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Day 26 - Utility

It’s Boxing Day, and If you’re reading this on the day itself, here’s to you and yours! I hope your Yuletide celebrations have been filled with family, friends, and above all, good times!

Today, I’m going to link my chosen word for 2017’s Writing Challenge, ‘UTILITY,’ to one of my favourite, but commonly overlooked, aspects of the Orion Platform: Custom Properties.

I won’t keep you from your family long, but this is a perfect opportunity for me to share why absolutely everyone should not only use Custom Properties, but use them as much as possible, within their estate.

Simply put, custom properties are the Orion Platform’s super power. They provide you with the ability to truly customise your Orion Platform and are used everywhere, from alerting, reporting, view and account limitations, to improving how some built-in dashboard resources can work for your business.

They also provide the means to automate many common tasks and reduce the complexity of your alert stack. The possibilities are only limited by how far outside the box you can think: the Orion Platform can be much more than "just" your monitoring tool, if you use Custom Properties wisely!

If I have piqued your interest and you’d like to know more about Orion Custom Properties, or if you need some advice on how to implement them, reach out to me here on THWACK. I’m always happy to help!

Make utilising Orion Custom Properties your tech New Year’s resolution, and I promise you’ll be pleased you did!

To end this post, I’d like to invite you, dear reader, to share your story. Like me, have you found a feature of a specific piece if software particularly useful? Have you found a particularly useful link, which helps you with your job? Please share! I look forward to reading your responses!


I heavily use the custom properties.  We have various fields that are used depending on the scenario (environment type, security device yes / no, top 50 app yes / no, etc).  The majority of the dashboards that I create use a custom property in some way in order to filter the display.

Happy Boxing Day to you.  I'm from the US, so I don't celebrate, but still the same.  Enjoy.

Utility, the ability to do multiple things well.   Like a utility man in baseball.   Many team have these utility men, they are often not hall of fame quality but to the team they are all the difference.  when you can play multiple positions, and help your team win where ever you are, you are valuable.  being that utility player is something that is important in Tech as well.  We will often be asked to do things we may not be trained for.  We will need to be sure to understand that where ever we are needed we will be expected to perform.   Its our jobs to perform well.   Having good skills and or tools will assist us.   But we can be the utility person, using our best Utility SolarWinds.  We are utility, its a utility. 

Honorable mention, Utility Belt from Batman...


I see the word "utility" and am immediately drawn down different paths:

Path 1 coincides with the noun definition #1 above--something "has utility" if it is useful.  I'm shopping for a new aluminum utility trailer, to enable me to haul my kids' belongings to & from college, and eventually to haul my belongings to a smaller home, perhaps in a climate that's warmer in winter.  (The actual air temperature at my home, at 6 a.m. today, was -21F, or -29C for our more scientifically advanced friends.)

Perhaps ironically, a "utility trailer" also matches up with the first adjective definition.  A "thing" that HAS utility can be a utility "thing."

But I think of these "utility" items as physical devices that I can hold in my hand, haul in a truck, etc.

Path 2 goes down a different kind of "usefulness", and example of which are the many utility applications contained in the Solarwinds Engineers Toolset.  They all have that "useful" function that goes with "utility", but I can't hold them in my hand because they're applications.  Invisible bits that help me know more about my network, combined together into what we call "programs."

No matter whether you can point at something physical and utilize it, or if you have to talk about it as a virtual item, if it's useful, if you can use it, it "has utility", and it may actually BE a utility, as in a Power Utility that provides the electricity that enables us to use our software utilities.

Level 9

The word utility means a tool to me.

Level 14

Utility to me means multi functional to me.  I ride a touring bicycle because it provides utility to me.  I can carry clothes and groceries.  In many ways it is a wonderful substitute for my car.

Level 12

Utility is anything that can be used to assist you in the duty that you are performing.

I used to be a "utility" man in a factory job, where I would go around and give people their breaks. I had the ability to perform every job on the factory line.

Level 9

I always try to automate tasks at work. I have been using PowerShell to create utility scripts so everyone on the team can fix issues or get the information they need quickly. In fact, that is what brought me to solarwinds, monitoring with actions to automatically run utility scripts so I don't get helpdesk tickets.

I have spent many a Christmas in Australia. I appreciate the joy that is the Boxing Day sales. 🙂

I too have partaken in the goodness that is Custom Properties. Perhaps a little too much as my 'Edit Properties' page has gotten incredibly long. So much so that I have submitted an Idea to: Add a Floating 'Submit' / 'Cancel' Button Pair so that I don't always have to scroll down to the bottom to click. If at any point I have thunk it then it has appeared on my Custom Properties page. By allowing me categorize nodes by: DR Tier, Business Function, Geographic Location, Operating Unit. Service Owner, and more, I am able to paint a dynamic picture of my company's enterprise that no one else can.

