Warrior Of Light
fighting the good fight   [and slacking off occasionally] RAMBLINGS - 2003
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  2003.12.18
After much contemplating and praying, I've come to conclusion that I need to get rid of some time-consuming things in my life. The bad thing is that I will pretty much have to give up my computer consulting and website design business and in turn will have less money to spend on my computer upgrades. The good news is that I will have more time to spend on this site, with Chuda & Samuel and hopefully on some of the computer projects I've been dreaming about for the last few months.

Oh, I started working on this update last Sunday and was planning to post an update in the Campfire section, but I had so much to say on the subject that it grew to enormous proportions. I think I will have to split it into at least two parts and post them this way, otherwise it will take forever to finish. In case I don't get a chance to post another update this year, have a great Christmas and New Years Eve! Do remember that it is Christmas and not X-mas for a reason.

  PCs
Well, wouldn't you know it. After I wrote that I was ready to swap drives in my server, it hasn't given me a problem since! Go figure, first it shuts down once a week for no good reason, then it works fine for weeks. I guess I will have to collect some more data.

  games
Jon S. lent me his Final Fantasy XI Online account for a week and after playing it for a few days I was hooked. It's one of the better MMORPG's out there, even though some things sure get on my nerves. Now I'm $65 poorer [game + guide] and am looking for ways to find more free time at night :)
  2003.11.29
It seems that the closer we get to the end of the year, the more difficult it becomes to keep up with regular updates. Thanks to the days off that we get for Thanksgiving, I was able to spend one whole day working on this site and finally complete at least one overdue project, Setting Up an Efficient GUI, in particular The Little Things page. There are also a few minor changes in the Tech section, Novell and Microsoft in particular.
[update 2008.02.23 - Tech section no longer exists. The 2 links still work but have been moved to my business site.]

  quote
The fact that no one understands you doesn't make you an artist.
  job
Lately things at work have almost driven me crazy. This itself requires a pretty long update so I will just say that either something will have to change [inside of me or outside] or I'm going to start looking for a new job. I've had enough.

  PCs
My NetWare server is still shutting down for no good reason once in a while. It does not seem to be the APC PowerChute software, not the CPU, RAM, heat or even the motherboard. I've upgraded OS with the latest patches. One last thing before I completely give up on it is to try and change hard drives. Lately while reading a RAID-related article, I came across an interesting fact that haven't paid much attention to before. Apparently using drives from different manufacturers in a RAID is not such a good idea as different firmware may cause unexpected crashes. Since I have two WD 80GB drives in my main PC, I will try swapping them with the other 80GBs in my server.

  linux
I finally had a chance to create/test software RAID mirroring in Linux, so now my Linux firewall is running 2 4GB Cheetahs in software RAID 1. Next step is to run a drive failure test. BTW, HOWTO's for Linux are indispensable and often beat "supported" software manuals. After that test, I'm curious to implement QOS [Quality Of Service] to be able to prioritize different type of traffic, so Chuda's email and web browsing traffic gets a higher priority than my GB+ FTP downloads/uploads. Oh, and a big thing on my list is to test Novell's Nterprise Linux Services.

  games
I'm playing with Silent Storm and waiting for Jon to email me his login info to test Final Fantasy XI. I've always thought that MMORPG's are pretty cool but eventually had to quit each one that I tried because there was no one to play with. None of my friends wanted to join and trying to find an "online pal" was too difficult because of time differences. I play way too late for most people in PST and too early for people living in EST :) If I like this one though, Jon and I may be able to schedule our playing times.
  2003.10.27
Much time has passed since my last update, do accept my apologies and also read the message above. About two weeks ago I did make some fairly serious changes suggested by Shinjuru but since it was mostly a change in the way Tech section was organized and not so much in the content, I didn't want to post that news alone until I had some time for a regular update.
[update 2008.02.23 - Tech section no longer exists.]

  quote
"The problem is that you still have hope to survive. The only hope you have is to accept the fact that you are already dead. The sooner you accept that fact, the sooner you will be able to function as a soldier is suppose to function."
Band of Brothers, Sgt.? Spears
  parenthood
A few weeks ago Chuda had to leave for almost a week and I stayed home taking care of Samuel. This was an interesting experience. First it gave me confidence that I can do this, regardless of what some of my friends and relatives were saying. Even though it probably is more natural for a woman to be taking care of small baby/toddler, guys are not handicapped either. During that time I also watched "Daddy Day Care" which was very funny and was the perfect time to watch it. Knowing that I would be able to give Chuda a few days off if necessary was a good news for both of us.

The other thing that I wanted to find out was if I would be able to do house chores and take care of Samuel at the same time. An answer was pretty interesting. God pointed out that it would be possible to do a lot of things around the house but that would require leaving Samuel to play by himself for extended periods of time. It was all a matter of priorities. If house chores were to be #1, then Samuel's development would have to be put on back burner and visa versa. He reminded me that currently Samuel is further developed than I was when I was about the same age.

Because of the way life was in Russia, my parents didn't have as much time as they would have liked to spend with their kids. I also remembered that I started school early and was more developed by the time I started school than some of the other kids in our neighborhood. The reason for that was that my parents did take the time to teach me to read and helped me develop my memory, unlike the neighbors who decided to wait until their kids went to school and let the teachers do that job.

  PCs
My Netware server has been giving me trouble lately, it shuts down by itself about once a week. It's not the UPS auto-shutdown since it does not dismount volumes properly and then has to go through a 2-3 hour remirroring. I did notice that if there are power problems, APC PowerChute starts a memory leak. I was able to catch it once when it was using 500+MB when normally it uses less than 10MB. Just to be sure that it's not the hardware [since it has never done this before and I didn't make any changes to software in the last few months] I've replaced the motherboard but even that didn't help. I ran a memory tester for a few hours but didn't find any errors. Last week I replaced the CPU, so far so good but we will have to see. If this does not help, I may have to remove PowerChute and see if that helps.

  games
I have had very little time to play anything lately. Icewind Dale II still has a shortcut on my desktop as well as my renewed "addiction" - chess. Kevin, a friend of mine found a pretty cool chess site, PlayChess.com They provide you with some decent software client that you can use to play with others on their servers. Playing as guest is free, but you can't chat with registered members and it doesn't remember your scores or allow you to participate in various activities [training, tournaments, etc.]

Subscription price is not that bad, only around $35 annually and if you sign up for ChessNinja.com weekly newsletter [$3 a month, PayPal], you get 6 months of free play as registered user on PlayChess.com. It also seems that if you buy their chess software, Fritz 8, you do not have to pay a subscription price for playing on the server. When my 6 months run out and if I still use it at the time, I will probably just by the Fritz. BTW, ChessNinja is pretty funny and entertaining even without that added bonus, so take a look.

