Colourful Norwich skyline illustration

Michael Sage

IT, Digital & Culture

Digital Portfolio Office

Ideas popping out of a box

I wouldn’t say that the transformation had stalled, or that it wasn’t welcome, but we had some issues finding teams that were willing to “go next”…

That’s how it started. How could we get the business to engage with the transformation programme, how could we get them involved?

In the early days of the programme we ran “buzz” days, things to get teams excited about the new ways of working in Office 365. The sexy stuff was done, everyone was working in the brave new way. The business had taken to it, success!

Our CRM and ERP elements were slightly different, and stalled. CRM was going well and the team were delivering to new services, ERP was live for finance, but how do we get to the hard to reach areas?

We invited Chris from Cavendish Wood to come and spend some time with us. He worked with the digital transformation team and management team and we came up with a plan. The digital portfolio office (DPO).

The DPO was headed up by the CEO and we appointed a business analyst and a project manager. The DPO is like a modern technical suggestion box, no idea to stupid and ideas taken from across the organisation. We were keen that this didn’t appear as another digital / IT initiative and the CEO wrote a couple of blog posts to promote it.

It started slow, had we done the right thing? Then we started implementing some of the ideas, giving feedback to every submission, the flood gates opened, ideas coming from all over the business. Some tweaks to existing systems, some multi-month projects and some custom power app development. 

It’s been nearly 2 years since we setup the DPO and in that time we have delivered a number of solutions, it’s been a success. 

I’d recommend a digital suggestion box to any company, make sure you have executive sponsorship and that you feedback or do something with every suggestion. Finally don’t be afraid to ask for help, sometimes it’s hard to see the wood from the trees, just a few days with a external consultant can offer massive returns.

Yummy, yummy Pis – June 2022 Update

Raspberry Pi Logo

Yummy, yummy Pi's - June 2022 Update

I’ve decided this will become a running update of the Pi’s I am using and what I am doing with them. Updates will be posted to the top of the page.

Photo of mounted and cased Raspberry Pis
Pi Board and spare Pi

June 2022 – Update

Even more has changed, you can now run proxmox and OPNSense (both limited) on pi’s. I hope both these projects mature, as OPNSense Pi at the caravan would be amazing and a proxmox quorum pi at home would help a lot!

Ironically the Pi shortage has got worse and isn’t likely to improve for another year or so, I no longer us Pi’s behind TVs so I have managed to get some back into rotation

So here we go:

    • Pi 4 2Gb – OctoPi
    • Pi 4 2Gb – Pi Sync
    • Pi 4 2Gb – Pi KVM
    • Pi 4 2Gb – Caravan HA
    • Pi 4 2Gb – Caravan Pi
    • Pi 4 2Gb – Frame Pi
    • Pi 4 4Gb – CCTV Pi
    • Pi 400 – Study Pi
    • Pi 3b + – Wildlife Cam

Spare Pi’s

    • 2x Pi 2
    • Pi 3+
    • Pi 4 8Gb 
    • Pi 4 1Gb
    • Pi Pico
    • 2x Zero WH 
    • Zero
    • Zero 2

May 2021 – Update

A lot has changed in home Pi world… ESX for ARM has been released and I’ve been testing this, it works and is stable. Hopefully OPNSense will come to the Pi natively and then there will be some interesting opportunities to run Pi firewalls, I have looked at OpenWRT on the Pi, but prefer the completeness of the xSense ecosystem. I’ve upgraded a couple of Pi’s due to performance issues. I have also migrated the Pi 400 to SSD and it’s a lot quicker. I have been keeping an eye on SD card performance and have settled on Samsung Evo Plus and SanDisk Ultras / Extreme.  There appears to be a shortage of 2Gb Pi’s at the moment, I need an additional one to replace the Pi in the kitchen which I am currently using for the CCTV Pi.