Level 11

To be honest, SolarWinds Thwack community is one of the many links that helps me with my job, in that I get ideas on how to build not just a customer base but a community of customers who come together to share ideas on how to advance further in technology space. Some other useful links include: and

Level 11

Image result for utility


I see utility as something that adds usefulness.

An IT utility makes it easier to accomplish a task

A utility knife is a tool that has multiple functions.

Utility is something that we need to strive for in our lifestyles sot that we can be resilient and function in multiple situations.

Level 10

Orion platform is a good utility to have as an IT professional, many of the tools in the utility bag takes guess work away from troubleshooting and help in relieving headaches.

I think custom properties are probably the single most important part of the Orion experience. It is literally the best part of "make (anything) into (the thing you want to reference)". Whomever came up with that part of core functionality had the right idea. As far as utility goes beyond Orion, I value any tool that will save some time - even if there is upfront effort to achieve it. I think a prominent value can be found in remembering what utilities apply and when, and when to look for new utilities. My coworkers have introduced me to new ones that I'd never known of all the time! Flexibility in utility is what provides more utility.

Level 12

I just paid all my utility bills for next month. I am sad, they keep going up yet what I get out of it does not really change much, if at all. My water bill has doubled in the last 4 years, my cable bill has gone up 35%, and my electric bill has gone up about 15%. I get no more out of any of them then I did 4 years ago, yet they keep going up.

As others have pointed out, more often then not people see the term utility and think added functionality. I only wish that applied to my utility bills! Sadly they do not expand on my usefulness at all, but are basic necessities of life at this point.

Level 11

The first thing that comes to my mind when seeing the work utility is, well, a utility: a water, power, or gas company.

My mind moves on to things that have utility. They are functional: a good belt, a utility knife, a warm coat. Cargo pants might also fit here. A friend of mine would probably add a UtiliKilt.

Then there are things that have several functions: a good laptop, smartphone, or PC does quite a bit: shopping, entertainment, home finance. Leatherman and Swiss Army tools. Being an amateur cook, I might add a good chef's knife. I use one for everything from peeling to slicing, chopping, even some fine work.

The software world is loaded with utilities. Disk Utilities. Diagnostic software (Wireshark, anyone?) and some little suite called SolarWinds seem pretty useful too.

I have to agree with silverbacksays about Custom Properties. They allow a creative admin to extend SolarWinds' abilities in more ways than I can detail here. I do have to say that the most utilitarian thing in learning how to better use SolarWinds is right here: Thwack! Thanks to all my fellow Thwacksters for your time and help.

Level 9

I aggre with miseri Thwack is a good utility...

Level 14

The more I use... the more I learn...... custom properties can make all the difference when informing or solving a problem in your infrastructure. Deeper insight is a valuable tool. Thank you Thwacksters ... your help is a key tool in my utility belt.

Level 10

"Utility is when you have one telephone, luxury is when you have two, opulence is when you have three - and paradise is when you have none." - Doug Larson

Utility makes me think of useful which leads to handy that of course reminds me of "If the women don't find you handsome, they should at least find you handy." Red Greens' Handyman's Corner. Custom properties in SolarWinds' Orion may not be pretty but they are very handy. They help make generic alerts that react differently based on the custom properties used.

Then I think of Norton Utilities which were a main stay for my early years in computer support - mid 1980's. Then came SysInternals utilities in the mid 1990's. Which by the way was another Austin based company. Ultimately purchased by Microsoft in 2006. Followed by the SolarWinds Engineering Tool Set in the late 1990's early 2000's.

Now of course we have the latest utility in the monitor super hero belt of AppOptics. What will the next IT utility be? Who knows, but by then we won't be calling it IT anymore.

Enjoy a little blast from the past:Red Green on Computers

Level 15

solid post sir!

i could go on and on evangelizomg custom properties. heck, it might be the one topic that the MVPs all agree on! lol

but, for brevity, i’ll give an example. when i first took this job, i audited our system to give myself a baseline. we had 990+ active alerts configured.

now, this end result began with good reasons, so we’ll skip talking about alert schema disciplines, and point at the handful of custom properties that were since created that have us at about 130 alerts now (for those counting, that’s about a 67% reduction). and, if Orion would allow the use of custom properties as alert trigger delays, it would legitimately be about 30 total alerts. (97% reduction)

the proof is is in the pudding. custom properties are foundational to a mature SolarWinds installation.


Great post about custom properties. Every instance of SolarWinds I come across, I try to make the users understand just how powerful custom properties are and how they can be used to customise the system.

Level 12

A utility is a useful tool that aids in your daily activities of life.

Level 12

Custom Properties

Custom Properties are the greatest gift.

Use them.

Use them with alert limitations.

Use them with NCM jobs.

