Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Backups - more important than you think

Users do not back up their data.  Users will tell you that they have backed up their data.  Users will then blame you when you reinstall their system, at their request, and they find that they do not have their data.

I don't care what the story is - I hold to a personal policy of backing up before a re-image.  Even when the user has declined.  Better safe than sorry.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Back to the future.

Its the early 90's again.  Between the "Here you have" email earlier this week, and the EFax one I'm seeing today, I think I might trade in my Pontiac for a DeLorean.  Viruses with email attachment/web link payloads went out of style almost a decade ago, didn't they?

I wonder if the new DeLorean company provides their cars with Flux Capacitors as a standard option.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

OWA Weirdness

MS software doesn't necessarily work with MS software.

So, my options are, for a small subset of Windows Vista users checking email from home, convince corporate IT to install a hotfix for Exchange, or rob IE of a little bit of browser share and introduce a user to Firefox.

Which path do you think I chose?

Server? Really? Kind of.

My "server" is getting to be a bit long in the tooth.  Its a single core Athlon XP 2400+ box, running with 1gb of PC2100 memory.  It only handles a single website, and some fileshares, so it was more than enough for the job. Unfortunately, it seems that the old system is giving up the ghost  Any moderate activity seems to trigger a thermal event.  Of course, that's discounting the fact that running an Athlon XP in and of itself constitutes a thermal event - best space heater investment I've ever made.  After nearly 6 years of being my primary desktop PC, and testing/fooling around rig, with nary an upgrade (with the exception of a failed mobo swap a few years back - finding a replacement board was a chore) the original components are finally due for an upgrade.  Since it plays host to my mother's website, a few dozen ISO's/must have program installers, and a small VMware playground, retiring it completely just isn't in the cards.  Therefore, when I get home, I have the pleasure of installing a brand new in box Athlon 64 3000+ and A8N-SLI board into the old beast.  Why do I have these laying around, you ask?  Well, they were the starting point for a gaming rig that I intended to build about 3-4 years ago to replace the old Athlon XP box.  Technology outran my budget, so by the time I managed to start collecting components again, fancy things like DDR2, quad core processors, etc, had flooded the market at insane prices.  This is why I have $300 dollars (original MSRP 5 years ago) of prime midrange 2005 desktop PC gear sitting around, still sealed in the OEM boxes.

On another less pleasant side note, I cannot find a floppy disk to save my life.  Bios updates on old Dells are impossible without one.  Hopefully I'll have better luck tracking down a PCI video card for my "new," "old" new server board.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Troubleshoot the technician?

"Why on earth won't this system network boot?  I flashed the BIOS, checked the settings, network boot is enabled, what am I missing........"

My vision drifts to an unused network cable lying on my desk.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Logmein Hamachi - when I first found this tool, I was in love. Multiplatform support, the ability to connect all my devices via vpn without crazy configurations, messing around with nutty firewall settings, or any other confusion. For a young, relatively inexperienced geek, it was a great find.

Fast forward 4 or so years to the present. I had been dealing with Windows exclusively for the past few months, but necessity had driven me toward Linux for a new server. Yearning for my anywhere, anytime access, I turned to Hamachi again. But wait....where's my Linux support? What happened to my zero configuration VPN heaven? Hamachi support for Linux had evaporated. Not wanting to run an entire dedicated Windows server for IIS, I had to seek out another option.

I've worked with OpenVPN in Linux before. Honestly, its a headache I didn't want, and the Windows integration was less than stellar. In stumbling my way around the web looking for an easier way to use OpenVPN, I stumbled across a blog post about a "Hamachi alternative" called NeoRouter. As I began to investigate this gem, I quickly realized that this was not just an alternative, it was a true Hamachi Killer. The ease of configuration and excellent Windows GUI, familiar from the Hamachi heyday was present, along with unexpectedly good features such as OpenWRT server capabilities that rival OpenVPN, and web based monitoring and management.

Now, I'm not one to write a guide, I'm more of a follower when it comes to instruction. However, the folks over at have put together an absolutely phenomenal guide for NeoRouter configuration. If you are looking for a Hamachi replacement for your multi-platform VPN, give NeoRouter a good look.

NeoRouter -

Monday, September 6, 2010

Thinking of making a shift.......

Well, actually I've decided already. With a new job, renewed resources toward doing my own thing on the side, and a desk that feels more cluttered by the day, its time to make a shift away from big, bulky desktop PCs. My current quad-core will likely be the last desktop PC I will build myself. How can someone like myself with such a gadget lust break away from the massive, dual screened monsters that have adorned my workspace for so long? A shift in focus, for one. I've begun to realize just how little videogaming I do these days. Most of my actual work, on my "Desktop PC" is done via remote desktop from my humble X41, or tunneled in from my work PC. Effectively, my massive, high powered gaming PC is being treated as a server. With my ongoing obsession with virtualization expanding, I see no reason not to move to a dedicated ESXi machine for my assorted geekery, and just do away with the desktop entirely. My only bother, for that rare moment when I do sit at my vast desk, is the lack of dual monitors with my X41. The X201 coming later this month to replace my long in the tooth mobile workhorse won't quite bandage this single insufferable flaw, nor will it have the horsepower to handle the very few games I do occasionally play, intense locally hosted virtual playgrounds, and the like. What I need is a desktop replacement - an entire office that I can deploy anywhere. Enter the new object of my nerdlust - the Lenovo Thinkpad W701DS

More than a mere replacement, this machine has functionality I could only dream of integrating into a desktop experience. The fact that it can be folded up for easy transport when necessary is a bonus, although I wouldn't cart it around with me. As a tinkerer, I've grown tired of the long process with each build, figuring out why components won't play well together, processing warranty RMA requests and spending days, or weeks at a time without a functioning system. I have come to the simple realization that this has never been an issue with my many Thinkpads. Even as used purchases, my blocky black laptops have always come through for me. In seeking to reduce my home office footprint, the W701DS looks like it will fit the bill nicely, not to mention work well with my 3 year office upgrade cycle.

For now, my homebrewed desktop is safe. But when it comes time to replace it, in the not so far future, my eye will turn to this beastly notebook, an office in a unit that can be folded and carted off with me, if needed. Pairing its behemoth power with a standard X series ultralight like the X201 for travel and on the go work would be computing bliss. My desk would also look a hell of a lot less cluttered.