Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2008

Volunteering and the youth of today

Recently I've been involved in a project where significant amounts of volunteer work is required to make it a success. Although the level of help has been enormous, the cross section of ages of people involved has been very interesting. Almost all of the volunteers have been the parents of kids involved in the project and none of the kids themselves. By kids I refer to those with the age group of 30 and under. Many of these people are heavily involved in the sport in question, but very few have turned up to help out - their mothers and father have though. I find this very disappointing - after all, these kids are the ones who demand the best facilities and complained the loudest when the previous facilities were falling into aged disrepute. I'm not sure if this is endemic across all volunteer efforts, but the ones I'm involved in it certainly seems to be. It's as if the altruism our parents demonstrate, the generosity of their time and effort have not been passed on to

Ubuntu 8.10 Review updates

I've been using 8.10 for a while now at home and at work. Naturally the more demanding of the two has been at work, where I've been working both on ISO9001:2000 documentation and also web page development. Two things have struck me as annoying, and I've found one little solution and one big solution. The first problem I've had is when I enable the nVidia restricted drivers for the video card in this GX270 OpenOffice has problems with it's rendering. Specifically the menu names, the font name, font style etc all become transparent and I can't read them. When I close a document and the dialogue box for Save/Discard/Cancel comes up I can't read the options. Firefox is unaffected, which is fine, but I spend a fair bit of time in OpenOffice and it's very inconvenient. The fix? Well it's a little one - I disable the restricted drivers and problem solved. I don't use a lot of the extra graphics effects so that's fine. The other problem is the worksp

Review: Windows Server 2008 Small Business Server

Recently I've had the requirement to install and configure Windows Server 2008 SBS. Previously I've deployed 2003 SBS in varying settings and found it to be quite a nice little product. In more recent times though, I've gone the more segmented path of Windows Server 2003 plus Exchange 2003 separately and found that to be quite effective. For a small operation, however, SBS provides many features that are very helpful to the operator who isn't necessarily skilled in IT, nor has a great deal of time to set things up and play with them. Being a Sys Admin with the inclination and the time to play with it, here are some of my thoughts regarding SBS2008. The management system for accounts and the like is very nicely set up for the none technical user. An application with common tasks is easily available and allows for configuration of most casual system changes to be made. I refer primarily to user and group (both distribution and security) creation, file and folder shares an

Flexibility, with Dell and Ubuntu

I know I wax rhapsodic about Ubuntu and the general power and wonderfulness that is Linux but I've just had an experience that adds another ingredient to the mix. I have a bit of penchant for older hardware - I maintain a gaming system that is generally no more than a year old before I upgrade it's innards but apart from that system, all my hardware is old stuff. Why bother to buy a new machine to run Linux on it, when a two or three year old box will do exactly what I want it to? I recently picked up a Dell Precision 380 and an Optiplex GX280. Sweet machines - I'm particularly impressed with the Precision and it makes me wonder what a brand new one would be like. Perhaps I'll have to break with tradition and invest in a new one :-) The Optiplex was purchased on a bit of a whim - only $100 and it's a P4 3.2GHz box with DDR2 RAM etc (I'm using it right now actually). Not bad and it's also a mini desktop (or whatever you call them). Very small, quiet and easy

Virtualisation in the server space

Recently I've had the chance to view VMWare ( ) and HP's ( ) entries in the virtualisation market - through VMWare's ESXi server and HP's Blade servers and SAN systems. Prior to this presentation I'd only looked into virtualisation a little bit, concerns for server redundancy and the like preventing me from spending a lot of time looking into it, and also, the size and scope of the organisation I work for is insufficient for such things - or so I had thought. I have about 10 servers under my direct control and of these, 6 could be virtualised . Thinking about it going forward, in 3 to 5 years when these servers are due for replacement, buying 2 servers and a small SAN will cost less than the 6 new servers and provide the same services. At the end of the day, I think that's what it is all about - same services (or better), with uptime being up in the 5 nines range and cost-effective hardware/software. I've been a fan of VMW

Waiting for Windows 7

OK, so we're starting to see some peeks at Windows 7. Check this out at ars technica: The first screen shots of Windows 7. I'm not particularly interested in it at the moment, I'm more interested in the whole "What do I do with my 8 year old Windows XP now?" There are several options and as a Sys Admin I get more than a few questions about what to do as Windows XP ages gracefully into oblivion. Obviously the wonderful Windows Vista is an option, as is the various distributions provided by the gifted GNU/Linux community. With Windows 7 slated for a late 2009 (probably 2010) release should users be holding out for it as their hardware ages and their PC's become due for renewal? And for businesses that have laboriously got themselves into a nice 3 year PC replacement cycle, what do they go for? Honestly at this point I'd point them at Novell's Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 . There

