Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.


Time Machine for Linux

Filed under: Apple,Geek Work,Linux — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is mid-morning or 10:25 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Okay, it’s not quite Apple’s Time Machine, but close.

Mac users know all about Time Machine. It’s a really great feature of OS X that makes small, incremental backups of your system. It lets you roll back changes to both system and data files to a particular time and day. The backups work pretty quietly and seamlessly, too. I have to admit, it’s one of the coolest features of OS X.

Well, if you’re a Linux user, now, you can get the same thing, more or less. It’s called Back In Time, and it requires a little more knowledge and setup, but the idea is basically the same. Oh, and it’s free, but if you all use it, and like it, they do as for donations to support their efforts.

If you use Linux, it’s worth checking out.

(And, yes, I know I’m late and this is not the post I talked about at the Geek Gathering Friday night.  I also overslept by an hour this morning.  I think it’s going to be a long week.)


Upgrading My Laptop Hard Drive

Filed under: Fun,Fun Work,Geek Work,GUI Center,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:18 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Right, so this weekend I upgraded my laptop’s internal hard drive.


My trusty Toshiba Satellite, which I used all through my chemotherapy treatments almost two years ago, came with an 80 GB hard drive and was starting to fill up. All the pictures I take add up, I guess, especially when I shoot in RAW format. So, I decided that with drives being as cheap as they were, it was time for an upgrade. As I wrote Monday, I scooted over to MicroCenter and picked up a 500 GB Seagate 2.5inch, mobile, SATA drive on Saturday. They were on sale for $115, which is, I think, a pretty damn good price. I got a couple other things, too, since the drive upgrade and a previous memory upgrade makes my laptop the most capable machine in my house, outside of the servers upstairs. (Why are so many non-tech people surprised when I mention that I ran cable and have a server room, with servers?) Oh, and before I get too far, let me mention that you can click on any of the pictures here for larger versions if you want a closer look than the thumbnail. Just click back when you’re done admiring my work.


The other essential piece of hardware to start out with is an external USB drive adapter of some kind. I bought the Kingwin EZ-Connect, pictured here. I got that at an earlier trip to MicroCenter, with whom I do NOT have an endorsement deal, by the way. I just love their store. In any case, I got this particular one for two reasons. First, it was under $30. Second, it could handle the three major types of drives that I’m likely to encounter on a regular basis.


What you get in the box, as you can see, is a USB cable, a drive adapter, a power adapter and a power supply. Oh, you also get a small CD that has some drivers, which you don’t actually need if you’re using Windows XP, and some simple backup software. I didn’t actually use this software, but, rather, I went to Seagate’s website and downloaded their free utility called DiskWizard. There were a number of reasons why this made sense for this situation. For one thing, I didn’t want to just back up the drive, but I wanted to make a bit-for-bit mirror copy of the drive so that I can replace the old one and still have a bootable, working computer. For another, I’m familiar with Seagate’s utility and have successfully used it before.

So, after installing DiskWizard following the default prompts, I hooked up my new drive via the USB adapter.


I did install the included software and the drive was immediately recognized. Then, again, I simply followed the DiskWizard prompts with a single false step when I had to go back and change an option in the cloning configuration to make sure the new drive was set to be bootable. I cannot stress that enough! When doing this, you absolutely must make sure that the new drive is being configured to be bootable, system drive. If you don’t do that, your machine will not boot when you change out the drive. If you use DiskWizard, it will require a reboot. In fact, after setting your configuration, the software will prompt you to reboot and, after the software reboots your machine, it will automatically launch and start the cloning process. The actual drive cloning took about an hour or two. I was running around doing other things, so I didn’t get a good time on it. Best just to allow several hours and, like I did, do other things to amuse yourself while you wait.


Now, it’s important to remember to both unplug your laptop and disconnect the battery. Just unplugging won’t be enough to make your laptop safe to work on. As long as that battery is in there, you could suddenly have a jolt of electricity jump through the circuits and make any planned upgrades pretty much useless. Also? A little jolt of juice can bite you pretty hard, especially when you’re not expecting it!

The next step, obviously, is to remove the old drive.


In my case, it was pretty easy. In the past, on some laptops, getting the drive out required taking the whole machine almost totally apart. I’ll never forget having to take a laptop’s entire keyboard off the top of the case to get to drive bay! I had to take the screen off at the hinge and everything! It was a dangerous, delicate mess! But, on today’s laptops, you mostly just have to take off a single panel, as you can see in the picture. The drive was in there really snugly, thanks, in part, to the rubber, anti-vibration sleeves meant to keep the drive quieter in a laptop. What I found interesting, however, is that there were no screws holding the drive itself in. No cages or straps or anything outside of the SATA connections and the tightness of the fit. Because, the drive bay door fit very snugly and I had to apply pressure to get it in place correctly and screwed shut again.


On the right, you can see the drive bay still open with the new, freshly cloned drive in it and the old, small drive laying next to it.

