Diary of a Network Geek

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

6/5/2015

Hurricane Preparedness

Filed under: Calamity, Cataclysm, and Catastrophe,Dog and Pony Shows,News and Current Events,Red Herrings,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Hurricane season started on Monday, June First. Are you ready?

Here in Texas, hurricane season is kind of a big deal.  Or, at least, it is to this kid from the Heartland.  Of course, most of the time, we have plenty of time to prepare because you see these things coming from a long, long way off.  Still, it’s better to be prepared early rather than competing with everyone for bottled water, bread and canned food.

So far, since I’ve been in…
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9/6/2006

“Cheated Death Again.”

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Geek Work,GUI Center,Life, the Universe, and Everything,MicroSoft,On The Road,The Dark Side — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is in the late afternoon or 5:56 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

I really don’t mind flying with my boss, but I wish he’d stop saying that.

So, Thursday last week, things started to go wrong with our server in Bellechasse, or, as I think of it, the Sweaty Armpit of the Gulf Coast. First, it was a user who just couldn’t seem to connect. Then, there was another user who couldn’t connect, though that turned out to be a totally unrelated problem. After dinking around with the server and the workstation over the phone, we finally rebooted the server and the problems seemed to be solved.

Turns out, not so much. Friday I got a call shortly after 8:30AM letting me know that now four users can’t connect to the server. So, again, after a few minutes of screwing around with a work station, I had them reboot the server, figuring that what worked the day before should work again. Seems like sound logic, right? Well, it is a Windows 2000 server, so logic probably wasn’t the best tool to apply. Everything seemed fine, right up until the server hung up at the “Preparing network connections” message. We rebooted the server at least three times after that and even tried Safe Mode, but, to no avail. So, I broke the news to my boss who was barely able to contain his joy at having an excuse to fly.

I should mention that I’ve flown with him on several occasions without incident and, as far as I can tell, he seems to be a very fine pilot. Certainly the flight itself has been smoother than most commercial flights I’ve been on. And, being able to bypass any sort of security checkpoints or limited schedules is really nice. It means, generally, that I can fly over, fix the problem and fly back in the same day. All with out needing to fill out an expense report, I might add.

So, well before sunup on Tuesday, we flew over to a little flat spot on the edge of New Orleans they call Lakefront Airport. This trip, I noticed that the same roofs seemed to have the blue FEMA tarps over them, but more yards had the pre-distressed FEMA trailers in them. Not sure if that’s progress or not, but, somehow, it seems like it should be. At least more of the traffic lights were working. Certainly, that has to be considered progress.
In any case, we got to the office about 9:00AM and I walked right to the server and got to work. I started by rebooting, just to see if I was going to get lucky. Naturally, I wasn’t or this post would’ve just ended. So, I cycled through several different boot options and finally, after much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, I got the server into a semi-stable state by booting into Safe Mode with Networking Support, but via the Repair Mode on the Windows 2000 install disk. (No, don’t ask me to recreate the steps because I wasn’t taking notes and I was probably running a fever.)

So, guesses on what was wrong? Out of disk space. Or rather, there wasn’t enough disk space for Active Directory to run properly. So, I killed a bunch of temporary files and cranked down on the size of the virtual memory paging file. Sure enough, when I rebooted into “normal” mode, the server came up and everyone was able to log in and all was well with the world. All done before lunch, I might add!
And, so it was that I humbly asked to be brought an oyster po’boy, dressed, sans tomato, with fries for lunch while I attempted to kill all spyware and adware and other such nastiness. What I got was a catfish po’boy, two hours later, and one machine that still has some spyware remnants on it that need to be cleaned up. How fleeting is glory… Oh, and that’s not to mention the several requests I got that were far, far outside the scope of “fixing problems”, which was, in fact, my stated purpose.

Interestingly enough, when we touched down again in Houston an essential piece of navigational hardware in the boss’ plane locked and threw an error message. Then, up popped the infamous Windows NT “Blue Screen of Death”, upside down on that oh, so essential monitor. Yes, boys and girls, our lives depended on hardware that runs the most unstable, buggy, crash-prone version of Windows I’ve ever worked with.
Yeah, we sure cheated death again. Barely.

4/24/2006

Triumphant Return

Filed under: Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Career Archive,Dog and Pony Shows,Geek Work,Hoffman's Home for Wayward Boys,Life, the Universe, and Everything,On The Road,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is in the late afternoon or 5:28 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Well, I survived my trip to the sweaty, stinky armpit of the South.

The flight over was fairly uneventful, though it did start out with an ill omen. At the airport there was a helicopter that had a collapsed landing strut that had caused some fairly severe damage to the whirlybird, including bending the blades on the main rotor. Very bad and very expensive. Little turbulence on the flight over in spite of warnings about bad weather. Though, I have to admit, I’d have been more comfortable if my pilot hadn’t been taking short naps along the way. I know we were on autopilot and all, but the idea of crashing over those swamps in East Texas and Louisiana just are not my idea of a good time.

The thing that hit me when we got to New Orleans was the damage still from Katrina. We drove for almost three miles from the little airport where we landed before we started to get to intersections that had working stop lights. Most of the houses that I saw were either empty, or had blue tarps over the roof as an attempt at some temporary repair. I did see some FEMA trailers, but most of them were in a big parking lot where they were totally useless. Apparently, that’s the latest outward sign of a bureaucracy gone terribly wrong. The thing that really got me though was the messages spray painted on the abandoned homes and buildings. Most of it was in some sort of rescue-worker code, but on one house the message was clear: 1 pony DOA, 1 dog DOA.

