July 2006


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Archive for July, 2006

Things that make you say hmmm…

Posted in Life on July 30th, 2006

I was reading this when it made me think of how glad I am that I chose my current profession.

It seems almost axiomatic that a person wouldn’t want to deal with anything resembling work once they got home. Mechanics don’t want to work on their own cars, plumbers don’t want to look at the leaky faucet, and the groundskeeper’s own yard looks like crap. I really like dealing with computers, but even then, sometimes I let things slide probably longer than I should.

They say that to find happiness, you should find a way to make a living doing something you love to do, but you have to be careful with that so you don’t get burned out on it. Seeing the same thing day in and day out can wear on a person no matter how much they love what they do.

So like the mechanic, the plumber and the groundskeeper, I use my skills to do the routine maintenance in hopes of preventing a failure, even though I may skimp on the major service tasks. I keep things generally running smooth.

But boy-oh-boy am I glad I didn’t become a gynecologist.

SAV Phone Home

Posted in Geekery on July 29th, 2006

If you’re like me and have ever had a problem where your Symantec Corporate Edition clients have either ceased speaking to the server or you’ve had to migrate servers, have no fear – I have a solution to your woes.

The Symantec website has almost all of this information, but they don’t give you an easy example of how this can be done, they merely hint at it. The cure is to copy the Grc.dat file and the xxx.x.servergroupca.cer file to the client, in two different locations. The next time the client goes to check in, it will redirect itself and you’re home free. Simple, but damned annoying if you have say, 30-some-odd clients that need these files. The trick is to use a login script (assuming you have a domain running these clients.) Here’s how I did it.

Read the rest of this entry »

OSCON and old friends

Posted in Life on July 26th, 2006

I took some time off from work today to see if my old swag-gathering skills were still up to par – OSCON’s Exhibit Hall being free and all. Turns out that swag is getting better – I scored 4 T-shirts this time :)

I also ran into an old friend of mine from high school. Ben was the stereotypical computer nerd back then – skinny, with coke-bottle glasses up until our senior year and about 98#s sopping wet. After graduating, though, he went off to college in Berkely and went native – when I came back to Portland, he was sporting the baggy shorts/poncho/chin scruff style of a SoCal hippie.

As of not too long ago though, the scruff, shorts and poncho are gone and he’s looking much more the standard sysadmin. When I ran into him today, he was also holding a definitive open-source icon – free beer. Allow me to explain:

In the open-source world, there is more than one definition of “free”: free as in speech and free as in beer. Speech here in America is pretty free, but you do have to watch your P’s and Q’s so as to not get yourself sued for slander or other such crap. Nice in theory, but can be tricky in practice. Free beer, however, is usually just that – the person that gave it to you doesn’t really want it back.

Well, one of the exhibitors decided to embrace this idea, and trotted out a keg of MacTarnahan’s. This got them quite a bit of attention, of course. It’s a shame I don’t like beer.

The rest of the show was much as you would expect from a geek convention: every power outlet I saw had laptops plugged into it, every table I saw had at least one latop on it, and there was about a 20:1 male/female ratio. There weren’t any cell phones there though – everyone I saw had a Treo instead.

Bursting into flame

Posted in Life on July 24th, 2006

Or nearly so, anyway. No, this is not a remark about the weather – today I did a cabling walk-through for a Baptist Church that’s expanding.

Not your everyday experience. Full-on rebuilding of the whole church with over a hundred new voice and data drops. If I’m lucky, they won’t take our cabling bid but will hire us for the new computers they need.

Once again, I hate HP printers. Different client this time, but the software for these things is just so stupid. Not only do they load half-a-dozen things in the background at boot, they make it impossible to add features later – you have to uninstall all, then go back and do a full install with ALL of the additional crap to get the one added feature you wanted beyond the print drivers. I remember the grand old days when printers did their own work instead of foisting it off on the PC.

And then there’s Symantec – when it works, it’s great. When it screws up, it takes everything with it. Another client had an install of System Works go south on him, and the only way to get it out is to run the SymNRT removal tool – which must remove EVERY Symantec product in the computer, not just the one you want to get rid of. And even then, it likely won’t work, and I’ll have to rebuild this guy’s server from scratch.

Oh, I found out what happened to the new property manager Saturday – he went to the wrong house. In his defense, the house he went to is occupied by a man with a similar first name as mine, but he didn’t think to carry my cell number with him, so he still loses points. So far, he’s just breaking even – willing to come to us to talk about the new agreement, but can’t find the house he’s managing.