I'm also looking forward to trying out a few new demos - Commandos 3, Silent Storm and Railroad Tycoon 3. Now if only I could find more time... Oh, I also found another interesting site, MenOfGod.us. I haven't had a chance to play with their members yet but it looks promising. Shinjuru and Jon, check out the bunny! BTW, I think I remember seeing something like this before, did you guys show me this picture before by any chance?
  2003.09.28
This was a very busy week. We had to deal with a bunch of problems at work, I had to help a friend with his Linux server and then at the end of the week we got together with my cousins to talk about computers, politics, moving to a different state and how we are to deal with all that as Christians. Even though it was a fun conversation and I had a great time, I still got home at 1:30AM and had to get up at 8AM to take care of Samuel. All in all, I think I had 2-3 nights where I slept 5-6 hours, played no games all week and have another hectic week to look forward to. Oh well.

  job
This week I was reminded why I love Micro$oft so much. Practically all of our schools were infected with the Nachi virus and a few of them had it so bad that all of their computers and servers were dropped from our network. For the most part it was pretty frustrating but there were a few interesting moments as well. For example, I really enjoyed troubleshooting the network connection problems [as I write this, I imagine how geeky this must sound :)]

The first school that was adversely affected by this was one of our high schools. Their server would disappear than reappear from our monitoring utility and users complained about extremely slow connections. Pinging the router gave me 0% loss, but pinging the server about 15% of packets were dropped. Not trusting the users to restart just the router [we have had cases where they were asked to restart the router and they ended up unplugging the server as well] I decided to drive out to the school.

At the school, I noticed that some of the fiber uplinks were extremely busy, [the activity light stayed solid all the time] so as a test, I decided to unplug them, since no one was able to use the network anyway. Once they were unplugged, the rest of the users were able to access the network just fine and ping test did not drop any packets. Eager to test my newly acquired knowledge of router and switch commands, I plugged my laptop into the router/switch and mirrored traffic from the port that the main school router was plugged into, to the port where the laptop was plugged in. Next I started up a small packet monitor/sniffer AnalogX Packet Monitor and started monitoring network activity. So far nothing strange showed up.

Next, it was time to plug in one of the fiber uplinks that I disconnected previously. As soon as I plugged it in, activity on the network went through the roof and my ping test started dropping packets. I was however able to capture a few thousand packets and started looking through the list. To my curiosity, I noticed that there were three computers that seemed to be pinging every computer in the world. They would start at their current network address and go up one number at a time - 192.168.1.1, 192.168.1.2, 192.168.1.3 and once they were done with this network, they continued on to the rest of the district and the internet - 192.168.2.1, 192.168.2.2, 192.168.2.3. This was a rather strange behavior and would certainly overwhelm the switch, which then started dropping packets.

Next step was to figure out where those computers were. Since sniffer showed me what IP addresses they had, I telnetted to the switch/router and looked at it's ARP table, which in turn gave me their MAC addresses. This was helpful for two reasons:

  • Even if they changed their IP addresses in the future [since those addresses are assigned dynamically], all I would have to do is look at that same ARP table and by that MAC address would be able to figure out what new IP addresses they have.

  • Since MAC addresses are assigned in groups to computer and network card manufacturers, knowing what MAC address a computer has, gives me an opportunity to find out what kind of computer it is. A little research and I found out that all of those computers were Compaqs.

This cut my search down somewhat but there was still a lot of possibilities. I asked for a wiring diagram of the school and was able to narrow it down to two wings [about 10 classrooms each.] My next step was to telnet into the switch that was on the other end of the fiber uplink and look at it's ARP table. Since that was just a switch and not a switch/router, it didn't really have as many useful utilities as the one in the front office, but some browsing did give me a "forwarding table" and a port for each of these computers. This would have been useful for two reasons as well:

  • By knowing the port that they are connected to, I would have been able to easily find out which workstation it was, if the cables were labeled. They weren't.

  • If the port that they were connected to was another uplink port, I would be able to narrow my search down to one classroom. Sadly that switch was in such an inaccessible place [about 15 feet off the ground] that I didn't want to even try getting there.

After all this I was still not ready to leave my comfortable chair and was wondering if there was something else I could do remotely, before starting on this perilous journey of walking classroom to classroom and looking at IP addresses on computers. And believe it or not, I did come up with something. Despite fierce opposition from our Network Service Group, our Helpdesk techs installed Microsoft Network Client on practically every computer in our district. Since they used the same password for the Administrator account on all those computers, I decided to try and map a drive to C: on the remote computer, in hopes of finding something that may help me narrow my search.

And I did and was rewarded. My idea did work, I mapped the drive and browsed through the hard drive of that remote computer. If it wasn't 5PM already and I had a partner that was walking classroom to classroom, I could send a message to that computer and then we would either have to listen for, "Hey, someone is sending me message about a virus!" or simply walk around and look at each screen without having to touch a keyboard. But since as I mentioned, I had no partner and the school was out for the day, I had to look for something else.

I got another break. Looking through "Program Files", I found AutoCAD. Now, as you may know, this isn't something that can be found on just any computer. Talking to one of the teachers, revealed that there is a computer lab on campus that uses AutoCAD. As you can see, all that "lazy" troubleshooting did bring some good results. My search was narrowed down to 20 or so computers in one lab and about 10 minutes later I found it. After some more painful troubleshooting the next day, Shinjuru and I found out that it was the infamous Nachi that was causing all the problems. My job was done and now it was up to the school tech and Shinjuru to update those computers with a patch and scan them for viruses. I was off to another site that started to develop similar problems.
  2003.09.22
Two weeks ago someone reminded me that there are people who actually read this site and reminded me that I used to post updates a lot more often. Going through the old ramblings I did remember that I started out updating every day or at least every other day, then I switched to weekly updates, then biweekly and now time to time I even slip from that schedule. However, I also noticed that most of my daily updates hardly had any value in them, simply because there aren't that many things happening in my life to write about them on daily basis.

Looking back, I came to conclusion that weekly/biweekly updates are still the best way to go. Usually there is something happening every week that is worth writing about and the weeks during which nothing interesting happened I can simply skip. At some point I really would like to arrive to that schedule, but for now things seem to come up once in a while which prevent me from being able to update every week. Some of them are legitimate things, others are simply me being lazy, at this point I would say that the ratio is about 50/50.

In light of all that, I would still suggest that if you don't feel like checking this page every week, email me and I will notify you of any new updates. However I will do my best to stick to biweekly updates and when time permits post weekly.

Shinjuru suggested that I bring this site up to date by getting rid of some old things and posting new articles/links in the Tech section, things related to Linux and Novell. I thought it was a great idea, especially since I started working more with both of these operating systems and did find some interesting info/tricks that I appreciated at the time that I found them.

