless service tickets, some in the wee-hours of the morning, where I’ve helped people recover data or reassemble failed infrastructure. Some of those sleepless nights I might miss a little less.

    I have been both lucky and challenged to travel a lot in my current role. Growing up and living in the Kansas City area my entire life, it was fun to be able to go to Boston, Seattle, San Fransisco, Austin, Atlanta, D.C., etc., for projects and training. Even the less glamorus places like western Illinois, northern Arkansas, eastern Oregon, or southern Tennesse could be fun for a while. While the travel schedule was not as aggressive as some in our industry endure, it was starting to became more than I wanted keep up with. Having two young children, and wanting to be always be present in their activities has been getting harder and harder.

    I also reached a point a couple of years ago where I wanted to go a different direction in my career. I like to brag to people that I was a system administrator at age 13 and I became a consultant at 27, but I’ve always basically been the guy pushing the buttons and turning the screws to make things work.

    My new role will be back on the customer side, but this time in a much larger enterprise than anything else I’ve really worked in before, and now my role will be a more strategic, architecture focused role. I’ll be working within the company business units to standarize systems, define technical requirements for projects, and act as a liason between the development, business and operations teams. I won’t be abandoning my experience as a virtualization, storage, and core infrastructure guy, I will be leveraging it to also get out of that comfort zone. I will be able to really focus on being the trusted advisor, within the organization, and less on pushing boxes into racks.

    It will be a major change for me, and a new type of challenge, but it is one that I’m excited to be making.

    Monday May 22, 2017
  • Choosing Electives

    I’m going to start this by saying something that might seem strange for a post like this, but is no surprise to my closest friends: The last two months, and especially the last two weeks, have been very stressful and mentally draining. Without getting into the details of it all, I will simply say that the biggest contributing factor, or at least the medium that has facilitated the stress, has been social media.

    I decided to temporarily set my Twitter account private for a few days last week, something I’d never done in nine years on the service. The only thing I learned from that, is that having a private Twitter account sucks. Over the last few months, I’ve unfollowed and set mute filters for topics that generated more noise than signal. I’ve tried to step back and get some perspective on what’s going on in the world right now.

    But at a larger level, it feels like we’ve all lost our minds, and our awareness that the things we say and do to other people have consequences, emotionally, and physically. John Mark Troyer, in his latest TechReckoning Dispatch, touched on it in a way that I think really resonated with me:

    It turns out a lot of us are taking a good hard look at social media and how it is affecting our psyches and how we spend our time. Some people are opting out completely, especially off Facebook. Some people are using tools to block out distractions during the day.

    Too often — and this has happened to me in 2017 — too much information becomes noise that leads to paralysis. My brother, who has been a pastor and social worker, points to the stress of all the emoting without the benefit of slowing down for ritual, without coming together. Yelling is cathartic but does not sustain us.

    I spent a good deal of time and energy from the last year yelling because I had a lot to be mad about. Honestly, I still do. But even with me yelling, I’ve always thought of my opinions as just me expressing my views, and tried to limit any negative engagement with “the other side” … but it’s inevitable that someone would take offense to even my yelling into the ether. I realize now that even the yelling wasn’t helping anyone, and that most of it were really just disruptive to everyone else’s well being. Especially my own.

    For the last couple months, I’ve been making a concerted effort to bring my “social center” back to the real reason why I enjoy social media. I’ve been “blogging” since before it had a name. I’ve been managing communities and forums since before major corporations employed armies of staffers to do it. I love this stuff, and I freely admit it’s an addiction. I engage in social media because it’s a way to keep up with family, friends, co-workers, vendors, partners, customers, etc, in an open and accessible way.

    I love to learn new things and to facilitate the free exchange of ideas.


    On Wednesday morning, during my morning Starbucks cold-brew run, I received a shocking message from my friend Jon Hildebrand.

    “Congrats on EMCElect”

    I seriously thought he was kidding.

    But then he sent me the link to the announcement, and there was my name, just a couple under Michael Dell. Yes, that Michael Dell.

