Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The great disaster recovery/business continuity project at work continues to churn through time as though Chinese children are producing time knock-offs in a factory somewhere for the equivalent of $1 per day.
In addition to the actual work, there are often meetings about the work and paperwork about the work and informal hallway interceptions about the work. I haven't figured out the way to combine those things with the actual work, but if I ever do there is a factory job in Xian-Po with my name on it.
At last, I'll be bringing the conflict to General Tso. The guy (and his chicken) has a powerful away game, but we'll see how he likes it on his own turf where he is unable to make use of his scorched earth tactics.
More importantly, Marvel's Civil War story arc finally completed last week.
The end was surprising, but only because it seemed so sudden. There were about 50 issues of build up followed by a stunning end in the last four pages.
I know it kind of has to play out like that, but it seemed rushed and almost too tidy in the way season finales do when the cast and crew don't know if they have been picked up for another season.
By way of spoilers, I'll just say that Batman rules.
I promised myself I'd read them all, but now that Civil War is over I'm not sure what might fill the void. I've still got DC's 52 series, but even that is over in the next couple of months and the last issue was odd in that it was actually a pretty good read.
Summer movie season may be my only hope, though putting faith in the entertainment industry is a lot like building a giant Lego space station on a bed of Velveeta in a warm room. The sinking feeling precedes a total breakdown, but just barely.
While I'd like to be all about original ideas, I have to admit I'm most interested in things coming out this summer which are the original titles followed by numbers, especially stylized metallic-looking numbers. No Roman numerals, though. That would be entirely too Reagan Era.
In the end, the most important thing (aside from ninja count and it is very difficult to ever truly get an accurate ninja count) is always the amount and quality of explosions.
I think I saw an article online a while back (having almost totally given up the paper habit) about a special effects advance which allows CGI creations to actually work on the animations themselves. Of course, the CGI actors never need rest and have no union (yet), so the need for actual flesh and blood animators is limited to fetching CGI coffee for their new digital overlords.
Also, they are now embedding CGI organs into real live actors under all the costume and skin. It is subtle, I'll admit, but you can almost tell that Tibby's liver is "computer enhanced" in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. As I'm nowhere near too proud to admit, I cried like a little girl during Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. I suspect anyone that didn't has already been implanted with a CGI heart of their own, probably one cranked out in a factory in Xian-Po by CGI children working for $1 per day.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Yesterday I called World of Warcraft a computer virus. Specifically, a cross-platform computer virus with an unimaginable capacity to spread itself through even non-electronic means.
It was a joke (kind of) but I started thinking about it.
Very few players seem to leave. Even after hitting the level cap before The Burning Legion came out there were often level 60 characters just hanging around doing whatever for not even any virtual gain and paying the fee month after month after month.
When launched, the game was an instant hit. Now, according to some numbers, it is an even bigger one with over 9 million people playing.
This scares me.
Having made the leap to calling it a (completely awesome and enjoyable) computer virus, I wondered at the motivation.
They aren't after credit card numbers. They have mine already for the monthly fee thing.
World of Warcraft servers have never been used in a Denial of Service attack and having the player's machines do it seems a little counterproductive.
Stealing personal information from highly placed political figures? Maybe, but isn't knowing that the Senator from wherever plays a gnome seamstress almost as bad as anything you could find on his hard drive? Hopefully . . .
None of those reasons explains it. I'm afraid the true motivations of the game designers are only now becoming clear.
Through years of near monk-like concentration, I've managed to read quite a bit of crap Sci-Fi and Fantasy. Novels, comics, blockbuster movie trilogies that should have stopped at the first installment. . . I've done a lot of research.
Nine million subscribers move a lot of data around the internet. A swirling, hacking, slashing pile of data packets, all moving to the Blizzard servers hosting World of Warcraft.
It happens every day. Some people are online more than others, so nine million have certainly never been on at once, but that number grows every day. So does the data packet vortex.
Sure, that is pretty in itself and the "blizzard" of packets may be the true source of the name for the company, but why go to all this trouble?
The answer may startle you.
Blizzard Game Studios is harnessing the power of directed internet traffic to create a rift between our world and some hellish infernal sub-domain filled with really, really icky stuff.
Once the subscriber count reaches the proper number, the world as we know it will be consumed and filled with slimy, sticky, skittering hell spiders or something.
I'll admit, I could cancel my account (yeah, right) but what would that accomplish? There are new people signing up every day. Ignorant people. People not in on the secret like you and I.
I can't abandon them to their fate any more than I can allow the world itself to fall victim to the plots of the designers of World of Warcraft.
It is my responsibility to stand up to the tyranny and make a difference instead of just logging off forever and burying my head in the sand like a common frenchman.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I am calling in sick to work for the rest of the week.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Sunday afternoon, we watched Zoom, courtesy of Netflix.
I can't comment on the quality of that film on the advice of legal counsel, but hopefully I've done the proper paperwork to ensure that Chevy Chase will never be wasted in a Tim Allen movie again. Chevy Chase should be set free to do his own mildly profitable films.
Okay. Now that that is out of the way, I can explain why I was too tired to leave the room even as Courtney Cox continued to make the goofiest faces I've ever seen on someone playing a "brilliant genetic researcher".
Saturday night, my friends, Azeroth needed me.
Someone asked me recently what the worst or most destructive or most easily spread virus on the internet is at this moment. That virus is World of Warcraft.
I infected my friend Todd with the 10-Day trial and he passed it on to his brother Brian in California through a phone call. Computer viruses spread through phone calls, people!
Within an hour, Todd had canceled the 10-Day trial in favor of the full, paid subscription thing.
Saturday night the three of us ran around Teldrassil (the night elf starting area) righting wrongs and killing things to take their stuff.
It was kind of like a combination of the Justice League and that kid in Middle School who was always saying "Why you punching yourself? Why you punching yourself?" in the lunch line while swinging some poor nerd's arm around like a puppet.
And then a spider ate me. To be fair, that spider jumped me right after I'd finished a fight with an owl. And he refused both my cries of "time out!" and "not the face!"
Spiders are nasty like that.
So, through the wonder of a three-way call, we were able to carefully coordinate our assaults on the evil creatures infecting our fair woodland home and amuse ourselves an almost ridiculous amount with the "/dance" command.
I'm telling you, "/dance" just gets funnier and funnier as the night gets longer.
"/dance" is worth the monthly fee all by itself.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Okay, seriously:
There are some major things going on around here in the spacious offices of Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng, Inc. lately. The office is almost vibrating with excitement. Vibrating! It is getting quite difficult to walk around, as a matter of fact.
You see, this post is an announcement of, quite possibly, the largest development in the history of Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng, Inc., if not all of blogging ever.
It is contest time.
In honor of the 1st blogiversary, we are sharing the love with the readers.
The rules are a bit arbitrary and free form, but here they are:

