* Posts by timhowarduk

32 posts • joined 9 Dec 2011

DBA drifts into legend after inventive server convo leaves colleagues fearing for their lives

timhowarduk

Nice to hear someone else did this too. My first action at a client site once was pressing "scroll lock" twice to activate the Belkin KVM switch. Except this was one of those keyboards and I'd pressed "Sleep" on their server that was logged on. Fantastic first impression created.

timhowarduk

Re: Why? Just why?

Aha, let me enlighten you. Firstly, the military too get bored, and do daft things.

If you take 18 young men who are confined to barracks due to the amount of snow, they soon get very bored so decide to light a fire and build a huge snowman. The next morning they also get highly pissed off to find it knocked down with tyre marks through, so build it again, even bigger. They are positively seething when the following night it gets knocked down again, with more tyre marks, and a note saying "DO NOT REBUILD - I'll BE BACK"

So, after discussion, they build it again but this time they build it around a concrete post.

The next morning, they awoke to find a military police vehicle completely written off wrapped around the concrete post. To improve things further, all snow had melted making it look like the car had deliberately aimed at the only obstacle for quite some distance.

And to tackle your other point, there were consequences. The MP driver couldn't possibly admit that the accident happened while trying to knock down a giant snowman. He tried to say he lost control due to the icy conditions, and got confined to foot patrols for the rest of the winter.

Techie was bigged up by boss… only to cause mass Microsoft Exchange outage

timhowarduk

Reboot anyone?

Reminds me of turning up to a new site, arriving ahead of my boss, and having to spend considerable energy explaining who I was and why I was there to be allowed into the building, and then a good deal more energy to get permission to be led to the server room. We had been called in after the regular sysadmin had reportedly done a complete reinstall of everything, and then promptly gone on holiday for a fortnight, and the staff were saying almost nothing worked, specifically mentioning printing, internet access, Sage Line 50, their database etc. The parting shot was "OK, LOOK at the server room, but don't do anything that will take systems down without talking to us". So I set about analyzing what was there, reflecting that there was apparently little left running in terms of systems to take down even if I wanted to...

The first odd thing was that server 1 was already logged in as Administrator. I had a good look around it, noting it seemed to be file and print, DHCP Server, DC, DNS and Microsft ISA Server. There was a netmask of 255.0.0.0 for the entire network (which was only about 40 workstations), a giant DHCP pool size and signs someone had been in a great hurry. The server didn't have a static IP address, in fact it was all really odd and nothing was configured 'normally'. I'd arrived at the conclusion that someone had basically just followed the install wizard and rapidly set up some shares. There were two other servers there and eventually I wondered what they were doing. The servers were all set up on a Belkin KVM switch. I was familiar with these switches and knew you change which server you are controlling by pressing scroll-lock twice then the server number you wanted.

So I pressed scroll lock twice, and to my horror the server 1 promptly appeared to shut down in front of me. I looked down and the keyboard someone had installed was Swedish (I think) and it had a "Sleep" key in the place where scroll lock normally was.

Within 10 seconds I had the guy running in asking why "everything is offline", and the chance of making a good first impression was lost forever. But after a very long day and a lot of configuration we left with them happy enough. I later learned the sysadmin was the son of one of the directors, and a lot of things suddenly made sense, like how he was still in a job after hosing everything then going on holiday....!

Microsoft devises new way of making you feel old: Windows NT is 25

timhowarduk

Reboot anyone?

Remember how touching almost anything in the network settings (including IP address) required a server reboot? Tell the kids of today that, and they won't believe you....

I still have rather fond memories of this era though, supporting NT server, Exchange 5.5 (isinteg -patch forever ingrained), Proxy Server etc. when the more glamorous sites had these revolutionary ISDN lines...

These days servers are so dumbed down and 'user friendly' you can't work out which of the sugar coated answers to a wizard lead to the configuration you know you want and live in perpetual fear of unwanted side effects that it will decide you must surely want....

