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I am The Cyberwolfe and these are my ramblings. All original content is protected under a Creative Commons license - always ask first.
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Archive for the 'Geekery' Category

Business tip: don’t let the CFO be the IT contact

Posted in Geekery on April 25th, 2012

Working as an outsourced IT guy, I’ve seen many different approaches to the idea of the ‘IT Liaison’ position – that poor sap who gets tasked with keeping track of all the little things that are wrong with the computers and coordinating with the IT guy(s). Here are some tips for choosing the right Liaison:

  • Whoever you pick should have at least a vague idea of the terminology used. If they think “turning on the computer” involves the button on the monitor alone, they are not qualified. They should also not be afraid to learn something new.
  • Don’t let the beancounters do it. Especially the CFO. Beancounters are concerned only with the bottom line, and for the most part they don’t comprehend that what they consider “getting the most for their dollar” equates to pissing us right the hell off.

    Look, I know you don’t want to pay too much for parts and such, but if I give you a quote, the price on it will probably include a little something to cover the time and expense of researching the product and actually writing up the quote in a presentable format. DO NOT expect me to match the lowest price you can find on the Internet, because that price is based on them selling 1000 units a day. We sell 1 unit a day at best, so I’m not going to give you crate-based pricing. If you refuse to pay more than the lowest Internet price for anything, I will let you do your own damn research in the future and you can buy it yourself. Let me know when it gets there.

  • The Liaison should not be obsessive-compulsive. If you hound us and peer over our shoulders, it takes us longer to get anything done. If you continually pester us with emails regarding a particular subject, we will start adding the time we spend dealing with your emails into our fees. The idea of human multi-tasking is actually bogus: humans can only truly focus on one thing; doing more than one thing means we have to split that focus, and pay less attention to each of those things. So, if you’re distracting me from my work, you won’t like the results. Do not demand updates while the job is in process, wait until we have a minutes to breathe and we’ll tell you what we’re doing.
  • Make it someone who has some influence, or make someone with influence speak with us on a regular basis. Me telling the receptionist that you need new servers doesn’t do any good if nobody listens to her, and me saying you’ve needed new servers for months when the shit hits the fan just sounds like an excuse.

HP ML350/370 G6 Expansion Drive Cage Installation problem

Posted in Geekery, Work on November 5th, 2011

So, you’ve just bought the expansion drive cage (8 more SFF drives! W00t!) and you’ve got the SAS RAID controller Expansion Card as well. Great! Only one problem – HP forgot to include a crucial bit of information regarding how you wire the damn thing in.

Step 1: remove the existing SAS cables from the existing drive cage and motherboard. Discard these short cables.

Step 2: Take the shorter pair of cables from the expansion card kit, and route them from the SAS ports on the motherboard to ports 8 and 9 on the card. Then proceed with running the remaining cables from the two drive cages to ports 2-5 of the card.

The instructions that came with my kit left these two steps out, and I wasted about an hour trying to figure out what I did wrong (Whaddya mean there’s no new drives in the ACU?). Finally found an article with pictures in the HP site, but they could have saved me the trouble by just printing the above two lines in the kit.

How’d the rest of it go? Rather smashing, actually. That server now has 60GB (!!) of RAM and another 900GB of RAID5 storage.

Internet Explorer 9 – Microsoft STILL doesn’t get it.

Posted in Geekery on March 14th, 2011

Here is a phone pic of my computer 3 minutes into the process of installing Internet Explorer 9:

Why a phone pic? Because it had to completely shut down everything else, including:

  • Antivirus
  • Firefox
  • Media Monkey
  • All the widgets
  • Logitech software
  • and Windows Explorer.

So why it took 6 whole minutes when it wasn’t fighting anything else for my processors or 6GB of RAM, I have no effing idea…

So no, it didn’t actually require a reboot, but it did completely take over my computer for 6 solid minutes while it downloaded and installed the new package. So yay, no reboot, but WTF?!? Why are you STILL making the browser such an integral part of the operating system?

Chrome, Firefox and Opera all run quite happily without being so integrated. What the hell do you do that needs to be so wrapped up in the whole system other than allow a canny hacker access to core OS functionality through one of the inevitable security holes you provide with each release? Hmm?

Okay, enough of that, time to run it through some tests. So, load up my main work website, go to the toughest and slowest page it has and… huh. Right. IE9! Does so much more!! Look at all the pretty HTML5 it can do!!!

But apparently it doesn’t do Ajax, which means we can’t use it at work, which means it is utterly useless. Go Team Go.

So, right here is where I plug ChromePlus, a mashup that comes pre-loaded with IE-Tab right in the download. All the speed and security of Chrome AND the ability to run IE-required pages.

In conclusion, IE9 looks to be just what I expected it to be: several good ideas completely screwed by a company that refuses to pull it’s head out of it’s ass.

