Top WordPress Plugins You Should Use Pt. 1

I've been running a WordPress blog for over 4 years, and recently started a 'back end'  plugin refresh cycle. I'm also working on new WordPress site for my photography outlet, and did a lot of research into the best-of WordPress plugins. Most of the plugins I'll cover are fairly generic and could work on a variety of sites (blog, ecommerce, etc.). Some plugins are free, freemium (free basic version plus a Pro version), or outright premium. I encourage you to look at and review each plugin to see if it fills a hole in your WordPress site.

1. Ajax Search Pro - This is an amazing WordPress search plugin that literally has hundreds of logically organized customization options. You can configure multiple search 'engines' all with totally unique settings. This lets you have different search experiences on different areas of your site. It's hard to do this plugin justice with the almost infinite configuration controls you have. Try out the search feature on this blog to get a tiny glimpse of what it can do.

ajax search pro

2. All in one favicon -  This adds Favicons to your site (little icons in the address bar of your browser). It's a simple plugin that lets you upload ICO, GIF, PNG and apple touch icons in a couple of clicks. Great for branding!

3. Anti-Spam by Clean talk - This is an amazing plugin that stops 99% of the spam hitting your site via contact forms, comments, contact emails, orders, WooCommerce, etc. I've found it much better than Akismet. You can read my full review here

anti-spam by cleantalk

4. Astra (Pro) Theme - I'm using this for my new photography site, and hopefully this spring convert this blog over as well. It's an amazingly customizable and responsive WordPress theme. It also works seamlessly with page builders such as Elementor and Beaver Builder. There's also a free add-on called Astra Hooks, which let's you "hook" into various elements of the Astra theme via the customizer. 

astra pro theme

5. Child Theme Configurator - This lets you easily create a child theme from your parent theme. Using a child theme is always advisable, so that customizations you make to the theme stay around even if the software vendor updates the parent theme. Great for use with Astra! 

child theme configurator

6. Customizer Export/Import - This plugin allows you to export and import your theme customizer settings, right within the customizer. Great for building a new site, so you can try out various options and roll-back/forward as needed until you get things just right. 

7. Imagify - WordPress page load times are critical, and Imagify will strategically and automatically compress images that you upload to your WordPress site. It's a paid service, and for bloggers, I recommend the "semi hidden" single purchase quota plan vs. their monthly or yearly plans. It's fully automated, and even compresses all thumbnails that your theme creates on the back-end. It can also do bulk compression, great for using it the first time. A 500MB one time plan runs $5.99.


8. iThemes Security (Pro) - A spectacularly well designed security plugin that has a number of modules, including two factor authentication, malware scanning, and a lot more. I just upgraded to the Pro version, and really enjoy the added modules such as 2FA. Highly recommended, and WPEngine friendly (they disallow many 'security' plugins due to poor performance).  

ithemes security pro

9. iThemes Sync - As a companion to iThemes security, this is a SaaS offering which lets you manage one or more WordPress sites and the iTheme security settings. It supports SSO, meaning once you authenticate to the iThemes Sync portal, you can immediately pop into your WordPress management console. Supports 2FA, and free up to 10 managed sites. What I really like about this, even for a single site, is the ability for it to notify you when ANY updates are available (plugins, theme, WordPress core, etc.). I have it configured for a nightly email if updates are available. You can have it auto-update your site if you wish.

ithemes sync

10. Microthemer - Ever wanted to tweak your WordPress theme? Change a color here, spacing there, widget header colors, etc.? Well normally you'd need to be a CSS expert (which I am not). This tool provides a visual way to select objects/areas on your live site, modify dozens of properties, and then either 1) automatically apply them to your site in the background or 2) Export the CSS so you can put it in the theme customizer or other file. I found it very helpful in changing the look of Astra Pro to better suite my tastes. 



As you can see, there are a number of WordPress plugins that are applicable to a wide variety of sites. This list doesn't cover all the plugins I use, but which I feel are some of the most useful. Some are free, others are freemium and others are paid. I didn't want this post to get too long, so coming up will be a Part 2, covering another batch of plugins that I really like. 