    I’m not new to the concept of these influencer marketing programs. I’ve been a member of the VMware vExpert program for five years. In the past, I’ve been a member of the Cisco Champions for Data Center program but missed a deadline to reapply the next year. I’m aware of the numerous other ones, that have sort of sprung up in the wake of the vExpert program within the data center infrastructure community. I take a lot of them for what they are, marketing programs, and not necessarily reflective of any pinnacle of particular expertise.

    I’ve also known about EMC Elect program for a while, and I’ve always considered it to be one of the most elite of the many groups, mostly due to the size and the process they go through to determine who gets in. Despite working for one of the largest EMC partners in the midwest, truthfully, I’ve never considered myself anywhere on the level to be an Elect member, simply based on the contributions of the previous members of the program. I have never nominated myself before. I didn’t nominate myself this time. With the other things going on in my life right now, I didn’t even realize nominations were open. But someone did, and the trustees felt that I belonged, and so I thank you immensely for that.

    According to Mark Brown, there were over 600 nominations, trimmed to 300 finalists, and then eventually 153 Elects were selected.

    Because of the completion of the Dell and EMC acquisition/merger last year, the new “Dell EMC Elect” program combines the previous “EMC Elect” with the “Dell Tech Centre Rockstar” programs.

    Mark elaborated on his blog more about the process, and shared his views on why these programs continue to be important:

    From my perspective as the trustee, this was indeed a challenging time, effectively putting together a new influencer and advocate engagment program. It’s a larger world we are in, now with Dell EMC. And things are moving fast technologically in a challenging market and an uncertain world.

    That is why, we need programs like this. We need communities of trust and skill to sort the signal from the noise in” Tech”. We need to establish these communities into innovative networks. Because technology is a tool of the people, not the other way round. Thats why I firmly believe this List of Dell EMC Elect of 2017, is a community of people, who are engaged in getting their hands dirty and getting things done for their customers and stakeholders . And its never been a more important time to have such a community, that is for the people in technology, nominated by the people in technology. It is a marketing program, but it is so much more than that. It’s a community of very skilled peers in technology, who are curious and most of all authentic. And I am vey happy to be in their midst and see the world as a slightly brighter place having these people recognised for all they do.

    In light of my stresses and anxieties around social media in general, to be recognized in this way, and to really connect with the meaning behind it, was well timed.

    With all sincerity, I consider this to be an extraordinary honor. My hope with this program is that I won’t let down those who nominated me, and those who found me worthy of inclusion.

    Thursday March 30, 2017
  • Neowin Retrospective

    Most of the people who know and interact with me professionally, or on social media know me as “vmstan” — and if you asked most of those people they’d tell you I only pay attention to two things when it comes to technology: VMware and Apple.

    They’d be mostly right.

    But there was a time before that, where I was “Marshalus” — and if you asked most of the people who knew what he paid attention to it was one thing: Microsoft. Specifically, covering Microsoft at Neowin.

    That’d have been mostly right, too.

    In late-2002, during my freshman year as a college journalism student, I was “hired” by Steve (Neobond) Parker to be a Gaming News Reporter for Neowin.net. I still remember the night it happened, sitting in my dorm room getting access to the news CMS at the time. I think my first post was something coming off of my previous obsession, Command & Conquer game modding.

    As an aside, anyone reading this remember Federation Studios?

    Anyway, I put hired up there in irony-quotes because it would be many years later before any writing job on the site paid money, and even when it did, I think I earned less than $1000, total.

    That’s not to say that there weren’t other benefits to my involvement. The Neowindex, staff meetup, events were things that I still think about, and tell stories about, occasionally:

    • Like the time I got to play Team Fortress 2 with the development team of Valve Software.
    • Like the time I got to go on the Northwestern of Deadliest Catch fame and sit in the captains chair while interviewing to Sig Hansen.
    • Like the time I got to go to HP and walk on the server assembly floor.
    • Like the time I got to go to AMD and meet the people who overclock their own processors to see how far the limits are.
    • Or, Like the time I was dealing with some difficult life events, had a little too many Midori Sours, and decided it was a good idea to head to the strip club with some other staffers where I promptly forgot another staff member who came with us was gay, and couldn’t understand why he was so uncomfortable there…
    • And then decided to buy him a lap dance to loosen him up.