Read The Fine Print

Posted in Geekery on July 20th, 2006

A special note to all you young, aspiring, perspiring avid gamers out there who want to build that killer gaming rig that will allow you to spin circles of Doom and Destruction around your enemies: Read The Warranty Very Carefully.

Some 16-yr-old kid managed to squeeze a buttload of cash out of his gramma to build himself a rockin’ system. AMD Athlon64 FX-55, Gigs of RAM, SLI video, the works – including a Koolance water cooling kit. Give the kid points for his hardware selection, he did the research there – which probably amounted to reading the “Best of the Best” column of MaximumPC Magazine.

Unfortunately, that’s where the reading stopped. There were problems with his assembly that led to him smoking the processor and motherboard. We assissted them with an RMA and got his kit working again, after we re-assembled everything correctly and did all the little things…Like bleeding the water system of air bubbles. (This is probably what smoked it.)

Even more unfortunately, he somehow managed to smoke the processor again, we’re not sure how. This time, his mom handled the RMA herself and accidentally told the AMD rep that the rig was water-cooled. Well, if you read the Bold print on the warranty page, it tells you right out that using anything other than the cooling solution that came with the unit voids the warranty. This includes thermal paste!

So now this poor kid has about $2500 worth of hardware that is going to sit around for the next 7-10 months while he takes out alot of garbage and mows square miles worth of lawns, because Mommy sure as hell isn’t going to shell out $800 for another processor.

Of course, that one little tidbit of information isn’t posted anywhere I can find it on retail sites or the Koolance website, so it’s only AMD that tells you. Seems to me it would be a good idea to warn folks, but I guess they are afraid of scaring away sales.

Caveat emptor indeed.


Posted in Life on July 18th, 2006

While Pookie wa in the shower, I got an email reminding me about OSCON this year, so I signed up and figured I should probably request a half-day off so I could cruise the exhibit hall.

Hmmm…webmail no-workee. Server down? Nope, none of our IP addys are responding. Crappity. The T1 is down.

Which means that the server that monitors all of our client’s servers is disconnected. Oh Fuck.

ISP tech support must know about it, because the hotline dumped me to voicemail after a 3-minutes hold time. I’ll try again now…hey, I got through. Turns out they are just doing maintenance, but my line will be down for about another hour.

WTF!?! You can’t send me an email or call me to let me know that my most important server will be down for over an hour? Ok, those of you not in my line of work are probably thinking “Dude, it’s after 10, chill.” No. In over three years of running an ISP myself, the only times I dropped the network for more than ten minutes it was because something blew up, never for maintenance. And by “blew up” I mean “smoked so bad I had to drive across town to pick up the spare head end out of the warehouse”.

And it still only took me an hour-and-a-half. (Traffic was light and the Beastie jumps when you kick her.)


ICANN, Net Neutrality and U.S. Control

Posted in Politics on July 16th, 2006

There’s been some hubbub lately over how well ICANN is running things and other interests. I honestly can’t pick one side or the other for these topics, so I’m asking you – what do you think?

Should the United States give up control of the Internet, and if so, who should take over?

This is a tough one for me. Since an American agency invented and deployed the initial Internet system before openning it up to the world, I think we should retain control of the higher functions and further development. This was all taxpayer money, so it basically belongs to all Americans who pay taxes. (Yes, I know this is a rather grandiose viewpoint, bear with me.)

Mostly, I am afraid that any organization formed to control the internet on a global scale is going to become way too much like the U.N. – basically useless due to internecine politics. Any new governing body would have to be a-political – which can’t be done.

Net Neutrality
I go back and forth so much over this one it’s a tennis match. It seems logical that telcos should be able to charge extra to heavy bandwidth users. On the other end, it gets swampy quick.

Case in point: when I was running high-speed data downtown, we once lost service for a whole week. Seems that on a Saturday morning, some nitwit punched through a fiber trunk with a backhoe. Now, that line was owned by Company A, which leased access to Company B, which sub-let it to Company C, which sub-sub-let to Company D.The physical problem took only a day to fix, but it took another day for each of the Companies in turn to verify the work completed. In this example setup, which company gets to actually charge for the faster bandwidth? Do all 4 companies get to charge? How will this affect the end-user?

Anyone have any insight?

How the mighty have fallen

Posted in Life on July 13th, 2006

Anyone who knows me understands that I file “Reality TV Shows” under the heading “Trash of the Most Heinous Sort” – usually it is so terribly massaged toward false drama that it makes me sick.

