Tag Archives: WhatsInTheBag

Update on Air Console and get 10% off!

Several weeks ago, I wrote about a remote serial solution called Air Console, which provides an all in one solution for wired, LAN, wifi, and bluetooth serial connectivity.  I’ve found Air Console extremely useful since then.  I just initializing  two Data Domains and four RecoverPoint RPAs in a cramped, crowded server room with no comfortable place to work from my laptop.  No problem!  I simply walked in with my Air Console Mini and iPad, and initialized all six devices wirelessly.  It beats figuring out how to maneuver a serial cable to some place where I would have to sit on a floor indian leg style.  Full disclosure: I have the flexibility of a 2×4.  It worked once again like a champ.

Get-Console noticed my blog article and contacted me to offer my readers 10% off using coupon code JJGH667QS on their orders.  (I wish I got that deal, but it was still worth every penny!)

Also, Get-Console has solutions to connect to multiple serial devices simultaneously.  This could be useful for initializing six devices like I just did.  It could also be used as an out of band management solution for a rack full of routers and switches, too!

So, if you’re looking for a smarter serial solution, check them out!

Air Console Wired/Wireless Serial Solution Review

UPDATE: Get-Console noticed my blog article and contacted me to offer my readers 10% off using coupon code JJGH667QS on their orders.

I realized I hadn’t done a WhatsInTheBag post in awhile, and I wanted to share with you a really cool device I recently picked up – the Air Console Mini.

I work with a lot of different data center equipment.  If you do, you know a means to connect via serial to equipment is an absolute must in some cases, or far more convenient in many.  All Cisco networking gear requires this pretty much for initial configuration at least to the point of getting it on the network for you to remote into to finish the configuration.  Data Domains are often initialized via serial.  Cisco UCS C-Series  server and CIMC cards, as I’ve mentioned before, can be configured via serial as well.  Cisco UCS Fabric Interconects, too…

You get the idea – you need a serial connection.  And most laptops these days don’t have serial ports, either.

I started out lugging a Trendnet Serial USB adapter, a long serial cable, and a Cisco console cable.  This for all intents and purposes worked, it was cheap, didn’t need special drivers for Windows, easy to use, but man was it bulky and added weight to my already heavy bag, mainly due to the really long serial cable.  After all, with this solution, I was tethered to equipment I was working on by the length of the cable, so that pretty much required a long serial cable.

I tried a bluetooth to serial adapter, for the sheet simple reason that I wouldn’t be physically chained to the equipment, but it didn’t work, despite having the ability to have serial communications settings that could be changed to work with the equipment.  I quickly gave up on it, and resigned to using the wired cheap solution.

But then, I found the Air Console!  I don’t want to go extensively into all the features and models of them.  You can get that info easily from their site.  I elected to go with the Air Console Mini, which is similar to their other models in functionality, but it doesn’t have an internal rechargeable battery.  I did this to eliminate one extra thing that could fail that might be hard to fix, and reduce the size of the device for my already loaded backpack.  Besides, I carry a power bank, and I stuff a micro-USB cable in the bag I carry it in, which is used to provide it power.  Usually, there’s a USB port nearby from some equipment I can use to power it up, but if not, I got my PowerBank ready.


The Air Console Mini (top left) comes with the blue Cisco Console cable (bottom left), and the white micro-USB cable as well (bottom right).  The adapters adapt the console cable to serial or null modem.  I throw all this into a small draw string bag to keep it together.  I need to throw a mini-USB cable in the kit at well, which allows you to plug the Air Console Mini directly into the front USB console port on applicable Cisco network gear.  The Air console itself has several ports.


The micro-USB port provides power to the device.  The holes to the left are to hard reset the device back to factory default, and the other is an indicator light or activity and troubleshooting the device itself.


The RJ45 port allows you to wire the Air Console into an ethernet network to access its web portal and for Serial over LAN access.  Internally, as I’ve mentioned before, is a WAP and wireless network client, allowing you to join its non-routed wifi network, or you can access it to configure it to connect to an external wireless network.


The USB port plugs into the Cisco Console cable to enable connectivity to the serial device with which you wish to connect.  You can also use a mini-USB cable as mentioned before for Cisco network gear with a USB console interface.

The console cable is also very adaptable.


The USB end plugs into the USB port of the Air Console, and doubles as a USB wired console cable to your laptop you can use when you need that hard wired connection.  Note you need to download and install their included drivers to do that.  The Cisco console RJ45 end can be adapted to serial or null modem, but those are not included.  On the side, the object protruding on the right side is the Bluetooth receiver for the device, allowing you to connect with mobile bluetooth enabled iOS or Android devices, or your PC using Bluetooth over serial.

There’s a lot of connectivity options here, just to review.  You can connect it serially to Cisco and other serial devices and then access it:

  1. Wired over a LAN
  2. Bluetooth using their proprietary apps
  3. Serial over Bluetooth (yay, use putty if you want!)
  4. Via joining it to a wireless network, and then connecting wifi via Serial over LAN
  5. Joining its non-routable wireless network, and connecting via Serial over the LAN
  6. USB-Hub-Serial cable it comes with if you must be wired only, just install the drivers, plug it up, and you don’t need the network piece of it

For client options:

  1. Standard Serial terminal applications via Bluetooth Serial
  2. Connect to its web portal that has a terminal web app built in
  3. IOS and Android apps

All the typical serial settings like baud rate, stop bits, flow control, parity, and data bits can be customized to work with whatever you need within the IOS app, the web portal’s terminal application, or of course your terminal app on your PC, although with the Cisco and Data Domain gear I tried, the defaults were fine, except Cisco C-Series servers, which use a 115200 baud rate.

