Diary of a Network Geek

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

3/23/2006

Very Disappointed

Filed under: Apple,Career Archive,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Geek Work,Linux,MicroSoft,Novell,Rotten Apples,The Dark Side — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time or 9:34 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Novell has failed me.
I cannot believe that I am writing this, but I actually advised against continuing with a Novell product in favor of a Microsoft product this week. I would be more ashamed of myself if not for the terrible problems I had with Novell’s Open Enterprise Server from the install all the way through an attempt at migration. Everything that could possibly go wrong, did.
First, there were numerous problems getting the software to simply install simply because I used a secure password that started with a “$”. That caused a previously unknown error in the Linux-based installer. As far as I know, this has still not been corrected or published. From there, things just got worse. Then there were all the problems getting the SAMBA share to work at all with the Netware Storage Services(NSS) functions on the server. I had to do this because we have Mac OS X clients that access the same data as Windows clients. I had no other option, but, apparently, no one has ever done this before in the history of Open Enterprise Server because I could find no data on doing this and making it work. And, it did work, for a couple of weeks, until I changed some setting somewhere that knocked the Macs off that SAMBA share. I have no idea still what did that. But, there’s more!
The deal-breaker in this case was that our accounting system, Peachtree, would not allow us to add more than a single transaction without restarting the program. Even when only a single user was accessing the data at a time. As you might imagine, this cause some concern in upper management. Two days into trying to get this resolved via Novell Support, my management had lost all confidence in Open Enterprise Server running on SuSE and Novell as a company. At the point that happens, there is absolutely no way to ever make that executive feel “warm and fuzzy” about the software in question. I know, I’ve tried over and over and over again over the years. Well, your Uncle Jim has learned his lesson, kids. Not this time. This time, I decided to cut my losses early and not drag it out. What’s the point? If I managed to get them to stick with this product, six months from now when some other thing went wrong, because, of course, it will, who will get the blame for choosing this stupid software? Me, that’s who. So, yeah, no thanks. Time to change horses.
So, I figure, if we’ve got to change, go with what they know and feel okay with and that’s Windows Server 2003. And very few of you have any idea how it galls me to have to admit that it’s the best option for these folks. Trust me, this goes against every thing I believe in the realm of technology. It used to be: “Windows for workstations, Novell for servers and Macs for graphics” as far as I was concerned. Now, it’s “Windows for workstations, Unix/Linux for servers, and Macs for graphics”. I think a part of me died inside to have to say that, too.
I worry about Novell as a company. This has been a mess from day one. Understand, I’ve been Novell certified for more than fourteen years and I’m well known as a Novell cheerleader. But, after this, I really wonder how long they’ll be around as a company. I think the shift to Linux is too little, late. I don’t think even vaguely complimentary articles at eWeek or changing their strategy, again, to building “cross-platform management tools” can help them now.
At least I think I’ve convinced the boss that when we do an e-mail server it should be Linux or BSD running some, to-be-named-later e-mail package. So, I’ll be able to use some of my favorite skills and show that on my resume. After all those jobs doing so many different things in IT, I can spin just about anything I do professionally to look about the way I want. Sure, there are limits, but, with me, not many. Professionally, that is. I’ve alway said that I can sit down with a good manual and a test system and figure almost anything out. Time and professional experience has shown that to be true. So, I guess I’ll be looking for a good Windows Server 2003 book. And, a good Linux-based e-mail system that allows me to give my users web access. Any suggestions anyone?

1/25/2005

Security, E-Mail and Blogs

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Deep Thoughts,Geek Work,News and Current Events,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time or 9:12 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

“The question isn’t ‘Am I paranoid?’, but ‘Am I paranoid enough?'”
Ever heard that before? If you’ve dealt with computer security, it should be your damn mantra. But, too, if you just use the internet to send e-mail or blog, you should think about it. Why? Well, are you sure that all your e-mail is safe? And, do you know who reads your blog? If you wouldn’t want to say something in front of your mother or child, you might not want to put it up for the entire world to see. Also, did you know you can get fired for blogging? Yep, not only is there the famous Heather at dooce.com, but also the Delta Airlines incident and there’s this story on Register.com about two, unrelated incidents of people being fired for blogging. It’s even gone so far that Blogger has guidelines on “how not to get fired because of your blog“.
But, back to e-mail. I can remember on many occasions rebuilding e-mail files so that we could find out who sent what to whom and when they sent it. At least one time, I had to rebuild an entire e-mail server and system to replicate data that was taken by a U.S. Government agent. (No, not the IRS, thankfully, just the FBI and EPA. The IRS agents are really tough, from what I hear, when it comes to data collection.) Oh, but don’t think that simply deleting the mail is enough. No, siree, there are plenty of ways to get that back. For one thing, many internet enabled systems have a cache that can be poked and prodded back into a mail database. Or, perhaps someone forgot to delete their sent mail. Sometimes that’s even better because it will capture not only the outgoing mail, but part of the e-mail to which the “target” is replying. That’s two birds with one stone, there! Oh, and don’t think that a wireless device will protect you either. According to this story on Slashdot, even the messages sent Blackberry-to-Blackberry can be retrieved by your employer.

Of course, this works in reverse, as well. I often send copies of my work e-mail to my home account so that I have “backup” in case something goes tragically wrong with the work e-mail, I still have a copy to print out and present to a nice judge. Never know when that’s going to come in handy. Believe me, I’ve seen strange stuff when it comes to lawyers and e-mail. Don’t forget, I’ve worked through at least two sales and one bankruptcy. Trust me on this one, it’s nice to know you have proof of what you promised people!
And, if you want something to “vanish” you’d best get to know all about any purge functions you have available to you or look into getting a PGP-based “eraser”. Better yet, if you plan on defrauding the Federal Government, don’t talk about it in an e-mail to anyone. Hell, just don’t talk about it at all. Better yet, just be honest and pay your taxes like the rest of us.

Remember, in the end, the best thing is to just not do anything that you’d get fined for or do time for later. Barring that, don’t make a damn record of it where some vengeful prick might get their hands on it. And, above all, be careful who you cross. (Yeah, this is the sort of thing I think about on airplanes and sitting in hotels after working on new servers all day long. It is my entire life these days.)


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"One day you'll love me as I have loved you. One day you'll think of me as I've thought of you. One day you'll cry for me as I've cried for you. And one day you'll want me and I won't want you."


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