30th April

The washing machine died yesterday, apparently beyond repair, and the microwave has started acting up again. [Mutters Darkly]

29th April

First day of the Windows 2000 security course, and it's going well... I think I actually understand public key cryptography, now, which is a personal step forward as Whit Diffie himself could never quite explain it in any way that I understood for longer than it took him to make the explanation... [That link is a marvellous portrait of Whit, by the way - the photographer, Declan McCullagh, has captured perfectly that strikingly focussed and piercing gaze]

It's thoroughly scary how unprotected some of Windows and it's associated system software can be, though, without the latest service packs and hot-fixes... It's one thing to read a warning about a loophole in traverse checking that allows execution of unauthorised code, for example, and quite another to type a URL (admittedly a peculiarly and carefully-formed one) into Internet Explorer and then watch a remote web server obeying the buried command line instructions it contained. This course, like most of Learning Tree's offerings, is extremely "hands-on" and most of the first day has been spent doing something suspiciously like hacking! Times have certainly changed since I last tried my hand back in the early eighties with JANET and PSS, but in spite of the huge advances in computer security hacking now seems easier than ever! A few years ago I had to break into an NT4 workstation during a colleague's unexpected absence, and I achieved that by capturing the SAM with NTFSDOS and then running a carefully-tuned brute-force attack with L0phtCrack over a weekend. I suppose that in spite of the widely reported "Rise of the Script Kiddies", I was assuming that it was still an equally awkward process that would only be considered by the technically competent. It's now apparent that entry-level hacking is readily available to the masses and ten minutes of fiddling with a trio of freely-available hacking tools has made me realise how very wide open I am to internal penetration of the office network. My main focus over the last year has been on external security (mostly the firewall and SNMP) but after the imminent security audit (contracted out, of course!) I shall have to do some work in shoring-up the internal systems - I'm now paranoid enough not to wait until next year's Active Directory roll-out removes most of the existing issues. [Rubs hands] Time for a good session with the Group Policy Editor, I think, and let the user beware!

27th April

Recent updates here have been delayed by the failure of my ISP's FTP server. They justify their high pricing with spiel on "added value" and "quality of service", but it's hard to see it from where I'm sitting - and weekend support currently seems patchy at best. Rumour suggests that they've recently fired a whole bunch of their technical staff to balance massive over-recruitment of sales and marketing droids... who are apparently finding it extremely hard to sell and market the company because of it's unrealistic price structures. They used to be a cutting-edge organisation, one of the major players in UK dialup access and service provision, but last year were bought out by Scandinavian telecom giant Nextra, and things have mostly gone downhill since then... these days they're just another ISP, and in my experience remarkable only because of their pricing. Fortunately for them, they supply us with a number of long-standing email accounts, a pair of domain names, some of our web hosting, our internal IP address range and the ADSL pipe, so changing to another provider is decidedly non-trivial! It's a bad time to shift bandwidth supplier, too, as several new DSL variants are promised towards the end of the year, and even the existing "wires-only" and "dial tone" ADSL offerings would be preferable to our current managed router setup. Oh, the pain of being an early adopter...

26th April

When stress, gloom or boredom threaten I usually reach for the Palm V and a remarkable little game called Bubblet. It's just another Tetris-derivative, but is as appealing and well-implemented as any of the others and has the extra, rather unusual appeal in that it keeps a running average of your score - this can even be configured to display to two decimal places, which makes that "one last game" urge hard to resist. It's extensively configurable, with several variants to the basic idea, and the original runs prettily enough in both colour and greyscale on Palm handhelds - although it now seems to have been ported to every other PDA and platform imaginable. If you're prepared to waste countless hours (the stats tell me that I've played 5931 games since it was recommended to me last summer!) watching numbers rise slowly and fall rapidly, then Bubblet is your man... I've tried to wean myself onto other Palm games, and have found good versions of backgammon and Othello, but always find myself drifting back after a few days or weeks. It's recommended - but beware the Curse of Bubblet...