BOFH: There are no wrong answers, just wrong questions. Mmm, really wrong ones

timhowarduk

Spot on

I had to do a cultural intelligence survey recently asking me to comment on my bosses cultural intelligence.It was cringe worthy.

Questions included "This person is suitable for an international role" (he already has one, how long do you think I would have one if I disagreed!) and "When addressing people from different cultures this person increases their use of hand gestures" (the mind really does boggle). All from Strongly Disagree to Strongly Agree.

I also note that without fail there will be a sentence of the form "this will take you about 4 minutes to complete" in the email. Also you will gasp when you click the link and it says "page 1/64"....

New ISO standard kind-of explains how to ignore standards

timhowarduk

This is a beautiful moment for me because last year I worked with a team to turn an international IT policy document that was 80 pages long and no one ever read into a 10 page long principles-based policy document of which 3 pages were the contents. We basically cut out implementation details that were generally already out of date by the time the document made it through the organisations approval process.

As someone commented above, training some people that they are allowed to actually think and identify the best solution for their situation has been interesting. Otherwise I love this new world and it's been a success. People actually read it now.

I think it's the first time I've implemented an ISO standard even before it was written too!!

Windows 10: Happy with Anniversary Update?

timhowarduk

Re: You missed a lot

Thanks for the best list I have yet seen.

Settings, Taskbar and Notification improvements - yes I agree.

DLP, I agree.

I'm not an Edge fan so those improvements don't do much for me.

Phone Integration - you got my attention here. It's a case where the headline sounds great but then you look into it and it suddenly seems underwhelming. To use it you need the Cortana app on your phone and Cortana enabled on your PC. Personally I won't be doing either of those. (Airdroid continues to tick the box much more easily here.)

I know I'm probably old fashioned but I think a search function should primarily search the PC and the internet comes 2nd. Cortana got turned off when typing app names didn't find them with any reasonable speed, and even then they were secondary search results.

Thanks again for taking time to list the features though.

timhowarduk

My colleague's experience

He has just done the update. "We have got some cool new features for you to get excited about" the banner proclaimed....

10 minutes later I ask him if he is excited yet? His reply "The only new feature I have found is a desktop.ini file the upgrade left behind."

Trying to be fair, if you use Edge, there are things in this update for you. If you use Cortana or a stylus there are things in this update for you.

I don't know if I'm in the majority or not, but on a new PC turning off Cortana to speed up searching and installing Chrome are high on the todo list.

timhowarduk

Bottom line

If you routinely turn Cortana off (what is betting the update enables it again), don't use a stylus, and would rather not log in using your face, I don't find that much to be excited about...but am happy to be corrected?

It seems I will still have to go with the flow and download this in order to get future security updates which I DO want though.

Apple bans benign iOS spyware detection, security info app

timhowarduk

I just take exception to not being allowed to know what processes are really running on MY phone that I paid for with MY money.

The icing on the cake is to be told that it improves my security if I can't access this information.

Must listen: We've found the real Bastard Operator From Hell

timhowarduk

I love it, and feel motivated to spend Monday, sorry Tuesday creating something similar. Thank you.

My favourite sales call to date was:

Caller: Can I speak to the CIO please

Me: Sorry, the CIO is deceased

Caller: Wow, sorry to hear that. What is your position?

Me: The CIO

Caller: Gosh, sorry to bother you at this traumatic time. I'll call back. <click>

T'was the night before Christmas, and an industrial control system needed an upgrade

timhowarduk
Pint

Party on!

About 15 years ago me and a colleague were doing a NT4 to Win2k domain migration at a small firm. They didn't want to buy new servers so the plan was to use a virtual NT4 BDC to upgrade the domain and put new bigger disks in their main servers, then rebuild the main servers as win2k and then blow away the virtual temporary DC.