1. Contest submissions are to follow the theme "A Combination of Pencil and Paper or Massively Multiplayer Role Playing Games AND Corporate I.T." If you need source material, pick a random point in the archives and go from there. Think graph paper, kids beaten up in high school, crashed servers, vomit, lost data, and mythological monsters. And funny-shaped dice.
2. Submissions may consist of video, prose, corporate memo, original screenplays, poetry, photoshop, MS Paint, scanned images, body art, digital photo, MP3, fiction, non-fiction, computer screen shots, functional software applications, petitions, complaints, court orders, or anything else which can be emailed or pointed at through email.
3. Entries must be received no later than March 4th (over a week away) and become fully sharable through Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng, though the original author retains all rights to make cash off it later.
4. Submissions should go to with the subject line "Blogiversary Contest". Actually, you could make the subject line pretty much anything since no one ever emails me there.
5. Fabulous prizes:
Grand Prize = A fully licensed Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game purchased at the expense of my kidneys through Coke Rewards points. Currently, the titles offered are EverQuest, EverQuest2, The Matrix Online and Planetside. On those last two, you could even end up on a server all to yourself!
First Prize = A Kodak High-Quality 8"x10" Print (also purchased with my Coke Rewards points). You could have a picture of me, but I assume everyone reading has blown up the picture from my profile to ginormous size and is using it as a desktop background already. As such, you can have whatever picture you like (local ordinances permitting).
Second Prize = Again, my kidney damage is your gain. 12 Kodak Photo Stickers so the recipient will be able to tag up to 12 different things with the image of his or her choice.
6. Ninjas and Pirates rule!

Yes, the prizes suck. I blame the Coke Reward Points program. I also blame them for my dying liver.

I realize the subject matter is quite tragic in a way, but humorous (or obscene) entries will be most welcome. If you've gotten the slightest amusement from this page in the past year (and I know who you are) . . . You freaking owe me.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Yesterday was all about free stuff at work.
I came back to my desk from a meeting to discover a letter from upper-upper management weighted down by a little heavy box. The letter said something about a sales milestone met back in November and how happy everyone was and how all of us made the whole half a billion dollars possible or whatever.
As I opened the box, I wondered how much cash could have been crammed into it and why it would be so heavy.
I saw a flash of gold inside and knew, instinctively, that it was pirate doubloons.
However, as strange as it sounds to say, I was mistaken.
It was (I think) a coaster.
But it was a very nice, brass and leather, cork-bottomed coaster embossed with the corporate logo and some sales figure.
I know may not seem like a big deal. I've gotten corporate swag before, but never addressed to me. Until yesterday, corporate commemorative items were things I'd inherited with cubicles.
Like the "Conoco Planet Day" rubberized disk and the "Making Cancer History" plastic cup from MD Anderson.
I found a one-hitter at my last job but it vanished from my desk again before I had a chance to find out where the lost-and-found was.
Corporate commemorative items were just things I picked up when they were discarded by whatever bitter employee preceded me.
But now, that era has ended. I've got a brass coaster and the paperwork to go with it.
While I was still reeling from this development (a few hours later) I got an email (along with everyone else in the company) from the management company that runs the building.
Yesterday was "plant refresh day" and there were a load of pink bromeliads that needed new homes. I've seen these notices before but had ignored them. However, this time I decided I wanted, no needed, a free plant to go along with my coaster.
I grabbed as many of my I.T. cohorts as I saw on the way, but I knew it was a mad dash with the rest of the tenants for the free plants. I had heard the competition is fierce, and I knew our floor was at a disadvantage because of the two elevator rides separated by a run through the sky lobby between us and the office. I let the people in the elevator know that if I needed to trip them or tackle them in order to get a free plant, I was perfectly willing to do that and make it look like an accident.
There were plenty to go around, I guess. This is a big building.
I grabbed a plant, thanked the people in the office, and headed back to the elevator to stash the plant in my car. I rode down with several women who work in some area of my company other than I.T. Accounting maybe? What is it we do, again?
One remarked that there were never a lot of men who head across for the free plants.
I told her simply that I had heard that bromeliads were mildly hallucinogenic.
The rest of the elevator ride was strangely quiet.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The following post may be disturbing to more sensitive readers. If you have questions, please talk to a parent or teacher. Not a cop. Whatever you do, do not share this with a cop.
I've put off talking about this for a few weeks for some very good reasons.
First, the whole unpleasantness was almost too traumatic to relive. I hope none of you ever experiences this horror and the accompanying feeling of total helplessness.
Second, I didn't get pictures until yesterday.
We have a lot of Dell server boxes in the hallway outside my cubicle. They can't be stored because there isn't really a place and they can't be pitched because the servers will need to ride in them to Scottsdale, Arizona in a few weeks.
Piles of packing materials are annoying and sometimes, as this post will illustrate, quite terrifying.
I had been in the server room (the blue door behind me) and was meaning to visit my cubicle (out of frame to the left). I came out of the server room and, while allowing the door to close behind me, noticed that a co-worker (the same co-worker that provided the photographic documentation) had barred my progress with a block of high-density foam. This is the same foam which (loaded with server rack screws) makes a serviceable ninja throwing star.
As you can see, I was completely sealed in:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