And talking of curses, I've just discovered that the washing machine has flooded the basement. For those who haven't been counting... since christmas two chairs have broken, a VCR died, the dishwasher has failed twice, as have the microwave and now the washing machine, and the new vacuum cleaner snaps drive belts every time it's used and we're still bickering with the shop over a refund. The worst thing of all is that several of these problems have been wildly intermittent - the microwave crashes completely, with much flashing and beeping and very little else, but then behaves perfectly when the repairman arrives a few days later! It's appliance hell - and expensive, to boot...

25th April

I mentioned the hacked version of the Kazaa client (with ad-ware and spy-ware removed) a while ago, and it seems that this was just the tip of the iceberg - according to this story at ZDNet, the Grokster, iMesh and AudioGalaxy clients have also been unofficially "cleaned" and re-released. This has lead to predictable howls of anguish over intellectual property rights from the file-sharing companies, which I do find rather amusing. The story also reports that Sharman Networks, current owners of the original Kazaa client, are intending to take legal action against "Yuri", the Lite version's anonymous creator - if they can find him; if he actually exists...

Note that the "real" Kazaa Lite lives at www.kazaalite.tk - www.kazaalite.com is a fake designed to "nuke" any PC connecting to it, although it's initial FIN scan bounced off my firewall quite harmlessly...  It's interesting to speculate who might be behind that little surprise...

24th April

With warm weather here, even if temporarily, I'm fretting about cooling INFINITY again... I've long suspected that the Big Bunch-O-Fans™ approach I've chosen just isn't appropriate, and that I'd probably get far better results from a completely different tactic - but anything that exotic is too daunting at present, so I'm poring over manufacture's spec sheets and online fan databases comparing rates of flow and noise levels... If the published specifications are to be believed (and they're not!) then I could certainly increase the air flow whilst keeping noise levels around the same... That does have an appeal, but it's a solution to the hardware problem rather than the wetware one, and that probably shouldn't be my priority at this stage... On the other hand, it seems quite possible to reduce the noise considerably while only losing a little airflow - and as one possible cause of my unusually high internal temperatures is that the massive airflow (a rated 170 cubic feet entering the case every minute!) is stalled and circling and fighting with itself rather than just rushing in and out again as soon as possible, that may actually be an advantage!

There seem to be two basic options - firstly, just to buy the quietest 30 CFM or so fans I can find, close my eyes to the possibly increased temperatures and open my ears to a little peace and quiet; and secondly to use technology, installing fans that vary their own rotation speed (and so noise levels) according to the ambient temperature of the incoming air. Now, given that it was technology that got me into this mess in the first place, I'm finding my eyeballs growing a touch hairy at the thought of adding yet more... However, it seems to be an elegant solution, and they're self-contained units so not too fiddly to fit... Watch this space, and place bets on how long before I weaken.

22nd April

It looks like the AT&T (ex Olivetti, ex Digital, ex Oracle) Telecommunications Laboratory in Cambridge is to close. The lab has been a fertile breeding ground for both theories and gadgets since it was founded by UK home computing pioneers Herman Houser and Andy Hopper in 1987, a sort of Xerox PARC in miniature, and it's a great shame that it seems to have expired from something so mundane as intellectual property disputes during an abortive acquisition bid by Intel. We shall just have to hope that someone, somewhere, keeps working on the VNC project - I would hate to have to work without that little app... [Checks] Oooh, yes - the authors confirm that nothing has changed, and even hint at something new!

I can't find a way into this page at the VNC home site from the menus, but it has a list of add-ons and extras that looks interesting - especially this one, a scanner to locate live VNC servers on the network... [Rubs Hands] Let's see what my users are getting up to...

21st April

It looks like my DigiDoc temperature monitor and fan controller is dying slowly - the fans are still powered, fortunately, but the display is corrupted and none of the buttons seem to do anything... [Mutters] And just in time for the warm weather, too! It's especially annoying, as apart from the fuss of re-wiring the replacement, it may have to be imported as they're actually rather hard to buy in this country: I've only found one UK supplier so far today, and they're out of stock...

