Shivering on the 49th Parallel
Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Last year I set up a Windows Server 2008 Core server. It was a Hyper-V virtual machine, it was minimum-spec, it didn’t do much other than be a second Domain Controller on the network so I hardly ever had to interact with it. Based on that criteria, and because I wanted to see what it was like, I installed Windows Server 2008 Core.

Windows Server 2008 Core if you’re not familiar is a Windows server with no windows: when you log in, you get a command prompt, and that’s it.

Configuring it after installing was a bit of a bear, because instead of clicking anything, you had to learn, know and type the commands into the terminal, along with all the arguments/switches. I got it set up, configured, joined to the domain and then promoted to be a domain controller and that was pretty much it. I set it up so that I could use Remote Desktop to connect to it, but what I really wanted to do was use the Server Manager on another server to connect to it and manipulate it that way.

I found out the hard way that you can’t really do that. I did find a piece of software written in Visual Basic called CoreConfigurator which created a text-menu-based configuration helper and it was pretty good. They also had a Version 2 which was written in Powershell that had a bit of a GUI to it… but it wasn’t compatible with Windows Server 2008 (the Vista server, if you will) only Windows Server 2008 R2 (the Windows 7 server). I pretty much dropped it after that, since it was running and I didn’t need to do anything to it.

Eventually I upgraded it to Server 2008 R2 when my licensing allowed me to and then I could use CoreConfigurator V2.0. Remote management still wasn’t working, despite the server’s command-line status updates to the contrary. Again, it was working and I had more important things to do.

Today I was trying to track down something (seemingly) entirely unrelated. Some clients could access a DFS share on the domain, and others could not. I followed the trail to the Domain Controller (DC1) and checked DNS services, and they were all fine. I then looked at DC1’s DNS servers and it was pointing at DC2 (the Server Core) so I opened it up and checked it out. I thought to myself “Wouldn’t it be nice if I could control DC2 with the Server Manager on DC1?” so I decided to take another run at it.

On DC2 I entered winrm quickconfig to see what was configured. As expected, it said:
WinRM already is set up to receive requests on this machine.
WinRM already is set up for remote management on this machine.

So I tried “Connect to another computer” in Server Manager and… bonk. “Server Manager cannot connect to server_name. Click retry to try to connect again.” opening the details tab had more detail, but it’s pretty much all gibberish even to me. “Connecting to remote server failed with the following error message: The WS-Management service cannot process the request. The resource URI ...:// was not found in the WS-Management catalog. The catalog contains the metadata that describes resources, or logical endpoints.” Right.

I started with the error code, and then the hex code and ultimately ended up at a Microsoft KnowledgeBase article that hit the nail right on the head.

Error message in Windows Server 2008 R2 or in Windows 7 when you try to connect to a remote server: "Server Manager cannot connect to <server_name>"

Following this article, I typed sconfig from the command-line on the server core, chose item 4 “Configure Remote Management” and then option 3 “Allow Server Manager Remote Management”. It then re-configured Win-RM (which was already configured correctly) but interestingly added three new rules! It didn’t say what those rules were, but after restarting the server (because I had to enable PowerShell) I was able to connect to the server using Server Manager from any of my other servers or my Windows 7 laptop.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011 12:35:39 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Tech | Active Directory | Microsoft | Networking | Servers | Windows#
Thursday, May 26, 2011

You know what I like about taking Part Time Studies computer classes at BCIT at night? The crowd is a little older, and they’re all already nerds.

I’m taking COMP1451 this semester, which is part two/continuation of COMP1409, “Introduction to Object Oriented Programming” For this class, we’ve been using BlueJ as the… well, I don’t want to call it a development environment, but it kinda is. It’s pretty cool, it’s great for illustrating concepts using Java, but it’s not really a full-on Java development tool.

We’re just over half-way through part 2 of the course and tonight the instructor introduced Eclipse. Eclipse IS a full-blown Java Development Environment, and we spent the evening learning (and re-learning) the differences between what we thought was Java and what really is Java.

One of the exercises we did was to use Eclipse to generate constructors and source code automatically, saving a lot of grunt work typing of really basic things. In BlueJ, one of the things you could do was hit ctrl+m and it would insert a new method at the cursor, complete with javadoc comments. You could fill in what you needed, take out what you didn’t and carry on.

     * An example of a method - replace this comment with your own
     * @param  y   a sample parameter for a method
     * @return     the sum of x and y
    public int sampleMethod(int y)
        // put your code here
        return y;

I used that shortcut a lot, and even developed a little muscle-memory to ctrl-M every time I needed to create a new method. I asked the teacher if there was something similar in Eclipse to save a few keystrokes and she wasn’t sure. We poked around a bit in the Source menu before she said “well, I guess you’ll have to do it the old-fashioned way” and pointed at the keyboard.

I entwined my fingers, turned them inside out as if to crack my knuckles and said “A keyboard. How quaint…” I reached for the mouse, picked it and spoke into it like a microphone “Oh, Computer…” and without even imitating a bad Scottish accent, the instructor, the TA and the two guys on either side of me cracked up.

Someone later pointed out that that movie is 25 years old, but ya know what? Classics never get old. Smile


Thursday, May 26, 2011 9:36:51 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Tech#
Monday, August 30, 2010

About a year ago or so, I tried to enable SNMP monitoring on m SonicWall TZ170. SNMP is useful for monitoring things like bandwidth usage (by port… so in the TZ170’s case it would tell me how much traffic this hour/day/week/month/year/etc had been funneled through the LAN connection and each of the WAN connections) I wrestled with it for a week or so, failed and gave up. I read the documentation, I configured everything correctly (according to the docs) and… nothing.

Earlier this summer, my TZ170 started flaking out. It would stop responding (like a reboot) for 30 seconds or so. Two times this morning, another time in the afternoon, again overnight… and when it did it took down both internet connections, incoming and outgoing email and all the inter-office VPN links. Not a great situation. By the time anyone noticed and called, it would be back up again. The TZ170 has been discontinued for awhile now, and I wasn’t even able to get any more from a used/recertified reseller in California that had kept me going for awhile. Fortunately, the newer TZ210 is backwards compatible with the TZ170s AND I was able to take advantage of the competitive upgrade to get one cheap cheap, if I signed up for three years of SonicWALL services (content filtering, gateway antivirus, etc).

The TZ210 is great. Each of it’s 8 ports can be configured as a LAN or a WAN port which gives you a lot of flexibility. With the help of a local Sonicwall Partner/technician we were even able to export the settings on the old TZ170 and import it onto the TZ210 and then just re-configure a few things and be back up and running in an hour or so, rather than a day or so of re-creating all the settings and VPN tunnels manually. We even upgraded the VPN tunnels to a better encryption scheme and documented everything (now where did I save that text file…)

Now that I had 8 more-configurable ports, I decided to give the SNMP monitoring another shot. I installed PRTG freeware version on a spare computer, downloaded the MIBs from SonicWall’s support site and then converted/imported them into PRTG as OIDs (Most of these TLAs are beyond even my knowledge…) I added a new device in PRTG and then attached some sensors to it… I gave it the IP address of the SonicWall TZ210, selected SNMP and… it failed.

I went into the SonicWall web interface and confirmed that the network interface’s properties had the SNMP checkbox checked, and that on the Administration tab, that SNMP was configured and had the IP address of the PRTG computer entered and that the community string was set correctly, but it still failed.

Using some of the PRTG testing tools, there was flat-out no response from the SonicWall on port 161 or 162 (the default SNMP ports). Without breaking out a packet sniffer, I deduced that the SonicWALL was dropping the packets. I went to the Firewall config and added a rule allowing LAN to LAN using protocol SNMP. Still nothing.

At that point (late last week) I gave up (again). I did some Googling and came across a couple of entries on Experts Exchange, but even though I have a login it wouldn’t show me the answer, instead telling me I needed to become an expert or pay $12.95/month to see the answer. Lame. That’s new…

I bitched about it on Twitter, stating it was too bad that I couldn’t automatically append a “” to all my queries to make sure I didn’t get any (now useless) search results from their site. Someone responded that if you follow a link from Google or Bing directly to Experts-Exchange, it will show the answer if you scroll down past all the ads… which is the behavior I was used to, but wasn’t happening on these particular articles.

I tried the SonicWALL forums, and people were using SNMP, so it wasn’t broken or anything… Ultimately I opened a support ticket with SonicWALL (hey I paid for 3 years of it, may as well make use of it!) and they called me first thing this morning and got it sorted out.

I'm not sure if SonicWALL does things differently from the SNMP spec… but then again I’m not an SNMP expert who would know the difference. Here’s the gist of what Darshan the tech went over with me:

  • You DO need the IP address of the system/software that’s monitoring the SNMP does have to be entered on the SNMP configuration page.
  • You DO need the checkbox on the network interface page does have to have SNMP checked.
  • You DO NOT need to create a firewall rule allowing SNMP traffic from LAN to LAN on the firewall. When it’s configured correctly, it auto-creates one that you can’t change.
  • You DO have to use the SonicWALL MIBs that are specific to each model of firewall.

We did end up doing a packet capture and seeing that the SNMP packets were being dropped, which led us back to the Firewall config page and removal of the custom firewall rule. Once we did that (and I think this is the key) we removed the SNMP checkbox from the interface config, let the firewall save/update it’s settings and then re-enabled it. After that, PRTG magically worked.

Now I just have to figure out which settings and ports I want to monitor and get those set up in PRTG! Smile

Monday, August 30, 2010 8:13:49 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [2] | Tech | Hardware | Networking#
Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I’ve written before about what a huge, horrible, steaming pile of horse shit you have to wade through to install a 32-bit (x86) driver on a 64-bit (x64) server. It’s SO counter-intuitive it makes me want to scrape my eyeballs out with a grapefruit spoon and then chop off my fingers so I won’t be able to see a computer or type ever again.

In a nutshell, you need to have a 32-bit client running Vista or Windows 7, install “the full meal deal” printer driver on that client, THEN connect to the 64-bit server’s printer share (\\server\printer) and then tell it to use the existing driver. That will then UPLOAD the driver from the client machine to the server and make it available to other 32-bit clients who try to connect to it.

Today I’m in the opposite situation. I PURPOSELY set up a 32-bit Windows Server 2008 (not R2, which is 64-bit only) to run my print queues because 99.9% of my network is 32-bit Windows XP clients and I didn’t want to have to go through this rigmarole for every single one of them. *MY* laptop, however is running Windows 7 Professional 64-bit and it’s unable to connect to the shared printers on the 32-bit server.

Rather than duplicate the steps above, since I was feeling saucy and experimental, I went the other(old) way around. On the 32-bit server, I opened the printer properties, went to the sharing tab and clicked on Additional Drivers. I checked the 64-bit box and it asked me for a driver. I clicked Browse. I navigated to the folder where I had the 64-bit driver .inf file for the printer, selected it and clicked OK.

Fast-forward a few seconds and the window closed, and the box was checked. Just like that. Just how it USED to be in older versions of Windows Server. I went back to my laptop, tried to connect to the printer, and this time instead of failing and saying “Driver Unknown” or even worse, the  0x0004005 error which is one of the more generic error codes you’ll ever see. (I always thought it was “Access Denied”, but that’s just ONE of the errors it COULD be.) Up came a NEW dialog box. Do you trust this printer driver? Yes, of course I do. Just like that, it mapped the printer, using the 64-bit driver on the 32-bit server.

If it’s so bloody easy to do that with a 64-bit driver on a 32-bit server, why the HELL is it SO difficult and bass-ackwards to do it on a 32-bit driver with a 64-bit server??

Wednesday, August 18, 2010 10:09:35 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Tech | Deployment | Hardware | Microsoft | Networking | Servers | Windows#
Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Last Friday, one of the workers here in the office came over to me and said that he got an error in his inbox about a message that had been delayed. Not permanently, just delayed. I said OK, leave it, it’ll retry again for the next 48 hours and looked into it.

I connected to the Exchange 2010 server and opened Exchange Management Console and went straight to the Toolbox and clicked on Queue Viewer. There they were, pretty ducks all in a row all with DNS FAILURE errors. Huh. Interesting. I saw this happen once before when we were setting the server up. The DNS server it was set to use was offline, so no DNS resolution meant it didn’t know where to send the mail. Thinking this was the case this time, I checked the Network Adapter settings and saw that the preferred DNS server was the other VM “next to” the Exchange 2010 VM and the secondary was set to “my” DNS server here in my office.

I checked my DNS server first, just to make sure the service was running, and it was. I then checked the DNS server that was it’s primary and it, too, was running. Mystery. Nslookup queries failed and timed out even for common domain names. Not good. This was happening on both DNS servers.

I called in a support ticket (this was Friday at 4:00) and found out that the Exchange SysAdmin was on vacation and not back until Monday, and he was being covered by another Exchange SysAdmin on East Coast time. She called me back about 20 minutes later and we worked on it for a good 40 minutes with no resolution. She figured that since the DNS server was rebooted, it had been unable to contact the

PDC role holder and authorize/activate itself and that there must be a problem with the VPN between my network and hers.

This seemed like a valid diagnosis, as the other Administrator here at work told me that our router had been failing every 30-40 minutes, but recovering after a minute or two and was obviously dying. Yikes. This caused a little panic as ALL my sites use the same router/firewall and they’re discontinued and I hadn’t yet created a contingency plan to replace them.

She escalated the ticket up to tier 3 networking support, who tested the VPN and said that everything was up on their end, but they couldn’t ping my side of the VPN, therefore there was a problem with the VPN and it was on my end. (naturally). I don’t know too much about the router/firewalls we use here, I’ve been slowly learning as I went, but diagnostics and troubleshooting was beyond the scope of my knowledge beyond “well the blinky light is green, not red, so it’s up”.

Further compounding the matter was that this VPN was temporary, because we were switching it on Monday from an Internet VPN to a private, routed DSL connection into their MPLS network. That ADSL modem was plugged in to power and phone, but not into the LAN as it was just for testing.

At some point over the weekend, one of the emails from their networking people said that they could ping as far as but no further. This was when the light bulb went off in my head. .252 is the address of the new ADSL router, NOT the VPN endpoint! Their network techs were trying to reach my network via a device that was physically unplugged! I thought it was odd, since I was connecting from home via VPN through the same device and it was up.

