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A day in the Life of an IT guy.

First I would like to say that I am not a fan of just about any Microsoft product and I loath the iPhone. That being said it will be a little easier for you to understand my frustration with the way the day plays out.

Here is the basic gist of the call I received. "Mr. Important at the Big Company got a new iPhone and he knows from the bills he pays that he also has an Exchange server and he read somewhere that they can sync, so he wants us to make them sync his calendar and contacts without him plugging in his phone." Never mind the fact that they have a Cisco PIX between their Exchange server and the Internet.

Never mind the fact that their Exchange server is five years old and the only reason they use it is to share calendars. We will just schedule it as a four hour job and send me over to "make it happen". All kinds of red flags were going off in my head, but I googled it before I left to make sure it was possible and sure enough there was more than one tutorial on how to set it up.

So here I arrive at the client and I sit down and explain to the only computer savvy person what I plan to do and make sure I have a firm grip on what the main goal is. Pretty simple. Make the bosses iPhone sync his calendar and contacts without him having to come in and plug it in. First I look into Apple's MobileMe solution. It looks like it would do what I want. They don't tell you until after you install it and try to use it that it doesn't work with Exchange. I guess they figure if you can afford an Exchange server that you must have an IT person and they will know how to set it up. That IT person being me. Scratch that Idea. Next I look at using push mail like what we use with my work phone. About all I know is that it works when it wants to work and my boss had a bitch of a time setting it up and not having certificate security warning on either the phones or the 07' Outlook clients.

So I ssh into the PIX and open up https and http to the exchange server and try hitting the outlook web access from the outside and it works!! Hell Jeah! About this time I'm thinking that this might not take all day and I might be about to whup a four hour job in two! It worked fine with just http and I read online that your could tell the iPhone not to use SSL so I thought I might be in luck. So I went and got The Big Man's iPhone and said let me try something for a minute. I got his phone hooked it up Via USB and did one last sync in case I screw things up. Then I went through the steps to get calendar and contact with an exchange account and it went through. Then there was that part where it asks if I'm sure because It will over write all contacts and calendar entries. I thought, "well shit that's the whole point right?" I accepted and it looked like it was starting to sync....

Then his phone rang. It was a random number he didn't recognize. He want ahead and answered. It WAS somebody he knew! He said where are you calling from? His buddy was like "my cell?!?!" Aha! All his contacts were gone. He handed his iPhone back to me with wide eyes and said "um what happened to all my contacts?" I said "uh oh don't worry they are all on the server, I was syncing. Ah hem, I'll fix it."

I blew it off mentally and told myself that surely it must be syncing over the air.... slowly. But No. After waiting 20 mins and nothing showing up I began to do some research. And then some more research. Finally I read a post that says your Exchange server must be at least service pack 2. I goto the server and look and sure enough it is only service pack 1. Great!! This I can fix! I go and download service pack 2 and while I'm waiting I turn that crap off on the guys iPhone and re-sync with his USB and get his contact and calendar back to at least the way it was before I started. The service pack is done downloading so I goto the server and try to install it. It Fails. Nice. Love you Microsoft!

I did some research and checked some random box in some obscure tab of some settings menu and try again. This time it works! I restart all the exchange services and just as I am about to start feeling happy somebody sticks their head in the door and says "hey I just got kicked out of my email, are you messing with the server?" I said "Yeah I'm doing some maintenance it should be back up in a bit". I restart all the services again and head over to make sure they can get in. They can't. I try a bunch of stuff with no luck. Then Another person comes in and says they can't get into their email. Hmmm I begin to wonder weather this isn't a server problem related to the Service Pack install. Sure enough it is and now nobody can get into their email in the entire building!

Crap! At this point I have broken more stuff than I have fixed and its already 2:30pm. I got here at 9am. I feel special. After an hour of research and trying different things I finally give up and tell everybody that I have to reboot the server and they need to get out of all their special software and things will be down for a few minutes. I shut the server down for a reboot and cross my fingers. The reboot takes no less that 15 minutes. This is an old server. People are getting impatient. People are standing over my shoulder. Joking even when they are pissed because surely I am a smart guy who has come to fix problems and not create them right?