A full list below:

    • Pi 4 1Gb – CCTV Pi (upgraded from a Pi 3+ for more streams (including 3D printer and new Eufy Cams)
    • Pi 4 2Gb – OctoPi (3D printer control)
    • Pi 4 2Gb – Pi Sync
    • Pi 4 2Gb – Pi KVM
    • Pi 4 2Gb – Caravan HA
    • Pi 4 2Gb – Caravan Pi
    • Pi 4 4Gb – Bedroom Kodi
    • Pi 400 – Study Pi

Spare Pi (s)

    • 2x Pi 2
    • 2x Pi 3+
    • Pi 4 8Gb (currently testing ARM ESXi)
    • Pi Pico
    • Zero WH
    • Zero
  • December 2020 – Update

In addition to the Pi’s below, I now have two more in use

    • Pi 2 – Backup Pi – Using rsync and rclone to manage all my backups locally and to sync to OneDrive for Business.
    • Pi 4 2Gb – Pi KVM – Find out more in this post 

I have also managed to purchase a Pi 2 v1.2 to go on the Pi versions board. This completes my collection of historical Pi Bs. When the next version of Pi’s come out the Pi 4’s will slowly be retired to the board!

I am also working on a project with Pi Zero WH’s to create a multizone audio system using Volumio, this project will make use of HifiBerry’s popular DAC Hats as well as some custom integration work. I currently have 3 Pi “audio zones” and am awaiting the hats to begin testing.

Spare Pi(s)

    • Pi 2, Pi 3+, Pi 4 8Gb
    • Pi Zero WH
    • Pi 2 1.2 ready for mounting

Retired Pi(s)

    • Pi 3+ – First home assistant server migrated to new proxmox host

Why no love for the Pi A or Compute module? Although I have a good collection of old Pi’s you may notice that I don’t have any Pi A or Pi Compute modules on the list. This is because I don’t use them! I’ve never had a use for the compute modules. I do have a Pi A in a wildlife camera, but this currently isn’t being used. I love the Pi B and Zero form factors which is why I use them the most, if I have a project that ever uses the other form factors, I may well collect the back catalogue of those too!

Original Post – November 5th

From the moment they were announced I knew that the way I did computing at home had changed. Ideal as test boxes, development, media players and now even mini ESX servers! I’ve used them for many things…

The Pi’s I currently have in use are:

    • Pi 4 1Gb – Kitchen LibreELEC 
    • Pi 4 2Gb – 2nd Device in Lego Room
    • Pi 4 4Gb – Bedroom LibreELEC
    • Pi 400 – 2nd Device in Study 
    • Pi 3+ – CCTV Viewer
    • Pi 3+ – Garage
    • Pi 3+ – Home Assistant 

I have used them for other projects in the past including getting started with Home Assistant, mini ESXi Server, custom automations, OSMC media player, Plex Server, learning things with Ali, Wildlife Cameras, the list goes on. I hope they are around for a long time to come!

In the gallery below you can see the latest Pi 400, my display of Pi’s from the original Pi to the Pi 3 B+ (with space for the Pi4 1, 2, 4Gb version… the 8Gb version will start a new board). Next are my Pi’s ready for use (Pi Zero WH, Pi 3 B+ and Pi 4 8Gb), I also have a Pi 2 in the cupboard should I need something older to play with and yes that is a ZX Spectrum +2 behind them. Finally my Pi Zero Board up to the latest Pi Zero WH. 

New Home Smarts Update

It’s been a while since I did a blog post. I didn’t realise how long until I saw the last update! Well since May 2021, I’ve moved house, tweaked my technology stack and added some new bits.

This is what the house looks like now:

    • Alexa – Voice Control
    • Flic – Physical Control
    • Home Assistant – The glue

The technologies now in use are:

Plugs / Light Strips / HA ZigbeeSonoffYes
Lights / Buttons / PIRHueYes
HeatingTado / Tado TRVsYes
TV RemoteLogitechNo – EOL
Button / H&T / PIRShellyYes – Testing
Lights / PlugsKasaYes – Caravan
PIRESPHomeYes – Limited
Christmas Lights / BulbsTuyaYes
AutomationSmartBotYes – Limited
AmbilightGoveeYes – Limited
AirConSensiboYes – Limited

Everything is currently working well and there are very few issues. 

In time I will write another post about some of the technologies and routines that I now have. Including the whalesong motion sensor when you’re in the cloakroom!

Proxmox Nagios Monitoring

Using the excellent check_pve.rb script I have setup comprehensive monitoring for proxmox servers, both locally and remotely.