Connecting the original unit was fiddly enough even when the chassis was bare, and I'm really not looking forward to the prospect of installing something reminiscent of a pair of octopi mating with a floppy disk drive (eight thermal probes and between six and eight fan control wires) into an already well-populated case... In fact, it's likely to be fiddly enough that this might be the excuse I need for the complete strip-down and rebuild I've been mulling over for a while, with some minor Dremel work on part of the frame and replacement of all the main fans with low-noise Panaflow or Pabst units in the hope of preserving my hearing for few years longer. It's all a bit daunting, but I'm definitely going to have to replace the DigiDoc either way - too much of the PC's health is depending on it...

20th April

Much fun with Warzone 2100, today, playing against Ros instead of the computer's "AI" - it's a thoroughly different experience with human opponents, as usual with computer games, and far more challenging. We had to give up on last game we played, for "technical reasons", but I had a decisive advantage and it looked like I was going to crush her like a bug... Today progressed rather differently, ending with Ros in control of the whole map (and it was a huge map!) and my base reeling under persistent and heavy air-strikes in one corner. We could have played it out to the bitter end, but after three hours or so it was fairly obvious which way the wind was blowing - and that it was carrying the smoke from my ruined tank factories... It's an excellent way to waste an afternoon, though, with the largest and most exotic range of units to research and build that I've seen in a PC combat game - and so appealing that we've bought both the PC and PlayStation versions. Definitely recommended, if you like the real-time strategy genre.

I finally bit the bullet and upgraded the entire driver suite for my ATI Radeon multi-media card. It's quite a chore, requiring five separate components to install and four reboots between them, so I usually spurn the various leaked beta drivers unless they offer something especially cool. This update doesn't seem to have any particular redeeming features, but it's the first time this year that they've released a complete set of all the components within a week or so and I don't like to lag too far behind. Nothing seems to be any better or worse - an insignificant few points more on the 3DMark benchmark, TV, teletext and DVD all seem fine - maybe one day I'll even fathom the mysteries of video capture... ATI are still having slight problems with the performance of their Windows 2000 drivers in comparison to the Win9x releases, but that's quite common and benchmarks aside, most driver releases have seemed more than adequate for everyday gaming. Hmmm. I guess I should play Warzone a little more, just to make sure of the DirectX support. <grin>

19th April

I've been listening to the audiobook of Robert Heinlein's "The Menace From Earth", recently, a collection of his short stories from the late 1950s. I don't know most of them very well, as I only bought a copy a few years ago when filling in the gaps in what is now (as far as I know) a complete collection of his fiction, and I've been struck today by how very unrepresentative of Heinlein they are. The heroes are decidedly less heroic than usual (rather grubby in places, actually!), the plots more speculative and philosophical, the endings somehow less neat and final... One of them, "Colombus Was A Dope" feels very much like an early Asimov, instead, and overall I'd have guessed that I was listening to an early "Best SF #" anthology or similar... I tend to read Heinlein's later work (after he became a dirty old man!), these days, and much as I still enjoy the stories it's nice to be reminded that he could write about more than geriatric sex maniacs.

18th April

The home appliances are still exacting their revenge for some unknown transgression - someone came out to look at the dishwasher and microwave, yesterday, and both were working perfectly! What a pain! He checked and tested extensively, but couldn't find anything overtly wrong, and I know from my own experience that fixing a problem that isn't currently manifesting can be extremely hard... We're keeping the microwave switched off when we're not using it, as it seems to help, but apart from that all we can do is hope that one day we can finally arrange for both the problem and the engineer to appear at the same point in the space-time continuum. [Aside: I really like that link...]

Mike has started delivering alpha builds of his LCD performance monitoring applet over the last couple of days - they're crashing like bastards at the moment, but considering that he doesn't have an LCD panel of any kind himself, and so is programming blind, I'm extremely impressed that they're working at all! The latest version has grown a beautifully flexible configuration screen, but has also added a tendency to die horribly that wasn't present in the more primitive builds... Projects like this remind me why I'm not a programmer...