I have an iPhone and iPad, as well as a Windows work laptop.  Note that you do have to pay for their IOS app as an additional charge to the device itself.  I tried every option above except using their Android app (I don’t have a suitable device to try that), and every option worked.  I will say the IOS Get Console app did crash anytime I tried to switch to a different app and switched back, which is annoying, but overall, this product worked reliably.  I have tried it with Data Domains, various Cisco switches and routers, UCS Fabric Interconnects, and UCS C-Series servers.  All worked great!

Via bluetooth wireless connectivity, everything is great except that it cannot do baud rates equal to or higher than 38400 due to technical limitations of Bluetooth.  Cisco UCS C-Series servers‘ console ports by default to 115200, just heads up, so in these cases you should connect via Wifi/LAN, not bluetooth.

It is also firmware upgradeable to address bugs and to add additional features, and they do release updates for it, so it seems well supported.

The Air Console Mini runs about $70 USD, and the regular model is $10 more with a built in LION battery, so you don’t have to worry about powering it for quick initial configurations.  They also have an additional XL model with a larger battery.

I love this thing, quite honestly.  It hardly adds any weight to my bag, and I have an extremely flexible device for all things serial.  Who wouldn’t want to do a quick initialization of a Cisco UCS FI cluster with their iPhone?

Road warrior portable monitor

About 13 years ago, I added a second monitor to my home machine, and ever since then, 2 monitors has been a minimum for me when working on a computer without getting mildly annoyed.  It’s so useful to view two full screens simultaneously.  If you’ve used multiple monitors at any length of time, you know what I’m talking about, it’s just hard going back to using one.  In fact, I run 4x 23″ 1080p monitors at my house.

The problem is of course when you’re onsite, or on the road.  Pretty good chance customers don’t have an extra monitor to use, or they look at you weird if you’re brave enough to ask for one, never mind the fact your hotel room won’t have one if you’re out of town.

For me, since I try to travel light, it’s especially worse when I go to a single laptop screen.  Honestly, a laptop with a bigger screen doesn’t help.  Being able to reference something on one screen while working on another is something I’m so used to now; it’s hard to function efficiently when I don’t have it.  I need a portable monitor!

I know, First World Problems.  But First World Problems demand First World Solutions!

Check out the Asus MB168B+.  Make sure it’s the + model, because that’s the 1080p one.  15.4” USB monitor weighing 1.76 pounds, which is astoundingly light for its dimensions.  As a reference, the ipads prior to the air models are about 1.3-1.5 pounds depending on the model.


Comes with a carrying case that doubles as the monitor stand.  It powers off the USB cable, so that also keeps the weight down, although reviews I’ve read said on some computers like the Surface Pros, it’s best to get a USB Y cable, as they often can’t power the monitor alone.  It actually powers perfectly fine off the single USB port on my Surface Pro, but it does fail if I plug in my non-powered USB ethernet/USB hub dongle with an external hard drive drive plugged in without using the Y cable.  It fits easily in my backpack.  Solid picture quality, although it’s a just a bit sluggish.  But definitely good enough to be productive on it, even drawing Visios.

So if you’re like me and want multiple monitors even at a customer’s site or on the road, check this thing out.  Absolutely loving it!

What’s in the bag?!


If you’ve read in my About page, you know that I’m a consultant.  I have to travel often to customer’s sites to do anything from general configuration and troubleshooting where I don’t physically touch any equipment (increasingly, the datacenter that holds what I’m working on isn’t even in the same building, city, state, or even country), to full on racking and stacking equipment.  Some things I never want to be without, some things I always want with me when I’m racking equipment, and then there are things I want in my car just in case, but I seldom need.

I also have two bad disks in my neck, so I don’t want to carry more than I need, so I really had to come up with a modular way to pack for whatever work I may be doing.

This post is lay the groundwork for how I manage this in a category of posts I’m calling “WhatsInTheBag.”  I’m also going to maintain a page of current contents as well, so you can easily see what I’m carrying.  Obviously, the contents will change. I might find something that fits my needs better by accomplishing the task better, or maybe it accomplishes multiple tasks acceptably better than several individual items.  I have to carry enough stuff, so I’m constantly looking for ways to conserve weight while still being able to get the job done.

But just so you know, here’s how I organize at a high level.  I have three basic containers for my work to carry stuff in:

  • Laptop bag – this carries everything I always want with me when I go onsite for that work.  Most everything it it doesn’t change.  My next post in this series is what bag I use for this, as many people in IT discuss the perfect laptop bag for them.
  • Racking bag – this carries everything I want with me when I’m racking equipment that I pretty much always will need, or would never even want to start racking equipment unless I have it, because if I don’t have it, I’m either screwed or I won’t be happy with the quality of the job.  Currently, I’m using a medium toolbag for this, but I’m considering alternatives for it.
  • Toolbox – Stuff I generally don’t need for either of the above to carry into wherever I’m working, but I want it in my car in case I need it.  Currently, it’s an old Black and Decker toolbox my wife bought me 15 years ago when I did PC type builds and repair for side money on top of networking, but I’m considering replacing it once I find the right thing.

In the meantime, what do you use to carry your everyday must have items?  How do you organize to carry only what you need?