In case the script disappears, here are some useful bits

pveum useradd monitoring@pve -comment "Monitoring User"
pveum passwd monitoring@pve
pveum roleadd PVE_monitoring -privs "Datastore.Audit,Sys.Audit,Sys.Modify,VM.Audit"
pveum aclmod / -user monitoring@pve -role PVE_monitoring


check_pve v0.2.5 []

This plugin checks various parameters of Proxmox Virtual Environment via API(v2)

    cluster         Checks quorum of cluster
    smart           Checks SMART health of disks
    updates         Checks for available updates
    subscription    Checks for valid subscription
    services        Checks if services are running
    storage         Checks storage usage in percentage
    cpu             Checks CPU usage in percentage
    memory          Checks Memory usage in gigabytes
    io_wait         Checks IO wait in percentage
    net_in          Checks inbound network usage in kilobytes
    net_out         Checks outbound network usage in kilobytes
    ksm             Checks KSM sharing usage in megabytes
    vm_cpu          Checks CPU usage in percentage
    vm_disk_read    Checks how many kb last 60s was read (timeframe: hour)
    vm_disk_write   Checks how many kb last 60s was written (timeframe: hour)
    vm_net_in       Checks incoming kb from last 60s (timeframe: hour)
    vm_net_out      Checks outgoing kb from last 60s (timeframe: hour)

Usage: check_pve.rb [options]

    -s, -H, --address ADDRESS        PVE host address
    -k, --insecure                   No SSL verification
    -m, --mode MODE                  Mode to check
    -n, --node NODE                  PVE Node name
    -u, --username USERNAME          Username with auth realm e.g. monitoring@pve
    -p, --password PASSWORD          Password
    -w, --warning WARNING            Warning threshold
    -c, --critical CRITICAL          Critical threshold
        --name NAME                  Name for storage
    -i, --vmid VMID                  Vmid of lxc,qemu
    -t, --type TYPE                  VM type lxc or qemu
    -x, --exclude EXCLUDE            Exclude (regex)
        --timeframe TIMEFRAME        Timeframe for vm checks: hour,day,week,month or year
        --cf CONSOLIDATION_FUNCTION  RRD cf: average or max
    -v, --version                    Print version information
    -h, --help                       Show this help message

Proxmox P2V Migration

Windows Physical Server to Proxmox

I am fortunate enough that even with my main job, I am allowed to take side hustles. These are normally technical in nature, something that my primary role doesn’t involve so much any more, and I only take the ones that give me an opportunity to learn.

Just before Christmas a friend got in touch, one of their customers was being charged a huge amount for colocation of a single server (as it turns out protected by a woefully under powered firewall). I hadn’t done a physical to virtual migration (P2V) in about 10 years so I quoted for the job and we won the business. 

As part of the quote we suggested a trial migration, as the customer was wary of virtualisation, their current provider had actively discouraged it. It was time to find a P2V solution… In the past I have used the vmware convertor tool, there were two issues with this, firstly it hasn’t been updated in years (and has now been pulled) and secondly I wanted a proxmox compatible disk at the end.

Looking for new tool proved harder than I expected, until I stumbled upon Disk2vhd, a tool provided by Microsoft’s sysinternals “brand”. This tool will create a VHDX (or VHD) file for a physical drive and yes you can save it to the same drive! 

Screenshot of Disk2vhd
Disk2vhd GUI

As you can see the GUI for Disk2vhd is incredibly easy to use.  I learnt a couple of things, the first is to make sure you create the image at a disk level not a partition level else you end up with a confusing set of VHDs. Also don’t create one VHD and then disk2VHD that partition (because the image gets huge).

Once you have the VHDx images copy them to your proxmox server and convert them to qcow2

qemu-img convert -O qcow2 /var/lib/vz/harddrives/XXXX.vhdx /var/lib/vz/images/xxx/vm-xxx-disk-X.qcow2

That’s it, Disk2vhd is such a great tool and it’s available for free and appears to be updated!

Now you have the qcow images you can add them to your target VM. You will need to do a little prework to the VM before you can get the best performance. 

What I did:

– Create an empty 1Gb disk with the virtio controller (this forces the virtio driver install)
– Add the converted disk(s) to the VM as IDE
– Boot the server off the IDE disks
– Install the latest virtio drivers
– Change the IDE disks to virtio and remove the empty disk
– Boot and check

The live migration has been booked and I will update this post once this is complete with any further information.


Backing up a Pi (with USB HDD)

Raspberry Pi Logo

Pi Backup

Time for another text based pi article.. sorry!

Attach the USB disk to the pi.