Monday came and I plugged the DSL modem into the LAN and disabled the Internet VPN connection from my network to theirs, created a new route for all traffic destined for their network to use this new gateway and everything seemed to be working. Outlook clients in my LAN segment were connecting via the MPLS network, verified by the IP addresses on a traceroute… I could Remote Desktop the virtual servers in their network… everything seemed to be working, but their network guys could still not ping my LAN from the MPLS gateway, even though I could ping back to my network from the Virtual servers (which was the important part anyway) so that left me with the DNS problem, which was still ongoing and some people were now starting to get NDRs because the 48 hours had timed out.

I started with my own laptop, and did an nslookup query. request timed out. Damnit! I checked the DNS server, the service was running, I restarted it, it still failed. I looked at the event log and there were a bunch of “DNS server encountered an invalid domain name” errors, but the errors were coming from all these weird IP addresses that were not in my network. I then thought that perhaps it was the forwarding that wasn’t working, based upon a few results that came up when I searched that error message online. I checked the forwarders on my DNS server and found that they were set to use two servers, one of which resolved to a hostname and both of which did not respond to an nslookup query. How on earth did I end up with two (seemingly) random Shaw Cable DNS servers for my forwarders when I have a Telus ADSL connection in this office? that could explain why they didn’t respond; my IP address wasn’t in the Shaw Cable network!

I changed the two forwarders to and which is OpenDNS. I then restarted the DNS Server service and BAM! nslookups all worked. I then went back to the Exchange server and tried again. Still failed. OK, I have an idea of what’s going on now, so I connected to the DNS server there and checked it’s event logs. Similar messages, different addresses. I opened the DNS snap-in and went right to the forwarders. The two forwarders on this server were two Telus servers! This was a co-located (sort of) Virtual Server within an ISP, so how did I end up with Telus servers there?! I changed those two forwarders to OpenDNS and restarted the DNS Server service and as I was opening a command prompt window on the Exchange 2010 server to try an nslookup again, I could see the emails in the retry queue (which was still open) begin to flow out. I tried nslookup queries on a couple domain names that I knew were in the retry queue and they all answered lightning fast as non-authoritative responses.

SO in the end, I figured it out myself, but the million-dollar question that I can’t answer is HOW did my local DNS server get a Shaw DNS server as a forwarder, and how did the VM DNS server in the datacenter get a Telus one??

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 8:44:13 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Tech | Active Directory | Mail Server | Microsoft | Networking | Servers | Windows#
Wednesday, March 17, 2010

There are a lot of blogs, classes, tutorials, how-tos, workshops, links and opinions on how to best deploy Windows 7 using the new Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2010. What there’s a distinct lack of is how to make these tools work with XP which most of us are still using. I am planning to move to Windows 7 x64 later this year, but we have a software dependency on 32-bit Windows that we have to get past first (and no, Windows XP mode won’t cut it for this app)

I spent most of yesterday downloading software and patches. the Windows Automated Installation Kit 2.0 (which supports Win7, 2008 R2 and back to XP) was a 1.7gb iso file which took a couple hours.

Eventually last night I was ready to start the capture of an existing Windows XP box that I could then deploy to the other new machines.

This morning I tried to do it and it failed. I assumed it was permissions-based since the error was 0x00004005 which I know from past experience is “Access is denied”. After sorting that out, it still failed. Trolling through forums from a Google search, I found some people were able to get it to work by using the IP address of the deployment server, or sometimes the FQDN, rather than just "\\server\share$”

I rebooted, opened Windows Explorer and navigated to \\192.168.x.x\share$ and when it asked me to authenticate (because this is a workgroup computer and the share is a domain resource) I entered my credentials and then I double-clicked the litetouch.vbs script to kick off the imaging process. This time it seemed to work, it downloaded the WinPE files needed, ran sysprep and then rebooted to capture the image… except that’s when it failed.

Digging into the winpeinit.log I saw that there’s no NIC. Awesome. Great. I figured that the driver for the NIC would be part of the Windows image, but I overlooked the fact that the WinPE boot-time would also need the NIC in order to connect to a network share and create the disc image there, and the new machines would need the NIC driver to connect to that same share and copy the image down to the local computer.

No biggie, except that the computer is now stuck in a loop booting into WinPE rather than back into Windows XP. I injected the driver for the NIC into the deployment share’s Out Of Box Drivers and rebuilt/updated the deployment (which also adds the NIC driver to the winpe.iso file). All that’s left to do now is to PXE boot the machine which will download the new winpe (now with more NIC flavor) and start over… except now my PXE server isn’t configured properly :p

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 11:27:45 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Tech | Deployment | Microsoft | Networking | Servers | Windows#
Friday, February 12, 2010

(or a 64-bit domain anyway)

Hooray! 32-bit is dead! Long live 64-bit! … … … not exactly.

While there are more 64-bit machines out there now than there were a year ago and tons more than a few years ago, a lot of businesses are still firmly entrenched in 32-bit Windows XP. I know we are.

We’re a pretty good example of someone who SHOULD make the leap to a 64-bit OS. If there’s one segment of the market that supports 64-bit and is extremely memory-hungry, it’s CAD work. And we’re all about CAD work. I’ve recently upgraded all the computers to 4GB of RAM and standardized them on one video card (nVidia Quadro FX 580 512MB), they’re not taking full advantage of that 4GB of memory because the 32-bit XP Professional can’t address it all. Even with the /3GB switch in the win.ini file, that just means acad.exe can use more than the 2GB limit per process… but I’m getting off topic.

When I started here in Q4 of 2008, I took one look at the “datacenter” and my jaw dropped. The main file server was an old IBM x-server with a Pentium III and a whopping 768mb of RAM and a couple 160GB hard drives in RAID1. The web/intranet server was an even older one. Both were running Windows Server 2000. The Domain Controller was newer, it at least had Windows Server 2003 on it, but it was consumer-grade, non-redundant components in a 2U rackmounted case.

Before Christmas rolled around I had replaced the ancient file server with a pair of Supermicro SuperServers with Quad-core Xeons, 4GB of RAM and 5x1TB SATA2 drives in RAID5 configurations and added an LTO-4 tape backup to the mix. Between Christmas and New Years, the web server died so I replaced that one with another Supermicro identical to the first two, but with just 2x250 and 2x500GB drives in RAID1. All of these servers were running Windows Server 2008 Standard x64.

This led me to a major problem: I was able to install printer drivers for each of the printers on the servers themselves, but with the 64-bit drivers. Client computers (XP Pro SP2 x86) tried to connect and failed because they couldn’t use the 64-bit drivers. In the old days, you could go to the sharing tab of the printer properties and click “Additional Drivers” and that was pretty much that, but cross-architecture is a little more squirrelly, and the solution is counter-intuitive.

Here is how to provide a 32-bit driver in the Additional Drivers page on a 64-bit server:

Step 1: Install the 64-bit driver on the server itself and make sure that you can print.

Step 2: On a 32-bit client (I used XP Pro) download and unpack the drivers for the desired printer (in my case it was an HP Laserjet 4600).

Step 3: Open Windows Explorer and navigate to your printer share: \\64-bit_server\ and then double-click Printers and Faxes.

Step 4: Right-click the desired printer and  select Connect. It will do it’s thing and then Uh-Oh.. where’s the driver? It will ask you to provide a driver. Browse to your local folder where you’ve stashed the .inf files for the printer and let it install. Print a test page to make sure it’s working on your computer.

Step 5: On the server, right-click the printer you just added and select Properties. Click the Sharing tab, and then click the “Additional Drivers” button. Click to check the “x86” button for 2000/XP and click OK. The server will then request the x86 versions of the files FROM your local workstation and upload them TO the server.

This is the back-asswards part that tripped me up. You’re actually uploading the driver TO the server so it’s able to them DOWNLOAD it to OTHER x86 clients that request it.

Step 6: Click ok, ok, ok, all the way back out and you should be good to go.

Friday, February 12, 2010 5:00:00 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [2] | Tech | Microsoft | Networking | Servers | Windows#
Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Dingle Dangle Dongle… I’m Robert Goulet! doo da deee da dabba doooo

Seriously. It’s 2010. Who still uses Parallel port hardware locks? For that matter WHO STILL USES PARALLEL PORTS?

One of our (I thought older) software packages we use where I work has a parallel port dongle. Dongle not there? No design software for you!

What happens when you upgrade someone off some ancient AMD Athlon to a newer computer from the last few years? one that doesn’t even have a parallel port on the back anymore? Well… not much! But wait! there’s USB! People still make and use USB dongles! We’ll just ask the vendor to replace it! What? No? You don’t have anymore? But the software is still supported isn’t it? Yes? Well what happens if someone loses their dongle? What if there’s a fire? They’re SOL? Maybe? Who knows.

Eventually someone got back to us and said that since version 10.1 you don’t NEED the dongle anymore. We’re on 10.7 so we should be OK without it… right? No?

OH, you mean we have to completely uninstall the whole thing, then re-install from the non-customized version on the DVD, and then apply eight service packs plus our customizations? Sure no problem! I’ll get right on that! I didn’t have anything to do all day, nor did the operator who’s computer is out of commission all day now, either!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010 1:15:44 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [1] | Rants | Tech#
Thursday, January 28, 2010
About a week later the server died. I diagnosed over the phone that it was the power supply and rather than travel over for 5 hours & a ferry ride and then have to stay over just to replace a $100 power supply, I had them take it to a local computer store and have them replace it.
Thursday, January 28, 2010 11:23:10 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Tech | Active Directory | Hardware | Microsoft | Servers#
Friday, January 22, 2010

WSUS is a pretty cool piece of software. Basically it acts as a “Windows Update” server for your network. Rather than have all your computers download the same updates each from Windows Update, your WSUS server dowloads it once and then distributes it to all the computers that need it over your LAN connection which is much speedier than 99.9% of the internet connections out there. It also gives you a single place to go to and approve updates. Heard bad things about an update? Don’t approve it for installation and it won’t make it’s way onto any of your machines until you do (or they release an update to supersede it). A nice solution for small and medium sized networks.

You can extend it out to different geographical sites, too. Using a downstream replica server, you can have your server in another office “take it’s lead” from your server and either download the updates from you, or (and this is cool) only download updates that you’ve approved on your server from Microsoft’s servers. If you have a metered or slow connection between the offices, this is a great solution. You still only have one place to approve/deny updates, but you don’t chew up bandwidth pushing the updates from Office A to Office B.

This is the setup that I have. I have six offices (and two satellite offices but they’re not part of the corporate network) and aside from head office, there’s only one server in each location. These servers are Domain Controllers (for logins & resource management), WSUS downstream replicas for Windows Updates, and File & Print servers for that office.

WSUS uses Group Policy Objects (GPOs) to configure your clients (XP, Vista, Windows 7, Server 2003, 2003 R2, 2008, 2008 R2) to look at your own server for Windows Updates, as well as how often to check, and whether or not to allow the users to defer a restart so as not to interrupt them in the middle of something. Here’s where my setup gets trickxy.

I have a GPO called WSUS-Office A that I apply to the Active Directory Site called “Office A” so anyone who logs in at Office A will have their Windows Update Automatic Updates (WUAU) client pointed at the local server. Other offices have their own GPO assigned to their sites to keep everyone looking at the closest/fastest server/connection.

The hitch I ran into today was with my servers because of the Out Of Bound security bulletin released by Microsoft today for MS010-002. Because of the Big Scary Crisis surrounding it, and the fact that it was listed as Critical and affecting IE 6, IE7 and IE8 on Windows 2000 SP4 all the way up to Windows Server 2008 R2, I manually synchronized my WSUS with Microsoft this morning, downloaded the updates and approved them.

I also did a dirty thing to my users: I set a deadline in WSUS of noon today for the installation. That means that they’ll be notified of the download, and if they click the little yellow shield it will install it and then say “Time to restart!” but they can click Restart Later. Once the deadline passes, however, they don’t have a choice. the window comes up and says “restart your computer or I’ll do it for you” and starts a 15 minute countdown timer. I don’t do it often, so they know that I only do it for “critical” updates. Plus I emailed everyone last night and told them it was happening and posted it on the Intranet as an announcement. This morning they all got a second email that it would happen shortly.

Where the patch wasn’t installed was on some of my servers. Some of them got the update, and some of them installed it and rebooted without warning (oops, but they were warned). I started looking into why some of the servers installed it and some didn’t. My first thought was that the Server 2003 servers did but the Server 2008 & R2 servers did not. I thought perhaps that the GPO didn’t apply to/configure the Windows 2008 clients, but that was wrong, too.

Finally I compared a 2008 virtual machine’s Windows Update screen (which wasn’t working) to a 2008 physical machine’s Windows Update screen (which was). The 2008 VM said “You receive updates: For Windows and other products from Microsoft Update” and the 2008 host said “You receive updates: Managed by your System Administrator” Further investigation into the registry (HKLM\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Windows Update\AU\) showed that the settings that were specified in the GPO were applied to the 2008 Host, but not the 2008 VM.

It then dawned on me that the difference between the two was the host was a member server and the VM was a domain controller. That led me to GPresult and Group Policy Modelling. Using the DC and Administrator accounts, the GPO (identified by a GUID rather than it’s name) that was applied to the site was denied application due to SOM (Scope of Management).

I expanded the forest folders and drilled down to the Domain Controllers OU and saw a blue exclamation mark on it. Blocked Inheritance. That meant that the Domain Controllers OU was going to not inherit any settings from GPOs ‘above’ it, including sites.

So my choices at this point are to remove the block and let everything apply to the DCs. Not a very good idea. There were three policies which would have applied to the DCs: the Default Domain Policy, Remote Desktop Policy and Office 2007 File Format Policy.

The Office 2007 File Format Policy is tame, all it does is make the default filetype for saving the Office 97-2003 compatible instead of the new .docx, .xlsx and .pptx formats. Remote Desktop Policy is equally benign. It’s denied to Domain Admins and auto-disconnects clients from Remote Desktop after 10 minutes of inactivity so it wouldn’t really apply anyway.

The Default Domain Policy had a fair amount of settings in it though: Firewall settings, password policies, that sort of thing which I don’t necessarily want to apply to my Domain Controllers.

SO, removing the Block Inheritance setting probably wouldn’t be a good idea.

The other thing I could do is apply the WSUS-Office A policy to the Domain Controllers OU. It would get around the Block Inheritance issue without applying the default domain policy to them, but it would also “point” each of my offices’ Domain Controllers back here over the slow, metered internet connection. Not ideal either.