News from WinHEC, Microsoft's annual presentation of it's upcoming hardware and revelation of the hardware requirements of it's upcoming software... One device particularly caught my eye, a tablet "dumb terminal" code-named Mira, which is basically an LCD touch-screen with wireless LAN connectivity. It's designed to act as a "window" on a desktop PC, showing whatever the desktop's screen shows and passing touches back as mouse movements etc - in effect, a dedicated, lightweight terminal for pcAnywhere or VNC! I think I'd find this very useful for showing digital photos to friends, for example, or browsing the web in the evenings, and far more convenient than using a hotter, heavier, bulkier and power-hungry laptop with remote-control software. A number of the big names in consumer electronics are professing serious support, and given that the individual technology components are now here, I'm expecting to see the first hardware around the end of the year.

16th April

I've been noticing odd problems with my CD writer over the last few days, primarily the extremely unpleasant grinding noises when I tried to play an audio CD... Following a recommendation online, I've just bought a little diagnostic tool called DriveEasy, which performs a whole suite of read and write tests on CDRs, CDRWs, audio CDs, etc etc. It didn't flag up any errors at all, which is reassuring, but I'm still a touch dubious because it reports my hardware as being incapable of either over-burning or DAO, both of which I've used successfully on many occasions. I shall email the manufacturer to enquire...

15th April

The computer room seems to have sprouted another three cell-phone repeaters while I've been away, bringing the grand total to twelve... I'm not at all pleased about this, as even though the jury is still out on the issue of near-microwave radio transmissions melting one's brain, if there is a risk from using a single consumer cell-phone then there's certainly a significantly greater risk from a dozen of the high-powered base-station types... It's also unclear exactly what effect, if any, this sort of radio-frequency interference could have on the 100Mbit and gigabit network hardware a few metres away, nicely accessible on the end of a CAT5 antenna the size of the building... Only a few years ago the advice was not to use cell-phones in a computer room at all, and although that seems to have relaxed considerably as both phone and computer hardware has matured, I still think it's a pretty dumb idea to fill the room with them!

This has been bugging me for ages, but the extra units were the last straw and I'm finally making a fuss. I've expressed concerns about both health and safety and interference ("can't be held responsible for future network problems if this situation continues etc etc) and the initial response from management has been encouraging. If I can get at least the antennas moved to the other side of the wall (it has steel plates in it!) I'll be happy...

14th April

Back to reality tomorrow, doubtless to be greeted by a huge pile of new server and RAID hardware. I'm a little edgy about this project, as it's been planned and specced both in a great hurry and by a non-techy - usually a recipe for disaster... My management have great faith in my ability to pull a bunch of components together into a system, but they seem to enjoy stacking the deck against me to make it as "challenging" (their word, from my recent review!) as possible... One of these days I'm just going to get fed up with it all, and leave them well and truly in the lurch...

A consultant who visited recently commented that many companies are now extremely anxious about upsetting their most important techies, as they know how vulnerable the organisation is to damage (accidental or otherwise!) to the network servers and, especially, to the data they hold... He was surprised and amused to see that my employer has the opposite philosophy, entrusting me with the very life-blood of the company and yet taking every opportunity to make me feel insecure, exploited, dissatisfied, abused and generally hard-done-by. I can see his point, certainly - I don't expect that any other employee has the power to destroy the company as completely and efficiently as I could, and it's a source of constant wonder to me that I'm trusted not to do that, but not trusted to work my contracted 7˝ hours a day without falsifying my timesheets, browsing the web for porn, making personal telephone calls, eating food at my desk, abusing compassionate leave and all the other things that the IT department öber-manager has had bees in his bonnet about during the last few months. I must admit that it would be an interesting exercise to see how well a sales-based organisation could survive without any of it's customer database...      [slaps wrist]

Unfortunately it seems that the European global positioning system project, Galileo, has finally expired. The current GPS service is completely operated and controlled by the US military, and there were plans to launch a second, complementary service as a joint European Union / European Space Agency venture. However, this plan has now been shelved after continual heavy pressure from the US, who evidently prefer to retain control of all global navigation.

GPS signals received by civilian hardware have always given a less accurate position than the military hardware, even after the Clinton administration demanded an improvement from 100 metre resolution to 36 metre in May 2001. However, to comply with this the military replaced the "Selective Availability" technology with "Selective Denial", a system that allows the commercial GPS signals in a specified area to be deliberately degraded to the point where they become useless. This feature was tested in Afghanistan last year and, according to GPS hardware manufacturer Garmin, successfully disabled all non-US GPS reception in the region.