It was going well until about 3pm when the virtual NT4 had been upgraded to win2k but somehow became corrupted before it had done a full GC replication to the real servers running on the new disks. This we actually a show stopper but it was the first time we'd done this in the wild and we didn't really understand that it was 'game over'.

It also turned out this was the day of the office Christmas party and everyone around us was getting merrier and merrier, particularly as no one could log on. This didn't affect anything until someone had the bright idea of bringing a bottle of wine and two glasses to the server room for us. By about 6pm we had finished that bottle and still had an unholy impossible mess on our hands as someone came down with another bottle for us and some crisps. We dutifully carried on fighting the impossible and hopeless fight, with our decisions and perspective by now severely hampered by having had a bottle of wine each. At around 7pm the boss came and said "We're all going to an Italian reasturant now, you guys are working very hard, are you nearly finished and do you want to come?"

This was a difficult decision. We couldn't really walk away and leave them with no functioning domain, we also didn't want to admit we were in a right fix, but it did seem too good an offer to refuse. Then the shelf caught my eye with the old disks that had been in the servers that morning before we had started. I motioned to my colleague in the direction of the old disks all carefully labelled and his face lit up. I said "We'll be 10 minutes" and the boss said "fine, I'll wait upstairs and we'll get a taxi".

So we threw the original disks back in, taking things back to how things were before we had turned up in the first place, checked a client PC could log on, then went to the restaurant and on to some club afterwards.

The official line was that we returned two days later still nursing the mother of all hangovers for "a bit of optimisation and fine tuning". The reality was of course that we did the entire job again with no hiccups this time.

Electrician cuts wrong wire and downs 25,000 square foot data centre

timhowarduk

Re: Do you get paid the same money as a professional?

My fave ever support phone call, from the factory floor, (a Romanian chap known as Fred because he looked like Fred Flintstone) said on the phone in broken English "My light - she is too bright". (Don't you love the way any problem becomes an IT problem?)

I quickly decided that walking down there would be quicker than trying to make sense of his phone call.

I found a normal 3 phase isolator, wired with old pre-harmonised colours (red, yellow, blue, for phases, black for neutral.) with a Myford 7 lathe connected. All ok. Then I spotted a suspiciously bright and shiny white twin core (no earth) flex that dissapeared into the isolator, looked inside and found brown joined to red and blue joined to blue. Then I followed the other way with a sense of dread and found a DIY 3 pin double socket on the back of his lathe with a lamp plugged into it.

Yep, a 400v 3 pin socket with no earth or RCD protection. Knocked up in his lunch hour and praised by the line leader for his 'initiative'. How that light bulb didn't explode in his face is still a mystery to me. I managed to stay calm enough to request a private meeting with the line leader and point out that he could have easily had a death on his hands, and that there is a reason things have 400v labels on them.

Microsoft Office 365, Azure portals offline for many users in Europe

timhowarduk

Glorious Irony

The last thing I was doing yesterday was reworking our risk management plan. Yep, I saved the file on OneDrive for business.

The final item we discussed last night was impact on the organisation if Office365 cloud services were offline for various lengths of time.

This morning, of course I can't open the risk management spreadsheet we were working on from the web portal. Due to unlucky coincidence the sync client also fell over yesterday and I didn't notice, so I don't have the usual offline copy to carry on working either.

The irony of all this is not lost on me!

UK safety app keeping lorries on the right side of cyclists

timhowarduk

The real problem

I'm a lorry driver and a cyclist. There are idiots in both these groups of people. Most cyclists are sensible people. Most lorry drivers are sensible people. (You have to pass 3 driving tests to drive an artic, being observed for over 2.5 hours). Monitoring your left mirror when turning left (and right mirror because the tail swings right) is drummed into drivers during training, and those that don't do it don't pass.