Review: The Soldier's Son Trilogy by Robin Hobb

An odd thing happened to me a couple of weeks ago. I was out and about when I found myself with 10 minutes to spare. Why not pop in the bookshop and see what they had to offer. I found the final two books of the Soldier's Son trilogy - the first book had languished on my bookshelf under a self-imposed ban until I got the final two. With a widening grin I grabbed both of them and started the trilogy that night. It should be said I've been a huge fan of Robin Hobb, I love her other trilogies and have waited for the final books to come out. It was worth it. The writing style is immersive as always, and builds a believable world for the main protagonist, Nevare Burvelle, to run around in. The rich details of his life and the amazing twists and turns it takes are vividly rendered by Hobb's superb narrative. Writing from the first person perspective must be challenging at times, without the ability to jump to another place or time and fill in the back story, but Hobb does it well

Review: Fluxbuntu on the Dell L400

Readers will remember that some time ago I purchased a Dell L400 Latitude second hand for about $200 bucks. Great little machine, runs a cut down version of XP happily and is all good. For some time now I've been struggling to find a distribution of Linux that I'm happy with to run on this little machine. Orginally I had SuSE running on it, then I tried Puppy Linux, DSL, Vector Linux 5.9 Lite and the lighter version of Ubuntu 8.04. I just wasn't quite happy with any of them. Following a comment made on my blog yesterday I thought I'd give Fluxbuntu a try and see how it goes. As you can tell from it's name, Fluxbuntu is an Ubuntu derivative, running the Fluxbox window manager. The installation was quite easy (as it usually is with Ubuntu), although it was the more command line version of the install than the flashy graphical installation. This is no problem to me, because unlike many out there, I don't mind a bit of hacking with the command line and I can handle

Finishing up a job

Well, I've just resigned from my existing place of employment. Ironically I've done myself out of a job. When I started there was a *lot* to do - the network was a very organic thing, without meaningful or comprehensive backups, there were servers that were rebooting without warning or explanation and the desktops, don't let me start on the desktops! So I built a new AD domain, put in new servers, replaced all the desktops, got LCDs on all the desktops and implemented fairly comprehensive backup/recovery solutions across the servers. All in all, fair better than when I arrived. Problem is, apart from some desktop support type stuff and the normal server maintenance I don't have a lot to do. The Debian GNU/ Linux servers I've installed require minimal attention, while the Windows server (and usually they require a lot more time) are running very happily. I have used defence in depth to protect the network, rather than a hard outer shell and a soft middle as so many

Appalling Palin

What was McCain thinking with Palin? And what the hell are Americans thinking with Palin? I know that here in the US we have idiots like Julia Gillard, but at least she has spent time in the political system at the top end, not just in state politics or even worse, as a mayor of a city and claiming that to be a justified credential for the top job. This Palin person seems to be uneducated and completely unaware of any broader issues. I mean honestly, if you can *see* a place you are not an expert on it. I can *see* the airport - does this mean I'm qualified to be an air traffic controller? But enough of such easy attacking. I read a fair bit of stuff on the net and I see other women reacting to Palin very positively. Have they taken leave of their senses? They do not seem to be questioning her credentials for the position she hopes to assume, i.e. Vice President of the US. Sure Dick Cheney is a meglomaniac and all, but he at least has the ability to make his crazy ideas work. Palin

Financial Bail out

For anyone in the money markets the last month or so has been a devastating one. I've been reading a bit about the way this whole thing started, with the bad debts in the USA and how this is now flowing on to the rest of the world. The biggest thing that irks me is the lack of responsibility being taken by people. Take the people at the bottom line of things - those people who took out mortgages for homes that they could never effectively repay. Yes, during the first 6 or 12 months when they were paying 1% interest back they could afford it. When the honeymoon was over and their mortgage repayments became what they should be - well then they were screwed and many choose to walk away on their bad debts. Accordingly, the over-priced homes they had bought were then sold for less than the purchase price, so the debt wasn't covered by it and the lenders had to take a write off. Consider the massive inflation in home prices that was caused by all these cheap mortgages and people payi

