Q&A with IGEL Community Member Randel Cruse
We recently sat down with IGEL Community member Randel Cruse to discuss his experiences working with IGEL's products and solutions.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your role in IT, etc. and maybe something fun about you?
My Name is Randel Cruse. I am now 52 years old. I currently work for Memorial Hermann Healthcare Systems out of Houston, TX. My current Title is Lead Programmer Analyst. I started with Memorial back in 1995 when the world was all about Apple Talk, Token Ring, and DOS was King, DEC, and Mainframes were the system's backbone. I have an Electric Engineering Degree but have always loved IT. I love the process of creating things, anything like programs, workflows, processes in IT, and believe there is an art to it, but I also love to create things away from work. I am a Woodworker, metal fabricator, work on Hot Rods, 4X4's, tractors, and love playing with anything with an engine, and been building Homemade Cigar Box Guitars. A big project for me is building a Tiny House on my 25-acre farm that I hope to retire to one day. Over the last 25 years, I have been a driving influence in developing new technology for our department. My goal has always been to standardize settings and workflows and use technology to create and maintain the most advanced and supportable desktop environment.
How long have you been working with IGEL technologies?
I have been working with IGEL since 2017-2018. I feel in love with it from the first time my IGEL Team (Trey and Paul) gave a quick demo, and they gave me a link to download the software. From that, I had a UMS server running and devices connected under two hours and was hacking away at the details of how to customize the look and feel of the OS. We designed a complete system that is currently four IGEL UMS management servers, two high availability (HA) Servers, and two ICG's. This is only used for testing until we move to IGEL OS 11 and move them to production for our admin class IGEL devices. We currently have more than 10,000 IGEL devices and are about to start up the next deployment phase, which will add a lot more devices to the system. I am continually impressed with the IGEL solution and OS, as it gives me the ability to do just about anything I can dream up.
Was IGEL your first experience with 'thin clients'?
No, we tried to implement a Wyse Thin Client Solution some 15 plus years. It was a Windows-based OS, and when used just as a thin client to connect to something else, it worked fine, but our system always tends to have a lot of security requirements. With the required settings and additional apps, the Thin clients got so slow and difficult to maintain that we ended up pulling them all out of the system. The Thin clients got so slow and difficult to maintain that we ended up pulling them all out of the system.
Then we tried again back in 2016-2017 with Windows OS, and even with all the different apps, they were still usable, but the update and management were problematic. We were using this system when IGEL came in with the demo. Within six months, we designed and built out our IGEL System and piloted the solution to verify we could use it to replace our current clinical type devices. During those six months, we also had to build our custom single sign-on solution (SSO) and integrate it with our Windows SSO solution and did so to the IGEL folks' amazement.
From that point on is history as we deployed the next 5000 devices in four months with minimal efforts, and the look and feel of the device was done so that most users did not know that we replaced their device with a Linux OS. We have continued to expand the use of IGEL not only for our clinical device images but now to our admin users and mobile solutions. I have had a few people work with me, but they tend to come and go through our team, so we pretty much maintain the system with one person. I can say it is the best system I support.
How do you see IGEL solutions compare and contrast to your other experiences?
I have had the opportunity to work with and or test multiple different thin client solutions over the years, and let me be clear, IGEL is the simplest and most functional thin client OS and management solution that I have seen. The power of the IGEL OS is only limited by my technical expertise and solutions not yet compatible with Linux.
How has Covid-19 affected how your company supports its end-users?
Working for a Hospital Covid-19 affected us greatly as a whole. For me, it was mainly longer days and the rush of projects and helping with people working from home. Technically, not many changes were made other than 95% or the IT Staff changing to WFH and expanding our mobile device environment for staff. We already had solutions in place to handle WFH, so I did not have to develop or deploy anything addition.
Was IGEL able to help? If so, how?
Well, as stated for me, nothing changed other than the expansion of our current systems. We deployed more of our Windows and IGEL devices, but the best thing about our IGEL solution was that I did not have to make any changes in our design, and it took the extra 500+ devices without any hiccups. So, how IGEL was able to help was by providing a stable, secure, standardized platform that we used and expanded with the knowledge and trust that it will do what it is set to do.