Windows 10 Credential Guard and VMware Workstation 14

Microsoft has been very busy adding new security features to Windows 10. It seems that each release gets something new, or existing features are enhanced. For enterprises, one of the great new-ish features is Windows Defender Credential Guard. What is Credential Guard? It uses VBS (virtualization based security) to help mitigate pass-the-hash or pass-the-ticket attacks. I wrote a how-to blog article many years ago on how one can ‘root’ your Windows 7 PC and ultimately compromise your whole network including domain controllers. It was scary easy. Windows 8 was supposed to make it harder, but Windows 10 with fall creator’s update (1709) has really raised the bar.

But until the release of VMware Workstation 14, you couldn’t easily test these new features in a virtual environment. However, Workstation 14 has explicitly added support for VBS in hardware v14, and the UEFI firmware supports secure boot. This now allows one to test Windows Defender Credential Guard. The whole process is fairly easy. But a few requirements must be met: 1) VMware Workstation 14 (or later) 2) Windows 10 Enterprise edition (no home/pro) 1709 (Fall Creator’s update) 3) Physical host that is modern enough to support virtualization extensions.

Workstation 14 Credential Guard Configuration

Let’s get started with configuring the VM hardware on Workstation 14 to appropriately support VBS and secure boot.  I’ll assume you are familiar with Workstation basics. VM size just for basic testing can be 1 vCPU and 2GB of RAM.

  1. Create a new virtual machine using the custom (advanced) wizard.
  2. Select hardware compatibility: Workstation 14.x
  3. Select ‘I will install the operating system later’
  4. Select ‘Microsoft Windows 10 x64’ guest operating system
  5. Select a VM name and location that you desire
  6. Select UEFI and secure boot firmware type
  7. Choose your processors/core that you desire
  8. Choose the memory configuration you desire
  9. Choose the network connection type you desire
  10. Leave the SCSI controller type and virtual disk type
  11. Create a new virtual disk
  12. Allocate sufficient storage and split as needed
  13. Chose a disk file name that you desire
  14. Click Finish
  15. Edit the VM settings and click on the Options tab
  16. Click on Advanced and check the box next to Enable VBS

Now that your VM hardware is properly configured, next, install Windows 10 Enterprise Edition 1709. I won’t go through that process, as there’s nothing special to do until it’s fully installed and you have a desktop. Once you have a desktop, come back to this post and resume the configuration. Be sure to grab the latest VMware tools, which has updates for Windows 10 Fall creator’s update, here.

Windows 10 Credential Guard Configuration

1. Press the Windows key and type system information.
2. Scroll down on the summary page and look at Virtualization-based security. It should show not enabled.
3. Press the Windows key and type features.
4. Scroll down to Hyper-V, Hyper-V Platform, and check Hyper-V Hypervisor.

5. Wait for the feature to be added, but do NOT reboot.
6. Open gpedit.msc. Navigate to Computer Configuration, Administrative Templates, System, Device Guard.
7. Enable the Turn on Virtualization Based Security policy.
8. Select the options below, or enable UEFI lock for a production environment to prevent remote manipulation of these settings. You can also turn on the UEFI memory attributes table if you wish.

9. Close gpedit and do a gpupdate /force from the command line.
10. Restart the VM. Open System Information and on the summary page scroll down to the very bottom. Verify virtualization-based security is running.


As you can see from this post, enabling Windows Defender Credential Guard is pretty easy. Workstation 14 supports it out of the box. VBS is a new feature of Hardware Version 14, which vSphere 6.5 does not support. So any support for VBS would come in a future vSphere update. Workstation often foreshadows upcoming vSphere features, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see it in the next version.