Review: Compaq tc4400

I have just recently had the good fortune to get one of these delightful little items. I've always thought that perhaps the tablet pc was really over-rated. After playing with one for a while, however, though I find it to be a wonderful tool. The system is superb. I'll break it down into several areas. Firstly, the keyboard - although a tablet is special for it's touch screen,  I have to mention the excellent keyboard this device has. It's very nice to type on - wonderful tactile keys and a great layout as usual. For extended typing it has been very pleasant and easy to use. The construction of the notebook is sturdy and feels great in your hands. It's a nice weight and has a good sized monitor running in 1024x768 that swivels with the monitor as you turn it one to use it as a tablet.The pen is neatly hidden and has an easy release that is quite solid. Writing on the screen is very easy and this is probably the biggest surprise. It's a simple matter to write thi

Linux and upgrading your hardware

I've just recently purchased a second hand Dell GX270. Readers will note that I had Ubuntu 8.04 running on a Dell GX240 previously and I was very happy with it. Once I upgraded the RAM to 1.5GB it went very nicely. The GX270 came up at the right price so I grabbed it - a P4 with 3GHz processor, hyperthreading and all the other stuff. It's also in a slight bigger case, so I have a full sized DVD-R/RW in it as well as 2 full sized PCI slots available and best of all - 4 RAM slots on the mainboard! W00t! Given my inherent lazines and desire to work smart, not hard I pulled the 80GB WD hard disk out of my GX240 and put it straight into the 270. I also threw some extra RAM into it to bring it up to 1.5GB and started it up. Firstly, I had to enable restricted drivers - this new machine has an NVidia chipset and it wanted drivers. After a little bit of screwing around (basically making it re-detect the display) I have the appropriate resolution now (1680x1050). All up that took about

The Dawn of a New Time

Have you ever felt a push from the Universe to get moving in a different direction? Everything seems to be going wrong, or difficulties you couldn't foresee become apparent and you have to change direction? I'm in that zone at the moment. It's a daunting and exciting time and I've learned a lot about myself and how things around me flow as a result. Something I've found that I'd like to share is about doing what interests you. It sounds so basic, but many of us forget that we spend a lot of time at work and a lot of our energy there and if it's being wasted on menial tasks and mindless work then what is really the point to it all? When I started my job I had targets to achieve - a network to rebuild and systems to deploy to maintain and protect that network. Nearly 2 years on and I've achieved those goals and now I'm tied up in administrivia . I'm really not enjoying it at all. My personal life is suffering too and the relationship between the t

Ubuntu 8.04 Review

As my legion of fans will know I've been a Linux advocate for many years. Back in the old days I started out with Mandrake and Debian. Debian for servers, Mandrake for the desktop flavour of things. I stayed with Mandrake for several years and then switch to SuSE . When this upstart Ubuntu appeared on the scene with it's livecd goodness I gave it a crack - I think it was version 6? Now with the latest and greatest version on my Dell desktop I've decided to review it's usefulness as a desktop operating system and share my thoughts. My first thought is, I like it. The interface for upgrade/installation is easy as pie to work with, I like the fact you can include encryption for filesystems and overall it's quite polished and nice to drive. The interaction with the windows network here at work is acceptable, I do a lot of terminal server based stuff and that all works a treat. I like the enormous array of software one can install and use and I've found nmap and

Review: Treo 750

Recently my JasJam decided (after it's 5th graceless crash to the ground) that it would only work under certain conditions. These include the 4th blue moon of the year, only on days starting with X and the like. You get the picture. Adios JasJam. So being phoneless is no fun (although very quiet :-) ) Being a geek and needing email access and the like, but refusing to have a crackberry, I opted to have a bit of a look at the Treo 750. Compact, nice weight, nice screen and the keys feel good. Okey dokey. So being a high powered manager I demand and receive one immediately (ahh sweet sweet power). I've been using it for a couple of months now and here are my thoughts: Windows Mobile 6 - much nicer than 5. Speedy and hangs up in a quick manner. I like that. Interface is nice, the green is very pretty and it has some useful functions. These things I like. Very easy to set up mail and stuff and I like the way it handles text messages using threading. Aye, that's pretty. I *still