This move has led to fears that the US government could use the availability of GPS as a threat to browbeat any country or organisation into compliance with it's wishes - and, indeed, this is exactly what now seems to have happened. The EU has been quietly informed that if they try to build their own system, Europe will immediately be denied access to the existing service - which would have a serious impact on maritime navigation especially, and to a lesser (but increasing) extent on air, road and rail navigation too!

This seems to me to set a dangerous precedent, and evidently I'm not the only one - French President Jacques Chirac was quoted in the IHT as saying that if Europe did not pursue Galileo and other similar space projects, the failure "would lead inevitably to a vassal status, first scientific and technical and then industrial and economic." Strong words, indeed...

13th April

It's becoming apparent that we've managed to seriously offend the home appliance gods ... on top of everything from earlier in the month, the microwave has crashed again, the dishwasher is leaking and behaving oddly, and the second VCR now seems to have a problem recording sound... To be fair, that last may be a configuration problem rather than hardware, as I did some fairly random re-arranging of the AV cabling (while poorly!) when the first VCR was taken to be repaired, and I'm not quite quite sure of the current signal path. And talking of the first VCR - I think we chose a fairly street-corner sort of an outfit, and they don't seem to know how to repair it... Last I heard, they're still not sure if it's an electronic or a mechanical problem, which doesn't fill me with hope.

I shall sacrifice a virgin mains extension cable to the gods of White Goods, and regretfully start wondering whether replacements would be better value than repairs - if they've reached that age, it's likely to be cheaper and less annoying...

I've been doing some housekeeping on the firewall logs, today, and on a whim decided to run WebTrends over the whole range of logs. It seems that we've received almost 16Gb of data from the net since October 2001, and sent around 100Mb - mostly email... Shannon's Law not withstanding, I think we can certainly justify the luxury of a broadband connection.

It occurs to me that I often link to an entry in an online copy of the Jargon File - this is the nicest HTML version I've found so far, so I'm prepared to forgive the fact that it's hosted at tuxedo.org, home of arch open-source bigot Eric Raymond. Disappointed to hear that Sun will be charging for StarOffice, soon, Eric...?

12th April

I think my head is noticeably bigger, having stretched to accommodate about half of what I need to know about Active Directory - and so I think my management are going to have to cough up for the AD troubleshooting course, too, if next year's migration is going to go smoothly... Enterprise-level directories can be scary when they're misbehaving, especially when there are timestamp issues: although minor problems are replicated to the entire network within minutes (at which point they generally become major problems!) the changes and fixes that would correct them are usually much less willing to propagate and are often prevented from doing so by the very problem they're intended to correct. I need to know more about authoritative restores than I used to in the Netware days, it seems...

This morning was a mad rush to finish the long complex bits before the exam was scheduled to start, which I wasn't too pleased with as I started nodding-off during one of the longest and most complex - on all the training courses I've been to recently, most mornings have brought a ten minute period between eleven and twelve o'clock during which I'm all blurry and tend to fall asleep, apparently just for an instant, half a dozen times - and then after a while my mind suddenly clicks back on again and I wake up properly...  I'm not quite sure what would help - I assumed low blood sugar last year, but crunching a biscuit or a sugar cube hasn't seemed to help, and the training rooms certainly aren't warm and stuffy (I'm quite chilly, usually!) so it isn't the environment... Maybe I should try a quick hit of speed.

11th April

At last, someone other than left-wing long-hairs like the EFF is speaking out against the Senator "RIAA" Holling's proposal for mandatory hardware copy protection in consumer electronics and PC components - and a surprising source, too, the ailing computer manufacturing giant Gateway:

Viewers of the NBC Nightly News and youth-oriented shows like "Dawson's Creek" will see Gateway CEO Ted Waitt and an animatronic cow lip-syncing along with a hip-hop remake of Gordon Lightfoot's 1974 hit "Sundown" as they drive an 18-wheeler into the sunset.

"Like this song? Download it for free at gateway.com. Burn it on to a CD ... or load it on an MP3 player. Gateway supports your right to enjoy digital music legally," the ad says.