CleanTalk anti-spam WordPress Plug-in Review

I’ve been running this blog for a number of years (since 2009), and one thing that really irks me is the amount of spam comments my blog gets. I use comment moderation (sorry for sometimes being way behind in moderation, BTW), so my blog isn’t full of spammy comments. Spammy contact emails can happen as well. But it can obscure real comments that I need to moderate. For example, over the last few years my blog has over 9,500 spammy comments:

CleanTalkNeedless to say, I’m not manually reviewing/deleting 9638 comments! I’m starting up a parallel photography site on WordPress, and thought it was about time to find a new anti-spam solution. I had previously been using Akismet, which clearly was not doing a good job. In fact, I would call it a poor to very sucky job. After some research, I found CleanTalk.  Reviewers said it was much better than Akismet, which was music to my ears.

I disabled Akismet and installed CleanTalk. I gave it approximately a week, to see how well it did. It’s vastly better, and blocked more than 4,600 spam attempts. Only 4 got through and that was before I enabled the SpamFirewall option.

Since enabling the SpamFireWall options, I haven’t had any slip through! Yippee! While I don’t expect any solution to work 100%, CleanTalk is a most significant upgrade and well worth the small fee. Speaking of fees, yes, it’s not a free service. Depending on the number of sites, number of years, and their add-on packages, it still is quite the value. For example, I did 3 web sites for 3 years and it was a whopping total of $38.

They do have a mobile phone app as well, but frankly, don’t bother. While I appreciate their attempt at adding a mobile dashboard, it’s pretty pathetic. And, it’s not like you need to routinely access the service. So for me, it’s just a set it and forget it service and ditch the mobile app.

If you run a WordPress site and tired of spam, give CleanTalk a try. It has a free trial period, which proved to me that it works as advertised and held up to the positive reviews.

Perl.exe 0xc0000142 Failure Solution

The other day I was trying to use Jeffrey’s “Metadata Wrangler” for Lightroom plugin. However, it was failing with a perl.exe 0xc0000142 error. I had just updated my computer to Windows 10 Fall Creator’s update (1709), so it crossed my mind maybe that was the cause. I had also increased the security settings, but hadn’t experienced any issues thus far. After some digging, I found the issue with Perl and the solution.

In Windows 10 Fall Creator’s update, Microsoft has added new security options that were previously in Microsoft EMET. They call this Windows Defender Exploit Guard. You can find these new settings at: Windows Defender Security Center > App & Browser Control > Expoit protection. Typically everything is on by default except Mandatory ASLR. I had turned it on a few days ago, as I’m kind of a security nut.

Mandatory ASLR

I tried the failing perl.exe on another Windows 10 fall creator’s update without ASLR enforced and it ran. Bingo! So I turned off mandatory ASLR, rebooted, and now perl.exe work fine. This solved the problem with Metadata Wrangler, and it now works as advertised. The Exploit Protection center does allow you to add specific program exceptions, as well. So you could add perl.exe and turn off ASLR, but leave it on for the rest of the system. I suspected I might run into other compatibility issues, so I just turned if off system wide.

VMworld 2017: vSphere 6.5 Upgrade Customer Perspective

Session: SER2508BU

Note: The session slides have a lot more details, KB links, etc. so grab the slides if want more details.

High Level Plan
-Test Environment


-Product landing page and KBs
-Product documentation
-Whitepapers like what’s new?
-Check the readme for bugs/issues
-Check blogs (Emad Younis)
-Hands-on labs


-Migration timeline
-Stakeholder involvement/support
-Scope for the deployment features
-Scope for the migration environment
-Ask: Greenfield or brownfield?

Test Environment (Lab)

-Learn new features
-Test/validate features
-Determine deployment considerations
-Document your design
-Physical, nested, or home lab options
-Test plan –  PSC HA, vCenter HA, VM encryption, etc.
-Determine features to implement, feature configuration, runbook


-Topology – PSC – embedded or external?
-Hardware – EVC mode, VMFS version, networking
-Document features – Predictive DRS, etc.
-Migration plan – The what, who and when (maintenance windows, etc.)
-Output: Design docs, run books, migration plan


-Use GSS – Basic, production, business critical, mission critical
-Consider VMware Professional services
-Output: Complete environment, updated design doc, updated run books, stakeholder sign-off


Backing up NVMe PC to the cloud – pick wisely

Normally I don’t blog about home PC topics, but I haven’t blogged for a bit and came across something today that I thought was worth mentioning. Basically, this is a quick review of Acronis True Image 2017. About 18 months ago I wanted to backup my PC to the cloud, as I have more than 1TB of travel photos from all over the world that are irreplaceable. I use OneDrive for my documents, so they were safe. After doing some extensive research back in early 2016 I settled on Carbonite for my PC backup. It was highly rated, and also had unlimited cloud storage.