Legacy Email Relay in SBS 2008 with Exchange 2007

Posted in Geekery, Work on February 5th, 2011

As can be expected, Microsoft made a lot of changes in the SBS 2008 / Exchange 2007 combination, and while it has been out for several years now, I have yet to find any articles or HOWTO’s that specifically address the problems of getting ancient, legacy code to reliably send email alerts with the new systems.

With Exchange 2003, it was simple and mostly just built-in, all you had to do was add the IP address of things like your scanners and other fairly dumb systems (or even advanced ones, like Backup Exec and APC Powerchute) to allow them to relay email alerts through Exchange.

Well, in Exchange 2007, they made things a little more difficult and force you to create new Receive Connectors with specific restrictions to allow these systems. It has been well documented before, so I’ll just include a link: http://msexchangeteam.com/archive/2006/12/28/432013.aspx

I will point out one thing, however: my experience (and a blog posting I cannot find again today) says that to make this actually work, the remote network range for this connector must be 0.0.0.0-255.255.255.255, and not limited to the single machine or short range of IP addresses. I tested this extensively, and always came up with the same result: narrow IP range = no workee. This means that you must create rules on your firewall to strictly limit incoming SMTP traffic to make sure you don’t set up an open relay on the Internet. You should already be doing this anyhow, considering how cheap Postini spam filtering is.

There’s also one other small problem: SBS 2008 only allows you a single NIC, and therefore a single IP address for the server, which means that you’ll have to assign this new relay connector to a non-standard port (like 26) to make it work. (The trick of adding a second alternative IP address to the NIC will not work – it disappears after a reboot.) Here’s a series of pics with my setup:

Now to use this, you’ll obviously have to configure your legacy systems to point to the specific port as well as the IP address. Usually, this is done by tacking a :26 (or whatever port you chose) on the end of the IP address or server name. (192.168.x.x:26 or servername.domainname.local:26).

Sometimes, however, those legacy systems will be so entirely stupid that you can’t point them at a non-standard port. This is where stuff gets damned annoying.

If you are lucky enough to have another server on the network, you can install SMTP on that server, and tell it to use Exchange (at the special port you made) as a Smart Host, and then you can point your legacy systems at this SMTP server and allow it to do the relaying for you. For example, my client has another Server 2008 machine handy, so I added the SMTP Feature and created a new SMTP Virtual Server called Relay 1 and set it to allow anonymous connections.

Instead of 15 pictures, I’m going to give you a hundred words of settings description:

General Tab:
Select your IP address, nothing unusual here.

Access Tab:
-Authentication button – select Anonymous access only.
-Connection Control button – select “All except the list below”
-Relay Restrictions button – Select “Only the list below” and give it your network range. This one should accept the restriction of single entries, unlike the Exchange 2007 connector. I also checked the box for “Allow all computers which authenticate…” just for grins.

Messages Tab:
-Set your favorite limits here, as well as the location of the Badmail directory.

Delivery Tab
-Set more limits and timeouts here. I usually expire messages at 2 hours.

LDAP Routing and Security tabs:
-Probably no changes needed here.

Lastly, go into the Services management area and set SMTP to Automatic Start.

Hopefully, I’ve just saved at least one other person from having to figure all this out the hard way. May the Force be with you.

How to fail the Hyper-V exam 70-652

Posted in Geekery on June 30th, 2010

Step 1: Purchase / acquire the Microsoft E-Learning courses #6320 – #6324. Study them carefully, expecting them to contain all of the information required to pass the exam. They are, after all, provided by Microsoft for this very reason.

Step 2: Schedule and take the exam. Answer the questions. Miss the questions they ask regarding installing Hyper-V onto a Server 2008 Core installation, because the bloody study guide never mentions how to do this.

That’s right – the entire “Installation” section a complete failure because I had never seen these commands, which they asked about three times:

To view the list of software updates and check if any are missing, at the command prompt, type:

wmic qfe list

If you do not see “kbid=950050”, download the Hyper-V updates and then type the following command at a command prompt:

wusa.exe Windows6.0-KB950050-x64.msu /quiet

There are three update packages. After you install the updates, you must restart the server. The Update for Windows Server 2008 x64 Edition (KB 950050) and Language Pack for Hyper-V (KB951636) must be installed on the parent partition of the Server Core installation.

Hyper-V role

To install the Hyper-V role, at a command prompt, type:

start /w ocsetup Microsoft-Hyper-V

To manage Hyper-V on a Server Core installation, use the Hyper-V management tools to manage the server remotely. These tools are available for Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista Service Pack 1.

*NOTE* – the above is for early releases of Server 2008. The R2 version has everything included, so all you need is the final ocsetup command.

Well, it wasn’t a total waste of a test. I was the first guy in the office to take the test, so I got to warn the others to study further afield and the next guy passed it.

I don’t know why I didn’t expect this, considering they asked me about Exchange clustering in a SBS exam.

