First business trip and serious laptop anxiety of the new year

Hard to believe, by this time last year I had already been to Europe and back and was getting ready to go to Hawaii to speak at a customer event and ride Harleys around the island with a customer or two. To tell you the truth, it has been nice not seeing an airport until now but I’m ready to kick off the new year strong and run hard. This trip I’m heading for San Francisco for internal team meetings and I’m looking forward to it – however, yesterday morning gave me quite a scare as I was getting prepared to leave early this morning. My laptop decided to give me some grief.

Anxiety heightens

Just as I do every morning, I log on to my laptop to read the RSS feeds I have subscribed to, check my email, launch my favorite twitter app and then check my list for the day of my tasks and goals. However, yesterday was anything but normal – at least for my laptop.  Every mouse movement, every click, every display refresh was telling me something was seriously wrong and if this continues, this will not end well. I should mention, I also run a virtual environment on my laptop as well to run all the windows applications I need for work – this was also experiencing a sluggishness I have yet to experience – until yesterday. Being the unix guy that I am, I jumped into a terminal window to take a look at the processes that were running, how much memory was being taken up, if I had any zombie processes running amuck, etc. I found a few suspects but nothing conclusive. The laptop ran slower and slower, memory was dropping like the stock market in 2008 – I knew at some point either my virtual machine was going to stop working and shutdown or my laptop in general would – causing even more grief.

Plan for recovery

Irrespective of what happened, I knew I had a good backup of my system and I knew if I needed to recover either the entire system or selected files, I was prepared.  At least I had a plan if the wheels on the bus started to fall off. After identifying a couple of the potential rogue processes – I decided to go ahead and force them to quit to see if that would free up my machine. After the second had quit – I could see the culprit was my virtual environment – it was draining my memory and doing something very unusual – driving up CPU usage and continually hitting the hard drive (why? I don’t know). Not wanting to force quit this application, I attempted to force the virtual machine to shutdown (power down) – but the application was non-responsive. At this point, I knew if I killed it, I may potentially corrupt the image and would have to recover it from my backup. Well, since I was prepared – I went for it.

Ready, aim, force quit!

It finally quit after a few minutes, but my laptop still had an upset stomach…or was that me? What could have caused this to happen? I immediately shutdown my laptop – a complete power down – and then powered back up again to inspect logs, etc. Upon start up – everything seemed to be starting just fine, I checked the processes and memory again which all looked fine. Since I felt good about where things were from my laptop perspective, I decided to launch my virtual environment and BOOM! Same thing happened again – machine was sluggish, I couldn’t switch in between applications, etc. As soon as the virtual machine started up, I shut it down again and turned my attention to the processes running on my laptop – something was NOT playing nice with my virtual environment.

Discovery

I finally found what had caused so much grief. During my discovery of what had changed from the day before to now I realized an application that was supposed to maintain a secure environment for my laptop was indeed draining all of my resources (mostly memory). This anti-malware application decided it was more important to absorb all of the available resources and bring my machine to a near halt than to simply do its advertised job in the background, keeping my machine safe from malware. As it turns out, there was a bug fix and all is working splendidly now.

If you BYOD, be prepared

Many, many companies today are encouraging BYOD (bring your own device). I have been doing this now for the last four years or so and very much like the advantages BYOD affords me as well as my employer.  I work from home most of the time when I’m not in an airport or on an airplane which means I’m not necessarily in a corporate office whereby my laptop is easily protected by the corporate IT team. I have what is called an endpoint device and I roam all over the place, which is why it is so important to ensure your laptop or your endpoint device is protected. You never know what or when a disaster will strike you – whether it is a power surge smoking your laptop in a hotel (I always carry a mini power strip with me with surge protection), accidental deletion of some files, or a corrupted virtual machine image due to a rogue process forcing you hard boot your laptop.

OR THE VERY WORSE CASE SCENARIO, you leave your laptop with business critical information in an airport club and only realize it when you are on the plane. True story, but I don’t know the bloke’s name only that I found his device and promptly returned it to the front desk.

Oh the stories I could tell if I had the time, or rather, if you had the time.

-Chapa signing off

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