Fast forward to today, and my home PC started acting up. Not sure what caused it, but Windows 10 was crashing and freezing on me. It came to the point where I thought about restoring to my last good backup instead of trying to troubleshoot the root cause. My home PC (and laptop) are pretty new and have NVMe drives. It really didn’t cross my mind that could be a problem for restoring from a backup with Carbonite.

As it turns out, from everything I could tell, Carbonite has been slow on the NVMe uptake and do not support booting from their recovery media and restoring to NVMe. I found a reference on their site that said NVMe was specifically not supported. They also have a very long laundry list of file extensions that are excluded from a cloud backup (but can be backed up via their local mirror option). Needless to say, I was not happy with Carbonite when it came to doing a restore.

So after more research today, I settled on Acronis True Image 2017 Next Generation. It has a number of  unique security features, such as anti-ransomware protection (important to me), digitally signed backups via blockchain, universal restore (restore a backup to dissimilar hardware), and can also backup your phone to the cloud. They also have Facebook integration for backing up all your FB photos, videos, and posts. I had used Acronis previously (in 2014), and knew recovery disk and baremetal restores were their bread and butter. I also did research on NVMe support, and it looked like I was good to go on that front.

I downloaded the trial of the premium version of Acronis True Image 2017, and was pleased at the simple installation procedure. I configured a cloud backup job, and also a local backup job to an external USB drive. I then proceeded to make a WinPE based recovery media USB stick using the MVP Custom Media tool. That was pretty easy to do. I booted from the USB stick on my NVMe Lenovo 910 and viola! It recognized my drive and if I needed, I could easily restore my data.

I now feel a lot better about being able to restore my data in case I need to re-image a computer from scratch. You can also easily inject your own drivers into the WinPE image to recognize things like NICs, WiFi, etc. So there’s a lot of room to customize the recovery image, if needed. There are also a lot more backup controls than Carbonite, and has other features like ‘clone disk’ and ‘drive cleanser’, all of which could be useful. I also installed their client on my iPhone, and started a full cloud backup. Here’s a screenshot of the main dashboard.

Acronis True Image 2017I’ll continue to use Carbonite on my PC until my subscription runs out. Can’t hurt to have files in two clouds, although Carbonite isn’t a full cloud backup whereas Acronis does backup everything (or you can select what you want via partitions or folders/files).

Bottom line, if you have backup software, make sure you can restore from it on your hardware! Today we aren’t just dealing with simple SATA drives so don’t assume if you have a fancy NVMe or PCIe drive that you can restore to it from bootable media. If you do want to purchase Acronis True Image 2017, be sure to do it through the portal for 20% cash back.

How To: Building a dual-head 4K PC

Update 5/31/2016: Got all my parts and built the PC. Apparently there’s an industry wide problem with the Z170 HDMI 2.0 output that results in blank screens on many new 4K monitors (works at 1080P). I’ve seen it reported on the Intel forums for Asus and Gigabyte motherboards. I opened a ticket with Gigabyte today. For the time being I’m using my nVidia GTX 760 Ti for dual 4K, and it works great for 60Hz support. No HDCP 2.2, but today that’s not a big deal. YouTube 4K streams are smooth on this card.