The other thing I could do is copy each of the WSUS-OfficeX policies and then apply ALL of them to the Domain Controllers OU and use filtering to make sure that each office’s policy only applies to that office’s WSUS server. That doubles the amount of work I’d have to do if I changed one of the servers though, and if I forgot, it would mean that one of the Domain Controllers was pointing at a non-existing Update Server which could leave it unprotected/unpatched. Guh. Meh. Not ideal.

SO that’s where it stands now. I haven’t done anything yet. I’m remembering in the short term to manually check the DCs for Windows Updates until I can come up with a little more elegant solution to the GPO filtering situation.

Friday, January 22, 2010 5:00:00 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Tech | Microsoft | Servers | Windows#
Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Back in January I posted a few articles about Windows 7 Beta and what it did to my laptop. It’s not Microsoft’s fault, it’s a combination of Dell and nVidia’s faults. It was the perfect storm: a known design flaw in the video card that affected a boatload of Dell, HP, Sony and Macintosh notebooks. On top of that was a poor design choice by Dell to not actually have contact between the overheating GPU chip and the copper heat pipe that’s supposed to cool it. On top of that was running a Beta OS. On top of that, using a pre-beta alpha-release of a driver for said beta os on a flawed laptop with a flawed GPU. A perfect storm.

While watching a video full-screen in Windows Media Player, the GPU overheated and blew up. Not only did it crash and blue screen and completely wipe out the running OS, but somehow it managed to overwrite the GPU BIOS! That shouldn’t be POSSIBLE, but it happened. The computer would boot up, just no screen. If I watched and waited for the hard drive to stop spinning away during bootup, typed my password and hit enter, it would log me in! I could HEAR the windows startup sound, but no video. No video on the external monitor or HDMI ports, either. Ultimately, because it was under warranty, Dell sent out a technician who replaced the whole motherboard, GPU included (although they replaced it with the same broke-ass GPU chip) so the story ended happily.

One of the things I noticed in the beta was the feedback system, which I used extensively (duh, that’s what betas are for) until I couldn’t. The big huge crash dump from the video card was never sent because after the motherboard was replaced, I was too scared to put the Windows 7 hard drive back in again. I figured I would wait until another beta (or RC) came out and hopefully there’d be a newer driver from nVidia available then, too.

On another note, there’s a way to use a clean, shiny penny to sandwich between the GPU and the heat pipe which drastically improves the transfer of heat to the heat pipe and can avoid just such an occurrence. (you can google nVidia GeForce 8400M GS Copper Mod to see for yourself). On the down side, doing so invalidates your warranty. I’ve refrained from doing it because of that, but when the warranty runs out, that’s on my to-do list for the very next day. Instead of doing a recall and replacing the bum chips (and the heat pipe while they were at it) Dell instead extended everyone’s warranty by 12 months, so if your laptop blows up (like mine did) you’re covered for an extra year.. but if it happens AGAIN after that period, you’ve got a dead laptop. No one else did anything better (HP, Sony, even Apple) so I don’t want to be TOO unfair and shit all over Dell only because they and their tech support have been very good to me over the years. No, really! :)

The Windows 7 RC is out today and will work (for free) until June 10th, 2010 or about 13 months. In the fine print is that starting 2 months before that, your computer will shut down every 2 hours as a warning sign that the expiration is imminent and that it’s time to get a properly licensed copy. Hopefully there’s an upgrade path so you can punch in a new product code and activate Windows without having to re-install with the release version. I can’t see myself NOT re-installing with 100% gold code, but I’m sure there will be people out there who have tweaked and modded their user profile and software set-up JUST SO and won’t relish the thought of starting over.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009 9:04:58 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [6] | Links | Tech | Microsoft#
Monday, February 2, 2009
Did I mention that since it’s the first business day after the 15th of the month that it was TPS report day??
Monday, February 2, 2009 5:01:37 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [2] | Tech#
Thursday, January 22, 2009

I’m not sure how I could have possibly forgot, but I let this domain expire. :)


I saw the email from Network Solutions on my phone this morning and assumed it was just one of those “your services expire in six months! renew now!” semi-junkmails. Nope! this one said “Your Network Solutions Service has Expired”.




And the DAY before payday, too. Ahh well. I suppose that’s what credit cards are for.

Since my laptop is down for the count (I’m expecting the new replacement laptop to arrive today or tomorrow) I haven't synced my iPhone for about two weeks since I installed Windows 7 to try it out so it hasn’t been syncing my calendar.

My email is downloaded via POP3 from my Exchange mailbox, so when I connect to Outlook Web Access, I don’t have contacts or calendar to remind me there, either.

In the end, no harm, no foul. I’m back up and running and the DNS servers probably didn’t even have a chance to propagate to the pending deletion landing page.

Dell now has three open service calls for me, and I sense it’s going to get worse before it gets better.The local firm that Dell contracts to do their re/re’s told me that I would be receiving a new unit. Then Dell’s national technician appointment center called me to let me know a new part had shipped out and I would be contacted by a technician to arrange a time to come and do it. Then the local tech’s dispatch called me to tell me that the parts hadn’t arrived and would call me back tomorrow (today now) when the parts arrived.

I stopped him and asked him if I was getting a new motherboard or a new system, and he didn’t know, but thought that it was odd that the delivery address was both my home address and their business address.

I got his cell phone number and name and said if nothing showed up by Friday noon I would call him back and he could sort it out with Dell. Fortunately (for both me and Dell) I’m not a one-computer household that’s relying on this one system. I’ve got Laurie’s desktop, her netbook she got for Christmas and a media server plus my work laptop all at my disposal. He thanked me for my patience and said he would be in touch shortly.

Thursday, January 22, 2009 8:24:54 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Tech | WWW#
Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Dell’s local supply chain technician called me yesterday morning to set up a time to replace the parts on my laptop that seemingly blew up. They didn’t have the parts yet, but were expecting them later that day so they’re going to call me back this morning to arrange a time to do the repair.

I brought my laptop to work, and the tech’s office is actually just around the corner from mine, so that way he could do it whenever and when I take it home tonight it’s fixed.

I turned to my co-worker James and said “hey, do you want to see my screwed-up video card?” he came over and I turned the laptop on…. and it worked! WHAT THE HELL??

I’ll mention it to the repair tech, but I’ll still have him replace the parts. Save him a trip out again later, ESPECIALLY if he can replace the GPU with another, non-f’d up one.

Update: Well it must have been it's final hurrah. when the technician arrived, it came up with the BIOS logo screen, but then died. He began to disassemble the laptop to replace the system board (that's the motherboard in Dell-speak) and unfortunately it has the same GPU chip on it as the one being replaced. Ultimately he had to stop and make arrangements to come back tomorrow because--get this-- he couldn't get one of the screws out and has to get a different screwdriver. I have one that's the perfect size for laptops, but unfortunately I left it behind on Vancouver Island last week. He's coming back tomorrow to finish it. It's a darned good thing that I'm a huge nerd and have three other computers at home I can use until this one is back up and running.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009 8:57:30 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [1] | Tech | Gadgets | Microsoft | Windows#
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Ahh the joys and risks of running beta software.
This morning I fired up an xvid video that I downloaded and partway through the video, the audio stuttered and then froze and the screen froze. The screen went black. then it came back, then went black again. i tried to hit escape, out of full screen so maybe i could catch it and click close, but before that happened, I got a Blue Screen Of Death (BSOD). No big deal, they happen from time to time and it IS beta software.
The problem was when the computer restarted, I didn't get the Dell logo screen. I didn't get the Windows logo startup screen. I didn't get a login screen. What I got was a series of lines running top to bottom mostly on the left side of the monitor... multicolored but slowly becoming all white. The rest of the screen slowly started showing vertical lines until eventually the whole screen turned white. Not good. What the hell? How could a crash physically damage hardware? I tried turning it off and on again, same thing.
Watching closely, I could see and hear the BIOS POST (Power On Self Test). After a minute or two, the hard drive activity light blinked out. On a hunch, I entered my password and hit enter. Hard drive activity resumed and it logged me in. Of course, I couldn't see anything so all I could do was shut down gracefully.
Using my other computer, I checked Dell's support site and did the diagnostics they suggested. Turns out my LCD monitor is fine, but the video card is hosed. How on earth did watching a video cause a crash in the driver that resulted in not only a BSOD but a physical corruption of the card itself? That's unheard of!
In hindsight, I think it was a combination of things. My laptop has the nVidia GM8400 video card in it which is known to have a major design flaw. This affected Dell, HP, even Apple's MacBook Pro laptops that had this chip in it. Ultimately Dell extended the warranty of every system with this chip in it for free. The combination of a flawed video chip and a beta driver for a beta OS was a recipe for disaster.
Ultimately I had to call Dell. The NEXT major obstacle is that I bought this laptop through my corporate account... through Dell Latin America. I'm now in Canada and have to have the system transferred. I called the Dell XPS tech support line (XPS has it's own tech support department, which is one of the nice things about paying a premium for a product) I got through to a technician with a slight FRENCH accent, which leads me to believe the call center is here in Canada, rather than Panama for Dell Latin America or India for Dell US and A.
I explained what happened, and what steps I had already taken. (Having dealt with Dell Tech Support for issues for the hundreds of systems I had at my last job, I learned how to work WITH them rather than them having to rely on their flowcharts) I also told him that since this was the known-bad GPU, that I'd prefer to have a technician come on-site and replace the GPU rather than send my laptop in for depot service. You just never know if you're going to get your own computer back, with a freshly-installed OS and no data, photos, emails, contacts or anything else on it. They said no problem, got my address and-waitasecond. This address isn't in Grand Cayman.
Uh-oh. He processed the dispatch for me and then said he was transferring me to customer care to update my records, since tech support has read-only access to customer records. He gave me the case number and transferred me to Customer Care reception. I gave them my case number and said I needed to transfer from Latin America to Canada, and he put me through to someone. Someone else picked up right away (I think I spent less than 2 minutes on hold this whole time so far) and I explained my situation to him. This person, who DID have an Indian accent told me that it was purchased through a corporate account and would have to be dealt with by the corporate sales department, not customer care and would transfer me. I tried to stop him, and he listened to what I had to say and then repeated his script and transferred me... to an automated message saying that the department I was trying to reach is currently closed, and please try again on the next business day. ARRRRRRRGH! I hung up and the call was 19:44 seconds.
I re-dialed the XPS number, and again got a technician, Robby, who sounded Canadian. I said I had just called a few minutes ago, spoke to a tech, got a case number and then was transferred to Customer Care who sent me down a rabbit hole into a dead end. He apologized, asked for my case number, re-confirmed my name, address, email and phone number. Then he said he would re-submit it to dispatch and could he put me on hold for 3-5 minutes. He came back on in about 3 minutes and told me everything was set, he gave me a dispatch number and told me a technician would be calling me sometime early next week (because it's 5:00 PST on a Saturday) to schedule the best time to come and replace the part. Just like that. I asked him if they were going to replace it with the same GPU, the nVidia 8400 that's known bad or were they going to replace it with something that wasn't borked by the factory. He said he didn't know, it would be up to the technician. If they had a better solution at the time of install then yes they would replace my GPU with a different one.
SO. Windows 7 beta: out. nVidia GS8400m: out. Dell XPS tech support: big thumbs up. The worst part is going to be getting through the next week or so with only my desktop, Laurie's desktop and Laurie's netbook in the apartment :)

Saturday, January 17, 2009 5:17:34 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [2] | Tech | Gadgets | Microsoft | Windows#
Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I haven’t really been using my computer much this week. I’ve been smokin’ busy at work, so by the time I get home, the last thing I want to do is spend MORE time in front of the screen. Everything is on track now for a business trip tomorrow, so starting this weekend when I get back everything should slow down again… until Monday. :)

The last post I made about Windows 7 I mentioned that the fan was acting weird. I went to Dell’s support site and there was a new BIOS version for my specific laptop. I installed that and the fan began behaving as expected, so thank you Dell. I’ve still got i8kfangui running, but just in informational mode only so I can see the CPU temperature.

feedback Every window has a “Send Feedback” link up next to the minimize, restore/maximize and close buttons. I read today that there’s a registry hack you can make to turn it off if it really bugs you. I don’t know why you’d find it annoying though, it’s a BETA TEST of an operating system. It’s provided free of charge in exchange for reporting metrics, crashes and other things… LIKE FEEDBACK. It’s actually pretty cool. There’s a dropdown that you can select what category you’re reporting on, and then some stars to give you a choice of how well it worked (or didn’t) and then comments.

feedback_dropdownThe dropdown list itself is pretty encompassing, too. Everything from Accessibility features, printing, faxing, security settings even Tablet PC functions. Finally at the bottom there’s an “other” category.

So far I’ve sent between 12 and 15 feedback “emails” to the team. Some of them have just been “This works exactly as advertised and as expected”, a couple suggestions and a few negative ones, too. I sent one when I crashed IE the first time the other night, too. Being a beta, you’re not supposed to use this as your “main machine” and in fact, part of the terms of use specify that you won’t use it ‘in a production environment’. I WILL be implementing it in a production environment in a couple months at work. I’m planning a pilot project for myself and my co-administrator, as well as a couple people who are tech-savvy to run Windows 7 with all our line-of-business applications to iron out any kinks that come up over the next year before we start migrating to it (skipping over Vista) in early 2010 when it’s released.

I wrote on the 2009 advancement plan at work that if I tried to upgrade people to Vista that we’d have a mutiny on our hands. I’ve been running Vista on my laptop since last December when I got it, and forcing myself to use it on my desktop at my last job for almost a year previous so I could get to know it before I had to start fielding calls about it. While Vista came out of the gates flaccid with few compatibilities with existing hardware and software, it was something that needed to be done. If Vista hadn’t come out when it did and been a dog, then there wouldn’t have been new drivers and new versions until Windows 7 came out. Then *IT* would have been the dog that nobody wanted. Vista was the pain of living with no floors in your home while contractors reinforced and rebuilt your foundation and drainage. It sucks, and it’s hard, and it tries your patience, but in the end, what you built on top of it was all the better for it.

While I could have rolled out Vista Business with Aero Glass turned off and the “classic” skin/theme selected to make it look like Windows 2000 Professional, Windows 7 takes that option away. I might have been able to slip it past a few people if it LOOKED like the old Windows :)

What everyone seems to forget is that in 2001, XP was hated just as much as Vista is, with people decrying the “Fisher Price toy” interface and the new double-wide start menu but as people actually used it and adapted to it and started to reap the benefits of the new system, they liked it and ultimately loved it (evidenced by extension after extension for the availability of Windows XP for OEM systembuilders).