About a week ago I had some free time and had a chance to work on this site. I reorganized Ramblings a little and decided to file old ramblings by year, instead of my old way where I tried to do it by file size. In one of my Web Design books I read a recommendation to keep each page under 100KB, otherwise it becomes too large and takes a long time to load especially for people with a modem. But my list of Old Ramblings links was growing quite large and since most people that want to see Old Ramblings probably aren't in a hurry anyway, I decided to try a new way. If you find it unbearable, please let me know :)

  PCs
One of the great things about working for a large company is all the fairly decent equipment that they surplus. In the last few weeks we got rid of about 25 servers ranging in speed from a dinosaur Pentium 75 to a few fairly new PIII 733's. Granted, all of them were out of warranty and we took any parts from them that may be useful in repairing another 20-30 servers that we still have that are out of warranty by now but it still is difficult to throw away a dual-733 capable motherboard with built-in Ultra2 Wide SCSI and a built-in Ultra2 Wide RAID controller!

Since I don't get nearly as much time as I need to test all the ZENworks features at work, I was able to borrow an old server and a few old 4GB drives to test some things at home. A few months later, just when I was ready to ask for another server and 14 more drives, to test some of the more advanced features between two servers, Chuda asked me why our electricity bill has been higher than usual in the last few months. Suspicions started rising. A little more research and I realized that all of that server power does not come for free, after all each of those five 4GB drives suck just us much electricity as my 80GB if not more. Plus the dual CPUs and all the other on-board features and it's all running 24/7.

This made me rethink my testing equipment strategy. I think I will have to seriously start looking at power ratings of all of my equipment and get only what I really need. After all, if all I'm using that gigantic server for is firewalling my DSL connection and providing a link between home and work, that does not in any way require 700 Watts. My old Linksys router/gateway was providing most of it and it took less than 50 Watts :) Of course, I don't think I will go back to Linksys, after all Linux provides a lot more control, monitoring and logging functions, but an old PII 300 with two hard drives for redundancy and a 200Watt power supply should do just as well as that huge server.

  games
Well, so far I'm really enjoying Icewind Dale II. I never played through the original Baldurs Gate since our introduction started with Baldurs Gate II, so this was quite a surprise for me to start with characters that had 11, 12, 8 and 5 hit points. My characters are:
  • -thinker- [Paladin] As you can imagine, this would be me. Usually I will multiclass into a fighter for a few levels. After all, a Paladin is a Holy Warrior and he should have the same abilities as a Fighter.

  • Samuel [Fighter] If I am to go on an adventure, I can't leave my family behind, can I? :) He inherited my strength, wisdom and constitution and Chuda's dexterity.

  • Chuda [Rogue] Chuda's dexterity is much better than mine and as such a role of a Rogue works perfectly, especially since without one in a party life can be rather difficult.

  • Theophilus [Sorcerer] This is my alter-ego, so to speak.
The great thing that I missed about these types of games is the ability to pause, give commands and then resume. Neither Diablo II nor Lionheart give you that ability.
  2003.09.08
Things have not stabilized yet so no extensive update this time but since I will not be able to post anything next week, I decided to post a short update this weekend.

  job
Sometimes Novell drives me nuts, sometimes I almost love them :) When they release ZfD with Imaging and it works, that makes me very happy. But when they do not release any driver updates for new NICs for months in a row while happily charging you for "annual support and updates", that makes me want to move on to something else. When they release ZfD with workstation policy support and they work, I feel like a king but when they release new updates to them that break what used to work before and provide no information on half the features in their products, I really start to question whether we should roll out ZfD to all of our sites and rely on it so heavily.

With ZfD 4, Novell released a new product - ZfD Management Agent. The idea was that instead of bundling it with Novell Client, they would separate them and make updating and troubleshooting them a little easier. A few months later, they release their new clients, Client 4.90 for NT kernel [NT/2000/XP] and client 3.4 for DOS kernel :) [98/ME]. Both of the clients still include ZfD features! Relying on previous information that those features are not necessary if ZfDMAs are installed, we decided not to install them. Suddenly XP policies stopped working.

Jon and I decided to try and use only the Client and its ZfD features. That worked but only until we figured out that uninstalling ZfDMAs also removed Novell Application Launcher and all his distributed apps stopped working. Half a day later, we finally found what order ZfDMA and the Client have to be installed in to make everything work. Now, if only this was documented somewhere, our lives would be so much easier! Argh!!!

  games
For the last few days or so I have been trying out Lionheart, an interesting game with a promise but enough flaws in its design to completely frustrate me after about 10-15 hours. In short, as an RPG it's quite interesting, with Black Isle's own character development system [SPECIAL - Strength, Perception, Endurance, Constitution, Intelligence, Agility, Luck] and [somewhat] interesting storyline.

Oh, and something I've been waiting to see in a game for a very long time - every interaction in the game is voiced! That was a really nice touch. But a very hectic combat with no ability to slow it down or give orders after pausing the game, unfinished character animations [when a character stops, it just freezes in mid step], pretty linear quests and a few bugs that crash the game made me drop the game. There is a pretty good review of the game at GamersWithJobs.com.

Lionheart made me really miss Baldur's Gate II and its expansion. That has to be the best RPG I have played on a computer ever. Neverwinter Nights was pretty cool at times but nowhere near BGII. Since I already finished both BGII and it's expansion, I decided to try Icewind Dale II. I started the game Saturday night and after about 1.5 hours was done creating my adventuring party. Made me feel warm and fuzzy all over :) Ahh, the joys of creating a character!
  2003.09.02
Last few weeks were extremely busy and this one seems to be going in that direction as well. I decided to give myself a break from Ramblings but there is an update in the Campfire section. As soon as things at work stabilize a bit, I will post an extensive Ramblings update.
  2003.08.04
Ramblings are somewhat short today, but there is an update in the Campfire section.

  job
I am really not looking forward to today [Monday]. Our finance/personnel database is being moved from a Netware server to a Win2000 server and it's being upgraded at the same time. On top of it all, the person responsible for the upgrade also upgraded our Groupwise on Friday. That's a little too "on the edge" for me. Considering that Groupwise has not been tested very well yet, it seems to me that someone is really asking for a "very" stressful day. I'm just glad that I'm not a part of that whole thing.

I called Novell and emailed HP and reported that there is a problem with ZfD Imaging and HP d325 models. HP promised to give me source code for their Linux drivers and Novell reported the problem to ZfD Imaging developers. The problem has 2 parts. 1 - d325 will not boot from PXE to Linux. 2 - d325 will not boot with ZfD Imaging CD. I have resolved the 2nd problem by upgrading the kernel but the first one seems to have nothing to do with Linux, since PC seems to freeze before the kernel takes control and tries to load anything.