Update 6/4/2016: None of the Thunderbolt adapters I tried solved my dual head 4K 60Hz problem. The Intel forums moderator for the thread following this issue is less than helpful. So I doubt this Intel driver problem will get fixed anytime soon. Thus, I’m now recommending a PCIe graphics card *IF* you want dual 4K 60Hz displays. If you are OK with just dual 1080P or 1440P, the built-in Intel graphics are just fine. The AMD Radeon RX480, due out end of June 2016, looks like the best choice for full 4K/HDCP 2.2 compatibility. It also supports HDR, DisplayPort 1.3/1.4, and H.265 hardware encode/decode offload. It should run around the $200 mark, which is great. In my mind, this AMD card checks all of the 4K “boxes” and should even provide a great gaming experience for resolutions less than 4K.

So my home PC, which is a daily ‘beater’ PC, was just over its 3 year anniversary mark. It’s a SandyBridge PC, and has served me well. While I wasn’t seeing any real performance issues (I’m not a gamer), I figured it was a good time to spec out a new PC and get all the latest goodies like NVMe, USB 3.1, ThunderBolt 3, 4K graphics, etc. In the past year I upgraded my home theater to 4K, so figured it was about time to do the same for my workstation.

Note, this is NOT a gaming rig nor do I care about overclocking. Think of this as state-of-the-art desktop PC for office work, photography, watching 4K YouTube videos, Netflix, etc. Power was also a concern, as well as being super quiet. If you want to read all about the Skylake processors and Z170 chipset, check out Anand’s article here.

I found this great website called PCPartPicker that lets you build a system, get an estimated cost, and does compatibility checks. You can find the full parts list for this build here. It also estimates system power, and my configuration comes out to 169w. It also lists the website with the lowest price and a very cool price history feature.

Researching this build I learned more about display protocols, chipsets, and HD copy protection than I ever wanted to know. This is a complicated field. Put on your thinking cap! If you aren’t in a hurry for a new PC but are thinking early 2017 you will upgrade, then watch out for the Kaby Lake CPUs and 200 series chipsets. These provide minor tweaks over the Skylake and Z170 series chipset.


First up, I had to choose the processor. I wanted the latest Intel offering (Skylake), but still stay within a reasonable budget. Intel does an amazing job with their ARK pages where you can quickly see processor specs, list prices, and features. So I wondered over to the 6th Generation Intel Core i7 Processor list. A quad core processor with hyperthreading is all I need, so I had a few choices. I chose the i7-6700 which was released in late 2015. It’s a 14nm process, 4 cores, 8 threads, and 3.4GHz base frequency and just 65w TDP. It also has Intel HD Graphics 530 built in, which supports 4K @ 60Hz. You can pick it up from Amazon for $298.

If you want to constrain your budget a bit, the i5-6600k is an excellent choice, with real world performance nearly that of the i7 big brother. It’s about $50 cheaper at $242 from Amazon. This processor is unlocked, meaning you have an easy time overclocking if you are into that.











Now that I have chosen a processor, the next major component is the motherboard. For this, I had a few requirements which eliminated 99% of the shipping boards. First, for full future compatibility, I wanted HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2. HDMI 2.0 enables 4K at 60Hz, which the i7-6700 supports. While HDCP isn’t a show stopper for a workstation, if you ever want to play UHD content on your PC it will be required. I also wanted the fastest possible flash storage, and that would be NVMe M.2 (or U.2) x4 support. This interface far exceeds SATA III, at 32Gb/s (vs. 6Gbps)! SATA SSDs are now old school and “slow”.

So after extensive research, only two motherboards met this requirement. The Gigabyte GA-Z170X-Gaming 7 and the Asus Z170-Deluxe. The Asus option was the most expensive, around $300, and had built-in WiFi. My house has wired GiG-E, so I didn’t need WiFi. The Gigabyte option was around $200, didn’t have WiFi, but had better audio and met all my other requirements. It also has USB 3.1, and Thunderbolt 3 (click here for all the advantages of Gigabyte’s usage of Intel’s Alpine Ridge chip). I called Gigabyte tech support, and they confirmed it will support dual 4K @ 60Hz (with HDCP 2.2 via HDMI) displays using the Intel Iris graphics.