The difference between 2001’s hate-in for XP and 2007’s hate-in for Vista is a 24-hour news cycle and a lot more people  out there trying to justify their employment filling column-inches. Vista’s missteps were a convenient mule to whip.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009 9:34:50 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [2] | Tech | Microsoft | Windows#
Saturday, January 10, 2009

Yesterday I watched from the sidelines while the Microsoft web servers were hammered into submission and ultimately failure as people tried to download the Windows 7 Beta. Someone found a direct link to the .iso files and some people reported that their multi-gig files just stopped partway through. I guess there were people physically deleting the iso file from webservers at that point. It was an epic fail; was down for a little bit, was offline, eOpen (licensing site), MSDN and TechNet were all having problems as the deluge continued.

Lifehacker actually posted an opinion piece admonishing Microsoft for not being ready for it and while they DO have a point, I don’t think they anticipated just how many people wanted an alternative to Vista. To give them some credit, there’s a difference between 38 million Firefox 3 downloads and 2.5 million 2.4 gigabyte Windows 7 downloads.

By late last night and this morning they had things ironed out and brought more capacity/bandwidth online and re-opened the beta. (I wonder if they ate their own dog food and used some sort of Microsoft Azure cloud computing platform, or if they just used Amazon S3 or (doubtful) Google’s cloud computing platform. More likely they just upped their commitment to Akamai.

Earlier today I signed up for the beta and got my product code that’s good through August 31st, 2009.

Tonight I backed up my laptop (which has been having wireless connection issues almost since I got it) and then did a hard drive swap so as not to damage my vista installation that has all my data on it. On a side note, I picked up a 320gb, 7200RPM, 2.5” SATA notebook hard drive at NCIX on Friday for $104 after taxes. While not as cheap as 3.5” SATA drive, that’s still pretty cheap.

I fired up my laptop with the Windows 7 DVD in the drive, made a few selections (language, regional settings, keyboard layout, that sort of thing) and then it installed. It seems to have installed a little slower than the Vista beta did a couple years ago. Once it was “ready” it asked for my name, a computer name (for networking) and then asked me if I wanted to connect to a wireless network. Judging by that, it had a driver and installed it during setup. It asked me for my WPA password and that was it. It then checked with Windows Update and downloaded 68mb of updates. One of the updates it downloaded (probably the bulk of the 68mb) was the nVidia video driver for my laptop. (At the time, it was running at 1024x768) Once it downloaded and installed the video driver, the MP3 bug fix and a couple other updates, it rebooted and came up at the native 1280x800 resolution. There was one “optional” update yet to be installed, the Broadcom Ethernet adapter driver. I installed it, and then downloaded/installed the new Windows Live Essentials (including Windows Live Writer, which I’m using right now to write this up)

I opened up the Device Manager, to see if any drivers did not get installed and was shocked to see that there was only one device that didn’t have a driver installed: the biometric fingerprint reader. The good news was that it identified it as a biometric reader interface, rather than just “PCI device” or something like what probably would have happened in an earlier version of windows.

I opened up IE8 and navigated to Facebook, and then I opened a new tab and went to another page. When I was done, I clicked the close button and it asked me if I really wanted to close Internet Explorer, or did I just want to close the current tab? Nice touch.

The only annoyance I’ve found so far, is that my fan is cycling on and off constantly. I don’t know why yet, but it’s probably something simple.

There was a notification that came up, telling me I did not have antivirus software installed. Clicking the notification balloon where it said “click here to find antivirus software online” opened Internet Explorer and went to a Microsoft Security webpage that had links to AVG (woo!), Norton/Symantec and Kaspersky Labs websites. I clicked on AVG and the landing page said “Welcome Windows 7 users!” It had a link to download AVG Antivirus standalone or AVG Internet Security for 38.99 or 59.99 respectively.

I don’t know about anyone else in the position to beta test a new OS, but I sure as hell am not going to pay $60 for a security package for a beta install. Sure I can re-install it in Vista or XP if I go back to it, but what the hell. I clicked on “all products” and then over to “free trials” to get a copy of AVG Free.

So far, the only thing that hasn’t “just worked” right out-of-the-box (so to speak) is the Windows Live Call. I wasn’t sure how it worked or even really what to do with it, but when I clicked it in the start menu, it came up with an MSN messenger-like window with a telephone keypad on it and a text message saying that the service was temporarily unavailable.

Even IE8 seems pretty responsive. Firefox 3 has been getting on my nerves lately. Facebook, Canadian Tire, Rogers and VanCity Savings websites constantly gave me problems with connection reset and other “page cannot be displayed” type errors. If it wasn’t for AdBlock Plus, I would probably have switched back to IE7 by now.

Tomorrow I’ll install Office 2007 Small Business and use Windows Live Sync to copy my pictures, videos, data and downloads back onto this installation and start “using” it for real and contributing feedback to the beta team.

Update: I downloaded and installed i8kfangui which originally was written to control the fans on the Dell Inspiron 8000. It works with the XPS m1330 and Windows 7 (as well as Vista 32-bit) and my fans are silent now until temperature thresholds are reached at which point they kick in until the temp is back below the threshold.

Another thing I just noticed is that IE8 will not run the "rich" text editor on my blog, so if there's any funky formatting, it's because I'm doing this update and manually inserting HTML tags into it :)

UPDATE 2: Clicking around the "Action center", I found the "Check for solutions to problem reports" and clicked it for grins. To my surprise, it popped up a Yellow notification saying "Solve a problem with your Fingerprint Reader" A new driver is available for your Fingerprint Reader. Go online to install this update. I clicked the Problem Response Button and it brought up an explanation and a link to UPEK, the manufacturer of the hardware. I clicked the link and it took me to a page titled "UPEK biometric software for Windows 7 - Preview version (32bit) Well holy crap! I'm downloading it now.

Saturday, January 10, 2009 9:34:49 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [3] | Tech | Microsoft | Wireless#
Monday, November 17, 2008

Last week enough parts arrived that I could start putting together the first of my two new servers. In the end, I decided to buy SuperMicro barebones servers instead of HP or Dell (or IBM) servers because of the size of the hard drives we wanted. My co-worker and I came to the figure of 4TB for where we expected company-wide data storage to be in five years time, based upon the current size and the growth we’ve had and are expecting.

In order to build a RAID5 array of 4TB, we had to have five 1TB drives. Of course, 1TB drive doesn't actually HAVE 1TB of drive space on it, it’s only about 927Gb or so because of the whole 1000 vs 1024 multiplier. Sure it was fine in the days of 100Mb drives, but now it’s just ridiculous. Five 1TB hard drives yields a 3.6TB array. We are “missing” or “losing” 400Gb or almost half of one of those terabyte drives when extrapolated across the array.

The hard drives that Dell and HP (and I’m assuming IBM/Lenovo) use have custom firmware on them so that the onboard diagnostics can talk to the drive and receive information from them. This means that the same Seagate Barracuda or Western Digital Caviar 1024Gb drive that costs about $166 at NCIX or Tiger Direct costs $924 from Dell Direct or CDW. You also need the hot-swap caddy for that particular server, and they don’t sell those separately (unless you find some on Craigslist or eBay). That would have meant that I spent more on those hard drives than I ended up spending on the entire SuperMicro server.

This is the second time I’ve dealt with SuperMicro. When PC Powerhouse closed it’s doors, we (my old company) bought up their server rack, patch panels & switches and there were two SuperMicro 2U servers in there. We called it the Sharktank and used it to set up a completely separate network with a copy of our Active Directory on it to use for testing purposes. We also bought a third SuperMicro 2U server and stuffed it full of 500Gb hard drives to use as a disk-based backup solution. I was impressed with the build quality then and when I needed a cheaper alternative to brand-name servers here at my new job, I went to SuperMicro again.

Fortunately CDW carries SuperMicro servers. NCIX does as well I found out which means I have two suppliers I can have compete against each other for better pricing. The first one arrived mid-week last week and I put it together in one afternoon. These particular servers are Intel Xeon quad-core processors, 4Gg RAM and two 250Gb hard drives in a RAID1 (mirrored) configuration with Windows Server 2008 x64 Standard Edition running on it. The RAID controller is an Adaptec 3805. In addition, they also have the five terabyte drives configured in a RAID5 array. These servers have redundant 750 watt power supplies and are plugged into an APC 2U Rackmounted UPS pushing 2200VA.

So begins the headache. The maximum disk size that windows XP, 2003 and Vista (non 64-bit versions) can see is 2Tb. My array is 3.6Tb. Try as I might, I could not break through that 2Tb maximum. The drive just didn’t show up in the Disk Management snap-in. I tried everything I could think of, it just wouldn’t show up.

I deleted the array that I had created in the controller BIOS settings and re-created it in Windows using the Adaptec Storage Manager (ASM). No good. As soon as I added the 4th drive to the array, the available disk size went from 1.8Tb to 2.0Tb and ignored the remaining 1.6Tb. I searched and searched and searched all weekend and asked every SysAdmin I knew and had access to via IM, email, phone and shouting over a live band at a pub Saturday night. No one had any insight.

I found out about GPT during this time though, and how it works and what it does. There are a lot of limitations to using GUID Partition Tables instead of MBR mostly due to BIOS limitations. EFI bios can boot from GPT disks, so that means all Macs can, but only Windows XP x64, Vista x64, Server 2003 SP2 X64 and Server 2008 x64 can BOOT from a GPT. This had no bearing on my setup as I wasn’t booting from this disk, it was simply a big data drive. There’s supposed to be a way to right-click an unrecognized disk in the Disk Management snap-in and Convert to GPT (or Convert to MBR) but since my Disk1 was not showing up there, I couldn’t do it. FRUSTRATION SETS IN.

I came in over the weekend to relocate the server from my workbench into the rack and re-created the RAID5 array and initiated a Build/Verify rather than a Quick Init. After two hours of solid disk LED lights, the progress meter changed to 1%. Oi. I left and went home for the weekend, thinking that it should be done by Monday morning, and once the drive array is Optimal, then maybe it will magically appear.

No suck luck. I arrived this morning to an Optimal array but still nothing in the Disk Management snap-in. I opened the Device Manager and checked through there to make sure that the Adaptec 3805 had the correct and up-to-date driver. It did. When I clicked “check online for a new version” it returned a message that I already had the best driver for the job. Fortunately I’m not that trusting of Windows Update.

I went to the Adaptec website and navigated through to the 3805 downloads. there was a newer firmware available, but there was a new, windows-certified driver for Server 2008 x64 that was dated Oct 2, 2008. I downloaded that driver and copied it over to the server. The documentation suggested that I could either do it via rebooting the server and booting from a floppy, or I could do it via the Adaptec Storage Manager console itself. I updated the driver and Windows Server 2008 said “your new driver is installed but will not be working correctly until you restart your computer.” Since this is a new server and there’s no data on it yet (hell there’s nowhere to PUT the data) I clicked OK and when it asked me to reboot, I clicked yes.

I was disconnected from the Remote Desktop, and since I don’t have a console KVM in my rack just yet, I kept my fingers crossed and waited a few minutes for the server to come back up.

I re-connected via Remote Desktop (as an aside, as of November 19, 2008 RealVNC’s free version does not work with Windows Vista or Server 2008, just their pay versions do) I fired up the new Server Manager and expanded the + sign next to storage and clicked on Disk Management…


Disk 1 unknown 3723.99Gb NOT INITIALIZED. The Initialize Disk Wizard popped up on it’s own and asked me how I wanted to initialize this disk: MBR or GPT? Even the note at the bottom is good: The GPT partition style is not recognized by all previous versions of Windows. It is recommended for disks larger than 2TB, or disks used on Itanium-based computers. Honestly, Itanium? Who even USES those? In this case, I’m going to go with GPT because I’m never going to boot off this drive, and Windows Server 2008 sees the GPT partition just fine. The XP Client computers and other Windows server 2003s that will be working with the data on these drives will all be accessed over the network via SMB anyway so it’s all good.

FINALLY the drive is ready to be formatted as NTFS (which should take another bunch of hours, even as a quick format) and I can start preparing my checklist for migrating the old file server on to this one.

Monday, November 17, 2008 11:11:40 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Tech | Microsoft#
Thursday, November 6, 2008
I double-checked and sure enough, the outlets on the wall near my rack are regular 120v outlets (higher amperage sure, but 120v connectors) I removed a little more of the packaging and sure enough, the UPS is set up for 230v operation. Shit.
Thursday, November 6, 2008 12:26:12 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Rants | Tech#
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
If *I* had that much trouble "fixing" the streaming from WMP11 to Xbox360, how the hell are mere mortals expected to be able to figure this out? Ork had a similar problem and he ended up installing TVersity to make it work, and I initially installed Orb to get around it before fixing it the first time, too.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008 2:45:06 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [4] | Links | Tech | Gaming | Microsoft | WWW#
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Part of me wishes it would function as a JBOD array rather than the automatic protected storage system, but I'm sure that when a disk goes bad I'll be glad it's protected
Tuesday, March 11, 2008 8:03:03 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [1] | Tech | Gadgets#
Saturday, February 2, 2008
Nothing sucks quite as hard as having to move... I suppose the blessing in Cayman is that 99% of rentals are furnished so you don't have to rent a truck and move all that heavy shit around. Still, all that packing and unpacking is a pain in the arse.
Saturday, February 2, 2008 3:36:33 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Cayman | Movies | Scooter | Tech | Gadgets | Gaming | Microsoft | Wireless#
Sunday, November 18, 2007
I realized that the biggest gripe I had was the memory size; 16gb. Then I realized that I had been making do with 1gb on the PSP, and had even stopped carrying the PSP with me on the plane because it was getting too be too much to carry around. The only plus for the PSP was that it also played games, but I haven't used it for that in over a year.
Sunday, November 18, 2007 1:14:13 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Tech | Gadgets | Wireless | WWW#
It turns out that I'm being actively blocked from downloading any content from XBL Marketplace because my IP address identifies me as residing outside of the US and A. That's right, region coding. "This content is intended for US residents only".
Sunday, November 18, 2007 12:43:21 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [1] | Tech | Gadgets | Gaming | Microsoft | Wireless#
We've started receiving computers from Dell now with Vista Business edition on them. Fortunately it's only been ten so far and they're all Optiplex 755s, the new ones. Microsoft has a program in place to allow you to buy new machines with Vista Business stickers/COAs on them and then receive a free product code to "downgrade" it to XP, then when your company is ready to roll Vista out, you already have the license and don't have to pay anything to upgrade.
Sunday, November 18, 2007 12:17:02 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Rants | Tech | Microsoft#
Sunday, August 26, 2007
I got the usual screen, validation required, so I clicked on Validate Now and of course it couldn't run because I was using Firefox and it used an ActiveX control to test your system. At least it's smart enough now to recognize that you're using a browser other then IE and prompt you to download the plug-in for Firefox to allow it to run. I downloaded it, installed it, ran it and.. validation failed.
Sunday, August 26, 2007 10:19:17 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [1] | Rants | Tech | Microsoft#
Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Yeah Yeah, I know. It's been five or six weeks now. I was on vacation last week, so I didn't do any running, plus I was waiting to get some new shoes as my old ones seemed to cause shin splints. I bought some new shoes while I was in Vancouver (enough shoes that I thought I was starting to grow a vagina and Bank of America actually called/emailed me and cut off my card because of "irregular activity" on the card! I hadn't bought shoes in 7 or 8 years, so I did actually need new ones. New Doc Marten's, new work shoes, and a new pair of trainers for running.

