My Thoughts: Fleetio

First of all, what is Fleetio? Fleetio is a web based vehicle maintenance system aimed primarily at companies that manage fleets of vehicles, which is where it got its name… strange about that. This is not to say that it is not useful for us “regular” people who have multiple vehicles, or even one vehicle, it really does handle them all, but it does shine and is primarily designed for those with the large fleets. That’s enough of that, on with my thoughts.

Now why would I be interested in this solution, well apart from being a sole trader, so tracking my vehicles expenses is to say the least very important to me so I can claim the maximum amount back from the tax office, I also have multiple personal vehicles, including motorcycles, work vehicles and a convertible all that need to have maintenance and other expenses tracked to ensure its all kept up to scratch, and having complete logs when you go to sell it certainly helps.

I have been using Fleetio now for several months, well its getting close to 12 I would think and I can honestly say I love it, its not perfect, nor does it do everything I need/want it to do but it is honestly the best solution I have used.

The prices for the service range from free for one user and five vehicles, this is suitable for many Sole Traders and families, up to $149 (USD) a month for 250 vehicles and unlimited users, personally I simply use the free one at this point, although I am considering using the $9.00 in future to add the other vehicles in the family, including several collectors vehicles, a forklift and a boat, this will be a true indication of how well it runs when I do this, but at least all the records are in one place.

Fleetio has many features, many I am simply not going to cover as I have not used them, and if you want to know more about them I suggest you head over to the website (http://www.fleetio.com) and check them out. The features I currently use are; Service Logs, Service Reminders, Fuel Logs, Renewal Reminders and Documents. As I said however there are many other features including reports that can be useful but you really need to check them out for yourself as I don’t use them, but for the features I do use, here is a rundown

  •  Service Logs: As the name suggests, this is where you log the work you have done to your vehicle, be it an addition such as driving lights, or maintenance such as the regular oil change, it records what was done, who it was done by, the date it was done and what it cost, all the relevant details, but there is one thing that I do wish it had, the ability to attach one, or preferably multiple files to the service, things such as receipts, quotes, warranties etc. The system handles that under the documents function, which I will get to later in the article, so why not add the ability to link a document, or as I said preferably multiple documents to a service.
  • Service Reminders: Again as the name suggests this allows for the setting of reminders about services, dependent on the way the vehicle is tracked it is done through Running Time, Hours or Date based periods, for example one of my service intervals for one vehicle is 5000KM or every 6 months, what ever is first. In my case this is set up as an “Oil Change” service which to me is a basic service of oil, filter, grease points etc. This feature also allows you to have subscribers that receive emails when something is about to become due (this warning activates at a pre-determined time prior to the event happening, in the case of the service I have set this to 500KM/2 Weeks) it also emails you until you have completed it, if its overdue.
  • Fuel Logs: Basically the same as service logs, tracks (depending on settings I am using metric) Fuel input, tripmeter reading, cost and cost per unit, with this data it can calculate fuel economy and show you on graphs what is happening, a very useful feature, but it could be made better as I will discuss further on in the article
  • Renewal Reminders: Well what can I say, its a reminder, it reminds you of something, in my case I have commonly set (in addition to service reminders above, these are a different item all together) Registration and Insurance, it also handle inspection and emissions test reminders.
  • Documents: This function allows you to upload documents, any type of documents you need, nothing special, useful but not as useful as being able to attach them to a service or fuel entry, that’s not to say I don’t need to add “normal” documents such as manuals to the information, but I also need the ability to link a document, or as I have previously said, multiple documents to a service and fuel entry, service in particular, but fuel entry would also be useful

Now as I said above,  I am not saying Fleetio is perfect, but it is the best that I have used so far, and I have used quite a few programs for this kind of thing. Firstly if I were over there I would add an API and application interface, now this does not sound like much but there are several benefits and things that could be done with this that can not be done with a website only product, the first is cashing of data, now whilst I am not the same as everyone and I realise and accept this, in my situation even though I predominantly work in IT, I am not always connected to the internet, allowing me to store data locally especially the fuel log would allow me to enter data on the spot, then when the device gets an internet connection and can establish a link back to the Fleetio site it can upload the newly added or changed data.

Secondly and this is the other major change/addition I would make to the service is that of a trip log, this would simply be starting KM/Miles (automatically filled in from current trip reading/end of last trip reading) and ending KM/Miles. This would allow me to keep a log for tax purposes as well as anything else that I might require it for, this kind of data is better cashed in an application and uploaded when available than having to have an internet connection all the time, having said that, even adding this to the web interface would be a good start. To further expand on this if they wanted, they could offer GPS logging of trips, these files could then be automatically uploaded to the website when a connection was available, and be overlayed on a Google (or other) map, and the GPS file available for download if required. To add further function to the trip log, a simple “Toll Cost” field could be added so that the cost of toll road(s) could be recorded for each trip as well

Over the period I have been using Fleetio, I have made several suggestions, some have been acted on, some not. However each and every time I have gone out of my way to help them, (for me this is a big thing as I do not waste time on things that are not useful to my family, friends or myself as it serves no purpose) I have got a response saying they will look into it, they will add it or they do not plan to add it at this stage etc. even getting this response as a NON paying service user means I have no hesitation recommending them to others.