I am hoping that Novell will be able to provide us with their development software, so we can make our own changes to the PXE environment. I found some information on the software that they use for creating PXE files, but the company that makes that software does not sell it to general public. There is some open source software that seems to do the same thing but as I mentioned in the last post, it will probably take a week or two to figure it all out and make it work and I just don't have that much time right now.

  games
I've been playing Warcraft III lately, trying to finish it after taking a break from it for a couple of months. Once I'm done with it [there are about 4-5 missions left] I will either get the expansion for it or try Command and Conquer: Generals and see if it's a little more balanced after the new patch came out.
  2003.07.28
  job
Last few weeks I had quite a bit of fun with "ZENworks for Desktops"/ZfD. Some department bought a new HP model that refused to work with ZfD 4 Imaging [ZfDI] and I ended up working on modifying Linux kernel and driver modules for ZfDI. I've learned a few things along the way and made it work [with a bootable CD but sadly not with PXE.]

I did get to the point of modifying the actual PXE files [not the Linux kernel that it loads, but the modified DOS/LoadLin files] but decided to put that away since it seemed like another week-long project and I just don't have another week to spend on it.

  PCs
My cousin had a problem with his computer and asked me to help him out. Everything worked fine except for his CPU that keeps heating up much higher than I would like it to. Even putting a different CPU and a different fan/heatsink combo didn't help much. I finally decided to get an expensive overclocking fan/heatsink, hopefully that will take care of it.

  linux
While working with ZfDI, I became quite interested in the PXE boot process. If nothing else comes up, I will have to research it in my free time. I also finally got tired of having to manually enter IP addresses for each PC that I have to work on at home, so I finally setup DHCP server on my Linux server. After a bit of troubles, I found a very small and simple-to-configure DHCP server and had it up and running in about 20 minutes. I also figured out the way to mount Netware volumes in Linux.

There is one more Linux project that keeps bugging me. I setup a server for a friend of mine some time ago. Now he is ready to make some changes to it and that's where we ran into a problem. He has so many PCI cards in that box that he does not have a space for another NIC! There was a free ISA slot and I had an extra 3Com ISA card but no matter what I do, that card just can't seem to find a free IRQ to use.

I have disabled parallel port and both serial ports and still no luck. There are two other options: find a newer ISA NIC that can share IRQ's [this may prove impossible, IRQ sharing maybe only for PCI bus] or use a dual-port PCI NIC. I do have one of those laying around so that will probably be my next step. That should be quite a bit of fun, trying to get that to work. After we are done, that server will have 4 NICs, 2 for internal purposes and 2 for the Internet [one for regular browsing and one for FTP transfers.]
  2003.06.29
Well, my "about done" turned out to take 3 more weeks, so I think from now on I will use Blizzard and id Software as an example and will not give out any "release dates." You will see it when it's done. If you are interested in this site but do not want to visit it every week just to see if there is an update posted, you can email me and I will notify you of anything new on this site.

At some point I will create a fancy add-me-to-your-mailing-list form but for now just use the link above. If there are only certain sections that you are interested in [Campfire or Tech] and you couldn't care less about Ramblings, let me know. I will notify you of updates only in the sections requested.

There is no usual ramblings today but those of you interested in the Bible should check out Campfire section.
  2003.06.09
Greetings fellow warriors! Here as usual are my regular ramblings and I'm just about done with an update to the Campfire section.

  quote
"If you keep your mind sufficiently open, people will throw a lot of rubbish into it."
William Orton
  PCs
For quite some time I wanted to burn our video tapes on DVDs, since the quality of some of the older ones already started to degrade. So after some thinking and all the budget considerations, I decided to buy a DVD burner and an additional hard drive for video recording/editing. We already own a MiniDV video camera and have been recording Samuel since his birth, now it was the time to finally convert all those tapes into something more reliable.

A little shopping around and my search for a DVD burner was narrowed down to the latest Sony DVD-R/DVD+R/DVD-RW/DVD+RW burner, Pioneer A05 DVD-R and Plextor DVD+R. Pioneer has received a lot of awards and is recommended by just about every magazine/website as is the Sony's multi-burner. However, Sony was almost $100 more than the Pioneer or the Plextor and I really didn't have a good reason to have a multi-burner, after all most DVD players can play both types of disks.

I was pretty much set on Pioneer, when I found out that Plextor was even slightly cheaper [I think around $50 less] and after all it was Plextor. In addition, some research revealed that Pioneer is the patent holder for DVD-R, while DVD+R is developed by a consortium of companies. Pioneer requires a license fee from every manufacturer that wants to make a DVD-R burner and I'm not a big fan of such things. After reading some reviews I came to conclusion that there was nothing bad about DVD+R, in fact in some cases it was even better than DVD-R standard and the only real drawback was some incompatibilities with the very first DVD players. Oh, and Plextor could be purchased in black, which would really look good in my case :-) Plextor it was then.

Additional hard drive was easy enough to find, Fry's had a sale on WD 80GB with 8MB buffer, they had them for less than $70 after a rebate. I installed both drives into my PC, connected Firewire to my Audigy card and my camcorder and fired up an eval version of Premiere. All worked great, no frames were dropped during capture, quality was superb and my new hard drive could easily hold hours of DV quality uncompressed video.

  parenthood
As I was editing Samuel's tapes, I came to conclusion that most of the parents are simply blind. I remembered how mesmerized we were with Samuel when he was just a month or a few months old and we thought that he was the most beautiful baby in the world. Watching these tapes as I edit them, I wondered, "Who is this half-bald, drooling little kid?" :-) I think God just releases some hormones into our blood stream and that makes every parent fall in love with their child, regardless how they look to the rest of the world.

  linux
Last week I was reminded that no matter which operating system you run, there are some rules that should not be ignored. For example, don't install the latest upgrade to your software if it doesn't have some fix that was bugging you or some new feature that you really need. Blind upgrading can lead to breaking something that was working just fine.

Every so often I run dselect on my Debian server and upgrade all the software that's installed on it. Well, last upgrade that I performed this way, rendered 2 out of 3 boot options on my server unusable. My latest kernel build stopped working and only my safe one continued to work, giving me a chance to boot and try to fix whatever was broken. Part of it was my own fault since I decided to switch from "stable" release to "testing" in order to get some of the latest software that I wanted.

In any case, after testing a few things and reading a lot of man pages, I finally found what the problem was. Turns out that my kernel was configured with initial RAM disk option and by default an image for that RAM disk is created using CRAMFS, which is not supported by the regular kernel and is only supported by Debian kernels, since the apply the CRAMFS patch to it before they release it. Some more searching revealed that my lilo.conf was modified and every boot option included initrd line, even though only one of those kernel images was capable of reading that initrd.img. All is well now and I can switch back to my server for all my firewalling needs, leaving my trusty old Linksys to collect dust until I need it again.

  games
I finally finished Command and Conquer: Generals single player campaigns and have been playing a lot of multiplayer games with Jon S. Now I am a bit tired of it, there seems to be no way to win without rushing, unless there is an initial "peace treaty" for 10-15 minutes at least. Rushing can be fun but is very draining. Most games seem to last no more than 30 minutes and after only one or two my brain is exhausted.