At first, I suppose it was funny. I came out of the server room, expecting to walk to my desk, only to find the way obstructed by a foam block.
Then, I remembered there was half a cup of coffee on my desk, rapidly cooling.
This improvised barricade was between me and coffee.
My, "Seriously, man. Move the freaking foam," was met with giggling and another picture:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Okay. I tried to suppress my panic and calmly examined my options. Drawing my BlackBerry, I Googled "foam bondage". The results, while possibly intriguing, were not helpful in this situation.
I tried to look at it objectively. While a Bruce Banner, Hulk Smash-type approach might work (with some slight chance of physical injury), it might also fling the foam into my cubicle. This could possibly spill my coffee into my laptop, thus ruining the coffee.
I debated with my oppressor while he continued to giggle and take pictures:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I could see a possible escape through a standing front ninja flip, but before I could launch into it I realized I was wearing backless shoes. No flip. Still trapped.
From where I stood, I could see my coffee. There were tiny wisps of steam rising from the surface, calling to me.
I leaned back against the blue server room door and stared, hard, at the foam.
Some stuff probably happened (remember, please, that this was a few weeks ago and the trauma caused me to repress most of the incident until yesterday morning) and I escaped somehow. Witnesses say I fell to the floor and crawled out. I have no way to dispute this.
However, I have decided that I kicked off my shoes and entered into the most spectacular ninja front flip ever "just missed" by camera phone before ending the acrobatics by catching my shoes, on my feet, on the other side.
I have no way to dispute that, either.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Our journey into the wonderful world of AT&T/Yahoo DSL was surprisingly brief.
The guy came by last week to tell us we had been hooked up and a box arrived containing a DSL modem and some wires.
I thought the installation would include a place to plug in this DSL modem inside, but apparently it does not.
There is no phone jack upstairs. As far as we can remember, there never has been.
Explaining this to the customer service people at AT&T was not an easy process and it took almost an hour of multiple transfers and hold time.
We use Vonage VoIP service (when we bother to plug it in) and have never missed having phone jacks.
As a last ditch effort, AT&T offered to install a jack for $120(US) but I told them that was more than I was willing to spend on an internet installation. When she told me I could also use the phone service they had hooked up, I again went into the story of how we have a phone (Vonage) and electricity as well.
I really don't want someone carving up our walls to install a piece of very old and outdated technology.
Then they offered a $50 discount and a no-interest payment plan on the remaining $70.
At this point it came down to philosophy. I'm just not that committed to the DSL lifestyle, I suppose.
Anyway, the "install kit" is on its way back home. I was nice enough that there should be little if any charge from them for the visits by the house to "install" phone service.
I was actually dreading the fees the government tacks onto phone service anyway, especially for a line that would never be used for voice service.
So. Until AT&T comes through with their fiber optic UVerse service without TV, it looks like we are stuck with the cable modem.
I can admire the idea of being committed enough to a lifestyle to make a drastic change.
There is a goth intern working somewhere in the building. Earlier this week I saw her leaving work in a hearse. That is the kind of committment that hacks up a perfectly good wall to put in an ugly plug that should have been retired in the 70's.
If I were into the whole facial piercing, thick eye-liner, odd hair color thing, I'd like to think I'd care enough to go the extra mile and drive a hearse myself.
When it comes to high-speed internet, and inactivity and no wall damage gets me the same result as waiting a week or more to punch a hole in (probably) an inconvenient wall, I'll always choose inactivity.
That is true for most things, I suppose.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Do you maybe remember a time when you thought you were cool?
In case that ever happens again, I present this guy:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Not only does he sport lifelike facial hair and the very latest in cutting edge in T-Shirt couture, his knife clearly reads "+9 Against Ogres".
The only place that knife would be cooler than in that image would be at a tabletop, pencil-and-paper role-playing game.
It would be even better if that game had ogres in it! And completely over-the-top incredible if that guy had taken Weapon Focus as his bonus feat at level one!
Wait again!
That is a utility knife! That means it qualifies as a simple weapon! He gets proficiency in that automatically, even if he is a spell caster (which he obviously is not)!
Figuring in a modest strength bonus given his casual hefting of the weapon displayed, I figure his total attack bonus at around +3 or (holy crap) +12 against ogres!
I hope somewhere he has a pair of ripped jeans "+8 Against the Ladies" or I doubt he ever gets to leave the house.
You know.
If he were in to leaving the house.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Perhaps I misspoke.
I've gotten comments about my post from Friday night. I was running on four hours sleep in forty-eight hours and was not as clear as I'd have liked.
If it came off as a pay-it-forward, love-your-fellow-man, kindness-is-the-best, freeway hugfest kind of thing, I apologize.
That is far, far from what I'm about.
This just goes to illustrate that a lack of sleep requires that I actually drink more diet cola than my system can process, flushing my coherence into a swirling morass of prose that comes off as hippie drivel.
The post should have been clearly labeled as a hack. Not a computer hack, but a traffic hack.
Since I started slowing down in the slow lane, not a single driver who entered the freeway in the gap I'd created has waved hello. Obviously, they missed my attempt.
However, if they need to wave their thanks at the car that let them merge, then obviously there is congestion at that point on the highway and the whole system is broken.
To further clarify, the kindness merging drivers experience is merely a side-effect of my own attempt to reduce my drive time. If I could accomplish the same thing by making sarcastic comments about the other driver's parentage, driving skills of personal hygiene I would most certainly prefer those techniques.
I hope that clears things up.
Alright. Let's move on with our lives, shall we?
I was at work until after 5am Saturday.
The servers were all patched. Hopefully, next month they will all still know what time it is.
If not, I've done what I can.
Less than a week after the big Daylight Saving Time live test on the 10th or whatever, I'll be back up here at midnight again to do whatever it is that needs to be done while the systems are offline.
I understand the need to not make changes and apply fixes during the work day. Monday morning isn't a good time for anyone, but Friday at midnight until Saturday at 6am is a bad time for me.
Of course, while the firewall was down for maintenance, I may have tested our internet connectivity using my current favorite network verification tool, World of Warcraft.
You'll be relieved to learn that our connection was solid and unwavering.
To fully test, of course, I needed to smash all manner of creatures and take their stuff, as was written in the prophecy. I'm nothing if not thorough.