Self Worth

What do you think of when someone asks you about self worth? Is it merely a financial thing? Or does it refer to an overall way you think about yourself, your values and value or where you are going in life? I ask these questions because I have recently had great cause to question my own self worth. Someone I care deeply about lost a someone they love recently and I was helpless to do anything. I am still feeling this way as I cannot do anything to save the person in question. This naturally led me to question my own self worth, my self-esteem, and confidence in myself. I've learned a few lessons and I'm not sure if they'll help others if they go through this, but I'll offer them anyway. It's not always about you This is something I've struggled with. When something bad happens to someone else and you can't help them, it's not about you. It's their grief, pain and anger that is shaping the situation. All you can do is offer support and if they choose

New Games and the Quality of their Storylines

I'm a fairly avid gamer. Since I was a wee fellow, I've enjoyed PC games and console games. Over time, though, it's become less of an interest as the story lines and general plot development of games seems to be in a decline. The imagery, the music, the sound have all improved. The hardware requirements have likewise increased to match pace with the increased demand on processing power and available RAM. What gets me is that older games were more interesting. Less bling and more substance if you understand what I mean. Take the early Police Quest, King's Quest and Space Quest games. There was a lot of work involved in those games and I can remember being immersed in them for hours. Then there was the F117, F15, Test Drive and various other simulator games that worked so hard for realism. And let's not forget the excellent role play games like Pool of Radiance and the games following it. Nowadays I've got an Xbox 360, Xbox, PS2, and PC to play game on and none of

SCO Unix gets a lifeline?

I've just read this news article about SCO being thrown a $100 million dollar lifeline (source: InternetNews Real Time IT News ). I wonder if they'll squander it on more ill conceived lawsuits that win them nothing but costs and ongoing losses? Someone must be awfully brave. I could never understand what SCO were about with the attacks they made on Linux, claiming patent breaches and the like. Along with many other Linux enthusiasts, I was shocked and appalled (my strongest expression of unhappiness) by their behaviour. I was likewise very pleased when Novell's prior patent claims were upheld and it became apparent SCO owed Novell money for all the products it had shipped. I laughed very hard. I had followed most of what was happening through the excellent work of PJ at Groklaw ( ) Bravo to her for all her brilliant work on the subject and for successfully enduring the unpleasantness that was apart of it all. I really felt for all the folks who were suckere

The Culture of Fear and it's prevalence within society

It seems to me as I read my daily compilation of stories from such sites as , , and that the apparent culture of fear in the US, UK and Australia (and various other countries) is maintaining itself very ably through the political machinations of the various governments, most notable of which is the US government. I can only imagine how the members of these groups little hearts shrivel with fear at the thought of the next terrorist attack - or more accurately, at the thought that they could be losing power in some way. And that's what their real fear is. The US continues it's warrant less wiretapping, listening in on countless constitutionally protected conversations while proposing to allow those who have caused this to happen, and those who have facilitated it, to get away with it all. I was pleased to note that the US House of Reps have rejected the telco's immunity bill. I think at some point, all the folks involv

US Presidential Primaries

I've been watching with some interest the primaries in the USA. As I understand it, the current mini elections are for the Republicans and Democrats to sort out who they want to have as their candidate for the Presidency. I can't help but notice the biased media reporting. TV, newspapers and radios support the industry favourites - Obama, Clinton, etc while the Internet crowd seems to be massing behind Ron Paul. And I can understand why. Someone who has a track record of consistency, answers questions straightforwardly and doesn't attempt to pass blame off is very attractive the attention limited crowd on the Internet. We don't want to read through the bullshit that some of these cretins are spewing forth. That idiot Giulani should be hung out to dry - is he mental? The leverage for his campaign is 9/11 - a tragedy that was arguably caused by the US intervention into other countries affairs. I was really amused when Ron Paul tried to describe the phenomenon of blowback

Windows Mobile 6 Review

I've just updated my i-Mate JasJam to Windows Mobile 6. Although I was initially skeptical about this, I had to do it, basically. My JasJam checks my email continuously throughout the day, and when I'm on a call, the data check drops the sound for the call which is a major inconvenience. So I looked into some updates - via the Telstra JasJam site and found that Windows Mobile 6 was a free upgrade. Being an early adopter of technology I decided to give it a whirl (even though it's been out for a while). During the update things went slowly. At one point I thought I'd fried my JasJam, a moment that made me decidedly uneasy. It came back to life however, and things progressed from there. I've been using it for about 14 days now and here are my impressions: wireless connectivity (802.11) is much better and setting up connections is easy and relatively fool proof. bluetooth seems more reliable no more sound drop outs during calls and while phone is checking email (yay!)