Next download pi shrink

sudo chmod +x
sudo mv /usr/local/bin

Next check for the correct paths


Now run a dd copy to create the image

sudo dd if=/dev/mmcblk0 of=[mount point]/myimg.img bs=1M

Finally shrink the image

sudo -z myimg.img

You now have a size optimized image that you can restore using the “official” pi image writer software. You can stick this in a cron job to create a regular image backup of any pi.


If you are cloning to test or deploy into another Pi, you will need to delete the VNC config or you will get a “cloned” error in the VNC client and it could stop working. Luckily it’s simple to fix, on the cloned machine do the following:

sudo systemctl stop vncserver-x11-serviced
sudo rm -rf /root/.vnc
sudo systemctl start vncserver-x11-serviced

ZFS Expand with new disk

I realised that one of my 3Tb drives was very, very old. It wasn’t failing yet, but it would probably be best to proactively replaced it. The other drive in the mirror is a 4Tb drive, so I took the opportunity to buy another 4Tb drive and add it to the ZFS mirror… This was so simple it’s scary. Firstly I removed the old drive from the mirror.
#zpool detach <Pool Name> <Device to Remove>

i.e #zpool detach SATAPool sdd
Then I shutdown the machine removed the old drive and put the new one in. When the box rebooted I added the new disk to the mirror.
#zpool attach <Pool Name> <Existing Disk><New Disk>

i.e #zpool attach SATAPool sdc sdd
I let it resilver… but it didn’t auto expand. The main reason for this was I didn’t have autoexpand turned on.
#zpool set autoexpand=on <Pool Name>
This didn’t fix the issue, but it did show the space was available.  The next thing I did was to use the online -e on every disk in the mirror.
#zpool online -e <Pool Name> <Disk Name>

i.e. #zpool online -e SATAPool sdd
And then I had an extra Tb to play with!

Hyper-v to Proxmox

This one is going to be word and code heavy.

Firstly shutdown the hyper-v gen2 VM.

Copy the VHDX to the proxmox server, remember you will need twice the space of the VHDX available temporarily to completed the move.

Create the VM on Proxmox, you will need to create it using a OVMF (UEFI) BIOS. You will also need to create a 1Gb virtio hard disk (again this is temporarily)

Make a note of the VM ID (i.e. 103), you’ll need this to import the hard disk.

Once the VHDX is copied across you need to import the disk

 qm importdisk VMID SORCEDISK.vhdx DATASTORE --format qcow2

i.e. qm importdisk 103 /tmp/data.vhdx SATA –format qcow2

This will then import the disk to the VM.

Next you need to head over to the VM in proxmox and attach the disk in the gui, you will need to install it as SATA or IDE (not virtio yet)

Boot the machine up into windows, install the latest tools, the temporary 1Gb disk we installed earlier will mean the virtio drivers are installed.

Shut the VM down, remove and reattach your windows drive as virtio, remove and delete the temporary 1Gb drive and turn the machine back on. If your machine had a static IP you will need to readd it, you may get a warning about it being assigned to another NIC. You can ignore this, however, I would recommend removing it at some point!

You can now delete the VHDX file you copied to the proxmox server

Job done!

Graphic with 3 monitors symbolising virtual machines

Guest Blog – Respect in Security

I was lucky enough to be invited to write a guest blog just after the launch of the respect in security pledge. Inclusivity and calling out bad behaviour should be key to all we do, especially in public sector. It was a no brainer for us to sign up.

So what is respect in security?

Founded by a group of cybersecurity professionals who have decided to take a stand against all forms of harassment within our industry, ‘Respect in Security’ offers organisations the opportunity to formally pledge their commitment to creating a workplace and professional community free from harassment and fear.

The mission to is give victims and potential victims the knowledge that the industry they have chosen does not support these behaviours, and to arm people entering cybersecurity with the knowledge that their peers and employers are there to support them should they ever be targeted.

Committed to making tangible change in our industry. Our objectives are for organisations to be more transparent and accountable in their reporting channels and to help drive positivity in the interactions we have with each other as professionals within our industry.  A group that is pushing for change, and is committed to working alongside organisations who truly wish to make their workplaces more welcoming and inclusive.

You can find out more about their pledge and sign up here

My guest blog, leading by example,  can be found here (and a big thank you to all those at Respect in Security who helped make the blog possible)