Friday, February 16, 2007

First of all, let me apologize for the past couple of days.
I haven't been sleeping. At all.
Right now, it is almost midnight and I'm at work on a Friday night, preparing to patch a kajillion servers in six hours.
Next week we may have our automated patching system in place, but that doesn't help us at all right now.
I've been back and forth between home and work many, many times at different times of day.
As you may know, Houston traffic (especially with our new shiny construction on I-10) is ugly.
What you may not know (though Shana can confirm) is that I have a traffic-related mutant gift.
There are some crappy mutant gifts to have. Toad comes to mind.
Mine is worse. Whatever lane I choose, reality warps around me to make that lane slower than everyone else's. I'll never get into the X-Men that way.
Anyway, this means I've spent a lot of time in traffic. I've watched the patterns from the bad end and even read a few articles on "traffic jam theory" since I found out I know someone who knows someone who works with that theory professionally. Can you imagine doing that? Predicting where and why traffic will suck while sitting somewhere it isn't? Knowing the secret ways where traffic flows like mysterious chemicals at an 8th grade party?
I'm going to share a traffic tip in this post. If it works for me (and it does) it will work for anyone.
Here goes:
On any stretch of highway, traffic falls into predictable patterns of behaviour. At times, the cars spread out with loads of room between them, zipping along in a well-choreographed dance of freedom and acceleration. Then they slow down, congest, clump up. Cars slowly make it past that portion (which usually centers around an entrance or exit ramp) and then accelerate madly again before the next bottleneck, where the pattern repeats.
I've seen this described as a stretching and relaxing rubber band.
I prefer the school of thought that equates traffic to a spring. The cars clump up, add energy and compression to the spring, and then are thrust forward suddenly, only to hit the next compression point.
Now, adding acceleration at the end of the congested area doesn't help that congested area, and there is only a short-term gain for the car which has just broken free.
The key here is to reduce compression on the way into a congested area.
This isn't one of those "if we all do this together traffic will be awesome" tips, people.
If you do this, your time in traffic will lessen, as well as that of those around you.
I drive the same way home everyday if I don't see at least a dozen traffic helicopters hovering over it from way off. I know where the entrances and exits are. I aim for them.
The congestion happens when people hit the clumped up areas and then don't let people merge.
If traffic is allowed to interlock like teeth on a zipper it moves freely.
Head directly for the slow lane (the one with merging traffic) and slow down more.
You can slow down a lot more, actually. If you move slower than the clump in front of you and allow people to get off the ramp into the slow lane in front of you, the congestion goes away before you reach it.
It happens quickly, too. No one has ever had time to honk at me from behind.
I do about 20 miles one way on a completely nasty highway every day. This has reduced my drive by 15-20 minutes every trip.
Also, by letting in other drivers I think there is some Karmic bonus. I need all the good Karma I can get, as I'm still trying to pay off a lot of Karmic debt.
There are times when this won't work as well. Surface streets are ruled by traffic lights and crosswalks, and neither of them cares if you slow down in advance.
Also, all the deceleration in the world won't help you in the event a truck jackknifes and spills beer, M&Ms or Legos all over the freeway. I've seen all of those happen since moving to Houston, by the way.
I am a horrible driver. This is not an exaggeration. I know where my skills are, and maintaining a constant speed and not crashing into stuff is not one (or two?) of them.
This still works for me.
Okay. Thus ends my traffic advice. I'm going to patch some servers.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Starbucks . . . Failing me . . .
Too much to do to bag work . . .
Eyes . . . Crusting . . . Over . . .

No sleep at all. I'll post more later.



Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I get to work every morning before seven, work through lunch, then leave at four pm. This gets me home ahead of most of the traffic in time to see my family before my daughter's bedtime and, almost as importantly, before I snap.
I worked late yesterday because the Business Continuity consultant scheduled a meeting between four and five. I guess that doesn't really count as work, because it was a meeting. A meeting is like work, but much, much worse.
I suspect I was visibly bitter about being there for another high-level meeting.
I may have told the people that got there in advance of the consultant that if I saw another flow chart I'd probably need to telecommute from prison for the rest of the project.
For the first forty-five minutes, the meeting had nothing to do with me at all. The communications team confirmed the theories my team had lined out in an earlier meeting and I checked my GMail account on my BlackBerry.
Then, the consultant turned on me, and what had been a high-level, flowchart-type meeting became a full technical analysis of our Disaster Recovery implementation for Citrix.
I answered the first few questions as the others had about their areas of expertise, but the questions continued.
Data recovery, user connectivity, application availability and worst-case scenarios all came up until I realized high-level analysis was no longer the order of the day.
"Currently, if we lose a server our users will feel it as each server is unique in the applications it hosts. Under the plan I have suggested and am implementing, each server will have a twin in our disaster recovery location, segregated by what Citrix refers to as a zone.
"In the event the primary zone, our current farm, is struck by a meteor or boarded by pirates, all traffic will be routed immediately to the other zone. The applications will be available constantly."
She asked if they would be maintained in the same state as the current servers and I told her that they would have to be, as I planned to route Canadian and Latin American users there at all times to reduce the current load on our production servers. If they had old data, I'd hear about it.
She asked if there was anything I needed to do to make the switch happen and I replied that within the first 72 hours I'd need to re-direct the database server on the back-end to one at the Disaster Recovery site.
Without being prompted I closed with, "It's very technical and I don't think this is the meeting to discuss the details. Let me assure you though, we are extremely lucky to have me."
My recommendation to all of you, should the opportunity arise, is to do your best to end a conversation that way.
I haven't ever felt anything quite like it, though I suspect it is akin to getting past all of Regis Philbin's "Are you sure?" crap to confirm your final answer and to not only be correct, but so correct that someone writes a book about your answer being, quite possibly, the best answer of all answers to every question ever asked and someone eventually putting your likeness on a T-Shirt sold at Hot Topic.
That made it almost worth the 2+ hour drive home through Houston traffic.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Yesterday I wrapped my paranoia around myself like a thick, fuzzy blanket as I uncovered a vast, global conspiracy between Dell Computers, Symantec and Microsoft.
The goal of this conspiracy, you may ask?
Apparently the goal is to annoy me.
If any of their spies had happened across this site, they would know it takes far less than a vast, global conspiracy to do that.
I'm comforted by my paranoia at this stage. Maybe they are all out to get me . . . But at least they are interested, you know?
In trying to drop a bit-for-bit OS image on a brand-new Dell server, we have run into issues with the system not seeing the USB hard drive which hosts the image.
Calls to Dell have been routed to Symantec who makes the software.
Symantec doesn't support images on RAID hard drives. RAID hard drives are standard on most servers manufactured since they phased out vacuum tubes, not to mention the fact that the process worked on 40 servers before this one and they all feature the same drives.
We have fallen off the Dell radar as a company at the moment because we gave them too much money.
I realize that doesn't make sense, and for once it isn't my caffeine visions.
We were classified as a medium business until we bought enough stuff to qualify as large.
The idea is that "large" businesses have access to more and better support than "medium" businesses, a system that appeals to the capitalist in me while making the little activist in my head craft protest signs with Sharpie markers until the fumes overwhelm him in the enclosed space.
Anyway, our account, while being moved between "medium" and "large", doesn't belong to any support group. Until they get it sorted out we are adrift.
Meanwhile, our outage window to apply the Daylight Saving Time patch looms ever nearer. When dividing responsibilities yesterday, I drew the short straw of downloading and documenting the patch for our servers still running Windows 2000.
This is where Microsoft joins the conspiracy, because there is no patch for Windows 2000 available for download, even though the Windows 2000 servers could possibly be subject to the same laws of space and time as the Windows 2003 servers.
Apparently, we should have updated to Server 2003 already.
If we don't want to upgrade and break whatever we have on Windows 2000, we can (according to this article) make the changes to the system registry manually on every server. There are a lot of changes to be made.
The little activist set down the Sharpie for a moment and downloaded a third-party application that makes all these changes and offers an uninstall option, which makes it better than most patches Microsoft churns out anyway.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Friday night the stars aligned for a long session of World of Warcraft. Webinara (and her trusty feline companion "Citrix") had things to do. She needed leather to craft some armor to sell on the Auction House and to frantically gain experience in an attempt to catch up to the rest of the people I play with. She planned to visit the Charred Vale to smite some harpies and to clean up the nasty basilisk infestation. You know, a typical Friday night.
In World of Warcraft, once a character has explored an area he or she is able to arrange (in exchange for a few bits of silver) to hire a mount to fly back to other explored places.
It is a big world, and running everywhere is lame.
As Webinara flew over the vast Stonepeak Mountains on her way to The Barrens she watched other characters far below battle monsters and gain phat lewt. Then, in mid-flight, "Disconnected from Server".
This happens, but it had never happened to me in flight before. Would Webinara be dropped to her death? Lost in the unexplored mountains? Magically appear at her starting point or destination?
I wondered as I tried to log back in.
I kept wondering as I was unable to connect.
Our internet was down. On Friday night.
As I walked upstairs to power cycle the cable modem, I called Roadrunner. They are on speed dial, you know.
After navigating through the exhausting computerized menu and understanding (several times) that my call would be recorded to play back at office holiday parties or whatever, I reached a "technician".
"Have you rebooted the computer?" she asked.
"That isn't the issue. There is no signal to the modem."
"Can you reboot your computer anyway?" she persisted. Mustn't stray from the script.
"Okay," I conceded, "I'll reboot this one," I picked a server in the office at random,"But the light on your modem says there is no signal."
"Is your TV working?" she asked.
"Yes," I replied, "My TV is fine."
"So you have cable TV?"
"No," I answered, "We use Netflix. We don't have cable."
I know. I was being difficult. But let's remember, please, that my internet was out. On a Friday night.
I began to ask about the possibility of an area outage. This was flatly denied. Mine was the only house out. Someone obviously crept into our backyard and severed the cable.
I asked if it could be ninjas.
This was met with stunned silence.
"I'll be up for a while. When should I expect the repair person?" I asked.
This is what tipped me over the edge:
She typed for a moment, then said, "Monday between 8am and 6pm."
"But wait," I was genuinely confused, "This isn't a call for new service or an upgrade or downgrade. My internet is broken."
"I understand that," she answered, "and the technician can be out between 8am and 6pm on Monday."
"My internet is broken," I persisted, "and it isn't my fault. Why do I have to wait until Monday?"
"That is the first time the technician is available," she responded. I could tell she thought I was a bit dense.
"The technician?" I asked, "There is only one technician for the whole Houston area?"
"That is the first appointment we have available for a service call."
"It is Friday night," I reminded her, though I suspect she was aware of the date having so recently checked her calendar software.
"I can issue you a credit," she offered.
"Can you issue me a weekend of 'always on, blazing fast internet'?"
She could not, though she mentioned that if I had been a cable TV customer and my cable TV was not working they could send someone immediately.