Do you see the world moving back to working from an office? If not, do you think it will happen again soon or ever?
I see that where my company, which before COVID-19 would never consider WFH other than a single day every few weeks, has now seen the benefits where everyone can work from home, and things still get done. I believe that most people work more from home as it is easier to jump online and get things done. So now we are looking at 95% or our IT staff to permanently WFH. Some roles require some to be physically on-site, so there will always be people on site. As time goes by, I also see that there will be more return to the office, but overall, I believe the work environment as the world knows it has changed forever.
What do you feel the most significant challenges relating to working with IGEL have been and where you can work around these issues?
The biggest challenge I have is educating people that IGEL is a Linux OS and a management solution and not Windows. We have had a few issues with printers, and scanners and each time the problem is proven not to be an issue with IGEL but rather some other component running on the IGEL OS. Then we are repeatedly told to have IGEL fix it as it works on Windows. Well, it takes a while to work with the application vendor to determine what the problem is and have them resolve the issue, but once identified, IGEL will work to get it integrated into the OS so everyone will have the solution. I have found that if you can get it to work on a standard Linux Ubuntu OS, it will work on IGEL. Getting people to realize Linux is not Windows, and yes, it has its issues, but every day more are catching on and seeing the light.
What is your favorite aspect of working with IGEL software?
What is not to love? The fact that you can make a change on the console and see the changes happening in real-time and which devices receive the change and which ones did not yet. Real-time status of the devices. The Extreme flexibility of the OS. The dependability and security of the OS.
Where else can you start to finish the build-out of a complete reimage with apps ready for production use in less than seven minutes? Where else can you update the OS of devices in the same less than five minutes remotely with no problems? Now IGEL is not perfect, nothing is, and I know lots of things that need to be resolved, but there is always a workaround for the things I have found, and IGEL is continually working to resolve issues. What can I say? I love working with IGEL. I just wish it was the only thing I had to work with!
Can you share your experience as a member of the IGEL Community?
Well, let me put it like this; the only thing that matches the quality of IGEL is the people of IGEL and the IGEL Community. Nowhere else can you mention needing help with something, and people are literally jumping at the opportunity to help you. There is just a fantastic group of people out there with a shared love for IGEL. When I started working with IGEL, I joined the Community and found it full of information and used it to research how to do things. A few years later, I try to take a more active role to help others when I can, but I am nowhere near the level as some of the guys on there. Plain and simple, IGEL has a great product and stands on its own, but the backbone of the user community is the users of the IGEL Community. Nothing but respect for everyone that is a member and those that continually monitor and help others in need.
If you had one wish for IGEL, what would it be?
I have spent 25 plus years creating systems and workflows from the users' perspective. Ensuring the look and feel are the same across all devices while securing or locking the OS down, so there is nothing accessible to the user other than what is needed to do their job. This Logic has helped us expand our device environment from some 5,000 devices back in 1996 with close to 100 people to more than 25,000 devices not including vendor devices and printers with less than 50 people to support them and less than ten that remotely design, standardize, plan, and support the solutions and tools that are used by the teams that are at the user's side. While I design our IGEL configuration, I am continually programming custom apps or solutions to provide users with a control panel type solution to make the simple personal user settings like turning on and off the touchpad, the virtual keyboard, mouse settings, etc. I would love to see more built-in solutions for GUI interfaces into some of the simpler systems. But if not, at least IGEL does provide the means to do it yourself.
Oh! The other thing is more swag. We all love swag, and IGEL has plenty, but I have noticed that the Germany side has swag that we do not get a chance to pick up or things employees have. So if nothing else, what about an IGEL Swag Store where you sell swag at cost and shipping as a means for us to feel and share our love for IGEL. Possible awarding swag randomly to people who contribute to solutions and find unknown problems within IGEL systems as thanks for the extra effort.
Special thanks to Randel Cruse for taking the time for this interview. Truly appreciated!