Use them with alert emails.

Use them with different departments.

Use them until you can't use them any more.

Their UTILITY is endless.

Level 16

Seems like a good 'Cat in the Hat' saying could be starting here

Level 9

Looks like we make use of different utilities everyday of our lives

Level 12

What Utility does the solution require which has not been offered?

Have you paid up for the necessary utilities?

Level 9

I always keep a utility belt handy, never know when you might need some shark repellent!

Level 21

I agree with you 100% on the things you say about Custom Properties.  I saw the power in them on day one when I started using Orion and I have been leveraging them ever since as they truly provide a ton of flexibility to the system in how you can manage things.

With that being said, I feel the need to also highlight that with Custom Properties being so important and core to Orion that I think it's way overdue to see some significant changes to Custom Properties.  The custom properties page looks and functions like something built in the early 90's, I would love to see it cleaned up and for the columns to auto-scale so the labels don't get all crammed up.  I would love to see the ability to have multi-selects, to choose the order in which they are presented and to have child property options based on a selection.  Overall I think Custom Properties are due for some love.

Level 20

This reminded me of one of our old Apple][ utilities we used to use in the old 300 baud Hayes days... Dalton's Disk Disintegrator which would break up large apps/games into compressed packs to more easily send over the modem.


The good ol' days.  My modem must have ran close to 20 hours a day in the old ASCII Express Pro BBS days.

| |
| DDD Pro |
| |
| Version 1.0 |
| |
| Written by: Dr. DX |


Dalton's Disk Disintegrator (DDD) has remained the standard packer for
Apple II disks for a number of years. It has suffered recently because
of poor attempts to create a ProDOS version of the packing program. Thus,
the rationale for DDD Pro, the ProDOS version of DDD. (No, the "Pro" does NOT
stand for "Professional," it stands for "ProDOS")

The History of Packing:

"In the beginning, most Apple programs were single files. In those days,
all pirates had to do to upload and download programs was to call up an AE
line and send the program across. But as software became more sophisticated,
programs began to require full disks. To send an entire disk just could not
be done with AE! So pirating software had to get more sophisticated to keep
up with the new programs. At that point, the Stack (of Corrupt Computing)
wrote his first Disk Splitter, which was a program that split a full disk into
a sector map and 1-6 binary files. This made it possible to upload a full
disk with AE by first splitting it, then unsplitting it back to its original
state after downloading. Although this program ignored unused sectors, it did
no data compression. Thus began the succession of programs that ultimately
led to Daltons Disk Disintegrator ][.1 Enhanced.
Disk Splitter worked, but it was unfriendly and the files it created took
up a lot of disk space. It was followed by a number of similar programs which
began to use various data compression methods. First there was Disk Rigger 1.0
and the its modifications (none of which were successful). Although it did
compression and some fancy tricks, it simply did not work. Other programs were
Disk Slicer by the Rocker and Disk Divider by M. Hata. Disk Rigger 2.0 was the
next widely accepted program after Disk Splitter, but it had been the standard
for only a short period when Dalton came out with his revolutionary Dalton's
Disk Disintegrator 1.0. This program had a bug when working with ][e's with
one drive, so DDD 1.1 was released. Because its data compression techniques
created files which were smaller than those of any other splitting/packing
program, Dalton's set a new standard which lasted for quite some time. The
better the compression, the less space was required to store the split files
and the faster they could be transferred. Then a challenger invented a new
technique: instead of splitting a full disk into several binary files, it
combined these files into one long file. Dalton incorporated this idea into
his next major revision: DDD 2.0. DDD 2.0 had another big bug. It would not
compress a disk if the end of track $22 was blank (the most common reason being
a TSL on that track). The bug was fixed in DDD 2.1, which is the current
standard. Everyone is happy with this version--unless you own a hard drive,
and can not use your volumes conveniently. To correct this problem, the Shadow
wrote a program called Disk Cruncher (current version 1.1) which is a nice
program (much like Dalton's in many respects), that has light-bar file
selection and volume support, but a less efficient packing routine. The next
entry into the field was Krackerjack's Fireworx. Krackerjack has shown his
programming expertise through Krackerjack's Autograph, but his packer simply
doesn't stack up against Dalton's in speed, data compression, and reliability.
It took about six and a half minutes to unpack a fairly full disk, and the disk
in question did not work after unpacking!"