The real problem is a combination of the EU driving rules and freight planners planning too many drops in a day. After 4.5 hours you have to stop for 45 minutes. Towards the end of that time period, drivers under pressure will take risks to get to their delivery, or a safe stopping place before the time runs out and an infringement is logged on their smart card. The old (non-EU) domestic rules were much simpler, a maximum number of hours a day, and much safer.

This idea might help, but if it leads to significantly longer routes then drivers won't use them as their first priority will still be the available driving time.

Windows 8.1 update 'screenshots' leak: Metro apps popped into classic desktop taskbar

timhowarduk
FAIL

On a related topic - why do we have to put up with the TIKFAM interface on a SERVER for heavens sake? Win 2012 server is just tedious to log off / shut down / anything! How many servers have touch screens and Metro apps running on them. Bit of a fail there

Oh no, RBS has gone titsup again... but is it JUST BAD LUCK?

timhowarduk

Re: @timhowarduk

Thanks for reply and advice, though in fact I'm already involved. Too involved!

In our case we have a system designed in the 80's and written in the 90's. It's getting harder and harder to keep running and we are down to myself and two other guys that understand it (between us). This distributed system handles international money transfers between over 80 countries and currencies and does end-to-end auditing to meet anti-terrorism laws in each country that sends money overseas. If this thing breaks, money doesn't flow, or if it does then no one knows what the money is for, aid projects stop, workers don't get paid, it's generally 'game over'

It's taken five years of playing the risk management card to finally get work on replacement system(s) started.

I'm hoping to see something new running before I retire. The article actually hits a few nails on head, and it's still shame that a good article can't be shared in a professional context due to the title.

timhowarduk

Any chance you could remove "titsup" from the title?! If you did then I could send this very helpful article to my COO and CFO.

From Dept of REALLY? Sueball lobbed at Apple over crap iOS Maps app

timhowarduk

Er....sorry mate...but there is a difference between a few subtle deliberate mistakes to protect copyright, and super-imposing a fictional fantasy planet with towns, lakes, airports in completely the wrong place!

I'm beginning to wonder if IOS 6 is somehow responsible for Hull becoming the next city of culture - were the Judges really in Hull or did they just have an iPhone?

The REAL JUICE behind leaked BlackBerry OS: Android apps to slip in without protection

timhowarduk

Re: Finally

Agree 100%, if you like a keyboard then BB win, followed closely by Nokia. I'm just talking about the quality and ease of use of the keyboard NOT the OS you are typing stuff into!

timhowarduk
Coat

Re: Maybe So, Look at Macintosh

>Macintosh computers became acceptable when Parallels and Fusion let you run Windows programs.

My observation is that Macintosh computers became acceptable when Microsoft released Vista and the world said "meh" and looked what else was out there...

How to relieve Microsoft's Surface RT piles problem

timhowarduk
FAIL

Arrogance?

I think the problem is simple. Microsoft arrogantly believe that the general public will suck up the marketing without engaging their brains first. "We tell them it's great, and worth the money, and they will buy it in their droves" turned into "We tell them it's great and they respond 'you're having a giraffe, why on earth would I buy that?'"

They also apparently fail to realize that if you are starting fresh in an established market sector you need to either undercut the competition and break even for a year or two to get a market share or have something truly amazing that will turn heads. They did neither.

'High price' plus 'tiny app store' plus 'lack of binary compatibility with rest of windows world' was always going to equal embarrassing failure. Enterprises might have just been willing to compile their own apps for it but they closed that door too. Sorry MS. I suppose it might make a good frisbee....

NO! Radio broadcasters snub 'end of FM' DAB radio changeover

timhowarduk

Re: Things that need to happen

I agree with you that car listening is a key part of this issue.

But to be honest I struggle to imagine that legislation to force all EU imported cars to include DAB options would go too well... Considering the diversity of countries the cars are made in how many manufactures would be willing to change their spec sheet for the British market, and how much would they inflate the showroom price for doing so?