I tried on about 20 pairs of runners before narrowing it down to a pair of Asics, a pair of New Balance and a pair of Nikes. In the end I went for the Nike Air + Pegasus. They felt good AND they had the little hole in the bottom to put the Nike+ iPod transmitter. Being a nerd, I opted for the iPod integrated shoes. :)

I worked late last night and didn't go for a run, so I left early (6ish) while it was still light out, put the transmitter in the shoe, jacked in the receiver to my Nano and shoved it into my armband and went for a run. Unfortunately I didn't TURN ON THE WORKOUT so it didn't register anything! Bunch of arse.

It was kind of noticeable right from the beginning the difference between my seven year old gorilla-glued-together Adidas. My feet hurt, pretty bad at one point on the outsides of my feet but I wrote that off to "new shoes" and pressed on. No pain just below my knees like before, but I've also not been running for nearly two weeks. I could actually feel the springiness in my step. I also finished above pace and ended the last interval right by the Texaco in Hell. I'm hoping to run again Thursday and Saturday and start week two next week. Like I haven't said THAT before!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007 5:36:56 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Tech#
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
The problem arose when I tried to sysprep the machine. I ran Sysprep and got an error that said There is an incompatibility between this tool and the current operating system. WTF?!
Tuesday, May 22, 2007 8:20:21 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [3] | Tech | Microsoft | WWW#
Saturday, April 14, 2007
I've been putting it off since November, but my laptop needed a "Windows do-over" from all the shit I installed, then un-installed and re-installed and crudded up. I kept putting it off because it's 18 months old and Im getting ready to sell it and get a new one while it still has a significant amount of warranty left. If I went through all the trouble of re-installing Windows NOW, I would just have to re-do it again when I sold the laptop.

Thursday I decided that this weekend I would bite the bullet, take the plunge, back up all my data and do it. I was out of commission last night so this morning I started the data consolidation between my laptop and desktop and moving stuff offline and finally did a Ghost image of the entire partition just in case.

I was ready to do the re-install. I wanted to use the built-in DSR thing which uses a version of Symantec Ghost re-branded as Dell System Restore. I couldn't remember the key-combination to launch it and finally found it on some message board or another as Ctrl-F11. I rebooted, waited for the BIOS screen to show up and pressed Ctrl-F11. Windows started booting. I poked it in the eye to hard-reset it (what do I care if I corrupt the Windows install at this point, right?) I tried it again, nothing. I tried Shift, Ctrl-Shift, Alt-Shift, Ctrl-Alt-Shift and nothing seeming to work. I was getting frustrated.

I went Googling to see if I was doing something wrong or maybe my partition had become corrupted or something, but I didn't think so. I read the directions very carefully. It said that once the BIOS screen shows up, you have about two seconds once the keyboard becomes active to press Ctrl-F11. Still nothing. Finally, just on a whim, I waited and on the NEXT screen, after the BIOS splash screen, I pressed Ctrl-F11 and suddenly it changed... it worked.

It was actually quite quick, it only took about four minutes to restore the partition compared to the 62 minutes it took to back it up first. I clicked the reboot button, it changed the MBR back to boot off the Windows partition and came up with the Dell Warranty/Service Tag screens, exactly how it came out of the box from the factory.

I stepped through the Windows Setup, named the computer, assigned an administrator password and that sorta sorta and then it came up to the desktop and opened the Start Menu. I saw the MSN Explorer icon on there along with Outlook Express and Windows Messenger, which I normally remove along with some other junk that comes with Windows. When I opened Add/Remove programs in the Control Panel, there was about two pages of shit that was pre-installed. Unlike the story that's getting a lot of press last week about the new Sony Vaio that had about 25% of the hard drive with crap and trial-ware, mine only had something called Photo Click. The rest of it was drivers, Dell System Restore, Intel PROSet wireless drivers or something. When I ordered this laptop, I specifically requested no crapware on it, and there was none on there. Still a lot of junk though. :)

SO, to avoid an hour or more of frustration, make sure you wait til you pass the Dell BIOS splash screen and it's on the SECOND screen before pressing Ctrl-F11 to get into the Dell System Restore partition.

Saturday, April 14, 2007 4:33:31 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Tech#
Is anyone else getting a deluge of "I've added you as a friend of Facebook, blah blah blah" in the last week or so? This seems to be almost as annoying as the "friends" site a couple years back that asked permission to look up your entire address book and IM buddy lists and then spammed them all to add you as a friend. Is MySpace dead already?

Who knows. If I set one up, I'll post the link to it here.

Saturday, April 14, 2007 2:59:37 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Tech | WWW#
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
If you've never used multiple monitors before, try it. It's like going from a Honda Civic to a, well.. a Honda Accord. :) Within fifteen minutes (if it even takes that long) you'll wonder how you ever got along without it for so long. I have a single monitor at home, it's an Acer 22" widescreen, but at work I recently switched to a pair of 17" LCDs and the productivity increase is staggering.

Then there are crazy setups that take it to the nth degree. Rich has a setup with an Apple 30" Cinema widescreen flanked by a pair of Samsung 21" widescreens in portrait mode for something ridiculously crazy like 3600x1200 resolution. More and more people (developers mostly I guess but also flight sim enthusiasts) are setting up monitor rigs like this now that the prices of LCDs are coming down down down. Dell makes a 30" widescreen that actually beats the Apple Cinema in the specs department, yet is marginally cheaper (and if you throw something like into the mix for Dell discount coupons it gets even better).

Yesterday I was scanning through some of my rss feeds in Newsgator Online and there was a post by Scott Hanselman on his site about multiple monitor setups for developers. Usually most of the stuff on his website goes straight over my head, and I cherry-pick the little tidbits relating to HTPC, Xbox 360, PSP, Torrents and things like that but the one absolute GEM that I took away from his post yesterday about multiple monitors was for a little app called Ultramon. it "fixes" Windows (ie does something that Windows should do built-in) to let it better deal with multiple monitors. If only for allowing one wallpaper to stretch across both (or x-) many screens it would be a neat utility. The dealmaker though is the taskbar. It stretches the taskbar across all your screens, and whichever windows are open on THAT screen show up on THAT taskbar. There are some other cool tricks it does, but within seconds of installing the trial version and seeing the new taskbar on the other screen, that's worth the $30 price of admission right there.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007 6:39:59 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [2] | Tech | Gadgets | WWW#
Monday, February 19, 2007
I was in Florida again this weekend. Miami Int'l Boat Show AND Daytona 500 in S Florida jacking up hotel rates artificially again. Have I mentioned lately how much I hate yield management software? Sure it's great if you're the money-grubbing cocksmoker on the other side of it, but as a consumer, it sucks the bag.

I had the wrong time in my head for my flight back to Cayman from Fort Lauderdale. Fortunately it was later than I thought, not earlier than I thought! I decided since I was in FLL to go to Varsity Cycle, the Vespa dealer up there and poke around and see what kind of cool stuff they had. I couldn't remember where they were, and rather than drive up and down US1 for a couple hours I thought I would look it up.

The only problem was my Cingular SIM card for Miami doesn't have a data plan, and I didn't know what the connection settings were for my phone anyway. Then from some deep, dark recess in my mind I remembered that Google had an SMS service. I sat in the car after running into bed Bath & Beyond to pick up a baby frypan for Kendi and txt'd 'Vespa ft lauderdale' to 466453 (GOOGL3)

Within a minute I got two SMS messages back from Google with the name, address, phone number, etc for the two vespa dealers in Ft Lauderdale area: Varsity on US1 (the one I was thinking of) and Riva Cycle on Davie blvd just south of FLL int'l. How cool is that??

Monday, February 19, 2007 8:22:21 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Tech | WWW | Travel#
Friday, December 29, 2006

2006-12-26 Boxing Day At Home 012Boxing day sales are for chumps. Aside from spending all of Christmas Day and Boxing Day in the kitchen, I didn't have TIME to go out and brave the crowds shopping for things I don't need and can't fit in my suitcase anyway.

Tony got a Nintendo Wii a couple weeks ago when they came out. He paid someone to stand in line for him for 13 hours and got a Wii, Zelda Twilight Princess and an extra controller. He brought it over on Boxing day and we all took turns playing Wii Sports (the game that comes with) There are five sports on it: Baseball, Tennis, Golf, Boxing and Bowling. I didn't have the patience for baseball and only played a couple games on it. Tennis was fun but requires more practice. Golf was good, boxing was good (and worked up a sweat) but bowling was the best of the bunch. I went about nine rounds in four bouts with progressively tougher opponents (although the toughest guy I fought had a skill level of 250 of a possible 2000).

Bowling was the best for multiplayer though. We bowled a few frames in four player mode and had a really good time with it. You can maneouver your bowler back and forth on the boards, and then also vary your angle down the lane. Because of the accelerometers built into the Wii remote, you can also put spins on the ball as you follow-through. By moving a couple boards to the left, aiming for the far right corner of the lane and putting a spin on the throw, I was making the ball dance across the boards, Munson-style! On the second game of the night, I hit two strikes, then an 8-pin split, then four more strikes, and then another 8-pin split and then two more strikes and then I tanked the 10th frame and got a (family) record 196 points. Every time I threw a curving strike, I would throw my hands up in the air, Munson-style. When I got the Turkey for a triple strike, I grabbed my brother's piece of pizza off his plate and took a bite. My other brother, who "got" the reference to Kingpin started laughing his ass off and singing "Stayin Alive" by the Bee-Gees. I tried to do a front-split after that, but got about half way before it felt like I was going to burst my baby-making equipment and fell over. We were all laughing so hard we couldn't continue for about ten minutes.

As cool as Oblivion looks on the Xbox360, and with all the 1080i hi-def glory of the PS3, I think the Wii is going to blow both of them away because even though it's "only" 480p low-def graphics, the games are FUN to play. A gorgeous hi-def game that sucks is still a sucky game and that's what Sony and Microsoft got wrong with their consoles (aside from the blu-ray drive and the EXTERNAL HD-DVD drive for the 360).

I just sold my Xbox system with all the controllers (including the karaoke mic that plugs into the controller, too) just before xmas and I'll probably get a 360 later this year when Halo3 comes out. Hopefully by then the Xbox "preimum" bundle includes the HD-DVD drive internally and not as a clunky external. If I had the chance to have two consoles, I'd definately get the Wii just for the playability of the games, and the ease of just "picking it up" and playing when having friends over. It's just that easy.

We installed the Opera browser beta on the Wii and connected to the internet through my wireless network here and were surfing YouTube and making the videos full-screen on the TV. The relatively low-resolution made the videos look OK at such high screen sizes, and the text input was soooooooo much easier than on the PSP which practically works against you. My dad was able to pick up the Wiimote and play baseball and boxing with us, that's how easy it is. It's how things SHOULD work.

Friday, December 29, 2006 10:16:17 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Tech | Gadgets#
Saturday, November 11, 2006

Wizmo is a neat little utility written by Steve Gibson, the guy who wrote Spinrite and Shields Up!. He's doing a podcast called Security Now! on the TWit network and while sometimes it's a bit dry, I'm usually able to listen to the whole thing through.

I'd heard about Wizmo before, read what it does and then moved along. It's a Swiss Army Knife for Windows. You run wizmo.exe either from the command line or as part of a desktop shortcut. After Wizmo.exe you put what they refer to in the notes as "action verbs". There are a bunch of action verbs available, and I believe that it's extensible, so you can write your own action verbs if you want. There's Wizmo Blackout which blacks out your screen (it doesn't turn it off, just blacks it out like a screensaver), wizmo blank starts your currently selected screen saver, wizmo standby to send your computer into standby mode (if it doesn't have a suspend button or it's not a laptop). Other commands are hibernate, logoff, exit, reboot, shutdown which are all self-explanatory, monoff which shuts your screen OFF into standby mode and gravitron, the GRC screensaver with all it's own settings.

The reason I was looking at it again was because my new monitor, my Acer AL2216WB 22" widescreen didn't always shut itself off. I don't know if it's something in the system tray, or maybe one of the Yahoo Desktop Widgets preventing it, but if I was laying in bed watching TV (either from my AverMedia Ultra300 USB tuner or uhh, recorded shows) I'd have to get up and push the button to shut off the monitor and go back to bed. How 1980...

I started searching Google for some way to programatically send a "standby" command to the monitor and two or three links down was Wizmo. WTF? Cool! I went back to and downloaded it and configured a shortcut on my desktop to shut off the monitor. Now when I'm done, I fire up VNC, double click the Shutoff Monitor shortcut and close VNC and it's nice and dark and off I go to sleep.

Saturday, November 11, 2006 11:47:35 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Links | Tech | Gadgets | Microsoft#

A few months back, when the exploding dell and apple laptop batteries first started coming to the public attention, I wondered if my laptop would be affected. Eventually Dell set up a website to deal with it and published a list of PID's (part numbers basically) that were affected and subject to recall. I remember looking through the chart for my serial number, and it wasn't there. Great, no need to worry about my laptop catching fire and burning the building down while I was at work. I still left it unplugged while I was out though, just to be safe.

Two weeks ago, while I was on vacation, I noticed my laptop battery seemed to discharge pretty quickly. I know that batteries start to degrade over time, after about 500 discharges and charges, but I didn't think I was to that threshold yet. Rich's Dell Battery stopped charging when an internal counter hit 500 and just refused to ever work again.