    Neowin was my life for most of those years, so much so that the groomscake at my wedding in 2008 was a surprise from my wife: The Neowin Logo.


    I left the site in mid-2009, for reasons now that I don’t exactly remember. There was a lot of infighting between staffers at the time, mostly centered around the North American/Europe divide and the lack of representation among the US and Canadian staffers, among the Administrators.

    For most of my time in any kind of leadership role, I fought with Steve constantly about the direction of the site. I remember resigning and being fired a couple of times during my tenure, but nothing lasting more than a day or so. Somehow during the seven year run I managed to rise through the ranks to the position of Managing Editor. These things either happened by purely annoying Steve to the point it was the only way to shut me up, or by being willing/able to do things other people on staff were not.

    But there was a schism in the summer of 2009, that resulted in the departure of roughly a dozen, mostly US, staff members. In the wake, those of us who left stumbled around to find a new place to build and call home, a sort of an anti-Neowin, eventually leading to a site called TechVirtuoso. The site still technically exists but nothing much happens with it. The Third Prime group that formed to run it, now consists of just Frank Owen, who I transferred control of the domain to a couple years ago. It turns out that having a lot of strong willed Internet personalities trying to start and run a site by committee is a lot harder than it seemed. I still remember sitting on conference calls with that group realizing that this was never going to work.

    But what I also realized, today, is that I’ve been away from Neowin now for as long as I was ever involved with the daily operations. Neowin still exists, and by an outsider’s view is as successful as ever. I apologized to Steve a few years ago, after which he was gracious enough to allow me “Veteran” status on the site, after previously being unceremoniously stripped of all status. (Not that I blamed him, at the time I didn’t want my name on it at all.)

    Veteran status came with a special iron cross badge in the forums, but also gave me the ability to post news on the front page again, which I did in for a while, but never with any regularity.

    Starting with getting married in 2008, my life began a series of major changes. We bought a house in 2009, I became more focused on my “real job” and less on the “side hustle” of writing. Twitter replaced the Neowin Forums as my new social media drug of choice. My wife and I had a son, and then another. My real job became a lot more mentally demanding around certifications and traveling for projects, which led to less time for writing. I also switched sides in the Mac/PC debate, and my “real” job became less focused around Microsoft and more around other technologies.

    I only talk to one former Neowin staff member with regularity. I really never talk to any of the folks that I left with to start another site. The rest I will occasionally exchange plesantries with on Twitter. Some of the people that I hired as writers went on to bigger and better things, and I’m incredibly proud of the work many of them are doing. Every so often, when I remember, I’ll pop into the general Neowin Staff discussion board and wish Steve a happy birthday on our shared day, he’s 11 years older than I am, at last count. Then, I look around at the names and avatars of those who remain and while I recognize a few of them, most of them are completely unknown to me.

    It’s sort of like visting your old high school after being gone for years. The halls look smaller, the students look younger, and all your old teachers have retired, except for the gym teacher.

    I only rarely will check the news porition of the site for… actual news, though it’s still has a place of prominance in my Safari favorites. The content just is not in my sphere of interests anymore.

    In short, while the site still has a place in my heart, most of the actual details of my time there have mostly faded from memory.

    Probably for the best.

    Monday February 13, 2017
  • Enough Windows

    I’ve not been a true “Windows user” on a daily basis since the glorious afternoon my first MacBook Pro arrived in 2011. That didn’t exactly mean I quit using Windows on that day, but over time I’ve continued to slim down my actual needs of the Windows desktop operating system to the point where now I keep a Windows VM around for “just enough” of the things I need from it.