I spent the entire day Thursday watching data copy. Yep, about as exciting as watching paint dry or grass grow, but people keep interrupting any reading or writing you might be doing to ask what’s going on with the server. (“Uh, the same thing that’s going on when you asked the last fifteen times, you slack-jawed Luddite.”) Then, right when everyone starts to scatter near the end of the day, the data finishes and I can actually start doing real work. A whole hour’s worth of real work before, you guessed it, I copy data back to the new server from the backup drive. Woo. Yea. Oh, the exciting life of a sysadmin on the road.
But, I kept reminding people that I had no rental car and needed a ride to the hotel and/or restaurant, hoping that they wouldn’t abandon me. It went about like this:
“Um, you know, I still don’t have a rental car or anything so, I’ll need a ride to the hotel, right?”
“Yeah.”
“So, you’re not leaving yet, right?”
“Yeah, hold on a minute.”
“Ah, so, since I don’t have a rental car are you going to be driving me?”
“Wait, I’ve got something better than a rental car for you!”
“Better?”
“I’ve got the shop truck for you!”
“Ummm…”
“Of course, you’ll have to put gas in it. It’s on ‘E’.”
“Right. Great. Thanks?”

So, yes, I drove the shop pickup truck that they use to make deliveries and, yes, I filled it up. Thankfully, I grew up in the greater Chicagoland area and only had to stare down one guy who looked like he was going to beg for money at the ratty, little gas station I stopped at in the trashed-out neighborhood where the Holiday Inn I was booked in was sadly located. Now, keep in mind, I used to work in the hotel industry. I never worked in Housekeeping, as is evidenced by the current state my house is in, but I did learn what a hotel room is supposed to look like in great detail. This particular Holiday Inn did not meet Hyatt Hotel’s standards. In fact, it didn’t even have the faintest idea what that standard might possibly resemble. Sadly, it was still not the worst place I’d ever spent the night while on the road. After all, the sheets were clean, there was an extra roll of toilet paper, and no used band-aids on the floor. Yes, it can, in fact, get that bad. I did, however, have to plug in every electrical appliance and light. I only had to kill a single cockroach, though, so it all works out. Besides, it was the only room available anywhere close to that part of town.

The next morning, I got down to the nitty-gritty of actually moving the PCs and users to the new server. It went like clockwork. Well, after I got the first few problems worked out and everyone finally had the right security rights. But, freakishly, considering all the things that have gone wrong in the past on these little junkets, I was done by lunchtime. So, I just had to hang around until my plane left at 8:30PM. At least, I managed to slip out for my favorite Southernism, the oyster po’ boy. After that it was just killing time cleaning up little detail things like verifying the backup scheme and updating the anti-virus files, until it was time for the crawfish boil. Now, you might not think that a damn, Yankee carpet-bagger like myself knows what to do with a mess o’ mud bugs, but, surprise, I do. Though, I didn’t eat as many as locals, I did know to suck the head. By then it was getting on toward 6:00pm and I was itching to get to the airport and make sure I had a seat on the plane home. I rode back with the most back-country, redneck sounding guy you ever want to try and listen to, but he was really very bright and, in his own Southern-fried way, quite articulate. In fact, it was everything I could do to keep from imitating his swamp drawl after a bit.

So, I got to the airport, and home, early. My girl got me from the airport and we drove to the far ends of the Earth to get my car from the West Houston Airport where it was not only safe and sound, but looked like it had been washed! Apparently, those stories I’d heard about torrential downpours in Houston while I was away were not exaggerated. By the time we made it back to my house, it was about 11:30PM and Doc had gone to bed, but my Hilda was quite glad to see me. Either that, or she’s learned that Ms. NewGal always brings yummy dog treats with her when she comes.
Oh, while I was away, I also managed to get some reading in, so I finally finished A Better Way to Live and started a trashy novel called Seppuku. I suppose I’ll try to review those when I finally get caught up!
(Oh, and by the way, the boss said I could put down Ms. NewGal’s milage on my expense report, so she’ll get a little something more than the pleasure of my company, which is all she claimed she wanted when she volunteered. Gotta’ love it!)

9/12/2005

Emergency Wardriving

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Geek Work,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:44 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Yes, gentle readers, wardriving is alive and well and living in New Orleans.
At least, that’s what the folks over at BoingBoing claim in this entry/article. Honestly, though, in many places, wouldn’t it be warboating? And, yes, I found myself wondering as I skimmed the article, just how many live wifi hotspots there were running along all happy and unknown as power gets restored to parts of the city that were either relatively unscathed or have cleaned up quickly and well.
I really think it’s neat that there’s someone out there doing this. I mean, think about all the search and rescue teams, or police, or FEMA officials, or whatever that could use some kind of connection out there. I really think this is where something like wifi can shine. This kind of disasterous situation is just the right time for open access all over the city with little to no restrictions. But, without knowing where the hotspots are, they can’t be used.
I really hope this is helping, though, and not just a couple of geeks grabbing headlines for the “fun” of it, or under the guise of “citizen journalism”.
Either way, it’s an interesting article.


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