--The Watcher of The Assembly Line

And, then, after the "Enhanced" version of DDD 2.1 came out, it was
successfully followed by version 2.5, which was written by Tom E. Hawk.
Tom E. Hawk added some new features to DDD, most notable of which was
the "#XXXX" we all saw mysteriously appended onto DOS 3.3 filenames. The
mysterious lettering, was, of course, a checksum that had been calculated
on the disk as it was being packed. This helped with transfers with AE,
because AE Pro uses a checksum variety of xmodem to transfer files. Checksum
xmodem is inherently unreliable because it does not check the ORDER of
the bytes in a file, it just checks the values. So, DDD 2.5 filled a
very necessary gap.
Even though ProDOS had been around since 1984, no one hardy ever used
the OS for bulletin boards and file transfers because there was not a
decent packing program for packing disks or files. Then came Propacker.
ProPacker ended with version 5.3c written by Randall Banning, who now
makes his residence in Canada. (as does Dalton). ProPacker ushered in
the era of ProDOS boards, because now files could be packed into an
efficient format for use in transferring.
However, the number of pirate boards that used ProPacker could be
counted on the fingers of one hand. The reason: DDD was king, and so
was DOS 3.3. Everyone was happy until Apple Computer, Inc. unveiled
a little monster called "The Apple IIgs." You see, the IIgs could use
these 3.5 inch drives that held 800k of data. Could DDD handle a 3.5"
drive? No. The reason: DOS 3.3 could only handle up to 400k volumes,
and even then, it had to be "forced." ProDOS was the answer. Apple's
ProDOS operating system for our II's meant that we had a fast OS,
and a lot more power because now we could use devices that could hold
as much as 32 megabytes. So, ProDOS was the answer. But, the problem
had not yet arrived... when the IIgs came out, we had a problem, and
a BIG one.
The initial question that everyone asked was "what types of disks
will we be transferring if we own IIgs's?" Apple made that abundantly
clear when we were told that the new operating system, the native mode
version of ProDOS, ProDOS/16, would only FIT on a 3.5" disk. And, when
the first IIgs ware came out, the size of the executable file itself
almost exceeded the capacity of a 5.25" disk. So, we had our problem,
and we had the solution at hand: ProPacker.
ProPacker was (and still is) a nice nifty little program written
to pack BOTH 3.5" and 5.25" disks. As a bonus, it could tell if you had
packed a 3.5" disk, and would tell you if what you were unpacking was
a 3.5" disk. ProPacker was NICE. ProPacker was reasonably fast, and
it worked well as long as you hadn't gotten a bad transfer, in which case,
it would crash while unpacking. But, on the whole, a decent packing
Then, after a bunch of DOS 3.3 based pirate boards decided that they
would convert to the ProDOS format because of the increased demands for space,
there quietly came a ProDOS compatible type of DDD. It was called PBH Pack.
(PBH for "Pretty Boy Hackers") Essentially, if you made a DOS 3.3 DDD
file an "R" file. (a RELative file), and then converted it to ProDOS,
his packer could then unpack the disk. This made the conversion to ProDOS
a little easier; however, ProPacker 5.3c was still king in ProDOs land.
It stayed that way for good reason: the earlier versions of PBH Pack were
awful. They were bug-ridden, and for the most part, just DID NOT WORK.
We were finally given a decent version of PBH in PBH version 2.0e,
which was written by Major Disaster. PBH 2.0e made life a little easier
because of one other MAJOR innovation on the terminal program front.
ProTerm 1.2 became THE standard for Apple II telecommunications
among pirates during the summer of 1987. ProTerm 1.2 had the capability
to send files using many different protocols, among which was a
"different" style protocol whereby it would pack a whole disk "on-the-fly"
and send it... the packing algorithm that Greg Scheafer uses in
Proterm is compatible with DDD and PBH pack. Great, we finally have
some sort of standard emerging.
Now comes the advent of DDD Pro. For the first time, someone has
taken a great deal of time to re-write DDD for ProDOS the way it SHOULD
have been done in the first place. DDD Pro features high-lighter bar
option selection, optional CRC generation on disks or files, an
"Optimization" utility for ProDOS disks, Disk AND FILE packing built-in,
and many other "nice" features that make this packer stand out as
an exceptional program. Read on...

Level 10

My utility bill is going to be outrageous this month with how cold it's been here!

Level 10


About the Author
"Father, Husband, Gamer, Geek" - First draft of my headstone! In all seriousness, I've been working in IT for around 20 years, but have embraced IT as a hobby for 30. It all started back in the day when my father bought me a Sinclair Spectrum 48K (the original one, with the rubber keyboard). There I tried my hand and coding, and with the help of INPUT magazine, wrote my first program! Now, a seasoned (OK, OK, veteran, I am in my 40's now after all..) IT pro, and founder/principle consultant at my own IT consultancy business, I still do the odd but of scripting, but nowadays I work exclusively with SolarWinds' products. I help my own clients, and end-users alike, get the most out of their investment in this awesome set of products! I'm a self professed IT swiss-army knife, with deep knowledge in some fields, and enough to get by in most others. I have a thirst of knowledge and never turn away from a challenge. After all, we humans are all built to learn, right? =B']