    Windows 10 is a huge advancement over Windows 7, which is where I left off as a PC user and over these last six years Microsoft has learned a lot from Windows 8.x being such a mess. But Windows 10 is an OS intended for use on everything from 4” smartphones to watercooled gaming rigs with multiple 27” 4K displays.

    In this guide I’ve focused on simple methods of stripping out a lot of the things that don’t apply to virtual machine usage, and some of the cruft that is really only useful for someone running it on a daily driver. Typically I can reduce the idle memory and disk footprint by about 25% without loss in necessary functionality.

    These instructions are not all specific to VMware Fusion, but some are. This also isn’t designed to be the “ultimate guide” in Windows 10 performance, space savings, or anything else. It’s a quick and clean way to do most of those things but not all encompassing. I think it’s easy for some of those types of optimization guides to focus on getting Windows to the point where it’s so lacking it’s almost unusable or starts breaking core functions.

    This is a “light” optimization for my usage. It could it yours as well, if you have similar needs like running a small collection of utility type applications, such as a couple of EMC product deployment tools, or the old VMware client.


    What edition of Windows 10

    Start with a fresh download of Windows 10. Microsoft spins updated copies fairly regularly, so if you’ve not got one based on the 1607 build, start there.

    In terms of editions, if you have access to the Windows 10 LTSB (Long Term Servicing Branch) then I suggest using that. The LTSB is updated less frequently with the latest features from Microsoft, but in my mind that’s just perfectly fine because we’re not concerned about features, just basic core OS functionality, stability and security.

    If you don’t have access to the LTSB, another option is to download the evaluation of Enterprise and reinstall your VM every 120 days. It seems like I do this already as a matter of habit anyway.

    The last option is to grab a copy of Home or Professional. Either one. Nothing we are doing here really needs the Professional features. I just like the LTSB and Enterprise for their lack of preinstalled bullshit, like Candy Crush.

    One of the things you don’t get in the LTSB is the Microsoft Edge browser. If you have a need for that, such as browser testing on websites, then don’t use it.

    Creating the VM

    So fire up VMware Fusion and create a new VM using your freshly downloaded ISO.

    • Uncheck Easy Install, because life shouldn’t have an easy button.
    • Customize Settings, I usually give my VM 2 vCPU/cores and 2.5GB of RAM.
    • Disable 3D Graphics, if you have a discrete NVIDIA or AMD processor in your Mac laptop, this will generally prevent it from engaging with your VM running on battery power and easily give you another hour of work time.

    Advanced VM Settings

    Option + Right Click on VM in the Library and select Open Config File in Editor.

    • Enable support for EFI based booting, instead of BIOS.
    • Replace the E1000 network card with a more efficent VMXNET3
    firmware = "efi"
    ethernet0.virtualDev = "vmxnet3"

    Installing Windows

    Power on and run through the GUI installer as normal. After the files get laid out to the disk and the first reboot happens, you’ll begin getting configuration choices.

    Do not use Express Settings, and set the following customized options:

    • Disable all of the personalization options
    • Disable all of the location options
    • Disable all of the connectivity and error reporting
    • Disable all of the browser protection options

    Set a local username, if you’re not using Enterprise you have to jump through a couple hoops to tell it not to connect your login to a Microsoft account, but it’s worth it.

    After the installer processes complete, you’re dumped to a halfway functional desktop. Perform your standard VMware Tools install to get all your network and display drivers, reboot.

    Drop in your license key to activate Windows and then run Windows Update, reboot. Unlike prior versions of Windows, updating a new Windows 10 installation isn’t usually a horrible cycle of download 147 packages to update, reboot, update more, reboot again, update even more, reboot, process. Kudos to Microsoft on that.

    After installing updates and rebooting it was necessary for me to run a repair process on my VMware Tools. I’ve never had that happen before, so it could be an issue with a recent update.

    Enable sharing between your VM and Mac downloads folder, I don’t like sharing the other folders because I only rarely use them from Windows and don’t like them messing with my Mac files. I also have an SD card in my Mac with archived installers and such, so I share that as well.