Saturday, I dragged the family to the college library down the street to (ab)use the free Wi-Fi.
I immediately tried to get the UVerse page for AT&T internet to grant me access to the phone number to order service.
That site was down for maintenance.
I settled for the main customer service number and a long series of computerized menu options that could barely understand my vocal selections, since my voice was lowered to library levels.
By the time I'd reached a person to take my order, I knew the efficiency of this organization would be on par with that of Time Warner.
"I'd like to sign up for UVerse," I started. Sometimes a Saturday can be made better by throwing a slow pitch at commission-based sales people.
"I'll have to see if it is available in your area," she answered.
"It is," I helped, "I checked weeks ago."
"Can I get your phone number?"
I gave it to her, but this caused additional trouble because it isn't an AT&T number. In fact, it is a Vonage Voice Over IP phone number.
As I explained this, I asked if I could pick up their VoIP service with the high-speed internet.
I also gave her our address so she could check for availability that way.
She said the only way to get UVerse is to pick up the cable TV service with it. Voice Over IP is not yet available.
"I don't want TV," I answered, "We don't watch it and I can get internet without it."
There followed a brief argument where I needed to explain how to navigate the UVerse site to display the "custom packages" area to remove the Cable TV service from the "Cart". I had to do this from memory. The site was down for maintenance.
She clearly thought I was a giant liar, so I gave up and started asking about the "Elite" level DSL service.
I heard the woman reboot.
Not her computer. Her.
She needed to back out eleven hundred screens or something to access the script for "Elite DSL". While she pulled it up, I asked about download speeds and how fast we could make the switch.
There were several things that needed to happen, apparently, and none of them were easy even for a company as massive as AT&T. And let's not get started on "Equipment Costs."
I thanked her for her time and prepared to end the call.
"Did you want to schedule the install?" she asked.
"No thanks."
"Could you tell me why?" she asked.
Oh, I hate that question. For some reason, I answered it anyway.
"You've told me I can't have the much-hyped UVerse service without paying more for TV we won't watch than the internet itself. You have quoted equipment costs with arbitrary number and no explanation and, if I switch to your phone service and move my number it will take three weeks to even get internet, because you won't turn it on until you've got my phone and account number synced up, even though you could technically do it with a new number. Saving you paperwork should not cost me time."
There was a moment of stunned silence.
Then she asked to put me on hold.
I listened to an ad for UVerse. Apparently, you can get cable TV through that.
When the customer service person came back, the story was different.
I'm not sure about this, because I don't have access to their subscriber information, but I'm pretty certain our house will be the first in the nation to ever get phone or DSL service through AT&T. I know, they are a major phone company and it doesn't make sense for them to have never installed service anywhere, but the process is still in the Beta testing phase apparently.
We need a phone line. Our first in years. I feel dirty.
I pressed the woman about what hardware they were charging me for. I got her to drop their wireless router from the list.
I asked about upload speeds and explained Asynchronous DSL service to her. While I did this, she upped our limit at no charge to get me to shut up.
She offered an installation this morning, but I didn't want their tech and the Time Warner guy fighting to the death in our backyard.
Not with me at work missing the whole thing, anyway.
She offered every day this week, but having someone home for most of it will be impossible.
So Friday. Friday we get a phone line and DSL.
She offered to sell us a cordless phone, but I again explained that we have Vonage and would never use that line for voice.
When we returned home from the library, our Roadrunner internet was again working.
Maybe ninjas repaired the cable in the backyard?

Friday, February 09, 2007

This morning I'm posting a bit of tech-related advice.
This advice is platform independent, so Mac users and Windows users should be equally able to benefit from it. Linux guys . . . Maybe.
Yesterday the Bounced Mail folder caught an email from one user in our company to another. The problem came when the mail was rejected because the second person (a former employee) had a disabled account.
Then we noticed the email contained attachments in total over 10MB. This is large for an email, but well within the limits for internal mail.
But what could one user send to another by email that couldn't be shared on the web portal or the company FTP drive?
Apparently, naked pictures of Pamela Anderson.
Since we'd been discussing the email out loud, we had no choice but to notify management. Even if we'd been given a choice, I'd have reported it. Who wants a co-worker dumb enough to do that? No telling what else they'd do.
Of course, I don't want to get anyone fired. That isn't my thing. I'm more a sock-full-of-dimes-in-a-darkened-parking-garage kind of guy, but once this kind of thing happens it is always up to management how far it goes. Non-technically, it is out of our hands.
Regardless, I suggested that, to be fair, pictures of Pamela Anderson with clothes on are pretty tough to find online.
Management was considerably less amused than I was about that.
So. The tech tip for the day seems pretty basic but apparently some people need it:
Don't mail pr0n to or from a corporate email account. Seriously.
Automated systems find it and tell us about it. Millions of dollars have been spent developing ways to check the contents of email for just about everything.
I know this leads to a very obvious question:
"If I can't use my corporate email account, how can I distribute my pr0n collection over teh interwebs?"
Um, yeah.
Gmail, maybe?
Set up a server at home (not on the DMZ in a corporate network like some people at a place where I used to work)?
Just call your pr0n buddy on a cellphone and describe the pictures in lurid detail?
Burn the files to CD and USPS them Media Mail for next to nothing to your regular holiday mailing list?
Hey, you can even steal the blank disks from the office.
Geeks don't generally count the blank media.
We do notice when you drop pr0n on the mail server in the middle of the day.
The problem is that anyone who has read this far would never make that mistake in the first place. If there is one thing to be said about regular readers of this blog it is this: They know how and how not to distribute pr0n.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