I have to admit though, that I have been casually following ‘Rockstar: Supernova’ lately for two very important reasons: Storm Large and Jill Gioia.

Storm Large is a hometown girl from right here in the Rose City. She’s had a pair of standing gigs at Dante’s and on the Riverboat for some time now, and it’s great to see her up there belting ’em out. She got to open the first show with a rendition of The Who’s “Pinball Wizard” and I was impressed by how well she sang it – it takes guts to tackle such a classic. I’ll even cut her some slack on the jumbled line in the first verse of the chorus.

Her second performance, however, was a bad choice: Cheap Trick’s “Surrender”. One, her voice is too deep for it, and two, she was in full-on lounge singer mode. I hated it.

Jill Gioia has been touring with Trans-Siberian Orchestra for some time now, so I’m already pretty familiar with her work. She’s a tremendously talented singer, and I’d love to see her hit the big show – provided she still does the TSO tours too, of course :)

The first night, she went out and belted Janis Joplin’s “Piece of my Heart” and just nailed it to the wall. I need to find the video of that performance so I can load it into my MP3 player. She dropped to the bottom three, unfortunately, and had to make up some lost ground on the second show. To prove to the guys she can sing without the rasp she chose Evanescence’s “Fallen”, a song that had already been done (poorly) by another contestant. Damn – another trophy on the wall.

The third reason I’ve been watching is an unknown: Patrice Pike. The first night, she was absolutely channeling Grace Slick for her performance of the Jefferson Airplane classic “Somebody to Love”. Impressed the hell out of me.

Enough TV for now.

It’s about damn time!

Posted in Geekery on July 12th, 2006

CNN.com – Spacecraft carrying commercial space station launches – Jul 12, 2006

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) — A Russian rocket blasted off Wednesday carrying an experimental inflatable spacecraft for an American entrepreneur who dreams of some day building a commercial space station, officials said.

Robert Bigelow (the founder of the project) envisions building a private orbiting space complex by 2015 that would be made up of several expandable Genesis-like modules linked together … He has committed $500 million toward the project.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the way the country has been fouling up the space program over the past three decades, the only way for us to establish any kind of real presence in space is for the private sector to do it. Three cheers to Bigelow for his foresight!

Of course, since Bigelow is the owner of the Budget Suites of America hotel chain, this is likely destined to be a hotel – but who gives a damn, so long as he builds it and proves it as a worthy technology :)

Okay, Okay!

Posted in Life on July 11th, 2006

When about half of your readership bitches at ya for not scribblin’, it’s time ta get scribblin’. (So what if it’s only two guys…)

There is a freaky-huge moth currently bashing it’s brains out on the flourescent fixture here in the garage. Just thought you’d like to know.

Work has been it’s usual interesting self today. Tasked with making calls to past clients to drum up new business, I got nearly nothing done because the phone kept ringing – sold a new printer + installation and scheduled a call for tomorrow.

I also got bonus points for the way I handled one of our clients. I’ve been trying to get a VPN working for him since May, with no luck. It’s based on a Linksys RV042 router with the QuickConnect VPN client software, which refuses to connect. Linksys tech support has been singularly un-helpful to the point of idiocy. (They have asked me twice now what the setup is, after I gave it to them in my original email, and they quoted it back to me in the second. Fucktards.)

Yesterday, I threw in the towel and told the Bossman about the problem and that we needed to find a different solution. We recently partnered up with a contractor to handle my overflow, so we brought him into the client today to look things over. The client reported that he has been quite happy with my handling of the situation to date and was even happier to see us bring in an outside party to find a new route to their needs. I am about 400 times more pissed off about this than the client is, which is extremely unusual. Insurance guys must be more patient or something.

Anyway, this contractor, though…wow. A dyed-in-the-wool Micro$haft FA-NA-TIC. This guy didn’t just drink the kool-aid, he stayed late and licked everyone else’s cups clean. He simply CANNOT wrap his head around any solution that does not involve a MS product. I will admit that his server skills are better than mine (one of the main reasons we brought him in), but Jehosephat! I thought his head was going to explode when I explained to him the layout of this job and that I wasn’t using the VPN functionality built into the server due to it’s un-ease-of-use. *Foomp!*

So, yes he will be useful, but the only time I will ever ask his opinion is when I know the solution will have to be a MS product, as in “what version of server2003 should we sell them?”