When this laptop (Dell Inspiron 700m) was new, 18 months ago, I could last about 4.5 hours with the WiFi radio on and the screen at full brightness. It was pretty kick-ass. On the plane ride home from Vancouver, the battery died before I even finished watching a single DVD movie, with the screen brightness turned down a bit and the WiFi radio off. That was less than 50% of what it was when new. Not good. Within another week, I noticed it dying even quicker.

I unplugged it at 100% charge and carried it over to the bed and watched a TV show. 21 minutes later (gotta love no commercials) the battery said 46% remaining (1:20). I watched another episode.. at the end of that 21 minutes, the battery was 8%, the red x was over the battery and the little bubble popped up saying main battery very low, I should change battery or switch to AC power to avoid losing any work. Before I could GET the ac power, it dropped to 6% and then 4% when I plugged it back in. 42 minutes from full charge to "you should change your battery immediately to avoid losing work". Well that's no good at all.

I was on the phone with Dell Support (since this is part of Latin America, we get call centers in Panama with thick eSpanish accents... sometimes I WISH for Indian call centers... but I digress) the next day at work, making some claims for warranty work for some of the machines at work that piled up in the "fix" pile while I was away. I have to say that I've never had a "bad call" with Dell. It's under warranty, I explain the problem, and the new parts are out by UPS to their local supply chain partner and in my hands inside of about a week. Pretty friggin good. That's one of the reasons why we continue to buy Dell at work but again, I digress.

While I had the tech support rep on the phone, I asked about my laptop battery. He asked me for the serial number... which I didn't have. I explained the situation to him and he advised me to make sure the battery was fully charged, unplug it, turn it on and go to the BIOS and let it sit there on the BIOS screen and see how fast it discharges. I should make a note of it and call Dell Support with the service tag #, the battery serial number and the data collected by that little experiment. He informed me that Dell warranties their batteries for one year from purchase. Uh-oh, this machine is just over a year old... But I have CompleteCare, that covers it, right? If I drop the laptop over the side of the boat, so long as I dive down and get it, and have the carcass to give back to them, it's covered. Somewhere in the fine print is a sentence exempting batteries from CompleteCare, and spelling out that batteries only have a one year warranty. Yeesh.

Tonight I was sitting at my desk, deleting 650 or so splog trackbacks from my website, when suddenly the laptop powered off. No low battery warning, no windows is hibernating, no nothing, just powered off. I plugged it in and charged it back up and then shut down, unplugged and booted to the BIOS screen, just like they said. If it lasted a few hours, then I could look back at my process list and see if something was causing the processor to work at high utilization, generating heat, which requires the fans to spin and drain the battery quicker. No dice, it discharged completely to 0 and shut off in 46 minutes.

I went to and logged in to my Dell Premier Support account and punched in my service tag number. I selected "request support" and thought maybe I'd get lucky and they'd see that I have close to 1000 systems under my profile and throw me a frickin bone.. or a battery. Before I got that far, I got a popup saying I should check the Dell battery recall site as my laptop model number is one of the ones that are under recall. I already checked it a few months ago, but hey, what the heck, I HAD the battery serial number right in front of me already, so I punched it in and hit "submit". Lo and behold, I was told that my battery should be replaced immediately, fill this address info out and expect a new battery within 20 days. Sweet. I filled it out and sent it in and now just have to wait for a new battery to arrive.

The only WTF moment I had was "How many days have I left my laptop plugged in to the AC while I wasn't at home where this could have caught fire and burnt the whole building down???" yikes. I'll be unplugging and removing the battery from now on when I leave the house until I get the new one!

Saturday, November 11, 2006 9:57:02 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Tech#
Monday, October 23, 2006

I'm just sayin... Saw this on Digg this morning and couldn't resist passing it on.

#2: Be direct. Geek guys tend to be in a shell. They are generally defensive and aloof. They aren't cold in the least; they're just extremely polite. Geeks tend to live by "do unto others". A geek guy who doesn't kiss you is worried about forcing himself. Grab him and plant one. Let him stagger and shake it off, but if he shows signs of recovering too quickly, grab him and plant one again. Subtlety and coyness completely fails with geeks; they'll be confused and expect that you're not on Pon Farr or are a nun or something. Where other guys need no provocation, a geek guy has to be brained on the noggin a couple of times, then he'll get the idea.

You can read the rest of Penguin Pete's tips here.


Monday, October 23, 2006 10:22:01 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Links | Tech#
Thursday, October 12, 2006

For the past few years, I've been using Cloudmark Spamnet for my spam-filtering needs. It works pretty darn well, too. Very rarely did any spam get into my inbox, and even more rarely did a real email get marked as spam. I think it was $39/year subscription, but I had the first year (of paid filtering) at half price because I was on the beta team for it.

The only problem I had with it is that it worked at the client level, when I checked my email through Outlook. If I was at work or on the road and went through Outlook Web Access, then I had to manually scan through all the spam looking for legitimate email. Not such a huge thing, but it put a huge damper on wanting to check my email on my phone, or heaven forbid setting up push email on Exchange 2003 SP2 to automatically send it to my phone, Crackberry-style

On average, I was getting about 500 spam messages per week. I would un-officially keep track of it by emptying the folder every Sunday night. Talking to Rich (who was hosting the server) the SMTP logs were in the neighborhood of 15-20mb PER DAY. That equated to over 60,000 SMTP connections per day. Yikes. That's WAY more than we get at work, where we're supporting over 350 mailboxes.

About a month ago, I noticed that a couple weeks in a row, the spam dropped to about 250-300, or almost half. I asked Rich if he had done anything and he said yes he was trying out Trend Micro ScanMail for Exchange and the Real-time connection blocking filter. Suddenly, the spam shot back up to 500+ per week. Turned out that the RBL was a 30 day free trial.

While I was at home last month for Ork's wedding (pics to follow, a few are on Flickr) Rich was telling me about a new service that he was going to try out, called Basically it's an SMTP proxy service. You change your MX records to point your email at their servers, they scan and filter it via a wholey crapload of virus engines and of course, spam filtering using various RBLs, DNS blacklists and even a Bayesian filter and lexical analysis. You configure your Exchange server to ONLY accept connections from Mailroute's IP range, and the ONLY emails you will get will be ones that have been 'scrubbed' by Of course, there's always an outside chance that one could get marked falsely as spam, so you can log in and review everything that's been quarantined for the last few days.

We turned it on for the mail server last Thursday. Even taking into account the delay for DNS propagation, I noticed on Thursday that my mail volume dropped drastically. In the last seven days, I've had 43 emails come through from Mailroute and get tagged as spam by either Cloudmark or Outlook's built-in junkmail folder. Even being lazy with the math, that's only 10% of the email load the Exchange server has had to deal with, and that I've had to download. Suddenly, running Outlook in Exchange Client mode using RPC over HTTPS can work and Push Email comes into the realm of possibility (aside from not doing it because the Cable & Wireless data plans are too expensive)

So my spam has been reduced by over 90%, I've had no false positives and the Exchange logs dropped from 30mb per day to 6mb per day, and after pointing all the MX records to Mailroute's servers, the SMTP connection log has dropped to 600Kbytes. Not only does Mailroute work as advertised, but the decreased demands on the bandwidth, processor cycles and storage lower the return on investment time period. I don't know how long Mailroute has been in business, but I wish I had a solution like this five years ago. :)

Thursday, October 12, 2006 5:00:34 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Tech#
Thursday, September 7, 2006

When I came home from work today, I decided to go for a walk around the Safehaven golf course. It's 3800 meters, or just under 2.5 miles and takes me about 45 minutes. I end up getting back home just as the sun is setting, and after a quick rinse in the shower i'm ready to cook or go get some dinner.

To pass the time, I generally listen to my iPod while i'm walking. I have maybe a half dozen podcasts subscribed, and usually I listen to them while I'm working, but I find concentrating on listening to what people are saying, rather than just music, takes my mind off the exercise. I was listening to This Week In Tech tonight, which is four days old, but whatever. Usually they're right about on an hour long. I got home, and I looked at the iPod to see how far along I was so I could ffwd to there on iTunes and finish listening here while I checked my mail and whatnot.

What I didn't know that iTunes did that I instantly thought "now that's cool" is when I stuck the iPod in the dock and then double-clicked on the podcast, it started up at 52:13 automatically, right where I left off!

I just thought that was kinda cool and didn't know that iTunes did that. Now you know :)


Thursday, September 7, 2006 4:16:51 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Tech | Gadgets#
Wednesday, September 6, 2006

New monitorSweet mother of resolution! OK, Ok, it's not a full 1920x1200 HD resolution, but it's darned close. This is the new Acer AL2216W 22" widescreen monitor. I've been lusting after a 24" monitor for about a year now, since I saw Rich's monster 24" Samsung and then Dell dropped the price on their (then) 2405FPW to around $800. Then they came out with the 2407FPW and the lowest I've seen that drop to was $750 with free shipping. About two months ago I saw a post somewhere talking about this new 22" from Acer with some nice specs that was MSRP'd at just $399 US. That's practically pocket change!

I sold my 32" CRT TV and put the money aside for oneof these bad boys, but no one seemed to have it in stock or even know what I was talking about. Finally I found a listing for it at Insight so I called up our rep who takes care of our corporate orders and he looked into it for me. He called me back about 10 minutes later and said that they had 2000 of them in a container, but it hadn't been delivered yet. I gave him my CC# on the spot and it finally arrived on Monday. Bliss. It's big enough that when angled like it is in the picture, I have a big widescreen TV display when I'm in bed. Ignore the messy desk. :)

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 2:23:01 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Tech | Gadgets#
Monday, August 21, 2006
I do a lot of desktop support at work. That means I do a lot of drive re-imaging and re-installing of Windows. I used to rely heavily on Norton Ghost and Ghostcast server, so that when we got a new flock of machines, I could set one of them up the way we wanted it, run Sysprep and then make an image of the hard drive. Once I had that, I could use Ghostcast to push that image out to the other machines (the highest # of machines I ghosted at a time was 15, using a 16 port switch). It was a great solution, and if one of those machines got buggered with a virus or spyware, I could re-ghost it and have it back in service in about 25 minutes.

The downside of that is Windows XP's product code/licensing and now Windows Genuine Advantage. Every time I ghosted a machine and started the install process, it would not accept the XP license code that was on the sticker on the computer. Even if I got past that, the OS would not activate. That meant a phone call to Microsoft, waiting on hold forever and then getting the joy of trying to understand Sandeep or whoever was on duty in the call center in India. I would have to read them off a 25-digit code, then they would verify it, then they would read me back a 25-digit response code, I would verify it, punch it in and then it would activate ok. It was a colossal pain in the ass and drove me to looking for cracks and patches for XP on more than one occasion. Ultimately it got to the point where it was faster for me to install Windows from scratch, manually, and then download all the security patches and whatnot (last time I did it earlier this month, it was 54 updates worth abut 80megabytes of downloads) and then install our applications, join it to the domain and all that sort of thing. There had to be an easier way.

Fortunately there is. As I was Googling around, I came across this site who's title was Automatically Slipstream Windows XP with SP2 and All Post-SP2 Security Hotfixes with a Single Command. Sounds like just what I was looking for. On top of that, this guy Ross updates it every month after Patch Tuesday! He has a windows script/batch file that will copy all the files from your source CD, then download ALL the patches and slipstream them into the folder structure. It's a bit of manual labor/clicking, but it sure beats having to download all that crap everytime I have to do a reinstall. There's also a make file for if you have Cygwin installed to run the script, download the patches, verify the downloads using an MD5 hash, integrate them to the folder structure and then burn it to CD, all in one step. I figured I'd give that a try, I installed cygwin and it didn't work. Then I went back and reinstalled some of the packages for Cygwin, and it still didn't work. I finally gave up on Cygwin and the make script and went back to the Windows batch file, which worked. If you're a Linux command-line freak, Cygwin will probably work for you, but for me it's just one more reason why Linux just won't catch on for the mom n pops and grandmas.

The next step was to create a bootable floppy disc which, even in 2006, is still a pain in the ass and easy to screw up. I've done it before, but I couldn't remember exactly how to do it. I made about a half-dozen coasters last month trying before I "stopped and asked for directions". Enter The Elder Geek. I've been to his site both directly and ended up there from Google a few times in the past and he has good stuff there in simple, easy-to-understand steps (at least for me). His tutorial on making a bootable CD-Rom has instructions for both Roxio and Nero 6. I was using Nero 7, but the dialog boxes were close enough that I could figure it out. The reason I kept making coasters was that I had the "number of loaded sectors" set to the default of 1, and on the tutorial it says to make it 4, or they won't boot. What "number of loaded sectors" means, I have no idea and would not have thought to try and 2, 3 or 4 by trial-and-error. I burned the new image to a disc and popped it in a cow-orker's unsuspecting computer and the Windows XP autorun menu came up. Good, but I'd seen that before. I rebooted and saw the magic "Press any key to boot CD" message come up, pressed The AnyKey and saw the Windows Setup screen come up and start loading files. Woohoo! As I type, I'm making 3 more CDs so that two of us can do the install on two machines at once. Once Windows Setup finishes, there might be a few downloads left, but a few downloads is better than 80mb of downloads.

Monday, August 21, 2006 9:50:39 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [2] | Tech | Microsoft | WWW#
Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I can sit all day and talk hockey. Less so with football (NFL or CFL... how many teams are left in the CFL anyway? 4 or 5? not much of a league if you ask me). I watch the last couple weeks of NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl, I watch the World Series, I'll watch the NBA finals but can't possibly follow a whole season (especially baseball). I even watched the NCAA basketball tournament this year (and won the pool!) and sort of keep track of who's beating who for the last five or six years. Then there's soccer/football. Down here with the British influence, Premiership coverage in the sports pages are fairly prevalent (as are cricket and rugby) so it's always there on my back burner

This year of course was a World Cup year, and in 2004 before the hurricane I was following the Euro because it was a championship. (see above) This weekend are the first matches of the Premiership over in the UK. I'm just saying, now, before the season starts, that I'm putting my support behind Tottenham. Say what you want, that's where my support is going. This just could be "their year" (of course as a Canucks fan, I've been saying THAT since I grew my first pube) and if I'm right, then next year everybody will be wearing Spurs jerseys and saying that they've been fans all along...

Speaking of soccer, what's up with the Vancouver Whitecaps?? I remember going to their games at Empire Stadium when I was a kid, and then they played some games at BC Place in the mid-80s but then they (and the whole NASL) just sort of faded away. Now they're back, they're trying to build a new stadium, and who's the manager of the team, the guy pulling all the strings and greasing all the skids? None other than Bobby fucking Lenarduzzi! My first thought was "well no doubt, who else would?" but the second was "You GO, boy!"