I urge people to check it out, its one useful site I just had to share

Justin

Hyper-V High Ping Latency

Had an interesting issue today, an insanely slow, brand new server….. or so I thought. First a bit of background on the client, they are fairly large, with over 400 client access devices to maintain, not including server, network equipment etc. to support this the client has 3 servers, one purchased a year and the oldest one thrown out, keeping all devices in warranty and with modern powerful equipment to keep things running, in addition to this there are two other servers that are replaced every three years, these are treated differently as these are speciality servers, and only do one task.

So, building a new server for a client, in this case a Dell R520 with Server 2008R2 running as a Hypervisor, nothing special in that, I do this exceedingly regularly so it has become more of a routine build for me. What got me with this one though was during testing I was getting insanely high ping latency, not only to the virtual machines from the network and vice versa, but also from the hypervisor to the machines and vice versa. Pings to other virtual machines on others server, on different LAN segments were all responding normally in <1MS

My first thought was there was something wrong with the virtual machines and that I had butchered something in the migration, but as they worked on other hypervisors without delays, that knocked that one on the head. Then I thought network location issue, but that does not make any sense due the fact that pinging from a hypervisor to guest does not go across a physical network, so it has to be the brand new server.

Ok, so what’s new about this server, well its got newer Processors, greater memory, faster HDD’s with larger capacity’s, basically it was more a case of what wasn’t different to the last server. Not going to go through the whole process of troubleshooting, but basically it was to do with the NIC’s, fine now what about them is it. After trial and error, and of course every techs most important tool, Google I came across the issue what is it…

 

THE ISSUE IS VMQ or Virtual Machine Queuing inside the Broadcom NIC drivers as shown below, disable this and the issue clears instantly

Advanced NIC Properties showing Virtual Machine Queue option
Advanced NIC Properties showing Virtual Machine Queue option

 

Pings and other indicators are now back down to <1ms which is what I expected to see in the first place.

Hardware effected by this was as follows

DELL R520
Server 2008R2 Enterprise
Broadcom Quad Port NIC
Broadcom Driver 15.4.0.17 dated 4th of September 2012, as downloaded from the DELL site on the 31st of January 2013

Going to put this on my to check list in future

 

UPDATE 11th February 2013:

Dennis over at Flexecom has found the same thing in this posting (http://www.flexecom.com/high-ping-latency-in-hyper-v-virtual-machines/), posted on the 10th of December, wish I had found it before so I did not have to troubleshoot this myself, none the less he has more information on how VMQ’s are MEANT to work, interestingly although it is a different manufacturer, the NIC is the same, as is the driver version although the reported release date of the driver is different, so currently the problem seems to exist with BROADCOM NIC’s and specifically using driver revision 15.4.0.17. Perhaps we could get Broadcom to turn this off by default, then if desired the server admin could turn it on.

 

Evernote

Ok, so I finally gave in and tried Evernote, is it as bad as I was expecting? Well I can honestly say no, it isn’t but it honestly leaves me wanting more.

One thing specifically that I want is nesting, well a greater allowence for it anyway. In its current for Evernote allows me to create nest groups and place notebooks below them other like I do with files and folders on my other devices and even things such as my eMail, what I do not like about it. is that it only allows for a single level of nesting, I need much more to create a heirarchy that is useful to me. I don’t know about others (hell I don’t even know how many people read this blog) but I organise myself by this nesting, and whilst I can honestly say I cannot wait for a “Production Ready” DBFS to allow me to have files virtually inside multiple folders but in the mean time I need the nesting functions. prehaps something more akin to how any modern OS handles it.

Now I am no programmer, and I have no real idea how hard it would be to implement in the Evernote program, but I have done it successfully in several database, based programs and if I can do it, it has to be much easier for a programmer who actually has some skills and knowledge.

In short, will I keep using Evernote? Yes I will, however until the nesting is taken care of its usefulness to me, and I imagine to many others is limited.

Language Management GPO

Recently (Well a few months ago) a client asked me to install multiple extra keyboards, on multiple (300+) PC’s through the organization, needless to say I was not to exited to do that manually, looking for options I discovered that there is no GPO available for it, and although it can be done through registry modifications, that whilst useful is not overly effective, so I wrote a GPO, at the time as it was a 2003 domain I wrote it as an ADM file, however as I was then asked for a similar thing (different languages) at a client with a 2008 domain the ADM files were useless (and so is ADMX Migrator from Microsoft/Full Armor, I recommend and use PolMan and its ADM Template Editor from SysPro [http://sysprosoft.com/products.shtml]) I re-wrote it for ADMX, and implemented it at a few client sites.

Forward to yesterday, a fellow tech at another client site had been asked the same thing, and came to me for advice on making their job easier, recalling these templates I promised I would forward it to them, which I did just moments ago (after making a minor modification and re-generating the ADMX to include a little joke for them, yet the inclusion is still useful for others, great how that works out hey) anyway I had always planned to release it to the public however I never had done, getting this request has prompted me to do it, currently there are 10 languages in there, I plan to add support for a bunch more in future and at the same time give Administrators and easy way to set the default keyboard layout but that will not happen till I have some spare time as at this point no clients require that functionality, if they do I will add it sooner

In the mean time download the file here, please note however, that the system contains no warranty whatsoever and although has been tested to work on Windows XP it is by far from guaranteed it is designed to work on Windows Vista and Windows 7

To install it just place it in the C:\Windows\PolicyDefinitions folder on your domain controller and restart Group Policy Editor, the settings show up under User Preferences > Administrative Templates > Keyboards

You can pass this on to others, so long as the work is still attributed to me, although I suggest you just point others here as it will allow them to get the latest version as it is updated