I think that I will temporarily switch to some other games: Counter Strike, America's Army, Freelancer and Fallout: Tactics [yup, that one again.] CS has been fun to play with Mark and Timka, America's Army is kind of interesting since it seems to be even more realistic than CS, Freelancer is quite fun and Fallout: Tactics is an old favorite that I never finished.
  2003.05.19
As I struggle to keep up with updates and post them on regular basis, I started thinking if it is of any use anyway. I mean, how many people can find it interesting to read about a life of some geek who mixes both, his struggles to understand God and his adventures in the world of technology? But then I was reminded how difficult it is to remember how you got to where you are now. Whenever someone asks me how I've gained my knowledge with computers, I really have to stop and think. I guess one really useful thing about writing all these things down is the ability to go back and see how I've gotten to the place where I am now. And if the place where I end up is desirable to others, they will have an opportunity to read about this path and possibly gain some knowledge from it [or at least they may be able to avoid some of the pitfalls.]

  job
Last two weeks were quite interesting at work. Jon S., Kirk and I had a chance to discover command line switches and utilities for ZfD Imaging. I also started reading and getting ready to test ZfD Imaging using PXE [Preboot eXecute Environment], which will help us get rid of boot floppies and boot CDs, if not completely, then at least for basic imaging operations. This coming week I will have to figure out either how to make ZfDI work with 2 NICs on a server or configure "IP helper" on our routers.

In addition to that, our management is considering consolidating some of the school site servers. That was a very welcome news, considering that all we have been hearing for the last year or two was, "We know you are overworked and underpaid but we will be adding more new servers and you will have to figure out a way to do more with less." In order to figure out what can be consolidated and what additional hardware we might need, I had to make a list of servers with number of drives, their size and amount of space used.

This turned out to be a great opportunity to practice using regular expressions. I used a software tool to run a report on all the servers [Novell Onsite Admin Pro]. That gave me all the information I needed plus a ton of useless stuff. A little trial and error and my trusty EditPad Pro performed a search and replace which got rid of all the useless info and rearranged the useful information into a more readable format. Did I mention I love regular expressions? :-] By the way, I found a book about them and am anxiously awaiting it's arrival. It's amazing what you can find for $6 in the used books section on Amazon.com.

Oh, another excellent news was that Novell will be porting all of their most useful software to Linux! I guess God knew what he was talking about when he said, "Start studying Linux."

  linux
Speaking of Linux, I finally replaced my Linksys router with a Linux server which now performs routing, firewalling and provides FTP services. Having complete control over your firewall is great. Reading log files and watching it display information as you try to connect to something is quite interesting and sure helps with troubleshooting. I even discovered someone from China scanning for open ports and trying to hack into my FTP using different user IDs and passwords.

  PCs
My new PC is working great, all the software works very well and Windows XP seems to be running my games quite well. It did freeze in a game once or twice, so I had to change my FSB [Front Side Bus] speed down from 140 to 138. This works just fine. Next I will try upping the voltage and then bumping the bus speed again. I also started soldering copper pipes and after seeing how easy it is, I'm really excited about building my new case.

It seems to be awfully difficult to find a perfect case - either they are too big or too small, or don't have good cooling, etc. Building one from scratch will leave no one to blame but me. Oh, and while I am at it, there is one other "secret project" that I would really like to start working on - a mini SAN [Storage Area Network.] This will give me an opportunity to test my knowledge of RAID and RAID performance.

  games
Lately Jon S. and I have been playing Command and Conquer: Generals. Of course since he is younger and has better reaction times :-] he has been winning a lot more than I have, but it still is a lot of fun. Playing with him made me a lot quicker and focused on my game that I was able to play and win with others online more often than in the past. Now if only we could convince Shinjuru to join us or Kirk to play online and not just on his LAN...
  2003.05.05
Greetings warriors! In addition to my usual ramblings I actually have something promised some time ago and hopefully useful at least to some. The next installment of "Setting Up an Efficient GUI" is here, this time I cover setting up the Start Menu. The screenshot is a little large so those of you with a modem, may have to wait a few seconds before it loads. On with the rest of the news.

  quote
"Don't wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty and the pig likes it."
Mark Twain
  job
Things are moving slowly with ZENworks for Desktops but at least they are moving. Jon S. is testing policies at his school sites, I moved all the ZfD workstation images from HELPDESK server to the new ZFD1 server. I also discovered that in addition to the standard Knowledge Base and Manuals section, Novell also has some forums and has assigned technicians to answer support requests on those forums on timely basis. After trying out the regular web-based newsgroup browsing interface, I decided to download a free copy of a stand-alone newsreader application. This way I was able to download all of the forum messages, which makes it much easier to search for relevant posts, rather than look at them page by page.

  PCs
While Anton was watching Samuel on Saturday, I had some time to finish setting up my new computer. I still haven't installed any games on it but practically all of my productive applications are installed. While at it, I also upgraded Chuda's computer from Windows 2000/Windows 98 multiboot to Windows XP/Windows XP multiboot. In case you are wondering why 2 Windows XP installs on the same PC, it's to keep work and games separate.

On all my computers I used to separate them this way and usually used Windows 2000 for work and Windows 98 for games. After everyone kept telling me that XP is at least as good as 98 at running games and having experienced that it's just as reliable as 2000, I decided to use XP for everything. I still am not completely convinced that installing a multitude of applications will not slow things down, so I decided to run a little test. Chuda's computer will run 2 Windows XP installs, one for games one for work and I will use only one for both work and games. After a few months I will check and see which one seems to be more reliable and runs games faster.
  2003.04.22
Just when I started to get into the groove of things and posting fairly regularly, I just had to mess it up by being late a week. Man, I'm so depressed I don't even want to write anything. I can't even imagine how I'm going to dig myself out of this... :-) Oh, I have an excuse! We were on vacation last week, went to Lake Tahoe for a couple of days. That was a great trip. Grandma stayed home with Samuel and we were hiking, relaxing in jacuzzi, digging ourselves out of the snow and getting to know other couples from our church. Did I mention that was a great trip?

  job
Well, I finally got a chance to install ZENworks for Desktops 4 [ZfD4] on a new server. So far so good. Since we already have Novell Application Launcher running at most sites, including our main office, I took a chance and associated a couple of applications with all the users in the main office. In a few days, over 200 computers were imported into NDS. Now I just have to setup the same thing for all the school sites and have them import all of their workstations.

I already distributed all the needed applications to all site containers and all that's left to do now is to associate the applications with all the users at those schools. Oh, and install ZfD4 on about 80 servers too :-) Jon S. has been working on creating policies to lock the student and office staff workstations to keep them from installing junk software and messing up all the work that we've put into the workstation images.