This was actually a pretty simple upgrade to make. It was what I generally refer to as a “one screwdriver job”. By that I mean that I could mainly have done it with the tiny pocket tool I carry with me in my pocket. Though, in this case, I used the old, cheap red-handled screwdriver in the picture. It’s a freebie that is often used as a giveaway by tool companies. I’ve had that one since my first IT job, back when I worked for Hyatt Hotels. It’s a little beat up now, but it can still handle a nice, easy job like this.


As you can see, the formatted drive is a little smaller than advertised. Also, they tend to round up a little and bytes and megabytes and gigabytes aren’t round numbers, so the math gets a little funky. Oh, and there was a special 251Meg partition that couldn’t be clearly identified by DiskWizard, even though it cloned the partition just fine. So, when you factor in all those things, you can see the nice, big partition, which is mostly empty and waiting for me to fill it up with great pictures!
Well, that’s the plan at least.

In any case, now you have some idea how to change out a laptop hard drive if you should ever want to upgrade for yourself. I really left out a lot of the nitty-gritty detail that I felt was either self-explanatory or that you should really know how to do before attempting this in the first place. Perhaps not the best tutorial, but at least a good step-by-step overview of how to get it done!


A rough week

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:04 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

As if dreaming about my ex-wife weren’t enough!

So, I’m glad that it’s a new week, because last week was a little rough.
First, my car was in the shop, again, for mysterious electrical problems that the mechanic never could find. Sadly, even though he only charged me for the tow, I still paid almost five hundred dollars for a week’s rental on a car.
Then, Tuesday, my cell phone falls in the toilet and shorts out. So, I go get a cell phone “upgrade” that I’m due and end up spending yet another hundred seventy-five dollars I don’t have. Oh, and during that whole process, I discover that not only have I lost most of my saved data from the address book, but my old backup software won’t work with the new phone, so I can’t get the data back easily.
But, wait! There’s more!
It turns out that my new phone is defective and ninety percent of the keys don’t work, which means I have to go back and get my new phone replaced. But, before I can do that on Thursday, I discover that I’ve been fined one-hundred thirty dollars because my lawn trash was out a day early. Perfect!
I know, you’re asking yourself what else could go wrong, right? Well, Friday morning, my car won’t start. Again.

Well, I think the second mechanic has finally found the problem and sorted it out. And, just to keep things in perspective, at least I don’t have cancer.


Hardware and Software

Filed under: Apple,Fun Work,Geek Work,Linux,MicroSoft,Novell — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is in the late afternoon or 5:47 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

No, this is not a euphimistic post.
My new server hardware arrived today. The whole thing, including the half-height rack with the pullout monitor and keyboard. I was also surprised to find that I’d been smart enough to get a server-grade UPS. I thought I’d forgotten that, but, luckily, when I started getting these quotes so many months ago, I’d been smart enough to get that added in. Yea for Jim’s hind-brain-server-ordering-autopilot! Yea!
So, tomorrow, it’s jeans a day early so I can run the cables through the dropped ceiling to where the rack will live. And, it’ll be taking everything out of boxes and getting it into the rack and configured. If I’m lucky, my software will arrive tomorrow. At least, it would be nice to have my Novell Open Enterprise Server and SuSE Linux to install. The backup software, from Syncsort, and the network attached storage devices that I’ll be backing up to would be nice, but they’re not as important as the operating system. I hope, for obvious reasons.
After that’s done, all I have to do is figure out how to migrate everything from the cranky, old Windows NT install and still have all the Windows XP machines and Apples talking to the server. No problem.

I hope.


Open Enterprise Server, or Bust!

Filed under: Career Archive,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun Work,Geek Work,Linux,Novell — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time or 9:39 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Well, it looks like my server finally got approved.
Yea! So, yesterday morning, our office in New Orleans is having their third or fourth server space crisis in as many weeks and they start complaining about why they can’t get a new server. Of course, I patiently explain that I’ve been going through this little drive-space two-step for about six months or so here in Houston and we need a server as bad as they do. Well, I guess I said the right things to the right people and suddenly everything is a go. So I scrambled around and ordered a Dell server with 1.5 gig of RAM and 1 TERABYTE of hard drive space. I also ordered SyncSort backup software for Linux/Novell, two 1 terabyte network attached storage devices and a 50 user copy of Novell’s Open Enterprise Server for SuSE Linux. Now, all I have to do is whip together a migration plan. *sigh*
After I get this all converted and what not, I’ll repurpose the old server for the New Orleans office. Sadly this will mean travel to the sweatiest, back-road, industrial armpit outside of New Orleans, but, well, at least it’ll get done. And, I’ll have my OES server on nice, clean, safe, bullet-proof Linux. Of course, that means more geeky/technical writing. And a lot of penguin references.

I lost a reader recently, and I think my lack of geek content is to blame. At least, I have one less subscriber on Bloglines and, while it is possible that someone else has bailed on me, I blame it on a boring, barely technical job. I spend more time hooking up cables for my boss’ KVM switch than I do maintaining anything. In many ways, it has been rather disheartening. Of course, by the time I’m done here, I’ll have some really good things to put on my resume, but, then, I’ve been spinning long, thankless jobs into impressive experience since I started in this business. That Marketing degree comes in handy sometimes. So, in short, I’m looking forward to being a very technical guy for a couple of weeks. I hope I don’t bore my new readers while I geek out, though. Frankly, I really like some of you new ones. And, yes, I really do enjoy having a more female demographic. Really.