    Before we run our optimization tools, Enable .Net 3.5 from Windows Features because you’ll need them for the first tool we’re about to run.

    Optimization and Privacy

    Run Tron

    This will automate the cleanup and removal of junk that Microsoft has in Windows that we’re not going to use.


    The Tron process takes a long time. The script says 4 hours, I don’t find it to be quite that long, but it’s a while. This will run a lot of stuff you don’t necessarily need, like performing anti-malware scans against the system. They won’t take super long since the VM itself is pretty basic at this point, but if you’re pressed for time you can look into CLI options to disable them. Otherwise I just set it and forget it. I went and got a haircut while my copy ran. Overall, it took around an hour.


    Run Blackbird

    This will privatize your Windows setup. This should disable most of the Microsoft telemetry, call home and tracking stuff built into Windows 10.

    It’s not that I’m really super paranoid that Microsoft is going to spy on me (mostly the NSA, through Microsoft) but disabling a lot of this should cut down on system overhead.

    Plus, yeah, privacy.


    Blackbird should only take a few minutes to apply.


    Uninstall, Uninstall, Uninstall

    Uninstall built in applications under Control Panel > System > Apps.

    If you’re using a consumer version of Windows there will be a lot more here, like the “metro” Mail app, Calendar, etc. Get rid of them. The LTSB version has almost none of these, which is one reason I like it. I uninstall OneDrive. Malwarebytes was installed by Tron, if you want to keep it on the system, that’s fine, but I just uninstalled it.

    Disable unneeded features

    • Media Features
    • Print to PDF
    • Internet Printing
    • Fax & Scan
    • SMB 1.0
    • Remote Differential Compression API Support
    • Work Folders
    • XPS Services & Viewer

    Your milage my vary here. If you connect to a lot of Windows 2000/2003 based shares or have to manage a lot of faxes, act accordingly.


    An interesting one to remove would be Internet Explorer. I typically use Firefox or Chrome in my Windows VM. If it’s problematic not to have IE installed as well (especially when you don’t have the built in Edge browser from the LTSB install) you can always reinstall it later.

    As for PowerShell you’ll likely want to keep this, especially in order to install and run VMware PowerCLI.

    Run the VMware OS Optimization Tool

    This tool is designed to run in VMware View desktops, and so while the overwhelming majority of the changes this tool makes are beneficial to us, there are a few things that I adjust to accommodate for the fact that this is one VM that I’ll be using, and not a template VM that will be used to roll out 1000 clones in a shared environment.

    • Leave the Windows Firewall enabled, unless you really don’t like firewalls.
    • Leave UAC enabled, unless you really hate UAC.
    • Leave Windows Defender enabled, unless you don’t like it and want to use something else.
    • Leave Security Center enabled, unless you don’t get the point of the last three suggestions.

    Check all of the app removals you don’t want, if any of them are still there at this point.


    Wrapping Up

    At this point you should only really be left with a core Windows system. During one of the optimizations, Windows Updates may have been disabled. Open up the services.msc utility and check, if it is, enable it … unless you don’t like patches.

    Shut down the VM

    Run a disk reclamation on the VM to free up about 3GB of space.


    I go ahead and set my VM hard drive not to go to sleep, because most of the time I have it open it’s being used for a purpose, and I will manually suspend the VM in Fusion when it’s no longer needed. Sometimes I have to use the VM to run updates on EMC VNX systems using Unisphere Service Manager that can take hours at a time. I don’t want the VM to accidently sleep during this time.

    A useful tool on the macOS side to prevent your overall system from going to sleep during these activities is a free tool called Amphemetine. You can set it to keep the system alive as long as an application (like VMware Fusion) is running, indefinitely or on a timer.

    From this point it’s a matter of installing my utility applications.

    • Java. Yeah, I know.
    • EMC Unisphere Service Manager
    • VNX Initalization Assistant
    • VNXe & Unity Connection Utility
    • EMC RecoverPoint Deployment Manager
    • VMware vSphere “C#” Clients
    • VMware vSphere PowerCLI


    Saturday February 11, 2017