I think it will be a beautiful thing once we get all this done. Ability to re/image a workstation remotely, lock workstations based on user IDs or workstation assignment [to keep all the library computers locked regardless of who logs in for example] and remotely control a workstation should cut down on support calls quite a bit. Either that or I'm seeing the world through rose-colored glasses :-) Suddenly I'm reminded of the following quote.

  quote
"Nothing is foolproof; fools are too ingenious."
  PCs
My brother Anton needed a major upgrade to his PC, so I took this opportunity to upgrade mine as well. He got my older stuff for a good discount and I got myself some faster stuff: Athlon XP 2000+, 1GB Crucial 2700 DDR RAM, ASUS 8420S video card [nvidia 4200, 128MB]. I used an Abit board that I had lying around, KR7A. So far I upped the bus speed to 140MHz, if that works, will try 145 next. Just to keep Shinjuru happy, I didn't buy a faster CPU than him :-)

  linux
I feel like I've advanced quite a bit with Linux in these past 2-3 years. From our first Red Hat install with Shinjuru to today when I'm able to install and configure a new server from scratch in about half a day, it's been a fun ride. I think I've learned how to setup services for most tasks at this point: configure the kernel, setup file sharing for Windows clients through Samba, FTP services with ProFTPd, firewall with IPtables & Shorewall, setup DSL & T1, remote control through SSH, timesync through NTP, file synchronization through Unison, basic webservices through Apache, software and hardware RAID configuration, network routing and a few others. What I would like to focus on now is [not necessarily in that order]:
  • mail: fetchmail to collect mail from multiple POP accounts to one computer, POP and SMTP services with qmail/sendmail and web-access to email with squirrelmail.
  • Tape backup and restore
  • Writing shell scripts, filtering application output with Perl
  • Running login scripts on Windows clients
  • Integrating Novell eDirectory/NDS
  games
Last Saturday my brother Anton and I went to an Internet Cafe and I got the Counter Strike bug again :-) I still would love to play C&C:Generals when there are friends to play with but for the nights when it's too late, CS sounds like a lot of fun again. Oh yeah, maybe Americas Army as well... and Stronghold... and Fallout:Tactics... and Worms:Armageddon... and Unreal Tournament 2003... Man, I could use a month-long vacation :-]
  2003.03.31
Greetings all! When I said that I was going to publish the rest of the "Setting up GUI environment" article in this update, I was counting on having a few hours on Sunday to get that finished. However, what escaped me completely at the time is the fact that my Dad's birthday was on that day. As you can imagine I didn't have any time to finish it.

  quote
"Furious activity is no substitute for understanding"
  job
I've been patiently waiting for Marc and Barbara to finally let me have my new ZfD [ZENworks for Desktops] server. At the end of last week, I was told that the server was ready to be taken out of the tree [I just realized how funny this must sound for those of you that don't know about Directory Trees.] To my disappointment there was a problem with the NDS [Novell Directory Services, or the above-mentioned tree.] Until that is resolved, I can't really take the server out, otherwise it may cause even more problems.

When I left on Friday afternoon to work on a problem with a switch and/or router at a school site, Don was working on getting that resolved. With any luck it will be back to normal by the time we are back to work on Monday and I can finally start setting up my new server. I've actually kind of missed working with ZENworks :-]

  linux
Since we were getting rid of old servers at work, I was able to borrow one to use at home for testing purposes. I set it up as a basic Linux server for now [I'm still using Debian and like it more and more every time I install it on a new server or have to configure it.] My next steps will be setting it up to act as my DSL firewall, FTP server, Samba for home file sharing and hopefully integrating it into NDS at home. Also, I'm quite interested in figuring out how I can use rsync to automate synchronization of files between home and work.

  games
Jon S. gave me Command & Conquer:Generals to try and I fell in love with it! After I completed US campaign and got half way through Chinese and GLA campaigns, I went and bought my own copy so I can play online with him and other guys. My first night I won 2 games and lost 4 but even the ones I lost were fun to play. Highly recommended to anyone that likes strategy games. There isn't an overwhelming number of units like in some other games so getting the basic strategy down is fairly easy but mastering the game is a different story. Graphics are excellent as well.
  2003.03.26
Sorry for the delay. There is just a lot of work to do around the house. Now that Samuel is starting to go outside, we have to make our yard a little safer for the little fellow. Expect an update next Monday or if you are really impatient, you can try late Sunday night... Thank you for your patience, by the way. -thinker-
  2003.03.10
This update is a little short, I just wanted to give you what was promised [or at least a part of it] a little ahead of schedule. I've completed two parts of the Setting Up an Efficient GUI Workspace article. These include the intro and taskbar/Quick Launch. A few more are coming.

  quote
"If you're constantly being mistreated, you're cooperating with the treatment."
  job
This week two of our advanced Network techs [Don & Stewart] will be in training and today even the third one [Barbara G.] will be gone. Hopefully it will be a nice Monday otherwise it will really test my abilities.

Last week I was able to accomplish quite a few things that I had planned; coincidentally there hardly were any distractions. Hmm, I wonder if there is a connection there :-) I still have a few servers that need files transferred that I wasn't able to do since they are being used during the day, but with any luck this week I may be able to get them done after schools are out for the day.

Removing/upgrading old servers opened up an opportunity for a nice electronic/PC project. There are a few servers that are too old to be used for anything so I may be able to take them apart and build something nice out of a few of those. Currently I'm thinking of a small storage box, SAN if you will. I will let you know if it works out.

  games
I've finished Neverwinter Nights! Nice game, highly recommended to any RPG fan. I still miss a few things from Baldur's Gate series so maybe I will try Icewind Dale II. Next one is Command & Conquer: Generals. I'm also quite curious to try Jumpgate again, but am not sure I have enough time to invest into it to make it worthwhile...
  2003.03.03
Greetings all! This week I bring to you another update in the Campfire section and hopefully this is a start of a trend. Last weekend I wasn't able to post an update since we took a vacation and went to visit my sister-in-law in Wimberley, Texas. It was a very nice trip; I met a few new people and was introduced to a different way of living. Gave me a few things to think about.

  quote
"Forgive me my nonsense as I also forgive the nonsense of those who think they talk sense"
Robert Frost
  job
I took a 3 day vacation last week to go to Texas and after coming back Monday afternoon played games whatever time I had left on Monday and all day Tuesday. That was a lot of fun! All the other days last week and the week before I was working on getting the rest of the *-C [curriculum] servers setup and moving files off of the old servers to the new ones. In addition to that we are removing old *_P [proxy] servers from our Elementary schools.

I think it was more than 3 weeks ago that I was planning to get done with that but everyone keep giving me more and more servers to do. At this point I have only one server left that needs to be installed, about 4 or 5 that need files transferred and about 8 proxy servers that need to be removed. With any luck I will get most/all of it done this week and if any time is left will install my new ZfD [ZENworks for Desktops] server.