Finally the server comes back up. People can miraculously get back in their email. People are happy. Life is good for a time. Then I talk to the guy in charge of IT money and we realize that even after hours of hard work and plenty of ups and downs that I still didn't accomplish what I came to accomplish. Luckily he has had computer problems in the past and understands that even though we didn't accomplish our goal that we did get service pack 2 installed and get a firmer grip on what needs to be done. I need an FQDN and a SSL cert. Then I can come back and give it another try.

Spent 7 hours on a 4 hour job and couldn't bill a damn thing. Not only that but try to explain it to anybody who isn't IT and they wouldn't even begin to understand. I love my job!

 

Already receiveing phishing SPAM

I received this in my inbox today:

 "Hello, My name is juliet, i got you from linux.com, and i want to have a good relationship with you, please i need your cooperation, am yours juliet. this is my email, ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )"

 Yesterday I got something very similar from "mary."  She wanted to start a relationship with me too.  It seems like there are many lonely women out there after me.  I suppose this could be true, but it is more likely an attempt to pull some swindle or other.  

 

I wish I had paid attention in Accounting class.

ERP Platforms I have tested:

  1. OpenBravo
  2. OpenTaps

Platform: Ubuntu Server 7.10, Tomcat5.5

Both installed easily enough, but the Accountants were gun shy.  Somewhere along the line they had had a difficult experience with ERP in general, but now OpenSource ERP in particular.  I found myself wishing that I had paid more attention to accounting.  As it was I had a very hard time just staying awake.  Maybe there is a good book out there that explains the principles, and focuses on the financial modeling required to get an ERP off of the ground.  Some day I would really like to get a good pilot of one of these off of the ground.

 

Fox in SOX

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 has got to be a low point in our countries regulation history.  This miserable piece of legislation costs anyone who has to comply with it millions of dollars and provides nothing in return.  IT departments get hammered with insane requirements, and moronic auditors that eat up hours like it's cotton candy. " Screen shot this, prove that", and one ridiculous question after another until you want to stick a shank into all of them.  If your organization can avoid this hell, then it is worth it to do so.  How?  Stay private.  The instant you go public...you can join me and the auditors in our little version of purgatory.  Rant finished.

 Linux related question: 

How to prove that password policies are enforced on Linux systems?  

I have used ticketing systems to documentation steps, and severely limited access to my Linux systems in order to comply with this requirement, but auditors always want more.   They want an automated foolproof system that enforces policy and will take nobody's word for it.  I am looking into how to enforce such policies on my linux boxes now.  I have some reading to do and will publish my findings.

 

Latest software experiments.

Am trying a new software called product snapshot in virtuemart. It allows you to embed the picture of a product within your Joomla article.
 

Install NetBackup Client on Ubuntu Jaunty (i386 and amd64)

Many enterprises use the Symantec NetBackup software to backup machines.  Last time I checked (6 months ago?), they didn't support Debian-based distros.  I've been using this process since around Hardy and just recently tested this in a Jaunty Xen VM and it seems to be working (waiting for admin to run a backup on my machine to check)

Read more... Comment (0)
 

Hiring a Linux SysAdmin

I am helping with the process of finding my own replacement as I recently accepted a new position. Currently I am the only sysadmin on staff so my duties are greatly varied. Everything from the phone system to mail servers, web servers, database servers, and workstations fall under my responsibilities. I came up with some technical questions and after the first couple interviews it seems I may have over estimated things I think an admin should know.

I found this programmer competency chart that is great for programmers but I cannot find anything similar for SysAdmins.

 Id love to know how you rate your sysadmin prosptects.

 

How enterprises can save money with Open Source software

As an Open Source Integrator I've helped a number of companies to save money using Open Source software. In this blog post I'll go over a number of software areas where Open Source software can easily be used in place of the existing proprietary software.

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Online Web Game

I've been playing an online webgame recently. (You've probably seen the advertisements for it).  The game is one where you build up your empire in several ways in order to dominate your corner of the world.

 

One of the ideas of the game is that the game runs even when you aren't online. You're farms keep producing food,  your ironmines keep creating iron, and  so on.  You leave it for a day, when you come back you have the resources to build something you've had your eye on.  The game teaches you patience.  After you start getting some of the higher level buildings and warriors or technologies it can take days to accomplish one thing. (During which you hope you won't be attacked).

