Photo Hunt Week 11: Technology

Mmmm... Apple

I had a lot of choices for this week’s photo hunt picture, considering the field I work in. This photo is the one that caught my eye, however. It was taken several months ago, during our December of installing lots of stuff in the attic (you can find the blog post about it here), and echoes back to my comment about Apple hardware being damn pretty in a rack. Pictured, on top, is an Intel Xeon Xserve paired with an Apple Xraid below it. Part of our summer project this year is transitioning fully to them after their testing period these past few months.

Now if I could only convince them to buy a few more.

Where am I?

Well I think I’ve covered all things meme for now. I should probably do a quick update about what the hell I’ve been up to.

Sadly, it’s mainly one thing.


Warning… loads of geek and work related drivel below.

About a month ago I was hoping that things would quiet down and that I’d be able to get back to the usual routine of the 9 to 5 job, settle in, and hopefully be able to pursue some of the hobbies I’ve wanted to get into for a long time now. I have a huge list on this site of 101 things I want to do, and not only have I not even updated it for a while, I’m a far cry from making any sort of progress on it.

This depresses me in a lot of ways.

But work marches forward, and it’s hard to keep standing as the waves crash in.

What I thought would be a wonderful bit of progress with virtualizing some of the servers has turned into a nightmare. The software isn’t stable. Not by a long shot. But the really wonderful thing is that it only seems to crash when there is heavy load on it. And that it’s not a sure thing it will crash even then.

Word to the wise: Xen is unstable on new Intel hardware. Take it from me personally.

Luckily there is an update coming out soon (as in this week) that should eliminate the problem. This will of course mean more work for me, as upgrading Xen isn’t exactly the simplest of tasks, as it’s heavily integrated into the system kernel.

At this point I just want it to be stable, though.

The other issue I’ve had is with the Macintosh workstations; though admittingly this has affected Shawn more than it has me. Don’t get me wrong. Mac OS X and integrating with a Windows Active Directory server has come a long way. It’s actually fairly painless for the most part.

Unless you need to do any sort of user management.

You see, I have unruly users where I work. They like to poke around, change settings, hack systems, and generally make my life difficult. I try to prevent this from happening as much as possible.

This is why generally Apple’s Workgroup Manager is my friend.

But it has… issues… with Active Directory.

Namely, to get it to work as a single solution with it I have to modify the Active Directory schema. That’s not so bad in and of itself. I’ve mucked around with LDAP enough now to know what I’m doing most of the time. There are other problems with going this route… which I won’t get into here. Leave a comment or e-mail me if you’re really interested.

So… the other route is to setup an OS X Server to act strictly as a Workgroup Management solution, and then tie that into Active Directory.

This all works hunky dorey. If you don’t mind managing everyone in a blanket format. If you need special groups to manage different users differently, good luck, as you’ll have to add all those users by hand to each individual group and keep them updated by hand every time you add users or their groups change. I don’t exactly work for a huge enterprise operation, but I still don’t want to have to go through and hand manage 1200 different users for their group permissions.

Add to that the fact that OS X 10.3 workstation act differently then 10.4 workstations, and they both have their own set of caveats and workarounds.

I love OS X. I really do. It makes me smile everytime I boot up my MacBook and log in to an OS X workstation to do the major part of my work every day.

But there are still some major limitations to deploying OS X in an Active Directory world. Especially if you need any sort of end-user settings management.

Speaking of MacBooks though… it looks like Shawn has gotten one of the first generation ones unfortunately. It’s beginning to show classic signs of hardware issues, with it doing the random system shutdown thing, and now showing the discoloration of the plastic on the palmrest. It’s going to have to go into service at some point unfortunately, though it will likely have to wait until I get back from Australia.

And that brings me to my next blog post.

I am geek. Hear me squeek.

So, this shall officially mark a landmark in the slow yet continued updates to this, my little blog away from blogs.

I am posting from work.

It’s about an hour past the time I should of headed home, and the building is well and truly deserted. But I had to post this little gem of geek ingenuity.

Shawn and I have found a temporary use for all the old iMacs that are getting moved around this summer.

Behold, the ultimate iLamp workstation!

This setup took a little time and planning to put together, but is actually quite fun to use. To the left and right are two 700MHz G4 15 inch iMacs, and the center machine is a 800MHz G4 17 inch iMac. They aren’t the fastest machines, but they get the job done, and being able to balance Office, web surfing, and general administration between three machines means things are a little snappier all in all. Plus it’s fantastic for being able to manage large amounts of information at once. In the photo above you can see me monitoring network traffic on the left machine using Cacti, or as I like to call it, “MRTG on steroids”. On the center machine I have Apple Remote Desktop running, with views into four separate workstations, nicely tiled using Exposé. And on the right I have an Excel spreadsheet up with assorted information on all of the switches used here at work.

Screen switching is made painless with a little piece of software called Synergy. It allows you to move the mouse to the edge of one screen and have it magically appear on the next, just as if you were simply using a system with multiple monitors. An especially nifty bonus is that the software is multi-platform, meaning you can combine Windows, Linux and OS X machines all into one huge logical desktop, complete with clipboard synchronization. The Mac version is a little buggy, however. It doesn’t handle going to sleep very well, and has some logistic problems if you want to install the software so that it launches on start-up. It’s worked beautifully for me in this demonstration, though… and if I ever do get an iMac like I want to, it will be handy in being able to have my PC and Mac side by side and simply move from one to the other flawlessly.