Retro Gaming and security

Posted in Geekery on May 11th, 2010

As a good many of you should already know, MekTek.net has been given the go-ahead to release Mechwarrior4: Mercenaries as a free game (!!) to go with the enhancements that they have cooked up over the years. All of this is in preparation for the upcoming reboot of the Mechwarrior franchise, which looks to be very awesome indeed.

This is great news, because I’ve missed playing Mechwarrior, but haven’t wanted to go through all the trouble to re-install the damn thing. It’s a 2-hour process, once you take into account the multiple patches for the original game, adding in the supplements that I’ve bought over the years, all of their patches, and then the MekTek stuff, which is just too cool to pass up. I honestly wasn’t sure it would even install onto a 64-bit Windows7 box, so I was reluctant to use the two hours I could maybe scrape together for playing a game trying to install it.

Luckily, though, MekTek has put together an installer that works and manages to shoehorn the whole thing together without much fuss and bother… unless you happen to be running Norton 360 antivirus.

Once again, Symantec proves how thoroughly they suck. While it only takes moments for someone to submit a false positive, and maybe another hour before Norton distributes an updated signature file that deletes the effing executable to the game, it will take them probably 2 weeks to clean things up and ‘certify’ the files in question.

Gee, Symantec. Thanks.

Luckily for us, Da Roomie and I have avoided Symantec products for years now, and had no problem at all getting it installed on just about every computer in the house. We are thoroughly prepared for LAN gaming possibilities, as this is old enough it will even run on our laptops without dragging the video settings down.

Tonight, we took some Assault-class ‘Mechs for a run around a couple of maps, and Greyduck has found his favorite weapon at long last: a Large Continuous-Beam Laser. Two of those paired with Gauss rifles, and he’s giggling like mad. Especially when we both manage to lock an Annihilator into our sights and knock it over with 2 Gauss hits and one round of my railgun all at once.

Good times :)

Attention

Posted in Geekery on April 27th, 2010

To the Jackass who keeps posting spam comments on both my blogs:

Knock it off. It’s getting annoying to have to delete your comments from moderation.

You’d think they would have learned, since none of the messages ever actually make it past moderation…

Fix SBS 2008

Posted in Geekery on March 5th, 2010

So, there you were, enjoying your SBS 2008 server and all the things it can do when ploooie! Something goes to hell and drags you in along with it. You spend the next 4 hours desperately searching the Internet for any sort of repair guide, only to discover that everything is written for Server 2008, and using those resources will severely screw up your SBS box.

At least, that’s what happened to me. Luckily, I work for a company that has a Gold Partner membership with Microsoft, and was able to call the support line. They guy on the phone said “haven’t you seen the SBS Repair Guide?”

Why no – because the damn thing doesn’t show up in a Google search until I specifically asked for it by name. (Two days later, the damn thing shows up under nearly every search I run. Maybe they rebuilt their metas?)

Anywho, here it is: The Windows SBS 2008 Repair Guide

May the Force be with you.

Connectivity

Posted in Geekery, Life on February 23rd, 2010

You know what surprises me nowadays? When other people tell me they haven’t checked their email in a couple of days.

O_o?

I don’t get this at all. Even before I had a smartphone, I was always in my email. I just don’t get it.

 

Apple will be the death of tinkerers

Posted in Geekery on January 31st, 2010

When someone else has said something, and said it well, by all means plagiarize!

Dive Into Mark has a great post up currently lamenting the way Apple has eliminated the ability to tinker with your own computer compared to how things were back in the day. It turns out Mark is the same age as me, with a lot of the same early computer experiences, so I can quite clearly sympathize. To quote:

As it happens, this computer came with the BASIC programming language pre-installed. You didn’t even need to boot a disk operating system. You could turn on the computer and press Ctrl-Reset and you’d get a prompt. And at this prompt, you could type in an entire program, and then type RUN, and it would motherfucking run.

I was 10. That was 27 years ago, but I still remember what it felt like when I realized that you — that I — could get this computer to do anything by typing the right words in the right order and telling it to RUN and it would motherfucking run.

That computer was an Apple ][e.

[snip]…Apple made the machines that made me who I am. I became who I am by tinkering.

The first computer I got the chance to dink around with was a Radio Shack TRS-80 back in the 3rd grade. It had a little spiral-bound instruction manual with the fundamentals of BASIC inscribed within, and it took me a solid 2 days to figure out that to get the double-quotes symbol, you had to press Function instead of Shift plus the appropriate key.

By the time I was in 5th grade, me and my buddy Richard were programming a character generator program for Dungeons & Dragons, complete with money tracking and the entire shopping section. And it motherfucking ran.

That computer was an Apple ][e.

Anyway, Mark’s post is about how hard it is with today’s Apple computers to break into being a developer – it costs real money to get started, and even then you are saddled with limitations, where back when Mark and I were scribbling out our first “Hello Worlds!” all it took was a willingness to try something new.

The world needs places where kids can try something new, and it is no longer the Apple computer.