It almost seems more likely that new cars would become mobile internet capable, and together with investment in 3G/4G coverage (which is happening anyway) would increase the viability of internet radio in the car.

I remember when as a kid with an electronic set one could make a crude LW radio as long as you had an earth connection, and no battery needed at all! I can't see DAB power consumption ever getting that good, this is one of those 'advancements' in technology like VHS where the new thing is worse in many ways, having a much more compressed audio frequency spectrum and requiring more electronics to access this 'degraded' signal. OK, rant over!

Steve Jobs biopic

timhowarduk

Steve Wozniak - Brian Blessed

Bill Gates - Rowan Atkinson

should be a laugh!

Apple iPhone factory workers imprisoned in virtual slavery – report

timhowarduk

Re: OK, so what can *we* do?

I'm keeping my eye on http://www.fairphone.com and a colleague has pre-ordered one. Maybe there is another way but seeing is believing...

Microsoft offers Google-esque multi-meddling options in Office Web Apps

timhowarduk
Thumb Up

Cool

Good stuff. It certainly beats the old-school method of emailing the document to 16 people in turn and trying to make the MS Office "Track Changes" thing do what you expect it to...

Whether Microsoft's first bash at this will work as well as the longer established alternative will be interesting to observe.

Fury as OS X Mavericks users FORCED to sync contact books with iCloud

timhowarduk
Facepalm

Not handled well

Quite often there is a choice between ease-of-use and security. The least hassle is usually relying on a cloud service of some sort be it Dropbox, SkyDrive Pro, O365 etc. In many ways it makes sense. But it would have been good form to tell the user about what appears to be a change of behaviour that occurs in the background.

Thought you didn't need to show ID in the UK? Wrong

timhowarduk

Often the airline staff do not know their own policies. I travelled with [well know airline] from Luton to Inverness with a 9 month old baby. Their documentation on their website said (at the time) that children under 2 didn't need photographic ID. Fine. Had no issues at all at Luton.

Then I try travelling back a few days later and the lovely lady at Inverness tells me the 'rules have changed' and your baby needs a passport. I showed her the printout from the website and pointed out that she can't reasonably expect me to anticipate rule changes between an outgoing and return journey. She remained adamant and I suggested maybe we could find a manager to discuss it. Suddenly she said she would let me off with a warning, and let us go. But oddly enough I was selected for random extra security checks. Guess they have to exact their revenge somehow! When I got home I checked the website and the rules were exactly the same.

Lesson I learned was to always take a printout of the rules with you if you rely on them.

Your kids' chances of becoming programmers? ZERO

timhowarduk

Spot on. Self confessed 6502 goody goody here. Telling todays computer science graduates about the old world where you had to code your own maths routines for handling numbers bigger than 256 and had no multiply instruction usually makes their eyes bulge incredulously....

I think I witnessed the big IT Curriculum change. For a start it wasn't called IT....But my first two years of secondary school (Year 7 and 8 in today's speak) we were taught programming. Real programming using BASIC.

Year 9 came, the national curriculum came in, and suddenly we jumped to the world of word processing, database, graphics programs, in fact the 'structured programming language' requirement of the national curriculum was delivered using LOGO of all languages. PENDOWN FD 10 RT 10 PENUP doesn't teach that many programming concepts!

RTS

Android, BlackBerry phone owners favour Apple tablet

timhowarduk

Tablets <> smartphones

Order of events:

1) I get HTC Desire and like it.

2) I get macbook to complement windows laptop and like it.

3) I get iPad and like it a LOT.

4) I wonder about iPhone to match and get one. I couldn't live with the smaller screen size and (personal view) inferior keyboad compared to Desire and gave it to my wife, who loved it.

Equally I am not tempted by an Android tablet (yet), and until someone can manage roughly the same battery life as iPad for significantly cheaper I won't be shifting.

To my mind they have different jobs and at the moment (for me) the best tool for each job happens to be in different worlds.

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