Just a couple months ago I was saying to someone that I was getting "sports'd out" with Stanley Cup, NBA finals AND the World Cup going on all at once, but I think that was just a warm-up. NFL is in preseason, NHL training camp starts soon, World Series is coming up and the EPL starts this weekend, too.

On a somewhat related note, I downloaded and tried out Sage TV V5 the other day and it's stunningly gorgeous. The only problem was that it didn't recognize my TV Tuner, the AverMedia UltraTV USB300 so it made the whole exercise pointless. What with weird channels and weird times, I may have to upgrade to a PCI dual-tuner card and time-shift games to catch them all... or just spend more time in Legendz than I already do.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006 7:39:10 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Links | Sports | Hockey | Soccer | Tech#
Monday, August 14, 2006

I saw this post on Gizmodo this morning about the US Navy's new deep diving suit that can work at depths up to 2000 feet. Ideally this suit would allow someone to get down to a stranded submarine in advance of the rescue sub to check things out and assist where neccessary.

“At 2,000 feet, I had topside turn off all the lights, and it was like a star show. The phosphorescence that was naturally in the water and in most of the sea life down there started to glow," Jackson said.

The Hardsuit 2000 was built by OceanWorks International in Vancouver (w00t! go Vancouver!) which I would further venture a guess that they're in North Vancouver and the guys who developed the NewtSuit as well.

Yup. I was right, they're in North Vancouver. I certified a couple of engineers from OceanWorks for their PADI Advanced Open Water Diver certs back in the day when I was living in Vancouver and teaching at Great Pacific Diving in North Van. 

Monday, August 14, 2006 3:20:42 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Tech | Underwater#
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
For reasons unknown to me at this time, I've decided to start messing with my Linksys Routers again. I've posted before about it, about my trials and tribulations (mostly tribulations) about getting it to work. Getting WDS to work, trying to link an entire apartment building with Sveasoft's Alchemy and Talisman firmware, replacing the default rubber duckies on the main router with some higher gain antennas and then, when I thought I had everything set up and everyone in the complex was happy with their internet access, I'd realize that the VoIP would drop calls, or Xbox Live wouldn't work very well at all and we'd get our asses handed to us (faster than normal) in Halo 2.

Once that was all out of the way, then it was the Prismiq's turn to squawk. The Prismiq also only supported WEP and not WPA or WPA2 encryption, so my encryption was only WEP. I've given up on the Prismiq now, it's sitting on the floor behind the TV, unplugged. The SVideo and L-R audio cables that were plugged into it are sitting there looking lonely, but I plug my laptop into them now when I want to watch stuff on a bigger-than-12.1" screen. With that out of the way I can now move up to WPA encryption.

I'd also like to get the VPN endpoint set up so that when I wander into a random hotspot and connect to the big 'ole Internet, I can tunnel through to here and then go out from my router,keeping all my info that's transmitted to the public AP encrypted. QoS is also important, for the Packet8 phone and the Xbox, as well as making sure that any torrents that happen to be coming down don't choke out web surfing or emailing.

After using Sveasoft firmware for nearly a year, I'm switching to DD-WRT. It does everything I want it to, and has better documentation. One of the biggest sources of frustration was getting answers from the Sveasoft forum. If you had good search-fu you could find where someone else had already asked the same question you had, but more often than not, it was not answered by anyone, or answered by someone saying "it's been answered already. use the search function" and lots of messages from Sveasoft saying "it'll be fixed in the next version." "But when is that?" 'soon.' I still have the binaries I downloaded for my routers from Sveasoft, so I can always go back if I need to, but for now Im switching to DD-WRT. If you don't see me online for a few days, you'll know why :)
Wednesday, April 19, 2006 7:01:09 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Tech | Linux | Wireless#
Saturday, February 25, 2006
Notes on installing the Slingbox Media Player
Saturday, February 25, 2006 10:30:03 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [1] | Tech | Gadgets | Wireless | WWW | Travel#
Thursday, January 26, 2006

Pucker factor: 9

We got eight new computers at work, all identical Dell Optiplexes that are going to one department. Generally what happens in situations like this is that one machine is opened up, started up, configured & apps installed and then I take a Ghost snapshot of the hard drive, and push that image out to the other machines using Ghostcast Server. That way we end up with 8 identical machines, and then Scripts and Group Policy futher refine the settings and restrictions on those machines based upon where they are going and who is going to be using them.

Since these ones are going to be going into a controlled environment where we want to absolutely minimize any downtime caused by people surfing the net on them and putting them at risk to drive-by downloads and other forms of crapware, we lock them down pretty tight.

On that note, I've been playing with the Microsoft Shared Computer Toolkit and it's pretty cool. You can lock down a machine so tight that it squeaks when it tries to fart. It's also geared towards computers that are operating alone, and not part of a domain. There's a whole chapter related to using the MSCT in a domain environment and I read over that this morning. Basically what you need to do is set the initial security settings on the machine (or the machine prior to imaging it in this case) and then use the included Administrative Template for Group Policy rather than the Shared Computer Toolkit interface.

So after talking it over with the other network admins this morning, I created a new Group Policy on our domain and called it “%machinename% Experimental Group Policy” and applied it to the machine name that I was working with. That way the changes and restrictions and lockdowns that I was experimenting with would ONLY be applied to that computer. That's where I made the fatal error.

In Windows 2003 Server SP1 and the 'new' Group Policy Management Console SP1, when you create a new policy, it defaults to the Authenticaed Users group (practically everyone). In this case, the ACL said Authenticated Users and machinename-01. I went about locking down machine-01 and testing it, not realizing that the changes I was making were affecting the entire domain, in every country we operate in. Bad. Very bad.

I realized that it was locked down too tight for one of our critical applications to work, so I backed off, and then backed off some more, testing each step to make sure it worked. After a few rounds of that, I noticed it was getting late and went for lunch. Second fatal error. By the time I got back from lunch, the changes had replicated to all the other servers and were trickling down to client machines.

I got an email from a user asking why their homepage had changed in Internet Explorer, but I was just getting back from lunch and ready to crack back into the testing of this new machine and didn't really clue in. I hit the Windows key on my keyboard to bring up the Start Menu... and it was blank. I had my last few programs opened, Internet Explorer and Outlook up at the top where they belong, but the only thing on the right-hand pane of the start menu was Administrative Tools. No Control Panel, no My Computer, no My Documents, no nothing. I thought to myself “that's weird, I don't remember making any changes to MY machine... and even went so far as to ask the other admins who was pulling my leg. No one fessed up, so I tried to open Group Policy Management Console to check it and change it back when I got a Windows Critical Error and the message “Access to the Microsoft Management Console has been disabled. Please see your Network Administrator”. Not good, I AM the network administrator, don't tell me to go ask myself! OK, well I'll VNC the console of the PDC... Log in there, hit Start Button... and it's empty.. To quote $imdb(Ralphie Parker) “Only I didn't say "Fudge." I said THE word, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words, the "F-dash-dash-dash" word!”

That's when the email about the changed homepage popped back into my mind, and a frenzied attempt to get into GPMC via any DC in the datacenter and a phone call from another admin who had gone offsite about 20 mins before all happened at once. He was not amused when i told him what happened. We hit up Google with a passion, looking for a way to “un-fuck” ourselves. We found a couple things: registry keys, some obscure MS command-line tools, and ultimately, the same situation we found ourselves in and what saved our (mine especially) bacon in a newsgroup post. Someone had done exactly the same thing as me. His solution? He was lucky. As was I. The offsite location that the other admin was at had not been updated yet due to a slow WAN link. Getting in there and making the change to the GPO and saving it caused it to have a newer timestamp, and therefore it replicated ITSELF back to the network here rather than be overwritten itself by the “bad” GPO. If that had not happened, I would probably be on the phone with Microsoft for most of the night while the rest of the guys made plans to roll back the entire AD to a previous state.

We waited five minutes and then I got antsy so I did a gpupdate /force on my machine, and once it was refreshed, I hit the start button and everything was back to normal on my machine. After that I relaxed a little, and was still searching for a solution in case it ever happened again (not bloody likely) or it happened to someone else and asked me for help.

I found a message thread in Usenet/Google Groups about the same thing that I did. The solution that he found was the same thing that saved my ass: one of the other domain controllers hadn't updated yet. If it did, he would have been screwed. (as would I)

This could have been one of those COLOSSAL fuckups that define a career (or at least the downward trajectory of one) had it not been for a slow WAN link. It's one of those mistakes you only make once, as the fear of it actualy happening again/for real is SO MUCH that it will make you pause and check the settings every friggin time you go into Group Policy Management Console for the rest of your life.

Thursday, January 26, 2006 1:26:20 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Tech | Microsoft#
Thursday, December 29, 2005
In just 12 months, the RAZR has gone from vapor to release to ubiquitousness. Three times.
Thursday, December 29, 2005 8:36:08 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Tech | Gadgets#
Sunday, October 23, 2005

Along with the website outage I had yesterday due to hardware at the server end in Vancouver, we've been having problems with internet connectivity period down here. Wednesday night (when Wilma was making her closest brush to Cayman) Nat called me and was having trouble with DNS resolution (that's what happens when you type in and the network says “oh yeah,, here it's 216.whatever.whatever.whatever” and connects you to it). Since then, the internet has been up and down and up and down. When it's up, it's slow. When it's down, it's down.

People have been calling me non-stop for the last few days asking if I could come “fix” their internet connection and I've had to try and explain that it wasn't anything that I could fix, that it was a problem with Cable & Wireless. “But I have a cable modem from WestTel!” Yeah well, then I have to explain that Cable & Wireless owns the fiber that goes off the island, so any other ISPs that pop up still have to lease circuits fro C&W, so in effect they still have a monopoly, even though it was “dissolved” very publicly over the last couple years.

I started to wonder if something happened to the submarine fiber optic cable, since it got washed ashore during Hurricane Ivan last year. I didn't know where the other end of it went until today. There are three links: one from here to Cayman Brac, one from Cayman Brac to Jamaica (and from there I don't know where it goes) and then the other side of the link goes from Grand Cayman to.... Cancun! Yeah, Cancun. So that link has been knocked offline and the entire IP infrastructure for the Cayman Islands is now travelling over the backup link from here to Jamaica. So while we DO have connectivity, the speed of it is waaaaaay down. No real sense of when it can be repaired, either. Im guessing they havent even got anyone on-site that can assess the damage, nevermind when it can get fixed and put back online.

Bunch of arse.

Sunday, October 23, 2005 9:16:44 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Cayman | Hurricane | Tech#
Saturday, October 22, 2005
been offline most of the day.
Saturday, October 22, 2005 7:26:46 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Misc | Tech | WWW#
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
I put my webcam up if you wanna see what it looks like out my window.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005 8:41:13 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Cayman | Hurricane | Pictures | Tech | WWW#
Saturday, September 17, 2005
long technical post about my media streaming stuff. skip if this sorta thing gives you headaches
Saturday, September 17, 2005 8:43:07 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Links | Tech | Gadgets | Wireless#
Thursday, September 8, 2005
Local TV & Gov't documentary about last year's Hurricane Ivan and it's effects in the Cayman Islands.
Thursday, September 8, 2005 4:04:38 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [3] | Cayman | Hurricane | Tech | Wireless#
Tuesday, August 9, 2005
What the HELL does that mean???
Tuesday, August 9, 2005 8:23:24 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [1] | Links | Movies | Tech | Travel#
Monday, August 1, 2005

Cable & Wireless announced today that they're re-structuring their ADSL plans again. Our $199/month ADSL service at 1.5mbps down and 512kbps up is dropping to $99. That's $125US/month and still high, but hella better than $250US/month.

In it's place they're offering the Business Class DSL at 2.5mbps down and 1mbps upstream and a fixed IP address for $199. I'm all about the speed, and having 1024kbps upstream would make playing xbox live much more practical. The fixed IP address would be gravy on top, as Im running Dynamic DNS at the moment for a web server, webcam  and remote desktop. There are no other übergeeks sharing our connection though, so I've already been 'voted off the island' so we can have cheaper internet, rather than faster.

Monday, August 1, 2005 2:51:09 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Cayman | Tech#
Saturday, July 23, 2005

I started using Firefox around 0.9.something. I had it installed “in addition” to IE, and as I got used to tabbed browsing, I slowly started using it more and more. Last time I did a re-install, I installed Firefox and set it as the default web browser. It crashed every now and then, usually on a PDF link, but no big deal.

Tonight, I left my laptop on with Firefox open. Two tabs: My Yahoo and Gmail inbox. Seb and I went down to Canton for dinner, gone for maybe an hour and a bit. I come home and come upstairs and can hear the fans going full-blast on my laptop. I checked th systray and i8kfangui reported my processor temperature at 62c. Not good. The processor was running at almost 100% for no good reason.

I popped open the Windows Task Manager, and there was the culprit: Firefox.exe was using up 80% of the CPU and chewing up more than 50mb of RAM. For what? it wasn't DOING anything...

I ran a spyware scan and came up clean, just a couple cookies. Then I Googled for an answer and found a few other people with the same issues, but no one had any idea why. Who knows...

For now, just make sure you don't leave firefox open when you're not actively using it, especially with a laptop. Running that fast chews up battery power and running that hot for a long period of time just isn't good for the cpu or other bits & pieces.

Saturday, July 23, 2005 6:33:26 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Links | Tech#
Monday, June 20, 2005

OK, so this isn't about girls.

I've been shopping for a new laptop recently. I had my eye on the Alienware Sentia, the Dell Inspiron 700m, the Acer Ferrari and the Sony Vaio S-series. I want something smaller than what I have now (Inspiron 8600, 15.4” WUXGA+) but with a widescreen, because it's better for watching movies/dvds/videos on.

I'll save the details for another post, as this one is specifically about the Dell Inspiron 700m. After a lot of reading and being scared off by lots of negative feedback, I came back to the Dell. I also checked out some online coupon/deal places and found a coupon code for $750 off. Holy crap! I spec'd out a 700m the way I wanted it, applied the coupon and wowzers, it worked! $750 off and free shipping! I saved it in my cart til I got home tonight to read the fine print.

I got home from the gym (and stopped at Calico Jacks for a few mins to say hi to everyone who's down for the wedding (bachelor party pictures to come soon as well) and then went home to shower and make dinner and buy a new laptop. As I was cooking dinner, the power went out. It came back up 45 mins later, and before you could say boo, it went back out again.