Mr. Indestructable does Windows 2000

Filed under: Career Archive,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Geek Work,Personal,Personal Archive — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time or 9:07 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

Yeah, I know Win2k.

And, today, I know it better than I’d like. This weekend I spent 21 hours moving a Windows 2000 file server/domain controller/IIS server/proxy to a new hard drive. At least I’ll get paid by the hour.
Okay, so you regular readers (you know who you are) know that I’m mainly a Netware/Linux guy. So, what am I doing working on Win2K? Well, times are tough, so Uncle Jim has to work at two jobs. The second job is a realtively small company that I consult for on a strictly after-hours, part-time basis. Most of the time, I don’t put in more than five or six hours a month, which makes it a nice supplement to my primary income. And, frankly, I took the job because I needed the extra experience on Windows 2000 Server and consulting. So, for months they’ve had a 16 Gig drive that has been on the edge of full and last month they finally got a new 70+ Gig drive in. Great, right? Not so much. See, I tried to use Ghost to get it moved over, but Ghost kept failing. It took me a month and about 20 hours to finally figure out that the drive was just way, way, way too fragmented for Ghost to deal with. That meant one thing: the old backup-and-restore method. Ugh.
Okay, so I’m figuring it’s going to be a four or five hour thing, right? Nope. The tape drive isn’t working for some reason and it takes me at least four hours to get that worked out. Then another hour or two for a full backup. Then, an hour or more to get Windows 2000 installed on the new drive and the backup software installed. Another hour to get the tape merged and a restore launched. So, then I reboot and ….. Blam! Error!!
Can you say “Security Account Manager initialization failed”? Does that seem like a problem? You bet it is! The error told me to restart in “Directory Services Restore Mode” to try and fix the problem. Sounds good. But, when I restart, it asks me for the Admin password before repairing and proceeds to tell me that I’m putting in the wrong password. Okay, so I start all over again. Guess what? Same problem.
So, since I still have the old hard drive in original condition, I hook it back up and go searching for an answer. I finally find that I have to do a special backup of the System State with a Microsoft tool, not my backup software (which claimed it was doing a System State backup), boot the new drive into “Directory Services Restore Mode” and do an Authoritative Restore to get the old Active Directory information onto the new Domain Controller. About this time it’s 10:00pm or so and I have hours of work to do. But, since I am, of course, Mr. Indestructable, who’s motto is “I only have so many hours on this planet and a lot to do. I’ll have plenty of time to sleep when I’m dead”, I push on. Better, I figure, to push and get it done than have to come back and waste a second day in this office.
Hours, and several redundant restore jobs, later, I get almost everything back up and running. At this point it’s around 3:00AM and I’ve already changed my watch. What else did I have to do while I was waiting for the restore jobs to finish? Now, as you might imagine, I’m a little fuzzy, so it takes me about another two hours to get all the Internet settings right again and confirm that all the required services are started and will restart at reboot. Finally, I decide I can head for home.
The ride home was, er, interesting. I don’t remember large sections of it and it’s about a 30-40 mintue ride with no traffic. There was only one drunk on the road at 6:00AM, but there was fog and mysterious “things” in the corner of my vision. In other words, I’m too old for this stuff. I was freaking seeing things from the fatigue!
Still, when I got home, I tested the remote connectivity and sent an e-mail off to the developer or their custom database application so that he can verify that everything is running okay. Then, it was off to bed for a couple of hours until the Sun just wouldn’t let me sleep anymore. And, I’ll be back to bed soon.

So, what did I learn from all this? First, always backup your Active Directory with the stupid Windows 2000, built-in backup tool and keep a copy around. Shoot, throw it on tape, too, while you’re at it! Second, if you must have a Domain Controller, have two. They like company. Third, do NOT believe the backup software vendors when they tell you that their product will backup the System State or Active Directory! They’re LYING to you!!
Fourth, I am way too old to play Mr. Indestructable anymore. If these people weren’t so dependant on me to keep them going, I never would have done a 21 hour stint at an office. The kicker is, now, I’m getting resistance to my charges! Yeah, isn’t that something? I bust my ass to save their’s and now they’re not real excited about paying me. Damn this is a thankless business. Of course, I have, as they say in the “family”, made my bones on Windows 2000 and Active Directory. Hell, I have a friend who used to be on the a Lead on the Microsoft Corporate Support team that didn’t think I could pull it off! He was shocked that I managed it at all, much less in 21 hours.

So, once again, we the unwilling, lead by the unknowing, have done the impossible, for the ungrateful.
Crap. I’m going to bed.

Powered by WordPress
Any links to sites selling any reviewed item, including but not limited to Amazon, may be affiliate links which will pay me some tiny bit of money if used to purchase the item, but this site does no paid reviews and all opinions are my own.