Right now it's still being used for other purposes but by the middle of this week I should have it all to myself. Jon S. seems to really be advancing with ZfD and applying it as much as possible. He's been a lot of help with that and without him I would have hardly made any progress. Because of his dedication/stubbornness :-] I am able to give him pointers/suggestions whenever he hits a wall and he does most of the work. Thanks man.

  site
I am about halfway done with my article on setting up a productive GUI environment so if all goes well, maybe I will post it with my next update. I am also warming up to the idea of redesigning the whole site but that is at least a few months away.

  games
Neverwinter Nights is still my favorite game and Command & Conquer: Generals may be the next one, especially since Jon S. has been playing it lately. Playing strategy games with/against a friend is always a lot more fun than a computer AI. Shinjuru mentioned that he might be joining us as well. If that's the case, I may be able to get Anton and Mark hooked on it too. I can already feel a gaming party coming up :-]
  2003.02.10
Well, I wasn't able to post an update this past week but to make up for it, this one comes a week early. I am really ashamed to admit that it took me so long, but for the first time in almost two years, there is an update in the Campfire section. Our skiing trip didn't work out; we couldn't find a babysitter.

  quote
"The one who says it cannot be done should never interrupt the one who is doing it."
  job
I was able to do part of what I was hoping to accomplish last week. William and I replaced the fiber module at one of his schools, this time it worked without a hitch. With the help of our Helpdesk guys, all the school offices now have the latest client and I even got to work some more on ZENworks for Desktops [thanks Jon S. for not giving up on it yet :-] There is also one less *_C server on my list now. In addition, I had a chance to see the capabilities of ZfD when I was able to distribute a simple application to all the computers in a school in less than half an hour!

This week I will try to get a few more *_C servers done, Monday is a holiday so hopefully I can do our tax return and Tuesday morning all of our Network techs will get to see the new version of Netware. Should be pretty interesting. Jon S. is going to be gone this week, so I will try to finish all of my non-ZfD related projects and focus solely on ZfD next week.

  linux
I had a chance to buy a book at Fry's that was on a half-off sale, "Using and Managing PPP." Following their tradition of putting pictures/drawings of animals on their book covers, O'Reilly appropriately chose a turtle for this book :-] Since I may have to configure a VPN for our church, this purchase was very timely.

After configuring a few different Linux servers and having to setup pretty much the same scripts, I'm starting to consider saving those scripts somewhere and reusing them on my new server installs. Sure would save a lot of time.

It seems that sometime soon I will have a chance to setup a server with 2 separate Internet connections and configure different services to use different lines. It's getting more and more complicated and I think I like it :-) I've also been studying security lately and that's a very fun field to get into as well. So much to learn, so little time :-)
  2003.02.03
Greetings all! This is a very short update, it's late night and I'm tired, hopefully I will be able to post a more complete update this week sometime.

  quote
"It may look like I'm just sitting here doing nothing, but I'm really actively waiting for all my problems to go away."
  job
I've been pretty busy at work lately, installing those new *_C [curriculum] servers, testing and then updating Compaq/HP hardware monitoring software on about 40 servers and then calling their support dept. and working with their techs on replacing dead hard drives. On top of it all, I was given a fun task of updating Novell clients on all the school front office workstations. Of course I had to automate the process if I was hoping to get it done sometime this year :-)

This gave me a chance to practice some more regex's [regular expressions] in EditPad Pro and streamline the process. That part was quite a bit of fun. I think I have pretty much got it down to a science.

  • Run NLIST to get a list of servers that are currently up and output it to a text file.
  • Use EditPad to get rid of all the extra text and leave only the server names.
  • Use EditPad to insert necessary commands like MAP, XCOPY, LOGOUT, etc.
  • Rename the file to *.BAT and run it!

What used to take us 20+ man-hours, took me only 4 hours total. I guess focusing on making processes more efficient does pay off. Now if we only didn't have to convince our management of that all the time, life would be much easier. But I guess you just can't have all at once sometimes... On a better note, we will be upgrading RAM on our servers up to 1.5GB.

I'm hoping this coming week to finish this client upgrade project, install the rest of the *_C servers and move on to testing ZENworks for Desktops 4 some more. Oh, I will also try to get a day off this week to either take a skiing vacation or to do our taxes, depending on the weather and if we will be able to find a babysitter.

  games
I got a little tired of Stronghold [even though it is a lot of fun] and switched back to Neverwinter Nights. Some time ago I decided to start it from the beginning, this time "building" a better character, trying to waste less points. I think I am warming up to Fallout Tactics again as well.
  2003.01.20
Believe it or not, I'm posting an update a week early! Maybe it's a sign of things to come or maybe not. Time will tell. I do like the idea of posting updates on Sunday night, seems to work out better for me. This post is quite geeky, so those of you that are proudly wearing this nametag and those that still try to ignore the truth, enjoy!

  quote
Even the quotes are a bit geeky today. They are from "Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy" and by one of my favorite characters in the book, Marvin, the paranoid android.
Marvin, "Sorry, did I say something wrong? Pardon me for breathing, which I never do anyway so I don't know why I bother to say it. Man, I am so depressed. Life, don't talk to me about life..."

Trillian, "What are we going to do with a maniacally depressed robot?"
Marvin, "You think you've got problems. What are you suppose to do if you ARE a maniacally depressed robot? No don't try and answer that, I'm 50,000 times more intelligent than you and even I don't know the answer. Gives me a headache just trying to think down to your level."
  PCs
As you may read below, in the Linux section, last few weeks I've been working on an external RAID box. While at it, I decided to try a few other RAID related things. I've always been curious about IDE/ATA bus' ability to handle hot-swapping. As you may have read in my previous posts, I have a Netware server with 2 mirrored drives (software mirroring.) I decided to pull one of those drives out, while the server was operational.

Interestingly enough and to my surprise, server just kept running and simply told me that one of the drives had failed. Keep in mind that this was done on an old Asus P2B motherboard, using built-in IDE controller, not some special RAID controller that supports hot-swap. I was pretty impressed. Netware even unloaded the extra driver, to conserve memory.

When I plugged the drive back in, it seemed to work fine but for it to be recognized by the OS, I had to tell it to look for new devices and that's when it froze. Since I only have 2 IDE channels and I have to run 2 hard drives and a CD-ROM drive on those channels, one of the drives has to share the bus with my CD-ROM drive. The drive that I unplugged happened to be on the same bus as the CD, so I'm wondering if that's what caused it to freeze, since when hard drive was removed, CD was left as a slave on the bus with no master. I may have to run this test again when the drive in question is the only drive on the bus.

  linux
I continued working on the Andataco/nStor RAID box this week and finally got it to work. I did some google-search and found one college/university where they use a different Andataco RAID box with Linux. I emailed the people mentioned on that page and got a response back within a couple of days. They said that their box is a little different and they use it with a built-in SCSI controller. They did make a suggestion to check whether I had "check for multiple LUNs" enabled in kernel.