I come here all the time to confess various moments of weakness.
In all honesty, I don't have "moments of weakness". I have moments of strength precariously suspended in a web of cowardice and ethical flexibility.
Since confessing a moment of strength is boring, I'll delve into another weakness.
I've got a profound weakness for the little guy.
While I make 100% of my income from Microsoft-based software, I use Open Source as often as I can.
When I could buy bottled colas at a giant chain for $1.15, I choose to spend $1.29 at the tiny corner store. Not $1.61 downstairs at the cafe after the price hike, though. There is a difference between "supportive" and "bleeding cash from every pore".
Every Wednesday I stop by the little local comic book store on my way home from work. I buy three of four comics, talk to the owner for a few minutes, and then get on with my life.
The comics are different every week. Mostly Marvel Civil War, but it isn't always out (like yesterday).
Here is the thing: Before I have even bought them, I've started downloading them in electronic format.
Usually, I could read them the following day from the comfort of my laptop with no worry about the oils in my fingers destroying the delicate ink. Regardless, I wash my hands about 20 times a day, making my skin as brittle and dry as antique chalk, only lighter in color.
Further, I've been playing World of Warcraft with six million of the geekiest people on the planet, so I haven't even made time to read the electronic versions currently occupying over 100 gigs of space across three separate storage volumes.
In other news, my ISP hates me.
I buy the comics every week because I like the idea that a fellow nerd can make a living doing what he loves.
I can support that.
I like it when people are able to work to do what they love, not just make the mortgage.
If I get comics out of the deal it is a bonus.
The other benefit of buying from a local shop is that the owner has pointed out other comics to me, knowing my taste.
He hasn't showed me anything in a style I hate or featuring a character I don't care about.
It is like his mutant gift is in identifying the style of the geek in question. He has me pegged as a Marvel Civil War, DC 52, Joss Whedon X-Men enthusiast and as the last Aquaman fan on the planet not living in a some kind of "facility".
This is 100% accurate.
I'd be happier if I could buy Dungeons and Dragons books there, but I don't think he has enough traffic to support that.
In still other news:

Coke Reward Points = 1,976

Waaaaay short of the recently re-added Sony digital camera, but almost twice the amount I've redeemed so far on the PlayStation 2, a copy of EverQuest and a magazine subscription no one reads.
Gwynyth is happy to help me empty 12-packs of Coke Zero, but we can't seem to drink fast enough. I'm thinking of having the water cut off at home.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