I can almost say that I’ve been more productive today than I have been in a long time.

I know. I am uber geek.

It’s only temporary, of course. These machines will get repurposed and are only in the office for maintenance and software imaging as it is. They are sure fun to play with though.

And now, it’s time for me to go home. Good bye work week, hello weekend.

Stranger than (science) fiction.

I’ve survived the day.

And none the worst for wear at that.

Thankfully I can get back on a somewhat sane schedule tonight. Well… as sane as usual for me.

Through the joy of Netflix, I’ve been catching up on Sci-Fi series that I missed. I decided to start with Farscape, as I have always enjoyed the Jim Henson creature shop’s work. I remember as a child being thoroughly enthralled by The Storyteller series on TV… something that I may have to find on DVD just to re-live those memories.

In Farscape, however, I have been somewhat disappointed.

Don’t get me wrong… the series certainly has its high points, and to be honest, I have only made it about half-way through the first season so far.

But there is certainly something missing. The episodes lack focus in ways… as if certain elements were brought in simply to flesh out an episode that was drastically needing something more.

I think that’s the heart of my troubles with the series, really. I get the feeling that it would of made a much better series of half-hour episodes than simply trying to fill in a full hour, even if the core of your story needs much less than that.

This is, of course, just one critic’s opinion however.

I fully intend to watch the whole series, no matter what my qualms may be.

There’s just not enough Sci-Fi out there.

I’m undecided at this point what to catch up on next. I’m thinking possibly Stargate SG-1. Or possibly Battlestar Galactica. Not that new stuff they’re putting on the Sci-Fi station, though I plan on watching that eventually too. The original… another childhood favorite.

Of course, I’m always open to suggestions, too.

Winds of change.

Spring has arrived.

There’s no fanfare of flowers or lush greenery to signal its arrival. Nothing overt that you can sense while looking out the window as you enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning. Not even the slight upshift in temperature constitutes the telling factor.

It’s the wind.

The past few days have brought 20mph winds, on average… with gusts up to 40mph in some areas. Othello itself isn’t too bad… but in Royal City, where I work, the wind whips through the valley its nestled in with incredible speed. It’s the true sign that spring has come. In a month or so it will die down and the more visible aspects of spring will show their faces.

Generally I don’t mind this type of weather. Though it does make me wonder why I don’t cut my hair shorter this time of year.

As for work bits, things progress. You may have noticed that there is a new book in my “Currently Reading” section. This is something my supervisor at work actually purchased for me, so it’s not a leisure reading item by any stretch. There’s a serious need for a QoS strategy at Royal, and I’m the person that’s going to have to implement it. And though I know the basics of QoS, I have no clue how to go about implementing something large scale on a predominately Cisco network.

I plan to change that shortcoming in the following weeks.

It has, however, made me question my certification path choice. I do want to get the CCSP certification eventually, as the network security side of things really interests me. And I seem to have a knack for understanding concepts in that area of networking. But the CCIP looks interesting now as well. Especially considering the QoS test is one of the required modules for it.

Either way, I’d be stupid not to take the QoS test after studying up for it, implementing a strategy for Royal, and having the material fresh in my mind. Even if it’s the only test I take in that certification tree.

And I know this must be incredibly boring to most of you.

It’s good to have finally found the weekend, though. I do have some goals for this weekend, beyond just getting some time to read. There’s a package assembled here that was meant to go overseas weeks ago. It’s my top priority to make sure that it does. I also would like to find some time to work on some cosmetic aspects of this blog, since there are some minor issues that are irritating me here and there.

Otherwise, I hope to just enjoy myself, catch up with some friends, and be buffeted by the winds of spring.

I’ll miss you, winter.

Domo arigato.

And the days pass, like dominos.

Mutant, hulking dominos. With teeth.

Okay. That just makes me visualize Domo-kun for some reason.

The past couple of days have been uneventful, however. Work at school is hectic at times… but usually, it’s just a lot of fixing small problems and generally trying to make people happy. Today I had a teacher that was actually afraid of his computer. While trying to get him to explain what was happening, the response I received was that it sounded like “razor blades were flying around” inside of the case.

It was his CPU fan of course.

But the visual of razorblades actually flying around made me chuckle.

Most days that’s what I do. It’s a lot of workstation maintenance and user support. It’s not bad, though. Most of the staff at least know how to turn their computers on, which can’t be said of the people I used to support while doing Internet help desk work.

Whatever you’ve heard about doing Internet help desk work, the stories are true.

Hell, they may even be toned down. Yes, there really are people that stupid in the world.

I do get to have fun at work though. I’ve single handedly implemented a server backbone for about 600 computers. It’s not much, but it’s well organized, maintained, and it works. The network and server maintenance side of things is the stuff I actually, really enjoy. The workstation support keeps me on my toes, but the back-end maintenance is what makes me happy to go into work in the morning.

I’ve effectively become a jack of all trades.

The certification path I want to do will kind of pigeon hole me into Cisco equipment, but I don’t mind too much. Most of the world does run on Cisco equipment, after all. And those basic networking concepts and ideals can be applied pretty much anywhere.

This next payday I think I’ll be purchasing the next book for my certification. Expect to see it on the “Currently Reading” list when that happens.

And of course, other than work, I savor the moments I have to talk to those close to me.

I don’t have much in this world… a good job, and good friends…

But I still consider myself damn lucky.