Other articles I’ve read said the Skylark processors can drive 2x 4K @ 60Hz monitors, so the Gigabyte support agent was right. If you want to get geeky, you can check out the spec sheet of the HDMI bridge chip here which clearly states 4K @60Hz and HDCP 2.2). The motherboard only supports DP 1.2a, which does not have HDCP 2.2. Even the Kaby Lake chipset (due out this year) is rumored to only support DP 1.2a. We will likely have to wait until Cannon Lake in 2017 for a supporting chipset. So should you want to connect this MB to a TV for 4K gaming/UHD content, only use the HDMI port. We will need to wait for a DP 1.3 MB to get HDCP 2.2 via DP…in late 2017. There is a DisplayPort 1.2 to HDMI 2.0 w/ HDCP 2.2 dongle that you can buy. That would HDCP 2.2 enable dual monitors. You can find the Club-3D dongle specs here and buy it on Amazon for $29. You can pick up the Gigabyte board from Amazon for $195.

Graphic below is from Anandtech:










Note: Gigabyte has a number of firmware updates that you need to apply, including one each for HDMI 2.0 and Thunderbolt 3, along with a BIOS update. You can find the updates here. If you are super concerned about security, you can add a TPM 2.0 module.









If you disagree with using the built-in Intel Iris graphics, then you will need to buy a third party PCIe graphics card. But, according to Intel, the Skylake GPUs will beat 80% of the discrete video cards on the market. So unless you are a hardcore gamer, try the integrated graphics first. Unfortunately, we are in a time of flux and finding a discrete video card that supports HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 is nearly impossible. I did see mentioned that the GTX-960 does have HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2. I’m sure later this year it will be much more common. So if you can live with the Intel graphics for now, I would wait and get a new graphics card later this year or validate that it does support HDCP 2.2. The GTX-960s seem to start at $190 and go up from there. You can see an example on Newegg, where it does call out HDMI 2.0 support. This article claims it has HDCP 2.2 support. But a post here says HDCP 2.2 isn’t yet enabled/functional. Who is right? I don’t know.

This MB has significantly upgraded audio via the Creative Sound Core3D quad-core processor. This should provide improved audio over the ever present cheap Realtek chips. However, this MB also has dedicated USB DAC ports (two of them) for use with a USB DAC. The Verge has a good write-up on various DAC options that run around $100. Personally I’m sticking with the built-in audio.


Next up, was memory. My old PC has DDR3, but that’s been eclipsed by DDR4. Corsair is a good brand, so I looked through their options for a 16GB kit (2x8GB). The Vengeance LPX line is their high performance memory, and has built-in heat spreaders. It also has a lifetime warranty, which is great. I settled on the Vengeance LPX 32ooMHz C16 kit. On Amazon it’s just $70 for 16GB, which is a great price. The motherboard has 4 DIMM slots, so you could bump it up to 32GB if you needed the memory.






Flash Storage

Next up was flash storage for my boot drive. As I previously mentioned, SATA III SSDs are slow and bottlenecked by the old 6Gbps interface. If you truly want the best storage today, it’s NVMe. The various options can be a bit confusing, so let me quickly cover those. NVMe is fastest when used with a PCIe Gen3 x4 interface. You can use either the M.2 connector which lets you mount the NVMe module directly to the motherboard. Or, you can use the U.2 connector. The U.2 module fits into the same M.2 slot, but allow you to plug in a U.2 cable to an externally mounted NVMe drive such as the Intel 750 series. The Gigabyte motherboard comes with dual PCIe Gen3 x4 M.2 connectors, so I wanted a NVMe solution to match. I decided on the Samsung 950 Pro 512GB. You can buy it from Amazon for $316. Yes it does cost more per GB than a SATAIII SSD, but it has 5x the bandwidth. Plus you don’t have to deal with cables and mounting a 2.5″ drive in your chassis. Samsung offers a 256GB version for $177 if that is more appealing.