I'm all about the environment. Every morning I drink coffee brewed at work out of a giant Styrofoam cup stamped with the corporate logo -- but I feel bad about it, you know?
Two years ago, in a shameless attempt to appease their greener thinking constituents, the federal government passed a law designed to save some energy and help out with global warming. The same power point presentation they watched to decide to take action was later made into a movie.
While they could have set up better co-generation regulation to encourage industry to clean up their act a little more or, better yet, provide some help to the outdated and horribly toxic third world factories immune to the Kyoto Accord (in exchange for lucrative trade deals and cheaper iPod knock-offs), or even work with the gulf coast fishermen who have been completely devastated through a combination of decades old net technology which more often than not yields catches composed of over 90% "trash fish" which are just dumped overboard to rot and a massive decline in marine life overall due to agricultural run-off.
Instead, they moved forward the "spring forward" part of Daylight Savings Time by two weeks.
While admittedly this could save (somehow) dozens of dollars nationally in energy costs, it has caused quite a bit of trauma for one sector of our society.
One cultural group has been singled out, deemed unimportant, ground under the green wheels of environmentally conscious frenzy. These people cried out for justice, but their wails fell on deaf ears.
Consider for a moment the plight of the geek.
Here is the thing:
Microsoft has had access (like all of us) for years to the calendar for daylight savings time. As a courtesy, because changing the system clocks on a massive number of computers twice a year is a pain, Windows does it for you unless you say you are in Arizona or one of the other "freak states" that ignores the rest of us.
Please note, the term "freak state" is not meant to imply that people from Arizona are freaks. Sure, they seem to live in a little bubble reality and the rest of us assume they constantly throw their hands over their ears yelling "lalalalalalala" every time the rest of the country wants to do something like create a holiday or change all of our clocks, but really. We are trying to have a society here, Arizona.
Okay. So the dates are pre-programmed in every server released since, oh, forever.
But wait.
They changed the dates.
Hang on.
They changed the dates for, like, three years or something and then they plan to put it back.
As a result. Every server in the country (not in Arizona, the freaks) will need a patch. Otherwise, time functions will be an hour off.
Meeting requests will be an hour off.
Email will arrive an hour before it is sent.
Time clocks.
Call logs.
Error messages.
Interest rates.
Everything breaks unless this patch (released last month) is applied everywhere.
One mid-sized bank has estimated 400 hours will be needed to test and deploy this patch.
Here, we have 200 servers and close to two thousand workstations (those aren't my problem) to patch within our six hour maintenance window.
If we miss the window, the time will change before the next one.
You know what? I had other stuff to do during that outage window, but there is no way it will get done.
All I want to do is finish my regular projects. Or play World of Warcraft all day.
Whatever. Anything but patch a bunch of servers one week before our automated patch deployment system is scheduled to be installed.
To clarify, I don't hate the planet. I like baby seals as much as the next guy (especially in a light butter sauce). But anytime the government legislates work for one sector of society, using Ted "Series of Tubes" Stevens as a technical reference, I'm going to take issue.
In a later post, I may detail the things I don't take issue with. It would be a short post, I'm sure.
I take issue with short posts.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Yesterday morning early someone had completely opened the blinds between my cubicle and the rising sun. I stepped out of the server room into the glare and threw a hand up, hissing loudly.
I ducked behind my cube wall and hunched over my coffee in the relative shade.
A co-worker saw my display and walked through the light to my desk as though it did not burn him.
"You know," he started, "You are the most stereotypical geek I've ever actually met. People joke about caffeine addiction all the time but you seem physically addicted in an un-funny way. You acted like the sun really hurt you. It isn't even that bright."
"Trying to kill me," I muttered, more to my good friend the coffee than to my co-worker. I hadn't decided whether or not I'd be offended by his analysis.
Normally, the blinds along the east wall are lowered to the point where the 28th floor can't see the sky over the horizon without going over and crouching down. These little aluminum slats stand between me and the hateful glare of the sun. I love those little aluminum slats.
Someone had disabled them, crammed them up into the top of the window and flooded the area of my cube with the searing golden light of dawn.
Of course, my thoughts turned to violence.
I sipped at my coffee to soothe the urge. Coffee stops the hurting.
I checked the time. 7:06AM.
I crawled out into the cubicle hallway, keeping my eye on the orange line cast on the carpet by the flaming orb outside the window. I avoided that area as though it were on fire.
Carefully, I crouched and later crawled over to the cubicle block that had invited this pain into my life.
It was empty. Someone had left the blinds opened all the way the day before while the sun was on the west side of the building and then inconsiderately left them open in an obvious attempt to reduce my efficiency and make certain that my Monday morning would begin with a crawl on hands and knees across the stain-hiding industrial carpeting. Crawling across the carpet is more of a Thursday thing!
Spinning the empty high-backed office chair before me, I used it as a vinyl shield.
I needed to get to the far corner of the cubicle to reach the control cords for the blinds, so I rolled the chair alongside me.
Suddenly, the full glare of the sun bounced off the flat screen monitor on the desk, searing my retinas and evoking another hiss.
I slammed my eyes closed and reached blindly for the cord, yanking and trying to get the angle right to release the mechanism.
At last they fell with a metallic slap and, relieved, I opened my eyes.
And screamed.
The blinds were not only up, they were up in the open position. The sun was sending little daggers of light into my eyes as I rolled onto the filing cabinet and worked the ridiculously slow clear plastic rod to close them again.
I rested for a moment, my breathing labored from the long crawl, dive and stress.
I walked back to my cubicle, comforted in the cool shadows of morning, ready to accomplish something. Or at least ready for another cup of coffee.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Sunday featured one of the signs of the apocalypse. If you own stock in anything, sell now.
We were supposed to go to Katy's house to watch the Superbowl (commercials) with some friends.
Unfortunately, Gwynyth struggled all day with allergies and had to give up on leaving the house before it was time to go.
Since her allergies did not come with cable TV, I was forced to find the Superbowl (commercials) elsewhere, solo.
Shana told me that she knew that Angela and Daniel down the street were having another couple over for the game, so I decided to crash.
Angela and Daniel are from Germany. The other couple, Andrew and Morven, are from Ireland.
Since neither of those countries is Canada or France, I figured it was pretty safe.
However, in this odd conjunction of viewers I, being the only native American football viewer, became the "go to" guy for questions relating to the sport.
The only guy who showed up planning to cheer for Baltimore.
Now, when the conversation naturally shifted to Star Wars (as it seems to a lot around me) I could answer everything from Rebel recruiting practices to 'droid naming conventions to the military career of Grand Moff Jerjerrod.
Why in football sometimes the clock continues to run and sometimes it stops at the end of a play was a bit harder so I tended to just make stuff up. For instance, if the clock stops, then if the last person holding the ball played college football geographically further from Miami than the person who pushed him out.
If it continues to run then the guy running the clock is drunk or dead. Or both. Probably both.
I think I helped out the NFL.
I doubt it hurt anything anyway.
Having seen the game, I have no need of my traditional annual statements which, I feel, mask my lack of sports knowledge at work. A guy needs some response ready so he doesn't have to admit he didn't know there was a game on. If you need them, here is my list:

1. (Team A) just wanted it more.
2. Ever since they started letting people contest penalties by instant replay the game has lost its heart.
3. What about that one play? You know? The one? With the guy?
4. The refs were completely on the take, if you ask me.
5. I missed it. I was drunk and I killed a guy in a fight. Can I hide in your cube for a bit?

Friday, February 02, 2007

Earlier this week there was a spirited debate through email about whether Eve Online was more or less awesome than World of Warcraft. I chose to support World of Warcraft (Duskwood server, Webinara, 93 skill points in Leathercrafting) because I've got an almost irrational issue with Sci-Fi role-playing games.
With each argument (most were actually valid) in favor of Eve Online, I replied with the ability to kill a giant spider in WoW and make boots out of it. Could you do that with an enemy spaceship? Would they be boots anyone would want to wear?
Apparently, they would, as this argument ending reply from an Eve Online playing co-worker would indicate:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Why the hate? Wait. I know the answer to that. All online games generate hate fields towards all other online games. I think it is a CPU-cycle-stealing function of the graphics processor, but I doubt the feature is documented.

Later in the evening, Shana and Gwynyth and I recreated scenes from some of Shakespeare's work using paper cut-outs. We are big DAHT fans, with no DAH's.
Shana totally started the Romeo and Juliet bit before I could get into character and I ended up having to be a nasally falsetto Juliet. It was, perhaps, slightly more comedic than the bard intended.
My Witch #2 and Witch #3 from the Scottish play were dead on. Ground-breaking. Award worthy.
I'm still in major Disaster Recovery hell at the moment.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Post not found -

Abort, Retry, Fail?