Not content with (reportedly) lame animations, though, they're also providing legally downloadable music  at their site, giving away blank CD-R disks at their stores, and hosting free "digital music clinics" where the IT-illiterate can learn how to copy audio CDs!

Full story at MSNBC, among others...

I've just started reading the first volume of "Prelude to Dune", by Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson. Unfortunately, due to the vagaries of bookshops, I've also just finished reading the second volume... Unfortunately, again, this particular edition was found cheap in a remaindered bookshop, and turned out to have a second copy of pages 227-274 instead of pages 339-386. I'm glad that didn't present insurmountable problems as, although having suffered over the final volumes of the original "Dune" series I somehow wasn't expecting too much, it turned out to be an extremely enjoyable story. The converging plotlines are fresh and well-written, and seem to fit perfectly with what we already know of Frank Herbert's epic future-history. Best of all, perhaps, the authors have managed all the excitement and feel of Herbert's earlier stories while avoiding his somewhat ponderous style, and I've felt thoroughly caught-up in it all!

The series spans three generations of the period immediately before "Dune", the first volume beginning with Paulus Atreides ("The Old Duke") in power on Caladan and the appointment of Pardot Kynes as Imperial Planetologist on Arrakis. The second focuses on the older characters from the original story, now in the prime of their lives (Leto Atreides acquiring his core of trusted companions, the Harkonnens building their power-base on Arrakis, Kynes now lost in ecological theory while his son Liet grows to manhood as a Fremen...) and other major characters who are familiar from references in the original. This volume ends with the conception of Paul Maud'Dib, and I'm expecting the third, "House Corrino", to cover the period of Paul's early years and finish just as "Dune" starts.


10th April

This is rather nice: the text is Korean, but as near as I can make out from the hardware it's a combination of a PC and a hi-fi. It looks completely hand-built, with a pleasing air of 1950's radiogram about the design, and the wiring and other details are immaculate... It's a beautiful piece of work...

9th April

It's interesting stuff, certainly - AD is not nearly as boring as everyone seems to think, and from a network admin's point of view I think that as a system it's really rather elegant, although balancing all the Operations Masters around the network is certainly going to be an interesting challenge. Of course, the whole thing does rather remind me of Novell's NDS, and my experiences of that directory (from the Netware 4 era) were enough to leave me with a fetish for completely flat network models that is going to take some work to overcome. There's something about the de-centralized control of directory-based networks, however wonderful they may be in practice, that leaves a funny taste in my mouth...

I suddenly remembered that the LCD panel's control software could adjust the contrast, and have now managed to "angle" the display so that, although it's a little opaque from straight-on, it can be read from my chair without having to evolve an India-rubber neck. The marvels of modern science... Now all I need is some code to replace the mock-up bar-graphs. Quick, before anyone notices!

8th April

I survived the first day of the training, and it doesn't look like it's going to be too taxing... I already have an initial draft of the Active Directory structure for the .Net Server migration at work next year, having discovered that most of what I thought would be awkward business decisions were instead simple technical ones. I'll probably be able to hand 90% of the structure to my management set in stone, but the remainder can be arranged in several equally acceptable ways, and if I let them choose the one they like the colour of at least they'll feel that they've managed part of the project. <grins> I like to help out, where I can.

7th April

More work on the LCD software, this morning, creating a set of "frames" to drop the bar-graphs into. This is what the first version will look like, in theory, displaying real-time graphs of hard disk and network throughput:

And here's some of the "trivial" Visual Basic code that will drive it, in this case a subroutine to switch the backlight on:

Private Sub cmdBacklightOn_Click()
    With comPort
        .PortOpen = True
        .Output = Chr$(254) & Chr$(66) & Chr$(0)
        .PortOpen = False
    End With
End Sub

Thanks, Mike! You'll make a programmer of me yet!  <mutters darkly>

6th April

Mike the code guru is visiting this weekend, and was drawn to the LCD's serial interface like a moth to a flame... I'm completely devoid of serious programming tools, but he fired up Word's Visual Basic subsystem and within a few minutes was toggling the panel's backlight on and off and sending simple text strings! Apparently it's trivial... The latest version displays test bar-graphs and bitmaps and, more importantly, is in VB code simple enough that I can probably hack it around to do most of what I need. Watch this space!