We decided to go get some ice cream, since the lights were on in town, and it was getting friggin hot in here with the a/c off and no fans going. We got home around 10:00 and I sat down to pull up my shopping cart on and read the fine print. It showed the laptop at it's original price, so I went back to the coupon site, copied the code and went and pasted it back into the shopping cart and hit update.

I got a popup window saying the coupon had expired. The coupon was valid until Thursday the 23rd or until it was used 3000 times. I guess that means that Dell sold 3000 laptops today. Left me shit out of luck.

I should have just plonked it down on my credit card this afternoon and gotten it over with.

Monday, June 20, 2005 8:12:55 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [2] | Tech#
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
...You might end up administratively locking yourself out of Windows
Wednesday, June 15, 2005 7:00:52 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Tech | Linux | Microsoft | Travel#
Friday, May 27, 2005
Hello? who? Cable & Wireless? Sure, hang on... "HEY C&W, it's for you, it's the 21st century calling, they wanna know why you're still in the last century"
Friday, May 27, 2005 6:52:34 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [2] | Cayman | Links | Rants | Tech | Gadgets#
Monday, May 9, 2005

Well, I'm still not entirely sure WHAT happened to my hard drive. The drive was still there, but Windows wouldnt recognize it and said “Drive F: is not formatted, would you like to format it now?” uhhhh NO! I figured I'd give Knoppix a whirl, as I had read about it last week. I downloaded the torrent of it (686mb in about 60 mins) and burned the image to a CD, popped it in and booted up.

Knoppix came up and found all my hardware, even my USB drives that were plugged in. The only gripe I had with it at that point was that the resolution was low, 640x480 I think. I probably could have entered one of the “cheat codes” that comes with it to up the resolution on startup, but whatever, it worked.

The odd thing was that it found my hard drive at /dev/hdb1 and it showed the entire file structure and all the files... my biggest gripe of the day came when I found out that I couldn't write to an NTFS disk with it. Apparently there is a way to do it, and I googled around for a bit. You're supposed to click on the K, go to Knoppix, Utilities and there's a program called CaptiveNTFS that lets you read and write to an NTFS partition, but it wasnt there. I read something about Windows XP SP2 “breaking” captive NTFS with a new version of the NTOS kernel file, so I was pretty much dead in the water. I thought about doing it 1gb at a time with my USB drive but gave up on that after one revolution through that process. I thought maybe I could do it 4 times, burn a DVD, do it 4 more times, burn a DVD but if that was the case, I'd still be sitting there now with cobwebs in my ears trying to copy off all the data.

In the end I used the network to do it. Knoppix had enough Samba stuff built into it that I could connect to a share on my network and copy-and-paste the files over the network. I got a full 11mbps when I was copying from my Knoppix desktop to my XP laptop and then via USB2 to another hard drive (even though I have an entirely 802.11g network capable of 'theoretical' 54mbps throughput) and was getting 1MB/sec throughput. I turned off my wireless radio on my laptop and plugged it in via cat5 ethernet to theoretically get a max of 100mbps speed. I DID get 20mbps and 2MB/sec transfer rate, so I was content with that.

I managed to save all the TV shows I haven't watched yet, and all the data files I had stored on the drive as well. I sacrificed a few movies I had stored on the drive, my backup of my Mp3 library, my backup of my photo library and a bunch of other “assorted” video clips that I was storing there for network sharing purposes.

Once all that was done, I rebooted back into Windows and used disk manager to delete the partition and create and format a new partition on that HD. It seemed to work, and the disk is now a pristine, empty 155gb again, but I'm not sure that I trust it with 'critical' data. I don't know why it failed. The weird thing is that my previous Maxtor 160gb drive that was in this enclosure failed the same way, about a year ago. I'm wondering if maybe it's because we're approaching summer, and the tempurature in the apt is too high during the day when there's no A/C on and the computer is still running. I'll have to look around for some temperature monitoring software and run some tests on it to see if I can get a baseline on the temperature in my case during the day compared to at night.

Monday, May 9, 2005 5:51:36 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [1] | Tech | Linux | Microsoft#
Monday, May 2, 2005

I decided to get a new video card for my computer at home. I thought I could get away with the 'built-in' video, with it's whopping 8mb of (shared) memory, but it's just not cutting it. I decided to go for an ATI All-In-Wonder Radeon 9600 with 128mb of RAM on (coincidentally, the same amount of system ram my first “killer gaming rig” had on it back in the day) I looked around online and decided to go with because I had purchased from them in the past and they had good prices.

I also didn't want to pay 20% customs duty on the purchase, and it wasn't a desperate need to have it within a few days, so I decided I would buy it and ship it to our Miami office and next time one of us was up there, they could pick it up and bring it back in under their customs allowance. I could also have shipped it to my US Link mailbox in Miami and they would have shipped it here in 48 hours from receiving it for the wee fee of $3/lb. The only problem with that is that I would pay 20% duty on the (pre-rebate) $249 for the card, the $5 super saver fedex shipping, and then the airfreight charge as well. 20% of $300 is $60, but the duty would be in Cayman Dollars, so it would be USD$72.50 on top of the $249. A bit too much.

My credit card billing address is my US Link mailbox: it's where my magazine subscriptions (”What am I going to do with 48 subscriptions to Vibe?”) credit card statements and credit card junkmail are delivered to. I even had my local debit card's address changed to that Miami address to facilitate online purchasing.

I went through the checkout routine at newegg, and they didn't have my name in their system anymore, so first I had to go through the “sign up for a new account” process, and validate that, and then go back, find my shopping cart again, and start the 'checkout' process again. I used my local debit card, who's billing address is in Miami, and specified “different shipping address” because I wanted shipped to my office rather than my mailbox. I clickety-clicked through it and thought it was done.

Fifteen minutes later I got an email response from newegg that my card was issued by a non-US bank, and my order was cancelled. OK, well I gave it a shot anyway, but in the back of my mind, I was thinking “There are 300 million potential customers in the US, but there are 6 BILLION potential customers outside the US and FedEx will deliver to every single one of them. What's the holdup?” so I went back, and found the video card again, put it in my shopping cart, went to checkout, logged in, changed my debit card to my US credit card which has the same Miami billing address and went through the whole thing again. I even used their newegg/fedex shipping address validator and made sure everything was filled out properly.

THIRTY minutes later this time, I get another email: unable to verify shipping address! Didn't I just click the validate address thing? The problem this time was that my shipping address and billing address didn't match up. DUH, I know that! I was the one who clicked “ship to another address”! so I contacted NewEgg's Customer Service number and they told me to have the shipping address assigned as a secondary address to my credit card. I called the credit card company, but due to high volume, their current estimated wait time on hold was 17 minutes. Have I mentioned that calling 800 numbers from the Cayman Islands results in regular overseas long-distance charges? plus the regular airtime charges for your mobile account? Thankfully I have ways around that. I didn't want to wait on hold for that long, so I put it off til the morning.

The next morning I called the credit card company and got through right away. I said I wanted to add a second address to my card because these jackasses wouldnt ship to anything other than the billing address. The nice lady told me that that wasn't possible. I could change my address, but I didn't want to do THAT. Then she told me I could make a temporary change of address which would “time out” and revert back to my normal address after X days. I decided to do that, gave her my “shipping” address and then that was done. I called Newegg back, but their call center is on the west coast (yet their order fulfillment warehouse is in New Jersey) so they were closed and please call back later. I was kinda pissed off at this point, it was a lot of running around just to order one simple little thing online. I waited until just after 9am local when the call center was to open and called them back. I gave them my order number, and said I had the address added to my credit card, so please go ahead and re-submit the order. At this time, I checked and there was a roughly $200 authorization on my card from newegg, so I thought everything was in order. Yeah, right.

Ten minutes later I get a NEW MAIL popup and I get the same goddamn form letter from Newegg telling me my shipping address could not be verified and to please have the address added to my credit card and call them to try again.

Nope. Fuck that noise. I DID log on to Newegg's site, but that was to cancel the order. I haven't gotten around to it yet, but they will be getting a nastier version of this website post in their customer service mailbox shortly. I clicked over to CompUSA's site, and five minutes later had an order confirmation in my mailbox, and then a quick check to FedEx this morning showed it was delivered on Friday. Then I got an email from someone I work with who was in the office in Miami this weekend and said she was bringing it back for me.

SO, Newegg, who suck donkey balls, can bite me. I won't be buying from them again.

Monday, May 2, 2005 5:42:37 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Links | Rants | Tech#
Friday, April 22, 2005

I got up this morning and checked my desktop (our ADSL is set wrong at the mo and only set at 128kbps down and 64kbps up which is ridiculous, since we're paying KYD$199 a month) and the web page I had opened up had auto-refreshed and had this message:

Sorry, but TVTorrents is down. No, I will not return. Sorry for any hassles. Thanks for all the memories and good times we had together in #tvtorrents. As of now, the channel will remain open, but stay +m (no talking).

Again, sorry for having to leave, but it became necessary. If you can donate to help with the pending settlement, please do so!

That sucks so much ass. I can see how some people would think that posting torrents/hosting trackers for TV shows (sans commercials) would be illegal, but I tend to look at it a different way:

I have a cable box. It costs me $56/month for basic cable. ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, and then a bunch of other “basic” channels and then we also PAY each month for HBO, TMC, Showtime and Cinemax. WHAT is the “piracy” if I'm downloading shows that I'm ALREADY PAYING FOR? how is downloading tv shows any different from using a TiVo or other PVR? I'm time-shifting so I can watch the shows I want to watch when I want to watch them. I can see the illlegality of it if I didn't pay for any of it in the first place, but I AM paying for it. And since I'm PAYING for it, why should I have commercials shoved down my throat? That's a can of worms for another post, though. :)

Of course, the reason this site got shut down is because believe it or not, I'm not the only person in the world who uses the internet and there were bound to be people in other markets (overseas, etc) who otherwise would not see the shows, who are downloading the shows “illegally”.

I guess I'm going to have to go ahead and get a video card with video in and figure out some way to make Windows XP Media Center Edition work and pick up a copy (as in BUY, you maggots!) of Xbox Media Extender and use that to stream the downloaded content to the TV/Stereo.

Friday, April 22, 2005 5:48:03 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Links | Tech | Gaming#
Thursday, March 17, 2005
If you don't know what the title is, you don't have to read on, you won't understand it. This post is so I'll have a permalink to use to refer to this document in the future. :)
Thursday, March 17, 2005 7:34:17 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Links | Tech | Gadgets | Linux#
Wednesday, February 2, 2005
I worked late last night, and then got five support calls between 0400 and 0500 this morning (it's my turn to be on call) so I was already cranky when I got in this morning...
Wednesday, February 2, 2005 6:27:34 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Rants | Tech#
Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Steve (see the blogroll to the right) and Rich (same) are involved in a charity auction to raise money for tsunami victims in Southeast Asia. Basically you're bidding on an hour of consulting time from one of the group. It's pretty much a who's-who of software development professionals. I haven't clicked on all their names in Steve's post, but I recognize a lot of the names from various posts at various sites over the last year or so. Rich posted about it on his blog yesterday as well, and there are references to it on Microsoft Watch as well.

I can count the number of things I know about software development on one hand and still have enough fingers left to bowl with, so the only thing I can do is try to help drive some traffic to their eBay auction. Go bid, even if you just want to chat with one of them for an hour. I know some of you have paid more than $100 to be someone's friend for less than an hour. Less than 20 minutes if I remember correctly... Lordy pants did Colin's 25th birthday present ever backfire on us. (smack forehead)

Tuesday, January 25, 2005 7:19:23 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Links | Tech | Microsoft | WWW#
Monday, January 10, 2005

Back in the day when I was a strapping young lad making my way through the dating scene in Vancouver, I always had a little litmus test in my back pocket. Whenever I'd pick a girl up (or after dinner on the way home, or whenever we were heading to the car) I would, like a gentleman unlock her door and open it for her. Once she was in, I'd close the door and head around the back of the car to my side which would give me an unobstructed view of the interior of the car. It would also give me a grandstand view of “The Test” to see if she would make it to first base that night, or if she would get a crack at a second date (and possibly beyond first base).

The Test of course, was to see if after she was in the car, if she would lean over and unlock my door before/as I got there. Some girls didn't and their story ended pretty quickly after that. Other girls did, and some even went so far as to OPEN the door a crack after unlocking it. I have fond memories of those girls. :)

This served me well when I was sixteen and was driving an '80 Camaro. (No I didn't have a mullet then, or wear nylon track pants pulled up over my calfs with soccer boots). I moved up to an '87 Golf after that, and it had regular old door locks as well, and I drove that car until I left for Cayman when I was 25. After a year of getting around on a bicycle (which really hampered the social life, as you can imagine... “hey, you wanna get on my handlebars and go back to my place?”) I landed myself Betty.

Betty was an '86 Suzuki Samurai, baby blue with pink racing stripes on it. Betty was a chick magnet. Being a soft top, I never locked the doors, so there was no need for “the test”. When Betty finally said goodbye and went off to that big, blue & pink puppy farm in the country, I picked up a sweet little Acura Integra. It had regular door locks as well. The Acura floated away during Hurricane Ivan and I was back to biking and thumbing rides until I got my current ride, a Jeep Wrangler. Again, a soft top that I don't bother locking. I also drove Brad's pimpmobile for a few weeks while I was waiting for my Jeep to arrive on a boat.

In the mid 80's cars started coming with “central locking” which as you all now know opens ALL the doors when you unlock one of them from the outside. It was the natural progression from the ultra-chic power locks of the 70's. Then the 90's came along and the next step (on your average car, not just really expensive imports) was remote keyless entry. Quite possibly one of the best innovations in automotive technology since cruise control, or anti-lock brakes.

This presents a quandary to the young male on the dating scene. Approaching the car, he palms the fob and unlocks BOTH doors at once. He steps aside and holds the door open for his lovely companion, sees that she's seated comfortably , closes the door and proceeds around to his side... where the door is already unlocked!

How is he to know if she is the type of person who WOULD HAVE unlocked his door for him, or even opened it a crack, or if she was the type to take that moment alone to let a little gas pass through her dainty little cheeks? Or even worse, the type who makes a mad dash for the vanity mirror?

Technology... man's saviour... and his downfall.

Monday, January 10, 2005 9:33:05 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [1] | Rants | Tech | Gadgets#
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