Build note: Install this NVMe module on the bottom M.2 connector, so it uses less SATA PCIe lanes. If you want to go hog wild and get dual NVMe modules, you lose all but SATA_5 on the Intel SATA controller. But there’s an additional SATA controller which gives you two more SATA ports. I also read one customer removed the sticker and placed tiny heat sinks on each memory module. You can find those here.





CPU Cooler

Now, I wanted to find a super quiet CPU cooler. I will be sitting next to this box, so the last thing I want is a noisy PC. Noctua is a stellar brand in the CPU cooling and case fan world, so I went a checked out their products. I wasn’t planning on overclocking, so I didn’t see anything too crazy or something like water cooling. I also wanted to make sure it wouldn’t interfere with the DIMM slots or PCIe cards. Noctua’s 6 year warranty was also appealing. I decided to get the Noctua NH-U9S. It met all my requirements, had stellar reviews, and is nearly silent in operation. You can find it on Amazon for $58.











One of the final pieces is the case. Cases are very personal, and people have strong opinions. For me, I really don’t care. I don’t need clear sides, fancy lights, or a lot of storage bays. Given the size of the CPU fan, I could not use a super slim HTPC style case. So a mid-tower case it was, and I wanted something quiet. It should also support USB 3.0 ports, which really is standard these days. I stumbled upon the Corsair Carbide Series 330R Quiet mid-tower case. I liked the fact that it has noise reducing damping material, smart airflow, lots of fan options, tool free disk drive installation, and looked very clean. It can be had on Amazon for $103. Do take note that it does NOT come with a power supply, so this case is more expensive than some that come with (crappy) power supplies. Reviews did mention the front case fan wasn’t silent, so I picked up the Noctua NF-A14 PWM fan, which I’ve read is nearly silent. It’s on Amazon for $22.










Power Supply

Because the case doesn’t come with a power supply, it was time to do a little research. For maximum efficiency, you don’t want to get a PS that is vastly over rated what you will be drawing. You also want to look for near silent (or totally) silent operation. Modular power supplies are also great, which avoids having to bunch up a lot of cables in your case and making for a messy installation or interfering with airflow. I’ve had excellent past experience with Seasonic, but I also knew Corsair was a solid choice. I did not want to spend a bundle, since this is not a high wattage gaming rig. But I do value quality and features. I settled on the Corsair RMi Series, which comes with some unique monitoring software that is fed via a USB cable to the power supply. I wanted the lowest wattage version, which unfortunately was a beefy 650 watts. So I’ll be running on the low end of the efficiency scale. But it does feature a fanless mode, if the power draw is sufficiently low. You can find it on Amazon for $120. Yes, you can most certainly find cheaper solutions (like a SeaSonic S12II-430 for half the price). So feel free to spend less. But I like quality, and the monitoring software as gimmicky as it may be, tipped me over the edge.








4K Monitors

Update 5/26/2016: After more intense research, I found a great monitor.

Here’s where the rubber meets the road, and quite frankly the current solutions are extremely scarce. The problem is HDCP 2.2, or should I say, the lack of support. After extensive googling and research I found the LG 27UD88-W that supports HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2. And it even has a USB 3.0 type-c connector on it as well. It retails for $699. You can buy it from Amazon for $668. There is the 32″ Dell UP3216Q monitor that advertises HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2. It’s a pricey $1,400.  It’s a sure bet that more 24″ and 27″ HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 4K monitors will ship, the question is just when. Monitors can last a good 5 years or more, and the good 4K monitors can run north of $700. So I want to get something that will last 5+ years. There are cheaper 4K options (such as those from Dell), but a big hobby of mine is photography so accurate colors are a must. The LG option specific states accurate colors, is calibrated, and aimed at video/photography enthusiasts. I’m in!

If your budget is more around $500 per monitor and highly accurate colors are not a requirement, then I would wait on a purchase. No doubt HDCP 2.2 compliant 24″ and 27″ monitors will be released, and I would bet by the end of 2016.

Mass Storage

If you are in the market for quality mass storage, check out the HGST Deskstar NAS lineup at Amazon. You can get a 4TB 7.2K SATA drive for $164. HGST got the highest reliability marks in a BackBlaze blog post you can read here. If you want the enterprise grade SATA drive the 4TB “ISE” model runs $275 at Amazon. It has twice the MTBF of the consumer NAS drive.