I did check it, it was enabled but it did point me in the right direction. After reading error messages a bit closer, I found that the errors were caused by driver module trying to scan each drive in the RAID box and determine it's SCSI speed and capacity. I went ahead and disabled the LUN scan, but that didn't help. Module would still load, try to check each drive and after I would mount the RAID drive, module would die with a divide by 0 error or something of that sort.

That's when I noticed that there was another Adaptec driver, one that was used in Linux before the new driver was developed by Adaptec itself. I recompiled the kernel and the module and decided to use that instead of the new one. To my surprise, it worked better! It still tried to check for multiple LUNs, but this time it showed /dev/sda with the correct size and continue checking /dev/sdb through /dev/sdp, failing of course on all but /dev/sda, since no other ones really exist. However, the driver did not die! After all the errors it still loaded and worked just fine.

----------------------------------------
I ran some more tests, checking the speed difference between my single IDE drive and the 7-drive RAID5 WideUltra SCSI box. To my surprise and frustration, my single IDE drive performed better! A 750MB file was copied in 90 seconds to my IDE drive and it took 130 seconds for the RAID box. Go figure. It is pretty sad that the RAID controller chip can't handle parity operations fast enough to at least match the speed of one IDE drive. I'm still kind of puzzled by it. I will have to run some more tests.

My next test will be setting up three 10GB IDE drives in a RAID5 config, using Linux software RAID. This time I know that the processor should be fast enough to handle those parity operations. I also want to see how much better software RAID performs than Netware software mirroring. I like the ability to unplug one drive and still have it running but if the server does not go down properly and abends or freezes, at the next boot up Netware sees inconsistencies in the mirror and starts rebuilding the drives.

----------------------------------------
One of the other things I got to work is NTP, Network Time Protocol. A few weeks ago I got it to work with Netware and Saturday night after my Stronghold game froze on me twice, I decided to work on my Linux PC. After physically connecting my three IDE drives for future RAID testing, I downloaded and installed ntpd, Network Time Protocol Daemon. Half an hour later it was up and running and my time on both of my servers was synchronized to bigben.ucsd.edu which in turn is synchronized to one of the main US timesources. Pretty neat.
  2003.01.13
Greetings fellow warriors! On the ninth of this month I suddenly felt one year older and yesterday my sister Tanya had the same exciting experience :-) When Samuel was born, I decided that this year we will just focus on him and will pretty much try to survive :-) Now that he is walking and is starting to understand some things, I think I will be able to accomplish a little more in this coming year.

  job
Sticking to my previous plan, I started to focus only on one project at a time, at least as much as possible. That includes both, work and home. At work it's a little harder because I have to take projects that I'm given and move the project I'm working on down the list. However, inserting a few small tasks here and there is fine, but it helps not to be working on more than one big project at once. I do like it a lot more; it is a lot less stressful and I seem to accomplish a lot more. To tell the truth, I think computers are a lot better at multitasking than people.

Our ZENworks for Desktops (ZfD) project is moving along. With Jon S. help (and constant nagging :-P) we finally got the ZfD Imaging boot CD to work with the latest Compaq models. I took a little shortcut, installed ZENworks 4 and used its boot CD image. So far seems to be working fine except for one small problem, but that seems to be related more to a particular PC than ZfDI.

This coming week I will be installing a few new curriculum servers at school sites, will work with Shinjuru on replacing a fiber module in one of the network switches and if I have any time left, will test how well ZENworks 4 performs.

  quote
"Some people speak because they have something to say, others speak because they have to say something."
  linux
Over the winter break I had a chance to work on an external RAID box, Andataco/nStor GigaRAID. It's a little old, only an UltraWide SCSI, but it does have eight 36GB drives. I was able to set it up using it's internal setup utility and connected it to my Linux box at home. Files copied fine, unplugging a drive caused it to use the hot spare and start rebuilding and even after unplugging a second drive it kept running.

There is a cause for concern however. Even though my Adaptec card sees the box as one large external drive and Linux is able to format it and copy files back and forth, whenever Adaptec driver module is being initialized, it spits out a bunch of errors, trying to access each drive in the array and lsmod displays the module status as "initializing" at all times. I'm not sure how comfortable I am putting important data on that array this way.

I think I will have to try a different model of a SCSI card, hopefully it's just the driver module that is at fault. Looking through Andataco/nStor documents shows that they only support this box with Windows NT and Solaris, there is no mention of Linux. Even though if it works on Solaris, it's already a good sign.

  PCs
During the winter break, I decided that it was time to upgrade hard drives on my server. I had a 10GB drive and a 40GB drive in it, mirrored to another 10GB and a 40GB, but I started to run out of space. Frys had a nice sale on hard drives for Christmas, so I got a Western Digital 80GB, 7200RPM with an 8MB buffer for $100 and an 80GB Seagate Barracuda ATA IV, 7200RPM and a regular 2MB buffer for $50.

After comparing performance of the WD, Seagate and Maxtor drives at StorageReview, I decided to use the WD with it's large buffer for my main PC and put the Barracuda and the Maxtor in my server. I really wanted to use two Maxtors in my server, since they seemed to perform the best in that environment, but due to financial concerns, I had to settle for the Barracuda.

While I was at it, I decided to buy some hard drive trays, this way I could cool the drives better and upgrade or replace them in case they fail, quicker in the future. This decision was followed by almost a week of research and uncertainty about which drive trays to buy, should I buy a new server case, should I just go with a couple of hard drive coolers, should I get a server case with built-in cooling for hard drives, etc., etc.. In the end I decided to get a couple of hard drive coolers, took Samuel to Frys with me and after comparing the prices on those coolers and hard drive removable trays, went home with two removable trays :-)

This project also reminded me why it's important to buy quality products from reputable companies. A few years ago I became t proud owner of an Asus P2B motherboard. It has served me well over the years, first as my main "Monster PC" with a 300MHz Celeron running at 450MHz, then with a Celeron 433MHz running at 700MHz and finally a Netware server running that same 433MHz Celeron at its native speed. But to my disappointment I found that it would not boot up with any 80GB hard drive, even though it seemed to recognize them just fine. A short trip to asus.com and I found a BIOS update for 65GB+ drives, installed the patch and everything worked great! I doubt a small company would be willing to spend the time and resources needed to release a fix for a board that they stopped manufacturing couple of years ago.

  games
I obtained a copy of Stronghold and have been playing that for the last couple of weeks. It's a very fun strategy game. Graphics and attention to detail are amazing. If you like strategy games and enjoy castles, sieges and medieval battles, I would highly recommend it. Mechwarrior is still waiting for me to finish it along with Fallout Tactics:Brotherhood of Steel and Warcraft III. In addition, I wanted to test Need For Speed:Hot Pursuit II and Unreal Tournament 2003. Oh, and Mark was kind enough to leave his Playstation 2 with me, so I got to play Virtua Fighter 4. Kicking everyone's behind and getting my own kicked here and there was a lot of fun.
Ancient History

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