I think that the "Hunt the Boeing" puzzle can be laid to rest following this well-thought-out rebuttal... I'm a touch regretful, as although I don't usually fall for these wild conspiracy theories this one had rather seized my imagination, but the authors neatly answer all the questions posed on the original site and link to additional images that illustrate their arguments well.

I seem to have reached my level with the Distributed.Net league-table, these days... I've been hovering between 260th and 270th place for the last few months, and although I'll creep up a little further every time I upgrade a server somewhere (I'm on the point of replacing a dual 450MHz Pentium II with a dual 1.4Ghz Pentium III, for example) I'd be surprised if I gain any significant number of places, now. I'm determined to stick with the RC5-64 challenge until the key is found, but after that I'll probably take a break from number crunching, at least on the office systems. Maybe distributed computing is becoming a touch passé...

4th April

A user station on our KVM switch died again a couple of days ago - that makes three, now, all of which were connected to the same port of the switch! However, both the manufacturer, Raritan, and the supplier, Backspace, have been extremely helpful in providing rapid replacements, and this time they sent a whole replacement switch as well as another user station. It seems highly likely that there was a subtle fault in that particular port of the switch, and I'm quite confident that a complete replacement will remove the problem.

The US developer replied, today, apologising for jumping to such conclusions about Distributed.Net and saying that he "needed to be beaten up once in a while". <laughs> I'm inclined to agree...

3rd April

The chair finally arrived... what a fuss, just to buy a chair...

I spent a while this afternoon defending the Distributed.Net project to our American "bespoke" software supplier, after they noticed it running in the background on a server they'd dialled into and proceeded to blame it for not only the failings of their software but also for war, famine, plague and pestilence. They'd made a remarkable number of factual and logical errors in their "warning", sent initially to my department manager, and my first response was short and sarcastic... This resulted in a message being passed down the chain of command to the effect that said manager had been greatly amused by my choice of words, but would I please not piss off our suppliers again... However, I really wanted to clear up some of his misconceptions, as he seemed to be treating the DNETC client as some kind of virus, and I ended up writing a long, polite mail explaining not only the project and the software, but how to correctly read the NT task manager's processes screen... It's better than work!

Next week I'm off on a training course, and the rest of this week feels like I'm marking time until I come back and can get to grips with the new server and RAID hardware, expected in a few days... I still don't have a clear idea of how I'm going to migrate the server, though - it's one of the network domain controllers, and that always adds a degree of both complexity and risk.

The training is definitely duty, this time - it's Windows 2000 Active Directory Planning And Migration, a dry, heavy and rather theoretical sort of topic, but one that I'm going to need to be well up to speed on when we move to .Net Server and Active Directory next year. I have Windows 2000 Security at the end of the month, too, which is likely to be another heavyweight... Hard times...

2nd April

The new DECT phones arrived on schedule last week, but unfortunately not enough of them... However, we hooked up what we had and it's been working very well so far, and the extra handset arrived today (also on schedule!) so another flurry of registering and configuring resulted. It's a neat system, certainly, although the voice quality seems closer to cellular than to a fixed line - rather surprising, given the additional bandwidth available.

Something that didn't arrive on schedule, today, is an office chair from Misco, ordered over a month ago and so far distinguished more by a series of excuses, evasions and broken promises than it's actual presence in the room. We've had similar problems with orders at work, recently, too - and if it wasn't for the fact that their product range is so voluminous, I would be extremely reluctant to do business with them at present...

1st April

Damn, but that LCD is a fiddly thing to program... The graphical displays are fairly new as a hacker's toy, and the software hasn't quite caught up with them yet.  I've managed to download a selection of different fonts and display them correctly in the manufacturer's utility, but the different font sizes allow a variable number of characters per line, and this is not well-handled by most of the LCD application software. The best bet is probably LCDC, but it's just re-launched as time-limited shareware and I'll want far better graphic support before I shell out even $15...





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