I tried to balance quality, performance, price, while meeting my requirements in a solid workstation. The total price without tax and shipping comes in around $1,200. Yes, you could shave off some $$ by going with cheaper/slower parts. I also left out spinning HDD and optical media. I was thinking of a UHD/4K Blu-ray drive, but decided against it. First, we are too early in the UHD uptake to see any real drive options (a quick search didn’t turn any up). Second, I’m not planning on viewing UHD movies on my PC. That’s why I have a 4K home theater. Even UHD Blu-ray players are scarce, with Samsung being the primary option. Later this year I’ll re-investigate 4K monitors and hopefully the market will have a few HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2 options. Remember, only the HDMI port supports HDCP 2.2, so if you connect this MB to a 4K TV, use the HDMI port.

After I get all of the parts and assemble it, I’ll update this post with any gotchas. So if you are thinking about buying these parts, you might want to wait a few weeks until I can fully test the system with Windows 10 x64. It should work just fine, though. Remember that the free upgrade to Windows 10 expires on July 29th. So I plan on loading this PC with my old copy of Windows 8.1, activate, then upgrade to Windows 10. I could use the free Samsung utility to drive copy my old Windows 10 SSD to the NVMe drive, but then Windows will become deactivated and I’ve seen accounts of Microsoft refusing re-activating and telling customers they need to buy a copy.

Do take note that Amazon will cover return postage of any DOA item, unlike many other retailers like NewEgg. So if you have the choice between Amazon and say NewEgg, lean towards Amazon.

Win Free Tickets to VMworld 2016!

VMTURBO VMWORLD® 2016 SWEEPSTAKES turbostack-active

VMworld 2015: What’s new in SRM

  • Application  uptime is key for businesses
  • 40% of companies still use tape for DR purposes
  • Legacy DR solutions can lead to extended periods of downtime
  • Announcing SRM 6.1 and site recovery manager air
  • From private cloud to public cloud – the hybrid cloud
  • SRM automates every workflow of DR orchestration
  • Non-disruptive testing, automated failback, automated failover, planned migrations
  • Introduced in 2008

What’s new in SRM 6.1

  • Policy-based management – New protection groups using vSphere policies & vRA integration
  • Integration with VMware NSX – Automated network mapping
  • zero-downtime application mobility – Orchestrated cross-vCenter vMotion using recovery plans

Policy Based DR

  • Association of new datastores with SPPG (storage-profile protection group)
  • Protection of VMs on replicated datastores within SPPG
  • Removal of VMs from SPPG when datastore is removed

NSX Integration

  • Network virtualization reduces OpEx and accelerate recovery
  • SRM 6.1 supports NSX 6.2 cross-vCenter logical switches
  • Automatic mapping of networks
  • Federated NSX security rules on recovered VMs
  • Faster recovery time by 40%

SRM support for Active-Active Datacenters

  • New support!
  • Production apps at both sites
  • Zero downtime for planned events
  • Typically limited to metro distances
  • Uses cross-vCenter vMotion for planned events
  • Day 0 support for EMC VPLEX, IBM SVC, HDS VSP
  • Can enable zero RTO/RPO

SRM Family enables hybrid cloud availability and mobility

  • DRaaS
  • Cloud on-ramp
  • Fast time-to-market
  • Site Recovery Manager air automates vCloud air disaster recovery
  • Deployed and managed as DRaaS
  • Not available today, but coming in the future
  • Provides detailed reports of recovery execution plans
  • Demos SRM air

VMworld Ticket Sweepstakes

Just like last year, VMTurbo is giving away a select number of free tickets to VMworld. They cover the conference fee, you cover travel and hotel. A great deal for those where your company won’t send you, or you are an independent consultant. There are three drawings, one each on May 29, June 19, and July 10th. Entry is free, so try to secure yourself a ticket today! Use this link for entry.