 

I like this aspect of the game, as it will keep users coming back again and again.

 One of the downsides of the game is that it plateaus fairly quickly.  The game design is good, but doesn't go far enough. It also doesn't have enough possible paths in order to advance your "civilization".  The game does copy a lot of ideas from civilization, including most of the quotes. 

 The game is downloaded into flash each time you log in, so it is kept updated in real time. 

 

 

 

Nagios - A Fork in the Road

Nagios Founder Ethan Galstad comments on the recent fork of Nagios

http://community.nagios.org/2009/05/11/nagios-a-fork-in-the-road/

"Nagios-A fork in the Road"

As many of you know, a recent fork of Nagios has been announced, accompanied with a flurry of activity in both the community and press. An email thread titled "Nagios is dead! Long live Icinga!" began last week on the nagios-devel mailing list to kick this off.

What are my thoughts on this announcement? I think its one of the best things to ever happen to Nagios.

Why? The announcement of the fork, along with the community's reaction to it has brought to light several things:

  • Community interest in furthering Nagios is at an all-time high
  • Community developers want to get more directly involved in the future project direction
  • Nagios development has been slowed by some bottlenecks
  • When the community perceives a problem, the community reacts
  • Communication within the community needs to be improved

This entire event has seen some ugly misconceptions and half-truths lobbed in the direction of Nagios Enterprises, the Nagios Project, the Nagios Community, and myself as an individual. That's unfortunate.

I am disappointed that no one from the Icinga project contacted me directly about this before the decision to fork was made. One of the reasons that was stated for the fork was lack of communication on my part. The unexpected announcement of this fork clearly demonstrates that there are communication problems on both sides of the issue.

 

Many of the individual developers in the Icinga project did what they felt was best in the situation they believed to be true. They appreciated Nagios, wanted to see it succeed, and wanted to play a direct role in its evolution. Many of them have been very active in the Nagios project and community over the years. Their efforts have been much appreciated by both myself and the community as a whole. To those individuals, I pose this question - If what you wanted to do was help create "the" new Nagios interface and be materially involved in the future development of Nagios, why didn't you just ask? It's apparent that we all need to improve our communication and demonstrate better understanding of each other.

In the course of discussions about this fork within the Nagios community, many concerns have been raised, including: the future of Nagios, the Nagios trademark policy, and the commercialization of Nagios.

In an effort to begin to address these concerns, I have penned some of my thoughts in the following write-ups:

Open Source communities are not a panacea. The sky is not always blue. Anyone who tells you otherwise is likely delusional. Community can be great, and community can be frustrating. Ask anyone with long-term involvement in an Open Source project.

It's interesting to watch how individuals and companies react to situations of distress and change. Challenges can bring out the best and worst in all of us. True intentions, motivations, and personal character are often brought to light. I'm sure that the result of all of this will be a stronger Nagios project and community that endures far into the future.

To those of you who would complain about the state of things now or in the future, the time has come to "put up or shut up". If you see the need for change, you must be willing to materially involve yourself and commit your time, effort, and resources to affect that change. Don't assume that someone else will do things for you, and don't complain if they don't.

As things move forward, I can almost certainly guarantee you that you will not always get what you want and things will not always be done the way you want them to. Neither I, nor anyone else involved in the Nagios project, will attempt to please everyone. That is neither possible, nor beneficial to the overall effort.

I would suggest that we need one more fork for Nagios. That being a mental fork - a change in mindset - rather than a code fork. Lets all work together to improve the way we think, communicate, and affect the direction of Nagios for the better.

Are changes necessary? Yes. Will changes happen? Yes. Is Nagios dead? Hardly.

 Author:  Ethan Galstad

http://community.nagios.org/2009/05/11/nagios-a-fork-in-the-road/

 

 

 

Zimbra - Mail server for those tired of MS tread mill

Zimbra
 
  1. Nice features (Free version and Paid version - basically support and active sync for mobile)
  2. Non-Windows
  3. AJAX web client is amazing
  4. Zimbra Desktop is very functional and has cool factor (CFO's will love it because it is Free) 
  5. Runs on Red Hat, Ubuntu, SUSE and (I am forgetting one be right back)
  6. more to come just trying out blog features of Linux.com
 
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